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Monday, March 23, 2015

The 20 Coolest Towns in the US - Matador Network

    Matador Network's Top 10 Coolest Towns ...
    1. Asheville, NC
    2. Frisco, CO ... Been there
    3. Laguna Beach, CA ... Grew up there
    4. North Charleston, SC ... Done that
    5. Sun Valley, ID
    6. Missoula, MT
    7. Freeport, NY
    8. Marfa, TX ... Got the t-shirt
    9. Lawrence, KS ... Live here
    10. Mount Desert Island, METhe 20 coolest towns in the US - Matador Network
    Lawrence, Kansas

    You have to visit the Matador Network and read the article to see #11 - #20 ...


    Or You Can Vote for Your Favorite Here ...

    [polldaddy poll=8749457]

    Photos Courtesy of the Matador Network

    Title:The 20 Coolest Towns in the US - Matador Network

    Key Words: 2015 asheville capacityX combatX CombatCritic TravelValue travel value food restaurant Kansas Lawrence computer critic DayTripQuip Florence Frisco inlaid Kansas Laguna Beach Lawrence Marfa Sun Valley travel TravelValue TX

    Thursday, March 19, 2015

    DayTripQuip™: New Delhi to Agra ... The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort

    Taj Mahal and Agra Fort Day Trip

    If you want to see the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, make a day trip out of it rather than staying overnight in Agra. Agra has few redeeming qualities other than these two extremely impressive landmarks in my opinion and spending even one night should be avoided. Let's face it ... Agra is a pit!

    There are bus tours available or you can take a train from the main New Delhi station if on a budget, but I would not recommend the train unless you have confirmed reservations both coming and going. If planning a visit to Varanasi by bus, car, or train, another option is to visit Agra on the way as it lies between New Delhi and India's holiest city. However, by the time you pay for two or more bus tour tickets, you could hire a private cab to take you to Agra, leaving New Delhi at 9AM, visiting both Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal, stopping for lunch and some shopping, and returning to New Delhi by 9PM.

    Agra Fort Exterior
    My wife and I hired a taxi for the day at our hotel near the New Delhi train station, charging us 7,500 rupees ($120.00) for the itinerary described earlier. We left around 9:30 AM on a Sunday morning, a good day to go to as traffic is quite a bit lighter in New Delhi on a Sunday morning. It took us about two-and-a-half hours to get to Agra Fort, including a pit stop, traveling on the toll road, which costs a little more than the toll-free route, but shaved an additional two hours off the journey ... each way!

    A foggy morning, we decided to visit Agra Fort first to let the clouds burn off a bit before we headed over to the nearby Taj Mahal. We picked up our "complimentary tour guide" who briefed us on safety/security details upon arrival where "hawkers" and "pickpockets" reportedly would be waiting for us when we exited the taxi. The hawkers were no worse than any other tourist attraction in India and pickpockets are not a problem as long as you use a little common sense and pay attention to your surroundings.

    Agra Fort is beautiful, impressive, and crowded. Entry was 350 rupees ($5.70 each) and we spent about an hour walking through the grounds, snapping photos, and learning about its history from our guide. We may have very well missed something as we found out later that our guide was cutting corners and not totally truthful in order to move us along so we had time to go shopping at a marble factory he was "touting" ("receiving kickback from", a common practice among taxi drivers and tour guides throughout India and elsewhere).

    The Taj Mahal is open every day except Friday from sunrise to sunset, not "6am to 7pm" as advertised by About Travel's "India Travel Expert" in her Taj Mahal Travel Guide: What to Know Before You Go. There are three gates, but we entered through the East Gate (described as the "VIP gate" by our guide), paying 750 rupees ($12.15) each for entry, jumping on a tram for the short ride to the entrance. The lines were short both to buy tickets and enter the grounds, so this may very well be the best available option.


    Once inside, there is a large courtyard to traverse before entering through the "Royal Gate", an ornate red sandstone arch where the enormous Taj Mahal looms in the background as you enter. Having seen countless photos and heard numerous stories about the Taj Mahal for many years, I was very interested in visiting, but until I actually saw it in person, I had no idea how impressive it actually is.

