Fantasy Friday: Beautiful Bolivia

Lonely Planet knows how to do it right in Bolivia, of course.

Let’s close our eyes (wait…read this though) and picture ourselves being transported to one of the wildest parts of South America:

Simply superlative – this is Bolivia. It’s the hemisphere’s highest, most isolated and most rugged nation. It’s among the earth’s coldest, warmest, windiest and steamiest spots. It boasts among the driest, saltiest and swampiest natural landscapes in the world.

Top 5 things to do and see in Bolivia:

1. Salar de Uyuni – An eerie, otherworldly sea of salt that will haunt your daydreams for years to come.

2. Potosí – A wealth of colonial churches with fabulous paintings, and miners looking to strike it lucky in hell.

3. Sorata – Alluring spot for action or inaction, for exhilarating treks or swinging in a hammock.

4. Parque Nacional Torotoro – Thousands of dinosaur tracks criss-cross this rough and rugged beauty of a national park.

5. Samaipata – This picturesque, laid-back town is the gateway to the pre-Inca site, El Fuerte, and stunning Parque Nacional & Área de Uso Múltiple Amboró.

Just stunning. What a unique and interesting landscape/history this place has. Count me in!

Fantasy Friday: Prague

Prague: Recommended by my boyfriend for this edition of Fantasy Friday. Prague is famous for bachelor parties, pub crawls, restaurants, and operas…hmmm sounds like him! (kidding – sort of).

So, if he is out testing all the pubs (I can’t drink beer – aka migraines) and operas (my ears and shrill sounds – aka migraine), this is what I would be doing:

I would try a beer battered pretzel, if they have any. THEN check out the cave!

Wow – this sounds absolutely amazing actually! Maybe I should send him on his way if we were ever to go here together.

Please vote for the featured scene for the header on my blog, too! I’ll tally the votes for Monday!

Fantasy Friday: The Kingdom of Tonga

The ‘true south pacific’ as the official tourism site states.

I’m not really sure why Tonga popped into my head this week, but once I started thinking about these islands and doing a bit of research, I became very intrigued.

The officals are telling me these 10 reasons I should go…let’s see if they can convince me:

1. Experience the “True” South Pacific

Journey back in time to experience the Kingdom of Tonga’s authentic and compelling mix of centuries-old culture, history and traditions. Understand why Tonga’s relaxing combination of uncrowded, unhurried and undiscovered represent the “True South Pacific”.

2. Discover the South Pacific’s Only Kingdom

Experience the history, tradition and respect of over 1000 years of the Kingdom of Tonga’s monarchy, culminating in King George Tupou V’s ongoing influential role in modern Tongan society.

3. Explore a Diverse Tropical Archipelago

Negotiate an intrepid path through the diverse Tongan archipelago of more than 170 islands scattered across 740,000 square miles. Discover why the Kingdom’s combination of pristine beaches and coral atolls, active volcanoes and untouched rainforest is spectacularly unique.

4. Swim with Giant Humpback Whales

Share Tonga’s warm and sustaining waters with migrating humpback whales from June to November. Join experienced whale watching operators across the Kingdom to swim with these gentle marine giants.

5. Escape to Tonga Year Round

Enjoy the Kingdom’s exceptional tropical climate from January to December, providing opportunities year round to experience Tonga’s authentic Polynesian mix of genuine hospitality, active adventure, and blissful relaxation.

6. Discover the world’s best sailing charters

Set your own course, or ask your boat’s skipper to explore the secluded islands, lagoons, and safe anchorages of one the finest sailing destinations in the world. The Kingdom of Tonga’s professional yacht charter companies can cater to sailing fans of all levels of experience.

7. Get Active and Adventurous

Immerse yourself in Tonga’s compelling mix of spectacular landscapes, pristine rainforests and azure waters with the Kingdom’s energetic menu of adventurous activities. After a day of fishing, kayaking, diving or surfing, you’ll have earned some downtime in a hammock – another quintessential Tongan activity.

