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Must-See Sights, Attractions, and More in Colonial Williamsburg

colonial-williamsburg-boy-drumming-worldviaNowadays, we are all about taking advantage of the modern times and the convenience that it offers us. As we all know, no one goes anywhere without a cell phone! Many hours per day are spent surfing the internet, we shop online, talk to friends using social media and many people even look for love online using sites such as Match and eHarmony. Can you imagine a world without the technology we take for granted, such as television and radio and cars? Most of us can’t! There is a city in Virginia called Williamsburg that has a historical district known as Colonial Williamsburg, where you can take a step back in time as you visit this wonderful historical landmark. See amazing 18th-century buildings, walk the cobblestone streets, and take horse-drawn carriage rides through the town as you discover what life was like in America during a much simpler era.

Where to Stay

The first thing to consider is your hotel accommodations. There are several hotels in the historical district that are absolutely charming. They are in close proximity to the sights, activities, and attractions that you will be enjoying during your trip.

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Horse and Buggy

Williamsburg Inn

Stay at the Williamsburg Inn, and you will be experiencing luxury at it’s finest. There are several themed suites such as the Queen’s Suite, where Queen Elizabeth II actually stayed, and the Rockefeller Suite, a space that was elegantly designed by Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Guests can also choose from smaller, yet equally beautiful rooms. With golf, spa treatments, and dining, this is a resort where you can create memories that will last a lifetime!

Griffin Hotel

Get in touch with nature when you stay at the Griffin Hotel, and also be conveniently close to the fun of Colonial Williamsburg. This a retreat that can be genuinely enjoyed, with King and Queen sized rooms that are perfect for relaxing after a day of touring. Amenities include a nature trail, bicycle rental, a health club and fitness center, and much more. This is a hotel where you will definitely feel right at home.

What to Do

Colonial Williamsburg is full of must-do activities that everyone can enjoy. You’ll be living life as they did in the 18th century, without any of the conveniences we have today! Get ready, because this is the ultimate experience!

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Battle Reenactment

Apothecary

Located in the heart of the historic area, the apothecary lets you see what the world of medicine was like over 200 years ago. Plan ahead for this attraction, because times are limited, and you must have an admission ticket. You’ll be able to see the evolution of the pharmacy over a span of more than two centuries. Ask questions, see medical equipment from colonial times, and see what types of home remedies were used in the 18th century for injury and illness.

Courthouse

Colonial Williamsburg just may be the only destination where you can actually visit an 18th-century courthouse. Watch a simulated court session and see exactly how the laws were enforced in the past. Experience history in this historic building that opened in 1771 and tells the story of the law in previous times.

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Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg Ghost Walk

Anyone who enjoys a spooky experience will take delight in the Colonial Williamsburg Ghost Walk. This guided tour will take you around the streets of the area, as you hear about actual events that occurred hundreds of years in the past right there in the historic town. Get in touch with spirits as you hear about their amazing stories and experiences, and learn about all of the ways they still haunt the town.
 

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum

As the oldest museum of folk art in the country, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is a place that you don’t want to miss while you are in Colonial Williamsburg. With plenty of paintings, sculptures, and exhibitions, you’ll be in awe of everything that you see. Ongoing exhibits include American Ship Paintings, German Toys in America, A Celebration of the Early American Iron, and much more.

Historical Government Buildings

You certainly do not want to miss the historical government buildings where the political future of Virginia got its beginnings. The Governor’s Palace and House of Burgesses are two such places where you can see re-enactments of political discussions and happenings. Learn all about Virginia as a colony, and see all about the quest for the independence of what is now the state of Virginia.

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Blacksmiths

See Historical Tradespeople in Action

No trip to Colonial Williamsburg would be complete without seeing how the tradespeople of the 18th century operated on a daily basis. Watch blacksmiths, wigmakers, coopers, and bookbinders as they create things that were essential for the colonial times.

Where to Eat

When the time comes for a bite to eat, you’ll want to do as the locals do and eat at a tavern.

Christiana Campbell’s Tavern

Christiana Campbell’s Tavern is a recreation of taverns during colonial times. Eat at the same place that George Washington did as you enjoy the local seafood and enjoy live music and singing. You’ll be visiting a piece of history as you consume a meal of authentic Southern fare served by waiters and waitresses wearing 18th-century clothing to give you a truly historical experience.

King’s Arms Tavern

Another colonial option for great Southern food is King’s Arms Tavern. Originally opened in 1772. You can enjoy classic dishes such as Grid-Iron Beefsteak, Southern Fried Chicken, Vegetable Pasta, and much more. Save room for dessert, because here at King’s Arms Tavern you will find selections that include Thomas Jefferson’s Brandy Spiked Bread Pudding, Southern Pecan Pie, and a delicious Chocolate Fudge Cake.
Colonial Williamsburg is a place like no other, where you can go back in time and see what America was like hundreds of years ago! Now, you have a great itinerary for a trip that will live in your memory for a lifetime.
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How to Live Like the Locals in Finland

Finland Snow

Now consider option two. Those who are pursuing option two will ditch the travel guides, book an Airbnb, and leave the laptop at home. They will immerse themselves in the local activities, find the hole in the wall restaurant that serves the most amazing food, and get lost (possibly literally) in the city.
If option two is what you’re looking for, read on. Though option two requires more spontaneity and less planning, a little background on the country and tips about its local specialties can help you truly maximize the local experience.

Pack smart

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Finland Forest

It’s important that you pack appropriately when traveling to Finland. The country can have some rather extreme weather. In Helsinki, the winters are long, running from November to March. Temperatures are cold, typically staying below freezing the entire winter. Heavy jackets are a must and warm gloves and long underwear are highly advised. If you are traveling during the summer, you can leave the parka (and long underwear) behind, but be sure to bring layers. The days are mild, typically hovering around the mid-sixties, but the nights can still get quite chilly.

