Best Cities to Visit in China (X): Xi’an

Author: George Augustine

Best Cities to Visit in China (X): Xi’an

Best Cities to Visit in China: Xi'an


Xi'an is China's Rome, an ancient city where the empire was originally founded and which ruled over two separate golden ages in Chinese history. 


Established in 200 BCE as Chang'an (Eternal Peace), the city served as the capital of the Middle Kingdom for over a millennia and was the eastern terminus of the Silk Road. At its height during the Tang dynasty (618–907), it was the largest city in the world with one of the most diverse populations, attracting traders, religious missionaries, musicians, craftsmen and thinkers from across Central Asia, India and beyond. 


Best Cities to Visit in China: Xi'an


What's here? There is little that remains of this extraordinary era above ground, but the imperial tombs outside the city have yielded some extraordinary finds, the most famous of which is the Terracotta Army. Equally intriguing is the little-known tomb of Emperor Jing, who ruled soon after and yet left an entirely different legacy. 


Wider ranges of artifacts are on display in the provincial and city museums, but if you prefer activities, there's nothing like a bike ride around the massive city wall. Stroll through the old Muslim Quarter for a meal, some souvenir shopping, and a visit to China's oldest mosque.


Best Cities to Visit in China: Xi'an


If you want to read more about the sights and tourist attractions in Xi'an or China in general, use the search bar on the top of this page or subscribe to our Blog and make sure you don't miss any of our updates!


Best Places to Stay in Venice, Italy (II)

Lodging is abundant in Venice, but tends to be expensive and frequently booked up, especially during high season – April to August. So plan ahead and book rooms well in advance especially between May and October.



Best Places to Stay in Venice, Italy: Canonici di San Marco


About fifteen miles from Venice there is luxury camping at Canonici di San Marco. Here you will find tent sleeping for one to four people on a raised wooden platform with a terrace, private bathroom, and Wi-Fi. Bikes are available. 


You don’t need a car to stay at Canonici di San Marco. You can walk along a canal to Mira Mirano and hop the train to Venice’s Santa Lucia train station, only a twenty-minute trip.


Travelers wanting to do yoga on their trip can go to the Future Yoga school in Mirano for classes.



Best Places to Stay in Venice, Italy: Foscari Palace


The Foscari Palace, a luxury hotel in a 16th century palace on the Grand Canal, in front of the Cà d'Oro, has twenty-three rooms with free WiFi.


This is lavish Venetian living with modern conveniences mixed with glorious old style.



Best Places to Stay in Venice, Italy: Hotel Abbazia


Housed in a refurbished monastery near the train station with an internal courtyard garden, the Hotel Abbazia offers free Wi-Fi in its smoke-free rooms. 


Sleep like a monk, but in more luxurious surroundings and enjoy a respite in the inner garden.



Best Places to Stay in Venice, Italy: Hotel Messner


In a quiet neighborhood in Dorsoduro, the Hotel Messner is within short walks of the Guggenheim galleries and the Santa Maria di Salute. Messner has forty rooms in the main building and annex—doubles start at 110 euros for the night, breakfast included. There is a restaurant in the hotel as well.


Started by Maria Messner in 1940 as a guesthouse for students, teachers and travelers, the hotel has grown through the decades into a full service small hotel. All rooms have private baths and Internet.


Hotel Messner is on the corner of Fondamenta de Ca’ Bala & Nuovo Catecum, Dorsoduro, 213/216

Best Cities to Visit in China (IX): Suzhou

Best Cities to Visit in China: Suzhou


"The city is very great, as large as 60 square miles. It contains merchants of great wealth and an incalculable number of people. Indeed, if the men of this city and of the rest of the country had the spirit of soldiers they would conquer the world; but they are not soldiers at all, only accomplished traders and most skilled craftsmen. There are also in this city many great philosophers and others who do not appear to work." – Marco Polo, "On the Noble City of Soochow"


One of China's most famous and prosperous cities throughout the centuries, Suzhou is above all famous for two things: silk and gardens. The nearby Grand Canal, completed in 609 CE, facilitated trade with north China, helping to bring in wealth, craftsmen, merchants and increasing numbers of officials as Suzhou became one of the Middle Kingdom's most important centers of commerce and shipping. 


