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Traveling to Greece During the Economic Crisis – A Good or Bad Idea for A Couple?

The Romantic Getaway on Everyone’s Lips in 2015

Without a doubt this summer belongs to Greece. The country has not only been a hot topic for the last couple of months due to its economic crisis, but, it was also on the lips of everyone planning  an affordable summer vacation with his or her significant other. This beautiful and archeologically dense country whose income is based largely on tourism is obviously an important topic for the LeafCanoe team, as we always strive to give you the most reliable and updated traveling tips and information.

In July, we’ve already written about “Pros and Cons” of traveling to Greece during its economic crisis (READ MORE), and right after our article, we have received many questions from the community regarding safety measures and other practical tips on traveling to Greece this year. You’ve asked, so we decided to investigate further and find out the details, as well as special recommendation on where to travel during the economical crisis in Greece.

We interviewed Alex, a LeafCanoer who traveled for 2 weeks across Greek’s islands with her boyfriend and another lovely couple. They came back with the hottest news and still-fresh memories of Greece! We are happy to share the details of their stunning journey and hopefully help you in planning your own dream trip to Greece in an efficient way!

Alex’s Point of View: 9 Things  She Learned About Traveling In Greece  In 2015

Alex, you traveled to Greece from Switzerland with your boyfriend and another couple by car….

1. Is Greece indeed a great destination for a couple?
It has the most romantic sunsets in the world, friendly people and angelic landscapes: just white and blue all around you. Plus, there are a lot of activities for couples who plan to stay for 2 weeks, including quad rides, kitesurfing or donkey rides, so you won’t get quickly bored.

2. Sounds fun. Just wondering, why did you choose Greece, again? You’ve been there for three times, already…
First of all, I’ve never been to islands before as I was hanging out mostly in the mainland exploring (for example) Athens. There’s plenty of things to see in Greece and one week will never be enough, unless you want to run instead of enjoying a truly romantic time with your significant other. Secondly, Greece is pretty cheap and only gets cheaper, and we planned a 2 week holiday on a budget in Europe this year.

3. You weren’t concerned about the big Greek economical crisis?
I was thinking about it for a while, but then we found a really good accommodation deal and  read through many positive reviews of others traveling to Greece. We decided to take the risk and it was worth it. At the end of the day there was practically no sign of an economical crisis everyone was talking about.  Well, we haven’t been to mainland Greece this time, so it’s hard to say what’s happening there, but on the islands it was just like an old, beautiful Greece – full of chilled people, delicious food and wonderful landscapes with lively-as-always villages.   

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4. How did you get to Greece from Switzerland?
By car through Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Albania…and it was a big mistake. Half of the time it took us getting somewhere, so out of 14 days of holiday, only 4 days I spent on my favorite activity which is beachin’. From the other side it was great to see majestic mountains and Vietnam rice paddies-like fields in Croatia, but if I had to choose I would simply fly over to Greece next time. Just to save more time for chilling in Greece.

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5. What place on the way to Greece did you love the most?
Probably Dubrovnik in Croatia, where they shot Game of Thrones…

 

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6. How long did the journey take?
Well, if you go straight to Greece it would probably take around 30 hours, since there’s around 2,500 km to do, but we stayed in Croatia and made other stops on the way to Greece. Also, roads of Albania are not the best, so forget about driving 100km/hour…you’d better have good driving skills if you choose mountainous roads on your way to Greece from Switzerland.

7. You mentioned that Oia, Santorini and Naxos were the best parts of your trip in Greece. How about other spots you visited there?
I did not like Fira that much, because it was crowded and a bit dirty. In my opinion you could easily miss out this part of the trip if you’re running out of time. About museums – I am a big fan of culture and art, but the museums on islands all seemed just the same to me. In every corner you saw the same folk culture. It’s enough if you visit the one museum and the rest of your time you spend outdoors.

8. The best memory?
Quads in Oia! You should try it too! It’s lots of fun.

9. What are you planning to see next time in Greece?
Kreta, Korfu and Zakynthos. I like history so this time I am going to choose places of even bigger archaeological value.

Thanks Alex!

