lundi 21 novembre 2016

Island Discovery on a Jan Mayen Cruise

Jan Mayen is a tiny volcanic island in the North Atlantic Ocean, 600 miles west of Norway and 350 miles north of Iceland. It is dominated by the 7,470-foot-high Mt. Beerenberg, the northernmost active volcano in the world, which last erupted in 1985. It is a territory of Norway, and has no native population. The eighteen people who currently live there operate the weather station, LORAN-C transmitter, and coastal radio station. Their base is called Olonkin City, which is located on the southwest coast. Small planes come in several times throughout the year, landing on the unpaved airstrip to bring supplies to the station personnel.

Island Discovery on a Jan Mayen Cruise

For many years no one was allowed to visit the island, but recently the tiny island has become available to tourists and a Jan Mayen cruise has found growing interest. As it is a territory of Norway, visitors need a passport to set foot on the island, and must keep in mind a few basic rules. As the environment is extremely fragile, no souvenirs—in the form of flowers, moss, or fungi—may be gathered. Permission to climb Beerenberg while on a tour of Jan Mayen must be requested from the Station Commander, as the glaciers are dangerous and often deeply crevassed.

Travelers on a Jan Mayen cruise will be in awe of the austere landscape—from the majestic slopes of Beerenberg to the curving, rocky coasts. In the summer, bright green moss spreads in a blanket across the land, and small wildflowers, lichens, and fungi also attract the eye. Jan Mayen is home to many birds, from the albatross-like fulmar to the black-and-white puffin. Harper seals and various species of whale can also be seen swimming in the chilly waters.

The Environment and Geography of Jan Mayen

Jan Mayen’s remoteness, its unique geography and environment, has particular appeal to adventurous travelers. This isolated island is located between the Greenland and Norwegian Seas, northeast of Iceland. It is located near the intersection of the Jan Mayen Fracture Zone and Mohns mid-ocean ridge. Though claims of its discovery are scattered throughout the centuries, the first person to indisputably find Jan Mayen, in 1614, was a Dutch whaling captain for whom the island was named. The island has belonged to Norway since 1929, and is home to the northernmost active volcano in the world, Haakon VII Toppen/Beerenberg. This volcano is also the island’s highest point, at 7,470 feet, its ice cap spilling glaciers down the slopes while plumes of smoke and vapor rise from the crater. The volcano has erupted six times since 1732, with the eruption in 1970 the first to be witnessed in modern times. Beerenberg is a favorite destination for visitors on their Jan Mayen tour. The most recent eruption was in 1985, with 250,000,000 cubic feet of lava spewing from the volcano in only 40 hours.

Jan Mayen is a long, narrow island—only 34 miles long and two to nine miles wide—with the volcano dominating the northeastern end. During a tour of Jan Mayen, travelers will have the opportunity to explore the southern half of the island that consists of a mountainous ridge of craters, mounds, and domes. Covering only about 230 square miles, it is only slightly more than twice the size of Washington, D.C. It has no native inhabitants, but there is currently a Long-Range Navigation (Loran-C) base and a weather and coastal services station, which are together operated by 18 personnel.

Because of its extreme northern location and the fact that it is a volcanic island partly covered by glaciers, Jan Mayen has no arable land. There is one unpaved landing strip, and planes come to bring supplies (and transport the personnel in and out) only eight to twelve times a year. While the land is mostly barren and dominated by impressive volcanic formations, there is some moss, grass, and small flowers. While on a trip to the island, keep an eye out for the 75 species of vascular plant, 176 species of moss, 140 species of lichen, and 66 species of fungi. In the warmer months, the moss spreads thick, bright green carpets over the rocks, sometimes so lush that people can sink in up to their calves.

The History of Jan Mayen

Jan Mayen has a relatively quiet history – mainly characterized by the hunting and whaling expeditions, but in its more recent history the island has become an important navigation station. Jan Mayen travel is also part of this island’s recent history, partially because its isolation has made travel to Jan Mayen difficult.

