Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Auckland New Zealand


When we were in New Zealand a few years ago we rode the Shotover Jet.  It was exciting to say the least!  the boat drivers are maniacs.  Anyway, we survived and thoroughly enjoyed our week in this beautiful country. 

Auckland is one of the largest cities in New Zealand and a very prominent tourist hub, thanks to the number of things to see and do in and around the city. Whether you want an activity that will pump your adrenalin such as sky jumping, you can get yourself strapped up and jump off from the tallest building in Auckland, the Sky Tower. If that sounds a bit more daring for you, why not go bungee jumping and wean yourself into sky jumping for your next holiday in Auckland? Away from adrenalin intriguing activities, you can also enjoy less intriguing activities such as taking excursions at the charming botanical gardens, taking safaris and even visiting the aquariums where you get to see the dolphin and whales among other aquamarines.

Lovers of history will not be disappointed in Auckland thanks to the numerous museums. Alternatively, you can visit the Howick Historical Village and get to experience rich architecture at its finest from the Maori buildings which are home to numerous historical artifacts from within and without the region. If you like, you can hire a Maori Guided tour who will guide you in the area and tell to you the ancient stories about the historical tribes that reside in the Howick Historical Village. The region has so much to do and see that you will need a lot of time, a month to be precise, to be able to explore all there is to.

Do you love nature and wouldn’t mind to take a 90km flight or cruise outside the Great Barrier Island? Then you might want to explore the pristine paradise that has amazing bird and marine life and very charming native forests. Auckland has endless spots for exploration and an overabundance of sporting activities to engage in.

Auckland Beaches
The east coast and west coast beaches are the closest of beaches around Auckland, offering charming clean sand beaches and ideal waters for swimming and engaging in water sporting activities. If you wish to engage in surfing, head on to the west coast beaches. The best thing about Auckland Beaches is that they are within an hour’s drive from the heart of the city.

Nightlife
Auckland boasts the most vivacious, engaging, and entertaining nightlife. Elegant bars and venues are located at the waterfront, offering a picturesque panoramic view of the beaches. Being a cosmopolitan city, you will be lost for options when it comes to entertainment from comedy shows, to theater performances, trendy bars, and flashy casinos, and clubs that will ensure you shake you leg till morning.

Shopping
The best way to remember a destination is to take something with you, whether it is a gift souvenir for you or for a loved one. Luckily, Auckland has numerous up market elegant designer shops and department stores selling home wares, fashion clothing, jewelry and a lot more. There are flea open markets that stock tourist souvenirs such as arts and crafts and locally handmade carvings. Such a wide variety only means that there is something for everyone no matter the budget.

Eating
Auckland boasts of the best restaurants and caf├ęs within and without the city, selling mouthwatering international and local delicacies to satisfy every taste bud. The most popular type of food in Auckland is sea food thus be prepared to sample it prepared in different recipes.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Festivities in Barcelona


Barcelona is a great place to visit during one of their many festivals. Why? Because excitement abounds and the festivities will offer you an experience that will last you a lifetime, and one that will make you want to return to Barcelona and do it all over again. The history of the city of Barcelona creates an amalgamation of ancient pagan rituals and today’s strong sense of religion, culminating in great celebrations that can go on for days on end.

Late February running through the 3rd of March there is the Carnival which takes place at night. Carnival was banned by the Franco dictatorship but today people get to enjoy the most exciting carnival experience ever. On the last day they celebrate Saint Medir with a loud procession and singing choirs.

In the beginning of the month of March marks the beginning of the Holy Week with a palm session for the Palm Sunday. As expected, festivities throughout the week will be religious and solemn in nature, until Easter Sunday when celebrations start anew. Festivities will run through to Easter Monday which happens to be a pagan holiday.

April marks the celebrations honoring Saint Jordi which also combines with rose and book festivities. It is a time in which Pagan meets religion in these engaging and entertaining, and at times guttural, celebrations.

June sees the start of the El Grec celebrations which are marked by dancing, events, concerts, and a series of performances.

The month of August sees Barcelonans and visitors celebrate the Feast of the Assumption which is marked with festivities and parties and great feasts.

