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02.19.2018

Although most people associate it with Oktoberfest, Munich is so much more than beer and bratwurst. This vibrant, cosmopolitan, and livable German city is so rich in history, architecture, and culture that it takes a lot to get to know it properly. If you don't have much time on your hands, our suggestion is to skip the busy tourist trail and go straight to the heart of the city's true spirit, by trying these five essential experiences. We are pretty sure you'll be amazed. 1. Attend the tea ceremony at the English Garden Most people have been to the beautiful English Garden in central Munich, one of the largest urban parks in the world and a 900-acre green oasis with shaded paths, brooks, ponds, swans, and beer gardens. Yet not many have managed to attend the tea ceremony at the Japanese teahouse, a small and somewhat surreal corner of Japan in the heart of the park dating back to 1972, when it was built as a gift from the city of Sapporo on the occasion of the Munich Olympic Games.The Japanese tea ceremony takes place every second weekend of the month from April to October (see the full calendar here), and it is a great occasion to see the interior of the building, decorated in traditional Japanese style with tatami floors, rice paper sliding doors and scrolls of Japanese writing.  2. Ride (or watch people riding) the Eisbach waveSince you're in the English Garden, don't miss the chance to do or watch some urban surfing on the southern border of the park, the one facing Prinzregentenstrasse (and pretty close to the Haus der Kunst museum). Every day, even in winter, around 100 surfers patiently wait their turn in a queue to surf the Eisenbach wave, a continuous wave rolling through the Eisenbach, a channel of river Isar. Besides offerig quite a unique spectacle in the heart of the city, these surfers are also very expert: known as E1, the Eisenbach wave is deemed very tricky, and given the limited  width of the channel, you need to be ready to ride it as soon as you hit the water. 3. Forget about bratwurst at Prinz Myshkin's vegetarian BiergartenThe Biergarten is a quintessential part of the local culture in Munich, so we are not suggesting that you should avoid it. But of course, there are many different ways to live the experience, so why not try Munich's first vegetarian beer garden? Powered by Prinz Myshkin, the city's most beloved (and yummiest) vegetarian and vegan restaurant (whose main location is in the heart of the old town), the garden restaurant at Prinz Myshkin Park Hotel, north west of the city center, is a great alternative to your regular Bavarian-style Biergarten, and the perfect place for drinking beer (and wine) al fresco while indulging in some truly delicious "flexitarian" food. 4. Meet all The King's beauties at NymphenburgNot far from Prinz Myshkin's garden restaurant is the Nymphenburg castle, once the sovereign’s summer residence and now one of the city’s main landmarks. Besides the sumptuous halls and majestic architecture, the castle houses a quaint painting collection called “The Gallery of Beauties”, originally intended for the Festival Hall Building of the Munich Residenz. The gallery was commissioned to Joseph Stieler by King Ludwig I (reigned 1825-1848), who asked him to paint portraits of some of the most beautiful women in Munich - not only women of the court, but of all social classes. Hence, in the gallery the portraits of Baronesses and Princesses hang side by side with those of dancers and shoemaker daughters: what a great way to find out what “beauty” looked like in the 1800s! 5. Climb to the top of Olympiastadion for a breathtaking view of the cityThere is no better way to get an idea of a city than being able to see it from above. Time to get a decent view, then! Head to Olympiapark, but instead of taking a lift to the top of the Olympic Tower like most people do, try something different. The roof of the Olympic Stadium may not be as high as the Tower, but the Flying Fox experience will definitely take your breath away. After climbing to the tent roof at a height of 35 meters, you will get strapped in, jump, and fly across the whole stadium hanging on a rope, getting a good adrenaline boost and a sensational view of Munich. 

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The beauty of terrariums, a.k.a. miniature gardens contained inside glass walls, lies entirely in their tiny size: isn't it amazig how even a small glass vessel can contain such life, such flourishing, an entire and perfectly working ecosystem? A decorative object, an opportunity for experimenting in botanics and a small concentrate of British history, the terrarium dates back to the Victorian era, when a doc. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward - hence the name "wardian case", by which terrariums used to be known back then - first invented it. And while Victorian terrariums with their sumptuously decorated glass and wrought or cast iron structures were very different from contemporary ones, which are definitely more minimalist and essential, there is still a lot of terrarium-making going on in London, as shown by the recent opening of London Terrariums. This gorgeous space in south London is entirely devoted to these exquisitely British objects, so if you are looking to buy a terrarium or learn how to make one, this is the right place. London Terrariums began out of founder Emma Sibley's sincere desire to engage with nature in the urban environment. She made her first terrarium using what she could source from her immediate surroundings; stones from the driveways, moss from the garage roof, cuttings from house plants and hand-made tools from wine corks and garden sticks. After making them for friends and family, Emma received her first commission and soon London Terrariums was born. Today, LT is a shop and a permanent workshop where you can not only learn how to build a terrarium but receive a comprehensive overview of their exciting history and explore a variety of plants and mosses learning how and why a terrarium creates its own water-cycle and self contained ecosystem.If you'd like to learn more about their workshops, here's the complete calendar. 

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02.13.2018

There are about 900 species of sea urchin, of which at least one hundred inhabit Japan’s waters. The most common to find on the market are: bafun-uni, murasaki-uni (purple), ezo-bafun-uni, aka-uni (red), and kita-murasaki-uni. The habitats, seasons, and flavours of these sea urchins vary depending on the type. The fishing period also changes from port to port, which is crucial for the preservation of the species. Fresh sea urchins are sweet and rich in essential nutrients, such as echinenone, a pigment performing the same functions as vitamin A, vitamins B1 and B2, glutamine and omega-3 fatty acids, which are instrumental in improving blood circulation. In addition to being good for health, sea urchins are also beneficial to the skin, making it strong and well-nourished. Sea urchins are said to taste like the pure, deep ocean. Let us introduce you to the best restaurants in Tokyo where you can have a sea urchin galore. Tsukiji: Sushi-kuniIf you are hungry for carefully selected sea urchins, this is the place to go. An extremely popular dish at Sushi-kuni is kobore uni-don, literally meaning “rice bowl overflowing with sea urchins”. The shop is small and people start queuing before it opens. Be warned: kobore uni-don will be sold out in no time. Roppongi: UoteruAt Uoteru, you can taste the seasonal pot and fish dishes in the lively ambience of a Japanese izakaya. The shop’s forte is uni-ikura, a bowl of white rice plentifully decorated with sea urchins and salmon eggs (seasoned with Hokkaidō soy sauce). To guarantee the freshest produce, all the ingredients are carefully selected at Tsukiji market and their place of origin varies according to the season. Nakameguro: IfuuIfuu is a small shop and an ideal hideout located at just a three-minute walk from Nakameguro Station. The speciality here is sea urchins cooked in a pot. The umami and fragrance of the sea urchin will spread in your mouth at every grain of rice you eat.There is also a private room on the upper floor. It is very a popular shop, also due to the fact it is completely non-smoking. Needless to say, reservation is required. Shimbashi: Haretari KumottariHaretari Kumottari is located on the second basement floor of Ginza Nine, under the railroad bridge. The speciality of the shop is sea urchin temaki sushi, with the ingredients provided in a box for you to assembly. The amount is usually worth 3-4 people. It is better to make a reservation at least one day in advance. 

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02.12.2018

“We wanted the Museum to be as representative of Africa as possible. To celebrate its history, its culture, its diversity and its future with a focus on art from the 21st century. Most importantly, this is an institution for all of Africa!“. With these words, last September Jochen Zeitz, Co-Chairman of Zeitz MOCAA, inaugurated the world’s largest museum dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. Located in Cape Town, South Africa, on the beautiful Victoria & Albert Waterfront, the harbor built in 1860 by Prince Alfred, son of Queen Victoria, during the British domination, Zeitz MOCAA is the result of a boldly ambitious project to reimagine a historic grain silo into a major cultural institution which took four years in the making. From preserving the historic architectural legacy of what was once the tallest building in South Africa, to developing a sustainable not-for-profit public cultural institution that preserves, develops and enhances creativity, Zeitz MOCAA is a hugely important cultural landmark that will contribute to a stronger, wider appreciation of Africa’s cultural heritage. The grain silo’s architectural redevelopment from disused industrial building into a cutting-edge contemporary art museum was undertaken by London-based Heatherwick Studio in conjunction with local South African architects. The museum is spread over nine floors and carved out of the monumental structure of the silo complex. The galleries and the cathedral-like atrium space at the centre of Zeitz MOCAA have been carved from the silos’ dense cellular structure of forty-two tubes that pack the building. The development includes 100 galleries, a rooftop sculpture garden, a bookshop, a restaurant and bar, and various reading rooms. The basis of the extensive art on display at the museum is represented by the Zeitz Collection, founded in 2002 by entrepreneur Jochen Zeitz and regarded as one of the most representative collections of contemporary artefacts of and from Africa and its Diaspora. Besides the permanent collection and the temporary exhibitions, Zeitz MOCAA also houses a Costume Institute, and Centres for Photography, Curatorial Excellence, the Moving Image, Performative Practice, and Art Education. 

