Puerto Rico: The When What and Why

Puerto Rico: The When What and Why

Geography

Where exactly is Puerto Rico? It is an archipelago between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Most people live on the largest and most north of about 70 islands which is also called Puerto Rico. Only two more islands (Culebra, Vieques) are inhibited all year round. Nearest neighboring countries are the Virgin Islands on the East and the Dominican Republic on the West.

map-of-puerto-rico-in-atlantic-ocean

Puerto Rico is technically part of the USA with a territorial status. This means it’s not one of its states, not part of its federal tax system, and has no voting rights at electoral campaigns. Non-US tourists, however, need an American visa for visiting Puerto Rico.

More than 60% of Puerto Rico is covered by mountains with the Cordillera Central as the main chain, but considering the size very various, what means it includes sand beaches, caves, deserts, rivers, valleys, and tropical forest. Climate is a tropical marine, which means it is mostly sunny and warm. Temperature mostly varies from 20 to 27 degrees Celsius. Rain is relatively evenly distributed all year round with a hurricane season from November to April.

map-of-puerto-rico

History

First inhabitants of Puerto Rico were Ortoiroids who arrived from continental South America between 3000 and 2000 BC. Several different tribes followed in the next centuries until in the 15th century Christopherus Colombus found Taino people. The majority were killed thanks to smallpox and other European diseases in just a few decades.

Puerto Rico was one of the major strategic locations of the Spanish Empire for centuries and one of their last two colonies (other being Cuba) in the so-called New World. After the American-Spanish war, it became a territory of the USA in 1898. Several steps were later made to improve its political status but it’s still far from being an independent country.

puerto-rico-strategic-position

For historical reasons, two official languages are spoken in Puerto Rico with Spanish dominating the English.

Useful Data:

Official Name: Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico / Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
Abbreviation: PR
Population: 3,2 Mio (2018)
Language: Spanish, English (officially bilingual)
Currency: dollar (often called peso or dolar)
Area Code: +1
Zip Code: 00601 (Adjuntas) to 00988 (Carolina)
Capital: San Juan
National Anthem: La Borinquena
Time Zone: UTC-4 (AST – Atlantic Standard Time), no Daylight Saving Time
Drinking Age: 18
Unoficial Symbol: Coqui frog

photo-of-coqui-frog

Credit: https://amazingfacts.myblog.de/amazingfacts/art/13758312/Amazing-Facts-About-Puerto-Rico

Famous People from Puerto Rico:

Movie: Benicio del Toro, Joaquin Phoenix, Raul Julia, Rita Moreno, Rosie Perez
Music: Daddy Yankee, Jennifer Lopez, Jose Feliciano, Luis Fosi, Pedro Flores, Ricky Martin

Sport: Felix (Tito) Trinidad, Juan (Chi Chi) Rodriguez, Monica Puig Marchan, Rebekah Collberg, Robert Alomar

Economy

Two major economic activities create the majority of Puerto Rican income: manufacturing and services. Among manufacturing pharmaceuticals lead before electronics, petrochemicals, and textiles. Tourism and the financial industry are top sources of money. Puerto Rico is poor on natural resources, so it imports raw materials, food (about 85 percent of food eaten in the country), fertilizers, …

Hurricanes and tax changes in the last decades didn’t help Puerto Rican economy where more than 15% of people suffer from unemployment. Many emigrated to the USA. Since 2006 more people born in Puerto Rico live out of their country than in Puerto Rico. Tourism will definitely play an important part in the future.

Major Attractions

Beaches

There are hundreds of spectacular beaches in Puerto Rico. It’s a true paradise for resting in the shades of palms, snorkeling, sun tanning, surfing, watersports. Most of the major beach destinations offer additional bonuses in entertainment activities, lively nightlife, long romantic walks, historical sightseeing, and tasty beach dining.

It’s hard to pick just a few of the top beaches in Puerto Rico, so it’s probably better to explore them on your own, depending on your preferences and resources. Several are located just at San Juan, others need 10- to 20-minute flights from one of the airports to more distant locations.

Bioluminescent Bays

Puerto Rico has three of only five known bioluminescent bays in the world. Bioluminescence is a process of emitting the light by a living organism. Fireflies are probably best-known organisms capable of bioluminescence, but some algae, namely dinoflagellates can make it too. Dinoflagellates are present in all oceans but they need to be in very high concentrations to be seen emitting the light by a naked eye.

Mosquito Bay in Vieques is officially the brightest bio bay in the world. After hurricane Maria, the number of dinoflagellates almost doubled. Thanks to the lack of light produced by cities this remote bay offers a unique night spectacle for everybody who enjoys in such phenomena. Laguna Grande, although less spectacular, is much more visited thanks to its proximity to San Juan. And there is Parguera, the only one on the list accessible by motorboats.