8. Enjoy a warm Tongan welcome

Discover why Captain James Cook dubbed the Kingdom of Tonga the “Friendly Islands” more than two centuries ago. Experience authentic Tongan hospitality and a real desire to ensure visitors have a genuinely good time.

9. Relax into “Tonga Time”

Look forward to slowing down exceptionally quickly as you dissolve into the Kingdom of Tonga’s unspoilt and easygoing ambience. And if you think Nuku’alofa is uncrowded and peaceful, just wait until you reach the pristine islands of the Vava’u and Ha’apai groups.

10. Extend your Holiday Budget

Travel to Nuku’alofa on flights from Air New Zealand, Pacific Blue and Air Pacific, before exploring Tonga’s other island groups with Chathams Pacific. All around the Kingdom, discover how a favourable exchange rate with the Tongan dollar (Pa’anga) makes holidaying in Tonga fun and affordable.

Ok – sold! Active volcanoes, whales, budget friendly, and rainforests galore. All I need!

Fantasy Friday: Vibrant Vermont

It’s officially fall, and has been for a few weeks now. The leaves are changing colour, of course, and this year I am finding the colours particularly vibrant. And this leaves me to wonder how gorgeous Vermont is as it is famous for it’s autumn landscapes.

Here’s my daydream for the day, with a little help from Fodors:

Vermont Fall Foliage Drive

Eighty percent of Vermont is forested, and since cities are few and far between, the interior of Vermont is a rural playground for leaf peepers and widely considered to have the most intense range of foliage colors anywhere on the continent. The few distractions from the dark reds and yellow, oranges and russets—the tiny towns and hamlets—are as pristine as nature itself.

Manchester Villiage

Begin this drive in Manchester Village, along the old-fashioned, well-to-do homes lining Main Street, and drive south to Arlington, North Bennington, and Old Bennington. Stop first just a mile south along 7A at Hildene, the Lincoln family home. The 412 acres of explorable grounds here are ablaze with color, and the views over the Battenkill Valley are as good as any you can find anywhere. Continue south another mile along 7A to Equinox Nursery, where you can pick your own pumpkin from a huge patch, try delicious apple cider and cider doughnuts, and take in the stunning countryside. A few more miles south along 7A is the small town of Arlington.

Best Time to Go

Late September and early October are the times to go, with the southern area peaking about a week later than the north. Remember to book hotels in advance. The state has a Fall Foliage Hotline and an online interactive map (800/VERMONTwww.foliage-vermont.com).

From 7A in Arlington, you can take two adventurous and stunning detours. One is pure foliage: follow 313 west a few miles to the New York state border for more beautiful views. Or head east a mile to East Arlington where delightful shops await you, including Grist Mill Antiques, which is set right above a wonderfully cascading brook. (You can continue even farther east from this spot to Kelly Stand Road leading into the Green Mountains; this is a little-known route that can’t be beat.) Back on 7A South in Arlington, stop at the Cheese House, the delightfully cheesy roadside attraction.

Clearbrook Farm

Farther south into Shaftsbury is Clearbrook Farm, a brilliant place for cider and fresh produce and pumpkins. Robert Frost spent much of his life in South Shaftsbury, and you can learn about his life at his former home, the Stone House. From South Shaftsbury take Route 67 through North Bennington and continue on to Route 67A in Old Bennington. Go up the 306-foot-high Bennington Battle Monument to survey the seasonal views across four states. Back down from the clouds, walk a few serene blocks to the cemetery of the Old First Church, where Robert Frost is buried, and contemplate his autumnal poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

Planning Your Time

The drive from Manchester to Bennington outlined here is just 30 minutes, but a relaxed day is best to take in all the sights. You’ll want to allot one to two hours for Hildene, and less than an hour for each of the other stops.

Need a Break?