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02.09.2018

Apparently, out there on the web there are more selfies with Leonardo's Mona Lisa than actual photographs of the painting itself. What does this say about us? Probably, that we want to be part of the picture, rather than just observe it. Starting out from this idea, California game designers Tommy Honton and Tair Mamedov created The Museum of Selfies in Los Angeles, an interactive 8,000 sq ft temporary museum that explores the history and cultural phenomenon of the selfie – an image of oneself taken by oneself – with roots dating back 40,000 years.  If you usually roll your eyes at people who take selfies, then maybe this exhibition might give you a different perspective on this subject, helping you understand what's behind this phenomenon in social, cultural, and historic terms. As a matter of fact, the selfie is not something that was born in 2006, when Paris Hilton supposedly invented the word. Just think of the many self portraits by the great painters in art history, or of the first photographic self portrait, a daguerrotype taken in 1839 by the American lamp manufacturer Robert Cornelius, which required 15 minutes of posing in front of the camera. From the prehistoric era to Instagram, at the Museum of Selfies visitors can explore the origin of the self portrait through the lens of art, history, technology, and culture. Exhibits include reimagined historic paintings, self-portraits of famous people and contemporary artists, selfies from Intagram, and even a thought-provoking section devoted to death selfies, a.k.a. dangerous selfies that ended up causing the death of those who took them. Whether you love them or hate them, you won’t see selfies the same way again. And if you should change your mind about the whole selfie thing, you will have opportunity to give it a try by taking your own selfie with a bunch of very cool interactive installations. The Museum of Selfies will open its doors in LA on April 1st and stay open until  May 31st

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02.07.2018

Casa Batló, La Pedrera, Parc Güell, La Sagrada Familia: these are just some of the world-famous building designed by Barcelona’s most beloved architect of all times, Antoni Gaudì, so chances are you’ve already visited them all on your previous trips to the Catalan city. Yet next time you’re there you might want to add another address to your bucket list: that of Casa Vicens, in the Gràcia district, listed since 2005 among the six Unesco World Heritage site buildings by Gaudì in Barcelona. Built between 1883 and 1885 as a summer house for the family of stock and currency broker Manuel Vicens i Montaner, it is the first important commission Antoni Gaudí received, and the one which sowed the seeds of all his architectural work. Then only 31, at Casa Vicens the young architect first experimented with his unique architectural ideas, including a series of elements that are seen, evolved, in his later works, and that contributed to kicking off the Modernisme movement in Catalonia and Europe. The current configuration of Casa Vicens and its land is the result of many changes and transformations, with three clearly differentiated spaces: the original construction from 1883-1885 designed by Antoni Gaudí, the expansion from 1925 designed by Joan Baptista Serra de Martínez, and the garden surrounding the building. With its new purpose as a museum and cultural space, the renovation project has adapted the spaces in order to house the various services needed, yet Gaudí’s original spaces have been meticulously restored to their original state. Among the highlights are the garden, originally designed by Gaudì by drawing inspiration from Mediterranean flora and fauna and featuring Phoenix and Trachycarpus palms, climbing plants, magnolias and roses, among other plant species of the time; the smoking room on the ground floor, a true oriental oasis with multi-coloured plaster mocarabes on the ceiling replicating palm trees and papier-mâché tiles with polychrome finish in greens, blues and golds; the dining room with the original wooden furniture designed by Gaudí himself; and the rooftop with Gaudì's signature chimneys capped with brick structures clad in green and white ceramic tiles, inspired by Islamic and Asian architecture. Casa Vicens aims to be a unique space for knowledge, culture, gathering, leisure, and enjoyment; an authentic discovery of the extraordinary universe of Gaudí. The visit to the house, with participative museum contents, also includes a permanent collection, temporary exhibitions and a series of cultural and educational activities that integrate various art disciplines for the enjoyment of all visitors. 

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02.05.2018

Huge, chaotic, and reaching up to the heavens with its incredible skyscrapers, Shanghai is deemed the economic capital of China, so if you are dealing with the Chinese market chances are, one time or another, you have been to this incredible city. As always, however, when traveling for business it is always hard to find the time to get an idea of ​​a place, especially if it is such a large, complex, and multi-layered city. Still, it is worth finding a way to at least be able to savor the authentic atmosphere of the place and briefly immerse oneself in the life of one of the most unique and fascinating cities on the planet. Here’s how do it in just one day. 7.20 a.m.Head to Xitang Water TownSet off on an early bus to this ancient water village along the Yangtze Delta, just an hour's journey from the city but light years away in terms of atmosphere and architecture. Walk its narrow cobbled streets, glide along the canals on a boat in the morning mist, admire the old stone bridges, stroll under the covered streets, and finally taste the local delicacy: steamed pork wrapped in lotus leaves. 2.00 p.m.Shop in Times SquareIf Shanghai is a shopping paradise, then you obviously cannot skip hunting for top-notch goods, not if you wish to fully immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the city. Head straight to Huaihai Road, the least touristy and most sophisticated shopping street in town, and treat yourself to a shopping session at the Lane Crawford mall in Times Square, featuring luxury brands of clothing, accessories, jewelry, cosmetics and lifestyle. 5.00 p.m.Explore contemporary Chinese photography at M97 Another quintessential aspect of the city is undoubtedly its vibrant art scene. Shanghai is full of fantastic galleries, and among them M97 definitely deserves a special mention. One of the largest photo galleries in China, this place will allow you to discover the work of some of the most talented Chinese (and international) photographers. Plus, the location - a former 1940s factory in the central Jing'an district - is truly special. 6 p.m.Walk along the Bund & enjoy aperitivo with a viewGoing to Shanghai and not taking a walk along the Bund would be like going to Paris and refusing to stroll along the Seine: it's a cliché, but one that you simply cannot avoid. This long avenue running along the left bank of the Huangpu River once was the emblem of the city’s foreign occupation, and one of the major financial centers of Asia. The colonial buildings in European style (mainly banks and hotels) are all that remains of that era, but the most spectacular thing here is the view of Pudong, the skyscraper district on the opposite bank of the river. Its skyline includes the Shanghai Tower (the second highest skyscraper in the world at 632 meters) and the unmistakable TV Tower, among others. For a perfect perspective, climb to the terrace of Hotel Indigo and enjoy aperitivo with a view. 8 p.m.Dine in the French ConcessionWhen in Shanghai, it is unconceivable not to make at least a short visit to the former French Concession, a French enclave from the mid-nineteenth century until just before the Second World War and currently the expat neighborhood par excellence, exuding an international atmosphere and crowded with bars, clubs, and galleries. Here, among Art Deco buildings, colonial-style villas, traditional Chinese houses and modern buildings, (literally) hides a place called People 7, an understated cocktail bar and restaurant that has no sign and is only accessed through a door at the top of a metal staircase, by entering a "secret" code. Once inside, everything is minimalist and exquisitely chic, starting from the long steel counter that serves excellent cocktails and a nice Asian menu. 10 p.m.Music & cocktailsTo top the day off, plunge into the city’s nightlife, but choose your destination accurately. Our suggestion is to go back to the Bund area and head to M1NT. With dancefloors overlooking the skyline, an international clientele and a diverse music offer, this is one of the poshest and most exclusive clubs in Shanghai, sitting on top of a skyscraper. Dress for the occasion to comply with the door policy. 

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02.02.2018

Every year on Setsubun, Japanese families endeavor to evict all evil spirits from their houses with the help of roasted soybeans, also known as fuku-mame, “lucky beans”. Windows are opened and the family members scatter the beans outside chant Oni wa soto! (Demons out!). The windows are shut immediately after, and another fistful of beans is scattered in the middle of every room to the chant “Fuku wa uchi! Luck in!” Then, each member eats the number of beans that corresponds to their age or to their age, plus one. By doing so, they hope to be spared from calamity and blessed with good luck. This complex ritual is called mamemaki. Setsubun is believed to have its origins in Tsuina, the Chinese custom of exorcising evils, introduced to Japan at the beginning of the Heian period (eighth century). In the Muromachi period, the number of coins corresponding to one’s age would be wrapped and scattered on the ground, for beggars to collect them. The beggars who collected them would bless their donors and imitate a bird song to drive all evil spirits away. Originally from the Osaka area, this practice continued until the end of the Meiji period (early twentieth century), but bean throwing as an act of exorcism is still very common in numerous variations throughout Japan. Hokkaidō, Tōhoku and Kantō regionsIn Hokkaido, a number of winter celebrations are held in the period of Setsubun. In particular, Sapporo is famous for its snow festival, where people from all over the country gather to admire the beautiful ice figures adorning the main avenue. Kurokawa, in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture (Tōhoku), is known for its Ōgi Festival, celebrated on February 1 and 2. The Shinto rituals for Kurokawa Noh provided the pattern for the dances, which are still performed in nō theatre nowadays. In the Saitama prefecture, it is still common practice to burn sardines and other items that produce foul smells, keeping the vermin away. Hokuriku, Koshin’etsu and Tōkai regionsIn some shrines in Kanazawa, Ishikawa prefecture, people scatter the Setsubun beans after performing the so-called Kaga manzai dances. This tradition originated in the 1500s. Kinki districtYoshida Shrine in Kyoto is the venue of Tsuina-shiki, a traditional ceremony for warding off evil held in the evening of the eve of Setsubun. This custom is also known as Oni-yarai (“demon expelling”): a priest wears a golden four-eyed mask and goes around the music pavilion of the shrine, accompanied by his young servants, chasing the evil spirits away. In Kyoto, in general, there is a robust tradition of eating sardines on this day. Chūgokum, Shikoku, Kyūshū and Okinawa regionsIn the Okayama prefecture, there is a tradition called mame uranai, in which beans are used to forecast the weather of the year. In Tokushima, Shikoku, kon’yaku (konjac) is eaten to perform sunaoroshi, the cleansing of the body from dirt and sand.Finally, in Nagasaki, Kyūshū, Setsubun corresponds to the Chinese New Year and is an occasion for people to eat fried food. 

