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A Dozen Reasons to Visit India During Diwali
India’s biggest and most important annual holiday is also one of the best times to visit the country.  

Ancient civilizations the world over celebrate lunar cycles, the harvest, and the power of light. India’s version of this universal theme is Diwali, and the festival brings centuries of rich tradition alive.

Every year over five days in October or November, communities and families around the entire country – and millions of Indians around the world - celebrate.

Here are 12 reasons why you’ll want to travel to India during Diwali celebrations.

1. Meaning


A Sanskrit word ‘deepavali’ is composed of the words for lamps (deepa or diva) and row (avali). Today Diwali is India’s festival of lights for the row of clay lamps celebrants traditionally lit outside homes to symbolize light triumphing over darkness, reflecting a practice that has been documented as far back as the 7th century.

2. Timing

It’s easy to understand a harvest festival celebrating the light that nurtured the crops that ensured survival of the community. Diwali follows the lunar calendar, and takes place during autumn’s new moon – the darkest night - in October or November. In agrarian India, it was natural to pray for the blessing of Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, during the last harvest before winter.

Legends grew up around Diwali, including the marriage of Lakshmi to Lord Krishna. And Diwali began to be associated not just with light, but with new beginnings.

3. Diwali Day 1: Purifying and Shopping


The first day of Diwali features two tasks: thorough cleaning of homes and businesses, a symbol of purification and renewal; and shopping for kitchen tools, and precious metals, especially gold.
 

4. Diwali Day 2: Decorating 

 
Now that homes and businesses are purified and cleansed, comes decorating. People set out clay oil lamps (or modern versions), and make special designs using colored powders, rice, even flower petals on floors and pavements. Oil, flowers, and sandalwood are included in rituals carried out on the second day of Diwali.
 

5. Diwali Day 3: Prayers and Fireworks

 
Diwali peaks on the third day, when families gather to pray to the goddess Lakshmi, as well as Ganesh (with an elephant head), the god of wisdom, and the lord of wealth, Kuber. Music, feasting, and fireworks follow the prayers on the third day of Diwali.

 

6. Diwali Day 4: New Year and Love between Spouses

 
This day marks the first day of the new year, even for businesses throughout India, who mark the fourth day of Diwali as the first day of the next fiscal year.
 
It’s also a day for love. Family and friends visit with gifts and best wishes, and husbands present their wives with gifts.
 

7. Diwali Day 5: Brotherly Love

 
The final day of Diwali extends the themes of festivities, food and gifts – this time between siblings, celebrating the bonds between brothers and sisters also with prayer.
 

8. Celebrating


Themes of Diwali’s celebrations run through the days leading up to the 5-day festival: light in many forms, including traditional clay lamps and also candles lining the sacred Ganges and other lakes and rivers, fireworks, electric lights illuminating temples and historic buildings, and bonfires; celebrating Lakshmi, goddess of wealth through prayer, gold, shopping, new clothes and jewelry; colorful patterns on the floor, henna designs painted on hands, especially of lotus flowers, which Lakshmi is often depicted sitting on or holding; cleaning, purifying, gift giving and feasting.

9. Eating


With one of the richest culinary traditions in the world, India celebrates its biggest festival of the year with an extravagant array of cuisine, both sweet and savory, in an incredible range of colors and visual presentations. Sweets in particular are given to family and friends.


10. Shopping and Spending


Diwali is the festival celebrating Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, so it’s considered an auspicious time for spending and investing. It’s the biggest shopping event on India’s calendar, with spending nearing $4billion during the festival on clothing, gifts, and especially gold and gold jewelry.  The precious metal is believed to attract more wealth to its bearer.

11. Including Multiple Faiths


Diwali may be a Hindu festival, but like India, the festival is a big tent that has expanded to become a national celebration including the entire country’s Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains, who mark Diwali by celebrating not Lakshmi, but deities of their own faiths.  A common theme runs through all the celebrations regardless of faith: the triumph of light over darkness.

12. Joining in the Celebrations

 
You can do more than observe Diwali when you’re visiting India. Wish people an ‘Auspicious Diwali’ with the words ‘Shubh Deepavali’. Or dress up for the occasion; ladies can add some sparkling gold jewelry or even don a salwar kameez to feel part of the festivities.

 

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Images: Getty

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It was a fabled event in military history and has become etched into popular culture, the subject of movies, documentaries, novels and real stories shared by veterans returning to their homes.

2019 marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day. With every passing year, there are fewer and fewer veterans alive who landed on Canada's Juno Beach, Britain's Sword and Gold Beaches, and America's Omaha and Utah Beaches in the desperate effort to gain a foothold and begin liberating Occupied Europe. 

Their sacrifices and success have become legend, and we can still pay tribute to the power of people and nations banding together to achieve a noble goal. 


HELP THE LANDING BEACHES ACHIEVE UNESCO STATUS


The initiative to list Normandy’s D-Day Landing Beaches as a UNESCO World Heritage Site aims to preserve the Beaches and the stories of the people who fought for freedom and shared values of humanity.

You can join tens of thousands of people who have signed the petition at

normandiepourlapaix.fr/en/liberte-jinscris-ton-nom


The online form asks (in French) for you to add your
  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Email
  • Country
  • Age
  • City
  • Check that ‘you’re not a robot’, then
  • Click the ‘Valider’ blue button
to register your support.

 

VISIT THE D-DAY LANDING BEACHES


For countless families across Canada and the United States whose fathers, brothers, grandfathers and uncles fought on D-Day or in any battle of World War 2, as well as students, new citizens, community groups and military and veterans' groups, the Landing Beaches in Normandy, France are an essential travel destination to honor, first-hand, the monumental task and tremendous sacrifices of D-Day, and walk in the very footsteps of the soldiers who landed there.

The Landing Beaches are easy to reach for any traveler to Northern Europe. Ask your travel advisor to help you find the perfect pilgrimage Here are some of the options that take you to American Landing Beaches and Canada's Juno Beach Centre.

Independent travelers can take rental car, private tour or train (especially if you get a rail pass) and public transportation from all major Northern European cities including Paris, London, Amsterdam and more.

Or you can join a land tour, shore excursion from a river cruise, or even from an ocean cruise calling in a northern French port.

  • Globus, Collette, Trafalgar and Insight Vacations land tours include the Landing Beaches as part of general-interest tours of France or Northern Europe, as well as war memorial or battlefields tours of the region;

  • Avalon Waterways, AmaWaterways and Uniworld Seine River cruises from Paris offer shore excursions to the Landing Beaches; and

  • Oceania Cruises and Princess Cruises calling in Le Havre offer shore excursions including American and Canadian Landing Beaches.

We often look for meaningful acts of Remembrance. Supporting the UNESCO listing of the D-Day Landing Beaches, and making a once-in-a-lifetime trip to our Landing Beaches in Normandy help keep the history of D-Day alive for us all.


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Move over Halloween: 5 Reasons to Travel to Mexico for Day of the Dead
It’s the fantastical backdrop of the opening sequence of a James Bond movie. And one of the items on the list of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Mexico’s Day of the Dead is often mistaken as the country’s equivalent of Hallowe’en, but Día de Muertos has its own history, traditions and practice in modern Mexico that make it the celebration worth planning a trip at the end of October.

Aztec + Christian Mash-up

Hallowe’en’s roots lie in ancient Celtic culture. But Day of the Dead began with Mexico’s local traditions and a festival dedicated to an Aztec goddess around the time of the fall corn harvest. 

October 31st, November 1st and November 2nd. Three Christian holy days associated with death and resurrection. Hallowe’en emerged on the Christian calendar on All Hallows Eve, October 31st; and Mexico’s ancient local traditions also converged with new, Christian feast days: November 1 and 2, the Catholic All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days. 

In Mexico, Day of the Dead still has spiritual significance celebrating death as part of the cycle of life, and loved ones moved on to the afterlife. 

Celebrating Death…

Day of the Dead is not a single day. It’s actually a multi-day celebration where families gather to remember deceased members and provide support for their spiritual journey to the afterlife.  It is not a sad time, but a happy one, where departed loved ones ‘join’ the living for the celebration.

