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Eastern Tennessee: A Haven for Nature Lovers

I was not familiar with Virgin Falls when we began hatching a plan to travel there. I was certainly not familiar with Sparta, TN, the rural town, home to just over 5,000 inhabitants, that sits nearest to the falls. I was born and raised in the southeastern US, so I at least had some level of familiarity with Tennessee in general. However, my limited expertise pretty much began and ended in Memphis, so this trip was going to be something entirely new for me. IVHE has previously highlighted what a great spot Tennessee can be for nature lovers and fans of the outdoors, but I was not as yet familiar with this reputation. The area to which we traveled was a reasonable eight-hour drive from our Floridian home, being just over the boarder of North Carolina and into Tennessee. This made the actual travel portion of our journey fairly simple. My husband and I, along with another married duo, made the trip to this out-of-the way locale in White County. Thankfully for us, our friends had previously visited the area (in fact, they were the reason we found out about Virgin Falls in the first place), so they served as our guides in the mountainous regions.

We made plans to camp at the falls for a couple of days, but decided on getting a hotel room for the first night so that we could begin our hike into the mountain at first light and not risk getting stuck in the dark on a steep trail. It was the dead of winter, but we were lucky to find Tennessee having a mild time of it. There were a few patches of ice and decidedly chilly temperatures, but no snowfall to reckon with as we made our way. We pulled into Sparta quite late at night, and I'll admit that the drive through the winding mountain roads put me a bit on edge. The fog was incredibly thick and frequent signs warned of falling rocks - a phenomenon we were all too aware of as we drove over the evidence of smashed rocks already in the roadway. Thankfully, we made the "perilous" journey safely and tucked in for a few hours of anxious sleep. We were all quite eager to get on the trail, but the rest did us a world of good before our big trek.

The trails themselves were a sight to behold. I'm sure that no matter what time of the year you visit, these falls and the surrounding state park are gorgeous, but I was particularly impressed with the stillness of the woods in the wintertime. Our drive from the hotel to the park area was even remarkable. I'll admit, Sparta grew on me in the daytime, after the fog had burned away and the scenery was more visible. The fact that there were no more signs in this direction which mentioned falling rocks helped enhance my experience, I think. We had quite a bit of gear between the four of us (for the record, I told my husband he was over-packing), so it was a bit of a physical undertaking to get ourselves and our packs to camp. However, we were all at least moderately experienced hikers, so it was manageable. We took frequent rests, but were still able to make it to our camp and get set up before nightfall. We got a prime spot, in a cave directly underneath Big Laurel Falls. The rush of the water created fantastic white noise for our first night of sleep, but the trade-off was the sheer amount of bat guano coating the cavern floor all around us! If you could get around that, and didn't mind leaving your hiking boots outside of the tent, it was a killer location.

We took day hikes to the much taller Virgin Falls and explored the well-marked trails in the area. The chilly temperatures were far from a burden, making the physical exertion of the hike much more enjoyable. Going into this trip I did not have many preconceived notions of Tennessee, outside of the bigger cities, but I can assure you that the more rural part of the state is a sight to behold. We met plenty of hikers who were visiting the falls for the day, along with a couple of fellow campers. Everyone in the area seemed to know how pristine this spot is and what a great day trip it makes. 

While staying in the state park definitely constitutes a "primitive" camping experience (no toilets or potable water available), and we were all very happy to see a real restaurant at the end of our hike back to civilization, the scenery and serenity make the trip well worth it. You needn’t go so far as pitching a tent in a cave to enjoy the wilderness of the area either, with an abundance of scenic rural areas just a short drive from civilization. I would gladly sing the praises of Virgin Falls to anyone looking for an outdoorsy vacation idea. Even if you're not much of a camper, the trail lends itself well to a reasonable day hike, with lots of picture-worthy spots to stop and rest along the way. The state park educated visitors on the surrounding landscape and provides several different routes of varying difficulty to hike, so that everyone from the most advanced hikers to novice outdoorsmen will find a suitable trek. I would have easily overlooked this particular little dot on the map in East Tennessee, but if you're planning a trip to the area (including the western part of North Carolina, just across the border) I'd encourage you to put Virgin Falls on your travel itinerary! If you’re looking to go off the grid for several days, or just hoping to stretch your legs in a uniquely pristine environment, the mountainous areas of Eastern Tennessee have plenty to offer you.

