Monday, November 11, 2013

Thanksgiving Weekend Getaway in Hudson Valley

The Hudson Valley is the best place in New York for a short weekend trip, especially on Thanksgiving holiday. Besides the view of the Catskill Mountains, there are also many interesting historic architectures and outdoor adventures that will keep any family member busy. Hudson Valley is also just a stone’s throw away from Manhattan, so any vacationer will love the dramatic shift of the hustle and bustle of the city to a relaxing natural ambience in the Hudson Valley. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

5 Landmarks Near New York Penn Station

As the busiest commuter rail hub in North America, Penn Station definitely has reasons why it serves 300,000 passengers a day. And if you’re a part of that number, you’re in luck because there are a dozen landmarks within walking distance from the station. Located right underneath Madison Square Garden, Penn Station serves as the gateway to the heart of the Big Apple. Do you have a few hours of layover at New York Penn Station? Well, you can explore Manhattan and see its world-famous tourist spots and still make it to your next train!

1. Empire State Building

This 102-story skyscraper has been in many classic Hollywood movies since it was built in 1931. King Kong (1933), An Affair to Remember (1957), and Sleepless in Seattle (1993) are just one of those movies that have established the Empire State as one of America’s favorite architecture. If you want to splurge and see New York from the highest observation deck in town, an adult ticket to the main deck (86th floor) costs $27, while a main deck plus top deck (102th floor) view is at $44.

2. Times Square

A major commercial intersection in Manhattan, Times Square has been called “The Crossroads of the World”, “The Center of the Universe”, and “The Great White Way”. In 2011, Travel + Leisure magazine has branded it as the world’s most visited tourist attraction, having over 39 million visitors every year. Since 1907, celebrations during New Year’s Eve have become an international event as the Times Square Ball drops at the stroke of midnight to signify the start of the New Year.

3. Central Park

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about Central Park from the TV show Friends and the movie Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Make sure to visit this public park at the center of Manhattan and take part in any popular attractions there: rent a boat at the Loeb Boathouse, ride on a carriage horse, ice skate at the Wollman Rink, ride on the Central Park Carousel; or if you just want to relax, listen to the New York Philharmonic’s open-air concert available during summer on the Great Lawn.

4. SoHo

Artistry is in the blood of New Yorkers, and SoHo in Lower Manhattan is the location of many artists’ lofts and art galleries. If you want to go shopping for some trendy or eclectic clothes, a variety of stores from boutiques to international chain stores have mushroomed in the area. If you’re wondering what “SoHo” is, it means “South of Houston (Street)” and refers to the London district of Soho.

5. Rockefeller Center

Another National Historic Landmark in New York City, the Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 commercial buildings built by the Rockefeller family. You’ve probably heard of the Rockefeller in the music scene, contributed by the fact that the Radio City Music Hall was one of the complex’s first and most important tenants. And who could forget the TV show 30 Rock, which is named after the 70-story General Electric Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The skyscraper is the NBC headquarters and home of many TV studios, such as The Dr. Oz Show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Saturday Night Live.

From Asia to Europe to North America, Andrea can't wait to find out where her next travel adventures will be. While she saves up for her coming great escape, she is a contributing blogger for America by Rail. Plan your train vacations with America by Rail, a leader in the train tour and train vacation industry.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Alert Bay, BC

The beauty found in nature can be one of the most powerful and memorable parts of a vacation. A new favorite location for natural tranquility is Alert Bay, British Columbia. This town is located on Cormorant Island, a small island on the western coast of Canada. Not only does this area provide unbelievable scenery, but it is also a prime location for spotting one of the sea’s most majestic creatures, the orca. Retreats such as the Alert Bay Lodge offer seaside views where orca sightings are prime. Bird watchers will delight in the Ecological Rain Forest Park, while whale watchers will enjoy the innumerable opportunities to catch a glimpse of these giant creatures offshore.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Calgary Stampede

Barrel racing at the Calgary Stampede. Photo b...
Barrel racing at the Calgary Stampede. Photo by Chuck Szmurlo taken July 10, 2007 at the Calgary Stampede with a Nikon D200 and a Nikon 70-200 f2.8 lens. Please note that the logo for the Calgary Herald has been painted over. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every July, Calgary comes alive with over a million visitors laughing, shouting, and enjoying a ten-day festival extravaganza. The Calgary Stampede serves as an iconic preservation of traditional Western culture and entertainment, notably featuring one of the largest rodeos in the world.

