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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.  

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12.22.2017

It is said that there are more than 3,000 shrines and temples in Kyoto, with numerous traditional events throughout the year, especially in December and at the turn of the year. If you are visiting Kyoto, here are a few recommendations. 25th December: the last market of the year at Kitano TenmangūBecause Sugawara Michizane, the kami of education enshrined at Kitano Tenmangū, was born and passed away on 25th, on 25th every month a festival is held in the premises shrine to commemorate him. On the occasion of Shimai Tenjin, the last memorial of the year, the precincts become crowded with market stands and visitors. You will find all sorts of traditional decorations and delicacies for New Year’s celebrations, such as shimekazari - a small rope made from rice straws, with carefully crafted zigzag-shaped paper strips, to be hung at the entrance door, potted plants, salted salmon and kale aramaki. In front of the shrine, it is possible to receive a pair of festive chopsticks as well as toso, a type of sake which is prepared with seven special herbs immersed in it. 31st December: Okera Festival at Yasaka ShrineIt is one of the most representative celebrations of the New Year in Kyoto, when worshippers pray for a year clear of disease and suffering. People light their lantern at the sacred fire and then bring it home and use that flame to cook zoni, the traditional New Year’s soup containing mochi rice cakes. The fire is burnt overnight from 7:30 pm on New Year’s Eve until early in the morning on New Year’s Day. Visitors will also be offered okera sake, a special sake prepared with okera medicinal herbs. 31st December: Joya no KaneJoya no Kane is the custom of ringing a bell 107 times on New Year’s Eve (“Joya”) just before midnight, with a final toll as soon as New Year’s Day arrives. There are several stories about the reason of the number of tolls, however, the most widely recognised had it that 108 is the number of evil desires that we suffer from on earth, and 108 bell tolls are a way to get rid of them. At Kōdai-ji, Tenryū-ji and Hyakumanben-Chion-ji, only the first 108 people will be allowed to sound the bell. New Year’s Day: First shrine visit at Heian-jingūEntering the New Year, people visit shrines and temples to pray for good health, peace and prosperity. This is called hatsumode. Heian-jingū is one of the most popular shrines for hatsumode in Kyoto, with as many as 25,000 worshippers every year. It is closed and lit with lanterns on New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Day it is opened to the people who come to obtain a talisman for the new year. 4th January: Kemari-Hajime at Shimogamo ShrineShimogamo Shrine, which is also registered as a World Heritage Site, is one of the oldest shrines in Kyoto, formerly known as Heian-kyō. The main structure of the shrine is said to have been built in 676 by the ancient Kamo clan. On 4th January, at 2 in the afternoon, after the religious service, the old Heian kemari game is played. The players, who are dressed in traditional colourful court costumes, kick a ball made of deer’s skin. 

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12.20.2017

Everybody knows Turin is an excellent foodie destination: the restaurant scene in the city has never been so lively, thriving with innovative culinary concepts and attracting international chefs. Yet one of the most unusual and innovative initiatives of the recent months was born far from the spotlight of the city center, in the suburban district of Barriera di Milano, inside a post-industrial area that is undergoing a major redevelopment. Edit (Eat, Drink, Innovate Together) is a new food hub housed inside the former premises of Incet, a historic electric cable factory, and inspired by the idea of ​​sharing spaces, ideas and experiences. A brainchild of local entrepreneur Marco Brignone, Edit houses restaurants, cocktail bars, cafés and spaces devoted to cooking classes and events, and it boasts the collaboration of some huge Italian chefs. The 2,400 square meter space is spread across two floors overlooking a large courtyard, and divided into five main areas. The Bakery Café, on the ground floor, is a café area with an adjoining bakery and pastry workshop. For the bakery and the other operations on the ground floor, chef Pietro Leemann, the pioneer of Italian vegetarian haute cuisine, has created a special meat-free menu, whereas famous pastry and pizza chef Renato Bosco supplies his renowned pastries. Also on the ground floor, the Brewery is an urban space for enthusiasts, homebrewers and master brewers who gather at the long counter featuring 19 taps offering as many beers, partly produced on the spot. The adjoined Pub combines the pleasure of beer with a menu that mixes Renato Bosco’s delicacies and the vegetarian dishes by Pietro Leemann with a selection of peasant food recipes. At the cocktail bar on the first floor, patrons may explore the art of mixology and food pairing as conceived by established masters of Italian bartending Barz8, A.K.A. Salvatore Romano and Luigi Iula. The nearby restaurant by the Michelin-starred chef duo Costardi Bros. (Christian & Manuel) focuses on signature recipes offering a gastronomic journey through experimentation, to be enjoyed either at the long counter that runs around the kitchen (22 seats) or at one of the regular tables. Finally, the "Kitchens" area includes four professional kitchens conceived as "incubators" where new restaurants, food producers, professionals and start-ups can showcase their business, as well as a huge conference and event room.Whether you enjoy the food world as a consumer or as a professional, chances are you will find something interesting and exciting at Edit. 

