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5 min read

The Vatican City has been in the news a lot lately what with there being a new Pope elected and all. I first visited the Vatican City in 2004 on my very first trip to Europe, and I will be returning to the world's smallest country once again this upcoming May. In anticipation of my return visit to the Vatican, I am hosting a guest blog from Sarah Murphy of Dark Rome tours. If you've been wondering what all the hype is about at this holy center in the middle of Rome, read on a for a brief rundown of what makes this enclave such a magnetic draw for visitors.

The Vatican City-state is probably one of the most known locations in the world, particularly for most any Catholic. But that does not mean you have to be catholic to enjoy and appreciate the place often called the Holy See (Not Sea). In fact, there are plenty of beautiful and wonderful places to visit if you decide to take a Vatican tour, but here are just a few that are probably the most important to take a gander at when you stop by.

Saint Peter's Square

There is probably no better place to start than Saint Peter's Square as well as the Basilica that it leads in to. This massive forum has not only a wide expanse of space surrounded by three-hundred year old architecture, but also runs one of the rarer things still alive today: an obelisk straight from Egypt. At the very least you must see the obelisks all around the Vatican city, as they are something you will only find elsewhere in Egypt, and even then they are rare occurrences.

The basilica itself happens to be a completely free place to visit, just make sure you are dressed properly. It also happens to be one of the world's largest churches and it even covers the tomb of Saint Peter himself. If you do happen to be religious, you can even show up there for the Mass, just be ready to hear plenty of Italian. If you aren't religious, you can still enjoy some wonderful artwork in the Basilica such as some of Michelangelo's works, or better yet, climb the dome of the basilica for a spectacular view.

Sistine Chapel

Speaking of Michelangelo and his impossible artwork; the Sistine chapel is yet another religious spot that sports the most famous ceiling piece ever painted that shows off scenes from the Old Testament. Although this chapel has a lot of famous Catholic history, particularly with being the spot where the College of Cardinals meet to select a new pope with the signature black and white smoke, there is plenty else to be found in the Sistine chapel. You can find more works by Michelangelo all over this chapel, including behind the altar and above it.

Don't expect to get away with exploring this place for yourself though, you will most likely have to go through the Vatican Museums to get there, and usually it requires you going in large tour groups these days. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the beauty; you'll even get to learn some of the history in the group. Don't forget to bring your binoculars though, if you really want to see some of the wall designs from up close. This place is a must for any art enthusiast.

Vatican Museum

Speaking of the Vatican Museum as access to the Sistine Chapel, you won't find a more interesting collection of artwork, relics and other items collected by the Catholic Church over the years. This is a museum similar in expanse to the Smithsonian in America. There are hundreds of rooms to explore over the course of an incredibly long walk and just some of those include the room covered in ancient maps, or the Octagonal Courtyard, or even the room devoted to Egyptian works solely.

Just remember that this is a major tourist spot, so it is best to get there early if you don't want to be stuck in lines all day, and don't forget you will be walking a lot in there for a museum!

Vatican Gardens

If you are looking for something less arty and a little more outdoors, there is always the fountains, statues, and greenery of the Vatican gardens. Unfortunately this place requires a reservation and will generally cost you to get in, since you have to do a guided tour, but that doesn't take away from the brilliance of a place you could not truly imagine seeing. Much of the gardens were erected back when there was a focus of sculpting bushes, and creating unique looks with the shrubbery or water flow. Some of the fountains alone are quite a wonder. If you or anyone with you happens to have any kind of green thumb then the place where popes generally take their leisure strolls, is exactly the kind of place they need to see.

There are of course plenty of other sights to catch in the beautiful holy city, but at the very least these are some of the necessary spots you should be stopping by at least to have truly experienced the Roman Vatican world. Above all else, remember to enjoy yourself. You are on vacation, after all!

Sarah Murphy has worked in Dublin for the last two years as a blogger, web content manager and marketing coordinator. A journalist by training and travel junkie by nature, she regularly travels to Italy for both business and to experience some of the Rome tours, where she mostly spends her time in search of the perfect gelato.

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4 min read

The famous Spanish explorer Ponce de León spent parts of his travels on an unfruitful search for the fountain of youth.

