Today was Italian Labour Day, a big national holiday that presented the perfect opportunity to do a little out of town excursion: a drive around Mount Etna. So together with Jill, a co-student of mine from England, we rented a little two-door Lancia to go on a country driving tour. At 50 Euros the rental was not exactly inexpensive, but we figured it would be worth it to be able to explore the countryside around Taormina.First we had to deal with fuelling the car: our rental car was essentially empty and we were supposed to only put about as much fuel into the car as we thought we would use up so wed be able to bring the car back empty as well. The gas stations were officially closed on this holiday, and unlike in North America, there was no option to use a credit card for payment at the pump. The pump, however, did have a little slot where you could feed in bills and one of the local drivers patiently took his time to explain the system to me.With enough fuel to get us a couple of hundred kilometers we set off on our country excursion. At Giardini Naxos we turned inland towards our first destination: the Gole di Alcantara, the Gorge of the Alcantara River which is cut from black basaltic rock. The signs on the country road pointed towards the parking lot for the Alcantara Gorge, so we parked our vehicle and entered the complex. A simple 20 minute tour to see the river and the strange rock formations would cost 3 Euros, while longer tours and wading tours through the river are available also. We descended several sets of stairs to get down to the riverbed from where we got a good look at some of the interesting rock formations. Unless you wanted to walk through the river, there was no other place to go than back up through another set of stairs.Once at the top we found out that if we had taken this entrance we would have been able to view the gorge for free. We were a couple of hundred meters away from our parked car and by the roadside there was a little stand which actually was the tourist information booth for this inland area. Two ladies supplied us with a range of brochures and information about the villages surrounding "Mount Etna" , and I have to admit that the service was better and more knowledgeable than the tourist office in Taormina, which happens to be a much bigger tourist centre.We decided to explore a few of the gorgeous hilltop towns which are patched up against the rocky outcrops, providing an amazing vantage point of the surrounding countryside. Following a sign for a village called Motta Camastra we turned into a winding narrow road that was slowly taking us to the top of this crag. At the bottom of the town there was a public parking spot and we figured it was better to park our car there and walk up than to try to navigate the unimaginably narrow roads that were snaking through this little hilltop town.Just as we had parked our car a local resident in his fifties started shouting at us in Italian from his balcony and waving at us. It took us some time to realize that he was actually inviting us up into his abode for a beer. We graciously declined, and continued our walk. Jill commented that local Sicilians had been showing a marked amount of interest in her and attributed it to her noticeably pale English complexion. After about a 10 minute walk through tiny cobble-stoned walkways we reached the main square which featured a bar with about 20 older men sitting outside. Most of them were wearing caps similar to French berets and they were engaged in a very spirited discussion. Not a woman was to be seen.Our walk continued to the ancient church and from there we followed a walkway past narrow houses to a lookout point overlooking the entire mountain area. Sleepy cats were lounging lazily on the pavement, here and there women were watering flowers in front of their apartments. The vista towards Mount Etna, the Alcantara Valley and various mountaintop villages perched precariously against different rocky outcrops was breathtaking.After Motta Camastra we decided to explore another one of these hilltop towns and following a beautiful drive through a countryside full of vineyards we reached a place called Rocella Valdemone about 45 minutes later. We parked the car right next to the old town church and strolled across the piazza. At the other end of this public square we saw the obligatory bar which again featured about 15 to 20 older gentlemen fully engrossed in an animated discussion. My guess was they were probably discussing soccer. We got the definite impression that tourists dont come here very often because we certainly stuck out like a sore thumb and the locals were looking at us a bit as if we were a novelty. Again, women were conspicuously absent, with the occasional exception who was sweeping the pavement in front of the house and then disappeared inside again.Nature was calling and we asked at the bar if we could use the bathroom. One thing about Italy is that there are very few public washrooms, but fortunately local bars are quite easy-going about their facilities being used by non-paying strangers. This particular facility was in rather abysmal shape, though, and when I came out of it I instructed Jill to make sure not to touch any of the surfaces for fear of contracting a horrible communicating disease. The facility did the job, but it certainly was everything but a shining example