Historically, the Calgary Stampede began with agricultural exhibitions and industrial fairs, but as early as 1912, rodeo elements were added into the experience. One of the first great successes of the event was the 1919 “Great Victory Stampede” which served to welcome back war veterans after the First World War. With the advent of cinema, the Calgary Stampede gained exposure across the continent after several movies were filmed there in the 1940s. The event continued to grow throughout the 20th century, and now enjoys audiences of over a million each year.

The Calgary Stampede rodeo features the very best competitors and livestock, and is thus by far the largest attraction of the festival. The tournament-style competition offers over $2 million in prize money, creating a high-stakes atmosphere that is exciting both for competitors and spectators. While the rodeo is the main attraction at the stampede, there are hundreds of other events to entertain all of its patrons. A parade kicks off the event, featuring marching bands, floats, and more. The event stays true to its roots and still hosts an agricultural exhibition, which draws a huge audience despite the fact that the demographics of Alberta have shifted to the point where only about two percent of the population is employed in agriculture. Other popular attractions include a derby, a market, and an area with carnival rides and games.

The Calgary Stampede generates a tremendous amount of economic value in tourist revenue, promotion of commerce through trade shows, and overall exposure and promotion of Calgary to the public at large. This extravagant event has made Calgary an extremely popular tourist destination during the summer. Additionally, the Calgary Stampede as an organization promotes volunteerism year-round, and utilizes over two thousand volunteers each year to make the festival happen.

For a tourist looking to attend the Calgary Stampede, the festival makes it easy and relatively affordable to select only the events of interest and purchase individual tickets or discounted packages. Calgary may seem like an inconvenient destination, but tourists actually have many options when it comes to visiting Calgary for the stampede. The Calgary International Airport is located a convenient twenty minutes away from Stampede Park, and there are ample accommodations for the large tourist surge in July. Additionally, there are many other options to get to Calgary such as a Canadian train tour which includes the Calgary Stampede as well as many other exciting destinations.

With its rich history and exciting events to thrill any audience, the Calgary Stampede seems like an experience that needs to go on everyone’s bucket list. For an unconventional and exciting vacation, look no further.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Lovina Beach

Sunset of Lovina Beach 200507-2
Sunset of Lovina Beach 200507-2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lovina beach is one of the most visited beaches in north Bali island because with dark sand and quiet wave syou can go swimming  or snorkeling or just sunbathing.

Lovina also famous as a dolphin attraction in the sea. You can hire a jukung or traditional boat from local people to head offshore where you can see  dolphin from close range.

It is said there are more than 500 dolphins in this area. Ma be for that reason the dolphin monument was built here.

On the way to Lovina, if heading from Bedugul you will find the Singsing waterfall.

How to get there ?

Lovina beach is located in Singaraja regency, village of Anturan. From the city of Singaraja you can head west around 5 km. From Denpasar heading north  to Bedugul by Ubung and Pacung. From Bedugul heading north to Singaraja by Pancasari, Yehketipat, Gitgit and Sukasada.

The distance from Denpasar to Lovina beach around 95 km or 3 hours driving. Needless to say, this is a long way from my old stomping grounds in Savannah, GA!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Field Trip to Tianshui

This past weekend marked my first time joining a sight-seeing trip organized by my school for the foreign teachers.  I did not make the first trip due to some alcohol-related activities that were clearly not well thought out.  This trip would be a three day adventure, so I made sure I was present and accounted for.

Tianshui is located in the neighboring province of Gansu and was settled back in neolithic times.  The major draw of this sprawling industrial city, and all of Eastern Gansu, is Maiji Shan and its Buddhist caves. Also located there is Fuxi Temple, dedicated to none other than Fuxi himself.  Fuxi is a mythological character regarded as the “first ancestor” who introduced the Chinese to fishing, hunting and animal husbandry.  On Friday we saw both of these sites, as well as the house of some poet from a long time ago.  At least I think that’s what he was.  To be quite honest I wasn't paying much attention to the signs.  The house was so beautiful and peaceful that I was completely engrossed in exploring the complex and imagining how great it would be to live in a place like that.

