More used to Grand Prix cars than dog sleighs, Monacos Prince Alberts forthcoming trek to the North Pole has been greeted with surprise by many.But the Prince is fairly accustomed to the cold, in contrast to the Mediterranean warmth of Monaco where he became ruler last July following the passing of his father Prince Rainier, who had ruled the tax haven for over 50 years.Albert represented Monaco at the last five Winter Olympic Games in their Bobsleigh team. And he is going to face some cold and hostile conditions on his seven day trip to bring to the attention of fellow world leaders the environmental damage to the arctic regions that global warming is having.Speaking at a recent news conference in Monaco, Albert explained his thinking behind the trip to assembled journalists.If in our modest way, by this action we are able to bring environmental problems to the forefront and force some leaders to take stronger actions, this expedition will have achieved its objectives.Environmentalists have welcomed Alberts expedition, and his image in the worlds media is changing from that of a playboy millionaire to a responsible leader.In 2002 47 year old Prince Albert agreed to a DNA test to show whether he was the father to a boy born to a former air hostess he had had a relationship with, and more recently has been linked by the press with 28 year old South African swimming champion Charlene Wittstock.But one of the first actions he took after succeeding to the throne was to sign the Kyoto Protocol, taking Monaco outside of the small group of countries that had failed to ratify the treaty, designed to reduce the worlds emissions of greenhouses gases.Monaco Grand PrixThe Monaco Prince Albert inherited from his father is now the worlds best known tax haven, and the ultimate European destination for luxury hotels, including the Hotel de Paris, frequently quoted in guides as among the top ten in the world.one local on-line travel guide comment that Prince Alberts interest in the worlds environment sets a different agenda than that of his father, who transformed the principality in his reign into an economically safe country for the worlds wealthy to live and invest.Residents of the principality enjoy a zero rated income tax.As well as being a tax haven, Monaco hosts the best known Formula 1 Grand Prix of the year around the streets of Monte Carlo and Fontveille in May. Over recent years Monaco has also become a destination of choice for the super-rich in September, when it hosts the Monaco Yacht Show.And while the Grand Prix and Yacht Show fill the hotels in "Monte Carlo" and Monaco each year, and on an everyday basis every second car seems to be an Aston Martin or Ferrari, locals hope that Prince Albert doesnt look too close to home when it comes to his concern for the environment. Cancelling the "Monaco Grand Prix" in 2007 to show his concern for the environment would certainly grab world headlines, but might not be a popular decision among his subjects.But locals feel that there is little danger of this though Albert is after all the son of Hollywood star Grace Kelly, and future media appearances could just as well be in celebrity magazines as environment campaign ones.
Travelers who expect to be greeted by lone standing relics of ancient Greece will be awestruck by the sprawling urban metropolis of todays Athens. The capital city is an explorers paradise as historic gems are embedded within the modern day melee and cultural nuances of a turbulent past are written between the lines of concrete and the sparkling blue Aegean Sea. Everywhere in Athens is a testament to why this mythic peninsula is considered the cradle of Western civilization and modern democracy.Of particular interest, Athens received a much needed facelift in preparation for the 2004 Olympics. Notorious for its nefos (smog) resulting from rapid growth and congestion following World War II and the Cold War, Athens realized the need to clean up its act when it became clear that historic monuments were eroding at an alarming rate due to acid rain from air pollution. Due to this Olympic makeover, it is extremely easy to navigate around the well marked streets in English and Greek and transportation has never been more streamlined.Mythological MythosAncient Greece reached its societal peak in the 1st century BC when magnificent monuments like the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena Nike were constructed on the fortified Acropolis and Socrates and Plato developed their Western thinking schools of thought. While most of the major attractions from the time period are in the center of the city, travel in the outskirts of Athens will bring encounters with many significant locations from this time period. Marathon, of the famous battle (and todays 26.22 mile race), is just northeast of Athens and the ancient Mycenaean excavation site at Velatouri is to the south, boasting the unearthed Thorikos theatre. While the Grecian period is omnipresent, Greece has fascinating Turkish and Persian cultural influences as a result of many wars and takeovers until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the 20th century.Club Hopping or Island Hopping?In the spring and summer evenings, enjoy the cafs and restaurants as they begin to spill into the streets and squares. Greece, and particularly Athens, is notorious for its boisterous and tireless nightlife. The Port of Piraeus comes to life as many vacationers head out for their island excursions from this historic cove. Athens is the perfect place to become immersed in Greek culture and life before taking a ferry ride to one of the surrounding tranquil, historic or party islands the choice is yours. The port itself is also of particular historic interest. One of the oldest in the world, the port was heavily used during the Peloponnesian Wars in the 4th century BC and remnants of the long Themistoclean Walls, which fortified the port and Athens together during this time period, still survive today.A trip to Athens is not only a journey of history, but one of modernity and progress. After Greeces golden age, Athens grandeur was squandered to nearly nothing by invaders and the sweeping tides of history. Today, the free and booming capital city is again a testament to its historic commitment to forward thinking civilization. Experience the rebirth of the foundations of the western world in Athens!For more information, visit http://www.cfares.com.
