It’s Friday Afternoon: Find Your Happy Place

Where is your happy place? It might be right at home with a good book on a rainy day. Getting to your happy place may take extensive travel or a short walk. There might be better times to go than others and who we go with might make all the difference in the world. Happy places can be actual places to go or simply a mental state achieved, but everyone’s happy place seems to be different, made up of things that make them joyous. We may not be able to help with inner happiness but this gallery of typically happy places might get things rolling in that direction.


Want to know more about happy places and how to find them for yourself?Gadling’s Laurel Miller has “Favorite Travel Destinations: Where’s Your Happy Place?” or dive in deeper by visiting “10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There),” a blog that tells us:

“The happy place that I write about is not meant to be a physical place, but rather a place of inner joy and peace. Nevertheless, there are physical locations that seem to draw us to that inner place.”

[Flickr photo by moogs]

Astronomy Photos Unite Earth And Sky

Whether you’re on the other side of the world or in your own back yard, it’s fun to look up at the night sky and wonder. One of my fondest memories of South America was one night on Isla del Sol on Lake Titicaca. Back when I went, there was no electricity on the island and the night sky was brilliant with stars. The fact that I couldn’t recognize the constellations – because they’re different than the ones in the Northern Hemisphere – really made me realize I had traveled a long way.

Some get more serious with their stargazing. Dedicated amateur astronomers travel the world for good observing conditions or to take the best photographs.

The Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England, and Sky at Night Magazine have just named Astronomy Photographer of the Year for 2012. The top prize went to Australian-based photographer Martin Pugh for a photo of the Whirlpool Galaxy. There were several categories, including a Youth category that attracted some incredible shots. While many photographers focused on distant galaxies or nebulae, others chose to combine terrestrial scenes with heavenly wonders. These images remind us that no matter how far we journey, we’ve barely moved in comparison to the vastness of the universe.

Above is the winner for the Earth and Space category. Masahiro Miyasaka took this shot in Nagano, Japan. It shows Orion, Taurus, and the Pleiades as the backdrop to an eerie frozen landscape. Though the stars appear to gleam with a cold, frosty light, bright blue stars like the Pleiades can be as hot as 30,000 degrees Celsius. He titled it “Star Icefall,” showing he’s a poet as well as a photographer.

Check out the gallery for other fine photographs, and jump the break to see my personal favorite.


Titled “Green World,” it was taken by Arild Heitmann. The aurora borealis traces the shifting patterns of the Earth’s magnetic field, creating a spectacular midwinter show in Nordland Fylke, Norway. The green light in this image comes from oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere, which have been energized by subatomic particles from the Solar Wind.

Photo Of The Day: Sunset Race Track

This Photo of the Day comes from Gadling Flickr pool member oilfighter, taken in Olympic National Park and is titled “Sunset Race Track.”

Of the image, oilfighter tells us:

“I saw a picture of this location years ago, but didn’t know where it was taken. As I was researching Olympic National Park, I saw the picture again. I was thrilled! Little did I know how far it is, and how long it would take to get there.

This is called Shi Shi Beach, and it’s a long drive from just about anywhere in the park. After the drive, there is the 8 miles round-trip hike, through jungle, mud, and sandy beach.

To see the fins, you also need to have low tide, and I’ve been told that sometimes sand will wash up, and cover the fins. I waited and waited, till one day, the coastal fog was minimal, and the low tide will occur during sunset.

The first mile of the hike was easy, and I was cruising at a good pace, then the mud came … The muddy section of the trail was no joke. It’s about 1 mile long, and absolutely wet and dirty.” Read more…

Upload your best shots to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. Several times a week we choose our favorite images from the pool as Photos of the Day.

Tips for getting featured: Include the camera you used along with any other equipment or processing software used that might help other photographers know more about your image. Also, captions mean a lot. As you can see, oilfighter, takes time to add details that help us appreciate his efforts.

How To Hike Australia’s Blue Mountains

“Does anyone know why we call these the Blue Mountains?” asks Tommy, our hiking guide.

My friends and I look at each other unsure. I feel silly I hadn’t bothered to research such an obvious question.

“They are covered in Eucalyptus Trees, which spritz Eucalyptus oil from their leaves,” Tommy explained. “In the sun, the mist creates a haze that appears blue from a distance.”

The Blue Mountains comprise a mountainous region in New South Wales, Australia, and are part of the Great Dividing Range, the third longest mountain range in the world. The Blue Mountains themselves are actually longer than the Rocky Mountains, although not as high. Dramatically cut by deep chasms, hikers have the ability to explore the trails along the mountain ridges and down into these gorges.

When To Visit

When hiking through the Blue Mountains, you’ll experience climatic shifts as you traverse through the different areas of the region. Whether it’s summer or winter, prepare for both seasons, as the weather can change rapidly. While you can visit anytime of year, Australia’s spring, which runs September to November, is when adventure sports like canyoning, rock climbing, abseiling and mountain biking begin their peak season. Additionally, you’ll also be able to experience an array of festivals in the area like the Festival of Walking, a nine-day event featuring everything from street walks to advanced treks, and The Capertee Challenge mountain biking event, where participants ride among sandstone cliffs and abundant wildlife. Other seasons also have perks, like vibrant foliage in the autumn, refreshingly crisp air in the winter and golden warmth in the summer.

