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Shy Bredewold
Mar 06, 2024
In Destination Discovery
Exotic wildlife? Check. Ample snacks? Check. Beautiful stately home? Check. It can be tough to find entertaining, safe activities to keep the family engaged when there's a bit of jet lag standing between you and your stress free embarkation! Marwell Zoo really does tick a lot of boxes, and it's only about 30 minutes by car from the cruise terminals. Great option for burning some energy on a comfortable half day out!
Marwell Zoo: Things to do near Southampton Cruise Port for families with young kids content media
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Shy Bredewold
Feb 25, 2024
In Destination Discovery
Were you one of the lucky ones to visit The Bahamas last year? While the ministry responsible for tourism figures had reported slightly higher than expected visitor numbers for 2023, I think the biggest surprise has been just how much growth the islands have enjoyed since 2019, the previous record-setting year for visitor numbers. More than 9.6 million guests visited The Bahamas last year, representing a 33% increase since 2019! This figure wasn't necessarily unexpected, if a little higher than the local tourism board had estimated. I think the biggest surprise has been the rate of growth and some minor figures among the distribution of visitors: New Providence, which includes Nassau and features the largest casino resort in the Caribbean at The Baha Mar represented the lion's share of those visitor numbers, with nearly 4.5 million by air or sea. The Baha Mar in New Providence Grand Bahama was the next most popular destination, welcoming just under 600,000 visitors. What are known as "The Family Islands" represented a 40% increase over 2022 with more than 4.6 million guests; a region scattered to the multitude of wonderful islands across turquoise waters elsewhere in the archipelago. Think Eleuthera, Berry Islands, Exumas, and beyond!
Bahamas enjoy record visitor numbers in 2023 content media
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Shy Bredewold
Feb 20, 2024
In Destination Discovery
Check this place out! The Oxford University Museum of Natural History - a little unassuming outside, but it's absolutely beautiful inside. The collection is quite cool and not at all overwhelming, kept our family with young kids entertained and curious for just the right amount of time!
Oxford University Museum of Natural History content media
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Shy Bredewold
Nov 25, 2023
In Destination Discovery
Good to see some Christmas spirit, even if you struggle to clap your hands! Mid week might have been a bit kinder for crowds, but what a great day out with the kids in London!
Christmasaurus Rex at the Museum of Natural History in London content media
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Shy Bredewold
Aug 15, 2023
In Destination Discovery
I had an offline question this week about cruising the Galapagos Islands, which cruise loop is the best and when is the best time to travel there? It's going to sound like I'm wriggling my way out of giving a straight answer, but there's so much variation it really is up to you, the traveler, and what you'd prefer to see and do. When is the best time to visit I'll touch on the when first, as it ties in with the loop selection. The Galapagos Islands is a year-round destination, there is plenty of migratory wildlife but many of the main attractions live there full time. When it comes to "best", it's perhaps more a personal preference, unless you're a bird watcher or maybe if you've got particular snorkeling preferences! We could split the weather into two seasons, the dry and the warm. Not entirely intuitive, sure! From about June through December the islands tend to be drier, while the December through May period is viewed as both warmer and with more frequent showers. This shouldn't be vacation deal-breaker rain though, think island weather. The water temperatures tend to reflect those on land, my dear snorkelers. You can definitely get in the sea at any time, it'll just be warmer during the warm season. The when is more about what kind of wildlife you might like to see. There are plenty of seabirds doing their thing throughout the year, but a distinct seasonality exists for many other birds and the exotic wildlife which resides on or visits the islands. For example, flamingoes have a more intensive nesting season commencing in February. Or some of the giant tortoises begin their migration from higher elevations down to their regular nesting areas in March. The waved albatross does its grand performances, breeding and nesting from May. Sea lion pups start appearing in August. They emerge a little larger but more curious in about November, when you might see more sea turtles. December starts seeing more dolphins, particularly in the south... Which leads to the next point, the where or which loop? What are the loops and which one is best The government of Ecuador determines everything about visitation to the islands, including cruises. They maintain a requirement that visitation isn't repeating the same landfall day in, day out where there isn't a purpose built structure. Across many of the islands, landing craft are used to take you from ship and ride up the surf onto a beach or prominent feature where guests may alite. Although not many people visit the islands when compared to Venice or Dubrovnik or Key West, the results would nevertheless be catastrophic for the local environment if all ships were to disembark their passengers at the same spots all day, every day. So, cruise lines and tour operators tend to break up their landing spots and alternate their visit dates (or weeks). Allowing footfall to be more spread out across the various islands people like to visit. Most itineraries feature Puerto Ayora and the cultural & historical highlights, such as the Darwin Research Station (tortoises!!!). An outer loop might feature Espanola Island, for example, where you're most likely to see various species of albatross and blue-footed boobies. But it gets complicated, you might be more likely to see whales around Kicker Rock on an inner loop but only between April and December... I've also seen northern and southern marketed, the idea of a loop is such an easy way to break down what is truly a complicated set of tiny islands out in the Pacific! There's so much variety across such a small geographic area, it in fact helped inspire Darwin to come up with his theories. But in the end they're just branded itineraries. If you ask me, the best bet is to ask a few questions of yourself - what made you most want to visit the Galapagos Islands? If you can nail down those one or two inspiring moments you thought, "I need to see that for myself!", then you can start planning the best trip for you and your companions. Then come back here and ask me the best way to see them!!!
