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Staff Wishlist: Destinations in Ireland…and a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

March 16, 2013 in Classic Literature, Classic Writers, Ireland, James Joyce, Literature, Modernism, Poetry, Staff Wishlist, Yeats

By Literary Traveler staff and interns

Jessica Ellen Monk, one of our amazing contributors, came up with the idea to do a staff wishlist about literary places in  Ireland we’d like to visit in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Let us know where in Ireland you’d like to visit…comment here or post on our FB and Twitter pages!

Jess: 

Growing up in Ireland there were as many ways for a kid to be bored as anywhere else. For one thing, instead of Hemingway and Whitman, at school we were forced to imbibe the fanciful mysticism of Yeats and the Irish Literary Revival. With our parents and with school we often had to go on ‘educational’ trips up the country which, along with the literature, we had no instinct to appreciate at the time. I was travelling with my family up the west coast as a child, when I remember finally ‘getting it’. The sweep of the bay under Ben Bulben in Sligo was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. Yeats’ famous poem “Under Bare Ben Bulben’s Head” contains the inscription that was carved on his tombstone in Drumcliffe churchyard: “Cast a cold eye on life and death /  horsemen pass by”. I can’t remember if we ever made it to Yeats’ graveside, but if I were to take a trip anywhere in Ireland, free of the need to visit anyone, I’d visit Ben Bulben again.

Francis:

Born of Irish decent, I just want to go anywhere in Ireland.

Carly:

Reading Ulysses for the first time is like getting to know  your Irish neighbor who recently emigrated–you know, the one who usually keeps to himself–in intimate detail, and also–thank goodness–Dublin, Ireland. The beauty of the seaside, the green of the rolling hills, and the breath of the rollicking people are captured in the inane details of Leopold Bloom’s anti-majesty, his daily observational. Dublin, to me, is a city of confession and merriment; I would like to take a stroll along the water, take in the commute and the conversation.

Amanda:

I have absolutely no Irish blood in my lineage and therefore my celebration of St. Patrick’s Day consists of wearing an offensive amount of kelly green and and drinking a few too many pints.  I am a big fan of modernist fiction — so when choosing an Irish author I would definitely say James Joyce.  Because reading him can be intense, I have usually gravitated towards his shorter fiction.  I think I would very much like to visit Dublin per his aptly-titled Dubliners.  His short story “Araby” was always a favorite. It features a young boy in Dublin travelling to an Irish bazaar where be becomes disenchanted by the things he sees there.  While that sounds a bit depressing, it’s really a beautiful story about growing up.

*Related Articles*

Apps for the Adventurous: Dublin Ireland’s “Storymap”

James Joyce and the Golden Gate of Pula

Homesick and Happy in Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn

 

Top Five English Language Bookshops in Europe, Curated by Tyler Moran

February 20, 2012 in English Language Bookshops, Travel

Photo by Michael Cavén

When traveling Europe by train, one is subjected to many hours of butt-numbingly cramped quarters with only miles upon miles of countryside sameness to stimulate the mind. There’s not much to do besides watch the wooded hills and rolling farmlands melt by through dingy glass. Thusly, the literary traveler must be properly equipped. Armed with an absorbing novel or a rollicking history, the literary traveler can vanish an eight-hour leg into nothing.

For experienced readers, eight hours can translate into hundreds of pages. By the time you’ve arrived at your destination, you’ve finished the book, read the about the author and closely studied the copyright information. But never fear! Go find your lodgings, relieve yourself of your bags, refuel with the local fare, check a few items off your sightseeing list and then it’s time to reload. Europe’s major cities are home to some of the world’s finest bookshops. But unless you speak the native language, they’re not all going to work for you. However, the following list of shops definitely will. So, fellow book hunters and European travelers, I bequeath to you five of the choicest English language bookshops.

1. London Review Bookshop 14 Bury Place, Bloomsbury, London

In a neighborhood full of wonderful hole-in-wall bookshops, LRB is surely Bloomsbury’s finest for both popular and academic books. Just a block from the British Museum, this well stocked shop is one to get lost in. Take a seat in one of the plush armchairs and choose your next destination as you flip through their impressive travel section. If you’re lucky, you’ll stop by during one of the frequent literary discussions or lectures put on by the shop’s friendly, passionate and somewhat cheeky staff. When I remarked on the fine condition of the shop’s older volumes, the cashier winked conspiratorially and murmured that he had a first edition of Darwin’s “Origin of Species” in the back room.

