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12.11.2017

These sweaters are too commercial to be ironic anymore, but that isn’t stopping anyone. Does the fact that people are so wrapped up (pun intended) in this holiday trend say something about society? And wouldn’t that defeat the point of (playfully) mocking the unassuming people who actually wear these sweaters un-ironically? The Origin Of The Ironic Ugly Sweater:Let’s add the popularizing of ironically ugly grandpa sweaters to the list of atrocities committed by the actor who played Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show. Before the ugly sweater trend was specific to Christmas, all you had to do for a costume party is pick up an old late 80s/early 90s lumpy and frumpy sweater at your nearest charity shop to sport a Cliff Huxtable “costume”. What Does A Harmlessly Ugly Sweater Have To Do With Christmas?Fast forward to 2001: Bridget Jones’s Diary has made it’s mark on British and American culture and it’s not going away. If you haven’t seen it, there’s one critical part that’s particularly relevant to this ongoing ugly Christmas sweater craze. The first time the audience meets Colin Firth’s character Mark Darcy, he’s obviously quite stuffy and uptight, but he turns up to a Christmas party in a sweater (or jumper in this case, as he epitomizes a stereotypical and over the top stiff/reserved English person) with a huge red nosed Rudolph The Reindeer on it. This scene has become a pop culture classic. And ever since, people have been throwing Ugly Christmas Sweater themed holiday parties, and the competition is real. Oh yes, people try to wear the ugliest possible sweaters with lights and bows and tassels all over. Even high-end retailers and department stores sell them (which kind of defeats the irony, don’t you think?). The Pros and Cons:Even though the reindeer jumper on Colin Firth was only meant to be a comedic juxtaposition in a rom-com, society’s warm embrace of this idea is somewhat of a cultural reflection. Obviously, these heinous pieces of knitwear are eyesores. But a lot of people have strong feelings about Christmas culturally. Even though Christmas is inherently religious a lot of nonbelievers celebrate it as it’s become such a Hallmark holiday. It could be reasonably argued that for many, the extreme consumerism that comes with the holiday has overshadowed the religious implications. So, in a way, the donning of these ridiculous things as a theme for a party (overshadowing the automatic theme of Christianity), it’s a nice way to include non believers and people from other religions in Christmas celebrations. By shifting the focus from Jesus to a stupid piece of seasonal clothing, whether intentional or not, the playing field is leveled. And come on, nobody wants to discuss religion at a holiday party with coworkers, family (especially family), or friends of friends anyways. In Conclusion…If you can’t beat them, join them.If you’re the kind of person concerned with Starbucks’s “War on Christmas” (e.g. whether or not their holiday cups should have allusions to Christmas or not) you probably can’t pull off a huge ironic and unflattering sweater anyways.   

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12.11.2017

With less than a month until the winter solstice, the ski season is in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere.  Although the Alps continue to be the undisputed champions of all things related to winter sports, there are many other spots in the world to choose from that offer radically different landscapes and hospitality options. Here are six destinations in six different countries that might just make you second guess the Alps. Whether you’re already pulling on your long johns or you’re still undecided, why not consider Canada or Japan? Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia, CanadaThe largest ski resort in North America is on the west coast of Canada, British Columbia to be exact, it’s not far from the Pacific and about 125 miles north of Vancouver. And although it could not be further away from the Alps, it has a vaguely European atmosphere, especially when you take off your boots and stroll through the delightfully picturesque village of Whistler. There are more than 33 square kilometers of ground to cover on parallel mountains with slopes of varying difficulty that remain in pristine condition and are connected by a cable car. Courchevel, FranceCourchevel consists of six villages at different altitudes - including the famous Saint-Bon, where Le Lac Bleu was born in 1908 making it the first hotel in the area. There are three valleys, 58 ski lifts and 150 kilometers of pistes from Olympic slopes to tobogganing trails. From the narrow chalet-lined streets to five-star hotels, this prestigious ski resort in the French Savoy more than satisfies all of its visitors’ tastesCortina D’Ampezzo, ItalySkiing in Cortina is always a breathtaking experience: this Venetian valley is surrounded by the magnificent Dolomites is part of the large Dolomiti Superski area. There are 86 tracks for a total of 115 kilometers, and snowboarders haven’t been forgotten about. The star of Italian winter tourism, Cortina D’Ampezzo is a time-tested classic but feels refreshed each year with new cultural and gastronomic offerings. Niseko, JapanSkiing in Japan: why not? In Hokkaido, the great island at the very north of the Japanese archipelago, exists a town renowned the world over for its flawlessly textured snow, referred to as powder. This ski haven is called Niseko and is one of the most famous ski resorts in Asia. The perfection doesn’t stop at snow- it’s surrounded by thermal springs. What could be better than relaxing in the onsen (Japanese for hot spring) after a long day on the slopes? Zermatt, SwitzerlandAt the foot of the magnificent Matterhorn, this famous Swiss resort is a paradise for skiers: the grandiose Matterhorn Ski Paradise offers 350 km of slopes. It is a sight to behold in and of itself but there is another element at work: it is one of the few ski destinations in the world without cars. It’s only accessible by train and in the countryside you’ll only find electric cars. There is no doubt you will relish the clean mountain air in Zermatt. Lech, AustriaIn the Vorarlberg region of western Austria, 305 kilometers of slopes and 88 ski lifts make Lech one of the largest resorts in Austria. The town of Lech in the Ski Arlberg area is somewhat of a hub of luxury- celebrities are attracted to its peaceful atmosphere away from prying eyes to take advantage of its wonderful slopes and the retreat of the quaint old village.  

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12.06.2017

Rather than speculate about his childhood based on modern adaptations, we are focusing only on the original 1966 TV special. We all know that this particular Dr. Seuss character had a heart two sizes too small, but why? Well for starters, he was a social outcast. This was of his own doing, however, as he kept to himself in a cave lair inside of a mountain at the edge of Whoville. It’s fairly obvious that his antisocial behavior has resulted in a deep sense of loneliness, and that these two qualities just reinforce themselves in a vicious cycle. It’s safe to say that The Grinch was suffering from depression. As his negative outlook makes him very irritable, hearing the Whos making lots of noise in preparation for Christmas maddened him- it made him feel even more isolated. The Grinch makes use of a number of different defense mechanisms to protect himself emotionally. For example, he projects his negative feelings onto the Whos by assuming that they will be miserable (just like he is) when Christmas doesn’t come. So he decides to ruin their Christmas by dressing up as Santa Claus and breaking into their houses to steal their presents, decorations, and food. It’s human nature to want to belong to a group, and since The Grinch knows he doesn’t have a sense of belonging he doesn’t know how to empathize with the Whos. He feels disconnected from his neighbors and lashing out is the only way he knows how to empathize. This is a classic case of “if I can’t have it, neither can you”; The Grinch is miserable and disaffected and resents the Whos for this, so he feels that lashing out is justifiable because he wants to make the Whos feel his pain. In Freudian terminology, we can say that initially he was only driven by his (unconscious) id by using the defense mechanisms to ideally make him less anxious about dealing with his feelings. That is, until he meets Cindy Lou Who, who symbolizes innocence, thus invoking a conscious) superego. His defense mechanisms such as denial (claiming his heart was two sizes too small so that he wouldn’t have to deal with his feelings), rationalization (that the Whos were making too much noise is a good reason to take away their Christmas) and displacement (he’s taking out his frustrations on The Whos even though they aren’t the cause), to name a few, were reactions to things external to him. But now that he sees a beacon of innocence (Cindy Lou Who), he becomes more (consciously) proactive. For example, he returns all of the Christmas presents that he had stolen. When he sees that the Whos still have their Christmas spirit, he is surprised- he finds out that Christmas isn’t just about material things. The Whos are happy because they have each other, a sense of belongingness that The Grinch didn’t have. In that moment, the Whos chose to be happy and be glad they had each other rather than only placing festive value on material goods. This was the big awakening for him because he realized that he had been choosing a life of misery and loneliness all along. As the Whos came together, he realized that he too could choose, which is why he returned everything, and in return the Whos let him carve the meat, something that is traditionally reserved for the head of the household or a guest of honor. That day his heart grew three sizes, which is one size bigger than normal because he gained a sense of self-understanding in addition to a sense of belonging.  

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12.05.2017

 As you get ready to celebrate Christmas with your family, friends, and significant others, leave your loved ones in awe by sharing Tokyo’s beautiful sweet treats with them. Chocolate Handbag “Ivoire Coffee Orange”This chocolate delight is filled with cocoa-scented cream, chocolate mousse, home-made orange marmalade and bitter chocolate, enclosed in a handbag made of chocolate.You may reserve one at the Ritz Carlton.http://www.ritz-carlton.jp/news/78/ ProfiterolesThe Grand Hyatt offers an extremely photogenic strawberry shortcake topped with six types of small profiteroles filled with differently flavored cream: strawberry, pistachio, lemon, orange, currant, and vanilla. The number of profiteroles varies according to the size of the cake: a 12x12cm cake holds up to 16 profiteroles, whereas a 15x15cm cake is topped with 25 profiteroles. This year, white chocolate feathers patterned with reindeer and snowflakes line the sides of the cake. Since it is limited to 80 units, you may want to hurry to reserve one at Grand Hyatt Tokyo.https://www.tokyo.grand.hyatt.co.jp/restaurants/recommended/fiorentina-pastry-christmas-cake/ Bulgari Il Cioccolato: Torta di NataleExpect nothing less than a stylish and chic dessert from a high-end Italian jewelry brand. Bulgari’s Torta di Natale is a rich Christmas cake, consisting of a chocolate-coated and chocolate-flavored soft sponge, filled with mascarpone cream. The finishing touch is a chocolate and gold comet, the traditional symbol of Christmas in Italy.https://web.hankyu-dept.co.jp/ecshop/shohinDetailDisplay.do?mstShohinId=407110 Orange and chocolate bûche de NoëlThe newly-appointed Mandarin Oriental executive pastry chef Stéphane Tranchet honors the season with three different versions of the bûche de Noël. The most traditional of the bunch is a deliciously fresh cocoa sponge, filled with home-made orange marmalade and covered in 65% Belgian bitter chocolate. The other combinations this year are raspberry-pistachio and maple-pear.http://luxuryhotel.jp/mandarin-oriental-tokyo-christmas-cake-2017-review.htmlhttps://www.atpress.ne.jp/news/138258 Grand WreathThis a deep red, wreath-shaped cake, covered in hand-made white chocolate rose petals, with a 40cm circumference. The moment you open the box, an irresistible scent of rose will fill the room. In addition to the Grand Wreath, Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa offers five other kinds of Christmas dessert, including shortcake.http://www.princehotels.co.jp/newtakanawa/contents/christmascake2017/   

