A Visit to Aqaba, Jordan

Aqaba carries the relaxed atmosphere of a popular getaway. The town provides visitors a sociable stopover while going to the snorkeling and diving clubs to the south as well as the big destinations of Petra and Wadi Rum. Aqaba’s winter temperature rarely goes below 20 degrees Centigrade and is sometime some degrees warmer. The weather is hot in summer, with daytime temperatures sometimes the other side of 35 degrees Centigrade. Also, it helps to follow the siesta here: around 2pm everything shuts down and by 6pm after the afternoon nap, everything reopens. Here are the top attractions in Aqaba, Jordan.

Aqaba Bird Observatory
This bird sanctuary is a wetland that is created artificially and has become a host to a wide range of species that use this area as a stop-off point on the bird migrations between Asia, Europe and Africa. There is a 1.5 kilometer walking trail around the lakes cluster, and especially in winter the place is thick with waders and ducks. The observatory is a great place to see white-eyed gulls, as Aqaba has the world’s largest population of this bird.

Aqaba Fort
The fort was constructed in 1517 and was used as travelers’ inn for pilgrims going to Mecca. Until 1917, the castle was occupied by the Ottomans when the fortress was destroyed substantially by shelling. The coat of arms juts above the fort’s main entrance commemorates the Arab Revolution that swept through this region ousting the Turks.

Aqaba Museum
The Aqaba Museum was once home to Abdullah II, the great-great-grandfather of the current king. The collection of artifacts in this museum includes stone tablets, ceramics and coins. Anyone who has traveled the King’s Highway may want to see the inscribed milestone from the Roman incarnation of the Trajan Road.

Public Beach
Packed on public holidays and at the weekend, this stretch offers a sociable and fun way to engage with the locals at play. During Islamic feasts (eids), the family parties usually extend into the night. Women are encouraged to remain clothed while on this beach – keep your swimsuits for private beaches and hotels.

Aqaba Aquarium
Over a series of small and large tanks, you are introduced to a variety of corals and fish in Aqaba, and you will soon get a picture of what you might see when scuba diving or snorkeling, from reef sharks to colorful parrotfish.

Arab Revolt Flagpole
Standing at a massive 137 meter high and with a flag measuring 20 meter by 40 meter, this is the most easily spotted landmark in Aqaba by some degree. However, a closer look will let you know the flag is not Jordanian but instead the Great Arab Revolt banner. Aqaba’s capture was a crucial moment in the country’s revolt against the rule of the Ottomans.

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Tour Through Athens, Greece

With equal measures of grace and grunge, Athens is a mix of contemporary cool and ancient history. Although Athenians have braved through challenging situations since the economic crisis of 2009 started, the city still crackles with energy in political debates, shows, and on the walls of the building. You will find creative surprises at almost all corners, so make sure you leave room in your schedule for discoveries like this. Thanks to some friends of mine who run an Edmonton dumpster rental company back in Canada and recently spent some time in Greece and through some of my own research, here are the top fun things to do in Athens, Greece.

Acropolis Museum
This is a dazzling museum at the foot of the southern slope of the Acropolis and it displays its surviving treasures. The collection at this museum covers the Roman period to the Archaic one, but there is an emphasis on the 5th century BC Acropolis. This period is considered the apotheosis of artistic achievement in Greece. The Acropolis Museum also reveals different layers of history, from the Acropolis itself to the ruins beneath the building.

This tranquil and lush site is named after the potters who settled here around 3000 BC. Until the 6th century, this place was used as a cemetery. The stelae (grave markers) hint at ancient life; several marble grave markers are carved with familiar scenes and vivid portraits. During the construction of Pireos St in 1861, this site was discovered. This site was once on the Iridanos River banks.

