Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An Unexpected Earthquake

I suppose most people fear being involved in an earthquake but I always wanted to know what it would feel like and actively prayed that one day I might actually experience the earth literally moving beneath my feet. I had a fascination with all things seismic and volcanic and was always excited by the prospect of visiting regions where a major event may unfold. As it turned out I didn’t have to travel very far to get what I wanted.

United States

I love California and have made many visits to this state which has a wealth of natural riches. Every time I set foot in San Francisco I wondered if the earth would move and was most excited to have the opportunity to visit areas close to the San Andreas Fault on several occasions. Riding the roller coasters as Six Flags Magic Mountain I marvelled that a major earthquake had recently afflicted Loma Prieta just along the road but I never experienced so much as a twitch. California has delivered many major seismic events but never
when I was there.

Whilst visiting Alaska I was privileged to see many volcanoes and to visit the Valley of The 10,000 smokes in Katmai National Park where I stood at the terminus of an enormous pyroclastic flow that had swept across the region. The volcanoes remained stubbornly dormant during my visit although their awesome beauty and enormous scale was a sight to behold.


A visit to the Roman city of Pompeii tells you everything you need to know about the devastation that a volcanic eruption can bring. Mount Vesuvius dominates the entire landscape and after my first visit I resolved that one day I would return to climb the volcano to view the crater. Many years later I did exactly this and the mountain had certainly started to stir once more as sulphur dioxide was venting from all over the crater. Standing at the summit I felt that this might be one occasion on which I should pray that there would not be an eruption!

Aftermath of September 4, 2010 earthquake in Christchurch, NZ.
By  Martin Luff via Wikimedia Commons

Closer to Home

There were no earthquakes or volcanic eruptions during my travels. The greatest irony of my life was that there didn’t need to be. One morning in July 1984 I awoke to find my bed jumping across the floor and my books flying off their shelves. For one fleeting moment I thought that I had a poltergeist, then thought I must be dreaming but eventually realised that the whole house was shaking and what I was really experiencing was an earthquake. If I had been in California I would not have been so surprised but I was at home in Liverpool which seemed rather crazy. After the shaking stopped I jumped out of bed, pulled on my jeans and rushed outside to see if there was any serious damage to the house. Thankfully all was well but the streets were full of people gazing around quizzically wondering what on earth was going on.

The Earthquake

The quake had measured 5.4 on the Richter scale, an uncommonly large event for the United Kingdom. I was extremely euphoric and my memorable day was crowned by a phone call from my Mother asking if I knew there had been an earthquake in Liverpool! Did she really think I hadn’t noticed?
Sally Stacey is a frequent traveller with a passion for earthquakes and volcanos. Check her out on Google+ now!
This computer generated model maps earthquake locations and their magnitudse for the past 110 years. Photo by CAVE Idaho National Laboratory

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dolphins and Crystals off Key West - Adventure of a Lifetime

A Day Retreat working with healing crystals and wild dolphin

Every year in the Spring, as the water warms up, Crystal Maven Debra Kupchok and Captain Victoria Impallomeni, offer day retreats aboard the Imp II to work with healing crystals and wild dolphin. On the day long retreat participants explore the use of healing crystals with the energy of these fascinating marine mammals.

First stop: the  playground just off Key West where the dolphin swim and dance in a deep basin. We have also encountered dolphins hunting in other areas,  but this area finds the dolphin in play mode, jumping diving and swimming under the bow of the boat, often turning belly up and looking directly into your eyes. Eye contact with the dolphin is considered to be a great blessing - and it certainly is a thrill.

