Latest Blog Entries

Cultural Gifting Traditions from Around the World: Inspiration for Your Next Present

Gifting is a universal language, an expression of love, gratitude, and respect that transcends borders. Across the globe, diverse cultures bring a unique twist to the act of giving, making every present a potential voyage of discovery. 

We’ve teamed with Create Gift Love to explore some of the world’s most enchanting gifting traditions, offering inspiration for those seeking to infuse their next present with a touch of global charm.

The Art of Omiyage in Japan 

In Japan, the practice of omiyage (souvenir gifting) is deeply ingrained in society. These are not just souvenirs in the typical sense but carefully selected items intended to be shared with colleagues, friends, and family upon returning from a trip. The focus is on local specialties that represent the area visited, beautifully packaged to show respect and thoughtfulness. For your next present, consider adopting this thoughtful approach; a locally made, artisanal gift can carry the essence of a place and the warmth of your consideration.

The Warmth of a Cesta de Navidad in Spain 

In Spain, the festive season brings with it the tradition of the Cesta de Navidad, a hamper filled with gourmet goodies, including fine wines, cheeses, and sweets. It's a gesture that extends beyond personal ties, often given by businesses to their employees as a token of appreciation. To embody this spirit, why not assemble a bespoke hamper filled with a selection of delectable treats from across the UK? It’s a way to celebrate shared moments and create new memories.

The Significance of Red Envelopes in China 

The Chinese tradition of giving red envelopes, or hongbao, filled with money during Lunar New Year and other celebrations, is a symbol of good luck and wishes for prosperity. The red color is auspicious, warding off evil spirits. This tradition can inspire a modern take on monetary gifts, perhaps by enclosing money in a beautifully designed card or a small, handcrafted pouch, adding a personal touch to a time-honored practice.

The Thoughtfulness Behind Sinterklaas in the Netherlands 

In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas Day) is celebrated with the giving of personalized gifts often accompanied by humorous poems that gently tease the recipient. This tradition encourages creativity and intimacy, showing that sometimes, the most cherished gifts are those that come with a personal touch. Next time you're gifting, consider pairing it with a poem or a personal letter, adding a layer of meaning that material items alone cannot convey.

The Community Spirit of Kula in Papua New Guinea 

The Kula ring in Papua New Guinea is a ceremonial exchange system involving the passing of shell necklaces and armbands across islands. This tradition emphasizes relationships and social bonds over the material value of the gifts themselves. Inspired by this, consider gifts that foster experiences and bonding, such as tickets to a concert or a voucher for a shared meal, highlighting the importance of togetherness.

A Global Palette of Inspirations 

As we traverse the globe through these gifting traditions, it becomes clear that the heart of gifting lies in thoughtfulness, respect, and the joy of shared connections. Whether adopting the meticulous packaging of Japan's omiyage or the communal joy of Spain's Cesta de Navidad, the essence of these traditions can inspire more meaningful and memorable gift-giving experiences.

Gifts That Transcend Borders 

In the end, the most profound gifts are those that carry a piece of ourselves and our cultures, bridging distances and drawing us closer to the ones we care about. Let the world's tapestry of gifting traditions inspire you to give in ways that foster deeper connections and celebrate our shared humanity. After all, every present is an opportunity to convey love, respect, and the beauty of our diverse cultures.

Read More »

What to Do in New Zealand: Activities to Remember

Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash

Have you ever heard of pohutukawa trees? No? Well, that’s not a bad thing. You haven’t been to New Zealand, so it’s understandable. This tree is native to only New Zealand, which is why you might not have heard of it. New Zealand is also home to numerous plant and animal species you might not have heard of, so if you are a rare plant person, New Zealand is a good place to spend the upcoming holidays.

Maybe you’re in New Zealand looking for new places to explore and new activities to embark on. Maybe you are not in New Zealand yet, but it is on your list of countries to visit soon. If any of the aforementioned situations speaks to you, then here is the next best thing for you: a well-curated list of activities to embark on in New Zealand. After all, New Zealand is home to golden coastlines, beech forests, and dizzyingly high waterfalls, all of which spark adventures in the hearts of extreme sports enthusiasts and other related people.

Get a comfortable seat, and let’s go through several fun activities in New Zealand.

Activities You Should Do When You Are in New Zealand 

Here are some activities to engage in in New Zealand: 

● Experience Maori culture 

One of several cultures' native to the region, the Māori (or Te Reo Maori, or simply Te Reo), have been in New Zealand since the fourteenth century when they supposedly came to by boats from East Polynesia. The Māori are the most popular of all native cultures in New Zealand, which is why many people travel from far and wide to learn about them and take-home Maori souvenirs and experiences.