Alex’s Point of View: Two Must-See Romantic Islands of Greece

Naxos
Naxos is the most fertile and the largest of the Cycladic islands – no wonder why it’s called the city of god. It had to be blessed by the god himself since its natural beauty, including the romantic sunsets and endless ocean horizons, are simply divine. All of this of course works like a magnet for the paradise-seeking travelers, especially for newly married couples.
However, apart from its highly attractive visuals, Nexos also boasts an interesting history. Did you know that the city was the birthplace of Zeus, king of the gods? Or that Theseus has infamously abandoned Ariadne after she had helped him escape the Cretan labyrinth? Fortunately, it did not take long before Dionysos (the happy god of wine and ecstasy!), took good care of her. From then on, the wines of Naxos have been efficiently soothing the pain of travelers’ broken hearts, but even if your heart is in good shape I would still suggest you try the wines!
In addition to the great wines, you will also find remnants of impressive archeological monuments and museums as Naxos is a unique blend of ancient ruins and beach culture. Now, lets’ see what other attractions Naxos has in store for couples searching for fun and romance. Read about 5 things you and your significant other should do while in Naxos:

 naxps 5 top
1. Hiking
Portara will be first thing you’ll see from the ferry upon arrival in Naxos. Portara is a marble gateway to an ancient temple that no longer exists and the symbol of the island. It’s also the spot of the famous sunset view of the island, so be prepared to wait a bit in a queue to take a shot there. To hike over there, choose a causeway to Palatia, as the marble gate standing on top of a small islet is connected to the Town of Naxos through a small passageway. This gate is the only one remaining from a 6th century BC temple of Apollo.
If you like hiking, don’t miss Mt Zeus (1004m; also known as Mt Zas) – the Cyclades’ highest peak lying in the vicinity of the enchanting villages of Halki and Apiranthos with traditional footpaths to follow between villages and picturesque churches. Just be careful because the village of Halki is known for producing one of the best citron liquors, like for example the liquor of Marc F.Vallindras a trusted family secret keeps producing the aperitif from the fifth generation. Go and visit Vallindras Traditional Distillery of Kitron, which offers a tour of the kitron liqueur distillation process. At the end of the tour, you can sample this traditional drink of Naxos.

Naxos

2. Enjoy the stunning beaches…but which one?
The ones in the western side of Naxos of course!
Beaches from Agios Georgios and Agios Prokopios down to Mikri Vigla and Alyko have crystal water and soft sand. Even though they are acclaimed, you can still find totally remote spots, another reason to recommend the accommodations on this beachside. However, if you like more “raw” beaches, Naxos also offers pebble beaches and beautiful black beaches typical of most volcanic islands.
If you are more of an active couple, try windsurfing in the lagoon of Agios Georgios, which is claimed to have ideal windsurfing conditions. Or, if you prefer kiting , one of the best kitesurfing beaches is the beach of the Mikra Vigla.

3. Have a romantic walk!
If like taking romantic walks, definitely check out Kastro, where you can explore on paved patches and among the ancient stone buildings. Kastro is called the Greek Venice and it’s the oldest quarter in Naxos Town. And no wonder — Kastro was indeed constructed by the Venetians in the Medieval times!

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4. Visit Churches
Mix with the locals and follow them to panigiri (religious feast) in the picturesque churches. The panigiria include a litany of the saint’s icon all around the village. And then — dancing, eating, drinking, dancing, eating, drinking… in the central square till you drop out at dawn. There are many religious feasts being held all around Naxos you can’t go wrong.

5. Participate in the Naxos Festival in Bazeos Tower
The Naxos Festival originally started in summer 2001 and takes place in the restored Bazeos Tower in the center of the island. The Bazeos Tower has been functioning as a monastery of Holy Cross from 1600 and now serves as residences and workshops of ceramists. For the last 100 years the tower has hosted exciting cultural events, especially during its acclaimed Naxox Festival. To get a great taste of Greek folk culture, be sure to participate in the plentiful musical concerts and art exhibitions. Festival lasts from July to September, read more here.

Santorini Oia
The road to Oia was narrow and steppy. The village can be reached by a road that meanders along the steep cliffs located to the eastern periphery of Santorini. At certain points this road is so narrow that it looks more like a ridge that can barely accommodate two lanes with no railing for protection.
Santorini is gifted with a unique natural beauty and a wild scenery created by past volcanic eruptions. It is known for the beautiful caldera and two small islands of black lava that are also the youngest islets in the Eastern Mediterranean.
White-washed and brightly trimmed buildings glittering in the Sun on a striking volcanic cliff, the crystal clear blue Mediterranean ocean, endless horizon and churches blue domes decorate every corner of the picturesque landscapes. There’s soooo much to see. Do NOT forget your camera! Like most volcanic islands, Oia has a rather a raw beauty covered with dark pebble beaches and sharp volcanic rocks. I’ve compiled a list of possibly best experiences to try out and enjoy in Oia based on Alex recommendations, so read what you should do below:

