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Can anyone say…..Dinner Party?

Can anyone say.....Dinner Party?

Does it really get any better than dining in a 16th century castle?

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Exotic Travel on a Budget. Hotel rooms for $20. REALLY?

1. Egypt


Photo: Jungle_Boy

Despite having some of the world’s best-known monuments, Egypt struggles to fill its abundant hotels. With less-than-wealthy locals far outnumbering the tourists, it’s easy to find a bargain meal or a guide or taxi driver. (They’ll find you whether you need them or not.) Admission prices for the ancient pyramids and temples are reasonable, generally ranging from $3 to $14.

Sample deals: a first-class train ticket from Cairo to Luxor for $17; a Nile-view deluxe double room in Luxor for $60 with breakfast; a private room by the sea in Dahab for under $20; entrance to the Nubia Museum in Aswan for $4; a falafel sandwich at a Cairo street stall for 40 cents. There’s no great independent travel site for the whole country but Egypt’s official tourism site is better than most.

2. Indonesia


Photo: Erik K Veland

This Southeast Asian nation is one of the most diverse and attractive destinations in the world, with a long string of volcanic islands and a range of topography and culture. It could also be the best value on the planet, with cheap hotels going for $5 a night, often right beside great snorkeling spots. Bali is the most developed island, but even there you can find plenty of deals. On Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi, however, it’s easy to branch out like an intrepid explorer or get pampered on the cheap in the most popular spots.

Sample deals: a double room with pool and breakfast in Yogyakarta, Java for under $20; a five-day small ship cruise between Lombok and Flores islands via Komodo for $200 per person including meals; a first-class train seat from Jakarta to Yogyakarta for $25; an hour-long massage for $8-$15; a day’s motorbike rental on Bali for $10. Indo.com has a good listing of mid-range hotels in Bali and some other areas while the official Indonesia tourism site has travel info and enticing photos of the diverse islands.

3. Mexico


Photo: Tim Leffel

In mid-2008, the peso was at 10 to the dollar. Now it’s close to 13. That’s a discount of more than 25 percent in a country that was already a deal. Plus Swine Flu followed by drug gang violence on the U.S. border has meant that travelers have tremendous bargaining power on hotels and tours. To find the best values, visit the historic colonial cities or beach areas where Americans don’t outnumber the locals. (As in places where there’s no Señor Frog’s in sight.)

Sample deals: a three-course lunch at a market stand for $4; nice hotels in centuries-old colonial buildings for under $75 double with breakfast and Wi-Fi; a round of Negra Modelos for five at nearly any bar, including gratis snacks, for $10; and some of the nicest deluxe buses in the hemisphere for $6 to $8 per hour of travel. It’s a big, diverse country, but here’s an extensive set of links and the best books on one page: Mexico travel resources from Travelers-tool-kit.com.

4. Honduras


Photo: Tim Leffel

Few people knew anything about this country until it was all over the news last year when the president got forced out of office. You can find fabulous deals on scuba diving packages on Roatan Island. This Caribbean island sits next to the second-longest coral reef in the world, and every hotel seems to offer attractive package plans no matter the season. On the mainland you’ve got tropical national parks, the rugged Moskito Coast, and Copán, one of the key Mayan sites in the Americas and a great little colonial town.

Sample deals: $35 white-water rafting trips; weeklong learn-to-dive packages with room, breakfast, and transfers for under $600; a cold coconut with a straw for 40 cents; and admission to the Copán archeological park for $10. For more info, see the Honduras Tips site or Roatan Online, or see more travel prices in Honduras here.

5. Guatemala


Photo: Tim Leffel

This is only a shade farther to fly than Mexico, but it is a truly exotic destination. The descendants of the Mayans still dress in traditional clothing in the villages surrounding stunning Lake Atitlán. The Spanish colonial buildings in the city of Antigua are older than anything left standing in our historic city districts. The sprawling archeological park of Tikal is the granddaddy of Mayan ruins, and still surrounded by jungle.

Sample deals: taxis in Antigua for $4; great hotels with a view on Lake Atitlán for $60 a night; a week of private Spanish lessons including homestay starting at $180; a zipline canopy tour near Tikal for $30; three pounds of bananas or avocados for a dollar. La Ruta Maya Online is the best resource for hotels, tours, and Spanish language schools.

6. Peru


Photo: Tim Leffel

Machu Picchu alone is worth the journey, but it’s just the start in this value-packed country. Inca ruins are scattered all around the Sacred Valley, and Cuzco is one of the most attractive cities in South America. There is also hiking in the Andes, admiring colonial architecture on the streets of Arequipa, trips through the Amazon, boating across the highest lake in the world, and flying over the strange Nazca lines.

