Best National Parks in the American Southwest

August 26, 2009 on 8:17 pm | In United States travel, travel news, vacation travel | Comments Off

This evening we published the latest addition to our ThereArePlaces website. We have always enjoyed traveling the National Parks in the American Southwest and decided to share our wanderings and recommendations on the best parks to visit in this unique area. We cover Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park in Utah. We recommend the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest in Arizona and Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. We think that everyone who has a chance should visit Death Valley National Park on the California-Nevada border. In Colorado, we have always been inspired by the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park and, more recently, by the incredible dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

The Grand Canyon National Park is stunning in any season.

If you think you might like to know more about these parks, we suggest you start here. Our guide includes a one-page overview describing each park and why you might want to visit. In addition, we provide detail pages for each park we cover and these pages include some great photography and handy advice for planning a visit.

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Looking At Art – Is There A Right Way?

August 3, 2009 on 2:43 pm | In personal travel, things travelers need to know, vacation travel | 1 Comment

In today’s New York Times Online, Michael Kimmelmann published an article titled ” At Louvre, many stop to snap but few stay to focus“, in which he raises they question “Why do we visit art galleries and museums?” He mused on the notion that some interact with the art, while other take pictures of pictures. In addition, he included this provocative statement “So tourists now wander through museums, seeking to fulfill their lifetime’s art history requirement in a day, wondering whether it may now be the quantity of material they pass by rather than the quality of concentration they bring to what few things they choose to focus upon that determines whether they have “done” the Louvre. It’s self-improvement on the fly.

The discussion continued in the publication’s Art Beat Blog and the discussants had many interesting comments.

What you should you see while touring museums and galleries and how you should conduct these types of tours has been the stuff of debates for centuries. It is our belief that the question is even harder to answer in modern times, since we have witnessed such a proliferation of quality galleries and museums around the world. So much to see, so little time!

We employ several different strategies, depending on the collection we are viewing. For example, at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, we stopped and looked at every one of Van Gogh’s works that were on display, as his art seems to connect with us. At the Louvre, however, we use a different strategy, as the collections are enormous and varied. We look for the masters, famous sculptures and anything to do with Egypt!

In all cases, however, we take our time focusing only on those things of interest to us. We will admit that we take more time when seating is available, as it seems to use that pondering the details or art is something that we does best while sitting – of course, doing so also gives us an opportunity to see what are fellow travelers find of interest (spying is an honorable and important part of travel writing). Of course, we are always stopping and recording a voice memo, writing a note on an attraction or taking a photo (if allowed). I guess our style of touring reflects our desire to report back to you on what we see. However, we think that makes it even more enjoyable!

Our recommendation – tour museums in a way that is meaningful to you – after all it is your vacation.

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TinTin Museum Opens In Belgium

May 27, 2009 on 7:18 pm | In Belgium travel, Europe travel, ThereArePlaces.com, things travelers need to know, travel books, vacation travel | Comments Off

We have added a new attraction to our best places to visit in Belgium. It is the Musee Herge, which honors the work of the creator of the famous TinTin adventures. The new museum is open to the public starting June 2, 2009 and is in beautiful building located in the “university town” of Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, about thirty-kilometers southeast of Brussels. See our guide to the Best Places to Visit in Belgium for more details including a map showing the location of the new museum.

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Europe’s Strike Season Begins

April 9, 2009 on 12:37 pm | In Paris Travel, ThereArePlaces.com, things travelers need to know, travel, vacation travel | Comments Off

Today, we noticed an AP article that the Eiffel Tower in Paris was closed today due to a strike.  It is the beginning of the spring and summer “strike season” in Europe and you should expect to be incovenienced by a wildcat strike or two, if you are lucky enough to visit.  Due to the worldwide economic downturn, we expect that there will be more strikes (and service disruptions) this season than in past years. 

What to do?

Take any strike you meet in stride.  While we recommend that you stay away from the strikers and wherever they are gathering, there is always something else to do that will be just as much fun. In fact, the most difficult thing to change will probably be your attitude.  Finding another worthwhile attraction will be easy.

The start of the “strike seaon” just means that you should have a flexible itinerary and be prepared to adjust it when you need to do so.  No Eiffel Tower today?  Substitute the Musee D’Orsay, Notre Dame, the Invalides or any of the wonderful places to see and things to do in Paris

Sure it’s irritating when things don’t go like you planned, but being angry about them isn’t going to call off the strike or have any result other than you wasting your precious vacation time being angry when you could be doing something else that is a lot of fun.

Our advice is simple – “Go with the flow” and have a flexible plan for where you want to go and what you want to see.   By the way, you won’t run into strikes in Europe in August, since it  is the month when most European workers take their vacation, but you will run into crowds.  Ahh, the more the merrier!