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Shy Bredewold
Jun 20, 2023
In Destination Discovery
I stayed here earlier in June during a short visit to London, maps just don't do the proximity any justice it's so close! Bonus interest, there was a film being shot at the cathedral during my stay - although I've not yet figured out what it was.
How close to St Paul’s Cathedral is Hilton’s Lost Property? content media
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Shy Bredewold
Jun 17, 2023
In Destination Discovery
Cool trivia fact for you, Big Ben is actually the name of the Great Bell, within the Elizabeth Tower of London's Houses of Parliament. Back in August of 2017 the whole tower closed for visitation and the clock tower fell silent for the next few years while extensive repairs on the historic monument were carried out - and subsequently delayed in 2020. From June 14, however, tickets are now again up for grabs to the public to get an up close and personal visit within the tower! Ascend 334 steps and explore the clock mechanism, nearly 30ft across the arms!!! Ear defence will be provided as you'll enjoy hearing the bell strike on the hour! The 90-minute tour is not for children under 11 and those who require accessibility such as step free access won't be able to join in. Tickets are, at the time of writing, £25/adult and £10/child (11-17). This long-awaited tour has proven so popular the tickets for June-September of 2023 sold out nearly the same day. The next batch for visits in October of 2023 will be available for online purchase from 10:00AM local to the UK on July 12th.
You can now visit Big Ben! content media
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Shy Bredewold
Feb 21, 2023
In Destination Discovery
London is better on foot! I had a meeting last Tuesday in London, nearer to Wembley, and which finished a little earlier than expected. I managed to arrange a cheeky drink with an old friend, however headed to Waterloo - this a northwest to southeast sort of journey, basically across the city... I decided to get off at Bond Street and walk the remaining mile or so, London is so much better on foot and I would have totally missed this great sunset across Piccadilly if I had just stuck with the Underground! Didn't hurt that London's really enjoying a sunny, dry winter again this year! When did you last let your feet be your guide?
Sunset across Piccadilly Circus content media
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Shy Bredewold
Apr 12, 2022
In Destination Discovery
I loved living there and I always love visiting. No matter how familiar, London always manages to find a way to show me something new. It has to be a favorite destination to finish my 30 destinations marathon! Maybe a big part of that something new comes from the way any big city changes and grows, but I’m never sorry to slip down an alleyway and suddenly I’m finding a historic church or interesting pub or a modern take on art (I don’t always get these hahaha). During a recent visit last summer, when travel permitted, I was wandering a round Spitalfield when I stumbled into the garden of St Bartholomew, the oldest parish church in the city. Divine. Here’s a rather iconic set of landmarks at sunrise from January just passed! Brisk air and not such a flattering angle, but the city just makes me smile.
Destination 30 of 30 is London!!! content media
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Shy Bredewold
Apr 12, 2022
In Destination Discovery
It's like DC was made for visitors - and if I paid attention to any of the guides and locals I met during my visit, it really was made to impress foreign diplomats & dignitaries. The layout of the city complements the impressive stylings of buildings and official-looking architecture. I think I always had a vision in my head of the Reflecting Pool from the film Forrest Gump, but the reality is just as good and better still. Although at the time of my visit in July of 2018 there was a fence erected across the pool. Plenty of iconic landmarks to take in and to draw inspiration, the Lincoln Memorial is an easy pick, but I quite enjoyed the Korean War Veterans Memorial. The Smithsonian collections are truly remarkable, museum after museum open to the public and freely accessible - possibly the only place I've been more accessible to visitors than London, England. And there's a great element of nature & the outdoors in Washington, Arlington just across the waters of the Potomac, there's opportunity to cycle or paddle. We enjoyed the former on our visit. The Museum of Natural History was undergoing an upgrade to its dinosaur exhibit, giving us reason to visit again in future - but even with the construction underway the museum was truly a thrill. Holly even made friends with some cute little bugs! As above, I think Washington makes it to the top few of my top 30 because it is just so simple to get around and make the most of your time when visiting.