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12.19.2017

Firstly, they exist in real life, not just in Christmas stories, which may come as a surprise to some people. Reindeer anatomy changes with each season.During the summer their eyes are gold to cope with near constant sunlight and in winter their eyes are blue to cope with the darkness.Their cloven hoofs also adapt to the season- in the summer their footpads become softer to give them more traction because the ground is softer, and in the winter their pads get smaller to expose more of their hoofs so they can more easily dig for food.They’re the only mammals that grow new antlers each year- they grow up to 2 centimeters per day. For this reason, their velvety antlers feel warm when they grow! Fun fact about antlers: they’re like fingerprints- no two sets of antlers are the same. A day old reindeer can run faster than an Olympic runner.Within an hour and a half after being born the calves can walk. And adults run at 40-50 miles per hour. They have several natural predators such as polar bears and arctic wolves but since they’re so fast and travel in large herds they’re hard to catch. Plus, they swim, at around 6 miles an hour nonetheless. They communicate with their knees?!Their knees click when they walk which helps the herd stay together when it’s hard to see during a blizzard. Each individual reindeer has it’s own call, too. Their hair is hollow.This is so that their hair can trap air and keep them insulated. Even weirder, they can lower the body temperature in their legs at will to almost freezing to help them avoid losing body heat through their legs. Reindeer are the only species where both males and females have antlers.Hence why Rudolph and Santa’s other reindeer are actually females: males shed their antlers from November to January while females keep theirs during the winter. All depictions of the reindeer that guide Santa’s sleigh have antlers, so they must be female! During the Ice Age, they lived further south.That’s right, they lived in Spain and in the USA in Tennessee and the Southwest. Until the 19th century, they could even be spotted in Idaho. Finally, Reindeer and caribou are basically the same.The main difference between the two is that reindeer are the only deer that have been domesticated. Their body shape is slightly stockier than a caribou’s, so they’re like close cousins rather than siblings.  

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12.18.2017

This warehouse-style food court boasts 40 vendors of different cuisines ranging from Hawaiian to Polish origins, all while maintaining a classically Brooklyn vibe. What helps really put it on the map, though, is Katz’s first location outside of the original, beloved delicatessen in the Lower East Side. What differentiates DMH from other food halls is that there is a custom built show kitchen and space for hosting events. Whatever you’re craving, DMH has you covered. Paella Shack, for example, allows you to get paella quickly- a dish which is usually made to order. And if you like arepas, you’ll know that it’s hard to find a place that’s up to your standards, but luckily, Arepa Lady is consistent and reliable. The most talked about places though, are Pierogi Boys (you can never go wrong here), Ample Hills (because everyone needs a go-to ice cream spot), and Eight Turn Crepe (no explanation necessary). It can get pretty crowded and seats can be hard to find, but if you’re like a lot of people, you’ll end up walking around the place five times before you make up your mind. This isn’t a bad thing though, you can easily spend half a day here as there is a Trader Joe’s and Target right upstairs. And even if you still can’t decide which mouthwatering vendor you’d like to satisfy your appetite, it is a food court, after all, so you can, and should, get things from multiple different restaurants and make your own smorgasbord. New York City is always coming up with new food trends, so where better to go and see for yourself than at one of the largest food and entertainment hubs in the city? Well, technically you don’t have to go there, they deliver! And they always have specials for under $10- like we said, DMH has you covered. This isn’t just a random collection of restaurants, a lot of thought has gone into DeKalb Market Hall. Now, is it crazy to want to compare Katz’s locations?  

