New Year’s Eve at the London Eye: What to Expect

New Year’s Eve in London, England, is one of the most exciting nights of the year.

As the clock strikes midnight, the bells of Big Ben ring out like a siren’s call through the streets of London. Each year, the sky above the Thames River comes alive with the glow of 10,000 fireworks. Not even the brightest evening stars can compete with the rainbow of colors that bursts through the darkness over the Coca-Cola London Eye as part of city’s largest annual fireworks display. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about New Year’s Eve in London, from how to get tickets to what you can expect on the big night.

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

Plan Ahead

Many people think they can just show up on the day of the event and walk through the gates, but that simply isn’t so. You actually need to purchase tickets to the event, and you need to do it well in advance. In fact, tickets typically go on sale in late September and cost about £10 each. There are no guarantees you will be able to see the fireworks if you do not buy a ticket. Tickets sell out fast. I mean really, really fast. I bought my tickets the same day they went on sale, and already the prime viewing sections were sold out.

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

There are six viewing areas for the event, which is officially known as the Mayor of London’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks. Each one provides its own unique view of the fireworks. It’s recommended that you think about how you will be traveling to and from the event before you choose a viewing area. Most main streets are closed down to public transportation, so you may have to walk quite a distance to reach your destination.

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

When to Arrive

As noted previously, most streets are closed down to traffic, so plan to arrive early if you want to take public transportation to the main area. We chose to walk from our hotel. It was a lovely night, and the walk took only about 45 minutes. Based on my aforementioned Time’s Square experience, I was expecting massive crowds. As a result, I insisted we get to our designated entrance before the 8 p.m. opening time. I thought it would take hours to navigate the streets to our viewing area, but I was totally and utterly wrong.

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

The streets were utterly empty until we got about a block away from the entrance. Then, suddenly, we were swallowed up by a massive, but very friendly, crowd until the entrance opened a short while later. When it did open, the guards let in only a few people at a time. We ended up standing should-to-shoulder with some very friendly people for about an hour, and it felt like time was standing still. There was a lot of pushing and shoving as we got closer and people became less patient. I was with my 60-something mother, and I was a bit concerned for her safety. That said, the people around us were quite protective and did their best to keep us out of harm’s way.

Pro Tip: Dress in layers. In our case, the temperatures were unseasonably warm, so I peeled off a few layers to keep from melting. But the weather could just as easily swing in the other direction. It doesn’t hurt to come prepared for anything.

What to Expect Inside

Once we finally made it through the gate, the staff made sure we actually had in our possession tickets and that we were in the correct viewing area. We then passed through a security check before making our way inside…which was actually outside, of course! I was pleasantly surprised by just how spacious the area was. I had plenty of room to dance and stretch out. At first, I assumed the crowds would fill in around us as the minutes ticked by, but that wasn’t the case.

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

We didn’t wander too far from the gates, so I’m not sure how far our viewing area spanned in any one direction. There are no seats and no one tells you where to stand. It’s a free for all once you’re inside. A DJ spins tunes and pumps up the crowd, and there are a few vendors selling refreshments and souvenirs. We found a curb we could sit on for the next two hours while we waited for the official countdown to midnight. We chatted idly with the people around us and made a few new friends who were also visiting from other parts of the world.

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

Pro Tip: You are only allowed to bring small bags inside the viewing area. You can have food and drink, including small amounts of alcohol — only enough for you to consume so make sure your friends bring their own beverages. There are also portable toilets on site, and there are enough of them that you won’t have to wait long to use them.

When Sparks Fly

I’ve celebrated New Year’s in cities all over the world, including the ultimate New York Time’s Square experience, and I can honestly say that London is my top choice to date. When Big Ben begins to chime and the first sparks ignite over the London Eye, the wave of energy that rips through the crowd is truly contagious. The 12-minute pyrotechnics show lights up the sky in time to a specially crafted custom soundtrack that dazzles every bit as much as the visual display.

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

You’ll be blown away — literally and figuratively by the sheer volume of fireworks and quick clip of the fireworks as they explode across the sky. It’s a sight to behold and a memory to hold dear. I’ve popped in a few super poor-quality pictures to give you an idea of the experience, and while I am a professional photographer by trade, you would never know it. Admittedly, I was much more focused on watching the show and enjoying myself than getting the money shot. It was truly stellar. I’ve interspersed a few more impressive photos taken by others as well.

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

New Year's Eve at the London Eye  

Pro Tip: Look for benches within your line of sight. People will stand on those benches once the show begins, and you will not be able to see around them. We sat in the same spot for two hours only to have to find a new location once the show started for this very reason. It was especially awesome when they started taking selfies and were not even watching the show. 

Getting Home

The entire ordeal lasts only mere moments, but it’s worth every minute. And when the show’s over, it’s really over. In fact, there’s nothing left to see. Most people beeline for the exits and begin making their way to their next destination, which for us was the hotel. Streets that were open to traffic on our way to the show were now closed down to cars. We were in shock and awe to find even Piccadilly Circus at a standstill. But the streets were abuzz no less with pedestrians and partiers. We walked the entire way back to our hotel near Paddington Station. And while the trek took more than an hour, there were plenty of exciting sights and sounds along the way.

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

For those of you wondering where I stay when I’m in London, it all depends on my budget. If money is no object —  which, let’s face it, is rare — I love to stay at Hazlitt’s Hotel in Soho. The upscale 1800s ambiance and boutique service is second to none, and the location near shopping, entertainment, and eateries is ideal. However, when I’m in need of a more budget-friendly accommodation, I turn to the Paddington Point A. Just a five-minute walk from Paddington Station, the location is perfect if you’re planning to take a few day trips by train to places such as Oxford or Windsor. The no-frills hotel is clean, the staff is friendly, and it’s only a 15-minute walk to the ever-popular Oxford Street.

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Parade Day

As an added bonus, for the past 30 years on January 1, the city hosts London’s New Year’s Parade. Starting at noon, more than 10,000 participants ranging from cheerleaders to marching bands and cultural performers strut their talent through some of London’s most popular places, including Trafalgar Square and the aforementioned Picadilly Circus. You can purchase seats — yes actual seats in bleachers — in advance so you can rest your feet and stay covered in the case of inclement weather. Or you can take your chances on the weather and find a place to stand on the sidelines at the last minute. Either way, it’s a fun way to spend the day, especially since many stores and attractions do not open on New Year’s Day.

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

New Year's Eve at the London Eye

If you’re looking for a fun-filled New Year’s Eve experience that’s action-packed but not overcrowded, check out New Year’s Eve at the London Eye. You’ll be delighted and awed by the spectacular display. And if you’re up for it the next day, the London New Year’s Parade is worth checking out, too.

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New Year's Eve at the London Eye

Take a Day Trip through the Lavender in Provence

June through August each year, the Provence lavender fields come alive.

