Posts Tagged ‘to-do list’

Exploring Hawaii’s Garden Island of Kauai in GIFs

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Kauai Native Levi Fabiana has mad machete skills

The gorgeous scenery of Kauai, Hawaii’s “Garden Island” has been featured in many Hollywood films including the classic 50s film South Pacific, James Cameron’s Avatar, the Spielberg classic Jurassic Park, and The Descendants. In addition to stunning landscapes, Kauai offers less cinematic charms. If you are looking for things to do on Kauai, here are some of my favorites, illustrated with GIFs.

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Nordic Authenticity Plus a Dunkin’ Donuts: Scenes from Reykjavik, Iceland

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Looking down towards Faxaflói Bay from Hallgrímskirkja Church

Reykjavik, Iceland is the country’s capital and largest city. Located at 64 degrees north, it’s the northernmost capital city in the world. Approximately 200,000 residents live in Reykjavik’s greater metropolitan area. That’s about two-thirds of Iceland’s entire population of 320,000 people.

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Still life in Camera Shop

If you’re coming to Iceland, you’ll no doubt spend some time in Reykjavik and be charmed by it. Reykjavik’s compact city center means that the main sites are easily walkable (assuming the weather allows for that). Virtually everyone speaks English, making Reykjavik very user-friendly for visitors from the United States.

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Light streaming through the windows of Hallgrímskirkja

In summer, the white nights keep the city bathed in Nordic light for almost 21 hours a day. Winter brings the opposite, with only about four hours of sunlight near the winter solstice. Fall is lovely time to visit Iceland and not as crowded as it is during the summer.

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Interior of Hallgrímskirkja

If you’re looking for things to do in Reykjavik, Hallgrimskirkja church is worth a visit even for the non-religious. Besides it’s cool minimalist architecture and edgy art collection, it’s tower is a great place to get a good lay of the land and look out over the city and towards Faxaflói Bay.

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Hallgrímskirkja is about as Nordic design cool as churches get

Amidst all the authentic Nordic charm are a few odd imports. Taco Bell has a presence in Reykjavik. Sixteen Dunkin’ Donuts stores are slated to open in Iceland. The Dunkin’ Donuts on Laugavegur was packed every time I walked past it and offers speedy wifi… and donuts featuring the Icelandic flag!
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Dunkin’ Donuts  featuring the flag of Iceland

Of all the cozy cafes and charming shops in the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik Roasters, was my favorite discovery.

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Still life with vinyl (and Ziggy Stardust) at Reykjavik Roasters

Reykjavik Roasters an exceptionally charming coffee shop located at Kárastígur 1. This coffee shop feels like the backdrop for a Kinfolk magazine photo shoot, with it’s blue coffee roaster and a collection of vinyl records and mismatched china.

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Obligatory hipster coffee still life from Reykjavik, Iceland

But unlike a lifestyle magazine, nothing about Reykjavik Roasters is trying too hard. Perhaps it’s the direct Nordic no-nonsense attitude that keeps this minimalist gem of a a coffee shop from feeling contrived.

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Moody light inside Reykjavik Roasters is made for Instagram

The coffee is fantastic (perhaps the best coffee in Iceland) and I regret not purchasing any to bring back with me.

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Minimalist Icelandic Coffee Shop Goodness

If you’re looking for what to do in Iceland, don’t miss a visit to Reykjavik’s stunningly modern Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Center. It’s facade was designed in collaboration with Danish/Icelandic architect Olafur Eliasson.

Gleaming glass of the Harpa Concert Hall’s Interior

The architecture is gleaming, modern, and quite frankly, dizzying with lots of glass and sharp angles.

The modern interior of the Harpa Concert hall is dizzying

Kolbrautin Restaurant at the Harpa is also highly regarded and on my list of “must try” spots for my next trip to Iceland.

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Pretty much exactly what I thought a hotel room in Reykjavik would look like

Reykjavik is a great place to spend a few days and be charmed by the capital city. IcelandAir allows stopovers of up to seven days so you can get a hit of Reykjavik and explore some of this fantastic country before heading to one of their other European destinations.

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Australia’s Red Centre As Seen From a Helicopter Ride over Uluru

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If you want a bird’s eye view of Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) Helicopter is your best bet 

During my recent visit to Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia’s Red Centre, it was incredibly clear that the one thing you shouldn’t do is climb Ayer’s Rock. Fortunately Longitude 131 offers scenic helicopter tours as part of it’s menu of “Bespoke Experiences.”

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My pilot and the R44 Raven II helicopter

The ride in the R44 Raven II helicopter was smooth. I liked this little helicopter!

Taking off from Longitude 131 in a helicopter for my scenic ride

The photographer in me always likes to get shots from different vantage points, so I booked the 30 minute scenic flight over Uluru & Kata Tjuta to Ayers Rock Airport instead of taking the car transfer. I’m glad I did. The bird’s eye view from the R44 Raven II helicopter gave me a great perspective of the vastness of the desert and stunning views of Uluru and the 36 domes (not all visible by ground) of the Kata Tjuta range (formerly known as the Olgas).

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A nice view of Uluru from a helicopter

 The helicopter ride was smooth and 30 minutes long and took me over both Uluru as well as the Kata Tjuta ranges before heading to the Ayers Rock Airport.

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Approaching Ayer’s Rock Airport

Seeing the scrubby dotted landscape below also made me appreciate the tribal prints of the native Aboriginal people, the Anangu. You can buy their prints at the cultural center.

