The medieval city of Edinburgh has been recognized as Scotland's capital since the 15th century. It thus is home to both the Scottish Parliament and the Royal palace of Holyroodhouse.
With its centralized location the city with a population of 500,000, serves as a popular tourist destination as well as a University center.
Some of the major attractions include The National Museum of Scotland, National Library of Scotland, National Gallery, University of Edinburgh, The Edinburgh International festival, The Fringe, Edinburgh Castle the palace of Holyroodhouse and the UNESCO world heritage sites of Old Town and the 18th century New Town.
One of my favorite attractions is the Queen's 412' Royal Yacht Britannia which is now permanently berthed at Edinburgh's Ocean Terminal and serves as a museum and an eye opener to the secret life of extravagance and opulence enjoyed by The Royals.
The cobblestone streets of The Royal Mile runs in a downward slope from Edinburgh castle to Holyrood Palace. On a sunny day its one of the most picturesque places anywhere and from Edinburgh castle it affords fabulous views of New Town and the surrounding country side.
When in Edinburgh do as the Scots do, and partake in a drink at anyone of their 200 pubs.
Its a steep climb from the 18th century New Town into the Old town.
The Queens Guards on patrol outside Edinburgh Castle
On a sunny July afternoon, Princess Street Gardens is a popular place to sun bathe and or take in a Cheddar and onion sandwich, a millionaire for desert and wash it all down with an Irn-Bru to the sweet sounds of bag pipers.
Public Transportation around Edinburgh is convenient and efficient. As seen here in New Town.
Edinburgh's efficient transportation and centralized location is ideal for using it as a base to explore numerous other attractions.
Just 30 minutes away via public transport lies Edinburgh's Caribbean like beach front, Portobello Beach.
A mere 45 minute commuter ride takes one to the quaint seaside town of North Berwick.
Another popular day trip from Edinburgh is to the small Ferry town Queensferry, where a ferry can be had to Inchcolm island and its 12th century abbey.
No trip to Edinburgh or Scotland would be complete without taking in a Scottish Premier league game. But be warned - the stadium does't sell alcohol.
After a busy day sight seeing in Edinburgh, its coffee and treat time. Edinburgh has many sweet shops.
Summer months are the best time to visit Edinburgh, as the summer days are long with the sunset around 9 pm and temperatures in the low 20's Celsius / low 70's Fahrenheit. Edinburgh as a National Capital is well serviced by direct flights from North America and Europe. Prices are high especially for food, drink and lodgings; however public. Transportation is reasonable and public museums are often free.
Overall Edinburgh is a great base for many day trips and is well worth a visit as it appears clean and relatively safe, though some of the locals may live up to the Scot dour stereo type.
Copenhagen is both the capital and largest urban center for the Scandinavian country of Denmark. It lies at the eastern edge of the country and is well served from the rest of country and Europe via an efficient train service and low cost airlines.
Originally an outpost for the vikings, Copenhagen would grow into a regional power by the 17th century and its well preserved architecture and royal palaces play tribute to its rich history today.
The city for me reminds me a lot of a cleaner, safer and better organized version of Amsterdam. Both of which feature canals, well planned cycling lanes and of course Dutch Baroque style architecture.
Copenhagen today is often rated high on the world's most livable city's index for its best practice urban planning, safety, cleanliness and lack of smog.
The Nyhavn canal is a popular entertainment district for Copenhagen and a great place to enjoy a Danish beer while people watching.
The pedestrian only downtown area is ideal for shopping or cafe hopping.
No trip to Copenhagen is complete without a canal boat tour.
The citizens of Copenhagen love their sunny days, as they cycle through out the city where there is many public musical performances
Popular street eats include beer nuts and world famous Danish Hot dogs !
Copenhagen is home to the worlds first amusement park Tivoli Gardens. No trip to Copenhagen is complete without a visit here.
