I checked some major world currencies against the dollar this morning. One US dollar buys the following: 0.498828 (British pound), CN$1.1227 (Canadian dollar), 0.73524 (Euro), AUS$1.19574 (Australian dollar).These figures are effectively putting a stranglehold on Americans vacationing abroad. They add up the airfare, hotel or vacation rental charges, cost of a rental car and eating out in restaurants, and decide that the budget simply cannot be stretched that far.But this is where home exchange comes into its own. Plan a home swapping vacation and the only major cost is for the airfare to reach your destination. No hotel, no rental home, probably no rental car, and eating out can be reduced drastically. In short, the very home you live in can be your passport to an exciting and affordable vacation.No money ever changes hands between "home exchange" partners. You are in their home while they are in yours. You pay all your home expenses such as mortgage, utilities, etc. as you normally would. Its sometimes agreed that people pay for their own phone calls, if they are likely to be excessive once the exchange is completed and the phone bills arrive.Many "home swap" ping arrangements also include a car, which of course represents more significant savings. Expensive restaurant meals can also be eliminated, or at least substantially reduced. Exchange partners often leave information on good, non-touristy restaurants that they recommend, while some will go the extra mile and obtain some great coupons and certificates for their exchange partners.People who are new to the idea of home exchanging are very often very apprehensive at the prospect of inviting strangers to live in their home completely unsupervised. To reassure them, I like to compare home swapping to Internet dating. Before couples ever get around to meeting they exchange emails, photographs and phone calls. If they sense incompatibility they drop that particular pairing and move on.Setting up a home exchange follows those same principles. By the time the exchange actually takes place, the two parties involved are never strangers. In the initial selection process they would have swapped emails, then as the arrangements progressed, phone calls, photographs, possibly videos and certainly many more emails would have been exchanged. Everyone involved feels very compatible and comfortable with each otherGood initial communications are what makes home exchange work. In the 20+ years Ive been promoting the home exchange concept with probably tens of thousands of exchanges arranged, Ive never received a report of a theft, malicious damage, vandalism, or a case of someone arriving at their exchange destination and finding a vacant lot. It just doesnt happen!Many members join initially to save money while they travel. That wish can be accomplished, with savings of thousands of dollars on hotels, rentals, cars and restaurants. But much more than that, many will often confess that the greater advantages they unexpectedly discovered are the experiences of living an area like a local, not a tourist and enjoying the comforts of staying in a home rather than a cramped hotel room with all the associated restrictions.
Just a few miles inwards from the South Devon Coast is the ancient Dartmoor National Park. It covers an area of 368 square miles and offers visitors a mix of superb scenery and legendary history. Dartmoor also has one of the most prominent moors to be found anywhere in Britain.Many visitors view Dartmoor as a wonderful and diverse place indeed it offers a multiple range of terrains from its tors and woodlands to rambling countryside, grass covered hills and river valleys.The tors formations are actually quite splendid the granite while being a very tough substance is vulnerable to chemical deterioration. This means that the acids in rain attacks the surface of the granite causing it to disintegrate into various shapes and colours.Those who enjoy outdoor activities will have plenty to do in Dartmoor just a sample of these include fishing, trekking and cycling.Things To Do & Towns To Visit In Dartmoor National ParkDartmoor is made up of various small villages and towns one of the very enjoyable experiences of visiting Dartmoor is the chance to drive from one to the other while taking in the great scenery en route. From Tavistock in the west to Ashburton in the east, theres plenty to do and see in Dartmoor.Entire books have been written on Dartmoor so the following is just a brief description of some the places and activities that you can enjoy here: Check out the main visitor centre located in Okehampton. This town also houses the Museum of Dartmoor Life. Okehampton Castle is worth a visit this is located in Cranmere Pool and these ruins are the remains of what was once the biggest castle in Devon. Walking & trekking opportunities are abundant all over Dartmoor specific places of interest to walkers include South Okehampton, Princetown, Chagford and Postbridge. There are also specific routes popular with more experienced trekkers for instance, Templar Way (18 miles) and West Devon Way (14 miles). Books on walking in Devon are also available in the information centres dotted around the park (Okehampton, Tavistock, Ashburton, Ivybridge and a couple of other locations). There are also plenty of routes for those keen on cycling, and its possible to hire bikes in Tavistock. The Dartmoor Way is a 90 mile cycle route that includes many of the parks towns including Okehampton, Tavistock and Buckfastleigh. Other outdoor activities available in Dartmoor include horse & pony rides, fishing and climbing. In the East lies the pleasant town of North Bovey this is a great place to see quaint thatched cottages dating back to the 17th century. Yet another place to marvel at picture-perfect