    The long, narrow reflecting pond is cut in half by a raised terrace where "Princess Diana's Bench" or "Lady Di's Chair" is located, the location of a famous photo taken of the princess during a visit to the Taj Mahal in 1992. We were told, as were many other tourists apparently, that the bench closest to the "Royal Gate" (on the opposite side of the terrace from the Taj Mahal) was where the photo was actually taken. But I assumed it was actually the other bench (closest to the tomb and, oddly enough, ignored by most tourists even though it offers a much better photo opportunity) where it was taken, a hunch that was confirmed the next day when I checked the internet for the photo.

    There is a small museum (free) on the West side of the grounds halfway between the Royal Gate and Taj Mahal that is well worth a visit. I knew it was there and as our guide tried to steer us toward the tomb I asked if we could visit, but he said "it's closed for renovations". I could see that people were entering and leaving the building, so I insisted on going over to check. "Oh, they must be letting a small number of people in, you are very lucky" he exclaimed as we walked up to the doorway. The museum has four small rooms with artifacts from the site and other interesting exhibits, so take 30 minutes and visit.

    You can read about the Taj Mahal in many places, so I will not elaborate here. I will say that it is absolutely breathtaking and a MUST SEE in your lifetime, this coming from someone who has traveled to 51 countries and having seen many of the most beautiful and famous attractions in the World. Even though the tour guide lied to me about the museum, normally a deal breaker, he took 4+ hours out of his day to show us around Agra, so I gave him a 500 rupee tip ($8.20 - he probably would have gotten 1,000 rupees if he had not lied), a small price to pay for an experience of a lifetime.

    CombatCritic Gives The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort 10 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!





    Title: DayTripQuip™: New Delhi to Agra ... The Taj Mahal and Agra Fort

    Key Words: Agra, New Delhi, new, delhi, Taj Mahal, taj, mahal, fort, taxi, bus, train, travel, tour, day, trip, quip, DayTripQuip, CombatCritic, value

    Friday, March 13, 2015

    CombatCritic's TravelValue: Italia (Italy)

    Sicilia (Sicily)

    Arriving in Rome after an uneventful plane ride across the Atlantic, I found the Easy Jet counter for my leg to Palermo, Sicily. Easy Jet is anything but, with extra charges for everything, my €49 fare quickly became nearly double at €90.

    Not So Easy Jet's Rome (Fiumicino) check-in counter was chaotic and I stood in line unnecessarily for 10 minutes before realizing that there was a bag check counter for those smart enough to print their boarding passes online. Even then, the short line took forever as the large family in front of me took items out of their bags to meet the 20 kg weight limit (44 lbs). Finally checking my bag 30 minutes later, I made my way to.the terminal and in to Palermo.

    Trapani and Erice

    Upon arrival at Palermo's new Falcone-Borsellino Airport for my bus ride to Trapani, not quite my final destination, my wife's picturesque, medieval hometown of Erice, I took the Segesta bus straight from the airport to downtown Trapani where my wife and her cousin were waiting for me. There are trains to Trapani, but the Italian train system is sometimes unreliable and I would have had to travel 20 kilometers back to downtown Palermo to catch the Trapani train, so the bus was faster and cheaper (€9.60).

    Trapani is a medium size city that sits on the Mediterranean Sea in the northwest corner of the island of Sicily and Erice sits atop a nearby mountain, easily visible for 20 miles in any direction. Trapani is fairly clean and beautiful, but Erice is the gem of this area and a medieval delight.


    You can take the cable car from Valderice at the bottom of the mountain (€2.80 per person round trip) or if you have a car, you can drive to the top where parking is liberal and inexpensive. Erice is a walled city and quite small, easily walked in 2-6 hours depending on your pace, how many of the quaint shops you want to stop in, or if you want a leisurely lunch or dinner in one of a small selection of restaurants. If you arrive at the right time, June through August, you can try the unique and delicious jasmine gelato (ice cream). You have not had ice cream until you habeas eaten gelato, and jasmine is a variety and delicacy found nowhere else in the world. Spend time enjoying the stroll over the cobblestone streets, but be sure to wear shoes with soles that will not slip on the shiny rocks, which can be quite treacherous, particularly when wet.

