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86 Search Results for "subway"

  • El Matador State Beach in Mali El Matador State Beach in Malibu, California

    • From: Funkidivagirl
    • Description:

      If you are ever near Malibu, you MUST go to this beach.  It’s gorgeous and so different than your normal beach.   We felt like we were on an adventure, like part of The Goonies.

      Here are a few tips to make your time on El Matador State Beach enjoyable and worth the adventure:

      • Bring your own food and drinks or stop by Point Dume Village on the way; there is a Subway and Pavillions grocery store in the shopping center.
      • The parking lot is tiny and fills quickly.  You can park on PCH, but will have to cross the busy highway; I don’t recommend doing that, especially with children.   Hopefully you’ll get lucky and see someone coming out of the parking lot.  And hopefully they will be kind and give you their parking ticket to put on your dashboard.  Someone did that for us and we passed along the favor to someone else when we left.  That $8 parking fee stretched to cover at least 3 cars.
      • While you’re up there, be sure to pee.  There is a porta-potty in the parking lot, but there are no facilities down on the beach.   And it’s a loooooong climb back up.
      • Do not wear flip-flops.  The walk down to the beach covers some rocky terrain and there are not handrails all the way down.  I wore Keens and felt good about that.   Slipping and sliding all the way down and possibly careening over the edge would not have felt good.
      • The seaweed can be out of control–along with the sand fleas that it attracts.   It was in huge clumps when we were there, mostly right at the bottom of the stairs.  The only way to the beach was to walk through it (or run through screaming, as I did).   That’s another reason not to wear flip-flops, because it’s definitely yucky, stinky and gross; you do not want your feet touching that seaweed.  My husband put our daughter on his back because she refused to walk through it.   Be brave.  Goonies never say die.
      • There is no lifeguard on duty; the beach is very natural and rugged.  Swim at your own risk and wear swim shoes.   Besides the clumps of seaweed, the sand is pretty rough and the beach is narrow.   Do I have to say it again?–Do not wear flip-flops!
      • While there were families on the beach, there were plenty of couples canoodling as well.  And as it got later in the evening, more came to watch the sunset toting dinner and coolers; it was definitely going to turn into a party.   It’s best for families to come early and leave early.  I heard it is an unofficial topless beach (because it’s so secluded), but I also heard that the police patrol regularly.  I saw neither boobs nor bobbies when I was there, but just be aware.

      See all the gorgeous photos here: Funkidivagirl.com: LA Stories - El Matador State Beach

    • Blog post
    • 1 year ago
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  • BUDGET TRAVEL IN LOS ANGELES BUDGET TRAVEL IN LOS ANGELES

    • From: ajjordan2
    • Description:

      downtowner.jpgThe Hollywood Downtowner is a great place to stay for those on a budget. The property is unique in that it is listed in the National Registry of historic buildings-one of the only motels in California with this designation. The retro neon sign is a part of the neon tour and really cool to look at.  I spent 2 nights at the historical property, and there were many attributes that would appeal to the savvy traveler. The rooms come endowed with a spacious king-sized bed, as well as a convenient twin guest bed. Other amenities included for free are high-speed internet, covered parking (a rarity in Los Angeles), HBO movies, refrigerator, microwave and iron with a board.  

       The outdoor pool in the courtyard also accented a nice touch to the Mediterranean-style architecture from the 1950s. In the mornings, I had a complimentary freshly cooked hot breakfast, which included scrambled eggs, pancakes, potatoes, fresh fruit, toast, and other choices. The location was optimal for sightseeing, as it is situated within 10 minutes of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, and the Hollywood sign. It is also a 2 minute walk to the Hollywood/Western subway metro station and walking distance to numerous city bus stops.

    • Blog post
    • 2 years ago
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  • ATL Layover Demystified ATL Layover Demystified

    • From: ajjordan2
    • Description:

      ATL%20airport.jpgIn the process of arranging a week’s stay of island hopping in the Caribbean, I discovered my only flight options were an overnight layover in Atlanta traveling from Los Angeles, with an overnight return. I had no choice but to book a flight that would delay my island bliss for an extra 18 hours. What are my best hotel options in this short period, and what do I do to kill time on my lonesome? Hartsfield Jackson International Airport is the busiest airport in the world, with an estimated traffic of almost 70 million travelers in 2011 alone. Therefore, I decided to stay at the Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel on my way to the Caribbean to ensure that I wouldn’t have any problems making my flight in the morning. I chose to stay at the Sheraton in  downtown Atlanta on my return.

      Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel

      After landing in ATL from LAX around 6pm, I took a complimentary 7 minute shuttle from the airport to the Crowne Plaza Hotel. The hotel was in an optimal location surrounded by tons of dining choices. Instead of hiking over to the Ruby Tuesdays for a sit-down meal, I added to the nation’s fast food love- affair by choosing a chicken meal from the Arby’s across the street. After checking in and settling into my suite, I moseyed down to the bar for a drink (Don’t get too settled in, its closes at midnight). Some of the amenities included complimentary wireless throughout the hotel and a free shuttle back to the airport. The next morning before heading out for my 5 hour flight to Aruba, I loaded up at the hot breakfast buffet located in the lobby. The hotel stay was a perfect prelude to sand, sea, and fun. (The rooms start at approx. $110/night).

      Atl.jpg

      Sheraton Downtown Atlanta

      Since I didn’t get a chance to experience any Atlanta attractions on my way to the islands, I decided to stay at the Sheraton in downtown Atlanta on my way back to Los Angeles. The Sheraton is located at Peachtree Center (throbbing restaurant/bar hub), which was an easy 20 minute subway ride from the airport. Upon arriving, I was overwhelmed by the service (I arrived around 9 pm); it was great to see a hotel with around-the-clock hospitality. The rooms were equipped with free WiFi, as well as a 24-hour room service menu. I upgraded to the Club Lounge, which allowed me access to midnight snacks in the lounge, and also included continental breakfast the next morning. (Some of the amenities included a 24-hour fitness center, indoor pool, full service UPS business center, 2 restaurants, and pet-friendly accommodations.) After arriving, I explored some of the pubs and bars in the downtown area, including the Hard Rock Café and Agatha’s, which is an open-late Irish bar.

      After thoroughly enjoying my Caribbean trip, it was icing on the cake to experience the cultural mix of Atlanta, even if it was on the nightlife scene.

      (The Sheraton rooms start at approx. $139)

       

    • Blog post
    • 2 years ago
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  • Beijing Insight Beijing Insight

    • From: UrbanAdventures
    • Description:

       

       www.beijingurbanadventures.com

      Get a local’s insight into what makes Beijing tick with this tour of the sights of the Chinese capital. Watch locals enjoy traditional activities in the Temple of Heaven Park, learn about the importance of Tiananmen Square and take a tour through the Forbidden City. With a delicious lunch of dumpling or noodles, and the chance to get a bird’s-eye view over the ancient city, this tour will give you a unique perspective of some of the city’s most famous sights.