Some agencies organize tours with night swimmings, divings or observings through the glass bottoms of boats. Another advantage of bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico is their year-round activity, not self-evident in other areas. A price for such trip varies between 50 and 100 US dollars.

Caves

Several caves in Puerto Rico attract tourists each by its specific charm. Tanam River Cave, for instance, offers a bit of adrenaline with tubing and zip lining. Cueva del Viento has interesting animals living in it. Don’t miss a spectacular view from Cueva Ventana. And there’s a legend about Pozo de Jacinto, where you should never mention a cow …

puerto-rico-cave-photo

Rio Camuy Caves are one of the largest known cave systems in the world. There are breathtaking formations of stalactites, stalagmites, and other karst characteristics. There is home to numerous bats as well.

El Yunque

El Yunque is a national park and the only tropical forest on the list of US national parks. It’s easily accessible from San Juan. La Mina Trail is popular among hikers with several waterfalls and lovely plants along the road. It is so popular it may be a bit crowded sometimes, so it’s best to take it in the early hours. Another signature point is probably La Coca, one of the most picturesque waterfalls on the island.

Yokahu Tower is another popular tourist point in El Yunque. It’s an observation tower with 480 meters of height offering the best view in the park. There is another panoramic tower in El Yunque though but Mount Britton Tower is considered inferior because its view is not so great. Well, you should check it for yourself. And don’t forget the map!

Observatory

The Arecibo Observatory, with the largest telescope in the world for more than half a century is popular among tourists as well, partly thanks to some beautiful caves in the neighborhood. Arecibo Observatory offers self-guided and VIP tours, a movie about the work in the observatory, and can be even driven to the edge of the large reflector by which the facility is best known.

Mona Island

Isla de Mona is sometimes called The Caribbean Galapagos. It has crystal clear water, cliffs, rich marine life, coral reefs, endemic plants, and animals, and, believe it or not, some sandy beaches as well. It is very hard to get there but worth is you would like to experience real wildlife in the environment without human influence.

If you would like to visit Mona Island, you need to think about it as an adventure, not a trip. You need to well-plan it, get loads of permits, take care of food, medicine (there are poisonous plants there, for instance), and have a lot of sun protection. Then you also need to experience a few hours of a boat ride through a relatively dangerous sea to get there and back.

photo-of-beach-at-night-in-puerto-rico

Waterfalls

Huge amounts of rain and mountainous terrain predispose a large number of waterfalls in Puerto Rico. Some of them became internationally known tourist attractions. Salta de Dona Juana is probably the most known of all. while it’s impressive with about 100 meters of height it’s relatively far from other attractions, so it tends to be a pretty quiet place to visit.

Las Delicias is not so huge, but a very family friendly family trip with the ability to take interesting photos from behind the fall. Another family-friendly trip may be Gozalandia. Two charming waterfalls are just part of many attractions waiting for the visitors of this park.

El Ataud is actually a series of several waterfalls with the biggest on the top of the hill. You can jump from there about 30 meters in depth. It shares some similarities with La Planta which is an ex-dam turned into artificial waterfall created to offer some adrenaline to tourists who seek it. Do you dare to jump into the depths of these waters?

We could go on and on with things to do in Puerto Rico, but you already got a general idea, right? Go there, check the facts and write visit our guest book. Is there anything really indispensable we should add?

Best Time to Go to Puerto Rico

There is no uniform answer to this question because each tourist has its own specific wishes and expectations. But in general, the weather begins in December and lasts through the first half of April. This time of year is a bit more crowded and expensive than the rest of the year. The end of high season in April is marked by a bit lower temperatures and prices of facilities.

This ’best buy’ time lasts until June when a rainy summer begins. Rainy season is not very rainy – in most cases, this means a sunny day and up to half an hour of rain in the afternoon. But there is also a possibility of hurricanes, which lasts up to the end of November when the most visited season starts again.

puerto-rico-port-san-juan

If you are looking for beach and other sun-related activities, warmer months may be a better choice because the ocean can be very refreshing. Same is true for mountaineering because the temperature in the mountains will be up to 20 degrees lower and more enjoyable for hiking. On the other hand, you may find different time better for caves or bioluminescent bays. Careful planning can save you a considerable amount of money and give you the most experience in a limited amount of time.

