Life Stages

You Light Up My Life

Posted on Sep 4, 2013 | Comments Off on You Light Up My Life

Neon Museum
Neon Museum 11/12/13 Weddings
LAS VEGAS (September 2013) – When that special “Magic Day” hits on 11/12/13, brides-to-be and their grooms can say “I do” in one of the most remarkable and picturesque locations in Las Vegas: The Neon Museum. Only available on 11/12/13, The Neon Museum is now offering the “Magic Day” wedding package. For this special day, there will only be four slots available for couples.
Considered one of most colorful and sought-after attractions in Las Vegas, the Neon Museum is home to the Neon Boneyard – a collection of more than 150 classic signs from the city’s most celebrated properties—including the Moulin Rouge, the Desert Inn, the Flamingo and the Stardust—which are displayed alongside those from various other bygone hotels, restaurants and businesses. The Boneyard’s two-acre outdoor area encompasses nearly 3,600 square feet and features a partial canopy.
The package includes:
  • 30 minute wedding ceremony for the couple and up to four guests.
  • 30 minute photo opportunity in the Neon Boneyard.
  • One bottle of chilled champagne or sparkling wine, paired with cupcakes that are packaged to go.
  • An exclusive pair of his-and-her Neon Museum-wedding themed shirts.
For more information, go to To book a wedding, reception or other event, contact Events Manager Joel Castillo at or call (702) 387-6366.
*Pricing does not include ceremony officiant, catering, floral or photography. All ceremonies are performed by Elegant Vegas Weddings. A list of exclusive vendors for photography, catering, décor and equipment will be provided. A list of recommended florists is available by request. 
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Good Advice – How to Travel Solo

Posted on Aug 30, 2013 | Comments Off on Good Advice – How to Travel Solo

8 Tips for Holidaying on Your Own



It’s an invigorating idea we’ve all pondered at some point — leaving everything behind to embark on a solo journey. Thanks to memoirs like Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” and Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild,” traveling alone has a reputation for fostering self-discovery. Without the crutch of friends or family, we’re forced to interact with new people and motivate ourselves to try new things. We also have the freedom to build and change our own itinerary as we see fit, with no one to please but ourselves.

While the notion of unhampered exploration sounds thrilling, traveling alone still raises some concerns, like personal safety and vulnerability to criminals. But these potential risks shouldn’t discourage you from setting out on your own journey. To help you plan a safe and rewarding trip, U.S. New Travel has some advice on how to make the most of your unaccompanied adventure.

Choose Your Destination Wisely

Of course the first step to mapping out any solo adventure is picking your location. While safety is a top priority, it’s necessary to consider a few other key factors as well. Is the public transportation system easy to navigate? With no one to help you split the cost, is it affordable? Can you speak the language and easily connect with locals? Austin, Texas, is known for its budget-friendly attractions and low-cost accommodations, while Portland, Ore., offers a cool yet laid-back vibe with plenty of lush outdoor spaces. If you’re eager to venture beyond familiar borders, consider Sydney. Although a jaunt overseas will cost you, you’ll be greeted by English-speaking Sydneysiders and plenty of free attractions, including Coogee BeachSydney Harbour National Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

If you choose to travel internationally, make sure to consult the U.S. State Department to check for any travel warnings. Once you’ve decided where you want to go, devour as much information as you can about the city’s customs and languages. While you don’t need to be fluent in the local language, learning a few resourceful phrases (like “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me” and “can you help me?”) will go a long way.

Sign Up for Group Activities

To pre-emptively combat any pangs of loneliness and lend some structure to your solo adventure, sign up for tours or classes before you leave.Cooking classes provide a delectable glimpse into the new culture you’ll explore, along with a casual atmosphere to connect with like-minded foodies. If you’re visiting a foreign country, language classes also provide a laid-back environment to meet and learn with fellow travelers. But not all group activities need to be pre-planned: You can easily join in on an impromptu museum, food or wine tour once you’ve settled into your surroundings.

For a more structured experience, consider signing up for a group trip with a tour company like Abercrombie & Kent, which offers a set of guide-led vacations exclusively designed for those traveling alone. Though organized trips often come attached to pricey fees for single travelers, these trips offer built-in social interaction and pre-planned itineraries. Abercrombie & Kent boasts discounted fares for many of its late 2013 and early 2014 itineraries. If the discounts aren’t appealing enough, consider that these tours go to places you might not be able to reach on your own, like Mount Kilimanjaro and Antarctica.