Sample deals: Bus from Arequipa to Colca Canyon – $6; a big traditional lunch and a beer for $7; simple restaurant meal in the countryside $6 for two; entrance to the Inca Museum in Cuzco for $1.50; cheap single room or hostel bed $4-$10; airport taxi in Cusco $4. Andean Travel Web is an exhaustive resource site for trekking info, hotels that are a good value, and general travel info.

7. Thailand


Photo: ccdoh1

As with Honduras and Mexico, visitor numbers plunged when Bangkok was all over the news recently, so there are plenty of deals on airfare, tours, and hotels. This is a popular destination for travelers of all budget levels. Thailand continues to be one of the best bargains in the world in terms of hotel prices, and with a well-developed infrastructure, it’s easy to get around and see what you want to see, be it historic ruins, Buddhist temples, or tropical beaches.

Sample deals: a standard double at a true 5-star hotel in Bangkok for $250 or less per night—or a cheap place to flop down and sleep for 1/20th of that price; admission to the main ruins in Sukothai for under $2; a first-class round-trip sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for about $40; a Skytrain ticket across Bangkok for about $1.30. The hands-down best travel resource for Thailand is Travelfish.org. They also put out some great iPhone/iPad apps on specific regions and islands.

8. Czech Republic


Photo: Tim Leffel

In much of Europe, prices in the big cities are often double what you find in the countryside. This is especially true in Eastern European countries like the Czech Republic, where vacationers on quick weekend breaks have driven up hotel and restaurant prices in Prague. In the smaller towns and cities, however, the country is one of Europe’s remaining great values. Castles on hill crests, some of the world’s best beer for a dollar or so in a pub, and winding cobblestone streets without crowds—Ye Olde Europe without the new Europe prices.

Sample deals: a room at the best hotel in town across Moravia for under $100 with breakfast; fully equipped hybrid bike rental for $25 a day; sommelier guided 12-bottle tasting at the Wine Salon of the Czech Republic in Valtice for $19; a train ticket from Prague to anywhere in the country for $12 or less. The official Czech Tourism site is excellent while MyCzechRepublic has good general info on different regions plus a message board. See more Czech prices outside Prague here.

To dive in deeper on any of these cheap destinations and see the current situation on the ground, check the message boards at LonelyPlanet.com and BootsnAll.com

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The Rainbow Mountains of China! Get it on the travel bucket list!

  • China Gansu Province Zhangye
Imagine a world where the mountains are striped with candy colours and people are dwarfed by the landscape’s immensity. Such a place exists in China’s northwestern Gansu Province, where 24 million years of vibrant stone and mineral deposits have created rainbow-striped mountains.

The tinted peaks were fashioned by uplift from the Earth’s tectonic plates – the same ones that formed parts of the Himalayan range – while rain, wind and erosion shaped them into the jagged world seen today. Located around the city of Zhangye, the area covers more than 10sqkm and the vista is most dazzling after a rainfall, when the colours glow even brighter than usual. (Melinda Chan/Getty)

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An Australian Nature Vacation with red crimson trek!

Australia’s sea of crimson claws

Australia€™'s Christmas Island crab migration

(Di Masters)

Every year in late spring, Australia’s Christmas Island becomes covered in crabs when the more than 40 million red crustaceans that call the northwest island territory home start their annual migration to the sea, covering the landscape in a mass of crimson claws.

Australia’s Christmas Island crab migration
(Max Orchard)

The migration starts with the first heavy rains in October, November or December. At that point, there’s enough moisture in the air for the large crustaceans, which can reach up to 11cm across, to make the arduous, five-day journey from their homes in wet inland forests to the Indian Ocean, covering up to 9km along the way.

Christmas Island
(Parks Australia)

With so many of the creatures on the move, Parks Australia works before and during the migration to protect the crustaceans by closing roads, building fences and constructing underground tunnels. Drivers are encouraged to stop for the crabs.

Australia’s Christmas Island crab migration
(Tracy Wilson)

Upon reaching the sand, the male crabs dig burrows and fight each other for ownership of the shelters. When the female crabs arrive (usually five to seven days after the first males), they begin to mate, and the females stay in their beachside burrows until the last quarter of the lunar cycle. The females always wait for the first day of the last quarter – regardless of when they started the migration – to spawn and release their eggs into the sea. Researchers speculate that since this phase of the moon has the least sea level change between high and low tides, the eggs have higher chances of survival.

Australia’s Christmas Island crab migration
(Justin Gilligan)

This year, the possible spawning dates (and dates of the quarter moon) are 28 November or 28 December, so the initial migration will happen seven to 18 days before, depending on the weather. The crabs tend to be on the move in the morning and early evening when the air is cooler, but any dry spells will halt the migration until wetter weather prevails.