September introduces to you the Festivity of La Merce (the patron saint of Barcelona), a period characterized by parades and dancing. You get sporting activities such as judo tournaments, sailing regattas, walking races, and even swimming competitions. Pagan rituals and religious ceremonies coincide harmoniously during this period.

The Month of December as expected is equally full of festivities, with Santa Lucia starting from the start of the month all through to Christmas. Santa Lucia is characterized by the annual crib fare which traditionally starts at the cathedral area. Santa Lucia festivities will merge with the Christmas Traditions to result in a very interesting combination of pagan rituals and religious anticipation. Generally though, the main celebration of Christmas is a private home affair.

Ushering the New Year is one of the biggest celebrations in Barcelona with people in the restaurants, bars, and even the streets dressing up for the party. The atmosphere is normally a carnival one and as the clock ticks towards twelve, the strike of 12 sees people eat twelve grapes in tandem with each of the chimes.

Ensure you make note of all of the festivities in Barcelona when planning your holiday and join in the festivities. Many restaurants and stores are closed during the celebrations so plan ahead.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

The City with the Charming Skyline -- Chicago

Chicago is a beautiful city under the sun found on the shores of Lake Michigan, and is a great tourist destination particularly for lovers of jazz and blues music, theater and comedy. In terms of history, culture, and entertainment, no destination can beat Chicago. It boasts a rich architecture showcased by a number of skyscrapers that adorn the city’s skyline. Being a cosmopolitan city, Chicago accommodates people from different backgrounds and ethnicities, people who are very welcoming and friendly, something you can experience firsthand when you walk around the neighborhoods.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about this city is that it is truly unique, able to accommodate and cater to the needs of all holidaymakers with varying vacationing budgets. From the opulent hotels, to restaurants, pubs, boutiques, you will always find a facility and service that is within your budget range, whether you are on a shoestring budget or are ready to overindulge and spoil yourself. Beaches, parks, museums, galleries, churches, are few of the attractions that will keep you gawking in Chicago and wishing you could return.   

Some of the notable places that you should visit include the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Art Institute of Chicago, the museum of Photography and the National Museum of Mexican Art. As is with any other tourist destination in the world, if you wish to get discounts when using public transport or when visiting some of the tourist attractions such as museums and parks, you are advised to get the tourist card – known as the City Pass and Go Chicago Card.

Notable parks in Chicago that you should visit include the Lincoln Park, the Midway Park, the Rogers Park, the Jackson Park, the Millennium Park, and the Grant Park. Away from museums and parks, you can visit ethnic neighborhoods that will give you a feel of the country or region represented. Some places you can visit include Chinatown, the Spanish Neighborhoods Little Village and Pilsen, Little Italy, Greektown, and the Polish neighborhood found on the Northwest part of the city.

You should also make a point of visiting the Chicago Zoo, one of the largest and most wonderful of its kind. Chicago has stood the test of time, experiencing gang violence, bombings, a huge fire that destroyed a large part of the city, and a major racial strife, to remain the attractive and glorious city that it is today with so much to offer its visitors. As mentioned, the skyline in Chicago is well adorned with attractive skyscrapers standing stately and demanding instant attention.

One notable building is the Sears Tower, which was once the tallest building in the whole country but was just recently eclipsed and identity changed to Willis Tower following its sale. Even so, the skyline is still a beautiful one and for a very good reason. After the first steel-framed building was erected back in 1885, Chicago became the pioneer of skyscrapers -- among them The Merchandise Mart, a favorite tourist edifice that is so huge it even has its own zip code. The other landmark that adorns Chicago’s skyline is the Trump Tower, a striking attraction that you can hardly miss on your visit to Chicago.

The moment you land in Chicago, you will realize immediately why the city continues to inspire singers, artists, and writers, and why it continues to attract multitudes of tourists each year. If you have never visited Chicago, you are missing out a great deal. Make a point to visit one of the most vital pieces of cultural history man has ever known.

