25 Mar Party the Year Away

So you’ve decided to embrace your inner romantic with a season or two under the Tuscan sun? Contrary to what the movies would have you believe, you don’t have to come of age or have an illicit romance to appreciate the region’s extraordinary culture and countryside. But if illicit romances are your thing, go for it! However, we believe it’s semi-compulsory to get to one of the many festivals. They take place throughout the year in and around the rolling Tuscan hills and craggy Tuscan coastline. Some Tuscan festivals have traditions stretching back as far as the 6th century. And if you don’t think that’s cultural enough, you could always check out some local frescoes or architectural masterpieces after the festivities! Here are our picks of the major Tuscan festivals happening in each season. +++ Summer Luminara, Regatta of St. Ranieri and Battle of the Bridge - Pisa This two-day candlelit extravaganza of Luminara celebrates Saint Ranieri, the patron saint of Pisa. The city is best known for its structurally unsound tower, but Luminara beats that for pyrotechnic drama. It kicks off on the evening of June 16, with more than 70,000 candles lighting up the palaces along the Arno river, and a fireworks display. The following day, four boats representing the city’s oldest districts compete in the Regatta of Saint Ranieri along the Arno river. A week later, on the last Saturday of June, Pisa locals parade through the city in their best medieval costumes. Even better, some then join the Battle of...

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23 Mar When travel goes wrong, because sometimes it does

Let's face it, traveling doesn't always go as we expect, despite our best efforts to think ahead and plan our itinerary down to to the minute. Most of us can recall a situation when a train was late, we missed a flight (or in my case, didn't really have a flight and lived in the airport for three days - more on this later), or we just ended up in the wrong place, and these are only the most common of travel inconveniences. The best thing about travel misadventures? They're learning experiences, and they're part of the adventure itself, often making for great stories you'll find yourself telling over and over years later. Read about our very own travel-gone-wrong experiences from the Panrimo staff and how we survived to tell about them! Ellen Knuth - University Relations Manager, Kyoto, Japan   What was supposed to happen: I was supposed to have a nice night out with friends, which I did, but with a slight hiccup. What actually happened:  I was working in a rural area in Japan, but on a long weekend, traveled to the cultural capital of Kyoto to meet-up with some college buddies. After a very long, very late evening of revelry, everyone hugged goodbye and went back to their hotels. Everyone except me, of course. Because I hadn’t booked a hotel. Resolution: With another friend who had also neglected basic travel prep, I got a room. Not in a hostel or business hotel, but in a 24/7...

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18 Mar Shetland – Add it to the list!

Have you ever read a book that completely takes you to another place? I just love books that cover regions outside of the US, especially those that spark an interest in a new region of the world that you may never have known existed. I’m currently reading “White Nights”, the second book in a quartet by Ann Cleaves, all of which take place on the Shetland Islands, a small archipelago off the northern coast of Scotland. I must admit that when I first began reading this series, I had to pull up iMaps to locate these islands, and since then, I have been absolutely fascinated by Shetland. A quick visit to the Official Site for Shetland Tourism and I was hooked – it has just skyrocketed to the top 10 list of locations I absolutely must visit within the next five years. Some quick facts about these Scottish islands:  You’ll never be more than 5km from the sea while in Shetland. The island chain is as far north as St. Petersburg, Russia or Anchorage, Alaska, but its ocean currents are warmer than those of other northern regions, making Shetland’s climate quite mild. The landscape is incredibly diverse – from sandy beaches to rocky cliffs, and everything in between. There are 22,000 human inhabitants and about 200,000 puffin inhabitants in Shetland. At least 85 islands in the archipelago are inhabited solely by sheep, seals and birds. Shetland ponies are unique to the area and have been living on the island...

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16 Mar Sláinte!

Looking for cosy wooden booths, Gaelic beer on tap and a friendly, no-nonsense bartender who will spin you a yarn? There’s a reason Irish pubs have become a worldwide phenomenon. You’ve doubtless been to one in your own city, but what about in Ireland? What are the best Irish pubs and where can you find them? Glad you asked… +++ O’Loclainn’s, Ballyvaughan This non-descript bar, tucked away in the back of an alley, is a popular haunt for long-time locals. While it’s just a small room with a stove, this little pub has one of the city’s most impressive selections of whiskies.   Hi-B, Cork No larger than a living room, Hi-B is notorious for its stringent upkeep of Irish traditions. The tiny bar is virtually unchanged since it first opened 90 years ago. Mobiles are banned and whisky is welcomed.   O'Riada’s, Kilkenny This small, often overcrowded pub is a lovably shambolic place to stop and have a pint. Enjoy a strong Guinness or get lost in its labyrinthine corridors to get a taste for this real Irish pub.   Mulligan’s of Poolbeg St, Dublin Considered one of the last big-name Irish pubs that has not bowed down to commercialism, Mulligan’s is a time-warp to the Ireland of the 1850’s. Ignore the television – its only modern addition – and appreciate the hand-carved wooden paneling and cozy rustic interior.   Tigh Neachtain's, Galway What could be better than snuggling by an open fire with a large glass of stout? If you’re after an authentic Irish...

