Top 10 International Travel Destinations for 2013 – 2014

Trying to choose the most interesting international travel destinations can be difficult since many people have different ideas of exactly what makes the perfect vacation. Whether hiking in the mountains, sunning on a beach, or exploring an ancient ruin is the favorite option, there are exciting and interesting destinations in many countries of the world.

1. France – is the most visited country in the world, with the city of Paris being the most popular destination. Most people are attracted to the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Versailles Palace, and the Avenue des Champs-Elysees. The multitude of quaint cafes and picturesque villages are a major draw for other visitors.

2. China – home to one of the greatest architectural accomplishments in history. Any tour of major international travel destinations should include a stroll along the Great Wall of China.

3. Spain – From the running of the bulls in Pamplona, to the Roman built Aqueduct of Segovia, to the party life of Ibiza Island, Spain has something to offer nearly everyone’s idea of an ideal vacation spot.

4. Italy – One of the most visited places in the world is Vatican City in Rome. The center of Catholicism is only one of many beautiful, historic, and culturally significant attractions in Italy.

5. Turkey – With its unique ancient monuments, minaret filled skylines, and natural land formations, Turkey is one of the most interesting countries in the world to visit.

6. United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The United Kingdom is home to some of the most historically significant structures in the Western World. Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Tower of London are just a few of the capital city’s attractions. Elsewhere in the country, Hadrian’s Wall and Stonehenge attract their fair share of visitors.

7. Germany – Beautiful gothic architecture dominates the main attractions in Germany. Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria provided inspiration for the fairytale castles in Disney theme parks around the world. Cologne Cathedral is another example of extraordinary architecture, and is one of the most famous landmarks in Germany.

8. Malaysia – The vast, naturally beautiful landscape of Malaysia draws thousands of visitors every year. Taman Negara provides one of the best preserved ecosystems in the world. Endangered animals, such as tigers and leopards, roam the rain forest while the longest catwalk in the world transports visitors above the forest floor.

9. Saudi Arabia and UAE – With an eclectic mix of modern and ancient structures, Saudi Arabia is one of the most interesting international travel destinations. Najran, located along the Yemeni border, is one of the best places to visit if a tourist friendly, market style shopping experience is desired. Just south of Jeddah, located on the coast of the Red Sea, some of the most amazing scuba diving locations exist. Several historically significant mosques can be found scattered throughout the country. While you are in the area, hop over to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) one of the hottest international business and resort location on the Persian Gulf.

10. Greece – Nothing can compare to the history and beauty of Greece. With its glistening white temples and sparkling blue waters, Greece offers a wide variety of beautiful and fascinating attractions. Every city, town, and village on the island has something to offer those who are seeking to explore ancient ruins, and those that have been preserved or restored.

Vacationing outside the USA is often a once in a lifetime occurrence. Regardless of the type of vacation desired, finding fascinating international travel destinations should not be difficult. Planning your trip is half the fun, so enjoy the ride from start to finish, no matter what happens along the way!

Copyright 2013 Taylor Hill, GWT Marketing. All Rights Reserved

Wine Travel – Finger Lakes and the Canandaigua Wine Trail

Situated in west central New York, the Finger Lakes region is an ideal destination for anyone.  Families, couples, senior citizens, and college kids will all feel at home here.  It’s a four season area with numerous outdoor activities and a natural bounty derived from a delightful mix of elements.

The Finger Lakes themselves are a phenomenon.  They are actually glacial lakes, formed thousands of years ago by retreating glaciers which carved the earth.  Looking at a map, the lakes look like fingers – long and narrow, stretching from north to south.  There are 11 in the region by our count, with the two largest, Cayuga and Seneca, forming the centerpiece.

The region is filled with valleys, rolling hills, and spectacular scenery, especially in autumn.  Charming small towns abound, and there’s a sense of artistry here, perhaps inspired by the surroundings.  To pinch a phrase from the Finger Lakes Visitor’s Guide, it’s a scenic partnership of Napa Valley and Scotland here.  I’ll take their word for it, but if Scotland is half as pretty as the Finger Lakes, I’d like to go tomorrow!

