Escape to Greece

Author: George Augustine

Escape to Greece

Greece… where culture, class, history collide to give you romance and adventure. Greece… with its extensive coastlines arid islands in the Aegean, Ionian, and Mediterranean Seas, sits in the southernmost Op of Southern Europe. It is rich in ancient culture that has influenced the arts, language, philosophy, politics and sports of the western society. It is geographically appealing with a mountainous mainland and island beaches.


Escape to Greece – With a culture rich in traditions, religion, music, language, food and wines, Greece is a destination suited for any traveler. Still not convinced that Greece is a travel must see? Read on.


Even with the recent unrest, Greece was one of the top destinations — special enough for my birthday celebration… until I learned the weather mirrors the seasons of the US. With a January birthday, I'd say lounging beachside in a winter coat was not quite what I envisioned. However, Greece remains high on my list of must see destinations. So how about the weather you ask?


Escape to Greece – With the extensive coastlines and islands bordering the three seas, it should come as no surprise that Greece boasts a climate akin to much of California —in that it is Mediterranean in nature, with summers that are hot and dry and nearly constant sunshine from April through November. A more cold and rainy period occurs from November to March/April. The Greek way of life during the summer months — Mid-July to mid-August — is to rise early to tend to your sightseeing or errands, while relaxing beachside or in the shade in the evenings. (Note to self: most tourists arrive in Greece during the height of summer.)


Escape to Greece – Although there are no direct flights into Greece from the United States, many of the major cities and much of its Islands are connected by air from one of two major Greek airlines, Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines. The largest airlines flying into Greece include Lufthansa, British Airways and Delta.


Greece is well known for its thousands of islands; mountains, forest, and lakes that make up the mainland of the country. It is truly a traveler's paradise, with its educational excursions, theatrical presentations, festivals, pilgrimages, archaeological sites, monuments and museums. Greece has much to offer by way of culture and history.


Best Places to Stay in Rome, Italy (VI)

Best Places to Stay in Rome, Italy: Hotel Santa Maria – Great hotel for families


The Hotel Santa Maria feels like a country hotel, but is located in the heart of Trastevere. Located in a converted 16th century cloister, the rooms focus on a cobble stoned courtyard, planted with orange trees and dotted with tables. 


All of the rooms are at ground level and open out into the courtyard. Many of the rooms sleep 3-4 people and are perfect for couples traveling with children (especially since they can run around the courtyard!) It really is like having your own private park. 


Added bonus: Free bicycle use for guests.



Best Places to Stay in Rome, Italy: Hotel St. George – Luxury Hotel on Via Giulia


The St. George is the only 5 star luxury hotel in this part of town. Located on the romantic and mostly pedestrian Via Giulia, it’s a short walk to Piazza Navona, Campo de’ Fiori and the Vatican. Its small size and boutique feel sets it apart from the rest of its 5 star colleagues near the Spanish Steps and Via Veneto. The hotel has 65 rooms, all elegantly designed, as are the common areas. Very cozy wine bar and lounge, a library and a roof top bar open during the summer.



Best Places to Stay in Rome, Italy: Hotel Teatro Pace – Charming small hotel in Baroque Palace


Everyone loves the Teatro Pace. It’s small, charming and located just down the street from Piazza Navona. It’s located in an ancient palace, down a small alley. But since it is a historic Baroque building, which means no elevator. So if you feel you can’t climb the four flights of stairs then you may want to reconsider. (That said, the 17th century curving staircase is pretty spectacular to climb)


The rooms are furnished with rich wood pieces, and some of them have small balconies or terraces. No breakfast room, so a tray with cappuccino and breakfast pastries is brought to the room.


Getting Around in Ecuador (II)

3. Getting Around in Ecuador – By Boat

Where bus routes end, you have probably come to a waterway. At this point, boat transportation begins. This is particularly true around the northern coastal tropical forest region and throughout the entire Oriente. Waterway transportation is usually in the form of motorized dugout canoes. Although more expensive than buses, boats are also fast and efficient.


4. Getting Around in Ecuador – Hitching a Ride

In the more remote areas of the highlands, you can often hop in the back of a pickup truck and ride with the locals. This is a great way to travel and enjoy the spectacular scenery, as long as you don’t mind the minor discomfort of a hard wooden seat. On the coast, trucks and open-sided bus-truck hybrids, called rancheras, sometimes substitute for a bus. Pay the driver whatever he asks, which should be only small change, usually similar to the bus fare.


