Northstar Travel & Associates's Blog

Say I Do In Mexico Mexico is one the best destinations for your wedding. Here are 5 places that could make your wedding spectacular. read more
Scotland: St. Andrews is the Home of Golf and so Much More Visit St. Andrews' attractions which are now synonymous with the courtship of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Scotland’s oldest university, where the couple met read more
Go ahead stay in a castle on your next travel adventure

​Have you ever thought about living in a castle while on vacation? 

In countries such as Germany, Ireland, France, Italy and Scotland, you can often stay in a castle for far less than a hotel.  

•    Castle Hotel Auf Schönberg  This castle is surrounded by a beautiful view of the Rhine River along with vineyards and trails for hiking and is perfect for touring the wine country. The castle was inherited by all the sons in the family instead of just the eldest; it accommodated up to 250 people from 24 families during the 14th century.  

•    Castle Hotel Liebenstein This castle is the highest castle in the Rhine River Valley. Is is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Upper Rhine Valley. Liebenstein is furnished in medieval style with decorations that rival those of the luxury Hotel Wernberg. Rumor has it that the castle hotel was built for the younger of the two brothers whose feud over a woman split the family line forever. From the hotel, it is only a short walk down to the river pier where Rhine cruises depart daily. 

•    Castle Sababurg This castle is surrounded by the oldest zoological garden in Europe (Tierpark Sababurg) and an ancient forest with oak trees that are over 650 years old (Urwald Sababurg). It is also the setting for the Sleeping Beauty fairytale. Each of the hotel’s rooms is named after an animal, a nod to the castle’s history.  Performances and parties are held both in the castle’s vaulted cellar and in the castle ruins. 

•    Burghotel Schloss Staufenberg This castle is located near Giessen, Marburg, and Wetzlar. It has replaced room numbers with the names of important historical persons.  You can stay in Count Gazmar’s Suite or Countess Sophie’s Apartments.  During World War II Staufenberg was occupied by Allied troops and used as a refugee camp.   

•    Castle Hotel Colmberg Set in Bavaria, the thousand-year-old Castle Colmberg is a destination on both the Romantic Road and the Castle Road. This hotel has it all: ancient stone towers, fortified walls, overgrown royal stables, and a deer reserve. Ask for one of the historic rooms that have four-poster beds, centuries-old paintings, antique furniture, and wooden ceilings.

Ready set jet!!! Contact us today for more information.

Islay: Home to the Peatiest Single Malts on the Planet Islay's delicious single malts. read more
Scotland, the home of Golf A few facts about Scotland and why it is the Home of Golf. read more
A Wee Dram or Two at Glenmorangie Distillery, Tain The beauty of distillery’s whiskies and their distinctive taste and style. read more
Eilean Donan Castle King of the Highlands The history behind Eilean Donan, one of the most famous and beautiful castles in Scotland read more
History of Reggae Music

I am going to share a secret with you about the history of Reggae Music. I think now is the opportune time as I think you are at a place that you can handle it. This genre did not originate with Bob Marley nor his world renown song One Love.

The term reggae was derived from rege-rege, a  Jamaican phrase meaning “rags or ragged clothing,” it is used to denote a raggedy style of music. The  reggae genre  came into to being in the 1960’s as an evolution of the Rocksteady and Ska musical styles.  Reggae music is a soulful entertainment in Jamaica. It expresses in words the pain, struggle, hope and emotion that is felt by the average person.

Reggae music is recognized by its lament-like chanting and emphasizes the syncopated beat. It is distinguishable from other genres in the heavy use of the Jamaican vernacular and the African nyah-bingi drumming style.

Reggae began to rise to international acclaim as the 1970s progressed. A seminal moment for the genre was the release of the 1973 movie The Harder They Come starring Jimmy Cliff. The movie soundtrack consisted of only reggae hits; this contributed in elevating the music to a internal platform.

Of course, Bob Marley is the world’s best known and loved international Reggae ambassador. Marley’s career spanned more than a decade, beginning in 1963 with Rocksteady band, the Wailers, and culminating in the release of his 1977 solo album, Exodus, which achieved international acclaim. Marley was not only a Reggae singer, but a committed Rastafarian and a political activist. Through his music, his words and his actions, he earned forever a place in Reggae fans hearts around the world. Marley’s music was first popularised in the Wes by Eric Clapton performing a cover of Who Shot the Sheriff.

Since the 60s and 70s, Reggae music has spread and developed in many different ways around the world. Reggae is still going strong in its pure form around the world too, with many modern Reggae bands achieving success in the mainstream.

For authentic reggae experience you can visit the following places for a reggae cultural experience.