Stay Connected

It may seem like a no-brainer, but keeping your relatives and friends looped in on your travel itinerary will help allay their worries and build a safeguard should you find yourself lost or in harm’s way. If you’re traveling abroad, the U.S. State Department recommends enrolling in the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). With STEP, you’ll automatically receive timely, country-specific travel warnings and alerts, and have the ability to designate an emergency contact person. The program also helps U.S. citizens during natural disasters, civil unrest and personal emergencies, such as a lost or stolen passport. If you or your loved ones are having trouble contacting each another, STEP also makes it easy for consular officers in U.S. embassies and consulates around the world to help you connect. Staying stateside? Use Facebook, Twitter, a personal blog or other social media platforms to keep your family and friends updated on your whereabouts.

[See: Best Travel Apps Under $3]

Pack the Necessities

With no one else to help you carry your luggage, it’s important to pack efficiently. But beyond that, it’s also important to pack a few essential items. For added security in your hotel room, bring a rubber door stop. Though most hotel rooms have deadbolts or chain locks, sticking a rubber stop underneath the door will lend you some added security (not to mention peace of mind). Also, ensure you have copies of all your travel documents in case anything gets lost or stolen. When you’re out and about, only carry the absolute essentials with you, and leave valuables in your hotel safe.

Lastly, don’t forget to pack a camera. Capturing picture-perfect photo-ops isn’t just a great way to document your trip. A camera also provides a worthy crutch for the introverts among us: instead of burying your head in a book, let a camera camouflage your timidity. Asking others to take your photo is also an easy conversation starter.

Follow Your Intuition

While traveling alone is a great excuse to breach the parameters of your comfort zone, it doesn’t mean you should completely let your guard down. Listen to your instincts: If something or someone feels off, approach the situation with a sense of excessive caution. If you’re taking a cab from your hotel, ask the hotel concierge to call a car to ensure you’re using a trusted company. Also, as a precaution, only withdraw cash from ATMs during the day in a busy area, and always head to back to your hotel at a reasonable time, before the streets empty out.

[See: How to Pack Light: 9 Tips to Lighten your Load]

Prearrange your Accommodations

Pre-booking your accommodations won’t diminish the carefree energy of your solo jaunt. You can still engage in some spur-of-the-moment detours, but with the added bonus that you’ve got a safe haven to retreat to every evening. Before booking your hotel or hostel, be sure to choose a place that’s well-reviewed and situated in a busy, centrally located area. If you’re unsure about the safety of the neighborhood, get in touch with the local police station for crime statistics; officers may also be able to give you some alternative suggestions.

Engage with Other Travelers

Part of the fun of solo travel is spontaneously connecting with people you meet along the way. Though it’s easy to strike up a conversation, you can expel any initial jitters by practicing at home. It seems simple, but going to dinner, seeing a movie or grabbing a drink at a bar by yourself will give you a better snapshot of what it will be like when you’re exploring on your own.

There are also websites that can facilitate the meet-and-greet process. For women, there’s, a site that allows female-only residents and travelers to create and search for meal invites and group activities in cities across the globe. The site was originally created to provide dinner companions for female travelers who didn’t want to eat alone, but over time the site has expanded to include other activities as well, like user-organized hikes and tours. If you’re more eager to tap into a local’s perspective, connects both male and female travelers with residents in more than 2,000 cities based on compatibility tests that match individuals based on different interests.

Take Time for Yourself

If the thought of group activities sounds too similar to your previous vacations, relish this alone time and discover the sights on your own. Ask the concierge for suggestions about safe and fun activities around the city, or grab a map and head to the top local landmarks. Should you grow tired of exploring a new city on foot, consider retreating to a nearby park or pamper yourself at a local spa.

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A new sustainable Bedarra Island

Posted on Jun 17, 2013 | Comments Off on A new sustainable Bedarra Island

BED - Point Villa Deck 2

Bedarra Island Resort is renowned for its natural beauty, luxury and exclusivity. When it reopens on the 1st July, 2013 it arguably becomes Australia’s most sustainable island resort.

Since the island was devastated by Cyclone Yasi in February 2011, the Charlton Family acquired the resort and have undertaken extensive renovations to the property, including replacing the island’s services and utilities. Director, Sam Charlton said “Our first initiative was to conduct a sustainability analysis to assess the population density the island could support, particularly in relation to waste, water and energy requirements”. He added “the outcome of this analysis led us to reopen just seven villas (as opposed to the original 16 villas), convert the resort to solar power and close for three months during the wet season”.

