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World's Prettiest Castle Towns
Historically, castle towns were designed to keep invaders out—the city walls, moats, and cannon ramparts all constructed to serve as protective barriers. But these days, those same majestic architectural features have proven irresistible to visitors, and now these communities welcome tourists with open arms—and gates (no storming the castle necessary!). We scoured the globe to find the most picturesque fortress towns in the world, places where you're just as likely to want to snap photos of the ramparts as you will street scenes of the locals. Best of all, these are real towns, so when you're finished exploring the castles' interiors, you'll have a reason to stick around and enjoy the royal backdrop while you experience the local culture. TOUR THE CASTLES 1. JAISALMER, INDIA About 470 miles west of Delhi looms what is said to be the world's only continuously occupied fort town, Jaisalmer, India. Rajput warriors and Jain merchants founded the so-called Golden City in 1156 and—unlike many fortress communities—it was never abandoned. Jaisalmer Fort rises nearly 25 stories off the flat, seemingly endless floor of the Great Thar Desert in western Rajasthan. Its 99 bastions were constructed out of yellow bentonite sandstone—giving it the appearance of a massive, intricately carved, sand castle. Around the flourishing town, countless temples and mansions stand out for their Technicolor red-, indigo-, and yellow-dyed walls typically decorated with lace-like carvings.Getting There: A new airport will open near Jaisalmer in December 2011. Until then, you can reach the city via an overnight, 570-mile train journey from Delhi (tickets start at $3 per person, $6 per person for a sleeper-cabin seat), or else you can take a nine-day camel trip from Delhi (aetravel.com, prices vary).Visiting: Admission is $5. 2. RHODES, GREECE The unique mix of Islamic minarets, European buttresses, and pebble-stone mosaic pavements in the ancient city of Rhodes makes it look like a clash of cultures—A Knight's Tale meets a 17th-century Turkish village. Indeed, the town is located at the very heart of the crossroads between the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, and its varied architecture reflects all of those influences. Within the city's thick sandstone and limestone walls, you'll find the Palace of the Grand Masters, built by crusading knights in the 14th century, alongside a candy-striped mosque, a Byzantine museum, and a Muslim library—all legacies from the time of Turkish rule. Today, many of Rhodes's Greek residents are shopkeepers who sell honey produced by the island's many beekeepers; others craft necklaces and souvenirs made from shells cast ashore.Getting There: The medieval town of Rhodes is located at the northern tip of the island of Rhodes—part of the Dodecanese chain. Olympic Airlines and Aegean Airlines both offer flights into the International Airport of Rhodes (prices vary), and five ferry lines connect to the island from the mainland (prices vary).Visiting: Entry to the town of Rhodes is free; admission to the palace, museum, and other sites vary. 3. NAGANEUPSEONG, SOUTH KOREA South Korea may not leap to mind as a hotbed of castles, but in fact the country is flush with fortress towns built to thwart Japanese pirates. Instead of Braveheart-style stone fortresses, however, in Korea castles resemble elaborate pagoda-type buildings, surrounded by thick stone walls. The best preserved of these is in the town of Naganeupseong, a three-square-mile gem nestled in a valley beneath some low-lying mountains near the southwestern city of Suncheon. As remarkable as it is unpronounceable, Naganeupseong (nagan means "safe and pleasant"and seong means "castle") was built in 1397 and still has a couple hundred residents living in its hub of 30 or so thatched-roof adobe houses. Locals work in tile-roofed shops linked by pencil-thin stone alleyways, all of which lead to the town's focal point: the Nakpung-ru Castle. Most weekends, visitors can catch a changing-of-the-guard ceremony in front of its pagoda-style entrance, and every October, the town draws about 200,000 tourists to its Namdo food festival, where regional favorite dishes, such as sanchae bibimbap (a bowl of warm rice topped with vegetables), are served and traditional music is played on the 12-string gayageum.Getting There: The town of Naganeupseong is accessible via a 25-minute taxi ride from Suncheon. Expect to pay about $3.50.Visiting: Admission to the Nakpung-ru Castle is $1.75 for adults. 