of hygiene and cleanliness.Our driving tour continued with a drive into the mountain area. Tree cover got sparser and all of a sudden we were in a mountain area that must have been about 1500 to 2000 m high with a beautiful 360 degree view northwards and eastwards down to the sea and southwards and westwards towards Mount Etna. Hundreds of local Italian families had their cars parked in small side roads that were leading onto what looked like pasture lands for goats and they were having picnics. We didnt seem to see any tourists at all, and we realized that this is what Italians do on a public holiday in Sicily: they go for a picnic in the high mountain areas surrounding Mount Etna.We had come prepared before our departure we had picked up some prosciutto, cheese, fresh buns, fruits and drinks at the local supermarket in Taormina and this was our time for our very own little picnic. Due to the chilly wind that was blowing on this high mountain plateau we actually stayed in the car to eat our lunch, but nevertheless our view out the windshield was simply gorgeous.After a very satisfying improvised meal we drove back down from the mountains towards Mount Etna, past a large number of parked cars whose owners had gone hiking somewhere in this mountainous terrain. At an intersection a local woman was selling home-made cheeses and sausages, evidence of Italian culinary craftsmanship. We neared a town called Randazzo, with the volcano majestically draped in the background which impressed us with its Cathedral of Santa Maria, which was started in the 13th century and rebuilt several times. The bell tower dates from the 18th century, an example of the various different styles composing this imposing church.We started our leisurely drive around Mount Etna, at times right next to the Ferrovia Circumetnea, a small-gauge railway that encircles Mount Etna for about 90 km between Catania and Riposto. Terraced vineyards spread far in front of our eyes, and the drive through little towns like Maletto, Bronte, Adrano and Paterno was enjoyably peaceful. Once we approached the coastal side east of Mount Etna things got a lot busier. We started realizing that this was indeed a public holiday and all the locals were out and about. The traffic was starting to get crazy. Continuing through Nicolosi, Trecastagni, Zafferana Etnea (where saffron used to be cultivated, introduced by the Arabs), we continued through Giarre and Fiumefreedo di Sicilia towards Gardini Naxos, located right on the Ionian Sea.The traffic in the coastal areas was now enormous and beside the road along the shoreline stretching north of Giarre, thousands of cars were parked, belonging to people who had been enjoying a sunny day at the waterfront. We continued through Giardini Naxos at a crawling pace. This resort town south east of Taormina was founded in 735 BC by the Greeks and represents one of the oldest Greek settlements in Sicily. We drove past Isola Bella and Mazzaro and took the northern entrance into Taormina and got into a major traffic jam where we sat virtually without moving for about 45 minutes, a distance that should have taken us about 5 minutes under normal circumstances. No doubt everybody was on the road.It was a relief to finally have reached Taormina when we drove through the tunnel underneath town to reach the rental company on the western side of town. Just like the roads had been full of people, the town of Taormina was now packed with people strolling. Thousands of people were milling up and down the main strip, Corso Umberto, and we were literally rubbing shoulders with the other walkers. We decided we would have dinner outside of the city gates on Via Pirandello, where the pedestrian traffic was not quite as crazy and grabbed a nice table on a terrace at Trattoria Da Linos, a little restaurant where I had already had a couple of chats with the owners who recognized me and gave me a friendly hello. From the terrace we had a great view over the northern part of town and the Ionian Sea below us. After a filling pasta dinner we received a little free treat: a tasting of Amandola liqueur (made from almonds) on the house a great way to cap off an exciting day to catch a rest for another day of Italian lessons
Picture yourself relaxing on a sandy beach while your kids run and jump in the waves. Maybe you'll decide to scoot over to Mexico for lunch, visit with the Panda bears, or spend the afternoon riding a scenic trolley. Can't decide which of these vacation activities sound most appealing? Experience it all with a San Diego vacation.There are so many San Diego attractions to enjoy and explore, it seems like many vacation destinations rolled into one. Plan ahead and your family will have an unforgettable holiday. Here are eight "must experience" places to visit and activities to try on your trip to beautiful San Diego:1. Hit the BeachSan Diego beaches are spectacular year-round. Whether you visit in summer or over the winter holidays, the local beaches personify the complete San Diego lifestyle. Visit gorgeous Mission Beach. Ride the Belmont Park roller coaster. From bodysurfing to soaking up the rays, San Diego beaches are definitely where the action is. 2. Shuffle off to MexicoThe city of Tijuana is just across the Mexican border from San Diego. Taking a side trip to Tijuana or Baja is easy and quite safe; just bring your passport and be mindful of the Mexican laws. There is an international paradise ready to be explored, so say "Si" to a day in Mexico. 