Be in Wales this Christmas & eve of New Year

Morgan Arcade with Christmas decorations at Cardiff © Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales
Morgan Arcade with Christmas decorations
at Cardiff
© Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales

10 November – 31st December Swansea Winter Wonderland – Nativity / Santa’s Grotto / Shop, Wales
Come and visit Santa with his 16 real reindeer (two of which were born this year) in his Swansea winter wonderland. Once you enter the winter wonderland you will walk into a snowy land, you will see our new Santa band playing their tunes singing along, find Eskimos fishing in the frozen lake, penguins sliding along the snow, a huge polar bear looking over his mate and baby bears in their snowy cave!

14 November – 23 DecemberCardiff Christmas Market, Wales
Visitors will be tempted by a diverse range of high quality products such as enamel and pewter work, heritage images of Wales and Welsh slate products, carved Welsh love spoons, metalwork, photography, hand built and thrown pottery, silver and precious stone jewellery, quality yarns with accessories, traditional wooden items and toys, art works and cards for all occasions, specialist knotting, leatherwork, glasswork, and needlework together with many original decorative items for the house and garden – to name but a few! Visitors will relish the alternative shopping experience and enjoy commissioning bespoke personalised gifts or just tasting the irresistible seasonal food and drink on offer or just enjoying a glass of mulled wine to keep you warm whilst browsing. Choose from a selection of whisky, wines, fruit and cream liqueurs, fresh hot pancakes and delicious hand made chocolates.

Ice skating rink and ferris wheel Cardiff Winter Wonderland South Events
Ice skating rink and ferris wheel Cardiff Winter Wonderland
South Events

21 November – 5 JanuaryCardiff’s Winter Wonderland, Cardiff, Wales
Now in its 13th year this festive celebration, situated in the Civic Centre, includes the Admiral Open Air Ice Rink, Ice Café, Star Ride and plenty of seasonal fun for all the family. Relax and warm up with a mulled wine in the newly designed Ice Bar, or choose from the exciting new menu offering an array of delicious, seasonal Welsh produce. Not to be missed is the exciting & spectacular Star Ride. This thrilling 60m high spinning chair ride, the only one of its kind in the UK, will give visitors spectacular panoramic views of our capital city. And join us for the annual Calennig celebrations on 31 December to see the new year in with a bang. With over 6 weeks of entertainment, this is the must-do Christmas experience for all the family.

23 – 24 NovemberChristmas Craft Fayre – Gower Heritage Centre, Wales
The Gower Heritage Centre is celebrating in style with its very own Christmas market featuring a range of local produce and crafts. Entry to the Gower Heritage Centre and the Christmas market will be free all weekend.

24 November – 24 December – Santa’s Toy Mine, Rhondda Heritage Park, Wales
Join the Toy Miners on a magical thrilling underground adventure – will you be lucky enough to discover Santa’s secret hide away? Tours last approximately 45 minutes. Please wear suitable clothing and footwear.

Cardiff (Christmas Lights) Castles
Cardiff (Christmas Lights)

29 November – 2 January – Christmas Kingdom – Celtic Manor, Wales
Enjoy a wonderful winter adventure filled with all the magic and sparkle of the festive season, when our sensational Christmas Kingdom returns in 2013. Feel the cold tingle of winter air on your face as you glide around the sparkling ice rink, then watch your children’s faces light up as they meet Santa and tell him all their Christmas wishes. Set against a frosty backdrop filled with pretty twinkling lights, feel the Christmas spirit come alive with festive music and the opportunity to purchase a delicious feast of winter warming treats. Our Christmas Kingdom will be open throughout the festive season, so wrap up warm and join us for some winter wonder the whole family will love.

Belly dancers at Abergavenny Food Festival. © Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales
Belly dancers at
Abergavenny Food Festival. © Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales

30 November – 1 December – Aberglasney Annual Winter Fair – Aberglasney Gardens, Wales
Wrap up warm and head to Aberglasney and experience the unique atmosphere at the Winter Fair, with free mulled wine and mince pie to all visitors. Wander through the mansion and grounds with stalls selling beautiful handmade gifts, crafts, art, Christmas decorations, with lots, lots, more. The Fine Food and Wine hall will boast a whole range of seasonal produce such as wild game, ham, cheeses, chutneys, cakes, chocolates, cider, beers, fine wines and smoked salmon. The Gardeners Cafe will serve hot lunches as well as festive treats.