For shopping enthusiasts Copenhagen has many options including large mega malls as the Fisketorvet shopping center - easily accessible via city train or bicycle.
Despite the weather often being damp, the locals love exercising outdoors whether that be in the form of swimming in the ocean or cycling. They are definitely among the most fit people you'll see anywhere.
As a proponent of everything green and environmental sustainability, Copenhagen is rife with Eco cafes and farm to fork freshness. Copenhagen like most European cities has there share of great bakeries too.
Like all major western cities Copenhagen has struggled with homelessness and poverty. They however allow for an area known as "Freetown Christiana" to exist which is a free thinking commune which annexed an abandoned military base where Cannabis is freely grown and traded.
Public transport is operated in the usual European efficiency, no need for Uber here.
Copenhagen as a major European capital, has all the major musical acts gracing its stadiums. Its also home to many cultural treasures as the National Museum of Denmark.
Copenhagen has eight royal castle to explore and many other architectural wonders worth visiting.
In summary: Copenhagen is a very cool place to visit. However, due to Denmark's extremely high standard of living it is very very expensive. Expect to pay at least double for everything, but the quality is generally impeccable.
As Copenhagen is a major cruise port, there are many direct flights from North America. There is no language concerns as many signs / menus are bilingual (Danish / English ) as too pretty much everyone you meet.
Crossing over the Oresund Bridge from Copenhagen lies the industrialized city of Malmo Sweden. With a Metro population of 700,000 its ranks as the 3rd largest Swedish city.
The climate is oceanic and considered quite mild for its altitude due to the Gulf Stream. Demographically Malmo is young with a median age of just 35. It is also quite multi-cultural due to mass immigration of late with a good proportion of the population being either direct immigrant and or first generation stock.
Malmo often makes world headlines for its gang violence, bombings, shootings etc. It should be noted the over all murder rate is around 4 per 100,000 people thus ranking it safer overall then the USA which has a murder rate of 5.3 .murders per 100,000 people. This is Malmo - its not Medellin, and nor is it Mexico - but like traveling anywhere always take precautions, and consult with the locals.
The Turning Torso dominates the Malmo skyline. Its a neo-futurist skyscraper and the largest skyscraper in Scandinavia.
Malmo like Amsterdam and Copenhagen has a ring of canals and bridges around the town which originated historically as part of the cities defensive system.
Modern Malmo is a collection of unique Scandinavian contemporary architectural treasures that seamlessly blend in beautifully with IKEA like precision.
Malmo makes for a great days trip from Copenhagen and is easily reached directly from Copenhagen's Central train station, via numerous daily high speed trains in a mere 34 minutes. Malmo is very accessible on bike with a very good bike lane network throughout.
One of the main attractions is Malmo Castle built in 1434.
A trip to Malmo wouldn't be complete without Swedish Meatballs.
Canal boat hires with wine luncheons are popular.
Canal side cafes and beer gardens are a great way to take in the Scandinavian sun.
I have to say that overall Malmo surprised me for its beauty and overall friendliness. It was nothing like I had expected. I had anticipated a Swedish version of Detroit, but was pleasantly surprised to see a very clean historic city with a contemporary Scandinavian modern twist complete with well maintained roads, canals and pretty much graffiti free from what I could see.
Warm Turquoise Water and a Constant breeze
Bonaire lies some 100 km north of South America, and just outside Hurricane Alley. Its the "B" in the A-B-C islands, along with Aruba and Curacao.
While all three islands are within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Bonaire however enjoys a "Special municipality" status within the Kingdom, thus differentiating it from Aruba and Curacao which are considered constituent countries.
Though Bonaire is physically the second largest of the three islands, it has the smallest population with a mere 20,000 plus residents. Its also the least well known. For those that are aware of the island is has a world class reputation for reef diving and various wind sports including kite boarding, wind sailing and land sailing.