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12.15.2017

Whether it’s riding a sled led by reindeer or huskies, skiing, ice fishing, hunting down the Northern Lights or meeting Santa, Lapland is the epitome of Christmas. It’s not all Elvish workshops and gingerbread houses, though, Lapland is home to world class resorts allowing you to experience the natural serenity of the Arctic Circle year round. From hot spas to freezing igloos, Lapland will delight lovers of all things that are cozy. Icehotel, SwedenA night in a cold room at Icehotel in Swedish Lapland is sure to be a magical experience. The cold rooms, made completely of ice with new architecture and design from international artists each year, are around -5 to -7 degrees celsius and the hotel provide reindeer hides in addition to thermal sleeping bags to keep you warm at night. You’ll literally be sleeping in an igloo! Thankfully they also offer warm rooms- they actually recommend that you only stay one night in a cold room either at the very end or beginning of your trip- phew. Santa Claus Holiday VillageYes, this is what (your kid’s) dreams are made of! Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland is the official home of Santa, he lives there all year round to fulfill his life’s mission of rewarding the children on the nice list with gifts every year at Christmas. You can meet Santa everyday of the year, and he’ll even make house calls to your cabin. But there’s much more to do in Santa’s hometown than visit the Elf Workshop; for something more luxurious, you can even stay in a private igloo inspired glass apartment, each of which has its own personal spa. Kakslauttanen Arctic ResortThe stunning Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is most known for its fabulously cozy glass igloo lodges. From the comfort of your own bed, all you have to do is look up through the glass ceiling and you’ll have the best view of the Northern Lights in the Arctic Circle. Of course it’s never guaranteed that you’ll see the Northern Lights, but if you stay a few nights, you have good chances. If you really want to embrace the arctic, you can even stay in a classic ice igloo. This elegant resort has a wide variety of outdoor activities but they haven’t forgotten about Santa- make an appointment and you can visit him in his own home! This gorgeous resort is your new bucket list top priority.  

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12.14.2017

Don’t worry, we checked this list twice (and only included the strangest of strange). For cultures that celebrate it, Christmas is probably the holiday with the longest list of traditions. Most of the traditions are sweet, like leaving milk and cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve (spoiler: your dad probably ate them after you went to bed). But just like there are both nice and naughty children, there are also some naughty traditions… Catalan, Spain: Caga Tió & CaganerApparently, Catalans have a thing for shit. A common Catalan saying before a meal is “eat well, shit heartily, and don't be afraid of death!”. Their famous tradition is Caga Tió a wooden log with a smiley face and legs (about the size of a small dog) that you “feed” everyday until Christmas, starting on December 8th (the day celebrating the Immaculate Conception). Kids are taught to carefully care for it by putting dried fruits, nuts, and the like in its mouth and “keeping it warm” with a blanket, and on Christmas day they beat it with a stick while singing songs until it shits presents. The song goes, “if you don’t shit well, I’ll hit you with a stick, shit, log,” catchy, right? We couldn’t make this up.If that’s not enough for you, they also keep around caganers which are little figurines of peasants taking a shit. Literally, it’s a tiny figurine of a person (traditionally of a peasant but other characters too), with a bare ass, mid-shit. The literal translation from Catalan is “the shitter”, and it’s typically hidden in nativity scenes. There’s no agreed upon reason why it exists. Greenland: MattakMattak is a traditional Christmas dish. it’s raw whale skin with a little blubber left attached. The other festive treat is kiviak, the decomposed meat of a small arctic bird (called an auk) that has been wrapped in seal skin and buried underground for a few months. If it were a life or death situation, we’d rather have the raw whale skin than putrified meat (that's also wrapped in skin). Japan: KFCThis isn’t bad, just amusing. Even though very few people in Japan are Christian, and it’s not a national holiday, thanks to KFC’s successful marketing, many people now celebrate Christmas in Japan. Why KFC? Because apparently, it’s difficult to find a whole chicken or turkey to roast. Honestly, there’s no knocking this tradition because KFC has always been finger-lickin' good. Alpine Towns: KrampusIf you didn’t get your fill of stick beatings from the shit log in Catalan, there’s always Krampus: St. Nick’s evil counterpart. Maybe it’s no coincidence that Santa is an anagram for Satan. While St. Nicholas gives gifts to the kids who have behaved well this year, Krampus beats the misbehaved kids with a bundle of sticks. Sometimes he even has a basket slung over his shoulder to whisk up the naughty children in to take them, presumably, to hell? A parade featuring a Krampus run is a tradition in many Alpine towns (including those in Bavaria, Austria, Croatia, Northern Italy/South Tyrol, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovenia) probably having originated from pre-Christian pagan rituals. This horned, cloven-hoofed, Christmas devil probably isn’t appropriate for children, but if you want to have some nightmares, look up vintage images of Krampus. You won’t be disappointed. USA: Christmas PickleOne of the few innocent traditions on this list, this is an ornament to be hung on your tree. Normally the pickle ornament is hidden in the tree so that it’s difficult to find, and then whoever finds it first on Christmas day is rewarded. There are a few different possible stories as to how this became a tradition, but nobody really knows. At least it’s not another shit-themed tradition! Italy: La Befana On the evening of January 5th (the day celebrating The Epiphany), an elderly woman turned Christmas witch delivers gifts to children much like Santa or St. Nicholas. Just like Santa, she enters homes through the chimney, but rides on a broom instead of a sleigh, perhaps to clean up after sliding down dirty chimneys, as she has a reputation for being a good housekeeper, of course. Families also leave out snacks for La Befana, but rather than milk and cookies its wine and an accompanying regional treat. It’s safe to drink and drive a broom, right?   

