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Santorini, Greece the Aegean wonder

Santorini GreeceLocated in the South Aegean Sea, the island of Santorini, Greece, is the result of a gigantic volcanic eruption that left a giant caldera at its edge when the land collapsed. This huge lagoon, surrounded on three sides by thousand foot high cliffs, is over thirteen hundred feet deep. Atop the cliffs sits Santorini’s capital city, Fira, filled with charming white-washed cottages along narrow streets lined with jewelry, souvenir shops and cafes. The deep caldera can accommodate all but the largest ships, which can anchor just about anywhere in it, with the principal port being Athinias. Santorini is the largest island in the small Santorini archipelago, which is made up of inhabited Santorini and Therasia and uninhabited Nea Kameni, Palaia Kameni, Aspronisi and Christiana. Santorini, Greece, also known as Thera, and Therasia, were once part of the same island. They became separated by one of the largest catastrophic volcanic eruptions on Earth that occurred in the middle of the Second Millenium, in the Late Bronze Age.

The eruption destroyed Santorini and settlements on the nearby islands. It has been said that Plato wrote about the legendary island of Atlantis because he was inspired by that volcanic event on Thera. The volcanic explosion left a layer of ash, volcanic cinders and volcanic blocks or rock fragments two hundred feet thick on the island. The delineation of this white layer and the soil can be clearly seen today. Deposits of pumice from the eruption were found in sea beds and lakes as far away as Turkey. The eruption is said to have caused climate change in the area of the Mediterranean, the Aegean and even in the Northern Hemisphere. Evidence in studies of tree-ring dating, the dating science based on an analysis of tree ring patterns, shows that this climatic event depressed growth of Ireland’s European oak trees and Sweden’s Scotch pine trees. Crops failed in China due to a volcanic winter that is said to have been was caused by the eruption.

Today Santorini, Greece is a popular international tourist destination, mostly due to its charm and the beauty of its legendary sunsets and magnificent landscapes. Last year it was chosen by both the BBC and “Travel & Leisure Magazine” as the top island in the world. The summer months are most popular for visitors to the island. Spectacular sunsets can be viewed in the Oia Village at the island’s northern tip, which has an interrupted view. The island also has unique and fantastic beaches with a variety of colors of beach pebbles. The color depends on the solidified lava that is found on the beach, with red, black or white beaches. Most visitors consider Perissa Beach the best on the island. It is shielded by cliffs and very long with dark sand. The darker colored beaches have warmer waters due to the heat absorption process. The next most preferred beach is the one in Kamari, which is the black pebble beach. Above Kamari is Thera’s ancient city which is open from 10 am to 2:30 pm each day but Monday.

There are many villages on Santorini, Greece. Some have imposing old homes, or remnants of a Venetian castle, and there are several Byzantine churches on the island. The churches have bright blue domes and several of the villages spill picturesquely down the cliffs toward the caldera. Fira has a great many shops, tavernas and hotels. It is overlooking the port where most of the cruise ships anchor. Visitors can take a cable car up the cliffs, or go by mule up the almost six hundred steps. It is worth the trip, as it one of the most stunning villages on the island. Here you will also be able to visit the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, which displays artifacts found in the ruins. In the south of the island is Akrotiri, a thirty-five hundred year old Minoan town preserved in ash similar to Pompeii. It has well preserved streets, buildings and stairways. Wine-making is still an occupation on Santorini, Greece, so make a visit to one of the wineries for a taste of the local wines.

Santorini has many types of accommodations on the island for those who want to stay over. There are varieties of hotels, villas, rooms and apartments for all budgets. Santorini, Greece can be visited by plane, boat or water. Most cruises to the islands of Greece include a stop at Santorini, docking at the port below the ancient Thera. There is a major airport on the island which is only about three miles from the downtown area. Olympic Air, Aegean Airlines and Athens Airways all service the island, along with several charter flights. Ferry boats arrive daily from Naxos, Paros, and Piraeus, and fast catamarans arrive daily from Ios, Naxos, Paros, Mykonos, Folegandros, Sifnos, Iraklio and Piraeus. If you are visiting Santorini, Greece for just one day, do try to get there before sunset so you can make sure to see that fantastic sight. Some boats arrive at night, and you will not realize that you are entering a remarkable harbor that was once the crater of an enormous volcano. Come visit and see these splendors for yourself.

