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November 2007

The Netherlands-A Kingdom of Contrasts

29

November

Many people get confused when visiting The Netherlands, or planning a trip to The Netherlands, because so many people call it Holland. Technically, this is incorrect, because there are actually twelve provinces in The Netherlands, and North and South Holland are merely two of them. Hondsbossche ZeeweeringThe country itself is most well-known for their passion for social freedom, and fierce liberal tolerance towards things that are frowned upon in most other countries, making it very popular for young people, as a place to go to where they can get away with more than they would be able to in their home countries.

Despite popular belief, there are more things to do in the Netherlands than visit Amsterdam’s many coffeeshops. For nature lovers, and those who enjoy hiking, and seeing the sights on foot, there are over a dozen different nature preserves and parks distributed throughout the provinces in The Netherlands. A few of which are Nationaal Park Lauwersmeer, in Groningen, Friesland, Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe, in Gelderland, Nationaal Park De Biesbosch, which covers areas in both North Brabant and South Holland, Grenspark De Zoom – Kalmthoutse Heide, which covers areas in North Brabant, and Belgium as well. Other popular activities include bicycling to see the sights, fishing, camping, and more.

Dutch cuisine, and that most commonly found throughout the Netherlands can be both palatable to anyone who enjoys hot, traditional delicacies, and food for the soul, or people with a more adventurous taste. The Netherlands are famous for their variety of native cheeses, such as Goudse, Edammer, Leidse, and Leyden, which are flavoured with herbs, like cloves, cumin, caraway, and nettle. Tea and coffee are popular all day, every day, amongst all warm drinks, such as hot chocolate, or “Kwast” which is hot water, serve with lemon juice. Breads in the Netherlands, such as Rye, and others, are made from yeast, which makes them soft, and airy. Dinners in the Netherlands are very meat and potatoes based; beef stews, and seasoned meats, roasted and served with vegetables are popular, as well as liverwurst and meatloaf.

When traveling through the cities in the Netherlands, if it’s the nightlife, restaurants, and urban culture that travelers are interested in seeing during their visit, hotels and hostels are available for tourists for them to take lodging in, as well as guesthouses. If nature, hiking, and outdoor activities are the main focus of the trips being made, it’s a good idea to search for camp sites, or farmhouse lodgings. Getting around in the Netherlands, when going from one province to another is mostly done by rail, but while traveling through the cities in the Netherlands, it’s a good idea to either go on foot, or by bicycle. If you’re good at finding parking spaces, riding a motorcycle, or scooter is another great idea for urban travel. The best times to visit the Netherlands are the later spring months, such as April through June, or July, or the early autumn, however, visiting in colder months can be cheaper, although the whole point is; it’s colder, as well as rainy.


Iceland-Nordic Wonderland

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November

There are seven main regions of Iceland, all worthwhile and ideal for travelers to spend time in, both for their wide range of wildlife, and atmosphere. These seven major regions, each with their own features and attractions are West Iceland, The Westfjords, Reykjavík and the Capital Area, North Iceland, East Iceland, South Iceland, Icelandand The Highlands. Iceland is much different than a great deal of other countries; from surveys taken, statistics show that as much as 80% of the country believes in elves, and even in modern times such as these, construction projects have been re-routed, or detoured, in order to avoid disturbing places where elves are said to reside. Also, five hundred years before Christopher Columbus was even born, Leif the Lucky, is said to have been the very first European to set foot in North America. He was said to have landed in Newfoundland, where there have been found ruins of a Viking era farmstead.

There are several different exciting activities travelers can take advantage of while visiting Iceland, such as whale watching, where many species of whales can be seen in the Atlantic Ocean; then there’s bird watching, another popular activity in Iceland, because some places have large amounts of exotic bird life, both colorful tropical birds, and native cold-weather birds. Another popular activity amongst tourists is hiking in various regions of Iceland; with the many areas that are over 400 m above sea level, there are also glaciers, volcanoes, and lakes, that many people enjoy hiking through to see for themselves on foot. Horseback riding is an excellent activity for families and individuals, and rides can go from an hour, up to ten days. Other popular activities in Iceland include fishing, hunting, sea angling, kayaking, glacier tours, golf, including Midnight Golf; The Arctic Open, which takes place in June, annually. There’s also the Reykjavík Marathon, which is another annual event, as well as river rafting, and swimming, also popular because a great deal of swimming is done in therapeutic hot springs, found naturally in Iceland.

Cuisine in Iceland ranges from the delicious, to the bizarre. For instance, the fresh seafood, and mountain lamb. The traditional preparation for the lamb is by smoking it, which is delicious, although the traditional preservation is used in a few areas as well, which is by burying the meat in snow to keep it cold, which was used before there were refrigerators. One of the more adventurous types of food you’ll find in Iceland is by sight alone, something that would raise the hairs on your neck. Rotten shark, cured by being buried, and then chased with some Black Death schnapps.

