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Our Favorite Spot for Tucson Chinese Food: Guilin

Whenever my friends and I travel to or through Tucson we all insist on going to Guilin Chinese Restaurant. Considering that most of us spent at least 4 years living in Tucson, this is pretty telling. We all have different tastes, and between the group of us, we’ve tried many of the restaurants in the area. Guilin is just one of those special, unassuming places that never disappoints. So, if you are looking for Tucson Chinese food (or are just in the area) consider giving this little place a chance.

Tucson Chinese Food

Aireona’s Thoughts on Guilin:

I had not had really good Chinese food until I had Guilin. While my husband would argue that there is nothing special about it, I just find that their food is delicious while not being heavy like some of the other places that I have eaten. Their ingredients are consistently good, and I have never had a disappointing meal here. Service here is also fast, and while there are usually people in the restaurant, it’s rare that you have to wait at the door. Not only is this my favorite place for Tucson Chinese food, Guilin beats any where else that I have been.

Pro Tip:

Go during lunch for some amazing deals! Lunch at Guilin includes soup and either an eggroll or ragoon, plus your entree and rice.

Favorite Dish:

Mongolian Beef

Tucson Chinese Food

Katie’s Thoughts on Guilin:

There are so many amazing restaurants in Tucson – El Guero Canelo, Zemams Brooklyn Pizza and Bobo’s – to name a few. But Guilin is the one I visit every time I go back to Tucson, without fail.

Aside from the nostalgia of it being one of my frequent broke college kid haunts, I’ve never been able to find a comparable tofu dish anywhere else. I think about this dish from time to time. I have dreams about it. Any attempt I have made to make this tofu doesn’t even come close. And honestly, it’s probably for the best, because if I knew how to make it, I would eat it ALL the time. Bye, bye balanced(ish) diet. Besides, this way, I have an excuse to visit my old stomping grounds and support a local business.

Pro Tip:

Try the veggie dumplings – they’re the perfect light appetizer. Crispy outside with a soft cabbage filling, served with a tasty dipping sauce.

Favorite Dish:

Tofu with Black Bean Sauce

Location:

4445 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85711

Tucson Chinese Food

A Hike Worth Hollering About: Tanque Verde Falls

It’s rare for us Nightborn Travel gals to pass up a chance to hike. On our recent trip down to the Ol’ Pueblo (or Tucson, as normal people would call it) we decided to venture out to Tanque Verde Canyon for our first time hiking Tanque Verde Falls.

View from the top of the trail – close to the trailhead.

This trail is located east of Tucson, just barely outside of the city – maybe 15 to 20 minutes. Take note that the paved road leading to the trailhead becomes a dirt road, so take that into consideration if your vehicle isn’t suited for dusty and slightly bumpy (but still driveable) terrain.

A comically angry-looking cactus near the creek bed. You’re welcome.

The hike itself is only about 2 miles long, but if you want to actually make it to the falls, there’s one BIG thing to take into consideration, and that’s water. Should you bring it? Yes. But also, has it rained lately? Because if it has, the creek along the trail will be running and while it will be beautiful, it will make your hike to the falls less of a hike and more of an… attempt.

Mmmm, sweet brown rainwater. (We did not drink this water, nor do we endorse drinking this water.)

Why am I telling you this? Because it’s exactly what happened to us. We made it about halfway up the trail before a mini-waterfall blocked us from going forward. We talked to a couple locals who told us that if the creek is dry or at least more of a trickle, you can scramble your way up the falls.

The mini-waterfall that hike-blocked us.

And here’s another thing to consider, the trail going down to the creek bed is relatively easy going, but from there on you’ll be encountering rock pile after rock pile and some times it will feel less like hiking and more like bouldering.

Rocks on rocks on rocks.

That being said, the area the trail is in is wonderful and the falls are said to be worth seeing, so there’s a pretty good chance we’ll be back. And, keeping what you’ve read in mind, we’ll hope you visit, too (if you’re not a big hiker, it’s a great little spot to find a rock along the creek and relax).

Happy hiking!

xo,
Katie

Original Chai Tea In Phoenix: Copper Star Coffee

Phoenix Chai Tea Adventures

I am building a guide for Phoenix chai tea for anyone else who might be as enchanted by this tea as me (or anyone looking to experience Phoenix coffee shops and cafes). My third spotlight is for one of the most unique coffee shops in the area, Copper Star Coffee, which is one of the few coffee shops with original chai tea in Phoenix.

The Tea!

downtown phoenix coffee shop

Food and chai tea out on the patio (c) ABR 2017

Reviewer(s): Aireona (the sugar-lover)

Brand: Copper Star has a house chai!

Flavor: You can’t get this chai anywhere else, because the lovely people at Copper Star have a house chai! Even as much as I love Maya, there is something wonderful and unbeatable about a chai that you can’t get anywhere else. Luckily for me, since I love the sweet, fakey chai that’s all over the US, this is a nice sugary latte. But Copper Star’s tea has a very nice balance of spice to help counteract the sweetness. While not quite as spicy as Maya, I really enjoy the smooth flavor of this chai, and on top of it, I think it has a complex of spices that really make it interesting and enjoyable.

original chai tea in phoenix

The Locale

original chai tea in phoenix

Location: 4220 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013

WIFI: Free wifi provided!

