The Beauty of Ronda that Goes Beyond its Bloody Traditions and History

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/travel/news/article.cfm?c_id=7&objectid=10884916

The setting is perhaps one of the most remarkable and most beautiful spots in the planet – Ronda, Spain. This most symbolic of Andalucia’s white towns is made distinct by the whitewashed houses making it a must-see sight for tourists coming in this part of the world. It is split in two by the spectacular chasm of the Tajo River with ancient houses hovering on the cliff top.

The vision is perfection. You would not think that same picturesque scenery stands as a silent witness to the grotesque murder of Spanish nationalists that were thrown over the cliff to the gorge that waits below. This infamous acts of brutality happened in the 1936-39 Spanish civil war. This was how The New Zealand Herald – Travel Section pictured this city in its article entitled ‘Spain: Brutality and Beauty.’

It’s easy to imagine the terrified screams of Spanish nationalists echoing from 1936, as they were tossed over a cliff into the gorge below.

Welcome to Ronda, the location of one of the most infamous acts of brutality in the 1936-39 Spanish civil war. A group of enraged leftists had set off from Malaga (birthplace of Pablo Picasso and now home to a sizeable expat British population) intent on causing grievous bodily harm to the supporters of fascist dictator Francisco Franco.

They rounded up the men, marched them to the top of the cliff and pushed them over into the gorge of the river El Tajo.

It was just one of the atrocities carried out by both sides in a bitter war that still causes pain for Spanish people today.

The narrow bridge, Puente Nuevo, stands at a dizzying height – 120m, or 30 stories, from the bottom. I did get a little vertiginous while holding my camera over the edge and taking photos blindly, hoping for the best.

Could Ronda be the Twin Peaks of Spain? A bloodthirsty underbelly with a picture-perfect surface?

This Andalucian attraction remains off the beaten track and perfect place for adventure travelers to this day. These days, the only sign of its vicious past is in Ronda’s bullring, the Plaza de Toros de Ronda, Spain’s oldest. It was constructed in 1779 and was finished in 1785. The place comes to life each summer as well as in autumn during the Corridas Goyescas festival. This time, the ruthless fighting is between men and beasts.

For people fascinated with history, the bullring also promises a glimpse of the past with the museum attached to the bullring. The museum is a testimony of bullring chronicles of its past events, matador costumes, and equipment including grotesque -looking, archaic bridle with spiky metal projections. If you are in awe at the obedience of horses used during the fight, this explains the painful submission of the horses during the bullfight.

There are other beautiful and delicious reasons to go to Ronda. Find out more about it in Ronda, Andalucía: The perfect break from Telegraph’s Travel – Destination Section. According to the author, Anthony Jefferies, “The Spanish mountain town of Ronda is the home of bullfighting – but its dramatic scenery and fine restaurants are the real delights.”

The article is perfect for travelers who want to see this beautiful and historic Spanish City. It tells travelers how to travel to this destination and where to stay which suggests three rural retreats, namely: Hotel la Fuente de la Higuera, Hotel Montelirio, or Hotel San Gabriel.

How do you spend your day in Ronda and where can get a bite of the delicious Andalucian cuisine?

In the morning, take your time visiting the beautiful Plaza de Toros and its museum for a good insight of Spain’s bloodiest traditions. There is also the Museum of Bandits which has a fine collection of slightly gruesome accounts and exhibits, and town museum that is housed in the lovely Palacio de Mondragón, with its distinctive Moorish courtyards and trickling fountains.

At lunch, visit Restaurante Escudero for a taste of the best cuisine in Ronda. The Menú del Día, a set lunch menu, is superbly valued and serves three courses with picadillo soup, stuffed aubergines, and water or wine. For tapas, go to Tragatapas, and for grilled meats, the best is El Campillo that sits on a leafy clifftop.

By sundown, do not miss Tragabuches Restaurant for your dinner. Enjoy their ala carte menu that consists of noodles with octopus sashimi, liver and goat’s cheese in green apple yarrow, or pork cheeks in pear purée. If you want a less elaborate fare, Restaurante Almocábar is a delicious and simple alternative with its salads, inventive fish dishes, and seafood like squid rings stuffed with chives and truffle.

Ronda is a nice place to stroll around with its Moorish palaces and to shop for souvenirs. But, do not buy from the new town where everything is expensive. Instead look for the artisan stores and workshops in the old town. If you still have the energy, get into a car and drive through the mountain ranges to the lakeside village of Zahara de la Sierra or drive south to swanky Marbella. Your alternative is to drive the following day; instead, stay up the night in Ronda’s small clubs – Plaza Carmen Abela, Plaza del Socorro and Plaza Ruedo Alameda

With these beautiful and savoury experiences, you wouldn’t think that brutality used to rein here.

 

Smart Partying Tips When on Vacation

http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/tips/partying.html

Traveling is all about having fun. It is about seeking pleasure while learning about different cultures, seeing significant landmarks, enjoying scenic spots, and savouring local cuisines.  Once you are on a holiday, even day-persons like to go out at night just to check out the town and see what the nightlife can offer. So, it is not really unusual for travelers of any age, size, and color to party at night when holidaying.

But, you must have heard of travelers getting into trouble when they party until the wee hours and when they forget simple safety rules. The Smarttraveller.gov.au.– Traveler Information Section provides some neat guidelines and reminders to traveling Australians about partying overseas.  These can also provide good tips to travelers from other countries who like partying – drinking, dancing, singing, and eating – the whole night through.

Large numbers of Australians get into trouble overseas as a direct result of partying too hard and forgetting about simple safety precautions. Parties and festivals like Full Moon Parties in Koh Phangan, Thailand and Oktoberfest in Germany can be fun experiences but drinking too much or taking drugs can put you in difficult and often dangerous situations far from home. Australians have had their drinks spiked, had their documents stolen, been assaulted, injured, arrested, imprisoned and even killed. If you are planning to attend a Full Moon or other party or festival overseas, think about your personal safety and take appropriate precautions so that your trip is memorable for all the right reasons.