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02.01.2018

Past mid-January, the idea of ending winter starts to sound like something possible, and the beginning of the Italian spring, especially in the southern part of the peninsula, shows its first signs. It's time to start planning a little getaway, and Sicily is the perfect destination for a little tour this season, especially if you're planning to visit its amazing archaeological sites avoiding hordes of tourists and avoiding the scorching heat of summer. Plus, the first blooming flowers of the season growing among the temple ruins make for a stunning view.Following are four places that you should not forget to include in your Sicilian itinerary: all of them are included among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and each one tells a different story about the island. Ready to depart? NotoIn 1693 a great earthquake razed the Sicilian town of Noto, on the eastern side of the island, almost to the ground, forcing its inhabitants and institutions to rebuild it: this is the origin of the jewel city of Sicilian Baroque, where noble palaces and religious buildings in matching color sit side by side, so that the city earned the name of "stone garden". The use of Syracuse stone, a soft limestone whose color varies between white and gray, allowed for daring decorations and gave the city a soft and iridescent tone in the sun. Yet Noto is not only a Baroque gem: ancient Noto is full of treasures, like the ancient Roman villa of Tellaro with its intact mosaics. Siracusa and OrtigiaThe same mix of eras is found in the near and much larger Siracusa, the ancient gem of Magna Graecia. Syracuse was the hometown of the famous mathematician Archimedes, and precisely to that period belongs its beautiful amphitheater with its excellent acoustics, which houses a prestigious cycle of classical performances every summer between May and June. The heart of the city is, however, on the sea, and in particular on the island of Ortigia, whose particularity lies in having natural springs of fresh water on its territory, such as Fonte Aretusa or Fontana degli Schiavi, which made it an ideal place for a settlement. Do not miss the Castle of Maniace, one of the symbols of the city, the Temple of Apollo, and the Baroque and Rococo Cathedral built on the ancient temple of Athena. Piazza Armerina and Villa del CasaleAt the heart of the island, in the province of Enna, this ancient art city of Baroque and Norman origins is a magnificent concentrate of ancient palaces, medieval streets and religious buildings of great value. Among its main assets are the famous Palio dei Normanni, an exciting battle among four teams of knights in period costumes held every year in August, and the ancient Roman Villa del Casale, the former rural residence of Massimiliano Erculeo. The Villa houses thousands of square meters of mosaic floors and walls that are deemed among the most beautiful and well preserved of their own kind in the world. The Valley of the TemplesOn the southwest coast of the island, in the area of the medieval city of Agrigento, are the remains of the ancient Greek colony of Akragas (4th century BC), scattered with monumental Doric temples built in shell sandstone tuff, a material that changes its color depending on the light, turning amber at sunset. The so-called "Valley of the Temples" is one of the most famous and appreciated archaeological sites in the world, and among the largest ones in the Mediterranean. The best preserved building is the Temple of Concordia, the most spectacular Doric temple in the world after the Parthenon. In addition to the fascinating temples, you will have the opportunity to visit the remains of the agora, the necropolis, the residential villas with mosaic floors, the aqueducts and the early Christian basilicas. 

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01.30.2018

London is such a huge, historically layered and sprawling city that you can only learn to truly know it by walking its streets and neighborhoods. Mission: impossible? Well, yes, at least in a single lifetime. Still, there is nothing bad in in trying.Strange as it might seem, some of the best walking tours in London are held every year by Transport For London, and their website also offers a lot of information on bicycle and walking routes around town, some of them very long and conceived to be walked in sections. Three times a year – usually in January, May and September), TFL launches a bunch of amazing free guided walking weekends through the Walk London initiative. Selected among 40 different routes focusing on various themes, atmospheres and destinations, this year’s walking tours are scheduled for February 3 and 4, and of course booking is required (we recommend booking a.s.a.p.).Just to give you an idea, here’s a list of our top-five favorite routes. The Spooky City: ghosts, body snatchers and public executionsStarting at St Paul’s Cathedral, this gothic walk through the city’s most gruesome secrets includes the ruins of a former church, an unusual memorial to the dead, and the site of an ancient prison, accompanied by ghost and public execution tales. TheThames: transformation from docks to designer developmentFrom the Monument dedicated to the Great London Fire (1666), the tour runs proceeds the river to the east of the City, from the Jubilee Walkway to fashionable St Katherine’s Dock to witness the transformation of an area from slums to film star houses. Cinema Walk: from Charlie Chaplin to Harry PotterListen to behind-the scene episodes from some of the most famous films in the history of cinema while walking from Covent Garden to Piccadilly Circus. What happened to Daniel Craig’s tie during the making of Skyfall? How did Michael Caine get his name from a cinema in Leicester Square? Hidden Alleyways and CourtyardsFrom the alleyways and courtyards surrounding St Paul’s Cathedral to Fleet Street, once the printing and publishing house quarter where Daniel Defoe used to live, and the on to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub, reputedly one of the oldest public houses in London and a regular haunt of Charles Dickens. The final stop is in Gough Square, at Dr Johnson’s House. A Challenging Walk, The Greatest RewardsThe most challenging walk on the list includes a long hike (note: waterproof footwear is essential) through extensive and dense 8,000 year old woodland from Lesnes Abbey to Shooter’s Hill, Greeenwich (400 feet), with views out to the North Sea on clear weather days, and on to the remarkable Severndroog Castle

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01.29.2018

About 20 kilometers north of Lisbon, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Nazaré is a famous surfer’s destination which recently made the news when a giant 35 meters high wave, instantly renamed Big Mama, broke against its coast with the Portuguese surfer Hugo Vau riding it under the incredulous eyes of his American colleague Garret McNamara. The reason for such gigantic waves is soon explained: just below the Sítio, a 318 meter high promontory from which one can enjoy one of the most incredible panoramic views of the Portuguese coast, is Europe’s largest underwater ravine, a 5 kilometer deep and 230 kilometer long canyon. Propelled by the Atlantic winds, the waves crash against the terminal part of the canyon rising up to the promontory dominated by the unmistakable lighthouse, giving life to an unforgettable view and then moving on to Praia Do Norte, a little further north, where surfers can take advantage of their power. A Quiet Fishing VillageWhether you are a surfing enthusiast or just into natural phenomena, the waves of Nazaré will not fail to amaze you. But this picturesque Portuguese fishing village has much more to offer. First and foremost, the old-time atmosphere, which compensates for the lack of famous historic buildings or monuments: the colorful fishing boats sitting on the long sandy beach, the shouting of the fish vendors on Saturday mornings on the seafront, the nice cafes and restaurants along Avenida Marginal. The local fishing tradition can be explored by visiting the Casa Museu do Pescador (R. Sousa Lobo, 108), a small museum housed in a renovated traditional cottage looking like an authentic fisherman’s home. And speaking of local traditions, among the most popular ones is that of The Seven Skirts of Nazarè: local fisherwomen still wear colorful seven-layered skirts, which according to different versions of the story stand for the days of the week, the colors of the rainbow, seven consecutive waves and several other mythological and biblical symbols related to the number seven. Yet a more practical interpretation suggests that the layers are meant to protect the women from the cold. In any case, The Seven Skirts are part of the traditional costume, along with the clogs and the black headscarf. The Breathtaking ViewsAmong the not-to-be-missed experiences in Navaré is undoubtedly the ascent to Sítio, a promontory overlooking the ocean that rises 100 meters above the rest of the village. It can be reached by car, on foot along a curvy path or, much more pleasantly, with the funicular. In addition to admiring the view of the bay and the beach of Navarè, we recommend visiting the church and the small chapel on top of the promontory, Ermida da Mémoria, whose history is linked to the miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary, who apparently saved a hunter by preventing his horse from falling off the cliff. Finally, if you wish to take a bath without risking being swept away by the giant waves, consider heading about eight kilometers south of Navarè to the pleasant beach of São Martinho do Porto, sheltered inside a closed bay, where the water it is calmer and a little less cold. 