Atmosphere: Copper Star Coffee is situated in a repurposed gas station. I think this is pretty awesome, because there are few mundane things more sad than an abandoned building. The inside of their shop has a rustic warehouse feel, with original art work, and a few long tables for work. There is also a nice patio to enjoy the awesome Arizona weather in the spring and fall. Parking is a bit scarce, but there is a little dirt lot behind the psychic that the coffee shop shares with them. There is also street parking that you might be able to snake into. No worries if there aren’t any spots though, they have a sweet drive through so that you can enjoy their rendition of chai at home or on the road.

The Best of Copper Star

original chai tea in phoenix

Staff: The people at Copper Star are wonderful. They can get pretty busy there. This is quite the popular spot, but they work as fast as they can crafting your delicious drinks. Busy or not, they are friendly, and seem very genuine to me. This isn’t an equation for friendly baristas that we see at Dutch Bros and Starbucks. These are cool people at a legitimately unique spot in our little suburban expanse.

Pros: Copper Star is one of the few places with original chai tea in Phoenix. I love visiting for the taste I can’t get anywhere else. On top of that, they also have a great assortment of pastries (cupcakes, pie, lemon squares and the like) and lunch food. I have yet to try their lunch food due to my schedule, but I love their desserts.

Cons: There is a lack of parking that I think could be a problem at times. The coffee shop is also a little cramped and a bit loud when it is busy. I find it a little distracting as a place to work, but I like hanging out with friends there.

original chai tea in phoenix

Want to see the rest of the guide? Check out Your Guide to Phoenix: Chai Tea Adventures.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Culture of Dominica

The Caribbean gets sold as a single location, especially  by the cruise industry, and this is a major disservice to the region and all its beautiful cultures. Dominica was the first place I ever traveled in the Caribbean, and as a hiker, it is my favorite island so far (although, they are all amazing!). This island nation is special for more than just its natural beauty, however, because its people are warm, artful, and part of a resilient society. Strap in and get ready to learn 10 things about the culture of Dominica that you didn’t know before.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

Dominican Culture and History

(1) Most people in Dominica are Roman Catholic, and a small number of people also have a unique set of beliefs called Obeah that is a mix of African, European, and Kalinago traditions.

(2) The national dress of Dominica is called wob dwiyet. Women primarily wear this during celebrations, and includes a colorful scarf worn on the head. The dress itself has a white, collared shirt with beautiful embroidery as decoration.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

(3) Dominica is serious about taking Sunday off. Almost everything on the island is closed on Sunday except for hotels. If you need to go grocery shopping for the weekend, be sure to go on Saturday, but go in knowing that the lines will be out of this world. The longest grocery lines I have ever seen were in Dominica.

(4) Dominica is home to one of the large medical schools that US and Caribbean students alike attend. Traditional remedies are also still practiced by a few. These address the presence of evil spirits, called jombies, and makes use of medicinal plants.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

(5) Dominica was passed between France and Britain for a long time, and this struggle is evident in the mix of French and English names on the island. Shortly after Britain abolished slavery in 1834, Dominica was the first of its territories to have a black legislature. It goes without saying that African traditions and resilience have played a key role in the unique character and culture of Dominica.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

Kalinago Culture and History

(1) The Kalinago people once lived throughout the Caribbean, but retreated to Dominica when European colonization and war decimated their population. The mountains of Dominica protected them from the colonists for a long time and the island is now home to the world’s last community of Kalinago people. Although native cultures aren’t often acknowledged in outside materials about the Caribbean, the culture of Dominica and the region were founded on their civilizations.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

(2) The Kalinago people make up a little less than 1% of Dominica’s population, but they have their own region of the island. They offer some very genuine tourism experiences, as well as traditional handicrafts.

(3) Kalinago society was far more egalitarian than European culture. Women held as much power as men, and although both genders did different work within their civilization. In the past, they were governed by a chief, but they now have a council that helps run their communities.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

(4) The traditional Kalinago religion held the volcanic peaks of the Caribbean to be the source of life for the islands of the region. The people created statues out of stone and conch shells which were called zemis and represented the peaks. Volcanic peaks are, in fact, the heart of these islands, having formed them. The Kalinago people also believed that it was essential to maintain the balance between good and evil in the world, and maintain the close relationship between humans and nature.

