Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Family-Friendly France

Want a family holiday with a difference? We present you 10 exciting "Be There! Do That!" experiences that have your name on it! Go on...plan your own memorable family experience the French way!

A Stay to Remember

Have you always wanted to stay in the great outdoors? Then the Parc Animalier de Sainte Croix in Lorraine is your destination. Choose from exotic accommodation options such as Mongolian yurts, cabins on tree-tops or terra firma and tents and prepare for encounters with more than 1500 animals including bears, deer, wolves and bison.

If you prefer the contemporary comforts of hotel rooms, then a choice spanning luxury to value for money hotels, charming Bed and Breakfasts and cozy apart'hotels is yours for the taking!

Kiddie-Friendly Attractions

If you find yourself in the Loire Valley, plan an outing at the Chateau de Cheverny, the inspiration for Captain Haddock's Marlinspike Hall and guardian to a permanent Tintin exposition. In Dijon, the Owl's Trail has you and the kids scurrying all over in the search of the emblematic owl symbols sculpted all over the city.

On the Riviera, Nice unveils its facets to you through a treasure hunt. Have the kids participate in a riddle hunt with Filou the mouse at the magnificent Villa Ephrussi in Villefranche sur Mer.

Unique Museum Visits

Many monuments and landmarks in France offer you visits especially adapted for kids. Try a spot of treasure hunting at the famous Louvre Museum in Paris or discover celebrities at the Grevin Wax Museum.
If in the Riviera, put your kids' creativity to the test with art and sculpture workshops at the MAMAC Museum (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) in Nice. Say abracadabra and encounter the wonderful world of all things bizarre at the Museum of Curiosities and the Bizarre! 

Family Fun

Nantes in the Loire Valley offers you a healthy dose of fun. Hitch a ride with a local celebrity - the Great Elephant - where this mechanical marvel sprays water on unsuspecting passersby!

Fancy an African Safari near Paris? The Chateau de Thoiry is your best bet! This natural reserve provides you many opportunities to say bonjour to elephants, bears, pandas, lions and leopards.

Of Animated Encounters

An entire gang of famous animated characters waits to meet your family! Choose from meeting Mickey and Minnie in Disneyland Paris to Asterix and the Gaul gang in Parc Asterix.

Enjoy 25 different experiences at Futuroscope - a theme park located in Poitiers or have yourself a medieval encounter at Le Puy du Fou nestled in the Loire Valley. 

Getting Nautical

Get all aquatic at Marineland located in Antibes on the Riviera. Enjoy shows by mammals, killer-whales, dolphins and sea lions!

While in Nice, the Aigle Nautique offers you activities such as kayaking, diving and sailing. Catch a bit of the surf and sand on the exclusive seaside resort of Biarritz.

Festivities and Celebrations

With Christmas just around the corner, get festive with visits to Christmas Markets. Your best bets are the ones in Strasbourg (Alsace), Metz (Lorraine) and of course who can resist the festivities of Paris! Plan a trip to Nice in February to join the non-stop revelry and fun of the exuberant Nice Carnival!

Going Active

Set off on sporting adventures... The Rhone Alps region, home to majestic mountains, offers you plenty of opportunities to ski, paraglide, hike, trek or take on whitewater rafting! Go hot-air ballooning over vineyards or biking in the Loire Valley.

For Kids Only

From cooking classes to making their own perfume in Grasse, kids can surely discover their creative best.

If you find yourself in Paris at the Chocolate Museum, encourage your kids to participate in tempting chocolate workshops that end with yummy tastings!

Discoveries with a Difference

Embark on discoveries of iconic monuments and landmarks in cities such as Paris, Lyon, Nice and Dijon through Segway rides or in the comfort of authentic 2CV cars or through leisurely cruises.

If feeling extravagant, organise helicopter discoveries of chateaux in the Loire or over the resplendent coast of the Riviera!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fantastic Mt. Hallasan Winter Event at Jeju Island

Visa-free Jeju Island is a beautiful harmony of mountains, ocean, smaller islands, and pristine beaches - all unique with different sand colours and different hues of water. One of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, Jeju Island is home to the awe-inspiring Mt Hallasan. The magical Mt. Hallasan Winter Event 2014 held in December and January every year, with a multitude of activities like snow sledding, skiing and cultural games, is a great way to experience this amazing destination.