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1. Embarking on Caldera sailing cruise
Oia is often crowded during the touristic season as it has plenty of bars, restaurants and hotels positioned right on top of rocky ridge lines and promontories. Best known for its fabulous panoramic view and sunny Mediterranean backdrop, the Santorini Caldera will not disappoint. Oia lies above an under-water volcano; the northernmost part of the Caldera’s crater-like structure was formed by the collapse of land following a massive volcanic eruption. The crater actually looks like a “cooking pot”.
Some calderas are highly mineralized, thus are known for the healthy properties of their hot springs. Rent a boat and take off to the shore to swim in the natural hot springs all around. It’s surprising, but this part of ocean often has rough waters, so this swim isn’t for novices… be careful. Even strong swimmers can have a tough time to making it to the shore. Stick close to the boat. If you don’t feel like being a swimming champion, enjoy the cruise from inside of the boat. Be sure to take plenty of memorable pictures, eat, drink and observe the super romantic sunsets. I promise that you won’t get bored.

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2. Watching the sunset
Talking about sunsets. Many travelers agree that the sunsets of Santorini are the most beautiful anywhere on earth. The best news is that the sunsets can be savored from countless vantage positions all over the island, and Oia is definitively one of them. Romantic lights decorate the newer buildings, including hotels and restaurants built on the cliffs, starkly contrast with the deep blue of the ocean and raw dark volcanic rock landscapes, providing you with truly mesmerizing views of Santorini’s natural beauty and rich Mediterranean history.
A truly great way to experience Santorini’s incredible sunsets is by embarking on a romantic sunset cruise. It doesn’t get any better than that.

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3. Hiring a quad or a bike and riding around the island!
Hiring a quad or a bike is a lot of fun and it’s still a pretty cheap activity (around 15€ for the day plus fuel), and all you need to rent it is to have a standard driver’s license. Touring the island in this way will offer you a more intimate look at the landscape. That way, you will discover areas that are not normally accessible by bus plus you will have the amazing summer experience of salty Mediterranean breezes ruffling your hair. Who wouldn’t love that?
One of the safest roads are near Kamari and Perissa, where you can cruise down to their famous black sand beaches if you want to chill.

4. Staying in a Cave house
There are many lovely hostels “set in stone” and one of them is undoubtedly Caveland in Karterados. Due to its white-washed styling, bright blue doors decorated with fuchsia flowers, it is quintessentially Greek. And if you are a romantic couple, Oia is a perfect getaway and has definitely the best view of the caldera while remaining far away from the lively and crowded Fira. Couples who prefer to be in the center of action should choose Fira over Oia, but this is the chapter of a whole new story, since this time we are focusing on quiet and relaxing Greek islands.

santorini

Conclusion? Even with the economical issues, Greece is apparently more popular this year than we’ve seen it in many other years. The prices are cheap and the U.S dollar is strong. Romantic Greek island getaways continue to be attractive to travelers. So, if you are looking for lovely locations and breathtaking landscapes with staggering sunsets, Oia Santorini and Naxos are highly recommended by couples just like you. Whatever you choose, Alex recommends spending at least 4 days of getaway time on those beautiful beaches and relaxing in two of the most picturesque islands in the Mediterranean. What a great way to charge your battery for the wintertime.

ADDITIONAL PEEKS:
Oia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oia,_Greece
Santorini link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santorini
Naxos link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naxos
Kreta (Crete) link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crete
Korfu (Corfu)link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corfu
Zakynthos link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zakynthos

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Cuba Travel Demystified

For decades, Cuba has held a certain mystique for the curious American traveler. Although citizens of other countries could visit, Cuba was previously off limits for Americans. As a result, the country has occupied a special space in the traveler’s imagination, with images of charismatic revolutionaries and flavorful foods, as well as vibrant nights of dancing and music.

In 2015, the United States president, Barack Obama, announced that the country would partially lift its travel ban for American citizens traveling to Cuba. Though there were some caveats – the main being that travel to Cuba in the form of tourism is still strictly prohibited – this lift in the travel ban has definitely opened the door for Americans to consider Cuba travel. With the doors to Cuba slowly opening up, travelers are rightfully confused as to what is allowed and what is not allowed with regards to travel to Cuba. As a means to demystify Cuba travel, here are a few key points to keep in mind when planning travel to Cuba.

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Who can travel to Cuba?
In previous years, American travelers were not allowed into Cuba. And those who were had to face a barrage of restrictions and authorizations to legally travel to the country. Even business transactions with Cuba were considered illegal, and would warrant hefty fines or jail time if caught. These days, most Americans can legally travel to Cuba, as long as they fall into one of the few allowable types of travel.