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12.04.2017

For everyone who’s tired of hearing Michael Buble every holiday season: we’ve put together an eclectic upbeat playlist with a mix of old classics and new songs. Don’t worry- there’s no Jingle Bell Rock or All I Want For Christmas Is You here, just an unexpected and fun mix that will keep you on your toes. Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Eve / SarajevoStart your party off strong. There’s no reason why Christmas music shouldn’t be badass. She & Him - Rockin’ Around The Christmas TreeThis playlist has something for everyone and will keep you on your toes for sure. She & Him’s Christmas Party album is the only full Christmas themed album you need. Seriously, this and their other Christmas album A Very She & Him Christmas deserves to be listened to all year round. Zooey Deschanel is the only Christmas angel we need. Thurl Ravenscroft - You’re A Mean One Mr. GrinchA tried and true classic. This will take everyone back to their childhood. Never underestimate the power of Dr. Seuss. Sia - Candy Cane LaneWho knew Sia had a Christmas album?! This song begs the question: why are there so many holiday ballads when we could be listening to fun songs about candy? Isn’t Christmas supposed to be fun? Also, watch the official video for Sia’s Santa’s Coming For Us, you can thank us later. Lemmy Kilmeister - Run Run RudolphWe’re not really sure why this exists, but more people should be aware of it. Frank Sinatra - Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!No holiday playlist is complete without the bare minimum of Frank Sinatra. Enough said. Burl Ives - Holly Jolly ChristmasIf somebody doesn’t like Holly Jolly Christmas they are either a grinch or a south pole elf. The Kinks - Father ChristmasThis song is just undeniably silly and fun. What’s better to get you in the holiday spirit than some British Invasion? Run DMC - Christmas In HollisWhile we’re shaking things up, this is probably the purest hip-hop song in existence. Kelly Clarkson - Underneath The TreeYou can never go wrong with Kelly Clarkson. She took this song up a notch- this is undoubtedly the perfect power pop Christmas song. Wham! - Last ChristmasBecause, obviously.  

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12.01.2017

The world changed with the presence of Ziggy Stardust, as if an extraterrestrial power gave David Bowie permission to do so, which is fitting since his first of several alter egos was from Mars. Currently people have been relentlessly defining or disavowing or championing for the acceptance of gender fluidity, different sexual orientations, and the all-encompassing social constructs of their implications. David Bowie was proof that changes in society could be made through fashion. He (and a few others such as Marc Bolan) played a large role in bringing androgyny, and to a degree gender fluidity, into the mainstream. He may have emerged 45 years ago wearing over the knee boots and a kimono so short that there was no questioning his manhood even though he was dressed as a girl, but only a gentleman such as himself could be so tasteful about it. Gentleman have confidence. Jean Paul Gaultier said of David Bowie frequenting London gay bars, that it gave him (and others) “courage not to hide, to have confidence”. And this was only the beginning. There were many one legged and one armed spandex bodysuits as well as silk dresses, eyeliner, sequins, and high heels to come. It takes a real open minded and respectful (gentle)man to make femininity so powerful. David Bowie was pop culture’s greatest enigma - he was consistently celebrated for his ubiquitous individual style but has been considered pop music’s best chameleon (which he always found puzzling because after all, it’s the main objective of a chameleon to blend in with their surroundings). He pulled inspiration from everywhere which always resulted in something new original. Bowie was honest and payed homage to those who inspired him. He once quoted Picasso saying “as Picasso said, it’s not what you steal, it’s how you use it”, and in short this is exactly how he operated, “I’m a tasteful thief. The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from.” In an era before the internet, a new Bowie album was like a portal into a new world: he was so eclectic that with new material he was likely introducing people to new cultural references, philosophies, realities, images, sounds, and more. He was cultured and knowledgeable but didn’t come off as pretentious - a gentleman would never be condescending. Through his music and fashion, the conversations that Bowie inspired that continue to this day are often about identity. At the beginning of his career he looked and acted like he had just gotten back from casually vacationing in other solar systems and we earthlings were absolutely wide eyed and hungry to hear more of his otherworldly wisdom. He gave people permission to be weird, as Tilda Swinton (the current coolest living person and David Bowie’s not-so-long-lost twin) expressed at the V&A launch party for a David Bowie archive exhibit, “the freak becomes the great unifier”. That to experiment and standout and be yourself and reinvent yourself whenever you like wasn’t just acceptable, but that it was cool. To say that he was a trendsetter is an understatement; he led by example with his style as a metaphor.  He was radical, new, energetic, and never judged. He inspired people to take risks, express themselves and become themselves - whoever that was; he said himself that he “seemed to draw a lot of fantasies out of people.” Bringing the best out of others was inherent in his character - a quality that all gentlemen should aspire to have. Perhaps the most “conventional” thing about him was his standard 20th century interpretation of marriage to supermodel Iman. They adored each other like mad, he considered marrying her to be his biggest success in life, that his attraction to her was “all encompassing”. With her he displayed the classical qualities we think of when we think of a “gentleman” in relation to women. Even though he was always passionate about exploring all things alien, the deep love he had for Iman is one of the things about him that made him feel like a fellow human.  

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11.28.2017

While it is not probably the most popular holiday destination on Earth, Greenland certainly represents a dream travel to many of us. Yet what is it that makes it so fascinating? Its incredible light? Its magic natural landscapes? Or maybe its undeniable remoteness?The land of the Kallaalits (meaning “Greenlander” in the native Inuit language Kalaallisut) is one of the most unique places on Earth indeed. Here are a few facts about Greenland you should know before embarking on a journey towards the Arctic Circle. . Greenland is the most sparsely populated country on earth. With an area of 2,166,086 square kilometers and a population of less than 60,000 people, it has huge wild snowy and icy areas and very few roads between towns. Which is why you won’t be able to explore it by car: be prepared to go by sled, boat, snowmobile and plane. . Greenland has never actually been “green”About 80% of the island is covered by the Greenland ice sheet, which is at least 400,000 years old. So naming it Greenland was nothing but a clever marketing strategy applied some 1,000 years ago by Norwegian Viking explorer Erik the Red in order to attract new settlers to this newly discovered land. Still, there are green areas in Greenland: in the mild summer climate, greyleaf willows grow at the base of it beautiful fjords, and the mountain landscapes are adorned with a wealth of colors from flowers, herbs, mosses and heather. On a sadder note, according to experts climate changes might turn Greenland greener by the year 2100, when swaths of verdant forest could be covering much of its land surface because of the raising temperatures. . Greenland is the place to go to explore the Arctic and enjoy the Northern LightsThe Arctic Circle Trail extends up to 200 kilometers from the edge of the ice cap to the angling town of Sisimiut, on Greenland’s the West coast. From June to September it is usually free of snow and offers a truly spectacular hike. As for the Aurora Borealis, it is enjoyable all across the island from December through February, when the nights are clear and the biggest light show on earth gives its very best. . You can have a bath in GreenlandGreenland is notoriously scattered with hot springs, yet not all of them are warm enough to bathe in. The uninhabited island of Uunartoq, in South Greenland, is home to three naturally heated springs which run together to a small stone-dammed pool where you can lie in the hot water and enjoy the view on the surrounding mountain peaks and drifting icebergs. . Greenland has a very modern and cosmopolitan capitalDespite being one of the smallest capital cities in the world, Nuuk is on its way to becoming the Nordic culture capital, as well as the northernmost. Inhabited by Greenlander and Danes, this amazing city has managed to create an amazing cultural mixture that ranges from the of traditional local culture to the most diverse contemporary creative expressions such as street art, futuristic architecture, new Nordic cuisine and craft beer. For more info: Visit Greenland 

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11.24.2017

While Italy has a superbly convenient national train system, road tripping allows for freedom and plenty of ease for traveling between destinations, especially if you have luggage and/or plan on shopping (don’t deny it). With this freedom comes flexibility to take as long as you want in any city or town to soak everything in. Here are a couple of tips for foreigners looking to take on Italy in the slow life way. If you want to hop from city to city, it’s much faster to take high speed trains and way less stressful. While Italian highways are easy to navigate (although tolls are expensive), driving in cities is very hectic. A direct quote from a Manhattan native who recently drove through parts of northern Italy says it all- “after this trip, I’ll never complain about driving in New York City again”. Things that many foreigners will find strange include but are not limited to: the apparent lack of lanes painted on the road and the fact that the traffic lights are only at the crosswalk on your side of the intersection, so if you pull up too far at a red light, you’re completely at the mercy of those honking their horns behind you (which will be everyone) as you’ll no longer be able to see when the light turns green. Just because there are a fraction of the driving rules as there are in the UK or the US for example, doesn’t mean you should be put off. It’s actually far more dangerous to be a timid driver than it is to be confident. All you need to know is that no one else is following any rules either, so if you can drive with confidence, you’ll fit right in. Assuming that the above applies to you, here’s what you need to know to make the most out of your self-assuredness. Always Take The Scenic RouteSince you have a car, you might as well make the most of it. A drive through Tuscany, the Dolomites, or along the Amalfi Coast is always a good idea. Always Have An Alternate PlanWe say “alternate” rather than “backup”, because backup plan implies that it’s second best. We say alternate instead because a last minute change in your original plan means that your alternate plan will be full of spontaneity and giving you an unexpectedly great time. For example, when in Florence and The Uffizi goes on strike the day of your reservation, and then you try to go to Boboli Gardens to find out it’s closed for “winter hours” (which isn’t stated on their website or any signs at the park) you’ll be wishing you had a backup plan. (As you can tell this might be based on personal experience.) That Being Said…Don’t micromanage your time. Because things are likely to close at unexpected times, don’t let it ruin your plan for the day. Just adjust what you want to do and try to see that sight the next day. This goes back to always having an alternate activity in mind. Welcome to Italy! As long as you’re flexible you’ll have a wonderful time. Plan To Spend More Time In Each Location Than You Think You NeedSee above. It’s inevitable that once you spend a day or two in any new city that you’ll discover more things that you want to do. This is especially true in a country with so much history. Having plenty of extra time means that you don’t have to rush or be so diligent about your schedule, meaning you can have a more leisurely (read: authentic) Italian experience.   

