Planning a vacation to please everyone in the family poses a real challenge. Now, family-friendly resorts make various options for parents to entertain their kids, relax with their spouses, and enjoy and pamper themselves all at the same time. Below is a list of 4 great family resorts to help you decide.
1. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, families can experience the thrill of an African safari in the comforts of their own lodging. Guests initially arrive at the 33-acre property through the lobby’s admirable 65-foot window. A stroll through the property’s savannah gives tourists a glimpse of over 200 animals that represent more than 100 species.
Rooms and suites decorated with an African ambiance often permit tourists and visitors an opportunity to come face-to-face with a giraffe through the balcony. Earth tone walls, handcrafted furniture, tapestries, and even mosquito nets abound; and historical value can be appreciated in the 4,000 native handcrafts placed throughout the lodge. Displayed within the lodge are 380 museum-quality art works like authentic Kinta cloths, woodcarvings, and a 16 foot, 240lb. Nigerian ceremonial mask.
2. La Costa Resort and Spa. At the La Costa Resort and Spa, parents can pursue their own activities while their kids can enjoy the resort’s awe-inspiring facilities in a kid-friendly environment. Kids aged 5-12 can spend the day at the camp where they can busy themselves with tennis, croquet, swimming, hiking, ping-pong, crafts, and nature walks.
While the kids are busy having fun, parents can indulge themselves in the soothing luxury that makes La Costa unique. Tourists can choose to take yoga classes or soak away worries in Spa La Costa’s Roman pools where they can enjoy relaxing treatments. And when night falls, parents can choose to spend a romantic evening or get-away together while sending their kids off to Night Camp, which includes, dinner, story hour, and a scavenger hunt.
3. Club Med Ixtapa. Travel with your kids and the entire family to Club Med Ixtapa for true-blue family fun. The club quickly appeals to kids and parents due to its seemingly limitless activities for all ages. Located on 37 acres along Mexico’s western coast, Ixtapa is home to over 20,000 visitors and tourists annually, 60% of which are under the age of 11.
Mini clubs divided by age groups are designed to keep kids busy throughout the day. Outdoor activities, shows, crafts, and a kids-only dining area can be found in Baby Club, Petit Club, and Mini Club, all catering to kids ages 4 months to 13 years of age.
While the kids are away, parents can enjoy adult activities like tennis, scuba, archery, kayaking, water polo, volleyball and picnics. As a family, tourists and visitors can take sunset cruises, fishing trips, and even excursions into the Mexican fishing village of Zihuatenejo.
4. Out ‘n’ About Treesort. What makes this place unique? Hint: The clue’s in it’s name.
Hidden in the woods of Oregon on treetops and branches is the Treesort. 14 treehouses make up Treesort and can accommodate 2-8 people. Getting to your room is just half of the adventure – guests climb stairs, ladders, and even a 90-foot long suspension bridge. And from there, the real fun begins.
The Swiss Family Complex holds a swinging bridge that divides child and adult units, and a fire pole and rope swings provide kids with ground access. Couples are sure to enjoy the Tree Room Schoolhouse Suite, which can accomodate four with its own bathroom, kitchenette, master bedroom, sitting area and loft.
Horseback riding, rafting, rope courses, pools, and arts and crafts classes are also featured in Treesort. The Treehouse Institute teaches techniques in treehouse building, while tree climbers can scale the heights of Treesort’s 51-foot rope climbing tree, and from there discover a treetop pool made of river rocks.
Language: Catalan â€“ but French and Spanish are also widely spoken.
Capital City: Andorra la Vella
Located between France and Spain, snuggled in the Pyrenees, lies Andorra, the smallest country in Europe. It only covers 468 square kilometres. Although it holds the title of the smallest country in Europe, it still manages to bring in 11 million tourists a year.
