Travels With Lea

May 29, 2013
by Lea Lane
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Iceland: More than a Stopover

 The last rays of the setting sun color Mount Esja on a cold winter day

 

Many years ago, in the 1970s, Icelandair offered a free stopover on the way to Luxumbourg.  And for a few dollars more you could stay in a hotel, take a whirlwind tour around the geysers and moonscape scenery and then fly off to Europe. It was a taste, and my young family took advantage of it.

Many travelers still view this northern island nation as a place to schedule a stopover in mid-Atlantic en route to continental Europe.  And yes, spending a day or two in lively Reykjavik, the nearest European capital to North America, —can add a zesty mini-vacation to a European trip.

But there’s so much here to see and do, it would make better sense to consider Iceland as your ultimate destination.

In a country roughly the size of Ohio you’’ll discover rust-red craters, cobalt-blue lakes and luminous green moss set in a sea of black sand,  moonscape scenery, national parks, lakes and fjords— where the air is clear and crisp and the views stretch forever. A smorgasbord of sights that includes glaciers, icebergs, hot springs, and other volcanic features — including fiery eruptions into the cold sea.

After a tour of Reykjavik, you could proceed to Gullfoss, the “Golden Waterfall” and the nearby hot spring area, with the famous Geysir (the one for which all others are named) and Strokkur, then continue on to the Dyrhólaey nature reserve. You’’ll cross Eldhraun, the largest mass of lava ever to flow on the face of the earth, and continue to Skaftafell National Park and to Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon to see the birthplace of icebergs.

Other major sites include the magnificent East Fjords, the empty vastness of the highland desert plateau, and the Lake Myvatn area with its boiling mud pools and vibrant colors. (My son, who was three at the time –and is now the editor of Forbes magazine — still remembers the dramatic scenery.

Also worth visits are the magnificent Godafoss waterfall; Skagafjördur for an introduction to the unique Icelandic horse; Deildartunguhver, the most powerful hot spring in the world; and Lake Thingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest lake.

Thingvellir National Park, (wonderful name, isn’t it; the language is as charming as the people) was the site in 930 of the first Icelandic parliament, and here in the year 1000, Christianity was officially adopted, and in 1944, Iceland, then under Danish rule, became an independent republic. Yes, Iceland is a young republic, but because of volcanic activity it is also considered the youngest land on earth.

And don’t forget to buy an icelandic sweater! (It’s too difficult, alas, to bring home a tiny Icelandic horse.)

 

Check out the 9-day/8-night “Iceland Complete” guided tour offered by The Great Canadian Travel Company,  800-661-3830, www.greatcanadiantravel.com.  The URL for this Iceland Complete program is http://www.greatcanadiantravel.com/iceland-complete.  Priced from $2150 (double occupancy), the program included a 7-day guided tour from Reykjavik, 8 nights’ accommodation, breakfast daily, 5 dinners,  and a wide variety of attractions.  16 available departures between May 15 and September 18.



						
photo by: o palsson
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May 17, 2013
by Lea Lane
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25 Tips for a Great Uganda Experience

His Royal Highness King Zawadi Mungu

 

1.  Listen to stories of the Royal Kingdom and local folklore told by members of the Ruboni community.

 

2.  Go mongoose trekking at Mweya Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

 

3.  See the famous “Mountains of the Moon,” so-named because of the numerous craters in the landscape.

 

4.  Marvel at the tree-climbing lions of Edward Flats in Ishasha Plains, one of only two places in Africa to see them.

 

5.  Go on an Agro-Tour through community farmland and learn about farming methods, medicinal plants and bee-keeping (aside from honey, the bees keep elephants at bay)

 

6. Track lions and do field research, monitoring their activities via a radio collar.

 

7.  Cruise through the beautiful Kazinga Channel, the body of water that connects salt water Lake Edward with fresh water Lake Albert.

 

8.  Meet the Batwa Pygmies on the Batwa Trail: hear their ancient legends and songs, join a mock hunting party, participate in their traditional dances.

 

9.  Observe the majestic Mountain Gorillas and their tender interaction with their families.

 

10.  Traipse through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, one of the densest and most bio-diverse rainforests on earth.

 

11.  Take a water safari on the River Nile, the planet’s longest (and one of its most spectacular) rivers.

 

12.  Visit the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, a refuge created to re-introduce rhino to Uganda after their near extinction in 1982.

