Tar-Removing Tip For Beach-Bound Spring Breakers And Vacationers

feetI’m currently in Southern California, mixing a bit of business and pleasure. I’m officially visiting my parents, but yesterday, I headed up to Santa Barbara for the night to research a story for a guidebook. On my way home today, I went for a late afternoon run on my favorite beach. As a former SB resident, it’s something I’ve done dozens of times in the past.

As I pounded barefoot through the surf, I was struck by the fact that this beach, which shall remain nameless, was almost empty. It was bizarre, because usually there are lots of other runners, walkers and even the occasional horseback rider, all of whom come to take advantage of the mile-and-a-half-long swath of smooth sand. I also love this location because I never fail to see dolphins, but today, no dice.

After my run, I headed back to the car. Because I was trying to beat weekend traffic, I just brushed the sand off the tops of my feet and put my socks and shoes back on. I arrived at my parents’ house an hour later, and, upon removing my socks, discovered why the beach was deserted. Apparently one of the many offshore oil rigs had recently had an accident, because the bottoms of my feet were literally blackened with tar.

Fortunately, my 80-year-old mom spends a lot of time trawling the Internet, and she had the solution … sort of. “I’m pretty sure it’s mayonnaise,” she said. “That, or peanut butter.” Which is how I ended up sitting on my parents’ kitchen floor, rubbing both substances on my left foot with one hand, while trying to fend off their dogs with the other.

For the record, a cup of peanut butter works, although I don’t recommend you use chunky, given the choice.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Tommy Petroni]

Video: Man Wrestles Shark On Australian Beach

Would you wrestle a shark? This British holidaymaker did when he spotted one close to some children on a beach in Queensland, Australia.

Paul Marshallsea, 62, grabbed the two-meter-long dusky shark by the tail and dragged it away from shore. As soon as it got in deeper water, the BBC reports, it turned on him and almost bit his leg.

Dusky sharks have the most powerful bite of any of the 400 shark species. While they aren’t considered one of the most dangerous varieties, they should be treated with caution.

Lifeguards and members of the coast guard were then able to lure the shark into a nearby creek with the hope that it would return to sea with the tide. They said the animal is probably sick and while they praised Marshallsea’s actions, they don’t recommend wrestling sharks.

Photo Of The Day: Eleuthera

eleuthera

Eleuthera is a long slender snake of an island, about 110 miles long and an average of two miles wide. It has an embarrassment of beaches, which are notable not just for their number but also for their variety: a long pale strand here; a deep beach backed by reeds there; pretty pink sands elsewhere.

Flickr user trishhartmann captured this particularly dramatic Eleuthera beach, Tippy’s Beach near Governor’s Harbour, in June of this year. The clouds, the milky green waters, and the perfect sand all contribute to making this image especially compelling.

Upload your best images to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. We choose our favorites from the pool as Photos of the Day.

Let’s Bring Capitalism To America’s Beaches

cape cod beachAmerica is a paradise for consumers. We can satisfy just about any consumer desire that strikes our fancy, even if it’s 3 a.m. on a holiday weekend. The one big exception to this rule is on our beaches, where most of the time we’re forced to lug coolers, chairs, umbrellas, beach toys and anything else we’ll need. There are some exceptions to this rule, but at many beaches around the country municipal restrictions prohibit entrepreneurs from renting chairs and umbrellas on the beach or selling food or drinks.

This point was driven home for us on a recent visit to the Cape Cod National Seashore (CCNS) in Massachusetts. The CCNS is a glorious 40-mile stretch of sand that encompasses six beaches. We were there in late August – peak season – and had to park about a mile away from the entrance to Marconi Beach. I pulled up to drop off our gear – we had no chairs or umbrellas – so it wasn’t that much effort to carry our cooler and my children’s beach toys.

But other people, particularly seniors, who were schlepping all kinds of stuff looked like they were ready to pass out from the exertion of hauling their gear in the heat. There are no chairs or umbrellas for rent at this beach and I didn’t see any food or drink for sale. The result of this dynamic is that 90 percent of beachgoers cluster right at the bottom of the stairs leading down from the parking lot.

Right at the bottom of the stairs the beach was absolutely jam packed with people so close that their towels practically touched. I know that some like to people watch and be where the action is, but I was happy to keep walking for about ten minutes to reach a spot where we had the place all to ourselves. The video that accompanies this post illustrates the crazy dynamic of this beach – it’s enormous but 90 percent of it is empty because people don’t want to haul their gear very far.

beach cafe with pretty girlThe weird dynamic at this and many other American beaches is in stark contrast to the way beaches are set up in many other parts of the world. We spent several weeks in the Greek islands earlier this year, and there, all of the most popular beaches have either chairs and umbrellas for rent at a reasonable price or cafes and tavernas with the same – right on the beach.

I’m usually the last person to argue for public spaces to be given over to commercialization. In fact, I get really sick of how we’re constantly bombarded with advertising and sales pitches here, even when we’re going to the bathroom in some cases. But I have to admit: I love having the option of renting a lounge chair and umbrella at a beach. And if there is reasonably priced food and drink available – even better.

