Monday, February 23, 2009

Grand Tetons

The Grand Tetons are a mountain range in southern Wyoming, just south of Yellowstone. They are, however, still part of the Rockies. The Grand Tetons are heaven for any backpacker. The scenery is gorgeous and the wildlife is prevalent.

So what makes the Tetons better than any other set of mountains? What is missing from the pictures that you normally see with mountains? The answer: foothills. Because of the way that the Tetons were formed, they don't have any foothills to block the views. This makes for some of the prettiest views. The land is flat until all of a sudden there are mountains 5,000 to 7,000 feet above the base.

So once you get past the initial perfect view and hike in, there is even more to awe about. If you go in the summer or fall, the lakes and the sunsets should be more than enough to get you there. The water is so clean and pure that, as you can see, there is a nearly perfect reflection. And because of the lack of foothills, the sun hits directly on the mountains pointing out every perfect detail. In the picture you can see just how perfect the scenery can be.

The wildlife in the Tetons is also fascinating. There are tons of deer, moose, birds, and fish. I am not into hunting, so thats not why I like it. But you get to see the animals raoming around without a care in the world. They don't always notice you or know that you are "bad" so many times they won't run away. I feel like there is know way I can explain this to give it any justice. This is a MUST SEE for anybody who might consider themselves as an outdoors person.

Friday, February 20, 2009


This is probably not the average place that most travelers want to go to. However, tourists are becoming more and more satisfied after visiting here. Dubai is in the United Arab Emirates and is right off the cost of the Persian Gulf. It is right between Saudi Arabia and Oman, if that helps at all. The weather here could very accurately be described as hot. Most people visit during the winter, where the temperatures are in the 70s and 80s. During the summer, it is not uncommon for the temperature to sore to the 120s (but it is a dry heat).

Once you make it to the city, there are going to be some highlights that you need to make sure to see. The most popular thing to do is something called Arabian Adventures. This is a tour of the city and surrounding area by ATV and off road vehicles. The tour will take you into the desert to have a little fun. The best part is the sand dune bashing, as they call it. Which is exactly how it sounds, driving wherever you want and running into the dunes to watch the sand fly. It is compared to an intense roller coaster for all of the adventurous type.

Then, if you are ready to indulge yourself, you can stay at the Burj Al Arab. It is the world’s only seven-star hotel! To begin, the hotel is built on an artificial island, connected to the mainland only by an exquisite bridge. Then once you go into the hotel you will notice the enormous atrium, it is the tallest and listed at an astounding 590ft!! The hotel is the second tallest in the world, yet only has 202 rooms; with rooms ranging from 1800 sq ft to a ridiculous 8396 sq ft. The cheapest room is slightly over $1,000 a night with the Royal Suite at about $28,000. The suite includes a marble spiral staircase with gold leaf covered railings. The hotel also has some restaurants. The most extravagant of these is on one of the top floors. The head chef was named best chef in the world in 2006.

Did you ever think you could go skiing or snowboarding in the dessert? I didn’t, but you can! Ski Dubai is an INDOOR skiing facility. The slopes obviously aren’t quite like Colorado, but it is a great contrast to the endless dessert around. People that having been skiing for years are saying this place was great. If you need a break from the sand, this is the place to be in Dubai.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Madrid is the capital of Spain and is located in the middle of the country. The city is actually the third largest in population in Europe, making for a lot to see.

One of the visual highlights is the amount and variation in architecture. Many of the older buildings still reflect Moorish ancestry (from the 1100s) while sometimes also combining French characteristics. The Catedral de la Almudena was built over 400 years, so is the perfect example of a mix of different eras. The building pictured (City Hall) is an example of the intricacies that many of the buildings are decorated with. Don't be fooled though. Over the last couple decades, Madrid has modernized some parts of town. For instance, the financial district looks just as the financial district of Boston looks.

As for things to actually do, Madrid has plenty to offer. The nightlife would be exhausting if completely examined. There is at least one weekend during the year where all of the younger people will dance and party the whole weekend and just shower the morning that they have to go to work. So do not worry, you will find a good time if you go out at night.

Then there are the cultural things of Spain to bring another twist. Madrid has the largest Bullfighting ring in Spain and is said to be the world center of the sport. Seating over 25,000 people, there is some space for you to get to see the action. Fights are held everyday for a couple months, and every sunday for six months of the year. If bullfighting isn't your cup of tea, you could go to a football (as in soccer) game. These games are CRAZY. Football in Spain is the equivalent of American football plus baseball plus basketball in the United States. Madrid is home of the team Real Madrid and has hosted the FIFA World Cup before. Just be prepared to pay an arm and a leg for tickets.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Loire Valley

The Loire River Valley is along the Loire River in the middle of France. The region has castles of spectacular architecture all throughout. Most are from the Renaissance era, but there is a mixture of that and medieval. The castles are the main highlight, but the countryside also has vineyards and a rolling landscape to offer.

Arguably the prettiest castle is Chenonceau. It was built in the 1430’s for one of King Charles VIII’s Chamberlain but eventually made its way into the heirloom of the king. So it was passed down among all of the later kings. The castle bedrooms dedicated to almost all of the kings that owned it. Each king decorated their room to their liking, so the rooms are all different and not repetitive. Then there is the great hall with a series of rib vaults that have fauna hanging. Or there is the chapel, with the stained glass window filling the room with life. This is just inside, the gardens outside are even more colorful and never ending. To think the kings just used this as a summer home.