In 20th century history, Andorra has managed to remain somewhat isolated. In 1993 Andorra adopted an independent democratic parliamentary co-principality. Previously, it was jointly ruled by a French prince (now replaced with the French President) and Spanish bishop as co-princes, whose powers have now been greatly reduced. In 1994 Andorra joined the Council of Europe.
Being smack in the middle of the Pyrenees Mountains means Andorra is a great place for winter skiing and summer hiking.
December to March is the best time for skiing. Andorra has several ski resorts, among them Sodeu-El Tarter and Pal-Arinsal. Most of the resorts now use a lot of man-made snow during the spring and summer seasons, but nonetheless, a lot of area is opened up to other mountain activities during those periods. Hiking, fishing, mountain biking and horseback riding are all available. Permits can be bought at the local tourist office.
Andorra is tax-free, which means it has duty free shopping. Shopping is a major source of revenue for the country, and neighbouring residents from France and Spain often come across the border to stock up on tax-free goods.
Accommodation and Transportation
Because of the limited number of hotels, itâ€™s recommended that you reserve in advance. Check out andorramania for a list of good hotels.
Surprisingly enough, Andorra does not have its own airport. It is a three-hour drive to the nearest airport, in Toulouse, Barcelona, Girona or Perpignan. There are no trains but there is a bus service between Andorra la Vella to Lâ€™Hospitalet train station in France and La Tour de Carol in Spain.
Driving is the most obvious and practical way to get around Andorra. Although be advised that the capital gets incredibly congested during peak tourist season. And it doesnâ€™t help that Andorra only has three major roads.
Andorra la Vella
The capital of Andorra has a population of just over 22,000. The town has been somewhat overrun with duty-free retailing, and at times it makes it hard to appreciate some of the cityâ€™s finer features. One such feature is the Casa de la Vall, House of the Valley, which is Andorraâ€™s parliament building since 1702. Itâ€™s a stone structure dating back to 1580. The lower floor holds the only court room in Andorra and the upstairs, in the Sala del Consell, is where parliament meets.
The National Automobile Museum has over 80 vintage cars, a number of antique motorcycles and over 100 bicycles. There are also a number of somewhat random museums, including The Pin Museum – with over 75,000 pins – and The Miniature Museum.
Santa Coloma Church is one of the oldest churches in Andorra. Its architecture is particularly interesting as it has been altered a number of times. Although built in the 9th and 10th centuries, it has a 12th-century bell tower and 17th-century portico. The church is home to a 12th-century statue of the Virgin of Coloma. It was also previously home to an impressive Romanesque fresco that is now located in the Prussian State Cultural Museum.
Are you Jewish and would like to travel to South America but are afraid to do it alone? Don’t worry, there are many great websites out there to assist a Jewish person with a fabulous trip to South America. Here are some of the popular sites available to help your vacation dreams come true:
- Amazing Journeys: this website is offering an exclusive cruise that will be sailing from December 22 til January 6th, 2008. The elegant cruise ship will set sell from Valparaiso, Chile, with its final destination being the tip of South America where the Pacific and Atlantic oceans meet.
- AJ Congress International Travel Programs: This travel company is offering a fourteen-day package called “Jewish South America.” The journey will begin in Buenos Aires, where Jewish sites, Tango dancing and Argentinian historical monuments will be visited. For the second part of the tour, the Iguazu Falls and Brazil will be discovered by visitors.
- Momentum Tours: this tour agency offers a fifteen-day tour that begins in Brazil. There you will learn about the culture, Jewish influence and the sensual dances. Later, Buenos Aires and Bariloche, Argentina are explored. The tour ends in Santiago, Chile.
- AJC Panama Tour: this is run by the American Jewish Congress, the same company that runs the fourteen-day Argentina-Brazil tour (above). This is an eight-day tour where the wildlife and natural setting of Panama is discovered. The old Panama City, the canal, and an indigenous Indian village will be visited. The tour concludes with a relaxing weekend at a luxury resort and spa.