Live locally

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Helsinki

One of the best ways to experience the life of a local is to live where they live. Look into renting an apartment while in the country. Not only will you surround yourself with local residents and immerse yourself in a neighborhood you may not have otherwise seen, but you will also save — A LOT. Finland is more expensive than many destinations, so avoiding the hotels and checking out Airbnb can free up funds to go explore.
Nature lovers can enjoy an escape from the city life and opt for a cottage. Staying in a cottage is a great way to experience the beauty of Finland. Take in the breathtaking views of the star-filled skies, catch a fish, or take a plunge in the frozen lake (more on that below).
While in Finland, it may be helpful to be able to talk to the locals. It’s unrealistic to expect to learn a new language before visiting a country but it can be very helpful to learn a few key phrases. Phrases like “hello”, “thank you” or certain directional words can make your stay a lot easier. Here are a few to get you started:
Hello: Hei
Thank you: Kiitos
Yes: Kylla
No: Ei
I’m sorry, I don’t speak Finnish: Anteeksi, en puhu suomea
Where is__?: missä on__?
Bus Station: Bussiasema
Subway: Metro

Hit the Spa

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Finland Sauna

Finns love to sweat — in saunas that is. To live like a local in Finland, visiting a sauna is a must. Don’t worry, you won’t be scouring the country to find one; Finland has a staggering 3.3 million saunas. That’s a lot considering its population is only slightly greater at 5 million. And while Finns like to enjoy the sauna in the buff, it’s understandable to be a little shy on your first trip. If you are looking for a sauna that provides more of a spa experience, try Löyly where swimsuits are required.
If you are looking to really get the local experience, you can’t pass up the chance to take a plunge in the frigid local waters. That’s right, the Finns often pair a trip to the sauna with a dip in ice cold water. It may seem crazy to voluntarily submerge yourself in the unbearable cold, but the people of Finland have been doing it for centuries. Avanto, as the locals call it is said to be invigorating and may even be good for your health. There are many locations throughout Finland that provide accommodations to try out this Finnish tradition.

Eat like the locals

Anthony Bourdain said of traveling abroad, “You want to go to a place where there are locals only. No photos of the food, the menu is not in English and there are people eating there that look like they go there a lot.” And it’s true. The best way to experience the local cuisine is to follow the locals, ask for recommendations, and go where the regulars go. And please, please, please, stay away from the chain burger joints and coffee shops.
With this in mind, you’ll want to try to find a few local specialties. Fried Vendace is a popular street food. A small white fish that is lightly battered and pan-fried, the crispy salty taste is balanced with a side of mayonnaise and lemon. Also be on the lookout for reindeer. Try a reindeer kabob or steak and experience a gamey flavor, similar to venison.
Local markets are always a great way to meet residents of the country you are visiting as well as get a taste for some of the freshest produce and seafood of the region. Grab a cup of coffee and a pulla (a sweet cinnamon bun) while you peruse the Old Market Hall in Helsinki. This landmark has been open for over a century. It’s a great place to meet local farmers and is open seven days a week.

Experience the country

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Auroras in Southern Finland

Did you know that Finland is a great place to view the Northern Lights? While many people think of Iceland or Norway when they think of the Northern Lights, Finland has a pretty good view itself. A trek to Lapland in northern Finland will give you the opportunity to view the lights up to 200 days a year. Visit from August to April if the Northern Lights are on your bucket list.
If you are a music lover there are many options for you. Check out Flow Festival in August for a weekend full of local indie music. Make a trip to Tuska in Helsinki or Sauna Open Air in Lakeland if heavy metal is more your style. Whatever your taste there is sure to be a festival to meet your needs.
Finland is a country filled with beautiful scenery, eclectic people, great food, and an abundance of activities. Whether you choose to see the reindeer in Lapland or go hiking in Kuusamo, Finland will provide an experience that will bring you that much closer to living like a local and wanting to become a local yourself.

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4 Unforgettable Destinations for Wine Enthusiasts

Unforgettable Wine Destinations

Take an unbelievable journey to these 4 must-see destination’s to experience ancient traditions and cutting-edge techniques that fuse each region’s uniquely charming history into the finest vintage lines to create an unforgettable travel adventure for the oenophile in everyone.

Stellenbosch, South Africa

With over 160 regional wineries to choose from and a historic status as South Africa’s second oldest city, the nearly 350-year-old Stellenbosch lays claim to the country’s first wine route that takes you along the breathtaking Precambrian granite mountains and lush scenic valleys of the Western Cape. The local winemakers’ long-running experience is reflected in their award-winning Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinotage creations, as well as their warm and inviting vibe. Here, mineral-rich, delectable wines are augmented by the deeply rich cultural heritage which includes numerous art galleries and museums, as well as celebrated restaurants that have garnered the district its fitting moniker as “The Gourmet Capital.”

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Stellenbosch

Where to Visit: The historic 1690 Stellenbosch Vineyards feature multi-tiered food and wine fusions that offer a one-of-a-kind dining experience, including a delectable new Chocolate & Wine Pairing. The estate is just 5 minutes from the innovative tasting room of Thandi Wines, the first fair-trade brand in the world. If you’d like some wildlife with your wine, head over to the elegant minimalism of Remhoogte Estate, where the succulent summer tastings overlook a park stocked with zebra, springbok, and wildebeest. Many of the area’s vineyards have their own on-site, full-service restaurants, including Simonsig, Delheim, and Warwick, and the wide array of accommodations feature the most modern hotels mixed in with rustic lodges, quaint cottages, and centuries-old homesteads. The Vine Hopper Tour takes you on an enlightening outing to 15-20 vineyards spread across the northern, southern, and eastern sections of this vibrant region.
Best Time to Go: From September until mid-February you can experience the beautiful spring and summer weather of the southern hemisphere, and the cool, lush autumn season ends around mid-April. Many fun Harvest Season bashes take place from late January until mid-March.

Napa Valley, California

For three days each April, the world-renowned ‘Vineyard to Vintner’ festival in Napa Valley takes travelers inside the homes and inner sanctuaries of the area’s leading winemakers for private tours of the cellars, fun social tastings, celebrated dining experiences, and exclusive access to purchase select varieties from internationally acclaimed vineyards. During these festivities and throughout the year you can learn about the exquisite soils, climate, and geology that make this unique district California’s first American Viticultural Area.

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Napa Valley

Where to Go: Napa Valley is home to some of the most exclusive Cabernet Sauvignons in the world, as well as singular berry blends of Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel. Explore the lands on the famed Napa Valley Bike Tours, or board the elegant Napa Valley Wine Train to visit environmentally Gold Certified Cade Estate, enchanting Inglebrook’s 150-year old French heritage, or the 15,000 square foot cave tastings and tours of Failla Winery. The region also has a vibrant arts scene showcased in the annually curated masterpieces of downtown’s Napa Art Walk and a week-long film festival featuring artists from across the globe.
Best Time to Go: Late April for the Vineyard to Vintner Festival, late August through early November for the full grape harvesting experience, November 7-11, 2018 for the Napa Valley Film Festival, and March through May for a less-crowded visit while spring is in full bloom.

Douro Valley, Portugal

“A geological poet. A supreme splendour.” – Portuguese poet Miguel Torga describing Douro Valley
Three distinct regions make up the ancient and awe-inspiring Douro Valley: the western Baixo Corgo is known for its ruby and lighter tawny Ports, the Cima Corgo for high-quality Vintage and LMV Ports, and the archaeologically-inspiring Douro Superior shares a border with Spain and features exceptional dry wines that match its arid climate. The dazzling scenery features magnificently steep terraces that overlook the beautifully tranquil Douro River, and the entire valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site due to the transformative human cultivation of the land over the past 2,000 years.