Sailing from Puerto Rico to Florida in 1513 on a voyage, which would become the first documented European exploration of the American mainland, rumors of de León's search for the mythical fountain wouldn't arise until documents published after his death (which, as it turns out, wasn't due to old age, but from being wounded in the thigh by a poisoned arrow during an exploration of Southwestern Florida).

Unfortunately for de León, not only was he was searching in the wrong ocean for the secret of anti-aging, he was also searching in the wrong century. Had de León been sailing around the western Pacific in, say, 1910, he would have discovered a completely arbitrary line, which has the ability to make a traveler an entire day younger.

Sure, you might only be younger on the calendar as opposed to in actuality, but thanks to the existence of the International Date Line, trans-Pacific travelers technically possess the ability to go back in time.

For those who aren't familiar (or who have never crossed over the non-existent line), the International Date Line was established as a way of making sense of the world's time zones for explorers who were traveling across oceans.

Magellan found out on his first circumnavigation of the globe that despite the fact he had kept meticulous record of the days on his journey, he nevertheless returned to Europe and was off by an entire day. Similarly, those traveling eastbound would discover that upon returning home, days, which they had recorded as having happened, actually hadn't happened yet.

Since no imaginary line had been crossed, which would denote you had "crossed into yesterday," explorers would continue with their erroneous calculations until an International Meridian conference was finally held in Washington D.C. in 1884. Delegates from 25 nations decided that the "International Date Line" would be 180 degrees from the Prime Meridian in England, and conveniently, this line passed mostly through water.

Over the course of its 129-year history, however, the specific location of the "line" has been conveniently shifted on numerous occasions, most recently in 2011 when Samoa up and decided they were going to move across to the other side of the line.

The reason? The government Hasil Togel Singapore figured that being closer in time zones to Australia and New Zealand would attract more tourists who simply couldn't be bothered with flying all the way to a country, which is located in yesterday.

"That's great. Enough history. Where does the time travel part come in and how can travel make you younger?"

While the establishment of the line was a mere calendar convenience during the days of oceanic travel, with the advent of the airplane and trans-oceanic flights, travelers suddenly had the ability to reach a nation on the other side of the line in less time than it takes the world to spin and catch up. Thanks to the ability to propel ourselves through the air at speeds in excess of 600 mph, it's now possible to actually live the same day twice.

This was a trendy realization of novelty-seekers who actually celebrated the year 2000 in Sydney, Australia, and then promptly hopped on an eastbound plane to Honolulu so that they could experience the whole party for a second time.

They departed on January 1, 2000, landed on December 31, 1999, and after a quick nap on the plane were geared up and ready to party all over again.

While this isn't exactly news for those who cross the dateline regularly, what if that day where you skipped back in time ... just so happened to be your birthday? Technically, then, according to a calendar and whole numbers, would you not actually become younger?

As it just so happens, I experienced this phenomenon this very past year. My wife and I met a friend for my birthday dinner in Auckland, New Zealand. We went to an Indian restaurant. We drank wine (Gewurtztraminer goes great with curry), and the date was February 13. On the stroke of midnight we clinked glasses to the day of my birth, February 14, and I had officially turned 29.

Hopping on an eastbound flight to Honolulu the next morning at 9 a.m., I drooled on the window in a semi-hungover fog as we passed up and over the imaginary line. Landing nine hours later in Honolulu, I awoke to the reality of it once again being February 13.

I was now 28. Again.

Have you ever experienced your birthday twice in the same year? Share your tales of dateline madness in the comments section below.

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3 min read

They don't call the island St. Lucia the Helen of West Indies for nothing! Filled with lush rainforests and spectacular landscapes of mountains, volcanoes, and white-sand beaches, the island is truly a picture of Caribbean paradise. On top of that, St. Lucia is an exciting placed filled with places to see and fun things to do. There's no space for boredom here! So here's my top five great activities you can try while in St. Lucia.

1. Visit the Pitons

A trip to St. Lucia wouldn't be complete without seeing and marvelling at the beauty of these world-famous volcanic plugs. Once there, you have the choice of staying at the base of the plugs or hiking up to the peak of the larger plug - the Gros Piton. I highly encourage climbing though, as you'll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the entire St. Lucia Island. So worth it!