4. SEGOVIA, SPAIN Even if you've never set foot in Spain, the Alcázar Castle will likely look familiar to you. It's believed to be the inspiration for the original Cinderella Castle in Disneyland, in Anaheim, Calif., and it has appeared in countless postcards and photos since. The original 14th-century structure was destroyed by a fire, but its cylindrical turrets, peaked roofs, and soaring stone walls were faithfully re-created in the 1880s, with marvelously designed murals inside depicting famous battle scenes. The Alcázar is surrounded by a deep moat and looms over the small, hill town of Segovia, which is connected by a drawbridge. The walled community itself is a faithful re-creation of the bright side of Middle Ages life, with crafts shops and beer halls done up in true retro style. Segovia also has an amazingly well-preserved Roman aqueduct with 166 graceful arches and the famous Vera Cruz church, which was consecrated in 1208 by the Knights of Templar to house a relic of the True Cross.Getting There: The town of Segovia is easily reached via a one-hour-and-45-minute high-speed train ride northwest of Madrid (tickets $11).Visiting: Admission to the Alcázar Castle is $6 for adults. 5. LOUISBOURG, CANADA Set on the Atlantic Coast of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Louisbourg began life peacefully enough in 1713 as a fishing port. But when the Anglo-French struggle for Canada began a few years later, the French colonists started building a series of stone city walls, transforming the sleepy village into a massive fortress. Today, the entire town is a national historic site, crawling with visitors, historical reenactors, and—some say—more than its fair share of resident ghosts. There's a phantom sea captain who's said to haunt the ramparts that overlook Louisbourg's pretty harbor; there's the nurse known to walk among the remains of the old hospital; and there's the mischief-maker who causes trouble by the fort's coal-fired hearth, where white-aproned bakers make fresh bread every day for visitors. Just outside the bastion's walls is the Louisbourg Playhouse, which presents traditional colonial dance performances every day during the summer months.Getting There: From the mainland, Louisbourg is best reached by car. You cross the Canso Causeway onto Cape Breton Island. Continue on to the city of Sydney. From the NS Highway 125, you take exit 8 onto Route 22 to Louisbourg. Visiting: The fort is open from mid-May to late October. Admission is $17.60 for adults. 6. MATSUMOTO, JAPAN Matsumoto-jo is a compound set in the shadow of snow-topped Mt. Hotaka in central Japan. It was built in 1592, making it the country's oldest surviving wooden castle. The main tower is surrounded by pagoda-like tiers, which are painted black and white, and a moat teeming with colorful koi carp. The castle was built on top of a series of mazelike passageways, designed to disorient and trap intruders. Visitors today, however, are welcomed and given tours. Outside the castle walls, Matsumoto seems designed for pedestrians, with wide, tree-lined boulevards tracing the breezy Metoba River. You can also explore the fascinating merchant—or nakamachi—district, a hub of low-slung, tile-roofed buildings where local artisans sell crafts and handiwork, such as furniture made without any nails.Getting There: The Azusa and Super Azusa express trains run from Tokyo's Shinjuku Station to Matsumoto every half hour. The journey takes about two hours and 40 minutes, and one-way fares cost $79 for non-reserved seats and about $86 for reserved seats. The castle is about a 15-minute walk from Matsumoto train station. Visiting: Admission to the castle is about $7.80. 7. ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER, GERMANY Germany's so-called Romantic Road—which slices north to south through the southern German state of Bavaria—earned its name for its string of stunning castles. But most of the region's bastions are stand-alone tourist attractions, not thriving municipalities. A charming exception is Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a red-walled town set up on a hill above the Tauber River. It has all the pastoral views and scenery of the Romantic Road's other castle stops yet has a strong civic pulse, too. Walt Disney was so taken by the town, in fact, that he used it as inspiration for the village in the movie Pinocchio. An earthquake destroyed the castle's main tower in 1356, but the town's red-roofed medieval and Renaissance houses have endured for centuries and were fully restored after World War II. Visitors can tour the castle's stone towers—protected beneath covered walkways—and stop by its base, where crafts shops sell everything from antique clocks to handmade garden