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Different domes of the Kata Tjutas are visible from the ground

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Left: Approaching Uluru Right: Uluru/Ayers Rock is more solid than nearby Kata Tjuta

I shot some video on my iPhone 6 during my helicopter ride. Check it out:

 Flying over Uluru (Ayers Rock) in a R44 Raven II helicopter

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A view of The Kata Tjutas (formerly known as The Olgas) as seen from helicopter

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The domes of Kata Tjuta are visually more interesting that Uluru

While I went to Longitude 131 intent on seeing Uluru, The Kata Tjutas were far more visually interesting for me.

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Obligatory helicopter selfie

The 30 minute scenic helicopter ride over Uluru and Kata Tjuta from Longitude 131 to Ayers Rock Airport costs Australian $570 for two people and can be arranged directly from the resort. It’s great for both photographers and aviation geeks. Since I am both, to me it was totally worth the money.

Longitude 131

Yulara Drive,
Yulara Northern Territory 0872,  Australia
Tel: +61 08 8957 7131
Fax: +61 08 8957 7130

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Mexico City: a Lazy Daisy Experience

Editor’s Note:

Anastasia Chernykh is this blog’s Social Media Manager. She lives in Kharkov, Ukraine but recently we met up in Punta Mita, Mexico for our annual work retreat. Anastasia then spent a few days in Mexico City. Here is her guest post about navigating logistics, street tacos, and Mezcal. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

– Jen Pollack Bianco

Eclectic city architecture: view of Plaza de Bellas Artes and Torre Latinoamericana

After a relaxing Punta Mita experience, lively and vibrant Mexico City was a bit hard to embrace. Yet I tried to stay on my Pacific chill wave even in a place with a population of 20 million.

Mexico City has a huge number of attractions and tourist places, so the challenge was to narrow down the list and not to skip something really cool. The logistics were also difficult, as the distances are large and nobody wants to spend all day on the road instead of enjoying their visit.

The starting point was obvious for me – Palacio de Bellas Artes. Located in the historic center of the Mexico City (and conveniently close to my hotel), this impressive white building isn’t only an architectural delight, but also an important cultural center.

Palacio’s main facade is made of Italian white marble

Palacio de Bellas Artes is home to Mexican Symphonic Orchestra and folklore ballet. It also hosts a variety of notable events from live performances to art exhibitions.

Together with Alameda Park, it is surrounded by crowds all day and its Plaza turns into some kind of social scene for Mexican City youth at night… I’ve never seen so many kissing couples at the same time!

Alameda Central park

After a short visit to Alameda Park I headed to Zocalo, the main square. The best way to get there from Palacio de Bellas Artes is to walk down pedestrian Francisco I Madero street and enjoy colonial buildings, street music and mime acts.

Madero Street walk

Mime angel on Madero street

Plaza de la Constitución, or simply Zócalo, is the heart of the Old Mexico. It has been a gathering place for Mexicans since Aztec times and it’s one of the largest city squares in the world.

Zócalo, the main plaza of Mexico City

Since a visit to pyramids was on my bucket list for Mexico, I was incredibly happy to discover the one right in the middle of the Mexico City. The Templo Mayor or The Great Temple of of Tenochtitlan lies just to the northeast of the Zocalo. 59 pesos get you an entrance not only to active archaeological site, but also to The Museum which houses the Templo Mayor Project and its finds.

Templo Mayor or Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan

An offering at Museo del Templo Mayor

Aztec goodies

Friendly squirrels in Chapultepec park

The city gets even better at night. After a long day walking the best thing is to treat yourself an authentic street taco and watch the city life just in front of you.

Casual Mexican dining + people watching at Salón Corona

What else is a must while in Mexico City? I’d say mezcal tasting. I was happy enough to have my dear friend Fabiola Santiago showing me the great place to try this tequila’s “country cousin” (no cocktails! drunk straight, served with sliced oranges).

Daily special at Bósforo Mezcalería

And a cherry on the top was my walk home, the illumination is just stunning in Mexico City at night!

Palacio de Bellas Artes, beautifully illuminated at night

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Things to Do In Ravello, Italy

Stone Pines in Ravello, Italy

Ravello has some stunning spots to check out the views. I really enjoy the look of these stone pines and enjoyed wandering and checking them out from various terraces and cafes.

Ravello’s Duomo, or cathedral, was built in 1087 on the Piazza del Vescovad. I’m not a religious person, but lovely organ music was coming from inside when I first passed it and I had to check it out. There is also a small museum inside and it’s worth exploring for €3.  The procession leading into the cathedral for mass on a Sunday was worth watching– it was quite a spectacle. It’s closed during the middle of the day so be sure to check the visiting hours here.

The Watchtower at Villa Rufolo

The Villa Rufolo is in the center of town on the Piazza del Vescovad, just around the corner from the duomo. The building dates back to the 1200s and has some gorgeous gardens and cloisters. It costs € 5 to visit and is open from 9 am to 8 pm during the summer.

Visit the Villa Cimbrone

The Villa Cimbrone is more out of the way than the Villa Rufolo but the walk is very pretty and it’s definitely must-see spot in Ravello. Check out the amazing views from the Terrace of Infinity. You can read my post about exploring the Villa Cimbrone here.

Lemoncello for sale in Ravello

Many shops around town have limoncello- the local liquer made with lemon zest- for sale and offer small samples to try. It’s a fun activity if you’re in the area.

Locals make the best guides!

I got lost during my morning hike in Ravello and wound up wandering through lemon tree groves and wound up meeting this goat. I can’t exactly tell you where he is (as I mentioned I was lost) but I really enjoyed the whole experience. Ravello is small and charming and worth exploring. You can’t get very lost… but if you do, the locals are friendly. This goat sure was.

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