Travel

Winter in Paris: A Unqiue Guide to Exploring the City

Winter time in Paris is no secret, the lights, the sounds and festive events are reason enough to book the next flight over. While the cities famous hot spots like the Eiffel Tower, the Sacré-Cœur, The Louvre Museum, The Centre Pompidou, and the Seine River are certainly worth adding to your travel itinerary, how about diving right into the streets of Paris? 

Let this guide inspire you to explore the unique sides of Paris. Once you’ve reached the end of this post, you’ll be fully prepared to throw away your map (or your blue dot on Google), get lost, fall in love and eat to your heart's content!

 

Getting Started in Paris 

Before diving into the streets of Paris, one things for sure, it definitely helps to be well equipped. As romantic and historical as the streets of Paris may be, Paris is still a large city, which means getting lost won’t be hard to do. To make the best of your city trip to Paris, I would recommend getting yourself set up with: 

  1. An excellent pair of walking shoes (I made the mistake of wearing brand new shoes) 

  2. A Paris City Pass 

  3. And a local SIM card
     

I’ll let you pick out your favorite pair of walking shoes, but if you’d like some more information on how to get your Paris City Pass and a local SIM card, I can definitely give you a few more tips. 

 

The Paris City Passes 

How you like to travel will depend on which city pass is best for you. You can buy the Paris City Pass which includes unlimited public transit travel between zones 1-3 and discounts to more than 60 different sights, tours and museums. Or, if you prefer to buy a local transit pass without the travellers discounts, then you can also purchase the Paris Visite travel pass directly on the RATP transit website.

If you do decide to opt for the full Paris City Pass, you can then decide whether you’ll be using your pass for 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 days. With this pass, you’ll have free admission to more than 60 different sights, tours and museums. The pass also includes a boat trip along the river Seine, an architecture tour of Paris, a street art/flea market tour and a museum & wine tasting at Les Caves du Louvre. 

 

Getting Set Up With a Local SIM Card 

While we’ve typically been used to purchasing portable wifi routers for travel, Orange has come up with an even easier solution. For 39,99 (of course, always subject to change), Orange offers up their Holiday SIM Card

With this SIM card, you’ll receive: 

  • A French phone number

  • 2 hours of international calling 

  • 1000 international text messages 

  • And 20 GB of mobile data 

The Orange Holiday Plan lasts for 14 days, but can be renewed at any time and quite easily, either online or in stores at an Orange Boutique, TABAC store, or any RELAY outlet locations.

 

10 Unique Ways to Explore Paris in the Winter Time

So now that we’ve got you prepared and ready to dive into the streets of Paris, it’s time to inspire you! Here are 10 unique ways to explore the cities most popular sights along with some of the cities most treasured locations. 

 

Discover the Renowned Streets of Montmartre

Montmartre is likely not a new name to you. You have probably heard about the neighbourhood from the popular French romantic comedy Amélie (2001). If not from Amélie, then certainly you’ve made the connection between Montmartre and the Sacre-Cœur. The Sacre-Cœur (known in English at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart) is a beautiful Roman Catholic church located in Montmartre which sits on the highest point of the city and offers a stunning aerial view of Paris. 

Montmartre is also famous for being home to many renowned artists like Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Amedeo Modigliani, and Claude Monet. While the neighbourhood itself is no secret to locals and travellers alike, there’s something about roaming the cobblestone streets of Montmartre which makes you feel like you’ve travelled back in time to enjoy the city like Picasso once had. 

While the neighbourhood of Montmartre is certainly charming, it’s an uphill climb (here’s where your good walking shoes will come in handy). Montmartre is located in Paris’s 18th arrondissement, 430 feet up on a hill. 

If you don’t mind the walk, I’d definitely recommend taking a walking tour around Montmartre where you’ll learn all about the beautiful history, enjoy the bohemian atmosphere and visit the former art studio of Picasso himself. 

Otherwise, if you’re looking for a unique way to explore Montmartre then definitely opt for a Citroën 2CV tour! You can also choose to extend your tour and explore other sights around Paris like the Champs-Élysées, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. 

 

Check Out the Underground Art & Music Scene in Paris 

If you’re into music, Paris has an incredible underground art and music scene. One location in particular is definitely worth mentioning, Les Ecuries

Les Ecuries is an underground bar and restaurant with an incredible history. The location was originally an old post office, where the underground space was simply used for storage. In the 70’s, the entire place turned into a secret social location, and then in the 90’s it had changed again into a medieval style restaurant. It wasn’t until 2014 that Les Ecuries made their grand opening. Today, Les Ecuries is where you’ll find the hottest art, music and creative pieces around Paris. Their unique underground location is now used as a bar, restaurant, exhibition hall, venue space and creative forum for famous and upcoming talents. 

 

Enjoy a Coffee at a Historical Café around the Saint-Germain neighbourhood 

The neighbourhood of Saint-Germain is a beautiful and historical district of Paris located next to the river Seine. More commonly, Saint-Germain is also known as the district where many travelling writers from America and other famous artists and writers went to work on their next big projects. Sipping a coffee, enjoying a divine French pastry and listening to the sights and sounds of the city streets in Paris at a renowned café like Les Deux Magots or Café de Flore is an adventure in itself. It is a neighbourhood filled with good vibes and inspiration. 

