Annie Scott is the daughter of a stewardess and an avid traveler. She also writes for AOL Travel, Luxist.com and Tonic.com, specializing in narrative blogs, ridiculous top ten lists, style, and living the good life.
Lladró (pronounced "YAH-drow") is a design house which has been creating coveted works of high porcelain since 1953. The company was founded by three brothers whose combined passion for porcelain has led to the genesis of a ceramic sculpture empire. You may recognize the name Lladro from a friend's collection, from their stores in major cities across the world, or from browsing your parents' or grandma's mantle. That's not to say "porcelain is for old people," it's just that it's expensive, and perhaps an acquired taste.
A taste I had not acquired.
I was planning a trip to Valencia, Spain and I learned that it was home to Lladro's infamous "City of Porcelain," where all their works are designed and created. I decided to go check it out. Why not? Perhaps I could gain an appreciation for something new. The truth is, I didn't get porcelain figurines. There. I said it. I thought of them as being unnecessarily feminine and dated.
Valencia, Spain is a beautiful place to be and a wonderful place to eat. From the fresh produce markets to the chic restaurants, you'll have no trouble finding all manner of delicious cuisine, but if you want to know what you should definitely eat in Valencia, look no further.
Five things to eat in Valencia, Spain
Obviously, in Valencia, you should eat Valencian oranges. In fact, go to Central Market and you can indulge in all manner of terrifically fresh and flavorful produce. Don't try to eat an orange off a tree in the city; they may look pretty, as you can see above, but they taste sour. Head out to an orange grove if you must pick your own oranges.
So, you've got yourself the ultimate carry on for your upcoming air travel. Now, you have to figure out what to pack in it.
For those of us who check a bag, it can be hard to decide what, exactly, to bring on the plane with us. Valuables and documents are a must, for safety, but do you really need that computer cable? Do you need Bandaids? Did you splurge on a stupid gadget you'll never use? Traveling light is key; it's no fun lugging a full, heavy carry on around. We asked our readers on Facebook what they actually use during their flights. Take a look at this list before you overpack and weigh yourself down.
Ten things Gadling readers actually use from their carry ons:
1. Kindle - Marsha, Christine, Martha and Max
2. Book and/or magazine - Saadia, Amy, Karen, Despina, Norma and Nicole
3. Noise canceling or other headphones - Christine, Arun, Norma and Shelby
It was a dark and stormy night when I visited the Valencia Aquarium, The Oceanografic in the outlandish City of Arts and Sciences complex. No really, it was dark and stormy. When I arrived at around 6 PM, the sun had set, and it was raining intermittently. I was cold and worn out and definitely ready for a couple of hours of underwater magic.
The Oceanografic closes at 8, but I had a 9 PM reservation at L'Oceanografic Submarino Restaurant, a suprising gem hidden beneath the strange, intriguing building above at the right (designed by Felix Candela to resemble a water lily). I figured I'd arrive at 6 and kill the hour in between, not realizing that meant I'd be visiting an aquarium in the dark. Had I known that many of the exhibits are outdoors, or that natural light illuminates some of the enclosures, I'm not sure I would have chosen to visit at night, but I did -- and I'm glad. There was an esoteric thrill to the ambience. As people poured out of the last dolphin show holding jackets over their heads to stay dry, I couldn't help but feel like I was participating in some kind of secret aquarium lock-in. And, the other-worldly atmosphere of the restaurant at the end of the evening felt all the more exclusive.
The Oceanografic has to be one of the finest aquariums I've seen anywhere. It's beautifully, artistically designed, and I never felt like I was in a preschool, which is what aquariums often feel like to me. Let's start with a video of one of the most wonderful sights at the Oceanografic: the jellyfish (be sure and select the HD option!).
The zoo in Valencia, Spain, known as Bioparc Valencia, is full of wonderful animals in deluxe, non-depressing enclosures. You'll find it on the western border of the city, easily reachable by bus or subway (you'll have to walk about 15-20 minutes if you take the subway).
Bioparc Valencia is a new zoo which opened in March 2008, and its philosophies include sustainable design, scientifically-created habitats to ensure the well-being of the animals, specialized animal care provided by teams of both biologists and veterinarians and a concept called zoo-immersion for guests. Zoo-immersion means that when you enter an area of the zoo, which is divided into geographical ecosystems (currently only the African savannah is open, but Southeast Asia and the Neotropics are next), you will be surrounded by vegetation and landscaping appropriate to the animals you're viewing, and in some cases, like with the ring-tailed lemurs, you'll be inside an enclosure with the animals. The lemurs run all around their habitat, jumping over your head and crossing your path like cats.
