West Coast – Fall Destinations

Indian summer is here; the tail end of summer that often brings the most heat and beauty just before fall.  For some places such as the eastern seaboard of the United States it may be getting cold and wet.  Although the Pacific Northwest rains most of the year it will be dry and hot during the end of September.  This small window with the additions of the California coastline provides numerous end of summer destinations to visit before autumn closes in.  Here are our top ten west coast destinations for the end of summer.

Top Ten West Coast Fall Destinations:

La Jolla:  La Jolla is located in an upscale corner of San Diego, includes high-end shops, sandstone formations and famous coves, known as the children’s pool but also popular with seals.  The town is also home of the University of California at San Diego and giant sea cliffs are very popular among photographers and hikers.

Hotel Del Coronado:  The red-roofed Hotel del Coronado, which dates to the 19th century, stands a few miles from downtown San Diego.  Since it was first built more than 120 years ago, the Hotel del Coronado has been a beacon of grandeur and refinement among vacation destinations in Southern California and the world. With its iconic red-shingled roof adding a dash of majestic color to the dazzling azure Pacific coastline, The Del stands as the definitive example of what a luxury resort should be.

Ragged Point:  Ragged Point, in Monterey County about 15 miles north of Hearst Castle, is a southern neighbor of Big Sur, and home to the food, lodgings, great flower-framed views and often-expensive gas at the Ragged Point Inn.  Ragged point is the halfway point in between San Francisco and Los Angeles.  Nestled within the Los Padres National Forest, it is a secluded gem in the heart of the California coastline.

El Capitan State Beach: El Capitan State Beach, north of Santa Barbara, features about 140 campsites and a three-mile hiking or biking trail to Refugio State Beach to the north.  You don’t have to camp if you prefer to book a hotel Santa Barbara just a few miles down the Pacific Coast Highway.  The beach is beautiful, quiet and close to the famous wine country and small beach towns of the Central California coast.

Monterey:  Monterey was once capital of California, but lately it gets more attention for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which opened in 1984 and displays about 550 species of marine plants and animals, including this shark.  Monterey has great Italian food, great scenery, wildlife, and can provide endless sightseeing that everyone in the family will enjoy.

Cavallo Point:  Sometimes the simplest things are the most sublime. At a new national park lodge called Cavallo Point, a porch, a rocking chair and a view combine to become profoundly inspiring. This vast, peaceful spot near Sausalito was once Ft. Baker, a military post built in the early 1900s to protect San Francisco Bay.

Gold Beach: The roadside scenery in Gold Beach, Ore., includes the cool mural work on Tsunami Willie’s.  Gold Beach is an Oregon coast town near the California border.  It is famous for its seafood as the yearly Dungeness crab harvest brings many tourists to check out the catch.  The ocean is beautiful and not too cold as the town is laced with a number of bridges.

Portland:  Portland, Oregon is the most progressive city on the west coast.  With its green attitude, free Wi-Fi and city of bridges, many have picked up and moved across the country to settle down in this brewpub haven.  During the summer Portland is warm and is a great place to fish, bike ride and have some good food.

Ilwaco: Ilwaco sits near the south end of Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula, and the China Beach Retreat sits at water’s edge with a view of Cape Disappointment.  A great place to take a dog, go fishing, boating, camping, and just a couple hours from Portland or Seattle.

Deception Pass State Park:  A soaring bridge, a state park and deep green water make Deception Pass, between Whidbey and Anacortes islands, Wash., a popular stop for drivers and kayakers alike.  The pass is the narrow in which water comes into Puget Sound.  This beautiful strait usually is covered in fog, with beautiful hiking trails that look down on downtown Seattle.

Most Affordable French Ski Resorts

As the new ski season beckons, it’s time to air out your woolly hats, blow the dust off your skis and grab a great deal to the slopes. In the chilly economic climate, the French Alps are still your best bet both for quality resorts and accessibility.

Just a couple of hours’ flight away from the UK, the French Alps offer a vast choice of resorts catering for absolute beginners, intermediates and pros.