If you’re looking for something different to do in the area, and are a football fan, you may also enjoy the Parc de Princes Stadium Tour. On the tour, you can go backstage, learn more about the football legends who played in Paris, and hangout in their dressing rooms and VIP boxes. 

 

Roam the Trendy District of Marais 

The district of Marais is a beautiful neighbourhood filled with charming little boutique shops, creative spaces and hip bars. A few streets worth mentioning include La Rue des Roziers and Rue des Francs Bourgeois. Here, you’ll find unique and open concept art galleries mixed with cozy (and heated) outdoor patio cafés and delicious street food. La Rue des Roziers was once a Jewish quarter in Paris which is why you may also notice that this street has some of the best kosher restaurants in the city. If you continue onward towards the boutique shops, you’ll reach the trendy area of Marais where you’ll find all the fashionistas of Paris. If you have the whole day to roam the area, popular sights like Place de Vosges, Le Bohème Opera, the Picasso Museum, and Place de la Bastille are all worth checking out. 

 

Stroll Along the Caves, Waterfalls and Lakes at Buttes-Chaumont Park 

There’s no doubt that a city trip to Paris can keep you busy for days, but we all need a little time to wind down. A visit to Buttes-Chaumont Park is a must in your Paris itinerary, in any season! The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is a gorgeous 24 hectare park located in the North-East area of Paris. The entire park actually sits on top of a quarry which allows for a breathtaking stroll through the park. On the perimeter of the park (the top of the quarry) you’ll find some of the cities most spectacular aerial views, especially if you plan on enjoying the sunset there. In the middle of the quarry, you’ll find a suspension bridge overlooking a beautiful lake and a waterfall that flows through a cave. You can actually hike down the steps to the bottom of the quarry and enter the caves to see where the waterfalls hits bottom. 

 

Galeries Lafayette 

Galeries Lafayette may be well known for shopping, and of course, if you’re big into shopping, it’s definitely worth a visit. However, I fell in love with Galeries Lafayette not because I love shopping (I actually thoroughly dislike shopping), but because the atmosphere during the holiday season is spectacular. 

When you arrive, you’ll know exactly what I mean. The entire street is filled with sparkling Christmas lights, lively music and beautiful festive storefront windows. If you make your way into the store, there’s no way you’ll miss a glimpse at one of the cities largest Christmas trees hanging high above the department store, dangling from the ceiling. Keep heading up to the top level and you’ll reach their gorgeous rooftop terrace (entrance is free). During the holiday season, it is not only the perfect spot to enjoy a beautiful sunset over Paris, but you can also throw on a pair of skates and try out their artificial ice rink. 

If you opted for the Paris City Pass at the beginning of your trip, you’ll also get a 10% discount and a free souvenir when shopping at Galeries Lafayette. 

 

Embrace the Spectacular Aerial Views of Paris On Top of Montparnasse 

If the spectacular aerial views of Paris at the Buttes-Chaumont Park and Galeries Lafayette had you mezmerised, you’ll likely also enjoy the breathtaking views on top of the Montparnasse Tower. The Montparnasse Tower is a 210 meter high office building with one of the highest rooftop terraces in the city. 

You’ll need to book a ticket in order to gain access, but the views are well worth the money spent! 

 

Take a Parisian Cooking Class 

No matter where I travel, I prefer to bring home tastes and experiences rather than souvenirs. Preparing a dish that you fell in love with while away, is one of the best alternatives to souvenirs. How about whipping up some mouth-watering warm French croissants and a few decadent macarons for breakfast when you return home? You’re friends and family will love you! 

In Paris, you can choose from a number of different classes like a macaron class at Galeries Lafayette, a make your own croissants course, a chocolate eclair making class, a French pastry cooking class, a Parisian bread making class or even a general behind-the-scenes French bakery tour for all-round inspiration.

 

Take in all the City Sights on a Seine River Cruise 

While some cities are neat to see by double-decker bus or private car hire, Paris is a magnificent city to explore by boat. The Seine river runs perfectly through the city so that you can actually spot almost all of the major sights while cruising along the water. You can also take a cruise by night to experience Paris in the best hours of the day. Paris comes alive at night, filled with stunning lights and vibrant music. However, at any hour of the day, if you cruise along the Seine river, you’ll catch stellar views of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, the Musée d’Orsay, Les Invalides, Notre Dame and the Grand Palais. 

 

Enjoy the Paris Lights During the Most Magical Time of the Year 

And of course, if you’re visiting Paris during the winter season, night time does get that much more spectacular! While some cities boast about their incredible Christmas markets or their snowy white sceneries, Paris has certainly won the title in my heart as being one of the most beautifully lit cities in the world! Christmas time in cities is often celebrated in the “old town” or “downtown” core, but in Paris, every single neighbourhood is filled with festive decorations, bright sparkly lights and the beautiful sounds of Christmas tunes. 

Everyone will tell you that if you’re coming to Paris for sparkling lights, then the Eiffel Tower should be the first stop on your list, ‘tis true. However, Paris doesn’t stop there. The Champs Elysées illuminates the streets of Paris with more than 150,000 lights, the Galeries Lafayette lights up the entire intersection/metro stop of Chaussée d’Antin and many of the cafés are full of lively music and beautifully bright festive deco. You can also enjoy a number of smaller brightly lit Christmas markets in the city, or visit a bigger fun fair market at Jardin des Tuileries. 