It’s easy to get to the Finger Lakes region, which is situated just south of the New York State Thruway (I-90).  You’re about a 90 minute drive from either Rochester or Syracuse, two underrated cities that warrant a visit.

Canandaigua Wine Trail

Canandaigua is a real slice of Americana, with an historic downtown and all sorts of unique places to visit.  Our first eagerly anticipated stop was the New York Wine and Culinary Center, on Main Street in Canandaigua.

The NYWCC is a perfect place to get acquainted with New York wine and food.  The emphasis here is to educate visitors about New York’s rich wine, food, and culinary traditions.  You can take a class here, enjoy a wine dinner, learn what a sommelier does, and much more.  There’s an educational theater and a hands on kitchen where you can create your own masterpiece.  Also, don’t miss the New York Garden located outside the building.  Depending on the season, you might find grapes ready to pick, apples, tomatoes, or any number of other native crops.

Wilhelmus Estate Winery

Open since 2007, Wilhelmus Estate Winery is the pride of Buon and Karen Keunen, who named the winery after Buon’s father.  We loved their Cayuga White, a light, fruity white offering.  Even better in our estimation was the Free Run Traminette.  “Free run” is a term used to describe the situation when the grape picking process ruptures the skin of some of the grapes.  The juice from those grapes collects in the transport containers, resulting in a high concentration of sugars, fruit esters, and tannins.  We particularly enjoyed the spiciness of this wine, and thought it would be a superb companion for a pork dish or a stir fry.

Just a general comment about these Finger Lakes wineries … each of them offers unbelieveable scenery.  A better word is stunning. It’s like Mother Nature’s best here, with fresh clean air and valleys cascading down to the lakes.  The soil is rich, the climate invigorating.  You really need to experience this area to truly feel all it offers to your senses.

Finger Lakes Wineries In Naples

At the extreme southern end of Canandaigua Lake, you’ll find the charming village of Naples and the Arbor Hill Grapery and Winery. Arbor Hill is about an inviting a place as can be.  The main building looks kind of like a country cottage, white clapboard with a big sign above the awning. 

Once inside, it becomes even more inviting.  There’s a beautiful gift shop where you can peruse all sorts of Finger Lakes specialty products, from grape pies to apparel to housewares.  But the star here is the wine.

Our first taste was one of Arbor Hill’s newer wines, the Vergenne.  We hadn’t heard of this style before, and it’s reminiscent of a Riesling in some ways, especially the crisp finish.  We learned this wine is made with a grape that’s part Lambrusco, so essentially this is a white wine made with a red grape.  A new one on us, but decidedly tasty!  And at less than $11 a bottle, it’s a best buy.

Another variety we’d never tried before was Arbor Hill’s Sparkling Chardonnay.  Dry like a Chardonnay but effervescent like a good sparkling wine, it’s a perfect match of two styles.

We absolutely loved Onnalinda White, a mix of Cayuga White, Traminette, and Vidal.  We expected this to be sweet, but it’s only mildly so, an easy drinker that joined us for our trip home.

Imagine Moore and Widmer

With a unique name and a gorgeous setting, Imagine Moore Winery was next on our list.  They are housed in a restored barn that dates back to Civil War times, with a panoramic view of Naples Valley from the wrap around deck. We even encountered a few olive trees just off the patio. 

Here’s where you should come to buy a great dry Riesling.  The name, Joy, fits perfectly.  The mix of fruit flavors and aromas is everything a Riesling should be.  Of all the wines at Imagine Moore, don’t miss this one.

Since we’re always searching for wisdom, we felt compelled to try Imagine Moore’s Cabernet Franc.  Its name is really Wisdom.  And it was a smart choice indeed, a tasty, complex, fruit forward wine that we felt would pair well with pasta dishes.  P.S. – it does!