  1. Visit  Nine Mile which is the birth place and final resting place of reggae legend Bob Marley. Listen to the knowledgeable guides tell stories of Bob’s childhood! Stand on Mount Zion Rock, where Bob used to meditate and rest your head on ‘the pillow’ that was made famous in the song ‘Talking Blues’.

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  2. Take a family-friendly tour of Bob Marley museum. The Museum is the former home of the reggae legend. Bob’s home is filled with rich memories and treasured mementos, which seek to preserve the life and accomplishment of this great Jamaican and outstanding musician.

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  3. Participate in Sumfest Reggae Festival. This is Jamaica’s biggest reggae festival, It is a three-day festival in Montego Bay is a three-day extravaganza (from July 12 through the 18th. It features internationally known music acts and contemporary takes on reggae alongside more tried-and-true originals.

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  4. For Beach Lovers – To experience reggae in its most relaxing setting, nothing beats the soft, welcoming vibes of a sea-lapped Caribbean Beach. In Ocho Rios, you’ll find the appropriately named Reggae Beach, with the notes of improm ptu jam sessions (and the scent of jerk chicken) emanating from small beach bars, and late-night bonfires with DJs supplying the sound track. This quarter-mile beach is small but secluded, and you won’t have to battle huge crowds for beach real estate.

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  5. Visit Horace Andy Record Studio – Horace Andy is best known for his 1973 cover of “Ain’t no sunshine,” Take the opportunity to explore this famous record studio, and access a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a studio session with Andy personally.

  6. Visit Randy’s Records – This record shop was opened in  1958 by Vincent”Randy” Chin; a legendary record producer. Although Mr. chin is deceased the shop is still heavily visit from persons from all across the world.

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  7. Visit Tuff Gong International Recording Studio – a visit to Jamaica would not be complete without stopping by this world renown studio that contains Bob Marley’s original recording equipment.

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North Coast  Highway 500 Travel Itinerary Spending five days driving around Scotland’s north coast, taking in beautiful sites and visiting magnificent places. read more
Visit the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum in Fife An exquisite museum dedicated to Andre Carnegie. read more
Get on your bike and cycle Scotland! Mountain biking is hugely popular in Scotland and the country is home to some of the best cycling ranges and trails in the UK. read more
Duart Castle, Argyll: Home of the MacLean Clan Explore the historic Duart Castle which has been the base of the McLean clan for over 400 years. read more
Get Thee to a Convent in Old San Juan El Convento, originally a 17th century Carmelite convent, has been listed as one of the world’s best places to stay by both Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure magazines. read more
Marrakech: Feast for the senses Marrakech is an ancient caravan town, a gathering place where Arabs and Berbers mingle with Sahara nomads and mountain people. read more
The Ultimate Operatic Experience in Venice Live opera in the 12th century Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto on the Grand Canal read more
The Best Ride in Venice

By Anita Draycott

Venice has been flabbergasting visitors for centuries. Entering the city via the Grand Canal is a staggering experience whether it’s for the first time or the tenth. Walt Disney could not have improved upon this architectural fantasy of Romanesque and Renaissance palaces, domed churches and arched bridges, all bathed in that rich radiant light that is Venice’s alone. Hop vaporetto number one at dusk, just as Venice’s iconic lamplights are casting their mauve glow against the misty sky. Pass the floating palaces, their grand salons illuminated by Murano-glass chandeliers and their lacy facades seeming to melt into the watery mirror below. Fantasize about masked balls at Carnevale.

Venice and it's flabbergasting sights.

Meet the Tequila Goddess and Beware of the Snake Bite The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, a tequila bar in Scottsdale. read more
Chihuahua: Take a stroll down memory lane in Batopilas

By Anita Draycott

Batopilas, a small town nestled in the Western Sierra Madre at the bottom of a cliff has tales to share. It’s home to beautiful plazas and bridges built of rope and river rocks, but the main surprise is a beautiful aqueduct built in the 19th century.

Walk its streets and Batopilas will reveal stories about the discovery of silver deposits and its glory days during the Porfirio Diaz era when its most notable buildings were erected, such as the impressive City Hall, built around 1890 and the San Miguel and Shepherd Haciendas. Visit La Bufa mine, where the mining entrepreneur Alexander Robert amassed a fortune.

Saint Michael Archangel Temple is another emblematic building with a triple dome that dates back to the 17th century. To reach the temple, you need to travel 8 km on foot from the town to the Satevo Valley. It’s a bit of a hike but the views are worthwhile.

