What’s New in Tokyo? – Summer 2018 Edition

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It’s summer in Tokyo (along with half of the globe), and there are new attractions popping up all over the place in this bustle-and-whirlwind of a city. Here are some exciting events to check out in Japan’s busiest streets. (Courtesy of GoTokyo.org)

UPCOMING SUMMER EVENTS IN TOKYO

Hozuki Bazaar in Senso-ji and Asagao (Morning Glory) Flower Festival in Shingen-ji

The hozuki or “Chinese Lantern” is a symbol of early summer and the morning glory a symbol of midsummer. Both plants have festivals dedicated to them: the Hozuki Bazaar around Senso-ji in Asakusa held on July 9th and 10th and the Asagao Matsuri or Morning Glory Flower Festival in Shingen-ji, around Iriya, Kishimonjin held on July 6th, 7th and 8th. These two summer markets with their long histories are excellent ways to enjoy the season.

Borderless Art – Digital Art Museum by MORI Building and teamLab

The art collective teamLab and the urban developer MORI Building are teaming up this summer to open a Digital Art Museum in Odaiba. This museum’s first permanent exhibitions will be provided by teamLab. The exhibition is aimed at bridging the boundaries and encouraging interaction between art and its audience. As digital technologies continue to provide artists with more and more freedom, art itself is becoming borderless.

TOKYO EDO WEEK 2018 – Traditional Culture Today

From July 26th through 29th, the Ueno Park Fountain Square will be transformed into old Edo for the third year in a row. Tokyo Edo Week is an event celebrating traditional Japanese culture, focusing on kimonos. In addition, visitors can enjoy various other traditional arts and crafts.

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Metro and Grutto Pass 2018

For those who want to visit as many museums in Tokyo as possible in a short space of time, this is a great and convenient pass to have. The “Metro and Grutto” pass 2018 comes with two 24-hour unlimited ride Tokyo Metro tickets and free or discounted admission to museums in Tokyo. Satisfy your curiosity and discover what Tokyo’s museums have to offer with this pass! (Buy at Tokyo Metro pass offices, details in the link.)

Summer Fireworks: Painting Tokyo’s Night Sky in Dazzling Colors

Since the Edo period, Tokyoites have been enthralled by the beautiful lights of fireworks in summer. One of the largest displays of fireworks in the nation takes place along the Sumida River with more than a million spectators attending on the last Saturday of July. However, Tokyo offers plenty more spots where visitors can see this unique summer treat.

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Yukata Shopping in Tokyo & Tanabata Festival

Summer in Japan runs from June to August. During this time, Tokyo’s department stores, malls and supermarkets are filled with yukatas, a casual kimono-like garment worn in summer. The latest yukata trend is always a popular topic among Tokyoites, who love to wear yukata when going out, regardless of gender or age. Are you surprised that something as traditional as yukata can be so trendy and chic even today?

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Bonsai in Edogawa-ku

Kunio Kobayashi has refined the art of making Bonsai for more than four decades. He is known for his unique “Aji no aru Bonsai” (good taste Bonsai) style, which favors harsh lines suggesting the influence of natural elements on the tree, such as the rain, the wind or the snow . Mr. Kobayashi runs the SHUNKAEN Bonsai Museum in Edogawa-ku, Tokyo, a place that not only offers an exquisite exhibition of his acclaimed Bonsai, he also offers all sorts of unique experiences for international visitors wishing to get in touch with Japanese culture, as well as formal training in the art of Bonsai. SHUNKAEN BONSAI MUSEUM

MORE ON JAPAN — 

Japan – Asia

Springtime in Japan

Wittravel Agent Pam’s photos

20 Top Things to Do in Tokyo

10 Coolest Places to check out in 2018

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Travel News This Week: Kilauea Updates

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Passengers Stuck In Shrunken Lavatories On American Airlines

The London Times reports executives face suggestions that they have gone too far in their attempt to keep hold of customers. Some passengers, in fact, were said to be struggling to extricate themselves from the loos. Flight attendants complained that the sinks were so small they could wash only one hand at a time. In the fierce fight to offer cheap flights to more of the traveling public, American Airlines has trimmed the space between rows and shrunk its lavatory cubicles to pack in more seats. Complaints that the cubicles were trapping unsuspecting travelers were first raised by Zach Honig, an editor for the website The Points Guy, who crammed into one of the airline’s new Boeing 737 MAX planes for a flight from New York to Miami.

Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano: What travelers to the Big Island need to know

  1. Yes, it’s still safe and there are many things to do, from friendly manta rays to snorkeling in Kailua-Kona… Read the full list at Hawaii Magazine.

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Honolulu’s USS Arizona Memorial is closed indefinitely 

Built in 1962 to honor the 1,177 sailors and marines who died aboard the USS Arizona during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Memorial has closed until further notice. Concerns began when a transportation operator reported cracks on the exterior. The Memorial hosts 4-5,000 visitors daily. The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center remains open for business, where the guests can watch the documentary film and take a harbor tour of Battleship Row near the USS Arizona Memorial. Bookstores, gift shops, Pearl Harbor museums, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park, and the Pacific Aviation Museum are still open. 

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NOAA’s Predictions For 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season

What will the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season bring? That’s the question everyone’s asking after last year saw 17 named storms. Ten of those storms became hurricanes, including six major hurricanes, making 2017 the seventh-most active season since 1851, based on the Accumulated Cyclone Energy index. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted a near- or above-normal Atlantic hurricane season for 2018. It has determined a 70% likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of at least 35 mph) of which five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one to four major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher). Last year, the NOAA predicted an above-normal season with a likelihood of up to 17 named storms. “With the advances made in hardware and computing over the course of the last year, the ability of NOAA scientists to both predict the path of storms and warn Americans who may find themselves in harm’s way is unprecedented,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said according to the NOAA’s prediction. “The devastating hurricane season of 2017 demonstrated the necessity for prompt and accurate hurricane forecasts.”

Emerald Waterways To Offer Nile River Cruise Sailings In 2019 and 2020

Emerald Waterways will begin Nile River cruises in February 2019, offering two different itineraries. The line has two cruise tour options planned, with seven sailings in 2019 and eight in 2020. The 10-night Egypt and Nile cruise tour spends five nights on MS Hamees, a chartered 142-passenger ship owned by Movenpick, as well as four nights in Cairo. The 15-night Egypt and Nile River cruise tour adds time in Jordan, with visits to Amman, Petra and the Dead Sea. The tours encompass the major sights of Egypt, including the Pyramids of Giza, Luxor’s Valley of the Kings and temples on the west bank, Abu Simbel and Aswan. The ship, which has been newly refurbished, has a main restaurant with international and local options at meals, as well as a sun deck with a swimming pool. The ship also has its own private dock in Luxor. After many years of dormancy, Nile River sailings have been making a comeback. Viking River Cruises has invested in the region with a new ship, Viking Ra, debuting this year. Other river lines that offer cruise tours on the Nile include Uniworld, Vantage and Emerald Waterways’ sister company Scenic. Meanwhile, Emerald Waterways continues to expand. The line debuted in 2014 and quickly grew to seven ships in Europe and one ship on the Mekong. Emerald Waterways recently announced that it will be offering yacht-style cruises on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast in 2019 on the 36-passenger Adriatic Princess II.

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2018: The Baltic States Centennial

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8 Facts You Didn’t Know About the Baltics

In 2018, the Baltic States — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania — are celebrating their 100th Anniversary!

Naturally, there are plenty of awesome events, concerts and festivals to take place in the capitals—Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, as well as smaller towns like Klaipeda.

The Baltic States were first born in 1918, when they declared their independence as sovereign nations. Over the century, they were occupied first by Nazi Germany and then nearly 50 years by the Soviet Union. Declaring their independence in 1990, each country has gone through its own growing pains to become the fascinating and beautiful nations today in their own right.

