The world according to Pinterest

Yes, I admit, I am a little addicted to pinterest and I really couldn’t tell you precisely why…but I saw a very suspect/intriguing/insulting/facinating/fun contest that Pinterest released – in which you may win a new digital SLR camera!

All you have to do is vote on the most beautiful country in the world.

Wow – how do they come up with this?

Apparently you can vote on Twitter or Pinterest for your opinion on this matter.

So – voting. You can’t really use a scientific measures to determine for a fact WHAT the most beautiful country is….so let the opinion of computer literate/social media literate be the law 😛

A few days ago, I checked, and I saw that the UK was in first place for most beautiful country in the world. The next day it was Turkey, then Italy, then India, then Latvia.

Canada, my home and native land, has steadily remained at and around #6. Go Canada!!!

Where would your most beautiful country vote go to?

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A hotel in a tree, made just for me!

This is where I would stay in India if I could afford it:

TreeHouse Hideaway

5 Treehouses merging into jungle and tiger reserve.

Treehouse hideaway is in the heart of wild country Bandhavgarh and only 10 minutes drive from the Tala gate of the national park. Guests benefit from the incredible location, outstanding hospitality and a naturalist team. There are 5 Treehouses spread across a natural forest clearing in a dense jungle of 21 acres that merges into one of the last natural tiger reserves of the world.

It is not uncommon to spot animals from the privacy of one’s balconies which overlook the tiger reserve and Bandhavgarh Fort.

Bandhavgarh is a small National Park; compact, yet teeming with wildlife. The density of the Tiger population is the highest known in India. Bandhavgarh is also popular for Spotted Deer, Sambhar, Barking Deer, wild boar, jackals and a large variety of birds.
Tree House Hideaway have taken care to design many activities and excursions which generally all guests visiting Bandhavgarh would otherwise miss out on. The Hideaway in itself is geared up for many tour options and the on-site trained naturalist team makes it all the more interesting. For example. Inside the park you have the option of leaving the jeep and getting on an elephant to take your chance of getting close to a tiger.

Morning and Evening Jeep safaris are organized in the Tiger reserve. Vehicles are 4 x 4 Suzuki open jeeps, fitted with comfortable bucket seats and fridges accompanied by a trained English speaking resident naturalist will ensure comfortable and experienced interpretation of the park.

Bandhavgarh Fort forms the heart and the highest point of the park and is an alternate option to visit for one of the days with a picnic lunch.

Birding around the hideaway and near the farmlands is an interesting option to see over 250 bird species.

Village visits, workshops with bamboo weavers and excursions to Sanjay National park ( 2 hours) can also be organized on request.

Sooooo neat!! Should I book it now?

Most romantic cities in the world

The Atlantic recently released their list of the top 24 most romantic cities in the world. When I read the header, my mind immediately thought of Paris. Didn’t you think the same?

Well, yes, Paris is on the list, along with several others I could have guessed. Yet, I was surprised and excited to see some I did not think of.

So, a few very intriguing options on the list, follow below:

1. Kyoto, Japan

Why go: Wooden Zen temples, lush gardens, tea houses and ancient palaces make Kyoto one of Japan’s most lovely and tranquil destinations. Thanks to its abundance of cherry trees, the former Imperial city is particularly beautiful in the spring, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

2. Jaipur, India

Why go: Known as the Pink City thanks to its many rose-hued buildings, Jaipur is home to sprawling palaces and stunning hilltop forts. Like most Indian cities, it’s also crowded and chaotic, but the bustle just enhances its sensory appeal.

3. Melbourne, Australia

Why go: Marked by a grid of wide, leafy boulevards, an exuberant restaurant scene and pedestrian lanes lined with small shops and cafes, Melbourne is one of Australia’s most attractive cities, and also one of its most cosmopolitan.

4. Shanghai, China

Why go: Dynamic, fast-paced and exhilarating, Shanghai is a city very much focused on the future. In fascinating contrast to its skyscrapers and designer bars, the city’s rich past lives on in Buddhist monasteries, old lane houses and crowded noodle bars.


