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Theme Parks and Beyond: Nearly 2 Dozen Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Orlando This Season
Orlando’s claim to fame is its extraordinary collection of family-friendly theme parks standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the balmy weather of the Sunshine State.

But the warmth of the holiday season in Orlando outshines even the Florida sun.

From Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration, to re-imagined Christmas and New Year’s Eve experiences at the theme parks and beyond, it’s a great way to get into the Christmas or Hanukkah spirit - or get a change of pace from the stresses of spending the holidays at home - again!

Whether your celebratory taste runs to festive performances, dazzling light shows, or theme park themed celebrations, Orlando is the place to capture the spirit of holiday cheer this year.

Your expert travel advisor can help you find the best value, last-minute holiday trips now, gift a future trip, or make plans to get away to Orlando later this winter. Happy Holidays!


FESTIVE THEME PARK CELEBRATIONS


Walt Disney World Resort - Select nights starting November 12, 2021


Disney Very Merriest After Hours at Magic Kingdom Park runs for 24 select nights
from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. The new separately ticketed, after-hours holiday event will bring
festive food and beverage offerings, dance parties, nighttime spectaculars and “Mickey’s
Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.”

• The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays takes guests on a global holiday
celebration with costumed performances, seasonal food throughout 11 World Showcase
nations, along with sights, sounds and flavors of the season celebrated by cultures near
and far.

• At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests can dine with Minnie and friends at Minnie's
Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine, catch a glimpse of old St. Nick as he cruises in his
candy-apple red convertible down Hollywood Boulevard and experience a captivating
projection show on the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom brings a holiday twist to the magic of nature with festive
flotillas featuring Chip n’ Dale, Donald Duck, holiday percussionists and Santa sailing
down the Discovery River. As nighttime falls, a holiday edition of the Tree of Life
Awakening will begin accompanied by a heartwarming musical score.


Universal Orlando Resort - November 13 – January 2, 2022


• Grinchmas at Universal's Islands of Adventure brings holiday charm to Seuss
Landing with The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, a live retelling of the classic tale
starring the Grinch. 

• Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter features festive decor in both
Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida.
Guests can cap off their evening in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade to
enjoy “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle” – a spectacular transformation of
Hogwarts castle with a stunning projection.

Universal’s Holiday Experience featuring Macy’s Balloons offers guests a walk-
through experience of larger-than-life Macy’s balloons and colorful Christmas floats,
including characters from Shrek, Madagascar and Despicable Me, along with Santa.

SeaWorld Orlando - November 12 – January 2, 2022


• During SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, over 3 million sparkling lights will shine
throughout the park. Festivities include live performances, seasonal food and meet-and-
greets with Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer. 

New for 2021: the littlest guests can sing and dance with their favorite Sesame Street characters during Elmo’s
Christmas Wish Show and Holiday Reflections: Fireworks and Fountains Finale features soaring fountains, dazzling lights and fireworks.

LEGOLAND Florida - Weekends November 26 – December 31, 2021


• Holidays at LEGOLAND will feature a giant LEGO Christmas tree, seasonal shows,
holiday characters, special treats, LEGO activities, twinkling lights and more.


FUN BEYOND THE THEME PARKS


• ICON Park is home to The Santa Workshop Experience through December 24. Every
child who participates receives a free ticket to ride The Wheel (adult guests receive 50%
off). ICON Park hosts its first tree-lighting ceremony on December 1 with a 40-foot-tall Christmas tree visible from International Drive. 

• The Night of a Million Lights at Give Kids the World Village holiday spectacular, taking
place November 12 - January 2, 2022, immerses guests in a sparkling wonderland of millions of lights, including a sparkling tree trail, larger-than-life holiday displays and a guided storytelling tour of 100 magnificently lit villas from the comfort of a tram.

• The Dazzling Nights outdoor holiday event at Harry P. Leu Gardens, running November 19 – January 9, 2022, features a three-quarter-mile interactive holiday experience with epic lighting installations, themed photo moments, live entertainment and more. 

Crayola Experience’s Colorful Christmas, taking place November 20 - January 3, 2022 includes diving into a life-sized snow globe, complete with falling snow, and crafting unique gifts. 

• Throughout the entire month of December, downtown Orlando is offering nine free holiday
events as part of Downtown for the Holidays. Visitors can watch The Nutcracker by the
Russian Ballet of Orlando; stroll around Eola Wonderland to see the dazzling holiday décor and lights - including the Eola Wonderland Christmas Tree; or grab a blanket and enjoy a holiday movie on the Lake Eola lawn. 

• The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts hosts holiday-themed performances
during its outdoor, socially distanced FrontYard Festival. Holiday performances include
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's Wild & Swingin' Holiday Party and the Big Band Holidays
tradition by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.


SPARKLING EVENTS TO RING IN THE NEW YEAR


Live large at New Year’s celebrations in Orlando! From five-course dinners to
exciting theme park celebrations, ringing in 2022 in Orlando will sure be worth the countdown.

• The New Year’s Eve Dinner at JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa’s
Sear + Sea features a gourmet meal and rooftop terrace boasting nightly views of both
theme park fireworks, which typically provide an extra-large NYE display. 

• Downtown Orlando’s Wall St. Plaza area, features multiple themed bars linked by an
open-air courtyard, for an annual New Year’s Eve Block Party with lightshows, dance
parties and a big countdown to 2022.

• On New Year’s Eve during SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, spectacular music and
a bold fireworks display will send a wave of welcome to the New Year ahead.

• On International Drive, numerous venues hosting celebrations with unique entertainment and live music.

HOLIDAY TRAVEL OFFERS


Ask your expert travel advisor about the best Orlando travel deals for upcoming holiday season.

#StartYourHolidayTrip!






If you’re like most of us, your holiday season last year fell a little bit short on the fa-la-la’s. This year, it’s not too late to double down on , and make up for lost time with 'peak Christmas' at the Christmas markets of Europe.

Lynn Elmhirst, producer and host of BestTrip TV, shares this video with some of the highlights of a nighttime German Christmas market - and explains why visiting Germany's Christmas markets this year may be the best way to return to travel.

Authentic Christmas Cheer

If it’s your first Christmas market experience, Germany is the way to go. So many of our modern Christmas traditions hail from Germany (via England, thanks to Queen Victoria's German husband, Prince Albert); for a real injection of the spirit of Christmas, this year, it’s time to go to the source.

Even today, Germans are the torch-bearers for festive authenticity – only genuine fir branches, music, food, drink and shopping traditions allowed!

Good Timing

Since Germany’s Christmas markets begin in late November, four weekends before Christmas, and wrap up Christmas Eve, you have time to get a dose of Christmas cheer and still make it home for the holidays -laden with everything to deck the halls on this side of the ocean.

For an extra special experience, visit in the evening – when twinkling lights, bonfires and torches kindle the magic and spirit of the season and transport you back to the ancient origins of this winter festival.

Good Taste

It doesn’t matter if you had substitutes at home last year, tasting traditional German Christmas market foods at the source will remind you of exactly why you travel: because it never tastes the same as when you’re 'there.'

The fir bow-draped, traditional wood stalls include the best German standards: hot sausages, pretzels, and beer, plus the seasonal delights: hot, mulled 'gluhwein'; stollen, a particularly addictive fruit bread; gingerbread or lebkuchen; and marzipan.

Oh, the glorious marzipan. Forget the icky, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth goo slathered on top of cheap fruitcakes here at home. Once you taste the real thing, you just can't get enough. Marzipan in Germany comes formed in all shapes. Look for the quirky Christmas traditional 'marzipan kartoffeln' – marzipan 'potatoes', little marzipan balls dusted with coco to look like… miniature potatoes. Other shapes are delightful, hand painted confections – a favorite in southern Germany is little pigs, a symbol of good luck.

You Can Bring it Home With You

The best thing about the Christmas spirit is sharing it. By definition, markets are perfect for souvenirs, to savour your own memories, and pass them along to your loved ones.

High quality, and often, artisan-crafted German Christmas traditional items like nutcrackers, ornaments, religious items and toys, toys, toys are iconic symbols of Christmas for the young and young at heart. You are going to want to buy the unparalleled handmade glass ornaments and you are going to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how and if you can get them home safely. Sheepskin slippers and mittens, and lots of boiled wool have a European design flair you don't find at home. Every market also has local specialties like the iconic blue and white china in Dresden, in everyday and Christmas designs.

If you haven’t restarted travel yet, the historic, traditional atmosphere of Germany's Christmas markets may be the best way to get back to the travel you love - and rediscover the magic of the holiday season.

#StartYourTrip!




Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


3 Million Lights for 101 Nights of Niagara Falls' Festival of Lights this Winter
This holiday season will be the brightest ever in the most popular tourist attraction in Canada – and one that conveniently spans the border with the U.S. - just as the land border between the neighboring countries is set to be open in both directions.
 
Beginning in mid-November and running 101 nights all the way to late February 2022, Canada’s largest, free outdoor light festival will take place. It’s the longest Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights of its 40-year history, designed to keep spirits bright throughout the darkest days of the year.
 
With over 3 million lights and over 75 spectacular displays providing colourful visuals, Niagara Falls will be transformed into a twinkling winter wonderland along the Niagara Parkway, Dufferin Islands and across the tourism districts. Visitors to this popular annual festival can bundle up and walk or drive through the Festival route to explore the outdoor, socially distanced, self-guided experience. 

 (Above and top photos: Niagara Falls Tourism)

That’s of course in addition to the nightly, colorful illumination of the Canadian side, Horseshoe Falls. The lights in the winter takes on a fantasy appearance as mist generated by the torrents of falling water freeze as they rise up into the air, creating natural and other-worldly ice sculptures clinging to the Falls.
 
You may even want to take more than one trip to Niagara Falls for the 2021-22 OPG Winter Festival of Lights. The Festival will be presented in two parts.
 
From November 13, 2021 – January 9, 2022 over Christmas and New Years, the Festival features favourite 3D animal and holiday themed displays, including the popular Dufferin Islands loop within Niagara Parks. 20 new displays introduced in 2020 will return, including a giant gingerbread house, 20-foot polar bear and fairy tale castle, plus 8 new displays for 2021.
 
Then from January 10 - February 21, 2022, spanning Valentine’s Day, the new, second half of the Festival showcases winter wonderland and love-themed displays. 3D animals from Dufferin Islands will magically appear in other parts of the tourism district, and holiday themed displays will be replaced with new illuminations.
 
