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The Best of the West Coast

Destinations, North America - Ross French - December 18, 2019

From glamorous cities to stunning national parks, some of the best places to visit are on the West Coast of the United States. If you are planning your next travel adventure, consider going west and checking out some of these amazing places on the Pacific Coast. Read on to learn more:

Los Angeles, California

Home to the iconic Hollywood sign, the City of Angels is a glamorous and dynamic city. There’s plenty to see and do here. Immerse yourself in all things Hollywood and go on a behind-the-scenes tours at Paramount Pictures, Universal or Warner Brothers. Visit the TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard to see your favorite celebrities’ handprints or see their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

If you’re a frequent traveller, Los Angeles is also home to one of the biggest, busiest airports in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of travelers pass through Los Angeles International Airport every day. Parking can be notoriously difficult to find, so save yourself time and frustration and reserve a parking slot in advance via ParkON.com.

ParkON offers parking slots in more than 200 parking lots strategically located close to all the major airports in the United States. Reserving LAX parking is a breeze; you can search for, reserve and pay for a slot all in under five minutes. ParkON’s services are reasonably priced and secure, so you won’t have to worry about your car as you go off on your travels.

Yosemite National Park, California

Nestled in California’s majestic Sierra Nevada mountains, Yosemite National Park is famous for its towering, ancient sequoia trees and breathtaking views. There’s almost no end to the things you can do here, from camping to rock climbing, horseback riding, hiking, fishing, and rafting along the Merced River.

Miles away from the nearest city lights, it’s the perfect place to go stargazing. In winter, you can strap on your skis and hit the slopes for an exhilarating downhill adventure. Must see attractions include Mariposa Grove, home to over 500 mature sequoia trees; Hetch Hetchy Valley; and several stunning waterfalls.

Seattle, Washington

This beautiful city is incredibly rich in culture and history, with a diverse and booming music scene, and plenty of interesting places to visit. You can’t miss the famous Space Needle, which is arguably the most recognizable landmark in the city. A visit to the lively and iconic Pike Place Market can keep you occupied for almost a whole day, what with the sheer number of things to see and do, and places to eat.

If you’re interested in art and culture, you must pay a visit to the Seattle Art Museum and the Museum of Pop Culture. Browsing through these fascinating museums can take up a whole other day. Other interesting attractions in the city include the Seattle Aquarium, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and Seattle Center.

As you can see, the West Coast is a rich and varied area, and it has something to offer everyone. Whether you prefer a city vacation or an outdoors adventure, you can definitely find a location on the West Coast to pique your interest. Which travel destination on the West Coast most appeals to you?

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Explore the Beauty and Wonder of Costa Rica

Costa Rica - Ross French - November 6, 2019

Costa Rica is one of the most breathtaking places in the world to visit. If you are planning a trip, you won’t want to miss out on discovering the most beautiful and awe-inspiring spots of this amazing country. Whether you simply want to relax on the beach, or check out adorable wildlife during a hike, there is something for everyone in Costa Rica. Here are some of the best places to highlight the beauty and wonder of the country.

Ostional Wildlife Reserve

The Ostional Wildlife Reserve has a beach where turtles flock to lay their eggs. If you are lucky enough to be traveling during the week just before the new moon cycle, you should try to see this fantastic event. The olive ridley sea turtle swarm on the beach as they come out of the ocean to lay their eggs in the sand. You can spot huge groups of them for around four to seven days prior swimming in the waters. Then they emerge from the water to make their way ashore to find just the right spot to make a nest for their eggs. Those who live in the area protect the turtles against poachers while they make their journey and keep the beach clean and clear of debris for them as well.

Poas Volcano National Park

One of the most beautiful places to see in Costa Rica is definitely Poas Volcano National Park. If you love sightseeing, you won’t want to miss this wonder. The park is situated over 14,000 acres and has areas that give you a great view of the crater. You don’t have to worry about an eruption as the last major one occurred in 1910, and since then it has remained fairly dormant. The sheer beauty of this natural wonder makes the volcano one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Costa Rica. There are plenty of hiking trails throughout the park, and you can also spot plenty of wildlife. This area is perfect for full day adventure.

