Some people explore via food tours or shoe shopping. It seems my destiny is to discover the world one optometrist at a time.
What do Paris (France), Portland (Maine), and Yarmouth (Nova Scotia) have in common? Not much, to be honest. But I’ve come to see them through a new lens – if you’ll pardon the pun – thanks to local optometrists.
Some people see the world through – here’s that pun again – a specific lens. They explore destinations via a particular filter or set of experiences, discovering cities via food tours or shoe stores. I hadn’t thought that approach applied to me until I realized I was getting to know the globe via eye health facilities, one city at a time.
These famous trees in Northern Botswana were first captured by painter Thomas Baines. Here's how you can see them for yourself.
Twenty some years ago, National Geographic devoted a cover story to the topic of Africa and, in doing so, they did something unusual. They declined to use a cover image, rationalizing that there was no one symbol or picture that could encompass the continent.
If they had asked me, I would have made my case for the baobab tree. True, they don’t grow everywhere in Africa but they are an icon of the continent. Residents love them for their fruit, shade, and fibres, as do animals. Visitors adore these funny looking plants that have the appearance of being stuck in the ground upside down. They’re huge, imposing, aloof and yet there’s something about the baobab that’s decidedly homey. Perhaps this is why the Baines' Baobabs in Botswana are so popular.
The Baine’s Baobabs are named for British artist Thomas Baines. Baines wasn’t just a painter. He was also an explorer and an active participant on many of the earliest European expeditions to Africa. As such, he both contributed to and memorialized early colonialism. His work fed a mania for “exotic” images of the continent and his painting of seven baobabs in northern Botswana certainly fit the bill. They’re a little weird, a little other-wordly, and utterly captivating.
Located in northern Botswana in Nxai Pan National Park, the group of trees that Baines immortalized are estimated to be over 1,500 years old. Also know as "The Sleeping Sisters" (as one tree is growing sideways) they’re considered to be some of the tallest in the area, hitting about 20 feet in height. Thanks to Baines’ legacy and the trees' own magnificence, they’re a popular tourist attraction and Ryan and I were able to see them for ourselves during our camping safari. Here’s how you can do the same.
Our favourite things to do in Livingstone include hanging with the rhinos, eating Indian food, going to museums, and relaxing by the river.
You've probably heard a lot about Victoria Falls, one of world's most majestic wonders. But have you heard about its next door neighbour, the small city of Livingston, Zambia?
Livingstone is often treated a bit like a base for exploring other destinations and, to be honest, we were a bit guilty of that ourselves at first. We stayed in Livingstone for about a week as we organized trips in Zimbabwe and Botswana. Thankfully, along the way we clued in to the fact that this is much more than a town that takes care of all the traveling essentials, from groceries to pharmacy, banks to stamps. There is a long list of Livingstone activities to enjoy during your visit and exploring the city was a highlight of our time in Africa. Here's what should be on your radar during your visit.
The best things to do in Zürich West: All the fun, funky, and frugal things to do in Zürich's trendiest neighbourhood.
The Yonex Badminton Halle in Zürich West is home to cheap beer, fierce gameplay, and a FABULOUS Dolly Parton cardboard cutout mascot. In many ways, it’s a most unusual site to stumble across in the heart of Europe’s financial capital. But it’s also emblematic of Zürich West’s remarkable transformation from what was once primarily an industrial site to the fun, funky neighbourhood it is today. I’ve had the chance to explore the neighbourhood with a private guide who lives there and I can attest to what an amazing travel destination it is.
Everything you need to plan a day trip to Rottnest Island, Australia. I can't wait to tell you about swimming, ferries, quokkas, and more. It's time to start planning your Rottnest day trip!
If I told you to fly half way around the world to explore a place whose name translates to "Rats' Nest", you might think twice about my intentions. However, Western Australia's Rottnest Island may just be the most begilling destination you never knew you needed to visit - and you'd be glad to have taken my advice.
A Rottnest Island day trip itinerary usually starts with a ferry ride from the city of Perth, involves lots of amazing (and I am talking AMAZING) animals, offers ample history and culture, and ends with plenty of happy memories as you make your back to the mainland.
We had the chance to enjoy a day trip to Rottnest Island as part of our 2018 round-the-world trip that included a week in Perth. However, even if you had but a couple of days in Western Australia, a visit to this small island should be a top priority. To help you get started, we're happy to share our research about how to get there, what you should do when you arrive, where you can eat, and our personal tips about making the most of your time.
