Cher-themed suite opens at Sofitel in New York City

(CNN) — A jukebox musical about one of the world’s most iconic singers, “The Cher Show” is on Broadway. And now Cher is also in a hotel suite.
The Sofitel hotel in New York City is paying tribute to the singer and the musical with a Cher-themed suite.

In addition to the usual upscale amenities, the suite will feature a “Cher Show” poster signed by the cast, a Time magazine cover signed by Cher and her longtime costume designer Bob Mackie, Cher portraits by noted celebrity illustrator Al Hirschfeld and some original costumes from “The Cher Show.”

The Sofitel, which is in Midtown Manhattan a few blocks north of Bryant Park, is located in the middle of all the Pride action that’s going on.

Pride is always an event in New York City, but 2019 is an especially notable year.

Cher herself has joined the cast of "The Cher Show" on stage.

Cher herself has joined the cast of “The Cher Show” on stage.

Jenny Anderson/Getty Images for The Cher Show

The Sofitel is also about a 15-minute walk from the Neil Simon Theatre, where “The Cher Show” is playing.

Three actresses play various incarnations of Cher, from the variety show era Cher to the superstar days, in every performance. They belt out some of the one-named diva’s biggest hits, such as “Believe” and “If I Could Turn Back Time,” along the way.

Illustrations of Cher and "Cher Show" cast members are among the hotel perks.

Illustrations of Cher and “Cher Show” cast members are among the hotel perks.

Courtesy Sofitel

The suite is available for bookings beginning June 10 and going through September 15.

If you already have your accommodations booked but still want to get a taste of the experience, the Sofitel’s rooftop bar The Gaby is offering a special Cher cocktail called — what else? — Turn Back Thyme.

The cocktail consists of gin, lime juice, ginger beer and thyme-infused simple syrup, topped off with a candied bit of ginger.

The Gaby will host a “Proud Hour” from 8 to 10 p.m every day from June 10 to July 15. They say 20% of all cocktail proceeds will benefit The Ali Forney Center, a New York City-based organization that helps to prevent LGBTQ teen homelessness.
In 2018 and 2019, the Sofitel was the official hotel partner for the Tony Awards. For hardcore theater buffs, there is a year-round Tonys-themed suite that features signed playbills, classic performance photos and more.

Bookings for the Cher-themed suite begin at $499 per night.

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Exploring Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

As an iconic Australian destination, the Great Barrier Reef is high up on many people’s wish list.

The post from Medha, on her travel blog Hopping Feet, explores her experience making this trip, what she enjoyed, what she would do differently with helpful tips about how you can arrange your trip and what you should expect.

However, it doesn’t stop there. The post continues to outline what you can do on a three-day visit to Cairns, including what to see the city and a visit to the Kuranda Rainforest via the Skyrail that has me ready to pack my bags!

Post from: Medha

Medha’s Blog: Hopping Feet

Read the full post: Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

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Argentina’s San Antonio de los Cobres


San Antonio de los Cobres

We continue on and stop for lunch in San Antonio de los Cobres, feeling straight out of the wild west. One of the tours we were offered stopped for the night here. We are quite glad that we decided against that option. After lunch, we head across the border into Jujuy province, and head for the giant salt flats of Salinas Grandes. Along the way, we see many vicuña, the wild animals (and endangered species), relatives of the llama and the camel, whose coats are the source of luxurious wool. Salinas Grandes turns out to be a huge salt lake, although the water is actually under the salt flats. The locals mine the salt by carving holes in the surface, which fill with the lake water and then evaporate, leaving the salt behind.


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10 Game of Thrones filming locations we love

Editor’s Note — Warning: Contains dragon-sized spoilers.

(CNN) — We dedicated eight years of our lives to this.

Through fire, through ice, through stilted dialogue and superfluous torture scenes, we persevered. Sometimes, being a “Game of Thrones” fan was as exhausting as a triple-shift in the Night’s Watch.

But as we survivors pick our way through the embers of burnt-out narrative arc and character development, we can still look back fondly on memories of children falling from high windows or Dornish princes dying eyes-first, and think: It was all worth it.

Countless locations around the world have, with a generous dollop of CGI, represented the Seven Kingdoms over the years.

In this non-definitive list, here are the real-life filming locations of 10 of our favorite moments from the incredible eight-season run of the world’s biggest TV show.

S.1, E.1: Bran’s fall

Castle Ward, Northern Ireland

County Down's Castle Ward was the real-life setting for Winterfell.

County Down’s Castle Ward was the real-life setting for Winterfell.


Incest and unexpected violence: That’s the winning combination that “Game of Thrones” had nailed by the end of the opening episode, when Jaime Lannister pushed Bran Stark out of a window for the crime of accidentally discovering Jaime and his twin Cersei’s sexy secret.

The real-life Winterfell is at Castle Ward in County Down, Northern Ireland. Aside from hosting “Game of Thrones” tours, it’s a beautiful National Trust property on the shores of Strangford Lough, with an 18th-century stately home and acres of landscaped gardens to explore.
Also in this episode, nearby Tollymore Forest Park — which was also the inspiration for C.S. Lewis’s Narnia — is where the Starks find the direwolves. This magical spot, filled with waterfalls and 18th-century garden follies, was a regular shooting location in early seasons.

S. 1, E. 9: Ned’s dead

Fort Manoel, Malta

Fort Manoel, Manoel Island, Malta

Fort Manoel, where we said goodbye to Ned Stark.