Finding a place to stay in Iceland is easy enough, for instance, there are over a hundred different campsites in Iceland, hostels, private accommodations, such as inns or hotels, summerhouses, cottages, farmhouse accommodation, and guesthouses. Getting around in Iceland is most often done with a vehicle; the roads have a loose layer of gravel on them, in order to provide traction, when conditions are icy. Traveling in the summer is more ideal than winter for obvious reasons; conditions may be too harsh to properly enjoy some activities in certain areas.


Captivating Hong Kong

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November

The name given to the Hong Kong territory literally translates into “fragrant harbour” and the name truly fits. While Hong Kong actually consists of almost three hundred islands, including the three largest areas which Hong Kongare the New Territories, -connected to the Kowloon Peninsula, Lantau Island, and Hong Kong Island, which is the largest, Hong Kong has managed to remain beautiful, both naturally and culturally. Hong Kong along with being the largest island, is also the most thickly populated. Both the flora, and fauna of Hong Kong manage to stay intact over the years, as the Chinese culture continues to embrace the natural life around their large city, and incorporate much natural and floral design into the city itself, while preserving their unique natural environment as well.

One of the most popular things to do in the city of Hong Kong is to shop! Souvenirs, clothing, hand crafted jewelry, and much more, all waiting for the credit card savvy shopper’s eyes to light up with glee. Many people come to China for its rich history and lore, as can be found at museums, tours of historical sights, monuments, Chinese culture festivals and heritage tours. Other popular activities and attractions are the nature preserves, and guided walks through Hong Kong’s paradisiacal natural atmosphere.

The cuisine you’ll find in Hong Kong caters to the traveler when it comes to what you’ll find served in restaurants; a delightful fusion of Eastern and Western ethnical dishes. When eating at a four or five star restaurant, however, you have to remember, that technically, you are experiencing gourmet cooking, but you aren’t really experiencing Hong Kong’s cuisine. To do that, find the corner store dives, ask around from the locals, and see what they consider to be good food. Don’t just take your travel rep’s advice. Go looking for what’s popular amongst the locals. Americans will find that hamburgers from McDonald’s are quite a bit more expensive than in the United States, while Chinese food can be found much cheaper. Of course, tea drinking is a very large part of Chinese culture as well, the rituals of pouring the tea, drinking tea, and thanking those who poured the tea are all complex, so be sure to study up on Chinese manners.

Getting around in the city of Hong Kong is best done by either bicycle, on foot, or for those who don’t mind traffic, public transportation and taxis. The city is very busy, and has a high population; many people are trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. And sometimes, that just means walking briskly; you’d be surprised how many cars you can pass just by walking quickly. However, sidewalk-legal scooters, or motorcycles can make it through traffic a little faster, and make parking simpler as well. Finding accommodation is Hong Kong is easy, and available for travelers with budgets of all sizes. There are luxury five star hotels, as well as the most expensive hotels, which overlook Victoria Harbour. There are also more modest guest houses, and youth hostels for younger travelers, found on Hong Kong, as well as in the New Territories, Kowloon, and the outlying islands.


Hawaii’s Intoxicating Islands

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November

Hawaii is probably one of the top most popular destinations for vacationers all over the world. There is something most find hard to express, and utterly alluring about the islands Hawaiian island of Kauai that bring visitors back again and again. It truly is one of the most beautiful place on Earth, being home to beautiful beaches, friendly locals, weather that is neither too hot or humid, peaceful ocean breezes, not to mention other fascinating facts and sights, such as being the location of the world’s most active volcano, the world’s tallest sea mountain, as well as being one of the youngest geological formations in the world, and the youngest of the United States. There are six islands that make up Hawaii; Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and “The Big Island” which is actually named Hawaii, but called The Big Island so people don’t get confused with the state, and the name.

One of the favourite activities to take part in is the submarine tours of the reefs that surround the island of Oahu, and the tours can be found in Honolulu, along with several other aquatic activities, such as diving, swimming in the beautiful waters of Hawaii’s hundreds of beaches, as well as taking private or public charter boats out into the ocean for fishing trips with family and friends. Other popular activities are summer festivals on the beaches with the Hawaiian locals, whom are always very welcoming to visitors of the island. Luxury resorts and waterfront spa treatments are also popular indoor activities in Hawaii, as well as more family oriented activities such as “Sky Adventures”, which are helicopter tours of the volcano and breath taking mountains. Another popular attraction to Hawaii is the nightlife; dance clubs, and live beach-front entertainment, including Hawaii’s famous scantily clad Hula dancers.