Is it Time To Experience the Swiss Alps?

The Swiss Alps

The Swiss AlpsAh, the Swiss Alps, who could resist? If you are headed to Switzerland on holiday, this is one place not to be missed. Comprised primarily of the Alps range of mountains, it is a stunningly dramatic landscape of rugged and jagged rock formations. Bring your camera because this is some place that you will certainly want to photograph over and over again. And if you like to ski, then you have found the perfect location for this exciting sport. So settle into your Chalet and have a sip of Schnapps, as we visit the enchanted and inviting Swiss Alps. Perhaps the first activity that comes to mind when we think of this mountain destination is skiing holiday. This is because the region has perhaps some of the finest ski resorts in the world. In fact the names Alps and skiing are nearly interchangeable. But the delight of the Alps goes far beyond the skiing industry. In fact there is a whole world of adventure that awaits you when you decide to visit the spectacular Swiss Alps.

Comprising more than half of Switzerland’s total land area, the Swiss Alps are also made up of several glaciers. Several other countries share in the Alps mountain range, including Italy, France and Austria. The tourist industry makes up a major portion of the economy in this popular area. With skiing being at the top of the list of attractions, there are several highly regarded resorts that cater to skiing enthusiasts. The primary areas for these activities include Oberland, Bernese as well as Graubunden. Most of the ski resorts open sometimes as early as November and can extend as far out as May. A few of the well-known resorts include Grindelwald, Gastaad, Crans Montana, Zermatt and Davos to name only a small portion of the total resorts that populate this region. Most of these resorts are just a few hours drive from the larger cites in Switzerland. Skiers from around the world gravitate to this skiing Mecca of sorts. The saying is you have not gone skiing until you have experienced the Swiss Alps.

After you have enjoyed a relaxing shot of Schnapps on your skiing holiday in your well-appointed Swiss Chalet, you can then begin to explore the interesting landscape of this mountain world. For example, take in the powerful images of majestic mountain peaks, some of the more notable peaks ideal for photo opportunities include, Jungfraujoch peak, Piz Badile Range of peaks, the peaks of Finsteraarhorn, and the famous Matterhorn. Also a part of this breathtaking landscape includes such glacial formations as the Aletsch Glacier, the Saleina Glacier, the Stein Glacier, the Morteratsch Glacier and the Oberaar glacial formation to name just a few. This is a truly picturesque region with endless images of mountains, glaciers, passes, and peaks. It only takes one trip to the Swiss Alps to know you have discovered a place with few rivals. However, the true splendor of this exciting region cannot be fully appreciated in just a few days. So plan for at least a few weeks of more to adequately take in all that is offered here.

Getting around is a fairly easy task while visiting the Swiss Alps. Most of the mountain resorts are accessible via the extensive public transportation system that criss crosses the entire region. Some of the national transport includes the Golden Pass, the Federal Railway and the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn. The Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn is especially interesting. The Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn is considered a rather narrow rail when measured in gauge. The route spans from Zermatt to Disentis. Also worth the time to explore is the Rhaetian Railway system, a private railway system that operates in larger tourism centers such as Davos as well as St. Moritz. Tourists will find that most destinations are within just a few hours away by train. The best part of taking the train is the view and scenery. Stunning views while you relax on the meandering train will keep your interest the whole way. There are often many ways to get around while on holiday, but few compare to a beautiful train ride through the Swiss Alps.