A common activity of the Maori is the haka dance, which is largely performed as part of special events where the Maori are present. The haka is performed before the start of a New Zealand rugby game, a sport that the Maori have come to love and adopt as one of their own.

● Visit land-based casinos in New Zealand 

Another feature of New Zealand is its casinos, as you are sure to find several local casinos in New Zealand. In recent years, the government of New Zealand has passed laws that seek to protect its people from the harm and addiction of gambling. It has been a resounding success, as less than a quarter of the local population gamble for the money. Also, since the government is in direct contact with the betting companies, it makes gambling easier and more secure for the locals.

The pandemic ultimately made online casino gambling spread like wildfire, but many enthusiasts still flock to the real casinos every day today. New Zealand offers a vast and superb selection of land-based casinos to cater to the different types of casino players to enjoy. Be it a grand, picturesque-looking casino or a casino with the Las Vegas vibe, there are many casinos to pick from. Just ensure you play within the laws of the casino and New Zealand and gamble responsibly, and you are good to go.

● Relax on the beaches 

Stressed out from work and looking for the best place to get the best rest you have had in quite a while? New Zealand is the best place to be? Don’t believe it? Read on.

Arriving in Rotorua is probably the best way to get started, as this city is the cultural heart of the country. Need a hot dip when you are not playing at Christchurch Casino? Looking for a cultural experience? You have come to the right place!

For some obvious reasons, New Zealand locals have a laid-back vibe around them, which is what you should be looking to “catch” if you really need that rest. Armed with information from the locals, you are sure to get the best locations for hot pools, impressive and durable souvenirs, and the best beaches to sleep undisturbed. Just ensure you take sunscreen along.

● Explore the outdoors 

 Not everyone is looking to get some rest during their visit to New Zealand though. If you belong to this category, and the outdoors is pretty much your thing, then New Zealand has more than you can handle in one holiday. Hiking (and walking) trails abound all around the region, so get a good guide and start off early so you are not wandering a forest by dark.

There is also wildlife to explore, such as rare birds like the northern shoveler and the buff-breasted sandpiper. If you are lucky, you might see kiwis in their natural habitat, the birds associated with the region. If you are one for the sea, you can jump on a boat to see some whales, dolphins, and other sea fish and animals. You could also get an expert sea guide and go kayaking.

Conclusion 

New Zealand offers you the experience of a lifetime! From superb-looking forests and heights to see the country from, to pushing your luck in the land-based casinos littered around the region, there are just about enough activities to keep you active till it is time to leave New Zealand. Plan your trip accordingly, and you are set for an experience you will never forget!

Read More »

Travel Tips for Virgin Voyages Cruise Ship Scarlet Lady

Virgin Voyages isn't your grandmother’s cruise ship 🚢 , but a luxury party ship. 

It's an adults-only, award-winning cruise line with included luxuries (tips, wifi, quality food) and the most 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor.

No buffet lines either, instead over 20 eateries, and more than 10 bars and lounges. Plus, private Karaoke rooms, candy stations, a lively casino, quality shows, adult pajama party, cabaret performances, and soooo much more! 

Come sail away too, start booking your experience today ➡️ https://jerne.to/3wFvBjy 



Travel Tips for Sailing on Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady 


Dining Reservations


I'm an alpha travel planner who likes to do research before a trip, but this was a last-minute booking for us, and by the time we got our confirmation number and registered within the app almost all the dining reservations were full. We only managed to secure a spot at Test Kitchen and Razzle Dazzle, but nothing else. This had me stressing, however, like at a typical restaurant they welcome walk-ins too. 

So, if you're able to book a time and spot ahead of time, good on you, but don't get too stressed about dining. Typically, show up to the restaurant 30 - 45 minutes before your desired dining time, put your name down and you'll likely get in. 

Or you can head to Sailor Services once on board so they can pop you into anything available, but the line was long by the time we did this that we didn't bother and still could dine at most of the restaurants we wanted to visit. Also, keep checking the app throughout your stay because people cancel and change their plans constantly. 


Our favorite dining outlet outside of the quick-service options in The Galley, which replaces the typical buffet setup was Pink Agave, the modern Mexican restaurant and we got into that being on the waitlist on the first night. 

