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Door of No Return: Ghana

March 21, 2011

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While traveling is supposed to be a chance for people to escape reality, there is no denying that some parts of life just can’t be ignored. The world is full of places that are home to crucial events in society’s history and when you visit these places, I feel like you should make the effort to learn more about their history.

The Elmina Castle, in Elmina, Ghana, is the oldest European building in Sub-Saharan Africa. While this is important, the castle is most known for the part it played in the Atlantic Slave Trade. It was a main spot where slaves sold to the Portuguese were held before being transported to other Portuguese colonies to be resold.

Growing up in America you learn a lot about slavery from an American perspective — the Underground Railroad, the Emancipation proclamation, the Civil War— but to see it from an African perspective is entirely different. A tour of the castle will take you into the tiny cells where hundreds of slaves were forced to live for months until they were transported, many of which died before leaving. You can walk through the “doors of no return” and see the dock where boats would be waiting.

While some things may be hard to hear or see, a trip to the Elmina Castle will open your eyes to the history of this great country.

Six Flags Great Adventure

March 18, 2011

With the uncanny success of MTVs Jersey Shore, Seaside Heights, the small beach town on the coast of the Garden State, has seen an influx of summer tourists. While the owners of Bamboo and Karma may love all the extra attention our state is receiving, some locals may be getting sick of the Bennys.

So if the club scene isn’t for you or you want to check out possibly the only part of Jersey that doesn’t have  a reality show, head to Jackson Twp. to experience Six Flags: Great Adventure.

Here are a list of the rides you MUST go on:

1. Kingda Ka– this is the world’s tallest and fastest roller coaster and no matter how many times I have been on it, I still get butterflies while I’m waiting. Lines for this coaster tend to be VERY long, like hours long. But if you have the time to spend waiting around its worth it, although the ride itself lasts about 10 seconds.

2. El Toro – this roller coaster is made entirely out of wood and is considered one of the best wooden roller coasters in the world. The ride itself is long and exciting, and the wait in line usually isn’t that bad.

3. Nitro- this was the fastest and tallest roller coaster in the world for a while until Kingda Ka beat it out, but don’t let the loss in title fool you- Nitro is one of the best rides at the park. It runs very smooth and has a great build up as you reach the top of the main drop –

4. Superman: Ultimate Flight – For this ride you lay on your stomach so it feels like you’re flying. It’s not my personal favorite ride, but its a unique experience for a roller coaster.

The Ice Hotel is melting soon

March 15, 2011

I am extremely thankful that spring is about to be upon us. I hate the winter and I hate the cold. But as all the snow begins to melt from my front yard, I couldn’t help but think about the one travel experience I would go on that would lead me into perhaps one of the coldest nights of my life. A stay at the Ice Hotel.

 

The Ice Hotel is located in Jukkasjärv, Sweden, and you guessed it, is entirely made out of ice- 10,000 tons of ice and nearly 30,000 tons of snow. Now this isn’t just an igloo that you bunker down in for the night. The Ice Hotel comes complete with a bar (where even the glasses are made out of ice), a chapel, a main hall, a reception area and of course suites for nearly 100 guests.

If you want to spend the night in this amazing hotel you better plan your trip between December and April, because after the winter season this hotel is out of business as it slowly melts away. But no worries, a new Ice Hotel will be built next year, with a completely new layout and design!

Thoughts and prayers for everyone in Japan

March 13, 2011

Photo by Kate Bradley

When I went to Japan in 2009 I was lucky enough to do a homestay with an amazing Japanese family. They took my into their home and showed me what Japanese culture is all about- from eating seaweed soup for breakfast to getting fitted for a traditional kimono.

The experience lands at the top of the things I did while on Semester at Sea. In fact, all of my friends that did a homestay in Japan would probably say the same thing.

The people I experienced in Japan were gentle, kind and amazing. My prayers go out to all of those affected by the tsunami.

Venture off Bourbon Street this Mardi Gras…maybe

March 9, 2011

There is no denying that Mardi Gras is all about drinking and partying and having a good time. But now that Fat Tuesday is over, and I’m sure many people are nursing some pretty serious hangovers, perhaps venturing off Bourbon St. for a short day trip is needed.

Balcony on Bourbon St. on New Years Eve

New Orleans is home to the bayou. There are tons of tours that take you down the swamp in covered boats. You get to see alligators (or crocodiles, I can’t really tell the difference), as well as get a bit of historical knowledge about the area. If you want something with a little more excitement, head out on an airboat.