IVHE will help to make your trip a little lighter on the bat guano, with lovely luxury accommodations throughout the area. Take a look at our available properties to see what might suit your tastes for potential Tennessee accommodations.

Thank you to travel blogger Emma Sledge.  

Starting a Travel Bucket List

I am certain that the travel buffs among us will all know the feeling: you are on the way back after a truly magical vacation. You’re happy to be heading home at last, but have a conflicting feeling of sadness when you think about your most recent adventure coming to a close. There is something decidedly bittersweet about wrapping up a trip; you know that the excitement has peaked, the wave has broken, and you won’t feel that way again until the next time you’re able to snag some vacation time. It’s no cause to fear though, it’s just a natural part of the highs and lows of the travel experience. However, if leaving your vacation state of mind behind is getting to you, there might be an option. So far, there has been only one thing that I have found to be truly effective at curing this post-vacation slump; the travel bucket list!

The psychological benefits of planning avacation have been well documented, so don’t feel guilty for indulging in this act of daydreaming – it’s good for you. When I have returned from a trip, and before I have cause to plan my next, I like to take the time to work on my bucket list. The first place to start is with some travel inspiration. Sitting down to any episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown on Netflix or scrolling through National Geographic’s Instagram will usually get me scribbling the names of exotic places pretty darn quick, but you can find great travel inspiration nearly everywhere. It can be as easy as Googling “best travel destinations in…” to find nearby destinations that can make for great day trips right in your own backyard. Of course, one of the best ways to find inspiration for your travel bucket list is right here on IVHE’s blog.

The materials that you need to start a bucket list of your own are likely already right in front of you. Most people who love travel have a few key destinations already in mind that they’ve been meaning to visit, feats they are hoping to accomplish, or sites they would love to see; viewing sunflower fields in Tuscany, hiking the Appalachian Trail, or glimpsing the illusive Arora Borealis, for example. Start by jotting these down in a safe place, and don’t forget to add to them as you go. There may even be a particular IVHE property that speaks to you loudly enough to earn its own entry on the list (as is the case for me and the world’s first rotating house). That is what is so inherently fun about making a vacation bucket list, it’s completely about what speaks to you!

The next time you find yourself in the unenviable position of not knowing when or to where your next vacation is going to be, might I suggest breaking out the vacation bucket list? It will help get you excited for what is to come and, in time, become a memento of all of the great trips you have taken. There are few feelings in the world better than ticking off one of the entries on the bucket list and thinking, “I did it!”

Thank you to Emma Sledge.  

Uber on Holiday: Much More than Just a Ride

I booked a boatload of Uber cars on my travels this summer and met some really interesting folks along the way.  Uber is one of the best ideas to come along for travelers in a long time.  It’s a quick, convenient, cashless and very economical means to get from Point A to Point B plus it’s a much more personal experience than a traditional cab ride.   Each driver has a story to tell and by the time you’ve arrived at your designation you’ve made a new friend.  If you haven’t yet tried out this service let me give you an amusing little overview of the types of drivers you are likely to encounter. 

The Retired Executive
He’s not in it for the money. His wife wants him out of her hair for a few hours each day and he’s not a golfer.   Uber driving provides a way for him to get out a few mornings a week on his own schedule.  You won’t find him picking you up after a night out on the town, he’s fast asleep by then even though he’s probably napped.  He’s most likely a kind, older gentleman who’s used to being a productive member of society and not ready to give that up just yet.

The Young Girl in Transition
She’s super sweet but a bit lost in life at the moment and usually lost on the roads as well.  It’s probably her first or second day on the job but don’t look for her in the weeks to come as she’ll most likely be on to something new by then.  I find I often take on a mothering role with her by saying things like, “You should finish your degree” or “Don’t accept customers who have below a 4 rating.”  There’s plenty of time for counseling as you direct her to your destination. 