To be sure, this is no "Venice of the East" – much of the city's postcard charm has eroded with development – but nevertheless, an effort has been made to restore certain important cultural sites and develop others. 


Best Cities to Visit in China: Suzhou


What's Here?

Suzhou's greatest legacy is its private gardens, many of which are centuries old. These gardens were attached to the residences of wealthy merchants or officials and offer insight not just into landscape design but Chinese aesthetics, architecture and philosophy as a whole. There were once as many as 200 gardens here, but now only about 16 are open to the public. Since most are relatively small, they tend to get crowded very fast – start your visits at 7:30am. 


The most famous gardens include: the Master of Nets (the smallest and most exquisite), the Humble Administrator's Garden (the largest and most impressive), the Pavilion of the Waves (featured briefly in Shen Fu's Six Records of a Floating Life), the Lions' Grove (built by a Buddhist monk), and the charming Garden to Linger In.


Best Cities to Visit in China: Suzhou


After the gardens, the next big sight is the striking Suzhou Museum, designed by native son I. M. Pei. The museum has a large and diverse collection, ranging from local artifacts and textiles to Chinese paintings and porcelain, a reproduction of a Ming dynasty scholar's study and temporary modern art exhibits. 


Another popular visit is the Silk Museum, which introduces the ancient textile industry that made the city famous. A few other scattered temples and opera and storytelling museums ensure that you will have plenty to keep you busy over a two-day visit.


Best Accommodation in Toronto, Canada (IV)

Toronto is the most populated metropolis in Canada and the regional capital of Ontario. It is situated in Southern Ontario upon the northwestern coastline of the famous Lake Ontario.  In this series we will review the best accommodation in Toronto, Canada.


10. Best Accommodation in Toronto, Canada: Le Meridien King Edward


The King Eddy, as it is fondly known, is a beautifully historic – surprise, surprise – Edwardian building, as resplendent as it was when it first opened as the city's luxury hotel. Its location is ideal, close to all the downtown essentials, and it's not as expensive as you would expect, especially given the excellent service you get. 


Useless Trivia: Guests here are in good company with Louis Armstrong, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Louis Armstrong, Elvis Presley and of course, the Beatles, whose fans squealed their way through the lobby and stopped street traffic.


Do try their afternoon tea service or the Sunday brunch with the succulent Beef Wellington.


Don't expect the hotel dining to be cheap.



11. Best Accommodation in Toronto, Canada: Four Seasons Center


Home to the Canadian Opera Company, it's the first and only building in Canada designed solely for this purpose. As a result, the acoustics are astounding regardless of where you're sitting in this 2,070-seat theatre. It's also the venue for the National Ballet. 


Overall, the design by Jack Diamond favors form rather than function, but the aesthetic glass staircase and five-story glass facade facing the bustling street add a sense of occasion to operagoers.


Trivia: The glass staircase is the longest free-spanning one in the world. It passed a load-test with 20,000 pounds of weights. 


Do enjoy free lunchtime concerts in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at noon most Tuesdays and Thursdays.


Don't sit in the back if you have vertigo. It's a long way up.



Best Accommodation in Toronto, Canada


If you want to find more accommodation options in Toronto, Canada or if you want to read more about Canada, in general, use the search bar on the top of this page or subscribe to our Blog and make sure you don't miss any of our updates!


Tourist Attractions in New York (III)

New York – it sounds like power, speed, and wealth. Although New York is not the capital city of the USA, no other city is a better example of the American way of life. Discover the most important Tourist Attractions in New York:


7. Tourist Attractions in New York: Lincoln Center

The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts was built in the 1960s and is an exemplary cultural center. It is actually a complex consisting of individual buildings grouped around a plaza with a giant fountain. The three main buildings are the Metropolitan Opera, the Avery Fisher Hall with the Philharmonic and the New York State Theater. The frescoes by Marc Chagall in the foyer are an attractive detail of “The Met”. Experience the Lincoln Center on a guided tour, with a look behind the scenes.