5. Getting Around in Ecuador – By Rail

Once connecting the coast with the Andes, Ecuador’s rail system was largely damaged by the 1997 El Nino and is often in disrepair, as the more efficient roadways have largely replaced its value. Now, it is more suitable for sightseeing than transportation. The Riobamba / Alausi line through the Devil’s

Nose runs several times per week and is a spectacular journey.


6. Getting Around in Ecuador – Rending a Car

Renting an automobile is an option that offers the flexibility of seeing the country at your own pace. Prices are the same as in the US or Canada. Be sure to check the condition of the car and insurance terms thoroughly. Keep in mind that driving in Ecuador can be crazy. And road conditions, especially in more remote areas, but also on the major thoroughfares, are poor and flat tires are a dime a dozen. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended for many areas.

Many roadways in Ecuador are not only unmarked, but they may have no names other than “via a…,” meaning “the way to….” Road conditions can be hazardous. Be cautious of other drivers, especially bus and truck drivers, and always expect that they will try to pass, even on blind turns. Still, driving in the Andean countryside is easy compared to the major cities.


Getting Around in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (II)

Rio is a modern and well-serviced city divided into four main zones (the Northern Zone, Downtown, the Southern Zone, and the Western Zone). Public transport requires patience. Most of the better restaurants and virtually all hotels take credit cards. Locals may not speak English, though in general they are helpful.


3. Getting Around in Rio de Janeiro – Buses

Common buses are not recommended to foreigners. Though cheap, they are uncomfortable, hard to figure out, and are not safe. If you decide to take your chances anyway, the city bus lines all follow the same numbered routes with great frequency. No one is likely to speak English but the conductor is supposed to indicate your stop if you ask. Buses move through stops at a dangerous speed, and pickpockets are common.

Larger executive buses (called frescão), with air-conditioning, are a different story. These are recommended if you know your surroundings and can speak a little Portuguese. They cost only a few dollars. When you board, tell the driver your stop. These buses run from the Centro (at Avenida Rio Branco) to the Southern Zone (Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon) and back.


4. Getting Around in Rio de Janeiro – Vans

Privately owned vans follow the bus routes and are not recommended unless you speak a little Portuguese. They move fast and you need to know where you are going, plus there is little room for luggage. The vans marked “Castello” and “Assembleia” follow the beach through Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana, stopping in the Centro downtown (and vice versa). They cost about a dollar; pay when you get out. To hail the driver pinch your fingers together rapidly when he approaches – if he sees you he will flash his headlights.

Note: though very rare, there have been incidents in the past of “fake” vans kidnapping and robbing tourists. Verify that there is a clearly printed card in the front windshield. These criminals are typically young men. Legitimate vans should have both women and executive passengers and, while far from a foolproof sign, 90% of the drivers ride with their girlfriend or a kid beside them to open the door and handle the money. If in doubt, just wag your finger side to side and don’t board.


5. Getting Around in Rio de Janeiro – Driving

Driving in town is not advised. Rio’s drivers are insane, the routes are confusing, and parking is hectic. Worse, flanelinhas, or roadside extortionists, appear when you park and demand cash to “protect” it. Look for the municipal parking attendants in green and white vests, which will give you a slip of paper to display on your dashboard. A car can be useful for travel outside the city. At Tom Jobim International Airport, try Avis, Hertz, Localiza, or Unidas. At Santos Dumont Airport, try Avis, or Localiza.


Best Places to Eat in Florida (Part 3)

After a substantial breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, toasts and cornflakes, Americans generally eat just a light salad or sandwich in the middle of the day. The most important meal of the day is dinner, which is usually eaten around 6 pm. Many restaurants, therefore, do not offer any warm dishes after 9 pm. This is the last part of our series best places to eat in Florida.


10. Bierhaus (Best Places to Eat in Florida: Beer garden – Coral Gables)

Bierhaus offers primarily German cuisine. Locals and holidaymakers alike, who want to feel at home, regularly meet up to dine here. Many sporting events are also broadcasted at Bierhaus, another thing which brings people together. Wooden furniture and coats of arms stir up the illusion of being in an authentic German beer hall. Harald Neuweg has a lot of gastronomic experience and also runs this restaurant with great success. Guests are courteously served and can really feel comfortable here.