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Douro Valley

Where to Go: Sister cities Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia sit on the opposite banks of the charming river and offer an enticing array of cultural and culinary experiences, such as the celebrated Wine Quay Bar which is situated amidst Porto’s historic monuments and museums and features selections from across the valley. Heading westward, Gaia’s 1751 Ferrarai Porto port house, which was founded by famed Douro matriarch Dona Antónia Adelaide, provides you with fascinating lessons in winemaking as a well as an intriguing journey into the region’s development. The valley itself is home to numerous vineyards and wine houses, including the oldest still-active Port-producing estate, 430-year-old Quinta de Roeda. One of the most unique experiences is found at the Museum of Art and Archeology in Côa, which offers tours of the region’s famous 20,000-year-old rock art followed by select tastings at the on-site restaurant.
Best Time to Go: Most everyone agrees that September through early November is the time to see the phenomenal color scapes that light up the land and to experience the one-of-a-kind harvest celebrations. The region offers a wide array of riverboat, train, hiking, biking, and motorcar tours to take you across this breathtaking and sophisticated valley in style.

Willamette Valley, Pacific Northwest

Spread across a sweeping 5,000 square feet of prime Oregon territory, this region’s tagline of ‘We are Pinot Noir’ makes a bold promise that it delivers on with its 500 internationally esteemed wineries set against stunning Cascade and Coastal Mountain scenery. The local cultivators collectively made Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 2016 Wine Region of the Year due to a generation of risk takers who recognized that the mountains, river, sea, and soil of the area all combined to form an ideal atmosphere for growing the perfect grape that bridges the gap between Burgundy and California styles.

Where to Visit: The Carlton Winemakers Studio is Oregon’s first cooperative wine house and features pourings from 15 top-rated ‘indie’ estates in a revolutionary business model that allows small vineyards to thrive. Just down the road, the ever-evolving Red Ridge Farms features 5-generations of toilers who were among the original Oregonians to grow grapes for wine cultivation. They now showcase relaxing Wine Country Retreats and a holistic food and natural product boutique right on sight for a fun shopping excursion. One of the best ways to experience the region is through a cultural wine tour aboard Precision Helicopters: you can fly over the breathtaking panoramas and hear the history, geology, and stories of the people who overcame the naysayers to craft an exclusive array of internationally acclaimed vintages. Social responsibility is also part of the community vibe, and the heartfelt Taste of Community tours offer you the opportunity to experience the valley’s famously eclectic black cherry-herb infused flavors while giving to a local cause.
Best Time to Go: From late September to early November is harvest season highlighted by multiple ‘crush’ lunches, winery concerts, interactive tours, and fun festivals, such as September’s Feast Portland. Summer is more laid back, with the lush Portland landscapes in full bloom and plenty of hiking, biking, art galleries, and resort and spa experiences to keep you entertained.
Ready to kick back with a glass of amazing vintage and a dazzling view into a whole new culture? Then pack your luggage—and your wineskins —today!
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Best Road Trips to View Fall Leaves

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from an autumn tree.”— Emily Bronte
Brilliant fall foliage, winding country roads, cider and donuts, antique stores, and little mom and pop shops. What’s not to love about a scenic autumn road trip? We’ve gathered information about some of the routes to use so you can have the best fall road trip yet, full of trees bursting with color.

Maine, The Bold Coast Scenic Byway, 125 miles

This scenic drive follows the rocky coast and offers stunning views of the restless sea. On the other side, trees display their riotous autumn colors. The experience begins (or ends) at Lubec, the easternmost village in the United States. Visit Lubec’s lighthouse. Attractions along the way include little museums that showcase maritime, agricultural, and Native American History. Famous local tastes are blueberries and seafood. This is one of America’s less traveled roads for fall foliage, and the landscape is pristine. Stay in a quaint inn like West Quoddy Station on the water and be one of the first Americans to greet the rising sun.

Vermont, Scenic Route 100 Byway, 217 miles

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Vermont

This drive that runs along the center of the state is recognized by Yankee magazine as the most scenic route in New England. It attracts many international visitors eager to see blazes of autumn beauty. Brilliant yellow, red, and orange boughs frame little country churches, old-fashioned stores, turn-of-the-century farms, and plenty of places to indulge in New England cuisine and everything maple syrup. Don’t miss the charming, old-fashioned cider mill and gift shop in quaint Waterbury Center and the nearby Ben and Jerry Ice Cream factory.
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Vermont

The legendary Vermont Country Store, 657 Main Street, Weston, invites a leisurely stroll through a yesterday shopping experience. This store is stocked to the rafters with a variety of goods including penny candy, local cheeses, jams and jellies, maple syrup, and even old-time products re-created. Next door, the Bryant House restaurant has an antique soda fountain and 1885 barroom. The food is homemade and of special note are the chicken pot pie and Mildred Orton’s original gingerbread. The family-friendly Swiss Farm Inn offers cozy accommodations and an acclaimed breakfast.

Oregon, Columbia River Highway, 75 miles

America’s oldest scenic highway (the early 1900s) climbs the Oregon cliffs glowing with ash, cottonwood, and maple trees. In one, eight-mile stretch, the road skirts the bases of five dramatic waterfalls including the 620 foot Multnomah, one of the nation’s tallest waterfalls. Viewing areas allow a closer look and fine showers of mist mixing with the falling leaves.
Before or after hitting the road from Troutdale, plan to visit Lewis and Clark State Park and enjoy a picnic in the flat, grassy, tree-dotted park. Stay at Cousins’ Country Inn in The Dallas in a cozy room with a gas fireplace plates of homemade cookies. The Cousins’ Restaurant offers home cooking with locally raised sirloin and local produce served with micro-brews crafted nearby. Their in-house bakery, renowned for giant cinnamon rolls, bakes pies and biscuits daily.

Virginia and North Carolina, Blue Ridge Parkway, 469 miles

Spanning the southern and central Appalachians, this legendary road climbs to great heights and crosses historic valleys. The leaf-peeping season is all of October as the trees at various elevations change at different times. Leaves of the dogwood and black gum trees turn deep red. Poplars and hickories burst into yellow, maples turn red, and sassafras turn orange. At the end of the season, oaks turn brown and deep red.

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Virginia

Roadside stands offer just-picked apples, cider, pumpkins, and pastries. It is easy to find corn mazes, hay rides, and festivals. A good starting point for your road trip is the Virginia Fall Foliage Festival that is held the first two weeks of October in Waynesboro. Its historic district gives a pioneering vibe to the lively festival filled with music, food, and crafts. Floyd, Virginia, population 500, has some quaint inns in the surrounding area and inviting down-home eateries.
Don’t miss Natural Bridge (milepost 61.6) a twenty-story, naturally-occurring, solid-rock bridge; Marbry Mill (Milepost 176.1) and its famous buckwheat pancakes, mill, and blacksmith shop; and Southern Highland Folk Art Center (milepost 382) that showcases traditional and contemporary Appalachian crafts.