Situated on the Great Barrier Reef, just ten kilometres from the coastal township of Mission Beach, nestled amongst the tropical ‘Family Group of Islands’, Bedarra is unquestionably worth protecting.

Traditional operations at the resort were heavily reliant upon diesel and with changes implemented so far, diesel consumption has been reduced by 95%. “The hum and smell of a diesel generator just seemed so inconsistent with the natural beauty of the island” added Charlton “it was an easy choice to upgrade to solar.”

So how was this change to a sustainable future achieved?
• The old generators (3x185KVA) were replaced with an off grid solar system incorporating a 30KW solar panel array, 1-2 days battery energy storage and a small backup 44Kva generator.
• Complete refit of electrical appliances at the resort reducing peak and base electrical loads by 80%.
• Water is now sourced from Bedarra’s granite filtered natural spring and fresh rain water, rather than a diesel powered desalination plant which has now been decommissioned.
• Architectural changes to villas to encourage cross flow ventilation including replacing fixed windows with louvres and the installation of under floor ventilation to capture cooling sea breezes.
• Installation of award winning Haiku fans offering a low energy and high efficiency mechanical ventilation alternative to air conditioning.
• A new twin system bio-cycle wastewater treatment plant has been installed, with sub-terranean reticulation of advanced secondary grade treated effluent, protecting the fringing coral reef from nutrient and phosphate runoff.
• Installing low energy pool pumps combined with ionic pool chlorinators, reducing chemical consumption associated with the pools by 85%.
• Composting of all organic waste for use on the island’s vegetable garden.
• Replacement of water reticulation infrastructure to eliminate water loss.
• Choosing suppliers who minimize their packaging and maximize their use of recyclable materials.

The reduction in population will make guests feel like they have the island to themselves, further enhancing the feeling of privacy, exclusivity and seclusion Bedarra is renowned for.

The Bedarra experience is now more relaxed, more personalized, offers more privacy and is truly the epitome of barefoot luxury. It’s about a beautiful location to relax and enjoy the tranquility, with the added advantage of having a much reduced impact on the natural local environment.

“Reducing our consumption of diesel and simplifying our operation and services has enabled us to offer guests considerably more competitive tariffs than in the past. It also makes the option of hiring the resort exclusively with a small group of friends or family a viable alternative for a holiday you will remember forever” said Charlton.

Bedarra reopens on 1st July, 2013. Room rates are for 1 or 2 guests starting at $990 per villa and are inclusive of all meals, selected alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and activities. Additional charges apply for reef/fishing charters, diving, scenic helicopter flights and our cellar master list of alcoholic beverages.

bedarra bay

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Road Trip: the Alaska Highway

Posted on May 18, 2013 | Comments Off on Road Trip: the Alaska Highway

Alaska Highway sign

The Alaska Highway across Canada’s British Columbia and Yukon is stunning, but even more memorable than the road trip itself are the people Anne Kostalas meets along the way

Alaska HighwayView larger picture

The Alaska Highway is 1,500 miles of open road through north-west Canada. Click the magnifying glass icon to see a bigger version. Photograph: Anne Kostalas

There is something about a highway through the wilderness that attracts eccentrics. The 1,500-mile Alaska Highway, which crosses British Columbia and the Yukon for most of its route, has its fair share. Even the construction of the road, which turned 70 last year, was anything but normal.

US soldiers were ordered to build the road – described as one of the greatest engineering feats in history – through unmapped territory. They endured extreme cold, mud and mosquito-infested forests. The highway, which joined the contiguous US with Alaska, was a response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. It enabled the Americans to transport planes to Russia to fight the Germans, via a chain of airfields and remote airports. Remarkably, it was built in just eight months, carved through rock and forest from Dawson Creek in BC to Delta Junction in Alaska, providing a wartime morale boost for the US.

Canada mapThe characters who live along the route are every bit as fascinating as the story of its construction. Marl Brown, the 80-year-old curator of theFort Nelson Heritage Museum in northern BC, sports a long white beard because, he says, he hates shaving. The former mechanic’s collection of vintage cars was the inspiration for the museum. His favourite is the 104-year-old McLaughlin Buick with its “mother-in-law seat” that can tip the rear passenger out the back.

At Double G Services near Muncho Lake, three hours west, truckers share road tales of bobcats, lynx and grizzlies. There are shelves of fresh bread and an Alaska licence plate with a picture of Sarah Palin, which reads: “Where the air is cold and the governor is hot!” They agree both caribou and tourists are stupid, and discuss the merits of a moose bumper.