The day's adventure continues with a visit to an island west of Key West that we usually have all to ourselves. On the island we set up a tarp on the sandy beach  to make shade, and Debra teaches about the healing properties of several types of crystals. There is a guided meditation, followed by a bring-your-own picnic lunch.

key west dolphin swimming under our boat's bow
Dolphin Swimming The Bow of Our Boat

Along the beach, we gather seashells and other island treasures - dried soft corals and sea whips, bits of coral, small pieces of driftwood - and together with the crystals we have brought and studied, we create mandalas in the sand.

mandala with crystals
Mandala with treasures collected from the beach

There are always more opportunities to visit with and watch the dolphin frolicking – and we have time to snorkel and swim nearby – of course, swimming with dolphin is not legal – but being close to them like this makes us feel as though we have swum with them. And we know they are not far away when we are snorkeling over the nearby coral reefs and soft coral gardens.

For more information on the retreat: Dancing Dolphin Crystal Retreats or The Crystal Cottage.

More ways to connect with these magical animals and related events:
This is not from one of the retreats, but it is not unusual to have the dolphin follow Captain Victoria to surf in her wake:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Beach Vacations For Singles

Nothing says “vacation” like the beach, with salty air, ocean breezes, boardwalks, and beachside shops and cafes. If you’re single and looking for some fun in the sun, check out the many beach vacations available. You’ll be right at home digging your toes into the sand and splashing in the waves among the other beach-goers, many of whom likely are singles themselves.

Where to Stay On Your Beach Holiday

beach palm tree
The key to enjoying your vacation fully is finding the best spot for you — one that suits your personality and offers the kinds of activities you like to do. If all you want to do is lay on the sand and soak up some rays, your choices are broad, but if you want to combine your vacation with some outdoor sports and nightlife, that’s a different story. Here are some different options:

Hotels — Many hotel chains offer accommodations at beaches around the globe. Hotels work well if you just want a place to hang your hat at night, after you’re done playing in sun and surf. You usually can keep costs at a minimum by getting the smallest room available and spend most of your time on the beach. You also can take advantage of happy hours and other low-cost events in the hotel bar, where you can mix and mingle with other singles.
Hotel chains operate at popular destinations along each coast, from North and South Carolina to California and Oregon. Check the websites of your favorite hotel chains for special offers and discounts.

Resorts — If you want to splurge a little and perhaps travel farther from home, then a resort might be best for you. There are plenty of domestic resorts to choose from, but if you want to venture beyond the border and experience a different culture, check out Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe for popular resort options.

Upscale resorts may offer more amenities than a hotel, and there typically are lots of activities that cater to singles for nighttime entertainment. Ask your travel agent about resorts that are frequented  mostly by singles, as you are likely to find beach parties, dances, music and more. You also can engage in preplanned excursions such as water sports, boat rides and hikes.

Be aware that some resorts are more risqué than others, such as Hedonism ( in Jamaica, or Sandals (, which operates various Caribbean resorts. Clothing-optional beaches, exciting excursions, and crazy parties and activities are par for the course at these places!

Planning the Details -- If you are planning your trip without the help of a singles group, then you will need to do your homework to find the right destination and deals. Start by heading to your nearest travel agency in the fall, when they get new travel brochures for various hotels and resorts.

From there, you can pick out a few that interest you, and then compare and contrast the different amenities, locations and features. You also can hop online and get tons of information at sites like, and You’ll find information and ratings on dozens of different hotels and resorts, along with helpful category views that let you narrow your choices by “Adults-Only Resorts,” “All-Inclusive Resorts” and more.

Keep in mind that beaches also attract family vacationers. If you are hoping to avoid kids, choose a singles-only/adults-only resort, or at least plan to vacation during the school year.

Florida Beach Destinations - Ideal For Singles

Several Florida beach towns offer a great singles scene no matter the time of year. Fort Lauderdale has so many beach bars and restaurants across the street from its golden sandy strip that it attracts a trendy singles crowd - tourist and locals alike - all the time. If you like an International flair, there is no place more fashionable than the Deco District of Miami's South Beach. The beautiful people, the cafe's crowded with celebrities and wannabes, the night clubs, bars and 24 hour action make for a singles heaven.

But for all out, anything goes, no place is quite as 'live and let live' as Key West! The Southernmost City takes everyone as they are - especially during Fantasy Fest in late October when the streets are filled with madness and fun.