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01.26.2018

Tokyo caters hot pots for all tastes. This type of dish, known as nabe, is usually a perfect occasion to gauge other people’s eating manners and propriety. However, the latest trend is to have a seat in a laid-back ambience and enjoy a hitori-nabe, a one-person hot pot, be it Japanese traditional, spicy or cheese-based. Seika (Jiyūgaoka)At Seika you can normally find seven types of hot pot: from spicy dandan noodles in a black sesame soup to pork offal nabe; from the Kuroge Japanese beef stock-based shabu-shabu – rightfully nicknamed “the King of Hot Pots” – to the hearty sukiyaki. The rich menu includes other dishes, such as white rice and ramen. Syabusen GinzaOperated by the long-established catering company Zakuro, Syabusen offers delicious Japanese specialities in a great location, at a one-minute walk from Ginza Metro Station. Take a seat at the bar, make yourself at ease and enjoy a plate of meat slices and vegetables boiled in broth and seasoned with two sauces: sesame tare, which is prepared with ten spices, and orange-flavoured ponzu. Hakata Motsunabe “Sachi” (Nishi-azabu)“Sachi” is a nice retreat in Nishi-azabu, where you can experience all the taste of Hakata, in a modern style interior, ideal for a one-person motsunabe, delicious Japanese beef offal boiled in kelp broth flavoured with soy sauce. It is a dish that attracts many Fukuoka natives and all those pining for the flavours of Hakata ward, where all the ingredients come from. Do not miss the old-fashioned potato salad. Café Noise (Ikebukuro)Only for the winter, Café Noise offers a special one-person nabe menu. You will be spoilt with choice. The numerous options include: cheese raclette, garnished with bacon and vegetables, with risotto on the side; beef stew or pot-au-feu cooked gyōza dumplings with focaccia. Tapas are also very popular. Hiraboku Tonkatsu COREDO (Nihonbashi)The restaurant is directly operated by the Yamagata-based Hirata Farms, whose high-quality Sangen pork is the speciality. Although the shop is renowned for the titular tonkatsu pork cutlet, this time of the year you can indulge in pork shabu-shabu with a glass of Yamagata sake. You can choose between the Sangen and Kinkan or have a taste of both. Leave some space for the grand finale: inaniwa udon (“thick noodle”) soup. 

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01.25.2018

Pristine, secluded, and suspended in time. The Channel Islands, off the coast of Southern California, are so remote and rich in flora and fauna that they have earned the name of "the Galapagos of North America". This very unusual corner of California offers a veritable glance on what California must have looked like a few centuries ago. Each of the five islands belonging to the Channel Islands National Park is a small world of its own, but they all share the same amount of wilderness and perfect isolation. The peace that will pervade once you reach them, either by boat (from Ventura or from Oxnard, a hundred kilometers north of Los Angeles) or on a tiny airplane, is definitely worth the trip. Santa BarbaraAt 1,5 square miles, Santa Barbara is the smallest of the Channel Islands. Roughly triangular, it emerges from the water with its steep rocky peaks and green patches. The island's flora and fauna have been saved and regenerated after years of exploitation by ranches and farms, and this has favored the return of birds, seals and sea lions. AnacapaFormed by three volcanic islets disconnected from each other except by boat, the island of Anacapa has as its symbol in the famous natural rock arch formed by sea erosion. The islet of Anacapa East can be explored along a two-mile trail system which allows visitors to experience the island's native vegetation, wildlife, and cultural history. We recommend going in winter, when nature comes alive with colors and thousands of seabirds use the island as a nesting area. Yet Anacapa’s most spectacular landmarks are the sheer cliffs and the sea caves. On its pebble coves and beaches, seals and sea lions are often spotted. Santa CruzCalifornia's largest island recalls a miniature California in terms of fauna, flora and geology: rugged mountain ranges, valleys, deep canyons with year-round springs, extensive beaches and huge caves - including Painted Cave, one of the largest sea caves in the world, named after the amazing colors given by algae, lichens and rock stratifications. The remains of the Chumash civilization, which had established over ten villages on the island, are also remarkable. Santa RosaThe second largest Californian island, Santa Rosa, is dominated by the mountain range that rises in the heart of its territory. The coastline is variable, ranging from the broad, sandy beaches gently sloping toward the sea to sheer cliffs plunging toward the active ocean. While hiking and walking trails are suitable for everyone, water sports, especially surfing, require a certain expertise. San MiguelThe westernmost island of the archipelago is basically a huge plateau emerging from the ocean and exposed to the violence of the winds. After centuries of exploitation from ranches and livestock breeding, the island is now regenerating and exploring it is an incredible experience, especially for its incredible fauna: seals, sea lions, small island foxes, deer mice and, right off the coast, dolphins, porpoises, gray whales, killer whales and even gigantic blue whales. 

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01.24.2018

Knightsbridge has no rivals in London in terms of exclusivity. And although there may be more charming or fascinating districts in town, there is no neighborhood as intrinsically posh  as this. It is therefore no coincidence that the most celebrated spa of the moment was born right here, in one of the most luxurious hotels in London, The Lanesborough, housed inside the eighteenth-century building that was once St.George’s Hospital, proudly sitting in Hyde Park Corner between the aristocratic enclaves of Mayfair and Belgravia. Inaugurated last March, The Lanesborough Spa & Club is conceived as a members-only lifestyle club (with membership starting at £ 6,000 a year) also open to hotel guests. In its 1,600 square meter space decorated in British style with small touches of custom-made craftsmanship, the spa aims at being an oasis of well-being where to spend some time relaxing in the beating heart of the city, soaking in thermal baths, training in the gym, and indulging in special treatments, as well as chilling out in the lounge or at the in-house restaurant. Everything is based on personalization, and this is perhaps the greatest form of luxury that The Lanesborough Spa & Club has to offer: customized fitness programs created by a team of experts and based on the goals of each guest, the dedicated "spa butlers" assisting members by providing an efficient concierge service, individual training sessions, food advice, and the healthy gourmet cuisine by starred chef Florian Favario at the restaurant. In terms of products and treatments, among the top-notch partners chosen by The Lanesborough are James Duigan, inventor of the famous individual fitness method Bodyism (mixing Yoga and Pilates), Anastasia Achilleos with her treatments incorporating elements of craniosacral therapy and massage, and the brand of organic skin care products Ila spa. 

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01.22.2018

Once upon a time there was Detroit, the American motor city, home of Chrysler and General Motors, and of the legendary Motown Records which brought success artists of the likes of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross. Then it was all over: first there was the bankruptcy of the huge car companies, then, in 2013, the whole city went bankrupt. Yet it was not sudden, it was actually the conclusion of a crisis that lasted over 60 years, and whose emblem are the famous images of the abandoned factories, houses and buildings in decay, the result of the companies’ bankruptcy and of a dramatic decline in population. Since then, there has been a lot of talk about an imminent comeback of the motor city, but it is only recently that the city seems to have found a new vocation. So, the time has come to visit Detroit, and to discover everything that it has in store for us. THE "NEW BROOKLYN"Don’t let the flourishing of clubs, cafes and restaurants in some of the city’s central areas in recent years deceive you: Detroit has not yet emerged from its decadence. The population continues to decline, and although there is indeed an influx of new citizens, especially young white people looking for opportunities to start their own business, the city as a whole remains full of contradictions and inequalities, especially among the gentrified neighborhoods and the suburbs. But something is certainly happening, and it is true that by walking through Corktown, the oldest district of the city, one gets the impression of being in the coolest areas of Brooklyn, especially judging by the density of clubs and restaurants. The rebirth, here, began in 2010 with the opening of the now famous Slow Bar BQ, then around the Michigan Avenue cobblestones Astro Coffee, Two James, the city's first post-Prohibition distillery, and even restaurants New York style farm-to-table like Gold Cash Gold. Even in Downtown, the change is evident: in the heart of the city the facelift is in full development and futuristic contemporary buildings sit side by side with the restored iconic art deco skyscrapers such as the Guardian and the Penobscot Building. In Midtown, the new boutiques and cafes have brought to the expansion of the pedestrian areas - a true rarity in a car-friendly city where the public transportation system is practically non-existent and the streetcar has only been around for a few months. This area is also home to one of the city's most important cultural institutions, the Detroit Institute of Arts, considered one of the best museums in the country, and Jack White’s (from The White Stripes) independent record label Third Man Records, which is also a store, a recording studio, and concert hall. Mexicantown, east of the center, is worth a visit for its genuine atmosphere, murals and authentic family-run taquerias like the beloved Taqueria El ReyA THRIVING ART SCENEA few years ago, Patti Smith said that Detroit could be the future New York, or at least what New York used to be back in the days for her generation: a new field of experimentation “for the young and struggling”. In fact, thanks to the lower rent prices and a temporary loosening of bureaucracy due to bankruptcy, the former motor city has attracted and continues to attract many young entrepreneurs and artists. Among the areas where you can literally breathe this ferment is The Belt, an alley in Downtown in the former garment district turned into an open-air gallery housing works by street artists such as Shepard Fairey (author of the famous Barak Obama Hope poster) and installations by local and international artists. Plenty of street art works can also be admired along the Grand River Creative Corridor, (a section of Grand River Avenue between Rosa Parks Boulevard and Warren Avenue), and then of course there is the Eastern Market area, north-east of the center, around the market of the same name. This is where the Murals in the Market festival takes place, with street artists from all over the world filling the walls with their amazing works. 

