Archive for February, 2010

February and March Travel: Norway’s Northern Lights

Norse mythology claims that the Northern Lights are the flashes of light emanating from the armor of the ancient valkyrie warriors.

Asians associate the dancing colors of light with fertility, and many Japanese believe a child conceived under the aurora will be lucky.  Native Samis feel the lights have a special quality to help solve disagreements. While the Northern Lights are a scientific phenomenon caused by particles from the sun and space colliding with gases in the earth’s atmosphere, they have captured the imagination of locals and travelers for centuries.

Innovation Norway – a governmental group promoting Norwegian industry and tourism – is inviting foreign guests to experience the Northern Lights through new packages and an interesting little interactive online marketing campaign.

The Northern Lights generally occur within a 1,550 mile radius of the magnetic north pole.  The coasts of the Norwegian counties of Nordland, Troms and Finnmark lay where occurrence is greatest, making northern Norway a prime destination for viewing the colorful bands of light in the night sky, particularly in the months of February and March.  So Thor says, “Get on it!” A number of partner tour operators, both Norwegian and domestic, are offering Northern Lights travel itineraries and we think there’s no better way to be one with earth and heavens than to experience the Northern Lights at least once in your life.

Hurtigruten’s Discover the Northern Lights package includes a Norwegian Coastal Voyage aboard a Hurtigruten cruise ship.  Packages start at $1,205 per person.

Borton Overseas’ Arctic Adventure package includes accommodations at the Snow Hotel and a King Crab Safari.  Packages start at $2,986 per person.

Nordique Tours by Picasso Travel’s In Search of the Northern Lights package includes evening activities that keep you outdoors for when the Aurora Borealis light up.  Packages start at $1,249 per person.

In addition to the travel packages (including packages to the Western Fjords here), Innovation Norway introduces a microsite – on which Americans can “paint the sky” using their computer mouse to create an Aurora Borealis. Participants can share their personal light show via Twitter, Facebook or email. The site also offers tips for how and where to see the Northern Lights in Norway and other activities to enjoy on a vacation there.

To learn more about the Northern Lights

Facts about the Northern Lights

In 1621, French astronomer Pierre Gassendi first called the phenomenon “Aurora Borealis” after the Roman goddess of dawn (Aurora) and the Greek name for the north wind (Boreas). Cree (Native Americans) called the Northern Lights the “Dance of the Spirits.”  For centuries, there have been reports that people can “hear” the Aurora Borealis – but there is no scientific proof.  One theory is that the sound is created in the observer’s head because of a leakage in the electrical impulses from the nerves in the eye into the part of the brain that processes sound.   Some early explorers tested this theory and found that the sound went away if their eyes were covered.

For Aurora forecasts for Norway (click here)

For Norway specific information and other regional and package ideas, check out Visit Norway.  It’s one of the most organized (no surprise there) country-specific Tourism websites. (click here)

Heys Eco-Friendly Recycled Luggage

It’s chic, it’s sturdy, and it’s made from 100% Recycled Plastic!

The first in the Heys series of ECO Friendly products, the EcoCase is made from 100% Recycled plastic so, not only does it help to reduce the demand for new materials and new resources, but it also reduces materials that would otherwise fill a landfill. We couldn’t be more impressed with their designs and desire to support to the Recycling industry as a whole.  The EcoCase is a Spinner luggage with 4 wheels (that are 360 degrees for easier navigation around those endless terminals) and durable due to its flexible plastic material (ABS) to absorb impacts.  Lightweight, expandable, and the first hardside luggage to have special ‘Piggy-Back’ straps – which are usually found on soft-sided luggage only, it has a fully lined interior with a built-in divider, mesh pocket, and internal telescopic handle system with a push-button locking system. Whatever that means, but sure sounds good.
Available in a 3 pc set and we say… for about $400/set, it’s worth it.

Abu Dhabi and The Islands

Picture this: you’re kneeling in the fading twilight with camera in hand, eye-to-eye with an African ostrich.

Sound wild?

Well, you can make it your reality with Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara’s exclusive Stay and Click photography course,March 18 – 21. Set amid the rugged beauty of the Royal Nature Reserve on Sir Bani Yas Island off the coast of Abu Dhabi, this three-night, two-day landscape and wildlife photography class brings both novice and experienced photographers close to nature with cameras and critiques.  Students have a chance to photograph the more than 20 different free-roaming species that grace Sir Bani Yas’ shores, including Arabian oryx, antelope, and gazelle.

With 30 years of experience as a contract photographer, Ira Block will lead the course. His photo library includes rare archaeological relics from ancient sites in Eastern Europe, Peru and the Middle East. It’s the perfect trip to hone your skills and explore the rich wildlife and landscape with your lens. What’s more, in celebration of the hotel’s one-year anniversary, Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara is giving away one free spot in this exclusive course!

Simply submit your favorite desert or wildlife image by uploading it here by Sunday, February 28.  Ira and Anantara will announce the winning picture on the website on Sunday, March 7.

Not the winner? Not to worry, you can still reserve a space in the class. Individual rates start from AED 6,550+ ($2,052 inclusive of tax and tourism charge), double rates from AED 8,600+ ($2,716 inclusive of tax and tourism charge).  Package includes the two-day photography course, three nights of accommodation, breakfast, lunch, and dinner in The Palm restaurant.

*Photographers participating in the two-day course must have a digital SLR camera, lenses, and all necessary cables along with a laptop computer and editing software.

Cambodia’s Feel Good Gem

Sarah Ivens, Founding Editor-in-Chief of OK! Weekly in America, is the best-selling author of the lifestyle guides, ‘A Modern Girls’ Guide to…’ and the travel and adventure book ‘No Regrets’ (Broadway Books, $14).  A born and bred Londoner who now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, she’s wearing ‘dem holes in her shoes (and eating copious amounts of Pad Thai) all for the love of diehard fans of!

Cambodia is slowly catching on to the tourism trade that has seen its neighboring countries flourish over the last decade. It has a long way to go before it can compete with Thailand or Vietnam but that’s more of a reason to go. Now!

The kingdom of the Khmers is truly heaven and hell on earth. Beautiful temples and beaches spring up all over the place, but so do decaying buildings and tragic tales of personal loss. Visitors can make the most out of their trip by embracing both sides of the Cambodia’s history – some info and a conscience will make all the difference. Ripped apart and left poverty stricken after years of war and the horrific genocide of 1975-1979, Cambodia needs your dollars and it needs you to spend them wisely. A few wonderful businesses have been set up around Siem Reap, the place to stay and eat while visiting the nearby Angkor Wat, the magnificent 8th wonder of the world and a truly remarkable series of temples.

If you need some clothes during your trip, head to Circle – a new boutique run by two Americans who hire local women to make their stunning designs. Eco-friendly, the underprivileged young woman, some with HIV and AIDS, make the dresses and tops from vintage and 2nd hand fabrics, receiving a fair salary and sometimes being allowed to work from their homes if they need to look after their children.

52 Aeo, Street 240

If you need a massage during your tour, make your way to Seeing Hands. You will be pummeled and pushed by blind masseurs, and part of your $5 fee will go to help the city’s visually impaired. Communication isn’t easy, and the rooms aren’t up to a sexy spa standard (expect cobwebs and flickering lights) but you can’t resist these charming people – and you don’t have to worry about what they think of your wobbly bits!

324 Ph Sivatha (phone: 012 836487)

If you want to seat something good while doing good, chow down at the Singing Tree Café, a cute café famous for its delicious health food and juices…and for helping a good cause: a percentage of its profits go to helping street children. There are many other places like this in SIem Reap so keep your eyes open.

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