Witch’s Rock Canopy Tour

If you have a zest for fun and adventure, you should absolutely check out the Witch’s Rock Canopy Tour. It is located a mere four miles from the luxurious Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo and offers excitement for the entire family. One of its biggest draws is the zip-line course, which allows you to safely zip your way above the trees and take in all the incredible sights below. You can also go on a guided ATV tour to take in the sights or go horseback riding.

Cahuita

Cahuita, which is a small town that boasts a national park by the same name, is a great place to go and veg out for the day. There is plenty to see and do, such as swimming, hiking, surfing, relaxing, watching lots of wildlife, and even hitting the local cantina. You can also enjoy plenty of great Caribbean style cuisine while you’re visiting.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

If you truly love hiking and being close to nature, don’t miss out on a tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest. It is a biological reserve that is home to more than 2,500 plant species, hundreds of different animals and is simply breathtaking in its natural beauty. On average, around 70,000 people come to visit the forest every year. You can choose to go on a guided tour or simply tour the area by yourself.

These are only a few of the amazing attractions Costa Rica has to offer. Be sure to check them out and even explore your own favorite spots.

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Planning for the Perfect Family Getaway? Consider These 5 Schengen Countries

Travel Blog - Ross French - July 8, 2019

Time spent with people who matter is time well spent. And on top of this list is our family. But given our demanding work schedule these days, we barely get quality time with our loved ones. That is why, taking time out and going for a family vacation is an excellent way to cement bonds, courtesy sharing loads of experiences with them in a new destination.

So, if you too are planning to take your family for a wholesome vacation abroad any time soon, then we suggest taking them to the Schengen countries. With just a single visa, you will able to explore many fantastic European destinations and will enjoy diverse experiences.

Also, since, all the Schengen countries are well connected through local transport itself, that will ensure you can travel from one country to another with much ease.

However, before you decide on which Schengen country/countries to visit, make sure to apply for a Schengen visa well in advance. Also, in addition to this, it is advisable that you buy travel insurance for Schengen visa in India, as that will keep you covered against any unnecessary expenses arising due to various challenges during the trip.

So, now let’s share about four such Schengen countries that can be perfect for your family getaway plan.

1. Greece

Greece is one of the most stunning places in Europe. Having the second largest coastline in the continent, it has picturesque harbors and offers mesmerizing sunsets. So, this place can be your perfect beach holiday. Moreover, if you’re traveling with your children, then there are also many kids-friendly beaches here that have shallow waters and sheltered bays.

Not just that, Greece also has magnificent mountain ranges and dramatic gorges, where you and your family can enjoy hiking. After some adventure, you can also explore tiny villages having a unique charm of their own here. Few must-see places here include Meteora, a collection of six monasteries on top a rock structure, Santorini beach, and Mount Athos.

2. Switzerland

Stunning vistas await you in every corner of this beautiful country of Switzerland. Moreover, with world-class train system to ferry you from one place to another, and a very secure environment, you can be reassured of your loved one’s safety and convenience too. You and your loved ones can also enjoy adventure sports in Switzerland’s many skiing resorts and hiking trails. You can also go to Interlaken, another paradise in this place or visit the famous cities of Zurich and Geneva.

When in this iconic country, do see the Matterhorn mountains, Jungfraujoch– the top of Europe and, Lucerne, a medieval old town here. Oh, and make sure that you also enjoy Swizz chocolates to the fullest while in the country.

3. Spain

Spain is a destination that will surely leave your family, especially kids in high spirits. From its Mediterranean coastline where you can relax in Barcelona which has many exciting museums for you to explore, you will have lots to do here.

You can also stroll through the many quaint villages, castles, and cities here and soak in their beauty. Spain also offers travelers a chance to experience and witness horse shows, flamenco shows, fiestas and interactive museums, which can mean great fun for your kids and you. A few places that you must include in your itinerary here include the Madrid: The Golden Triangle of Arts Museum, Seville, the city with beautiful neighborhoods and the La Sagrada Familia, the famous Basilica in Barcelona.

4. Belgium

One of the smallest countries in Europe, Belgium has more than just chocolates and waffles to delight you. From Bruges canals to castles and Antwerp, Belgium is alive and exciting. There are many places like the Botanical garden of Kruidtuin, the animal park of Pairi Daza which are good places to explore with your kids. You can even visit Musuemschip Amandine, which is a ship where you can see how seamen live.

