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10 Hotels Serving An Unforgettable Thanksgiving

There’s nowhere quite like home for the holidays, but all the stress that comes with preparing the perfect festive meal for your crew can leave you feeling more frazzled than thankful. This November, let the pros at these luxurious lodgings do the cooking, so you can focus on spending time with those closest to you.

From ice skating and turkey trots to multicourse meals and bountiful buffets, these Forbes Travel Guide-approved hotels are serving up all the fixings to make your Thanksgiving one to remember.

Pendry San Diego

Feast for a cause during the second annual ChefsGiving charity dinner at this sleek San Diego hotel. On November 14, 12 local toques (including Lionfish executive chef Jojo Ruiz and Top Chef Mexico alum Claudette Zepeda) will team up to prepare a family-style dinner of gourmet holiday fare (braised turkey legs, twice-baked Japanese sweet potatoes, roasted sunchoke and burrata gratin) that you can feel good about — $30 from each ticket will be donated to the San Diego Food Bank.

If you can’t snag a seat to the charitable gathering, you can still enjoy seasonal treats on November 28 with Provisional’s three-course Thanksgiving menu.

Today In: Lifestyle

Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills

Savor Turkey Day with a side of sunshine when you spend the holiday at this Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Beverly Hills hideaway. On November 28, dig into a French-accented feast of roasted turkey roulade and caramelized pear and pecan stuffing at Forbes Travel Guide Recommended bistro Avec Nous.

After polishing off a pumpkin tart, visit the Lobby Lounge & Bar for seasonal sips (cider for kids, cognac cocktails for grownups) and, maybe, a star sighting or two. And with the SoCal hotel’s Family Festivity offer, you’ll sleep soundly knowing that you not only saved 50 percent off a second room for the tots, but scored pint-sized robes and gratis breakfast in the morning, too.

Park Hyatt Chicago

While this posh Michigan Avenue property may make for an ideal home base for some Black Friday shopping, its culinary display the night before at NoMI Kitchen should not be overlooked. Book a spot for the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended restaurant’s popular Turkey Day buffet to indulge in an array of chef’s stations featuring everything from sushi and antipasti to classics like truffle- and sage-brined turkey with cranberry-cornbread stuffing.

And don’t miss a trip to the decadent dessert bar. Treats like cranberry-jam- and gingerbread-cream-stuffed choux puffs and pumpkin pie with whipped white chocolate Chantilly ganache will provide a sweet ending to the day.

Viejas Resort & Casino

Get into the spirit of the season with a visit to Southern California’s largest outdoor ice skating rink at this Four-Star resort just outside San Diego. Lace up your skates and glide across the rink beneath twinkling lights that will put you in a festive mood.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, refuel with The Buffet at Viejas’ Thanksgiving Day menu . The carving station will serve up autumnal specialties like smoked turkey breast with port wine demi-glace, and bourbon honey ham with currant sauce alongside all the trimmings.

If you’re craving a more romantic holiday, be sure to check in at Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Willows Hotel & Spa at Viejas, an all-suite, adults-only oasis just steps from the action.

The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Rather than just one day of celebration, make a weekend of it when you spend Thanksgiving at this Five-Star Southern charmer just outside of Charleston. Kick off the holiday with a turkey trot on the beach, followed by a turkey hunt, family sand sculpting competition and fall festival complete with live music and pumpkin bowling.

When it comes time for dinner, you’ll find an array of scrumptious-sounding feasts, from football and a festive atmosphere at The Players’ Pub to a fall-inspired, multi-course menu in The Ocean Room.

On November 29, the Christmas season gets into full swing with the property’s annual tree lighting ceremony, a holiday bazaar workshop where you can make your own gifts and a hot-cocoa-accompanied showing of The Polar Express.

The Garden City Hotel

Add a little romance to your Thanksgiving festivities when you book the Fall Celebrations package at this grand Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Long Island favorite.

