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Polynesian Paradise Tahitian Islands

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Polynesian Paradise Tahitian Islands

Pause for a luxurious break in the Tahitian Islands.
  I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white sand beach for a late morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 a.m. back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to my husband before he left  for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
  “Good morning from Bora Bora,” I said, half guiltily, as I heard the line connect after just two rings. “Wish you were  here!”
   The conversation continued as I trudged farther and farther away from the canopied loungers and sun beds sunken in the sand. I gripped my phone a little harder as I took my first step into the crystal clear water, letting the salty, still liquid cool my toes and rise higher up my legs as I stepped deeper and deeper into the shallow Pacific Ocean lagoon. Up to my waist in seawater, I ended the call as I finally reached the aim of my morning journey.
  With one last, “Miss you,” I hung up the phone, placed it in a waterproof bag and collapsed into a private overwater hammock that hung loosely between two poles so the netting barely kissed the water’s surface as I swung slowly. All alone.  Not another living soul in sight.
  Often regarded as a honeymoon destination due to its romantic scenery and private overwater bungalows, Bora Bora’s recent connectivity and increased flight schedules from many U.S. hubs make this Polynesian paradise more accessible for solo travelers and business men and women looking to kick back and escape the grueling 9 to 5. The island sits within the French overseas territory of French Polynesia, a country divided into five groups of islands the Society Islands, the Tuamotu Islands, the Marquesas Islands, the Austral Islands and the Gambier Islands
  Only 67 of the country’s 118 islands and  atolls are inhabited, with the majority of Tahitians residing within the Society Islands, home to French Polynesia’s most famous islands of Tahiti, Moorea, Tetiaroa and Bora Bora. With a larger than life reputation as the Pearl of the Pacific, Bora Bora consists of a series of smaller islands (motus) and a main island encompassing less than 15 square miles in total. Most of the resorts in Bora Bora reside on their own private motu, a short boat or helicopter ride from Bora Bora’s main port of Vaitape. The main island centers around a dormant volcano that rises dramatically above the lush jungle floor into two peaks, Mount Pahia and the showstopping Mount Otemanu.
  The most sought after accommodations within Bora Bora feature views of Mount Otemanu, Bora Bora’s unofficial icon, and no resort offers a better view than Le Méridien Bora Bora. This Marriott owned resort features 98 bungalows the overwater offerings feature unobstructed views of Mount Otemanu and direct  access to the water from each private outdoor  deck. The resort’s casual restaurant, Le Te Ava, allows guests to dine in the sand in the shade of a traditional Polynesian thatched roof as they sample one of the most beautiful renditions of Tahiti’s national dish, poisson cru, a ceviche like item prepared with raw tuna marinated in lime juice and coconut milk.
The resort also hosts French Polynesia’s only turtle sanctuary within the on site Ecological Center. Le Méridien offers free tours of the center to educate guests on the protection and preservation work biologists undertake, and for a small fee, visitors can participate in a Live My Life session, in which they interact with these amazing creatures and participate in the care and healing of the sea turtles alongside the team of biologists.
  All of the resorts along Bora Bora’s motu lie just a short boat ride from each other, making it easy to hop around with a pre arranged water taxi or boat transfer to other resorts or even back to Vaitape to explore the small markets that come to life in the early afternoon or go celebrity spotting at the sandy floored seafood joint, Bloody Mary’s. The often crowded restaurant’s low key vibe attracts famous names like Pierce Brosnan, Jimmy Buffet, Kurt Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and others.
Visitors looking for fine dining won’t find it at Bloody Mary’s, but they will at the island’s best establishment, Lagoon Restaurant by Jean Georges. The restaurant sits over the water at The St Regis Bora Bora, where this 3 star Michelin chef created a menu worthy of his many accolades. The restaurant is the only place in the world to find uravena on the menu, as this local fish presents a formidable challenge to most chefs in its preparation. As if this highly rare dish weren’t enough to create a memorable dining experience, the restaurant itself sits on a dock where glass paneled flooring alone stands between diners and the black tipped sharks that lurk in the water beneath the restaurant.
  The St. Regis Bora Bora also features the largest overwater bungalows in the South Pacific, where rooms include features like private gazebos, glass paneled floors, private plunge pools and direct access to the water below via private ladders. The resort’s 90 accommodations range from garden villas with a private beach to overwater villas and royal overwater villas, as well as the jaw dropping royal estate with three bedrooms spread throughout 13,000 square feet, plus a private chef available upon request.
  Guests of the resort split their days between relaxing just off the beach in the resort’s private offshore hammock and sipping drinks at the swim up pool bar or heading off the motu for some Tahitian adventures. The resort can arrange everything from full day scuba diving excursions to jet ski tours of the islands, putting guests behind the controls of a state of the art water craft as they zip in and out of the motu and lagoons. True adventure seekers can book a half or full day shark and ray tour with Lagoon Service Bora Bora. The trip begins with an introductory snorkel through the coral gardens followed by a stop in the shallows to wade through a sea floor of giant manta rays before heading out to the deeper, open waters to swim with black tipped reef sharks. The tour wraps up with a locally prepared lunch on a private island where locals  demonstrate how to find, crack and enjoy a fresh coconut.
  gastronomy to health remedies, but no coconut creation is more representative of Tahitian culture than monoi oil. The oils are delicately scented with the petals of a tiare flower and can be found on all pages of the spa menu at Miri Miri Spa by Clarins at The St. Regis Bora Bora. The oils have a softening effect on both skin and hair and make for a great souvenir to recall a time spent taking in the beauty, relaxation and little luxuries of the Tahitian Islands.

Italy

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Italy

Once business concludes, a world of wonder awaits in many of Italy’s incredible cities. 
  Once the final meeting wraps and the last contract is signed and sealed with a handshake, what’s next? Do you catch a flight back home or do you take advantage of the destination? If your next business trip is to Italy, we suggest adding a few more days to explore the country’s most amazing hot spots. Make time for more than meetings in these three cities.
  Pack the briefcase away and break out the backpack as you set off to explore Naples. Whet your appetite for adventure with the best pizza in the world, found here, and then discover the seaside Castel dell’Ovo, one of the world’s oldest fortifications, and the stunning artwork of “The Veiled Christ” at San Severo Chapel. There’s more ripe for exploration, including the catacombs of San Gennaro, Caserta Royal Palace and Herculaneum. Before returning to work, indulge with a luxurious spa treatment on the beautiful island of Ischia.
  Business is done in Bari, now what? The answer to that question is nearly endless, but start with a stroll through  the old downtown, which retains its former Medieval splendor and boasts a number of historic sites. Tour one of  Italy’s largest theaters, Teatro Petruzzelli, rebuilt to its former glory after a fire in the early 1990s. When hunger strikes, visit nearby Altamura, famous for its bread. Another nearby small town, Alberobello, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its noteworthy trullo, white stone building with conical roofs.
  As the workload lessens, another UNESCO World Heritage site awaits in Catania. Boasting Sicilian Baroque architecture, Sant’Agata Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to Saint Agatha The city square, Piazza del Duomo, is also  a listed site. Take in the sights, sounds and excited energy of La Pescheria, the fish market, before embarking on a full day tour from Catania to the ancient town of Taormina and the fascinating landscape of Mount Etna.