Book Theater Shows Immediately 


As soon as you get on board, wait to go to your room or up to The Galley to eat, instead head straight down to the Box Office near Sailor Services and reserve your spot for Duel Reality and Ships in the Night. 

They will let you know what show times are available and will book it for you. And while you are in line, open your app and try to book the Supper Club (dinner and a show) one night too. We were able to grab that ourselves, but needed the cast to book the big theater performances and luckily we got tickets for both shows. 

There are other shows that do not require a ticket like the hysterical diva drag show in The Manor, just wait in line and you'll get a seat. Luckily, if you have a conflict, they do this show more than once during the sail.

Secret show tip from my friend Josie: "One thing we did was cool and almost missed out was there’s a random magic type show, I think it’s called the mentalist. It’s held in the afternoon one day…go to it! If you go to that you get a card to attend a secret show later that day in the belly of the ship! Only like 100 people get to do it a trip!"

Carry on Wine 

You are allowed to bring two bottles of wine per cabin in your carry-on luggage to store in your room. We totally took advantage of this option! 

Pack Something Red

Each sailing has a Scarlet Night where everyone wears red, so don't be the party pooper in another color. You can be as dress or casual as you want, just as long as it's red. 


Not sure what to wear? Try these dresses from Amazon (I actually own them all):

Upgrade your Pajamas

On the first night there is an epic pajama party at 10:45 p.m., while it sounds late, we had so much fun dancing that we didn't head back to our cabin till after 2 a.m. I was afraid we might be the only ones in PJs, but no, there were people in robes, onesies, etc. 

Our red silk stripe pajamas below from Amazon were a big hit, but these matching palm tree ones would be too. Go all in and order these ahead of time, you'll thank me later! 



Go on a Grog Walk!


This is a pub-crawl-like experience and can only be booked through the app once you are on board. 

It was sold out each day and time for us and I was so bummed. We went to Sailer Services and they couldn't get us in either. However, after I gave up, my husband looked at the app again and someone must have canceled because two spots opened up and we grabbed them. 

For $50 per person, you get 4 cocktails each, a tour of the ship, VIP seating at lounges during the walk and the chance to meet new friends with fun get to know you games along the way. They even let you stop and change into your PJs for the pajama party portion where you'll reconvene and end the walk. We met a lot of great people, solos and couples during the grog walk who became our vacation friends during the trip. Well worth it. 


Shake for Champagne


Shake for Champagne is a novelty in the Virgin Voyages app for all sailors. It is what it says. You open the app, shake your phone, and a server brings you a bottle of Moët for $95. 

We meant to do this, but never got around to it. Instead, we frequented Sip, the champagne lounge on board often for our sparkling kick. 


Book the Splash of Romance Package


Whether you're feeling romantic or not this is a great value. Available for only 90 cabins per voyage, this $200 add-on is a no brainer and well worth it. If you pre-book the Romance Package you'll get:
  • Priority Boarding 
  • Curated daily cold-pressed juices 
  • Two 3-Hour Thermal Spa Passes 
  • A Shake for Champagne bottle
  • Exclusive Sail Away Hour Sultry bites
I called to get this as it showed sold out on the app, but they let me add it. 

Don't Worry about Plugs


I normally bring my cruise-approved no surge power outlet when I go cruising, but there were several USB plugs in our Sea Terrace cabin already so we didn't need it for a change. One less thing to pack, unless you have a lot of tech that needs charging. 


Tips for Virgin's Beach Club in the Bahamas


Set your alarm and get off the boat early to grab an umbrella chair by the pool. Why not the beach? Because the pool party is where it's at in the afternoon. The pool turns into a dance party with dozens of floats being thrown into the water. You can snag a prime float if you hang by the stage five minutes before the party begins. Don't feel like getting into the water? That's OK, you can watch from your chair. 


Also, you can order an engraved coconut with natural coconut juice (with or without rum) by the pool bars too. This makes for a great photo opp and electrolytes. 

For more travel adventures, follow me @TaraMetBlog on Instagram.


 

VIP Travel Tips for Virgin Voyages Cruise Ship The Scarlet Lady
Read More »

North Carolina: A Sports Lover's Dream Destination

North Carolina stands out for sports fans and is packed with many activities. Its unique landscapes and rich culture make it a special place for sports. From the majestic peaks of the Appalachian Mountains to the soothing waves of the Atlantic Ocean, the state's natural landscapes provide a perfect setting for various sports, from hiking and skiing to surfing and boating.

