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Most Wanted In Milan – What To Buy, Where To Buy

by Richa G 28. December 2012 22:20
If you’re proud of your Prada bag, pleased with your arresting Armani shoes and glad about your glorious Gucci outfit, Milan is not just Milan to you; it’s Mecca. With every known brand having a strong presence as well as plenty of local brands offering competition, Milan is the ultimate magnet for shoppers. It’s not just these brands that make Milan a shopping haven; there’s much more to the city that attracts even non-shoppers to its markets. Find out about the magic appeal of Milan’s shops and check out the best buys here.

Big into Brands
The Fashion Quadrangle which is formed by four streets north of the Duomo is where all noteworthy brands have established shop. The Armani Megastore with its wide range of apparel, accessories and home furnishing, the Gucci Flagship store, Prada’s boutique and Dolce e Gabbana’s haven for women’s wear are just a few known names here. If brands are your mantra, nothing but your budget can stop you from going crazy here. In fact, keeping a budget limit for shopping in Milan can be a crazy idea because it is going to be busted anyway.

Blank about brands?
If you think brands don’t matter, only looks do; you are lucky. Milan’s city outlets like Il Salvagente, D Magazine, Matia’s Outlet and Navigli offer just what you want. If flea markets are your fancy, try out the Fiera di Senegalia fair held every Saturday. Viale Fauche is another place where you can get stylish designer wear at much lesser rates than you get at designer wear shops; of course, this still doesn’t mean the clothes are cheap, but then, you get used to this in Milan.

Apart From Fashion
Though it’s a fashion capital, there’s much more to Milan than just clothes and accessories; brand labels often make people forget this. Cute, small gift articles like leather bookmarks, home linen, ceramic utensils and pieces of art are must buys here. Get these as souvenirs and you will find that they are lovely conversation starters.

Another classically Milan purchase would be distinctive Murano glass items that are designed to perfection. Other than ornaments, you can get glass pens, flower vases and picture frames. These are sure to remind you of your shopping experience in Milan. Alessi’s houseware and kitchenware products are other interesting buys here.

Food Souvenirs
Of course, it would be lovely if you could get back some of that lovely gelaterie; but then, maybe it tastes best only when you have the Duomo as your background. However, you can get back some lovely Italian food souvenirs like dried pasta, chocolates, olive oil, Amaretti and Cantucci biscuits and balsamic vinegar. Bakery products like Siena cake are also great to buy as gifts for people back home.

Shopping in Milan
Most shops close by 7.30 PM and have a 2hour break for lunch in the afternoon. On Sundays, markets are usually closed. If you are a non-EU resident, you can claim refund on VAT paid for bills for than €155. Remember this when you exit from Milan and maybe this will offer little solace whenever you remember the day you blew up your entire wallet for a “little” bit of shopping.

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A Guide to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar

by Richa G 26. December 2012 21:40
  Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Be ready to find just about anything in the 4000 shops that have established here
Photo by John Picken, on Flickr

Before you start reading about the wonders of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, read this rule.

Stay away if:

  • You think bargaining is shameful
  • You think the shopkeeper’s opinion usually helps you
  • You are time-constrained
  • Your baggage limit is almost nil
  • Your entourage includes spouses, children or pets who hate shopping

If you have crossed these hurdles, congratulations and welcome to Kapali Carsi, meaning covered market; also the oldest mall ever built in a temple for hard core shoppers and one of the best known icons of Istanbul.

Getting There
The tram is the best way to reach the mall because traffic near this area is very dense and there are many one-way roads that can be navigated only if you know your way around. Take a tram to Beyazit-Kapalicarsi and you will be right outside the Grand Bazaar. Get into the bazaar easily using any of its 21 gates.

Alas, moving around inside the grand old mall is not as easy; the labyrinth of lanes and alleys inside the bazaar may make your head spin. Get a map of the Grand Bazaar before you get there.