If you’re visiting a beach close to your home, bringing your own gear is less of a pain, but when you visit a beach on vacation, bringing your own chairs, umbrellas and cooler isn’t very practical.

In late May, we were at a beach bar near Lecce, in Italy, where the lounge chairs and thatched roof shelters were free if you ordered a meal. In Italy, you can always eat well and I had a linguini with clam sauce dish that was out of this world for 7€, right from the comfort of my beach chair. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven, but couldn’t help but wish we had the same sort of beach café culture here in the U.S.

That said, I do like my peace and quiet at the beach, so I am not enamored of countries that allow roving vendors to aggressively hawk their wares on the beach. And beach bars that play music so loud that you can’t hear the waves are a plague. No, I don’t want to turn our beaches into shopping malls or discos, I just want to have the option of not hauling chairs, umbrellas, and coolers. With our economy still a mess, municipalities around the country should be thinking about how to create opportunities for entrepreneurs that want to fill this void.

10 Greek Islands To Visit During Shoulder Season

greece If you haven’t booked your summer vacation yet, don’t fret. While most people go away in June, July and August, a trip to the Greek Islands is actually a great destination in September and October. Visitors will still enjoy the beautiful, balmy weather and warm, azure waters while also getting away from the crowds and experiencing the destination in a more budget-friendly manner.

I got the chance to visit these beautiful islands last September. After hearing about how crowded the popular ones like Santorini, Ios and Mykonos were, I was surprised to experience the exact opposite. Not that it was completely empty, but you can visit popular sites without feeling like a sardine in a can. Additionally, while my friends who had gone in July had spent about $1,800 for a round trip flight from New York to Athens, I spent only $875 going in mid-September. Not only are flights cheaper, but accommodation and ferry tickets often are, as well. Many cruises also offer special discounts in September as they reposition their cruise season. Additionally, there are many worthwhile events to attend, and you can go without having to fight other travelers for ferry reservations.

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Aside for the Halkidiki peninsula and the islands of Samothrαki and Thαssos, most of the Greek Islands are perfect to visit during shoulder season and will still cater to tourists. While each island has something special to offer, 10 that I highly recommend are Ios, Mykonos, Santorini, Paros, Naxos, Crete, Delos, Corfu, Rhodes and Skiathos.Santorini

Santorini is a pristine island, often visited by those who want a romantic getaway. Visiting the beautiful beaches, like Kamari Beach and Red Beach, is worthwhile, as well as seeing historical sites like Ancient Thira, an archaeological site from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras and Ancient Akrotiri, a former Minoan outpost from the 16th century that was destroyed by a volcanic eruption. Additionally, you can attend the International Music Festival of Santorini in the first few weeks of September. This year’s event will be from September 2 to 16. Furthermore, 2012 will also offer the Santorini Bienniale, an art and culture event, which runs from now until the end of September.

Crete

Crete is an island with a lot to see and do. Some of the great beaches include Elafonissi, Falasarna and Preveli. If you don’t mind putting in a bit of effort, Balos Lagoon in the Kissamos area is difficult to get to, but well worth it for the crystal warm water, white sand and rugged beauty. If you like animals, Aquaworld Aquarium is a popular site, which can be visited until October 31. They have a large variety of marine species, and only take in animals that are in need of care. For a scenic experience visit Samaria Gorge National Park, often said to be one of the most beautiful national parks in Europe. In early September, you can attend the Labyrinth Musical Workshop with classes and events to learn about local and world music. Furthermore, in mid-October you can celebrate their annual Chestnut Festival, a fun day honoring the arrival of fall and chestnut-inspired foods.

ios greece Ios

While known as a wild party island, Ios calms down considerably by September. That’s not to say there isn’t nightlife – you’ll still be able to party and have fun – but it won’t be as crazy as when the backpackers arrive in the summer. For many, this is a blessing, as it offers a chance to explore the beauty of the island in a more peaceful manner. When I went, I stayed at Far Out, which has a hotel, bungalow and camping option literally right across from Mylopotas Beach. Ios is often touted as having the “Top 10 Beaches in Europe” when surveys are done, so exploring this and Maganari Beach is a must. Until mid-October, you’ll be able to enjoy water sports like windsurfing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, kneeboarding, kayaking, surfing, banana boats and tube rides. Other worthwhile activities include boutique shopping and admiring the whitewashed buildings in Chora, visiting the Venetian castle of Paleocastro and seeing Homer’s Tomb, the resting place of one of the greatest Greek poets in history.

Mykonos

This cosmopolitan destination is one of the most popular of all the Greek Islands, and for good reason. Because it tends to get overcrowded in the summer, visiting during shoulder season is a good idea. Visit the destination’s iconic windmills, stroll through the charming streets and get a cocktail in Little Venice, take in panoramic views from Armenistis Lighthouse, visit the Byzantine Church of Paraportiani and get educated at the Folklore Museum. And of course, a visit to one of the many beaches, like Panormos, a quiet beach with a mountain backdrop, Platis Gialos, a beach featuring calm water and a plethora of eateries and Elia, a clothing optional beach, is a great way to waste away the days in a beautiful setting. For a fun event, the Mykonos International Gay Film Festival will take place from September 10 to 16, 2012.

