Category Archives: America

Inside The Most Eccentric Neighborhood in Los Angeles: Venice

I think all I can tell you about Venice doesn’t describe the ambiance and eccentricity that invades this unique neighborhood in Los Angeles.

Last June, I’ve visited the city for the second time. I knew for sure what I wanted to visit and where I wanted to walk. Venice was definitely on the top of my list.

During my first visit, I spent just a few hours there and I could see several people at the beach riding a bike. So, without thinking twice and knowing that it would be difficult to move around the cyclists, I went to rent a bike in Santa Monica, where I was staying. I rented it for 4 hours and it was quite an experience.

The breeze on my face, the beach on both sides of the bike lane, hundreds of people skating, walking, juggling; dogs playing in the grass and an aspiring female surfer, training on the sand, caught my attention. I’m from a big city that has no beach so here I felt so good that I wished I could live here for a while.

In 20 minutes, I was in Venice. And as you approach to the neighborhood along the Ocean Front Walk, you realize that the environment has changed: music, the smell of paint, costumed characters, fortune tellers, dancing homeless. I didn’t speak with anyone but once I was inside that ambiance, I felt a little bit crazy and wanted to be part of it!

 

It may seem that its name is not appropriate, but Venice has a history that no one would imagine when you walk through its streets. Abbot Kinney was the founder of the district. He had a dream and in the 1890’s, he fulfilled it. Kinney purchased a land at Ocean Park and in 1905, he built famous “Venice of America”.

His intention was to reflect the bohemian atmosphere mixed with music centers and art galleries. Also, he wanted to recreate the Italian Venice inCalifornia. In fact, if you move away from the busy promenade, you will discover a different Venice. Look for the street that gave its name to its founder and take a slow walk along its colorful modern delis and small gourmet food restaurants. Somehow, I felt the “Venetian Renaissance”.

There are two things I loved about Venice: art and skate park. The life and the environment is reflected by street artists flooding the neighborhood with their paintings.

If you go to the beach, you will see the sporty side of Venice. On one side of the beach, several basketball courts inhabit the landscape between the beach and the most famous outdoor Muscle Beach. There were trained celebrity bodybuilders, including Chester Yorton and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And on the other side of the beach, there is a skate park with many ramps and holes for jumping with various degrees of difficulty. To my surprise, two 7-year children handled his skateboard as if they were born with it. Many people watched and cheered whereas I was speechless. I couldn’t stop taking photos!

When the sun went down, I left the boardwalk because I knew that this area isn’t safe at night. Throughout the day, people drank and, for that reason, there were a lot of drunks, stumbling down the boardwalk, creating a lot of noise. Then, it was time for me to get close to Main Street and Abbot Kinney Street to enjoy a cocktail or a beer and be delighted by the happy hour at High Rooftop Lounge, the Erwin hotel’s terrace.

 

5 Tips to Enjoy Montreal This Winter

While some of you prefer to go somewhere warm to escape the winter, others just can’t wait to put on their mittens, hats and boots to jump in the snow. Montreal, in Canada, is the perfect place to spend the winter season this year.

Winter sports in the heart of the city, incredibly warm people and amazing outdoors parties are waiting for you – and with these 5 tips, you’ll be sure to get the most out of it.

This might be obvious to some, but do expect cold (real cold!) and snow. Expect the worst, and prepare yourself for even worse. Temperatures can range from around 0 degrees to around -25 on the coldest days.

Tip #1: get dressed! A hot coat, gloves, boots, everything… You’ll need it.

Montreal is located in the French-speaking province of Quebec. While some people do speak English, they always appreciate when tourists try their best French to communicate with them.

Tip #2: learn to say “ Bonjour” (Hi) and “Merci” (Thank you) and you’ll be sure to make friends to accompany you on your winter sports adventures.

Because yes,

Tip #3 is: get outside! It’s going to be freezing cold, but with the right equipment you’ll be able to enjoy winter in town and around. Here are some of my favorites.

Winter sports:

  • Ice skating in Parc La Fontaine, Parc Maisonneuve or in the Old Port : Montrealers love ice skating! The city has three major outdoor skating rings where families and friends gather. (Hint: it’s also very romantic at night!)

Winter parties:

  • IglooFest (weekends of January & February 2014): Love electronic music? Love partying? This is THE event you won’t want to miss. Dance your heart out and you’ll even forget the cold.