Mexicans build altars in their homes and visit graveyards to decorate with candles to light the way of the departed, photos and personal items, and highly fragrant orange marigolds whose strong scent was believed to draw the souls of the dead to their living relatives celebrating their memory. In some places, families picnic in the cemetery, and spend all night beside their relatives’ graves.

 
Makes you Hungry

Bread of the Dead, a sweet bread decorated with skulls, bones arranged in the circle of life, or teardrops for sorrow, skull-shaped sugar confections, and bottles of pulque (fermented agave juice) or tequila, and jars of cinnamon-flavored corn porridge all featured in Day of the Dead celebrations.
 
All About the Face – A Skull Face

The icon of the Day of the Dead has become ‘La Catrina’, short for La Calavera Catrina, or ‘Elegant Skull’, the image of a female skeleton dressed in historic fancy dress. La Catrina originated from an early 20th century illustration by that name of a female skeleton’s head wearing only an ultra-stylish European ladies’ hat of that era.

It was meant to be a satirical put down of the social pretensions of Mexico’s upper classes. But it took on new life as the symbol of the Day of the Dead. A quote attributed to the artist, “We are all skeletons”, says it all: underneath even fancy dress, we are all the same, and will all eventually die. 
 
Hallowe’en has a whole cast of ghoulish characters, from ghosts to vampires and zombies and other ‘Undead’, but Mexico’s Day of the Dead is symbolized by the Elegant Skull dressed for a formal ball.

Death do us Party

They say art imitates life, but in this case, life may be imitating art. The opening scene in the James Bond film Spectre, of a spectacular Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City, actually inspired a concerted effort by local residents to make what had been a small scale, random occurrence into a grand, annual affair. 

Not only has a grand parade leading up to the Day of the Dead become popularized for the local community, it’s become a tremendous tourist attraction, and gives visitors a way to participate in authentic local culture.

You’ll see couples and entire families dressed up, with ladies as La Catrina (many even finding this an excellent way to re-purpose their wedding gowns) and men in formal wear as the male equivalent, catrines.

Visitors are encouraged to don their own skull masks or makeup and historic fancy dress to participate in a revitalized and growing essential experience of Mexican culture.

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Images: Getty

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The Real Downton Abbey and 3 Other Majestic English Manor Houses That Star in Films
If the Downton Abbey movie and TV series has you fantasizing about life in the elegant and storied surroundings of England’s stately homes, you are not alone. The stories and history made in these estates are legendary.

At one time, there were tens of thousands of country houses owned by Britain’s noble families. The English countryside is still dotted with breathtaking architectural marvels punctuating sweeping landscapes, as well as smaller, more humble versions. Some are still homes to lords and ladies of the manor; others are grand museums, hotels, event spaces. Some are both. 

All are fascinating windows into a history and lifestyle brought to life in countless favorite novels, TV series and films. 

If you feel you were ‘to the manor born’, you’ll feel quite at home at the real ‘Downton Abbey’ and these three other, splendid examples of British stately homes that have been on the big and small screen.

HIGHCLERE CASTLE


The stately home at the end of a sweeping drive, framed by majestic ancient trees in the hero shots of every Downton Abbey show, is the real-life Highclere Castle in Berkshire (pictured, top).  

The perfect proportions and striking Jacobean architectural style are enhanced by the surrounding gardens designed by maestro landscape architect ‘Capability’ Brown.

Rather than the fictional Crawley family, it’s been the real ‘seat’ of the Earls of Carnarvon since the 1600’s, with the current Earl and Countess still in residence today.

In addition to standing in as the Earl of Grantham’s ‘Downton Abbey’, Highclere Castle welcomes visitors through its now-famous front doors. So you really can wander through some of the rooms featured in Downton Abbey and imagine yourself at a dinner party, tea, or even a ball with the Crawleys.

Downton Abbey is not the first time Highclere has been at the centre of media attention and the public imagination. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon was involved in the discovery of the epic riches of the Tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt in 1922. When he ‘mysteriously’ died a short time later, it fueled tabloid stories of the ‘Curse of King Tut’. He actually died of blood poisoning from an infected insect bite, so visit Highclere Castle without fear of ancient curses lingering today!

 

BLENHEIM PALACE


Anyone with an interest in English or WW2 history must put Blenheim Palace on their travel bucket list.  

The sprawling, rare example of English Baroque architecture is woven into British history. A grateful Queen Anne gave the land in Oxfordshire, an immense sum of money, and the highest non-royal title, 1st Duke of Marlborough, to the victor for Britain in the War of Spanish Succession at the beginning of the 1700’s. It’s the only non-royal and non-Church country house bearing the name ‘Palace’.  

The descendents of that 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, have eclipsed his fame and impact on world history. It was at Blenheim Palace that Winston Churchill was born, and the name of the Marlborough family now is Spencer-Churchill, related to Lady Diana Spencer, who became Princess of Wales. 
 
Blenheim Palace and its 2000-acre signature gardens by the very busy Capability Brown have even been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The vast country house continues to be the home of the Dukes of Marlborough. 

Film fans recognize Blenheim Palace from scenes in wildly diverse films including Transformers: The Last Knight, James Bond’s Spectre, MIssion Impossible: Rogue Nation, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, The Young Victoria, and even the TV show the Amazing Race. 


CHATSWORTH HOUSE


You catch your breath the first time you see Chatsworth House, the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire since the 1500’s. It’s regularly voted Britain’s favorite country house, and it’s easy to see why. Built on the banks of a river, surrounded by exquisite parkland and backed by wooded, rocky hills, it’s a stunning building in a dramatic setting.

16 generations of the Cavendish family have been born and died at Chatsworth, including recent generations. The recently-deceased Dowager Duchess was one of the famed Mitford sisters (that included renowned novelist Nancy Mitford), the upper-class ‘Kardashians’ of their day.

Chatsworth House today still houses a remarkable collection of paintings, Old Master works, neoclassical sculpture, books and artefacts. 

If it looks familiar, Chatsworth too has been the real-life setting for famous fiction. It was named in the original 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice as one of the estates Elizabeth Bennet visits before arriving at Mr. Darcy’s home Pemberley; and that fiction came full circle as Chatsworth stood in as fictional Pemberley itself in the 2005 movie adaptation of the novel starring Keira Knightley. Another Knightley film, The Duchess, was filmed at Chatsworth, as were scenes of The Crown. 


LYME PARK


Lyme Park has the largest house in Cheshire, and it’s the only property on this list that is not still used as a family home. It was handed over to Britain’s National Trust, which preserves its history, architecture, and park lands for the public to appreciate and enjoy.

From the 1300's until after the Second World War, the estate was owned by the Leghs of Lyme, with the house dating back to the late 1600’s, and including both Palladian and Baroque styles. The lavish house interiors reflect its Regency-era rejuvenation. 

In addition to the mansion, Lyme Park is famous for its tree-lined avenues, formal gardens and park with an immense herd of red deer dating back to the 14th century. The views are tremendous, and include a building called ‘The Cage’ on a nearby hilltop that was originally a hunting lodge and later became a park-keeper’s cottage and prisoner lockup. 

Fans of British period dramas will also recognize the reflecting lake as the setting of the famous scene where Mr. Darcy met Miss Bennet in the BBC production of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. 

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Images Courtesy Visit Britain.

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These 3 Latin American Cities Turn 500 This Year
In 14 hundred and 92, Columbus sailed the ocean blue (as the rhyme we learned in school goes), and unwittingly unleashed a tsunami of Europeans heading west to explore the Americas.

That was half a millennium ago, and now, some of the earliest European settlements in the Caribbean and Latin America are marking 500 years of European settlement.


In the years since the 500th anniversary of Columbus' first sailing, the world has gained greater awareness. This new round of anniversaries do more to acknowledge that European settlement and exploitation of the Americas left a negative legacy even as it established some beautiful colonial architecture, districts, culture and history that make these citiies such irresistible travel destinations today.


As a result, many cities reaching a 500-year milestone this year are marking the anniversary in ways like cultural festivals and historical exhibits and commemorations that acknowledge the good and the bad of history. Or make investments that leave a tangible legacy like infrastructure and civic improvements that benefit all the residents of these remarkable cities: 

Panama City, Panama


Panama City calls itself the 'cradle of the New World'. Established in August 1519 by the Spanish conquistador Davila, it is the oldest European city on the Pacific coast of the Americas.