 

13.  Journey to Jinja on the shores of Lake Victoria, the closest city to the source of the White Nile, whose location was the subject of great mystery from antiquity until its discovery in 1856 by explorer John Hanning Speke.

 

14.  Fly fish at Chobe Safari Lodge, a key spot for anglers and riverscape aficionados .

 

15.  Take the three-hour launch trip to Murchison Falls, where the River Nile explodes violently through a narrow cleft in the Rift Valley escarpment to plunge 140 feet into a foaming pool below.

 

16.  Re-live history at Paraa Safari Lodge, located near the area where The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Kathryn Hepburn was filmed, and where Ernest Hemingway and his wife crashed in their plane as their pilot flew close to Murchison Falls to get a bird’s eye view.

 

17.  Straddle the Equator (in Queen Elizabeth National Park) for photo ops and experiments (does water flow in opposite directions at Latitude 00?).

 

18.  Take in Katwe Salt Lake and learn how salt has been mined there using traditional methods since the 16th century.

 

19.  Enjoy a picnic lunch at Baboon Cliffs Lookout.

 

20.  See the phenomenal “Cormorant House” – a large tree in the forest made white by roosting birds.

 

21.  Drive a road less traveled – the sixteen miles between Kataboro Gate and the Queen’s Pavillion that takes visitors past 72 gigantic basin scattered across the Equator that are evidence of the Albertine Rift’s volatile volcanic past.

 

22.  Bring your bird-watching binoculars – no fewer than 600 species may be found in Uganda.

 

23. Experience an underground forest at the Kyambura Gorge, best known for its resident chimpanzees.  With limited space in the gorge, the chimps are usually easy to spot, leaving visitors time to watch our closest relatives eat, play, fight and socialize.

 

24. Get up close to African wildlife through experiential tourism: count hippo, learn habituation calls, monitor weather, observe creatures’ behavior, all to be recorded for essential research.

 

25. And when you go, “Pack for a Purpose,” a non-profit organization that suggests tourists use available space in their luggage to bring school and medical supplies to needy communities abroad. Pack five pounds of needed items – 400 pencils; five deflated soccer balls (and an inflation device); a stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff and 500 band-aids – and you will bring wide smiles to some of the world’s neediest children.



						
photo by: Ian Sane
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May 6, 2013
by Lea Lane
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Summer Festivals & Adventures in Utah

–The Big Showoff

 

Utah’s canyons and mountains are some of the most beautiful in the world. I’ve driven from Moab to Zion, and couldn’t stop gawking. Western towns, sophisticated events, clear air, Utah travel is not just for skiers.

Home to five national parks, known as The Mighty 5™, 43 state parks, seven national monuments, two national recreation areas and “The Greatest Snow on Earth®,” Utah represents the best of both the Rocky Mountains and the Desert Southwest.  Whether it’s downhill skiing, fly fishing, rock climbing,  bird watching, white water rafting or just communing with nature, Utah – holds true to the state’s Life Elevated® brand.

As temperatures heat up, Utah invites travelers to a variety of special events and festivals. With art, theater and musical productions as well as outdoor adventure and culinary indulgences, set against the stunning natural landscapes.

Beyond the following sampling, statewide summer offerings can be found at www.visitutah.com.

 

Northern Utah

6th Annual Savor the Summit – Park City, June 22, 2013

The 6th Annual Savor the Summit, showcases Park City’’s best restaurants and celebrates Utah’’s love of music and food.  This unique dinner party is served at The Grande Table in the center of Park City’’s Historic Main Street.  Beyond the meal, the event features a Spirit Garden serving a selection of local wines and beers as well as live musical performances. The event is free to the general public who want to witness the Grande Table, listen to the musical sounds and visit the businesses of Main Street.  Dining guests can make a reservation directly with any participating restaurant, each offering their choice of menu, pricing and bar service. Menu prices range from $40-$150.  For more information, visit www.savorthesummit.com.

America’’s Freedom Festival at Provo: Stadium of Fire 2013 – Provo, July 4, 2013

The 33rd annual Stadium of Fire event, presented by America’’s Freedom Festival attracts over 40,000 people each year and is televised live to over one million military men and women around the world via the American Forces Network. Headlining Stadium of Fire events this year is Grammy-winning pop and rock star Kelly Clarkson along with Carly Rae Jepsen and  Zarkana by Cirque du Soleil. The night also includes the popular Stadium of Fire dancers, the biggest stadium fireworks show in America, the return of the Skydive Utah parachute, and other fun activities and surprises. Tickets range from $26 to $124. For more information, visitwww.freedomfestival.org.