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01.19.2018

What is your favorite Berlin era? The slightly gloomy and roaring Thirties? The countercultural/underground 1970s that saw David Bowie and Iggy Pop move to the city? Or maybe the late years of the communist regime, magnificently portrayed by Wim Wenders in Wings Of Desire and recalled with irony by Wolfgang Becker in Goodbye Lenin? Whatever the answer, there are so many different aspects of Berlin’s past that have entered the collective imagination through art, photography, films and music. An interesting way to experience your favorite one through an "immersive" experience is sleeping in one of the city’s retro-style hotels, where the look and feel of a specific bygone era has been meticulously (and not without a certain nostalgia) been preserved. So, just follow us on this easy and affordable journey through time. At Asta'sIf someone had asked you to name a movie star around 1910, Asta Nielsen would probably have been one of the first names to come to your mind. The famous Danish silent film actress shot around seventy films in Berlin, and lived until the 1930s in a Charlottenburg apartment, which later became a hotel. 80 years later, Hotel-Pension Funk doesn’t seem to have changed much: housed inside a late nineteenth century building, it offers Art Deco-style rooms with stuccoed ceilings and antique furniture and tapestries. Welcome to old Berlin! Just like BowieAlong the famous Kurfürstendamm, the historic avenue that used to be the main meeting place of Berlin's intellectual and artistic avant-gardes during the first three decades of the twentieth century, Askanischer Hof is a 17-room boutique hotel where the Twenties apparently never finished. The old-time charm of this place even managed to seduce David Bowie, who spent some time here in 1982, in room number 24. If you are a fan of the White Duke, this should be enough to make you book a room instantly. Where all the artists used to sleepImagine the bohemian 1920s Charlottenburg of the Weimar Republic. The historic Nürnberger Eck guesthouse has been open ever since, and it is said to have hosted plenty of writers, artists, and intellectuals. Today, the environment is slightly 'hybrid, and the vintage wallpapers have been enriched with small Fifties references and inspirations. But the feeling of traveling through time remains intact. Remembering OstberlinSuddenly, it's 1978 and you're in East Berlin. Above your bed, hanging on the wall, is a portrait of President Erich Honecker. This is not a scene from the movie Goodbye Lenin, but simply what awaits you at Ostel, the Friedrichshain Ostberlin-style hotel (and hostel), a fantastic (and accurately faithful) reproduction of a GDR era environment crammed with memorabilia, to experience Berlin from a different perspective. 

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01.18.2018

The prestigious designation of "European Culture Capital" from the EU, which offers a city the opportunity to develop a one-year cultural plan to promote its own heritage and develop its European identity, is often an interesting suggestion for discovering new destinations. This year, the title went to two very different cities sharing a pleasntly vibrant atmosphere: Leuuwarden, in Friesland (Holland), and Valletta, the capital of Malta. Leuuwarden, A Small-Scale AmsterdamThe capital of Friesland, a historic region on the North Sea, is a typical and cosy miniature Dutch city, crossed by bridges and canals lined with stuccoed houses. With just over 100,000 inhabitants, it was founded as a mercantile city (it used to be much closer to the sea before the construction of the Afsldjik dam in the 1930s) specializing in the export of local dairy products to the rest of the Netherlands.The symbol of the city is the Oldehove, a leaning tower from the sixteenth century that recalls the most famous Tower of Pisa. Originally the bell tower of the now gone St. Vitus Church, it is located along the central Nieuwestadt street, and the leaning is due to the fact that it was built on swampy ground. The hometown of Mata Hari (born Margherita Geltrude Zelle) and of the famous Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher, Leuuwarden is rich in museum; among them are the Ceramics Museum (housed inside Escher’s birth house), the Museum of Friesland and the Museum of Nature. But it is also an extremely lively city with a vibrant nightlife, populated by students and crammed with cafés and restaurants. The lovely central street of De Kleine Keerstraat has been voted several times "best shopping street" in the Netherlands thanks to its density of boutiques, independent shops and galleries.To find out about the events organized during this very special year, you may consult the official Dutch tourism agency websiteValletta, The Conquered CityThe sixteenth-century fortified town of Valletta, built on the rugged rocks of the Mount Sceberras peninsula, is a baroque jewel dotted with churches, palaces and works of art, with a lively atmosphere and a very special local gastronomy, the result of hybridization between different traditions from the many conquerors who have occupied the island over the centuries - Arabs, Normans, Italians and the British.Among the city’s main attractions are the sixteenth century St.John’s Cathedral, the Parliament building, Sant'Elmo Fort and the Museum of Fine Arts, which contributed to make the la Valletta a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The cultural program for 2018 is built around four themes - Generations, Itineraries, Cities and Islands - and it includes festivals, traditional festivals, concerts, exhibitions, performances and other events for families and children. 

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01.15.2018

Food is inherent to France’s identity - it’s impossible to separate the two: when one thinks of France, one automatically associates food. To get acquainted with any new country, it’s critical to learn about its cuisine, peek into kitchens, restaurants, and try as many new things as possible. There is no better place to go on a culinary adventure than France; discover bon vivre and experience one of the most revered cuisines in the world. Outside the glitz and glam of Paris, you’ll find the rural regions which gave birth to the delicacies that make up the backbone of France’s foodie identity. We recommend the following places to immerse yourself in the history of France’s culinary culture. 

 Les Petis Matins Bleus, Normandy and the Valée d’AugeThe traditional cuisine of Normandy is of course based around meat, cheese and hard cider, and there plenty of opportunities for you to experience these staples. The cozy Le Petis Matins Bleus B&B offers a weekend long cooking class focusing on the local products. It’s situated among the rolling hills of Valée d’Auge which is ripe with fertile pastures, orchards and farms. You’ll find this hospitable foodie destination just outside the city of Caen.
The harbor at Guilvinec, BretagneThe city of Guilvinec depends around the daily comings and goings of the boats, after all, it is one of France’s ancient port cities, and the largest one at that. Everything revolves around the Atlantic Ocean where the restaurants on the promontory serve fresh, expertly cooked fish. Immerse yourself in this traditional way of life by going to the harbor to learn fishing techniques from the local fisherman.
 Hostellerie Bérard, La Cadière d’AzurThe closer to the Mediterranean you get, the more sophisticated the cuisine becomes. You’re sure to stumble upon a starred restaurant here and there. Take for instance Michelin starred chef René Bérard at Hostellerie Bérard which is located in the classically picturesque village of Le Cadière d’Azur, the Provençal hinterland east of Marseilles. Don’t miss an opportunity to sample the acclaimed menu of chef Bèrard or take your culinary passion even further by signing up for a week long intensive cooking workshop which of course includes trips to the local markets. You’ll even be able to dine with your fellow foodies on the hotel terrace to fully appreciate your personal masterpieces. 
  Barnard Loiseau, Saulieu, BourgogneBourgogne is a critical part of France’s culinary economy as this is where the milk is produced to make the fabulous cheeses that France is famous for. You’ll see grazing cows are all around you and the restaurants and hospitality options are endless. We reccommend Barnard Loiseau in Saulieu, a luxurious hotel in the Morvan Regional Natural Park. Don’t forget to try the quintessential local cheese called Epoisses, it has a strong meaty, earthy, salty, and nutty flavor that must be savored before leaving this region.
  Grape Escapes wine tours, Mont Ventoux, ProvenceThis tour company provides wine tours with trips to places such as Mont Ventoux and Chateauneuf-du-Pape (close to Avignone), a typical vineyard village. Visiting Provence without experiencing its regional wines is like going to Naples and not eating pizza: you’d be crazy not to. Each day the tours provided by Grape Escapes feature wine tastings through which you’ll discover the local vineyards and wines. Furthermore, you’ll spend your nights at Mazan, an ancient castle turned luxury hotel which was previously home to the Marquis de Sade. 

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01.15.2018

For those who are familiar with the classic Indian tourist routes - Rajasthan and the imperial cities, mystical Varanasi or the hectic big cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore - Ladakh is certainly bound to be a pleasant surprise. Enclosed by the Karakorum and Himalayas mountain ranges and crossed by the majestic Indus River, this corner of India in the far north of the country and on the border with China and Pakistan is a unique place, both from a naturalistic point of view and for its distinctive atmosphere. Mainly a Buddhist region, as shown by the many monasteries (or gompas) scattered throughout its territory, Ladakh still attracts a discreet and respectful tourism and it mainly survives on a subsistence economy, based on the cultivation of small and sweet apricots yak farming. At the heart of the region is Leh, the capital, which lies in the middle of a valley at almost 3,500 meters above sea level, and can be reached from Delhi by plane or with a long and fascinating journey by bus, a toy train and cross-country vehicles along breathtaking curves. Once you reach Leh, it is advisable to spend a little time in the city for allowing your body to adapt to the altitude. Do not miss the seventeenth-century Palace of the Ladaki sovereigns; the Shanti Stupa, a spectacular white-domed building containing Buddha’s relics and built in 1991 to celebrate 2,500 years of Buddhism and promote peace; and the view of the valley from Tsemo Fort, a fortification that is 'the symbol of the city and can be reached with a 15-minute uphill walk. The exploration may continue by exploring by visiting the gompas perched on rugged hilltops or venturing into a trek on the peaks that surround it. For those who decide to visit the monasteries, it is important to remember that these places of peace and meditation require a certain respect. In most cases, the monks will take you on a tour of the gompa, and you will be allowed to stop for a few hours and, on request, to take part in the puja, the traditional prayer which takes place at dawn and includes chants and meditation. Among the unmissable monasteries is Thiksey, a huge and spectacular complex dating back to the fifteenth century that stands on a rock spur about twenty miles east of Leh. Hemis, 40 km south-east of the capital, is one of the biggest and richest monasteries in Ladakh, famous for its impressive copper Buddha statue and paintings. The intimate and quiet atmosphere of the tiny Stakna monastery, on the left bank of the Indus and 25 kilometers away from Leh, is equally fascinating. And speaking of hiking, trekking through surreal landscapes, under dark starry skies and surrounded by wild nature is one of the most exciting and adrenaline rushing experiences that you can have in Ladakh. The most popular route is the one that leads Markha Valley, a medium-difficulty trek that takes about six days and runs through monasteries, remote mountain villages, two passes, a river and rocky canyons to reach a cold and arid desert valley that looks very much like Tibet. The nights are spent in high-altitude campsites, and stopping along the way is a unique opportunity to discover the local culture and gastronomy and meet the locals. Our advice is to adapt to the frugality of the local cuisine: the sweetness of the tiny Himalaya apricots (and their incredible jam), the pleasant acidity of yak cheese and the delicacy of Tibetan momos (steamed dumplings stuffed with vegetables) are the flavors that will accompany you in this unforgettable journey. 