      Highlights:

      • Join tai chi and traditional pastimes in the Temple of Heaven Park.
      • Indulge in a tasty local lunch.
      • Travel by subway to Tiananmen Square.
      • Discover the secrets of the Forbidden City.
      • Climb to the top of Jingshan Park for great views over ancient Beijing


      Tour style: Sightseeing, Local Life & Culture, Heritage & History
      Inclusion:

      English speaking guide, Transport & Entrance fees as indicated, entry to Temple of Heaven Park, entry to Forbidden City, entry to Jingshan Park and meals: 1 lunch


      Exclusion:

      Items of a personal nature, Tips or gratuities for drivers or guides.


      Group size:Maximum 12
      Schedule details:

      • Duration: 8-9 hours
      • Meeting point:

        Sunworld Hotel 天伦松鹤大酒店

        灯市口大街88号

        Dengshikou Street

        Dongcheng, Beijing, China, 100006

        +86 10-58168999

         

        Directions:

        Dengshikou Station, Metro Line 5, Exit A,

        Turn left, then turn left at the Dengshikou Dajie, Sunworld is 250m down Dengshikou

        street on the left handside of the road.

      • Start time: 8.00 AM-8.30 AM
      • Finish point:

        Finish at Jingshan Park


      Additional information :

      • Voucher exchange details:

        Please present your voucher to the local guide at the beginning of the trip.

      • Confirmation of booking:

        Please contact Beijing Urban Adventures to confirm your trip 24 hours prior to departure.

      • Additional information:

        During national holidays and on weekend sights in Beijing can be extremely crowded. If you wish to avoid the busiest times we recommend visiting Beijing outside of these periods or taking your Urban Adventure on a week day.

      • Dress standard:

        We will be on our feet exploring for most of the day so please make sure you wear comfortable walking shoes

      • Child policy:

        Children must be 6 years of age to 11 years inclusively.

      • Language: English


      Also runs from:1 Jan 2012 to 31 Mar 2013

      Itinerary:

      From the gilded ancient temples to the buzz of Tiananmen Square, get under the skin of the Chinese capital with this unique tour of Beijing.

       

      After pick up from your hotel and meeting your group and local guide, start the adventure at the Temple of Heaven Park. This is one of Beijing’s most popular parks and it’s full of people of all ages taking part in traditional pastimes such as tai chi, fan dancing, diablo, kite flying, water calligraphy and more.

       

      Join in some of the activities or just wander around the park, soaking up its relaxed atmosphere. Perhaps grab the chance to visit the Temple of Heaven, a Taoist temple where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties would offer sacrifices to heaven and pray for good harvests. Enjoy an early lunch of dumplings or noodles from a local eatery before jumping on Beijing's efficient subway to travel to the very heart of the city - Tiananmen Square.

       

      Discover why Tiananmen is so special to the Chinese people as you wander through this immense square. Enter the Forbidden City through the Gate of Heavenly Peace, which is adorned with its famous Mao portrait. Off-limits to most of the world for 500 years, this ‘city’ houses the best preserved cluster of ancient buildings in China and is a must-see destination in Beijing. Discover some of its secrets and learn about some of the legends while enjoying a tour through its many buildings.

       

      After leaving the Forbidden City, get a new perspective over this immense structure from the top of the pagoda in Jingshan Park. High on a hill overlooking the city, this is the best place to take in stunning views of not only the Forbidden City, but the ancient heart of Beijing. End the tour in Jingshan Park, where you are free to spend more time exploring or head back into the heart of Beijing to take in more of the city’s sights.

       

      Your trip:

      For your Urban Adventure you will be in a small group of a maximum of 12 people.

      Tipping:

      If you are happy with the services provided by your local guides and drivers a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid Urban Adventures destinations. Please consider this when budgeting for your extra expenses on this tourForbiden City Bird's Eye ViewBeijing Forbiden City

    • Blog post
    • 3 years ago
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  • My Russian Trip My Russian Trip

    • From: hbwoods
    • Description:

      My sister and I booked our Russian river cruise through a company called Travel-All-Russia. We picked this company because of their reasonable rates and the fact that they were the only company that seems to process Visa applications with the Russian Consulate and include the processing fees in the price. All the other companies we checked only provided a letter of invitation which is needed with the application. We left the US on September 5, 2011 and arrived in Moscow on September 6th. A driver met us at the airport and took us directly to the ship we were sailing on. The first day was just getting settled on the ship and resting from our flight. At the docks was a small park with some food vendors that we walked around to see.

      On our second day we took a tour of the Moscow Kremlin. My sister and I marveled at the fact that 20 years ago we would have never thought just a regular American tourist would be standing in the middle of the Kremlin. It was amazing. We walked around the outside of the Kremlin also and came across a guarded memorial to the dead from the Great War (WWII) and observed the changing of the guard. That night we were offered optional tours of Moscow by Night or a tour of the subway system. Although we took neither optional tour we did see Red Square at night and traveled on our own through the subway system. The subway stations are a work of art all on their own. When built the Soviets wanted to build a beautiful place for the common man and since workers used the subways every day to go to and from work it was decided that these stations would be a beautiful pleasant experience.

      The third day we took an optional tour to Sergiev Posad (St Sergius Monastery). The ride through the country-side gave us a glimpse of rural living which didn’t seem any different than any place else in Europe. The Monastery was beautiful and we were able to witness a Russian Orthodox service. I found it interesting that Russian Orthodox churches don’t have pews or seating and the stand throughout the entire service. I was told it is because they are there to serve God not there to be comfortable. This evening we left the docks and were headed north towards St Petersburg.

      At this point I have to tell you that the crew and service staff on the ship (MS Chernishevskiy) were simply marvelous. The food was fantastic and you were just made to feel like you were at home the whole trip.

      Our first stop on the journey was in the village of Uglich. In 1591, 10 year old Prince Dmitry was murdered here by Boris Godunov before Godunov claimed the throne of Russia. Then Godunov was himself murdered. The Church of St. Dmitry-on-Blood stands on the location of the 10 year olds murder. The icons in the church depict the story of this tragedy. While in Uglich there are some shops that sell Russian made watches at very reasonable prices and make great gifts for people at home.

      The next stop was in Yaroslavl the site of the first Russian Theater. We learned upon our arrival that a couple of days earlier a plane had crashed nearby and killed the whole hockey team from this town. It was a national and local tragedy that affected the whole town. The day we arrived was the day of the funeral. Despite the sadness the town was feeling, they still made us feel very welcome and showed us the sites of the town. Our guide told us that in the 1970’s during the Soviet era, the local theater put on a production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” but had to call it something different. He said they had a sold out crowd every night and that the patrons sang, in English, along with the cast. About two weeks later the “Party” found out what the production really was they shut it down. Yaroslavl is where I was introduced to Smokey Cheese. It is wonderful and is kind of the string cheese of Russia. It comes in a braded knot and you just pull off pieces to eat. About a ½ pound knot cost me the equivalent of about $1.20.

       Goritsy was our next stop and is the home to Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery which was built in 1397. We toured the Monastery which included St. Cyril-on-the-White-Lake and a museum of icons. This is a working Monastery and school. Just walking around the grounds was beautiful. Outside the Monastery there was a gentleman selling jars of honey from the back of his vehicle. He had several different flavors and let me taste them all before deciding on which I would purchase.

