Costa Rica Local Expert: Lisa Valencia

Lisa Valencia packed up everything and moved to Costa Rica in 2007.

Since then she has been creating art and living life to the fullest in her favourite place in the world.

She’s one of TravelPod’s most recent additions to the Local Expert team.

I asked her a few questions about her new life and on being a TP Local Expert and here’s what she said:

Lisa Valencia drenched after a rainstorm in Costa Rica

Why did you become a Local Expert?

I love my life in Costa Rica and want to inspire others to follow their dreams, too.

What are the best and worst things about living in Costa Rica?

The best thing is that I can live cheaply, in a beautiful place, and enjoy a leisurely lifestyle. My life is so much simpler here than when I lived in the States. I have time to walk on the beach and have idle conversation with whoever I meet, time to exercise, time to write, time to just be.

The worst thing about living in Costa Rica has not to do with the country but with me. The worst thing about living here is that I am not fluent in Spanish. Life would be so much richer if I was. But I keep learning, every day. I can’t think of anything that bad about living here – Oh! Yes I can – the bathrooms. Public bathrooms are not kept nearly as clean in this country as in the United States.

What are the top five things for travelers to do in Costa Rica from your personal experiences?

1. Go to the Caribbean, play on the beach, get to know the people and do the following:
2. Take a guided jungle hike.
3. Ride a horse in the mountains.
4. Go to a Salsa Club and watch the amazing dancers.
5. Go to the waterfalls.

What are some of your best and worst travel experiences?

There are so many…… and they’re all in my book!
The worst was the night I spent in a cheap hotel – no – it was the time all my clothes were stolen.
The best is every new day!

What is your proudest accomplishment?

In life – the two great kids I raised.
In travel – creating exactly the life I want to live in a tropical paradise, all on my own.

What do you do with most of your time?

It really varies. I write. I sometimes travel to other parts of Costa Rica. I do art work, spend time with my daughter and my friends, ride my bike and on and on……

What’s a typical day like for you?

I get up, do my yoga, eat breakfast and work online answering emails and writing. Then I’ll go out to do errands – buy some groceries, talk to people I meet on the street. Or maybe I’ll go to the beach for a few hours. Sometimes I walk the beach, sometimes I lay in the sun and read a book. At the end of the day, just as the sun is beginning to set, I like to get some more exercise by running on the beach. In the evening I usually eat at home, but sometimes go out to one of the great restaurants here in Puerto Viejo. Then I’ll stop in to one of the four or five places that have live music. Life is good!

What’s your favourite part of the TravelPod forum?

My favorite part is making connections with new people who love traveling and are interested in Costa Rica. I like to share my adventures and learn about theirs.

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Top 10 places to see the Northern Lights

Who doesn’t have seeing the northern lights on their “kick the bucket” list?

If you’re wondering where on earth is the best place to see the aurora borealis, check out this list of TP bloggers who have successfully experienced the natural light show in the sky.

1. Reykjavik, Iceland

Dc314 went on a Northern Lights bus tour in Reykjavik

Dc314 went on a Northern Lights bus tour in Reykjavik

“As we are heading back, and midnight approaches, the right side of the bus could see the northern lights. The bus pulls over in the middle of nowhere and everyone gets out in the street. We saw the dancing white light in the air, and it was actually pretty cool. We got to see it for about 30 mins. Then we drove a little more and hopped out of the bus again. I was able to take a few pics, but unfortunately I am not able to hold a camera still for 10 seconds without a tripod, so they are a tad blurry (you can get the idea). Interestingly enough, the lights are green in the pictures, instead of white. At about 1 a.m. we head back to the city. We finally went to bed and called it a night, very tired but very happy to have witnessed this natural phenomenon.” – Dc314

2. Svolvaer, Norway

Everardt snapped this picture while searching for Moelje in Norway

Everardt snapped this picture while searching for Moelje in Norway

“When I came outside I happened to look up in the sky and there were 2 pale green bands of light in the sky. All of a sudden there was some electrical activity and I just managed to get my camera out in time to photograph the northern lights.” – Everardt

3. Iqaluit, Canada

Yours truly in the northern tundra

Yours truly in the northern tundra

“On our way home, I look up in the sky and it is FILLED with green and grey colours. The northern lights! On my last night in Iqaluit, the sky is clear enough to see it! It’s not more colourful than in Yellowknife, but it’s a LOT more monstrous. It just fills up the entire sky with dancing light. It lasts for about 30 or 45 minutes and just abruptly as it began it stops.” – starlagurl

4. Tromso, Norway

Jimborussell in Norway

Jimborussell in Norway

One of the workers rushed into our tent and excitedly pronounced that the Northern Lights could be seen outside. I was outside in a flash and stood there gaping at the sky for about an hour. The lights were quite faint, but definately visable. They covered a third of the sky at their most intense, and fluctuated and moved slowly in large waves which seemed to point downward from the heavens in a way I find very difficult to explain. They didn’t last all that long, but were amazing. – Jimborussell

5. Fairbanks, USA

Margiewilson spent a week enjoying the wilderness in Fairbanks

Margiewilson spent a week enjoying the wilderness in Fairbanks

“The afternoon was great, but the evening was better than we could have ever have imagined. We were told that the night would be a good night for the Northern Lights, so we could hardly wait to see them. Around 9 p.m., the first line of Lights were showing but they came and went. We went outside and another band of light was showing around 10 p.m. A group of us were outside in awe of the lights and we were all trying to get pictures of the lights. The lights started dancing around in the sky and we were mesmerized by them. We watched for a while, then went to the room and watched from the balcony. The lights were very active that night, there were some other people watching from their balcony and when the lights went dancing again one man from Russia started screaming and jumping around on the grass saying it was a miracle. And I think it was. What a wonderful way to end the day. We will never forget the sight and we are so thankful that we were able to experience the colors in the lights.” – Margiewilson

6. Tok, USA

Neeterb and her dog in Alaska

Neeterb and her dog in Alaska

“As we prepared for bed, Warren came in and said he thought we were going to see northern lights. Back outside to stand with our necks craned to see the display that seemed just for us. To the naked eye, the lights appeared faint and white. I wasn’t able to get pictures with my camera, but Warren did. The lights, to the camera, were actually green. Absolutely astounding and another checkmark off my list of things to see in Alaska.” – Neeterb

7. Yellowknife, Canada

Lolly's fiancee proposed under the Northern Lights in Yellowknife

Lolly’s fiancee proposed under the Northern Lights in Yellowknife

“We found a dock on Great Slave Lake and watched the northern lights until they disappeared and the sky started to lighten again around 1am. It was then that Senica proposed to me on bended knee – how romantic!! What a beautiful setting on such an auspicious day – the highlight of the trip, literally!!” –

8. Cantwell, USA

Docn saw a glimpse of the Northern Lights amidst a herd of caribou

Docn saw a glimpse of the Northern Lights amidst a herd of caribou

“After cooking myself dinner and resting for a bit I headed back to the dog sled jump off point to check out the norther lights…which were amazing. Even cooler though was the fact that as I was standing there checking out the lights I started to hear what I thought were footsteps…quadraped footsteps…then out of the corner of my eye I saw what was making the noise…Caribou…they were all around me…apparently they were crossing the road where I was parked…I couldn’t get any pictures because it was pitch black…but they were everywhere!!!” – Docn

9. Edmonton, Canada

Nancydeb visited the West Edmonton Mall and saw the Northern Lights in the same day!

Nancydeb visited the West Edmonton Mall and saw the Northern Lights in the same day!

“We did get to see the green haze of northern lights one night when we were in Edmonton. I was surprised they were visible even in town with all the street lights but there they were, so that was pretty cool.” – Nancydeb

10. Isle of Skye, Scotland

Hannahfoster with the standing stones in Callandish, Scotland

Hannahfoster with the standing stones in Callandish, Scotland

“The second night we were high up on the hills on the Ilse of Skye and that view was pretty awesome too. The night we stayed there we could see the Northern Lights. They weren’t that spectacular because we werent quite far north enough but still it was a pretty glow in the sky.” – Hannahfoster

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10 funny signs from around the world

Traveling around the world as an Anglophone can be pretty funny. Most people try to speak English, but they don’t all quite get it.