5. Dubrovnik, Croatia

Why go: With its medieval lanes, cathedrals and seaside perch, it’s easy to see why Lord Byron called Dubrovnik “the pearl of the Adriatic.” Get lost on the smooth cobbled streets of the Old Town, or sip espresso at one of the cafés on the Placa, the city’s pedestrian thoroughfare.

6. Copenhagen, Denmark

Why go: Copenhagen is clean, safe and burgeoning with restaurants, bars and the beautiful people who frequent them. Canals and cobblestone streets add to the Danish capital’s already plentiful charms.

7. Budapest, Hungary

Why go: Technically two cities bisected by the Danube, Buda and Pest add up to one of Europe’s most vibrant and scenic capitals. Awakened from its dour Communist past, Budapest offers eclectic architecture, thermal baths, nightlife, and Old World cuisine.

My pick? Can I just pick all of them?

Ok – if I have to, it would be Jaipur, India. I’ve always loved the Indian culture and I bet all the sights, smells and feel of the place would make it quite the romantic getaway. At least in my opinion!

Conclusion: The Lost Girls

Last week, I mentioned that I was currently reading a travel novel called The Lost Girls. It was a great break from all the murder mysteries I have been reading lately, that’s for sure!

Overall, it was such an entertaining book. It left me giggling, reflecting, jealous, but mostly, it left me drooling.

Three good friends quit their jobs and spend an entire year traveling around the globe. They completed, “60,000 miles around the world, from the mountains and jungles of South America to the beaches of Australia, passing through Kenya, India, Southeast Asia, and New Zealand”.

Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett and Amanda Pressner

The book was able to keep my interest and actually make me laugh out loud, which is a hard thing to do when by myself. It was divided into different sections for each lag of their trip, and by chapter, with the three girls rotating writing tasks.

My favorite of the three, or should I say – most relatable, was Holly. She always found a way to analyze her surroundings and get a real feel for the culture. Holly really seemed to appreciate each person she encountered and tried her best to enjoy every experience. I cannot believe she made it through a month at a somewhat suspect ashram in India. Really, I have never heard anything that great about these places. Her patience and peace-keeping personality very much sounded like myself.

Not to take away anything from the other girls. They both had unique personalities on their travels. Jen (adventure/thrill-seeking) and Amanda (dedicated/out-going/fun-loving) would be people I would love to travel with. They were full of energy and loved to dance. I must say, as I mentioned above about being jealous…it was mostly due to their night of dancing to reggaeton music in South America.

The danger with reading this book, the only negative aspect, one warning for anyone reading……

You will have the strongest desire to pick up everything and LEAVE to your nearest airport.

The Lost Girls

Since I have completed two Jo Nesbo books in a row (think mystery, murder, depressing), and am waiting for the next two to be delivered, I decided to lighten up my read with something a bit more entertaining and happy.

The Lost Girls, by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett and Amanda Pressner is a story about three friends who all decide to quit their jobs, leave their boyfriends, and apartments in New York City and set out for the unknown. True story! And it’s divided by one of the authors per chapter, all with a different outlook on their adventure.

The book caught my eye in Chapters after the holidays, sitting on display in the travel literature section (my fav!). First thing I did was giggle, since the title reminded me of my friend Katie and myself getting lost on every second street all over Italy 2 summers ago.

I have currently finished the first 2 chapters as the girls catch me up on how their lives were back in NYC, working hard and feeling restless. Can’t wait to read on!

The website for these three girls looks amazing. They have a blog, photos of their trip, and even guest writers describing their own adventures of traveling around the world.

I’ll get back to you with my review of the book, when I can complete it. So far so good and I can’t wait to hear about their adventures in Australia, passing through Kenya, India, Southeast Asia, and New Zealand.

Reading Resolution 2012

Everyone, once again, is talking about resolutions! The news, twitter, my friends, while shopping….it’s everywhere at the beginning of every year and I usually have the same idea for a resolution as so many others (eat healthier, work out more, save more money…).

