Archive for June, 2013

Five things to do on Canada Day weekend

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Harbourfront Centre: Canada Day Weekend

Every year our country comes together to mediate upon national identity and brotherhood. A true-north self-hug, as it were. With that in mind, Harbourfront offers a weekend of urban dance battles, a martial arts workshop, a poetry slam, and outrageous displays of pyromania (fireworks, on June 30). All that and music, from Chloe Charles, Elliott Brood, Jully Black,Vieux Farka Touré and Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq.June 29 to July 1. Free. 235 Queens Quay W., 416-973-4000 or harbourfrontcentre.com.

Toronto Ribfest

The participants in the BBQ competition are clearly underfed. Why, when you look at them, you can actually count their ribs. The slow roasters are just some of the 200,000 people expected to show up for an annual Canada Day weekend of food, fun and fireworks, all in the name of charity to help eradicate childhood hunger. June 29 to July 1, 11 a.m. Free. Centennial Park, 256 Centennial Park Rd., torontoribfest.com.

National Coin Show

If one more jokester yells “show me the money” at this popular event involving dollars and beaver-emblazoned cents, the organizers might just shut the whole thing down and cash out. Actually, that’s not likely, given that hobby affair has been around since 1962 – back when Canada Day was called Dominion Day and a pocket full of two-dollar bills meant that you were in the pink. June 29 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and June 30 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). $7 (under 16, free). Hyatt Regency, 370 King St. W., torex.net.

CHIN International Picnic

Billed as the “largest free multicultural festival in the world,” the annual outdoor event is highlighted by the his-and-hers bikini contests, which are surely meant to emphasize that in this most mosaic of countries, we are all one and the same under our tuques, turbans and other culturally unique garb. Right? June 29 to July 1, noon to 10 p.m. Free. Exhibition Place, scotiabankchinpicnic.com.

Official Canada Day Celebration

At Mel Lastman Square, expect dancing moose puppets, music from Aboriginal stars She King and two-time Juno Award winner Derek Miller, hoop dancing, big-top acrobatics and more fireworks than you can shake a fireworks-igniting stick at. July 1, 5 to 11 p.m. Free. 5100 Yonge St., toronto.ca.

 

This 2013 Canada Day long weekend: What’s on, open and closed

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Toronto fireworks

Toronto is turning into a sea of red and white this weekend as people celebrate Canada Day. This year, the holiday falls on a Monday, giving many people a three-day weekend.

Here’s a list of what’s open and closed on Canada Day:

Closed

  • Government offices
  • Canada Post offices (no mail delivery)
  • Banks
  • LCBO stores and Beer Stores
  • Most grocery stores
  • Libraries
  • Toronto Stock Exchange

Open

  • Eaton Centre
  • Vaughan Mills
  • Bramalea City Centre
  • Square One
  • Most City of Toronto pools
  • Tourist attractions, including CN Tower, Royal Ontario Museum, Ontario Science Centre, Toronto Zoo, Canada’s Wonderland
  • TTC is on a holiday schedule
  • GO Transit running on a Saturday schedule

Well Known Beaches and Hidden Gems of Northern Guanacaste

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Many travelers from all over the world agree that Northern Guanacaste, Costa Rica is home to some really amazing beaches. Some of the more advertised and visited beaches are great for those traveling with a family or who want a more all-inclusive type experience with western style amenities, cuisine and services. But what about those adventurers looking to get away from it all? Those who are not afraid to shift into 4×4 and put their wheels in the mud? Those looking to stand on a beach with just one, two or maybe even zero fellow human beings and would rather share the most natural of moments with monkeys, birds, iguanas and crabs?

The truth is that Guanacaste has lots to offer every type of traveler and in my 4 years of living in this area I have found some great things to enjoy about both the popular and secluded destinations.

Popular Beaches of Northern Guanacaste

Popular and highly developed beach towns such as Playas del Coco and Tamarindo are wonderful for families who want the comforts of home but are looking to trade the shade of an oak or pine for that of a tall swaying palm.