No matter what your interest, the Alps of Switzerland will keep you coming back for more of all that this marvellous area has to offer. You will experience stunning views from your comfortable Swiss Chalet on a skiing holiday that will create memories that will last a lifetime. You may even decide to bring back home a bottle or two of the signature drink of the region, a bottle of fine Swiss Schnapps. This is a very worthwhile trip with so much to see and do, how could anyone resist. Getting around will be a breeze with one of the finest networks of transportation in the world. The stunning mountain landscape and breathtaking glacial formations will leave you in a splendid daze. The best way to take advantage of all the scenery will without a doubt be the train. There is good reason why so many people choose the train as their preferred way of travel in Switzerland. Make plans to visit the Alps of Switzerland, and be ready to be swept away on a journey only few have dreamed of before. See the Alps today, and see what you have been missing.

Travelling to the Black Forest

the Black Forest GermanyThe next time you visit Germany, one sight you won’t want to miss is the intriguingly unique black forest. Situated in south-western reaches of Germany, this is an area that gets its name from the thick heavy undergrowth of foliage that routinely blocks out the sun. This ecologically rich mountainous area is heavily wooded and is surrounded by the Rhine valley. One primary source of water feeding the forest throughout is the Danube River, while the majority of tress is of the fir and pine variety. With miles and miles of hiking and walking paths this is a true wonderland of Bavaria for the outdoors type. Perhaps of greater interest to the outdoors inclined will be the miles of cross-country skiing courses. This area is so rich in ecology and interesting sights it is no wonder that tourists flock here each year, especially throughout the summer months. In fact tourist related activities make for a major portion of the economy in this area. To see where the Black Forest is situated check out this map of Germany.

When someone first hears the term Black Forest, they usually think of some type of food. This has become the best-recognized use of the term around the world. Perhaps the most widely known food to carry this name is of course the Black Forest Cake. The primary ingredients of this delectable delight are usually chocolate cake, cherries, and rich heavy cream. The primary flavor enhancer is the flavored liquor known as Kirsch. Another well-known food item is the ever-popular Black Forest Ham, a family favorite the world over. The area is no stranger to exquisite foods either, with some of the finest restaurants in the world located right here in the region. The area is replete with fine dining and will keep those with a love for fine food busy for a very long time. A number of these restaurants have the distinction of having some of the highest ratings in terms of food excellence in the world. No visit to the region would be complete without a visit to at least a few of these delightful dining establishments.

Another interesting point of remark that this German or Bavarian region is well known for is the wood carving industry. This makes up for a good portion of annual tourist revenue with a main portion of the artistic woodworking being the design of Cuckoo Clocks. The traditional clockmaker of the Black Forest is regarded as the premier clock maker in the world. The clocks are lauded as the best and most precise clocks anywhere. This clock making art dates back a few hundred years and has its roots firmly planted in the area. It is little wonder that there is such a high demand for this much sought after souvenir by the droves of tourists that make their way to the region each year. This area has a truly unique and inspiring feel that you won’t find anyplace else in the world. Once you have spent a little time in this inviting and enchanted forest you will likely want to return. With a map of Germany in hand and a little spare time the possibilities are endless when visiting this very special place.

Getting back to nature is something we all strive for at one time or another, and a visit to this magical forest is definitely one way to do that. In the Black Forest expect to see a wide range of wildlife as well as rare and unique foliage. At the floor or base of the forest one little creature that stands out as unique to this part of the world are the giant size earthworms. Like nothing you have ever set your eyes on before, these earth worms have almost a prehistoric appearance to them. They are a bit of an oddity and let you know that you are in a very unique place deep in the German forest. Another species indigenous to the area is the horse breed known as the Black Forest Fox. Known as being a true workhorse these animals have been used for many years to work the land. Also indigenous to the region is a rare bird known as the Wood Grouse or Heather Cock. This is a rather large bird weighing in at nearly 16 pounds. This beautiful bird is yet another example of how diverse and wonderful this forest really can be.

The list goes on as to the unique sights you will see in this fantasy like forest world. One point of interest that should be on anyone’s list of places to see while visiting the Black Forest is the world famous museum known as Schwarzwalder Freilicht Museum. This remarkable museum puts on exhibits that relate and show how people lived during the 16th century. It focuses specifically on those who tended to the farms in the region during that period. The museum has actually recreated a number of original old farms. Also when making the museum rounds, you would not want to miss the German Museum of clocks. This museum offers a historical perspective of German clock building. No matter what you reason for visiting this Bavarian wonderland, one thing you can count on is that it will be well worth your time. So why not get out your map of Germany and set a course for the enchanted Black Forest. One trip and you will know why this area draws the number of people that is does.

