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    Belfast,

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    Belfast is a city in Waldo County, Maine, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 6,668. Located at the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River estuary on Belfast Bay and Penobscot Bay. Belfast is the county seat of Waldo County. Its seaport has a wealth of antique architecture in several historic districts, and remains popular with tourists.
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    Budget Travel Lists

    10 Best Budget Destinations for 2013

    Year after year, friends and family of the Budget Travel staff inevitably ask us the same question: "Where's the coolest and most affordable place to go next?" Luckily, we work hard to get at the right answers for them. Each year before the holidays, the BT team combs through piles of data regarding new flight destinations, airline prices, places aggressively building new hotels, cities experiencing cultural booms, currency charts, and other statistics to compile our list of the 10 best Budget Destinations for the upcoming year. Some destinations were more interesting to us because they were so full of new and unique attractions (Northern Ireland!), and others were standby dream vacation spots that were suddenly more affordable than they've been in recent years (the Loire Valley, France).  But the one thing they have in common is that they're completely accessible and ripe for exploring now. So read up, pick a place, and get planning!  SEE THE DESTINATIONS! 1. TORONTO, CANADA Why in 2013: Toronto is seriously having a moment. The cultural, entertainment, and financial capital of Canada has not only undergone a huge building boom (with more than 30,000 new homes being built over the past year alone) but New York City exports are opening up here at rapid pace, like the new Thompson and Trump hotels, and David Chang's Momofuku empire. (In fact, foodie-ism is at its prime in Toronto—the St. Lawrence food market, with its 120 specialty vendors, is regularly considered one of the world's best.) But what makes it a great budget destination is that unlike the rest of the world, hotel prices didn't increase at all in the first half of 2012, with the cost of an average room remaining at $148, according to the 2012 Hotels.com Price Index. Like any good bustling North American city, there are myriad cultural options to be found here, from museums, great theater, art galleries, and shopping, but because this is a harbor town off Lake Ontario, there are also plenty of affordable outdoorsy activities like hiking, biking, and canoeing, especially around the Toronto Islands. And because about half of the population was born abroad, the ethnic food scene is as good as it gets anywhere in the world. Beyond Chinatown, Little Italy, and Little India, there is also a Koreatown, Little Portugal, Little Jamaica, and neighborhoods specializing in Polish, Japanese, and Greek cuisine. One last dollar-saving factor? You don't need a car while visiting. The TTC, or Toronto Transit Comission, is the third largest transit system in North America, and completely simple to navigate. When to Go: Peak visitor season is in the summertime, which means both airfare and hotel costs are much higher. If you're aiming to save some money, try September through November, or March through May. Where to Stay: The downtown Bond Place Hotel is a contemporary and charming hotel with ultra-modern rooms and an eye for urban-design—and is extremely affordable. The prime location at Yonge-Dundas Square is a quick walk from the Theater District and Eaton Centre (an enormous indoor mall), as well as within walking distance of many of the universities (65 Dundas St. East, bondplace.ca, doubles from $79). 2. ANTALYA, TURKEY Why in 2013: If you've never heard of the Turkish Riviera, you're not alone—Americans have thus far rarely ventured to the southwestern Mediterranean coast of Turkey for holiday, unlike Eastern Europeans, who have been flocking here in droves for years. All that seems likely to change this year for several reasons: Average hotel prices have significantly and notably dropped from last year (from $193 to $146, almost 25 percent), and in 2011 it beat New York City to become the world's third most visited city by international tourists. The word is out about this city that's part beachfront, part metropolis, and part ancient town. And even though many of the tourists here are of the incredibly wealthy European variety (the city even boasts a megaresort, Rixos Sungate Hotel, with the world's second largest spa!), the 5-star all-inclusive resorts on the beaches offer rates as low as $100 a night. More adventurous types will also get a huge kick out of the city's proximity to some of the oldest known architectural ruins in the world. The nearby Catalhoyuk Mound is one of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic site to date, existing from 7500 BC to 5700 BC. When to Go: It gets well into the 90s in the middle of summer, so it's best to visit in September through October, or May through June. While it never gets particularly cold in the winter months, you won't want to take a dip in the chilly Mediterranean then either. Where to Stay: If you love history and immersing yourself in local culture, skip the beachfront resorts for Kaleici, the charming old city that's teeming with mosques, churches, Turkish baths, open-air markets, and bazaars. The Puding Suite Hotel is a 300-year-old mansion built out of Roman stone walls located in the heart of the old town, which is a thick tangle of small, cobblestone streets. (Beware the cars zooming around the corners—this is not a pedestrian village.) The rooms have been properly modernized and include flat screens and Jacuzzi tubs, and there's also a heated swimming pool, spa, and one of the best restaurants in town onsite (Mermerli Sok. 15, pudingsuite.com, doubles from $146). 3. LOIRE VALLEY, FRANCE Why in 2013: According to the 2012 Hotel Price Index, the historic wine and chateaux region known as the Loire Valley (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) saw a 19 percent price decrease in average hotel rooms, bringing them to $128—pretty good, considering going to France isn't generally considered a budget affair. And in November of this year, the Euro hit a two-month low against the dollar due to bailing out debt-burdened member nations. Bad news for Europeans, but it adds to your advantage when traveling right now. (As of press time, 1 Euro equalled $1.27.) The best way to see the area is to rent a car in Paris and drive 150 miles south until you reach the middle stretch along the Loire River. You'll want to be able to drive to the various vineyards—the fertile land is home to the regions of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, as well as Muscadet. Add to the fact that there are hundreds of small country inns, charming B&Bs, and chateaux-turned-hotels here, ranging from as low as $70 a night, and you're looking at an attainable dream trip in 2013. When to Go: July and August are the most crowded, so we suggest aiming for spring and fall. The weather is still warm here in September, and the rolling hills take on a gorgeous golden hue. Where to Stay: The supremely charming, family-run Hotel Diderot in Chinon was once an aristocratic house from the 17th century, and its 27 rooms have of course been modernized, though the interior décor still hints at its noble past—the spiral staircase is from the 18th century and the fireplace in the breakfast room is from the 15th century. The beds are antiques, and exposed beams and hardwood floors throughout the home complete the overall grand vibe. Breakfast is served on the terrace in the warmer months, and includes over two dozen homemade preserves to slather onto your fresh baked breads (4 Rue de Buffon, Chinon, hoteldiderot.com, doubles from $67). 4. PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA Why in 2013: With its towering namesake palms and countless pools, Palm Springs has long been heralded as California's desert oasis, where the stars and golf aficionados fled when they needed a little R&R. Now, with a 6 percent drop in airfares amid near-universal increases nationwide, it's also a refuge for bargain-seeking travelers. Along with the decrease in ticket prices, Palm Springs International Airport is seeing a spike in traffic—over 16 percent more passengers flew through in 2012 than in 2011—and it's also expanding its reach with new, nonstop routes from New York launching in December through Virgin America. On the ground, the town has been rolling out the red carpet for visitors, making as much room as possible for the new surge of sun-seekers. The city gained over 1,600 new hotel rooms since 2008 through an aggressive tourism incentive program designed to boost the local economy, and it's also among the top 10 domestic markets for new vacation rental listings. When to Go: With not-yet-scorching temperatures, winter and early spring remain peak seasons. Crowds descend on the area for big-ticket events in January (the Palm Springs International Film Festival) and April (perennially popular Coachella), and occupancy rates remain high in between. Opt for fall instead to beat both the heat and the masses. Where to Stay: Alcazar Palm Springs, an intimate 34-room property opened in 2011, makes an ideal retreat with its soothing décor in crisp white, black, and chrome. Owner and Palm Springs native Tara Lazar parlayed the success of her restaurant, Cheeky's, into the boutique hotel and onsite Italian restaurant, Birba (622 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, alcazarpalmsprings.com, doubles from $79). 5. KO PHI PHI, THAILAND Why in 2013: Even if Ko Phi Phi isn't familiar by name, you still might recognize its turquoise waters, leaf-blanketed limestone peaks, and signature longtail boats—the hallmarks of this island paradise off the coast of Thailand inspired wanderlust the world over when it was spotlighted in the film The Beach, the drama that launched a thousand backpackers. An archipelago comprised of two main islands, Ko Phi Phi was on the rise as a holiday destination when it was devastated by the tsunami of 2004. Eight years and a rigorous rebuilding effort later, it's now well on its way to becoming a luxury tourist spot. Because of its high tourist concentration and the construction of plush new resorts such as the Outrigger Phi Phi Island Resort and Spa, Ko Phi Phi can be somewhat expensive by Thai standards. This year, however, hotel rates have dropped by 27 percent to an average of $151 per night, compared with a 13 percent increase in nearby Phuket. When to Go: Spring (March, April) offers a sweet spot between the peak tourist season of the holidays and the onslaught of the rainy season in May. Where to Stay: Located in a quiet corner of the busier Phi Phi island is the Mama Beach Residence, which has 24 rooms that combine modern touches (WiFi, satellite television, and air conditioning—which is harder to come by than you might expect in these parts) with island necessities (beach access and sun decks outfitted with cushy chaises). You can also book day trips to uninhabited Ko Phi Phi Leh and its famed Maya Bay, beloved by snorkelers and divers.  (199 moo 7 Tambon Aonang, Ko Phi Phi, mama-beach.com, from $98). 6. NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE  Why in 2013: In the new hit ABC drama Nashville, a political powerbroker describes his hometown as "a thriving, prosperous city, an industrial and cultural juggernaut." In other words, the home of the Grand Ole Opry is going a little heavy on the "grand," while easing up considerably on the "ole." You might say life imitates art. This spring, a brand-new, $585 million, 118,000-square-foot convention center will open downtown, which will in turn help fuel the city's ongoing hotel construction boom. To meet the needs, over 1,000 rooms are currently under construction, with five new hotels potentially slated for the SoBro (South of Lower Broadway) neighborhood alone—a move that is expected to drive average daily rates down in the city. But growth in Nashville isn't solely related to real estate. In a city known primarily for its "hot chicken" and "meat and three sides," chefs are helping to transform Nashville into a new culinary powerhouse, along the lines of Charleston, with all the requisite James Beard nominations and placements on top American restaurant lists. On the other end of the spectrum, buzzy food trucks are hitting the streets of hip neighborhoods like East Nashville and The Gulch, the first LEED-certified green neighborhood in the South. When to Go: Gourmet restaurants and architecture aside, Nashville is still the capital of the country music world. From June 6 through 9, the city will play host to the CMA Music Festival, which attracts a who's who of country stars, including Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, and Miranda Lambert (cmaworld.com/cma-music-festival, four-day passes from $125). Where to Stay: Don't be fooled by its location near the airport: Hotel Preston is much cooler and more refined than an airport hotel has any right to be. Think complimentary pet goldfish, lava lamps on request, and a "spiritual menu"—in lieu of Bibles in the nightstand, you can request any number of holy texts, including the Koran, the Torah, the Book of Mormon, or the Bhagavad Gita (733 Briley Parkway, Nashville, hotelpreston.com, doubles from $93). 