- Totally Jewish Travel: this company has set up a tour that travels from January 16th until the 30th. The tour will take you through Brazil, concentrating on the magnificent nature, the culture and a dynamic Jewish community. From Brazil, the travel moves to Argentina. The tour will finish in southern Patagonia. This trip includes travel from New York, modern and reliable transportation, as well as three kosher meals a day. Totally Jewish Travel was launched in 2001, and has become the definitive online guide to Jewish and Kosher vacation travel, with over 300 travel companies using the site to promote their international programs.
- Argentina Tourism: this company has created multiple different tours for the Jewish tourist. They range from single- to multi-day packages and can be exclusive to Buenos Aires or outside the city center.
- American Jewish World Service: this is a differerent type of travel, in that you are doing the trip to help other people out. As said in their words â€œâ€¦American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is an international development organization motivated by Judaismâ€™s imperative to pursue justice. AJWS is dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among the people of the developing world regardless of race, religion or nationality. Through grants to grassroots organizations, volunteer service, advocacy and education, AJWS fosters civil society, sustainable development and human rights for all people, while promoting the values and responsibilities of global citizenship within the Jewish community.
- The Jewish Travel Directory: Welcome to the Jewish Travel Directory. They describe themselves as where you will find the best related websites in World. If you are looking for Jewish travel, they invite you to browse around their listings. They are sure you will find plenty of helpful items there. On the other hand, if you own or run a Jewish Travel website, or any other site with a travel- or vacation-related topic, you are invited to submit your Jewish travel URL for free.
These are a few examples of travel options for Jewish people wanting to experience South America. Shalom and Buen Viaje!
Traveling to Latin countries can sometimes be intimidating for gays and lesbians. It shouldnâ€™t be. The Latin culture has become more open-minded on the subject, helping create a more welcoming atmosphere.
Here is a list of some websites that will help spice up a travel itinerary to South America for lovers of the same gender.
- Brazil Gay Guide: this website has lists of dance clubs, DJs and festivals that will be sure to make you want to dance.
- GreyGay.com: this is a site that specializes in many places around the world. Their objective is to help the mature gay male find fantastic places to stay, wine and dine.
- Brazil Eco Journeys: this website assists the traveler in comfortable, accommodating places to stay.
- Hotel Pousada Peter : located in Pernambuco, Brazil, this gay friendly establishment is a great place to relax before enjoying the beautiful surroundings or party the night away at the cityâ€™s Carnival celebration.
- Rio Gay Guide: this is a great English site that is informative on all facets for the gay and lesbian in Rio De Janeiro. It also offers maps and a party planner for the vacationer that wants an in on the â€œhotâ€ parties.
- Rio Gay Life: this is another great website focusing on Rio. It has informative lists of bars, clubs and saunas.
- Gay Travel Brazil: An easily navigated site that helps visitors with accommodations, guided travel and intimate knowledge of gay friendly activities. They also have personal guides in major cities to help have the best experience possible. Though there main focus is Brazil, they do assist with other areas of South America.
- Bahia Boy Brasil: This site was created by a native Brazilian who is very knowledgeable about activities and where to stay. His insider knowledge about Bahian Brazil is very helpful.
- Footprints Custom Travel: this is a great site for lesbians and gay men alike. They are “…are committed to providing the discerning traveler with excellent quality and premium value in the desigh of customized travel programs to explore the world’s finest destinations. They have great programs for travel to Bolivia and Peru.
- Global Gay Guide Network: this site has information around the world but has great destination trips for the gay or lesbian. The information is put together by locals that intimately know the area.
- PrideNet: This page contains information pertaining to South American gay and lesbian publications, South American gay bars, South American gay and lesbian accommodations, South American gay and lesbian business, South American gay realtors, South American gay travel, South American gay wedding info, South American gay and lesbian information and much more.
- Gay Travel.com: this is a site for lodging information and destination guides. They have it separated per city and is an easily navigatable site.