If cuddling up under a warm blanket while sipping on mulled wine and listening to Christmas music sounds like more of your thing, Paris also offers a 1,5 hour Christmas Lights Bus Tour. The tour takes you past some of the most beautiful sights in Paris, and of course, on board you’re able to cuddle up, drink mulled wine and listen to Christmas music.

 

Dining Local in Paris

There’s no denying that when one visits Paris, a lot of your time will consist of wining and dining at many local French spots around the city. It’s easy to spend the day indulging in local cuisine, but it’s not as easy to find unique spots around the city that you’ll be yearning to return back to even years down the road. That’s where I’m here to help.

Paris is certainly one of the best places to find delicious French cuisine, but it can also be quite a hit or miss. While visiting, I found that either I thoroughly enjoyed the food and drink, or was completely let down. So, how about I scrap the restaurants I didn’t enjoy and share with you a few of my favorite spots!?

 

Dine at a Local Pâtisserie like Ladurée

Ladurée Paris may be a luxury bakery and pâtisserie famous for their scrumptious macarons, but they also have a wonderful café worth enjoying. They have a large selection of pastries, macarons, teas and coffees, but if you’re up for having a little bit of everything from Ladurée, then I definitely recommend heading in for afternoon tea. I had the Christmas special when visiting which included a big piping hot pot of herbal tea, bite sized sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, jam, honey, and a number of small pastries and macarons. It was absolutely delicious and the perfect mid-day break to warm up when exploring the cold city streets of Paris in the winter. 

 

Hangout with the Locals at Brasserie Flottes 

After I explored the Christmas market at Jardin des Tuileries, I was looking for a nice hearty meal to end the day and stumbled upon Brasserie Flottes. The restaurant was packed, and for a good reason! The Brasserie Flottes offers up delicious and traditional French cuisine with a modern twist and at affordable prices, but if that doesn’t sell you, it may also be worth mentioning that their staff were phenomenal - bright, cheery and oh so friendly! It is definitely worth a visit, but make sure you make a reservation ahead of time, otherwise you may be caught waiting a while for a seat. 

 

Enjoy Haute Cuisine at Le Reminet

Or, you could kick it up a notch and really dive into the Parisian haute cuisine at Le Reminet, a charming little restaurant with a lot of flare. Just across the river Seine and around the corner from Notre-Dame is where you’ll find Le Reminent. As soon as you enter the restaurant, you’ll feel as if you’ve jumped back in time to an era where dining was adored and people sat and drank, ate, laughed and sang the night away. You are surrounded by beautiful antique mirrors, candle lit tables and charming servers who take you on a journey not just through Paris, but around the world with their different flavours offered on the menu. Their handpicked selection of wines is incredible and their menu is constantly changing to feature the next best dish. When you’ve wined and dined yourself silly, the area around Le Reminent is also worth strolling through. The Quartier de la Sorbonne is a small and romantic neighborhood filled with cobblestone streets, historical boutiques, book stores and tea shops. This may not come as a surprise, but this was also a popular area used in the filming of Midnight in Paris, starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams. 

 

Indulge in a 3-Course Meal at Restaurant “Le Poulbot”

On your way up to the Sacré-Cœur Basilicia and hoping to avoid the busy tourist streets around Montmartre for lunch or dinner? Restaurant Le Poulbot is hidden along one of the smaller streets and packs a lot of punch for such a little restaurant. Le Poulbot serves up French cuisine at its finest. If you get the chance, opt for the 3-course menu where you’ll enjoy freshly made local ingredients in every dish. I also can’t recommend their chocolate lava cake enough! Absolutely delicious. 

 

Looking for more inspiration? This info-packed guide to exploring the city of Paris during the winter time may be just what you need to get started, but there’s plenty of more to experience in our winter-inspired video! 

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The Dead Sea & Amman, Jordan Guide

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Sights

The Dead Sea in Jordan is a natural wonder not to be missed. Why?

This body of water holds a lot of power, fascination, and mystery. Why? 

The water in the Dead Sea is extremely salty, and has been estimated to be the second saltiest major body of water in the world. Its name is derived from the fact that the water is far too salinated for marine inhabitation.

 

Overall, we headed to Jordan, the heart of the Middle East, to check-off a must-do travel experience:

Float in the Dead Sea!

This natural phenomenon is 10 times saltier than the ocean and serves as an excellent cleanser and detoxifier for anyone who goes for a float and slathers on the mineral-rich mud. Here, we explain what makes the Dead Sea “dead” and how to get the most out of your trip to Jordan, including a brief visit to the busy capital of Amman.

 

Why should you visit the Dead Sea?

  • The Dead Sea is the Lowest point on earth at 430.5 meters below sea level.
  • The Dead Sea is 33.5% salt compared to the ocean that is only 3.5 % salt.
  • The Salt Sea has been admired by man for centuries mainly because of the rich mineral and salt content of the water and surrounding environment.

After the Dead Sea, we visit Amman the capital of Jordan. Amman is a capital that displays the various groups of people, influences, and styles of the Byzantines, Ottomans, Romans, and more. 

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31° 44' 29.8824" N, 35° 35' 47.49" E
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4 Things To See and Do in Kollupitiya, Colombo

Colombo’s Kollupitiya region is one of the most visited areas in the burgeoning city. 

The suburb is an important commercial district in the city, with great vibes and positive surroundings. It has multiple thriving shops, malls, international brands and great nightlife. 