The Professional Uber Driver
This is his main source of income and he has no plans of leaving this vocation.  He’s out to get a 5 star rating.  He appreciates your business and he’ll let you know that several times throughout the ride.  He knows shortcuts to avoid traffic and knows where construction could cause potential delays.  He’s expecting a big tip so give him one, he’s earned it. 

The Nightclub Caterer
He doesn’t mind the late night shift.  He knows there’s an abundance of clients at that time and he doesn’t mind dealing with the “over-served.”  You might even come across one who has a disco ball and strobe light in his car in an effort to keep the party going (true story).  He counts on you wanting to be driven from club to club in search of your friends, knowing that you’re incapable of doing the math.  He’s not out to take advantage of the situation though.  You’ll appreciate the fact you got home safe and sound even if you don’t remember how. 

Uber is widely used in tourist areas and major cities so if you’ve booked a luxury home exchange with a company like International Vacation Home Exchange and you’re wondering how you’ll get around town then I highly recommend Uber.  Not only will they get you to your designation but will also give you some local history and a quick tour of the area unless, of course, your driver is one of these sweet young girls…then you’re on your own. 

Thank you travel writer Lisa Medeiros.  Follow her on Twitter @lisamedeiros_

6 Ways to Spend Less on Your Next Vacation

If you’re like most folks, by the time you’ve booked your flights and arranged your travel plans you’re already stressed about how much money you’ve spent and you haven’t even left your couch yet.  Not to worry, there are many ways to cut your vacation costs and save money so you can continue to live out your travel dreams. 

Look into What’s Free
Wherever you may be heading on your next getaway there’s bound to be a host of free activities for you to enjoy.  For instance, many cities offer their visitors free admission to area museums or they may offer some outdoor attractions that do not require an admission fee.  It’s worthwhile to do some research and hunt down a few of these “freebees.” 

Cut Out Hotel Cost
There are many accommodation options available these days that can save you a bundle on your next vacation.  Home exchange is a great alternative to paying a hefty hotel bill.  Companies like International Vacation Home Exchange offer some great luxury home options while saving you a bundle on your vacation budget, on average IVHE members save over $5,000 on a two week vacation!

Use Uber Instead of a Car Rental
During my travels this summer I ended up returning my car rental several days earlier than planned after finding it much more economical to Uber to my destinations.  After doing some quick accounting, I figured out that the amount I was paying in car rental fees plus parking would be equivalent to many more Uber rides than I could ever possibly need.  It’s also a much more convenient way to get around unfamiliar surroundings. 

Eat In
Choosing a home exchange option can save you more than just exorbitant hotel fees.  It gives you the opportunity to dine in a few nights and pocket a big savings.  Make a quick trip to the grocery store, throw together a simple meal and not only will you save money by not eating in restaurants but you may find it a more relaxing way to spend the evening.  Isn’t that what vacationing is all about?

Buy Tickets in Advance
For those attractions that are on your Bucket List but not on the “freebees” list be sure to buy your tickets way in advance.  It’s worthwhile to spend some time researching all the deals that are out there for your destination.  For example, many cities offer a City Pass that allows you to see many of their main attractions at a discounted price.  You’d be surprised how spending a little time on Google can yield you some big travel savings.

Try Not to Forget Anything at Home
If hiking is on your travel itinerary and you discover you only packed flip flips then get ready to waste some precious travel funds on a pair of shoes you don’t really need.  When it comes to packing, take the time to really plan out what you will need and be sure to double check that you have everything.  Forgetting items is not only a waste of money but a waste of precious time. Time you could be doing something more enjoyable.

So now that you’ve saved a few dollars with these money saving tips you’ve earned the right to  splurge a little.  It is a vacation after all.  Spend of little of your hard earned savings on special souvenir or take that exciting excursion that may be a bit out of budget.  The goal isn’t to not spend any money at all on vacation but rather to spend it as wisely as possible.   Happy travel.