Playas del Coco, Northern Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Playas del Coco

 

Playas del Coco is well known for it’s good scuba diving, nightlife and beachfront park which is an absolutely wonderful location to spend the day fishing, playing basketball, swimming or just laying in the grass. In the area of Playas del Coco you will also find Playa Ocotal, an inviting beach with dark black volcanic sands and lighter tan sands near both ends of the beach. I can honestly say that for its ease of arrival and beauty, Playa Ocotal is one of my favorites. North of Playas del Coco is Playa Hermosa, a typical Guanacaste “cove” beach that is lined with some great beachfront bars, hotels and restaurants for varying budgets.

The Tamarindo area is well known for it’s surfing. Tamarindo itself is a great place to learn how to maneuver the board. This town has a plethora of hotels and restaurants, which makes for a comfortable travel experience and one of the best locations to make your home base if you are planning a surf adventure. Across Tamarindo’s estuary is Playa Grande, a faster surf break for more experienced surfers just like the locations south of Tamarindo like Playa Negra and Playa Avellanas (which means Hazelnut Beach in English).

Also in the area I recommend Playa Conchal and Playa Flamingo. Both of these beaches are known for consistently blue waters. Playa Flamingo is a small beach with a small resort type community nearby and Conchal is famous for its unique sand made of broken shells. Don’t worry about cutting your feet – these shells have been smoothed over the years.

Looking at Playa Flamingo from Playa Conchal

Looking at Playa Flamingo from Playa Conchal

Hidden Gems of Northern Guanacaste

Then we arrive at the other end of the spectrum, the hidden gems littered along the volcano coastline. If you’re on your way to these beaches you should probably check your tire pressure and definitely have confidence in your 4×4 skills because these roads (if they qualify as such) are not for the faint of heart or those with lower back problems.

Playa Iguanita is located just 40 minutes from Liberia’s international airport on the road to Peninsula Papagayo Rt (253). After turning onto the dirt road where the sign indicates, the first 4 or 5 kilometers aren’t great but also aren’t terrible. Once you arrive at the downhill turn you may be in for a surprise. I have seen many small rental cars abandoned here over the years. But as long as you have your 4×4 you shouldn’t have much of a problem. Once to the bottom of the hill you will pass through a stream or two just before finally reaching Playa Iguanita, which is also a wildlife refuge (no fishing allowed). Most people’s favorite thing about this beach is how calm its waters tend to remain no matter what the open oceans conditions are. These waters are protected to the west by the Papagayo peninsula, which encloses the water into Bahia Culebra, which means Snake Bay. Though I’ve still never seen a snake at Playa Iguanita, the monkeys are abundant and the snorkeling can get very interesting. I have seen tiny neon blue fish, eagle rays and 10kg Pampano on the same trip!

Secret Playa Cabuyal, Northern Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Playa Cabuyal

Further north up Rt 253 you’ll also find Playa Cabuyal which is hands down one of the most beautiful beaches in the area. Playa Cabuyal’s road isn’t as bad as the road to Iguanita but the same rules apply. Cabuyal’s blue sea reaches out to touch the fine white sands, which are protected by the dry tropical forest. What a natural paradise! The southern end of Cabuyal is great for fishing, just near the entrance to the estuary. I have seen some really strange and beautiful birds near the end of the northern side.

Now we get to the really fun stuff, what about the beaches that not even your 4×4 can get to?

Some of the most sought after beaches are only accessible by boat! What a great day trip to travel the marvelous coast en route to these wild beaches where you are usually going to be the only humans in sight.

Playa Huevos is just a 25-minute boat ride from Playas del Coco and worth the trip anytime, but the real treasure is only accessible at low tide when you can explore a small sea cave that runs under the hillside and let’s you out the other side to a perspective of the rock formations and swirling tidal pools that would otherwise be extremely hard to view. Playa Huevos also has a nice trail that leads to a lookout on top of the hill.

Another area paradise is Playa Jicaro, which like Playa Iguanita is located in the Bahia Culebra and home to very calm pacific waters. Playa Jicaro was created by an old coral reef that is home to many pufferfish, triggerfish, sea stars and urchins. Bringing a hibachi and grilling to the sounds of parrots and monkeys has been an experience that I will never forget.

Northern Guanacaste has something for everyone

I’ve heard tourists say that they expected Costa Rica to be more natural and wild. My response to them is to do some research, leave the resort behind, prepare accordingly and enjoy some of the finest beaches in the world!

