Arguilla-Feeling is Believing

September 19, 2011

By Richard Earls

Who comes to love Anguilla? Much is made of the rich and famous who come to this island haven to hide in plain site, to mingle undisturbed. But for every celebrity there are the thousands of visitors every year who come for the warm hospitality of the people, the brilliance of the beaches and the quiet, idyllic return to a more elegant, simple yet rich existence.

Anguilla is the northernmost of the Leeward Islands. It is situated 146 miles east of Puerto Rico and eleven miles north of St. Martin/St.Maarten. The island is sixteen miles long, and three miles wide at its widest point. In total, the land mass measures 35 square miles (91 sq km). There are more than 40 miles (64 km) of coastline on which its many spectacular beaches are situated. Anguilla is a mostly flat island, with its highest point at 213 feet above sea level. The island does not have any natural rivers, streams or lakes but several large salt ponds dot the landscape.

The sea and boating have naturally played an important part in the island’s culture and traditions. Numerous fishing villages, like the ones at Crocus Bay and Island Harbour embody centuries of Anguilla’s maritime history and nautical traditions. So ingrained is the love of the sea that boat racing is the national sport. The unique Anguilla boats and boat racing extravaganzas are the product of a bond with the sea that is as deep as the waters that cover the ocean floor.

The island is largely Christian in denomination. English holidays such as the Queen’s Birthday, Whit Monday and others are celebrated, but English speaking Anguilla maintains a unique balance of all the historic influences that make this island a truly individual nation.

Anguilla’s fortunate location in the Leeward Islands means that for much of the year there is a constant breeze cooling the air and affording very little rainfall or humidity. The subtropical climate and temperature tends to be constant year round, averaging 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Annual rainfall is typically 35 inches, with the “rainy season” running August through November. As a location in the Northern Hemisphere, the seasons in Anguilla are the same as in the United States: when it is winter in the United States, it is winter in Anguilla. However, the difference is that the temperature and rainfall in Anguilla is nearly constant year round. When there is snow on the ground in Boston, it’s a wonderful 80 degrees in Anguilla! Winter is Anguilla’s high season. As the temperatures fall in the United States and Europe, tourists travel to the island’s warm tropical beaches. When the busy winter (November – May) travel season is over, savvy travellers know that the best days to travel are just ahead. The period April to November is referred to as the Summer Season. During the summer, the island experiences a true value season as hotels and tour operators provide special programmes and rates for couples, families, and groups, etc., to accommodate the smaller number of visitors.

Anguilla is an easy island to explore. One major road runs from the East End to the West End, with smaller roads branching off. Whether seeing the island by taxi, bike, scooter or car, there is always a beautiful beach; a restaurant, café or barbecue with sumptuous fare; art gallery, museum or boutique; a harbour dotted with brightly coloured ‘Anguilla’ boats; a breathtaking vision of architectural resort styles that include Moorish, Mediterranean, and modern designs just ‘up the road’ from charming and, colourful West Indian hotels, resorts, and private homes.

Read more: http://www.travelhoppers.com/2011/09/19/anguilla-feeling-is-believing/

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World’s Best Cities

September 10, 2011

By Travel + Leisure Staff

Paris
 Paris, France

Joanna Van Mulder
A new renaissance is under way in Florence, with the city’s historic center making room for contemporary galleries and chic aperitivo bars. And all that work has paid off: this year, Florence rose to the No. 2 ranking among T+L’s World’s Best Cities.

T+L asked readers to vote in its 16th annual World’s Best survey, rating worldwide cities in categories such as attractions, arts and culture, food, shopping, and value. The result is a global guide to the cities not to miss this year.

Despite the challenging economy, travel is up, with more than 270 million travelers hitting the road this year, according to the Airports Council International. More travel means more insights into what makes a city great — whether it’s efficient transportation, affordable dining, or youthful energy — and how cities compare on a global basis. After all, the thrill of a country is most often reflected in its city life. “Cities absolutely dominate over countryside experiences for travelers,” says T+L A-List super agent Priscilla Alexander of Protravel International. “You won’t have someone going to France and not going to Paris.”