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11.22.2017

The most painful day at the height of consumerism (literally painful, considering that people regularly trample each other at Walmart) is only a few hours after the most famous day of the year for appreciating and giving thanks for what we have. Even though we know we are being manipulated, we still can’t bear to miss out on all those Black Friday deals! There is an element of competition that plays into all this- and not just the physical competition of running to the busiest display at Best Buy and hurdling past everyone else to get the last flat screen TV at 60% off. Some people relish nabbing a deal that others didn’t because they “won”. There is also a social aspect: everyone else is doing it, so we don’t want to be the only ones to miss out.  It’s practically impossible for one to be a “rational consumer” (looking at you, economic models and rational choice theory). When people are anxious they don’t always make rational decisions, and Black Friday campaigns play up this anxiety with phrases like “for a limited time only” and “while supplies last”. Let’s be honest, who hasn’t experienced a little buyer's remorse at some point in their lives? Our advice: be familiar with the return policy of each store you intend to go to ahead of time. Furthermore, don’t make a plan. Surprisingly enough, it is the people who plan the most who become the most aggressive and emotional. Those who are on a “mission” or need to “stick to the schedule” are more susceptible to being triggered by external factors like how long the checkout line is or how slowly some people walk. This causes cortisol (the stress hormone) levels to rise which is why we get so worked up and stressed out. This is because time-sensitive sales (which is basically every sale on Black Friday), give people a rush when they buy something at a price that is (significantly) less than what they value the item at. This rush is the result of an increase in dopamine which is triggered by novelty, thrill seeking, etc. While the term “thrill seeking” might seem more applicable to roller coasters, for example, we’d go so far as to say that finding a good deal on the perfect leather jacket is fairly thrilling. Dopamine without the presence of the other chemicals and hormones that influence happiness (serotonin, oxytocin) is actually at the core of addictions. So let’s be a little more forgiving regarding our friends’, family’s, (and even our own) impulse purchases this Black Friday- except for the select few people who trample others. Someone who is totally okay with physically competing against others for patio furniture and miscellaneous electronics needs to reevaluate their priorities.  

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11.20.2017

Located about 2 hours north of Tokyo, Nikko’s Tōshōgu is a World Heritage Site where the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Tokugawa Ieyasu, was enshrined as Tōshō Daigongen, the Great Deity of the East Shining Light. The site lies on the holy grounds of the Nikkō mountain range, where the shimmering waters of the Daiya River, flowing from Lake Chūzenji, and the Inari River, flowing from Mount Nyohō, converge. The whole area is covered in a forest of cedar trees aged between 400 and 800, dotted with shrines. Within the boundaries there are 55 buildings, which include 8 National Treasures and 34 Important Cultural Assets. This site is regarded as one of Japan’s premier mystical locations. Tokugawa Ieyasu believed in the spiritual power of Nikkō and chose it as the burial ground for the members of the Tokugawa family as well as for himself. Tōshōgu was built according to the principles of fengshui, in such a way that the Yōmei entrance and the torii gate stand exactly below the North Star.Bold, vivid and colorful, Tōshōgu is a magnificent place with a strong impact. Animals like pheasants, dragons, tigers and dogs are carved in the wooden parts of the building, as symbols of peace. Nemurineko: the Sleeping CatNemurineko is the realistic depiction of a cat crouching and sleeping peacefully, while protecting Tokugawa Ieyasu’s sleep. On the opposite side of the carving, a sparrow is resting in the same manner as the cat, to emphasize the idea of peace and quiet: since the cat is sleeping, the bird too can sleep. Mizaru, Iwazaru, Kikazaru: the Three Wise MonkeysThere are eight carvings representing monkeys, which were considered the guardians of horses. Each carving contains a maxim on how to live in perfect harmony. The most popular carving is certainly the one of the so-called Three Wise Monkeys: Mizaru, covering its eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering its ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering its mouth, who speaks no evil. The maxim is about not learning from evil and not dwelling on thoughts of evil. Kegon FallsIt is said that there are 48 waterfalls in Nikkō, of which Kegon Falls are the most impressive. The waters flowing out of Lake Chūzenji and falling from a 97m height are a magnificent spectacle of nature.Shinkyō: The Sacred BridgeThe beautiful vermilion-lacquered Shinkyō Bridge stands at the entrance of Nikkō’s holy grounds, and belongs to Futarasan-jinja, which was built to enshrine the deities of Mount Nantai. Legend has it that towards the end of the Nara period, a priest and his followers climbed Mount Nantai, but found themselves unable to cross the fast-flowing waters of the Daiya River. The priest summoned Jinja-Daiō, the god of the river, who emerged from the waters and released two snakes, which morphed into a bridge covered in sedge. Kinugawa OnsenThe hot springs were discovered in the Edo period, and at the beginning only the monks and the feudal lords had access to them. After the Meiji period, they were opened to the public, along with numerous inns and hotels along the Kinu River, hence becoming one of the leading hot spring resorts in Kantō. Nikkō can be reached from Akasaka Station by “Kengo” limited express train in just two hours.   

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11.20.2017

Thanksgiving in America has strayed a bit from its roots as a harvest celebration into a day that praises eating so much that wearing stretchy trousers is often encouraged (if you wear real trousers and your buttons don’t pop off, you’re doing it wrong). That’s not to say that Americans don’t value the tradition of spending a day with friends and family to be grateful, but the holiday has become so commercial that occasionally the underlying sentiment becomes blurred by copious amounts of football and pumpkin pie. Here are some harvest festivals around the world that aren’t focused solely on eating: Korea - ChuseokThe literal translation of “chuseok” is “autumn eve”, and is a three day holiday on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar celebrated by visiting the graves of one's ancestors. This is one of the numerous ancestral memorials practiced by Koreans and it involves preparing special foods such as songpyeon to symbolize an offering to the spirits of their ancestors. Songpyeon is a semi sweet crescent shaped rice cake that is almost exclusively eaten during Chuseok, similar to how cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie is practically exclusive to Thanksgiving. Barbados - Crop OverThis exuberant summer festival that starts in June and ends in August, has been compared to Carnival in Brazil or Trinidad, but it’s linked to when Barbados was the world's largest producer of sugarcane. After the sugar harvest was over they would host a huge celebration. It temporarily ended as the sugar industry declined but it was resurrected in a fashion closer to its current incarnation in 1974. The grand finale, The Grand Kadooment Day, attracts people from all over the world (including Rihanna herself, the 21st century patron saint of partying) to join in calypso, drinking, eating and dancing competitions, incredible costumes, and the carnival paradeCanada - Thanksgiving Obviously we have to make an exception for Canadian Thanksgiving! It’s very similar to American Thanksgiving but is on the second Monday of October rather than the fourth Thursday of November. After the American Revolution, the pilgrims who were still loyal to the British went to Canada and brought American traditions such as Thanksgiving with them which is why they eat the same things in Canada as they do on American Thanksgiving. Pongal - India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and moreThis four-day celebration is one of the most important Tamil festivals, it takes place mid-January as this is the season when the most essential Tamil cooking ingredients are harvested (rice, sugarcane, turmeric, etc). Pongal (which means “overflowing” in Tamil) is a sweet rice dish (using the first rice of the season) with cardamom and raisins and is cooked during the festival to celebrate the sun god for a successful harvest. Each day has different celebratory activities such as getting rid of old clothes, painting cows, and decorating homes. Vendimia Festival - Mendoza, ArgentinaWhile this festival isn’t nationwide, it does celebrate one of the most important, and one of our favorite crops: grapes. It’s a relatively young festival, the first official celebration wasn’t until 1936 even though the easiest celebrations took place in the 17th centuries. It kicks off with the Archbishop of Mendoza blessing the first grapes of the season, followed a beauty pageant, parades, and dancing, all culminating with live entertainment in the local amphitheater. A month-long wine festival, endorsed by the regional archbishop- what’s not to like?  

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11.16.2017

Asian countries have been the primary consumers when it comes to snacking on crickets. For most of us in the west, the thought of casually crunching on insects isn’t very appealing. But the good news is that instead of eating crickets like popcorn, there are a lot of companies emerging who’ve made cricket flour, cricket powder, cricket protein bars, and various other cricket snacks to avoid actually putting whole crickets in your mouth. Although there’s plenty of whole cricket options out there if that sounds tasty to you. You’re probably wondering how we got from “global food crisis” to “good news- eating crickets just got easier!” so quickly…. A Little Background:The relationship between agriculture, the global food crisis, and global warming is complex. By 2050 there will be almost 10 billion people on this planet, that’s over 2 billion more than there is now. Food production levels must continue to rise, but we have a few problems: there is already an obscene amount of perfectly good food wasted each year because of inefficient practices, and the level of food production we’re currently at is stripping the soil of nutrients and is a major factor contributing to global warming.  You Already Eat Bugs Every Day, You Just Don’t Know ItOne forward thinking and incredibly cool solution is to mass produce food whose main ingredient is crickets. They're nutritionally dense, a great source of protein, environmentally friendly, and the best part is that you’re probably already eating crickets every day and don’t even know it. Yes, it’s true, believe it or not, the FDA has a certain threshold of bugs that are allowed to be in food before it becomes “unsafe”. For example: chocolate can have an average of 60 “insect fragments” per 100g, one cup of rice could theoretically have up to three whole insects, and the amount of pizza sauce it takes for one smallish pizza (100g) can have up to 30 flies or 2 maggots in it. These numbers are “Levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods that present no health hazards for humans” according to the FDA’s Defect Levels HandbookWhy Crickets, Specifically?They’re much more sustainable than any vertebrate derived protein. They are more than 50% protein by volume AND no part of a cricket goes to waste (compare that with how much of a cow or chicken is wasted during the slaughtering process). Crickets have twice as much iron as spinach and every amino acid. They require virtually no water or feed compared to a cow and they produce just 1% of the greenhouse gasses that cows do. You could say these things about a lot of insects, though, so why crickets? Crickets don’t taste bad. Not all insects taste the same, and crickets are relatively mild. We would go so far as to say that if anything, it can be described as having a nutty flavor. Plus, whether it’s in the form of cricket flour or protein powder, when it’s mixed in with other flavors, it’s not particularly distinguishable. It’ll make your recipes taste different, obviously, but nobody is going to taste your homemade cricket flour cookies and say, “oh my goodness these cookies taste just like insect!” At this point we’ve established that crickets are more nutritionally dense than regular meat, far more sustainable, don’t taste bad, and that you’ve already eaten them before- you just didn’t know. So, what are you waiting for? We’re not suggesting you go to the park and root around in the grass looking for crickets to sauté for dinner tonight, but cricket based foods are becoming increasingly popular, so next time you see some BBQ crickets at the market, go for it!  

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11.15.2017

Hunter S. Thompson is most famously known for Johnny Depp’s portrayal of him in the 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas which was based on Thompson’s novel, originally published in Rolling Stone as a two-part article in 1971. Fear and Loathing is a semi-autobiographical account of an outrageous weekend in Las Vegas propelled by drugs and alcohol. A new TV series will now finally show a broader picture of his life, not just the parts where his narrative doesn’t distinguish between what’s real and what’s fantasy. Don’t get the wrong idea: he loved drugs, but there are many other valuable things that he contributed to society. Not only was his writing fantastic and unparalleled, but he was wise beyond his years and vocal about it. One statement that can briefly give you a picture of his outlook is as follows: “Weird heroes and mold-breaking champions exist as living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of 'the rat race' is not yet final.” (1979). During his lifetime, he was critically acclaimed way before the Fear and Loathing fame. Posthumously he is always referred to as the “creator of Gonzo journalism”, using the term “gonzo” to describe his personal style which was including himself in as a character in a first-person narrative. Since he believed it was impossible for anyone to be completely objective in journalism, he embraced the opposite, turning himself into the protagonist of his pieces and injecting his own comments on society. Aside from journalism, he had a continued interest in politics, and during the height of his status as a countercultural cult icon, he even ran to be sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado. He lost, but the race was close. Attending the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 had a major effect on him. Afterwards, he stated that he “returned a raving beast” as it “was far worse than the worst bad acid trip [he’d] ever heard rumors about”. In 2004 he revealed that when he had tried to describe it to people he would start crying as he felt that his experience at the DNC signaled the death of the 60’s for him. As someone who is primarily remembered for his erratic, subversive, and hallucinogen influenced writing, he was an incredibly multifaceted person and deserves to have a show with a well rounded depiction of his life. While many people choose to dress up with a Hawaiian shirt and bucket hat (à la Fear and Loathing), it seems that most people only know the superficial Hunter S. Thompson, but we have much more to learn from his irreverent contributions to society.  