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01.15.2018

Released to cinemas at the end of last year, Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda is a documentary following the world-famous musician-composer over five year, between 2012 and 2017, combined with archival material illuminating his musical and cinematic history, from the early Yellow Magic Orchestra days, to his activities in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the United States and the Great East Japan Earthquake; from his fight against throat cancer in 2014, to his scoring of Alejandro Iñárritu’s film The Revenant in 2015 and, finally, the 2017 release of his first album in 8 years. The documentary is a contemplative journey through past and recent works, unveiling new aspects of Sakamoto’s human nature. Coda was directed and produced by Stephen Nomura Schible, who was also the co-producer of Sofia Coppola’s 2003 film Lost in Translation. The genesis of the film was the two-day mass rock concert “No Nukes 2012”, organised by Sakamoto, which Schible wanted to cover. This footage was later incorporated into a project with a broader scope, featuring interviews with Sakamoto in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and his throat cancer diagnosis. The film was screened out of competition at the 74th Venice Festival in 2017, to great acclaim. “I was nervous whether the film would be well-received or bomb. The standing ovation I witnessed at the Festival put all my worries away.” said Schible. 

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01.10.2018

We love the Caribbean as much as the next person, but here are a few more options for you to consider: MozambiqueMozambique is known for its paradisal golden beaches that are largely undisturbed by loud, sunburnt tourists. Tofo is probably most well known as it is a relatively popular spot for swimming with whale sharks. Alternatively, Vilanculos is home to many well-protected coral reefs which have great visibility- perfect for diving. Plus, the Bazaruto Archipelago is just off of the city. Aside from surfing and sandy beaches, Bazaruto is famous for its wildlife- it’s home to many endangered species like the dugong, humpback whale, and leatherback turtle. Santa Carolina is a rock island and considered the paradise island of the archipelago. The one thing to keep in mind when on the idyllic coast of Mozambique is to be a savvy traveler: be careful with valuables, don’t walk alone at night (especially women), and so forth. December to April is the summer season there- so you definitely have time to plan your trip before the word gets out about this hidden gem. GoaThis Indian state is one of the biggest party cities in the world, and the attraction only multiplies in the winter especially around Christmas and New Years. Of course, you can expect great food, amazing beaches, flea markets, water sports, and the like, but Goa is also home to amazing cultural heritage sites. Be sure not to miss Basilica of Bom Jesus (UNESCO World Heritage site), Tomb of St. Francis Xavier, Mangeshi Temple, Shantadurga Temple, and a variety of ancient ruins, to name a few. Boasting insanely beautiful beaches and architecture in addition to being one of the worlds best party destinations- Goa has a lot to offer and there is no better time to go than in the winter. French PolynesiaBora Bora is the most popular island in French Polynesia thanks to it’s luxury status, where you can stay in overwater bungalows. This is mainly a honeymoon destination, though. Tahiti is another big island in French Polynesia but it is primarily the stopover to get to other islands, rather than being the destination itself. Another popular island is Moorea, which is similar to Bora Bora in that it is also a honeymoon destination, but it has a little more of a mix, with hiking and archaeological sites. Even more discreet is the Tuamotu Archipelago which is great for scuba diving and snorkeling, although there's not much to do on shore, except visit a black pearl farm, if that's your thing. There are so many islands to choose from, it’s worth spending time researching which you want to go to as some islands are better for water sports, some are better for luxury resorts, and some are better for sunbathing and other outdoor activities. The weather is pretty consistent all year round, but “summer” there is from November to April.Note: people often compare The Maldives to Bora Bora because both have the overwater bungalows, however, The Maldives receive over a million visitors per year while French Polynesia receives just a fraction. There is little privacy in The Maldives and many accounts of people disrespecting the marine life. If you want a secluded and romantic getaway, French Polynesia is for you, but if you want a busier and more budget friendly place look to The Maldives.  Canary IslandsThese volcanic Spanish islands off the coast of Africa have both black and white sand beaches. Tenerife, the biggest and most famous island, is particularly popular with British holiday makers, but is nothing like Magaluf of Ayia Napa- it’s more refined as there is much more to do besides drink. One of the most popular attractions is Teide National Park, named after the eponymous volcano where you can hike and explore. The difference in climate can change depending on where you are on any of the islands so here is everything you need to know: choosing to stay on the south or southeast coast of any of the islands is where you’re most likely to get the most sun exposure. It does rain sometimes, but more on the western parts of the island because of the mountains and that the wind blows west to east. However, Lanzarote (another popular island) and Fuertaventura aren’t as mountainous so they’re less likely to get rain- but this also means that there’s more wind. Fuertaventura is one of the most windy islands so deciding on which island to go to is up to personal preference. Costa RicaIt’s driest during the winter months which attracts people from all over to visit Costa Rica’s tropical beaches and see the incredible wildlife. In San Jose temperatures are steady all year at around 70 degrees F but if you’re really seeking warmth you can go along the Northern Plains coast for temperatures around 90 degrees F. January is one of the best months to visit because the “peak” season slows down a bit when tourists have returned home from their Christmas and New Year’s getaways. However, you can expect lots of Costa Rican families traveling during this time as it’s considered summer for them. With the North Pacific (expect strong winds), Central Pacific, South Pacific, and Caribbean coasts, you have plenty of options to choose from to decide what best fits your preferences.  

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01.08.2018

Pig Beach (technically called Big Major Cay) is in Exuma, a district of the Bahamas with over 360 islands. Some places in the Bahamas are packed with tourists and large resorts, but The Exumas are much more relaxed, the kind of place where people might operate on “island time”. The big question you must be wondering, is how on earth did 20 pigs get on some random island that nobody lives on? Nobody knows! The major theories are:that the pigs swam to the island from a nearby shipwrecksailors brought the pigs to the island with the intention of eating them but never came backaccording to the Today show (an American morning news show), two farmers in the early 1990s brought the pigs to the island to establish a food supply in preparation for the Y2K apocalypse, which luckily (for us and our porky pals) never happened. The only way to get to pig beach is by boat. Think of it like going to a new friends house for the first time, but rather than a couple of dogs excitedly greeting you at the door with wagging tails and tongues hanging out, it’s a gaggle of happy pigs and piglets snorting and splashing. For now, you can swim, feed, and cuddle with the pigs. If this sounds too good to be true, check their Instagram, Pigs of Paradise, and #swimmingpigs. In the morning is when they’re most playful, running around with sandy little noses before they take leisurely afternoon naps along the beach. Some of the adult pigs are on the larger size, so you might want to be careful before you walk around with food in your pockets as the pigs aren’t shy about displaying their desire for human food. If you do feed them, you should only do so in the water as some of the pigs have actually died due to sand ingestion. It’s no surprise that this tropical paradise isn’t their natural habitat. The government is likely imposing new laws about how tourists should be allowed to interact with these cuties as not everyone is as respectful as they should be. This shouldn’t deter you from visiting, though, just to be thoughtful about feeding our furry friends. Maybe you don’t find pigs “adorable,” “sweet,” and “playful,” because you associate them with being farm animals who roll around in mud all day. Firstly, these pigs live on a beach and they spend hours in the water, they are far from dirty farm animals. The second thing you should know is that pigs are as smart as a 3-year-old human. For reference, pigs are the second smartest animal, after chimpanzees, and are just smarter than dolphins (which are only species known to kill for fun besides humans, by the way) who come in at third smartest. This is because pigs have the ability to learn new skills very easily- they even outperform kids on cognition tests. They housebreak themselves and even pick up their toys when done playing… definitely smarter than an average toddler. Jaunting around with smart, fat, friendly pigs on a remote tropical beach? Yes, please.  

