DECEMBER 2014

Common Questions About Hot-Air Balloons

by: Janette Vince (reading – 3.11. - 9.11.)

There’s nothing quite like flying in a hot-air balloon. Here are a few common questions and answers about this topic.

How do they work?
Hot air rises. A burner heats the air within the balloon. As the air heats up, it becomes warmer than the air around it. This causes it to rise, taking the basket and its contents along with it.

What is the balloon made of?
Most of the “envelope” on many hot-air balloons is made from nylon. Nylon is airtight, lightweight and strong, and most importantly, it withstands heat well without melting.

Why is the basket always made of wicker?
Wicker is lightweight, strong, and flexible. When a balloon lands after a flight, it can sometimes hit the ground with a bit of a bump. The flexible wicker absorbs most of the shock of the landing.

What’s it like to fly a balloon?
A pilot can only move a hot air balloons up and down. In order to move left or right, a pilot can raise or lower the balloon to catch a wind current that’s going in the right direction. A good balloonist knows the prevailing wind directions in his area and can find the right level for each direction he wants to go in.

What’s it like to ride in a balloon?
Riding in a balloon is surprisingly peaceful. Balloons can only go as fast as the winds around them, which isn’t too fast—generally around 8 to 16 kph. Because there are no motors or propellers, the ride is quiet and tranquil.

No matter the occasion, there’s nothing quite like drifting above the earth, seeing things from a new perspective as you ride the winds. A hot-air balloon ride is a wonderful event for all occasions.

About The Author

Janette Vince is managing director of the ECommerce experience day company www.thanksdarling.com/ For a range of experience days including hot air balloon rides in Kent, Essex, Sussex, Devon & Oxfordshire visit www.thanksdarling.com/categories/balloon-flights.htm



Grand Canyon Rafting - The Greatest Vacation in the World

by: Walker D. Mackay (reading – 10.11. - 16.11.)

As the snow continues to fall in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming my mind drifts toward the upcoming summer in the Colorado Plateau of Utah and Arizona. Not because I am chilled by the weather outside, but instead I am thrilled about the thought of water in the mighty Colorado River and in its largest tributary the Green River. I have traveled to Costa Rica and ridden the zip lines through the rainforest, I have seen the incredible animals of the Galapagos Islands, and walked on the glaciers of Alaska; but no place on Earth has captured my mind, body, and soul as the Grand Canyon has. There is no vacation on earth better than a Grand Canyon Rafting Trip.

A Grand Canyon Rafting trip is great for families, groups, or individuals. People are allowed to escape from the ordinary on a multi-day rafting trip. Their worries change from cell phones and business to adapting to the natural world. Trips to the movies are traded for hikes to waterfalls. Crowded swimming pools in the city are traded for natural quiet swimming holes. The bedroom ceiling is traded for the dark star filled night sky. A sense of the natural world is put back into those who have been on a rafting trip.

I feel sorry for those who never see the Grand Canyon, or only peer into its depths from the popular South Rim. As a river guide for Colorado River and Trail Expeditions (www.crateinc.com ) for the past 13 years I have seen many people's lives change on the Colorado River. It is truly amazing how many people tell me that their trip through Grand Canyon is the greatest thing they have ever done. Many of them are very worldly travelers having been to places I have only seen in magazines, or read about in books. I think that a rafting trip fills people with a sense of accomplishment. After all you usually sleep outside, deal with changing weather, survive rapids, and get sand blasting facials. A huge amount of people come back year after year with Colorado River & Trail Expeditions. Take Wilma for example who had never been camping until she came on a rafting trip alone at age 58. Since that time she has been back twelve times. She always says "Why would I do anything else when I like this so much?". I think the canyon makes you selfish. I always feel offended when it comes up #2 or #3 in a magazine's greatest vacation list or 100 things to do before you die.

The Grand Canyon can only be seen from the bottom to really get the praise it deserves. Pictures don't give the Grand Canyon the justice it deserves. The bottom of the Grand Canyon is unbelievable if you have not seen it. There are waterfalls, streams, pinnacles, rapids, buttes, caves, caverns, animals, grottos, rapids, wildflowers, vertical walls, metamorphic rocks, sedimentary rocks, igneous rocks, trees, and open space.

