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

5 “germiest” tourist attractions

The public’s latest obsession with washing and keeping generally good hygiene (due to swine flu, of course) hasn’t really affected the time-honoured traditions of travelers.

TripAdvisor.com has surveyed tourist attractions around the world and singled out the five most “germ-filled” of them all.

Here are some recent blogs from TravelPod members who weren’t squeamish at all:

1. Kissing the Blarney Stone in Blarney, County Cork, Ireland

Ssarkar88 did not improve her story-telling skills by kissing the Blarney Stone

Ssarkar88 did not improve her speaking skills by kissing the Blarney Stone

On our last day, we ventured to the Blarney Castle! We climbed the tight staircase to get all the way to the top of the castle, where we kissed the Blarney Stone. They say those who kiss the stone get the “gift of gab” but I don’t think my storytelling abilities have improved much!Ssarkar88

2. Wall of Gum in Seattle, Washington, USA

Paulleck1975's friend Graham contributing to the wall

Paulleck1975's friend Graham contributing to the wall

We headed to see possibly the most disgusting grim tourist sight in the world. Just around the corner at the top of Post Alley is a theatre and the wall outside is covered with previously spittled gum. Bleeuuuurrrgghhhhhh! Paulleck1975

3. Oscar Wilde’s Tomb, in Paris, France

Lavish48 kissed Oscar Wilde's grave without flinching

Lavish48 kissed Oscar Wilde's grave without flinching

At Oscar Wilde’s grave, it’s customary to leave a lipstick kissmark on the memorial, so the large stone tomb is covered in little red and pink kisses, although there is an old sign on it asking to not deface or mark it up. – Lavish48

4. Pigeons in St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy

Tbassplayer washed his hands thoroughly after taking this picture

Tbassplayer washed his hands thoroughly after taking this picture

We did something that all tourists do, but we’ve refrained from up to this point. We fed the pigeons! We spent one euro each on a little bag of corn kernels and the pigeons were so excited that they would land on your arm and eat right out of your hand. Naturally when we saw a girl with one on her head, Karla had to go back and buy another bag and stand around until a pigeon landed on her head. I did the same thing. For the moment, our opinion of the flying rats improved. We still washed our hands immediately after. All and all, it’s probably the most fun we’ve ever had for two euros. – Tbassplayer

5. Handprints and footprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, California, USA.

Cowboyjim74's wife with prints of the cast of Harry Potter

Cowboyjim74's wife with prints of the cast of Harry Potter

We strolled down 10 or 12 blocks in Hollywood looking for the names we recognized from television, radio, music and the movies. We eventually ended up in front of the Kodak Theater and then Grauman’s Chinese Theatre where many famous stars have left their hand and footprints.Cowboyjim74

Hot places

10 best hostels in the world

There are all kinds of hostels to choose from around the world. Some of them are great, others are terrible. How do you know the one you are going to is a good one before you get there? Hostelworld.com puts together a list of the 10 best hostels every month. For some reason, most of them are in Portugal. Anyone know why that might be?

Anywho, here’s their list for this month:

1. Travellers House, Lisbon, Portugal

Jcharwell in Praca do Comercio, Lisbon

Jcharwell in Praca do Comercio, Lisbon

Travellers House is rated the #1 hostel in the world! The hostel is right smack in the middle of the best neighborhood in Lisbon, the Baixa neighborhood! After a warm welcome by the hostel staff, I was asked if I wanted to join one of the staff, Jeoarme, for a traditional Portuguese expresso, Bica, and the famouse Portuguese pastry, Pasteis, which is AWESOME! – Jcharwell

2. Rossio Hostel, Lisbon, Portugal

Pongpingjl and the view from his hostel room

Pongpingjl and the view from his hostel room

Good food, friendly people and the best little pastry in the world! Its called a Creme du Belem. Its a little creme brulee tart. – Pongpingjl

3. Boomerang Hostel & Apartments, Budapest, Hungary

Promking22 at the Budapest Zoo

Promking22 at the Budapest Zoo

The Boomerang Hostel was brilliant. We were advised before booking not to let the name put us off, and contrary to what you’re probably thinking now there were no other Australians, it was run by an American and a Ukrainian. They gave us a city map when we arrived and described all the tourist attractions, dinner options, and were really so helpful. – Promking22

4. Gold Coast Hostel, Lagos, Portugal

Ryanandpatti with the Gold Coast's manager in Lagos

Ryanandpatti with the Gold Coast's manager in Lagos

Food is cheap and delicious (we each ate a whole chicken, rice, and a liter of soda for only 8 euro each). The Beaches are gorgeous, the water isn’t too too cold, and everyone we have met here has been friendly and helpful. We highly recommend it! – Ryanandpatti

5. Living Lounge Hostel, Lisbon, Portugal

Painted on Jakester21's hostel door in Lisbon

Painted on Jakester21's hostel door in Lisbon

My friends and I set out on this journey in order to celebrate the birthday of my good friend Amanda Glanz. We were rolling deep: 8 of us from Madrid and 1 kid named Nolan in London, a good friend of mine from Wash U. And we were all staying in the same hostel, which was just exquisite. It was sort of elegant in an excellent location but with a fun atmosphere and an international crowd. – Jakester21

6. Academy Hostel, Florence, Italy

Russza had only a few words to say for Florence

Russza had only a few words to say for Florence

Love this country!