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Tourist Attractions of Calgary

The largest city in the Province of Alberta, Canada is Calgary, which lies on the southern, grassland part of Alberta province. The city is located circa 50 miles east of the front ranges of the famous Canadian Rockies, and is surrounded by many high plains and foothills. The city of Calgary is maintained by the petroleum, agriculture, high-tech, and tourism industries. It was the first Canadian City to host the World Olympic Winter games in 1988. There are two major rivers running across the city of Calgary – the Bow River located near the downtown part of the city and the Elbow River flowing northwards towards the Bow River.

With that said, the city of Calgary is a wonderful destination, thanks to the many tourist attractions that await tourists. It offers the best shopping experience with great bargains on souvenirs and collectibles that you can take back home with you, great sporting activities, of course and great viewing and exploring activities, from the many city landmarks the place boasts of, to numerous national parks, vast parklands, and unrivaled fine bistros, bars, and restaurants that serve delicious delicacies sampled from all over the world.

One place that you must visit when on a holiday in Calgary is the Aero Space Museum – the only place you will be able to learn about the history that surrounds the Aero Space industry. You will get to learn about the different guides who encouraged the human species to see beyond the world limits. It is at the Aero Space Museum where you will also learn the history of the mighty men, and perhaps women, who helped protect and guard the country Canada operating from the skies. Lastly, the Aero Space museum will educate and enlighten you on the airline evolution and the milestones the space industry has made since its start.

The other must visit while on holiday in Calgary is the Calgary Zoo, boasting of a wide selection of varied animal species, some native to Africa and Australia. Not only will you get to see the traditional zoo residents as expected of any major national zoo, there is a part of the zoo that houses displays of prehistoric animals, hence offers a great opportunity to learn about the animals that existed decades ago. The Calgary Zoo is a great attraction for both young and old, making it an ideal one for family day outs.

Away from the zoo and museums, another Calgary tourist attraction that is a must-see is the Calgary tower, soaring over 525 ft above the ground level. The observation deck of this skyscraper gives you an amazing opportunity to view the city of Calgary and its environs through a glass floor.

With such like attractions, it makes sense why many tourists throng the airports each holiday season headed to Calgary. You are guaranteed of a fun filled vacation, whether you go as a family or a group of friends. The next time you plan on taking a holiday in Canada, Calgary is well worth a visit, with its pristine attractions and charm.

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

California’s Most Famous Tourist Attraction - Yosemite National Park

Located circa 200 miles east of San Francisco lies one of the most popular parks in the US – Yosemite National Park. This park receives over 3 million tourists each year all eager to explore the charming landscape, steep cliffs and attractive waterfalls the place has on offer. It takes circa 3-4 hours to drive from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park by road, but the trip is well worth it as there is so much in place for you including hiking, rafting in Merced River, professional photography, camping, horseback riding, biking, snowshoeing at the Badger Pass, and skiing.

Yosemite National Park is particularly popular among mountain climbers thanks to the 3500ft vertical granite wall of the famous El Captain. Even though the park spans 308283 ha , the most famous part among tourists is the 7 square miles of the Yosemite Valley. The park is most visited starting from early spring to early September i.e. from February to May.

Entrance fee in Yosemite National Park is $20 per car and is valid for seven days. You can opt to drive around the park yourself but the management encourages using the free available shuttle buses heading to most popular spots for purposes of ensuring the park remains free of pollution and of course to maintain uniformity and the park’s natural charm. The only place you are allowed to buy food while in the park is Yosemite Valley. While all the main roads are well maintained and beautifully plowed over the snow season, the National Park Service management expects that all drivers driving private vehicles carry tire chains. Even though high traffic is very common particularly at the entrance, it is always worth it keeping in mind the charm that awaits you ahead.

Tioga Pass – this is circa 9950ft high from the ground level and provides stunning views of the national park. Tioga Pass is only accessible over the summer months around June and July since the place is located at a height that receives quite heavy snow during the winter months. You will also get an opportunity to see some charming wildflowers and sequoias.

Half Dome – this is a granite dome in the park found on the eastern part of the Yosemite Valley. It is arguably the most familiar sight of the park, with its crest rising to over 4,737ft above the floor of the valley.

Glacier Point Road -- this is circa a 30 miles drive from the main visitor’s center and is always open from late May to November. The Road gives the most impressive and stunning views from the height. Most tourists will take short stops, hike and take pictures.