Major Festivals

Music
Fiesta de la Calle San Sebastian – third Thursday to Sunday in January
Casals Festival – two weeks in February and March
Festival de la Ballena – two days in March or April
La Campechada – a week in May
Jazz Festival – four days in May or June
Festival Playero los Tubos – four days in June
The Puerto Rico Salsa Congress – weekend at the end of July
Le Lo Lai Festival – a week in October

Food and Drink
Fiesta del Acabe del Cafe (Coffee Harvest Festival) – three days in February
Festival de la China Dulce (Orange Festival) – a weekend in March
Saborea Puerto Rico Festival – four days in May
Festival del Pescao en Cabo Rojo – a weekend in July
Festival de la Pina Paradisiaca (Pineapple Festival) – three days at the beginning of June
Mayaguezano, Festival del Mango – weekend in June
Festival del Macabeo (Banana Fritter Festival) – a weekend in December

historic-sights-in-puerto-rico

Other
El Dia de los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day) – January 6
Festival de la Novilla – third weekend in January
Maraton San Blas – one day February
Ponce Carnival – seven days before Ash Wednesday
Noche de San Juan – June 23rd
Flower Festival – ten days in June and July
Festival de Santiago Apóstol – last weekend in July
Jayuya Indigenous Festival – three days at the end of November
Hatillo Masks Festival – four days in December

Please note: dates and locations are often variable. Apart from these festivals, there are also numerous others. They say it’s always a party in Puerto Rico!

Basilicata, Italy

Basilicata is the name of a Southern region in Italy which was mentioned in the New York Times as Italia’s best-kept secret. Sassi di Matera, town district of Matera is on the UNESCO World Heritage list from 1993 and Matera became European Capital of Culture for 2019.

basilicata-matera

As the name Basilicata suggests, there may be a correlation with time when the region was part of the Byzantine Imperium, but the reason may also be Basilica of Acerenza from Middle Ages. An older name for the same region was Lucania, after Lucani, the tribe which lived here in Iron Age.

Beauty

You can enjoy in two stunning coastlines in Basilicata. There is Ionian on the East and the Tyrrhenian on the West.

The East offers beautiful white sand beaches, pine forests, crystal clear water, and shallow sea, ideal for family vacations with numerous activities created exactly for the family fun. Long walks, sailing, exploring lovely towns or simply enjoying in a peaceful day in one of the numerous beaches – just choose whatever you want.

basilicata-coast-sunset

The West coast, on the other hand, is more dramatic, with spectacular cliffs, contrasting landscapes and mountains reaching right to the coast it offers a bit more of adrenaline if you need some. With medieval towns, fishing boats, diving, and cave exploring it fits better more active visitors but also offers many breathtaking beaches for prolonged relaxation.

There are three national parks in the area of Basilicata. The Pollino National Park is the biggest in Italy, expanding to Calabria. High mountains, with tops always covered with the snow, offer an amazing view of the ancient forest reaching right to both coastal lines of Basilicata. With a bit of luck you can see some wild boars or wolves.

national-parks-basilicata
You can experience Pollino on foot, by bike, or on the horse. There are many opportunities for hiking, rafting, and real foto safari. Apart from colorful living you can see several remains of prehistoric species, a disappearing Lake Rotonda, or visit one of the organic farms. There’s a chance to sleep over in one of the eco-hostels as well.

National Park Val D’Agri Lagonegrese and The Gallipoli Cognato Park are smaller parks with some unique attractions on their own. You can find the remains of a Roman city from 3rd century BC, great challenges for rock climbers, superb views for photographers, a whole fortification system from the times of the Hannibal, …

History

Basilicata is inhabited from the Paleolithic times. In Neolithic times the areas of today Matera and Melfi already had some kind of villages. Greece established several colonies at the Ionian Sea around 8th century BC while Lucani inhabited the inland parts. Between 4th and 3rd century BC Lucani attacked Greek colonies to expand their territory but not much later Romans started their domination and kept the absolute power for several centuries.

Most of Lucania (the old name for Basilicata) stayed under Byzantium until Normans conquered the territory in the 12th century and made Melfi the capital of the region and actual center of Italy. Several political powers compete for this area after Norman realm ended. In the 18th century, several bloody rebellions by peasants happened, there was poverty, emigration, more rebellions, and even bandits. While tourism brings flows of fresh ideas, energy and money there are still many problems to solve.

basilicata-towers
There are still many magnificent towers and castles in the region, built in different times and different styles, from times of Byzantines, Angevins, Aragon, Swabians, and Normans, some better and some less preserved. These very castles served as the scenery for one of the most interesting books of all times: The Tale of Tales, written by Giambattista Basile, first national collection of fairy tales in the world, where some of the oldest versions of today still popular tales like Cinderella, The Rapunzel or The Sleeping Beauty were printed for the first time.

There is an article about this book, often called as Pentamerone, available here:

https://owlcation.com/humanities/Pentamerone

Tourists can still feel the magic in these old buildings, which mostly serve as museums and spectacular viewing points. Apart from castle, churches, and cathedrals numerous other remarkable buildings can be seen in Basilicata.