One of the most multicultural of all Hawaii’s many attractive properties, is the cuisine visitors will find there; some of the most prominent influences in Hawaiian food is Polynesian, Asian, and American. The most popular vegetables and fruits used in Hawaiian foods are coconuts, yams, macadamia nuts, guava, tamarind, melons, seaweed, kukui, sweet potatoes, breadfruit, pineapples, and bananas. The popular spices used in Hawaiian cooking are Five Spice, Char siu, soy sauce, jicama, fish sauces, Bagoong, Patis, and Wasabi. One of the most interesting choices of meat in Hawaii, while pork is very popular, is actually Spam. Believe it or not, Spam is used in almost everything in Hawaii; it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hawaii is the planet’s second largest consumer of Spam, –the first is actually Guam. Tuna is another staple food of Hawaii, and used in many traditional dishes. Some of the delicious dishes you’ll definitely have to taste in Hawaii is Loco Moco; two fried, seasoned hamburger patties, topped with cooked eggs, and gravy, as well as, Kalua Pig, a favourite of natives and visitors, which is pulled pork, with marinated and steamed cabbage.

In Hawaii, when looking for hotels, your options are various to say the least. Choosing a hotel further inland can be cheaper, though further from the beaches. The hotels on the beach are picturesque but much more expensive; there are resort hotels, spa hotels, luxury five star getaways, and economically sound hotels as well, for those who prefer to spend their time outside their hotel rooms. Getting around in Hawaii is usually done by car, or scooter in city areas, or by bicycle. When traveling by car, visitors have more independence to travel the island freely. Travel back and forth to the islands is done either by ferry, or air.


Amsterdam-Venice Of The North

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November

Amsterdam is the most diverse city in the world with 177 different nationalities. It is the capital city of the Netherlands and is known for its liberal cafes, canals, and red-light district, among other things. Before it Amsterdamwas a populated city, Amsterdam was mostly comprised of marshes and grasslands. Surrounded by water and rampant with canals, it is now what you might call a floating city. Amsterdam’s climate is a moderate temperate one. In the winter the temperatures rarely drop below freezing and the summers are warm though rarely what one would refer to as hot. There is not really a bad time to visit this city as the weather is so mild throughout the year. The most beautiful weather is generally in the months of July and August.

In Amsterdam, things like bicycling and public transportation are more practical and economical and are widely encouraged. Public transports include buses, trams, ferries, taxis, water taxis, water buses, and canal cruises. Getting around this city is certainly no feat. Once in the city there are accommodations for every budget type ranging from five star hotels to youth hostels.

While in Amsterdam, there are plenty of tourist attractions to visit. Nestled in the middle of the red-light district, for example, is the Oude Kerk-a lovely old church with cute homes at its sides. It is a beautiful contrast and the church’s bell tower was a useful landmark to the men sailing the seas. The house where Anne Frank hid away and wrote her famous diary also stands in Amsterdam, now a museum housing the very book itself. You may also want to check out the Van Gogh Museum and the Rembrandt House Museum.

The Dutch cuisine is a simple and nutritional one consisting of a lot of vegetables and some meats, fruits, breads, and cheeses. They are also big on stews and pancakes. Amsterdam has many restaurants of all different types, most centered in the main part of the city.


The Allure Of Gibraltar

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November

The tiny peninsula of Gibraltar is located on the very southernmost edge of Spain, and appears to be stretching down, as though trying to reach Africa, but falls short, just barely, forming the Strait of Gibraltar, through which flows the Mediterranean Sea to reach the Atlantic Ocean. Despite the many different countries situated around her, Gibraltar is actually a British overseas territory, where were once a significant base for the British Navy, and Armed Forces. With Portugal to the northeast, Spain to the north, and Africa to the south, while still being a mainly British territory, Gibraltar is certain a mesh of many different cultures, and people.

The Rock of GibraltarTravelers that plan to visit Gibraltar can expect foods that are basically culturally eclectic, however, the main two types of food that tourists will find in the small region, are Mediterranean, and British, or a combination of both. There are many dishes of excellence to be found in the region; an example of the pasta you’ll find there is Rosto, which is mainly a type of macaroni, served with a tomato sauce, including vegetables, sausage, or beef, and other varying vegetable and meat ingredients, topped with grated Edam cheese, called queso bola in Gibraltar. Another example is fideos al horno, which is traditionally served with a combination of sauces, and usually egg and bacon; it’s translated directly into “baked noodles,” and is a traditional family recipe in Gibraltar. Other popular cuisine, is the breads you’ll find in Gibraltar, such as bollos de hornasso, calentita, pan dulce, and panissa. Rolita, is a traditional and popular dish served there; it’s a thin slice of beef, surrounding a variety of ingredients, such as olives, bread crumbs, eggs, herbs and olive oil.