Wisconsin, Great River Road, 250 miles

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Wisconsin

Wisconsin claims to be the best in the Midwest for fall foliage, and the Great River Road was voted the Prettiest Drive in America by the Huffington Post in 2012. It winds through 33 Wisconsin historic towns along the Mississippi River. Visit the Fort Crawford Museum in Prairie du Chien for a peek at life in the early 1800s, a slice of history, and a dose of old-time medical care at the Fort Crawford Military Hospital. Go “off road” in Rush Creek Park on two miles of old service roads to the top of a 400-foot high bluff.
Eleven wineries along the way offer tasting opportunities beneath the vivid leaves of America’s newest wine region. Pair your wine with famous Wisconsin cheeses. Great River B&B in Stockholm is a fine place to relax from the road and enjoy nature at its best. The inn is an 1869 renovated pioneer Swedish stone cottage. One of the largest groupings of American eagles builds nests above the 45-acre wooded grounds.
The road rolls on to the Gulf of Mexico, but leaf peepers head in another direction when the leaves turn green.

New Mexico, The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, 85 miles

Begin and end in Taos for a journey through mountains, mesas, and valleys. Aspen trees turn shades of brilliant yellow, cottonwoods are red and gold, and purple cinquefoil adds a new color to the autumn palette. Bear and elk roam freely. Stay at The Historic Taos Inn, which has 44 individually decorated bedrooms with fireplaces, rough-hewn ceilings, and antique furnishings. It is rooted in the 1890s and is on the U.S. and the State of New Mexico’s Registrars of Historic Places. Eat at Doc Martins for southwest food sourced from local gardens. In Taos and along its byways, Native American, Spanish, and Anglo cultures are preserved through art and architecture, music and dance, and food and festivals year-round. Taos is a major center for the arts.
Make reservations well in advance if you want to stay overnight close to these scenic roads during the fall foliage season and be sure to pack your patience. The traffic usually goes slow, so just relax and enjoy the autumn’s beauty.
Where’s your favorite place to see fall leaves? 

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How to Live like the Locals in Bulgaria

Bulgarian Mountains
Belintash Bulgaria

Because of this, many different tours take visitors to some of the more famous sights, which can be fascinating, but sometimes to truly get a feel for a country, you have to break away from the pack and forge your own adventure. This guide will show you how to live it up like the locals do in Bulgaria.

Sleep Like A Local

Guest houses are everywhere in Bulgaria, are generally less expensive than hotels and are about as close to living locally as crashing on your Bulgarian friend’s couch—without the discomfort of actually crashing on someone’s couch. Most offer traditional home cooked meals along with your room, allowing you to experience contemporary local cuisine.
Hostels are another housing option that allows you to experience the local culture a little more first hand. Many hostels offer both bunks and private rooms, and all offer that one of a kind Bulgarian hospitality that comes with food, laughter, drink, and a smile.

Eat Like A Local

If you’re a foodie, you may want to seek out even more local food than can be found at the local guesthouse. Luckily for you, Bulgaria has no shortage of delicious local foods and many of them can be found freshly made if you do a little looking around.
Generally, breakfast is a lighter meal often consisting of just coffee and a pastry, sometimes with meat or cheese. A typical breakfast might include of banitsa, a delicious pastry that contains cheese and sometimes meat, leeks or onions, and boza, a sweet drink made from fermented wheat or barley. Because it is a fermented drink, boza does contain minute amounts of alcohol, around 1%ABV.

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Bulgarian Lunch

Lunch is a lighter meal as well and is often just a quick snack like lutenitsa, a spicy mix of peppers, tomatoes and a few other ingredients. Most commonly people will spread the spicy mixture onto bread and place cheese on top before devouring, but this mixture is extremely versatile and used in many ways throughout Bulgarian cooking, from sauces for meat to sides for your lunch salad.
Dinner is by far the most important meal in Bulgaria, often consisting of several courses and accompanied by the drinking of much Rakia earlier in the evening, and later wine or beer. Some traditional dinner dishes include gyuvech, a hearty stew named after the pot it is cooked in and meshana skara, or mixed grill.
If you need a remedy for all that Rakia the next morning, shkembe cho rba is a spicy soup that has long been used as a local cure for a hangover. Often served early in the morning with a beer to combat the spiciness, this soup is a tasty pick me up even if one hasn’t been drinking.

Drink Like A Local

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Cheers

If you haven’t already been offered a glass or three at the guest house you are staying in, once you’ve filled up on delicious local treats, you may decide to have a drink or two and if you want to drink like the locals, you’ll definitely come across a strong spirit called Rakia. Most Bulgarians abide by the rule of “liquor before beer, you’re in the clear. Beer before liquor, never been sicker.” As such, the evening is usually started with Rakia, a strong brandy produced from a plethora of different fruits depending on the variety.
While it is not historically proven as of yet, Rakia is thought to have originated in Bulgaria itself, and Bulgaria is currently trying to claim Rakia as its official national drink. However, as with anything steeped in a long history of local lore, there are some customs that should be observed if you want to truly drink like a local.

  1. Never toast with an empty glass, it is considered impolite.
  2. Eye contact is also important, during the first toast maintain eye contact with your toasting partner until you both have taken your first sip of the drink.
  3. Drink slowly, Rakia is incredibly strong. It is often served in shot glasses but it is intended to be sipped.

Beach Like A Local

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Sozopol

While Sunny Beach sounds like the perfect place to enjoy the surf and catch some rays, it is also the most well-known beach in Bulgaria and is very often crowded with tourists. There are many less crowded beaches that will give you a much more serene and authentic experience. If you are looking for a place to lay your towel, the beach in old Sozopol is a lovely place to relax on the Black Sea. The older parts of Sozopol also have great local shops and restaurants that serve fresh seafood.

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Skiing in Bulgaria

Hit the Slopes Like A Local

Since Bulgaria’s sunny beaches get most of the attention, its fantastic ski slopes tend to be a lesser-known secret frequented more by locals than tourists. But there are a few great places to catch some powder if you are visiting Bulgaria in the winter months. Borovets offers a great variety of terrain and a few spots for working on jumps and rails as well.

Celebrate Tradition Like A Local

Nestinarstvo is an ancient fire-dancing ceremony that takes place in the first week of June in Bulgaria. It involves an elaborate barefoot dance on a bed of hot coals. While some hotels and restaurants will recreate this festival, locals insist that most traditional Nestinarstvo ceremony occurs in Bulgaria, although smaller and perhaps less crowded Nestinarstvo ceremonies may take place in small villages around the Strandzha area during that time.
A person’s name day is another incredibly important tradition in Bulgaria, often held in equal reverence as one’s birthday. Children bring chocolates to school, and everyone is welcome at a name day party, no invitation needed! However, if you are planning to attend, gifts of wine or candies are appreciated.
If you are looking for an authentic local experience in Bulgaria, step off the beaten path and enjoy Bulgaria the way the locals do; with good drink, great scenery, delicious foods, and smiling faces.