Love this country! – Russza

7. Hostel Majdas, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Chan_hc loved his stay in Mostar

Chan_hc loved his stay in Mostar

Mostar has a lot of history and interesting buildings, but to me, its main attraction is its friendly citizens.

They were everywhere: The staff in the hostel who took my luggage to my room and let me sample her dinner; the shopkeeper who rendered service with a genuine, heart-felt smile, the waitress who looked for me to return my money when I paid her too much; the brother of the hostel owner who gave me a free ride to the nearby village after I missed the bus, and then took me to a café there to show the proper way to drink Bosnian coffee; the Serb who gave me a ride back to the city when he saw me waiting at the bus stop. – Chan_hc

8. Goodnight Backpacker’s Hostel, Lisbon, Portugal

Shb103 stayed at the Goodnight Hostel

Shb103 stayed at Lisbon's Goodnight Backpacker's Hostel

Love the old town feel of the city. Love it even more that everyone speaks Portuguese with – duh! – a Portuguese accent. It almost feels like they are pretending and putting up an accent to fool us all. 🙂 – Shb103

9. Riverhouse Backpackers, Cardiff, UK

(Sorry no blog available!)

10. Lisbon Lounge Hostel, Lisbon, Portugal

Kaylashoe and friends at her hostel in Lisbon

Kaylashoe and friends at her hostel in Lisbon

We stayed in a lovely hostel and had dinner with awful fellow tourists- one an avid Freddie Mercury fan who I offended deeply at the dinner table throwing out words like gaudy, cheesy, funny, very “Freddie Mercury” at his favorite musical, “We Will Rock You.” – Kaylashoe

Hot places

100 things to do before you die, TravelPod style (Part 5)

If you’ve got a life-goal, chances are, someone on TravelPod has already done it! Here’s part five of things to do before you die, as compiled by TravelPod members.

41. Go to the top of the Empire State Building in New York City

Twinkfran makes it to the Empire State Building

Twinkfran makes it to the Empire State Building

Day two I go to the top of the Empire State Building to see the amazing views over the city and then catch the circle line boat ride to see the Statue of Liberty. – Twinkfran

42. Feel the mist from Niagara Falls

Jtopping visits Niagara Falls on his Great American Road Trip

Jtopping visits Niagara Falls on his Great American Road Trip

The aura of the falls was present the moment we crossed the bridge into Canada. You could see the mist from the falls even when you could not see the falls themselves… We headed out to the falls around 10 pm, and got to see fireworks over the water and the light show that happens nightly at Niagara via the Canadian side. It was a spectacular sight to see, the water changing colors and the mist from the water all around you. I could have sworn that it was raining at one point, even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky… The next morning, we did the journey beneath the falls where you can get within feet of the bottom of the waterfall. You could stand there for about a minute and be completely soaked, poncho or no poncho. – Jtopping

43. See rock band REM in concert, finally!

Giulianat got great shots of REM in Milan

Giulianat got great shots of REM in Milan

We had a great evening and after waiting three hours in the queue out the front we were rewarded with access to the mosh pit just 5 metres from the stage! I can tell you the lead singer Michael Stipe is a fantastic performer and it was great dancing around and singing with Alessia and the rest of the crowd to songs I knew and also the newer ones that I’m not so familiar with. – Giulianat

44. Enjoy writing more

Hsb deeply enjoyed writing her blog in Argentina

Hsb deeply enjoyed writing her blog in Argentina

I’m only here for a few days, and I’m obsessed writing this blog…! Well, it’s still time well-spent, as I enjoy writing, and I have definitely enjoyed reminiscing about Bolivia. It’s given me an opportunity to slowly re-live it, and has forced me to remember views and images that would have otherwise been relegated to the back of my brain forever. – Hsb

45. Start a travel club

Nancy.chappell attended a travel club meeting in Oxford, England

Nancy.chappell attended a travel club meeting in Oxford, England

Today we had a lazy morning and then they drove me to High Wickam at noon for my luncheon of Women Welcome Women Worldwide, the travel club I belonged to off and on for the last 20 years. There were about 122 of us there to celebrate the 25th anniversary – mostly from the UK, also France, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and 4 of us from the states. – Nancy.chappell

