Camera NIKON D300S
Focal Length 18mm
Exposure Time 1/4000
South Australia is often the forgotten state in Australia. It is often overshadowed by the states in the east and the giant Western Australia. It is too bad because there is a lot of great stuff to see in South Australia.
The Fleurieu Peninsula is a great wine producing region and as you can see in the photo, it is a landscape very different from much of Australia.
I’m a firm believer that everyone should try traveling solo at some point in their lives. You may have plenty of friends and family members who make for wonderful travel companions, but traveling alone offers so many extra opportunities for self-discovery, personal growth, and cultural connection.
With common sense and level-headed research, there’s no reason why women can’t travel solo to all corners of the world (many do!); however, I admit that traveling alone can seem intimating, especially as a woman and especially if you haven’t tried it before. Here are a few destinations that I think are perfect for uneasy first-time solo travelers: They’re safe, welcoming, and, most importantly, very cool!England
England is easily the best country in the world for a nervous North American traveler to visit. The culture is different enough from home to be exciting, but familiar enough to feel comfortable. My mom grew up in England, and I’ve visited numerous times over the years. I occasionally worry that England might start to become boring for me, but even after repeated trips I find there’s always more to discover.
One of the best parts of traveling alone in England is that many of its most well-known attractions are museums, monuments, and historic buildings, which I think are particularly solo-traveler-friendly. You can linger over interesting exhibits or read descriptive panels without feeling like you might be holding up your non-existent travel companion. Visiting these types of attractions alone is also a great opportunity to grab an audio guide and get completely absorbed into the site’s story.Sweden
Full disclosure: I visited Stockholm with my boyfriend; but regardless, I couldn’t help but notice that it ticks all the boxes I look for when it comes to ideal solo travel destinations: Most locals were friendly and spoke some English, plus the city was clean, beautiful, and safe (it was ranked 4 on the 2015 Safe Cities Index). I adored Stockholm, and I wouldn’t hesitate to return to alone to explore more of Sweden.
As an added bonus, Sweden is a bit more undiscovered than many other areas of Europe. I’m sure you know countless people who’ve visited France and Italy, but how many people do you know that have been to Sweden? It’s a fantastic choice if you want to travel to somewhere slightly less mainstream, yet still accessible.Japan
Japan regularly ranks among the world’s safest countries. When I lived in Takayama, I rarely locked my front door when I went out and never locked my car. One of my co-workers once commented that if you ever felt a stranger touch your bag in a crowd, it’d be reasonable to assume they were returning something you had dropped rather than trying to steal your wallet.
Plus, Japan is just one of my favorite places in the entire world. The food is incredible, the transportation system is insanely efficient, and the culture couldn’t get much more different than the West. The language barrier might be a touch daunting for some, particularly if you visit smaller towns where few people speak English, but most locals are willing to work through the communication barrier with you. Japan provides a fantastic introduction to solo travel as well as to Asia as a whole.
Camera NIKON D300S
Focal Length 24mm
Exposure Time 1/1600
The Louvre is one of the greatest museums in the world and it is almost impossible to visit the entire museum in a single day.
In addition to the amazing collection inside the museum, the building itself and outside the museum has much to see. In addition to former royal palace, there is also the new(er) glass pyramid in the courtyard designed by I.M. Pei.
This week’s guest is Don George, travel writer, editor and author of The Way of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George
This Week’s News:
- Note asks Yellowstone to train grizzly bears – UPI.com
- Baby rescued from inside locked hotel safe
- Flight escorted by FIGHTER JETS after cabin crew put passenger’s cat in bathroom and she threatened to ‘bring the plane down’
- Delta Air Lines Bans Big Game Hunting Trophies
- Surf’s up in North Korea
Picks of the week:
- Gary – Torngat Mountains National Park
- Chris – Aerb 3in1 Universal 180° Fisheye Lens + Wide Angle + Macro Lens Clip Camera Photo Kit
- Jen – 100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life: From Your Backyard to the Ends of the Earth
- Don – bring a flashlight, always embrace your fears
You really don’t have to spend much money at all to enjoy Paris. Sure, food and a hotel will require a bit of an investment, but if you play your cards right, you can soak up the best Paris has to offer without dropping an extra euro. (And if you follow this guide, you can cut your hotel bill way down, too.)