Mike Watson Photography/

When the sword fell upon Ned Stark’s neck in the penultimate episode of Season 1, it was our narrative expectations that ended up a bloody mess. He was the hero! How could the show possibly go on?

It went on just like real life, we learned. People die, new ones come along. Until that is, the show ran out of book characters and what was an incredible expansive universe had to become smaller — and the main characters’ lives became precious.

By the time of Season 8’s “The Long Night” episode, the battle between the living and the dead may as well have been known as the Massacre of the Background Talent and CGI Fallen.

Back in the good old days when life was cheap, Joffrey had Ned executed on the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor, represented in this season by the 18th-century Fort Manoel in Malta.

S. 1, E. 10: Birth of a dragon queen

Mthaleb Valley, Malta

Mtahleb, Malta

Mtahleb: A great place to raise your dragon babies.

Stefan Stafrace/

In the season finale, Daenerys’ transition from naïf to warrior queen was complete when she emerged from Aquaman’s funeral pyre tastefully nude, wholly unscorched and with a trio of kickass dragon babies.

The scene was shot in Mthaleb Valley on the west coast of Malta.

S. 4, E. 2: Purple Wedding

Gradac Park, Croatia

Capricious boy king Joffrey met a satisfyingly undignified end when he was poisoned by Lady Olenna Tyrell during his wedding feast.

He sputtered his last in Gradac Park in Dubrovnik, which — after the first season — took over from Malta’s Mdina as the real-life setting for King’s Landing, capital of the Seven Kingdoms.

S. 4. E. 4: Melisandre’s shadow baby

Cushendun, Northern Ireland

Evil witch-vamp Melisandre showed she meant business in episode two when she organized a mass burning of Stannis Baratheon’s subjects as tribute to the Lord of Light. That was in the dramatic setting of Downhill Beach on Northern Ireland’s Atlantic coast.

Two episodes and one copulation with Stannis later, she was in nearby Cushenden Caves birthing a monstrous shadow baby, who flitted off to murder Stannis’ brother Renly, then was never heard of again.

Dragonstone, Mussenden

Downhill Beach: Nicer without the burning corpses.

Courtesy Northern Ireland Tourist Board

S. 4, E. 8: The Mountain vs The Viper

Hotel Belvedere, Croatia

So handsome, so dashing, so fond of theatrics: Oberyn Martell made the fatal mistake of showboating during his duel with Gregor Clegane, granting the fearsome man-mountain the opportunity to destroy the Dornish prince’s head in a most unpleasant manner.

It all went down in the ampitheater of the derelict Hotel Belvedere, a once five-star property which was abandoned in the 1990s due to the Croatian War of Independence.

The site isn’t open to the public and it’s set to disappear when a new luxury resort is built at the Belvedere.

We were introduced to Oberyn’s home kingdom of Dorne in Season 5, in a plot line so dull it made having one’s eyes gouged out seem appealing.

It was, however, damnably pretty. Consider the Alcazar in Seville — stand-in for the Water Gardens of Dorne — a royal palace built for King Peter of Castile and one of the most breathtakingly gorgeous places on Earth.

S. 4, E. 10: Brienne vs The Hound

Hengill, Iceland

In Season 1, most adventures north of the wall were filmed in Northern Ireland, but from Season 2 onwards the bulk of the action switched to Iceland.

Hengill, a huge volcanic mountain in the southwest of the country, is where The Hound and Brienne of Tarth had their fight to the almost-death and where Arya left The Hound to bleed out in the wilderness.

S. 5, E. 10: Cersei’s Walk of Shame

Jesuit Staircase, Croatia

The Jesuit Staircase is in Dubrovnik, setting for much of the King's Landing action.

The Jesuit Staircase is in Dubrovnik, setting for much of the King’s Landing action.


Criminally underused by Season 8, where she underwent the double indignity of a grown-out pixie cut and having to get it on with Bam Margera, Cersei Lannister was the most satisfyingly complex villain in all of Westeros.

In Season 5, she — or Lena Headey’s body double — was brought low when she was forced to walk naked through jeering crowds from the Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep.

Her brutal walk of shame began at the top of Dubrovnik’s Jesuit Staircase.

S. 6, E.10: Cersei bombs the Sept

Girona Cathedral, Spain

Like the Hulk, when Cersei got angry her revenge was enormous, violent and green. She killed her enemies — including most of the Tyrells, the High Sparrow and lots of his followers — in one fell swoop by igniting a huge stash of wildfire under the Great Sept of Baelor, represented here by Spain’s Girona Cathedral and a heck of a lot of CGI.

However, it was immediately followed by one of the most poignant deaths in the entire series. Her son Tommen Baratheon — a soul too gentle for the wicked world of Westeros — knowing that his beloved Margaery was lost, gave into his despair and dropped quietly from a window to his doom.

Seasons 1 to 8: The Red Wedding, indoor stuff, and all those battles you love

Linen Mill Studios, Northern Ireland

While there were many stunning real-life locations featured in “Game of Thrones,” the real stars of the show were the huge studio sets and the impressive post-production work, most of which took place in quiet corners of Northern Ireland.

The epic Battle of the Bastards was shot in a private field in the town of Saintfield, itself the site of a bloody clash between Irish rebels and British royalist forces during the 1798 Rebellion. The battle at Hardhome — another fan favorite — was filmed in Magheramorne Quarry in County Antrim.