Two maps – one for each part of the Festival of Lights – are available on the Winter Festival of Lights website so you can plan your trip – or trips – to take in the change in displays during the entire, extended Festival period.
 

New Light Show Dramatically Illustrates the Other Side of the Falls

 
This winter season may be the perfect time to discover the illuminated magic of Niagara Falls. The city has just opened another fascinating attraction with its own, celebrated light show.
 
The Niagara Parks Power Station is a new landmark attraction just south of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls that opened late summer. It pays homage to the incredible power of the water that flows over the Falls - and how the Falls have benefitted residents on both sides of the border, in addition to Niagara Falls’ place as one of the Natural Wonders of the World.
 
The first major power plant on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, the Niagara Parks Power Station was completed in 1905 to produce hydroelectricity by leveraging the power of the six million cubic feet of water that surge through the Niagara River and over the Falls every minute. Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side is the most powerful waterfall on the continent. 
 
Beyond its stunning architectural features and landscape design, the power station was one of the first in the world to undertake a major tunnel project, with water entering the structure and dropping 180 feet before being expelled into a 2,000 foot tunnel that emptied into the lower Niagara River, right at the base of the Horseshoe Falls.
 
An engineering and architectural marvel, the station’s generators were the largest of their kind. Power generated from the Niagara Parks Power Station was used to service Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, New York, and the plant remained in operation over one hundred years, until 2006 when it was decommissioned.
 
By day, visitors explore the preserved interior of the historic power station, transformed with new exhibits and guest amenities.

(Photo: Niagara Parks)
Each night, an immersive sight and sound experience “Currents: Niagara’s Power Transformed” brings the building’s story of transforming water to electricity to life. This immersive, family-friendly experience features incredible 3D projection, interactive moments of wonder, and a breathtaking musical score in the heart of the power station.
 
The dramatic light show at the Niagara Parks Power Station - as well as the newly-extended Festival of Lights - will brighten any traveler’s winter.
 

Start Your Trip!



Montreal is a year-round global capital of celebration. The world’s second-largest French-speaking city (after only Paris) is famous for its cosmopolitan flair, cuisine, fashion, as a UNESCO City of Design, the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil - and a full calendar of top-shelf festivals that wrap the city in energy anytime you visit.

A famously active winter city, Montreal’s star shines even when the temperatures fall, with a mid-winter ‘Nuit Blanche’, ‘Igloofest’ and active celebrations of the city, like giant outdoor skating rinks.

Summer is high festival season, with marquee events like the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix race which is the most watched F1 race in the world, the world’s largest comedy festival, rock and electronic music fests, the Montreal World Film Festival, just to name a few.

Most summers, that includes the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Guinness World Record-holding celebration of jazz music that transforms the city’s Quartier des Spectacles, or festival neighbourhood, into the world’s biggest jazz club with thousands of performers from dozens of countries, including today’s jazz legends as well as tomorrow’s.
 

© Benoit Rousseau - Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
 
In 2021, a smaller Montreal Jazz Festival took place in September – highlighting the irresistible appeal of open-air events as we start traveling again.

And it highlighted perhaps the very best time to visit Montreal – during the Fall, when warm sunny days and crisp nights are tailor made for enjoying the city outdoors to its fullest. There’s Montreal’s version of Oktoberfest in its Beer Festival, MUTEK, an exposition combining electronic music and digital art, MOMENTA, Montreal’s Biennale of photography and image art, even a two-part video gaming extravaganza.

But one literally 'outshines' them all.

Gardens of Light

 
For weeks at the height of the best fall weather in September and October, Montreal’s Botanical Gardens are transformed into pure enchantment. Three gardens: Chinese, Japanese, and First Nations, are set aglow with light and magic.
 
Glittering lanterns in different shapes, styles and sizes glitter along paths through the dynamic and uniquely styled gardens, illuminating not just your way, but providing an authentic gateway to three of the world’s great cultures.
 
The beloved annual spectacle draws thousands who come to be immersed in inspiration and culture, and the best time to visit includes the late afternoon sun, blooms and fall colors, that transition with sundown to a different world that pays homage to the rising moon.
 
In fact, one of the central – and very Canadian- experiences is an interactive, lunar installation that captures the relationship between humans and Nature. Under the real moon above, and in the reflection of a illuminated moon installation, you’ll hear wolves howling – and if you howl, too, it makes the illuminated moon grow bigger. It takes a nocturnal experience out of the playbook of camping in Canada’s north country – responding to the howling wolves – and makes it into art that highlights dialogue between humans and Nature.
 

The First Nations’ Illuminations: Circle of Life

 
The illuminations in the First Nations Garden grow out of the actual, giant poplar tree that’s the dominant feature of the garden, and labelled the Sacred Tree. On and around the Sacred Tree, the light installations portray the birth and fading of seasons and Nature’s constant transformation.

To add to the primal experience, the light show is played against a projection of fire and to the evocative soundtrack of a human heartbeat.
 

The Chinese Garden: Legend of Pangu

 
There’s a long cultural tradition of lanterns in China, making the magical silk lantern installations in this section of the Montreal Botanical Gardens both a natural fit and a fabulous transformation.
 
The Gardens of Light here recreate in dramatic illuminations the Chinese fishing tale of the mythological creature Pangu, who is accompanied by four more creatures representing the four compass points. The black tortoise for North, the red bird for South, blue dragon for East, and white tiger for West.
 

The Japanese Garden: Zen by Light

 
Where the Chinese Garden is dramatic, the Japanese Gardens by Light are meditative and understated. An illuminated path begins to glow as the sun sets, with the unmistakeable shapes of Japanese garden features reborn in peaceful lighting.

True to ancient Japanese culture, the illuminations pay homage to the changing seasons and highlight, rather than mask, Nature, enhanced on certain nights by live music.
 
Montreal’s Gardens of Light may be one of the most magical ways to celebrate autumn outdoors in one of the most dynamic cities in the world.
 

#StartYourTrip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV

Image credits as noted.

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


8 German Words You Need to Fit in at Oktoberfest
It’s Oktoberfest time again. The festival traditionally held annually in Bavaria’s capital of Munich, with similar events throughout the entire region, is one of the world’s most epic celebrations.

Name notwithstanding, Oktoberfest actually runs for just over two weeks from mid-late September to the first Sunday in October. It’s been cancelled again in 2021, but that gives you time to brush up on your vocabulary – and German beer drinking skills – until you can visit Munich’s Oktoberfest soon.

Here are a few expressions you’ll want to file away for good use at your next Munich – or backyard – Oktoberfest.

Bier

The word needs no translation, but it is what Oktoberfest is all about. According to recent stats, nearly 8 million liters, or around 16 million pints, were served to 6 million locals and visitors who thronged to the Munich Oktoberfest.
 
Bier is not just Bavarians’ favorite beverage, there’s a special one brewed exclusively for Oktoberfest every year: Oktoberfestbier. It has to meet certain standards, including German Beer Purity Laws and it must be brewed within Munich city limits.
 
Note to self: Oktoberfestbier is stronger than normal German beers, at 6% alcohol content.
 
Bonus word: Bierhallen. Pretty self-explanatory. The place they drink the beer during Oktoberfest.

Prost

 
This word involves essential Oktoberfest etiquette. Prost is German for ‘cheers’ (and a generally good word to know outside of Oktoberfest too!). You toast before drinking your beer, and you must look into your drinking friends’ eyes, raise your beer stein, clink, and shout (yes, shout) Prost! (Pronounced Prohst!)
 
You’ll find yourself doing ein Prosit often, and the bands in the Bierhallen strike up a specific tune every 20 minutes for a tent-wide toast, too.
 

Wurst

The jokes make themselves, when it comes to the German word for sausage. The ‘best’ of the ‘Wurst’. And so on. Actually, it’s pronounced ‘Vurst’, which is much less conducive to joking.

There are many kinds of Wurst to have with your Bier. In Germany you’ll likely encounter ‘Weisswurst’, which means ‘white sausage,’ and refers to its ingredients: minced veal and pork; Kasewurst, which has cheese inside, and of course every man-cave in North America has some Bratwurst, which just means finely-chopped meat in the sausage casing, usually pork.

Maybe the best thing about the Wurst is the wonderful variety of mustards served with them. You’ll quickly learn which kind of ‘Senf’ you like with which ‘Wurst’.
 

Tracht

For Germans and visitors alike, Oktoberfest is about ‘getting your Tracht on.’ Tracht refers to traditional costume in Germany and also other German-speaking countries. Oktoberfest guests are encouraged to get into the local culture and spirit by donning Tracht, and you have two choices:

Dirndl
A traditional alpine dress for women, dirndls consist of a long skirt, white blouse, bodice that’s done up so tight it can’t help being very eye-catching, and apron in vivid colors. It’s derived from a Bavarian word for ‘girl,’ and many women keep a hand-made, heirloom dirndl in the closet for formal, not just beer-drinking, occasions, like attending weddings.
 
Lederhosen  
The male equivalent simply means ‘leather pants.’ Actually, they’re shorts, usually worn with a white shirt, warm knee socks, suspenders/ braces and some go for the whole look with special shoes. Bonus points for a dashing wool felt hat with a jaunty feater - that’s also a symbol of the region.
 

Gemutlichkeit

 
There’s no exact English translation for this word, pronounced something like ‘geh-MOOT-ly-kite’) but it is the essence – even more than beer – of Oktoberfest.
 
Some call it fellowship, friendliness, or even good times. It’s the atmosphere surrounding you at Oktoberfest as you clink beer mugs with new and old friends.
 

#StartYourTrip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV

Image: BestTrip TV

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



Rum and Cigar Festival Elevates St. Barts to New Levels of Luxury Island Lifestyle
 It’s a tiny island with a big reputation as one of the most chic destinations in the Caribbean. Legendary St. Barts combines French ‘art de vivre’ with a lush tropical setting and an exclusive atmosphere. 

If you’ve been waiting to discover – or re-visit – this jewel of the islands, there may be no better time than November.
That’s when the Caribbean Rum Awards bring island luminaries and rum and cigar VIP’s from around the world together to celebrate two island luxury indulgences.

Saint-Barthelemy, affectionately shortened to the anglicized nickname St. Barts or St. Barths, is only 25 square kilometers (just under 10 square miles). Only small planes can land on St. Barts, and its iconic yacht harbour – one of the most renowned in the Caribbean – only accommodates yachts. That preserves the island’s charms from mass tourism.

