Monthly Archives: December 2012

2012 Favorite Travel Things

Posted by on December 9, 2012

Traveling full time means I don’t own many things. What I do carry, however, are usually of high quality. I will often spend a great deal of time researching an item before I make a purchase.

This year I wanted to take a page out of Oprah’s playbook and share with everyone many of my favorite things I use while traveling. All of these items are things I use and (with one exception, a gift) are things I’ve paid out of my own pocket. If you meet me in person, there is an excellent chance I’ll be using or wearing one or more of the following items.

If you are looking for something for your next trip or a gift for the traveler in your life, I can heartily recommend all these products.

…I’m sorry there are no keys to new cars under everyone’s seat.
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The Quest For The Perfect Bag

Posted by on December 8, 2012

UPDATE: I have posted an update listing which bag I purchased and how it has held up after 9 months of travel.

My bag situation in 2011

My bag situation in 2011

Whether it is a suitcase, a backpack, a duffle-bag or a rollaway, the bag is probably the quintessential item for travel. No matter where you go or how you travel, you have stuff and that stuff has to go in something if you want to be able to transport it. Even hobos would use a bindlestiff when tramping from town to town.

That being said, after almost 6-years of traveling, I have never been satisfied with any bag I have used. You would think that I’ve settled on the perfect bag after all this time, but I haven’t and it is an endless source of frustration for me.

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UNESCO World Heritage Site #190: Landscape of Grand Pré

Posted by on December 6, 2012

UNESCO World Heritage Site #190: Landscape of Grand Pré

UNESCO World Heritage Site #190: Landscape of Grand Pré

From the World Heritage inscription:

Situated in the southern Minas Basin of Nova Scotia, the Grand Pré marshland and archaeological sites constitute a cultural landscape bearing testimony to the development of agricultural farmland using dykes and the aboiteau wooden sluice system, started by the Acadians in the 17th century and further developed and maintained by the Planters and present-day inhabitants. Over 1,300 ha, the cultural landscape encompasses a large expanse of polder farmland and archaeological elements of the towns of Grand Pré and Hortonville, which were built by the Acadians and their successors. The landscape is an exceptional example of the adaptation of the first European settlers to the conditions of the North American Atlantic coast. The site – marked by one of the most extreme tidal ranges in the world, averaging 11.6 m – is also inscribed as a memorial to Acadian way of life and deportation, which started in 1755, known as the Grand Dérangement.

If I you didn’t know the story before hand, you could pass by Grand Pré without every knowing its significance. At first glance it is nothing more than farm land that happens to be on the banks of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. However, there are several things about the site which make it significant.

1) It is the ancestral homeland of the Acadian people. The Acadians were French speaking people who lived in Nova Scotia (which they called Acadie or Acadia). During the French/Indian War (aka the Seven Year’s War) they were asked by the British who controlled Nova Scotia to take an oath of loyalty. Even though they were French speaking, they didn’t consider themselves French and claimed neutrality during the conflict. The British eventually deported the population of Acadians who were set all over the world. Their descendants include the Acadians in New Brunswick and the Cajuns in Louisiana.

2) Grand Pré later became famous as the setting of Longfellow’s famous poem Evangeline. Even though it was fictional, the poem cemented Grand Pré as the focal point for the Acadian diaspora as well as turing it into a tourist destination. Today the poem is still celebrated with an Evangeline statue and an Evangeline trail.

3) The agricultural challenges of growing crops next to the Bay of Fundy, with the world’s highest tides, required a great deal of ingenuity. The farmers of Grand Pré created a system of dikes which allowed them to expand the cultivatable area of the region. Those dikes and drainage controls are still in place today.

It is an interesting and subtle area. It will not jump out at you like other World Heritage sites like the Great Pyramids, but there is plenty here to discover if you are willing to look.

Grand Pré can easily be visited via day trip from Halifax. The visitors center at Grand Pré National Historic Site is open every day in the summer months.

