A Stone’s Throw From Stonehenge Lies a Massive New Mystery

Stonehenge new mystery photoLocated in Wittshire, England, Stonehenge is one of the world’s most iconic man-made landmarks. Tourists flock to the raised stones to ponder their origins and meaning. Are these the marks of an alien burial site? Were ancient sacrificial rituals conducted here? How were these stones raised before the advent of modern technology? Stonehenge baffles tourists (and historians) to this day as it sits isolated in the middle of the English countryside.

Recently, a group of archaeologists from the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project uncovered the extensive remains of a 90-stone structure less than two miles from Stonehenge. Using remote sensing technologies, the archaeologists were able to detect the presence of the massive stone monument, which is currently buried under a bank of grass. Though the archaeologists aren’t entirely sure when the monument was built, they are able to place its construction as contemporary to Stonehenge itself, some time between 2,000 and 3,000 BC.

This new discovery means Stonehenge is not isolated and may in fact be relatively small in comparison to its newfound neighbor. Scientists and archaeologists alike are scrambling to figure out the significance of the new monument and where it figures into the history of the area.

Luckily for them, the new monument is surprisingly well-preserved, and excavation of the stones could lead to specimens more easily researchable than Stonehenge. If full excavation occurs, the monument would form a half moon that dwarfs its sister site. Preemptive hypotheses suggest the new stones might’ve been used for ancient calendar purposes, as a sacred space for religious acts, or as the wall of an arena.

In a statement released to the press by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, Paul Garwood, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Birmingham, reflected on the project’s game-changing discovery, “The extraordinary scale, detail and novelty of the evidence produced by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project is changing fundamentally our understanding of Stonehenge and the world around it. Everything written previously about the Stonehenge landscape and the ancient monuments within it will need to be re-written.”

Regardless of what scientists uncover, this story will be an important one to watch unfold. And in the near future, the discovery might also be a can’t-miss addition to the English travel itinerary.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on Oct. 6th.

UK beaches: The surprisingly-beautiful British coastlines

For Beach Thursday this week, I wanted to do something different. I asked myself, what is one of the least-likely beach destinations for globetrotters to pick? That’s when UK beaches came to mind.

best UK beaches Porthcurno

Porthcurno Beach located in…the UNITED KINGDOM?! Keep reading to learn more! (Simon Clayson, Flickr)

I always knew the British coastlines are wildly beautiful. I had seen snapshots of its jagged cliffs over azure waters on National Geographic and the Discovery Channel.

However, I never imagined long sandy British beaches.

I always thought that UK beaches were either full of pebbles, too small to lounge in or would be too cold to enjoy them at all anyway. But boy, was I wrong! Whether you are around Edinburgh or London, just park and fly (or drive!) to one of these spots.

Best UK beaches: My picks

Bournemouth Beach, Dorset

Yes, it is in every brochure — but justifiably so. Bournemouth Beach, a mere 2-hour drive from London, busts any myth stating that a British beach holiday is an oxymoron. Golden soft sand (a good 7 miles of it), clean waters, a pier and promenade full of places to eat and drink make it the best UK beach holiday destination. Thanks to its artificial reef, you can even go surfing here. Parking is expensive though, so plan accordingly.

top UK beaches Bournemouth

Popular Bournemouth Beach (Jeremy Tarling, Flickr)

Green Bay Beach, Porthcurno, Cornwall

In my opinion, the best UK beaches are Green Bay Beach and Porthcurno. They are simply too gorgeous for words. Their water can be as crystalline as any Caribbean beach (!), the sand is fine and soft, the rock pools and stream that goes down the beach are perfect for small children.

best UK beaches Cornwall

Porthcurno beach from Minack Theater. WOW! (drgillybean, Flickr)

A must do when visiting the area is to go see a play in the spectacular rock-hewn, open-air Minnack Theatre! I was flabbergasted after finding out that Porthcurno didn’t make it to the Best Beaches in the United Kingdom Tripadvisor list. Maybe that’s a good thing? 😉

best UK beaches Minack Theater

Minack Theatre: what a stunning place for a play! (Liz Smith, Flickr)

Sinclair’s Bay, Caithness, Scotland

A Scottish beach that doesn’t even have a proper attraction page on Tripadvisor. Whales, porpoises, and 16th-century castles make the mostly-deserted Sinclair’s Bay a unique beach destination in the UK. Located in Caithness, its 4-mile coastline is ethereal. Another wonderful hidden gem! Photos can’t do it justice.

top UK beaches Sinclair

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe by Stefan Klaas, Flickr

Gwithian & Porthgwidden Beach, St. Ives, Cornwall

And here I thought the only St. Ives was in Switzerland. Anyway…! Gwithian & Porthgwidden are other Cornwall spots that will impress even the most discerning beachcombers.

Gwithian really has it all: bug free, great seafood (at a great price), rock pools, and sand dunes. The beach is also great for windsurfing. The best part? Visit around November in order to see a seal sanctuary, located in a cove past Godrevy light house. A traveler once reported seeing over 130 seals at once!

