If I Could Stay Anywhere in Las Vegas… Monday, Jul 15 2013 

I’ve been to Vegas lots of times, as you’ve seen on here. And I’ve 

Encore

The Wynn is THE staple for modern luxury in Las Vegas. But when I was there, I much preferred their sister property, the Encore. While both the Wynn and the Encore were filled with opulent yet simple luxury, I preferred the Encore because it was filled with colors.

My favorite thing at Encore is XS Nightclub — home to pool parties at night during the summer. I went on the second weekend they were open and hung out with Ice-T and Coco!

The Palms

And the Palms may be where I want to stay most of all. This is a property that has always treated its celebrity guests very well — and I wouldn’t mind rubbing shoulders with the rest of them.

If I ever hit the lottery, I’ll book a jet charter Las Vegas before taking up residence in one of their suites. The Playboy-themed one with its own bowling alley and rooftop pool? What about the giant hot pink one with tons of pillows?

At either rate, you’ll find me enjoying Rain Nightclub and its great balls of fire.

Bellagio

As someone who has watched Ocean’s Eleven about 30 times, I would love the chance to go to the Bellagio and see it for myself. It has a really nice faux-Italian ambiance, with its beautiful artwork, and I’d love a chance to see more of it up close. Especially in a fountain-view room!

The Bellagio is home to Bank, where I had one of my more “meh” Vegas nightlife experiences, but the pool is pretty fabulous.

Which Las Vegas hotel would YOU like to stay in?

The Immortal Allure of Mount Benacantil Monday, May 27 2013 

Today’s guest post takes us to sunny Alicante, Spain.

Although many tourists may immediately associate the region of Alicante in Spain with bespoke boutiques lining the tranquil city streets and sun-beached facades, the unique and even turbulent history of this unforgettable region cannot be ignored.  As many visitors will utilise a car hire service after arriving at the nearby airport, they will find themselves in the enviable position to witness the emerging grandeur of Mount Benacantil as they approach the city limits.  One is immediately taken aback by the impression of both longevity and even a sense of humility.  Indeed, this mountain boasts much more than geologic history.

 

Natural History

One of the most striking features of this 500-foot tall monolithic giant is the unique geologic structure on its southwestern slope.  Millions of years of weathering have carved out what appears to be a face on the slope; this feature is known as la cara del moro which can be roughly translated as the Moor’s Head.  It only makes sense, for this profile seems to be a silent sentient incessantly peering out to the horizon; the stunning panoramic vistas offering an undeniable attraction for the intrepid hiker.  

While on the leeward side of this mountain many pine trees and other small shrubbery can be found, the windward side to the south is sparsely vegetated due to the constant salt-water breezes.  Still, numerous birds have made their homes within this windswept mountain.

 

Human Habitation

Most humans choose to locate their communities on high location for protection, and Mount Benacantil proves to be no different.  Although it is thought that this area has been inhabited for millennia, it was first mentioned in text during the 12th century by Arabic historian Al-Idrisi.  During the Moorish occupation, many towns and villages were perched at the foot of this hill.  The modern-day cities of Santa Cruz and San Anton are actually known to have been constructed upon ancient ruins dating back for centuries.  These locations are now well known for their relaxing coffee shops and local Spanish pubs, but the main attraction for many visitors and locals alike is the 9th century castle of Santa Barbara.

 

Santa Barbara Castle

Known in Spanish as El Castillo de Santa Barbara, many artifacts from Roman and Bronze Age eras have been found nearby.  The castle itself was built nearly 1100 years ago as a Muslim fortification designed to reinforce control of the budding town of Alicante and nearby regions.  Although the castle remained in Moorish hands for centuries, in 1248 the Castillian army under the command of Alfonso of Castille finally defeated the retreating Muslim owners and renamed the castle after the patron saint of the day when the fortification fell; Santa Barbara.

 

Although the castle remained in Castillian hands, it was nonetheless involved in numerous conflicts in the years that followed.  During the years of French expansion this location played a pivotal strategic role and thus the castle found itself under siege by French warships in 1691 and English soldiers occupied this location for a period of no less than three years during the War of Spanish Succession.  The 18th and 19th centuries saw El Castillo de Santa Barbara wane in importance; mainly due to advances in artillery and stronger fortifications that offered better protection.  Like many ancient relics, the structure fell into disrepair and it was not until 1963 when it was finally opened to the public after years of renovations.

