Archive for April, 2013

Though many visitors flock to Sydney during the winter (to enjoy the Australian city’s summer), spring is a great time to head Down Under, as autumn kicks off Sydney’s cultural season. And the cultural scene in Sydney should not be overlooked. One of the city’s most recognizable landmarks is the Sydney Opera House House, and both the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of New South Wales feature impressive collections. The Koala Park and Taronga Zoo are also popular among tourists, where they can spot kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas. And of course, Sydney has over 60 beaches, and the weather is still warm enough in early autumn for a dip in the water, and at the very least, a stroll along the sand.

For culture buffs, the Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour overlooks the water, and is less than a 10-minute walk from the Opera House. The nearby Sir Stamford is another upscale option, but as a boutique hotel, it has a more intimate vibe. Perks include beautiful common spaces, filled with fireplaces, chandeliers, and antiques, spacious rooms, and an upscale restaurant and tea service. Budget-conscious travelers may consider Hotel Altamont in Darlinhurst. With a pretty rooftop garden, a location within walking distance of numerous attractions, and freebies such as breakfast and Wi-Fi, it offers a solid value.

- Oyster.com Staff

Photography by Huvafen Fushi

Just about everything is over the azure Indian Ocean waters at the Huvafen Fushi resort in the Maldives, save for a few beach bungalows and the windowed underwater LIME spa. More »

Where do the sexiest people live? Who better to ask than Travel Channel’s very own globe-trotting travel writers and bloggers? We sought out these world travelers for their picks of the destinations with the sexiest people … sexy because of their sense of style, love of life, dancing moves or incredibly fit bods. The responses had a definitive trend: Seems as if many of the most bodacious beings hail from Latin America.

We knew Brazil would be a likely contender. Travel writer and host Ernest White II, aka Fly Brother, who called Sao Paulo, Brazil, home for over 6 years,  praises this “multihued hottie factory.” “Without a doubt,” says White, “the sexiest people in the world can be found in that renowned epicenter of bulbous backsides, Brazil. The über-toned beach bodies and striking coal-to-cream complexion scheme speak to Brazil’s virtually endless coastline and its centuries-old history of intermixing and immigration.”

Of course, Italy wasn’t a surprise pick, either. This people in this Mediterranean haven practically exude “sexy” in nearly everything that they do,  says travel writer Valerie Conners, who’s enjoyed several stretches of living, working and traveling across Italy. “Whether they’re — against all odds — making red-linen pants look seductive, casually sipping an espresso while perusing La Repubblica newspaper or being freakishly dexterous by simultaneously chattering on a cell phone, smoking a cigarette and eating a gelato while wearing a micro-mini skirt and careening through Rome’s streets on a Vespa (yup, it’s happened) — I gotta hand it to them, Italianos are dead sexy,” she says.

Scandinavia is known for its awe-inspiring natural beauty, and that includes its people. Travel writer Terry Ward, who divides her time between Florida and Nassau, Bahamas, swoons over Swedes: “Slim, tall and impeccably dressed, the people of Stockholm are more diverse than the blond-haired, blue-eyed stereotype would lead you to believe … and while Swedes aren’t exactly the outgoing-with-strangers types, they do love to practice their English with native speakers — use it to your advantage to make friends.”

Who else made the list? See the rest of our Sexiest People picks here.

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Two years ago, on Marathon Monday, I was sitting on the sun-drenched front steps of a house party in Boston’s Kenmore neighborhood, when someone stole my boyfriend’s brand-new Canon camera right from under my nose. At the time, we were particularly horrified that someone would have the audacity to do something so mean and so brazen on Marathon Monday! Call me naive, but we thought that was just about the worst thing that someone could ever do on such a celebratory day.

