Yearly Archives: 2017

The big quirkiest food festivals

Tomato-drenched crowds wading through a lake of passata at Valencia’s La Tomatina festival might be a familiar image, but such passionate and eccentric celebrations of food are far from unique.

Across the globe, there’s a smorgasbord of wonderfully bizarre festivals dedicated to edible delicacies, ranging from the conventional to the questionable (ostrich testicles, anyone?). As Mexican radish carvers prepare their perishable sculptures for the Christmastime Noche de los Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) on December 23, we bring you our shortlist of the best:

1. Night of the Radishes
Where? Oaxaca, Mexico

During Oaxaca’s long-running Noche de los Rábanos, the humble radish enjoys a spectacular, Cinderella-like transformation. The crunchy root is expertly carved into nativity scenes, celebrity figurines, animals and many other innovative creations.

In what must be one of the world’s most distinctive Christmas celebrations, queuing spectators tour the city’s Zócolo, admiring the intricate sculptures competing for the highly contested “grand prize”.

2. Roadkill Cook-Off
Adventurous carnivores will find plenty to tempt their palates at West Virginia’s annual Roadkill Cook-Off. Crowds gather in the small town of Marlinton to watch chefs and amateurs rustle up dishes such as “teriyaki-marinated bear”, “rack of raccoon” and “squirrel gravy”.

Competing for cash prizes, entrants are bound by the rule that their menu must feature “any animal commonly found dead on the road”. Once the grills have cooled, a square dance, beauty pageant and dog show provide extra entertainment.

3. Monkey Buffet Festival
Where? Lopburi, Thailand

Every November, Khmer-era temple Phra Prang Sam Yot hosts an extraordinary feast for the mischievous long-tailed macaques of Lopburi. The revered monkeys take a break from their usual antics to devour hundreds of kilos of beautifully arranged fruit.

Tourists soak up the spectacle as the monkeys ascend colourful pyramids of pineapples, dragon fruit and watermelon, graze on plates of bananas and grapes, and occasionally pause to swig from cans of soft drinks.

Visit Hawaii for Low Prices and Great Weather

Hawaii is a bucket-list destination for many reasons. The Aloha State is home to an extraordinary culture, pristine landscapes, and idyllic beaches.

While there is no one “perfect time” to visit Hawaii, individual preferences can dictate the best time to book your vacation.

The Cheapest Times to Visit Hawaii
Flights to Hawaii are generally at their most expensive from mid-December through mid-April. With some planning, however, flights in January or February can be up to $175 cheaper than typical high season, according to the farecasting app, Hopper. Hotel rooms, on the other hand, are likely to be cheapest during the fall months, from September through the middle of December.

The Best Weather in Hawaii
Travelers looking for the best weather in Hawaii will find that rainfall is at its lowest from April through September. According to Accuweather, however, hurricane season in the Central Pacific lasts from approximately June 1 to November 3, with the chances of a tropical cyclone peaking in August. Just remember there’s still plenty to do in Honolulu, even when it rains.

The Most Popular Times to Visit Hawaii
The Hawaiian Tourism Authority reported that July has the most visitor arrivals of the entire year. December is the second-busiest month. Travelers who want to avoid crowds should also avoid booking trips during the last week of April and the first week of May. During this so-called “Golden Week,” hoards of tourists flock to Hawaii from Japan.

The Best Times to Go Whale-watching
Those who visit Hawaii with the intent of whale watching will find humpback whales off the islands’ coasts from December through May. February is considered by many as the absolute peak of the season, as it’s when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration completes its annual whale survey.

Those looking for a perfect combination of fewer visitors, lower prices, and good weather will likely find their ideal booking window during the shoulder seasons, in either May or September.

What You Can Do About It

The 2018 flu season is shaping up to be bad—potentially the worst one since 2014-2015, which was “the most severe season in recent years,” as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says in its latest flu outbreak update.

“The number of jurisdictions experiencing high activity went from 21 states to 26 states and New York City and the number of states reporting widespread activity went from 36 to 46,” wrote the public health agency in a recent post. “Influenza-like illness (ILI) went from 4.9% to 5.8%. ‎These indicators are similar to what was seen at the peak of the 2014-2015 season, which was the most severe season in recent years.” In some states, like California, emergency rooms have already been overwhelmed with people suffering from the flu.

Common 2018 flu symptoms
Here are the tell-tale signs of having the flu, according to the CDC: fever and/or chills, cough, sore throat, a runny and/or stuffed nose, body aches, headaches, and fatigue (flu symptoms may present in groups of two or three or all at once). Some flu patients also experience diarrhea and vomiting.

