Tuesday, December 3, 2013

10 Things You Never Knew About the North Pole

via BudgetTravel.com Features by Kaeli Conforti on 12/21/12


Companies like Quark Expeditions can take you on Arctic adventures. (Courtesy Quark Expeditions)
Say "North Pole" and most people think of Santa, but did you know that the region is a hotbed for international intrigue? Or that it has a special connection to the unicorn? Just in time for Christmas, here are 10 fun facts about the most mythical place on earth.
There's more to the North Pole than just snow and Santa. Ever since it was discovered by Robert E. Peary, Matthew Henson, and four Eskimo companions back in 1909, the North Pole has been a place of international intrigue—did you know several countries are now fighting over vast underground oil reserves in the Arctic Circle? You can go see for yourself with expedition voyages or even spend the night in a hotel made entirely of ice—try the IceHotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, or stay overnight at the Aurora Ice Museum in Fairbanks, AK, for a unique twist on the average igloo. Here, 10 more facts about the North Pole that may surprise you.

There are two North Poles

Unlike the South Pole, which lies over the continent of Antarctica, there is no land beneath the North Pole but more of a floating Arctic ice sheet that expands during colder months and shrinks to half its size in the summer. To complicate things even more, there are two different definitions of the North Pole. The first is the north magnetic pole, which is, quite literally, a magnetic phenomenon which changes daily depending on changes under the Earth's crust. Additionally, there is a north terrestrial pole, which is the fixed point that references the top of the Earth. Regardless of how you define the North Pole, global warming continues to be a problem here—as the polar ice caps melt, the sea levels rise, eliminating the land that polar bears and other wildlife depend on for survival.

It's at the center of an international controversy right now

Did you know 30 percent of the world's untapped oil reserves are located in the Arctic Circle? The U.S. Geological Survey says that amount could actually be higher, since so much of the region has yet to be explored. Complicating matters is the fact that multiple countries lay claim to the Arctic Circle—Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark (via Greenland), and the United States (via Alaska). Each country is allowed to explore potential oil reserves within 200 miles of their coastlines, but in 2007, Russia used a mini-submarine to plant the country's flag on the floor of the Arctic Ocean in an attempt to claim the region and its natural resources, a move that was rejected by the U.N. as the countries continue to work toward a solution.

The North Pole has seasons

Just like everywhere else on Earth, the temperature varies here depending on the time of year. The North Pole is warmest in July, if by warm you mean it's actually freezing—32 degrees. If that gives you the shivers, brace yourself. Temperatures in February drop to a bone-chilling 31 degrees below zero. The amount of light each day depends on the time of year, too. Alaska as well as Norway and the other Arctic Circle countries each face six months of broad daylight and six months of almost total darkness because of the angle at which this top portion of the Earth receives sunlight.

Yet, it is not the coldest place in the world

It might come as a shock, but even with temperatures with a high of just 32 degrees, the North Pole is not the coldest place on Earth. The South Pole is (in winter temperatures average -76 degrees F). Unlike the North Pole, the South Pole sits on top of a thick sheet of ice, which in turn sits on top of a piece of land—Antarctica. At more than 9,000 feet above sea level, Antarctica is also the world's tallest continent. The North Pole, on the other hand, is made up of a thin Arctic ice sheet that sits barely a foot above sea level—a fact that allows the landscape to absorb heat from the surrounding Arctic Ocean.

There is life up there

While the conditions may be considered too tough for most humans, there are native Inuit tribes living in northern Canada and Alaska. The outer reaches of the Arctic Circle are a great place to see polar bears in the wild. Keep an eye out for other Arctic dwellers like Orca, Humpback, and Beluga whales, the arctic fox, and Svalbard reindeer. This isn't the only place to see reindeer in the world; a reindeer herd in the U.K. inhabits the Cairngorm Mountains of northern Scotland. One animal you won't see in the North Pole is the penguin. They live in the South Pole. Several species of flying penguin-like birds called auks, guillemots, and puffins can be seen in the Arctic Circle, though.

Santa Claus is not the only legendary character in the North Pole

Did you know that the creature that inspired myths about unicorns comes from the North Pole? The narwhal, a small whale that lives in the chilly waters of the Arctic Circle, has a six-to-10-foot long tusk, a trait that earned it the nickname "unicorn of the sea." Back in the 16th century, they were often believed to possess magical powers that could be used to cure diseases. Demand was high, and legend has it that Queen Elizabeth I shelled out 10,000 pounds to get her hands on her very own narwhal tusk. Nowadays, narwhal populations are on the decline, due to hunting (Inuit peoples use the meat, tusks, and vitamin-C-rich skin in their everyday lives), climate change, and fishing for halibut, their main source of food.