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Enjoy Croatia’s Old-World Romance with These 10 Romantic Getaway Spots

Romantic Croatia Getaways

Croatia is the perfect place to walk hand-in-hand along cobblestone streets and pristine beaches without actually leaving the convenience and amenities of modern Europe behind.
But before you just dive into the breathtaking allure of a romantic Croatian vacation, we’d love to give you the highlights and best places to sneak away to with your partner for more than a few memorable experiences.

Travel Back In Time Walking the Streets of Dubrovnik

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Dubrovnik

The number one city in Croatia for romantics to visit is Dubrovnik, a practically unchanged medieval fortress-city surrounded by an incredible wall that you can walk along hand-in-hand with your partner to get a complete view of the city. Inside, all the streets are cobblestone and the shops are built directly into the city wall itself. Walking the streets of Dubrovnik enjoying sights and smells that have been there for hundreds of years will feel just like you have been somehow transported into a fairy tale, locked away from the rest of the world behind their legendary wall.
There are spectacular Turkish spas where you can frolic easily between the spa and a private slice of ocean. While you’re there, don’t forget to check Proto, one of the many classic outdoor cafes or take a glass-bottom boat tour through crystal-clear seas to the Island of Lokrum. There, peacocks roam freely and you can sunbathe on the rocks and cliffs that hang over an impossibly blue ocean.

Wine and Dine in Boskinac on the Isle of Pag

For wine lovers, there’s no better option than a visit to the family-run Boskinac winery and restaurant on the beautiful and rugged little island of Pag. This island features a wonderful mix of classic Mediterranean fare, well known for its salty sheep’s cheese, plump olives, and tender lamb dishes.
Boskinac is a working winery that serves a delectable selection of their own wines and provides an innovative twist on the local cuisine. Enjoy a romantic terrace dinner overlooking the island by candlelight or in the orange glow of the setting sun.

Forest hiking on the breathtaking Mljet Island

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Couple hiking in Croatia

For nature-lovers out there who want to split your romantic getaway between medieval city vistas and untouched European forests, you cannot pass over the opportunity to visit Mljet Island. This beautiful island has been lauded as one of the last perfect Mediterranean forests and a paradise on earth. The north part of the island is a pristine national park full of fragrant pines that flow all the way to the sea.
If you choose your vacation dates carefully, it will feel like you have almost the entire island to yourself as you and your beloved walk through an ancient forest like the only two people in the world. Take the rocky paths up the island to breathtaking overlook views or walk the beaches and dip your toes in the sea somewhere that no one else will find you until you’re ready to be found. Pick up maps from the park office in Pristaniste and then walk back to civilization for a lovely lunch before taking the Ferry back to Dubrovnik.

Walk Hand-in-Hand Down the Makarska Beach

Makarska is one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, and that’s saying something for a country with over 6,000 kilometers of amazing beaches. Though it is a tourist hotspot, the beach is almost never too crowded and the quaint seaside is dotted with amazing little bars, shops, and family-owned restaurants that will delight the senses in every way.

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Beach in Croatia

While you can dine in dozens of little places your friends have never heard of and would envy if they could see, don’t forget to make a stop at the More Restaurant, the best place on the beach for king prawns, muscles, and traditional Croatian cuttlefish risotto. From there, you can stroll down the beach with your special someone to grab drinks at the Mojito Bar.

Old-World Vehicle Free Charm on the Isle of Kolocep

Another easy ferry ride from the medieval city of Dubrovnik is the tiny island of Kolocep. This island has a permanent population of only about 100 people and not a single vehicle on the entire landmass. You won’t run into droves of tourists, here, just beautiful privacy and a freshly made lavender products in the open-air market.
But what is truly amazing is the nightlife. A short walk away is the Culinarium restaurant which features a different theme every night. For the most romantic experience, time your visit with the night they fill the entire restaurant with candles and pair your dinner with the perfect wine for every dish.

Take a Private Tour Through the Diocletian Palace

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Diocletian Palace

If you have ever wanted to pair an incredible historical museum with the classic romantic shopping experience, there is no substitute for Croatia’s Diocletian Palace. Explore with your beloved on a self-guided tour through the lower section of the palace to see what it looked like for hundreds of years before the modern world touched this beautiful country. You can spend hours pouring over the ornate furniture and imagining the lives that must have been led in this enormous glamorous place.
And when you’re ready to return to the modern world, visit the upper section of the palace that has been rebuilt with restaurants, cafes, and adorable boutiques that are a part of the walls themselves.

Build Your Own Croatian Romantic Getawaycroatia_couple_beach_worldvia

Of course, while there are hundreds of historical and breathtaking places to visit in Croatia, the best romantic escape is to build a unique experience with your special someone. Walk the streets, visit shops and cafes that are never written about in travel guides, and create a one-of-a-kind experience that the two of you will still be dreaming about decades from now. Who knows, maybe you’ll want to come back to Croatia every year to rekindle the passion and remember what it was once like to be in love in a Mediterranean paradise long ago.

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How to Eat Well in the United Kingdom

Feast Through the United Kingdom

The fact is that it’s quite possible to eat well in the United Kingdom. You just need to know where to go and what to look for. Here are some suggestions:

Go Indian

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Beef Tiki Masala

It’s been said that you can get better Indian food in London than you can in Delhi. Of course, you’re most likely to hear that from Indian restaurants in London. The truth is, though, that Britain imported a lot of people from the Indian subcontinent in the 1950s – and a disproportionate number of them started restaurants. As long as you can handle spice, you can find good to great Indian food almost anywhere, including small towns in North Wales and the Midlands. Mediocre Indian restaurants just don’t survive very long. Just remember – Vindaloo is not for the faint-hearted. Try Maharaja, near Kensington Park.

Pasties, No, Not That Kind

In the US, the word “pasty” often means something associated with strip clubs. In the UK, it always means a fold over pie. Pasties became popular during the mining era (hence “Cornish” pasties, because of the amount of mining there). A “Cornish” pasty is specifically a pasty filled with beef, potato, swede, and onion. As they have Protected Geographical Indication, they can only be called that if made in Cornwall. Stores outside Cornwall get around it by calling them “traditional” pasties, and everyone knows what they mean. You can also get pasties full of chicken and bacon, ham and cheese, you name it. Pasties are often still good cold and make a tasty picnic lunch. Get your pasties at a traditional pastry shop. The Proper Pasty Company sells some of the best in a variety of locations, or ask a local where to go.