46. Visit a Vineyard

Jimandnat sample wine in Argentina

Jimandnat sample wine in Argentina

We caught the bus about 45 minutes out of Mendoza to one of the main wine-growing regions to visit some “bodegas” (vineyards). So we decided to all hire bikes, and we chose to hire a tandem which added much hilarity to the whole experience. The afternoon was gorgeous, warm, blue skies and sunny and we were cycling along tree lined avenues in the countryside and then popping into vineyards in between so it was fabulous fun. We visited a few bodegas, La Rural which is the biggest wine producer of the area where we got to have a look at some of the old equipment, like old grape-presses and lots of other little quaint bits. And then we got a free tasting of a Malbec, which is the red wine which the region is famous for. – Jimandnat

47. Explore Australia in an RV

Serenitynow playing in a park in Perth, Australia

Serenitynow playing in a park in Perth, Australia

The magnificent Kings Park is described as the jewel in the city’s crown, and one of the largest inner city parks in the world. We spent the afternoon hear and wish we could have spent longer. The park overlooks the city and provides excellent views. It is meticulously maintained with cultivated gardens and natural bushland along with many grassy lawns, all featuring grass like that of a golf course. – Serenitynow

48. Go adventuring in New Zealand

Apoc100 boating around New Zealand

Apoc100 boating around New Zealand

On the way we were very lucky to see some wild dolphins swimming next to the boat and they got quite close the boat so naturally I had to take 100 photos in the span of a minute. We also saw several waterfalls such as the Stirling Falls which created a beautiful rainbow in the light, and many “temporary waterfalls” that appear only when snow melts. These temporary waterfalls look like veins on the side of mountains that fall slowly towards the lake, usually forming bodies of ice on the way. Apoc100

49. Trek The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal

Jimmyandkristen hike the Annapurna Circuit

Jimmyandkristen hike the Annapurna Circuit

In a couple years, the circuit as we know it will be gone. The whole point is that it is a working road…but one without motorized vehicles. The only way to get to these places is to walk. The road will, as some bloggers have written, “ruin” the circuit. And I suppose for Trekkers it will. The road will make it so that you can pretty much drive almost all the way to the Throng La (Throung Pass), and will turn that achievement into a 3-5 day trek, not a 15-20. – Jimmyandkristen

50. Eat tapas in Spain

Jeffandash eat tapas in Barcelona

Jeffandash eat tapas in Barcelona

We just got back from a restaurant with some tasty tapas for dinner. Tapas are little appetizers and Jeff tried all kinds of new food…salmon eggs for example! Jeffandash

TravelPod Buzz

100 things to do before you die, TravelPod style (Part 2)

This is part one of a ten part series that will feature some of our users’ inspring travel goals.

A while ago, whereshegoes started a forum discussion about 100 things to do before you die. Here’s part of the list that was cobbled together with help from the rest of the TravelPod community. What would you add to it?

11. Accept my weaknesses

Travoholic has accepted one of her weaknesses

Travoholic has accepted one of her weaknesses

She went through my application form, questioning some of the answers I’d given and trying to gauge my opinion on certain things. There was a little knowledge quiz which I aced and all seemed to be going great. UNTIL… my weakness! Common sense! The problem is that I am well known for not having much of it. So eventually the interview rolls around to ‘what if’ and scenario type questions. I think I must have come across as the most indecisive person in the world, flip flopping back and forth with every new point my interviewer raised. – Travoholic

12. Have a good relationship with my mom

Katieontherun with her mom on a cruise

Katieontherun with her mom on a cruise

My Mom won a cruise and decided to take me along. We never would have dreamed of buying cruise tickets, but since we got a free ride, we made sure we enjoyed it as well!Katieontherun

13. Learn Aikido

Everardt participating in an Aikido seminar in Floridia

Everardt participating in an Aikido seminar in Floridia

On the weekend I attended an Aikido seminar. It felt great to be able to move the body and mind again as I have for so many years. It’s very funny training Aikido in Italy – you kiss the instructors and the other students, the lunch break is 4 hours and you go and have a full meal with wine, beer, grappa, etc.Everardt

14. Find true inner peace

Tompsblogs found peace in Maaloula, Syria

Tompsblogs found peace in Maaloula, Syria

Stripped of opulence and spared of vastness, this small place seemed almost to speak directly to my soul, filling me with peace. Indeed, for the first time since my reluctant Catholic childhood, I found myself humbled into dabbing my forehead with the Holy Water in a Benediction of sorts. High praise indeed I should say from someone who generally considers himself an atheist.Tompsblogs