Plan before you go out

Decide where and when you are going and what your transport options are, particularly if you are not familiar with the location. If you are catching public transport home, make sure you know what time the last service runs…

Know your alcohol limits

 If you are drunk your judgment is affected, and you are more likely to take risks and make dangerous decisions. Don’t drive or swim if you have been drinking. Being drunk may also increase your risk of being injured, robbed, or assaulted. Limit your intake of alcohol so that you remain aware of your surroundings…

Don’t use drugs 

The importation, purchase, possession or use of illegal drugs incurs severe penalties in most countries around the world… Many countries have strict penalties for drug offences, including the death penalty…  In addition, drugs can reduce your ability to make considered decisions and can make you more susceptible to being injured, robbed or assaulted. 

Stay in a group

Australians frequently get into difficulty … after becoming separated from their friends. Don’t leave your friends alone – keep in regular contact and be aware of where people in your group are. Make sure you have your friends’ mobile numbers and organise a place to meet in case you get separated. Remember, it could be dangerous to go home alone or with someone you have just met…

The article included other tips that often confront travelers who love nocturnal fun and these are:

Keep your Valuables Safe

It is best to leave behind in your hotel valuables such as cash, credit cards, travel documents, jewelries, and top of the line gadgets. These can make you extra attractive targets to thieves and criminals.

Check prices and Services

Make sure that you will only be patronizing establishments that have fixed prices for goods and services you want to order. Many travelers were forced to pay under threats and duress, or to pay for what other people consumed when they become overfriendly.  For instance, bars frequented by foreigners may have bar girls whose job is to ‘encourage’ foreigners to buy them expensive drinks. Pay as they are purchased rather than paying all at one time is a good strategy when you find yourself in these bars.

Watch out for Spiked Drinks

The rule of the thumb is ‘do not accept drinks from people you do not know.’ Males can find themselves mugged or drugged and their valuables stolen. Females can be drugged to be sexually molested or raped. If you feel dizzy or sick after a drink, tell your companions or someone you trust. This again points to the importance of being in a group when partying at night.

Stay Away from Fights

When placed in that situation, extricate yourself. Go to the nearest police station if you are having troubles with some locals or fellow travelers. This is also why you should not drink too much alcohol or drugs that can cause you to get embroiled in violence.

Keep your Family or the Hotel informed of your Whereabouts

It is important to all or email a family or friend to tell them where you are heading and what time you are expected to be back. You can also inform the hotel about these details. These will ensure that there are people who will look for you in case you do not make it pack within reasonable time.

Do not Share Private Information with Strangers

Be very careful about sharing your private information with people you hardly know and even in social networking sites. Doing so can increase the likelihood of theft or assault. Pass only the information when necessary and only to people you totally trust.

Get Comprehensively Insured

Any traveler who cannot afford travel insurance, definitely cannot afford to travel. Comprehensive travel insurance is most important especially when you are backpacking that put you in more risks, or when you are participating in an adventure travel or extreme sports. Take note that getting sick and injured abroad can be very expensive; it is so much heftier if repatriation becomes important.

Partying all night? Who, in his/her sane mind, can resist party fun? But, if you want to party all night, remember to stick to these safety protocols to stay in one piece.

 

Finding the Right Piece of Backpacking Travel Equipment

http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-tips/choosing-the-right-backpack/

Ask the backpackers as to the most important piece of equipment they own when scouring the 7 continents of the world? It is their backpack. Like the carapace of a turtle or the shell of a gastropod, backpacks are not just a piece of bag to put their stuff. It is like a small home where everything important to a backpacker is kept and guarded furtively. It is something they literally carry on their backs wherever they go and must lug around for weeks or months on end.

Thus, for a backpacker or a flashpacker (backpackers with bigger budgets), the most important piece of equipment they spend a small fortune on is a backpack. The kind of backpack you have can make a difference in your backpacking experience. You do not want it to be too big because that can add on the weight. You do not want it too small either lest your stuff won’t fit in. You want your things to stay dry even when you have to walk-run under the rain. But, these days of plenty, options are just too many.

So, perhaps an advice from an experienced backpacker is what you need. Listen to what Nomadic Matt – Travel Tips Section has to say when it comes to Choosing the Right Travel Backpack.

What to Look For

The best backpacks – the ones that last the longest – have all the following characteristics that make them durable, protective, and long lasting:

  • Water resistant material – While your pack does not need to be 100% waterproof, make sure your bag is made out of a semi-waterproof material so everything doesn’t get wet in a drizzle (many packs come with tarps you can put over them in case of a severe downpour). Moreover, make sure the material won’t stay wet long and thereby get musty…
  • Lockable Zippers - Make sure each compartment has two zippers so you can lock them together. While am not really worried about people breaking into my bag and stealing my dirty clothes in a hostel, I like locking up my bag when I am traveling… 
  • Multiple Compartments – … This way, you can break up your belongings into smaller sections so it’s easier to access and find the stuff you need… It saves time from having to dig around your bag. 
  • Internal Frame – … Make sure you buy a backpack with an internal frame. It not only looks better, but the rods won’t get caught on anything and your bag will also be slimmer making moving around easier. Additionally, internal-framed packs tend to be lighter as the frame is …  as well as more durable.
  • Padded Hip Belt – Most of the weight you will be carrying around will be pushing down on your hips, so you’ll want a padded belt to make supporting the weight more comfortable. The belt will help provide support and distribute the weight load more evenly on your back causing less strain and problems. The hip belt should also be adjustable so you can tighten it for extra support.
  • Padded Shoulder Straps – These make carrying your load more comfortable, as the weight of your pack will be pushing downward on your shoulders. The pads will put less pressure on your shoulders and also help take pressure off your lower back. Make sure the padding is very thick and made up of a single piece of material as it will be less likely to split and thin out.
  • Contoured/Padded Back – A lumbar-shaped pack makes carrying it more comfortable, as it helps distributes weight more evenly… It allows for a more natural arch ensure no back pain. Moreover, this type of pack creates a small space between your back and the bag allowing air to move through and help keep your slightly cool. Lugging your bag around can build up a sweat!

