Custom Search

Sunday, November 30, 2008

In his house of dance

'Step back and shake it up': The motto animates Christopher House's career with Toronto Dance Theatre

Getting together with Christopher House is an interviewer's dream. The artistic director of Toronto Dance Theatre is always articulate, candid and provocative. Our conversation this time centres on his musings about his 30 years with the company and his new full-length work Dis/(sol/ve)r which premieres tomorrow. And House does not disappoint. He looks at the good, the bad and the ugly of his career with remarkable objectivity.

House was a choreographic wunderkind of dance which is surprising because he came to the art form later than most. Born in St. John's, Nfld., he was studying political science at the University of Ottawa when he fell in love with dance through Ottawa dance teacher Elizabeth Langley's movement classes.

Langley continues to be an influence. "She always has a question that she's grappling with," he says. "This means constantly setting challenges for yourself. There must be the feeling that there is something more. Step back and shake it up! That's my motto." House graduated from York University in 1979 with a BFA in dance. His first professional gig was performing in a revival of David Earle's Atlantis in 1978. He joined TDT (which was founded in 1968) and by 1981, was appointed resident choreographer. The supremely gifted House was the obvious heir apparent to TDT co-founders Earle, Patricia Beatty and Peter Randazzo, and assumed the artistic directorship in 1994. "I had no idea that my entire professional life would be with one company," he says.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

N.Y. budget cuts needed but they should be fair

Paterson's proposal leaves school districts in lurch with mid-year aid reduction

Under normal circumstances, New York state legislators would be thinking about a pay raise this time of year. The biennial legislative elections are over. Legislators haven't had an increase in their $79,500 base pay since 1999. In the afterglow of political victory and before the legislative session starts in January, this is the time to try to go for the dough without stirring up too much venom from voters.

But these are not normal circumstances. And legislators know it. When they travel to Albany for a special session starting Tuesday, lawmakers should leave behind any thoughts of plus signs -- for their salaries or any other expenses. Gov. David Paterson is looking for minus signs, and that is what lawmakers had better be prepared to provide but within reason.

Paterson's proposed cuts last week could make this session more contentious that the congenial special session in August when lawmakers and the governor agreed on spending cuts of nearly $427 million from the 2008-09 state budget and a total of $1 billion when taking into account reductions in succeeding years.

At the time, it looked like enough to get lawmakers through the current fiscal year ending March 30, but the nation's deepening recession means more cuts. One of those proposed would be to aid for schools, which means local districts that already have budgeted the money would receive less than promised. Paterson's financial team has suggested those districts can turn to reserves to make up the difference, but in cases where districts cannot cover from the reserves, they would likely have to borrow and then go to voters in May with a budget that would include loan payoffs. read more...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Local backpackers flock together

Seasoned travelers tour with novices

It started as a classic 20-something backpacking trip to Europe.

Matt Caskey, then of Atlanta, and a buddy had landed a landscaping gig that paid good money. They decided to use the extra cash to explore Eastern Europe.

It was 1998 and neither Caskey nor his friend had ever left the United States. They struggled with the language, spent way too much money, and slept in more than a few train stations. But in the end, they came home so enamored with the experience that they made a vow to repeat it every year.

Fast forward a decade. Caskey, who now works at MIT and lives in the North End, has trekked across Europe more times than he can count. In 2006, he decided to help travel novices on a limited budget experience what he did. He launched a group called the Budget Backpacker, which leads inexperienced travelers down the same routes he once stumbled along.

"I made a lot of mistakes in a lot of cities," Caskey explained with a rueful grin. "Knowing what hostels to stay at, how to handle lost train tickets - that's priceless!" read more...

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Family Travel On A Budget

(NAPSI)-When traveling with the family, you can still steer toward fun and economy by following a few simple budget-stretching suggestions:

• Save on Entertainment--Hotels that have in-room entertainment, such as on-demand movies, video games and DVDs for its guests, can help to reduce your entertainment costs.

• Look for hotels with pools and fitness centers. It's always a good idea when traveling with the kids to make sure the hotel you stay at has a pool and a fitness center. A dip in the pool after a hard day's drive or an afternoon seeing the sights is sure to give the kids a ripple of excitement. Fitness centers are a big plus for the grown-ups who also like to unwind with a workout and a sauna. Check out the schedule and you may find a yoga or Pilates class.

• Choose the road less traveled. Hotel rates can be substantially lower in the suburban parts of major cities than in the more tourist-oriented parts of town. read more...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Top Ten Solo Travel Destinations

CHICAGO, Nov 11, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- iExplore ( announced today their list of Top Ten Solo Travel Destinations as determined by their Adventure Travel Consultants.
1. Serengeti, Tanzania
A wide variety of tours and loads of other travelers make this once in a lifetime sight one of the easiest for solo travelers.
2. Sydney, Australia
Make some friends at your hostel at Kings Cross, then go out to explore the beaches, nightlife, Macquarie Street, and the Opera House together.
3. Cuzco, Peru
It's hard not to meet people in South America's traveler epicenter; Cuzco is everything a solo traveler could want.
4. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
If paradise is your first thought when planning a solo vacation, look no further than Bora Bora.
5. Antigua, Guatemala
With more language schools per capita than anywhere else in the world, it is no wonder Antigua is a favorite stop on the gringo trail for solo travelers. When not studying, you can climb volcanoes, hike, go drinking, and visit with the remnants of the Mayan culture.
6. Katmandu, Nepal
Whether you're here to climb Mount Everest, hike the Anapurna Circuit, or drink beer from the world's highest brewery you will be in the company of many others.
7. Oahu, Hawaii
Whether you want complete relaxation in a natural setting or the opportunity to meet an assortment of travelers from around world, Hawaii's most populated island has you covered.
8. Red Sea, Egypt
For a little R&R and five star luxuries, gorgeous beaches and fine services, try the Red Sea.
9. Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
These idyllic islands near Phuket were the scene of the enchanting scenes from the backpacker favorite The Beach, where one man's solo search goes astray. Vertical rock faces rise right out of the water hiding tiny coves, caves, and tiny beaches of legends.
10. Santa Fe, New Mexico