      Kizhi Island on Lake Onega was our next stop. The massive Transfiguration Church with its 22 onion domes can be seen way before you get to the island. The island has been made into a museum of sorts of wooden buildings after the Bolsheviks moved the church to the island so it could not be easily accessed or used.  We were treated to one of the guides playing the bells in the bell tower of a smaller church on the island.

      Mandrogi was our last stop before reaching St. Petersburg. This village was built by a company that wanted to show hand-made crafts being made and how buildings used to look long ago. There were picnic pavilions on the grounds where our ship’s chefs and wait staff fed us a traditional Russian picnic lunch called Shashlik.

      Our last stop with three days still left on the ship was St Petersburg.   It is a very beautiful city with lots of canals and boat traffic. On our first day in the city we started our tour with a stop at the Church of our Savior on Spilled Blood which was erected in honor of Alexander II after his assassination. The interesting thing about this church is that the pictures are all done in mosaic instead of paints.

      Peter and Paul Fortress was next. It was designed to defend the city from naval attacks but was used as a political prison by the tsarist regime and as a museum during the Soviet era. The fortress now stands as the tomb for the Russian Imperial Family.

      We then stopped at St. Isaac’s Cathedral which is now a museum. It is very impressive because of its rich decorations, and gigantic golden cupolas.

      In the afternoon we made it to the Hermitage Museum housed in the Winter Palace of Catherine the Great. The palace itself was amazing but the artwork was something else. We were treated to Rembrandt, DaVinci, and so much more. They say that if you spent 3 minutes by each exhibit in the Hermitage it would take three years to see everything.

      Our second day in St Petersburg was a free day. A friend, who we met on the ship, my sister and I walked around the town most of the day going into places we had seen on the driving tour. It was an enjoyable time to leisurely see the sites we wanted to go back to. The subway system was as easy to use in St. Petersburg as in Moscow. There were optional tours this evening for Catherine’s Summer Palace or St Petersburg by night.

      Our last day in St Petersburg was spent at Peterhof Palace on the banks of the Gulf of Finland. Peterhof was the official summer residence of the Russian Tsars. The fountain park was just fantastic. All the fountains are gravity fed from a spring and travel down to the Gulf from one to the next. Even without pumps, the fountains shot up into the air to give a spectacular display.

      On our last morning we had to say goodbye to new friends as they headed out to the airport to go home. My sister and I were the only ones to stay in Russia an extra couple of days. We headed out to the train station headed for Moscow. We booked our tickets ahead of time and only had to use our passports as our tickets. We took the bullet train which got us back to Moscow in 4 ½ hours. We were picked up at the train station and taken to our hotel. We stayed in the Novotel Moscow Centre. We also booked that room over the internet and got a price (including full breakfast) for a third of their regular rates. The room was clean and located right behind one of the subway stations. We could get anywhere from there. We walked around the hotel area that evening to the shops and neighborhoods. We heard some bells being played and went to investigate. About a block off the main street was a church and a woman was playing the bells in the church’s bell tower. It lasted about 15 minutes and was a splendid display of music. That night we found a restaurant right across the street from the hotel that had English speaking waitresses. It was the best beef stroganoff I think I have ever had. Our last full day in Moscow was spend locating souvenirs to bring home, taking more pictures (968 in all) and seeing sights more up close than a few days earlier when we arrived in Moscow.

      All in all, it was a wonderful trip that I would recommend to anyone.   

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    • 3 years ago
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  • A taste of Germany’s Oktoberfe A taste of Germany’s Oktoberfest over a weekend

    • From: rwtherrien
    • Description:

       

      As most flights leaving from JFK in New York, we sat an extra hour on the tarmac delaying my 8 hour trip to Munich, Germany’s Oktoberfest.  With an 8 hour flight ahead of me and a 6 hour time difference, I wasn’t planning on getting much sleep.  My first flight with Air Berlin was uneventful, except for the fact that once up in the air they feed you a hot meal and a nice beverage.  It’s the first time that white or red wine was offered for free.  About an hour before we landed in Munich we were given breakfast. This was very much appreciated as I have less than 24 hours to spend in Munich.

       

      With no luggage and just my backpack, I was off the plane and on my way. The first step is to find the ATM machine, insert credit card, and buy some Euros. Then the combination bus, train, and subway ticket good for all day, and up till 6am the next day, I thought that this was a steal at 10,8 Euros about fourteen dollars.  I wanted to do some sightseeing in Marienplatz; this is the main square in downtown Munich. In a couple of hours I had many photos and videos to watch and remind me of this very friendly and touristy part of Munich. 

       

      The German trains and subways were fantastic. I was soon on my way to the next main terminal called the Hauptbahnhof. From this gigantic terminal the crowd was all heading for the Oktoberfest fairgrounds, about two miles away.  Just follow the crowds and they lead you to Oktoberfest. Some folks on the street have already been there, you can tell by looking at them, they look like they have had many beers and look completely exhausted. I was not, though I didn’t sleep on the plane, my adrenalin was kicking in knowing that my search for Oktoberfest was within reach.  Along the way I encountered some Americans that were in the Army stationed a short distance from Munich. This really helped me quite a bit as I know very few words of German.  I decided to hang with Dan, Angela, and Bob through the Oktoberfest.  This was good planning on my part, as I arrived with no reservation for a beer tent: no reservation means no beer or entrance to the beer tent. 

       

      I did not let this news stop me from enjoying my first German Oktoberfest. I left New York on Friday, I had all day on Saturday to enjoy Germany, and I was leaving early Sunday to return to New York and then back to work on Monday morning at 8am.  We did have some very good German beer that my friend Dan packed in his backpack.  After a couple of beers and enjoying the sights and sounds of the amusement rides, the smells and tastes, of the German sausages, and a couple of Dan’s beers, I felt very much at home.  We parted ways after several hours together, it was great to be in Germany and have Americans to talk with.  I started heading out of the Oktoberfest grounds and heading back to the subway station: Hauptbahnhof.  By this time it was dark, I had no idea where I was or which way it was, I continued walking.  I stopped at a friendly café for an Oktoberfest beer and a slice of pizza.  It was great.  I continued walking for about an hour and I found myself back at the Marienplatz.  Earlier there were many thousands of people in this square, now there were several hundreds enjoying the square in the dark.

       

      The Marienplatz at night I must say was magical. The huge buildings there were all lit up.  There were still many people there in the square at 10:00pm, the bier gardens were still busy, and the street performers were out in full force.  One area had German fellow singing American songs with his German accent.  A different area had a lovely young Violinist making terrific music, I happened to catch her last performance.  Between 10pm and 11pm I strolled through the Marienplatz listening to the sounds of Germany. Even though I don’t understand the Germany language, it’s a pleasure listening to the people speak. The most amazing feeling I had in this country is one of feeling safe and welcome in this unusual land.  I was quite amazed that most people understand English, so I had little trouble communicating. It was just a little after 11pm when things were starting to quiet down in the main square. I decided to hop aboard the subway, and with just a few minutes wait, the subway appeared and took me in 42 minutes right to the airport.