Aside from all these suggestions, there are other important elements that must be factored to find the perfect backpack for you.

  • Consider the size. The size is correlated to its weight. What is the perfect one for you? These are measured in liters and/or cubic inches. Know what is proportional to your body. A big one (higher than 50L) can give you back pains or cause you to tip over.  A small one (smaller than 35L) may not be able to hold everything and will necessitate that you lug another pack. Before buying, stuff the backpack and try walking around with about 15 kilograms or 30 pounds load on your back.
  • Know the average cost. It is true that some backpacks can cost you about $300; it all depends on the brand, size, and fabric. If you have a smaller budget, buy your backpack from department stores rather than from exclusive stores of big name brands. Much of the extra cost will give backpackers more bells and whistles than necessary.
  • Quality Made. Quality or performance is usually related to the cost. While you do not want to spend a fortune on it, it is something you do not want to skimp on either. Knowing the kind of quality you want can help you better when choosing.
  • Lightweight. Backpacks. These are lightweight weigh about 3-5 pounds. There are new breeds of ultralightweight backpacks and camping equipment. Find out more about them if these can serve you better. What’s the good news? Their price range is just comparable with regular backpacks. If you are buying a new one, think about light travel.

Finally, consider also the environments that you would be travelling. If you like going to cities, check the gadgets that you will be traveling around and their security using this pack. If you will be backpacking off the beaten tracks most of the time, you may need something more tough and durable. If you plan on going in a mixed environment, figure out what is best for you. Do not just buy a backpack impulsively; sleep on it, compare prices and features, and feel if you are comfortable with it. Remember, it will be your travel companion and home away from your home.

 

 

How to be Travel Savvy When Vacation is an Obligation

http://www.bbc.com/travel/blog/20130412-is-your-vacation-an-obligation

Your friend is getting married; it is something you cannot afford to miss after all the years of hits and misses you both have gone through together. What with her being with you when you need her; it is payback time.

You maternal clan is having a reunion. The last time you had one was a decade ago. It is time to catch up with everyone – the living grandparents, aunts and uncles, dozens of cousins, and the new additions of in-laws and kids.

These are the reasons why you cannot shake your head to mean ‘NO.’ To do so would be missing out on rare occasions. What you, perhaps, do not notice is the growing number of trips you make to attend your parent’s anniversaries, grandparents’ birthdays, family’s traditional get-togethers during Thanksgivings and Christmases, etc.

In these holidays, what you typically conjure as images of vacation – frolicking in the beach, skiing down slopes, or sedately dining under the moon and stars – takes a turn. Instead, you look forward to nights and days of conversing with old friends and relatives. Not that they are unappreciated. But, these travels make you spend the money that you should otherwise be spending on your own holiday.

You are not alone. A lot of people are in the same situation. This is as much as what you can gather from BBC – The Passport Blog/Travel Tips as it painstakingly presents some hard facts it the blog post ‘Is your vacation an obligation?’

It does not bring to mind the many obligatory trips – weddings, family events and reunions – that sometimes make up a significant portion of many travellers’ holiday budgets.

According to an April 2013 American Travel Behavior Survey by discount travel site Hotwire.com, some 21% of US adults spent $197 billion last year on trips they felt obliged to make – so-called “oblication travel”. What’s more, the first survey in 2012 found that 41% of Americans use the majority of their vacation budgets on these duty-led trips.

For an industry that typically views travel as either business- or pleasure-related, the news comes as a surprise. It also provides insight into the myriad reasons people travel and how they spend their money.

“With so much money allocated to obligatory travel, travellers may be thinking about putting off the fun trips they want to take because they believe they won’t be able to afford them,” Hotwire.com wrote in its report.

However, travelling for obligatory events like weddings and reunions shows commitment to relationships and to rituals that reassure and comfort us, according to sociologist Jeffrey Alexander, who told CNN that travelling for family and friends “is a way of showing… that you value your close friendships”.

And savvy travellers can have their cake and eat it too – that is, salvage time and money for leisure travel – with a few common-sense tips.

In this blog, the author Husna Haq, advised travelers how to get more out of obligation travels knowing that another trip can be beyond what one can afford.  These are:

  • Be picky. You need not attend every obligation trip that comes your way. Pick those that you can’t miss, and say ‘no’ to those that will strain your budget. With sophisticated communication tools, getting connected is easy.
  • Be savvy. Combine obligation and leisure travel. If the wedding is being held in a scenic place or a driving distance from some panoramic locations or historical sites, arrange short drives or an overnight stay in these destinations. It is, in fact perfect, to be able to go on a holiday while fulfilling an obligation.
  • Think of savings. Look at it from a practical point of view. Staying with family and friends can even stretch your holiday budget. Staying for a few days with relatives and friends can save you money. Ask the closest hosts to take you around and ask for tips about the nearest tourist destinations.

For more tips, check out ‘Turning Travel Obligations Into Travel Opportunities’ . This blog is  from Have Baggage, Will Travel.