7. NORTHERN IRELAND Why in 2013: Northern Ireland has been a bit, well, troubled for the better part of the 20th century, thanks to the bloody religious conflict known as The Troubles. Peace has since been restored, but that didn't immediately skyrocket Northern Ireland to the top of travelers' bucket lists. So how's the outlook in 2013? Just ask the aptly named Oaky Dokes, the red squirrel mascot of Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland's second city and the first ever U.K. City of Culture (cityofculture2013.com). The 6th-century walled city beat out finalists Birmingham, Norwich, and Sheffield, and will spend $25 million in new cultural programs designed to bring in tourism, including performances from the Royal Ballet and the London Symphony Orchestra, a new punk musical, and the premiere of a Sam Shepard play. The city itself has also gotten a makeover. Ebrington Square, former military parade grounds, reopened in 2012 as a new public space for outdoor concerts and festivals, and it also saw the opening of the Peace Bridge, which links the predominantly Catholic and Protestant sides of the city. Best of all, Northern Ireland is now easier (and cheaper) to get to: Beginning in fall 2012, EasyJet and Aer Lingus added more flights between Belfast and London, which is expected to increase competition with British Airways and thus further lower airline prices. When to Go: The UK City of Culture program will run throughout 2013, but late March is a particularly rich period. On March 18, the London Symphony Orchestra will present the works of John Williams, with excerpts from Jurassic Park, Jaws, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. And on March 30-31, the Royal Ballet will perform for the first time in Northern Ireland in two decades. Where to Stay: The Beech Hill Country House Hotel, a Georgian estate set among lush woodlands two miles from Londonderry, is filled with period antiques. The property once housed U.S. Marines during World War II (32 Ardmore Rd., Londonderry, beech-hill.com, doubles from $87). 8. SLOVAKIA Why in 2013: After their amicable split in 1993, the Czech Republic and Slovakia took very different approaches to singledom. The Czech Republic, led by majestic Prague, became a major stop on the backpacker circuit and eventually caught on with jetsetters. Slovakia, on the other hand, has always remained more of a quiet hidden gem. But on the 20th anniversary of its independence, with one of the fastest growing economies in the EU, Slovakia finally seems ready for its close-up. In recent years, the capital Bratislava has seen the construction of a luxury riverside five-star resort and a brand-new community-run Jewish cultural center. Despite its growth, the capital has remained surprisingly affordable: According to the 2012 Priceoftravel.com Backpacker Index, Bratislava is more than half as cheap as nearby Vienna for travelers, ranking as the 10th biggest bargain among major European cities. But 2013 is really all about Slovakia's second city, Košice, which shares the European Capital of Culture designation with Marseille, marking the first time a Slovak city has held the title (www.kosice2013.sk/en). The well-preserved city, which dates back to the 12th century, boasts the largest cathedral in Slovakia, the Gothic St. Elizabeth. In 2013, however, the focus will be on the future. The city's 19th-century military barracks have been converted into Kulturpark, a creative district that will promote contemporary art, experimental theater, and modern dance, with performances and exhibits throughout the year. When to Go: Capital of Culture events are scheduled throughout 2013, but one that shouldn't be missed is the Biela Noc, or White Night, on October 5, 2013. The program, which started in Paris in 2002 and has since spread across Europe, brings musical performances and art installations out into the streets of Košice well past sunset. Their slogan? "We guarantee you won't fall asleep." Where to Stay: Part of the Historic Hotels of Slovakia association, the Hotel Bankov dates back to 1869, making it the country's oldest surviving hotel. The onsite restaurant serves Slovak specialties, such as roasted quail with leek fondue (Dolný Bankov 2, Košice, hotelbankov.sk/en, doubles from $108). 9. BORACAY ISLAND, THE PHILIPPINES Why in 2013: As tourism from east Asia and the United States grows each year, the white-sand beaches of this southeast Asian archipelago should move from your bucket list to your see-it-before-it's-overrun list—especially since Royal Caribbean made its first call to Boracay in October, a move that's sure to incite other cruise lines to do the same. This will no doubt have a universal impact on Philippines tourism and its still-affordable hotel prices. But it's also rather remarkable considering that tourists never even set foot on Boracay until the 1970s. Now there are more than 300 resorts and hotels for visitors to choose from on this thin speck of prime oceanfront real estate (less than a mile wide and less than four miles long)  and last year the area saw more than 900,000 visitors. Regional airlines like Airphil Express make the hour-long flight from Manila to Boracay's new airport for less than $25 round-trip. When to Go: January to May is typically the best weather, but unless you're keen to celebrate Easter with thousands of other tourists, skip Holy Week (March 24 to 31 in 2013), when major cities are packed with visitors. While heavy rain is always possible here, the second half of the year is typhoon season and best to avoid. Where to Stay: Crown Regency Resort and Convention Center in Boracay offers upscale rooms with kitchenettes, a pool, onsite restaurants, and easy beach access (Boat Station 2, Boracay, crownregencyhotels.com, doubles from $110). 10. THE BAHAMAS Why in 2013: If it seems as if the Bahamas are an annual fixture on you-can-afford-to-go-here lists, well, they are—for good reason. According to Travelocity, fares to the islands, north of Cuba in the Atlantic ocean, fell 4 percent this year even as the number of visitors to the islands increased by 8 percent—the average airfare to the Bahamas in 2012 was $463. From northernmost Grand Bahama, with its three national parks, underwater caves, and urbane nightlife, to the bustling port of Nassau,  home to iconic Cable Beach and historic Bay Street lined with shops and cafes, the Bahamas remain a favorite "stylish steal" for savvy travelers—just take a look at hotel prices, which fell 2.5 percent from 2011 to 2012 according to the Bahamas Hotels Association. For a taste of authentic Bahamas cuisine, stop into Twin Brothers for mixed platters of local favorites like conch, snapper, and grouper (Arawak Cay, Nassau, twinbrothersbahamas.com, grilled combos from $20.50). When to Go: Mild trade winds keep the average temperatures in the 70s and 80s pretty much year-round, but rainy season is May through October, making the islands most hospitable in late fall, winter, and early spring. Where to Stay: Wyndham Nassau Resort & Crystal Palace Casino, with gorgeous Cable Beach just outside, is a good home base for exploring Nassau and New Providence Island. Three bars and four restaurants (including the Black Angus Grille, serving steaks and seafood) are onsite, and the casino offers table games and slots. Suites with balconies are available but you're probably going to be happier hitting the sand and surf (West Bay Street, Cable Beach, New Providence Island, wyndhamnassauresort.com, doubles from $112).