Visitors arrive by small plane from nearby islands like St. Maarten, or sail in on a private or chartered yacht or even on one of the small, luxury cruise ships that can be accommodated in St. Barts’ picture-perfect, U-shaped harbour nestled in a cove in its capital city, Gustavia.

Some of the world’s most stylish, influential and prestigious travelers include the French overseas island on their annual calendar of travels.

The week-long Caribbean Rum Awards originated in 2018 and have become a highlight of the island’s November social calendar.

Anchored by Gustavia’s Rhum Room, home to the largest collection of fine rums of any bar in the hemisphere, the Caribbean Rum Awards are centered around a blind-tasting of the most premium rums in the world vying for the event’s top award. 

Rum luminaries and cigar aficionados from far and wide gather to sip, savour, judge, share their insights and tastes, and celebrate the iconic sugarcane spirit of the Caribbean.

In addition to the main event, rum lovers enjoy a slate of day and evening events including cocktail parties, master classes, private tastings, rum and cigar pairings, cocktail pairing dinners led by top chefs at one of the island’s most talked-about restaurants that end with spectacular, rare cigars, and nightly tasting parties at the Rhum Room.
A one-day Rum Expo is open to the public that week. Only holders of VIP tickets can access the other events.
 
If you haven’t over indulged already, we recommend you stick around in St. Barths. The Caribbean Rum Awards week kicks off the island’s ‘Gourmet Month,’ with the St Barth Gourmet Festival scheduled for the following week.
 

#StartYourTrip!


Images: Getty


Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You’ve Missed Danube Day But You Can Still Discover Europe’s Record-Breaking River
Every year on June 29th, eighty-one million people in 14 European countries celebrate the single river that ties them together and provides drinking water, food, power, recreation, jobs and transportation.

Danube Day annually marks the signing of the Danube River Protection Convention, which facilitates collaboration between the countries of the Danube River and the rivers that flow into it to ensure that it’s clean, healthy and safe. 
It’s also the largest river festival in the world. Huge celebrations take place on the riverbanks of towns along the waterway, in addition to clean-ups and greening activities, and educational events. 

That’s just one day of the year. But any visit to the region is the perfect time to discover what makes mainland Europe’s biggest waterway so special.

At 1770 miles (2,850 km), the Danube is the longest river in mainland Europe (only Russia’s Volga is longer).

Beginning in Germany’s Black Forest, the Danube flows southeast all the way across Central and Eastern Europe to drain into the Black Sea. It served as a vital transportation and trade route as well as food source for the earliest humans in Europe and was even the frontier of the Roman Empire.

Today, the Danube flows through more countries than any other river in the world. In a very real way, the region was built from the river inland. In addition to countless cities and towns that were built along its river banks beginning in ancient times, the Danube also flows through more national capital cities than any other river on the planet.

The capitals are the largest cities on the Danube, and include the can’t-miss European destinations and cultural and historic centers of Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade and Bratislava.
 
There are land tours in many of the countries and communities along the Danube. But perhaps the most authentic way to experience the river is to travel on it.

River cruises allow you to follow the footsteps of the ancient Europeans who navigated the river fishing, and trading goods from Eurasia into the heart of the continent, who established vineyards in the optimal terrain of steep riverbanks and microclimates nurtured along the Danube’s shores, and built the iconic cityscapes that are the hallmark of a Central European vacation. A night time sailing past the illuminated, riverbank Budapest parliament buildings (pictured top) should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.

A cruise that calls in the towns and ports in the countryside along the banks of what Strauss called “The Beautiful Blue Danube”, you’ll have a whole week of ‘Danube Days’ – and memories of a lifetime.

#StartYourTrip!

 
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.






On some islands, they like to tell you how many beaches they have, or days of sunshine. On Nevis, it’s how many different varieties of mangoes they have.

The answer? Officially, nearly four dozen – and unofficially, it’s estimated nearly 200 different varieties of mangoes grow on this tiny Caribbean island.

Nevis makes up the other part of the twin-island nation of St. Kitts & Nevis. Tucked away between Antigua and the British Virgin Islands, Nevis is off the beaten track in the Caribbean sense – which makes it a treasure for travellers looking for a secluded, charming island paradise. 

Dominated by the cloud-topped Mount Nevis, whose verdant sides slope down before becoming sandy beaches at the water’s edge, Nevis is beloved by savvy travelers in the know, who call in port in Nevis on a private yacht charter or luxury, small-ship cruise, or arrive by ferry from St. Kitts a couple of miles away.

 
No buildings higher than a tree are permitted, so the island retains a local, island character that heavily-developed Caribbean destinations lose. Only one famous resort brand calls Nevis home, and the Four Seasons resort on Nevis is a legendary, luxury, tropical island escape (more about that below.) Many visitors to Nevis stay in villas and small inns – where mango trees fill gardens and yards.

Something very special about Nevis’ microclimate and soil has made it the ideal growing environment for mangoes where they almost grow like weeds. In addition to yards and gardens, mangoes grow in wild abundance along roadsides, and in the green rainforests up the sides of Mount Nevis. They’re there for the picking for the island’s residents as well as its famous monkey population, who climb the trees, and donkeys, who eat them off the ground.

Ripening mangoes on the trees add to the vibrant color palette of the island especially in July and again towards the end of the year. Everyone has their own favorite varieties, from Amory Polly, to Julie, to graft mangoes that can grow as big as your head, and many Nevisians eat them right from the trees.


Mangoes are such an integral part of Nevisian life that there’s even a festival during peak season in early July to celebrate them.

The Nevis Mango & Food Festival usually takes place over the first weekend of the month. It’s one of the biggest events on the island and draws some of the region’s most talented chefs who compete over the course of the weekend to create dishes judged by celebrity chefs like UK Iron Chef Judy Joo who often appears at the festival to judge and also to teach masterclasses.

If you don’t make it to Nevis during the festival, you don’t have to worry you’ll miss the flavors of Nevis’ famous mangoes at other times of the year. If there are four dozen – or two hundred – types of mangoes on Nevis, there are at least as many ways to enjoy them served throughout the island, from cocktails made with mango puree, mango guacamole and salads and sherbet, biscotti, jellies, sauces for fish dishes… even some you can take home with you as souvenirs, like mango chutney, or jam or even mango hot sauce!

Complete your mango-themed visit to Nevis dining at the restaurant called Mango at the newly-renovated Four Seasons resort. The breezy, vivid yellow seaside restaurant is the epitome of upscale island dining.


WATCH THE VIDEO at the top to see more of the new Four Seasons resort’s renovations – plus another can’t miss culinary experience: ‘Dive and Dine’ lobster at one of the resort’s private, beach side cabanas.
 

#StartYourTrip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV



Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.







Many modern holiday celebrations put an irreverent twist on their historic – and often more solemn -traditions.
Thailand’s Songkran may be one of the most extreme examples of that phenomenon.

Ancient Thai culture marked the New Year in what we now call April. The word is Sanskrit, meaning ‘astrological passage’, and it coincides with the rising of Aries and the New Year of the Hindu and Buddhist calendars. Songkran is a three-day ritual, from the 13th to the 15th of April. The final day, April 15th is considered ‘New Year’s Day’ itself. 

To help usher in the Thai New Year, we were invited by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to a virtual Songkran celebration via a live feed to events in the country. 

You can WATCH the video of our virtual visit to Thailand at the top.

Water rituals play the central role in the observance of Songkran. They symbolize washing sins and bad luck away, and purifying the celebrant for the new year.

During our live feed virtual visit to a Thai temple, we watched celebrants gently pouring water over a Buddha statue.

(From Tourism Authority of Thailand video, top)

They also made offerings and practiced hand cleansing rituals with their elders and the Buddhist monks at the temples.

Then it was off to an elephant sanctuary. Elephants are the national symbol of Thailand, and are considered sacred for their role in Buddhism. These majestic, intelligent and sensitive animals also have a connection to the water. They are often pictured bathing in rivers and spraying each other.

The manager of the sanctuary wished us happy Songkran, and observed Songkran water purifying rituals – but it was an adorable baby elephant who stole the show, shyly weaving around the other elephants’ legs in the background, and peaking occasionally into the camera.

The final segment of the virtual event was a visit to the kitchen of American Top Chef alumnus, Asian cuisine chef Arnold Myint, where he prepared a refreshing Thai dish known and loved in Thai restaurants around the world, Thai papaya salad.

 
That’s how authorities like to depict Songkran, in all its charming, respectful and uniquely Thai aspects.

This is how the new generation celebrates Songkran – with public water fights! The ‘super soaker’ version of Songkran is just as colorful... maybe just not the most dignified or elegant. But it’s clearly inspired by traditional celebrations of water cleansing and even sacred elephants spraying water!

There may be a practical element, too. While technically ‘Spring’ in the northern hemisphere, in sultry Thailand so close to the equator, April is actually the hottest month. 

And while water fights on the streets with buckets and water guns and unavoidable wet T-shirts (!) may seem pretty irreverent, they do provide precious relief from the heat – you might call it ‘blowing off steam!’

Maybe that’s why modern, young celebrants are putting a ‘splashy’ new spin on ancient Songkran rituals.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon




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Signs of Spring - Worth Traveling For
Spring may be the most hopeful season.

There is nothing more uplifting than seeing Nature reborn every Spring. It’s like an assurance that life will get better again, no matter how tough the dark days of Winter – or life – have been.

Between March’s Spring Equinox and the start of Summer on the Solstice in June, the days get progressively longer, dousing us in light, and sparking the renewal of life after a long, dull winter.

So it’s no wonder that so many ancient cultures celebrate Spring’s light and new life.

Or why we are still so enchanted by the signs of the new season.

None are quite so colorful as spring flowers peeking through the snow or opening on trees or brightening fields. Since the earliest of times, humans have cultivated their outdoor environments for both nutritional, and inspirational purpose. 

Spring gardens feed the soul with wonder in the annual renewal of life, and the strength of even seemingly fragile organisms. There’s a parallel to human life our inner, primitive humans recognize.

If ‘April showers bring May flowers’, here’s the start of a Spring travel ‘bucket’ list to capture the essence of the season.

SPRING BULBS


Netherlands:
Keukenhof Garden is the largest spring flower garden in the world, planted with millions of spring bulbs. The garden is an orgy of vivid colors every Spring, but more than tourist attraction, it’s a calling card – or even business card – for Dutch spring bulbs, the Netherlands’ biggest agricultural product.