While the first undisputed discovery of Jan Mayen goes to the Dutchman Jan Jacobs May van Schellinkhout (for whom the island is named), in 1614, there are stories that suggest previous knowledge of the place. The Irish monk Brendan, known to be a good sailor, may have seen the island as early as the 6th century. After one voyage, he told about a black fiery island he had seen that he believed to be the entrance to hell. In later centuries, Vikings may have come across the island in their travels. In the early 1600s, however, various sailors—including Henry Hudson, Jean Vrolicq, and John Clarke—claimed the island’s discovery, naming and renaming it.

In the years following van Schellinkhout’s landing on Jan Mayen, the Dutch used the island as a whaling base. They established several whale oil boilers to extract oil from whale blubber, and built fortifications to protect their whaling operations. In the height of the whaling years, more than 1000 men lived on the Jan Mayen during the summers. As a result of the extensive hunting, the Greenland whale was nearly driven to extinction, and whaling in Jan Mayen’s waters ended by 1650.

Once the whalers left, the island was deserted for the next two and a half centuries, with only a few ships visiting it over the years. In 1882, however, an Austrian/Hungarian expedition established a base on Jan Mayen, staying there for a year while doing research and mapping. Then, in the early 1900s, Norwegian trappers began wintering on the island, trapping blue and white foxes and polar bears. Once again, overexploitation proved the undoing of the hunters, as the fox population declined rapidly, and the hunting ended in the 1920s.

The Politics of Jan Mayen

Jan Mayen, as a territory of Norway, flies the Norwegian flag. Since August of 1994 the island has been administered from Oslo through the county governor of Nordland, but the primary authority has been delegated to a station commander of the Norwegian Defense Communication Service.

Jan Mayen is subject to the laws of Norway, and any traveler wanting to visit this territory must have a valid passport. Visitors on a tour of Jan Mayen must also remember some basic rules unique to the island: the environment is vulnerable, and visitors are prohibited from picking souvenirs—whether wildflowers, fungi, or moss. Those interested in climbing on the Jan Mayen travel must have permission from the Station Commander to climb Beerenberg; the glacier is incredibly beautiful but can also be crevassed and very dangerous. Visitors should also take notice of the electrical equipment—both because of the high voltage and, in the spring, because of ice falling from the masts and antennas.

What to Expect from the Weather on Jan Mayen

Jan Mayen has an arctic maritime climate, which causes frequent storms and persistent fog. Though the island is small, the weather can vary greatly from one place to another; travelers on one side of the island might be treated with bright sunshine, while at the same time others will be experiencing impenetrable fog on the other. When the fog clears, however, the views of white-capped Beerenberg are stunning. A day may start out perfectly calm but end in a gale, and it is this wind that makes the average winter day’s 23° F feel like an icy -15°. Those enjoying a Jan Mayen tour in the summer will notice that the Southern Lagoon dries out, leaving a dry, sandy plain, making the eastern side of the island subject to dust and sandstorms.

The average temperature on Jan Mayen is 30° F, with very little fluctuation between summer and winter. In February and March, the coldest months, temperatures average around 20° F. In July and August they stay around 40° F, though the island has experienced temperatures as warm as 64° F and as cold as –22°. The island receives very little precipitation, averaging about 27 inches per year. If you travel in September and October you will see the most moisture, with about three inches falling per month. April and May are the drier months, with only an inch and a half of rain or snow.

Jan Mayen Wildlife

Jan Mayen has no indigenous mammals, but the island is home to many birds. Both the novice and the experienced birder will be delighted at the birding opportunities during their Jan Mayen cruise. Ninety-eight bird species have been documented by the personnel living at the weather station, though only 22 species have a significant presence. Some of these include the fulmar (a relative of the albatross), the striking black-and-white polar guillemot, the tiny puffin, and the eider duck. Fulmars are most common, with an estimated 160,000 nesting couples, followed by the guillemot, with over 100,000 individuals.