And that brings us to #1 of our Top Ten Cutest Residents of the Valencia Bioparc: lemurs in trees (above and below)!
I filmed this myself with an HD Flip camera on my latest trip to Valencia, Spain. Having recently visited Zambia on a safari, I thought the African animals at the zoo might not impress me as much as usual. Boy, was I wrong.
Bioparc Valenica allows you to get so close to the animals -- and not because the enclosures are small (they're actually larger than most I've seen). Furthermore, it provides you with experiences you definitely wouldn't have on a safari, like watching hippos swim underwater right in front of you.
Sometimes, strange and wonderful things happen within the world of African wildlife. A few weeks ago at Sanctuary Olonana, a luxury camp in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Mother Nature looked the other way while the nature of a mother hippo took over.
An infant wildebeest accidentally ended up in the middle of the Mara River, helpless and gangly and unable to swim. The calf had been crossing the river with its own mother (as part of the wildebeest migration, one of the natural wonders of the world), but was swept away by the strong current. The little guy wasn't doing too well and a crocodile began to circle.
A nearby female hippo caught sight of the struggling calf and nearby croc, and swam to his rescue. Guests watched anxiously for an intense fifteen minutes as she gently pushed the baby wildebeest to the shore where his mother was waiting -- a heroic and noble act by a notably aggressive animal. There's no actual proof that she's a mother hippo, but with maternal instincts like that, which stretched even beyond her species, I'm guessing that either she is, or she's going to be.
These touching photos were taken by the Sanctuary Olonana camp manager, who watched along with the guests and staff of the camp. I can only imagine the cheering when the baby wildebeest was finally brought to safety.
If you're looking for a gift for a traveler this year, consider getting them a stylish, utilitarian carry on bag. Carry on bags make great travel gifts, because not only are they useful, but travelers are happy to have more than one -- there's nothing more depressing than having no options.
Carry on bags, in this traveler's opinion, need to have a few basic things:
a slot for easy access to travel documents
multiple compartments to keep things organized
space for a laptop in a sleeve
space for at least one change of clothes
As long as it meets those basic criteria, any bag at all can be used as a carry on. Still, some are far and away better than others. Check out the gallery below for Gadling's Top Five Best Carry On Bags for Travel Gifts -- these are sure to delight the recipient's aesthetic and pragmatic desires.
Arcade Fire has taken the music video genre to a brand new level with their latest achievement: an interactive video/film by Chris Milk, entitled The Wilderness Downtown featuring "We Used to Wait." This Arcade Fire video also features something you might not have expectd: the street where you grew up.
Milk, Arcade Fire and Google have teamed up to create something far more personal than say, Elf Yourself. By prompting you to enter the address of the house where you grew up, they are able to generate a music video which takes place on your street and features shots of your own house (if it's still standing there -- mine's had a third garage added, I noticed).
We love this. We think it could do without all the random windows popping up, but understand the utility of that, as well. The song is perfect for a stroll down Memory Lane and the concept uses Google Maps in a way we had never imagined. For fun, why not enter in the address of a hotel where you've stayed and watch the video as it takes place somewhere across the world?
To experience this awesome internet collaboration, which debuted at the end of the summer but seems somehow more poignant around the holidays, visit TheWildernessDowntown.com. The site is best viewed with Google Chrome.
Do you have a travel collection? I do. I collect thimbles everywhere I go. I like to put them in an antique wooden drawer which has been repainted and hung on the wall, and I hope one day my grandchildren will play with them and ask me what the different destinations were like back when I ... could see/could walk/had teeth.
Collecting something small on your travels is budget friendly (unless you collect something extravagant, but that's up to you) and makes finding your souvenir a lot of fun. It's less like looking for a needle in a stack of needles, which is what looking for "something special" can feel like, and more like a quick, satisfying errand you can check of your list in no time. If you only stay in destinations for a short time, a travel collection is gratifyingly doable, and you'll be able to relive your amazing journeys (and remember the ones you totally forgot about) for years and years.
We wanted to know what you collect, so we asked our readers on Facebook what they collect. We received some brilliant responses and wanted to tell you what some of the best were, in case you haven't started your travel collection yet!