My last day in Taormina had started: I woke up at daybreak to pack my suitcase since later today I would be relocating from Taormina to the city of Milazzo. I enjoyed my final breakfast on the gorgeous terrace of Hotel Villa Nettuno, the place that had been my home for the last seven nights. Pictures of yesterdays hike up Mount Etna flashed to my mind. The view over the Ionian Sea continued to fascinate me and I hope that one day I will make it back to beautiful Taormina.My last day of classes had started and our strict yet witty language teacher Carlo continued to teach us the intricacies of Italian pronouns and adverbial phrases of time and place. His colleague Simona took over at 11:40 for our communications exercise and we started to listen to a recording of a real-life Italian call-in show where a person called into a radio station to talk to two psychiatrists to discuss fears and phobias.Each equipped with headsets, we listened to the recording twice and recounted what we had understood. Then we embarked on an unscripted discussion of our own fears and phobias. In addition, Simona had prepared cardboard cards with questions. Each one of us got to pick from the stack of cards and we got to choose who we were going to ask the question we had picked. This provided another great opportunity to talk and apply our Italian language skills. An animated philosophical discussion ensued and everyone had a chance to express their thoughts and feelings.After taking pictures with my class mates and our teachers, I dropped by the office to say goodbye to Alessandro and his team. The entire crew at the Babilonia Language School had been extremely helpful over the past week of my stay, I had indeed picked up my Italian skills (and was officially at Intermediate level now), and I had thoroughly enjoyed all our various excursions: from our hike to Castelmola Friday a week ago, to our archeological and cultural excursion to Siracusa, to our walking tour of Taormina, my glimpses at Babilonias cooking and pottery decorating classes, our hiking excursion to Mount Etna and various dinners and social events, the last seven days had been packed full of exciting activities and opportunities for learning and forging new friendships.I sincerely thanked Alessandro and his team and hoped to come back some time in the future. Together with two of my new-found friends, Jill from the UK, and Connie from Switzerland we went for a little walk and decided to have lunch at a local restaurant called Panoramic Bella Blu which is located on Via Pirandello right next to the cable car station that connects hill-top Taormina with beach-front Mazzaro. We enjoyed a nice late lunch with a stunning view over the Mediterranean, and about an hour later I had to say goodbye. I had double-checked at the bus station when my bus would come to take me to the railway station at Taormina Giardini Naxos so I would be able to make the trek to my next destination: Milazzo.Before departing I went back to Hotel Villa Nettuno to quickly download my photos and take a few more shots of the beautiful garden that is part of the Sciglio familys estate. At the top of the garden is the so-called Tempietto (little temple), a temple-shaped lookout point with benches and a sweeping view over the Ionian Sea and part of Taormina. I took a few quick photos with Vincenzo Sciglio, the patriarch of the family, and two of my German Babilonia co-students and at 5:30 pm I sadly said goodbye. Vincenzo promised that when I come here next time he will take me to the familys country retreat where they make home-made wine. He said he produces the grape juice for the wine by stomping on the grapes with his bare feet. Well, next time I come to Taormina I definitely want to see that.Although my departure was a little sad, my next adventure was already waiting: tomorrow I would embark on a one-week sailing trip around the gorgeous Eolian Islands with a different language school called Laboratorio Linguistico, based in Milazzo.After a 10 minute bus ride, I arrived at the Taormina - Giardini Naxos train station and had to wait for about 45 minutes before my train showed up. The commuter train that arrived was a beautiful sleek and modern train and I grabbed a seat in the corner. A few rambunctious teenagers were playing loud music, singing and ribbing each other. Obviously teenagers will be teenagers, no matter where you goA local gentleman sat down across from me and introduced himself: Giorgio works as a security guard at Taorminas Greek Theatre and enjoys his job. He told me about his family: his wife stays at home with their three children while he is the sole income earner. His job gives him sufficient income to look after his family and he said he keeps his expenses low. The family only has one car and he still drives around all year on his 30 year old Vespa. Giorgio also commented that a few years ago Trenitalia, the Italian government-owned railway system, invested in new commuter trains. Giorgio smiled when he said that the remainder of the rolling stock is pretty