Bluebird Café Concert Series – Sundance, July 5, 12 and 19, 2013

For the 11th year, Robert Redford’’s Sundance Resort and Nashville’’s famed Bluebird Café team up to bring music lovers the annual Bluebird Café concert series. Since its inception at Sundance Resort in 2002, the concert series has grown in popularity, bringing fans back to experience musical storytelling. Featuring some of Nashville’’s most popular singers, songwriters and musicians, the concert series embodies the Sundance tradition of storytelling and independent voice. By partnering with the successful Nashville musical café, which has launched the careers of countless country superstars from Garth Brooks to Taylor Swift, Sundance provides visitors the opportunity to share in the history, music and stories from their favorite musical artists among the backdrop of Mt. Timpanogos. Tickets range from $25 to $27. For more information, visit www.sundanceresort.com.

Utah Arts Festival – Salt Lake City, June 20-23, 2013, 2012

The Utah Arts Festival, entering into its 37th year, is the largest outdoor multi-disciplinary arts event in Utah, drawing over 80,000 patrons to Library and Washington Square enjoy four days of performances from hundreds of visual artists, performing arts groups and culinary artisans. The festival includes visual arts, live performances on five stages, a fine-arts exhibit, a variety of street theater acts, a film program, literary arts events and contests, culinary arts and numerous activities for children. For more information, visit www.uaf.org.

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre (UFOMT) – Logan, July 10 through Aug. 10, 2013

This annual five-week festival consists of over 100 events including four productions of grand opera, operetta, light opera, and/or seldom-seen Broadway-style musical theatre. Utah Festival Opera brings opera lovers together to partake in creative musical performances, set against the backdrop of Cache Valley’’s mountain scenery. Audience members can further immerse themselves in the experience with backstage tours, Utah Festival Academy classes, pre-performance discussions, Breakfast with the Stars, an International Competition and more. The festival takes place in Logan’s Ellen Eccles Theatre, a 1,100-seat European-style theatre featuring neo-classical design.  A highlight of the season is  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The festival’’s founder, Michael Ballam, makes this a destination opera for thousands of enthusiasts.  Prices range from $10-$76 per performance. For additional information on UFOMT, visit www.ufoc.org.

Soldier Hollow Classic International Sheepdog Championship & Festival – Midway, Aug. 30 through Sept. 2, 2013

The Soldier Hollow Classic draws over 25,000 spectators to the Olympic hills of Soldier Hollow in Heber Valley to witness the world’’s best sheepdogs from Europe, Africa, South America and North America expertly move wild Rocky Mountain range sheep. Held on the same hillside that hosted Olympic athletes in 2002, the weekend-long event features a range of additional activities including Splash Dog championships, demos with police k-9 dogs, sled dogs and seeing- eye dogs, acrobatic dog entertainment performances, a wild animal show and more. Tickets range from $7.75 to $16 and children five and under are free. For more information, visit www.soldierhollowclassic.com.

 

Southern Utah

Utah Shakespeare Festival – Cedar City, June 24 through Oct. 21, 2013

The 52nd annual Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival in southern Utah’’s Cedar City offers classic and contemporary performances. The Festival is one of the oldest and largest in North America and features international plays, but the works of William Shakespeare remain its cornerstone.  For 2013, the lineup includes four Shakespearean classics, two hit musicals, an American stage icon about justice and the regional premier of Peter and the Starcatcher,winner of five 2012 Tony Awards. The plays are enhanced by interactive experiences. With eight plays in total, other exciting productions include King John, The Tempest, Anything Goes and Richard III, among others. For more information, visit www.bard.org.

Bryce ATV Rally – Panguitch, Aug. 22-24, 2013

For active travelers looking for some off-road adventure, the Bryce ATV Rally offers guided and self-guided rides. With three National Parks, three State Parks, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, two National Scenic Byway’s and more than 2,500 miles of picturesque ATV routes, the region encompasses an abundance of stunning scenery and trails. Additional offerings surrounding the rally include an ATV Rodeo, special deals from vendors and sponsors, food, entertainment and more. For more information, visit www.brycerally.org.