8. Tourist Attractions in New York: Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal (often known as Grand Central Station) is a famous New York train station. The Art nouveau building, completed in 1913, was saved form demolition in the 1990s and comprehensively renovated. Today, alongside the underground platforms, there are also many restaurants, stores and a delicatessen market (Grand Central Market) in the basement of the building. The station has around half a million visitors per day. Don’t miss the famous brass clock and the arches decorated with constellation in the main hall. Free-guided tours (with a voluntary donation of USD 10) begin on Wednesdays and Fridays at 12:30 pm at the information stand.


9. Tourist Attractions in New York: Ellis Island Immigration Museum

More than 12 million immigrants passed through the little island in New York Harbor between the years 1892 and 1954. For most of them it was a symbol of hope for a new beginning in the United States. The historic buildings of Ellis Island were renovated in the 1960s and have been open to visitors since 1990. The newly opened Immigration Museum is especially worth a visit, and tells the history of immigration with a short film and many original travelers documents. The Wall of Honor immortalizes the names of more than 500,000 immigrants who once became US citizens in the registry room. Ellis Island can only be reached by ferry from Battery Park.


Best Places to Stay in Venice, Italy (I)

Lodging is abundant in Venice, but tends to be expensive and frequently booked up, especially during high season – April to August. So plan ahead and book rooms well in advance especially between May and October.



Best Places to Stay in Venice, Italy: Ancient Venice Bed & Breakfast


The Ancient Bed & Breakfast offers basic rooms for very reasonable rates in the low-key Dorsoduro district.


The Ancient is newly renovated, but the floors are mosaic marble from 1826. Rooms are available with either private or shared baths and all rooms include breakfast, served in the tearoom on the first floor.


On the Campo St. Barnaba, the Ancient is within easy walking distance of the Galleria dell'Accademia and the Guggenheim Museum.



Best Places to Stay in Venice, Italy: Ca' Riccio


Ca’ Riccio, by the beautiful marble church (pictured) in Campo Miracoli, is an old house renovated with tile floors. Rooms all have private bathrooms and breakfast is included. 


Ca’ Riccio also offers three apartments in separate locations for those wanting their own kitchen facilities.


Ca'Riccio is on the border of the Canneregio and Castello districts north of the Rialto Bridge and near La Dolfin restaurant.



Best Places to Stay in Venice, Italy: Camping San Nicolo


There is no camping in Venice, except on Lido. There you can camp at San Nicolo using your own tent or rent one from them. They also rent caravans, mobile homes, and bicycles. 


There is no biking in Venice either. That you must save for the garden islands and Lido, the easternmost island that is a seven-mile long, narrow sandbar with a string of beaches. Two long main avenues run the length of the island. By the Santa Maria Elisabetta vaporetto stop is the Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta, a nearly half-mile boulevard running from west to east. Look for bike-rental shops and enjoy the level biking. You can also rent kayaks on Lido and paddle between the islands.


Best Places to Stay in Venice, Italy: Corte Grimani


The Corte Grimani has fifteen apartments suited for two to five people ranging in price from 250 to 430 euros per apartment per night. 


Located in the heart of the city, the renovated 17th century palace has a private courtyard and rooms overlooking the canal.


Tourist Attractions in Florida (Part 1)

Frequently identified as “The Sunshine State”, Florida is seriously dedicated to meeting your expectations. Its beaches are some of the most popular tourist attractions in Florida, along with few of the world’s most amazing amusement parks: Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World.


1. Art Deco District (Tourist Attractions in Florida: District – Miami Beach)

The district comprising around 800 buildings was constructed in the 1930s in the then ultra-modern Art Deco style. Even today the unusually shaped facades, exotic ornamentation and bright pastel colors attract the attention of visitors and invite them to continue to discover new details in the works.


2. Coconut Grove (Tourist Attractions in Florida: District – Miami Beach)

Beautiful old buildings made from coral, luxury villas, which take inspiration from ancient Mayan temples, and spacious green lawns make a stroll through Miami’s high-end neighborhood an unforgettable experience. Once can view a well-maintained building from the pioneer times in the historic Barnacle Street, while exclusive stores await clientele in the Streets of Mayfair or in the Cocowalk shopping and entertainment center.