  • Expand your visit. The article talked about extending your travel for another day or two that will let you squeeze a sightseeing tour in the nearest scenic destinations.
  • Take to the road. If you are driving all the way to the destination, you can use those hours or days spent on the road travel to enjoy the sights. Spend a few hours or a day on those spots that are worthy of your time. This is a great way for your expanded visit to be best utilized.
  • Ask for a tour. Ask your hosts to take you around. More probably they will take you around in their car so you got yourself a free service with a driver cum tour guide.
  • Get the local flavor. If there isn’t much to see in the place, check out their cuisine. Nobody can resist good food; it is also a fun and fantastic way to make a travel memorable. Explore the market and but what’s fresh. Eat in the streets, the beach, or in the market to get a taste of the local flavor.
  • Bring a friend. If you have been going to the same spot for years, it helps to see the place anew through the eyes of a friend who just sees the place for the first time.

Obligation is part of being human, of being attached to a family. It can’t be helped. If you often find yourself in such situation, use these tips and you’ll discover how fun and cheap your vacations can be.

 

Las Vegas is for the Kids Too

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/usa/las-vegas/travel-tips-and-articles/76098

What does a ‘Sin City’ like Las Vegas offers a family on vacation with kids in tow?  You can’t help but ask the question when you see all those ads attempting to sell this city as a family vacation destination.  Everyone knows that this is the gambling mecca and the entertainment capital of the world. This means that much of the ads target the adult market. The state law even disallows minors in its gaming areas at all times.

Being the entertainment capital of the planet, it has something for every kind of traveler and that includes kids from toddlers to teenagers. This makes the city a perfect destination for adults in the family who are dying to see those gorgeous showgirls in their most colorful costumes, and who want to comb the casinos and the bars. Adults can happily do these knowing that their kids are also having a blast doing stuff appropriate to their age.

If you need ideas on how to keep your kids happy while the adults indulge in their own share of fun, why not read about what Lonely Planet –Tips and Articles Section /Las Vegas has to suggest about enjoying ‘Las Vegas with kids.’

But it’s not all bad news if you want to take kids to Vegas – the place is actually full of family-friendly attractions and activities. Here’s just a taste:

Casino hotels with children in mind

The only casino hotels on the Strip that specifically cater to children are Circus Circus and Excalibur. Acrobats and contortionists perform daily at Circus Circus, crowded with tots to teens.

Excalibur’s Tournament of Kings features real horses, battling knights and medieval damsels in distress…

It’s showtime!

Some of the Strip’s stage shows (including magic acts) welcome all ages. Kids can learn to do their own tricks at Houdini’s Magic Shop. For big productions, check out Kà, LOVE, Mac King, Mystère or Phantom…

Take your kids along for the ride 

For high-speed thrills, head to Adventuredome at Circus Circus or New York–New York, where a roller coaster shoots out of the Coney Island Emporium. This four-minute ride includes lots of stomach-dropping dipsy-dos, high-banked turns, a 540-degree spiral and stellar Strip views, plus a heartline twist-and-dive maneuver…

Sharks and lions 

Despite billboards advertising a great white shark looking oh-so menacing, you won’t see any great whites at Mandalay Bay. What you will see in this 1.6-million-gallon walk-through aquarium complex is 2000-plus large and small sharks, jellyfish, moray eels, stingrays and crocodiles. There’s even a shallow petting pool for kids. 

Get out of town

Red Rock Canyon (20 miles west of Vegas) and Hoover Dam (30 miles southeast) are perfect day trips from the crowds, while Grand Canyon National Park (275 miles southeast) is a multiple-day excursion.

Knowing that it is now common for families to travel together, expect Las Vegas to have some tricks up its sleeves such as trans-generational entertainments. These ensure that travelers from all age groups can find something to their taste around the Sin City. For instance, do you know that several casinos here have virtual-reality and video game arcades? Hotels and big resorts also have fabulous pools, wave pool, lazy river, and beach.

Do you want some great shows and free attractions for families in Las Vegas? Try these:

  • Fremont Street Experience. There are nightly free Viva Vision light-and-sound shows in Vegas downtown in the Fremont Street that highlight 12.5 million lights under a four-block canopy. You can look forward to its glitzy alternating themes from aliens to patriotism, as well as rock band concerts.

 

  • Bellagio Fountains. These fountains located in the 8-acre Lake Bellagio entertain people with the ‘famous Las Vegas resort dance.’ The waters in the fountains ‘dance’ to the beat of classic songs by shooting up to 240 feet in the air to dance to Broadway hits and operatic masterpieces.
  • The Mirage Volcano. This 50 feet volcano is set on a small lagoon at the Mirage Hotel. Its eruption 40 feet into the air is an amazing display of 3,000 lights computerized to simulate flowing lava. This makes a popular after dark show visible from the Las Vegas Boulevard for free.
  • Lion Habitat at MGM Grand. Let your kids see live lions in an almost natural habitat tucked into a corner of the casino at MGM Grand. The enclosure features cascading waters, rock outcroppings, and acacia trees.
  • Trapeze Act at Circus Circus. Let your kids watch trapeze performed by professional circus performers. The midway level at this hotel also features an arcade, carnival games, jugglers, and magicians exhibiting their skills.

There is no doubt that Las Vegas is still a top destination for adult entertainment. But, in keeping with the trend of the times, most resorts in this city are trying to embrace trans-generational entertainment to keep their guests happy. No wonder, this desert city is a magnet to nearly 40 million tourists each year.

 

 

 

Las Vegas: Eat Where the Hungry Locals Eat

http://www.usatoday.com/experience/experience/las-vegas/article/where-locals-eat-in-las-vegas/?id=2026155

No traveler can ever forget to include in the ‘must see’ list of places to visit and see Las Vegas, the City of Sin. Perhaps, that moniker is doing the job of attracting tourists to this city that is celebrated for being the world capital for entertainment. With nearly 40 million people coming here to gamble, watch world-class shows, and stay in the world’s best hotels, you can also expect that this city is dotted with high-end gourmet restaurants at ‘The Strip.’ This is a 4-mile stretch venue for all the best establishments –hotels, casinos, restaurants, pubs, bars, museums, art and shopping centers, etc. in the city.