Beyond the allure of its natural beauty, North Carolina's rich sports tradition, highlighted by the storied achievements of the University of North Carolina's athletic teams, adds to its appeal.

Linville Gorge 

Linville Gorge, often called the Grand Canyon of the East, presents a stunning backdrop for outdoor sports enthusiasts. Its rugged terrain, encompassing the deepest and one of the most scenic gorges in the eastern United States, is perfect for hiking, rock climbing, and nature photography.

The Linville River's dramatic descent at Linville Falls, dropping 90 feet before continuing its course through the gorge, provides both a visually stunning spectacle and a challenge for adventurers.

Nearby, the variety of waterfalls, including the impressive Whitewater Falls and the unique experience of walking behind Dry Falls, offer additional exploration opportunities. These natural wonders are a testament to the state's geographical diversity and provide a playground for those seeking physical and visual thrills in the great outdoors.

Downhill Skiing 

For those who prefer their sports with a chill in the air and snow underfoot, North Carolina's ski resorts deliver an alpine experience to remember. The state boasts several ski destinations, with Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain leading as prominent spots.

Located near Banner Elk, these resorts sit at elevations exceeding 5,000 feet, ensuring they capture the full brunt of incoming winter storms, thereby providing excellent skiing conditions.

Appalachian Ski Mountain, near Blowing Rock, and Cataloochee Ski Area, close to Maggie Valley, offer varied experiences, from terrain parks to a laid-back atmosphere catering to beginners and experienced skiers. With its family-friendly slopes and impressive day lodge, Wolf Ridge Ski Resort further underscores the state's appeal as a winter sports destination.

Wilmington 

Wilmington, a coastal city with a rich history and vibrant cultural scene, adds another dimension to North Carolina's sports offering. The city's beaches, such as Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach, are perfect for surfing, kiteboarding, and simply enjoying the sun and sand. Wilmington's Riverwalk and proximity to the Cape Fear River offer additional outdoor activities, including walking, dining, and exploring the city's historical and cultural sites.

The presence of the USS North Carolina, a significant relic from WWII, provides a unique blend of history and exploration, making Wilmington a coastal escape and a journey through time.

Golfing Excellence Across Varied Landscapes 

The state caters to every golfer's dream, from the rolling hills of the Carolina Sandhills, anchored by the legendary Pinehurst, to the elevated greens of Asheville. The Outer Banks and Brunswick County offer coastal golfing experiences that capitalize on North Carolina's scenic beauty. Moreover, the tranquil and value-packed courses in Yadkin Valley provide a serene escape for those seeking both challenge and affordability.

With the legalization of North Carolina sports betting platforms, the golfing landscape has become even more exciting for fans and bettors. The new development allows enthusiasts to engage with the sport on a deeper level, combining the thrill of the game with the anticipation of betting. Golf fans now have the opportunity to place bets on their favorite courses and tournaments, adding an extra layer of excitement to North Carolina's already vibrant golf scene.

University of North Carolina 

The University of North Carolina (UNC) stands as a beacon of athletic excellence with a storied history in collegiate sports. Though the information directly from the university's athletics website is limited in this context, UNC's reputation precedes it, especially in basketball, where it has produced numerous NBA stars and maintained a prominent place in college basketball lore.

The university's contribution to North Carolina's status as a sports lover's dream extends beyond the basketball court, encompassing a wide range of NCAA sports that continue to draw fans and aspiring athletes.

Boating 

Boating enthusiasts will find North Carolina's waterways equally captivating. They offer diverse experiences, from the tranquility of inland lakes to the adventurous open waters of the Atlantic. Lake Norman is a central boating hub with its expansive shoreline, marinas, and vibrant community. It exemplifies the state's appeal to those who love water sports, fishing, or simply cruising on a sunny afternoon.

Rivers like the Neuse and Cape Fear invite boaters into the heart of North Carolina's natural and historic landscapes. These waterways provide a scenic backdrop for leisurely cruises, showcasing the state's rich biodiversity and heritage towns. Lakes such as Gaston and Lure, each with its own charm, offer more secluded boating experiences amidst picturesque settings and outdoor activities.

Final Words 

North Carolina is a great place for people who love sports. It has everything from beautiful mountains and peaceful beaches to lush golf courses. This place is perfect for all kinds of sports fans, even those who like to bet on games, especially golf since new laws have made it even more exciting.

The University of North Carolina adds to this by being really good at college sports. It makes the state more than just a place to be active; it's where sports stars are made. Whether you're into the rush of skiing, the calm of boating, or the thinking game of golf, North Carolina is unmatched.

