US National Park Week 2012: where to go when the parks are free

It?s April, so it?s time once again for one of the most tempting deals in American travel: National Park Week. Each of the 397 parks in the National Park System is offering free admission to visitors from April 21-29. The US National Parks are a bargain at any price, and the $80 annual pass is one of the best investments a nature-loving American traveler can make, but if you need an incentive to go visit some of the most breathtaking natural and historical wonders the world over, hopefully free admission will get you to hit the road this year.

And with the summer months seeing the lion?s share of visitors, April is a great time to go. An analysis of the best times to visit national parks as recommended by Lonely Planet authors found October to be the most highly recommended month, with September and April close runners-up. If you have to go in the summer, go (and we have some great tips on how to find solitude even during the busiest times of year); but if you can, shoot for the shoulder season, that sweet spot between high and low season, to enjoy some of the most popular parks without the crowds.

Which parks are best best in April? Spring wildflowers are carpeting the lower elevations, desert parks are at their most pleasant temperatures for exploration, and waterfalls are beginning to flow with full force with the onset of the snowmelt. Here?s a short list of some of our authors? favorite parks to visit during National Park Week:

Planning to explore a National Park this year? Where are you headed?

[Photo: Yosemite’s Vernal Falls from the Mist Trail, taken in April by jeroen020 on Flickr]

Plan the perfect trip to a national park ? download our free planning PDF, an excerpt from Lonely Planet?s Discover USA?s Best National Parks


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Inn on the Square appoints new General Manager

(TRAVELWIRES) : Inn on the Square, a Three Cities Property, has appointed Clinton Thom as the hotel?s new General Manager.

: With 13 years of experience working for the Southern Sun Group within all operational departments, Clinton Thom has exceptional knowledge of the hospitality industry and an outstanding track record making him a valuable addition to the Inn on the Square team.

?I am honoured to join the Three Cities Group as the General Manager of the historic Inn on the Square. I look forward to working with the rest of the team and contributing to the success of this remarkable property,? says Clinton.

Clinton joins Inn on the Square after having served as the Deputy General Manager at one of the group?s most challenging properties, the Southern Sun OR Tambo International Airport, as well as at Southern Sun Pretoria where he was also responsible for a R39 million refurbishment.

?Clinton?s wealth of knowledge, experience, background and specific skills set matches what the Three Cities Group seeks in employment of Senior staff members. I have utmost confidence in his ability to provide the leadership and insight to drive this hotel to the successful level at which our other Three Cities properties are operating at,? says Three Cities? Operations Director Marius Earle.

Clinton began his career in hospitality as the Restaurant Manager and Assistant Food and Beverage Manager at the Holiday Inn Pretoria following which he was Assistant General Manager at the Garden Court in Sandton, helping to manage the hotel?s successful conversion from a Holiday Inn Garden Court to a Southern Sun Property.

Located in historic Greenmarket square, Inn on the Square is one of Cape Town?s heritage hotels and has re-opened doors after an extensive R35 million refurbishment. The hotel boasts new décor, a modern ambiance fused with a historic touch, and sees the return of the well-known Dish restaurant.

The ?Inn?s? central location invites guests to explore the beauty of the city of Cape Town on foot ? with the V&A Waterfront, the Cape Town Convention Centre and bustling Long Street all being within walking distance ? ensuring that every detail of this extraordinary city can be appreciated to the full.

Notes to editor:

Inn on the Square is part of the Three Cities Exceptional Hotels, a the leading hospitality marketing, management and training group in the South African hospitality industry, managing over 30 properties that include luxury city hotels, game lodges and resorts throughout Southern Africa.
Inn on the Square-; 021 423 2050

-END –

Media Contact

Contact Person: Catherine Dabbs
Company Name: Communication Services Africa
Email Address:
Telephone Number: 021.433.0347
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Abu Dhabi CP, Gul stress expansion of ties

ANKARA: Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Turkish President Abdullah Gul held discussions on Tuesday on ways to strengthen bilateral relations between the UAE and Turkey.

They reviewed the excellent friendly ties between the two countries and their peoples in the light of the diligence of both sides to bolster relations in various avenues.

A number of regional and international developments and topics of common concern also came up for discussion.

Gul welcomed Sheikh Mohammed and the accompanying delegation at the Presidential Palace in Ankara and stressed that the visit embodies the mutual keenness of the leadership of both countries to bolster and expand the bilateral ties between them to serve the interests of both the people.

Sheikh Mohammed conveyed to Gul, the greetings of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as his good wishes for the welfare of the people of Turkey.