Boy, were we wrong. On Monday at 2:50 p.m., 2 bombs exploded within seconds of each other as runners made their way across the finish line. That act of violence claimed 3 lives, injured dozens more and forever changed how the world viewed my hometown’s very best holiday. For the first time in the race’s 117-year history, Bostonians have to adjust to hearing words like “explosion,” “bombing” and “tragedy” uttered alongside “Boston Marathon.”

It’s just not how Marathon Monday was supposed to be.

What many out-of-towners may not realize is that the Boston Marathon is not just a race, it’s so much more. It’s a day of city pride, a day typically filled with stories of love and support and incredible accomplishment, all celebrated against a backdrop of Patriots’ Day, a state holiday commemorating the opening battles of the American Revolutionary War. School kids and government workers enjoy the day off, Sox fans flock to Fenway Park to see our team host the only morning game on the entire Major League Baseball schedule, and more than 20,000 people from dozens of countries come to compete in the marathon.

It’s a day that runners work toward for months, even years, forgoing hungover brunches with friends to spend their Sunday mornings on 14-mile runs, dreaming of making it over Heartbreak Hill.

On what seems to always be the first sunny, spring day in the city, thousands of spectators head out for the event. Moms and dads pack picnics, grandpas plop down in foldy chairs, and the city’s droves of college kids embark on a marathon of their own — typically, a day-long booze-filled party, all in good fun. Thousands line the 26.2-mile route, at times 10 to 15 people deep, and spend hours rooting and cheering on friends, family and total strangers. Among them this year was 8-year-old Martin Richard, watching from the sidelines in Copley Square as runners made their final strides across the finish line. By Martin’s side were his parents, his 11-year-old brother and 5-year-old sister.

While a few run to compete, many more Boston marathoners run to raise money for charity. Some even run for those who no longer can. The runners write their names on their T-shirts, arms and legs, ensuring 26.2 miles of feeling like a rockstar as adoring Bostonians shout out personalized words of encouragement.

That’s how it’s supposed to be.

This time was different. This time, the spectators weren’t cheering words of encouragement, they were yelling at the runners. They were telling them to stop, to turn around, to run away from the finish line that they’d spent months training to run toward.

This time, Bostonians at marathon-watch parties shied away from their balconies overlooking Beacon Street and instead sat silently around TVs, watching in shock as Copley Square erupted in smoke and horrified screams.

And now we have learned the cost in lives. On Monday, we lost 3 of our own: Martin Richard, the 8-year-old Dorchester boy; Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old woman from Arlington, MA, who had been waiting on Boylston Street for a friend to cross the finish line; and a Boston University graduate student from China, watching the race with 2 friends.

Now comes the investigation and the questions of who and why? But here’s the hardest question of all: Will Marathon Monday ever be our very best day again? Anyone who knows Boston knows the answer. The city of Boston is a city of fighters, from its earliest patriots up until today. Next year, make it a point to experience the Boston Marathon the way that it was supposed to be celebrated this year, the way that it’s been celebrated all of my life — as a joyous, loving and supportive celebration of incredible strength, determination and will.

To help those most affected by Monday’s bombings, please visit The One Fund Boston.

Photo by Reuters/Mike Segar

Finally! In a victory that previous Aussie golfers Jim Ferrier, Bruce Crampton, Jack Newton and 3-time runner-up Greg Norman could only dream of, Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the Masters Tournament this past Sunday and cast a renewed spotlight on golf Down Under.

For travelers looking to combine their love of faraway places with their love of the sport, Australia offers enticing options: golf courses spread across inland settings, some at really affordable prices. Among them is the recently opened Barnbougle Dunes resort. Located on Tasmania’s shores, the 200-acre resort offers all-day unlimited to its 36-hole course for around $130.

For a world-class golf experience, head to Royal Melbourne Golf Club, a 36-hole course near Melbourne that routinely makes US Golf Digest’s list of the world’s top golf courses. Since its founding in 1891, Royal Melbourne has gone on to become the oldest continually operating golf club in Australia — and if the media buzz is correct, Adam Scott will play at the club from Nov. 14-17 to defend the title he won last November at Kingston Heath.

