Winter Bargains in The Romantic Caribbean (III)

Category: Travel Blog

Winter Bargains in The Romantic Caribbean (III)

It is no secret that winter is high season for the Caribbean. It's the coldest, snowiest, iciest time of year for many places, and some folks have just had enough of it by January and February. In fact, some folks figure they'll need to 'hunker down' and wait out old man winter through March. But that doesn't mean there are no travel deals to be found to make your 'Great Winter Escape: In fact, there are plenty, and some experts believe that the best time to book your winter bargains in the romantic Caribbean is from New Years to early March, when airlines are slashing prices before the big spring-break rush.


According to Yahoo Travel, there are great deals for hot spots like Jamaica, undiscovered charmers like Bonaire, and romantic paradises like St Thomas.


So check out this list for romance in a Caribbean Paradise and start packing!


Winter bargains in The Romantic Caribbean: Dominican Republic

This ever-popular destination draws tourists from spring-breakers seeking low-cost beach thrills, to families looking to make sandcastles in the sun. A wealth of all-inclusive resorts clustered around Punta Cana offer a lot of 'bang for your travel buck' this season.


Deals and Bargains: According to Yahoo Travel, round-trip flights to the DR are unusually inexpensive this year, with flights from Chicago in the low $400s. Take advantage of cheap airfare, and consider a number of budget-friendly hotels, through April 18.


Winter bargains in The Romantic Caribbean: Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, has it all, from golfing to gambling and from salsa dancing to surfing. Beyond San Juan's vacation condos, the island abounds with waterfalls, colonial history, and the national rainforest of El Yunque. The best part? You don't even need a passport to get there.


Deals and Bargains: According to Yahoo Travel, in late January and early February, flights are as low as $329 from New York on JetBlue or Delta. (And right now, JetBlue Getaways is offering amazing deals on four-night packages, including airfare, accommodations, and resort credits, starling at $745 per person.) Inexpensive hotel options aren't hard to spot, either Wad, with a travel professional; travel pros will probably be able to find even more deals. You will probably find the cheapest rates clustered around San Juan. 

Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (I)

Sports and activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Abi Dhabi Desert Challenge – Rallying and racing in the desert


Formerly known as the UAE Desert Challenge, this is one of the Middle East’s leading motorsports events (doubling as the opening round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup), with rally drivers, bikers and quad-bikers racing through the deserts of Abu Dhabi emirate.



Sports and activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix


The single biggest event in the Middle Eastern sporting calendar, first held in 2009. The inaugural race was the first ever day–night race in F1 history, while the second race provided a dramatic conclusion to the F1 2010 season when Sebastian Vettel snatched victory in the drivers’ championship from Fernando Alonso.


The race is held at the spectacular new Yas Marina Circuit outside Abu Dhabi on the road to Dubai – a stunning location, although tickets are predictably expensive, from around US$400.



Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: DP World Tour Championship – European Tour's season-ending finale


First held in 2009, this is one of the world’s richest golfing events. The championships forms the grand finale to the season-long European Tour, with the tour’s sixty top players battling it out for $7.5 million in prize money at the spectacular new Greg Norman-designed “Earth” course in Dubailand. Lee Westwood won the inaugural championship in 2009, while Rory McIlroy won the 2012 event.



Sports and Activities in Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Els Golf Club – Something Els


Located in Dubai Sports City in Dubailand, this so-called “desert links” course was opened in 2008 to a design by Ernie Els. The course makes the most of its setting in the hinterlands of the city, with greens and fairways surrounded by rolling dunes and untouched desert scenery. The course features four different sets of teeing areas and hole lengths to suit different abilities, offering a total playing length of 7538 yards.


Top Attractions in Milan, Italy (I)

Top Attractions in Milan, Italy: Castello Sforzesco – A collection of museums


The actual Sforzesco Castle is for a large part a 19th century reconstruction of the Renaissance building of the Sforza family. The Sforza Castle houses several municipal museums (one fee) the most interesting of which are to be found in the so-called Ducal Courtyard.


