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One of the most remote places you can visit on Earth is also one of the most mysterious: Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui in the native language. Dubbed Easter Island when the first Europeans landed here on Easter Day 1722, the island is the most isolated inhabited place on earth – farther from the next piece of land than any other settled place on our planet.
Nearly six hours by air from mainland Chile, Rapa Nui holds some of the greatest mysteries known to humankind. It is most famous, of course, for the legendary statues that seem to stand guard around its coastline. Many people who could never begin to pick out the island on a map would recognize a photograph of one of these statues, called Moai, instantly.
More than 600 Moai sculptures are found around the small island, ranging in size from a meter to more than eight meters in height. But exactly how the statues got there, and their significance, remain largely unknown and controversial; as does the reason so many were toppled, and why the thriving, sophisticated civilization here went into a sudden decline and disappeared in the late 18th century. After decades of research and archaeology, scientific investigation and oral history handed down for generations, the answers given are often at odds — even among the Rapa Nui people themselves.
It is an enchanting place to visit, the legends and mystery simply adding to the allure. Visiting the many archeological spots that make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site with a knowledgeable tour guide — a must in order to understand in any depth what you are seeing — can take weeks. But in a matter of days, one can see the major sites of importance. The protected Parque Nacional Rapa Nui makes up forty percent of the island’s surface.
The top place to stay on the island is Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa, less than a kilometer the airport and the only town on the island, Hanga Roa. The entire resort is carefully built and designed using natural materials and local handicrafts as much as possible. The common areas, restaurants, meeting rooms, spas, and buildings with the guest rooms are all placed around the property within easy walking distance, but with plenty of green space and privacy in between. Views are spectacular, right at the water's edge with the wild surf beating at black rocks mere yards away.
75 rooms and suites are carefully decorated in island style, with privacy and comfort combined with luxurious amenities. The Kainga rooms feature "columns" of polished Cypress trunks, pebbled floors, a native-crafted clay tub and separate rainfall shower. The built-in desk and sofa bed offer usability and comfort, and the private terraces with ocean views are the crowning touch. On my first morning here, I looked out my terrace doors to see a dozen of the island's wild horses yards away, just beyond the property fence. That combined with the stunning sunrise coming up over the cliffs and Hanga Roa town, amidst the morning fog, was a spectacular greeting.
Six Ma'unga suites also offer large, open living areas with built-in seating and an additional guest bathroom. All of the rooms have curved ceilings and walls, which is one of the things I found most pleasing. Everything about Hangaroa Ecovillage feels organic, without a hard edge to the place. It's like an immersion into the Rapa Nui lifestyle.
Internet connection is available in all rooms, and each has a stocked minibar - snacks are complimentary, and replenished.
The beautifully landscaped grounds include a lovely pool, the main lobby and gathering areas, exercise room and three meeting and event rooms. There is also a spa, Manavai, which provides unique treatments using locally-crafted ingredients. Separate private treatment rooms offer the ultimate in relaxation and rejuvenation.
A highlight of a stay here is definitely the dining experience. The hotel excels with its seafood dishes, which are beyond outstanding. The main restaurant, Poerava, serves breakfast and lunch in a gorgeous setting overlooking the ocean. For evening cocktails and dining, Kaloa invites guests for a complimentary sunset cocktail. There is a small separate bar, along with several levels of private dining tables. The decor is minimalist and chic, and reminiscent of dining in a top continental restaurant. Both the service and food are top-notch in both dining rooms, as is the selection of Chilean wines offered to accompany the inventive, fresh dishes.
Hanga Roa town is only a short walk away (taxis can also be easily had). The town is small,home to about five thousand residents, but interesting to stroll around. There are a number of nice little shops, restaurants and bars, particularly along the main street and the beach side. An artisan market and two museums are highly worthwhile. Don’t forget to stop by the post office for a must-have Easter Island memento: for a suggested tip, the postmaster will stamp your passport with the official Easter Island stamp.
One of the best things about staying at Hangaroa Eco Village is the fact that they can set up all your excursions for you. They work with the first (and best) tour operator on the island, Mahinatur Services, which has been in business since 1967. You can set up your excursions direct from the hotel and your tour guide will be there to meet you (and usually other resort guests) each morning or afternoon. Every excursion we went on was top-notch, with excellent and knowledgeable English-speaking guides. This helped to make our Easter Island visit one of the top travel experiences I have ever had - and certainly one of the most unique in the world.
Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa
AV. PONT S / N, Hangaroa,
Easter Island, Chile
+56 (2) 2957 0300
LAN Airlines operates daily flights from Santiago to Easter Island (except Tuesday), with twice-weekly flights that continue on to Tahiti. They are also generally the best bet for flying into Chile from North America, Central America and South America.
Easter Island Information:
The official Chile Tourism websiteoffers a wealth of information about visiting the country and Easter Island.
Easter Island Tourism also has their own website about the island.
Images by Keith Hajovsky
The Queen’s Head tavern sits only a block away from Lake Ontario beachfront in Burlington, Canada. From the outside, The Queen’s Head tavern would happily sit alongside pubs in downtown London, rather than downtown Burlington Ontario. With rich wood featuring such detailed architecture, you are in for a truly genuine pub experience.
