Monday, October 31, 2011

My Round the World Adventure

My Round the World Adventure

Unusual Place of the Month: Edinburgh

Posted: 31 Oct 2011 04:20 PM PDT

underground edinburgh vaultsIn honor of Halloween (my favorite holiday), this month's unusual place is Edinburgh, Scotland, or, more specifically, haunted Edinburgh. Edinburgh is supposed to be one of the most haunted cities in the entire world. When I was there a few years ago, I took part in some of the city’s many ghost tours.

Now whether you believe in ghosts or not, these tours take you on an adventure that not only teaches you a part of Edinburgh’s history, but also leaves you feeling just a little “weird.” Or, if you are like me, scared shitless. I hate horror movies because I find them unbelievable but, as Hitchcock knew, a good fright comes from what people don't see or know. When I left the underground vault tour, I was so spooked that I refused to sleep with the light off that night. The only other time I felt such unease was after I saw The Blair Witch Project.

One of the most popular ghost tours is through the underground vaults. The underground vaults were built in 1788 and used as storage space and workshops for businesses near the South Bridge. However, the bridge was poorly constructed and water from the surface would leak down into the vaults. The vaults were then abandoned 1795 and became slums. They became a red light district with countless brothels and pubs. Moreover, the city's poor called these vaults home. The rooms were cramped, dark, had no sunlight, had poorly circulated air, no running water, and no sanitation. Crime was widespread but, by 1820, the leaking became so intense that even the squatters had left.

underground edinburgh vaults

While many companies offer tours through the vaults, I went with City of the Dead. Their tour takes you through all the old vaults, explains their history, describes some of the characters that lived in them, talks about ghosts, and regales you with stories of people who have experienced a close encounter of the supernatural kind. The story I remember most is of a girl and her mother. The little girl felt someone grab her hand. Thinking it was her mom, she grabbed back. But the hand, according to the story, "felt weird" and slowly kept squeezing her hand until it hurt. When girl said "you are hurting me," the mother said "I'm over here, honey." The guide, moving the flashlight to the girl, found that she was standing alone. Who held her hand? How did she get separated? I don't know. Maybe they made the story up. Or all the other stories for that matter. But moving through the vaults in the dark, with your mind in overdrive, creates an atmosphere of unease that you want on a ghost tour. Of course, the guy jumping out of the corner in the dark doesn't help at all.

edinburgh scotland graveyard

But the real "ghost "experience is the MacKenzie Poltergeist tour that takes you through Greyfriars Cemetery. The Mackenzie poltergeist is the most famous of Edinburgh’s ghosts.

George MacKenzie was in charge of the local prison in the 17th Century and loved persecuting the Scots Presbyterians (Covenanters). MacKenzie was infamous for the glee in which he would send people to the gallows. After he died, he was buried near Covenanter's Prison in the cemetery. After a local homeless man accidentally opened his coffin in late 1998, his ghost supposedly began haunting the area.

edinburgh scotland graveyard

Tours take you through the graveyard and around the prison area. There are many stories of people being scratched or attacked, feeling sick, or discovering marks on their bodies the next day. It could all be psychosomatic, but a ghost tour through a "haunted" graveyard on Halloween? Perfect.

No matter which tour you go on or whether or not you believe in ghosts, like all good ghost tours, haunted houses, and Halloween exhibits, these tours make you feel uncomfortable by playing on people's innate fear of the unknown. Are these places really haunted? Is your mind just playing tricks on you? Did you cut yourself on a branch or did MacKenzie actually claw at you? It doesn’t matter. It’s Halloween. It’s good to be a little frightened. The ghost tours are perfect for Halloween or to just spook yourself out while in Edinburgh.

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Haunted Earth: 15 Eerie Landscape Photos

Posted: 31 Oct 2011 10:00 AM PDT

[ By Steph in Nature & Ecosystems. ]

The earth is a beautiful place, filled with too many awe-inspiring views of nature to count. But there’s also a dark side. That same river that sparkles in the sunlight turns ominous in the night. Ferocious oncoming storms fill us with a sense of dread. The pitch blackness of the forest warns us of the dangers that lurk within. These 15 incredibly creepy landscape photos capture that darkness to spine-tingling effect.