But, no; not every tourist in Las Vegas can afford the costly buffets in the upscale venues. Not every visitor is looking prime rib all the time for or French molecular gastronomy. There is more to Las Vegas than expensive foods. There are sandwich shops, steak joints, and other restaurants that locals visit for an authentic Vegas fare that they can afford. If you are out to get a bite of foods like a hungry local or a well-versed tourist, check out USA Today – Experience Las Vegas and what it has to share in ‘Where locals eat in Las Vegas.’

Here are the recommended dining spots that come big in taste but low on cost:

Le Thai

Even hipsters deserve good Thai food. The menu at this tiny hole-in-the wall (with a heated, screened-in patio in the back) is concise, keeping things easy… Here the pad Thai is actually a nuanced… close to what you’d actually get from a hawker stall in Bangkok…

Settled just a block away from the bright lights of the tourist-heavy Fremont Street experience. 

Honey Salt

… The farm-to-table menu consists of favorite, comfort dishes… including fried chicken, a New England fry made with Ipswich clams, and a classic backyard burger topped with beehive cheddar. Honey Salt’s Summerlin location may be a bit of a jaunt from the Strip, but once there, you’ll feel right at home.

Marche Bacchus

…  Nestled within the residential community of Desert Shores, Marche Bacchus, part wine bar, part French bistro, is one of the few spots where you might forget all about the Strip. Vegas locals flock to the restaurant’s lakeside patio for classic French fare such as house made pâté, escargot persillade swimming in garlic butter and duck confit cassoulet… 

Raku

As in any decent food city, there’s where the locals eat and then there’s where the chefs eat. Both dine at this Japanese restaurant… Come midnight or so, when the other kitchens close, the Strip chefs come in for the creamy, cold tofu that’s made in-house (best drizzled with some soy sauce), grilled bits such as Kurobuta pork cheek or Kobe beef filet, and udon noodles in a foie gras custard soup…

If you are looking for the best treat ever, or you want to live by Vegas tradition of ‘pigging out on all-you-can-eat,’ it is time to check out the best of Vegas buffets.

So, here is a rundown on what is perceived to be as the best at the moment.

No. 1: Bacchanal Buffet

It opened in September 2012, but any buffet that costs $17 million to build and has chefs from many cultures staffing nine cooking stations that turn out 500-plus dishes daily is stacking the deck in its favor.

Caesars Palace’s nearly 600-seat Bacchanal… looks like an upscale restaurant rather than a mass feedery: sleek, chic and ultra-contemporary….

Buffet standards are augmented by upscale-restaurant-quality dishes from around the world — many cooked in front of you….

Cost: From $25.99 weekday breakfast, to $50.99 weekend dinner.

No. 2: The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas

At the Wynn buffet, “This is pretty strong,” …  dug into watermelon salad with feta cheese served in glasses. Then came Thai beef, Korean kimchi, beef brisket, crab legs and crêpes made to order with strawberries, homemade whipped cream and chocolate drizzled on top… 

Cost: from $19.99 for weekday breakfast to $39.99 for weekend dinner.

No. 3: The Buffet at Bellagio

… Offerings forked up in a series of dining rooms with traditional but dated decor were less cutting-edge and varied than at some other buffets. The turkey was dry, the penne overcooked. But the prime rib (great with horseradish sauce) was flavorful and Lyonnaise scalloped potatoes divine. Shrimp, in a tempting pile, was high-quality, crab legs OK. Don’t miss the warm bread pudding.

Cost: from $17.99 for breakfast to $37.99 for weekend dinner.

No. 4: Studio B

This spread at the M Resort Spa Casino on Las Vegas Boulevard, about 20 minutes south of the Strip, is a locals’ favorite…

…  Eat at faux granite tables surrounding food stations displaying dishes from chimichurri shrimp to green curry chicken. Generous slabs of prime rib were top-notch, shrimp was decent, crab legs so-so. New York strip was overcooked and thin. The wine, from Nathanson Creek on this night, was not bad.

Save room for crême brulée, gelato or mousse, followed by a foamy latte, while you watch cooking videos on giant screens.

Cost: from $10.99 for weekday breakfast (no booze included) to $39.99 for weekend dinner.

The fifth buffet, Wicked Spoon, didn’t come off well, at least during the author’s visit. They noted that the cost, which was $24 for weekday brunch to $41 for weekend dinner wasn’t worth the money.

What is fun without a satisfying meal to match the chic environment and experiences? Las Vegas is home to a lot of ‘sins’ – gaming in casinos, world-class entertainments, the most ‘lustful’ showgirls, and gluttony in its seemingly endless buffets. Just think about Bacchanal Buffet that cost a whopping $17 million to build.

But for the best meals of your life, remember you have options. Eat where the locals frequent and you are in good hands.

 

 

Tips to Survive a Trans-generational Travel

http://www.petergreenberg.com/2012/09/17/surviving-a-tri-generational-trip-to-ireland/

It is not totally unusual for singles to travel alone and still enjoy the whole experience. For the adventurous, there is fun in meeting people and learning more about local culture, traditions, history, and cuisine. Traveling with someone else or in a group can pose a different kind of challenge. This is the case with the so called ‘trans-generational travel.’

Trans-generational travel entails bringing together people of different ages into a tour or holiday. This is typical for families traveling together. It used to be quite a challenge to plan for a family holidays. These days, however, more and more holiday destinations are gearing up to get people of different ages enjoy their vacation together. Yet, this kind of travel still needs to be planned very well for everyone to enjoy.