Benaki Museum of Greek Culture
In 1930, a politician’s son born in Egypt, Antonis Benakis bequeathed what is likely Greece’s finest museum. This museum showcases flawless treasures from the Dark Ages up to World War II. Particularly beautiful are the collection of regional Greek costumes and Byzantine icons. There is also a complete sitting room from Macedonian mansions, delicately painted and carved. The wide range of displays here means that it is a great destination for a group with diverse interests.

Ancient Agora
The Agora was the lively hub of social, political, commercial, and administrative activity. The philosophy of Socrates was expounded here, and St. Paul came here in AD 49 to win converts to Christianity. Today, the site is home to Temple of Hephaistos and the eleventh-century Byzantine Church, adorned in brick patterns mimicking Arabic calligraphy. The greenery at this site harbors lizards and birds.

National Archaeological Museum
Housing the best collection of Greek antiquities in the world in a large neoclassical building, the National Archaeological Museum is one of the top attractions in Athens. Treasures offering visitors a view of Greek history and art – dating from the Classical periods to the Neolithic era include exquisite artifacts, frescoes, jewelry, pottery, and sculptures.

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Guernsey Travel Guide

Guernsey is a 30 minutes flight from France and 45 minutes from England. It is the Channel Islands second largest islands and about 25 sq. miles in area. Guernsey depends largely on its history, serenity, and sunshine. About 8,000 years ago, the rising sea levels separated this island from the French coast of Normandy.

Periodically, the crossfire of war and the crosswinds of trade have shape Guernsey’s fortunes. For many inhabitants of this island, it is a place of inspiration and pride as well as a safe harbor. St. Peter Port is the capital of Guernsey and was once a trading post before the Romans came here. This harbor town is now one of Europe’s most beautiful islands. Here are the top must see attractions in Guernsey.

Castle Cornet
For more than 800 years, the Castle Cornet has been standing guard over the harbor. For a view of the town and the Herm and Sark Islands, climb the ramparts. You can also watch the firing the noonday gun or explore the barracks in the castle which houses some of the finest museums of the island. At the “story of Castle Cornet”, you can experience centuries of drama.

Maritime Museum
This museum allows you to explore the island’s seafaring past. You can also explore the rich military heritage of Guernsey which dates back to the 14th century when the Royal Guernsey Militia was formed.

Guernsey Museum and Art Gallery
Learn more about this island’s past at the Guernsey Museum and Art Gallery. Discover the island’s superstitions, folk-laws, and first people as well as the artists who were inspired by the incredible beauty of the island.

Candie Gardens
A tribute to Victor Hugo the nineteenth-century literature giant who fell under the spell of Guernsey can be found outside the Candie Gardens. After he was exiled from France, Hugo took up a residence at Hauteville House. From the collections of his many island wonderings, he personally decorated the house with bric-à-brac. You can climb the stairs to the Crystal Room where Hugo spent his morning here. The writer took long walks by afternoon past La Valette Bathing Pools as well as the coastline. You can also follow this path to one of the sheltered beaches like Petite Bot Bay.

Guernsey Inland
While Guernsey’s sensational coastline sometimes steals the show, there are plenty of things that will inspire you inland as well. Relax amid the floral displays and nature trails of Saumarez Park in the Castel Parish. Or wander Sausmarez Manor stately rooms in St Martin Parish. You can also explore the estate where the flowers of this legendary island away amid the rhythmic beats and lyrical sculptures of the coppersmith’s hammer.

German Underground Hospital
Apart from Guernsey’s captivating coast and interior, this island’s underground also offers some fascinating and sobering surprises. During World War II, the German inhabitants of this island constructed many subterranean complexes in various places on the island. One of such is the German Underground Hospital which is a maze of tunnels built from solid rock. On the outskirts of St. Peter Port, there is a U-Boat fuel depot that is now home to La Valletta Underground Museum.

Regardless of where you are from or what you have endured, Guernsey is a place that invites you to stop and breathe while appreciating nature’s gift. It will also help you reconnect with the quite and enduring spirit inside us all.

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What to do in Montreal?