gnomes. Cuisine is celebrated here in a way it isn't in largerGerman cities like Frankfurt or Berlin, let alone in castle canteens elsewhere. You may come here for the shining armor—but you'll return for the delicious renditions of Bavarian comfort foods (more spätzle, anyone?).Getting There: The closest major tourist city to Rothenburg ob der Tauber is Munich, which sits about 130 miles southeast. Train service runs between the two cities and takes about three hours (tickets from $67). You can also drive: The A7 autobahn runs right past town.Visiting: Visiting the town is free. 8. SINTRA, PORTUGAL Sintra is like the one-stop shop for castle lovers, with not one, not two, but three gorgeous castles. This medieval stronghold town is so beautiful it was called Glorious Eden by the British poet Lord Byron. The town's focal point, Sintra National Palace, is distinctive for its whimsical interiors: columns twisted like barley, an Arab-style courtyard situated around pretty fountains, and glazed tile work known as azulejos. Beyond the town's fortress walls—but still within walking distance—Pena National Palace, with its cupolas, minarets, and lookout towers in cherry, lemon, and white hues, stands on a hilltop overlooking a green forest. On another nearby hill, a once-proud Moorish castle lingers in romantic ruins. In between, the old town of Sintra has a mix of Gothic, Renaissance, and art nouveau homes, not to mention many stone-wall shops selling authentic antiques, wine, and paintings—all of this framed by a lushly forested seaside national park.Getting There: Sintra sits about 20 miles northwest of Lisbon. Trains run between the two destinations about every 20 minutes, out of Lisbon's Rossio station, and tickets cost $2.60 each way.Visiting: Entrance fees to the town's three castles range from $9.50 to $16.20; visiting the ruins is free. 9. PALMANOVA, ITALY Founded in 1593 as a stronghold of the Venetian Republic, this UNESCO World Heritage town was built in a unique, 18-sided octadecagon shape. When viewed from above, the fortress community looks like a delicately made paper snowflake, with streets radiating out of the structure like sunbeams. Tucked into a valley with a lagoon running into the Adriatic Sea, the land surrounding Palmanova yields high-quality Chardonnay, while the local waters are stocked with mullet, sea bass, and other delicious fish. In town, look out for the symbol of a leafy bough, or a frasca, hanging outside of restaurants to pinpoint ones serving regionally sourced food, such as the classic Venetian dish baccalà, made with dry-salted cod. At night, the city's earth-and-stone defensive works are lit up like a movie set.Getting There: Palmanova sits between Venice and Trieste in northeastern Italy. It's accessible by car along the A4 and A23 motorways and Highway 352. Venice is 75 miles to the southwest, while Trieste is 34 miles to the southeast. The town also sits close to the Cervignano del Friuli station and is serviced by the Udine railway (prices vary). Visiting: Admission to the town's three castles is free. 10. CARCASSONNE, FRANCE The beauty of Carcassonne is in the details. The well-restored Romanesque fortress city in southwestern France is known by the locals simply as La Cité. The castle's crenellated walls punctuate the sky, and the double line of ramparts looks wonderfully forbidding. The cone-shaped, slate-roofed towers are postcard-perfect. The town's stone streets have been populated since the fifth century. Carcassonne sits a mere one-hour drive from the Mediterranean Sea, meaning it's thousands of miles from Paris in both distance and attitude. It's an unexpected gastronomic and artistic hotspot, with restaurants dishing up modern takes on classical French cuisine, such as cassoulet with partridge, and a neoclassic Musée des Beaux Arts, which stands out for presenting masterworks by Courbet, Chardin, and Ingres, among others.Getting There: Carcassonne is on the main train line linking Toulouse, 50 minutes away (tickets from $20), with Narbonne, 30 minutes away (tickets from $15), and Montpellier, an hour and a half away (tickets from $29). About a dozen trains a day run on this line. Also, Ryanair is the only airline that offers flights in and out of Carcassonne’s airport, about three and a half miles outside of town. It has daily flights to and from London's Stansted Airport and Brussels's Charleroi Airport. It also offers flights from Carcassonne to Dublin and Liverpool (prices vary). Visiting: There is an $11.50 entrance fee for adults to visit the castle. Once inside, you can join a free, optional 45-minute tour of the ramparts; guides speak English (carcassonne.org).