The region has a rich cultural heritage and many historical sights to see around. Visitors staying in Kollupitiya, get a taste of Colombo’s rich culture when they visit the neighborhood. 

 

A Mini-Guide to Colombo’s Kollupitiya Region

Kollupitiya Market

Kollupitiya market is the largest market in the Colombo commercial area, and is flooded with hundreds of thousands of tourists from across the world. Travelers can gain a large variety of experiences shopping around for gems in the city. 

There are wonderful small markets, antiques, and showrooms that display the most beautiful of handicrafts in the region. You can drop off your bags at the nearest Yoho Asoka Gardens, and take a short trip around the market for a great time! 

 

Galle Face Park 

The urban sea-park of Galle was made more than 150 years ago, and is a great destination for travelers wanting a taste of history. It stretches over half a kilometer along the Indian Ocean, and is a fantastic escape from the hustle and bustle of the main city. On top of all that, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is heavily inspired by Dutch-colonial impressions. 

There are many stylish cafes, boutiques, and great hotels that are forts converted into modern-time resorts. A great haven away from all the noise of the city, Galle Face Park is a must-see destination for anyone visiting the city. 

 

National Museum

The National Museum of Colombo was one of the first museums set up by British governors to capture the rich history of Colombo. The museum has natural artifacts that date back over 2500 years, and have multiple ornamental delights that amazes most travelers who visit here. 

The museum is a great place to bring the kids, and to have a good time bonding by learning about all that our past has to offer. Anyone can step in, take guest lectures and watch informational videos to learn more about Kollupitiya’s beauty. 

 

Nightlife

Kollupitiya’s nightlife is second to none when it comes to sights, sounds and vibe. The crowd is always buzzing, the atmosphere divine and the place is royal and cultural at the same time. 

Clubs like Cloud Red and Texas Night club, add a rouge of romance to any traveller’s itinerary. For those who want to party the night away, Kollupitiya has many rooftop bars and hotels that have some excellent music playing all night. The view from these rooftop bars is divine!

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Ministers Island in New Brunswick, Canada

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Road Trip

Located near St. Andrews, New Brunswick Ministers Island is a fascinating road trip excursion.

This part-time island can only be accessed a few hours a day during low tide. As the water from a low tide recedes, a road is revealed to access the “part-time” island.

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45° 6' 15.1668" N, 67° 2' 27.5172" W
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Eco Friendly Gifts Ideas for the Eco-Conscious Traveler

As travelers, we love exploring our beautiful planet. With that comes the responsibility to try our best with reducing any negative effects that we may have with our actions. Travelers are becoming increasingly more eco conscious on the products that they are using – following the path of an eco-conscious traveler.

The good news is that there are so many products designed with eco-conscious travelers in mind. More and more companies are designing wonderful environmentally friendly travel items and accessories to help eco travelers reduce their footprint while traveling the world.

Whether it’s a Christmas gift, birthday gift, wedding gift or farewell gift – we’ll help you find the perfect eco-friendly gift for the eco-conscious traveler in your life!

Here is the Travel Dude’s teams favorite eco-friendly gift ideas for eco-conscious travelers!

Eco Friendly Gifts for all Travelers

From recycled gifts to sustainable and ethical gifts – below is a list of great unique travel gifts for all travelers. Including travel gifts for men and travel gifts for women.

Eco-friendly toiletries

Buying travel-size toiletries is so unnecessary! Some alternative toiletries to buy include:

 

Scrubba wash bag

Backpackers or any traveler that is looking to pack light will often wash their clothes while traveling. The Scrubba Wash Bag is a useful item for doing laundry on the go as it allows you to wash your clothes pretty much wherever you can find water. Saving you on excess water use when doing laundry the traditional way as well as expensive laundry costs in hotels.

 

Collapsible coffee mug and water bottle

Coffee lovers will love getting a collapsible coffee mug. Because it’s collapsible, it doesn’t take up much room when it’s not in use – making it great for traveling! The same with a collapsible water bottle.

We love the Stojo collapsible coffee mugs and the CHICMODA collapsible/foldable water bottle. For travelers who frequently travel in areas with unsafe drinking water, bottles with a purification (not just filtration) system may be a better gift option. Two popular options are Grayl and LifeStraw.

 

Reusable straws

While more and more restaurants and bars are ditching plastic straws thanks to the worldwide #NoMoreStraws movement, it’s still a good idea to keep your own reusable straws with you while traveling. They’re great to whip out while sipping your Pina Coladas on the beach or for families traveling with kids.

Check out this 12-pack of Bamboo straws (handmade in Bali and comes with a cleaner and pouch bag), or these handy collapsible reusable straws (they also come with a cleaning brush).

 

Multipurpose travel towel

Fast-drying towels are a lifesaver when traveling. A quick-drying, antimicrobial towel made of eco-friendly fibers like the Trespass bamboo towel is an all-in-one option. This isn’t only convenient while traveling as it folds up really small, but it also means less washing which is better for the planet.

 

Reusable food containers and cutlery

In countries with a strong street food culture, it is almost impossible to not have to use one-time use takeaway bags and containers. That’s if you don’t have your own reusable containers to rather use, of course. The collapsible silicone food containers from reuseit are great. We also love the silicone reusable food bags from Stasher – these are great for packing snacks for a hike or long bus ride.

