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Travel Carnival: Take Two

Mmmm... what a beautiful collection of travel-related blog posts! Traveling down a canal with grandparents, stepping outside your comfort zone to do a solo international trip, giving street pedalers the finger, finding yourself in a German boot camp, and making new friends while traveling. This 2nd edition carnival of travel is fresh with perspective on life and the road less traveled.

Chookooloonks: Connections
With a beautiful account of connections in our ever-shrinking world, Karen Walrond opens our eyes and hearts to the wonders of traveling and the unexpected blessings of making connections with strangers (including at the BlogHer 2006 conference). Are strangers so strange after all? 

Hurrah! I’m in London! 
First impressions of London and traveling solo are always interesting. What sticks with me from Cain's trip is his wit, sense of adventure, and keen observations about sometimes feeling small in a big world. Great read!

Babblogue of India
Travel to India with beautiful photos that you're likely not to see elsewhere. A snippet of Lakshmi's travelogue while traveling with her husband. [Note: Depending on your browser, you may have to scroll down a ways to see the article.]

Trip Report: Visiting New York City with Kids
Great account of family travel to New York City... activities planned in advance, a lesson for us all in patience and strategic planning. If we could all be as organized as The Family CEO.

Bonjour from Paris!
A wonderful snapshot of a day in the life of Georgina touring Paris... and a sneak peek at the newly refurbished L'Orangie with the "greatest hits of Classical Modern art" (Monet, Cezanne, Picasso, Renoir, Modigliani)... It's been a while since I've toured a classic art museum and this post gets me in the mood for oil paintings.

Washington DC: U.S. Botanic Garden
An outdoor museum of fleurs and plants amid the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Think the U.S. capital is one big building lined city? Mary Jo Manzanares offers a rare look at what grows and flourishes near the Capitol Building; a great tip for travel to D.C.

Travel Destination - Your Friendly Travel Guide
Gaudi strikes again, and Lewis writes about one of Barcelona's most extravagant designs by the master Spanish architect that is still in construction, a century after Gaudi's death.

After All, You're My Westerwald
In Pam's own words, "A bad hotel, a surly waitress, the smell of meat, and an unhappy duck." What could be more intriguing? This post had me laughing between sips of tea. For anyone who has traveled to foreign land and encountered hall of fame characters along the way, this is for you.

Road Tripping with Yardbird
Katherine Dynes takes a solo road trip before picking up her grandmother for 1500 more miles. Three of her best road trip tips: don't stay at a hotel with a parking lot full of RVs or a staff that gets cranky when you use their ice machine to fill your cooler. Plus, find out why truckers suck in adverse weather conditions and why highways are like Starbucks.

Giving Hawkers the Finger
At India Ink, Basia gives one of the most pragmatic and insightful tips for travelers tired of getting heckled by street vendors ("Buy jewelry!" "Sunglasses cheap just for you!"). Try her peaceful protest approach and meditate on it.

Trinity Prep School - Our Erie Canal Tour
A story of a family who traveled down the New York State Canal System of waterways with all the generations, taking their homeschooling learning into action to see what western expansion helped invent. This educational tour is a great idea for summer family travel.

Birdwatching in Washington 
Bird watchers keep a sharp eye on nature's small, flighty creatures like no one else. John's observations (of a D.C. guy) from visiting Washington state for the first time shows us all what we may otherwise overlook when gawking at bigger landmarks like mountains, or even visiting with people. Thanks for a reminder to stop and smell the proverbial roses.

San Juan Islands
Sweet. One of my favorite places on Earth is the cluster of islands off the northwest coast of Washington state. Rhonda at Girls Getaways shows us a great escape for any kind of traveler, mainly those who fancy adventure and activities and raw natural beauty.

Mi Hacienda Es Su Hacienda

By guest blogger Jacquelin Carnegie

When planning a family reunion or wedding, taking over a small resort for your exclusive use works wonders. Certain criteria apply to site selection: The resort (or villa or hacienda or block of rental homes) should be a superior facility, offer sumptuous food, non-intrusive service, first class accommodations, and a secluded setting away from distractions.

There are a number of properties around the country (and the world) that exemplify such high standards. Here are tips on how to research your group's idyllic casa away from casa:

  1. Look for places that have the feel of a private estate, an ambience of another time and place and are so well run that you (the planner) can relax and enjoy yourself as well.
  2. Pick a spot with a distinct change of atmosphere to reinforce the concept of getting away from it all. Also, make sure it's the type of place where guests are pampered and made to feel special. You can feel the difference in the level of relaxation for guests when a resort is reserved for your group's exclusive use.
  3. Small resorts with a residential feel and hotel amenities work best for groups of friends and/or family. The sense of being on a private estate helps people let their guard down and unwind, fostering camaraderie—the reason you all wanted to get together in the first place!

Prep Steps Before You Go

  1. Before your group arrives, send the property a detailed list of a) The names of all the people in your party, b) The names of people sharing rooms and c) Of those sharing rooms, which ones require a double bed or two single beds.
  2. Charm also has its downside. In a hotel, most rooms are uniform but in an estate or hacienda, every room is unique, both in size and decoration. Make your guests aware of this beforehand so cousins don't get miffed because one has a nicer, larger room.
  3. If the property offers activities (such as horseback riding or tennis) or has a spa facility (with facials and massages), check if these services need to be booked in advance. If so, let your guests know and provide a way to tally who wants what when - before you arrive!
  4. If you are going to a resort outside the U.S., make sure everyone has a valid passport (and remembers to bring it).