The Red Wedding’s exterior setting was Audley’s Castle in Strangford, County Down, but the interior shots — like so much in the series — were filmed on sets inside Belfast’s Titanic Studios, which comprise the original Paint Hall in which the infamous ocean liner was prepared for launch, and two purpose-built sound stages.

While Titanic Studios isn’t open to the public, the production’s Linen Mill Studios in the County Down town of Banbridge will next year open for the official “Game of Thrones” studio tours, where visitors will be able to get up close to original costumes, props and set-pieces used to create the world of the Seven Kingdoms.

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7 Things to do in Tallinn in the winter

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a fairytale-like and UNESCO World Heritage city that offer plenty of historic building and sightseeing opportunities to its visitors.

Tallinn is also proven to be a perfect winter destination and it is home to one of the coziest Christmas markets you will ever see in Europe.

Our post about ‘Things to do in Tallinn in the winter’ is a great travel guide for architecture lovers, history buffs, foodies or anyone visiting this city during the cold months.

Submitted by: Thassia

Thassia’s blog: Family Off Duty

Read the full post: Tallinn in the Winter

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Travel the Train to the Clouds

The bus arrives right on time, we meet our guide, Yako, pick up a few more, and we are off for 13 hours of enforced togetherness. We are a motley crew: Greg and I, two Brits with their 23 month old daughter, 2 young French women, a young Dutch couple, and the last 2 people we pick up, an American couple who proclaim their innocence almost as soon as we start chatting – ‘we didn’t vote for him!’ referring to the recent Trump win in the election. When they find out we’re Canadian, they start laughing and asked if we saw that hilarious red and blue map of North America, and we bond instantly.

4th Highest Railroad in the World

Our first stop is at the start of the Tren a las Nubes, the Train to the Clouds, the line that goes over the Andes to Chile. Completed in 1949 and an engineering miracle, it reaches an altitude of over 4,500 meters making it the 4th highest railroad in the world. But almost from the time of completion, it was outdated, and today it is used only for tourist trains, and not during the summer, the rainy season in this part of the Andes because there are so many earth slides that there is a real danger for the train and its passengers. We continue on, stopping in a small village for coffee and handicrafts and climb up the mountain to an archaeological site that predates the Incan invasion of the area and ultimately stop for lunch in San Antonio de los Cobres, feeling straight out of the wild west. One of the tours we were offered stopped for the night here. We are quite glad that we decided against that option. After lunch, we head across the border into Jujuy province, and head for the giant salt flats of Salinas Grandes. Along the way, we see many vicuñas, the wild animals (and endangered species), relatives of the llama and the camel, whose coats are the source of luxurious wool. Salinas Grandes turns out to be a huge salt lake, although the water is actually under the salt flats. The locals mine the salt by carving holes in the surface, which fill with the lake water and then evaporate, leaving the salt behind.

Altitude Sickness

We start our long trek home. To do this, we go over the highest pass of the day, just over 4,100 meters  The drive down is dramatic, through the spectacularly beautiful Lipan valley, and into the town of Purmamarca. Unfortunately for me, and a number of others, I have a bad case of altitude sickness by the time we get down the hill, and between the headache, vertigo and nausea, I can think of a million other things I would rather be doing. Greg and Michel, one of the Americans, convince me and Milt, Michel’s husband, who is similarly afflicted, that ginger ale will help, and despite my nausea, I force down a bottle. Finally, the bus starts the 2-hour final leg of the trip back to Salta. Soon it starts to rain, and it continues to rain for the rest of the trip. By the time we get back, I am feeling fine, but we are so glad to get off the bus we bid the briefest of farewells to Michel and Milt, and are gone.

We go straight to bed, not bothering with supper, totally exhausted by the day. It is after 9:30 after all.

World Traveler, Writer, and Blogger, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the travel blog.  A former Actor, current shower-singer, and non-hipster foodie. Loves his week-end house in St Marys, Ontario. Dad to Sophia, Ariel, and Hastings three of the best cats in the world.

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Best cities in Africa to visit: 4 urban spots you shouldn’t miss

(CNN) — As with most of the world, the heart of Africa is found in its cities. And yet tourists in Africa seem to largely prefer seeking out the continent’s wildlife rather than its cultural city centers.

Safaris can be delightful, but the problem, as Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina has pointed out, is when tourists imagine an entire continent as one.
According to the World Bank, 40% of the African population south of the Sahara lives in cities, but you’d never know it looking at the average travel poster or website featuring graceful giraffes galloping past umbrella-like acacia trees in silhouette against burnt ochre sunsets.

While many travelers venture to Africa to go on safari, there are many cities, including Addis Ababa pictured here, that are worth exploring.

While many travelers venture to Africa to go on safari, there are many cities, including Addis Ababa pictured here, that are worth exploring.

Jenni Marsh/CNN

The reasons for this are complex, including Westerners’ tendency to treat the continent as a canvas on which to project their fantasies, the selective nature of the news coming out of Sub-Saharan cities, much of which creates a sense of danger and disorder, and the fact that the Serengeti is very pretty.

But the truth behind urban Africa is simple. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to some of the most vibrant, cultured and just plain fun cities anywhere in the world.

There are a few countries in turmoil, but even if you take those off the list, you’re left with about 45 others to explore, about the same number as there are in Europe.

Of the 40 or so cities with populations over a million, here are four cities in Africa you should visit right now:

In Abidjan, enjoy people-watching as you drink a beer outside (typically 22-ounce servings are the norm) and just hang out.

In Abidjan, enjoy people-watching as you drink a beer outside (typically 22-ounce servings are the norm) and just hang out.

Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Country known for: Being one of only two African countries that was never colonized; having one of the world’s oldest alphabets; using a calendar that is about seven years and three months behind the usual one (i.e., it’s 2012 there).

Getting around: Taxis are fine; walking is better.

Currency: $1 = 30 birr.

Language: Amharic (English widely spoken).

Though Ethiopian food is familiar to a lot of people, on the streets of Addis, it’s all about the coffee. Ethiopia is supposedly where coffee originated, and social life in Addis is built on its preparation and consumption.

The most popular form is the macchiato, and you won’t have to look very far to find a coffee ceremony.

They’re set up on street corners and in malls; there’s even one near the arrival gates at the airport. The standard is typically a few cow-skin stools around a woman on a low dais, surrounded by mortars and small charcoal stoves.

It’s a chance to sit down among a mostly local crowd and order a coffee (English is widely understood). Customers are given popcorn to eat while the host roasts and grinds the coffee, brews it three times, and then pours it out of the pot, called a jebena, all while frankincense burns in the background.

The barista, if you will, introducers customers to each other and keeps the conversation going as she manages multiple cups at their various stages. Served in espresso-sized vessels, the drinking itself is quick, but the lead-up is worth savoring.

After coffee, it’s time for a culture fix.

There are many museums in Addis worth visiting, but if there’s only time for one, it should be the National Museum, where the famous Lucy skeleton is held, and where Emperor Halie Selassie’s throne can be seen. Most striking of all are medieval paintings that are a reminder Ethiopia has been a Christian nation state since a few decades after the crucifixion.

The big name hotel option is the Sheraton (from $300), but for a local and more authentic Ethiopian experience there’s the Taitu, the oldest hotel in town. The most expensive room at this establishment (built in 1898) costs about $55, but rooms (with shared bathroom) can often be snagged for as little as $11.

The rooms are clean, sparsely decorated, with views of the lush garden patio out back, or the bustling street of the city’s Piazza neighborhood out front.

There are jazz bars nearby, including the soon to re-open African Jazz Village at the Ghion Hotel, and when the sun goes down, many of the bars and cafes turn into makeshift dance clubs, with music from across the continent and beyond.

Lusaka, Zambia

Country known for: Victoria Falls; having the world’s fastest-improving economy (according to the World Bank); formerly known as Northern Rhodesia.

Getting around: taxis.

Currency: $1 = 12 kwacha.

Language: English, Bemba and Nyanja.

Any city older than the car is organized around its markets, and Lusaka is no exception. The city’s oldest market, Mutendere, is also its best. Though it’s dark at night — electricity is a challenge with this neighborhood’s early 20th-century infrastructure — it’s the best time to go.

The Time Machine Zambia is a pop-up vinyl store in Lusaka. It's a fun place to browse and maybe chat with some locals.

The Time Machine Zambia is a pop-up vinyl store in Lusaka. It’s a fun place to browse and maybe chat with some locals.

The Time Machine Zambia

Small shops, some doubling as homes, are lit by single lamps, and sell everything from newspapers to hardware to soft drinks, locally brewed Mosi lager, and — sometimes — home-fermented millet drinks. Katata or the thicker katubi are served in cups made from a hollowed calabash gourd, and a slice of chikanda is an excellent accompaniment.

Sold mostly by women (who are also the main fermenters of the katata and katubi), these moist, savory loaves are made from orchid tubers, ground nuts, chilis and baking soda.

“Get it from a vendor who’s cooking it right there on the street. If it’s not warm, it’s not good,” advises local journalist and bureaucrat Kiss Brian Abraham. (Store-bought chikanda, sometimes called mbwelenge, just isn’t the same.)

Rooms at the Tecla Lodge-Chainama, between the airport and Mutendere, are spartan but large and clean. The grounds are far grander than the $65-$100 rooms suggest. Guests can walk, cycle, or drive into town along the main road, and stop in at the University of Zambia, whose pastoral campus with its ponds and lush vegetation contrasts well with its bold, concrete architecture.

En route is the outdoor Mingling Bar, where customers can enjoy a can of Original American Cola USA and mingle with the students.

In town, the small but informative Chilenje House is worth a visit. This is where father of the nation Dr. Kenneth Kaunda lived in the early 1960s while planning independence and playing host to exiled members of South Africa’s outlawed African National Congress party.

Kenya is known for safaris and big game animals, but that’s not what’s drawn Dr. Tracey Cheatham. She and her husband Mark McIntire are looking for something quite unique.

Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Plateau is Abidjan's business district and its extraordinary architecture is just one reason to visit.

Plateau is Abidjan’s business district and its extraordinary architecture is just one reason to visit.

Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images

Country known for: Being the world’s biggest producer of cacao and one of the world’s biggest producers of coffee; historical trading centre for much of the world’s ivory.

Getting around: Taxis are cheap and abundant, but pricing can be unpredictable.

Currency: $1 = 550 West African francs (CFA).

Language: French, Baoulé (English spoken, but not by everyone).

Abidjan’s 5 million people are spread out across four distinct land masses, each jutting out like lily pads into the Ébrié lagoon. Just to the east of Yopougon is the Plateau, the business district.

This area’s modernist architecture is extraordinary and mostly the result of a cocoa- and coffee-based economic boom in the 1950s and ’60s known as the Ivorian Miracle.