 

From muted mauves to vibrant violets, the lavender in Provence, France, is a rich array of colorful hues and refreshing scents that tantalize the senses. It was my dream for many years to see the lavender fields in bloom, and when that dream finally came true, it was one of the loveliest trips I have ever taken. In just one day, you can visit several small provincial towns and villages, stopping along the route to walk among fragrant fields of lavender or gaze at the stunning landscapes.

If you’re in France throughout the summer months, I highly recommend renting a car and heading to Provence for a day or two—I promise you won’t be disappointed. In addition to lavender, you’ll find no shortage of heritage, history, culture, and cuisine.

Lavender in Provence

When to Go

Typically, the lavender begins to bloom in June and is harvested in August. Of course, it’s up to Mother Nature to decide when the fields will be at their fullest, but if you visit sometime between the end of June and late July, you should have a good chance of seeing the lavender in all its glory. I visited at the end of June, and the lavender was at its prime. If I had visited any earlier, I think the blossoms would have been a lot less dense.

Lavender in Provence

Where to Stay

To make the most of your visit, you’ll want to hit the road early, so it’s a good idea to stay overnight in the area. Cavaillon is a small town in the center of the action. Located in Luberon National Park, it’s surrounded by beautiful vistas and quaint provincial towns. While there isn’t much to do in Cavaillon per se, it’s the perfect jumping off point for visiting many nearby attractions. I stayed at the Inter-Hotel Cavaillon Hôtel Du Parc, and I kid you not, it was the most delightful experience.

Lavender in Provence

Lavender in Provence

Lavender in Provence

Situated just off the main road, there is plenty of free parking right outside the hotel, which is ideal since it’s necessary to have a car for your stay if you want to visit the surrounding communities and take a tour through the lavender. Upon entering the adorable inn, we were immediately greeted by the owner. She was eager to show us around and gives us tips on what to see during our stay. She was helpful, friendly, and very knowledgeable. The pride she had for her inn and community were absolutely infectious. And we absorbed every bit of advice she gave us like the good little sponges we are.

Lavender in Provence

The charming decor is exactly what you would expect from a hotel in Provence, with antiques and other adornments filling every empty space. There’s a huge breakfast room where, for about 10 Euros, you can enjoy delicious pastries, teas, and other goodies each morning. The spacious rooms are immaculate, cozy, and offer all the amenities you need for a most amazing stay.

Lavender in Provence

Lavender in Provence

Lavender in Provence

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Map Out Your Route

I am all about advance planning, but there are so many possibilities for things to see and do in this region of France that it’s hard to narrow things down. I had a high-level idea of the types of things I wanted to see and do but nothing concrete. I told the innkeeper my ideas, and she quickly went to work highlighting several routes on a map, giving us a variety of options for places to visit. She included the top spots to see the lavender, as well as great places to grab a bite to eat and check out the local culture. All of her suggestions were spot on.

The map shown here details the exact route we took. Click the “More options” link opens up step-by-step driving instructions so you can follow the same route on your visit to the Provence lavender fields.

Morning – Lavender Museum

Start your day with a visit to the Lavender Museum just a 15-minute drive from Cavaillon in the community of Coustellet. Here, you’ll learn all about the history of lavender farms in France and the evolution of the distillation process. You’ll also find out how to tell authentic lavender from synthetic products. The cost is just 7 Euros-ish per person, and it includes a self-guided audio tour.

lavender in provence

lavender in provence

Plan to spend about 45 minutes exploring the museum, which is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily from May through September. Be sure to arrive early to get ahead of the crowds. We got there just after opening, and by the time we left, tour buses were starting to arrive and carloads of people were pulling into the parking lot.

lavender in provence

lavender in provence

lavender in provence

lavender in provence

lavender in provence

In addition to the exhibits, Le Chateau du Bois boutique sells locally made lavender products. After you’ve picked up a few souvenirs—I grabbed a sachet for my closet—head outside for a first glimpse at the lavender in bloom. There is a small but wonderfully fragrant field where you can snap a few shots. It’s also where we learned from the “Beware of Snakes” signs that vipers like to hide out beneath the lavender bushes, so watch your step when you’re wandering through the fields (or driving the back roads, as I well learned).

lavender in provence

Mid-Morning – Sénanque Abbey

Next, make your way to Sénanque Abbey on the fringes of Gordes, a stunning hilltop town. It’s just a 20-minute drive from Coustellet along scenic country roads that wind around Gordes for phenomenal views of the village that is considered one of the most beautiful in all of France. It was about 11 a.m. when we arrived, and it was already packed. We lucked out and quickly got a parking space near the entrance to the entrance, but be prepared to walk a ways or wait a while for a good spot.

lavender in provence

The abbey is the quintessential stop for lavender enthusiasts. In fact, when you Google lavender fields, the iconic image that comes up is one of the stone abbey surrounded by fields of purple flowers. It’s every bit as beautiful in person as it is in pictures, though don’t expect to walk through the lavender. At best, you can view it from behind a tall stone wall or from the side.

Founded in 1148 by Cistercian monks, the abbey is home to a small community of monks who make their living growing lavender and tending honey bees. You can purchase some of their products in the abbey boutique, as well as a delightful selection of other lavender-related products. Here, I picked up some homemade honey, a brick of soap, perfume, another sachet, and a tote bag. Expect to spend less than an hour at the abbey.

lavender in provence

lavender in provence

lavender in provence

Lunchtime

By now, your stomach will likely be grumbling. Make your way back to Gordes and park in one of the public stalls in the center of town. It costs just a few dollars for the entire day, but you likely won’t spend more than an hour or two. It will take only five or ten minutes to walk into town, which is defined by the white stone buildings that rise from the high above the cliff side and the labyrinth of winding cobblestone streets.

lavender in provence

Take some time to explore the local shops, which sell much the same lavender products as the abbey and every other boutique in Provence. Then, grab a bite to eat at one of the many street-side cafes. We opted to grab a Caprese sandwich and a lemon meringue tart from a local bakery, which we ate sitting on a rocky stairwell in the middle of the action and watched the world go by—one of my favorite things to do. After, we wandered around a bit more and enjoyed the beautiful views of the farms below the village before heading back to the car to continue our road trip.

lavender in provence

lavender in provence

lavender in provence

Afternoon

My trip to this part of France was solely inspired by my desire to see the lavender fields in bloom so we continued our road trip north toward Sault. Since the development of synthetic lavender, many farmers have stopped growing the good stuff—it’s a lot of work for not a lot of reward (as we learned at the museum earlier in our trek). However, many farmers between Gordes and Sault still earn a living growing lavender, so it’s a must for anyone who shares my passion to see the fields in bloom. The drive takes about an hour, and there isn’t much to do in Sault once you arrive, but the beautiful vistas en route are worth every mile you put on your rental.

lavender in provence

lavender in provence

We stopped numerous times along the highway to frolic in lavender fields and take pictures of the purple panoramas beneath the twisting road. I’m not going to lie, there’s a steep drop at times, and there are numerous turns on the impossibly narrow two-way route, but it’s not a long drive by North-American standards. You can take a break when you reach the top. Parking is a bit trickier here—you may need to circle around a few times before you can find a spot on a side street.

