Bermuda

Sunny shores, sparkling waters, and stunning sunsets…these are all the spectacular seaside highlights we associate with the Caribbean that makes it a destination drawing people in droves. Less widely known, however, is that the same beauty and temperate climate can be enjoyed without traveling nearly the distance Jamaica or the Bahamas require. Situated on the same latitude as North Carolina, Bermuda’s isles are a much more easily accessed vacation destination for many.

Beginning with adventures at sea, diving is a huge draw to tourists of Bermuda. Some of the healthiest and largest reefs in the world surround these islands, especially Blue Hole and Western Blue Cut. Also luring in diving aficionados are the legendary Bermuda Triangle fables and, more specifically, the more than 300 shipwrecks haunting these waters. Each offers spine-tingling and ghostly adventures. Especially notable are the wrecks of Montana, Hermes, Constellation, L’Herminie, and Ferry. Each is notable for good reason and deserves to be explored!

Not all vacationers are up for an extreme adventure on vacation, of course, and for those who simply want to relax in the sun, Bermuda is a great choice. In fact, Horseshoe Bay Beach is rated among the top ten in the world. Other relaxing activities include visits to the historic Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, the Bermuda Aquarium, or the Bermuda Botanical Gardens. For a bit more time outdoors, Blue Hole Park’s caves, lagoons, and unmarked paths make it a perfect choice, as is the 64-acre Spittal Pond Nature Reserve.

Equally interesting and popular in Bermuda is the history to be investigated. With British, North American, African, Portuguese and West Indian influences all contributing to its culture, the museums in Bermuda abound with fascinating detail. This unique blend of culture plays into the culinary delights of Bermuda, too. Ask any of the locals and they’ll tell you: don’t leave their fare country before you sample the fish chowder, pepper jelly, rum cake, or Gosling’s rum. Your vacation isn’t complete until you do!

 

Netherlands

For such a small country – only slightly larger than West Virginia! – the Netherlands is packed with a variety of experiences to try and it starts with its capital city, Amsterdam. This famed city is synonymous with artistic heritage and exquisite architecture that harkens back to the 17th century when the Dutch Golden Age introduced us to artistic masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh. To enjoy them to the fullest, don’t miss the Van Gogh Museum or Rijksmuseum. Also while in Amsterdam tour the Anne Frank House where the famed teen Jewish diarist hid with her family in World War II. Her inspirational story has touched hearts worldwide and the opportunity to view for yourself her secret annex is something you’ll never forget.

When it’s time for a break, nearby Vondelpark is the perfect place to go. Cycling is a huge part of Amsterdam’s culture and with 120 acres of beautiful landscape to enjoy, Vondelpark is an excellent place to take advantage of the activity’s popularity. Some of the best foods the Netherlands has to offer are right here, too. Cafes and coffee shops are found everwhere and offer excellent bitterballen, stroopwafel, raw herring, kibbeling, and poffertjes.

As lovely as Amsterdam is, there is much more to enjoy in the Netherlands. Visitors delight in spending time in the Hague, find the cosmopolitan center of government and home to more excellent museums. Also not far is the popular Scheveningen beach resort just around the corner. And if you’re a fan of living history, Zaanse Schans, a residential area that has brought to life the 18th and 19th centuries with working windmills, barns, and workshops, might be just the place for you. Make sure you bring your camera so you’ll have a record of the gorgeous tulip fields you’ll be passing.

For such a small country – only slightly larger than West Virginia! – the Netherlands is packed with a variety of experiences to try and it starts with its capital city, Amsterdam. This famed city is synonymous with artistic heritage and exquisite architecture that harkens back to the 17th century when the Dutch Golden Age introduced us to artistic masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh. To enjoy them to the fullest, don’t miss the Van Gogh Museum or Rijksmuseum. Also while in Amsterdam tour the Anne Frank House where the famed teen Jewish diarist hid with her family in World War II. Her inspirational story has touched hearts worldwide and the opportunity to view for yourself her secret annex is something you’ll never forget.