Arches National Park

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Arches National Park

Arches National Park and the Moab desert rest at the heart of Utah’s wild beauty.
  My first view of the desert near Moab, Utah, comes into focus as the rising sun darts across red rocks stacked in layers across the landscape. Light snow left a dusting of ice crystals on the face of the stone, glittering like a million tiny lights as the dawn sun briefly catches it. It’s the sort of sight that can actually take away your breath, a moment when the concept of magic blurs with reality.  
  The drama increases in nearby Arches National Park. The rock  itself, though predominantly rust red in color, also glints in shades of green, black, orange and even purple, depending upon the amount of iron contained within sections and the specific geologic forces that shaped its composition.
  Formed naturally of sandstone, more than 2,000 rock arches and windows punctuate the park landscape. New ones are in the process of formation all the time, thanks to the erosive action of wind, rain, snowmelt and the cracking that occurs when water  freezes in narrow clefts and fissures.
  Beyond these iconic, evanescent bridges of stone arcing against  the sky, the park also presents a humbling collection of towering pinnacles domes hollow honeycombed tafoni formations otherworldly rock hoodoos; and massive boulders suspended at  the tops of narrow, soaring plinths including the 3,500 plus ton Balanced Rock. Given that the area encompassing the park likely took millions of years to form, the notion of seeing everything in one trip proves a daunting prospect which is where the skill and insight of a local outfitter becomes priceless.
  “Pre tour custom designing is imperative, especially due to the distances between destinations around Moab,” offers Brian D. Murphy, CEO/founder, Utah Luxury Tours (a Division of Luxus Travel, Inc.). “We cater to distinguished travelers who are accustomed to concierge travel planning services and touring privately, with a fully escorted touring experience from the time they arrive ʼtil the time we hug them goodbye at the airport.”
  The guides who make up Murphy’s team are local, including  his business partner, Lukas Sigmund, the company’s original tour designer and lead guide. For those wishing to see and experience park highlights such as Delicate Arch, Tunnel Arch, the Devils Garden and the Petrified Dunes, Utah Luxury Tours can build an itinerary that eliminates the navigational and parking worries and allows visitors to concentrate on the sites themselves.
  Whether you choose a guide or decide to go it alone, Murphy recommends including locations typically overlooked or missed entirely, such as the hike up and down the Grandstaff Trail. The route ranges in difficulty from easy to moderate, meandering over a small stream in several different spots. At the end of the canyon, hikers will find the Morning Glory Natural Bridge, the sixthlongest natural rock span in the United States.
  He also suggests driving up to the La Sal Mountains, following the 28 mile La Sal Mountain Loop Road for a different perspective of the high altitude desert, or the oft overlooked Park Avenue hike, offering a mile long walk through high desert country.
While Delicate Arch consistently rates as a must see for first time park visitors, Landscape Arch is frequently skipped because parking at nearby Devils Garden can  be tough to find. But it’s worth the effort though the path beneath it is closed due to frequent rock falls, this span is regarded as one of the longest natural arches on the planet.
  Wondering when to go Murphy suggests April and May are ideal depending upon the amount of snow delivered that winter and how much moisture is in the ground, the desert can burst into spectacular blooms. He also recommends October, when the crowds have largely dispersed and mild temperatures make hiking and exploring particularly enjoyable. If a visit is on your  own bucket list don’t delay. In 2008 the famous Wall Arch succumbed to the relentless forces of gravity along Devils Garden Trail, and there’s no predicting when other astonishing and dramatic sites may also be forever altered.

