Don’t tiptoe thru the tulips – cycle!

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Imagine cycling through the countryside among fields of colorful tulips stretching for miles with the sight of a pretty windmill in the distance. Just over a rustic bridge, you stop for a rest, inhale the scent of the fragrant flowers and take photos of the scenery surrounding the path you are traveling.

Biking through the Netherlands provides a form of slow travel that allows you to experience truly local sights and get a fitness fix at the same time. This beautiful European country has charming towns, quaint villages, and lovely countryside that will keep you entranced. Biking tourism is popular for many reasons, including how easily you can hit the bike brakes to stop and admire the sights and then continue your adventure when you are ready.

For the Dutch, cycling has become a way of life – almost everyone owns a bike, including children and the elderly. The biking culture is so popular in the Netherlands that most people ride every day and some paths serve double duty as bike paths and power generators because these solar cell-covered paths collect energy!

Narrow streets and canals means you get to your destination faster than by car in Amsterdam.

The flat landscape of the Netherlands makes it easy for leisure riding, so you don’t need to be ultra-fit or a serious cyclist to enjoy this mode of travel when you visit. Those with young children or in their retirement years, might dismiss biking as being too energetic and demanding, but once you see how the locals embrace biking, you might be tempted to give it a try. The locals will always be cheering you on in their warm and friendly way, as they love seeing visitors embrace their biking culture.

Tulip time provides not only beautiful scenery for a bike tour, but a delightful scented tour as well.

Since travelers are all different, you will find different kinds of bikes for your journey, including recreational bikes, e-bikes and road bikes. Depending on your experience and fitness level, you can match the right bike and tour, so you have a wonderful time cycling the great outdoors. You can even choose your bike seat to help you have a comfortable ride.

There are many kinds of bike tours available with something for everyone from hour-long tours to full or multi-day tours.  You can find group tours, luxury

tours, and family-friend tours, making your bike trip a great social experience. For those that enjoy time in the company of friends and/or family or even alone, you can head out on a self-guided tour through a tour company, leveraging the services just like you would get on a tour.  This more independent style of bike travel works out to be affordable yet still comes with services including routes, information and a help hotline.

There is nothing like being able to enjoy your pedal-powered travel without the hassles and logistics. All the details are arranged when booking a group or self-guided bike tour. When moving on to a new hotel, your baggage will be transported for you while you use peddle power to reach your destination. If your bike needs a repair or the weather turns bad, you will be rescued, making it a stress-free adventure that will be exhilarating. Getting to your destination promises to be both rewarding and exciting.  After biking thru the scenic countryside all

Due to its biking culture, you frequently see crowded bike parking lots.

day, indulge in some guilt-free local cuisine with drinks and dessert. The beer that waits for you at the end of a fun day of cycling will taste incredible.

Life in the Netherland’s bike lane is great for first-time bike tour travelers. It is a very safe place to cycle, so safe that wearing a helmet isn’t required. Even with group tours, you can ride at your own pace and enjoy the sights and scenery; taking your time to experience the environment is what it’s all about. Once you experience the fun of cycling in Holland, you might consider bike tours in other countries too. Barge cruises and biking trips are also popular for travelers who like to mix it up. This different kind of travel is easy to get used to and might be your new-found pastime.

See the Netherlands by land and water on a bike and barge tour.

The Dutch constructed over 35,000 km of bike paths where you can see lush forests, pristine rivers, ocean, plains, towns and more. You might stop to explore a local bakery and farmer’s market with the freshest cheese for your picnic later. You are free to ride and park as your wish, making every day full of unexpected surprises.

Bike sightseeing provides a great way to immerse yourself in the communities you visit. Conversations with locals flow when they see you are riding through

their country and often, questions about where have you been and where are you going spark meaningful exchanges. These rich travel experiences probably wouldn’t happen if they were on a tour or driving by car.

As well as health and fitness benefits, cycling means you contribute to improving the environment. You will notice how fresh the air is, especially in the countryside. As you can tell, there are numerous benefits to biking in the Netherlands. If you’ve been considering a bike tour, I am sure you will find it immensely enjoyable. If this idea is new to you, I’m excited to help you discover this new form of travel.  Just give me a call!

Even cheese goes by bicycle in the Netherlands!

Pat Ogle-CollinsDon’t tiptoe thru the tulips – cycle!
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Cairns deserves more than a transit stop to get to the Great Barrier Reef!

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If exploring the Great Barrier Reef is on your bucket list, your next trip should include time actually in Cairns. The Australian destination is a tropical paradise with ample adventure opportunities in a laid-back atmosphere. With temperatures of up to 32°C during summer,  Cairns has a lot you can discover if you are willing to explore the surrounding area.

Of course, visiting Cairns without visiting the Great Barrier Reef is also a no-no. As one of the natural wonders of the world exploring the reef allows you to get a glimpse of its unique features.

Cairns Waterfront

You get to learn about the 900 islands and almost 3,000 individual reefs that make it the largest system in the world. If you are adventurous, consider being part of a snorkeling excursion or scuba diving in its cool waters from one of the many island resorts or take a day long excurions from Cairns. Taking a tour that takes you into the 344,400 square kilometer coral reef system should be on your itinerary but you shouldn’t stop there.

Kuranda Skyway overs ocean views from above the rainforest as you travel 7.5 km journey from Smithfield to Kuranda.

 Discover scenic  Kuranda

It takes two hours to get to the picturesque Kuranda Village by train. But this train journey is unique because of the many attractions you get to see while on the 120-year old train. The village is surrounded by a World Heritage rain forest in full view while the train passes. Other fascinating sights on the Kuranda Railway include a wildlife park and an aviary with lots of beautiful birds. You can decide to spend the entire day on the scenic railway, for a deeper experience and connection with nature.