When it’s time for a break, nearby Vondelpark is the perfect place to go. Cycling is a huge part of Amsterdam’s culture and with 120 acres of beautiful landscape to enjoy, Vondelpark is an excellent place to take advantage of the activity’s popularity. Some of the best foods the Netherlands has to offer are right here, too. Cafes and coffee shops are found everwhere and offer excellent bitterballen, stroopwafel, raw herring, kibbeling, and poffertjes.

As lovely as Amsterdam is, there is much more to enjoy in the Netherlands. Visitors delight in spending time in the Hague, find the cosmopolitan center of government and home to more excellent museums. Also not far is the popular Scheveningen beach resort just around the corner. And if you’re a fan of living history, Zaanse Schans, a residential area that has brought to life the 18th and 19th centuries with working windmills, barns, and workshops, might be just the place for you. Make sure you bring your camera so you’ll have a record of the gorgeous tulip fields you’ll be passing.

Ireland

Aptly nicknamed the ‘Emerald Isle’, Ireland is a land of lush, rolling green pastures carved out of craggy hillsides, lending it a unique sort of rugged beauty that’s impossible to deny. Much of that rugged beauty is found along the coast, especially in the famous cliff-lined shores. Many flock to Ireland to see the Cliffs of Moher, which stand a spectacular 750 feet above the coastline. Even more dramatic are the Croaghaun sea cliffs, rising three times as high at 2,250 feet. Such stunning coastline beauty abounds in Ireland and because with an abundance of scenic drives, Ireland has made enjoying its views a breeze. The Wild Atlantic Way, for example, brings visitors through no less than seven counties full of charming coastal towns. Just as enjoyable are the Dingle Peninsula, Sheepshead Peninsula and, of course, the Ring of Kerry.

History buffs will also find much to love in Ireland, starting with the megalithic tombs of Brú na Bóinne that date back more than 5,000 years – further, in fact, than the Egyptian pyramids. Other popular landmarks include Glendalough, where the ruins of a monastic city that operated for more than 900 years once stood, and Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland, one of the most popular highlights on the Causeway Coast Walking Trail. History fans will also be sure to remind you that you must kiss the Blarney Stone in County Cork’s famous Blarney Castle to be blessed with the gift of gab. It may sound like a simple task to earn great reward, but don’t be fooled: to accomplish this feat you must lie on your back while your feet are held as you lean out to reach the stone 37 feet off the ground. Plenty of other castles are waiting to be explored in Ireland besides the popular Blarney Castle, too. Bunratty Castle and Folk Park in County Clare is an excellent place for visitors to take a step back in time with a living history experience like no other. Other oft-visited castles include Ross Castle in Killarney, and Norman Castle in Kilkenny.

When you’re ready to blend a bit more modern culture with your historic adventures, head for Limerick where you’ll find King John’s Castle, St. John’s Cathedral and St. Mary’s Cathedral as well as the modern Hunt Museum, housing 2,000 works of art. Limerick is also a great spot for pubs and restaurants. Seeking more sophistication? Dublin is where you’ll want to go next for a busier nightlife and still more tourist options. Trinity College boasts a fantastic library with one of the oldest manuscripts in the world, the Book of Kells, and is one of the most popular sites, as is the tour at the Guinness Storehouse, home of the iconic Irish stout that’s been a part of the country’s history since 1759.

Aptly nicknamed the ‘Emerald Isle’, Ireland is a land of lush, rolling green pastures carved out of craggy hillsides, lending it a unique sort of rugged beauty that’s impossible to deny. Much of that rugged beauty is found along the coast, especially in the famous cliff-lined shores. Many flock to Ireland to see the Cliffs of Moher, which stand a spectacular 750 feet above the coastline. Even more dramatic are the Croaghaun sea cliffs, rising three times as high at 2,250 feet. Such stunning coastline beauty abounds in Ireland and because with an abundance of scenic drives, Ireland has made enjoying its views a breeze. The Wild Atlantic Way, for example, brings visitors through no less than seven counties full of charming coastal towns. Just as enjoyable are the Dingle Peninsula, Sheepshead Peninsula and, of course, the Ring of Kerry.