(5) The Kalinago people were expert navigators on the water and originally colonized the Caribbean from the Orinoco River Basin of South America. They were also powerful warriors that fought against the Taino people that had built a civilization in the Caribbean before the Kalinago arrived. They also fought valiantly against European colonists, but they were greatly disadvantaged by smallpox and other “old world” diseases.

culture of Dominica

(c) ABR 2014

Learn More About Kalinago Culture

Experts on Kalinago Culture:

Karina Cultural Group

Karifuna Cultural Group

Lennox Honychurch

List of References for Further Reading

Chances for Travelers to Learn More From the Kalinago People:

Kalinago Homestay Programme

Experiential Learning

– Living Village Experience at Touna Kalinago Heritage Village

For more information on travel in Dominica, be sure to read through our guide.

Everglades Hiking: Mosquitoes, Birds, and Biodiversity

Everglades National Park is one of the crown jewels of the American national park system, and Florida’s only UNESCO world heritage site. It is best known among outdoorsy folk for the water trails that facilitate long canoe and kayaking trips, but it has plenty to offer the hikers among us as well. I spent some time in the Everglades exploring by car and foot, so I will provide a quick guide on several short Everglades hiking trails (and Big Cypress hiking too!).

everglades hiking

The grasslands that make up most of the Everglades (c) ABR 2016

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE EVERGLADES

The Everglades is the watery heart of Florida; it is home to a huge variety of native flora and fauna, and its water ways have served as a byways for humans since their arrival in this part of the world.

The growth of the European colonies in the “New World” and the eventual rise of the United States took its toll on this spectacular landscape, however, and by 1923 people started calling for its protection. A man named Ernest F. Coe headed this charge, in spite of his background as a land developer. He envisioned a park of 2 million acres, including what we now know as Big Cypress. Although the Great Depression made it difficult for Coe’s dream to come true, in 1934 the Everglades National Park was declared at 1.3 million acres.

everglades hiking

(c) ABR 2016

Interestingly, much of the land that got left out of the original park has since been protected in other forms, including Big Cypress National Preserve and Biscayne National Park.

EVERGLADES HIKING

SOUTHERN TRAILS

Most of the trails that I am going to discuss here are along the main road in the park, which runs from the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center to the Flamingo Visitor Center. Shark Valley is the alternate entrance and requires an entrance fee as well as money for a tram ride. General entrance into the park is $25.00 per vehicle.

everglades hiking

The marsh and the ocean meet (c) ABR 2016

If you start by heading down to Flamingo, there are several trails that follow the coast. The Coastal Prairie Trail heads west from the visitor center to Clubhouse Beach, where camping is allowed. As with all the trails in the Everglades, this is a flat, out and back walk that is 11.2 miles round trip. The Christian Point Trail is a shorter walk to the ocean, at only 4.2 miles roundtrip, but it is one of the more challenging trails in the area.

Snake Bight Trail and Rowby Bend Trail are near Flamingo as well, but I gave up on walking either due to the inordinate amount of mosquitoes that were swarming me every time I stepped out of my vehicle.

SHORT MIDDLE TRAILS

There are three very short, but beautiful walks in the middle section of the main park road. These include Mahagony Hammock, Pa-hay-okee Outlook, and Pinelands. Of these, my favorite is Mahagony Hammock, because it is the best place to learn about the diversity of landscape in the Everglades. Before coming, I really imagined that this place was just a giant marsh, but driving through and hiking for the day taught me the truth. The short walk out to Mahagony Hammock (0.4 miles) takes you out through grasslands that look to stretch on infinitely, to an island of drier forest, which is called a “hammock.” There is something very special about trekking through an open ocean of grass to take refuge in a forest island. A spot of green in an expense of yellow.

everglades hiking

Mahagony Hammock’s mote, which separates the hammock forest from the grasslands (c) ABR 2016

Pay-hay-okee is similarly located in a hammock, although much larger, and there are many platforms from which to observe the landscape and its unique bird species. Pinelands isn’t quite as diverse, but this 0.4 mile walk through the forest introduces the pineland ecosystem. There is also a longer trail in this area called the Long Pine Tree Trail, which is 7 miles long in one direction, and connects to 22 miles of trail. I did not do this particular Everglades hiking trail, however.

everglades hiking

The drier hammock forest (c) ABR 2016

ERNEST F. COE HIKING

The Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is right near the entrance, and it is one of the more busy hiking areas in the park due to the ease of access and exceptional biodiversity here. In fact, they provide tarps so that you can keep the vultures from tearing up your car, and I saw my first wild alligators just a few feet down the trail.

everglades hiking

Lily pads in a wetland (c) ABR 2016

This area feels very garden-like, or it did to me. There were huge, glassy ponds complete with lily pads, and open skies. With lots of tall grass, and wooden walkways give you great views of the water and any of the animals that might be calling it home when you visit.

There are also some short paths through some more tropical forest here. Some of the biggest trees that I saw in the park were here and I really enjoyed the shade after exploring in the open and observing alligators for a while.

BIG CYPRESS HIKING

The Florida National Scenic trail passes through Big Cypress and is easily accessible from the road via the Oasis Visitor Center. I was not properly equipped for the amount of mud on the trail when I visited, but for drier times of the year, or people with more waterproof equipment, this would be a great trail to turn into a shorter, out-and-back journey.

everglades hiking

Cypress trees (c) ABR 2016

For those of you in my boat, check out Kirby Storter Roadside Park, where you can take a short walk through the Cypress swamps. This was one of my favorite spots in Florida, due to the fact that I absolutely love Cypress trees. I think they are otherworldly and they have always characterized what I imagined the Everglades to be.