    There are many wonderful things to see in and around Trapani, including Basilica della Madonna di. Trapani, the town of Marsala, the Egadi Islands of Favignana, Marettimo, Levanzo, the Greek ruins at Segesta, the island of Mothia, San Vito Lo Capo, and Agrigento's expansive Greek ruins, about an hour and one half south of Trapani.

    The people and food of Trapani must be enjoyed, with the people passionate and friendly, and the food robust and unique. The local cuisine has a definite Arab influence, having occupied Sicily for several centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire. CousCous can be found as a staple in many dishes in exchange for pasta, and is a delicious and unique change of pace from many 'primi piati' (first dishes) found elsewhere in Italy.

    Summers are quite hot in Sicily, so make sure you dress appropriately, luring sunglasses and sunscreen, and book a hotel with air conditioning unless you enjoy sticky nights.

    Firenze (Florence)

    IL DUOMO



    The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Saint Mary of the Flowers) is the center of Florence. Begun in 1296, it was completed in 1436 with an exterior covered elaborately with polychrome marble in shades of green and pink bordered by white. 

    The second largest and most beautiful cathedral in Europe, "Il Duomo" and its equally impressive baptistri (baptistry), dominate this large piazza surrounded by medieval pallazzi (palaces). Crowded during peak seasons, watch out for gypsies and pickpockets, and DO NOT sit on the church steps (it is now illegal), but enjoy this "awe inspiring" scene with a drink. , a gelato (ice cream), or meal at one of the many bars and restaurants in Piazza del Duomo.

    TravelValue, TravelSafe, ValueTravel .... Follow CombatCritic To TravelValue!






    Copyright 2011-2015 - CombatCritic and 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC - All Rights Reserved

    Title: TravelValue, TravelSafe, ValueTravel .... "Follow Me To Travel Value"

    Key Words: Trademark, Copyright, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, TravelValue, TravelSafe, ValueTravel, Follow Me To TravelValue, CombatCritic, 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC

    CombatCritic QandA: (McLeod Ganj, H.P, India) Are there places to stay with kitchenettes?

    Q:

    las habitaciones tienen kitchenette? (Are there places to stay with kitchenettes?)

    CLAUDIAGESELL  
    villa gesell

    Thursday, March 12, 2015

    CombatCritic QandA: McLeod Ganj, India) Solo Female Has Doubts And Questions About Travel

    Q:

    Hey there,

    Want to visit Mcloedganj and Dharamshala solo. i have some doubts.

    1. which place is more appropriate to stay ? Mcleodganj and Dharamshala ?

    2. Does your hotel provide taxi or cab facility to roam around the city or to go tourist attractions.

    3. Is it safe to travel alone?

    4. Any other thing i need to cautious about ?

    Thanks.

    Nehadixit, New Delhi, India

    Wednesday, March 11, 2015

    One Tough, Compact, Well-Priced Backpack ... "Highly Recommended"

    High Sierra Classic Series 59201 Summit 45 Backpack

    We bought this backpack on Amazon.com for a 4-month trip to India, knowing that we would frequently be moving from place to place and that the condition of roads and sidewalks would not be conducive to rolling suitcases. 

    There was plenty of room for 2-3 days worth of clothing, accessories, toiletries, and even a laptop (and cord), having a large inner compartment, three exterior compartments, two mesh exterior sleeves, and numerous velcro loops, buckles, and other devices to attach things to.

    The material is lightweight, but durable, holding-up well to the demands of multiple trips via train, bus, car, and plane and compact enough to fit into the smallest overhead compartments.  In-fact, we traveled by plane internationally and domestically, carrying-on our backpacks on even the smallest aircraft. The backpack is comfortable to wear with padded shoulder straps, an adjustable chest strap, and a padded waist buckle to keep the pack secure during the most arduous journeys. After four months, the backpack looks nearly as new as the day I bought it and everything functions as advertised.

    For the price ($54.99), this is one tough, compact, well-made bag and definitely worth every penny. 

    CombatCritic Gives The High Sierra Classic Series 59201 Summit 45 A Coveted "10 Bombs Out Of 10" ... More Bombs Are Better!



    Title: One Tough, Compact, Well-Priced Backpack ... Highly Recommended by CombatCritic

    Key Words: High Sierra, high, sierra, summit, 59201, 45, litre, backpack, nylon, zipper, tough, compact, Amazon, Amazon.com, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value