The loot
Expect to find just about anything in the 4000 shops that have established their business in the Kapali Carsi. The Grand Bazaar is divided into several smaller bazaars, each specializing in a product. So if you want to buy shoes, apparel, fake designer stuff, leather products, gem stones, spices, ceramic or carpets; not to mention typical Turkish souvenirs and tea, you have come to the right place.

There is a dazzling array of gold in the jewelry alleys at Kalpakcilar and Terzi Basi Streets; don’t let anyone force you into buying what you don’t need just because you’ve visited the shop.

World’s Oldest Tourist Trap

The World’s oldest shopping mall is also sometimes considered to be the World’s oldest tourist trap. It’s easy to be lured into a shop when the well-mannered shopkeeper quietly offers you an unbelievable deal. You will be offered tea and given a tour of all the exhibits in the shop and in the time it takes to say Kapali Carsi, you will find yourself out of the shop with a bag full of unwanted stuff, a weightless wallet and an empty look on your face. And yes, the Grand Bazaar also has the highest number of pickpockets in the city; so beware.

Tips to enjoy the Grand Bazaar

Collect one-liners. From “Get this carpet for your daughter in America” to “Won’t you grace my shop?” shopkeepers in the Grand Bazaar have a technique to say just the right line to draw you into their shop. Make eye contact only if you are interested; else, brush them aside with a smile.

The Grand Bazaar is not just for shopping, but also for eating. Enjoy the kebabs at Kara Mehmet Kebap Salonu, ali nasik at Gaziantep Burç Ocakbaşi and kaymak at Havuzlu. Shopping can work up quite an appetite; so make sure you know your options before you go there.

Just the task of visiting Grand Bazaar and buying what you want at a reasonable price can you the equivalent of a diploma in negotiating skills. And of course, the satisfaction you get from a good purchase is priceless.

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Biking Your Way Through Dublin

by Richa G 23. December 2012 02:34
  Dublin bikes
Took my first prime lens for a quick spin. I love the depth of field control. I thought 35mm would be too wide, but it's perfect on my DX body.
Photo by dansapples, on Flickr
Vibrant, colorful, party-loving Dublin is one of those rare metropolises that are a favorite with its residents as well as tourists in spite of its industrious image and crowds. If you are planning to visit Dublin, there’s one thing you need to remember. Keep away from cars. Exploring the city by car can be a bad idea because charming though it is, the city’s notorious traffic and parking problems can take the magic out of your sightseeing.

Why Bikes?
  1. Of course, you could use the effective public transport system; but a far better way to explore the city would be by bikes.
  2. The bike-friendly level roads combined with Ireland’s innovative bike sharing scheme makes this option highly attractive.
  3. Cycling through the roads is not only better exercise and a greener option; it is also a terrific way to get to know the city better.
  4. If you have to travel longer distances that may be strenuous by bikes, you can always load your bike on Dublin’s buses or trams and use it again at your destination.
Dublin city Bike Tours
From March to November, the Dublin City Bike Tours offers guided tours through the city to popular as well as little known attractions of Dublin. This 3 hour tour starts near the central bus stand and will take you on a 9 km drive through the city’s best sights. Explore the city on a stylish bike with an interesting guide and you wouldn’t believe how much you’ve covered and learnt in these 3 hours.

The DublinBikes Scheme
For self-guided bike tours of Dublin, take advantage of the convenient DublinBikes Scheme offered by the Government. The DublinBikes Scheme offers bicycles at 40 stations across the city, free for use for the first 30 minutes each time. If you don’t want to keep visiting bike stations, just hire a bike for 3 days or for the duration of your stay and keep moving on.