Key West offers several great beaches, such as Fort Zachary Taylor State Park -- also a great place to catch the sunset; Smathers Beach and Higgs Beach where sandy volleyballs courts are popular with the singles crowd.

Fort Zach's beach from the water.

Hitting the Beach
Dust off your best garment bag — and pack for fun, fine dining, surfing, lounging or whatever your heart desires. You can make it as crazy or as calm as you like, so be sure to choose your destination based on the type of experience you hope to have.

Hannah Hamilton is no stranger to the beach, having recently moved from New Jersey to California. She and her husband and two kids consider beach towns their second homes, often planning their vacations around beach activities. For more travel advice, tips and travel garment bag reviews, visit Hannah’s website at

Monday, February 4, 2013

Top 5 Night Life Holiday Destinations

Holidays are all about enjoyment – and nightlife has take on a life of its own since clubs and bars began to stay open until breakfast time and drinks became cheap and cheerful. Not everyone wants to bury their head in fishbowl all night on holiday, so here are arrange of the best holiday resorts with the best nightlife, whatever your tipple.

Spain – Ibiza
Ibiza is one of the best known hotspots for nightlife – and also combines some seriously cool live music venues like the Ibiza Rocks hotel with lively bars and clubs. Because Ibiza has an international vibe, it is more pricy than popular clubbing resorts – and more glam. The main clubbing resorts on Ibiza are San Antonio and the area of La Marina. Ibiza is one of the most visited islands among the Spanish Balearic islands, so expect crowds – the clubbing season runs from June to October.

Photo Courtesy of Ibiza Rocks

Spain – Mallorca – Magaluf
Magaluf is notorious rather than famous and its hedonistic nightlife is frequently featured in the news headlines and on TV. For some, Magaluf is the binge drinking capital of holiday destinations – and it is also known for the risky behaviour of some holidaymakers. The main clubbing strip in Magaluf is the Punta Ballena, where drinking and other games in the clubs can be to excess. Sadly in 2012, three young adults died in falls from height within weeks of each other in Magaluf and it is though alcohol might have been a contributory factor in at least two deaths – as well the practise of climbing over hotel balconies. Magaluf has become something of a rite of passage for young adults on their first holiday abroad without mum and dad – make sure you survive to tell the tale.

Photo by Callum McKain
Greece – Mykonos
Mykonos is one of the prettiest and most traditional Greek islands, with snow-white houses, traditional azure blue doors and pretty hanging baskets lining cobbled streets. Mykonos is also where the Greek jetset holidays – and is a wellknown resort for the gay community to head to in the summer. Nightlife is hedonistic and extremely colourful – and Mykonos can also be pricy as a result of the presence of wealthy Greek holidaymakers. Mykonos is probably best left to those looking for a lively holiday and some serious clubbing who have cash to spare. Paradise Beach and the Skandinavian Bar are the locations which define Mykonos by day and Mykonos by night. There are also three nudist beaches on Mykonos – if you dare.

aa 84 Mykonos by night 2
Photo of Mykonos Waterfront at Night by Allan Henderson
Western USA – Las Vegas
Las Vegas is well known for cabaret and weddings – as well as gambling and nightclubs, which may be more upmarket than the drinking bars many young adults are used to. Las Vegas is a sophisticated resort, which became famous as a result of shows staged by the members of the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin and Tony Bennett) and other mega stars like Elvis Presley, Tom Jones and Elton John. Shows and cabaret are still a huge draw in Las Vegas, alongside gambling and dining. But expensive hotels give Las Vegas a glamorous edge which may suit couples and older holidaymakers, more than young adults looking for a drinking holiday. The website is a good place to start planning your Vegas entertainment.