What kind of travel is allowed?
For Americans, tourism to Cuba is still not allowed. However, there are other types of travel to Cuba that are allowed, including educational activities, professional research, public art performances, religious activities, and even humanitarian projects. Recently, companies have sprung up offering people-to-people trips to Cuba, connecting travelers directly with Cubans as a means to bring about educational and cultural exchange. The main idea behind this travel restriction is that travel to Cuba must have a component in which the traveler is helping the people of Cuba or the trip is educational for the traveler.

How do travelers get there?
From the United States, flights to Cuba are relatively short. A flight from Miami to Havana takes less than an hour. Besides Miami, travelers can get flights to Cuba from cities such Tampa, Orlando, or New York, through various airlines such as American Airlines and JetBlue. However, although flights are offered, actual seats must be purchased through a third party vendor, as the United States and Cuba has yet to sign an aviation agreement.

Musicians - Cuba travel

Is it safe to travel there?
Cuba is a relative stable country to visit. Unlike in past years, demonstrations against the United States are now few and far between. Demonstrations against local opposition groups, however, can get violent, so it is best to avoid those if in the area. Travel to Cuba is much like travel to any developing country. As there are pockets of poor people, it’s best not to flash too much money around or too many expensive gadgets.

Will there be internet?
As Cuba has remained relatively untouched by tourists, the infrastructure in the country has been relatively weak. Only a few good hotels exist, and many businesses still do not accept foreign credit cards. In terms of internet access, only some hotels, as well as government “hot spots” can offer travelers that luxury.

With the new partial lift on the travel ban, Cuba travel is now becoming a reality for many Americans. Although not all types of travel are allowed, those that have an educational or altruistic purpose are, and tour companies are popping up to take advantage of this travel loophole.

Carnival - Cuba travel

For more ideas about travel to Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean, download the LeafCanoe app.

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Five Ideas for Travel After a Divorce

Divorce and breakups can be difficult. When a marriage or a relationship ends, people often feel a sense of grief and loss, even if they were the ones who ended the relationship. Yet, despite the difficulties of a breakup, there are many ways to cope with the end of a relationship. One such way is through travel.

Travel is more than just a means to see the world. It can also be transformative and healing. Being in a new place can help bring a different perspective to your life. This new perspective can help you immensely on your path towards acceptance. Almost any destination can be a good place to start on your healing journey. The best way to choose your destination is by exploring what that particular destination has to offer. Though it may be difficult to take that first step, travel after a divorce can serve to help you move on from your breakup.

Take some time to be alone
After a serious breakup, it’s helpful to take some time to be alone and reflect on life. A train trip through Europe, for example, can offer a good balance of solitude and social interaction, as you work through your period of reflection. From the countrysides of France and Italy, to the streets of cities like Prague or Amsterdam, there are plenty of opportunities to hop off the train and engage in some solo exploration on foot.

Europe - Travel after a divorce

Simplify your life
Going through a breakup involves a major life change, and can often force you to rethink your day to day. Take this opportunity to visit a place that allows you to focus on the simple things in life. The laid-back culture of Jamaica is perfect for re-examining what is important in your life. Go at your own pace and enjoy exploring the country’s beaches and towns. Let Jamaica’s relaxed attitude influence the way you see the world.

Jamaica - Travel after a divorce

Test your strength
The emotional stress of a divorce can leave you filled with self-doubt and insecurity. Take this time to take on a challenge and test your strength. A popular travel destination for those looking for a challenge is the 15th century Incan site, Machu Picchu, located in Peru. Hikers and adventure travelers love to visit Machu Picchu, whose altitude at 2,000 meters above sea level poses a challenge for many travelers who come to the site. But it is this challenge that will ultimately help you in your road towards moving on from a divorce. Being able to overcome the difficulties of visiting such a site, can help reaffirm the inner strength that may have been lost when you went through your breakup.

Machu Picchu - Travel after a divorce

Rediscover the beauty of the world
The world is a beautiful place, and often times, the depression that comes with a divorce or breakup serves to obscure this fact. However, it’s good to take the time to appreciate what the world has to offer. African countries like Tanzania are a wonderful place to visit for witnessing the world’s natural beauty. From the wild animals of the Serengeti and the breath-taking views of Mount Kilimanjaro, to the serene waters of Zanzibar, Tanzania offers a wealth of natural beauty for you to soak in. Rediscovering the beauty of the world can help you move on from the depression and sadness.