much museum quality.He also mentioned that the strange spring weather that we had been having (a fair amount of rain, fog, overcast skies), is rather unusual. Normally at this time of year the weather is clear and sunny. He summed up his feelings by saying that for the last three years or so the climate has been strange. A side effect of global warming maybe?After Giorgio left about a half hour into the train ride I had a chance to reflect on the 8 days that I had already passed in Italy, and the new adventures that were still to come. I was starting to feel a bit apprehensive about the sailing trip that was supposed to start tomorrow. I was wondering about sea-sickness, the small confined space on a sailboat and I was praying to God that I was going to have good shipmates. On a small sailboat even one really strange character can make the trip unpleasant for the rest of the group.Another part of me was really looking forward to the experience, and my anticipation was growing. After changing trains in Messina I arrived just shortly after 9 pm at my destination for today: Milazzo, headquarters of the Laboratorio Linguistico Language School, and the embarkation point for my sailing trip tomorrow.Francesca, the wife of the schools co-owner, graciously came by to pick me up from the train station and took me to my home for the night: a fully equipped 5-bedroom apartment right above the schools offices. Francesca took me into my room which I was going to share for one night with my new travel partner: Claudia, a Lufthansa flight attendant from Germany, was also going to go on the sailing trip with me tomorrow.While Claudia was sleeping I headed out for a very late dinner. It was already about 10:30 pm before I found a local restaurant two streets over. I had a delicious Insalata Cappriciosa and at a price of 3 Euros the salad was less than half the going rate of the restaurants in Taormina which had charged about 7 or 8 Euros for a salad. I realized very quickly that tourists in Taormina are paying a premium rate for everything and that Milazzo was definitely more affordable terrain. Back at the apartment I downloaded my photos and briefly met two of the other teachers at Laboratorio Linguistico: Jean-Claude from Ireland, who teaches English at the school, and Francesco (Franco) Pozza, an Italian teacher and co-owner of the school. I found out that we would be gathering outside the school tomorrow morning at 9:30 am to meet Francesco Di Santi, the other co-owner of Laboratorio Linguistico, and our skipper for the week.I felt into bed exhausted, wondering what the next week was going to hold. I was excited looking forward to my first sailing trip.
After a beautiful breakfast in the garden at Roxanas place with Helga, the young lab with shiniest black coat, dancing all around me, I went to my private tutoring session at the Ideal Language School where my teacher Estela and I talked at length about various dental procedures, funny doctor stories, and stories of unexplainable events and psychic happenings.We also touched on the topic of personal security, and that a number of years ago there were quite a few kidnappings and robberies of buses. Additional security has brought the situation under control and safety has improved considerably. I also asked Estela about some practical safety advice for myself, traveling as a woman alone.She gave me a few basic common-sense pieces of advice:- dont wear any ostentatious jewellery or extravagant clothing- never walk by yourself at night- never walk in deserted streets- leave your jewellery, valuables and documents at home- curry your bag in front of your body- at night always take a radio taxi that is called from the restaurant where you are staying. They are much more trustworthy than street taxis.Around 11 am a local street merchant came by to sell typically Mexican sweets and I ended up buying thin sheets of oblates (obleas), stuck together with honey and decorated with pumpkin seeds. I also bought a square of peanuts glued together with caramel all very yummy treats. I don't know how the locals can resist all these tasty foods that are available everywhere....Then I headed off onto the public bus again and into downtown Cuernavaca. I had to change buses and exited one on the Zocalo and hopped on the second one below the Palacio Cortes. The Cuernavaca public transit system is a breeze for me at this point.A demonstration was in full swing in front of the Palacio del Gobierno, local inhabitants of nearby villages were demonstrating and when I enquired, they told me it was about the fact that the government is developing areas in their villages which they would rather see designated as protected nature areas. The main issue, they explained, is a shortage of water and this issue has apparently being going on 70 years.The bus took me to Martha Elenas house who was already waiting for me and had put together a wonderful picnic basket. Then the two of us adventurous mujeres took off in her vehicle and we went towards Las Estacas, a local riverside resort that