 

The 21st Century Castle

Visitors are now privy to gain a first-hand appreciation of the important role that this castle has played in regional history.  The Museum of Alicante is located within the structure’s walls and visitors can enter through lifts that were actually carved directly into the underlying mountain itself.  There are numerous guided tours that offer unique glimpses into the culture and lifestyle of ancient times and on a characteristically hot summer day, refreshing sea breezes can be enjoyed by relaxing at Park Ereta which is located only a stone’s throw from the castle walls.  In fact, a local beach known as El Postiguet can also be frequented, as it lies directly at the foot of the mountain.

 

Mount Benacantil and the Castle of Santa Barbara are two of the most undeniably powerful attractions of Alicante.  The synergy of unique history, an agreeable climate and a truly unforgettable landscape continue to draw countless travellers to this location each and every year.

Life in London So Far Wednesday, Dec 5 2012 

Imperial War Museum

Two months ago, I made the sudden decision to uproot my life and move to London.  It was spontaneous, it was passionate, and I’m still convinced that I made the absolute correct decision.

People.  Yes, many of my friends live in London, which is amazing.  One of my best friends in London lives just down the road from me in Shepherd’s Bush.  I love having so many travel bloggers living around here as well because there’s always something going on, from a birthday party to a night out with drinks.

Lots of interesting day trips and places to visit.  Living in northwest England felt like a bit of a black hole at times — but here in London, it seems like there are so many exciting places within a few hours’ drive!  In the next few months, I hope to enjoy the beaches of Brighton, the architecture of Oxford, and hopefully the landscapes of Cornwall and Devon as well.  I’d also like to return to Bath and get a second crack at the Roman baths.

Visitors are more likely to come.  When people are passing through the UK, where do they pass through?  Nearly all of them pass through London, of course!  And with so many cheap hotels in London, there’s something suitable for every budget.

Ethnic food.  I had no idea how starved I was for ethnic food living in a small town in England’s northwest.  Up there, Italian counts as ethnic food.  With respect, I disagree.  Ever since I’ve moved to London, I’ve been indulging in cuisines from all over the world, especially my two favorite Asian comfort foods: Korean and Vietnamese.  You have no idea how good it is to eat a bibimbap or a big bowl of pho after going without for so long.

Travel blogging events.  There is a huge travel blogging community here in London, and there are always events taking place that make it easy to network with PR companies, destination marketing organizations, and other travel-related companies and businesses.  As I’ve learned again and again, there’s nothing more valuable than networking.

It’s easy to go anywhere else.  I love that there are so many cheap last minute holidays departing from London.  Because it’s the main transportation hub, deals are often cheapest from London.  They’re certainly the cheapest ones from the UK.

So whether I want to fly to Italy and eat everything in sight or fly to Greece and relax on a beautiful beach, or even just go explore a new Eastern European city, anything is possible.  And when you’re as flexible as I am on dates or destinations, you can find some truly unbelievable holiday deals.

Living in London has been wonderful so far…and I know it will only get better!

Traveling Alone in Australia: How to Meet Others! Tuesday, Apr 17 2012 

Travelling alone can be daunting in a big country like Australia. Even if you’ve always dreamed of visiting Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef or Sydney Harbour, you might be delaying the trip of a lifetime because you don’t have a companion. So here are some easy ways of meeting people for the solo traveller.

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Excursions

Packages that roll transport, food and accommodation in with sightseeing and organised tours can take a lot of hassle out of travelling alone. With everything from daytrips to several weeks of touring available, from bush to city to coast – you’ll find something to fit your budget, time constraints and personality. And of course, you won’t be doing it on your own!

Volunteering

There are many networks that help travellers link up with organisations requiring volunteers in Australia. You could be working with native animals in a rainforest or in the outback. If you’re more an indoors type, you might prefer to take on an internship or work for a charity.

If you have a green thumb or an eye for ethics, WWOOFing – “Willing Workers on Organic Farms” – is a distinctive way of experiencing a country and a great way of meeting fellow travellers. This worldwide network of organic farmers host guests who work on their farms in exchange for board and an immersive experience in their lifestyle.

Dating sites

Many choose Australia for an extended holiday. You might stay a few months, even a year. Considering the breadth of the continent, it makes sense to spend plenty of time becoming immersed in the natural environment and culture. You might fall in love with the place – or with a person. And who knows, maybe you’ll even settle down there.

But without networks of friends or work colleagues, it can be difficult to meet people suited to you. With online dating Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra and Perth are all cities you will discover to be bursting with singles. If you visit eHarmony Australia and its potential partners will suddenly seem a whole lot more accessible.

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Choice of accommodation

If you’re travelling alone, one of the best ways to meet people is to stay in a youth or backpackers hostel, since they are designed with the solo adventurer in mind. And it’s not all 20-bed dorms and questionable communal bathrooms. Many boast affordable private rooms, and there’s a growing number of “flashpacker” hostels – so called for their stylish décor and well-kept rooms for a fraction of the cost of a hotel.