 

Summer Eating and Drinking in Spain

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Well, it’s true, isn’t it?  One of the top reasons for a Spanish holiday is the great gastronomythat Spain has to offer.  Whether you crave calamari or long for longaniza, a week or two in Spain will leave you with a taste for more.  Seafood, fresh fruits, simple and fresh salads, Spain on a plate! To wash it all down, you won’t feel let down by the amount of local drinks on offer.  There’s no better time than Summer to try a little taste of Spain – let’s see what’s in season, with Summer eating and drinking from sunny Spain.

Asturias

Bountiful coastline

Spain as a country is like a really full fridge or larder well stocked with good food.

From the sea and the coastline try the freshly caught catch, every fish you can name – and some that you can’t  – will be served up somewhere in Spain every day.  The rich farmlands of the countryside, the rice fields of Valencia, freshly grown figs and almonds of Andalucía, grown under the Spanish sun.  That’s it, really isn’t it?  The warm sunshine and mild weather, making everything bigger, juicier and more delicious, especially when eaten outdoors!

figs higos food tapas

Trying something new

It’s June this weekend – although if you live in the UK you probably think it’s still Winter.  Leave the roast dinners and warming stews behind and fly to sunny Spain.  Book a Spanish holiday and try out some local food and drink, always in season, always delicious.

Leave the wilted buffet and serving of salmonella in the impersonal hotels too.

The best way to try out and taste local gastronomy is,  of course, to go self catering in Spain.  You’ll more than likely land a nice kitchen, with all the pots and pans you need, so wander down to the local markets and buy fresh.  Experiment – see what everyone else is buying, ask what things are – there are some odd looking vegetables and fish out there!  Gather up some spices, some virgin olive oil and get cooking…Spanish style.

Buying your Oranges for breakfast

Buying your Oranges for breakfast

Shop in season

The healthy Mediterranean diet is lauded all over the world, not in small part due to the beneficial properties of Olive oil, garlic – that wonder bulb – and the daily drop of red wine. I think also because, Spanish tend to eat what is in season, and grown locally.  So whilst you won’t find Mange Tout in December or Strawberries at Christmastime – you will be able to eat the best of the freshest food – in season.  Freshly caught, just picked, foraged or hunted, the golden rule seems to be to just eat what is readily available.

It’s not a bad thing, though with fresh peas in season combined with the generosity of neighbours, I’m beginning to turn a shade of green, we have eaten so many lately.   Most don’t make it as far as the pot, just out of the pod and into the mouth!

Market Day in Durcal, Lecrín Valley

Market Day in Durcal, Lecrín Valley

What’s available?

For June and early Summer, what should you be looking at, if you go down to the market?  Let’s see what’s in season for early Summer…

Vegetables

As I mentioned beforehand, Peas!  Freshly picked, the pods are bursting with flavour and available now. I always know what’s in season, not because I look it up, but because it arrives at my door as a gift.  Along with those peas, Aubergine and Courgettes were delivered this week, great grilled with a little oil on the BBQ. Broad beans will be hot on the heels of the peas, new season Lettuce, hot radishes, and of course that Mediterranean favourite staple, Peppers, bright red, green and yellow. Tomatoes always amaze in Spain – there are so many varieties, and at the market you’ll see some really ugly enormous and shapeless ones – much nicer and far more real than uniformly packaged  – more expensive – supermarket trays.

Salads are easy to assemble  in Spain, Cucumbers, Onion, Lettuce and white Asparagus, just add vinegar and oil. There’s no excuse not to have your 5 a day in Spain!

The Local Markets.

The Local Markets.

Meat

Spain cures so much meat, you’ll be spoiled for choice all year.  Jamón is probably the most famous, you just have to have it as tapas.  As a rule of thumb, it’s Chicken or Pork in the smaller rural villages of the South – but locals tend to kill their own pig and the produce from just one animal is endless.  Sausages such as Chorizo, Longaniza, Salchichon, Morcilla, as well as all the chops and fillets and inside-y please-let-me-eat-and-just-don’t-tell-me-bits.

In Autumn, you’ll come across Rabbit and Partridge, wild Boar, Pheasant. In Spring, in the north of Spain, Asturias will always have Lamb on the menu.