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Why should we invest resources, money and time in an effort to reproduce something that already exists? Why must reproduce the flavor, texture and smell of meat with vegetable ingredients, when we could simply eat vegetables? These are just a few of the issues generally raised when it comes to meat substitutes. The answers to these questions are complex but increasingly urgent, since the companies involved in the production of “fake meat” are coming up with some amazing results. Recently, Beyond Meat, an American company backed by Bill Gates which is famous for its “bleeding” veggie burgers (thanks to the presence of red beet juice), has come into the spotlight after having been financially supported by Hollywood  star Leonardo di Caprio. The other major meat substitute brand, Impossible Foods, is also American, and this should prompt us to reflect on the questions we asked ourselves at the beginning: why in the US, home of the burger and a land of carnivores, with a traditional cuisine is largely based on meat? Because fake meat is not meant for vegetarians or vegans, but for carnivores: it is for those who are more reluctant to give up on meat that we need to find a realistic alternative. With the future in mind, we cannot afford to continue feeding a constantly growing world population with quantities of meat comparable to those produced to date. In 2050, the world population will amount to 9.6 billion, and we know for a fact that intensive farming has a significant environmental impact, causing land and water consumption and the production of greenhouse gases. Reducing meat consumption and changing our livestock farming practices is therefore essential for the life of the planet. How Fake Meat Is MadeThe research work behind the production of meat substitutes that try to reproduce meat properties is truly incredible. Beyond Meat, whose investor list also include Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams and meat company Tyson Foods, has developed a recipe based on pea proteins, yeast extract, coconut oil and beet juice. While Beyond Burgers can be found at the meat counter in supermarkets across the US, Impossible Burger are only found in selected restaurants. Impossible Foods is the company founded by former Stanford biochemistry professor Pat Brown, a long time vegan determined to fight the problem of global warming first hand through the reduction of intensive farms. The process of making his Impossible burgers, which has recently been unveiled to the press, is fascinatingly complex. Impossible Foods has basically "deconstructed" every aspect of beef, from consistency to aromas, from color to a its different flavor shades. The recipe is similar to that of Beyond burgers - wheat, coconut oil and potatoes - yet Mr. Brown and his researchers believe that what makes their product unique is an ingredient called heme - the same that gives meat its specific flavor. In animals, heme is a chemical compound found in blood and muscles, respectively in hemoglobin and myoglobin, and it is responsible for the pinkish color and vaguely metallic taste of minced meat. However, heme also exists in the plant world. In soybean roots, for instance, heme can be extracted from a form of hemoglobin called a leghemoglobin. By inserting soya leghemoglobin genes into a special type of yeast, Impossible Foods produces and replicates heme with a significantly reduced environmental impact compared to growing soy. Impossible Foods even went further by "collecting" the aromas released by sizzling grilled meat and isolating them to identify the chemical compounds at their base, and taking care of the texture with the same scientific approach, isolating the proteins of meat and their properties to identify something similar in the plant world. Is It Really Worth It?Perhaps eating veggie burgers will not save us from global warming, but the growth of this new sector is definitely a sign, and it could make for an important contribution to changing our habits and mentality. And if biting on an excellent meat substitute can convince a carnivore to give up on a few hamburgers, then may all the Impossible and Beyond burgers of this world thrive. 

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01.03.2018

There is a place in Paris where street food, graffiti and music are all brought together in a single large space that has lately attracted a diverse crowd of people looking for fun, culture and new ideas. Located in the Porte de la Chapelle area (18th arrondissement) inside a former railway hangar, L'Aerosol is the new Parisian street art temple, a successful challenge that was born basically overnight in August. Under the spotlight are the huge and beautiful evolving graffiti that cover all the walls of the former railway depot, as well as the works by famous artists such as Invader, Shepard Fairey, JonOne, Banksy, Dondi White and Crash housed inside the in-house street art museum, where visitors can put the street artist inside them to the test through virtual reality thanks to a special digital wall. Born as a way to promote the graffiti & street art culture, Aerosol is actually also a place for fun and conviviality, designed for people of all ages. Hence the food trucks serving street food of all kinds, from classic burgers to pizza, ethnic cuisines and homemade ice cream; the pétanque field; and the skate ramps. Additional amenities include an old-school rollerskate track, an indoor bar and a dancefloor that hosts house music, electro, rap, hip-hop, and afrobeat DJ sets. L’Aerosol will remain open until the end of January 2018, so you still have over a month to explore and enjoy it. What happens next? Hopefully, this amazing story will have a sequel. 

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01.02.2018

The first dream of the year is thought to foretell the fortune of the dreamer in the ensuing year. Albeit being called hatsuyume, “the first dream”, it could happen from the night of New Year’s Eve to the night of January 2. The reason for extending hatsuyume to the night of the second night of the year is the Edo custom of putting the picture of a ship carrying the Seven Gods of Good Fortune under the pillow, to increase the chance of having a favourable dream. Such pictures were only sold on 2nd January. There is a proverb from the Edo period that goes like this: “Ichi Fuji. Ni taka. San nasubi”, where Mount Fuji is considered to be the most auspicious dream, followed by the dream of a hawk and the dream of an aubergine. One theory suggests that the three were considered auspicious dreams at the Edo period, because all three of them were said to be high: Fuji being high in altitude, hawks high in flight, and the price of aubergines also surprisingly high. The same theory also suggests that the view of Mount Fuji, hawk hunting and early aubergines were shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu’s favourite things. Furthermore, Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain and symbolizes safety; a hawk is a strong and intelligent bird and is associated with success; and lastly the aubergine, which is considered a lucky omen due to its Japanese name nasu, a homophone for the verb “to accomplish”. The three symbols are also associated with three popular tales of vendetta: Mount Fuji with The Revenge of the Soga Brothers, the hawk with Chūshingura or The Treasury of Loyal Retainers, and finally the aubergine with The Duel at the Key Maker’s Corner, set in the Iga province, where aubergine was a speciality. The first tale is about the two Soga brothers, Sukenari and Tokimune, who, on June 28, 1193, avenged their father’s death, by stealing into a hunt on Mount Fuji, hosted by Minamoto no Yoritomo, and killing Kudo Suketsune, their father’s murderer. The second tale, Chūshingura, is the fictionalised account of a real incident that occurred in the Edo period and has been the subject of countless bunraku and kabuki plays ever since. In Edo Castle, Asano Naganori, the lord of the Akō domain, whose crest featured a hawk, had drawn his sword in the attempt to murder Kira Kōzuke no Suke. Asano Naganori was sentenced to commit suicide, whereas Kira Kōzuke did not receive any punishment. Asano’s forty-seven samurai, who had been downgraded to the rank of rōnin, “wanderers”, avenged their master’s honour by killing Kira Kōzuke no Suke on December 14, 1703. The incident became known as the “Akō Incident”. Finally, Kagiya no Tsuji no Ketto, “the duel at the key maker’s corner”, is the story of the revenge enacted by Watanabe Kazuma on November 7, 1634, upon Araki Mataemon, who had killed his brother. The aubergine appeared in the Watanabe family crest. Mount Fuji, the hawk and the aubergines are followed by the folding fan, the smoke of a cigarette and the blind monk, which reinforce the significance of the former three items of the proverb. Mount Fuji spreads out like an open fan. The spreading out is seen as an omen of good fate, as is the act of rising high in the sky of both the hawk and cigarette smoke. Lastly, neither the aubergine nor the monk have hair. What has being bald got to do with being lucky? Very simple: in Japanese, “no hair” translates into ke ga nai, which is the same as kega nai, meaning “no injuries”. Therefore, both bald items are perceived as tokens of a safe household. 

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01.02.2018

What launched the New Zealand's rise to fame is what is considered the world's best Sauvignon blanc, in the late 1970s. One critic even went as far as to say that having your first New Zealand Sauvignon blanc is like “having sex for the first time,”. If you’ve never had a New Zealand Sauvignon blanc before and that doesn’t intrigue you in the slightest… we don’t know what will. In terms of wine, New Zealand has a lot more to offer in addition to its famous Sauvignon blanc. Actually, New Zealand has nearly 15 wine regions, some of which are bigger than others, but all are unique. For this reason, there are some very impressive tours of the different wine regions. Whether you want to learn more about wine, need an excuse to drink more wine or simply to go to New Zealand, we’ve got you covered. There is such a thing called the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail, whose title says it all: classic. It’s just five days but it takes you through the three most significant wine regions: Hawke’s Bay (Syrah), Martinborough (Pinot), and of course Marlborough (Sauvignon). These regions alone account for more than 80% of New Zealand’s wine producing regions, so unless you’re a Master Sommelier, this tour should suffice for any wine lover. The tour begins in Napier which is known for having some of the best Art Deco architecture in the world, and ends in Blenheim which is a small sunny town perfect for sampling local culture and food. Highlights along the way include: Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre on the way to Wairarapa to see the world’s only white kiwi in captivity and the cruise through Cook Strait through the Marlborough Sounds which is one of the most scenic ferry trips in the world. If you don’t have five days to devote solely to wine, spend just one and go to Waiheke Island. “The island of wine” is about 35 minutes away from Auckland by ferry and has over twenty distinct wineries. For Pinot Noir fans, take a day trip from Queenstown to Central Otago, home of the world-renowned Burgundy-style grapes. Central Otago has more than 80 wineries and is known also for its gourmet food. There are a couple of tour options but it’s worth the time to do a little research beforehand and pick out the wineries that are most appealing to you such as Maori Point Vineyard where you can taste wines with the actual people who tend to the vines and make the wine.  