Sault itself is a small community. There are a handful of boutiques selling the tried and true lavender staples. Our fun find here was a nougat shop with the most delicious selection of flavors, including lavender, which we just had to try. Simply tell the shopkeeper how much you want, and she’ll chop off a chunk. You pay by weight.

lavender in provence

lavender in provence

We also went to a nearby lavender distillery on the edge of town called Aroma Plantes. Here, you can take a tour of the facility to see how farmers extract the essence from the lavender. There’s also a small, interactive exhibit and a well-stocked shop filled with everything from lavender-infused essential oils to hair products. Our favorite feature was the on-site cafe serving up lavender-infused beverages of all kinds, as well as a selection of delicious snacks. I had the apple lavender juice and a lavender honey crepe. Both were divine. Plan to spend about a half hour wandering through Sault and an hour or so at the distillery.

lavender in provence

lavender in provence

Early Evening

I love packing my days as full as I can when I’m on vacation, so we decided to make one last stop before returning to Cavaillon. Located at the base of the Mont de Vaucluse, Roussillon is a bit off the beaten path, but it’s truly a gem. About a 40-minute drive from Sault, the lavender landscape gives way to majestic red cliffs and magnificent ochre quarries. There’s a public parking zone on the edge of the city that costs just a few bucks.

lavender in provence

lavender in provence

We arrived around 5 p.m., which was early enough for the shops and restaurants to still be open but late enough that the crowds had died down a bit. We grabbed a gelato to tide us over and then made our rounds through the red stone streets. Roussillon looked quite different from the other towns we’d visited during the day, and we thoroughly enjoyed its uniqueness. Hands down, the most spectacular feature of this quaint community is the striking view of the vibrant cliffs jutting up over the towering trees and into the bright blue sky—amazing to behold. We spent about an hour and a half in Roussillon, which was plenty of time to walk through the maze of streets.

lavender in provence

Evening

The drive back to Cavaillon takes about 30 minutes. If you follow the same route we took and spend about the same amount of time in each location, means you’ll arrive back in Cavaillon around 7 p.m. Like most sleepy provincial towns, just about every restaurant is closed by this time. So I offer a few options to close out your evening with a delicious meal.

Across from the Roman Arch in the center of town, you’ll find a pizza truck. I know, you didn’t go all the way to France to eat pizza from a truck, but it’s good…like really good. They offer a ton of toppings, bake it fresh when you order, and it only costs about 10 Euros for an entire pie. There was a long lineup of people waiting for their orders when we arrived, so we figured it was worth a shot. We sat on the steps of the arch to eat and enjoyed a little more people watching.

Alternatively, make your way to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorge, a small but adorable community about 15 minutes from Cavaillon by car. Most of the restaurants close early, but there are a few who keep their doors open past 7 p.m.

lavender in provence

lavender in provence

If you want to see the lavender in Provence, follow this jam-packed itinerary, and you can’t go wrong. Driving through Luberon is as easy as pie, so it makes for a peaceful and relaxing journey. If you’d rather let someone else do the driving, there are plenty of great—and affordable—day trips you can take, too. For me, this was a bucket list trip and one of my favorites of all time. Considering I have been to more than 50 countries and hundreds of cities, it takes a lot to impress me, and I would happily do this trip again and again and never get bored.

Did I miss anything? Are there other places to see the lavender in Provence you’d recommend? Leave a comment here to share your ideas!

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lavender in provence

 

Holy Water Ritual at Tirta Empul Temple in Bali – A Wanderlust Experience

Tirta Empul is a place to purify your soul.

For more than 1,000 years, the Balinese have been coming to this sacred spot to do just that. Built on a bubbling spring that flows from the Pakerisan River, Tirta Emplul Temple is a popular spot for ritual purification. According to legend, Indra, a Hindu god, created the spring that feeds the temple’s 13 fountains, infusing it with magical powers as he did. Locals follow the Hindu religion bathe in the holy water to cleanse their souls and ward off evil. Tourists come to experience a truly special cultural tradition. Here’s what to expect from your experience if you plan to visit Tirta Empul Temple.

Tirta Empul

Getting There

Located in the Tampak Siring district, Tirta Empul is about an hour drive from Bali’s capital, Denpasar. I hired a private guide and was glad I did. It costs about $40 per half day, and it’s worth every penny, especially at a place like Tirta Empul Temple where it helps to have a local’s expertise to guide you. I wouldn’t have known what to do or where to go without my guide. And because you likely don’t want to take your camera in the water with you, your guide can take pictures of you while you bathe in the waters.

The Grounds

Tirta Empul opens at 7 a.m. daily and costs about $2 to enter the grounds. You’ll be given a sarong to wear over your own clothes. Be sure to return it when you leave. The earlier you arrive, the less likely you are to experience large crowds. Don’t be deceived by the featured image at the top of my post—this place is crawling with locals and tourists alike. How my guide managed to get a photo of me alone in the water is amazing to me.

Tirta Empul

A quick tour reveals the temple consists of three main courtyards, the Jaba Pura, or front yard, Jaba Tengah, or central yard, and Jeroan, or inner yard. Jaba Tengah features two rectangular pools with 13 “showers” each. This is where the purification ritual takes place, and there will likely be a lineup of people at each of the showers no matter what time you get to Tirta Empul. Don’t worry, they move quickly. You’ll likely also notice a sign posting the rules for entering the pools. Be sure to keep these in mind as you move through the temple.

Tirta Empul

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: Tirta Empul is an active religious site for the locals. They often come to collect the holy water in jugs to take home with them. At certain times of the year, they flock to the grounds to take part in religious events. It can be extremely crowded during these times, so be sure to check in advance if there are any special ceremonies and festivals taking place and plan accordingly.

Change Your Clothes

Before you can enter the water, you need to change out of your clothes and into a special sarong that’s different from the one you received upon entry to the grounds. You can rent the sarong and a locker for your personal items for a buck or two. You’ll find them, along with the fitting rooms, to your left if you’re facing away from the holy water showers. There will be a small table with one or two people to collect the cash and hand you your sarong and locker key. Then, head inside to find your designated locker and stash your stuff.

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: If you’re modest like me and don’t love changing in front of other people, there are large bathroom stalls at the back of the dark locker room that double as change rooms.

Guys can simply wrap the sarong around their waists, but the gals need to be sure all of their bits are properly covered. To tie the sarong, simply drape it behind your body and grab one end in each hand. Crisscross the two ends around your neck, and tie them together to form a halter. Your sarong will come tied with a red sash. Wrap the sash around your waist like a belt to keep the sarong closed.