View the rainforest from the sky 

Booking a seat on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is an exciting way to see the popular World Heritage attraction. The glass bottom gondola provides an aerial view of the entire rainforest and the

nearby Barron Gorge National Park during the 7.5 km in the air. You can relax while traveling in style with the forest underneath your feet. At the end of the aerial trip, pass by the Rainforest Interpretation center to learn fascinating facts about what you saw or join a cultural tour of the Aborigine people. If you are interested in a more fulfilling trip, consider combining the Kuranda railway and the cableway activities in one day.

Walk through a rainforest

An abundance of vegetation, stunning scenery, and scenic sites is what you can expect in the Daintree rainforest. It is one of the oldest rainforests in Australia with one of the largest populations of butterfly and bat species. If you are a nature lover, hiking through the forest will lead you to incredible sites, waterfalls, amazing walking trails, and coastal views. Delight in different aspects of the ecosystem that has evolved in isolation for many decades resulting in an unspoiled Australian rainforest. Luckily, several tours are available for visitors interested in exploring Daintree, giving you a chance to be part of a guided excursion.

Explore the Crystal Cascades

Just outside Cairns is the breathtaking Crystal Cascades, a waterfall perfect for cooling down in the summer. It takes about

Walk thru the canopy of the Daintrain Rainforest.

twenty minutes to reach the area and another half-hour walk to reach the hotspot nestled within the expansive rainforest. The waterfall drops into a deep hole filled with clear freshwater, perfect for swimming. Snorkeling is another popular activity at Crystal Cascades with the clear water allowing you to swim safely and see different types of fish underwater.  If you prefer to stay out of the water, you can lay out a picnic nearby and enjoy the scenic view offered by the surrounding forest. Remember to carry insect repellant to be safe from the many flying insects that call the forest home.

Explore Aboriginal culture at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Park.

Experience Aboriginal Culture

The Australian aboriginal people are an interesting community and one of the oldest cultures globally. Its 40,000-year-old culture is worth exploring when visiting Australia at the famous Tjapukai Aboriginal Park. At the park, which is only 15 minutes from Cairns, you get to be part of the Aboriginal culture through storytelling, dance, live performances, and music. Visitors to the cultural park participate in several interactive experiences like throwing a boomerang, playing, riding a canoe, playing the

didgeridoo, or taking part in a corroboree at the fireside. For a wholesome experience, you can sample traditionally prepared bush foods at the park.

Go up the Atherton Tablelands

If you are looking for a quiet and peaceful spot, head to Atherton tablelands, half an hour from Cairns. The highland region attracts fewer tourists and I filled with several small towns with several activities you can be part of. It’s also cooler than Cairns during the summer making it the perfect getaway spot. At Atherton Tablelands, you can choose to ride the Express steam train, visit the Chinese temple Hou Wang Miau, Tyrconnell Gold mine and Gallo Dairyland Farm. You can also sample coffee and tea at the Coffee Works roastery and Lake Barrine Tea respectively.

See lava tubes at Undara National Park

Lava tubes crisscrossing an extinct volcano is the major attraction at the Undara National park. The volcanic park is safe and gives you a chance to get up close to some of the longest lava tubes in the world. Although the journey from Cairns to the volcanic park is about a day, it’s worth it for many people that make the trip. Besides, visiting the national park, you can also be part of a sunset tour to watch wildlife or book a pioneer hut, or “glamp” in a tent village for an overnight stay.

Explore lava tubes at Undara National Park.

Although Cairns and its environs have a lot to offer, the city also has great spots to explore as you wind up your trip. Check out Cairns Esplanade which hosts several shopfronts with various facilities and grassy areas for sports activities. The botanical gardens are a great place to take a break from the city and is perfect for taking strolls while enjoying various types of trees and local plant. Remember to stop by the Aquarium to interact with aquatic wildlife common in the Great Barrier Reef and other World Heritage Sites in the area.

Ready to explore beyond the Great Barrier Reef?  I have years of experience planning memorable trips to Australia and its environs. Talk to me today!

Oh, and the picture of the rocks?  They’re known as Gatz Rock Piles found south of Wangetti on the beautiful Captain Cook Highway between Cairns and Port Douglas.  No one knows how this got started but these mounds of rocks or cairns, are proving to be a hit on social media.  Now aren’t you glad you read to the end?  🙂

Pat Ogle-CollinsCairns deserves more than a transit stop to get to the Great Barrier Reef!
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Italy’s famed Alps, the Dolomites, are dyn-o-mite!

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For many travelers the Dolomites in the north of Italy are a kind of heaven on earth. Mother Nature blessed the stunning Italian mountain range with rolling hills, grand mountains, scenic glacier lakes and the kind of fresh air that makes you feel truly alive.

The Dolomites, aka the Dolomite Mountains or Italian Alps, are enchantingly gorgeous and you can also find a diverse cultural scene with the prettiest little villages dotted throughout the area. There really is something for everyone in the Dolomites!

Braies Lake north of Cortina d’Ampezzo
in northern Italy

Your days will be decorated with awe-inspiring sights as you travel the Dolomite Alps. If you love hiking, the trails will delight you whether you are a newbie or seasoned hiker. Don’t forget your camera because there is an abundance of photo opportunities from dawn to dusk. As well as photographing the iconic gray rocky mountains you will find flora and fauna including deer, cows, goats and birds to document the local “wildlife”.