This worldwide phenomenon has spawned such websites as Engrish.com among many others. Here at TravelPod, we’ve got our own assortment of funny signs. Some of them more coherent than others…

1. “Don’t throw coins in crocodiles mouths”, Bangkok, Thailand

"It might cause them death"

"Please don't throw coins in crocodile's mouths. It might cause them death"

“I have a hodge-podge of various new pictures to upload, from Lauren and Halloweeen, to a festival, and most notably from when we went to the zoo! The pictures will pretty much explain themselves, and there are a lot of pictures of animals so I thought that I would give everyone a Thai language lesson with it too.” – Schipper

2. “This place danger” in Gyangze, China

"This place danger. Take devious route."

"This place danger. Take devious route."

Our final activity was a hike up the Gyantse Dzong – an old fort in the middle of town. We had the fort to ourselves not a tourist or Tibetan was there. We took it slow going up (man can we feel the altitude here – or we’re really out of shape!) but the view was worth it – we could see the entire town, the monastery, and the Himalayas in the distance. Not a bad way to see the sunset! – Carlaandmike

3. “Guests are requested…” in Broome, Australia

"Guests are requested not to leave meals unattended unless they wish to share them with the seagulls"

Rachandstu found this sign at a bar on the beach in Broome, Australia

“To celebrate being in a town, we went out for dinner at a bar on the beach where we sat with our pizza and drinks – (a glass of cold wine for Rachel – what a novelty!) and watched the sunset.” – Rachandstu

4. “Passengers Attention” – Beijing, China

Lucy_and_adele found this warning sign in Beijing, China

Lucy_and_adele found this warning sign in Beijing, China

We climbed enough steps to do us a lifetime. The older section of the wall was really cool. All rubble and broken steps. when our legs couldn’t handle much more, we went to get the cable car back to the car park. They were out of order, of course! – Lucy_and_adele

5. “Be cautionary to fall into water” – Shangri-La, China

Fredtrip found another example of Engrish in Shangri La, China

Fredtrip found another example of Engrish in Shangri-La, China

I was positively surprised by Shangri La. Few tourists here, colder weather (we are at 3200m), a lot of Tibetans and a pleasant living old city.
The city was originally called Zhongdian but some locals decided to change its name to make it more attractive to tourists. New name comes from James Hilton’s 1933 bestseller: Lost Horizon.. – Fredtrip

6. “The top of an… wha?” – Jeju City, South Korea

Jknoff22 thought this sign was amusing

Jknoff22 thought this sign was amusing in Jeju City

“If you can’t read it, it says, “The top of an election is a clean election.” Now say it as a Korean would, changing the “l’s” to “r’s” and you have an enigmatic yet very funny sign.” – Jknoff22

7. “Smoke is billowing” – Hachioji, Japan

Tothemoon found this strange sign in Japan

Tothemoon found this strange sign in Japan

I’m glad the trip ended up much better than it started, but I kinda don’t ever wanna go on vacation again. – Tothemoon

8. “Premarital sex” – Telluride, USA

78ers found this sign humorous in Telluride, USA

78ers found this sign humorous in Telluride, USA

“On our way back out to the main road, we drove on a little half gravel/half paved road through a really beautiful area. The road passes the town of Dunton- apparently it’s actually a privately owned ghost town, so I don’t think you can walk around it or anything. But the whole stretch of road was really nice, Silas and I were sort of hating the people who live there!” – 78ers

9. “The grass is smiling at you” – Beijing, China

Bizarreirishsta found this sign in Beijing's Olympic Village

Bizarreirishsta found this sign in Beijing's Olympic Village

“After our day at the Summer Palace, we made our way to the Olympic Village. We had enough time to get to it and have a snack before it started raining. It didn’t rain much, but just in spurts. The Bird’s Next is quite the architectural design, but definitely more impressive from a distance.” – Bizarreirishsta

10. “Fartshumper” – Olderfjord, Norway

Marksadventures loves Norwegian signs

Marksadventures loves Norwegian signs

“This is the only photo worthy of being shown today….another funny Norwegian sign!” – Marksadventures

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Lonely Planet’s top 10 places to party

Another great list from Lonely Planet, the world’s top 10 places to party. I put the list to the test and found out whether TravelPod bloggers partied it up, or died of boredom…

1. Belgrade = Party Town

Some "barge-clubs" found in Belgrade, Serbia

Some "barge-clubs" found in Belgrade, Serbia

“This is a town that knows how to go out. There are bars everywhere, the river is chock-a-block with barge-clubs and apparently most of the ‘coolest’ venues are still hidden away in unmarked basements. With no budget airlines serving Nikola Tesla airport it is also pleasantly lacking in British stag dos.” – Jiewu

2. Montreal = Fun, but expensive

Goldenfrog88 at Sky Pub in Montreal, Canada

Goldenfrog88 at Sky Pub in Montreal, Canada

We went to the gay district again to a bar that was recommended. We started off on their third floor terrace and ordered Canada’s infamously weak and expensive drinks. April and I ordered cosmos and got vodka crans in a plastic cup with one once of vodka for $7 each. After an hour we went to the first floor where a drag-show was happening. The performances were excellent with impersenations of the slum dog dance, Tina turner, and Madonna. I was surprised there was no way to tip them! Lastly, we went to the second floor to dance. Griselda and Isabella left earlier than April and myself. I tried getting over the whole “I don’t belong in gay bars” and just started dancng by myself to see what happens. I ended up dancing with some guy who had had way too much with different intentions of my own but at least he was cute. – Goldenfrog88

3. Buenos Aires = so-so

Curtisejtaylor meeting Brazilians at a pool hall in Buenos Aires

Curtisejtaylor meeting Brazilians at a pool hall in Buenos Aires

I don’t know what it’s like to party in big cities, but Buenos Aires, I found, is nothing worth boasting about. Nothing out of this world, if you’re wondering. It was good. – Curtisejtaylor

4. Dubai = “a very fun time”

Tnowakow at a private New Year's Eve party in Dubai, UAE

Tnowakow at a private New Year's Eve party in Dubai, UAE

“The party was at a friend’s of Mona’s out in Jumeriah and we drove to a super market where he had cabs come and take us to the actual house (he didn’t want a bunch of cars at his place). It was a sweet looking villa with a pool outside and he had masks for everyone to wear before the New Year. He also had it catered with any kind of drinks that you would want. All in all it was a very fun time actually” – Tnowakow

5. Thessaloniki = “such a fun night”

Jhdavis' friend Allie, with her drink on the party boat in Thessaloniki

Jhdavis' friend Allie, with her drink on a party boat in Thessaloniki

“We sailed around the bay for 30 minutes and the boat took us down the other side of Thessaloniki and across the downtown area by Aristotle Square and the waterfront bars and cafes. The music was great and all the people abroad where so friendly. At the end, we made our way back down to the dock and left the boat. It was such a fun night.” – Jhdavis

6. La Paz = a little boring

Wadeoliver at the "green party" in La Paz

Wadeoliver at the "green party" in La Paz

“Boys with the booze arrived 8 with 1 10L bottle (looked more like a gas can) of rum and 20L of vodka plus mixers. Once everybody had a drink in their hand then the party really started. The arrival of 4 giant pizzas for dinner was fun (one slice = 3 normal) but because I wasn’t into the whole dance thing, I had had enough by 11:00. I had to unlock my door and leave it open while I went downstairs to give the key to Mike as the door can’t be left unlocked. Felt a little sick (ok, threw up a little), showered, bed 11:30. Mike woke me at 01:45 knocking on the door because he was too drunk to remember I’d given him the key! Then Jo is knocking on the door 5 minutes later and he’s having a conversation with her in his jocks out in the hall so not to disturb me more (he’s a nice guy) but as one of the guys chasing Jo passed by it must have been embarrassing!” – Wadeoliver

7. Cape Town = 24 hour parties!

Nat_yeo and her friends dressed up for a party in Cape Town

Nat_yeo and her friends dressed up for a party in Cape Town

“We gathered at Proc’s house for champagne and dress ups before heading off to the big party at Ratanga Junction Theme Park, where the party was kicking into full swing. It is quite a thing to arrive at the party. Each group crosses over a catwalk and is announced as they arrive with cameras clicking and video cameras recording – you really want to ensure you have put enough effort into your costumes! The atmosphere was fantastic, the crowd very friendly and the music was rocking! We had a great night partying hard until the early hours before sunrise when we made a brief visit back to Cinds and Sebs for a quick shower and change, then off to another party!