This was an ideal spot for a bit of afternoon relaxing.  Words don’t do the setting justice.  The air is fragrant and fresh, with a warm valley breeze.  We immediately knew why so many things grow here, as it seems this area is blessed with all the natural resources required.  Also of note, Imagine Moore partners with the Brown Hound Bistro for wine tasting dinners and events.  We didn’t make one, but we can’t fathom how you’d go wrong.  

Last but certainly not least on our day trip to Naples was a visit to Widmer Wine Cellars.  Widmer is one of the largest and most successful wineries in the United States.  You may be aware of the Manischewitz brand – it’s produced here. 

We highly recommend a tour of this bustling, modern facility.  It’s about 45 minutes in length, and you’ll see everything.  Of course, you’ll end up in the tasting room and gift shop!  When you’re here, try Widmer’s Lake Niagara Harvest Blush, an easy sipper you’ll want to take to your next picnic.  The gift shop is equally appealing, with shelves stacked with wine gifts, jellies, juices, and gourmet treats.

Final Thoughts

New York’s Finger Lakes area is an ideal destination for wine travel lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and artisans.  There’s a little something for everyone here, including spectacular scenery and a peaceful, relaxed pace.  Whether it’s a family vacation or just a weekend getaway, you’re sure to find the Finger Lakes a welcoming travel destination.

Rockport Massachusetts – A Sparkling Coastal Gem

Rockport, Massachusetts, known as the “Crown Jewel of the Massachusetts Coastline,” reflects the sparkle and charm of its generous, well-lit carets in the mirror-clear waters of its shoreline and beaches. Facing east is Front Beach, an active, popular spot on Sandy Bay. Off Thatcher Road you’ll find Long Beach-a well protected and lengthy stretch of inviting ocean-teased sand. Located on Beach Street between Main and Granite, Back Beach provides a breathtaking ocean view as you bask in the radiance of its near-white sunlight. Known for its quiet solitude, Cape Hedge Beach at South Street invites you to leave all else behind. A convenient walk from town, yet private and somewhat secluded, is Old Garden Beach-a rather small, intimate and welcoming retreat. For all those who cherish the benefits of reflexology, Pebble Beach (at the end of South Street) is completely covered with smooth, round pebbles and stones. Here, you can walk safely and healthfully, rejuvenated and renewed from the seaside stroll.

Thatcher Island’s Twin Lighthouses, built and first lit in 1789, stand tall as the longest surviving multiple lighthouses on the entire U.S. coastline. Built in 1835, the Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse announces the entrance to Rockport Harbor. Its stalwart beam can be sighted easily from the end of downtown Rockport’s Bearskin Neck. As in many historical seaside communities, lighthouses play major parts in both factual and legendary reports and accounts.

Rockport is home to many charming Bed & Breakfast / Inns. For example, as a guest at the Seven South Street Inn B&B, you’ll enjoy friendly, warm hospitality in a calm, relaxed atmosphere. At the Old Farm Inn located on Granite Street on Cape Ann’s rugged coastline, you’ll find yourself surrounded by five acres of lush green landscape enhanced by plentiful birch trees and flowers. Nearby is the breathtaking coastal terrain of Halibut Point State Park. Or, you may prefer The Inn on Cove Hill in the center of town. This historical site was built in the late 1700s and provides its guests with vivid memories of its colorful past.

Nestled on Pigeon Hill Street is one of Rockport’s major attractions-the Paper House, built in 1922 by Elis F. Stenman. A mechanical engineer and designer, Mr. Stenman’s paper house project began as a hobby. Although the paper was intended for insulation, the entire structure and its furniture were constructed of paper.

Located on Bearskin Neck, the well-known fishing shack has become one of the world’s most famous and easily recognizable structures, especially to artists and arts enthusiasts.