Zanzibar - Travel after a breakup

Find balance
The final step towards recovering from a divorce is to find balance in your life. Practices such as yoga and meditation can help you achieve balance and maintain a sense of peace with your life. Although India is often known as the birthplace of yoga, places like Ubud, on the Indonesian island of Bali, has started to become a hub for yoga and meditation. With beautiful Hindu temples, serene rice paddies, and a plethora of yoga and meditation centers, Ubud is a peaceful retreat from the hectic and tourist-laden spots found on the rest of the island. Rent a quiet and secluded villa and spend your days meditating. By finding balance in your life, and accepting what the world has to offer, you are well on your way towards creating a new life post-divorce.

Bali - Travel after a divorce

No matter how you slice it, divorce is a difficult thing, and the feelings of sadness, self-doubt, and insecurity can often be hard to shake off. The wonderful thing about travel, though, is that it can have the power to help you in your process toward healing. By allowing you to do things like see a new perspective, test your strength, and achieve a sense of balance, travel can play an influential role in helping you move on from a divorce.

For more ideas of where to travel, download the LeafCanoe app.

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Old Meets New in Tokyo

In a city consistently ranked as the cleanest and most friendly in the world, spending time in Tokyo isn’t difficult or unappealing. Ease of traveling, helpfulness of locals, and plenty of historical sights in addition to modern amenities puts Tokyo at the top of many travel guides’ lists of must-see places.

It is the capital of Japan and boasts the most populous metropolitan area in the world, 36 million people, and growing. The area is divided up into areas, or neighborhoods—each treated like small cities, which explains whyTokyo is frequently referred to as a “city of cities” affectionately. With so much to see, it could become overwhelming to plan an itinerary in Tokyo, but thankfully, Leaf Canoer Julia at vetaretus-6 has compiled a thorough list of sights and experience in this bustling city in her leaf “Things to see in Tokyo”.

The comparative aspect of old vs new makes Tokyo an endlessly interesting place to explore. Culture and way of life is passed down from generation to generation and a tradition of honor and loyalty is well-preserved in Japan in both architecture and attitude. But a booming economy also makes Tokyo home to many global corporations and the amenities are truly first class and state of the art. To fully appreciate Tokyo one has to be ready to dive in to the history while still appreciating modern technology and innovations that are to be found there. Below are a mix of “old vs new” Tokyo sights.

Hachiko Statue at Shibuya Station
It’s no secret that dogs are regarded as inspiringly loyal animals, and the story behind this statue demonstrates just how true that it. Waiting for his owner to come home from work each day at Shibuya Station, Hachiko became a local fixture in the early 1920’s. When his master died of a brain hemorrhage, this remarkable Akita continued to wait for his master each day for nearly a decade after he died. This statue was erected as a national symbol of loyalty to one’s family and to the Emperor, and remains a popular tourist attraction.

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Shop Til You Drop
When you’re ready to take advantage of a populated city, shopping is usually a part of the experience and Tokyo is no exception to a wide array of shopping venues. One particularly interesting area worth exploring is the fashion district of Takeshita-dori in Harajuku. Here one can find living art just watching the people passing by on the street. Don’t feel shy! Ask to photograph them and most people would be flattered to stop and pose. Shops and restaurants abound in the area so explore and pick up some of Japan’s quirky and delightful fashion expressions.

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Temples and Shrines
Worship is a very significant part of Japanese culture. Though there is not one mandated religion, the country is largely Shinto, an ethnic religion, or Buddhist. Buddhism arrived in Japan in the early 6th century and most Japanese death rituals are handled by Buddhist monks. There are many Shinto shrines available for patrons to attend and offer offerings and enjoy their peaceful atmosphere. One excellent shrine to consider visiting is Meiji Jingu, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his Empress Shoken. After their deaths,  the loyal people of Japan donated over 100,000 trees to commemorate their virtues and created a lush forest amid a busy city. Tips are offered by user vetaretus-6 for showing proper etiquette while visiting Shinto shrines.

From the Water
One great way to take in Tokyo and appreciate it’s panorama is from a river cruise. There are a variety of options for routes, and vessels, including ferries, open air boats, water busses, and even enclosed boats for inclement weather. One option provides for pickups from hotels where you are escorted to the towering skyscraper of World Trade Center Tokyo. From the 40th floor, take in sweeping views of Tokyo, with a guide to answer any questions and provide information. Travel then through parts of the city on your way to Asakusa Kannon Temple, the oldest and most significant Buddhist temple in Tokyo. Passing briefly through a shopping district, you’ll head to the river where you’ll embark on a 45-minute river cruise, gliding under bridges all while hearing audio commentary about this historic city. (www.viator.com see Tokyo Highlights Afternoon Tour and Sumida River Cruise)

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Sky High Buildings
Skyscrapers are part of Tokyo’s iconic cityscape. It wouldn’t be proper to visit Tokyo without ascending one of it’s sky-high buildings and Mori Tower provides an unparalleled view of this metropolitan area. Observation decks on the 52nd and 54th floor are open to visitors. It is a fantastic place to capture some cityscape photography.