Thank you Travel Writer Lisa Medeiros.  Follow her on twitter @lisamedeiros_

Solana Beach and Surrounding San Diego County

Few places in the world have more pleasant year-round temperatures than San Diego County in Southern California.  For instance, Solana Beach, a small community in San Diego County, features an average temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 62 degrees in the winter.  One can visit for a week and never turn on indoor heating or air conditioning.  I should know; I recently stayed in Solana Beach in September and managed the indoor temperature simply by opening and closing windows during the day.  This may seem like nothing to those who live in a mild climate, but to those of us who experience wide temperature changes during the day, this is truly amazing.
Also amazing is the coastline.  From the high-cliff homes overlooking the sea in Solana Beach, to Oceanside’s iconic harbor, San Diego County features some of the most beautiful beaches in California.   For a high-brow yet accessible beach, visit the beach off at the Hotel Coronado on Coronado Island very near San Diego.  The exclusive, historic hotel adds its touches to the beach, but beach access is open to all.  This reflects California as a whole—equitable in philosophy, but always hints of luxury.
Another pleasant feature of San Diego’s coastline is its moods.  Most mornings are foggy—perfect for contemplation, work, exercise, or snuggling.  The fog typically burns off by about noon, and sunny skies rule the rest of the day—perfect for sunbathing, relaxing, and a happy, convivial atmosphere for which California is famous.
Just south of Solana Beach is Del Mar—home of the famous Del Mar racetrack, the second largest venue for thoroughbred racing in the Western United States.  The season is primarily during the summer. 
Further south of Del Mar is fashionable La Jolla.  Enviable homes and exclusive shops dot this coastline community.  For fun, watch the seals off of a centrally-located park; these creatures never cease to entertain.
In San Diego, visit Anthony’s Fish Grotto, one of the oldest restaurants in San Diego.  The restaurant overlooks the harbor which is especially entrancing at night.  For a sense of history, visit Old Town San Diego.  Here, there a Mexican treasures to purchase and eat (a lot of fun to eat outside).  There are also old buildings and western stage coaches, etc. 
Make sure you bring your work-out gear to San Diego County.  This is a very athletic place.  The roads are bicycle-friendly, and it is not uncommon to see numerous joggers on the beach and on paths.  A curiosity to me were people going through their workout routines on the beach or parks totally uninhibited as they did sit-ups, jumping jacks, etc.
A visit to San Diego Botanic Garden is worth the trip to Encinitas a little inland.  Because the climate is so temperate, plant-life flourishes; flora from all over the planet abound.
If your plans include a trip to Southern California, see these luxury home exchanges available through IVHE.  See how this works, and read testimonials.

Thanks to travel writer and photographer Sona Schmidt-Harris - Follow her on Twitter @Sonag2000

Travel Tales of Travail – Why Deke’s Knee Creaks

When my husband “Deke” and I went to Greece, we enjoyed places and experiences that will last a lifetime.  In Mykonos, we stayed in a luxury hotel with not only great service, but also great people.  The staff, including sensitive Virginia, insightful, young and accommodating George, and a very serious staff worker I nicknamed, “The Philosopher,”   We waved good-bye as we left, and I felt like I was saying good-bye to friends.  My heart actually hurt when we boarded the ship and sailed for Santorini.  Santorini being Santorini helped to heal the wounds incurred by our departure from Mykonos.  Truthfully, Santorini could help to heal the heart of anyone with its white cliff-side homes and breathtaking drops into the Aegean.  When it was time to leave Santorini, Deke and I were hopeful.  Athens awaited, and we planned on spending our anniversary in Paris.  I was filled only with happiness, anticipation, and hope.  The Gods, however, had some surprises in store.

The sky was gray when we arrived in the city of Athena.  We checked into our hotel, and proceeded to explore the city.  We enjoyed seeing history everywhere we went, and walking on Athens’ unique, marble streets.  I felt somehow profound in the shadow of The Acropolis; I took some glorious shots of the famous edifice at sunset, and we snuggled at night in the happy contentment that couples feel when they are having an adventure together. 

