Archive for June, 2009

13 Historical Sites Guaranteed Protection

Over the past week, 13 travel destinations have been added to the World Heritage List. As a student or traveler interested in going abroad, these nominations affect us. Each nomination enables a culturally or historically significant place to receive much needed international support for its preservation. The World Heritage Committee is currently meeting to nominate more sites to the World Heritage List.  From June 22nd until the 30th the Committee will nominate places to inscribe to the list.

Curious about those 13 spots?

The two new natural sites include: The Wadden Sea in Germany / The Netherlands; and the Dolomites, a mountain range in the northern Italian Alps.

The Tower of Hercules, New Addition to the World Heritage List

The Tower of Hercules, New Addition to the World Heritage List

The 11 new cultural sites: The Stoclet House in Belgium; the Ruins of Loropéni in Burkina Faso (near the borders of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo); Cidade Velha (Historic Centre of Ribeira Grande) in Cape Verde; Mount Wutai, a sacred Buddhist mountain in China; Shushtar, a 5th century B.C. hydraulic system in Iran; Sulamain, a sacred mountain in Kyrgyzstan, considered the most complete example of a sacred mountain anywhere in Central Asia; the Sacred City of Caral-Supe in Peru; the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty in the Republic of Korea; the Tower of Hercules in Spain; Swiss watchmaking towns of La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle; and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal in the United Kingdom.

The Committee also added several sites to it’s “Danger” list: the Belize Barrier Reef System; Los Katios National Park in Columbia; and the historical monuments of Mtskheta in Georgia.

For more informaton on the newest additions to the World Heritage List check out the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Protecting Your Favorite Travel Destinations

What do the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and Yosemite National Park in California all have in common? Any takers? They are all World Heritage sites. Odds are if you’ve traveled anywhere in the world or are planning a study abroad trip, you’ll visit at least one World Heritage site. What is a World Heritage site and why should you care? Well, if you want any of those beautiful locales to disappear, stop reading.

WHC Protects Temples Like This One in Agrigento, Sicilia

WHC Protects Temples Like This One in Agrigento, Sicilia

Traveling is not just about jotting things off your to do list. It’s about learning new cultures as well as our own past. In an effort to preserve important locations and habitat around the world, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) developed the World Heritage Centre (WHC).  Centuries of habitation, exploration, and tourism have led to the deterioration of antique palaces, monuments,  marine reserves, and national parks. The World Heritage Centre nominates these places to its “World Heritage List,” to raise awareness and preserve the site’s legacy through additional government involvement.

Developed by an American in 1972 and modeled after the National Parks system, the World Heritage List recognizes sites that are natural or cultural or mixed and demonstrate a “universal value to humanity.” They represent remarkable architecture or technology, or ecological or biological importance.

Each year the World Heritage Committee nominates vulnerable areas of cultural and historical significance. This past week the Committee added to the list: the Stoclet House in Brussels, Belgium, The Tower of Hercules (an ancient lighthouse) in La Coruña, Spain, and the Swiss watch-manufacturing towns of La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle. The Committee will conclude its nominating process in Sevilla, Spain on Tuesday, June 30th. Next year the U.S. government hopes to nominate Mount Vernon in Virginia and Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii to this prestigious list.

Which World Heritage Sites have you visited? Check out this list. Some might surprise you. On a recent trip to Loreto, Mexico in Baja California Sur I went kayaking, clam diving, and snorkeling in the Sea of Cortez. Guess what? The islands and protected areas of the Gulf of California (aka, Sea of Cortez) are on the World Heritage List. An interesting fact: the UNESCO site in the Sea of Cortez is home to 695 plant species and 891 species of fish, more than any other marine or island property on the World Heritage List. Cool, huh?

Take a Stroll Down Andrássy Avenue in Budapest, Hungary

Take a Stroll Down Andrássy Avenue in Budapest, Hungary

Other recognizable locations include: the historic centres of Florence, Napoli, and Siena, Italy; Taj Mahal in India; the city of Budapest in Hungary; the Loire Valley in France; the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador; and Machu Picchu in Peru. I’ve been to five of the above mentioned sites…how about you?

