5/31/16

10 Things to Know Before Traveling to Mexico

Source(s): penpaland.com
                  buzzle.com 
 
Mexico, one of the most visited countries on the planet, is both exciting and challenging at the same time. Here are a few things that you need to know before traveling to the 13th largest independent nation in the world.
 
"Everyone has seen photographs of Mexicans wearing those big sombreros. When you come to Mexico, the astonishing thing is, nobody wears these hats at all."
― Bruce Beresford

The North American country of Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is one of the most interesting countries. Dense forests, expansive desert landscape, bustling cities, snow-capped volcanic peaks, a beautiful coastline, and lagoons teeming with awe-inspiring wildlife―Mexico conjures up more contradictions than those that meet the eye. This is true not only in case of the country's natural bounties, but also in the case of man-made wonders. From the stunning, old-age remains of the mighty Mayans to the gorgeous Spanish creations of the colonial times, to top-class, modern museums and galleries featuring the works of great Mexican artists like Diego Rivera, to an extremely vibrant music and dance scene, everything just seems to exist in perfect harmony. Even food lovers will be treated well by the hearty Mexicans with their sensational chili-laden flavors and unique liquors.

Whether you are on your first trip to Mexico or whether you have been there before as well, the country will seem different to you each time, and every time you will only but wonder in awe. For all those who have Mexico on their travel wish list, here are a few things to know about the country before you land there.
 
In the clockwise direction, starting from top―Mayan pyramid in Chichen Itza; a beach resort in Cancun; cenote in Yucatan; traditional Mexican dance performance; view of the Zócalo Public Square, Mexico City

It is Good to Research Well Before Finalizing Your Destination.

Tourism is a big industry in Mexico, and most of their tourist activities are centered around beaches or the Mexican Altiplano in central Mexico. Those aiming to get a little off the beaten path can head to some of the interior regions in northern Mexico. For American tourists, the most popular destinations are the Baja Peninsula, Cancun, and Puerto Vallarta. However, the Europeans prefer places like Playa del Carmen, San Cristóbal de las Casas, and Guanajuato.
It is Important to Know the Weather.

Mexico experiences a different kind of climate in its different parts. On the mainland, the low-lying regions have an arid climate, whereas the northern, high-lying regions tend to be colder. On the other hand, the northernmost part of the Baja Peninsula that lies on the Pacific coast has a more Mediterranean climate, while the southern part that faces the Sea of Cortez experiences an arid climate.

Moreover, La Paz and Cabo, which lie to the extreme south of the Baja Peninsula, have a desert climate, and from Tampico region down to Cancun, one experiences a tropical climate.
You will Need Some Time to Acclimate.

Mexico has a highly varied landscape, and some of the best places in the country are located on elevated terrains. If any such locations are in your itinerary, understand that your body will need some time to get used to the altitudes, and that you might even suffer from altitude sickness.
Some of the symptoms of altitude sickness include dizziness, shortness of breath, severe headache, and dehydration. Apart from drinking plenty of water to cope with this problem, it is also important that you do not push yourself too hard, and give your body the necessary amount of time (at least a week) to adjust with the changed conditions.

As a Non-Mexican, You Will be Easily Identified.

Most Mexican towns and cities have a fairly homogeneous population, and hence, as an international tourist, you will be quite easily noticed.

The way you look, the way you dress, the manner in which you talk, etc., will all make you easily stand out, and people will stare at you on the streets with curious eyes. Taxi drivers may be eager to take you places, and beggars may also target you. While it is good to be a little careful and cautious in such situations, it is worth mentioning that most of these people are just curious, and may not be harmful.

There are Numerous Assumptions About Americans and Westerners.

At some places, especially in smaller towns (unlike bigger cities like Mexico City), you might find that people will assume certain things about you on their own. More often than not, many of these assumptions just tend to be stereotypical images of Americans and Europeans that they might have built on from movies and television shows.
For instance, they may think that since you are an American, you have a lot of money. While some of these assumptions may seem to be outrageous, it is a good idea to try to change such opinions by behaving just as you normally do.

Some Things Will be Completely Different (and Challenging).
 
Traveling in Mexico, especially when you are alone and on your own, can truly be a challenging task. You will come across or have to deal with many things that you may not have known or even expected, for that matter. Crossing the busy roads is one such challenging task; the vehicles, especially the buses just don't seem to slow down. Well, such things might scare you off in the first instance; however, you will know the trick after doing it a couple of times.

There Are Several Tourist Traps Out There.

Mexico is known for its numerous tourist traps, and unless you are very alert and careful, it may be very difficult to recognize a trap. Foreign tourists, especially Americans and Europeans, are often overcharged while shopping on streets, or approached by strangers with tempting offers.
Unless you are absolutely sure about people you are interacting with, it is advisable to turn down all such offers politely, and not to trust strangers, irrespective of whether or not they seem to be genuine. It may also be a good idea to have a local Mexican host, who you can trust, in order to escape getting trapped into such scams.