Aušros Vartai #ausrosvartai #vilnius #lithuania #gateofdawn #ourladyofthegateofdawn

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1. Pope Francis will pay a visit

The charismatic and popular Pope Francis will drop by this September. The predominant Roman Catholics in the region are in Lithuania, with 77% belonging to the church as per a recent census.

2. It’s literally the Heart of Europe

According to theFrench National Geographic Institute, the one and only geographical central point of Europe is located in Lithuania, 26 km north of Vilnius.

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3. Lithuanians are obsessed with Basketball

Okay, I lied—most Lithuanians’ religion is basketball. Where did it all begin? It all started when Lithuanian Americans launched the men’s national basketball team in the 1930s. When they won the EuroBasket tournaments in 1937 and 1939, this solidified the country’s devotion to the sport.

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4. Due to the aforementioned history, all three states have two Independence Days.

The first day is the one declared after WWI. The second one was the day declared after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

5. Latvian Crocodile Dundee

Latvia has their own hero they claim as their favorite tried-and-true adventurer. Arvīds Blūmentāls was a Latvian explorer who allegedly killed more than 10,000 crocodiles.

6. The Baltic Way isn’t a road.

On August 23, 1989, around 2 million people joined hands in peaceful protest against Soviet occupation, in a line that extended from Lithuania all the way to Estonia. The Baltic Way was about 600 km (370 miles!)

7. Sweet curd cheese & other goodies

There are many peculiar and tasty foods around the Baltics, but one often missed by tourists are the bars of Kurd smothered in chocolate, nuts, caramel, and fruit. Other favorites spied all around the Baltics are dark rye bread, blood sausage, kefir, and potato pancakes.

☀️ Time is precious, waste it wisely ☀️

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8. Estonia’s Beauties

Estonia is world-famous for its breathless natural beauty. After all, half the country is covered in woodland. Bogs and mires, primal forests with wolves and lynxes, and 2,000 islands offer up testimony to this reputation.

Join the Baltic States 100th Year Celebrations!

Check out the events programs here:

https://www.ev100.ee/en

http://lv100.lv/en/

http://www.lietuva.lt/100/en

Events in the US here:

http://www.latvia100usa.org

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Photos: Claudia in Mexico

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Happy Memorial Day Weekend All!

Today we’re basking in the sunlight and dreaming of far-off tropical locales…. and that means flipping through gorgeous vacay photos!

Last year our accountant Claudia took a well-deserved trip with her family to Mexico: here are her pics!

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Can’t beat the view!

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One of Mexico’s beautiful cenotes

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Chichen Itza

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Cathedral of San Servacio

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Time to try out your sea legs!

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Ideal beach conditions

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When’s the last time you saw such clear waters?

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Of course, the sunset

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Can’t miss the breathtaking sunset

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Poolside means cocktails and swim-up bars

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Sun, palm trees, family, what more do you need?

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Talk about your unforgettable photos!

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Swimming with the dolphins

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“Muchas Gracias! Come back next year!”

 

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Travel News: France gets a Flying Taxi

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Futuristic ‘Flying’ Taxi Takes To The River Seine in Paris 

A French company aiming to beat commuter gridlock with futuristic water vehicles has tested its flagship ‘flying’ SeaBubbles taxi cab on the River Seine. Following a wrangle with authorities last year, which saw testing moved to Switzerland, the tech firm finally took to the water in the French capital. The SeaBubbles is part marine-machine and part avian-car, with the bizarre-looking vehicle capable of rising 70 cm above the water. Its doors are like miniature gull wings, while it is propelled by an electric battery system. The vision behind the invention is to open up waterways to eco-transport and reduce pollution caused by the millions of cars on the planet. “When the Bubble reaches 10 km/h, it rises and begins to fly, avoiding seasickness, sudden movements or rolling waves,” the company states. “Once the flight is over, the Bubble slows down, lands on the surface of the water to dock, allowing passengers to get out.” Last week a SeaBubbles taxi finally took another step towards being a functioning feature of the French city.

