Bnbclan Books to change our world. Mon, 14 Sep 2020 12:31:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 10 Must-See Attractions in Cuba Tue, 12 Sep 2017 13:17:03 +0000 Soak up the rich history, culture and beautiful beaches of this Caribbean paradise with our guide to the must-visit attractions of Cuba .

1. Trinidad, Cuba

Founded in 1514 by Diego Velaquez, Trinidad was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the city was a wealthy slave-trading centre and hub of sugar production and its wealthy landowners and merchants erected fine homes and mansions. The cobblestone streets lined with pastel coloured houses have barely changed since the colonial era; Trinidad feels like an attraction that time has passed by. Unlike most cities in Cuba, Trinidad sits on a hill and is cooled by near-constant breezes.

2. Zapata Peninsula, Cuba

Protected within a huge biosphere reserve, Cuba’s Zapata Peninsula is covered in swampland and forests teeming with wildlife. The coast, in turn, is lined with sandy beaches and coral reef, attracting scuba divers . Much of the population here works as carboneros, eking out a living making charcoal. The area is known for Bahia de Cochinos, site of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Known locally as “La Victoria,” the event is commemorated in two museums.

3. Valle de Vinales, Cuba

The pine-clad mountains that begin a short distance west of Havana and run through northern Pinar del Rio province are a nature lover’s paradise of protected national parks sheltering endangered animals. The mountains grow more rugged westward, where dramatic rock formations called mogotes tower over lush valleys where tobacco plants thrive in the rich red soils and gentle climate. Centred on a village that itself is a National Historic Monument, the Valle de Vinales is rural Cuba at its most quintessential. Huge caverns beneath the mogotes provide a realm of possibilities for spelunkers.

4. Habana Vieja, Havana, Cuba

With almost 1,000 buildings of historic importance, this intimate quarter is perhaps the largest and most complete colonial complex in the Americas. Like a peopled “museum” full of animated street life, Old Havana boasts an astonishing wealth of castles, cathedrals, convents, palaces, and other important buildings spanning five centuries. An ongoing restoration program, now in its third decade, has transformed the finest structures into museums, hotels , restaurants, boutiques and trendy bars. Easily walkable, the cobbled plazas and the narrow, shaded streets of Habana Vieja exude colonial charm.

5. The Modern City, Havana, Cuba

Beyond Habana Vieja, Cuba’s lively, colourful metropolis of two million people is a major attraction for its architecturally significant districts in various stages of dilapidation. Radiating inland from the harbour and coastline like a Spanish fan, Havana emerges from compact 19th-century barrios into more spacious 20th-century municipios and post-Revolutionary working class suburbs. Functional apartment blocks give way to once-noble, upper-class districts full of Beaux Arts, Art Deco, and Modernist mansions, while concrete office blocks, government buildings and hotels from the 1950s lend the city a retro feel.

6. Jardines del Rey, Cuba

Rising from the sea along the north shore of Ciego de Avila and Camaguey provinces, this 450 kilometre long archipelago, known as the King’s Garden, contains hundreds of islands . Three of the major cays are linked to the mainland by causeways, although only Cayo Coco and neighbouring Cayo Guillermo have tourist facilities. Lined with white sand beaches melting into clear, warm turquoise waters, these twin isles are a popular attraction for package vacationers in Cuba . Flamingos wander the inshore lagoons while other birds inhabit a nature reserve.

7. Camaguey, Cuba

A cradle of Cuban culture, Camaguey-the “City of Tinajones”-lies in the heart of cattle country and was laid out with irregular streets designed as a convoluted maze to thwart pirates. The historic centre is full of well-preserved colonial plazas and cobbled streets featuring antique churches and convents, and by colourful 17th- and 18th-century domestic buildings featuring red-tile roofs, lathe-turned wooden window grills, and spacious interior courtyards adorned with the city’s trademark oversized jars called tinajones.

8. Holguin, Cuba

This sprawling industrial city, known as Cuba’s “City of Squares,” radiates around a compact colonial core arranged in an easily navigated grid. Its numerous historic plazas including Parque Calixto Garcia, named for the general who liberated the city from the Spanish in 1872. With its abundance of small museums , Holguin has an especially vibrant cultural life. Tourists generally bypass the town to visit the hilltop tourist complex of Mirador de Mayabe or the beach resort of Guardalavaca, offering various ecological and archaeological attractions as well as spectacular scuba diving.

9. Santiago de Cuba

The country’s second-largest city has a flavour all its own, thanks to it being the most African city in Cuba and the most musical place in the island nation. Surrounded by mountains, Santiago was founded in 1511 on the hilly east shore of a deep flask-shaped bay. Its sloping colonial core is an attraction replete with noteworthy historic buildings, while its fascinating past as the first capital of Cuba is enriched by its importance as a hotbed of revolution. Fidel Castro studied here as a youth and later initiated the Revolution with an attack on the Moncada barracks. Santiago explodes with colourful frenzy during Carnaval each July.

10. Baracoa, Cuba

Tucked inside a broad bay enfolded by mountains, Baracoa sits at the far Northeast corner of Cuba. This antique city was founded in 1511 as the island’s first settlement. When governor Diego Velazquez later moved to Santiago, a long period of isolation set in. Locals claim that the Bahia de Miel was the site of Columbus’ first landing in Cuba in 1492, and that the flat-toped mountain he described is El Yunque, which rises dramatically behind Baracoa. Lined with venerable wooden houses in local, vernacular style, the sleepy town is laid out in a tight grid. A favourite with independent travellers, Baracoa today buzzes with crowds of tourists.

