Archive for July, 2009

International Summer Beach Hotspots

Looking to soak up the sun this summer? We at Gulliver recommend you pack the lotion, flip flops, and beach towel and head to the international shores. Here are a few great beach destinations to consider if you’re studying abroad or just traveling for fun.

Placencia, Belize

Hailed as one of the best beaches in Belize, Placencia is located at the southern tip of a long, narrow peninsula in the Stan Creek District. Beach-goers have more than 16 miles of white sand from which to choose.  If you need a little more adventure, try a popular half-day kayak trip through the mangroves of Monkey River. You’ll spot crocodiles, howler monkeys, and manatees floating around. Build up an appetite? Head to one of the beach bars for some shrimp burritos or fish tacos!

Morro de Sao Paulo, Brazil

Explore Morro de Sao Paulo

Explore Morro de Sao Paulo

Get away from the hustle and bustle of Rio and take a ferry to Tinhare Island, better known as Morro de Sao Paulo. Pick from not one, but four beautiful beaches.  Beach “Two” is known for it’s youth culture, night life, and “Rodas de Capoeira,” a form of Brazilian martial art. Once a real weapon, now an acrobatic dance, the “Rodas” takes place each day at sunset. The “First” beach offers pousadas (inns), which cater to the international surfing community.  Beach “Four” is the most peaceful, with good snorkeling and some of the most colorful fish in Brazil.  If you’re lucky you’ll also see dolphins and humpback whales! If these beaches prove too touristy for you, head further north to Ceare and Canoa Quebrada.


Latvia is probably not the first place that comes to mind when thinking about beach towns. According to the UK Times, however, this small Baltic nation has beaches that rival those in Brazil and Australia. There are numerous choices along the 330 miles of Latvian coast, including Jurmlala on the Latvian Riviera. Looking to party? Check out Liepāja, a coastal city with funky hotels, night clubs and cafés, and reasonably priced food and drinks. For those explorers, Liepāja also has medieval churches, tsarist era fortifications, and an abandoned prison well-known for its paranormal activity.

Koh Tarutao, Thailand

Speaking of prisons… this beautiful serene stretch of National Marine Park in Thailand served as a “Prison Island” during World War II. Legend has it that many of those prisoners turned to piracy. Today, the Island is best known as the original setting for the hit TV show “Survivor.” Ko Tarutao is filled with waterfalls and caves, where some say the pirates stashed their booty. The island offers white sandy beaches, coastal trees, a friendly local atmosphere, and clear blue water.

Navagio Beach, Greece

Navagio Beach Offers Jaw-Dropping Views

Shipwreck Beach Offers Jaw-Dropping Views

It’s hard to leave Greece off a list of summer beaches. Our advice…explore the remote, sandy cove of Navagio Beach.  The beach, surrounded by cliffs on the Ionian island of Zakynthos, is accessible only by boat.  The beach was originally called Agios Georgios until a Navagio (“Shipwreck” in English) became a permanent fixture. Today the wreckage of a marooned vessel, dating back to 1983, remains half-emerged in the sand.  Catch a cruise tour from the villages of Volimes or Porto Vromi. While there, hit up the island’s other treasure, the Blue Caves at Skinari – massive airy grottos that are big enough to snorkel, swim, or boat through.

These are just a few beaches to discover – do you have a favorite of your own?

Study Abroad in Turkey!

Imagine exploring the site of the famous Trojan Wars in Western Turkey or seeing the oldest human settlement in Catalhoyuk.  Here at Gulliver we encourage you to spice up your study abroad experience and take your travels to Turkey! Blending ancient ruins, exotic markets, and European and Asian cultures, Turkey is a can’t miss for any adventurer. Although it means trekking into unfamiliar territory, you’ll soon discover Turkey offers a world of unrivaled beauty, history, and cuisine.


Bosphorus Strait Offers Beautiful Views

Bosphorus Strait Offers Beautiful Views

Turkey’s financial, economic and cultural center, Istanbul is one of the most fascinating cities in the world. From the ruins and remnants of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires to the hustle and bustle of modern-day Istanbul, it is the perfect city to enrich your college education. While exploring Istanbul, check out the historical Sirkeci Train Station. This was the last stop of the Simplon-Orient Express between Paris and Constantinople (Istanbul) from 1883 to 1977.  For other stunning views, catch a ferry heading up the Bosphorus Strait. Enjoy a tasty fish lunch at one of the riverside villages. At Anadolu Hisari you can climb up to the castle and gaze out toward the Black Sea.