Jennifer Evans Gardner, found herself planning and holidaying with three different generations. She shared her experiences in the blog she wrote for PeterGreenberg.com – Travel NewsHow do you think ‘Surviving a Tri-Generational Trip to Ireland’ became possible?  Here’s how.

With three different generations, we had different schedules, different interests and dare I say it – different hormones; so it could have been a nightmare. Simply driving on the left side of the road in the rain could have caused nasty, stress-induced squabbles, but miraculously we got through it… And we all had fun. How, you ask? Lucky for you, I took notes.

Top Ten Tips

1. If Possible, Break up Your Trip

While some people have no problem with an 11 or 12-hour flight, elderly people and young children don’t do so well, and cranky people can ruin your trip…

2. Decide ahead of Time who is the Navigator and who is the Driver.

Make sure you put someone in charge who can actually READ the map…

3. Be Patient

Not everyone walks as fast as you do! Practice the art of meditation while you take a few steps and pause, waiting for your mother, grandmother or 4-year-old…

4. Snore Alert!

Book a room with adjoining doors, if possible… If you cannot get a triple or a family room, bring earplugs. You might also need an eye mask in case someone wants to leave the light on to read.

5. Share

Entrees can be too large for both the kids and grandma, and can easily be shared. Sharing not only helps your pocketbook, it helps your waistline, too.

6. Consider the Wheelchair

Most airports have wheelchairs available for anyone with mobility issues…

7. Splurge on Extra Coverage

Which coverage, you ask? … Trip insurance, international medical coverage, damage waivers on rental cars, and remember, don’t forget the extra tire and wheel protection…

8. Listen to Music

Listen to Music. All the time… Three generations singing along to Frank Sinatra, Drake, and Earth, Wind and Fire is fun, trust me.

9. Keep an Open Mind

When traveling with multiple generations, you are bound to get a variety of suggestions for activities. My son was crazy about the falconry lesson… My mom loved visiting historic sites… What I loved most was walking through the forest after a rain…

10. Let Go

With different generations traveling together, things are bound to take a little more time. Understand that you will miss out on a few things on your list. It’s OK. You are with the people you love. Plus, now you have a reason to come back.

Truly, trans-generational travel can be likened to an interplanetary travel if you’re the one tasked with the planning and organizing of the holiday. Another correspondent, Martha Steger, also offers additional suggestions to bring the holiday to completion without breaking relationships. She suggested:

1. Take them out of the water while they’re still having fun

Rely on this swim-instructor’s maxim for almost everything related to trans-generational travel, i.e., don’t let any activity drag on past the point where all parties are enjoying themselves…

2. Head ‘em up, move ‘em out (i.e., make transportation easy).

Choose places as equidistant from everyone’s point of origin as possible.

3. Get the energy up early

An hour of energetic activity in the early part of the first full day will heighten children’s alertness for educational activities – or at least “infotainment” — later…

4. Make compromises, but don’t cave in

No matter what anybody says about grandparents’ prerogative to spoil children, there’s life after vacation; and it won’t help anyone if entirely different standards are tolerated when a child’s away from home…

5. Tackle homesickness quickly

On a first trip alone with grandparents, even a child well traveled with her parents might tear up a few minutes after leaving them behind… Bedtimes are often the hardest time without parents; a short phone call home can work wonders if you know parents on the other end will reinforce a child’s confidence. 

Traveling together with kids and grandparents is far from easy. With different interests and even food requirements, planning takes central stage. Jennifer Evans Gardner recalled how ‘simply driving on the left side of the road in the rain could have caused nasty, stress-induced squabbles…’ But, the good times, the fun, and the opportunity to bond as a family is priceless and worth every challenge and effort exerted.

 

 

Life and Travel Begins After Retirement

http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/savvy_seniors.htm

Most elderly who have lived providing for themselves and their families have seen enough struggles throughout their lives. When retirement comes, it can conjure a vision of uselessness to some who just spend their time watching people pass by or by gardening to ‘productively’ while away time waiting for the inevitable. Retirement is, therefore,  the best time to see the world and do things that one has missed doing for the longest time. It is time to start living life to the fullest; travel can contribute much to this feeling of personal growth and satisfaction.

Traveling can be an exciting one. For savvy seniors, there are a lot of places they can go to that can still offer them thrilling and novel experiences. But, for a satiating experience, senior  travelers need to plan their trips well. You can learn more from Rick Steves’ Europe  - Plan Your Trip website specifically in the article entitled ‘Savvy Senior Travelers.’

… here’s a summary of top tips from seniors who believe it’s never too late to have a happy childhood. 

When to Go: If you’re retired and can travel whenever you want, it’s smart to aim for shoulder season (April through mid-June, or September and October). This allows you to avoid the most exhausting things about European travel: crowds and the heat of summer.

Travel Insurance: Seniors pay more for travel insurance — but are also more likely to need it. Find out exactly whether and how your medical insurance works overseas. (Medicare is not valid outside the US except in very limited circumstances; check your supplemental insurance coverage for exclusions.)..

Packing: Packing light is especially important for seniors — when you pack light, you’re younger. To lighten your load, take fewer clothing items and do laundry more often. Fit it all in a roll-aboard suitcase — don’t try to haul a big bag. Figure out ways to smoothly carry your luggage, so you’re not wrestling with several bulky items…

Carry an extra pair of eyeglasses if you wear them, and bring along a magnifying glass if it’ll help you read detailed maps and small-print schedules. A small notebook is handy for jotting down facts and reminders…

Medications and Health: It’s best to take a full supply of any medications with you, and leave them in their original containers. Finding a pharmacy and filling a prescription in Europe isn’t necessarily difficult, but it can be time-consuming. Plus, nonprescription medications (such as vitamins or supplements) may not be available abroad in the same form you’re used to…

If you wear hearing aids, be sure to bring spare batteries — it can be difficult to find a specific size in Europe. If your mobility is limited, see Travelers with Disabilities for tips and resources. 