Czech Republic as a travel destinationAs a travel destination, the "Czech Republic" has much to offer. It's home to beautiful natural scenery, rolling farmlands, villages lost in time, hills crowned with castles, some of the world's finest beers, a mild climate and its vibrant capital, Prague. The Czech Republic comprises two areas, Bohemia in the west and Moravia in the east. Gems in Bohemia include the valleys of the Vltava and Labe rivers, hills and rocky mountains which are perfect for hiking and rambling. Bohemia boasts a number of delightful medieval towns. A sublime example is the historic center of Cesk Krumlov on the banks of the Vltava river. The town features a 13th-century castle with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque components. Moravia is the agricultural heart of the country and is marked by picturesque farms, wooded highlands and vineyards. Brno is the largest city in South Moravia and the Czech Republic's second largest city. It showcases the natural and artistic charms of South Moravia and offers a host of theaters cinemas, and clubs.If you're making your way to Prague from other parts of the country, the area surrounding the capital is well-worth seeing. Notable is the Vltava river valley which has reservoirs, and the many delightful chateaus.Prague guidePrague's many monikers - the Golden City, the City of Hundred Spires and the Crown of the World, attest to its unique splendor. Located on the River Vltava in central Bohemia, Prague was once the seat of Kings of Bohemia and an important trading junction.Nowadays it's a vibrant city with a pulsating nightlife and much to see and do. Add to that an enchanting historic ambiance, a low cost of living and superb beer, and you have the recipe for a great vacation. Here are some highlights.Carving its way through Prague is the Vltava river and many of the city's attractions are around on near it. To experience these riverside charms, take a boat tour along the river. And be sure to take a stroll over the Charles Bridge at night and view the city with its illuminated castle. If Prague has a heart it is surely Wenceslas Square, site of all the city's historic events such as the Prague Spring of 1967 and the Velvet Revolution of 1989 that finally brought an end to communism. Wenceslas Square is now the site of the national museum.For glorious views over the Vltava to the city beyond, head on up to the Castle District on the hill. While you're there, visit the impressive cathedral.The highlight of Prague is its medieval architecture. The city was relatively untouched during the World Wars and so is a showcase of a fascinating medley of architectural styles including Art Nouveau, Baroque, Cubist, Gothic, Neo-Classical, and Renaissance. Add to this the modern towers of commerce.You can best enjoy Prague's architecture in the Old Town Square. It's a great area for walking with its winding streets, old taverns, and antique shops. The highlight of the square is the astronomical clock. A marvel of 15th century engineering, this clock presents statues of the apostles as each hour chimes. Whether you're tempted by beautiful natural scenery, historic towns or just the wonderful Pilsner beer, the Czech Republic and Prague make for a wonderful travel experience.
