Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Amalfi Coast. The hidden jewel of Italy.

Amalfi Coast. The hidden jewel of Italy.

When most people think about Italy, a few mental images immediately come to mind: Sunshine, sandy beaches, great food, red wine, art and culture. This “shoe shaped” country that sits right in the middle of the Mediterranean sea has got a lot to offer, but it seems like the international touristic market is somewhat stuck in the same network of destinations. Not to take anything away from Rome or Venice, two of the most popular destinations in the country, but when a location becomes so mainstream, it will inevitable lose some of its charm that has contributed to its growth in popularity and iconic status in the first place.

If on one hand, mainstream touristic havens are at risk of becoming overstated, on the other hand Italy has got many hidden gems to offer. One of these hidden gems is definitely a coastal segment located in Southern Italy known as Amalfi Coast.

The Amalfi coast has experienced the peak of its popularity from the 1930s to the 1960s, when its little towns, intimate beaches and mind blowing scenarios became a favorite destination of tourists from central Europe and the United States.

Nowadays, the area seems to be stuck in the past, and I mean it as a good thing. It is quite refreshing to travel to the area: the closer you get to Amalfi, the deeper you get into the wilderness of the coastline. Highways make room for beautiful coastal roads. The messy traffic jam turns into the buzzing of the many “vespas” and “ape cars” favored by the locals. While the coast is not exactly the cheapest alternative, it still stands as a relatively affordable destination when compared to other, more popular Italian touristic spots.

The beauty and atmosphere of the Amalfi coast can be compared to the setting of the French Côte d'Azur, but with a more folkloristic, understated feel. The coastline is marked by a series of small and relatively uncrowded beaches, including Praiano or Santa Croce, which would probably be prohibitively expensive if they were located in other areas such as the aforementioned Côte d'Azur.

Unlike many other locations, the Amalfi coast is not that kind of place where you wake up in the morning, find your spot on a sandy beach and lay there for an entire day. Sure, you can very well do that too, but you would miss out on so many things. The adventure factor comes in because you can travel along the coast, check out different beaches (some of which are only reachable by boat!) and visit the many different small towns in the areas, known for the lively craftsmanship tradition (particularly when it comes to ceramics and handcrafted letter paper).

If the pretty sights and heavenly beaches did not sell it for you, maybe the astonishing quality of local food will do the job. Amalfi coast is known for the amazing local cuisines. All ingredients are sourced locally and are as fresh as it gets. Many local restaurant literally have a garden where they grow their own ingredients, while fresh produce from the fishermen is available daily. Seafood is really excellent, not only for the freshness of the raw ingredients, but also because of the simple, homey way of the local cuisine. Amalfi coast recipes are seldom baroque, abandoning highly elaborated dishes in favor of a tantalizing minimal approach that extols the quality of the ingredients.

Tips: Stop by the restaurant in Santa Croce for a cosy and romantic dinner within the setting of a private beach that you can only reach by boat, or get a great pizza at Donna Stella, in the heart of the town of Amalfi!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Shiroube is on Be Traveling!

Shiroube is on Be Traveling!

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Nightlife In Miami

Nightlife In Miami

Miami is known all over the country for its high energy nightlife. No matter what you like to do after dark, Miami is the perfect place to do it. There are so many hot choices when it comes to the nightlife that it can be difficult to narrow it down. Here are just some of the options for a night on the town in Miami.

South Beach is where you will find people that want to party into the wee hours of the morning. The club vibe you will find here is like no other vibe you’ve ever known. The electronic mix played constantly in European nightclubs has traveled into Miami nightclubs as well. The Ultra Music Festival, held every year in Miami, is a big part of the reason why electronic mix has become so popular in the area. The clubs in South Beach range in size from small clubs that play live music to huge clubs that play a variety of genres. Set, LIV and Mansion are three long standing and popular clubs located in South Beach.

Downtown Miami is where you go for the best happy hours in the state of Florida. The Tobacco Road is a popular place for locals to hang out at night. This bar is well known for being the first establishment in Miami to obtain a liquor license. People often show up here to hear R&B, jazz and blues music performed live. Club Space is frequented by people who prefer techno, house and dance music and want to party until dawn.

The college crowd in Miami generally flocks to Coconut Grove for some pub crawling action. With raw bars and sports bars in the area, people are drawn to Coconut Grove for a great dinner and some delicious drinks.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Shiroube is on Tech in Asia!

Shiroube is on Tech in Asia!

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Love Nature and Animals? Tips For Visiting African Safari

Love Nature and Animals? Tips For Visiting African Safari

A distant fantasy for many, an African safari isn't for the faint hearted. For although it provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience some of the most majestic animals on earth in their natural habitat, it also calls for you to step out of your comfort zone if you want the ultimate safari experience. Of course, how rewarding your experience will be depends upon the amount of time and effort you're willing to put in planning your perfect break. Here are just a few tips to help you plan a bespoke safari holiday you'll never forget.

