Mar 162010
 
Kaufmann House, Palm Springs, CA
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The trends of the Palm Springs inland desert area’s real estate market mirror many of the trends in the larger national real estate market. The region’s home prices crashed with the onset of the U.S., and later world, recession, and have seen subsequent rises and falls in price throughout the period. Foreclosures rose and sales activity also has fallen.

Recent available statistics from the California Desert Association of Realtors showed the median price of single-family homes in December 2009 to be $172,320. That figure was up slightly from November’s price, and up 1.5% from a year earlier. The December median price of Palm Springs homes for sale was about $6,000 lower than the U.S. median price.

Palm Springs real estate still has much lower prices than the California average as well. The December median sales price for the state was almost $309,000, up from $304,500 in November.  There were 6,244 sales completed in January 2010, the most recent month for which figures are available. That figure was up 21% from December’s sales of 6,015 and it represented the highest monthly figure since June 2009.

Listings show that were were 469 homes for sale in December at or below the median price. In the association’s report, C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young said, “Home sales were unusually strong in December and were more consistent with peak season trends. Historically, the median price declines November through February and then rises in March. However, lean inventory, historically low interest rates, and incentives for home buyers have resulted in California’s housing market experiencing non-seasonal variations.”

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Aug 222009
 
Lincoln Center, New York. June 7, 2007.
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Everyone looks forward to having a vacation; after all, they mean rest, relaxation, and reconnections with your family and friends. If your vacation doesn’t go as planned, however, you may find some added stress. With a little planning, you’ll be able to minimize the chance of any problems occurring.

Preparing to travel with children

Traveling for children can be a joy because of their enthusiasm, but like anything, it has its stresses. It’s important you choose a vacation spot with your children in mind. It doesn’t mean you can only travel to family oriented destinations, as you can find a ton of things to do that children will definitely enjoy, such as Hawaii or New York City. Of course, these require more research and planning, as your children may not want to sit on the beach all day and may yearn for something more adventurous.

Preparing for overseas travel

From the galleries of Europe to the temples of Asia and the Australian outback, you’ll never run out of places to visit. Finding a new place to explore isn’t the problem, but getting there safely. Overseas vacations aren’t as easy as the movies, and require quite a bit of planning in order to be successful.

Traveling on a whim can be expensive, so be sure to look for tickets and other accommodations months before your planned vacation dates. This way, you’ll be able to find better rates on everything. It is also during this time that you make sure your passport is in order, as well as any visa issues.

Another component of travel is the vaccinations you may need, and the most common include Hepatitis A and B, Meningococcal, and rabies. These take 4-6 weeks to be fully active, so be sure to get them ahead of time. In fact, some destinations refuse entry to people who do not have a vaccination certificate.

Vacations can be expensive, so be sure your finances are in order before leaving. A good idea is to let your credit card company know you are traveling out of the country, or they may freeze your account due to out of character, and country, purchases, which can possibly leave you stranded far from home.

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Aug 222009
 
The Eiffel Tower and La Défense business distr...
Image via Wikipedia

While writing about different places to travel to across the, my appreciation for other cultures and people have deepened. Writing about these experiences not only helps me remember the trips, but helps to enhance my appreciation for my travels. The sights in other countries are often breathtaking, and with vast details embedded in the history, it’s impossible to fully grasp all of it from books. Sometimes, the best teacher is experience.

This article focuses on France, a republic in Western Europe which includes islands and territories in other locations scattered across the world. France is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, the English Channel and the North Sea. It is bordered by nine countries which include England, Spain, Belgium, Andorra, Luxembourg, Monaco, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

While the focus of this article is France, we will concentrate mostly on metropolitan France. The most populated cities in France are Paris, Nice, Strasbourg, Lyon, Versailles, Marseille, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Grenoble, and Aix-en-Provence.

Bordering the south of France are the French Alps in the east, separating it from Switzerland, and the Pyrenees which almost functions as a border between France and Spain. Northern and Western France have coastal plains and beaches that are very popular with visitors all over the world; however, the most popular beaches are those on the southern shore along the Mediterranean Sea.

Some major rivers of note are The Rhone, the Garonne, the Loire, and the Seine. Cruises down these rivers are another item you can add to your itinerary if you want to see France from that perspective. The beauty of the surrounding countryside is absolutely breathtaking.

France is a very old country and has drawn many people from many cultures to migrate here over the centuries. Celts, Roman Latins, Aquitanians, Franks, Burgundians, Vikings, and Visigoths have all came to this majestic land to create the culture we now call French culture.