Jeju Island in South Korea, 73km wide and 31km long, was formed when lava spewed from a sub-sea volcano and surfaced above the waters. Later, another volcanic eruption formed Mt Hallasan. A final volcanic eruption created the crater lake, Baengnokdam, at the summit of the mountain.

Mt Hallasan

Mount Hallasan, which rises in the centre of Jeju to 1950m above sea level, is one of Korea’s natural forests and South Korea’s tallest mountain. With a crater lake at its peak and surrounded by more than 360 oreum (secondary volcanic cones), Mt Hallasan is home to a variety of flora and fauna. It is designated as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage, a UNESCO Global Geopark, and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Winter brings forth a view of vast snowfields with crystal-like flowers of ice formations growing on withered old trees, and a sea of clouds in the sky. The Mt. Hallasan Winter Event 2014 held during December and January offers visitors an array of activities such as snow sledding, skiing, photo taking zones and cultural games. Shuttle buses are available for tourists between downtown and the event venue making it convenient to visit.


The mysterious but well-known Seopjikoji is a spectacularly scenic with green fields, rocks of fantastic shapes and the seacoast set off by the dark blue ocean. Ascend the metal steps of the lighthouse for spectacular views of the coast.

Seongsan Ilchulbong

Catch a heart-warming sunrise at dawn at the 182 mt high coastal crater Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak) - a UNESCO designated World Natural Heritage.

The large basin atop with about 99,000 sq mt meadow is surrounded by 99 chiselled rocks in a crown-like formation.

Manjanggul cave

Explore the mysterious underground world of lava tunnels in the world’s largest lava caves.


Be mesmerized by nature's greatness when you take in the view of the beautiful ocean waves crashing against the impressive black hexagon stone pillars that decorate the shore - the largest pillar rock formation in Korea. 

The Seongeup Folk Village

Peek into traditional Jeju lifestyle and culture at the Seongeup Folk Village, recreated with traditional thatched roof houses while partaking of authentic Korean Food.

The Museum Trail

Be awed by the over 700 astounding, one-of-a-kind items collected by explorer Robert Ripley (1893-1949), during his travels of over 35 years to 198 different countries at the Ripley’s Believe it Or Not! Museum.

Step into a fantasy world where you cheat and get cheated at the Tricky Art Museum. Meet the world’s extraordinary teddy bears at the Teddy Bear Museum.

Fun Activities

Get an adrenalin rush on a horse ride in the open fields, or speed driving on a carting course, or a Four Wheeled ATV ride on the sandy beaches. Enjoy the sea and explore its waters on a Cruise Ship Submarine or yachting or at the Jeju Aqua Planet which is home to 48,000 fish of 500 species. Enjoy freedom in the sky on a thrilling paragliding or parasailing experience.

Enjoy a memorable winter holiday in Jeju Island. Call Mercury Travel today, for your very own customized visa-free Jeju Island holiday.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Canada’s Offbeat Attractions

From UFO landing pads and pumpkin-paddling regattas to bathtub racing and snake dens, Canada is home to otherworldly highlights.

It’s no secret that Canada has many breathtaking natural wonders. Lesser known are some of our more unusual attractions. Here are 10 offbeat ones worth visiting, whichever planet you are from.

Snakes On A Plain

Manitoba’s Interlake region has more snakes in one place than anywhere else in the world. Twice a year, tens of thousands of red-sided garter snakes emerge from the Narcisse Snake Dens to mate before scattering into nearby marshes.

Trekkie Town:

To the residents of the Alberta town of Vulcan, Star Trek provided an interstellar opportunity to build a 30 feet replica of the Starship Enterprise, along with a Star Trek-themed Visitor Information Office.

Best Foot(wear) Forward:

You think you own a lot of shoes? Toronto's Bata Shoe Museum showcases more than a thousand pieces of fascinating footwear dating back over 4,500 years, from ancient Egyptian sandals to glitzy platforms.

Polar Bear Selfies:

At Cochrane, Ontario’s Polar Bear Habitat, the human pool is separated from the bear pool by a thick pane of clear Plexiglas - perfect for aquatic photo ops with the sanctuary’s newest ursine resident, Ganuk.

Bathtub Boating:

Every July, Nanaimo in British Columbia, hosts the International World Championship Bathtub Race, a high-seas challenge featuring ocean-worthy crafts shaped like old-style bathtubs, with “tubbers” vying to bathe in the glory of finishing first.