Discover Dublin with Your Pedal
  1. Get your Dublinbike at the Eccles Street Station and visit the lovely Botanical Gardens nearby. Of course, biking can make you hungry. That’s why a stop at the Temple Bar Food Market is important.
  2. Take your bike to explore the vast Phoenix Park, the largest city park in Europe. If you are a nature lover, you can spend hours here wandering over the green lands, watching the wild deer and seeing nature at its best. Don’t miss the Dublin Zoo when you visit this park.
  3. The Dublin city center is small with level roads and convenient bicycle paths. Visit the museums, heritage buildings, theatres and churches here by just pedaling across. Make your way to the Guinness Storehouse and drink in the information provided here about Dublin’s grand ale; of course, you also get to drink Guinness. Complete your shopping at Grafton Street in the city center. This can be a great place to buy shoes for your cycling expedition.
  4. A leisurely 15 minute ride from the city center will take you to the Sandymount Strand, a vast stretch of beach with a scenic lighthouse.  
With so much to explore and a handy option to discover the city at your own pace, you may find it difficult to pedal out of the enchanting fairytale city of Dublin.

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Distinctively Dubai Experiences

by Richa G 20. December 2012 01:15
  Dubai Gold Souk
At the gold souk in Dubai. It is right between the vegetable souk and the fish souk - which is odd
Photo by Theodore Scott, on Flickr

If you are looking for city holidays, there are plenty of tourist destinations that cater to your vacation needs pleasingly. And then there is Dubai. Cosmopolitan, yet culture-oriented, classy and flashy, yet not unapproachable and futuristic without moving away from the past; Dubai is a melody of experiences and this is just what makes it a charming place to visit. Find out what makes Dubai so unique both to its people and visitors.

The City of Superlatives

The tallest tower, the largest mall, the costliest hotel, the largest man-made island… not just in the UAE, but in the world; and these are just a few achievements that describe Dubai. You can also see some of the world’s richest people, flashiest cars, longest dancing fountains and best shopping festival.

These achievements may not seem all that impressive; but for a desert village whose only global interest was its pearl trade just a hundred years back to transform to a man-made paradise for tourists is indeed a great feat.

Only in Dubai Experiences
Bastakiya - The historic living quarters of the city is still preserved in the Bastakiya and most of the buildings now house restaurants and boutique galleries. Visit this place to get a feel of old Dubai and find out how the people here managed the sweltering heat before the days of air-conditioners by using wind towers.

Dubai creek – You don’t have to book an actual dinner cruise to enjoy floating over the Dubai creek. Just ride across the creek from Bur Dubai and Deira on an Abra (a water-taxi) and compare the conflicting sights of old and new Dubai from the water.

The souks - If shopping in Dubai’s fabulous malls is exciting and uplifting for the shopping addict, shopping at the city’s souks is a distinctively Dubai experience. Gawk at the incredible variety of gold jewelry displayed in the gold souks; even more interesting is the way the locals buy gold in baskets and trolleys as if they were shopping for grocery.

Desert Safari and Quad biking - While the desert safari in itself is an experience unique to the UAE, newer and more exciting activities like quad biking and sand surfing have caught the attention of adventure lovers. Feel the excitement mount when the red sand of the desert hits your face when you ride an ATV or a sand board over the dunes and hills of sand. Another option is to rent dune buggies to ride over the sand.

Skiing - Skiing?  In a desert? That too throughout the year? Maybe the heat outside makes this activity seem all the more incredible, but the Ski Dubai in the Mall of Emirates with its huge indoor ski area, real snow, snow penguins and state-of-art equipments makes actual ski slopes seem dull.

Luxury - Experience better than world-class luxury in Dubai’s Atlantis The Palm, The Palace At One & Only Royal Mirage or the Burj Al Arab which claims to be the only seven star hotel in the world. This is of course, if you have loads of plastic money. If you don’t, do the next best thing and visit the Burj for afternoon tea.  Reserve your table at the Skyview Bar on the 27th Floor and enjoy the view and great food amidst dazzling settings. And when you want to leave the luxurious ambience and step out to see the city, do so with your rented Lamborghini. What better way is there to see the city of bests?