1 – 31st December – Christmas Experience – Thornhill Farm, Wales
The Christmas Experience is available throughout December. If you’d like your School, Playgroup, Nursery or just a bunch of your child’s friends to come along to Thornhill Farm Christmas Experience – get in touch throughout December. The children get to see close up the reindeer, donkeys, cows, sheep.. all in the same cosy barn, with Baby Jesus in the manger. The sound of Christmas songs and twinkling lights with the Star of Bethlehem all add to the Nativity atmosphere – and the children get to learn about the animals too, as well as get a sense of what Christmas is really about.

Ducks at Royal Welsh Show © Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales
Ducks at Royal Welsh Show © Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales

2-3 December – Royal Welsh Winter Fair, Builth Wells, Wales
The Winter Fair is an agricultural prime stock show which has a number of trade stands & activities. It attracts visitors from across the world. The purpose built food hall provides a platform to promote and sell Welsh food & drink brands to a consumer audience in the run up to Christmas.

7 December – Saturnalia – National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon, Wales
Saturnalia is the Roman version of Christmas. We’ll be sharing some Roman food and drink with you, playing games, making Roman presents and rounding things off with a traditional Roman fight. And old meets new as there’ll be a visit from Father Christmas too.

7-8 December – Caerphilly Medieval Christmas Fair, Caerphilly Medieval Market, Wales
Enjoy a wonderful experience for the whole family and travel back in time to days of old. Experience the sights, sounds and smells of a town and castle preparing for Christmas. Listen to seasonal music and laugh at the hilarious frolics of the ‘Castle Jester’. Browse Caerphilly’s medieval market with over 150 traders around the event site selling food, replica medieval goods and traditional crafts. An offering of medieval acts and entertainment will entertain the young and old plus a variety of Christmas activities will keep the whole family entertained. Activities and events include a farmers market, a continental market as well as a food and craft fayre. Street entertainers, re enactment displays, music, Santa’s grotto, cookery demonstration programme, children’s workshops and funfair rides provide a mixture of entertainment for the everyone. The Caerphilly Medieval Market has a variety of festive entertainment with much of the activities being free of charge. Entry into the castle, one of the Great Medieval castles of Western Europe is at a fee, although much of the entertainment around the town is free. There is also a selection of shops to browse in around the town centre.

7-24 December – Gwili Railway, Bronwydd Arms Station, Carmarthen, Wales
Santa Magical Steamings
Visit Santa and his helpers in his magical grotto. Santa will welcome every girl and boy and they will be able to talk to him before receiving a quality present. You can also take the children to post a letter to Santa in our specially decorated Travelling Post Office. Travel in old fashioned carriages through the beautiful Gwili Valley pulled by one of Santa’s Special Steam Engines. Our price covers all train travel, a trip on Santa’s Miniature Railway, a quality present for the children, festive food & drink for all.

Street performers at Abergavenny Food Festival  © Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales
Street performers at
Abergavenny Food Festival
© Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales

8 December – Abergavenny Christmas Food Festival, Abergavenny, Wales
The annual Christmas Food & Drink Fair in Abergavenny – showcasing fabulous exhibitors from Wales, the Marches and further afield. We’ve got festive feasting all wrapped up. Fresh and cured meats, poultry and game, cheeses and chocolates, cakes and desserts, wines and liqueurs, ales and cider. The focus is firmly on food (no tinsel side-shows). Producers are mostly small in scale but big on taste – with lots of bright ideas to share. Plus there are bite-size chef demos throughout the day to help you up your game in the kitchen and host the best Christmas ever. Spend time with top-notch food experts as they create fabulous treats for you to sample in a relaxed and intimate environment. Get hot tips for seasonal fun and feasting to try for yourself at home. Whatever your plans, we have everything covered on the culinary front. Traditional, rare, exotic, or innovative – all tastes catered for. There are over 90 of the very best local and regional specialty food producers so you can stock up cupboards and get everything in place for the perfect Christmas celebration.