Moab Music Festival – Moab, Aug. 29 through Sept. 9, 2013

The award-winning Moab Music Festival brings world-class musicians to the red rock canyonland venues of Moab for a feast of chamber music, jazz and traditional music concerts.  Known as “music in concert with the landscape,” and noted for its distinctive programming, the 12-day event celebrates classical chamber music in addition to traditional folk music, jazz and Latin music from around the globe.  Acclaimed for the Festival’’s distinctive grotto concerts, audience members travel down the Colorado River in jet boats to a red rock site that is acoustically ideal for listening to performances.  For more information, visit www.moabmusicfest.org.

Escalante Canyon Arts Festival – Escalante, Sept. 27-28, 2013

The 10th annual Escalante Canyons Art Festival celebrates the life and work of enigmatic artist Everett Ruess who disappeared from the rugged canyon country near Escalante, UT in 1934 and was never seen again.  Organized by local businesses, caring citizens and artists and top Ruess aficionados, the Working Arts Festival is a premiere art and literary gathering with the aim of welcoming visitors to the stunning landscapes and intense beauty surrounding the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and educating them on the region’s rich history.  Festival events include fine arts and crafts exhibition and sale, lectures, films, exhibits, workshops, gallery open hoes, walking tours of nearby historic buildings and performances by poets, dance groups and musicians.  All events are free and open to the public.  For more information, visit www.everettruessdays.org. 

To contact the Utah Office of Tourism, an agency of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, or to view the Utah Travel Guide online, please visit www.visitutah.com or call (800) 200-1160 or (801) 538-1900. Follow Utah on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/VisitUtah.

 

photo by: Zach Dischner
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April 26, 2013
by Lea Lane
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Plan Ahead! 10 Options for a Golden Aspen Autumn

Hill of Aspen in Fall glory at Breckenridge

Aspen’s abundance of warm-weather pursuits piques passions, from extreme outdoor adventure to cultural pursuits, from Colorado’s best fly fishing, to indulgent spa offerings. Whether experiencing the rapids of the Roaring Fork River (running directly through the center of Aspen), to scaling the rock walls up Independence Pass, or biking on picturesque trails, there’s an activity for everyone to savor Aspen’s stunning mountain scenery and “the good life.”

But I like planning ahead, for my favorite time in the mountains. And Aspen in autumn, as a world-class year-round destination, elevates fall far beyond mere leaf-peeping, with festivals, cultural events, outdoor activities, lodging specials and dining deals. A great Rocky Mountain getaway.

Like summer, autumn is filled with bluebird skies and warm days for hikes and bike rides, raft trips and paragliding adventures, and even lazy mornings perusing the ever-expanding Saturday Market. And because fall in Aspen is still a bit of a secret, favorite trails and stretches of river are even less populated than summer. For those looking for a slightly less adventurous escape, sunset alfresco dining with brilliant fall foliage backdrops abound at dozens of restaurants on Aspen’s walking malls and Restaurant Row. Or gallery-hop at the nearly 40 galleries that call the downtown core home.  And Aspen’s shopping scene becomes even more accessible with shoulder-season deals.

Explore the golden aspens on two wheels with a road bike up to the Maroon Bells or an adrenaline-pumping mountain bike ride on one of the dozens of mountain biking trails designed for beginners to advanced; by car with a trek up and over 12,096-foot Independence Pass; by air with a hot air balloon ride or  paragliding off the summit of Aspen Mountain; and by water while stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking along  the Roaring Fork River.

Prices in the fall are considerably more reasonable than summer, with lodging options ranging from $89 in one of Aspen’s more affordable lodges; two-bedroom suites (that sleeps up to six) starting at $329; up to more luxurious rooms in Aspen’s premier hotels. To reserve a room, visit Stay Aspen Snowmass, Aspen’s central reservations agency.

Below are 10 exceptional ways to experience Aspen’s vibrant autumn glory:

1. Sneak Peek. Aspen Film’s centerpiece event takes place Sept. 26 – Oct. 1. Filmfest emphasizes independent productions from around the world in an intimate scale. Screenings include new releases, acclaimed documentaries, and favorites from the festival circuit. Special programs include tributes to distinguished artists, with past honorees including Anton Yelchin, Julie Christie, Harrison Ford, Rob Reiner, Sydney Pollack, Bob Rafelson, Michael Douglas, Anjelica Huston and William H. Macy. (www.aspenfilm.org; 970.925.6882)

2. Cycle City. Aspen  is a biking town. From meandering riverside trails and serene road riding up to the Maroon Bells (one of the world’s most photographed peaks) to some of the region’s most extreme mountain biking, Aspen has a bit for every level or rider. Aspen’s bike shops can provide local knowledge, equipment and guided tours. (www.blazingadventures.com; 970-923-4544; www.utecitycycles.com; 970.920.3325).