Iconic alpine winter sports in Italy draw enthusiasts from around the world.

The seasons in the Dolomites put on spectacular shows and it’s debatable which season is the most beautiful. In summer you can expect blue skies contrasting with wildflower explosions and in winter the snow-capped peaks are fairytale-like. For skiers and snowboarders, the alps offer some of the most epic experiences in all of Europe. Autumn and spring are equally as stunning and the weather during those months is just lovely.

While a vacation in Italy usually conjures up visions of shopping in Milan, gondola rides in Venice and ruins in Rome, this area of the country offers something quite different. While those places are wonderful, you won’t want to miss the Dolomites. This sometimes-overlooked destination is rich in nature, culture, history and gorgeous postcard-perfect scenes and for many it is a highlight of their travels. UNESCO agrees, listing the Dolomites as one of the top 49 world heritage sites in Italy.

Charming towns like Vipiteno are lined with pastel-colored historic buildings, old cathedrals, excellent restaurants and shopping. Each town is unique so I recommend you spend several nights at each stop to truly experience the local culture of each village. Foodies can indulge in some fantastic dining experiences that will include mouth-watering pasta dishes and spa junkies will find luxury spa resorts for some relaxation and pampering that is well-deserved after a day of exploring the great outdoors.

Due to its proximity to Austria, this northern Italian region reflects the influence of its neighbor in its architecture, food and culture.

A glass of local Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Francs is also on the menu as you unwind from your busy day of sightseeing. Or make a day of sipping wine by stopping at a winery or vineyard for a wine tasting tour.  Or you can even ski from wine tasting to wine tasting.  You might also stumble across a remote monastery, museum, ride a cable car or go fishing with a local guide on another day. The Dolomites

Via Ferrata, a type of mountain climbing that used metal rungs, ladders, and cables mounted in the mountain walls provides an exhilarating experience.

are full of spellbinding experiences and sights that will stay with you for a lifetime. If you get the chance to go kayaking on a crystal-blue lake it will be one of the most peaceful and lovely rides of your life. Cycling is another awesome way to get around the Dolomites with epic cycling routes the go through lush green valleys, over bridges and passes and along country roads that are as quaint as they come.

For sure you will hear about Via Ferrate. Translating to iron road, Via Ferrata is guided climb along four breathtaking routes on the cliffs above Mt Norquay. It’s an exhilarating adventure not for the faint hearted. Scaling steep cliffs, crossing suspension bridges and braving steel safety ladders are all part of the thrilling experience. All the routes are wildly exciting from the 2-hour explorer path to the challenging mountaineer path that takes around eight hours.

If you are excited to explore the Dolomites contact me to start planning your trip. With over 500 square miles covering three Italian regions (Veneto, TrentinoAlto Adige/Südtirol (South Tyrol) and Friuli Venezia Giulia), I can create trips to rival trips to those other Alps that are filled with music!

Cortina d’Ampezzo, a small town in the northern Italy, that hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics will again share hosting the games with Milan 70 years later in 2026.

Pat Ogle-CollinsItaly’s famed Alps, the Dolomites, are dyn-o-mite!
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The friendliest warriors you will ever meet!

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Stick your tongue out. Way out.  Go ahead.  Now bulge your eyes. Move around a bit. You have just performed a typical move of the Haka, an ancient Maori ceremonial dance. The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand with a unique culture preserved for many centuries. They arrived from Polynesia and settled in the country in the mid-1300s creating a treasured part of New Zealand’s identity. Often referred to as the original New Zealanders, the Maori culture is worth exploring for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of cultural legacies.

The best way to learn about a culture is to be part of their daily activities. In Maori culture, some activities are open to everyone while others require an invitation. Luckily, there are several ways to immerse yourself into the culture of the Maori and understand its ins and outs.

Maori facial expressions are important part of ceremonial dances.

Become a Maori

You can be part of the Maori culture when in New Zealand by stepping into their shoes and becoming one of them even for a day.

Say hello using the hongi. This style of salutation is an up close and warm but may feel out of the norm for visitors used to the regular handshake. It involves the two people greeting each other pressing up against each other with their foreheads and noses touching. The Maori believe that the greeting unifies two souls as they share the breath of life. Try it out when meeting locals to see their reaction.

Maoris use tattoos now to reflect an
individual’s family and personal history.

Ever thought of getting a tattoo?  How about an authentic Maori tattoo? The drawings on the face of a Maori have a deep meaning and not just a simple tattoo. It comprises spiral patterns and curved shapes drawn on the entire face to symbolize power, prestige, rank, or social status with their location conveying specific information.  Backs, chests, arms, shoulders, and legs can be tattooed as well.  Maori-inspired designs are available to those not affiliated with the people, but make sure to have a full understanding of the design and seek the services of those knowledgeable in this style so your tatoo is culturally sensitive.

Live like a Maori

Maori culture is still alive in New Zealand with many of its tribesmen practicing its cultural beliefs. One of the best ways to experience life like a Maori is to visit the Tamaki Maori Village. The village is a recreation of a traditional homestead in the Tawa forest, which is 200 years old. At Tamaki, you will be ushered into the daily

routine of a Maori community before they came into contact with the outside world. Indulge in their food, songs and stories as you tour every corner of the intriguing homestead.

Celebrations are an integral part of Maori life as you will see at the village. Take part in a welcome ceremony known as the pōwhiri, which is one of the

The marae of the Maoris provide communal space for meetings, celebrations and other Maori community events.

most famous cultural attractions in the country. The dance is open to visitors who would like to join the locals as they guide them into the village.  If you are up to it, watch the cultural performers reenact the use of taiaha, an ancient method of killing their cultural enemies. Maori warriors used to strike and twist the head of opponents to expose the brain, which was a delicacy.