It is Good to Know Some Basic Spanish.

Spanish is the main language spoken in Mexico, and so it is a very good idea to learn some basic Spanish phrases before getting there. You will especially need to know some basic Spanish while communicating with people like porters, taxi drivers, waiters, bus conductors, etc. If you are staying in a big resort, you will find people speaking some English; however, knowing the local language always helps. Carry an English-to-Spanish pocket dictionary just in case you need help.

Tap Water May be Harmful.

Unlike America and most of Europe, drinking tap water may be harmful in Mexico. Even if you are staying in a good hotel, do not drink water from the tap unless the hotel proclaims it to be purified and safe to drink. Buy bottled water instead; it is easily available, pretty cheap, and of course safe. Even if you are traveling on a tight budget, do not risk your health by drinking tap water, just to save on a handful of pesos.

Do Not Ignore Your Safety.

Numerous violent crimes are known to take place in Mexico from time to time, and one always needs to be cautious while on the go in the country. Moreover, drug traffic issues are on a rise since the recent past, and while overseas tourists are not the common targets, it is always advisable to be careful. Furthermore, practice general precautionary measures―do not trust strangers, do not leave your belongings unattended, and avoid driving/strolling alone at night.
The best time to visit Mexico is between the months of November and March, when the climate around the country is pretty favorable. June to October is Mexico's hottest and wettest period. So, head to Mexico, try out new things, explore all the must-see places, and indulge in some adventure. You will definitely return with memories worth cherishing.

5/29/16

Famous Places in France

Source(s): penpaland.com
                  buzzle.com
When visiting a new destination, it is always a good idea to know about the places on the must-see list. France is one of those countries that everyone would like to visit. Here is a list of some of the most famous places in France that one should not miss going to.

Did You Know?


France is the most-visited country in the world as of June 2012, according to UNWTO. It has approximately 594 Michelin-starred restaurants, and is the most-visited European destination by Americans.
Index
Why France?
  • For the cheese and wine! France produces over 400 types of cheese!
  • To experience the romance in the French air. Eiffel Tower is considered to be one of the most romantic spots in the world.
  • For the museums! France has over 1200 museums, Musee du Louvre being the most famous one.
  • For the Heritage sites. France has 38 World Heritage Sites as recognized by UNESCO.
  • For Disneyland! 'The Happiest Place on Earth' is the most-visited attraction in Paris (Even more than Eiffel Tower!).
  • For the scenic beauty. With its breathtaking scenery, royal palaces, and beautiful gardens, France is popular among travelers, explorers, and adventurers.
Considering the fact that France is at pace with the modern times and at the same time has maintained its cultural heritage, the country has a lot to offer. Not everybody has the same pick when it comes to travel, but France is one of the very few countries that has something for everyone. In this article, we have categorized places and attractions (the famous and the not-so-famous) in France on the basis of interests. Go ahead and choose your pick!

* Click to enlarge images

For Explorers

La Vallée de Chamonix

Situated near Mt.Blanc, the Chamonix Valley is a paradise for nature lovers and explorers. It has beautiful scenery all year round. The place is also famous for winter sports, being one of the oldest ski resorts. Lifts transport the visitors to the heart of the massif, which offers breathtaking view of the valley. Perfect for adventurous explorers.
Théâtre Antique d'Orange

Not so popular among tourists, the small town of Orange offers visitors a feel of the Roman Empire. It is home to one of the best-preserved Roman theaters in the world. The theater is grand and has a mystical feel to it. During summers, it becomes a venue for the annual opera festival, the Chorégies d'Orange.
Ardèche River (Vallon-Pont-d'Arc)

The river is famous for its limestone cliffs that reach up to 300m high. Ardèche is 125 km long and is situated in south-central France. Kayaking and camping trips can be done during summers. The most famous feature is a natural 60m stone arch spanning the river known as the Pont d'Arc (arch bridge).
Lavender Fields (Provence)

Provence is a region in south-eastern France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. The stunningly beautiful and vast lavender fields gives a heaven-like feeling to the place. The fields stretch as far as the eyes can see, perfect for long walks and exploring. Mid-June to August is the best time to visit.



