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Places To See In Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey is a place rich in culture, art and history. There are so many places to see while in Istanbul. Some places are just around the city while the others are in the outskirts. Below is the list of places of interest in the beautiful city of Istanbul.

The Sultanahment Mosque or famously called Blue Mosque – It is called the Blue Mosque because of its  interior blue Iznik tiles.

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Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia – This beautiful church is adorned with magnificent frescoes and mosaic tiles which were covered in plaster when Turks conquered Istanbul and ordered the conversion of the church into a mosque.
Galata Tower – The tower is a prominent fixture in the Old Pera or Beyoglu District. It was used as an observatory tower to aid the Turkish defense during the 1300s. For the tourist, this tower offers an great 360 view of the Asian and European side of Istanbul.

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Obelisk Monument
at the Hippodrome

Hippodrome Square and the Obelisk – Chariot races took place in this square. Elections were done via chariot races in the Hippodrome during the Byzantium days. In one area of the Square stands the granite Obelisk carved in Egypt and brought in Istanbul around 1450 BC by the Byzantine emperor Theodosius.
Grand Bazaar – This is a vast shopper’s delight, housing more than 4,000 shops selling various goods from carpets to spices to wares. It is a big labyrinth of shops constructed in 1464 upon the order of Mehmed II.
Basilica Cistern – The underground water reservoir is right beneath the Stoa Basilica. It has 336 columns of either in Doric and Corinthian  style which hold the high ceiling.
Topkapi Palace – This place used to be the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire. The palace is situated between the Golden Horn and the Marmara sea of Istanbul and offers a great view of the Bosphorus.
Dolmahbace Palace – This extravagant palace is like a mini Versailles and has many French influences in its designs and interiors.

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Istiklal St. in Taksim

Istiklal Street in Taksim – This is a well-known pedestrian street is the melting pot of people of all walks of life. It is teeming with cafes, pubs/bars, restaurants, movie theaters and shops and has a tram running in the middle of the quaint street. St. Anthony Church (a Catholic church) is also located along this street.
Museums – Rahmi M. Koc Museum, Istanbul Modern Museum, Kariye Musem, to name a few.

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Experience The Wild Side Of North Carolina

From the Appalachian mountains in the west to the rugged coastline of the east, North Carolina is a state of extremes and well worth exploring. Whichever season that you choose to visit, North Carolina will provide you with the most stunning vistas. The active holidaymaker has a wealth of options at their disposal including hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding or deep sea fishing to name but a few. If you’re after a vacation that will see you experiencing the joys of nature, take a look at these ideas that will get you experiencing the wild side of North Carolina.

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Walking Is The Best Mode Of Transport

There is no better way to experience the clean, fresh air of this southern state than to walk. Not only does this save you money but you get to venture into areas that are inaccessible by vehicle. Some of the hikes aren’t for faint hearted. You’ll need a solid pair of walking boots and an above average level of fitness to complete some of the challenging trails. Make sure you do your research beforehand and choose the walk that is right for you.

Embark on a hike within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and you’ll venture through oak forests with an abundance of flora and fauna. You’ll have the chance to spot wildlife native to the area, and at the end of your hike, you’ll be rewarded with the most incredible view of Blue Ridge Parkway waterfalls.

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Ocean Air

If the sea scented air is more your style, you could choose to hoist yourself up onto your trusty stallion and, depending on your level of skill, take a gentle wander down the beach or a thrill inducing gallop along the sand. There can’t be many life experiences that are more romantic than sunset horse ride along the coast.

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City Life

Although you’re keen to experience the lush forests, the historic national parks, and the striking mountain ranges, you need to think about where you will be basing yourself. For some of your vacation, it’s wise to think about resting your weary bones at a Comfort Inn based in town. This way, you’ll have a range of useful amenities on your doorstep and won’t be stuck for supplies, as well as being able to venture out into the wilds.

Don’t forget, within the more populated areas there are still some awesome sites of natural beauty. Airlie Gardens consists of a peaceful lake, giant oaks and seemingly neverending acres of relaxing walking opportunities. If you’re after something a little more laid back while still being outdoors, it’s a good idea to check out the green spaces that the town and cities have to offer.

 

So forget the lure of NYC and opt for the more adventurous NC to get your fix of the outdoor lifestyle. Pack your waterproofs, hiking boots, and rugged camera and start planning your trip to the beautiful state of North Carolina.

 

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Southern Texas Hidden Beauty Spots

Texas conjures up many stereotypical images such as cowboys and cattle ranches.  Texas has some truly hidden beauty spots across the state. When thinking of Texas you don’t think of sandy beaches, however, the south of Texas have warm temperatures allowing plenty of outdoor activity opportunities. The best way to travel along the southern coast is region to region spotting the natural beauty of Texas. South Texas lies roughly south of San Antonio and to the east of the Gulf Of Mexico.