Purchases: Just one: a woodblock sized volume of Edward Gibbon’s seminal work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. After all, I didn’t want to get bogged down with paper so early in the trip.

2. Shakespeare & Company 37 Rue Bûcherie, Paris

o Okay, so this isn’t exactly an insider’s pick, but the location and ambience of this world famous bookseller cannot be topped. Located on Paris’ Left Bank, a short walk from Île de la Cité and Notre-Dame Cathedral, Shakespeare & Co. is the literary traveler’s ideal break from a leisurely stroll along the Seine. Founded in 1951 by American George Whitman, who lived upstairs until his death in December 2011, the shop became a bustling epicenter of local literary and artistic activity. Whitman was an eccentric, free-spirited fellow who described the name of his shop as a “novel in three words.” Shakespeare & Co.’s bohemian atmosphere attracted the likes of famous Beat poets Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, who likely slept in one of the 13 beds kept onsite for travelling writers, artists and literary enthusiasts.

Purchases: With the long haul to Berlin looming large, I picked up two novels: Paul Auster’s novel, Man in the Dark and James Ellroy’s crime fiction, The Big Nowhere.

3. St. George’s Bookshop 27 Wörtherstrasse, Berlin

As I talked up fellow travelers at hostels and pubs looking for the inside track on the next city’s best English bookshops, St. George’s in Berlin was consistently and emphatically promised as one of the best I would ever set foot in. Located in the heart of the fashionable Prenzlauer Berg district, St. George’s is primarily a used bookstore but you will find its staff more than happy to make a special order if you are seeking something new or rare. Due to its trendy location, St. George’s staff and clientele is decidedly hipster, yet determinatively friendly. So even if you’re a self-professed square like I, and you amble in wearing a fanny pack with your sandals and socks, and possess nary a tattoo or piercing, rest assure you’ll still be welcomed as the second coming of Lou Reed.

Also notable, the easy-going staff allowed me free reign of the rolling ladder used to reach the floor-to-ceiling stacks: a virtue in today’s liability-worried world. Thanks to St. George’s lax safety policy, I ended up with a few gems from the top row.

Purchases: Kurt Vonnegut’s, Galapagos, David Mitchell’s, Cloud Atlas, and Steven E. Ozment’s, A Mighty Fortress.

4. The Globe Bookstore and Café Pštrossova 6, Prague

Though only founded in 1993, The Globe’s interior reeks of history. The building that houses this charming bookshop is over 120 years old and possesses vaulted ceilings that dwarf the jammed shelves below. The cashier’s counter is a giant slab of oak riddled with the swirls and knobs of old age. It is easy to imagine the counter flipped on its side, doubling as the door to a medieval monastery. The Globe is a great place to meet Prague’s American expatriate community who frequently drop by for the bookshop’s well-liked book readings and film screenings. Behind the shop’s dense, labyrinthine main floor is a lovely café, which is the perfect place to retire with your purchases. The menu is a delicious and fun mix of Eastern European-American fusion with a selection of Czech beers so rich and tasty it’s worth dusting off the old “nectar of the gods” cliché.

Purchases: In what was perhaps the most physically debilitating purchase of the trip, I picked up A Dance with Dragons, the gargantuan 5th novel in George R.R. Martin’s wildly popular fantasy series. I think I saw someone reading one of them in every country I visited that summer.

5. Paperback Exchange 4R Via delle Oche, Florence

I stumbled upon this quaint and quiet shop by accident. After climbing Il Duomo in temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, I was desperate for a place to cool down. The Paperback Exchange appeared before me like mirage, its signage promising both air conditioning and half-priced paperbacks. Done and done. With a vast collection of art theory and art history books, this shop is a must for Florence’s many visiting Brunelleschi, Caravaggio and Michelangelo aficionados. The Exchange in the shop’s name comes from the staff’s willingness to accept your old, well-loved books in exchange for store credit.

Purchases: Ross King’s, Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling.

Well, fellow book hunters, we have come to the end of this list. I hope you all get to peruse the shelves of one (or all!) of the aforementioned bookstores someday soon. As for me, I am still battling back pain from lugging my badly misshapen pack which, due to my inability to pass up a good find, had begun to spring rectangles in the oddest places. Until next time, happy travels!