Best Fall Leave Tours in Canada and New England

Best Fall Leave Tours in Canada and New England

So-called fall leaves tours are guided trips in certain parts of USA (mainly New England) and Canada where the change of color of leaves is the main attraction. Of course, you can take an organized vacation package, maybe combine the beauty of colorful scenery with an educational exploration of one of the numerous national parks or just follow your gut and see what pans out.

Set your goals

Your main question should be:

  • What are the best places for leaf watching?
  • When is the best time to visit Connecticut, Maine, Ontario, Algonquin Park or whatever your chosen destination is?
  • How much time do you have?
  • How much money can you afford to spend?
  • What kind of vacation are looking for?

According to your answers, you should plan the fall leave watching tour and hopefully enjoy the best of the results. To help you out with some of the possible dilemmas, I prepared a short presentation of possibilities with numerous spectacular photos.

When?

In the Northern Hemisphere the leaves change of colors from green to one of zillion shades of red or orange fall on the fall (pun intended). Well, Southern Hemisphere has a fall as well, but not in the same months. In North America, where fall watching tours are the most developed experience for tourists, the best months for such tours are September, October, and November. In general, we will see the most brilliant panorama in more northern regions in September and October but if you intend to stay near the Atlantic coast and in more southern parts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine, October and even November could be a better choice.

october-is-best-month-for-fall-change-of-colors-new-england
credit: https://mycalendarland.com/calendar/monthly-calendar/october

Finding the peak is not the only point to consider. You should decide how the rest of your program should be. Are you more into historical sightseeing? do you like hiking or biking? Prefer a luxury cruise or a sentimental journey with a steam train? Almost everything is available and if for some reason it isn’t, I’m sure the agencies can design a dream tour of your choice exactly by your preferences. Yet they still can’t order an ideal weather, so a bit of luck should still be on your side.

Where?

There are two main regions offering picturesque scenery of forests turning colors into a palette of warm earth tones: Canada and New England. There are several attractive regions in Canada, roughly divided to Atlantic and Pacific part with Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Ontario in first and Columbia and Alberta in later. New England, of course, consists of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

It’s a place with amazing nature, intriguing history and countless tourist attractions ranging from whale watching to wine tours, history tours, and shopping malls. It really doesn’t matter if somebody only cares for great culinary experience or wants to try himself at extreme fishing or climbing, there is everything for him. And the breathtaking colors of the forests in the mountains will complete the picture not only for his smartphone but for posterity as well.

New England Fall Foliage

Best time for leaf peeping in New England is definitely from mid-September to the end of October, depending on the weather conditions in some areas till the mid-November. This area has a very rich history so there is no problem to find attractions worth visiting even if the rain ruins part of the view of the leaves. It’s up to you how you’ll get around because there are many effective ways with their pros and cons. If you have enough time, you’ll probably try to enjoy at more than one option and get the best experience of this charming combination of rural and urban areas.

Connecticut

The most southern state in New England has the highest per-capita income in the USA. With about three and a half million inhabitants living in five and a half thousand square miles, it’s among the densest areas of the States. It has all very developed transportation system with good roads and rail. You can also travel by air, water and there are several options of public transportation including buses and ferries.

fall-foliage-connecticut

Sights to see

  • Mystic Seaport Museum – historical seaport village is probably the most attractive part of the museum with last wooden whaler (a ship for catching whales)
  • Mystic Aquarium – numerous events for all ages of visitors with beluga whales, sharks, penguins, and other attractive animals
  • Gillette Castle State Park – a castle which belonged to a famous actor looks like a medieval castle from outside and has a very unique interior designed by Mr. Gilette himself
  • Lake Compounce Theme Park – the oldest amusement park in the USA still working, offering more than one hundred years old carousel, almost a century old wooden slide and dozens of lovely attractions
  • How to Travel

There are several scenic drives if you decide to travel by your own car. There is also an option to travel by train and many bike tours for organized or improvised bikers. A very cool alternative is ferry shuttles with well-established tourist friendly lines along the coast. Apart from major bus lines connecting biggest cities, the public transport in Connecticut is poor, so if you want to explore the country on your own and don’t have a car, rent-a-car is probably the best option for most.

Pro Tip

Don’t try to see everything in a few days. Instead of that focus on one region, like Fairfield, Hartford, Litchfield, Mystic, New Haven or River Valley and explore it, leaving next region for next visit. Book inns way in advance because they sell out quickly!