The Hotel Pullman, a French-owned luxury brand popular in this part of Africa, is situated just steps from the best of it. Lagoon-view rooms also overlook the remarkable St. Paul’s Cathedral, a light, all-white balletic structure by Italian architect Aldo Spirito that’s reminiscent of an Aeolian harp, or a crane taking flight.

The next lily pad to the south has Marcory Market. The second floor here is entirely given over to fabric sellers, seamstresses and couturiers. Couturiers here handmake any item of clothing to order in a day or so. They’ll even take customers to their favorite fabric stalls to pick out pagnes (patterned cloth).

When night falls, it’s worth heading to Yopougon. The roads are dusty in the part of Abidjan locals call the neighborhood of joy, the sidewalks occasionally uneven or just missing, but like many cities where living spaces are small, Abidjan lives its life on its streets.

And as with Tokyo and its yakitori-ya, New York’s bars and Parisian bistros, Abidjan has its maquis (pronounced “ma-key”).

Indoors is best for the music — Ivorian reggae and percussive, bass-heavy coupé-decalé are popular across the continent — or there’s terrace seating where grilled chicken or fish can be ordered and brought from sidewalk barbecues.

A single beer order will likely result in a 22-ouncer — the perfect invitation to stay a while and relax. Regulars will often order buckets or basins of beer in denominations of five, 10 or 20 11-ounce bottles, sharing with people at nearby tables as a way to start a conversation, which everyone in a maquis wants to do at all times — whether you speak French or not.

The Palais de la Culture in Abidjan is a good indoor spot to take in a show.

The Palais de la Culture in Abidjan is a good indoor spot to take in a show.

Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images

Les Trois Cafeiers (roughly: The Three Coffee Bushes) is one of dozens of hotels, inns, and B&Bs in Yopougon, but it’s an especially good one. Well located with colorfully renovated, air-conditioned rooms for about $25 a night is what Les Trois offers.

There’s a big bakery on the corner, L’Artisan, where Abidjan-style baguettes (a little lighter than their French cousins) are sold alongside dozens of other breads and confections — the perfect antidote to a late night.

Dakar, Senegal

In Dakar, there are informal beach restaurants where you can dine on freshly caught fish.

In Dakar, there are informal beach restaurants where you can dine on freshly caught fish.


Country known for: Political stability; one of the world’s biggest peanut producers; French colonial town of St. Louis.

Getting around: Same guidelines as Abidjan apply.

Currency: $1 = 550 West African francs (CFA).

Language: French and Wolof, with about as much English spoken as in Abidjan.

Possibly the best thing about Dakar is its beach restaurants: ad hoc collections of tables, chairs, and counters where customers are served the freshly caught fish of their choice, grilled to order.

Servers will often offer to run out to a nearby corner store to buy beer (most likely a local Gazelle) and bring it to the table.

“We like to come here when our mothers don’t feel like cooking,” says Saïd Waya, a local 17-year-old bound for med school next year in either China or Canada.

Spots like Les Phares des Mamelles, a bar, restaurant, and nightclub at the base of a working lighthouse, run a close second, though. Overlooking the African Renaissance Monument, at 160 feet one of the world’s biggest statues, it’s a hotspot popular with tourists and locals alike.

It’s a great place for drink in the warm breeze while people dance and talk late into the night.

Big music shows take place at Dakar's Grand Theatre National.

Big music shows take place at Dakar’s Grand Theatre National.

Seyllou/AFP/Getty Images

Senegal, and Dakar in particular, is known for its music, and the really big shows go up at the big new Grand Theatre National.
The theater is across from the equally grand Museum of Black Civilisations — a brand new, Chinese-funded exhibition space celebrating Black Africa’s history, culture and global impact. It’s near the port where you can catch a ferry to Gorée Island, for four centuries one of the main points of departure for the kidnapped West Africans who were sold into slavery in the US and elsewhere.

Africa’s wildlife and animals are undoubtedly something to behold, but it’s hard to beat heading into the city for even more rewarding adventures.

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Havelock Island – the Ultimate Backpacker Destination?

Where is Havelock Island?

Well, if you want to know that,  how to get to Havelock Island and all the information you could want and possibly more, check out what I have for you here.

I stumbled across this post and was hooked by the pictures. I’m not really a beach person myself, but this one drew me in and I’m sure it will you too.

Written by Indian travel blogger Sonal, for her site Drifter Planet, it is an amazing guide about this little slice of paradise. The blog is full of all the info you could need about the island, all the beaches and many options of how to get there.

I highly recommend this if you are looking for a scuba diving site, or just a stunning destination. Read the blog here: Havelock Island, The Ultimate Backpacker Destination?

Where is and how to get to Havelock Island

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The 9 Best Travel Experiences Around the World

yet so vast at the same time. We don’t need more than a day or two to reach almost any destination on the planet, yet we rarely venture far beyond the boundaries of our own comfort zone. The reasons are many and, truth be told, often understandable. Lack of time or money is usually the first one to pop up, but even if some people can save up enough money and can allocate enough time to visit some fabulous, remote destination, they rarely decide to do so. No, I don’t get it either.

The variety that exists around us is so admirable, that there has to be at least one place you’ve never been to, but which would be the perfect destination for you, regardless of whether you’re a teen, parent of three, retired accountant or wannabe lion tamer.

Just take a look at some of the most amazing destinations that so many have already discovered and think for a moment.

Lavender Heaven in Provence  Source:

Provence, France

If you like lavender, you’ll be in heaven. Purple fields cover the rolling hills of this region in France, providing the perfect setting for a romantic dinner with some of the most amazing wines you can taste. It’s hard to tell whether your eyes, nose or tongue will enjoy the experience the most.