Follow the Parks Australia blog or the Christmas Island Tourism Facebook page to get an alert at the first signs of the cruising crustaceans.

Australia’s Christmas Island crab migration
(Parks Australia)
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Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines for 2013

Just released…….   Pick up a copy of Wine Spectator magazine TODAY before they run out!  The most anticipated list in the wine world!

The tables to the right can be read as follows:  Vintage    Wine Spectator Score    Retail Price

ENJOY FELLOW WINOS!

1 Cune Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva 2004 95 $63
2 Château Canon-La Gaffelière St.-Emilion 2010 96 $103
3 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Evenstad Reserve 2010 95 $65
4 Hewitt Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford 2010 95 $92
5 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley 2010 95 $75
6 Giuseppe Mascarello & Figlio Barolo Monprivato 2008 95 $110
7 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée 2010 97 $120
8 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 96 $120
9 Lewis Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 2010 96 $135
10 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2010 95 $135
11 Reynvaan Syrah Walla Walla Valley Stonessence 2010 98 $70
12 Turley Zinfandel Paso Robles Dusi Vineyard 2011 95 $42
13 Croft Vintage Port 2011 97 $93
14 Bedrock The Bedrock Heritage Sonoma Valley 2011 95 $37
15 Olivier Ravoire Gigondas 2011 94 $33
16 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2008 94 $42
17 Alexana Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Revana Vineyard 2010 94 $42
18 Poggerino Chianti Classico 2010 93 $25
19 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay Hemel-en-Aarde Valley 2012 93 $33
20 Chateau Dereszla Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2007 95 $40
21 Le Macchiole Bolgheri 2011 93 $30
22 La Rioja Alta Rioja Viña Ardanza Reserva 2004 94 $35
23 Seghesio Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Cortina 2010 94 $38
24 Livio Sassetti Brunello di Montalcino Pertimali 2008 94 $55
25 Epoch Estate Blend Paderewski Vineyard Paso Robles 2010 93 $40
26 Álvaro Palacios Priorat Les Terrasses Velles Vinyes 2011 93 $40
27 Spring Valley Uriah Walla Walla Valley 2010 94 $50
28 Domaine de l’A Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2010 93 $34
29 R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja White Viña Gravonia Crianza 2003 93 $36
30 Lagier Meredith Syrah Mount Veeder 2010 94 $48
31 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Carneros Hyde Vineyard 2010 95 $65
32 Bodegas Hidalgo Gitana Manzanilla Jerez La Gitana NV 91 $19
33 Ravines Riesling Finger Lakes Dry 2012 91 $17
34 Bodegas Valdemar Rioja Inspiración Selección 2010 91 $20
35 Château du Retout Haut-Médoc 2010 91 $18
36 Bodega Norton Malbec Mendoza Reserva 2011 92 $20
37 Quinta do Passadouro Douro 2010 91 $25
38 Mollydooker Two Left Feet McLaren Vale 2011 92 $25
39 Viña Herminia Rioja Excelsus 2009 93 $18
40 Château de Haute-Serre Malbec Cahors White Label 2010 92 $24
41 Red Heads Studio Shiraz McLaren Vale Barrel Monkeys 2011 91 $20
42 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Uco Valley Reserve 2011 91 $24
43 Godelia Godello Bierzo Selección 2010 91 $14
44 Viña Koyle Carmenère Colchagua Valley Royale 2010 91 $26
45 Château Doisy Daëne Barsac 2010 94 $58
46 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley Reserve 2010 94 $60
47 Viña Santa Rita Triple C Maipo Valley 2008 93 $40
48 Greywacke Pinot Noir Marlborough 2011 93 $39
49 Failla Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2011 92 $34
50 COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2010 92 $35
51 Charles Smith Riesling Columbia Valley Kung Fu Girl Evergreen 2012 90 $12
52 Paringa Shiraz South Australia 2010 90 $11
53 Domäne Wachau Riesling Federspiel Trocken Wachau Terrassen 2011 90 $13
54 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2010 93 $45
55 A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir Oregon 2011 90 $18
56 Robert Eymael (Mönchhof) Riesling QbA Mosel 2011 90 $17
57 L’Ecole No. 41 Syrah Columbia Valley 2010 91 $25
58 Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2010 91 $29
59 Donum Pinot Noir Carneros 2010 95 $72
60 Astrolabe Pinot Noir Marlborough Province 2010 92 $28
61 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2007 92 $38
62 Concha y Toro Syrah Buin Marqués de Casa Concha 2010 91 $22
63 Hourglass Merlot Napa Valley Blueline Vineyard 2010 94 $75
64 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Rockaway Single Vineyard 2010 94 $75
65 Joh. Jos. Prüm Riesling Spätlese Mosel Graacher Himmelreich 2011 93 $42
66 Macarico Aglianico del Vulture Macari’ 2007 92 $25
67 Natacha Chave Crozes-Hermitage Aléofane 2010 92 $35
68 Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Hills Horse Heaven Vineyard 2012 90 $15
69 Boutari Naoussa 2009 90 $18
70 Marcassin Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Marcassin Vineyard 2007 96 $125
71 Ashbourne Sandstone Hemel-en-Aarde Valley 2008 93 $25
72 Shafer Relentless Napa Valley 2010 95 $72
73 Achával-Ferrer Malbec Mendoza Finca Mirador 2011 96 $125
74 Lucia Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Garys’ Vineyard 2011 93 $55
75 Domaine Overnoy-Crinquand Arbois Pupillin Vieilles Vignes 2009 93 $49
76 M. Lapierre Morgon 2011 91 $30
77 Dehlinger Syrah Russian River Valley Goldridge 2010 92 $40
78 J.J. Vincent & Fils Pouilly-Fuissé Marie-Antoinette 2011 90 $25
79 Ken Wright Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton District Savoya Vineyard 2010 93 $55
80 Querciabella Maremma Toscana Mongrana 2010 90 $22
81 Quinta do Crasto Douro Reserva Old Vines 2010 93 $47
82 Mamete Prevostini Valtellina Superiore Sassella 2009 91 $30
83 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Special Selection 2010 96 $130
84 Jolie-Pitt & Perrin Côtes de Provence Rosé Miraval 2012 90 $28
85 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Black Label 2010 91 $35
86 Fontanafredda Barolo La Rosa 2008 95 $96
87 Graham Tawny Port 20 Year Old NV 93 $60
88 Pierre Paillard Brut Champagne NV 92 $48
89 Raymond Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Generations 2009 95 $100
90 Carlisle Zinfandel Napa Valley Hayne Vineyard 2011 93 $48
91 Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici Riserva 2006 94 $75
92 Château Larcis Ducasse St.-Emilion 2010 94 $90
93 A.A. Badenhorst Family Swartland 2009 92 $42
94 Schiavenza Barolo Prapò 2009 94 $60
95 Bodegas Alto Moncayo Garnacha Campo de Borja 2010 92 $45
96 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli 2008 95 $120
97 Louis Roederer Brut Champagne 2006 94 $78
98 Château d’Yquem Bordeaux White Y 2011 94 $150
99 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey St.-Aubin La Chatenière 2011 92 $48
100 Badia a Coltibuono Toscana Cancelli 2011 90 $10
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Tips for Packing WRINKLE FREE