Special Tropical Weather Outlook For the North Atlantic, Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico 

A broad surface low centered near the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico is producing widespread, but disorganized, shower and thunderstorm activity. Environmental conditions are forecast to become more conducive for development, and a subtropical or tropical depression or storm is likely to form during the weekend over the eastern or central Gulf of Mexico. An Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft is scheduled to investigate the disturbance this afternoon, if necessary. Locally heavy rainfall is forecast across western Cuba and over much of Florida and the northern Gulf Coast into early next week. 

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Airlines Prepare For An Expected Record Number Of Summer Passengers 

LA Times reports airlines are preparing for an expected record number of summer passengers. If you plan to fly on vacation this summer, prepare for unprecedented crowds at the airport. A record 246.1 million passengers are expected to fly during the season, a 3.7% increase over a record set last year, according to Airlines for America, a trade group for the nation’s biggest airlines. The Transportation Security Administration also predicts a record number of air travelers at airport screening lines from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. The TSA expects to screen an average of 2.6 million passengers per day this summer, up from an average of 2 million passengers throughout the year. Both the airlines and the TSA say they are prepared for the surge in air travelers, which the trade association has accurately predicted before. The TSA said it has increased staffing by more than 600 screening officers since the start of the year and expects to add an additional 1,000 officers before the peak of the summer travel season.  

Viking Jupiter Floated Out At Fincantieri

The Viking Jupiter, the sixth ocean cruise ship which Fincantieri is building for Viking, was floated out at Fincantieri’s Ancona shipyard ahead of its 2019 delivery. The coin ceremony was hosted by Godmother Sissel Kyrkjebø, an accomplished Norwegian singer. The ceremony was attended for the shipowner by Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking, while Fincantieri was represented by Giovanni Stecconi, director of the shipyard. It is the sixth ship for Viking, following the Star, Sea, Sky and Sun, which are in service, and the Orion which is launching this year. 

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Iceland’s Top Attraction Finally Has a Luxury Hotel 

Travel and Leisure reports on the long-awaited Retreat at Blue Lagoon Iceland which finally opened its doors. Blue Lagoon is a world famous, manmade geothermal spa just a 30-minute drive from Reykjavik. The Retreat, a 62-suite luxury hotel within the complex, is finally welcoming travelers, and it’s poised to be a game-changer for both the Blue Lagoon and Iceland. The contemporary rooms all offer floor-to-ceiling windows so that travelers can best take in the destination’s sweeping landscapes. The suites on the lower level have private terraces facing the lava fields and surrounding waters. A few even offer direct access to the lagoon itself. The Retreat Spa offers a slew of amenities: a steam room, in-water massages, a cold well, and a full-service restaurant serving sushi, shots of thyme and crowberry, and cold-pressed beetroot juice. Smoothies use skyr, a local yogurt, alongside almond, honey, and chia. Spa guests at the Retreat can participate in a Blue Lagoon Ritual, whereby guests enter a series of interconnected rooms and cover their bodies with healing silica, algae, and minerals. Beyond the lagoon, complimentary yoga classes are also available, as are guided hikes and Northern Lights viewing tours. Though Iceland restaurants are no less impressive, focusing on farm-to-table cuisine and innovative technique just like the rest of Northern Europe. Moss Restaurant at the Retreat highlights the area’s natural bounty: scallops from the west, reindeer sourced from the east, and fresh lobster and cod from the south. Built on an 800-year-old lava flow on the Reykjanes Peninsula, the Blue Lagoon complex also has another 35-room hotel, Silica Hotel, in addition to the Retreat and public bathing area. The facilities were recently expanded and renovated to accommodate all the added visitors, which now number over one million. 

