Should You Rent a Car in Las Vegas?

Every time I travel to Las Vegas, NV, numerous people share their opinions with me regarding renting a car. It seems that each person who has been to Las Vegas has either a strong opinion that you absolutely need to rent a car when you visit the city, or a strong opinion that renting a car is a waste of time in Las Vegas. The decision should ultimately be made in regards to what you plan on doing while on vacation.

The first question is, how will you get from the airport to your hotel? If you are staying in a hotel on the famous Las Vegas strip, there will be a shuttle available at the airport to take you to your destination for a few dollars. Some hotels might have free shuttles. Hotel shuttle tickets can also sometimes be purchased in advance or might be included in a vacation package deal. Ask your travel agent or call your hotel in advance to see what kind of airport travel is available. The same shuttles are available to take you back to the airport at the end of your trip.

If you are staying in a hotel on the Las Vegas strip, and you plan to spend the majority of your vacation time gambling and site seeing on the strip, you probably will not need to rent a car. However, be prepare to walk a lot. The strip might seem small on a map or by description, but it a couple miles long. If you do not rent a car, be prepared to be content with not seeing everything. Remember that if you find yourself wishing you rented a car in the middle of your trip, you can simply call a car rental company. They are usually very accommodating.

If you are staying in a hotel at one of the extreme ends of the strip and want to see every hotel on the strip, you might want to rent a car. A car also allows you to tour the strip from the street and see the strip from a distance, which is an awesome site at night. If you cannot walk long distances, or cannot stay on your feet for long periods of time, a rental car will help you get around. The best use of a car in Las Vegas is leaving the strip. There are many other things to see in Las Vegas, including Fremont Street, the desert, and Red Rock Canyon. Hoover Dam is also a short drive away. The natural wonder of Red Rock Canyon is worth the drive, and makes a great afternoon trip away from the loud and sometimes harsh casinos.

If you do rent a car in Las Vegas, make sure you are still prepared to walk. Hotel parking lots are often a block behind the hotel, which makes for a good walk. This also makes it not worth it to drive from casino to casino. You end up walking just as much from parking lots to buildings as you would from casino to casino. It is best to park in an area near the middle of where you want to visit and then walking around to the various attractions, returning to your car only to drive to another larger area.

If you are looking for an extreme experience, there are several companies in Las Vegas that rent luxury and exotic cars by the hour or day. You can cruise up and down the famous Las Vegas strip in a cherry red exotic sports car with all eyes on you!

Also note that Las Vegas does have public transportation. They have a bus system, standardized cab rates, and a new trolley system on the strip. Investigate these options before your vacation to plan what kind of transportation will work best for you. Cabs can be quite pricey, but they are everywhere. Cab rates are standardized to prevent cabbies from taking advantage of tourists. Buses can be inconvenient to wait for, depending on your schedule. The trolley system on the strip is fairly new and had a lot of bugs to work out. I vacationed in Las Vegas shortly after it was introduced, and it was closed indefinitely. If it is successfully running today, it could be a good option. It runs the length of the strip, making it easier to get to and from the hotels. Tickets could be purchased for one ride, or you could purchase a day pass, weekend pass, or week long pass. Some hotels also have trolleys that run between two or three nearby hotels.

Tour Tel Aviv – A Clash Between Ancient and Modern

Tel Aviv is like its famous Israeli sister Jerusalem in many ways. Although garnering a reputation of being a much more “modern” city, Tel Aviv is bursting with history to explore. The city has many parallels within itself; modern architecture and ambiance mixes with the old Middle Eastern stand-bys of street bazaars overflowing with exotic items.

Tel Aviv can be found along the Mediterranean and is somewhere around 60 miles from the cultural and historical center known as Jerusalem. Be prepared to spend at least three days here to see everything there is; of course, very few cities in the world can be *completely* perused in this short time! It will give you a huge appreciation for the city, however.

Ramses II’s Gate Garden. This is something you might not expect to find in Israel; an ancient site inhabited by the famous pharaoh known as Ramses the Great. The garden is located in Old Jaffa, a site of importance not only in ancient times but in the era of the Crusaders. Stroll around the park and take in the oasis of green away from the hustle and bustle of the main city.

