The other blossoms worth celebrating
Cherry trees may take center stage in the spring (as the numerous festivals around the world demonstrate), but they're not the only woody perennials that paint the landscape with colorful, fragrant blossoms this time of year. Here are the other trees that we love when they're in bloom:
Plum Blossom Trees
Plum trees look surprisingly similar to cherry blossoms and, it turns out, are cause for celebration as well. According to CNN, the city of Nanjing in China started celebrating the blossoms in 1995. The celebrations continue to this day with performances by folk singers and dance troupes and are decidedly less popular (and therefore less crowded) than cherry blossom festivals. While plum trees originated in China, they're no longer unique to the country—you can find them in Japan too, which also celebrates the pink and white blossoms in the spring (check out the Kairakuen Plum Blossom Festival in Mito, Japan). These trees typically flower between late February and mid March.
Apple Blossom Trees
I don't know about you, but when I think about apple trees I think about, well, apples. Before that juicy red fruit appears, however, these trees come alive with a lacy filigree of small, pink flowers that slowly turn white before falling from the branches. You can appreciate these fragrant blooms from April to September. If you want to celebrate them, consider a trip to Winchester in Shenandoah Valley for their annual Apple Blossom Festival. For the past 84 years this Virginia town has been honoring their apple trees with live music, dances, parades, and a 10K race. This year's festivities take place from April 25 through May 1.
Pear Blossom Trees
Similar to apple blossoms, pear trees come alive with thousands of delicate, snow-white flowers in the spring. The blooms start to appear in early to mid April and can last for up to a month. A quick internet search revealed that the pear blossom receives special attention in at least one U.S. state—Oregon. On Saturday, April 9 the town of Medford, Oregon celebrates its pear trees as it has done for the past 54 years, with a Pear Blossom Festival Parade. The parade is, of course, a highlight, but the celebration also includes a series of dance competitions, food-and-wine pairings, and a street fair.
Are there any other blossoms worth celebrating? Tell us below!
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What do you collect on your travels?
Matchbooks. Maps. Seashells. Sand. Hotel-room key cards. Heck, even hotel shampoo. Some of the most collectible travel souvenirs don't cost a cent, but perfectly capture a memory of a place. When I was planning a recent trip to France to sniff out secret hotels of Paris for our February issue, I unearthed a Paris Métro map from the '90s, which I'd saved in a file folder of miscellaneous keepsakes. It may sound corny, but unfolding that map brought back such fond memories of my earliest trips to the city and that thrill of (self-)discovery that comes with exploring a new place on your own. (Speaking of sniffing, I've also always had a Proustian reaction to the scent of the Paris subway. Bizarre, I know, but at least I'm not alone in my public-transportation obsession.) What are your favorite freebies to pick up on a trip? Or does the thought of keeping stuff like this around send you into a de-cluttering frenzy? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Travelers reveal what's in their bags Airport lounge access for $17.50? American tests "tag-your-own-bag" system at Austin's airport
Check out these recycled wonders
Recently, PepsiCo unveiled its new, eco-friendly soda bottle. The bottle, the first of its kind, is made entirely from recycled plant materials: switch grass, pine bark, corn husks, and other materials. It is identical in shape and style to its predecessor and the new plastic is equally priced. PepsiCo plans to launch the product—which ultimately will consist of orange peels, oat hulls, potato scraps and other leftovers - with a few hundred thousand bottles in 2012. The new bottle marks an inevitable (and dare I say it, trendy) departure from our reliance on fossil fuels (most plastic is petroleum based). The message is not, of course, to curb your rampant consumerism, but instead to consume in ways that reduce your carbon footprint. Err, sort of. Ironically, despite the fact that these bottles are made from plant materials, they are not biodegradable or compostable. But they are recyclable… And that got me thinking. I tend to view discarded plastic bottles, and other man-made materials only in terms of their negative impact, but, what about the other ways these materials can be used? That is, if we're stuck with this trash anyways, how are the materials being used for the better? Here are some rather ingenious ways the humble plastic bottle and other trash has been up-cycled into something far greater than its initial intended use: Wat Pa Maha Chedio Kaew. Made from more than one million glass bottles, the temple lies roughly 400 miles northeast of Bangkok in the city of Khun Han. Collection of Chang and Heineken bottles began in 1984 when the monks began using discarded bottles to decorate their shelter. As word of the new building material spread, donations