We set out with a group of 38 singles and as usual they were initially timid but quickly bonded in friendship. On arrival in Lima we check into a lovely hotel located in trendy Miraflores district. There was a guided city tour, leisure time to explore and a delicious dinner of sea bass ceviche at a restaurant built on an ocean pier. Next day we flew Lan to Iquitos where we were greeted by 3 top guides who remain with us for our 6 days in the jungle. They are truly pro's on flora, fauna and having fun! All transport is by boat. 90 miles down river we arrive to Explonapo Lodge in the heart of Amazonia. No plumbing or electricity, feels like an episode out of "Survivor." Rustic to the extreme yet therein lies the unique charm. I fell in love with the resident "pets". There was Adrian the toucan who would poke his long beak into the dining room door for a treat, along with several tame parrots and scarlet macaws. Charlie was a Capybara that looked like a mutant 100lb. guinea pig. When I'd scratch under his chin he'd close his eyes and make cooing sounds. The pitch black nights were spooky with a symphony of wild noises. Our rooms were connected with a privacy wall and an open thatched roof. Like a giant slumber party, we all shouted "goodnight Johnboy" from our mosquito netted beds. Suddenly Sharon screamed and the guys run to her room. She found a giant lizard tucked in with her in her bed. At 3am I head to the latrine with flashlight in hand. Inside a bat flutters near my head as I repeatedly whisper "bat's are good." Enough roughing it. We board our boats for "luxury in the Amazon" at Ceiba Tops. With air conditioning, tropical gardens and a pool, it feels like the Ritz to us. I take the world's longest shower as others enjoy Pisco Sours by the pool. We all gain weight with fresh food throughout that is both delicious and plentiful. On daily boat tours we saw giant water lilies, sloths, countless birds and the elusive pink dolphins. We fished by cane poles for piranha to fry up for dinner. We visited a family with a pet anaconda snake. My brave clients drape it around themselves for a photo op. We delivered medical supplies to a remote clinic serving the poor river people. Here a tooth extraction costs $2 if they can afford it. There were many highlights! We hiked the world's longest canopy walk 100' high in the trees. We visited Monkey Island, a research station for 8 species that room free. For one photo I held 3 at a time. There was a lecture by two resident shamans who taught us about medicinal plants and then blessed us individually as they removed our bad spirits. At the Yagua Indian Village we traded our western goods for masks and blowguns (several of these were later were confiscated by TSA.) The best part of the trip for me was a surprise visit to a rural school. Inside were 50+ children barefoot and wide-eyed who never see tourists. Tears filled my eyes as they sang their national anthem to us. We sang our anthem to them and deposited a ton of school supplies to the two teachers. It was a glorious sight. Back to Lima, we all scatter to shop the Indian markets. The dollar is so strong here that several in the group bought another suitcase to fill. I did my Xmas shopping in May. Our fabulous dinner was at a restaurant set in pre-Incan ruins. We toast each other goodbye with many hugs as I remiss a journey well done. This group was so prefect I'd like to clone them all for future AFS trips. I couldn't hand pick better travelers for this adventure.I have always loved the land of Peru. I am now designing a unique future trip to include Machu Piccu, boating Lake Titicaca, visits to natives on floating reed islands and crossing to La Paz Bolivia. For the moment, I have tired of Europe. There is a spirit of humility found in the hearts of these people that I am unable to adequately describe here. Nor can my photos justly convey Peru. It truly must be experienced.
ParisParis is the capital and largest city of France. A stylish, sophisticated and romantic city, it boasts many sights to see, such as Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe as well as some of Europe's best shops and restaurants. Located on the River Seine in the country's north, Paris maintains much of its traditional architecture, with hidden squares, churches, cathedrals and palaces mixing in well with more modern designs. Access to Paris is fairly simple by car, rail or air.RomeA vibrant city with timeless architecture and a passionate culture, Rome is the largest city in Italy and also the capital. Located on the Tiber and Aniene rivers near the Mediterranean Sea, Rome enjoys a warm, comfortable climate in which visitors can explore the city. In addition to a rich history, Rome is also home to the Vatican City, a sovereign enclave within Rome, it is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church and the home of the Pope. Traveling around Rome is fairly easy on a network of trams, buses and trains, although travel by car is not recommended.LondonOne of the world's major business and financial centres, London is also a cosmopolitan and energetic centre for arts, culture, politics and entertainment. London's population includes an extremely diverse range of peoples, cultures and religions, and with over 300 languages being spoken it is the most linguistically diverse city in the world. In addition to this, the city boasts a great number of important buildings and iconic landmarks, including world-famous museums, theatres, concert halls, galleries and palaces.VeniceThe "city of canals", is the capital of the region of Veneto and of the province of Venice, in Northern Italy. The city stretches across numerous small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea. Venice has a very rich history and in previous centuries the Venetian Republic was a major sea power and a staging area for the Crusades, as well as a very important centre of commerce and art during the Renaissance. As Europe's largest car free area, traveling around the city can only be done by boat or on foot.BarcelonaBarcelona offers a range of tourist attractions, from Roman remains and a historic city centre, the old harbour, museums and the famous Sagrada Familia church. It is the capital city of Catalonia and the second most populous city in Spain. Located in the comarca of Barcelons, along the Mediterranean coast, Barcelona benefits from a temperate Mediterranean climate.