Jamón for lunch - or perfect picnic fodder!

Jamón for lunch – or perfect picnic fodder!

Fruit

Strawberries, in season already here – Spain doesn’t wait for Wimbledon! Punnets large and small are available to buy, you might be surprised at the price difference too.

Melons too, last week I bought no less than 7 Cantaloupe Melons for just €2 – if you’re based in a village listen out for the vans that call to sell everything from Melons to Fish, even sometimes slippers – de riguer fashion for the local shops. A big Watermelon – Sandia –  makes a refreshing dessert – and a healthy snack for the kids. Usually sold by the kilo, and not the unit, so check before you buy, some of them are as big as beach balls!

Go Bananas – they’re always available, no long haul required, as they’re grown in the Canary Islands, sweet and lovely.

Organic fruit and vegatables Spain Andalucia

Summer Drinks

A Spanish bar, a warm evening, a stroll before dinner, what would you like to drink – Qué quieres para beber? – so consider the Summer drinks on offer, if you’re not sure, or see someone drinking something you think you might like, just point!

Tinto de Verano – A Summer favourite, refreshing, light, not too strong. Red wine, served over ice, topped with lemonade, and a splash of red Vermouth.

Cerveza – Of course, a cold beer, in a Caña, Tubo or Jarra – small medium or large glass.

Sangria – Not just the stuff of holiday sit-coms, but it does go down well with sun and sea! Wine, fruit pieces, here in Murtas it’s always with peaches, topped up with lots of ice, then lemonade or water is added. Everywhere will have their own recipe, with different additions, and theirs will always be the best – but it’s a matter of making your own and developing your own fruit to wine ratio.

Sherry  –  Not just a drink for old ladies, the recent World Sherry Day proved that.  A very cold and dry Fino is just fine as an aperitif, particularly when drunk in Jerez, the home of Sherry.

Mojito – Ah, the cocktail hour. It’s always cocktail hour somewhere in the world!  Mojito is refreshing and cooling, and sometimes a lot stronger than it tastes!  Our local bar owner makes a magical Mojito, brown sugar, fresh Mint, dark Rum, Lime juice and pulp, and lots of crushed ice.

Mosto – Non alcoholic- and very refreshing, the closest that you can get to wine without the headache.  Actually crushed grapes where fermentation is stopped, so naturally sweet and light, best served over lots of ice.

 

Spanish white wines

Spanish white wines

 

A lovely footnote: Don’t forget, if you’re in Granada, the tapas are free too with every drink, you just might not make dinner after all!

 

When is the best time to visit Mexico?

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Question: When is the best time to visit Mexico?
Answer:Anytime is a great time to travel to Mexico! There’s no bad time to visit Mexico, but certain times of the year may appeal to different people more than others, and some destinations are better at certain times of the year.

There are a few factors that you’ll want to consider when planning the timing of your trip to Mexico: you’ll want to have an idea of the weather, any festivals and events taking place at the time of your visit, and whether it is high or low season.

The Weather
Although many people associate Mexico with hot weather, it’s a big country with a wide range of climatic zones. The weather at sea-level tends to be warm to hot throughout the year, making for year-round beach weather (how convenient!) whereas at higher elevations the weather can get chilly to downright cold in the winter months, especially from November through January.

Mexico’s beach resorts tend to be most pleasant between October and May (June to September can be very hot and humid) – and you should keep in mind that hurricane season lasts from June to November.

Festivals and Events
If you’d like to experience one of the many fiestas that take place in Mexico, you should definitely time your trip to coincide with one. Some people dream of witnessing one of Mexico’s unique celebrations like Day of the Dead, the Radish festival, or witnessing natural events like the annual Monarch buttefly migration, or releasing baby sea turtles on the beach. If you’d like to take part in one of those events, you’ll want to plan the timing of your Mexican vacation accordingly. On the other hand, if your ideal Mexican vacation involves peace, quiet, and relaxation, you may want to plan your trip to avoid any of those other events. Of course, there are some places where you can find peace and quiet year-round – check out Mexico’s Secret Beaches (perhaps not so secret anymore, but they’ll definitely be less crowded than the more popular resort areas!).