Hangi is a traditional meal cooked underground featuring a variety of meats, fish and vegetables.

Eat like a Maori

Sharing a meal with someone of a different culture is one of the best ways to experience their way of life. For the Maori, being a part of the hangi meal is a great way to celebrate your time with them.

Prepared and cooked in a hole underground, the delicious food has lots of variety. The culinary technique involves the use of a hole lined with aluminium foil, hot rocks and sometimes wire baskets.  Some of the foods cooked hangi style include potatoes, vegetables, chicken and fish.

Besides enjoying the delicious food, you can also take part in the cooking. Although hangi method sounds easy, it’s quite strenuous but the community aspect of it, makes it worth it. Participating in hangi has a two-in-one benefit of learning a new cooking method while interacting with locals as you cook together because the food preparation takes time.

Dance like a Maori

If you are a rugby fan, you have probably seen the New Zealand All Blacks team perform their famous Haka dance. The dance, whose famous composition Ka Mate was written by an ancient Maori chief, celebrates life triumphing over death.

Being part of dances like the Haka, is a great way of indulging in the Maori culture. You don’t have to get the steps right the first time, but your willingness to try will be a step in the right direction. The Maori culture is filled with actions such as rhythmic movements, gestures, poetry and a combination of dances. It may be hard to believe but most dances

The haka performed by the Maori as a ceremony or challenge displays the pride, strength and unity of the group.

are hinged on verbal expressions with little or no singing. Although most dances, were performed to scare off opponents, they are now more symbolic than threatening. The focus is on demonstrating the warrior spirit of the Maori people. It is believed that this spirit is the reason for the preservation of their robust culture to this day.

Are you interested in travelling to New Zealand for your own Maori experience? Are you wondering where to begin planning your trip? I am an expert in curating personalized trips to New Zealand to see and interact with the Maori. Call me today and let’s begin to plan your trip for a cultural experience of a lifetime.

Pat Ogle-CollinsThe friendliest warriors you will ever meet!
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Fado reveals the soul of the Portugal!

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Popular in cafes, nightclubs, and restaurants, fado is a unique form of Portuguese music loved for its expressiveness. Its origins date back to the 1820s or earlier. Central to Portuguese culture, and described by the term “saudade,” a longing as a result of a permanent loss with far-reaching consequences.

Often, the musicians sing about the hard realities of everyday living. For that reason, fado is regarded as the spirit of Portuguese music and culture. A feeling of understanding that cultural travelers and other tourists visiting Portugal seek may be difficult to achieve without experiencing live fado performances.

To enjoy the seductive charm of a city like Lisbon you must roam the city’s alleyways. While doing that, take time to slip inside cafes, steamy bars, or restaurants and listen to the soulful fado songs by famous artists like Amalia Rodrigues. Some of her popular songs were Uma Casa Portuguesa, Coimbra, and Foi Deus among others.

Visitors can find numerous fado bars and restaurants along the streets of Alfama, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Lisbon.

Have you ever felt a deep sense of longing for something you love? Fado music evokes such experiences. The songs capture thoughts, emotions, struggles, and the spirit of adventure running through all aspects of Portuguese society. Subtle and soothing tunes express the Portuguese way of life.  Camane, considered to be the best male fado singer among a new generation, continues this tradition while remaking the traditional music of his parent and grandparents for new generations.

Fado bars and restaurants allow you to immerse yourself in the food and music of Portugal.

Frequent cultural visitors to the country always seek out fado performances for various reasons, such as experiencing the destination like a local, a nice evening, and for those who want to check UNESCO sites off their list, the organization rates it as Portugal’s most prominent cultural heritage.

Fado performances provide a pleasant addition to an evening of dinner and drinks. Can you imagine the pleasure of soaking in soulful melodies while enjoying different delicious forms of Portuguese cuisine such as bacalhau, (salted cod), polvo

àlagareiro (boiled octopus with onions, tomatoes, and peppers), or pastel de nata (Portuguese egg custard for dessert? Song albums like Uma Noite de Fados by Camane will appeal to your deepest sentiments.

The lively fado tunes are a trademark of Portugal, dating back to the 1800s in the working-class neighborhoods of Lisbon.  Cobblestone streets,  mazes of alleys, small plazas, and colorful buildings close enough to string clotheslines between and have conversations with your neighbors thru the windows.  Walking these neighborhoods during the day elicits a feeling of charm but also the effort of daily life.  As day turns to night, the locals seek the camaraderie of their friends in nearby bars and restaurants to hear music that conveys the essence of their lives.

To get a bit of understanding of the people of Portugal, an evening of fado is a must!  Otherwise, what would be the point of traveling if you can’t say your eyes were opened a bit during your travels.  The perfect way to do that in Portugal is to lose yourself in the revelry fado music creates!

Known for triggering a wistful yearning for what is gone and a nagging sense of loss, fado music comes in two different styles. The most well-known is named the Lisbon fado. It is drawn from social contexts focusing on unlawfulness and marginality. The second genre

One or more guitars typically accompany fado singers.

is Coimbra style fado. It is linked to the academic traditions of Coimbra University, usually performed on the streets of the city as well as bars and restaurants by performers often in academic robes singing tunes that are more upbeat and cheery.

Listening to fado is the best way to compliment the charming sights you see during day trips. Nothing can heighten your appreciation of the Portuguese more than throwing yourself into the closeness of a fado bar atmosphere. Get in touch with me and I will help you do that!