Read More »

The Ultimate List of Pedicure Types

Pedicures are a popular beauty treatment that can leave your feet looking and feeling their best. There are many different types of pedicures available, each with its own unique benefits and features. Whether you're looking to pamper yourself or simply maintain your foot health, there's a pedicure out there that's perfect for you.


Types of Pedicures

When it comes to getting a pedicure, there are a wide variety of options to choose from. Here are some of the most popular types of pedicures:

Classic Pedicure 

The classic pedicure is the most basic type of pedicure. It typically includes soaking the feet in warm water, trimming and shaping the nails, pushing back the cuticles, and a foot massage. This type of pedicure is perfect for those who want a simple and quick way to maintain their foot health.

Spa Pedicure 

A spa pedicure is a more luxurious version of the classic pedicure. It usually includes all the steps of a classic pedicure but with the addition of a foot scrub, foot mask, and hot towel wrap. Some spas also offer aromatherapy and other relaxing treatments during a spa pedicure. This type of pedicure is perfect for those who want to pamper themselves and indulge in a little self-care.

Gel Pedicure 

A gel pedicure is a type of pedicure that uses a special gel polish that is cured under a UV light. This type of pedicure typically lasts longer than a regular pedicure, and the polish is less likely to chip or peel. However, it can be more expensive than other types of pedicures, and the removal process can be more time-consuming.

French Pedicure 

A French pedicure is a classic and timeless look that involves painting the nails with a light pink or nude base color and adding white tips. This type of pedicure is perfect for those who want a clean and polished look that goes with any outfit.

Fish Pedicure 

A fish pedicure is a type of pedicure that involves placing your feet in a tank of water filled with small fish that nibble away at the dead skin on your feet. I love doing these when on vacation as it leaves my feet feeling soooo soft. However, while this type of pedicure can be a unique and fun experience, it is not recommended for those with open wounds or sensitive skin.

Hot Stone Pedicure 

A hot stone pedicure is a type of pedicure that uses heated stones to massage the feet and legs. This type of pedicure can be very relaxing and can help to relieve stress and tension in the muscles.

Mini Pedicure 

A mini pedicure is a shorter version of a classic pedicure that usually includes soaking the feet, trimming and shaping the nails, and applying polish. This type of pedicure is perfect for those who are short on time or just need a quick touch-up.

Athletic Pedicure 

An athletic pedicure is a type of pedicure that is designed for athletes and active individuals. It typically includes a foot soak, nail trimming and shaping, callus removal, and a foot massage. This type of pedicure can help to prevent and treat foot and nail problems that are common in athletes.

Chocolate Pedicure 

A chocolate pedicure is a type of pedicure that uses chocolate-infused products to moisturize and nourish the skin. This type of pedicure can be a fun and indulgent treat for those who love chocolate.

Ice Cream Pedicure 

An ice cream pedicure is a type of pedicure that uses ice cream-inspired products to pamper and soothe the feet. This type of pedicure can be a fun and unique way to indulge in a little self-care.


No matter what type of pedicure you choose, it's important to find a qualified and experienced nail artist who can provide high-quality services.
Read More »

Actress Maggie Q’s Famous Green Juice Recipe


While most of us wish we might be able to live a lavish lifestyle like celebrities, we likely won’t come close to owning a Birkin or a vacation home in just about every country – but we can still feel like celebrities with what we put in our bodies. 

Actress Maggie Q's (as seen in Mission Impossible III, Divergent, Die Hard, etc.) struggles with her own health led her to do extensive research in the world of nutrition to look and feel her best. 

I think we can all agree it worked, lol. 

Maggie Q's secret, favorite smoothie recipe that helps her feel healthy, full, energized, and ready for the day? Here it is... 

Actress Maggie Q’s Famous Green Juice Recipe

Directions: Combine the following ingredients in a blender. Blend till smooth and enjoy your new favorite, fibrous morning drink! 

Ingredients:

• Handful of ice cubes

• 1 stalk of kale

• 2-3 dandelion greens

• Handful of cilantro

• 1 ruby red grapefruit (quartered)

• 1 cucumber (peeled and quartered)

• 1 cup water

• 1 Advanced Restorative Probiotic from ActivatedYou (open capsule, pour out powder)

• 1 teaspoon of agave for sweetness

Tip: You’ll need a high-speed blender to really *obliterate* your vegetables and get the desired consistency!

Read More »