Maine

Maine is one of the smallest and least populated states in the USA. It’s well known for its beautiful nature with Acadia National Park, the only National Park in New England as one of the major tourist destinations. Fall foliage season in Maine lasts up to mid-November and is followed by ski season which can last deep into May. If you intend to come mainly for the leaf peeking, make sure to check the best time for the designated area, because it’s dependant on its elevation.

national-park-acadia-autumn-photo

Sights to see

  • Appalachian National Scenic Trail – a hiking trail passing 14 states, starting in Georgia leading to Maine (it is more than two thousand miles long)
  • Kennebunkport – small coastal town south of Portland with a museum, galleries, boutiques, and restaurants
  • Monhegan – a small island with a long-term art colony, no cars, and spectacular cliffs
  • Casco Bay – take one of many ferries to visit Calendar Islands or hire one of the cruise companies which offer scenic tours in the area
  • Wadsworth Longfellow House – the first brick house in the town was built in the second half of the 18th century
  • How to Travel

Maine has more coasts than California, so don’t miss the opportunity of traveling on US Route 1. Countless spectacular views (there are more than 60 lighthouses!) should be experienced on a boat as well. There are buses, ferries, and trains with pretty good public transport connecting main tourist points but we should know there is about 90 percent of area covered by forests. If you really want to make the most of dramatic contrasts between colorful leaves and a combination of rocks and sea, it’s best to have your own transportation or join one of the organized groups with a plan which suits you (maybe a train tour?).

Pro Tip

Autumn leaves season is the most plentiful with lobster (a signature food of Maine), so don’t miss it. Also try one of the countless outdoor activities like rafting, sailing or hiking, because the nature in this state really offers one of best nature experiences in the world.

Atlantic Canada Fall Colors Cruise

One of the best ways to experience Canada is a coastal cruise with stops in vibrant cities, calm villages, charming islands and a lot of nature. There are also many natural parks to explore with canyons, or if you prefer more cultivated parts of nature, vineyards, and orchards full of fruit in autumn just waiting for your visit.

Quebec

Quebec is the second largest state in Canada by area and population. It’s also the only state in Canada with the majority of people speaking French. Its capital is Quebec City, although the most known town is the largest – Montreal.

fall-leaves-in-quebec-picture

Sights to see

  • Place Royale – this is where the Quebec city started with many old stone buildings from the 17th and 18th century
  • Forillon National Park – dramatic cliffs made of limestone, the tallest lighthouse, coyotes, bears, colonies of sea lions, coyotes, bears, bald eagles, and numerous other animals are only a small part of everything worth seeing in the oldest national park in Canada
  • Iles de la Madeleine (Magdalen Islands) – historical buildings, forested walking trails, bird watching sites, iconic landscapes, and cozy beaches can occupy a visitor for weeks
  • Mount Royal – the hill in the heart of Montreal (the same name actually) offers a spectacular view over the city, great food, numerous festivals, and energetic nightlife
  • Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre – there supposedly happened numerous miracles and at least half a million pilgrims try to experience its atmosphere and touch the spirit of Saint Anne, the patron saint of Quebec

How to Travel

There are more than one thousand miles of roads in Quebec. Distances between cities are large, so you should have a good car or motorcycle, but motorbikes are forbidden between December 15 and May 15. Their dozens of tourist routes in Quebec designed to show as many historical, cultural and national treasures of the state to the visitors, so it’s best to choose one, make a plan and stick to it. There is also a good network of buses, some of them specialized to transport people together with their bikes.

Pro Tip

Quebec, the only fortified city north of Mexico in America is walkable and safe. Use your feet to explore it!

 

Welcome to the Town of Hamelin (Germany)

Hamelin makes a great short trip in Germany!

leisthaus-hamelin-tourst-attraction

The Hamelin is a lovely town in Germany with strong romantic medieval feel. It has around 56 thousand inhabitants and lies by the river Wesser in Lower-Saxony. Despite being relatively small Hamelin (or Hameln) already has about three thousand (!) years of history. First known settlement in the area was a monastery founded in 851 AD and a village in the neighborhood slowly grown to the size of the town in the 13th century.

where-is-hamelin-germany

According to the old legend, something strange happened at the end of the 13th century in Hamelin. Something eerie. We’ll probably never know what, yet numerous retellings of the story of The Pied Piper of Hamelin won’t let us forget. The town of Hamelin is full of reference about the tale, including statues, signs, names of the streets and pictures of rats which are included in the story, yet probably didn’t play any role in the real events after which the legend was formed. Every Sunday from mid-May to mid-September a play made after the legend is played in the town center and figures on the town clock play the scenes from the tale a few times per day!

hamelin-seightseeing-pied-piper

What to do in Hamelin?

There’s even a tourist guide dressed like a Pied Piper offering an hour and a half long tour constructed after the legend and full of interesting anecdotes, but this is far from everything the town can offer to a tourist. A picturesque neighborhood clearly calls for lovely day trips by car or by bicycle (you can rent a bike too). There are charming old mills, Klut hill with a sightseeing tower with a spectacular view over the landscape of Hamelin-Pyrmont, an old historically important prison now turned into a hotel and dozens of nice restaurants.