Here’s our official “Top 25” list of our favorite sights and activities in Paris that are completely free. Now let’s explore Paris… gratuit!1. Bird market
On Sundays, just steps from Notre Dame, the exotic bird market takes Paris by storm. All sorts of fowl and colorful pet birds are for sale, as well as rodents (seriously), rabbits, and other small mammals. It’s free to browse and pet the bunnies, and if you’re in the market for a hen or a rooster, you can probably get a decent price.2. Bridges over the Seine
We know, it sounds so cliché, but strolling the bridges of Paris is truly a timeless activity. Of course the bridges are free to cross, the tolls having disappeared hundreds of years ago. The Pont Neuf, Pont des Arts, and Pont Alexandre III are some of the most famous of the city’s bridges.
And warning: Don’t even think about spending money attaching one of those locks to any bridge. That’s not cool anymore, so please refrain, thanks!3. Candy in the Marais
While many of the city’s chocolatiers will offer you a sample if you seem keen to purchase their wares, the good folks at Mazet de Montargis (37 Rue des Archives, Marais) practically give away their pralines and chocolate-covered nuts for free. Samples are encouraged, even if you don’t have a cent in your pocket to buy anything afterwards.4. Christmas markets
We’re not rushing the seasons here, but the delightful Christmas markets in Paris are coming up in a few months, and they are all delightfully free to wander. Splurge on a bit of hot wine (“vin chaud”), please, but other than that, there’s no reason to do too much shopping, as prices tend to be a bit inflated for oddball items. Enjoy the atmosphere for zero euros.5. Churches
Nearly all of Paris’ historic churches are free to enter, wander the aisles, and sit and contemplate. You will need to buy a ticket to take in the stunning stained glass of the Sainte Chapelle (recommended) and to descend into the crypts of Saint Denis, but otherwise all of Paris’s Catholic sanctuaries are free to enter.
During the peak season, you’ll have to wait in a line at Notre Dame, but other churches like Saint Sulpice and Saint Germain-des-Prés never have a wait. In short: If you see a church, stop in and see what’s behind those doors. You’ll probably be impressed.6. Covered shopping arcades
Fortunately, several of Paris’ charming 19th-century shopping arcades (“passages”) are still open and lined with cute shops and galleries. These glass-covered passages, located mostly in the 9th and 2nd arrondissements, offer an atmospheric throw-back, rich with beautiful architecture.7. Eiffel Tower light show
It’s the epitome of kitsch and we love every sparkling moment of it. Every hour on the hour at night, the Eiffel Tower lights up for a few minutes, glittering wildly like the diva she is. Catch a great view from one of the bridges or from Trocadéro just across the river. And good luck with those photos!8. First Sundays of the month
On the famous first Sunday of the month admission to Paris’s largest and most famous museums is free. That’s quite a deal, although it also brings with it crowds and insanity. To keep your sanity, avoid any major museums like the Louvre or Orsay. It’s pointless to wait in line for an hour to save a few euros.
Instead, take advantage of the free admission to head to one of the less famous museums like the Musée des Arts et Métiers or the Musée National Eugène Delacroix. You’ll get in for free and won’t have to wait in line. It’s a cheapo win-win!9. Galeries Lafayette’s observation deck
Sure, the iconic department store Galeries Lafayette doesn’t give away its merchandise, but that doesn’t stop us from visiting the gorgeous stained glass cupola or heading to the observation deck. Take the escalator all the way to the top for a great free views of Paris, and you won’t break a sweat or your wallet.10. Gardens and parks
From the Tuileries to the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris’s few but formidable green spaces are all free to enter and explore. Throw a picnic in the Place des Vosges, sniff the flowers of the Jardin des Plantes or go for a jog in Parc Montsouris with the locals. No admission, no fuss. Just free outdoor beauty.