5 Affordable Restaurant Chains in London
Americans visiting London usually want to taste some of the local classic dishes, such as a plate of fish n’ chips and a pint of ale. But even die-hard travelers will admit that London’s iconic dishes are fried and fatty, which can be a bit overwhelming when eaten meal after meal after meal. As an alternative, white-table restaurants are pretty expensive, to the point it can seem like your credit card balance is having liposuction. Visitors needing an affordable restaurant may want to check out the city’s smorgasbord of sit-down, “quick service” chains. These venues have relatively healthy menus, speedy service, and clean bathrooms, making them local favorites. Another plus, the meals are often as tasty as they are affordable. I’m defining “affordable” as a vacation budget of $25 (under £15) per person for two courses, excluding wine or drinks. Here, then, are some picks for the best London quick-service, sit-down chains. Byron Some Londoners insist that the best burger you can get with speedy, sit-down service is from Byron, a gourmet burger chain that’s grown to 19 UK locations since its founding in 2007. But the secret to Byron’s success may lie less with its juicy organic mincemeat burgers than with its tasty chips, served with your choice of garlic mayonnaise or ketchup. Other popularity factors for the mini-chain include its modern decor, lively music, family-friendly bonhomie, and dinners that cost only £10 plus the cost of a pale ale or a craft beer. byronhamburgers.com Masala Zone The British are so devoted to Indian food that some locals joke that chicken tikka masala is the national dish. But Indian food is more than tikka, and the first chain to bring street food and regional dishes to London was Masala Zone, launched in 2001. It now has seven locations in prime areas, such as Soho and Covent Garden. The start of the menu is thali, a complete meal of several small plates served on a metal tray, for about £10. For instance, dhai puri are little pastry cases with a mixture of chick peas, tamarind sauce, and yoghurt. Stuff the one whole in your mouth and bite, so that it explodes with a sweet-and-tangy taste. You can get in and out in under 45 minutes if you want, or linger for two hours. masalazone.com Nandos Ideal pit stop for families with kids, this restaurant has crowd-pleasing food with both spicy and non-spicy dishes, large tables to share food on, a welcoming attitude toward kids and teens, and, unlike anywhere else in London, free refills on soda. The Nando’s signature dish is a half-a-roast chicken doused in a mild chili sauce. The South African restaurant chain specializes in “peri-peri" chicken, a chili dish created by Portuguese settlers in Mozambique. Choose how spicy you like it, and watch your chicken be cooked in the open kitchen. The system is quick, yet you can eat at your own pace. £10 for half a chicken, with two regular sides. Nando’s is the city’s fastest-growing quick-service chain, with 57 prime London locations gaining rapidly in popularity since its 1992 arrival in the UK. (There’s one US location, in Washington, D.C.) nandos.com Wagamama When Wagamama opened in London in 1992, it introduced Londoners to South-East Asian flavors blended with Japanese noodle dishes. Menus were full of edamame (steamed soy beans) with ramen, or else strips of steak laid on beds of soba noodles, dressed in a sweet soy sauce. Today, the menu remains much the same and the prices also remains affordable (meal for two with drinks at under £35, or about $50). Wagamama still has a minimalist setting, such as long communal tables surrounded by white walls and a friendly attitude toward kids and teens. True, London doesn’t have a lock on Wagamama anymore. There are 37 overseas locations, including a few in the US in Boston. But there are 76 in the UK, with three more opening in London this year. wagamama.com Gourmet Burger Kitchen Run by New Zealanders, this chain touts Aberdeen Angus beef burgers, but you can also pick veggie, chicken, lamb or venison versions. Pick your toppings and add chips for about £10 per meal. Think of it as a Chipotle for burgers. gbk.co.uk SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL London's Top Fish n' Chips Shops 15 International Food Etiquette Rules That Might Surprise You 8 Foreign Fast-Food Chains You Need to Know Wendy's Goes Gourmet in Japan
24 Best-Ever Budget Travel Reader Tips