More than 300,000 people drive the Alaska Highway every year between May and September and, as the last US frontier, it is on the to-do list of many Americans. There are bears, wild sheep, bison and moose to photograph, against a backdrop of increasingly spectacular mountains as you travel north and west.

At Liard Hot Springs RV Park on the eastern edge of BC, we had soaked in the waters with full-time RVers – people who have sold their homes in retirement and are on the move constantly.

“You have to really get on well with your partner to do this,” warns one.

Alaska Highway Sign, Dawson Creek. Photograph: Patrick Bennett/CorbisMany have their dogs along for the ride – yorkshire terriers and pomeranians are being exercised all along the highway.

A woman named Button (her mother loved the actor Red Buttons) oversees the Signpost Forest Visitor Centre at Watson Lake, over the border in the Yukon. In 1942, a lonely GI working on the highway started the tradition of leaving a sign pointing the way home. More than 70,000 signs have since been left here by travellers on the road.

Every road trip needs good snacks. Look out for cinnamon buns atTetsa River RV Park , west of Fort Nelson, and the Canadian favourite “butter tarts” at the Yukon’s Rancheria Lodge. The lodge has a long history of sheltering travellers from storms. It hosted 100 unexpected guests last year when the road was washed away in a flash flood. Stories from the 1940s tell of strangers having to sleep two to a bed.

Marl Brown at the Fort Nelson Heritage MuseumMarl Brown, curator at the Fort Nelson Heritage Museum Photograph: Anne KostalasThere is a quirkiness to road-stops here. At the Toad River Lodge in northern BC, you can eat a toad burger (which comes with a hot dog, too) under a ceiling covered in baseball caps, or drink a coffee while a stuffed wolverine watches over you at the Yukon Motel on Teslin Lake.

We spot a moose at Sikanni River RV Campground. Campsite owner Jackie says it is called Dandelion, and appears every summer. Soldiers from black regiments built a bridge in record time here, an achievement credited with helping end segregation in the US army.

John Rusyniak, who runs the Wilderness Lodge in Tok, Alaska, got a taste for the north when he rode his motorbike up the highway in the 1970s and moved there. Many have similar stories.

There is plenty to do along the way – fishing in holes, panning for gold at the MacBride Museum in Whitehorse, daring to walk the Pouce Coupe trestle bridge, the Alaska Highway House museum in Dawson Creek and the sausage rolls at Johnson’s Crossing Bakery – but it is the memory of people of the Alaska Highway that will stay with me.


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Polar Legend Roald Amundsen’s home Uranienborg – hard-to-find treasure

Posted on May 17, 2013 | Comments Off on Polar Legend Roald Amundsen’s home Uranienborg – hard-to-find treasure

Amundsen's homeIt may have been difficult for Roald Amundsen to reach the South Pole but, unless you have planned your expedition well, it’s virtually impossible to find his home on a fiord south of Oslo. That’s rather strange because Uranienborg, Amundsen’s home from 1908 to 1928 is a national museum – and has been since 1935. But you won’t hear of it unless you ask. And note the directions well.

For the growing band of polar enthusiasts, Uranienborg is a place of pilgrimage. Most of us know that Roald Amundsen was the Norwegian explorer who beat Robert Falcon Scott to be first to the South Pole. But few are aware that he was the first to successfully navigate the Northwest Passage and probably the first to see the North Pole (from an airship – they didn’t land). He also sailed through the Northeast Passage along the top of Siberia. As the places he explored become more accessible, his feats seem even more extraordinary. Most were planned at Uranienborg.

Heading due south from Oslo, you will be following the eastern shore of Bunnefjord through a ribbon of suburbs and towns. At Kolbotn you veer towards the village of Svartskog and from there wind down the hill to the water’s edge, the end of the road, small statue and a nondescript gateway. A path leads to a house overlooking the fiord with a smaller residence alongside it. The small house is the home of the curator who waits for the visitors who rarely arrive. You are less than 20 km from Oslo but here by the water, the city seems very far away.

Despite several romances, Amundsen never married and his home reveals that he lived his life for his travels. The glass panels in the back door are covered by photographic plates of ships, Inuit people and snowy scenes that look as if they were taken within the past week. His very Spartan bedroom features reinforced ship’s portholes rather than windows, and maps abound. One of the most distinctive images of Amundsen is of him in a relaxed pose and wearing his bowler hat. The hat is still on top of his wardrobe.