The primary goal of packing well is to fit everything you want to take in your bag, and have it emerge at your destination looking good. First, set aside the clothes you’ll wear on the plane—whenever possible, wear the heaviest and bulkiest pieces to save room in your bag. Open a suitcase you think will fit everything you need for your trip. Flip up any compression straps (these will be used in Step #10).

Step 22 Start by placing the heaviest items on the bottom of the bag (shoes, toiletries, travel alarm, hair dryer, travel books, etc.). Stuff socks and other small items into shoes.
Step 33  Pack woven shirts and other items that are likely to wrinkle into a Pack-It® Folder, which also functions as a divider, separating heavy items from more delicate items. Not everyone has a “Pack It Folder” so feel free to save the plastic overwrap when you get your cleaning from the cleaners, that will make very nice and wrinkle free dividers for your clothes.
Step 44 Next, lay long items (pants, dresses, etc.) horizontally across the bag, leaving the excess length hanging over the sides. Place the first item so it falls to the left of your bag, the second item to the right, alternating directions with each item.
Step 55  If you’re bringing a blazer, fold it facedown into the bag, placing the arms on top and making sure not to fold through the shoulder padding. Place the blazer so the excess length hangs over the front edge of the bag.
Step 66  Roll up knit items (T-shirts, polo shirts, pajamas and other items, such as underwear, that are unlikely to wrinkle) and place them on top.
Step 77  Tuck any remaining small items (belts, rolled ties and accessory bags) into any unfilled space. Then fold the items hanging over the sides into the center.
Step 88 Continue folding in the side layers, alternating from left to right until they are all in the bag.
Step 99 If you’ve packed a blazer, fold it up on top.
Step 1010 Finally, use your bag’s compression straps to gently cinch down your clothes, smoothing as you go to ensure there are no wrinkles. This will prevent items from shifting.Voila! Your bag is packed.

Bonus tips: If, despite your best efforts, you unpack your bag at your destination and discover some unsightly wrinkles, don’t fret. Simply turn on the shower, set the water to hot, hang the item nearby, and watch as the steam makes the wrinkles disappear.

from:  travelsmith

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