Lisbon

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Lisbon

Lisbon lures visitors with unexpected treasures and modern day pleasures.
  In lisbon, unlike in other european capitals, first time visitors arrive without a lot of  expectations. There’s no Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace or Sistine Chapel. That’s not to say Lisbon has no outstanding historical monuments. Of course it does. They’re just  not as well known as those iconic examples of  European travel tours.
  And that just might be what gives this darling of the must visit-now lists its special allure. An  unexpected treat awaits around every corner.
  Start with the sidewalks. Who would think the material below your feet could be interesting But Lisbon’s stone cobbled walkways with gray and white patterns are photo worthy and worth keeping your eye on, as they’re not always smooth. And then there are the tiles, the vibrant painted ceramics known as azulejos adorning walls everywhere across the city. Any storefront, office building or even a modest home becomes a colorful work of art.
  With a city center filled with every high end store imaginable, the Avenida Liberdade still feels like a place apart, a grand boulevard with tree lined promenades, sidewalk cafés dotting the park like space and  tiny streets heading out and upwards at every imaginable angle.
  Lisbon has become a traveler magnet, bringing it a lot of energy. But it also means tourists need to pack their patience and plan ahead to avoid crowds and grab the restaurant reservations of the coveted fine dining establishments in town. In fact, the burgeoning foodie scene means you might need to book months in advance for tables at some of the hottest places like Alma and Belcanto, among the city’s top dining spots, both of which display two Michelin stars.
  Why doesn’t Lisbon rank alongside London, Paris or Madrid in the world’s imagination? Perhaps because Portugal’s golden age lies half a millennium in the past. In the 1500s, Portugal wrestled with Spain for control of the Americas, and Portuguese explorers such as Ferdinand  Magellan and Vasco de Gama sailed to Africa and Asia, establishing trading outposts at Goa in what is now India, at Macau in China, and elsewhere.
  But an invasion by Spain in 1580 sent Portugal into decline, and in 1755 a devastating earthquake leveled Lisbon. As many as 50,000  people perished in the quake and subsequent fires and tsunami. However, the disaster also laid the foundation of the Lisbon visitors see today The rebuilt city was the first of its size to be designed in a grid system, with broad avenues and expansive squares.
  Reminders of Portugal’s golden age are most evident in the city’s Belém district, well worth a visit. About five miles  from the city center, Belém is easily accessible via tram or  taxi. It was from Belém the famed Portuguese explorers began their worldwide voyages. You can visit the ship shaped Monument to the Discoveries, built in 1960 to commemorate 500 years of maritime exploration; the Belém Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage monument and the starting point for many of the voyages and the late Gothic style Monastery of Jerónimos, built in 1502 and where Vasco de Gama once prayed and is buried. Check hours and closing dates before you go.
  After all that historical discovery, it’s time to sample some more recent history. Portugal is famous for its egg custard tarts, known as pasteis de nata, and arguably the most famous pastry shop in Lisbon sits right next door to the monastery in Belém, where the tarts originated. Pasteis de Belém sold its first tarts in 1837 and if you only have time to try one shop, this is it. But you could spend days sampling the tarts all over town.
  You can spend hours walking around the mostly flat central Lisbon areas along Avenida Liberdade, but to really experience Lisbon you must go up the hills of the neighborhoods like Barrio Alta and Alfama. Unless you want a workout, consider a tram, a taxi or an Uber to get you to the hilltops. Tram 28, which you can board at Martim Moniz Square for a few euros, has become well known to tourists for its low cost, scenic route up and around the city. But there are often long lines, so consider a backup plan like a taxi if  your time is limited.
  To get an overview of this city built on seven hills, take advantage of one of Lisbon’s miradouros, or viewpoints, like Miradouro da Graca, where you can get a coffee or a cold beer while you savor the panoramic views. Or at Lisbon’s most famous landmark and most visited tourist attraction, the Castelo de São Jorge. Perched on the highest of Lisbon’s hills, in Alfama, the city’s oldest district, the Moorish castle housed Portuguese kings from the 12th century, when the Moors were overthrown, until the 16th century.
  Fado music the mournful, passionate music played in clubs around the city gained global renown as a Lisbon experience. Some of my contacts warned me visiting a fado club was too touristy, but we didn’t find it so, and the evening was one of the best we had in the city. In fact, the music was classified in 2011 as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
  We took a cab to the well known Clube de  Fado in the Alfama district on a rainy Friday night and squeezed into a tiny table near the entrance as the music was about to begin. The dark, crowded room barely offered a stage for the performers, but the audience went silent as the female singer emerged. Backed by 12 string Portuguese guitars, her mournful tones reached the dark corners carrying a tale with no need for translation. Yearning, heartbreak, grief all seemed to be mixed into one sorrowful song. As she finished, the applause erupted from this crowd of locals ranging in age from 20 to 60 and up. Some were clearly hipsters; others were older but still fashionable. We noticed only a few obvious tourists.
  Europe’s westernmost capital city, Lisbon enjoys a subtropical Mediterranean climate with more hours of sunshine per year than Athens, so it makes sense beaches are a big draw here. The official tourist agency notes the city gets 290 days of sunshine a year. With a free day, or even just an afternoon, consider visiting Carcavelos Beach, about a half hour’s drive or ride on public transit Stop at a waterfront restaurant for fresh seafood, some drinks and a spectacular sunset view.
A must do daytrip is Sintra, reachable by commuter trains from Rossio Station. The train ride takes about 45 minutes to this small village with castles and palaces, gardens and hiking trails. Catch a morning train and  spend the day.
  If you have more time, Sintra makes a fine place to stay a few days and combine relaxation and romance. Its forested mountains with outstanding views drew the wealthy and the royals who built elaborate residences here in the 1800s. Not surprisingly, Sintra is often described as a fairy tale destination. One of the most popular stops in Sintra, the Pena Palace, provides an ostentatious example of Romanticism, built by King Ferdinand II in 1838. A forest and gardens with more than 500 species of trees from around the world surround this multicolored palace.

Take Me to Tahiti

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Take Me to Tahiti  

Consider Air France for your next trip to the beautiful Tahitian islands.
  Mana is the life force Tahitians believe connects all things. Feel the mana for yourself on a visit to the islands of Tahiti, and sample some of these activities as you connect with the breathtaking nature of the South Pacific.
  After you check in at Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach  Resort, enjoy the various on site facilities before a romantic dinner on the beach. Explore further on a subsequent day and rent a buggy to tool around the island, stopping at Belvédère for breathtaking views or shopping for locally made crafts. Other options for your Moorea adventure include a tasting at a fruit  juice factory, lagoon tours, swimming with sharks and rays, a motu picnic, zip lining, underwater helmet diving, golfing, snorkeling and more.
  Get to know Raiatea on a catamaran tour or kayak adventure on the Faaroa River. Travelers can also opt to stand up paddle board on the waterway. Ripe for exploration are the island’s vanilla plantations and Taputapuatea Marae, a UNESCO World Heritage site featuring a number of marae and stone structures and once considered a central temple.
  An overwater bungalow at Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa Relais & Châteaux awaits on Taha’a, and a perfect sunset view beckons you to the pool bar. You can also enjoy breakfast in room, delivered via canoe, before snorkeling in the coral garden or indulging in a massage at the hotel spa. The island is also the spot to learn how to play ukulele with the locals.
  Horseback through the mountains or explore the Atuona village during your time in Hiva Oa. Fill your suitcase with the local arts and crafts after you get to know one of the island’s sculptors. There’s also the archeological site of me’ae in Puama’u, home to a large tiki statue.
  It’s back to the island of Tahiti for your Air France flight home, but the dream vacation doesn’t have to end just yet. Explore Tahiti further before departing find romance over dinner at Le Coco’s or sample from les roulottes, or food trucks, gathered near the wharf. Boat to see the legendary Teahupo’o wave and then hike to waterfalls. After checking out Papeete’s sights, take one last moment to savor the incredible beauty surrounding you.
For more information, visit airfrance.us.