12 December – Newport Cathedral Choir – Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre, Wales
The men and boys of Newport Cathedral Choir return to The Riverfront for their eagerly awaited Family Christmas Concert. Since last year the choir has sung in Westminster Abbey (where it is a regular visitor) and, for the first time, in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. The choir’s mix of old and new, familiar and less familiar is always appreciated, and as always, there will be carols for audience participation and ;2contributions from a guest soloist. Come and get into the Christmas spirit at what is sure to be an inspiring and beautiful concert!

15 December – Sunday Best – The Tretower Household, Wales
The Tretower Household welcomes you to the Court which has been prepared to receive guests. Would you sit at the high table or be serving those of high station? Come and experience life as it was in 1470. The Tretower Household welcomes you to the magnificent court. The fire is lit, tables are laid and the kitchen is a bustling place. All is ready to receive guests. Talk to the cook about her favourite recipes. Watch or try a craft or listen to music popular in 1470. Handle the weapons necessary for defence in those days. Discover what jobs you could do. There’ll be a chance to meet the family every third Sunday of the month.

19 December – Caerphilly River of Light Parade, Caerphilly, Wales
The annual parade sees hundreds of lanterns flow through Caerphilly town centre accompanied by carnival samba drumming, dancing, costumed performers, giant sculptures and lots more. The spectacular event climaxes with a fire show and fireworks display against the backdrop of Caerphilly Castle

24-27 December 2013 – Llangoed Hall, Brecon, Wales
One of Britain’s finest country houses noted for their art collection, luxurious rooms & award winning fine cuisine. Enjoy the magic and charm of the festive season at Llangoed Hall with crackling log fires, Christmas trees, personal service, fantastic food & most importantly the peace & tranquillity of this magnificent country house.

24 – 27 December 2013 – Christmas Gourmet Escape – The Grove, Narbeth, Wales
Enjoy a Christmas to remember at The Grove this year. From the moment you arrive on Christmas Eve, we make sure every moment is memorable – filled with traditional treats and festive cheer. 3-night exclusive Christmas break is the perfect way for you and your family or friends to relax and enjoy the luxury of being pampered at this magical time of the year. Prices for the 3-night Christmas Break start from £315 per room per night, based on two guests sharing. This includes: two nights luxurious accommodation, breakfast, afternoon tea and cakes, together with pre-dinner drinks and evening dinner.

26 – 30 December 2013 – ‘Twixmas’ Breaks – Castle Hotel, Conwy, Wales
The period between Christmas and New Year, is a great time to visit, especially if you’re wondering what to do with all your time off!! We are open for ‘Twixmas’ from 26th to 30th December, with great rates if you book early! You must admit that by Boxing Day, we’ve all had enough of getting organised for Christmas Day and exhausted afterwards! So it’s a good time to get out and about and treat the one who’s done most of the Christmas chores and enjoy some fresh North Wales air! The weather is usually great between Christmas and New Year and you won’t get a better offer to visit and enjoy some quality time with friends and loved ones.


World Tourism Day Special- Maldives: Ultimate in Luxury

A wine for 12.5K US dollars or a suite for 25K US dollars: its not either for the weak-hearted or the shallow pockets. Maldives does has such tiny islands of ultimate in Luxury, as we had the glimpse of at Rangali islands, managed by Conrad Hilton. As if just reaching here by a sea-plane was not enough, what you sea here, taste here, experience here and enjoy here… will certainly keep you spellbound and ofcourse… without any wish to return to your home!

विश्व पर्यटन दिवस विशेष- मालदीवः जन्नत है यहां

इस साल(2013)  का विश्व पर्यटन दिवस आज मालदीव में मनाया जा रहा है। इस मौके पर मालदीव की अद्भुत यात्रा पर एक लेख प्रस्तुत है, जो मैंने तीन साल पहले लिखा था।