A friendly greeting at the door sets the tone for the evening ahead. I had called a local mate for a beer, and we decided to sit on the newly built outside patio, with a great view of one of the main thoroughfares in Burlington. Our bubbly waitress was eager to explain the menu with detailed knowledge of the food on offer. After just a few moments of chatting, it was obvious staff have a lot of confidence in their chef, and it wasn’t too long before we found out why – the food is good.
The Queens Head pub has a great reputation with locals and is popular throughout the entire week so expect it to be busy at any time. Try to get in early in the evening, as even though it was Wednesday on our visit, it was busy so it’s not fast food. We had a great night, kept well entertained by the live music and the surprisingly extensive selection of beverages.
I generally am quite indecisive when it comes to menus, but this starter menu gives the perfect amount of options – i.e. not too many to choose from. Try the pumpkin and prosciutto flatbread, which you don’t see in many pub style restaurants, it’s worth it.
For the main, I suggest the Parmesan haddock. The dish is presented in a large white bowl with two large crisp pieces of haddock on a bed of beautifully spiced fingerling potatoes, blanched with salted purple kale and a creamed leak sauce. Your taste buds will come alive! The complementing flavours and texture blend charmingly. A perfectly proportioned dish left me satisfied.
I could smell the mouth-watering dessert long before the dish reached my table. I almost regretted ordering this …almost. I was pleasantly full-bellied from dinner already, and the dessert plate served up intimidated me – it was huge! Who knew such wonderful taste could convince you to fit the impossible into your already full stomach. Every bite left me wanting more. My waitress suggested it, and I pass on the secret to you – definitely try the candied ginger and preserved fruit bread pudding at the Queens Head, Burlington.
The Queens Head has amazing food, great live entertainment and quality service. There isn’t much more you can ask for with a pub experience – I’d say it’s a winner.
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Located on Georgian Bay in Ontario Canada, is true diamond in the rough, the grotto of the Bruce Peninsula, Cyprus Lake. A beautiful lake, hike, and scuba diving paradise waiting to be explored on what is the perfect hike for a day trek activity.
A days walk will pass by the North-West of the peninsula, and is truly a sovereign hikers delight. Known famously as the Bruce Trail, the trek passes an abundance of caves along coastal cliffs. You will reach amazing blue-green waters to swim in if the temperature is right. You will easily find well hidden bays, which hold so much natural beauty you forget the modern technological world is so close by.
Swimming and Scuba
This is a place you know scuba diving and snorkelling is something else. The deep waters are aqua crystal clear and there are old ship-wrecks to explore around Georgian Bay. So crystal-clear are the waters, that rocks sit in depths of more than 50 ft drops (15.24 m) yet seem like they are within arm’s reach. The areas powerful landscapes hold so much grace, a grown man will drop to his knees. Especially on a sunny day with his swimming trunks on, in the water - Bombs away!
An awesome feature of the area is a variety of camping options. Pull-in-and-park-RV or tent camping options are available, along with open sites, areas with private high foliage, areas where music is permitted, and then areas where it is not. The camping area has been thought out well to accommodate everyone. If you bring alcohol there is an area for this, or choose the family friendly zones. There are also hike-in campsites and portaging all around the Bruce Peninsula.
If you are a person who is in love with outdoors experiences and find yourself in southern Ontario then you cannot miss the opportunity of walking the Bruce Peninsula. It is truly one of the best hidden gems in Canada.
Nestled in the heart of San Francisco’s chic and vibrant Castro neighborhood, Thoroughbread and Pastry provides an eclectic atmosphere that’s all its own. Situated on the corner of Church and Market, the independently owned coffee shop offers a variety of artisan french pastries, sandwiches, and hand crafted coffee drinks. Their tarts and croissants, which range from an affordable 1.50 to 4.00 dollars, are just as hearty as they are sweet. Dedicated to providing quality goods and upholding the philosophy of artisan baking, which “involves taking the time to complete all of the processes, from scaling and mixing to baking and cooling and all of the steps in between, without taking shortcuts,” Thoroughbread’s team of amiable and eccentric bakers make each individual pastry directly behind the counter--proudly displaying their culinary skills and devotion to their craft.
Aside from its selection of decadent and affordable baked goods, another inviting aspect of Thoroughbread is its backyard patio area, which is adorned with hand-painted murals and shrouded by lush, overgrown trees. Its rustic atmosphere attracts a variety of next door neighbors and first time visitors, who usually come through for a quick bite to eat or afternoon read. Since Thoroughbread is located directly across from Aardvark, the neighborhood’s new and used bookstore, patrons are often seen with a Cafe au Lait and a vintage crime novel in hand. Overall, the quality service and easy going atmosphere that Thoroughbread provides is what makes it such a popular neighborhood hangout--so whether you’re looking for a spot to read, relax, or recuperate from a long night spent at the local gay bars,Thoroughbread’s got you covered. For more information on Thoroughbread’s location and hours of operation, check them out at http://www.thoroughbreadpastry.com.
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