History buffs will also find much to love in Ireland, starting with the megalithic tombs of Brú na Bóinne that date back more than 5,000 years – further, in fact, than the Egyptian pyramids. Other popular landmarks include Glendalough, where the ruins of a monastic city that operated for more than 900 years once stood, and Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland, one of the most popular highlights on the Causeway Coast Walking Trail. History fans will also be sure to remind you that you must kiss the Blarney Stone in County Cork’s famous Blarney Castle to be blessed with the gift of gab. It may sound like a simple task to earn great reward, but don’t be fooled: to accomplish this feat you must lie on your back while your feet are held as you lean out to reach the stone 37 feet off the ground. Plenty of other castles are waiting to be explored in Ireland besides the popular Blarney Castle, too. Bunratty Castle and Folk Park in County Clare is an excellent place for visitors to take a step back in time with a living history experience like no other. Other oft-visited castles include Ross Castle in Killarney, and Norman Castle in Kilkenny.

When you’re ready to blend a bit more modern culture with your historic adventures, head for Limerick where you’ll find King John’s Castle, St. John’s Cathedral and St. Mary’s Cathedral as well as the modern Hunt Museum, housing 2,000 works of art. Limerick is also a great spot for pubs and restaurants. Seeking more sophistication? Dublin is where you’ll want to go next for a busier nightlife and still more tourist options. Trinity College boasts a fantastic library with one of the oldest manuscripts in the world, the Book of Kells, and is one of the most popular sites, as is the tour at the Guinness Storehouse, home of the iconic Irish stout that’s been a part of the country’s history since 1759.

Jamaica

If nature’s amusements just aren’t your favorite, Jamaica has other options for you. Kingston is an excellent town to learn a little Jamaican history, especially Devon House. Big reggae fan? Kingston is also the site of the Bob Marley Museum. Perhaps you like the stuff of legends and if so, Port Royal is the stop for you! It’s the place to go to learn about the pirating history of Jamaica and explore a bit of naval history, too.

Still curious about Jamaican wonders? That’s easy…you need look no further than the dining table! Jamaica’s culinary delights will take you to the next level of amazement to be sure. Unique flavors come together in this region to sharpen the palate in ways never experienced before. In a beautiful combination of New World and Old, country staples like yams, rice and plantains are prepared in deliciously countless ways. Meanwhile, African spices come together in perfect combination to create that distinct jerk flavor Jamaica’s so famous for, and all are served with an abundance of delicious fresh seafood. Local tropical fruits and vegetables add even more and the final touch? Jamaican rum and Red Strip beer, of course!

If nature’s amusements just aren’t your favorite, Jamaica has other options for you. Kingston is an excellent town to learn a little Jamaican history, especially Devon House. Big reggae fan? Kingston is also the site of the Bob Marley Museum. Perhaps you like the stuff of legends and if so, Port Royal is the stop for you! It’s the place to go to learn about the pirating history of Jamaica and explore a bit of naval history, too.

Still curious about Jamaican wonders? That’s easy…you need look no further than the dining table! Jamaica’s culinary delights will take you to the next level of amazement to be sure. Unique flavors come together in this region to sharpen the palate in ways never experienced before. In a beautiful combination of New World and Old, country staples like yams, rice and plantains are prepared in deliciously countless ways. Meanwhile, African spices come together in perfect combination to create that distinct jerk flavor Jamaica’s so famous for, and all are served with an abundance of delicious fresh seafood. Local tropical fruits and vegetables add even more and the final touch? Jamaican rum and Red Strip beer, of course!

Scotland

“Welcome to Scotland, land of legend, birthplace of golf, and home of Nessie!” This is what you would expect to hear from a Scottish native inviting a newcomer to his country and although all would be true, there is much, much more to Scotland than that. From sea to shore, it’s a country of diverse vacation adventures you’d be mistaken to overlook.With a history that dates back to 8500 BC, the journey in time you can take in Scotland has a strong lure for history buffs. Go as far back as prehistoric times if that’s your interest, or begin further along with a look at the Romans’ 700-year reign. Excellent museums can be found throughout Scotland to guide you on your investigation of this country’s tumultuous history, like the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Continue the journey right up through modern day to discover how different societies have shaped Scotland to become who it is today, a nation with a rich blend of folklore, tradition, and cultural uniqueness.”