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There’s More To Denver

by Richa G 19. December 2012 11:06
  RenFair11 Signage
The entrance
Photo by UCFFool, on Flickr

Everyone knows this place as the “Mile High City”. A sprawling metropolis that has emerged out of a cow town, backed by the beautiful Rocky Mountains, Denver is as well known for its beer as it is for its boulevards and bustling city scene. This is everyone’s perception of dynamic Denver; but this is not all. There’s more to Denver than meets the eye. Read on to find out.

So you’ve seen the Denver Zoo, the Elitch Gardens, the Water World and Botanic Gardens and visited Mount Evans; now you think you’ve seen everything the city has to offer. But no! These are just the best known places that every tourist has to see. But as in other places, there are hidden gems in Denver that are delightful to visit and often overlooked in the tourist beat.

Inside & Out Denver Tour
You will be taken to the US mint. Before you say “how boring!”, let me assure you; this is not just a regular tour that will show you the mint and spew out details. The Inside & Out is a walking tour, nay, a scavenger hunt that will involve you in the Great Denver Mint Robbery that happened in 1922. Be a part of the mystery and get an insider perspective of the places involved in the robbery starting from the LoDo district. If you’re with family, all the more reason to take this tour.

No, this is not a prison cell; rather, this is a place that makes you feel happy there are prison cells. The Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab may not be a typical tourist hangout. But the informative exhibits and they way in which visitors are educated about the threat of terrorism in the world without being intimidating makes this place not just interesting, but also important. When you visit the Denver Art Museum, make sure you stop at the CELL too; it’s just right across the museum.

Rockmount Ranch Wear
Think you look best in West? Then do your shopping for frilled, rhinestoned shirts, buckles, belts and boots at the Rockmount Ranch Wear. If the shop was good enough for real cowboys and Hollywood biggies, it’s good enough for you too.

Colorado Renaissance Festival
Meet King, jousters, jugglers and blacksmiths at the Colorado Renaissance Festival, held in Larkspur, about a half-an hour drive from Denver. The festival brings back to life the people of the Sixteenth Century; but to most visitors, the main attraction lies in the Turkey drumsticks, steak on a stake and roasted corn.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary
Yes, the Denver Zoo is a lovely place to visit; but if you want to see animals in their natural habitat, visit the Wild Animal Sanctuary, just a short drive from Denver. Watch large carnivores as well as other wild animals left in vast open spaces, happy in their own environment.

The Buckhorn Exchange

Warning: This place is not for vegans

Not exactly non-touristy, but distinctly Denver, the Buckhorn Exchange is where you can get the best game meat. What’s more, you’ll be eating this meat with all the game staring at you from the walls in the form of animal mounts. Take in the interiors with a Big Steak and you’re one with the wild. This is also the first place to get a beer license in Colorado. So if you want old and original, head to the Buckhorn Exchange and see the heads.

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Dishing Out Dallas - A Good Food Guide

by Richa G 18. December 2012 05:46
Huge portions, delicious Tex-Mex food and cow-boy themes; what else can you expect in Dallas, right? If this is all you expect when you set off for Dallas, you are in for a huge surprise. Did you know Dallas is supposed to have a higher restaurants density than New York City? If you’ve experienced the dining scene at NYC, you’ll know how incredible this is.

Eating out is a part of the city’s culture; people here eat out at least 4 times a week on an average. To cater to these huge appetite needs and for variety, Dallas has bloomed into a city of restaurants. Check out what’s hot here.

It’s hard to jumpstart your day with breakfast in Dallas because the portions are so generous that all you’d want to do is fall asleep again. Maybe that’s why there’s ample supply of coffee too. Have The Beast at the Kozy Kitchen, an organic specialist, Omelettes and pastries at the Bread Winners, unlimited coffee at Lucky’s Café if you are looking for the best and typical Dallas style breakfast. For late starters, enjoy a traditional brunch at Jonathon’s Oak Cliff or delicious Thai fare at the Malai Kitchen.