Winter Getaways for the Spending Savvy Literary Traveler

February 8, 2012 in Travel, travel deals, Winter Travel

There is nothing that does the trick quite like experiencing the chill of January in New England to inspire the desire to travel someplace sunny and inviting. For the budget conscious literary traveler, however, a tropical vacation isn’t always a viable option.  Internet savvy travelers are no doubt familiar with websites like Expedia and Travelocity, which have long been vital resources in trip planning.  Now, with the rapid rise of flash sale websites there are even more options for affordable travel.  For those not yet familiar with the ingenious phenomenon of flash sale websites, such as Groupon and LivingSocial, among many others, there is no better way to get acquainted than to jump right in with their websites or iPhone applications.  Once on the site you can choose your location and are immediately offered a plethora of discounts on everything from dinners at local restaurants to services provided by nearby spas.  The only catch being that the deals are only available for a limited time and in limited quantities.

While Groupon has been around in its current form since 2008, it wasn’t until this past summer that the sight known for its huge discounts teamed up with Expedia to provide affordable travel options in the form of travel experiences pre-packaged and available for a limited time at a discounted price. With Groupon’s “Getaways with Expedia” and LivingSocial’s “Escapes” there is no excuse not to break the monotony of the winter months with a new experience and possibly a warmer climate.

The mission statement of Living Social is one any literary traveler can relate to.  According to the website, “our mission is to add surprise to every calendar. So we dig deep, pursuing both the things that define a place and the undiscovered jewels.”  As someone who caught the travel bug long ago, there is nothing better than perusing vacation possibilities as easily as browsing titles at a book store. With Groupon and Living Social you can explore affordable options handpicked by the websites with the budget conscious consumer in mind.  As an additional bonus, most packages come with added perks.  Purchase Groupon’s “Castle & Manor Tour” and not only will you spend six nights in Ireland, but the trip is prearranged to give you two nights in an authentic castle and four nights in a boutique hotel, allowing for a variety of new experiences.

Not looking to leave the country, or even perhaps the state?  There are always options for weekend jaunts to nearby accommodations you may not have ever known existed.  After entering “Boston” as my location on LivingSocial, I am offered a remarkable amount of cozy two night stays at a variety of bed and breakfasts in Massachusetts and surrounding states.  From an outing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, complete with a voucher for dinner and a complimentary bottle of wine, to a weekend at a quaint Cape Cod inn including a discount on spa services and daily breakfast, the options are vast and each uniquely appealing.

One can also appreciate their homage to the literary traveler in particular.  Describing a picturesque cottage, LivingSocial whimsically digresses that “Henry David Thoreau may have never found a companion that was as… companionable as solitude, but we’ve uncovered an Escape with which you’re sure to get along famously in a setting just as intimate.”  Ultimately, even if you are unable to travel further than your living room couch, perusing the various trips is its own little escape, allowing a break from the dropping temperature with the possibility of exploring an idyllic locale without breaking the bank.

Hemingway’s Key West: How to Travel like a Literary Icon

December 2, 2011 in American literature, Hemingway in Key West, Key West Travel

  “Then we came to the edge of the stream and the water quit being blue and was light and greenish and inside I could see…the wireless masts at Key West and the La Concha hotel up high out of all the low houses”  – Ernest Hemingway, To Have and Have Not

If you are planning a trip to Key West, there are plenty of hotels to choose from, but for the literary traveler the choice is easy.  Dating back to 1926, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the La Concha not only provides you with luxurious accommodations amidst the excitement of popular Duval Street, but it also gives you access to a lush history without even leaving your hotel room.  The La Concha boasts a rich past, with former guests running the gamut from Harry S. Truman to Al Capone, and of course, literary legend, Ernest Hemingway.

At only seven stories high, the La Concha is the tallest building in Key West and one of its best known features is its rooftop bar and observation deck, which offers incredible views of the infamous Key West sunsets.  It is easy to picture Hemingway tossing back a daiquiri against a backdrop of dusky island ambiance.  In fact, he started work on his 1937 novel, To Have and Have Not, in a suite at the La Concha.  The novel, set in Key West, pays homage to the hotel, noting its prominence on the horizon as the protagonist, Harry Morgan, leaves Key West for Cuba.

