Dubrovnik, Croatia

Like something out of a picture-perfect fairy tale, the Old Town of Dubrovnik, Croatia, is a walled medieval city, with drawbridges (used in the 1991-92 war) and 18-ft-/6-m-high gates guarding the main entrances. The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it's also very much a living, breathing city.


From the crenulated ramparts and watchtowers, there are some perfect vistas of the city and the Adriatic Sea. Because the Old Town is blissfully free of traffic, the main streets (Placa or Stradun), squares and alleyways are perfect for exploring the city on foot.

The walled city of Dubrovnik's Old Town is about 1 mi/1.6 km in circumference, but there is no motorized transport within it, so you'll need comfortable footwear for your explorations. Most of the main sites can be seen without negotiating the steps and steep alleyways leading off the main street. Ploce gate allows access to the city without entrance steps.


Walking around the wall battlements will provide a good overview of the city's main sights, which are all within minutes of each other. However, if you're visiting in July and August, especially during the Summer Festival, be sure to get an early start because this is the busiest season. When the number of visitors in the Old Town goes above 6,000, longer queues should be expected to get into sights. If the number exceeds 8,000, access is denied by local authorities.


Perhaps the most enjoyable time in Dubrovnik is spent strolling through the alleyways peeking in the little shops, stopping in tiny bars and absorbing the medieval atmosphere of a walled city and its well-preserved architecture.

The local food, known as Dalmatian, is classic Mediterranean cuisine, which means that it's mainly seafood: red snapper, squid, cuttlefish, octopus and shellfish. And the preparation couldn't be any simpler—most seafood, fish and vegetables are simply grilled with olive oil, garlic, rosemary and lemon juice. The most popular meat dishes are pork, lamb and veal. Just about every restaurant seems to have a special risotto dish.

London, England

If you're visiting London, England, for the first time, you may arrive expecting a European city that overflows with pomp and pageantry. Few visitors to London will fail to be impressed by the grandeur and craftsmanship of such monumental sights as Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's Cathedral, but that's just the historical foundation of today's modern, vibrant city.


Cosmopolitan London has every visitor attraction from Bengali markets to designer boutiques to world-class art exhibitions to hand-written Beatles lyrics at the British Library. London offers the best of British food, fashion and cultural pursuits, but its multicultural population gives it an international flair, as well. London has a lively mix of languages, dress, festivals and bustling street life.


The sights of London embrace 2,000 years of history—the tramp of Roman legions, strolling players in the age of Shakespeare, plagues, royal pomp and circumstance, the Great Fire, the architectural heritage of the Georgian era, the squalid alleyways of Dickens' time, Victoria's great age of railways and trade, and the Blitz of World War II. In a city of more than 600 art galleries, 250 museums and countless places of interest, considerable planning is needed for sightseeing. The city's tourist attractions are sights you've heard about all your life. You won't have time to see them all, but some are absolute musts.


The Tower of London (dating from 1078) is always popular—get there early if you can, because waits of up to three hours aren't unusual in summer. Huge St. Paul's Cathedral, designed by 17th-century architect Christopher Wren, can take hours to wander through if you're in the right mood. The other famous church, Westminster Abbey, is where royals are crowned and married and England's notables are buried.  To make the most of your visit, consider buying a London Pass. 

 London is now one of the premier culinary cities of Europe, a result, in part, of the restaurant boom that started in the 1990s. Londoners' interest in food continues unabated, and most of the "celebrity chefs" who have become stars of British television have restaurants there (Jamie Oliver, Angela Hartnett, Antony Worrell Thompson and Gordon Ramsay). Much of the best food borrows flavors and ingredients from around the world—though some so-called British eateries are stunning diners with their quality and innovation and use of local ingredients. Many popular restaurants are high on style, too—sleek and chic in renovated buildings or designer hotels. Old-fashioned pubs that have been given a fresh makeover are also in vogue. Even museums, themselves experiencing renewed popularity, now provide notable eating establishments.

Berlin, Germany

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of the city, Berlin, Germany, has restlessly reinvented itself as a political, business and entertainment center. But even before its roller-coaster ride through the 20th century, 19th-century author Karl Scheffler remarked that the city was constantly on the verge of becoming, never in a state of being. Thus, Berlin is often heralded as "the ever-changing city." 


 A rediscovery of the waterfront is in full swing, as restaurants, nightclubs and cafes position themselves along the Spree River and the city's many canals. Architecture, much of it in glass and steel, is definitely the calling card of the New Berlin, but the city's many parks, canals and forest-rimmed lakes are still its loveliest real estate. 

Berlin has been capital and showcase for various rulers and regimes, each one leaving its mark (or scar). The city's long list of monuments and museums will appeal to those interested in ancient, classical and modern art; the Nazi period and World War II; the Cold War and communism; or recent examples of architecture and urban design.


For an introductory tour of the city, take Bus 100 or 200 between Bahnhof Zoo and Alexanderplatz—you'll pass many of the city's most famous sites. Return on the elevated S-Bahn for a different view. Walking tours are also an excellent way to gain insider knowledge about the city.