she had never been to.I got a chance to see the southern parts of Cuernavaca, and the traffic exiting the city was the usual chaotic mess, but somehow it all works out. It would certainly take me a while to get used to the driving conditions here. People squeeze in wherever they can, particularly the drivers of the rutas, the small local buses. The bus in front of us squeezed in and cut across 3 lanes to make a left turn. This guy was certainly not taking any prisonersWe drove out of town through a hilly but extremely dry area. All the hills were brown, spring surprisingly is the equivalent of our summer everything is hot and dry with very little rain. The rainy season actually begins in late May, early June, and summer is cooler than spring. A strange concept to get your head around.After about an hour of driving through Mexican country villages with horses and donkeys grazing right next to the street and men riding in the back of trucks, we arrived at "Las Estacas" .We started our walk through the grounds, across a hanging bridge over a river with extremely clear and blue water. Marta Elena was explaining to me that the fish that we saw were extremely good for chowder, but not useable for other dishes since they contain so many bones.Since it was about 1 pm by this time, we plunked ourselves down beside the river and unpacked our beautiful picnic bag, she had made three different types of sandwiches, brought a wonderful container of refreshing juice and some brownies, and the girls started to talk and compare notes about growing up in Mexico and Austria respectively. Its amazing how two people can come from such different backgrounds, i.e. Marta Elena grew up in a very well to-do family while my family background is much more humble, but somehow we had a great connection.We took a stroll through the grounds and saw the various swimming pools and playgrounds and also checked out an area containing 31 units with 3 bunk beds each which is used for childrens camps. A fishing pond was right next door.After our nature outing we stopped at another local attraction: a well-known local market for orchids. Of course, Marta Elena is an avid gardener and I, although equipped with a black thumb, like to look at flowers, so off we went to look at several greenhouses full of different varieties of orchids. Marta Elena, being the expert, could tell me in Latin which varieties we were dealing with, I on the other hand was fascinated with the alien expressions on these horticultural beauties. Apparently these orchids are shipped all over the world.The day was immensely hot and I was melting in the sun, so I sat down under a lovely palapa and I asked the lady working at the greenhouses to bring us some popsicles, and three popsicles later I finally felt that my thirst was quenched a little. As a small gesture of appreciation for her time and the lovely lunch, I got Martha Elena a special yellow variety of orchids for inviting me on this special outing.With our aesthetic senses appropriately satisfied we made our way back through the dry mountains south of Cuernavaca and rejoined the hustle and bustle of the city. Marta Elena dropped me off right in front of the cathedral and after a cordial hug we decided to definitely link up again before my departure next week.Alberto, my friend Vanessas cousin, and a local resident of Cuernavaca had recommended me to visit his friend Jose Manuel who owns a little caf, appropriately named El Cafecito, right across from the main entrance to the Cathedral. I plunked myself down at one of the tables outside the caf on the sidewalk and watched some of the colourful street life pass by.Several local women carrying what seemed like hundreds of different necklaces approached me, displayed and promoted their attractive jewellery items. I caved in and bought several very decorative necklaces that were supposedly made of semi-precious stones like malachite, tigers eye, coral, etc. although I have a feeling for about $4 each they are probably made more of attractive plastic than real stone, but you never know..... I found them quite enchanting.After a while Jose Manuel came and joined me at my table. He mentioned that me has a brother who is working in Toronto. This is not surprising, many local Mexican people that I have met have a Canadian connection. He even said that he has experienced temperatures of up to 5 degrees in Arizona once, which was barely bearable for a Mexican who is used to 25 degrees + all the time.Jose Manuel graciously called me a taxi, a Radio Taxi, which is highly recommended after dark which whisked me up into my beautiful residence at RX Villa in the Rancho Cortez area. Time for some laundry and for writing up some stories and resting up my leg for another day of discoveries tomorrow
