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August 6, 2013

Travel Wishlist: Canada

OK, so technically I have been to Canada already. Living in Seattle it is quite easy to get to British Columbia and so in the past two years we’ve visited Victoria, Vancouver, and Whistler. But that is only one small part of the second largest country in the world, and there are plenty more areas of Canada to explore. Someday I would like to take a long road trip across the Trans-Canada highway and visit the various corners of this country.

I’m a huge fan of the outdoors, so I would love to visit the province of Alberta which is home to Banff and Jasper National Parks and thousands of kilometers of trails that wind through the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I’m not really a skier or snowboarder, but I’m sure there are plenty of options to snowshoe throughout the area. I wouldn’t mind seeing the northern lights, either, or returning in the summer for the famed Calgary stampede.

Despite living on the east coast for over ten years, I unfortunately never made it to our neighbor to the north. I would have liked to visit Niagara Falls and take the “Maid of the Mist” boat tour, and afterward relax at one of the many bed and breakfasts or hotels in Niagara Falls.

Nova Scotia is another province that I regret not making it to. I had been very close while visiting Maine but never made it over to Canada since my boyfriend forgot his passport. I loved the ruggedness of Maine and plentiful seafood, so I am sure I would enjoy Novia Scotia as well.

Montreal is also on my list and I’m on a mission to find the best poutine in Quebec after falling in love with the dish while on a trip to Victoria. If you’ve never had poutine, you are missing out. French fries covered in cheese curds and gravy, all washed down with a pint of beer.

The area of Canada that intrigues me the most, however, is the Yukon Territory. The Yukon Territory is north of British Columbia and is home to some of the mos pristine nature in the country. Its features are very similar to Alaska, and Canada’s highest mountain, Mount Logan at 19,551 feet, is located here. The Yukon Territory seems like a nature lover’s dream, with plenty of activities ranging from hiking to kayaking to dog sledding to snowmobiling. The Northern Lights can also be seen here, as well as plenty of wildlife including the fierce grizzly bear.

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August 2, 2013

Travel Wishlist: Bahamas

bahamas map Travel Wishlist: Bahamas

While my travels usually take me to the deserts of Central Asia or the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, I’m always craving a beach vacation (and thankfully will be headed to a beautiful Belizean caye in January to get my fill). One place that has been on my list for a while is the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, located in the Atlantic Ocean north of Cuba.

The Bahamas consist of 700 islands, cays, and islets, which means there is seemingly limitless opportunity to relax on the beaches or enjoy more active pursuits such as snorkeling, scuba diving, windsurfing, water skiing or jet skiing. Though not well known for surfing, with the right swell and location, you can catch some waves there as well. For someone who loves the beach and ocean, this pretty much sounds like heaven to me.

In particular, the Bahamas are well known for its snorkeling and diving. The world’s third largest barrier reef is in the Bahamas, along with sunken Spanish galleons and underwater caves and trenches that plunge thousands of feet. If you’re brave enough, you can even scuba dive with reef sharks (I promise, mom, I won’t do that). Don’t know how to dive? Not a problem. There are plenty of full service diving holidays Bahamas shops and resorts where you can take diving lessons and earn your PADI certification in four days. I’ve considered taking diving lessons here in the cold waters of Seattle, but what better place to learn than the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas?

Another thing I always look forward to when traveling is partaking in the local cuisine. I love seafood, so I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy the fresh fish, lobster, and crab with sides of peas ‘n’ rice and johnnycake. Washed down, of course, with some rum cocktails. No better way to end a beautiful day at the beach.

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September 26, 2012

Travel Wishlist: Borneo

South East Asia is another area of the world that is high on my travel wishlist. I’ve never traveled to this particular corner of the world, and my previous travels to Asia have been confined to China and North Korea. Thankfully, I will finally make it to South East Asia this upcoming December and January, when I will be visiting Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand for 2.5 weeks.