Amundsen's home

The house is a museum with some restrictions on where visitors can and can’t go. So it’s impossible to pat the stuffed Adelie penguin in his office. But stored under the stairs as if it were put there when he returned, awaiting the next adventure is the sledge (explorers didn’t pull mere sleds) that he took to the South Pole. I asked – and was allowed to touch it. In terms of significance it’s rather like touching the lunar module that took Neil Armstrong to the moon.

On June 16 1928, Amundsen went looking for the missing Italian polar explorer Umberto Nobile. His aircraft took off from Tromso and he was never seen again. Amundsen and Nobile had flown the dirigible Norge over the North Pole in 1926 and later squabbled over who was responsible for the success of the expedition. Nevertheless, Amundsen helped search and it cost him his life. Nobile was subsequently found and rescued. Uranienborg was Amundsen’s departure point and the curator pointed out that the soap by the bath was the same cake that Amundsen had used to wash himself before he left to undertake the fatal flight. This was history coming to life. But it was hard to reconcile the overly cute gnomes motif in the bathroom with the man who used to sleep outside to toughen himself up for the poles.

Amundsen's home

Amundsen’s office was the planning centre for some of the world’s most remarkable explorations. It was at this desk that he wrote “The South Pole”, his account of the southern journey. Over the next 16 years, the large map of Antarctica above his office table must have given him great satisfaction.

The best analysis of Amundsen the explorer – and the most comprehensive demolition of RF Scott – is contained in Roland Huntford’s “The Last Place on Earth”. Amundsen is revealed to be a meticulous planner and well deserving of the high esteem he has been afforded. However, in many ways he wasn’t likeable. In the spare bedroom, the clothes and homework of the two young Inuit girls he adopted are still on display. He introduced them to western civilisation, educated them and then bundled them back to their village.

Down by the fiord gate the statue of Amundsen is striding out with a pole in his hand and a dog by his side. It’s a fitting image of a man who used his fitness and determination to open up several of the last undiscovered places on earth. Those who admire Amundsen will probably seek out Uranienborg and will be rewarded by the chance to view the house and its contents without any crowds. But the lack of promotion of the open house of a great explorer is just part of a long pattern of neglect. Somehow, Scott the heroic failure remains much better known than Roald Amundsen, the heroic success.

By David McGonigal


SAS flies to Oslo as part of the Star Alliance network.

Read: “My Life as an Explorer” by Roald Amundsen


Address: Roald Amundsensvei  192

NO-1420 Svartskog


Telephone: +47 64 93 99 90


Open: daily except Mondays from 11 to 4.

Amundsen's study

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Need to Know: Lego model of the Queen unveiled

Posted on May 16, 2013 | Comments Off on Need to Know: Lego model of the Queen unveiled

A miniature model of the Queen, wearing a crown encrusted with real diamonds, will go on display at UK Legoland next month to celebrate the 60th anniversary of her coronation.

Lego model of the Queen unveiled

The model is topped with a 1.5 centimetre-high rhodium-coated silver crown encrusted with 48 tiny diamonds


3:11PM BST 14 May 2013

Visitors to the main theme park in Windsor, as well as the Legoland Discovery Centre in Manchester, will get to see the model over the upcoming bank holiday weekend and during the May half term.

It will be topped with a 1.5 centimetre-high rhodium-coated silver crown encrusted with 48 tiny diamonds.

The piece was created by the British jewellery designer Dinny Hall, whose previous clients include Prince William, Samantha Cameron, Sienna Miller and Annie Lennox.

The miniature Queen will stand 10 centimetres high, including the crown, and will appear on the balcony of a Lego Buckingham Palace, joined by miniature models of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, as well as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The figure will be on view at Legoland Windsor from May 25 to 27 before being moved to Manchester from May 31 to June 2.

Last year, Legoland Windsor launched a new ‘Lego Star Wars Miniland Experience’, featuring 2,000 models, and special sound and lighting effects that depict seven scenes from the film series.

The attraction also opened a hotel last year within the walls of its popular theme park, which features 1,600 Lego models and themed rooms.

Following the election of Barack Obama in 2009, Legoland California built a depiction of his inauguration, complete with tiny spectators lining the streets and a police motorcade.

Legoland Windsor unveiled a mosaic of JK Rowling in 2009 made from 48,000 Lego bricks as a tribute to the author of the Harry Potter series.

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No More Selfies: Travellers Snap up Holiday Photographers

Posted on May 16, 2013 | Comments Off on No More Selfies: Travellers Snap up Holiday Photographers

Dana McMahanTODAY contributor

May 14, 2013 at 10:07 AM ET

Image: Love in Paris

You in Paris
More travelers are hiring professional photographers to chronicle special trips.