Hemingway initially made the move to Key West with his second wife, Pauline, at the suggestion of fellow writer John Dos Passos.  In 1936 he met Martha Gellhorn at his favorite watering hole, and present day hot spot, Sloppy Joe’s.  If the walls of the La Concha could talk they would tell tales of their affair, which ultimately led to his third marriage.  For the true literary traveler, a stay in Hemingway’s suite at the La Concha is a very real possibility. While in Key West you can definitely walk a mile in his shoes, but why not kick off those shoes and spend a night in his suite?

While the literature aficionado and history buff alike will take pleasure in sitting where Hemingway sat as he penned his classics, a warning to those looking to stay in the room where he wiled away his days.  According to a chapter on the hotel in Greg Jenkin’s Florida’s Ghostly Legends and Haunted Folklore, strange and possibly otherworldly happenings have been reported in the suite, and one possible culprit is believed to be the ghost of a mischievous Hemingway playing tricks on guests who have taken over his space.  For those who enjoy a little mystery with their history, a tour of haunted Key West landmarks actually starts in the lobby of the La Concha.

For further information on Hemingway’s ties to Key West and the La Concha check out Shannon McKenna Schmidt and Joni Rendon’s 2008 literature themed travel guide, Novel Destinations, a very comprehensive handbook for the literary traveler that The Chicago Tribune calls “a fun read whether for armchair travelers or actual literary pilgrims.”  Now doesn’t that sound like a great book to peruse en route to Key West?  So pack your bags, find a sitter for your six-toed cats, and we will meet you on the rooftop of the La Concha for a mojito in Hemingway’s honor.

Pirates in Paradise

November 29, 2011 in Key West Travel, Travel

In Key West, this Thanksgiving week is not all about the turkey. Starting Thanksgiving Day, Key West is hosting the twelfth annual Pirates in Paradise event, featuring eleven jam-packed days of “pure piratical escapades” that honor and celebrate Key West’s vibrant maritime history.

Key West and its surrounding islands were important both to pirates like Blackbeard and Calico Jack and the people trying to catch them. From the Keys, pirates could take cover while ambushing merchant shipping along the Straits of Florida, which was an extremely significant trade route at the time. And following the War of 1812 when Congress cracked down on piracy, one of the primary anti-piracy squadrons established its headquarters on Key West. So what better way to celebrate the pirate lifestyle and Key West’s history than with a pirate-themed festival?

Sponsored by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, Pirate Radio 101.7 FM, 4 Orange Premium Vodka, and Pusser’s Rum, the Pirates in Paradise Maritime Heritage and Music Festival began at ten in the morning on Thanksgiving day, kicking off with a “Thankstaken” Pirate Party and Feast. But if you missed it, don’t fear: that’s only the beginning. Over the course of the festival, there will be plenty of events and activities for kids and adults alike, for those who simply have a passing interest in pirates, and those who have a serious investment in history.

Over the course of the eleven days there will be a Pirate Village and art fair, featuring period crafts, art, clothing, jewelry, vittles, and plenty of rum, beer, and grog because let’s face it – what’s a pirate without his alcohol? For pirate-obsessed adults, there will be a sailor’s shipwreck holiday ball, craft beer tastings, a rock and roll dance party, an end-of-hurricane season party, a Miss Pirate Key West Pageant, talent, and swim suit competition, and plenty of costume contests, including one for the most buxom wench and bad-ass pirate.

As an all ages event, Pirates in Paradise offers tons of activities for aspiring young buccaneers. There will be a carnival, a kid’s costume contest, and Pirate Art 101 “Color Along” with pirate artist Don Maitz (whose work has been featured in National Geographic). Additionally, in the pirate village, parents can go to a pub and peruse pirate wares while the kids participate in treasure hunts and coloring contests.

For those seeking unusual entertainment, Pirates in Paradise has it all. Some of the most anticipated events of the festival are the authentic reenactments of the famous Pyrate Trials of Anne Bonny and Mary Read and the tall tales storytelling competition, which allows contestants to tell their biggest fabricated story before a panel of nationally renowned authors.

Interested in history and literature? You’re in luck. There are opportunities to sail aboard a real pirate ship, and on Wednesday, November 30, there will be a special excursion on the schooner Wolf where one can join authors Roz Brackenbury, Robb Zerr, and Christine and Michael Lampe on a one and a half hour ride. Prior to the excursion will be an Authors and Artists Luncheon at the Pirate Village VIP tent. Author Robert N. Macomber will, throughout the week, be giving presentations, historical walking tours through Old Town, and partaking in the Literature & the Sea Sunset Happy Hour along with other pirate guests.