 
Panama City became the launching pad for Spanish expeditions to the Inca Empire in South America, as well as a key landmark in trade routes. Most of the gold and silver plundered from the Americas transited through the town on its way to Europe.



Today, Panama City is the very modern capital city of Panama. It's also where you'll find the Pacific entrance/ exit of the Panama Canal, the nearly 50-mile long waterway that now connects the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. Miraflores Visitor Centre allows travelers by land to learn about and watch ships pass through this engineering wonder of the world.


Panama's history is still there to see.  The original city – known as Panama la Vieja (Old Panama) – was attacked, looted, and burned by the British in the 17th century. You can still visit those ruins, only 5 miles from where the city was rebuilt, which is now called the 'Old Quarter' (Casco Viejo) of Panama City. 


Surrounded by a modern skyline of high-rises, Casco, as the Old Quarter is called (pictured, top), features architecture from the city's Spanish colonial times, to French and island buildings that date to the late 19th and early 20th century during the building of the Canal. Locals mingle with international visitors in the charming, walkable district, known for restaurants, cafes, clubs, boutiques, galleries, museums, street art and local color.  

Don't miss the chance to try Ceviche from the local seafood market at the terminus of the fantastic pedestrian beltway Cinta Costera.
 

Havana, Cuba


Spanish conquistadors struggled to establish a number of settlements on the island in the years leading up to 1519. The site of what's now Havana (originally San Cristobal de La Habana) won out with the bay that became the city's natural harbor. It was the third – and final – capital of the island. Believe it or not, the city was founded in November 1519 under a ceiba tree that's still growing. You'll find it near the El Templete church on Plaza de Armas.


Havana's modern history has been as tumultuous as its early years. With US government restrictions on its citizens to travel to the island off again and on again, it's not easy (but not impossible) for Americans to experience Havana in its 500th year.    


Canadians, Europeans and citizens of other countries can still easily travel to Havana, where reportedly thousands of renovations and civic improvements are underway to mark the city's 500th anniversary.


 
Classic Havana is still there, though, where you can walk the ocean boardwalk – now with some new architecture replacing some rundown buildings- enjoy the historic downtown, with its plazas, hidden street scenes, the stunning Kempinski hotel (the only luxury hotel) with the best view of the city from its rooftop bar with an authentic mojito or daiquiri in hand, re-live the city made famous by Hemingway, Castro and Guevera, and of course, test your memory of classic American car models in all their pastel glory.

 

Veracruz, Mexico


Veracruz is one of Mexico's oldest and largest ports. The legendary Cortes himself, sailing the Gulf of Mexico, landed here in the spring of 1519 to found the first Spanish city on the Mexican mainland.


The port played a vital role in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, as well as colonial immigration and trade. Vast quantities of silver, natural (and rare) red dye, chocolate, vanilla, chili and also African slaves transited through Veracruz. 



Today, Veracruz isn't the beach destination other coastal Mexican cities may be. But it's a lower key destination for visitors interested in exploring nearby ruins, and in the city, taking trolleys through the historic center of Veracruz, absorbing the atmosphere of the vibrant main square, exploring the colonial fortress and museum on an island overlooking the harbor, and indulging in Veracruz's signature cuisine, including its most famous dish, tamales: corn dough enclosing a savory filling, wrapped in banana leaves, steamed and served with piquant sauces.


2019 may be the 500th anniversaries of these 3 unique Latin American cities, but they're memorable anytime you visit.

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This Italian Wine Region is Now a UNESCO Site
Pop the cork on the bubbles! If you're a fan of sparkling wine, you are likely already familiar – and in love with – Italy's signature rival to French champagne.

Finally, Italian prosecco is getting some recognition - you might agree it's long overdue. After a 10-year wait, Italy's Prosecco hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene have been designated the country's 55th UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It's a recognition and commitment to preserve the unique 'Cultural Landscape' of the area near Venice that produces one of the world's favorite wines. 

 
Italy's prosecco hills are the 10th wine region in the world to achieve UNESCO designation. They join Alto Douro, Portugal; Tokaj, Hungary; Pico Island, Portugal; Lavaux, Switzerland; Langhe Roero and Monferrato, Italy; Champagne, France; Burgundy, France; Saint-Emilion, France; and Wachau, Austria.

The UNESCO designation of the prosecco hills – as in the case of other wine regions – celebrates the heritage of generations of individual winegrowers who recognized the precious gifts of the terroir and toiled to establish the vines and a community based on a valued wine. And of course, the incredible beauty of the region of vineyards.

In the case of the prosecco wine hills, the beauty is unique. The area of area of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene is characterized by steep hills, which you do associate with other wine regions and which contribute to the particular and complex flavors in the region's sparkling wine.

But here, the challenges of cultivating the terrain was overcome in the 17th century by the creation terraced small plots of vines that resemble a patchwork or checkerboard pattern, surrounded by local forests and farmland, dotted with small iconically-Italian villages.

Traditionally, winegrowers in the prosecco wine hills also trained their vines in a distinctive, rhomboid grid pattern. Called the 'bellussera' technique, it provided prosecco grapes with exposure to the sun and protection from diseases, and also added to the one-of-a-kind aesthetic and appeal of the landscape.

You rarely find – admittedly expensive, expert labor-intensive - 'bellussera' trained vines these days. But it's hoped that the UNESCO designation, as well as a trend in viniculture as well as other heritage food production to recover traditional techniques, will inspire a return to prosecco's 'roots'.  


It also codifies a commitment to sustainability for the region – both in its cultivation and production of these highest quality designated prosecco wines – and also in welcoming visitors to discover the riches of the area.

The prosecco hills, that stretch 30 km (nearly 20 miles) through this picturesque part of northeastern Italy, have been cultivating wines for hundreds of years.

Their new UNESCO designation confirms their value to the sum of human and natural heritage, and also why you should add a journey to northeastern Italy to your travel or wine travel bucket list to taste this delightful sparkling wine at the source and savor the landscapes and culture that nurture them.

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Everyone experiences travel differently, and this may be most true of historic sites. Standing on the spot where history was made is a profound experience that transcends any amount of studying, reading, watching documentaries or films. When you are actually there, the sights, sounds, perspective and your historic imagination all combine for a more meaningful understanding of moments that changed our world.

The Juno Beach Centre provides visitors today with the opportunity to visualize first-hand the WW2 DDay Landings in June, 1944, from a Canadian point of view. No matter what you thought you knew or understood coming to the Juno Beach Centre, its interactive displays, stories, interpretive tours of the restored bunkers and beaches themselves speak to each visitor differently.

It's a pilgrimage all Canadians should undertake.

BestTrip asked staff and visitors which aspect of visiting the Juno Beach Centre impacts them the most. You'll have your own favorite experience after you visit Juno Beach, too.

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It was a week at the end of May 1969 that became an iconic, unforgettable moment of 60's counter-culture and protests against the Vietnam War.
 
2019 marks the anniversary of the legendary time when music uber-star and peace activist John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono booked themselves into Montreal's Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel, and held their 'Bed-in for Peace'. 

The event resonated around the world, drawing global media who broadcast images of the couple in their pajamas in bed and their messages of peace. While in bed, they composed and recorded the anthem 'Give Peace a Chance' that resonates even today. It was Lennon's first solo single and marked the beginning of the end of the Beatles as well as marking the history of the peace movement. Music history and activist history made on the grand stage of a bed in a suite in the hotel.

The suite in the hotel has been a beacon, drawing pilgrims and fans to take photos in front of the room's door. And now, as part of a $100 million-plus renovation of Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, the four rooms Lennon originally booked have been joined together in a single suite, renamed in honor of the couple and designed with all the comforts of a modern luxury hotel, but also in homage to the 60's era, the Bed-in for Peace, and the urgent, memorable song 'Give Peace a Chance' with interactive, multi-media immersions that bring to life the media frenzy and impact of this once-in-a-generation event.

The John Lennon and Yoko Ono suite at Montreal's Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth is not normally open to the public, but BestTrip got access to experience the suite today, re-live that week in 1969 and its message of 'Peace and Love', and share it with you.
 

