Monthly Archives: October 2015

halloween night ideas

I love Halloween. I blame my mom for this obsession. Each year our house would get decked out in everything Halloween starting in September. I’d fall into bed with a skeleton lying next to me. Dressed-up potato heads lined our banisters. Old school horror movies would be playing on repeat on the TV in the basement. You name it, and we probably had it – even candles that melted blood.

That probably explains my intense fear of fire and walking alone in the dark. But I digress.

If you’re anything like me, and already have your costume picked out, then you’ll definitely be planning your Halloween night out now – or if you haven’t,  I’ve rounded up a few ideas to help you get started.

Village Halloween Parade

New York’s annual Village Halloween Parade is a street pageant presented in Greenwich Village. This mile long celebration draws over two million spectators and over 60,000 costumed participants. Originally started in 1974 by Ralph Lee, this spectacle of live bands, floats and musical acts has been around ever since. Make sure to look for the signature feature – giant rod puppets articulated by teams of puppeteers.

The London Dungeon

The London Dungeon is a walking spectacle of an amazing cast, hilarity and a little bit of spooks. The Dungeon is a 360 view of 1,000 years of history portrayed in a black comedy atmosphere. For 90 minutes viewers walk through London’s murky past, guided by professional actors. On Halloween, the Dungeon gets heated up a few notches by putting on a special play to really scare the pants of people. Tickets sell out fast, so make sure to grab a pair early!  

The Queen Mary Dark Harbor

Make sure your balance is on-board before boarding the Queen Mary on halloween. Docked off Long Beach, California, the Queen Mary is the place to be on Halloween. Visitors venture through six mazes populated by 200 monsters and ghosts. The festive experience runs through the month of October and includes food, beverages and frightening entertainment.

Terror Behind the Walls

Set in the old Eastern State Penitentiary, this Halloween attraction actually inhabits an authentic prison complex. Built in 1829, the ESP grew a reputation of being a pretty nightmarish place. The prison housed, and employed, some messed up individuals. Dogs, children, you name it – they were locked away there. Heavy amounts of paranormal activity have also been reported there, which is why, every Halloween, the long-closed ESP opens its doors for the public to enjoy. The Terror Behind the Walls is a “low gore” walk though that features gory historical facts, insane ghost stories and masked actors.

Hocus Pocus

Being scared is great right? Nightmares, spontaneous shivers and losing your voice for a few days are just a few of the things that make Halloween great. But, if you’re in the mood for something a little less, daring, then dress-up but stay in and grab a copy of the ever popular (and my favorite) classic: Hocus Pocus. You can also tune into ABC Family – I hear they run everyday from October 19 – 31.

What are some of your favorite spooks during Halloween?

Rocks are part of our everyday lives. They form the brick for buildings we work in, asphalt for roads we drive on, and are laying around in parks and nature everywhere. We often overlook them or tend to view them as dirty and dull. However, the Rock of Guatapé in Antioquia, Colombia is a rock not only worth noticing, but traveling to see.
The Rock of Guatapé is also known as “La Piedra” (rock in Spanish) or “El Peñón de Guatapé.” It is a huge 10 million-ton smooth rock that stands 200 meters tall, overlooking the countryside surrounding it. This giant rock was once worshipped by natives that inhabited the area called the Tahamies. It was a giant spiritual force in their region.
el Peñón de Guatapé
Flickr photo via Edgar Jiménez
The smooth 10-million-ton rock has one giant crack that runs from the bottom to the top of one side.  Even though The Rock of Guatapé was first scaled in 1954 by three brave men using only sticks Pedro Nel Ramírez, Ramón Díaz and Luis Villegas, there were eventually stairs built to help others reach the top. There are 649 steps built into the giant crack that runs up the rock for people to climb. From far away, the stairs look like stitches or some sort of mend to repair for the crack in the rock.
On the face that looks north, there are two large painted letters that look like a “G” and an “I”, which is just the first part of what was meant to be a “U.” The Rock of Guatapé was long fought over by the people of El Peñol and the people of Guatapé. Each region claimed ownership of the beautiful natural masterpiece. The residents of Guatapé attempted to claim ownership once and for all by scaling the rock and painting it with their town’s name. However, this was not a very stealth operation, and the people of El Peñol noticed and put a stop to the painting. Even still, the big white “G” and beginnings of a “U” exist on the rock today.
9526814685_9f33bca530_k
Flickr photo via Tim Regan
Unfortunately, because the rock is so majestic, it has become a popular tourist spot. It is also located only 2 hours from a popular destination town of Medellin, and therefor many tourists drive to the rock to climb it. At the top, there is a small fenced in space with places to look out and buy refreshments and souvenirs. The view is breathtaking (literally, after climbing so many stairs) with the site of gorgeous andes, Guatapé lake and a 360 panorama of Colombia that will make you never want to leave. The best time to climb the Rock of Guatapé is in the morning right after breakfast before others arrive. Even though it has become somewhat of an attraction, there is nothing in the world quite like the Rock of Guatapé and it is still worth visiting.