Yankee Ingenuity, Hartford

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Yankee Ingenuity  

Hartford reinvents as it builds an innovations ecosystem.
  quiet connecticut. The Land of Steady Habits. Not sobriquets you’d expect to define the home state of an emerging technology hub tucked between New York and Boston. In fact, Hartford deeply engaged in the digitized economy ranks as the fourth best city for tech jobs in the country, according to the  Brookings Institution. A big accomplishment for a mid sized city.
  The state and its capital boast a long history of ideas and inventions from the Colt revolver to a Revolutionary War submarine to the Frisbee. The first insurance company opened here in 1810, setting Hartford on its path as the Insurance Capital of the World. Defining cultural figures such as Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, J.P.  Morgan and Katharine Hepburn called Hartford home.
  As insurance, finance and health care drive the digital economy, this region proves a great place for people with technology skills to work, live and play. The commitment of CVS to keep its new acquisition, health insurer Aetna, in the city helps Hartford retain jobs and its status as insurance capital. And as technology transforms the insurance sector, the city looks to innovate within its legacy industries. Last year the National League of Cities and Schmidt Futures named Hartford “the country’s premier destination for insurance technology,” as part of the new City Innovations Ecosystem initiative.
  Last December, India based Infosys, a global leader in technology and next generation services, opened its $21 million Technology and Innovation Hub in Hartford’s recently refurbished Goodwin Square building, one of  the company’s six new regional U.S. hubs. It will hire 1,000 workers here by 2022 and focus on insurance, health care and manufacturing clients. The new InsureTech Hub startup accelerator will transform the insurance industry with new technology to improve the customer experience and simplify policy management.
  In the manufacturing sector, Stanley Black & Decker’s Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence, “Manufactory 4.0,” leads the company’s worldwide automation efforts with the internet of things, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, robotics and advanced materials, with the goal of bringing startups to Hartford. This May, the first ever International Space Trade Summit in Hartford will give Connecticut’s aerospace components manufacturers including United Technologies Corp.’s Collins Aerospace the opportunity to partner with global companies and stake a claim in the space sector.
  Skilled talent is critical for employers, especially with rapid changes in technology. The state recently earmarked $2.5 million to open two technology training schools, one in Hartford, to provide hundreds of job seekers with skills in data analytics and code writing. Infosys partnered with the city’s Trinity College to create educational programs that prepare liberal arts students and employees for the digital workplace of the future.
  As Connecticut strives to attract and keep professional, creative millennials, Metro Hartford makes strides in the lifestyle assets that appeal to this demographic. These include the successful Lime bike sharing program and a Complete Streets initiative, as well as the return of commuter rail with the opening of the Hartford Rail Line connecting to New Haven and Springfield. Professional sports get a boost with the arrival of  the Hartford Yard Goats Double A MLB team and the Hartford Athletic United Soccer League team. Visitors and residents enjoy a growing arts, craft brewery and restaurant scene as well  as new neighborhood parks and communities in this vibrant, walkable city.
  Facing bankruptcy before a controversial state bail out kicked in, Hartford now works to change from a 9 to 5 city, attracting  people to live downtown and encouraging daily commuters to stay to enjoy its offerings. Look for the June opening of Parkville Market, a vibrant food hall reminiscent of Manhattan’s Chelsea Market, boasting more than 50 curated, owner-operated shops in the emerging arts enclave of Parkville.
  Over the past 18 months, a dynamic entrepreneurial movement also emerged, with organizations providing support and space for innovators to connect and collaborate. Innovation Destination, TechStars and Upward Hartford all launched operations to empower entrepreneurs, and Makerspace CT will  open soon.
  Don’t look to the skyline for dramatic changes. Rather than erecting new structures, developers focus on renovating  historic factories and office towers into apartments. Since 2015  the downtown added 885 rentals receiving funding from The Capital Region Development Authority, with occupancy averaging 95 percent. Another 551 units are in progress, with 110 more on the drawing board.
  Business visitors find Hartford a compact, convenient city. Bradley International Airport, 16 miles from downtown, boasts convenient parking, plentiful charging stations, free WiFi, restaurants and a relaxed atmosphere. All of these and direct Aer Lingus flights to Dublin make it an attractive alternative to New York and Boston gateways.
  The 540,000 square foot Connecticut Convention Center the largest between New York and Boston hosts trade shows, conventions and business events in a dramatic riverside setting.
The exciting news on the hotel scene is the reopening of the landmark Goodwin Hotel with a renewed cosmopolitan vibe in the heart of downtown. Maintaining its historic architectural details, The Goodwin excels at modern luxury in its guestrooms, duplexes and suites J.P. Morgan called it home on his stays in Hartford. At its Restaurant Porrón, Chef Tyler Anderson goes all in with Spanish inspired meals.
  In a state that once hummed at the center of historic industrial revolutions, Hartford looks to transform with a new wave of technology companies and entrepreneurs, living up to the state’s tourism motto “Connecticut: Still Revolutionary.”

Muscat prosperous and peaceful Sultanate of Oman

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Muscat flourishes in the prosperous and peaceful  Sultanate of Oman

  situated on the arabian peninsula, often  amid Middle East chaos and turmoil, Oman manages  to maintain a countenance of decorum and civility. Evading military clashes between its neighboring  states, it implemented long range plans for development and emergence. Much of the activity focuses on  its capital city, Muscat.
  Lying between the El Hajar Mountains and the Arabian Sea, Muscat serves as the seat of the country’s political, administrative and economic systems and home to a third of the country’s 4.5 million residents. With its proximity to the sensitive Strait of Hormuz, Muscat proved a historically important trading port in the Gulf of Oman, attracting foreign tradesmen and settlers who came to trade in fishing and agriculture. Persians, Spaniards and Ottomans were among overseas travelers to ancient Muscat, admired  as “very elegant” by a 16th century Portuguese  writer.
Muscat’s sprawling 1,400 square miles divide into three principal urban areas Muscat  proper, the original settlement and now an enclave of restored historic homes and buildings Waterfront Muttrah, the harbor scene of shipping and cruise ship anchorages, upgrading to enhance its appeal to visiting tourists; and the commercial district centered in Ruwi, a cluster of high rise apartments,office buildings and headquarters of international companies.
  Ruled since the 18th century by the Al Said Dynasty, friction with imams of the interior  destabilized the sultanate until 1970 when Qaboos bin Said, with assistance from the British, overthrew his father in a bloodless coup. Consolidating and renaming the region the Sultanate of Oman, Sultan Qaboos united tribal territories and launched programs to end the country’s isolation and to use oil revenues for modernization and development. Slavery was abolished, and freedom of  religion was allowed. 
  To promote internal stability and to supplement expats and immigrants, in 1988 the country initiated Omanization. The local population is enlisted and trained to integrate into the workforce, expanding the economy and infrastructure. Companies are rewarded  for increasing their quota levels toward the target goal of 72 percent local personnel. Five year development plans initiated in 1976 resulted in the establishment of the petroleum industry construction of the new shipping port, Mina Qaboos and new ministries for social services, health, education and the tourist industry. Oman emerged with a  higher standard of living than that of neighboring countries.
  As it has throughout history, trade dominates the economy, with oil products joining the traditional exports of dates, fish and mother of pearl. Muscat is home to multibilliondollar conglomerate CK Industries, and major trading companies Suhail Bahwan Group and Saud Bahwan Group partnered with dozens of international corporations including Toshiba, Toyota, Hewlett Packard, Mitsubishi, General Motors and Chrysler. Petroleum Development Oman a joint operation of the government, Shell, Total and Partex reported a combined oil, gas and condensate production record for 2016 equal to 1.29 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, with a growing expansion into hydrocarbon, renewable energy generation and water management. Established in 1988, the principal stock exchange, the Muscat Securities Market, operates with transparency, disclosure regulations and requirements. Numerous hospitals,  clinics, universities and schools thrive in the private sector.
  The country applies a multitude of assets to lure investors the educated and largely bilingual workforce good health care and schools for families; easy access to global markets through a modern infrastructure network and a stable, secure and predictable investment climate. Dependent on  imported goods, Oman promotes policies that welcome entrepreneurs and small businesses. Grain and vegetable farming, gas stations and haulage, tourism and perfume shops, electronics and home appliances, commodity stores, bars and restaurants list among suggested venture opportunities.
Clearly, the leadership of Sultan Qaboos deserves credit as a key to Oman’s progress. The longest serving monarch in the Arab world, a devotee of opera and classical music, he received his education in India and at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in England. While his rule is absolute, he is said to rely more on the business elite than on family members for counsel. Nearing age 80 with no clear heir, the delicate issue arises of whether his successor would maintain absolute power or take steps to separate state powers.
  Peaceful protests following the Arab Spring raised issues of job opportunities, salary increases, establishment of Islamic banks and expulsion of some current ministers. But for the time being, the outlook for Muscat  includes a continued, methodical integration into the global scene.
  History, beaches and culture provide abundant options for sightseeing and recreation. Visitors can charter boats for fishing and diving. The waterside corniche lined with date palms and monuments connects the historic fish market and extensive  bazaar. Follow it south toward the  massive city gates into the ancient center, now a region of restored historic adobe huts and flowery boulevards surrounding the sultan’s  palace. Scattered in both regions,  museums feature culture and folklore, and tourist attractions include  restored Portuguese forts. Keep in  mind offices close for lunch from  noon to 2:30 p.m stores close from  noon to 1 p.m., then remain open  until 8 p.m.
  At night, the area north of Seeb transforms into a warren of fish restaurants and clubs where shop windows display dazzling, colorful women’s ensembles of harem pants, gauzy veils and jangling coinage. The multidisciplinary Royal Opera House presents an incredible array of programs, among them ice skating shows, La Traviata, classical ballet, blues, a Mahler symphony, timeless Arab songs and the Chucho Valdés Quintet. Oman’s leading  arts and cultural institution, this mammoth gold and marble structure, surrounded by extensive gardens, merits a visit in itself.