High Season and Low Season
During school holidays at Christmas, Easter and during the summer months, Mexican families like to travel and you may find buses and hotels are crowded, so keep that in mind when planning your trip to Mexico. Beach destinations may be very crowded during Spring Break. For fewer crowds and good deals, you should travel at other times.

 

10 PLACES IN CANADA EVERY TOURIST NEEDS TO VISIT

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Canada—from sea to sea—is a land filled with fascinating places and amazing adventures. The only problem: Where to travel? Here are ten of the best, must-see spots for for anybody determined  to discover the true north strong and free.

1. Banff and Lake Louise, Alberta

Set inside the borders of the vast Banff National Park, the area that surrounds these two towns is a Rocky Mountain wonder, a place of electric blue glacial lakes, waterfalls, abundant wildlife (from elk to bighorn sheep to grizzly bears) and breathtaking grandeur. Stay either in Banff, the busy hub of the area and home to classic hotels like the Fairmont Banff Springs, or pursue some solitude up at Lake Louise, where hiking trails up into the mountains—and beautiful silence—are just steps away.

2. Kluane National Park, Yukon

Home to Canada’s tallest peak (Mount Logan, altitude 19,551 feet), this giant park in the western Yukon—22,000 square kilometres of blue glaciers, lush valleys and untamed territory—can be seen from the sky, aboard a helicopter or an airplane equipped with skis (which allow high-altitude snow landings). Or, even better, hike it using the park’s vast network of trails—you could walk for days without seeing another person.

3. Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
Sitting on the coast of western Newfoundland, this is a truly unique park, a place that packs an astounding amount of geological diversity (coastal lowland, soaring peaks, precipitous cliffs, untouched lakes, waterfalls and even a former fjord, now cut off from the ocean) into a place that you can visit in just a couple days. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gros Morne is also a geological wonder, an area where the earth’s mantle is exposed, clearly displaying the process of continental drift.

4. Long Beach, Tofino, British Columbia

Named “the best surf town in North America” by Outside magazine, Tofino, a beautiful beach town clinging to the wild west coast of Vancouver Island, has, despite its relatively remote location, been drawing surfers, nature-lovers and those with wandering souls for years. Located just south of town, Long Beach is an almost mystical place, a broad and—yes—long beach of great waves and breathtaking beauty.

5. Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island

A spread of reddish sand skirting cool Atlantic waters, backed by dunes and geen, rolling hills, there are few places more pleasant to spend a summer’s day than Cavendish. But while the temptation to linger on the beach may be strong, a trip to this beach would not be complete without exploring the historic sites nearby, including the Green Gables Heritage Place, the muse of Lucy Maude Montgomery and home to the Island’s most famous fictional resident.

6. Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick

Recently shortlisted in a massive international competition to name a new seven wonders of the natural world, the tides on this big bay, which separates New Brunswick from Nova Scotia, are truly a sight to behold—the most extreme on earth, they rise and fall more than 50 feet in some places. These can be seen most dramatically at a place like Hopewell Rocks, unique stone formations that, at low tide, form towers on dry land but become bona fide islands as the water rises.

7. Churchill Manitoba

Set on the shores of Hudson Bay, this subarctic town has earned international fame as the polar bear capital of the world. So plentiful are the bears that the town actually has a “polar bear jail,” which holds wayward bears that wander into town until they can be released back into the wild. Seen on foot, from the air or from a boat (local tour companies venture into the mouth of the Churchill River in Zodiacs), encountering a polar bear in the wild is an unforgettable sight.

8. The Muskoka Lakes, Ontario

One of National Geographic’s Best Trips of 2012, the Muskoka Lakes—Toronto’s favourite cottage country—have long been a destination for weary weekend warriors from the city. And while, in the past, the ability to spend more than just a day here depended on whether (or not) you had a place on the lake (or access to one), the recent addition of some great luxury properties—including a lovely JW Marriott on Lake Rosseau—have opened up the area to non-cottagers. Shop and eat in the charming villages that dot the region, then log some serious time on Joseph, Rosseau, Muskoka or any of the other, smaller lakes in the area.