 

Berlin has seen dramatic changes—for the better—in its dining scene. Good restaurants are sprouting up all the time, particularly in the districts of Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg.


Old-style German cooking varies greatly by region. It is very good but often heavy, usually centered on roasted meat (braten) with potatoes and a vegetable on the side. Make sure to try some of the regional specialties: White asparagus is a great local favorite when it is in season in spring—you will invariably see signs everywhere for spargelzeit (asparagus time). Eisbein, a tangy pig knuckle, is another classic that tastes better than it sounds

New Orleans

 It has been said that New Orleans, Louisiana, celebrates indulgence like no other U.S. city; its reputation for feasting and revelry, especially during Mardi Gras, is legendary. After Hurricane Katrina, the city rebuilt with fervor and tourism is flourishing. New restaurants, hotels and attractions draw millions of visitors to the city each year.


 New Orleans is an extraordinary city, and with its unique culture and history, it has long enchanted a wide variety of visitors with a yearning for the romantic, the spiritual, the beautiful or the off-beat.  That magic feeling is stronger than ever, a calling card to a city with a spirit too beautiful to ever break.  

 The French Quarter, which is where nearly all visitors to New Orleans start their sightseeing, is the oldest part of the city and it's still a wonder—a mix of clubs, souvenir shops, restaurants, voodoo vendors and beautiful homes (you'd be surprised at what lies behind some of the plainest facades). 


 When you're ready to venture farther afield, head to the Garden District. This area is home to many gorgeous 19th-century mansions that evoke the Old South. A stroll around the Garden District with its quiet, oak-shaded sidewalks is a good respite from the more raucous pleasures of the French Quarter. 

The city's restaurants numbered at 809 in 2005. That number jumped to more than 1,400 in 2016, with no signs that the appetite for new eateries is waning. From old favorites to exciting new offerings, there is plenty of spice on the culinary landscape. 


Eat. Explore. Party. Sounds pretty good to me! New Orleans is rich with culture and history. Truly a sight to see!

Scotland

Scotland; Castles, Highlands and Furry Cows


Located in the Northern UK, this small country packs a lot of punch! I spent most of my time around Edinburgh and explored out from there.  This country has the charm of old world Europe, a history that screams of rugged independence (think William Wallace) and opens her arms to those who visit, as they want to share a story and a pint with you! Tenacity 

If you have a short time this trifecta is a great option. Edinburgh, St Andrews and the Highlands; these 3 destinations are easy to get to and really exemplify the diversity of this place.  As you might know from my previous articles I am an admitted history nerd which is probably why this place is so near and dear to my heart.  


Edinburgh is the capital of the country. This city embraces the history of the land and looks to preserve it! There are beautiful medieval buildings like the Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile, it’s like stepping in a time warp and going back to the 1700’s! This magnificent castle is literally above most of this city; you can take a self guided tour or pay a little more for a self guided with audio. Do yourself a favor and pay a little more and get the audio tour, it will make more sense if someone is explaining what you are looking at.  The Royal Mile is the road that leads from the castle down to the Holyroodhouse (where the Queen of England stays when she visits); this pedestrian street is great for meandering on its cobblestone path. There is so much to see; Old Town, National Museum of Scotland, Hike up Arthur’s Seat for a bird’s eye view of Edinburgh and the surrounding areas and Royal Botanic Gardens, just to list a few! 


The location of Edinburgh is great for day trips and with a wonderful rail service its super easy to do.  Two I would suggest is St Andrews and Roslin.  The bus takes you right from the city center to Roslin, about 6 miles south of Edinburgh is home to Rosslyn Chapel. This chapel is linked to the Knights Templar and has Roslin Glen neighboring for a lovely walk. If you read or watched “The Da Vinci Code” this is in the book!  The other stop is for the golf enthusiast/history fan, a 2 hour train ride to the north of Edinburgh puts you in the Kingdom of Fife and the town of St Andrews. This historic town might be known for the golf course and the stone bridge on the 18th hole but this sea side town has more to offer.  There is an ancient castle, with a hidden underground tunnel and well as the remains of the cathedral. Take the time to climb the one working tower by the cathedral, this gives a remarkable view!  


The last stop that I feel is a MUST for any traveler going to Scotland is the Highlands. This is the northern half of Scotland and provides some of the most beautiful scenery in all the British Isles.  This untamed land is home to rugged individuals and has a breathtaking beauty. There are several routes you can take; stop to try and catch a glance of Ness at Loch Ness, check out Ben Nevis the highest point in all of Britain, stop at Eliean Donan Castle and take the bridge over to the Isle of Skye. Its natural beauty is matched by the beauty of its people. You will be dancing till the wee hours of the morning in a local pub sharing a pint and wondering why you even need to leave?!  


This is just a taste of what this amazing country has to offer. Scotland can steal your heart and you should let it.  


-Janeen Castle

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