With a history that dates back to 8500 BC, the journey in time you can take in Scotland has a strong lure for history buffs. Go as far back as prehistoric times if that’s your interest, or begin further along with a look at the Romans’ 700-year reign. Excellent museums can be found throughout Scotland to guide you on your investigation of this country’s tumultuous history, like the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Continue the journey right up through modern day to discover how different societies have shaped Scotland to become who it is today, a nation with a rich blend of folklore, tradition, and cultural uniqueness.

Naturally, such a long history lends itself to the birth of legends and while you can learn much at museums, castles and battlefields also certainly offer the stuff of legends, too. Both of those can be found by the thousands, but one favorite is Braemar Castle where visitors can experience a living history of 16th century castle life. The many castles of Scotland are also excellent sources of stunning architecture and even provide a glimpse of royalty, like Edinburgh Castle, which houses the Crown Jewels, or Balmoral Castle in the Highlands, where Royal Family still reside.Scotland also offers an array of outdoor activities sure to attract. Given the small size of the country this guarantees that within driving distance activities sure to please everyone are available. Scaling the Cairngorm mountain ranges, whitewater rafting, and sea kayaking touch on just a few most loved by vacationers. Still, with all the great outdoor adventures to be had, there’s no getting around it: Scotland is a land known for golf. Ask avid golfers and they’ll tell you without hesitation that visiting Scotland is the pilgrimage they all want to make. For 600 years, the sport has thrived. Today, more than 500 courses can be found in Scotland including the Old Course at St. Andrews, where the 18-hole design was created.

Scotland also offers an array of outdoor activities sure to attract. Given the small size of the country this guarantees that within driving distance activities sure to please everyone are available. Scaling the Cairngorm mountain ranges, whitewater rafting, and sea kayaking touch on just a few most loved by vacationers. Still, with all the great outdoor adventures to be had, there’s no getting around it: Scotland is a land known for golf. Ask avid golfers and they’ll tell you without hesitation that visiting Scotland is the pilgrimage they all want to make. For 600 years, the sport has thrived. Today, more than 500 courses can be found in Scotland including the Old Course at St. Andrews, where the 18-hole design was created.And last but far from least, the food and drink of Scotland! Long-famed Aberdeen Angus steaks, superb salmon, and the freshest of produces are sure to delight the palate. Excellent dairy is another culinary highlight to be found in Scotland. As far as drink goes, who doesn’t recognize that Scottish whisky is an inherent part of the culture? In fact, more than 100 whiskey distilleries operate in Scotland, many available to tour. And finally, there’s Scotland’s national dish, haggis. In haggis you’ll find a mix of sheep’s heart, lungs and liver combined with minced onion, spices, salt and, yes, oatmeal. To be sure, it’s a dish that’s just right for those up for a culinary adventure. The question is, are you?

And last but far from least, the food and drink of Scotland! Long-famed Aberdeen Angus steaks, superb salmon, and the freshest of produces are sure to delight the palate. Excellent dairy is another culinary highlight to be found in Scotland. As far as drink goes, who doesn’t recognize that Scottish whisky is an inherent part of the culture? In fact, more than 100 whiskey distilleries operate in Scotland, many available to tour. And finally, there’s Scotland’s national dish, haggis. In haggis you’ll find a mix of sheep’s heart, lungs and liver combined with minced onion, spices, salt and, yes, oatmeal. To be sure, it’s a dish that’s just right for those up for a culinary adventure. The question is, are you?

England

When trying to decide what to do when you visit in England, the problem is not the lack of choices. The problems is actually that there are too many choices. There are no limitations to fun when you visit, so be sure to allow plenty of time. The rush of cosmopolitan life meets bucolic splendor in perfect harmony here with grand opportunities for unique experiences along the way.

It goes without saying that England can’t be “done” without giving London its fair share of time. First and obviously sought by all is Buckingham Palace. The mystery of a monarchy never ceases to intrigue. From there it takes no time at all to recognize the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben. Toward the center of the city you’ll also find St. Paul’s Cathdral, London Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Borough Market and the Tower Bridge. History and stunning architecture resound here. History aside, however, London has a contemporary vibe that can’t be denied. Oxford Street offers all the newest trends, foodies delight in unique gastronomic inventions, and the art at Tate Modern just absolutely shouts present-day appeal.