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11.14.2017

It is no surprise that cow milk is not exactly sustainable. The FAO states that the global dairy industry makes up about 4% of all greenhouse gas emissions. One gallon of plain old cow milk generates 17.6 lbs of carbon dioxide, and it takes over 800 liters to generate said gallon of plain old cow milk. This probably explains why so many people with a green lifestyle are turning to milk alternatives, and particularly to almond “milk”, which seems to be among the most popular ones today. Yet, even almond milk has its downsides. First of all, it takes over one gallon of water to produce one almond. To make one liter of (homemade) almond milk it would take nearly 400 gallons of water. California produces 80% of the world’s almond supply and basically all of the US’s almond supply. If we were to play a word association game, “drought” would be one of the first handful things people would think of when hearing the word California. It’s easy to conclude why almond milk can be seen as harmful, but it’s not that bad when you compare it to the carbon footprint of cow milk. Plus there’s all of the waste and air pollution caused by cows that needs to be taken into consideration, among a whole slew of other environmental and ethical factors. So why are we obsessed with almond milk anyway? There are other nut milks to choose from, in addition to soy, rice, oat, coconut, flax, hemp, and even quinoa milk on the market. All nuts, and plants in general for that matter, require a lot of water to produce, although cashews (technically a drupe, not a nut), hazelnuts, coconuts, etc, can be sourced from somewhere that’s not in the midst of a drought.  Is there really a “best” type of milk?Cow’s milk as a dietary staple is pretty much only a western phenomenon- the majority of the milk drinking world drinks goat milk, which has superior nutritional values and is less likely to cause digestive issues, among other things. If nutrition is the primary motivator for milk drinkers, they should switch to goat milk, if they can contend with the taste. In terms of plant based alternatives, pea (we know, weird, right?) or hemp milk are much better options in terms of nutrition and carbon footprint. But if you think about it, humans are the only species to drink milk after infancy. Once we’re all grown up, there may be better ways of acquiring the same nutrients found in milk in other foods that are both healthier and better for the environment. 

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11.13.2017

Oslo’s art scene is primarily known for famed painter and printmaker Edvard Munch and for architecture exemplifying the esteemed style of Scandinavian design. However, Oslo should be better known for being a hub for modern and contemporary art with excellent private museums and a high concentration of galleries and artist-run collectives. There are so many opportunities to see great art in Oslo, here are a few ideas to get you started- The Astrup Fearnley MuseumIn a convenient and beautiful location on the Oslo fjord, this is the obvious first place to start. Here you can see incredible work from Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Matthew Barney and so much more. This museum should be the top priority in Oslo for anyone who enjoys modern art (especially pop art and appropriation art from the 1980s) as it houses work from many recognizable artists. Kunstnernes Hus (The Artists’ House)This exhibition hall is a must see if you’re in Oslo during the autumn exhibition (Høstutstillingen). It has been run by artists since 1930 and is one of Oslo’s most important galleries for contemporary art by local and international artists.There are a number of different tours that they offer depending on the day. Pro tip: the restaurant inside, Lofthus Samvirkelag, has some of the best pizza in the city. Grünerløkka NeighborhoodThis is Oslo’s hipster area, it is home to many small art galleries hosting different events and temporary exhibitions. You can wander around between Uelands Gate and Sofienbergparken and stumble upon photography galleries, performance art, sculpture, mixed media and more. Whether you’re a connoisseur of the provocative or are looking for something relatively light, you’ll be able to find it in this neighborhood. Here are two of our favorite:ROMNot only focused on art, but also architecture, ROM encourages experimentation and innovation in these two fields. The gallery hosts a variety of events aside from exhibitions, such as lectures and workshops, with the goal of engaging people from different disciplines. If you’re interested in the design of space, ROM will definitely appeal to you.TM51With three locations around Oslo, you can always find a reason to stop into one of them. TM51 features Norwegian and international artists and part of their selection process is to promote young artists who have a sustainable career ahead of them. TM51 wants the viewer to be challenged, ask questions, and reflect. Also check out:Galleri RIIS - focused on contemporary and modern Scandinavian art.Brandstrup - one of the best in the gallery district of Tjuvholmen, offering monthly exhibitions of very carefully curated artists.STANDARD (OSLO) - this contemporary art gallery has participated in numerous fairs such as the Venice Biennial and Art Basel and it hosts incredibly interesting exhibitions from both Norwegian and international artists.  

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11.10.2017

He can dance, he can sing, he can do magic… he’s a gentleman; what can’t he do? Well, we’re not really sure. Neil Patrick Harris has shown success in all of his endeavors; his ascent to child stardom took off when he was 16 and starred in the hit show Doogie Howser, M.D.. He never experienced the plight of many other famous child actors who fell victim to melting down in the public eye. While not necessarily everything he’s acted in has been a huge success (such as a few post- Doogie shows), he never stopped honing his craft. He always remained humble and led by example, saying that “sometimes you can have the smallest role in the smallest production and still have a big impact”. This is a statement that everyone can learn from, and it’s a testament to always finding the positive in any situation. A gentleman doesn’t act as if “lesser” tasks are “underneath” him.  NPH comes off as a mild-mannered guy, but being easy going doesn’t mean that he’s not assertive. Anyone can speak their mind, but NPH maintains the composure of a gentleman when doing so - he manages to sound polite even if he’s correcting someone. For instance, regarding his sexuality, he said, “Rather than ignore those who choose to publish their opinions without actually talking to me, I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions…”. This is a skill that few possess, and NPH sets a great example of how to finesse a situation when you disagree with something. Another unique NPH quality is the way that he uses self-deprecating humor. Of course, a lot of people say self-deprecating things, this isn’t out of the ordinary. The gentlemanly feature he demonstrates is that he seems to be strategic about it, rather than using this style of humor as a defense mechanism or a way of coping in an awkward situation. He can even turn something where he is making fun of himself, into an opportunity to compliment someone else. When asked about his Doogie Howser co-star, Christine Taylor, he said “She's an absolute catch, and I thought if I'm not going to feel the super sparks with her, then it probably means that I'm gay.”. Neil Patrick Harris’ gentlemanly qualities transcend the fragile masculinity of the stereotypical “alpha” or “macho” behavior that is commonly expected from a “gentleman” in a patriarchal society. Both men and women can learn something from the standards that he sets, thus making him a role model not only for aspiring gentlemen but for anyone, which just goes to prove how much of a gem he really is.  

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The pangolin has a body shape similar to an anteater, can roll into a protective ball like an armadillo, with scales covering it from head to toe resembling a pinecone. It has a pointy snout and tongue (which is longer than its actual body) like an anteater and long claws it uses to dangle from trees like a sloth. If this is the first time you’re hearing about this weird creature, you’re not the only one. Even Prince William is involved, declaring that “the pangolin runs the risk of becoming extinct before most people have even heard of them”. So what even does this animal do? It lives in hiding all day and comes out at night to eat an estimated 70 million ants (and termites) per year. Its predators are tigers, hyenas, and pythons, but its keratin scales are so strong, and it can curl itself up so tight, that even a tiger can’t break its defensive holdSo why is this harmless nocturnal insect-eating little freak of nature on the verge of extinction?It’s the subject of a billion dollar international organized crime trade. Unfortunately, in Asia, it’s not viewed with the same severity as drug trafficking, for example. The penalties are mild and few and far between; there were almost 100 cases of pangolin trafficking in Hong Kong between 2010 and 2015 and only 9 were penalized. In 2013, 6 tons of live pangolins were confiscated in Vietnam, in addition to more than one ton of scales. Unfortunately, the demand for this shy creature is so high that even though international trade of the pangolin (all eight species) was banned in October 2016, in December there were another 3 tons of scales seized in Shanghai. Asia has such a high demand for pangolin that poachers in Africa are exporting to Asia, effectively endangering every species. Why are pangolins in demand in the first place?Currently, China (mainland) and Vietnam are responsible for most of the demand. Pangolin scales are considered to have a long list of (scientifically unsubstantiated) healing qualities according to traditional Chinese medicine such as: curing lactation issues, improving blood flow, improving dermatological issues, and even curing cancer. And the meat is considered a culinary delicacy- if ordered in a restaurant, the pangolin is brought to the table alive and it’s throat slit in front of those who ordered it, in order to prove that it’s real and fresh. Considering that the price of a kilo of pangolin meat at a restaurant (in Vietnam of course) can be over $300, and a kilo of scales can go for thousands of dollars on the black market, the less supply there is of pangolin the more demand there is, as it’s seen as a status symbol, or a way to show off wealth. Why do we rarely hear about pangolins?Honestly, not that much is known about them. Pangolins are so elusive that we don’t even know how long they live. They can’t survive in captivity because they get so stressed that they die, and they’re rarely seen in the wild. We do know, however, that the females have just one baby a year (which it then adorably carries around on its tail). Since little is known about the mating process either, it is almost impossible to expect to be able to breed pangolins in captivity, which is why you’ll probably never see one in a zoo. Some organizations estimate that pangolins make up for nearly 20% of the black market for wildlife trade, so why isn’t it all over the news? Perhaps it’s because pangolins aren’t lovable like pandas. There is no heartwarming pangolin narrative like how elephants have Dumbo or The Jungle Book or Horton Hears a Who!. Humans are a pangolins’ only real threat, and what the little creatures need is a safe alternative to their use in traditional Chinese medicine. Unfortunately, there’s not much that the average person can do to help besides donating to the cause or spreading the word and informing people about the existence of this unusual mammal. Sir David Attenborough says that the pangolin is “one of the most endearing animals” he’s ever met, and he’s met a lot of animals. Who knows, maybe Disney will catch on and make a movie about an endearing pangolin.   