Andromeda’s Rock. For a completely different experience, check out Andromeda’s rock. Although its Greek mythology-related history is doubtful (legend says a woman was chained here against her will and rescued in a classic hero scenario) the site itself is worthy to be noted. The chain of small rocks resembles a tiny group of islands. Come here to relax, look out over the waves, and wonder how many stories actually had a tiny grain of truth to them.

Carmel Market (Shuk Ha-Carmel) is a must-see in Tel Aviv, as markets are in any other Middle Eastern cities. It is another ancient stand-by, a bazaar with thousands of things to tempt the shopper’s eye. Walking along, the view is like that of a huge fair with vendors and canopies along the streets, children running, shoppers haggling. The experience will provide you with great memories of your trip. The market is in the Yemenite Quarter, and the neighborhood has been around since the early 1900s. Try some authentic Israeli food. It will be an unforgettable part of your trip that will leave you with warm memories!

Would you expect to hear an orchestra in Israel? If you have good timing and can get tickets to the performance, you can! The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra has its base at Mann Auditorium, located at Habimah Square. In Habimah Square you can also find the Habimah Theater for a bit of Americana in the Middle East! If you love music and are bored in this part of the city, it’s by your own choice!

To get a glimpse of sites the medieval Crusaders might have seen, check out the section of Tel Aviv known as “Old Jaffa.” In ancient times the city was a thriving port, and remains of homes from thousands of years ago have since been found. Stop by the old tombstones; no one is sure exactly how old they are, but they’re rumored to cover hundreds of years from circa 400s B.C. to 400s A.D. There aren’t very many places in the world that one can view gravesites this old.

If you happen to want a small taste of the modern (perhaps in the shopping department) you won’t be disappointed here! For some thoroughly modern souvenirs or perhaps a fashion binge, try Nachalat Binyamin Pedestrian Mall (you will also find exquisite handmade items here), Dizengoff Center (which boasts theaters, places to eat and a large array of stores) or Azrieli Center, the city’s towering landmark. You’ll want to take into account that very few, if any, of those stores are open on Saturdays, and some will not be accessible between the hours of 1:00 and 4:00.

To discover Tel Aviv’s place in history, check out Eretz Israel Museum, a huge complex dealing with the history of this ancient city. Some of the things to check out are the Olive Oil Plant, museum collections breaking up different artistic mediums into easy-to-swallow exhibits, and the Planetarium. This is a big place so make sure you have at least a few hours to devote to the Eretz Israel Museum. You won’t be disappointed, and will come away with more knowledge of the city you’re seeing.

All Inclusive Packages

By Christina VanGinkel

Choosing a vacation package can be a great way to save money on the overall cost of a trip, but take the time to find out what is included in each package that is under consideration. For example, all-inclusive does not necessarily mean what it sounds like. It might mean all-inclusive at the resort or hotel, but not include any travel expenses. On the other hand, it might mean that all attractions are included for a single price, maybe some vouchers for meals, but surprisingly, you must make your own reservations for lodging and cover all of your own travel expenses. These are rare, but I have seen them listed in conjunction with amusement parks and similar destinations. Then again, for some trips, such as a cruise, an all-inclusive price might include travel to and from the departing and incoming port, your cabin on board ship, meals, even gratuities and travel back and forth to the ports of call along the way, truly an all-inclusive assortment of travel items.

What exactly is Included?

Our local area has a small travel agency that puts together all-inclusive packages to NASCAR races. The packages include your travel, your room, and tickets to the main race. All your meals and additional tickets to other events at the destination on the same weekend are all extra. They offer similar getaways to casinos. They provide bus fare to the casino, a meal voucher, even money to be spent in the casino, often referred to as Fun Money, and tickets to a show that the casino may be hosting. Chances are though, that it is not the headliner, and if you want tickets to that particular show, there is an extra cost, often as much as the cost of the complete inclusive package that they originally advertised. This does not mean that the all-inclusive package is a bad deal; it just means that you need to be aware of what the term means each time you are considering it, as it does not mean the same thing each time.

