Five Alternative Places to Visit in the USA

New York, Boston and Los Angeles are probably the cities that pop into your head when you think of the United States. But urban USA stretches far beyond the Venice Beach and Manhattan. Here are some of our favourite alternative places to visit in the USA.

 

Nashville

Also known as Music City, Memphis is the country music capital of the world, which is hard to ignore here.  This city’s history is steeped in music and there are lots of museums, music halls and other sights to remind you of this. Head to the Country Music Hall of Fame to see memorabilia of country icons on display or take a tour through the Ryman Auditorium where some of the biggest stars played and still perform today. Your stay in Nashville wouldn’t be complete with a night out on Broadway which is famous for its live music venues.

Downtown Nashville

Photo by Michael Hicks under Creative Commons Licence

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Travel by the Book

Our Travel Directors are avid readers.  They know one of the best ways to soak up the essence of a region or city is through a powerful novel or fascinating account set there.  So we’ve asked for their recommendations of engrossing reads that get you under the skin of the destinations they know so well.

Ireland

Eve Hand recommends Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks

Destinations : Ireland

“…captures the small town feel of a country of almost 6 million inhabitants…encounters reveal the charm and warmth of the Irish.”

After a drunken bet, Tony Hawks literally travelled around Ireland with a fridge. Needless to say, a month spent on the road with his frosty companion provided the perfect set-up for amusing, touching and even surreal encounters with the locals.  Ideal travel reading for those who like a lot of humour – from belly laughs to wry smiles – to go with their insights into regional sensibilities.

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Our Travel Directors’ Favourite Foodie Hotspots

Our Travel Directors are experts in their destination. So they’re always able to point you in the direction of excellent local dining. To put our money where our mouth is, we’ve asked Travel Directors working in very different regions to recommend some of their favourites.

RED FISH BLUE FISH IN VICTORIA

Peter Ray recommends Red Fish Blue Fish which is not your run of the mill fish and chip shop. Located in the beautiful Victoria inner harbour in an old shipping container, this place has taken fish and chips to a new level.  Modern flourishes blended with traditional methods. The halibut and chips is a favourite as are the tempura cod tacones. The spotted shrimp mayo is to die for. Loved by locals and a tourist fave, there is always a queue but it is worth the wait.

tempura cod tacones

Photo by Alyson Hurt under Creative Commons Licence

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South Kensington Museums

South Kensington is home to some of the biggest and best museums in London, and one of the best things about them is that – they’re free! Situated in beautiful open spaces, you could easily spend the whole day wandering around the museums and taking in the great sights, parks and restaurants that South Kensington has to offer. Another great thing is that the museums are all within easy walking distance, so there is no rushing from one to the other on tubes or buses. Take a look at some of the highlights of each museum:

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11 Must See Spots in Italy

I don’t know about you, but Italy has always been top of my bucket list for travel so we thought this week we’d take a look at what you just have to do while you’re there:

 1. Venice

Now you couldn’t possibly visit Italy without making a trip to Venice – arguably Italy’s most romantic city. Make sure you wander through the hidden ghetto, try and spot the leaning bell towers above you and take a trip over to the island of Burano to try the seafood.

Burano Island, Venice

Burano Island, Venice

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Eating around Italy’s Regions

When you think of Italian food, the first dishes that spring to mind are pizza and pasta. But Italian food is much more diverse than that. There are twenty regions in Italy that each has their own distinct way of preparing food and their own culinary traditions. We’re highlighting five of them this week.

Eating around italy's regions

 Tuscany

Tuscan food is known for its simplicity and use of locally grown ingredients. Tuscans tend to sprinkle their dishes with rosemary and sage, herbs that grow all over Tuscany. The region is also famous for its truffles, saffron and porcini mushrooms, ingredients you’ll be sure to come across when eating in authentic Tuscan restaurants.

Eating around italy's regions

Photo by Juan Antonio Capo under Creative Common Licence

 

Sardinia

Being an island, Sardinian dishes are all about the seafood. Besides freshly caught fish, clams and crabs, menus in Sardinian restaurants will most likely feature dishes like cassola, a fragrant fish and seafood soup, burrida which is a shark chowder and oven roasted aragosta arrosto which is a rock lobster half topped with a crunchy, seasoned breadcrumb layer.

Eating around italy's regions

Veneto

Thanks to the trading power of the Venetians in the past, food in Veneto is heavily influenced by cooking traditions from around the world. This region was the first in Europe to put rice dishes on the table and risi e bisi, riso e trippa and risotto are still staple dishes of the Veneto region. Polenta, which is a yellow corn cake, is also very popular here. It’s a garnish that is paired with many Veneto dishes.

Eating around italy's regions

Abruzzo

Abruzzi cooking consists mostly of hearty and filling meals. Dishes that hail from this region are zuppa di cardi which is a soup filled with cardoons, potatoes and pork or zuppa di lenticchie which is a lentil soup with pork chestnuts and tomatoes.  Another Abruzzo favourite is agnello alle olive; slow cooked lamb in a clay pot.

Lazio

Home to the capital of the country, food in Lazio usually consists of fresh produce, brothy soups and lots of pasta dishes. A meal in Lazio often starts with platters full of antipasti; freshly baked breads, cured meats and grilled veggies etc. Pasta dishes in Lazio typically contain pasta tubes so bucatini or penne all’amatriciana are local favourites.

Eating around italy's regions

Tricks for Taking Better Smartphone Pictures

Smart phones are probably used for lots of other things besides making phone calls these days.  One of those is of course the camera function and the quality of photos you can take with the latest smart phone models are pretty high end. And if you use our smart phone photography tips, your friends and family will really be wowed when you show them your pictures of your next holiday.

#1 Get higher

Get a different angle on your subject and take your picture from a higher position than eye level. Try to see if you can hold your camera higher, climb stairs, stand on a wall or on anything that gives you a higher vantage point than the object or person you want to capture.

get high

 #2 Get lower

Pretty much the same principle as the previous tip: changing your vantage point gives you a completely different perspective of your subject and will make your picture look a little bit more interesting than when you take it standing in front of your subject and snap away.

United States Capital in the Spring with tulips blooming in front

#3 Get closer

Don’t use the zoom on your smart phone, because you’ll end up with a lot of fuzz and noise on your picture. Either get closer to what you want to photograph or just take the picture and zoom in with your preferred editing app which I will explain more in point five. If that still doesn’t give you the wanted result, you could also attach a fish eye, macro or wide angle lens to your phone camera. Check out www.photojojo.com for these.

Cotton Fields, Texas

#4 Get cleaner

Get rid of any messiness that is lingering in the background of your subject. Get rid of anything that might make your picture too busy. Just move around a little and see whether you can shoot your picture from an angle that will place your subject in front of a clean background. It will make your picture a lot less noisy.

Kangaroo

#5 Get apps

There are loads of applications you can download on your smart phone that will make your picture look even more fabulous than it already is. Snapseed is a very easy to use  phone application and you can crop, and shop your image to look a bit more pro and a bit less like a holiday snap. Google-owned Picasa is a good desktop application for editing your pictures. Of course there is always Instagram which, besides its filter function, has great editing functions.