No. 10 Paris

Ah, Paris. Every cobbled lane, every street-side café, every patisserie window seems to have been art-directed by some impossibly savvy set designer. Yet for all that elegance and drama, Paris’ greatest pleasures are arguably its simplest ones: the hum of a neighborhood bistro; the tranquility of a churchyard; the crunch of a perfect baguette. After all, you come to Paris to eat. Indulge serious cheese fantasies at Laurent Dubois, a fromagerie with seemingly endless options.

Barcelona
Barcelona, Spain

Javier Salas

No. 9 Barcelona

Barcelona has long been famous for its art and architecture, with Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and Antoni Gaudí all leaving their marks. But this is the first year that the Catalan city has broken into the World’s Best Cities top 10 list. Though diversions like wandering the Gaudí-designed Parc Güell have a timeless appeal, it’s new hot spots like Tickets, from mad-scientist brothers Ferran and Albert Adrià, that are creating the worldwide buzz. Where to stay? At the new Mandarin Oriental, where the Hong Kong hotel group’s legendary service is paired with Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola’s 98 bright, cream-on-white rooms.

Sydney
Sydney, Australia

Mikkel Vang

No. 8 Sydney

Part outsize beach resort, part culture capital, Sydney, the perennial World’s Best City winner Down Under, exemplifies the art of relaxed cosmopolitanism: urbane but not pretentious; cutting-edge but not stressed-out. New restaurants and boutiques are channeling that Aussie energy in some oft-overlooked neighborhoods such as beachside hangout Manly. And an initiative to liven up the side lanes in the trendy Surry Hills and Darlinghurst neighborhoods has led to a slew of lounge bars opening up; try the lychee-infused tequila at Hunky Dory Social Club.

Siem Reap
Siem Reap, Cambodia

iStock

No. 7 Siem Reap

Siem Reap is best known as the gateway to the Angkor Wat temple complex and other 12th-century Khmer ruins such as Ta Prohm, which remains as archaeologists found it in 1860, with banyan and kapok trees slowly reclaiming its sandstone carvings. But now the city has evolved from a cluster of riverfront villages into a full-fledged destination complete with art galleries, boutique hotels — and a World’s Best Cities designation. Sample the local cuisine at the FCC Angkor, a 31-room Art Deco hotel and restaurant, and drop by McDermott Gallery for black-and-white photographs of Angkor Wat.

Cape Town
Cape Town, South Africa

Courtesy of Twelve Apostles Hotel

No. 6 Cape Town

Cape Town is sometimes labeled the least African of African cities — which, depending on who’s doing the labeling, is said with enthusiasm or disparagement. But whatever you think of the must-see destination, post-World Cup, the city radiates a palpable cool, and now it’s surged back onto the World’s Best list with a higher score than in 2009 (the last time it appeared). Split your time between urban pursuits (browsing the trendy Neighbourgoods Market and local artists’ galleries) and excursions to see wildlife, sample wines, and stroll the beaches of the Cape of Good Hope reserve.

Istanbul
Istanbul, Turkey

iStock

No. 5 Istanbul

Straddling the Bosporus — and thus the only major city that occupies both Asia and Europe — Istanbul also spans the ancient and modern worlds. The sounds of construction compete with the call of the muezzin, and the skyline, a glittering ribbon of palaces and mosques, is dotted with rooftop nightclubs. One reason the city skyrocketed back onto the World’s Best Cities list after two absent years? The appeal of Istanbul’s latest culinary trend: resurrecting ancient Ottoman recipes, such as garlicky lamb’s trotter served on toast at Asitane and juicy kubbes — dumplings filled with beef and pignoli — at Cercis Murat Konaği, on the city’s Asian side.