Montreal is the second largest city in Canada and has the largest French speaker’s population outside of Paris. It is a Canadian city with a very hip attitude, a big heart, and a French soul. Montreal enchants its visitors with an unpretentious love of festivals and good food as well as an old-world charm. The French were the first to arrive here, although the British would later claim ownership yet its elegant sophistication still lingers like a perfume.

Stroll the old city’s cobblestone streets, order a delicious meal in the café, and soak up the architecture and history of the area. Montreal is one of North America’s oldest urban areas as some buildings in this city dates back to the 17th century.

One of the greatest places to discover Montreal’s famous food scene is the Old City. Visit one of the bistros here to order Poutine, a local’s favorite. Or you can follow your nose to one of the many wood-fired ovens in the city to try a Montreal bagel. Walk off the delicious food by strolling around Jacques-Cartier Place. It was named after the explorer that claimed Canada for France.

Mark Twain nicknamed Montreal “The City of a Hundred Bell Towers” when he visited in the 19th century. There are many magnificent churches in this city especially the Notre Dame Basilica, the Josephs Oratory, and the Christ Church Cathedral.

Amidst all Montreal’s history, it is a thoroughly hip city. It hosts over 100 festivals throughout the year and there’s always something cool going on if you are in this city between events. The Quartier Latin is famous for its artistic clubs, cafes, and atmosphere. Or you can visit Le Village which is a great place to party as it closes to cars in summer. Plateau Mont-Royal is another great area where you will discover colorful murals, funky cafes, and groovy boutiques.

Head downtown to the Montreal Museum of Fine Art and the Golden Square Mile for a different kind of art. Like Montreal itself, the museum combines great elan with the old and new. Admire exquisite works of the impressive collection of international and local contemporary art as well as the works of the great masters.

Even mother nature in Montreal is chic. Get outside to enjoy the city the way the locals do by hiking up Mont-Royal. It is a 764-foot green jewel that gave the city its name and rises from the downtown area. Or you can discover Montreal bio-dome where five of America’s most beautiful ecosystems have been recreated in what used to be the Olympic velodrome.

Visit the Montreal Insectarium for more jewel-like color. It is North America’s largest insect museum. The Montreal Botanical Garden is right next door. Stroll in the Japanese Zen Garden among the tranquil ponds or you can experience the yin and yang principle in the Chinese Garden.

Your trip to Montreal can’t be complete without taking a trip to the city’s beloved amusement park, La Ronde. Here you can take one of the heart-stopping roller coasters or a flume ride. As the sun sets, head back downtown to discover Montreal after dark. Enjoy smoky blues, cool jazz, or wind down with something a bit quirky.

With its funky present and a French past, Montreal is a city with a feeling and a flavor that is very easy to love but hard to define.

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Portland, Oregon Travel Guide

Portland is located in the Northwestern part of the US, where the Columbia and Willamette Rivers meet. It is a short drive away from the Cascade Range, fertile valleys, sprawling forests, and the Pacific Ocean. Portland’s many urban parts combined with its mountainous backdrop make this city a nature lover’s paradise. It was a major Pacific Northwest port because of its riverside location until the turn of the century. Portland is the most populous city in Oregon with about 600,000 inhabitants. Here are the top must see attractions in Portland, Oregon.

Pioneer Courthouse Square

The amphitheater on this square is the heart of the city. After sightseeing, shopping, and browsing galleries, this is the place to end your vacation to Portland. Make sure you bring an umbrella along as showers are quite common here, although you can enjoy plenty of sunshine in the summer.

Willamette Valley

Portland is often jokingly referred to as ‘Beervana’ by some Americans because there are many microbreweries here. Head to Willamette Valley if you want to enjoy a good wine. You can also join a tour of the vineyard to sample one of the local Pinot Noir grown in the volcanic soil.

Portland Art Museum

Located in the cultural district of Portland is the oldest museum in Northwestern United States. It has a vast collection of art that reflects history from the ancient times to today.