Pat Ogle-CollinsFado reveals the soul of the Portugal!
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How do you spell controvery in Tasmania – MONA!

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Sex, death, poop and more not-for-the-dinner-table subjects are the inspiration for art at one of Australia’s most controversial museums.  To truly understand what MONA is all about, you might have to drop by. The museum in Hobart, Tasmania, is not your average history or art stop. Constantly evolving, you never know what you might find, as museum curators freely admit. Instead, they give a long list of quirky clues that ends with the story of the peacock who was banished from the museum for attacking blue cars.

So what is the Museum of Old and New Art, MONA, all about?

Aerial view of Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)

Founder David Walsh says he was inspired to build the tourist attraction so he could “bang above his weight.” A comment that leads back to MONA’s sex and death theme that states people are primarily motivated by the drive to have sex and dodge death.

“Cement Truck” by Wim Delvoye

The intense, asthmatic art lover and professional gambler is known for being provocative, controversial, and argumentative. If you are lucky enough to meet this outspoken atheist, your conversation is sure to be fascinatingly colorful. The museum is recognized by many as an extension of his loud and bold personality.

You can expect to feel strong emotions that might include amusement, admiration, disgust, joy or confusion. Evoking extreme and deep reactions seems to be at the heart

of the museum’s existence. Most people come through the doors expecting some shock value while the odd traveler stumbles across the museum and leaves with more than they bargained for. Indeed the best vacations gift you with this kind of memorable experience that might be way out of your comfort zone or totally unexpected.

Here’s a little taste of past exhibitions. We couldn’t want to give you any hint of future ones, as it’s anybody’s wildest guess.

  • Cloaca by Belgium artist Wim Delvoye was a smelly machine that needed to be feed daily and emitted poop
  • A wall of carefully sculptured vaginas by artist Greg Taylor
  • A dizzying yellow room full of black dots by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama

“Cloaca” by Belgium artist Delvoye

Critics are vocal about the museum, its art (including some of Walsh’s personal collection) and all that it represents. Similar to blue cheese or kimchi, visitors either love it or hate it. Do you dare to find out what side you are on? While you might think you are open-minded and capable of appreciating art that is contemporary and thought-provoking, you might find yourself fleeing for the nearest exit. Or you might be inspired and impressed. For sure, your emotions will be triggered and conversations will flow for some time after a trip to MONA.

“20:50” by British artist Richard Wilson plays with optical illusions using oil

Regardless of how much outrage it might garner, MONA is considered a cultural asset to Australia, appearing on the Tasmanian Heritage Register. Walsh is famous in art circles and beyond locally and internationally and has boosted the tourism industry to impressive heights. Annual festivals at MONA, including Dark Mofo that includes a winter nude swim, send tourism numbers through the roof.

The building itself, nestled into a rock, is another talking point and part of the memorable MONA experience. Getting inside involves quite the walk with thoughtful use of space and minimalism to clear the mind before you enter the contemporary-looking museum. Notable features of the architecture are a mirror wall at the entrance and several buildings that are joined by an underground tunnel. The work that went into the design and construction of the museum is massive and Walsh worked closely with

renowned architects to achieve his ever-changing vision. It is a vision that is endless and expected to continue growing in all directions. Once inside, staff hand visitors an iPad entitled “art wank” containing info about each expressive exhibition.

If you love MONA, you can stay the night in one of the luxury dens. We would personally fancy settling down in the Walter Den. Inspired by Walter Burley Griffin, who designed Australia’s capital of Canberra, the MONA website says the accommodation includes “TVs all over the place including the bathroom” and a personal security screen “to avoid visitors you don’t like.”

Contact us soon to arrange your vacation to Tasmania. There is a whole world of fantastic travel experiences waiting in the Australian state, including this not-to-be-missed museum that might make all other museums look dull after you recover from your MONA visit.

A portion of “Grotto” by Randy Polumbo

Pat Ogle-CollinsHow do you spell controvery in Tasmania – MONA!
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The soul of South Africa lies in Soweto!

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Do you want to experience breathtaking wild safaris in the heart of an African national park? Are you looking forward to sunbathing on some of the most exotic beaches in Africa? Is interacting with locals and indulging in their culture and cuisine something that excites you? If the above questions describe your ultimate getaway, pack your bags and make your way to South Africa!

Directional signage on Vilakazi Street in Soweto

For a trip that gives you a total view of South Africa, you need to visit the townships in the vast country. Soweto is the ideal township to include in your itinerary. I know you are thinking why visit an area that holds not-so-good memories for locals and might be unsafe for foreigners. Isn’t this slum tourism? Far from it, many Soweto residents are open to visitors learning about their painful past, understanding their culture, and interacting with them within the township.

The Birthplace of the Anti-Apartheid Movemennt

Located in Johannesburg, Soweto is at the heart of apartheid history in South Africa. In the 1930s, Africans were forced to move from their original homes to the edge of urban areas to separate them from white people that took over their land. The places they moved into developed into townships that were overpopulated and largely impoverished.

Nelson Mandela House

Most attempts to end apartheid were birthed in Soweto, with many political campaigns launched from the township. It was also the battleground between police and school-going children in 1976, resulting in the death of many black children. Many of the famous sights in Soweto are significant in South African history and a testament to their resilience and eventual victory.

Traveling through Soweto is the best way to immerse yourself in the past and present of South Africa. You don’t have to worry about saying and doing the right

thing but focus on learning as much as possible. The people are friendly and openly talk about their experiences during apartheid and post-apartheid. Living with less materially does not dampen their zeal for life, as is evident in their daily activities. Before traveling to the township, read ahead on its history to have everything in context and do your best to respect the residents’ life choices, even if they differ from yours.