For Art Lovers

Musée du Louvre (Paris)

Louvre museum is the most-visited museum in the world. Even before entering, one will be amazed to see the new-age work of art. The glassy pyramid is just the start, inside awaits the world's exquisite artistic and historic legacy. The museum showcases the Egyptian mummies, Code of Hammurabi, Venus de Milo, Leonardo's Mona Lisa, the list goes on. It is truly a symbol of the French aesthetic art and finesse.
Arenes de Nimes

Arena of Nîmes is an ancient Roman amphitheater found in the city of Nimes. The Amphitheater is well-preserved and is still used for public events like Bullfighting, etc. The architecture of the amphitheater is breathtaking and fascinating. The arena is nearly 2,000 years old and still standing, bearing a testament to the genius of Roman engineers.
Lascaux II (Montignac)

Lascaux II is a replica of the set of caves that were discovered in 1940. These caves were estimated to be more than 17,000 years old. The caves have some 1,500 paintings of wild animals. It is believed to have been a sanctuary for the performance of sacred rites. Lascaux II is open for art lovers who wish to see the early cave paintings and learn more about the history of European art.
Musee d'Orsay (Paris)

The second most splendid museum in France, Musee d'Orsay is no less. The museum showcases sculptures and paintings, mainly by french artists. Art enthusiasts will love this place as the museum displays extensive assortment of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces. This collection is said to be the second-largest globally. It has roughly 3 million annual visitors.



For the Wanderers

Oradour-sur-Glane

Oradour-sur-Glane is a deserted town in west-central France. On 10 June 1944, in retaliation for the sabotage attacks by the French Resistance, the village was razed to the ground and 642 innocent residents massacred by Waffen-SS soldiers. The town was not reconstructed after that, instead the ruins were preserved to pay tribute to those who died.
Fourvière (Lyon)

Fourvière is a district of Lyon, located on a hill near river Saône. It is famous for the Catholic Basilica of Fourvière. It also has the oldest funicular lines in the world which are still active. A climb on the hill leading to Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière is an experience in itself. Once on top of the hill you can find ruins of a Roman city.
Chateau de Versailles (Paris)

20 km south-west from Paris, the Versailles Palace is famous for its breathtaking views and beautiful gardens. The palace is grand and regal, the gilded royal apartments, the astonishing Hall of Mirrors, the intimate cabinets, and the impressive architecture of the rooms are some of the highlights.
Promenade des Anglais (Nice)

This beautiful walkway is a great place to take a stroll in the evenings. It runs along the beautiful Nice shore. You can listen to your favorite songs on your iPod while enjoying the scenic beauty and the serenity of the beach. Also known as 'La Prom' by the locals, the Promenade des Anglais is lined with beautiful cafes, hotels and shore-side apartments.



For the Young at Heart

Moulin Rouge (Paris)



Moulin Rouge is located near Montmartre in the red-light district of Pigalle in Paris. It is famous for the replica of the original red windmill. But the real attraction of the place is the evening performance of cancan. The slender legs, frilly costumes and the overall atmosphere contribute to a lively and seductive performance.
Eiffel Tower (Paris)

This is the one place that cannot be missed. The Eiffel Tower is the global cultural icon of France and one of the most-recognized structures in the world. The tower is the tallest structure in Paris and is famous for marriage proposals. It is considered one of the most romantic places on Earth.
Route Touristique du Champagne

A picturesque oasis of tranquility, pristine beauty, and fine historical heritage, Champagne has much more to offer than a sparkling glass of wine. The Champagne Route is a route of 5 circuits, all marked and well-navigated that help you explore diverse vineyards, adorable villages and the famous champagne houses. A perfect place to spend quality time with your loved one.
Place Masséna (Nice)

This one is known globally as one of the most beautiful public squares. The atmosphere here, is enhanced by fountains, statues and gardens. It is famous for street performances and concerts, specially the carnival parade in February. Another highlight nearby, is Vieux Nice. But the main attraction is at night, when the atmosphere is magical due to the illuminations.

La Mer à Boire (Paris)

La Mer à Boire is a cafe that overlooks the Parc de Belleville, and also happens to be one of the highest points in Paris. It offers a gorgeous view of the cityscape. It has a large paved terrace and is very popular among the young local crowd. Inside the cafe, the atmosphere is great. Often, cartoonists are seen sketching, while musicians perform on weekends.



For the Beach Lovers

Baie d'Audierne (Brittany)

With 2,000 km of beaches, Brittany has the longest coastline in France. Baie d'Audierne is 30 km long bay that offers a relaxing and peaceful environment. Located in the department of Finistère, it's not very crowded and is perfect for peaceful walks in the evening and for cycling along the coast. It is famous among tourists as it depicts the authentic European environ.
L'île de Riou (Marseille)

Out of the many beaches in Marseille, L'île de Riou is the only beach that offers unseen beauty and tranquility at its best. It is the largest island in the archipelago of the same name. The beach is identifined as uninhabited. It has been carefully preserved and is ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. It is also famous globally for underwater archeology.
Côte d'Argent (Aquitaine)

This stretch of beaches from Gironde to the river Adour, has a lot to offer. Famous among nature lovers, this beach is perfect to unwind. Situated in the Euronat stretch, it has many beach cafes and untouched golden sand to explore. Meaning Silver Coast, it has a lot of resorts you can choose from. Another feature is the series of laid back villages and towns that stretch along these beaches.
Côte d'Azur (French Riviera)

This coastline is one of the most popular getaways for people all over the world. The casino in Monte Carlo, the film festival in Cannes, along with long stretches of beautiful pebble and sand beaches contribute to the popularity. Part of the Mediterranean, the most famous beaches here are Paloma Plage, Villefranche sur Mer and Cap d'Antibes.