One of the most exciting opportunities when visiting England is taking a step back in time. This journey through history tracks the rise and falls of empires up through modern day democracy, and not just by viewing artifacts preserved behind museum glass. The unsolved histories of Stonehenge’s 5,000-year-old have intrigued visitors for generations with their mystique. Legendary sites beckon British literature buffs, such as the famous oak in Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest, the city of Canterbury for fans of Chaucer and Dickens, or Jane Austen’s long-time residence in Chawton. Avid fans of history will also delight in the many palaces and medieval fortresses scattered throughout England, while thatched roofs and thousand-year-old cathedrals give you a sense of feeling settled in another place in time.

Bahamas

The Bahamas has long been known as a hotspot for vacationers who love to cruise and, it’s true, this Caribbean gem certainly is a hub for cruise lines. Less widely known, however, is what a great destination it is beyond popular Freeport and Nassau. There is much tucked away on this cluster of islands that has appeal for those who love the Caribbean.

The beaches, of course, are among the first of many prizes noted in the Bahamas and with more than 2,000 islands and cays just waiting to be explored, how could it be otherwise? Crystal waters and pure white sands take you worlds away from the stress of everyday life. East Wells and Alice Town Beaches in Bimini are spectacular; French Leave Beach in Eleuthera Island certainly shouldn’t be passed by, and Lochabar Beach and Ford’s Beach on Long Island are equally fabulous. And if San Salvador is your destination of choice, be sure to visit Snow Bay Beach while there.

Along with the excellent beaches come all the popular water activities to enjoy and the Bahamas lacks none. Kite boarding, kayaking, jet skiing, fishing, and boat tours are excellent choices if you want to spend time on the water. Looking for something a bit more adventurous? Try a dolphin excursion or, even more extreme, perhaps a shark encounter. There’s something for everyone in the peaceful Bahamian waters. And if you’re looking for a bit more traditional fun, you can enjoy a stop at the always-popular Atlantis Resort.

If history is more your speed, this nation has a long and fascinating one and you can learn plenty in the museums here. The Pompey Museum of Slavery and Emancipation and Paradise Island is excellent, as is the Heritage Museum. Forts and monuments that share a wealth of information also dot the islands, and much about Bahamian art and culture can be found at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas. Even institutions like the Central Bank and National Treasury building feature famed Bahamian artwork.

Of course, whether you while away your days in sun and surf or by touring the sights in the Bahamas, you’ll need to re-fuel and the cuisine of this area is a perfect treat for doing so. Practically vacations in itself, the dishes here are flavored with just the right amount of spice to bring your taste buds to life. Fresh lobster, crab, and conch are delightful, as are the many indigenous tropical fruits. All are prepared with a special culinary twist of South American and Caribbean that is rivaled by no other. Add to this the Bahamas famous rum for the perfect meal, every time.

Quebec

With its unique blend of French roots and a modern melting-pot sophistication, Quebec has a unique climate where culture can thrive, a definite draw for visitors. Added to its cultural intrigue, Quebec has a land mass nearly three times the size of France and is compromised of all kinds of weather and terrain. Such a blend lends this Canadian province a country-within-a-country feel. Add to these features the exquisite cuisine found in Quebec and you’ve got a vacation destination sure to be on the list of favorites.

Quebec City is agreed by most to be an excellent beginning of a vacation in Quebec. Compared to more modern areas, this town is considered the soul of the province and is rich in history. See for yourself with a visit to Old Quebec, the oldest fortified town in North America. On this leg of the journey, the Petit-Champlain District, Place Royale, Plains of Abraham, and the Parliament Building are highlights not to miss. Continue on to admire the stained glass, paintings, mosaics, and sculptures at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. This basilica is the oldest pilgrimage site north of Mexico and is one of five in national shrines in Quebec. Be sure to carve out time for the Onhoüa Chetek8e Huron Traditional Site to learn about the indigenous Huron-Wendat nation.