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

'Legend of the Seeker': A girl, a guy, a wizard and a quest

NEW YORK — On "Legend of the Seeker," the heroes do the work for you.

Chiselled woodsman Richard Cypher and his even prettier protectress Kahlan Amnell stay on the run, dodging arrows and parrying swords as they chase an evil force that would enslave the known world.

Richard, only recently pegged as "the one true Seeker," is likely to surprise himself with magical powers he never imagined. As a so-called Confessor, Kahlan has her own peculiar charm: no person can lie to her.

They cover a lot of ground on their rugged steeds. It's a hectic lifestyle for all concerned.

"Our characters are always on the move," said Bridget Regan (who plays Kahlan), which means she and her co-stars aren't layabouts, either. "We don't stay put. Ever."

But viewers tuning in to this new adventure-fantasy series can relax. You will not be challenged. "Legend of the Seeker" (syndicated in 95 per cent of the country; check local listings) is a quest through the reassuringly familiar. It's a once-upon-a-time retreat into the lush wilds of New Zealand (where the series is shot), jazzed with eye-popping visual effects. Plus enough female cleavage to ensure the audience's menfolk are amused. read more...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Youth in Action: building a better community

Team work, interpersonal relations, building trust and developing communications skills have been the focus of young people in south-west Romania. Some 40 young people attended a 3-day training session that aimed to improve the confidence and skills of participants and have a positive flow-on effect in their communities.

Creative team building activities and training in organisational development were organised by World Vision Romania's Dolj Area Development Program and local non-government organisation, New Horizons Foundation in October.

The 40 participants were young people involved in the World Vision 'Scholarship, a chance for the children in rural areas' project; members of the Association Parent Project, an association of parents of children with disabilities; members of partner communities of the community development project, World Vision volunteers and staff. read more...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fakenham students prepare for adventure

STUDENTS of Fakenham High School are already preparing for their adventure of a lifetime when they will take part in a month-long expedition to Madagascar next summer.

Ten students from the school spent Wednesday last week working in autumnal sunshine on a team-building exercise at the Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, near Fakenham.

The day was spent clearing scrub and learning about conservation alongside Pensthorpe staff, all aimed at helping to prepare the students for their visit to the island in the Indian Ocean.

During the 28-day expedition in July next year, the youngsters will be trekking through the country's rain forests and spending a week working on a community project for abandoned and impoverished children.

They will be teaching the children about environmental and re-cycling issues and will be able to put into practice some of the skills they learned at Pensthorpe.

Student Charlotte Bramham-Jones will be working towards her gold Duke of Edinburgh award, having completed her bronze level last year.

“We all enjoyed our day volunteering at Pensthorpe and some of the skills we learned we will be taking with us. The day was also good for the group as a team-building exercise,” she said.

She added : “We would like to thank everyone at Pensthorpe

who have helped us towards

this worthwhile life-changing experience.”

Saturday, November 22, 2008

In France, the Vendée Globe Race Gains Popularity

The French do not lack for creativity, and some of it has been expended over the years to develop sports events.

The French were the driving force behind the modern revival of the Olympics. They played a vital role in starting soccer’s World Cup and European Cup, which is now better known as the Champions League, and in Alpine skiing’s World Cup. They also dreamed up the Tour de France and the Vendée Globe yacht race.

That last event is surely the most obscure. But in France, the Vendée Globe is a major happening — a quadrennial opportunity for Gallic sea dogs and landlubbers alike to reacquaint themselves with the iceberg-infested dangers of the southern oceans and man’s (and woman’s) capacity for salt-stained, sleep-starved solitude.

The concept is brutal if attractively simple: competitors race alone around the South Pole and back in 60-foot monohulls without stopping. There are strict limits on outside assistance once the sailors leave Les Sables d’Olonne on the west coast of France. read more...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Affecting Movie Depicts Holocaust Through Child’s Eyes

Thought-provoking and moving, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” tells the tragic tale of two boys swept up in forces they do not understand during World War II. The film explores the easy spread of hatred and racism and the horrifying consequences for the innocent victims of war. Although the film is based upon a young adult novel by John Boyne, viewers should be aware that some of the story may be disturbing, especially for younger children.

Directed by Mark Herman, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” centers on Bruno, an 8-year-old growing up in Nazi Germany. We first see Bruno as he and his friends run home from school through the streets of Berlin, lightheartedly pretending to be airplanes. Bruno’s life is about to change, however. His father, a high-ranking officer in Hitler’s army, has been promoted, and the family must move to an isolated home in the country for him to fulfill his new assignment. As soon as Bruno spies a fenced-off field occupied by what he thinks are “farmers” wearing “striped pajamas,” it is clear that Bruno’s father is the new commandant of a concentration camp, set up to exterminate the Jewish people being rounded up across the Third Reich. Only Bruno and his mother do not understand the full implications of what is going on at the camp.