Don’t forget the possibility of tours on the water or just long walks through beautifully restored historical town with buildings from Renaissance era. If you like churches, you can admire several of them dating from 9th to 18th century and being true historical and architectural textbooks. Don’t forget to visit HefeHof, a marketplace where many local specialties and several international restaurants can be found.

city-of-hamelin-germany

Where to stay?

According to official statistics and several trip advisors, Hamelin has low or very low levels of pollution in different measurable areas and is also considered as a relatively safe town as far as crime is concerned. Before you go, just try to make a rough plan about the attractions you want to visit, because when you arrive, time will fly very fast.

How about the prices? Well, this is Germany, so they won’t be very low. A night (with a breakfast) in a hotel will cost you around one hundred Euros and you can also rent an apartment for a similar price. In the center, you’ll find a tourist office where all additional information and lots of souvenirs are available. If you don’t really know what you want from the Hamelin town, they can offer you guided tours and inform you about several day or overnight activities.

Well, if you need more time to decide, they even have a movie in five languages, where you can get even more info before you dive into the magic of this very special German town.

Sedona, Arizona – Enjoy The Beauty of Orange Red Rocks!

Here are only a few tidbits about Sedona, a small town (around 11 thousand people) in Arizona and one of the most visited natural attractions in the USA. The reason is sandstone formations of spectacular red color which got the name after Sedona Arabella Miller Schnebly (1877-1950). We collected several beautiful photos of Sedona Rocks from Pixabay.com, all Public Domain, to give you a hint of the awesome landscape, the main reason for all tourism facilities.

sedona-arizona-photos

Geography and Geology

Sedona lies at an elevation of 4500 feet in the Upper Sonoran Desert. Sonoran Desert is a large desert (approx. 100 thousand square miles) covering parts of California and Arizona in the USA and Baja California, Baja California Sura, and Sonora in Mexico. It is also the hottest desert in Mexico.

sunset-in-sedona

The City of Sedona was funded in 1902 but officially became a city only in 1988. It lies 110 miles north of Phoenix and almost 500 miles east of Los Angeles. While it’s Sedona Rocks count as one of the major natural attractions, we should mention one even bigger in the ‘neighborhood’: Grand Canyon is located just above 100 miles to the north.

Famous Sedona canyon walls consist of six layers of sandstone, two layers of limestone and a layer of basalt on the top. Layers were formed by mud deposits and the wind blows. The upper level made from basalt stone is a result of several volcanic eruptions taking place between 6 and 15 million years ago. The major component of Sedona Red Rocks is Schnebly Hill Formation, made of wind-blown quartz grains, stained by hematite (iron oxide, with the same chemical structure as rust), thus of distinctive red color.

sedona-images

Sedona is positioned on the so-called Colorado Plateau, which, thanks to pressures from North American and Pacific geological plates, is rising around one inch per century. One of the effects of this constant uplifting is exposure of sediments, created hundreds of millions of years ago. You can see different layers in different colors with fascinating red as a dominant tone, just like a picture book of geological history.

Part of Sedona Red Rock was under the ocean many millions of years ago and we can still find numerous fossils to witness the old history of the Sedona area. The oldest (and lowest) layer is named Redwall Limestone, was formed more than 300 million years ago and contain fossiless of trilobites. This stratum is of dark brownish color.

photos-of-sedona-az

Sedona’s climate is temperate with an average 57 F in January (coldest month) and 97 F in July (warmest month). On average less than 20 inch of rain falls per year. With more than 300 sunny days per year, it has more sun than Florida.

There are more national parks and monuments in Arizona than in any other state of USA. Sedona is located close to most of them!

sedona-pics

Short History

First settlers in the area of Sedona came there at least 7 thousand years ago. They were hunters and gatherers. First farmers were members of a Hohokam culture around 300 BC. They already used canals for irrigation, but abandoned the area around 1000 AD. Sinagua Indians dominated for next few hundred years. Apache and Yavapai Indians were next and first Europeans came in 1583.

After gold and silver diggers first farmers and ranchers settled in the area and in 1902 the settlement got its first post office. It had 55 residents and was named after the wife of the postmaster: Sedona. Development was slow until the 1940s and 1950 when several western movies used the spectacular scenery of the area. John Wayne, Elvis Presley, Humphrey Bogart, James Stewart, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Rock Hudson and Robert De Niro all stared there.

sedona-arizona-pictures

Did you know?

The name Sedona is made out. Amanda Miller, the mother of Sedona Arabella, coined it ‘because it sounded pretty’. It is a relatively unique name in the USA, but quite popular in Arizona (among top 1.000 baby names for girls).

Sedona Rocks are so popular, a specific tone of orange-red got a name after it. Several tones, actually. Just like there is no definite hue of red among Sedona rocks, there is no consent among paint producers who added prefix Sedona to several orange-red and brown-red colors:

sedona-red-rocks-different-shades-of-red

credit: http://drawingblog.mycoloringland.com/red-shades/

Sedona has the first McDonalds in the world where the signature arches are not golden but colored in pastel green. The reason is the background of the area, where too many new facilities started to ruin the beauty of the view.