    Inspiration

    12 Best Budget Airlines

    Travel can be an expensive hobby—you have to figure out where to stay, what do see and do, what to eat, and more importantly, how to get there, and all without breaking the bank. Flying can often be the priciest part of the journey, especially with all the extra baggage fees and other taxes that are involved nowadays. Luckily, there are airlines out there that want to make it easier—and cheaper—for travelers to get from Point A to Point B. We've rounded up 12 of the world's best budget airlines, great for that quick weekend getaway you've been dreaming about and there to help support your endless sense of wanderlust with an affordable way to visit a new city abroad. JetBlue Airways Comfy leather seats and televisions for all So you want to fly down to D.C., Orlando, or even San Juan for the weekend—no problem! JetBlue Airways makes your flight—whether it's a cross-country hop to San Francisco or a shorter, regional flight to Boston—comfy and enjoyable with plush leather seats and your very own TV screen equipped with 36 channels to make the time fly by. Complimentary snacks like Linden's chocolate chip cookies, Terra blues potato chips, and Dunkin Donuts coffee are available among other tasty snack options, and to top it all off, your first checked bag flies free of charge. Taking the red-eye? JetBlue offers a complimentary snooze kit with eyeshades, ear plugs, and pre-landing treats like hot towels, coffee, and orange juice to help you greet the new day. Where they fly: Between major cities in the northeast, southeast, and western United States; the Caribbean; select cities in Mexico, Central America, and South America. Southwest Airlines Fun-loving employees and open seating options Best known for their above-and-beyond customer service—the airline made news in 2011 when a pilot held an outgoing flight for a grieving grandfather trying to see his dying 2-year-old grandson—Southwest Airlines now offers connections to even more cities around the U.S., Caribbean, and Mexico, thanks to a nifty new partnership with Air Tran Airways. Their unique open seating boarding procedure is another thing that makes this airline stand out. You'll receive a group number when you check-in (the earlier the better), and after your group is called, stand in line and choose any seat you want while boarding the plane. Your first bag flies free, and your biggest decision all day will be choosing between the window or aisle seat. Where they fly: Major cities throughout the United States; Nassau, Bahamas; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Mexico City, Cancun, and Los Cabos, Mexico. WestJet Connecting Canada with the U.S., Mexico, and the Caribbean Founded in 1996 and based out of Canada, the idea behind WestJet is that you shouldn't get less service just because you're paying less for a ticket. The airline has won several awards since then, was named J.D. Power Customer Service Champion, and is involved in several community service projects including the Boys and Girls Club of Canada, Make-A-Wish Canada, and the Ronald McDonald House among other charity groups. WestJet is also committed to investing in more eco-friendly practices like building more fuel-efficient jets. The airline offers flights to and from a number of Canadian cities, as well as flights between Canadian cities, making this an affordable way to visit the sites in Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Victoria, and Toronto for less. Where they fly: Major cities throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Major cities throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Check their flight map to see more options. LAN Gateway to South America Looking for an affordable way to explore South America? LAN is known for their reasonable long haul prices between the U.S. and a variety of destinations—sign up for their email newsletter and never miss a sale. The airline also offers extensive in-flight entertainment options. Each seat has its own television, and you can choose from more than 100 movies, 42 TV shows, 25 games, and even customize your own music playlist from their collection of more than 1,000 CDs or listen to one of their 10 available radio stations; entertainment options sure to make that international flight go by in a jiffy. Where they fly: Miami is the major U.S. hub, but flights also leave from most major cities in the U.S. and Canada. Within South America, destinations include Lima, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, Guayaquil, Bogotá, LaPaz, and Caracas among others. Domestic flights are also available within Colombia, Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands, Peru, Chile, and Argentina. IcelandAir Spice up your next transatlantic flight with a free stopover in Iceland Want to make that long awaited trip to Europe just a little more interesting? How about adding a free stopover in Iceland? Thanks to IcelandAir, you have the option of adding a stay of up to seven nights when traveling from the U.S. and Canada to Europe for no additional cost to your original plane ticket. If you've got time to spare, don't miss this opportunity to tack on a few days and explore this intriguing nation, home to the Blue Lagoon, gorgeous natural landscapes, and a rare chance to catch a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights. Check their website for specials from the U.S. and Canada to seemingly pricey destinations like Oslo, Copenhagen, and Helsinki, and for budget-friendly packages to Iceland that include airfare, hotel stays, and visits to popular attractions. Where they fly: From New York City, Boston, Washington D.C., Orlando, Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle, Halifax, and Toronto, to 25 major European cities and, of course, Reykjavik, Iceland. Aer Lingus Service with a brogue and a smile Erin go bragh! Originally created in 1936 to provide service between the Emerald Isle and the U.K., Aer Lingus is now the national airline of Ireland, operating 43 aircraft and carrying more than 10 million passengers per year. Customers can look forward to an impressive amount of in-flight entertainment-long haul flights from the U.S. feature a large selection of movies, TV shows, and music on demand, as well as several radio stations and gaming options-and complimentary in-flight WiFi on all flights beginning June 2013. Check the Aer Lingus Vacation Store for special deals on trips to Ireland that include airfare, hotel stays, and car rentals depending on the package. Where they fly: Major cities in the U.S. and Canada, various cities in the U.K. and around Europe. Also to Puerto Rico, Sydney, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, and the Canary Islands. EasyJet Affordable flights around Europe and the Middle East The U.K.'s largest airline, EasyJet connects 30 countries on 600 routes, transporting more than 59 million passengers a year, all while offering some of the cheapest fares around Europe. If you're hoping to visit more cities while in Europe or the Middle East, this airline makes it easier to hop a plane to a new place for less. Their nifty Inspire Me tool can help figure out where to go next—just enter the European city you plan to leave from, set your budget range, and watch the options appear. A search from London, for instance, yielded one-way tickets ranging from nearby Edinburgh and Belfast to cities as far away as Berlin, Munich, and Milan for less than $50. Where they fly: Throughout the U.K. and between a number of major European cities; Moscow and various cities in Eastern Europe, Morocco, Turkey, Israel, Cyprus, Jordan, and Egypt. RyanAir Cheap flights—but watch for extra fees RyanAir is probably one of the most well known of all the budget airlines, but unfortunately is also known for offering super-low base ticket prices and tacking on extra fees for things like baggage, purchasing your tickets with a credit card, reserving seats, and reissuing boarding passes—at one point the airline even considered charging passengers to use the onboard restrooms. According to their website, these extreme methods are used as a way to encourage people to fly in a simple, low cost way, for instance, without any checked baggage, so for budget travelers with only carry-on luggage, this airline can be a great way to see more cities for a fraction of the price you would be spending on another airline. Where they fly: Various cities around Europe, Morocco, Cyprus, and the Canary Islands. FastJet Africa's first budget airline If you're looking for an affordable way to explore more of Africa, perhaps before or after your dream safari trip, try FastJet, Africa's first budget airline. Domestic flights start at about $20 one way, but make sure you pack a snack—because of the short flight time between cities, onboard refreshments are not offered at this time. You are allowed to bring one carry-on item with you as long as it can fit into the overhead compartment and prices start at just $6 to check a bag, making this no-frills airline an affordable option to hop between popular destinations like Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Where they fly: From three international airports within Tanzania—Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, and Zanzibar—and Mwanza Regional Airport, with more routes expected to open soon in Entebbe, Uganda, and in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya. Hawaiian Airlines Your ticket to paradise If you're on the east coast and think a trip to paradise is financially out of the question, think again. Hawaiian Airlines began non-stop flights from New York City's JFK International Airport last June, creating quite a stir in the tri-state area with prices in the $400s for a round-trip ticket. Keep an eye on their website for specials that are also available from California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona, connecting the continental U.S. to the Hawaiian Islands at competitive prices. The airline also provides connections to other South Pacific islands and parts of Asia, making that dream trip across the Pacific well within reach. Where they fly: Honolulu, Hawaii, is the main hub—you can island hop to the other Hawaiian Islands of Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island, or fly to the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Tahiti, Singapore, Australia, and American Samoa. JetStar Domestic flights between cities in 15 Asian and South Pacific countries Australia's award winning low cost airline is Jetstar, a group of airlines made up of Jetstar Airways, based in New Zealand and Australia; Jetstar Asia, based in Singapore; Jetstar Pacific, based in Vietnam; Jetstar Japan; and Jetstar Hong Kong. Together, the Jetstar Group has flown more than 75 million passengers, helping people fly between hotspot destinations around Asia, the South Pacific, and Hawaii for less since 2004. You have the flexibility to choose how many included amenities you want while booking thanks to their cheap base fares and the ability to add extras as you go—the standard ticket price includes one piece of carry-on luggage (a great value for those who tend to pack light), while other variations include seat selection, food, beverages, and in-flight entertainment. Where they fly: Various cities in Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines. Tiger Airways Great for hopping between major cities in Asia Let's say you're visiting Australia but really want to pop over to Singapore to explore the city's vibrant culinary scene. Tiger Airways offers low fares great for last-minute split-second decisions to explore a new city, a network spanning more than 50 destinations in 13 different countries around Asia and the South Pacific. Check out their Flight Combos for even more savings and a chance to tack on a free two-hour guided sightseeing tour of Singapore if you have at least five hours to spare between connecting flights. Where they fly: Cities throughout Australia, Tasmania, Indonesia, India, Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan, China, and the Philippines; Singapore, Kuching, Macau.