The other party was an outdoor trance party held in a secret location around Hout Bay. Soon enough, we were kicking up a dust storm at breakfast time. We had a load of fun – I made some new friends and met some old and even had a call from UK friends cracking on back home whilst I walked through the surrounding forest. We called it quits around lunch time for some much needed sleep – a fantastic way to end 2 weeks in Cape Town.” – Nat_yeo

8. Baku = giant wedding parties

Lok loved the dancing at a wedding in Baku, Azerbaijan

Lok loved the dancing at a wedding in Baku, Azerbaijan

“We then all drove to the village’s wedding hall (yes, weddings are the only events held here), honking all the way. Men and women were seated, at 20 long banquest tables, separately in the hall. It was packed with some 350 people. There were food, wine, vodka, live band and singers and a lot of speeches and dancing. They have a lot of arm movements when they dance – both guys and girls. I could not tell who are husbands and wives since they did not interact at all throughout the event.

After 4 hours, the party at the wedding hall came to an end at 12:30 a.m. It was only adjourned to the bride’s home for more drinks and snacks.” – Lok

9. Auckland = high class style

Andanddan ringing in the new year in Auckland

Andanddan ringing in the new year in Auckland

“An hour or so later we wandered back into the foyer area, which was by this time buzzing with people, and we made our way back to the original bar. Another band, comprising a male and female singer, were now in full flow and had the crowd rocking and the dance floor heaving. At this stage we decided not to move on to the Loaded Hog as originally planned – this was turning out to be a good night and the price was right too!” – Andanddan

10. Tel Aviv = Shabbat culture

Egsolove partied every night when he was in Israel

Egsolove partied every night when he was in Israel

“I still have another night in Israel, and its going to be a good one. It’s shabbat, the party night. Israelis stay up very late, starting to party at 12:30 and not stopping until 5 or 6 sometimes. I’ve done this pretty much every night I’ve been in Israel. It gets exhausting for an American boy. But the culture here is amazing.” – Egsolove

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TripAtlas’ 10 Safest Countries in the World

TripAtlas.com recently listed the 10 safest countries in the world.

“The Global Peace Index (GPI) moves beyond simple crime statistics alone, and looks at the actions of a government, the country’s relationships with the world at large, and the attitudes and demographics of its population.”

Let’s see what TravelPod bloggers had to say about that.

1. New Zealand

Kikiblogtrot in New Zealand

Kikiblogtrot in New Zealand

“I get to chat to local Kiwis who tell me about Christchurch and the life here, and not all of it is rosy and happy… far from it. They tell me about what they think of the racism and crime here. Something which I have to say I was surprised to hear about in New Zealand – it feels so much safer than some of the places I have been to before…” – Kikiblogtrot

2. Denmark

Pwong found the town of Christiana to be relatively safe

Twittg's friend Elisa on a trampoline in Norway

 

“Personally, I’d never live here, but the people seem to be happy and though crime has been on the rise in recent years, generally there is no trouble here.” – Pwong

3. Norway

Twittg's friend Elisa on a trampoline in Norway[/caption]“While traveling around Scandinavia, I heard people from most every country commenting on how crime has gotten worse with the influx of new immigrants from Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.” – Twittg

4. Iceland

Cariverga in front of a waterfall in Iceland

Cariverga in front of a waterfall in Iceland

“I was lodged not directly in the hostel (no places…or whatever the reason) but in a nearby home of an old man (possibly, they got an agreement with him to accommodate surplus guests).

– Man, would you give me a key?
– Why? The door is open. We never close it.

OK. So, this is Iceland. No-crime-country. Previous year there were 2 car hijackings. Period.” – Cariverga

5. Austria

Danschedler was told that Vienna is safer than Budapest

Danschedler was told that Vienna is safer than Budapest

“I had already decided by now not to go to Budapest, which had been my next tentative stop, due to the riots that had broken out there. It probably would have been fine, but Pippi told me Budapest was, “…just like Vienna, but with crime,” so I decided to skip it.” – Danschedler

6. Sweden

Monk-san at an underground restaurant in Stockholm

Monk-san at an underground restaurant in Stockholm

“Stockholm is a clean place. There’s not much grafitti and crime seems low. In fact, I noticed that the rows of bikes stood outside the central station were mostly not even chained to themselves (to stop the wheels moving) let along chained to an immoveable object.” – Monk-san

7. Japan

Sean of Seanandkat in Ueno-mura, Japan

Sean of Seanandkat in Ueno-mura, Japan

“The area is nice and there isn’t hardly any crime and so I really had nothing to fear.” – Seanandkat

8. Canada

Weilnau found Whistler, BC to be a dangerous place

Weilnau found Whistler, BC to be a dangerous place

“Left with few options, Jason went to park at the municipal lot, which was free. Free indeed, but loaded with crime. Broken glass from car windows being smashed in, littered the lot and made us feel completely uncomfortable leaving our car, with all of our belongings, in such a place.” – Weilnau

9. Finland

Whitefox2008 petting a hairy cow in Yllas, Finland

Whitefox2008 petting a hairy cow in Yllas, Finland

“Would we visit Lapland again? Most definitely, yes. The appeal of Lapland is based on nature and landscapes. The most significant experience for me is plenty of snow, the tranquility, tidiness, abundance of winter activities, uniqueness and safety. Crime rate is low… I would recommend a visit to the Lapland.” – Whitefox2008

10. Slovenia

Slipperycoconut eating horse in Slovenia

Slipperycoconut eating horse in Slovenia

“We were told that there is no crime in the country and we felt safe walking back through town late at night. I later read that there was not a single murder in Slovenia in all of 2008. That makes we want to move there. The people all seemed pretty happy.” – Slipperycoconut

Featured blogs

Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Countries, 2010

very year, Lonely Planet tries to predict which countries will be the hot places to travel in the upcoming year. I took a minute to see what TravelPod bloggers thought about these countries in 2009.

Personally, I take issue with making a list like this. Who’s to say that New Zealand is “cooler” this year than it was last year? Are there really trends like this in travel? If they are, I believe they are manufactured by tourism agencies and the governments who support them, not by individual travelers themselves.

In no particular order:

  • New Zealand

  • Speat thought New Zealand was beautiful

    Speat thought New Zealand was beautiful

    “Well we are now in South Island and if we thought North island was beautiful you can just double it here.” – Speat

  • El Salvador

  • Ccchrissie loved the views of the countryside from Alegria, El Salvador

    Ccchrissie loved the views of the countryside from Alegria, El Salvador

    “Highest village in the country with amazing views from pretty well anywhere – don’t bother with the 100 steps!” – Ccchrissie

  • Germany

  • Jluetkehans and friends at the HofBrauhaus in Salzburg

    Jluetkehans and friends at the HofBrauhaus in Salzburg

    “We all had to share a litre of beer or so in the Hofbrauhaus (Katie may never have heard of it, but I assure you it is the most famous brewery in Germany, possibly in the world). There we had the good fortune to sit next to a Stammtisch, a special table reserved every Friday night by special Hofbrauhaus members. These men, largely older, are fully decked out in traditional lederhosen, jackets, and wonderful felt hats full of feathers, pins, and fur. They drink from special ceramic mugs, emblazoned with the Hofbrauhaus logo. On discussion with these men, we learned that their mugs are from the early 1900s, and have been passed down from father to son for generations.” – Jluetkehans

  • Greece

  • Pandb are enjoying Greece, even though it is rainy lately

    Pandb are enjoying Greece, even though it is rainy lately

    “We went for a day sail with Keith and Penny aboard Sea Trek and I was the only one brave enough to go for a swim before lunch. It was a lovely day out even if we did have to motor back! Yesterday Penny and I cycled around the lagoon, between showers, and saw a small group of flamingos that have just arrived here.” – Pandb