The World’s Snowiest Travel Destinations Tue, 12 Sep 2017 13:06:10 +0000 Can’t get enough snow? Check out the world’s best snowy destinations, and prepare to be up to your neck in it.

Snowiest Destinations: Greenland

This frosty getaway is a wonderland like no other. Have you heard the tale that Viking explorers named Iceland and Greenland in order to discourage others from the former so they could keep the discovery of a relatively temperate land to themselves? Whether the legend is true or not, the difference in climate is – while Iceland offers many wintry activities, Greenland is the place for true ice-and-snow adventures, like a three-day, 160-km Arctic Circle Race for skiers; hunting by dog sledge; ice fishing in a fjord; or a camping trip to the Greenland ice cap, the world’s second-largest body of ice.

Snowiest Destinations: Whistler, B.C.

In terms of snowy travel destinations , Whistler offers more than just downhill fun. For the adventurous, active tours include heli-skiing, bungee jumping and dog sledding; mellower travellers will want to check out sleigh rides complete with blankets and hot chocolate and the Scandinave Spa, providing a full water treatment with outdoor hot pools, a eucalyptus steam room, wood-burning sauna and Nordic waterfalls to cool down.

Snowiest Destinations: Sapporo, Japan

This wintertime haven calls itself “blessed by snow” and it’s no wonder – with an average annual snowfall of 630 cm (248 inches), you’d have to find a way to love it. Visit during the February Snow Festival to view snow and ice sculptures and play snow games; the city’s White Illumination brightens dark winter nights with an artistic light display around such themes as Christmas and the starry skies.

Snowiest Destinations: Quebec City, Quebec

This winter wonderland has an average of 316 cm (124 inches) of snow every year – and average temperatures low enough that it tends to stick around. Quebec City residents are used to giant snowbanks and lots of shovelling and plowing. Dress warm and drop by during the Quebec Winter Carnival in January and February for snow-related activities including sledding and snow rafting, snow sculpture workshops, a 400-foot ice slide and maple taffy on snow, and to watch 75 brave (some might say crazy) volunteers bathe in the snow in nothing but swimming suits.

Snowiest Destinations: Tallinn, Estonia

Travel back to the Europe of fairy tales in this snowscape dreamland. When snow falls on the medieval old town of Estonia’s capital city, where the continent’s first public Christmas tree was erected in 1441. Go skating in the outdoor ice rink followed by a cup of hot cocoa in the rinkside cafe, enjoy winter snow sports on the city’s festival grounds or rent skis and try nighttime cross-country skiing on the well-lit trails in the Pirita and Nõmme districts.

Snowiest Destinations: Flagstaff, Arizona

Wintertime and vacations might not be the first things that comes to mind when you think of Arizona, but Flagstaff, in the northern part of the state and at over 2,000 metres of elevation, boasts an average of 255 cm every year. Just a few miles north of the city, the Wing Mountain Snow Play Area offers facilities and gear for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing , sledding and simply playing in the snow – plus hot beverages and other concessions; head back to down for cultural events, nightlife and more than 200 restaurants.

Snowiest Destinations: Anchorage, Alaska

Guides to the snowiest parts of the United States often leave out Alaska , as it would dominate the list, otherwise. Anchorage is far from the snowiest part of the state, with an average of just 179 cm (70.6 inches) of snow per year, but as Alaska’s biggest city it offers the most activities for visitors. Try winter itineraries such as the Cozy Winter Day, combining a morning sleigh ride with gallery hopping and a local sports game; Winter Octane, a day of backcountry skiing plus an evening at a local pub; or Snow Fun for Kids, offering family-friendly outdoor activities including building snowmen and snow angels, playing in the Children’s Ice Park and barrelling down sledding hills rated from novice to advanced.

Snowiest Destinations: Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota

This snowy paradise was named one of the top 10 winter towns by readers of National Geographic Traveler, the Twin Cities receive an average of 115 cm (45.3 inches) of snow annually, and spend an average of 100 days per year with at least an inch of snow on the ground. You’ll find skiing, ice skating and snowshoeing, of course, along with ice fishing and winter trail running, but also more-creative winter activities such as skijoring – skiing with your dog on a harness, pulling you along (learning from a club is recommended). Sledding afficionadoes will want to head to Suicide Hill at Kenwood Park, which the local CityPages describes as “a treacherous and steep course stippled with formidable trees, man-made moguls, and the bodies of other sledders gasping for breath after a particularly good wipeout.”

Snowiest Destinations: Oslo, Norway

Oslo is a winter dream, as you’ll notice at every Winter Olympics, where Norway turns out its fair share of athletes in snow sports. The country nabbed a total of 23 medals in Vancouver, for a rank of fourth overall – and facilities for recreational skiing, skating and tobogganing are as good as you’d expect. To really discover the city, though, sign up for a guided Winter Walk with themes including artist Edvard Munch and playwright Henrik Ibsen, the Oslo Cathedral and, for the history buffs, 1,000 years of Oslo. Come before Christmas to experience the classic European markets, such as the famous open air market at the Folk Museum, held the first two weekends in December.

