Shakespeare and More in London
Rivaled only by New York for the title of “world’s best theater city,” London is an ideal place to see a stage play.
For starters, go to Shakespeare’s Globe, a meticulously designed replica of the venue where the world’s most-produced playwright premiered many of his works. Shakespeare’s Globe sits along the River Thames, near the Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge. Traditional construction materials — including a thatch roof — create a space so reminiscent of the 17th century, you’ll exit conversing in iambic pentameter.
To delve deeper into William Shakespeare’s work and life, we recommend a day trip to his hometown. In Stratford-upon-Avon, visit several homes in which Shakespeare and his family members lived, and Holy Trinity Church, where the playwright and his wife are buried. The lovely countryside setting is also ideal for a peaceful stroll or a leisurely excursion in a rented gondola or rowboat. Catch a local performance by the renowned Royal Shakespeare Company, as well.
Back in the big city — especially in the West End — theatrical fare ranges from crowd-pleasing comedies to intimate, psychological dramas. Fabled stages include those of Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (London’s oldest theater) and the Old Vic, which has hosted such high-caliber talents as Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith and Kevin Spacey. Arrive early to appreciate the showplaces’ resplendent interiors, decked out in gold leaf, rich woodwork and shimmering chandeliers. Here’s a tip: If you want to see a sold-out show, ask the box office about “day seats.” Many theaters release a block of tickets on the day of each performance. Often, they’re sold at a discounted price and put you in the front row!
Post-Play at the Pubs
After the final curtain, there’s no better place for a post-play discussion than a public house (yes, that’s “pub” for short). I’m partial to those that have stood the test of time, serving up pints for several centuries. Among the city’s oldest are the Lamb & Flag, the Olde Cheshire Cheese, and the George Inn.
Finally, if you’re also drawn to political theater, why not pop in at Parliament? From public galleries, you can watch the famously combative governing body square off over issues of the day. The debates can be as contentious and arresting as anything Shakespeare concocted.
Paris with Kids: Left Bank
When planning a trip to Paris, most people think of romantic couples escapes, but there are plenty of places to visit in Paris with kids! Take the family to one or more of the below places on the left bank and you’ll discover Paris as a family destination:
Go in the early morning to see the colorful produce market. Stop in a café for hot chocolate or coffee and a chocolate croissant.
Arènes de Lutèce
This Roman amphitheater of Lutetia was used for burials in the fourth century. Between Rue Monge and Rue de Navarre. The kids can pretend they are Roman gladiators!
Musée de la Poupée (Doll Museum)
A charming museum filled with handmade dolls from the mid-nineteenth century. See French dolls as well as dolls from around the world. It’s a dream come true for the little doll(s) in your life.
Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens)
Visit this lush 60 acres of greenery. Anchored by the Luxembourg Palace (now home to the French Senate) on one end, there are formal gardens, wide avenues and a large octagonal pool where the kids can float rented toy boats. There are also tennis courts, a horseback riding school and an open air café for refreshments.
Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Gardens)
Here you will find beautiful gardens accompanied by a zoo. Find a natural history museum here as well.
Grevin Museum (Waxwork Museum)
Like Madame Tussaud’s in London, here you will see historical settings, Louis XIV at Versailles, distorting mirrors, shows by live magicians and wax figures of famous celebrities.
Musée de la Monnaie (Money Museum)
Here the kids will see all kinds of coins, displayed in vertical glass cases to see both sides. This was a former mint until 1973. There is workshop where you can now see medallions being created.
Key West’s Sunset Celebration
Every night in Key West there is a gathering of people that has been taking place since the 1960’s. About two hours before sunset, people flock to Mallory Square for what is known as the “Sunset Celebration”.
Beginning in the late afternoon, kiosks, stands and performers start setting up their goods to hawk for the locals and tourists that come by the hundreds and sometimes even thousands to see the fun interesting people here. If a cruise ship is in town at the dock, it can be very crowded, so we try and stay away if a ship is in and go when it’s a little less chaotic.
Though it’s the sunset that’s supposed to be the reason people come to Mallory Square, it’s the entertainment that has made it so popular. Where else can you see a man with trained house cats, jugglers, magicians and musicians all for free (well, they do accept tips). If you want to know your future, sit down and have your palm read or visit at psychic. There are clowns and banjo players, knife throwers and Cleo the tightrope walking Golden Retriever. Many of these performers have made Key West their home and have been around for years, becoming staples of the Sunset Celebration entertainment.