At present, the Castle is a quadrilateral divided in three parts: the first half is taken up by the Piazza delle Armi, with its landmark, the central (19th century) Filarete tower facing the city and with two cylindrical towers on each side.


Top Attractions in Milan, Italy: Castello Sforzesco – A collection of museums


The back half of the quadrilateral is covered by the Rocchetta (left) and the Corte Ducale (right). The Rocchetta has an inner courtyard and a square tower.


The Ducal Courtyard encloses the Palazzo Ducale and the Portico dell'Elefante. On the ground floor of the Palazzo Ducale you'll find the Sala delle Asse decorated with paintings originally designed by Leonardo da Vinci. In the rest of the building you'll find Michelangelo's last sculpture, the Rondanini Pietà and Mantegna's Trivulzio Madonna. The museum website gives a precise floor plans with clickable rooms.


Top Attractions in Milan, Italy: Castello Sforzesco – A collection of museums


On the first floor of the Rocchetta (reachable via the Palazzo Ducale museum) is the Sala del Tesoro (Treasury room), which contains the beautiful tapestries of the 12 months by Bramantino.


Leaving the Castle at the back (western) side, you enter the very pleasant Sempione park.


Top Attractions in Milan, Italy: Castello Sforzesco – A collection of museums


If you have the MilanoCard you may want to go to the Bar Castello opposite at the Piazza Castello for 10% discount on your lunch.

4 Unique tips to make the most of a trip to Thailand!

by David D. Chait


Thailand is a beautiful country with a diversity of sites, activities, and culture, which makes it a top destination for travelers from across the globe.


I recently traveled there on my Honeymoon and had the time of my life with the perfect balance of beach, hiking, and culture. To make the most of your next trip here are my 4 unique tips to make the most of a trip to Thailand.


I say unique because everyone knows how beautiful and historically significant the temples throughout the country are. From Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in the mountains of Chiang Mae to the Gran Palace in Bangkok, you shouldn’t miss a single one.



1. Take a canal tour in Bangkok (time is running out!)

One of Bankok’s biggest attractions is taking a small teak boat ride through the city’s many canals. These rides are not only a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, but let you really take in the city as you pass countless temples, homes of all shapes and sizes, and other sites.


In the future, however, these rides will never be the same, with new home construction currently banned on the canals.



2. Take a Thai cooking class.

Thai food is delicious with so many flavors and layers of complexities. Nonetheless there are surprisingly many Thai dishes simple enough for novice chefs.


On my Thai adventure, we took a cooking class in Chiang Mae and learned to make Chicken Pad Thai, Green Beef Curry, and Prawn Soup all complete with a walk through a traditional Thai market. We learned so much about Thai culture from food alone and left with a new skill.



4. Try the street food. It’s delicious!

Although many travelers might be intimidated by street food, an important part of a complete Thailand experience is to eat like the locals, which means trying the diversity of street food available. From noodles to vegetables to various meats and seafood on a stick there’s a whole delicious world to explore.


My favorite food throughout the country was by far pork on a stick.



5. Visit with an elephant. (But don’t ride one.)

Another must-do activity in Thailand is to visit one of the many nature preserves and see Elephants. You can feed them, bathe them, and learn much about this beautiful and fascinating creature.


Although there are many attractions that allow you to ride elephants, there are plenty of humane rescues.




David Chait is a passionate traveler and founder of Travefy, a free online group travel planner.

Best Museums in San Diego, California (IV)

Best Museums in San Diego, California: MCASD Downtown – Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego


The La Jolla-based Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego first established a presence downtown in 1986 when it opened a small satellite gallery in a warehouse at 8th and G streets. In 1993, it moved to larger quarters on Kettner Boulevard, across from the Santa Fe Depot. Within a few years, the museum expanded into the historic train station’s baggage building and in 2007, it added an adjacent three-story structure – giving the museum’s downtown branch even more exhibit space than the mother ship in La Jolla.