    Inspiration

    Maine's Mid-Coast

    I've always hated lobster. My memories of childhood vacations in Maine are clouded by recollections of sitting grumpily at the picnic table of lobster shacks, morosely longing for a hamburger. My girlfriend, Frances, was of another mind. She prepared for our drive up Maine's Mid-Coast--from Portland to Penobscot Bay--by trying to work out ways to incorporate lobster into every meal, including breakfast. I was far more eager to revisit the Maine I loved from my past: offshore islands, Victorian fishing villages, the gargantuan L.L. Bean flagship store, and meandering drives along the narrow peninsulas. As for my feelings about lobster, I have to admit I became a begrudging convert: By the end of our trip it was me--claw cracker in one hand, plastic cup of Maine microbrew in the other--eyeing the largest guy in the tank. Day 1: Portland to Westport Island Our first order of business heading north out of Portland on Route 1 was a visit to DeLorme headquarters in Yarmouth. I had borrowed my dad's DeLorme map of the state. He'd highlighted his favorite drives, circled memorable towns, and scrawled notes all over. It was as good a resource as any guidebook, but this was to be my trip, and I wanted my own blank slate. DeLorme's lobby houses the world's largest spinning globe--130 feet around, over 41 feet high. At one-millionth scale, the massive globe has all the world's topographical information, but leaves out political borders. It's Earth as the astronauts see it--all I could think was how huge the Pacific Ocean actually is. We stopped next at the Desert of Maine, a kitschy 40-acre plot of miniature sand dunes. The site formed in the 1880s when over-farming depleted the soil covering a glacial sand deposit. Along with the striking dunes, the Desert of Maine complex has a train to cart you around, plastic camels for photo-ops, and a nature trail through a pine forest that promised remarkable wildlife wonders such as "trees and birds." In Freeport, I got to business trying on travel slacks at L.L. Bean. The town is one of the nation's most popular outlet shopping villages, with more than 150 stores. And it all started in 1917 when avid outdoorsman Leon Leonwood Bean opened his shop, now a 140,000-square-foot flagship. Frances had to drag me out of a dressing room to find lunch. Half a block down Main Street, we grabbed a table on the brick patio of the Lobster Cooker, a homespun version of a fast-food joint. It was my first lobster roll of the trip, and it was better than I remembered them to be. The soft, chewy bun and the mayonnaisey lobster were delicious. Squire Tarbox Inn, a 1763 farmhouse turned B&B, was so secluded that to find it we had to stop twice to consult the map. Owner Roni De Pietro, a retired flight attendant, showed us around the building and up an outdoor staircase to our room. Rough wooden beams lined the ceiling, and there was a lovely view over gardens sloping to a meadow with a pond. After settling in, we returned downstairs to the inn's little living room to snack on goat cheese, crackers, olives, and red wine from the honor bar, where we noted what we drank for our bill. Squire Tarbox is as well known for its meals as its rooms. Roni's Swiss husband, Mario--a veteran of top New York kitchens including The Four Seasons restaurant--prepared a dinner of chicken curry soup, grilled salmon, and potato-crusted haddock with a side of glazed carrots from the inn's organic garden. Back in our room, I left the door open awhile to take in the quiet and the darkness. A fluffy cat sauntered in, hopped up onto the bed's duvet, and settled down with us for the night. Day One Lodging Squire Tarbox Inn1181 Main Rd., Westport Island, 207/882-7693, squiretarboxinn.com, rooms from $99, dinner from $32.50 Food Lobster Cooker39 Main St., Freeport, 207/865-4349, lobster roll $14 Attractions DeLorme 2 DeLorme Dr., Yarmouth, 207/846-7100 Desert of Maine 95 Desert Rd., Freeport, 207/865-6962, $7.75 Shopping L.L. Bean 95 Main St., Freeport, 800/559-0747 Day 2: Westport Island to Waldoboro To say the town of Bath (pop. 9,266) is in the shipbuilding industry is a bit of an understatement; nearly half of the employees at Bath Iron Works are from the greater Bath area. And during the past 117 years, BIW has built more than 400 big boats, from tugs to missile destroyers. Down the road from BIW, the defunct Percy & Small Shipyard has been turned into the Maine Maritime Museum. I expected it to be dull, but was proven wrong by an intriguing mix of seafaring lore and shipbuilding secrets. An exhibit on lobstermen listed some common superstitions: They will not paint their boats blue, wear black, turn baskets or barrels upside down, or say the word "pig" while on board. Maine's Mid-Coast looks somewhat like a stumpy hand with more than a dozen long, scraggly fingers. The fingers are peninsulas and islands, most of which are connected by bridges. From Bath, we drove down one peninsula and onto Bailey Island, a small fishing village. At the docks, Cook's Lobster House was a near-perfect lobster shack. I had baked lobster stuffed with Ritz crackers. The baking dried out the lobster meat, but copious amounts of melted butter went a long way to making up for it. At Bowdoin College in Brunswick, we visited the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, a collection of Arctic arcana. (Did you know caribou hair is hollow?) The place was named for two alumni explorers, the more famous of whom--Robert Edwin Peary--became the first man to reach the North Pole, in 1909. We retraced our way south to Georgetown Island with one goal: to take a picture of me next to the sign for Reid State Park. After a lifetime of searching in vain for my name on a miniature license plate, this was something of a victory. The park also won me over with one of Maine's best beaches--a mile and a half of wide sand backed by marshy tide pools and a freshwater pond. Though summer temperatures around here average in the mid-70s, the water in the ocean never rises much past 60 degrees. Only the hardiest swimmers opt for the ocean, and it was too cold for us to contemplate either. In Waldoboro, a neon sign welcomed us to Moody's Diner, a classic joint with two neat rows of white clapboard cabins on a hill behind it. We relaxed for a few