Takeaway containers often also come with plastic cutlery – which are both pretty useless and usually don’t get recycled properly. Get your travel buddies a set of reusable cutlery to carry with them on their travels. The Light My Fire Spork is a great option, along with this bamboo cutlery set that rolls up into a neat pouch (it even includes a pair of chopsticks!)!

 

Solar charger

Finding a way to keep your gear charged can be a hassle for travelers on the road – particularly during long bus/train rides or when hiking off the grid. The Anker PowerPort Solar harnesses the energy from the sun to allow you to charge your gear. Other solar charger options are from Instapark or Goal Zero.

This is a great environmentally friendly gift for active travelers spending a lot of time in the outdoors. A solar charger really is a gift that keeps on giving!

 

Sustainable backpacks

Whether for staycations, day trips while traveling, backpacking treks, or to use as carry-on only luggage, finding a well-made and versatile backpack is important for many travelers. Cotopaxi is one of the best companies out there that makes well-made backpacks and gives back with their poverty alleviation project. Ethnotek is another great company focusing on keeping culture alive by creating high quality laptop and travel bags that feature ethically sourced handmade textiles. Buying one of their bags sustains employment for the art of hand printing, weaving and embroidery with their partnering artisan villages in Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia and Vietnam. You can buy their iPad sleeves, women’s backpack and women’s messenger bag on Amazon.

Read our post on the top functional and stylish daypacks for more inspiration.

 

Headphones

If there’s one thing that all travelers need, it’s a pair of good headphones. Long flights, bus rides and train trips are made so much better with your own jams playing in your ears. The House of Marley headphones are made from recycled plastics, metals, and bamboo - it’s the perfect sustainable gift.

 

Eco Friendly Travel Gifts for Women

Looking for the best travel gifts for her? Make sure they’re also eco-friendly!

Menstrual cup

With this reusable menstrual cup, ladies can have an environmentally friendly period. They also make having your period while traveling so much easier! Ladies – get one of these for yourself as well as your female travel buddies! While it may take a while to get used to, once you get the hang of it you won’t look back. Did you know that using a menstrual cup for one year can save the waste of over 200 disposable period products?!

There are loads of different menstrual cups on the market – search through the options here. Or, save time and check out the most popular ones, including the RubyCup, Lunette or DivaCup. For every RubyCup sold they donate a menstrual cup to someone without access to safe period products.

 

Reusable makeup wipes

Disposable makeup wipes are a nightmare for the environment! They aren’t biodegradable and are also filled with nasty chemicals. These bamboo organic reusable makeup remover pads are a great alternative – plus, they come with non-latex makeup sponges.

And if your traveling bestie can’t go without wipes, then these face and body wipes are a great ethical gift. The Ode to Clean wipes are fragrance, allergen, and toxin-free and they’re entirely plant-based, biodegradable, and wind-power manufactured.

 

Causes and experiences

Gift giving doesn’t always have to be physical products. Another great gift idea for eco travelers is the gift of experiences or donations to specific causes. Donate to an environmental cause that your friend cares about – it could be a conservation project, wildlife protection or environmental education and research.

Alternatively, book an eco-conscious trip or experience wherever their next trip is going to be. G Adventures has a strong focus on responsible travel with many great eco-conscious trips around the world. Read more about their initiatives here. Intrepid Travel is another tour operator with a strong responsible travel policy – they offer many trips around the world. Gift card options are available for both G Adventures and Intrepid Travel.

We also love the idea behind the Tinggly gift box! It allows the receiver to choose between a massive list of the most awesome travel experiences around the world. From skydiving in Singapore to a horseback riding adventure in Puerto Rico!

 

Gift Cards

Another great idea is to give gift cards for online services that will make your traveler buddy enjoy their travels more. Give an iTunes gift card, a Netflix gift card, an Amazon gift card, a Kindle gift card, an Audible subscription or a Spotify gift card.

You can also get them an Airbnb gift card, a Hotels gift card or an airfare gift card.

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Sydney Harbour Islands: A Great Day Out

Sydney Harbour is a stunning harbour.

Dotted through the harbour are islands that offer a great day out, and even the chance to stay overnight. To get to the islands you need to either take a ferry, or a water taxi.

 

These are some of the isalnds you can explore in Sydney:

Shark Island

This island is located at the mouth of Rose Bay in the eastern part of the harbour. Until 1975 it was used as an animal quarantine station and naval storage depot. It is surrounded by shallow waters. It has picnic shelters, a gazebo and a wading beach.

The ferry service runs 4 trips each day from Circular Quay on Saturdays and Sundays. It is recommended that you reserve a place in advance as the island can only cater for 500 people at a time.

 

Clark Island

This island, located off the tip of Darling Point in the Eastern Suburbs,  is named after Lieutenant Ralph Clark, a marine on the First Fleet, who tried to cultivate a vegetable garden on the island. The crops were repeatedly stolen, and he abandoned the idea. The island offers views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.  

The island offers natural bush, with pathways leading to quiet areas for picnics. The number of visitors is limited to 150 at any one time, so bookends are essential. Contact the Sydney Harbour Visitors Centre below to find out information on transport and bookings.

 

Fort Denison

This small island, close to the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay, can be seen from Mrs Macquaries Chair. In the early days of Sydney it was used as a place of punishment for the convicts. Later a fort was built on the island to protect Sydney Harbour.