The garden serves as an outdoor sales convention for international buyers looking at the latest flowers offered for sale by Dutch growers.

Canada:
Ottawa Tulip Festival has a Dutch connection, too. During WW2, the Dutch Royal Family took refuge from their war-torn country. In gratitude, every year, a huge shipment of Dutch bulbs makes its way across the ocean to Canada’s capital, where they bloom in Spring in parks throughout the city.
 

CHERRY BLOSSOMS

Japan:
Cherry trees are native to many countries, but the ancient Japanese were the first to immortalize the delicate beauty of their pale blossoms in poetry, song, arts and crafts, and aristocratic festival. Cherry blossom viewing (pictured, top) has become a cornerstone of modern Japanese culture, but things have changed a bit since the Shogun strolled under the trees surrounding their castles.

Today, public parks become packed with groups of friends, families and co-workers who picnic and karaoke underneath the gently falling petals that remain a symbol that life is fragile and fleeting.
 
North America:
The Japanese have shared their national adoration of cherry blossoms in friendship with communities globally. Perhaps the most spectacular are the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C whose blossoms outshine even the magnificent monuments of the capital for a short time early every Spring. 

In Canada, the quaintly-British colonial port city of Victoria rises out of the gray mists of the Pacific Northwest winter with the arrival of clouds of mystical off-pink of cherry blossoms, especially at its world-famous Butchart Gardens.
 

LUPINS and BLUEBONNETS

Canada’s East coast has something in common with the state of Texas, and it comes in the form of a native, early season bloom.


Texas bluebonnets carpet roadsides in a single, vivid hue. Their maritime cousin, the lupin, creates a mosaic of a wider variety of colors from rich orchid to bright pink, pure white and pale lavender, all the way to the royal blue of its Longhorn State cousin.

 

AND OTHER 'RHODIES' TRIPS, TOO

The list of floral tributes to spring – and the trips they inspire – could go on forever. Rhododendrons and azaleas in Asia, the Pacific Northwest and the American South. Fields of daffodils across England’s green pastures.
Even the gardens in your own home town or backyard.


Wherever you find yourself this Spring, we hope you spend time outdoors, glorying in the arrival of a new season full of hope and color.
 

#SpringTravels


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip.TV









Celebrate 50 Years of Disney Magic
They’re calling it ‘The World’s Most Magical Celebration’ and it's a new entry on the travel bucket list of Disney lovers around the world. 
 
On October 1st, 1971, after years of imagining and building, Walt Disney World Resort opened in Florida, taking the magic of the Disney universe and beloved characters from the silver screen to real life. 
 
Half a century later, some would say Disney World is even better than real life. With millions of visitors every year, the ground-breaking theme park, against which all other theme parks would be measured, has created family memories and adventures of millions of lifetimes.
 
To celebrate, Disney has planned ‘The World’s Most Magical Celebration’ lasting a full year and a half beginning October 1st this year, and going all the way through 2022 and beyond. The 18-month gala features new experiences at the resort’s four theme parks and even beyond, where shimmering ‘EARidescent’ moments and décor will ‘magically’ appear.

Time to dust off your mouse ears and get ready to party.
 

Beacons of Magic at All Four Walt Disney World Theme Parks

 
All your favorite icons at each Walt Disney World theme park will transform into magnificent Beacons of Magic at night, coming to life with their own EARidescent glow.

·      Cinderella Castle will illuminate Magic Kingdom with a dazzling radiance that sparkles with pixie dust.
·      At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, a warm light will emanate from the Tree of Life as magical fireflies gather to usher in the magic of nature.
·      The Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be awash in a brilliance evoking the golden age of imagination and adventure.
·      And at EPCOT, new lights will shine across the reflective panels of Spaceship Earth, connecting to one another in a symbol of optimism resembling stars in a nighttime sky. The instantly-recognizable structure’s permanent new lighting will continue beyond “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” as a defining feature of the park.

 

Mickey and Minnie Dress Up


Your favorite characters dress for the occasion, too. As hosts of “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse don sparkling new duds featuring – you guessed it - EARidescent fabric, really upping the ante on everyday glitter costumes!
 
Walt Disney World cast members join Mickey and Minnie, to welcome guests during this once-in-a-lifetime anniversary celebration of the place know fondly by so many as The Most Magical Place on Earth.

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images: Disney




  Every 10 Years, This ‘World’s Fair’ of Flowers Upstages Netherlands’ Tulip Time. Don’t Miss Floriade 2022
 
If you thought Tulip Time in the Netherlands was the ultimate garden travel experience, you haven’t heard about Floriade.

Horticulture is famously the Netherlands’ most ‘colorful’ industry. The country sells half of the world’s ‘floriculture’ products and over three-quarters of the world’s flower bulbs. It’s number one in greenhouse horticulture and leads global exports of cut flowers, ornamental plants and even trees.

One of the most magnificent Dutch travel experiences is an early spring – ‘Tulip Time’ – visit to Keukenhof, the world’s largest spring flower garden featuring 7 million spring bulbs including over a thousand varieties of tulips alone. But even this experience – marvellous for visitors as it is – is actually a functioning, outdoor trade show exhibiting the best and latest bulb varieties for buyers from around the world.

Tulip Time, where a drive through the southern provinces of the Netherlands reveals fields of blooming tulips as far as the eye can see, and Keukenhof garden tours, luckily take place every year.

Floriade happens only 10 times a century.

Some call it the ‘World’s Fair’ of horticulture, and the next one is in 2022, just in time for travel-hungry people to ensure their post-pandemic travel plans include the opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime collection of vivid memories.
 
Floriade is the largest public event in the country, drawing 2 million visitors over six months between April and October to its vast displays of almost any plant that grows, in stunning gardens, installations, pavilions and greenhouses.

 
The exhibition moves around, with this Floriade taking place in a purpose-built, ultra-modern, 150-acre ‘garden city’ built on land reclaimed from the sea near Amsterdam.
 
The theme in 2022 is ‘Growing Green Cities’, with exhibitors from the Netherlands and around the world displaying green solutions and next-generation innovations and inventions for enjoyable, liveable and sustainable urban centers. 
 
Like the term ‘World’s Fair of Horticulture’ suggests, Floriade offers 40 inspiring country presentations which will also house a spectacular greenhouse complex, a cable car over the Floriade park, pavilions with sustainable innovations and a vibrant arts and culture programme. An electric scale-model train moves visitors around the vast site, and a 35-meter high, 850-meter long cable car provides an incredible view of what will seem like the Garden of Eden below.

 
Other highlights of Floriade include: an international collection of plants, flowers and trees and 14,000 bulbs organized alphabetically ‘A to Z’ in nearly 200 sections of a vast arboretum like you’re walking through a plant encyclopedia, Alice in Wonderland style.

A visit to Floriade includes culinary experiences, entertainment and culture, and the intersection of horticulture and art, like the ‘life artwork’ project ‘Bobbing Forest’ consisting of 20 recycled sea buoys from the North Sea, planted with Dutch Elm trees even as they ‘bob’ in the water, which you can view from the cable car or on a tour boat that departs from a waterside terrace.

The theme even has a double meaning, since the site is set to become a new urban district once the expo closes. Its name will be ‘Hortus’, meaning ‘garden’ in Latin, and some future homes have already been built that will serve as pavillions during Floriade and in a perfect ‘green’ re-purposing, revert to homes afterwards.

 

How To Floriade

 
Like many other ticketed events, it pays to be part of an escorted group with guaranteed access and no need to line up with people waiting for tickets.

Amsterdam is the jumping off point for both Floriade and the Netherland’s spectacular spring flower garden Keukenhof. 

It’s also a hub for land, ocean, and river travel, which means there are options for people of all travel styles to immerse themselves in the breathtaking beauty and inspiring innovation of Floriade.

Here are a few of our favorites:

LAND TOURS:


Check out: Trafalgar 

Trafalgar’s guests on tours like Amsterdam Explorer and Best of Holland will spend a full day at the Floriade, and “Dive Into Culture” and discover what it would be like to live in a city which is built with environmental sustainability at its core. You’ll explore the location's three districts, each with their own theme – Food, Health and Energy, and the ‘Green Island’, along with live entertainment, cultural shows and culinary delights. In addition to Floriade, you’ll cruise the canals or bike through Amsterdam, taste cheese in Gouda, learn how pottery is made in Delft, and taste exquisite chocolate.
 

 RIVER CRUISES

 
Check out: Uniworld, Avalon Waterways, Tauck, Scenic and Emerald Cruises

Luxury, boutique river cruise Uniworld is including Floriade as a ‘Choice Excursion’ on three of its 2022 itineraries, including the new Dutch Delight, as well as European Jewels and Remarkable Rhine and Historical Holland cruises on the cosmopolitan, richly elegant River Empress ship. Uniworld guests will have enjoy a full day excursion to Floriade, where you will stroll the expansive arboretum, sample healthful foods and learn about developments in sustainable architecture and energy.
 
Ultra-luxury river cruise line Tauck includes the Floriade experience on select Rhine River cruises in 2022. One of the things that sets the cruise line apart are its ‘Tauck Exclusive’ private shore experiences, which in this region of Europe, can include things like a pre-opening visit to the open-air Zuiderzee Museum; a private evening at the acclaimed Mauritshuis museum, where you will view masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer (including his iconic Girl with a Pearl Earring) and others and have dinner with live music for you and your fellow guests only; a cruise on the IJsselmeer aboard a century-old sailboat; and tease for, “a special Dutch treat at Floriade 2022.
 
Avalon Waterways is offering travellers on 8-day Active Discovery in Holland & Belgium, and Tulips of Northern Holland sailings (as well as a number of Rhine and multi-river cruises) the opportunity to sail, enjoying the only open-air balconies in river cruising with floor to ceiling, sliding glass windows facing your bed, then stop and smell the roses at Floriade, a featured, included excursion, giving guests the chance to join the celebration of phenomenal flora in all its finery and fill their senses with color, fragrance and fantastic food.
 
Scenic has increased its 2022 departures for Windmills, Tulips and Belgian Delights cruise, and for cruises from April to October, you’ll visit Floriade. The luxury river cruise line will also offer a two night extension to visit Floriade to Danube, Rhine and multi-river cruises between end of April to October that take care of all your planning and logistics for you, and allow you to spend as much time at Floriade as you like.
Sister line Emerald Cruises has similar options.
 