Chinatown

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Chinatown London

If you’re in London, then London’s Chinatown, while quite a bit smaller than New York’s or San Francisco’s is worth a visit (especially if you’re taking in a show in the West End, as they’re right next to each other). It’s more like San Francisco both in feel and in the kind of food than New York. British Chinese food, dominated by Hong Kong cuisine, is not quite the same as American Chinese. Don’t expect to be able to get General Tso’s, but do expect to get excellent sweet and sour. Seafood lovers will be particularly satisfied. But look for an established joint such as Joy King Lau, serving Cantonese food on three stories.

Fish and Chips

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Fish and Chips

It’s a British staple to the point of being a stereotype, but good fish and chips (hard, although no longer quite impossible, to find in the United States) is something every visitor should try at least once. Fish and chips is fast food, and best eaten out of paper on the street. Sadly, it’s no longer legal to wrap it in newspaper, although some chip shops will put a sheet of newsprint around it outside the food safe paper just for old times sake. Yes, vinegar is a condiment here. You can get fish and chips in restaurants, but if you happen to be in Haxby, York, you can visit this year’s National Fish & Chip Award winner, Miller’s Fish and Chips. Yes, that is how seriously British people take fish and chips!

Pie Day

If you’re in Britain on 3.14, or even on any other date, you can seldom go wrong with savory pies. The most common are steak and kidney, steak and ale or chicken and mushroom, but cold pork pie is a picnic favorite and many pubs now sell pies with some very interesting fillings such as smoked cheddar, coronation chicken, leek and cheese, etc. Cottage pie, in which the upper crust is replaced with mashed potato, is another pub favorite (note that it is only shepherd’s pie is made with lamb). The best pies are often found at specialized pie houses such as Battersea Pie Station in London, but almost any pub will sell you a decent pie. “Fast food” pies are a good alternative at chip shops if you have somebody who utterly hates fish.

Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding

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Yorkshire Pudding

British people use the word “pudding” in three different senses that sometimes have to be worked out from context. “Black” pudding is blood sausage. “Pudding” on its own often means any kind of dessert. “Yorkshire pudding” is a kind of dumpling that is traditionally served as a side with roast beef and filled with gravy. A variant is the “giant Yorkshire pudding” where the entire entree is put inside the pudding. This is another good thing to order in a classic English pub, if you can find it – not as many places have it on the menu anymore, and it is often only on Sundays, but I was recently able to find beef inside a Yorkshire pudding at The Parsonage near Wigan – so look for a Hungry Horse pub.

Treacle Pud

For dessert? Go for “treacle pud.” It’s sponge cake made with light molasses and served with a thin custard (trust us on the custard, it’s better than it sounds). It’s on the heavy side, so make sure you save room. Equally delicious is “toffee pud” or the disturbingly-named “spotted dick.” The spots are raisins and “dick” in this context is slang for “dough.” For the very best, you’ll need to go to a place called Upton upon Severn, where you’ll find The Pudding Shop’s cafe – but be careful, they sell them to go.

Cheese

To finish up, it’s worth talking a bit about cheese. It can seem that every single little town in England has its own cheese. If you want to try actual cheddar, not the stuff generically called cheddar, look for West Country Farmhouse Cheddar and get the extra sharp. But it’s also worth trying a few more. Stilton, which comes in white or blue, is worth sneaking a bit of. Cheshire and Wensleydale are delicious crumbling white cheeses which are hard to get in the United States. If you really want to be adventurous, try Stinking Bishop. Which lives up to its name.
So, a few things to try to help you realize that Britain isn’t the hideous “food desert” a lot of people claim. Just a few caveats, though:

  • In a “restaurant,” things work the same as they do in restaurants everywhere. If you are eating in a pub, however, then you are expected to seat yourself. You should then send somebody to the bar to order drinks and food (two people if it’s a large party, as they’ll be bringing the drinks back). Make a note of the number on your table so the waiter knows where to bring the food.
  • Britain is an optional-tipping society. Tipping is not required, but it is appreciated. 10-15% is customary in restaurants, but it is completely acceptable to stiff the waiter if service is poor. Larger groups may be charged an automatic tip. Generally, you don’t tip in pubs and some bartenders will actually take it as an insult.
  • Marmite is every bit as vile as you have heard. Other foods that can be acquired tastes include rollmops (pickled herrings) and, of course, haggis.

Enjoy your trip…and appreciate the fact that you really can get food that is not completely bland and over-cooked.
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Top 5 Destinations to See the Northern Lights in Canada

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aurora borealis

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the northern lights or Aurora Borealis. The magical phenomenon, which occurs when electrically charged particles from the sun’s atmosphere encounter the Earth’s atmosphere, can cause vibrant colors to streak across the sky. The famous 17th-century astronomer Galileo Galilei named the mesmerizing display after Aurora, the Roman goddess of the morning. Scientists also believe that other worlds in our solar system may experience the northern lights as well!
If you can’t wait to scratch the northern lights off your bucket list, look no further than the Great White North. Canada is one of the best places in the world for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The best time to catch the Northern Lights is between December to April. Not sure where to start? Here are some of the best places to visit if you want to catch a glimpse of this spectacular show.

1. Whitehorse, Yukon

Whitehorse is one of the most popular places to observe the northern lights due to its crystal-clear skies. The city was initially established in 1953 and is the capital of Yukon. The pristine Lake Laberge is a popular area for sightseeing. The body of water sits on the banks of the Yukon River and has historical ties to the Klondike Gold Rush in the earlier part of the 20th century. You can easily rent a cabin by the lake or stay in a nearby bed and breakfast and watch the northern lights, or you can go on a guided tour.

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Yukon

Other things to do while you’re in Yukon:
While you’re in Whitehorse, you should also check out the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can see over 12 different species roaming in their natural habitat. The Yukon Wildlife Preserve spans over 700 acres, which will give you plenty of opportunities to see arctic foxes, caribou, bison and other wildlife.

2. Nain, Newfoundland, and Labrador

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Newfoundland

If you want to have an adventure, you should travel to Nain, Newfoundland, and Labrador. Located at the eastern tip of Canada, Nain is the perfect place to experience the great outdoors and see Mother Nature at its finest. The city is home to the remote Torngat Mountains National Park where you can camp and watch the northern lights. During the day you can explore its rugged mountains and rocky tundra valleys which covers over 9,700 square kilometers (3,745 square miles). It’s not unusual for people to spot humpback whales, caribou, polar bears, and other local wild animals during their stay at Torngat Mountains National Park.
Other things to do while you’re in Newfoundland and Labrador:
Although Newfoundland and Labrador is famous for its snow-capped mountains and untouched nature, there are many local festivals, museums and art galleries to enjoy. We suggest you check out The Rooms at St.John’s. The famous museum celebrates the rich history of the area and holds some of the largest collection of art and artifacts in the region. Visitors can also enjoy breathtaking views of the city while dining inside the museum’s restaurant.