10 Best Tropical Destinations for Bird Watchers Tue, 12 Sep 2017 12:56:13 +0000 Bird watching on holiday-or “avitourism” as it’s now known in the travel industry-is big business. Whether you’re a seasoned birder, or can’t tell a Blue-footed Booby from a Bananaquit, here are the top tropical destinations for bird watchers to indulge their hobby.

1. Panama

Birders flock to Panama to stay at The Canopy Tower -one of the best-known birding resorts in the world . Here, you can sleep eye-to-eye with the your rainforest friends in bird-filled Sobernia National Park. Each fall, the annual mass raptor migration sees millions of birds-of-prey darken the skies over Panama City on their journey from North to South America. Darien Park’s mountainsides also lure serious birders, and those with the Quetzal (shown here) on their birding bucket list should head to Los Quetzales eco resort where the notoriously elusive specimens are most plentiful.

2.Costa Rica

Costa Rica is an ideal place to get your birding beak wet, as few places on the planet offer such a colourful kaleidoscope of tropical beauties. Much of the country is made up of protected national parks that play host to one-tenth of the world’s bird species . Stay at eco-aware Rancho Naturalista near the still-smoking Turraliba Volcano where fans of our fine-feathered friends can spot hundreds of species. Or head to the heavenly hot springs at Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa , located just minutes from Arenal National Park where fabulous guided bird watching tours are available.

3. Ecuador

The lush country of Ecuador is definitely on the radar of avian enthusiasts, with the western part of its Pichincha Province rightly renowned for its exotic species. Take advantage of the many accommodations that cater to the amateur ornithologist (a fancy name for “bird watcher”), like the Tanday Bird Lodge . One of the coolest birding experiences in the country involves cruising through the Galapagos Islands for up up-close and personal encounters with some 750,000 seabirds, including the giant Albatross and the curious Blue-footed Booby (shown here). For something completely different, you can even snorkel with the penguins there on an Ecoventura Tours excursion.

4. Guatemala

From the little blue heron to the pheasant cuckoo to the azure-crowned hummingbird, Guatemala boasts over 700 exotic bird species. Crested by volcanoes, the highlands of scenic Lake Atitlan make an excellent roost for birders and the region surrounding around the lake is protected as a national park. For an ideal home base, roost at Casa Palopo where guided tours for birders include boat trips from their private dock. They also offer treks into indigenous Mayan towns and reserves such as Los Tarrales-a stronghold for the endangered Azure-rumped Tanager and the Pink-headed Warbler.

5. Trinidad & Tobago

The sister islands of Trinidad & Tobago are home to 425 diverse bird species, including the Scarlet Ibis-Trinidad’s national bird, which you’re sure to spot at the island’s Caroni Bird Sanctuary. The Asa Wright Nature Center and Lodge is a perfect place for birders to stay, and Pointe-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust is a must-visit. On Tobago, visiting birders often lodge at the Blue Waters Inn , making stops at the Grafton Caledonia Sanctuary, the Main Forest Ridge Rainforest, and Little Tobago Island for eclectic bird sightings.

6. Huatulco

Mexico’s most bio-diverse region is Huatulco in the state of Oaxaca, and the government’s been very careful to plan local tourist development with conservation in mind. That’s why you can enjoy stellar creature comforts in super-classy spots like Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa , yet still be steps away from lush wilderness-the natural habitat of hundreds of species of birds in vast stretches of preserves. You’ll find more top-notch birding in the nearby mountains where you’ll find an interesting assortment of bird species. For expert guided birding treks, Homie Tours is your best bet.

7. Dominica

Dubbed the “Nature Island”, Dominica is a natural choice for bird watchers. Boasting more than 160 kilometres of hiking trails, 12 waterfalls and 365 rivers, it’s a landscape of ancient rainforests that feels positively primeval. Of special interest to visiting birders is Dominica’s national bird, the rare and endangered Sisserou Parrot-one of the oldest species of Amazon parrots, and one that’s exclusive to this island. Eco-friendly spots to stay include Papillote Wilderness Retreat (be sure to check out the thermal pools!) and the charming Rosalie Bay Resort .

8. St. Maarten/St. Martin

A hot spot for migrating sea birds, the dual-nation island of St. Maarten and St. Martin has a burgeoning bird watching scene. Visitors to the annual Migratory Seabird Festival can enjoy guided tours to the island’s 164 species in a variety of locations via SeaGrape Tours , and learn more about the birds through local environmental organizations like Les Fruit de Mer and the Nature Foundation . You won’t need your binoculars to spot St. Maarten’s national bird, the Brown Pelican-it can be found on every beach !

9. Inagua Islands, Bahamas

Did you know that a flock of flamingoes is called a “flamboyance”? That’s just one of the many fascinating facts you’ll learn while ogling the 80,000 specimens that call the Bahamian Inagua Islands home. In addition to the pretty pink birds, these islands also play host to 140 species of native and migratory birds including the endangered Bahama Parrot. With a human population of only 1,000, there’s not much by way of upscale resorts -these islands truly *are* for the birds!-but there are a few intimate accommodations like Erica’s Inn and The Main House .