View my complete list of visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #189: Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites

Posted by on December 5, 2012

UNESCO World Heritage Site #189: Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites

UNESCO World Heritage Site #189: Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites World Heritage property is internationally important for its complexes of outstanding prehistoric monuments.

It comprises two areas of chalkland in Southern Britain within which complexes of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and funerary monuments and associated sites were built. Each area contains a focal stone circle and henge and many other major monuments. At Stonehenge these include the Avenue, the Cursuses, Durrington Walls, Woodhenge, and the densest concentration of burial mounds in Britain. At Avebury, they include Windmill Hill, the West Kennet Long Barrow, the Sanctuary, Silbury Hill, the West Kennet and Beckhampton Avenues, the West Kennet Palisaded Enclosures, and important barrows.

Stonehenge is unquestionably one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. There are few people who can’t immediately recognize it from a photo. It is often placed on lists of world wonders and was even commemorated in song by Spinal Tap.

The actual site of Stonehenge wasn’t quite what I expected. There is a road which passes surprisingly close to it, but you never actually see it in photos. Also, the impression of large megalithic blocks is somewhat toned down by the fact that you can’t actually get close to the stones anymore. You can only walk around the structure at a distance.

As I write this in December 2012 they are in the process of replacing the current visitor center and removing the road which passes by. By 2014 the entire area should be green pasture with the visitor center about a mile away, out of sight.

Stonehenge can easily be visited by day trip from London. You can often find trips that will take you there for £30, not including admission.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Photo Essay : Egypt

Posted by on December 5, 2012

I visited Egypt in early 2009. It was a place I had been anxious to visit during my previous two years of traveling. They pyramids and the other Egyptian ruins are some of the most ancient remnants of human civilization. Egypt didn’t disappoint. Despite a rather negative experience at the pyramids, my experience in Egypt overall was a positive one. I went SCUBA diving in Alexandria to see the ruins of the ancient lighthouse, traveled all the way to Abu Simbel, sailed down the Nile from Aswan to Luxur, crossed the Sinai Peninsula and visited the world’s oldest monastery: St. Catherine’s.

I know that the recent turmoil in Egypt has soured many people on visiting, but I would return again in a heartbeat.
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UNESCO World Heritage Site #188 – City of Bath

Posted by on December 4, 2012

UNESCO World Heritage Site #188: City of Bath

UNESCO World Heritage Site #188: City of Bath

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Roman remains, especially the Temple of Sulis Minerva and the baths complex (based around the hot springs at the heart of the Roman city of Aquae Sulis, which have remained at the heart of the City’s development ever since) are amongst the most famous and important Roman remains north of the Alps, and marked the beginning of Bath’s history as a spa town.

The Georgian city reflects the ambitions of John Wood Senior, Ralph Allen and Richard ‘Beau’ Nash to make Bath into one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, with architecture and landscape combined harmoniously for the enjoyment of the spa town’s cure takers.

The Neo-classical style of the public buildings (such as the Assembly Rooms and the Pump Room) harmonises with the grandiose proportions of the monumental ensembles (such as Queen Square, Circus, and Royal Crescent) and collectively reflects the ambitions, particularly social, of the spa city in the 18th century.

The individual Georgian buildings reflect the profound influence of Palladio, and their collective scale, style, and the organisation of the spaces between buildings epitomises the success of architects such as the John Woods, Robert Adam, Thomas Baldwin, and John Palmer in transposing Palladio’s ideas to the scale of a complete city, situated in a hollow in the hills and built to a Picturesque landscape aestheticism creating a strong garden city feel, more akin to the 19th century garden cities than the 17th century Renaissance cities.

Bath might just be the most charming city in England. While originally built and best known for its Roman baths, it is also an excellent showcase of English Georgian architecture. The city has a whole is very walkable and I found it to be one of the highlights of England.

In addition to the Roman baths, Bath is home to Bath Abbey, the Fashion Museum and a host of Georgian buildings. The riverfront area is especially picturesque.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.