Soak in the stunning fall foliage (and give thanks for some time alone together) from the comfort of your plush room while enjoying epicurean extras like apple confections, locally crafted hard cider and a $50 credit you can apply toward seasonal fare at Red Salt Room by David Burke.

If you still have room after all those goodies, pull up a seat for the property’s Thanksgiving Grand Brunch Buffet. Also curated by chef Burke, the elaborate spread features everything from turkey and sides to breakfast staples (an omelet station, vanilla French toast) and Mediterranean mezze (hummus, grilled haloumi cheese).

Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resorts Collection

Skiers hit the Thanksgiving jackpot this year as Aspen Mountain opens for the season on November 28. Be one of the first to cruise the slopes and work up an appetite for a holiday feast at this historic Four-Star hotel.

From 2 to 8 p.m., restaurant Prospect will present a bountiful buffet of fall favorites (butternut squash bisque, citrus-herb-roasted turkey with cranberry sauce) and succulent seafood (an oyster- and shrimp-packed raw bar) to help you round out your alpine holiday.

Archer Hotel Austin

For a Thanksgiving feast with Southwestern flair, head to this trendy Forbes Travel Guide Recommended boutique hotel, where Second Bar + Kitchen (the second outpost from the popular local restaurant) will cook up a mouthwatering spread. Nibble on chipotle-corn muffins with honey-lime butter while piling your plate with maple-mustard-glazed Niman Ranch ham and roasted sweet potatoes with bourbon apples.

Get a head-start on your holiday shopping (and work off those tasty indulgences) by browsing the array of high-end stores in the nearby Domain Northside retail district. Be sure to snap a selfie or two with the neighborhood’s unique decorations — Cowboy Santa and the 10-foot-tall Willie Nelson nutcracker offer a quirky taste of Austin.

Belmond Charleston Place

Always a go-to for special occasions in the Holy City, this regal Four-Star retreat’s Charleston Grill is pulling out all the stops in late November with a three-course meal fit for a debutante.

Snag a table in the elegant Four-Star restaurant’s wood-paneled dining room to savor festive French-inspired plates like foie gras with rosemary, braised rabbit with potato dumplings and crab cakes. Of course, traditional herb-roasted turkey with all the fixings is also available for Thanksgiving purists.

End your evening on a sweet note with a pumpkin pie pot de crème, served with a comforting apple turnover and cinnamon whipped cream.

The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park

For an unforgettable holiday, check into this recently refreshed Five-Star classic where unbeatable views of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade come standard.

Book the Specialty Suites promotion to not only receive ultra-plush accommodations facing the parade route, but also a slew of celebratory extras like in-suite brunch, a one-hour session with a personal photographer and a $250 credit at Four-Star La Prairie at The Ritz-Carlton Spa.

Cap off your indulgent stay with a three-course Thanksgiving dinner at the posh property’s newly opened Contour restaurant. Fall-tinged dishes like New Bedford scallops with apple cider glaze and sweet potato gnocchi with hazelnut cream sauce add a modern twist to the menu. —Sarah Chanin

Forbes Travel Guide, formerly Mobil, created America’s original hospitality Star Rating system in 1958. Since then, its team of incognito inspectors have checked into thousands of hotels, dined at just as many restaurants, and experienced scores of spa treatments to bring you information on the very best places to stay, eat and relax around the world. Throughout ForbesTravelGuide.com, you’ll find Star-Rated and recommended hotels, restaurants and spas, as well as information on destinations and activities, created by Forbes Travel Guide’s team of professional editors, correspondents, expert and inspectors.

Source: 10 Hotels Serving An Unforgettable Thanksgiving

 

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The Brando Adds Luxe New Residences To Its Sustainable Polynesian Private Island Paradise

 The Brando, Marlon Brando’s former French Polynesian private island hideaway, continues to evolve with the addition of new residences, designed in keeping with the late actor’s ambitious vision for an environmentally sustainable resort.

