Fantasy Friday: Poland

I’ve wanted to go here since I met a very nice girl when I was in grade 1 that had just moved from there. She was so nice and kind and only had good things to say about her former home (and we were in grade 1….).

Lonely Planet has my dream tours:

  • Gdańsk

    A port with great historical significance and many architectural delights

  • Słowiński National Park

    An unusual national park filled with lakes, bogs, meadows, woods and shifting sand dunes

  • Toruń

    Gothic architecture at its best, and the birthplace of Copernicus

  • Poznań

    Lively commercial city with plenty of museums and great entertainment options

  • Wrocław

    Poland’s fourth largest city, with plenty of cultural and architectural attractions

  • Auschwitz-Birkenau

    The Nazis’ largest extermination camp is Poland’s most moving sight

  • Malbork

    In a country strewn with castles, this monumental Teutonic masterpiece tops the list

  • 8 The Great Masurian Lakes

    A region of myriad lakes and patchwork forests, loved by sailors and kayak enthusiasts

  • Białowieża National Park

    Home to wild European bison and Europe‘s largest patch of primeval forest

  • 10 Warsaw

    The country’s capital, a place of unshakable energy and stamina

  • 11 Zamość

    A city with an abundance of Renaissance splendour and oodles of charm

  • 12 Zakopane

    The country’s most beloved mountain resort, with ample opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and winter sports

  • 13 The Bieszczady

    A forgotten corner dominated by mountains, meadows and pristine forests

  • 14 Kraków

    A city life no other – a royal seat for 500 years, its beauty will leave you gob-smacked

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

Great article for me to read

Ok – I’m basically packed and ready to head out on a summer long road trip from east to west across the US and Canada.

Too excited!!!!

AND I came across this article from Lonely Planet last night, which I felt suited my situation right now (except that I have a car):

How to take a broke-ass road trip

  • Stuart Schuffman

There’s a saying that goes, ‘The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco’. It’s credited to Mark Twain, but that’s a lie; nobody really knows who said it. I wish I had.

You know what else I wish I had? A friggin’ car! Don’t get me wrong, San Francisco is one of the true loves of my life, but I could really use some summer sunshine. So what I’m gonna do is sit here and fantasize about taking a road trip and in the meantime give you some pointers on how to do it on the cheap.

1. You don’t actually need a car

(I know I just complained about not having a car, but I’m actually tied to my desk right now, so just look at my car reference before as a metaphor for ‘the freedom to not be at my damn desk’.) Wanna go on a road trip but your only vehicle is your ChevroLEGS? All you gotta do is ride share! That’s right, go to erideshare.com or craigslist.org and find a ride to wherever you’re going.  And if you wanna hit up multiple locations on your trip, just set up rideshares to and from all the different spots on your itinerary.  Then your only costs are sharing gas costs with the other riders.

2. Cheap rental cars

If you don’t have wheels but aren’t too keen on riding with random strangers, you can always rent a car. Start by comparing prices from a few websites like hotwire.comexpedia.com and travelocity.com (to name a few) then find the cheapest rates. Here’s the real tip though: If you have a major credit card and you make a car rental reservation with it, the credit card company covers your rental insurance! Amazing right? I just saved you like $15 a day! Just make sure you check with your credit card company to see what they cover.

3. Car sharing

Still on the car-less theme, if you use Zipcar or one of the countless smaller local versions of car sharing, you can take a vehicle for multiple days at a time. This often amounts to somewhere around $60, but that money also covers gas and insurance. There’s typically a 3 days limit though, so it would have to be a shorter road trip. Peer-to-peer car sharing is starting to take off in some cities, so check out services like getaround.com for local deals on cars that are probably more interesting than the typical Ford Focus rental.

4. Pack your food

Don’t wanna spend too much loot on food while traveling? Pack your grub and take it with you. Pick foods with a decent shelf-life and bring a cooler. Not only will this save you money, it will probably allow you to eat healthier too. Unless all you pack is Lunchables of course. Then you might as well just eat at McDonalds.