1. Know the Best Time To Go

If you're considering a jam-packed safari trip to Africa, chances are that animal watching features highly on your to-do list. Safari excursions are offered year-round across the continent, but what many people don't know is that the timing of their holiday can have a significant impact upon wildlife spotting opportunities. South African wildlife safaris are best during winter months (June to September), as the dense shrubs and trees will have shed their leaves; making it easier to spot animals hidden in the brush. Food and water are also limited, meaning that many animals are forced to forage further afield, and go out in search of new watering holes.

Game safaris aren't seasonal, but there are key points in the year where you'll have better spotting opportunities. In East Africa, the mass migration of wildebeest across the Maasai Mara occurs in July and August, but this is also when the influx of European tourists reaches its peak. Local guides recommend visiting between January and March during the off-peak season, as the Eastern winter and early spring offers some of the best game watching opportunities.

2. Choosing a Destination

Whether you want to experience that edge of the world freedom that comes with camping on the edge of a savannah, or an all-inclusive ranch holiday on the edge of the desert, you're guaranteed to find it among Africa's dizzying array of 600 national parks and reserves. But, which is right for you? Every national park in Africa has something unique to offer: from singing sand dunes and inquisitive meerkats, to snow-capped mountains and majestic wild cats, there are few places on earth where you'll find such diverse topography, or wildlife. Most of the parks are specially adapted for tourists, offering both guided excursions and adequate facilities at even the remotest of campsites. The booming tourist industry has also funded the development of roads in many of the larger parks, so you can now explore larger areas by car. If you want an all-round safari experience, you can't go wrong with:

·           Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

       Situated right next door to the infamous Serengeti in Narok County, Kenya, this huge National Reserve is immensely popular among tourists owing to its huge population of wild cats. It's also famous for the Great Migration; an annual stampede of zebra, wildebeest and gazelle from the Serengeti each October. The topography of the reserve, which covers an area in excess of 1,510   square kilometers (583 square miles) is largely flat, so its easy to get around, and wildlife spotting opportunities abound.

·           Kruger National Park, Limpopo and Mpumalanga

       Covering an area in excess of 19,633 square kilometers (7,580 square miles), Kruger National Park is one of the biggest wildlife reserves in Africa, and also has the most diverse variety of wildlife you'll find anywhere. If close encounters with the “big five” are high on your priority list, Kruger National Park is a must. The reserve is also home to the two-toned Burchell's Zebra, the fearsome Black Mamba, Spotted Hyenas, and an abundance of Blue Wildebeest. As one of the oldest game reserves in South Africa, Kruger has plenty of well-laid roads connecting the main wildlife spotting areas for both self-drive and guided safaris.

3. Private Reserve or Traditional Safari?

Once the exclusive playgrounds of the rich and famous, private reserves are fast catching on as a popular way of seeing the best of Africa - with minimal effort. It must be stressed that private reserves don't come cheap. In fact, a week-long stay at ones of these luxury retreats could easily set you back as much as $3,000! That being said, there are some benefits to this type of safari holiday. Firstly, you won't have to endure a five hour drive into the remote wilderness to catch a glimpse of the Big Five. Limitations on guest numbers also mean you won't have to share jeeps with twelve other people, and your guides will be able to attend your individual needs, rather than considering those of an entire group.

Although traditional safaris offer more freedom in terms of lodging arrangements, staying at a private reserve allows greater freedom when planning your itinerary. In essence, you can pack in far more in a short space of time than you might be able to on a group safari. If you really want to experience the benefits of both, split your holiday between three nights at a reserve, and three nights on safari. That way, you can enjoy the luxury of knowledgeable guides, and experience the freedom of sleeping under the stars.

4. Staying Safe on Safari

Wild animals can be unpredictable at the best of times. That's why, when on safari, it's important to remember that you are effectively stepping into their territory. The golden rule of any safari is never to stray too far from your camp. Africa's wild cats are large and predatory, and they often seek out game who have separated from the herd. They also have no set breeding season, so if you stumble into their territory, they may perceive you as a threat to their offspring and attack. If you're on a self-drive safari, never deviate from marked routes, or park up in an area not officially designated for public vehicles. You could unwittingly be parking up in a mating or breeding area for wild cats, elephants or rhinos – all of which can be dangerous if they feel threatened.

Perhaps the most important safety advice to adhere to is ensuring you are prepared for safari. Africa's outback is teeming with poisonous arachnids, snakes and reptiles, along with a host of irritating bugs. For this reason alone, solid walking boots and insect repellent are essential. African summers are quite unlike those in the West, so skin protection and hydration should be chief considerations, along with appropriate coverage if you're staking out mosquito-infested watering holes to observe hippotami and rhinos!

5. Come Prepared

The promise of endless sunshine and consistent high temperatures may seem like ample reasons to pack light, but it's not always warm and sunny in Africa. Dawn safaris can be particularly chilly, so it pays to layer up with clothes that can be easily shed later on. During summer months, the sunlight can also be pretty unrelenting, so be sure to pack at least factor 40 sunscreen, and good quality sunglasses offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Aside from clothing, you'll need to consider what type of equipment to take on safari. Be sure to invest in a high quality pair of binoculars, as these are rarely provided by guides. You may also need to upgrade your camera, or purchase a couple of light filters, if you want to get those money shots! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

London – experience the many faces of the British Capital

London – experience the many faces of the British Capital

With its incredibly rich history and deep cultural diversity, London is one of Europe’s most buzzing and lively cities. The city has seen many ages, social settings and trends come and go: from the fasts of colonialism to the nihilism of punk rock in the late 70s, London has truly seen it all.