Here’s our guide to the top ten most affordable ski resorts in France…

1. Les Corbier
Best for: Families
Located in the Les Sybelles region of France, the resort of Les Corbier is purpose-built, compact and traffic-free. Designed in the 1960s by architect Le Corbusier, the resort has become the fourth largest ski resort in France. Nearly all of the accommodation is ski-in/ski-out apartments and with two supermarkets in resort, self-catering ski holidays are a breeze. There are several bars and restaurants.

Hot deal: Pierre & Vacances Residence Maeva Les Pistes is located 500 m from the slopes, the ski lifts and shops and offers fully-equipped apartments with mountain-view balconies. A week in a one-bedroom apartment for up to four people, costs from just 199 Euros.

2. Chamonix
Best for: experienced skiers
Chamonix is a much-loved ski resort due to the variety of outdoor activities you can participate in here. The summit of Mont Blanc is the third most visited natural site in the world and the mountains hosts activities such as ice climbing, alpine mountaineering and extreme skiing. There are all sorts of terrain, but this is the perfect destination for the expert winter sports enthusiast and the adventurous. Chamonix is famous for its cable car up to Aiguille du Midi as well as the panoramic restaurant at the top station of the Brevent cable car, which boasts impressive views of the Mont Blanc Massif.

Hot deal: The Residence Maeva La Riviera is located in the district of Chamonix Sud, 300 m from the Aiguille du Midi cable car and five minutes from the resort centre. Studio apartments for up to four cost from just 244 Euros for seven nights.

3. Valloire
Best for: Intermediates
Valloire offers the combination of an old mountain village mixed with modern architecture. Valloire is the best known of the Maurienne valley resorts and its narrow streets, bustling shops and various restaurants makes it a charming location for your winter holiday. The slopes spread widely across three sunny sectors and are particularly good for intermediates. 70% of the Valloire/Valmeinier ski area is above 2000m and it offers 150 km of slopes.

Hot deal: The Pierre & Vacances Chalets Valoria at Valloire is located on the heights, overlooking the valley and the resort. A high standard residence built in a style typical of the region; these spacious apartments are located 300m away from the ski lifts. Studios for up to four cost from only 279 Euros per week.

4. La Clusaz
Best for: intermediates
The French ski resort of La Clusaz is one of its kind as it is still, essentially, a genuine mountain ski village. This ski resort exudes rustic charm and an infectious Gallic atmosphere. La Clusaz offers 200km of largely intermediate slopes, above and below the treeline, and makes a fantastic base for an enjoyable, relaxed week.

Hot deal: Residence Maeva La Perriere overlooks the resort on the southern slope and is available at 320 Euros per week for a 4 person studio apartment.

5. Serre Chevalier
Best for: Snowboarders
Serre Chevalier is one of the major ski resorts in France. Located in the Haute-Alpes region, Serre Chevalier is a large valley between the Lautaret and Briancon passes. Its 13 villages and hamlets, which blend tradition and modernity, are scattered across the valley with its large skiing areas covering 250km. The resort also offers a wide range of activities for the whole family, and with its large natural terrain is also considered one of the best snowboarding destinations in France. Serre Chevalier lies at the foot of the most beautiful peaks of the Ecrins National Park and boasts approximately 300 days of sunshine a year.

Hot deal: Residence Pierre & Vacances L’Alpaga, situated in the mountain village of Villeneuve, has comfortable, spacious apartments close to the shops and ski lifts. Studio apartments for up to four people costs from 378 Euros for a week’s ski holiday.

6. Isola 2000
Best for: Skiers of all abilities
The little known Isola 2000 is a ski resort in the southern region of the French Alps that offers great skiing for all levels. This modern resort’s altitude is at 2000 meters and pisted runs reach the height of 2610 meters on the summit of Sistron where, on a clear day, it is possible to see the Mediterranean Sea.

Isola 2000 has an excellent snow record too. Snowboarding is popular in Isola and there are plenty of ‘board-friendly’ lifts and a dedicated snowboard park. There are lots of shops, bars, clubs, restaurants and supermarkets adjacent to the slopes and there are numerous cafes and restaurants should you wish to take a break and bask in the Mediterranean sun.