As a country, France has continuously drawn different groups of people throughout the ages. Some of the visitors, and even settlers, include the Celts, Roman Romans, Aquitanians, Franks, Burgundians, Vikings, and Visigoths. Each of these cultures has impacted what we now call the French culture. Recently, the diversity of France has expanded, including the Jewish of Eastern Europe, Arabs, Berbers, Africans, Chinese, Belgians and more who have migrated to this country.

France is a great place to travel if you’re looking to brush up on your language skills and knowledge. Of course, French is the primary language, but a number of other languages are spoken here because of the vast diversity in culture throughout the population. The different dialects, or Patois, are spoken in different regions, such as Picard, Alsation, Occitan, Basque, Norman, Breton, Lorraine (a German dialect), Caribbean Creole, Gascon, Catalan, Franco-Provencal dialects, Corsican and Flemish. Languages foreign to France are also included, such as Arabian, Berber, Turkish, Vietnamese, Khmer and several African languages.

The regions of France you choose to travel through will determine the languages, dialects, and people you will encounter. The cultures and traditions through each region differ, but it’s because of these differences that makes going to France almost like a trip across the world.

Because of all the culture scattered throughout France, you can be sure that there are tons of sights and places to visit. Art in France is very diverse and valued, ranging from the prehistoric to the medieval and modern. There are also Renaissance, Mannerism, Baroque, Classicism, and Rococo style art pieces as well. Many galleries also display modern art.

With 28 museums and 5000 art galleries, Paris is certainly France’s center of art. Along with the architecture, Paris is home to a ton of wonders, including the Gothic cathedrals and Eiffel Tower. Be sure to visit the Churches of Chatres, as there are tons of design ingenuities here.

What about the food? Well, we all know food is one of the reasons to visit France. There are many types of cuisine to be tasted while you travel through France. Both Provincial and Haute Cuisine are to be experienced to be believed. Traveling to France for that experience is so much better than just going to your local French restaurant, even though most of the chefs that graduate any culinary school were taught French Cuisine, which is considered to have influenced all western cooking.

French cuisine is part of the package when traveling to France, as you can only provincial and haute cuisine. After all, it is said that French cuisine influenced all of western cooking. Some of the foods you may eat are of course French breads, soufflés, Balnquette de vaeu, Steak au poivre, Boeuf a la mode,Pot-au-feu, Coq au Vin, Lamb Navarin, and of course cheese. With an assortment of delectable culinary treats, you’ll never go hungry.

Wine-tasting is a must in order to consider your trip to France complete. There are many wine-tasting tours and walks; in fact, you can even plan your trip around wine tasting. Just search the internet on wine tours through France and a wide array of options will be presented to you.

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Aug 222009
 
Cape Town - South Africa
Image by nicholas macgowan via Flickr

Africa is perhaps one of the most alluring destinations on your travel itinerary. While there are 43 countries on the African continent, this article is geared towards preparation for traveling to South Africa.

Prior to leaving for South Africa, it’s important you obtain a visa, with most nationalities receiving up to 3 months entry on arrival. Be sure to check with your travel agent if you need to pre-arrange a visa. South Africa’s international airports are located in Cape Town and Johannesburg, and many major cities offer direct flights to these airports.

Be sure you have 2 back-to-back blank pages in your passport which should be valid for at least 6 months. If not, you may be sent back. You may also be sent back for not having a return ticket. In the case that you need to pick up a ticket at the airport, have your details, such as flight number, handy so that you will not be met with increased suspicion. Damaged passports raise suspicion and may hinder your entry.

Now that you’re aware of the necessary preparations, the next step is learning about your travel destination. South Africa is on Africa’s southern tip, and is surrounded by Namibia, Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe. An interesting fact is that South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho. The Atlantic and Indian Oceans border this country, providing many beach areas for tourists. A wide variety of hotels offer beach services for you, and there are tons of camps and outings that you can plan on the beach.

On South Africa’s eastern shores, you’ll find many fishing and diving opportunities. The western coast holds some interesting surprises, as you may find penguins, whales, and seals frolicking in the waters. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can be lowered in a cage by the water, and look at great white sharks up close and personal.

South Africa’s terrain is mostly mountainous or scrubland. The Kalahari Desert lies in this country’s northwestern region and traveling from the most remote parts to the more populated regions are beautiful. Within the south alone, you’ll find different climate types accompanied by flora and fauna unique to each region. In the southeast, for example, you’ll find a tropical climate; while in the southwest, you’ll find a Mediterranean climate. If you’re traveling to the southwest, be prepared for wet winter months and dry summer months. You may need a windbreaker or rain gear depending on when you choose to travel.

While in South Africa, be sure to see the Kaapval Craton, a rock formation that is dated at about 2.6 billion years old. This rock contains some of the world’s richest minerals, such as gold, platinum and diamonds.