The interior of the island is like driving through a red and rocky martian landscape, but dotted with tens of thousands of cacti with some as tall as 20 feet plus. Great for hiking or ATV'ing. its very common to see many's a wild donkey grazing alongside the roadway.
There are only two towns on the island, with the capital being Kralendyjk. Cruise ships will often dock here on a daily basis, and visitors are delighted by its colorful and pseudo style Dutch architecture Ala Amsterdam , ice cream shops, cafes and clean and tidy streets.
In my two visits to the island I have found many great activities that are not always available on other Caribbean islands. These activities include shoreline reef snorkeling / scuba diving, wind surfing, land sailing, kite boarding, mangrove kayaking, cave diving, hiking and wildlife in the form of pink flamingos and of course the wild donkeys.
There is a wide selection of decent and affordable restaurant choices, not to mention the island is well serviced via direct Dutch rule by way of modern grocery stores and the alike services one would find most any where. The locals are very friendly with English widely utilized as the business language. Currency is US dollars.
Getting There: Bonaire is serviced from the Netherlands via direct flights on KLM. From Aruba and Curacao EZ Air and Divi Divi; Via North America the options are endless including American, Delta, United along with in season direct flights out of Toronto by way of Sunwing.
See my videos below for more inspiration.
A little bit of France in the Heart of North America
The city of Montreal is well positioned on the St Lawrence river some 100 km north of Plattsburgh, New York. Its the largest city in the French speaking province of Quebec, second largest city in Canada and likewise the second largest French speaking city in the world.
Montreal has long been a strategic location since explorer Jacques Cartier's first visit in 1535. After which it became a center of the fur trade. The British captured the town from the French in 1762, and it remained under British control until Canada's confederation in 1867.
Montreal today is a vibrant metropolis of over 1.9 million people. French is the official language and is spoken as a mother tongue by close to 50 % of the population. The city is primarily centered on the island of Montreal with the island's west end "West island" being more of an English speaking area. None the less - English is widely spoken through the city center and Old Town areas and especially in hotels / restaurants where one is often greeted by a "Bonjour / Hi" by fully bilingual staff.
Montreal is well known for its fabulous restaurants, intense night life and year round cultural festivals. Montreal has much more of a Latin, old European feel and flavor than most other North American cities with perhaps the only exceptions being Miami and or Quebec City. Its street cafes, bakeries, cobble stone streets, buskers, artisan boutiques, fashions and over all vibe lend to its uniqueness. This isn't your classic North American grid pattern Walmart / Coca Cola town. its authentic onto itself as a city of culture. .
Montrealer's love their sports. In particular NHL Hockey - Montreal Canadiens. Yes that Canadien's spelt with an "e". Other sports include MLS soccer "Montreal Impact". CFL Football - "Montreal Alouettes". Formula 1 racing via the Canadian Grand Prix. Finally there is the UFC, which Montreal is nuts for - and it should be noted Montreal is the home of Georges St. Pierre one of the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.
Old Montreal which dates back to the 17th century is very lively with its cafe culture, horse drawn carriages, Notre Dame Cathedral and bustling water front.
The Montreal Water front and the adjacent old Montreal are the places to be on a summers day and feature the likes of paddle boating, amusement rides, zip lining, The Science Center and some great restaurants. It has a real Barcelona feel to it.
The Notre Dame Cathedral and its Gothic revival architecture was built in 1672 and is one of the most popular attractions.
Montreal is a treasure trove of beautiful architecture and especially its churches as shown above.
Getting around Montreal is a snap. The city is well serviced by its Metro which boasts of having the second largest ridership per capita in North America, and delivers some 1.3 million riders a day. Montreal's metro connects Montreal's famous under ground city with some 33 km of tunnels. The Underground city has everything one needs to hibernate from the long cold Montreal winters.
Montreal also hosts bike rental services, and has well marked paths and trails through out the city.
Downtown Montreal is relatively free of Graffiti - instead beautiful Wall Murals take their place.