Purification Ritual

Now that you’re in the proper attire, head back to the bathing pools. I plunged into the one on the right and got into the first line I saw. A kind man was nice enough to tell me I wasn’t doing the ritual quite right. You see, you need to start at the first shower on the left in the pool on the left and stand under each shower for the full effect. So, me and my soaked sarong climbed back out of the water and trudged to the first fountain.

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: The temple is made from stones that get quite slippery when wet—and they’re always wet. Be careful climbing in and out of the water. Also, beware there are fish in the pools, so don’t be surprised if one swims by or brushes up against you.

There were a handful of people in line in front of me, so I watched diligently as each one approached the shower so I would know what to do. Some people said a short prayer before bowing their heads and using their hands to sweep water over themselves a total of threes times. Others skipped the prayer part. Some people brought offerings of flowers and incense, while others gathered water to take back home to their families.

Tirta Empul

There are formal traditions that are part of the blessing at Tirta Empul, but it can be a bit of a challenge to find someone to explain them to you. Alternatively, you can do whatever you want, so long as it’s low key and respectful. No one will judge you or look at you funny if you don’t put your head right underwater, for example. It’s all about what’s right for you. But be mindful of the locals who are at Tirta Empul as part of their religious beliefs, and allow them the time and space they need to perform the ritual. For them, this isn’t just an opportunity to snap a cool selfie, it’s part of an age-old cultural tradition. I chose to say a few words of kindness to myself before washing water over my head three times. It takes about 15 minutes or so to perform the ritual at every one of the fountains. Some people drink the water, though due to deteriorating water quality, it’s no longer recommended.

Tirta Empul

Pro tip: It can be a bit of a challenge to keep your sarong from riding up in the water, and no one wants that to happen. Tucking it between your legs and shuffling your feet to walk is a great way to keep everything neatly in place.

Once you’re done purifying in the holy water, head back to the locker room to grab your clothes and change. then, drop off your wet sarong at the same table where you rented it earlier. Spend some time touring the grounds and taking in all of the amazing carvings before making your way home. You can even view the source of the spring water bubbling under the ground. It’s worth a look around.

Tirta Empul

Tirta Empul

Tirta Empul was one of the highlights of my trip to Bali. Throughout my experience, I felt like I was taking part in something truly special and cherished every moment of my time there. If you only have time to do visit a handful of sites in Bali, Tirta Empul Temple should be at the top of your list.

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Tirta Empul

The Six Best Island Vacations in Europe 

Guest post by Priya Ghatol

How about slowing down the pace and opting for an island vacation in Europe?

 

Surprisingly, Europe has an excellent collection of islands that are perfect for a barefoot leisure holiday or an adventurous expedition. They’re also an ideal way to escape from daily realities of life and the hoards of tourists that frequent Europe’s most popular cities. So, why not head to these exquisite islands to experience a unique European holiday?

Islands of Greece

Best Island Vacations in Europe

When it comes to planning an island holiday in Europe, Greece is on top of the list. This gorgeous nation is made up of a cluster of islands scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas. The moment someone mentions Greece, images of endless stretches of azure waters lapping on white sandy beaches and sunny blue skies surface in one’s mind.

Set in the southeastern Europe, Greece is a fabled land filled with rich culture and ancient civilizations. The country’s the Ionian Islands or the Seven Islands are known for their breathtaking panoramas, while the islands of Corfu, Paxos, Lefkas, Ithaca, Cephalonia, Zakynthos, and Cerigo are steeped in culture and historical influences from many European settlements.

A cruise visit to each of these islands is a great way to explore the unique experiences they have to offer. An expedition into diverse landscapes, sheltered bays and caves, and serene lagoons with a backdrop of soaring cliffs are mesmerizing to behold. Santorini is one of the best islands to visit in Greece. Here, take in a sunset from the coastal township, and a stop for a photo opportunity on one of the picturesque whitewashed lanes lined with churches.

Isle of Skye, Scotland 

Best Island Vacations in Europe

Spectacular sceneries of rugged cliffs and clear lochs wait for you at Isle of Skye in Scotland. With a unique landscape of jagged cliffs and mountainous terrains dominating the panorama, Isle of Skye offers some of the most dramatic vistas in Scotland. Not the usual sight of open bright blue seas or white sandy beaches, Isle of Sky surprises you with misty brown mountains and clear waters.

If you’re interested in an island vacation that includes wilderness adventures, the Isle of Skye offers amazing hiking trails and walks of varying levels of difficulty. Hardcore adventurers can push their limits with challenging climbs. Those who love to stroll through nature can opt for pictorial walking tours to Coral Beach, Cuillin Mountains, Boreraig, and Talisker Beach to name a few places. On the way, you may even spot white-tailed sea eagles, puffins, otters, seals, whales, dolphins, and red deer. Stop by the Scottish villages of Portree, Dunvegan, and Trotternish for a pint of the finest Scottish malt whiskey. Have a pleasant time mingling with locals and savoring some Scottish meals.

Canary Islands, Spain

Best Island Vacations in Europe

A fusion of stunning beaches, spectacular natural sceneries, charming culture, and pleasantly warm weather, the Canary Islands are your answer to a tranquil Spanish holiday without the chaos of tourists. Considered as one of Europe’s best winter sun destinations due to their moderate climates, the Canary islands offer a thrilling island adventure amid extraordinary scenic settings. An archipelago set deep in the Atlantic Ocean, away from the Spanish borders, the islands of Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, El Hierro, La Gomera, and La Palma offer sanctuary for those seeking tranquil escapes and cater to all kinds of beach lovers.

The unspoiled beaches, turquoise waters, and glorious sunshine coupled with tropical forests that are dotted with waterfalls, quaint seaside villages teeming, and charming locals, the islands allure their visitors with spectacular natural vistas and a vibrant verve.

There is always an event or celebration going on throughout the year. For leisure seekers, relax on laid-back sunny beaches after a dip in the tepid waters or set sail into the ocean to spot dolphins and whales. For outdoorsy adventurers, hike on meandering trails, or try scuba diving beneath the deep blue waters. Take some time to visit the seaside hamlets and historic townships, and don’t forget to watch a superb sunset along the horizon or stay at the beach late into the night for an awe-inspiring star-gazing experience.

Madeira, Portugal

Best Island Vacations in Europe

Deemed one of Europe’s most exotic places to visit, Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago consisting of four islands that lie far away from the European coast. Located in the Atlantic Ocean north of the Canary Islands, Madeira is a mountainous region rather than a beach destination.