Darkness Looms by Richard Thompson

(image via: richard thompson)

A nearly-leafless tree is silhouetted by a setting sun that is about to be overtaken by a sheet of gray clouds in this image of a decrepit farmhouse in rural Dundee, Michigan by Richard Thompson.

Le Croix des Maux by Tiquetonne2067

(image via: tiquetonee2067)

Of course, graveyards are an ideal location for shooting creepy landscape images. This one, enhanced by a red tinge to the sky, was taken in France.

Edge of the Woods by N. Salventius

(images via: n. salventius)

The edge of a dark forest looks ominous enough even on a bright sunny day, but add dark clouds and a strange pattern in the grass – which add up to what looks like a face in the landscape – and it’s extra creepy.

Northern Lights by Rob

(image via: -robw-)

The eerie green glow of Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as ‘Northern Lights’, seems to hint at an imminent alien invasion in this photograph of the Iceland sky by Rob W. Northern Lights are a natural atmospheric event that can be seen from Arctic regions.

Apocalypse by Bianca van der Werf

(image via: biancavanderwerf)

Bianca van deer Werf captures an approaching storm that looms over a single dead tree clinging to the edge of a cliff in the appropriately named digital creation, ‘Apocalypse’.

Ghosts in the Woods by Colin Campbell

(images via: bruiach)

What lurks within the trees? Photographer Colin Campbell notes that whenever he takes this path through the woods in Bruiach, Scotland, a solitary figure seems to wait for him at the end, disappearing as he gets close.

Glowing Eye by Orvaratli

(images via: orvaratli)

Iceland’s peculiar icy landscape becomes ever more eerie during the eruption of a volcano. This image was captured by Arctic photographer Örvar Atli Þorgeirsson during the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in March 2010.

Looming Storm by Garmonique

(images via: garmonique)

What is it about such a thick blanket of dark, heavy clouds that inspires a sense of dread in our hearts? This landscape photo seems to capture the moment just before an apocalyptic storm unleashes its fury on the earth.

Forgotten Idols by Radonich Aleksandra

(images via: radonich aleksandra)

The scarecrows are coming – run! Radonich Aleksandra shot this strange grouping in Serbia, explaining that remains of pagan idols from the past, which still dot the countryside, are often either turned into crosses or covered in scarecrow-like clothing.

Abandoned House by Erling Sivertsen

(image via: erlingsi)

Seeing what should otherwise be a warm, happy and welcoming home fall into such a state of disrepair can be a disconcerting experience, making us think about how fragile our lives can be. Add in the gloom of a winter landscape, complete with an opaque forest and a translucent veil of fog, and the image looks like a still shot from a horror movie.

Dead Tree in Fog by John Batte

(image via: john batte)

Four classic components of a scary landscape combine in this image by John Batte: a dead tree, a dark forest, gray clouds and fog. You wouldn’t want to be caught in a place like this by yourself.

En Noche Como Esta by Luis Mariano Gonzalez

(image vía: una cierta mirada)

The black silhouettes of birds perched in wispy tree branches against a full moon make a postcard-perfect Halloween image.

Tree Man by Mike Orso

(image via: photo mo)

Imagine walking through the woods and looking up to see a man’s face in the branches. It’s not an optical illusion. Artist Joseph Wheelwright installed several humanoid tree sculptures on the lawn of the Katonah Museum of Art in New York. They’ve got a slightly ominous feeling during the day, but their watchful eyes would be downright disturbing at night.

After Dark by Fussel

(image via: fussel)

The trees and birds are barely discernible in this shot, because all we can focus on is that big, bright full moon. The moon has long inspired frightening myths, legends and stories.