Question the Small Stuff

Ski resorts often offer all-inclusive packages. Again, all-inclusive can vary greatly on its meaning, depending on the resort in question. Some might offer lodging, and access to some of the amenities, such as limited access to the gym or pool area, along with a beginner’s ski lesson, and a ski rental. Others might include access to all the amenities, including lift tickets, meals, lodging, even travel. Keep in mind that those packages that include items you do not need, such as lessons or rental equipment can be more costly than they seem. Do not assume that just because the rental and lesson are included that your lift ticket is also. Read the details, or else you might end up having to put out extra money upon your arrival for items that you assumed were included in the all-inclusive package, and having paid for amenities that you do not need or want.

Never Assume Anything

Beach resorts are another place that commonly offer all-inclusive packages, and as with all the others, they vary from resort to resort as to what is included. If you plan to scuba dive, bike, snorkel, etc., you should ask specifically if any of these extras are built into the packages, you are considering. If they are tied directly to the resort, you can sometimes get them added, or at least discounts on rental equipment needed. Other times, beach resorts will build packages around these activities that are such a draw for customers. Again, all-inclusive might or might not include travel there and back, or any travel that might be needed while you are there, especially if you are staying on an island, and you plan to visit surrounding islands.

Get the Details

All-inclusive can mean many different things. Ask upfront the details of any packages, right down to the basics, and never assume something is included. If you are unclear about a detail, question it before you sign on the dotted line. Get it all in writing, and that way the monies you bring with to shop while sightseeing will go for that, and not to cover some basic amenity that you wrongly assumed was included in your package.

Step Back in History: Visit the Battlefields!

There are two kinds of people that seek information about our nation’s history; die-hard enthusiasts and history buffs, and the common man or woman just curious about the events that brought him or her here to this place in time. The American Civil War is one of the most fascinating times of our nation’s history to research because of the many parallels.

In war, men could be ruthless, barbaric and cruel, but when they returned home they were gentleman, dressed in coats and top hats, remembering to show their best of manners. The battlefields of the Civil War are well documented and most are very well preserved. If you are a fan of this time period in our country’s history, try visiting some of the battlefields where men fought and died for the American ideal.

The war began in 1861. For the next five years, bloodshed and casualty lists grew to be a common part of the American experience. The Battle of Bull Run in August 1861 was one of the first major engagements. The Battle of Antietam (if you’re Northern) or Sharpsburg (if you’re Southern) was General Lee’s daring thrust into Northern soil in September 1862. The Battle of Fredericksburg followed in December, and some of 1863’s engagements included Chancellorsville (May) and Gettysburg (July). 1864 saw the battles of Cold Harbor, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania, among many others.

Antietam, Maryland

Although this may seem to be a tiny place not worth the effort to visit (there is no lodging in the town itself) I strongly suggest that anyone visiting Civil War battlefields should make this one of their first stops. On September 17, 1862, Robert E. Lee’s daring raid into Maryland climaxed at Antietam. This engagement ended with thousands of casualties and showed the North they were no longer safe from the ravages of war. At “Bloody Lane” alone (a sunken path that is one of the battlefield’s major attractions) countless soldiers fell into the forgotten ditch. You can see still the sunken lane and marvel at the vast size of the fields stretching out in every direction.

Also not to miss at Antietam is the famous Burnside’s Bridge (once known as Rohrbach’s Bridge) which has been the subject of many Civil War photos and commentaries. Union General Burnside’s men, wading in the creek underneath the bridge, were fair targets for Confederates safely entrenched on the other side. This old stone bridge is a great place to stand and admire the courage of men of both sides who gave everything they had to their respective causes.

Chancellorsville, Virginia

Pulling into the parking lot at Chancellorsville Visitor’s Center, it seems to be a barren, empty place. Once you are standing in this modern lot surrounded by endless woods and soaring trees, the silence almost pushes a sense of anxiety and dread on your shoulders. The battlefield here has a very subdued and reverent feel.

In the clearing behind the visitor’s center, you can find a big stone statue commemorating where General Stonewall Jackson fell. (This isn’t clearly marked, or wasn’t when I was there at least. I came across it quite by accident!) Take time and notice the tiny wooden marker behind this that says “Unknown Union soldier.” It’s a sad reminder that many of the men and boys killed here were never identified. Tour the woods and read the markers, wondering how so many thousands could actually fall in these woods that still look much as they did.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Perhaps the bloodiest of all Civil War battlefields, this field that became famous on the first three days of July in 1863 is beautifully preserved. Countless monuments of all shapes, sizes and styles dramatize the fields as you drive around on a quiet and peaceful tour.