Caravaning, campervaning or camping is also a great way to meet people, especially in summer. In Australia, you can turn up at most caravan sites and stay a night or two in a caravan or cabin for a bargain.

For those who are very keen to meet the locals in their native habitat, Couchsurfing is a website with a growing network of people all over the world. You can sign up and be hosted in people’s spare rooms or on sofa-beds for free.

So if you were hesitating about solo travel in Oz, pause no more! The locals and other lone adventurers are waiting for you.

Vivenne Egan is a journalist and editor born and raised in Sydney, now based in the UK.

Bali Memories Thursday, Jan 19 2012 

Almost a year ago, I arrived in Bali for what was to be a month of wonders.

It didn’t exactly turn out that way. My time in Bali ended up being restricted to the Kuta area and the Ubud area, and a disaster in Nusa Tenggara left me a mess, not wanting to move from my room, much less travel.

I know that I need to go back to Bali and do what I should have done the first time.

While all Bali flights arrive in Kuta, I don’t plan on spending time in that city this time around. Here is where I will be visiting instead:

Medewei Beach: I learned to surf in Bali and honed my skill in Mexico. This time around, I want to live in a surfing hangout where the others live and breathe surfing every moment of the day. Could I fit in with them? I doubt it, but I could try.

Lovina: I hear mixed reviews of Lovina — some love it; some say it’s good for nothing but sunsets. But the beaches look very beautiful, as do the cliffs heading straight down into the ocean. And it’s very sleepy — nothing remotely like Kuta.

Gunung Batur: How about something completely different? Batur is an active volcano! The Balinese friend I made on the flight to Bali told me that I had to climb Gunung Batur — it was like nowhere else in Bali, and a huge cultural experience (unlike Ubud, where the culture is largely anesthetized for tourists).

Amed: I’ll never forget the Balinese guy working in Kuta who invited me to join him and a group of his friends on a road trip to Amed. Believe me, it’s not as skeezy as it sounds — that’s just the kind of people the Balinese are. When you meet them, you become a friend. It’s instant. And anyway, Amed is supposed to have lots of amazing beaches, and diving (not my thing, though).

One thing is for sure: when I return to Bali, I’d like to explore by motorbike. I love traveling on two wheels, and it seems like a great way to explore the island and the places off the beaten path.

I hope I get back there soon.

Bali Thursday, Jan 19 2012 

Bali

Fun with Obamicons Sunday, Feb 1 2009 

I’m probably a bit late on this, but it’s still fun.  Out of curiosity, I searched to see if there was a way to turn your picture into the style of the Shepard Fairey portrait of Barack Obama.  You know, this:

Well, I found a great site: Obamicon.me.  You can put in any picture and play around with the color distribution of the four colors, eventually making a perfect portrait.

I made some nice ones.  This was my favorite:

obamacon6

I made a few other portraits…

kailsobama

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And then I had fun with a few of my favorite pictures:

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Celebrating the Fourth of July…

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This is what gives me hope.

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And one of the greatest photos of 2008: getting surprised by Maxi in Buenos Aires.  The title says it all.

But best of all are the photos from my Vegas trips:

obamacon2

The morning after.

obamacon3
George Clooney cops a feel.

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Believe it or not, we hadn’t even left the hotel yet when this was taken.

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Best fast food ever.

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What we do best.

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Best picture of all: 6:30 AM, just having left Drai’s, Lisa lies down in the alley next to the IP, begging to go in.  One of the greatest nights of our lives.

Wordle Fun Friday, Aug 15 2008 

I just discovered Wordle from The Modern Gal today.  It’s a way of turning words into art.  You submit text — either copied and pasted or from an RSS feed — and they turn it into art that you can customize any way you’d like.

It took me a while to keep it from crashing, so make sure your Java is up to date!

I can’t make the images any larger, so click on them to see the full size.

First of all, I call this one Kate’s Weight Problem. This is actually what you get when you just submit my RSS feed. Weird.

Vegas — made from my entries tagged “Vegas” (I also removed our names, but if I hadn’t, there would have been a giant “Lisa” in the middle of everything)

Friends — made from my entries tagged “My Friends Are Awesome”

Friends II — not including any of the Vegas entries

PoliticaKate — made from my “Politica” entries

I love how it says “GO FOX RUN” in the middle of “People”!

Kanye West — Good Life lyrics

Here are some by other people that I loved:

Yes We Can

Obama’s Speech on Race

Oz

This will amuse you for hours on hand! Enjoy.