  • Malaysia

  • Dave of Daveandnat got along well with this restaurant owner in Malaysia

    Dave of Daveandnat got along well with this restaurant owner in Malaysia

    “At one of the traditional Malakan restaurants Christophe recommended, Donald & Lily’s, the 70 year old owner Donald sat with us while we ate and told us about the history of Malaka. After we had finished eating he invited us into his house which he had set out in a Feng Shui style. He was very proud of it as he had maintained a traditional Malakan layout. There were loads of ornaments and pictures and in the middle of the house was an opening out to the sky. Below this part was a lowered floor with a drain for when it rains. I would love to be sat in this room undercover when it rains, it must be really cool! He showed us pictures of his grandparents and their traditional wedding photos. It was an excellent experience and not something you could get in a museum.” – Daveandnat

  • Morocco

  • Landerh relished her surroundings in Rabat, Morocco

    Landerh relished her surroundings in Rabat, Morocco

    “Anyway the Oudaia is beautiful but you all probably know as much of its significance as I do. The “tour” ended on the garden and Kelsey and I went and had a coke in the restaurant. It’s probably the best seat in all of Rabat and I am fairly certain the world. I had found this picture before departing of some scenery of Rabat and had made it my wallpaper. As I’m drinking, I have a revelation. It’s right behind me. Magnificent.” – Landerh

  • Nepal

  • Carole91 can't stop buying photo books in Nepal

    Carole91 can't stop buying photo books in Nepal

    “So far Kathmandu is fab, it’s not too cold during the day but at night the temperature does drop. And yes it is shopping heaven here – if you avoid the tourist track. I am having a major problem with all the bookshops – there are so many beautiful photo books to buy – I am seriously considering investigating shipping costs! Food is great – the most difficult decision for today will be what do I eat tonight – Nepalese, Thai or pizza?” – Carole91

  • Portugal

  • Mike of Mikeandsuecuff spent a week in Lisbon, Portugal

    Mike of Mikeandsuecuff spent a week in Lisbon, Portugal

    “We left the west coast of Portugal for the big city. We went on the bus to Lisbon several times during the week-great city. Very friendly, very clean with a great buzz to it. The pavements are made of marble blocks in different patterns for different streets and squares. The buildings both old and modern are impressive.” – Mikeandsuecuff

  • Suriname

  • Els_and_peter's guide Stephanie looking for birds in her boat

    Els_and_peter's guide Stephanie looking for birds in her boat

    Els_and_peter wrote this haiku about their time in Suriname:

    “Birds, water, snakes, fish
    Dry season sun burns the land
    Red ibis at dusk” – Els_and_peter

  • USA

  • Travelingma watched the sun set at Morro Bay, California, USA

    Travelingma watched the sun set at Morro Bay, California, USA

    “The Rock is the home to many birds, including Peregrine falcons, although we did not see them today. To the north lies the beach strand, and to the south lies a sea break and the opening into the harbor. The tide was coming in as we arrived, so we parked and walked out to the rock. I ventured farther, over the rocks and out to the beach below the sea break. When I first started coming here, you could walk out on the sea break, but then someone was washed out to sea with a wave, so now the break is closed. But the tide was coming in, and there were magnificent wave crashes that towered over the break and cascaded down the side.” – Travelingma

Featured blogs

10 Friendliest Countries in the World

The Tripbase.com blog comes up with some interesting travel lists all the time. Today’s list highlighted the most friendly countries in the world.

I wanted to see what TravelPod bloggers thought about the people in these places.

Turns out all of them passed the real traveler test. All 10 bloggers found friendly people wherever they went.

1. Ireland

Ilya with Niemh, the newborn baby

Ilya with Niemh, the newborn baby

We spent some time at Kevin’s parents’ house in Athlone, which was pretty quaint. We met his sister, 2-week old niece, and his aunt, Carmel. They were all very friendly–Carmel even offered to let us stay with her the next time we are in Ireland! – Ilyaandrebecca

2. USA

Cayenne92 loved the staff at Kings' Land hotel in Hawaii

Cayenne92 loved the staff at Kings' Land hotel in Hawaii

Overall, I would say good job. Maybe a couple days of operation to iron out the kinks and clean up the dust. But they are in the right direction. The staff here is very friendly and accommodating. – Cayenne92

3. Malawi

One half of Kirstyandsye on the train to Malawi

One half of Kirstyandsye on the train to Malawi

One thing instantly noticeable after crossing the border was that people in Malawi are noticeably more friendly and laid back. Everybody says ‘hello’ and theres far less agro in places like bus stations and markets, people are quite happy to let you decide when you want something rather than stuffing it in your face and telling you you do. Maybe its cos there’s much more of a beach-type life because of the lake, maybe its to do with the missionaries or maybe its that there reggae music playing wherever you go – whatever it is, its dead refreshing. – Kirstyandsye

4. Fiji

Hotel staff preparing Spoonski's dinner

Hotel staff preparing Spoonski's dinner

I have to say the people in the villages were very friendly and seemd content despite the fact that by our standards they are living in very poor conditions. Anyone who visits Fiji and is cocooned in their luxury resort will get the wrong impression of the country. – Spoonski

5. Indonesia

Lisa_nz's friend in Indonesia

Lisa_nz's friend relaxing in Indonesia

Having found this fantastic room at such a good price was great, but we also found the people in the area some of the most genuinely friendly that we have come across in Bali. There was no one around trying to sell us stuff, other than the odd snorkel trip. Alan went for a walk quite early one morning and met a family along the way. They invited him in, offered him fruit and were quite happy to chat. They didn’t speak any English, and his Indonesian is fairly limited – but they managed. – Lisa_nz

6. Vietnam

Bebabui drinking with the village elder in Dalat

Bebabui drinking with the village elder in Dalat

The City of Dalat is a bit run down outside of the city centre but downtown is really very nice and much cleaner than the city of Sapa. It has a fabulous lake and a golf course, pretty lakeside cafes and restaurants, friendly people who smile constantly and traffic that is half decent. The gardens are welll maintained and there are benches dotted along the park where we can sit peacefully and enjoy the view. – Bebabui

7. Samoa

Johannajulien loved the staff at Malaetia's Resort in Samoa

Johannajulien loved the staff at Malaetia's Resort in Samoa

The absolutely best thing about the place were the friendly and hospitable owners, Sung and his wife Otilia, who invited us for their family Sunday meal and cooked meals for us twice a day even when the meals were not included in our price! – Johannajulien

8. Thailand

Haz14 enlisted the help of some friendly Thais to find his way to Kanchanaburi

Haz14 enlisted the help of some friendly Thais to find his way to Kanchanaburi

We successfully managed to negotiate our way out of Bangkok and to the bus terminal by metered taxi (although I pretty much had to turn the meter on!) and despite initially boarding the wrong bus, we managed to enlist the help of a couple of friendly locals and head for Kanchanaburi, home to the Bridge on the River Kwae made famous by the events of World War Two and the film of the same name. – Haz14

9. Scotland

Scenicroute2009 making dinner with new friends in Scotland

Scenicroute2009 making dinner with new friends in Scotland

The locals here are super friendly for the most part. We went into a local pub the first night. It was race night and the pub was crowded with people placeing bets. People came up and introduced themselves, even explaining how the race night worked. The next night we went to a pub that had karaoke which was a blast. I danced with men in kilts and they taught us some Scottish songs. – Scenicroute2009

10. Turkey

Helman's new friends made him tea on the bus

Helman's new friends made him tea on the bus

In fact we didn’t actually arrive to Sanliurfa until 1pm although the bus reached the local otogar (bus terminal) at 8 in the morning. Why? Well it turned out that the people here are extremely friendly, a lot of them speak German or want to practice their English or simply want to have a small chat with a foreigner (there are not many tourists coming visiting here). And Manuel`s blond hair does attract a lot of attention, even from people several hundred meters away (they come running from everywhere;) So until we found a place to stay we had at least 15 conversations with strangers in the street and got invited for tea 3 times. – Helman

Featured blogs

10 man-made world wonders by Howard Hillman

Howard Hillman of the site Hillmanwonders.com puts together many lists of travel-inspiring destinations. I’m going to take a few and compare them to the experiences that TravelPod bloggers have had there. Shall we begin?