Hot deal: The Pierre & Vacances Les Terrasses d’Azur residence in Isola 200 is in perfect keeping with the resort’s natural environment of pines and larches. It overlooks the resort and is close to the ski runs and shops. The apartments are very comfortable and have a panoramic view over the skiing area and the Chastillon valley. Studio apartments that sleep up to four people cost from just 441 Euros per week.

7. Les Carroz d’Araches
Best for: Families
Les Carroz d’Araches is an expansive, sunny and traditional resort with plenty of terrain to suit everyone. It has the lived-in feel of a real French village and its array of pavement cafes and restaurants around the main square offers a homely and lively atmosphere.

The resort caters particularly well for families, offering excellent facilities for children so is perfect for a family ski holiday. There are good woodland runs immediately above the village for bad-weather days, with a scenic setting to enjoy when the sun shines.

Hot deal: Pierre & Vacances Residences MGM Les Fermes du Soleil is a luxury 4-star residence, just a stone’s throw from the centre. Each apartment is designed to offer you maximum comfort with large bay windows giving exceptional views over the village, the valley or the skating rink. The closest ski lifts, 800m from the residence, are accessible via a free shuttle bus. One-bedroom apartments for 3-4 people cost from 630 Euros per week.

8. Flaine
Best for: Intermediates and families
Flaine is a high-altitude resort sharing a big, broad area of varied slopes with more rustic alternatives. Flaine is a resort proud of its Modernist and artistic design, which is a dramatic contrast to the natural landscape of the French Alps. As well as the architecture, several large public art works adorn the base of the resort, including a Picasso.

Loved by many, due to the extent of its ski area and range of runs, this is a resort ideal for intermediate skiers as well as being one of the most family-orientated ski resorts in Europe.

Hot deal: Pierre & Vacances Terrasses d’Eos residence is a brand new addition to our ski residences for the 2009/10 ski season. Built in 2008 by Intrawest, this top-of-range residence is located in a new, entirely car-free hamlet of Flaine Montsoleil and features 145 comfortable apartments.

The two buildings that make up the residence have direct access to the pistes and chairlifts, providing you with a direct link to the Flaine and Grand Massif ski areas.
One-bedroom apartments cost from just 572 Euros for seven nights and sleep up to four people.

9. Valmorel
Best for: First timers and families
A great choice for first-timers and families, Valmorel is a purpose-built French ski resort comprising several small satellite villages in the Grande Domaine. Valmorel and St Francois Longchamps together offer 165km of marked pistes.

Valmorel’s resort centre is car-free and it also scores top marks for families as most of its pistes cater for beginners and intermediates, and there are plenty of designated practice areas. The ski area is on your doorstep which means you can literally ski to your door – another big plus if you’re skiing with kids. While it is great for families, those who also want lively apres-ski should go elsewhere as there are only a handful of restaurants and bars.

Hot deal: P&V is offering seven nights in a studio apartment at Residence Maeva Planchamp et Mottet in Valmorel from just 405 Euro.

10. Alpe-d’Huez
Best for: thrill seekers and skiers of all levels.
Home to La Sarenne, which at 16km is Europe’s longest ski run, Alpe d’Huez is often thought to be the sole preserve of ski pros and adrenalin junkies. While the infamous ‘Tunnel’ run remains a must do ride for experienced skiers, the resort also has a good choice of gentler runs for beginners. The best of the less challenging slopes are found on the outskirts of the resort and there are plenty of blues and reds for intermediates.

Situated in a large sunny bowl, Alpe d’Huez is known as the ‘l’Isle au Soleil’ (‘The Sunny Island’) thanks to its high levels of sunshine throughout the year.

This resort is a great choice if you’re travelling in a group which has mixed abilities – leave the pros to La Sarenne while the novices play it safe.

Hot deal: Situated in Les Bergers district of Alpe d’Huez, the Pierre & Vacances Bergers residence has comfortable apartments and a heated outdoor swimming pool. Seven nights in a studio that sleep 3-4 costs just 405 Euros.

All P&V residences featured are ski in/ ski out and are self-catering apartments with fully equipped kitchens and cooking facilities.

Pierre & Vacances have also just launched a euro-busting offer which means customers can save up to 35 percent off all ski resorts throughout the winter season. This means, if you book fast enough you could be saving a third and spend just 55% for a weeks accommodation! And it gets better…this major ski discount can be used on all dates throughout the winter ski season including the school holidays, Christmas and New Year.