This other premier golf club, located in Melbourne’s southeast suburbs, is the No. 2 course in Australia, and has hosted the Australian Golf Open 7 times. Several years ago, Kingston Heath also hosted the Australian Masters tournament. Looking to hit the green? Visiting golfers must be members of interstate or overseas golf clubs in order to arrange a booking.

For more memorable golf moments Down Under, head to Australia’s Dent Island. There you’ll find Hamilton Island Golf Club, home to the country’s only 18-hole championship course on an island. Designed by British Open championship golfer Peter Thompson, the par-71 course of broad fairways and steep valleys offers 360-degree views of the Coral Sea off Australia’s northeast coast.

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Tonight, on an all-new episode of Toy Hunter, Jordan visits the Windy City to hunt for toys with a diverse group of collectors. Where did Jordan come across this eclectic mix of people? Chicago’s one and only “nerd-seum,” of course.

But before making his trip to the “nerd-seum,” Jordan and his buddy Mark head over to ex-football player Rick’s house to see what kind of Batman memorabilia they can dig up. As it turns out, some of Rick’s collection was found to be impostors, but Jordan did find one thing that tickled his toy fancy — a $450 Batman Space Probe that has never been opened.

Will Jordan be able to pry the Batman probe from Rick’s tough, football-trained hands? What toy gold will Jordan come across at the “nerd-seum”? Find out on an all-new episode, tonight @ 9|8c.

Plus, check out Jordan’s thoughts on our behind-the-scenes photos from tonight’s episode.

Best way to navigate the maze-like city of Venice? If you’ve never done it, indulge in a gondola ride. More »

Courtesy of Don Williamson Photography

Spring has sprung and flowers are in bloom. And it’s the perfect time to visit one of Travel Channel’s favorite botanical gardens. Spend a day strolling through the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, FL — an 83-acre garden that’s home to rare tropical flora and almost 3,000 butterflies. Dispel the notion that Arizona has a lifeless and colorless landscape; visit the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix to see a unique collection of cacti and colorful wildflowers.

If tiptoeing through the tulips isn’t your thing, we suggest a trip to the beach for a little rest and relaxation. Pack up the car and go on a fun trip to some of our recommended beach destinations, including Myrtle Beach, Delray Beach and South Padre Island. There’s something for everyone. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t include West Coast beaches. Let our online travel guide Marianela Pereyra take you on a tour of some her favorite California beaches. So smell the flowers, soak up the sun and make the most of your spring with these picks!

Photography by Viceroy Zihuatanejo

On 6 acres of fragrant gardens, flanked by jungle and a thousand feet of bone-white beach, Viceroy Zihuatanejo adorns Mexico’s Pacific coastline like treasure washed in by the sea. More »

Anne Frank House

Photo by Radio Nederland Wereldomroep

Over a million people visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam each year, but on Friday the museum opened its doors to a celebrity (19-year-old pop star Justin Bieber, to be exact) and controversy followed.

Prior to a concert in Arnhem in the Netherlands, Beiber toured the home where Anne Frank spent 2 years hiding from the Nazis during World War II and wrote her world-famous diary. However, it was his guestbook message that set the Internet on fire.

For its part, the Anne Frank House released a short statement on its Facebook page earlier today gracious for Bieber’s visit and encouraging renewed interest in the museum and Anne Frank’s story.

“The Anne Frank House was pleased to welcome Justin Bieber to the Anne Frank House last Friday. We think it is very positive that he took the time and effort to visit our museum. He was very interested in the story of Anne Frank and stayed for over an hour. We hope that his visit will inspire his fans to learn more about her life and hopefully read the diary.”

Controversy aside, if you haven’t visited the Anne Frank House, it’s an intimate, moving experience to step behind the bookshelf into the secret annex.

If you feel inspired to plan a trip to Amsterdam, Bourdain’s travel guide is a good place to start.

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