Harper seals and many species of whale—including humpback and Minke—can be spotted during a trip to Jan Mayen. And occasionally even a polar bear will make its way to the island, though this happens less often as there is less ice now than there was a century ago. Polar bears have not been seen on the island since 1990.
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dimanche 25 septembre 2016

Top 5 Kid Friendly US Destinations

Although there are a multitude of destinations considered kid-friendly, here are the top 5 you may want to consider on your next family vacation.

1. Disney World.  This ultimate family vacation has been the source of great joy for adults and kids alike.  Whether you stay several miles from the theme park or enjoy the onsite amenities, this vacation affords you an endless array of activities designed for the entire family.  From Epcot Center to Sea World; from Disney Village to Universal Studios; Water parks to Wildlife parks; no time is wasted at this world-famous resort.

Moreover, many online travel sites are offering special packages to Disney World as well as Southwest Airlines and others.  In addition, you can save quite a bit of money by selecting hotels that offer free stays for children, as well as free meals for the little ones. This is one destination where you can easily book a trip based on your budget and stick to it.

2. Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch.  From Alaska to Wyoming, there are a multitude of dude ranches perfect for a family vacation.  But, one of the most notable is the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch in Colorado, approximately 20 miles from Rock Mountain National Park.  Here, your family can engage in an array of activities including: horseback riding, hayrides, nature walks, and a host of amenities provided by the ranch.

This dude ranch is perfect for families who love the outdoors as well as enjoy visiting such historic sites as Fort Collins, Old West Museums, and Cheyenne (where you can buy tickets to the world’s largest rodeo held from July 17 to the 26th).

3. Hawaii.   While Oahu has always been a popular destination, it is Maui that attracts family vacationers more than any of its islands.  The reason is that it offers a wide variety of activities such as whale watching (seasonal); Lahaina, a famous whaling village; and Maui Ocean Center, home to the largest aquarium in Hawaii.

Your family can also take a ride on the Sugar Cane Train, circa 1890; visit Oheo Gulch to marvel at the spectacular waterfalls; spend a day at Iao Valley and view the Iao Needle; or visit the black-sand beaches at Waianapanapa in East Maui.

For fabulous weather, magnificent sunsets, and beautiful beaches; Maui is the perfect spot to unwind and enjoy spending quality family time.

4. New York.  Probably the most exciting vacation spot for families is New York.  The “Big Apple” has something for everyone; from Broadway to Rockefeller Center, you will never run out of things to do here.  Among the many sites to visit is Radio City Music Hall where you can take in a show; Madison Square Garden; the Empire State Building; the Village; 42nd Street, the Theatre District; museums; shopping, fabulous cuisine; the list is endless.

Spend a day walking along Fifth Avenue and stop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral; take a tour of NBC Studios; spend an afternoon in Central Park and visit the zoo there; go to the South Street Seaport or take in a matinee performance on a Wednesday afternoon.

Whether you stay uptown or downtown, you will always be in close proximity to the many historic sites and sounds that comprise Manhattan.  Moreover, your kids will enjoy all this city has to offer.

5. Las Vegas.  The city that never sleeps offers a wide range of attractions for kids.  This is why it is among the top family destinations in the US today.  Moreover, it is an affordable vacation because the hotel packages and meals will fit any budget.

Among the many attractions offered for families include: M&M's World, the Lion Habitat at MGM, Adventure Canyon, Game Works (a video game-playing wonderland), Sports Park, Circus Circus rides; Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage hotel; Shark Reef; New York, New York’s roller coaster; Madame Tussaud’s; Lake Mead; Children’s Museum (the largest of its kind); and Adventuresdome, the largest theme park in the U.S.

Many of these attractions are free and are well worth visiting.  Don’t forget the Flamingo Habitat at the Flamingo hotel or the spectacular water fountain show across the way at Caesars Palace.

For great fun and awesome rides and venues, Las Vegas is a wonderful choice for your next family vacation.