3. Catch a Fish TacoNot exactly a famous San Diego attraction, rather a must-try taste of the city, fish tacos are pieces of battered and deep-fried fish encased in a corn tortilla. Try one, and you'll want to come back to San Diego just for another taste of this local treat. Visitors to San Diego say that fish tacos are among the city's best foods.4. Take a Trolley RideSan Francisco isn't the only California city with a famous trolley. The San Diego trolley serves as the city's public transit system. You can buy an all-day pass and see more San Diego attractions than you ever could by car. The San Diego highways can be quite intimidating, making the trolley your best bet for stress-free sightseeing. 5. Visit the PandasThe famous San Diego Zoo at Balboa Park is a popular tourist destination, but the pandas are the real attractions. Baby Su Lin and the other pandas are most active in the morning, so plan to see them first on your trip to San Diego zoo. Sea World and Legoland are also great choices for entertaining your "little animals".6. Balboa ParkThe undisputed shining jewel of San Diego is Balboa Park. It's the nation's largest urban cultural park, housing fifteen museums, renowned performing arts venues, beautiful gardens and the San Diego Zoo. The atmosphere is breathtaking no matter when you stop by, but if you visit on Tuesdays you'll find that most museums offer free admission. After you work up an appetite exploring Balboa, stop at Prado or any of the fine restaurants within the park for a fantastic meal in a beautiful setting. 7. NightlifeThe historic Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego is the place to be for eating, dancing and people watching. Shop, snack and take in the stunning architecture during the day. At night, there are more than 90 restaurants plus live theatre and countless nightclubs to choose from. Gaslamp is the place to let loose in San Diego. 8. Old TownHistory buffs can find bits of Old San Diego incorporated with new developments throughout the city. Visit Old Town State Historic Park for a blast of San Diego's past. Make sure you visit the Old Town Mexican Cafe, as it serves the best Mexican food San Diego has to offer.If your family is torn between exciting excursions, historic America, exotic adventure or a tropical paradise, visit San Diego. The variety of San Diego attractions offers the best of all worlds in one vacation destination.
Your London hotel is near a famous museum. It's almost guaranteed, because London is home to scores of famous museums in a city that is renowned for its history and museums here contain many of the worlds incredible artifacts. They've made amends and returned many priceless antiquities to their countries of origin, but London museums are still known the world over for their incredible collections and exhibits. So it is only natural that visitors want to stay close to the array of museums that dot the London landscape. With the help of the Internet, visitors can even coordinate their hotel choice with their museum choices.Attractions range from Madame Tussauds Wax Museum to the lofty British Museum, home of the famed Egyptian Hall and some amazing European sculptors. For a more personal glimpse into the past, a visitor could try the Florence Nightingale Museum, Freud Museum, Sherlock Holmes Museum, or Jack the Ripper Walk, which traces the killer's deadly footsteps. The Victoria and Albert Museum is the jewel of the South Kensington area, which hosts a number of attractions and fine hotels. History buffs will treasure the National Army Museum, National Maritime Museum, and Natural History Museum.If you like spooky old prisons, you've got the Clink Prison Museum, the Tower of London, and the London Dungeon to explore. The art connoisseur will certainly appreciate the Tate Britain Gallery, Tate Modern Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Arts, and the National Gallery. The Design Museum, Clockmaker's Museum, London Toy and Model Museum, and Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee cater to specialized tastes.Whatever your preference, there's a first-class London hotel within easy walking distance and numerous tube stations to get a visitor to more distant locations. New booking sites on the Internet allow you to search for a London hotel by neighborhood and proximity to various attractions. A helpful website offers maps, tube station locations, photos, and sightseeing tips to make the most of a trip to London without scouring guidebooks for information. Prices and rankings are important criteria, too, but there's nothing like the convenience of choosing a hotel by location. Your lodging is important, because it becomes a sanctuary for dinner and respite after a long day of exploring the past. In fact, many London hotels are virtual museums all by themselves, offering a glimpse into Victorian and Elizabethan England.Don't stay too long in that lovely hotel room, because London nightlife beckons. Combine a trip to the West End theater district with a stop at the Theatre Museum near Covent Garden. The possibilities are endless, but your stay in London isn't. So choose a London hotel that allows you to make the most of your time, and keep track of the places you don't visit for your return trip.