One of the things I love about working at Budget Travel is that nobody—and I mean nobody—has a more engaged, travel-savvy audience than BT. Our mission is to dispense the smartest travel advice around, and our readers often feel compelled to return the favor. Here, some of their best tips for saving money, time, and hassle on your next vacation. 1. Sip Affordable Airport Joe Coffee chains in airports sometimes charge twice what they do at home. And in-flight coffee is a dicey choice. So, I join the chains' rewards programs and save my free drink redemptions for my overpriced java at the airport. —Byron Flitsch, Los Angeles 2. Get Mexico's Best Exchange Rate When traveling in Mexico, I get the best exchange rates at the supermarket. All you have to do is buy a few groceries, pay in American dollars, and you will receive your change in pesos. On a recent trip I got more pesos for a dollar while most other places gave much less. —Sophie Pascard, Burlingame, Calif. 3. Save on a Cruise Spa (Ml12nan/Dreamstime) I've been on many cruises with various lines, and I've learned that the spas usually offer discounts on days when the ship is docked. So while one parent takes the kids on an excursion, the other can sign up for a massage! —Rhonda Grabov, Philadelphia, Pa. 4. Pssst! Learn a Family Stateroom Secret Families have trouble finding affordable staterooms that sleep more than four, and connecting rooms usually require you to book two rooms of the same category. Well, here's what we do: My husband and I stay in an ocean-view cabin, and our three kids are in a cabin across the hall. I bring a baby monitor that I bought at a garage sale and use it to listen to my kids' room. I can sleep knowing I'll be in their room the minute I hear a "Mom, I need you!" Plus, we get two bathrooms, extra closet space, and plenty of room to road. —Penny Laschanzky, Lincoln, Neb. 5. Get free Admission to Some of London's Historic Sites If you're heading to London and plan to spend time touring castles, it pays to become a member of the not-for-profit Historic Royal Palaces (hrp.org.uk). You'll get in free to five of the city's most impressive landmarks, including the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, and Kew Palace. Flash your card to bypass long lines and visit unlimited times within a year. —Tarryn Rivkin, San Jose, Calif. 6. Get free admission to 70 of Ireland's historic sites (Martin Mullen/Dreamstime) Admission to many of Ireland's historic sites can really add up. Buy the Heritage Card, good for unlimited admission for one year to more than 70 heritage sites across the country (including Dublin and Kilkenny castles). Buy them in advance at heritageireland.ie. —Nuala Banner, Westwood, Mass. 7. Eat Cheap in Italy If you're looking for a place to eat in Italy, check to see if the restaurant has a coperto, or cover charge. If you want only a light breakfast or lunch, skip the sit-down places, buy a pastry or a panini from a bakery, and picnic by a fountain or sightsee while you eat. —Blair Sechrest, Cary, N.C. 8. Save Euros and Skip the Lines at Florence's Top Museums Buy a Friends of the Uffizi Gallery pass before you go to Florence (florenceforfun.org). Membership is good for a year and covers the entry fee to the Uffizi and several other attractions, including the state museums of Florence, the Pitti Palace, the Medici Chapels, and more. The best part is that you get to skip ticket lines. —Mary Davis, New Port Richey, Fla. 9. Learn a Smart ATM Technique In France, ATMs sometimes distribute €50 notes, but many shopkeepers won't break them—especially when you're buying a €2 pastry. However, if you make sure your ATM withdrawals aren't divisible by 50, you'll get €20 notes. Fees add up, so you don't want to take out just €40 each time. Instead, request €130. Save the €50s for museum shops, which have no problem breaking large bills. —Shelby Foster, Fremont, Calif. 10. Avoid Airline Baggage Fees by Mailing Your Stuff Ahead of Time Now that most airlines charge a fee to check even one bag, we pack a box with our bulkiest items and send it to our destination a week before our trip. If the box is going to a hotel or a time-share, we attach a note asking the front desk to hold it for us until we arrive. —Jane Scott, Beverly, Mass. 11. Find Theme Park Discounts at Costco If you're a member, check Costco's website for discount tickets to theme parks. You'll find more park options on the Web than in your local store. Have the tickets mailed to your house—just be sure to allow at least a week for them to arrive. —Kati Knudsen, Lake Oswego, Ore. 12. Get Free D.C. Tours If you're planning tp spend time in Washington, D.C., always write in advance to your state's congressional representatives, requesting passes to attend sessions