 3. Banff, Alberta

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Banff, Alberta

Located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park is ideal for watching the northern lights since it’s more isolated and is less polluted. Banff sits at an elevation of 4,540 feet (1,384 meters), which makes it the most elevated town in Canada. The park has several historic sites, over a thousand glaciers and mountains that range from 45 to 120 million years old. You can watch the hypnotizing lights dance across the sky and the surface of the Lake Minnewanka, Peyto Lake or Castle Junction.
Other things to do while you’re in Alberta:
You can’t leave Alberta without checking out Jasper National Park. The park is one of the biggest dark sky preserves in the world besides Wood Buffalo National Park. The expansive park measures 11,000 square kilometers (4,247 square miles) and features numerous mountains, rivers, lakes and beaches for you to explore.

4. Iqaluit, Nunavut

Iqaluit is the capital of Nunavut and has numerous arctic outdoor activities for visitors, including dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice fishing and kayaking. This destination is very unique from the other places since it is governed by the Inuit people. Making it the ideal choice for travelers who want to see the northern lights and learn more about the culture and history of the Inuit people.
Other things to do while you’re in Nunavut:
If you will be in Iqaluit in April, try to go to the Toonik Tyme Festival. The weeklong event features musical performances and traditional Inuit activities like dogsled races, snowmobile races and igloo building. You can also go to the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association (or NACA) to learn more about the people and history of Nunavut. The organization throws a festival every summer to showcase some of the local artists in the area.

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Yellowknife

5.  Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Yellowknife is another popular destination to see the northern lights due to its flat landscape and long winter nights. The capital of the Northwest Territories, Yellowknife is also the biggest city in the province. It’s about 400 km (250 mi) south of the Arctic Circle. Tourists flock to Aurora Village to see the northern lights. The hotel has a variety of tour packages and other services for guests. You can also go to Great Slave Lake, which is just outside Yellowknife. According to the city’s official website, the city has a Northern Lighthouse which can forecast when the aurora will be active later on in the evening.
Other things to do while you’re in the Northwest Territories:
Check out the Snowking’s Winter Festival when you’re in Yellowknife. The annual festival is held each March inside a snow castle near Great Slave Lake for the entire month. The Snowking’s Winter Festival has concerts, children’s theatre and much more.
Some advice before you plan your trip:
Now that you know which places to go if you want to see the northern lights, you’ll probably be tempted to book a ticket right away. However, it’s important that you understand when the lights are visible so you will have a greater chance of seeing them. Before you book your trip, check out Aurora Watch and the Aurora Forecast Predictor to find out when it’s a good time to travel to Canada and see them.

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Eating your way through Italy

Feast Through Italy

The food alone is one of the best reasons to visit Italy, as the list of mouthwatering delights is endless! Continue reading our “Foodie’s Guide” for a taste of Italy that will be the ultimate in culinary experiences!

Naples for Pizza

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Naples Pizza

Let’s start with the city where it all began. Pizza got its beginnings in Naples, and this amazing Italian creation has been a favorite for many years. By the late 18th century, the people of Naples were adding tomato sauce to their flatbread, and thus, this tradition got started. When you arrive in this incredible city, head straight to Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba for a slice that will knock your socks off! Established in 1830, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba is the oldest pizzeria in the world. Here, you will find traditional Neapolitan pizza, which has a thin, chewy crust covered with a robust tomato sauce and a light layer of cheese. You’ll see why eating pizza is an absolute must while in Naples!
Another staple in this Italian city is coffee. Known mostly for espresso, you’ll find countless cafe’s lining the streets of Naples where you can enjoy this hot beverage at it’s finest. Most often brewed by hand, you’ll want to do as the locals do, and quickly drink your espresso sweetened with plenty of sugar, then be on your way!

When in Rome

Pasta alla Carbonara

Whether you are spending the day in Rome or you will be there for a few days to weeks, the food is not to be missed! Roman cuisine is known for being simple and bursting with flavor. Famous for pasta dishes, as well as vegetable and offal stews, you’ll need extra time in Rome just to try all of the delicious food offerings. “Must-try” foods in Rome include the following: Suppli’, a deep-fried delight filled with mozzarella cheese, and covered in risotto, egg, and tomato sauce, Crostata di Ricotta, which is the Roman version of the traditional cheesecake, the ever-popular artichoke, and many more.
While artichokes are enjoyed worldwide, Italy is responsible for over two-thirds of the world’s production. Be sure to try thePasta alla Carbonara, which is spaghetti topped with a sauce made of pecorino cheese, eggs, black pepper, and bacon. Some restaurants to go to while in this fantastic city? Try Angelina, located nearby the Trevi Fountain, Glass, fine dining in the heart of Rome, or Salotto 42, which is convenient to the Pantheon.

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Gelato

Of course, no trip to Rome would be complete without gelato. The first gelato was made by the Romans when they decided to add fruit to snow from the mountains for a unique frozen dessert. Gelato, the Italian version of ice cream, is rich and decadent and comes in an array of flavors, including strawberry, chocolate, and lemon. The most popular flavor in the city? Pistachio!

Eating in Venice

Be prepared for Italian food as you’ve never had it before. Venice is known for specialty foods that you absolutely must try while there. The cuisine consists of flavorful dishes made with fresh fish and vegetables. Sarde in Soar, a sweet and sour dish made with fried sardine fillets marinated in vinegar, onions, raisins and pine nuts, dates back to the Middle Ages and continues to be a Venetian favorite to this day. With another staple of the region being rice, it only makes sense that Risotto is a specialty of Venice. One of the most widely served versions is seafood based risotto, made from squid ink that appears jet black. Don’t let the appearance of the dish startle you. This is by far the best risotto you’ll ever eat!
With the Venetian Lagoon being home to crustaceans, Venice is a seafood lover’s dream. Small green crabs, called Moleche, are a seasonal delicacy that is eaten after the shell is shed. These crabs are used in all sorts of fried dishes and salads.
No Venetian meal is complete without Baicoli, a dry, oval-shaped ship biscuit that is perfect for dipping into cream and enjoying with coffee. Most importantly, don’t forget the wine! The region has a varied landscape and is home to many red and white varieties. Some of the best wines to accompany all of the fresh fish in the region are Soave, Valpolicella, Amarone, and Orto di Venezia.