Downtown exhibitions usually focus on young regional artists on the cutting edge. Its TNT (Thursday Night Thing) is a quarterly bash that includes live music, artist talks, art-making activities, interactive performances inspired by new exhibitions, food and drink. It’s a popular venue for singles interested in meeting like-minded singles. (Admission costs $10, $7 for students.)



Best Museums in San Diego, California: MCASD La Jolla – Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego


It seems fitting that the former estate of newspaper heiress and philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps has evolved into the cultural centerpiece of La Jolla. The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego traces its history to 1941 when a group of local artist began exhibiting their work in the Scripps house. Eventually, money was raised to purchase the home and turn its rooms into galleries. 


Over the years, the museum has been expanded, remodeled, redefined and renamed several times. Today its permanent collection spans all contemporary art movements since 1950 and includes works by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Sella, Edward Ruscha, Richard Serra, John Baldessari, Jasper Johns and Nancy Rubins. The collection has particular strength in the art of Southern California, Latin America and border regions. 


The museum stages a variety of talks, tours, and other events including a film series. The Museum Café is open from 11 AM – 3 PM weekdays, from 9 AM – 3 PM weekends. The MCASD X Store sells contemporary jewelry and chic design objects for the home – as well as apparel, books, posters and toys.


Best Places to Eat in Berkeley, California (I)

Best Places to Eat in Berkeley, California: Ajanta Indian Cuisine – Sophisticated Dining on Solano


Ajanta is a sophisticated Indian cuisine restaurant with a menu that changes monthly. The various regions of India are featured with their specialties.


The dining room has Indian artwork inspired by the caves of Ajanta, a World Heritage site in India in the central state of Maharashtra. .


Ajanta aims for a high-quality taste experience in its presentation of Indian food.


The menu offers Small Plates / Appetizers, Entrees, and Side Orders for lunch and dinner. A Taj Mahal beer or a flavored yogurt drink would be a good beverage choice. 


All dishes can be ordered very mild, mild/low medium, medium, high medium, and hot. Meals may come with a side dish of spinach and potatoes or chick peas.


The guiding force behind Ajanta is chef/owner Lachu Moorjani. The manager during my visit was Bryan Desouza. Both offer guiding menu suggestions.


A good plan is to choose the Chef's Tasting Menu, offering the best of Ajanta in that season.


Best Places to Eat in Berkeley, California: Ajanta Indian Cuisine – Tasty offerings:


Appetizers: Chicken Samosa, Tandoori Scallops, Tandoori Portobello, Mushrooms


Main Dishes: Kandahari Chicken, Lamb Rib Chops, Seyal Machi (mahi mahi fish), Badal Jaam


Accompaniments: Basmati rice, Naan, Mango Chutney, Carrot Pickles, Hot Pickles


Desserts, choice of: Kulfi, Cardamon Gelato, Mango Sorbet, Gulab Jamun


The emphasis is on seasonally fresh and organic ingredients.


Patrons can be put on Lachu Moorjani's monthly email list to be kept informed on the ever-evolving menu.


Best Places to Eat in Berkeley, California: Ajanta's Cookbook / Spicebox – 30 Spices in a Box


Ajanta restaurant on Solano Avenue is special in two further ways in the world of Indian cuisine.


Ajanta has a well-thought-out cookbook with which you can create the dishes served in the restaurant.


Ajanta also sells a box of 30 spices that are used in the restaurant.


The book is Ajanta, Regional Feasts of India. It includes several sequential photo layouts on Indian food preparation. The book was written by chef / owner Lachu Moorjani.


The spice box is called Shanti's Spice Box, compiled by the chef / owner's wife, Shanti. The box includes some better-known and some rarer spices, which would be difficult for a layman to source. 