15. Learn how to fly a plane.

Liammichelle got to fly the plane over Victoria Falls

Liammichelle got to fly the plane over Victoria Falls

Sometimes it is worth getting up before the sun, for Michelle it is a half hour micro-light trip over Vic Falls. Without a doubt her best experience, Michelle found herself free and exposed as she flew over the falls. It was the closest thing to having wings! Brilliant way to see one of the natural wonders of the world, the spray, Livingstone Island, Zambezi River and various posh hotels. Then flew over Long Island and saw giraffes, hippos, crocodiles, zebras and even a bird and her chicks in a nest. They are look pretty small from above. Having told the pilot that she’d done a few flying lessons, he let her take control, that was it, her trip was made!Liammichelle

16. Parasail

Gonetilwhenever parasailing at Airlie Beach

Gonetilwhenever parasailing at Airlie Beach

We were strapped into the harness and then attached to the Parachute. A few tips and safety checks later we were airborne. We shot out to full extension, about 30 meters above the water, and straight away decided to invert so that we were hanging upside down, with nothing but the harness holding us in – it was pretty scary letting go that first time, praying that the harness would hold! – Gonetilwhenever

17. Dive the Great Barrier Reef

rtw_-_2007.1174962120.dsc07631

Danielandrachel dove the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is stunning and an excellent place to dive, the corals are beautiful and there is an abundnce of marine life ranging from tropical fish including clown fish (nemo), rays, sharks, turtles, cuttle fish, eels and even a whale shark which unfortunately I did not get to see.Danielandrachel

18. See Bob Dylan live

Lizconnie attends a free Bob Dylan concert in San Sebastian, Spain

Lizconnie attends a free Bob Dylan concert in San Sebastian, Spain

The middle of August brings a huge jazz festival, but while i was there, the city was building its way up there!! A free Bob Dylan concert on the beach added to the hippy style of this town.Lizconnie

19. Run A Marathon

Cezzah ran the London Marathon

Cezzah ran the London Marathon

One word to describe the marathon – hot. It was frickin boiling, there were people dropping like flies all over the place.Cezzah

20. Get married

Coryandlaura got married in Florence

Coryandlaura got married in Florence

The music played as my father walked me into the most beautiful, historic room. Paulie and Christina were our witnesses and were standing off to the side of the Vice Mayor’s desk. The entire room was bathed in red and gold. Gilded mirrors and antique tapestries decorated the walls. Ben stood as our translator next to the Vice Mayor who wore the colors of Italy across his chest. My grandfathers bible lay next to our rings on the Vice Mayors desk. Daddy gave me away and Cory gladly accepted. It was all perfect. I couldn’t stop smiling. The ceremony was dignified. The Vice Mayor married us in Italian and Ben translated. Stefano and our family took millions of photos. We signed paperwork and then started all of the wedding photos.Coryandlaura

TravelPod Buzz

Top 10 Free Attractions in Europe

Here’s TripAdvisor’s list of the 10 best free attractions in Europe, complete with TravelPod blogger comments.

1. Pantheon, Rome, Italy

Ronmystyk at The Pantheon

Ronmystyk at The Pantheon

The only sad part was knowing that the marble and gold in the Basilica was stripped from all of the Roman monuments like the Colosseum and the Pantheon. They were left in ruins for the profit of the church. – Ronmystyk

2. National Gallery, London, England

England's National Gallery with Sshmalone

England's National Gallery with Sshmalone

I am certainly not an art history fanatic, and wasn’t quite sure I would enjoy going to the National Gallery. But, it is really, really something to see such famous pieces of art in person. – Sshmalone

3. Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, England

Museum of the Jewellery Quarter with Dannielle

Museum of the Jewellery Quarter with Dannielle

We did get to see an authentic old workshop and the office that was above it. The history stuff was good and our guide actually made some stuff with the molds and we got a Scottie dog of bronze that she had cut. Dannielle

4. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

Felicityseeker in front of Notre Dame cathedral

Felicityseeker in front of Notre Dame cathedral

We didn’t see Quasi Modo, but we did see some amazing gargoyles. – Felicityseeker

5. St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, Brussels, Belgium

Jcastellan visits St. Michael's Cathedral

Jcastellan visits St. Michael's Cathedral

Continued walking and came tot he cathedral of St Michael. Where I paid money to see the archeological remains underneath, it was a rip off – I saw some old bricks. – Jcastellan

6. Duomo – Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy

The Duomo with Katieandchris

The Duomo with Katieandchris

Our wait to enter was short, thank goodness, and upon entering, overwhelming awe struck me. The only thing Chris could make out in the dimly lit atmostphere was me wiping my eyes. Seeing such beauty in all the fine craftsmanship was just too much all at once. – Katieandchris

7. Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain

H_hurst in Retiro Park

H_hurst in Retiro Park

Nothing like that where I live, that’s for sure! I could have spent the whole afternoon there, just lazying away the day… – H_hurst