Why the 2018 flu outbreak could be especially deadly
There are a number of factors driving the current flu season, which is already being called “moderately severe” by health officials and has yet to peak (February is usually when flu season is worst). For one thing, it’s been a particularly cold winter in many parts of the U.S., which makes for a more resilient and longer-lingering influenza virus.

And then there’s the matter of the current flu vaccine. It’s unclear if the flu shot will match last year’s effectiveness of about 39%; some estimates have pegged this year’s vaccine’s effectiveness at closer to 30%, although the final numbers will remain unknown until the end of flu season, which can last through May. The flu vaccine is typically somewhere between 40% and 60% effective since scientists have to use some guesswork as to the strains that will be floating around before mass producing the vaccine. Hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and tens of thousands die from the flu in any given year, and the young, old, and immune-compromised are at the highest risk.

Furthermore, getting vaccinated for certain strains won’t necessarily protect you from other flu types that are going around. And the dominant strain this year, H3N2, is one that public health experts decry as a particularly nasty one. In fact, it’s a strain that’s likely to lead to more severe symptoms and more deaths among the young and the old.

Do You Plan Come to Hobart City Kayaking

It was around 8am when I rocked up at the boat sheds of a small Sandy Bay beach to meet Roaring Forties Kayaking. As someone that has been a Hobart local for most of his life I really wasn’t sure what to expect of a tour that would take me through largely familiar territory.

When I arrived both Sue and Reg from Roaring Forties came over and greeted me warmly, in turn facilitating introductions with the other members of the group before delving into a safety briefing. All abilities were catered for; although I had kayaked before it was clear that no kayaking experience was necessary. The basics were well covered by the guides and any extra questions clients had were answered to quash any lasting reservations.Soon enough we pushed off into the choppy, shallow waters off the beach, a stiff head wind offering some resistance. The pace was relaxed. This tour isn’t about rushing, the ground covered over the three hours was relatively small and could have been covered in a fraction of the time. Plenty of time is taken to properly take in the sites, drift under jetties and listen to the explanations of the knowledgeable guides.
The group slowly started off by making their way around the headland of Battery Point, Hobart’s most affluent suburb, coming in close enough to see the modern architectural feats forming extensions to some of Hobart’s oldest properties. Sue pointed out a house that had been featured on Grand Designs for its fusion of new and old elements.

Drifting on we rounded the point into the harbour proper, revealing the docks beyond, nestled at the foot of the omnipresent massif of Mount Wellington. We passed a curiously placed over water cabin which the guides explained to be the judging booth for the annual Sydney to Hobart yacht race, unknown to the local guests. We continued on, the warehouses and shops of the waterfront ahead appearing miniscule from this angle against the bulk of the mountain.
Despite living in Hobart for most of my life I had never seen the city from the water, a perspective that sheds new light on life in the city. We gave way to a couple of yachts and a tour boat on our way into constitution dock, navigating the numerous jetties lined with moorings. After weaving our way through the lines of yachts the functioning part of the harbour finally gave way to the calm, collected waters of constitution dock.
Sue helped everyone raft up to a buoy in the centre of the dock, the sandstone edifice of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery standing at the far end and the right side lined with fish venders, the smell of freshly cooked sea food wafting our way. Fresh fish and chips was brought to us on the water, giving us time to simply float, talk amongst ourselves and people watch.

The thing at the very top of your bucket list

In our recent Reader Awards, we asked you to name the thing at the very top of your bucket list. The answer didn’t surprise us one bit. It was, resoundingly, to witness the Northern Lights.

So for this season’s final episode of The Rough Guide to Everywhere (iTunes; Soundcloud), our podcast host Greg Dickinson travelled to Finnish Lapland in a hunt for the aurora borealis.
In the episode, Greg meets with local Sámi woman Linda, who explains the local folklore behind the Northern Lights. “Some people used to believe that it was a huge firefox running through the fells and when its tail hit the fells it created the Northern Lights”, she says.

As time goes by and his chances of seeing the Northern Lights are looking slimmer, Greg takes a crash course in riding a snowmobile. Alongside his French guide, Anthony, Greg drives across a frozen lake and deep into the woods in a last-ditch attempt to catch a glimpse of the aurora.

Listen now to find out what happens.

Greg travelled to Finland with The Aurora Zone, the UK’s only dedicated Northern Lights holiday company. Three-night trips include return flights to Nellim in Finnish Lapland from London, transfers, full-board accommodation, cold-weather clothing and experienced guides. A range of activities (extra) can be added to the trip, including a reindeer farm visit, a husky safari and an Aurora snowmobile safari. For more information, contact The Aurora Zone on 01670 785012.

Your Dollar Will Go Really

As the new year starts to get underway and people begin plotting out their travel for the year, savvy travelers set up flight tracking and email alerts to get the best deals on their trips.