Equinox Valley Nursery. This nursery carries fresh produce, seasonal snacks, and is full of family-friendly fall activities—a corn maze, pumpkin golf (mini golf played with small pumpkins and croquet mallets), hay rides, and pumpkin carving. 1158 Main St., (7A), Manchester, VT, 05254. 802/362-2610.www.equinoxvalleynursery.com. Free. Apr.-Dec., Mon.-Sat. 8:30-5, Sun. 9-4.

Clear Brook Farm. Set on more than 20 acres, Clear Brook Farm sells their own organic produce, in addition to baked goods and other seasonal treats. 47 Hidden Valley Rd.,Manchester, VT, 05262. 802/442-4273.www.clearbrookfarm.com. May-Aug., daily 9-6; Sept.-Oct., daily 10-6.

The Cheese House. Get your Vermont cheddar fix at the The Cheese House, which also sells maple syrup and other local products and gifts. 5187 Vermont Rte. 7A, Arlington, VT, 05250.802/375-9033. www.thevermontcheesehouse.com. Free. Wed.-Mon. 10-5. Closed Tues.

Fantasy Friday – Beauty has an Address: Oman

Yep – that’s the saying on the official tourism site for Oman. And wow, does it ever look beautiful there. I mean WOW!

Here’s my agenda, someone please book it for me? And pay? Thanks!

1. Bandar Khayran Reserve

This reserve is at a distance of 30-40 minutes by boat from Bandar Al Rawdha Marina, located in the heart of Muscat. The boat ride is made even more pleasurable with the accompaniment of some dolphins which swim alongisde the boats. As a visitor, you’ll enjoy seeing the rocky mountains and the white-washed small houses that overlook the majestic sea. You’ll also pass Al Bustan Palace Hotel and Barr Al Jissah Spa.

Coral reefs permeate the Bandar Al Khayran waters, considered home to many diverse organisms and fish. The place is abuzz with divers, especially with the presence of more than 22 diving locations, each with its own charm and beauty.

2. Hawiyat Najm Park

The park is situated in the Dabab area of Wilayat Qurayat, Muscat Governorate, and can be reached via the road linking Qurayat to Sur. It is a deep natural depression filled with water, called Hawiyat Najm.  The locals say that a meteor fell on this spot of land, resulting in the natural depression and forming a small lake.

3. Old Muscat

Reminds me of Matera, Italy

Old Muscat is located along Muttrah Corniche from Port Sultan Qaboos to Al Bustan Beach, while passing through Muscat.

When you set foot in Muscat, you’ll be swept over by a feeling of love and exhilarating joie de vivre as every inch of Muscat relates to its visitors an ancient tale of love between man and the Sea of Oman.

Muscat is surrounded by a wall on its southern and western sides. The wall, with its round towers, was built in 1625, while the mountains and the Gulf of Oman have remained its natural walls to the north and east.

Muttrah Corniche is coastal road which connects Muttrah through Gate, Muscat Gate Museum and the old neighbourhoods.

More photos of Oman’s beauty:

 

 

Fantasy Friday: A Canadian Secret Island (shhh)

I am not fantasizing about a place very far today. It’s about a 4.5 hour drive from my home, it’s the most southerly point in Canada, and it’s full of green, green NATURE! And food. Yum!

Pelee Island – I’ve heard so many great things about this place, and I can’t wait to go camping here some day.

Here’s my plan, designed by Lonely Planet:

Absorb some culture

Begin your day with a visit to the Pelee Island Heritage Centre, which has one of the best natural history collections in Ontario. Here you can learn about the island’s human and natural history, including information about the Pelee’s role in Prohibition, the archaeology of its original inhabitants and visitors, and species of animals that call the island home.

Untitled by Dustin and Jennifer StaceyCreative Commons Attribution licence

Spot rare wildlife

Sign up for an island eco-tour with Explore Pelee. Run by the enthusiastic Anne Marie, Explore Pelee (explorepelee.com) specializes in mellow bike tours that showcase the island’s best: Fish Point Nature Reserve, where birders flock to catch sight of migrating birds; Vin Villa ruins, the grand estate of the original winery; and Lighthouse Point Provincial Preserve, where a restored lighthouse and rare species of salamander and turtles reside. Guides will also narrate the geological and cultural history of the island, providing details about Pelee’s canals, its Middle Devonian landscape, and island farming. Besides bike tours, bike rentals and tours that focus specifically on birds, geology and agriculture are available.