Tom McCall Waterside Park

Head to this park for cycling, meditating, or rowing. It is along the Willamette River and it is a great spot for people watching.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

There are several bridges leading to the bank where this museum is located. There are hundreds of interactive displays on offer in the huge theaters and halls. Use the opportunity to go on board a submarine or learn about faraway planets. The Grotto is on the same side of the river where you can replenish your soul or just pray.

Washington Park

Portland is ideal for growing roses because of its cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. There are many award-winning varieties of roses you can admire in the International Rose Test Garden in this park. There is a Japanese Garden nearby that is believed to be one of the most authentic gardens outside Japan. It has an original tea house and 5 distinct garden styles.

West Hills

You can enjoy some spectacular views of Portland’s skyline here in the West Hills. Multnomah Falls is just a short drive east, from astonishing heights, icy water tumbled down. For a close-up view of the waterfall, you can climb to the Benson Bridge. This waterfall flows all year round. Come face to face with nature’s awesome power by driving north. There is an active volcano on Mount Saint Helens that lost its peak in 1980 when it erupted. There are different viewing points around here where you can still see its impact.

Cannon Beach

Head to Cannon Beach to see Oregon’s renowned coastline. Its boutique shops, cafes, and cliffs will appeal to anybody. All along the Pacific, you won’t be short of stunning sights that will keep you reaching for the camera

Portland sits in the middle of all this natural beauty. It is more just a place you can stop to smell the roses; it is a place you can experience the splendor and laid back atmosphere of the Great Northwest.

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Phoenix, Arizona Travel Guide

Phoenix is Arizona’s capital and lies south of the Grand Canyon in the northeastern desert. With a population of over 4 million, this is Arizona’s largest city and one of America’s most populated cities. It is always warm here, and it is often referred to as the valley of the sun. Here are some must-see attractions in Phoenix, Arizona.

Central Arts District

The tea and coffee houses in between the boutique stores and the galleries are a great place for breakfast.

Wrigley Mansion

This is a carefully preserved mansion looking out over the city. It is a great place for fine dining in an antique or modern setting.

Arizona Science Center

Cycle high in the air or get gobbled up by a monster stomach in this interactive museum. You can test your brain in the wonder center and your kids will love the splashing about.

Phoenix Art Museum

Visit the Phoenix Art Museum for exhibits off the wall. This museum is filled with conventional sculptures and paintings.

Heard Museum if Native Cultures and Art

This is the place to see ancient jars and bowls as well as Navajo jewelry. You can try creating jewelry and pottery yourself and pottery yourself at the Mesa Arts Center. There are all the tools you need here.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Scottsdale is between Phoenix and Mesa. When it comes to art, the sky is the limit here. You can also explore the stores in the Scottsdale Quarter after browsing the work of local creatives.

Musical Instrument Museum

If you want to treat yourself to some musical journey through time, visit the Musical Instrument Museum. It is stacked from the floor to the ceiling with unusual South American instruments, guitars from the Middle East, and African drums. This museum is also a tribute to some of the finest artists to come out of America.

Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park

Situated near the Salt River, this place will give you an insight into the Hohokam people’s lives. By digging irrigation canals to the river, they helped shape this city about 1,500 years ago.

Papago Park

Papago Park is home to some of the best family’s attractions in Phoenix. You should remember to check out the edible art and huge cacti in the Desert Botanical Garden, the prairie animals in Phoenix, and the old fire trucks in the Hall of Flame.

Dobbins Point

This is natural window where you can get spectacular views of the city. Here, it is like you are looking into the past in one direction and into the future in the other.

Grand Canyon

The folds and drop offs at the Grand Canyon are the most awe-inspiring of all the rock formations in Arizona. Sedona is closer to Phoenix if you don’t have the time to drive to see the Grand Canyon.

Phoenix is an attractive oasis in the desert with its deep appreciation of nature and art, rich Native American history, and southwestern charm.

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