For some adventurous fun, you can enjoy cycling and sailing in Ardennes, and if you visit during winters, then do see Bruges’s Christmas market. Moreover, if you like historic places, then Belgium also has 13 UNESCO sites which you can explore during your stay here.

Enjoy Your Vacation Without Any Worries

Going for a vacation means that you should leave all your worries and tensions behind you. However, traveling to foreign locations has its share of unexpected challenges that may play a spoilsport for you. Moreover, European countries are expensive also due to their stronger currency. That is why we suggest that you buy travel insurance for Schengen visa in India so that any challenge such as loss of passport or relevant documents and flight cancellation does not cause a dent in your pocket.

Having travel insurance for Schengen visa in India means that no matter which Schengen country you visit, you will be covered for expenses arising from such challenges. You can easily buy this policy online from reputable insurers like tataaig.com that also cover you for bounced hotel and airline bookings, flight delay for more than 12 hours due to certain specific reasons among several other benefits.

So, before you fly off to any such exotic location, buy a travel insurance policy and keep worries at bay.

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Enjoy Authentic Greek Cuisine at These 4 Destinations

Travel Blog, Travel Tips - Ross French - June 26, 2019

In Greece, both the sun and sea work together to open your horizons to all kinds of experiences; especially when it comes to discovering new tastes, aroma, and food combinations. Featuring a unique ensemble of Mediterranean cuisine, local produce, and fine spirits, the Greek archipelago offers an enormous repertoire of flavourful dishes that have evolved.

From traditional or modern, regional or Panhellenic, to sophisticated or straightforward, here’s are some places where you can discover authentic Greek cuisine in all its manifestations.

Combining the Flavours of Sun and Sea – The Aegean

The Aegean is one of the world’s largest island groups, each one of which features a specific microclimate.

The microclimate, in turn, contributes to the creation of a unique culinary paradise, not to be found elsewhere. We have the cuisine of the Cyclades, which is primordial and has a deep cultural connect. Some of the famous recipes with a distinctive character and heady aromas are:

  • Kassian pilaf
  • Aegean ‘makarounes’ (or hand-made fresh pasta with caramelized onions)
  • Sgardoumia (or offal soup from the island of Santorini)
  • Marathotiganites (or fennel rissoles from Serifos)
  • Dolmadakia made with herbs and vine leaves
  • Melitera (or sweet cheese pies with vanilla from Anafi)
  • Melopita (or the famous honey pie from the island of Sifnos)

A Taste of The Cosmopolitan – The Ionian Islands

The flavors at the Ionian Islands have distinctive characters and fascinating Italian origins. The trademark of the cuisine here is ‘savoro,’ which means sour and is a combination of rosemary and vinegar. Savoro is widely used to season and preserve both fish and vegetables.

Then we have the local favorite of ‘bourdetto,’ which is essentially the scorpion fish prepared in a red-hot spicy tomato sauce. When in the Ionian Islands, you can also explore other distinctively lip-smacking recipes including:

  • Strapatsada (or scrambled eggs with feta cheese and tomato)
  • Tsigareli (or cabbage/wild greens cooked in a spicy tomato sauce)
  • Ppastitsio this nonas (or mince and baked pasta with béchamel sauce topping)
  • Bakaliaros me agiada (essentially de-salted preserved codfish fillets prepared in a ‘skordalia’ garlic sauce)

The flavor of these recipes is increased tenfold with superb beverages such as kumquat liqueur and ginger beer. That said, don’t forget to finish off a delicious meal with mouth-watering Greek desserts such as ‘pantespani’ (syrup-soaked sponge cakes), ‘pasteli’ (sesame seed and honey bars) and ‘mandola’ nougat.

Experience the Elixir of Life – Crete

The island of Crete is a popular tourist destination in the Mediterranean, boasting of seductive natural landscapes and vibrant culture. That said, the island also features some of the most satisfying authentic Greek gastronomic experiences.

Therefore, when in Crete, be sure to discover the secrets of Cretan cuisine through a culinary tour of popular towns of Chania, Heraklion, Rethymno, Ierapetra, and Siteia.

