With velvet-green hills and dells, rivers rushing from high mountains to moon-shaped bays, sandy estuaries lined with cockle and mussel beds, and miles of coastline lapped by the Celtic Sea’s wave-struck waters, Wales has inspired countless poets and writers, dramatists and musicians. In 2014, Wales celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dylan Thomas, the country’s greatest poet and writer, and author of classics like Fern Hill and Under Milk Wood. The Dylan Thomas 100 Festival will be an unparalleled international outpouring of poetry readings, music and dance performances, literary symposia and art exhibits. Some events are slated for Cardiff, the Welsh capital, others for London and New York, but most will unfold in South Wales, chiefly in Swansea, where the poet was born, and in Laugharne, where he spent his final years. On a weeklong trip to Wales, explore the poet’s haunts, from lively pubs where he savored ale with “live white lather” and “brass-bright depths” to his final resting place, and be charmed by the same “water lidded lands” and “harp shaped hills” that inspired him.
Choosing the right resort for the entire family can be a vacation wild card. Although all offer beds for heads, only a handful make sure the grown-ups don’t need another holiday once they get home. Whether the kids are old enough to show off their new shoes or still learning to tie their shoelaces, savvy hotels are keeping kids amused with more than beach volleyball and video games.
If you have always wanted to be a guest at the biggest party of the season, head to Brazil from February 28 through March 4, 2014 to celebrate Carnival. Just before Lent, and beginning on the Friday prior to Fat Tuesday, Brazil comes alive with Carnival’s music, dancing, parades and spectacular costumes.
It was called “The Great War” and “The War to End All Wars.” But, before long, World War I became “The Forgotten War,” eclipsed by the even greater atrocities in World War II. As Belgium’s Great World War I Centenary approaches in 2014, the spotlight shines once again on West Flanders, the country’s westernmost province, where many of the war’s most iconic battles were fought. In the Westhoek region, explore as far north as Nieuwpoort and the North Sea beaches, where nearby plains were flooded to repel German invaders, as far south as Ypres, where the Ypres Salient became one of the Western Front’s most active war theaters, and as far east as Flanders Field American Cemetery, where our troops lie buried not far from where Canadian doctor Lt. Col. John McCrae penned the immortal words: “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row.”
The options are endless when it comes to luxury safaris. It seems expansions and renovation plans are consistently happening around Southern Africa. Which lodge is best for your client? We’ll break it down here for the latest and greatest news on high-end safaris so your clients won’t have to skimp on comfort while they’re out in the wild.
In South Africa, Singita officially just reopened their revitalized and renovated Castelon House (www.singita.com) in the Sabi Sand Reserve. Once the private home of the owners of Singita, the Bailes family, Castleton is an exclusive retreat accommodating up to twelve guests at a time. The main building is a stone-walled farm house overlooking the African wilderness with three safari cottages for a total of six rooms, all designed in a traditional African colonial style connected on pathways to the main house. This very private retreat is nestled within one of the most beautiful reserves in southern Africa, Sabi Sands.
The view from 1,500 feet above Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park is jaw-dropping. Intricately carved mountains and huge rock masses erupt out of the Tasmanian Sea. Water swirls around them and crashes against their rocks. The sea slithers to the shores of sandy bays, leaving a layer of white foam in its wake.
Australia’s sparsely populated, mountainous, southern island state is best known for its stunning panoramas, historic prisons, friendly people and of course, the Tasmanian devil. (Actually, these endangered creatures are not that fearsome.) The real Tasmanian devils were the eighteenth-century commandants of the island’s many penal colonies.
By touring any or all of the Convict Trail’s 11 penal sites, visitors can learn about the harsh prison life that men, women and even children - age seven and up - suffered. Punishment was ruthless. For example, a prisoner could land in solitary confinement for insolence.
The Indian state of Gujarat is located in the western part of the country, and offers a look at civilizations that date back as far as 4,000 years. Near the capital city of Ahmedabad, both Lothal and Dholavira are important archeological sites, displaying the ruins of ancient cultures. Gujarat is also known for its stepwells, or water buildings, which were once an important part of life in this region, providing water for drinking and bathing. There are over 120 stepwells in this state alone. In Gujarat, visitors should also be sure to see some of the Jain Temples in Palitana and learn about the Asiatic Lion, whose last home in the world is in the Gir Forest in Gujarat. Indeed, it is a colorful region, filled with much of the culture from bygone eras.
Two summers ago, I took my then-12-year-old son, Gavin, to China. We spent the first part of the trip gliding along the Yangtze photographing the natural scenery and taking in the breathtaking views. I loved it, but he was completely bored. We went to see the Terracotta Warriors uncovered at Xi’an. His history textbooks had come to life, but one tomb was enough for him -- not three hours. Again, he was bored. However, things started to pick up for him when he got to play with a Chinese yo-yo in the Beijing hutongs with some local children, when he took a motorcycle sidecar ride to the Great Wall, and when he got to watch the chef-owner at the boutique Orchid Hotel (www.theorchidbeijing.com) prepare a gourmet breakfast of peppered eggs with coconut milk -- a dish Gavin still recalls as the best eggs he ever had.
Influenced by Arawak, Carib and African cooking traditions and peppered with recipes from around the world, the Caribbean is one of the most coveted regions for gastronomes. From food stalls and beach bars to Michelin-starred restaurants and food festivals galore, dining in the tropics is as much a part of the vacation experience as a refreshing dip in the ocean.
Fruits and vegetables from backyard gardens and organic farms, fresh-off-the-boat seafood and a myriad of spices and herbs are aplenty in every one of the countries that make up the Caribbean, and with chefs from all corners of the world showing off their prowess in the kitchen, gourmet adventures await travelers who come with hearty appetites. Whether it’s a plate of crispy conch fritters at a communal picnic table, snapper barbecued on an oil drum or an elegant dinner under the stars, dining in the Caribbean pleases even the fussiest of foodies.
President Obama’s reinstatement, in January 2011, of a Clinton-era license category-”People-to-People”-permitting any U.S. resident to participate in legal group travel to Cuba, combined with an end to Bush-era restrictions on island visits by Cuban-Americans, has sent U.S. visitor numbers to Cuba soaring.
In addition to the reinstatement of Specific Licenses for People to People organizations and a General license for visits with relatives by Cuban Americans, President Obama also issued a General license for academic travel by educational institutions which again allows travel by undergraduate and graduate classes with a ‘structured educational program’ in Cuba for any length of visit, as long as the students are receiving credit for their visit.