London is the most populous city in the European Union. Its inhabitants represent different nationalities, religions and cultures, making it one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world and one of the most linguistically differentiated (there are over 300 languages ​​spoken, a true melting pot).

The main focal point of London’s buzzing lifestyle is the City of Westminster (which also includes much of the West End). Westminster is the main cultural district, entertainment and shopping, as well as home to most of the major companies operating in the financial sector, not to mention, the political institution. If you want to get a taste of the old London spirit, you should definitely take a walk to Notting Hill, particularly on Portobello Road; home of one of the most authentic vintage and antique markets in Europe, where even just taking a look at all the relics from the late 1800s, records and fashion items from the 60s or 70s is a delight. If you are in for something more colorful, Camden town is the way to go. The entire area feels like a bazaar, with a unique contrast between a classic London vibe and the influence of numerous immigrants (particularly Asian) that brings their products and attitude to the area. In Camden, you can taste the most authentic fish and chip, or go around the corner for some of the best examples of Thai, Turkish, Chinese, African or Japanese cuisines available in Europe.

The London Underground network is the oldest in the world (it was grounded in 1863), the largest (407 km) and the most widely used (785 million trips per year). Unfortunately, it is also known for being the most unreliable: Faults, on average, occur every sixteen minutes. If you are not used to taking the subway, you might feel a little intimidated by this huge underground network, but taking the subway is a great way to move around, as it represents a very well connected network that is absolutely essential for tourists to move around the many areas of interests of the city, spread over relatively large distances that might not be walking-friendly for many.

London is a bustling tourist center all year long (although some attractions are closed or significantly reduce their opening hours during winter). The climate is obviously more favorable in summer, particularly in July and August, but as the sunshine lure more tourists in, prices soar up to the roof.

London is a great place for culture and entertainment. If you enjoy art, the Tate Modern Art Gallery is definitely worth a stop, as well as the British Museum. These institutions are free for tourists and locals (expect a few occasional, specific periodical installations that might request a smaller fee), making it a very accessible option. There are plenty of great music events almost every night in the city, from small Irish folk groups in pubs to major rock stars in arena settings. London is also famously home of many great musicals, including the popular We Will Rock You (based on songs from the band Queen) and Jailhouse Rock (taking inspiration from Elvis Presley), which went on to become crowd favorites. If you are looking for fun entertainment for the entire family, you should definitely pay a visit to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, featuring wax sculptures of celebrities, fictional characters and more!

London is a city to explore and discover, and possibly, to visit more than once!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Top 5 Must-Visit Libraries in the US

Unless you're an avid bookworm, checking in at one of America's behemoth libraries while on a sight seeing tour of New York or Boston probably isn't foremost on your agenda. But, when you consider that many of these book repositories were intended to symbolize the collective superior knowledge, creativity and power of philanthropists and literary greats, it's understandable why some people get excited. With that in mind, we've tried to compile a must-visit list that encompasses both libraries of architectural excellence, and those with notably interesting collections. Unsurprisingly, the majority of these are a combination of the two!

Library of Congress
Washington D.C, Federal District of Columbia

With over 29.5 million volumes contained within four buildings across Washington D.C and Culpeper, Virginia,  the 18th Century Library of Congress is the largest library in the U.S by volumes held. Established for the United States Congress as a research facility in 1800, the library was originally housed in the neoclassical U.S Capitol Building where members of U.S Congress still meet today. The War of 1812 wiped out much of the earlier volumes, and it wasn't until 1815 that the library once again began to acquire larger collections.

Today, the Library of Congress spills across three buildings at the very heart of Washington D.C. Constructed in the Beaux-Arts style, Thomas Jefferson boasts an equally lavish interior with Minerva mosaics, detailed American Renaissance sculpture work, and soaring porticoes lining the main hall. A lofty, rotund space, the Main Reading Room also serves as the main entrance to the Library's research collections. It's here you'll also find the Computer Catalog Center, from which you can consult approximately 70,000 volumes contained in the Main Reading Room Collection. The Thomas Jefferson Building also houses a wide range of commissioned works art dating back to the 19th Century, including Edward Blashfield's mural “Evolution of Civilization” and Gari Melcher's “Murals of War and Peace”.

The Morgan Library (and Museum)
Madison Avenue, New York

The Morgan Library began life in the 1870s as the private collection of eminent financier Pierpont Morgan, starting with just a few academic drawings and books on art. Following the death of his father in 1890, Pierpont acquired his 12.5 million dollar fortune, and thus began his passion for collecting on a larger and more expensive scale. Intent on constructing a building that would reflect the beauty and rarity of the collections contained within it, Pierpont commissioned Boston Public Library architect Charles Follen McKim to design a palazzo of such grandeur and importance, that it would be regarded as a work of art in its own right.