Tunnel View – This spectacular sight is located south of the Valley Floor at the east portal of the Wawona tunnel. The tunnel view is simply breathtaking. This popular spot is one of the most photographed views of the valley.

Mariposa Grove -- this is the biggest grove of huge sequoias in Yosemite National Park. The biggest Tree – Grizzly Giant is around 1800 years old.

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M Gravlee is a travel writer based out of Akumal, Mexico. http://akumalvacation.com/articles.php/

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Beaches of Costa Rica

The tiny country of Costa Rica has very many attractive beaches, with each having a unique setting for each holiday maker’s needs. The best beaches in Costa Rica have been responsible for the millions of holidaymakers who throng this part of the world each year. You will be spoiled for choice when it comes to enjoying water activities and sports -- be it windsurfing, swimming, surfing, snorkeling etc. Here is a list of the leading 9 best beaches in Costa Rica.

- Playa Dominical is thought to be the best surfing beach the world over. It is strategically located 44km south of the famous Manuel Antonia National Park and offers the most splendid and beautiful landscape covered with colossal plantations, estuaries, coastal mangroves, and marshes.

- Playa Tamarindo is thought to be a laid-back and somewhat expensive beach but the town offers posh hotels that have mouthwatering bed and breakfast meals, great shopping experience, and pristine beaches, no wonder tourists can’t help but spend in this beautiful destination in the world.

- Playa Hermosa or Hermosa Beach if you like is for those looking for a holiday destination that is less crowded. Costa Rica has two Hermosa beaches – one near Jaco and the other in Guanacaste. Hermosa construes to mean ‘beautiful’ in Spanish, and is sandwiched between two haughty mountains

- Also worth noting is Montezuma, the beach found on the south of Nicoya Peninsula and which is synonymous with surfers and youths. Just like Playa Dominical, this is also a laid-back destination notable for attractive estuaries and natural mangroves.

- The Playa Conchal beaches are synonymous with tiny crushed shells scattered all over the beach, offering a soothing feeling as one walks along the shores. This beach is located in close proximity to the Playa Brasilito, and is loved by holidaymakers who love sports fishing, swimming, and snorkeling

- Less developed beaches such as Playa Mananillo are also becoming synonymous with tourists, especially those who love to surf. The white sandy beach stretches down to the Pacific. It boasts attractive almond trees that provide shade for holidaymakers who love to read as they relish the serenity of the waters.

- The Manuel Antonio beaches together with the amazing horseshoe bays are the leading favorite in the world, thanks to the magnificent waterfalls and breathtaking hilltops sandwiched in the jungle. Surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, diving are few of the activities that await you in this destination.

- The 8th beach in Costa Rica is Tortuguero, located north of Limon. It is surrounded by charming thick palm trees and freshwater canals. These beaches are however considered unsafe because of the unpredictable currents but their pristine nature is well worth appreciating.

- If you would rather relish the lavishness of a well developed beach, look no further beyond Playa Jaco, which is strategically located near San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. The capital has no beach of its own yet, but Playa Jaco offers a number of services and when compared to Tamarindo beaches, it is a lot more affordable if you are looking to live near bistros, hotels, and surf shops.

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M Gravlee is a retired newspaper publisher who spends several months a year traveling. http://akumalvacation.com/

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tropical Malaysia

Malaysia popularly known as "Truly Asia" is the most attractive and well-known tourist destination in the South East of Asia. It attracts tourist from all over the world for its exotic marine life, nightlife, pristine beaches, international shopping malls, long coastlines, skyscpapers and infrastructure, beautiful under water world of the islands, lush tropical rain forests and scenic beauty. Its sultry climate attracts a lot of tourist from all over the world.

The diversified tourist destinations of Malaysia comprises of Kuala Lumpur-the garden city of light,Putrajaya-the newly developed city,Mallaca-the delightful old town,Penang-the heaven for food and culture,Perhentian island-the dream island, National park,sabah-known for eco-tourism,Langkawi,Cameron Highland and sarawak.