of bottles grew until they were able to build the current standing temple. Roughly 1.5 million bottles were used in its construction, and bottle caps play an integral part in design mosaic. Not surprisingly, over time the temple garnered the nickname "Wat Lan Kuad" or "Temple of Million Bottles". Spiral Island. Built by British artist Rishi Sowa, Spiral Island is an artificial floating island near Cancun. The first Spiral Island (66 ft by 54 ft), which Sowa began constructing in 1998, was destroyed by Hurricane Emily in 2005. The island was made by a placing bamboo and plywood platform on top of nets filled with approximately 250,000 discarded plastic bottles. The platform was then covered with sand and plants. It was strong enough to support a two-story home, solar oven, and self-composting toilet. The second Spiral Island (approx. 66 ft. in diameter) was built in 2008 using 100,000 bottles. It contains beaches, a house and solar panels. The island opened for tours in August 2008. The Corona Save the Beach Hotel. Mexican beer king Corona sponsors the Save the Beach Campaign, which aims to recover one European beach each year from human-caused pollution and damage. To gain attention for their campaign, last summer, German artist HA Schult built a two-story hotel in Rome entirely out of trash found on European beaches (12 tons of garbage was used!). The hotel opened for only 3-days, and could accommodate up to 10 people. What do you think about these initiatives? Does a stay in a trash hotel appeal to you? What other "green" projects have you seen on your travels? — Madeline Grimes MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Have a Green Stay The Ecolodge Authority Baby Steps to Save the Earth
Ask Trip Coach: The grand European tour
There are more ways than ever to tour Europe. Unfortunately, the trip just might be more complicated and more expensive than ever too. In an upcoming issue of Budget Travel, Trip Coach aims to help readers plan the big European vacation in the most rewarding, least stressful ways possible. First, we need to hear from you. In the comments section below, please enter your most pressing concerns and questions. For instance, you might be wondering… *What's the most sensible way to come up with a doable itinerary? *What destinations are overpriced? Which ones are up-and-coming and still affordable? *Any tips for saving on airfare during the peak summer months? *Any tips for saving when exchanging money? *Get around by bus? Rental car? River cruise? Ocean cruise? Fly? Train? Rail pass? Air pass? Some combination therein? *What are the pros and cons of hostels, hotels, apartments, and other forms of lodging? Now you tell us. Fire away with your questions, and we'll answer the best ones in the magazine. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: London Booking Strategies Paris: 4 Easy Day Trips by Train Trattoria Heaven in Tuscany
Editor’s Pick: Luxe Montreal Hotel for Just $144 Per Night
There’s no need to fly across the pond for Francophiles to get their fix—now a taste of the City of Lights can be had right here in North America. Montreal has always been an alternative to Paris when it comes to French flavors at slashed prices (that’s why we’ve celebrated it in the past), and the new Renaissance Montreal is offering quite a deal. To celebrate its debut, now through April 23, they’re offering a special discovery rate of $144, compared to the regular $210. Located in the heart of downtown Montreal, the 142-room hotel has major perks that belie its price point. The design is an intriguing blend of art deco architecture, modern furnishings, street art by local artist Alexandre Veilleux, and contemporary art by other local artists as well, playing off of the unique aesthetic of Montreal. A DJ booth—complete with swinging benches—delivers live entertainment in style, while master mixologist Lawrence Piccard dreamed up a creative cocktail menu at East, the hotel’s contemporary Pan-Asian restaurant, located just off the lobby. And starting in April, they’ll have the bragging rights to the only rooftop terrace in downtown Montreal, when the 12th-floor oasis opens its doors to panoramic views. It also boasts a full bar, bistro kitchen, and a stainless steel plunge pool. The deal doesn’t end when you walk out the doors—there are plenty of free things to do the in city. Here are just a few: • Take a free walking tour of Old Town, courtesy of Free Montreal Tours, and learn all about the city’s history, architecture, culture, and more. • Check out modern urban and street art at the Station 16 Gallery, which features new artists from around the globe. • For a dose of history, visit Mount Royal Cemetery—one of the first rural cemeteries in North America, making it an official National Historic Site—and take a self-guided walking tour. Nature lovers should pick up the tree brochure that outlines the cemetery’s arboretum with more than 100 species of tree on 165 acres, and there are more than 145 bird species too. • During the warm months, enjoy complimentary dance, music, and film performances at Parc Lafontaine, and in winter, it’s popular for ice skating. • The Segal Centre for Performing Arts offers many free lectures, including its Sundays @ The Segal series.