If you are thinking about doing a rafting trip next summer here are some suggestions. Take enough time to see the Grand Canyon. If you want to do a Grand Canyon Trip do the whole 280 miles, don't do a partial trip. If the eight days are too long then try a shorter trip on the Colorado River in Canyonlands National Park. Colorado River and Trail Expeditions offers motor, row, and paddle rafting trips in both locations. Grand Canyon trips usually originate and end in Las Vegas. Plan on a day of rest and spa treatments after your trip, it will give you some time to start thinking about your next river adventure.

About The Author

Walker Mackay and his wife Mindy are Grand Canyon river guides for Colorado River & Trail Expeditions (www.crateinc.com ). They live in Fredonia, AZ in summer and Salt Lake City, UT in Winter.



Five Reasons Why We Love Chocolate

by: Janette Vince (reading – 17.11. - 23.11.)

Its one of the most popular sweets of all time. Women crave it, men hoard it, and Aztec kings were said to have been the first to eat it. But why do we love chocolate so much? Following are just a few reasons why chocolate is so popular and why you shouldn’t give it up completely, even if you’re on a diet!

It melts in your mouth
Chocolate contains fat, that’s no surprise. The cocoa butter in chocolate gives it a rich, creamy consistency that also transmits the cocoa’s flavor perfectly. It also has a melting point that’s just a bit lower than the average human body temperature, which gives you that melt-in-your-mouth feeling every time you pop a piece of chocolate in your mouth. Chocolate lovers often describe this melting feeling as a true moment of ecstasy.

Just the right chemistry
According to a study done at the University of Michigan in the United States, chocolate contains chemicals called opioids. Opioids are also found in opium, and they serve to dull pain and give a feeling of well-being to people who ingest them. According to the study, people who eat chocolate produce natural opiates in their brains that soothe their nerves and make them feel good. When the receptors that detected opioids were blocked, that chocolate craving was lessened.

Chocolate also naturally contains “uppers” like caffeine, sugars, and phenylthalymine, which will make your heart pound a little harder, your breathing come a bit more quickly, and give you a feeling of alertness. The effect is not dramatic enough to be uncomfortable in most people; it’s mild enough to produce a pleasant “high,” which is often equated to the feeling of being in love.

Chocolate equals love
Speaking of love, the association might not be completely physiological. Women crave chocolate more often than men do. Women are also habitually given chocolate as birthday and Valentine’s Day presents. In our culture, chocolate is thought of as a romantic gift. It’s outside the realm of mundane, day-to-day food, reserved for special occasions and, for women especially, it’s associated with love and romance. That could be another reason why women particularly love chocolate: deep down, it makes them feel loved, cared for, and pampered.

It really is good for you
Recent studies suggest that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains chemicals that lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. Flavanoids and antioxidants in dark chocolate have been shown to make a difference in cardiovascular health. Until recently, tea was considered the main source for these chemicals. Now, scientists recommend that you have a chocolate cookie or biscuit with your tea so your body gets more of those life-lengthening chemicals. Don’t have milk with your dark chocolate, however, the same studies show that milk can cancel out the healthful effects of eating chocolate by preventing those helpful chemicals from being fully absorbed in the body.

Chocolate does contain fats and sugars that you shouldn’t eat a great deal of, but as long as you eat it in moderation, the science suggests you can add as much as a year to your life.

It’s great for your sex life
Ever since the time of the Aztecs, people have believed that chocolate has aphrodisiac properties. But there may be some deeper truth to those old legends. Recent studies have shown that women who eat a little bit of chocolate a day have significantly more sex than women who don’t. This could be because of those brain-soothing chemicals that are found in chocolate, and that chocolate encourages the brain to release more of as it’s eaten. Chocolate just makes us feel good which is a key ingredient for a healthy sex life.

But there are more creative ways to use chocolate in the bedroom besides just eating it. Adventurous and playful couples have incorporated it in the bedroom for years. For a sensual treat, make a chocolate fondue and feed your loved one strawberries dipped in the sweet sauce. Give your spouse fine chocolates for no reason, they’re sure to show their appreciation later. If you’re not afraid to get a little messy, use chocolate-flavored body lotions and lubricants, you can always share a shower to clean off afterwards!