       

      With no sleep arrangements, I found an unoccupied bench that I could rest on for a few hours.  The whole area is still all lit up at night, so I made the best at trying to rest for a few hours.  At 4am, I got up, freshened up, shaved, and the restaurants were opening up at 4:30am.  I had my first strong German coffee and breakfast.  Their breakfast is a little different than ours: children eating pretzels is common, also fresh breads with slices of meat and cheese and pickles are not unusual either.  I was adventurous and tried a few different items, their cappuccino was very good.  The souvenir stores were opening up and I thought a few last minute items were in order.  Now it was 6am and I was getting in line, going through security and the plane left on time at 8am.  I arrived in Berlin at 9am. I had a four hour layover so I did some more shopping, looked all over this airport, and then found a wonderful café called the Red Baron Café.  It was now 10am and I ordered a nice large Oktoberfest beer, it was great.  I took my time and watched some German TV for the next hour.  For the next hour I killed time wondering through and outside the Berlin airport.  By twelve o’clock I was in line for the plane to New York was to leave at 1pm. For some reason there was a delay and we left at 2pm instead. 

       

      Again, Air Berlin fed us well as we left Munich.  They give you red or white wine also, which is a nice touch.  The 8 hr flight was uneventful, very relaxing actually.  About an hour before we landed they fed us a light meal with drinks also.  Upon arriving in New York, it took less than a minute to go through customs, it took about ½ hr for the shuttle van to pick me up and bring me to my vehicle.  By now it was 6pm and I’m on my way home to Rhode Island with about a 4 hr drive ahead of me.  The first two hours were fine, but the last two hours driving home were tough.  I had very little sleep on the planes, and at the airport, I was pretty much kept going by all of the excitement of being in another country, and by living the dream I’ve had of going to Germany for quite a while. 

       

      It was a great feeling to be home. Nice to hear everyone speaking and you can understand. I had wonderful dreams that night of a land far away where people gather for one of the biggest parties in the world. Over a 16 day period where about 6 million people come from all over the world to celebrate Oktoberfest, the incredible German beers, and the German food, I can say now that I have lived my dream, and I was part of that very famous celebration called Oktoberfest. 

       

    • Blog post
    • 3 years ago
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  • My fabulous trip in Japan - To My fabulous trip in Japan - Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima

    • From: yasmina
    • Description:

      Japan, both in physical size and global power might be seen as the big brother to Korea, but telling that to a Korean is similar to telling a Scotsman he's English. To the average westerner Japan is probably looked upon as similar to Korea and China but besides eating rice the differences are noticeable. 

      Immediately you are struck at the politeness and accommodation of the Japanese people. Throughout our stay in Japan we experienced great hospitality.

      Tokyo, with a population bigger then that of Delhi, Los Angeles and Beijing combined correctly holds it's reputaton as the great and more expensive city in the world. Taxi's start at 700 Yen (£7; $14; 14,000 won), a meal 1000-1200 yen and a pint of beer around 6-800 yen. However the public transport is superb and in the same manner as Korea, on time to the second. Using the subway (whilst confusing at first) is the best way to see the city, allowing you to see the majority of the city in the two day/nights we were there. The city itself is still recovering from the effects of the Tsunami in March 2011 and still regularly experiences minor after-shocks* with a limit placed on electricity usage at night and the extrememly helpful and normally talkative hostel owner noticeably quietening upon myself asking whether or not Tokyo had fully recovered from the events. Despite this, the famous night-life and shopping Shibuya district located in the west of Tokyo was still swarmed with both people and neon lights on a late August Monday night at 11pm. 

      We had rent an apartment on a vacation rentals website in Japan, even If we didn't found apartment in Korea where we decide to go to hotels.Before leaving Korea we had purchased the JR railway pass (Japan Railways)

       

       Pushing speeds of 300km/h, a journey in a bullet train feels a bit like travelling in a plane, both in appearance and time saved. The journey from city to city (Tokyo>Osaka;Osaka>Hiroshima;Hiroshima>Fukuoka)  took just under 2 hours each. 

      Located between Tokyo and Osaka is Mt. Fuji. The weather was overcast at the time but the mountain can be spotted for miles around and on a clear day the mountain can be seen from Tokyo Tower, 60 miles away. The next three days were spent between Osaka and Kyoto, the two cities close by, separated by a 15-minute train journey. Osaka, big in area but not in attractions can be seen as the opposite to Kyoto, small in size but packed with temples and shrines (both originals and restorations). Once the capital of Japan, Kyoto is one of the few Japanese cities to survive WWII relatively intact and due to this remains a favorite city for many tourists to visit. The city is easy to get around, built in an american grid-like system served by air-conditioned buses much needed on what was an extremely hot and humid day.

       

      After spending the last afternoon in Osaka at the traditional, cultural enhancing Universal Studios it was off to Hiroshima, which along with Nagasaki was subject to the effects of an atomic bomb.

       Here was our trip in this so particular country.

       

      Yasmina

       

    • Blog post
    • 3 years ago
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  • Madrid Spain Madrid Spain

    • From: pswaring
    • Description:

      Graffit at the subway entrance

    • 3 years ago
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  • Vintage Metro Sign Vintage Metro Sign

    • From: MPayne13
    • Description:

      This was by far my favorite Metro sign that I saw in Paris. It was on the Champs Elysees and had such a great vintage vibe to it.

    • 3 years ago
    • Views: 1146
  • London to Paris with Eurolines London to Paris with Eurolines coach

    • From: ArekS
    • Description:

      If you are thinking of taking a journey from London to Paris by coach, you just need to read this post. Last week we tested Eurolines most popular route, and we want to share with you the conclusions of this journey.

      We started our coach journey to Paris from Northampton (UK), so we tried to take advantage of special deal offered jointly by National Express (UK's largest coach carrier) and Eurolines. 

      If you’re travelling from outside London, National Express & Eurolines have a special rate connection fare on National Express services for just £15 single or return from any National Express departure point. However, there is one drawback of this offer, if a coach in some leg of the journey won’t have free seats the buyer won’t be able to use the special offer. Unfortunately, the online Eurolines’s reservation system does not offer alternative transport. We had bad luck and we could not take advantage of this offer, because the coach from Paris at 23:00 had no seats available. We bought tickets for each leg of the journey separately; a return ticket from Northampton to London and a return ticket from London to Paris. From Paris we had to leave an hour earlier than planned. We paid about £108 (2 adults). Remember that it is better to pay by debit card than credit card, so you won’t be charged commission, and that a travel insurance proposed during the purchase of tickets is not mandatory - just untick.

       

      When on a trip from the UK to Paris and other cities in France, bear in mind that coach services are always cheaper than trains and flights.

      Perhaps, the coach isn’t the fastest means of transportation between the two European capitals, but it’s not so bad. Passengers can take more luggage (2 pieces of luggage and hand baggage), you can also take a folding bike. London - Paris service also offers increased legroom, DVDs and free Wi-Fi.

      Our observations:
      We noticed that passengers can carry more than 2 pieces of luggage, the driver does not control the passengers’ luggage. We took only hand baggage, which we could easily locate on the shelf above our heads.
      Unfortunately, from London to Paris, we traveled by standard Eurolines coach. The carrier, in its flyer ensures, that vehicles on route from London to Paris have got a higher standard. These services, known as  Eurolines Plus, offer the facilities described earlier. So on the way from London to Paris, we couldn’t use the internet, and DVD wasn’t also offered. Besides these deficiencies, the coach’s standard was good. Of course these Eurolines Plus are no super-luxurious coaches; seats are regular European size – maybe in my opinion more comfortable than those in low-cost flights.