1. Pyramids of Egypt

Rucamuffin got majorly ripped off at the Great Pyramids of Egypt

Rucamuffin got majorly ripped off at the Great Pyramids of Egypt

A man with not a full set of teeth greets us and brings us into his courtyard front yard area. He proceeds to write the “prices” of riding a camel into the dirt. I’ll spare you all the sad painful details of the haggle. Basically after unloading all our US money and Egyptian Pounds, we settle on the official dirt posted price of 500 Egyptian Pounds each. Feeling a little uneasy with the deal, we mount up, ready to take on the pyramids!
Now here is the best part…….We come back to our “hotel” and told the nice guys that work here how it went. When they found out we paid 500 Egyptian Pounds EACH, they laugh and say we could have bought our own camel with just a little bit more money! Great……. – Rucamuffin

2. Great Wall of China

Akbar thought the Great Wall of China was incredible

Akbar thought the Great Wall of China was incredible

Great Wall (SPECTACULAR – must see before you die) – Akbar

3. Taj Mahal

Rachellecornel also recommends a visit to the Taj Mahal

Rachellecornel also recommends a visit to the Taj Mahal

We saw the Baby Taj, the red fort and the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal was so amazing. Definitely something everyone should try and see! – Rachellecornel

4. Machu Picchu

Jwmoles at the top of the Huayna peak

Jwmoles at the top of the Huayna peak

People start lining up in the middle of the night at the gate. From the gate, it’s a two-hour hike to the Sun Gate (the first view of Machu Picchu). Many people hike fast (and even run) to the Sun Gate for a view of Machu Picchu at sunrise. We were toward the front of the line and managed to make it to the Sun Gate around sunrise for a beautiful view of Machu Picchu about a mile away and 1,000 feet down. Absolutely breathtaking.

It’s an amazing place. Ruins everywhere. Mountains everywhere. I set out for the hour hike to the top. It was very steep and required the use of fixed cables for support in some of the steeper sections. The view at the top was amazing. I spent thirty minutes on top and headed back down to the city, which by then was populated with all the lazy tourists who ride the buses into Machu Picchu. A city built for 500 was holding about 5,000. Tough. I’ve heard rumors that the government has tentative plans to place further limits on the number of peeps who can hike the trail and enter the city. – Jwmoles

5. Bali

Thebogantrekker in Bali

Thebogantrekker enjoying the facilities in Bali

We paddled down the Telaga Waja river for a good couple of hours, on what was, all in all, a pretty tame ride. For what it lacked in adrenaline it made up for twofold in scenery, the river snakes its way down between cliffs and ridges covered in jungle, with the occasional waterfall or farmers rice paddie cut into the side of the hill. We finished the course pretty much unscathed bar a killer sunburn on my legs. – Thebogantrekker

6. Angkor Wat

Harryvs traveled to Angkor Wat on his Gap Year trip

Harryvs traveled to Angkor Wat on his Gap Year trip

We ended the day climbing up to a top of a temple on a hill with thousands of other people which gave us a panoramic view of thick jungle, the sunset, Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. There were so many people that we thought we’d head down before the sun actually set. – Harryvs

7. Forbidden City

Sywellfrasers inside the Forbidden City

Sywellfrasers inside the Forbidden City

We were not quite expecting what we saw at The Forbidden City as it is such a large place, the buildings are so amazing and very colourful – through one square into another and another and so on. The emperor had a building for every part of his day and life!!! There were 9,999 rooms (not surprisingly we did not visit them all!!) Hard to believe that for over 500 years the chinese people were not allowed anywhere near this city let alone enter it. – Sywellfrasers

8. Bagan Temples & Pagodas

Mannchild... in Bagan, Myanmar

Mannchild... in Bagan, Myanmar

The ancient capital of Myanmar, Bagan, is a great place to chill out. It is surrounded by green mountains, full of dusty roads, and oh yea, is the site of about 4,500 ancient temples, stupas and pagodas in a 45 square kilometer area. It is an absolutely breathtaking experience to see 11th, 12th and 13th century temples that dot the landscape as far as the eye can see. The pics do no justice to the experience of seeing this amazing place. It was one of the coolest places I’ve seen in my life. – Mannchild…

9. Karnak Temple

Sabenafrica in front of the Karnak Temple

Sabenafrica in front of the Karnak Temple

The Hypostyle Hall with its hundreds of columns was stunning and well worth seeing, but the rest was just many ruins overrun with thousands of inappropriately dressed (although some single men and women i know would disagree) tourists from Eastern Europe. – Sabenafrica

10. Teotihuacan

Meluebke on top of Teotihuacan's pyramid of the sun

Meluebke on top of Teotihuacan's pyramid of the sun

After an amazing lunch, we traveled to the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacán, a nearby district of Mexico City. The Pyramid of the Sun is the 3rd largest pyramid in the world. It is claimed to have been built by the Aztec Indians but, as our amazing tour guide, Armando, explained, this is false because the structure and details of this pyramid do not match with other Aztec structures. Thus many speculate that the Aztecs were trying to claim the pyramid as theirs when, in reality, no one is quite sure what tribe constructed it. – Meluebke

Featured blogs

10 worthy tourist traps

TravelPod bloggers get to every nook and cranny in the world. Including some of the most visited “tourist traps”. I sifted through the blogs and found that these so-called traps aren’t always as bad as they seem…

1. Great Wall of China

Broc_and_bailey's Canadian friends on the Great Wall

Broc_and_bailey's Canadian friends on the Great Wall

We had an early start as we were heading to the ‘Great Wall’.It took us 2hrs to get there,then we had 3hrs on the wall, lunch & 2 hrs back again! We got a cable car up, to save time (nothing to do with being lazy)! The wall was really good, it was really foggy so the views weren’t the best! We were on the way back down to the 2nd part but met up with 2 Canadian guys who twisted Brocs arm (was really hard) to have a beer, so we had a rite laugh with them for about a half hr, so our time was limited for the 2nd part! got as far as we & got this slide down, that was really slow to start with but ended up being really fun! Lunch was gorgeous, 7 different dishes & rice! got a taste of everything! were sitting with a few local, who were giving us funny looks as we tried to master the chopsticks! one of the girls even ordered us a fork, but we didn’t give up!! – Broc_and_bailey

2. A beer house in Munich, Germany

Bobstine eating wurst in Hof Brau Haus

Bobstine eating wurst in Hof Brau Haus

We had lunch at the Hofbräuhaus and watched the brass band. We met a nice young man from Hungary over lunch. He’s visiting friends of his wife and was lunching alone while she and her friends went shopping. He currently lives in Switzerland and is a bond broker; so we had a good conversation with him about offshore accounts, the economy, politics and relative costs between Europe and the USA. – Bobstine

3. Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee

Kayaker902's parents at Graceland

Kayaker902's parents at Graceland

As we toured the grounds I started feeling slightly transported to the 60’s. Very much 60’s decor which was how it was when he lived there, it just made things seem different. He had a very elaborate house for the time period, however, today I am sure the TV and other things that made Graceland seem so elaborate people would just say yeah everybody has those. Anyway, as we started through the house I really just didn’t get. It wasn’t until the meditation ground that this strange feeling hit me. I really can’t explain it, it just felt really weird. Now let me explain the meditation garden is where Elvis’s twin brother is buried along with his grandmother and parents and Elvis. Thus that might explain the really eerie feeling I had. – kayaker902

4. Tiki Village Theatre, Moorea, French Polynesia

Cmj enjoyed the Tiki Village dinner even though it was "contrived"

Cmj enjoyed the Tiki Village dinner even though it was "contrived"

That evening we splurged on a dinner theatre show at the Tiki Village. It was of course a contrived and stereotyped package for tourists, but a very well done one. Dinner was excellent and the show was great fun. We were a bit baffled when the traditional fire dancers cleared the sand stage to let Joseph usher Mary to the manger, but decided it was better not to ask questions while the chieftain led the carolers in silent night. – Cmj

5. Venice, Italy

Warrmb7's friends in Venice

Warrmb7's friends in Venice

once we got off the bus at the beginning of Venice we had to navigate our way through the city’s narrow streets and attempt to find out way. Venice is full of small streets that lack names and seem to go the most roundabout ways to get to places so we were pretty lost before we finally found our hostel after about an hour. The evening was spent exploring the city streets and trying to find a place that had good food, was near the canal and was not terribly expensive….nothing like that existed so we settled for an expensive meal of pizza which turned out to be worth all the money we spent. We stayed out until about 2am exploring and arrived back at our hostel, weary and ready for sleep. – Warrmb7

6. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Explorerjones' cottage in Williamsburg, Virginia

Explorerjones' cottage in Williamsburg, Virginia

We are staying in a cute little cottage right in the center of Williamsburg which as Luke said “this house is like in colonial times except if this were colonial times they wouldn’t have books and puzzles out about colonial times.” That’s a curious, engaged traveler for you! – Explorerjones

7. Sally Lunn’s, Bath, England

Addicted2travel visited Sally Lunn's House in Bath

Addicted2travel visited Sally Lunn's House in Bath

We passed Jane Austen’s house, saw the Royal Crescent which is a super huge building shaped like a crescent that faces a park, went by Pulteney Bridge which is a bridge that has shops on both sides of it, walked around the Bath Abbey which is another beautiful cathedral, and passed Sally Lunn’s house which is the oldest house in Bath. Overall, I would say Bath is one of the cutest English cities I’ve seen that is just fun to walk around. Super cute! – Addicted2travel

8. New York City Harbor Tours

Missmizon enjoyed the view of the skyline from her New York Harbour Tour

Missmizon enjoyed the view of the skyline from her New York Harbour Tour

We managed to find a 72 hour ticket which allowed unlimited use of the hop on hop off tours, a cruise on the river, the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, access to the Empire State Building and a night tour of the city. Tickets in hand we took a walk down to the ferry terminal to river cruise which was really nice as the weather was good and we got some excellent views of the city, some of New Jersey and the Statue of Liberty (hence the 101 pictures!). – Missmizon

9. Tower of London, London, England

Travellingross was deeply impressed by the Tower of London

Travellingross was deeply impressed by the Tower of London

I had seriously under-estimated what this was and very impressed in the end – i was thinking dungeon’s and a tower, but nooooo it is actually the original castle of William the Conquerer in 1066 and adapted & re-constructed many times by pretty much every monarch since. Fascinating stuff; especially the Crown Jewels (no photos allowed), torture rooms, beheading location, inscriptions/graffiti on the walls from all the prisoners, the moat which is now drained and basically a lawn. Spent a lot longer here than anticipated, but well worth it. The Jewels were fascinating, but way overly commercialised (you view them from a horizontal escalator!) and sooooo many people. tourists everywhere. I wonder what Henry 8th would think if he saw this place now. So much history, and where people were murdered/tortured/beheaded there are now ice cream licking fat tourists with cameras around their necks posing in front of the place that people had their heads chopped off or imprisoned for years. Totally bizarre in my mind when there is still a Sovereign reigning over this Kingdom and it is still a castle with full status. I don’t think u should commercialise history until it is truely history. But who am i to talk – i paid £17 to get in the gates. But i am respectful of what this place is, i mean Elizabeth I was imprisoned here to stop her being Queen because of her religion. Being able to stand in the same place that this happened is surreal.

10. Montmartre, Paris, France

The_stamms loved visiting Montmartre, even if it was crowded

The_stamms loved visiting Montmartre, even if it was crowded

We took the train to Montmartre (which seemed even more crowded than we left it), but since the weather was beautiful, we joined the masses in walking around, getting great pictures of my favorite church painted for me by my husband, Sacre Coeur, and watched the artists in the square at work. – The_stamms

Featured blogs

Best 16 Museums in the World

Virgin vacations put out this list a while ago of the best 16 museums in the world.

I believe this list is a little American-centric, but I decided to put it to the test and see what real travelers thought about each one anyway.

1. Musee du Louvre, Paris, France

Dan of Dan-and-dee with an elaborate tomb in the Louvre

Dan of Dan-and-dee with an elaborate tomb in the Louvre

To be perfectly honest, we both enjoyed the outside of the Museum (ie the architecture of the buildings), more than the inside, the pyramids alone were spectacular and a lot less people to move between for a photo, or even just a glimpse!Dan-and-dee

2. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, USA

Inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Jimandlaura

Inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Jimandlaura

Took the subway uptown to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Wow, what a place. We loved it and we only scratched the surface. Particularly liked the modern art (Hirst, Pollock) and the ancient Japanese silk prints. You could spend a week there and still not see everything. Great cafe too!Jimandlaura

3. Vatican Museums, Vatican City, Rome, Italy

The ceiling in the Vatican Museums

The ceiling in the Vatican Museums

The museum was extended in 2000 for the millennial year celebration of Christ’s birth, and the renovations included a large spiral ramp leading to the entrance to the museums. We had fun by challenging the group to run up the spiral ramp while they took the escalator.

We saw a number of interesting sculptures while waiting in a courtyard to enter the first of the museums. One was of a pine cone from 1 AD or 2 AD, that was a symbol of fertility and was first made as a Roman fountain. In the courtyard, we also learned about the story and significance of the Sistine Chapel. The chapel is used as the place where the cardinals choose the next Pope. It was named after Pope Sixtus IV.

As we walked through various parts of the museums, I was surprised to see some art from Ancient Egypt and Greece, even including two marble sculptures of Diana the fertility goddess and Diana as the goddess of the hunt. Worship of Diana was notorious in the New Testament. It seemed to me as though the presence of the artwork indicated the idea that the church acknowledged and saw itself as the fulfillment of many earlier traditions and religious practices. My interpretation could, however, be incorrect.

I was awestruck by the tapestries depicting various events in Christ’s life. The tapestries were housed in a darkened room and one of them gave the impression that Christ’s eyes were following you as you walked past. Another interesting room was a room of ancient maps.Woodsfamily

4. Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

Ruthperelstein on the terrace of the Uffizi Gallery

Ruthperelstein on the terrace of the Uffizi Gallery

Tuesday we visit the Uffizi Gallery. This is another place where you have to have a reservation. It does make it less stressful and you do beat the lines, which are long and full of grumpy tourists.

The Uffizi Gallery has the greatest collection of Italian paintings anywhere, including Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. It is beautiful. The time periods this museum are not my personal favorites but again the sculpture knocks us out.

Building of the palace was begun by Giorgio Vasari in 1560 for Cosimo I de’ Medici as the offices for the Florentine magistrates — hence the name “uffizi” (“offices”). There is also a corridor that extends for the end of the building along the Arno river and through the Ponte Vecchio to the Pitti Palace that is no longer used by was the way the elite could travel without stepping a foot into the dangerous streets.Ruthperelstein

5. Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain

Juliana of Paul-jules at the Prado Museum in Madrid

Juliana of Paul-jules at the Prado Museum in Madrid

We got to our hotel, and headed out to the Prado museum immediately. It is one of the best museums we have seen on the trip. It has a large number of El Greco paintings. He has become one of our favourite artists. It also has many by Raphael, Reubens, and Durer.Paul-jules

6. The State Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia

Fishtails04 found the State Hermitage overwhelming

Fishtails04 found the State Hermitage overwhelming

The State Hermitage, located in the former Winter Palace of the tsars, in St. Petersburg, houses one of the finest art collections in the world, with more than three million pieces – it seems that Catherine the Great liked big numbers in more than just her lovers. And that’s the problem really: it’s estimated that to walk through each of the galleries would total about twenty-five kilometres – i.e. it’s just too big to cover in an afternoon. It’s also too excessive in style for me to really enjoy: all busily decorated floors, marble pillars, highly decorated ceilings, heavy furniture, dark portraits of gloomy monarchs, imposing sculptures, huge crustal chandeliers, and gold and gilt opulence. As the guidebooks says, “One must visit the Hermitage on a visit to St Petersburg…”, and it was worth it to gain an appreciation of its scale, but I felt something of a failure when, after an hour and a half, I’d had enough and, with that sense of panic I experience in large department stores when I can’t see a way out, started frantically searching for an exit.Fishtails04

7. J. Paul Getty Center, Los Angeles, USA

Inside the J. Paul Getty Center with Jeznkez

Inside the J. Paul Getty Center with Jeznkez

At length the road wound up through the hills and we arrived at the J. Paul Getty Centre, which is a gigantic art museum, housed in a purpose built series of monoliths amid the verdant grounds. The museum is perched on a hill in the Santa Monica Mountains, looking over L.A. and out to sea.