of Congress, and even discounted tour tickets. —J. Morrill, Alexandria, Va. 13. Find Out Where the Dollar Is Worth the Most If you want to find out where the U.S. dollar goes the furthest, go to the Office of Allowances page of the U.S. Department of State website (aoprals.state.gov). Click on the Foreign Per Diem Rates link. The site lists the daily travel expenses allowed for U.S. government civilians who travel overseas. The expenses are in dollars (they represent the maximum amount government civilians will be reimbursed per day), are updated monthly, and include hotels, meals, and incidentals in more than 1,000 locations around the world. —Barbara Zalot, Rocky Hill, Conn. 14. Enroll Your Kids in a Frequent Flier Program You're never too young to be a frequent flier. Register your kids with the airline's loyalty program when you pay for their first airfare. But not that many mileage programs will erase your miles if the account is inactive for 18 months; before that happens, donate the miles to a charity at miledonor.com —Laura Hunt, Chicago, Ill. 15. Save on Rental Cars If you Google "rental-car discount codes," you'll find a number of websites offering consolidated lists of these codes. You just may discover you're eligible for a load of reductions. —Lawrence Spinetta, Poquoson, Va. 16. Beat the High Cost of Highway Food When you're exploring the United States, you can avoid busting your road trip budget! Deli counters in grocery stores are great mealtime alternatives to restaurants and fast-food fare. The food is fresh, there's a good variety (hot and cold), and economically it's a great break. I've bought a complete hot meal, including beverage, for a few dollars from a local deli. —Teresa G. Barcus, St. Paul, Minn. 17. Keep Restaurant Coupons in Your Car I clip restaurant-chain coupons and store them in the glove compartment. On car trips, when my family and I eat most of our meals on the road, we enjoy the discounts. —Rebecca Ayala, Houston, Tex. 18. Rent From an Off-Airport Car Company When you rent a car at an airport, you often have to pay extra taxes and fees. Instead, rent from a location away from the airport and have the rental company pick you up (many offer this service for free). We once saved more than $50. —Diane Ketcham, Naples, Fla. 19. Get a Gas Station Charge Card Get a credit card from a company with gas stations nationwide. Many offer a percentage rebate, a gift card, or a certain percent off for an introductory period. —Amy Sutton, Farmdale, Ohio 20. Rent a House Instead of a Hotel Room For us, the ideal way to take a family vacation is to rent a house or condo. We've done it several times in Maine as well as in England. Cost-wise it works out to be less than a hotel, and you get space to run around, plus a kitchen, so you can have breakfast in your pajamas and actually relax. —Sara A. Ward, Fairfax, Va. 21. Get the Most Out of Resort Day Passes Even if you're staying at a standard resort hotel, take advantage of the day passes sold by many all-inclusive resorts. The passes—which give visitors access to the facilities, such as restaurants, swimming pools, and beach chairs—are primarily designed for cruise passengers on day trips, but anyone can obtain them. —Mandy Vieregg, Waco, Tex. 22. Get a Last-Minute Deal on a Condo Booking condos last minute can yield incredible bargains. ("Last minute" generally means a month or less before your stay.) Here's the best strategy: Buy your plane ticket and book a refundable hotel room you can use in case you can't find that bargain condo. Then, a month or so before your trip, start looking for a last-minute condo rental. If you find a deal, simply get a refund on the hotel room and pay the cancellation fee, if there is one. Using this technique, I found a great beachfront one-bedroom condo on Maui for hundreds less than my first booking. —Joan Chyun, Irvine, Calif. 23. Get a Multi-City Museum Membership If your travels take you to American cities large enough to have museums, zoos, or botanical gardens, consider buying a membership in your home city's counterpart. Many have reciprocal privileges with institutions elsewhere. A membership at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, for example gains entry to zoos in Los Angeles, Des Moines, and Jackson, Miss., all at no charge. —Alice M. Solovy, Skokie, Ill. 24. Give Your kids a Travel Allowance To avoid the "Can I have…?" questions, set a trip allowance and stick to it. Upon arriving, we give our kids their souvenir money for the whole trip, and it's up to them to spend it wisely. —Nadine MacLane, Seattle, Wash.