Although the festival isn’t free, admission to the Pirate Village is only $5 per day for adults and free for kids under the age of twelve. If you and your family are interested in spending a lot of time at the festival and really getting your pirate on, take advantage of the insanely cheap eleven day festival pass: it’s only $20, and will get you free daily admission to the Pirate Village and Festival VIP Hospitality Area!

For tourists in the Key West area this Thanksgiving weekend and beyond, this could be a wonderful opportunity to discover the great historical roots of the Florida Keys that doesn’t sacrifice fun for education. And don’t worry – if you can’t make it this year, there’s always next November!

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Travel Deals to Satisfy your Wandering Mind

January 3, 2011 in Hiking, Mount Washington, New Hampshire Travel, Stephen King, travel deals

As I read our recent article The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, I daydreamed about vast plains and endless trails. They led me to euphoric moments where I breathed in the pure air of the New England mountains. As my heart raced, I listened to the soundtrack of distant running water and chirping birds. These images were vibrant, as if I was right there, hiking on Mount Washington.

Located in New Hampshire, Mt. Washington is one of the highest peaks in the northeast. It reaches approximately 6288 feet, making it one of my hiking goals to conquer. I have always wanted to take on this rewarding challenge.

I found a great travel deal that offers a challenging hike, comfortable bed, amazing breakfast, and packed lunch for the journey. The Mt. Washington B & B is offering a fantastic two-night hiking package. In addition to a hearty breakfast and comfortable place to rest your head after a grueling hike, The Mt. Washington B & B also offers a guidebook to the mountain and the comforts of home.

Although Mt. Washington’s weather is erratic, it continues to remain a popular hiking destination. The most popular trail is the Tuckerman Ravine. It is approximately an 8-mile climb.

For the New Year, will you take on the challenge of hiking Mt. Washington’s vast plains and endless trails?  I certainly can’t wait to breathe in that pure New England air.

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Travel Deals to Satisfy your Wandering Mind

October 13, 2010 in budget travel, Classic Writers, Helen Hunt Jackson, Travel, travel deals

Photo via Ashley BoydI often sit on the San Francisco transportation and allow myself to be carried to a new destination. I find myself daydreaming of my recent adventure across this beautiful country.

My mind retraces all the amazing and memorable moments and I wish that sometime soon I will again be on the road. Traveling is not only an adventure for me—it is a time to be free of the daily stress and daily uncertainty of what am I going to do with life? I feel that more often than not I am ‘boogled down’ by uncertainty; I am driven by the need to endlessly search for a tangible answer. However, traveling makes me feel as though this answer is right in front of me, as if this answer is unimportant, a mere speck of what is truly out there. When I travel, this mere speck is just a weightless distraction left behind.

As I was nearing the end of my trip across the country, I found myself at Seven Falls in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was enchanting. The color of the mountainside against the beautiful blue sky and forest green trees on my way towards the entrance, promised an unforgettable afternoon.

Entrance fee was $9.25, but well worth the hike and afternoon out of the car.

Seven Falls is located in the South Cheyenne Canyon. It received its title based upon the water that cascades from 181 feet in seven distinct steps. The water falls from the southern edge of Pikes Peak and allows for a picturesque, tranquil sight.

In addition to the waterfalls, Seven Falls has 2 hiking trails: Trail to Inspiration Point and Trail to Midnight Fall. The Trail to Inspiration Point is a mile long, intermediate hike that is the location of the original gravesite of Helen Hunt Jackson. Helen Hunt Jackson was a writer of the 1800s. She is best known for her interest in the mistreatment of American Indians by government agents. This hike was a great way to stretch my legs and breathe heavy as the hill sat in front of me. The sun was beautiful as it set upon the mountainside and the clouds swiftly moved across the evening sky.

Seven Falls is a gem of this country. It is a secluded area, with rushing water as its soundtrack. It is a great place to become in touch with nature and breathe in the amazing fresh air that this earth has to offer.

It makes my list for the top 10 places to visit in America. What’s on your list?