No matter which cemetery you visit–Père Lachaise, Montmartre, Passy, or Montparnasse, the final resting place of famous and everyday Parisians are free to visit. These beautiful cemeteries feature stunning graves and mausoleums of some of the most famous Parisians, including Edith Piaf, Serge Gainsbourg, and temporary resident Oscar Wilde. But just as interesting and beautiful are the graves of thousands of normal Parisians. Spend an afternoon getting lost wandering through history.12. Hotel de Ville exhibits
Always keep an eye on the grand Hotel de Ville (City Hall), which regularly hosts free exhibits throughout the year. The shows could be about anything from movies and fashion to history and art. Lines can get long during the weekends, so try to go during the week if possible. (Check out this page for exhibits — in French.)13. Mansions in the Marais
The Marais was once the home of the rich and (possibly) famous. Many mansions dating back to the Renaissance are still here, including the Hotel de Soubise and the Hotel de Sully. Many of these are today public buildings or museums that are free to explore inside.
While wandering the Marais, be on the lookout for large doors with cute courtyards that might be open to the public, like the Hotel de Marle that houses the Swedish Institute and their cute little café.
Related: A Cheapo day in the Marais14. Museums
The museums run by the city of Paris are F-R-E-E whenever they’re open. The Musée Carnavalet, the Victor Hugo House, and the Musée de la Vie Romantique are just a few that we can name. Most are closed Monday – you’ve been warned.
Note that several of these museums (we’re looking at you Carnavalet) will push you to purchase a “donation ticket” for €5, while others (like Maison Victor Hugo) will push tickets for not-free temporary exhibits. Payment is not required for entry, although, of course, donations to museums and cultural institutions are always a good idea.
Many of Paris’ lovely old churches offer free musical recitals, most notably the Eglise Saint-Merri next to the Pompidou Center. Pick up the weekly Pariscope listings magazine for more info on free concerts in the city, but you’ll likely find something free and classical most nights.16. Produce markets
Heading to an outdoor food or shopping market, like the Bastille market on Thursday and Sunday, is a great way to see how many of the locals go grocery shopping. The best part is that vendors will often toss you a slice of cantaloupe or whatever they are pushing that day. Take the samples, enjoy them, and pay nothing.
Stroll above the streets on this renovated elevated train track. You can basically walk from Bastille to Vincennes with very little car traffic to get in your way along Promendae Plantée. It’s a favorite for joggers on the weekends and early mornings though, so give us – I mean them – a little space, please.
Get up close to Chateau de Vincennes for free. Photo: valdemarne18. Royal castle
The Chateau de Vincennes, in the east of Paris, is an actual castle that was once home to several of France’s most important kings, as well as a prison for at least one other. It may not be as regal today as it was during its heyday, having been a bit beaten up over the years, but strolling the grounds is a delight… and delightfully free. (You’ll need to pay to get inside, but no pressure.)19. Ruins and monuments
People don’t automatically consider ancient civilizations when they think of Paris, but we have our share of ruins, ancient monuments and other artifacts, including the Egyptian obelisk at Place de la Concorde. There are also Roman baths next to the Musée de Cluny and, a crowd pleaser, the Arènes de Lutèce, the old Roman amphitheater in the Latin Quarter. Today, locals play pétanque in the old gladiatorial arenas while tourists stop in for a picnic and to use the free Wi-Fi. Times have indeed changed!