A World of Wonders,UNESCO's World Heritage

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World of Wonders 

UNESCO's World Heritage List aims to protect and promote outstanding natural and cultural sites.    The cultural and natural diversity around the world is breathtaking, but in the past it was up to each country to protect this heritage. For decades, UNESCO the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been awarded sites with the designation of the World Heritage Site, which require the protection of property with "outstanding global value" in order to be listed. To quote directly "Considering the outstanding global value, the property must also meet the requirements of integrity and or originality and must have an appropriate protection and management system to ensure its preservation." Thus, all countries of the world have taken a major step forward in promoting global awareness of the inherent value of rural cultural and natural heritage. UNESCO listed the first World Heritage sites in 1978, with 12 on the list. The United States contributed to two of the 12 that year Yellowstone National Park, the most seismically active region of the Rocky Mountains with more than 200 features such as heaters, hot springs, clay pots and fumarol Misa Verdi, an architectural tribute to the lost Anzazi civilization ). The Galapagos Islands famous for a huge number of unique and endemic species, are listed, as are two sites from Canada the Nahani National Park in the Northwest Territories due to the river, the cave and the natural valley the L'Anse aux Meadows, a national historical site in Labrador, Represents the first European presence in North America. UNESCO World Heritage List today has 1,092 establishments. Of these, 845 are considered of cultural significance while 209 meet natural standards, and 38 characteristics contain a combination of cultural and natural value alike. This is the upside. the negative side? Two lists were deleted (the Arab Oryx Reserve in Amman and the Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany) and 54 properties at risk. The list does not recognize gender equality, as only two religious sites are reserved for men the island of Ukinushima in Japan and Mount Athos in Greece. At first, UNESCO's World Heritage List was believed to grant status and prove to be economically beneficial to countries by promoting tourism and providing incentives to protect the cultural and natural heritage of future generations. Unfortunately, this was not always the case. While the list of man made landscapes and nature around the world may be impressive, the reality is the environmental issues caused by over popularization by making the list, terrorism and perceived cultural prejudice can detract from the original noble purposes of UNESCO. For example, in 2016, the organization was challenged to refer to sites in Jerusalem through an Islamic lens, leading to criticism of the Jewish people and its historical relationship. Some sites, once you create a World Heritage list, discover that classification may not always be. The World Heritage List is designed at risk to attract world attention to areas that require corrective measures and cooperation. Lists can lead to positive results The Galapagos Islands and Yellowstone National Park were subsequently removed from this list due to positive developments. Another risk list Everglades National Park was listed on the list from 1993 to 2007 and again since 2010 due to "continuous deterioration of the site resulting in the loss of marine habitats and the decline of marine species." Removal occurs from the list when there are improvements in management and preservation of the original reasons for listing. However, UNESCO surrendered to the ongoing pressure exerted by the Australian Government to cancel the Great Barrier Reef List in late 2016, in direct defiance of evidence of widespread destruction and major coral reef deaths.
  The united nations’ cultural agency meets annually to decide  the newest nominations to join the UNESCO World Heritage List. Debate centers around 10 criteria, of which at least one must be met in addition to being of “outstanding universal value.” That translates into unmatched natural beauty or environmental, cultural or historic significance that can include art, architecture, cultural traditions, landscape and Earth’s history, according to UNESCO. It can also include communities of plants and animals.
  But first a site must be nominated. To be considered for nomination to the World Heritage Site List, a property must be designated on a Tentative List. This is merely a cumulative inventory of those properties countries nations intend to consider for nomination. For example, over the years the United States designated these properties for the Tentative List Process (ironically, that is where  they remain) Petrified Forest National Park (2008), White Sands National Monument (2008), Dayton Aviation Sites (2008), civil rights movement sites (2008), Ellis Island (2017) and the Brooklyn Bridge (2017).
  for many traveiers, the World Heritage list provides yet another opportunity to create a bucket list, offering the necessary motivation to directly experience some of the world’s greatest heritage. But with more than a thousand sites currently listed, where does one start.
  I find the easiest way is to visit the ones in your  home country. Begin with the state where you reside for me, that’s New Mexico. The list includes cherished treasures such as Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Taos Pueblo.
  Then expand your horizons by including the listed national parks. They are the Everglades, Grand  Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Mammoth Cave, Mesa Verde, Olympic National Park, Redwood  National Park and State Park, Yellowstone and  Yosemite.
  Next, go global. With 110 countries under my belt and still counting, some of my favorite UNESCO sites include Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia Wachau Cultural Landscape, Austria Okavango Delta, Botswana Angkor, Cambodia Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (terracotta warriors) in China LedniceValtice Cultural Landscape, Czechia Galápagos Islands, Ecuador Cathedral of Notre Dame, Former Abbey of Saint Remi and Palace of Tau, Reims, France Upper Svaneti, Georgia; Upper Middle Rhine Valley, Germany the Acropolis, Athens Budapest, Hungary, including Banks of the Danube, Buda Castle Quarter and Andrassy Avenue Masada, Israel Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata in Italy Mount Kenya National Park Natural Forest, Kenya Kathmandu Valley, Nepal the Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow Singapore Botanic Gardens Göreme National Park and Rock Sites of Cappadocia, Turkey Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania and Mosi oa Tunya Victoria Falls  in Zambia.
  The UNESCO World Heritage Sites, wherever you may be and whatever you visit, are part of a rich and culturally stimulating experience that can only enhance intercultural understanding of man made heritage and appreciate the amazing natural world in which we live. For details on the ten selection criteria for World Heritage Sites, visit the UNESCO website at whc.unesco.org.