Historic Hotels in Madrid, Italy (I)

Historic Hotels in Madrid, Italy: AC Hotel Santo Mauro – Swank, expensive and graced by David Beckwity


The neoclassical Santo Mauro Hotel, near the Paseo de la Castellana, was a 19th century French Palace. It then housed the Canadian Embassy before being converted into a hotel. 


David Beckwith made this hotel home for six months. Its location is in a swank residential part of town. 


The Duque de Santo Mauro's 19th century library is now the dining room and his ballrooms are now conference rooms.



Historic Hotels in Madrid, Italy: Antigua Posada del Pez Hotel – Modern era enlightenment with chic modern


The Antigua Posada del Pez Hotel is in the heart of downtown Madrid and is among the buildings of the 18th and 19th century that line the boulevards of Madrid’s main avenues, such as Gran Via. 


Though the building is historic, the interior is modern and aims for comfort and simplicity.



Historic Hotels in Madrid, Italy: Best Western Atlantico Madrid – French Belle Epoque on the grand Via


The Atlantico Madrid is in a French-styled Belle Époque building from 1921. It was part of the enthusiastic mood of the early 20th century Gran Vía, adding its elegance and grandeur to the long line of buildings beautifying the boulevard.


The rooms are spacious, comfortable, and uphold the global standard set for Best Western hotels. The location is central.



Historic Hotels in Madrid, Italy: Chueca Pension – Clean, comfy and in the heart of happening Madrid


This pension, less than one block away from the colorful Plaza de Chueca, is basic, clean, and moderately priced. 


It is in a typical 100-year old Madrileño building in a residential area in this artsy Belle Époque neighborhood, a stone's throw from the Gran Vía.


It's also a great place to stay if you are on a budget but still want a clean, convenient, and well-run accommodation. 


Staying in Chueca neighborhood also offers a more local perspective of the artsy-edgy side of Madrid, especially if you grab a front-row seat and drink at one of the outdoor cafe tables on the Plaza de Chueca.


Best Museums in San Diego, California (III)

Best Museums in San Diego, California: Natural History Museum – Connect with nature


Founded in 1874, The San Diego Natural History Museum didn’t have a permanent setting for its collection until 1933. Since then it has expanded its focus and more than doubled its size. 


Today the museum is dedicated to promoting understanding and respect for the evolution and diversity of the entire Southern California region and the Baja Peninsula. Its award-winning exhibits are complemented by a 300-seat giant screen 3-D theater that shows films focusing on the natural world. In addition, the museum hosts several traveling exhibitions each year. There’s a Kids’ Habitat where youngsters can have fun with interactive games – and on Sundays, Mr. Frizzle presents free “Wacky Science” shows designed for junior scientists. 


The museum has a gift shop and the Dinosaur Café, which is open from 10 AM to 4 PM Thursdays through Sundays. Check online for admission discount coupons.



Best Museums in San Diego, California: San Diego History Center – Uncover San Diego's past


Founded in 1928, the city’s premier historical organization achieved a decades long dream in 1989 when it opened the San Diego History Center in the heart of Balboa Park. The center showcases the region’s colorful and diverse history – and it serves as a repository for the group’s collection of more than 45 million pieces of paper and 2.5 million photos that document the people, places and events of the city’s past.


Exhibits rotate: Visitors might view paintings by San Diego’s most celebrated artists. They might see costumes worn by actors at The Old Globe during its 75-year history, learn about San Diego's once-booming tuna fishing industry or drink in all there is to know about the history of the city's colorful craft beer brewers. For an additional $6 fee, visitors can tap into local genealogy and historic photos in the research library (open till 1 PM Mondays through Fridays). 


Don’t skip the center’s store. Find cool reproductions of Arts and Crafts and Deco-era furnishings.


Tourist Objectives in Lefkada, Greece (I)

Lefkada is a Greek Island in the Ionian Sea, on the west coast of Greece, which is linked to the mainland by a long road and a floating bridge. It has many beautiful beaches and amazing landscapes. This article series covers the best tourist objectives in Lefkada, Greece. Subscribe to our Blog and make sure you don’t miss any of our travel news & updates!