It remained mostly overcast, and soon the rains began.  Deke had some business to tend to, so he wore a suit and his dress shoes, as Deke tends to do.  Next to a bank, Deke stepped on wet marble, and down he went in his dress shoes.  The good people of Athens rushed over to Deke, but he refused their imploring to go straight to the hospital.  Instead, Deke stood up, limped to cab, and came back to the hotel.  When Deke walked into the room, he was ashen and I knew that this was worse than your average fall.  The pain in Deke’s knee and the rains only increased as he lay in the hotel bed.  Finally, the concierge called to have a doctor come to examine Deke’s knee.   Through the rain, the orthopedist came.  Deke was not in the best of states, and couldn’t quite understand the doctor’s Greek accent, so I translated.  For some reason, I am great at interpreting accents for others.  “I am afraid your patella is broken.  I will send over an x-ray technician to confirm this.”  And still the rains came.  The x-ray technician arrived, and right there in the room, he took an x-ray.  Try getting that kind of medical service in the United States.  The x-ray confirmed what the doctor had suspected all along—Deke’s knee was broken.  The doctor ordered a splint to be delivered to our room, and as the torrential rains only increased, a dedicated employee delivered Deke’s splint.  That night, Athens got so much rain that cars floated down the narrow streets.  The storms made the international news.
Are the Gods pissed off that we’re here? I thought as I gazed at The Acropolis from our window.  The doctor recommended we go back to the United States for Deke’s treatment.   It took days to get a first-class flight out (so Deke could keep his knee outstretched), so he languished in his bed tending to insurance and airline business.  In the meantime, I climbed up to The Acropolis without my Deke, and though it was glorious with the clouds over Athens, I couldn’t help but be a little cranky without my man.

When we departed from Athens, our driver told us that on the day Deke broke his patella, his son broke his leg.  I realized that I had been a bit self-absorbed worrying about my problems; the whole of Athens had seen better times.

When we arrived at the airport, a happy and enthusiastic young man helped Deke get into a wheelchair, and then wheeled him to our plane bound for Paris. 

“I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry honey that we won’t be able to spend our anniversary in Paris” (it was our anniversary that very day).  I assured Deke that it was okay—that we had a glorious time in Mykonos and Santorini.  

When we found our seats in first class, we were a bit puzzled.  The seats were no bigger than those in coach.  To make it seem roomier, the airline simply put a seat between people; the only problem was that the airline put down the armrests permanently and Deke couldn’t put his leg up; nor could he stretch it out properly per Doctor’s orders.  Deke grew cranky.

A French, feminine flight attendant did her best to cheer Deke up.  When he complained about the 
pain, she gave him extra attention.  “But you did not touch your breakfast; you must eat; you must eat 
for your strength!”  Deke did not oblige.  She tried again, “Would you like some chocolate sir?” 
Voulez-vous un peu de chocolat ?”   “Who di ha di what?” asked my husband.   I translated.  “No,” 
he said sadly, missing his appetite. 
The pain in Deke’s knee was only increasing as we flew past the Matterhorn and closer to Paris.  
Overcast and grim-looking, Paris did not look inviting.  Still, I looked with anticipation as the ground 
approached during landing.  Suddenly, the plane ascended rapidly; the pilot had abandoned the landing.  
He simply didn’t feel comfortable in the dense fog.  Deke groaned.  The pilot circled and attempted a 
landing one more time.  This time it was successful, and the passengers broke into applause.  Though 
the flight attendant tried to be charming even as Deke was wheeled off, he was not so charming in 
When we arrived at the airport, a frenzied employee greeted us.  It was possible we would miss our 
flight to Salt Lake because of the first abandoned landing.  The employee put Deke in the wheelchair, 
and pushed.  Bang.  She pushed Deke into the wall of the elevator.  Deke cringed.  We nearly ran 
through the airport, Deke leading the way and feeling every bump.  We made it, barely.  Finally, 
Deke could lie down and stretch out his leg!  We settled in.  I looked up.  There, on all of the 
international flights in the world, was the former wife of a man with whom I had once had a thing.  
I knew she did not particularly appreciate me being a figure from her former husband’s past, so I lay 
low—literally.  I couldn’t hide forever, and besides she was a flight attendant and on her feet.  
Luckily, she was not our flight attendant, though she did glance our way now and then.  I don’t 
know if she ever recognized me; she was accommodating and nice to Deke—maybe she felt sorry 
for him sitting next to me.  I will probably never know.
The flight was long and because of the pain Deke felt when he stood up, he avoided drinking 
anything to dodge having to use the bathroom.
When we arrived in Salt Lake, Deke found that his paperwork from the Greek orthopedist was missing.  
We looked everywhere.  Our flight attendant looked everywhere.  It was simply missing.  
We needed it to get reimbursed from our travel insurance company.  I approached the “luggage patrol.”  
I asked if our paperwork had been turned in.  “No,” she said disinterested.  We waited around for a 
while, Deke’s knee throbbing, until we finally gave up and went home.  The paperwork had of course 
been turned in, and the next day I drove back out to the airport to pick it up.
Well, we’ll always have Mykonos and Santorini.
Do you want to avoid as many travel mishaps as possible?  Try a luxury home exchange from 
International Vacation Home Exchange.  Their knowledgeable and friendly staff is sure to help you 
find the perfect vacation home.  See how this works.
Thanks to travel writer and photographer Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow her on Twitter @Sonag2000