      You need to check-in at the Eurolines check-in office, located adjacent to Gate 19 at Victoria. Check in commences one hour before departure and closes 15 minutes before to enable all customers to board and to assure a prompt departure. You should have your passports and other travel documents ready for inspection at check-in. A boarding card for each customer and luggage labels will be issued and customers will be advised from which gate their coach will leave.

      Our observations:
      Check-in at Victoria ran smoothly, each check-in desk at the station, serves passengers going to various places separately (ie separate to Paris, Amsterdam, etc). Monitors accurately indicate passenger check points and gateways from which buses and coaches run.

      There are no meals served or meals available for purchase in the coach, so make sure to bring your own – especially for long distance travel (London to Paris journey with Eurolines takes about 8 hours). Sometimes the driver makes a stop at a petrol station and gives passengers some minutes to rest or buy food and drinks. Refreshment stops are taken periodically throughout the journey.

      Our observations:
      During the journey to Paris we had a total of 2 scheduled stops: the first was when crossing the Channel Tunnel, the second in France at the petrol station. Each lasted about 45 minutes.

      A very big disadvantage was poor knowledge of English by the coach driver. He was French and he knew only words such as: „luggage, I wish you a pleasant journey and I don’t speak English”.

      Sea crossings: This route involves a sea crossing which, depending on which service you are on, will either by Eurotunnel or by ferry. On arrival at the ferry port or Eurotunnel terminal customers will be required to disembark from the coach and pass through both UK and destination country Border Control offices and show their passports. Normally customers are not required to be accompanied by their luggage, however occasionally Border Control officials do require customers to take their own luggage with them.

      Our observations:
      In fact you can say that the Eurolines, is an international carrier also due to the diversity of people travelling. Not only the Europeans travelled by coach, but also Americans, Asians, Africans and Australians. Because of this diversity passport control takes a long time. Before entering the Channel Tunnel, the passport control took about 30 minutes. Passengers were not asked to leave the vehicle, only passports were taken away by customs.

      The coach arrived in Paris before the scheduled time. In my opinion, is due to various factors: good weather, no traffic jams on highways, efficient passport control at the border.
      Gallieni coach station in Paris is not spectacular, but unlike the London’s Victoria Station, buses and coaches don’t have to travel through the narrow roads of the city center. Eurolines coaches use the Paris ring road.
      At the station's subway and city bus station. You can sleep in a hotel located at the station, but there are several in the area. We stayed at Campanile Paris Est - Porte de Bagnolet. Good if you have a limited budget, do not expect anything luxurious. 

      Tips for traveling by coach between London and Paris can be found here: http://www.europebus.co.uk/london-to-paris/

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    • 3 years ago
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  • Family Trip to China with Chin Family Trip to China with China Highlights

    • From: Kami
    • Description:

      Family Trip to China
      with China Highlights
      6/15-6/29/11

       

      This trip came about due to a desire to introduce our grandchildren to China.  My husband and I became interested in the country after living in Taiwan among the Chinese in 1966-67, when he was stationed there during the Vietnam War.  We had since made 3 trips to China—the latest in 2000, and felt it was time to visit again, before the country was irrevocably changed.  Our grandchildren, ages 14 and 12, were at a good age to take this trip—old enough to appreciate and enjoy the sights, but young enough that they weren’t too tied up with their own activities at home.  After we invited them, our daughter and son-in-law decided they would also like to accompany us, so we had a family group of six.  

      Although we had traveled independently on past trips to China—a process made considerably easier by my husband’s ability to communicate (at a basic level) in Mandarin—we decided to get some help with the logistics this time.  We had only two short weeks due to other commitments, so we didn’t want to waste any time.  I searched the Internet for tour companies, and came upon China Highlights—a branch of CITS.  They offered both group and private tours, and one of their stock tours was quite similar to the itinerary I had in mind.  The price seemed quite reasonable compared to some other tour companies I researched.  Also, the reviews I found online were all positive.  When I Emailed the company, a tour advisor named Grace Wang responded.  She was my contact throughout the process, and, if she was out of the office, one of her colleagues handled my inquiries.  I must say I was impressed with their quick follow up to my questions and concerns.  I selected the tour which was closest to my desired itinerary to get a price, and then made a few changes in destinations, hotels and activities.  One of the things I did was to eliminate all the planned shopping stops, so we would have more sightseeing or free time.  China Highlights had no problem with this.  They also arranged all my requested hotel and itinerary changes with no problem—and made helpful suggestions.   It all worked out very smoothly. 

      I arranged our own International air, and it took awhile to find what I considered a reasonable fare.  I booked with ANA in February, although I wasn’t entirely pleased with the schedule—it contained layovers both to and from China, with an overnight in Narita, Japan, on the return.  I was especially concerned about the overnight after the big earthquake and possible nuclear disaster.  Since I could cancel these reservations for a $300 pp charge, I continued to search.  About a month before our departure, I found a better schedule with Continental on Orbitz, with a price that just about covered our cancellation fees.  The flight to Beijing was direct, and we had only a 1 ½ hour layover in Narita on the return from Hong Kong.   Although our flights were long and uncomfortable, they were on schedule. 

      China Highlights:  I really can’t say enough about our satisfaction with them.  I’ve already mentioned that the planning process went very smoothly.  In the execution, our guides were all excellent.  They were always prompt, helpful, flexible when we wanted to change or add to our itinerary, and very knowledgeable about the cities and sights.   We were ferried around in comfortable air-conditioned vans or small busses.  Of course, the drivers were Chinese, and their way of driving is sometimes a little (or a lot) frightening.  However, except for a small fender-bender, we survived intact. 

      Cities & hotels:  3 nights in Beijing at the Park Plaza Beijing, 2 nights in Xi’an at the Grand Noble Hotel, 1 night in Chengdu at the Haiyatt Garden, 3 nights in Guilin at the Guilin Bravo Hotel, 1 night in Yangshuo at the Green Lotus, and 3 nights in Hong Kong at the Salisbury YMCA.   I feel this itinerary was just right for us, and I wouldn’t have changed any of it.

      I was pleased with all our hotels.  They ranged from 3 to 5 star hotels, and all in good locations, which is the most important thing to me.  At all of them we were just short walking distances from pedestrian shopping streets, night markets, and interesting restaurants.  Our included breakfasts were excellent in all but the Green Lotus in Yangshuo, which fell a little short in this category.   Winner for best breakfast would be the Salisbury YMCA in Hong Kong, with its great service and sunny restaurant with a view of the harbor. Winner for best view from our rooms was the Green Lotus with its stunning view of the Li River.   I didn’t get the lake view I had expected at the Guilin Bravo, but we were upgraded to nicer rooms in their new wing.  And they had a very nice outdoor pool and fitness center.  The kids also enjoyed the pool at the Green Lotus and at the Salisbury YMCA in Hong Kong, although the pools at the latter were not really geared to hotel guests and my grandson were rather disappointed that he had to pay extra to use the fitness room there.  The rooms were small and simple in the YMCA, but we couldn’t beat the price for the location--a couple blocks from the harbor and Star Ferry and across the street from a subway station. 