Some of the most popular and authentic Greek recipes that you can relish in Crete include:

  • Chania pilaf rice (traditionally prepared with rooster)
  • Ofto (or roasted baby goat)
  • Fresh Greek salads
  • Dakos (or barley rusks cooked with soft white cheese, fresh tomato, and olive oil)

Enjoy the Magic of Cooking – The Dodecanese

At the heart of the Dodecanese islands, the culinary palette of Rhodes (the island of the Knights), Karpathos, Patmos, and Kastelorizo is a rich amalgamation of bold flavors and rustic origins. Over time, while the recipes have evolved to incorporate a variety of Eastern Mediterranean flavor profiles, they still have pretty straightforward preparations.

The real magic of authentic Dodecanese cuisine is best experienced through the following recipes:

  • Boukounies (or pork prepared in various herbs)
  • Xerotigana (or fried spiral pastries in honey or syrup)
  • Pastelaries (or dried figs with sesame seeds and almonds)

The Flavours of the Mediterranean are Best Explored in Greece

When it comes to combining quality ingredients with centuries of culinary knowledge, there is no match to the Greek cuisine. In Greece, dining is not just about having a multi-course meal. Instead, it is about coming together and sharing a meal with family and friends, in a casual and pleasant affair.

While there is no lack of fancy restaurants or exquisite seaside settings in Greece, some of the most authentic and flavourful food can be enjoyed inside no-frills places and humble downtown taverns.

If you too wish to experience authentic Greek cuisines in their original setting, be sure to check out the archipelago of Greece in its entirety.

To maximize your trip experience, you can start with finalizing your itinerary and making a list of towns and cities you plan to visit during your trip. It is equally crucial to create a financial budget for the vacation and purchase an overseas travel insurance policy to extend an additional layer of financial protection against any contingency.

With the help of overseas travel insurance; therefore, you can not only tackle any unexpected medical treatment expenses but also avail benefits such as coverage of trip cancellations, the total loss of checked-in baggage and loss of passport.

Just like you have a delicious pie or refreshing ice-cream to finish off a satisfying meal, buying overseas travel insurance too serves as a fitting endpoint for your travel preparations.

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Top 4 Cruise Destinations for Globetrotters in 2019

Travel Tips - Ross French - April 25, 2019

Have you been initiated into the beautiful world of cruises already? If you have, we know that you must be on the lookout for your next cruise destination. There is a plethora of options today that might end up leaving you confused for days together. Whether you are interested in wilderness cruises in the Arctic or beach cruises, in cultural journeys or adventure-packed ones, all you need to do to find a good cruise deal is research enough. Here, we have listed down four of the most popular cruise destinations for globetrotters in 2019 to give you some inspiration:

1. The Caribbean

It is undoubtedly the most famous cruise destination in the world and sees millions of tourists flock the region in cruise ships around the year. Apart from being an exhilarating experience, it also offers great value for money since you can visit different islands without having to fret about other things such as flight tickets, visas, accommodation etc. The best time to visit the Caribbean on a cruise is between the months of November and May, and avoid travelling between December to March if you don’t like too much crowd since it is the peak season.

2. Alaska

Alaska is truly the epitome of natural beauty on Earth, with its spectacular scenery, wildlife and glaciers. There will not be a single moment on this cruise where you will not be left awestruck by the vistas of the biggest state in the United States. This cruise will take you around some beautiful spectacular fjords and glaciers as well as mountains alongside Alaska’s coastline. Most routes here begin from Vancouver and go all the way up to Juneau, which is the fun capital of Alaska. The best time to head on a cruise to Alaska is between early May to mid-September, with June to August being the peak season.

3. The Mediterranean

Who doesn’t love Southern Europe for some sun, sand and the sea and one of the best ways to enjoy this is by taking a cruise in the Mediterranean Sea. There is an abundance of natural beauty in this region which will leave you awestruck and wanting to dive deep into the rich cultural heritage of this region. Whether you visit Italy or Spain, the Greek islands or tiny Malta, this cruise will definitely prove to be one of the most unforgettable experiences of a lifetime.

4. Hawaii

Say ‘Aloha’ to what will be the most fun week you ever spend on water, and maybe even on land. Hawaiian cruises have been known for decades as a fun trip around an archipelago of eight main islands. A cruise will let you soak in the wild natural beauty of the islands of Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau and Kahoolawe. If you think the offerings of each island will be similar to the other, you are mistaken.

Seasickness is a thing of the past when you head out for a cruise vacation to any of the above mentioned destinations! So, prepare yourself for a week of sightseeing, fun and luxury as you pack your bags for your next cruise!

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