More Great Australian Destination Ideas

Queensland enjoys frontage on both the Coral Sea and the Pacific Ocean and was first inhabited by Aboriginal Australians. The state is quite large, so the climate can vary wildly depending on where you visit. From the tropical north to the outback region and down to the temperate southern country, QLD has a lot to offer. Brisbane lies in the Southeastern part of QLD and attracts a lot of tourism. The area is self-described as a laid-back environment that offers high culture without pretention. Whether you’re looking to stroll through a botanical garden, take in a show, or shop for high-fashion, Brisbane has got you covered. Queensland also features lots of wildlife, great surfing, and scenic backdrops for outdoorsy adventures. The Golden Coast is a sight to behold in and of itself, making QLD far worth the trip.
New South Wales is Australia’s most populous state, home to the ever-popular destinations of Sydney and the South Coast. NSW has some of the most unspoiled coast in the country, along with mountainous regions and even rainforests in the North Coast. It is certainly a noteworthy destination for those who love picturesque and natural vacation spots. The climate trends toward the side of arid, but up in the mountainous regions it can be downright chilly. There is also plenty of culture to be found here, for those who prefer city life. Sydney is the largest city in Australia and, as such, offers no shortage of attractions, events, and culture. It isn’t too difficult to get around in Sydney, with public transit a popular option for traveling up the coast or moving about the city, but outside of that NSW is a bit more isolated. Like most of the states, NSW has many different sides. These include bustling city and quiet seaside oasis, so there’s a little something for everyone here.
Victoria is home to Melbourne, a bustling metro area and popular travel destination. “Authentic” Australia is also in abundance in VIC, with the penguins of Philip Island, the Great Ocean Road along the coast, and stunning desert landscapes. As IVHE has previously noted, VIC is also home to world-class fishing. Victoria offers a great mix of culture and nature. Melbourne is an easy sell for foodies, sports fans, theatre fanatics, and music lovers alike, while the wilder part of the state sates the outdoorsy among us. There is also a robust wine culture here, which is something for both camps to enjoy.

Last but not least there is Tasmania, the island state to the south of VIC. This is a truly unique place, perfect for nature lovers. A whopping 45% of the area is comprised of nature reserves and parks. From scuba diving to mountain climbing, they’ve got you covered. There are also compact cities to be found, should you get a hankering for a touch of night life, but the real crown jewel of TAS is decidedly the natural beauty all around. If you’re looking for even more detail on the southeastern region (Victoria and Tasmania), we’ve even provided a more in-depth post on the subject.
For more great Australian destinations, visit our previous IVHE Blog.
Thank you to travel writer Emma Close.  