Kuala Lampur is the capital and the ultra modern center of Malaysia. It is situated in Peninsular Malaysia, the heart of selangor state. The worth visiting places in Kuala Lumpur are Petronas Twin Towers, National Museum, central Market, vibrant Chinatown, bustling night markets and a little of Indian culture. Petronas twin towers, a master piece of earth is the second tallest building in the world after recently built Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Kuala Lampur is a wonderful destination for shopping, recreation, nightlife and sightseeing, envious shopping malls, mouth watering food, Chinese cultural festivals. The worth visiting places in Kuala Lampur includes Istana Negara (National Palace), Kuala Lamour Tower, the Putra World Trade Centre.

Putrajay located in the south of Kuala Lampur is the newly developed city .Most of the government office of Malaysia can be found there. The most famous places to visit here are Perdena, Putra, Putra Mosque, Putra Bridge, and Seriwawasan Bridge.

Situated in the south of Malaysia is a beautiful old town called Mallaca which presents an interesting mix of different cultures like Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese and British cultures.
Tourist enjoys seeing the Chinese streets, temples, antique shops parts of European colonial area and the nostalgic Dutch buildings .These include the ST. Paul Hill, Jonker's Walk, Portuguese Settlement village, A'Farmosa Fort.

Penang is the paradise for food and culture lovers. It is located in the North West coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The worth seeing places include George Town, Penang Bridge, Snake Temple, Fort Cornwallis, War Museum, Kek Lok Si Temple. George Town is a very compact oldest British settlement and the countries leading resort areas. The beautiful old Chinese houses, Mahjong games, glimpses of Asian life, trishaws captures the eyes of the tourist in the city of George Town.

Perhentian Island consisting of two island-Big Perhentian and Small Perhentian is located in the state of Terengganu. This island is a heavenly place for snorkeling fans and scuba divers. Tourist loves this place also for sunbathing and turtle and shark watching.

The three states namely Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan encompass the National Park located in the peninsular Malaysia. This gastromical paradise attracts tourist to the home
of some rare mammals like the Indochinese Tiger, Asian Elephant and Sumatran Rhinoceros. The tropical rain forest, jungle trekking, bird Watching, adds up to the delightful experience of the tourist coming from all over the world.

Sabah is a tropical paradise that amazes the tourist with the presence of both beaches and island. Earlier it was known as the” Land Below the Wind" as it lies below the typhoon belt.Kinabalu National Park is Malaysia's first" World Heritage Site" and the most popular biological sites in the world. It is located on the west coast of Sabah covering an area of 754 square kilometers surrounding Mount Kinabalu. It has become an outstanding tourist spot in Malaysia.

Langkawi is one of the most wonderful tourist destinations in south East Asia. It is famous for its nostalgic sandy beaches, scenic beauty, nightlife, tasty food, as well as world-class resort, spas and hotels. It is the best place to go, relax and enjoy.

Cameron Highland is located in the centre of Peninsular Malaysia. It is popular for its beautiful scenery, eye catching tea plantation, amazing butterfly farm, strawberry farms, hill stations, waterfalls, jungle walks, plenty of wild flowers and beautiful gardens.

Sarawak is a lovely Malaysian island state known for its flora and fauna and deep jungles. Tourist can witness various types of animals around this beautiful island, dive into the crystal clear sea and colorful marine life.

The mouth watering and tasty food of Malaysia also attracts a large number of tourists from all over the world. Right from spicy Malay food, Chinese food to Indian and Portuguese food, everything is just electrifying. The most popular Malaysian delicacies include chicken rice, fried noodles, satay, roti canai and rendang.Western food chains are also equally famous. Nyonya cuisine also dominates the taste of tourists.

Malaysia is an excellent spa holiday destination. The numerous luxurious resorts provide the best spa treatments of Malaysia. Different spa therapies, traditional Asian facial, body messages helps to cleanse, restore, refine and hydrate our skin.

Today Malaysia has emerged as one of the strongest economies of Asia. The economic growth of its country is contributed by its tourism sector to a great deal. Thus millions of tourist visits this beautiful and lovely country every year.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Beautiful and Historic Florence Italy

Florence is one of the most attractive places to visit in Italy thanks to the rich cultural and historic heritage the area boasts of. Florence is the capital city of Tuscany and is located besides the beautiful banks of river Arno, in close proximity to the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Seas. The City of Florence was founded by the Romans in the 1st century and since then, it has grown in bits and bounds particularly between the 1200s and the 1600s to a desirable tourist destination that it is today characterized by a booming local industry, commerce and tourism.