thatched cottages is in the charming little town of Buckland In The Moor. This lovely town faces onto woodlands and is also by the River Webburn (which joins up with the famous river Dart). Expect to see many Ponies grazing along the stretches of grassland while you drive through Dartmoor National Park. Buckfastleigh is home to Buckfast Abbey one of the most visited icons in Devon. The Abbey dates back to 1018. Also in Buckfastleigh are the Dartmoor otter sanctuary and the Buckfast Butterflies Exhibition (where several exotic butterflies can be seen in an exotic environment). Postbridge is a small town in the centre of Dartmoor National Park aside from being popular with walkers, the town is famous for its Clapper Bridge (granite bridges dating as far back as the 13th Century) which goes over the East Dart River. Another quiet town with sublime cottages and green surroundings is Widecombe In The Moor. Aside from its beauty, this location is famous for The Church House dating back to 1537. The little town of Chagford is nestled just above the River Teign and is also worth a visit just to amble around the neat town square. Be sure to visit Market House while youre there.The Darkside Of Dartmoor The Gruesome GubbinsesIn Lydford Gorge in the 15th century a half human tribe of creatures are said to have existed and caused much terror and fear to the locals. While this may sound like a myth or old wives tale to make children behave, the Gubbinses did in fact exist. They stole cattle, kidnapped or robbed travellers and there are reports that suggest that they were cannibals.
Are you in the process of planning a Kauai, Hawaii vacation? If you are, have you yet to make your overnight accommodation reservations? If this is a planning step that you have yet to take, you will want to first take the time to examine Kauai vacation rentals. When compared to hotels and vacation resorts, vacation rentals are a great way to vacation.As nice as it is to hear that "Kauai vacation" rentals are great way to vacation, especially when compared to traditional hotels and vacation resorts, you may be looking for more information. After all, booking your Kauai vacation reservations is an important step. There is a good chance that you will want your vacation to be perfect, just like you imagined it.One of the many reasons why vacation rentals are great for all Kauai trips is because they are private. This privacy can be achieved on a number of different levels. For starters, Kauai vacation home rentals allow you to rent your own private establishments. While you will have neighbors in other nearby homes or rental properties, you will have your own home. This privacy is great for all vacation types, but it is particularly ideal for those on romantic getaways.In keeping with the privacy of Kauai vacation rentals, it is also important to examine privacy in terms of seclusion. On Kauai, you may have the option of renting a vacation cottage or a vacation villa. While you will find some variances, you will often find that these types of rental properties are a little bit more secluded than vacation homes, as well as vacation condo rentals. If you are looking to have a private backyard barbeque or another private outdoor outing in the yard of your rental property, you may enjoy the seclusion that often comes with many Kauai vacation villas.The features and amenities that often come with many Kauai vacation rentals are just another one of the many reasons why they are a great way to vacation. Although most hotels and vacation resorts will come equipped with cable or satellite television, as well as internet access, you should get access to more great features and amenities with Kauai vacation rentals, such as a Kauai vacation home. Depending on the rental property in question, you should gain access to a laundry room, dishwasher, patio or garden area, and possibly a swimming pool or a hot tub.As previously stated, you will find a number of Kauai vacation rentals rentals available for the taking and these rentals properties are likely to vary. In fact, that is another one of the many reasons why "Kauai vacation rentals" rentals are a great way to vacation. You have an unlimited number of options. As outlined above, vacation rentals come in the form of vacation homes, vacation cottages, vacation villas, vacation condos, as well as vacation apartment rentals. Having a wide range of Kauai vacation rentals rentals to choose from is nice, as it will significantly improve your chances finding your dream rental.Speaking of finding your dream Kauai rental, it is important that you take the time to do so. Since you have a number of Kauai vacation rentals rentals to choose from, you will want to do a little bit of examination. Examining as many rental properties as possible will help you find the rental that best fits you and your traveling party. When examining Kauai vacation rentals rentals, be sure to examine rental fees, additional fees, size, location, nearby activities, features and amenities, as well as the view.In keeping with finding your dream Kauai rental, when you do, you will want to start making your travel arrangements. This leads to another one of the many reasons why Kauai vacation rentals rentals are a great way to vacation. Did you know that you have a number of different booking options? Although you can book your Kauai rental reservations directly or you can use the services of a local travel agent, you may find the best success when using an online travel website, namely one that deals specifically with Hawaiian vacations.If you have decided that you would like to stay at a Kauai rental for your next Kauai vacation rentals, you will want to make your reservations right away. To get you started, visit HawaiianBeachRentals.com today.