The article continued with more suggestions that savvy senior travelers are advised to do for a safer and more satisfying tours and travels. Here’s more:

Neat Tricks When Flying

If there are stopovers, make sure your carryall bag will just be the right size for you to lug around. Do not be ashamed to request for a wheelchair when you need to walk long distances to make the connecting flight. Remember too to make early bookings to reserve the best seats in the craft. Otherwise use your charm to get yourself a little more comfortable; your age has its advantages. Chivalry isn’t forgotten. A lot of young passengers and plane crew are only too willing to offer help. How else can they seat comfortably when all they hear are grunts and creaking bones all the way to Europe? Stay hydrated during long flights and take short walks to keep your blood running and your heart pumping.

Finding the Best Room in the House

Again, booking early helps you get the best room in the hotel, hostel, B&B, or inn you are checking inn. This time, with the other guest sleeping comfortably, they cannot hear your grunts and squeaking bones. So, better brace to tough times if you happen to get a room in an uncomfortable location. When booking a room, always consider accessibility.

Getting Around Town

There are several ways to see sights in the city or town and its suburbs – trams, trains, buses, taxis, and cars for rent. There are gondolas in Venice and ferries that zip along rivers that offer great views. European tours can be exquisitely done by trains and ferry crossings that offer unique experiences for every kind of traveler. If you plan on renting a car, it is best to do it before you leave for Europe as some countries have an upper age limit. To avoid surprises, inform them your age when making the arrangements.

Enjoying Discounts for Senior Travelers

Being in that privilege age group, you must watch out for deals of all kinds from airline fares and train passes and tickets to accommodations and dining places. In some places like Britain and France, first class train tickets come with discounts. Only a few airlines give discounts to senior travelers, but it always pays to ask especially during off-peak seasons.

Fill Your Eyes without Tiring Your Feet 

There are many fantastic museums around Europe. The good news is, these mostly have friendly elevators for travelers like you. Some even have loaner wheelchairs like in Vatican for visitors who have difficulty walking for a long time. You can also try taking bus tours that last for a couple of hours (depending on the route) that let you enjoy the views in the country side. If your budget can allow it, take a cab and visit the city landmarks. If you are a part of a group and you cannot pick up their pace, set up a meeting point and find a quiet piazza or sidewalk café and go on a gastronomic tour.

 Slow Travel: Take Time to Smell the Flowers

If you find it hard to travel with young people in a tour, remember you have other options. There are travel tours that are designed for people your age. There are also the so called slow travel that let you linger on beautiful communities to meet the locals, share their cuisine, and take in everything beautiful in the experience. You can consider vacation/holiday rentals or participate in home swapping. This will allow you to enjoy living your vacation without the pressure of moving so fast with younger, more robust travelers.

Remember, travel is for everyone. Traveling can miraculously make you feel younger. It is something you need to put a little more excitement in your life, glow in your eyes, and flush in your cheeks. It is not too late for you to travel as long as you feel the thrill coursing through your blood.

The retirement years can be an exciting time to see the world, and travel is easier and safer than ever before for seniors. With a little planning and some caution, seniors can safely visit almost any destination.

 

 

Creative Ways to Travel When Twilight is Getting Near

http://www.happyhealth.net/5509/5-tips-for-affordable-retirement-travel

If you have worked your fingers to the bone your entire active, young life, retirement surely holds a lot of promise with much time in your hands. However, not every retiree is left with more money than they can count. So much time and so little money? These days of cheap flights and cheap travel packages, there are so many great options for people like you. You just need to look a little harder on those websites that cater to elder travelers for valuable tips and insights to be able to seize more adventure for less money.

Retirement is the time for fulfilling long-time dreams and aspirations. Do you want to see more of your grandchildren who live in another part of the country or in another continent? Do you want to rekindle ties with old friends from high school or childhood? Or do you want to see so many great sights you just see in books and the Internet? Whatever is your purpose or wherever you may want to travel, remember that there is no other time more perfect than upon retirement. If your savings came from a fixed income, there are ingenious ways to make do with what money you have. Just be realistic, plan well, and use great tips and resources such as those given in Lifestyle Health Guide – Travel Section with its ‘5 Tips for Affordable Retirement Travel.’

You CAN do it, regardless of your budget. There are so many great ways to get out there without spending a fortune. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Consider travel programs and clubs that you can join. Whether these are vacation programs or just discount clubs that give you a membership to save you money, you should take advantage of them…

Try staycations for unique ways to have fun. I’ve traveled a lot but some of the most interesting things I’ve found are often close to home. Living somewhere causes you to take things for granted…

Always book ahead of time. The rule of thumb is to book 3-6 months in advance…

Travel during the off-season. You’re retired, which means you can travel whenever you want. If you’re trying to save money, travel when other people aren’t…

Think outside the box… Consider road trips, bus tours, small inns or B&B accommodations, and other ways to avoid the high cost of commercial tourism.

For more affordable retirement travel tips, take time to read the suggestions in I Heart Lifestyle – Travel Categories.

 If you have always dreamed about travel in your retirement, but want to be conservative in your spending, consider these simple ways to do both:

Buy an RV. If you plan to be on the road a lot, save yourself the hotel and airfare costs over time by purchasing your own recreational vehicle. If the price tag on a new one is too high for you, consider buying a used RV instead…  Look for reduced prices before you pay full price for one…

Be flexible. With retirement comes more wiggle room in your schedule. Check travel sites frequently to scope out deals on places you want to travel. If you are interested in international trips, do some research into “off” season times when airfare and travel costs will be lower.