The warm climate of Batopilas is ideal for the tropical and semi-tropical vegetation. Expect to find orange, mango, avocado and papaya orchards. Likewise, it is not uncommon to find bougainvillea, tabachines and ceibas along the streets.

From La Bufa viewpoint, located in the surrounding area of a Tarahumara community called Quirare, you’ll get a fantastic view of the canyons, the Batopilas River and the minerals at La Bufa. Another viewpoint is Piedra Redonda, where you can admire the Banana Canyons.

Along the Batopilas River you can set up camp and take a refreshing dip. Close by, the La Bufa bridge, which crosses one of the canyon’s deepest sections. You will soon discover that Chihuahua, the largest Mexican state, has a multitude of charms, attractions and surprises.

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Boo! The Ghosts of Charleston The Ghosts of Charleston. read more
You must bring the kids to Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, Australia

One of the most unique amusements parks in the world, the Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, Australia, is an amazing park which will make your kids squeal with delight, and scare everyone a little bit.

Crocosaurus Cove is located in Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory.  The city faces the Timor Sea and is an Australian gateway to Southeast Asia. In fact, the city is closer to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Brunei, East Timor and Palau compared to Canberra, the capital of Australia. Darwin might be remote, but its remoteness is why you should be visiting Darwin with the entire family. It is a city where you and the entire family can have lots of fun adventures that will make your kids want to stay longer. The Darwin International Airport is your gateway to the city and its numerous attractions. It is located 13 kilometers from the city proper and is served by a number of domestic and Asian carriers.

The kids will be so excited to visit the Crocosaurus Cove that you must visit it as soon as you are settled in. Located right in the heart of the city, the Crocosaurus Cove is the home to about 2,000 crocodiles including the largest saltwater crocodiles in Australia. You can swim with the crocs, hold a baby croc, fish for crocs and even feed the big crocs. We are pretty sure that the kids will love these experiences, although the adults can be scaredy cats! The Crocosaurus Cove also features a turtle sanctuary, and a world of crocs museum. After a trip to Crocosaurus Cove, you and the family can visit the other top attractions of the city including Douglas Hot Springs, Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Wave Lagoon, Berry Springs Nature Park, Magnetic Termite Mounds, Crocodylus Park, Aquascene, and a number of beaches where you can enjoy water activities.

Darwin might be thousands away from your home country, but it is worth the long and tedious journey especially when it becomes one of the most unforgettable trip of the entire family.  Consult your travel agent for more details. 

Eat as much Ice Cream as you want in Le Mars, Iowa

If you are planning to take a trip to Sioux City in Iowa, or to Omaha, Nebraska, you must take a side trip to Le Mars, Iowa, where you can have as much ice cream as you want!

Known as the “Ice Cream Capital of the World”, Le Mars is a small city located northeast of Sioux City and right on the Floyd River. The ice cream industry that the city is known for began in 1913 when Fred H. Wells opened a milk route. He and his sons opened an ice cream manufacturing plant in 1925, but in 1928, their name and the plant was sold to Fairmont Ice Cream. After a few years, in 1935 to be exact, Wells and his sons decided to start manufacturing ice cream again. Since they could no longer use their name, they decided to put up a “Name That Ice Cream” Contest, and the winning name was "Blue Bunny". Today, the ice cream plant is the world’s largest family owned and managed dairy processor, and the largest manufacturer of ice cream in the world. The plant produces 75 million gallons of frozen treats! Le Mars is 16 miles from Sioux City, 45 miles from Vermillion, South Dakota, and 107 miles from Omaha, Nebraska, making it ideal for a day trip, or if you are passing by on your way to other cities, do stop and enjoy a few hours of ice cream fun.

There is nothing much to see in Le Mars unless you are an ice cream lover, and who doesn’t love ice cream! The city is all about ice cream! There is only one place in the city you must visit, the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor also known as the Ice Cream Capital of the World Visitor Center. It is  located in the heart of the business district of le Mars. The first floor is probably the sweetest place in the world. This is where your eyes will pop out with the wide selection of ice cream treats you and the kids can enjoy! The second floor has more seats and features interactive kiosks and exhibits that highlight the history of the Wells Company, as well as historical photos. It also has a specialty gift shop where you can buy souvenirs.

Le Mars might be a small town but it is the Disneyland for ice cream lovers! Take a side trip to Le Mars when you are in the area, just make sure your belly has a lot of space for ice cream! 

Spend a Night in a Yurt at the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Mongolia

Have you ever wondered how it is to live a nomadic life?  The Gorkhi-Terelj National Park in Mongolia is where you can spend a night on a Yurt and enjoy a bird’s eye view of how it is to live a nomadic way of life.