For Families

Disneyland Park (Paris)

Located in Marne-la-Vallée, eastern suburbs of Paris, Disneyland witnesses 15,405,000 combined visitors to the resort's Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. It is Europe's most visited themed attraction. Considered to be heaven for kids and an opportunity for adults to be kids again, Disneyland has something for everyone. It is no surprise it is called 'the happiest place on earth'. It recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.
Arc de Triomphe (Paris)

Arc de Triomphe ('Triumphal Arch' in English) is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. This architectural masterpiece stands at the western end of the popular Champs-Élysées. The arch is a tribute to those who fought and died for France in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. The top of the arch has a viewing platform, which provides great views of La Defense, the Champs-Elysées and the Sacré-Coeur.
Luxembourg Gardens (Paris)

This place acts as a perfect place to relax after a tiring day of sight seeing. These formal gardens, which were open to only the royalty before the French Revolution, now serve as one of Paris' most popular destinations. Families can spend time here, relaxing and enjoying the beauty of the nature. Before visiting these gardens, you can visit Fontaine de l'Observatoire, which is situated just south of the site.
Flight Experience (Paris)

If you ever wondered what it would be like to fly a plane, this place is for you. Flight experience offers flight simulators that give you a feeling of flying an airplane. The instructors are all qualified to fly the real plane, so you are getting the best of the best. Their level of expertise and enthusiasm towards the layman makes this the perfect experience for the entire family. The image used is for representation purposes only.

Aquarium La Rochelle:

Imagine an ocean packed into two floors. Aquarium La Rochelle houses a stunning array of large tanks, a great display of water life from shrimp to sharks. The entire setup is amazing; the main highlights usually being the sharks. Kids and even adults will be thrilled to witness the aquatic life with beautiful fishes swimming around, giving the feeling of being underwater.


World Heritage Sites in France

France has a total of 38 World Heritage Sites! All of them are unique in their own way. Here is the list of these sites categorized as cultural, natural and mixed.
Cultural Sites

Natural Sites

Mixed
  • Canal du Midi
  • Amiens Cathedral
  • Bourges Cathedral
  • Chartres Cathedral
  • Episcopal City of Albi
  • Pyrénées: Mont Perdu
  • Fortifications of Vauban
  • Vézelay, Church and Hill
  • Strasbourg - Grande Île
  • Paris, Banks of the Seine
  • Lagoons of New Caledonia
  • The Causses and Cévennes
  • Bordeaux, Port of the Moon
  • Jurisdiction of Saint-Émilion
  • Palace and Park of Versailles
  • Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay
  • Mont Saint-Michel and its Bay
  • Belfries of Belgium and France
  • Provins, Town of Medieval Fairs
  • Pont du Gard, Roman Aqueduct
  • Historic Site of Lyons
  • Palace and Park of Fontainebleau
  • Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans
  • Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin
  • Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps
  • Arles, Roman and Romanesque Monuments
  • Abbey Church of Saint-Savin sur Gartempe
  • Le Havre, the City rebuilt by Auguste Perret
  • Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France
  • Pitons, cirques and remparts of Reunion Island
  • Prehistoric Sites and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley
  • Cité de Carcassonne - Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne
  • The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes
  • Historic Centre of Avignon: Papal Palace & Avignon Bridge
  • Place Stanislas, Place de la Carrière, and Place d'Alliance in Nancy
  • Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Abbey of Saint-Remi, & Palace of Tau, Reims
  • Roman Theatre and its Surroundings and the 'Triumphal Arch' of Orange
  • Gulf of Porto: Calanche of Piana, Gulf of Girolata, Scandola Reserve, Corsica
France is one of the most beautiful countries of the world, and the French people are known for their manners, intelligence, and aesthetic sense. Be it art, culture, cuisine, fashion, architecture, natural beauty or technology, France has it all. It truly is no surprise that it is one of the most-visited destinations in the world.

5/28/16

Top 10 Romantic Islands in the World

Source(s): penpaland.com
                  buzzle.com

The world's best islands for couples are nothing but jewels thrown across the colorful waters on Earth. These top 10 romantic islands of the world are so sumptuous, they seduce couples the world over.
 