Crazy festival stories from readers
We recently asked readers of this blog, "What's the craziest festival you've seen?" Here you'll find some fantastic stories. (And be sure to check out our festival slide show.) I lived in Byron, Illinois, several years ago and attended The Turkey Testicle Festival. The festival is always the 2nd Saturday in October, and the first band starts around 11:00am. and the last band plays until 11:00pm. It is a huge event and just about the entire town gets involved. There is dancing and lot's of drinking and yes, for those wondering you have to get an order of Turkey Testicles as they really do serve them. It was a lot of fun and if you are out that way make sure you don't miss it! (Sorry, No one under 21 will be admitted to the Festival.)--Debbie The Trenary Outhouse Classic in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the place to be on the last Saturday in February. The crowd of 1,500 to 3,000 watches as two person teams slide elaborately decorated outhouses on skis approximately 200 yards over the snow. Trenary, Michigan.--Jamie D. Caseville, Michigan (near the tip of the "Thumb"), has the summer's best festival: Cheeseburger in Caseville. The Tropical Parade of Fools on Wednesday is awesome. People are dressed as pirates, Caribbean sunbeams, bikini girls, etc. The row, row, your cardboard boat race in Lake Huron is fun, and there is plenty of beach fun. concerts almost every night, and cheeseburgers for sale on grills up and down Main Street. Always in August.--Sally Stewart I'm not sure why Michigan seems to be dominating this list, but I have to put in a plug for the Bologna Festival in Yale, Michigan. What's not to love about a town that is literally full of baloney?--Mike Hofert Last summer I attended the the World Wife-Carrying Championships in Sonkajarvi, Finland. It's a crazy day full of strange and wonderful Finnish traditions. The participants come from all over the world (but mostly Estonia, who completely dominant the competition) to hoist women up on their shoulders in the most hilarious holds in the hopes of winning the honor of first place and....the wife's weight in beer. Sadly, I wasn't able to attend the Mobile Phone Throwing Championships in Savonlinna while I was Finland. Maybe on my next trip!--Anonymous The Crawdad Festival held each year on Father's Day in a little delta town 30 miles from Sacramento, Calif., called Isleton. People come from as far as Louisiana just to here the cajun bands and eat crawfish. This year I took a picture with a CRAWDAD MASCOT. He was very entaining. It has calmed down over the years as it had a New Orleans Madri Grai atmosphere. It is more family oriented. I know because I live in Isleton, Ca. and have attended all festivals during the past 25 years!--Dianna Souza Smith One summer, when my boyfriend and I were heading north to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, we found the highway (I-75) blocked because of an accident. We inched our way to the nearest exit to hang out until the accident was cleared. We found ourselves in Munger, Michigan, where the annual Potato Festival was being held! What a cool country festival! They handed out free 5-lb. bags of potatoes to anyone willing to stand in line for them. I noticed some people were willing to stand in line more than once!--Petie
London: It's Robin Hood month
This month's debut of the Hollywood epic "Robin Hood"—starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett—has spawned a bunch of Robin Hood-themed events in England. While we don't know if Robin Hood truly existed or was merely a creation of medieval poets, we're certain that Sherwood Forest (where he supposedly lived) is one of the oldest and most majestic forests in Britain. It covers 450 acres of protected beech and birch woodland dotted with more than 1,000 magnificent oaks, most of which are over 500 years old. There are exhibitions devoted to the history of Robin Hood at the Sherwood Forest visitors' center, which is just outside of the village of Edwinstowe. Also worth a visit is Nottingham Castle in the city of Nottingham itself. A one-off exhibition by Sonja Klaus, the set designer for the movie, showcases the film's props, weaponry and costumes worn by Crowe (Robin) and Blanchett (Marian). And medieval jousts and archery competitions will be taking place in the castle grounds