Have you visited el Peñón de Guatapé?

 

Get your candy cravings ready and start thinking about what costume to wear because Halloween is just around the corner. Halloween is such a fun holiday filled with creative decorations, spooky parades and delicious treats. One of the best places to celebrate Halloween this year is a trip to New York City! Manhattan has incredible activities ranging from dog parades to halloween balls—there is never a dull moment. Check out just a few of the reasons New York City is the place to visit this Halloween

The infamous village parade:

nyc halloween 2015

Flickr photo via Gene Han

Every year there is a giant parade that begins in the Village and progresses through the city. This year, there are going to be over 50 different bands performing along the way. The village parade is famous for the strange people and costumes it draws… you must wear costume to participate. Get ready to get weird.

Some of the best and scariest Haunted Houses:

8037624572_9aa55f7130_k

Flickr photo via DowntownTraveler.com

New York City is one of those cities that goes all out in everything it does, including haunted houses. Whether you visit Blood Manor to be chased by Zombies or Black Out where the theme is “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who enter Here.” Get ready to have your pants scared off of you.

Pumpkin Displays:

14948177214_6677344fd2_k

Flickr photo via Andrew Dallos

Every year the New York Botanical Garden brings in some of the largest pumpkins in the world for display. Some of the pumpkins weigh over a thousand pounds! Walk around the beautiful garden and experience the majesty of these amazing pumpkin displays.

Halloween-themed restaurants:

15542130839_29a38bef3b_k

Flickr photo via Aaron Fellmeth Photography

Restaurants in the west village are always fun to attend because the parade stumbles through the area. However, if you are looking for an all out Halloween meal check out Jekyll and Hyde Club that serves yummy food such as Frankenstein’s Favorite Burger. Jekyll and Hyde’s plays halloween music and is decorated to the extreme: it is New York’s Halloween hot spot year round.

New York knows how to make Halloween fun whether you are with a family or looking to party hard. Check out some of these events as just a starting place when looking where to travel to celebrate the Halloween holiday!

Will you participate in any NYC Halloween events this year?

barcelona attractions

With its seaside location, surrounding hills, pedestrian Gothic center, and masterpieces of Modernist architecture, fun-loving Barcelona is an all-round photogenic city. Once you’ve explored the Catalan capital on ground level, why not seek a bit of elevation to admire it from above? Here are five Barcelona attractions that will afford you the best panoramic views of the city.

Montjuic swimming-pool

barcelona attractions

Flickr photo via van Ort

If you’re old enough to remember the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics, you’ll probably recall the stunning images of the swimming and diving competitions featuring the whole city as a backdrop. Today, this outdoor swimming-pool is open to everyone between the end of June and the beginning of September. If you’re in Barcelona out of season or don’t fancy a dip, there are plenty other opportunities to catch a bird’s eye view from the Montjuic Hill, including from the cable car on your way up or from one of the terraced cafes at the top.

Nobody needs a reason to visit New Orleans — the city has a soul unlike any other in the world and will always have something earthy and primal about it that pulls you in. With Halloween fast approaching, New Orleans takes a spooky and mystical light for those seeking to explore it. With a tonne of things to do year round, New Orleans also offers special Hallowe’en attractions that you can take advantage of this month — so if you’re looking for an excuse to take that trip, maybe these New Orleans attractions will set off that travel itch.

Do that Voodoo that you do so well…


It might seem a little cliché, but in New Orleans it becomes authentic. Voodoo has roots in this port city dating way back, so it’s not surprising that it plays an important tourism role.  The Voodoo Music and Arts Experience runs from October 30th – November 1st and is one helluva show. This year’s lineup includes Florence + the Machine, Third Eye Blind, Ozzy Osbourne, the Zac Brown Band and DeadMau5 amoung others- to call it eclectic wouldn’t be too much of a stretch. Not simply showcasing bigger names, the festival represents local artists from varying musical genres and backgrounds so there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

Not just a music festival, you can also check out some amazing local artwork and art installations; like an 18 foot tall Tarantula, or a giant, full operable skeleton bird. When your belly starts to rumble, you’re also in for a treat as the list of food stalls and vendors for this festival are almost too many to count, with goodies like fresh fish, Asian-Cajun fusion, slow roasted barbeque and more up for the offering, you will leave with a full stomach.