Forest Signs:

In 1942, an American G.I. working on the Alaska Highway posted a sign in the woods near the Yukon town of Watson Lake to mark how far he was from home. Today, Watson Lake has over 70,000 signposts, along with a Northern Lights Space and Science Centre.

Pumpkin Paddle:

Each October, contestants hit the waters of Lake Pesaquid in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley in huge, hollowed-out homegrown gourds weighing up to 363 kg to compete in the annual Pumpkin Parade and Regatta.

Spud Stories:

Surrounded by fertile fields of tasty tubers, the Canadian Potato Museum in O'Leary, Prince Edward Island, houses the world’s largest collection of potato-harvesting machinery. Spud-struck visitors can also peruse its Potato Hall of Fame.

E.T. Phone Home:

In 1960, the Alberta town of St. Paul decided to attract visitors from far and wide by constructing a UFO landing pad. This alien-alluring attraction now includes a UFO tourist information centre that details UFO sightings.

Canoe Capital:

Before planes, trains and automobiles, canoes were Canada’s main mode of transportation. The Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario, showcases more than 600 canoes, kayaks and paddled watercraft.

Written by Mark Sissons. Courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Love Affair with New Zealand

Finding beautiful places to be alone together requires very little effort in New Zealand.

Your heart races - but is it your loved one beside you or the exhilarating river jet boat ride you're on that's making it to do so?  So many wonderful experiences, so many beautiful places - you don't have to be wearing rose-coloured spectacles to see that New Zealand can offer you your heart's desire.

Capturing the spirit of romance

Spend a romantic vacation in New Zealand together with your loved one, doing things and seeing places like no other.  Experience the first glimmer of day on the sands of Wainui Beach, Gisborne – first place in New Zealand and the world to see the sun each morning. Kayak together on the pristine waters of Abel Tasman National Park.  Discover a secret sandy cove in Northland.  Dance barefoot under the stars in Auckland.  New Zealand will re-kindle as well as fan the flames with soul-lifting romantic pursuits.

New Zealand offers so many uniquely extraordinary adventures of the heart it is a dream romantic destination.  Of course, there are the luxurious, pampering hotels and indulgent spas with petals-on-your-pillow treatment.  And the shopping, vibrant nightlife, theatre and art appreciation cultures of the big cities.  But consider also the rewards for more adventurous, new-style romantics.

Do the unexpected

Do the unexpected things you may never have done together before.  Ride a horse along a desolate beach in Northland at sunrise.  Bush walk to a hot water pool in the forest for a soak - just the two of you and the native birdsong.  Go hot air ballooning, floating on a wind current over Canterbury and its wide, flat plains - a new perspective on your world.

Fill up your hearts with the stunning natural beauty of volcanoes like Mount Taranaki, the magnificent fiords, the golden and even black sparkling sand beaches as far as the eye can see; the giant Kauri trees in Northland, the massive spouting geysers of Rotorua - so much of New Zealand is given World Heritage area status.

Follow a food or wine trail, an arts and crafts trail or a drive a scenic route with a new view around each corner.  Stop to take a private tour of a winery or to chat with locals.  From the Far North to the tip of the South Island, you'll find the genuine friendliness of New Zealanders to be like an embrace.

Listen to your heart

Soar high in paragliding in Northland, make your knees wobble and feel the adrenalin rush of bungy-jumping as if from a cloud, feel on top of the world on a heli tour of White Island, explore the rainforest wildlife in Marlborough, talk about Maori culture with a personal guide, sail a skippered yacht to an island for a picnic, walk on thick ice on the famous Fox Glacier - the potential for you and your partner to become closer through amazing experiences is limitless in New Zealand.

You might choose to come at a particular time of year - to visit music festivals around the country during a balmy summer for example, or for the Winter Festival of skiing and alpine sports at Queenstown.

Romantic places to stay in New Zealand

Now, where best to rest your head after all this fine romancing? Consider a lodge or other boutique-style accommodation, always located amid truly stunning landscapes and resplendent with amenities and services.  You can dine alone or around a table with other guests savoring fine New Zealand cuisine and wines in a hospitable luxury environment.  You'll really feel like you're part of the culture of New Zealand.

Don't be surprised if one of the most memorable experiences you and your partner will have on your romantic adventure here is falling in love, together, with New Zealand, its land, people and culture.

Courtesy of Tourism New Zealand (www.newzealand.com).