Accommodation
Accommodation in the city of Florence is not a problem as there are many hotels centrally located within the city center as well as on the outskirts. Be advised though that due to the popular destination that Florence has become, most of the hotels get fully booked during peak tourism season, hence it is advisable to book your accommodation weeks in advance. Important to note also is that the accommodation can be quite expensive but with some little research, you can be able to get cheaper alternatives. The area around the green Viale dei Colli, is where most hotels are located.

Restaurants
‘Trattories’ or ‘Ristoranti’ is the local name given to restaurants in the city of Florence. The restaurants are synonymous mouthwatering delicacies from different cultural backgrounds. Lunch, the main meal of the day, is normally served at around 1 pm while dinner is served between 8 pm and 9 pm. The costs of meals in the menu don’t include the service charges hence you should plan accordingly.

Tourism
As mentioned, tourism is the backbone of the economy of the city of Florence and thousands of tourists flock this part of Italy every year to relax and relish beautiful views, as well as admire the impressive architecture, famous works of art and historical buildings. Some of the major attractions in Florence include the Palazzo Strozzi, the Piazza del Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio, and the Campanile di Giotto.

Museums
Nearly all museums in Florence have very important art exhibitions as well as great exhibits that have stood the test of time. Ensure you visit the National Archeological Museum and the Uffizi Gallery. Looking to relax and unwind, ensure you visit the Chianti area located between the city of Siena and Florence. Here, you will see the most impressive countryside landscapes in Italy and some of the well-known vineyards.

Transportation
The city of Florence is accessible by air through the Amerigo Vespucci Airport located Just 5 km / 3 miles from the heart of the city. In the city, there is a well-structured transport system made up of taxis, railway services, and orange ATAF buses. To have a good time in Florence, many people prefer to rent a car. The A1 motorway is a well-structured transport network that links Florence to all major Italian cities such as Rome, Milan, Bologna, and Naples. It also links Florence to some of the coastal resorts and places such as Pisa and Lucca.

M Gravlee is a retired newspaper publisher who spends several months a year traveling. http://akumalvacation.com/

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Take the Kids to Maine!

It is always a difficult task to try and come up with interesting activities for the children when they accompany you on your trips around the country. Notice I say it may be difficult but it is not impossible. As an example, we decided to take a vacation to the state of Maine and as anyone would guess there simply is not an abundance of things for children to do. We still decided that there was sufficient interest on our part to visit this great part of America and as such we decided to still complete our travel plans.

Most visitors to Maine never consider the possibility that Maine could also be considered a farm rich area. There are in fact a vast number of actual working farms located in this section of the nation. We decided that one way in which we could enjoy the state’s great outdoor environment as well as to provide the children with some interesting activities was to spend the day on one of the many animal farms in the state. The children were actually excited about this prospect as they would be able to see what happens on the farm while getting to know and understand other children.

We were fortunate enough to locate a farm in Rockport that does exactly that. It was the Aldermere Farm. As you approach this vast farm you will begin to see acres of beautiful pasture land filled with the cows known as Belted Galloways. These are an interesting breed of cow in that they have a band of white which goes completely around their mid sections of their bodies. Besides seeing these unusual cows the farm offers the visitors a variety of seasonal tours as well as established activity programs.

No farm visit of course could be complete without a side trip to nearby Jefferson’s Blueberry Hills Farm. You will find a vast array of farm animals here ranging from cows, and cattle, pigs, Shetland ponies, chickens and goats. Before you depart this farm you are offered the opportunity to purchase some of the finest organic produce in the area. In addition you can even watch them make their own syrup as they tap into their maple trees each year.

In the fall you will see how busy the farms apple orchards become as the harvest begins. There is always something going on around the farm at all times of the year. Often you will find that many of the farms act as bed and breakfast inns allowing you to remain on the farm as long as you so desire.

