Monday, June 29, 2009

Wellington - the World's Most Southern Capital

By Jill Lang

Wellington, situated on the southern tip of New Zealand's Northern Island is the southernmost capital city in the world. The harsh winds that blow non-stop off Cook Straight have earned it the nick name "Windy City".

Wedged between steep hills, Wellington's limited space for expansion has forced the city to build high in order to accommodate increased demand for commercial and residential space. Victorian structures fell victim to new construction and modernization, giving Wellington the most modern skyline in the country.

The Maori people called the area around Wellington "the Head of Maui's fish", a reference to an incident in the Polynesian Maui Cycle when the hero, Maui, battled his brothers over a huge fish, leading to the land being cut up both by the fish's thrashing tail and by their knives.

When James Cook made a side trip here in 1773, the rough landscape of the bay was densely settled. Maori tribes fought one another constantly for the best coastal locations. This, along with the strong, unfavourable winds, may explain why Cook did not drop anchor and go ashore.

European settlement began with the landing of the warship Tory on 20 September 1839. In January of the following year, William Wakefield, commander of the first expedition of the New Zealand Company, "bought" the area from the Maoris for one hundred muskets. Wakefield thus became the founder of Wellington. The city was named in honour of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington and England's national hero in the Napoleonic Wars. Wellington was named New Zealand's capital on 26 July 1865.

Wellington is more than the political centre of the country; it has also made a name for itself as a city of culture. Wellington is the home of Te Papa, New Zealand's pioneering, interactive national museum, as well as to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and such national treasures as the original Treaty of Waitangi.

New Zealand's most famous writer, Katherine Mansfield, was born in Wellington and published her first short stories in a local literary magazine. New Zealand's capital is remarkably diverse topographically, with mountains and hills embracing the compact city and its prodigious harbour.

At the summit of Mount Victoria, which can be reached by a cable tramway built in 1902, visitors can enjoy the beauties of Kelburn Hill and the Botanic Gardens. The gardens, established in 1869, now cover 26 hectares.

Watch out for penguins Wellington is almost certainly the only capital city in the world where penguins freely roam the streets. This encourages visitors to walk alongside them; the city centre is best experienced on foot. Visitors (and penguins) can wander through its shopping arcades, lovely cafes and, less happily, constant traffic.

Nowhere else in the country is urban life lived as intensely as in Wellington. Unique adventure tours are available along the Kapiti coast and hiking trails run all along the craggy coastline, just off the coast, the world famous bird sanctuary of Kapiti Island attracts visitors from afar.

The environs of Wellington are known for their luxurious country lifestyle. Many great estates lie inland, just over the hills. Directly north of Wellington is Hutt Valley, where visitors can arrange bush and coastal hikes, SUV trips, golfing, mountain biking and angling.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Travel to San Jose, Costa Rica

Costa Rica's capital is San Jose and is considered as the largest city located in the middle of Grand Area Metropolitan. San Jose is the official residence of the national government. It is also the center of business and transportation in Central America.

Costa Rica nowadays features modern facilities as a result of the upsurge of its tourism. The combination of modern architecture and art has made become a favorite destination of tourist from around the world.

According to statistics, there are around 346,800 people residing in the city. This figure makes up one third of the overall population of the country. It has the strongest influence in terms of the political affairs of the country.

San Jose is home of the country's prominent school established during 1843, the University of Costa Rica. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is also located in the city.

The city boasts of its various tourist attractions which contribute to the economy of the city. The Banco Central de Costa Rica is among the tallest buildings considered as a landmark. Another landmark is the Cathedral, the office of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese. Other landmarks include Melico Salazar Theatre and the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica. These theaters hold several plays and musicals attracting many visitors. The city is also home to some of the historical buildings and architectures of great importance to the history of the city.

Museums are also abundant offering a wide variety of ways to explore and learn about the beauty of the city. The Gold Museum features a unique collection of different artifacts made of gold from the early civilization of the Latin Americans. The Lankester Botanical Garden is among the favorite of those with an inkling about plants.

El Pueblo is the right place for visitors who love the nightlife. El Pueblo holds a lot of bars, restaurants, clubs and disco houses where you can enjoy your favorite wine. There are nearby resorts and hotels where you can stay while visiting San Jose. Many of the entertainment centers open at 9:00 PM till morning and hold various live bands.

Calle de la Amargura is close to the University of Costa Rica, and is another place of entertainment with several cafe, bars and restaurants. Majority of these centers provide cheaper prices for students of the university.

For nature lovers, the Parque La Sabana is a perfect place featuring beautiful fountains and a lagoon. This park is also a great place for family picnics. Within the park, visitors can enjoy their favorite sports such as volleyball, basketball, baseball, tennis and swimming pool. The park is also home to the national stadium in which the most popular game of soccer is being held regularly.