This year, I am going to declare something a bit different. A bit different, but not really unique.

That is – READ more.

I have about 8 or 9 new books sitting on my bedside table waiting to be opened and have my eye prints all over their pages.

And once they are all done, these are the next round of books I would like to experience (thanks Lonely Planet for the list!).

1. Along the Enchanted Way by William Blacker

Reviewed by Will Gourlay

‘Enchanting’ isn’t a word usually associated with Romania. Think ‘Romania’ and most people will conjure images of Communist-era architecture in Bucharest or hair-raising tales of Dracula. However, in Along the Enchanted Way, William Blacker’s account of years spent living in Romania paints an altogether different – and unexpected – picture of this little-known country.

 

2. Lost on Earth by Steve Crombie

Reviewed by Steve Waters

In Lost on Earth, young Aussie Crombie  plans to ride his single-cylinder Honda 650cc motorcycle from Ushuaia at the southern tip of South America’s Tierra Del Fuego, toPrudhoe BayAlaska; the Pan American Highway’s unofficial endpoint well north of the Arctic Circle. This cracking tale of sheer determination should be mandatory reading for any young, would-be adventurer.

 

3. Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple

Reviewed by Elizabeth Shannon

Nine Lives is not really a travel book.  This is not the tale of a bemused foreigner fumbling through an exotic landscape, but rather the result of William Dalrymple’s long familiarity with India:  nine stories of religious practitioners navigating both the innate certitudes and contradictions of their own faiths and how India’s rapid development has affected these traditions and people’s roles in them.

 

4. In Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare

Reviewed by Kirsten Rawlings

In Nicholas Shakespeare’s eyes, Tasmania is a secret and rarely visited place, ‘a byword for remoteness’. His comprehensive biography In Tasmania paints this outpost as a magnet for the lost, a place to be renewed or be forgotten. From the burgeoning towns of Launceston and Hobart, to the fertile northeast and the windy and bleak west coast, Shakespeare reveals the hardships and inspirations of its inhabitants over the centuries, suffusing each corner with history and beauty.

5. Thin Paths — Journeys in and around an Italian Mountain Village by Julia Blackburn

Reviewed by Claire Beyer

Julia Blackburn, author of Thin Paths, has an eye for detail. The seemingly small and insignificant are given big lives. The common dormouse, the developing tadpole and vocal owl are all given as much loving attention as her new surroundings in this lovely tale of life in an Italian mountain village.

 

Absolutely Delicious Dahl’ing

Source

I am in another Indian food mood. And I do love my soups and stews, so I am going to attempt to make this lentil stew, Indian style, as I have too many bags of lentils sitting in my pantry. Wish me luck!

Dahl

This authentic North Indian Lentil Stew was discovered on the way to New Delhi in a well hidden spot known only to the local cabbies. Savoured for generations, this dahl delight is simple to prepare yet overflowing with richness and flavour. Indulge your senses with Indian music, dress your table with brightly coloured silks, dim the lights and relish the true spirit of Crossing Cultures in your own home.

Serves: 6-8
Prep time
: 15 minutes
Cooking time
: see recipe

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter or olive oil
1–3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, diced
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tomato, cubed
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
1 cup urad dahl, washed and checked for stones
½ cup channa dahl, wash and checked for stones
5 cups water (more if needed)
salt and pepper, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Directions

  • Heat butter or oil in large wok or soup pot.
  • Sauté garlic, onion, and cumin seeds until slightly brown.
  • Add tomato, cook until soft, adding a little water if necessary.
  • Add dry spices: turmeric, garam masala, coriander and ginger, heat for 2 minutes.
  • Add lentils, water, salt and pepper to taste, mix well.
  • Cook 25–35 minutes in pressure cooker
  • OR 2 hours on a stove
  • OR 10 hours on low in a crock pot, (7 hours on high).
  • Add cayenne pepper to taste (optional).
  • Garnish with fresh cilantro (optional).
  • Serve over rice or with Indian Naan.
  • Freezes well if needed.