Bruno, a naturally curious and adventurous boy, soon finds himself chafing at the restrictions imposed on him at his new home. Missing his friends, he is bored and extremely curious about the inhabitants of the nearby “farm.” One day he ventures into the woods where his mother has forbidden him to go. He reaches the camp and spies a little boy on the other side of the fence working at a pile of rubble. Bruno strikes up a conversation with the boy, Shmuel, and the pair forge an uneasy and unlikely friendship. Read more...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Washington's Olympic National Park makes a gorgeous, low-budget getaway

20When the economy gets tough, it's time to get going on cheap trips.

I abandoned my dream of an autumn European vacation and instead went to play close to home — in Olympic National Park.

It was a low-budget and gorgeous getaway on Washington's far side that cost me about $500 for the four-day trip including accommodations, food and gas from Seattle.

My main entertainment — daily hikes in the park's rain forest and wild Pacific Ocean beaches — was almost free. All I had to pay was the $15 national-park entrance fee, valid for seven days, that gave me access to some of the most scenic wild places in North America.

I stayed in Forks, a good base, since it's equidistant from some of the best beach and forest walks. The town of about 3,200 won't win prizes for charm, though. Its main street is a highway strip of motels and small restaurants; beyond are miles of clear-cuts and second-growth forest, testament to the logging that has been Forks' lifeblood. Read more...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Desert Islands' first nature-based tourism destination opens on Sir Bani Yas Island

The opening of the 64-room boutique Desert Islands Resort and Spa, managed by the award-winning Thai hospitality group Anantara, has also signalled the arrival of Al Gharbia on the global tourism map.

Sir Bani Yas Island is one of eight natural islands which make up Desert Islands and is being developed by Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) - a master developer of major leisure, residential and tourism destination within Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

'The launch of Desert Islands' first phase is a milestone, not only in TDIC's history, but in that of Al Gharbia,'

explained Lee Tabler, CEO, TDIC.

'As the first TDIC proprietary product to come on line, the opening up of Sir Bani Yas Island has given us a great sense of satisfaction, particularly as it has been achieved in less than three years of the company's launch. It is also a flagship development for Al Gharbia and a paradigm of how the great potential of this region can be leveraged in a solid, sustainable manner.' Read more...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Desert Islands' first nature-based tourism destination opens on Sir Bani Yas Island

The opening of the 64-room boutique Desert Islands Resort and Spa, managed by the award-winning Thai hospitality group Anantara, has also signalled the arrival of Al Gharbia on the global tourism map.

Sir Bani Yas Island is one of eight natural islands which make up Desert Islands and is being developed by Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) - a master developer of major leisure, residential and tourism destination within Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

'The launch of Desert Islands' first phase is a milestone, not only in TDIC's history, but in that of Al Gharbia,'

explained Lee Tabler, CEO, TDIC.

'As the first TDIC proprietary product to come on line, the opening up of Sir Bani Yas Island has given us a great sense of satisfaction, particularly as it has been achieved in less than three years of the company's launch. It is also a flagship development for Al Gharbia and a paradigm of how the great potential of this region can be leveraged in a solid, sustainable manner.' Read more...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Adventures in growing up

The genre is far from dead, but in contemporary stories its approach has changed. Characters can come of age or "become themselves" over the course of a lifetime. Their lives can be depicted through a series of smaller incidents that mark change, and they tend to be more reflective on their pasts. Just like real life.

Ann Charney's Distantly Related to Freud is such a book, opening with a quote by Freud himself, claiming, "Only a good-for-nothing is not interested in his past." The reader is introduced to a distant relative of the famous psychiatrist, the plain-named Ellen. Ellen at 8 is entirely familiar and relatable. Charney gets it all right here: a child learning to be a little sneaky, one who is curious, imaginative, creates adventure but loves comfort. She is flawed and likeable and very real.

Ellen and her mother are wanderers, a financial necessity painted as adventure by Ellen's mother, whose family escaped a life full of darkness. The European refugees who board with the family are the first living proof of the realities outside their Montreal home of the early 1950s. Young Ellen witnesses passionate arguments in the nighttime hours from the refugees, delivered in languages foreign to her ear. She wants to know more but is denied, and so is the reader, but this is a stylistic choice, not a misstep. Charney sticks faithfully to Ellen's experience, which, as she grows, is loyal to the ordinary, to the experience of a girl with her own adventures on her mind. Read more...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Over the mountain: Thirty years since Rick Ridgeway conquered K2

High up on K2 that September day 30 years ago, Rick Ridgeway was dying.

Without oxygen or ropes, his fingers brick hard and black with severe frostbite, Ridgeway inched toward K2's mighty summit near the Pakistan-China border.

This was before K2, at 28,251 feet the second highest rooftop after Mount Everest, got its reputation as the toughest mountain in the world to climb.

Ridgeway and climbing partner, John Roskelley, traversed a narrow gully later named the Bottleneck, directly beneath a towering wall, several hundred feet high, of overhanging ice — the same one that broke off this summer, killing 11 people.