8. Westminster Abbey, London, England

Sarahindenmark at Westminster Abbey

Sarahindenmark at Westminster Abbey

Much more interesting than St. Paul’s. Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures inside. – Sarahindenmark

9. St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy

Jahr28 at St. Mark's in Venice

Jahr28 at St. Mark's in Venice

This was absolutely amazing seeing and walking through architecture from the 1300s. – Jahr28

10. Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills, Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway in Ireland with Jest491

Giant's Causeway in Ireland with Jest491

Walked out to the Giant Causeway (hell of walk, 156 steps up the side of cliff). The causeway was formed during the early Tertiary period some 62 – 65 million years ago over a long period of igneous activity. – Jest491

Hot places

Top 10 most disappointing tourist spots in the world

eTurbo News recently listed the 10 most disappointing tourist spots in the world. TravelPodders seemed to disagree with all but one of the 10 on the list. Here’s what they have to say:

1. The Eiffel Tower – TravelPod verdict: Not so disappointing

Jcharwell's dinner in Paris

Jcharwell's dinner in Paris

“I then headed to the Eiffel Tower lawn to enjoy some vino and watch the sunset. After a bottle of wine and a spectacular view, I headed for the top to the Eiffel Tower.”Jcharwell

2. The Louvre (Mona Lisa) – TravelPod verdict: Not so disappointing

Mona Lisa at the Louvre

Mona Lisa at the Louvre

“A week or so ago, I had he pleasure of finally seeing Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. Admire from afar, like a true beauty, is all that one can do – but it was amazing none the less.”Klauridsen
3. Times Square: TravelPod verdict – Not so disappointing

Times Square with Kristenjohn

Times Square with Kristenjohn

“We had a wander around all the streets, we went to M & M World, possibly the best place on Earth!!”Kristenjohn
4. Las Ramblas, Spain: TravelPod verdict – Not so disappointing

Kwt1981 in Las Ramblas

Kwt1981 in Las Ramblas

“We all loved the area around the Museum of Modern Art, Las Ramblas -artsy, small winding cobblestone streets, shops, cafe’s, old, young – fantastico!” – Kwt1981

5. Statue of Liberty: TravelPod verdict – Not so disappointing

Paulandcarolyn at the Statue of Liberty

Paulandcarolyn at the Statue of Liberty

“Today we went to see the Statue Of Liberty and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum on the ferry. Not the best day weather wise – very overcast and hazy. Very interesting though and worth the trip.”Paulandcarolyn
6. Spanish Steps, Rome: TravelPod verdict – Big disappointment

Christineraymo at the Spanish Steps

Christineraymo at the Spanish Steps

“We walked to the Spanish Steps, not a very big deal, just a bunch of kids sitting on an really big staircase. Stairs were about the last things we wanted to see at that point.” – Christineraymo

7. The White House: TravelPod verdict – Not so disappointing

Nietsreuef at the White House

Nietsreuef at the White House

“Architecture here is magnificent. The Capitol, White House, Museums, Treasury Department, National Archives, National Gallery of Art, Old Post Office, to name a few of the best.”Nietsreuef
8. The Pyramids, Egypt: TravelPod verdict – Not so disappointing

Justinrowe in Egypt

Justinrowe in Egypt

“There’s no denying that The Pyramids are spectacular. It is just astounding how the Ancient Egyptian managed to construct such enormous monuments.”Justinrowe
9. The Brandenburg Gate, Germany: TravelPod Verdict – Not so disappointing

The Brandenburg Gate at night

The Brandenburg Gate at night

“From there we headed through the impressive Brandenburg Gate to the Reichstag, the German Parliament.”Meganandkevin

10. The Leaning Tower of Pisa: TravelPod verdict – Not so disappointing

Duomo and the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Duomo and the Leaning Tower of Pisa

“Chris and I were the very first people to climb the tower today and what a spectacular sight it was to behold Tuscany at such a young hour of morning.” – Katieandchris

Hot places

9 things to do in Milan

Milan is not the most interesting city in Italy, but there are quite a few interesting things to do there. Here’s a list of the don’t-miss things to do with links to blogs for each one:

1. Survey the city from the Duomo roof

Rayandpaul on top of the Duomo

Rayandpaul on top of the Duomo

“A visit to the roof is an absolute must (accessible by lift or stairs), not just for the views over Milan, but the perspective of repeated spires and arches.” – Rayandpaul

2. Spend 15 minutes with Da Vinci’s Last Supper

Santa Maria della Grazie church (The Last Supper is inside)

Santa Maria della Grazie church (The Last Supper is inside)

“What was interesting was that it was actually painted in the dining room and on the other side of the paintings wall was where the kitchen was held so most of the damage to the painting was the humidity that the room kept in it on a constant basis.” – Antonym