The Soweto Experience

So, now you are ready to tour Soweto, but how do you get around? You can choose to ride on a regular tour bus, but for a more immersive excursion, consider cycling, walking, or riding a tuk-tuk. Taking a bike tour is one of the best ways to get an up-close look at famous sights. The locals are also amiable, making your tour a great way to interact with residents in their own space.

Soweto has many “must-see” sights, with many located in Vilakazi Street. The use of sign language to spell out “Vilakazi” using a sculpture of eight large grey hands as you enter the street is eye-catching and welcoming for visitors. You can spend more time than you planned on the street looking at various displays of public street art and memorials celebrating icons of the apartheid struggle. Relax on the benches placed alongside the road allow you to take in the beauty and buzz of the area. The seating is decorated with attention-grabbing mosaics that add authenticity to the precinct.

Hector Pieterson Memorial

The residence of Nelson Mandela on the same street still looks like he still lives there. It was renamed Mandela Family Museum and provides a look into the life and times of the former head of state. Another famous individual that lived in Vilakazi Street is Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu. A visit to the archbishop’s home is an excellent eye-opener on how the religious community got involved in the fight against apartheid.

In the same area is the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, which highlights the involvement of children during the anti-apartheid era. It is a commemorative space built in an urban design to display the past and bring out the heritage of Vilakazi Street. A few blocks away is the site where Hector Pieterson, a student taking part in the riots, was shot and killed.

Orlando Towers, an iconic Soweto landmark

End your trip at the Orlando Towers, a power station constructed after World War II to serve Johannesburg. It served the largest city in South Africa for over fifty years before being decommissioned. The distinctive landmark gets a regular facelift from graphic designers to showcase their skills to locals and tourists. It is also a bungee jumping spot for tourists looking to enjoy an adrenaline rush!

Staying connected

Touring Soweto is the first step towards

discovering another side of South Africa that may not be glamorous but eye-opening. Besides buying local merchandise and dining in restaurants to empower the locals that depend on tourist visits, you can still make a significant impact in several ways, even when back at home. Thankfully, the trip doesn’t have to be the end of your connection with the township.

Speak about your experience with friends and family that may have preconceived notions about Soweto and South Africa. Sadly, the false narratives about the nation have been peddled for decades, and an accurate account of your experience in Soweto is powerful in changing mindsets. Township tourism doesn’t have to be unethical or exploitive when done right.

Speak about your experience with friends and family that may have preconceived notions about Soweto and South Africa. Sadly, the false narratives about the nation have been peddled for decades, and an accurate account of your experience in Soweto is powerful in changing mindsets. Township tourism doesn’t have to be unethical or exploitive when done right.

Research on social causes in the township that may need support and plug into one that tugs at your heartstrings. It is advisable to connect with reputable non-profit organizations that offer educational and job opportunities to Soweto locals. Unemployment is a significant problem in South Africa, and they often appreciate any help towards such causes.

Plan to visit Soweto as a volunteer in the many organizations set up to assist township residents. Volunteering is always encouraged as it helps improve the lives of the locals and their children. If unable to return in person, you can send in your donations and support your favorite charity.

Festival goers in South Africa’s Soweto

Soweto neighborhood

Ultimately, the journey through Soweto is a rewarding experience for a day trip or an extended period. The catch is to strike a balance between awareness of the issues locals face and respectfully choosing to focus on their strengths instead of weaknesses.

If you are keen to start your journey to Soweto on the right footing, you need someone with experience to guide you. I am well versed in matters Soweto and will help you discover a new side of South Africa. Call me!

Pat Ogle-CollinsThe soul of South Africa lies in Soweto!
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Feel like royalty in these gorgeous thermal baths!

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The capital of Hungary, Budapest, has many nicknames. Still, the most prominent one is the City of Spas because of its abundance of historical thermal spas.  For centuries, Hungarians enjoyed the advantages of having natural springs under the country by building thermal baths that increased in popularity quickly for the medicinal benefits of the warm mineral water and social aspects.

Hungarians just followed what other civilizations enjoyed. The Turks, and before them, the Romans,

Locals integrate relaxing in the thermal baths into their day.

built luxurious baths thousands of years before those in the region that is now Hungary. Some of the Turkish baths, like Király and Rudas, still operate in Budapest today.

So, what makes these historical thermal baths worth visiting? Well, like the elegant coffeehouses scattered around Budapest, some of the most beautiful bathhouses warrant visits solely based on the architecture and their stunning interiors.

Gellért Baths and Spa

The Gellért Baths and Spa is one of the most popular bathhouses in Budapest. Located next to the famous Danube River, this bathhouse has an impressive history.  Although it wasn’t built until 1918, the water from Gellért Hill was being used as far back as the 13th century. It now houses the world’s oldest wave pool and features both outdoor and indoor pools to reap the benefits of the mineral-rich water.

Gellért Baths and Spa

Széchenyi Thermal Baths

The design of the baths here is in Art-Nouveau style and is one of the main reasons to visit.  As you enter the mall hall at the Gellért Baths and Spa, you will be immediately transported back to 1918, with stunning cream columns, azure blue tiles lining the walls, as well as beautifully colored glass that illuminates the room on a sunny day.

Each thermal pool in this ten pool building has its own distinct design, showcasing the style of the early 20th century and how it’s still just as beautiful as it was back in 1918.