Whether you experience it by air, foot, or horseback, get up close and personal with the beautiful Cappadocian landscape. Riding horseback around these carved rocks lets you check out all the crazy formations. Look for the abandoned pigeon house. Apparently monks kept pigeons for their soil-fertilizing manure. You’ll also see frescoed churches cut right into the rocks. Don’t be surprised to find treacherous paths and unmarked trails.  You can hire a horse at the stables in Goreme, Avanos, or Urgup.

Ancient Ephesus

Temple of Artemis in Ephesus

Temple of Artemis in Ephesus

One of Turkey’s greatest sites, the extensive Roman ruins of Ephesus are easily accessible on foot along a two-mile tree-shaded path from nearby Selcuk.  Besides the church of St. John, don’t miss the Temple of Artemis. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple was originally built during the 8th c. B.C. It was destroyed, however, and reconstructed by the citizens of Ephesus. Avid walkers could combine a visit to the ruins with a stiff six-mile walk up Mount Bulbul to see Meryemana (Mary’s House), where some people believe the Mother of God lived out the last years of her life.

A word to the wise: When visiting Ephesus, enter through the Lower Gate in the morning, explore the ruins, and then continue out through the Upper Gate and onto the mountain road toward Meryemana as the sun starts to set.

Other fun excursions:

Gap Adventures offers a great travel guides and tips for getting around.

Edinburgh: UNESCO City of Literature

By Sarah Chamberlain

Sometimes when I walk through Edinburgh, I feel like I’ve stepped into the pages of a storybook. The castle perched on the hill, the Gothic buildings in various shades of brown and tan,  the massive rock that is Arthur’s Seat looming over everything, all come together to create a city almost surreal in its beauty. It is no surprise then that this city that resembles something from a fairy tale has been the home and the inspiration for numerous great authors, from Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson to J.K. Rowling. Other excellent authors that use Edinburgh as both real-life and literary stomping grounds include the mystery writers Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith (who has also written a superb serial novel, the 44 Scotland Street series, set in a tenement building in the New Town), and the novelist Muriel Spark. The literary associations don’t end there. During the Festival season in August, Edinburgh hosts the world’s largest book festival (this year’s guests include David Sedaris and Neil Gaiman), and the city itself was even designated by UNESCO as the world’s first City of Literature.

n1223875_35918469_8589All in all, Edinburgh is a very exciting place to be if you’re a bibliophile like me, and what better way to get some insight into the city than by reading books set in and inspired by the city? Here are a few of my particular favorites:

The 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith: Even if the address itself doesn’t exist (and believe me, I’ve checked!), the neighborhood and the people living at 44 Scotland Street in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town feel incredibly real. First published serially in the Scotsman, the novel chronicles the lives, loves, and small joys and disappointments of a variety of people living at the titular address. Reading the first volume of the series was what inspired me to choose Edinburgh for my year abroad, so I can’t say enough good things about it!

The Inspector Rebus novels by Ian Rankin: For a much darker and more sinister view of the Burgh, look no further than this series of detective novels, which follow John Rebus as he investigates murders and kidnappings, moving from the highest to the lowest levels of Edinburgh society. Rankin includes real-life Edinburgh locations in his books; Rebus’ favorite watering hole, the Oxford Bar, is a real pub in New Town, and his flat is on a real street in the southern neighborhood Marchmont.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark: While the previous authors are based in contemporary Edinburgh, the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie takes place in the 1930s, in a version of the city that is hard for me to imagine today. The story of the charismatic teacher Miss Brodie’s relationship with a small group of pupils is an engrossing one, and it draws a picture of the city that lies between well-chronicled history and the present day.

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Summer Adventures: Sailing Around the World

Hit the open sea this summer! Whether it’s kayaking, yacht cruising, sailing, or wind surfing there’s no better way to spend a summer break than enjoying the water. Studying Abroad? Take a break from land-based activities for a few days. Here are some places that offer unforgettable experiences away from land.


