Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Destination Summaries

This freelance job included writing over 200 destination summaries of around 150 words each for a travel database. I had to research the destination (if I'd never been there), incorporate SEO standards and then write the text. These are just a few samples.

Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen, Mexico, can be found nestled on a beach about 45 minutes south of Cancun, but they couldn’t be farther apart in terms of atmosphere. While Cancun is touristy, with strings of hotels lining its crowded beaches, Playa del Carmen features a quaint and colorful shops and more open beaches, with calm water that changes colors as it reaches the horizon. The weather in Playa del Carmen is usually warm and breezy, but picks up hurricanes during the June-October season.

It is here that you’ll find the passenger ferry to the nearby island of Cozumel, but you may not want to leave. Nearby lagoons feature snorkeling excursions, and a short drive will bring you to the Mayan ruin of Tulum, where the ancient people also liked to look at the sea.

Egypt is an odd combination of ancient and modern. Visitors can stand and look at the 3000-year old Pyramids, and then rotate 180 degrees and come face-to-face with a neon McDonalds sign. It is those Pyramids, however, that draw tourists in droves to the desert and make them stare in awe. A camel ride is perhaps the most authentic, smelly, bumpy way to see them, but another unique view is during the Pyramid Light Show in the evenings (different languages each day, check the schedule). Red, green and white lights illuminate the structures with a narrative overview.

The Cairo Museum is a great way to get a lesson in history as well, as the exhibits follow the Egyptian timeline, and the mummy room is worth the extra money to see. It’s usually hot in Egypt, so remain as cool as you can while still respecting the country’s dress. The traffic contributes to the poor air quality and makes crossing the street a death-defying act, but usually, what’s on the other side is worth the effort. A tour down the Nile (or a quick flight to Luxor) is another way to get your ancient fix.

Five thousand years of history collides with population crowding and modern living in India, but the romance is still alive. First-time tourists to the country usually chose to start with the Taj Mahal in Agra, a tomb built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of the wife he loved, with gardens and reflecting pools and a stunning façade that is recognized easily. Delhi is the capital of India, and legend says it’s the oldest existing city in the world and the home of another Emperor Sha Jahan construction, the red sandstone Red Fort, which he used as his palace. Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is India’s largest city, and where the Hindi TV and film industry – Bollywood – resides. A varied landscape including mountains for skiing and beaches for sunbathing means there’s a city – and something to do – for everyone.

A unique blend of European, Arabic and African culture makes up the North African country of Morocco. You’ll likely begin your journey in the Casablanca of black-and-white movie fame. Here you’ll find the majestic Hassan II Mosque just sitting on the Atlantic coast, as if being the second-largest mosque in the world is no big deal. The sights and sounds of cosmopolitan Casablanca are like no other – as if a magic carpet may sweep you away. If it does, have it take you to the base of the Atlas Mountains (capped with snow) and Marrakech, where you’ll find more of the Morocco of days past. In this pink-colored city, you’ll be able to explore the maze of streets filled with locals trying to grab your tourist attention. Very hot in the summer and cold in the winter, the most comfortable times to visit are spring and fall.

A safari is at the top of most every traveler’s to-do list, and Tanzania is where that dream can become a reality. The Serengeti Plains are like something straight out of The Lion King, and you’ll be the king of the world when you see the famous wildebeest migration – 2 million of them – along with zebra and gazelle in Serengeti National Park. The migration follows the rain – so what may be the best time for the human species to visit Tanzania may not be when the animals find convenient, so you’ll want to do your research. If you can draw yourself away from all the wildlife action, check out the island of Zanzibar, where you can find a whole new kind of wildlife of the human variety. There are great beaches and diving opportunities to be found here, and the temperatures are great year round (though there is a spring rainy season.)

St. Anton, Austria
If you want to snowboard, ski, or party, then St. Anton is the holiday destination for you. In the Arlberg area of Austria, this is where you’ll find the experts. The best off-trail runs are found here, bringing the best and the bravest skiers to St. Anton’s slopes and the regular, reliable snow during the winter months. Don’t worry if you’re not up to snuff with your skiing skills, there are plenty of intermediate runs, and a few schools for the beginners with easy runs. One of the most desired – and longest – intermediate trails is found in St. Anton at the Valluga summit; it’ll take you all the way to the bottom in one fell swoop. Snowboarders love the area as well for the natural obstacles to trick on and lots of thrilling drops. The same skiers and snowboarders looking for kicks on the slopes during the day party the night away après ski in the nightclubs and bars.

Thirty years ago, Dubai was just a few buildings in the middle of the United Arab Emirates, but today it’s a thriving city that can rival New York and London – and possibly Las Vegas. Dubai set out to make everything the biggest (the world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai), the flashiest (the biggest shopping mall in the world) and the most tourist-friendly (snow skiing while in the desert.) Shopping here is duty-free, and the gold markets would be a great place to start. The beaches are a big draw as well, and make sure to get jealous over all the rich people that are staying in the architectural wonder that is the seven-star, sail-shaped Burj al-Arab hotel. And in Dubai, when the beaches run out, they create new ones, like the “World” development or the Palm Islands. While the city is full of modern flash, it’s still a traditional Muslim city, so alcohol will only be found mainly in hotels and restaurants, and appropriate dress would be a respectful idea.

Las Vegas
Las Vegas is truly the entertainment capital of the world – like Disneyland for adults. While it tried, for a while, to reach out to the “family” demographic, it’s really a place for the grown-ups to kick back, relax and let their hair down. Thanks to power from the nearby Hoover Dam, the neon lights in Vegas shine all night long, and the “ding! ding! dings! of the slot machines continue all hours of the day.
Las Vegas is more than just gambling, however. Some of the best celebrity chefs offer the finest culinary delights – you’ll most certainly never be hungry. The premiere entertainers have always been drawn to Vegas, and the plethora of shows – from magic to Broadway – will send your head spinning. If you are a gambler, you can bet on practically anything. For those that want to try their hand without losing their retirement should check out Freemont Street. This “old” part of Vegas has lower table minimums and a terrific free light show.

Verona, Italy
Fair Verona, Italy played host to the greatest romance of all time, but Shakespeare wasn’t the only one to note its charm. For the cheesy tourists among us, Juliet’s house is located just outside of the Piazza delle Erbe and her balcony just calls out for a romantic photo op – even though the balcony didn’t even exist during the age of Shakespeare and he may not have even visited. More significant to the actual history of Verona is the Piazza delle Erbe itself, once a Roman forum but now an open-air market. Another Roman remnant is the 2000-year-old Roman Arena di Verona. The amphitheater is still used today for opera performances. Be sure to walk the bridges that span the Adige River on your way to see castles, museums and churches, not only for a great view but for the Roman connection. Verona hosts a festival celebrating the arts each summer, a great time to mingle with the locals and enjoy a free concert. Ah Verona, parting is such sweet sorrow.