More than four million people visit the area of Sedona every year. Apart from ordinary tourists, there are thousands of artists, campers, hikers, mountain bikers and people who search for spiritual enlightenment. The so-called New-Agers found several energy-charged places in the area (vortexes – points where the energy of the Eart is focused) what somehow directed the development towards high-end tourism.

sedona-arizona-red-rocks

Some of the more popular attractions in the area are The Chapel, Slide Rock and Sedona Heritage Museum with hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Will you become one of them?

What are the best honeymoon destinations?

The never ending quest for best honeymoon ideas …

Although tourism as an industry is not as old as many other activities, it seems people are on the hunt for best destinations for honeymoon for ever. I have seen dozens of lists, from Top fives to Top hundreds and none of them is perfect. It is clear the newlyweds in general look for the same elements of the perfect honeymoon. These are obviously: fun, romance, night life, amazing scenery, excursions varying from long trekkings to city shoppings, relaxation, romantic walks on the beaches, spectacular sunsets, … Even in the most cheap honeymoons some kind of luxury is expected. And of course everything still depends on the right company.

So when I compiled my list, I decided to make it much more open than somebody might expect. Look at it as you would look at the list of possibilities, ideas which can inspire your ideal trip – no matter if it is right after the wedding or for one of the anniversaries. There is no particular order, so you will not see a winner, although I will mark few interesting trends. If you find something interesting, or think you I should add something to te list, the comment section is already waiting for you. You can also share this post with people which may be interested

Let’s start!

1. If you are adventurous, Kenya could be the best spot for your honeymoon. You’ll enjoy in wilderness  with nature parks and safaris (I love photo safaris) and you can push yourself to climb the Kilimanjaro.

river-horse

This is certainly a trip to remember! But Africa, probably the most neglected continent on those kind of lists has definitely much more to offer. It’s the second biggest continent and thanks to unstable political situation in several countries definitely first though of newlyweds, but there is still plenty of GREAT and safe opportunities to make a dream honeymoon for everybody who wants to add a bit of excitement to the leisure and romance. You’ll find many precious gems on the list, some on the North, some on the South and some somewhere in between. Let’s st start with the 1001 Nights feel in Marrakesh, Morocco with colorful bazars, there is Livingstone, Zambia, South Africa (safari, diving with sharks), and Madagascar with its unique fauna.

Be different – think Africa!

2. Greece with beautiful see, sunny beaches and option of exploring the remains of ancient culture is always among the top destinations. You don’t need to get married to visit Greece (sound like a great slogan, huh?) and Mediterranean Sea offers much much more.

isalnd of santorini

Italy and France are another popular countries with famous beaches, lots of sun and great food, which is not only of great taste but it is a top competitor for healthiest diet as well (with Japanese the only serious contender at the moment). There are also Malta and Cyprus as two of the biggest island in this area. But the real gem in my opinion hides in the West coast of Adriatic Sea with Croatia and Monte Negro as two tourist destinations still waiting to be explored by spoiled honeymooners. Remember Croatia with its beautiful coast (I will always remember the commentary of my friend who returned from his first visit in France – he said he’ll never trade a square meter of Adriatic coast for the whole Azure coast) has much more than Dubrovnik to offer. It has hundreds of islands and if you don’t aim at hotels with five stars, you can find astonishing pieces of land in different areas.

By the way, according to the latest trends in 2014 Croatia is going to become the most popular destination for honeymoon very soon.

Just do your homework and ask around first!

3. What about Hawaii? There is no list of best destinations for freshly weds without this archipelago at right at the top, with Maui being named as the dream vacation spot. But next photo is from Kauai:

picture-of-kauai

If you are after volcanoes, spectacular beaches, snorkeling, hiking, sunbathing, surfing, … you’ll got everything and more in Hawaii. It’s probably the most popular honeymoon destination in last century, but in recent time other parts of the Pacific Ocean (think about Cook Islands, Fiji or Tahiti) are coming closer and closer. Believe it or not, the surprising winner in latest years is – New Zealand, what makes it THE MOST POPULAR honeymoon destination right now.

4.  If honeymoon is all about romance, a romantic city is certainly a must to consider.

paris-moulin-rouge

Paris is of course still number one and even if you don’t care for luxury (Anybody for a room in Shangri-la hotel with a terrace with private view on Eiffel tower?), you can still enoy in numerous day trips, exploring wine and culture, sightseeing, well, Joie de vivre, … Europe has many other beautiful romantic cities in the list: Budapest, Brugge, Prague Venice, Vienna, … Well, there are spectacular cities in other continents as well. What about a honeymoon in Buenos Aires or Istanbul or Rio de Janeiro?