The Eurobuster deal can also be combined with any other P&V deal currently on offer, including the 20% early booking discount, leading to savings of up to 35% on your winter ski holiday.

Australia – Driving

Australian traffic rules to remember:

If you’re driving slowly – getting used to the traffic, y’know – the lane for you is the leftmost lane if there is more than one lane in the direction you’re going.

If you’re traveling on a highway or freeway, Australian traffic rules say you should stay on the left lane (or one of the left lanes if there are more than two lanes going in the one direction) unless you’re overtaking. There would be signs to remind you of this.

If you’re entering and crossing an intersection, drivers customarily defer to the motorist on the right unless he or she is stopped by a STOP or YIELD sign. At a T intersection, the motorist driving straight through has the right of way.

Don’t beep your horn – unless you’re in a situation where you need to warn another driver, for instance, when he’s about to hit you.

The speed limit in a built-up residential area has for a long time been 60 kilometers per hour (35mph), but this has been reduced in many places to 50 kilometers per hour as in the Brisbane suburbs and a number of Sydney areas. Other cities may have adopted the lower limit as well. Be watchful of posted speed limits and do check with the locals. On country roads and highways the usual speed limit has been 100km/hr (62mph) or 110km/hr (68mph), particularly on freeways, unless signs indicate another speed limit. Already, the speed limit on certain stretches of the Newcastle Highway and on Sydney’s M4 freeway has been reduced.

Some road signs to take note of:

NO STANDING. Well, sure, you can’t be standing while driving a car. What it means is you can’t stop in the area indicated except to let a passenger get in or off a vehicle, and you certainly can’t park there.

NO STOPPING. Except in the event of medical emergencies, don’t stop in the area indicated.

NO PARKING. Just what it means. You can unload and unload passengers but shouldn’t leave your vehicle parked there.

BUS ZONE. Well, leave that to the buses. Taxi zone. Ditto for taxis.

LOADING AND UNLOADING ZONE. If you’re driving a truck, ute, van or wagon, you’re allowed to park here if you’re delivering or picking up some sort of cargo. If you’re driving a passenger car, you may have to explain what you’re loading or unloading.

The Sydney Harbor Bridge, the Sydney Harbor Tunnel, and some of the highways and roads are toll ways, so have change ready to go through the tollgates quickly. A growing number of cars are fitted with transponders which allow these vehicles to drive through specially marked gates without stopping. An encoded magnetic card has also been available for some toll ways. On some toll ways, only transponders called e-Tags (and temporary e-Way passes) can be used.

Driving in Australia:

If you’re a visitor and hold a valid driver’s license (in English) from your own country, fine, you’re allowed to drive throughout all of Australia. (But an international driver’s license, if you have one, does not by itself give you the right to drive in Australia.)

If your driver’s licence is not in English, a translation may be necessary and you may also need to have an international driver’s license.

If you come from a country where motorists drive on the left-hand side of the road, there’s not much more to know, and you should easily adjust to driving in Australia by following local driving customs and laws.

If you come from the US, or from another country where people drive on the right-hand side of the road, there’ll be a bit to get used to, the main thing being that you drive on the left-hand side of the road in Australia; and that if you turn left or right, you must remember to go, as you complete your turn, into the left-hand side of the road you are turning into, instead of to the right as you’re used to.

Parking

When driving in Australia, it is important to park properly to avoid getting a ticket.

You can park off-street where no NO STANDING, NO PARKING, or other restrictions apply.

You can park at car parks or parking stations, usually at an hourly rate.

You can park where there are parking meters so long as you feed them with the right money (have $2 and $1 coins handy) and don’t overstay.

Roundabouts:

Traffic in a roundabout flows in a clockwise direction.

In a two-lane roundabout, you keep to the left lane if you’re turning left or going straight ahead.

You keep to the right lane if you’re turning right. You can also use the right lane in a two-lane roundabout if you’re going straight ahead.

