Dave (Blogsmith, old)
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How about heading to the South Pacific sometime in the next 30 days? Consider this our virtual December Destination suggestion of the day. All you have to do to be transported is read the recently released 30 Days in the South Pacific, published by our friends at Travelers Tales. This collection of True Stories of Escape to Paradise may inspire you to hop on a plane this month or just embark on some serious South Pacific daydreaming. Fiji, Moorea, Vanuatu, Tonga and Taveuni - just peek at the table of contents and read a sample chapter - do you feel the sand between your toes? I bet it won't even take all thirty stories to get you seriously thinking of a trip to one of these islands. If you can't get there in December, be sure to add this to the top of your New Year's resolution list: "Must spend at least 30 days on an island in the South Pacific sunshine."
This book is the first release in a new series of 30 Days titles from Travelers Tales. Future titles in the series will include Italy and Japan.
While on the subject of responsible travel, I want to be sure to mention the fascinating report released this week by the Ethical Traveler. Executive Director Jeff Greenwald worked with Stanford University researchers to compile the World's Best Ethical Travel Destinations. The thirteen names that appear on the list ranked high in each of three categories reviewed by the team: ecotourism practices, environmental standards, and social development indicators.
The report starts off by clarifying its interpretation of the terms "ecotravel" versus "ethical travel", which is helpful to understand before diving into the details of their findings. Thankfully, the results are presented in clear and simple language, providing thoughtful reasons why they think these are the best places for Americans to visit. The big winner here was Latin America: eight developing countries from the region make the list. I was delighted to see two European nations - Croatia and Slovenia - mentioned too. I'm already excited about spending time visiting each of these countries next spring, and will now pay special attention to how I can best respect the natural habitat and people of these countries while traveling through them.
Even if you are not a super foodie, you may enjoy reading the wonderful world of Clotilde Dusoulier, on her food blog Chocolate and Zucchini. All year long Clotilde serves up the tastiest recipes from her home in Paris. And because the source of where each ingredient comes from is so integral to her cooking descriptions, I often feel as if I'm reading a niche travel blog as well. She provides wonderful details about the origins and history of all sorts of edible goodies. The travel tone is especially strong this month, as Clotilde posts about her recent vacation to south-west France. For the past two weeks, she's been sharing fantastic travel/food tales each day about a particular variety of chocolat, pepper, or cheese tasted along the way. Her Travelling Gourmande archive is another great place to browse for wonderful travel food writing, and includes links to her trip to NYC earlier this year.
I just had lunch with a colleague who was asking me to recommend a good locale for a short winter vacation in a warm, sunny place. With islands on my mind, I returned from lunch to find this great piece in the UK Sunday Times that profiles five Caribbean gems. These tiny islands don't get nearly as much fanfare as places like Aruba, Barbados or Jamaica, but they should not be overlooked when trying to choose the right warm weather escape. I've never even heard of Bequia before (it's part if the Grenadines) but I can vouch that Tobago is a beauty - my brother went there for his honeymoon earlier this year and had an amazing time snorkling, sleeping and sunning. The article includes nice pro/con reviews of each island, accomodation and tour suggestions for January, plus basic travel info to/from the UK. Should be useful to anyone looking to get away this winter.
It looks like The Laughing Ass Brewing Company has the life: "Where we brew, drink, travel for and blog about beer." Can't get much better than that huh? For beer lovers at least...
Patrick Childress travels the world in search of good beer, and blogs about it when he's not throwing them back. He's been to the 24 Hours of Beer Festival and the Belgian Beer Fest, as well as parts of Germany and the Czech Republic. He is currently traveling through northern Belgium and just recently visited Dublin too. Follow along at his Laughing Ass blog - there are photos and brewers notes too.
I'm especially excited about visiting Slovenia next year when I'm backpacking through Europe. For some unexplainable reason I'm really drawn to this tiny European nation. Maybe because it borders Italy, where all my ancestors are from? Or because I just keep reading such great things about it. So I've started to gather bookmarks, links and blogs to learn more. My favorite resource so far is Michael Manske's blog, The Glory of Carniola. Michael has lived in Slovenia since 2001 and provides daily glimpses of life in Slovenia on his blog. He just wrote a short piece for the San Diego Reader that tells more about his background, plus sheds light on the never-ending confusion between Slovenia and Slovakia. Great place to learn more and fun to read along.
The latest travel book by Philip Marsden was released this week. The Chains of Heaven: An Ethiopian Romance, is an account of Marsden's second journey to Ethiopia, over twenty years after his first. The book chronicles his travels through remote landscapes and his interactions with the varied people he encounters, including monks, hermits, farmers and other travelers. Read reviews out this week in the UK by Rory Maclean for the Times and Will Cohu for the Telegraph.
Last night over dinner a friend and I discussed which types of travel adventure trips we would and would not do. He mentioned that he had just read about a group who did a 19-day cycling trip through northwest Laos. We both agreed that this might not be the adventure we'd choose (having limited biking experience), but it sure is fascinating to read about others who have done it. The craziest thing is that one of the four men who went on this tour with Virginia-based Far And Away Cycling only bought a bike two weeks before the trip! But all ten participants biked the 500 total miles, and seemed to have a ball while doing it. The company's Lost in Time tour of Laos runs again in December 2005 and February 2006. Price is about $1,000, not including airfare. They also run cycling tours in Spain, Slovenia and Corsica.
For the first time ever, the company will introduce a single-country pass, the Eurail National Rail Pass. Travelers can choose to explore one country from three to 10 travel days (within one month or two) for these nine countries: Finland, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain or Sweden.
Another expanded offering is for the existing Eurail Regional Pass, with seven new combinations to choose from: Austria-Czech Republic, Austria-Switzerland, France-Benelux, France-Germany, France-Switzerland, Germany-Austria and Germany-Switzerland.
Finally, the Eurailpass will now be valid in 18 countries with the addition of Romania in 2006. The complete list includes: Austria (including Liechtenstein), Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France (including Monaco), Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. (The Eurail Selectpass is also valid in Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia & Montenegro and Slovenia.)
As a reminder, don't forget to check out the bonuses available to rail riders, including discounts on boat crossings, rental cars and a free map when you buy tickets. All these new options will be available for purchase beginning January 1, 2006.
Quad biking the sand dunes of Namibia - what a cool way to explore the land! Writer Marie Javins recently shared her African adventure biking tale, which sounds like loads of fun. I'm not sure which company Marie used for her excursion, but I did find this one operating in Swakopmund and it could very well be the one she went with.
Marie does mention that she realizes that quad biking might not be the best eco-friendly sport for the Namib dunes to endure. I did find this dated article about a proposed green tax for adventure companies using the bikes, but could not confirm if it is in place. These are also efforts underway to create an eco-park encompassing the coastal dunes. In many cases, there are specific areas designated for these bikes, which some say are far less damaging to the terrain than most off-road vehicles.
I still think this is a neat way to get around, but I do try to be informed about the environmental impact of activities like this before I decide to hop on board. In this case, I'd probably still do it if given the chance in my travels. Would you?
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