SAFETY TIPS

(1) Alligators! Were really not as much of a problem as I thought they would be. I actually never saw one on the trail, but if you do see one, keep your distance. Also, just pay attention and keep your wits about you when you are near the water while on the Everglades hiking trails.

(2) Mosquitos are more of a discomfort than a danger if they aren’t carrying disease, but the odds of disease are getting worse and worse, so its best to avoid them. In my experience, bug spray is absolutely NOT enough in this area. If you are going to be hiking in a mosquito-infested area, you will need some special clothing to keep them off of you.

everglades hiking

Pineland (c) ABR 2016

(3) Hiking solo is one of my favorite things, but it definitely has its particular risks. As with any solo hiking venture, let people know where you are going and when you will be back. Check in with the park rangers to get updates on the trail and let them know where you are off to.

(4) Finally, remember, you are always responsible for yourself on the trail. Your safety is up to you. Conditions change day to day and everyone has different hiking abilities. You need to take all of that into account before you leave, and to insure that you have all the equipment, water, and food you will need.

If you want to know more details about these trails, Florida Hikes! is a great resource for individual trails, safety and more. And if you are in need of more Florida travel inspiration, be sure to read through our Guide to Florida.

everglades hiking

everglades hiking

Respectful Travel In the United States

The Importance of Respectful Travel

In January 2018, an American Youtube creator by the name of Logan Paul made headlines for his video showcasing the body of a Japanese suicide victim. The existence of the video was insensitive in every sense of the word. Its use of tragedy as click bait was more than reprehensible. However, it came to light shortly after that this video was only a part of Logan’s profane escapades during his time in Japan. His actions on the street and even in places of worship were annoying at best, and blatantly disrespectful at worst. Nightborn felt for every Japanese person that he harassed, embarrassed, and annoyed. We also hate to think of what people like him do to the reputation of other travelers or tourists from their country. Its time to start talking about respectful travel and how to do it.

respectful travel

(c) Max Pixel

“Tourist” has become kind of an unwanted label, hasn’t it? It usually slips off the tongues of locals with bitterness and a roll of the eyes. But why? Sometimes it’s the Logan Pauls of the world – who seem to think that other cultures are a joke. But mostly, it’s everyday folks who just don’t take the time to do a little learning before they travel.

So here’s our challenge to you: take the time. Be informed. Be BETTER.

Be a good steward of your nationality and change the locals opinions of what a “tourist” can be.

We’ll even help you get started! For the benefit of anyone thinking of visiting the US, we wanted to share a quick and dirty guide to respectful behavior for travelers to the United States.

We Love Our Lines

In some places, a line is more of a suggestion than a rule, but this is absolutely not true in the United States. If people are waiting in line, it is considered extremely rude to cut your way to the front… or really anywhere that isn’t the back. Even if someone from your party is waiting further up, people will give you dirty looks for cutting ahead. Being pushy in line is even worse. The best line etiquette is to patiently join at the back of the line, and avoid touching anyone around you that you don’t know.

respectful travel

Personal Bubbles

We like our personal space. Unless you are on a crowded train or elevator, it is not appropriate to bump shoulders with people you don’t know. When speaking with Americans, it is also good to keep at least a couple feet between you. When it comes to greetings and goodbyes, we also aren’t big on kissing or hugging unless you are already good friends. Handshakes are probably the safest way to go if you feel that you must give a physical greeting to a stranger.

respectful travel

The Bubble! (c) Wikimedia Commons

Saying Hello

We grew up in Arizona, and it is pretty traditional to be friendly to people you meet on the street, particularly in residential areas and while hiking. If there aren’t tons of people around, it’s polite to say good morning or hello. You don’t need to attempt a conversation (especially if they’re in a rush), but acknowledging the other person goes a long way. This also goes when you are at the cash register. It’s polite to ask the person working how they are and maybe engage in small talk as long as you don’t hold up the line. As far as I know, this is common throughout the south and midwest, and probably rural areas of the Northern US as well. But you  might  not find this in a BIG city like New York.

respectful travel

Wave hello! (c) Wikimedia Commons

Time Is Money!