You’ll notice most sites on the World Heritage List are famous. With fame comes challenges in preservation. The World Heritage Centre encourages visitors to be aware and travel responsibly. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can share and preserve World Heritage sites check out the Friends of World Heritage website. You can also donate to support communities around the sites. For every $1 donated, both Expedia and the United Nations Foundation will match your donation. Don’t forget to let Gulliver help you plan your next big adventure!

Relaxing Ways to Spoil Yourself Abroad

What entices you to travel or study abroad? Discovering new cultures, enjoying good cuisine, or conquering outdoor adventures? We at Gulliver recommend you do all of the above! On my recent trip to Loreto, Mexico, I went kayaking, braved cow’s head tacos, and drank some of the best tequila (ok, I guess I can do that back home!) There were a few instances, though, where I let myself unwind.  Normally I find “relaxing” a waste of valuable time.  As I continue to travel, however, I’m discovering some of the best experiences involve simply taking a break.

Catching the Sunrise

Wake up to This

Wake up to This

Ok, maybe waking up at 6am to watch the morning sun light up the sky is not your idea of relaxing. But imagine a rainbow of pink, purple, red, and blue illuminating the coast of Baja California Sur. At first, I regretted waking up; I wanted to go right back to sleep, but then I saw a pink layer of light over the horizon and realized I was in for a treat. The precious sound of my friend yelling at me to get up forced me out the door. Once outside she curled up in a hammock while I busted out my camera. There are so many benefits to watching the sunrise: it’s free; requires no energy; and it’s one of the best sights you’ll ever see.

Spa & Massage

If you need a break from eating, drinking, and overheating in Mexico- or anywhere else- get a massage. The whole point of going abroad is to pamper yourself… right? I had never been to a spa before Loreto. For one hour I didn’t think about anything else. To make life sweeter, it was apparently cheaper than a normal massage in the states. After clam diving, indulging in our catch, and enduring 100 + temperatures, an hour inside a cool, dark room proved mesmerizing. We went to a masseuse at the Hotel Posada de las Flores in downtown Loreto. If you have a free hour, this is a great way to spend your time!

Boat Rides & Whale Watching

Open Waters Offer Unparalleled  Views

Open Waters Offer Unparalleled Views

I regret not doing this in Loreto. The town is known for it’s fishing and sailing. We went kayaking and snorkeling but never took a cruise or boat ride. Boats go out much further from land than kayaks.  If you’re lucky you’ll see dolphins, turtles, man rays, and even whales! You can rent a boat or befriend locals or expats who have their own. If you’re dying to go whale watching- visit Loreto between January and March- that’s the prime season.

Personally, I find adventure sports soothing.  Most of my friends go to Mexico to lie on the beach. Everybody has a different way to relax.  At Gulliver we encourage travelers to try new things, especially those they cannot easily do back home.

The Real Flavor of Loreto, Mexico: Its Food!

I like to eat. I ate my way through Italy, France, Germany…and most of Europe. Here at Gulliver, we invite you to try new things. When studying abroad or traveling, there is no better way to learn a new culture than through its cuisine. Loreto, Mexico proved no exception. Yes we tried the burritos, chile relleno, margaritas, and tequila. We also stretched our stomachs to the limits.

Tacos. El Rey Del Taco is a side-street restaurant in Loreto known for its top-notch beef and fish tacos, tostadas, and other goodies. For the locals, however, it’s famous for cow’s head (Cabeza de Vaca) and intestine (Tripas) tacos. What?? You read it right. I tried the cabeza taco- turned out to be some of the juiciest and tastiest meat I’ve ever had. The intestines, we’ll save for another time.