10. Aruba

Best known for its beautiful beaches , Aruba has a surprise for bird lovers right in between its two most populated tourist strips. The Bubali Bird Sanctuary is an important protected marshland with a tower for viewing the 60 species of migratory birds that often nest there. It’s beside the Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort , an ideal stay within easy walking distance. Avitourists will also enjoy Arikok National Park , where you can seek out the island’s national symbol, the cute and quirky native Shoco Owl-an endangered burrowing bird that nests in the ground. For more, visit the Aruba Birdlife Conservation .

5 Must-Visit Mexico Destinations for Movie Lovers Tue, 12 Sep 2017 12:38:48 +0000 Lights. Camera. Mexico! Movie buffs rejoice—beyond the sun and sand of Mexico lies an awe-inspiring array of locations from some of the world’s best and most famous movies. So leap off that beach lounger and spice up the next adventure in Mexico—Hollywood style.

1. Rosarito, Baja Peninsula – Titanic (1997)

James Cameron’s Oscar-sweeping box office smash may have been set on the high seas, but it wasn’t made anywhere near the icy cold of the Atlantic. Instead, this 1997 story of star-crossed lovers was filmed in the warm waters lapping into Rosarito, Mexico . Tucked on the Baja Peninsula just 16 kilometres south of San Diego, Rosarito later became the go-to spot for many big budget Hollywood adventures , including Pearl Harbor.

2. Costalegre – Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)

Director Quentin Tarantino’s martial arts saga is a bonafide cult classic. Kill Bill: Volume 2 follows contract killer Beatrix (Uma Thurman) as she travels to Mexico to catch up with Bill, her former lover and the man who tried to take everything from her. Costalegre (which means “Happy Coast”) is famous for Costa Careyes , a stunning estate that was formerly owned by Heidi Klum and Seal. The exclusive resort is approximately 140 kilometres south of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Coast.

3. Zócalo – Spectre (2015)

Even the most ardent James Bond fans will admit that the franchise is hit-and-miss . But one thing’s for sure: the pre-credit opening is always great, and Spectre features the best one yet. Set during a Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City’s Zócalo , a grand square in the downtown core, the scene kicks off in the exquisite Gran Hotel Cuidad de Mexico , with its plush and ornate Art Nouveau décor.

4. Mexico City – Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Famed director Baz Luhrmann set his hyper-stylized version of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet on the Renaissance-style grounds of Mexico City’s Chapultepec Castle . Derived from the Nahuatl word chapoltepēc, meaning “at the grasshopper’s hill,” the castle sits on a sacred hilltop and played a leading role as the Capulet’s home. Bonus: it also offers spectacular views of the city and surrounding forest.

5. Puerto Vallarta – The Night of the Iguana (1964)

Starring Richard Burton as a defrocked minister acting as a tour guide to a bevy of beauties from a Baptist college, this John Huston adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play unfolds in the beautiful town of Puerto Vallarta . In many ways, the area remains unchanged, and the private Mismayola Beach lies just south of the town. When it comes to Mexico vacations , you can’t go wrong with Puerto Vallarta.

7 Unusual Modes of Transportation from Around the World Tue, 12 Sep 2017 12:33:09 +0000 Buses, taxis and trains may be universal, but sometimes the form they take isn’t so familiar to the traveller. In some instances, they’re just downright peculiar.

Underground Funicular in Turkey

A funicular is an inclined railway in which a tram is moved up and down a hill with a cable. Istanbul’s Tünel is an underground version . The route is just over half a kilometre and covers the 60-metre height distance between the seaside on the Golden Horn and the beginning of the famous pedestrian mall that is İstiklal Caddesi (Avenue) in Beyoğlu. The funicular opened on December 5, 1874 making this the second oldest subway in the world after London’s Underground . The funicular has been so effective that the city added another one nearby to connect the ferry terminal with the subway system up top.

The Cyclo in Vietnam

In Vietnam , it’s popular for tourists to climb on the front of this tricycle taxi to get a little tour of the city, especially the Old Quarter of Hanoi and the lovely Hoan Kiem Lake. Locals also use these cyclos to get through the city’s chaotic traffic. In some cases, they are actually faster than a car – and a lot greener!

Canal Taxi in Bangkok

Bangkok is sometimes called the “Venice of the East” due to its network of canals. River and canal taxis are still an important part of the city transit system and in many cases are much faster than the gridlocked traffic on the roads . This particular canal route goes right through the heart of downtown. Due to the fluctuating tides and some low bridges, it is necessary for the boat to “duck” at some points. The boats will slow at low bridges and the canvas canopy will drop a bit, forcing all passengers to crouch for a moment.

Chicken Bus in Central America

These brightly coloured buses have become the budget traveller ‘s quintessential Latin American transport experience. For locals in places such as Guatemala or Panama , these buses are an essential and affordable means of transportation that gets them from village to village. The bus gets its nickname from the chickens sometimes on board being brought to or from a market. Don’t be surprised if it’s standing room only. That goes for the chickens as well.

Camel Bus in Cuba

Cuba has been known to have a few unusual vehicles on the road , particularly an abundance of classic American cars left over from before the days of the revolution. However, its mass transit classic was the camel bus. Recently retired, this semi-truck pulled a payload of passengers on a sloped back trailer. Locals used to jokingly say it contained all the elements of an adult film: sex, violence and bad language. These crowded meat wagons have recently been replaced by modern Chinese buses. Only the tourists with cameras will likely miss them.