Don’t miss Little Round Top, the rocky hill where the Union defended the high ground; Devil’s Den, a pile of gigantic boulders that have stood on this spot for millions of years; Pickett’s Charge, a large, open field where Confederate soldiers bravely marched without being allowed to return fire; and McPherson’s Ridge, beautiful sloping farmland where you can almost still feel the presence of those men from long ago.

When you’ve seen these major sites, check out Culp’s Hill, a secluded knoll where fighting never seemed to stop, or Confederate Avenue, filled with picturesque scenery and rows of cannons stretched out alongside the road.

Essential Ireland: Counties Cork, Clare, and Galway

If there was ever a country touched by magic, Ireland must be that country. A particular fog of uncertainty and excitement hangs over the green hills and the wide, picturesque valleys, as if druid priests are still imprinting their spirits across the land. One constantly receives the impression that there’s something missing, that there is very little about this ancient and beautiful land that can truly be understood.

Ireland is famous for its verdant valleys, its striking ancient castles, and its beauty and mysticism. Of course there aren’t very many people, even world travelers, who have time to see every single city in the country they are visiting. This is why it’s important to make a list of what you would really feel terrible if you came back from Ireland without having seen. What is essential to see in Ireland? There are many things, but some are a more integral part of your Irish experience than others.

County Cork

The winner of the most visited Irish place is more than likely Blarney Castle. Everyone has heard the story of the Blarney Stone and its claim to give you a silken tongue, but what few people know is that actually bending backwards to kiss the stone requires a bit of effort. However, I would never recommend going to Ireland without kissing the Blarney Stone, even if you’re a bit squeamish of heights; it is like going to Paris and failing to see the Eiffel Tower! As is the story with many other castles, the current Blarney Castle is only one of three to occupy this same site. It is an imposing place by exterior view, but the coming and going of tourists serve to make it more cheerful. Don’t miss Blarney Castle as you traverse through the land of the leprechauns.

County Clare

Poulnabrone Dolmen is a huge prehistoric rock formation that many believe was made by hand, setting two 10-ton rock slabs on top of some smaller slabs. These odd druid formations are one of the most prevalent pictures that come to mind when thinking about the Emerald Isle. Once an ancient tomb, the Poulnabrone Dolmen now sits peacefully in County Clare, while the rocky plain known as the Burren stretches out around it. A field of cracked limestone covers the plain as far as the eye can see, giving it a barren and deserted look.

If you’re traveling to County Clare you absolutely have to check out the Cliffs of Moher. The sheer size of these huge rock cliffs and the crashing waves below will inspire you. An aerial view would provide the best view, but since many people don’t want to come off an airplane in Ireland and go up into another plane immediately, you might want to content yourself with the amazing view from the top. Be assured this view is just as amazing as the aerial would be!

County Galway

The Connemara Valley is famous for Connemara marble. Purchasing an Irish cross made of Connemara marble spurred me to research this historic region, and I wasn’t disappointed at the number of things to see. First, the Connemara Valley itself is worth stopping to visit. After you’ve taken in the beauty of the natural scenery, stop by the 19th century Clifden Castle. Although not a medieval home, the name “castle” suits Clifden’s appearance very well, even though most of it is now in ruins. The ruins seem to help further the mysterious quality of the valley in an eye-pleasing way.

Also in Connemara you’ll find Roundstone Bay, where many fishing and ocean-going activities are possible. Take time to stop and view the beautiful valley reflected in the bay and you’ll see why Ireland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. If you decided not to visit Clifden Castle, you might want to see Connemara’s Ross Castle. If you want to spend a considerable amount of money and wish to stay here or have dinner reservations here, Ross Castle – more of a manor house than a castle – is your first stop. For the right price, you can be a guest at this fantastic place that is beautifully furnished and commands a fantastic view.

No matter what you decide to do while visiting the Emerald Isle, you will have great memories (and incredible pictures!) for years to come.