One of the most impressive sites travelers will see, and it would be exceedingly difficult not to see it, is the Rock of Gibraltar. Regardless of how a visitor is approaching, whether by air, or sea, or even driving, the rock stands up, towering high, and reaching up magnificently, making it quite beautiful in appearance. The rock is what attracted so many early inhabitants to the peninsula, acting like a beacon for those coming by air and sea. Because the Rock literally grew right up out of the ocean, and is made of limestone, the Rock is riddled with over a hundred caves. Also among the sites to see are the Barbary Apes, who actually are native to Gibraltar, and can be seen living “semi-wild” in the “Ape’s Den”, or Queen’s Gate, but the main population of Barbary Macaques are found more in the Great Siege area. The beaches in Gibraltar are also very popular, and there are four main beaches that are available for the public; with three hundred days of sunny weather, the beaches are very popular. There is also the mysterious Moorish Castle, located in Gibraltar, and although very large, little is known of its actual origins.

There are several beautiful hotels located in ideal areas within Gibraltar, such as Rock Hotel, located on Europa Road, in Gibraltar, and built in 1932 by the Marquis of Bute, also the Caleta Palace Hotel, which is located on the Catalan Bay, on the eastern side of the rock, and sits right beside the Mediterranean Sea. Gibraltar is warm, most of the year, and travelers should travel during peak conditions, but avoiding the crowds during the off-season is cheaper, if they don’t mind the chillier weather.


Cuba-More Than Meets The Eye

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November

Located in the Caribbean, Cuba is sometimes called the Key to the Gulf, as in the Gulf of Mexico, and is the largest island in the West Indies, not to mention, one of the largest in the world. Her geography makes Cuba el capitilio havanaa perfect destination for vacationers looking for an island getaway. Cuba has for instance, the world renowned valleys like Viñales, Yumurí and Los Ingenios, that stretch throughout Cuba, as well as three different mountain ranges, and two separate savanna regions. There are also beautiful rivers, such as Hanabanilla, with enchanting waterfalls, that continue to touch those travelers with a deep love for nature. Cuba also has over three hundred different natural beaches, with crystal clear blue water, and long stretches of soft white sand; one of the most famous of these is Varadero Beach.

There are many fun things to do in Cuba, and one of the most favoured is simply lying on the beach, and soaking up the sun. Other popular activities are going scuba diving, and discovering underwater wildlife, as well as enjoying other nautical activities, like fishing, waterskiing, or boating. Golf is also very popular in Cuba, and there are several beautiful, pristine golf courses throughout the island. Nature oriented individuals will love Cuba for it’s wildlife preserves, national parks, and several different hiking trails, where tourists can get a firsthand experience of Cuba’s natural flora and fauna. Tourists are also urged to watch the local calendars for cultural festivals, and local events that are open to the public; outdoor festivals are fun for both families and individuals, as well as couples out on a romantic excursion, or honeymoon.

The traditional foods found in Cuba are mainly a cultural mixture of Spanish, African, and Caribbean foods, as well as there being surprisingly, a small but definitely apparent influence of Chinese cuisine in the Havana area. This is naturally due to all the different cultures that have immigrated to Cuba, and the slavery on sugar cane farms that caused a lasting effect on the cuisine, with native African recipes. Some traditional favorite Cuban dishes are Ajiaco, a type of soup containing chicken, corn, and two kinds of potatoes, sour cream, avocados, and capers, and Picadillo, which is a mixture of ground beef, mixed with olives, black beans, and capers, but contains no chili powder, and is usually served with rice, or used as a filling for burritos or tacos. In fact, Cuban food is much more mild than most people think, in light of the Mexican influence cuisine, most expect Cuban food to be spicy, but it’s not. For example, the popular tamales in Cuba also omit any chili powder in the recipe.

The best type of accommodation to be found in Cuba are hotels, and they can be found throughout Cuba, easily, from luxury spa resort hotels, and hotels for those who prefer to spend their vacation outside their room. You can easily find hotel reservations for three, four and five star hotels that are under a hundred dollars per night, located in the islets and keys of Cuba, on the beaches, and in the cities, whether you prefer to stay in a vintage historical hotel, or a newer hotel; both are modeled to accommodate guests with every convenience of home. As for getting around in Cuba, for those who prefer to get around quickly, and reliably, the rails that run throughout the island of Cuba are the best idea for getting from one area to the other. Otherwise, there are also buses that go through the cities and urban areas of Cuba, as well as taxis, but travelers are urged, if the take a taxi to keep a close eye on the meter. Other options are renting a car, but be prepared to not be able to find a parking place fairly often, or to park and walk.


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