It is estimated that between 1890 and the time of his death in 1913, Pierpont had spent in excess of $60 million on art, literature and antiquities, including authentic Egyptian artifacts and original manuscripts for both Keats's “Endymion” and Dickens' “A Christmas Carol”. Among some of Morgan's most notable acquisitions are three Gutenberg Bibles – the first books to be printed using movable type in the West, along with the only surviving  manuscript for John Milton's “Paradise Lost”. His collections also extend to two separate museum buildings adjacent to the library, both of which house in excess of 12,000 drawings, preparatory studies and sketches by some of the greatest artists in history.

George Peabody Library
Baltimore, Maryland

While nowhere near as large as the Boston and  New York Pubic Libraries in terms of scale, the Gothic-esque athenaeum in Baltimore is still every bit as impressive. Named in honor of the British-American philanthropist George Peabody, the 19th Century repository was originally intended as a research library for the John Hopkins University. Intent on creating a broad and accessible collection of literature which encompassed all fields of knowledge (save medicine and law), Peabody enlisted the help of celebrated English-born architect and close friend Edmund George Lind to create what would later be described as a “cathedral of books”.

Set across six floors, the neo-Grecian interior bears all the hallmarks of an ancient cathedral, including a soaring 61 foot atrium covered by skylights and ornate, cast-iron balconies overlooking the black and white marble 'court'. The library itself boasts a small, yet impressive collection of just over 300,000 volumes,  including numerous bound manuscripts from the 17th and 18th Centuries. While most are concerned with art, religion, history and culture, the library also counts a number of cuneiform tablets among its collections, coupled with several early editions of “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.

Boston Public Library (BPL)
Boston, Massachusetts

No list of U.S libraries would be complete without mention of the BPL. Established in 1848, Boston Public Library was the first municipal library in the United States to be supported by public funding, and the first to allow volumes to be freely borrowed by the public. The library was originally contained within a small schoolhouse, yet a mere four years after its inaugural opening in 1854, was relocated to an Italian building on Boylston Street due to the increasing number of acquisitions. It wasn't until 1888 that the municipal government finally agreed upon both a style, and an architect, for the earmarked location at Copley Square.

Beaux-Arts architect Charles Follen McKim is credited with the building's unique Renaissance design, which features huge, arcaded stained glass windows and monumental inscriptions. Inspired by the work of Valencian architect Rafael Guastavino, the main hall features one of the very first successful installations of Catalan vaults anywhere in the U.S. Aside from its architectural marvels, the behemoth library houses a number of fascinating murals by the likes of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and John Singer Sargent, as well as the famed “Quest of the Holy Grail” by Edwin Austin Abbey. With an estimated 14,900,000 materials, the BPL now ranks as the third largest library in the U.S by volume, and counts early works by Shakespeare and Mozart among its most famous acquisitions.

Salt Lake City Public Library,
Salt Lake City, Utah

It may not be up there with the likes of New York and Boston as one of America's must-visit cities, yet  the municipal capital of Utah has more than its own fair share of interest attractions. Built in 2003, the newly constructed Public Library has become one of the city's most recognizable landmarks – a marriage of glass, steel and light that gives it a sleek, futuristic appearance. The interior is a little like a shopping mall – all vast open walkways, glinting metal and sweeping steel spiral staircases connecting one level to the next.

It's no strange coincidence the SLCPL also has a small, designated shopping area. The space itself was incepted to provide inhabitants of the city with an ambient indoor space in which to read, learn, experience and socialize. The layout somewhat differs to that of a conventional library as there are reading areas scattered throughout the building. Window seats alongside the 5-storey glass wall offer tantalizing views across the city, but if you really want a prime spot, you can't beat the efflorescent Roof Terrace Cafe up on the 6th floor!

With around 3 million volumes held, Salt Lake City Public Library can't quite compete with the repositories of Boston and New York in terms of scale. It can, however, stake claim to having one of the largest graphic novel collections in the U.S, and a 'zine collection comprising 15 subscriptions and more than 6,000 titles!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Shiroube is in Ohio!

Shiroube is in Ohio!

We are at Kitamu Coffee in Ohio, US! 

When you come to Kitamu Coffee, be prepared to meet new friends and discover the warmth of true community that feels more like family in the heart of the suburbs where you least expect it!

Do you or your friends run a shop/cafe/gallery? We are happy to place our marketing graphics to anywhere you want. Our unique designs going to be a good fit for your commercial or personal use!

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Kitamu Coffee 3221 Hilliard Rome Hilliard, Ohio 43026

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Shiroube Team

Shiroube is in The Loop!

Shiroube is in The Loop!