Sail Along the Miki Canal

Sail Along Greece's Miki Canal

It’s Greece, need we say more?  When you’re not sunbathing on the beach,  explore this magical country by sea! Broaden your horizons and visit the islands that make up one-fifth of the country.  Explore the Saronic Gulf.  Check out the island of Aegina, a short sail from Athens. Trek to the ancient Temple of Aphaia high on a hill to the northeast to catch some of the most unforgettable sunset views. Spice it up Italian style and visit Naplion, an old Venetian town further north in the Saronic Gulf. You’ll also find the island of Spetsae, which is surrounded by small boatyards where they still build traditional wooden fishing crafts. Another option- sail the Turkish coast. Your best bet is to sail in May, early June, or September. Find more sailing options here.

New Zealand

Let the wind guide you along New Zealand’s beautiful coastline. Check out the old whaling town of Russell, a short sail from Auckland. Visit the museum and the church, which is the oldest in the country. Across the water lies Waitangi, New Zealand’s most important historical site. The Treaty House and Maori meeting house are both national monuments. Another can’t miss- The Bay of Islands offers everything from uninhabited islands to small coves and steep hills. Sail around Cape Brett to Whangamumu Harbor, which operated as a whaling station until the 1930s. By the way, New Zealand is the only destination in the world where you can set sail in the morning and ski in the afternoon!


Relax Along Scotland's West Coast

Relax Along Scotland's West Coast

As fun as it is to explore the historic locales of Scotland, the Scottish coast is big on water sports. Pick your poison- go wreck diving, kayaking, sailing, take in scenic views, or discover an unspoiled underwater environment.  What lurks underwater? You’ll find colorful anemones, soft corals, kelp forests, crustacea, pelagic and demersal fish, seals, dolphins, and an occasional whale or basking shark. Sounds cool!  Did you know Scotland is also one of Europe’s top destinations for windsurfing and waterskiing?  Introduce yourself to another side of the Scottish landscape!

Our advice? When you tire of land exploration, see what the sea has to offer! It will no doubt be a memorable- and original experience.

Here are a few other sites to check out:

    Sound of the City

    By Sarah Chamberlain

    Not all Scottish musicians look like this!

    Not all Scottish musicians look like this!

    I’m sure that when many people think of Scottish music, they think of a man in a funny plaid skirt squeezing something that looks like a large black turkey, and creating noises that in fact sound like that animal being slowly tortured to death. I will concede that bagpipes aren’t for everyone, but speaking from my experience as a student radio DJ here in Edinburgh, there is superb music to be found in Scotland. Venues range from huge stadiums (the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen, played at Hampden Park Stadium in Glasgow earlier this week) to tiny basement clubs. Local preferences tend towards indie, rock, and folk, and you can always find bands playing variations on these at cheap gigs (prices ranging from free to ten pounds a ticket) on all nights of the week. Belle & Sebastian and Franz Ferdinand had to start somewhere, didn’t they? If you are in a musical mood but are unsure where to start looking for a gig to go to, a great place to find listings is The List, a fortnightly magazine which covers all kinds of cultural happenings in Glasgow and Edinburgh. And to get an idea of what the Scottish music scene can produce, here are three excellent bands that I’ve had to pleasure to see and to hear while I’ve been living in Edinburg.

    Broken Records – They somehow manage to cram seven members and their instruments onto a tiny stage, and make a huge, dramatic, and gorgeous sound that takes cues from Scottish folk, Gypsy rhythms, and not a little bit of Arcade Fire.

    Meursault – Electro-folk may sound like a complete contradiction in terms, but these guys combine beats and bleeps with acoustic guitars and a huge, powerful voice to create something a little strange but also really exciting.

    Go Away Birds – A boy-girl duo, making very lovely, simple indie-folk music. Her deep and sweet alto voice make stories of falling in and out of love utterly spellbinding.

    I hope both that you get an idea of the sound of Edinburgh, and that you’re inspired to seek out local music wherever you end up study abroad, whether it’s Berlin or Buenos Aires or Beijing!

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    Learn to Cook Abroad!

    One of the best ways to understand a culture while traveling or studying abroad is to taste its daily cuisine. Pasta in Italy.  Slow food in France. Catalan cuisine in Spain. Places like these elevate cooking and eating to an art form and practice it on a daily basis. What better way to take home a piece of your adopted country than learning to cook its traditional food.