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Oh Those Bargains

March 10, 2009 on 6:06 pm | In Dunhill Vacations, Uncategorized, personal travel, things travelers need to know, vacation travel | Comments Off

In a response to the economic downturn, major airlines, cruise lines, river cruise companies, hotels, spas and just about everyone in the travel business is offering discounts that are producing a mini-boom in travel.  We doubt that you will see bargains like this in the future and if you have the time and money, you should take a good look at what is being offered.  We have seen “unimaginable” prices and suspect that they will not last for long.  Until then, you might consider making hay while the sun is shining.

See Dunhill Vacations for some great travel discounts.  If interested, you can sign-up for their newsletter here.

We know it is a difficult decision to spend money in hard times, but the economy is a fact of life.  In turn, you probably only get one major vacation a year and we don’t think you should skip one if you can afford it.  Our view is that travel is one of the best things in life and if someone wants to throw travel bargains your way – Well, take the opportunity. You may never see prices this good again.

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Cheap Drinks With Ice In Europe – What A Treat!

February 28, 2009 on 9:10 am | In Europe travel, ThereArePlaces.com, UK Travel, things travelers need to know, vacation travel | Comments Off

We created ThereArePlaces to help convey to you the “ins and outs” of how to travel with comfort and convenience when you are away from home.  In the “travel well” context, you may wonder why we mention U.S. fast food eateries.  The answer is simple:  sometimes they are good places to seek respite when you are traveling internationally.

When you think about world travel, you generally do not visualize touring a world famous attraction and, then, stopping off at McDonalds or Burger King for a snack.  Conversely, our experience tells us that sometime during your trip abroad, you will run across “good old American fast food” and we recommend that you take advantage of the opportunity.

One of the customs you will need to get used to in the UK and Europe is that drinks are usually served without ice.  If you ask for ice, you will either be met with a blank stare or provided one or two of the smallest ice cubes that you have ever seen.  We are sure that some of the cubes we have been offered in Europe were frozen during the last Ice Age (and taste like it).  If you like ice with your soft drink, the easiest way to find this treat while traveling in Europe is to head for the Golden Arches or Burger Whopper.

Next, consider that the most reasonably priced soft drinks that you can find in Europe will be served at McDonald’s or Burger King.  Be prepared to pay more than you do in the U.S., but less than you will pay down the street at a local eatery.

In addition, consider having breakfast at either Mickey Ds or BK, if one is near your hotel.  During a recent trip to Germany, the hotel we were at was charging 26 Euros per person for breakfast.  We motored over to McDonalds and had a good breakfast for two for less than seven Euros.  Make no mistake, it did not include all the yummy things we could have had at the hotel’s breakfast buffet, but on that day, the switch was worth it.

While we are at it, an additional, attractive aspect of McDonalds and Burger King Restaurants in Europe and the UK, that is relatively rare in other shops in these areas, is air conditioning.  If you are overheated from touring during those hot European summers, head for the American junk food oases. 

During a trip to Milan last summer, we were boiling in the afternoon heat and had quite a distance to go before the next stop on our itinerary.  (We like to walk cities, so we can see as much as possible.)  It was a miserably hot and humid afternoon and we were dragging.  Just then, we saw a Burger King on the next corner.  Not only did their soft drink with ice pep us up, but the air conditioning was just the refresher we needed to revive us for a few more stops in glamorous Milan.
 
Note: in many countries, the pricing is different for food or drinks you take-away from food shop and food you consume in the shop.  If you pay for take-away (less than eating-in), don’t try to eat the food in the shop, as you may be asked to leave.  The difference in price has to do with the Value Added Tax being applied to food eaten at the restaurant but not on “take away” food.

For more Things Travelers Need to Know, visit  our section on Travel Advice at There ArePlaces.

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Venice Goes Good With Coca Cola?

February 23, 2009 on 6:42 pm | In Europe travel, Italy travel, Venice, things travelers need to know, travel news, vacation travel | Comments Off

In a rather disquieting story that hit the wires today, the BBC has reported that the city fathers of Venice, Italy have accepted a two-million Euro sponsorship deal with soft drink beverage king Coca Cola.  Apparently, the deal allows Coke to place over 60 vending machines around the city, possibly in Saint Mark’s Square (even though tourists are not allowed to picnic there). 

In defense of the city, over twenty-million tourists visited in 2008 and the city claims that the Italian govenment is not doing enough to help repair and refurbish the city – hence the commercial agreements with Coke and others to help offset some of these costs.  The full story can be found here.