One of the best ways to save on travel can be simpler than trying to figure out your own flight deal algorithm. By choosing a destination where the U.S. currency is strong, travelers can save big bucks without having to exert a major effort.

While the U.S. dollar isn’t quite as strong as it was in recent years, U.S. currency is still enjoying a favorable exchange rate in a number of countries around the world. So whether you’re looking to lie on a beach in southeast Asia or explore a European capital, there are a plethora of options.

Even destinations that are not inherently inexpensive can still be a good choice at a time when the exchange rate is favorable.

“Japan and Norway are not cheap; however, if you want to visit them now is a good time,” Sarah Schlichter, senior editor at SmarterTravel, told Travel + Leisure.

Using data sourced from travel advisory SmarterTravel and travel site Hipmunk, here are 14 of the best destinations to get a bang for your U.S. buck.

With bustling cities, abundant wildlife, and a vibrant art scene, South Africa has something to offer all kinds of different travelers. $1 USD is approximately 12.35 rand, and hotels start as low as $14 USD per night, according to Kayak.

An earthquake and travel warnings to certain states have kept prices low in Mexico, but travelers do not need to be afraid to visit our neighbor to the south. San Miguel de Allende is a T+L favorite, and the beaches of the coast have long attracted visitors from around the world.

With the U.S. dollar nearing a 10-year high against the peso the conversion rate is more than favorable to U.S. visitors.

Norway is by no means an inexpensive destination, but the current exchange rate makes it more favorable to U.S. travelers than usual. Head to this European gem for pristine wildlife and challenging hikes.

Bergen, Norway has also seen a 16 percent average price drop on flights, according to Hipmunk.

Amazing time of year to visit Tasmania

Winter is an amazing time of year to visit Tasmania with heaps to see and do all around the state. From June to September you will always find plenty of things to delight the senses on a winter break.

1. Winter Festivals
Tasmania is home to some of Australia’s best winter festivals with delights for all your senses. Whether it’s music and art or the best food around you will find it all in Tasmania over the winter months.

Dark Mofo
Dark Mofo runs from the 8th to the 21st of June and features a huge range of performances from top international and Australian talent including Mogwai, A.B. Original, Ulver and plenty more. Keep an eye out around the water front for massive art installations including Dark Park and eat until your stuffed at the Winter Feast.

To end the festival write down your fears for the Ogoh-Ogoh and join the procession to the burning. If all that isn’t enough don’t forget to sign up for the nude solstice swim and join hundreds of others for a quick skinny dip in the Derwent River.

There are plenty of free events but make sure to check the website for details.
Huon Valley Mid Winter Fest
The Mid Winter Fest has become a winter highlight for many in Southern Tasmania, happening in the middle weekend of July (14th to 16th). The festival is based on ancient European traditions helping to bring in a bumper harvest when spring arrives.

The festival includes a giant burning straw man and the Wassail Away where you dance, sing, scream and make as much noise as you can in order to scare away anything nasty from the local fruit orchids. While there make sure to enjoy the amazing cider that the Huon Valley is famous for.
Festival of Voices
Festival of Voices is Australia’s premier vocal and choir festival happening from the 30th of June to the 16th of July. Expect to see some amazing performances with artists travelling from all over the world to sing and share their knowledge and experience.

A major highlight of the festival is the huge bonfire and singing event that happens in the middle of Salamanca.

2. Keep an eye out for the Aurora Australis
Winter with it’s shorter days is the perfect time of year to see the Aurora Australis. The Aurora occurs when solar winds from our sun collide with the magnetosphere and are pushed down into the upper atmosphere where they lose their energy and create stunning colours that dance across the night sky.

The best places to see the Aurora Australis are outside of populated areas in Southern Tasmania with beaches such as Clifton Beach and Eaglehawk neck often proving popular. It takes a powerful Aurora to be seen by the naked eye but you can usually see them with a camera capable of taking long exposures.

3. Lift your spirits
Tasmania is home to a booming Whisky and Sprits industry, and it feels like there is a new boutique distillery trying something different opening up each week. From Vodka made with Sheep Whey to global award winning whisky it’s not difficult to find a raging fire and something strong to warm you up.

Under constant threat from poachers, and numbers

The African elephant is under constant threat from poachers, and numbers have fallen by one third in seven years. Joe Minihane journeyed to the Samburu reserve in Kenya to meet its elephants and the people trying to save them.

His trunk sways like a pendulum as he turns and spots our 4×4. Slowly, silently, he begins padding towards us.