Top 5 Kid Friendly US Destinations
Top 5 Kid Friendly US Destinations

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Time for a Family Road Trip ! 

Deciding on a family road trip can be a daunting challenge, not to mention an exercise in patience.  However if you prepare ahead of time, the trip can be one of the most memorable experiences of your family’s life.

Here are some quick and easy tips for making your family road trip a fun and safe one.

First, prepare a checklist of items you will need.  This will include first aid kit, food, snacks, drinks, and lots of toys, coloring books, paper and crayons, a portable DVD player so your kids can watch their favorite movies; and a cooler.  A good idea is to ask the kids what games they would like to take, within limits of course.

Ensure that the snacks are healthy in nature.  Too many sugar snacks can have the kids bouncing off the car seats.  Remember, this is a relaxing family vacation and you want to avoid the kids getting bored or repeatedly asking you when you are going to arrive.

Check online to print out games for the road that you and the kids can play along the way.  There are an assortment of puzzles and riddles as well.

In addition, if you have very young children you will need to take the diaper bag and wipes for the occasional spills, blankets and pillows if applicable and a favourite item or stuffed animal for the young ones is a good idea as well.

Second, decide on the destination and then contact AAA for a trip ticket.  Ask for the scenic route, one that is much more calming and pleasing to the eye, especially the driver!

Third, as you check out the planned route you may want to check online to find gas stations along the way that offer the cheapest gas.  Also if there are any points of interest along the route mark them on the map and plan to stop at these sites.

Fourth, while on the road ensure that you make pit stops regularly.  This will allow the kids to run around and let off some steam, while allowing the adults to stretch and reenergize.  Bring along a football or soccer ball so that the entire family can have some fun while exercising at the same time.

Finally, it is very important that safety concerns are met.  This includes having the car checked at your local mechanic or gas station.  Ensure that the oil and filter are changed; the tires are well inflated (don’t forget the spare tire, too); the windshield wipers are replaced (if needed); and the car is in great condition before you head out.

In addition, you may want to place the following items in your trunk: a lawn chair, extra blanket, emergency road kit, umbrellas, water, flashlight and batteries, a battery-powered radio, and windshield wiper cleaner.  In the glove compartment include a first aid kit and cell phone charger.  Keep all medications in a Ziploc bag in the glove compartment as well.

Another good idea is to take a list of telephone numbers including the hotel or motel where you are staying as well as those of family and friends you may need to contact.

If you enjoy scrapbooking, this road trip may be a perfect opportunity to add new treasures to the book.  As you make stops at some scenic sites, ask the kids to find an item they would like to include in the scrapbook.  Or if the kids point out something along the way that they find fascinating, take a picture of it to include in the scrapbook as well.

Engage the kids in the decision making, age appropriate, and allow them to decide what they would like to bring.  Have them pack their clothes (check the suitcases afterwards) so they feel part of the overall experience. Planning ahead of time for a family road trip will save you time, stress, and money.  And the kids will enjoy this adventure, too!

Time for a Family Road Trip ! 
Time for a Family Road Trip !  

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Romantic Weekend Getaways

Some of the most romantic weekend getaways exist in the most populated destinations in the US.  Here are a few to consider.

I’ll Take Manhattan.  You can spend a fabulous weekend in New York City and stay either at the Marriott Hotel on Broadway, for example, which is right near the Theatre District; or you can book a weekend at the Plaza Hotel overlooking Central Park. Perhaps you would like to stay at the Mandarin Hotel and Spa where you can both be pampered for the weekend. No matter what your budget is; Manhattan is more than accommodating.

Needless to say, Manhattan is considered one of the most romantic spots in the U.S.  Whether you enjoy dinner in your hotel suite or dine at any one of the five star restaurants, the night is always young for lovers who seek solitude in a city that hosts millions of tourists each year.  Whether you take a carriage ride through Central Park, enjoy an opera or symphonic performance at Lincoln Center, or walk along Fifth Avenue during the evening hours; the city offers something for everyone.