Or you can stay on Bourbon Street and drink. No one will judge you.

Doing push-ups on Bourbon for beads

If you like sushi, maybe you should try this

March 2, 2011

While wandering around lost in Japan one day, my friends and I saw a sign that read “Make your own pizza”. After being away from the United States for more than three months, and because I had only been eating white rice for the past couple days, I jumped at the chance to have some good old fashion pizza.

 Boy was I wrong. 

Japanese pizza is not like American pizza, or Italian pizza, or any kind of pizza I’ve ever had anywhere actually. It’s traditionally called Okonomiyaki, which means “whatever you liked, grilled”.

You pick from a menu the main ingredients that you want, like extra meats and veggies. They bring everything out to you in little cups and than its your job to cook it. It mostly consists of egg, flours and some other random ingredients. Here’s a link to a good recipe if you are adventurous enough to try this.

When you “pizza” is done, you top it with mayonnaise (nothing says good pizza like mayo) and dried seaweed flakes. Yum.

This was definitely up there on the most disgusting things I’ve ever eaten list, but Japan is a place full of really weird traditions and cultures, and when in Japan you have to do what the Japanese do!

Yes, Mauritius is a real country

February 27, 2011

A lot of people ask me where the most unique place I have ever been is and after much thought and consideration, I decided that it is Mauritius.

Mauritius is a little tiny island off the coast of Africa, just behind Madagascar

Now you may not have known Mauritius exsisted before this post, but that’s just because it’s one the best kept secrets of the world. Mark Twain said, after visiting the small island that, “Mauritius was made first, then heaven was copied from it.” That’s a pretty big statement.

And while it is definitely beautiful, there is not too much to do besides lounge on the beach and sip some drinks.

For a little excitment try the adventure park on the island. They have a series of rope courses and zip lines.  *These are pretty intense obstacles and you shouldn’t attempt if you’re afraid of heights or not really athletic*

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Haggle in Marrakesh

February 23, 2011

My last post about Morocco highlighted a camel trek into the Sahara. And while lying on sand dunes and looking up at the night stars is nice, sometimes you need a little more excitement in your life. If that’s the case, head to the Souks in Marrakech to do some shopping.

Now the guys reading this may not be to thrilled about holding their girlfriends purse as she spends the day shopping, but in the Souks you better hold on to that purse awfully tight- this isn’t your normal shopping experience.

The Souks are a maze of shops lining tiny streets, where thousands of locals and tourists come to shop, sell or in some cases, steal (During my last trip here, I witnessed a local kid try to see a lady’s purse. Luckily her husband was watching too).

What makes this market so much fun is the intense haggling. If you’ve never haggled before, you will be a pro by the time you leave. If a vendor tells you something you want is $100, you should laugh and walk away. You’ll be surprised on how fast the price drops down to $50. I found that most of the time you can get the price cut in half; more if you team up with a friend and buy a lot of things in one shop. But you should make a game of it (if there is not something that you absolutely need to have), see how low you can get the price to drop without being laughed at.

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Semester at Sea: the world is your campus

February 20, 2011

I just got the voyage book from my Fall 2009 trip on Semester at Sea, which has made me very nostalgic. I decided to dedicate this post to their program because it truly is a unique travel experience.

Semester at Sea has voyages that sail in the Spring and Fall semesters, as well as short-term and Summer voyages during the summer. The Fall and Spring itinerary usually has stops in about 11 or 12 countries, while the Summer and short-term usually have around 7 or 8.  On my voyage we left out of Halifax, Canada and had ports in: Spain, Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, India, Vietnam, China, Japan and Hawaii, before we arrived in San Diego, California nearly four months later.

Semester at Sea allows their passengers a lot of freedom while in port. You can go out and do whatever you want, as long as you are back on the ship before a designated time. They also have organized trips that take you past the normal tourist attractions and to the heart of the culture of the country.

While this is a study abroad program, anyone can sail as a Lifelong Learner. If you are hesitant about being trapped on a ship with 600+ students for 3 and 1/2 months, don’t be. Lifelong Learners tend to be some of the most popular people on the ship as the offer a unique perspective on the world.

I couldn’t say enough good things about Semester at Sea and would highly recommend that everyone goes on atleast one voyage!

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What would you do?

February 16, 2011