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09 Mar The world celebrates International Women’s Day!

Yesterday, the world united in a celebration of women around the world: International Women’s Day. Every year on March 8, millions of people around the world unite to celebrate the achievements the world has made in pursuing equality for women and the opportunities that are available to women around the world, and to strive to make further progress in the name of gender equality. Of course, there are still many steps to be taken toward gender equality, and the road forward is not a smooth one. But as we move forward, let’s focus on some of the highlights and events held along the way. WOW - Women of the World Festival [caption id="attachment_1598" align="aligncenter" width="720"] Courtesy https://www.facebook.com/womenoftheworldfestival?fref=photo and Victor Frankowski[/caption] This eight day festival began and March 1 and culminated on March 8, International Women's Day. It's impossible to describe the sheer number of events that took place, although highlights include speakers Caitlin Moran, Sarah Brown, and Safak Pavey, the first disabled woman elected to Turkish Parliament. The festival was headlined by tUnE-yArDs, whose front woman Merrill Garbus is a prominent proponent of gender equality. SheTalksYVR Conference [caption id="attachment_1597" align="aligncenter" width="836"] Courtesy shetalksyvr.ca/[/caption] This year featured the inaugural SheTalksYVR event, held in Surrey, Canada. Featuring 15 women all from the west coast of Canada, the conference invited each speaker to answer the following: "How are you changing your world?" Speakers included Maria Kritikos, the entrepreneur and founder of the Ladies Who Lunch network, published and activist Jodie Emery,...

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05 Mar Baseball (and Hurling) Season is Upon Us…

[caption id="attachment_1586" align="alignnone" width="300"] Credit: FoxSports.com[/caption]   Every spring, thousands of Americans head south to Florida and Arizona to warm up. During this time, there is a a secondary factor that starts to creep into the conscious of these "snow birds" - it's Spring Training and baseball season is upon us. Baseball is America's National Pastime. Did you know that it is also the National Pastime in Cuba and Dominican Republic? And wildly popular in Venezuela, Panama, the Netherland Antilles, China, Japan, Korea, Australia and the list goes on (basically all countries represented in the World Baseball Classic).  This got me wondering: What are the declared national pastimes from around the world? Let's take a look: Bahamas: Sloop Sailing [caption id="attachment_1590" align="alignnone" width="300"] Credit: Translate.com[/caption] These vessels are single-masted boats and regattas are held yearly. The most historical race being The National Family Island Regatta. I prefer to view this regatta from the shore with a beverage made from coconut and strawberries. Brazil: Capoeira [caption id="attachment_1587" align="alignnone" width="300"] Credit: Translate.com[/caption] This Afro-Brazilian style of martial arts was developed by ancient Brazilians and follows a system similar to Karate by awarding rope belts ranging from Raw to Black. Do not be fooled by the artistry, Mestres can and will subdue you by their movements and then Wah Bam! Korea Republic: Taekwondo [caption id="attachment_1591" align="alignnone" width="300"] Credit: Translate.com[/caption] This form of martial arts combines self defense with sport. The sequence in training includes Patterns, Sparring and, well known, Breaking - where boards, bricks, tiles and...

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02 Mar Yon Bonny Banks

Windswept coasts, ancient castles and dramatic, Celtic forests – there’s a lot to love about Scotland! Although geographically small, Scotland is rich with natural wonders. Expect to find your inner adventurer as you explore these mystic lands, filled with craggy cliffs, crystalline lakes and emerald valleys. With so much raw beauty, it can be difficult to know where to begin! To help you decide, we have put together our list of the most beautiful places to visit in Scotland.   Loch Ness No trip to Scotland would be complete without a visit to Loch Ness. Located in the Scottish Highlands, Loch Ness is not only central to local mythology and culture, it is also a beautiful lake that extends over 37 kilometres into Inverness. You can take in the impressive sight with a lakeside hike or a visit to the ruins of Urquhart Castle on the banks of the lake.   Ben Nevis At over 1,300 metres tall, Ben Nevis is the highest mountain top in the United Kingdom. While a challenging ascent, hikers who reach the top are rewarded with stunning views across the Grampian Mountains and towards distant Glencoe and Atlantic coast.   Cairngorms National Park With over 280km of hiking and mountain biking trails, Cairngorms National Park provides ample opportunity for adventure. Enjoy a hike through vast Cairngorms mountain range, some quiet wildlife watching or experience one of Scotland’s best water-rafting rapids.   Glencoe Nestled between the pinnacles of the Three Sisters mountain range and the cone-like Pap of Glenco, it...