There are plenty of options for lunch in Dallas. If you’re in the mood for seafood, try the Hook Line and Sinker which is affordable as well as delectable. An insider tip: try the fried shrimp! Campisi’s, Mad Hatter Café and The Taco Joint are other places that offer an appetizing spread for lunch.

Forget Starbucks and your usual coffee houses; try instead the tea “parlors” in Dallas and make sure you have enough time and a companion to spend over a cup of warm tea and some delightful snacks. For the best, but most expensive experience, head to the opulent Adolphus Hotel on weekends for a grand tea with English accompaniments. If you’re in Dallas in December, try the luscious three-course spread offered at the Dallas Arboretum and take in the lovely view along with your tea. The Chocolate Angel Café and Maudee’s are other exceptional tea parlors that offer a wonderful experience in Dallas.

If you have a dinner jacket and a Texan sized wallet, make your way to the French Room at the Adolphus, one of the local high-end favorites and well known all over the country. But this is just the French option; for incredible steak, try the Bob’s Steak & Chop House or the iconic Dakota Steakhouse, for American cuisine, Fearing’s or the Mansion Restaurant at Rosewood Mansion.  Italian tastes best at the Adelmo’s Ristorante and the sushi at Abacus is mind-blowing.

Wallet not kind enough? No problem. Try the Mexican at Matt’s Rancho, finger-licking Middle Eastern fare at Ali Baba Café or the Twisted Root Burgers for some delicious burgers and fries.

Late Night
Out after 10PM and hungry?  Check out the sushi at The Fish, Italian at Terelli’s and Chinese at Betty’s Best.

The Green Tea Cake at Asian Mint is absolutely divine as are the ice creams and sorbets at Craft. If you have a craving for chocolate, try Chocolate Secrets and The Chocolate Angel Café.


The Snappy Salads and Taverna is great for salad lovers while pizza tastes great at Sfuzzi’s. If you’re looking for bars serving good food, try the Libertine Bar and the Thomas Beverage Company.

The street food scene at Dallas makes for a whole new story. But don’t leave the city without trying the corn sundaes at Illinois Avenue, Shaved Ice at Pleasant Groves and fried vegetables at The Eggroll House in Lombardy.

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The Tourist Calendar to Copenhagen

by Richa G 17. December 2012 01:50
  The Swing Carousel
The Swing Carousel in Tivoli. Maybe the most photogenic attraction at night in Tivoli, but always only up at Christmas time
Photo by Stig Nygaard, on Flickr
Planning a trip to Copenhagen? Should you visit during the fun-filled summer when the days are long or will a Christmas holiday in December be better with plenty of festive fun and merrymaking? No matter when you plan to visit the city, it’s fun and welcoming. Here is a calendar of what you can expect in Copenhagen when you go there.

If you are here for New Year's Eve, enjoy the celebration at Amalienborg, the royal Palace. After the Queen's speech in the evening, there's lot of festive fun and when the City Hall clock strikes midnight, it's time for fireworks.

For the first time, the Tivoli Gardens and ten of its restaurants will be open to usher in New Year 2013. Enjoy the magically lit gardens when you wait for the new dawn of a year.

Like in Jan, the days in Feb are likely to be short and cold. But while the Vinterjazz Festival starting on Feb 1st will shake you up, the Copenhagen Fashion Festival from 30th Jan to Feb 3rd with its crazy sale, concerts and events will make "fairytale-land" seem an understatement to describe the city. Be here for this fest and the Wondercool, a month-long festival celebrating winter and you'll never notice the cold and the dark.

March is when the winter marches out and excitement springs in.21st March 2013 marks the reopening of Bakken, the world's oldest amusement park to visitors after winter. Enjoy the rides, restaurants and views at this 400 year old theme park or if you feel you're too old for rides, take in the wicked cabaret scene. The Copenhagen Puppet Festival from 20th to 24th March is another family entertainer that shouldn't be missed.