Taking a cruise can be one of the most exciting vacations that you take in your lifetime. Adventure, relaxation, exploration, extravagant parties, exquisite dining, free entertainment, and eye-opening experiences are all yours to be had when you book a cruise with Princess Cruise Lines or another popular line. A cruise vacation literally puts the world at your doorstep. Imagine being able to step out of your stateroom to a different exotic view each and every morning or being able to watch the sun set in a different port of call each evening.The truth of the matter is that cruise vacations are unparalleled when it comes to providing an unforgettable experience crammed packed with more variety than you could ever believe possible from a week-long vacation. But you need to be careful when choosing your package because different destinations will provide you with completely different experiences. The size boat that you choose will also determine what types of ports that you will be able to see. As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when choosing where to go on your the cruise of your dreams.The destination of your cruise determines much more than just the type of scenery that you will see. Cruises to the Mediterranean are well-known for their party till the sun comes up itineraries. Sea voyages to Alaska, on the other hand, are more reserved and focus on sightseeing and wildlife. There are also trips that are very educational and will take you to see historical and ecological wonders. Others will slowly meander through tropical waters and make leisurely stops at brilliant white beaches. The bottom line is this: You can take a cruise to any part of the world that you would like to see and do virtually anything that you want to do. But first, you have to decide on a package.Mediterranean packages are extremely popular, but you need to be careful when selecting your package since some itineraries are created with tourism in mind and others with nightlife and partying in mind. For example: Two different cruises to the Mediterranean may stop at the same ports of call but for entirely two different reasons depending on which ship you book on. The first ship might stop at Barcelona and Rome just like the second one but may feature guided tours to top tourist attractions. The second ship may avoid the tourist scene and focus instead on the culture and nightlife to be found in the area.Keep in mind that different packages will attract different types of vacationers and that there are themed cruises that cater to a certain group of people. A slow-paced, educational theme may attract seniors where as a party cruise will attract young couples with no children. Mixing your vacation with a group of people that are your exact opposite may make for a long voyage rather than the fun trip that you had envisioned.A typical Mediterranean cruise will include several ports of call including Barcelona, Villefranche, Rome, Naples and Florence. You will probably have an opportunity to visit all of the main tourist attractions such as Pompeii and the islands that hold the history and archeology of mans earliest civilizations. You may find yourself water skiing, shopping till you drop in Barcelona, scuba diving or playing with the rich and famous in Monte Carlo.If you prefer something a little more slow-paced without as many stops along the way, a voyage along the Alaskan inside passage might be just the thing. Inside passage cruises are so popular because they offer a close and unique view into the exotic beauty of Alaskas ice-glazed land surfaces. Nearly 5% of this beautiful state is covered in ice fields in glaciers which provide a home for wildlife such as humpback whales, orcas, sea lions, dolphins, brown bears and bald eagles.While you will be able to visit some hard to access ports such as Juneau, Skagway, Haines, Ketchikan and Victoria on an inland cruise, the majority of your time will be spent aboard ship watching the majestic glaciers slip by within feet of the ship. You will be able to visit and view botanical gardens, spectacular waterfalls, and quaint towns. Certain itineraries even give passengers the opportunity to land on Annette Island and to be greeted by the Tsimshian elders of Metlakatla.But perhaps the best part about an Alaskan cruise is that it is calm, quiet, and less crowded than other types of cruises. Many destinations frequently visited on an Alaskan cruise are sparsely inhabited which makes for an experience that is entirely different from the shoulder-to-shoulder tourist feel of the Mediterraneans top spots.As you can see from just these two examples, your vacation could be as lively or relaxing as you wish to make it. You can also choose what types of people are on the ship with you by booking passage on a themed cruise. Some of the most popular theme cruises include gay cruises; adventure cruises; honeymoon cruises; family cruises; disabled cruises; singles cruises; and you can also go nudeThere is no limit to the variety that can be found in a sea vacation. Young or old, gay or straight, single or married with kids, adventurous or laid back, it doesnt matter; there is a cruise that is perfect for you. So pay attention to detail, examine your options, and book the vacation of a lifetime with "Princess Cruise Lines" or another popular line today.