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Tokyo Dome City
A small entertainment complex in Bunkyo consists of the mega-arena Tokyo Dome, a spa and an amusement park complete with roller coasters. It is a great way to spend a few hours thrill-seeking and with ample opportunities for relaxation as well.

The contrast of city and nature, old and new, ancient custom and modern amenities make Tokyo a fantastic city to explore. It’s low crime rate and temperate climate should encourage one and all to spend some time in this world-class city.

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For more ideas of things to see in Tokyo visit LeafCanoer Julia’s leaf here and to read what other LeafCanoers have to say, download the LeafCanoe app.

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Best Boston Campuses to Explore

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Boston might be a carefree and a travelers’ playground, but it is also home to hundreds of thousands of students. This city is known as one of the top academic meccas in the world for a wide variety of studies. In fact, many of these schools are now park of the historic landscape of Boston and have been featured in books, movies and legends alike. Here are some fantastic colleges and universities you can visit on your next trip to Boston.

You can also check out the extended leaf on the LeafCanoe app for eve more travel tips in Boston! Find out how here.

Harvard University

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When travelers think of seeing esteemed schools in Boston, Harvard University is usually the first to come to mind. Actually, the campus it located in Cambridge, a separate city from Boston, but still next door and reachable by car or public transportation. Unlike some of the other schools in and near the city, Harvard is prepared to welcome outside guests who are simply interested in the landmark. Here are free, guided historical tours available for the curious that examine the buildings, grounds and past of an iconic institution. Visitors can also go to the museums on campus that are small but famous, including the Peabody Museum and Sackler Art Muesum.

Boston University

As one of the biggest high educational schools in the city, Boston University welcomes more than 30,000 enrollees every year. Many of the academic buildings are located in the Fenway area. Travelers can have a fun time poking around the libraries and coffee shops full of studious co-eds. This also is a great spot to have some wallet-friendly food that caters to a younger crowd. The Mei Mei street kitchen, Gyro City, El Pelon Taqueria and Tasty Burger all are good choices steps from the MBTA. Take a tour of nearby Fenway Park after lunch

Emerson College

Known for its journalistic roots, number one college radio station and hot house for budding performers, locals love to see what students at Emerson are up to in downtown Boston. The school owns a few iconic performance centers, including the Cutler Majestic. They offer spoken word, music and acting shows by both students and professionals. There is also a visitor center on Boylston Street near the sprawling Boston Common that welcomes guests to come in for more information.

Berklee College of Music

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In the heart of the Theater district, this trendy and cool college houses some of the biggest performance based talents in the country. Their main building line Boylston Street and Mass Ave, emblazoned with proud Berklee namesakes and colors. While you can take a tour of the city campus if interested in its history or attending, but the real draw to Berklee is the great shows students host year-round. Many are free and some are open to the public, which can give a look into the lives of these rising stars. Alumni have received 239 Grammy awards, so it’s well worth checking out the concerts put on by co-eds. For instance, seniors will perform their final recitals at Café 939, and bigger orchestras and bands usually take over the Berklee Performance Center, which also features music professionals.

New England School of Photography

Along the same lines as Berklee, this school loves showcasing its incredible students by gallery showings and more throughout the city. Check out the main campus right near Fenway Park, then discover places to see stunning photographs. There is also the Garner Center on campus, open six days a week, which acts as a real exhibition hall with rotating showing of student work.

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Spending the Holidays in Boston

It’s the season to bring about cheer around the whole world. What better way to ring in the new and enjoy the love of your favorite people then with a trip to Boston. This vibrant city loves throwing grand holiday events, encircled in wintry weather, celebration and lots of exciting traditions. Find out what the best things are to experience this year for Christmas in Boston and beyond. These are only a few suggestions, but grab some more insider tips with the corresponding ‘leaf’ posted on LeafCanoe! You sign sign up as a beta tester here.

Pain D’Avignon’s Holiday Pop-up at The Fairmont Copley Plaza

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Boston really loves its farmer’s markets, but hates to say goodbye to them when the warm weather passes. However, the famous Fairmont Copley Plaza is hosting the Pain D’Avingnon’s Holiday Pop-up to the delight of market goers. This great Cape Cod bakery is bring its’ tasty pastries, breads and more to the hotel in the city, selling its wares on Fridays until December 19th. It’s worth visiting just to see the spectacular light display and tree as well.