“Don’t move a muscle,” whispers Saba from the driving seat. “Just let him come to us.” I watch as this young male elephant begins circling our vehicle, turning my head slowly as he passes and lets out a grunt, eyeing us with interest. His scent is pungent, his hide wet.
“He’s secreting from his temporal glands,” says Saba, as our interlocutor walks off towards the nearby dry riverbed. “It means he’s in musth.” Musth, she explains, is a short period when bull elephants become acutely hormonal. High testosterone levels mean they can be dangerous.

I’m in Samburu, northern Kenya, exploring the frontline in the battle to save these majestic creatures from the menace of ivory poaching.

Saba Douglas Hamilton is my guide. With her father, Iain, and her husband, Frank Pope, she runs the world-renowned Save The Elephants (STE) charity from here in the heart of the east Africa bush, doing vital, pressing conservation work.

It’s estimated that 22,000 elephants are killed annually for their tusks
There’s no denying that the African elephant is in crisis. Between 2007 and 2014, numbers fell by 30 percent across the continent, according to the Great African Elephant Census. In September 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said elephants were experiencing their worst decline in 25 years. And there’s one key reason: poaching.

Markle’s Latest Winter Look

Meghan Markle may not yet be a royal, but she’s the queen of winter fashion.

For her second official royal engagement, Meghan and Prince Harry stepped out in London on Tuesday for a visit to Reprezent Radio in the city’s Brixton neighborhood. And as adorable as the couple was on their way into the event, all eyes were on Meghan’s chic winter outfit — which, predictably, has mostly sold out already. And though you may not notice it at first, the look actually had a few nods to Meghan’s future sister-in-law, Kate Middleton.

She bundled up in a coat from Smythe, the same brand that makes Kate’s go-to blazer. It’s the Brando coat in camel. (You can find a similar style here and here.) Though it immediately sold out after Meghan wore it, the coat has since been restocked and is available for pre-order. However, it won’t ship until next August (just in time for fall 2018!) Meghan is a big fan of this style in particular: She also has it in a darker gray color, Salt & Pepper, and was seen wearing it around Toronto in December 2016. (Sadly, that one is currently sold out.)
On Tuesday, she also wore a similarly-hued gray scarf from Jigsaw, another retailer with a Kate connection: The royal mom worked there as an accessories buyer just after graduating from the University of St. Andrews in 2005. (This cashmere scarf will give you the same look as Meghan’s.)

Meghan still put her own spin on the ensemble, though. She embraced a very of-the-moment trend — bell sleeves — with a black top from British high street brand Marks & Spencer. (And it’s still in stock!) But as it’s certainly on its way to selling out, this one is similar, too. She wore a luxury British brand on bottom: A pair of wide-legged Burberry pants, which are no longer available. However, this style is almost identical (and is a fraction of the cost!).

For shoes, Meghan wore one of her go-to designers, Sarah Flint’s Jay Pump, which features a black suede foot with a tortoiseshell heel. And yes — they’re still in stock! She previously wore the designer’s Natalie flat when she and Harry stepped out for the first official event together at the Invictus Games.

Since she announced her engagement to Prince Harry (and even before!), Meghan has become quite the fashion force. The demand for Meghan-worn pieces is so high, in fact, that designers can barely keep up.

“The interest in the brand has been incredible,” Leeanne Hundleby, a spokesperson for Strathberry, who designed the bag Meghan wore to her first official royal engagement, told PEOPLE last month. “The phones began ringing constantly, and our visitor numbers on our website were up by around 5000%!”

Travelled to Berlin to hear the stories of three Syrian refugees

Syria has been shattered by conflict since March 2011; more than 5 million people have been forced to flee the country and rebuild their lives elsewhere. Jessica Bateman travelled to Berlin to hear the stories of three Syrian refugees who now call the city home and are working hard to keep their culture alive in the German capital.

Berlin’s Sonnenallee is a 5km stretch of main road running between the certified hipster districts of Neukölln and Kreuzberg. Back in the communist period, the street was intersected by the Berlin Wall and contained a border crossing, still marked by two lines of cobbled stones.

That the street was once home to a wall between communities seems fitting, because today Sonnenallee has become something of a bridge. Shisha cafés like those in Damascus or Beirut sit next to coffee shops serving flat whites to bespectacled laptop workers.
The smell of shawarma and tobacco mixes with fumes from the busy traffic, and voices speaking in Arabic, German and English catch your ear as you walk along. The Sonnenallee of 2017 is now affectionately known as “Arab Street”, and is the unofficial hub of Berlin’s newly arrived Syrian community.

Although the city has long been home to large Middle Eastern and Turkish populations, the more than 600,000 Syrians who’ve arrived in Germany since the outbreak of the civil war are making their presence felt.

Along with the Syrian restaurants popping up in and around Sonnenallee, throughout the city you’ll also find Syrian-led tours, music, dance and storytelling nights and community projects such as refugee kitchens.