Starting from 11th April, the Tivoli Gardens is thrown open to tourists who want to enjoy the wonderful spring and summer of Copenhagen. With live music, fun rides, games, green space and lakes, this garden is not just for kids. 2013's April will see the introduction of three new rides in Tivoli; all the more reason for you to visit.

"May I extend my stay?" Most hoteliers are badgered by this question in May. The free flowing beer at the Copenhagen Beer Festival, the merry parade and colorful ambience of the Carnival and the lively spirit of the Copenhagen Marathon makes this city a terrific place to visit in May. Another interesting event is the Copenhagen Ink Festival from 9th to 11th May.

June 1st marks the beginning of the opening of Copenhagen Harbor Swimming Pools for the public. Watch the Esrum Abbey's Medieval Markets where knights fight tournaments while jesters keep everyone entertained. Don’t miss the Roskilde Festival, North Europe's biggest music extravaganza, from 29th June till 7th July.

The Copenhagen Jazz Festival with its exciting line-up of artists performing in venues all over the city makes July an exciting time to visit Copenhagen. Weather-wise too, the days are long and warm without being too hot; ideal for an outdoor holiday. If Classical Music is your choice, you can have it at the Copenhagen Summer Festival where chamber music takes the stage. Don’t miss the free concerts.

Locals and tourists swear that August is the best time to visit the city. The fine weather and the excitement of festivals like the Copenhagen Pride, Copenhagen Opera Festival and the Cultural Harbor Festival make August in Copenhagen magical. If you love vintage, be there in time for the Copenhagen Historic Grand Prix and enjoy the road show of classic vehicles. August is also the month when the Mermaid statue's birthday is celebrated and when the famous Copenhagen Cooking event takes place.

While the Golden Days Festival looks back at Copenhagen's history, the Kopenhagen Contemporary sees the celebration of current trends in the city's galleries and the Designer Forum held in September every year takes a look at the future trend of designer wear. September is also the time for the Copenhagen Blues Festival and Film Festival.

If you want to explore Copenhagen's culture, make sure you are in this city for the Kulturnatten when all the galleries, museums and even the Rosenborg Palace celebrate the vibrant culture of the city with performances, music, plenty of food and free public transport. Celebrate Halloween in Tivoli and enjoy the fine weather of autumn in this grand park.

Christmas season starts in November and the Tivoli Gardens hosts its annual Christmas markets in this month. The city gets ready for Christmas with plenty of indoor activities in museums and shops. Don’t miss the Christmas Parade through the city center in the last week of November.

Christmas lights, concerts, plays, markets in Tivoli Gardens and New Year celebrations at the city centre make Christmas in Copenhagen a merry experience. Though the weather can be cold and dark, the festivities offer warmth and lighten up the mood.

No matter when you're planning to visit Copenhagen, you'll find something happening to add value to your holidays.

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Being Cheap in Chic Chicago

by Richa G 13. December 2012 22:59
Around Chicago, June 2011
Photo by Dave Sizer, on Flickr
Don't read this if you think "cheap" is a bad word.

However, if you want a blissful holiday in the large metropolis of Chicago without letting your money drift away in the "windy city", read on and make some serious savings on your vacation fund. Like any other major city, Chicago has an exclusive tourist economy and one for its locals that's far cheaper. So all you have to do is, avoid the tourist traps of this huge city and you'll find yourself spending far less on your holiday.

Hotel rates in Chicago can be confusing and very expensive. Rates vary for weekdays and weekends and generally go up during festivals and conventions. Yes; you can shop around, book early and save a few bucks. But a better option would be to check out hostels, especially if you are travelling alone or as a couple. Nowadays, families can also opt for hostels since most new hostels offer private rooms for up to 6 people with exciting bunk beds for kids.