Rich in verdant foliage, soaring cliffs, and mountain peaks, Madeira is a haven for adventure lovers. There are many activities to do here, such as taking a cable car ride that gives you wonderful aerial views of Funchal, exploring the historic sites, or taking in the colonial architecture. Take a self-drive tour to check out the beautiful churches overlooking the cliff edges and the vast expanses of water, try surfing one of Europe’s best surf zones, or gear up for an adventure trek on the misty Pico do Arieiro.

Madeira is a spectacular epicurean destination that is famous for its wineries. A haven for keen food lovers, it is a delight to delve into a delectable range of cuisines made out of fresh farm produce and seafood that is complemented perfectly with an array of the finest sparkling wines from the region. Tourists flock to Madeira during New Year celebrations for its warm weather and astounding fireworks display that is certified as the largest fireworks show in the world by Guinness World Records.

Sicily, Italy

Best Island Vacations in Europe

Italy is undoubtedly well known as a destination drenched in art, history, and culture, but the country also offers amazing experiences of blissful island living. Italy’s assorted islands and its coastal towns are quite famous for providing insight into the quaint lifestyle steeped in authentic Italian culture and cuisine amid spellbinding scenic vistas. Sicily is the largest Italian island, offering an intense blend of unspoiled sceneries that are reminiscent of a bygone era, refreshing scents, and delectable flavors.

The colorful coastal settlement of Taormina perched right the border of the gleaming deep blue Mediterranean waters is a sight worth taking in. Mount Etna is another must visit attraction that offers stunning nature park, and grottos to explore. The UNESCO sites of the Noto Valley and Villa Romana del Casale take you back in historical times, while the refreshing sights of rolling green vineyards, olive groves, and citrus orchards are enough to confirm that the palette of food you will be relishing in will be fresh and delicious. Forget about piling up calories and let yourself loose on an amazing array of delicious Sicilian dishes, such as pastries, croquettes, ricottas, breads, tomatoes, meats, and genuine extra virgin olive oil.

Iceland

Best Island Vacations in Europe

Iceland is a one-of-a-kind experience that needs to be visited at least once in your lifetime. In contrast to its name, Iceland isn’t a country covered in sheets of ice, but its sheer natural beauty is attributed to its glacial fields. Other landscapes include volcanic mountains and lava fields, making Iceland a place where ice and fire coexist in harmony. The landscape is marvelous and distinct. There are no lush forests or tall trees, just shrubbery and moss-covered uneven topography.

The natural splendor of Iceland is astounding and surreal. The island is speckled with magnificent waterfalls, volcanic terrains, gorgeous fjords, stunning beaches, and clear lakes. The long days here give you a feeling that tomorrow may never come, and you have loads of time in one day to explore the country. The black beaches of Laugarvatn Lake, Reynisfjara, and Vik, the icy blue glaciers of Jökulsárlón and Vatnajökull National Park, the dramatic multi-hued vistas of Westfjords, the natural hot pools at Krosslaug and Deildartunguhver are some of Iceland’s extraordinary sights that will be etched in your memories forever. If you are traveling in the right season, you can even catch the gleaming Aurora borealis in Iceland.

The beauty and warmth of these European islands act as a rejuvenating salve for the tired soul. Though set apart from the mainland, a trip to these islands is an unparalleled experience and is sure to leave you wanting for more of the European island lifestyle.


Author Bio: Priya is an avid travel writer who specializes in adventurous travel writing. Her blogs and articles give deep insight about various tourist places and act as a perfect travel guide for someone who is traveling to a place for the first time. Priya has exemplary research, writing, and editing skills, which allow her to easily match the reader’s intellect and interest. She has blogged extensively about her travel experience while traveling to several places like Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Europe, Dubai, USA, Canada, etc. 


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5 Amazing Cycle Routes Around the World

Guest post by Diana Smith

Cycling is an ideal way to blow off some steam and stay in shape.

 

But have you ever considered using your bike to travel the world? Although the average person will be more than satisfied with the usual sightseeing tours around famous locations, there are those who prefer to get to know the culture they’re visiting in a more personal way. If you are one of those people, then you should definitely consider experiencing the thrill that is traveling the world with nothing more than your bike and a backpack.

From relaxing cycles along the shoreline to exhilarating mountain biking through the various mountain ranges and national parks, there are numerous breathtaking cycling routes you probably haven’t heard of. Some might be rather difficult to access, let alone travel there with a bike, while others can be found right in your geographical neighborhood without you even realizing it. However, these five breathtaking locations scattered throughout the world will surely leave you asking for more.

Cycling around the world

North Sea Cycle Route, Europe

North Sea Cycle Route, also known as Euro Velo Route 12 claims to be one of the world’s longest cycle routes spanning over 6,000 kilometers and 8 countries. It starts in the northern part of Scotland, particularly the Shetland Islands and stretches across the coasts of England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

This is a long and arduous journey which is best attempted during the summer, as most of these countries tend to have rather cold climates. The official NSCR website offers some useful tips regarding the route itself, but also offers information about the countries, their currencies, and laws regarding passing the borders between them.

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, North America

This mountain bike route stretches from Alberta, Canada, all the way down to New Mexico. It’s 4,400 kilometers long and has around 61,000 meters of climbing. This route will take you through remote woodlands and Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, as well as Great Basin’s wastelands and the Anasazi culture of New Mexico.

It is one of the most difficult biking routes in the world, and as such, requires a significant amount of preparation and willpower to actually be completed. This route is as remote as it is diverse and it is ideal for those looking to get away from the city and enjoy all the marvels nature has to offer.

The Shimanami Kaido, Japan

Unlike the previous two, the Shimanami Kaido is a short route – the shortest route on this list, being only 64 kilometers long. Separating away from the main roads, this route will take you through a series of wonderfully small scenic islands found in the Hiroshima prefecture. The Shimanami Kaido is actually a segregated cycleway which is also used by pedestrians. You don’t have to worry about taking your bike with you, as bikes can easily be rented at several locations along the route. Completing it in a single day is honestly not that difficult, as long as you don’t get distracted by numerous beautiful sights along the shoreline.

Salzach Valley, Austria

Austria’s Salzach Valley is home to one of the most serene biking routes in the world. It’s little under 250 kilometers long and offers breathtaking views of the Grossglockner Mountain, the Hohe Tauern National Park, as well as the highest natural waterfall in Europe. The route is mostly comprised of downhill pedaling, as it starts in Gerlos Pass and finishes all the down in Salzburg. Besides the cycling route, Salzach Valley is packed full with different activities such as rafting, summer skiing and taking scenic rides using a cable car.

Easter Island, Chile

One of the most expensive locations to travel to, Easter Island in Chile, has an amazing cycling route that encompasses the entire island. Hailed as the most remote inhabited island in the world, Easter Island is home to the famous monolithic Moai statues, some of which weigh more than 80 tons. Taking your bike with you might be rather difficult, but fortunately, there is a bike rental service in the main town of Hanga Roa. You can easily cycle through the entire island in a single day, or you can spread it out over the entire week and enjoy the numerous sights tourists rarely get to see. Besides the statues, make sure you visit the Rano Kau volcano crater and enjoy the sunset over the archeological site of Ahu Tahai.