French Riviera holiday with with Style!

French RivieraThis sprawl of pebble beaches and billion-dollar houses has always captivated sun lovers and socialites. Today’s admirers know not to miss the Côte d’Azur’s textbook points of interest: animated St-Tropez; the Belle Époque aura of Cannes; the towns made famous by Picasso-Antibes, Vallauris, Mougins; the urban charms of Nice; and a number of spots where the per-capita population of billionaires must be among the highest on the planet: Cap d’Antibes, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and Monaco. It’s up in the hills above the coast that you’ll find the charm you expect from France, both in sophisticated hotels with gastronomic restaurants and in friendly mom and pop auberges (inns); the farther north you drive, the lower the prices. Of course, certain areas of the Riviera book up faster than others, but all hit overload from June to September. It’s essential to book in advance; up to half a year for the summer season is not unheard of, and is, in fact, much appreciated. Festivals and good weather will also affect your chances. If you arrive without a reservation, try the tourist information centers, which can usually be of help. Smaller villages often have tiny, charming hotels or bed-and-breakfasts, which translates to fewer than 10 rooms, and which also means they fill up fast, even out of season in some places. If you’re really out of luck, don’t try sleeping on the beach; as romantic as it sounds, it is not tolerated and strictly controlled. Worst-case scenario is a string of cheap motels on the outskirts of most major city centers, which cost €25-€65.

Even in tiny villages some hauteur cuisine places can be as dressy as those in Monaco, if not more so, but in general, restaurants on the Côte d’Azur are quite relaxed. At lunchtime, a T-shirt and shorts are just fine in all but the fanciest places; bathing suits, however, should be kept for the beach. Night time wear is casual, too – but be aware that for after-dinner drinks, many clubs and discos draw the line at running shoes and jeans. Food plays a crucial role in the south of France, and some of the best restaurants aren’t so easy to access; make sure to include taxi money in your budget to get to some of the more remote restaurants, or plan on renting a car. Try to come in truffle, lavender, or olive season. Explore the best sights, entertainment, and shopping with our top choices and insider tips. On the outskirts of “new” Vence, toward St-Jeannet is the Chapelle du Rosaire, better known to the world-at-large as the Matisse Chapel. The artist decorated the chapel with beguiling simplicity and clarity between 1947 and 1951 – the chapel was the artist’s gift to nuns who had nursed him through illness. It reflects the reductivist style of the era: walls, floor, and ceiling are gleaming white, and the small stained-glass windows are cool greens and blues. “Despite its imperfections I think it is my masterpiece… the result of a lifetime devoted to the search for truth,” wrote Matisse, who designed and dedicated the chapel when he was in his eighties and nearly blind.

Carved out of the rock face and one of Monte Carlo’s most stunning escapes, the gardens are studded with thousands of succulents and cacti, all set along promenades and belvederes over the sea. There are rare plants from Mexico and Africa, and the hillside plot, threaded with bridges and grottoes and studded with faux boulders (actually hollow sculptures), can’t be beat for coastal splendour. Prince Albert I established the gardens in the late 19th century. Also on the grounds, or actually under them, are the Grottes de l’Observatoire —spectacular grottoes and caves a-drip with stalagmites and spotlighted with fairy lights. The largest cavern is called “La Grande Salle” and looks like a Romanesque rock cathedral. Traces of Cro-Magnon civilization have been found here, so the grottoes now bear the official name of the Musée d’Anthropologie Préhistorique. The Sentier Tirepoil passes below (but unfortunately does not access) the Villa Eilenroc, designed by Charles Garnier, who created the Paris Opéra—which should give you some idea of its style. It commands the tip of the peninsula from a grand and glamorous garden. On Wednesdays from September to June, visitors are allowed to wander through the reception salons, which retain the Louis Seize-Trianon feel of the noble facade. The Winter Salon still has its 1,001 Nights ceiling mural painted by Jean Dunand, the famed art deco designer; display cases are filled with memorabilia donated by Caroline Groult-Flaubert (Antibes resident and goddaughter of the great author); and the boudoir has boiseries from the Marquis de Sévigné’s Paris mansion. As you leave, be sure to detour to La Rosaerie, the rose garden of the estate – in the distance you can spot the white portico of the Château de la Cröe, another legendary villa (now reputedly owned by a syndicate of Russian billionaires). Whether or not the Eilenroc is haunted by Helene Beaumont, the rich singer who built it, or King Leopold II of Belgium, King Farouk of Egypt, Aristotle Onassis, or Greta Garbo – who all rented here – only you will be able to tell.