Who said art has to be confined to a gallery? Street art from Belleville to the Canal Saint Martin to Place d’Italie changes semi-regularly, so there’s always something new to see. If you’re a true fan of street art, there is even a gallery in the 10th, Le Paris Urbain, that you might want to check out to get some inspiration.21. UNESCO world heritage sites
Usually UNESCO heritage sites are a big deal, but in Paris, you can stroll one for absolutely free. The banks of the Seine are considered a world heritage site, and with renovated portions like the Berges de Seine finally free of automobiles, it’s a free, world-class activity. (Unless, of course, you get distracted by the cafés and bars along the Berges…)22. Stuffed animals
The Musée de la Chasse et la Nature is a fantastic museum for anyone interested in dead animals, but the Deyrolle shop in Saint Germain-des-Prés is a great, free alternative. This taxidermy shop has a huge collection of stuffed animals that died of natural causes – no poaching here. Maybe you’ll leave with a little butterfly… or something larger. Who knows? (Just be careful about what you bring home!)23. Views
You don’t need to pay to get a nice view of Paris. Forget the Eiffel Tower. You can march up Montmartre, get off the beaten path in Parc de Belleville, or take the elevator to the top of the Institut du Monde Arabe for some stellar shots of Paris. No lines, no fees, just free awesome views over the most beautiful city in the world.24. Walking tours
We’ve written before about the free Paris tours – which are never really free – but they are a great way to get a cheapo orientation to the city. You’re expected to tip your guides, and they will make this abundantly clear during the 3-4 hour tour. A few euros is usually acceptable, but paper money always makes their day. (Trust me, I know, I was one!)25. Year ’round culture
Depending on when you come to Paris, culture surrounds you and is usually free. It might be free outdoor cinema in the summer, an open-door day at the major monuments, live concerts, a festival, a parade, a fake beach, or free macaron day.
Do your research and know what’s on when you arrive so that you can take advantage of the year-long free events that Paris hosts.Your favorite free things to do in Paris?
Have something gratuit to add to our list? Add your favorite free thing in our comments section below!
When people think of Europe, they tend to think of the countries on the continent. Yet Europe has many islands. In fact, there are over 300 islands off the coasts of European countries. These 300 islands vary in size between 19 and 88,745 square miles, and there are hundreds of smaller pieces of land surrounded by sea.
Over 100 of these islands are home to at least 10,000 people. The biggest of them, the UK, is home to 61.5m people.
Many of the islands, even the smallest ones, can be visited. A significant number sit just off the coast of the mainland, so they are easily accessible. Often even those islands that do not have a permanent population are interesting and popular locations with tourists.Here are our favorites unheard of islands in Europe: Lyngør Islands, Norway
This unusual island is located 7.5 miles off the coast of Norway. It was once a popular home for sea captains. The island can only be accessed via boat and there are no cars allowed. Only 70 people live permanently on the island, but it is a popular tourist destination, and there is a sail factory located on the island as well as several very popular restaurants.Mljet, Croatia
The island of Mljet is located just off the coast of Croatia. It covers an area of just 20.8 square miles.
The majority of the island is covered by woods and is a National Park. Currently, there are just over a thousand people living on the island in thirteen villages. It is a popular destination and many of those who visit Dubrovnik visit Mljet, so there is a ferry that runs between the two locations. The journey takes 2.5 hours. There is also a ferry from Ston, which takes 90 minutes.Aegina, Greece
Aegina is one of the Saronic Islands located just 17 miles from Athens it is a popular destination for both Greek and foreign tourists. At 33.75 square miles, it is quite a big island. Hydrofoils run regularly from Piraeus, and the journey only takes 40 minutes; the ferry takes an hour. Once on the island getting around is easy because there is a good bus service.Fehmarn, Germany
This island is located off the East coast of Germany, but it is only 12 miles from the Danish island of Lolland. It is a popular place with all kinds of tourists including many Danish and German nationals. The island is well known as a sunny spot to enjoy water sports. It has 2,200 hours of sunshine every year and is home to rugged cliffs and freshwater lakes which provide all kinds of opportunities for those who love active holidays.Île dePorquerolles, France
Sao Miguel, Portugal
This exclusive island is located just off the coast of the French Riviera and for many years was an exclusive destination for the rich and famous. Today, there is a regular ferry, so it is growing popular with day-trippers. It is a car-free island with wonderful beaches providing a fantastic break from the very busy French Riviera.