These are just some of the most beautiful and interesting locations you can cycle through. Some routes can be easily traversed with a granny bike, while others might require a professional mountain or even an electrical bike such as gepida. It doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as you make sure you’ve packed all the necessities as some routes will take you far away from modern civilization.


Author Bio: Diana Smith is a full-time mom of two beautiful girls, great animal lover, and a passionate traveler.


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Cycling around the world

 

6 Beautiful and Peaceful Beaches in Sydney, Australia

Guest Post By Roxana Oliver

Sydney’s beautiful beaches attract tourists from all over the world because of their laid-back vibe, stunning blue waters, and gentle white sands.

 

However, with hordes of tourists at Bondi and Manly beaches, the city’s most famous ones, you cannot really savour that relaxing Aussie atmosphere. Luckily, Sydney has more than a few hidden gems where you can escape the hustle and bustle of this metropolis. Just head down to one of these secluded beaches to soak in the sun away from the crowds.

Store Beach

Since Store Beach is accessible only by boat, your travel down there will be just as exciting as the exploration of this harbour gem. Once you reach Manly Wharf by the Manly Ferry, rent a kayak and start peddling to Store Beach. Stop for a swim in the clear blue waters along your way to the 650-foot-long sandy beach. The moment you lay your eyes on this secluded area surrounded by the lush vegetation of Sydney Harbour National Park, you’ll feel as if you completely left Sydney. Pick a perfect spot for a picnic, and enjoy the view of the scenic landscape.

beaches in Sydney

Milk Beach

As one of Sydney’s least known beaches to tourists, Milk Beach is a perfect spot for a relaxing day of basking in the sun, snorkelling, fishing, and swimming. Located below Strickland House, a Heritage-listed site, it will provide you with stunning views of the city and its surroundings. Whether you want to surf, hang out with your friends, play with your kids, or simply chill, you will be able to do so in peace at Milk Beach.

beaches in Sydney

Wattamolla

Its Aboriginal name brings a sense of authenticity, contributing to the uniqueness of Wattamolla Beach. An open beach, small inlets and a freshwater lagoon will delight you with their beauty right within the Royal National Park. After relaxing in the deep shade of cabbage palm trees and swimming in the sea, you can embark on a hiking journey, following the famous coastal path from Bundeena to Otford.

beaches in Sydney

Palm Beach

Located an hour away from the center of Sydney, Palm Beach will provide you with tranquillity and relaxation away from the prying eyes of the public. The stretches of golden sand and stunning views of the blue horizons are simply enchanting. To capture the true spirit of the Aussie laid-back lifestyle, get yourself a nice secluded Palm Beach holiday house and forget about the world. Here, you can ride the Aussie waves, bask in the bright yellow sun or savour a refreshing cocktail while enjoying the breathtaking views from your own balcony.

beaches in Sydney

Shelly Beach

Just a short walk away from Manly’s most popular beach lies Shelly Beach, a quiet oasis of peace and serenity. On your way to this beach, you can explore the natural life of the region, including unique marine species, plants and other natural attractions. Just follow the Shelly Beach Walk from Manly. Enjoying the reputation of being a magnificent snorkelling spot, Shelly Beach will provide you with an opportunity to discover the underwater world and its inhabitants. Afterwards, you can unwind while soaking in the stunning panorama of the Northern Beaches and North Head.

beaches in Sydney

Congwong Beach

As one of the most beautiful beaches in Kamay Botany Bay National Park, Congwong Beach is a perfect spot for a day of fun with your family. If you visit it on a weekend, keep your eyes open for an ice-cream boat that will delight both you and your kids. A 30-minute walk away from this calm sanctuary is pristine Little Congwong Beach, one of Sydney’s nudist beaches, so keep that in mind if you decide to go for a relaxing stroll with your little ones.

Instead of elbowing your way in the attempt to find a private spot on Bondi Beach, get away from the crowds and visit some of these hidden sanctuaries. This way, you’ll be able to experience the true spirit of the laid-back Aussie lifestyle.

 


Travel Benefits for Mental Health

Author Bio: Roxana is a travel enthusiast and lifestyle consultant from Sydney, and she loves to write about her adventures. She is all about the healthy lifestyle, loves to run with her husband and dogs, and has fun cooking exotic meals for her family. Being a typical Aussie, she often hits the waves and loves beaches and sunshine! You can find out more about her writing by following her on Twitter and Facebook. She is also one of the editors at High Style Life Magazine.


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6 Tips for Visiting Christ the Redeemer in Brazil

Christ the Redeemer is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

 

Towering at the top of Mount Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Christ the Redeemer was completed in 1931 and, today is one of the seven modern wonders of the world. At nearly 100 feet tall, the soapstone and concrete statue welcomes every visitor with arms wide open. It’s impossible not to stare in awe at this inspirational sight, but perhaps even more extraordinary is the view from the top of the mountain. It’s truly phenomenal.

Christ the Redeermer

Check the Weather

Just because the sun is shining on Copacabana Beach doesn’t mean it will be at the top of Mount Corcovado. In fact, even if the weather seems fine when you start your trek to the top of the mountain, you might be in for a surprise at the top. The truth is that the weather in Rio is somewhat unpredictable, and low-hanging clouds often cover Christ the Redeemer, obscuring your view of the statue and the city below. If you’ve got a few days to spare in Rio, keep your eye on Corcovado, literally. If you see can’t see Christ through the clouds from the ground, it’s not the best time to visit.

Prepare for Crowds

Christ the Redeermer

Even in the offseason, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself amid a large crowd at Christ the Redeemer. Whether it’s waiting in line for tickets or to get a glimpse of the city from above, there are always plenty of people vying for a position at the front of the line. In the peak season, you can expect to wait for hours to reach the top of the mountain.

Take the Train

Christ the RedeermerChrist the Redeermer

Sure, you can take a van or a bus or a taxi to the stop of Corcovado, but you’ll be missing out on the full experience if you don’t take the train. Built in 1884, the two-car train wends its way through the lush Tijuca Forest toward the top of Mount Corcovado. Each year, more than half-a-million people climb aboard to look for monkeys and other rainforest animals on their way to Christ the Redeemer. When you buy your ticket at the base of the mountain, you’ll be given a time to return for your ten-minute train ride to the top. It’s well worth the wait.

Partway up the mountain, you’ll stop for a few minutes so that men waiting along the tracks can sell ice cold bottles of water to guests for a fraction of what it costs at the top. But beware—the train will start rolling again without warning. You may have only a few seconds to get in on the action. If you can, try to sit on the right side of the train going up (the left going down). You’ll be treated to an extraordinary—if fleeting—view just before the end of the ride.