Swamp Thing!

new orleans attractions

Flickr photo via Judy Kiel

The nearby Manchac Swamp is creepy. It’ll give you the heebiejeebies any time of the year, but a torchlit tour near Hallowevooen? It’s goosebump inducing to say the least. Passing under long grown over Cyrus trees, you’ll be taken in by the homespun tales the guides will weave for you as your boat glides through the murky waters of the swamp around you. They call it the Haunted Swap because of the hundreds of people who died here in a tidal wave, and the stories you’ll hear about them will send a chill up your spine. Tours usually last around an hour and they are open for children, so if you want to give everyone in the family a scare – you can!

The Walking (Amongst the) Dead…

11330742_a54d46ea96_o

Flickr photo via Lucid Nightmare

Within walking distance from the French Quarter, you’ll find New Orleans’ most famous cemetery: St. Louis Cemetery #1. You’ve seen it in countless movies and the ornate tombs that litter the cemetary may be one of the first things that come to mind when you think of New Orleans. Because of where the city rests on the water table, and with flooding occurring in some sense pretty much every year, any grave must be constructed above ground. This results in the beautifully decorative mausoleums and tombs you’ll see all over New Orleans. There are a number of tour options available if you’re interested in a guided walk through St. Louis Cemetary #1, though you are also free to wander around the crypts on your own. Amoung the eternal residence here you’ll find famous Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, who attracts quite a crowd of true believers and curious folk alike.

What are some of the coolest or creepiest New Orleans attractions you’ve seen?

0

Día de los Muertos or “The Day of the Dead” is celebrated on November 1st throughout Latin America, and you may be familiar with the beautiful flowered skull face paint (the skull symbol is called calacas or calaveras) adorned by countless Halloween revelers. You might also think of Mexico when thinking of Día de los Muertos, as that’s where the holiday originated.

It’s twined with the Catholic celebration, All Saints day, and combines traditional Aztec practices with the Catholic practice of celebrating those who have passed on. Despite a more melancholic sounding name, this holiday is actually quite jovial and can be uproarious. It’s celebrated with food, drink, parades, songs and dancing as well as things that the dead enjoyed doing when they were still alive.

If you have the opportunity to experience a Día de los Muertos, it’s an amazing thing to behold. So, why not seize the opportunity or make one of your own? We’ve complied a list of the best places to see, experience, and really live your own Day of the Dead — give it a chance?

Pátzcuaro, México

day of the dead

Flickr photo via David Bacon

A quiet town in central Mexico, Pátzcuaro is a beautiful colonial and indigenous architectural dream, though it doesn’t have much on the go most of the year. It may seem sleepy, but it comes alive for the Día de los Muertos celebrations beginning in late October. The main square comes alive with a craft market and competition that is known and celebrated nationwide. You’ll find some amazingly beautiful and ornate calacas, and the chance to taste some pan de muerto, a kind of sweet bread that is commonly eaten on this holiday. The streets will be decorated heavily with garlands of marigolds, and bustling with tourists so make sure you keep your camera handy to snap some amazing photos.

On the first of November, vigils will be held in the graveyard of the nearby villages and they last all night. In this area of Mexico, you’ll notice that most of the ceremonial aspects of this holiday are a bit more sombre and spiritual, which helps to balance the amount of commercialism and decadence that the tourists in the area often seem to inspire. Entrances to cemeteries during this time (all night long a well) are free and photographs are allowed within respectful reason.

On Isla Janitzio, you may notice some candle-lit boats and a predominantly female presence. This is in celebration of the souls of children or angelitos, and although beautiful is also quite sad. It’s advised that you go quite late (past midnight) for this celebration, but be prepared for crowds.

San Francisco Bay, USA

6252633014_bcabd5c6d7_o

Flickr photo via Carnaval.com Studios

A spot a little closer to home where you can see some amazing Day of the Dead celebrations is in San Francisco. The Mission District is the place to be, and where the procession and alter exhibit happen and where you’ll want to be on the 2nd of November. You’re more than welcome to make your own altar for a loved one that has passed away, and you can add yours (or simply check out the ones that others have made) in Garfield Park. The procession includes traditional Aztec dancers, and is completely free of charge, though donations are accepted for the Garfield Park Clubhouse.

The San Francisco Symphony hosts a Día de los Muertos community concert on the 7th, which is heavily decorated and traditional foods and refreshments are available though you will need to buy tickets for this event. The SOMArts also hosts a month-long Day of the Dead exhibition that you can check out any time from about mid-October until early November.