9. CN Tower, Toronto

Although its luster has dimmed somewhat as the records it once held have tumbled at the feet of taller towers in Asia, this Toronto landmark—the former tallest freestanding structure on earth—is, at 1,815 feet, still one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and the world’s tallest tower. And despite the fact that some of its glory has passed, the allure of a visit here is perhaps greater than ever, with the addition of its vertiginous glass floor and the installation of extra entertainment features, such as the recently launched EdgeWalk, which dares people to walk along the abyss on a five-foot wide span atop the tower’s main observation deck, 116 stories above the ground.

10. Quebec City
The oldest walled city in North America, Quebec City holds both European charm and sophistication alongside its unmistakable French Canadian character. It also bears the distinction of being the place where, as every good Canadian history student knows, Wolfe defeated Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham, securing Canada for the British Empire. Home to the iconic Chateau Frontenac, poutine, the clip-clopping of horse-drawn carriages on cobblestone streets, as well as the New France Festival (held in August) and, of course, a world-famous winter carnival, there’s always plenty to do, see and eat in the capital of La Belle Province.

 

Why Costa Rica Remains One Of The World’s Top Retirement Destinations

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2013-01-30-CostaRicablog.jpg

 

So what exactly is the attraction?

Costa Rica has some of the most breathtaking Pacific beaches on the planet, with miles of surf breaks that make its Pacific coast legendary. But Costa Rica is also a world leader in ecological, sustainable development. Much of Costa Rica’s lush, tropical forests are protected natural preserves, and Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world that set a deadline for being carbon-neutral and is actually nearing that goal.

This combination of natural beauty, sustainable ecological policies, and killer surf has ensured Costa Rica’s niche as one of the most popular tourism and vacation spots on earth, with 1.5 million people visiting this little Central American country each year.

But beyond a sun-drenched week on the beach, what makes living in Costa Rica so attractive?

The debate over health care in the U.S. put Costa Rica and the country’s public health care system in the spotlight. (Remember a particular talk radio host who said he’d move there if Obamacare passed? He hasn’t… but we think he’d be happier and healthier if he did.)

That’s because Costa Rica is one of the healthiest places on earth. In one area of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, people have some of the longest lifespans on record. The Costa Rican health care system is highly rated (even higher than the U.S.), with universal health insurance and world-class public and private hospitals. The public health insurance system is known as the CAJA, and all citizens and legal residents are required to participate.

No wonder life in Costa Rica is so appealing.

What about other costs? For sure you can live like a rock star in Costa Rica on $4,000 per month. Most expats, though, report that they are living quite happily and without sacrifices on a monthly budget of $1,500 to $2,500. That’s for two people living in a mid-range, two-bedroom home, and includes rent, utilities, transportation and Internet.

You’ll save, too, on the little things that matter the most, but can add up. Like:

• Ticket to see a movie in a modern theater — $5
• Tickets to see a cultural event at the National Theater start at $2
• Ticket to see a National Soccer Team Match in the brand-new stadium — $20
• Fresh Red Snapper — approximately $2.50 per pound
• A pound of beans — $0.90 per pound
• A pound of rice — $0.50 per pound
• Four avocadoes — $2
• Pineapples — $1 each
• A bottle of Imperial beer — $1.25
• A pack of local cigarettes — $2.20
• Bus ride from downtown San Jose to Escazu — $0.55
• Bus ride from San Jose to Jaco Beach (60 miles) — $4.11

But it’s not just the potential cost savings that you should consider… it’s the overall improvement in your quality of life. Better weather. Beautiful scenery. Healthcare that’s not only high quality, but affordable. Less stress. And one more thing…

Sociologists say Costa Ricans are the happiest people on the planet. This is according to the Happy Planet Index, an independent think tank founded to study environmental impact and human well-being. They say: “Costa Ricans report the highest life satisfaction in the world, and have the second-highest average life expectancy of the Americas (second only to Canada).”

Who wouldn’t be happy living in a paradise like this?

 

 

10 Tips For Parents Bringing Kids To Spain

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Historically the majority of foreigners buying a property in Spain for full time living were buying for retirement. Though in recent years we’ve experienced the arrival of many younger families (such as mine ten years ago) with youngsters growing up and preparing for school in Spain. Here’s some basic advice to making the transition to Spain, for all of your family, as easy as possible.
Tell them about it!