Getting Kids Involved in Planning a Vacation

By Christina VanGinkel

Choosing where to go on a family vacation, or what activities the vacation should include, can be a fun activity in its own right, especially if everyone in the family gets to have input. This does not mean that it gets to be a free for all, with everyone shouting out destinations, just that everyone has the opportunity to provide suggestions on what they, as individuals, would like to do. Children love to have a say about everything in their lives, and vacations are no different. Too often as adults, we just assume that kids will enjoy themselves no matter where we take them, and with some kids, this might be true. With families that have more than one child though, making sure that everyone is happy can be difficult sometimes, even impossible, but with a vacation, we should take the time to at least find out what would be intriguing to them when they think of a vacation.

Announce a family meeting at a set time and place, or at the end of dinner one evening, state that the following night, this will be a topic open for suggestion. Make sure everyone knows ahead of time, so the opportunity is there to put some real thought into his or her suggestions. Inform them that all suggestions will be given consideration, no matter how far fetched, that at this point in time, you are on an information gathering expedition, and that the activities they would like to do are as important, if not more so, than the destinations they might suggest.

If you have a large family, it might even be prudent to have each child write down their suggestions and have a parent read them, aloud, to the family. For each suggestion on an activity or destination, if they are old enough, ask them to also research what the cost involved might be. Small children should be excluded from this task; just coming up with a few ideas will be enough work for them. You will have to go back over each suggestion with more thorough research, but this will let the kids know that you are seriously valuing their ideas. It will also provide them with a reality check if they have suggestions such as taking a trip to Hawaii, and your budget is closer to driving to the nearest Waterpark. Tell them they need to consider transportation, lodging, meals, and activities. Be sure you participate in this task, offering up destination suggestions. Each family member should also write down one or two activities that are no cost, which they would like to do on the trip. Take a walk on a beach, sit on the top of the snowboard hill, and watch the sunset or rise, take some time to read a book, sleep, talk. A successful vacation always includes what I refer to as down time. The problem is if we do not recognize what we consider downtime, we will not set aside some time to do those things.

If they have suggested just an activity, instead of a destination, still have them research the cost. Skydiving for example, may be something older kids might suggest. Have them check both the cost and age requirements.

Once you have narrowed down where and what the vacation might consist of, have the children email, write, or phone for travel brochures related to the trip. Again, have older kids do some research online, or by calling the Chamber of Commerce in the area where you will be visiting to see if any discount books are available. Surprisingly, many destinations both large and small have discounts and coupons available for everything from lodging to attractions, just for the asking.

Getting kids involved in the decision-making and planning of a vacation has several distinct benefits. It shows them that you value their ideas, and that maybe you would have enjoyed Hawaii just as much as they would, but realistically, it just was not going to happen. It also makes them accountable to a point for how well they enjoy themselves. Kids that were given the opportunity to pick and choose at least parts of the vacation agenda cannot come back at you and say that the whole vacation is boring and that they are not having any fun, why did they not go here or there, or get to do this activity or that. You will already have gone over those issues.

Get your family involved in planning your next vacation and you will also extend the enjoyment, as planning and looking forward to a vacation can sometimes be as much fun as the reward of the vacation itself.

A Few Things to Assure a Great London Vacation

It seems that mystery has clung to the damp, foggy streets of London since its ancient beginnings as Londinium, a Roman settlement. Far from being dreary and depressive, as its weather often suggests, one of the world’s most well known cities has a bright and exciting mix of things to see and do. If you are in London and you feel bored, you aren’t a true world traveler! It’s impossible to see London in a few days, but for most tourists, that’s all the time that is available. Of course you want to see the big attractions like Big Ben, the Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey. You may know what they symbolize, but do you know the history behind them?

Big Ben, as the huge clock tower is affectionately known, had its beginning in 1858 when it was first cast. It was cast at a place known as Whitechapel and is more formally known as the Great Clock of Westminster (although the millions of tourists who have seen it will most likely still call the old tower by its “common” name). The idea for the clock tower was first conceived in the mid 1830s when a fire ripped the Palace of Westminster to shreds, destroying one of London’s most historical buildings. Part of the architecture was salvaged, including a hall from the late 11th century. No one is sure where the name “Big Ben” came from, but it has been speculated about since the 1800s.