Quebec City is not all about museums and history, however. Just 15 minutes from downtown you’ll find Montgomery Falls. Almost 100 feet higher than Niagra Falls, this waterfall can be enjoyed by gondola, suspension bridge or for thrill seekers, a double zipline. Travel northwest for only 40 minutes and you’ll find yourself in beautiful Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier. In this breathtaking mountainous plateau of deep valleys and expansive rivers, you’ll find adventures in hiking, snowshoeing, canoeing, kayaking, camping and fishing all around.

After your stay in Quebec City and its nearby countryside, continue to Montreal. Like Quebec City, this town is rich in history and plenty is found in Old Montreal’s charming town squares full of art galleries, shops, cafes and parks. The Botanical Gardens and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts offer a more cosmopolitan atmosphere along with endless popular festivals featuring artists, writers, and musicians. Montreal also offers excellent shopping and, notably, excellent food.

When it’s time to take a break from city life, consider Charlevoix. A yearlong playground, visitors welcome springtime with whale watching as the bitterness of winter fades. As summer begins in earnest and even into the fall, they find entertainment in two excellent national parks, Les Grands-Jardins and Hautest-Gorges-de-la-Riviere-Malbaie, for hiking, kayaking, and camping. Finally, rounding it out, the outdoor fun continues with skiing and snowboarding come winter.

Finally, the cuisine of Quebec. Although French at heart, the food has been influenced by so many varieties of cultures over the course of time that it’s come to have a unique flair all its own. Quebec has long been known for its maple syrup production. In fact, sugar in general plays a big role in Quebec’s famed cuisine. Tarte au Sucre (sugar pie) and pouding chômeur (a pancake-like pudding) are found throughout the area and should be tried whenever possible to taste the local differences. Quebec cheese has a fame all its own, as do the savory flavors found in poutine (French fries, gravy and cheese curds), Pâté Chinois (a Canadian shepherds pie), and the traditional tourtiere (meat pie). No matter what flavor you’re craving, you’ll find the perfect dish to match it in Quebec.

Austria

With stunning Alpine countryside, a Habsburg history rich in imperial culture and classical music, and a modern-day sophistication that rivals none, Austria has vacation appeal for everyone.

Austria’s capital city of Vienna has long been considered a cultural gateway in Europe. For those interested in history and architecture, Vienna offers both. The Schonbrunn Palace, Kunsthisorisches Museum, and Imperial Palace are must-sees, but certainly, vacationers shouldn’t stop there. These famous attractions are just the start. Vienna is also home to renowned cathedrals, art museums, parks, and gardens that entertain for days on end. More provincial cities such as Salzburg and Innsbruck offer still more art and culture as visitors travel closer to the country’s outdoor vacation highlights.

As a land of lakes and alpines, Austria offers vacationers who are more inclined to spend time outdoors a wealth of activities. During the winter skiers and snowboarders can be found buzzing down its famed pristine slopes, while summertime welcomes rafters, boaters, and canyoneers for a vacation like no other.

Cuba

After many years of being nearly off-limits to vacationers, Cuba’s tourist market has finally re-opened and and its wonders have exceeded all expectations. Whether busy urban cityscapes, peaceful mountain ranges, and stunning beaches that melt into crystal seas, this island nation has something special to suit everyone’s tastes.

If city life is your preference, Havana is the place to be in Cuba. Nightclubs, jazz clubs, and cabarets fill the evening with nostalgic music. By day, wander the historic streets of Old Havana and enjoy small bands playing in cafes between visits to famous museums. While you’re there, be sure to enjoy a meal at one of Cuba’s famous paladares, those privately owned restaurants that were daringly run illegally until the 90s. The superior rustic Cuban flavors aren’t to be missed.

If you’re more of an adventure traveler, you include time for Cuba’s famed mountains that run straight to the Caribbean Sea. One of the more popular places is Santiago de Cuba, situated just between the sea and the Sierra Maestra Mountains. Here you’ll find more festivals than any other place in Cuba. For even more outdoor adventure, Trinidad is a must-stop city before hiking the Escambray Mountains. And don’t forget to a hike to the summit of El Yunque Mountain. The work is strenuous but the spectacular view of Baracoa Bay’s shoreline is a worthy reward!


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