The only adjustment here would to use the common bathroom; but then look at the sum you'll be saving. You can book a hostel in downtown Chicago instead of searching for a cheap hotel room away from the city and spending on transport.

Here again, the Windy City is known for its stormy costs; restaurants here are among the costliest in the country. But again, there are places where you can get a delicious meal sans the luxurious settings for a fraction of what you would pay in touristy restaurants. BYOB (bring your own booze) is yet another cost-saving technique where you can avoid paying premium rates for drinks.

Most hostels have kitchens where you can cook your own meal; else book a service apartment with a kitchen where you can cook and save on dining costs. If you're bored of cooking and want to check out the local cuisine, try the street food of Chicago. Chicago Hot Dogs compete with Italian Beef Sandwiches, tortas, tamales and cheese burgers. Of course, you haven't been to Chicago if you don't taste the deep dish Pizza at Pizzeria Uno.

The El makes travel very easy for the budget traveler. When in Chicago, forget the car and hop on the El, a water taxi or a bus and reach your destination on time and within your budget. This is much better than traveling by car, getting stuck in the traffic, wasting time looking for parking space and paying a parking fee that's more than you'd have to spend in the place you plan to visit. Buy a visitor pass for the duration of your stay and enjoy unlimited rides on the El and in buses and get to see as much of the city as possible.

The view from the Sears Tower, now the Willis Tower, is incredible; but so are the entrance costs and the crowd. Instead of waiting for an hour and paying a fortune to see Chicago from the top of this building, check out the views from the Adler Planetarium or from the Signature Lounge at the John Hancock Tower where you just have to buy a drink to relax and enjoy the spectacular view.

The Millennium Park with its Cloud Gate and Crown Fountain is one of the best free attractions of Chicago as is the Lincoln Park Zoo. If you are holidaying with kids, these are nice, cheap places to take them to. The sandy shores of Lake Michigan and the beaches of Chicago are other enticing places that can be enjoyed for free.

Museums in Chicago are very interesting and an essential part of Chicago; but entrance fees may cost a fortune here. Most museums have free entry days like the Art Institute of Chicago that can be visited for free on the first and second Wednesday of every month. Schedule your itinerary based on these and you will find that you've saved a good sum of money to spend away at the Magnificent Mile.

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What Makes Boston America's Favorite City?

by Richa G 11. December 2012 03:58
  Red Sox game. a good seat.
Photo by BuzzFarmers, on Flickr
As far as superlatives go, Boston never seems to run short of them; one of the finest, greenest, liveliest, oldest, yet trendiest city in the United States, it is also among the costliest and most uptight cities. So what makes the "Hub of the Universe", as Boston is called, the most loved city of America? Let's find out.

The History
While history is documented and preserved in monuments in other places, Boston's history lives on. The Freedom Trail is the first proof to this fact. Starting from the Boston Common, America's first public Park, the trail moves on to visit several important historical sites like the Massachusetts State House, King's Chapel, the Boston Massacre Site, Paul Revere House, USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument.

The mix of old with new; the sight of towering old churches beside gleaming skyscrapers is part of the charm that makes Boston a favorite with residents as well as visitors. The "Boston pride" in having all these interesting sites is yet another reason where this city scores points.

The Crowd
The nerdy looking guy sitting next to you in the train could be the next President of the United States; dreamy artists, buoyant students, busy techies, innovative businessmen and genteel seniors are all a part of Boston and proud to call this city their home. While its excellent universities have given Boston its youthful bounce, its location on the coast and it stately history have made it a haven for entrepreneurs and retired seniors.

The Grub
Irish pubs, Japanese Sushi stalls, Indian Street food or Brazilian steak... just name it and it's there in Boston. So whether you are yearning for home food or looking for variety, you won't be disappointed in this city. Of course, you can't go to Beantown without tasting its baked beans and clam chowder. Apart from these, the seafood scene and Boston's popular food trucks make it a dream destination for foodies.