The first of four residential accommodations opened last month on the resort’s main motu (islet) Onetahi, one of 12 motus that ring the Tetiaroa atoll in French Polynesia.

The 3,000-square-foot, three-bedroom residence sets the model for the others that will built over the next four years. The sprawling structure is nestled on a 1.25-acre plot, ensuring heightened privacy in what is already a very secluded resort.

The design blends indoor and outdoor living spaces with contemporary interiors that open directly onto the Residence’s large terrace and decks. It also has a swimming pool in addition to a private span of white sandy beach on the sparkling turquoise waters of the lagoon.

Residence guests have full access to the resort and its activities and amenities, including multiple restaurants and bars, spa, fitness center, and water sport options. You can also request a dedicated staff of chefs and butlers to provide the utmost personalized service and in-residence dining.

The Residence’s dramatic architecture offers a modern interpretation of Polynesian style with the use of local tropical wood, coral walls, and pandanus thatch roofing. Built in harmony with its natural surroundings, the Residence also adheres to the strict standards that earned the resort its LEED Platinum certification.

“Each of the Brando Residences will feature five-star services and amenities powered by the same zero carbon emission technology which has established The Brando as a pillar of sustainable hospitality,” said Richard H. Bailey, CEO of Pacific Beachcomber (the resort’s developer and manager) in a news release. “Solar energy and biofuel power the entire resort, while deep seawater cools it, and these practices will also be in place at the residences.”

Marlon Brando was introduced to Tetiaroa while filming Mutiny on the Bounty in the early 1960s. He was so enchanted by the place and its unique culture that he purchased the atoll in 1967 and settled into his private piece of paradise.

In 1999, Brando tapped Bailey, a fellow environmentalist who had created some of the region’s finest resorts, to design his vision for a carbon-neutral, self-sustaining luxury resort that would employ innovative technologies and preserve Tetiaroa’s natural beauty, biodiversity, and cultural richness. The concept would simultaneously provide the global scientific community with a model for environmentally sustainable development. Brando’s dream was ultimately fulfilled a decade after his death with the opening of The Brando in 2014.

Guests have the opportunity to take a Green Tour for a behind-the-scenes look at The Brando’s initiatives, such as seawater air conditioning technology, solar panels, water production and storage, coconut oil generators, and more. Meanwhile, the property’s EcoStation operates as a working lab for scientists from around the world, and the non-profit Tetiaroa Society, endeavors to protect the island and coastal communities by preserving local ecosystems and culture.

The Brando, located about 30 miles north of Tahiti, features 35 deluxe villas, each with its own private beach area and plunge pool, restaurants showcasing Polynesian and French cuisine, a Polynesian spa, an array of water sports, and more.

All-inclusive resort rates start at €3,300 per night for 2 people with a two-night minimum stay, and all-inclusive rates for the new Brando Residence start from €15,000 per night for up to six guests. 

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I believe luxury is about more than expense. My stories draw on my passion for quality, design, artistry, and craftsmanship. I have been writing about five-star travel, the world’s finest watches and jewelry, and other luxurious specialties for nearly two decades, including more than eight years as senior editor at Robb Report. I am a contributing editor for Cigar Aficionado, and I also contribute to Barron’s Penta, Centurion International, Departures International, NUVO, The New York Post, WorldTempus, and other outlets.

Source: The Brando Adds Luxe New Residences To Its Sustainable Polynesian Private Island Paradise

 

8 Travel Hacks That You’ll Actually Use on Your Next Trip

These days, the internet is chock-full of travel “hacks” that promise to help you book, pack, and fly for a fraction of the effort and expense.

Reading through some of these lists, however, can trigger an eyebrow raise from the savvy traveler. You may find yourself thinking, “There’s no way that really works.” Chances are, there’s merit to that gut feeling—many so-called hacks rarely play out as portrayed on Pinterest.

In an attempt to cut through the noise and offer advice you’ll actually use, below are a few time-tested travel tips gleaned from more than two years of full-time traveling (and more 10-plus-hour flights than I care to reflect upon).