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It may not be the most joyful travel experience you have in Northern France, but for families of veterans, and any grateful citizen, a visit to the World War 2 Landing Beaches in Normandy creates a lifetime of memories.
BestTrip.TV journeyed to the shores on a stormy English Channel to remember the brave souls from the UK, the US, and Canada who stormed those beaches in a last-ditch effort to free Europe and end the war. Along the Normandy coast, remnants of battlefield sites, moving war monuments and memorials and Canada's Juno Beach Centre are essential visits for families of veterans and soldiers who gave their lives, students and history buffs and anyone who understands the importance of keeping humankind's tragic lessons alive.
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Veterans, their families, anyone interested in history, or the sacrifices of ordinary young men on an extraordinary moment for the world, all Canadians as well as citizens of all the nations who fought or were affected by these momentous times... all should make a pilgrimage to the Juno Beach Centre and the other DDay sites along the Normandy coast.
Many things have changed since that fateful day. Here's what you can expect on a visit to the Juno Beach Centre today.

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You may never have heard of the small Bavarian village of Oberammergau. But every year ending in 0: 2010, 2020, 2030 and so on... Oberammergau becomes synonymous with the Passion Play – the biblical story of Easter – it performs nearly daily for months from Spring to Fall. 

For those with a Christian faith tradition, attending a play that's been performed for hundreds of years in celebration of the most significant Biblical story is a once – maybe twice? – in a lifetime opportunity.

But it's not just Christians who are drawn to Oberammergau. The rarity of the play, its cultural and historic traditions in this little pocket of southern Germany, make it a bucket list, must-see spectacle of community that is updated every cycle to speak to changing times and theatrical styles.  

There are many ways to reach Oberammergau in 2020 or even 2030. Land tour operators have worked a day or two in Oberammergau into tours of Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and also included Oberammergau into faith-based tours of Europe. Oberammergau is even included as a shore excursion from Danube and Rhine river cruises.

It's an experience that groups of friends, extended families and singletons on a mission not to miss this extraordinary event cruise, coach, drive, and fly to experience.

Ask your travel advisor the best way to travel to and enjoy this incredible play - and learn more about the story of the play - in this village nestled at the base of a dramatic mountain landscape that falls off the world's travel consciousness for years – until another Passion Play year is on the horizon.
 
 

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Grain Silo Transformed into Breathtaking Museum and Hotel
Within a year of its breathtaking reincarnation, Cape Town's historic Grain Silo has already been named one of the world's top 100 places. 

When it was originally constructed in the 1920's, the Grain Silo on the city's waterfront was the tallest building in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a symbol of connection to the rest of the world.

A century later, after the Grain Silo was decommissioned, rejuvenation efforts could easily have seen it imploded to make way for bland new builds. Instead, the visionary conversion of the Grain Silo into a breathtaking museum, with a locally-owned and operated luxury hotel above, has resulted in a win for the waterfront district, for African culture, for the local history and people, and for travelers to South Africa. 

Zeitz MOCAA


The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art is the largest in the world. Architects magically transformed the Grain Silo's 42, densely-aligned concrete silo cylinders by carving the concrete inside to create the BMW atrium (photos by museum sponsor BMW) and multiple galleries.


The carved cylinders lend their form to the museum's spectacular design. In places, cylinder tops were capped with pillowed glass windows, each with 56 panels of glass, allowing natural light to filter in.

The result is a complex of over a hundred thousand square feet with nine floors of exhibit space, education areas, a sculpture garden on part of the roof, as well as a restaurant and shop.


It's an architectural and design masterpiece – even before you consider the art. 

German businessman and former Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz, considered one of the world's leading collectors of contemporary art from Africa and African artists abroad, loaned his extraordinary collection to the museum. 

It provides the founding collection of art from eminent African artists as the museum continues to grow and actively collect and share to locals and visitors art from the vast range of African artists near and far, provide many levels of art education, give back to Africa, and become a leading voice for Africa in the international art world.
 

The Silo Hotel


Above the museum, the former Grain Silo rises to new heights with a six-floor addition housing the extraordinary, 5-star Silo Hotel.
 
Like the museum below, the hotel retains and reflects ties to the local community; the Silo Hotel is the 5th property of the local Biden family hospitality company The Royal Portfolio, with a selection of exclusive boutique hotels in southern Africa.  


And like other hotels in the Royal Portfolio, the Silo Hotel has quickly become a beacon for luxury hospitality in Cape Town.

Multi-paned spectacular pillowed windows overlook the best scenery in Cape Town in every direction, including Table Mountain and the harbor into the Atlantic Ocean. The hotel celebrates its unique architecture with the Royal Portfolio's signature approach to art, style and design. 


Co-founder and family matriarch Liz Biden designed the hotel's public spaces and 28 one-of-a-kind rooms with hand-selected art acquired throughout her travels, a combination of modern and colorfully re-upholstered antique furniture, and unique pieces that make each guest feel at home in this deluxe atmosphere.


The catch-your-breath, stylish bar on the 6th floor provides bubbles, fine international wines and bespoke cocktails along with awe-inspiring views through the pillowed glass windows, and the Granary Café maintains elegant traditions like Royal Tea and Sunday Roast.


Perched at the top of the tallest building on the waterfront, the Silo Rooftop pool, dining, and lounging are the premiere al fresco experience in Cape Town.

 
The visionary transformation of Cape Town's Grain Silo offers a master class for any global city's transition of its waterfront from industrial to cultural and public. The Zeitz MOCAA and Silo Hotel are magnets for international visitors and still retain and reflect deeply local heritage and values, and make a lengthy stay in Cape Town essential before or after your cruise, wine tour or safari.


Start your Trip!


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It's a global buzzword and cultural phenomenon. When the cold and darkness of winter close in, more and more of us go in search of Denmark's signature recipe for happiness: 'hygge'.


Danish 'hygge' (pronounced 'HOOG-uh') is sweeping the world – everyone wants in on Denmark's famously convivial way of life. The Danish are the happiest people on the planet – even during the long, dark days of winter - and it's all about hygge.

So much so, hygge has actually been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. It might be the world's first UNESCO World Heritage… feeling.

But translating hygge – and living it - aren't so simple. A hug? Mindfulness? Cozy?

Hygge is often referred to in design, with tips for creating rooms with 'hygge'. It's been said the Danish buy more candles per capita than anyone else on the planet. Add snuggly wool throws. Nature-inspired materials. A crackling fire. Comfort foods. And the simple pleasures of good company and togetherness.

BestTrip was in Copenhagen at the height of a hot summer on a pre-cruise weekend before boarding our Seabourn cruise… and with Copenhagen Urban Adventures, we discovered 'hygge' isn't just something you find indoors in winter. It happens year round, indoors and outdoors, with people, spaces and activities you love.


Hygge has caught on as a catchphrase with its appeal as an antidote to the ails of the modern world. Travel to Denmark, and you'll discover not only the scenics that stand out in Scandinavian style. Danish food and drink, obsession with cycling and life balance… a concept that's been around for a couple of hundred years has new and more powerful relevance in a busy, connected-yet-impersonal, disengaged and over-programmed world.

Hygge might be the very best souvenir from Denmark of all: once you learn how to capture hygge like we did from Mie at Copenhagen Urban Adventures, you'll be able to take that feeling home with you and implement its practice into your and your family's life.

Start your Trip!


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5 Fun Facts Plus 1 Travel-Inspired Tequila Recipe
Tequila has grown up. No longer a frat house or a blurry vacation cliché, Mexico's national spirit has returned in recent years to its roots, with new premium brands sprouting up that are perfect for sipping and stylish cocktails at home or on holiday.
 
Here are 5 things you might not have known about Tequila – and a great recipe from our friends at Altos Tequila to get you in the 'spirit' for your next trip to Mexico.

Mezcal or Tequila?

It all starts with the agave plant. Contrary to myth, agave is not a cactus! It's a desert succulent actually more closely related to lilies. The core is cooked, and the juice distilled into mezcal.

Tequila is a specific type of mezcal, with two distinctions: it must be made from the blue agave plant, and in a designated area around the city of Tequila northwest of Guadalajara, and in the highlands (Los Altos) of central Mexico. Tequila is sold around the world as a designation of origin product. Like true 'champagne' is only from Champagne, genuine Tequila must come from its namesake region too.