5. Camping, hostels and couch surfing

You read Lonely Planet, so you know the drill, but just in case you don’t, I’ll break it down for you. Save money by not staying in hotels. Is the weather warm? Then sleep outside. Don’t like critters crawling in your sleeping bag? Then stay at a hostel. Can’t afford that? Then check out couchsurfing.com and find a nice soul who will let your weird ass sleep on their couch. Just kidding, you’re not that weird…probably.

6. Do free activities

If you wanna save money on a road trip, don’t go to Disneyland, or any other theme park for that matter. Pick things to do that don’t cost money like going to the beach or hiking. If you’re one of those people who just needs a destination, go to a national park. There’s so much beauty out there to be seen.

7. Free food at happy hours

If your road trip is leading you to a city and not the wilderness, do a little research beforehand.  Every American city has bars that give out free food at happy hour, you just need to know where to find them.  Go to yelp.com or chowhound.com and search for terms like ‘free food happy hour’ and see what you find.

8. Free and cheap websites

Same goes for cheap entertainment in the city you’re heading to.  Let’s say you’re going to Chicago, Google something like ‘free and cheap Chicago’ and do a little research.  You’re guaranteed to find websites that cover all the cool free and cheap happenings in that city. And if you’re going to San Francisco or New York you can just check out BrokeAssStuart.com.

My daily dose of Lonely Planet

I enjoy a break every day filled with Lonely Planet articles. I especially love this one I ready last night. Even find it relevant for road trip packing, as I have the tiniest car possible:

Packing it all in – a guide to travelling hand-luggage only

  • Sarah Baxter

Packing light used to be a handy skill. These days, it’s a necessity.

As airlines are crippled by ash clouds, strike action and general financial meltdown, they’ve had to find alternative ways of making money. Enter ‘ancillary revenues’, which basically means airlines charging passengers for anything they can get away with. The upshot? A raft of airlines now imposes fees for putting your suitcase in the hold.

Low-cost carrier Ryanair charges £15 each way for the privilege of stowing your luggage when you pay online – rising to a whopping £35 if you pay at the airport. (Tip: If you must travel with hold baggage, always book in advance.) According to a recent survey by lastminute.com, 75% of travellers say they will travel with smaller bags in future to avoid these fees.

Can you really travel hand-luggage only?

Yes you can – you just need to get clever with your packing.

First, check the hand-baggage dimensions permitted by your airline at www.seatguru.com. Limits vary by airline; generally it’s around 56cm by 45cm by 25cm. Buy a bag that fits these dimensions and isn’t too heavy. (A softer bag will be lighter and more pliable.)

Next, consider your restricted contents. For now in many destinations, liquids must still be carried in 100ml bottles and stored in a clear plastic bag that holds no more than one litre in total, but that really is no problem – where in the world can’t you buy replacement toiletries? Alternatively you can pack solid shampoo and soap bars (Lush, for example, has a good range), and remember to remove any extraneous packaging.

Vital medicines can generally be packed in your carry-on in larger quantities if accompanied by a letter from your doctor. Sharp items are not permitted so ditch the penknife and buy a cheap kitchen knife on arrival – handy for picnic preparations/cutting ropes/prising off lids. (You can use dental floss (non-minty) to slice cheese.)

Off on a trip that requires lots of gear? Mountain climbing, camping, skiing maybe? You can still travel hand-luggage only by buying or hiring specialist kit on arrival. It’s good for the local economy as well as avoiding baggage fees. If you must take your own gear, pay to store it in the hold on the outward journey, then hook up with a local good cause via www.stuffyourrucksack.com and donate items to schools and orphanages on the ground rather than bringing them home.

Fitting it all in

Plan your packing list in advance and don’t pack things ‘just in case’. In this globalised world, you can buy most items at your destination. Don’t take a whole library: take one book, and swap it en route.  Shoes are bulkiest – take just one pair; say, a smart, multipurpose sneaker/boot. If you need two pairs, wear the biggest on the plane and use the packed pair to stuff shorts, socks and pants inside or use the cushioned interior to protect delicate items. Wear heavy items (coat, jumper) on the plane, or invest in a Scott E Vest: its range of jackets have up to 33 pockets, designed to hold iPods, books, even laptops.