No Trip to Montreal is complete without partaking in some of the local fast food delicacies as Poutine and Montreal Smoked Meat sandwiches.
One of the many parallels Montreal has with Paris is its great bakeries specializing in French breads and pastries.
Montreal apart from being a city of great cuisine is also a mecca for some of the best night life in North America as evident by the many stag and hen parties that partake. Some of my favorite places include The Montreal Casino, Crescent Street bar district, St Denis district and Montreal's Irish pub district.
For Fashionista's Montreal is perhaps second only to New York itself for its unique fashions and selection thus boasting many of their own designer brands.
After a party night in Montreal, the breakfast restaurants are second to none. Lots of fresh fruit, meats all served by a bilingual waitress and in a very nice setting.
Montreal is a great city for live entertainment. All the big name bands come through here, not to mention Montreal also has a great music scene all on its own.
Modern Montreal has all the tall gleaming buildings of any other city.
Alas Montreal is a one of kind city which should be experienced with an open mind and without judgement. The locals are friendly and exceptionally proud of their city as so they should be. For North American's a trip to Montreal is like a trip to Europe without the long flight. Getting here can easily be had by either Via Rail, Amtrak and or major airlines which fly direct from Europe and or most major North American destinations.
A trip to the future while tripping back to the past
Amsterdam has a reputation which unfortunately proceeds it. The media projects Amsterdam as a drug and red light infested haven when in reality that is just a real small touristy part of the city. In and around the Red Light area can be found various coffee shops which offer a hash brownie or other marijuana treats. As noted this is just a small part of Amsterdam, to really enjoy Amsterdam a cruise through its UNESCO world heritage 17th century canals is a must. All while absorbing the rich Dutch renaissance architecture.
Amsterdam is a very free thinking society, it reminds me of the west coast of North America. This is also evident in the many art galleries as the Van Gogh museum, Lifestyle museum and of course their world famous Sexmuseum. Even a trip to the farmers market or through the shopping district one will see many unique and innovative products common to Holland alone.
The cycling paths are amazing and they even have their own sets of traffic lights. After touring through Amsterdam's medieval streets which run alongside the canals you can also chose to cycle out to Zandvoort beach which is one of the largest beach towns in the Netherlands passing through many's a small farmers town along the way with their old windmills and colorful flower markets. Cycling is a great and healthy way to get around and don’t worry about getting lost as English is widely spoken.
Getting There: The Amsterdam international airport named Schiphol is the fourth busiest airport in Europe and thus its serviced by most major international carriers. Schiphol is the home base for KLM, TUI and Transavia. Amsterdam is also serviced by trains from Paris, Berlin and the ferry ports at the The Hook of Holland.
For those that have never had the chance to visit San Francisco you are really missing out. This city and its surrounding area is a real American west coast gem. Its often been said that San Francisco has the most beautiful climate in the world. Not too hot and not too cold, just right for jogging along the Embarcadero with its palm lined streets, antique cable cars and docks leading to Alcatraz. Though it is often quite foggy, I’ve found the temperature in mid summer very refreshing when compared with other destinations further inland.
This is a very beautiful city built on top of and over many steep rolling hills and features an eclectic mix of colorful architecture ranging from large Victorian manors to more modern style architecture. There is also over 200 well kept parks with flower displays and bronzed statues. The downtown core is clean and features great shopping, pubs, trendy bistros and high rise bank towers that rise in and around California street with its turn of the century street cars
Several miles from the downtown core there is very good surfing along the Pacific beachfront and miles of rolling sand dunes. Its a very free thinking and spiritual society and historically has been since its settlement by the Spanish in the 18th century with many missions built in and around the vicinity. SF is culturally alive with many world class museums and exhibits. This isn't your typical North American big box store town, built on a grid pattern. There is a real c'est la vie mind set here. People seem contempt and happy to be here. They've arrived and this is their final destination, for SF is more than just a city or a place but its a mindset. Life is short. Live it up. SF can also boast in having the second highest quality of living anywhere in the US. and that I quite believe is true.