3. Aspen by Air. Fall colors will never look the same after paragliding over the town of Aspen. Aspen Expeditions’ tandem guides take you to the top of Aspen Mountain to take flight and enjoy the adrenaline rush. (www.aspenparagliding.com; 970.925.6975). Or experience the peace and serenity of a sunrise hot air balloon ride, followed by a celebratory champagne toast upon your descent with Above it All Balloon Company. (www.aboveitallballoon.com; 970.963.6148)

4. Natural-ly Aspen. Visit the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) on the Hallam Lake Reserve. Take in the autumn hues with the family while learning more about the native trees, birds, and animals that thrive in the high-alpine environment. ACES also hosts affordable private guided hikes. (www.aspennature.org; 970.925.5756)

5. Race to the Finish. Named by Trail Runner as one of “America’s 14 most scenic races”, the Vasque Golden Leaf Half Marathon on Sept. 21 is a race like no other. It gains 970 feet in elevation on a narrow, winding single-track before peaking out at 9,400 feet above sea level. (www.goldenleafrace.com; (970.925.2849)

6. Reach the Peak. Favorite fall hikes in Aspen include Grizzly Peak, Cathedral Lake, American Lake and the Hunter Creek Trail. If feeling ambitious, take a guided trek up one of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. For gear, maps and guides visit the Ute Mountaineer or Aspen Expeditions. (www.utemountaineer.com; 970.925.2849; www.aspenexpeditions.com; 970.925.7625)

7. More Cheese, Please. The third annual Mac and Cheese Festival returns to Aspen’s “Restaurant Row” (East Hopkins Avenue between Mill and Monarch Streets) on Saturday, Sept. 7. The local competition serves up samples from top Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley restaurants. Last year’s competition served variations of duck confit, lobster, pork belly, truffle and more. (Aspen Mac and Cheese Fest, 970.429.2078)

8. Rugby Rumble. Rugby players square off each fall in Aspen competing in the annual Rugger Fest. The full-contact championship match features teams from around the country.  This year Rugger Fest celebrates its 46th year with the competition set for September 12-15. (aspenrugby.com; 970.948.0141)

9. Refresh. Running June 15 through October 12, the Aspen Saturday Market offers a bounty of Colorado’s produce, meats, artisan items and wares, as well as live entertainment and fun for the family. (Aspen Farmer’s Market; 970.429.2687)

10. Get Out There. Enjoy the autumn hues and views on the Roaring Fork and Colorado River with the Aspen Kayak Academy team. This family activity is available to participants ages 12 and up who are able to swim. Try the alternative and get an incredible core workout with stand up paddling. (www.aspenkayakacademy.com; 970.925.4433)

For more information, a complete calendar of events, or to book an Aspen vacation, visit www.aspenchamber.org, or call 800-670-0788.

photo by: Nature's Images
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April 23, 2013
by Lea Lane
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Picturesque Nova Scotia, New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island

last rays

Cod, halibut, mussels, scallops and lobster—choose your own poisson (that’s fish, in French) when you plan a trip to Atlantic Canada.  You can expect this kind of variety in the fresh seafood you’ll enjoy as well as in the cultures you’ll explore.  In fact, this diversity is itself good reason to visit more than one province on a vacation “Down East” to Canada’s ocean shores.

Three of Canada’s most picturesque provinces — Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island —  are filled with charm, beauty and value. I’ve spent many lovely days there, enjoying ocean breezes in flower-filled meadows, sunrises over rocky coves, fun festivals with friendly locals and a pace that’s slower and sweeter than almost anywhere.

You’ll find descendants of sturdy Scottish settlers as you travel the rugged coastline of the province of Nova Scotia (the name means “New Scotland”).  In the province of New Brunswick you’ll discover Canada’s French heritage, descendants of the Acadians expelled from their homes to resettle here—a heart-rending story immortalized by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in “Evangeline”, published in 1847. Also in New Brunswick is the legacy of those Empire Loyalists who traveled north to Canada in the wake of America’s Revolutionary War.
Diversity of scenery includes the world’s highest tides in New Brunswick, and the enticing white sandy beaches and magnificent dunes of Prince Edward Island.  Shy red foxes still prowl these dunes near the birthplace of Lucy Maud Montgomery, who wrote the beloved novel “Anne of Green Gables.”
 
