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April 2011 Archives

Mountains and Meandering Rivers, Arctic Nation...

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Ecotourism, a fast growing global trend is responsible travel to fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas of the world. These natural and disrupted wonders strive to be low impact to leave very little carbon footprint on the earth so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.  In honor of Earth Day, inspire awareness and conscientiousness in our beautiful world, consider paying homage at one of these places of environmental responsibility.


Arctic National Wildlife Refuge- Fairbanks, Alaska


One of the last truly wild places on earth, this 19.2 million acre reserve is home to polar bears, herds of caribou, grizzlies, wolves, marine mammals, and migratory birds. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was established to preserve unique wildlife and ensure water quality and quantity.


 The Rainforests of the Atsinanana, Madagascar


This collection of six national parks along the eastern side of Madagascar was named a joint UNSECO world heritage site in 2007. The parks are home to some of the rarest and most diverse flora and fauna in the world such as lemurs and primate and these relict forests are critically important for maintaining ongoing ecological processes necessary for the survival of Madagascar's unique biodiversity, which reflects the island's geological history.


Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage, Australia


One of the largest areas of temperate wilderness climate, this tract of lush land in the south of Tasmania includes Southwest, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers, and Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair national parks. Forest, scrub, moorland, rainforests, and dramatic coastal scenery home to Tasmanian devils, quolls, parrots, salamanders, and many other rare and endemic species.


 Serengeti National Park, Tanzania


Two world heritage sites and a biosphere reserve are found within this system of parks that hold the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Maswa Game Reserve, and the Loliondo, Grumeti and Ikorongo Controlled Areas of Serengeti National Park. The oldest ecosystem on earth, millions wildebeests and 200,000 zebras migrate each year. It has been called the greatest and most varied collection of terrestrial wildlife on earth, and one of the last great migratory systems still intact.


Galapagos Islands, Ecuador


Home to more endemic species than anywhere else in the world, Galapago's ecotourism hotspot is in danger from too many visitors. A biological marine reserve, the islands were made famous by Charles Darwin's study of evolution by natural selection there. The island was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, a place of special cultural or physical significance with iguanas, turtles and tortoises available nowhere else in the world.

His Royal Highness Prince William of Wales wea...

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Who would have thought that the biggest television event of the year wouldn't be a sporting event, but a wedding? A world audience of over a billion people is expected to watch the union of Britain's Prince William of Wales and his bride Kate Middleton as events unfold in London on April 29th, and Americans have become especially obsessed. With everyone from the major networks ABC and NBC to cable channels Lifetime and E!, royal wedding specials are all the rage. even BBC America is joining in on the fun, having just premiered a series called "Royally Mad," that follows five Brit-obsessed Americans as they navigate their way through London leading up to the wedding of the century.


Just what is it that has everyone reeling? Sure, it could be that this wedding has been a long time coming (William and Kate have been dating for more than eight years) or it could simply be that everything about it feels extravagant and otherworldly. From the guest list, which features basically every member of the royal family and American favorites like Elton John and rapper Kanye West, to its historic location of Westminster Abbey, the royal wedding is every woman's dream and then some. Here we give you a breakdown of the ceremony to end all ceremonies and don't forget to watch it live and commercial-free on BBC America, with coverage expecting to begin at 5 am EST.


The Cost


According to some media analysts, the royal wedding is expected to be the most expensive celebrity wedding of all time, costing British taxpayers upward of $20 million dollars.


The Proposal


Royal officials announced the engagement in early November 2010 to the delight of those in Britain and the world alike. The proposal took place on the Kenyan ranch of a friend of William's from university and both Kate and William have since described the event as "very romantic." Keeping the royal jewels all in the family, William proposed with the same platinum and 18-carat blue-sapphire diamond that his father, Prince Charles, gave to his mother Lady Diana Spencer in February 1981. Diana had chosen the ring, which cost 28,000 GBP at the time, from a selection presented to her by London's renowned Garrard Jewelers. "This was my way of making sure that my mother didn't miss out on today," William said later as the couple posed for photographers inside St. James's Palace to announce their engagement to the press.


The Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties


While details of both Prince William's bachelor party or "stag" party as the Brit's call it and Middleton's bachelorette or "hen" party were kept highly under wraps, there were still a few tidbits to emerge in the press. William's bash was apparently a fairly laidback, private affair with the guest list reportedly including 20 young men. The list included William's close friends from school, Thomas van Straubenzee and James Meade, as well as nightclub owner Guy Pelly and some of the Van Cutsem brothers, old family friends of William and his father Prince Charles. London's Daily Telegraph speculates that the party took place at a country house close to the Van Cutsem family's estate in Norfolk, England.


Not to be outdone, it was rumored that the princess-to-be had not one, but two bachelorette soirees. Kate's sister and Maid of Honor, Pippa, planned a Dirty Dancing themed event that took place at the Middleton family home in Bucklebury, Berkshire, England, with the girls' mother Carole in attendance. In addition to the gala in Bucklebury, Pippa also arranged a second bachelorette party in London for Kate and her friends, but little is known about where the event took place. To ward off press, Pippa supposedly booked four venues and although guests weren't even told of where they were going, the future Queen has been said to have some favorite local pubs, including Eighty-Six, a trendy bar in Fulham, West London, and a nightclub called Public, located in Chelsea.


The Invitations


Save-the-dates for the Royal Wedding were sent to guests by fax, but full handwritten invitations embossed in gold were sent to 1,800 friends and family members of the couple. Guests to the Royal Wedding are separated into three tiers: those invited to the ceremony, the reception, and the after party. Along with celebrities like David and Victoria Beckham and film director Guy Ritchie, other possible attendees include four of Prince William's ex-girlfriends and two of Kate's ex-loves. Missing from the guest list? U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle, who are expected to watch the ceremony from the White House.


The Dress


Perhaps the most sought-after detail of the wedding and the one that has been kept the most highly under wraps, are those surround Ms. Middleton's dress. The public won't catch glimpse of the gown until the big day, but rumors abound about who will design the dress. It is rumored that Bruce Oldfield, who designed Queen Rania of Jordan's dress and was one of Princess Diana's favorite designers, may have a hand in the matter, but fashion writers and bloggers have their own ideas. Perhaps the most speculated front-runner in the past month is British designer Alexander McQueen, but British oddsmakers Ladbrokes seem to think that Daniella Issa Helayel, the Brazilian founder of the Issa fashion label, will get the honors. Middleton has a long history with the label, choosing a stunning blue dress tailor-made by Helayel to the wedding of William's friend Harry Meade, as well as selecting one of her designs for her first official photos as royal fiancée. The royal blue wrap dress sold out immediately after Middleton was photographed.


The Ceremony


Fittingly, the ceremony will be held in the legendary Westminster Abbey, the official church of the royal family. The church is expected to fill to capacity at 2,000 people, with the majority being made up of royals and government officials instead of personal friends. William and Kate will continue the line of Royals who have used the Abbey for their biggest occasions. It has been the coronation church of choice since William the Conqueror was made King William I there in 1066 after the Battle of Hastings. Queen Elizabeth II's coronation was the 39th in the abbey, which is also the final resting place for 17 heads of state. Prince William's grandmother and great-grandmother were married there, as was Prince Andrew to Sarah Ferguson. It's safe to say that William and the future Queen will definitely be in good company.


The Route


After the wedding ceremony at Westminster Abbey, the new couple will weave their way through some of the city's most historical parts in a horse-drawn carriage until they reach Buckingham Palace, where the royal wedding reception will be held. The route isn't long, but the carriage will go by many famous sites, including Parliament Square, Whitehall, Horse Guards Parade and Buckingham Palace, where the bride and groom are expected to wave to the public from the balcony. RAF trumpeters will perform a newly composed piece of music as a fanfare at Westminster Abbey while the royal couple sign the register and it is the first music they will hear as a married couple. The piece is called Valiant and Brave and was composed by RAF Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs on his home computer.