Gorkhi-Terelj is one of the national parks in Mongolia. Situated 1600 meters above sea level, the park is one of the favorite destinations in Mongolia because of the numerous activities you can experience. Many westerners became interested to visit the park when it was shown on the television program “The Amazing Race” during its tenth season. The park is just 80 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, where the Chinggis Khaan Interntational Airport is located.  It is served by a few carriers including Air China, A-Jet, Hunnu Air, Turkish Airlines, Korean Airlines, MIAT, Aeroflot, and Aero Mongolia. From Ulaanbaatar, you can take a bus or car.

There is so much to see and do at Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. You can enjoy breathing in its beautiful scenery, take photos, go hiking and rock climbing, be up close and personal with some is its wildlife, view its  fantastic rock formations, go swimming in a glacial lake or in one of its  natural hot springs, bird watching, and enjoy a horseback or camel ride. Although there are some tourist camps in the park, you must experience spending a night or two in a Yurt, a portable round tent with a detachable hood,  a traditional dwelling place of the nomads.  The Yurt camp is where you can interact with the locals, savor traditional Mongolian dishes, and have some Arkhi or milk vodka.

Spending a few days Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is the best way to learn about the culture and way of life of the Mongolians. It is one of the places you must not miss if you take a trip to Mongolia.

 

Hampi, India, once one of the largest and richest cities in the world

India has hundreds of attractions, natural wonders, historic landmarks that are really awesome. Some of its attractions are known worldwide and have been visited by millions of tourists. Whether you have been to India or its going to be your first time to visit, you must not miss the village of Hampi.

Once one of the largest and richest cities in the world, Hampi is a village located in northern Karnataka, India. It used to be a part of the capital city of the Vijayanagara Empire which had an army composed of more than a million men. During 1500 AD the empire capital had about 500,000 inhabitants. An important tourist destination in India, Hampi does not have an airport. The nearest airport is the Hubli Airport which serves the cities of Hubli and Dharwad. It links these cities to the major cities of India. The village is 216 kilometers from the airport. You can take the train or the bus to Hampi from the city of Hubli where the airport is located.

Hampi’s group of monuments has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the remnants of which are evidences of the last great Hindu Kingdom. There are more than 1600 surviving remains that royal and sacred complexes, forts, shrines, temples, riverside features, pillared halls, memorial structures, defense check posts, gateways, water structures, and stables. Must visits are the Vithala Temple Complex, Monkey Temple, Statue of Ugra Narsimha, Virupaksha Temple, Group of Monuments at Hampi, Lotus Palace, Balakrishna Temple, Queen's Bath, and the Underground Temple, just to name a few. Aftr a visit to the numerous historical sites, you can shop for some souvenirs at the Akash Art Gallery & Bookshop and dine at the Mango Tree, Hampi’s most popular restaurant.

A visit to Hampi will open your eyes to its glorious past and its significance to the world.  It will make you envision a city that was once filled with people who were living in opulence. 

Test your Fishing Skills in Samoa

Want to catch some yellow fin, blue and black marlin, and sailfish while on a vacation? You must take a trip to Samoa and fish with the locals, take some pictures of your catch, and have a tasty seafood lunch or dinner.

Located in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, Samoa is composed of numerous islands, the biggest of which are the Savai'i and  Upolu islands. The country used to be under the rule of New Zealand until it declared its independence in 1962. The country is halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, and is known for its rainforests, lagoons, beaches, volcanic mountain peaks, and an abundance of fishing areas. Samoan and English are its official languages so you do not have to worry about communication barriers. Your gateway to Samoa is the Faleolo International Airport located in the island of Upolu, about 40 kilometers from Apia, the capital city of Samoa. The airport is served by Air New Zealand.

Once you step into Samoa, you will be wondering why you haven’t taken a vacation in this nature lover’s paradise. Its attractions are all about appreciating and exploring its islands just the way they are. Its attractions include To Sua Ocean Trench where you can spend hours jumping off the platform; Afu Aau Waterfall where you can enjoy cooling down; Alofaaga Blowholes where you can have fun throwing coconut husks and watch them shoot in the air; Swim in an underwater tunnel at Piula Cave Pool; and slide down the rocks at the Papaseea Sliding Rock. Samoa was the home Robert Louis Stevenson until his death, and his colonial homestead has been turned into a museum which features his personal belongings as well as his library. If you plan to go fishing in Samoa, professional fishing operators are on hand to help you find the best spots. It is highly possible that this is where you will be able to fish your biggest catch!  

What are you waiting for? Prepare your fishing rods and swimwear, and bring the entire family to a Samoa!