He also asserted that the recent visit by the Turkish President to the UAE paved the way towards added co-operation and gave a strong impetus to the growing ties between the two countries and their friendly relations.

Sheikh Mohammed stressed the importance of continuing consultation and bilateral coordination between the two countries for their mutual welfare. He also underlined the need for the exchange of visits between them as well as the boosting of bilateral trade and investment. This will strengthen the strategic partnership, especially as the UAE and Turkish economies are characterised by growth and development, the Crown Prince said.

Gul offered his greetings to be carried to President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa and expressed wishes for the progress and prosperity of the UAE people.

The Turkish President also hosted a state banquet in honour of Sheikh Mohammed and the accompanying delegation and was attended by senior Turkish officials.

The meeting was attended by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khalid Khalifa Al Mualla, UAE Ambassador to Turkey and other officials.

From the Turkish side, Foreign Minister Davutoglu, Finance Minister Mehmet Hamshk, National Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz, other senior state officials and Turkish Ambassador to  the UAE Sefik Vural Altay attended the meeting. Sheikh Mohammed also visited on Tuesday the mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey.

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Aerospace Training and Adventure Experiences Made Possible by Travel Advisors: The NASTAR Center and Virtuoso Enter Into Preferred Supplier Agreement

Southampton, PA – The NASTARCenter, the premier commercial aerospace training and research center in the world, and VirtuosoR , the leading luxury travel agency network, signed an agreement to make the dream of space-related travel experiences a reality for both public enjoyment and education, and to provide training for actual commercial spaceflight ticketholders.  As a Preferred Supplier, the NASTAR Center will provide Virtuoso?s upscale clientele with educational and spaceflight training simulation experiences at its world-renowned aerospace facility just outside of Philadelphia, PA.  In exchange, Virtuoso will provide access to its network of over 7,200 elite travel advisors in 20 countries, as well as marketing and travel-related services to promote, distribute, and sell the NASTAR Center programs.

The NASTAR Center offers unique educational and hands-on aerospace adventure experiences that range from Summer Camp programs to FAA approved Commercial Spaceflight Training.

Thus far, the NASTAR Center has trained over 240 people for upcoming commercial spaceflights in its training program, including 115 future Virgin Galactic ?Astronauts? and 70 Accredited Space Agents (ASA?s).

Virtuoso is the exclusive sales network throughout the Americas for Virgin Galactic?s suborbital spaceflights.  Virtuoso also has the largest network of ASA?s trained to sell Virgin Galactic.  The agreement with NASTAR will enable all Virtuoso member agencies, including its ASA?s, to sell the NASTAR Center programs to audiences around the world.

?For the first time, The NASTAR Center is making its programs available through travel agencies,? says Jim Osborne, vice president, air, space and specialty products at Virtuoso. ?Virtuoso advisors can now offer a wide range of training options for aerospace enthusiasts of every generation.  The appeal to future Virgin Galactic astronauts is a given, but we anticipate individuals and families alike will find NASTAR?s programs an exciting opportunity to enjoy an out-of-this world-experience.?

?Virtuoso has done a remarkable job of delivering unique travel experiences around the world,? said Brienna Henwood, Director of Space Training and Research at NASTAR Center. ?We are delighted to formalize our relationship and look forward to bringing new exciting and unique aerospace experiences to Virtuoso?s extensive agency membership and their clientele.?


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Tallest Holiday Inn set to open in Manhattan by October 2012

Manhattan gets the better of things even when it comes to the Holiday Inns. The brand is set to grace Lower Manhattan in a record breaking way.

Hotel architect Gene Kaufman , who has constructed big projects for other well known hotel brands in Manhattan, is busy with a 400 room, 50 story Holiday Inn at 99 Washington St, just a few blocks from the World Trade Center. When this Holiday Inn is completed, it will be the tallest of the brand?s properties.

The exterior of the hotel will be a low-rose which blends with the surrounding buildings but it is topped with a tower which will give guests an excellent view of the city, the Statue of Liberty, and the Hudson River. The facade features metal panels designed by the team of GSKA and will be reflecting the sunlight to brighten up the landscape below.

Guests can expect the usual goodies from Holiday Inn like a guest lounge, free internet, and a full service bar and restaurant. The Holiday Inn in Manhattan is scheduled to open in October 2012.


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World Food: the winning picture

We have spent the holiday break reviewing all the submissions to our World Food Facebook picture competition and we are ready to announce the winner! We were very impressed with the array of foods and dishes that you have snapped in your travels ? our stomachs were grumbling by the end of the day.