It’s important to remember not to overindulge in chocolate. It does contain high amounts of saturated fats and sugars that can cause health damage and obesity if you take in too much. However, when eaten in moderate quantities, chocolate truly can be a miracle food. Even better, it tastes wonderful, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t like some kind of chocolate, whether it’s white, dark, or milk, Hershey or Belgian. So the next time you have to give up something for Lent or take up a new diet, think twice before giving up chocolate. It not only tastes good, its health benefits give you a great excuse to keep on enjoying it.

About The Author

Janette Vince is managing director of the online business www.thanksdarling.com . Thanks darling offer a wide range of experience days out and breaks. For a memorable day out making chocolates visit www.thanksdarling.com/chocolate-making-with-lunch.htm .



Costa Rica, a Paradise for Eco-Tourism

by: Clint Leung (reading – 24.11. - 30.11.)

For those who would like a destination for eco-tourism, Costa Rica is hard to beat. For a little country in Central America that’s only 19,730 square miles, there’s definitely a lot to see and do there. Costa Rica means ‘rich coast’ in Spanish, which is the country’s official language. Located between Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south, Costa Rica is one of the most stable and prosperous of all Latin American countries. There are tropical beach resorts on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the country for sun vacationers but the main attraction of Costa Rica is the eco-tourism. For example, there is a wider variety of bird species in Costa Rica alone than in all of Europe and North America.

Surprisingly, there are diverse eco-systems and microclimates within Costa Rica. In addition to the coastal beaches, there are dense jungles and rain forests with a wide variety of fauna. Some of these forests are referred to as cloud forests because of the moisture of the mists that linger among the trees in some parts. One forest has a cable car set up so that tourists can observe the plant and animal life at the treetop levels. For the more adventurous types, there is a place where one can swing from tree to tree using a network of rope attachments. There are also dry forests as well as colder barren volcanic tundras. Quite extreme changes in microclimate can be observed even within 30 minutes of travel. Some parts of the country have canal systems similar to those found in the Amazon and a few rivers offer excellent white water rafting.

There are several volcanoes within the country and the extinct ones are easily accessible since they are tourist attractions. A few have beautiful turquoise color lakes that have formed in the craters at the top of such volcanoes. One of the more famous active volcanoes is Arenal where visitors can safely watch the eruptions from a nearby facility that has outdoor hot springs naturally heated by the mountain.

In addition to the many different birds that can be sighted, there is a wide number of other exotic wildlife including monkeys, sloths, jaguars, bats and reptiles that can be seen during one of the many available nature tours. Every year, there are sea turtles that come to certain beaches to nest and this event attracts many nature lovers. The wildlife in Costa Rica is not only rich on land or the air but also in the surrounding oceans. For scuba divers, Costa Rica offers excellent diving opportunities and they are quite different from the waters in the Caribbean. The higher amounts of plankton in the local seas attract more numbers of large marine animals than can be found in the Caribbean.

Coffee and bananas are some of the main exports for Costa Rica. For coffee lovers, this is the place to sample some of the best in the world although it should be warned that the locals like their coffee quite strong. Tours in the valleys will often go past numerous coffee plantations.

Most tourists will fly into the capital city of San Jose. Although there is some nice colonial architecture to see in San Jose, it’s not one of the nicer places to stay in Costa Rica. The city is noisy and polluted but relatively safe. One can use San Jose as a base for many day trips to the various rain forests, volcanoes and beaches. Travelers can also fly into Liberia which is a town in the north part of the country. This is a much quieter region and close to many of the northern resorts. One option that many travelers take is to rent a vehicle and tour the country on their own. However, the roads of Costa Rica are not the best with lots of potholes and mudslides are common during the wet season from June to November. If renting a vehicle, a 4x4 is definitely recommended.

There is so much to see and do in Costa Rica that many visitors return to see parts of the country that they missed before. The country is easily the most popular destination to visit in Central America. Costa Rica now has tourist offices set up in North America for those who want further information.

About The Author

Clint Leung owner of Free Spirit Activewear www.FreeSpiritActivewear.com , an online retailer/designer specializing in premium quality activewear with specialty sports themes including scuba diving and martial arts. Free Spirit Activewear has numerous information resource articles on specialty sports as well as free eCards.