Maglev Train in Shanghai

This is not your normal train to the airport . Not only does it make the 30-kilometre run in just a matter of minutes, reaching speeds of up to 431 km per hour, but it rides atop a powerful magnetic field. Maglev is short for magnetic levitation. Don’t worry, it won’t pull off your wristwatch or swipe the coins out of your pockets, but it will put a thrill in what may be the shortest airport connection you’ll ever experience. The speed is shown on a monitor in each car and is likely the most photographed speedometer in the world.

Hovercraft in the United Kingdom

The heyday of the hovercraft has come and gone. Suspended on a cushion of air, these crafts offered a smooth ride across the water. Generally, high-speed catamarans have taken over. Not so in the UK, however, where Hovertravel still runs one from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight. This is the longest running commercial hovercraft ferry.

10 Magical Reasons to Visit Ireland Tue, 12 Sep 2017 12:25:28 +0000 Ireland is beloved worldwide as an enchanting land where legend and reality mingle. At one point voted by Frommers Guide readers as their favourite holiday destination in the world, it’s now your turn to discover the mystique and charm of the Emerald Isle.

1. Tour the Castles of Ireland

Haunted, gothic, stately, or imposing, Irish castles radiate the romantic feel of this beautiful country. Cahir, Kilkenny and Dunguaire Castles all evoke magical visions of fair maidens, brave kings and frightful dungeons. Blarney Castle in County Cork (shown here) is one of the most visited castles in Ireland. Famous for the Blarney Stone-legend states that if you kiss the Blarney Stone, you’ll receive the gift of eternal eloquence-visitors literally bend over backwards to plant a smooch on this fabled rock set into the castle’s wall. Amorous acrobatics aside, this 15th century castle offers battlement views, vibrant gardens and mysterious underground caves.

2. Tour the Guinness Storehouse

Raise a pint-or two-to Ireland’s favourite tipple. The Guinness Storehouse and its St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin welcomes over 1-million visitors each year to their on-site stout producing plant. Brewing over 3-million pints daily, the Guinness Storehouse gives a behind-the-scenes look into their thirst-quenching enterprise. Witness the brewing process , get hands-on experience pulling pints, and sample the final product. The hospitality extends to light refreshments and traditional Irish meals in four eating establishments. Or satisfy your cravings with a well-earned pint while taking in the stunning 360-degree views of Dublin from the relaxing environs of their Gravity bar.

3. Have an Irish Adventure

Come to Ireland and exercise your inner thrill-seeker! Experience the rugged countryside and gorgeous vistas through adventurous, heart-pounding pursuits. Get up close and personal with nature through surfing, sea kayaking, paragliding, rock climbing, caving, mountain biking and walking. Hiking along Ireland’s evergreen hills and atop its windswept cliffs comes very highly recommended-National Geographic voted Ireland’s walks as the best in the world.

4. Discover History at Every Turn

In a country as ancient and storied as Ireland, visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to historical sites of interest. One such site, Brú na Bóinne in County Meath is older than England’s Stonehenge and Egypt’s Giza Pyramids . This Neolithic site of henges, standing stones and burial chambers was built around 3200 B.C., and is highlighted by several large passage tombs: Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange. Immensely popular year round, Brú na Bóinne gets extra attention during the winter solstice. Each December, a beam of sunlight pierces through a mysterious opening in the Newgrange mound and illuminates its chamber for a few brief minutes. So many tourists flock to Newgrange to greet the dawn each solstice that an annual lottery is now held for access inside the chamber.

5. Take In the Breathtaking Scenery

Beautiful and untouched, Ireland’s scenery is beyond compare. West Cork, Dingle, Galway, the Ring of Kerry-the list of postcard-worthy places is endless. One such picturesque site is the Rock of Cashel (also known as St. Patrick’s Rock) in County Tipperary. Dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, this formidable fortress boasts a round tower, cathedral and chapel bearing priceless Celtic art and medieval architecture. Legend has it in the 5th century, St. Patrick converted Aenghus the King of Munster to Christianity at this very spot.

6. Experience the Festivals

Love a good party? So do the Irish. From St. Patrick’s Day Festivals to the Cork Sailing Festival and the Galway Arts Festival, there are over 400 celebrations on tap each year. Music, food, literary, Celtic, film and comedy festivals keep the good craic rolling. Not surprisingly, one of the most anticipated and beloved parties revolves around Ireland’s national holiday, St. Patrick’s Day. Parades, expressive costumes, street theatre and a lively carnival atmosphere will leave you spellbound.

7. Visit Dublin

Cities often get a bad rap for being cold, heartless destinations, but not Dublin . Ireland’s capital is bursting with personality and a youthful buzz. A bustling metropolis alive with entertaining cultural pursuits, fine museums , beautiful architecture and lively pubs, Dublin offers something for everyone. Purchase a Dublin Pass and gain free access to over 30 top Dublin attractions, plus discounts for restaurants, shops, theatre, tours and transportation as well as a free city guidebook.

8. Experience Pub Culture

If you fancy a pint, witty conversation and a taste of authentic Irish hospitality, look no further than the local Irish pub. Lonely Planet, the best-selling travel guide , raves about Ireland’s pub culture-and for good reason. Ireland’s pubs have a reputation for delicious stouts and lagers, and friendly patrons. Many Irish pubs feature live music-both traditional and modern-as well as hearty fare such as beef and Guinness pie. Some pubs are taking their menu offerings to new taste-tempting heights, providing customers with fine dining to accompany their beloved pints.