Borneo map 269x300 Travel Wishlist: Borneo
(Courtesy Wikipedia)

Another area, though, that I will have to visit sometime in the near future is Borneo. The third largest island in the world, Borneo is divided among three countries: Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. The majority of the island’s territory belongs to Indonesia, with tiny Brunei occupying a mere one percent of the island.

Visitors to the island will find that there is plenty to do on their Borneo holidays. I’m a nature lover, so would opt to visit the island’s unspoiled beaches and national parks. Visitors can snorkel and scuba dive near the reefs lining the small islands off the coast of Borneo, while those looking for something less intense can relax on the island’s many white sand beaches. At the northern tip of Borneo is Kinabalu Park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its vast number of unique flora, fauna, and wildlife; scientists here are continually discovering new species in this part of the world’s oldest rain forest. The park is also home to Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in South East Asia at 13,435 feet and supposedly an easy climb with no technical skills required. And after summiting Kinabalu, there are plenty of opportunities to soak your sore muscles in the hot springs. Wildlife tours, either by boat or jeep are also very popular, and some animal sanctuaries allow visitors to get up close with orangutans, elephants, and rhinos.

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July 8, 2012

Travel Wishlist: Scotland

map of scotland Travel Wishlist: Scotland
(courtesy Lonely Planet)

I’m actually pretty embarrassed to admit this, but despite living in London for a year, I never managed to make it to Scotland. I didn’t actually travel much around the United Kingdom that year, instead opting to explore the European continent (France, Italy, Czech Republic, the Balkans, etc). I did visit Cambridge and Cardiff on daytrips, and the usual tourist spots of Stonehenge, Windsor, and Bath, but that was about the extent of my UK travel. When I spent a week in London in January 2010, I seriously contemplated making a quick trip up to Edinburgh and spent a few hours researching railway timetables (it is about a 4.5 hour journey from London) and finding Edinburgh hotels. Ultimately, though, laziness prevailed and I opted to instead spend my time wandering around London with friends.

Someday, though, I will visit Scotland. I figure I would need about two weeks to see everything on my “to-do” list, including Edinburgh, Skye, and the Highlands. BBC Travel recently published an excellent article detailing a two-week road trip itinerary that takes you from Edinburgh to the Orkney Islands. I’m especially intrigued by the Scottish Highlands, often considered the most beautiful part of Scotland due to its multitude of lochs, castles, mountains, and coastal scenery. I’ve heard Inverness is a fun city to visit as well, especially if you are visiting during the Highland Games. The BBC itinerary is packed with a lot of different activities, including hiking, sea kayaking, castle visits, ferry rides, wildlife cruises, and whiskey tastings. Admittedly, I’m not a huge whiskey fan, but maybe a trip to Scotland could convince me otherwise.

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June 20, 2012

Travel Wishlist: Turkey

turkey map Travel Wishlist: Turkey

One country that has been on my list for a while, and yet I still haven’t visited, is Turkey. I was close to it in 2006, when I visited Yerevan, Armenia’s capital city located a mere 15 miles from the Turkish border, but due to poor relations between the countries, the border is closed. I’m sure that sometime in the near future, however, I’ll be able to visit. Turkish Airlines has several direct flights to Istanbul from several US cities including Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago and often runs discounted airfare specials that make a trip there especially enticing. And, if you don’t want to do the legwork yourself, some tour operators off special packages for Turkey all inclusive holidays that combine flights, hotels and some additional services such as touring.

Straddling the continents of Europe and Asia, Istanbul is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey, and in fact, is the tenth most popular tourist destination in the world (In 2010, over seven million people visited Istanbul). Antalya, located on the southwestern coast of Turkey, on the Mediterranean Sea, is the most popular tourist destination, primarily due to its narrow cobblestone streets lined with historic Ottoman homes, and beautiful beaches with views of the Mediterranean and surrounding mountains.