1. Talk to strangers—and get creative.

Whether you’re talking to a local bartender, a tour guide, or a fellow traveler, there’s no more trite question than, “What’s your favorite [restaurant, city, etc.]?” Come up with at least two go-to questions that are a bit more inventive.

Getting more specific with these queries can lead to the discovery of true hidden gems. Try asking, “Where’s the best place for people-watching in this city?” or “What’s been your most memorable meal in the past six months?” instead of leaning on clichés, and you’ll be rewarded with equally thoughtful responses.

RELATED: How to *Actually* Sleep on a Plane

2. A dedicated pouch for cords is a necessity.

One downside of technology: an abundance of accessories. If you’ve ever spent 20 minutes digging through your carry-on for a portable charger, earbuds, or USB cord, you know how frustrating (and elusive) these items can be. A little pouch that’s specifically dedicated to these cords—and kept easily accessible in your carry-on—will save you serious headaches.

Pro tip: Some airlines give out little goodie bags with earplugs, an eye mask, and socks to every passenger. These baggies make perfect travel tech-cessory pouches. (I’ve been using one I picked up from Qatar Airways for the past year; it’s the perfect size.)

3. There’s an optimal number of alcoholic drinks to have while flying.

Downing four glasses of wine to relax sounds like a great idea during a three-hour layover or before a red-eye flight, but think twice before drinking half a bottle of Cab. Being on a plane causes dehydration and naturally messes with your circadian rhythm, and alcohol exacerbates both these things.

Too much booze can disrupt everything from your sleep cycle to your neighbor (who won’t be thrilled when you have to get up from the middle seat to use the lavatory six times). If you want a drink to take the edge off, that’s fine—but stick to one, one-and-a-half max. You’ll thank yourself later for having a little restraint.

RELATED: This Brilliant Trick Will Keep You Calm the Next Time You Hit Turbulence

4. Carry pens.

Sometime after smartphones became prolific, the practice of carrying pens fell into sharp decline. Nobody wants to be the plane neighbor who has to ask the surrounding three rows to borrow a pen to fill out a customs form (or a particularly tantalizing crossword puzzle in an airline magazine).

This one is an easy fix: You probably have an entire drawer filled with pens somewhere in your house. Grab a couple, toss them into your carry-on, and leave them in there as permanent fixtures.

5. Keychains are amazingly useful.

Especially if you frequently stay in apartment-style rooms or Airbnbs, it’s a good idea to carry a keychain so that you don’t lose the keys to your home away from home.

Here are a few of my favorites: surprisingly stylish Gorilla Tape; a sleek corkscrew wine opener (this one will fly with TSA); a tiny, powerful flashlight; and a simple carabiner. These gadgets take up very little space in luggage and come in shockingly handy in a pinch.

RELATED: Take These Steps to Make Sure You Don’t Lose Your Luggage

6. You can use a hotel room kettle to steam your clothes.

Wrinkles are the bane of a frequent traveler’s existence, and unfortunately nobody has yet invented a truly effective wrinkle spray. In addition to using a hair straightener or steam from a hot shower as a quick fix for wrinkled clothes, using a portable kettle as a steamer when you’re boiling drinking water or making tea takes resourcefulness to the next level. (If you’ve got extra room in a suitcase, these travel-sized steamers are a more conventional option.)

7. Make it a practice to take in 20 seconds of tech-free silence every day.

In a world in which little white earbuds have practically become appendages to our bodies (and in which we’re constantly glued to Google Maps), technology can be as much of a distraction as it is a valuable travel aid. And while friends or family can certainly add to travel experiences, being engaged in constant conversation with your travel companions means you may miss out on important solo moments that will later come to define your time in a new city or country.