Recommended Haciendas in Chile and Mexico

Hacienda Los Lingues in Chile:

Hacienda Los Lingues is about an hour south of Santiago in the heart of the wine-producing Cachapoal Valley. It's one of Chile's oldest and best-preserved estates and the same family, whose home it's been since 1599, now runs it as a hotel. The debonair Don German Claro Lyon and his family are your delightful hosts.

If you're looking for old-world, South American charm, the Hacienda Los Lingues is the spot. Shaded verandas lead to 18 rooms and suites furnished with heirloom antiques, family photos and memorabilia.

Activities for groups: a) wine tasting - there's a lovely vineyard on the property and day trips to local wineries; b) horseback riding - the stable of "Aculeo" horses, related to the famed Lipizzanas, is world-renowned.

And, if looking for a destination wedding spot, you can get married in the estate's beautiful, traditional Chilean chapel. You'll feel as if you're on the set of some fantastic South American movie.

Hacienda Temozón in Yucatan, Mexico:

In the early 1990's, abandoned (and formerly luxurious) haciendas from the economic heyday of the Yucatan region around Merida, were restored and converted into luxury hotels. Hacienda Temozón, about a half hour from Merida, is the grandest of three newly-restored properties, now part of The Luxury Collection of Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

As a result, you get the best of both worlds: a sense of the affluent lifestyle enjoyed during the economic boom and lovely, modern amenities. Much of the original décor, such as intricately-decorated floor tiles and beamed ceilings, has been preserved in the 28 elegantly-furnished rooms and guest quarters.

Spacious gardens, a spectacular swimming pool, and spa make this an ideal place to relax. It's also an excellent base for exploring the rich cultural heritage of the Yucatan peninsula and the surrounding Mayan architectural sites.

There is also a 17th-century church on the property, ideal for weddings.

Jacquelin Carnegie is a Contributing Travel Editor to Accent magazine. For the past 15 years, she has covered international travel destinations for both consumer and business publications.

Family Reunion Myths Revealed

My family has been having reunions since I was little girl with goldilocks. For the third in a row, we've gotten together on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. Over the years, I've discovered a few myths that I hope will help any reunion planner in preparing for that next family reunion.

Myth 1: I won't drink too much
Be honest. Unless you're making a conscious effort to not drink at all, chances are you'll drink more than usual.

Myth 2: I won't eat too much
Family reunions are all about the food. Obviously, the reason to get together is to reconnect. But more effort goes into meals for this occasion than most other parties. Here are summertime recipes for family reunions.

Myth 3: I won't get a sunburn
Chances are you will, unless you're extra careful to apply sunblock throughout the day, and stay out of the sun during peak midday hours.

Myth 4: I will get ample sleep
It always seems that something is disrupting a perfect night's sleep: varying hours of going to bed, staying up late, getting up early for scheduled activities, kids over-excited, etc.

Myth 5: I will visit with everyone
Chances are slim that you'll have meaningful conversations with all attendees. But the connections you make are important, a link to your past, and a way to keep in touch with extended family. Make a mental list of the top three people you really want to reconnect with and make an effort to do so. You'll thank yourself.

Myth 6: Like other vacations, I'll relax as much as I want
There's an air of formality in a family reunion that is unlike friends traveling together or immediate family taking a vacation. Relatives come together who are genetically similar, but often live very different lives, in different places. You may feel the need to connect with select (extended) family members, while others are interested in visiting with you. This can be tiring, albeit rewarding.

Myth 7: Recycling will take care of itself
People tend to be much more lax about following recycling rules when at a big gathering like a family reunion. A mini tragedy of the commons. Luckily for my family, I have one highly type A uncle who takes big plastic garbage bins, labels them each with his neat hand writing ("plastics," "trash," "glass"), and strategically places them around the main eating/gathering area. We tease him, but appreciate his orderly tendencies.

Myth 8: Injuries are avoidable when family gathers
As for all other vacations (and life in general), safety is important. Have a first-aid kit and phone handy for emergencies. If you have any doctors in your family, the trip organizer may want to locate that person ahead of time and ask if they could wear a cell phone during the reunion just in case.

Myth 9: All the in-laws will fit in
All in-laws are not created equal. Pay attention to spouses or significant others who aren't socializing as much as others and make an effort to include them in conversations. Ask them about their family reunions, family dynamics, family heritage. Or learn more about what they enjoy doing in their free time. Family reunions can be intimidating for the non-genetically related.

Myth 10: My kids (grandkids, nieces/nephews) are the cutest
All kids are adorable in their own quirky or beautiful ways! Careful of becoming that obsessive family member who talks only of your kids (grandkids or nieces/nephews) and has no interest in any other subjects, or continually draws conversations back to your kids. It's wonderful to see such love and devotion to the kids, but even the kids (if they could speak up for themselves) would blush at all the gush.

What are other family reunion myths? Share your stories.

Prudish Decree: Topless Ban in Paris

If you're looking for nude travel, don't go to Paris. The French, widely known for romance, love, and lax clothing policies on beaches, recently decreed a ban on nude, topless and bare buns (g-string) sun-bathing in the city of Paris. French beaches are still OK to bare flesh, but the city government seeks to mitigate temptations and reign the ropes on skimpy, sunning Parisians.

Defending the decree, city hall sports official Pascal Cherki told Le Parisien that indecent clothing "could have led to temptations and dangerous behavior on the banks of the river." The fine for nude or partial nude sunbathing is 38 euros ($48).

Perhaps this is a French standard for making the city more family-friendly? At least for reigning in the unruly behavior potentially caused by a distraction of bare bods. I'm surprised that Paris would issue such a decree. But then again, French (Parisians, in particular) do pride themselves on being unique and non-conformist. Perhaps nudity has become too commonplace; leave it to the French to set the record straight. Prudity is now unique?

Source: Yahoo via Gadling