9. Revel in Irish Folklore

A visit to Ireland isn’t complete without some traditional Irish folklore. In a land famous for fairies, merrows and leprechauns, the mysterious Giant’s Causeway-the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland-is the setting for one of the most cherished legends. According to tales, the remarkable stones were the work of an Irish giant, Fionn mac Cumhail (Finn McCool). He built the Causeway to keep his feet dry while he walked to Scotland. Locals speak of the Causeway’s Chimney Stacks and Organ as proof that McCool lived here, while geologists suggest that a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago created the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that amaze Causeway visitors today.

10. Dine on Irish Cuisine

If you thought Irish cuisine was solely based on the beloved potato, think again. Foodies are discovering that Ireland is a must-dine destination. Traditional dishes such as Irish stew, soda bread, farmhouse cheese, and colcannon (cabbage/kale and potatoes) are still on the menu, but the new wave of Irish cooking focuses on fresh, locally-grown ingredients and the catch of the day. Wild Atlantic salmon, plump oysters, melt-in-your-mouth scallops and poached lobster complete for your appetite with Dublin Bay prawns, char-grilled swordfish and grilled sole. Ireland’s seafood bounty is so famous (and delicious) that it has inspired the annual Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival each September.

8 Easy Ways to Clean Up Your Diet for a Healthier Heart Tue, 12 Sep 2017 10:05:58 +0000 Taking good care of your ticker begins with what you put on your plate.

The Diet for a Healthy Heart

Heart disease and stroke are the major causes of death for women in Canada. But you can promote a strong ticker by choosing foods that offer protection from cardiovascular issues and by avoiding ones that may damage your body. One key way to keep your heart in top shape is to eat many different types of whole plant-based foods, says registered dietitian Rosie Schwartz. “Plant foods are filled with a variety of phytonutrients that work in all different ways to protect your heart,” she explains.

Some of those are antioxidants . Research shows that when LDL cholesterol (the bad kind that sticks around) is oxidized, it’s more likely to be deposited in the arteries, which can affect blood flow to the heart. Plant foods with antioxidants help protect against oxidization, explains Schwartz. And there’s much more!

“Many antioxidant-rich foods are also rich in anti-inflammatory compounds,” she says. “Inflammation affects several aspects of heart health, but the major one is how it damages arteries.” She notes that inflammation can also cause plaque in arteries to rupture and release blood clots.

Other benefits to whole plant-based foods include fibre , which may reduce blood cholesterol. Some plant-based foods contain nutrients like potassium, which can make you less sensitive to sodium and affect blood pressure, while others contain magnesium, which helps regulate blood pressure.

What about fat? Registered dietitian Abby Langer recommends that people eat a range of fats so they gain the benefits of a variety of nutrients. Try to avoid saturated fat , particularly from processed foods – though saturated fats like butter are fine in small amounts for most healthy people.

And trans fats? It’s time to kick them to the curb! “We know that trans fatty acids, which are present in bakery products and crackers, aren’t healthy,” she explains. Both saturated and trans fats boost blood cholesterol levels, which increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. And we can’t forget about added sugar. “ Sugar is thought to cause inflammation in the body, and this can affect your risk of diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease,” says Langer, “so it’s a good idea to limit sugar as well.”

If you’re ready to give your heart some love, here are eight easy tips for eating in a heart-healthy way.

Make Homemade Granola

Processed foods can be a major source of added sugar and salt, say Langer and Schwartz, and that’s especially true when it comes to breakfast cereals. Granola is a fantastic option to make yourself: It’s easy to make, and the oats are a great source of blood-cholesterol-reducing dietary fibre. Plus, you can customize it with tons of other heart-friendly ingredients that suit your tastes, such as sliced almonds, unsweetened dried blueberries and unsweetened coconut flakes, which add sweetness without added sugar.

Boost Your Omega-3s

A study published last year in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that replacing the calories from saturated fat with calories from polyunsaturated fat, like omega-3 fatty acids , reduces your risk of coronary heart disease by 25 percent. It’s not about totally cutting out saturated fats but rather limiting them and increasing healthy fats. Today, try to incorporate inflammation-fighting ingredients like flaxseed, hemp seeds and canola oil in your snacks and meals. Another source of omega-3s is cold-water fish, such as mackerel and trout, which Schwartz recommends eating a couple of times a week.

Pump Up Your Pulses

Lentils, chickpeas , dried beans and dried peas are an important part of heart health. “Name a nutrient and it seems as though pulses have it,” says Schwartz. They’re sources of potassium, antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering fibre, and they’re anti-inflammatory, too. Make a lentil meat loaf for dinner, roast some chickpeas to munch on or bake up a batch of bean-based “meatballs.”

Go Nuts!

Nuts and seeds are heart-healthy powerhouses. The type of fat they contain, along with other nutrients, helps lower cholesterol. They also contain heart-boosting magnesium, particularly pumpkin seeds, which Schwartz says help regulate blood pressure. Walnuts are also a great way to get your omega-3s. Make nuts and seeds your regular snacks – just beware of defaulting to the same old trail mix, which can get boring fast. Spiced roasted nutsare a flavourful alternative. And here’s another clever way to work in more nuts: Blend cashews and water together to add to soups as a vegan alternative to saturated-fat-rich cream.