Széchenyi Thermal Baths

Once you arrive in Budapest, it won’t be long until you learn about the Széchenyi Thermal Baths. Located in the Pest part of the city, it is one of the largest and most popular public baths in Europe.  Similar to the rest of the thermal baths, the architecture and history behind the Széchenyi Thermal Baths entice you to visit. Built between 1909 and 1913, Neo-Baroque and Neo-Renaissance styles dominate the architecture. You’ll notice that even the smallest details of the palace balconies and arches are rich in water metaphors and water allegories.

Like the Gellért Baths, Széchenyi also provides an outdoor and indoor pool of differing temperatures, two saunas, and a steam bath.

If you’re a fan of art history, you cannot miss the Széchenyi Thermal Baths’ beauty.

Rudas Thermal Baths

The Rudas Thermal Baths, built by the Turks in 1550 directly on the Danube, are the oldest and most beautiful of all baths in Budapest.  The Ottoman architecture at this thermal bath is quintessentially Turkish, expressed by marvelous domed ceilings, marble columns and walls, and rooms with a smooth and sleek finish. Red columns support the dome over the main pool, surrounded by four smaller pools of varying temperatures. With the range of pools, you can pick and choose the water temperature in which you wish to luxuriate.

Not only that, but Rudas Thermal Baths are one of the only baths in Budapest that has a drinking hall where you can drink healing water from three springs; Hungária, Attila, and Juventus. The Juventus water is the same water the Turks drank to help with anti-aging, hypertension, and rheumatism.

Rudas Thermal Baths

Lukács Thermal Baths

Unlike most of the other thermal baths in the city, the waters at Lukács Thermal Baths are said to have some of the most effective healing waters that can treat a range of diseases.  The architecture may be simpler compared to the Széchenyi and Gellért. Still, it’s the historical plaques Unlike most of the other thermal baths in the city, the waters at Lukács Thermal Baths are said to have some of the most effective healing waters that can treat a range of diseases.  The architecture may be simpler compared to the Széchenyi and Gellért. Still, it’s the historical plaques

Lukács Thermal Baths

Király Thermal Baths

The 400-year-old Király Thermal Baths, unlike other thermal baths in Budapest, don’t have their own natural water source: its water comes from the Lukács Thermal Bath.  Similar to the Rudas Baths, when you step inside the Király Thermal Baths, you are taken back in time to when the Turks ruled the Buda Castle, hence the stunning Ottoman architecture.

Traditionally Turkish, the dome-shaped ceiling of the Király Thermal Baths provides dim light over the octagonal pool. The bath nor the surrounding building hasn’t been restored for a few decades, making it that much more historically appealing.

The thermal baths of Budapest aren’t just worth a visit because of their warm waters, but the history and the architecturally stunning bathhouses make it impossible to leave off your itinerary.  Dip into Hungarian spa culture and other cultural riches!  Email me today to explore this area of Europe so overlooked by many!

Pat Ogle-CollinsFeel like royalty in these gorgeous thermal baths!
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Strolling Melbourne’s laneways – a total sensory experience!

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Looking for an Aussie destination with character? Melbourne offers a cultural buffet of wonderful choices. Trams chugging through the city center, a vibrant food scene, an awe-inspiring public library, and plenty of historic architecture, including churches and cathedrals amongst the urban landscape create a metropolis always buzzing with activity. In this modern Australian city you will also find Melbourne’s laneways.

The colorful little lanes are famous for bright murals and creative street art that cover a dizzying maze of streets. Pedestrian-only streets mean you can lose yourself in the artwork without watching for cars. There is plenty of pedestrian traffic, though, with many people browsing the boutique shops, local restaurants, and fancy cafes along the way. Fashionably dressed teens bound for school, business people in suits, families shopping, and tourists documenting their travels all move at their own speed through the popular central business district (CBD) instantly recognizable as “Melbs: as the locals affectionately call it.

Melbourne’s culture embodies the laneways, and if you visit a resident of the city they will proudly show you the eye-catching creations while pointing out that street art isn’t graffiti. You will see famous Australian life depicted on the walls with work by local artists covering Aussie life, politics, pop culture, fashion, music, beauty, and love.  Explore almost every theme you can imagine using art on the  Melbournites who can relate to the work and appreciate the bold beauty it beholds.

walls of the lanes to tell a story or message. Perhaps that is why they hold so much meaning for

The history of the lanes goes back to the Victorian era, when horses and carts would clatter along the narrow paths. In the 1990s, the area transformed into a trendy spot for shopping, dining and drinking and street art slowly emerged. Soon the bright surroundings became more popular on a local and international level. The intimate lanes offer a haven where people can absorb the cultural scene, drink coffee, meet friends and

escape, even for a short time, from the bustling city just outside the coziness of the lanes. As you dance down the lanes you will notice a lot of the old architecture is well-preserved, increasing their charm even more.

Meyers Place (formerly Nicholas Lane) is one of the oldest laneways in the city, so a must-visit for true street art fans. Funky eateries and bars line the lanes where you can linger for a while. Lane’s Edge Cafe and Bar is the perfect place for dining outdoors with a laidback vibe. Refuel with dishes paired with local Aussie beer and wine before diving back into the adventures of lane hopping in search of the best mural of the day.

Hardware and Goldie lane features 20th-century warehouses and Degraves Street, named after Hobart merchants Charles and William Degraves, has alfresco dining options for patrons who appreciate the views of the art deco architecture. Hozier Lane near Flinders Street Station is another popular

urban art spot, or you might find yourself rocking out at ACDC Lane. There are so many lanes, and you can rely on your instincts and embark on a bright road of artistic thrills. There is no wrong way for your feet to take you and there’s no predicting what you might

discover. As you weave your way from lane to lane just be sure to take enough photos for invoking memories of this colorful stroll.