What about Porthgwidden Beach?

Top UK beaches Porthgwidden Cornwall

This is Porthgwidden. Um yeah…exactly. (Photo: Richardo York)

Great Bay, St Martin’s, Isles of Scilly

To really get away from it all, head to Great Bay in the Isles of Scilly. A 20 minute walk from the dock, this UK beach is only reachable by foot. For this reason, it is never crowded. The best thing to do while in St Martin’s, by the way? Snorkeling with the seals. Now that’s another one for my travel bucket list!

best UK beaches Great Bay Isles of Scilly

Little Bay, Great Bay, Isles of Scilly by David Edwards, Flickr

For more UK beaches that didn’t make my list (but still come highly recommended), please visit the official Visit Britain site here.

top UK beaches Minack Theater

Minack Theater again! (Simon Clayson, Flickr)

What are your fave UK beaches? Would you visit the UK for them?

FriFotos: Time and clocks around the world

This week’s FriFotos theme is Time/Clocks, so I decided to make a compilation of these representations from my world travels. Above all photos, there’s a blurb about the trip behind the image and maybe even a piece of a travel tale (or two). Enjoy!

NYE Ball Drop in Times Square, New York

Thinking about ringing the New Year in Times Square? Then you must start looking into holiday tours right now! Parties with views of the famous NYE Times Square Ball Drop book quickly. Although the best party in town was TGI Friday’s (closest to the action, anyway!), it was sold out. So…I seduced an NYPD officer and he let me breeze through Times Square Ball Drop VIP lane, get the best view of the Ball Drop, and I only got there at 10 PM, instead of waiting long freezing hours outdoors. Once of my best travel tales to date!

FriFotos Times Square NYE clock

A little video: Just for fun! 😉 😀

FriFotos NYE Times Square Ball Drop, clock

Best time to look at the clock in Times Square!

Big Ben, London

One of my best Couchsurfing experiences was in London. I stayed in the giant duplex of a model photographer who had at least other 10 models from all over the world surfing his several couches and beds! It felt like a Girls Scouts retreat, but with photo shoots and tons of sightseeing thrown in. All the girls got along very well and we hit town together. We still keep in touch. Here, some photos of my Korean “Couch mate” and me in front of the Big Ben. Good times! 🙂

FriFotos Big Ben clock

The Leaning Tower of London? Haha, love how this shot came out!

FriFotos Big Ben

Now it’s my time with Mr Big!

Cuckoo Clocks, Black Forest, Germany

In 2005, I went on an unforgettable multi-country Europe tour for the first time. It was mom’s high school graduation gift for me in part, and I’ll never be able to thank her enough. I did work for this too, via fundraising, as it was an “educational tour” of sorts. Maybe that’s why this trip felt so good! 😉 Anyway! While I already started to share my travel journal entries from that Euro trip, I have not told you about one of my favorite spots yet: The Black Forest, Germany. Wandering around the cuckoo clocks shop by the Rhine Falls was quite fun (and interesting!).

FriFotos, Euro Trip cuckoo clock

Me in front of the huge cuckoo clock by the shop. See that green kind of window on top? @ 2:10, a HUGE cuckoo came out of there. Too bad I missed it!

FriFotos, Euro Trip cuckoo clocks

Me and some of the famous cuckoo clocks. Gosh, I was young! =P

Got any peculiar clock shots? Which are your favorite FriFotos?

FriFotos: London Chinatown

Hey-oh! Just a little taste of this wonderful Friday here, participating in FriFotos theme “China” by posting the only ones I got from my travels that are somewhat remotely Asian: London’s Chinatown. My intense weekend starts tonight with pre-games and pre-Gasparilla celebrations, so this will be the last post from me ’til the weekend is done. As you already know, Tampa Bay’s Mardi Gras happens tomorrow! Friends have already flown down and I’m going to be quite busy hosting and prepping eggs & kegs + blueberry pancake Jell-O shots for guests. Hope you have a wonderful time and if you are partaking in the local Gasparilla festivities: Be safe and don’t drink and drive! 😉 Hallaaaaaaa

London Chinatown

me by the entrance of London's Chinatown!

London Chinatown

Detailed work - only Chinese "archway" I've ever witnessed (for now)!

Chinatown in London

I wonder what that says - anyone?

bustling Chinatown in London

bustling Chinatown in London

FriFotos, London's Chinatown

me getting a little taste of Chinese architecture

red booth London Chinatown

the infamous red phone booths are everywhere in London, even Chinatown!

What’s your favorite Chinatown in the world? Why?

Christmas traditions around the world + photos!

In the Western & Christian worlds, we celebrate Christmas this weekend. In celebration, I decided to compile some unique Christmas traditions around the world! Since our globe has more than 200 countries, the list below includes only the ones I have personally visited and/or lived in. This way, we keep the number close to 30 😉 Hope you enjoy it!