Island Bliss

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Island Bliss

Indulge in a pampering paradise for two at The Spa at Ko‘a Kea in Hawai.
  of the Koʻa Kea Hotel & Resort on the island of Kauaʻi proves a most appealing feature to couples  seeking a quiet, romantic Hawaiʻian interlude. It also presented a bit of a challenge to my husband and me as we sought the entrance to its drive off the lushly landscaped boulevard which parallels Poipu Beach on the island’s sunny south shore. Armed with precise directions and using our vehicle’s navigation feature, we still managed to drive right past before reversing our course and spotting an inconspicuous sign tucked among the foliage. The grounds and buildings of two large resorts flanked the winding road which ended at the circular drive in front of Koʻa Kea’s main building.
  As we entered the lobby, the floor to ceiling windows drew our  gaze out over the saltwater pool, the palm studded lawn and fire pits to the ocean just a few hundred feet away. Koʻa Kea boasts the closest hotel accommodations to the water on Kauaʻi, offering immediate access to water sports and stunning sunset views.
  ediate access to water sports and stunning sunset views. The property opened in 2009 and has garnered numerous “most  romantic” and “best hotel” awards from a host of travel publications and organizations. Its name, meaning “white coral” in Hawaiʻian, honors the goddess representing spiritual power and new life. Fitting, as Koʻa Kea was built on the site of the former Poipu Beach Hotel, destroyed by devastating Hurricane Iniki in 1992. We anticipated it boded well for our upcoming couple’s treatment at the spa, too, as we looked forward to a little rejuvenation after several full days of  touring the island.
  We stayed at another property on Kauaʻi but were drawn to The Spa at Koʻa Kea for its focus on the use of natural, indigenous ingredients in its treatments. The Garden Isle provides the seaweed,  pineapple, guava, coconut and a plethora of other botanicals as well as the famous Kauaʻi red clay and red sea salt which inform the scrubs, wraps, facials, and hair and skin treatments on the spa menu. While featuring just five treatment rooms, the spa offers an impressive selection of massages, body treatments and facials, individually or in packages. In addition to the locally sourced, indigenous botanicals of Mālie Organics, the spa highlights Kerstin Florian  products as well.
  We made our way to the second floor spa where Brandy, the spa  concierge, greeted us and had us fill out the spa paperwork before she introduced us to our therapists, Jenny and Machiko. They escorted us to the couple’s suite, its pale walls, dark wood accents and dim lighting creating a calm ambience. Once Harry and I settled on our tables, neroli oil was placed in an infuser beneath us, offering a light, refreshing, slightly citrusy scent. 
  We had decided on a Pohaku hot stone massage, as neither of us had ever had one before, and it seemed only fitting here  in Hawaiʻi to experience a massage using smooth, heated volcanic stones bathed in tropical nut oils. The spa menu stated this ancient healing treatment would encourage relaxation and wellbeing while melting knotted muscles and increasing circulation.
  It proved to be every bit as relaxing and soothing as promised. Jenny began by gently massaging my back with warm oil before settling a row of stones down my spine. The combination of the weight and heat felt so comforting, draining tension from my chronically tight shoulders and neck. I’ve benefited from more intense massages with much firmer pressure in the past, but I found this approach much more in line with my  vacation mindset and the island vibe.
  As the stones worked their magic, Jenny quietly massaged  my arms, hands and calves before removing the stones and  having me turn onto my back. (Aside from having to get off  the table at the conclusion of a treatment, I’ve always found  this the most difficult maneuver, as I’m too relaxed to want to budge) My feet, legs, shoulders, neck and scalp received more gentle kneading before Jenny softly announced she would be leaving the room, and I could take my time getting up. Harry voiced my own wish after Machiko also left the room “Can’t I just lie here and take a nap”
  We resisted that urge, but we did take our time getting dressed and making our way back to the reception area. The spa doesn’t offer a lounge area or changing rooms, as most visitors are guests of the resort and can unwind in their rooms. We did appreciate the opportunity to sit by the pool and explore the grounds, including the oceanside spa cabana. As the valet brought our car around, we agreed that a future visit to Kauaʻi would have to include a stay at this peaceful resort and some  more rejuvenating pampering in its spa.