The Waters
The lovely coast along the Boston Harbor and the charming Charles River not only offer a breathtaking backdrop to Boston, but also provide scope for plenty of activities. From island hopping to ferry rides, sunset cruises and sailing in the Charles River Basin, water-lovers have abundant options.

The Culture
The Athens of Americas is a downright winner when it comes to culture. Enjoy stimulating live music performances in places as humble as subway stations or flight for tickets to the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

On the arts side, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum are impressive; enough to give Boston its own identity in the field of arts in spite of mighty competitors. The Institute of Contemporary Art with its unique architecture is another feather in Boston's crown. Of course, you can't say you've been to Boston if you come back without watching a Red Sox game at the Fenway Park.

In spite of its unpredictable weather, heavy traffic and worthy status as one of the most expensive cities in the United States, people who've stayed here even for just a while wouldn't want to move out. Anyone who's been in Boston for a Fourth of July celebration, a Red Sox game or a Jazz Festival will know that the beauty of the city is not just on the surface. The true charm lies within and this is the secret ingredient that makes Boston America's favorite city.

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See Berlin With Your Legs

by Richa G 10. December 2012 02:39
  Berlin Wall
Colorful paintings on the Berlin Wall
Photo by carolynconner, on Flickr

Seeing Berlin with your legs is the best way to discover this huge city

The first thing that strikes every new visitor to Berlin is how incredibly big the city is. With so much history, culture, shopping and modern attractions to take in, the idea of seeing Berlin with your legs may seem daunting, even laughable. But lots of visitors who've attempted this journey swear it's the best way to discover this huge city.

Walking or biking is the cheapest way to explore the various attractions the city has to offer.

You wouldn't have to wait in traffic or figure out where to park your vehicle each time you travel. Berlin claims to have installed the first traffic lights in Europe; the vehicle rush here has been heavy even decades back. Berlin also has the cute Ampelmannchen, the little traffic light man who shows the green light to pedestrians. Do you need any other excuse to walk in this city?

By taking a walking tour, you would actually be experiencing the place instead of just viewing attractions from inside a car. In Berlin, this fact is all the more important because the city is filled with history.

You can take breaks or stop wherever you want for a drink or eat or just to get to know the locals better.

One cannot walk across the breadth of Berlin to see its important sights; but there are several companies offering themed walking tours that allow tourists to experience different aspects of the city by foot. This is a great way to get oriented with the city.

Join a walking tour and select your theme. Ranging from historic Berlin to a tour of breweries, every kind of tourist interest is fulfilled in these tours. If you happen to be here before Christmas, try a Christmas Markets tour for a rich cultural experience.

Walking tours in Berlin cover a wide range of places.

If you want an orientation tour of Berlin, take the 4 hour "Discover Berlin" tour offered by Berlin Walks where you can truly discover the various fragments that have made Berlin what it is today. Starting from the early history of Berlin through the Nazi rule till what Berlin is today, this tour is both in-depth and informative.

History buffs will love the Third Reich Berlin Tour, the Cold War Tour and the walking tour that will introduce you to Jewish Life in Berlin. While all these seem like the typical tourist routine, actually being there to see Hitler’s bunker, hear about the topography of terror or witness the story of Jewish struggle in takes you a century back to the time all this happened.

If you do want a tour that takes you away from the regular tourist beat, try the Hidden Berlin Walking Tour that takes you to lesser known attractions in this vast city.

For other options, check out the Potsdam Walking Tour that takes you to explore the city of Emperors or the Dresden Tours with its museums and City center. The Alternative Tour of Berlin is yet another lovely walk that shows you the artistic and multi-cultural face of Berlin.

Yes! Berlin is unbelievably vast; but these walking tours that make you see the city with your legs are sure to be your best experience here.

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Tags: berlin, berling walking tours, cold war tour, discover berlin, hidden berlin walking tour

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