11. Cala Bella (Best Places to Eat in Florida: International restaurant – Orlando)

To get away from the frantic streets of Orlando, you can flee to Cala Bella. Exquisite dishes are served in this Tuscan oasis. Pizza, salad and pasta are offered, as are fish and meal dishes. Italian classics make up the main part of the menu, but they are influenced by Mediterranean and American cuisine. The romantic atmosphere and courteous service complete the evening at Cala Bella.


12. Bento Café (Best Places to Eat in Florida: International restaurant – Orlando)

Bento Café is designed in the style of restaurants in Japanese and Taiwanese cities. Pan-Asian fast-food dishes are served to guests with great variety. Highly qualified wok and sushi chefs lovingly prepare the culinary delights in Bento Café. High ceilings, a modern ambience and subtle lightning turn an evening at the sushi restaurant into a refined and sublime experience.


13. Jimmy B’s (Best Places to Eat in Florida: Bar & pub – St. Petersburg)

Situated on St. Petersburg Beach, diners at Jimmy B’s can watch the sun go down. They can also have a delicious cocktail to go with it. The bar serves bites to eat, such as hamburgers, hot dogs, salads or appetizers. From the bar one can look out onto the private beach of the Beachcomber Hotel. Parties are often held here and the helpful staff always looks after guests without fail. Sports fans can also enjoy their true pleasure at Jimmy B’s: important sporting events are all shown here.


14. Barnacle Bill’s Seafood Emporium (Best Places to Eat in Florida: Regional restaurant – Tallahassee)

The extensive menu of this restaurant offers not only delicious fish dishes but also many fresh salads. Children aged less than 10 years eat for free on Sundays.


Best Private Island Getaways (IV)

For many travelers, their idea of a perfect vacation is a secluded spot away from the rest of the world. These vacationers prefer to be close to nature, isolation and utter relaxation. If this kind of destination appeals to you, we've picked out the best private island gateways. The following islands all have one thing in common: peace and quiet.


7. Best Private Island Gateways: Over Yonder Cay — The Bahamas

Located in the jewel of the Bahamas, the Exuma Chain, Over Yonder Cay is the newest addition to private island resorts. Just opened, the island is available to rent to one group at a time, so guests have the full run of the island and the complete attention of its staff. Guests can arrive by boat or the island's seaplane, and are accommodated in four luxurious villas. Yacht owners can take advantage of the deep-water marina, which accommodates vessels up to 150ft in length. The perfect spot for water lovers, the Exuma has unparalleled visibility for snorkeling and diving. If you prefer to stay above the water, take to the paddleboards, wakeboards, kayaks or kite-surfing gear. Anglers can visit some of the best fishing spots with the island's local guides. Experience the culinary team's five-star dining over an intimate beachside dinner or a family grill in the pavilion. Over Yonder Cay is perfect for a family vacation, an exotic wedding or a getaway with friends.


8. Best Private Island Gateways: Song Saa — Cambodia

People often travel to Cambodia to explore the magnificent Angkor temples and then travel to Thailand to relax at one of the famed Thai beaches. But off the coast of Cambodia, there is a hidden gem, offering white sand beaches, overwater bungalows, coral reef, jungle and luxury. Song Saa Private Island resort is a short flight and boat ride from the Angkor temples. The resort, called Song Saa, means The Sweethearts" in Khmer, as the resort is made of two islands connected by a walking bridge. The main island hosts over-water, ocean-view and jungle bungalows, as well as a few restaurants and a lounge. The over-water bungalows contain glass floors to allow you to view the coral reef and water life in the surrounding Archipelago. With only 27 bungalows there will never be crowds on the island. There are no other resorts on or at the neighboring beaches. When heading to Song Saa you are truly making a remote escape from the world.


9. Best Private Island Gateways: Pulau Ubin — Singapore

Pulau Ubin is the last village or "kampong" in Singapore. A visit here is like stepping back into the 1960s when things were much simpler. Located off Singapore's northeast coast, the best way to get there is to take a bumboat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. The name Pulau Ubin means ''Granite Island" in Malay, which isn't surprising, considering the many abandoned stone quarries on the island. The best way to explore Pulau Ubin is to hire a bike, although it remains a great place for a quiet stroll. For a laid back break from the hustle and bustle of the city, visit the Celestial Resort nestled at the Southwest of Pulau Ubin Island. Hire a van or rent a bicycle for the short ride through the woods to get to the resort. One big attraction on the island is the intertidal flat at Chek Jawa, which boasts extremely rare ecosystems, animals and plants. You can also go on guided trips while on Pulau Ubin.