3. Spin on the Bull’s balls

Bpadnuk spinning on the bull

Bpadnuk spinning on the bull

“On the floor of the Galena shopping center, you can spin over the bull’s testicles for good luck. So many people do it that they need to replace the bull every couple of years.” – Bpadnuk

4.Visit the museum at La Scala

Outside La Scala theatre

Outside La Scala theatre

“Before we went to the Museum we actually got to go inside and look around the theatre. It was breathtaking!!!” – Craigmorris

5. Cheer on the home team at San Siro stadium

Davy1873 in San Siro stadium

Davy1873 in San Siro stadium

“1st off is Milan which unless you like fashion or graffiti is average at best although it does have a football stadium.”- Davy1873

6. Get Cultured at the Pinacoteca di Brera

Foodnut at the Pinacoteca di Brera

Foodnut at the Pinacoteca di Brera

“Had a whole day of sightseeing in Milan: Pinacoteca di Brera (17th century building – now a university – housing statue of Michelangelo in the centre – of course having his jewels covered by grape leaves!)” – Foodnut

7. Escape the city in one of Milan’s parks

Lisakpenning in Sempione Park

Lisakpenning in Sempione Park

“We walked through Sempione park to the Arca della Pace (Arch of Peace). There’s so much green in Italy, trees and lawns and especially balcony and rooftop gardens.” – Lisakpenning

8. Eat a panzerotto from Luini

Berniandjay at Luini Panzerotti

Berniandjay at Luini Panzerotti

“I had wanted to try a panzerotto ever since I saw Luini Panzerotti featured on an episode of Samantha Brown (ugh, I hate her) in Milan.” – Berniandjay

9. Discover Milan’s canals in the Navigli

Alicetin in Milan

Alicetin in Milan

“Navigli is in the Southern part of Milan, and it’s an up and coming district near the canals – there are loads of restaurant and bars, and we spent a nice evening there.” – Alicetin

Hot places

Top 9 disappointing European attractions

Bootsnall.com has come up with a list of the most disappointing attractions in Europe.

I have personally visited most of them, and agree. Here’s what some other TravelPod bloggers have to say:

1. Mona Lisa: TravelPod verdict –> Disappointing

Lunababy at the Louvre

Lunababy at the Louvre

“We saw the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. Personally, I think I am waaay prettier than both of them, lol!! ” – Lunababy

2. Gondola rides in Venice, Italy: TravelPod verdict –> Not so disappointing

Cheap gondola ride!

Cheap gondola ride!

“We learned of a service provided by the Gondola Association with the intention of improving the image of gondoliers. For only fifty cents each we could cross from one side of the canal to the other! After a lot of walking and searching we found the traghetto (poor man’s gondola) station where we boarded a rather plain gondola for the short trip across the canal to the Church of Saint Maria Della Salute.” – Cullism

3. Manneken Pis, Brussels Belgium: TravelPod verdict –> Disappointing

Manneken Pis in Brussels

Manneken Pis in Brussels

“We made our way down to check out the Manneken Pis, which is the peeing boy fountain that Brussels is famous for. It was actually a lot smaller than I thought it would be!” – Phillipsb1

4. Saint-Tropez, France: TravelPod verdict –> Not so disappointing

Coast of Saint-Tropez

Coast of Saint-Tropez

“Arriving in Saint-Tropez, we were surrounded by a myriad of people. Artists displaying their works for passersby, paparazzi trying to capture that million-dollar photograph of the various celebrities and wealthy elite, crew and passengers of the luxury yachts tied up in the prestigious port of Saint-Tropez and evening dinner goers on their way to a night of good company and gastronomy.” – Mimosa79

5. The interior of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain: TravelPod verdict –> Not so disappointing

Saktophe inside La Sagrada Familia

Saktophe inside La Sagrada Familia

“It was fascinating though to see how Gaudi got his inspiration from nature and how some of these shapes and textures (trees, leaves, fruits, honeycombs, minerals) were incorporated into the design. He was an architect, artist, engineer, mathematician and scientist all in one….what a genius!” – Saktophe

6. London Bridge, London, UK: TravelPod verdict –> Disappointing

Travelinbuskers under London Bridge

Travelinbuskers under London Bridge

“After discovering our first pay toilet : ( (rip off!) we got on a boat and sailed down the Thames River under the London Bridge (which we discovered is not the big pretty bridge, but an old, dirty, small one)!!” – Travelinbuskers

7. Little Mermaid statue, Copenhagen, Denmark: TravelPod verdict –> On the verge of disappointing

The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen

The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen

“It was worth seeing because we found ourselves near it by chance, but If I walked all morning or rode a tour bus across the city to see this statue, I would be sorely disappointed.” – Tbassplayer