Artists and photographers are plentiful among Rockport residents, and many more visit frequently to capture the brilliant coastal color scheme enhanced by the crisp, pristine New England seaside sunlight. A stroll through town will delight art lovers, as galleries abound displaying works from a multitude of artistic schools and styles-all depicting the awesome splendor of this jewel-lined, charismatic coastline and community. Main Street is home to numerous galleries, including An Artful Touch, Anderson Gallery of Fine Art, Ken Knowles, Mercury, and Mosher. On Bearskin Neck, you’ll find the Kanegis, R. Lerch, and Muse galleries. Also located on Main Street is the Rockport Art Association, devoted to the preservation and development of the visual arts.

The new Shalin Liu Performance Center, named for its generous donor, will be the creative home to many excellent, exciting and innovative performances, including those of the highly acclaimed Rockport Chamber Music Festival, led by Artistic Director David Deveau since 1995. This new venue will facilitate new additions to the festival, such as a jazz series, world music performances, children’s concerts, and extended educational partnerships with local schools.

The story of the Windhover Center for the Performing Arts on Granite Street is truly one of artistic innovation. In 1967, Herbert and Ina Hahn bought the last remaining farm in Pigeon Cove, two miles north of Rockport. In less than a year, they transformed the land and buildings into a beautiful miniature New England village-a performing arts camp for teenage girls. The camp was named “Windhover,” the title of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins about a falcon airborne and hovering against the wind, symbolizing man’s soaring imagination and art’s spiritual quest. Windhover became a non-profit foundation in 1983, and in 1986 completed the transition from arts camp to performing arts center. Along with focusing on creating dance and dance/drama reflecting the community, Windhover Dance Company is devoted to re-constructing and performing the works of two pioneer choreographers in the field of modern dance-Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman.

Rockport restaurants, famous for their splendid waterfront views-especially at sunset-serve fabulous fresh seafood, as well as a varied menu to please many palates. The Greenery at Dock Square offers a gorgeous harbor view along with a versatile menu, excellent grilled fish and lobster, and delicious homemade desserts. At Brackett’s Oceanview Restaurant on Main Street you’ll choose from a large menu while enjoying the refreshing ocean breeze. Ellen’s Harborside, located on Historic T Wharf with its panoramic view of Rockport Harbor, serves highly acclaimed chowders and seafood, as well as Tender Pit BBQ Ribs. Also, along with your meal, Ellen’s is currently offering your favorite wines and spirits. (As history tells it, back in 1856, the “Hatchet Gang” organized by Hannah Jumper, a spinster and seamstress, ran the “demon rum” out of town. This event left Rockport a dry town until April, 2005, when a vote by Rockport residents overturned this 149-year-old “tradition.” At present, several Rockport restaurants are licensed to offer alcoholic beverages along with meals.)

Of course, after lingering over food and drink at seaside, you’ll want to stroll through town and browse in its many unique and enchanting shops. At Bearskin Neck Leathers you’ll be delighted with the large selection of fine leather goods, including jackets, handbags and footwear. Nearby is Earth’s Treasures, with an appealing display of international products such as handcrafted jewelry, Himalayan salt lamps, incense, candles, gemstones, books and CDs. Then, visit the Blue Gate Gardens on Main Street where the florist and greenhouse provide the very finest choice of plants and flowers.

The two main early industries of Rockport on Cape Ann were fishing and the stone quarry business. This rock-bound cape, once host to countless ship wrecks, now warmly welcomes visitors as its treasured guests-whether they arrive by land, by sea or hydroplane. You really must visit soon! Until then, this sparkling jewel glistens from the golden crown of its sunlit beaches, teasing you toward a taste of its rocky, rugged legends; smooth sifting sand; cool, soothing sea tides; and its own very special brand of New England coastal charm. General source: Rockport Chamber of Commerce (a division of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce): Travel Guide for Gloucester & Cape Ann, MA, 2006-2008.

Copyright 2008 – Ellen Gilmer