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12.13.2017

Yet another Modigliani exhibition? That’s right, and once again, it is worth visiting, even if you have already seen most of his work in other world class museums and exhibitions. Currently open at the Tate Modern Gallery in London (until April 2, 2018), this retrospective offers a unique opportunity: that of entering a virtually reconstructed version of Modigliani’s last Paris atelier – provided that you get there early enough and are willing to wait in line. In May 1919, Modigliani moved to a small apartment on rue de la Grande Chaumière in Paris with his partner, the painter Jeanne Hébuterne, and their daughter. Here, both artists painted portraits of each other and of themselves together, and they both would meet their tragic end shortly thereafter. The atelier on rue de la Grande Chaumière is actually still in existence, but it has radically changed over the course of the last century, and since it has never been photographed, its virtual reconstruction has demanded ­. Everything, from the color on the palettes to the easels that hold the paintings, from the cigarettes on the table to the boxes of sardines, and the light shining through the windows, has been recreated with painstaking precision and faithfulness to reality. Wearing your VR headset, you will embark on a sort of magnificent and surreal space-time journey and find yourself totally immersed in Modigliani’s Parisian studio. Made by Preloaded as part of a tecnical research project run by Tate in collaboration with the Museu de Arte Contemporanea de São Paulo in Brazil and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, The Ocher Atelier is not the only interesting part of the exhibition: the surprising collection of works on display includes some truly amazing portraits, lesser-known sculptures and 12 beautiful nudes originally exhibited in 1917, leading police to censor his only ever solo exhibition on the grounds of indecency. 

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12.11.2017

These sweaters are too commercial to be ironic anymore, but that isn’t stopping anyone. Does the fact that people are so wrapped up (pun intended) in this holiday trend say something about society? And wouldn’t that defeat the point of (playfully) mocking the unassuming people who actually wear these sweaters un-ironically? The Origin Of The Ironic Ugly Sweater:Let’s add the popularizing of ironically ugly grandpa sweaters to the list of atrocities committed by the actor who played Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show. Before the ugly sweater trend was specific to Christmas, all you had to do for a costume party is pick up an old late 80s/early 90s lumpy and frumpy sweater at your nearest charity shop to sport a Cliff Huxtable “costume”. What Does A Harmlessly Ugly Sweater Have To Do With Christmas?Fast forward to 2001: Bridget Jones’s Diary has made it’s mark on British and American culture and it’s not going away. If you haven’t seen it, there’s one critical part that’s particularly relevant to this ongoing ugly Christmas sweater craze. The first time the audience meets Colin Firth’s character Mark Darcy, he’s obviously quite stuffy and uptight, but he turns up to a Christmas party in a sweater (or jumper in this case, as he epitomizes a stereotypical and over the top stiff/reserved English person) with a huge red nosed Rudolph The Reindeer on it. This scene has become a pop culture classic. And ever since, people have been throwing Ugly Christmas Sweater themed holiday parties, and the competition is real. Oh yes, people try to wear the ugliest possible sweaters with lights and bows and tassels all over. Even high-end retailers and department stores sell them (which kind of defeats the irony, don’t you think?). The Pros and Cons:Even though the reindeer jumper on Colin Firth was only meant to be a comedic juxtaposition in a rom-com, society’s warm embrace of this idea is somewhat of a cultural reflection. Obviously, these heinous pieces of knitwear are eyesores. But a lot of people have strong feelings about Christmas culturally. Even though Christmas is inherently religious a lot of nonbelievers celebrate it as it’s become such a Hallmark holiday. It could be reasonably argued that for many, the extreme consumerism that comes with the holiday has overshadowed the religious implications. So, in a way, the donning of these ridiculous things as a theme for a party (overshadowing the automatic theme of Christianity), it’s a nice way to include non believers and people from other religions in Christmas celebrations. By shifting the focus from Jesus to a stupid piece of seasonal clothing, whether intentional or not, the playing field is leveled. And come on, nobody wants to discuss religion at a holiday party with coworkers, family (especially family), or friends of friends anyways. In Conclusion…If you can’t beat them, join them.If you’re the kind of person concerned with Starbucks’s “War on Christmas” (e.g. whether or not their holiday cups should have allusions to Christmas or not) you probably can’t pull off a huge ironic and unflattering sweater anyways.   