When you’re planning the big move abroad with your children, it is always best to keep them informed all the way along the road to Spain, so to speak. Build the move up as an adventure for all of the family (including the dog/cat/fish –delete as applicable).  Give them decisions to make, what colour pool tiles or umbrellas are just a couple of fun choices they can make for you!

Be aware too that the initial novelty can sometimes wear off and kids sometimes look back to their UK life and friends but support them and get their friends to visit too.

Start them young

With really young children it’s a good idea to check out the many social groups, websites and forums that have sprung up around Spain in recent years, all offering decent help, advice and information in English for newly arrived parents.

You’ll also find local Spanish families will want their child to learn English – get together!
Let them learn while they play (and you can practice too) as it is usually easier to begin new friendships with others who are bringing up babies and toddlers too.

The school run

Depending on the ages of your children and of course the type of education you’d like for them you have a several options to consider.  The educational system in Spain provides the state (public) schools and also private facilities. There is also the other (less known) option of colegios concertados which are a type of semi-private school but does often have better opportunities and resources for school kids than a state school but without the higher cost of a private education.

Check with the school you wish to register your child in to be sure you get the  application in to them  during the annual admission dates as this will give you the best chance of getting your kids into the school of your choice. Similar to the UK they places are chosen on a points system in state and semi-private schools. The points system covers things like: how far you live from the school, whether you have other children already studying there and even health issues.

School age kids

If your kids are already of school-age it’s often a good idea to take a good look around, not only for your choice of school for your children but also for you to get the most out of your new life in Spain.

Like anything , the types of school you will find will depend largely on where you choose to live; if you head off into the countryside there will be less schools and further distances to travel between them as the kids grow. It’s useful to remember that when they do go to a secondary school it is not at such a distance that hours are lost travelling each day.

International schools are always an option; although private they can be a good way of introducing your child to a foreign land and language but with the help that they will be taught mostly in English. They will soon pick up the Spanish language through building friendships at school.

Don’t forget your homework!

One of the big problems we found when our son hand grasped the language was that his English – especially written – suffered greatly and we had to be vigilant in making him study extra English at home.  If you want your child to continue their academic studies after school at a university or college they will need good written English so it’s worth the homework arguments!

Get them speaking the lingo quickly

Kids need to speak the language as soon as possible to integrate and make more friends (and to help you at the post office) and most good language schools will offer a course aimed at their age group. It also depends on where you decide to live and the nationalities in that area as to how quickly your child will speak the language, but one thing is for sure – they’ll get there faster than you probably!

Are some kids too old to move abroad?

Never.  Although 10 years of age has been quoted as the age after which it becomes harder for kids to adjust, in my experience it depends more on you and your family’s efforts in integrating than on any particular age barrier.

Teenagers, who you’d think would be the hardest to settle, away from their friends, are more likely to enjoy the freedom that Spain can offer and the safety of being out in the evening.

Let them grow up slowly

One thing is for sure and that is kids stay kids for longer in Spain – they don’t seem to have to grow as quickly as they do in the UK – and they rarely wear a hoodie in these temperatures!

You’ll see at local fiestas kids running (late at night) and throwing fireworks with their family and the way in which the rest of the populace lets them get on with enjoying themselves.

Accept that it’s safer in Spain for your kids

Kids, and therefore parents, feel safer in Spain and a visit to the local town square will be all the evidence you need that toddlers can run amok amongst a lads game of football but all they boys will do is laugh, and maybe tickle the youngster. It does feel like you’ve stepped back in time it can sometimes feel like you have stepped back a little in time and are back in the UK when communities existed and grandparents were involved in the family’s daily life.

Learn the culture

To give your kids the best opportunity of settling in and adjusting to their new home get them learning about the culture of Spain, local fiestas, traditions, foods (which you can cook at home with them too) and joining in with school events too.

And finally, embrace all that is good and different about Spain, let them stay up (really) late like the Spanish kids and take them with you when you go out in the evenings and discover the restaurants and bars in Spain are all child friendly! It’ll help you all to settle in and make new Spanish friends.

 

FIVE MUST DO´s WHILE IN SPAIN

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Party like you always wanted to!