Image 3 Sagano Bamboo Forest Japan 682x1024 - The 9 Best Travel Experiences Around the World

Sagano Bamboo Forest, Japan  Source:

Sagano Bamboo Forest, Japan

Japan is worth visiting for many reasons. Its people and their culture is something that has always fascinated people from all over the world. One of the destinations recommended by numerous tourists is the Sagano Bamboo Forest, situated on the outskirts of Kyoto. Just imagine towering stalks swaying as the wind blows, making dramatic sounds as they collide.

Image 4 Fiji 1 1024x768 - The 9 Best Travel Experiences Around the World

Fiji has some of the clearest water and best waves for surfing in the world!  Source:

Fiji Islands

You have probably heard about this tropical paradise, offering some of the clearest water and best waves for surfing in the world. There are many reasons why so many tourists flock to Fiji each year in search of some amazing and, usually, action-packed experiences. Just ask where Australian school leavers are headed for their famous schoolies in 2019 and where they are planning to spend their holiday after graduation.

Image 5 Plitvice Lakes Croatia 1 550x309 - The 9 Best Travel Experiences Around the World

hidden on the Balkan peninsula, in southeast Europe, is Plitvice Lakes (a UNESCO World Heritage site). Source:

Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

One of the best-kept secrets, hidden on the Balkan peninsula, in southeast Europe, is Plitvice Lakes (a UNESCO World Heritage site). A total of 16 lakes, cascades and waterfalls of mineral-rich water are visited by many tourists in search of wonderful, relaxing, but at the same time inviting scenery.

Image 6 Machu Picchu Peru 1024x682 - The 9 Best Travel Experiences Around the World

Hike the famous Andes Mountains and visit the citadel built six centuries ago  Source:

Machu Picchu, Peru

For the more adventurous among you, the challenge here is to hike the famous Andes Mountains and visit the citadel built six centuries ago. Once you get there, you’ll be treated to some spectacular panoramic views and you’ll definitely never forget this experience.

Image 7 Cappadocia Turkey 1024x682 - The 9 Best Travel Experiences Around the World

See the famous hoodoos while flying in a hot-air balloon. Source:

Cappadocia, Turkey

Turkey is most certainly one of the most fascinating and varied countries in the world. The natural beauty, history and amazing mixture of cultures that you can find here will provide you with a unique and unforgettable experience. What is particularly attractive about Cappadocia is an opportunity to see rock formations (hoodoos) and panoramic vistas while flying in a hot-air balloon. Don’t worry, you won’t be the only one, as the sky is full of colourful balloons taking people high up to be able to see the area in its full glory.

Image 8 Galápagos Islands 1 1024x682 - The 9 Best Travel Experiences Around the World

Charles Darwin came up with his theory of evolution after visiting this volcanic archipelago Source

Galápagos Islands

Charles Darwin came up with his theory of evolution after visiting this volcanic archipelago in the Pacific. Your visit may not have such a profound impact on our civilization, but if you’re interested in endemic species, such as giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and frigatebirds, a visit to Galapagos is a must.

Image 9 South Africa crocodile diving 1 1024x685 - The 9 Best Travel Experiences Around the World

The Cango Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshoorn, South Africa, offers Nile crocodile diving! Source:

Diving with Crocodiles

Africa simply had to find its place among the recommended destinations. Not only is it the most mysterious and undiscovered continent, but it also offers something you can hardly find anywhere else. One such experience is getting close to majestic crocodiles. The Cango Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshoorn, South Africa, offers Nile crocodile diving, but don’t worry. You’ll be protected by a bite-proof cage, though your heart will most certainly beat faster.

Image 10 Blue Lagoon Iceland 1 1024x681 - The 9 Best Travel Experiences Around the World

Enjoy the incredible healing properties of Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. Source:

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

It wasn’t this Blue Lagoon where Brooke Shields had an adventure of her lifetime, but you could. This geothermal spa is a man-made lagoon fed by seawater, which is supposed to have incredible healing properties due to minerals and algae present in the water. Once you’ve healed your body and soul, you can pay a visit to the country’s capital city Reykjavik, which is not far from here.

The beauty of traveling, among other things, lies in the fact that no two people have exactly the same taste when it comes to destinations and activities.

That means that when you are not traveling alone, you might be forced to make some compromises and leave your comfort zone a bit. What might wait for you there is actually the adventure of your lifetime.


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Pride around the world in 2019: Where to go and what to do

New York (CNN) — We may never know who threw the first brick outside the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village in the wee hours of June 28, 1969.

Was it a young white man from the Midwest (as suggested in “Stonewall,” a 2015 film that prompted boycott petitions launched by the Gay-Straight Alliance Network of school students and under accusations of “whitewashing” the real history) or the transgender women of color who’ve been increasingly recognized as the first to fight back that night?

Either way, the patrons of that private club, who clashed with police during a raid ostensibly for selling liquor without a permit, helped catalyze the modern movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex and asexual rights (LGBTQIA) in the United States and beyond.

Fifty years later, cities across the globe are gearing up for Pride events to celebrate civil rights victories won, push for greater equality and party down with friends.

“If the poison is shame, the antidote is pride,” says Ed Salvato, paraphrasing activists who pioneered the modern gay rights movement.

These queer pioneers, as Salvato, chief content officer of Man About World, an app-based mobile gay travel magazine, explains, realized that despite not yet having political power, they could choose to be themselves, proudly, without bending to society’s expectations.