The Reception


The royal wedding reception will be held at Buckingham Palace and will include an elegant dinner party hosted by Prince Charles. 600 guests have been invited, with William and Kate each inviting 100 personal guests. Royal Chef Mark Flanagan is expected to oversee the preparation of food for the event and he is no stranger to large-size events. Buckingham Palace serves about 550 meals to the royal family, staff and guests on a daily basis.


The After Party


The royal wedding will go out with a bang with an "after party" for Prince William and Kate's personal friends. Only 300 people, mainly friends from college, have been invited to attend the celebration, which is expected to be capped off with a DJ and dancing. It is traditional for royal brides to leave their bouquets at the grave of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, so don't expect a bouquet toss. Lady Elizabeth Anson, the queen's cousin, has been commissioned by the royal couple to help plan the event, as she is the founder of London-based events company Party Planners. Her resume includes an impressive list of clientele including former President Bill Clinton, Tom Cruise, Mick Jagger, Sting, and, of course, members of the royal family.

 

by Amanda Miller, Contributing Author

Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina.

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For those adventuring in the Argentine Patagonia, El Calafate is the starting point that exploration begins. Declared the national capital of the glaciers, El Calafate is closest town to the Natural Wonder Perito Moreno Glacier. With numerous tour agencies, chocolate shops, restaurants, and outdoor gear stores, this town has more than enough to keep one busy for quite some time. Take a break from the trails and camping food, and plan a bit of time to spend in this luxury- adventure style town.

Memorable Meals


Patagonia is known for its local lamb raised 100% organically in one of the cleanest environments in the world.  Casimiro Bigua is a modern gourmet restaurant with a blend of Patagonia and International food. By far one of the most popular and best restaurants in El Calafate, they have perfected the lamb and many other dishes to make this an exquisite dining experience in Patagonia. With modern music playing and the establishment boasting a contemporary designed interior, you will enjoy a piece of elegance amongst the rugged Patagonia wilderness.


When looking for a more authentic Patagonian meal, Estancia Nibepo Aike is an experience, and far more than simply dinner. Spend the day on this traditional ranch and learn about local history, watch a sheep shearing, and ride horses along glacier lakes.  Dinner is served family style along a large table looking out to glaciers and sharp mountain peaks. Lamb continues to emerge from the kitchen until you cannot possible eat another bite of the many different cuts of the freshly grilled delicacy.


4x4 Off-Roading Adventures


Climb aboard a classic land rover or one of the huge lifted trucks of Mil Outdoor Adventure to charge up the rough terrain adjacent to El Calafate and see the Patagonian Mountains from a whole new angle. Rolling up the desert like landscape is some of the clearest views  looking past glaciers and lakes to see mountain peaks as far away as Chile.


Glacier Cruise


El Calafate became such a large tourist destination because of the enormous nearby glaciers and the ease at which you can see them. While most just take a bus to the view point and see the glaciers from land, we recommend a far more luxurious and exclusive way. Cruising through Lago Argentina, MarPatag is a luxury yacht that passes by cliffs and navigates around icebergs to bring you up close to the Spegazzini and Upsala glaciers.  While serving a gourmet meal of countless courses, you will see the glaciers from exclusive views while enjoying meticulous service and fine wine on this seven hour cruise. 


by Jonathan Jenkins, Contributing Author


Champs Elysees in Paris by night

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Some travel to Paris solely to savor the finest French fare in the world. Michelin rated chefs such as Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon began their illustrious cooking careers in Paris. Although French cuisine defines gastronomy at its finest, it is hard to entertain the thought of a three course meal plus cheese plate more than once a day, if not once a week. Our stomachs and wallets need a break.


Paris doesn't get enough credit for its outstanding international cuisine. Exploring the various international flavors is one of the best ways to venture around the city into less touristy neighborhoods since most of the famous French restaurants are located in the most obvious destinations, either in the Champs Elysees or Concorde areas.