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12.11.2017

With less than a month until the winter solstice, the ski season is in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere.  Although the Alps continue to be the undisputed champions of all things related to winter sports, there are many other spots in the world to choose from that offer radically different landscapes and hospitality options. Here are six destinations in six different countries that might just make you second guess the Alps. Whether you’re already pulling on your long johns or you’re still undecided, why not consider Canada or Japan? Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia, CanadaThe largest ski resort in North America is on the west coast of Canada, British Columbia to be exact, it’s not far from the Pacific and about 125 miles north of Vancouver. And although it could not be further away from the Alps, it has a vaguely European atmosphere, especially when you take off your boots and stroll through the delightfully picturesque village of Whistler. There are more than 33 square kilometers of ground to cover on parallel mountains with slopes of varying difficulty that remain in pristine condition and are connected by a cable car. Courchevel, FranceCourchevel consists of six villages at different altitudes - including the famous Saint-Bon, where Le Lac Bleu was born in 1908 making it the first hotel in the area. There are three valleys, 58 ski lifts and 150 kilometers of pistes from Olympic slopes to tobogganing trails. From the narrow chalet-lined streets to five-star hotels, this prestigious ski resort in the French Savoy more than satisfies all of its visitors’ tastesCortina D’Ampezzo, ItalySkiing in Cortina is always a breathtaking experience: this Venetian valley is surrounded by the magnificent Dolomites is part of the large Dolomiti Superski area. There are 86 tracks for a total of 115 kilometers, and snowboarders haven’t been forgotten about. The star of Italian winter tourism, Cortina D’Ampezzo is a time-tested classic but feels refreshed each year with new cultural and gastronomic offerings. Niseko, JapanSkiing in Japan: why not? In Hokkaido, the great island at the very north of the Japanese archipelago, exists a town renowned the world over for its flawlessly textured snow, referred to as powder. This ski haven is called Niseko and is one of the most famous ski resorts in Asia. The perfection doesn’t stop at snow- it’s surrounded by thermal springs. What could be better than relaxing in the onsen (Japanese for hot spring) after a long day on the slopes? Zermatt, SwitzerlandAt the foot of the magnificent Matterhorn, this famous Swiss resort is a paradise for skiers: the grandiose Matterhorn Ski Paradise offers 350 km of slopes. It is a sight to behold in and of itself but there is another element at work: it is one of the few ski destinations in the world without cars. It’s only accessible by train and in the countryside you’ll only find electric cars. There is no doubt you will relish the clean mountain air in Zermatt. Lech, AustriaIn the Vorarlberg region of western Austria, 305 kilometers of slopes and 88 ski lifts make Lech one of the largest resorts in Austria. The town of Lech in the Ski Arlberg area is somewhat of a hub of luxury- celebrities are attracted to its peaceful atmosphere away from prying eyes to take advantage of its wonderful slopes and the retreat of the quaint old village.  

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12.06.2017

Rather than speculate about his childhood based on modern adaptations, we are focusing only on the original 1966 TV special. We all know that this particular Dr. Seuss character had a heart two sizes too small, but why? Well for starters, he was a social outcast. This was of his own doing, however, as he kept to himself in a cave lair inside of a mountain at the edge of Whoville. It’s fairly obvious that his antisocial behavior has resulted in a deep sense of loneliness, and that these two qualities just reinforce themselves in a vicious cycle. It’s safe to say that The Grinch was suffering from depression. As his negative outlook makes him very irritable, hearing the Whos making lots of noise in preparation for Christmas maddened him- it made him feel even more isolated. The Grinch makes use of a number of different defense mechanisms to protect himself emotionally. For example, he projects his negative feelings onto the Whos by assuming that they will be miserable (just like he is) when Christmas doesn’t come. So he decides to ruin their Christmas by dressing up as Santa Claus and breaking into their houses to steal their presents, decorations, and food. It’s human nature to want to belong to a group, and since The Grinch knows he doesn’t have a sense of belonging he doesn’t know how to empathize with the Whos. He feels disconnected from his neighbors and lashing out is the only way he knows how to empathize. This is a classic case of “if I can’t have it, neither can you”; The Grinch is miserable and disaffected and resents the Whos for this, so he feels that lashing out is justifiable because he wants to make the Whos feel his pain. In Freudian terminology, we can say that initially he was only driven by his (unconscious) id by using the defense mechanisms to ideally make him less anxious about dealing with his feelings. That is, until he meets Cindy Lou Who, who symbolizes innocence, thus invoking a conscious) superego. His defense mechanisms such as denial (claiming his heart was two sizes too small so that he wouldn’t have to deal with his feelings), rationalization (that the Whos were making too much noise is a good reason to take away their Christmas) and displacement (he’s taking out his frustrations on The Whos even though they aren’t the cause), to name a few, were reactions to things external to him. But now that he sees a beacon of innocence (Cindy Lou Who), he becomes more (consciously) proactive. For example, he returns all of the Christmas presents that he had stolen. When he sees that the Whos still have their Christmas spirit, he is surprised- he finds out that Christmas isn’t just about material things. The Whos are happy because they have each other, a sense of belongingness that The Grinch didn’t have. In that moment, the Whos chose to be happy and be glad they had each other rather than only placing festive value on material goods. This was the big awakening for him because he realized that he had been choosing a life of misery and loneliness all along. As the Whos came together, he realized that he too could choose, which is why he returned everything, and in return the Whos let him carve the meat, something that is traditionally reserved for the head of the household or a guest of honor. That day his heart grew three sizes, which is one size bigger than normal because he gained a sense of self-understanding in addition to a sense of belonging.  