Ask around. Reach out to family and friends who live in areas you would like to visit and see if they are willing to host you for a few nights, or at least give you local recommendations. ..

If you are transfixed in seeing the world for the little time left of your active years, but tight budget is keeping you grounded and discounts are getting harder to come by, check out Bankrate.com – Retirement Section that offered ’5 tips to affordable retirement travel.’

If your retirement dream is to get out and see the world…here are five ideas to help you reach it.

Divulge your true age. Forget the vanity of knocking a few years off your birth date. When you travel, broadcast your real age every chance you get and claim those senior discounts…

Air passes allow you to fly to multiple destinations within a country or region for one set price…

Hotel chains have senior discount programs, too…

Look beyond travel Web site. Major online travel sources, such as Travelocity, Expedia, Hotwire and Orbitz, all boast about letting you in on the cheapest fares…

Go to the Web sites of airlines and hotels you don’t see on the list — or call them — and see how the prices you find compare. If you’re just not up for that much homework, consider enlisting the help of a travel agent, who will have access to constantly updated information…

Check out room rates from the source. If you have a list of hotels you’re interested in, first check out their Web sites to find the rate for the dates you need a room. Then call each hotel and ask what kinds of specials and discounts it offers…

You can also try simply asking hotel managers what kind of break they can work out for you…

Timing is a big factor when shopping for hotel bargains…rates drop in the low or off season and as the day goes on… Rates are much lower after 8 p.m…

Hop on the tour bandwagon. Another way to save is through group travel organized by tour companies, alumni associations, church and retirement community travel groups and other programs.

“Group tours are much cheaper than independent travel because you are getting a group discount on everything from entrance fees to hotel rooms,” Zepke says.

Swap your house. You’ve got a condo with a fantastic city skyline view. They’ve got a place overlooking a Caribbean beach. You want to go there. They want to come here. Several programs let you exchange your home with other vacationers, thereby eliminating the cost of lodging and enjoying a comfortable upgrade over a cramped hotel room…

If there is nothing else but seeing the world that you want to do upon retirement, go for it. Regardless of your budget, there is always something for you out there. A little research, great passion, and a whole lot of ingenuity and creativity can take you across the planet. Maybe you can start looking up for all those friends living right where you want to travel, or you can brush up on socializing and meeting up with some rich friends who want lively and fun travel companions.

Are you dreaming of traveling? Go for it! “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” (Walt Disney Company).

Retirees on Travel: Tips for The Last Legs of Life’s Journeys

http://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/articles/2013/07/09/before-you-go-travel-tips-for-retirees

It is not uncommon for retirees to want to see other places; a dream that most often have been relegated at the backseat of their life for more pressing priorities when they were a bit younger. Now that they so much time their hands and retirement money they worked hard for almost throughout their life, it is their last chance to fulfill that life-long dream.

But it is a reality too that their health may not be as robust as they wanted it to be, or their legs may not be as stable as the years past. Thus, traveling this time may need some extra planning to be able to enjoy the world without landing in a hospital or caught up in some difficult situations.

But, take your time, see the world, and experience that part of a beautiful life you have almost missed. Head off to New Zealand if you love to be outdoors. Run around Italy and get awed by the history of Rome, ancient wonders of Venice, and the wonderful wine and food of Tuscany region. Enjoy the sun in the tropics or the wildlife of the Arctic. Wherever you go, enjoy your travel. This you can do better with some restraint and reminders that you can read from Money – Retirement Planning/ News and Advice Section in its blog ‘Before You Go: Travel Tips for Retirees.’

However, it’s important for retirees to adequately plan for traveling, as it can be a taxing experience for the ill-prepared. Here are several preparations retirees can make to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip:

Pack smart. Packing your luggage correctly can make your trip easier…

Prepare for emergencies. Packing an emergency kit with essentials is a good way to be prepared while on the road…

The last thing you want is to run out of your medication, so be sure to bring a full supply plus an extra week’s worth of pills…

Other useful items include extra water, copies of your passport and other identification documents and hand sanitizer or hand wipes…

If you’re traveling abroad, consider enrolling in the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free service that allows you to register your trip with the State Department so officials can more effectively assist you in an emergency, as well as update you with information from the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest to you..

Consider your health. It’s generally a good idea to visit your doctor for a quick checkup before you hit the road… 

Plan ahead. Locate important facilities, including local hospitals, pharmacies and grocery stores, before you leave…

The article continued with more reminders.

  • Breezing through the U.S. Customs. Do you want to breeze through the U.S. Customs? You may want to enroll in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program. This expedites your entry to U.S. It entitles you to get back to U.S. with less queuing in the lines for as little as $100 application fee.
  • Picking Destinations.  Have you given your destination a thought? If you are planning to make a series of trips or go around the world, it is best to draw a priority list of the places you want to see to best maximize your time, effort, and money. You can check out blogs and websites that cater to an older demographic. Most elderly are looking for cultural activities, though it cannot be denied that some are still raring for some adventures. There are a great deal of things you can do. Research about your options.
  • Book your hotel early. This will let you get a room with a good location. Specifically request for a room away from sources of noise such as the elevator, restaurant, hotel bar, ballroom or any function room where people partying until late into the night. You would nt want to spoil your vacation with sleepless nights while on the road.
  • Leave room for spontaneity. You need not stick to your itinerary a hundred percent all the time. It is also fun to take a left when you are supposed to be taking a right, but not when it is dark, late at night, and you are alone. There is much fun store for you when you make unexpected discoveries.

There are other reminders for travelers in your age group especially when you have a medical condition. Make sure that you have traveler insurance with adequate cover. Having a traveling companion is perfect, but having friends who are also retired can be more enjoyable as you fulfill your lifelong dreams together.