Before we reveal the winning entry, let?s have a look at the five runner-ups, in no particular order:

Mountain of moroccan sweetsLet dreams come true! A gigantic mountain of Moroccan sweets! Believe me. No one can resist this! ? Thomas W.

Grilled salted fishGrilled salted fish in Damnoen Saduak floating market, Thailand. ? Rene B.

Woman selling fish and chicken lollipopsTo anyone who has experienced the madness that is the local Laos bus service, they will recognise these wonderful fish and chicken ?lollipops? that the local ladies bring aboard along your journey? ? Angela P.

Man preparing pork for spitroastHavana, Cuba. A local man prepares a New Year?s Day feast. Hours later, the pig was still cooking, and residents of the street were having an unofficial block party! ? Jana I.

Man cooking Thai dry noodles on a boatNothing says Thailand more than having your meal prepared fresh on a boat. Here a bowl of Thai dry noodles is being skilfully made ? so scrumptious you might even consider having seconds! ? Christopher R.

All of the above will receive a copy of a Lonely Planet travel guide of their choice. Congratulations!

And without further ado, let?s reveal the winning entry of our World Food competition:

Man cooking jalebisApplause! Congratulations to Archana S., who sent this picture of an Indian master chef making jalebis, orange colored fried flour crisps dipped in sugar syrup ? sounds positively delicious. Callum, our independent judge, chose this picture as the winning entry because he loved ?the concentration of the cook set against the bustle and noise of street life carrying on behind?, exemplifying ?world food at its best?. Also, you can?t go wrong with a bit of deep fried dough! A Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone will be making its way to Archana in the next few days.

Thank you to everyone who took part in the competition and keep an eye on our Facebook page for any future contests.


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United Hates Houston?s Plan for Two International Airports

Residents of the Dallas/Ft Worth Metroplex probably rolled their eyes at the news that Southwest is pushing for more freedom at Houston’s close-in Hobby airport. They’ve seen it all before with Southwest’s fight against American at Love Field, right? Not quite. This is a very different situation, but don’t worry, there is still legacy airline […]


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Rezidor launches new corporate website

(TRAVELWIRES) : The Rezidor Hotel Group, one of the world\?s fastest growing hospitality companies, has launched its new and dynamic corporate website: The site is developed by Thomson Reuters, the world\?s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals.

: Fast, stylish and packed with essential information, is designed to ensure the most effective and transparent communication with investors, media, development community and other stakeholders. The functionality, ease of use and accessibility of relevant information have been at the forefront of the design and construction of the site, as well as the visual appeal and experience complimenting the strong identity of Rezidor. Fresh and distinctive, will also guarantee Rezidor?s prominent position in the rankings for European corporate websites.

?I am delighted that our new website reflects our ambitions as one of the hotel industry?s most transparent, innovative and fast growing companies ? with a special Z-factor passion for doing things differently?, said Kurt Ritter, President & CEO of Rezidor.

The site offers a comprehensive Investors & Media section ? in English & Swedish ? ensuring that shareholders, analysts and investors receive prompt, correct and relevant financial information about Rezidor (the group is a publicly listed company at Stockholm Stock Exchange). The detailed Business Development section describes the group?s growth strategy in Europe, the Middle East and Africa along with the dynamic support services and revenue generation tools offered to hotel owners and developers.

Other prominent features of the new website include:

Compelling, interactive call-out stories, highlighting the different parts of Rezidor?s operations
An interactive brand carousel, featuring all Rezidor brands and hotels
An interactive history charting every element of Rezidor?s dynamic development
Special light-boxes showcasing the group?s fantastic brand imagery
One-page tabs simplifying navigation to related content
Links to all Rezidor social media outposts
Comprehensive site tools ? including a document library, Investor Kit, Subscribe & Order, site search, glossary, email alerts, etc.
A multi-brand booking engine for all Carlson Rezidor hotels worldwide

-END –

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Contact Person: Christiane Reiter
Company Name: rector Corporate Communication
Email Address:
Telephone Number: +32 2 702 9331
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Arcachon – The Silver Coast

By Sue Aran

Arcachon, (Arcaishon in Gascon), began as a small fishing village nestled within a veritable forest of pine trees, oaks and salt marshes, at the northwest tip of Gascony on the Atlantic coast of France, with fewer than 400 residents in the early 1800’s.  With great foresight,  two brothers, Émile and Isaac Pereire, extended the rail line 34 miles west from Bordeaux, creating the first healthcare resort in France.  Officially christened by Napoléon III on May 2, 1852, Arcachon has thrived for a mere 160 years. The population today exceeds 11,000.