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12.05.2017

 As you get ready to celebrate Christmas with your family, friends, and significant others, leave your loved ones in awe by sharing Tokyo’s beautiful sweet treats with them. Chocolate Handbag “Ivoire Coffee Orange”This chocolate delight is filled with cocoa-scented cream, chocolate mousse, home-made orange marmalade and bitter chocolate, enclosed in a handbag made of chocolate.You may reserve one at the Ritz Carlton.http://www.ritz-carlton.jp/news/78/ ProfiterolesThe Grand Hyatt offers an extremely photogenic strawberry shortcake topped with six types of small profiteroles filled with differently flavored cream: strawberry, pistachio, lemon, orange, currant, and vanilla. The number of profiteroles varies according to the size of the cake: a 12x12cm cake holds up to 16 profiteroles, whereas a 15x15cm cake is topped with 25 profiteroles. This year, white chocolate feathers patterned with reindeer and snowflakes line the sides of the cake. Since it is limited to 80 units, you may want to hurry to reserve one at Grand Hyatt Tokyo.https://www.tokyo.grand.hyatt.co.jp/restaurants/recommended/fiorentina-pastry-christmas-cake/ Bulgari Il Cioccolato: Torta di NataleExpect nothing less than a stylish and chic dessert from a high-end Italian jewelry brand. Bulgari’s Torta di Natale is a rich Christmas cake, consisting of a chocolate-coated and chocolate-flavored soft sponge, filled with mascarpone cream. The finishing touch is a chocolate and gold comet, the traditional symbol of Christmas in Italy.https://web.hankyu-dept.co.jp/ecshop/shohinDetailDisplay.do?mstShohinId=407110 Orange and chocolate bûche de NoëlThe newly-appointed Mandarin Oriental executive pastry chef Stéphane Tranchet honors the season with three different versions of the bûche de Noël. The most traditional of the bunch is a deliciously fresh cocoa sponge, filled with home-made orange marmalade and covered in 65% Belgian bitter chocolate. The other combinations this year are raspberry-pistachio and maple-pear.http://luxuryhotel.jp/mandarin-oriental-tokyo-christmas-cake-2017-review.htmlhttps://www.atpress.ne.jp/news/138258 Grand WreathThis a deep red, wreath-shaped cake, covered in hand-made white chocolate rose petals, with a 40cm circumference. The moment you open the box, an irresistible scent of rose will fill the room. In addition to the Grand Wreath, Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa offers five other kinds of Christmas dessert, including shortcake.http://www.princehotels.co.jp/newtakanawa/contents/christmascake2017/   

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12.04.2017

For everyone who’s tired of hearing Michael Buble every holiday season: we’ve put together an eclectic upbeat playlist with a mix of old classics and new songs. Don’t worry- there’s no Jingle Bell Rock or All I Want For Christmas Is You here, just an unexpected and fun mix that will keep you on your toes. Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Eve / SarajevoStart your party off strong. There’s no reason why Christmas music shouldn’t be badass. She & Him - Rockin’ Around The Christmas TreeThis playlist has something for everyone and will keep you on your toes for sure. She & Him’s Christmas Party album is the only full Christmas themed album you need. Seriously, this and their other Christmas album A Very She & Him Christmas deserves to be listened to all year round. Zooey Deschanel is the only Christmas angel we need. Thurl Ravenscroft - You’re A Mean One Mr. GrinchA tried and true classic. This will take everyone back to their childhood. Never underestimate the power of Dr. Seuss. Sia - Candy Cane LaneWho knew Sia had a Christmas album?! This song begs the question: why are there so many holiday ballads when we could be listening to fun songs about candy? Isn’t Christmas supposed to be fun? Also, watch the official video for Sia’s Santa’s Coming For Us, you can thank us later. Lemmy Kilmeister - Run Run RudolphWe’re not really sure why this exists, but more people should be aware of it. Frank Sinatra - Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!No holiday playlist is complete without the bare minimum of Frank Sinatra. Enough said. Burl Ives - Holly Jolly ChristmasIf somebody doesn’t like Holly Jolly Christmas they are either a grinch or a south pole elf. The Kinks - Father ChristmasThis song is just undeniably silly and fun. What’s better to get you in the holiday spirit than some British Invasion? Run DMC - Christmas In HollisWhile we’re shaking things up, this is probably the purest hip-hop song in existence. Kelly Clarkson - Underneath The TreeYou can never go wrong with Kelly Clarkson. She took this song up a notch- this is undoubtedly the perfect power pop Christmas song. Wham! - Last ChristmasBecause, obviously.  