Santa's magical workshop isn't in the North Pole proper—but it is nearby

Shh! Don't tell the kids, but Santa's Workshop isn't really in the North Pole—it's in Finnish Lapland. You can visit Santa Claus Village in the Finnish town of Rovaniemi year round, send letters to and from his post office (they'll bear the official postmark of the Arctic Circle), and spend time exploring Santa Park, a series of Christmas-themed caves where you can meet jolly old St. Nick and his elves. You can even visit Santa's reindeer at the onsite Sirmakko Reindeer Family Farm. If Finnish Lapland seems a little out of reach, Santa also has a satellite workshop in the holiday-themed town of North Pole, Alaska where the streets have names like Kris Kringle, Mistletoe, Donner, and Blitzen.
If you would rather write to Santa than visit his workshops, the U.S. Postal Service will postmark letters from Santa Claus as long as they are received by December 10th each year. Simply mail your letters to North Pole Postmark Postmaster, 41-41 Postmark Drive, Anchorage, Alaska 99530 with "Santa, North Pole" marked as the return address. If time is of the essence, you can always email Santa—he'll answer it right away. On Christmas Eve, use the Santa Tracker North Pole Command Center app ($1.99) to keep an eye on Santa's progress.

You can vacation there

While not exactly a budget destination, you can embark on your own Arctic adventure. Quark Expeditions offers a wide variety of cruising expeditions ranging from the Spitsbergen Explorer, an 11-day cruise around the Norwegian island (from $4,995 per person) to The Ultimate Arctic Adventure, which sails from Russia to the 90-degree north spot that represents the North Pole, visits Franz Josef Land, and tours the Arctic Ocean (from $23,995 per person). Go from June to mid-July to see the polar bears and walrus hunting in their own natural habitat, from mid-July to mid-August to see flowers and other arctic flora in bloom, or from mid-August to September as birds begin to migrate south.

There are hot springs up there

If you are in the frigid Arctic Circle, you'll need to find a way to warm up. Chena Hot Springs, located about an hour outside Fairbanks, AK, has a natural geothermal hot spring in a rock lake surrounded by nature. The hot springs are open from 7 a.m. to midnight, giving you plenty of time to soak and get a front row seat for the Aurora Borealis (best viewed between August and May). You can also stay at the Chena Hot Springs Resort ($65 a night to room in a Mongolia-style yurt, or stay in a room at the resort for from $189 a night). A number of hot springs can also be found in Norway's Svalbard Islands, in Iceland (the Landmannalaugar Hot Springs is well-known), and in Russia—Scientific American profiled the hot springs in Oymyakon, Siberia, the coldest town on Earth.

There is a North Pole marathon every year

The North Pole Marathon bills itself as the World's Coolest Marathon, and with an average wind chill temperature of 22 degrees below zero, they'd be right. It's happened every year since 2002—in 2011 255 people from 38 nations around the world braved the conditions to compete in the 26.2-mile marathon race on top of a floating Arctic ice shelf. Competitors are transported to an international North Pole Camp on the polar ice shelf to start the race. And they layer up-thermal layers, windproof pants, gloves, two pairs of socks, and even goggles are necessary. The next North Pole Marathon takes place on April 9, 2013, and costs a pretty penny—about $15,561 for the entry fee that includes accommodations in Spitsbergen, Greenland, before and after the race, flights to and from the North Pole Camp, helicopter flights within the polar region, medals, and a commemorative DVD of the race. But the bragging rights are priceless.
See More From Budget Travel:
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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What to See and Do on Kauai, Hawaii



What to See and Do on Kauai, Hawaii What to See and Do on Kauai, Hawaii
By Alan C Davies
Kauai is called the Garden Isle and is well worth visiting for its natural beauty. This is one island that loves to be photographed and it will leave you awestruck from sun up to sun down. Two top of the list attractions on Kauai are the Waimea Canyon and the Fern Grotto. Mark Twain described the Waimea Canyon as 'the Grand Canyon of the Pacific." The sheer unexpected size and beauty of Waimea Canyon will astound you.
Make sure to book a boat tour up the Wailua River to see the world-famous Fern Grotto. Formed millions of years ago these ferns grow upside down from the roof of the grotto. You may recognize the gorgeous Fern Grotto from the Elvis Presley movie "Blue Hawaii." At the south end of the Wailua River is the amazingly beautiful Wailua Falls which was shown on the television series "Fantasy Island." Kauai has been the background for many Hollywood films including "Jurassic Park" and "Windtalkers."
Hanalei Bay Beach is located on Kauai's north shore and has a beautiful two mile white sand beach set in a tropical setting you have to see. It's a great place for snorkeling, swimming and people watching. Bring a picnic lunch as there are tables and areas that offer shade from the sun. There are great restaurants in Hanalei but they tend to be fairly expensive.
Poipu is one of the hottest places on the island and has one of the nicest beaches on Kauai. It is excellent for swimming and has been ranked as the number one best beach in the United States by Dr. Beach, a noted authority on beaches. Located on the south shore of Kauai it is a great place to spend an afternoon. While there you might also want to visit the popular Poipu Shopping Village.
One of the best areas for snorkeling is on the Na Pali Coast located on the island's north coast. This location is home to dolphins and resident pilot whales and is a great area for whale watching tours. Helicopter tours are also popular on Kauai as well as deep sea fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing and sailing.
Kauai will leave you with great memories of some of the most scenic places you have ever visited and is a reminder of the ancient beauty of old Hawaii. It won't be long before you will want to come back to see and do it all again.
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Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Alan_C_Davies
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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Aquitaine, France Festivals - 11 Great Festivals In Aquitaine