Speaking about the Tower of London brings a shiver to the heart of any person who’s studied even a minimal amount of London’s history. It’s the original “Tower of Terror” and has had more than its fair share of violence, intrigue, and mystery. Sketches from the Renaissance era show that the tower has changed very little over the years. Perhaps workers are afraid to radically alter its appearance? Beginning with William the Conqueror, many royal personages have placed their mark on the Tower of London. Some have apparently never left! Whether or not you believe in the ghostly presences that haunt this place where innocent people literally “lost their heads,” you’ll have to admit it’s not the sort of place you’d like to be after dark.

A very different kind of fortification stood there in ancient days; the spot of the Tower of London was once inhabited by the Roman fort and if you look carefully at the architecture, you can still find parts of the ancient masonry. If you happen to pass by Tower Hill, note that this was once the spot of some of the tower’s infamous hangings, where London’s sheriff was allowed to treat unfortunate criminals how he wished. This place has a very dark and dusty air, so if young children – or adults – feel uncomfortable here, there is plenty of reason for such feelings.

Westminster Abbey, begun in the 1200s, was added onto in the centuries following until the architectural marvel of this modern day structure was complete. Royalty, along with other influential people throughout history, are buried here. Make a special agenda note to have a reverent moment of silence at the tomb of a favorite king or queen, perhaps leaving a tiny flower or other item as a token of your remembrance. Some parts of the Abbey include the Poet’s Corner, where tombs of some famous writers and statues of others can be found; a chapel that belonged to the famous Edward the Confessor; and the Lady Chapel where you can find tombs and vaults of many kings and queens including Henry VII, James I, and Elizabeth I. This is an extremely important stop on a tour of England’s history.

The history of London Bridge is a long and sometimes strange one; there have been various bridges over the same spot since ancient times. In medieval times, traitors’ heads were hung over the bridge’s ramparts, a warning for others who contemplated treason. In the 1800s, a newer version of the bridge was taken to Arizona as a tourist attraction. Another bridge was then built, but did not retain the charm of the older versions, which had Tudor style homes and medieval churches along the span of the bridge.

There are many other things to do in London, of course, but these few major attractions will help you to get the head start you need for a memorable British vacation.

Visit Aberdeen in Scotland for a Fun Vacation

Recently finding out about some Scottish blood I have while working on genealogy has made me increasingly interested in my ancestors’ homeland. In researching one of the towns of my ancestral origin, I discovered that there are some great attractions in Aberdeen (in the area of Aberdeenshire), Scotland, and the more I researched, the more it made me want to travel there!

Aberdeen in northeast Scotland borders the North Sea and one of its natural attributes is the Dee River. In the native tongue of different Celtic groups, “aber” meant river, so the name Aberdeen signifies the city was located at the river Dee. Aberdeen is a bustling modern city whose restaurants and shopping districts make it desirable to tourists of all walks of life, but to find the quiet country life you’d expect in bucolic Scotland, you’ll have to think outside the box.

Trek outside of town and explore Aberdeenshire until you discover the distinctive Castle Fraser. A bit more modern than other castles, it’s a 16th and 17th century monument to Scotland’s nobility. The interior will make even the most stoic visitor’s mouth drop; it isn’t all gild and lace as many castles are, but it’s enough to make you wish you lived a few centuries ago! Old paintings and furniture have been carefully set up to give a feel of the past, and Castle Fraser even boasts its own hidden rooms!

If your mind is still trying to contemplate the beauty of this lovely castle, perhaps another castle tour is what you’re craving. Try visiting Craigievar Castle in Aberdeenshire for another historical treat. Craigievar is a tall and slender castle with narrow turrets, and its appearance gives it an ominous and mysterious air. Built in the 1620s, there are more rooms and artifacts here than it seems could be fit inside the narrow space!

If you’re interested in life on the North Sea, trek back into town for the Aberdeen Maritime Museum. You can find ships, interpretive displays, and lots of fascinating imagery here that you might not expect. The building incorporates medieval-style architecture, resembling a Gothic cathedral facade in many ways. Also on the property you’ll find the Provost’s house, dating from the Elizabethan age of the 1590s. The museum has been held in high standing by many sources. For an extra special treat, note that the harbor can be seen from an observation point. Admission is free.