We had nowhere near enough time to do justice to the whole four buildings, each of which contains different styles of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present, but had a good look around and enjoyed the peaceful and exquisitely conceived gardens, interwoven with sculptures and water features. The whole complex is constructed from Travertine (1.2 million square feet of it) which is a fossilized, textured stone that reflects the bright Californian sunlight, imparting the whole place with a luminous, ethereal glow. Overall an incredibly successful public space and a great example of modern architectural design and realization. And all free of charge!Jeznkez

8. Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France

Londonpenguin at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris

Londonpenguin at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris

Our long walk ended up at the Musee d’Orsay. I headed straight for the Impressionists upstairs, and leisurely made my way back down. Happened upon the Salle des Fetes, which is a glorious burst of gold, crystal and mirrors. I also found the Art Nouveau rooms and was really enjoying them when the announcement came over the loudspeaker that the museum would be closing in 15 minutes, which was half an hour earlier than we had been told. Slightly disappointing, but it was definitely worth going back to.Londonpenguin

9. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA

The Enemans standing in front of a fountain at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC

The Enemans standing in front of a fountain at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC

The style of the buildings downtown is such a far cry from anything else you’ll see. There were times when I thought even the Greek Gods would be impressed. I was surprised to see how brand new the art gallery looked, despite having been open for sixty years. The marble floors were pristine and the walls were un-scuffed as if it had been built last week. I was particularly anxious about the Ansel Adams beach photography gallery on display for a limited time.Jeneman

10. Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

Mamakarpus at the Centre Pompidou in Paris

Mamakarpus at the Centre Pompidou in Paris

I really wanted to see the Pompidou Centre, so we went looking for that. It took us forever to find it, it was so annoying. We kept looking at the map backwards, so we were wandering around forever. Oh well. We eventually found it and it was pretty cool. It’s a modern art museum. I honestly didn’t care about going in to see the art, but I wanted to see the building and the fountains right beside it. So I was happy.Mamakarpus

11. Tate Modern, London, England

Laohallo's friend at the Tate Modern in London

Laohallo's friend at the Tate Modern in London

After borough markets we headed over to tate modern which is a modern art museum. Im blaming Tammy for picking this tourist attraction. Lets just say the art is very strange and modern. It was a good laugh though.Laohallo

12. Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA

Julesjb found this statue in MoMA's sculpture garden

Julesjb found this statue in MoMA's sculpture garden

After that I then went across to Manhattan to see the MOMA (Museum Of Modern Art) which was amazing. All my favourites were there including Cezanne, Magritte, Picasso and Dali. I also saw a few Jackson Pollack’s which I thought were very impressive in terms of scale and use of paint.Julesjb

13. British Museum, London, England

Harmony at the British Museum in London

Harmony at the British Museum in London

It was spectacular and we could not believe the size and the amount of artifacts, especially since it was free to get in! We saw the Rosetta Stone, a massive Easter Island head, many beautiful Greco Roman sculptures, and much much more.Mikeandharmony

14. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, USA

Ineednewears found solace in this room at the Guggenheim museum

Ineednewears found this to be one quiet place in the Guggenheim museum

Who would have thought that on a windy, rainy, cold Friday evening dozens of people were willing to queue underneath the semi-permeable dripping roof of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in their damp clothes and soaked shoes just to get in for close to free (for some, pay-what-you-can comes frighteningly close to nothing). I pictured a Friday night at the “Gugg” along the lines of a Friday night at the library or much like a sheep pasture with but a few bodies scattered around in the far corners, but what I got involved much more arm-against-arm rubbing and additional queuing as the spiral-shaped interior, seven-levels high, filled up.

I complained not about the crowds but about the barriers along the spiraling platform being too low, and constantly feared toppling over to free fall and be torn open by one or more of the suspended cars on my way down. Ineednewears

15. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, USA

Toddfamily had a "Rocky moment" at the Philadelphia Art Museum

Toddfamily had a "Rocky moment" at the Philadelphia Art Museum

The next day we spent the morning on a bus tour of the city and ended up at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We really enjoyed this museum too and were once again lucky to join a tour with a very knowledgeable guide. We met Mark at the front of the museum afterwards and had a little Rocky moment on the front steps – those of you who know the first Rocky film will know this scene!Toddfamily

16. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA

Traveled loved the Chicago Art Institute

Traveled loved the Chicago Art Institute

We took the Metro to Union, then walked down Adams to the Art Institute. We saw more exhibits in one day than I recall seeing on any of my previous visits. We started off in the European area, then lunched at the cafe, which was surprisingly satisfying, and finally we took a couple more hours to walk through the American and photography exhibits. One my favorite works of the day was one that probably does not receive the attention it deserves, located in the corner of the same room as “American Gothic” by Hopper, called “Nightlife” by Motley. But of course, I also loved almost everything I saw there.Traveled

Featured blogs

Happiest Countries in the World

NEF, the thinktank that developed the “Happy Planet Index” has recently released its report on the happiest countries in 2009. The countries are judged on thinks like life expectancy, life satisfaction, “happy life years” and environmental impact.

Here are the top 10 happiest countries accompanied by stories from our travelers:

1. Costa Rica

Hannahgregory loves the coffee in Costa Rica

Hannahgregory loves the coffee in Costa Rica

Life is good, but proving to be a bit harder now. Planning English classes for adults and activities for kids is exhausting! but that’s exactly what i came down here to do. It feels good 🙂 – Hannahgregory

2. Dominican Republic

Jesshiggins overlooking a waterfall in the Dominican Republic

Jesshiggins overlooking a waterfall in the Dominican Republic

I don’t know if this is true statistically, but the DR seems much wealthier on average than Central America or many other parts of the Caribbean. Many of the homes could pass for middle-class homes in the US. I’m sure it’s very different out in the campo, but near the larger towns that we visited, we didn’t see a lot of extreme poverty. – Jesshiggins

3. Jamaica

A group of happy children on a field trip in Jamaica

A group of happy children on a field trip in Jamaica

I took my Green Club and other students on the Black River Safari, a popular tourist spot to learn about various species of animals and plant life along the Black River. We took an hour boat ride along the Black River where we got to see crocodiles, the safari’s biggest attraction. I know that the children enjoyed it and I think that they learned as well. – Teamclaudia

4. Guatemala

dfa

Katywade roasting coffee beans in Guatemala

This weekend I had fun though. I went to a birthday party with my friend Angel and I dont think I have laughed so hard in…I dont remember. My stomach was killling me the next day. It was nice to be around a group of friends again, granted, they werent my friends, but they were a suitable substitute. I danced salsa and meringe all night and found someone that is going to give me lessons, so that will be something to do for the next two weeks. – Katywade

5. Vietnam

Mrcwoodsman found free beer in Ciputra

Mrcwoodsman found free beer in Ciputra

He had been trying to get me to come to this happy hour for a few weeks so I made it my mission to get there. From 5:30 – 6:30 is free beer, Carlsberg to be exact. They just open the taps and let people freely tap beer at will, while waitresses walk around with free food too – nachos, spring rolls, pizza, a little of this and of that. – Mrcwoodsman

6. Colombia

Lostalready in Cartagena, Colombia

Lostalready in Cartagena, Colombia

Saturday night we join a rumba chiva (think big, open party bus complete with live percussion and accordian band) tour. We are the only non South Americans on a bus full of Colombians, Venezualans, Chileans and Argentinians. “Drinks included” translates to a neverending supply of bottles of rum, coke and buckets of ice for each row of the bus. Our MC speaks Spanish only, so mostly we have no clue what is going on, but so long as you cheer a lot, drink a lot, and stand on the seats of the moving bus and shake your booty when instructed then you fit right in. – Lostalready

7. Cuba

Lingo83 made it to the beach in Trinidad, Cuba

Lingo83 made it to the beach in Trinidad, Cuba

I think I enjoyed our time in Trinidad the most, I wish we had gone there first! We were just starting to get into the siesta/cuba libre swing of things when we had to leave. – Lingo83

8. El Salvador

Hess really enjoyed relaxing in El Salvador

Hess really enjoyed relaxing in El Salvador

There is a huge smile beaming from my face. And as the sun starts lowering in the sky, more and more surfers are coming out to play; and the sunlight twinkling over the ocean is surreal and magical, almost ghostly as the waves shimmer and shine. I can see me staying here for a while. – Hess

9. Brazil

Neveress practicing samba in the streets of Rio de Janeiro

Neveress practicing samba in the streets of Rio de Janeiro

It turned out yesterday was the hostel owner’s birthday so all food and drinks were free….we all got pretty hammered and about 40 of us all went to this Mangueira samba club and danced the night away till about half 4! Live samba band of about 80 musicians, flags, confetti, beer and balloons! Was right in a favela, under a highway but we felt safe inside the building as everyone was so friendly. – Neveress

10. Honduras

Twinkfran will miss Roatan, Honduras when she leaves

Twinkfran will miss Roatan, Honduras when she leaves

Ten things I shall miss about Roatan in no particular order.