Lots of Americans, particularly urban ones, are very focused on being efficient with their time. So, if you are ordering food somewhere, or otherwise selecting a service, but have no idea what you want, it is polite to let the person behind you order first, if they know what they want. Likewise, if you are in line at the grocery store and have a cart full of food for your road trip, while the person behind you has a loaf of bread and some peanut butter, they would be extremely grateful if you let them go in front of you. Although, if you don’t do these things, you won’t be seen as impolite, as long as you respected the line.

respectful travel

(c) Wikimedia Commons

Driving Rules

Roadtrips are one of our favorites, and respectful travel is just as important on the road as anywhere else. Just like the line situation, driving rules in the US are not suggestions. If there is a stop sign, you must come to a complete stop. If there is a red arrow for a turn, you may not go until a green arrow is on. Red lights cannot be run, even though there’s no one there and it’s the middle of the night. A few rogues will break these rules, but Americans expect you to respect the laws of the road.

respectful travel

(c) Wikimedia Commons

We Aren’t All Loud and You Don’t Have to Be Either

I know I could fill a book with these things, but this will be my last point. I want to cover this because the “loud American” is such a stereotype elsewhere. As with probably anywhere, you should really gauge your volume based on the people around you. If you are in a bar, and everyone is loud, feel free to be loud. But if you are at a nice restaurant, hiking, shopping, at the movies (!!!!), it’s really more polite to keep your volume down. No one anywhere likes it when other people ruin their peaceful day by being obnoxious.

respectful travel

(c) Wikimedia Commons

These guidelines are not asking you to stop being yourself, we’re just asking you to be respectful. And that goes for wherever you travel, not just the U.S. Respectful travel can help us all build a better reputation for our favorite pastime.

If you’d like to learn more about travel in the US, be sure to visit our Guide to the United States.

respectful travel

respectful travel

The Perfect 5 Day Netherlands Itinerary for Nature Lovers

For anyone used to roadtripping in the US, the Netherlands will make for a very relaxing place to explore. Getting from one end of the country to the other on their very nice highways won’t take long at all, and this country has so much to offer the nature-lover. If you’re wondering what the perfect Netherlands itinerary is for us outdoor folks, this is where it’s at. Tulips, beaches, farmland, Van Gogh, deserts and mountains, this is the dream Netherlands roadtrip.

DAY ONE: TULIPS AND THE SEA

I loved spending time in Lisse; it is the perfect small-town Netherlands experience, If you are looking for a refreshing break from crowds, staying here outside of tulip season is extremely nice. On the other hand, if you are in the Netherlands for tulip season, Lisse is the perfect place to be. It is situated right in the middle agricultural fields, some of which are devoted to the Netherlands’ favorite flowers.

netherlands itinerary

Downtown Lisse (c) ABR 2017

After spending the day relaxing among downtown Lisse’s restaurants and shops, or marveling at a colorful sea of flowers, the beach is just a short drive away in Noordwijk. We took a nice stroll through the sand, and when we got tired, we retreated to one of the beach-side restaurants for mussels and wine.

netherlands itinerary

Noordwijk beach-ish area (c) ABR 2017

Small town Lisse and the beach are a great way to spend your first day in the Netherlands, whether or not there are tulips. Having a restful day before a roadtrip really kicks off is always a good thing, especially if you just stepped off a 10+ hr plane ride.

DAY TWO: SOUTHERN NETHERLANDS

On the way down from Lisse to the southern tip of the Netherlands, stop by the Dunes of Loon National Park. I have already talked about this beautiful little arid spot in my post about the Netherlands national parks, but this is a wonderful place to stroll through a bright forest of tall trees, which gives way to a sudden island of sand dunes. It is a quiet little spot that locals and visitors enjoy alike.

netherlands itinerary

Dune of Loon National Park! (c) ABR 2017

The Netherlands isn’t known for its mountains… mostly, because it doesn’t have any. Vaalserberg, the highpoint of the country, is a bit of a surprise then, because while it is more of a hill than a true mountain, it can actually make for a nice uphill climb (or drive if you prefer). There are plenty of trails crisscrossing the Netherlands side of this mountain. They are easily accessible from the road that weaves its way up to the top. Vaalserberg is also where the Netherlands meets both Germany and Belgium. So, even if you aren’t a big fan of hiking or highpoints, this is a neat place to get a glimpse of three different countries at once and frolic in some very verdant forests.

netherlands itinerary

(c) ABR 2017

Finally, finish your day off in Eindhoven. The village has a very nice downtown area with tons of restaurant choices to enjoy. Once the sun goes down, go check out the little Van Gogh trail nearby. This beautiful section of a longer bike trail passes through some beautiful fields. It has grown famous for its glowing Starry Night depiction. Eindhoven a great place to end a busy day and watch the stars, both real and artistic.

netherlands itinerary

Van Gogh trail (c) ABR 2017

DAY THREE: AMSTERDAM (OR ROTTERDAM)

Even for us nature lovers, I would be remiss to have a Netherlands itinerary that left out the major cities. Amsterdam is the capital of the country and is (in my opinion) erroneously known for pot smoking and prostitution. I didn’t see any more of either than I would anywhere else, because I stayed out of the red light district. It is totally up to you if you want to confront this stuff.

netherlands itinerary

Amsterdam (c) ABR 2017

The capital is a beautiful city with tons of canals, great food, and lots of different things to do. There are a ton of museums to enjoy, as well as the tulip market and the Ann Frank House (get reservations ahead of time if you want to do this one).