With it’s gorgeous in climate weather and beautiful beaches.South Padre Island is a major beauty spot of Southern Texas, the unspoiled beaches at Isla Blanca Park are a mile long and a rarity on the island. The sands are crisp white and the waters are pure blue something that looks featured in a holiday brochure.  If you’re a big camper the preserve is best to pitch a tent for the night.

 

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Rio Grande Valley region is idealistic for outdoor enthusiasts. Falcon Lake is classed as one of the best lakes in the country. Fishing is a hot spot around the lake, the guarantee of a catch is imminent with catfish and bass inhabiting the lake.

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Big Bend National Park is a must see, just over 800 thousand acres one of the biggest parks in the US. For a quieter serene trail explore the winding valley. This wonderful trail separates the US and Mexico. Surrounded by rivers and 1,000ft cliffs. The water can be 2ft deep in shallow waters able to paddle.

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Get the most out of your trip,is important, highlighting why it’s best to prioritize the must sees of any trip and to make the most. Planning on where to go and figuring out if you wish to go region to region or stay in one particular place. Research what  type of trip you wish to take be it natural or full on with outdoor activities,

Finding the perfect place to rest on your travels is easy, Fiesta Inn Hotel in McAllen,Texas offer up plenty of things to see and do in the local area for you to explore and discover. Located nearby is plenty of culture and history. This part of your trip visits the International Museum Of Art and Science a large collection of Mexican arts and crafts in the country.

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San Antonio is a natural hot spot, perfect for nature lovers. Full of unspoiled natural beauty the attraction is popular for the Spanish colonial building which is full of history too. The area is gorgeous and built up of four areas; Concepcion, San Jose, San Juan and Espada. At the end of this gorgeous wonder is the San Antonio National Historical Park.

One of the most popular outdoor activities for visiting tourists is Birding. The warm weather has brought in a vast amount of species other the recent years. Birding facilities have now opened up plenty of centers to educate visitors on the species.Rio Grande Valley has the world birding center which homes wildlife refuges as well as nature trails.

When visiting Southern Texas enjoy the warm weather when exploring and making new memories. A host of exciting adventures awaits whether it’s exploring new activities to try or relaxing on a beach break. Southern Texas is a must see for travelers.

 

 

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Adventure: That’s The Real Reason Idaho Is Called The Gem State

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We have a fascination with the nicknames given to the US states; so much so, we recently took off to Idaho simply because of its moniker. We just did it. We packed the car and went on a backpacking whim. It wasn’t until we got there that we found out different people believe different things. Some say it was a translation that means Gem of the Mountain, others say it is to do with the native gemstone garnet, and some say it is simply because this state is spoiled with natural beauty. We couldn’t argue with any of them.

But whatever the origins of its name, one thing we realized very quickly was, wow, does that place deserve its name. Summertime in Idaho is amazing. There are just so many adventures to be had in Idaho, and here are the best of the bunch:

Jump Creek Hike

When we get to a place, we love to ask the locals what they recommend. Forget Tripadvisor or seeing what a place looks like first, we just love asking locals for their number one must-do Idaho activity, and so many people said hike Jump Creek in Marsing. We don’t want to give too much away, but there is a secluded waterfall and it is beautiful. That’s all we’ll say, though.

Payette River Adventure

Everyone has a little streak of adventure in them, somewhere, and what better way to let that beast out then to get wet and wild on the Payette River. The whitewater rafting here is immense. It’s so exciting. The adrenaline rush, the sun, the splashes of cool water, the banks and banks of pine trees and mountain views. Yeah, it’s an absolute must do.

Swim At Sandy Point

It’s summer. Nothing beats hanging out by the water with your friends and family in the summer, and that is what makes the Sandpoint City Beach Park one of the most awesome places anywhere. You step out of the Best Western Edgewater Resort and bam! you’re hit with these magnificent views down Lake Pend Oreille. Swimming, boating, volleyball, lounging in the sun, tennis, a stroll downtown; it’s all at your fingertips.

Shoshone Falls

We mentioned it earlier, how the Gem State got its name from its natural beauty. Well, the Shoshone Falls give credence to that myth. It’s almost 50 feet higher than Niagara Falls and it is breathtaking. It’s that tonic for tired eyes that everyone needs to see. The sounds of the crashing water, the rock formations, the sheer size. If this sounds like your thing, then you need to get to Twin Falls this summer.

A Fair Like No Other

Apparently, in Idaho, the Western Idaho Fair is like the last hurrah of the summer that everyone gets involved with. It’s that last bit of fun before school starts again. However, when we say fair, what we mean is a party like no other. It’s as if the 1950s has returned, bringing all the fairground rides and rock n’ roll spirit along with it. You won’t believe it until you see it with your own two eyes, stamp along with the music all night and wake up the next day still smiling.

 

 

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The Beautiful Canals in Amsterdam

I am in love with Amsterdam! I used to say that about Paris but when I saw the beauty of Amsterdam last year, I have been in awe.