If you’re all dressed up and have just won big, invest in a drink in the intimate walnut-and-velour Bar Le Relais, in the landmark Hôtel Negresco. The glassed-in complex of the Eden Casino houses restaurants, bars, a dance club, and a casino. In July the Nice Jazz Festival draws performers from around the world. The antiques and brocante market, by the old port, is held Tuesday through Saturday. For every sort of hat imaginable, from the basic beret to huge creations with many a flower and ostrich plume, check out La Chapellerie at their Cours Saleya boutique (there are two other shops in Nice).You have to hand it to the French, they even do second-hand fashion right. Steps away from the Hotel Negresco, Mademoiselle has quickly become the place to shop in Nice: Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Hermès – you name it – the gangs all here, at least in vintage terms. You’ll find lots of luxury brand clothes, shoes, bags, and belts to rummage through, and it’s all excellently priced.

Monaco, Toy Kingdom: Yes, Virginia, you can afford to visit Monte Carlo—that is, if you avoid its casinos and head for its tropical gardens. Picasso and Company: Because artists have long loved the Côte d’Azur, it’s blessed with superb art museums, including the Fondation Maeght in St-Paul and the Musée Picasso in Antibes. Èze, Island in the Sky: The most perfectly perched of the coast’s villages perchés, Èze has some of the most breathtaking views this side of a NASA space capsule. St-Tropez à Go-Go: Brave the world’s most outlandish fishing port in high summer and soak up the scene. Just don’t forget the fake tan lotion. Nice, Queen of the Riviera: With its bonbon-color palaces, blue Baie des Anges, time-stained Old Town, and Musée Matisse, this is one of France’s most colorful cities. The French Riviera is famed for its grand villas and even grander gardens built by Victorian dukes, Spanish exiles, Belgian royals, and American blue bloods. Although its hothouse crescent blooms everywhere with palm and lemon trees and jungle flowers, nowhere else does it bloom so extravagantly as in Menton, famous for its temperate climes and 24-karat sun. Menton attracted a great share of wealthy hobbyists during the 1920s and 1930s, including Major Lawrence Johnston, a gentleman gardener best known for his Cotswolds wonderland, Hidcote Manor. Fair-haired and blue-eyed, this gentle American wound up buying a choice estate in the village of Gorbio – one of the loveliest of all perched seaside villages, set 10 km (6 mi) west of Menton – and spent two decades making the Serre de la Madone one of the horticultural masterpieces of the coast. He brought back exotica from his many trips to South Africa, Mexico, and China, and planted them in a series of terraces, accented by little pools, vistas, and stone steps. Although most of his creeping plumbago, pink belladonna, and night-flowering cacti are now gone, his garden has been reopened by the municipality. Car facilities are very limited but the garden can also be reached from Menton via bus No. 7 (get off at Mers et Monts stop). Back in Menton, green-thumbers will also want to visit the town’s Jardin Botanique, the Val Rahmeh Botanical Garden (Av. St-Jacques 04-93-35-86-72 Closed Tues.), planted by Maybud Campbell in the 1910s, much prized by connoisseurs, bursting with rare ornamentals and subtropical plants, and adorned with water-lily pools and fountains. The tourist office can also give you directions to other gardens around Menton, including the Fontana Rosa, the Villa Maria Serena, and the Villa Les Colombières.