While I am a history buff, and would undoubtedly find much to occupy myself with while in Turkey, one of my main reasons for wanting to go is the food. I fell in love with Turkish cuisine when I lived in London for a year, which has plenty of excellent Turkish restaurants. Of course, best to go straight to the source, so that is why I am looking forward to ending a long day of touring with some meze, pide, kebabs, and dolma. Followed by baklava and Turkish coffee, of course.

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May 8, 2012

Travel Wishlist: Alaska

One place that has consistently fascinated me, and has been at the top of my travel wishlist for the past few years, is Alaska. Although it has been a state for over 50 years, for many Americans, Alaska still represents the untamed wild frontier that we read about in the Jack London books from our middle school days.

map of alaska Travel Wishlist: Alaska
Courtesy Lonely Planet

It now seems even more accessible since I’ve moved to Seattle, long known as the gateway to Alaska. One of the primary reasons for Seattle’s transformation from a small backwater town to thriving center of trade was due to the Alaska and Yukon gold rushes in the late 1800s, when Seattle merchants sold equipment to gullible miners headed north. Although the gold rush is over, in many respects Seattle still serves as the gateway to Alaska. It is the home of Alaskan Airlines, with direct flights to Anchorage several times per day. Further north, in Bellingham, Washington, you can catch one of the Alaska Marine Highway System’s ferries to Ketchikan, Alaska. If you don’t book early enough to reserve a cabin, however, you may find yourself pitching a tent on the ferry’s deck, which could be quite adventurous, albeit cold.

alaskacruise 300x275 Travel Wishlist: Alaska
(Courtesy PRWeb)

Another option is to take a cruise. Several cruise lines operate out of Seattle for their Alaska bound cruises, including Princess cruises, Carnival, Holland America, and Celebrity. Now, I am not your typical cruise ship aficionado. In fact, I’ve never been on a cruise ship as none of the typical Caribbean or Greek island hopping itineraries have appealed to me. However, I think I would quite enjoy an Alaskan cruise. Walking onto a ship that is departing from the Seattle waterfront just a few miles from my apartment, and (for once) not having to hassle with airports, the TSA, delayed flights, rental cars, etc sounds ideal. A typical cruise ship itinerary includes Ketchikan, Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau (home to one of my favorite breweries – Alaskan Brewing Company), Skagway, and Victoria, British Columbia (a great little city that we previously visited this past New Year’s). The only downside of the cruise is that you wouldn’t see much of the Alaskan interior – I’d like to visit Denali, for instance. So if I could just find a cruise that would let me disembark and wander around Alaska for a few weeks then hitch a ride back to Seattle, then that would be perfect icon smile Travel Wishlist: Alaska

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March 18, 2012

Travel Wishlist: Tenerife

Following up on my previous post regarding my desire to visit Menorca, one of Spain’s Balearic Islands, another Spanish island that I have on my “wishlist” is Tenerife, one of seven Canary Islands located off the northwest coast of Africa. Known as the “Island of Eternal Spring”, holidays to Tenerife are perfect for a wide variety of travelers. Those looking for an active nightlife should plan to visit during the island’s Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which apparently rivals that found in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Since I’m more of a nature lover, I’d probably opt to go at a quieter time to enjoy the beaches and mountains. Tenerife is the home of Mount Teide, the highest point in Spain. Still an active volcano, Teide is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most visited national parks in the world. Cable cars take park visitors to about 500 feet below the summit, offering incredible views of Tenerife.

For those more inclined towards watersports, Tenerife offers a variety of breaks for beginner to experienced surfers as well as plentiful opportunities to snorkel or SCUBA dive. Of course, there is always the option of simply laying on the beach absorbing some much needed Vitamin D, with cocktail in hand.

As you might expect, the local cuisine in Tenerife is heavy in seafood. Canarian dishes also incorporate pork and meat (The popular Cuban dish “ropa vieja”, Spanish for “Old Clothes” was actually a Canarian dish that was introduced to Cuba by Canarian emigrants). Although I am a steadfast beer fan, I’d have to try Tenerife’s wines while I was there; this island is so renown for its wines that William Shakespeare often referenced them in his works.