Recognized by UNESCO

The region responsible for producing the world's Tequila is also one of Mexico's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila site is vast – close to 100,000 acres. The area was home nearly 2000 years ago to the Teuchitlan civilization famous for its ball courts, as well as agriculture that led to the cultivation of agave for cloth and the early fermented spirit pulque that set the stage for the distillation of tequila beginning in the 1500's.

It's worth a trip to Mexico's highlands and agave farming areas – before or after your beach vacation, or even as a dedicated journey of its own. The village of Tequila was founded in 1530 and has been designated a 'Pueblo Magico' by the Mexican government. Stroll through the village square, and pay a visit to Tequila's 18th century church between distillery tours and tastings.

Tequila By the Numbers

  • 6-12 years: the time it takes blue agave plants to mature to harvest.
  • 1 life: Agave plants are cut down to harvest the core, so must be replanted for future harvests.
  • 1 Agave core (pina) can weigh a hundred – even hundreds! of pounds when it's harvested. 
  • More than 100 distilleries produce more than 600 brands of Tequila, totaling around 60 million gallons (250 million L) every year.
  • 0 worms. The worm-in-the-tequila-bottle myth may have come from a larva that dines on agave plants and ended up in bottles of mescal – but should never be in distilled Tequila. 

Tequila Variations

We said Tequila could only be made with blue agave, right? That's true, but it only has to be 51% of a bottle of Tequila. If Tequila is labeled 'Mixtos', it may be up to 49% other types of sugars than blue agave. Tequila purists say only 100% blue agave will do; you be the judge.

Once Tequila is distilled, it becomes one of these 4 variations:
  • Blanco (white) or Plata (silver) Tequila is clear and un-aged.
  • Reposado Tequila is aged a minimum of 2 months in oak barrels. Reposado means 'rested', and this process mellows and smooths the Tequila.
  • Añejo (aged) Tequila is yet more refined, spending 1-3 years in small oak barrels.
  • Extra Añejo Tequila is a premium spirit that has aged over three years, with corresponding increases in price. 

Sipping and Celebrating

If you actually need an excuse to celebrate Mexico's national spirit, put these two dates on your calendar. July 24th is National Tequila Day, and February 22nd is National Margarita Day. Would you have guessed the margarita is the world's most famous cocktail? An unbelievable 25% of cocktails sold around the world are margaritas, and Americans are said to drink 4.5 million margaritas every day! 

But in Mexico itself, 40% of tequila is mixed into Palomas. Mexico's most popular tequila cocktail has two versions, and our friends at Altos Tequila have shared their recipes for the Paloma and the Sparkling Paloma.

Altos Sparkling Paloma (pictured above)
  • 2 oz Altos Plata Tequila
  • ½ oz Agave syrup or honey
  • ½ oz Lemon or lime juice
  • Pink Grapefruit Soda
  • A pinch of salt
Pour tequila, syrup and lemon juice in a highball glass. Mix to dissolve the agave syrup. Add ice, top with soda. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Altos Paloma (pictured above)
  • 2 oz Altos Plata
  • 2 oz fresh pink grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • ½ oz part agave syrup
  • A pinch of salt
Pour all the ingredients, except the juice, into a glass. Mix to dissolve the agave syrup. Fill the glass with ice and finish with the pink grapefruit juice. Garnish with a half slice of pink grapefruit, and rim glass with salt and smashed pink peppercorns for those without nut allergies.

So if you want to drink Tequila like the locals do, mix up one of these cocktails or order one on your next trip to Mexico.
 

Start your Trip!

 
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3 Places in the World Art Basel Puts the 'Art' in 'Party'

Mid-June's Art Basel is the highest profile international art fair that draws not just art lovers, but a constellation of stars of the entertainment and global social scene. 

Institutions and private buyers lay down huge sums for upcoming or well-known artistic works (would you like to buy a Warhol?), ordinary art aficionados can invest in new artists they love, and dozens of gallery open-houses, indoor and outdoor multi-media installations, experimental and interactive public art, VIP events, and special-invitation parties hosted by international lifestyle brands put Art Basel on the global social calendar for the rich and connected as well as people who love the arts and a buzzy scene.

From its beginnings in the early 70's as one of the world's first, Art Basel has grown to become the biggest contemporary art fair in the world with its original location, plus two satellite editions, that together draw hundreds of thousands of art fans and make it a truly global happening.

(Photo Credit)

It's not just some of the best celebration of contemporary art in all its forms and all its new rising stars, Art Basel transforms its host city into one of the hottest places on the map.

Here's where and when you can be part of the world's biggest contemporary art experience:

Basel, Switzerland: Mid-June

The mother ship. 100,000 visitors fill this Swiss town for a week of original Art Basel. The main event is held in home-town 'star-chitects' Herzog & de Meuron's Messe Basel building which is itself a masterpiece of contemporary design. (Pictured, top. Photo credit.)

But other local cultural institutions and galleries amplify the experience so art spreads from Basel throughout the region for the week. These days, nearly 300 galleries, from dozens of countries, exhibit the works of over 4000 artists to art lovers, collectors and museum representatives from around the world.

Don't Miss: 'Parcours', a series of site-specific works, installations and performances in Basel's neighborhoods to allow visitors to interact with the city as well as art. Groups and school groups can get guided day or night tours.

Miami Beach, Florida: Early December

If you don't make it to Europe, put Miami on your calendar for a long weekend of art in the first week of December. You're sure to spot some of your favorite celebrities who come to buy art, support artists, and hit the party circuit. 

(Photo: BestTrip.TV)

Art Basel's Miami edition launched in 2002 and has quickly made the city one of the hottest destinations in the world in December. Miami is the hub of the Americas and the gateway to Latin America, so it's no surprise that leading galleries from Latin America lend a distinct Miami vibe to Art Basel in South Florida. But African art also has a strong place of pride, and gives Miami's Art Basel a flavor all its own and distinct from its European counterpart.

Don't Miss: 'Public', in Collins Park, a curated exhibit of out-sized sculptures and installations, video and live performance pieces by established and emerging artists.   

Hong Kong: Late March

The Asia edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong is the newest on the scene, since 2013. And it's quickly making up for lost time, drawing crowds similar to Art Basel and Miami Art Basel in only 3 days of exhibitions and events that keep growing in scale. 

(Photo Credit)

It's not just another venue for Asian buyers to connect with Western art. Half of its exhibiting galleries feature Asian and Asia-Pacific art and artists to round out a global Art Basel experience. 

Don't Miss: 'Magazines', a program to feature art publications from around the world, displayed in single-magazine stands or together in a collective booth. Many editors and publishers are on scene to contribute to lectures and discussions, showing the close relationship that still exists between print media and the art world.

Art Basel has paved the way for a busy annual calendar of vibrant contemporary art fairs around the world – and any Art Basel edition should be at the top of an art lovers' travel bucket list.


Start your Trip!


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Why Is It Called Easter Island?

That's actually a trick question. This tiny dot in the eastern South Pacific ocean, but technically territory of Chile, is actually Rapa Nui.The world over, Easter Island is synonymous with exotic mysteries of an impossibly distant, long-lost civilization and mind-boggling human endeavor.

It may be the most remote inhabited island on the planet. Only a few thousand people live on this remnant of oceanic volcanoes sticking out of the sea, and that's the first miracle itself. The closest inhabited island is 1300 miles away (Pitcairn Island with only 50 people) and the nearest continental point is Chile – over 2000 miles away. Local tales say a 2-canoe Polynesian expedition around AD 700 was the start of Rapa Nui's extraordinary story. 

Today, Easter Island is on the map of global travelers who want to come face to face with the island's nearly 1000 moai at its UNESCO World Heritage Site.

These stately, solemn statues were carved during a 500-year period in the island's history, beginning a thousand years ago. The moai share artistic characteristics with Polynesian carvings, confirming the origin tale of the Rapa Nui people. Chiseled with only stone tools out of volcanic rock in the 'quarry' of an extinct volcano, each statue took a team of half a dozen artisans about a year to complete. The largest is over 30 feet long and weighs 90 tons. They were an incredible feat of creativity and production and organized society.