       Montréal’s Nuit Blanche (March 1st, 2014): a whole night of activities, including musical performances, art exhibitions, dance and more! (Good to know: during this event, the subway is open all night long!)

If you’re visiting downtown, you might get cold walking around. Tip #4: stay underground! Almost all the downtown area is connected by underground “streets” where you can also do your shopping and eat.

To warm yourself up, you’ve also got to taste some of Montreal’s best coffee. There is a big coffee culture in the city and there are some really good coffee shops. Some of my favorite places downtown include Pikolo and Humble Lion. If you’re wandering a bit off the center, stop at Pourquoi Pas (in the Village), Café Volâne (in Petite-Patrie), Café Sardine (in the Mile-End) or Flocon Espresso (in the Plateau).

Bon voyage!

Caroline Cloutier is a French Canadian Food & Travel Writer currently living in Spain. She travels the world in search of the most tasting food and the best travel destinations. Get on board and follow her culinary adventures on her blog Where Caro Eats (www.wherecaroeats.com)! She’s also on Facebook (www.facebook.com/wherecaroeats) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/cloutiercaro).

More: embark on her journeys via Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/cloutiercaro), Instagram (www.instagram.com/cloutiercaro) and Google+ (https://plus.google.com/+CarolineCloutierComm)

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Backpacking in the Caribbean

When we think of silken sandy beaches, palm fringed coves, and clear blue water, the Caribbean often comes to mind. The region has hundreds of beautiful islands to explore. However, while we’re dreaming of this tropical idyll, there will probably be a big issue looming on the horizon like a spot of low pressure in hurricane season: the cost. The Caribbean has a reputation for being prohibitively expensive. This need not be the case.

For those of us who are really passionate about travel, it seems plain wrong to have to avoid some parts of the world just because of cost. We say – a) why shouldn’t we visit the whole of our beautiful planet and b) where there’s a will, there’s a way. In this blog post we’ll tell you about travelling in the Caribbean if you’re on a budget.
The coast of Central America
The easiest way to backpack in the Caribbean is to travel up or down the Caribbean coast of Central America. Technically seven countries are considered part of the region: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, but most of us would also include Mexico and the northern coasts of Colombia and Venezuala too. The reason these countries are easiest is that you won’t always have to take a boat or plane between islands, but can just hop on a bus. You’ll find this much cheaper.
Boats – ferries and crewing a yacht
There are more and less expensive islands and places to stay in the Caribbean, but you will often find that travel is one of the biggest costs. This is often because you will want to fly. There are other methods of transport however. Where available, locals tend to use ferries. Caribbean-on-line has some good tips on how to get between islands by ferry. If you have a little sailing experience, you can offer your services as a crew on a yacht (of the sailing variety). This will involve free board and food for the duration of your voyage. There are a variety of sites where captains find crew, including CrewSeekers International and CrewBay.
Splashing out
Don’t worry, we’re not finished explaining where you can find deals, but we feel that this might be an appropriate place to have a break from budget and mention a couple of exciting things to do in the region. According to dialaflight.com, the beaches and resorts of the Caribbean make the ideal spot to do some celebrity spotting – of course, you don’t have to be staying in the expensive resort, but just pay for a day’s use of their beach. Another lovely extravagance is to swim with dolphins. Look for the nearest place that offers the service where ever you’re staying, it really is the experience of a lifetime.
Where to stay
From the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas to Richard Branson’s Necker Island, the Caribbean is famous for its deluxe resorts. Luckily, there are other options for those of us trying to stretch our cash. Yes, there are hostels and Bed and Breakfasts in the Caribbean. Another tip is to try home stay or an exchange – this would mean staying with a local family in their residence or moving your whole family to their house, while they come and stay in yours. You can always try homestaysgrenada, havanahomestay and the Caribbean section of exchangezones for some good leads to follow up. This way you will learn a little more about Caribbean culture too.
The cheaper islands
Some islands and some areas are much more affordable than others, so finally we’re going to give you a few tips for places to head for if you’re after a good deal. So, let’s start with the The San Blas islands of the coast of Panama, which are beautiful and little visited, also The Corn Islands of the coast of Nicaragua are also affordable as well as lovely. Any discussion of the cheaper parts of the region would be amiss without mentioning the Dominican Republic. The country seems to consistently offer the cheapest holidays around.

Finally, the cheapest deals are found during the low season. Most tourists head to the Caribbean from the middle of December to late April, if you go out of these times you’re more likely to get a good deal.