San Francisco. With its rolling hills, fantastic cuisine, and friendly people; San Francisco offers hotel stays that are sure to enhance your romantic side.  Among the most notable hotels are the Fairmont hotel, located in the Nob Hill area; the Mandarin Oriental, which is known for its best views of the Bay and the city; or the downtown W San Francisco hotel that is close to cable cars, shopping, restaurants, and theatres.

Stroll along Fisherman’s Wharf and stop by Ghirardelli Square where you can pick up some of their famous chocolate before having dinner at one of the many seafood restaurants there such as McCormick and Kuleto’s, where the panoramic view of the Bay, as well as Alcatraz island; both of which are a stunning backdrop.  You may also wish to stop by O’Neill’s Irish Pub for an after-dinner drink. You may leave your heart here after departing this great city by the Bay.

Las Vegas. Time will stand still at this resort destination.  With a myriad of hotels to choose from you can enjoy your time here without having to worry about time, because there are no clocks in the casinos.

With great weather year round (hot, but always dry), you can wile away the early morning hours at the hotel’s pool and enjoy the evening attending a fabulous show or visit lady luck at the casino.

Whether you take a stay at the Venetian Hotel and enjoy a romantic ride on a gondola; enjoy the Spa and Salon at the Hotel Bellagio; or marvel at the lush indoor gardens, aquarium, and the Secret Garden at the Mirage; Las Vegas is both affordable for any budget and is the perfect weekend romantic getaway.

Lake Placid.  Far away from the maddening crowd, you will find comfort and romance at the Mirror Lake Inn.  With gorgeous mountain and lake views, fireplace, and very large tubs, you will find the accommodations more than satisfactory.  In fact, they are quite conducive to a romantic weekend.

Among the many things you might like to do is to take a walk to the neighboring town of Lake Placid, only two miles away. Here you will find shops along Main Street and you can stop at the Cottage for lunch.  Swimming, fishing, canoeing, and kayaking are some of the activities available at Mirror Lake Inn.

The calm and quiet ambience of this Inn is the perfect weekend getaway destination for couples.

Romantic Weekend Getaways

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Family Camping Fun

While getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life is one of the reasons families choose to go camping, for kids – it’s the ultimate adventure.   If you are planning a family camping trip this summer, here are some tips that will ensure your vacation is both a safe and fun experience.

1. Pre-camping preparation.  If you have small children, you may want to select a tent that will accommodate all if you comfortably.  On the other hand, if you are camping with older children, it may be a good idea to purchase additional pup tents to give them some sense of independence.

Another great tip is to practice assembling the tents in your backyard so as to avoid wasting time at the camp site.

2. Selecting a campsite.  Depending upon whether you decide to “rough it” or choose a campsite that is close to amenities, you can research the many campsites online that offer comprehensive information on the area.  This will enable you to decide not only what equipment, clothing, and food you need to take, but the available hiking areas and points of interest as well.

Ensure that the campsite you select is an official campsite area.  Moreover, when researching camping sites it’s a good idea to look for those areas that are on the high ground.  Thus, if it rains, your tent and equipment will not become water logged.  

3. Make a checklist.  This is very important to ensure you do not forget anything on your camping trip. Among the items on your checklist, some of the more important items you will need are:

* Cooking gear such as a frying pan, a few pots, a bucket, barbecue grill or stove, bags with a Ziploc, and cooking utensils.  In addition, food containers and canned goods are best.  It is also recommended that you prepare meals at home and package them in containers for the trip.  Also bring water, a can opener, hot water kettle and coffee pot, and a cooler with a block of ice.

* Packing the appropriate clothing is also essential.  Depending upon the location, wearing light layers is a good idea as well as packing some sweaters and jackets for the evening hours.  Extra socks, hats, and gloves may also be warranted. If you intend to engage in some hiking, proper hiking boots are necessary.