Oakland’s Fruitvale district also has a street fair on the Sunday after the holiday where you can also get a glimpse of some traditional altars and dance performances. The food here may not be traditional but it will be delicious as tones of local vendors roll out their tastiest treats for the fair.

Aguascalientes, México

6293404525_88371392ee_o

Flickr photo via Hidrocálido

Every year here, this beautiful city hosts the Festival de las Calaveras or the Festival of Skulls. It’s held from October 28th until November 2nd and in similar fashion to the previous mentioned locals, you’ll be able to see some beautiful handmade alters, and try some delicious traditional food. You’ll also be able to see some theatre performances, and concerts throughout the festival that are often breathtaking and original.

What makes this festival different from the others? Here, you can see the original engraving of La Catrina an infamous symbol of the Day of the Dead carved by Jose Guadalupe Posada who was born in Aguascalientes. Essentially a feminized skeleton, La Catrina was truly made famous (and given the moniker of La Catrina) by Diego Rivera (Frida Kahlo’s husband) and has been a Day of the Dead symbol, and in fact an important symbol in Latin cultural ever since. You can have your picture taken with the original here at the festival, or take home some manufactured trinket of it’s facsimile.

How are you planning of celebrating the Day of the Dead?

 

Long-distance relationships are hard. There’s always a time difference and spotty internet problems. There are new friends to be made and adventures to be had. And then there is just, life, that happens.

Currently, one of my best friends is serving in the Peace Corps for two years in the Dominican Republic. We haven’t gotten to talk to each other much and my letter to her should be there by Christmas (of this year, I hope), but we still care about each other and try to keep up via WhatsApp and Facebook as much as possible.

This post is dedicated to her and her (and someday your) crazy adventures in the DR. Say hi to her if you venture that way.

Surf Lessons

dominican republic attractions

Flickr photo via Miles Gehm

Who doesn’t love fun in the sun? An item on many bucket lists, learning to surf, can be crossed off while touring the DR. Head to the California Surf School on Playa Bonita for a $60, one-hour lesson. Lessons are taught by expert surfing coaches and ran by Carolina Gutierrez. Classes are offered year-round. Surfs up!

Damajagua Falls

3879987243_e61f5995de_b

Flickr photo via Brent

Waterfalls are amazing. You can easily hike to them, (naturally) cool off and snag some fantastic photos. Damajagua Falls, located near Puerto Plata, offers 27 waterfalls ready to be explored. Guides are required, but they encourage, and lead you, to fun. Plan on four hours to make it to the 27th waterfall and back.

Boiling Lake

3668945728_aab6da288f_b

Flickr photo via UWI Seismic Research Centre

The Boiling Lake, located in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a world heritage site, is a flooded fumarole 6.5 miles east of Roseau, Dominica. Grab a guide who knows the way and launch at Laudat, the usual starting off point for locals. The eight-mile walk takes around three hours and will require a good pair of hiking boots, a camera and good friends.

Cave of Miracles

sala de las maravillas

Flickr photo via Emilio del Prado

If you’re into history, the Cave of Miracles (Cuevas de las Maravillas) is perfect for you. Located in San Pedro de Macoris, and discovered in 1926, this cave system is decorated in hundreds of Taino Indian cave paintings. Opened in 2003 to the public, explorers can wander through 200 meters of footpaths that wind through the galleries in the cave. Tours are strictly controlled and take around an hour.

Whale Watching

19753304042_f882a1cdb5_k

Flickr photo via Stan Lupo

Each year, thousands of humpback whales travel to the Peninsula de Samana to mate, give birth and get observed by boatloads of locals and tourists alike. For those looking for an even more intimate experience, week-long live-aboard excursions in the Silver Bank offer rare opportunities to snorkel alongside these magnificent creatures.

These are just a few of the wonders the Dominican Republic has to offer. I highly encourage you to go see for yourself – I know I’m going to try and see my old pal before she heads back home. Maybe I’ll beat the mail and hand deliver my next letter.

Have you visited the Dominican Republic?

Fall is an amazing time of year with the beauty of leaves changing, delicious baked goods, and fun holidays to celebrate. As the air starts to get a slight chill, think about planning a weekend fall getaway to one of these lovely places.

  1. Aspen, Colorado:

fall getaways

Flickr photo via Mark Land

The name of this quaint town in the Rocky Mountains gives away why it might be the perfect place for a fall vacation: tons of Aspen trees. The fall foliage in Aspen, Colorado is incredible. There are tons of different ways to enjoy the fall scenery such as hikes ranging from easy strolls to difficult climbs, bicycle rides and tours, fourwheeling trips or even a gondola ride. Aspen is also known for it’s delicious restaurants and upscale dining, so the food-lovers can enjoy the best fall dishes from professional chefs. Check out this website to snag a 2 for 3 night deal,.