Fort Denison is open seven days a week for lunch at the cafe, and for picnics with a tour group. There are two tours daily to Fort Denison. Tours can be booked by visiting the Sydney Harbour National Park Information Centre, located in The Rocks.

 

Cockatoo Island

Cockatoo Island is the largest island in the harbour, and is the only one that you can camp on. It has a rich history, from being a convict prison to an industrial school for girls to being a large shipyard. Many of the original buildings and shipyards are still intact, and visitors can wander through them.

Tents can be hired, or you can bring your own. If you hire a tent sleeping mats and chairs are included. A stay on the island makes for a truly unique experience.

The island is serviced by a regular ferry service.

 

Travel tip shared by David Rutter
theoutdoortype.com.au

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The Best Ice Cream Stores in Barcelona

When the summer days get too hot to handle, there is one thing sure to be the perfect treat:

Ice Cream!

In a city known for its gastronomy, there are an abundance of amazing shops offering the perfect dessert for every type of sweet tooth. Whether you like cones or cups, chocolate or fruity flavors, be sure to check out some of our favorite places along the way.

And who knows, maybe go back for seconds… or thirds?

 

Here are Barcelona's best ice cream stores:

Bodevici

Pure, honest, organic ice cream! This shop whips up bold, authentic flavors with a slightly thicker texture than normal. This is because of the lack of artificial and sugary additives that are found in other ice creams. The company behind this treat is super ecologically friendly, and is part of a network of sustainable businesses throughout Cataluña that encourages healthy mind, body and spirit.

Carrer de Torrijos, 21

 

Gelaaati di Marco

This Italian gelateria is filled with innovative and rousing flavors like avocado, chili chocolate and pear. Located in the gothic quarter, this little slice of heaven is well known for being a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. You can also sit in the bar and have a coffee. Marco lets you taste as many flavors as you want, however choosing one is sure to be the hardest part of your visit. 

 Carrer de la Llibreteria, 7

 

Amorino

With 3 shops across Barcelona, there is no excuse not to try Amorino! There are Amorinos across the globe in China and NYC, too. As much of an art as it is a dessert, this gelato shop creates beautiful cones in the shape of roses. Be sure to have your camera ready for pictures. The intimate presentation is one thing, but let’s not forget about the taste. Each cone is full of rich, creamy goodness. Just be sure to eat it before it melts!

 La Rambla, 125

 

DelaCrem

This authentic ice cream shop produces some of the friendliest ice cream around, suitable for celiacs, vegans and those looking to snack on a low fat dessert. The store’s owner, Massimo Pignata prepares each flavor, assuring it is creamy and natural the way it was meant to be. These ice creams are top class, each step of the production process carefully and diligently carried out, from the selection of ingredients to the final freezing. Located in the comfortable and relaxing street of Enrique Granados, feel free to stroll by and enjoy this treat or their wonderful selection of brownies and cakes.

Carrer d'Enric Granados, 15

 

Tip: book your accommodation in Barcelona in advance as hotels can full up quickly! Read our extensive Barcelona Accommodation Guide if you're looking for somewhere to stay while in Barcelona!

 

Travel tip shared by Erin Ball
ApartmentBarcelona.com

Photos courtesy of Amorino, TheCutureTri, Bodevici, Gelaaati di Marco

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Insider’s Guide to the Top 10 Islands in The Caribbean

Tourists from all parts of the world head to the Caribbean as it has some of the most pristine vacation spots in the world.

The problem for the discerning traveler remains as to how to choose where to go, simply because each and every territory and island nation is stunningly beautiful in its own right. Silvery sand beaches, crystal clear waters and secluded shallow coves make these unspoilt island destinations some of the best in the world.

With a chain of a staggering 7 000 plus islands, it's natural that only a few of them will be able to meet your demands and fulfil all of your fantasies. This is why some of the popular and also some lesser-known islands are detailed here --which may not offer a totally crowd-free Caribbean getaway, but will definitely take you to a piece of paradise.

You can spend your time island hopping, or lounging on remote beaches and explore the hidden bays with your family and loved ones in some of the most inspiring island destinations in the world, known as the Caribbean.

 

Barbados

Apart from the justified famous beaches, the island of Barbados has it all to cater to the need of every type of taste and budget. Not surprisingly, tourism is the main backbone of the economy here, contributing to roughly 50%of the country's foreign exchange reserves. As a prime tourist hot spot that caters to visitors all year round, what Barbados lacks in size, it easily makes up for in its charm.

The locals are renowned for their friendliness, and are considered to be the best  asset of this tiny island nation of roughly 166 square miles. Barbados, in terms of sightseeing is a tourist mecca, and as far as the nightlife is concerned, it is unmissable to say the least.

 

Saba

The largely unspoilt island of Saba is unlike any other destination in the Caribbean. Known as the “Queen of the Caribbean”, the small island has surprisingly been left untouched by the modern world around it. Unlike it's more famous counterparts, the nightlife in Saba is limited to small restaurants and bars, while accommodation is varied. Even though just a handful of hotels and cottages are available, they are enough to cater to all the demands of the visitor.

Till today, life in Saba is easy going and laid back, where the friendliness of the people reflect the honour and pride they feel for the visitors and their island. So if you are looking for a vacation with a different twist, look no further than Saba.