VEGAS! Day Three: Madame Tussaud’s Tuesday, Jul 8 2008 

Even before arriving in Vegas, we knew that Madame Tussaud’s would be one of the highlights of our trip.  And it sure didn’t disappoint!  While anyone can pose with a bunch of wax statues, we’re the Brood — so, naturally, we kicked it up a notch or eleven.

There are dozens of pictures — we have nearly 200 between the three of us — so I’m going to just post the absolute funniest of the pictures that we have.  (I’ve also taken care to omit the REALLY inappropriate ones.  Let me know if you want to see those!)

Enjoy!

3/4 of the Brood and Hef — complete with motorboat!

Me and The Rock — I kind of forget to keep one eyebrow down.

Boozin’ with Sean Connery!  (As you can see, we removed the props whenever we could.)

Blue Men!

We told this guy that he HAD to put on the wedding dress and marry George.

You can put on a dress and marry George, or just get it on with him.  Guess which one I chose?

Alexa: “I’ll curse YOU, Bambino!”

Tiger!  RAWR!

Alexa attempts to kill Arnold Palmer!!  Easily one of the funniest shots.

Alexa gets punched by Evander Holyfield.

Lisa gets on top of Britney.

I’ll include a nice one.  Here’s me and my idol, Stevie.  I think this one looks pretty realistic.

Lisa rocks out with Steven Tyler.  “BON JOVI!  BON JOVI!!”

Alexa as Blanket, Michael Jackson’s hidden child!

California Love with 2Pac.  Lisa’s wearing his bandanna.

SPIDEY!!!

I climb into Frank’s arms.

AND THEN I GET STUCK IN HIM!  I was laughing so hard, I nearly peed my pants…Lisa and Alexa were nearly falling over, too.

Lisa gives Judy Garland a high-five.

Alexa and Pavarotti — RIP.

I do something that I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time.

SANTA???

“What?  No way!  WE LANDED ON THE MOON!”

Dumb & Dumber

I’m going to New Mexico! Wednesday, Feb 6 2008 

I’m going to New Mexico in 10 days, and I’m so excited!

I am SO HAPPY to be going on vacation, FINALLY!!  I have a WHOLE WEEK off from work, which has never happened at my job (and I’ve been there over a year and a half).  NINE DAYS AWAY FROM THE OFFICE!!

I’ve taken a few trips — to Quebec and Texas last March, and to DC last June — but each of those were only for a few days, and I haven’t taken off more than a day at a time since then.

I’m going with my mom, who was planning this trip for a while and invited me along spontaneously.  One of her best friends, Roz, moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico in quasi-semi-pre-retirement.  My mom has visited her a few times and she absolutely LOVES it there.

Las Cruces is located in the south of the state.  It’s a fertile valley in the middle of the desert, and the city is home to New Mexico State University.

We will be flying into Albuquerque, in the north of the state, and road tripping down so we can see more of the state, including the white sands reservation and Santa Fe (I hope!).  All of the family vacations I’ve ever had (excluding camping) were always go-go-go, do it all, pack as much into as little time as possible.  This is going to be relaxing.  And I need to relax, especially in a warm, dry desert climate!

CrazyBlindDate Monday, Nov 12 2007 

OkCupid has recently launched a new Boston service called CrazyBlindDate. It’s great — you just put in your basic information and the time you’d like a date, and they arrange one for you!

It’s so quick and easy.

I just got confirmation for my first CrazyBlindDate. It will be on Tuesday evening at a bar in Cambridge.

They do it without pictures — you do submit a picture, but it only comes out pixellated, like your identity is being concealed. You do know each other’s first names, and a few details, but that’s about it.

What I know about this guy:
–Tall (good)
–Dark-haired (good)
–Seems nice….I guess….
–Seems like he could be smart….I guess….
–Doesn’t use as many hyphens as I’d like

Well, we’ll see how it goes!

Also, I have become obsessed with OkCupid lately. LOVE that site. It’s technically a dating site, but the tests and questions and stuff are a lot of fun. Best of all, it’s free.

Just One Thing to Say: Wednesday, Nov 29 2006 

Everything happens for a reason.

?!?!?!?! Saturday, Nov 4 2006 

WHAT THE HELL?!?! It just deleted my incredibly long around-the-world entry!! I have the rest of it saved on the other computer, thankfully….

Okay…. Saturday, Nov 4 2006 

I don’t know what Blogger’s doing, but it’s not showing my complete posts on facebook, and it’s not showing recent posts in the archives. Hopefully it will be fine, since Blogger has been so good to me up until now.

Just in Case Thursday, Jun 29 2006 

If I ever decide that I want to cut my hair,

STOP ME.

Thank you.