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11.08.2017

To ride a mountain coaster you sit in a sled like seat that’s attached to the track, but you can control the speed yourself. Not only is it ridiculously fun but you can also get a beautiful view of the landscape. Since you’re in control of the speed, even if your goal is thrill seeking (and taking corners as fast as possible, of course), it can also be a personal experience with nature. The most famous alpine coasters are in The Alps of course, so here are some of the best ones to pique your interest: Imst, AustriaOne of the best all around coaster experiences- the track is just over 2 miles/3.5km long, can go over 25 miles per hour/40 kph, and the chair lift up the mountain is lovely. What makes this one particularly unique is that the structure is more roller coaster like- the track is actually elevated so at some points you’re 10 meters/over 30 feet off the ground. There are bends, twists, and 450 degree loops. The coaster ride itself is exhilarating, but you can still have the best of both worlds because the chair lift ride is so relaxing. Aplyland, ItalyWhile it’s not the most intense coaster on this list, it’s in a great location. It’s just a funicular and a chair lift ride away from Lago Maggiore which is a popular summer destination, rather than a ski resort. If you’re spending an afternoon seeing the islands, it’s worth a little detour to go down the coaster. Even though the lake and it’s nearby town Stresa, are more spring and summer time weekend getaway spots, spending some time at the top of the mountain in autumn is a pleasant way to get out of the city and experience the changing of the season. Mieders, AustriaSimilar to the coaster at Imst, this also has an elevated track. We are highlighting the coaster at Mieders because it’s the steepest track in The Alps, with a 640 meter/over 2,000 foot vertical drop, and speeds up to 26 mph/42kph. You can expect beautiful mountain scenery too, of course. Alpine Coaster of Glacier 3000, SwitzerlandThis is the highest mountain coaster in the world (9,747 feet/2,971 m) and one of the most thrilling: it has jumps, waves, and 520 degree circles. Fast and beautiful gondola ride up, stunning views at the nearby peak walk, what more do you need to know?  There are so many coasters in the US that the areas with the highest concentration deserve to be mentioned: The area around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee has several, but we recommend the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster. It goes up to 27 miles per hour and is the longest downhill ride in the US. Plus, it’s close to Dollywood, if thats your thing.Even though they can’t compare to a Swiss or Austrian mountain coaster, it’s noteworthy that in New England so many ski resorts feature this activity. If you’re near one, definitely check it out, but don’t expect the coaster at Glacier 3000. Bonus: The Long Tom Toboggan in Sabie, South AfricaAt a full mile long, this coaster was carefully built on a South African National Heritage Site. It lasts for a full 3 minutes, reaches speeds of 26 miles per hour and allows you to experience a national heritage site, all of these combined makes this one of the most impressive coasters on this list. Tobotronc, AndorraEven though they call it a toboggan, the Tobotronc in Andorra is built like a typical mountain coaster. It is one of the longest alpine coasters in the world (3.3 miles) and it goes through the La Rabassa forest for a full five minutes (without breaking, that is). It located in Naturlandia which is mainly an animal / theme park catered to kids, but this coaster is worth the trip and will be enjoyed by people of all ages… as long as there is enough space between riders to go as fast as desired.   

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11.06.2017

Scotland is known for many of things: haggis, Braveheart, the Loch Ness monster, and Ewan McGregor, just to name a few. Many people picture Scotland as quite a dreary and cold place, and it is. There are a few exceptions, however, especially among the hundreds of Scottish islands. Many of these islands are home to some of the most profoundly significant archaeological sites in the world, and this is typically what comes to mind when people think of the islands where Gaelic can still be heard. We want to highlight these islands’ unexpected assets: scattered like cows in the highlands are stunningly Caribbean like beaches off the coast of Scotland. Here are just a few of the dozens of islands to spark your wanderlust: Shetland IslandsThe Shetland Islands have no shortage of prehistoric and mesolithic archaeological sites, which is what these islands are most famous for. However we must not forget about the heavenly beaches that these islands have to offer. St Ninian’s Ayre is perhaps the most well known beach for looking more like it belongs in the Lesser Antilles than it does in the UK. Also check out Meal Beach, Sands of Breckon (a hidden gem), Skaw Beach (on the island of Unst), Banna Minn, and the list could go on. Orkney IslandsThe 70 islands that can collectively be called Orkney have neolithic sights older than the ancient pyramids in Egypt, remarkable wildlife from rare birds to dolphins, whales, and puffins, and is one of the best places to view the northern lights. Also high ranking, are the many beaches, but considering the sheer number of individual islands we’ll only name a few: the Sands of Wright (South Ronaldsay) is the most popular, pretty much any beach on Sanday is reminiscent of Saint Kitts, Dingieshowe (East Mainland) could be on America’s West Coast,  followed by Grobust Beach (Westray), and Scapa Flow is a popular destination for scuba diving due to it’ clear waters. Outer Hebrides:Lewis and Harris have previously been voted into the top five islands in the world on TripAdvisor and best islands in Europe. In Harris the beaches tipping the scale from British to tropical: are Luskentyre, Scarista and Huisinis Beach; Caribbean blue water at the beach on Mangersta, Dalmore Beach on Lewis, Vatersay Bay and East Beach. And finally, even though Stornoway is known for its incredible black pudding, don’t miss the beach there either! Inner Hebrides:With 79 islands, you can expect more than a fair share of gorgeous beach spots. Here are the top picks: Martyr’s Bay (Iona) where there are a number of bed and breakfasts as this island is a popular destination for spiritual retreats, Kiloran Bay (Colonsay), on the Isle of Mull we recommend Langamull Beach and Ardalanish Bay Beach as they are the least touched by tourists. The Isle of Tiree has breathtaking beaches and is known for being a great place to windsurf, although you can do just about any water sport there. Isle of SkyeThe Isle of Skye is part of the Inner Hebrides, but since it is probably the most well known Scottish island in terms of tourism, it deserves its own section. There is a lot to do and see in the Isle of Skye but Claigan Coral Beach on a nice day could practically be one of the British Virgin Islands.     

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11.03.2017

Mount Fuji is registered as a World Heritage Site and that comes as little surprise. Famed painter Hokusai Katsushika, who was a great influence and inspiration for Impressionist artists, was smitten with Mount Fuji and is in fact known for his depiction of the mountain glaring red in the soft light of a summer morning. Because of the weather condition and – alas – global warming, Mount Fuji can be admired in its redness also at this time of the year. You may be lucky enough to catch “Diamond Fuji”, a phenomenon that occurs when sunset and sunrise align perfectly with the peak of Mount Fuji. You may also see “Red Fuji”, when the snow-capped summit becomes pink in the light of the sun rising or setting. People have been fascinated with the ever-changing beauty of Mount Fuji since time immemorial. In Japan, hatsuyume, the first dream of the year, is thought to foretell the fortune of the dreamer in the ensuing year. Fuji is considered to be the most auspicious dream, followed, for some reason, by the dream of a hawk and the dream of an aubergine. Of course Mount Fuji is a wonderful leaf-viewing destination, but there is always a reason to see Mount Fuji, new aspects to discover and fall in love with. Oshino (Yamanashi Prefecture): Nijū-Magari TōgeLocated at a 1,150m height in Oshino, Yamanashi Prefecture, this pass offers the an absolutely mesmerising scenery with the view of the snow-crowned summit appearing in the midst of the autumnal foliage. Another must-see is Oshino Hakkai, a set of eight ponds fed by snow melted from the slopes of nearby Mount Fuji that filters down the mountain through porous layers of lava for over 20 years, resulting in very clear spring water. The site has been designated as a National Treasure and as one of the Hundred Famous WatersFujinomiya (Shizuoka Prefecture): Lake TanukiThey say Mount Fuji is a whimsical kid, oftentimes not revealing itself because of the adverse weather conditions. However, in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, the reflection of floating Fuji can be seen on the lake surface, even when it is clouded. Lake Tanuki is a small lake with a 3.3 km circumference and an 8m depth. Mount Fuji is located exactly in the east. In the winter, when the air is clear, the water mirror offers a perfect reflection of Mount Fuji. Additionally, between 20th April and 20th August, excursionist can enjoy the phenomenon of “Diamond Fuji”Fujinomiya (Shizuoka Prefecture): Asagiri PlateauAsagiri Plateau is a high plain located west of Mount Fuji, whose elevation ranges from 700 to 1,000 metres. The name Asagiri (lit. “morning haze”) is due to the fact the plateau is foggy in the mornings and evenings from May to August. From the plateau you can admire Mount Fuji in its grandeur, with nothing blocking the view, in a pastoral setting which cannot be found anywhere else. Yamanakako (Yamanashi Prefecture): Lake Yamanaka PanoramaLake Yamanaka and Mount Fuji are an extremely photogenic combo. In autumn in particular, the foliage around the lake and at the foot of the mountain becomes wine red, which is emphasised by the light of the sunset. From Lake Yamanaka, excursionists can see as far as the Southern Alps. Furthermore, in winter Diamond Fuji is visible for a considerably long period of timeMount TsukubaSurprisingly, very few people know that Mount Tsukuba offers a full view of Mount Fuji. The mountain is located north of Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, in the eastern part of Kantō. It is 877m high and is composed of two peaks, called male and female. From the female peak, you can appreciate the whole view of Mount Fuji in the middle of the Kanto Plain, backed by Tokyo's residential area.  