      Food:  Breakfasts at our hotels were generally excellent with lots of food choices and made-to-order omelets.  Lunches were included with our tour, and the restaurants chosen were generally good and included local specialties.  We could order from the menu or enlist our guide’s help.  Since the menus are so large and the dishes so unfamiliar, it was usually more efficient to have our guide’s recommendations.  Meals were a special challenge for me, because I have Celiac Disease, and am “allergic” to anything containing gluten (wheat, rye, barley).   During the planning process, I had a card with instructions for the restaurant translated into Chinese characters by Grace Wang.  This helped a lot—especially for dinners, where we were on our own.  I must say that China is a pretty tough country for those with gluten-sensitivity, but our guides all did their best to insure that I had something gluten-free to eat.  The main problem is the soy sauce which is used in so many dishes, and which almost always contains wheat.  I brought a bottle of gluten-free soy sauce with me, and some of the restaurants would use this to make a dish for me.  Generally, I ate mostly steamed rice, fried rice with egg (without soy sauce), and sautéed vegetables.  So I didn’t starve, but I couldn’t partake of some of the more interesting dishes.  The rest of the family loved the food.  Only once in awhile, toward the end of the trip, did anyone choose a pizza or hamburger instead of Chinese food.  The guys reported that the beer was also very good, but, again, I couldn’t partake because beer contains barley.  And, unfortunately, the wine in China still leaves much to be desired.   Meals which were especially memorable were our Peking Duck dinner at the Da Dong Restaurant in Beijing, lunch at the Xin Shuang Quan Restaurant in a garden setting near the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, the lunch of locally-grown organic foods at Longji Ping ‘an Restaurant at the Longsheng Rice Terraces near Guilin, Nomad’s (Mongolian Barbeque) in Hong Kong, and our final dinner splurge at the Hutong Restaurant with an unforgettable view of Hong Kong Harbor.  There was only one restaurant—in Chengdu—that was not good.  I don’t have the name, because our guide changed the itinerary restaurant to one in which she felt it would be easier to get some gluten-free dishes.  Although the food was fine, the atmosphere, service, and the restroom cleanliness left a lot to be desired.

      Shopping:  My daughter and son-in-law made their largest purchases at the Terra Cotta Warrior site near Xi’an.  This included a terra cotta warrior replica about 18” high, and a lovely celadon tea set.   For artwork and general souvenirs, we had the most luck in Yangshuo, Stanley Market and the Lady’s Market in Hong Kong.  We were more receptive to shopping there because it was near the end of the trip, and we wouldn’t have to cart our purchases around so long.

      Memories:  Oh so many, but here are some of the highlights.

      Beijing:  Of course, hiking on the Great Wall—the Mutianyu section.  The expression on my grandson’s face after he tried a snake skewer in the night market on our first night (he was a little more cautious in his food choices after that).   The grandeur and history of the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace.   Having our photo taken in Chinese finery at the Summer Palace.  The beauty of the Temple of Heaven.  The pedicab ride through a hutong (the old traditional housing area), followed by tea and conversation with a local resident.  Our first attempts at bargaining with the vendors at the Great Wall.  The traffic and crazy driving.  The hordes of people—especially at Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City on a hot, steamy Saturday.  The forests of new apartment buildings to house all those people.  Our Peking Duck dinner at Da Dong.

      Xi’an:  Of course, the awesome Terra Cotta Soldiers.  My husband’s hilarious terra cotta warrior photo.  Biking along the city wall early in the morning.  Our auto accident which we knew was bound to happen (luckily, it was minor).  The tea ceremony.  The very entertaining Tang Dynasty show.  Walking in the rain through the Muslim Quarter.

      Chengdu:  Of course, the Panda Research Center.  My granddaughter having her photo taken holding a baby panda.  We couldn’t believe the number of people who were willing to fork over the equivalent of $150 to have this photo.  Of course, it was for a good cause.  Wu Hou temple and the restored old Jinli Street.

      Guilin:  Of course, the gorgeous scenery of the Li River Cruise.  The huge Reed Flute Cave, in which President Clinton once held a dinner party.   The visit to several classrooms in the Children’s Palace.   The visit to the boathouse of a local fisherman, who plied us with his homemade wine, peanuts, watermelon and lychees.  Our visit to the offices of China Highlights and our lunch with Grace Wang.  The colored lights and entertainment along the shore as we enjoyed a night cruise through the 4 lakes and under numerous bridges.  The view of the Longsheng Terraced Rice Fields, and my husband being carried in a sedan chair (he has bad knees) up the mountain while enjoying a beer.  The firecracker “welcome” in the minority village.  The relaxing foot massage enjoyed by the entire family—except my grandson, who luxuriated in his first full body massage. 

      Yangshuo: The awesome limestone karsts (mountains) which line the rivers and surround the city.  The cart ride into the countryside and visit with an old woman in her ancient home.  The “WOW”of the Impressions Light Show with its 600 actors and 2500 spectators.  The efficiency of our guide and driver in getting us in and out through the mobs of people at that show.   Being slowly poled down the Yulong River on bamboo rafts.  Souvenir shopping on West Street.  My husband’s hilarious Chinese hamburger incident.  The anxiety of almost missing our flight to Hong Kong followed by disbelief when they held the plane for us for more than a half hour—a delay that was extended because the security officers wanted to have their photos taken with my grandson!!!!!

      Hong Kong: Of course, Victoria Peak, the Star Ferry, Repulse Bay, Aberdeen Harbor.  Shopping & lunch by the water at Stanley Market.  Our evening harbor cruise to see the lights along the shore.  (For the girls) shopping in the pouring rain at the outdoor Lady’s Market.   (For the guys) shopping for electronics at the huge Golden Mall.  The view of the city and laser show and our farewell dinner at the Hutong Restaurant.  Listening to jazz at Ned Kelly’s Bar.

      In summary, our itinerary offered a wide variety of sights and experiences that were of interest to all the different generations of our family.  Although my husband and I had seen most of the major sights before, it was so enjoyable to experience them again with our children & grandchildren.

      Much has changed since my husband & I last visited most of these same cities 15 years ago.  The people enjoy considerably more economic freedom, and there are many signs of conspicuous consumption—such as upscale malls, designer labels (not always fakes), very expensive cars and small dogs (we rarely saw any sort of pet before).  They consider themselves more Socialist than Communist these days.  However, they are still subject to the political control of the Chinese Communist Party.  The one-child policy is still in effect, with some unavoidable consequences, such as an increasing surplus of bachelors.    Before, the streets were thronged with bikes, while autos have now taken over.  The traffic is so heavy, especially in Beijing, that the government has taken measures such as banning certain cars from the city on certain days of the week—depending on a number on the license plate.  Crossing the street can be dangerous, and we were warned not to rely on a green “walk” signal for safety.  The smog wasn’t as bad as we had expected—a result of the continuing dismantling of old coal-burning power plants.  However, rain shortly before we arrived probably also helped.  There also wasn’t as much littering and spitting as before.  Even cigarette smoking seems to have abated, and is not allowed in numerous public places.  These latter improvements came about in preparation for the Olympics which Beijing hosted in 2008.  Many of the old hutongs (housing areas) have been razed to build skyscraper apartment buildings, but the government seems to be more aware of the importance of preserving some of the old areas.  We didn’t get nearly as many stares as before; the Chinese people are much more used to seeing Western tourists.  Still—there were several instances where Chinese wanted to have their photos taken with us.  One thing that hadn’t changed was the friendliness we encountered everywhere.