A hiking trip up to Table Mountain is a great experience if you visit Capetown. The hike takes about two and a half hours. There are also several paths that are easier than the hike up Table Mountain, that can reward you with great views as well. Then there is always the ever-popular cable-car that avoids the hiking and walking altogether. I know my choice.

Another place to visit is Table Mountain, which has a hiking trail that lasts 2½ hours hike. There are a number of paths ranging in difficulty on this mountain allowing you access to some of South Africa’s best views. On the other side of Table Mountain is the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which has many lovely plants and flowers. This is one of the world’s most beautiful gardens as well as some very unique plant species.

History buffs will be particularly thrilled by the information available here, and will witness the sites were some people had to live under the Apartheid. It is advisable to take a tour through these townships as driving through them alone can be dangerous.

Adventuring to all these places will work up an appetite, and you’ll have tons to eat, especially if you like meat. Meat is the primary ingredient in many of the dishes here. To accompany your dishes are fine South African wines.

Speaking the language is an important part of your traveling experience. The languages spoken here are Afikaans, Xhosa, zulu, venda, swati, Tswana, Nedebele, Tsonga, southern and northern Sotho, and of course, English. You may get confused while traveling here, as each language has a unique name for South America.

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Aug 222009
 
Sunset in Cabo San Lucas
Image via Wikipedia

Cabo san Lucas is a favored destination for people around the world, and is especially known for its great sport fishing in Marlin Alley. There are many attractions and sites, including some of the world’s best whale watching. Even if you’re just looking to soak up the sun, this is definitely the place to visit.

Cabo san Lucas was once a very inaccessible vacation spot, as the most elite were the only ones who were able to visit. With today’s abundance of international airports and flights, traveling to Cabo is no longer a journey. It once had a few hotels, but this number has grown to accommodate the rising count of tourists visiting the area. These hotels are designed for any kind of tourist, from those traveling on a budget to others looking for a luxury vacation.

This town is on Baja California’s southern shore, specifically at the intersection of the Carretera Transpeninsula and the Southern Cape Highway. Its location makes it an ideal place for driving and cycling. You’ll find a wide range of tourists, from excited college kids to high-rolling golfers and sport fishers.

The streets have no numbers in Cabo san Lucas, so finding something you want to do or see on the city streets is no easy task. You won’t have too much trouble navigating around Cabo san Lucas as the people are friendly and more than willing to help out any wandering tourists.

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Aug 052009
 
Las Vegas Strip
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Census statistics indicate that family size has been decreasing steadily over that last several decades. Ironically, this phenomena is accompanied by a seemingly counter-intuitive trend towards making commodities more family or child friendly. For example, the Las Vegas Strip, formerly the center of vice and sin for North America, has been undergoing a steady transformation to being a more family friendly destination, while cruise lines such as Carnival specifically target the family demographic with certain cruises and special offers. Not surprisingly, this trend has permeated the service industry, leading to the development and introduction of family friendly hotels, which are intended to serve groups with small children more efficiently than a regular hotel.

Family Hotels are a great option when you’re travelling with children of any age, whether infants or teenagers. On a certain level, they can be considered a reactionary movement initiated to counter adults-only motels and hotels, which attempt to provide a more peaceful atmosphere for older members of the population. By patronizing a family friendly hotel, you are making a positive difference on two levels. First of all, you’re providing your family with accommodations that were designed or remodeled specifically for children, and second you’re taking the concerns of older guests into consideration by self-selecting into the most appropriate rooms.

The extra considerations provided by family hotels are both simple and more complex in nature. For example, one great reason to consider a family hotel is the availability of rooms with cribs and/or bassinets for infants, as well as additional beds or cots for older children. The more subtle changes can include electric socket protectors, safety cords on the windows, and even specially designed toilet seats. Some of the best family hotels provide entire rooms built around a single theme, such as a safari, a space trip, or a sea voyage. Family friendly hotels also offer more common amenities such as pools, vending machines, and a concierge.

Interestingly, family friendly hotels are a great way to facilitate dates and couples nights out. This is because family hotels often offer baby sitting services for the benefit of parents. Child watching programs are yet another benefit of family friendly hotels, which often eliminate more adult-oriented entertainment options such as bars in order to focus resources on more family friendly programs. Some family hotels even offer fully featured playgrounds and other facilities, allowing both children and parents to have a great time.

There are entire websites devoted to providing information about family friendly hotels, just like there are internet resources for pet friendly and adults-only facilities. These hotels are often attached to restaurants with menus designed specifically to suit the highly picky and selective eating habits of children. There are literally thousands of child and family friendly hotels throughout the United States, ensuring that regardless of where you’re planning to vacation there will be a family hotel nearby. Many family hotels are located near and even run by popular corporations such as Disney.

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