As you can readily see traveling to just about any area of the nation can be an exciting adventure for not only the adults but the children as well.

Or you could take the kids to Mexico. We have a House for Rent in Akumal, Mexico.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Riverside, Iowa

You would be very hard pressed to find anyone in America who has not heard of Captain James T. Kirk. That’s right it is the famous Star Trek hero who has fascinated us with his exploits for many years. The starship Enterprise captain was born in the city of Riverside on the 22nd of March in the year 2228. Just behind a former barbershop location in this town stands a small plaque which proudly marks the spot where the famous captain will eventually be born.

Due to the sticky copyright laws currently in existence the city was unable to display either a bust of their most famous citizen captain or one of his renowned starship. In its place the town has christened a remarkable similar image of their own known as the USS Riverside. This USS Enterprise look alike sites in the local town square for all to view.

In the nearby area you will find local shops with names such as “Flower Trek” or “Future Designs by Carol”. Every year on the anniversary of James T. the area is swamped with Star Trek fans as they make their way from store to store in search of important and valuable memorabilia. The annual Riverside Riverfest has even had its name changed to the Trek Fest in order to cash in on this popularity phase.

It is not unusual to see fans walking down streets of the town with various Starfleet uniforms on or perhaps you will catch sight of a Vulcan or Klingon as well. So involved are the fans that one could easily mistake the town square as being part of the Star Trek filming set at the studio.

Let’s face it, no self respecting Star Trek fan could ever go home without purchasing one of the small vials of Kirk dirt for a mere $3.00. Think how amused your friends will be when you display this container of dirt in your home that was dug up from the captains very own birth place. You are sure to be the envy of any Trek fan out there.

In August of 2008, the city opened and dedicated the Voyage Home Museum to display the history of Riverside and its claim to Star Trek fame. It also contains a Time Capsule as well as a replica of the USS Riverside starship. During its opening ceremonies actor Walter Koenig of Pavel Chekov fame was on hand to examine the two room display and give it his Star Trek blessing.

The Voyage Home Riverside History Center isn’t a lot to see with its mere two rooms but if you happen to be passing that way you really should stop and take a look.

Trek on down to Akumal, Mexico.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Illinois State Military Museum

When I travel around the country I try to find unusual sites or those which have an interesting story behind them. During my trip several years ago through the city of Springfield in Illinois, I chanced upon a Mexican generals leg.

Many history buffs will recall the Mexican general known in both counties as Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. That’s right this is the same Mexican army general who had ordered his troops to attack the Alamo and ultimately killed the legendary Davy Crockett and the brave defenders of the Alamo.

Unknown to many people is the fact that the general had a fake leg installed as a result of a war related injury. Santa Anna had his real leg amputated due to an accident resulting from cannon ball fire during his fight with the French in 1838. It wasn’t until 1847 that the 4th Illinois Infantry division solders captured the general’s leg.

During an episode of the King of the Hill cartoon series mention was made of the general’s artificial leg and how it was captured by the Americans. During the cartoon it was shown that the Mexican government was secretly plotting to re-capture the general’s leg and return it to its rightful place in Mexico, although there is actually no truth to this part of the cartoon. The kidnapping story was merely something created to spice up the King of the Hill cartoon.

After the cartoon appeared it seemed like everyone in the country wanted to take a look at the general’s wooden leg but few people realized at the time that it was sitting in central Illinois.

The famous leg is now a part of the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield. The legend states that Santa Anna was having lunch while his troops were busy battling American soldiers and as he was indulging in his food he was promptly surrounded and surprised by the members of the 4th Infantry. In order to save his life he hopped away on one leg leaving behind his wooden leg as a remembrance. Initially the soldier who grabbed the leg showed it off at various fairs around Illinois charging a dime per peek for people to see it but in 1922 it was entrusted to the care of the Illinois National Guard.

Many people inquire as to why there has been no attempt by the Mexicans to retrieve the general’s leg and the answer is simple – the people hated him. The man died friendless and alone while in exile. His people disliked him so much that upon his death he was given a pauper's burial.

You can not tie up a complete day at the museum but it is certainly worth a stop while on your way just to take a glance at the general’s famous leg.

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