The Arctic Hideaway

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The Arctic Hideaway

  As the northern lights disappear, discover another side to the Arctic where the sun never sets on a lonely island retreat.
The Arctic Hideaway lies on a remote archipelago without any shops or cars.
  The northern lights may disappear in late March, but another Arctic spectacle arrives in their place. Roused from a deep sleep, the lands awaken, lit up by a sun that rises but does not set. Summer days blaze fiercely and smoulder deep into the evening until midnight sun (June July) takes over.
  It’s a special time to visit, no matter whether you’re seeking the last flicker of the aurora or wild Arctic nights. But few locations offer quite as intimate an encounter as Sorvaer. There are no cars and no shops here. The only sign of life on this speck of an isle, 2okm off Norway’s northern coast, are ten remote cabins known as the Arctic Hideaway. It’s a setting as lonely and windswept as its name suggests.
  Visitors are all willing castaways. Private boats or a twice daily ferry from Bodo are the only ways back to the mainland. It’s not exactly a case of roughing it, though. Five of the cabins (all wood and Scandi cool) are for sleeping others include a kitchen, sauna, bath house, barbecue and lounge, while an open pantry comes stocked with local seasonal goodies.
  The setting is all part of the appeal. You can go totally off grid (although WiFi is available), and endless Arctic days afford lots of contemplation time the site was first bought in 2004 by Get there Norwegian flies to Bodo via Oslo from London Gatwick (five hours) from around £210 return norwegian.com. Sorvaer is then an hour long boat ride from Bodo. Either book a charter via Arctic Hideaways or take an express ferry (booking.177 nordland.no) from downtown these run twice daily and cost NOK162 (£14.50) for one way tickets. Sunny sleeps The Arctic Hideaway lies on a remote archipelago without any shops or cars a composer looking for inspiration It is also just one isle among some 360 in the Fleinvaer archipelago, lapped by the orca rich waters of Vestfjord and patrolled from above by sea eagles.
  Excursions include island hopping and hiking trips the tallest peak in the archipelago is just under 1,000m and plenty of birdwatching and stargazing. It’s also worth combining a visit with a stop on the wild Lofoten Islands to the north, which you can spy from Sorvaer on a clear day. Then all that’s left is to settle in for the night for your own remote Arctic escape.

Why Italy’s casatiello is theone true king of Easter

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Why Italy’s casatiello is theone true king of Easter

  April sees southern Italy burst into parades and religious festivities, but attheir heart is always food and, in particular, one unique,meaty bread.
  Asking Italians not to fill up on bread is a tricky task. Over 350 varieties originated here, and its south is particularly fruitful. From the heavy altamura loaf of Puglia (said to last up to two weeks) to the twice baked frese rusks of Calabria and the paper like flatbreads of Sardinia,it doesn’t lack for local specialities. But none beats the casatiello for sheer grandeur.
  There’sa reason why visitors only see casatielli at Easter. It’s often made with three types of cheese as well as salami, pancetta and prosciutto, and topped with whole eggs baked into it. As Katie Parla, author of the cookbook Food of the Italian South, explains “South Italy’s tables are renowned for their decadent holiday meals, but nothing rivals the multi day feast of Easter. For South dwellers, especially Neapolitans, the casatiellois the iconic savoury bread for this holiday.”
  Certainly, travellers to Naples in late April can find it in most bakeries, ready to be devoured, symbolically, on Easter morning (21 April). Its crown shape and inlaid eggs mark the circle of life and the Resurrection or spring, if you’re not especially devout.
  This is always a special time to visit Italy, as the south comes alive with parades. From Abruzzo’s ‘Dashing Madonna’ where an effigy of the Holy Mother is rushed to her son across the centre of Sulmona, to Holy Wednesday in Puglia’s Francavilla Fontana, also known as ‘the day of the piatti (dishes)’, when children  parade canapes in exchange for cents. 
  Easter Sunday also clashes with another big date: the anniversary of  Rome’s founding by legendary twins Romulus and Remus. Fireworks and gladiator shows light up the capital and Colosseum. But no matter where you are, food plays a huge role here. So, if you can’t make it, just bake your own casatiello at home.

Go Now And Be Nicely Surprised! Pittsburgh, USA

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Go Now And Be Nicely Surprised! Pittsburgh, USA

  As new flights from the UK touch down in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this month, it’s time to embrace a city that swapped industrial grit for a buzzing food scene, rugged trails and pop art.
  The great US writer Willa Cather once described Pittsburgh as “more vital, more creative [and] more hungry for culture than New York”, and it still has a ring of truth a century on. The City of Bridges, built at the confl ux of three great rivers, has more poetry about it than its midAtlantic industrial reputation might suggest.
  Nowadays, it’s an altogether hipper aff air. As well as being the birthplace of pop art icon Andy Warhol and a sketchpad for iconic architects such as the late Frank Lloyd Wright, a slick art scene still bubbles alongside the sports stadia that dominate local passions. Then there’s its setting: on the banks of the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio rivers. Kayaking trips and the Three Rivers Heritage Trail (40km) all skirt their waters, while the city also stands at the gateway to the Great Allegheny Passage, an iconic trail that follows old rail lines up into the scenic Laurel Highlands.
  It’s easy to fi nd something that catches the eye here. Northside is known for its museums as well as the vast Heinz Field (whether you care for American football or not, seeing the Steelers play is a rite of  passage), while the Strip District and Lawrenceville are all about boutiques, distilleries and dining the sort of places where ‘wagyu short-rib taco’ is not a dirty phrase.
  It all stems from an ongoing tech boom driving youth to the suburbs. But Downtown is the still the heart of Pittsburgh, from the riverfront to the always exciting Wood Street Galleries, which turned an old light rail stop into a busy artistic hub.
  Try to arrive for summer, when the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival (7 16 June) marks its 60th anniversary. Across ten days, free art and music lights up Downtown from the Cultural District, known for its theatres, galleries and jazz bars, to the lush Pointe State Park, where the oldest building in the city, the 18th century Fort Pitt Block House, still proudly stands.
  It isn’t glamorous but there’s a rugged, artsy energy to Pittsburgh that isn’t easily defi ned. As Cather once declared, it’s a “hungry” city.  Perhaps that’s what makes it so fun.

Kotor

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Kotor

Get a glimpse of life in Montenegro’s UNESCO protected town
  Visiting Kotor feels like travelling back in time. This fortifed town, tucked into a small inlet on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast, stands as it always has among the mountains. It’s a labyrinth of churches, museums, palaces and piazzas each cobblestoned street harbouring secrets from  the town’s two millennia of existence.

BACK IN TIME  

  Kotor’s Old Town is the best place to start. Lose yourself among the UNESCO listed city walls each narrow alley packed with charming cafés where seating areas spill onto the streets. Every corner you turn reveals a glimpse of the town’s history the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, first built in 1166 the Church of Saint Luke from the 12th century the Prince’s Palace from the 17th century and the Napoleon Theatre from the 19th century. Spend an hour at one of the pavement cafés or grab a krempita (a custard filled puff pastry slice) to go Behind the Old Town, you’ll find a hiking trail that zig zags up the mountains. This so called ‘Ladder of Kotor’ was once the only route connecting the town with Njegusi village and the old royal capital of Cetinje. From the 1200m high Castle of San Giovanni, perched en route near the top of the range, views sweep across the bay taking  in the historic orange roofed towns, the glassy ocean and the rolling mountains beyond.