For an even more close up glimpse of Aberdeen and the sea, take a walk around Aberdeen Harbor. Those with reservations might plan to come here looking for a ferry that takes tourists to the islands of Orkney and Shetland. Although the district surrounding the waterfront is modern, some things (such as fish markets) have little changed since the Victorian era.

Castlegate is Aberdeen’s old residential area, a chance to escape modern surroundings and step back in time. Visit St. Andrew’s Chapel for a reverent glimpse of Episcopal worship in the 19th century. The church was begun in 1816. Stop in and see the interior arches that are simple yet beautiful. King’s College is one of the oldest if not the oldest buildings in Castlegate, founded in 1495. The college chapel was constructed in the first year of the 16th century and the estate can still be seen in all its old glory today. Walking through Castlegate is a good way to go if you want to be close to modern comforts but still be distanced from the bustle of the downtown.

Do you wish to experience the jaw-dropping exhilaration of the Grand Canyon without having to return to the United States? The Bullers of Buchan will satisfy your daredevil longing. Stand at the edge of the gorge and look down over the plunge of about 200 feet – if you dare. The gigantic rock fingers far below jut into the sea, making a fantastic view you won’t see anywhere else. Standing here and watching the waves crash against the ancient rocks can be either terrifying or relaxing, depending on your like or dislike of heights!

There’s much more to see and do in Aberdeen, but then again, the entire country of Scotland is a fabulous tourist destination; don’t be afraid to look around. Good luck, and Slainte mhor agad! (Scottish Gaelic for “Great health to you!”)

Travel to Jerusalem, the Fatherland of Spirituality

It is interesting to note that, as our world gets more technological, many of us feel a desire to slip back in time to a place less hindered by modern standards. We want to experience the simple lifestyles of our ancestors, but without completely being isolated from the outside world. Israel’s most famous city, Jerusalem, is a great way to do both these things at once; the architecture and atmosphere belong to ancient days, but you’re never too far from the more modern heart of the city.

You may come to Jerusalem as a tourist, but you’ll leave feeling as if a part of you remains firmly planted in that small but glorious land. You cannot just “see” Jerusalem, or any part of the Holy Land; you have to “feel” it. Jerusalem offers an endless spectrum of things to see and do. These things span the themes of religion, architecture, history, and other entertainment you wouldn’t expect to see here.

Make sure to buy three things when you start your Jerusalem journey; a good map (preferably in English!), good walking shoes, and a bag to carry all the purchases you’ll be finding in Jerusalem’s various souvenir stands and bazaars. Everything in Jerusalem seems to have a religious theme, from Christian spots of veneration, Muslim places of worship, and Jewish historical architecture.

Jews, Christians and Muslims will find many things to bring them closer to their faith in this ancient city. For Christian travelers, there is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of the most famous and iconic buildings in the city. Many consider this the spot where the hill of Golgotha, the place of Jesus’ crucifixion, occurred and the first church was constructed on the same ground in the 4th century. Medieval Crusaders made sure the church was rebuilt and it continued to be renovated and fixed up in the centuries between then and now. For a feel of how the ancient Israelis of the first century buried their dead, check out the indoor crypts in the church that are thought to date from this time period.

Although many people don’t consider the Garden Tomb to be the actual tomb in which Jesus was temporarily buried, it is still symbolic to seek out this famous site and feel the ambiance of the place. It will certainly give you a feeling for first century life and is considered one of the “must-do” Jerusalem attractions for Christian visitors. In this same vein, you might want to visit the Garden of Gethsemane. Although some believe the trees are from Jesus’ time, others argue it is unlikely; during the Roman occupation about 37 years later, records show that trees were cut down in the vicinity. Even so, they are believed to be very ancient, and most people won’t get the chance to touch a tree that is probably well over 1,000 years old very often.

If you are interested in Muslim holy sites, look no further than the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque complex. This is the spot Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven, and a nearby mosque sprang up as a result of this belief. Interestingly enough, the gold dome that is probably Jerusalem’s most famous landmark was not always gold; before the 1960s, it was made of lead, and probably looked very different!