You use your left-turn signal for a left turn, the right-turn signal for a right turn. If you’re turning right and are on the right lane, switch on your left-turn signal when exiting. It has become law in New South Wales that motorists must signal left, in every instance, whenever exiting from a roundabout.

If you plan to drive in Melbourne, watch out for the “hook turn” signs – and be prepared to turn right from the leftmost lane.

Weird? Some drivers think so, and some go out of their way to avoid Melbourne streets with marked hook turns.

If you’re new to hook turns, yes, it can be both confusing and exasperating, and you’re also likely to miss your turn if you’re caught in the wrong lane.

Confused?… Doing the hook:

Once you need to turn right and you see the hook turn sign, move as quickly as you can to the leftmost lane.

On the green light, move forward on this lane to a point where you can turn right into the correct lane on the road you wish to enter.

At this point, you’re blocking traffic from the left. But that’s all right because they’re stopped on the red light.

When this red light turns green, turn right quickly into the street you want to go. The stopped traffic that was earlier on your left then follows you on the green light.

Australia Tourism – Coastal

Find out more about Australia’s 50,000 kilometers of spellbinding coastline.

Wherever you find them, our white, sandy beaches are just as you imagine – uncrowded, unspoilt and utterly enticing. You can marvel at World Heritage-listed wonders, chill out at a beach retreat or just enjoy fish and chips on the shore. However you experience our coastline, the crashing waves and gentle sea breeze are all part of a lifestyle that you won’t want to leave behind.

New South Wales: Byron Bay

You’ll love our new age paradise, famous for glorious surfing beaches and a lifestyle that combines hippy chic with hedonistic fun. Here you can learn to surf with local experts, take a sunrise walk along Cape Byron Walking Track, get your gear off on the nudist-friendly Kings Beach or ride the wild surf at The Pass. That’s in between drinking lattes, analyzing your aura and getting your palm read of course.

Queensland: Whitsundays

You can’t miss the Whitsundays – 74 pristine, palm-fringed islands tucked inside the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Amongst the white sand and warm, aquamarine waters you can meet marine life, see rainbow-colored coral, tussle with game fish, set sail, party hard or snooze next to the sea. With only eight islands inhabited, you’re sure to find one where only your footprints touch the sand.

Queensland: Gold Coast

This iconic holiday destination offers 70 kilometers of sun-drenched beaches, World Heritage-listed rainforests, theme parks and non-stop shopping and nightlife. Meet dolphins and polar bears at theme parks, ride rolling surf or do a day trip to an island. Party all night then explore the lush, subtropical hinterland. On Australia’s ‘coast with the most’ life is all about having fun.

Victoria: Mornington Peninsula

Discover top swimming and surfing beaches, historic bayside villages and million-dollar views on this picturesque peninsula on Port Phillip Bay just an hour south of Melbourne. Trek the rugged coastline past dunes, beaches, cliffs and lighthouses. Then spot koalas on French Island, swim with dolphins and seals at Sorrento and stop for lunch at vineyards or olive groves overlooking the sea.

Tasmania: Wineglass Bay

You can enjoy pristine beaches all to yourself on the stunning Freycinet Peninsula. The most famous is Wineglass Bay, a perfect curve of white sand and turquoise sea against pink and grey granite peaks. Take in the magical view after an easy climb from Coles Bay or challenging trek from the top of Mount Amos. Or connect to this coastal paradise by going sea kayaking, swimming and scuba diving.

Western Australia: Margaret River

This famous wine growing region is also a natural paradise of surf beaches, tall karri forests, underground caves and bush tracks. The wonderful wine and food of the vineyards meet world-class waves on the 75 beaches. Swim in the crystal-clear waters of Bunker Bay, ride the crashing surf of Surfers Point, and watch whales and explore caves at Cape Leeuwin. Margaret River is a place where breathtaking scenery and good living meld into one.

South Australia: Fleurieu Peninsula

Dive or snorkel dramatic shipwrecks and marine life, visit famous vineyards or hit the surf in this coastal playground, just an hour’s drive south of Adelaide. Stay in cute coastal hamlets Port Noarlunga and Victor Harbor or the historic river town of Goolwa. Take a dip in perfect Horseshoe Bay, windsurf at Sellicks Beach or dive at Rapid Bay. See ancient forests and visit local wineries. Walk across spectacular headlands and get up close to native wildlife. No wonder they say this coat hanger-shaped strip has it all.