moments on our little screened porch before hopping back in the car to backtrack down Rte. 1 for dinner in Damariscotta. The town, which curls around a harbor, has a white church steeple poking above the trees. At King Eider's Pub, we had cold pints of local microbrew Kennebec River Magic Hole IPA, along with fresh, meaty river oysters and a hunter's soup of beef, sausage, potatoes, and veggies in a spicy broth. It warmed us up nicely. Day Two Lodging Moody's MotelRoute 1, Waldoboro, 207/832-5362, $43 Food Cook's Lobster HouseBailey Island, 207/833-2818, lobster $25 King Eider's Pub2 Elm St., Damariscotta, 207/563-6008, half-dozen river oysters $11 Attractions Maine Maritime Museum243 Washington St., Bath, 207/443-1316, $10 Peary-MacMillan Arctic MuseumHubbard Hall, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, 207/725-3416 Reid State Park375 Seguinland Rd., Georgetown, 207/371-2303, $4.50 Day 3: Waldoboro to Vinalhaven We fortified ourselves for the day with eggs, pancakes, and bacon at Moody's Diner before visiting Pemaquid Point. There's a real land's-end feel to the protruding finger of granite, which is eroded in the most gorgeous way. An 1827 lighthouse at the top of the outcropping is the same one pictured on the back of Maine's state quarters. Frances and I whiled away two hours scrambling over the rocks, peering at tiny crabs in tide pools. Just up the road we found a place that beat Cook's Lobster House, at least in terms of atmosphere. Shaw's Fish & Lobster Wharf is a one-room outfit with a sunny deck built out over a cove bobbing with boats. It was quiet accompaniment to yet another delicious lobster. The oddest souvenir shop I've ever seen, the Maine State Prison Showroom near Rockland, is stocked with woodwork made by inmates from the state pen up the road in Warren. Prices are low: oak bookcases for $139, intricate ship models from $55. I'm still kicking myself for not buying a Maine State Prison birdhouse resembling a jail, with little bars on the windows. It was a bit disconcerting, however, to browse a store staffed by convicts (plus a guard). Moving higher up the art scale, we stopped at the Farnsworth Art Museum in downtown Rockland to admire the work of 19th-century American painters, including Thomas Eakins and the Wyeth clan. Andrew Wyeth's father, N.C., started the family's habit of summering in Maine in the 1930s in nearby Port Clyde. After taking our sweet time at the museum, we parked down by the docks and boarded the ferry for the 75-minute ride to Vinalhaven Island. In the center of town, the Tidewater Motel is built right on top of a fast, narrow tidal channel. Our room opened onto a small deck over the water. From the window, we could look at the harbor, flecked with dozens of white boats. Owner Phil Crossman lent us a couple of bikes, and we rode a few miles out of town to Booths Quarry, a popular swimming hole. It was sunny but chilly, and the water felt freezing. Some teenage girls were splashing around, so I tried--unsuccessfully--to convince Frances to jump in with me. What I failed to consider was that these girls had been tempered by Maine winters. The second I hit the water, I catapulted back out of it with a yelp and sprinted back along the surface to shore. Frances found this hilarious. We biked back for dinner at the Harbor Gawker, an unpretentious restaurant looking out on a pond. The crab roll and clam chowder were simple and just right. Day Three Lodging Tidewater MotelVinalhaven, 207/863-4618, tidewatermotel.com, from $72 Food Shaw's Fish & Lobster WharfRoute 32, New Harbor, 207/ 677-2200, lobster $14 Harbor GawkerMain St., Vinalhaven, 207/863-9365, crab roll and clam chowder $10.75 Attractions Pemaquid Point207/563-6246, parking $2 Farnsworth Art Museum16 Museum St., Rockland, 207/596-6457, $9 Shopping Maine State Prison Showroom358 Main St. (Rte. 1), Thomaston, 207/354-9237 Transportation Maine State Ferry ServiceRockland, 207/596-2202, round-trip $12 Day 4: Vinalhaven to Portland In a little shopping center next to the docks, a back deck leads to the Surfside, a restaurant popular with fishermen, who roll in for breakfast as early as 4 a.m. Well after that hour, I wolfed down two eggs with kielbasa, crispy home fries, and thick slices of bread made from cornmeal and molasses, and Frances had blueberry pancakes. All the while, owner Donna Webster and her staff teased the other clients--friends who had come in to discuss The Bold & the Beautiful, and skateboarders declaring the food "wicked good." A ferry to the mainland dropped us back at our car, and we took a quick drive north to Camden. Giant old Victorians line the streets, a little river spills over a waterfall into the harbor, and fun shops fill brick buildings along Chestnut, Main, and Elm Streets. It all felt very Norman Rockwell. Camden was the end of the road for us. But before shooting back down to Portland, we picked up some turkey sandwiches at the Camden Deli for one more activity, a mile-and-a-half climb to the top of Mount Battie, outside of town. Just below the mountaintop, we found a sunny boulder to sit on, and pulled out our picnic. We took turns reading to each other from "Renascence," the 1912 poem that launched the literary career of local high school student Edna St. Vincent Millay. The poem was evidently inspired by this very view of Camden, the perfect Maine town, overlooking the perfect island-dotted harbor. Day Four Food Surfside RestaurantWest Main St., Vinalhaven, 207/863-2767 Camden Deli37 Main St., Camden, 207/236-8343 Attractions Mount BattieCamden Hills State Park, 280 Belfast Rd., Camden, 207/236-3109 Finding Your Way The ideal time for this trip is in high summer, when temperatures reach the mid-70s, and everything's sure to be open. Driving these parts requires a lot of jogging up and down Route 1; the goal isn't to get from Point A to Point B, but to detour into all the inlets. The exits on Interstates 295 and 95 were renumbered in Maine in early 2004, so be sure to use 2005 guidebooks and maps. A few notes: 1) The Squire Tarbox Inn is easy to miss. From Bath on Route 1, Route 144 sneaks up after the Montsweag brook crossing. 2) The ferry to Vinalhaven leaves out of Rockland. 3) The fastest route back to Portland from Camden is inland, via Route 90 to Route 17 to Augusta, then I-95 to I-295 south.