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Shiroube has been introduced in this article.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

5 Best Dance Carnivals in the World to See Before You Die

5 Best Dance Carnivals in the World to See Before You Die 

It may not be the hottest month of the year for some cultures, but for many, February marks the beginning of one of the most important month-long events in the Christian calendar – the carnival. Characterised by exuberant street parades, lively dancing, historical re-enactments and huge banquets, it's little wonder that many countries begin preparing for these annual events at least six months in advance. There are many theories as to the origins of the modern day carnival. Some believe that the ritualistic events were established as a precedent to Lent – an excuse to indulge and party before observing forty days of fasting and abstinence. But, not all carnivals have religious connotations. In fact, many have evolved to become must-see exhibitions of the native traditions, food and dance that define world cultures. Wondering where to head to first? Let us introduce you to five of the world's top carnivals to see before you kick the bucket!

Notting Hill Carnival
London, England

Established in 1966, the Notting Hill Carnival was originally a spin-off of the annual Trinidad Carnival, which brought together the city's many Caribbean citizens in an annual celebration of their heritage and freedom. The unofficial “weekend warm-up” typically begins on Friday afternoon, with static sound systems and event stages set up in Hyde Park and other communal areas for soca, reggae and pop concerts. Street vendors begin setting up shop on the streets surrounding the main route, transforming the area into one big, open-air food market selling everything from jerk chicken to Brazilian bolos (pies). Sunday is Children's Day, marked by several successive pantomime float parades, puppet shows and street dancing. Monday is geared toward adult revellers, featuring scantily clad women in exuberant headgear writhing and wining their way down the parade route, along with calypso drummers, samba bands and exotic floats. The traditional 'Carnival de Mas' (Masquerade Carnival) follows the main route, and is a colourful reminder of the event's Trinidadian roots.

New Orleans Mardi Gras
Louisiana, USA

A traditional celebration of New Orleans' cultural diversity, Mardi Gras brings together Hispanic, Amerindian, African and Creole cultures in what can only be described as a melting pot of dance and entertainment. Mardi Gras usually begins after Twelfth Night on Epiphany (January 6th), kicking off with an extravagant masquerade ball. In accordance with Creole tradition, a large “King's Cake” is baked especially for the occasion, and a small locket or gold bean hidden inside. The cake is then served to those in attendance, and whomever should find the bean is then crowned King or Queen of the Carnival.

Mardi Gras parades occur almost nightly during the two weeks prior to Ash Wednesday. Carnival krewes in tribal garb and period dress parade through the streets on decorated floats tossing inexpensive toys, doubloons (wooden dollar coins), plastic beads and sweets out to revellers. Parades along Bourbon Street and the French Quarter are a little more risqué compared to other areas of the city, with many dancers and krewes emulating the skimpy attire and “wining” synonymous with Caribbean and Brazilian carnivals. On Mardi Gras Day, most revellers adorn fancy masks and colourful outfits in preparation for the day's festivities, which include the famed Zulu and Rex parade, as well as concerts, dancing and masquerade parties.

Trinidad and Tobago Carnival
Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago is an historic affair, and one which has evolved considerably from the upper class celebrations of the 17th Century. Back then, French and British settlers would congregate at lavish balls and banquets, while their slaves were cooped up in barrack yards with little to no food. Deprived of any real entertainment, the slaves organised their own extravagant parties, for which they would prepare by painting themselves white and sewing fancy costumes made from rags or sheets. The dawn celebration “J'Ouvert”, traditionally held at 4 am on day one of the festival marks the 'dark ages' of slavery, with revellers dressing as demons and monsters and dancing around fires.

When slavery was abolished on the islands in 1838, the slaves took to the streets with their annual celebrations, holding soca concerts, magnificent parades and limbo dancing competitions. Such competitions have now become an integral part of the carnival, and many revellers daub themselves with oil and paint to take part in remembrance of those who fought for freedom during the Port of Spain struggles. As the sun rises, swathes of percussionists in costumes, known as the “Pretty Mas”, descend upon the streets, followed by crowds of skimpily clad dancers “wining” and gyrating to the frenzied calypso beats. Day two sees the festival reach its frenetic climax, with further dance demonstrations, soca concerts and the annual Panorama competition for the coveted award of  “Masquerade Band of the Year”.

Rio Carnaval
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Established as they are, few of the aforementioned carnivals can hold a candle to the annual festivals held in South America. From Colombia's Barranquilla Carnaval, famed for its energetic dance competitions and lively street parties, to the iconic devil dance performed on the eve of Oruro Carnaval, these huge annual gatherings have set a precedent for other 'spin-off' festivals around the globe. Undoubtedly the most famous of them all, the annual Rio de Janeiro Carnaval garners in excess of 8 million people to the city each year to witness the four-day spectacle, traditionally held two weeks prior to Lent.

Famed for its extravagant street processions of inflatable floats and scantily clad women, Rio Carnival has been compared to the likes of Disney World Florida for the sheer size of its theatrical outdoor parades. Many of these are held within the Sambadrome, which also plays host to the annual Samba school float competition and the crowning of the Carnival Queen. Numerous street festivals (“bolos”) are held in and around the centre of Rio, including the “Cord Bola Preta” (“Black Ball”) however the official parade follows a mapped out route over the course of three days owing to the sheer number of entries into the competition. There can be as many as 4,000 people performing as part of one co-operative, including floatees, the “bateria” (drumming band) and additional female Samba dancers - all vying to be crowned Rio's Carnival Queen.