Pueblo Antiguo is another ideal place to visit where museums and centuries old architectures can be found. The theme park is good for jogging, sightseeing, biking and adventure.

Another exciting adventure would be a visit to the Arenal Volcan National Park. The park features an alluring trip through a rain forest. Witness the amazing view of the volcano which captivates every visitor coming to the park.

San Jose is indeed a great place for vacation wherein visitors can indulge in variety of outdoor fun and adventure. You can surely have a relaxing and enjoyable vacation right in San Jose, Costa Rica. You can also find the best accommodation from the most luxurious to the cheapest hotels in the city and experience the hospitality of the people of San Jose. Great travel packages are available to give you best budget deals.

For more information on Tours Around San Jose and San Jose Costa Rica please visit our website. &

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fiery Arenal Volcano Of Costa Rica

By Frank Scott

All our luggage and camera gear is packed in the van by 8 a.m. and we are on our way to our first destination, soon to become a real life adventure. We are on a photography tour so everyone is talking cameras and pictures. This is the first day, we are getting to know one another, and the level of excitement in the van is high looking forward to the tour.

We are on our way to Arenal, an active volcano in Costa Rica, but there are a few stops along the way. First, we stop in Sarchi, famous for its tropical furniture, where magnificent, brightly decorated ox carts are made in an eighty plus year old water powered factory. From there, we drive to the little mountain town of Zarcero where the focal point is the old wooden church with its much-photographed double row of topiaries leading to its entrance. You can fill your camera's memory card just at these two places with the colours and patterns in Sarchi and the fantastic shapes of the topiaries in Zarcero.

Along the way, the potholes in the roads are many. Our Tico driver, Luis, knows this and so drives extremely cautiously to avoid them. However, it seems like everyone else on two or four wheels pass us. Those passing us seem to believe that they are Formula One contenders and in Costa Rica there is even a bus driver who is known to have passengers find God while on his bus.

After our planned stops and lunch in La Fortuna we are now just a few miles from our lodge at Arenal. As we leave the main highway we find ourselves on a road that is one continuous pothole. It is January and the rainy season has just ended so most roads are in poor condition but what is unique about this road is that it was constructed from crushed lava rock.

In rounding a curve we come upon a clearing at a river and behold, there is Arenal Volcano! The majority of my group have never been face to face with an active volcano and this perfectly shaped volcano is an awesome sight.

We see that the peak of the cone is shrouded in puffy little white clouds against a cerulean sky. The sight is picture perfect and we stop and everyone quickly descends from the van in the process of attaching cameras to tripods. Some of us wade into the tropical river to capture the incredible image from a different perspective and others are shooting from the riverbank.

Of course being this close to an active volcano could be very dangerous but Arenal is quite predictable, a low risk. The lodge is only one and a half kilometers to the base of the volcano and two kilometers to the top of the cone and needless to say, any activity attracts your attention.

While unpacking and getting settled in, Arenal speaks. It is a great roar, smoke and gas billowing many hundreds of feet into the sky and the sound of the rocks tumbling down the slopes. After the eruption, the Mantled Howler monkeys are extremely vocal but we do not know if they are protesting the roar of the eruption or just answering back.

While sitting in the lodge dining room enjoying our dinner Arenal speaks again. Everyone had been told of the many photo opportunities in Costa Rica but who would imagine eating dinner and having something like this happen? And this was only our first day of the tour!

Most of us do not get much sleep for the first two nights. Instead, we find some comfortable chairs in the common area outside our rooms and attach cable releases to our cameras and put them on a tripod. From past experiences I decide to use an 80-200mm lens set at 80mm and an aperture of f8, the camera shutter set at "B" for time exposure.

With the activity of the small flare-ups at the cone and the lava flowing down the opposite side I think a time exposure of more than twenty minutes will produce an ugly yellow blob of light, so if there had been no eruptions after this length of time I will close the shutter and start another exposure. Using a cable release makes these exposures very easy and Arenal puts on quite a display while we are there.

Arenal volcano was the first adventure for my photography group in Costa Rica. Everyone is looking forward to the next eight days and the marvelous and exciting photo opportunities they will have. Pura Vida!

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

What Can Israel Offer Tourists?

By Ret Howard

Israel's summer months, which occur during the winter for Australians, are completely dry. If you are coming for the sun, beaches and water sports, you can rest assured that not even one day of your visit will be interrupted by rain.

Israel boasts hundreds of miles of beautiful beaches dotted with world-class beach resorts. Para-gliding, wind-sailing, snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities are abundant. Scuba enthusiasts will especially enjoy the unique opportunity to dive among ancient Roman-era ruins in the shallows of the Mediterranean Sea, or enjoy the grand coral displays nestled in the clear blue waters of the Red Sea.