    Cannoli is a Specialty in Sicily

    Cannoli is a Sicilian Specialty

    Cooking is synonymous with Italian culture. From various types of pasta and sauce, to wine, steak, veal, and sweet Vin Santo, the regions of Italy offer a plethora of good cuisine.  The best way to learn to cook is from locals or through cooking schools. When I visited Lucca and Sicily, I lucked out and had the pleasure of spending time with my family. I was spoiled with home-cooked meals every afternoon and night. You can seek out cooking schools in Italy or join a class before leaving the states. Cook Italy teaches you to make tortellini and lasagne in Bologna, char-grilled steaks and pork ribs in Lucca (Tuscany), or gives you a tour of the food markets in Florence and Rome. If you’re more interested in going south, a trip to Sicily will surround you with mandarins, figs, and of course, ricotta-filled dried cannoli.  Check out the famous International Kitchen. It offers cooking vacations around Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Morocco, and Mexico.


    Mediterranean is Known for Seafood

    Mediterranean is Known for Seafood

    If you’re headed to Paris you are in luck. One of the world’s most famous cooking schools sits in the 15th arrondissement. Le Cordon Bleu is not only for aspiring chefs, but features programs for amateurs, with cooking and pastry workshops, children’s cooking classes, and tours of Paris markets. Other regions for learning to cook include Burgundy, Bordeaux, Alsace, Provence, and the Languedoc. At L’Ecole des Trios Ponts in Riorges, Grand Roanne, students can improve their French language in addition to learning pastry and chocolate making! Yum!


    Looking for a delicioso experience in Spain? You’ll get a good dose of olive oil and garlic with this Mediterranean cooking! Ever indulged in paella, gazpacho, or cocida espanol (Spanish stew)? In Barcelona you’ll encounter tasty noodles (fideos a la cazuela), as well as spare ribs, sausages, butifarra, ham and bacon, and sofrito, which consists of onion, pepper and tomato. Food Vacation offers food courses and vacations in Spain, as well as Ireland and Turkey. Learning to cook these cuisines will give you a better appreciation of the culture while your overseas and after you return home. It’s a great way to keep the feeling of your trip alive after diving back into your normal routine.

    Impress people with your knowledge, but dazzle them with your new cooking skills!

    Study Abroad in Scandinavia!

    Looking to study abroad but want to try somewhere different? How about Scandinavia?  From glaciers and volcanoes, to snowmobiles and the arctic waters- there is something for everyone to enjoy.  Visit any of the region’s five countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

    These are a few ways to indulge in Nordic culture and history.

    Alesund, Norway

    Scandinavia Offers Impressive Views

    Scandinavia Offers Impressive Views

    Ever heard of Alesund, Norway? Maybe it’s time you discover this port town on Norway’s west-central coast. Destroyed by fire in 1904, the town was rebuilt in an Art Nouveau style of spires, turrets, and medieval romantic facades with gargoyles overlooking the town. Adventure seekers can explore nearby islands and peninsulas, including Runde and its 100,000 pairs of migrating puffins.  Be sure to check out Aksla, a scenic sanctuary offering a view of the fjord landscape.

    Ride a Trolley through Sweden

    Head to central Sweden for a 37-mile ride on the country’s historic Inlandsbana, or Inland Railway.  You can rent an old pedal-powered railway inspection trolley in Vansbro, and take it north on a 37 mile stretch of unused rail. The track—an 800-mile line- was built at the turn of the last century in an effort to open up the Swedish interior. The journey will take you past tranquil lakes,  pine forests, deer, black grouse, and capercaillie. It’s a once in a lifetime scenic adventure.

    Catch the Northern Lights

    Light Show in Norway

    Light Show in Norway

    Witness one of the world’s most amazing light spectacles.  The Northern Lights—characterized by Aristotle as resembling the flames of burning gas—can be witnessed only in the world’s polar regions.  So, head to Tromsv for the real deal. This picturesque Norwegian town is the best place in Scandinavia to watch the phenomenon.  What exactly are the Northern Lights? The eerie effect is caused by particles from the solar wind getting trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field. The lights “turn on” when particles collide with the top layer of the atmosphere, creating the effect of glowing red, green, and blue neon flames that wave back and forth like a curtain in the sky. Pretty cool.

    These are a just a few ideas. Go out and discover what Scandinavia has to offer!

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