    Budget Travel Lists

    7 Incredible Grand Tours You Can Actually Afford

    Sometimes a one-week vacation just isn't enough, especially when you wake up the last morning of your trip and don't want to leave yet—it's too soon, and you've just begun to discover what makes your destination so special. Luckily, there are longer grand tours that provide you with enough time to fullly explore a new place, whether it's a month-long journey through Southeast Asia or an in-depth two-week Ireland adventure. We've scoured the world of extended travel deals for packages that give you the most bang for your buck, listed here in order from the least amount of money you'll spend per day to most. At first it might seem like you are spending a little more than usual on some of these trips, but the perks included—meals, intra-country transportation, airport transfers, professionally guided small-group tours with a personal touch—and the unique travel experiences you'll get more than make up for any initial sticker-shock. SEE THE GRAND TOURS! India: basics on a budget Highlights: Visit ancient forts and colorful modern cities throughout Northern India. Looking to do some traveling abroad while on a budget? This three-week tour of Northern India and Rajasthan is full of unique experiences—an overnight camel safari in the desert, anyone?—and gives you just enough free time to explore the cities on your own. You'll also get guided tours of New Delhi, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Pushkar, Udaipur, and Jaipur, plus the chance to experience sunrise at the Savitri temple in Pushkar and wrap things up with a scenic boat trip down the River Ganges during a candle flower ceremony. The breakdown: This three-week tour of Northern India and Rajasthan will cost you about $67 per day including 19 nights' accommodations, all ground transportation within the country, and several guided tours. G Adventures, from $1,349 per person for a 20-day trip. Average group size: 10-16 people. Central America for the trail-blazing history buff Highlights: Tour ancient ruins and jungles in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Dreaming of visiting the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum, Palenque, Chichén Itzá, Tikal, and Copán? This extensive small-group tour starts in Mexico City with a vast cultural tour of Mexico—explore the colonial buildings of Puebla, Oaxaca, and San Cristobal de las Casas before heading north to the Yucatán cities of Palenque, Mérida, and Playa del Carmen. Next, you'll cross the border to Belize and soak up the Central American sun in Caye Caulker, before heading south to Flores, Guatemala—shop for the perfect souvenir at the local markets of Chichicastenango and take time to roam the colorful city of Antigua. Ponder the past at the Mayan ruins in Copán and relax on the beaches of Roatán Island during your time in Honduras. From here, the tour heads south through Granada and Ometepe Island in Nicaragua before finishing up with trips to Costa Rica's tropical cloud forests, Arenal Volcano National Park, and San José, the country's capitol city. The breakdown: You'll end up spending $71 per day including all ground transportation, guided tours, and 45 nights' accommodations in hotels, one night in a local homestay, and one night on an overnight bus. Intrepid Travel's Central America Explorer, from $3,295 for a 46-day trip. Average group size: 16 people. New Zealand: affordable island-hopping for nature lovers and adrenaline junkies Highlights: Tour New Zealand's North and South Islands for less. Get to know this intriguing kiwi nation with a three-week trip through both islands. The tour starts and ends in Auckland, and includes some truly "only in New Zealand" experiences like Maori cultural encounters, sea kayaking in the Doubtful Sound, surfing lessons in Raglan, and a trip to Franz Josef National Park. Other adrenaline-pumping activities include a mountain biking excursion and the chance to take on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of the most popular one-day treks in the country. Hiking, biking and opportunities to skydive and bungee jump are also available if you're feeling extra gutsy. The breakdown: You'll spend $112 a day including all intra-country transportation, 20 nights' worth of accommodations, guided tours, and most meals. G Adventures, from $2,359 per person for a 21-day trip. Average tour size: 12 people. An African safari adventure from Kenya to Cape Town Highlights: Meet the locals and spot the Big Five in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. If you're an adventurous animal lover with a month and a half to spare, this tour is right up your alley. Keep your eyes out for the Big Five as you zig-zag your way through eight African countries and stop to see the animals they're known for on a number of game drives and walks through the African bush. You'll also get to visit spice plantations in Zanzibar, feel the spray of Victoria Falls, and relax on the beaches of Lake Malawi. Get to know the locals by staying in several African villages along the way, giving you the chance to see what everyday life is like in the jungles and deserts of this intriguing continent. The breakdown: You'll end up spending $118 per day for this 45-day African adventure including 44 nights' accommodations, all ground transportation, guided tours, and most meals. Intrepid Travel, from $5,310 per person for a 45-day trip. Average tour size: 22 people. Best of the U.S. Highlights: An epic cross-country adventure from San Francisco to New York City and back, stopping at national parks and big cities around the country. Starting and ending in San Francisco, this 32-city tour of the United States' best attractions includes visits to Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, Niagara Falls, Badlands National Park, Devil's Tower, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Park. The first half of the tour takes you through the heartland—gamble in Las Vegas, experience southwest culture in Santa Fe, and visit Elvis at Graceland—while the rest of it works through the big cities of the Northeast before sending you back through the northern states—ride to the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago, experience the Wild Wild West in South Dakota, and pay a visit to Old Faithful on your way back to the Golden State. The breakdown: This 44-day trip breaks down to $120 per day including all of your ground transportation in an air-conditioned van, 43 nights' accommodations, and guided city tours of San Francisco, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Washington D.C., and New York City. This package also covers most meals as well as entrance fees to all included National Parks, the Maid of the Mist boat tour in Niagara Falls, a trip to Arlington National Cemetery, and a beer tasting in Milwaukee. G Adventures, from $5,299 per person for a 44-day trip. Average tour size: 10-13 people. The ultimate tour of Southeast Asia Highlights: Visit temples, beaches, and historical spots throughout Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. On this 29-day Southeast Asia adventure, you'll get to visit ancient temples like Chiang Mai, Wat Po, and Wat Rong Khun, sail down the Mekong River, spend the night at a homestay in a local Laotian village, and watch a traditional Vietnamese water puppets show. And that's just the first half of your trip—the rest has you cruising around Halong Bay, visiting the Royal Tombs in Hue, exploring historic Hoi An, touring the Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City, and cruising the Mekong Delta before you head into Cambodia for a sobering historical tour of the Killing Fields and guided tours of Angkor Wat's spectacular temple complex. The breakdown: You'll spend $121 a day including all guided tours, entrance fees, ground transportation, regional flights and boat rides between countries, accommodations, and most meals. G Adventures, from $3,499 per person for a 29-day trip. Average group size: 10-15 people. Grand tour of Ireland Highlights: Visit Dublin, Killarney, Belfast, Derry, Blarney, Galway, Kerry, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle Peninsula, and experience a traditional medieval dinner in an Irish castle. Erin go bragh! This grand tour of Ireland gives you eleven days to explore both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. You'll visit legendary places like the Giant's Causeway and get guided tours of twenty major sites and attractions including Trinity College's Book of Kells, the Guinness Brewery Storehouse, city tours of Belfast and Galway, a trip to the Titanic Belfast Experience, scenic tours of the Cliffs of Moher, Ring of Kerry, and Dingle Peninsula, plus a traditional medieval dinner in an Irish castle. Just don't forget to bring your camera! The breakdown: Round-trip multicity airfares between New York City, Dublin, and Shannon start from $697 in early October (Aer Lingus). The land-only portion of this trip ends up being about $1,702 per person, or $131 per person per day. SmarTours, from $2,399 per person for an 11-day trip including international airfare from New York City. Average tour size: 35-40 people. Book this package by Nov. 6th before prices increase by $400.