Ridgeway and Roskelley escaped it only to find more trouble. Above the Bottleneck, they came to a series of steep and icy rocks that had to be traversed at an angle. It was crampons on edges; at one point, Ridgeway looked down and saw a glacier 12,000 feet below him. "The whole mountain seems to fall out under your feet there," he said. Read more...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Washington's Olympic National Park makes a gorgeous, low-budget getaway

When the economy gets tough, it's time to get going on cheap trips.

I abandoned my dream of an autumn European vacation and instead went to play close to home — in Olympic National Park.

It was a low-budget and gorgeous getaway on Washington's far side that cost me about $500 for the four-day trip including accommodations, food and gas from Seattle.

My main entertainment — daily hikes in the park's rain forest and wild Pacific Ocean beaches — was almost free. All I had to pay was the $15 national-park entrance fee, valid for seven days, that gave me access to some of the most scenic wild places in North America.

I stayed in Forks, a good base, since it's equidistant from some of the best beach and forest walks. The town of about 3,200 won't win prizes for charm, though. Its main street is a highway strip of motels and small restaurants; beyond are miles of clear-cuts and second-growth forest, testament to the logging that has been Forks' lifeblood. Read more...

Friday, November 14, 2008

South Africa Route 62: Scenery, ostriches, coast

CAPE TOWN, South Africa—Far from the crowds and traffic snarl-ups on South Africa's much-vaunted coastal Garden Route is a stunning inland alternative that showcases some of the country's most fabulous scenery but passes unnoticed by most visitors.

Route 62—which evokes comparisons with the legendary Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles—starts from just outside Cape Town and runs to the city of Port Elizabeth. It winds through scenic spa towns, vineyards and fruit farms, breathtaking mountains and floral feasts—not to mention the self-proclaimed Ostrich Capital of the World.

The best news for tourists is that it is possible to combine Route 62 and the Garden Route, named after its dense and lush vegetation, for a truly unforgettable journey.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Race to the Polar Sea: The Heroic Adventures of Elisha Kent by Ken McGoogan

Elisha Kent Kane was one of the most famous explorers in American history but as biographer Ken McGoogan details in his new book, Race to the Polar Sea, Kane’s achievements have largely been forgotten. McGoogan’s book goes a long way towards returning Kane to his rightful position in the adventure and scientific pantheon, and through unprecedented access to the long missing first volume of Kane’s private journal from his second expedition he provides valuable insight into Kane’s motivations and concerns. Most significantly to 21st century environmentalists, McGoogan also discusses the wealth of climate data Kane collected and its relevance to current global warming research.

Kane, born in 1820, was part of a dynamic family who supported him as he sought his own path. Struggling against illness for much of his life, Kane still managed to fight in the Mexican American War and then pursue a degree in medicine. Becoming a town doctor held no interest however and McGoogan weaves family letters into the narrative to show Kane’s increasing unwillingness to lead a predictable life. With the help of his father he was able to obtain a commission to the navy and then, while waiting for an assignment, embarked on an around-the-world tour which at one point took him literally into the heart of a volcano. “Crawling upon our hands and knees,” McGoogan quotes Kane, “the lava within six inches of our noses, suddenly our heads jutted up above the crest of the volcano, and the magnificence of the crater, literally a coup d’oeil, burst upon us.” In these early chapters McGoogan shows Kane’s intense desire for something more than his respectable yet staid upbringing. It was no surprise then that he leaped at the chance to join the 1850 Grinnell expedition in search of missing British explorer John Franklin.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Autumn Windfall: An Apple Adventure

The apple-a fruit so ubiquitous in American culture that we hardly think twice about its presence. Its most familiar incarnation is as an over-shined monotone orb, mechanically placed alongside lunch to fulfill one serving of fruit in the arbitrarily-defined food pyramid. The iconic apple sitting on a teacher's desk is devoid of the variety and vivacity that should be associated with these morsels of autumnal bounty.
Autumn Windfall: An Apple Adventure

Mediocre apples are available year-round, but one cannot begin to know their true nature without experiencing the explosion of colors, textures and flavors that occurs every fall.

But without wandering nostalgically through an apple orchard plucking the swollen spheres from loaded trees, how can we take part in the seasonal coming of the apple?

Well, as a functioning member of a busy and technological society, I went to the supermarket. Whole Food, Safeway and Trader Joe's-the three major food markets within walking distance of Georgetown-are now displaying the apple in its multifarious glory.

I took the trek to Whole Foods on a Sunday night to witness this spectacle first-hand. I found the produce section dominated by buckets, totes, trays and tables filled with apples of all shapes, colors and sizes. In addition to the requisite Galas, Granny Smiths and Fujis, Whole Foods enthusiastically brought my attention to a number of local varieties from farms near D.C. In fact, each mound of apples had a label informing me of the state or city of its origin-happily the local ones were the cheapest. I floated through the displays picking one beautiful fruit after another, my spirits rising with each acquisition. The prices ranged from $1.69 to $2.99 per pound, but the best deals by far were the tote bags filled with local apples selling for 99 cents per pound. Local. Cheap. Abundant. Score.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Beguiling Tasik Bera - Malaysia's First Ramsar Site

TEMERLOH, Nov 4 (Bernama) -- Tasik Bera consists of seven flooded river valleys that collectively form a riverine lake system measuring 35 km by 20 km and covering an area of 6,150 hectares. It is the largest natural freshwater body in Malaysia.

Tasik Bera is of great importance not only because of the rich biodiversity but also from a scientific, recreational, educational and economic point of view. This alluvial peat swamp supports a biological community that is unique to Malaysia.