Australia – Food & Wine

Australia’s chefs and winemakers have learnt from the best, and then bent the rules for a food and wine style all of their own. They’ve turned Australia’s sun-kissed produce into a melting pot of cuisine and award-winning wines. Whether you want a fresh seafood platter, a racy Riesling, a modern Asian-fused meal or a crocodile sausage, Australia is the place to be.

Northern Territories: Street Food & Vendors

Welcome to Darwin’s Mindil Beach Sunset Market where you can sample the flavors of the Asia-Pacific in a balmy, tropical setting. The coconut palms are swaying in the sunset, and the smell of sizzling satay and spicy noodles is in the air. Held every Thursday night between May and October, these popular markets offer over 60 food stalls to sate your appetite while the sun goes down.

Melbourne: Yarra Valley Family Owned Vineyards

Just behind Melbourne’s fringes is the Yarra Valley – a place of pristine beauty, crisp clean water and friendly ambience. Clustered behind its rolling hills are 55 wineries, ranging from small family-owned vineyards to the famous Chateau Yering and Domain Chandon. Dine in gourmet restaurants and taste pinot noir, chardonnay and sparkling in a world reminiscent of French and Italian wine growing regions.

Adelaide: Barossa Valley Australia’s Famous Wine Region

Sip wines from more than 60 cellar doors, including Yalumba, Wolf Blass and Peter Lehmann in Australia’s wine capital. In the Barossa you’ll get to meet the people behind the labels and talk to them about their craft. You can also match your favorite wine with locally made cheese on a food and wine trail, tour historic wineries, take a tutored tasting or learn cellar secrets in a wine master class. Of course, nothing beats a long lunch under the gum trees with a bottle of one of the region’s flagship wines, Barossa Shiraz or Eden Valley Riesling.

Tazmania:  Coal River Valley

Enjoy pinot noirs, cabernets and medal-winning chardonnays in the scenic Coal River Valley, just a 10 minute drive from Hobart. Sample superb cool-climate wines at the cellar doors and taste fresh Tasmanian produce in vineyard restaurants. Soak up the water views and stop off at the historic village of Richmond before completing your idyllic day trip.

Sydney: Bondi Beach

Savor spectacular ocean views with your food in Bondi’s many beachside eateries. Enjoy a gelato at the 1920s Bondi Pavilion or watch the sun go down with a cocktail at one of the acclaimed restaurants. At the cafes on Campbell Parade, Hall Street and clustered around Bondi’s back streets, you’ll find everything from tapas to the world’s best brunch to classic fish and chips.

Perth: Food, Wine, Microbrewerie & Leisure

Indulge in divine local produce and award-winning wines in Western Australia’s oldest wine region, just a boat ride from Perth. Take in the vines, waterfalls and lush bush land on a cruise up the Swan River. Then hop off for cellar door tastings, a visit to one of the microbreweries and a vineyard or picnic lunch. The Swan Valley is also great for horse riding, cycling, golf, wildlife watching and heritage walks. Check out the antique shops, pubs and galleries in the historic village of Guildford before you head home.

Queensland: Cairns Fresh Produce and Rainforests

Feast on locally-grown bananas, paw-paws, mangos, pineapples and lychees in the ‘exotic fruit bowl of the world’ near Cairns. But more than fruit flourishes in the region’s rich volcanic soils, green rainforest belt and clean tropical waters. Try seafood, game meats, freshly-made pasta and organic bush foods. Visit an organic permaculture orchard in the rainforest, dine on freshly-caught barramundi in Cairns or sample macadamias and coffee on plantations in the tablelands.

Canberra: Australia’s Capitol

Visit cool climate wineries, country cafes, art galleries and craft studios on this self-drive through the Canberra countryside. This is a region where you can enjoy the fruits of country labour – a table laden with delicious food and a bottle of last year’s vintage. Stay in a bed and breakfast where you sleep in crisp linen sheets and wake to bird song on the verandah. Buy handmade glassware and pottery from the galleries and taste wood smoked meats and homemade wine on a farm.