This objective gave birth to Pride with a capital P.

In the five decades since, a new emphasis on inclusivity has changed the public face of the LGBTQIA movement, highlighting the diversity of communities who, through a mélange of parties and politics, have been fighting for equal rights all along.

Here’s a rundown of some of this year’s best destinations to get your Pride on worldwide.

New York City: June 1-30

New York's annual Pride Parade makes its way past the the Stonewall Inn, wihich was the site of the Stonewall riots of 1969.

New York’s annual Pride Parade makes its way past the the Stonewall Inn, wihich was the site of the Stonewall riots of 1969.

Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Always a major Pride destination, the Big Apple will become an even bigger global draw this year as the site of the first US-based WorldPride with 50+ events over a span of 30 days, from June 1 to June 30, 2019, dubbed Stonewall50.
Organizers expect more than 3 million people will attend the scores of lectures, rallies and parties, both free and ticketed. Following the kick-off Garden Party on June 24 to benefit the LGBT Community Center, a Human Rights Conference will bring together activists, artists, educators, writers, political figures, and other top thinkers on June 24 and 25.
Other events include: Pride Island, a two-day music festival on Pier 97 in Hudson River Park with headliner Grace Jones; a “graphic art, anime, and manga-inspired costume party for all nerdy members of the LGBTQ+ community” called Cosplay & Pride; the Chelsea Challenge ice hockey tournament; Femme Fatale, the “official rooftop party for women”; and four days of Gay & Sober Pride events, including workshops, presentations, meetings, and activities.
To commemorate the Stonewall Uprising and the first “Gay Power” demonstration in NYC held in 1969 a month later that brought together 500 people, NYC Pride is hosting Rally, a civil rights demonstration to speak out against the human rights abuses of today, on Friday, June 28, 2019.

Culminating the month of festivities, the infamous Pride March kicks off on Sunday, June 30th at noon, featuring more than 550 marching contingents and over 100 floats.

Registration to join the march has already closed, but taking in the spectacle from the sidelines is open, and free—unless you’d prefer to pay $200 for the March Grandstand, which includes premium, stadium-style seating, VIP restrooms and refreshments. (Never underestimate the value of easy bathroom access in NYC—especially when the streets are as mobbed as they get during Pride!)

Amsterdam, Netherlands: July 27 — August 4

Amsterdam Gay Pride hosts the Canal Parade, an annual parade on boats throughout the canal.

Amsterdam Gay Pride hosts the Canal Parade, an annual parade on boats throughout the canal.

Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

The theme of Pride Amsterdam 2019, also commemorating the five nights of Stonewall riots that changed history, is “Remember the past. Create the future.”

The Netherlands’s own watershed demonstration took place seven years later during a protest organized by the International Lesbian Alliance, which later evolved into an annual event called “Roze Zaterdag” (Pink Saturday) that takes place in different Dutch city each year.

While Pink Saturday started as a protest march, Pride Amsterdam began as a party celebrating freedom and diversity and promoting the city as a gay destination, says Pride Amsterdam’s director Lucien Spee. Only later was the “emancipatory content” added to create today’s more well-rounded festival.

Main events include the July 27 Pride Walk and Pride Park which, following the Walk, turns Vondelpark into an “Open Air Theater” with performances, sports, games and a rainbow market selling pride merch and offering information from a variety of organizations, as well as activities for young people. Other Pride programming includes art, theater, film, debate and sports events as well as multiple street parties (find an impressive list of them here) that rage throughout the city on Friday and Saturday nights, creating a festive spirit that some have likened to a “mini Mardi Gras.”
The grand finale Closing Party will be held from 2 — 10pm on Sunday in Dam Square, a busy center filled with shops, restaurants and food stalls. The square is home to the grand 17th century Koninklijk Palace, former residence of the Dutch Royal family; Madame Tussauds’s famous wax museum; and Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), now used as an exhibit space for important art shows.
But before that denouement, the highlight of Pride Amsterdam is, of course, the world-famous Canal Parade, held this year from 12:30 — 5pm on August 3, featuring parade floats that actually float. This year’s parade will include 80 boats, says Spee, all supporting the main message of the event: “Be who you are. Love who you want.”

Salvato says it’s not easy to get onto an official float, but some insist the best way to join in the fun is to stake out a spot along the canals early, and come prepared with food, drink and a bunch of friends. You could easily spend four hours or more taking in the colorful, high-energy spectacle of costumes, synchronized dances and overall pageantry that draws an international crowd of more than half a million people of all ages, genders and sexualities.

Vienna, Austria: June 1-16

Vienna, Austria, hosts Europride this year.

Vienna, Austria, hosts Europride this year.

Alex Halada/AFP/Getty Images

“We are more than our borders. We are more than the languages we speak and the colour of our skin. We are more than our gender and who we want to love.”

This is the mission statement and message that EuroPride 2019, hosted in Vienna, Austria, intends to deliver. An easy train ride or plane flight from more conservative countries nearby, Vienna offers the perfect opportunity for people looking for a Pride experience to visit, or revisit, one of the richest, most beautiful cities in all of Europe. Organizers expect a million people to attend.

On June 1, the EuroPride Fest kicks off with Andersrum in Mariahilf, a famous street festival drawing about 5,000 people with colorful performances throughout the day near Mariahilferstraße, one of Vienna’s largest shopping streets.