 

British Virgin Islands

They say that no matter which part of the British Virgin Islands you happen to be, you will be overwhelmed not only by the friendly locals, but the outdoor activities and stunning beaches that will far exceed your expectations. Each of the four main islands and the 50 or more smaller isles have their own unique character.

Natural splendours like Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, Anegada and Tortola all offer their own special dose of local magic, despite where you decide to drop anchor. For families, thrill seekers, adventure lovers and the cultural minded, the British Virgin Islands beckon visitors like no other.

 

Guadeloupe

This French overseas territory is part of an island group in the Caribbean sea, with a shape like a butterfly. Guadeloupe is actually a formation of two islands separated by the River Salee. While Grande Terre on the eastern side has resorts and beaches, the western island Basse Terre is vividly different. With waterfalls, a rain forest and a dormant volcano, it is also the capital city of Guadeloupe.

Moving around the islands has been made rather easy, mainly because of the excellent network of roads available. It's easy to move around in a car, accessing the many hiking and nature trails that are there to allow visitors to discover the true insights of the Caribbean.

 

Aruba

The eternally sunny isle of Aruba is said to be the best Caribbean island for many reasons. First of all this 19.6 mile piece of land is just 15 miles from the Venezuela coast. Secondly the resorts, hotels and vacation rentals here are in a class of their own. Having the most sunny days of any island in the Caribbean, Aruba is also home to the famous Eagle Beach, considered to be one of the ten best in the world.

In addition to providing the best beach vacation, Aruba is the top wreck diving destination of the Caribbean. If that is not enough, the cuisine on offer here is a blend of 90 different nationalities. Aruba is also home to the Arikok National Park, which again happens to be the largest in the Caribbean.

 

Antigua

Antigua, meaning ‘ancient’, in Spanish, was a former British colony situated in  the eastern Caribbean. The island boasts some of the most ravishingly beautiful beaches that can't be found anywhere else in the world. The colorful capital St. John is a premier cruise ship destination, with museums, shopping and historical buildings being the top draw.

In Antigua they say that life's a beach, with one set aside for everyday of the year. In spite of the ever present English flair, Antigua is quintessentially Caribbean, filled with colorful villages where bright eyed natives are always there to great you with a wide smile.

 

Grenada

Also called the spice isle, the hilly island of Grenada has numerous nutmeg plantations from where it got its other name. The amalgamation of untouched beauty, friendly people and the simple way of life, makes a Grenada vacation a pure and authentic experience.

In a place largely undiscovered by the tourists, this enchanting island boasts of beautiful landscapes and long stretches of white sandy beaches where visitors hunt for sunken treasures amidst colorful corals. So if you want an unforgettable journey, head to Grenada, Petite Martinique and Carriacou.

 

Nevis

Located in the northern region of the West Indies, Nevis lies adjacent to St. Kitts, a quick 10 minute water taxi drive away. Despite its scenic beauty, the Government, till today, has preferred to keep this tiny piece of paradise off the radar of mass tourism. The locals love their island and prefer to keep it that way, in spite of the opening of a few good hotels which have now just about put Nevis on the tourist map.

The sublime beauty of Nevis is encircled in a mere 36 square miles of area, with the conical volcano of Nevis Peak visible from all parts of the island. The mile long nature forest trail aptly showcases how the residents value their flora.

 

Bequia

Considered by some as the most perfect island in the Caribbean, this hilly and verdant place is home to one of the best protected harbors, and is the most beautiful in the whole of Windies. The capital Port Elizabeth is a village like collection of colorful wooden buildings. The Belmont Walkway is a pretty road along the waterside, running past a host of restaurants and bars.

The Princess Margaret beach, a secluded but glorious 500m stretch of golden sands surrounded by almond and cedar trees and just a single bar. Excursions by boat to a nearby deserted island offer opportunities for top class snorkeling and full day picnics.

 

Grand Cayman

This largest of the Cayman Islands,  the Grand Cayman has everything a traveler may yearn for. Situated roughly 90 miles off the Cuban coast, the island is the most visited and popular of the whole area. Georgetown, the capital, is an important cruise ship destination, attracting visitors especially for the excellent scuba diving spots on offer.

This British overseas territory has long since been seen as a safe banking haven, apart from the stunning natural beauty which is present in every possible area of the island. The underground caverns system known as Crystal Caves is an intriguing piece of geography on the lesser developed northern coast.

 

The Bahamas

The Bahamas are located northeast of Florida in the North Atlantic Ocean, but are still considered as being part of the Caribbean. This mostly uninhabited collection of nearly 700 coral reef islands are referred to in Spanish as “shallow water”. Though the Bahamas constitute of hundreds of islands, tourists are only attracted to a handful.

The capital, Nassau, is home to the world famous Atlantis resort, while the Grand Bahama is well known for its amazing underground water cave system. The year round 80 degree temperature is just perfect for island hopping and enjoying sips of local rum on the beach. For the discerning visitor, there are art galleries, museums, casinos and much more.

 

All of the Caribbean islands are bursting at the seams with activity, though some may be more active than others. This massive archipelago of the Caribbean Sea consists of 13 sovereign states and 17 dependent territories. The islands described here have their own advantage over others, mostly based on their accessibility, activities on offer and cost of accommodation.

 

Travel tip shared by Jo
www.wanderwithjo.com

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7 Interesting Facts about California

In May, I will celebrate 10 years of living in California.  For those of you who haven't been to California, it is one of the most beautiful places in the world to visit. There are also several facts about California that you probably don't know about.