Located on the Côte d’Argent, the Silver Coast, Arcachon rests in a bay fed by the ocean and inland waterways, curiously creating an inlterior sea with the extraordinary colors of a lagoon.  A variety of towns are strung like pearls around the bay, each with its own culture.

Arcachon easily segued into a luxury winter resort hosting royalty and celebrities alike.  Toulouse Lautrec was known to skinny dip in the invigorating Atlantic and Sarah Bernhardt listened to jazz at local clubs while Jean Cocteau and Marilyn Monroe sought solitude there, far from the madding crowds.

Just under 4 hours from Paris by train and 40 minutes from Bordeaux, Arcachon is a seaside retreat for vacationers, sailing enthusiasts, bicyclists, casino gamblers, seafood lovers and wine connoisseurs. Throughout the summer there are boating competitions and festivals. Nearby are a nature preserve called Le Teich and the famous Dune du Pilat, Europe’s highest sand dune, rising some 375 feet into the air. It stretches 2 miles down the coast and retreats inland at a rate of 15 feet per year.

Lining the boulevard de la Plage, the central thoroughfare, are excellent restaurants specializing in local oysters and wine tasting classes.  Stroll along the beaches, have an aperitif while gazing out at the sea or watch migratory birds fly overhead towards their sanctuary.  Henri IV is known to have said, “Great cooking and great wine make a paradise on Earth.”, and this applies to Arcachon.  It is a welcoming Garden of Eden and a perfect summer getaway.


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Climbing Mt Agung

Mt Agung

rice planting?  For our 2004 book Rice Trails – A journey through the ricelands of Asia & Australia –photographer Richard I’Anson and I wanted an iconic photograph of Balinese rice farmers working on their fields with the island’s holy mountain, Gunung Agung, towering over them in the background. Of course you need all the elements to come together, the farmers, the view, the weather, but we eventually got what we were after.

? And the farmers invited me to join them and have a go at planting out the seedlings.

I’d always wanted to climb Agung and on a visit to Bali this week I finally got around to it. Lots of visitors climb Mt Batur, the 1717 metre crater-within-a-crater in the centre of the island. You can zip up from Ubud in the night, climb up for the sunrise in a couple of hours and head back to Ubud soon afterwards. Some Batur climbers stay at one of the lakeside guesthouses at the foot of the volcano before their climb.

Climbing Agung is a more serious effort, particularly if you want to get to the highest point on the crater rim at 3142metres. To accomplish that you need to start from Besakih, Bali’s most holy temple, at around midnight to be up at the top at 6am for dawn. You will have climbed 2000metres from your 1100metre high starting point.

I chose the easier option, starting from the Pura Pasar Agung temple north of Selat. I was picked up from my hotel in Ubud at midnight and at 130 am lined up in the car park below the temple at 1572metres. Despite the less than perfect weather (it was the wet season) there were a surprising number of climbers. My guide Ketut and I teamed up with four other climbers and their two guides, both of them young women, and we stuck together all the way to the top. A couple of other climbers were already there when we reached the crater rim at 530 am, after 4 hours climbing.

crater crowd
? It was already starting to get light and by dawn there were about 15 of us perched on the rim. My GPS said we were at 2873metres, so more than 250metres below the highest point, which we all agreed seemed distinctly unlikely! Perhaps Agung really is somewhat lower after the 1963-64 eruptions. It’s still classified  as an active volcano, but has not had a serious eruption since that series which killed nearly 2000 people. It’s not possible to make your way around the rim from our point to the highest point, but volcanoes aren’t like mountains, I reckon just getting up to the crater rim is good enough.

offerings on the rim?  Offerings and statues perched on the rim of the crater.

An hour later, we seemed to unanimously agree it was time to head down, the visibility was less than perfect and it was cold and windy on the top.

As often happens with mountains it was harder getting down than going up, the descent only took 2-1/2 hours, mostly because we made no rest stops on the way down, but I doubt we moved any faster. Agung is not a technical climb in any way, but it’s often more a clamber than a walk and it can be very slippery.

Agung descent
? Descending Agung

It’s also utterly relentless, climb-climb-climb then descend-descend-descend, there’s never a moment’s level break. I’ve climbed higher and made equally long ascents and descents in one go, but I don’t think my legs have ever been so tired. I was beginning to stumble by the time we got back down to the car park, one ankle didn’t feel right for the next 24 hours and two days later my legs are still aching.


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