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25 Feb Like a Local

Firenze! For anyone visiting Italy, it’s impossible to resist the appeal. You may even feel like you’re becoming Italian! To complete the immersion, why not hang with the locals in this iconic Renaissance capital? Here are our picks for the best local Florence haunts:   Le Cascine ParkOriginally owned by the Medici family (at one time the wealthiest family in Europe) Florence’s largest park was once used for game hunting and later, to grow fruit and vegetables. Today it’s a popular local spot for jogging, bike riding, bird watching, lazing around with friends or playing a friendly game of soccer. It’s also home to Le Pavoniere, an outdoor aquatic centre that transforms by night into a poolside bar and restaurant, serving up cocktails, pizzas and live music.   Crazy Bowling. So it doesn’t sound classically Italian, but you are sure to find lots of Fiorentini in this American-style bowling alley, just a short bus ride from Florence’s historic city centre. But’s it’s not just bowling - there are also arcade games, billiards, a casino and eateries. Catch tram 1 from outside Florence’s central train station, Firenze Santa Maria Novella, to the Nenni–Torregalli stop.   Dancing spots and discotecas Late night dancing is a popular pursuit in Florence and there are tons of great venues for discos and live music, many of them in ancient, underground cellars. Stalwarts for the younger crowd and lovers of house music include Tenax, Club TwentyOne and Space Electronic. Also check out Flò Lounge Bar, an...

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24 Feb Nostalgic for Nancy

Nancy, France that is. An hour and 45 minute high speed train ride from Paris Gare de l’Est, and you’ll arrive in this beautiful, if underrated city in northeastern France. Stepping out of the train station, it feels quite like any other mid-sized city in France with its tramway, brasseries, bakeries, cafés, and shops lining the streets, but a few blocks into the city center, you’ll happen upon the real treasure of the city, Place Stanislas. Place Stan, as it’s known among locals, is the heart of Nancy and is a classified UNESCO World Heritage site. The square is almost fully enclosed by the facades of the City Hall, Opera, Grand Hotel and a few luxurious restaurants and night clubs. It’s the hosting place for community and cultural events, a common meeting place among friends, and in general, is the site to be seen. Go ahead, take a look! Place Stanislas is not only a visually stunning site, it was designed with a functional purpose in mind. The square was a project conceived of by Stanislaw Lesczynski, King of Poland and father in law of King Louis XV. It served to connect the old town of Nancy to the more modern part of the city, and walking through Place Stan today, the distinction between these two parts of town, is still quite marked. Cross through to the Vielle Ville (old town) and this is where you’ll find the tiny...

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18 Feb International Sons of Liberty

Calling all history geeks! Last month, the History Channel debuted a new miniseries called “Sons of Liberty”. While meant to be taken more for its entertainment value than its precise historical accuracy (no, Sam Adams was not a brooding, roof-jumping bachelor), I’m confident that “Sons of Liberty” inspired many to learn more about our Founding Fathers. As a former collegiate history major, I love any opportunity to learn more about my favorite subject, and I started to wonder about historical individuals around the world who contributed to their nation’s revolutionary history. Of course, no rebel leader can be without critiques and controversies. And every historical story has multiple sides. But it’s still fascinating to take a look at other “Sons of Liberty” in other nations. What’s even better about these revolutionaries is that there are plenty of monuments to visit while you’re abroad! France – Napoleon Bonaparte Possibly one of the most celebrated and vilified figures of French history is Napoleon Bonaparte. Many know him for his ill-advised attempts to take over Russia, or perhaps his short stature and (rumored) consequential inferiority complex. But his military prowess and political sense allowed him to quickly rise in the ranks during the tail end of the French Revolution, catapulting him to become the head of the nation. Although his autocratic rule may have signaled a shift away from some of the democratic principles of French revolutionaries, Napoleon spearheaded some significant political and social reforms that our own...

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