मालदीव के रंगाली द्वीप की खूबसूरती
मालदीव के रंगाली द्वीप की खूबसूरती

हम माले के अहमदी बाजार में राजधानी की सबसे बडी एंटीक व सोवेनियर दुकान में थे। सारे सेल्समैन मालदीव के राष्ट्रपति मोहम्मद नाशीद द्वारा एक दिन पहले कोपेनहेगन में विश्व जलवायु सम्मेलन में दिए गए भाषण को बडे ध्यान से सुन रहे थे। ईमानदारी से कहूं तो मैंने किसी हिंदुस्तानी को राष्ट्रपतियों या प्रधानमंत्री के भाषणों को इतने ध्यान से सुनते नहीं देखा। लेकिन जब इस धरती की एक नायाब रचना के अस्तित्व का ही सवाल हो तो, इतनी गंभीरता लाजिमी ही थी। कई लोगों ने अक्टूबर में मालदीव की कैबिनेट द्वारा पानी के अंदर की गई बैठक को भले ही टोटका समझा हो, लेकिन मालदीव जाकर लगता है कि अगर प्रकृति का कोप इसे हमसे छीन ले तो दुनिया कितनी दरिद्र हो जाएगी। वहां की सुंदरता में कुछ ऐसा ही खास है। उस छोटे से देश में मानो इतनी खूबसूरती समाती नहीं।

बाजार की उस सैर से वापस अपने क्रूज पर जाने के लिए जेट्टी की तरफ लौटते हुए, जब निगाहें बरबस सडक के साथ-साथ चलते समंदर के पानी में गईं तो अहसास हुआ कि यहां के लोग इस खूबसूरती की कीमत किस हद तक समझते हैं। पानी इतना साफ था कि लैंपपोस्ट की रोशनी में नीचे कई मीटर गहराई में तैरती मछलियां अपने सारे रंगों के साथ दिखाई दे रही थीं। यह समंदर का वो हिस्सा था जो शहर से एकदम सटा हुआ था। आप भारत के किसी शहर से सटे हुए समुद्र या नदी के पानी में कुछ सेंटीमीटर भी साफ देख सकें तो खुद को खुशकिस्मत पाएंगे। एमवी एक्वामैरिन पर लौटते हुए माले में बिताए हुए शाम के दो घंटे जेहन में घूम रहे थे। कोरल रीफ (मूंगा चट्टानें) यहां का जीवन हैं। यहां तक की आपको कब्रों पर लगे पत्थरों पर भी मूंगा चट्टानें मिल जाएंगी। राष्ट्रपति नाशीद का भाषण सुनने से कुछ ही देर पहले हम उनके सरकारी आवास के बाहर खडे थे। यकीन नहीं होता था कि हम किसी देश की सर्वोच्च शख्सियत के आवास के आगे थे, दूर-दूर तक कोई सुरक्षाकर्मी नहीं था। मजे से हम उसके बंगले के दरवाजे से अंदर हाथ बढाकर महज पचास मीटर दूर बगीचे व बरामदे के फोटो खींच रहे थे। क्या आप भारत में किसी अदने से नेता के घर के बारे में ऐसा सोच सकते हैं? पता तो यह भी चला कि राष्ट्रपति कभी-कभार पैदल ही सडकें पार करते हुए दो ब्लॉक आगे अपने दफ्तर में पहुंच जाते हैं। मालदीव के बारे में हर बात अभिभूत करने वाली थी। इसीलिए मुझे अगले दिन का बेसब्री से इंतजार था। इल्हाम था कि वह दिन खास होने वाला था।

ऐसा सुकून और कहां
ऐसा सुकून और कहां

सवेरे क्रूज से एक नाव हमें एयरपोर्ट आईलैंड लेकर आई। वहां से हम रनवे का चक्कर काटते हुए पहुंचे ट्रांस मालदीवियन के बेस पर। पिछली शाम जब क्रूज माले के निकट पहुंच रहा था तो हमने ऊपर से गुजर रहे सी प्लेन को तुरंत पहचान लिया। इतनी तस्वीरें जो देखी थी, उसकी। लेकिन तब गुमान न था कि अगले दिन उसमें सवारी का मौका मिलेगा। ट्रांस मालदीवियन के सी प्लेन से हम एक सौ पांच किमी दूर रंगाली द्वीप जाने वाले थे। लगभग हजार मीटर की ऊंचाई तक उडने वाले सी प्लेन से मालदीव के समुद्र में फैले पडे सैकडों रिजॉर्ट व कोरल द्वीपों को देखना अविस्मरणीय था। पानी की यह खूबसूरती कहीं और नहीं मिलेगी। रोमांच व उत्साह से सांसें थाम देने वाली उडान थी वह। लेकिन रंगाली द्वीप पर हिल्टन होटल्स के कोनराड रिजॉर्ट पहुंचकर लगा मानो हम किसी दूसरी दुनिया में पहुंच गए हों। ऐसी दुनिया में, जिसका बाहर की किसी दुनिया से कोई वास्ता नहीं था। वास्ता इस तरह भी नहीं था कि वहां जैसी खूबसूरती या विलासिता बाहर मिलना मुश्किल था।