If you aren’t one for crowds, we had Rotterdam suggested to us as an alternative. So you might consider spending the day there if you want to experience the Netherlands urban landscape without the bustle of Amsterdam.

DAY FOUR: THE VILLAGE OF GEITHOORN

I’ve heard of Geithoorn being referred to as the Venice of the Netherlands, and the little town with no roads. There are a few caveats that I’d like to add to this, because I think it is good to go with the right expectations. The idea of a little Venice is a good fit, for one section of the town, and there are definitely roads. You will need one to get there. Pedestrians might even have to dodge a few cars while you walk around. You should also know that this village has become very popular with big, organized tour groups. I would suggest getting there early to avoid some of the crowds.

netherlands itinerary

Giethoorn (c) ABR 2017

Even though I absolutely loved the town (it looks like it belongs in a fairy tale!), the best part about visiting Giethoorn was taking a boat through the nearby wetlands. It was nice to get some isolation and I think being on the water is so relaxing under those conditions. Taking a boat out on the water and through Giethoorn would be a great outing for anyone. When you are done boating around there are some very original shops in the town and delicious food as well.

DAY FIVE: BIKES AND ART IN DE HOGE

I have covered my love for and experience with De Hoge in detail in my National Parks of the Netherlands post. I think anyone who loves nature should make this park a priority. This is the perfect place to go bike riding. There are two amazing museums here as well. It is a full day of activities at De Hoge and a great place to end your Netherlands roadtrip.

netherlands itinerary

netherlands itinerary

Four Tips for Auckland Day Trips

So dear reader, you’re telling me that you’re having a grand old time in Auckland, New Zealand, but you’d like to venture outside of the city a little bit.

Do you have time to drive to NZ’s south island? It could be an 8-12 hour trip depending on where you go. No?

Well, luckily for you, I have some wonderful day-tripping options for you to choose from. Keep on reading, you intrepid traveler.

Things I recommend for day-trip travel:

  • A vehicle, preferably a car (if you’re looking for a place to rent a car, I recommend GO rentals)
  • A good sense of direction OR access to GPS navigation
  • PocWifi – so you can use wi-fi at any time, at a relatively affordable price
  • Cash, just in case
  • Snacks??? I mean, it’s up to you, I just very snacky when I roadtrip.

I’ve given you some one-way travel times from Auckland to all of the listed destinations below, but take these with a grain of salt. Traffic, road work, your own driving speed, etc. will all flex these times.

Hobbiton

Travel time from Auckland: About 2 hours

If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan or even if you aren’t, Hobbiton is beautiful venture in the countryside to the movie set where scenes from the Shire were filmed for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.

During the tour, you’re able to walk through the actual set and take photos, while a guide tells you all sorts of movie trivia (a delight for any nerdy heart). If you’re lucky, the weather will be sunny and light up the green hills of the Shire, making you feel like you might ACTUALLY be a little hobbit. (Shoot for summer or maybe late spring.)

I recommend that you book your ticket online in advance, because the time slots can sell out and you can only visit the set if you’re on a tour. Also, since you book a time and they ask you to check in 15 minutes before your tour, you should give yourself enough time to get there. Even if you arrive early, they have a gift shop and a cafe where you can kill time.

Rotorua

Travel time from Auckland: About 3 hours

Rotorua is an excellent place to visit for nature and culture fans.

Whakarewarewa Forest

The Whakarewarewa Forest is only about 5 minutes from downtown Rotorua and is a great place to stroll, hike, bike and even ride on horseback. For travelers from the U.S., the huge trees that the forest is famous for might look a little familiar, and that’s because they’re actually California Redwoods!

Geothermal Activity

Rotorua is part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone resulting in a ton of geothermal activity! We visited Hells Gate – both a geothermal park and spa. When you visit and find yourself encompassed by the warm steam and surrounded by volcanic rock, you’ll understand how it got its name. I recommend choosing the tour and spa package, so you can take a self-guided tour through the sulphur and mud pools that make the naturally-heated spa pools possible.

Lake Taupo

Speaking of Taupo, if you have a little more time in Rotorua, Lake Taupo is just about an hour’s drive away. It also has a lot to offer! Apart from a HUGE natural lake that you can take boat and kayak tours on, there’s also Huka Falls, known for its beautiful icy blue water. Huka Falls has a few different hike trails of its own – including the Spa Walk, which actually leads you to a natural hot spring.

Maori Villages

If you’re interested in learning more about Maori culture, there are a couple different Maori villages that you can visit in Rotorua. If you’re not sure which one you’d like to visit, ask the locals. Some of them are actual living Maori villages and others are a bit more… tourist-y. We had planned to visit the living village, but after freezing our buns off on a brisk Lake Taupo boat tour, we opted to warm ourselves up at a local pub.

Waitomo

Travel time from Auckland: About 2-and-a-half hours

One of the big attractions in Waitomo is their cave system. You can visit Ruakuri, Aranui or their Glowworm Caves – all of them offering a different experience. Feeling particularly adventurous? Try black water rafting or tubing through the caves (we were a little too chicken to try this – plus, it was already pretty chilly OUT of the water)!