Bull's Eye!
 
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. - Mark Twain

Amongst all the islands that exist in this world, there are a special few that take your breath away. Dreamlike settings, beautiful, tranquil, and a soothing scenery - some of the many things you'd expect. Add to this, exceptional architecture, delicious meals, and intriguing cultural practices, and you have a dream vacation right there! Most islands don't even have to try too hard. Their natural beauty is so strikingly gorgeous, you would be content just being amidst all the wonders of nature.

World's Top 10 Romantic Islands
 
Pristine beaches, calm waters and a feeling of being the only ones on this earth are things any couple would want on their beach holiday. However, our top 10 romantic islands promise more than just uncrowded beaches. They promise a balance of romance and adventure; a chance for you to do more things together.

Maps provided in the article are not to scale and are used to show the approximate location of the island with respect to the nearest country/city.

                                          Bora Bora, Society Islands of French Polynesia.
 
 
Best Time to Visit: July to September

Who says God doesn't have his favorites? Think otherwise? Come to Bora Bora and witness this fact for yourself. In an enchanted environment with a fairytale-like existence, this holiday would be nothing less than a dream. Over-water bungalows, endless waters, white beaches and a sense of being out of the world - everything is available here. Perhaps one of the most expensive islands in the world, it is nothing short of a paradise. See the underwater world from your bungalow, have breakfast served to you by boat in your room and rest assured that you won't need a DO NOT DISTURB sign.

                                                                      Lanai, Hawaii
 
Best Time to Visit: October to April

Hawaii has undoubtedly been one of the most sought-after destinations in the world for ages now. Though tourists usually fly down to the famous islands and the attractions they offer, as a couple, your first choice should be Lanai. The smallest inhabited island in the chain, here you will find perfect balanced isolation. With no shopping malls or traffic lights, this place ensures a great natural environment. Public transportation does not exist; cars, bikes, bicycles, and small buses are usually leased by the hotels.
 
                                                                   Santorini, Greece
 
Best Time to Visit: June to October

White homes, blue-caped churches, the serene waters of the Aegean Sea, and small cafés scattered all through the landscape - the picture is just perfect! While this ensures a content heart, sumptuous meals all day round with some of the world's best wines ensure content tummies. If, for you, romance is synonymous with good food and crowd, Santorini is the place to be. September and October are the best months to travel to Santorini, as you can avoid the rush of the tourist season from June to August.
 
                                                                        Maldives
 
Best Time to Visit: December to April
Are you and your better half on the constant lookout for something exciting? Then, on the islands of the Maldives, you shall find both - romance and adventure. Luxury resorts, private natural pools, and an unending appetite for the warm sun, are a few things you will be welcomed by. Snorkeling and scuba diving together in safe pools outside your room, is an adventure very few islands offer. Opt for the southern islands for more seclusion.
 
                                                                         Fiji 


Best Time to Visit: May or October and November
The soft coral capital of the world has more in store than just a few heavenly beaches and some breathtaking underwater life. If you want to escape the expensive resorts of Bora Bora, Fiji definitely stands as an alternative. Wake up ahead of the world everyday, soak in the warm sun, get natural exercise with scuba diving and snorkeling, travel through abundant trails and get absorbed in the mystical life here. Turtle Island and Qamea Island which are a part of the Fiji islands should be prioritized. Turtle Island especially, only allows 14 couples at once.

                                                                       Seychelles
 
 
Best Time to Visit: May to September

Undeniably one of the most sought-after vacation spots, Seychelles islands are some of the best jewels in the Indian Ocean. 16 islands out of the hundreds offer accommodation; out of these, the three main islands are Praslin, La Digue, and Mahé. Island hopping is an interesting alternative to permanent booking on just the main islands. Apart from the bewildering beaches, ecotourism has ensured focus on jungle trails and other such forms of recreation. Enjoy candle-lit dinners with a backdrop of water meeting the sky.

                                                           Ambergris Caye, Belize
 
Best Time to Visit: February to April

For a relaxed, laid-back holiday, there is no other place more suitable than Ambergris Caye in Belize. The island has just 1 town - San Pedro and hardly any population. However, it doesn't offer any less than other destinations in terms of picturesque and unique spots. Visit the Belize Barrier Reef, which is a part of the humongous Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, sail above the Blue Hole and wander around this isle aimlessly. Due to its size, transportation on the island is limited to golf carts.

                                                Parrot Cay, Turks and Caicos Islands
 
Best Time to Visit: May or September and October

If it is the Caribbean you dream of visiting together, let Parrot Cay be your first choice. A lot of celebrities have made this island their home, assuring us of its uniqueness. Earlier known as Pirate Cay, today this island is synonymous with tranquility and calmness. From Ayurvedic treatments to water sports, you will find everything here. Who says a deserted place doesn't offer the best of lifestyle?