      I’ve always said China is my favorite country for travel, and, although I’ve traveled to many different countries in the past few years, I would still rank it Number One.   

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    • 3 years ago
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  • Grenada Unpretentiously Amazin Grenada Unpretentiously Amazing

    • From: spiceislandgirl
    • Description:

      When my friends ask me to visit Grenada, I first had to find a map and remember where it was. I looked around to find possible activities and tourist jaunts.  The island has been pretty quiet since the conflict with the US back in the 80's.  However, they are working to rebound and compete with other West Indian countries for tourism.  One of the first things I notices was the number of waterfalls and beaches, and the Grand Etang National Park.  I know that does not sound all that exciting, but sometimes you have to use your imagination.   I was able to find a package on a well known travel site for around $900 for the whole week.  Less than $1000 air and hotel, it's worth a look and see.  

       

      I arrived on a Friday night around 9:00 pm, everything looked dark.  In the distance, I could see little light twinkling in the sky near  Grand Anse, the city center.  Just great, what has my friend got me into,  I thought.   I paid $1000 to sleep for a week in no man's land.  The taxi transferred us to the hotel.  From my window, I see a few cars on the street, no big bustling commercial centers that I could make out in the dark and no people outside.   I think the only people who were awake were the people who arrived on the flights that evening and where in route to their hotel or abode for the evening.   Alas, on the way I notice a Subway, a sign that there is life, a business I recognize.  It's Friday night, one of the biggest nights for socialization and entertainment everyone is at home.  Did they all leave the island for a holiday.   Ok, I try to stop thinking about the uncertain thoughts of being in the land of the lost, as we arrive at the small boutique hotel.  The lobby is open air; the owner comes down and asks our names.  He picks up the reservation pad, reviews it, takes a key from the hook on the desk, and says, "Let me drive you to your room, it's on a hill."  We put our things in the van and up the hill we go.  The van strains a bit, as it climbs the steep hill, more like a mini-mountain.  He opens the door to the room and tells us, to call the restuarant if we want a snack, even though it’s not customary,  he will give us room service.  After a 3 1/2 hour flight, of course a snack and beverage was welcomed.  

       

      My first impression when I walked into the room was that I had stepped back in time to the 1980's.  The hotel looked literally like it had not had new furniture since, the 1980's.  However, it was clean and they earn the most points with me for that.  I was not moving there for eternity, so the antiquated furniture didn't bother me in the least and I just don't want to get sick or encounter pest during my stay.  

       

      After my snack of delectable fruit punch, a sandwich, and fries.  I proceeded to take a shower and get ready for bed.  It had been a long day, I took once last look out the sliding door facing the dark area that sounded like the ocean and went to sleep.  The next morning, I was awakened to birds, beautiful flower gardens, chirping and a beautiful sunny view that only the mind can imagine.  It was Grand Anse beach and I was a stone's throwaway from it.  The darkness hid the splendor.  I sat on the veranda, for more than an hour watching the ships pass and the waves roll for miles.   

       

      That day, I spent the whole day on the beach.  It was exceptionally clean and was obvious not many people are aware of the treasures for the eyes in Grenada.   A definite positive for me was the fact that the beach was not crowded,  overrun with tourist, and kids running about.  There are a couple hotels that are strategically along the coast; however not enough to spoil the shore like some other islands.

       

      In the afternoon, I went up to the grocery story which was about a 10 minute walk away for water and snacks. The prices were reasonable, and there was a food court nearby serving up local favorite foods and punches.   I would advise against the punches, since they are made from raw fruit and most American's digestive systems are not accustomed to the bacteria encountered from eating raw fruits and vegetables outside the US.   

       

      On Monday, we took a bus up to the Grand Etang National Park to hike.  This was especially refreshing. Once you reach the top at the lookout point, it’s a little cooler and the view is breathtaking.  You may be lucky enough to see some of the small monkeys who inhabit the park.  Just across the road, there is a lake formed from the mouth of a dormant volcano, rumored to be many miles deep and home to a mermaid.  The story of the mermaid cannot be confirmed, as I did not see her.   There is lore that people who drown in the lake are found on other islands. The signage prohibits fishing and swimming.  However, there are picnic tables and pavilions perfect for a small lunch or shelter if it rains during your visit.  There is also a restaurant in the park which provides sandwiches and refreshments.   Plan at least 3 to 4 hours or longer depending on how well you enjoy nature.   It is recommended you wear hiking shoes on this excursion.  The hills are slippery and the park is in the rainforest, so the trails are damp.  This is an easy hike and a good one for the entire family. 

       

      Our next day trip was to Mt. Carmel Falls.  This was a decent 30 to 45 minute hike.  To get to the falls, we climbed over two, three foot around rocks.   While on the island, we also visited The Falls of the Seven Sisters and Annandale Falls.  All the falls have a different appeal.  Mt. Carmel's Falls are huge and the water continually falls in big sheets from the colossal rocks which look like a wall.  To get to the Seven Sister's you must hike for around an hour, around some twists and turns, slippery slopes, and once you reach is a tricky maze of boulders connected across a stream and to see all seven (7) falls you must be an expert hiker. Make sure you have plenty of water for this one and that you are in pretty good physical condition.  The Annandale Falls is just like a city park.  You drive in and walk down steps to the falls.  It is very easy to navigate.  If you like you can take a walk in the rocky pools and see the different creatures that inhabit.  This one is a fun one for the kids, you don't have to worry about it not being safe.  There are still more falls to visit in the country. 

       

      The following day, we set out to find the Claibone Springs, a natural hot spring.  It took many twists and turns. By the way, few roads in Grenada are marked.  The drive up into the mountains was relaxing. There are very few hairpin curves to unnerve you.   Most of the day, we asked for directions and everyone pointed in a different direction.  However, it was all cool, we were on vacation. So, there was no time schedule.  By the evening, we finally had navigated the mountains.  In real time, it took around an hour of drive time and another hour or so to sift through the lush vegetation.  We followed the sounds to find the spring. It was quite a treat once; we arrived and put on our swimsuits to bathe in nature's hot tub. I don't know if the stories are true about healing and rejuvenation, but the water was clear until we disturbed the sulphur sediment on the bottom.  We felt so good after our bath; we drove back into town, had dinner and caught a movie.  

       

      I could talk for many pages about the natural wonders of Grenada, the Spice Island. Let me not forget to mention, the Clark's Court rum tour, the Belmont Estates, River Antoine, Chef Castle in Excel Plaza, and Levera Point.  If you go to Levera at the right time of the year you can see the sea turtles hatching. Needless to say, I have plans to return.  This is the place to go if you are a nature lover.  I was never concerned about my safety, even though I still recommend using the same vacation precautions, you would use in any other place.  Don't let the darkness of night fool you, it is truly amazing.  