Eastern USA - Key West, Florida

The Original Sloppy Joe's where Hemingway drank.
Of course, the locals in Key West,  think they own the nightlife brand - and many of the bars are world famous - Sloppy Joe's where Ernest Hemingway had his own bar stool; Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, and the Hog's Breath Saloon. The Green Parrot - a dive if there ever was one and the best music scene in town - was named by Playboy as one of the top bars in the country. But nightlife in the Southernmost City doesn't necessarily revolve around bars and nightclubs - the locals and visitors take their 'nightlife' into the streets on New Year's Eve and during the Fantasy Fest week - a bacchanalian celebration with masquerade balls and a costumed parades large and small.

Sometimes accidents abroad can happen even when alcohol isn't involved. If you fall over and injure yourself and it wasn't your fault you can claim compensation.

Peter Anderson – I love to blog about holidays and travelling! Google+

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fantasy Fest Photos - 2012 - Pictures from the A-Conch-alypse

I love Fantasy Fest - Key West's annual Mardi Gras style celebration – and even though I think a lot of the folks who take their clothes should put them right back on again, I applaud their freedom to let it all hang out, or rather more accurately down.

The 10 day end of October festival kicks off with Goombay on the weekend prior  -- everyone parties all week long - tutu parties, plaid parties, toga parties, headdress balls and a constant crawl up and down Duval's watering holes wearing as little as possible - and culminates in the Saturday night parade. 

Menacing Zombie
There's always a theme - and this year's was A-Conch-alypse 2012 - as in the End of the World! 

Admittedly this year’s theme was tough – while there might have been a lot of scope for clever costumes there wasn’t a lot of scope for flattering ones. After all, when the world ends, you are going to be pretty messed up … or dead.
I think that’s where the Zombie theme comes in … and as a result many folks just wore a favorite costume from their Halloween closet - or from previous Fantasy Fests. And of course, many opted to wear very little at all.*

This one had too many clothes on:

Espresso Pot
I mean, what does an espresso pot have to do with the A-Conch-alypse? Or any theme? Cute, though.

You can always count on Key Westers to reflect current events and issues in the parade - and right now we like to kvetch about the very slow project of repaving North Roosevelt Boulevard.

Not only were there curves ahead, but some Sloppy Hoe's.

My favorite float is the one I accompanied: the Four Horses of the A-Conch-Alypse:

The horses represented four Key West pestilences - chickens, iquanas, white flies and lionfish.
No one was surprised to find that the Minions of Mulcahy won "Most Creative" for this float.

Key West artists who airbrush costumes onto people are in great demand - and these next few pictures are some of my favorites from this year:

*I can't really feel I can post the more revealing photos on blogspot - so they are in a private Fantasy Fest album on Facebook - you will have to request a friendship - but I won't be hurt if you drop me after viewing the more risque albums. The Fantasy Fest Parade 2012.

Blog posts from former years: Fantasy Fest Photos 2011 and Fantasy Fest Photos 2010.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

10 Words You Must Learn Before Visiting Costa Rica

Costa Rica has, for years, been a top vacation destination for honeymooners, families, backpackers and those who just need a break. There's a special vibration that resonates throughout this Central American country that most can attribute to the Pura Vida or “pure life” attitude that the locals infuse into just about everything they do. Not only to fit in, but to make a trip to this country a special and easy going time away, this is the first phrase one needs to commit to memory.

Maybe your trip is meant to be a relaxing get away, perhaps spending your time enjoying the gorgeous views of the volcano at Lake Arenal. Maybe it's the miles of gorgeous coastline that you're craving. Whatever the case, it will be next to impossible to ignore the local fare. Costa Rica is famed for a couple of traditional dishes that are simple, hardy and when prepared with love and a hand that has been making these plates for years are, in no other words, delicious. The first you must come to learn is Gallo Pinto. This is technically just rice and beans, mixed together and served for every meal. If it's not already mixed in, salsa Lizano will almost certainly be on the table. This sweet and tangy sauce could be called the flavor of the country and goes great on salads, rice or just about anything.