1. Lighthouse Sunday Brunch (free flowing champagne & great food for $14.99)

2. Ginches in the Wet Spot

3. Pole dancing at Nova

4. Audreyisms “Myk will you draw my Wiilly”, “My dog has minge”

5. Veggie wraps and pizza from Shark Cave

6. Karoke at the Vietnamese restaurant

7. The friendly locals

8. Watching the sunset at the Blue Marlin or Sundowners

9. Frozen cocktails and getting thrown in the pool at Oasis

10. Amazing reefs, abundance of fish & coral = amazing diving

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Travelers caught in the Sydney sandstorm

There is quite the violent sandstorm engulfing Sydney, Australia today.

TravelPod bloggers are right there on the ground, spitting sand out of their mouths and documenting the phenomenon on their blogs.

Here are a few of the latest updates:

An ominous Maroubra Beach

An ominous Maroubra Beach

Just now Sydney is experiencing a spectacular sandstorm that brings the Simpson desert feeling right into the city. In the morning the orange light was spectacular… A photographer`s delight… 🙂 And no, I didn`t use any filters or photoshop…Feeling_alive

Hughieanddoris explored the boardwalk outside their hotel in the early morning

Hughieanddoris explored the boardwalk outside their hotel in the early morning

Well…. today started with a big surprise. Hughie rose at 7am, surprised that it seemed to still be dark. He looked out the net blind and said it was foggy… When he looked again though he realized it was the like the dust storm that had been mentioned in the Canberra news yesterday, and went outside to take photos…. By the time we left the hotel, the air had cleared a bit, but everything was covered with orange dust, and many people were going around with masks on. It was blustery, not the weather we’ve become used to. The ferries had started again by then, but the eateries around had thick dust on the tables and the breeze made it better to have breakfast in a nearby indoor food court. The dust was causing extra work for a lot of people… Tonight we’ve heard on the news that it was the worst dust storm here for at least 70 years. So we’re here when history is being made.Hughieanddoris

Gatzby endured the haze while sightseeing

Gatzby endured the haze while sightseeing

A huge dust storm hit Sydney over night and the City was covered in a haze – not very good for sight seeing. Plus, it was a bit cold and windy.Gatzby

Check out this member blog from a member in the Sydney sandstorm

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Dia de los Muertos, blogs from Mexico

Dia de los Muertos translates literally to “Day of the Dead” in English. It’s a day Mexicans set aside for honouring relatives who have died. Less spooky than Halloween, people put on colourful parades and share tiny skulls made out of sugar.

TravelPod bloggers have been drawn to this festival, which is held all across the country at the beginning of November.

Death marching in the parade

Death marching in the parade

“I was getting ready for a day of wandering the streets when I heard a band outside my window. It was a police band and behind them was the most glorious monster I had ever seen.”1947zazu

Day of the Dead figurines Jackiesworld found in Mexico

Day of the Dead figurines Jackiesworld found in Mexico

“This unique tradition reveals important elements of Mexican culture: love and respect for our ancestors; celebration of the continuity of life; strengthening family relationships; promotion of community solidarity; and, ultimately, finding humor in death.”Jackies-world

Greg-adrienne at a graveyard during the Day of the Dead festivities

Greg-adrienne at a graveyard during the Day of the Dead festivities

“Inside the gates, the cemetery was a beehive of activity, as family members streamed in and covered their loved ones’ tombstones with flowers, photos, candles, incense, toys, favourite food and drinks. Families were picnicking and listening to music, the kids laughing and playing tag.”Greg-adrienne

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Seankervin’s South American Odyssey

Sean kervin is a fantastic writer and an even better photographer. His stories from his four month trip around South America are just incredible. I sampled a few of the best stories from his breathtaking adventure.

Matte gourds in Buenos Aires

Matte gourds in Buenos Aires

Argentines are addicted to a drink called matte. It is an herbal tea that grows in the north-eastern part of the country, and the ritual of drinking matte is complex. They start with a gourd like the ones above, and fill it about 3/4 of the way with the dried herbs (it looks like tea). Next, they put a silver straw with a filter at the end into the herb and add hot water out of a thermos. Sipping on the straw to get a strong, bitter tea-like drink. Add a little more hot water to top it off and pass the gourd to your amigo. Matte must be addictive because everywhere, Argentines lugging around their thermos, a big bag of the herb, and their gourds. I wanted the experience – so I cast off some unnecessary things in my backpack and am lugging around a thermos, bag of herb, and a gourd like everyone else. The jury is out… it’s definitely a stimulant, but it’s a lot of effort!

1.1225970760.going-back-to-the-ship

Leaving Puerto Eden

Puerto Eden is a tiny isolated maritime hamlet in the middle of the Chilean fjords. The only way to get to this picturesque little cluster of tin houses and peeling boats is by the weekly ferry – and we had the opportunity to come ashore while the Navimag unloaded supplies.

Seankervin sitting in a sperm whale skull

Seankervin sitting in a sperm whale skull


The combination of having three people extremely passionate about marine mammals and isolated in the middle of nowhere near the end of the world actually made for an extremely interesting visit. They were unbelievably excited we stopped by. At first, it seemed like a normal museum tour – our scientist guide walked us around skeletons of whales and dolphins, offering tidbits of trivia along the way. Then he said “check this out,” reached up to a skeleton of a whale on the wall and wrestled a vertebrae free.
“Feel how light the bone is.”
“Wow – it’s like Styrofoam” I said as we passed the giant bone around.
“Now contrast that to a killer whale vertebrae, which is much heavier” as he sprinted across the museum, yanked a bone from the killer whale display and brought it over to compare.
This would never happen in the British Museum. And that opened the door.
“Can I pick up this whale skull?” I’d ask
“Sure – that’s a female – try moving the jaw.” I carefully pushed on the jaw bone.
“No – like this.” and he took the skull away and wrenched the jaw down with a creaking, cracking sound.

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The Henley-on-the-Todd regatta

Every year, residents of Alice Springs, Australia compete in the “Henley-on-the-Todd” regatta. It’s a boat race created 47 years ago, but held on a dry river. You’re not considered a local in Alice Springs until you have seen the Todd River run three times, which usually takes around 20 years. Thus, the river is dry much more often than it is wet.

TravelPod blogger Amandajacaranda joined her hostel’s team and almost won!

Amandajacaranda raced in the Henley-on-the-Todd

Amandajacaranda competed in the Henley-on-the-Todd regatta

The mini Yacht race was in a steel framed “boat” with sails (of course) with 4-6 “sailors”. We raced against 2 other boats 100m up to a 44gallon drum, around it and then 100m back again. The bottom of the Todd river is sand so is quite hard to run in but we did the sprint. We were sooooo close to first but unfortunately it was ruled that we were second. The maxi yacht was a similar style of boat but had 8-10 sailors (we had 10). Once again we came second, mainly because we lost one of our “sailors” at the back.

The Pirates vs. the Vikings

The Pirates vs. the Vikings

Along the sides of the river were signs that said things like “no fishing” and “swim between the flags”. Besides racing, one of the highlights of the day was the final regatta where the Pirates, Vikings and Defenders all “fight” against each other. They are in large “boats” that are more like floats and are powered by cars. The crowd really get into this one, the teams attack each other with water bombs, water pistols and cannons and the winners are the team that the crowd cheer the most for -it was the Pirates (I am sure it was because they were the best looking). Amandajacaranda

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