Destination 29 of 30 is Washington DC content media
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Shy Bredewold
Apr 10, 2022
In Destination Discovery
Two visits in 2017 for myself and Holly, searching for the Ponce de Leon and his elusive fountain of youth! We didn't find it, but we did have a brilliant good time. There's a great feel of the place, classic vacation destination with all the ice cream parlors and opportunities to grab some fudge - but the dining and attractions are really great. Even the architecture of famed Flagler College is fantastic. It's quite quaint to see the old school house and other historic sites which comprise the main attractions of St Augustine. We skipped the beach on our first visit, opting instead for wineries and more dining. But we discovered just how much we missed out on a later visit when we headed to Anastasia Island's beach instead of simply ascending the lighthouse and returning to the town for dinner. The lighthouse is definitely worth the visit though. As is St Augustine. Trying to put my finger on it, there's a lot of similarity to Key West but you don't feel like you have to move on to something else by the end of the day!
Destination 28 of 30 is St Augustine, Florida content media
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Shy Bredewold
Apr 09, 2022
In Destination Discovery
I think I've said this before in the 30 Destinations history here, but I could easily fill a list with great spots across Japan. It's such an amazing place to visit! Osaka's neighbor and the cultural capital of Japan, Kyoto is where travelers go to see art, experience some amazing temples, and, of course, to eat more delicious food! At least that's the vast majority of what I did when I was there in August of 2010. Highlights included the Kinkaku-ji golden temple or scaling the parapet of Nijo-jo castle to look down upon ancient sites on one side, sprawling modern city on the other. As with so many of the temple sites in Japan, I remember being absolutely captivated with my own clean white socks haha. It was the fact that I could spend an hour strolling a temple's indoors with shoes off and in white sport socks (it was August!), and my socks remained totally white and pristine by the end of the visit.
Destination 27 of 30 is Kyoto, Japan content media
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Shy Bredewold
Apr 07, 2022
In Destination Discovery
What happens in Vegas no longer stays in Vegas. Once Sin City, Vegas has spent more than a decade tidying up its image to better reflect the reality of a stay on the strip. I visited Vegas for the first time during a business trip in January of 2015. It wasn't too hot, it wasn't too busy, and it wasn't at all the image we might see in films or other media. The mega sports teams (and their successes) hadn't yet been brought into the city, but it was palpable that they were coming. An amazing variety of dining and entertainment options, all accessible from your base at whichever gigantic casino resort you decided to stay at - my first stay was at the Wynn Encore. In many ways a stroll along the bright lights felt like all the best parts of Key West, I could enjoy a drink outdoors if that's what I wanted, and there was an unbelievable amount of entertainment at my fingertips. During this visit I saw Penn & Teller perform a great magic show and took in a few of the classic sights. It was indeed easy to get lost in The Venetian or Caesar's Palace! I've since been back to Vegas a couple of times, typically for business such as an event or conference. It would be a pity not to escape for at least a few hours and take it all in.
Destination 26 of 30 is Las Vegas content media
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Shy Bredewold
Apr 06, 2022
In Destination Discovery
Berlin is possibly too cool. Frustratingly hip. It's a lot of things and boring isn't one of them! I spent about half of my military career based in Germany, most of which just a stone's throw from the cool capital. It seemed each time I went I had to relearn which neighborhood was the it place to be. That part was perhaps a little frustrating, but also a great excuse to get out across the city and explore a new corner or quarter I hadn't yet experienced. There's a lot to explore, Berlin is quite a vast and green city with lots of spots to enjoy modern culture and to soak up a healthy dose of history. The weather's typically pretty good in the summer, too! I was never one much for Checkpoint Charlie, it felt a little too much like pageantry while there are plenty more authentic spots to explore the rich if troubled history of WWII and the divide of East & West Germany from decades passed. There are often art installations surrounded by still-standing sections of the Berlin Wall or trendy places to sip a beverage, but with a twist. I can only imagine what that twist might be in 2022, Berliners are nothing if not inventive in the ways they have a good time! Which is a good point to conclude, the local brew is also known as Berliner. If you're ever lost in Berlin, you're never far from a friendly Berliner (did I just make a German pun?).