The following restaurants offer dishes straight from their respective native country.


Spanish


It doesn't get more Spanish than Fogon- the Spanish restaurant that serves a medley of delicious tapas, a variety of Paella, and tangy yet sweet glasses of Sangria. The tapas change each month to incorporate the season's freshest produce, but you can always find the famed Spanish iberico ham, sliced straight from the source and on to your plate. The Paella flavors vary from the original seafood jumble to squid ink and to even a Valencia version seasoned with chicken, rabbit, vegetables, and snails. And last but not least, for a beautiful touch to a fantastic meal, Fogon offers Churros with hot melted chocolate - a Spanish favorite!


Le Fogon, 45 Quai Grands Augustins, 75006


Korean


More and more Korean restaurants have been cropping up around Paris but none of them have yet to beat Woo Jung. Run by Koreans are one sign of its authenticity. Then a glance at the menu and the Korean clientele reaffirms this assumption. Although this restaurant is a bit pricier than its contenders, it is undoubtedly worth it. The appetizers are so tasty it is hard to decide what to order because the portions are not small. A speciality of the restaurant is the bulgogi, a Korean marinated sirloin beef, and you should also order one of the broths to eat with your bowl of steamy sticky rice.


Woo Jung, 8 Boulevard Delessert 75016


Japanese


Japanese food has become extremely popular in the past few years that there are many new tasty spots. I've narrowed the picks down to two. Naniwa-ya makes authentic everyday Japanese food: rice bowls with a variety of toppings (donburi), round fritters with octopus, udon noodles, tempura, and small sashimi, vegetable, and tofu appetizers. The line usually spills out on to rue Saint Anne (the street filled with Asian restaurants) so go early!


For Japanese yakiniku (barbecue), Matchan is the best. You should make a reservation because the pocket-sized place is always booked in advance. You cook the meat right in front of you on the hibachi grill that is built into the table. Enjoy the various kinds of beef with steamy Japanese rice, draft beer, and Japanese pickles. A must for meat lovers.


Naniwa-ya, 11 Rue Sainte-Anne 75001


Matchan, 55 Rue du Théâtre 75015


Indochine cuisine (Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian)


Carine Roitfeld, the former editor-in-chief of French Vogue, has been spotted enjoying Vietnamese food at Au Coin des Gourmets, a tiny family-run restaurant. As one of the hottest women in town, it must be exceptionally good. The menu is decently priced and you can find authentic dishes like the Cambodian Amok - a national dish of steamed curried fish wrapped in banana leaves or the cha gio - rice-paper wrapped spring rolls filled with vermicelli noodles, shrimp and ground pork. The crispy spring rolls are flawless when wrapped in the accompanying lettuce and mint leaves and dipped in the sweet nuoc nam (fish sauce).


Au Coin des Gourmets, 38, Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001

      5, Rue Dante 75005


Chinese


Frankly, Diep is not for those looking to be frugal. It is probably the most expensive Chinese you will find in Paris but it is always bustling for a reason. Diep serves food fit for Chinese royals: the food comes sizzling and seasoned to perfection. Even the simple salt and pepper shrimp with vegetable fried rice will satisfy any palate. Each dish is perfectly prepared and the menu is vast. To finish up the meal, order a banana beignet flambé. They flame the banana in front of your table and it tastes as good as it looks- soft, warm, and sweet but not too sugary.


Diep, 55 Rue Pierre Charron 75008


American


If you like to eat American breakfast all day long or if you are feeling a tad bit homesick, Breakfast in America is for you. Quintessential diner food in American portions. Think blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup, NY style cheesecake, ginormous bacon cheese burgers, locally baked bagels, grilled cheese, Chili con carne, milkshakes, and a bottomless cup o' Joe. A good and greasy departure from foie gras and tartare!


 Breakfast in America, 17, rue des Ecoles 75005

                                    4 Rue Maher 75004

 

 by Amanda Kim, Contributing Author

 

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