आसमान से खूबसूरती का नजारा
आसमान से खूबसूरती का नजारा

कोनराड पर सैर पैदल भी हो सकती है या बैटरी चालित गाडी से भी। जेट्टी से मुख्य द्वीप तक जाते हुए पुल के दोनों ओर जलजीवन का नजारा अद्भुत था। अभी हम आसपास की प्रकृति से खुद को सहज भी नहीं कर पाए थे, कि ऐसी जगह पहुंच गए, अकल्पनीय थी। सीढियों से कई मीटर नीचे समुद्र के पानी में उतरते हुए हम शीशे के ऐसे कमरे में पहुंच गए जो पानी के अंदर था। वह कमरा दरअसल एक डाइनिंग रूम था। सब तरफ शीशों के पार हम विलक्षण किस्म की छोटी-बडी मछलियां, कोरल्स, स्नोर्कलिंग व स्कूबा डाइविंग करते हुए इंसान देख सकते थे।

वहां सजी मेजों पर बैठकर खाने की कल्पना ही अपने आप में बेहद रोमांचित कर देने वाली थी। माले से सी प्लेन में इस द्वीप पर आकर इसे देखने और अंडरवाटर लंच करने का किराया ही एक आदमी के लिए 47 हजार रुपये है। कोनराड में उतरने के उस पहले आधे घंटे में जो हम देख चुके थे, उसके सम्मोहन से हम खुद को मुक्त न कर सके और आगे आने वाली सारी चीजें उस मोहपाश को सख्त ही करती गईं। चाहे वो पानी पर बना स्पा हो, वाइन सेलर हो, बेहद लजीज कोरल मछली हो, समुद्री फलों का अद्भुत रस हो या 25 हजार डॉलर प्रति रात्रि किराये वाला सनसेट विला हो, जिसके मास्टर बेडरूम का बेड रिमोट से चारों तरफ घूमता है और आप सामने खुले समुद्र के हर हिस्से को बिस्तर पर लेटे-लेटे निहार सकते हैं- सूर्योदय से लेकर सूर्यास्त तक। वहां से लौटने का मन न था। हम लोग अपने पासपोर्ट पानी में बहा देने को तैयार थे। लेकिन जानते थे, यह मुमकिन नहीं था। भारी मन से इसी उम्मीद के साथ लौट पडे कि फिर कभी, किसी मोड पर तकदीर यहां जरूर ले आएगी।

क्या ऐशो-आराम है!
क्या ऐशो-आराम है!

IIFA 2014 in Tampa Bay

The 15th Annual IIFA (International Indian Film Academy Weekend & Awards)  Weekend & Awards will be held in Tampa Bay in June 13 – 15, 2014.

Reflected Downtown Tampa at Night
Reflected Downtown Tampa at Night

IIFA is an organization dedicated to promoting Indian Cinema internationally. India is the largest producer of movies in the world, producing over 1,000 films annually and selling more than 4 billion tickets annually (compared to 1.2 billion tickets sold in the U.S.). The Weekend & Awards event, a product of global event and entertainment company Wizcraft International Entertainment, started in 2000 as one night and now spans a three-day weekend with over 15 events including an airport welcome, media briefings, workshops for film students and professionals, global business forum, fashion & music night, special celebrity event, awards presentation ceremony, post parties, IIFA Buzz events in advance to engage the local community and more.

2014 would be the first year the event will be held in the United States (Tampa Bay). Previous host cities include Amsterdam, Toronto, Dubai, Singapore, Johannesburg, Bangkok, Macau (2013) and others.

Raymond James Stadium_Bucaneer Cove. This stadium is one of the proposed venues for IIFA 2014
Raymond James Stadium_Bucaneer Cove. This stadium is one of the proposed venues for IIFA 2014

Tourism Extravaganza

  • The 2012 IIFA Weekend & Awards in Singapore attracted 30,000 visitors, 12,000 room nights and generated $18 million in economic impact to the host community.
  • Past host cities have experienced an average tourism increase of 35 percent as a direct result of hosting the IIFA Weekend & Awards.
  • Provides employment/business opportunities for the host community, including business managers, technical and production crew, local administration and more
  • Its also India’s biggest media event; historically attracted at least 500 media from across the globe.
  • TV Viewership of almost 800 million – among the world’s most-watched annual entertainment events.