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12.01.2017

The world changed with the presence of Ziggy Stardust, as if an extraterrestrial power gave David Bowie permission to do so, which is fitting since his first of several alter egos was from Mars. Currently people have been relentlessly defining or disavowing or championing for the acceptance of gender fluidity, different sexual orientations, and the all-encompassing social constructs of their implications. David Bowie was proof that changes in society could be made through fashion. He (and a few others such as Marc Bolan) played a large role in bringing androgyny, and to a degree gender fluidity, into the mainstream. He may have emerged 45 years ago wearing over the knee boots and a kimono so short that there was no questioning his manhood even though he was dressed as a girl, but only a gentleman such as himself could be so tasteful about it. Gentleman have confidence. Jean Paul Gaultier said of David Bowie frequenting London gay bars, that it gave him (and others) “courage not to hide, to have confidence”. And this was only the beginning. There were many one legged and one armed spandex bodysuits as well as silk dresses, eyeliner, sequins, and high heels to come. It takes a real open minded and respectful (gentle)man to make femininity so powerful. David Bowie was pop culture’s greatest enigma - he was consistently celebrated for his ubiquitous individual style but has been considered pop music’s best chameleon (which he always found puzzling because after all, it’s the main objective of a chameleon to blend in with their surroundings). He pulled inspiration from everywhere which always resulted in something new original. Bowie was honest and payed homage to those who inspired him. He once quoted Picasso saying “as Picasso said, it’s not what you steal, it’s how you use it”, and in short this is exactly how he operated, “I’m a tasteful thief. The only art I’ll ever study is stuff that I can steal from.” In an era before the internet, a new Bowie album was like a portal into a new world: he was so eclectic that with new material he was likely introducing people to new cultural references, philosophies, realities, images, sounds, and more. He was cultured and knowledgeable but didn’t come off as pretentious - a gentleman would never be condescending. Through his music and fashion, the conversations that Bowie inspired that continue to this day are often about identity. At the beginning of his career he looked and acted like he had just gotten back from casually vacationing in other solar systems and we earthlings were absolutely wide eyed and hungry to hear more of his otherworldly wisdom. He gave people permission to be weird, as Tilda Swinton (the current coolest living person and David Bowie’s not-so-long-lost twin) expressed at the V&A launch party for a David Bowie archive exhibit, “the freak becomes the great unifier”. That to experiment and standout and be yourself and reinvent yourself whenever you like wasn’t just acceptable, but that it was cool. To say that he was a trendsetter is an understatement; he led by example with his style as a metaphor.  He was radical, new, energetic, and never judged. He inspired people to take risks, express themselves and become themselves - whoever that was; he said himself that he “seemed to draw a lot of fantasies out of people.” Bringing the best out of others was inherent in his character - a quality that all gentlemen should aspire to have. Perhaps the most “conventional” thing about him was his standard 20th century interpretation of marriage to supermodel Iman. They adored each other like mad, he considered marrying her to be his biggest success in life, that his attraction to her was “all encompassing”. With her he displayed the classical qualities we think of when we think of a “gentleman” in relation to women. Even though he was always passionate about exploring all things alien, the deep love he had for Iman is one of the things about him that made him feel like a fellow human.  