OCEAN CRUISES


Check out: Crystal

Ultra-luxury Crystal cruises include Floriade on sailings on their legendary ocean ships calling in Amsterdam, including London-roundtrip Gardens and Gateways, as well as London-Stockholm and Copenhagen-Reykjavik.
 

ASK US ABOUT THE BEST WAY FOR YOU TO FLORIADE IN 2022.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon



Images/ renderings courtesy Floriade

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The Best Celebrations Around the World For You To Ring In the New Year
At long last, 2020 is wrapping up, and a New Year full of hope is just around the corner.

This feels like the kind of year you’d toast the year past as early as possible, then call it a night, hoping when you wake up in the New Year, we will have turned the page on the disappointments, challenges, cancelled travels and special events missed during the past year.

No need to wait for the clock at home to strike midnight on December 31st. The global pandemic means that this year more than ever, countdowns have gone virtual, giving you several opportunities throughout the day to enjoy other cities’ New Year’s celebrations and kiss 2020 goodbye.

Dropping the Ball in New York

For many in North America, NYC’s glittering, Swarovski New Year’s Eve Ball drop is the definitive countdown and hallmark of the New Year. The tradition dates back a century to a ban on fireworks in New York City, and is now immortalized in popular culture with a televised show and one of the biggest crowds of the night. Usually, millions watch on TV, and billions also watch around the world as a million people fill Times Square to join together in bidding farewell to the departing year and celebrate collective hope for the year ahead.

This year, organizers are live streaming the Times Square Ball drop at the stroke of 12 to capture the same spirit in an online global community.

Futuristic Neon in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Time in North America, meaning you could be drinking mimosas for brunch in Florida, New York or Toronto on December 31st as the New Year strikes in Hong Kong.

(Above and top renderings courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board)

For the first time ever, the pandemic is sending Hong Kong’s New Year Countdown Celebrations online. To share its world-famous neon artistry against ultra modern architecture framing historic Victoria Harbour and its belief in a hopeful and resilient future, the Hong Kong Tourism Board is showing a live countdown clock on its website beginning at 11 pm local time. As the clock strikes midnight, video featuring the glorious illuminations above Victoria Harbour and other landmarks, plus greetings and blessings to the world, will play.

Fireworks and Laser Show in Dubai

Midnight in Dubai on December 31st is 3 pm that afternoon Eastern time, easily justifying popping a champagne cork for the live streaming of one of the world’s most spectacular New Year’s celebrations: fireworks and a laser show at one of the architectural marvels of the Middle East.


Already breathtaking at 2722 feet, the Burj Khalifa is even more wondrous on New Year’s Eve. People are also welcome to share 35-character New Year’s wishes to display on the world’s tallest building during the show by sending a message to Burj Khalifa’s social media accounts using the hashtag #BurjWishes2021.

 

Ringing in the New Year – Old School

Maybe the Year of COVID is the year to revert to ushering in the New Year using traditions that pre-date fireworks, laser, or ball-dropping extravaganzas.

For centuries, cultures around the world have developed traditions to bring health, happiness, hope, and good fortune to celebrants – and we need those blessings now more than ever.

Here are some of our favorite ways to start the New Year right, and you can do them all while in the safety of the self-isolation at home we’ve been asked to observe this holiday season. 

Eating Grapes - Spain
It’s simple and delicious. Spaniards ring in the New Year by consuming a grape for every chime of the clock at midnight. Those 12 grapes also happen to correspond to the upcoming 12 months, bringing good luck for the entire year ahead. Wine makers are said to be at the root of this tasty tradition.

Ringing in the New Year - Japan
Buddhists try to avoid the 108 earthly temptations on earth to achieve nirvana. So on the last day of the year, Japanese go to their local temple – many at the peaks of mountains of this volcanic nation – to ring the temple bell. Monks ring the bell all 108 times, and members of the public file past the bell, ringing it once to cast away bad deeds and bad fortune to be pure and receptive to all things good in the year to come.

Welcoming a Guest in Scotland
After religious Christmas was suppressed in Scotland, New Year’s – or Hogmanay - became the Scots’ primary winter celebration to banish the dark months, and welcome new light, warmth, and wellness. In addition to the lighting of bonfires and toasts of whisky, Hogmanay’s signature tradition includes ‘first footing’.

The first person to cross your threshold in the New Year brings you good luck for the year ahead. For a culture fearful of marauding blond and red-haired Vikings, a dark-haired man was the best luck for a ‘first footer’. Even someone already in your home can exit to come back in as a first-footer, bearing salt ‘for the tears every life brings’, bread or shortbread ‘to soak up your tears’, or coal ‘to warm your hearth’. 

Luggage to go in Columbia
This South American country may be home to our favorite of all the world’s New Years traditions. To bring prosperity and good fortune, Columbians carry money and lentils, both symbols of wealth and luck, with them on New Year’s. That’s easily understood. It’s another tradition – picking up empty suitcases at midnight and running around the block to help a year full of travel to materialize – that gets us really excited, especially for 2021.
 
Wishing you a happy and healthy year of good fortune and inspiring travels!

#HappyNewYear

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
 Image credits as noted above.

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Italy Names Its First 'City of Wine'
Wine lovers have one more reason to get traveling again next year. In celebration of one of its oldest and most beloved products, Italy has declared its first-ever ‘City of Wine’.

The Italian association of communities that collaborate to protect and promote their regional wine designations held a competition for the new honor. 

Barolo - the town with the famous red wine of the same name – was crowned ‘City of Wine’ for the award’s inaugural year in 2021.

Nestled between Genoa on Italy’s north-western coast, and the Alps to the north, the picturesque Langhe hills surrounding Barolo in Piedmont are nearly entirely covered by vineyards and have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The nebbiolo grape grown there is made into Barolo wine – so highly esteemed, it’s been dubbed the ‘King of Wines’.
Barolo wine is considered the most famous regional designation in all of wine-rich Italy. Not only does the wine have to originate only in the Barolo zone – that’s only 5 miles across at its widest point – wine must also go through a particular process. That includes a minimum of 3 years of ageing – half of that in wooden casks. Barolo is famously a wine high in tannin and much better aged, with some connoisseurs waiting more than 10 years for Barolo wines to develop the best flavor.

That’s put some modernizers – who favor a fruitier, quicker, less fermented version that appeals to modern and international tastes – at odds with die hard traditionalists.

You can decide for yourself at the abundance of wineries and wine shops that form the core of any visit to Barolo, and pair the wine with some of the region’s famous dishes at local restaurants. (Don't miss braised beef Barolo - in Barolo red wine sauce, with carrots, an iconic example of Piedmontese cuisine.)

To beat out half a dozen other competitors for the new title ‘City of Wine’, Barolo proposed an entire 2021 calendar of events, exhibitions, seminars, tastings and installations. They’ll celebrate the wine traditions, history of Barolo wine, and the natural cycle of the seasons.

City of Wine celebrations only enhance Barolo’s permanent features: the Langhe hills, Barolo vineyards, wineries, and wine shops. Add Barolo castle and its wine museum, the nearby, quirky Corkscrew Museum, and Barolo chapel standing in the middle of vineyards with its historic sanctuary for vineyard workers-meets-modern art installation to your essential 2021 pilgrimage to Italy’s first designated City of Wine.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images: Getty
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3 Hallowe'en Traditions With Roots in Ancient Celtic Ireland
Frightful Hallowe’en is many people’s top holiday of the year – but did you know that we can thank ancient Ireland for our favorite Hallowe’en traditions? 

Travel to Ireland these days, and you’ll still be able to connect with the origins of Celtic culture that still swirl in the mists of time in Ireland’s Ancient East.

Today’s Hallowe’en is the descendent of the Celtic festival of Samhain (Sow-ann). The celebrations included feasting on the harvest and lighting fires to mark the end of the season of light, and welcome the days of darkness.
 
The Irish practice of lighting bonfires began on hilltops in Ireland 3000 years ago, with clans and communities gathering to light huge ceremonial Samhain fires.
One of the biggest Celtic festivals of fire was on a hilltop called Hill of Ward in today’s County Meath. Recent archaeological excavations suggest the hill was used for feasting and celebration over 2,000 years ago. What’s more, it was the grandmother of all fires; old manuscripts reveal that the Celts lit a fire here from which all the fires in Ireland were rekindled.
To this day the area around the Hill of Ward, and the nearby Hill of Tara (pictured above) where the High Kings of Ireland ruled, remains one of the centers of Irish Halloween traditions. Every year, a 21st century celebration of Samhain, called the Púca Festival, is held in the region.

Celebrating Ireland as the birthplace of Halloween, Púca events normally include an impressive re-enactment of the symbolic lighting of the Samhain fire, live music and performance, amazing light installations and more. (This year the celebrations will be virtual, with a broadcast of the lighting of the Samhain fires due to take place on 31 October.)
 

Dress Up

That period of seasonal metamorphosis involved more than changing hours of light and darkness and lighting of fires for the ancient Celts. They believed that the moment of transition allowed the worlds of the living and the dead to interact – and that shape-shifting spirits could move between worlds. Starting to sound familiar?

To avoid being pulled into the netherworld in an untimely way, Celts disguised themselves in costumes. That would create confusion and even scare off any ghosts, fairies, goblins or demons roaming this world.
Hallowe’en dress up today may involve superheroes and video game characters – but its origins lay in deceptive and even frightening disguises.
 

Jack-o-Lanterns

Whatever face you choose to carve into your Hallowe’en pumpkin, you’re following an Irish tradition with New World materials. Before pumpkins existed in Europe, turnips and even large potatoes were hollowed out and carved to serve as lanterns.

Even the name Jack-o-lantern has its origins in and Irish folktale. As the story goes, a man named Stingy Jack played a trick on the Devil, who punished Jack, cursing him to wander all of Eternity with only a burning ember from the everlasting fires of Hell inside a turnip to light his way.

When Irish immigrants brought Hallowe’en traditions, including the jack-o-lantern, with them to North America, they discovered much larger and already-hollowed-out pumpkins and other winter squashes here that made bigger, better and much easier lanterns than turnips! 


Trick or Treat

In old Ireland, it was called ‘souling’. Children and the poor went from door to door, offering songs or prayers for the dead in exchange for money, kindling for fires, or food. The common food treat was a ‘soul cake’: a flatbread that contained fruit.