You’ll be mystified by such geographic and geologic oddities as the Reversing Falls (waterfalls that go upstream) and the Magnetic Hill (that appears to pull cars uphill)—both phenomena in New Brunswick.  The tides of the Bay of Fundy are legendary.  Rising to heights of 50 feet, these famous tides are the highest of any on earth. They provide spots along the New Brunswick coast where at low tide you can take a walk on the ocean floor and just six hours later kayak on water high above that same spot.  These tides have carved rocks into gigantic “flower pots,” creating the famous Hopewell Rocks, a Fundy must-see sight.
 
You’ll experience one of the most stunningly picturesque drives in North America. The Cabot Trail winds around the rocky splendor of Cape Breton’s northern shore, ascending to the incredible plateaus of Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Look-offs offer unforgettable vistas of rugged coastline so be sure to have your camera on handAlso enjoy a whale-watching tour (weather permitting).
 
Spend time exploring the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. Words cannot do justice to this reconstruction of an 18th-century French fortress. Roam the streets and chat with authentically costumed guides.
 
The “Atlantic Maritimes Tour” package includes all accommodations (based on double occupancy), transportation throughout, most meals including a traditional Prince Edward Island lobster supper, a welcome reception, and visits to Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg, Grand Pre National Historic Site, Hopewell Rocks, Confederation Bridge, Anne of Green Gables Heritage Place, the Cabot Trail, Fortress of Louisbourg, the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site and much more.  There are 11 departures of the tour between May 21 and October 8, 2013. Priced from $3,507 per person. http://www.greatcanadiantravel.com/tours/canada-usa/atlantic-maritimes-tour.

 

photo by: paul bica
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April 14, 2013
by Lea Lane
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10 Ideas, Scenes in West Lake & China’s Most Romantic City: Hangzhou

 

 

 

My visit to Hangzhou was in 2006, with a physician who was speaking at a medical conference about liver disease. Not the most romantic situation. But nevertheless I was enthralled with the place.

When Marco Polo visited Hangzhou China 800 years ago, he was so taken with this beautiful city that he observed:  “In heaven, there is paradise; on earth there is Hangzhou.”

Visitors continue to be captivated by the natural beauty.  The storied West Lake with its scenic islands,  mountains framing the city, and numerous temples, pagodas and parks have inspired artists and poets throughout the centuries.   While Hangzhou is re-creating itself as a modern city, its culture is still found in waterways, temples, old-style shopping streets, cuisine, and museums.

Festivals in Hangzhou are worth checking out.  But if there are none, you’ll still have plenty to do.  Some suggestions:

– Try Hangzhou’s distinctive cuisine,  recognized since the Han Dynasty (206 BC- AD220).  Best known is Dongpo Pork, a braised pork dish, named after the famous poet Su Dongpo; West Lake Sour Fish, integrating sweet and sour tastes with tender fish; West Lake shrimps cooked with tea; and Jiaohua Young Chicken, baked over low heat.  Look for bamboo shoots in many dishes.

– In October, The Hangzhou International Food Festival is staged over a week to celebrate the city’s unique cuisine.  You’ll find recipe and cookbook competitions and a variety of cooking demonstrations.

– Noteworthy restaurants include Lou Wai Lou at No. 30, Gu Shan Lu; Zhi Wei Guan at No. 83, Ren He Lu; and Shan Wai Shan, 18 Yang Gong Di, Xihu district.

– Hangzhou is well known for its excellent silks, exported all over the world.  The National Silk Museum has eight exhibition halls that take you through the history of silk to modern production.  A fragment of the earliest silk ever discovered is here – over 5000 years old.  Once you see how silk is woven and dyed, you may participate in the process at the Museum.  Admission is free.

– The Hangzhou International Silk Festival takes place every October and celebrates the unique history of silk manufacture, dye, and artistry for which the city is known.

– Leaving the Silk Museum, head to Hangzhou Silk City at No. 253 Xinhua Road, an excellent market for pure silk fabrics, garments, handicraft articles, scarves, and ties.  You’ll marvel at the numerous varieties of silk, the good quality and the magnificent colors.