Nature and Ecology in Vancouver: Stanley Park

Let one of the locals show you around the best urban park in the world. Enjoy Nature and Ecology in Vancouver: Stanley Park.

 

I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia seven years ago, and in a stroke of good fortune found an apartment just a stone’s throw from Stanley Park. Now, I am a prairie boy, and the idea of living where I could hear waves crashing struck me as impossibly romantic. Seven years later, I still step out my front door in the morning,  look out at the rugged Stanley Park shoreline, and whisper to myself, “I can’t believe I live here.”
Stanley Park is a local gem, a national treasure, and a magnet for tourists from all over the world. When Lord Stanley set it aside in 1888 for “the use and enjoyment of peoples of all colours, creeds, and customs, for all time”, he had no idea just how badly we would need it. 125 years later, nature deficit disorder is a chronic societal illness, and indulging the simplest pleasure of feeling grass between your toes is a challenge for millions of urbanites packed into concrete habitats around the world.
But thanks to Lord Stanley’s vision, I was able to leave my apartment this morning and, within minutes, watch a pair of bald eagles feasting on a duck on Lost Lagoon, while a quartet of river otters dove and frolicked not two metres away. It’s no wonder it was named the best park in the world by Trip Advisor last year.
The sea wall is perhaps Stanley Park’s most beloved asset. Nine kilometres of wide, paved pathways are enjoyed by eight million people a year who stroll (or cycle) past rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, towering primal forests, and a functional military cannon.
The sea wall rocks. I don’t know any other way to say it. To walk it on a Sunday afternoon in spring, after months of grey winter skies, is to touch on the sublime. I love it even when it’s busy—and it does get very busy—for its endless diversity of happy humanity. Sometimes, you can pass hundreds of people without hearing a single word of English spoken. Immigrants and long-time residents, young and old, gay and straight, families and lovers… everyone relaxes on the sea wall.
Here’s a tip from a local: you need to walk it (or jog it, if you’re up for the challenge) at sunrise. Oystercatchers and harbour seals will be your spirit guides as you round Ferguson Point, breathe the moist Pacific air and suddenly forget you’re in Canada’s third-biggest city. Just do it.
And if you have time, step off the paved seawall onto one of Stanley Park’s many, many forest trails. This is the real Stanley Park, if you ask me. The coastal temperate rainforest is silent, lush, deep, and immensely comforting. Some of these trees, these western red cedars and hemlocks, are hundreds of years old and mind-bogglingly tall.
When you hear the thrushes and the owls call, with not another human in sight, it feels like a true wilderness experience. But this wilderness is actually a carefully-managed forest, and requires a fair bit of active work to maintain its natural charm. The Stanley Park Ecology Society works hard to maintain the park’s wetlands and sensitive natural areas; I have been a volunteer with them for four years.
If you’re looking for a great way to spend an afternoon in Stanley Park, head to the amazing Vancouver Aquarium. Get up close and personal with Steller sea lions, or gently caress a giant green anemone. The Aquarium is one of Vancouver’s main attractions, and if you’re like me, you’ll want to get there early in the day to take it all in before the big crowds get there. It really is worth a visit.
So next time you’re visiting my city, come spend an afternoon in Stanley Park. I can almost guarantee you will come away relaxed, refreshed, and connected with all things vital. It’s what Lord Stanley would have wanted.
Don Enright’s passion for travel and wildlife has led him through an unforgettable twenty-five-year career as a professional naturalist, photographer and writer. Don’s recent adventures have led him through the wild coasts of Vancouver Island and Alaska, the fjords of Patagonia, and the coastlines of northern Europe. Don has a particular interest in the wildlife of the West Coast that he calls home. Follow his adventures on www.donenright.com

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USA Living: Finding Your Perfect City Match

Whilst many people will live and die in the place they were born, others will feel the need to move beyond their beginnings and travel to distant locations. Seeing what the rest of the world has to offer can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Sometimes, this involves upping roots and moving to a completely different country. Other times, this might be as simple as moving to another city in your own country. If you’re living in the USA, thenfinding the perfect city for you shouldn’t be difficult. There are some amazing places out there…

Fort Worth, Texas

Named by Forbes magazine as the best city to live in the US, Fort Worth is a fantastic place, offering a wide range of benefits. For a start, the weather is always hot, with winter temperatures averaging 27C. Home prices are very reasonable and the city has a lot of history. The downtown area has very unique architecture, known for its Art-Deco style buildings. Fort Worth also has some of America’s foremost art contained in several galleries within the city.