Today, the Irish celebrate Hallowe’en much like we do, with costumes and visits to neighborhood homes for small gifts of candy, fruit and money.

But as we enjoy activities we see as fun diversions and cute child’s play, we can also remember their mystical origins in ancient Celtic Ireland.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy Ireland.com

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How the Postponed Tokyo Olympic Games Will Feature Japan's National Sport

We should be watching the opening ceremony of the XXXIII Olympiad right now. 

But COVID has changed the history of the Olympics along with so many other features of our lives. Tokyo 2020 retains the name, but the dates have changed.

Originally scheduled to take place from July 24th through the second week of August this year, Tokyo 2020 now opens on July 23rd 2021. They are the first Summer Games to be postponed instead of cancelled due to an international crisis.

You can still make plans to be in the stands for Tokyo 2020 in 2021 and part of the excitement in Japan’s capital. The date changes will mean a magnified Olympic energy, pent up for an extra year. Always an international, feel-good rally, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo in 2021 promise to be even more symbolically charged in the year following the COVID crisis.
So next year more than many other Olympics, all eyes will be on Tokyo. In addition to all our favorite Summer Olympic sports, new competitions at Tokyo 2020 will include freestyle BMX and 3x3 basketball, as well as the debut of surfing, skateboarding and karate, sports proposed by the host country.
But Japan’s national sport will not be played at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Sumo is only practiced at the highest levels inside Japan. There is no competition between nations like Olympic Games for sumo.
Instead, between the closing of the Olympic Games and the opening of the Paralympic Games, the Japan Sumo Association has planned to stage a special, two-day sumo exhibition tournament.
It gives attendees at the Olympic Games the opportunity to be a part of one of the world’s most rare, ritualized, ancient sports still part of a country’s modern culture.
Sumo is often caricaturized in Western culture. You may have even been to parties where brave or joker guests don inflatable ‘sumo’ costumes, throw themselves at each other and roll around on the floor, laughing.
But a bit of knowledge about Japan’s version of wrestling gives viewers new appreciation for this unique sport and martial art.
  • Sumo was first mentioned in writing in the 700’s, but pre-historic wall paintings show sumo’s roots in ritual dances for good harvests;
  • Matches are held in a 15-foot wide clay ring;
  • Far from colliding and rolling around on the floor like the Western party game, sumo wrestlers try to force their opponents outside of the ring in full-contact, ritualized movements that are considered a martial art;
  • Sumo wrestlers are required to wear their hair long in a waxed topknot, in an historically Samurai warrior style;
  • In the ring, they wear 30-foot long belts (not diapers!), tied in the back, that the other wrestler can latch onto to throw his opponent out of the ring;
  • Matches begin with a powerful crouch and charge that use the wrestlers’ great size to full effect;
  • There are no weight classes in sumo, so the bigger wrestlers can get, the better! Sumo wrestlers consume specific, traditional foods – up to 20,000 calories every day, or 10 times what an average person needs! – to gain and maintain weights in excess of 300 pounds. In modern sumo history, 3 famous sumo wrestlers have even weighed in at over 600 pounds!;
  • Even today, other customs and traditions of sumo are very linked to Japan’s ancient Shinto religion, including the throwing salt to purify the ring.
If you are not in Japan for the special tournament following the Tokyo Games, six sumo tournaments are held for two weeks each every year throughout Japan. Tokyo’s tournaments are in January, May and September, and other major cities have one each, including Osaka in March, Nagoya in July, and Fukuoka in November.
It may never be an Olympic sport, but sumo is one of the best-preserved ancient sports anywhere in the world, and an experience not to miss if you ever have a chance to travel to Japan.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


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Summer Solstice at Stonehenge Goes Virtual: How You Can Attend this Mystical, Ancient Celebration This Year

Mark dawn in England on June 21st on your calendar. It will be worth or staying up late at night in North America to experience the online broadcast of one of the world’s most famous celebrations of pre-historic spirituality.

Summer Solstice is the astrological event that marks the longest day (the most sun) - and the shortest night (the least moon) of the year. Usually on June 21st, it’s the beginning of the Summer season in the northern hemisphere.

A Wonder of the Ancient World - and Accurate Solar Calendar

From ancient times, humans have marvelled at and closely observed the predictable movements of the sun, moon, stars and the earth. They connected them to celestial gods, earthly survival through good harvests blessed with enough sunshine to grow, and the insignificance of humanity amongst the heavens.
Ancient sites around the world are believed to have measured, marked, or honored celestial events like rare eclipses or the annual Summer Solstice (and its counterpart, Winter Solstice 6 months later on December 21st marking the shortest day and the longest night of the year).
Perhaps the most famous of these is England’s Stonehenge, or ‘hanging stones’. Stonehenge triggers an onslaught of fantasy and imagination in everyone who sees or experiences it. A circle of gigantic standing stones, some as high as 30 feet, and weighing in at 45 tons, even topped with other monster-sized stones fitted perfectly on top, they were arranged in a ring pattern that exactly lines up with the sun’s Summer and Winter Solstices even thousands of years later.
Like the pyramids of ancient Egypt, this 5000 year-old site has remained a wonder of the ancient world for the generations that followed, rediscovering and attempting to unlock its mysteries. It was even connected to Britain’s fabled King Arthur, so it could not be more ripe with legend and mystique.

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

At this unparalleled Stone Age site 90 miles west of London, ten thousand or more people every year gather to watch dawn of the Summer Solstice. As the sun rises behind the site’s massive stones this one day of the year, its rays are framed to penetrate into the center of the prehistoric circle with astonishing precision. Members of today’s druid, pagan, and mystical communities who hold Stonehenge to be their temple believe it is a spiritual moment.
Whether or not you believe Stonehenge is an astrological ‘map’ or solar calendar or celestial place of worship by pre-historic Celtic priests, the celebration of the Summer Solstice at this astonishing site remains a moving and unforgettable experience for modern people. 

Summer Solstice Goes Virtual

So when the global pandemic made the gathering of crowds at Stonehenge this year unsafe, English Heritage, the organization that manages Stonehenge and many of the country’s historic sites, announced it would offer a livestream of sunrise on the site’s most celebrated and significant day of the year.
Summer Solstice at Stonehenge goes virtual this year on English Heritage’s social media accounts live on Sunday morning, June 21st at sunrise local time (4:43 am London time which is 11:43 pm Saturday night in North America’s Eastern Time zone.) Bear in mind, that’s the actual moment dawn breaks, so you’ll want to tune in earlier to get the full effect over the course of sunrise.
You can join the English Heritage event on facebook – click here.
Or watch a video of last year’s Summer Solstice at Stonehenge on English Heritage’s youtube channel (click here) while you wait for this year’s livestream to launch. 

So even on the other side of the Earth during the middle of a global travel shutdown, we can participate in the spiritual experience of this vital moment on the solar calendar. And take a moment to ponder that we still share the same rhythms of sun and seasons with people who built a monument to its everlasting truths thousands of years before our time.


#DreamNowTravelLater



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 The COVID-19 pandemic is cancelling Easter celebrations large and small around the world. Thousand-year-old cathedrals will make history as they remain empty and silent.

Enter Andrea Angel Bocelli.

Celine Dion has said that, 'if God has a singing voice, he must sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli.'

The Italian tenor who made pop music audiences fall in love with classical opera, who has received cultural honors in his home country and also has Grammy awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame… is taking this unprecedented opportunity to fill Milan’s empty cathedral with music on Easter Sunday 2020. 

Milan’s Duomo dates back to the 1300’s. It is the largest church in Italy (St. Peter’s Basilica is larger, but it’s in the independent state of Vatican City). That makes it the 2nd largest in all of Europe. Milan’s Duomo is famous not just for the size of the building, but also for the 225-rank pipe organ which is the biggest in Italy, and for the gold Madonna gazing out onto the city from a perch nearly 360 feet at the top of one of the church’s many spires.

(Getty)

It’s also in the heart of the region of Italy hardest-hit by COVID-19.

Bocelli is making sure everyone’s Easter is filled with uplifting music, singing a solo concert Andrea Bocelli: Music for Hope in the Milan Duomo.
 
The 61-year old tenor and cathedral organist Emanuele Vianelli will perform soaring hymns like “Ave Maria” and “Sancta Maria” in the dramatic surroundings of the Duomo. 
 
And while the pews in Milan and around the world will be empty, the point of the Music for Hope concert is to “send a message of love, healing and hope to Italy and the world.”
 
So the Music for Hope will be livestreamed globally HERE on Bocelli’s YouTube channel beginning at 1 pm Eastern Time on Easter Sunday in a gesture the beloved tenor hopes will unite everyone facing the pandemic.

'I believe in the strength of praying together; I believe in the Christian Easter, a universal symbol of rebirth that everyone - whether they are believers or not - truly needs right now,” Bocelli said, “Thanks to music, streamed live, bringing together millions of clasped hands everywhere in the world, we will hug this wounded Earth's pulsing heart.”
 
He also hopes the concert symbolizes renewal of the society so disrupted by the pandemic. “It will be a joy to witness it, in the Duomo, during the Easter celebration which evokes the mystery of birth and rebirth.”
 
The Music for Hope concert isn’t the only way Bocelli is contributing. In addition to Sunday’s concert, the Andrea Bocelli Foundation is part of a campaign to purchase more medical equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients. And the acclaimed tenor also performs on April 18th’s virtual concert One World: Together at Home, raising money for charities providing food, shelter and healthcare to those in need as a result of the continuing crisis.
 
But it’s the Music for Hope concert in the hauntingly empty venue of Milan’s Duomo that will uplift the world on Easter Sunday.

And inspire us to think of happy days when we can once again travel to experience the gifts of Italian culture in person.

(via Andrea Bocelli /YouTube)




The Chinese New Year Dish You Need To Try This Year
Kung Hey Fat Choi! Chinese New Year celebrations brighten up the winter months throughout Asia and Asian communities around the world. It's the most important date on the Lunar calendar and includes weeks of festivities with family and friends from late January through March. Many activities give everyone a chance to get into the spirit of a fresh, healthy, happy and prosperous upcoming year.

Among the many outstanding traditions like lion dances, flower markets, decorations of lanterns, red and gold banners, and orange trees, wearing of red, temple visits, parades, fireworks, family gatherings and gift giving, are, of course, special Chinese New Year feasts.