Israel also caters to hikers with vast networks of marked, but largely untouched hiking trails crisscrossing geographical locations as diverse as deserts, pine forests and snow-covered mountains. Come during Israel's winter months and you can even ski!

A Culinary Experience Israel has something special to offer the culinary tourist as well. Home to Jewish immigrants from around the world and Arab clans from all reaches of the Middle East, Israel's national menu is as diverse as they come. Chefs who compete at the highest levels in European competitions stand ready to serve up this wide array of specialties at an every growing number of gourmet establishments.

Complementing Israel's rich assortment of foods is a local wine industry that is starting to grab the attention of top international critics. Wines from many of Israel's boutique and larger wineries - all of which offer tours and tastings - continue to win international awards and accolades.

Historical Crossroads Having played host to some of the world's most ancient civilizations, Israel is a paradise for history buffs. Just about every patch of dirt in Israel has some bit of history underneath it, often making construction of new structures a nightmare.

Fully developed archeological sites providing a glimpses of life in pre-historic times, the biblical period, the Roman era and the Middle Ages - to name just a few - abound in Israel. Each and every historical site carries a unique story that could fill books, and many have.

A special bit of history for Australians is the famous charge of the Australian Light Horse Brigade during the Battle of Beersheba in 1917, widely reputed as the last successful cavalry charge in history. The charge effectively broke the Ottoman Empire's southern defenses, allowing British General Lord Edmund Allenby to advance on and capture Jerusalem and marking a major turning point in World War I.

A memorial to the Australian Light Horse has been erected in the southern Israel city of Beersheba, and more than 1,000 Australians, New Zealanders and Britons came to Israel in 2007 to reenact the charge on its 90th anniversary.

The Holy Land Israel is best known to travelers as the Holy Land, an area central to all three of the world's monotheistic religions.

Jerusalem is the heart of the Holy Land, hosting the Temple Mount, Western Wall and the Garden Tomb where Jesus is said to have been buried. But the rest of the country is not left wanting for religious significance.

Jesus' boyhood home of Nazareth and his base of ministry on the shores of the Sea of Galilee are sites not to be missed. Nor would any tour be complete without visits to locations in Israel's southern desert and central mountain regions that the biblical patriarchs called home.

All in all, Israel is a well-rounded travel destination for every kind of tourist, and is second to none for those interested in history and religious pilgrimage.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Is it Safe for Americans to Travel to Iraq Today?

No one will ever forget where he or she was when first witnessing the image of two planes crashing into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Since that tragic day, and the beginning of this war, too many lives have been taken. David Bowie sings it clearly in his song "I'm Afraid of Americans," saying that his fear cannot be helped, and in the mean time he will not pretend. Other than the distaste of glam rock stars of the 1970s and the French, are Americans safe to travel to foreign lands, such as Iraq? Even with homeland security working over time?

The presence of Americans has not been positive. Since U.S. troops first settled in Iraq on March of 2003, and Saddam Hussein no longer in leadership the hopefulness to this war sounds pretty promising. Currently terrorist attacks have been down 40 percent since 2001 and seem to be declining. Although, radical groups like Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah have done plenty of damage in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan. And being American, one will most likely be targeted when visiting Iraq.

Such a country filled with history and beauty is experiencing the affects of gun shells, explosions and shattered lives. With over 4,000 U.S. causalities in Iraq, a visit to the country does not seem like a wise idea. Journalists covering their assignments on the war in Iraq put their lives at risk. Over 200 men and women in the media have given their lives for coverage of this war.

In 2002, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl's murder made headlines.

Held captive and video tapped, Pearl begging for life, the tragedy of his death shook the hearts of millions. Journalists tend to disregard State warnings of danger, but everyone else should not. When there is a story, determination drives the pen of an eager reporter.

Images brought home from the war in Iraq impact citizens here, but they also impact the ones who snapped the photographs. San Diego Union Tribune senior photographer, Nelvin Cepeda has been behind enemy lines in Iraq. The images seen overseas are "too dense for our media outlets," said Cepeda. "They're accustom to this, and many have insisted on showing me the dead bodies."

Voluntarily putting ones self in such cross fire is the equivalence of walking blind folded down the freeway; you just do not do it. Soldiers and the media are there to do a job. Those residing in Iraq have no other option.

All a person needs to do is switch on his or her television sets, and see what the news is reporting from the front lines. Everyday the number of deaths of American soldiers and civilians increases at a rapid pace. Witnessing such terrible images of warfare first hand is not what one wants stashed in their memory.

Where a bulletproof vest is on your packing checklist next to sunscreen is not the ideal for most vacation routes. We are at war with Iraq; a visit to hostile territory is absurd.

Rudy Van Lancker is a consultant helping clients with in-depth advice on various topics including travel and Iraq, which he writes about on -- and his travel blog

Monday, June 8, 2009

A World Cruise: You Should Try!