                                                          St. Lucia, Lesser Antilles
 
Best Time to Visit: January to April

While Parrot Cay offers luxury and promises a lavish holiday with seclusion, we have another island in the Caribbean that offers just the opposite, if it is safe to say so. Welcome to St. Lucia, a land of beaches and warm sun - yes, but also of hot springs, rainforest hikes, and a drive-in volcano. Don't forget to see The Pitons - a World Heritage Site, and the Pigeon Island National Park. Travel is synonymous with local taxis and water taxis. An island that was ruled seven times each by the French and British, surprisingly it also has omnipresent West Indies lifestyle even today.

                                                  Island of Mozambique, Mozambique
 
Best Time to Visit: June to September

Another jewel in the Indian Ocean, the Island of Mozambique is truly alluring. Once a stop on the western Europe - Indian subcontinent route, it is today one of the most sought-after destinations in Africa. The island is a cultural World Heritage Site and is approximately just 3 km away from the mainland. Apart from the beach and the activities synonymous with it, the island is home to brilliant colonial architecture. Though the dry season from June to September is perfect, avoid August as it gets too windy.

Any one of these top 10 romantic islands in the world is sure to leave you spellbound and mesmerized. A magical environment and company of the one you love - you can't really ask for more, can you? Have a great vacation!

5/27/16

Swedish People and their Culture

Source(s): penpaland.com
                  buzzle.com 
Learn about the culture of Sweden and the lifestyle of its people. Also take a look at some famous Swedes.
 
It is the people who make a nation. So understanding the culture of a country naturally involves knowing about its people. It is the lifestyle choices and traditions of the natives of a country that define its culture. Rather than referring to a group of people as being of a certain country, it is more correct to refer to a country as belonging to people who share its history, traditions, culture, and life's values. So, let's call Sweden the country of Swedes, instead of going the other way round. And on that note, here's an insight into the people of Sweden and their rich culture.
Sweden comprises 25 provinces, each with a culture of its own, which is why they are recognized as cultural regions though not having any political or administrative significance. Swedish people belong to the Nordic ethnic group that is native to Sweden, Finland, and Estonia. Swedish people include the Swedish-speaking Finns and the most exclusively Swedish-speaking people of the Aland Islands. Swedish-speaking people have inhabited Estonia since the Viking Age. During the Second World War, most of the Estonian-Swedes moved to Sweden. Today, a few hundred Estonian-Swedes inhabit Estonia and a few hundred are found in Ukraine. There is a debate over whether people from Finland can be called Swedes. Swedish people migrated to the US and Canada in the 19th and the 20th century.

Culture of Sweden

Catholic Church and Germany have influenced the culture of Sweden. During the 18th century, France impacted the Swedish culture. Presently, Swedes have largely adopted the modern Western culture. The Swedish are honest and hardworking. Corruption is less prevalent in their country. They value the environment and are vigilant about the protection of animals. Swedes love coffee. A simple meal that is a combination of potatoes, meat, and vegetables forms a part of their daily diet. They enjoy sailing, ice fishing, and swimming. The people of Sweden are deeply rooted to their families and religion. Most of their festivals and holidays revolve around their religion and are about the coming together of family and friends.

Swedish Art

Considered as a part of Nordic art, Swedish art bears influences of the art of Europe and the United States. Viking art, which exemplifies the Nordic influence on Swedish art, has survived in the form of stone monuments around the countryside and objects that have been excavated lately. Petroglyphs and other Stone Age expressions represent art of the Stone Age. Rune stone, an art form representing the Nordic culture, and spiral and animal ornamentation were seen in the Bronze Age. Christianity brought with it, new iconography to Swedish art. The Gothic style came in during the later half of the 13th century.
The architecture of early Sweden was characterized by wood. Stone came in later. The Danish churches and Cathedrals are a part of the architectural heritage of Sweden. The influence of the Swedish art of the olden times is apparent in its frescos and altarpieces.
 
Husaby, a village in Sweden is known for the Husaby Church characterized by steep walls and high towers, which is perhaps the only piece of Romanesque architecture in Sweden, of this kind. It was a wooden church in the 11th century until 12th century when a stone church was built.
 
The Uppsala cathedral, situated between Uppsala University and the River Fyris, dates back to the 13th century. Standing 389 feet tall, it is the tallest church in the Nordic countries.

Late 15th century witnessed the creation of visual narratives in churches. Princes were portrayed during the Vasa period. A cultural boom was part of the Liberty and Gustavian period. In the years after the 1880s, Swedish art began to get international acclaim. In the 1900s, modernism followed by surrealism and expressionism were seen in Swedish art.