Best Places to Eat in Florida (Part 2)

In most restaurants it is customary to wait to be shown to a table by a waiter, rather than choosing a table yourself. As elsewhere in the USA, the most common drinks when dining are ice water, cola and iced tea, however a large range of local and imported wines and beers are also available.


Have you been looking for a nice place to enjoy a delicious meal in The Sunshine State? Check out some of the best places to eat in Florida:


6. Hard Rock Café (Best Places to Eat in Florida: Café – Miami)

People of all ages and styles meet at the Hard Rock Café. The ever-present guests can enjoy fresh coffee and tasty sandwiches every day, as well as other snacks. It is the atmosphere here that is especially captivating. Various fashion items displayed on the walls and music from certain eras is what creates the Hard Rock’s Café’s authenticity. A well-thought-out mix of dark wood and red leather combined with excellent lighting and very good music promise to make any visit here a really special experience.


7. Perricone’s Marketplace and Café (Best Places to Eat in Florida: Restaurant – Miami)

Perricone’s is most certainly classy. There are refined wines from all over the world in the cellar and they come recommended by the helpful service team according to guests’ tastes. The menus are different for lunch and dinner, and are selected with great care. Sitting in the upholstered chairs within the painted walls, one really feels like a king or queen.

A large conservatory lets a lot of light in from outside, without guests having to sacrifice the cozy warmth of the indoor setting. Steven Perricone and his team promise a culinary feast in a very special atmosphere. There are also meals to take away at the marketplace.


8. Bahama Breeze (Best Places to Eat in Florida: International restaurant – Orlando)

Here you can enjoy delicious Caribbean dishes under artificial palms. The many cocktails, most of which are rum-based, are also highly recommended. Bahama Breeze is located on International Drive, which is the main thoroughfare through the middle of Orlando.


9. Mangos Tropical Café (Best Places to Eat in Florida: Other – Miami)

Centrally located on Ocean Drive, Mangos Tropical Café is the ideal place to indulge yourself. Exotic dishes and cocktails sweeten the evening, just as the constantly changing events and parties do. Pizza, tacos, burritos, sandwiches and any dish containing mango guarantee a sense of culinary elation. There is also pasta and fish. Guests have many different mojitos to choose from. Delicious food and a great deal of fun is guaranteed at Mangos Tropical Café.


Best Places to Stay in Rome, Italy (V)

Best Places to Stay in Rome, Italy: Hotel Locarno – Art Nouveau charm


The Hotel Locarno has been in business since the 1920’s and still retains its old world, fashionable charm. Fabric covered walls, marble floors, oriental carpets and antiques make each room unique. The quirky style makes it a favorite with the film and fashion world. The hotel is made up of two buildings, connected by a central courtyard that is a cocktail bar during the summer. In addition to the usual luxury amenities, the hotel offers a fleet of bicycles for guests’ use.


The location is very central, just off the majestic Piazza del Popolo and within walking distance of the shopping district around The Spanish Steps.



Best Places to Stay in Rome, Italy: Hotel Portoghesi – Small 3-star Hotel. Great location


The days when the Hotel Portoghesi used to be a well-guarded secret are long gone. You have to book months in advance to get a room at this small hotel located a block away from Piazza Navona. With only 27 rooms, the family-run hotel feels very old world. But the recent renovation has made the rooms (and bathrooms) all the more comfortable. 


The location is excellent: a few blocks to both the Pantheon and Piazza Navona, yet on a narrow side street that is quite and romantic. Some of the standard rooms are on the small side, but for Rome this is fairly common. For a bigger room, book a junior suite. The rooftop terrace is used for breakfast and open to guests all day long. Staff is helpful and friendly.