Almost 100 species of freshwater fish, 200 species of birds and 68 species of mammals thrive here. Endangered and vulnerable species include the Asian elephant, tiger, clouded leopard, tapir, Asian Arowana and the Malayan false gharial crocodile. The Purple Water Trumpet or keladi paya survives only in Tasik Bera.


Monday, November 10, 2008

REI to Outfit Outdoor Adventurers through New Store in Oxnard, Calif.

SEATTLE, Oct 28, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), a national retail cooperative providing quality outdoor gear and clothing, today announced plans to open a new store in Oxnard, Calif. in the fall of 2009.
Located along Highway 101 at The Collection at Riverpark, the 28,000 square-foot, two-story REI will offer the top brands of gear and apparel for outdoor activities, including camping, climbing, cycling, fitness, hiking, paddling, snow sports and travel. The new Oxnard store will feature a bike shop for quick assemblies or repairs, seasonal gear rental department and community room that REI and its non-profit partners can utilize for classes, presentations and events.
"REI is committed to helping more people discover the joys of outdoor recreation, and ensuring they have the right gear, apparel and information for their experiences," said Greg Mellinger, REI retail director for Southern California. "Through our new store in Oxnard, we look forward to better serving the more than 9,000 active REI members already in Ventura County."
To support its mission, the company partners with local organizations that focus on increasing access to outdoor recreation and conservation opportunities. In 2008, REI provided $135,000 in grants to support 16 Los Angeles-area nonprofit partners in the form of gear and/or financial donations. Examples of those grant recipients include Children's Nature Institute, Heal the Bay, Los Angeles Conservation Corps and Los Angeles Outward Bound.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Our golf game became an adventure

Our plan was to play golf on Saturday. Instead, we had an adventure. Talk to anyone who has played the Skyline Golf Course in Cathlamet, Wash., and you'll get a wry smile.

Now my wife and I know why.

Waiting for the Westport ferry at around noon, we took in the resplendent fall foliage that's apparent along U.S. Highway 30. The Columbia was absolutely flat as we crossed to Puget Island. From the island, one crosses a bridge to Cathlamet.

Just east of Cathlamet is Skyline Golf Course, which is laid out on a hillside. Walking the course was like walking to the Astoria Column twice while also playing golf.

Some of Skyline's holes are devilishly difficult. All are challenging. Most of the greens are relatively small and undulating. In most cases, the hole itself was set on a slope, making it a bit like a pinball machine.

The views from the Cathlamet course were stunning. Some fairways contain major tree specimens.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Barbados and budget travel go together

The well-traveled place, which everyone would enjoy. This news has tips on how to spend your vacation on this place even on buget.

Beauty, history and great eats on the menu

Sadly, there aren't many places in the world where the dollar remains strong, but in Barbados—a Mount Gay rum-saturated oasis from the storm—$1 converts to about $2 Barbados dollars, and the luxe accommodations, lavish feasts and lovely vistas cost a fraction of what you would expect.

True, the 21-mile-long island of Barbados—Portuguese for "bearded-ones"—is a bit more remote and trickier to get to than, say, Jamaica. But its gently rolling, terraced landscape, relative immunity to hurricanes and ultra-friendly vibe immediately lulls travelers into a beachy state of mind upon arrival. Adding to the allure, Barbadians—colloquially, Bajans—are an enveloping bunch.

I flew into British-established Bridgetown——the island's capital and largest city within the parish of St. Michael—for a four-night and three-full-day stay. At the core of Bridgetown lies the Constitution River, which allows smaller boats access to the city. It's also the site of the duty-free-laden Broad Street shopping district and Parliament buildings (the latter situated just north of Heroes Square).


Friday, November 7, 2008

Bo's Xtreme Adventures: Off-Roading in Schuylkill County

Over the river and through the woods... Lyrics to a good 'ole Christmas song, of course. Leave it to WFMZ's resident daredevil Bo Koltnow to take those words very literally. In this edition of extreme adventure, Bo gets behind the wheel and takes on Mother Nature's best punch. Reporter This former coal mining site covered with boulders.
Reporter rocks resembling icebergs, lake like puddles
Reporter Rivers for roads.... Insane terrain
Bo forget about it
Reporter It's extreme driving with Land Rover at the Roush Off Road Park in Schuylkill County.
Bolt Go slow. The idea is to go slow. If fast you'll see the damage, blow tires and components on the vehicles.
Reporter If it's got tires Bolt Zubrickie has driven it... He's teaching me how to drive extreme.
Tape 1 15:49-58 This is totally different than street and race car driving? Absolutely.
Reporter Navigation not taught in driving school.
Bo tape 1 23:22-29 I thought parallel parking was tough. I passed my first challenge, now hit the trails.
Reporter With a contingent of intrepid Land Rover drivers behind me... We took on Mother Nature path. She quickly showed us this was to be no leasurly Sunday drive.
Reporter After acquiring our trail pinstripes.... My tank on wheels came to this.... Seemingly impassable terrain.
Bo The problem now is a very large jagged rocks here, there, don't know how deep the water is.
Reporter Lucky for us, we have back seat drivers.
Bolt Your going to take tires up on the ground here on the outside edge.
Bo tape 2 9:17:38-45 As you just saw there is no land this rover can make it over. But one challenge I'm not checking out is this rock garden.
Reporter Anyone with the off road wheels and desire to put your car in peril can traverse the course.
Bo Staying in control is key. You do that by driving with 2 feet. One on the gas the other on break.
Reporter A slow and steady pace is vital for survival. Especially after emerging from a trail lake.
Bo Important tip. When you make it out of something like that tires can come up on a stump like this and get stuck.
Reporter A 2 mile drive took 3 hours. Eventually the light at the end of the tunnel was near and our path was finally clear.
Bo We took Mother Nature's best shots and can't wait to do it again.
Reporter Just make sure you're insured. Bo Koltnow 69 News. Read more...