Getting There

There are many ways to get to the Blue Mountains from Sydney. Depending on which area of the Blue Mountains you are going to, the drive will take about 45 minutes to two hours by car. The nearest point is Glenbrook, while the farthest is Jenolan Caves/Oberon. Most visitors choose to spend their time in Leura or Katoomba, which is about 90 minutes from Sydney.

Taking the train is another option. City Rail offers trains directly from the city center or airport. This option is quicker than driving, and also includes access to the hop-on hop-off bus in the Blue Mountains, which visits more than 30 attractions. Trains run every hour, sometimes more than once.

Many travelers also opt to go by coach bus. Generally, buses leaves from Circular Quay. There are numerous companies, which you can browse by clicking here.


You don’t need to be an athlete to hike in the Blue Mountains. Trails range from easy to experienced, and some paths are even wheelchair accessible. First you should choose your home base(s), which includes Glenbrook/Warrimoo, Springwood/Faulconbridge, Lawson, Wentworth Falls, Leura, Katoomba, Blackheath, Lithgow, Megalong Valley, Mount Victoria/Mount York, Bells Line of Road, Mount Wilson or Oberon.

While most of the previously mentioned areas contain an array of trail levels, some are more proportionate to one skill level. For example, those looking for an easy, scenic stroll should head to Glenbrook/Warrimoo, Leura or Katoomba. Moreover, experienced hikers will enjoy Blackheath, Katoomba and Wentworth Falls.


During my trip, I explored a few of the areas, and have my own personal recommendations. There is a reason Katoomba is thought of as the “must see” area of the Blue Mountains, as there are many noteworthy natural sites. The hike from Echo Point to Katoomba Falls is easy/moderate and is about 2.5 miles to return. You’ll get to view the iconic Three Sisters, a unique rock formation that was created by erosion and now appears to be three distinct but concise rock towers. Orphan Rock, Jamison Valley, the ridges of Kings Tableland and Mount Solitary are other sites you’ll take in. You can easily add on to the trek to be able to see Furber Steps, the Scenic Railway and a large boulder outcrop known as the Ruined Castle.

In Katoomba, you should also visit Scenic World for a chance to experience the Scenic Skyway, Scenic Railway, Scenic Cableway, Scenic Walkway and Scenic Cinema. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Scenic Railway is said to be the steepest funicular in the world, with an incline of 52 degrees.

Wentworth Falls

The Wentworth Falls area has everything from the leisurely 3-mile, round-trip “Charles Darwin Walk” to a difficult 4-mile circuit with exceptional views, waterfalls, rain forests and bird watching. On the “Charles Darwin Walk,” you’ll follow the babbling Jamison Creek and will get to sit at the top of Wentworth Falls. Other waterfalls on the trek include Queen’s Cascades and Weeping Rock. If you’d like to make your hike more difficult, start at the Wentworth Falls picnic area and make your way to the Conservation Hut. You’ll pass numerous waterfalls as you walk fenced cliff edges. Keep in mind that while scenic, much of this trail is uphill, so you’ll need to be fit.


Trekking in Blackheath will allow you to discover the top area of the Blue Mountains for all-encompassing views of the area. One simple yet historical hike I recommend is Walls Cave. You’ll start at the end of Walls Cave Road where there will be a sign guiding you down a dirt path to Greaves Creek. Crossing over a small bridge, continue downstream until there is a bend in the creek. Here you will find Walls Cave, which was once inhabited by aboriginals.

if you’ve got a few hours to spare and want something more challenging, Walls Ledge-Centennial Glen-Porter’s Pass is a worthwhile trek. The beginning of the trail can be found near
the Centennial Glen Road parking lot. Right at the beginning, you’ll traverse winding hills following the cliff line where you will be able to look out into the valley. Follow the Porter’s Pass arrows, and along the way you’ll take in Kanimbia Valley, descend into a canyon and enjoy Centennial Glen Waterfall.

What’s your favorite Blue Mountains hike?

[Images above via Shutterstock; Gallery images Jessie on a Journey, Shutterstock, nosha, Jeremy Vandel]

Two Overlooked Art Spaces in Madrid

Madrid is famous for its art. The “Golden Triangle” of the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza attract millions of visitors a year.

But there are plenty more places to see art than those famous three. One of my favorites is the Conde Duque, an 18th century barracks that has been turned into an art and educational space. Behind an elaborate Baroque gate are three large courtyards. The high, thick walls muffle the sound of the busy city outside and a sense of calm reigns.

There are three major exhibition spaces, although all aren’t always showing something at the same time. Conde Duque has recently reopened after a major remodel. While it’s lost some of its decaying charm, the building seriously needed work because termites were eating away at the old beams.

Entrance to the exhibitions is free. Evening concerts of classical music are often held in the courtyards and these charge for tickets. This is a popular nightspot for madrileños so book well in advance.

Right across the street from Conde Duque is Blanca Berlin, one of the best photo galleries in Madrid. They have a constantly changing collection of photos for sale from established and up-and-coming photographers from all over the world. They also have a permanent stock of photos you can look through. Unlike some of the snootier galleries in Madrid, they don’t mind people coming in just to browse.

These two spots are at the edge of Malasaña, a barrio famous for its international restaurants, artsy shops and pulsing nightlife.

Still haven’t satisfied your art craving? Check out five more overlooked art museums in Madrid.

[Photo courtesy Luis García]