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    • 3 years ago
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  • NYC for the Holidays NYC for the Holidays

    • From: lprice
    • Description:

      We do an annual girls trip - no husbands, no boyfriends, no kids - just us girls ready to go out and have fun! This year we decided on NYC. None of us had a huge budget and with a little planning and flexibility, we had a great 4 day low-budget weekend! If you fly in, we suggest scheduling a Super Shuttle for the best rates and best state of mind! You can  take the bus to the subway, but we wouldn't recommend it! Trsut us on this one...we've tried it before.

      Where to Stay: bathroom.jpgWe stayed at the Jane Hotel, which is more hostel like than hotel. But, the location was great! The rooms are small. MyThe Jane Hotel friend and I got a bunk bed room. It was 50 sq. ft. but under a $100 a night per person. After all, how much time are you really going to spend in the hotel? Your in NYC! The bathroon is also down the hall. The hotel provides slippers and robes as well as free bottled water in the rooms. THe bathrooms were also very clean. Overall, the history and the ambiance along with the unbeatable location made it a great bargain! One that we will use again!Definitely check them out -  http://www.thejanenyc.com/ The restaurant in the lobby is really good and the lounge on the second floor is a hot spot for local celebrities. The hotel is also located in the area where a lot of filming of Sex and the City was taped, hint, hint for all you ladies (and men!) who have a soft spot for anything Carrie, Miranda, Samantha or Charlotte.

      Transportation: We recommend the subway. The walking is a great way to see and become familiar with the neighborhood and city. It is also the cheapest option. You can buy an all day pass with unlimited rides for about $8.25 a day. Just pick to purchase a new metro card and pick the unlimited. It was cheaper for three days worth of rides to opt for the single day passes but there are week long passes as well.

      Chat n' Chew

      We flew in on Friday morning and took the shuttle to the hotel. We then hopped on the subway and headed to the Christmas Market at Union Square. There is a farmer's market there as well that is great for grabbing quick snacks to act as lunch OR our brunch favorite in the Chat n' Chew just off the square. http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/chat_n_chew/ Locals and tourists alike love this spot. It is tucked in the basement just next to the New School. If the front looks crowded just walk down the hallway to the back room where there is plenty more seating. If there is a line, it is definitely worth the wait. The chocolate cake is mouth-watering so save room. The portions are large and could easily be shared by two people. The mac n' cheese was the favorite of our table and a favorite among the locals. The omelettes and tuna melts were pretty yummy as well.

      TGuggenheim Museumhe Guggenheim is a MUST see for all you architecture buffs out there and anyone interested in art and architecture. If you time it right, you can take advantage of the 'Pay What You Can Night' (Friday nights from 5:45-7:45, no entrance after 7:15). Instead of the typical $18 ticket, you can pay what you want (typically $1) to see the exhibits. They also throw in a free headset. Take the headset! Each painting is numbered and you can get a history and explaination of the art pieces. Beware - GET THERE EARLY! There is always a line. We got there an hour early and the line was already lined up across the front. By the time it opened, the line was wrapping around the block. It can get cold in the winter, so bundle up in layers and settle in with a coffee. Dinges and Waffles food cart was set-up there as well offering coffee and warm goodies. Definitely well worth the wait !http://www.wafelsanddinges.com/location.html Check out their website and twitter feeds to figure out where they will be.

      Carlo BakerySaturday morning we got up and took the subway to the World Trade Center (WTC) site and hitched the PATH across the river to Hoboken, New Jersey. It is a little confusing on the weekends since the direct line isn't running, but well worth the minute or so to figure it out. There are signs detailing what you need to do. Once in Hoboken it is a couple of blocks to the harbor with a great park and view of downtown Manhattan or if you turn the other way Carlo's Bakery of the Cake Boss. It was so cold that morning that we didn't have the fortitude to stick it out, so we snapped a photo and then high-tailed it to the bagel shop around the corner. I am still kicking myself for missing out on the cannolis. Better luck next time. If you come for treats, be ready to camp in a line or get there really early.  

      Library

      After our breakfast we split, one group going to the Statue of Liberty and the other half headed to our 'Sex in the City' tour. This is definitely for the 18-21 and up crowd. If you loved the show, you will love the tour, right down to the Cosmo's at Scout. After the tour, we hit up the Public Library. In the movie Carrie returns a book there, The Greatest Love Letters Ever Written. Well, we learned that you can't actually check out books there. The stately old building is strictly a research branch now. There is a gift store though that does sell the Greatest Love Letters, composed and written after the movie was made for the fans. While you stop by to buy the book, don't forget to take a peek around the rest of the building. The reading rooms on the third floor are magnificent and well worth the explaination. If you want some respite from the horn homing and fast-pace outside, grab a book and hunker down for a while in the silent reading room.

      Aria RestaurantAfter our tour and walk about we havd definitely worked up an appetite. Our tour operator suggested a great little wine bar located near the hotel in the West Village called Aria. http://www.yelp.com/biz/aria-wine-bar-new-york The bites are small and well-priced for good food. The wine is also well-priced. It had an authentic, cozy feel and had mostly locals eating dinner. It is a great place to go with a group and order several of the menu items and share. The mac n' cheese was large enough to be a meal by itself with a glass of wine, while the crab cakes was a little small to be filling. All in all, it was a pleasant dining experience with knowledgable waiters and great people watching. We then walked down the street to S'nice http://nymag.com/listings/restaurant/snice/ for a hot chocolate and yummy cookie. The staff was great in answering our questions. Ther e is also wi-fi here in case you want to log on.

      Rockefeller Center The next morning we left bright an early to head down to Rockefeller Center to go ice skating. Bryant Park is cheaperThe Big Piano and so is Wollman, but the experience itself is well worth the $20. Rockefeller Center is a maze of buildings and corridors so make sure you follow the signs. We ice skated for about two hours then headed back to brunch at the Tavern on Jane http://www.tavernonjane.com/ . We then headed back out to FAO Schwartz and the Big Piano. Yes, we children of the 80's had to relive the Tom Hanks role of trying to play chopsticks on the piano. If your there during Christmas, check out the Lego area for Santa! There are even shows every so often. Just take of your shoes and forget your an adult!

      Times SquareWe had to check out Times Square with the lights and chaos. The most security we saw was at theSubway Antics subway station. It is defeinitely a stop, but a five minute look shows you all you need to see, at least in my opinion. If you want a cheap T-shirt or souvenir this is the place to get it. After our quick peek at Times Square we headed back to the subway and headed back to the West Village area. Our front desk crew had suggested the Standard Hotel Beirgarten. The Beirgarten is tucked next to the Hotel and under the High Line ( a GREAT park and amaxing place to take photos of the skyline from). You buy tickets at the front door ($8/item) and pick-up your food and drink of choice from the bar. The beers are HUGE and well worth the $8. The bratwurst is good and comew with peppers and sauerkraut and the pretzels with dipping sauce. VERY worth the price and filling! Don't miss the ping pong tables. They are a great break between beers or a good way to meet locals and other tourists. This was our FAVORITE restaurant on the trip. We will definitely be coming back here!

                                                                                                                                                            

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