Roma Cruise Terminal Has Unveiled Its New Cruise Terminal: Terminal Amerigo Vespucci 

Cruise Industry News reports The new terminal covers 11,000 square meters and is one of the largest in Europe and marks an important milestone for the company jointly owned by Costa, MSC and Royal Caribbean Cruises, according to a statement. The terminal was build at a cost of 20 million Euros, and is able to handle the latest large ships. The building includes passenger and luggage control facilities at the ground floor. A crew room, also situated in the building’s atrium, will facilitate the ships’ crew reception process. Proceeding from the atrium to the first floor, passengers will be welcomed in a check-in area with 60 counters that can be doubled to 120 if necessary. Close to 90 monitors in the check-in area will keep passengers updated on their check-in status as well as itinerary.

Disney Appeals To Luxury Set With Pricey Behind-the-Scenes Tours

Bloomberg reports a new, three-night offering (from $2,129 per person) by group travel outfitter Adventures by Disney, is the latest way to open up the gates of the Happiest Place on Earth. (The company typically takes families to such global locations as Italy or Japan, rather than to the parks themselves.) It debuted with a slew of long-standing VIP opportunities, skip-the-line access, personal tour guides, as well as never-seen-before amenities. Most notable among them: unprecedented access to “backstage” locations, such as Walt Disney’s apartment and Walt Disney Imagineering.

How to Get a Sneak Peek at Disney’s Future Park Attractions

Being granted entry to Walt Disney Imagineering, the studios in which all the rides and experiences for the company’s global theme parks are created, has typically been the Disney equivalent of earning top-level clearance at the Pentagon. Even Imagineers need special “camera” passes to take photographs with their phones in certain areas of the building that Adventures by Disney is opening up to its groups. On a recent trip, the highlight was a conversation with artists working on the forthcoming Frozen-themed land that will open by 2023 at Hong Kong Disneyland. and possibly in Paris after that. No design details or attractions have been publicly announced for that project, but travelers were able to see scale models that hinted at a bobsled-style roller coaster, a traditional Nordic village, Elsa’s ice palace, and a Frozen-themed confectionery. Even members of Disney’s trusted inner circle are unlikely to see these designs for years. For real Disney die-hards, the Imagineering tour also offers a fun, retrospective look at how far the company’s attractions have come. On display are pieces that most people have never had a chance to see, such as the molds that were used to create the audio-animatronic pirates in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride or the original statuettes from Snow White’s Grotto. They’re vestiges of a time when ride designers were more sculptors than robotics wizards. A dedicated team will escort you into secret locations, including Walt Disney’s private, Victorian-themed apartment hidden above the Main Street Fire Station. (Among the curiosities on display are the separate pull-out couches on which Walt and his wife Lillian sometimes slept.) A real-life ride on Radiator Springs Racers includes a lesson on the complex systems that magically move the Cars-themed ride’s anthropomorphized automobiles through the attraction-and glimpses of the “Hidden Mickeys” underneath their hoods. 

United Airlines Unveils Exclusive Private Suite Experience In Los Angeles

United is going private at Los Angeles International Airport. That’s private as in The Private Suite, with which United announced a new relationship. The partnership will offer certain of the Chicago-based airline’s customers access to a newly-built private terminal at LAX. United passengers who purchase access to the terminal will have private and personalized check-in and baggage handling, as well as private screening by the Transportation Security Administration and the US Customs and Border Protection officers. United customers using the Private Suite terminal will be driven across the airfield at LAX in BMW 7-Series sedans directly to or from their waiting aircraft. Before being driven directly to or from their waiting aircraft, passengers with Private Suite access flying to or from select destinations on United, including New York/Newark, London, Melbourne, Sydney and Shanghai, will be able to relax in a United-branded lounge in the facility that includes individual suites and restrooms and a full bar and food service. Access to The Private Suite will be included in certain business-class fares. 

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London Walking Tours with Context Travel

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Context Travel – Private Guides and (Very) Small Group Tours for the Intellectually Curious Traveler

The Royal Wedding is over but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy London in all its glory.

One of our favorite walking tour experts, Context Travel, offers several awesome historical and foodie tours around the British capital.