3. Palm Beach (Tourist Attractions in Florida: District – Palm Beach)

Many prominent figures are among the approximately 10,000 residents of the small island settlement, which is said to have the richest inhabitants in Florida. Top brands such as Cartier, Armani and Chanel can be found here, and with a little luck, you may bump into a famous face from the big screen when taking a walk around. Particularly impressive is the Breakers Hotel, based on the Vila Medici in Rome, a colossal edifice adorned in gold leaf and marble.


4. Holocaust Memorial (Tourist Attractions in Florida: Memorial – Miami Beach)

It was not until 1990 that the Jewish community of Miami Beach commissioned this memorial. Particularly impressive is the 42-foot-high (13 meter) bronze hand onto which around a hundred people in fear are clinging. The commemorative plaques display key information about the history of the Third Reich as well as the names of concentration camps and Jewish Holocaust victims. Right next-door is the former synagogue, which now houses the Jewish Museum of Florida, in which visitors can learn all about the history of Judaism.


5. Venetian Pool (Tourist Attractions in Florida: Leisure facility – Miami)

A former stone quarry which was flooded with water forms the foundations of this huge bathing paradise, in which guests are invited to relax and dream amidst the flower, palm trees, waterfalls and artificial caves. Visitors should also plan a side trip to the nearby Biltmore Hotel, a classy hotel in the style of a Spanish hacienda from the 1920s, which has a café, golf course and spa area available to external visitors.

Best Coffee Houses in Berkeley, California (III)

7. Best Coffee Shops in Berkeley, California: Caffe Strada – An outdoor coffee house


Caffe Strada takes the full pleasure of a coffee house and sets it outdoors under an oak tree. 


In mild weather Caffe Strada has lots to offer. It's close to the university, right across Bancroft. The wifi works, so half the patrons will break out their laptops. The often-salubrious weather of Berkeley, sunny yet cool, will delight a visitor. No one is rushed here. Many a term paper has been brought to a sunny and successful conclusion under this oak tree. 


Beyond coffee, a more substantial menu can carry the visitor through the day. People-watching ranks close to coffee consumption as the popular activity here.


8. Best Coffee Shops in Berkeley, California: Espresso Roma Coffee House – Coffee house with Internet


Espresso Roma is a coffee house where the regulars spend hours of the day at their computers carrying on their activities. There is even a dedicated side room where almost every patron will be hunched over a laptop. 


No one ever feels rushed at Espresso Roma. The concept of "turning the tables" is unknown. There are plenty of wall plug-ins and a strong w-fi.


The menu is inviting. There is all manner of good coffee, so you can get a latte and a muffin. But there are also some imaginative lunch and dinner options, so your glass of wine might be augmented with a plate of roasted vegetables. 


Espresso Roma is a light and airy place, with plenty of window light coming in and an outdoor work area near the front door.


My friend Bruce Whipperman, the noted travel writer with the most popular books on Mexico, has literally spent years of his working life at Espresso Roma, developing his books. The place is essentially his office.


9. Best Coffee Shops in Berkeley, California: Cafe Gratitude – The raw food movement


Cafe Gratitude immerses you in the vegan and raw food movement. Your drink might be a spinach and beet juice concoction. The emphasis is organic, with support for local farmers and sustainable agriculture.


The menu and ambiance project a high level of spirituality, suggesting a world of plenty, food being a celebration of aliveness. The restaurant challenges a patron to find something in life to be grateful for today.


A possible starter is the “I Am Abundant Sampler Plate”, with sprouted almond hummus and spicy cashew nacho cheese. Continue with a raw specialty, such as “I Am Fabulous Seasonal Lasagna”.




Tourist Objectives in Lefkada, Greece (III)

6. Tourist Objectives in Lefkada, Greece: Valaoriti's Island Madouri


Madouri is located across Nydri. It belongs to the complex of Tilevoidi islands and the Prigkiponisia islands. The little island belongs to the Valaoritis family, who’ve built their mansion here. There is also a temple in Gothic style on the island, also property of the family. This is where Aristotelis Valaoritis grew up and lived and today the island of Madouri belongs to the poet’s great grandchild.