Carnevale de Venezia
Venice, Italy

Few carnivals are are as spectacular or mysterious as the annual Carnevale di Venezia, Italy. Traditionally an Orthodox celebration, the Carnival de Venice was originally established during the 15th Century as a precedent to Lent, marked by feasting, decadence and dancing that culminates on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras). Balls held during the festival are among the most lavish in Europe, and although many are off limits to tourists, its possible to witness the spectacle for yourself at the annual Doge's Ball (Il Ballo del Doge) for the princely sum of  $1900 (€1470). The masquerade ball is one of the highlights of the year for Venetian socialites, whom don period dress and masks in honour of the occasion. Venetian masks still play an important part in proceedings today, worn for both court dances, and the annual competition “La Maschera Più Bella ("The Most Beautiful Mask"). Judged by fashion icons from around the globe, it's widely considered one of Italy's most prestigious national competitions!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Best 5 Rock Musical Festivals in the US

Spring brings with it an air of anticipation in the US. Not for pretty flowers and Easter chicks, but the roll call of confirmed artists who'll be headlining at some of the country's most celebrated annual rock music events. It all started on glorious summer's day in 1969 when half a million people congregated on dairy farm in Bethel,  New York, for the legendary Woodstock Festival. That weekend of August 15-18 was pivotal moment in rock music history, and paved the way for some of the biggest rock music festivals we know and love today.  Whether you're a lover of folksy rock and blues, or a complete metal-head, our guide to the top 5 rock music festivals in the US has every sub-genre covered!

Grant Park, Chicago

Conceived in 1991 by iconic frontman Perry Farrell, Lollapalooza was originally intended to be a last farewell tour event for his fabled band Jane's Addiction. The travelling summer road-show showcased alternative bands such as Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails at a time when grunge and alternative music were still in early infancy. Lollapalooza had a successful run of seven years before its cancellation in 1997. After years of speculation, the event was revived as a travelling tour in 2003, before it was established as a static event at leafy Grant Park, Chicago. Today, the event attracts in excess of 160,000 people each August, and hosts 130 headlining acts across multiple stages. Recent editions have included: Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The White Stripes, Black Sabbath, Florence and the Machine and Sigur Ros. With a dedicated shopping precinct, farmers market and arts and crafts fair, Lollapalooza is as close to Woodstock as you can get in the 21st Century!

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Hailed as the “World's Largest Music Festival” by its creators, the 11-day June Summerfest shows little sign of slowing down as it enters its fourth decade. Set within the leafy grounds of Henry Maier Festival Park beside picturesque Lake Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the festival encompasses a huge 30 hectares, comprising 11 stages, a shopping pavilion, fair and crafts market. Noted for its eclectic variety of alternative headliners, Summerfest has showcased some of the biggest names in contemporary music down the years, including the Steve Miller Band, Bon Jovi, Metallica and Tim McGraw. With the installation of the Harley Davidson stage and BMO Harris Pavilion in 2008 and 2012 respectively, Summerfest has since diversified its entertainment offerings to include acts from both the indie and metal genres.

Indio, California

Coachella's rock 'n' roll beginnings are perhaps one of the reasons it continues to dominate the exhaustive list of summer music events in the US. The roots of the festival were sewn back in November 1993 when prog rockers Pearl Jam earmarked the location for a one-off rock show in a sensational attempt to boycott their former organisers Ticketmaster. Six years later in 1999 the heavily anticipated inaugural event was held, hosting 10,000 revellers and over 30 well known acts, including indie marvel Beck, Rage Against the Machine and Morrissey. Fast forward almost a decade on and Coachella still garners praise for being one of America's flagship music festivals, boasting 125,000 revellers at its 2012 event. Despite well documented reports of iconic duets between hip hop artists (Snoop Dogg and the 'hologram' of iconic rapper Tupac Shakur), the event remains a largely rock 'n' roll festival, attracting some of the biggest Indie bands from around the globe.

Rock on the Range
Columbus, Ohio

Now in it's 7th year, Rock on the Range commands global attention for its headlining acts, notably being the place where Stone Temple Pilots announced their comeback in 2008, and where punk metallers Avenged Sevenfold last performed, prior to the death of their drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan in December 2009. Situated at the Columbus Crew Stadium, Ohio, The Range doesn't have quite the same ground space as some of its larger contemporaries, yet still manages to pack in a whopping 30,000 people between its three main stages. Revellers can expect a heady mix of both mainstream and underground bands, with past headliners having included Evanescence, Breaking Benjamin, Mötley Crüe and Halestorm. Following on from its success, a second weekender has since been unveiled at Winnipeg, Mannisota, with its own unique line-ups.