Deciding Where to Vacation in Australia

The “Land Down Under” is vast and varied – almost overwhelmingly so. In a perfect world, you’d simply tour the entire country from end to end, but most of us lack the time and/or money for such an adventure and must settle on one or two destinations. For hopeful vacation planners who are looking for an Australian getaway, it can be a bit tough to discern where the best locale is. Never fear though, we’ve got you covered! With a touch of research, some IVHE insight, and a little introspection on your part, you’re sure to find the perfect spot for an Australian holiday. (this is the first of two blogs on Australia)
                The first thing to understand about Australia are its states, of which there are six. IVHE has vacation properties in all six of them, so you won’t be at a loss for choices on that front. Western Australia is by far the largest and is aptly named, being that it comprises the Western portion of the continent. South Australia lies in the middle and extends out to the shore in a southern direction, while the Eastern side of the continent is comprised of the territories Queensland (the northernmost of the three), New South Wales (in the middle of this eastern group), and Victoria (by far the smallest and the most southern of the lot). Further to the south sits the Island of Tasmania which, despite being off on its own, should not be overlooked as a potential vacation destination. There are also two main territories. These include the Northern Territory, which abuts South Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory, which is a smaller region located within NSW. Deciding which state you’ll want to visit is the probably the toughest part of your vacation planning, so it’s best to start with an in-depth look at what each place has to offer the discerning traveler.
Western Australia draws quite a few visitors every year, a testament to all of the attractions it has to offer. The state has quite a bit of frontage along the Indian Ocean and much of the coastal region boasts a lovely Mediterranean climate.  A whopping 92% of the population of Western Australia is located in the southwestern corner, where you will also find Perth. Whether you’re looking to catch some sun at the shore, explore the densely forested areas, or have a true outback adventure exploring their mind-blowing rock formations, Western Australia has plenty for the adventurous traveler. Being that Western Australia is so vast, it boasts incredible biological diversity, making it a great spot for an outdoorsy vacation. Perth provides a good dose of culture and nightlife, to complement the vast areas of natural beauty.

South Australia is by far the most arid region in the continent. The coastal areas have a pleasant Mediterranean climate, but parts of SA can get downright hot during certain times of the year. The sea is always a great destination in Australia, and SA is no exception to that rule. There are also a host of bike trails, rivers and lakes, and parks and preserves for nature lovers. Wine connoisseurs are also in luck, as South Australia is a bastion of fine wine and great food. Adelaide is a very popular destination for visitors, with lots of culture and gourmet dining to be found there. The warm summers and mild winters make SA a good place to consider year round.
For more ideas, visit our next
Thank you to travel writer Emma Close.  

More Great Things to do in New York!

6.       Visit New York’s Highly-Rated Gramercy Tavern 
On 20th Street just off of Park Avenue South is my favorite restaurant in New York City, Gramercy Tavern.   There are actually two sections in this establishment—the restaurant and the tavern.  The restaurant is expensive and often the wait is long to reserve a table; however, the tavern serves on a walk-in basis, and has a welcoming and warm atmosphere.  With magnificent floral arrangements and creative cocktails, Gramercy Tavern provides a great ambience whether you’re there alone or with friends.  I have seen famous folk wander in amongst the lively and stylish environment, and some of my own favorite New York memories were created here.  There can be long waits on Friday and Saturday nights; however, Gramercy Tavern is also open for lunch, a normally less busy time to come.
7.       Walk Through Central Park
It may seem like a clichĂ©, but a walk through Central Park, no matter the season, is a must.  Part of what makes New York City great is the park.  Created in 1857, Central Park is iconic in film.  No matter how sophisticated you are, walking through the park and seeing things you have seen on the screen is a thrill.  Plus, you never know who you will see.  I waved to Woody Allen in the park, who waved back—good times.  The bridle trails are great for jogging, and the Shakespeare Garden is an inspiration in spring and summer.