Compared to the other islands in this list, this is a big place. It covers 290 square miles and is the largest Portuguese island with a population of 45,000. Locally, it is called the green island and with good reason. It has lush fauna and, unusually, several of the bodies of water on the island are also green. Year round, the Gulf Stream maintains a comfortable temperature. The island is also known for its hot springs.
The island of Sylt really is idyllic. It is home to 12 unique villages that have been largely unspoilt. Visiting gives you a chance to step back in time and escape a frenetic modern life. The island has a large health and wellness centre and 25 miles of pristine sandy beaches.Egadi Islands, Italy
This trio of islands are located just off the coast of Sicily. Over the centuries, they have been home to Arabs, Romans and now Italians. Today, the islands are popular with walkers and are great for snorkelers who enjoy the exceptionally clear waters surrounding the islands.
This island is the smallest in the Canary Islands group. This stunning island is located just off the coast of Africa, and is governed by Spain. It is a UNESCO site, which has the status of Biosphere Reserve. Apart from one small village, which is home to 10,000 residents, the volcanic island is completely unspoilt. It is one of Europe’s last truly wild places.Other types of European islands
If the list of unusual European islands listed above do not appeal, try visiting some of the other fantastic types of islands on offer in Europe. There are several wonderful lake islands in Europe. Most of them are privately owned, but some can still be visited.
Alternatively, visit the evocative Mont Saint-Michel off the coast of Normandy and St Michael’s Mount off the coast of Cornwall. Both mounts are home to a striking castle and church. They are not islands as such because they are connected to the mainland by causeways, but nonetheless they are startlingly beautiful and quite unlike any other destination you have visited.How to prepare for an island visit
Do your research before embarking on your island adventure as you would before visiting any foreign country. What are the customs? What is the native language? What will you be able to do while you are there? How will you get from place to place once on the island? There can be so much to experience while on the islands so research in advance so you can make the most of your trip. Remember other things too like bringing your passport and getting health insurance card from http://www.europeanhealthcard.org.uk
If you are blessed with the opportunity to explore lesser known destinations, such as some of these unheard of islands in Europe, you are sure to create memories to last a lifetime.
When I lived in London I went to Soho basically never. I went on a date in Chinatown once, and I’ve been to a West End show or two, but other then that I knew little, and cared less about the area. When I thought of Soho I mostly thought of tourist restaurants, seedy sex shops and strip clubs.
I probably never would have thought otherwise if it weren’t for Eating London food tours. I’d taken an Eating Rome tour of Testaccio a couple of years back and still consider it a highlight of the city. So when they offered me the chance to try their new Twilight Soho Food Tour I said yes right away. You know, for science.
Mike and I took the tour on the same day I dragged him all over London in a combination city tour/death march (I think our step count for the day was close to 30,000). So we arrived at the meeting point both exhausted and ravenous. Luckily, the tour started off with two British classics: a perfect gin and tonic and a hearty meat pie.
The tour was a mix of classic British cuisine and more international fair, a combination that correctly reflects what Soho is really about. It’s an incredibly diverse area where authentic chinese restaurants sit next to smut shops, two hundred year old pubs perch next to gay nightclubs (Some places are simultaneously both) and everyone seems to get along swimmingly. It’s busy and diverse and a little crazy, but fun.
It’s also a place with rich history, which was doled out to us as we moved through the neighborhood. Hey Jude was recorded at the studio that once sat here; John Snow discovered the source of cholera over here; Karl Marx lived over there.
And then there is the food. You can find almost any world food in Soho from bubble tea to jamon serrano to pho to Italian hot chocolate.
Here are a few highlights:
Overall this was a pretty great tour, that enlightened me about an entire section of Central London I’d barely looked twice at. It’s definitely on the expensive side for a food tour (everything in London is on the expensive side), but Eating Europe remains one of my very favorite food tour companies and they provide great value for the money.
And next time I go to London and stop by Soho, I’ll know where to go!
Disclosure: My tour was comped by Eating London. We did however pay for Mike’s tour. All opinions are my own.
This month’s image of the North Arm of the Saglek Fjord in Torngat Mountains National Park in Labrador.