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10.31.2017

The museums on this list relate to specific topics, but can be of interest to anybody. We love Tate Modern just as much as the next person (if not more), but here are some niche museums to shake things up a bit. Fashion & Textile MuseumThis museum was founded by the quintessential fashion visionary, Zandra Rhodes. Since it is too small to have a permanent collection, it has temporary exhibits, often from specific designers or time periods. Despite its size, this is a must for anyone who studies fashion or wants to work in the industry. Plus, it’s location on Bermondsey Street is fabulous: we recommend exploring it, it’s a favorite area among foodies, and craft beer and cocktail enthusiasts. Freud MuseumSigmund Freud is an icon of the 20th century and his work lives on through various psychological techniques used today that were influenced by his work. Being able to walk around in his home and step into his world for a moment gives visitors a unique insight into what the last year of his life would have been like. Oddly enough, many visitors have surprisingly emotional reactions to visiting his home; the study in particular, as that’s where he saw patients on THE couch. Whether or not you agree or disagree with Freud’s methods, his profound importance to the field of psychology is undeniable and his couch is synonymous with this. Freud is one of the most fascinating men of the last century, immersing yourself in the place where he spent the last year of his life is an interesting way to spend an hour in London. Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology Part of University College London’s Museums and Collections, this small museum holds over 80,000 items. Upon first glance this snug museum doesn’t look particularly thrilling, but it actually contains indispensable Egyptian and Sudanese artifacts. Highlights include what might be the oldest dress in the world (a linen slip like garment from 5000 BC), the earliest piece of metal found in Egypt and other significant pieces of clothing from 2400 BC. There are drawers and drawers of fragments of pottery and other miscellaneous pieces and beads and decorations. But those aren’t just any beads, they’re the world’s first beads made out of iron. If you don’t have a particular interest in Egyptology, this will be a very quick visit for you as the museums strength doesn’t lie in its ability to engage visitors who are archaeology novices. However, it’s worth a trip in order to see some of the oldest Egyptian and Sudanese artifacts in the world with your own eyes. Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative AnatomyAnother UCL museum, this one isn’t for squeamish people. It’s an incredibly unique museum packed full of animal specimens. In just one dimly lit room with beautiful old fashioned wood paneling, there are thousands of specimens, from the skeleton of the rare and extinct quagga, to a kangaroo stomach, and a whale’s penis bone, and jars filled to the brim with small animals (such as moles, crocodiles and terrapins). It might be a little creepy for some, but it is definitely fascinating. Pro tip: you haven’t spent enough time inside unless you’ve found the preserved guitarfish. The Library and Museum of FreemasonryThe Freemasons are popularly known for being linked to the Illuminati by conspiracy theorists and also for having notable members such as numerous US presidents (and Founding Fathers), Mozart, and Winston Churchill. Because they are a private society, they are shrouded in mystery, so if you want to find out for yourself if the freemasons really are trying to bring a New World Order, you should take a peek at this museum and see for yourself what’s really going on. And even if contemplating the not-so-secret organizations that may or may not be pulling the puppet strings of society isn’t particularly intriguing to you, it’s a really beautiful Art Deco building that anyone attracted to architecture and design will enjoy. Churchill War RoomsWhile this might not be considered a lesser known museum, it definitely deserves more recognition by those who aren’t typically interested in war relics. The Churchill War Rooms are one component of the collection of Imperial War Museums, and as bland as the name sounds to some, this museum is quite engaging. There are two main sections of the museum: the first is a timeline of his life with lots of information about him, his beliefs, important accomplishments, etc.  However, it’s not like reading a boring old history book: the language is easy to read and there are lots of his personal effects scattered throughout, including some of his paintings and other objects. The more exciting part is the war rooms- as you can imagine since this is an underground bunker, the halls and passageways are quite narrow, but it’s worth the claustrophobia. The rooms have mannequins and other replicas staged to show exactly what an average day would have been like. The map room on the other hand, has been untouched since 1945. The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural HistoryThis collection of oddities is curated by Viktor Wynd, an eccentric collector, artist, author, and lecturer. It’s more of a cabinet of curiosities than a museum. There are as many shrunken heads as your heart can desire, plenty of taxidermy (unsurprising), and even a jar with Amy Winehouse’s poo (somewhat surprising). If you like random and occasionally grotesque collections of bizarre objects, you won’t be disappointed at the Viktor Wynd Museum. There’s even a bar and a private room that you can book amongst the chaotic smattering of items for continued enjoyment.   

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10.30.2017

The Bay Area is the birthplace of the hippie movement, and current San Franciscans are the children and grandchildren of those who hitchhiked across the country in the 1960s to SF’s Haight Ashbury to join their hippie brothers and sisters. This partially explains why today San Francisco is generally understood to be the heart of liberal activism in the US. But most people don’t know that it is also the home of American food activism, and the city which hosted the largest Slow Food USA gathering in 2008. Carlo Petrini, the Italian founder of the Italian movement born in 1986, was there himself.  The Thriving Food Truck IndustryAmong the most remarkable food trends in SF is the food truck phenomenon, a 1.2 billion dollar industry which actually started in LA with the Kogi BBQ food truck and developed hugely in San Francisco due to the insanely high rent, and the cultural diversity in the Bay Area that demands equally diverse food choices. Since food trucks are small businesses, you can think of them as start-ups, which is what the Bay Area is known for these days. Food trucks have lower expenses than an average restaurant, and they can more easily adapt to constantly changing food trends (remember the ramen burger?). Food trucks possess a quality that San Franciscans love - they’re independent and on a small scale. Keep in mind that one food truck alone probably isn’t doing enough business to require industrial sized ingredient purchases. And you have to admit - food trucks have a personal touch considering that the prepping, cooking, and plating of your meal all happens within arm’s length. There are parking lots all over the city dedicated to food trucks, with schedules online ahead of time so you can plan to go to your favorites. Food trucks have become a part of everyday life in SF. Not only is there the SF Street Food Festival, you can go to the SoMa StrEat Food Park anytime, accurately self-described as “a culinary carnival”, ad food trucks even travel around near workplaces during the lunch rush. The grassroots mentality of SF allows these independent small businesses to thrive. Dealing With Food WasteAs for the future of trends emanating from SF - assuming that the cruffin (thats croissant + muffin) has a shelf life similar to the cronut (no explanation necessary), than the trend making the most impact right now is that of eliminating food waste. San Francisco recently made composting mandatory. The overall goal is for the city to produce zero waste by 2020. While composting doesn’t seem very important, everyday 650 tons of waste is generated by compost alone in San Francisco. Globally, $1 trillion worth of food is wasted each year, and part of this problem is grocery stores rejecting 20% of fruits and vegetables because they’re not aesthetically pleasing enough. An asymmetrical apple? Ugly. A cucumber that curves a little to far to the left? Ugly. There is so much food waste that “freegans” became a thing. Freegans dumpster dive at grocery stores, bakeries, and other markets to retrieve the food that is thrown away at the end of every day. The fact that people in a leading city can survive off of food foraged from dumpsters is a pretty big sign that there is a problem. Fortunately, instead of having to go the lot behind Whole Foods yourself once the sun goes down, there is a San Francisco start up called Imperfect that can deliver a box of “blemished” produce directly to your door.  

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10.27.2017

Even though the modern incarnation of Halloween has a distinctly American influence, celebrations have risen in popularity all over the world. Some countries have similar traditions such as Día de los Muertos, and others, such as China, have adopted Halloween. We’re not social anthropology experts, but we’re pretty sure people just like to party in costume, no matter what country they’re from. Día de los Muertos in Oaxaca, MexicoOne of the most famous places to celebrate Day of the Dead is Oaxaca - there are altars and markets throughout the city to check out during the day, and carnival-like parades during the night (the best are in Etla). Perhaps the most unique thing to do, however, is explore the local cemeteries. In addition to the centrally located cemeteries such as San Miguel cemetery, try visiting the village of Xoxocotlan where a lot of locals still visit on Halloween night. Don’t worry about trying to fit everything in before Halloween, the celebrations extend a few days past the 31st. The comparsas (night festivals) go on for several nights, and be sure to see the San Felipe del Agua cemetery on the night of November 2nd. Transylvania, RomaniaYou might think visiting Dracula’s Castle is one of those “one day….” day dreams, but it’s actually quite attainable as long as you’re willing to travel to Transylvania. The region is beautiful anytime of the year, as it’s in the Carpathian mountain range, but it’s most popular around Halloween. Bran Castle hosts a Halloween party each year that also offers tours of the castle. There’s plenty of black vodka to go around and a prize that goes to the best costume- this is definitely something for your bucket list. Salem, Massachusetts, USAA family friendly option, Salem has a lot of events during the month of October to celebrate Halloween, in addition to the museums and historical tours that are open year-round. A lot of the events are geared towards kids, but there are some intense haunted houses (ages 18+), witch hunts and bar crawls for adults. If you’re ever going to go to Salem, make sure to go for Halloween! Hong KongThe hungry ghost festival may be over, but Hong Kong has fabulous Halloween parties for kids and adults. There’s Haunted Halloween at Disneyland, a 3D haunted house at Ocean Park theme park, and plenty of bars and parties to choose from in Lan Kwai Fong. If you want to go partying in Lan Kwai Fong, make sure you dress to impress as it is the biggest party district and the place to see and be seen. Halloween Parade in The Village, New York, USANo list of holiday celebrations is complete without mentioning New York! The world’s largest Halloween parade has been around since 1973 and is taken so seriously, that you won’t even be allowed to participate unless you’re in costume. Tens of thousands of people walk in this parade and anything (seriously, anything) goes, so step up your costume game and prepare to be shocked. This will be the most memorable parade of your life. New Orleans, Louisiana, USAThe French Quarter is famous for celebrating Mardi Gras but Halloween comes in at a close second in terms of best parties. There are a number of haunted hotel tours to look out for, but the most famous evil spot is the LaLaurie Mansion. If you didn’t catch American Horror Story Coven, Madame Delphine LaLaurie is famous for having brutally and slowly tortured her slaves back in the 1800’s. Currently, the mansion is being used for private housing so you can’t go inside, but it is among the best decorated houses for Halloween. If you’re an AHS fan, your next question is probably about voodoo queen Marie Laveau - you can visit her grave in the famous Saint Louis cemetery. There are a number of tours that stop at both of these locations, although New Orleans has a plethora of other sinister stories to keep you up at night well past Halloween itself. Dublin, IrelandThe moment you’ve all been waiting for… the city where Halloween originated. There are lots of large festivals and parades in Dublin around Halloween; in addition to the Samhain Festival (celebrating the Celtic harvest festival that Halloween evolved from), there is the Bram Stoker festival (the author of Dracula was born in a Dublin suburb). For those who want to be shook to their core, the Macnas Parade isn’t your typical procession as there are actors that jump out at you; if that’s not enough, there’s even a legitimate Horror Expo. Dublin definitely tops the list for being the most horrifying city for Halloween celebrations. 

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10.25.2017

Bali is celebrated as being a place to travel alone, get out of your comfort zone and have rewarding experiences. If you’re new to traveling solo, the key is this: don’t miss out on experiences you crave just because you “can’t find someone to go with”. With the wide range of things to do in Bali (whether it be lounging by the beach or at a resort, climbing a volcano, going to temples, checking out the art, etc.) traveling alone might just be the best way to go so that you can do as you please without compromise. You definitely won’t be the only one traveling solo there, and it’s very easy to meet people. As you’ll find out shortly, transportation can be tricky and works best in groups. But if hanging out with strangers isn’t your thing, you can still have a great time in Bali, it just requires a bit more planning. Finding the right location for your needs and having a good understanding of how to get around on the island are key to having the perfect solo trip to Bali. Whether you’re pushing yourself to get out there and socialize or striving to be more independent and reflective, traveling alone is empowering and Bali has something for everyone.Here is the inside scoop from someone who went to Bali for their first solo trip and loved it: 1. Try Yoga in UbudUbud is a particularly great place for yoga, you can expect there to be a lot of transplants from California, which is great if you’re into meeting new people. There’s also a fantastic selection of restaurants. If you want to Eat, Pray, Love, this is your place. 2. Skip the capitalDon’t feel bad for skipping the capital city. Denpasar is basically a tourist trap3. Get Wild in KutaIf you want to have a wild night, look no further than Kuta. Kuta attracts a young international crowd, many of whom are traveling solo, too. If you want to get out and meet people Kuta is a safe bet, and where better than strike up casual conversations with new people than a bar? 4. Ger Classier in SeminyakIf you want to avoid any kind of place that might attract “lads on tour”, try Seminyak instead. Kuta can bet a bit rowdy, but Seminyak (which is just down the road) is the classier more grown up version, still with noteworthy night life (all you need to know is Ku De Ta). It’s easy to stay in Seminyak and take a taxi to Kuta when you feel like partying, so you can have the best of both worlds if you want to shop and be pampered during the day but see what all the hype is about at night. 5. Learn About Bali’s History and Relax in Sanur Sanur is where you want to go if you goal is to relax further away from the crowds in peace, or if you want to spend more time observing the ancient local culture. You can wander around and see the homes of the high priests and the temples along the water, and Bali’s oldest artifact is located there. (Note: while an artifact from 914 AD sounds like a must see- you should know that the famous inscription on the Belanjong pillar isn’t very visible behind it’s protective case). Sanur is a perfect spot to appreciate the beach, you can do water sports like kitesurfing, free beach yoga is organized, and there’s even a turtle conservation center. When you feel like you need a little more flash, Kuta is just a 30 min drive away. 6. Get a MotorbikeThe best experiences in Bali are had by people who ride motorbikes. There is virtually no public transportation, buses are random (and scarce). Car hires and shuttles are very expensive unless you’re traveling with a group, if they even let you book a car as just one person. So, if you’re not keen on driving a motor bike or riding on the back of someone else’s motorbike, you should plan ahead. Even if you do manage a private car to take you everywhere, it’s fairly inconvenient if you’re going off the beaten path. And you probably won’t have cell service (even if you do buy a SIM card there), so if you’re in a remote area (as much of Bali is) you might be out of luck when you want to return to your personal villa and don’t have a reliable mode of transportation. 

