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July’s Colorful Gion Festival in Kyoto Japan

June 10, 2014 by  

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July is the perfect time to be emerged in Japanese culture. The Gion Festival takes place in Kyoto throughout the entire month and is one of the three largest festivals in Japan and is also part of the Yasaka Shrine. All throughout Japan, the festival is recognized for its beauty and size. The summer festival apparently originated about 1,100 years ago, originally as a religious ceremony which was celebrated by the Japanese people who prayed to get rid of the bad plaque in hopes of appeasing the gods. There are 66 floats, symbolizing the number of provinces that were in Japan when the festival was first celebrated.
The main attraction of the festival takes place between the 16th and the 18th and is called the Yoiyama festival. At the festival, the floats are displaced and lit up with festive music called Gion-bayashi. During Yoiyama, people visit each float and buy good luck charms called omamori, made from sass bamboo grass used to ward off evils. There are two types of floats used in the parade yama and hoko.  The hoko floats are enormous and up to 25 meters tall and weighing up to 12 tons with…

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The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta Dominates the Skies in October

June 6, 2014 by  

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For nine days straight at the beginning of October in Albuquerque New Mexico, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta dominates the scene in this high-desert city along the Rio Grande, drawing some 700 balloonists and more than 100,000 spectators. Every morning, hundreds of brightly colored hot-air balloons lift off into the sky just as the first golden rays of sunlight spill over the purple peaks of the Sandia Mountains. Mariachi musicians greet spectators of all ages, who stare up at the sky as they warm their hands on a cup of hot cocoa or savor a breakfast burrito laced with New Mexico’s signature roasted red or green chiles. What began in 1972 with 13 balloons taking off from a shopping mall parking lot has grown into the world’s largest hot-air balloon event—and one of the most widely photographed events on the globe. The festival is held at the custom-designed 365-acre Balloon Fiesta Park, where visitors can browse the booths of food vendors, retailers and artists. In 2000, a record-breaking total of 1,000 balloons went aloft, though since then the number has been capped at 750. A combination of geography and climate makes Albuquerque the ideal…

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Head to Ireland for Hundreds of Festivals Every Weekend All Summer

May 23, 2014 by  

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Ireland is a nation of festivals the year round, but in summer there are literally hundreds of festivals going on, with dozens on an average weekend. Let’s take a look at a few highlights from June through the end of August 2014. Take a chance to let the hair down and go out for a bit of ‘craic’, take the opportunity to do something stimulating, new – or downright eccentric. From the local town and village festivals to massive celebrations and exciting vibes in the cities, where should you go, what should you see? Read on – here’s a guide through some of the best summer festivals in 2014Cork Midsummer Festival (21 – 30 June) has been one of Ireland’s leading international multi-disciplinary arts festivals since 1997. It transforms Cork, Ireland’s third biggest city, every June with a choc-full programme of local, national and international events including theatre, dance, opera, music, visual arts and outdoor arts. This festival has mega reputation for presenting work in unusual and surprising locations, as well as in the city’s many well-appointed arts venues. Head for Cork Midsummer Festival and you could be on a boat in the harbour at 4.00am…

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Lightning in a Bottle Festival, a Heart & Mind Expanding Oasis

May 21, 2014 by  

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I recently discovered the Lightning in a Bottle Festival which was originally designed to be a heart and mind expanding oasis. Think creative, spiritual and joyous cradling among other like-minded people amidst uplifting and inspiring music. While I haven’t been to one of their events yet, from what I gather from a friend who is a speaker and their website, it’s a smaller version of Burning Man, but in a much smaller environment but without the art, the man and the fire. The Lucent Temple, in the center of the festival this year, where people can go to stretch and open their body core with yoga and movement. There are a variety of workshops and traditional and indigenous skills in The Village as well. You will be able to learn from pioneers and experts teaching a variety of valuable skills and lessons. They will have workshops to allow you to explore a subject you’ve always been interested in, or pick up skills in your established field. Past workshops and panels at LIB have featured everything from Solar Cooking to Composting, from African dance to Qi Gong, from Sensual Chocolate to Social Networking and Cyber Consciousness,…