Grain Switcheroo

Whole grains are the only way to go. “They’re a good source of antioxidants and fibre, and they taste amazing,” says Langer. Bread is the hardest habit for people to break when it comes to switching to whole grains , but it’s recommended because the flour in white bread offers little nutritional value. Langer recommends sprouted grain bread, like Ezekiel bread, which contains little to no sugar. That doesn’t mean you have the green light to eat all the whole-grain bread, rice and pasta you want, though. To strike the right balance, limit grains to one cup per meal and fill the rest of your plate with fruits, veggies and protein.

Sugar, Sugar

The Heart and Stroke Foundation says eating too much sugar is a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes and high blood cholesterol. And Langer says all types of added sugars may cause health problems if you consume too much – even honey and maple syrup. “All sugar is treated the same, even high-fructose corn syrup,” she explains. “It’s metabolized differently than other sugars, but in the end it has the same effect on us.” Not sure where to start? The Heart and Stroke Foundation says that sweetened beverages are the biggest source of sugar in most people’s diets. “Start drinking water and cut down on sugar in your coffee, or cut it out altogether,” advises Langer.

Veg Out!

Boosting the amount of vegetables you eat every day will definitely help keep your heart healthy. Langer suggests that you have two big handfuls of veggies at lunch and dinner. One way to make fitting them in a snap is to prep some in advance . Boost the winter blahs by roasting a colourful, antioxidant-packed kabocha squash. Keep it in your fridge and add it to a salad or as a side at dinner throughout the week. If you have a slow cooker, you can cook a big batch of veggies that way, too. Check out the new Best of Bridge The Family Slow Cooker cookbook, which has several veggie recipes in it, including Slow Roasted Whole Beets and Sugar Snap Peas with Mint.

Think: Meatless Mondays (And Tuesdays and Wednesdays)

A heart-healthy diet can include meat, but most of us should cut down on how much pork, beef and chicken we consume because it can displace fruits, vegetables, whole grains and alternative proteins like tofu and pulses. “I recommend that people move away from eating meat often and consider more plant-based alternatives, which have been shown to be good for our cardiovascular risk factors,” says Langer. We also need to be mindful of the type of meat we choose. The Heart and Stroke Foundation says that fatty meats, such as full-fat ground beef and processed meats, can cause blood cholesterol levels to go up.

10 Summer Health Lies You Need to Stop Believing Tue, 12 Sep 2017 09:58:55 +0000 Don’t let the half-hour rule stop you from swimming right after a meal.

You can catch a cold from air conditioning

This particularly popular myth has been going around for ages but yes it is a myth. While the air conditioning will not make you catch a cold, extreme changes in temperature can weaken your immune system and if those around you have a cold, you could be more susceptible. So while cold air alone won’t make you sick, jumping from the sweltering heat to the icy cool freshness of your air conditioned home, can make you more susceptible to catching a virus.

The best thing to do is avoid extreme heat whenever possible and keep your air conditioning at a refreshing but moderate level. This will prevent your body from feeling excessive fluctuations and allow for more gradual body temperature changes.

Any drink will rehydrate you on a hot day

While a soft drink or ice-cold beer may really feel like they’re hitting the spot, they aren’t doing the job you need them to do. In fact, it’s a myth that any drink will rehydrate you. Drinks high in sugar or alcoholic beverages will actually further dehydrate you. If you’re engaging in physical activity in the heat you’ll need even more water to keep from dehydrating , so always bring plenty along with you.

You can’t get a sunburn on a cloudy day

This is one myth that, if believed, can have harsh consequences. Even the thickest of clouds do not have the ability to block out UV rays. The sun may be hidden away, but it’s still there and although the breeze may keep you feeling fresh and cool, you are still at risk for sunburn. In fact, some of the worst sunburns occur on cloudy days, when people feel cool enough to stay out all day long. The best way to protect your skin is to wear adequate sun protection and minimize your time outdoors between peak hours of the day. If you absolutely have to be out all day, be sure to take breaks and find shelter every 20 to 30 minutes.

Butter soothes sunburn

Putting butter on a sunburn is certainly not going to soothe the pain. In fact, it may even make the pain worse or delay the healing process. There are also concerns that butter may contain bacteria and could cause an infection. Instead, apply aloe vera gel. If you feel that isn’t enough, ask your pharmacist or visit your doctor to find out about other options that might be right for you

A swim in the pool can replace a shower

Unfortunately, this is a myth. This is especially important to keep in mind when using public pools, where swimmers often do not shower before entering the water. Public pools have a high level of chlorine but there is still plenty of bacteria, so be sure to wash off once you’re done swimming . If you’re using a private pool or a salt-water pool, it is still not a good substitute for a shower.

Swimming on a full stomach will make you ill

No, swimming on a full stomach will not make you sick but it can give you cramps. While cramps are not the end of the world, they can be uncomfortable. This is because your stomach is full and not finished digesting. But, if you can swim laps in a pool right after a meal, go right ahead. Don’t let the half-hour rule stop you anymore. Of course, if your meal included alcohol, you shouldn’t go swimming.

Forget Pain Killers: 7 Proven Ways to Soothe Sore Muscles Tue, 12 Sep 2017 09:39:59 +0000 When our muscles ache, often our first instinct is to reach for the pill bottle. But other alternatives are proven to work just as well.