If you think professional photographers only tail the glitterati, think again. A luxury that wouldn’t have occurred to most travelers a few years ago, vacation photography is growing in popularity to capture the trip of a lifetime.

Paris photography instructor Sophie Pasquet has seen a sharp uptick in demand. “A lot of people were asking me if I was doing portraits,” she said, so in 2010 she launched You In Paris, offering visitors photos that feature them in the iconic city. Her vacation portrait business has doubled every year since, and she’s beefed up her roster to six photographers.

Vacationers looking for alternatives to the awkward photos shot by strangers were on the mind of Nicole Smith of Victoria, Canada, when she launched Flytographer in March. Inspired after an acquaintance took photos of Smith and a friend on a trip to Paris that was so special she wanted to “capture it and put in a bottle,” she created a “scrappy start-up” to connect travelers with local photographers.

“Those photos … I got goose bumps and I still do every time I see them because they capture those moments,” she said of the photos from the trip. “I thought, ‘I would pay for this!’ And aside from hunting and pecking on Google, there was no place to go (for this service).

“Business is already booming. I hear all the time: ‘I can’t believe nobody thought of this before!’” she said. “We’re in 18 places right now and we’re getting requests for more.”

Smith handles everything from locating and vetting the photographer to payment and providing the photos. “One customer said it’s the best souvenir they’ve ever gotten – instead of buying trinkets, they have a photo where everyone’s together and having fun and nobody’s missing. It’s kind of priceless.”

Even travelers on a tight budget aren’t out of luck. Flytographer offers a 30-minute package that includes 15 photos with their local photographers for $199. Prices range up to $599. Pasquet, as well, says she wants her portrait session to be accessible. Her most popular option — a two hour, two location shoot — runs €299 (about $387) but she offers a 90-minute option for about $300.

‘Make them giggle’
Though hiring a photographer is popular among vacationers, not everyone is a natural on camera. “It can be intimidating,” Pasquet said. To relax subjects, “we try to make them giggle.”

Smith agrees. “They’re not Kim Kardashian. They’re not comfortable with a camera following them around. So we set up a game plan … We figure out what mood or style they’re looking for so they know what they’re coming into … they kind of have something to do with themselves and that helps ease things for some folks who are shy.”

Pasquet finds that a glass of wine before a shoot may help relax some travelers, but one couple “had too many,” she recalls. “They were quite, quiterelaxed and felt very free. For the photographer it was maybe a bit more challenging to get pictures where they look their best!”

Other than being judicious in your wine consumption, Pasquet offers some advice for making the most out of a photo shoot. It starts with what you pack (leave the bold prints at home). “We tell clients to look at our Pinterest board for ideas on what to wear,” she said. She can also recommend makeup artists for anyone who wants to go all out.

Props give people something to interact with and can put them more at ease; people have brought balloons, umbrellas, even cigars. The ultimate prop may be an engagement ring – Pasquet’s company has shot a number of proposals.

Photographers play a role behind the scenes of travelers’ experience. But it seems they’re not soon forgotten.

“A few weeks ago I received an email with pictures attached,” Pasquet said. “It was from my first engagement. The guy wrote: ‘I don’t know if you ever wonder what happens to the people that you take pictures of, but we got married. These are pictures of our baby.’

“I thought it was so sweet. At some point I was a very small drop in their life.”

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Elephant-man John Roberts: Anantara’s new Worldwide Conservation Director

Posted on May 14, 2013 | Comments Off on Elephant-man John Roberts: Anantara’s new Worldwide Conservation Director

John Roberts Anantara's Conservation Director

John Roberts has been Director of Elephants at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort since 2003. He heard of the new elephant camp being set up at a luxury resort in Thailand’s lush jungle and was drawn to Anantara’s ambition of creating unforgettable adventures for guests, as well as becoming a role model for elephant welfare and helping all of Thailand’s elephants.

Set up in 2003 as a traditional mahout village, Anantara Golden Triangle’s Elephant Camp works alongside Anantara’s Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) to perform street rescues, provide ongoing employment and a comfortable lifestyle for each elephant and its entire mahout family, as well as to participate in bigger picture projects.  Fully self sufficient, the Camp now supports more than 25 elephants and 60 people.  All elephants receive the utmost care, while the mahout and his family receive food, housing, medical insurance, schooling for their children, and 100% of the profits from a traditional silk weaving business.