Christmas traditions around the world, ajaca

Ajaca: Traditional food eaten during Christmas in Aruba, it is made of plantains and stuffed with pork, chicken or beef (Photo:Mourinhospenis.tumblr.com)

In this beautiful Caribbean island, it is commonplace for families to go to church together on Christmas Eve. Then, families gather again for Christmas dinner the next day and sing Aruban songs as they eat ajaca (also eaten in Puerto Rico, but known as “pastel”), salted ham and salmon.


Christmas traditions around the world, Austria markets

Christmas market in Vienna, Austria (Photo: Manfred Werner)

While Christmas markets are very popular in several cities across Europe, they are particularly important in Austria. The most popular in this quaint country are found in Vienna (in front of the City Hall), Innsbruck (in square by the Golden Roof), and Salzburg (by Residenzplatz/the big Cathedral).


Christmas traditions around the world, Barbados

Christmas Pantomime by St Winifred School, Barbados (Photo:Bajanchristmas.wordpress.com)

In the Barbados, a curious tradition is that children put on a pantomime show (instead of a traditional Christmas play) for school. This is also common Christmas tradition in Jamaica.


Christmas traditions around the world, Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas (Dutch Santa Claus) and his helper, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). Photo: Looi at nl.wikipedia

In the Dutch Caribbean (including the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao) they celebrate what it’s called Saint Nicholas Day. What’s really special in this region, however, is Sinterklaas: The Dutch Santa Claus! He makes an appearance on December 5th and gives out the gifts then! Oh, it is also feast day 😉

Dominican Republic

Christmas traditions around the world, Three Kings

"Los Tres Reyes Magos," meaning "The Three Magic Kings" (Photo: Studioporto.com)

While many Latin American countries celebrate both December 25th (Santa Claus/Christmas) and January 6th (Three Kings Day), only the latter is celebrated in Dominican Republic. There might be some exceptions to the rule, such as wealthy families exchanging gifts on both days. This, however, is rare. What, then, happens on January 6th? Children leave grass for the “camels” of the Three Kings to eat under their beds (not tree!) and then see their gifts there the next morning.


Christmas traditions around the world, fattah

Egyptian fattah (Photo: Mylifeinapyramid.com)

Christmas in EGYPT? That’s right! While more than 90% of the population in Egypt are Muslims, there is still a Christian minority, called the Coptic Church. Also, as an Orthodox Church, so they actually celebrate Christmas on January 7th, a day after Three Kings Day in Latin America (Epiphany). Then, on Christmas Eve, everyone goes to church midnight service wearing a brand-new outfit, then goes home afterward to eat delicious fata (pictured above).


Christmas traditions around the world, Boxing Day

Keswick Boxing Day Hunt, Market Square, Cumbria, Lakes District, England in 1962 (Photo: Phillip Capper, Wiki)

Some peculiar Christmas traditions in England are the Queen of England’s speech (radio and televised) on Christmas Day and the celebration of Boxing Day on Dec. 26th, which nowadays involves giving small amounts of money as gifts to those who have helped you throughout the year (i.e. the mailman, the newspaper boy, etc.). When it comes to food, Christmas lunch includes a chestnut-stuffed turkey, Yorkshire pudding and roast beef or roast goose.


Christmas traditions around the world, suckling pig

Suckling pig: Traditional German dish eaten on “Dickbauch” feast day (Photo:Whydyoueatthat.wordpress.com)

As in several European countries, the day that German kids actually receive gifts is December 7th. Thus, on the night of December 6th, children place a boot or shoe by the fireplace (similar to the mistletoe tradition!) and wait for St. Nicholas to fill it with gifts! Another funny fact? Christmas Eve is called “Dickbauch” (which means “fat stomach”) and if you do not eat well on that day, you will be haunted by DEMONS! Say wha!? Interesting Christmas superstition indeed!


Christmas traditions around the world, Yule Lads

Two of the Yule Lads on a billboard in Iceland (Photo:WikiCommons)

Icelandic Christmas is great, as it lasts 26 days and brings about 13 different “Santa Clauses” (also called “Yule Lads”) and they start bringing gifts 13 days before December 25th! The story behind them is that their parents are mean mother Grýla (who takes away the naughty kids in town!) and father Leppalúði, who is not that bad. Their children then are the infamous Yuletid, and each day of the Icelandic Christmas a different one comes to town, either bringing gifts or a prank, or both! 😉 on December 12th, children place a shoe by the window and expect one of the many “Santa Clauses” to leave gifts – but if you have been naughty, you get a potato instead! The major gift exchange and Christmas celebration, however, happens on Christmas Eve, when many Icelanders also go to midnight mass.

Israel & Palestine

While Jews celebrate Chanukkah around the same time, a minority of Christian Arabs do celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, on December 25th. Celebrations are particularly evident in Bethlehem and the Church of Nativity, where it is believed to be the location of the manger where Jesus was born more than 2,000 years ago. See the video above to get a taste of Christmas in the West Bank/Palestine!

For part 2, and many more traditions from other countries, CLICK HERE!!

What are your favorite Christmas traditions around the world? Why?