– Hangzhou’s Longjing Tea (Dragon Well Tea) has a long history and is considered China’s best, famous for its unique green color, aroma,  sweet taste and health benefits.  The best is the first pick of a year, normally in late March or early April.  To learn more about tea and the tea ceremony, head over to Meijiawu Tea Village near West Lake.  Here they serve exquisite tea and offer many tea ceremonies. This experience will afford you the opportunity to understand why the tea ceremony is important to the Chinese.

–The Dragon Well Tea Festival is hosted by the villagers of the Dragon Well tea plantation from April 8th until May 8th.  Domestic and international tea connoisseurs come to Longjing to pick tea, participate in tea ceremonies and learn about the benefits of green tea.

– The powerfully fragrant Osmanthus is the official flower of Hangzhou, perfuming the air during the summer months, culminating with the Osmanthus Festival in September.  On both sides of the main roads, thousands of Osmanthus trees are in full bloom and colorful tents are erected for visitors to enjoy cultural performances.

– End with a little night music.  Impression West Lake is an extraordinary show that takes place on the lake, presented all year except in winter.  The vivid performances tell stories of the legend of West Lake with light, music, dance and theatrics.  The stage is built just below the surface so the actors appear to be dancing on the water.

In the 13th century, the imperial Academy of Paintings of the Southern Song Dynasty picked ten mystical sites to highlight the seasonal beauty of West Lake and gave each a poetic name.  For the past 800 years, visitors have come from around the world to experience this dazzling lake.

The Top Ten Scenes of West Lake:

Spring Dawn at Su Causeway.  The causeway itself gives the feeling of walking on water.  In spring and summer, the lake shimmers with reflected light and the flowers that line the paths of the causeway bloom large and bright.

Breeze-ruffled Lotus at Quyan Garden.  (Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard)   People come here for the refreshing  fragrance from hundreds of lotus plants and the cool evening breeze. At one point, it was the spot for a winery belonging to a high-ranking official who made the famous Chinese ‘Qu’ wine.

Autumn Moon over Calm Lake.  This site is the very best vantage point to view the moonlit West Lake, especially on an autumn night when the reflection of the full, bright moon plays with the rippling water.

Melting Snow on Broken Bridge.  (Lingering Snow on Broken Bridge) This traditional arched stone bridge is regarded as the most famous one in the scenic lake area.  Viewed from a distance on a snow-melting day, the bridge looks as if one half has been ripped off with the snowy side blending in with the surrounding landscape and water surface.  The poetic name is also related to the legend about two lovers, Xu Xian and a white snake (who became a woman), falling madly in love after meeting on the bridge.

Viewing Fish and Lotus at Flowery Harbor. (Viewing Fish at Flower Pond) This park is a sprawling area of about 22 hectares, set against hills in the southwestern part of West Lake and surrounded by water on three sides.  The park features a network of crooked bridges decorating a goldfish pond famous for thousands of fish playing with each other to their hearts’ content.

Orioles Singing in the Willows.  Once an imperial garden, the park known as Orioles Singing in the Willows features weeping willow trees and singing orioles who flutter from branch to branch.  The citizens of Hangzhou love to hang out here listening to music or just chatting about life, love and the beauty of West Lake.

Three Pools Mirroring the Moon.  An autumn moon shining full and bright contrasts with three candle-lit miniature stone pagodas on Fairy Island in the middle of the lake.  During certain festivals, people flock here to see the lighting of three lanterns in the water which align with the reflection of the moon in a fascinating way.  

Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds.  On the other side of the lake, two mountain peaks face each other.  On days when low-lying clouds and fog are present,  the peaks seem to pierce through the clouds.  The scene reminds one of the beauty of a traditional Chinese landscape painting.

Evening Bell Ringing at Nanping Hill.  Nanping Mountain has been revered as the Buddhism Mecca in southeastern China since the 10thcentury.  The place reveals its magic especially at dusk when the huge bell of the Jing Temple peals forceful sounds reverberating across the lake, reminding Buddhists of their religious heritage.

Sunset Glow over Leifeng Pagoda. (Leifeng Pagoda in Evening Glow) The Pagoda is renowned for the silhouette it casts against the misty hills at sunset, and even more so, in the evening.  It is then that the glow of the shrouded pagoda casts its glistening shadow onto the peaceful water and its surroundings.  The top of the Pagoda offers panoramic views of Hangzhou.

For more information on romantic Hangzhou and West Lake, visit www.gotohz.com

 

photo by: nasmac
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