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12.28.2017

Celebrating the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one is not just a cliché. It is actually a proper ritual, and one that the whole humankind has been practicing for thousands of years, at least since 2000 BC when the concept of honoring the new year was born in Mesopotamia.So if every year come December you start to be nostalgic towards the ending year, overwhelmed by the thought of new beginnings and resolutions and excited by the idea of celebrating, don’t feel bad: it’s only human. Speaking of which, here are a few ideas for having a blast on New Year’s Eve. Be the first to see the new day in Auckland, New ZealandLike every year, New Zealand’s largest city will be among the very first places in the world to see the dawn of the new year. The main New Year’s Eve event in Auckland is undoubtedly the Sky Tower firework display, a pyrotechnic display followed by a laser animation show and countdown which can be enjoyed at best from Mount Eden, One Tree Hill or Devonport, one of the coolest neighborhoods in the city where you’ll be spoilt for choice in terms of bars and restaurants. Enjoy a quiet awakening on Mount Takao, JapanThe Japanese are so into the New Year’s celebrations that they have even give a name to the first dawn of the year – Hatsuhinode. If you wish to enjoy a silent, spiritual moment to salute the new year, we suggest that you head out of the capital to Mount Takao, standing 599m tall in the Greater Tokyo Area. Since the Meiji Period, Mount Takao, today a renowned hiking destination, has been preserved as the sacred grounds of Yakuō Temple and the Imperial Crown Forest. Plus, the view on the iconic Mount Fuji is simply stunning from here. Wait for the dawn at Homigot Sunrise Festival, South KoreaJutting out into the East Sea, Homigot is located to the east of urban Pohang in Daebo-myeon, at the easternmost end of the Korean peninsula. Homigot is the setting of the earliest sunrise in Korea since 1999, which is why if annually hosts the Homigot Sunrise Festival. The Festival is held on Sunrise Plaza and in front of a huge bronze sculpture called Sangsaeng’s Hand, shaped like a pair of hands, one on the land and the other one on the sea. The word sangsaeng means “coexistence”, and the sculpture itself was built to give the message that all people should live together and help one another - hence the symbology. The festival includes local cultural performances, a New Year celebratory event, a firework display, a sunrise concert and other performances. 10,000 lucky visitors may sample free tteokguk, a traditional New Year’s Day dish of soup (guk) with thinly sliced rice cakes (tteok). Party hard in Cape Town, South AfricaCape Town, on the southern tip of the African continent, dominated by the imposing Table Mountain and overlooking the Ocean, is undoubtedly a unique and cosmopolitan city whose charm is hard to resist. In addition to being beautiful, Cape Town also has a very special flair: not entirely African and at the same time not entirely European, it is a city not without contradictions, problems and social inequalities, yet, compared to the rest of South Africa, it definitely appears safer, more open, and more relaxed. Of course, there are tons of parties around town, yet if you’re a newcomer and wish to find everything you need for a proper NYE celebration, look no further than the Waterfront area, where you’ll find live music, restaurants, discos, fireworks, parties and also a bunch of fantastic hotels to crash after a long, wild night. Admire the best fireworks in Valparaiso, ChileValparaiso is definitely a must-see. The fact that so many artists have always been attracted to this beautifully unusual Chilean city should not be surprising. Colorful, messy and incredibly photogenic, Chile’s cultural capital is spread across a hilly area and dotted with narrow alleys, steep stairways, graffiti, and ramshackle houses. Its NYE firework display is the largest in South America: shot from 10 different places, these spectacular fireworks explode over the harbor at midnight and they always attract huge crowds, with people early to get the best viewing spots.  

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12.28.2017

At the end of December every year, people crowd markets and shops hunting for three-tiered boxes of osechi-ryōri. Osechi-ryōri was originally a banquet held in royal hall on special occasions throughout the year. During the Edo period (1603-1868) osechi-ryōri became very popular among commoners and became synonymous with the set of foods served during the New Year celebrations, each one of them bearing a precise meaning. First tierThe first tier contains iwaizakana, foods that are eaten with alcoholic beverages, and kuchitori, foods for the people who do not drink alcohol. IwaizakanaKazunoko is herring roe. It is a wish for a large family, with as many children as the eggs in kazunoko.Tazukuri are baby sardines, which symbolise a good harvest, since baby sardines were once used as fertilisers in rice paddies.Kuromame are sweet black beans, a nice complement to the other savoury dishes and an omen of hard work and a healthy living in the New Year, because of the resemblance of the words mame (“beans”) and majime (“diligence”).Tatakigobō means “pounded burdock”. Since burdock grows long and sturdy roots in the ground, tatakigobo represents the wish for stability in the family and in business. KuchitoriKōhaku kamaboko is a red and white broiled fish cake, in which the red colour acts as an amulet against all evil spirits, whereas the white colour is a symbol of purity.Datemaki is a sweet rolled omelette mixed with fish or shrimp paste. Because its shape resembles a scroll, it symbolises a wish for the development of cultures and fulfilment of learning.Kurikinton, literarily meaning “chestnut gold mash”, pleads prosperity and wealthSecond tierThe second tier is an assortment of pickled and broiled foods. Sunomono (“pickled foods”)Kōhaku namasu is made of daikon and carrot, cut into thin strips and pickled in sweetened vinegar with yuzu flavour. The red and white colours are symbols of peace and serenity.Chorogi is pickled Japanese artichoke. The kanji for the name mean longevity.Su Renkon is believed to be a pure plant growing the pond of the Buddhist paradise. Its numerous holes represent a mind open to far-sighted ideas.Kikuhana Kabu is pickled Japanese turnip sliced and laid out in the shape of chrysanthemums, which are believed to bring good luck. At the time of samurai, the word for turnip, kabu, was associated to the word “head”. Hence the turnip is thought to be good for the mind. Yakimono (“broiled foods”)Ebi is the general term for shrimps, prawns and lobsters. When cooked, their body bends, the same way as the human body. It is therefore considered as a token of longevity.Buri is yellowtail fish. In Japanese, it changes its name according to the stages of its growth. Buri is eaten to pray for success in life.Tai is a red snapper. Omedetai is the word for “happiness”. You cannot say “omedetai” without “tai”. You cannot have happiness without a red snapperThird tierThe third tier is composed of chikuzen’ni, braised chicken and vegetables. Konbu Maki are made of meat and vegetables wrapped in kelp. The word konbu sounds like yorokobu, “to rejoice” and can be written with a set of kanji whose meaning is “to give birth”. For this reason, konbu is eaten for prosperity and a good progeny.Satoimo is the Japanese word for “taro”, a corm that generates plenty of small corms. Eating taro is considered a wish for a large family.Kuwai is a water chestnut that puts forth numerous sprouts. As you may imagine, water chestnuts too are symbols of financial success.Shiitake mushrooms were originally offered to the gods, as a plea for good health.Konnyaku, or konjac, is usually twisted into a rope shape, symbolising the reins of one’s life. Eating konnyaku means preparing for battle.Ninjin is the Japanese for carrots, cut into a plum blossom shape. It is considered a lucky charm because plum trees will always generate new flowers and the red colour of the carrot is a symbol of longevity.Takenoko, the bamboo shoot, grows quite fast, protruding towards the sky. For this reason, eating takenoko is considered a wish for one’s children’s healthy growth as well as for their success in life.  

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12.27.2017

We’d just like to preface this by saying that if you only wait to make lifestyle changes until the beginning of each year, you probably have some bigger issues at hand. Studies show that mindfulness reduces stress while increasing focus and working memory (among a host of other benefits). What exactly is mindfulness you ask? It’s a state of being active in the present. Saying that it’s “living in the moment” doesn’t really bring to mind meditation or calming notions, but it truly is about slowing down and focusing on the present and being open to what you’re currently experiencing. For some people, who have practiced mindfulness for quite some time, it mimics the effects of neurofeedback, which is quite impressive for something that’s the free act of controlling your own thoughts. In 2018 why not give it a go and become your best self? Here’s how to get started:  Learn to practice mindfulness on your own, or through guided meditations. Simply set a time limit (five to ten minutes is a good starting point), sit upright in a comfortable position, take slow breaths and let your mind wander. When you notice it wandering, just bring your thoughts back to the present. It’s as straightforward as that. It’s not about trying to quiet your mind (is that even possible?), it’s about accepting the present and not judging any of the thoughts that may be popping up, about work, family, or other stressors. It can be harder than you might think, so lots of people like to use guided meditations that just calmly give you reminders to check in with yourself. When we talk about meditation, we don’t mean you need to become a monk, sit cross-legged with your hands on your knees making the ok-symbol going “ohhhmmmmmm” over and over trying to reach a new state of consciousness. Meditation can mean different things to different people, and practicing mindfulness is the art of letting your mind wander, noticing, and returning your attention to the present while being kind to your inner self. For many of us, it’s easy to forget to put aside time to (what seems like) stare off into space for a few minutes- which is why we like the Headspace app to help us on our journey. There are different guided meditations each day, if that’s what you prefer, but there are also different “packs” which are a bundle of sessions targeted to a specific area of focus. For example, sleeping, pain management, self esteem, anger, balance, productivity, you name it. Plus, you can set up daily reminders, and the narrator has a very calm voice and assures you that it’s okay if you fall asleep during your practice. Seriously, no judgement! Another helpful app that’s a totally different style from Headspace is called Calm. Both Headspace and Calm have subscription options, but with Calm there are more free things to access than Headspace. It has lots of different white noise like sounds to put on to help you relax or fall asleep like ocean sounds and rain, breathing exercises and guided meditations, but most interestingly it has “sleep stories” which are basically grown up bedtime stories that are voiced by famous actors. You wouldn’t think so but the actor who plays Bronn in Game of Thrones has a surprisingly smooth voice when he’s not stabbing people in battle scenes. Imagine a 2018 where you’re less stressed, more productive, and have better relationships- it’s totally possible with just a few minutes a day.