You probably think of them as 'Easter Island heads'. But the moai actually have torsos and some even have complete lower bodies; just buried up to their necks over the centuries by shifting sands.

These monumental statues represented deceased ancestry. And only about a quarter were originally installed, others left in the quarry or rest en route to their intended locations. All but 7 faced inland, the spirits of the deceased 'watching over' the living and their lands. The 7 facing the sea were stood as wayfinders for travelers.  

Many moai toppled after the mysterious collapse of the Rapa Nui society in the 19th century. In recent decades, local and international efforts have restored and re-mounted a number of moai. This dot on a map in Chilean Polynesia still seems as awe-inspiring with hidden secrets as when explorers first arrived.

Which brings us to: Why is it called Easter Island? The Dutch explorer who was the island's first-recorded European visitor arrived on Easter Sunday in 1722 – he came upon it while searching for another island. (He must have been pretty lost!) So 'Easter Island' it was dubbed and its current official Spanish name in Chile is still Isla de Pascua, while its Polynesian name is Rapa Nui, in local language: the 'naval of the world'.

There's more to Rapa Nui than the silent witness of the moai to the island's past. Visitors experience the local version of Polynesian culture, explore pink-sand beaches, caverns, and dive sites, cycle, hike or ride horses across prairies and volcanic hillsides, and even surf on those waves so distant from other shores.

How to get there? You can fly from both Chile and Tahiti, participate in tour packages offered by expedition and exotic travel experts, arrive by small or expedition cruise ship, or by private yacht. 

There may be no where else in the world where a traveler can feel the greatness of human achievement and small in the face of a culture so far across the waves. 

Start your Trip! 

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Now There's Another Louvre Museum

It's the best-known and most-visited museum in the world (and if you've ever spent valuable hours of your trip to Paris waiting to get in, you know just how popular it is).  But now, there's another Louvre.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened at the end of 2017 as an outpost of the fabled French museum. It's part of a multi-billion dollar, 30-year cultural agreement between the Emirate and France that includes Louvre art loans, special exhibitions and collaboration on museum management.

Art + Architecture

It's not just an adventure in art. The Louvre Abu Dhabi has a breathtaking home. Its web-patterned dome seems to float over tidal pools within galleries at the edge of the sea.  

(Louvre Abu Dhabi - Photography Roland Halbe)

A layered, engineered aluminum web allows sunlight to filter in a 'rain' of abstract shapes of light onto the plaza below.  The effect is a high-tech, artistic motif of a natural scene in the United Arab Emirates: 'rays of sunlight passing through palms in an oasis'.

Inside, not a duplication of the European landmark museum. Instead, Abu Dhabi's visionaries are dedicated to bringing together the artistic excellence of the West as well as Arabic and global creators.

(Louvre Abu Dhabi - Photography Marc Domage)

Loans:

The museum showcases works on loan from the original Louvre as well as a dozen other French musuems including the Musee d'Orsay.  They include artists like Matisse, Van Gogh, Monet and other art world heavy weights. (Not the Louvre's centerpiece the Mona Lisa.  She stays in Paris.)

Acquisitions:

Since the Louvre Abu Dhabi was announced a decade ago, it's been on an artistic shopping spree stocking up. 

That meant the museum launched with a world-class permanent collection. It includes a sculpture of a Bactrian princess from Central Asia, a 9th century Quran, a 'Madonnna and Child' by Bellini, an Ottoman pavement, a 1922 Mondrian, a work by Paul Gauguin, a never-been-displayed work by Picasso, and Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci.  With the staggering price tag of $450 million, it was the most expensive painting ever sold at the time the museum acquired it in 2017. 

(Photo Credit)

New Commissions

Although the Louvre Abu Dhabi focuses on historic art and objets, it has also commissioned works from living artists, including Italian sculptor Giuseppe Penone's "Leaves of Light".  The evocative bronze cast of a wild cherry tree interacts with the museum's canopy and is fitted with mirrors in its entwining branches to capture and reflect the light filtering through.

(Photo:  Louvre Abu Dhabi - Photography Roland Halbe)

And A Dedicated Children's Museum

Even a museum with a pedigree like the Louvre Abu Dhabi can be fun for kids.  Exhibits specifically aimed at young visitors aged 6 and older explore shapes and colors through fifteen hundred year old Turkish ceramics, 18th century French vases, and more modern works by the Swiss artist Klee. Plus interactive displays kids can actually touch!

(Photo Above and Top: © Louvre Abu Dhabi, Photography: Mohamed Somji) 

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the largest art museum in the Arabian peninsula. But soon it will have company. It's part of a bigger plan to develop the world's largest single cluster of world-class cultural institutions in a new neighborhood of reclaimed land in the sea.  Coming soon next door: the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, a performing arts center by 'star'chitect Zaha Hadid, a maritime museum, and other arts pavilions.

 

Start your Trip!

 

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Film Set Fantasy: Go On Location in Ireland

The Emerald Isle is Hollywood gold! Lovers of green beer and big parties may dream of visiting Ireland for St. Patrick's Day festivities. But if cinematic drama is more your style, Ireland is where your fantasy of standing in the spectacular natural setting of some your favorite movies can come true.

Ireland's dramatic scenery has been the backdrop of some of the world's biggest film and video sensations. (All images courtesy Ireland.com). It’s where Game of Thrones, Harry Potter and Star Wars fantastical settings were brought to film life, where Braveheart and the Vikings battled for glory in places that appear to have changed little from the ancient times they depict, and where many other iconic movies and TV series played out in the perfect backdrop.

It's amazingly easy to get behind the scenes at Ireland’s top film locations. You can take guided tours or travel on your own to places you'll experience some movie déjà vu.

Ireland's island of Skellig Michael off the coast of County Kerry is much closer than a galaxy far, far away. Its ancient monastery, as well as and Malin Head in the rugged north-west, are locations where Star Wars fans can feel the Force.

Film locations are just one reason to visit the spectacular Wild Atlantic Way. Harry Potter’s horcrux cave is at the foot of the famous Cliffs of Moher. Or remember The Quiet Man? See his home the pretty village of Cong.

In Ireland’s Ancient East, set-jetters can stroll along the golden expanse of Curracloe Beach in County Wexford, which featured in both Brooklyn and Saving Private Ryan. Plus more scenery for Vikings fans, who can follow in their heroes' footsteps through the beautiful Wicklow Mountains.


Wicklow is also home to the magnificent Powerscourt Estate. It was the elegant setting for Ella Enchanted and The Tudors.

And fans of epic Braveheart will recognize Trim Castle in County Meath, which looks much more peaceful when you visit than it did in the movie.

In Dublin, bustling Grafton St provided the urban setting for Once and historic Kilmainham Gaol put stars behind bars in Michael Collins and The Italian Job.

To see the location for Educating Rita, movie buffs can visit Trinity College, famous for the Book of Kells. Are you a Bollywood buff? It's also the location of the Indian blockbuster, Ek The Tiger.

Northern Ireland stars brightly on screen too. TV shows like The Fall and Line of Duty and big-screen blockbusters like Dracula Untold were shot there.

But these days, it's most known worldwide as the ‘Home of Thrones’.

A number of tours visit beautiful Game of Thrones shoot locations, including Castle Ward (Winterfell) in County Down, the Dark Hedges (Kingsroad) and Ballintoy (Pyke Harbour) in County Antrim, and Downhill Strand (Dragonstone) in County Londonderry.

There's more to do than take a selfie (no judgment if you pack a costume to get into the moment). Fans can enjoy a taste of Westeros at a medieval banquet, meet the direwolves, and shoot arrows on the set where Robb Stark taught Bran archery.

Ireland's dramatic scenery isn't the only way to immerse yourself in the island's movie magic. Time your location tour to coincide with one of Ireland's film festivals. Among the choices are the six-day Galway Film Fleadh (July) and the Oscar-affiliated Foyle Film Festival (November) in Derry~Londonderry.

If you're a 'die hard' fan of film, making Ireland your go-to movie location destination puts you in good company with many of the world's most famous movie-makers.

Start your Trip!