Best Places to Stay in Rome, Italy: Hotel Sant'Anselmo – Secluded Romantic Hotel


The Sant’Anselmo is located on the Aventine Hill, tucked between Circo Massimo and the Testaccio neighborhood. In other words: this is not your typical tourist area. In fact, the Sant’Anselmo is the only hotel in this area. That said, it’s a short walk down the hill to Testaccio, where 

Leisure Activities in Costa del Sol (Part 2)

Costa del Sol, also known as "The Sunny Coast" or "Coast of the Sun" is a region in Southern Spain in the densely dwelt coast of Andalucía. Spreading over 150 kilometers across the Malaga Province, Costa del Sol is the most popular choice of holiday seekers for a fun filled vacation. There are a large number of tourist attractions and leisure activities in Costa del Sol, and because this place has such a wonderful sunny coastal climate, you can schedule your visit any time throughout the year.


6. Sea Life Center (Leisure Activities in Costa del Sol: Other – Benalmadena / Malaga)

At the Sea Life Center in Benalmadena you have the one-off opportunity to marvel at more than 5,000 different sea creatures from the Mediterranean, Atlantic, Pacific and the Indian Ocean. You can even find species from the Red Sea or the Amazon in the reproduced eco-systems at Sea Life Center.


7. El Torcal (Leisure Activities in Costa del Sol: Park – Antequera)

The bizarre rock garden of El Torcal has been a National Park since 1978 and displays some truly stunning karst formations. The wafer-life structure of the hills came about due to centuries of sedimentation. The varying height of the stone columns means they look almost artificially designed.


8. Dolphin Safari (Leisure Activities in Costa del Sol: Other – Gibraltar)

Who hasn’t dreamt of coming face to face with dolphins and whales in their natural environment? The Dolphin Safari can make your wish come true. A 30-minute tour offers the perfect opportunity to film and photograph these aquatic creatures.


9. Costa Tropical (Leisure Activities in Costa del Sol: Beach – Almunecar)

The Spanish coastal region of Costa Tropical in the province of Granada was so named as the counterpart to the Costa del Sol. Because of the Sierra Nevada from the hinterland, climate here is mild and tropical. Those in the region on holiday should definitely take a trip to the tropical coast.


10. Tour of Malaga (Leisure Activities in Costa del Sol: Other – Malaga)

A double-decker bus tour of Malaga takes visitors across the city to see the most important tourist attractions. Whether it is for the Pablo Picasso Museum, the impressive monuments like the Alcazaba or the tourist attractions such as the bull-fighting arena – the tour guarantees spectacular sights and a multi-lingual guide.

Best Private Island Getaways (III)

For many travelers, their idea of a perfect vacation is a secluded spot away from the rest of the world. These vacationers prefer to be close to nature, isolation and utter relaxation. If this kind of destination appeals to you, we've picked out the best private island gateways. The following islands all have one thing in common: peace and quiet.


5. Best Private Island Gateways: Medjumbe Private Island— Mozambique

Set among the secluded islands that make up the Quirimbas Archipelago off the coast of Mozambique, Medjumbe Private Island is the perfect getaway for those who love the outdoors. The exclusive retreat is comprised of just 13 thatched chalets all with beautiful ocean views. The diving in the warm Indian Ocean waters is ideal — the stunning coral reef and pristine marine environment are nearly undiscovered by the diving world. The Quirimbas Archipelago also offers some of the best game fishing in the world, with opportunities to hook Kingfish, Barracuda, Dorado, Queenfish, Serra, Wahoo, Yellowfin Tuna and Sailfish. Kayaking allows guests to glide with the local dolphins and watch the visiting whales from August to November. This beautiful country, full of rich cultural history, is one of the world's best-kept secrets. While the resort aims to fulfill the wishes of guests, they equally aim to fulfill the needs of the surrounding environment; the conservation of the indigenous environment, and the implementation of community development.


6. Best Private Island Gateways: Ometepe Island — Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua is one of the wonders of the Western Hemisphere. One hundred miles long and as much as 46 miles wide, it is the largest freshwater lake in Central America. Freshwater sharks and tuna, and the extremely rare sawfish swim in these waters. Out in the lake, accessible only by ferry, lies the magical island of Ometepe. The island is composed of two volcanoes and an isthmus that connects them. Trails up the volcanoes Conception and Madera lead the curious explorer through fields of plantains, sugar cane and coffee to a lush rainforest. Pre-Columbian petroglyphs and sculptures dot the island, reminding visitors of prior civilizations. There is also a cloud forest, one of the rarest ecosystems on earth, on Volcano Madera, and down in its caldera, a cold crater lake where the cries of howler monkeys echo out of the mists. Afterwards, spend some time on a beautiful island beach, relaxed and undisturbed except by the breeze in the palms.