One of the key reasons we enjoy Context Travel is that their tours are all led by qualified docents, Ph.D.-level scholars of history, art and archaeology. Forget the boring introductions–discover in-depth perspectives that go beyond the guidebook. 

Here are just some of the tours to check out this summer:

London Walking Tours with Context Travel

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1. Royal Life

The world’s attention descended upon London this past weekend as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot. It was a wedding that defied many royal traditions, from Markle’s country of origin, to its location at Windsor Castle, to the dearth of fruitcake at the reception (Gasp!). 

How did these rules become so codified, and what is the significance of their recent breaking? Get an “intellectually curious” take on royal tradition—be it marriage on Context Travel’s Westminster Abbey Tour, murder on their Tower of London Tour, or a full overview on their Full Day Royal Tour (8 hours of monarchy glory). 

2. Tate Britain

Though often overlooked by visitors, some have argued that Britain’s heart and soul resides in the stately Tate Britain Museum. Dive right in with Context Travel’s art historian and explore J.M.W. Turner’s sublime seascapes and Francis Bacon’s contortions.

Read: Why a visit to this cultural treasure is a must for any visitor. 

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3. The King’s Sport

This July, London welcomes the return of Wimbledon, but year-round there’s another royally curious sport upstream the River Thames. The week following the tournament, the Real Tennis Champions Trophy returns to Hampton Court Palace, in which world-famous players descend to play an ancient game of, shall we say, “real tennis.” Real tennis, is not your grandma’s racket sport. “Real tennis,” enjoyed by the likes of Charles II, William III, and even Prince Albert, differs significantly from its modern counterpart, and can only be played on one of 50 courts remaining in the world.

4. Shakespeare in London

What better place to celebrate the Bard than the city where his plays excelled? Behind the modern sprawl of London lies the secret history of the theatre. During this London Theater Tour,you’ll reconstruct London’s historic stages, and come to understand the social and artistic forces that were born here and that still underpin entertainment in the western world. You’ll explore in-depth the influence of one William Shakespeare, whose works, staged in London, continue to resonate throughout the world today.

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5. Pubs, Pubs and More Pubs

Pubs and beer are symbols of the best of Britain, where you can gorge yoruself on fish, chips, and brews. This 3-hour London Beer and Brewery Tour is all about ample tastings at various pubs and breweries located in the South Bank London area. Led by a trained food anthropologist specializing in beer and brewing, you’ll focus on the history of brewing in London, highlighting beer’s evolution from a dietary staple, to the almost lost tradition of cask ales, to today’s renaissance of craft beer and brewing.

For more awesome London tours or an awesome travel agent to book your trip to Britain this year, give us a call at 503-224-0180 or email inquiry@wittravel.com. Cheers!

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Lindblad Expeditions to Alaska

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This Week, WIT Agent Gavi is joining a Lindblad Expeditions Cruise to Alaska. It’s a 5-night cruise to discover the unique terrain, oceanography and biology of our northernmost state. As with all Lindblad Expeditions, the cruise will be joined by seasoned and enthusiastic naturalists who will add a real experiential flair to the journey. Their 62-guest ships offer a perfect base for exploration into narrow channels and secluded coves.

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More Sailings with Lindblad

15-Day British/Irish Cruise with Lindblad Expeditions

Island Series: Svalbard

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Itinerary

Recommended to fly to Sitka a day early, so you can hike the Totem Trail or Raptor Rehabilitation Center. The cruise embarks from Sitka and maneuvers around the mirror-calm bays of Baranof or Chicagof Islands. Next, explore the Icy Strait and the Inian Islands, famous for their abundance of Steller sea lions and quiet kayaking options. Day 4 is a stop in Haines, the adventure capital of Alaska, with ample hikes, cycling, flightseeing excursions or rafting routes. Your penultimate day is spent in the beautiful Tracy Arm, where you can admire the glaciers from the boat or on land. Finally, disembark in downtown Juneau for a restful day before your flight home.

More about Lindblad’s Ships bound for Alaska.

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