So what are my impressions of the trip as a whole?  In a phrase: waste of time.  That’s right, a gigantic waste of time.  Don’t get me wrong, the sites were really great and I’m glad I had the opportunity to view them.  Nonetheless we wasted an incredible amount of time getting there and back.  How much time, you ask?  Well I am more than happy to elaborate.  Thursday was the first day of the long weekend, we spent 10 hours on a bus from Xi’an to Tianshui.  One day down.  Friday we did all of our sightseeing.  Three sites in one day is not bad at all; I was satisfied with that.  Two days down.  Saturday was the day of our return trip.  It took a whopping 12 hours to get back.  12 hours!  By the time we finally got back to Xi’an I was ready to murder.  I was totally and utterly fried and I think everyone else was too.  And that makes three days.
I take this weekend as a learning experience.  An important lesson life lesson, if you will: for a weekend trip take the train, take the train, take the bloody train.  In my eyes the pain and suffering of a 10+ hour bus ride simply cannot be justified if you are only going for a day or two.

Maiji Shan is an incredible sight.  There are Buddhist figures carved all over the sheer face of the mountain.  The feat of actually getting up there in the first place, and then carving something into the mountainside is impressive in and of itself.  The quantity and quality of the pieces just adds that much more to the beauty and grandeur.  Climbing up and down the steep stairs and narrow catwalks to view the different carvings from all different eras is definitely a highlight among my recent trips.  I highly recommend a visit to Meiji Shan for anyone traveling in the area.

Fuxi Temple was interesting but paled in comparison to Maiji Shan.  There is a 1000 year old tree that is nearly collapsed on the main building, that’s kind of cool.  Other than that I don’t recall anything particularly impressive about the place.  Like almost every other temple I've been to it is beautiful and tranquil.  The traditional Chinese architecture never ceases to capture my interest.  And despite the hustle and bustle of the market just outside the walls, Fuxi Temple was just as quiet as you would expect an ancient place of worship to be.  In retrospect I suppose it is a great way to relax and rest up after a morning climbing all over a mountain.

The final bullet on our itinerary was, as I said, the ancient residence.  For the life of me I can’t remember any of the history of the place other than some important guy used to live there. Regardless, it was a nice little side trip and I enjoyed myself getting lost in the maze of alleys and paths.  It also has an awesome secret basement that was used as a treasure cave and later as a bomb shelter.  It would make a fantastic wine cellar.  The house is very large and consists of several buildings connected by inner courtyards and porches.  The style and layout made a big impression on me for some reason.  I would like to imagine that if I ever own a house in the future I would like it to be similar in design with plenty of open space and inner courtyards.  I feel like it makes for a really unique feeling that encourages a close relationship with nature, which I like.  It’s probably a pain in the ass to keep clean though.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Language Translation Barriers and Bad Feet

"Science Friday" Recommendations
Friday night saw the crew and I going to the Train Bar (more on this later) for some much needed rest after a long week.  The events on Wednesday caused quite a bit of stress for my colleagues, while myself, more or less unfazed by the unsurprising chain of events (I learn quickly), I was still recovering from my illness and in dire need of a beer or three and then a good sleep.

As it turns out, there was no good sleep.  No good sleep at all.  The owner of the Train Bar seemedto be on good terms with a bunch of the foreign teachers here, so when he showed up he immediately had a round of shots brought over for us. Very nice guy, but I would have needed language translation services to understand anything he was saying.

So we spend Friday night out at the clubs and I did not get home until very early in the morning.  A bit of a throwback to my days in Buffalo, but my days here of getting up at 6:30 every day did not appreciate it.  Not one bit.  Bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived, and hungover I stumbled out of my bedroom to get showered, dressed, and caffeinated in preparation for our trip to the Banpo Village that Saturday afternoon.  At some point, for the second time already, I was not paying much attention to the angle of my step and I quite forcibly stubbed my little toe on the edge of a large chair.  Damn did it hurt.  Upon immediate inspection it appeared as though the nail had been bent in half and it very quickly turned purple.  OK, now it’s really hurting.

I slip on my shoes-very carefully I might add-and don’t bother to tie the left one. I limp out to meet my friends. I then limped to the closest street and we catch a cab.  The drive is about 15 minutes outside of the city.  I try to relax and focus on the scenery, which is mostly just dirty buildings, dust filled air, and excavations.

We arrive and enter the site.  At the front there is a couple of small museums holding various tools, implements, containers, and a number of prehistoric bones.  I limp through them, trying to keep my interest piqued despite the pain in my foot.  Shuffle, shuffle, throb, limp, throb.  Incensed by the pain, I try move quickly through the museums so we can get to the good stuff and subsequently get the whole ordeal over with.  This, of course, just causes my foot to hurt more, which in turn makes me want to move faster, which causes my foot to hurt more, which in turn … you get the point.  Eventually we made it through the entire thing.