Hanging in the Woods by Josh Thipparat

(image via: byjosh)

You know what makes the woods even scarier than they can already be on their own? Adding a few ghosts. Sure, it’s a bit of a cheap trick, but you can’t say you wouldn’t jump if you saw them while on a hike.

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[ By Steph in Nature & Ecosystems. ]

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Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

Latest Post from Travel Wonders of the World

The Walled Cities of Spain

Posted: 30 Oct 2011 04:44 PM PDT

Throughout history, large walls surrounded many cities to protect their citizens and leaders from siege and attack. Sadly, most of these city walls have gone either torn down by attackers, removed by cities to allow expansion or simply taken apart to provide building materials for more useful buildings. Spain has an impressive number of cities whose complete (or near-complete) city walls (or...

Read the full story at

Decadence in Dubai: A snapshot of some of the best luxury resorts in the Middle East: Travel Blog

Decadence in Dubai: A snapshot of some of the best luxury resorts in the Middle East: Travel Blog

Link to Travel Blog

Decadence in Dubai: A snapshot of some of the best luxury resorts in the Middle East

Posted: 30 Oct 2011 07:26 PM PDT

Often Madinat Jumeirah is unofficially regarded as Dubai’s ’6 star resort’ – and little wonder, for it’s a by-word for beauty and luxury, nothing less! The look and feel, with its connected waterways and ancient Arabic-style architecture, owes much to its sea-faring past, a time dominated by fishermen, pearl divers and traders. The resort offers a magnificent range of accommodation, from the exquisitely-styled Mina A’ Salam hotel nestling on the edge of the Arabian Gulf, and the fabulous Al Qasr hotel, the jewel of Madinat Jumeirah and designed to reflect a sheikh's summer residence, to the exquisite Arabian summer houses at Dar Al Masyaf, and the spacious opulence, seclusion and impeccable service at Malakiya Villas.

And what about shopping and dining out? How about the 95 retail boutiques and the 40 or so restaurants and bars of the Souk Madinat Jumeirah. There’s nothing quite like this traditional Arabian souk with its wind towers, lantern lit hallways and narrow waterways. Incredible.

When it comes to luxury, opulence and excellence of service, Le Royal Meridien Dubai has it all. But don’t take my word for it. Check out the amazing reviews on the web. Here’s just the tiniest snapshot…"one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in, staff were fantastic"…"food, drinks and service are amazing"…"I would not consider going anywhere else in Dubai"…"have stayed in many 5 star hotels around the world and this was a very high standard". Kind of says it all!

Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort And Spa is located on a superb stretch of white sandy beach with the clear blue waters of the Arabian Gulf stretching into the distance. Its location is everything you could imagine. Perfect in every sense.

It has some 500 rooms and caters for every type of traveller imaginable, from the high-powered businessman to the honeymoon couple and everyone else in between. Facilities are simply out of this world with no less than three heated swimming pools to choose from. Then there are tennis and squash courts, water sports facilities, and a club for the kids with play area and supervised activities.

Spoilt for choice doesn’t even cover it when it comes to the food and drink on offer. For there are no less than 14 international restaurants and bars catering for just about any taste imaginable!

If pampering and indulgence is the ultimate when it comes to holiday bliss, then look no further than the Royal Mirage Dubai. Intimacy is the watchword within this Arabic style sanctuary resort and spa situated on Jumeira beach. Accommodation available includes one villa, twenty suites and twenty-eight prestigious bedrooms. Spread over three properties, including the original hotel, the newly built Arabian Court and the Residence and Spa, the Royal Mirage has an extensive range of fabulous leisure facilities and meeting rooms and is considered the most stylish resort on Jumeira Beach.

The Palm Dubai, with a string of luxurious and themed hotels, villas, apartments, beaches, marinas, restaurants and shopping outlets, is fast becoming one of the world’s premier resorts. It is often dubbed the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. But however it’s described, it’s a fantastic and unforgettable destination that never disappoints!

Decadence in Dubai: A snapshot of some of the best luxury resorts in the Middle East from - Travel Directory