By John Siekdof

Are you considering a vacation and confused about the type of holiday you want to avail? Consider cruise vacation, which is the ultimate retreat. Cruise vacations are suitable for people of all ages and there are number of benefits of also. There is no scope of getting bored, unlimited fun and reasonable price.

Cruise around the world and make a memory of your life. There are various destinations for cruising such as Australia, Europe, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Hawaii, etc.

Cruising around the world has loads of advantages. Out of the many benefits, the major advantage of a cruise around the world is that the journey includes stoppages at several destinations at diverse duration of time.

There is absolutely no tension of visiting from one itinerary to another in a cruise trip. The cruise will sail you through varied destinations while you just relax on the voyage and enjoy the pristine beauty of nature. Visit the unique zones on board that you have never thought of visiting.

You will get everything that you need on a cruise trip. There are restaurants, bars, shopping centers, nightclubs, movie halls, etc. Thus, there is completely not a concern regarding the amusement and leisure factors on a cruise vacation. A thorough enjoyment and entertainment is guaranteed in a cruise trip. People of any age can enjoy their time in cruise.

There are people who have a dream to be on a cruise trip but the problem is that they need to take care of their kids constantly and hence they cannot enjoy the vacation. There are cruise lines that include professional staffs that are expert to take of the kids. They will keep your kids happily busy with several unique and fun activities while you enjoy the offerings of the cruise trip. If there is a need of medical treatment on board, then also you can be relaxed as you will get everything on cruise trip.

A number of admired cruise lines that take a trip across the world are Radisson, Silversea, Disney, Crystal and Princess. There are assorted selections of journey that can make people happy and satisfy the requirements of different persons. People who want to travel a cruise trip and have no kids can take pleasure in the voyages that are completely for adults.

Apart from special care for the kids and adults, there are special cruise for the single travelers also. In these cruise lines, people can make new friends and enjoy the vacation. There are some cruise lines like the Disney cruise that offer service for kids, adults and singles.

Cruising around the world with several activities, recreations, entertainment, etc gives a great high. Considering all the advantages, the price range of these cruise trips seems very reasonable.

Traveling on some of the best locations of the globe gives you huge pleasure. You become aware of dissimilar civilization, watch varied natural offerings and obtain immense knowledge. Cruising around the world is hence an ideal move away from the buzz of daily life. Make an arrangement of a trip and go on a cruise vacation to benefit from the experience of a lifetime.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Why Ionian Sailing Holidays Might Be An Option

You sit there in your car with rain streaking your windscreen, and the hoarding at the traffic lights promises endless blue skies, baking sun and bath-warm sea water. As the light remains on red, its bright, sharp circle is blotted and streamed with English rain - but all you see is the brilliant yellow sun promised by one of those Ionian sailing holidays.

The happy faces on the billboard suggest that going on Ionian sailing holidays might be truly thrilling, jolly experiences. Clear green blue water suspends a blinding white sailing boat, aboard which happy family members smile or leap into the inviting Ionian Sea.

A car beeps from behind you and you realise it's time to move off. As the day goes on you turn over the possibilities offered by Ionian sailing holidays. Remembering that most persuasive of adverts, you toy with the idea of that beautiful Greek coastal region - a place where the world of work seems never to have existed.

The heavy lead lining of English cloud which protects the damp natives from, well, a decent a tan - reminds you that it would be a stroke of genius to book one of those Ionian sailing holidays as soon as possible. You start ticking boxes mentally, why on earth you should spend that money. Those boxes get ticked very quickly.

Ok, Ionian sailing holidays - like many other sailing holidays out there - cost a bit, but perhaps that is one of the only drawbacks. As with similar holidays, a good deal of hot sun is guaranteed. Then there is the food of course. Great food is something that you would find across the northern Mediterranean coast; in Spain, Italy, France - and in indeed in Greece. Spanish omelettes, Italian pizzas, French cuisines of all kinds - and those full, juicy Greek olives, just begging to be skewered and devoured - they're all possibilities for a sailing break in this most pleasure focussed of geographical regions.

Ionian sailing holidays would presumably offer as much humus as one would require - and as much mouth watering feta cheese and refreshing Greek salad, as you could possibly pack on to your boat. And, like much of this region, Greece offers a superb range of historic attractions to enjoy, if you for some reason get tired of lounging around on a boat in the warm, glassy blue Ionian waters.

Discovering the long Ionian history is the rapidly melting icing on the Greek cake, laid out on a red white chequered table cloth on your deck, as a light Greek breeze rustles your hair, and you consider sliding into that beautiful ancient sea again. Ionian sailing holidays across this area offer a true escape from routine life - as do the many other great sailing holidays available in the Mediterranean, where broad azure skies and golden sunshine comes as standard.

Anna Stenning is an expert on Ionian sailing holidays, having been involved in the Mediterranean holiday industry for many years. For more information visit