Seafood & a View in Loreto

Seafood with a View in Loreto

Seafood. Loreto sits on the Baja California Coast. From mahi-mahi, to sea bass, crab, and clams, the seafood is abundant. My friend and I dined at Mediterraneo one night. As we overlooked the shoreline, we both indulged in mahi-mahi stuffed with crab. Great choice, especially with a little vino. Now, fishing is the biggest sport in the area. We did not make it out on a boat, but we did make it to a secluded beach to go clam diving. We learned how to hunt for the little white eyes hidden in the ocean floor. We captured dozens of beautiful clams. Our reward? Eating our catch at another coastal restaurant in Loreto, Loreto Islas. Our chef served us raw clams, chocolate clams (con queso), and a few soaked in tomato sauce. Add a little lime and fresh salsa and you have a delicious feast.

Sustainable Margarita. Mexico has its share of alcohol: Pacifico, Corona, Don Julio tequila, margaritas, and Damiana liqueur. I had my first Sangrita (Don Julio and a bloody mary mixture) and one of the best Strawberry Margaritas. At one bar, the Giggling Dolphin, I learned a new mixing technique. The drink – an old fashioned margarita.  I of course, acted as the guinea pig. After I refused to dance on a counter top (too much pressure), the bartender asked me to make a “Sustainable Margarita.” This consisted of a bike connected to a blender. Wearing a skirt, I hopped on the rider’s seat and took off, pedaling my way to a blended margarita. After a few minutes, my margarita and I were whipped.

In a sense, we had to earn our keep in Loreto. I’m still thirsty for more. When you travel to new places, try everything- even if it makes you cringe. You won’t regret it in the end. You’ll also discover new ways to entertain yourself.

Loreto, Mexico – A Hidden Oasis

Going abroad? We at Gulliver recommend taking that road less traveled.  If you’re planning to study or take a trip to say, Mexico- which you should- skip the parties in Tijuana, the hustle and bustle of Mexico City, or spring break in Puerto Vallarta. After a significant hiatus from traveling overseas, my best friend invited me to meet her in Mexico.  Next stop? Not Los Cabos or Acapulco, but the small, sport fishing town of Loreto.

A Beautiful Start to the Day

A Beautiful Start to the Day

Loreto?  That’s exactly what I thought. A New York Times article said travelers visit this area of Baja California Sur for the “beach and the charming village.”  Others describe Loreto as “paradise.” The town sits 700 miles south of the US/Mexico border, on the Sea of Cortez.  It’s surrounded by mountains and the ocean and is known for fishing, whale watching, dolphins, and kayaking. The Islands and Protected Areas of the Sea of Cortez have also been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The people of Loreto are extremely outgoing.  From restaurant chefs, to multimillionaires, local tour guides, and hotel owners, they all know each other. The town is pretty quiet right now, due to the economic recession and the off-season. Even our outdoor adventures were pretty secluded. It was a welcomed change.

Our travel guide, Antonio, turned into a good friend. Antonio, a Loreto native, works with Paddling South a Baja Adventures Tour Company. Our first adventure found us hiking through canyons en route to Misión San Javier– the second oldest mission in the Californias. The oldest mission, Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó, built in 1697, sits in the historic center of Loreto. Our next trip, sea kayaking and snorkeling on Isla Danzante, introduced us to dozens of starfish, exotic fish, an octopus, and a turtle. Both locales lie just south of Loreto.

Sea of Cortez, Baja Coast

Sea of Cortez, Baja Coast

Our fascination with the sea… and hunger for seafood enticed us to go clam diving. Antonio voluntarily took my friend and me to Los Conditos and taught us how to dive. I don’t know what proved more rewarding, catching the clams… or eating them! Antonio couldn’t join us for lunch, but his boss, Trudi, took us to Loreto Islas, where the head chef Francisco (Antonio’s Uncle) served up our clams.  Simply stated, the cuisine in Loreto is delicious!

In less than one week I went from knowing nothing about this coastal town of Loreto to befriending many of the locals and expats.  My friend works for the United Nations Foundation and visited Los Cabos, La Paz, and Loreto as part of the World Heritage Alliance conference. The mission: to protect historical sites, marine preserves, and promote sustainable tourism around the world.  If you are looking for a unique experience overseas, Loreto is the perfect place to watch the sunrise, meet the locals, walk along the Malecon (boardwalk), swim with the dolphins, or people-watch while sipping a strawberry margarita.