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Sun Valley Idaho for Art, Culture, Hiking & Natural Beauty

May 16, 2014 by  

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Sun Valley Idaho is this fascinating intersection of nature and culture in the middle of America’s west. While not as easy of a hop skip and a jump from the east coast, it’s a quick flight from California and other west coast city hubs like Salt Lake City, Denver, Las Vegas, Missoula and Phoenix, and it’s only about a four hour drive from Boise, which is a quick Southwest shuttle flight from Oakland CA. It wasn’t my first trip to Sun Valley this past April, however it was my first trip in a long long time. Some dozen or so years ago, I drove through Idaho on an exploration of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and the surrounding states. It was then summer and all of our activities were centered around hiking, long drives, camping, drinking in dive bars and saloons and eating at diners. Spring in Sun Valley is unique in that you can still take in some of the Spring skiing that Sun Valley has to offer (note, they have the largest snow making machine in the country, so I was still able to get some decent runs in – see our separate write up on the

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The Landing Resort & Spa Boasts Stunning Views of Lake Tahoe

May 15, 2014 by  

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The Landing Resort & Spa is spread out along South Lake Tahoe‘s coast, meaning that most of their 88 guest rooms offer fabulous views of the lake and surrounding mountains. The property is located adjacent to Lakeside Beach and three blocks from the Heavenly Village & Gondola, Village Center, and gaming casinos.  Lakeside Marina offers boat and kayak rentals, as well as water taxi service to other South Shore attractions. Virtually next door to The Landing, Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course (which has fabulous lunches and dinners with stunning views) offers beautiful fairways on the shores of Lake Tahoe for golf lovers. The Landing’s rooms are elegant and sophisticated, yet warm and inviting, combining an intriguing blend of contemporary and traditional. Carved woods compliment smooth granite. Woodsman plaids blend with sleek leathers. Chrome and crimson create eye-catching accents. All guestrooms offer in-room dinning, voice mail, complimentary high-speed internet access and cable/satellite HD TV channels, gas fireplaces, plush terry robes (quite honestly, they’re the plushest robes I’ve ever worn in a 5 star resort and I can assure you I’ve sampled a large number), in-room fridges and Kuerig coffee makers. Below is a sample of a three bedroom suite (sectioned off bedroom with fireplace)…

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Spring Skiing at Heavenly in South Lake Tahoe

May 14, 2014 by  

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After all these years, I had never experienced spring skiing, and then back-to-back, I skiied at Sun Valley Resort and then most recently at South Lake Tahoe both during the month of April. Thanks to Jenn Boyd and Sally Gunter who seem to know a thing or two about the area, I landed at Heavenly Mountain and took in some of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen from a ski slope. Below is the view of Lake Tahoe from the Skyline Trail at Heavenly. Some of these shots, albeit stunning, are a little grainy as I took them on my iPhone rather than face the risk of skiing with my Canon 7D. Alas. So I traded in freedom for clarity, light and lens quality. That said, this visual journey will give you an idea of what Heavenly in South Lake Tahoe is like for skiing in the Spring.
You’ll note that we were comfortable enough in a…

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Serene & Beautiful: Spring Skiing at Sun Valley Mountain & Resort

May 13, 2014 by  

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I had a unique opportunity to do some spring skiing in Sun Valley Idaho this past April, only a couple of weeks before they closed for the season. For those who haven’t been to Idaho, think again! This state is beautiful and Sun Valley’s Ski Resort is home to some of the most stunning views you could ever hope for. One thing to note for avid skiiers who tried their hand at spring skiing and dealt with the slush and mush, Sun Valley apparently has the largest snow making machine in the country. In other words, we had plenty of snow but the skies were crystal blue and while I still needed a fleece and a shell, I didn’t freeze my tail off. Below I am looking at the ski run called Olympic Ridge, a run coming down the river run side of Baldy Mountain. How’s this for beautiful site? Not only does it have a smoking snow making machine, but it’s also America’s first destination resort, dating back to 1936.  Below, I’m looking into the bowls from top of Christmas lift. There are a total of 66 runs and 19 lifts, one of…

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