However, if you’re finding yourself short on time like we were, I would make the Glowworm Caves your Waitomo stop. When you’re in the sitting in the darkness of the cave, only illuminated by the soft blue lights of the thousands of glowworms – you forget you’re in a cave. It’s almost like looking up at a bunch of little stars. It’s truly beautiful, and honestly, my words do do it justice. You can’t take photos in the cave because the glowworms are very sensitive to lights and sound, so it’s really something you have to see for yourself.

Tauranga

Travel time from Auckland: About 2-and-a-half hours

Tauranga is for lovers – beach lovers, that is. The Mt. Maunganui Main Beach has been voted New Zealand’s best, and I can totally see why. The long stretch of beach is a great place to stroll, relax on the soft sand and swim.

If you want to get a hike in, the beach is also conveniently located at the base of Mt. Mauao. If I recall, there were a couple main hiker trails – one that loops a bit more gently up the mountain and one that’s a shorter, but steeper climb up to the summit. We took the steeper climb, which was QUITE the haul, but we were rewarded with gorgeous views along the way and at the top.

If you can believe it, I cut this day trip round-up short for you, dear reader. There’s just SO much to do and see in New Zealand. That’s why I’m definitely going back in the near future and why I’m creating these helpful guides for travelers. If you’re looking for a place to start in Auckland, check out my budget traveler’s guide.

Happy travels to you!

xoxo,
Katie

The Future of Tourism: Tourism Has Major Impacts on the Environment and It’s Only Going to Get Worse

Tourism Now: Impacts on People and Places

Most people love exploring new places, and escaping the routine of day-to-day life.  Travel has become more accessible over time, with more people on the planet with a greater ability to take an international journey. Due to this, the tourism industry has seen massive growth over the past few decades. To give you some perspective on the matter, in 1950 there were just 25 million international travelers. By 2012 that number had risen to 1.035 billion. This doesn’t even count domestic travelers, or people that are staying in their own countries. So, what does future tourism look like?

Recently, it has come to light that these crowds of visitors are wearing on the patience of local people in tourism hotspots such as Iceland and Italy. No one appreciates the traffic and crowds of popular attractions. Culture clash can also be a major problem for local people when visitors take over their home. But as you might guess, it isn’t just people that tourism can have negative impacts on. This expanding industry has considerable effects on the environment. Most of those impacts are negative (although we cover some of the potential benefits in our article about ecotourism).

future tourism

(c) ABR

The Science

In order to understand just how much of an impact global tourism is having on the planet, Stefan Gössling and Paul Peeters used historic information to build a model. They used data from 1900-2014 to predict the impact that tourism might have onwards, into 2050. The resources that they looked at included energy, water, land, and food. Due to its importance to climate change, the scientists also gathered information on tourism’s contribution to CO2 levels. When examining the potential future of tourism, the scientists compared three different scenarios. One in which there was a “economic slowdown,” status quo, and “global growth.”

future tourism

(c) ABR

Water, Food, Energy, and Greenhouse Gases

In regards to greenhouse gas emissions, the study’s findings were shocking. When including emissions from transportation, accommodations, and activities in a destination, it was found that 5% of the world’s total CO2 emissions came from the tourism sector. Nearly half of this came from air travel alone. Since these numbers don’t include any CO2 released by the production of food, and construction of buildings they are conservative estimates at best.

Tourism research has also shown that the industry increases water and food use. Golf is one particularly water-hungry form of tourism, but many activities have unforeseen water consumption. For example, it takes about 10 gallons of water to produce a single gallon of fuel, which is concerning for the air traveler and roadtripper among us. Gössling and Peeters suggest that the average traveler on an average trip will use or cause to be used 27,800 L of water.

future tourism

(c) ABR

For food consumption, when compared to what people used at home, travelers tended to eat at least 0.5 kg extra food per day. Many of us love splurging while on the road as well, so these foods tend to include more meats and high protein treats. Scientists generally considered these to have a worse impact on the environment.

Finally, the pair looked at land use by tourism, found that resorts were the most wasteful in terms of this resource. In fact, one study that they cite found that a five star hotel with a golf course could use up to 4580 sq. meters (or 15,026 sq. ft) per bed. For reference, the US Census Bureau found that the average American home was around 2,600 sq. feet in 2014.

future tourism

(c) ABR

The Future of Tourism

Gössling and Peeters discovered that even with increase fuel, food production, and construction efficiencies, the tourism industry would see a massive increase in resource use in the future.  In the Slowdown scenario their calculations indicated that there would be over 7 billion international tourists, and in the Growth scenario over 15 billion by 2050!