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Seoul'd: There's More to Korea than the Winter Olympics

The 2018 Winter Olympics remind us how exciting a travel destination Korea is.South Korea has an enviable range of high octane urban, spectacular mountain, beach and countryside destinations, a rich history, culture and cuisine as well as a world-renowned pop culture that rank South Korea among the most unique places in Asia. Visit by land or by cruise ship; the Korean peninsula has several major ports and a long-established maritime lifestyle.

Here's a list of places you'll want to include on a trip to South Korea.

PyeongchangYou may never have heard of Pyeongchang until it was designated host of the 2018 Winter games, but this winter resort area is a natural Winter Olympic host. Its catchy slogan is 'Happy 700 Pyeongchang', referring to the city's 700 meter (2300 foot) elevation in the Taeback mountain region east of the South Korean capital of Seoul.

Photo Credit

As you'd expect, Pyeongchang sees seasonal snow and low enough temperatures to sustain outdoor winter sports. Two resorts in the region attract skiers, boarders as well as off-season mountain hiking. They're the core of the winter games sites, which have also resulted in additional hotel and sports facilities.

Photo Credit

The Olympics brought other advances, too. A new high-speed (250 km/h or 155 mph) train now brings visitors from Seoul in less than an hour and a half. Don't spend all your time on the slopes in Pyeongchang. Take a break for your spiritual wellness at one of the area's notable and historic Buddhist temples.

SeoulSeoul is the 4th most economically powerful city in the world, the hub of its global technology, electronics, and auto industry wealth. Like other large, wealthy Asian cities with extraordinary modernism, high-tech, high-rise Seoul can feel surreal to visitors. The center of K-pop (Korean pop music), entertainment and media, this is a city that never sleeps. (Top Photo Credit)

Photo Credit

Seoul is land-locked and surrounded by mountains. The city was established on the Han river 2000 years ago, and has been Korea's capital for over six centuries. Korea's west-coast port of Incheon is right next door; if your Asia cruise has a call there, you'll be well-positioned to do some 'Seoul searching'.

Photo Credit

Seoul's neighborhoods are landmark destinations in a whirlwind city. Among the skyscrapers, neon, miles of packed arcades and landmark hotels, you'll be immersed in the lifestyle of one of the largest urban centers in the world, Korean style: chic drinks and dinners as well as upscale shopping for local and international brands.

But don't miss the historic and authentic side of Korea in Seoul. Artisan and local craft markets, the Joseon Dynasty palace complexes of traditional architecture, local festivals and religious ceremonies with celebrants in traditional dress are distinctly Korean experiences. The area is home to 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites as well its international design award-winning modern architecture.

Jeju IslandFormed by volcanic eruptions over 2 million years ago, Jeju island is the largest island off the Korean peninsula, 85 km (50 miles) south of the peninsula in the waters between Korea and Japan. Jeju's lava base limited early agriculture and resulted in a unique and pristine ecology that set Jeju apart from anywhere else on earth.

Photo Credit

It also created breathtaking lava formations including one of the biggest lava tubes in the world, nearly 9 km (over 5 miles) long and close to a hundred feet high and wide. Visitors are in awe of the full range of cave architecture like columns, benches, bridges and more. The 7.6 meter (25 foot) column of lava inside is the largest known in the world. The caves are home to exceptional wildlife, including a 30,000 strong colony of bats.

Photo Credit

Jeju is an increasingly popular resort island, with a sub-tropical, humid climate warmer than the rest of Korea and some stunning beaches. The island, historically isolated from the mainland, also has its own cultural, clothing, architectural and language traditions.

BusanSouth Korea’s second biggest city, on the south-east coast of the peninsula, is also the country's largest port. Many Asian cruises call at Busan. Like Seoul, it's a fascinating combination of history and tradition on the one hand, and eye-popping ultra-modern urban lifestyle on the other. Shop til you drop at the world's largest department store, and take a wellness break at one of the city's dozens of traditional spas using natural-sourced spring water.

Photo Credit

Compared to Seoul, Busan is blessed with a warmer climate, beaches, and a maritime lifestyle including a renowned fish market, and signature seafood cuisine. Surrounding mountains provide cool air and magnificent vistas over the sea. Many Korean temples are at the tops of mountain hikes, so don't miss one spectacular exception, the Haedong Yonggung Temple on Busan's coast overlooking the Sea of Japan.

Photo Credit

The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)The DMZ is a 4 km (2 ½ mile) wide no man's land between the two Koreas that spans the entire peninsula 250 km (150 miles) from sea to sea. The DMZ is a very real reminder of the conflict between the two Koreas that remains unresolved today.

Photo Credit

Don't let the name mislead you. It's called 'demilitarized', but Korea's DMZ is actually one of the most heavily armed, land-mined, barricaded and patrolled regions of the world. Tours into the DMZ bring the history of the Cold War conflict that split this country into high relief. It also soberly memorializes the lives lost and families separated as a result of the division of the country. Absent human activity in the area, several formerly endangered species have re-established footholds in the DMZ. So there's that small consolation. As an experience of military tourism and reminder of the repercussions of the Cold War that still exist today, Korea's DMZ is unlike anywhere else on the planet.

Photo Credit

The Olympic flame only burns in Korea during the games, but we hope the 2018 Winter Olympics shine a permanent spotlight on South Korea as one of Asia's most unique – and unmissable – travel destinations. Start your Trip! 

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France's largest port town, on the magical Mediterranean, has been transformed in recent years. 

You'll still find the charms of its Old Port, the oldest neighborhood in France, the maritime culture... but there's been a wave of revitalization and stunning builds that make this seaside city spectacular. 

On our latest visit, we fell in love with Marseille, and here are at least 3 reasons we think you'll love it too.

Start your Trip!

Juno Beach: The Ultimate Canadian Pilgrimage
The past and next few years mark a number of World War 1 and World War 2 anniversaries. Commemorations take place here at home, and we hope everyone takes a moment to pause and reflect or attend a memorial service. Our thoughts also turn to the lands fought for and freed by Canadians, and how families, school and other groups, and independent travelers can make trips to the actual sites where our ancestors fought so bravely.
Jenna Zuschlag Misener is a past Executive Director of the non-governmental, non-profit Juno Beach Centre Association in Normandy, France, the Canadian WW2 Landing Beach.  We invited her to share her thoughts about what she calls 'The Ultimate Canadian Pilgrimage'.In 2019, Canada commemorates the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Normandy Landings. As the number of living veterans diminishes, it is more and more important for travelers to take up pilgrimage trips to France to experience the Canadian sector firsthand, walk in the footsteps of history, and keep memories alive.
The Juno Beach Centre is Canada’s Second World War museum and cultural centre located in Normandy, France. Opened in 2003 by veterans and volunteers with a vision to create a permanent memorial to all Canadians who served during the Second World War, the Centre’s mandate is to preserve this legacy for future generations through education and remembrance. The Centre pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the War. 5,500 were killed during the Battle of Normandy and 359 on D-Day.
The Centre stands on the very beach of the Canadian landing, surrounded by abandoned wartime weapons and defenses, and for many visitors, a trip to the Juno Beach Centre brings home the reality of textbook tales of the war.
We hope Canadians will be inspired to include remembrance in their travels to France. Whether you have a week or just a day, there are many ways to explore the Canadian sector of Juno Beach, either on a self-guided tour or as a short trip from Paris, London, or beyond.
Planning your PilgrimageThe Centre is located in the coastal town of Courseulles-sur-Mer, a short drive from the city of Caen or Bayeux and just two hours by train from Paris.
There are a number of high-quality tour companies that also offer day trips to the Canadian sector, including stops at the Juno Beach Centre and other important sites around the region. Some companies offer tours from Paris, or they can pick you up once you have arrived in the region. In many cases, these tours can be customized based on your time frame and even your own family history.
You can also book an excursion from a Seine river cruise. More and more cruise companies stop in port cities like Cherbourg and Le Havre and offer excursions to the sector and the Juno Beach Centre for their Canadian passengers. No mention of the Canadian sector in your Landing Beach shore excursion itinerary? Ask your travel advisor and the cruise line in advance to make sure the Canadian landing beach is included in your journey.
Normandy is a very bicycle-friendly region. The Centre has published the 'Maple Leaf Route Cycling Tour' that allows you to follow in the footsteps of Canadians from Juno Beach all the way to the Canadian WW1 Memorial at Vimy Ridge.
We've also published a new brochure with information about visiting Juno Beach and the Canadian sector in 2017 if you are planning on traveling to France during the Centennial of Vimy Ridge.
(The Canadian WW1 Memorial at Vimy Ridge; Juno Beach Centre)
We hope this information is helpful to you! We're always thrilled to welcome Canadians to the Juno Beach Centre, and the Centre staff in Canada and France is pleased to help travelers make the most of their time in Normandy and take advantage of the historical and cultural richness offered in this region of France.
The Juno Beach Centre web site has helpful travel tips and contact information.
We look forward to hearing from anyone interested in the Juno Beach Centre, and to welcoming Canadians to the Centre in the near future. As we like to say, 'See you on the beach!'