Then, on June 9, families can visit the oldest zoo in Europe, Tiergarten Schönbrunn, for a full day of programming for children and teenagers or join the all-ages crowd for EuroPride Beach Day on the Danube Canal, featuring yoga, children’s activities, brunch and a DJ-accompanied cocktail happy hour in the afternoon.

Throughout the fest, visitors can take advantage of Pride guided tours through the city’s most prominent museums to gain a glimpse of Vienna’s rich history, which includes numerous gay and lesbian emperors, warlords, princesses and composers.

Or take a gay city tour with stops at the Vienna Opera, the Imperial Palace, Providentia Fountain, Neuer Markt and the Park of Belvedere Palace—the summer residence of one of the most prominent gay people in Austrian history: Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663–1736).
Check here for more about what Vienna has to offer LGBT folks, including cafes, bars, and restaurants; the drag scene; gay saunas; shopping; as well as women-focused venues “created for and by women.”

To honor the political origins of the movement on this 50th anniversary of Stonewall, the organizers of this year’s EuroPride event have teamed up with the Vienna Anti-Discrimination Agency for Same Sex and Transgender Lifestyles (WASt) to the plan the EuroPride Conference 2019—the largest LGBTQIA conference in Austrian history—held from Wednesday to Friday, June 12 to 14.

Their goal is to create opportunities for an international exchange of ideas, highlighting key issues affecting LGBTQIA people in the areas of human rights, business and community through talks and practical workshops.

The culminating EuroPride event, on June 15, will be the Rainbow Parade along the Ringstrasse, known as one of the world’s most beautiful boulevards, followed by a closing rally back at Pride Village in Rathausplatz (City Hall Square), where speeches and performers will take the stage before closing out the affair with a dance party. When choosing your lodging, stay near Wienzeile for gay nightlife or in historic Old Town if cultural landmarks are more your vibe.

Taipei, Taiwan: October 26-27

Taipei's Pride parade is tthe biggest in Asia.

Taipei’s Pride parade is tthe biggest in Asia.

Daniel Shih/AFP/Getty Images

On the last weekend of October, 80,000 people are expected to converge on Kaidagelan Boulevard in Taipei, dubbed “the San Francisco of the East,” to participate in the largest annual Pride event in Asia.

The organizers say that Taipei’s Pride has evolved, over the years, “from a political rally to a celebration of gay culture, making it fun for everyone.”

In contrast with more regulated marches like in NYC, Taipei’s Parade skips the barricades, allowing easy intermingling between marchers and spectators, many of whom also walk the two-hour loop that takes revelers through the city before circling back to the starting point.

There on Kaidagelan Boulevard, a “Pride Village” offers stalls highlighting gay nonprofits and other organizations as well as a main stage for performers and local celebrities.

“Everyone’s dressed in rainbow. It’s like this big LGBT rainbow cultural experience that the whole city is involved in—not just queer people,” says Salvato. “So, you have kids wearing rainbow makeup and people with kooky hair dyed all different colors and grandmas walking in the parade. It’s really kind of extraordinary.”

The parties continue all weekend long with circuit parties featuring legendary international DJs and “the hottest go-go boys” in Taiwan. One of the most popular parties is held on Saturday night at the FIVE-star W Hotel Taipei.

When booking your travel, consider staying in the Xinyi district, which has some of the city’s best hotels. From there the Parade and Pride Village are a short taxi ride away, as are the gay bars and clubs of the Red District.

GayTaipei4U offers lots of details about the city’s famous gay saunas—all seven of them—including the Aniki Club. Aniki features a 24-hour restaurant and private cabins in addition to three large pools (hot, cool and jacuzzi), where the admission fee includes a 16-hour stay, with in and out privileges.

Prague, Czech Republic: August 5-11

Nearly100,000 people are expected for this year's Prague celebrations.

Nearly100,000 people are expected for this year’s Prague celebrations.

Matej Divizna/Getty Images

The Czech Republic is known not only for its beautiful castles and medieval buildings but also, increasingly, as the most gay-friendly among nations in Central and Eastern Europe. Since its beginnings in 2011, when 25,000 attended, the Pride celebration in the republic’s capital city of Prague has grown each year.

In 2018, 40 percent of attendees were Prague residents while 29 percent visited from elsewhere in the Czech Republic and a full 25 percent had arrived from other countries. This year the festival offers an entire week of more than 100 cultural and social events, public discussions and debates, sports events and spiritual encounters. Nearly 100,000 visitors are expected.

As in other cities, the festival’s highlight is the parade. Prague’s three-hour-long march departs from Wenceslas Square at 2pm, then winds through the city via Příkopy and Revoluční Streets and across the Vltava river to Letná Park where beer, cocktails, food stalls, and three DJ stages keep the party hopping.

If you visit for Pride, stay to see the rest of the city. One of Prague’s most spectacular attractions is the Old Town Square (Staromestské námestí), established in the 12th century as the city’s original marketplace where you can see the stunning 15th century Astronomical Clock, the baroque Church of St Nicholas, the rococo Kinský Palace and the gothic Stone Bell House.

Be sure to visit the sprawling Prague Castle in the morning hours before the throngs descend. And don’t leave Prague without trying the pickled cheese!—a Camembert-style fromage marinated in oil and spices. Served with topinky, a dense brown bread that’s deep-fried, nakládaný hermelín is a popular bar snack that goes well with another Czech specialty: beer.

When booking your lodging, consider staying in the old town, which will put you within walking distance of many of Prague’s highlights—not to mention many of the city’s gay clubs and bars.

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