Multi-purpose is key. Trousers that zip off into shorts; fleeces that can be used as pillows; sarongs that can be skirts, beach mats and shawls; sporks – all optimise your bag’s weight-to-usefulness ratio. Nomad Travel Store’s Ultimate Travelwash cleans everything – hair, body, clothes, pans – while its Trek & Travel Poncho is a budget waterproof that will cover you and your rucksack, and can be used as a groundsheet or makeshift shelter.

Pack clothes that are lightweight (Rohan has a good range), dry quickly and match each other, to maximise your wardrobe options. Ladies, pack a pair of nice earrings, a Travalo 50-squirt perfume atomiser and a light scarf (also good for mosque visits/sun-shielding) for a quick dash of style. Men, buy travel shirts that don’t crease and smarter-looking travel shoes that work equally well on safari or in good restaurants (try Brasher).

The science of packing

Folding items individually into squares is the worst way to pack – it’s space inefficient and increases creasing. Instead, roll clothes together. Lay jackets, shirts, trousers and T-shirts on top of each – in that order – alternating the thickest parts of the garment as you layer so you don’t get an uneven bulge. Once piled, place a bag of socks or similar in the middle, and wrap each item round this core in turn; www.onebag.com has detailed instructions, and loads of helpful packing tips.

Other helpful bits of kit

Hand-held luggage scales could save you a fortune in excess charges; try the set from www.globalbagtag.com.

Packing cubes and organiser pouches allow you to keep your bag tidy and condense contents. Made of nylon and mesh, they dont add much weight. Check out the ones at www.eaglecreek.com.

Invest in a travel towel – these viscose sheets are a fraction of the size of regular towels. Lifeventure’s range is antibacterial too.

Product recommendations are the author’s own. Grab your Lonely Planet guide by the chapter – no need to haul the whole thing!

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.

 

Another 7 Natural Wonders?

Lonely Planet has decided that they do not agree with the New7Wonders, as many controversies have come from this voting competition. Instead, they chose the following, of which 4 were the same (Amazon, Iguazu Falls, Komodo, and Puerto Princesa Underground River):

1. Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil

Photograph: Judy Bellah

South America’s gushing spectacle washes away the competition as Lonely Planet readers’ top natural wonder. From the dizzying walkways to the spray from Devil’s Throat, the sight of this colossal waterfall is seared into traveller’s brains.

2. Grand Canyon, USA

Photograph: Mark Newman

The rocky wonder favoured by the New7Wonders list was Table Mountain, but the Grand Canyon, with its vermillion cliffs and river-carved rock faces, takes the number two spot among Lonely Planet readers.

3. Komodo, Indonesia

Photograph: Kraig Leeb

Teeming mangrove swamps and basking lizards hurtled Indonesia’s Komodo National Park into third place.

4. The Amazon

Photograph: John Borthwick

Finally, something we can all agree on. The rich jungles of the Amazon’s river basin are big hitters for Lonely Planet readers, as well as New7Wonders and the G Adventures bloggers. Check out our tips for Amazon riverboat trips.

5. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Photograph: Leonard Zell

Another firm favourite, this azure expanse of Queensland coastline is a magnet to snorkellers, scuba divers and beach hoppers.

6. Puerto Princesa Underground River, Philippines

Photograph: Tom Cockrem

This subterrannean river captured your imaginations, but it seems the whole country is dear to your hearts. Our survey showed an incredible 8 destinations from the Philippines were put forward, from the Banaue Rice Terraces to the Chocolate Hills of Bohol.

7. Uluru, Australia

Photograph: Richard l’Anson

The second Aussie highlight on our top 7, the sacred site of Uluru remains an unmissable icon for Lonely Planet readers.

 

So the Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef and Uluru are the wonders that Lonely Planet decided to use to replace Halong Bay, Jeju Island, and Table Mountains. Hmmm….I love them all, so just take me to all of them for me to decide on my own!!

Deal of the Day

The Italy travel guide from Lonely Planet basically got me through an entire 3 week journey of random touring around the country. I absolutely love that book, and it sits from and centre on my book shelf as a reminder of all the fun I had when I was there last summer.

If you are out to buy a guide book for any of your upcoming travels, sign up for the Lonely Planet newsletter and receive 20% off any book.

Great deal!