So, watch a sunset in silence without trying (and, let’s be honest, failing) to capture it on a smartphone; look up from Google and actually take in the street you’re walking down. Find a way to remind yourself to take 10 or 20 seconds of each travel day to truly soak in it all in. (Downloading the 1 Second Everyday app is a fun way to develop this habit.)

8. Stop stressing about “hacking” travel.

Sometimes travel hacks are quirky shortcuts, and sometimes they’re fabulous failures. Regardless, focusing too hard on having a seamless travel experience misses the point. Sometimes, the best travel memories come out of sheer happenstance—or even in the aftermath of a mishap. Learning to roll with the punches is one of the most valuable lessons that travel can teach, so channel your inner spontaneity and embrace the unfamiliar.

This article originally appeared on Travel and Leisure. For more stories like this, visit travelandleisure.com.

By TRAVELANDLEISURE.COM/Stephanie Walden

Source: 8 Travel Hacks That You’ll Actually Use on Your Next Trip

Why You Should Never Book Your Flight And Hotel At The Same Time

When it comes to booking vacations, have we been doing it wrong all this time? For many of us, planning a vacation typically means choosing a destination, doing some research, comparing prices, and then reaching for a credit card. Once we’ve got our ducks lined up in a row, we go ahead and book our flights and hotel. A significant percentage of travelers always buys a package that bundles the flight and hotel together because conventional wisdom says that packages save you money.

Except that’s not true, says Sam Shank, CEO of HotelTonight, a platform for last-minute hotel booking platform. That’s because the optimal time to book the various different elements of your trip happen at different times – and this is the crux of how to save. “If you don’t book your flights early, you’re going to spend a fortune. With airline tickets, prices shoot up a lot if you wait too long,” says Shank. “But it’s the exact opposite with hotel prices, which decline the longer you wait.”

In other words, it makes zero sense to book your flights and hotel at the same time. To get the best price on both elements of your vacation, you should book flights six to seven weeks ahead and wait until much closer to your travel dates to book your hotel. This is a particularly good strategy if you’ve chosen a destination with a lot of hotels and your heart is not set on a particular property during the peak travel season.

Shank’s advice is founded in stats. The average hotel is only two-thirds full on any given night, so unless there’s a convention or some other major event going on, there is likely to be plenty of inventory available in a destination even on your arrival day.

You can book a hotel up to three months in advance on the HotelTonight website or app (available for iOS and Android), but the longer you wait, the more you save. Booking a week out nabs you a better price than if you book a month out, but the biggest savings of all go to last-minute Charlies who wait until the same day, when hotel rates are, on average, 10% less than the day before, says Shank.

Have you been told that travel packages always save you money? Again, you are booking your flight and hotel at the same time and only one of those elements will be at its optimal price. “Unbundling helps you save because you can get the benefit of booking the flight early and the hotel late,” says Shank.

There’s another benefit to booking your flight and hotel separately. “The selection of hotels included in these packages is often limited, so you’re often not able to choose the perfect hotel for you,” says Shank. “By unbundling, you’re going to get better choice as well.”

READ MORE:

Follow me on LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I’m always looking for new ways to travel better, smarter, deeper and cheaper, so I spend a lot of time watching trends at the intersection of travel and technology.

 

Source: Why You Should Never Book Your Flight And Hotel At The Same Time

10 Best Things To See and Do in delightful Bruges, Belgium

When I look back on the past decade of our travels, all I see are little city breaks scattered throughout the years. Instead of burning all the vacation days on one big, proper trip, we favoured spontaneous voyages around Europe and Ireland.

One thing I was surprised to discover- I found real satisfaction in planning all the trips and loved the anticipation of what might happen. Actually, when I think about it, I enjoyed organising weekend getaways and staycations even more than remembering them after.

I got so hooked that I needed this happy feeling in my life repeated as often as possible. I started planning prospective road trips and crazy adventures. Over the years I plotted pretty much everything I could, from a two-week Pacific Northwest adventures to The Great Ocean Road trip and even several Around The World Trips.