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Remai Modern: A New Player on North America's Modern Art Scene

October 2017 saw the birth of a new destination for modern art lovers.  The nearly $100 million Remai Modern art museum at River Landing in Saskatoon is an ambitious project that puts this Saskatchewan city on the map for culture fans.

And maybe it's OK to be ambitious when your collection includes 8000 works of  'the art of our time', including the world's largest collection of Picasso linocuts, and 23 of that iconic and most recognizable modern artist's ceramic works.

Saskatoon entrepreneur and philanthropist Ellen Remai, for whom the museum is named, donated her collection of 400 Picasso linocuts – valued at $20 million – as well as $16 million towards construction. She was joined by another Saskatchewan-born philanthropist and collector Frederick Mulder, who donated the Picasso ceramics.  Most of the rest of the collection was entrusted to the new museum by the city's former Mendel Art Gallery.

Remai and the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation made additional donations, now totaling over a hundred million dollars, one of the largest donations to the arts in Canadian history.  The donations will ensure 30 years of funding for international exhibitions, plus a million dollars annually for a quarter of a century towards acquisitions, as well as dedicated funds to match other donations up to another million dollars annually.

(Photos by Adrien Williams)

There's no doubt the Remai Modern reshapes this Canadian Prairie city.  The striking building cantilevered at the river side likely gives you a sense of déjà vu.  That might be because it pays homage to the 20th century's most iconic modern North American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and his masterpiece Fallingwater.

Its 130,000 square feet on four levels is a treasure worthy of the art and the community, with a balcony overlooking the river, a show-stopping interior staircase, magnificent galleries, terraces and a seasonal roof top.  The space is designed for community and public events as much as to showcase the art inside.  The region's First Nations art is also home in the museum, which includes inscriptions in six indigenous and Metis languages.

Finding new ways to redefine how museums engage the community in the 21st century has also lead to ground-breaking programs at Remai Modern.

Intergenerational artmaking programs happen every Sunday; a Modern Art Caravan brings art supplies and the opportunity to create to community festivals and events; programs facilitate art in schools and life-long learning, creative communities in First Nations, support young and emerging artists, and ensure the museum's collections are accessible with admission-free days throughout the year.

The Remai Modern is a direction-setting art museum – for Saskatoon as a destination, for the arts community in North America, and all of us who should put the Remai Modern on our travel bucket lists.

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Discover Your Inner Highlander At These 3 Scottish Castles

A lot of people's favorite TV viewing these days involves tartans and time travel against a backdrop of essential Scottish scenery: misty lochs, craggy mountains, and castles that are among the most iconic and recognized in the world.

Fiction meets historic fact at Scotland's castles. An estimated 3000 castles were once part of the landscape of Scotland. That's nearly one castle every 100 square miles.

Many ancient castles still remain to remind us of Scotland's turbulent history of powerful men in kilts wielding broadswords, and women who were just as tough. You can tap into your own inner highlander at these must-see Scottish castles.

Edinburgh Castle

Imposing and massive, Edinburgh Castle looms from its perch on an outcropping of volcanic rock 260 feet (80 m) above the Scottish capital. Scotland's most urban castle dominates the city skyline spectacularly. As the Eiffel Tower is the symbol of Paris, Edinburgh Castle is the symbol of the Scottish capital. It's the most-visited attraction in Scotland.

(Photo credit)

Castle Rock, with such obvious defensive advantages of the sheer cliffs on three sides, has been occupied since the Iron Age. A royal castle has stood there since the 1100's. Edinburgh castle is magnificent, seeming to grow out of the volcanic rock. But it's no fairy tale. Researchers have identified 26 attacks on the fortress in its history, making it one of the most besieged places in the world.

(Photo Credit)

Edinburgh Castle retains its military and regal connections, housing the Scottish National War Memorial and National War Museum, as well as the Scottish regalia, known as the Honours of Scotland: royal crown, sword and scepter.

The only approach to Edinburgh Castle is from the sloping side. It's a scenic walk up the Royal Mile through Edinburgh's Old Town to the castle. Don't miss the daily (except Sunday) firing of the 'One O'Clock Gun'.

Three special times of the year to visit Edinburgh Castle include: The Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August, a spell-binding and evocative series of performances of fife and drum and Scottish regiments in traditional regalia; and the fireworks marking the end of the summer Edinburgh Festival as well as Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year.

Eilean Donan Castle

This is one of the most photographed and filmed castles in the world. (And one of the most popular backdrops to wedding photos in the U.K.)

Where Edinburgh Castle's defenses came from the cliffs surrounding it, Eilean Donan's protection was water. Eilean Donan means 'the island of Donnán'. (Top Photo Credit). It's a small tidal island at the point where three great sea lochs meet in the western Highlands of Scotland.

(Photo Credit)

And while romantic-looking now, there's evidence the island was fortified from the Iron Age. The current castle was restored from ruins in the early 1900's, when a footbridge connected the island to the mainland. Until then, it was only water accessible, and a clan stronghold that was repeatedly attacked.

(Photo Credit)

Don't miss among the rare artifacts on display a sword said to have been wielded at the fateful battle of Culloden.

A Gaelic inscription above the door reads: 'As long as there is a MacRae inside, there will never be a Fraser outside', referring to a bond of kinship between the two clans, similar to one which adorned the Fraser clan's Beaufort Castle. The MacRae clan are still Constables of Eilean Donan Castle today.

Eilean Donan Castle is even more spectacular in real life than in the many photos and films that feature it, where the magnificent Highland landscape almost dwarfs the castle. When you are there in person, it is much larger and imposing than it seems in pictures. Standing on the footbridge with winds from the lochs swirling around you, is the moment you'll say to yourself, 'I've arrived in the Highlands'.

Dunnottar Castle

Even more wild and dramatic is Dunnottar Castle on top of an immense rocky cliff over the north east coast of Scotland. The ruins of the castle are surrounded by steep cliffs that drop 160 feet (50m) into the North Sea below. Only a narrow strip of land with a steep path joins the headland to the mainland.

(Photo Credit)

Given the castle's strategic location and impregnable position, it's no wonder the site has been fortified for over 2000 years. 'Dun' is the word for 'fort' in the early Pict's language. This haunting location was the home of the Keiths and Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in Scotland. When Oliver Cromwell's army invaded Scotland in the 1600's, the Earl Marischal, as Marischal of Scotland, was responsible for the Honours of Scotland (the Crown Jewels), and had them hidden from Cromwell at Dunnottar Castle. (Brought there by a woman named Katherine Drummond hidden in bags of wool.)

Less than a century later, another Earl lost his titles participating in the Jacobite rebellion, and the castle declined until its restoration 300 years later.

Romantic, dramatic, and evocative, Scotland's castles aren't just instagrammers' dreams. A visit to a Scottish castle is your own version of time travel and a way to connect to the essence of this fabled culture.

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Is Oktoberfest in your future? In Munich or a festival closer to home, you won't be fully into the spirit of the annual harvest celebration of Gemutlichkeit (fellowship), beer, pretzels and Wurst unless you also deck yourself in traditional Bavarian costume.

The good news is: these days it's easy to rock a dirndl for women, or lederhosen for men... or nowadays, women too!

We get the goods on the traditional and the latest trends in bust-enhancing, leg-revealing wardrobes for everyone.

Watch this video to learn how to 'Get your Tracht on!' as they say, and celebrate Oktoberfest in style.

Prost!

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