If it isn't already, put Chinese New Year travel on your bucket list. Every major Asian community in Asia as well as the Americas and Europe holds memorable CNY festivities. Here are a couple of our favorites:

Hong Kong

It's considered one of the world's best festivals, with Victoria Harbour's neon spectacle as a backdrop to 6000 tonnes of fireworks, parades, flower market, temple celebrations and lucky New Year's horse races.

Philippines

Manila's Binondo district is the oldest Chinatown in the world, and appropriately, host of the Guinness world record Chinese New Year's celebrations. Its standout moment is a laser show and a one-of-a-kind LED Lion Dance.

Singapore

Chinese New Year involves weeks of festivities including an International Lion Dance Competition, a riverside carnival, and over 10,000 performers in the continent's largest street procession.
 

San Francisco

This West Coast city's Chinatown is famous, so naturally, it's 2-week CNY celebrations are, too. Flower festivals, a breathtaking, 200-foot dragon finale to the largest CNY parade outside of Asia.

Food is central to the celebrations, and almost every dish carries symbolic meaning or color, or a name that sounds like the Chinese characters for Chinese New Year wishes like longevity or wealth.

Our friends at Hong Kong Tourism have shared with us their recipe for Lion's Head Meatballs – also called Four Joys Meatballs. It's a pork recipe - which seems especially suitable for Year of the Pig – but is equally tasty and relevant no matter which creature's year of the Chinese zodiac it is. The round shape of meatballs symbolizes 'togetherness', and the Lion's Head evokes Chinese New Year Lion dances.
 

It's easy enough to make at home for your own Chinese New Year celebration or any time you crave it.

Braised Chinese Lion’s Head Pork Meat Balls Recipe 

 
Ingredients
 
Meatballs
1 lb Ground Pork
4 large Dried Shiitaki mushroom (soak in warm water until softened, then minced)
½ cup Water Chestnuts, minced
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Minced Ginger
2 Scallions/ Green Onions, minced
½ cup Panko Bread Crumbs
1 teaspoon Minced Garlic
½ teaspoon White Pepper
2 tablespoons Light Soya Sauce
1 tablespoon Dark Soya Sauce
1 tablespoon Cornstarch
2 tablespoons Shaoxing or Rice Wine
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
1 teaspoon Salt
+
1 cup Vegetable Oil for frying
 
Vegetables in Broth
10 leaves Napa Cabbage
2 pieces Sliced Ginger, bruised
1 cup Chicken Broth

Method

Put ground pork into a large bowl. Add Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, sugar, grated ginger, cornstarch and scallion. Add chestnuts, mushroom and eggs. Add panko. Mix all ingredients til sticky and moist. Divide into 6-8 parts. Roll each part into a large ball.
 
Heat vegetable oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat til warm. Fry meatballs til all sides browned. Take out and place on paper towels to absorb oil.
 
Place bruised ginger slices in bottom of a clay pot or any round pot. Fill with chicken broth or water. Put in cabbage leaves. Arrange browned meatballs on top. Cover and heat in medium high temperature til boiled, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt or soya sauce to taste. Garnish with chopped scallion or parsley (optional).
 
Ready to serve over steamed rice. You can make and cook the meatballs in advance and do the final heating in broth when you want to serve the meatballs.

Kung Hey Fat Choi!


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Discover Dazzling Winter Evenings at Hong Kong's New Light Festival

For a city whose nighttime skyline overlooking Victoria Harbour is already a global icon of urban lighting and signage, a light festival might seem like overkill. 


But the new Hong Kong Pulse Light Festival expands the effects of Hong Kong's famous neon signs and lit-up skyscapers to a street-level playground of luminous artworks during the darkest months of the year.

Debuting in 2018, the Pulse Light Festival runs from the last week of November through late February. Not only does the artistic light festival brighten the longest nights of the year, it also overlaps Chinese New Year festivities, a high point on Hong Kong's calendar of celebrations for an amplified celebratory atmosphere. 

Artists from around the world contribute to the Pulse Light Festival to bring Hong Kong to even greater heights of brilliance in the winter.  Here are some highlights visitors shouldn't miss:

'A Symphony of Lights'

It's one of the world's most spectacular light and multi-media shows, and now, Hong Kong's 'A Symphony of Lights' festival gets a winter edition. Every night, Victoria Harbour will get more dazzling, with more participating skyscrapers, more color, more pyrotechics from rooftops, and more lighting effects, all put to music that inspires. Check the calendar for special shows on red-letter dates like Christmas, New Year, and other holidays.


'A Tale of Two Trees'

The holidays are the inspiration behind 2 very different tree installations in Hong Kong. A glorious, traditional, lit-and-decorated Christmas tree lights up Hong Kong's Statue Square with the magic and wonder of the season.

Next to Hong Kong's brilliantly-lit Observation Wheel, a completely different kind of 'tree' installation reinterprets the traditional motif. The 'XTree' is a 25-metre, cubist, 'tree' made from metal scaffolds that evoke tree branches. Its strategically-placed lighting 'dances' to a soundtrack, making the 'XTree' come 'alive'. More than a visual treat, the installation is intended to inspire discussion and debate about environmentally friendlier ways to maintain and translate holiday traditions for the future.

'International Light Art Display'

The 'XTree' is one installation of a much larger display, the incandescent 'International Light Art Display'. Over a dozen, curated light art pieces by global artists from Europe, the US, India, Israel, and elsewhere in Asia, as well as several symbolic works by local Hong Kong artists, line Hong Kon's iconic Victoria Harbour for the festival.


Many installations are interactive and change color or appearance over time and in contact with visitors: revealing your inner beauty with 'Angels of Freedom' (pictured above), witnessing the dialogue of 'Talking Heads', walking through arches of 'Bat and Coin'. The light installations turn stunning Victoria Harbour from a breathtaking view to be seen from a distance, into a destination to explore and experience up close and in a festive evening atmosphere.

The Pulse Light Festival creates an unforgettable visual journey through Hong Kong, and joins other magical winter and holiday festive events, activities and celebrations that light up the night and warm hearts through the entire season.

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America's Tallest Monument Park Transformed in Time for One of Nation's Biggest 4th July Parties

The view 630 feet above St. Louis from the top of its defining monument has changed after an immense, multi-year, $380-million renovation to the city's Gateway Arch National Park .

The 1965 Gateway Arch became a global architectural icon and helped cement Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen's position as one of the masters of American mid-century design. The striking, modernist monument to the westward expansion of the United States is the world's tallest stainless steel arch, the tallest man-made monument in the United States, and even the Western Hemisphere. 

The arch itself is unchanged. Its boldly simple, award-winning design, 630 feet high and 630 feet wide remains 'a symbolic bridge between (America's) East and West, past and future, engineering and art'.

Its legs are still firmly planted on the western bank of the Mississippi on the site where the city of St. Louis was founded in the 1700's. But the experience of visiting this emblematic transition to America's West has been transformed.

The re-imagined surrounding urban National Park reconnects the riverfront and Gateway Arch to St. Louis, and visitors to the momentous events the arch symbolizes. 

Busy Highway I-44 used to separate the arch and the mighty Mississippi from the city (left, below). Parkland now bridges over the highway, leading visitors uninterrupted from downtown, to St. Louis' Old Courthouse and the new Arch visitor center and museum, and the arch on the river, all the way to the riverfront (right, below).

Don't Miss:

The Old Courthouse was the site of the infamous trials where slave Dred Scott and his wife unsuccessfully sued for their freedom. The ruling against them declared they were not citizens with the right to sue and contributed to the tensions leading up to the American Civil War.

The New Museum at the Gateway Arch completely replaces the original museum from the 1970's.  

Six new themed galleries features interactive and engaging exhibits including Colonial St. Louis prior to the Louisiana Purchase when it transferred to the United States, St. Louis' position as busy Mississippi river trade port, President Thomas Jefferson's vision of westward expansion, Lewis and Clark's renowned expedition, how Manifest Destiny affected native people, Mexicans and pioneers, and how the astonishing Gateway Arch monument to westward expansion was designed and built.

The View from the Top. The pair of trams in each leg of the Gateway Arch still takes visitors to a sloped observation deck at the top of the arch. From it, you can gaze over the river towards the East and Illinois, or West, over the park, the Old Courthouse, and the city of St. Louis.  If you don't take the tram ride, the new Keystone Exhibit allows visitors to experience the view via live webcam feeds from the observation deck.

The revitalized, over-the-highway park extends to the riverfront, with a plaza, miles of bike and walking paths and space for community events.

The re-opening of the park after years of closure for the renovations coincides with the return of one of America's biggest Fourth of July celebrations. Fair Saint Louis returns to the waterfront and Gateway Arch urban National Park with a series of events that celebrate America's birthday and the new experiences at this breathtaking national monument.


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Rio's annual pre-Lent extravaganza, Carnaval is the highlight of Rio's – and the party world's – calendar. It runs every year in the 5 days leading up to Ash Wednesday, culminating on Mardi Gras.  But not everyone can make it to the throbbing excitement of Carnaval in that short window.  

If you missed what many consider the sexiest party on the planet, not to worry.

BestTrip.TV can give you an insider's view of Carnaval.  Join us for a rare, behind-the-scenes experience with our fellow guests on this Silversea Grand Voyage exclusive shore excursion to one of Rio's top Samba Schools.

For Silversea's Grand Voyage guests, a one-of-a-kind Carnaval experience immerses us in all the elements of Rio's renowned celebrations:

Floats are the centerpieces of Carnaval.  Samba Schools build their floats in total secrecy – even from other members of their own Samba School. That makes the access we and our fellow guests have to the float-in-the-making extraordinary. The competition between Rio's Samba Schools is so extreme, not a whisper of each Samba School's new theme can leak out.  Each year, the Samba School parade entry tells a different story, and the installations, mechanisms and very glittery art  - provide the framework for the story. The countless sequins, glitter, feathers and sparkly paint make the floats surreal.

Costumes outshine even the floats, if that's possible.  Parade floats are escorted through Rio's Sambadrome by hundreds and even thousands of costumed dancers, musicians and other performers. Perhaps it's the extraordinary contradiction of so much glitter and shine… and so much skin at the same time. Rio's Carnaval costumes differ from other Mardi Gras celebrations around the world (like Venice or New Orleans) in one key way: they are notoriously sexy. This is the birthplace of the thong and dental floss bikini after all.  Not every costume is skimpy on fabric – they are wondrous, hand-made creations, and we and our fellow guests get to play dress up with genuine Carnaval costumes.