Destination 25 of 30 is Berlin, Germany content media
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Shy Bredewold
Apr 05, 2022
In Destination Discovery
My wife and I set sail from Miami to visit a few islands of The Bahamas with Norwegian, it was November of 2018 and although the tail end of the hurricane season in the Caribbean, we did get a bit more than a breeze. That meant we did spend a little more time onboard, losing a call to port. The crew and fellow passengers kept the party alive onboard and the whole trip was a smashing success. The Sky isn't Norwegian's newest and certainly not fanciest ship, but she does have a lot of character and the whole premise of a short, beverage package inclusive weekend trip to Nassau and Great Stirrup Caye is truly irresistible. We had the best time returning to the same seats at bars & restaurants onboard, which was pretty easy to do because it was only a short sailing. It's amazing how quickly the staff learns a favorite drink or dessert, however! More than anything, we just plain had fun on the ship. Scavenger hunts, trivia night, a silent art auction, and plenty of people to meet who had the same ideas about making the most of their vacation. The crew are so friendly and probably put up with more than their fair share of jubilant passengers given the freedom with which the beverages packages are applied haha but wow do they work hard to keep everyone smiling!
Destination 24 of 30 is Norwegian Sky content media
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Shy Bredewold
Apr 03, 2022
In Destination Discovery
The first time I visited Thailand was in August of 2009, I spent a few weeks in the beautiful and bustling beach towns of Kata in Phuket. I've since been back to Thailand maybe 5 times, you may imagine correctly that Thailand left an impression and its introduction via Phuket was just perfect. Phuket itself is an island, not a big one but not tiny either. You may not even notice it's an island, the bridge taking you there from the airport is a smooth ride and although you're surrounded by beaches there isn't really an aha moment which tells you to even think about geomorphology haha There's plenty to see and do, which will keep anyone occupied for a week or longer. Especially if you like to dive, as I do. The western side of the island is the side all the tourists tend to visit, with delightful beaches and beach bars dotting several spans of the coast. Names such as Kata, Karon, and Surin will soon feel familiar. You'll get to visit the eastern side in Chalong or maybe even the Thai city of Phuket Town when diving or boating - that typically includes your point of embarkation for trips to Phi Phi Island. Food was absolutely a highlight, as it remains on any visit to Thailand. There wasn't much surprise here. What was surprising, was the prominence of live music and just how good the cover bands are!
Destination 23 of 30 is Phuket, Thailand content media
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Shy Bredewold
Apr 02, 2022
In Destination Discovery
Two words, Iberico ham. That may be all anyone needs to put Barcelona on their top of anything list. If you've never had it or don't know what it is, there really isn't a way to properly describe the experience of the ham actually melting in your mouth. I had been to Spain a few times prior to my first visit to Barcelona. This (above) is early February of 2013, wedged between trips to Ukraine, Vietnam, and a looming deployment to Afghanistan only a few weeks away. I was trying to make the most of life and Barcelona was definitely a good choice for this. February might be a little nippy for a swim in the sea, but the beach was ample and the sunshine was good. The seafood wasn't the city's strong suit, I don't think. At least I had tracked down a place for razor clams and they weren't at all inspiring, rather gritty garlic tubes. However, as mentioned, the hams are worth the trip alone - the places in which you can enjoy the hams and the other accompanying tapas treats really left a long lasting impression on me. Barcelona might be my pick over Rome or Paris or many of the other classic destinations of Europe. La Rambla is maybe so popular it's a cliche, but I couldn't have cared less. It's a nice place to people watch while pinballing vendors and architecture. Barcelona's parks are definitely a strong suit, while I sometimes enjoy a theme to explore while discovering a new destination. Barcelona's Gaudi repertoire does not dissapoint.