1. Tourist Objectives in Lefkada, Greece: Agia Kyriaki


If you go beyond Nydri Beach and look towards the sea, what will surely catch your eye is the chapel of Agia Kyriaki. According to an inscription found inside the church, “the holy temple was built in 1906 and is the property of Kakonas”.  Right next to the building there’s a staircase leading to a cave at about 3-4 meters height. Many icons were found inside. You can reach the chapel by sea, or by land. Specifically, just outside Vlyho, there’s a road leading to Geni and Desimi, which at some point branches out and if followed towards the left leads to the chapel. The road is tarmac up to a certain point and can be accessed by car, but the last 200 meters before reaching the chapel turn into a very narrow footpath. A local festival is organized every year on the 6th and 7th of July, at Vlyho, a region across the chapel, next to Nydri.



2. Tourist Objectives in Lefkada, Greece: Agioi Pateres


The monastery stands for centuries on a rocky landscape, 5 kilometers above Nikiana, towards Alexandros, inside a cave, close to the region of Skara. It is one of the oldest Christian temples found on the island. Church sources state that the Three Fathers who came to the island after the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea, Bithynia, 325 A.D. became monks here and took shelter in the cave. They taught the Gospel until the end of their lives. Their graves were found in a neighboring cave, where the simple chapel of Hermitage that was built in their honor.



3. Tourist Objectives in Lefkada, Greece: Agios Donatos


Above the village of Egklouvi, at a height of about 900 meters, lies a church that was initially dedicated to Agios Dometios. When renovating it in 1980, the locals dedicated it to Agios Donatos, the Episcope of Lefkada from 284 A.D., who, according to the legend, fell off a tower during the persecutions against the Christians. The remains of this tower can be found a few meters away from the church. Agios Dometios is celebrated on August 7.

Best Places to Stay in Rome, Italy (II)

Best Places to Stay in Rome, Italy: Daphne Inn – Budget B&B near Veneto and Trevi


Daphne Inn’s two locations, near the Trevi Fountain and Via Veneto, are both stylish small B&B’s that are affordable and friendly. Cheerfully decorated rooms are each designed with individual touches, and are warm and cozy. There is free Wi-Fi and laptops available for use and guests receive pay-as-you-go mobile phones if they need them. Even though this is a budget hotel, the breakfast is pretty good, with fresh fruit, cold cuts, yogurt and muesli. A great choice for a budget hotel in the center of Rome. Friendly service, and most of the staff (and the owners) speak English.



Best Places to Stay in Rome, Italy: Forty Seven – Modern Hotel near Circo Massimo


Modernity is juxtaposed with antiquity at Hotel Forty Seven. Forty Seven’s location—adjacent to the Forum and far from the chaos of the shopping district—and more affordable rates make this a good choice. Near the quaint neighborhoods of Trastevere and The Ghetto, which are filled with restaurants, wine bars and bakeries, just a block from Campidoglio Hill, the hotel has sixty-one rooms, including some suites with private balconies. There’s also a rooftop terrace that overlooks the piazza below, with the Temple of Vesta. And while guests have access to the hotel’s gym, the nearby Circo Massimo is perfect for a morning run.



Best Places to Stay in Rome, Italy: Hotel Apollo – Affordable family-run hotel, great location 


I’m hesitant to include The Apollo in this guide, since I consider it my little secret. This small, clean, affordable hotel in one of Rome’s best neighborhoods is where I put my friends and family when there is overflow from my own home. 


This 3-star hotel has been run by the Pontecorvi family since 1935, with great warmth and charm. All of the rooms have been refurbished and are clean, elegant and comfortable. They aren’t huge, but did I mention how affordable they are? Breakfast is served on the top floor, with a view out over Rome’s rooftops. Step out of the front door and you are in the Monti neighborhood, with a wealth of restaurants and a view of the Coliseum. There are only 24 rooms, so it is often booked solid.