Getting There: San Francisco International airport is well serviced with direct flights from all over the US and abroad.
The beautiful and historic Spanish Rivera coast line
The Spanish Costa Brava region
Alicante Spain is a warm and sunny beach resort town on the Spanish Mediterranean Sea and Costa Brava area. It features an intimidating Moorish castle Santa Barbara sitting high above the beach front and overlooking the beautiful marbled tiled palm lined promenade Explanada de España. The streets are narrow and cobbled stoned with many great tapas cafes featuring a wide variety of Spanish wines and more types of tapas then I could count. The marina has many big yachts, sailing cruisers and is framed by Roman pillars.
Alicante has a real Mediterranean feel to it, the weather is ideal for laying on the beach and relaxing while sipping a Sangaria. Alicante also features a dozen good museums and many summertime festivals as Fogueres de Sant Joan.
I find Alicante to be a very good rest stop as well as cultural retreat. Many restaurants open at typically Spanish times 9 pm. Its common to see whole families partaking in a family dinner. It should be noted the locals observe a midday siesta and so should you.
Getting There: Alicante is easily serviced within Spain via flights on Vueling and Iberia from Barcelona and Madrid. Its as well serviced via many Western European airports through carriers such as Ryanair, Easyjet, Transavia, Norwegian, KLM and Jet2.
A tropical French paradise called St Bart's
A visit to St. Bart's, is a visit to one of the worlds most beautiful islands in the stunning tropical French Caribbean. Complete with its luxury yachts, wine bistros, boutique hotels and stunning white sandy beaches.
St Bart's; Whether one calls it by its English name “St Barts” or by its French name “Saint Barthélemy”, this is a truly beautiful tropical island retreat with some of the most beautiful Caribbean beaches and turquoise waters anywhere.
Though few can pinpoint it on a map, its name is often name dropped via celebrities and the jet set types. Celebrities are often seen gracing its sugar like beaches in the celeb magazines showing off their perfectly tanned bodies. St Barth's is a French island approximately 8.5 square miles with 8500 citizens and is located 150 miles west of Puerto Rico. Though part of the overseas collectivity of France today, it was originally a Swedish colony for a century up until 1885. The Swedes are long gone but St Barth's still maintains a real European flavor, more so than anywhere else in the Caribbean.
Getting There: Small commuter planes out of St Martin and Sint Maarten service the islands quaint little landing strip. A ferry service from the Dutch side of Sint Maarten also makes daily trips. Though the sea can be quite rough.
The world's finest white sand beaches
Turks and Caicos or TCI as it is adorably sometimes called is a British overseas territory consisting of 2 island groups with a population of 45000 and lies 650 miles southeast of Miami.
As one of the last British overseas territories in the world, TCI sustains a very high standard of living through tourism and offshore banking. The beaches are comprised of some of the most exquisite white sugary sand to be found anywhere in the Caribbean. The popular beach at Grace Bay is lined with many high end boutique hotels and Miami like outdoor cafes.
Some of the best reef snorkeling in the world can be found within 100 feet off the shoreline and among its majestic calm turquoise waters. The downtown core on “Provo” which is the main tourist island features the usual high end duty free Caribbean shopping and some very reasonably priced themed restaurants.
Overall a trip to TCI is quite relaxing but a little pricey. Its main advantages are having all the amenities of modern civilization without the hustle and bustle of people, traffic or noise. Plus its only a one and a half hour flight from Miami, a fact that makes it popular with the Miami celebrity crowd. It should also be noted they drive on the British side.
Getting There: During the winter season the island of Providenciales is serviced by charter flights from Canada via Air Canada and West Jet. American airlines include Delta, Jet Blue, United, US and American, while British Airways services TCI from Europe.