I have always dreamt of visiting The Netherlands even when I was a young kid. I think I was only 5 years old when I made my bucket list of places to visit. Of course, that piece of paper where all this “wanderlust” nature started has been long gone, in my heart and soul, I know what they are.

Visiting Amsterdam last year for my birthday was something I have only dreamt about. So, you can imagine my amazement when I actually saw the canals in the beautiful city of Amsterdam in person. My friend and I were both awe-struck, to say the least. All we could utter was, “so pretty!” And yes they are!

Do you know why The Netherlands has plenty of canals? The country is below sea level. They need a robust irrigation system to divert the water out of the country through the canals to prevent flooding. The canals have been around since 17th century.  In Amsterdam, the canals reaches more than a hundred kilometres when combined and they are now used as ways to travel.

A view of the flower market in Amstel

This is near the Amsterdam Central Station

One of the beautiful canals in Amsterdam

This is near Hotel The Bird where we stayed in Amstel. 

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New Article Featured in Attraction Tix Blog

I’m so glad to share that my 2nd article is up in the famous Attraction Tix site’s blog. It’s about going around Dubai on a budget.

Attraction Tix is a famous online ticket specialist in the UK.  If you need tickets on attractions, tours, theme parks and experience holidays, then look no more and check out Attraction Tix’s services and offers!

Read my post in Attraction Tix so next time you plan to include Dubai in your itinerary, you know what to do.

Click here for my post.

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Our Studio Ghibli Experience

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My daughter and I are avid fans of Studio Ghibli. We have both watched a lot of Studio Ghibli movies countless of times and we could repeat the dialogues over and over. You can now imagine how fanatic we are of Studio Ghibli!

So, it is a dream come true to visit the place where beautiful Japanese animation started. Well, technically, it’s the museum but to be in that place is just magical! So, when we finalized the plan to travel to Tokyo as early as October, I booked our Studio Ghibli Museum entrance tickets in advance because you couldn’t enter the museum without the voucher of the paid entrance pass and booking.

Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation production company created in 1985 by Hayao Mizayaki and Isao Takahata. It is the famous studio behind the animation releases like Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Grave of the Fireflies, The Cat Returns and many more. The English-dubbed version of the movies were dubbed by famous Hollywood thespians like Christian Bale (Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle), Billy Crystal (Calcifer in Howl’s Moving Castle), Kirsten Dunst as Kiki, Anne Hathaway as Haru in the Cat Returns. They are just few amongst the top actors and actresses who lent their voice in the English version which were all released by Disney.

I guess you can see by the pictures I have posted here how wonderful we felt stepping in the realms of our beloved Studio Ghibli Museum. I compare the feeling to stepping inside Disneyland, the happiest place in the planet. And yes, even if I am exaggerating, I cannot put into words the happiness my daughter and I felt being there, soaking all the wonders and beauty of the museum even for just few hours. It was worth it!

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We started our journey in the morning of Dec. 4, 2013. We left Shinjuku around 9 a.m. and caught the JR Chuo line train going to Mitaka. It wasn’t really hard to find because as soon as you exit the Mitaka train station, you could see the sign leading to the exit to Studio Ghibli area.  We just followed that direction and saw a very big, yellow and super cute bus that really stood out from the other buses around. It was the bus that would take you to Studio Ghibli. I forgot how much the fare was.

It was brief ride from the Mitaka train station to Studio Ghibli. We passed by residential areas and small stream and there are markers that show how far Studio Ghibli is which is fitting to Studio Ghibli’s norm – cute and antiquated!

Alas, we reached Studio Ghibli and we started taking pictures here and there! There’s a big Totoro stuffed doll inside a ticket booth for decoration purposes. The entrance was actually in the other direction where the big Totoro was. People just loved that area because of the photo op with Totoro.

Our voucher was exchanged to 3 film reels of famous Studio Ghibli movies which are ours as keepsake.

Picture taking is not allowed once inside so I can’t share anything about the wonders we saw inside. The museum is like a big mansion with several rooms to explore. There is a coffee shop and playroom for the little tykes around. There is also a souvenir shop in the higher floor and I bought several keychains, pin and face towel.

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I don’t mind going back to Studio Ghibli, probably stay a bit longer and maybe watch some of the movies inside too.

If you’re planning to visit Tokyo anytime soon, please include Studio Ghibli in your itinerary. It is certainly something you shouldn’t miss. I bought my museum pass from UK and the voucher was sent to me via Royal Mail. Just visit this site for more info and depending on which country you are in. Don’t forget to arrange for your Studio Ghibli Museum pass even before you arrive in Japan. There are also outlets that sell the tickets but you’ll never know if the dates you prefer are fully booked if you buy during your vacation in Japan. I say, plan it and purchase it in advance that will fit within your scheduled vacation in the Land of the Rising Sun.

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