Winter break just wrapped up–so it’s time to think about what to do when the kids are out of school this summer. Here, the “Wall Street Journal” and Lonely Planet share their top five family travel destinations for 2014. Can’t get to these places this year? Don’t worry, most of them are likely to still be around in 2015.
If you watched the latest episode of “Breaking Bad,” you know that taking “a trip to Belize” is a one-way voyage you don’t want to go on. Apparently the Belize Tourism Board was watching, and decided to make the most of the unflattering mention. In order to ensure the world doesn’t associate the country solely with “sleeping with the fishes,” they sent an invitation to “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan and eight members of the cast:
Dear Cast of Breaking Bad,
Despite what Saul meant when he suggested that Walt send Hank “on a trip to Belize,” we were flattered to be included on your program last Sunday. Many of us are big fans of the show and can’t wait to see what happens over the last six episodes. While we hope that some of our favorite characters don’t get “sent on a trip to Belize” in the show, we do hope you will take us upon the following offer – we’d like to send all of you on an ACTUAL trip to our country after the season is over.
We figure you will all need a little time to relax after a riveting season and, if you ask us, there’s no better place to relax than Belize. It’s really the least we can do for the entertainment you have provided us with over the last six years. So allow us an opportunity to entertain you – we have the Blue Hole for Walt, purple fish for Marie, geology for Hank, great music and friendly people for Jesse, delicious breakfast cuisine for Walt Jr., several nice locations to swim for Skylar, colorful clothing for Saul, and the list goes on.
We look forward to hearing back from you. Best of luck with the remainder of this season.
Belize Tourism Board
Gotta love that there are “purple fish for Marie,” but really, who wouldn’t enjoy the chance to see the Blue Hole? I think we can all agree that a trip to Belize wouldn’t be so bad.
Traveling to Spain or Latin America this summer and want to say more than “Donde esta el bano?” (though, that’s an important one to know)? Lonely Planet has just launched a new online foreign language program, Fluent Road, partnering with Spanish language program Fluenz. The focus is on Spanish for now, but you can choose from dialects from Argentina, “neutral” Latin America, Mexico, or Spain.
Fluent Road is designed for travelers to get the basics before a trip: Spanish for transportation, finding accommodation, ordering food, etc. It’s also a good stepping-stone to a more intensive learning program, and travelers could easily work up to a Fluenz course after completing Fluent Road. What differentiates this from other language learning like Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur is a dissection of the language, showing you how Spanish works and providing explanations, not just rote immersion. Fluenz founder and avid traveler Sonia Gil guides you through obstacles, pronunciation, and practice speaking, writing and reading as a native speaker and “language geek.”
As with all online learning, you can go at your own pace; there are 30 video lessons that can be completed in one to six months. Other useful features include the ability to record yourself to compare pronunciation a native Speaker, and customizable digital flash cards to help practice. You can also contact the teacher and program designer via Twitter.
Take a free 12-hour trial now, subscriptions start from $9 for a month to $30 for six months of access, at www.fluentroad.com.
A Maya ceremonial center that has stood in northern Belize for approximately 2,300 years was destroyed when construction crews chipped away at it with backhoes and bulldozers to extract rock for a road-building project, Associated Press is reporting.
The news outlet detailed how construction crews demolished parts of a pyramid in the Nohmul complex, the most important Maya site in northern Belize, near the border with Mexico. There are 81 structures in the complex, but the destroyed pyramid was the ceremonial center, as well as the namesake structure for the complex. Now the once large structure has been whittled down to its core, and the limestone that was extracted will be used for gravel roads in a nearby village.
Although the land the pyramid sits on is privately owned, laws in Belize maintain any pre-Hispanic ruins are under government protection. According to the Associated Press, police said they are conducting an investigation and criminal charges are possible.
Tennis star Andy Murray, one of the U.K.’s most famous athletes and the reigning Olympic gold medalist, recently purchased the Cromlix House Hotel near his hometown of Dunblane, Scotland. Now closed for renovations, the country manor is expected to reopen in the spring, in time for the 2014 Ryder Cup golf tournament.
Perhaps more than any other sport, tennis requires its stars to become globetrotters. The biggest tournaments take place in the world’s most cosmopolitan locales – Dubai, Paris, Madrid, Miami, Shanghai, Monte Carlo – and as much, a multimillionaire star like Murray should know what constitutes a fine hotel.
Still, he’s the rare athlete that has made a foray into hospitality, a hobby (or investment) favored by Hollywood celebs. There’s no shortage of A-listers in the hotel game. And – surprise – staying under their roofs isn’t always a big-budget proposition.
Actor John Malkovich offers the cheapest access to star style. He’s a (reportedly hands-on) investor in The Big Sleep, a chain of budget hotels in England. Basic but contemporary, they advertise rates starting at £29, and reviews commonly cite rates around £50. In Dublin, U2’s Bono and The Edge revamped The Clarence, and rates at the historic property starts at a modest £109.
Director Francis Ford Coppola owns five hotels in Belize, Guatemala, Argentina, and Italy. Both of his top-rated resorts in Belize, Turtle Inn (pictured, top) and Blancaneaux Lodge, ring in under $300 in the offseason (and start upwards of $350 in high season). But La Lancha, his Guatemalan lakefront rainforest lodge, offers rooms in the low season for $125.
Stateside, there aren’t many deals to be had. Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort in Utah is hard to book for less than $250 per night. Doris Day’s longtime pet-haven coastal hotel, Cypress Inn in Carmel, California, has online rates starting at $185 (plus $30 per pet – a small price for getting to frolic on the beach off-leash and accompany owners to all 12 restaurants). Cooking-show royalty Paula Deen rents her two-bedroom beach house on Georgia’s Tybee Island, named Y’all Come Inn, for around $295 per night.
Yet those rates don’t come close to the prices that Richard Gere and Robert DeNiro command at their New York properties. Gere co-owns Westchester County’s luxurious Bedford Post Inn, where getaways start at $400 per night. DeNiro’s posh pad in downtown Manhattan, The Greenwich Hotel, runs $525 and up – topping even Donatella Versace’s resort on Australia’s Gold Coast, the grand Palazzo Versace (pictured), which starts in the $300 to $400 range per night.
[Photo credits: top, Turtle Inn by Coppola Resorts]