throughout May. Other Nottingham attractions include the Galleries of Justice history museum, Byron's former home of Newstead Abbey and the Caves of Nottingham Museum—showcasing caverns under the city which have been used as dwelling places since Saxon times. The highlight of the area remains the forest, though, which is magical to walk through. The largest tree is the Major Oak, which was a big even in the Middle Ages when Robin Hood was supposedly firing his arrows. Today it is more than 800 years old and weighs more than 23 tons. You can easily imagine Robin Hood hanging out behind the trees, after having poached the king's deer and robbed from the rich to give to the poor. National Rail from London to Nottingham with East Midlands trains take 1 hour 45 minutes. The Sherwood Arrow bus service 33 between Nottingham and Worksop calls at Edwinstowe. MORE Surfacing: Nottingham's Soulful Side? Ask for trip planning help on Budget Travel's London City Page
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Warner Robins (typically ) is a city in the U.S. state of Georgia, located in Houston and Peach counties in the central part of the state. It is currently Georgia's eleventh-largest incorporated city, with a census population of 80,308 in 2020.The city is the main component of the Warner Robins Metropolitan Statistical Area, including the entirety of Houston, Peach, and Pulaski counties, which had a census population of 201,469 in 2020; it, in turn, is a component of a larger trade area, the Macon–Warner Robins–Fort Valley Combined Statistical Area, with an estimated 2018 population of 423,572. Robins Air Force Base, a major U.S. Air Force maintenance and logistics complex that was founded as the Warner Robins Air Depot in 1942, is located just east of the city limits; the base's expansion and the suburbanization of nearby Macon have led to the city's rapid growth in the post-World War II era.
Perry is a city in Houston and Peach counties in the U.S. state of Georgia. It is the county seat of Houston County. The population was 13,839 at the 2010 census, up from 9,602 at the 2000 census. As of 2019 the estimated population was 17,894. It is part of the Warner Robins, Georgia Metropolitan Statistical Area, within the Macon–Bibb County–Warner Robins Combined Statistical Area. Perry is perhaps best known as the location of the annual Georgia National Fair.
Macon (), officially Macon–Bibb County, is a consolidated city-county in the U.S. state of Georgia. Macon lies near the state's geographic center, about 85 miles (137 km) southeast of Atlanta—hence the city's nickname, "The Heart of Georgia". Located near the fall line of the Ocmulgee River, Macon had a 2019 estimated population of 153,159. It is the principal city of the Macon Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had an estimated population of 228,914 in 2017. Macon is also the largest city in the Macon–Warner Robins Combined Statistical Area (CSA), a larger trading area with an estimated 420,693 residents in 2017; the CSA abuts the Atlanta metropolitan area just to the north. In a 2012 referendum, voters approved the consolidation of the governments of the City of Macon and Bibb County, and Macon became Georgia's fourth-largest city (just after Columbus). The two governments officially merged on January 1, 2014.Macon is served by three interstate highways: I-16 (connecting the city to Savannah and coastal Georgia), I-75 (connecting the city with Atlanta to the north and Valdosta to the south), and I-475 (a city bypass highway). The city has several institutions of higher education, as well as numerous museums and tourism sites. The area is served by Middle Georgia Regional Airport and Herbert Smart Downtown Airport. The mayor is Lester Miller.
Forsyth is a city in Monroe County, Georgia, United States. It is the county seat of Monroe County. The population was 3,788 at the 2010 census. Forsyth is part of the Macon Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is the former home of Tift College. The Forsyth Commercial Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a tourist attraction. It includes the Monroe County Courthouse and Courthouse Square as well as the surrounding area, including several examples of 19th-century architecture. Forsyth is also home to the Confederate Cemetery, Tift College and Rum Creek Wildlife Management Area.