This is some of the most popular and useful sites found on the web. With the help of these sites a trip to South America, whether it is Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Peru or Argentina, it is sure to be full of fun for any gay or lesbian.
For over a century Lourdes, a small town in the south of France, has been the site of pilgrims and those interested in religious healing. Around 7 million people a year visit Lourdes.
In 1858, a young peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary in 18 visions in a nearby cave. By 1859, pilgrims had already started flocking to the small market town. The Vatican investigated and confirmed the vision to be true, making Lourdes an official Catholic religious site.
However it was not just visions that made this site popular amongst Christians. By 1862, seven cures had been recorded and in 1905 Pope Pius X requested that an official process be established to deal with the declaration of cures in Lourdes. A Medical Bureau was set up in Lourdes to examine such incidents. In 2005 Anna Santaniello (warning: page resizes) was the 67th person to be cured at Lourdes and recognized by the Catholic Church. St. Bernadette was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1933 by Pope Pius XI.
In one of her apparitions to Bernadette, Our Lady of Lourdes indicated that support should be give to pilgrims visiting the site. The town provides a number of services for pilgrims including a free 30-minute video of the Story of Apparitions. The Daily Pilgrimage Service is available in July, August and September. It involves: Mass in the Chapel of St. Cosmas and St. Damien; general introduction to Lourdes; and a tour of Way of the Cross and The Footsteps of Bernadette. There is also Lâ€™Accueil Notre Dame, which is neither a hotel nor a hospital, but is specifically reserved for those who have made a pilgrimage to Lourdes and are sick or disabled.
The Grott0 de Massabielle
The Grotto de Massabielle is the cave where Bernadette claims to have seen the Virgin Mary. It is now the main site for pilgrims and people immerse themselves in the caveâ€™s pools, many hoping for miracles. The Torchlight Marian Procession takes place every evening at 9pm. The procession starts at the grotto and ends in the town square. Pilgrims carry candles and a statue of the Our Lady of Lourdes.
Like most religious sites, Lourdes has been the topic of intense speculation. The town has been extensively commercialised. There are a number of gift shops where you can buy â€˜artefactsâ€™ and the fact that the townâ€™s economy greatly benefits from the influx of tourists makes many people uncomfortable. While it is made clear that the trinkets and memorabilia are sold by private individuals, the local government isnâ€™t exactly turning people away.
Other activities, that are less religious include Le Pic du Jer and the MusÃ©e Pyreneen:
- Le Pic du Jer marks the start of the Pyrenees and overlooks Lourdes. There is a 100-year old chairlift that will take you to the 1000 metre summit in about 6 minutes. You can then walk down the side of the mountain. There is also a sound and light display, which is a traditional French activity, that lasts about 40 minutes.
- MusÃ©e PyrÃ©nÃ©en is the only secular tourist site in Lourdes. The old castle now houses a collection of Pyrenean fauna, mountaineering and farming equipment.
Carnival balls are an integral part of Austrian culture: 2.5 million people attend balls all over the country each year. The ball seasons tends to start around mid-November and lasts until Mardi Gras, which is usually in February.
- Vienna Opera Ball. The Vienna Opera Ball is one of those slightly odd social events that attract the rich and famous but is also open to anyone who is willing to hand over their life savings in cash. Paris Hilton famously attended the ball in 2007 and was criticized for her yawning and obvious boredom. Apparently the dancing debutante werenâ€™t exciting enough for her. Other celebrity guests have included Sophia Loren, Pamela Anderson and Geri Halliwell. One of the main events of the ball is the procession of the Committee of Young Ladies and Gentlemen who perform the opening dance. This is a sort of debutante coming-out event. Candidates must be between the age of 17 and 24 and be bale to dance the left-hand waltz. Application is necessary.
- Rudolfina Redoute. This ball first takes place in the Imperial Palace. Masks must be worn and a strict dress code adhered to, else you will be turned away at the door. There is also an Opening Committee, once again usually performed by debutantes. Prices are more realistic than the Vienna Opera Ball, with tickets starting at around 70 Euros.