New York
New York

David Nicolas

No. 4 New York

For all New York’s bright-lights-big-city grandeur, one can always find a quiet neighborhood. The trick is balancing the city’s outsize spectacle with intimate experiences. The latest neighborhood to pull it off is the Chelsea arts district, between 10th and 11th avenues, most notable for the just-expanded High Line, a landscaped strip of elevated public space. On nearby blocks you’ll find buildings by Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, and Shigeru Ban, as well as marquee galleries such as Pace and Gagosian. For a picnic lunch, stop into Chelsea Market, a food-court-on-steroids, and savor a piece of the city that’s been voted No. 1 within the U.S. and Canada every year since 2000.

Rome
Rome, Italy

David Cicconi

No. 3 Rome

The Eternal City has ranked in the top 10 cities overall every year for the past decade, all while catapulting itself into the 21st century with a series of starchitect-designed buildings. Emblematic of the bold new look are the Ara Pacis, a travertine-and-glass building by Richard Meier, and Zaha Hadid’s Maxxi (Museum of 21st Century Arts), which debuted in 2010 in the northern Flaminio zone. Even the Colosseum has had a spruce-up, opening its dungeons and third-floor gallery to tours for the first time.

Florence
Florence, Italy

iStock

No. 2 Florence

With a charismatic mayor leading the way, a new generation of tastemakers is injecting a welcome dose of contemporary culture into this much-loved Renaissance city, set amid rolling hills studded with towers and churches. New galleries and aperitivo bars share the compact city center with more than one million works of art — among them Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. Factor in high-fashion brands like Gucci and Cavalli, succulent steaks, and the traditional artisan workshops of the Oltrarno, and it’s no wonder that Florence beat out European cities many times its size.

Bangkok
Bangkok, Thailand

Cedric Angeles

No. 1 Bangkok

Frenetic and sultry, this Asian metropolis of 10 million seems like a city on overdrive. High-rises jostle for space; down below, cabs and tuk-tuks inch through the gridlock. But there are moments of calm. At dawn, saffron-robed Buddhist monks collect alms, while women thread the marigold and jasmine garlands that festoon temples and shrines. And when it comes to shopping and food, the city is an endless, and often affordable, bacchanalia. It’s no wonder that Bangkok has nabbed the No. 1 spot overall for two years running — and been listed in the top 10 every year since 2002.


Travel to Cuba is Now Open …and I Dont’ See a Catch

September 2, 2011

By: Joe Pike

With three tour operators making announcements to start sending U.S. clients to the once-forbidden destination of Cuba, it’s safe to say the news agents have been waiting to hear for decades has finally arrived. You can send your clients to Cuba. Your clients do not have to be a certain age, do not have to have family in Cuba and do not have to be students.

And the catch isn’t really a catch at all.

A trip there needs to be set up through an operator who’s been approved through either the People to People education program or an operator who’s been approve to conduct religious education tours. The People to People initiative requires Americans to take part in various cultural experiences in Cuba, essentially, as the name implies, putting them in direct contact with the people of Cuba with hopes of learning about the way of life in the country.

But one can argue that these are usually activities a client visiting a country for the first time wants to do anyway. Now, you won’t be allowed to just sit on a beach sipping Mojitos for the entire trip, but how many of your clients do you think are going to want to do this anyway? Will they use their opportunity to visit a country they were never able to visit before just to do the same daily activities they could have done in other Caribbean islands for years?

And from reading most of the itineraries from the three operators who have already announced tours to Cuba, the cultural mandates seem to be very loosely interpreted. You won’t have to take classes there or dig ditches for a day. Instead a cultural experience can mean anything from meeting farmers who grow tobacco to driving to dinner in a 1950s classic American car.

With help from the Center for Caribbean Religion and Culture, for the first time, Globus will present travelers a rare opportunity to experience the enduring faith, colorful history and lively culture of this captivating nation with its new itinerary for 2012: Cuba: A Spiritual, Historical and Cultural Journey.

Insight Cuba got the tour operator ball rolling when it announced in late June that it was reauthorized by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to send Americans to Cuba.

Abercrombie & Kent will be offering trips through the People to People program, which was implemented by President Clinton in 1999 and suspended by President Bush in 2004 before President Obama resurrected the program this January.


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