The Lake District England

One of the great treasures of England is tucked away in the North-West of the country – the picturesque mountains, lush valleys, rocky peaks, moorlands and lakes, known collectively as the Lake District. Located entirely within the modern English county of Cumbria, and easily accessible by trunk roads, rail and ferry, “The Lakes” as they are commonly known, have been a popular tourist destination since the 17th century and have given inspiration to countless painters, writers and poets, most memorably William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. Others make the trip to enjoy the legendary Castlerigg Stones, an ancient circle of 38 stones made even more strikingly spectacular as they are entirely ringed by mountains to the north, south, west and east. Today, the area attracts a wide variety of visitors, from those seeking associations with great art and literature, to hikers, nature and wildlife enthusiasts, and those simply seeking the joy and serenity of one of the most beautiful areas in Europe.Lake District England

Against the backdrop of mountains and rocky fells – Old Norse for “mountains” – lie the jewels of the district – the 14 lakes themselves. Amongst them are Lake Wastwater, the deepest lake in England, and Lake Windermere, the longest. The Lake District, officially a National Park, also has the distinction of being home to the only parts of England that are higher than 3,000 feet above sea level, including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. Between the peaks are valleys of bracken and heather, forests and moorland. Wildlife flourishes, including several species unique in the country. These include the red squirrel, the country’s only Golden Eagles, and the Herdwick – a breed of sheep native to the Lake District. The pristine aspect of the area has been preserved through the centuries, despite human settlements. Today, most of those towns and villages in the district are directly involved in tourism, providing lodgings, meals, tours, guides and a plethora of information on the history and the natural wonders of the area.

As they have done since the mid-19th-century, many visitors to the Lake District are in search of places and sights associated with the poet William Wordsworth, who composed some of his most beloved works, including “Daffodils”, while residing at Dove Cottage, Grasmere. They also come to pay homage at the Beatrix Potter House. Potter made her home in the district, at Hill House by the shores of Lake Windermere, where the woods and wildlife provided the inspiration for her inimitable characters. In the 20th century, Sir Hugh Walpole so fell in love with the Lake District that he bought a house, Brackenburn, overlooking the Derwentwater Lake, and wrote a large number of his works while living there. Inspired by both past and present, modern-day artists and writers are among the most enthusiastic visitors to the Lake District, and can be seen, perched on an outcrop or settled by a lake, writing and painting as their predecessors have done for centuries.

Historically, the Lake District encompassed three counties – Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire. Today, however, the area is part of Cumbria, and sometimes known as the Cumbrian Mountains. It is easily accessible by highways and good roads, and driving tours are extremely popular. To the east lies the M6 motorway and other key roads cut across the district to the north and south, as well as from the coastal plains to the west. The A590 connects the M6 to the Lake WindermereLake District’s major town, Barrow-in-Furness. Three rail lines skirt the perimeter of the district, the West Coast Main Line, the Cumbrian Coast Line and the Windermere Branch Line. There are also narrow gauge railway links that connect tourists from the West coast with towns and hamlets within the Lake District and a small line, the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway that connects villages and tourists with a passenger ferry. For drivers, there is a vehicle-carrying ferry to take them across Lake Windermere and seasonal ferries on other lakes.

Within the Lake District National Park, visitors will find accommodations to suit any taste and pocket: Hotels, cozy cottages (including self-catering), bed-and-breakfasts, inns, and campsites – even hostels and barns! Whether looking for a charming English village, or a rustic retreat, the visitor will find a place to stay that provides the right ambience. A good place to start planning a Lake District vacation is at the official Cumbrian tourism website http://www.golakes.co.uk/. Spring and summer are the best times to visit, especially if visitors hope to explore some of the more remote trails and walks. Many visitors tend to combine a visit to the Lake District with other northern English attractions, and there is a useful map showing the proximity of the Lake District to other areas of interest at http://www.picturesofengland.com/nationalparks. The Pictures of England site also has lots of information for those who wish to explore other historic or picturesque parts of England as well. Google maps also offer an excellent map of England and all its regions.