Melbourne’s strong coffee culture goes hand-in-hand with the thriving art scene. Rest your tired feet and order a latte at a hip café. Take in the art with the aroma of caffeine and background chatter of socializing coffee lovers for a true Melbourne experience.

Forget about Google maps and get lost in the streets for an inspiring walk that you could probably not make the following day if you tried. Roaming around another day you would notice different details of the artwork adorning the laneway walls. It’s an uplifting place for culture-loving explorers and is free as long as you aren’t tempted to spend at a chic boutique filled with designer garments that are another form of beautiful creative expression.

Enjoy the backstreets decorated with street art by emerging and established talented artists. Watch an emerging work in progress as an artist empties some spray cans. To avoid the crowds arriving early and snap plenty of photos without too many people.

Melbourne’s lanes are a major tourist attraction constantly evolving, with new murals appearing all the time. Embrace the cheery journey as you

Ready to immerse yourself in this outdoor gallery of contemporary art?  Let me design a trip for you that incorporates the laneways and the other wonderful things Melbourne has to offer! walk through a colorful moment in history that might never be the same again.

Pat Ogle-CollinsStrolling Melbourne’s laneways – a total sensory experience!
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Even a Scrooge can’t scowl at glüwein and twinkly stars!

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Walking through a European Christmas market feels like being in a romantic winter wonderland movie. As the aroma of spiced wine mixes with the cool breeze, you will experience a feeling of joy and happiness as you roam a fairytale holiday market filled with festive treats.

Germany, Slovakia, Poland, Belgium, Austria, and Hungary are a few countries that put on a Christmas market that would impress the socks off Santa and all his elves. Every country has a unique market with various winter displays, events, parades, and food.  Picking a favorite one is simply impossible.

Christmas Market in front of Town Hall in Vienna, Austria

Prague’s Christmas Market in its Old Town

Shopfronts are decorated in cheery festive Christmas themes that are so beautiful it’s hard not to stop at each and every one. Historic architecture makes the perfect backdrop to this dreamy annual event. Many stalls line the streets with welcoming cafes and rustic restaurants everywhere, so it is easy to rest when you get weighed down by all your shopping bags.

Christmas mugs, handmade knick-knacks, souvenirs, ornaments, toys, decorations, fabrics, fashion, sweets, and more are just some of the buys you will

want to take home. Christmas decorations are probably one of the most exciting items at the markets because local artisans make beautiful decorative pieces that you will never find anywhere else.

If you are obsessed with Christmas decorations, save a whole section in your suitcase for wooden sleds, nutcracker creations, handprinted trees, sparkly stars, and Santa decorations that are irresistible. Delicate snow globes are not easy to travel with but are worth the effort.

When it comes to Christmas shopping, the European markets have something unique for everyone, even that most hard-to-shop-for person who has everything. Even if you travel to the markets this year during the holidays and delivering your gifts after your trip or even next year, nobody will mind if they get a gorgeous Christmas-inspired gift from Europe.

Nuremberg’s Christmas Market is known for its traditional decorations and ornaments.

Children aren’t the only ones that look forward to the sweet treats at Christmas markets throughout Europe.

Sweet treats are a big part of the European Christmas markets which are loaded with delicious temptations. Indulge in iced sugar cookies, crepes, cake, donuts, chocolate, and candy. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, there’s plenty of other scrumptious options like roasted chestnuts, dumplings, soup, and gingerbread cookies. You might even discover reindeer sausages or Töki pompos (cooked dough with bacon, onion, and cream toppings a favorite in Hungary). Drinks with a dash of spice, peppermint, or something stronger are great to carry around as you roam the markets.

The daytime and nighttime atmospheres at a Christmas market are quite different, so make sure you explore the markets at both times. During the day, there is a busy vibe as everyone shops and enjoys music with festive food and drink. At night the glow of the lights adds a romantic feel, and the pace of life seems to slow down a little. Locals and tourists linger over meals of traditional Christmas fare and soak up the holiday atmosphere that surrounds the whole village or city.

An ice skating rink filled with happy children is a breathtaking sight and the little ones will also love to see puppet shows, Father Christmas, and live Christmas performances with all the classics being played. Even if you don’t have children with you, your inner child will be thrilled to feel a level of excitement about Christmas that you might not have felt since your youth. Every corner seems to be another picturesque scene of festive yuletide cheer.

Nativity sets fill the Aix-en-Provence Christmas Market.

Find the nearest church or cathedral near the market because they are sure to be in the holiday spirit with nativity scenes, twinkling lights, and Christmas carols. Spend time reflecting on the rich history of the traditional Christmas markets that originated in Germany hundreds of years ago.

The market in Munich takes place under the watchful eye of its famous Glockenspiel on Marienplatz in the center of the city.

As the snowflakes fall, it is time to dash indoors for one more hot chocolate, glühwein, or eggnog next to a Christmas tree adorned with pretty fairy lights. Make sure you take plenty of photos and videos to remember this once-in-a-lifetime Christmas holiday experience.

Call me today to discuss what city might be calling your festive soul to visit. While December probably isn’t a month you usually travel, this year can be different.  I can arrange an amazing European

winter vacation, with the highlight being the Christmas markets, faster than a 10-year-old can rip open a gift-wrapped box on Christmas Eve.

Pat Ogle-CollinsEven a Scrooge can’t scowl at glüwein and twinkly stars!
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