World Guides Travel Blog
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November 25, 2011
AN ALL AMERICAN INSTITUTION
Holiday crowds, long-distance flights, Thanksgiving dinners, a turkey blessing by the American President and a giant balloon parade (Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade) through the city of New York
. These are just a few of the traditions that have grown up around America's annual Thanksgiving holiday. And then there's the day after Thanksgiving - more commonly known as Black Friday.
This all-American institution takes its name from the day of the year when company profit and losses statements finally manage to make it into the black. This year, it was predicted that half of the USA
would leave the comfort of their own homes to engage in Black Friday's shopping frenzy and - hopefully - save a few bucks along the way. That's around 152 million people, give or take a few.
In the past, holiday shoppers have at least been allowed time to settle back in their armchairs to digest what's typically a vast turkey-and-pumpkin-themed Thanksgiving dinner. This year, though, Black Friday kicked off even earlier than usual, with many shops flinging open their doors to the buying public as soon as the clocks struck midnight.
For the uninitiated, the Black Friday experience can be somewhat daunting. You have to be a brave soul to risk being trodden underfoot by an army of over-enthusiastic bargain hunters. But then, the temptations to take part in America's biggest shopping day can be particularly hard to ignore.
Posted by Sue at 12:06:06 on 25/11/2011
November 18, 2011
THE WONDER OF NATURE
First there were the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World. Then came the New7Wonders of the World. Now, seven more awe-inspiring destinations have been named, this time as wonders of the natural world. Whereas the ancient wonders were all chosen by one man back in 200 BC, these more modern wonders are the result of global online voting in a campaign launched by an organisation based in Zurich
I should hasten to add that these seven new natural wonders aren't yet official. Their new position in the eyes of the world is expected to be confirmed in early 2012. However, if you're a keen traveller (even of the armchair variety), you can't help but get excited in advance at the prospect of exploring these natural attractions.
, Halong Bay has a remarkable collection of lakes, some of which are tucked away inside their own limestone islands, as well as a shoreline dotted with vast caves. South Korea's Jeju Island is also a worthy wonder, dominated by its dormant volcano, which is surrounded by 360 more volcanoes nearby. Other Jeju Island attractions include its temples and beaches.
Newly-named natural wonders include the Amazon, which covers a vast area in South America
. In fact, it represents over half of the rainforests in the world. Its river, the Amazon, is the largest river in the world by volume. Then there's that other South American wonder, the Iguacu Falls
. With a toe in both Brazil
, Iguaza is reputed to be one of the world's largest waterfalls and is home to hundreds of rare flora and fauna species
Then there's the home of the Komodo dragon, Indonesia's Komodo National Park. Not to mention a remarkable underground river, Puerto Princesa Underground River, in the Philippines
. What is remarkable is that it winds its way through a cave for 8 km / 5 miles before emerging into the South China Sea.
Finally, South Africa's Table Mountain
is thought to be the home to almost 1,500 species of flowers, some of them rare or even on the endangered list. Visitors have been enjoying a cable car trip to the top since 1929.
No doubt these seven wonders will be revelling in their new-found status for some time. Particularly when you bear in mind that they were selected from a long list of 28 finalists. Now, the world's most exciting cities can look forward to the same treatment. Voting at www.new7wonders.com
is open to the end of the year.
Posted by Sue at 19:08:37 on 18/11/2011
November 12, 2011
BACK TO AFRICA
Egypt's beach resorts, Nile cruises and world-famous antiquities usually draw in tourists in their millions. This year, though, tourist numbers have been depressingly low. Hardly surprising, really, considering the fact that just eight months ago, there was a revolution going on. As the pro-democracy protests raged in Egypt
and other North African countries, holiday makers were naturally rather reticent to venture forth.
Now, though, says Egypt's Tourism Minister, it's safe to head back. Democratic elections are imminent. Tourists can once again enjoy wandering around the bazaars, relax on its sandy beaches, and revel in the beautiful weather.
Other countries that saw this year's Arab Spring seem to be equally ebullient. Visitor numbers to Tunisia are reputed to be back on the rise. And Morocco
seems to have somehow bucked the trend completely, claiming even more visitors this year than normal.
The region's hopes rest in its old favourites. These are places that have entertained tourists for centuries and are likely to continue doing so for a few more. Among them are Egypt's magnificent pyramids, the ancient Tunisian ruins at Carthage, and Morocco's medieval cities of Fez and Marrakech
, with their bustling medinas. Then there's the desert that covers much of this area and which continues to fascinate.
It seems likely that with political events starting to settle, North Africa's attractions - and there are many - could start to lure us back pretty quickly.
Posted by Sue at 14:34:25 on 12/11/2011
November 7, 2011
SKIING ALL OVER THE WORLD
This week brought heavy snowfall to Colorado and the American East. Forecasters are also predicting a colder-than-average winter for Europe
, which could translate into more-than-average snowfall. It's enough to make snow lovers dash to the Internet to book their next ski holiday. But with so many ski resorts offering so many options, it really is quite tricky deciding where to go.
Of course, Europe is seen by many as the home of skiing, with traditional Alpine ski resorts making up the staple of good skiing guides. In recent years, North America has also given them a good run for their money, rapidly becoming just as popular. But there's actually no good reason why you shouldn't explore further afield. Nowadays, you can ski your way around the world, with all five continents offering ski facilities at some level, from Argentina
and Chile in South America
, to South Africa
. You can even ski in China
The essential elements of a good skiing holiday aren't the same for everyone. If you're on a budget, it's worth considering better-value options such as Andorra or Bulgaria. Likewise, beginners and experienced skiers aren't necessarily going to see eye to eye on what makes for a good run. If you feel you're a contender for the next Winter Olympics, you may prefer the slopes of Chamonix in France
, where you can tackle one of the longest runs in the world. Personally, I'd put scenery fairly high up on my list of essentials. In which case, Canada's Banff National Park
presses all the right buttons. The largest single ski area is Vail in Colorado. Zermatt in Switzerland
is car-free for those who want to escape exhaust fumes. Most visitors agree that British Columbia's Whistler
resort packs in plenty of charm, making it an ever-popular choice.
At the end of the day, though, you do have to think about the snow. Whilst most resorts have good skiing conditions between January and March, if you're planning to ski earlier or later in the season, it's worth checking that ski runs have a minimum height of 2,500 metres / 8,200 feet at the top. Otherwise, you may be greeted by muddy ski runs and slushy mountain peaks.
Then there's a resort's all-important 'apres ski' culture. If you're partial to partying into the small hours, it's best to check out the nightlife well in advance.
And finally, don't forget the insurance!
Posted by at 15:30:39 on 6/11/2011