The words Cheap Africa Vacations don't really make sense, so why did you search under these three words?If you think about it logically, the word 'cheap' has come to mean poor quality, when really what you want is quality that is inexpensive!!The question now is, do you know anything that is cheap, but is good quality, so don't think you can get Cheap Africa vacations that are also high quality!!The next point is Africa - you need to be more specific - after all Africa is a very large continent, with huge differences in scenery, climate, and cultures, so where in Africa do you rally want to take a cheap vacation?Consider this - Africa takes in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, all different in themselves, but vastly different to Botswana, Tanzania, Zambia, Kenya, which are themselves different to South Africa.We must add to this list, the offshore islands of Zanzibar, and perhaps The Seychelles, and Mauritius, although it would be easy to argue they belong to The Indian Ocean, and wouldn't qualify as somewhere to go for a Cheap Africa Vacation.Finally from the three words Cheap Africa Vacations, we must take the word 'Vacation'.What does a vacation mean to you, because the success or failure of your hard earned break depends entirely on your family unit all being happy with the same kind of vacation.You may think a safari would be amazing, but how do you feel about tents, creepy crawlies? Do you want to spend time looking at ancient treasures and tombs?Are you basically a bone idle beach bum, at your happiest with a good book and a cool refreshing glass? How about the noise, and smell and adventure of the 'souk' with lots of hassle and excitement? Is sophistication necessary for enjoyment?Be in no doubt the continent of Africa offers a great variety of vacation opportunities.From Egypt on the northeastern coast to the game reserves of Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa, there is something for everybody. The most popular tourist areas are those bordering the Mediterranean Sea on the northeastern coast, such as Tunisia, and Morocco, then the islands of the Seychelles.An area of increasing popularity in South Africa is a wine tour. At the opposite end of the continent several thousand miles away, Egypt is home to countless antiquities. A visit to Africa should be made with great care, as it is too large to tackle in one trip. You need to focus on a region and allow enough time to adequately see that area of the continent.
Sacramento is the capital of the state of California, but surprisingly, many areas in the region retain that old small town charm. It is a great city for couples to visit, especially those who are more interested in the history of the area, but there are activities for those who may not be into going to museums and historical places.Old Sacramento is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. The area looks like a section of the city stuck in the 1800s, and although there are a few modern businesses in the area, Old Sacramento is more of a hotspot among tourists rather than a residential or commercial area. There are several museums and quaint shops in the area, as well as a few restaurants. The most visited part of Old Sacramento is the California State Railroad Museum, full of artifacts and trains, many of which are intact from the time they were last used. (Travel to California became much easier and quicker with the introduction of the Steam Engine.)The city of Sacramento is also home to many festivals that many people come from all over the world to attend. The Traditional Jazz Music Festival is held annually over the Memorial Day Weekend and the California State Fair is one of the most popular events of its kind in the world. Held annually for the last 152 years, the California State Fair draws in more than a million visitors each year and is always filled with fun exhibits and entertaining performances.As far as dining is concerned, Mortons Steakhouse is a wonderful upscale restaurant to spend the night at, as is the Biba Ristorante Italiano, which has won the Best Restaurant in Sacramento award multiple times. If you are in the mood for Chinese, P.F. Chang's China Bistro is always a favorite spot among couples.Sacramento is a city that is buzzing with excitement and there is plenty to do and see in the wonderful city.