Manchester, Tennessee

The Woodstock of the 21st Century; America's first environmentally conscious music festival started life as little more than a rent-a-field event in 2001, however, has since grown to become one of the most eclectic rock festivals anywhere in the world. It's founders, AC Entertainment, cite Bonnaroo as being “An escape into Excitement. Music. Art. Discoveries. Trees,” owing to the beauty of its surroundings and sheer wealth of entertainment on offer. Where else could you catch the Temper Trap after a morning of meditation and yoga? Some refer to Bonnaroo as a hippie revival of Woodstock, albeit far more eco-friendly. Bonnaroovians, as attendees are called, are encouraged to do their bit for environment by recycling plastic and glass bottles in exchange for cool prizes, which range from free passes to the Cinema Tent, to backstage meet and greets with headlining bands. Line-ups run the gamut of rock offerings, ranging from the dulcet tones of Folk singer EMA, to cheerful indie, á la The Lonely Forest. If you're looking for a festival that showcases the best of up and coming bands, Bonnaroo is the place to be!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Indian Cooking Tips For Dummies

Indian Cooking Tips For Dummies

Are you looking to be challenged in the kitchen? It's a common misconception that curry and chillies dominate Middle Eastern cuisine, when in fact, you probably won't find a native cuisine anywhere else in the world that is as eclectic, healthy or adventurous as Indian. And the options aren't limited to exotic vegetarian concoctions. Whether a tender Lamb Madras or lightly spiced Chicken Masala Stew, Indian cuisine is a smorgasbord of delicious recipes guaranteed to excite the taste buds. Make your journey to gastronomic enlightenment that little bit easier with our dummies guide to Indian cooking tips. You never know, you could be the next Atul Kochhar!

Tip #1 - Experiment With The Chilli Scale:

Contrary to popular belief, Indian cuisine isn't just about spice and heat. Granted, Ghost Chillies are used to add kick to numerous popular dishes in the West, but traditional regional dishes are actually far more subtle in heat and flavour than you might realise. From the rich, virtually non-pungent fruitiness of the Byadagi (Kaddi) grown in Dharwar, to the legendary Sannam S4, known for its mind-blowing pungency, Indian chillies run the gamut of intensity and flavour. Explore the native-grown varieties used in Indian cuisine before cooking; you'll find that many dishes aren't intended to be as hot as the one's served in restaurants!

Tip #2 – Use Raw or Fresh Ingredients Wherever Possible:

While there's nothing wrong with substituting secondary ingredients in a dish now and then, replacing the foundation of a sauce with something completely different in both consistency and flavour is only going to cause problems. Many hobby chefs switch coconut milk for normal cow's milk, often thinking it will have no impact upon the flavour of the dish. In fact, cow's milk is ten times more likely to curdle than coconut, and you'll also have to rely on desecrated coconut to add in flavour. The lesson here? Don't cut corners with convenient alternatives – it can mean the difference between a smooth, rich Korma and a bland, lumpy mess!

Tip #3 – Invest in Proper Cookware:

Learning to master traditional Indian dishes is an exciting and fulfilling experience. However, so many people get caught up in the 'shopping phase' of cooking, they forgo obvious considerations such as whether their current pots and pans are adequate enough for new techniques. While it may be tempting to use your trusty old frying pan, investing in the proper cookware will ensure there's less likelihood of something going wrong – like under-cooking a fish-based dish, such as Fish Amritsari. A durable, good quality stainless steel karahi (deep wok) is ideal for both stews and traditional curries, but can also be used to master the art of sautéing on a low heat!

Tip #4 – Ease Up On The Rice:

It may be one of the staple foods of India, but the fact is, rice just doesn't go with everything. Vegetables play a vital role in enhancing the flavour of traditional dishes – particularly those deemed “hot” or “intense” by Western standards. Legumes, such as lentils and sprouted beans, are commonly added to recipes as an alternative, lighter variation on rice. Indian cuisine is also built on the principle that “less is more”, which is why many dishes are small, light and served with a host of other finger foods like Roti and Alu Ki Tikki (potato patties).

Tip #5 – Don't Over Marinate:

White meats, such as poultry and fish, are far less hardy and long-lasting compared to lamb and beef.  Their skins also have a tendency to react with the natural enzymes in fresh herbs and spices when left to marinate for too long, breaking down proteins and causing it to become mushy and over tender. As a general rule of thumb, you should never exceed 8 hours marinating time for chicken, and 60 minutes for most types of fish.
Tip #6 – Learn The Art of 'Layering' Spices:

Indian cuisine is typified by the use of aromatic spices and herbs to enhance certain flavours in meat and vegetables, however, there is a certain art to getting it right. Unfortunately, the prospect of experimenting with so many ethnic flavours is too exciting for some, and they rush headlong into creating concoctions that end up marring the flavour of an entire dish.

Layering is a great way to educate yourself about the types of herbs and spices that work in harmony. Start by researching one basal ingredient used to enhance flavours, and two additional accompaniments often used in Indian dishes. By experimenting with different cooking methods, and using just three flavours, you'll begin to get an idea of how spices are used to enhance certain natural flavours.