Inaugurated on December 7, 1754, Stockholm Palace or The Royal Palace is the official residence of the Swedish monarch. It also houses offices of the king, the other members of the Swedish Royal family and the office of the Royal Court of Sweden. It represents the Baroque architectural style.
Timber dominated as a building material in the Middle Ages. Stone began to be used from the 12th century. The Gothic style brought in brick as a building material, and many cathedrals of the period were built in brick, while some others used limestone. Many cities were established in the 17th century. The Building School of the Academy of Arts and the Office for Supervision of the Building Industry established in the 18th century served as an impetus to Swedish architecture. The beginning of industrialization in the 19th century led to urbanization.
 
Once used as a toy for kids, the Dalecarlian horse (or Dala horse) is a carved and painted horse figurine that came from the Swedish province of Dalarna. Today, it has become a symbol of this province and of Sweden too.

Literature
The Rok Runestone carved during the Viking Age is the first piece of literature from Sweden. During the Middle Ages, most writers used Latin. The Swedish language was developed further by authors of the 17th century.

Georg Stiernhielm was the first and a very important name in classical poetry writing and Johan Henric Kellgren was first in writing Swedish prose. The Emigrants (Utvandrarna) is regarded as one of the best works in Swedish literature. The country has produced famous writers like Selma Lagerlof and August Strindberg. The children's book author Astrid Lindgren is a well-known Swedish.
The 18th century is considered as the Swedish Golden Age in science and literature, owing to high-quality works produced during this period.

Music
 
Music is popular among the Swedes. Sweden has given rise to many opera singers. A majority of the Swedish population belongs to different choirs.
The pop music group ABBA was famous in the '70s and the '80s. The Roxette band that came up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, is known for its delightful songs and is popular in the USA.

Indie pop/rock is an important part of the music of Sweden. Death metal is equally big.

Clothing
 
 
The Swedish wear their national costume on occasions like Midsummer (or St. John's Day), a festival based on the summer solstice. Modern clothing of the Swedish has international influences.
Since 1983, Sverigedräkten (prominently blue and yellow in color, has been designated as Sweden's National Costume.

Cuisine

The cuisine of North Sweden is different from that of the South. Reindeer meet used to be eaten in the Northern regions while fresh vegetables dominated the cuisine of southern Sweden.
 
Meatballs and brown cream sauce with tart is a traditional dish of Sweden. Dairy products, berries and stone fruits, meat and seafood are the main constituents of the Swedish cuisine. There are a variety of breads in this cuisine and potatoes are often served as a side dish.

Bakery products like cookies, buns, and cakes are eaten with coffee. Fika, meaning "to have coffee" is a part of the Swedish culture. Today, it may mean having coffee, juice or other drinks or getting together for some sandwiches or a small meal.

Cinnamon rolls are believed to have originated in Sweden, where they are called kanelbulle.

Famous Swedes

Here is a look at some notable Swedish people who made significant contributions to their fields and made their country proud.

Alfred Nobel
 
Born on October 21, 1833, he is one of the most famous people in the world. He was a Swedish engineer, chemist, and the inventor of dynamite. In his last will of 1895, he devoted a large amount of his wealth for the establishment of the Nobel Prize. The prize honors achievers in the fields of medicine, chemistry, physics, literature, and peace. It was first given away in 1901. Alfred Nobel passed away on December 10, 1896 in Italy.

Lars Hanson

Born on July 26, 1886, he was a noted figure in the film and stage industry. He is known for his motion picture roles in the silent film era. He earned international acclaim for his role in the Stiller film, Gosta Berlings Saga in 1923. He gave his last performance in 1951. On April 8, 1965, he died of a short illness in Stockholm, Sweden.

Elisabeth Olin
 
Born in the December of 1740, she was a very famous singer, actress and composer. She was one of the first female Swedish singers. She was also the prima Donna of Opera. She is believed to be the highest paid woman artist of her time. She died in the March of 1828. She is remembered for her beauty and melodious voice.

August Strindberg
 

Born on January 21, 1849, he was a Swedish writer and playwright. His famous works include dramas like Master Olof, The Father and Miss Julie. The Son of a Servant is his autobiographical novel. Other interests of Strindberg included painting and photography. His death on March 14, 1912 meant the loss of the most notable figure in Swedish literature. His paintings are regarded as some of the most original artworks of the 19th century.

Jörgen Elofsson

Born on January 14, 1962, he is a prominent songwriter in Sweden. Starting his career in music at the age of 16, he became a full-time songwriter in 1994. He is a part of the team of songwriters at the Cheiron Studios and has been nominated for a Grammy Award.