  1. Highland Falls, New York:

21056893943_a39652fad7_k

Flickr photo via Mark Wyman

The small town of Highland Falls in upstate New York is a hidden gem to escape to during the changing seasons. If you like the small-town vibe, Highland falls is the perfect place to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee from a local coffee shop or stroll around Bear Mountain lake and relax. The fall colors in the trees within the town and in the surrounding Bear Mountain area will be ablaze with vibrant colors, showing the true beauty of fall. Don’t forget to stop by the family run “Ice Cream Shop” for a fun flavor and run in with locals.

  1. Harbor Springs, Michigan:

5042880671_fe3d346a0b_b

Flickr photo via Michael Patterson

Another fun place to vacation to enjoy the beautiful scenery of changing leaves is Harbor Springs, Michigan. Not only is the foliage in the small town beautiful with the change of seasons, but there is also a road called the “Tunnel of Trees” on the M-119 heritage Route where trees meet overhead creating a tunnel for cars. This route is unparalled in the fall and provides stunning views of Lake Michigan as it twists and turns. Take a bike ride or drive along the Tunnel of Trees to soak in the sights and see the historic lighthouse at Beaver Isalnd. Harbor Springs also offers cute little candy shops and restaurants to grab apple cider from after a day of exploring.

Even though we will miss the hot summer days and fun-filled summer nights, there are many reasons to celebrate the arrival of Fall. Try out one of these Fall get-away spots for a relaxing trip and beautiful views of the changing leaves.

What are some of your favorite fall getaways?

Finally, an outlet for your "ostalgia"!

Coming out of the Ostbanhof train station, you will quickly spot the big sign painted on the façade of the Soviet-style concrete apartment block, asking you to walk another 50 meters and go up the stairs to the reception. There, in what looks like an old-fashioned waiting-room, a receptionist resembling an administrative secretary is sitting behind a giant counter, framed by a row of wall clocks indicating the respective times in Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, and Havana. In the corner, a voluminous television set resting on a wooden cabinet projects washed-out, hazy images of political summits from a bygone era.

There is no doubt: This is Ostel Hostel, the Berlin budget accommodation that decided to appropriate the hoax from the movie Goodbye Lenin and run away with it!


Ostel Hostel

The concept of this GDR-themed hostel is simple: to recreate the look and atmosphere of 1970s East Germany housing. Playing on the idea of “ostalgia” (nostalgia for the East), it mimics the traditional block apartments inhabited by East Berliners before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The hostel’s commitment to the GDR theme extends to every part of the building, from the “lobby area” (an impersonal row of doctor’s waiting-room chairs) to the bedrooms decorated with pattern wallpaper that would just about be acceptable in your grandmother’s house, and kitsch furnishings.

Ostel Hostel

The charm lies in the attention to detail: it’s hard to repress a grin as you discover the retro transistor and Soviet-approved pile of books on your bed table, or the vintage pictures in the – otherwise clean and modern – bathroom.

While it offers single rooms, double rooms, and a holiday apartment in addition to dorms, Ostel Hostel nevertheless remains mainly a budget option: the rooms are small and the amenities limited. If you’re after space and luxury, then this may not be the right place to lay your head.

Ostel Hostel

However, budget travelers looking for a unique and amusing experience can’t do much better than step 45 years back in time to spend a night in the former German Democratic Republic. And for a complete GDR experience, why not follow your stay at the Ostel with a visit of Berlin’s interactive DDR Museum?

Would you stay at the Ostel Hostel?

0

Autumn is here and so is the harvest and all the wonderful fruits and veggies that come into season before the first frost.  Now is the best time to take advantage of the amazing variety of produce available that can often be found locally grown and supplied. We’ve complied a list of healthy, hearty, heart warming fall foods that you can try this season. Some of them may be old favorites and some may be brand new to your dinner table, but all are certain to please.

Pumpkins

fall foods

Flickr photo via Pat Kight

Pumpkin is a classic vegetable for Fall, and has been appropriated in countless ways for the masses- especially “pumpkin spice.” Now, most of what makes up pumpkin spice is cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice (which is easy enough to add to your coffee in the morning without a trip to Starbucks), but when it’s combined with pumpkin puree and baked into pumpkin pie, the results can be amazing. If pumpkin pie isn’t your thing, why not try making pumpkin and carrot soup? It’ll warm you up on those chilly Autumn nights, and it’s amazingly good for you.

RANDOM POSTS

visiting wales

0
Wales is often overlooked when planning a trip to the UK, but it shouldn’t be!