Now, before you start thinking I’m encouraging visitors and residents to Spain to come and get smashed on Sangria, let me cut in. You see, celebrating in Spain (and you are pretty much free to celebrate anything here, full moon, old moon, cloudy day…you get the idea) is a matter of spending as much time as doing it as possible. So settle down, sup the wonderful local wines, take time over the food, and party! – Like you always wanted to!

 

Seafood and love it!

Whether you are near the coast or not, a visit to an evening fish market is a must for anyone keen on enjoying the very best of what Spain has to offer.

You can´t get fresher than an evening market, full of stalls (and cheery vendors) bearing the weight of another day’s fresh local catch. Yes, you´ll possibly pay a little more than you would in a Supermarket (but bear in mind – a lot of supermarkets fish come from all over Europe and are still labelled fresh) but, remember you are stepping into the Spanish way of life and any vendor will heartily help, and advise, you to make sure you enjoy your salty feast.

 

Take a walk!

Up to you of course just how far (or high?) you go but here in Spain there is something for everyone –and you can always reward yourself with a cool beer or even A mojito on a beach bar afterwards. A walk along the beach, watch the sun rise, or set or just stroll through the wash of the waves – eyes focused on that refreshing-looking Chiruinguito if necessary! Across the mountains taking in the breath-taking views or through pine forests chorusing to the cigarros – it´s up to you, but a walk, a hike or a stroll to a beach bar are all well worth appreciating here.

 

Take a swim in the sea – at night!

´What better way is there to cool off after a hard day´s relaxing in the sun than to let the (relatively) cool, and clean, water welcome you and midnight is just about the perfect time to do it! Take your pick from one of the hundreds of Blue Flag beaches along the coast of Spain and, suitably prepared with a couple of glasses of Rioja inside you, you can enjoy the experience safe in the knowledge that you have the best of Spain, inside and out.

 

Have a noisy coffee!

Yes it really is worth experiencing life in a typical Spanish café – if only to appreciate how on earth they make themselves understood. You see the Spanish are not the quietest communicators in the world but…they speak and debate with a passion that is not only unrivalled in my experience but also a fascinating spectacle. Whether it´s ´abuelos´ (grandfathers) slamming dominos down, hard, on a Formica table or the women of the family waving their arms and desperate to get their points over – all at once.

A great way to appreciate Spain and the Spanish, who make us feel so welcome over here – in between slams and shouts, of course!

 

Everlasting Memories in Mexico

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Mexico, a country with a vast history, eye-catching landscapes and amazing culture, located in North America, Mexico is the fifth largest country in the Americas covering almost 760,000 square miles it is bordered on East by the Gulf of Mexico, on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean, on the north by United States, on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize and the Caribbean Sea. Mexico was the home to many ancient civilizations like the Maya, Aztec, Olmec, Zapotec and Teotihuacan, The diversity in the vibrant culture of Mexico is a blend of all these civilizations, this unique culture and traditions add to all the other attractions of Mexico.

Grilld Chick Tostada Mexican Food

This country is very well famous amongst the tourists and Mexican beaches and Mexican food is admired by people from allover the world. According to the World Tourism Organization Mexico has one of the best and largest tourism industries in the world.  Some of the top attractions of Mexico are first of all Mexico City which is the capital of the nation, miles long charming beaches like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos and Acapulco, Nudity is not officially sanctioned in Mexico but you can find many beaches where topless and nude sun bathing and swimming takes place.

Many ancient sites are also found in Mexico, like Mayan archaeological site and Chichen Itza is one of the Mayan sites that worth’s a visit. Mexico has some of the best beaches in the world and for adventure lovers these beaches are a perfect place for water sports worlds second largest Coral reef is situated near the Mayan Riviera which makes it a perfect place to enjoy Scuba diving, you can also enjoy hiking in the sierra mountain region. Mexican Handicrafts are some thing you don’t want to miss, like Hand blown glass objects, clothing, Mexican hats, Baskets, Ceramics and wooden art pieces. You might also love to attend some of the Festivals in Mexico like the Carnival in Mexico, Day of the dead and Cinco de Maya.

All the attractions stated above are magnificent and once you have been there memories of these loving people, culture, architecture and beautiful places would last for long and you will surely visit again and again.