Fredrika Bremer 
 
Born on August 17, 1801 she was a writer and feminist reformer. She mostly wrote romantic stories that were centered on independent women narrating their experiences about marriage. She is best-known for her Sketches of Everyday Life, which received popularity in Britain and the United States. She is known as the Swedish Jane Austen. Apart from writing, she also worked towards gender equality and women's rights. She died on December 31, 1865.

Selma Lagerlof
 
Born on November 20, 1858, she was a Swedish author. Starting as a school teacher and working on her story-telling skills, she wrote her first novel during her teaching career. She is most acclaimed for her children's book called The Wonderful Adventures of Nils (Nils Holgerssons underbara resa genom Sverige). She was the only female writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. She died on March 16, 1940.

Max Martin

Born on February 26, 1971, he is a songwriter, singer and record producer. After creating hit numbers for artists such as Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and the like, he became popular. He is an eight-time winner of the prestigious ASCAP Songwriter of the Year Award.
This was an overview of Sweden's culture followed by a list of some famous Swedes. The Swedish take great pride in their country's cultural heritage. Their cultural values reflect in their daily lives.

5/24/16

Interesting Facts About Nepal

Source(s): penpaland.com
                  buzzle.com
Nepal is a tiny land-locked nation located in the Himalayas. It is bordered by China on its north and India on its south, east and west. It is the 93rd largest country in the world, considering land mass, and population wise, it is the 41st most populous country.

Who wouldn't like to be at the top of the tallest peak in the world? But for that, you will have to book a ticket to Nepal. The tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest, called Sagarmatha in the local Nepalese language, is highly revered by the local Sherpa people.
 
Did you know that the flag of Nepal is the only flag in the world that is not rectangular or not quadrilateral in shape? The crimson red color of the flag signifies the color of its national flower, rhododendron. The color also stands for victory in war and the braveness of the Nepalese people. The blue border of the flag symbolizes peace. The shape of the flag has two triangles which stand for the mountains of Nepal. The shape of the sun and the moon on the flag represents the aggressiveness of

Religion in Nepal
 
Nepal is a secular country, but Hinduism is the religion that dominates Nepal; over 80 percent of the population practices Hindu traditions and rituals. Buddhism is also a major religion here and is followed by many people.
 
The Land of the Himalayas
 
The mountainous north of Nepal has eight of the top ten tallest mountains in the world. Amazing, right? The peaks are - Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga (3rd highest), Mount Lhotse, Mount Makalu, Mount Cho Oyu (fourth, fifth and sixth resp. shared by Nepal and Tibet), Mount Dhaulagiri I, Mount Manaslu and Mount Annapurna (seventh, eighth and tenth tallest respectively). There are over 240 peaks above the height of 20,000 feet in Nepal's mountain ranges. 
 
Birthplace of The Buddha
 
The great and revered Gautam Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal. Tenzing Norgay, among the first persons to scale Mount Everest, is a Nepalese Sherpa. Unlike in Western countries, people in Nepal do not shake their hands to greet one another or a newcomer. They instead, place their palms together, and say Namaste. Nepalese people value their traditions, and respect their customs and traditions above anything else.
 
Nepalese Food
 
As far is food is considered, majority of the Nepalese are vegetarians. Goat is preferred as meat. Lentils, rice, millet and corn are also preferred by people.
 
Katmandu
 
Kathmandu is the capital and the largest city in Nepal. The many temples and palaces in the capital give it an Medieval air. For its culturally rich and important architecture, The Kathmandu Durbar Square has been declared a world heritage sight by the UNESCO.
 
Nepalese Currency
 
The area of Nepal is around 147,181 square kilometers and according to the 2010 census, the population is about 29,331,000. The currency of Nepal is 'rupiya'. Till 2008, Nepal was a constitutional monarchy, but now it is a democratic country. Nepal, though a poor country, is blessed with rich flora and fauna.
 
Rhododendron Arboreum
 
The Rhododendron Arboreum, known locally as Lali Guransh, is the national flower. Nepali is the official language, but a majority of the population also speaks and understands English. The prominent regional recognized languages of Nepal are Nepal Bhasa, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Awadhi, Limbu, Gurung, and Sherpa. Apart from that there are more than 100 indigenous languages spoken in Nepal, making it a linguistically blessed country.

Himalayan Monal
The cow is the national animal and is highly revered. and killing it for meat is a felony in this country. The Himalayan Monal, known locally as Danfe, is the national bird. Sayaun Thunga Phool Ka is the national anthem of Nepal. It hails Nepalese pride, courage, rich culture, people, scenic beauty, peace and biodiversity. The lyrics of the anthem were written by poet Pradeep Kumar Rai.

Trekker's Paradise
 

Nepal is a rich country for travel and tourism. For people interested in trekking, rafting and hiking, Nepal is like heaven. The locales and innumerable mountains make it a trekker's paradise.