Gently stretch

Though sore muscles are tender at first, gentle stretching will relax the tension so the rest of the day is more comfortable. Plus, you prevent further injury from inadvertently pulling a tight muscle as you lunge to answer the phone.

Open the deep freeze

Apply a cold compress for the first day or two, and wrap with bandage if there’s swelling. One of the best cold compresses: a bag of frozen vegetables, such as peas. The bag conforms to the shape of your body. Hold the cold stuff on your achy body part for no more than 20 minutes. And give your aching muscles a rest for a few days too. The pain may get worse before it gets better, but if you’re still hurting after three or four days, see a doctor .

Go with the flow

Improving lymphatic flow will help remedy muscle soreness faster by draining the recovery. Foods rich in bioflavonoids, such as green, leafy vegetables and green tea, can help, as can staying hydrated (drink 8 to 12 glasses of water a day). Increasing your flexibility with yoga and stretching exercises will also help your lymphatic system drain better.

Use liniment

There is a wide range of pain-relief liniments available, from gentle herbal salves to “hot” capsaicin rubs. Many work great. For pain in your knee or other sore spots, rub in some liniment and wrap the area with plastic wrap. The wrap will increase the heating effect of the liniment. Make sure to test on a small area first to make sure your skin does not burn.

Soak in cider

Adding 2 cups apple cider vinegar to your bathwater is a great way to soothe away your aches and pains, or to simply to take the edge off a stressful day. Adding a few drops of peppermint oil to your bath can lend an able assist as well, by providing what has been proven to be a healing scent.

Apply hot beans

A hot bean or rice bag may be just the cure you need. Fill an old sock with dry rice or beans , and tie the end tightly. Microwave it on high for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Make sure it’s not too hot, then apply it to your aching muscles. It’s surprisingly soothing.

Try acupuncture

An acupuncturist will try to bring blood flow to the area to relieve the pain. He may do this with acupuncture , electrical stimulation, topical herbs or even acupressure. These techniques can cut the pain and soreness in half.

8 Reasons Why Your Back Is Hurting Tue, 12 Sep 2017 09:33:57 +0000 At some point, almost all of us will have to deal with back pain. We talked to the experts to help you get to the bottom of why your back is hurting.

Why Your Back Is Hurting

Figuring out what’s behind your back pain isn’t always easy to start, there are a lot of confusing back-ailment terms (is a ‘bulging’ disc the same as a ‘slipped’ disc?), so it helps to understand a bit more about your anatomy.

An adult’s spine consists of a stack of 24 bones called vertebrae plus the bones of the sacrum and coccyx. These bones support the body and protect the spinal cord’a major column of nerve fibres connected to the brain that runs through the vertebrae via the spinal canal. A disc, made of cartilage and filled with a gel-like material that acts like a shock absorber, is found between each vertebra. Ligaments, muscles, tendons and small joints called facets hold the vertebrae together.

With that information in mind, we’ve broken down eight possible sources of your back pain.

1) Disc pain

If one of the discs is pushed a bit out of place, usually as a normal part of aging, it’s called a ‘bulging’ disc. If this disc has some cracked cartilage due to an inherited trait, wear and tear or sudden trauma and some of the shock absorbing gel inside the cartilage protrudes out, it’s called a ‘herniated’ (or ‘ruptured’ or ‘slipped’) disc. Both bulging and herniated discs may or may not cause pain.

2) Degenerative Disc Disease

You may also have heard the term “degenerative disc disease.” In fact, it’s not a disease, but rather a kind of catch-all term that refers to the condition of the discs, which lose their water content and sponginess with age, which can lead to osteoarthritis, herniated discs or bulging discs.

3) Facet joint pain

Facet joints are supplied by two nerves, and if either becomes inflamed or pinched, it can be painful.

4) Pinched nerve

Discs pushed out of place may compress a nerve. Often it’s the sciatic nerve (which runs out of the lower spine and into the leg) that is compressed or inflamed. This causes shooting pain called sciatica in the lower back, leg and buttock.

5) Spinal stenosis

This occurs when the spinal canal becomes narrowed (most often due to arthritis ) and impinges on nerves, causing pain.

6) Muscle or ligament strain

An intense workout or lifting something heavy is also a frequent source of pain, especially in the lower back. Low back pain is the most common form of back pain because those muscles, ligaments and discs are under the most pressure when you’re sitting or lifting.

7) Osteoarthritis

This is a common form of arthritis. “As we age, our nice spongy cartilage becomes thinner and is not as compressible,” explains Dr. Mary-Ann Fitzcharles, a Montreal rheumatologist and associate professor of medicine at McGill University. “The underlying bone senses this and then it responds by generating little extra ridges of bone called osteophytes or bone spurs. These little ridges rub against each other, and this mechanical irritation can cause pain.”

8) Fibromyalgia

Fibromylagia mostly affects women and is recognized as a disturbance of the natural way the body deals with pain. “For many patients who experience back pain, it’s not because of a structural abnormality,” says Fitzcharles. “Rather, the impairment of pain-processing mechanisms means the brain is hypersensitive to incoming sensory input, or there is a lack of natural mechanisms to inhibit pain.”

Is Back Pain Serious?

Back pain is occasionally a symptom of a serious condition. If you have a history of cancer, or if your back pain is associated with f ever , unexplained weight loss, or loss of bowel or bladder control, or gets severely worse when you’re lying down or at night, see a healthcare professional immediately.