2. See the other side of nature with the Sulphur Springs Park

Close to the pitons is the Soufrière volcano and its crater is indeed a sight to see. Filled with hot rocks, pools of boiling mud, and steam, the Sulphuric Springs Park is almost like something you'd find in fantasy books or sci-fi movies. Best of all, when the moon is full and the tides change the crater pools turn into a geyser! How cool is that?

3. Set off to a pilgrimage

The Cathedral of Immaculate Conception located in Castries is truly a wonderful place to visit. The architecture alone of the cathedral IndoTogel HK, featuring a dark and somber Victorian architecture curiously blackened over time by diesel exhaust, the exterior of the church sets a solemn mood that contrasts with the candidly painted interior made in full-blown Baroque style. It is definitely a must-see for spiritual and non-spiritual people alike.

4. Take part in St. Lucia Holidays

Every year around May, you can almost taste the excitement in the air of St. Lucia as tourists and locals alike flock the streets to celebrate the free spirit of jazz, R&B, and Calypso with its annual Jazz Festival. Come visit in July to witness St. Lucia's very own Carnival Festival. Colorful street dancing and parades with gigantic floats await you!

5. Get on with a water adventure

A lot of tourists go to St. Lucia to soak up the sun and swim in its beautiful beaches. But why stop there? There are plenty of water sports available in different resorts and beaches too! For a fee you can try riding on banana boats, experience windsurfing, and try water-skiing. If you're travelling with kids, stop by and visit the marine park where you can say to different whales, dolphins, and other sea creatures!

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4 min read

1. Late Alcohol Licensing Laws

Back when I was a student in Edinburgh, the simple fact that pubs didn't have to stop serving alcohol until 2am was simply MAGIC! Not only because this gave us an additional 3 hours (compared to the UK) drinking time… it also meant we could head out much later!

In England because most pubs stop serving alcohol at 11pm this means that people who head out at 9pm only have 2 hours of drinking time. This is one of the major reasons why you see so many paralytic people in England on the streets before midnight!

In Scotland, because pubs stop serving 3 hours after English pubs it means you can have your mates over for dinner and you've still got plenty of time for the pub.

Scotland's late night licensing laws make a good night a GREAT night!

2. Edinburgh and It's Many Festivals

If you've ever come to the UK and DIDN'T visit Edinburgh you made one of the biggest cardinal sins of your life… shame on you ;)

Not only is Edinburgh beautiful and shrouded in history it's also big enough to have everything a city needs and small enough to be walkable. The Scots that live and work in Edinburgh are also some of the friendliest people you'll meet in the UK. More than that Edinburgh plays hosts to some of the greatest festivals on the planet!

  1. The Edinburgh Fridge Festival - is the world's largest arts and comedy festival, with the 2012 event spanning 25 days totalling over 2,695 shows from 47 countries in 279 venues!

  2. Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo - is an annual series of Military tattoos performed by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and International military bands and display teams on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle.

  3. Beltane Fire Festival - is the Gaelic May Day festival held on 30 April-1 May, or halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, on Calton Hill in Edinburgh. The Beltane Fire Society, a registered charity that runs the festival, puts on an amazing show of nakedness and fire!

  4. Hogmanay - is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year (Gregorian calendar) in the Scottish manner. The Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations are among the largest in the world. Celebrations in Edinburgh in 1996-97 were recognised by the Guinness Book of Records at the world's largest New Year party, with approx. 400,000 people in attendance. Numbers have since been restricted due to safety concerns.

For more info on Edinburgh you can check out this handy little guide.

3. Tablet

Tablet is like fudge but very different. It differs from fudge in that it has a brittle, grainy texture, where fudge is much softer. It is absolutely delicious and if you try it - you'll end up buying it as a present for all your friends and family back home! If you're in Edinburgh and near the Royal Mile you'll want to be visiting 'The Fudge House of Edinburgh'.