8. Dublin Castle: TravelPod verdict –> Not so disappointing

Outside Dublin Castle

Outside Dublin Castle

“I loved the atmosphere of the house, and the wooden paneling was spectacular – but then I love dark wood, and you had the feeling it had darkened to such a rich hue over the centuries from studious polishing with beeswax perhaps.” – Grindelwalders

9. Live Sex Shows in Amsterdam, Netherlands: TravelPod verdict –> Not so disappointing

Live sex show in Amsterdam

Live sex show in Amsterdam

“While I found absolutely nothing sexual about the show, I’m glad I went and saw it. I can now say I’ve seen a sex show in Amsterdam.” – Kitty161

TravelPod Buzz

Venice floods nothing new to TravelPod bloggers

The latest floods in Venice are quite shocking, but this isn’t the first time that tourists haven’t waded around the canal city in slimey water up to their knees. Check out these blog posts from a waterlogged St. Mark’s Square

Founding member Clintonb writes about exploring the city during a flood in 2005.

Clint and Dan in St. Mark's Square

Clint and Dan in a flooded St. Mark's Square

We had to revisit the San Marco in this beautiful day, and it made it look so much better that the sun was out. haha however the entire square was under water!! THere were wooden planks up on stilts for access to the church. Unfortunatly very slow to get anywhere as hundreds of tourists all on these small planks makign it very slow to move.. so, with the very minor few of us there we took our shoes off, rolled our pants up and just walked through the water! It was absolutely disgusting and slimey water which is probably heavily diseased, but hey – it provided really good photo opertunities with no one in the way at all! haha Can you imagine all the pidgeon crap, and god knows what from the pollutance of the venezian canals that we’re walking through – haha mmmm!!!

-from “Walking through St. Mark’s sq under water“, Venice, Italy

Again, in 2006, the square was flooded as Mimmy21 can attest.

Flooded St. Mark's Square

Flooded St. Mark's Square

We decided to visit St Marks Square first- the main tourist desitination in Venice. Little did we realise that everybody else was heading there too. For a non-peak period- Venice was extremley busy and crowded! Trying to put on a brave face me and Maria faced the crowds and lined up with the rest of the tourists in the rain on the raised platforms which saved our feet from getting wet and frozen in the water that was fast filling up the square. Never in my life will l forget watching shops flooded with water, police patroling in gumboots, crazy tourists taking of their shoes and socks and hoping in the water just to get a good photo and dead pidgons floating by! All this distracted us for the real reason we were lining up in the first place- to enter the beautiful St Marks Cathedral!
-from “Venezia-Pizza, Gelato, Canals, Romance and Beauty!“, Venice, Italy

Sharon1306 also visited Venice in 2005, and was majorly inconvenienced by the flooding of St. Mark’s Square.

Walking the planks in Venice

Walking the planks in Venice

My feet are killing me, so I sit on the steps and people watch. Some tourists actually take off their footwear, roll up their pants and wade through the murky green water. And some are even splashing about having a nice time. All I can think of is the microscopic fungi and algae that probably infest the green water. Ugh.

After a while, we’re hungry and use the planks and cross the square to find somewhere to eat. It’s unbelievably crowded and the flooding is not helping matters. We’re inching our way forward on the plank along with other tourists when some emergency technicians (I think) shove their way past us with an injured, bleeding guy on a stretcher. It’s quite a sight. We finally make it to the other side and take a deep breath. Whew! After lunch, we walk back to the hotel for a little rest.

-from “Of secret itineraries and ghost walks…“, Venice Italy

TravelPod in the news

France Local Expert: Gyl Johnson

If you’re heading to the Alps, Paris or the French Riviera, make sure you drop a line to Gyl Johnson, TravelPod’s Local Expert in France. She’s also got a lot of great tips about northern Africa, and other areas of Europe so don’t hesitate to ask her about such far flung destinations as Morocco and Italy too.

Why did you become a Local Expert?

I became a Local Expert because while it is clear that more and more people are traveling, I wanted to encourage people to travel for longer periods of time or even better, live abroad. So often, I hear people say they can’t afford to travel abroad. Or when they do, they must watch every penny, which I understand completely. However, the best way to circumvent this challenge, is to travel and work as you go. So, I hope to motivate/help people to work abroad as well as introduce a bit of the culture which surrounds the country. Sometimes some of the best things to enjoy in any given country are not sites, so much as experiences and noticing the small details which are often found within the culture.

Gyl Johnson, TravelPod's Local Expert for France

What are the best and worst things about living in France?

Interestingly enough, the best things and worst things about living in France are the same. What I mean is, some of the most annoying things, such as the French refusing to accept change, or their resistance to a global market have helped maintain some of the Old World charm that attracts visitors in the first place. For example, there are many things here that are still produced the same way they were 100,200 years ago, such as cheese, wine, olive oil etc. If the French were more open to change, the lifestyle that I enjoy now, wouldn’t exist.