Boston, Massachusetts

One of the oldest cities in America, Boston is steeped in a rich culture and history that makes it a truly beautiful place to live. Considered 15th best city in the US to live, Boston is perfect for those who share an affinity for the finer things in life. Ballet, classical music, opera and theatre are abundant throughout the city. However, you might be surprised that it was also influential in the Punk music scene also. Bands such as The Cars, The Lemonheads and The Pixies all formed in Boston!

Seattle, Massachusetts

One of the highlights of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle features 16th on Forbes top city list. In terms of getting about, Seattle has one of the best public transport systems around. It’s the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix and Starbucks, and their first store can still be found in the wonderful Pike Place Market. Despite the myth that it rains nine months of the year, Seattle actually gets less rain than other American cities.

Nashville, Tennessee

Considered the birthplace of country music, Nashville appears 4th on the Forbes list of best cities to live. It has a large university community, and is well known for amazing places to eat. The suburban areas are clean, well maintained and there’s a low crime rate. Perfect for families essentially. Did we mention the country music? Music is ingrained into the city, with one of the longest running radio shows operating from here, and Music Row, an area home to hundreds of businesses related to the industry.

Interested to come to the US? Getting a visa is not easy, especially if you are based in some parts of Europe, as there are good options to get a ‘ESTA USA’ online.

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids not only has a really cool sounding name, but it’s a brilliant city to live in, coming 11th in the Forbes list. Grand Rapids has a thriving entertainment scene, with many museums, theatres, cinemas and concert halls. Those in the health profession will benefit as this is the largest industry for employment in the area. Lying on the banks of the Grand River, Grand Rapids certainly is a picturesque place to settle down.

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5 New York Tourist Spots For Kids

If you love traveling with your kids and explore new places, News York is the perfect city to discover with your family. Your kids will enjoy every attraction of the city and they always want to try new things to do with a big smile on their faces!

When exploring New York, you may want to visit some of the must-see places for kids:

1.    Try the Rides at Luna Park, Coney Island

New York has one of the best landmarks in the world. Who could’ve thought that an amusement park can be a landmark? But Coney Island is indeed iconic not only for New Yorkers but families on a holiday in NYC as well. The kids will surely love the different rides and you’ll have no problem on food spending since the carnival food like hotdogs and fast foods are relatively affordable within the park.

2.    See Manhattan at the Empire State Building

Who wouldn’t recognize the Empire State Building? It has seen some of its fair share in several romantic Hollywood movies. You can enjoy the amazing view of Manhattan atop the observatory. In fact, the elevator ride in itself is something that your kids must experience. The long lift ride passes 86 floors.

3.    Meet the Statue of Liberty

Your family’s New York adventure is not complete without meeting the infamous Statue of Liberty. Seeing it for the first time is like meeting the President of the United States; such is the charisma of this iconic statue. There are various tour services that you can pay for in bringing you to the Statue of Liberty.
NEW YORK CITY – APRIL 17: Union Square April 17, 2013 in New York, NY. The Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 created such an awkward angle at the location that a square was preferred over buildings.

4.    Explore Central Park

Another iconic landmark in New York is the luscious greenery of Central Park. Central Park is a breath of fresh air because it’s surrounded by buzzing city structures. Hence, New Yorkers go to this place to relax if they get tired of their usual busy schedule. For tourists, they can relax in Central Park after a busy city walk tour.

5.    Shop at Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market is not your typical market. This place is a haven for shoppers on a budget which is what majority of family on holidays are.  There are different types of food stalls operating in the market. From local delicacies to foreign oriented recipes, the Chelsea Market has it. In fact, this may be the best place in New York for you to buy a souvenir of NYC.
What makes Chelsea Market different from other types of markets in New York? Chelsea Market is not just a market but it’s also a haven for artistic individuals. There are always scheduled artistic events like exhibits or mini concert being held in Chelsea Market. Hence, people visiting this place are not only exposed to affordable goods but to some amazing exhibition of artistry as well.

End Note

Note that the abovementioned locations are located in various places. It’s just a suggestion which you may want to consider. Hence, it’s sometimes better to opt for a car hire in New York. Take note of the expenses you might incur when you visit these places. For a more budget friendly exploration of New York, try to visit neighboring places so that you can maximize your money and time.
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