Hearth Shares

What can be better than eating and also giving back to the local community? This year, countless restaurants are taking part in the “Hearth Shares” program, which allows patrons to add donations to their bill to benefit NGOs fighting hunger in Boston. Everything from Asian fusion to fresh seafood restaurants are participating for the last week of December.

The Back Bay Chorale

See this popular musical ensemble belt out classic Christmas tunes for a local look into the holiday spirit. See them accompanies by an orchestra of musical talent, specially organized for this special time of year. They seamlessly blend together old and new with favorite songs and some modern renditions as well.

First Night

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Carrying on through the New Year, this is one of Boston’s biggest winter gatherings. The First Night celebrations take place in December and January, featuring local performers and giant displays of holiday spirit, like professionally carved ice sculptures. There’s also some great concerts and an unforgettable midnight firework harbor cruise.

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Where to Roam in Nova Scotia

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Choosing a vacation destination doesn’t mean you have to go south to sunnier skies. There are some incredible places to explore in the northern hemisphere too, especially during the Spring and fall seasons. Weather conditions can be ideal to take long weekend road trips, check out small towns and sightseeing through big urban sprawls.

One of my favorite locations is Nova Scotia – Canada’s scenic province of wine, seafood, sun and coastline.

Small Town Charm

Landing in the town of Yarmouth via the speedy NovaStar ferry from Maine, it was an ideal introduction to the area. Although small, this spot welcomes visitors from all over the world and has a great information center right on the waterfront. Plenty of bed and breakfasts line the residential streets, such as the charming MacKinnnon-Cann Inn. For some fresh seafood, including flaky white fish and mussels, guests can grab a table at Rudder’s. This would also be the perfect opportunity to try some Canadian poutine, which is french fries covered in gravy and cheese curds.

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A Beautiful Capital City

About a three hour drive from Yarmouth is the capital city of Halifax. Highlights include a n iconic citadel as the centerpiece of the city, with tours daily that offer historical accounts on past battles and wars. The views of the harbor from the top of the citadel are sweeping and gorgeously panoramic.

When choosing a place to stay in Halifax, location downtown was key. Luckily, the chic Prince George Hotel exceeded expectations and provided the perfect, elegant base for exploration. Rooms were beautifully plush and freshly decorated, and the lobby bar was always buzzing with action. Just a quick walk out the front door brought us to the Obladee Wine Bar to sample some local Nova Scotian white wines. Then a cab ride was all it took to be in culinary bliss at the trendy Field Guide for shared plates and craft cocktails.

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Along Two Coasts

The north and south coasts of Nova Scotia are vastly different. Stay north to enjoy miles of wooded scenery and rocky, coastal towns. A great stop between Yarmouth and Halifax is Lunenburg, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage site for being a famous old fishing town. On the way back down, it would be a shame to not experience the other opposite coastline and the Bay of Fundy. It’s a body of water with a unique shade of copper brown, boasting dramatic cliffs and spectacular views.

Want to follow this Nova Scotia adventure leaf-by-leaf? Sign up to be a beta tester for LeafCanoe for a sneak peek at my travel itinerary though Canada, complete with photos, tips and more memories!

 

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Lunchtime in Boston

It’s the middle of the day, and it’s time to eat. If traveling through the great city of Boston, you might be saving fancy establishments for dinner to empty out your wallet. But what if you still want to explore some culinary delights in the city and not break the bank? We have four great places to grab a tasty bite throughout Boston.

Make sure you check out my ‘leaf’, naming even more great places to nosh throughout the city on the LeafCanoe app! Filled with photos and tips, it’s the perfect way to map out meals while on the road.

Anna’s Taqueria

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There’s burritos, then there’s Anna’s. These hotspots for real authentic Mexican fast food are scattered throughout the city, but all offer the best burritos, quesadillas and tacos around. They have fresh vegetables and perfectly spiced meats to stuff them all. Pair these hearty lunch items with one of their signature Mexican drinks, such as the Horchata, similar to a sweet almond milk.

Shake Shack

Originally a famous chain in New York City, Boston has now welcomed a few restaurants of its own. The interior is much classier than other burger joints and the ingredients used are fresh. Although a little more costly then the golden arches, it’s well worth a few more dollars for their signature crinkly fries, burgers and a ‘concrete’. These milkshakes are so thick they need a spoon, thus the namesake. Choose one mixed with red velvet cake or a lobster tail pastry made in the nearby North End.