Tip #7 – Never Substitute Ingredients For Western Alternatives

Nearly every cookery novice will, at some stage, make the fatal mistake of substituting authentic ingredients for less expensive Western alternatives. Unfortunately, opting for a low fat spread instead of ghee is guaranteed to have some impact upon the end flavour of your dish. Western spreads and butters have a higher salt concentration than traditional Indian ghee, coupled with a lower smoking point. Once butter is heated beyond its smoking point, it can quickly become bitter and far too inflexible for shallow frying – effectively causing the natural flavours within meat and vegetables to diffuse far too quickly. If you're really serious about getting to grips with Indian cuisine, substitutes should be avoided at all costs!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Top 5 Locations Newbie Travellers

The first time you travel abroad is bound to be a nail-biting experience. Greeted by an alien culture, huge language barriers, and traffic on opposite sides of the street, it's understandable you're going to feel a little apprehensive about your first trip beyond the comfort zone you call 'home'. If you haven't travelled abroad before, you will likely want to start off with a destination that is novice-friendly to minimise the risk of a complete culture shock. Before you give in and settle for that coach excursion across your country's own border, check out these tried and tested locations for newbie travellers. It could herald the start of a lifelong wanderlust!

Tokyo, Japan

If you yearn to savour the exotic sights and smells of Asia, Japan is the perfect introduction. Tokyo is a frenetic, tourist friendly metropolis mapped out in almost grid-like fashion, so you'll never have problems navigating your way from the Tsujiki Fish Market in Tsukiiishijo, to the famous Senso-ji Buddhist temple at Asakusa. With a well developed tourist infrastructure, and handy signposting in all number of languages, first time visitors feel at ease almost as soon as they touch down.

You'll find Japan's citizens are far more polite and welcoming than in neighbouring countries – mutual respect being an inherent quality of Buddhist culture. Tokyo is a hotch-potch of intertwining train, bus and tram networks, but getting around is a breeze if you stick with known operators such as JR East (trains) and Tokyo Metro (trams). If in doubt, stick with the Yamanote circular train route. It encompasses all major tourist attractions, as well as the trendy Shinjuku shopping and entertainment district.

Paris, France

If you long to sample continental Europe, but can't quite bring yourself to book a five-country weekend excursion, Paris is a great starting point. Despite being the French capital, Paris' citizens are a largely English speaking bunch with a sympathetic attitude to non French-speaking tourists. Whether you need directions to the Louvre, or assistance deciphering your French city guide, you'll find most people are more than willing to oblige. Paris is a cosmopolitan city, but that doesn't mean activities are limited to trawling galleries of post-modernist art. The city is brimming with internationally recognised icons, such as the cultural Center Pompidou, and Place Beauborg with its animated street entertainers and kinetic sculptures. By far the best way to get around is via the city's metro system. There are 16 lines traversing the various districts of the city, however, even these are colour coded and numbered for ease of recognition!

New Zealand

If you're looking for a place that is beautiful, laid back and versatile, look no further than Middle Earth (or New Zealand, as it's better known). New Zealand's East Coast is Mother Nature's adventure playground; an all-inclusive destination prime for caving, bungee jumping, scuba diving and a myriad of other extreme adrenaline sports. There is another side to New Zealand. A land of tranquil valleys, vast forests abundant with wildlife, and huge smoking volcanoes, such as Whakaari on the East Coast, accessible via daily ferry. New Zealand is small enough to be easily navigable by car, however, there are numerous long-distance bus services linking the likes of Wellington with outlying areas. Wellington's natives are an eclectic and welcoming mix of friendly old timers and younger professionals, so you'll find equal proliferation of bars and laid back pubs to suit.  

Goa, India

The first thing that springs to mind at mention of Goa is backpackers, yet there's far more to this Bohemian idyll than cheap accommodations and knock-off souvenirs. A former Portuguese outpost for over 400 years, Goa still retains much of its colonial heritage – particularly in quaint Margao with its huge colonial square and Municipal Gardens. This, coupled with its paradisical white beaches, swaying palms and abundance of native wildlife makes it ideal for those seeking something a little more raw from a holiday experience. Goa is India's smallest and richest state, meaning that it is both easy to navigate, and the quality of transport exceeds that of even the busiest cities. By far the best way to get around is by train; the Konkan Kanya Express serving both Panaji and Margao en route to Mumbai,  but be prepared to pay a small commission if buying tickets in advance.

Amsterdam, Holland

There's a stigma associated with the Dutch capital that prompts many to avoid it as  potential weekend break location, however, Amsterdam isn't all about sexual freedom and debauchery. In fact, despite its relatively compact size, Amsterdam manages to cram in a host of fascinating attractions sure to tempt the novice traveller, such as Anne Frank's House and the Heineken Brewery. Much of the city is flat and pedestrianised, affording the best way for visitors to get around and see the sights.

For those who don't like walking,  dedicated tram services serve much of the city, and aren't all that difficult to understand once you get your head around the “honor” system and checking on/ off with your yellow travel card. Fortunately Amsterdam is extremely tourist friendly; most of the signs being in English, as well as Dutch, and English being spoken by a significant proportion of natives. Unlike many cities that attract a younger crowd, Amsterdam's hostels are decidedly upmarket for the prices being charged. If you want to experience a slice of Amsterdam's cafe culture, be sure to nab yourself a room in trendy Leidseplein. Hip, bohemian and crammed full of exotic restaurants, its the place to see and be seen in Europe's most backpacker friendly city!