An adventure along life's road

GREAT BARRINGTON — There is a gentle, unassumning grace that settles over the characters in Joan Ackermann's "Marcus is Walking: Scenes From the Road," which is making a third return visit — fourth overall since its premiere in 1997 — at Mixed Company, where this generally ingratiating vehicle of 10 vignettes, each set in a car, is parked through Nov. 23.

Even at moments of despair — the dry-mouthed anxiety of a parolee on a ride to freedom through the desert of the American West, or a depressed businessman whose relationship with a homeless woman he allows to spend her nights in the back seat of his car takes on a different texture in the aftermath of his wife's unexpected and sudden departure from their marriage — Ackermann brings her characters to a point of promise, of reassurance. Read more...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Deals for two: budget travel for couples

Its true if you are going to travel for two u can save. Much better if you could avail the group package much better.

If you're willing to be flexible and spontaneous, you and your perfect match can find hotel bargains -- and scenery -- to love.

For traveling couples, good fortune comes in twos. Most tours, cruises and vacation packages are priced per person, double occupancy, with savings to match.

But if you're looking for romance on the road, your luck -- and your money -- can quickly run out. Beach resorts, quaint bed-and-breakfasts and spa tubs for two are rarely cheap dates, especially on weekends.

Here are five strategies for making romance pay:

Stroll across the street: The world-renowned Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, Calif., is a splendid seaside resort, replete with Victorian tradition and décor. You're unlikely to regret staying there. But your pocketbook might.

Even in winter, most rooms cost more than $300 per night, plus taxes and a $25-a-day resort charge.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Budget travel for families: Take fun along for the ride

Why not try this if u can afford? Family travel is a lot of fun besides its a very nice bonding time.

The issue with family travel, of course, is that more isn’t always merrier, but it’s usually much more expensive. Still, the savvy planner can find a way to escape the uh-oh of daily life and find an oh-wow moment or two on the road.

Tip 1: Consider a package

Pleasant Holidays, in the Nov. 19 to 22, 2008, time period, offers a three-night trip to Honolulu, Hawaii, with a deluxe junior suite plus air for $2,420, or about $605 a person, at the Aqua Palms Resort & Spa, a pleasant if compact hotel closer to the Ala Moana Center (pictured).
(Annie Wells, Los Angeles Times)


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

KENNERDELL -- Build it and they will come.

Nice to know that there are people who encourages others to love nature!