Today was Italian Labour Day, a big national holiday that presented the perfect opportunity to do a little out of town excursion: a drive around Mount Etna. So together with Jill, a co-student of mine from England, we rented a little two-door Lancia to go on a country driving tour. At 50 Euros the rental was not exactly inexpensive, but we figured it would be worth it to be able to explore the countryside around Taormina.First we had to deal with fuelling the car: our rental car was essentially empty and we were supposed to only put about as much fuel into the car as we thought we would use up so wed be able to bring the car back empty as well. The gas stations were officially closed on this holiday, and unlike in North America, there was no option to use a credit card for payment at the pump. The pump, however, did have a little slot where you could feed in bills and one of the local drivers patiently took his time to explain the system to me.With enough fuel to get us a couple of hundred kilometers we set off on our country excursion. At Giardini Naxos we turned inland towards our first destination: the Gole di Alcantara, the Gorge of the Alcantara River which is cut from black basaltic rock. The signs on the country road pointed towards the parking lot for the Alcantara Gorge, so we parked our vehicle and entered the complex. A simple 20 minute tour to see the river and the strange rock formations would cost 3 Euros, while longer tours and wading tours through the river are available also. We descended several sets of stairs to get down to the riverbed from where we got a good look at some of the interesting rock formations. Unless you wanted to walk through the river, there was no other place to go than back up through another set of stairs.Once at the top we found out that if we had taken this entrance we would have been able to view the gorge for free. We were a couple of hundred meters away from our parked car and by the roadside there was a little stand which actually was the tourist information booth for this inland area. Two ladies supplied us with a range of brochures and information about the villages surrounding "Mount Etna" , and I have to admit that the service was better and more knowledgeable than the tourist office in Taormina, which happens to be a much bigger tourist centre.We decided to explore a few of the gorgeous hilltop towns which are patched up against the rocky outcrops, providing an amazing vantage point of the surrounding countryside. Following a sign for a village called Motta Camastra we turned into a winding narrow road that was slowly taking us to the top of this crag. At the bottom of the town there was a public parking spot and we figured it was better to park our car there and walk up than to try to navigate the unimaginably narrow roads that were snaking through this little hilltop town.Just as we had parked our car a local resident in his fifties started shouting at us in Italian from his balcony and waving at us. It took us some time to realize that he was actually inviting us up into his abode for a beer. We graciously declined, and continued our walk. Jill commented that local Sicilians had been showing a marked amount of interest in her and attributed it to her noticeably pale English complexion. After about a 10 minute walk through tiny cobble-stoned walkways we reached the main square which featured a bar with about 20 older men sitting outside. Most of them were wearing caps similar to French berets and they were engaged in a very spirited discussion. Not a woman was to be seen.Our walk continued to the ancient church and from there we followed a walkway past narrow houses to a lookout point overlooking the entire mountain area. Sleepy cats were lounging lazily on the pavement, here and there women were watering flowers in front of their apartments. The vista towards Mount Etna, the Alcantara Valley and various mountaintop villages perched precariously against different rocky outcrops was breathtaking.After Motta Camastra we decided to explore another one of these hilltop towns and following a beautiful drive through a countryside full of vineyards we reached a place called Rocella Valdemone about 45 minutes later. We parked the car right next to the old town church and strolled across the piazza. At the other end of this public square we saw the obligatory bar which again featured about 15 to 20 older gentlemen fully engrossed in an animated discussion. My guess was they were probably discussing soccer. We got the definite impression that tourists dont come here very often because we certainly stuck out like a sore thumb and the locals were looking at us a bit as if we were a novelty. Again, women were conspicuously absent, with the occasional exception who was sweeping the pavement in front of the house and then disappeared inside again.Nature was calling and we asked at the bar if we could use the bathroom. One thing about Italy is that there are very few public washrooms, but fortunately local bars are quite easy-going about their facilities being used by non-paying strangers. This particular facility was in rather abysmal shape, though, and when I came out of it I instructed Jill to make sure not to touch any of the surfaces for fear of contracting a horrible communicating disease. The facility did the job, but it certainly was everything but a shining example of hygiene and cleanliness.Our driving tour continued with a drive into the mountain area. Tree cover got sparser and all of a sudden we were in a mountain area that must have been about 1500 to 2000 m high with a beautiful 360 degree view northwards and eastwards down to the sea and southwards and westwards