The famous Wailing Wall, part of Solomon’s Temple, is a Jewish holy place, but its deep spiritual connections are of interest to visitors of all faiths. You can find thousands of people here at any given time, so come early and make sure not to be trampled. If the opportunity arises, write a prayer or special note, letter, etc. and place it in the cracks of the old wall. It’s like leaving a piece of you behind even when you have to return home.

No matter what your faith, viewing the ancient city from the Mount of Olives is a special experience that will never be forgotten, no matter how many journeys you may take in your life. You will see the many parallels – radio towers and modern traffic standing calmly next to centuries-old churches and small nondescript homes that look as if they came right out of an ancient era. No trip to Jerusalem will be complete unless you do this!

Scrapbook Vacations, Retreats, Crops, and More!

By Christina VanGinkel

Scrapbook day retreats
Scrapbook spa retreats
Scrapbook crops
Scrapbook weekend packages
Weekend scrapbook events

Scrapbooking has not only taken hold of the whole craft and design industry, it has also made an impact on the travel industry. While scrapbooking is a way to honor your heritage and can be a relatively personal form of art, it can also be a bonding experience between those of us who are so enraptured with this wonderful form of expression. Maybe you want to scrapbook, but just do not know how to progress further than organizing your photos, or maybe you have not even accomplished that. On the other hand, you could be on the opposite end, and have numerous scrapbooks already filled, wonderful layouts galore, but you want to be able to share them with others beyond your immediate family. Maybe you are somewhere in between the two, and are looking for some inspiration to progress, to give a new perspective to your layouts, or want to see what some of the new tools are out there up close and in use before you lay out the money to add them to your own collection. Any of these reasons and dozens more has created the opportunity for scrapbook retreats and overnight crops to take hold and create a complete new layer to this wonderful art form.

If there are no crops or retreats in your area, do not fret, you probably just did not hear about them. Many are small affairs, put on by scrapbook groups or through organizations such as churches or women’s organizations. Not to say that men are not welcome, because as scrapbooking grows in popularity, it is reaching across the sexes and men are not only scrapping, they are designing for the masses and are becoming part of the strong backbone that supports this industry.

Back to the crops and the retreats, if there are no crops or retreats in your locale, or if you want to go to one outside of your area, you can pick from retreats lasting from overnight to weeklong affairs nationwide. Some upcoming crops and retreats that I found by just doing a basic search online include:

The Rubber Stamp and Scrapbook Expo, February 25 and 26, 2006, located in Pomona, California are hosting ongoing crops during the show. You will have three feet of table space, and there will be communal tables set up for sharing tools from companies such as Xyron and Sizzix. They also have upcoming shows in Arizona, North Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Rhode Island.

For those looking for a weekend retreat for both scrapping memories and making new ones, check out the Scrapbook Dairy Weekend Scrapbooking Retreat and Spa. Located near Indianapolis Indiana, in Flat Rock Indiana in the heart of the Midwest, there is a store on the premises for all of your needs in case you forget something, or do not even know what to bring, and as you will be cropping in what was once an old hayloft, space is abundant.

Creating Keepsakes Scrapbook Conventions are located in Portland Oregon, Kansas City Missouri, St. Louis Missouri, Mesa Arizona, Nashville Tennessee, Manchester New Hampshire, Buffalo New York, Valley Forge Pennsylvania, Charlotte North Carolina, Tulsa Oklahoma, Phoenix Arizona, and Bellevue Washington. These conventions offer everything from classes to crops, contests, and much more. If you want to really take a peek at what scrapbooking is all about, even meet a few of the celebrities that have made scrapbooking what it currently is, a Creating Keepsakes Scrapbook Convention is the perfect place to start.

While these are just a small sample of what is available, you will find crops, spas, retreats, and more available across the country. There are retreats and crops available in small towns, big cities, and everywhere in between. Some are associated with stores selling supplies, while others are just basic getaways, where everyone brings their own supplies. Groups can sometimes receive discounts, the same as any other type of vacation or weekend getaway, but there are also many opportunities for singles and even couples. Try a scrapbook retreat or crop if a getaway with a twist is something that you think might be just the type of relaxation you need. Be warned though, that once you go to one, it will be difficult to not want to go repeatedly!