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10.24.2017

Stranger Things is like a fusion between E.T., Stand By Me, anything and everything Stephen King, directed by Steven Spielberg, but without feeling like a rip off. How is this possible? Even though it’s been done over and over, the nostalgia of 1980s small town USA never seems to get old… when it’s done correctly. The show is easily accessible, meaning that, we’ve seen The X-Files, we’ve seen The Goonies, these themes don’t need to be explained. We know and love the characters from the very beginning: a group of relatable kids who are trying to do the right thing (even if it means sneaking behind their parents’ backs), the classic teenagers trying find themselves while navigating the awkwardness of the classic American high school setting, the grieving mother, and the disconnected cop who has a personal connection to all of the above. The show can remain relatively fast paced because these are concepts that we’re already familiar with, we don’t need a backstory to understand. But How Can It Still Feel Original?The show owns the fact that it’s majorly borrowing from its inspirations. Look at the typeface: it undeniably had Stephen King written all over it (no pun indented). The ingenuity of the kids that the plot is centered around is timeless. The casting and character development is outstanding. A clever group of social outcasts going on an adventure and dealing with adult themes (like government conspiracies), will never get old. And their acting is brilliant - it’s so authentic, how can you not get sucked into their world? Plus, the show has the right balance of sci-fi without being too nerdy, a retro vibe without feeling old, monsters without it turning into a horror. While it’s not as innocent as E.T., it’s also not the depressing sci-fi about a dystopian future where society collapses and the world is run by artificially intelligent robots. It’s more of an X-Files vibe: government cover-ups, government testing on humans, one girl with telekinetic powers, and an alternate reality. It has just the right mix of themes to be engaging to so many people - but was striking this balance an art or a science? Is It Really So Simple?It’s not a surprise that Netflix uses big data to their advantage, and not just through their algorithms to suggest more shows. Netflix keeps track of all of their users’ viewing data. Like what kinds of shows, on which device, on which day, at which time. They know that viewing trends are different on different days of the week and across different devices. For example, say they knew that one group of users likes content that is from the 80s, and likes content with Winona Ryder, and that there is a big overlap between these two groups (I mean, obviously). And that this group shares a lot of similarities with groups who rate content with supernatural themes highly. Therefore, something involving the 80s, Winona Ryder, and sci-fi would appeal to a large subsection of viewers. This kind of extrapolation could go on forever, but you get the point. Stranger Things was guaranteed to be a hit because it has been carefully calculated by Netflix’s algorithms made possible by Netflix’s 1000+ developers. Even if the concept for Stranger Things was just the product of complex analyses of our metadata, there is surely something to be said for the actors’ incredible execution that has captured all of our hearts. And can we talk about Winona? She’s finally back! The quintessential late 80s/early 90s actress has been cast perfectly - her character is a little crazy but relatably so. It’s as if one of the Winona characters we know and love from 25 years ago has simply aged. Because she was out of the spotlight for so long, it’s as if she only exists in the 80s, making you feel truly transported back in time. 

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10.23.2017

Unlike the James Bond character, Daniel Craig is a gentleman both on screen and off. While the Bond reputation can be a double edged sword, Craig hasn’t linked his own identity to the narrative of the Bond franchise. Off screen, this means that he’s not just known as “the guy who played James Bond”. Daniel Craig learned early what it means to earn something - as a teenager he worked part time to finance going to theater school in London. He failed multiple auditions at Guildhall School of Music and Drama at the Barbican but his persistence paid off. Craig is an incredibly accomplished actor who studied alongside Ewan McGregor and Damian Lewis. A gentleman knows the value of hard work. One of his most admirable qualities is that he doesn’t hide his true feelings and effortlessly stays calm and collected, even when a tactless interviewer referred to his co-star Monica Bellucci as an “older woman”. Craig aptly corrected them saying, “I think you mean the charms of a woman her age”. A gentleman isn’t afraid to speak up (in a respectful way). He is confident in himself and stands up for his beliefs without coming off as arrogant. A gentleman should never be seen as arrogant.  In public appearances he is well reserved, no scandals to speak of, and keeps his private life private: he married Rachel Weisz in 2011 and their ceremony only had four guests. A gentleman  isn't ostentatious. He’s not a gentleman because he’s “chivalrous”, but because in real life Daniel Craig rejects the traditional misogynistic ways of James Bond. While the character is praised for his “tact” with women, the truth is that the character James Bond is lonely. He is emotionally unavailable and women are disposable to him. In fact, after Spectre in 2015, Craig said he never wanted to play James Bond again, although it appears that he’s changed his mind. Still, it is safe to say that if James Bond was real, he and Craig wouldn’t exactly be pals. The fact that Daniel Craig rejects the outdated trope of the character that he is most known for is why he is a true gentleman.  

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10.20.2017

The term “well traveled” doesn’t have as much weight as it used to. In the 1950s and 1960s flying was a luxury people would get dressed up for, and in 2017 small children are flying alone and navigating the airport with the help of a flight attendant or other airline employee. It’s almost more surprising to meet someone who hasn’t left their country than someone who has. From road trips in the ’90s to backpacking gap years in South East Asia, vacation trends are always changing. Cruising is one of those trends and it’s making a comeback: cruises are no longer just for kitschy honeymooners and buffet enthusiasts. There are cruises for people who just want to drink without the prospect of ruining their lives (there’s no cell signal at sea), and then there are luxury cruises. These are the ones offering around-the-world cruises, even though you don’t literally sail around the world. Occasionally you might not touch land for three or four days, but most mornings you wake up in an exciting new location. Cruise lines offer tours, excursions, and everything from the food to the wine to the water sports equipment is included. Six month itineraries are popping up across different cruise lines as society’s crave for experiences (rather than material objects) increases. Will around the world cruises be the next big travel trend? Before you let the glamorous idea of “around-the-world” sweep you away, keep in mind that you’d be at sea for 4+ months. Here are the most important questions to ask yourself before making the commitment: Do you like boats? Water?This one is obvious. Fortunately most cruise ships have stabilizers these days so you won’t get seasick. Do you like buffets and/or fine dining?This is how you’ll be eating, so if you like to maintain a strict diet, you might find it difficult. However, most people say that food is one of the highlights of a typical cruise experience (a good cruise experience, that is). Food is an important selling point on luxury cruises as the majority of meals are eaten on board. Usually cruise lines work with experienced and/or known chefs to keep everyone happy. And it’s not just the fine dining that that cruises are known for- they have very generous alcohol policies like unlimited beer and wine at meals. And if that’s not enough for you, you can purchase pre-priced drink packages to cover things like cocktails and premium spirits. Do you like convenience?You probably said yes to this because who doesn’t like convenience? With all your belongings in, what essentially is a hotel on water, you the stress of carrying your suitcases from hotel to hotel is eliminated. An experienced cruise goer once called it “mindless travel” as she could relax without having to worry about planning or timing everything correctly- everything had been taken care of for her. Do you like confined spaces?Yes, the cruise ship is like a traveling hotel, but you should prepare for it to feel like a pretty small hotel. As most people spend the majority of their time outside their rooms, you can expect the cabins to be “space efficient”. The public spaces however are more than accommodating. If you do start feeling claustrophobic you can always go for a run around the deck! (Side note: speaking of running, it’s not uncommon for cruise ships to have underwhelming gym facilities… keep this in mind if you can’t stand the thought of abandoning your workout routine). Is seeing a city enough for you, or do you need to experience it?This is a pro and a con, depending on how you see it. This kind of trip allows you to see dozens of cities in a relatively short amount of time which goes back to the convenience factor. But what if you can’t see everything you want in just one day? Now it’s time to decide what’s more important to you- the quantity of destinations or the quality of time spent in each. Some people consider cruises to be like “previews”, so they know which cities are worth going back to. Conversely, one of the great aspects of cruising is that traveling by boat allows you access to parts of a country that aren’t so convenient to get to otherwise, such as the pink beaches of Esperance- an hour and a half away from Perth by flight or over 7 hours away by car. Assuming you have no problem with traveling by boat, can spend at least $60,000 per person, and can answer three out of the remaining four questions with a solid yes, then you’re probably ready to contact a travel agent. Happy sailing!   