Christ the RedeermerChrist the Redeermer

Expect the Steps

Christ the RedeermerChrist the Redeermer

No matter what mode of transportation you take to the top of Corcovado, you’ll still need to climb the stairs to Christ the Redeemer. The train—and all other vehicles—can only take you so far up Corcovado. You can wait for an elevator to the top, but if you’re able, opt for the 200 or so stairs. There are plenty of lookout points where you can rest and take pictures along the way, and before you know it, you’ll be at the top. Trust me…the moment you see Christ, you’re bound to be inspired.

Beautiful Views

Christ the Redeermer

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk in the clouds? Well, you just might find out. It’s not uncommon for the clouds to surround the mountain, creating an ethereal sensation. Whether you’re a believer or not, standing amid the clouds looking into Christs’s face is breathtaking, as are the views from the overlook surrounding the statue. You won’t soon forget the moment. Take some snaps, but then also take a few minutes just to drink it all in. Brazil is one of the most beautiful countries in the world—truly.

Christ the RedeermerChrist the RedeermerChrist the Redeermer

Shopping and More

Christ the Redeermer

On your way back down the stairs to the train, stop in some of the gift shops, and pick up a trinket to commemorate the moment. You can also grab a snack if you’re feeling a little peckish after climbing up—and down—all those stairs. You’ll also find a selection of souvenir shops at the base of the mountain, so don’t worry if you forgot to get that special someone a gift at the top of Christ the Redeemer.

Have you been to Christ the Redeemer? Do you have questions about the experience or an anecdote of your own to share? Drop us a line—we’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

What’s it Really Like to Ride the Sugarloaf Cable Car in Rio de Janeiro?

Riding the Sugarloaf cable car is an experience you won’t soon forget.

 

Sugarloaf Mountain is a popular tourist attraction in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And it’s on every must-see list for good reason. You’d be truly remiss not to take in this star attraction. But if you’re scared of heights like I am, you’re probably wondering how you’ll survive the ride up. Well, this is a comprehensive overview of what you can expect.

Let’s start with the basics. To get to the top of Sugarloaf, you need to take a cable car. In fact, you’ll need to take two. The first one takes you to Morro da Urca. Here, you’ll board a second cable car to reach the summit of Sugarloaf. From a distance, the voyage looks daunting, to say the least. For someone like me who thinks climbing up the first rung of a ladder is a death-defying feat, the Sugarloaf cable car seems like an impossible adventure. But it’s not. I promise. You can do this.

I feel I can say with some authority, such fears are completely unfounded—you’re just making a mountain out of a molehill (see what I did there?). And this is coming from the person who shook with fear riding the glass elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

sugarloaf cable car

So, what’s it really like, you ask? Here’s a comprehensive overview of what it’s like to ride the Sugarloaf cable car.

The Cars

Each glass-walled car holds 65 people. It’s supported by two cables, and in it’s entire history, not a single car has ever fallen from the sky. You are safe. If you’re unsure about staring out the window on the ride up, simply stand in the center of the car, and you’ll barely notice you’re even moving.

sugarloaf cable car

Getting On Board

You know how Ferris wheels and ski lifts keep on moving while you’re trying to get on? It’s a constant race against time. Well, the Sugarloaf cable car is nothing like that. The massive unit firmly stops alongside the loading dock, and you have plenty of time to step inside. There is a small gap between the dock and the ground, but nothing too crazy. I even saw someone push a stroller across it.

Riding Up

As I mentioned before, you need to take two cable cars to get to the top of Sugarloaf. Each one takes only three minutes, for a total of six minutes to the top. Honestly, it goes by so fast that if you blink, you’ll miss it. There is no movement in the cars, even if people are walking around inside. They are completely stable and akin to an elevator ride. It  doesn’t even feel like you’re moving at all, and the next thing you know, the doors are opening, and it’s time to get off.

When I got in the first car leading to Morro da Urca, I immediately walked to the back, where I got a spot right next to the window. Sounds great, right? Not so much…the only thing I could see for the whole ride up was the rock face of Morro da Urca. If you want to get a good view of the landscape below, stay near the front or sides of the car. For the ride to Sugarloaf, I got a spot at the very front of the car, and the view was amazing. To my great surprise, I wasn’t the least bit anxious.

sugarloaf cable car

Food and Shopping

There are quite a few places to eat and shop at the top of both Morro da Urca and Sugarloaf. Everyone is always in a rush to get to the top, but before boarding the second cable car, take a look around Morro da Urca. There is a lovely garden walk—in fact, if you really wanted, you could walk all the way back down the mountain from here. There is also a cafe, a few shops, and a few fast-food joints.

You’ll have another chance to grab a bit to eat overlooking the world at the top of Sugarloaf, as well as take in some souvenir shopping. There is a lovely boutique featuring locally crafted goods, as well as Sugarloaf logo merchandise. But this is not your average kitschy souvenir shop. It’s got some really beautiful artwork and unique gifts. Be sure to check it out.

View From the Top

Let’s talk about he real reason you rode up the Sugarloaf cable car—the views. Oh my goodness, the views. They’re truly stunning from both Morro da Urca and Sugarloaf. Be sure to take time to soak it all in. I happened to be there at sunset, and the sun was hanging low in the sky over Corcovado, surrounding Christ the Redeemer in a golden halo.

sugarloaf cable car

Time to Explore

You’ve likely heard stories of people waiting in line for hours just to get on the first cable car. And this may be the case in peak season. I happened to be there just slightly off-season, and my tour group basically walked right on. We spent about 45 minutes to an hour total at Sugarloaf, including the 12-minute return trip on the cable car. I felt like I had plenty of time to take it all in and could have even enjoyed a quick coffee if I’d wanted. Instead, I decided to do a Facebook Live update since I was able to get a solid wi-fi connection at the top.

If you’re worried about time, you can also purchase a skip-the-line pass, but it will only guarantee entry onto the first cable car. There are also plenty of tour options to help you manage your time on Sugarloaf—highly recommended to ensure you maximize your time and fun.

5 Best Destinations for a Summer Romance

Guest Post By Roxana Oliver

If you’re looking for romantic vacations that involve long strolls on the beach, dreamy sunsets, and candlelit dinners, but you want to go somewhere different than France or Italy, here are some ideas for you.