The Region of Tuscany

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Focaccia Bread

Arriving in Tuscany is an adventure in itself. Suddenly, you find yourself surrounded by an incredible amount of food that you must try before leaving. Like most regions of Italy, Tuscan cuisine is made from simple ingredients, such as legumes, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables. One of the local favorites, focaccia, found its way onto Tuscan tables over 2000 years ago. Focaccia is a bread is baked on hot coals or on a hearth. Eat it alone, dipped in oil and herbs, alongside a dish of pasta, or use it for a sandwich. No matter how you slice it, there is no wrong way to enjoy focaccia, and Tuscany is the best place to get it. Don’t forget one of Tuscany’s best offerings, the salumi and cheese.
When enjoying a meal in Tuscany, it is best to start with an antipasto with cured sliced meats. Tuscans are known for excellent soups, so fill your bowl with ribollita, a vegetable and bread soup, or the best tomato soup you’ve ever had. Pasta lovers can delight in tagliatelle al Tartufo, which is pasta covered in a truffle sauce, or pappardelle alla Lepre, wide egg noodles in a sauce made from wild hare. Whatever your preference, the pasta in Tuscany is not to be missed. Which restaurants to try? How about Bracali, a lovely restaurant with homemade cuisine, Caino, known for locally-inspired dishes, or Piccolo Principe, with an open kitchen and flavorful meals.

Bologna and the Emilia-Romagna Region

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Prosciutto

Also referred to as the “Breadbasket of Italy,” this region is famous for some of Italy’s most well-known pasta dishes. Dining in Bologna will allow you to taste some of the best lasagna, gnocchi, tortellini, and ravioli you’ve ever had. Eat like a local while in Bologna and the Emilia-Romagna region at one of the many porticoes that line the streets, and don’t forget to head to a local cafe for a cappuccino that you won’t believe. With the Italian nickname of the city being “The Fat One,” it is no surprise that this region knows what good eating is all about!
Along with the pasta dishes, don’t forget the prosciutto, made from cured and salted pork and sliced thin. Paired with cheese and olives, you’ll want to sit and eat this food all day! The perfect place to do just that? Dal Nonno, where you’ll get the best prosciutto in the region. All in all, the food in this region is something to indulge in and remember.
Now you know why Italy is known for being a country where great food is of utmost importance! Make sure you are ready to eat like never before when you visit Italy. Taste the local cuisines that every region is famous for, and see why Italy is the ultimate foodie’s dream!

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Don’t Leave San Diego Without Visiting These 6 Locations

San Diego Mission Beach

The city is one of the most desirable destinations in the United States due to its pristine beaches, famous attractions, and near perfect year-round weather. Regardless if you’re visiting San Diego for the very first time or it’s your favorite spot to vacation, here are some places you must see!

Balboa Park

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Balboa Park

When was the last time you were able to visit the zoo, museums, theatre and dine at fine restaurants all at once? Balboa Park is one of the most popular attractions in San Diego because visitors can enjoy culture, science, and nature in one convenient location. Named after the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the iconic park just celebrated its 150th anniversary. The 1,200-acre park has 16 world-class museums, lush gardens, walking trails, live performing arts venues and more for you to explore.
When you first enter the park, you can’t help but notice its beautiful, grandiose architecture. Balboa Park has a mixture of different architectural styles, ranging from Spanish-Renaissance to mid-century modern and Italian-Renaissance. The stunning buildings alone and gardens alone are awe-inspiring and make a great photo op!
Balboa Park has something for everyone. Nature lover? Check out the Botanical Building, Memorial Rose Garden and the Japanese Friendship Garden. Only care about history and science? Go to the San Diego Natural History Museum and Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. Meanwhile, if you love the arts, you should visit the Timken Museum of Art, Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego Art Institute and the San Diego Museum of Art. You may also be able to catch a live theatrical performance at the historic Old Globe Theatre or the San Diego Junior Theatre.

San Diego Zoo

After you explore Balboa Park, head to the legendary San Diego Zoo next door. Widely considered one of the best zoos in the world, the San Diego Zoo is one of the top tourist destinations in Southern California.
According to a local newspaper, the San Diego Zoo started from very humble beginnings when it opened in 1916. Pelicans, rattlesnakes, and bears were just some of the first animals donated to the zoo. Navy sailors raised the young bears as pets on the ship and later donated them to the zoo when the animal grew up and was too large to control.

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Animals in the San Diego Zoo

Now the San Diego Zoo has over 4,000 rare and endangered animals and 800 different species. The zoo is about 100 acres and is considered one of the best places to see polar bears, tigers, gorillas and other wild animals in naturalistic habitats. They also have an extensive botanical collection with more than 700,000 plants.
The San Diego Zoo has many unique and notable animal habitats. Some of them include the Monkey Trails, Elephant Odyssey and Australia Outback exhibit. You can also check out the Africa Rocks exhibit and see polar bears swim in the Polar Bear Plunge. Get up close and personal with animals in the Children’s Zoo or you can book a special tour like Animals in Action if you really want a unique experience.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

If you are craving adventure, you should go to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. It’s one of the few places where you can go on a safari and watch in wonderment as giraffes, rhinos and other animals roam the landscape. All you have to do is decide if you want to observe the animals from the sky with a secure zip line, traveling through the park by vehicle or walking.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located in the city of Escondido, which is a short distance from the zoo. Around 2,600 animals live inside the 1,800-acre park. One must see exhibit is the Lion Camp and the bird show. You can also check out Lorikeet Landing and personally feed lorikeets up close and in person. Meanwhile, make sure to check out the bats, meerkats, and lemurs in Nairobi Village before you leave the park.

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Giant Dipper at Mission Beach

Mission Beach

Of course, you can’t visit San Diego without exploring the city’s world-famous beaches. One of the most popular beaches is Mission Beach. Thousands of people flock to it every year to enjoy its beautiful ocean view. Mission Beach is perfect if you want to take a leisurely stroll or ride a bike along its boardwalk, sunbathe or simply enjoy the water. There are lots of charming local shops and restaurants you can visit in the area. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can visit Belmont Park. The boardwalk amusement park has a wooden roller coaster called the Giant Dipper that was originally built in 1925. You can also practice surfing at the Wave House, play miniature golf, ride bumper cars and many other fun activities.

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Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach

Known as the “Crown City,” the charming city of Coronado has some of the best views of downtown San Diego. Coronado Beach is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a nice beach vacation. The serene beach is nestled between a United States navy base and the iconic Hotel del Coronado, which was featured in many old Hollywood movies. Coronado Beach is consistently rated as one of the best beaches due to its sparkling sandy beach and pristine environment. When you’re done enjoying the beach, you can also explore the shops and restaurants in downtown Coronado.

Torrey Pines Beach

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Torrey Pines Beach

Located just north of La Jolla, Torrey Pines Beach is an amazing natural wonder that features towering rocky cliffs, canyons, and sandy beaches. The area is popular with daring hang gliders who jump off its cliffs to soar above the ocean and nature lovers who want to walk the hiking trails of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park and marvel at the native pine trees. It’s also close by the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course.