    Family

    Wandermom takes her kids to an Irish castle and a giant's causeway

    One of our favorite family travel blogs is Wandermom, written by Michelle Duffy. We're especially excited to hear that she'll soon be embarking on a year-long trip with her husband and two young children. (See their global itinerary.) Recently, Wandermom blogged about her family's spring trip to Ireland. We were curious if she had any more terrific tales from her trip to share. She kindly agreed to share with us the following story: We're visiting Ireland, and my brother-in-law, Dan, says he's promised my children they'll see a castle, and a giant's causeway. Soon we were off for a daytrip from Dublin. The trip north on the motorway towards Belfast was speedy. We stopped for a picnic lunch at Slieve Gullion park outside Newry, where the kids had to be coaxed down from trees and high stone walls to eat and I explained to Charlie that 'Slieve' (Shliabh) is the Gaelic word for mountain. Legs and arms suitably stretched and tummies full, we continued north—crossing into the now-very-safe-for-tourists state of Northern Ireland. We reached the Giant's Causeway in the late afternoon. Bushmills is a scant 60 miles from Belfast. On a clear day, the views across to Scotland are stunning—mists on the Mull of Kintyre notwithstanding. Even though afternoon shadows were starting to lengthen, the sun was warm and there was no discernable wind as we made our way down to the interlocking basalt columns which make up the Causeway. Tromping over the hexagonal stones all three children scattered in different directions; thankfully there were three adults to follow. I overheard Dan telling Charlie that the water in the stones was giant's tears as I raced towards the headland to catch my younger son who was already on a mission to discover whether or not there really was a sunken bridge at the water's edge. As we heaved our way up the steep hill back to the car an hour or so later, Charlie summed up our visit as only a four-year-old can "That was the best Giant's Causeway ever!" Tomorrow would be a day for castles. The history of Dunluce Castle is a tale of battles and chieftains and Earls and ladies—perfect for the imaginations of three young boys who wasted no time disappearing to explore tall towers and stone stairwells and to hang, precariously, out stone windows exclaiming at the steep drop down to the sea below. The second Earl of Antrim Randal MacDonnell and his wife Lady Catherine were the last people to live here, although she apparently, did not like the sound of the sea and was eager to move further inland. Fate provided her with a rock solid excuse to leave when part of the castle kitchen fell into the sea killing a number of the kitchen staff—apparently while the Earl and the Countess were entertaining. I'd say that's the best "dinner party disaster" story I've ever heard. PLAN A TRIP The Giant's Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge are National Trust properties. Dunluce Castle is in the care of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. MORE Budget Travel's Family Travel page The Real Castles of Ireland

    Inspiration

    London: A 2012 arts marathon worthy of the Olympics

    A play starring Cate Blanchett, a production of "Romeo and Juliet," and a peace concert hosted by Jude Law are among the hundreds of events planned for a 12-week festival celebrating the London 2012 Olympics. The Cultural Olympiad will run between June 21 and Sept. 9, 2012. Book your tickets in advance, later next year. We'll let you know when the mix of free and paid performances become available. Oscar-winning Australian actress Blanchett will star in a new adaptation of "Gross und Klein," with the Sydney Theatre Company. A staging of "Romeo and Juliet" will be set in present-day Baghdad, with Sunnis and Shias instead of Montagues and Capulets. Other highlights include the screening of a series of short new films by Mike Leigh and other acclaimed directors, and art exhibitions by artists such as David Hockney, Lucian Freud, and Olafur Eliasson. Some events will be held outside of London. Actor Jude Law, for instance, will host a Peace One Day concert in Belfast, Northern Ireland. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL London theatre: Once-a-year discounts available London: 5 best December values London: Rent a bike for nearly nothing

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    DESTINATION IN Maine

    Penobscot Bay

    Penobscot Bay (French: Baie de Penobscot) is an inlet of the Gulf of Maine and Atlantic Ocean in south central Maine. The bay originates from the mouth of Maine's Penobscot River, downriver from Belfast. Penobscot Bay has many working waterfronts including Rockland, Rockport, and Stonington, and Belfast upriver. Penobscot Bay is between Muscongus Bay and Blue Hill Bay, just west of Acadia National Park. 11,000 years ago, at the beginning of the Holocene epoch, the Gulf of Maine's sea level fell as low as 180 feet (55 m) below its present height. Penobscot Bay was then a continuation of Penobscot River that meandered through a broad lowland extending past present day Matinicus Island.Penobscot Bay and its chief tributary, Penobscot River are named for the Penobscot Indian Nation, which has continuously inhabited the area for more than ten thousand years, fishing, hunting and shellfish gathering in and around the bay and river. A part of the Wabanaki Confederacy, the Penobscot Indian Nation's present reservation includes Indian Island, north of Orono, Maine, and all the islands of Penobscot River above it. Ancient remains of their campsites dating back millennia have been found on the bay's shores and islands. The bay was the site of a humiliating American defeat during the Revolutionary War. A Continental Navy flotilla consisting of 19 warships and 25 support vessels was dispatched on July 24 to recapture the mid-coast of Maine from the British who had captured part of the territory and constructed fortifications near the bay, naming the newly captured territory New Ireland. The American besiegers became stalled in their assaults due to dissension between Solomon Lovell and Dudley Saltonstall, two of the expeditions commanders, and after a British flotilla led by George Collier arrived on August 13, the American fleet fled, beaching and burning their ships in the face of a superior British force. All 44 ships were either destroyed or captured, in what proved to be America's worst naval defeat until Pearl Harbor, 162 years later.There are many islands in this bay, and on them, some of the country's most well-known summer colonies.