towards Mount Etna. Hundreds of local Italian families had their cars parked in small side roads that were leading onto what looked like pasture lands for goats and they were having picnics. We didnt seem to see any tourists at all, and we realized that this is what Italians do on a public holiday in Sicily: they go for a picnic in the high mountain areas surrounding Mount Etna.We had come prepared before our departure we had picked up some prosciutto, cheese, fresh buns, fruits and drinks at the local supermarket in Taormina and this was our time for our very own little picnic. Due to the chilly wind that was blowing on this high mountain plateau we actually stayed in the car to eat our lunch, but nevertheless our view out the windshield was simply gorgeous.After a very satisfying improvised meal we drove back down from the mountains towards Mount Etna, past a large number of parked cars whose owners had gone hiking somewhere in this mountainous terrain. At an intersection a local woman was selling home-made cheeses and sausages, evidence of Italian culinary craftsmanship. We neared a town called Randazzo, with the volcano majestically draped in the background which impressed us with its Cathedral of Santa Maria, which was started in the 13th century and rebuilt several times. The bell tower dates from the 18th century, an example of the various different styles composing this imposing church.We started our leisurely drive around Mount Etna, at times right next to the Ferrovia Circumetnea, a small-gauge railway that encircles Mount Etna for about 90 km between Catania and Riposto. Terraced vineyards spread far in front of our eyes, and the drive through little towns like Maletto, Bronte, Adrano and Paterno was enjoyably peaceful. Once we approached the coastal side east of Mount Etna things got a lot busier. We started realizing that this was indeed a public holiday and all the locals were out and about. The traffic was starting to get crazy. Continuing through Nicolosi, Trecastagni, Zafferana Etnea (where saffron used to be cultivated, introduced by the Arabs), we continued through Giarre and Fiumefreedo di Sicilia towards Gardini Naxos, located right on the Ionian Sea.The traffic in the coastal areas was now enormous and beside the road along the shoreline stretching north of Giarre, thousands of cars were parked, belonging to people who had been enjoying a sunny day at the waterfront. We continued through Giardini Naxos at a crawling pace. This resort town south east of Taormina was founded in 735 BC by the Greeks and represents one of the oldest Greek settlements in Sicily. We drove past Isola Bella and Mazzaro and took the northern entrance into Taormina and got into a major traffic jam where we sat virtually without moving for about 45 minutes, a distance that should have taken us about 5 minutes under normal circumstances. No doubt everybody was on the road.It was a relief to finally have reached Taormina when we drove through the tunnel underneath town to reach the rental company on the western side of town. Just like the roads had been full of people, the town of Taormina was now packed with people strolling. Thousands of people were milling up and down the main strip, Corso Umberto, and we were literally rubbing shoulders with the other walkers. We decided we would have dinner outside of the city gates on Via Pirandello, where the pedestrian traffic was not quite as crazy and grabbed a nice table on a terrace at Trattoria Da Linos, a little restaurant where I had already had a couple of chats with the owners who recognized me and gave me a friendly hello. From the terrace we had a great view over the northern part of town and the Ionian Sea below us. After a filling pasta dinner we received a little free treat: a tasting of Amandola liqueur (made from almonds) on the house a great way to cap off an exciting day to catch a rest for another day of Italian lessons
Cape Cod is a narrow peninsula that stretches seventy miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. It is connected to the mainland by a pair of bridges that span the canals. Cape Cod is approximately one and a half hours drive from Boston. There are many quaint seaside villages and harbours here, fresh water lakes, and miles of beautiful scenic beaches!The climate of Cape Cod is mild, making it a great holiday destination all year round. Typically, the sea remains warm enough to swim in right up until the middle of autumn. Cape Cod along with the islands of Nantucket and Marthas Vineyard have miles of beautiful beaches. Most beaches are open to the public, however there are some beaches that require season permits.The islands of Cape Cod are readily accessible from the peninsula, and are great destinations for day trips. These islands were some of the first colonies formed by the English, and started out as whaling or trading posts. Now these islands are some of the wealthiest regions, with vast estates owned by some of the richest families in the country.Cape Cod is one of the few places that the North Atlantic Right Whale can still be found, as they are one of the most endangered species on the planet. What better way to see one on your holiday than taking a whale watching cruise!The Olde Kings Highway has been named one of the most scenic roads in the US. It runs the length of the Cape, and has many great boutiques, antique shops, and craft shops located up and down it.Cape Cod features some of the best fresh seafood in the whole of New England, from clam chowder to fine fresh lobster, be sure to sample them at one of the many restaurants on the Cape!All in all Cape Cod makes a great destination for your holiday to New England!