It’s a remarkable experience that has been well embraced by visitors from around the world. John Roberts has been rewarded by being appointed Worldwide Conservation Director for all Anantara properties worldwide that will now benefit from John’s conservation knowledge, experience and passion. Roberts’ skills in minimising environmental damage will play a role in developing new Anantara properties. He will also draw on his impressive knowledge of scientific conservation trends and technologies to recommend best sustainable practices and assist with Green Globe certification.

The goal is that John Roberts will continue to work closely with scientists and universities, both foreign and Thai, and will ensure that conservation initiatives produce viable scientific data.   These insider relationships will enable him to identify and develop projects which Anantara properties can become involved with, and where appropriate be incorporated into unique guest activities.


Background: Combining his academic background in science and engineering with his interest in the natural world, Roberts spent many years travelling the globe in search of conservation volunteer roles.  From fighting fires and making trails in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in the desert of West Texas, his knowledge of fires was put to good use in the remote parks of Northern Australia.  At Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge in Chitwan National Park, Nepal he helped with the International Trust for Nature Conservation’s tiger research and other projects.

As Anantara’s conservation guru he will propose and oversee resort projects of a philanthropic and eco-friendly nature. For instance, Roberts will help Anantara hideaways around the world implement the brand’s “365 Days of Good Deeds” initiative.

“Since 2001, Anantara has been committed to creating luxury travel experiences that emphasise the greater good of all, with properties across Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, the Maldives and Middle East immersing themselves in initiatives that give back to our precious planet and help people in need,” Mr. Roberts explains.  Throughout 2013 at least one good deed will take place every day.  Whether it’s rescuing street elephants in Thailand, promoting marine turtle protection in Phuket, enhancing coral rejuvenation in the Maldives or supporting local farmers in Indonesia, Anantara is dedicated to mindful preservation in each of its exotic locations around the world.   Moreover the “365 Days of Good Deeds” programme invites guests to combine their five star escape with Anantara’s sustainable endeavours, ultimately making the Anantara Experience even more rewarding.”

For more information on Anantara’s 365 Days of Good Deeds please visit


Elephant dismount

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Smoke on the Water: Europa 2 World’s Best Cruise Ship?

Posted on May 11, 2013 | Comments Off on Smoke on the Water: Europa 2 World’s Best Cruise Ship?


What’s the most highly rated cruise ship in the world? If you may start thinking of the ships of cruise lines like Crystal, Silversea or SeaDream you’d be wrong. The “bible” of cruise ratings is Douglas Ward’s Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships and the 2013 edition has, like so many in the past, rated Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa as the pinnacle of cruising perfection.


However, there’s a new kid on the block. This week the German cruise line launched the 516-passenger Europa 2 this week and it’s undertaking shakedown voyages around Europe right now. Space and lightness and close connection to the sea are some of the initial reactions to the ship. It’s largely all inclusive and it’s certainly not cheap and has the greatest ratio of space per passenger of any cruise ship in the world. It has also moved to a more casual atmosphere: “21 knots without a tie” is the clever marketing phrase being used.

E_EUROPA2_Veranda_Suite_02_a03175f5fe H_EUROPA2_Spa_Suite_02_909fef683f

Chances are that Europa will have to give way to Europa 2 when the 2014 Berlitz cruising guide is released in November. For those who can afford it some consideration may be given to the fact that it is a German-language vessel that’s aiming for up to 20 per cent English-language passengers. And, in a typically continental manner smoking is allowed more generally than Australians may be used to. As the cruise line clearly points out: “All the restaurants with the exception of the portside of the terrace of our Yacht Club Restaurant are non-smoking restaurants. The theatre, the Belvedere and the Atrium are also non-smoking areas. In the Jazz Club and in the Sansibar there are smoking and non-smoking sections. Cigars, cigarillos and pipes can only be smoked in the Gentlemen’s Room and in the outside area on the starboard side of the Sansibar. All outside decks with the exception of the Magrodome area are smoking zones. Please use the ashtrays provided. In the interest of all passengers we would ask you not to smoke in the suites. Smoking is allowed on the veranda. Here, too, we kindly ask you to use the ashtrays provided.”


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Narwhal tusk – the tooth is out!

Posted on May 10, 2013 | Comments Off on Narwhal tusk – the tooth is out!

For travellers to the Arctic there’s normally quite a specific wish list. Polar bears – yes; walrus – yes, puffins – maybe. But the most elusive creature in the Arctic is also the most exotic: often referred to as “the unicorn of the sea” the Narwhal, with its beautiful single long spiral tusk is a wonder of nature. But the question is always asked “what is the tusk for?” Until now the answer has been “well, maybe it’s for mating display, and we’ve seen them use it to break through thin ice . . .” The fact that the tusk is a tooth that grows through the upper lip makes the Narwhal even more mysterious.