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February 19, 2012

Travel Wishlist: Menorca

Though my travels usually take place in Eastern Europe, I have been increasingly fascinated by the Mediterranean region since visiting Croatia and Montenegro. The beautiful scenery, extremely hospitable people, and delicious food I experienced there are just some of the reasons that I wish to return to that area. In particular, I’d like to visit some of the many islands that dot the Mediterranean, such as Menorca. Unfortunately, Menorca isn’t the easiest island for me to get to, requiring multiple flights and at least two days of travel. Once you’ve reached the island, though finding car hire in Menorca is relatively easy, so you will be able to explore the island at your own leisurely place rather than rely on public transportation.

Considered the most peaceful and undeveloped of Spain’s Balearic Islands, Menorca has miles of unspoiled beaches with far fewer visitors than neighboring Ibiza and Mallorca. In October 1993, UNESCO designated the island a biosphere reserve in an effort to protect Menorca’s unique wetlands and archaeological sites. The island is well-known for its stone monuments that date back to the Bronze Age, and the island was once invaded and occupied by the Roman empire (and, subsequently, the Moors and British).

In addition to its beaches and historical sights, Menorca offers its visitors plenty of outdoor activities, including scuba diving and horseback riding. And, what better way to end your day than by enjoying a sumptuous feast of caldereta de llagosta (lobster stew) and paella, with a few tall glasses of Gin Xoriguer?

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November 13, 2011

Travel Wishlist: Chicago

Chicago montage Travel Wishlist: Chicago
(Courtesy of the Chicago Wikipedia entry)

Despite traveling to the far reaches of the world, from Pyongyang to Cairo to Rome to London, there are a surprisingly large number of major U.S. cities that I have yet to visit. One of these would be Chicago. I’ve been pretty close; I once had a business meeting in Rosemont, just outside chicago, near O’Hare airport. But, as with most business trips, I had no time to myself, so never made it the actual city of Chicago.

So, why Chicago? Easy. Sports and food. Growing up, I was a HUGE Cubs fan. My mom’s side of the family is from Illinois, so that’s probably why. I was seriously obsessed with the Cubs as a little kid. Jersey, posters of Ryne Sandberg, a signed Ernie Banks ball – yep, I had all of it. I would love to see a game at Wrigley Field someday, and if someone wanted to offer me Bears tickets, well I certainly wouldn’t turn those down. Since I would probably opt to visit Chicago in the summer, I’m leaning toward the Cubs tickets (which I am sure will cost me an arm and a leg).

Second, the food. Chicago is known for its deep dish pizza, hot dogs, steakhouses, and Polish food. Granted, none of these foods are particularly healthy, but when on vacation, that doesn’t really matter. And besides, are any “famous” foods from an American city particularly healthy? None that I can think of.

So, the above are just a few of the reasons why I would like to visit Chicago (the WWII U-boat at the Museum of Science and Industry would also be cool to see). I’m sure I’ll get to visit the city eventually!

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July 30, 2011

Travel Wishlist: Mexico

Despite living in Southern California for 18 years, I have only made it to Mexico once, when I was in middle school. We spent our summers in Oceanside, north of San Diego, and one day my mom and some of her friends decided that we should take a daytrip to Tijuana. I really don’t think that one day trip counts as visiting Mexico, though, and would like to take another trip there, particularly to see the Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula and hike through the jungle. I’d like to spend some time on the coast, also, perhaps near bella sirena rocky point mexico on the Sea of Cortez. As a Mexican food aficionado, one of the things I would be looking forward to the most, of course, is partaking in authentic Mexican food, beer, and tequila. Since Mexico is also known for its miles of unspoiled, uncrowded beaches, I’d also like to go surfing down there, but I’m not sure if my surfing ability is up to the task. I hope to visit Mexico soon, perhaps over the next couple of years. It is only a short flight from Seattle (well, compared to Europe), so that definitely adds to the appeal of Mexico.

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