Destination 22 of 30 is Barcelona, Spain content media
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Shy Bredewold
Apr 01, 2022
In Destination Discovery
I had to add an exclamation point, Borneo is a big destination really but it's also maybe tied with Sri Lanka as my favorite islands to visit. If you're like me and you really like wildlife, it doesn't get much more wild. To be honest, Malaysia is quite an exquisite place to visit. The first time anyone mentioned it to me was one of the guys from my section in Basic Training. A heavily accented Scottish guy who just lit up when I asked him about the number of times he had visited - long before I had gone myself. He was enthralled and it wouldn't be until years later that I had opportunity to see why and become so myself. Borneo wasn't my first trip to Malaysia and it wasn't my last, but it has been a while. We're looking back on July of 2014 now. My adventure took me from Kota Kinabalu, up the great Mount Kinabalu and down again, onward to look for orangutans in Sandakan, river safaris seeking elephants on the Kinabatangan, across Lahad Datu and onward to Semporna before gaining another dive qualification on the lovely island of Mabul. It's all too much to cram into a post, but I suppose that's the point of the forum, isn't it? To introduce a topic and (hopefully) discuss more! Mabul had the threat of pirates at the time, no night dives or even going out on the water after dark. The diving was amazing, maybe the water is more clear further west in the SE Asia region as currents and rainfall do drop silts into the waters around the island - but I saw some of the smallest crabs & creatures alongside some of the biggest groupers and humongous eels - and of course the resident turtles and sea horses. I wasn't lucky enough to spot any wild orangutans without a bit of enticement, several did come down to steal a bit of fruit from the sanctuary's boardwalk areas in Sandakan. Mount Kinabalu was more of a challenge than expected in some respects, the weather was very much not on my side. That meant although I was quicker to ascend than expected, it was far too harsh to hang about and wait for the sunrise. In the end, a guide at the requisite lodge told me that only maybe 8 people reached the summit that day due to the heavy wind and cold. And just arriving into Borneo is a lovely experience when transiting Kuala Lumpur or KL as everyone there calls it. Should I talk about the food again? haha
Destination 21 of 30 is Borneo! content media
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Shy Bredewold
Mar 31, 2022
In Destination Discovery
There are more exotic, remote areas of Costa Rica to visit, it's true. These come with their own benefits and certainly challenges in achieving your vacation goals. I didn't see any sloths when I visited the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica in 2015, for example. However, it does have a rapidly growing tourism infrastructure, possibly a little more welcoming than other areas of Costa Rica. There are also opportunities to learn to surf and some great beaches, alongside the waterfalls and wildlife you might expect. The developed tourism aspect really helped keep life on vacation a simple one. We didn't have to work hard to find activities or to discover a great place to eat. Costa Rica still kept it wild though, with plenty of activities such as hiking a volcano to then enjoy a volcanic mud bath or scuba diving to see bull sharks. More than enough to keep everyone and their varied interests satisfied throughout the day. Keeping busy at play all day then retiring to some place comfortable to joke around and relax - which is what we all wanted in a big family group trip. Highlights for me were the sound of howler monkeys each morning and cards by the pool in the late afternoon when the day's fun had been enjoyed.
Destination 20 of 30 is Guanacaste, Costa Rica content media
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Shy Bredewold
Mar 29, 2022
In Destination Discovery
There's a reason Italy is one of the most visited countries on the planet, there's a reason Italian restaurants are so popular. I'm reasonably certain the only people who've got a regret over visiting Italy is that they didn't do it in the first place or that they didn't spend long enough there - likewise the food, you only ever regret it when you eat too much or ate at a different restaurant haha Milan is a nice blend of classic travel destination and just the right amount of hidden gem, I feel. When I visited in September of 2011, I chose Milan because it wasn't Rome or Venice or Florence. They're all great destinations, don't get me wrong, I just wanted something a little different, if not too much different. What I got was some cool landmarks off most people's radars, a healthy dollop of gelato then pasta then more gelato, and actually a single regret. I didn't plan far enough in advance to secure entry tickets to see the most famous attraction no one knows is actually in Milan: The Last Supper. That's right, one of the most famous pieces of art across the entire globe is hanging daintily on the wall of an old convent, the Santa Maria delle Grazie. That's the thing, it's so famous those who do know or who do plan their trip around seeing the mural secure their tickets many, many months in advance. Making it impossible for those who didn't or who can't plan that far in advance to see it. And that was me in 2011, a soldier at the time. You never knew when you were going to get leave and if they were going to take it away from you! I actually almost didn't get to go to Destination 18 (Japan), having to complete a driving qualification for larger armored vehicles prior to my would-be next deployment... I drowned my sorrows in Italian beers by the canal and what is likely the best salmon tagliatelle I'll ever eat at the Galleria Vittorio Emanule II. It probably also didn't hurt that it was the Spring/Summer Milan Fashion Week.
Destination 19 of 30 is Milan, Italy content media
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Shy Bredewold

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