Hit the beach

Biking in summer heat can be intense, so relax post-tour with a swim off one of Pelee’s sandy beaches. Lake Erie’s shallow waters are heated to bathtub-water warm in the summer, and as you’re bobbing around in the warm blue water you might believe you’re in the Caribbean.

For storing wine by Candace NastCreative Commons Attribution licence

Tease your tastebuds

Pelee Island is the surprising home to a winery (the island is further south than half of the US states) and though the wines aren’t necessarily world class, the winery is a great place to unwind for a late afternoon snack. Pelee Island Winery (peleeisland.com) is the oldest and largest estate winery in Canada, with 600 acres of vines. Tours depart at noon, 2pm and 4pm daily, and are only $5 – with a wine tasting included. You can privately book special food and wine tours. For dinner, consider a picnic at one of Pelee Island’s many shore side locations. Sunset Beach, just north of the ferry terminal, is, as the name indicates, an excellent place to watch the sun sink into Lake Erie. Bring a bottle of Pelee Island Wine, and end your day relaxing on the warm sand. After a night in one of the excellent B&Bs, stock up on baked goods for the ferry ride home at Conorlee’s Bakery and Delicatessen. Homemade loaves, pastries and soups will have you fortified for the journey back to the mainland.

Make it happen

Sleeping: Pelee Island has several excellent bed and breakfasts, most of which are historic limestone homes. Try Stonehill B&B, on the west side of the island. With grey stone walls a foot thick, you won’t hear a sound all night, and the water views are magnificent.

Transport: ferry is the best way to reach Pelee from April to December; it is a relaxed one and a half hour ride each way from Leamington and Kingsville. There is also a ferry from Sandusky, Ohio (bring your passport). The schedule varies from day to day, but it is absolutely essential that you make a reservation. You can do so online at Ontario Ferries (www.ontarioferries.com). In the winter, there are regularly scheduled flights to and from the island’s small airport. Pelee is easily navigable by bike, which can be rented on the island. You can also drive a car on to the ferry.

Sunset at Lake Erie by vinod shankarCreative Commons Attribution licence

Fantasy Friday – Can’t wait for Kent

Back by popular request (aka my boyfriend), it’s time to start daydreaming of places I can’t wait to experience.

Wikipedia

First daydream comes from a sisterly inspiration, as she visited England twice in the past two years.

Welcome to Kent, a place I chose while perusing the tourism England site. A place where HIKING and NATURE popped up out of the corner of my eye immediately.

Here’s the blurb that inspired me:

“Castles, cathedrals, countryside and coast – is there anything that Kent doesn’t have? Well, no actually. From Dover’s white cliffs to the cathedrals of Rochester and Canterbury, there’s so much to see and do in the Garden of England. You can shop on cobbled streets, explore maritime history along coastal paths, tuck into fresher than fresh fish and admire brightly-coloured orchards, beautiful countryside and mighty castles. What are you waiting for?

Scotney Castle

Leeds Castle

Must See Attractions
If you like castles and cathedrals then you’re in luck. Kent is blessed with the best in military might at Hever, Dover, Rochester and Leeds, whereas the cathedrals at Rochester and Canterbury are simply awe-inspiring. And for something a little different, Dungeness has the fascinating and slightly odd combination of nuclear power stations, fishermen’s huts, and the largest expanse of shingle in Europe.”

Ok – what?

I can seriously go to Kent to see the special attraction of a NUCLEAR POWER PLANT?! Sign me up! Kidding, it sounds quite unique actually – and I love unique.

Nuclear power plant by a golf course, ohhhh yeah!!!

Mmmm nature