This has been published by the Harvard University Gazette – it suggests that the Narwhal’s tusk is a unique sensitive, seeking device. Its apparent role is truly amazing.

The now-better-understood narwhal, or ‘unicorn whale.’ (Photo by Glenn Williams)


Marine biology mystery solved

Function of ‘unicorn’ whale’s 8-foot tooth discovered by Harvard School of Dental Medicine researcher


By Leah Gourley 
HMS Communications

Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) researcher Martin Nweeia has just answered a marine science question that had eluded the scientific community for hundreds of years: why does the narwhal, or “unicorn,” whale have an 8-foot-long tooth emerging from its head, and what is its function? Nweeia, a clinical instructor in restorative dentistry and biomaterials sciences at HSDM, will be presenting his conclusions at the 16th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals in San Diego.


The narwhal has a tooth, or tusk, that emerges from the left side of the upper jaw and is an evolutionary mystery that defies many of the known principles of mammalian teeth. The tooth’s unique spiral, the degree of its asymmetry to the left side, and its odd distribution among most males and some females are all unique expressions of teeth in mammals. The narwhal is usually 13 to 15 feet in length and weighs between 2,200 and 3,500 pounds. Its natural habitat is the Atlantic portion of the Arctic Ocean, concentrating in the Canadian High Arctic: Baffin Bay, Davis Strait, and northern Hudson Bay. It is also found in fewer numbers in the Greenland Sea, extending to Svalbard to Severnaya Zemlya off the coast of Russia.

Canadian Arctic scene
One of Martin Nweeia’s campsites shows the dramatic landscape of the Canadian High Arctic, one of the homes of the narwhal. (Photo by Joseph Meehan)

Nweeia has discovered that the narwhal’s tooth has hydrodynamic sensor capabilities. Ten million tiny nerve connections tunnel their way from the central nerve of the narwhal tusk to its outer surface. Though seemingly rigid and hard, the tusk is like a membrane with an extremely sensitive surface, capable of detecting changes in water temperature, pressure, and particle gradients. Because these whales can detect particle gradients in water, they are capable of discerning the salinity of the water, which could help them survive in their Arctic ice environment. It also allows the whales to detect water particles characteristic of the fish that constitute their diet. There is no comparison in nature in tooth form, expression, and functional adaptation.

“Why would a tusk break the rules of normal development by expressing millions of sensory pathways that connect its nervous system to the frigid arctic environment?” asks Nweeia. “Such a finding is startling and indeed surprised all of us who discovered it.” Nweeia collaborated on this project with Frederick Eichmiller, director of the Paffenbarger Research Center at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and James Mead, curator of Marine Mammals at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution.

Nweeia studied the whales during four trips to the Canadian High Arctic. In the past, many theories have been presented to explain the tooth’s purpose and function, none of which have been accepted as definitive. One of the most common is that the tooth is used to display aggression between males, who joust with each other for social hierarchy. Another is that the tooth is a secondary sexual characteristic, like a peacock’s feathers or a lion’s mane.

Nweeia’s findings point to a new direction of scientific investigation. Fewer than 250 papers have been published about the narwhal, and many offer conflicting results. Because of its Arctic habitat and protected status in Canada, the whale is difficult to study. Nweeia has brought together leaders from the fields of marine mammal science, dental medicine, engineering, mathematics, evolutionary biology, anatomy, and histology.

Martin Nweeia proudly displays the flag of the Explorers Club, which has, since its inception in 1904, served as a unifying force for explorers and scientists worldwide. (Photo by Joseph Meehan)

The sensory connections discovered by Nweeia and his colleagues also are capable of tactile ability. Narwhals are known for their “tusking” behavior, when males rub tusks. Because of the tactile sensory ability of the tusk surface, the whales are likely experiencing a unique sensation.

Results from the team’s research already have practical applications; studies about the physical makeup of the tusk, which is both strong and flexible, provide insight into ways of improving restorative dental materials. (An 8-foot-long tooth can yield one foot in any direction without breaking). Nweeia also leads the Narwhal Tooth Expeditions and Research Investigation, founded in 2000, which combines scientific experts with Inuit elders, who have collected notes for hundreds of years, to discover the purpose and function of the narwhal tusk.

“Now that we know the sensory capabilities of the tusk, we can design new experiments to describe some of the unique and unexplained behaviors of this elusive and extraordinary whale,” said Nweeia.

So now we have it – the secret behind the Narwhal tusk.

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