Some of the journeys and routes that I have planned are still bookmarked for later and some of them we had a chance to experience several times.

When it comes to pretty European getaways, Brugge is one place I always wanted to go. It was one of the first trips that I personally planned with great enthusiasm. Was I seduced by chocolate fountains that never dry out or inspired by long exposure pictures of the medieval city at night with silky smooth waters on my Instagram feed?

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Pretty cobbled streets in Bruges, Belgium.

 

All I know is that since we had to cancel long weekend in Belgium a few years ago, because of Valters work circumstances, urge to go surfaced from time to time in my head.

The purpose of our visit to Bruges, that was founded in the 9th century by the Vikings,  was to see its beautiful squares, hear folkloric tales and to climb 366 steps to the very top of the Belfry.

And even though we arrived in Bruges hearing rain pound on the train window and even though we never made it to the medieval bell tower, we were swept away by its laid-back ambience and delectable foods.

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You gonna love Bruges!

10 best things to see and do in delightful Bruges, Belgium

For those world wanderers who want to discover the best things to see and do in this city, we put together a list of some of the most beautiful places you’ll find in Bruges. If you ask me, there’s no denying that with the quirky houses, incredible Christmas markets, and the cobbled streets, Bruges is one of the Europes most beautiful cities.

It’s so beautifully unique and full of history that in fact, the centre of it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

After spending a full day in Bruges, we can recommend this medieval town to everyone. Bruges is a very walkable place, and you can fit all the major attractions in a day. So, bring your walking shoes and explore this place.

#1. Eat all the Belgian chocolate you can

On a quest to find the best sweets in town? You have come to the right place. White and dark chocolate, macaroons, pralines, truffles, strawberry ganache, waffles – whatever you fancy! Bruges is cheerfully dripping in sweets. For the most amazing chocolates in the World, go to The Chocolate Line.  Lavender and the Cuban cigar flavour, anyone?

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Pure deliciousness.

#2. Find the 18th-century windmills

The Koeleweimolen and Sint-Janshuismolen mills are located on the outskirts of town and are worth a visit. Out of four remaining windmills, these two are still used today to grind the grain. Each of the houses a small museum and if you are in luck, you’ll see the sails in motion.

#3. Look out for In Bruges filming locations

Before our trip I scrolled through the Netflix archives, looking for a black comedy starring Collin Farrel and Brendon Gleeson, In Bruges.  Not only this movie was hilarious; it also revealed beautiful Gothic architecture, old bridges and lots of tourist attractions.

Most of the filming locations are freely accessible, and you can see Minnewater Bridge, The Groeningemuseum, the Relais Bourgondisch Cruyce, The Huidenvettersplein, The Jan Van Eyckplein and many more. Bring your camera, get the map of all the filming locations at the tourist information bureau and have fun finding them.

#4. Go for a Boat Ride

The canal boat ride was the very first thing we enjoyed in Bruges. The price of the ticket is around 8 euro, it takes 30 minutes for a round trip, and this trip allowed us to see the town from a different angle. Jumping into the boat with other travellers was a perfect way to see the city and our tour guide was quite the character, telling jokes and interesting facts about everything we saw along the way.

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Bruges, Belgium.

#5. Go for a walk

When you go for a walk around Bruges, the evidence why this place never needs to fight for visitors attention, unlike Ghent or Antwerp, is on every corner. Strolling through unfamiliar streets and squares filled with small cafes and shops, we stopped many times to gaze into the beautifully decorated shop windows, tried to imagine what the rooms look like behind those pink painted window frames, admired the unique architecture and tried to absorb its energetic vibe.

#6. Explore Bruges on bike

Bruges is a land of bicycles. ROour advice, rent the bikes, ditch the mid-day crowds and go for a ride. You can use the pedestrian/bike path that circles nearly all the way around town. If you enjoy hopping on two wheels and like to see the countryside too then go all the way to Damme, situated north-east of Bruges.

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Bruges, Belgium.