SETTING SAIL  

  It is on the water, however, that Kotor really shines. A boat ride into the fjord like Bay of Kotor,  known locally as Boka (‘the bay’), reveals the region’s epic scenery. To the west stands Mount Orjen, and to the east, Mount Lovćen these two massifs of the Dinaric Alps circling the orange city below. When the sun shines, it’s as though the world’s saturation has been dialled right up. You can cross the bay to visit  the small photogenic islands of  Sveti Djordje (St George) and Gospa od Škrpjela (Our Lady  of the Rocks) The latter has the distinction of being the only man made island in the Adriatic not that it looks View from the top (clockwise from this) The view across the Bay of Kotor the mountains and cobblestoned alleys of the Old Town artificial. It stands serenely on the water supporting a pretty church, home to 68 paintings by the Baroque artist Tripo Kokolja.

PARTY SEASON  

  Back on shore, Kotor has a host of exciting events. Every August, the Kotor Carnival fills the streets with masked dancers, colourful costumes and Mediterranean music with the celebrations continuing well into the night. There’s also KotorArt, a summer art festival that’s dedicated to preserving Montenegro’s traditional culture, with more than 200 performances of music, dance and theatre throughout the bay. But festival or not, with such a picturesque little city in such an idyllic  mountain setting, it feels as though there’s always something worth celebrating.

Dreams of the Golden State California

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Dreams of the Golden State California 

California offers a world’s worth of experiences to savor.

Pacific Ocean

  The world’s largest ocean, the fabled Pacific, embraces California’s entire western boundary. It’s a place to dream, to ponder life’s possibilities and endless  mysteries, and a place to play. Surfers ride  the sea’s prodigious waves sailors ply her waters boogie boarders and body surfers splash in her surf kayakers explore her coves and shore breaks children of all ages wade in her froth and comb her beaches. Life happens on the edge of the Pacific, where the sun shines, and sets in ethereal colors.

The Seductive State Of California  

is large in every sense of the word. It’s the most populous state in the U.S. and the third largest in terms of geographical size. Its economy ranks fifth in the entire world. When it comes to visitor attractions, California presents travelers with as wide a range ofriches as many countries. Whether you’re passionate about natural activities, cultural pursuits or dining and wining, the Golden State has diverse delights to entice you.

Outdoor Adventurer  

  If you’re anature lover and active adventurer, you’ll be dazzled by the state’s spectacular spectrum. On the western edge there’s the Pacific Ocean,the largest body ofwaterinthe world, perfect for surfing, sailing and swimming. 
  In the east there are the magnificent mountains of the Sierra Nevada, a haven for skiers and snowboarders in winter and  hikers and bicyclists in summer. This region is home to Mount Whitney, the tallest  mountain in the “Lower 48” and a mecca for climbers, topping off at 14,505 feet. Among  California’s most moving experiences are walking through the natural cathedral of  Muir Woods and camping in the granite grandeur of Yosemite National Park.
  For boaters, birders and fishermen, there’s Lake Shasta, home to an abundance of fish and fowl. For whitewaterfans, more than a dozen rivers, including the mighty American and Sacramento, provide thrilling rides. Kayakers and canoers find paradise in Point Reyes National Seashore in the north and watery wonders at Morro Bay on the central coast.
  In the southern part of the state, visitors savor the sere splendors of the Mojave Desert and Death Valley, the lowest point in North America, 282 feet below sea level. If tide pooling tempts you, Shaw’s Cove tide pools in the Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve and the Terranea tide pools in the Point Vicente State Marine Conservation Area in Rancho Palos Verdes showcase sea anemones, crabs, urchins, sea slugs, sea stars and more. The five islands of Channel Islands National Park, accessible only by boat or plane from Ventura andOxnard, provide a peaceful, pristine home for more than 2,000 plant and animal species, including 145 found nowhere else on the planet.

Cultural Connoisseur  

  If you love culture, you’ll find a treasure trove of activities in the Golden State, from museum and art gallery exhibitions to shops showcasing contemporary handicrafts and timeworn antiques, and from performances of theater, dance and music to displays at aquariums and hands on education centers.
  For music, the world class concert halls of Los Angeles and San Francisco are wellknown, but equally appealing are smaller sites such as the Redlands Bowl in the Inland Empire city of Redlands, where an elegant amphitheater spotlights California’s oldest free concert series, presenting everything from classical music to bluegrass bands each summer, orthe Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall on the California State University Sonoma campus, where warm weather concert goers can spread a blanket on the terraced lawn for an alfresco music fest.
  Alively variety ofperformances,including ballet, theater, variety shows, comedy and even onstage conversations, are presented at Oakland’s ornately Art Deco Paramount Theater. Another multi faceted venue lovingly restored to its former glory is Fresno’s Warnors Center for the Performing Arts, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and distinguished by a pipe organthat  replicates the sound of a full orchestra.
  From the Siskiyou County Museum in Yreka to the San Diego Museum of Art, museums and galleries celebrating history, human endeavor and artistic heritage abound throughout the state. Creative exploring will yield access to small scale museums that specialize in everything from comics and cable cars to surfing and sewing. Other outstanding educational institutions that focus on interactive experiences include the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the California Academy of Sciences and the Exploratorium.

Food Aficionado  

  For food aficionados, California is a wonderland of tastes, textures and innovative culinary creations. One of the most delightful and enlightening experiences is visiting a farmers market, where freshfrom the farm produce will be on delicious display and fresh from the field farmers will be happy to offer samples and stories. Farmers markets can now be found throughoutthe state. As a further outgrowth of the popularity of these markets, more and more farms are now offering visitors  the opportunity to pay to pick their own strawberries, peaches or plums and savor the sweetness of just plucked fruit. Some farms even offertravelers the chance to stay and work, which reveals from the inside the rites and rhythms of modern farm life.
  California is the birthplace of California Cuisine, of course, a culinary revolution spearheaded by Berkeley’s Alice Waters whose Chez Panisse is still serving extraordinary food 48 years after it opened. That revolution has spawned numerous other channels of creative culinary freshness and fusion, blending Asian, European and Latin American ingredients and traditions, which are showcased throughout the state. As Alice Waters and her followers focused attention on local purveyors, food related opportunities for travelers expanded. One result today is the California Cheese Trail, an interactive website and printable map (cheesetrail.org) that features artisanal cheese makers throughout the state.
  Wine trails have long drawn travelers to California, but these have expanded as well in recent years In addition to worldrenowned regions such as Napa and Sonoma, up and coming areas that offer their own winery routes include Livermore, Paso Robles, Ventura, Madera and Temecula.
  Whatever interest has drawn you to California, you’ll find almost infinite reasons to be seduced and stay.