So if you’re in Key West before sunset, head over to Mallory Square and get in on the fun!
Mexico’s Mayan Ruins
Whenever I have friends traveling south of the border, I recommend spending at least one day visiting the Mayan ruins of Cancun. These ancient treasures provide a window into Mexico’s rich past and cultural foundations, and are a signature attraction of the area. If this sounds like something for you, there are a few different options to choose from which can fit any timeline, budget or physical abilities – making it a win-win attraction for history buffs.
Two hours south of Cancun, Chichen Itza is said to be the largest set of excavated ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula. The main attraction here is the large pyramid, El Castillo. Though revelers are no longer able to climb this giant icon, it is no less impressive to see. If you visit during the spring or fall equinox, the shadows up the sides of the pyramid form the body of a snake running up from the serpents heads at the north staircase.
Not as large as those at Chichen Itza, in my opinion, the Tulum ruins are the most spectacular in the region. Located about 50 miles south of Cancun, the temples sit high on a cliff overlooking the water, making for some seriously amazing photo ops. Plan on wearing your swimsuit here as the ruins are located nearby a pristine white-sand beach, where swimming and sunbathing are world class.
Another personal favorite are the Mexican ruins of Coba. Nowhere as busy as those at Tulum and Chichen Itza, Coba is located in a jungle another 40 minutes west of Tulum. It’s thought that only a few of its estimated 6,500 structures have been excavated and uncovered to the public; but what has been unearthed is both graceful and impressive. Another perk to this spot is that visitors can actually climb Nohoc Mul (the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan). From atop this pyramid you can see over the tops of the jungle trees and catch beautiful views of the area. It’s a bit of a tough climb, but it’s well worth the views from the top.
There are many more ruins in the area, including some that you might just happen upon. On some trips into the area, I have stumbled upon unnamed sets of ruins while on beach walks. There are even some ruins located in the Cancun Golf Club Pok-ta-Pok. Keep your eyes open and your camera ready to explore this ancient civilization located right in the middle of the city of Cancun and the surrounding areas. If you’re a history buff, its one of the most unique and exciting things about the destination!
Top Five To-Dos in Argentina
Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires
- Eva Peron’s final resting place, enchanting Recoleta Cemetery is a welcome respite from the fast-paced and noise-filled city around it. Shady lanes, stray cats and inviting benches add to its charm.
- Tips: It is highly recommended that you hire a guide for a short tour to get all the juicy anecdotes. Be sure to ask about guide fees at the official tourist information booth at the entrance to the cemetery. (There is no entrance fee to the cemetery itself.)
Tango Show in Buenos Aires
- To get to know the soul of Argentine culture, experience a tango show. The dance was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists in 2009. Its origins in the crowded lower-class barrios of Buenos Aires tell a colorful yet bleak story of European immigrants in the late 19th century.
- Tips: Tango Porteño and Café de los Angelitos both put on exceptional shows.
- The majestic waterfalls of Iguazu (also spelled Iguassu and Iguaçu) sprawl almost 2 miles along the border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
- Set in the lush rainforest of Misiones province, they were the backdrop of Jeremy Irons’ epic scene in the movie The Mission and named one of the Seven Wonders of Nature in 2011.
- Iguazu is easily combinable with a trip to Buenos Aires. Just hop a short flight from El Aeroparque, the national airport located right in the heart of Buenos Aires.
- Tips: Two nights in Iguazu is plenty, and there is no need to cross the border for a glimpse from the Brazilian side of the falls. There are long lines at Immigration, and US citizens must get the $140 Brazilian visa in advance.
- Home of Argentina’s signature Red Malbec, Mendoza Province is alive with a vibrant wine scene and fantastic wine tour options and accommodations, from boutique hotels to large ranches.
- Mendoza is conveniently located in close proximity to Buenos Aires. Just take a short flight from El Aeroparque, the national airport located right in the heart of Buenos Aires.
- Tips: Ideally spend 3 nights in Mendoza to enjoy wine-tasting as well as outdoor activities (from rafting to hiking to biking) to the fullest.
Perito Moreno Glacier in Southern Patagonia
- Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, the glacier sheds ice in a spectacular rupture roughly every four years. You can witness up close the falling of large sections of ice blocks and hear the roar they produce before they become wonderful floating icebergs.
- Tips: Closest city is El Calafate. There are several companies that offer trekking tours.