#7.  Find cute door knobs

As we wandered from one cobbled street to the next one, we found many beautifully detailed doors often with symmetrical designs. One thing to look out for in Bruges is door knobs that come in all shape and sizes. We spotted everything from flowers and animals to beautiful ornaments. Knocking on the doors in this town sure is fun.

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Cute, isn’t it?

 

#8.  See the impressive Town Hall

Located in Burg Square Bruges Town Hall is strikingly remarkable inside and out. Interior of this place is decorated with a golden ceiling and valuable paintings. 19th-century murals adorn the Ghotic Hall and may original documents can be found in the historic chamber.

#9. Go on a tour  with a horse-drawn carriage

While walking around medieval town, we quickly learned that that Bruges was in a class of its own.  Another fun way how to enjoy the sights and listen to the stories told by the coachman is to go for a half-hour carriage ride along beautiful streets. It is definitely one of the priciest things to do in this city, but its good fun!

#10. Send some love

Last thing before we left – postcards. I send one home to Latvia and to my friends from every place we visit. I love this old fashion way of keeping in touch as it’s an effective way to show you care. Who doesn’t want to receive a hand-picked card with a personal note from the other side of the world?

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Sending postcards from Bruges.

How to get to Bruges

Typically for most visitors, the first stop in Belgium is Brussels city. From here, you can take a train ride to Bruges with Belgian Railway.  To make the most of your trip, especially if you are going on a day trip, you need to get an early start. It takes around an hour to make it to Bruges from Brussels by train, and it’s possible to purchase the ticket in advance. To do so, use the Belgian train online page.

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Bruges, Belgium.

Now, over to you!

Have you been to Bruges? Let us know in the comments below!

Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Bruges and have travel related questions!

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Source: 10 Best Things To See and Do in delightful Bruges, Belgium

Best Countries For Budget Travel Map

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When planning your perfect wedding day who wouldn’t be looking for the dream honeymoon to match? But between the flowers, favours and the flights costs can rack up pretty quickly. History buff on the hunt for a budget-friendly stone formation? Or simply curious? If the gift shop, fences and entry fees at Stonehenge leave you stone cold, explore these free-to-see rock stars from our new title, The Best Things in Life are Free, instead….

Read more: http://www.runawayguide.com/best-countries-for-backpacking-map/

 

 

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Don’t Let TripAdvisor Kill Adventure – Seth Kugel

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August is peak travel season, which means that right now millions of Americans are traipsing around the world creating the stories they’ll be telling captivated dinner guests and captive grandchildren for decades to come.

But as user reviews are added by the millions, social media becomes a substitute for live interaction and cheap international data tames a once-wild world into digital submission, the good travel yarn is in decline. Greater access to information means fewer impromptu decisions and fewer surprises. “I discovered this homey trattoria in Rome” now too often means “I read about it on Yelp,” and stories of summer flings are more likely to begin with “I matched with him on Tinder” than with “I met her in line at the Comédie-Française” (true story).

It’s hardly just Italy and France. Even nontraditional tourist destinations have been documented to within an inch of their lives. Wondering what to order for lunch at Bobodia, a Halal chicken spot in downtown Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso? “Don’t hesitate to try the kidneys and liver parsley!” reads one TripAdvisor review, translated into English with the click of a button.

Whether TripAdvisor reviews are helpful or hogwash is subjective, but either way, doesn’t a meal of giblets in West Africa make for a better story if you stumble upon it serendipitously rather than seek it out upon the advice of Chantal J. from Marseille? In other words, if the best travel experiences happen when things don’t go according to plan, why do we plan so much?

I’m not suggesting wandering off to Mongolia without cracking a guidebook (although that sounds fun). For most of us, at least some advance planning is a necessity. I always make at least a skeletal plan, but I’m ready to drop it in a flash if something better comes up. It almost always does.