From the unique sights and sounds of San Francisco to swimming and hiking in Tahoe to the beaches of southern California to the beauty of Yosemite, there is never a shortage of things to see and do in California.

Moving to California was a bit of a culture shock for me.  I am originally from South Carolina so I can relate to people who aren't familiar with California and are visiting for the first time.  However, California has its own unique reputation but not everyone fits the California stereotype.

 

If you are looking to visit, here are some interesting facts about California.

California is a unique and interesting destination. From watching it appear in so many TV shows and movies, most people have a preconceived idea about what to expect. Though, you'll be surprised to read the below facts about California and learn that it is actually very different to what you thought.

1.  California has an extremely diverse population

California has the least amount of caucasian/white residents in the continental US (only Hawaii has fewer non hispanic whites).  Expect a LOT of diversity, languages, and cultures when you visit!

 

2.  California is not quite as liberal as you'd think

California is a liberal state - but not as liberal as you think.  While many people know that, it's not quite as liberal as people think.  By geographic area, California is far more red (conservative) than blue (liberal).  Big cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco are very liberal.  However, San Diego, central California, and northern California are conservative.  Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the coast of California are the only big blue areas in the state.

 

3.  Californians don't all look like they do on TV

Not all Californians talk like surfers or look like Hollywood actors and actresses.  There are people from all walks of life here in California.  Nearly half the population can speak at least some Spanish.

 

4.  San Francisco is very cold in the summer

Many people visit the city during the summer and shiver.  The average high temperature in the summer is in the mid to high 60s but the fog can make it bitterly cold.  As Mark Twain noted, the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.  Where many debate whether he really made that statement, it's accurate.  September and October are the warmest and most beautiful times of year to visit San Francisco.

 

5.  Sacramento and the central valley are very hot in the summer

Temperatures regularly exceed 100 in the summer and the average highs are in the mid 90s in July and August.  This just proves that California is not just beaches and 70 degree temperatures.

 

6.  It does rain in California - but not a lot

Winters can be very wet so be prepared for lots of snow and ice.  However, from May through September most areas of California won't receive an inch of rain in total for those 5 months combined.  Many areas will not see a single day or rain for months.

 

7.  Sacramento has one of the largest Russian populations per capital in the United States 

San Francisco and Los Angeles also have large Russian populations.  California also has the 2nd largest Asian population in the US and the largest percentage of hispanics.  In other words, the state is very diverse.  See #1.

 

With so many great places to visit in California, there are no shortage of visitors each and every year.  Mountains, beaches, lakes, trails, and beautiful people and places are in abundance. 

So when you visit California, now you know a little bit more about the people, cultures, weather, where to stay, and the best time of year to visit. 

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5 Activities To Get You Through Your Next Transatlantic Flight

Flights that last 8, 10 or 15 hours are exhausting, and if you're not prepared for them boredom can creep up on you very easily. I don’t know about you but there is a limit to how many movies or tv shows I can watch back-to-back.

Also, laughing animatedly with my travel buddy or even diving deep into an engaging conversation with the passenger sandwiched next to me is not very appealing when everyone within a four-seat radius can hear what we’re saying. And, for most people, there are only so many book chapters that can be read in one sitting.

So what can you do to avoid pulling out your hair on those seemingly never-ending flights?

 

Try one of these suggestions:

1. Practice a new language

Research and practice key words and phrases in the language of the country you will be visiting. You can do it the old-fashioned way with a pocket dictionary and notepad. Or, you can learn the basics like “hello”, “where is the bathroom”, “how much does this cost”, and “I’d like to order [insert your favorite meals here] via an audio tutorial or with an app – if you have inflight Wi-Fi.

No idea which translation app to use? DuoLingo seems to be a popular option.

 

2. Fine-tune your itinerary

While it’s always good to leave room for spontaneity, I’ve found that some of my best vacations were the ones where I had a clear blueprint of what I wanted to see and do in the destination. Structured activity plans, with room for adjustment, are priceless gems.

Guidebooks, bookmarked blog posts, destination websites and TripAdvisor comments are good starting points. They’ll give you multiple ideas for ways to get the most out of your trip.

 

3. Complete a few puzzles or play a board game

Thankfully, we now have many types of puzzles and board games to choose from. There are sliding puzzles, word-search puzzles, anagrams, numerical puzzles and logic puzzles.

And my board game lovers, a quick search on Amazon will yield results showing more than 1 700 ways to playfully pass your time during a flight. Also, I just heard about the launch of a new math-based puzzle called Numbrcise that is laid out like a crossword but it doesn’t use words or phrases as clues. It’s 100% number driven. If you’re a math buff, their brain-teasers could keep you occupied for hours.

 

4. Organize your phone's photo gallery

Organize the photo gallery on your smartphone to get it ready for your sure-to-happen Instagram and Facebook trip snaps. Oh, and on the return flight I recommend editing and curating images for sharing with friends and family, or with your online community. My photo editing software of choice is Snapseed.  It works for both iOS and Android phones. 

 

5. Try airplane yoga

Until recently, I never even knew that such a thing as a Cat-cow pose at 30,000 feet existed. But apparently it does! There are several online articles about the subject and a variety of YouTube videos that show you what to do. For example stroll around. When the seat belt sign goes off, take a stroll around the cabin to shake and move your legs every few hours.

When all else fails, get some sleep!

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