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Lost Luggage – Packing Strategies

February 18, 2009 on 9:52 am | In lost luggage, luggage and packing, things travelers need to know, travel, vacation travel | Comments Off

A recent report on Airline Performance by the the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Government included this information:

Mishandled Baggage

“The U.S. carriers reporting flight delays and mishandled baggage data posted a mishandled baggage rate of 6.96 reports per 1,000 passengers in December, an improvement over December 2007’s rate of 9.05 but higher than November 2008’s 3.75 rate.  For all of last year, the carriers posted a mishandled baggage rate of 5.26 per 1,000 passengers, an improvement over 2007’s rate of 7.05.”

Whew. That is a relief.  Only 5.26 people per thousand have their luggage lost by the airlines.

We are glad to see that the service is improving, but wonder why everyone we know has been among the reported miniscule portion that have suffered from lost luggage.  Perhaps it is because we frequently travel to foreign destinations?  Perhaps, luggage lost at foreign destination is not accounted for in the reports of the U.S.based agency?  What really matters is that this could happen to you on your next vacation.  When it does, it is a major inconvenience.

Here is simple remedy to this problem. if you are going to be flying either domestically or internationally, and you will be traveling with a companion, you should try “cross-packing”!  That’s right, pack an outfit or two for each of you in the same suitcase.  Simple idea, but not used very often.  We guess it is the “Not in my suitcase” mentality, but doing could save you some discomfort when traveling far away from home. 

For more tips like this and other useful Things Travelers Need To Know see our travel planning guide on Luggage and Packing at ThereArePlaces.com.

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ThereArePlaces News Release on Best Places To Visit in Mexico

February 13, 2009 on 1:36 pm | In Mexico travel, country travel information, travel news, vacation travel | Comments Off

Attached is our latest press release from ThereArePlaces.com that was published yesterday.

Cancun and the Riviera Maya or Cabo and the Mexican Riviera?

Popular Travel Website Highlights Mexico’s Best Places To Visit

Laguna Hills, CA 2/12/2009 09:43 PM GMT (TransWorldNews)

ThereArePlaces announced today the launch of the 2009 edition of its online travel guide to the best places to visit in Mexico, a county that is widely considered one of the leading travel destinations in the world.  The Mexico Guide is focused on describing the leading destinations along the country’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts.  It provides details for visiting  Mexico’s Caribbean coast including  detailed coverage of Cancun, Chichen Itza, Cozumel, the Riviera Maya and the Mayan ruins of Tulum and Coba.  On the Pacific coast, the coverage is focused on the breathtaking Mexican Riviera, including, Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa – Zihuatanejo and Acapulco. The lavishly illustrated guide includes detailed, purpose-built maps to help explore Mexico’s coasts.

“Vacationing along Mexico’s shorelines is an increasingly popular choice with travelers from around the world,” said Mike Dobson, President of ThereArePlaces.  “The coastal areas of Mexico feature great weather, fantastic beaches, good diving, almost unlimited water sports, game fishing, interesting sightseeing and lodging to suit the needs of those looking for luxury or an eco-friendly approach to vacationing.”

About ThereArePlaces
ThereArePlaces  is a fast growing website that offers two distinctive sections: Vacation Destination Guides and a section on travel advice called “Things Travelers Need To Know.”  The Destination Guide section covers top destinations in forty of the world’s most popular countries for vacation travel. As put by the Company president Mike Dobson, “Our commitment is to provide travel advice that might help you take the journey of a lifetime.”

ThereArePlaces is a property of TeleMapics, LLC, a business focused on Geospatial Information, including travel, tourism, and other location based services (http://www.telemapics.com/).
http://www.thereareplaces.com/

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Drug Troubles in Mexico and Tourism

February 11, 2009 on 8:46 am | In Mexico travel, Uncategorized, travel warnings, vacation travel | Comments Off

Mexico’s Cancun, the Riviera Maya and the Mexican Riviera are great places to visit.  As a matter of fact, we have just added detailed coverage of these areas in our Guide to the Best Places In Mexico . 

However, Mexico has been having a great deal of problems with drug gangs.  Although the Mexican government points out that visitors to the country’s tourist zones are as safe in Mexico as they are when visiting other countries, it is clear that  tourists who deal or consume illegal drugs while in Mexico are looking for trouble.   Recently, MSNBC published a great article on the drug problem in Mexico and we think it would be useful for anyone planning travel to Mexico to read.  So, here it is http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29095730/ .  Although this is not the type of article you find at most travel sites, we think it fall under our rubric of Things Tourists Need To Know.

As a postcript, the Attorney General of Mexico recently announced that the number of murders in 2008 clocked in at 5,400, more than twice the 2007 figure of 2,477.  Already in 2009 there have been more than 400 drug related murders, according to other sources.  Three of these murders were of a well-known ex-general and his aides, who was brought to Ciudad Cancun to make sure the violence in the drug trade did not spin out of control and into the tourist area  (Hotel Zone).

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