For the 2014 IIFA Event proposed venues include Tampa Bay Times Forum, Raymond James Stadium and Florida State Fairgrounds.

A dynamic and diverse region, Tampa Bay enjoys an excellent quality of life. From the waterfront location to the Southern hospitality of its residents, the area takes prides in its vibrancy and welcoming spirit.  The only city to be invaded by a band of pirates during the annual Gasparilla celebration, special events and festivals are part of the area’s cultural fabric.  From balloon rides, strawberry farms and lush nature to walkable neighborhoods, the region’s character is hard to match.  It easily blends its rich, cultural heritage with big-city style.  With much to experience, one quickly discovers an exciting, authentic metropolis.

2014 IIFA Event

  • Proposed venues include Tampa Bay Times Forum, Raymond James Stadium and Florida State Fairgrounds. 

Top 10 Ways to Unlock Tampa Bay

Discover Tampa Bay, Florida on your next vacation! Here are the top 10 treasures to discover.  Take a look, and use it as a map to plan your Tampa Bay adventure!

  1. A family at The Florida Aquarium
    A family at The Florida Aquarium

    Take the TECO Line Streetcar System to Historic Ybor City  – “Home of the Original Cuban Sandwich,” Ybor City has several places to try the best around, including the Columbia Restaurant and Gaspar’s Grotto. In 2012 the Cuban Sandwich was named the official sandwich of the City of Tampa!  While you’re in Ybor, don’t forget to stroll down Seventh Ave. and enjoy a café con leche!

  2. Dive with the sharks or swim with the fishes at The Florida Aquarium – A unique opportunity for certified SCUBA divers, age 15 and older, to come face-to-face with live sharks! Dive into the Aquarium’s largest tank, the Coral Reef Exhibit, featuring warm clear water teeming with massive sharks, moray eels, barracuda, a green sea turtle and more! Not SCUBA certified? Age six and older can swim with the fishes through a replica of one of the Florida Keys’ most beautiful coral reef dive sites.
  3. Shop ‘til you drop – Tampa Bay’s transition into high-end retail began in 1998 and has since flourished with the opening of International Plaza (in 2001) further putting the Bay area on the map as a world-class retail market. With over 350 stores between International Plaza and Westshore Plaza, those in search of quality, luxury and high fashion can find the perfect fit in Tampa Bay! Hyde Park Village also offers high-end retailers and boutique shopping in a quaint and historical neighborhood.
  4. Photo: Busch Gardens
    Photo: Busch Gardens

    Ride a roller coaster at Busch Gardens – Take a thrill ride on Cheetah Hunt, the park’s newest mega-attraction and Florida’s first triple-launch coaster that launches riders from 0 to 60 in seconds.

  5. Find creativity at the Waterfront Arts District, along the Tampa Riverwalk  – Stop at a venue in the waterfront arts district, including Tampa Museum of Art; David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts – the largest arts center in the southeastern U.S.; or the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts to see creativity at its best! While you’re there, don’t forget to experience the Riverwalk, a waterfront walkway along the Hillsborough River where kids can jump in the fountains at Curtis Hixon Park and play in the interactive playground. The 1.5-mile walkway is a great place to ride bikes, rollerblade, take a Segway tour or even just a relaxing stroll.
  6. Sit down to a delicious dish or indulge in a sugar high (varies) – Tampa Bay is a culinary experience – delight in creative cuisine at Edison or one-of-a-kind fine dining at Bern’s, the world-famous steakhouse and dessert room, complete with private booths made from old wine casks and a 65-page menu of tantalizing sweets. Also enjoy fresh farm-to-table dishes at Boca and the Refinery, or Great Gatsby-inspired good times at Ciro’s Speakeasy.
  7. Giraffe Feeding at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo
    Giraffe Feeding at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo

    Visit a farmer’s market for local goods – The Ybor City Saturday Market, Tampa Downtown Market  (Sundays), and the Seminole Heights market (Sundays) are great events to purchase locally grown produce, gifts, and enjoy delicious homemade desserts, breads, pastas, and even popsicles!