Aquitaine, France Festivals - 11 Great Festivals In Aquitaine Aquitaine, France Festivals - 11 Great Festivals In Aquitaine
By Jackie A De Burca
With its Celtic influence, unique architecture and stylish resorts, the region of Aquitaine and its departments have endless attractions to offer. From spectacular golf courses to famous art, from wine tasting to a huge range of outdoor activities..
But let's not forget that it has some great festivals and celebrations. Let's check some of them out.
Here are some of the most famous festivals in Aquitaine, France (please note that we have tried to get the most accurate dates available, however this is subject to the information supplied on the websites concerned)
1. Bayonne Carnival - Town Centre, Avenue du Maréchal-Leclerc, 17th -18th February 2013
This carnival is led by cute nursery school kids, as they proudly parade through the streets. Full of fun and attractions for all the family, enjoy music, face painting, workshops, colourful parades and more during the two carnival days.
2. Carnival on Two River Banks - Garonne River, Bordeaux, 4th March 2013
Every year the Bordeaux Carnival takes on a different theme, but one thing stays the same every year, it is a great chance to party, fun for families and a time to get dressed up. If you have children with you, there are plenty of activities and parades for them, plus the carnival includes aperitifs, workshops and shows.
3. International Festival of Religious Music, Lourdes, 15th to 31st March 2013
This takes place in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, on Avenue Monsignuer-Théas. Groups from all over France as well as abroad come to perform classical religious and sacred music.
4. Agen Carnival - Town Centre, Re André Gide, 31st March to 1st April 2013
Welcoming in springtime, this is a chance to dress up and enjoy the festivities on the streets. It is a family friendly affair, so if you have children with you, they should love it too. It finishes up on Pancake Tuesday when the Mr. Carnival (Monsieur Carnaval) effigy is paraded down the streets and then burnt.
5. Gastronomic Feast, Sarlat, Dordogne, 17th to 18th May 2012 (awaiting for 2013)
-Les Journées du Terroir
This is two days of pure and utter foodie-ness! Taste superb local produce such as nuts, truffles, pork products and much more.
It is also a perfect chance to learn how to do interesting tasks like pressing walnut oils, preparing jam or carving a goose. You can return home with some new skills!
There are also workshops for the children, plus they can see the farm animals.
6. Biarritz Arts Festival - Avenue Edouard VII, 2nd to 5th June 2013
Let the fun begin as the artistic performers take over the city of Biarritz! With creativity oozing all over the city, you can enjoy jugglers, dancers, actors, musicians and lots more.
7. Biarritz Oceans Festival - Avenue Edouard VII, 16th June to 23rd June 2013
If you feel up to it you can swim across Biarritz as part of this festival! But apart from that, there are heaps of activities during this festival. Check out street theatre, open air films, lots of entertainment, including Basque music!
8. Bordeaux Wine Festival - (dates to be confirmed) 28th June 2014 to 1st July 2014
If you are visiting Aquitaine and you have a deep sense of liking for wines, then this festival should never be left out of your itinerary. Bordeaux Wine Festival has not surprisingly become famous for wine lovers from France and those coming from other countries. Join another 300,000 or so visitors for this huge celebration on the banks of the Garonne.
You need to get the pass for tasting, as this opens up the possibility to choose from around 400,000 different wine samples and you can even be initiated in the art of wine tasting, not just the old "knock it back" tasting method!
When night falls, enjoy absolutely superb fireworks.
9. Bay of Arcachon Oyster Festival - June, July and August
As the name suggests, this is the festival for oyster lovers or for curious tourists who may be on the look out for an aphrodisiac!
The oysters are fabulous, and the bay has its fair share of lovely charming fishing villages. At last count we reckon that there is over 50 miles of pristine beaches in this area.
This famous export is celebrated from the months of June to August. Indulge yourself to this healthy and scrumptious seafood, meet the oyster growers and when the tide permits, visit oyster beds.
10. The 7eme Festival de Jazz de Sanguinet - 25th to 28th July 2013
A famous festival held in Sanguinet, it presents a spectacular concert from jazz musicians from different parts of the globe. It usually happens during the last week of July and features different types of jazz music including African jazz, swing and blues.
11. Bergerac Summer Music Festival - Awaiting dates (normally end July to mid August)
A big and beautiful music event, as visitors can enjoy music in castles, country houses and abbeys of this area. Featuring concerts and performances across a range of musical genres such as rock, classical, jazz and funk - it has grown to be one of Europe's most important music festivals.
For more festivals in France, check out the Caravan Insurance Gurus website, by clicking on festivals in France. The site is packed with lots of other great features plus the caravan sites in France, and the UK.
http://www.caravan-insurance-gurus.co.uk/
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Jackie_A_De_Burca
http://EzineArticles.com/?Aquitaine,-France-Festivals---11-Great-Festivals-In-Aquitaine&id=7479206