Another crucial dish is the typical Costa Rican casado. This literally translates to married and is a large plate, served for lunch or dinner that has everything, meat, rice, beans, salad, fried plantains... Enjoy this as a filling lunch or dinner and accompany it with the crisp, clean taste of an Imperial, the national beer of this lush landscape. Just remember there is only a one letter difference between the word for married, casado, and the word for tired, cansado. The locals never get bored of this simple slip of the tongue which can turn into quite the joke.

While many say that Costa Rican Spanish is some of the most formal and well spoken in the Latin countries there remain some words that are strictly Tico (a contraction of the words Costa Rica that's used to describe all native peoples). Mae is used to refer to a person, male or female, and translates to “dude, man, or guy” as in “what's up mae?” Expect to hear this phrase from the national parks to the high rises in Jaco. Another of these words is mop and means essentially the same thing although it is used with less frequency.

Finally there is a phrase that most visitors would use to elaborate on their entire trip, al chile. This means with all the spice or with all the “chile pepper” and is spoken by those in the know to describe something completely crazy and amazing. In a country that has, at minimum, ten months of gorgeous sunshine, worries seem to melt away. A traveler truly has to try not to enjoy the “pura vida” of Costa Rica.

Jared is a international writer and traveler. For more information on All Inclusive vacations in Costa Rica please visit

Image Courtesy of Bee Collins.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Five Amazing Beaches to Hang Your Hammock

If you’re looking for the perfect place to swing your hammock, there are some places in the world that seem to have been truly made for the purpose --  places made for those who love relaxing in the sun beside the waves and want to be sun kissed when doing so. So, where should you set up your family hammocks for the long haul?

Curonian Spit

This beautiful area of beach, stretches  for almost 60 miles and mixes pine forests and dunes. It provides the perfect place for you to hang up your  hammock and also to bathe in the ocean when you feel like stepping out from your beach bum paradise. The area is a beautiful one and has been visited by many of the greats from history including Thomas Mann. Some have compared it to a Baltic Sahara and there is one wonderful must see dune that is more than 170 feet high in Nida – do visit.

Curonian Spit by Kyle Taylor - Dream It Do It Wold Tour!


Tanzania is one of those places that is still not been subjected to the ravages of significant tourism. This beach is the perfect and most idyllic place in the world to hang your hammock. There’s little to do as the tides are low and drink coconut milk. Watch the fishermen, read a book and just sit back and bake in the sunshine. You might even go on a boat ride in the evening when it cools down and the time feels right – but don’t stress.

Early morning on Jambiani Beach by Andrew Moir

Kerala Coast

This region of India is one of those places that should be on everyone's bucket list for its miles and miles of coconut palm lined, white sand beaches. The coast spans more than 370  miles and boasts the bluest of waters. It’s the ideal place to sit back, watch the horizon and see the evening and the ensuing sunset arrive in all its glory. Thiruvanathapuram, Kerala's capital, is a must visit if you want to see the most spectacular sunsets.

Kerala Coast by parentless_org

Isla Mujeres

This Mexican island, situated near the tourist resort of Cancun is the perfect place to bring family and friends and set up your family hammocks. It’s a tropical beach with the sought after turquoise waters and also offers you plenty of options to frequent bars and the like for some great cocktails. There are also some wonderful fishing tours, as well as golf courses resorts and all the mod-cons for those that enjoy them.

Fishing Nets and Even a Hammock by Michael C. Rael.

Ko Pha Ngant

Thailand is a tourist center for some time now, however Ko Pha Ngant though busy, still has some great spots to visit. Obviously if you're after complete peace and quiet, you want to avoid the regions where the Full Moon Partiers revel. The island is loved by the Thai Royal Family, which explains why the outlying regions are so overwhelmingly beautiful and also under developed. The island is blissful and the perfect place for a hammock once you avoid the hedonistic full moon fun.

Coconut Trees Are Good For Something Other Than Hammocks! Photo by 0005_Marco

There is nothing better than chilling out on a hammock and these areas are the perfect place for the experience.

The author writes for Westmount Living, offering a wide range of extra large family sized hammocks which are great for taking on your holiday adventure around the globe!