Paros

Paros is the second-largest island in the Cyclades, and features unique beaches, each of which has a different vibe. For example, Santa Maria has a Caribbean Island feel, while Kolymbithres Beach is unspoiled with unique rock formations, colorful water and no music or fancy lounge chairs to take away from the untouched feel. Other fun activities include visiting the first century Panayia Ekatondapiliani Cathedral, the old-world village of Lefkes and the Marathi Marble Quarries, which features a high-quality marble only found in Paros.

beach Naxos

Naxos is the largest island of the Cyclades, with opportunities for relaxation, adventure, culture and history. If you want to experience true paradise, head to Plaka Beach. This isolated beach features fine white sand, turquoise waters, barely any wind and even a clothing-optional section. For those seeking adventure, head to Agios Prokopios Beach where you can partake in water sports or sign up for a snorkeling or diving trip to see marine life and shipwrecks. For a bit of history, check out the iconic Portara, a marble gate from sixth century B.C., on the islet of Palatia in Naxos Harbor. It is the sole remainder of a temple dedicated to Apollo. And, for great photo opportunities, the Castro, or old walled city, is elevated above the harbor, awarding excellent views. Check out evening concerts at the Venetian Museum from September 1-30.

Delos

According to mythology, Delos was the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, and there are many opportunities to explore this part of history. Visit the three temples of Apollo, the sacred lake where Apollo was born and The Alter of Dionysos. You’ll also get the chance to visit Cleopatra’s House, named after the two headless Cleopatra statues found inside. A theatre from the second to third century B.C., the Archeological Museum of Delos and the Avenue of Lions, a street from seventh century B.C., lined with ancient lion statues, are also worthwhile sites to check out.

Corfu

Located in the Ionian islands, Corfu has a history of being controlled by foreign powers like the British and the Venetians. Its rich history combined with its natural beauty make this a destination for all types of travelers. Moreover, the rainy season doesn’t come until November, so those looking to go in September and October will still be able to enjoy the sunny weather. During a visit to Corfu, make sure to explore the various villages on the island. There is Nymphes, full of waterfalls and legends of bathing nymphs and Roda, a mix of traditional fishing village and modern tourism. Moreover, Lakones features 18th and 19th century homes and churches while Kynopiastes has old mansions from the 17th and 19th centuries, a 17th-century monastery, a marble church and a museum dedicated to the olive tree. For something historical and peaceful, the British Cemetery offers a tranquil garden, hundreds of British graves and over 200 years of history. And, of course, the many beaches can keep you occupied for hours. Wine lovers will be able to take part in the annual Arillas Wine Festival, happening from September 7-8.

snorkeling Rhodes

One of the largest Greek Islands, visitors to Rhodes will experience beaches, a medieval town, archeological sites and a rich history that goes back to Neolithic times. This island often has more than 300 days of sunshine per year, making it a great destination even during shoulder season. Travelers love visiting Rhodes for the mix of sandy and rock beaches, all with different atmospheres. While Lindos is a sandy and trendy beach, Gennadi is a popular surf spot. Additionally, Faliraki is a mix of sand and rock and is the island’s only legal nude beach, although tanning in the nude is tolerated in some areas of Tsambika. For some adventure with stunning views, climb to the top of Mount Attavyros. The climb takes about two to three hours and will take you up 3,986 feet in elevation. Moreover, some historical sites of the island include the Acropolis of Lindos, the medieval fortress and city sites of Ancient Rhodes, the Church of Panagia and the Palace of Grand Master of Knights. Some events to check out include Timiou Stavrou, a Greek dancing festival taking place from September 13 to 14, and the religious festival of Aghios Loukas on October 17.

Skiathos

Part of the Sporades Islands, Skiathos is a mix of cosmopolitan luxury and medieval history. While the main strip is more loud and boisterous, the other areas feature great hikes and quiet retreats. For some medieval history, visit Kastro, which was the largest medieval town from the 12th century until 1830. It was built upon a cliff sticking out into the ocean at the north end of the island, and although today the site is mostly ruins, it still offers expansive views of Skiathos and its surroundings. For a bit of relaxation, head to the beach. A beautiful sandy beach that allows nudity is Banana, which is actually composed of three beaches – Little Banana, Nameless Banana and Big Banana. Moreover, Koukounaries is the most popular and thought to be the “best in the Aegean,” Kanapitsa is good for water sports and Asselinos is quiet and romantic. My personal favorite beach on the island, however, is Lalaria. It is only accessible by boat, and features gray marble pebbles, unworldly rock formations and crystal clear water you can see through even in the deep areas. From September 19 to 22, visitors can attend International Festival Burtzi Skiathos, a Mediterranean folklore festival.

[Images above via Big Stock and Jessie on a Journey; Gallery images via Big Stock]