A few years ago, my girlfriend at the time and I were driving through a sleepy stretch of coastal South Carolina on our way to spend 24 hours in Charleston before heading on to Savannah, Ga. That was, until I spotted the Carolina Country Store, a charmer of a white clapboard general store with a sign outside advertising boiled peanuts.

I suggested we stop for some, though I had no plausible reason to do so. For one thing, thanks to the $6.95 barbecue buffet at a place called Hog Heaven a few miles back, we were hardly hungry. For another, boiled peanuts are disgusting, a mushy Southern tradition that shows once and for all why God invented honey roasting.

But something about the place was irresistible. As I chatted with the amiable owner and admired the antiques and old photos that adorned the walls, another customer started to teach my girlfriend a technique for trapping alligators with her bare hands. It was a skill he had picked up working the grounds of a nearby privately owned historic plantation, he said. His boss was out of town. Would we care for a tour?

Um, obviously. We spent the next few hours with him, climbing around an ancient rice mill and bowing our heads into former slave quarters. It was the kind of afternoon that you don’t forget.

It was dusk when we arrived in Charleston, so we had to cram all my plans into the following morning. We checked out a few sites, but I have only the vaguest memories of those places, and certainly no stories to tell.

A skeptic might say we just got lucky. Most road trip rest stops, after all, do not result in a free alligator-trapping lesson. But what’s the worst that can happen when you skip out on travel plans and do something spontaneous? You get a mediocre meal? You lose the chance to take a selfie in front of the 14th-ranked attraction in town? I’ve made a habit of abandoning plans, and I don’t recall ever regretting a spontaneous deviation.

There was the time in Naples, Italy, that I got so sick of ticking off tourist-packed top-10 pizzerias that I decided to flee one evening to a randomly chosen subway stop and eat at the first pizzeria I saw. Or the time when a monastery on the Albanian coast was not where it was supposed to be, so I parked my rental car and took off down an unmarked dirt path. Or the time when I found Oaxaca jam-packed and overhyped and took a bus into the Mexican countryside, asking the driver to suggest a nice town with no tourists.

The Naples night led me to a raucous student spot where I had the best pizza of my life — though I have no idea whether it was actually that good or whether the excitement of discovering it made it taste better. (And I don’t care.) The Albanian path emerged at an idyllic beach where I stripped down and went skinny-dipping. (It turned out that an Austrian couple hidden under a rock outcropping was watching the whole time.) And the day in a random town featured a hell of a homemade chicken mole and a visit to a 16th-century monastery that did not even show up on TripAdvisor (leading me to suspect that the company may be biased toward halal chicken stands in West Africa.)

Smarter skeptics might object on the grounds that, as a travel writer, I am on the road countless days a year with time to spare, whereas they get 10 vacation days a year and have to make them all count. Or they’re traveling with kids so there’s little room for error. Or they want to impress a romantic partner, not lead a National Geographic expedition. And, by the way, that I’m a white man with a lot less to fear.

All are compelling arguments, but I’m not suggesting you have to travel the way I do. Adventure is relative. What qualifies as wild to a kid on a gap year (riding a bus through Central America, say), a family with children (a home stay with a local family) or a novice traveler on her first trip abroad (opting out of an afternoon group tour for an aimless stroll) is different.

Of course, if you simply prefer to be led worry free to monuments, mountains and great restaurants, there’s nothing wrong with that — if that’s what you really want.

But there’s something very wrong if it’s not, if the flood of information, the temptation of smartphones and the ever-expanded “authentic” offerings from an ever-more-interventionist travel industry have siphoned the spontaneity out of you.

A summer trip is a rare chance to break from routine, to escape the narrow sliver of the planet we inhabit the rest of the year. It used to be easy to distinguish such independent travelers from the lemmings following flag-waving tour guides. But the line between them has blurred. If your trip follows a tightly-planned agenda inspired by user reviews, popular Instagram feeds and Top 10 lists, aren’t you really just taking a virtual group tour, with your smartphone waving the flag?

 

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