Figaro’s

It’s a standard sandwich shop with a delicious twist. Everything is made to order and massive, satisfying the cravings of those working in the financial district and tourist alike. Most of their hot subs, rollups and deli delights are named after famous Italians. Take with you the steak and cheese “Al Capone” or the imported prosciutto “Pavarotti”.

Pho Pasteur

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It can be a hit or miss when wandering through the Chinatown neighborhood, but many of these places offer hot, quick lunches for affordable prices. This place borders the Theater district, but is easily found on Washington Street. There pho bowls range in size, but a small is plenty fo even a large lunch. Fill it with beef, chicken or a mix of tasty items, smothered in flavorful broth and noodles. They have great chicken wings or shrimp cakes to start as well, fried up crispy.

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A LeafCanoe Interview with Travel Writer E. Nolan

We at LeafCanoe love when people are out there on the road, discovering exciting adventures. We especially love hearing from people who have made traveling a career! In our new interview series, we’ll be highlighting some fantastic individuals who love using technology and enjoy spending time professionally  exploring new destinations.
Below are a few questions answered by E. Nolan. He is is a stay-at-home dad, as a father of four, physically residing in the Midwest but mentally living pretty much anywhere else. With seven years of professional travel writing experience and a passion for both travel and writing, he’s always looking for another great place to recommend to his varied audiences. His recently-released his second novel titled “Redemption: 2022” (penned as Ever N. Hayes) as art of his “2020” series. Follow him on Twitter @EverNHayes.
travel writer
When did you discover a love of travel? What has been your favorite travel memory?
We drove and flew all over as kids. My parents were missionaries in France and Africa for a decade. By the time I was 20 I’d been to 22 different countries and 40 states. My favorite travel memories would either be traveling by train around Europe or our every-other-summer family van trips to Estes Park, Colorado.
 
Does your family enjoy taking trips? Where do you like to go together?
Absolutely. Estes Park, Colorado and Brainerd, Minnesota are some of my favorites. We also love anywhere with an ocean. We spent a month in Florida this summer; part-work, part vacation and found a new hobby in shark-tooth-hunting. My kids and I found 428 in one day!
 
Do you ever use travel tech on the road, like phone apps?
Yes. Yelp. Trip Advisor. Instagram. Candy Crush and Google Maps.
 
What travel gear can you not leave the house without?
Golf clubs, iPad and my camera.
Do you have any advice for those wishing to travel more in their life?
Start small. Take one trip each year to an out of state place you’ve never been. Drive, don’t fly–unless it’s to Hawaii–and use the difference in funds to splurge on something fun. Finally, if you have kids, make the most of your time together and explore while they are interested in it. I hit that phase where I didn’t want to go anywhere. When I finally grew out of it I wished I had the old days back again…when we did all those things together. You all have that chance. Go for it.

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Take a Look at a Book in New York City

Nothing beats the smell of old books stacked high in a sunny bookstore on a charming summer day. New York City is full of bibliophiles who love to frequent independent and big-names book shops throughout Manhattan, on the hunt for the latest release or just a calm spot to read. Some of coffee and desserts inside, while others may be bare bones but offer free wifi and a chance to browse. Every local swears by their favorite, so travelers will have to try a few to decide on their own preferred book haven in the Big Apple.

Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books

Travelers with a sense of humor and a love of all things quirky will want to make a beeline for 34 Carmine Street in the East Village. The shop is called “Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books”. Really. It says so on their sign. It’s open really late as well, even until midnight on the weekends, so it can be worth stopping by for a book to conclude the night with back at your hotel. Most literary finds only run a few dollars and staff are more than willing to offer a few recommendations. It might not carry the newest bestsellers on your list, but it’s perfect for discovering a hidden gem not many have read.

Bluestockings

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Ladies flock to this shop, as it used to be a strictly feminist hangout and bookstore. Nowadays it has a more inclusive stance, but has still stayed true to its global justice and equality roots. There are more than 6,000 titles ranging from magazines about women’s rights to biographies of those incarcerated. This is the place to learn, as they also hosts various workshops, discussions and even performances on the daily.

St. Mark’s

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Among the student crowd in the Lower East Side is this shop, holding some wonderfully written masterpieces just dying to be picked up. St Mark’s Bookstore has been around for decades and has withstood the test of time and popularization of Kindles. Every month, they welcome an author to do a reading and signing as well, which would be a fun alternative activity to try while in the city. The décor is simple and unpretentious, allowing for a safe space to curl up with a new read and get lost in its story.

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