Red Eye: My Weakness for A Week in the Airport

October 11, 2010 in New release, transportation, Travel, Travel Writers

via storem's flickr streamWhen I read, in some travel blog or another, that Amsterdam has one of the most comfortable airports in the world — couches for napping during layovers, 2 Euro showers, stands selling Belgian waffles and peanut-butter-dipped fries — I stopped worrying about finding a hostel over Halloween weekend.  In fact, I wondered why people bothered to book hostels.  Some fellow literary nerds squeed over the possibility of staying overnight in Paris’s Shakespeare and Company Bookstore.  Despite the intensity of my Beauty-and-the-Beast-inspired library fantasies, dozing in a transportation hub took a close second.

So I was disappointed by the metal seats, the florescent lights, the loudspeaker announcements every five minutes, and, after 4:00 a.m., the airport guards who explained that, if I continued to occupy more than one seat, I could be charged with vagrancy.  In my youthful folly (ah, to be 19 again), I’d missed a crucial detail: the perks of air travel were limited to ticketholders.

This experience hasn’t diminished my dreams of airport occupation, though.  When there’s a weather emergency, or when I watch Independence Day for the millionth time, I remember Jeff, who confessed, during an Agnostic Club meeting in college, that he went to airports on Thanksgiving to people-watch, to imagine himself in their families, their communities.

Everyone traveling by airplane is in a state of transition in the terminal, separated from most of their possessions, acquaintances, and surroundings.  Unless they’re hiding out in the Red Carpet Club, they’re subject to the same sterilized, scrutinized, Starbucks-packed otherworld that I am.

Alain de Botton, a French philosophy student gone culture critic, knows what I’m talking about.  He chronicles the week he spent in London’s Heathrow Airport in his creatively-titled A Week At The Airport.  As the airport’s Writer-in-Residence, he had unfettered access to air traffic control towers, baggage handlers, and, yes, the first-class lounge.  Critics are calling it an essay collection, a meditation on a non-place.

I’m calling it the cheapest route to an extensive stay in one of my favorite places.

Culture shock 3: the line

August 24, 2010 in culture boundaries, culture shock

I just shared a positive anecdote about surrender in a culture shock situation, but it can also be a liability.  A traveler has to be willing to push boundaries, to grin and bear the uncomfortable situation.  However, especially during the early phases of adaptation, this flexibility makes her vulnerable, too.

The subtle culture shocks – tremors, as I called them – can define a culture in contrast.  You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.  And sometimes “it” is something as minor as a healthy selection of peanut butter.

Likewise, a person can be defined in contrast – you are marked by your limits, notable for what you do not do.  Let’s add a moral element to the food, and say that a vegetarian may identify as someone who does not bloody their mouth with the inhumane slaughter of animals.  But what if the vegetarian’s host family slaughters a goat in celebration of her arrival?  If she ate it, it would be a sign of respect to the family, and certainly reflects a willingness to push her boundaries.  But at what point does she violate her own beliefs?  And, if they are constantly in negotiation, how will she know?

I tended to know when the line is crossed – rampant sexism always gets my goat – but I had trouble knowing when to keep that goat as a pet, or when to slaughter it in public (I think this feeling of disgust means the metaphor is officially exhausted).

My question is:  How and when did you learn to set boundaries when you were traveling?  Which of your convictions – culturally transmitted, personal, religious, etc. – are nonnegotiable, and how do you react appropriately in situations where they are threatened?  Where, and how, do you draw the line?

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Travel Deals to Satisfy your Wandering Mind

July 19, 2010 in Travel

Since 1985 and the up rise of Thailand’s economy, Thailand has become a newly industrialized country.  Thailand is the 50th largest country in the world. They export approximately $105 billion a year and aid in economic support to neighboring countries.

Thailand is now a popular tourist attraction, renowned for its beauty, architecture and rapid development. I have found an unbeatable deal via Travelzoo for your travels this week: an 11-night package in Thailand for only $1299. This deal will include a roundtrip ticket from Los Angeles, ground transportation, visits to Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Phitsanulok, Sukhothal, Lampang, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai.  Breakfast sleeping accommodations, sightseeing tours and transfers are all included, as is an English speaking tour guide.

If you do not know much about Thailand or what you might do during your free time, I suggest you start exploring now!   This is the best way to learn about a country and its culture.  If you are into meditation, I recommend going to a temple (they are very prominent in Thailand) and breathing in the Thai air.  Or check out the amazing coastline at sunset.  Thailand is the largest rice exporter, so you might enjoy visiting some rice fields.

Whatever you choose to do, I hope you enjoy the vast difference between the advancing landscapes.  Breath in that Thai air and quiet your mind.