 

Places on this list have love in the air and a special atmosphere that will wake up the romantic in you. Book your next romantic getaway in some of these destinations.

summer romance

Buenos Aires, Argentina

If you’re looking to spice up your romantic trip with some amazing nightlife and some culture, Buenos Aires is perfect for you. You can learn how to tango (also known as the dance of love), try some exotic food, and enjoy velvet seats at the opera or ballet. Visit the Palermo neighborhood for some shopping, and take hand-in-hand strolls in parks. Plan your visit during spring and summer to experience an abundance of flowers and perfect temperatures for a romantic vacation.

summer romance

Greek Isles, Greece

Nothing screams summer romance like the crystal blue sea, warm sun, amazing food, and rustic mountains of the Greek Isles, also known as the Cyclades. Greece is famous for having some of the most exquisite islands in the Mediterranean. Don’t miss visiting Santorini and Naxos, the most famous of the islands. On Santorini, you will experience an unforgettable sunset lighting up the white stone cliffs, and on Naxos’ sandy beaches you will spend some of the happiest days of your life. If you want some extra privacy, make a reservation in the late summer or early fall to avoid the tourists.

summer romance

Wellington, New Zealand

Your search for romantic places might as well end here. If you and your partner enjoy hiking and exploring together, then you’ve found your paradise. You can stroll along the mysterious hills and promenades and through the green valleys. Make sure to visit Wellington Botanic Garden and share the wonders of nature with your loved one. Also don’t miss the trip to Martinborough, a nearby town, and visit the more than 20 vineyards to sample some amazing wine. The best thing about this place is that you can enjoy this picturesque scenery on horseback. So charming!

summer romance

Sydney, Australia

The best things in Australia are its beautiful beaches and romantic sunsets—and Sydney has a lot of those. Australia has so many things to offer, and to fully enjoy its beauty, you will have to get out of the city. Explore Sydney’s surrounding natural wanders, dream underneath the stars with your loved one, and soak up the sounds and smells of wilderness. If you don’t want to go by car, opt for a bus charter, and explore the Sydney surroundings. If you leave your car at home, you can have a glass of bubbly and devote all of your attention to each other. Honestly, try to think of something more romantic.

summer romance

San Sebastian, Spain

Spain is a romantic place in and of itself, but San Sebastian has something special. This small coastal city near the French border is ideal for hiking, sunbathing, and enjoying the sun with your better half. For the ultimate romantic experience, book a hotel with a private terrace to get front-row tickets for sunset watching, or dine at one of the many restaurants facing the bay. You can even take a trip up to Monte Igueldo to catch the best view of the city. If you’ve ever heard the old saying, “Love comes through the stomach,” then try some of the Basque specialties with your partner while enjoying a rustic setting.

summer romance

Romance 101!

If you think that only Paris can offer a complete romantic experience, then you’re wrong. These destinations have some interesting and romantic things you can do with your partner that will make you fall in love with each other over and over again. So, book your hotel, and spend unforgettable time with your loved one.


Travel Benefits for Mental Health

Author Bio: Roxana is a travel enthusiast and lifestyle consultant from Sydney, and she loves to write about her adventures. She is all about the healthy lifestyle, loves to run with her husband and dogs, and has fun cooking exotic meals for her family. Being a typical Aussie, she often hits the waves and loves beaches and sunshine! You can find out more about her writing by following her on Twitter and Facebook. She is also one of the editors at High Style Life Magazine.

Afternoon Tea at Covent Garden: A Wanderlust Experience

Covent Garden is the place to be for an affordable afternoon tea in London.

 

There are few things I enjoy more than a traditional afternoon tea. All those pretty sandwiches and dainties are simply delightful. So as soon as I knew I was traveling to London, England, I began researching afternoon teas. And I found the most adorable Alice in Wonderland option at a high-class hotel. It came with a mighty hefty price tag, but I decided to treat myself and reserved a seat. Sadly, 24 hours before I was scheduled to fall down the rabbit hole with Alice, I received an email stating the tea had been canceled. So, I set out in search of an alternative.

As I walked along, I passed the B Afternoon Tea Bus Tour, a vintage, red double-decker bus that takes you past London’s best-known sights as you enjoy your tea. I also took note of the lovely spread Patisserie Valerie advertised in its windows adorned with scrumptious delights. Shop after shop, it seemed there dewas no end to the abundance of afternoon tea options. And while many caught my eye, none were quite right, so I kept walking.

Finally, I came upon one of my favorite places to visit when I’m in London, Covent Garden Market. It is comprised of a delightful mix of unique boutiques, kitschy kiosks, and fabulous foods. And many vendors offer a version of afternoon tea. But one adorable little bakery stood out to me, Sweetheart Cake and Bake Shop.



Booking.com

Located in a tiny shop tucked into a corner on the lower level of Covent Garden, this adorable little bakery is everything you hope a cupcake shop will be. From pastel-colored accents, dangling chandeliers, and froufrou wall art, I just about melted the minute I set eyes on this place. And for just £18, you can enjoy an afternoon tea that lives up to every expectation you might have. The best part is that no reservations are needed. Simply show up anytime between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. any day of the week, and they’ll be happy to serve you. Though the shop is just wee, there are a handful of seats inside, or you can choose to sit outdoors and enjoy the live entertainment from the Covent Garden buskers.

What to Expect

When you arrive, simply head straight to the counter, and tell the server you would like to have the afternoon tea. The server will ask where you plan to sit, as well as what type of tea you would like. You’ll also get to select a cupcake flavor from their robust selection of about a dozen different types.

A few minutes after you’re comfortably seated, the server will bring your pot of tea. Because this is a not a formal tea and everything is made to order, it will take a bit of time for the chef to prepare your spread. They make each and every sandwich fresh for you. And it’s well worth the wait. About 15 minutes after I was first seated, the server set a proper three-tiered china dainty stand on my table. It was filled with all sorts of delectable delights, and I could barely wait to dig in.

To be honest, there is enough food to share with another person. But I hadn’t eaten a thing all day in anticipation of this moment and was hungry enough to eat a horse. I started with the bottom tier, which contained a traditional cucumber and egg salad sandwich on whole wheat bread with the crusts cut off. Next up was a sweet brioche topped with a vegetarian spread. Lastly, there was a savory tart filled with a salmon cream and smoked salmon that was to die for.

Afternoon tea simply wouldn’t be complete without a traditional English scone. And that’s just what was awaiting me on the center tier of the tray. With a side of jam and clotted cream, it was everything I’d hoped it would be. And finally, the top tier with its sweet treats was the pièce de résistance. In addition to the cupcake of my choice—red velvet with cream cheese frosting—there was a tiny fruit tart filled with a creamy custard and three small homemade chocolates. My sweet tooth was completely sated by the time I took my last bite.

Each tier of my afternoon tea tray was a feast for the senses, and I got to listen to a beautiful string quartet play while I ate. It was a wonderful way to spend part of my afternoon. If you are looking for an affordable afternoon tea that you can visit on a whim and serves up scrumptious fare, this is an amazing option. And don’t worry if you can’t eat it all—your server will be more than happy to box it up for you.

Pro tip: Start with the foods that won’t keep as well, such as the clotted cream and salmon tart. That way, you don’t have to worry about any of your leftovers spoiling while you’re wandering about the rest of the market later in the day.

Do you have a favorite place to enjoy afternoon tea in London. Share your ideas with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

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afternoon tea