8.       Linger at Any Coffee Shop in SoHo
The SoHo neighborhood in Manhattan, fashionable, exclusive, and artistic, is worth your time.  With numerous boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants, it’s great to shop if you have the money, and great to window-shop if you don’t.  When it’s time for a break, linger at one of SoHo’s many coffee shops.  It won’t be long until someone interesting walks through the door.  Some of the coffee shops feature community tables—perfect for the person travelling alone.

9.   Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge
To really get a feel for the various characters in New York, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  You can find everyone from the person walking to work to a man with a pet snake on one shoulder and a boom box on the other.  It’s invigorating, and you’ll feel like you’re part of the pulse of the city.

10.  In Pleasant Weather, Eat Lunch on the Steps of The New York Public Library on 5th Avenue
If you want to feel the rhythm of the workforce, go to The New York Public Library on 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan at lunch.  A business district, Midtown features the hurried employee looking for a reprieve during day. People with their takeout lunches relax in the sun on the steps of the library.  Behind the library is Bryant Park—another great place to go at lunch where you can find people playing chess.  There were once so many pigeons, that the city hired a falconer to release his bird at lunch to shew away the pigeons; the only problem was that the hawk decided one day to pick up what it saw as lunch—someone’s Chihuahua! Needless to say, the falconer plan was scrapped.

Wait, that was only 5, the first 5 are in yesterday's blog for 5.  Start planning a New York stay with IVHE in one of these luxury home exchange options in New York; it’s a great way save thousands in accommodation costs to stay in the city.  See how this works and read testimonials.

Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow me on Twitter @Sonag2000

10 Great Things to Do in New York

As a former Manhattanite whose wallet wasn’t always full, I learned of some great but reasonably-priced things to do in New York.  Here are my suggestions:

1.       Have a Drink at The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Station
Tucked away in a remote corner of Grand Central Station is The Campbell Apartment.  Sophisticated and historical, this lounge is the perfect place to meet for drinks during a busy, Manhattan day.  The lounge was the former office of business tycoon John W. Campbell.  The wait staff is the most refined I have seen in Manhattan; when I was last there, the waitresses wore pearls.  The lighting is ambient and invites lingering no matter how busy it can get.

Attend MetFridays at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
On Fridays, the balcony overlooking The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s elegant, main lobby turns into the best bar in New York.  With live entertainment, often chamber music, you can enjoy cocktails and appetizers in one of the world’s most renowned museums. Purchase tickets early to avoid waiting in line.

3.       If You’re a Literary Lover, Attend the Barnes & Noble Author Events Throughout the City
Some of the best authors in the world do readings at New York City Barnes & Nobles.  The Barnes & Noble at Union Square attracts a particularly sophisticated array of authors which have included Oliver Saks, Joyce Carol Oates, Frank McCourt, and Jane Goodall just to name a few.  Admission is free, and often includes author signings.

4.       Visit The Morgan Library and Museum
On the corner of Madison Avenue and 36th Street is the former residence of financier J.P. Morgan.  During his lifetime, his collection of illuminated manuscripts and other artistic treasures was vast, and it was decided that after his death these treasures needed to be shared with the public; his home is now a museum.  If you’re a bibliophile as I am, The Morgan Library and Museum is a must-see; the elegant library is so beautiful and has so many historic books, I actually had tears in my eyes during my first visit.   Of special note are Morgan’s Guttenberg Bibles; he also favored medieval art which is prolific in the museum.  While perusing, stop for afternoon tea at The Morgan CafĂ© in a modern setting or have lunch at The Morgan Dining Room, the Morgan family’s original dining room for a more formal setting.

5.       Ride the Staten Island Ferry for FreeNew York’s Staten Island Ferry is free!  Ride in winter or summer past The Statue of Liberty, and view downtown Manhattan at night—truly worth the ride.

Wait, that was only 5, check out tomorrow's blog for 5 more.   If your plans include a New York stay (and everyone’s should) IVHE has several luxury home exchange options in New York; it’s a great way save thousands in accommodation costs to stay in the city.  See how this works and read testimonials.

Sona Schmidt-Harris – Follow me on Twitter @Sonag2000

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