For a more extensive list of traditional balls to attend, visit Austria.info.
- The Homeless Ball. In response to the decadence of the ball seasons, which make over 20 millions euros a year in revenue, there is the Homeless Ball. Every year, the homeless welfare organization Augustin, hosts the Opferball (Victim Ball) in tandem with the Vienna Opera Ball. The idea is to make a statement about the ball season, which for many, has become an elitist, self-indulgent yearly tradition.
- The Wall Flower Ball. Ladies, do you always find yourself standing on the edge of the ballroom with an empty dance card, wishing you hadnâ€™t worn an apricot-colored dress? Then the Wall Flower Ball is for you! The Mauerblumchenball does not allow any one who is too colorfully dressed to enter. Guests are expected to wear grey or beige and at midnight, the dowdiest wallflower wins a prize.
- The Rose Ball & The Rainbow Ball. These balls are for a different sort of coming-out. The Rainbow Ball (Regenbogen) is a traditional Viennese ball for gays and lesbians. The Rosenball isnâ€™t as classic. Itâ€™s held in the gay nightclub Heaven and hosted by the famous drag queen Miss Candy. The Rosenball is held on the last Thursday in February. Also, donâ€™t confuse this ball with The Rakoczy Rose Ball!
- The Life Ball
The Life Ball is the largest AIDS charity even in Europe. Started in 1993, it takes place annually in May and last year raised 1.2 million euros. The ball, which accommodates around 4,000 ticketed guests, is held in Viennaâ€™s City Hall. Each year has a theme, with 2008â€™s being ‘Landing Planet Life’. The ball is made up of two parts: an opening ceremony, which includes a fashion show, and then a fancy dress party. The fashion show, held outside the City Hall, is free. The Ball coincides with the Aids Life Charity Gala. Last yearâ€™s guest of honour was Bill Clinton.
France has been hit with strikes this month, which has probably come as a shock to those travelling in France. Unions are striking in protest to French President Sarkozyâ€™s decision to change pension plans and striking is practically a national past time. Transport strikes have put a major hold metros and buses, causing disruption in city centers and while locals may be used to regular disruptions, no one is happy about it.
Tourists in Paris shouldnâ€™t be put off by the strikes. The transport strikes coincided with the opening of Eurostarâ€™s new service. Although in previous years, Eurostarâ€™s schedules have been affected by strikes, this time the company kept on schedule and defied the transport workers by continuing service, to the joy of many British tourists or those travelling from London.
During transport strikes, visitors should avoid using the metro and buses, since the irregular service that is running will be crammed full of commuters desperate to get to and from work. Also, because everyone turns to driving to work or getting taxis, traffic becomes a nightmare. So be prepared to sit in gridlocks for several hours.
Instead of the above nightmares, put on your walking boots and tromp around the city, as Paris is a great city for walking. There are a number of great walking tour companies to choose from:
- Classic Walks Paris is the leading English-speaking tour company in Paris. Besides walking tours, they also offer bicycle and Segway tours.
- Paris Ã¡ Pied is a smaller company but offers specialized museum tours.
If you donâ€™t want to go with a tour company, there are some good walking books that provide information about set walks. Or just grab your map and walk out the door. There are few areas that arenâ€™t worth exploring, and getting lost is a great way to discover the city.
If walking is not your thing, try the Velibâ€™ system, which was implemented this summer. There are 750 locations around the city where you can pick up and drop off bicycles. Day passes are 1 Euro and weekly cards are 5. Paris has over 230 miles of cycling lanes so you donâ€™t have to panic about riding in traffic. And itâ€™s good for the environment, so everyoneâ€™s happy.
There is also the Seine, with its bateaux-mouches, if you want to see Paris from a different perspective. From the river, you can get a different perspective of the city and a closer look at the amazing bridges that cross the Seine.