That was just one of over 300 castles! Another must see is the Chambord. You might recognize it as one of the choices for standard wallpaper on a Microsoft. This castle was originally built as a hunting lodge for King Francois I. It is known for the French Renaissance architecture and the double helix staircase in the main foyer. Just from the outside, you can see how HUGE it is. Not to mention the reflection off of the perfectly kept lake right next to it, making it look twice as big. The castle has over 440 rooms inside! Under restoration in the 1940’s, it is now restored to the original majesty.

After you have spent multiple days looking at the creation of kings, you can enjoy a peaceful day in the countryside trying some of the most famous wines in the world. Some of these wines include Sancerre & Pouilly-Fume, Anjou-Saumur, and Chinon. Most wineries in the Loire Valley are still family owned giving the vineyards a very homey and safe feel. When you watch movies that have the traditional, dreamy vineyards in them; they are most likely from this region.

The Loire River Valley would be the perfect place to relax for any length of time. It is filled with castles just waited to be awed at, as well as wines just waiting to be tried. The ideal rolling hills overflowing with castles and filled in with vineyards are the perfect place to escape to.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Belize (the size of Massachusetts) has to be the most diverse country in the ways that it attracts visitors. It has highlights ranging from Mayan ruins to arguably the best SCUBA diving in the world to God’s beautiful creation found in the vegetation and landscapes.

The Mayans lived in Belize for an estimated 2400 years and are the originators of the name. The Belize River was named because of the “muddy waters.” Since the Mayan culture was prevalent for so many years, there is a multitude of ruins (many still uncovered). The country is mostly flat. But if you drive down the road you will almost always have in sight a place where there is just a tall patch of land covered with trees. Each one of these is a piece of history after the world has worn on it. Of course there are some spots that have been uncovered and attract surprisingly few visitors each year for the magnitude of its presence.

With some beaches, they are clean and the water is blue, but there is only one thing to make it perfect; coral reefs. Belize is perfect in that it has all of this! There are many species of fish and coral that live within swimming distance to the seemingly perfect beach. But this is not the main attraction. The best part of Belize diving is the Great Blue Hole. This is a gigantic sinkhole about 60 miles off the coast. It was made by a limestone cave system collapsing when the water depth was shallower many years ago. You can tell that it was formed long ago because there are shifts in the hole which means that the tectonic plates have moved since then. Then there is the wildlife. To put it plainly, the fish are spectacular! Sharks are a regular sighting, including; nurse, hammerhead, blacktip, and bull.

Then there is what seems like the most perfect flowers and waterfalls you will ever see. The Big Rock Falls are an example of that. These falls are on a river that is very popular also for the white water rafting and kayaking available. The flowers could not be more colorful or diverse in their shapes and sizes. This makes the hiking even that much better. You could be walking through a rain forest and see color dispersed the whole time.

Belize has to be the most under-rated country. It offers everything that a tourist could possibly be looking for. There is history, beaches, and scenery. Yet there are less than 1 million visitors a year. Making it more ideal yet, nobody in the way.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Maui is the second largest island in the Hawaiian Islands. Being a volcanic island, it has features that are not common to all islands. It was made by two volcanoes that are so close that they have connected to form one island with an isthmus in between. The volcanoes are now starting to erode which is forming a valley; this is why it has the nickname Valley Isle. Because of the diverse geography, there is so much to be done on the island.
The most famous part of Maui would have to be the beaches. They aren’t surrounding the whole island, but the ones that exist are amazing. The surfing is extraordinary for the adventurous type, and the sand is soft for the relaxed type. There is something for everybody on this sand, and everybody can have the day of their dreams.
The flora is also something that locals can brag about. From the beautiful palm trees to a botanical garden, Maui is full of beautiful plants. The palm trees give the island its exotic feel and some much needed shade during the day. There are also many exotic flowers including the bird of paradise at the gardens.
Some other activities that are popular consist of biking, hiking, SCUBA diving, fine dining, driving tours, whale watching, and the ever popular luaus. Many people will go to the top of the highest mountain to watch the sunrise, than will bike down to the beaches for the day. There is also extensive hiking for the outdoors type around the two mountains. The SCUBA diving is also ranked in the top five in the world, with plenty of sharks and underwater creatures. Hotels will also offer driving tours, the best restaurants, as well as the luaus.
Maui has been said to be the best island around the world for active travelers. With the amazing scenery, this is the perfect spot to rejuvenate the mind that is tired of working.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Prague is the capital and the largest city of the Czech Republic and is on the Vltava River in Eastern Europe. The city has been around for hundreds and hundreds of years and is home to the largest "ancient" castle, the Prague Castle. The city is a thriving place just ready to be explored.

Prague has long been under a United States adversary for most of history. However, since the wall went down in the 80s, the city has been opened up to the U.S. "Pra-ha," as the natives pronounce it, was also unscathed during WWII, preserving most of the historic buildings and structures.

One of the must sees in Prague, the Charles Bridge, was started in the mid 1300s. Interesting fact: they used eggs in the mortar so that it would last longer. The bridge is beautifully lit every night for all to see, but mostly the tourists. The Charles Bridge is popular enough that multiple music videos have been shot there, it was a stop on Amazing Race, it was in movies such as Mission Impossible and XXX, as well as being in a Playstation game.

Another go to spot is the Prague Castle. This is a picture of it lit up at night. The castle is in the middle of the city and contains most of the tourist attractions. Inside of it you will find cathedrals, great halls, museums, a monestary, palaces, and some gorgeous gardens. In total, the castle is 570 meters in length and and average of 130 meters wide. It is huge and well lit at night, so you can see it from just about anywhere in the city.
The third part of Prague that you will notice when you go is the nightlife. There are an astounding number of bars in the city full of people ready to have a good time. The locals are very proud of there brew, and are happy to share the experience with the tourists. The city is breathtaking and is ready to show anybody a great time.