Woohoo! The House Approves the Simon Study Abroad Bill

This has been a long time coming.  Gulliver has blogged about the Simon Study Abroad Bill before and we were super excited when it was introduced earlier in the year.  Today, the US House of Representatives approved the Bill as part of the Foreign Relations Act and will soon make its way to the Senate.  The Bill aims to send over 1 million US college students abroad in the next 10 years.  To accomplish that, it will create a separate entity to administer $80 million in grants to students, universities, and NGOs that send students overseas.  Here at Gulliver we have one thing to say: it’s about time!

Vote Yay!

Vote Yay!

With current economic woes taking their toll on schools across the nation (Reed College is a prime example) students are having to fight for all the economic aid they can find.  This doesn’t translate well for study abroad students, who are also having a tough time finding scholarships and grants to pay for their trips abroad.  If the Bill passes with full funding, the money will go a long way to helping students go abroad.  We wished for this sort of Bill when we were going abroad and are all too happy that it’s prospects look good.

But don’t start applauding and hollering just yet.  The Bill still has to be approved by the Senate before being confirmed, and last year it narrowly missed approval.  Keep your fingers crossed.  We certainly will.

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Day Trips Around Florence, Italy

Studying abroad in Florence? Lucky You! Honestly, there’s no real need to venture outside the city. If you do feel adventurous, however, you will find several beautiful towns an hour bus or train ride away. A few come to mind: Fiesole, Siena, and Lucca. Of course, you can also visit the tower of Pisa or the Torture Museum in San Gimignano.


Built into the hills above Florence, Fiesole is a great escape from the summer heat and offers beautiful views overlooking Florence. Feel like walking around? Fiesole has an archeology park with a Roman amphitheater and Roman, Etruscan, and Longabard ruins.

A Real Taste of Italy

A Real Taste of Italy

A great day trip includes a wine tasting-bike tour. Tuscany Bike Tours offers daily trips from March to November. The day starts with a shuttle pick-up near the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. The tour includes a castle visit, a bike ride through Tuscany, wine tasting, oil tasting, and a grand lunch feast with pastas and a little more wine. It’s hard to tell what’s more inviting, the scenery or the Tuscan cuisine.


This medieval hill town is one of the most popular in Tuscany. During the summer Siena’s large fan-shaped Piazza del Campo turns into a track for the famous Il Palio horse race. Siena is also home to a beautiful cathedral, pedestrian streets with shops, and the second highest medieval bell tower in Italy (it’s a good 505 step hike to the top).  The top of the tower offers amazing views of the city.  Piazza del Duomo is another beautiful square and home to Siena’s Duomo. Siena’s art museum, Pinacoteca Nazionale, also houses some of Italy’s greatest paintings from the 13th and 14th centuries.


Lucca is Well Known for Puccini and Pinocchio

Lucca is Known for Puccini and Pinocchio

Lucca remains one of the best-preserved Italian walled cities. The wall itself has walking and bike paths and gardens, which surround the historic city center. A climb to the top of Guinigi Tower provides fabulous views of the city.  Lucca is less touristy than most cities and has several “pedestrian only” streets. For history geeks, Lucca was the birthplace of the famous Italian operatic composer, Giacomo Puccini. His music often fills the air in the town’s main square. If you like art, visit the city’s Duomo, which houses paintings by Ghirlandaio, Tintoretto, Zuccari and Fra’ Bartolomeo, as well as Iacopo della Quercia’s most famous work, the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto.

Lucca is also a great place to find Italian pottery and ceramics (great gifts to bring home)!

If you need help planning your dream trip to Italy, check out Gulliver’s “Prepare to Go” section. You’ll find information on housing, cell phones, funding, and insurance.  The more you accomplish before you leave, the better your trip will be!

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