  8. Play golf in Tampa Bay’s 361 days of sunshine – Tampa Bay is the perfect place to tee off! With year-round golf the area offers more than 100 courses to play, from Saddlebrook Resort to TPC Tampa Bay.
  9. See Tampa’s Historical Roots – Visit the Tampa Bay Hotel, built in 1891 and a stop along the Plant Railroad System, which brought a lot of visitors and businesses to Tampa Bay over 120 years ago. Home to the University of Tampa since 1933, the hotel is now the Henry B. Plant Museum, named after its founder.
  10. Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo – See more than 2,000 animals including manatees, alligators, cheetah, okapi, hippo, hogs, storks and more housed on 56 acres of lush natural habitats!


Brand USA on India Travel Mission

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Brand USA, the United States of America’s first-ever nationally coordinated tourism-marketing organization, today concluded its second India Travel Mission. Organized between September 22 to September 26, 2013 in New Delhi and Mumbai, the mission witnessed the participation of 47 delegates, representing 31 organizations from various U.S. destinations, attractions, hotels and destination management companies.

The travel mission included two interactive business sessions in Mumbai (September 23) and New Delhi (September 25) that provided an opportunity for US delegates to develop and strengthen co-operation with their Indian counterparts. The invitees included major stakeholders from the Indian travel trade, airline representatives, hospitality representatives and tour operators. Additionally, a dedicated media day was organised in New Delhi on September 26 with leading travel trade and consumer media.

In the last couple of years there has been a steady increase in numbers of Indian arrivals to the USA. As per the latest figures released by the U.S Department of Commerce, India ranked 12th amongst the top 20 tourist generating countries for the US with 724,433 arrivals, an increase of 9.2% over the previous year. In 2012 Indian visitors also ranked 10th in the world in terms of money spent, with a total spend of $4.9 billion – an increase of 11% over the previous year.


Seeing the tremendous response generated by the mission, Mr. Jay Gray, Vice President, Global Partnership Development, Brand USA said, “We thank our travel industry partners for their overwhelming support for yet another successful India Travel Mission. Such events augment our efforts in building positive awareness of the United States as a travel destination, and inviting more Indian travelers to experience the boundless opportunities that our country has to offer.”

Ms. Sheema Vohra, Managing Director of Sartha Global, the recently appointed marketing representative office for Brand USA added, “The travel mission is the most appropriate and productive platform for U.S. suppliers to provide travel partners with vital destination information, that inspires and makes it easier for them to conclude mutually beneficial business deals.”

Brand USA led a team of representatives from 7M Tours LLC, Beverly Hills Conference & Visitors Bureau, California Academy of Sciences, Caesars Entertainment, Choice Hotels International, Disney Parks USA, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, Las Vegas Convention And Visitors Authority, Macy’s, NYC & Company, Madame Tussauds NY, Empire State Building Observatory, New York Water Taxi, Broadway Collection, Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters, Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, San Francisco Travel Association, Sans Incredible Vacations, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, Simon Shopping Destinations, Starwood Asia Pacific Hotels & Resorts Pvt. Ltd., Sundance Helicopters, Tour America Inc., Tours Limited, Travel Oregon, Universal Orlando Resorts, Visit California, Visit Florida, Visit Orlando and Visit Tampa Bay.


Wedding Bells

Kashmiri women singing a traditional wedding song at a village near Anantnag on way to Kokernag in Kashmir valley. Kashmiri weddings are a treat to watch. At this particular occasion the groom has gone to the local mosque and the women folk are waiting for him to return, while singing this song on the main road to village. Song is praising the bride and the groom and reminds them that they are finally now together…. And it was raining too!

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Here is a video of this song

Kashmiri Wedding Song

Beautiful Orchids at Singapore

When it is Singapore, it has to be Orchids, of different colours and sizes and hues! Orchidarium at the Singapore Botanic Gardens is one of the finest places to see Orchids in full majestic bloom. What else, this might be also an amazing place to get some Orchid based souvenirs- real orchids preserved for ever, gold jewellery with real Orchid petals and much more.  Loved to be there.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

One of the few Botanical gardens outside India that I had privilege to visit and Singapore one was indeed one and the most beautiful of them. Indeed worth a visit. A glimpse of the beauty established in 1859. It has already celebrated 150 years of existence. Fittingly it is Singapore’s only entry to UNESCO World Heritage sites. A good place for tourists, nature lovers and students alike. Go and enjoy!