4. Scotch

There isn't an awful lot I can say about this one… apart from there ain't no whiskey like Scottish Whiskey! God I miss those days, sitting by the fire with a glass of Scotch! One of the best whiskeys I've ever had has to be the 'Macallan Single Malt' Scotch whisky - simply sublime!

5. Scottish Summers

Because of Scotland's latitude, its summer days are looooong! During the summer solace the sun rises around 3:30am and set around 11pm. Which makes the summer the BEST time to visit Scotland! With the sun setting so late you have so much more time to be productive and enjoy everything that Scotland has to offer. If you are an outdoorsy type of person - you can't beat Scotland… there's nothing quite like fishing all afternoon and still having your evenings to chill in the sun with a beer. In Edinburgh the longest day of the year will grace you, if you can believe it, with nearly 18 hours of daylight!!!

However, on the flip side, you have to feel a little sorry for the poor buggers who live in Scotland during the winter months seeing as they only get around 6 hours of daylight!

Sod that for a laugh!

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3 min read

Indonesia is definitely an island constantly chosen among the 5 best dream vacation escapes on the planet. It is among the most well-known and favorite locations of newly-weds on their honeymoon and casual vacationers, who originate from all of the corners around the globe to savor their holidays in Indonesia. Actually, Indonesia is even known as the "The Paradise Island". Tropical climate, the clean beauty, and also the traditional hospitality of Indonesia would be the primary causes of this attraction and fascination from the vacationers.

Indonesia hotels are reputed for offering comfortable, exclusive and in comparison with other top dream islands affordable stay to site visitors. Both budget hotels in addition to star-ranked hotels are plenty in Indonesia. For sheer variety in accommodation, Indonesia Island isn't second holiday to a tourist place on the planet. You'd find beach hotels, famous beach resorts, boutique hotels, bungalows, rental property-only resorts, hotels with simply bungalows, luxury hotels, mountain resorts, and budget hotels in Indonesia. You might select from beach villas, golf villas, individual rental property compounds, ocean view villas and luxury resort villas. Indonesia holiday is pure fun and adventure.

Budget Indonesia hotels with rates under $50 would be the Nirwana Resort within the village of Candi Dasa in Indonesia, Lavender Hotel & Health spa in Kuta, Medewi Beach Cottage found on the Medewi Beach in Jembrana, Saranam Eco Resort close to the Pacung valley in Bedugul, Alit's Beach Bungalows around the sandy bay of Sanur, Legian Village Hotel in Legian, Febri's Hotel around the South Kuta Beach known as as Tuban, Palm Beach Hotel & Resort in Tuban, Puri Dajuma in Jembrana, or Puri Bening Hayato in Kintamani.

For those who have a bigger budget and require more comfort inclusive an service with focus on detail, the plethora of Indonesia resorts and hotels like can be found in the $50 - $200 cost range focus on that. Indonesia Mirage Resort in Tanjung Benoa, Mercure Resort Sanur in Sanur, Annora Villas in Seminyak or Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Health spa in Nusa Dua are a few within this category.

If you're a lover of 5-star hotel conveniences, then you may select from the Indonesia hotels that charge between $200 and $400 for any day's and night's stay. Grand Avenue Boutique Villas in Kerobokan, The Ayana Resort in Jimbaran, Grand Akhyati Villas & Health spa in Canggu, Puri Kamandalu Resort & Health spa in Ubud, Conrad Indonesia Resort & Health spa and Grand Hyatt Indonesia in Nusa Dua have been in the above mentioned cost range.

You can even find individual villas asking everything from $500 and also over $1,000 per evening, if you want to possess absolute privacy plus some exclusive twists like natural jungle sights or direct sea sights and thus fort. These villas vary from one bed room rental property to 6 or seven bed room villas. You can choose a number of them with respect to the size your group or family. Enjoy your Indonesia holiday by booking the Indonesia hotels well ahead of time, because Indonesia is really a year-round destination. Making the place accommodation to fit your budget may not be always possible. Normally the typical Asian, European and US vacation summer time several weeks as well as the December and The month of january days are reserved out several weeks ahead of time, unless of course you employ a special room-sourcing agent and are prepared to pay retail or over retail prices to obtain the exact room you would like.

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