- Bateaux Mouches is the largest and most famous tour company. They offer daytime and evening tours, with lunch or dinner available on some boats.
- Bateaux Parisiens is another boat service that offers sight-seeing tours. They have a number of different services, including a child-specific narrated tour.
- Batobus offers a less romantic, glitzy service. They have eight pick up and drop off points around the city and the company presents itself as a river-boat shuttle service rather than a tour guide service.
The Seine tends to overshadow Parisâ€™s canals. There are around 80 miles of canals that run throughout Paris. Canauxrama has a two and half hour cruise, with commentary, and Paris Canal offers tours on the St Martin canal, as well as on the Seine.
Sometimes stereotypes are true and the one about Switzerland being the land of chocolate is spot on. Chocolate is one of Switzerlandâ€™s main exports. However, even though chocolate is a major export, 54% of Swiss chocolate is consumed by the Swiss. In fact, Switzerland has the highest rate of chocolate consumption per capita in the world! Thatâ€™s a hard title to beat.
Chocolate started being produced in Switzerland in the 17th century after production methods, which originated in Italy, were established by the likes of Francois-Louis Callier, Philippe Suchard, Rodolphe Lindt, Jean Tobler and Henri NestlÃ©.
Swiss chocolate is famous for its smooth texture and refined taste. Milk chocolate, a Swiss invention, is famous because of the cream and milk derived from Swiss cows. While most of the other chocolate ingredients are imported, the dairy element is pure Swiss milk.
Like cheese in France, each region in Switzerland has its own style of chocolate making, in both taste and presentation. Benre is famous for its chocolate bears and the Jura Mountain region is known for its chocolate watches. Chocolate is also seasonal in Switzerland: Spring brings chocolate flowers, with Easter come chocolate bunnies, and Fall has chocolate mushrooms and chestnuts.
Here six activities that will fill your chocolate urges when in Switzerland:
- The Alprose Chocolate Museum, Chocolate Alprose SA, Via Rompada 36, 6987 Caslano. The museum presents the history of chocolate, from cacao plants to productions. The entrance to the museum includes free chocolate tasting.
- Maestrani Swiss Chocolate Ltd., Toggenburgerstrasse 41, CH-9230 Flawil SG. Visitors can tour Schoggiland during opening hours and get a glimpse into Maestraniâ€™s chocolate secrets. You get to see the factory from an 80 meter high visitorâ€™s gallery and of course you get to taste a lot of chocolate.
- Chocolate Baths, Day Spa, 4 Passage de Lions, Geneva, 1204. You can either have a chocolate bath or wrap at the â€œAfter the Rainâ€ Day Spa in Geneva. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, has anti-oxidant properties, and softens and moistens skin. Itâ€™s a bit pricey but chocolate fans will appreciate it.
- Escalade Festival, December 1st, Old Street of Geneva. This festival is not chocolate-focused but one of the events is the chocolate cauldrons. According to legend, during the defeat of the Catholic troops of Savoy in 1602, cauldrons of boiling soup were poured over the soldierâ€™s while they were trying to scale the walls. In remembrance of this, chocolate cauldrons are made and then filled with marzipan vegetables. They are then smashed open to the cries of â€˜Death to the enemies of the Republic!â€™
- Versoix Chocolate Festival, March 8th, 2008, Versoix, Switzerland. Just outside Geneva, the Versoix Chocolate Festival is a dream come true for any one with a sweet tooth. The festival is free and focuses on the industry of chocolate. Besides being home to the festival, Versoix also hosts two of the worldâ€™s most famous chocolate producers: Cartier and Favarger. In previous years there have been special buses and boats planned for the day to take visits to Versoix from Genevaâ€™s center.
- Swiss Chocolate Train, Tel: +41 21 989 81 90. The train only runs from June to October. The tradiational-style train runs from Montreux down to Gruyeres and Broc. The trip includes a visit of the cheese factory in Gruyeres and a taste tour of the Cailler-NetlÃ© factory near Broc.