Legendary art, freshly baked pizza pockets, luscious gelato, and... Starbucks? How to experience Milan in one day when you're on a layover.
On my first visit to Milan, I changed trains and spent my last precious lira (yep, it was a long time ago) on a soggy train station sandwich that was decidedly not good. I was unimpressed - and hungry.
One my second visit to Milan, I once again changed trains and spent way too many Euros on Burger King. Yes, BURGER KING. My least favourite fast food - and the last thing you want to eat in Italy.
But on my third visit to Milan, oh let me tell you about the third visit. It was filled with gelato so luscious it was downright profane. And dough. Soft, fluffy dough, fresh from the oven, with the cheese and tomato sauce so hot they were bubbling together in a happy stew. Then there was art, the kind of art that puts all the other art to shame. And - of course! - there was coffee.
After two false starts, I finally had my day in Milan. I arrived via an overnight flight from New York and I left the same day, on an overnight flight to Addis Ababa. It was all part of our epic round-the-world trip that required us to cash in all our frequent flyer points and embrace a world of short but sassy layovers. Though my time was short, I was ready to do Milan in one day - or, at the very least, do my version of it in one day.
Here's where we ate, what we did, and even where we stayed in Milan, plus practical advice on getting from Malpensa airport to Milan's central station.
Eating, touring, exploring, and ... going to the Post Office? Here's what you can do in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, is one of the world's great adventure travel destinations. Vic Falls arguably offers the most scenic and heart pounding zip-lining, bungee jumping, aerial adventures, and white water rafting in the world. For some travelers, this all takes place against a backdrop of incredible luxury - gorgeous, plush resorts, genteel and swanky cocktail bars overlooking the gorge, and elegant restaurants whose service recalls a bygone era of glamour and refinement.
I, however, experienced none of this in Victoria Falls.
I was far too terrified to take part in anything remotely adventurous and far too frugal to indulge in any luxury offerings. The truth is that Victoria Falls activities are a bit tricky for value-minded travelers like myself who are eager for cozy microadventures. There is a fair bit on offer for transcontinental backpackers eager for cheap hostels, beers, and thrills. There's also plenty for indulgent spenders to drop their money on. But when it comes to the modest-spending scaredy-cat (that would be yours truly....) figuring out what you can do in Victoria Falls can be a challenge. These 15 activities are a good place to start. The list includes both things I did personally as well as some that I haven't yet experienced but seem to fit the bill.
While in Botswana, safari camping was at the top of our travel list. But it wasn't without challenges, like how to stay clean.
This picture of me, taken after one day of Botswana safari camping, says it all. I'm wide-eyed and smiling but you can see the worry in my eyes. You can also see plenty of sweaty hair and a cooling, wet handkerchief draped around my neck. And that was my northern Botswana and Chobe safari experience in a nutshell: awe-inspiring, monumental, a bit overwhelming, and really, REALLY sweaty.
In so many ways, I was ill-prepared for the rigors of Botswana wilderness safaris. I had done exhaustive research. I had been camping dozens of times. Heck, I had even lived in southeast Africa before. But the heat, sand, dirt, and sweat hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn't that I was unhygienic, per se. I was just out of my element in so many ways and feeling cruddy sure didn't help.
Ryan, I suspect, was absolutely in his element. But I was at the outer limits of my comfort zone. And, trust me, life does NOT begin there, no matter what the philosophers say! This is the blog post about keeping clean on camping safaris I wish I could have read before my trip.
Just outside Perth (Western Australia), we discovered a Fremantle coffee spot that is nearly impossible to find - unless you're in the know. (Updated 2022)
Want to know my formula for the perfect travel day? It's not first class tickets + champagne = luxury. It's more like tiny spot + jaunty bright colors = coffee heaven. While visiting the Perth (Western Australia) suburb of Fremantle, coffee heaven was in full force. We had the good fortune to visit the tiniest of all tiny cafes, featuring the jauntiest of all jaunty colors (bright orange!) and it was heavenly indeed.
My heart swooped the minute I walked through the door of the Leake St. Cafeteria - and so will yours! But first you have to find it. This is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it stop but read on and you'll see why I think a visit here is one of the best things to do in Fremantle.
(Update: This business sadly closed but a new coffee shop opened up in the same space. Alas, the Dellers Cafe has also closed as of March 2022 - please keep an eye open for a new coffee shop opening soon. I bet you'll still love reading about this cozy little nook!)
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