That was the idea in 1955 when Maurice K. Goddard was appointed Secretary of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forests and Waters (forerunner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) and embarked on an unprecedented plan to build a state park within 25 miles of every Pennsylvania resident.
When Mr. Goddard retired in 1979, 45 state parks and over 130,000 acres had been added to the state park system, which now totals 120 outdoor recreational areas and nearly 300,000 acres of property.
But Mr. Goddard couldn't have anticipated the 21st century market saturation of home computers, TV, movies and electronic games, parental fears about sending their kids outside, and the consequences of a generation of Americans who have lost contact with the natural world.
The new mantra at DCNR?
Reach out and touch someone.
That's the goal of an organizational overhaul initiated this year to enhance the state's ability to program recreational opportunities and organized activities that might attract new park users.
One of the agency's most ambitious programs was a recent upscale eco-tour run out of Jennings Environmental Education Center in Slippery Rock.
Call it a sampler of autumn outdoors activities. The overnight adventure began with a shuttle ride to Clear Creek State Forest, across the Allegheny River from Kennerdell. Accompanied by park workers, 13 of us embarked on a short guided hike with a state forester who explained the conservation strategy of a large deer exclosure, local rattlesnake activity, a controversial controlled forest burn and trailside plant biology.
At Danner Campground we set up tents provided by the DCNR and hiked again along a Class A trout stream with frequent breaks for object lessons in regional history, geography and Leave No Trace philosophy. Following a delicious fire-cooked catered meal of roast chicken, stuffed squash, potatoes and baked apples, we settled in around the campfire -- they even remembered to bring the fixin's for 'Smores.
After a night of primitive camping, the North Country Brewing caterers served a hearty breakfast al fresco. Park staff shuttled us to Emlenton for a quick paddling lesson and guided canoe trip 7 miles downriver to Parker. The adventure ended with a buffet dinner at Foxburg's Allegheny Grill and free time to browse through the town's bustling Art, Food and Wine Festival.
The Fall Foliage Foray's $100-per-person price tag included four prepared meals and snacks, overnight tent and site rental, transportation, local guides and outstanding service from Jennings' staff. The DCNR eco-tour was a deal that no nonprofit group, commercial lodge or outdoors package tour could match.
"A few years ago, it was unheard of for us to have [equipment] or anything like that so we could lead trips on the water or a trail," said Wil Taylor, program coordinator at Jennings Environmental Education Center. "But now [Harrisburg] is encouraging that."
Overnight eco-tours are the most ambitious part of DCNR's new proactive programming initiative. They're still considered experimental; only a few state parks have tried them. Jennings has done three.
"You get a little bit of everything," said Gina Hench of Cranberry, a Jennings frequent flier who's taken all three trips: an overnight hike to Moraine State Park, a winter sampler at McKeever Environmental Learning Center and Goddard State Park, and the recent Kennerdell adventure. "For those who are experienced it's an inexpensive, nice weekend to spend with people. For those that aren't, you're with a group of people who know what they're doing."
Jennings' eco-tours attract people from college age to retirement. Sixty-eight-year-old Celia Taylor of Grove City said the recent trip was "not too strenuous."
"I enjoyed getting the canoe one day and the hike another day," she said. "I'm widowed and don't have a lot of people to do this kind of thing with, and I don't have the equipment, either. So it just worked out very nicely."
DCNR is trying to sharpen its ability to market each park's particular amenities and package inter-park activities. Its educational division was recently retitled and a new section for Outdoors Recreational Programing was added. Regional managers were hired, and for the first time in the history of Pennsylvania's state park system sporting goods equipment was purchased by the state for use by program participants.
DCNR Secretary Michael Di Berardinis said the organizational overhaul was mostly a redistribution of existing resources. Little new money was added to the park system's annual budget. Parks are still expected to generate $15 million to $20 million of DCNR's $100 million budget.
"We did a lot of research and conducted a study to try to validate the assumptions of many of us that there's a powerful nexus between environmental education and outdoors recreation," said Mr. DiBerardinis. "We're trying to find the intersect. We think when people get really engaged in the resource -- whether it's bird watching or rock climbing or kayaking or fishing -- it presents a wonderful opportunity to help them understand, in general, how to conserve those resources and what their role is in conservation."
Facing a generation of Pennsylvanians who'd rather swim in a heated pool than a freshwater lake, recruiting new park visitors will require a new generation of aggressive marketing techniques.
"We need to build new audiences," he said. "Part of that is connecting with people who live in heavily built environments in metropolitan areas. We need to find ways to get them to connect with nature."
One of DCNR's new regional managers, Melissa Lambert of Mt. Washington, is finding new ways for parks in Western Pennsylvania to interact with each other and attract new visitors.
"It's a multifaceted job, helping parks to coordinate their programs, training staff, offering a helping hand with some of their programs," she said. "We're helping [parks] to create partners and work beyond their park boundaries."
In one of the new programs, Adventure Camp, urban kids from Pittsburgh and Erie are recruited to spend a week outdoors.
"These are kids who had never been out of the city," said Ms. Lambert. "We taught them things like fishing and kayaking and biking and Leave No Trace ethics with the hope that they'll take that knowledge [home] and make connections of their own, maybe come back and bring their families. We're trying to attract a whole new audience."


Monday, November 3, 2008

Festival gives outdoors enthusiasts a chance to experience kayaking

Wow this is fun!

Karoline Stadelmann and her father, Philip, love nature and all it has to offer.
So when the West Palm Beach residents heard about a sporting adventure a little different from the norm, they jumped at it.
They spent almost 10 hours over two days — five hours each day — participating in the Okeeheelee Fall Kayak Festival at Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach. The weekend attraction, which drew about 200 people, enabled outdoors enthusiasts to test different kayaks.
Hosted by Adventure Times Kayaks and Okeeheelee Park Rentals in conjunction with the Friends of Okeeheelee Nature Center, the festival featured basic paddling instruction, advanced kayak rescue classes and Eskimo rolling clinics.

"I wanted to come and try all of the different kayaks," said Karoline, 14. "This is really fun. It is a lot of exercise. It works your arms, and it works your feet."
Her father agreed.
"This is a lot of fun. This is the first time I tried it," he said. "It gives me a chance to spend time with my daughter. I love everything outdoors, including fishing. My arms will be a little sore tomorrow, but it is worth it."
Stephen Wigal, who runs an operation that provides tours for kayakers along the Intracoastal Waterway and other saltwater areas, said the event was established 16 years ago. It started with just a tent at the park's lake.
"We were doing classes and bringing kayaks out here for the nature program," said Wigal, who will present another event of this type in March. "We started doing this as a fundraiser. We raise a little money, and it gives people an opportunity to have some fun in the water. It also helps promote the nature center."
The center benefits from the festival to the tune of $1,200 to $1,500 per attraction. A donation of $8 for adults and $6 for children younger than 18 was charged to participate. Weekend passes were also available for $12 and $8, with proceeds going to the Friends group.
About 2.5 miles of trails wind through 90 acres of pine flatwoods and wetlands. The nature center features hands-on exhibits, animal encounters and a nature-related gift shop. There are birds of prey and live snakes.
Roger Roque, who owns a kayaking business based at Okeeheelee Park, likes that the festival gives newcomers an opportunity to experience the sport.
"We wanted to show people the different styles and types of kayaking," Roque said. "It brings families out and gives them the opportunity to try out different kayaks."
Roque said the fact the Stadelmanns spent two days at the festival doesn't surprise him.
"It is really a unique experience," he said. "It burns some calories. The adults come out here and get great exercise, too."


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Contributing writer Lauren Ennis took a walk on the wild side with Outdoor Adventure.

Whatever climate we have there are ways for adventures.

Outdoor Adventure boasts several weekend escapades that are sure to spark outdoor enthusiasts’ attention, including a highly anticipated ice climb.