Despite better technology, they then estimated that this would result in a 164% growth in energy use and CO2 emissions, 92% increase in water use, 189% increase in land use, and 108% growth in food consumption. Of course, the problem with this is that our favorite hobby is going to have a hard impact on the finite resources of the planet. It seems that potential improvements in technology aren’t going to make these problems go away.

future tourism

(c) ABR

We Are the Solution

It is up to us as travelers and citizens of this shared planet, to make sure that our choices lessen our impact. This may mean opting for slow travel (e.g. biking or walking rather than taking motorized transportation). We might also consider paying for carbon offsets when traveling by plane. And staying in smaller, local-run businesses that use less resources overall can also be helpful. Whatever it is, there is no denying that tourism can be just as negative as it can be good, and we are part of the solution.

future tourism

(c) ABR

Want to Learn More?

Read the original paper here.

Eat Your Way Through L.A.: Places to Try

I visited Los Angeles for New Year’s shenanigans and proceeded to eat my weight in, well, basically everything. I’ve listed a few of the places I liked the most – give them a try the next time you’re in the City of Angels.

Disclaimer: I’m 99% sure that I’ve got the locations right, but I don’t travel to L.A. much, so maybe double check their Yelp/websites/social media pages before you go.

Quick Breakfast

Sam’s Bagels

Location: Main St., Santa Monica

If you love bagels (and really, who doesn’t?), then you’ll be a fan of Sam’s Bagels. Even though it’s along Main St. in Santa Monica, it’s a bit of a hidden gem, tucked between a tavern and a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Its own sign is pretty high up on it’s brick wall that you won’t notice it and the window signs won’t really help you either. You’ll know it’s Sam’s when you walk in and there’s a just a strange, inexplicably large bagel on the wall for decoration and not much else.

In case you thought I was lying about the large wall bagel.

Bagels are big and toasty, schmear is excellent (I got a strawberry spread that was perfect) and the place is small and quiet.

Extra perks:
1) It’s a stone’s throw away from the beach.
2)  Window seating to bask in the morning/afternoon sun and people-watch.

Not-So-Quick Breakfast (Or Brunch)

Nick’s Coffee Shop

Location: Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson

Breakfast is 100% my favorite meal of the day, so obviously Nick’s is my pick for best place. What you’re looking at here is a delicious waffle combo.

I would move to L.A. for this place, I’m only half-joking. I only had breakfast at this diner, but it was SO good. And the people were so nice – surprisingly jovial in the aftermath of New Year’s Eve and always checking to see if we were happy with our food and needed anything else. They seemed to know and have a great relationships with their regulars and the walls look to be chock full of “celebrity” diner portraits, even locals.

It’s not a big establishment, being a diner, after all. So if you’re thinking about dropping by, you can actually call ahead an ask to hold a table.

Extra Perks:
1) A few outside tables if the weather is nice or if you have a furry companion.
2) Perfectly crispy hash browns.
3) Did I mention that the staff is lovely?

Lunch/Dinner

Tatsu Ramen

Location: Sawtelle Blvd, Little Osaka (other location available)

Their Old Skool ramen with Tonkotsu broth – ’cause you can’t go wrong with a classic.

Little Osaka has a TON of restaurants in the area. Even the complex Tatsu is in has like four or five of them packed in there. But if you’re in the mood for some tasty Ramen, go to Tatsu.

Portions are generous, especially if you order extra noodles for just a couple bucks more. Space is limited, because of the small size of the restaurant (even with the extra seating outside) and because of Tatsu’s popularity. You won’t have to wait to order, thanks to the tablet ordering system out front, but you’ll most likely have to wait for a table. Just give your number to the hostess and they can send a text when your table is ready, meanwhile, you can pop into the other little shops nearby.

Extra Perks:
1) A true vegan/vegetarian ramen bowl for your veggie/vegan friends.
2) I say lunch or dinner, but this place is open until 2 a.m. (sometimes 3 a.m.) for your late-night ramen cravings.

Dessert

Honeymee

Location: Sawtelle Blvd., Little Osaka (other locations available)

You definitely won’t BEE sad when you eat this ice cream.

Once you’re done with ramen or some other savory goodness in Little Osaka, stop by Honeymee for a sweet treat. Not only is their ice cream swirled into a perfect dessert, it’s accompanied by a delicious little honeycomb from a local bee farm.

Extra Perks:
1) After you’ve had a heavy meal, it’s a great light dessert.
2) Particularly picture-worthy (I’m looking at you, food bloggers).

For the Trip Home

Bibi’s Bakery and Cafe

Location: Pico Blvd., Pico-Robertson

Bibi’s is a great place to stop for reasonably-priced neighborhood baked goods for the drive (or plane ride) home and to take back to family, friends and co-workers.  Gentleman working the register was extremely helpful/patient as I figured out what I wanted and then inevitably came back to buy more, and seemed to be the bakery’s owner, Dan – which is always a good sign.

This chocolate rugelach might be TOO good. I bought three of these to share… and I ate most of them myself.

Extra Perks:
1) Kosher!
2) Also excellent bagels and schmear.

Well, I think that’s enough for you to chew on. Can you tell that I love to eat?

Bon appetit,
Katie

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