Torrevieja is one of the most popular vacation hotspots on Spains Costa Blanca. It is part of the Alicante Province and located only thirty miles from the Alicante airport serving this popular region of Spain. Bus services from the airport can transport you easily to the city or some of the more expensive hotels in Torrevieja will provide transportation from the airport to the hotel. Torrevieja offers hotels for every traveler. Luxury hotels are often closer to the local attractions and the coastlines beaches, which will be a huge plus if you intend to spend a lot of time at the beach. Many luxury hotels have pools, spas, health clubs, babysitting service, dry cleaning service and its own restaurants and bars. As expected, these hotels are the more expensive choice in hotel accommodations. Smaller hotels in the area are generally located further away from the beach and attractions and do not offer as many amenities and additional services. However, even with the lack of amenities, these hotels are generally a good choice if you are looking for basic accommodations at a reasonable price. If you are staying in Torrevieja for only a short time, you may want to splurge on a more luxurious hotel. A longer stay, however, may be best suited for a lower priced hotel if your vacation budget is somewhat limited. In addition to duration, the location of the hotel is important to consider. If you plan to spend most of your time at the beach, try to find the most hotel most convenient to the beach yet within your price range. Keep in mind, though, that hotels closer to the beach tend to be higher priced. Finding Torrevieja hotels should not be difficult, as there are several ways to find the hotel that best fits your vacation needs and budget. A travel agent can provide a lot of information on Costa Blanca hotels. Booking your flight and hotel at the same time may result in a better deal. Be sure to call the travel agent in advance to get the best deal on the best hotel for you, especially during the summer months when accommodations book quickly. If you already know the hotel in which you want to stay, just contact the hotel directly but be sure to still call in advance. You may find that the hotel is full if you wait until the last minute to make the reservation. If you do not know where to stay, hotel reviews are a good place to start. You can find reviews of various hotels on the internet, which typically use a standard rating. Good, basic hotels usually have a three start rating while luxury hotels have anywhere from four to five starts. Many travel sites offer descriptions of the hotel and its amenities as well as pictures. Finally, reading reviews by former guests is a great way to get an idea of the quality of the hotel from the guests themselves.
If you are looking for cheap holidays, Ireland is a special location with many different cities to see as well as attractions. Dublin, Galway, Listowel and Cork are some great holiday vacation spots. You will find that your time spent in Ireland may in include relaxing by the pool, some sightseeing and visiting museums, gardens and seeing some historical buildings. You will find "cheap holidays" that include hotel accommodations, airfare and some great last minutes deals. With all these exciting deals and things to do and see, Ireland is one area you should not miss.If you are adventurous, Listowel will be a place to visit. You can see the Garden of Europe with a beautiful array of flowers and plants. Although, the St Johns Art and Heritage Centre is filled with religious sites and some spectacular architectural buildings, you will find that the Listowel Castle is a mass of ancient ruins and the famous castle. Some of the historical sites in Listowel are River Fort, Plaster Relief and Cladh Ruadh. You can enjoy a couple of days in Listowel before moving on to Dublin where you will want to spend at least two days.In Dublin, your cheap holidays will be filled with adventure and excitement. You can visit the Brougham Bridge and the Dillon Garden. A relaxing boat ride on the Dublin Grand Canal is going to be exciting and you will see the area from a different point of view. You do not want to miss the many Dublin museums and the Garden of Remembrance. Parnell Square is a visitors delight as well as Fitzwilliam Square. The Mansion House and the Leinster House on Grafton Street are something for everyone to see. You can view the Dublin Castle while visiting Fairview Park and the War Memorial Gardens. Dublin is so large with so many things to do, you might want to spend the entire week here without going anywhere else.Galway cheap holidays in Ireland can be just exciting as Dublin and Listowel. Frye Square in Galway has the cathedral, Galway Court House and the harbor. The Galway Art Festival is something everyone enjoys as well as the Lynch Castle. The time to go is when you can visit the Galway Oyster Festival. This is a culinary event with many different types of cuisine. If you are looking for a scenic site in the area, Iar Connacht is a place to stop after a day of sightseeing. Now it is time to head to Cork.Your cheap holidays package will take you to Cork where you can see the Ballincollig Gunpowder Mill, which is a historical museum. The medieval Red Abbey Tower is something to see. It is a historical country house with a unique architecture. After the museums and the art galleries, you will want to spend a few days relaxing and enjoy a day around the pool or even enjoy a day at the spa. You might even find some little shops to check out and enjoy a light Ireland lunch special.