5. Mexico with many lovely places, Mayan ruins, friendly people and, this can be very important, affordable prices is another popular spot for freshly wed couples. Citizens of USA are by no surprise the most numerous tourists in this beautiful country which traditionally served as popular getaway for outlaws in times of Wild West and is now becoming romantic getaway for visitors of very varying profiles.

mexican-ruins

Yes, Cancun, Playa del Carmen and San Miguel de Allende are high end vacation spots, but there is plenty more to explore. And Costa Rica and Belize are pretty close contenders …

6.  Do you know Maldives are called the most romantic spot in the world? It’s a perfect mix a couple in love may be looking to – different place, with different scenery different people, different food, but still with the best a mere mortal can imagine. This lovely piece of paradise in Indian Ocean is not the only spot in the neighborhood to consider. Bali and Thailand as great places for honeymooners too!

photo-bali

Prepare to be enchanted!

7. Talking about honeymoon destination spots, we can’t skip Caribbean area with Bahamas, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and a jewell  most of you probably never heard of – Curacao, country which became independent only in 2010. If you are after sandy beaches, crytal clear sea, astonishing waterfalls, national parks, rafting, snorkeling and other aquatic joys of life, Caribbean Sea has all you can imagine and more.

visit-jamaica

Did you know Jamaica is becoming one of the most popular destinations for eco tourists?

8. What about the USA? This is the most influential tourist market  in the world and honeymooning is no exception. There  are many spectacular high end resorts in this country. Everybody probably already knows about Colorado with Aspen, Utah with Sundance, or Pebble Beach California, but on the top of the list you’ll find less known places with breath taking price tags.

horse-shoe-bend

Huge nature parks with astonishing scenery and wild nature are definitely among best spots to visit in North America. Just look at Horseshoe Bend in Arizona above?

9. If you love nature, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Costa Rica are eco oriented too. If you main goal is not to be pampered round o’clock, next photo can probably trigger few interesting ideas:

galapagos-penguins

Penguins from Galapagos are without doubt an experience to remember!

10. Well, it seems, we actually made a kind of Top ten honeymoon destinations after all! I would like to end the list with resorts for people who don’t really care about sunbathing, beaches and sea. Some honeymooners prefer mountains and this is great, because our world is big and beautiful. What about Alps in Europe with romantic cabins right under the snowy clad hills? Long walks in fresh air and romantic sunsets with long nights at the fireplaces, under the blanket?

picture-of-mountains

This scene from Austria rings some bells for all the fans of Sound of Music movie, right? Did you know there is also something as weird as Chocolate train driving in Switzerland? If you love trains and mountains, you have plenty of opportunity to find both in Asia with East Orient Express and there are similar romantic railways just about everywhere in the world.

But this will have to wait for another occasion …

Blanche McManus and Pictures of French Castles

I have already made a post about vintage cottages in England to prove England is not only London. Well, today I would like to show you France is not only Paris. We’ll take a little journey through space and time with a little help of Blanche Macmanus (1870-1935), American illustrator who made many illustrations for travel books (mostly written by her husband Milburg Francisco Mansfield, who used pen name Francis Miltoun).

I decided to share some beautiful color reproductions of her paintings of castles in France and additional scenery from historically well known and important spots which are still far from being popular among instant tourists. Castles are inspiring as always, pictures are beautiful and I hope you will enjoy in our little trip.

First set of paintings comes from the book Castles and Chateaux of old Touraine and the Loire Country, published in 1906 in Boston by L. C. Page & Company. Text was written by her husband.

painting-by-blanche-mcmanus

loiret-by-blanche-mcmanus

touraine-blanche-mcmanus

chateaux-de-chenonceau

tours-cathedral

vouvray-vineyards

picture-of-mehun-sur-yevre

Second set of paintings present eight French castles from the book called Castles and Chateaux of old Burgundy and the border provinces. The book was published by L. c. Page & Company, Boston, 1909, and it was written by Francis Miltoun, as well.

chateau-montbeliard

castle-in-arnay-le-duc

bussy-rabutin-chateau

chateau-tanlay

chateau-lamartine

annecy-chateau

chateau-miolans

picture-of-chateau-de-la-sone-by-bčanche-mcmanus

We will conclude with eight more pictures in color, again reproductions of paintings of Blanche McManus, this time from the book Royal Palaces and Parks of France, again written by Francis Miltoun, again by L. C. Page & Company, Boston, this time from 1910.

terrace-st-germain

fontainebleau-france

the-louvre

luxembourg-gardens

chateau-de-malmaison

fontaine-de-neptune-versailles

st-germain-view-from-terrace

maintenon-painting-mcmanus-blanche

I hope you get my point:) France can offer much much more than Paris and Euro Disney. Cheers!