* Sleeping bags, first aid kit, flashlights, cell phone, garbage bags, toiletries, sunscreen, ointments, a map of the area, insect repellent, games for the kids, and rainwear.

For a complete checklist on what to bring on a camping trip, there are many camping websites that offer a myriad of suggestions.

4. When you reach the camp site, choose an area to set up the tents. Ensure there are no rocks or debris where the tent will be set up.  Most campgrounds will post warning signs or instructions regarding specific animals and vegetation.

5. When preparing a campfire, if appropriate, ensure that it is set up further away from the tents.  After you have roasted the marshmallows, sang songs, and told ghost stories; douse the fire before going to bed.
Finally, enjoy the entire camping experience.  Sleeping under the stars, communing with nature, and relishing the time spent with family will not only bring a family closer together, but the memories of this experience will last forever.

 Family Camping Fun
 Family Camping Fun

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Best Family Beach Vacations

The best beaches can be found along the Atlantic and Pacific Coast.  Here are a few ideas you may wish to consider for your next family beach vacation.

Florida.  From Ft. Lauderdale to Miami Beach, Florida is a prime resort area for family vacations.  With perfect weather and miles and miles of beaches, this area is affordable, diverse, and has a wide variety of water-sports, restaurants, and a myriad of activities for children. Cocoa Beach is only an hour away from the Kennedy Space Center and Disney World.  In addition, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort is considered one of the best in Florida.

Myrtle Beach.  Among the many favourite activities for children include: Ripley’s Aquarium, Le Grande Cirque, a show quite famous for its acrobatics and other circus performers; and Myrtle Waves Water Park.  For older children, a definite must-see is the NASCAR Speedpark.

With a myriad of dining options, shopping, and other historic sites; Myrtle Beach has been named the number one choice for beach family vacations in the U.S.

Hamptons.  One of the most affordable vacations for beach-loving families is East Hampton, New York.  The best place to stay is at the East Hampton House.  The rooms are available in one and two bedroom units that contain fully-equipped kitchens and/or kitchenettes.  Moreover, you have guest privileges at the nearby beach.

Although this vacation spot does not offer food, it does have an indoor gym and offers morning coffee there as well.  But, across the street is a deli that has an array of items on their breakfast menu and is very affordable.  In addition, there is a Chinese restaurant across the street as well as a take-out barbeque, and deli.

The grounds are impeccable and there is a very large pool (one for the kiddies, too) where you can lounge in the sun.  A tennis court is also on the premises.  Every room has its own balcony with lounge chairs and a table.

Best Family Beach Vacations

 If you live in the New York area, it is a 90-minute trip by car.  The East Hampton Inn is centrally located – five minutes from town, restaurants, shopping, and a movie house.  You can even take a short trip to Montauk and visit the historic lighthouse or spend time at the beach there.

Hawaii.  Of course, nothing can compare to the beaches that are in Oahu, Maui, and Kauai.  No matter what island you choose, Hawaii has the most pristine beaches anywhere in the U.S.  Moreover, there are black-sand beaches on the island of Maui as well as a myriad of activities for the entire family.

San Diego.  Shifting to the west Coast, your family might enjoy a stay at the Beach Cottages.  This site offers numerous amenities such as water sports, biking, as well as an amusement park.  For the kids, San Diego Zoo and Sea World are not far from the Beach Cottages.

Centrally located to restaurants and shopping, Beach Cottages is an affordable vacation spot where the family can enjoy the sun, the surf, and other amenities available.  In fact, you can book a studio that offers a fully equipped kitchen.

Redondo Beach.  Located on Santa Monica Bay, this report haven is perfect for family beach vacations.  Here you can enjoy water sports, fishing bicycling, kayaking, as well as fine restaurants shops located not far from the Santa Monica Pier.  There are many hotels that are situated across the street from the beach or within walking distance.  Each has its own set of amenities that are geared towards families.

Best Family Beach Vacations
Best Family Beach Vacations

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