“The trips are a great way for students to get to know each other and also learn to cook, learn first aid and take care of one another,” said Outdoor Adventure coordinator Scott Jordan.

Since the late 1970s, Outdoor Adventure has been hosting nature-oriented trips on the weekends and during breaks from school.

Small groups, usually consisting of eight to 10 people, travel to various parts of the United States to participate in these ventures.

Although the Outdoor Adventure group has gone on several trips this semester, it still has ice climbing, skiing, rock climbing, kayaking and backpacking trips planned.

“I go on as many trips as I can,” said Pat Lewis, graduate assistant and trips coordinator at Outdoor Adventure. “There are two trips I’m psyched about, the ice climbing trip over winter break and the ski trip to Red River during Martin Luther King Day.”

During the ice climbing trip, planned for Jan. 6-10, Outdoor Adventure will work with Adams State College in Alamosa, Colo. for a two-day guided climb, and then ski at Wolf Creek on the third day.

“Adams State has permits to climb in the Rio Grande National Forest,” Lewis said. “We get to climb with the help of their resources and guides.”

Trip leaders go on each trip and are trained using Basic Outdoor Leadership Training.

“We use a lot of their curriculum in our training,” Lewis said.

The trip leaders are trained in specific outdoor aspects.

John Gilliland, graduate assistant in charge of the climbing wall and also a trip leader, is trained in rock climbing and has been with Outdoor Adventure since 2003.

“I’ve been on roughly eight trips, all weekend climbing trips and one backpacking trip,” Gilliland said.

Gilliland said he hasn’t ever been ice climbing but has spent lots of time outside and in the snow.

“I learned to ski at age 7 and have been on roughly 19 ski trips,” Gilliland said.

Although Gilliland has never been ice climbing, he said the rope and safety systems for rock and ice climbing are almost identical, except picks are used for ice climbing rather than just your hands.

For those more interested in warm-weather activities, Outdoor Adventure offers those as well.

Jordan, who has been the Outdoor Adventure coordinator for more than six years, mentioned a sea kayaking trip in Baja, Calif., and a mountaineering trip at Olympic Peninsula as two notable past endeavors.

However, he said Escalante National Monument in Utah is his favorite.

“It’s the most remote area in the continental U.S. A desert area with beautiful arches and rock formations…awesome place,” Jordan said.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

THE weeklong adventure race and eco-awareness that is 2008 Carrera Habagat

This is an adventure open to all if u could join, please do.

TIME has proven that physical exercise and communion with nature are two of the more engaging activities in man’s pursuit of wellness. Not the repetitive jogging or kayaking on the beach, but cardio exercises that combine swimming, mountain climbing and running, plus a few mind-bending puzzles that involve the natural environment.

These are the features of the upcoming weeklong adventure race and eco-awareness program, dubbed 2008 Carrera Habagat, to be held in Santo Domingo, Albay, from November 12 to 16.

This coastal municipality faces the Pacific Ocean on the east, and the noble Mount Mayon in the northwest. The town is known for its rare and exotic black-sand beaches, which are likened to the beaches of Hawaii (the main island of the Hawaii state). The locals say that this rare type of black volcanic beach sand was formed from the erosion of ground lava, and is said to have therapeutic benefits. Very small specimens of several gemstones (including ruby, sapphire and diamond) may be found in the magma-black sand.

Carrera Habagat is considered the country’s toughest and most grueling adventure race. The interdisciplinary race requires several days of nature-related adventure challenges. The teams are confronted with basic and hard-core orienteering-and-navigation, cross-country running, mountain-biking, paddling, climbing and related rope skills.

Carrera Habagat is also known for fielding the best of the country’s adventure-racing teams. Among the prominent teams that have joined the past Carreras are Team Santorini and the Philippine Mount Everest Team.

For first-timers, habagat is the Tagalog term for south wind. The race is also called such because the driving force behind it is the Habagat Outdoor Equipment, a popular brand of adventure-racing gear and like products. The race and eco-awareness-related projects started in 2000 as Carrera Habagat.

Habagat head honcho Randy Su explains that Carrera Habagat is the perfect event that celebrates the company’s passion and support for adventure racing and eco-awareness. It also is a practical laboratory of sorts, where Habagat products can be “field-tested.”

“In effect, we are practicing what we preach: It wouldn’t be Habagat if it was not built by hand and tested by nature. The business and development of quality and innovative products for practical and outdoor use, and adventure racing simply grew out of our love for nature and the outdoors,” says Su.

Carrera Habagat also introduces and develops awareness for environment-protection and preservation.

“One of the most important things that the Carrera touches on is the appreciation for the environment and nature. In Carrera, the countryside becomes your ally, the sea becomes your guide, and the locals become your friends. Habagat does its best to showcase the many beautiful places that may be found all over the country, not just in the more popular ones. It’s not uncommon for our participants to exclaim they never expected to see places in a particular locality that are so beautiful and yet unknown to most people,” says Nadine Vallejos, 2008 Carrera Habagat coordinator.

Vallejos adds that the organizers are expecting this year’s Carrera Habagat to be bigger than previous events.

She says, “We’ve always had a lot of teams from across the country, especially those coming from Manila and Eastern Visayas. This year teams from up north won’t miss the chance to join the Carrera.”

There’s been too much reality TV on this type of race. Nothing beats the real thing.