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11.28.2017

While it is not probably the most popular holiday destination on Earth, Greenland certainly represents a dream travel to many of us. Yet what is it that makes it so fascinating? Its incredible light? Its magic natural landscapes? Or maybe its undeniable remoteness?The land of the Kallaalits (meaning “Greenlander” in the native Inuit language Kalaallisut) is one of the most unique places on Earth indeed. Here are a few facts about Greenland you should know before embarking on a journey towards the Arctic Circle. . Greenland is the most sparsely populated country on earth. With an area of 2,166,086 square kilometers and a population of less than 60,000 people, it has huge wild snowy and icy areas and very few roads between towns. Which is why you won’t be able to explore it by car: be prepared to go by sled, boat, snowmobile and plane. . Greenland has never actually been “green”About 80% of the island is covered by the Greenland ice sheet, which is at least 400,000 years old. So naming it Greenland was nothing but a clever marketing strategy applied some 1,000 years ago by Norwegian Viking explorer Erik the Red in order to attract new settlers to this newly discovered land. Still, there are green areas in Greenland: in the mild summer climate, greyleaf willows grow at the base of it beautiful fjords, and the mountain landscapes are adorned with a wealth of colors from flowers, herbs, mosses and heather. On a sadder note, according to experts climate changes might turn Greenland greener by the year 2100, when swaths of verdant forest could be covering much of its land surface because of the raising temperatures. . Greenland is the place to go to explore the Arctic and enjoy the Northern LightsThe Arctic Circle Trail extends up to 200 kilometers from the edge of the ice cap to the angling town of Sisimiut, on Greenland’s the West coast. From June to September it is usually free of snow and offers a truly spectacular hike. As for the Aurora Borealis, it is enjoyable all across the island from December through February, when the nights are clear and the biggest light show on earth gives its very best. . You can have a bath in GreenlandGreenland is notoriously scattered with hot springs, yet not all of them are warm enough to bathe in. The uninhabited island of Uunartoq, in South Greenland, is home to three naturally heated springs which run together to a small stone-dammed pool where you can lie in the hot water and enjoy the view on the surrounding mountain peaks and drifting icebergs. . Greenland has a very modern and cosmopolitan capitalDespite being one of the smallest capital cities in the world, Nuuk is on its way to becoming the Nordic culture capital, as well as the northernmost. Inhabited by Greenlander and Danes, this amazing city has managed to create an amazing cultural mixture that ranges from the of traditional local culture to the most diverse contemporary creative expressions such as street art, futuristic architecture, new Nordic cuisine and craft beer. For more info: Visit Greenland 

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11.24.2017

While Italy has a superbly convenient national train system, road tripping allows for freedom and plenty of ease for traveling between destinations, especially if you have luggage and/or plan on shopping (don’t deny it). With this freedom comes flexibility to take as long as you want in any city or town to soak everything in. Here are a couple of tips for foreigners looking to take on Italy in the slow life way. If you want to hop from city to city, it’s much faster to take high speed trains and way less stressful. While Italian highways are easy to navigate (although tolls are expensive), driving in cities is very hectic. A direct quote from a Manhattan native who recently drove through parts of northern Italy says it all- “after this trip, I’ll never complain about driving in New York City again”. Things that many foreigners will find strange include but are not limited to: the apparent lack of lanes painted on the road and the fact that the traffic lights are only at the crosswalk on your side of the intersection, so if you pull up too far at a red light, you’re completely at the mercy of those honking their horns behind you (which will be everyone) as you’ll no longer be able to see when the light turns green. Just because there are a fraction of the driving rules as there are in the UK or the US for example, doesn’t mean you should be put off. It’s actually far more dangerous to be a timid driver than it is to be confident. All you need to know is that no one else is following any rules either, so if you can drive with confidence, you’ll fit right in. Assuming that the above applies to you, here’s what you need to know to make the most out of your self-assuredness. Always Take The Scenic RouteSince you have a car, you might as well make the most of it. A drive through Tuscany, the Dolomites, or along the Amalfi Coast is always a good idea. Always Have An Alternate PlanWe say “alternate” rather than “backup”, because backup plan implies that it’s second best. We say alternate instead because a last minute change in your original plan means that your alternate plan will be full of spontaneity and giving you an unexpectedly great time. For example, when in Florence and The Uffizi goes on strike the day of your reservation, and then you try to go to Boboli Gardens to find out it’s closed for “winter hours” (which isn’t stated on their website or any signs at the park) you’ll be wishing you had a backup plan. (As you can tell this might be based on personal experience.) That Being Said…Don’t micromanage your time. Because things are likely to close at unexpected times, don’t let it ruin your plan for the day. Just adjust what you want to do and try to see that sight the next day. This goes back to always having an alternate activity in mind. Welcome to Italy! As long as you’re flexible you’ll have a wonderful time. Plan To Spend More Time In Each Location Than You Think You NeedSee above. It’s inevitable that once you spend a day or two in any new city that you’ll discover more things that you want to do. This is especially true in a country with so much history. Having plenty of extra time means that you don’t have to rush or be so diligent about your schedule, meaning you can have a more leisurely (read: authentic) Italian experience.