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10.18.2017

Berlin is one of Europe’s most vibrant cities, and one of the best cities to get lost in. The capital of Germany has something for everyone, no matter what your interests are. Having a bird’s eye view of the city is one of the best ways we can think of to start or end your trip. It’s great to have a basic understanding of the city before you get lost in it, and alternatively it’s a lovely way to reflect on your experiences before you leave. Here are our favorite places to see the entire city at once. Berlin TV TowerThe tallest building in Germany is the TV Tower, where you can reach the top by elevator at only 6 meters per second. Built in the 1960’s, the shape of the tower was inspired by the Sputnik satellites launched by the Soviet Union in the 1950’s. Rather than wait in line (which can take an hour) to see the view, we recommend you skip the queue and dine at the 207 meters high Sphere restaurant which rotates a full 360 degrees in one hour. Experiencing the rotating views as you relax and dine is a truly unique experience. The Reichstag DomeWhile audio guides are boring and thus typically ignored, the one offered at the Reichstag Dome is more interesting than you’d expect! It is worth your while to get the full experience of this architectural marvel. It’s full of history- be sure to get a of the rest of the building when Parliament isn’t sitting. Give yourself at least an hour for this, and pro tip: you might want to hold the railings as you walk up the spiral walkway, the views into the building below make some people a little uneasy at first. To avoid the queue, you can book for free in advance on the German government website. The Berlin Victory ColumnTo get to the top you’ll have to walk up many narrow steps, but it’s worth it (don’t worry there are resting spots along the way). The view is incredible and is well deserved after making the effort to get up there to see it. The Victory Column is of the best and well earned views of the city and is only a mere 3 euros. Pro tip: be careful getting there - you’ll have to cross a very busy traffic circle to get there. PanoramapunktCentrally located in Potsdamer Platz is Europe’s fastest elevator- 24 floors in 20 seconds (surprise: there’s a 25th floor but you have to take the stairs). Once you’re up there, there is a lot of great information to read while you stroll and admire the view. There is an open air exhibit showing you how Berlin has evolved over the years. This is a particularly great spot as you can see all of the most famous landmarks and at half the height of the TV Tower, this is an altogether different experience. Humboldthain Flak TowerThis WWII bunker might not be the first place one would look for a view of the skyline, but it is arguably the best place in Berlin to watch the sun set. It’s somewhat hidden from plain sight but that just adds to the vibe. There are great tour companies operating there with very enthusiastic guides who make this experience very enjoyable even if you’re not a history buff. It’s right next to the S-bahn and there are lots of picnic tables in the well maintained park that surrounds the tower- lovely for a peaceful break from the city. If you’re looking for a hidden gem (and don’t mind more stairs), this is the place for you. TeufelsbergWhile there is an 8 euro fee, keep in mind that this is an abandoned Cold War building that’s decently maintained (well, better than you’d expect it to be) by the talented artists who use the space. If you like street art, this should be up there with East Side Gallery. Considering how underrated the view is, seeing as this manmade hill is the highest point of elevation in the city, it’s definitely worth it. If the weather is bad, however, you might want to reconsider depending on your priorities. The art is always changing though, so even if you do go on a less than ideal day, you can go again and not feel like it’s repetitive. Bonus: The WeltballonWeather permitting, this hot air balloon is a unique way to take in the city. If you’ve never been to Berlin, this is a great first day activity as it’s conveniently located next to Checkpoint Charlie and will help you get the lay of the land quickly. Most of us don’t ride in hot air balloons on a daily basis, so when the weather is nice this is definitely a fun and cool way to see Berlin. Just keep in mind that it’s always recommended to check ahead of time to see if it’s operating, especially if it’s cloudy or windy that day.  

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10.16.2017

Tom Petty has become a household name thanks to his vast catalog of hits, and as the unfortunate trend goes, artists always seem to garner more popularity after death. Yet not many are aware of the fact that the way in which he navigated the cesspool known as the music business is crucial to the evolution of the industry, and how we understand it in 2017. So, before the next person tells you how Tom Petty changed their life (even though they haven’t bought a Tom Petty album since the ’80s), here are some things over which his influence still remains. The Rift Between The Record Companies And ArtistsIt seems like we’re constantly hearing about legal processes over artists’ rights; remember Taylor Swift and Spotify? The beginning of the schism on sharing music over the internet with Metallica and Napster? Well, first came Tom Petty and the war on $1, back in 1981. That’s right, Tom Petty was so against a $1 price hike that was going to be imposed on one of his albums by his record company (from $8.98 to $9.98) that he debated not even releasing said album (Hard Promises). The record label eventually backed down and didn’t increase the price. Even more extreme was prior to the $1 controversy, Tom Petty declared bankruptcy so his record label could drop him, so that he could subsequently sign with them again but under better terms. There has always been a perpetual battle with record companies and artists (Spinal Tap, anyone?) about artistic control. Very few people have it these days, and Tom Petty had always been an advocate for it. For him, having full artistic control wasn’t just about having the last word over the final cut, it was about the way artists are treated by management. Artists are treated all too often as commodities than creators. Think about Prince’s legal battles to own his own music (you’d think this would be common sense, but not in the music licensing world), and more recently Kesha who cannot release work under any other label than the one whose founder sexually and psychologically abused her. Looking back on it, Tom Petty’s dispute with his label for wanting to charge his fans one more dollar was considerably iconic. Artists Against Artists: Copyright Infringement And The LawAnother unfortunate trend (depending on what side you’re on) for decades has been artists suing each other (John Lennon, Coldplay, Radiohead, Beyonce, and Jay-Z have all been sued) over the copyright infringement of music and/or lyrics. This is a tricky subject as it’s realistically possible for one artist to “rip off” another artist without even knowing it. It’s easy to hear a song somewhere, and months later when you go to write a song, write something uncannily similar and think it was your own creation. Since Tom Petty was the unassuming type, when people were a little too “inspired” by his music he didn’t ignite spiteful legal battles. Instead, in reference to the striking similarities between 1989’s I Won’t Back Down and Sam Smith’s Stay With Me, Petty basically said quite casually that these things happen. He has been credited as a writer on Smith’s hit song, but didn’t hold a grudge. As many ’70’s rockers can attest to ( *cough*, Led Zeppelin, *cough*), “borrowing” riffs and taking “inspiration” here and there was actually pretty typical in the blues- the genre which these musicians grew up with (ask Chuck Berry’s people - everyone from The Beatles to Bob Dylan admit to stealing from him). Perhaps it’s a generational perspective, as Tom Petty grew up with the blues and cited blues rooted bands like The Rolling Stones as inspirational, but he didn’t treat the lifting of his work by others as blatant and calculated theft (even if it was). When The Strokes had no qualms about admitting the fact that they took the beginning of American Girl for their song Last Nite, Tom Petty laughed. They were honest about it, after all. Rather than list all of the songs that could arguably have been ripped off of Tom Petty’s  songs, may we suggest that you go explore his catalogue yourself. There will be many “hey, I know this song!” moments, and some occasional “this reminds me of….”, but most of all the ties between his style and the style of today’s music will be self evident.  

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10.12.2017

“Farm to table” or “farm to fork” refers to part of a growing global movement promoting local food that is particularly popular in New York City. It means that restaurants buy their ingredients directly from the producer, typically somewhere local so that the ingredients are truly fresh. The term doesn’t refer strictly to a farm, it could be about wine from a local vineyard or a jam that has been bought at a farmer’s market. Eating local is all about knowing where your food comes from and whose hands it has been in. Why does the physical proximity of your food matter? Food that has to be shipped from far away not only has significantly diminished nutritional value, but more often than not it is lacking in flavor as well, since produce needs to be picked well before it is ripe so that it doesn’t rot during the transportation process. Furthermore, people are growing more and more concerned about the disappearance of small, family owned operations. With big business getting bigger and bigger, people increasingly want to support small businesses like “mom and pop” stores when they can as our country was built upon entrepreneurial spirit. Finally, locally sourced food also has a lower carbon footprint, because the CO2 emissions deriving from transport are significantly reduced. In addition to the social movement aspect of farm to fork dining, since many raw ingredients are seasonal, menus are constantly evolving. And this is kind of exciting, because it sparks culinary creativity and you can go to the same restaurant multiple times and never expect to experience the same exact flavors. Following is a brief list of places to start your journey of locally procured flavor combinations concocted by chefs who inherently understand that a dish is only as good as its ingredients. Blenheim, West VillageBlenheim is a Michelin starred restaurant whose owners own and operate their own farm in the Catskills. The land dates back to the 1700s, and had been used as a farm in the past, although it had been inoperative in recent years until owners Morten (who previously worked in design) and Min renovated it. They raise rare heritage breed pigs, Icelandic lamb, and even the restaurants furniture is handcrafted. The menu is heavy on different kinds greens that they’ve grown at their farm so don’t be disappointed if it looks like your waiter just gave you a plate of garden trimmings - the innovative combinations, hand raised meats and bottomless brunch will do the trick to satisfy you. This small restaurant with a modern feel and barn motifs is a youthful gem! Blue Hill, Greenwich VillageExecutive chef Dan Barber is a Michelin-starred multiple James Beard Award winner, was appointed by Obama to serve on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and that’s not all - he was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in 2009. Blue Hill owns a farm in the Berkshires which was in operation from the 1860s to the1960s prior to recent refurbishment, and two restaurants. The main one, off of Washington Square Park, offers a more-than-tasting menu called the “farmer’s feast” showcasing that week’s harvest. But if you prefer a little mystery you can head 30 miles out of the city to Blue Hill at Stone Barns where there is no menu. You simply must trust the chef. As enthralling as this all sounds, be prepared to wait: you can only book a month in advance at the Washington Square Park location and 60 days in advance at Stone Barns. Alternatively, you can get on the waiting list, or stop by their cafe and grain bar at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture next time you happen to be in Pocantico Hills (which also requires a reservation, by the way). ABC KitchenABC Kitchen is one of the three Jean-Georges restaurants curated by ABC Carpet & Home. For those of you don’t know who Jean-Georges is, he is one of the most famous chefs in the world and probably the most famous and influential one in New York. Needless to say, he’s a culinary visionary, an expert at creating restaurants which combine the architecture, design, and ambience to perfectly compliment his extraordinary creations. The focus of ABC Kitchen is to be sustainable all around. Not only do they not use produce that has been treated with pesticides and other chemicals, but even the wine, spices, and other pantry items are fair trade and organic. Jean-Georges’ ethos is about moving towards sustainability, and not just in terms of food apparently, he is very involved with every aspect of a restaurant he works with, even the interior of the restaurant features reclaimed, found, and recycled materials. The menu features classics like line caught tuna and pork confit, however, the use of micro greens from the rooftop garden (obviously), spice, and citrus, adds a bright and modern twist from the renowned French chef. Gentleman Farmer, Lower East SideWhile this restaurant looks like a hole in the wall (it is), don’t be put off: the food is absolutely fantastic. This cozy restaurant is run by a husband and wife duo who are passionate about the food and wine that they serve. Karim trained in Northern France and his wife Beverly is an enthusiastic sommelier, this is truly a family restaurant. The style is definitely French with a twist- the curried snails being a good example of the twist. The menu features a lot of game: ostrich steak, boar chop, braised rabbit. However, the bison tartare is probably the dish they are best known for. You already know that all of the establishments on this list procure their ingredients locally, but the game served at Gentleman Farmer is “beyond organic”, as the couple calls it. The meat is carefully curated from small farms that they have sought out, and cooked to perfection. If trying new meat (or game in general) is your thing, this restaurant is a must, and considering the size (it’s basically a hallway) - so aren't reservations. If you go early you have a good chance of being able to get a table, and failing that, there is also a location in Brooklyn.  PRINT, Hell’s KitchenIt’s easy to see why this restaurant is so popular with locals and filled with return customers - the menu is updated daily and they even have an in-house forager. Their motto is “if its grown in the region, we eat it in season”. Purely from a sustainability perspective, they are particularly good at substantiating how much the farm-to-table concept is flourishing. In certain parts of the year, PRINT procures 90% of ingredients from traceable, local sources. They even have protocol agreements with each individual farm or purveyor that they work with to assure the quality; and the ingredients that need to be sourced from further away are prioritized by traceability. Even though the menu is constantly being updated, you can almost always expect warm bread with ricotta upon being seated. The goat cheese gnocchi and short ribs are popular dinner choices, and the brunch menu has a wide variety outside of what you’d already expect for breakfast food. You can expect recycled and repurposed materials in the modern yet elegant dining room, and The Press Lounge on the rooftop is not to be missed- fortunately you can take your drink with you!