Yatra to Hemkund Sahib resumes

Guruwara is located at the starting edge of the lake
Guruwara is located at the starting edge of the lake

This is a good news. The pilgrimage to famous Sikh shrine, Hemkund Sahib in Uttarakhand in Himalayan India, suspended since the June 16 natural calamity, resumed on Saturday with Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna flagging off a batch of nearly 100 pilgrims from Govindghat. The flag-off took place after “bhog” and a ceremonial recitation of Akhand Path. The portals of the shrine located at a height of 15,200 ft will reopen on Sunday when the first batch of pilgrims arrives there. Now the pilgrims and trekkers alike will be able to make most of whatever season is left to go to Hemkund and world Heritage site of Valley of Flowers.

Though damage to the shrine devoted to the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh was not as extensive as in Kedarnatah, a 6 km stretch of the trek route to the high altitude Gurudwara was washed away in the June 16 deluge. The route to Ghangriya from Govindghat was also ravaged in the floods. Ghangria works as a base camp for trek to Hemkund Sahib as well as Valley of Flowers. With the damaged pedestrian route completely repaired, thanks to massive restoration efforts put in by Hemkund Sahib Management Trust, the yatra was ceremonially resumed on Saturday.

However, as a precautionary measure, the number of pilgrims to the shrine will be kept limited to about a 100 initially which will gradually be increased in the course of time. Resumption of the yatra to the Sikh shrine is yet another indication of things gradually getting back on track in rain-ravaged Uttarakhand. Prayers at Kedarnath, which bore the brunt of the June calamity, resumed on September 11.


Nathan Sawaya with one of his creations
Nathan Sawaya with one of his creations

From November 22, 2013 to April 21, 2014, the Brussels Stock Exchange will host a truly unique art exhibit: THE ART OF THE BRICK. This exhibit showcases more than 60 imposing and fascinating works of art, made with the famous LEGO bricks. All these wonders are the product of the wild imagination of the US artist, Nathan Sawaya. This exhibition has already attracted over 1.5 million visitors in North America, Australia and Asia. The arrival in Belgium of this exhibit, which is aimed at a wide audience, will be the European Premiere.

THE ART OF THE BRICK exhibition is displayed on a surface of 1,300 m² more than 60 impressive new objects in a new genre : exceptional works of art created with hundreds of thousands LEGO® building blocks. Whether real or fictional, the characters and objects created by Nathan Sawaya are amazing and leave visitors completely speechless. This travelling exhibition is one of the most extraordinary and innovative exhibitions in recent memory touching both young and old and thus truly accessible to all. For CNN, this is « One of the Top 10 Must See Global Exhibitions ».

Among the most stunning and unexpected 3D creations, THE ART OF THE BRICK exhibits reconstructions, often interpreted, of universally known works of art, like Rodin’s « The Thinker », the « Venus de Milo », Edvard Munch’s «The Scream » – where the hands and head explode from the 2-dimesional to the 3-dimensional ! – or « The Arnolfini Wedding Portrait » by Jan van Eyck – where the characters are outside the painting.

Sawaya is master of such creations
Sawaya is master of such creations

When discovering the various exhibition spaces, the visitor will suddenly encounter the North transept rose window of Chartres Cathedral, a Buddha or huge sculptures like this 6 metre long T-Rex skeleton made out of 80,020 bricks. Other works are completely new creations from the artist’s imagination : a female swimmer, a man opening his chest to reveal a treasure of LEGO® bricks, another losing his hands, human figures topped by a geometric shaped head… For the Brussels Stock Exchange exhibition, Nathan Sawaya has even designed a… Manneken Pis!

• The exhibition takes place from 22nd November 2013 to 21st April 2014 at the Brussels Sock Exchange, 1 place de la Bourse, 1000 Brussels, seven days a week, from 10:00 to 19:30 h (last entry: 18:30 h), with late night openings on Wednesday until 21:00 h (last entry: 20:00 h) .
• The exhibition offers an audio guide, an interactive and building area, creative workshops, public guided tours on Saturday, the perfect excursion for groups (schools, associations, companies), accessibility to persons with reduced mobility, preferential rates for children, students, seniors, families and groups.