I love that France constantly promotes and celebrates its culture and language through festivals, events, art and literature. Despite their reputation, especially in Paris, the French are friendly. Like anywhere else in the world, you’ll run into good folks and not so good folks.

There is nothing that I can say is “the worst” but I can say I dislike labour strikes here in France.

What are the best things for travelers to do in your area?

1. Wine tasting (wine is good)

2. Hiking/biking

3. Clubbing (in almost any big city in france, not just paris)

4. Eating!!! – France prides itself solidly on its culinary talent-

5. Theatre/musical events -you can find all genres and price ranges

6. Of course shopping– when in Paris (unlike in New York) you can go to the spring and fall fashion shows without having to be invited. Anyone can go, you just buy a ticket

7. Chateaux galore– France is covered with both big and small

8. Lavender fields– if you are in France in July, definitely try to get to Provence to have a look

What are some of your best and worst travel experiences?

I have been lucky to have enjoyed a lot of wonderful travel experiences… It’s hard to think of any one experience as “best”.

As for the worst travel experience, I’d have to say it was my first trip to China, September 10, 2001. That’s right, on September 11, the day after I had just arrived in Beijing, I discovered what had happened only by watching pictures on a Chinese news station. It took days to find out what exactly happened (in English) and there was still a real fear that more attacks would happen. I was travelling alone and I wasn’t with any other Americans, nor Westerners for that matter. I was there to take Chinese calligraphy lessons, so most of the people I was with were from other Asian countries. While they were polite, there wasn’t much compassion. It was definitely a difficult time for me.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

My proudest accomplishment has not arrived yet but I know what it will be… I hope to start English language schools in some of the poorest African countries and ultimately send native English speakers who have completed our teacher training course to help. I’ve been given many gifts in this life, I’d like to share what I can with others.

Where are you planning on traveling in the future?

In general, I travel between France, Morocco and now Italy regularly throughout the year, as we have English teacher training centers in those countries. So for me, it’s not so exciting anymore. However, I will be making a first time trip to Turkey in the beginning of 2009, and I am most excited.

What do you do with most of your time (hobbies, work, whatever)?

I’m finally at a point in my life where I am happy and I think it’s because at last my work no longer feels like work because I enjoy my work as a teacher/trainer. So to answer your question, I spend a large amount of time working but often it feels like play. And even when it really does feel like work, I enjoy it because it’s centered around living abroad, travel and cultural exchange which are things I love and know a bit about.

What’s a typical day like for you?

Thats hard…everyday is different but typically, I start work at the office at 9:30 a.m. and finish at 4:30 p.m. In the evenings, I spend a lot of time in front of my laptop. I do manage to socialize and I belong to a lot of different clubs. I am quite active with my wine club. We drink heavily about twice a week, all for the sake of promoting wine appreciation.

A lot of my work requires me to be out of the office making arrangements for a training program or collaboration on a project in France, Morocco or Italy. What I like most is being able to meet with a lot of different people all with the aim of helping others.

TravelPod Local Expert profiles

Top 10 free attractions in the US and Europe

TripAdvisor released their top 10 free attractions in the US and Europe today and I am very surprised at the result.

How come Niagara Falls was not included? It’s absolutely free, you can see it for nothing! Even from the American side.

Also! What about Mount Rushmore?! Where is that on this list?! Mount Rushmore is pretty amazing. Why isn’t that included? Last time I checked, it was free to look up and admire a giant sculpture in a mountain.

I can’t believe that some mundane fountains made number one on the US list. The entire United States of America must have more exciting and beautiful free things to do, don’t you think?

What about in Europe? I think that list is a little bit better than the US one.

What I learned today is that there are beautiful things everywhere that are free, and it can’t be whittled down to 20. No how, no way!

Does anybody else disagree with this list too? Come chat about it in the TravelPod travel forums.

Here is the unedited list in question:
Top 10 Free U.S. Attractions

1. Bellagio Fountains, Las Vegas, Nevada

2. Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

3. Waimea Canyon, Waimea, Hawaii

4. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

5. Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park, Utah

6. U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii

7. Pacific Coast Highway, Route 1, California

8. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.

9. Freedom Trail, Boston, Massachusetts

10. Central Park, New York, New York

Top 10 Free European Attractions

1. Pantheon, Rome, Italy

2. National Gallery, London, England

3. Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, England

4. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

5. St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, Brussels, Belgium

6. Duomo – Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy

7. Retiro Park, Madrid, Spain

8. Westminster Abbey, London, England

9. St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy

10. Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills, Northern Ireland

See you in the forums,

Louise Brown

TravelPod Community Manager

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