Cocktails make everything more fun, and the Carnaval experience is no exception. Cachaca (pronounced ka-CHA-sa) is Brazil's local sugarcane spirit, this country's answer to rum. Caipirinhas are the mojito of Brazil and help make this experience into a party.

Samba may be the most uniquely Brazilian aspect of Rio's Carnaval. The local music and dance, with roots in the country's African slaves, shaped by poor urban neighborhoods of more recent years, is a great symbol of the diversity, unity and democracy of the country today. Not to mention being one of the most throbbing, sensual, irresistible rhythms in the world. To the beat of the drums, cowbells, and whistles of musicians, we get into the spirit of Samba.  Spoiler alert: you may need to be born dancing samba to do the incredible music justice.

Parade time is the culmination of a year of Carnaval preparations. Rio has even built its incredible Sambadrome parade ground, lined by stands and VIP booths.  They don't prevent anyone from dancing along with the Samba School entries though.  And naturally, our own Silversea Carnaval experience culminates in a 'mock' Carnaval parade.

It's an overnight in Rio we'll never forget.

Plus, the Carnaval Experience supports the Youth Samba School that educates thousands of kids in the community.   Join us in celebrating Brazil's famous five-day party!

 

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Kung Hei Fat Choy! 

The Lunar New Year celebrations may be the largest global festival. A billion Chinese, plus people of Chinese descent as well as other Asian countries and communities around the world follow age-old practices to ensure another year of good fortune and prosperity. Lunar calendars have the New Year falling on different dates in February or March and celebrations take over small communities and Asia's largest urban centers.

BestTrip.TV was lucky enough to be filming in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year.  Here's how we  - and you – can get into the spirit of the Lunar New Year.

By Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip.TV

Seeing Red

Colors have strong associations in Chinese lore, and red is one of the best. Red is the color of good fortune.  The more of this hue in your life as you welcome another year, the luckier you'll be – or so they say. That's why you see so much red associated with Chinese culture, and especially at Chinese New Year.  Seasonal markets are laden with items in red and other auspicious colors and significance.

Photo Credit

Do as we did: pack your red dress, or tie or pocket square (we even heard there's special red CNY lingerie) to wear to celebrations to draw that good fortune towards you for the coming year.

Gold/yellow is associated with royalty and status, so it's no surprise it's often paired with red as the most auspicious color combination.  Don't hold back on gold jewelry!

Deck the Halls

I admire the practical aspect of conscientious housekeeping in one CNY tradition: sweeping away bad spirits and luring good spirits into your home with a good scrubbing. Then double down on your good fortune in the coming year by decorating.  You'll see endless red banners and lanterns of course, bouquets of red flowers.  But keep your eyes open for one other charming practice: bringing orange, tangerine, or their miniature version, kumquat trees into the home. 

Photo Credit

This tradition is said to have evolved from a play on the words for orange and tangerine sounding like the words for luck/prosperity.  Exactly what you're looking for on CNY.  In addition, their yellow/orange color also resembles gold.  In compact homes and apartments, a potted, table-top kumquat fits the bill.  In larger public spaces, restaurants and grand hotels, pairs of elegantly potted, sculpted orange or tangerine trees flank entryways during Chinese New Year.

Give and Receive

Sometimes, you'll see red envelopes with gold letters and trim tied to the branches of those orange trees.  Enclosing gift money in red paper is intended to bestow extra wishes for good fortune on the recipient, so the cultural significance of the red envelopes is the red paper, which amplifies the value and blessings of any money inside. 

Photo Credit

For that reason, if you are fortunate enough to receive a red envelope, you accept it ceremoniously with both hands and do not open until later.  Red envelopes are exchanged among family members, but employers often use the last day before CNY holidays as an occasion to thank and share best wishes with employees. 

When we were lucky enough to be visiting Hong Kong during Chinese New Year, and our hosts kindly offered us lai see, we felt very touched to be included almost like family.

Set off Fireworks

While many Lunar New Year practices attract good spirits, it's equally important to keep the evil ones away.  According to folklore, loud noises are ideal to scare away evil spirits.  That's become a tradition of setting off fireworks.  People go to markets and buy vast quantities of individual fireworks, and CNY community fireworks extravaganzas have become legendary. 

Hong Kong's CNY fireworks take place over Victoria Harbour with its spectacular skyline backdrop.  Take a look at the video at the top, you'll be breathless too!

Take in a Lion Dance

Any day is a good day when you get to experience a playful, whimsical lion dance.  They wink and flirt shamelessly with the crowd… and naturally bring good luck and fortune at Chinese New Years.  The lion's movements are performed by a two person team head and tail and have their roots in martial arts. Some include a sequence to 'pluck the greens': performing amazing feats of performance and athleticism to reach an auspicious bunch of lettuce tied with a red envelope that's dangled in front of the lion like a lure.

Photo Credit

These were our experiences in Hong Kong, and there are many other Lunar New Year celebrations to explore in China, other South-East Asian countries, and their communities around the world. 

Make sure you have good fortune in the coming year by joining in!

 

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5 Things You Must Do At Mardi Gras

New Orleans is home to one of the world's greatest parties. 

Like other Carnival celebrations, Mardi Gras grew from the Christian practice of feasting and celebrating on 'Mardi Gras' – which means 'Fat' Tuesday - on Shrove Tuesday, just before the solemn fasting of the 40-day pre-Easter season of Lent. 

The actual dates differ every year.  Shrove Tuesday can happen during February or early March, and Carnival season begins immediately after the 12th day of Christmas, continuing up to the Eve of Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. 

Other places in the world celebrate pre-Lent, too; you've probably heard of famous Carnivals in Venice, the Caribbean, in Rio and elsewhere.  But New Orleans' Mardi Gras has its own unique character.  The city's French-Creole heritage and culture and cuisine, steamy Southern climate - and oh, that famous local jazz!  - make Mardi Gras one-of-a-kind.

Thousands of people from North America and around the world flock to Mardi Gras. Here's how to celebrate in true N'awlins style:

Feast on Fat Tuesday Food

Fat Tuesday is the one day of the year when eating fried foods is a virtue. No dieting on Mardi Gras! Sink your teeth into some of the best Creole dishes New Orleans offers. To get that local flavor, order anything on the menu with crawfish – a classic crawfish boil, crawfish bisque, or the iconic crawfish etouffee, which means 'smothered', with the local crustacean coated in a rich creamy Louisiana-seasoned sauce served over rice.   

Iconic Creole stews gumbo or jumbalaya are a must while you are in Louisiana.  For feasting on the run, a local muffuletta sandwich is the best best on the menu: where the special ingredient, olive salad, binds cured meats and cheeses in sesame dinner rolls.

Indulge your sweet tooth with the local version of beignet – or as you might call it: a traditional-recipe donut.

A Mardi Gras special sweet treat is King Cakes, often a brioche/raisin bread type ring topped in official Mardi Gras colors of green, gold and purple, and with a hidden bean or even baby Jesus statue inside. Whoever gets the bean, becomes the next Mardi Gras 'king', or party host.

Have a Ball

Krewes are social clubs of New Orleans' residents that date back to the 19th century, established to organize the famous Carnival parades and masked balls. Most major krewes follow the same parades schedule and route annually.  These days parades are too oversized to take place inside the famous French Quarter.  But they still rouse up enthusiastic spectators and toss trinkets into the crowds, including 'doubloons' – replica coins often stamped with a krewe logo – and of course beads, the symbol of New Orleans Mardi Gras decadence.

Play Dress Up

There is no Mardi Gras without the costumes. This is not a time for subtlety.  Sparkles and matching headgear and masks are the order of the day, especially in Mardi Gras' traditional colors of purple, gold and green. New Orleans Mardi Gras may lack the baroque elegance of Venice or the throbbing sensuality of bikinis and samba in Rio, but dress up you must. Mardi Gras costumes span everything from black tie at private balls, to mutant octopus costumes and Elvis impersonators, jokers and mythological figures in a surreal whirlwind of excitement.

And Dress Down

It's easy to blame the current younger generation and TV shows featuring bad behavior for the decadence of topless party-goers at Mardi Gras. But semi-nudity and even cross-dressing have a long history with the Carnival in New Orleans, at least back to the 19th century.  Women flashing from balconies in the French Quarter have long been documented crowd stoppers. The beads-for-baring-them motif is all part of the unrestrained party ambiance of Mardi Gras.

Feel the Music

Any time of the year, New Orleans is one of the greatest music capitals of the world, the birthplace and home of jazz.  Mardi Gras takes music to another level in the city, and even more than usual to the streets, where jazz music and brass instruments are joined by the latest beats and rhythms.  You won't be able to resist dancing in the streets, at parties, in hotel lobbies, at of course at any ball you are lucky enough to be invited to attend.

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A night time market in the grounds of a castle. Fires and torches and twinkling lights, the smell of evergreen boughs, the best German Christmas culinary treats and artisans selling authentic German arts and crafts, Christmas decorations and cozy winter woolens.

Whether you're the person who always knows exactly how many days it is until Christmas, or the 'Bah, Humbug' type... Even a die-hard Scrooge gets into the spirit of Christmas at a traditional Christmas market in Germany. And Regensburg's Romantic Christmas market might be the most magical of them all.

You can explore a number of Germany's best Christmas markets on itineraries of seasonal river cruises as BestTrip.TV did.

Not to mention the delightful Christmas markets in other countries along the Danube like Austria, as well as France, Italy, Spain and the UK.

So it's not just river cruises; escorted tours also offer special Christmas market itineraries. You can get your fill and fill your bags with iconic local Christmas tastes and treats, as well as other local all-season gems. A child will never forget the handmade wooden toy you picked up in Germany. Or the signature Christmas chocolates from the Netherlands. Grown-up loved ones will cherish the hand-made 'santon' ceramic figurines of everyday life in traditional Provence that the French use in their nativity scenes. Or the ever-popular local wine from, well, anywhere in Europe.

We know families who have made a trip to a famous Christmas market a family gift. All members of a family, from grandparents, parents, single aunts and uncles and every kid ever! find joyful memories together at a European Christmas market.

We love the idea of celebrating the season with travel, and Regensburg's Romantic Christmas Market - or any European Christmas market visit will warm anyone's heart.

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