7. Tourist Objectives in Lefkada, Greece: Cape Lefkata


At Lefkada’s southern-most point is the Lefkada Cape. The cape is one of the most well known ancient rocks, probably the “White Rock” mention by Homer, as it consists of 60-meter high white cliffs that stand above the waves of the Ionian Sea. During the ancient era (1200 B.C.) it was the location where sacrifices took place to appease the gods and the Spirit of Tempest. In later years (400 B.C) they used convicts for sacrifices, to whom they gave the chance of salvation. Before throwing them on to the rock, they would tie birds and feathers around their bodies for a smoother landing. If the convict survived they would let him live.


Earlier cults were replaced by a temple of Apollo – well known throughout the ancient world. Apollo was also a god of the sea, protector of the seafarers and was believed to heal the body and soul. Every year, probably at the beginning of the spring, feasts would take place with people from all over Greece attending them. The leap to the rock is attributed to Apollo as a means against excruciating erotic passion. In the 6th century B.C. the tradition of leaping by those in love was widespread since it is mentioned in different verses by many ancient poets. This is commemorated by Sapfo, the great ancient female poet and it is from these verses that it is assumed that she also leaped to the Rock of Lefkada. The myth still lives on today and that is why it is known as Kavos tis Kyras, which mean the Cape of the Lady. Today there in nothing left of the temple of Apollo since in its location stands a lighthouse.


The lighthouse was built in 1890. It’s truly one of the most amazing tourist objectives in Lefkada, Greece. It is 14 meters tall and its visible height is 70 meters. In 1890 it functioned with oil, emitting a white light up until 1950, when it was destroyed by an earthquake and it was replaced by an automatic acetylene torch. In 1956 the lighthouse was restored and was fitted with new lighting equipment fueled by oil. From 1985 onwards it functions as a monitored electric lighthouse with a white flash every ten seconds and a brightness that is visible from 24 nautical miles away. It has a beautiful view of Kefalonia and Ithaki. Visiting it can overwhelm the visitor with awe and fear. The steep cliffs, the blue sea, the wind that blows up there allows the visitor to feel the aura of the place which the ancients chose as their place of worship, animal and human sacrifice. Choose to visit this place during sunset when the sun paints the cliffs in red. The experience is incredible.

Lodging in Santa Barbara, California (II)

Santa Barbara is the county seat of Santa Barbara County, California, located in Southern California. If you’ve planned a tour of the Central California Coast, then Santa Barbara is definitely the best overnight destination. This articles series will reveal everything you need to know about lodging in Santa Barbara, California:


Lodging in Santa Barbara, California: Canary Hotel – A Spanish-Moorish nest in downtown Santa Barbara


In the early 2000s, an aging building in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara was demolished to make way for a luxury hotel. Hotel Andalucia rose from the ashes in this primo spot, with easy access to SB arts, culture and nightlife. 


In 2008, the folks who own Casa del Mar and Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica gave the Andalucia a makeover and a new name to align it with its step-siblings down south. 


The Canary — named after the Canary Islands — is now a Kimpton Hotel. It looks like a Spanish-Moroccan island getaway, complete with African rugs, yoga mats and candles.


If you stay here, be sure to spend time up on the 6th floor Perch, where some of SB’s best views unfold in all directions. Finch & Fork restaurant and bar on the main floor serves locally sourced, bistro-style comfort food (think grilled fish tacos and sheep’s milk ravioli). If you’re a shellfish fan, don’t miss the fresh seafood raw bar, with lobster, crab, shrimp and ceviche.



Lodging in Santa Barbara, California: Chumash Casino Resort – Vegas without the glitz

Set within the Chumash reservation in rural Santa Ynez, the Chumash Casino Resort attracts visitors from all over the southland.


The casino (must be 18 years old to enter) has 2,000 slots and video machines, plus blackjack, poker and other gaming tables, and bingo. 


The resort's main draw is the Samala Showroom, where you view world-class stars up-close from the 1,400 riser-style seats. 


The adjacent hotel has a full-service spa, pool, hot tub and fitness center — a great place to chill while friends and family members hit the slots, or when you need a break from the action. Room rates range from $180 to $550. 


When hunger pangs hit, choose among three eateries: The Willows (dinner), an all-you-can-eat buffet (breakfast and lunch) and a casual cafe that serves quick meals round the clock.


The casino operates free shuttles from Goleta, Lompoc and Santa Maria — visit their website for schedules.