6 #Destinations You Should #Explore By #Car

Whether you’re headed to a destination with no public transportation or you just like to travel off-the-beaten-path, renting a car can be a necessary travel arrangement. And while renting a car may be an added expense, the pay-off can be huge. With your own car you’re not subject to bus and train schedules and you can travel on a whim — exploring remote villages, stopping for impromptu picnics or pulling over to watch the sunset. So throw away that bus schedule and check out these six destinations where you need to rent a car.

Iceland

What do you do when you’re headed to a remote island with limited public transportation and stunning natural terrain just waiting to be explored? You rent a car. Whether you’re headed straight to the Golden Circle or circumnavigating the island on Route 1, exploring Iceland is best done with the freedom of four wheels. From soaking in natural hot springs to hiking glaciers to viewing waterfalls and volcanoes up close, Iceland is the perfect place for an incredible road trip. Just a couple of tips before you go —  be prepared for one-way bridges, high gas prices and hidden speed cameras. On the plus side, you won’t get tired of witnessing Iceland’s breathtaking landscape and boundless expanses from the open road.

South of France

Sure, there’s a train that can take you from Nice to Avignon, but if you want to see all that the South of France has to offer, you should rent a car. There are so many more places you can discover while driving on your own, from small towns with charming markets to rolling vineyards and fragrant lavender fields. In fact, the authority of European travel, Rick Steves, suggests taking two weeks to drive through the French Riviera by car, beginning in Nice and ending in Marseille. Along the way, he suggests taking a “joy ride” though Camargue and stopping in Châteauneuf-du-Pape for some fabulous French wine. We can’t say no to that!

Ireland

If you’re flying into Dublin and planning to remain city-bound, then renting a car isn’t necessary. However, if you’d like to see more of the Emerald Isle, renting a car is the ideal way to get around. The beauty of the green countryside makes for lovely driving, and you can stop at your leisure at quaint villages and picnic spots along the way. And since Ireland isn’t very big, you can see a lot in a short amount of time. Driving straight across the country from Dublin to Galway only takes 2.5 hours. Once there, you’ll be amazed by the stunning Cliffs of Moher and the remote Aran Islands. There are also several road trip loops like the Dingle Peninsula Loop or the famous Ring of Kerry. Just be prepared for some roundabouts and narrow roads along the way.

Montana, United States

Many of America’s 50 states are ripe for a road trip, but there’s something about Montana that makes it necessary to rent a car. This state is filled with towering mountains, vast prairies and tons of backroads leading to gorgeous viewpoints. In other words, you need a car to get around. Bigger cities like Billings, Bozeman and Missoula have public transportation, but the key to visiting Montana is getting out of town and into nature. A car is necessary for visiting both Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, both beautiful and vastly different public lands. And whether you prefer hiking to natural hot springs or relaxing at a hot spring resort, Montana has got you covered. If you choose the former, make sure to rent a 4X4 — Montana backroads can be rough.

Tuscany, Italy

Cruising through the Italian countryside, enjoying leisurely lunches, stopping at wineries, is the ultimate way to see Tuscany. While the region does have public transportation, it’s geared towards transporting locals, not tourists. Without a car, you may miss some of the more charming villages and valleys along the way, such as Val d’Orcia. This picturesque region of Tuscany is filled with rolling hills, golden wheat fields, cypress trees and medieval castles. Next, head to the well-known wine region of Chianti and drive on your time frame using this suggested DIY itinerary. End the day with a glass of vino and a plate of pasta, and find yourself in Italian heaven.

New Zealand

Whether you’re visiting the North Island or South Island or both, the best way to see New Zealand is by car. Even better, upgrading to a campervan or RV is one of the most popular ways to see the country. In fact, there’s so much to see in New Zealand you could easily take a month off to drive around both islands. On the North Island, start in Auckland before driving out to the Coromandel Peninsula, home to spectacular beaches and incredible Pacific vistas. Next, check out the thermal wonders at Rotorua before making your way across the island to the Interislander Ferry Terminal. On the South Island, there’s still so much to discover, from hiking around Queenstown to the witnessing the falls in Milford Sound. And after tasting the region’s delicious wine and quality espresso, you may never want to leave.

10 #Rules You Can’t #Break as a #Tourist

There are plenty of unspoken rules of travel and polite etiquette norms to follow mind when you explore a new destination. But there are even more important rules that tourists occasionally ignore. These rules can get you into serious trouble — not just with glaring locals — but also with the law. Here are 10 rules you should never break as a tourist.

Rock Sensible Shoes

It’s understandable that you’d want to make a fashion statement when traveling, but if you wear heels, you may run into bigger problems than blisters. In Greece, it’s actually against the law to wear high heels when exploring most of the country’s ancient sites, including the Parthenon and the Acropolis. You can also get into hot water for wearing heels to almost any archaeological, ancient stone, or marble site within the rest of the country. And in many temples in Asia, you have to remove your shoes completely before you enter. Stick to sneakers, which are easy to slip off and can help you avoid sprained ankles and citations.

Be Careful Where You Sit

We get it. You’ve probably been walking for hours and you’re tired. But if you need a break, be mindful of where you plant your butt. Sitting on the Spanish Steps in Rome can get you banned from the site. The same goes for almost any historic walkway in the Italian capital. This rule also applies in other cities. In Venice you can be fined for sitting or lying down on bridges or historic monuments. Wherever you travel, it’s best to find a proper bench or chair to take a seat if you need a break.

Don’t Feed the Wildlife

Don’t Take a Dip Wherever You Want

Be careful where you swim. You can get hit with serious fines for taking a dip in any of Rome’s famous fountains or Venice’s canals. The same applies for natural bodies of water. Heidi Klum and her rocker husband Tom Kaulitz were fined a whopping $6,000 for swimming in Capri, Italy’s famous Blue Grotto. Sometimes the rule is set to protect the local ecosystem or wildlife, as is the case in New Zealand’s recent ban on swimming with the dolphins of Bay of Islands. It’s always best to do your research or ask a local where you can and can’t dip your toes.

Don’t Lose Your Shirt

If you go swimming where it’s permitted, don’t assume you can traipse around afterward shirtless or in just a bikini top. In some cities, including Barcelona, Spain (where there are plenty of actual nude beaches), you can get fined or banned for not wearing a shirt in public. Be mindful of your surroundings and pack a dry change of clothes in your beach bag for when you’re done with the sun and surf.

Be Smart About Snacking and Sipping

Exploring can work up quite an appetite, but think twice before eating, drinking, or even chewing gum when you’re out about. In Singapore, importing chewing gum is illegal, so be sure you don’t have any in your pockets leftover from your flight. Eating is prohibited near tourist attractions in Rome, and you can also get fined or banned for putting your mouth on drinking fountains in the city. Eating, drinking, and chewing gum is also a no-no near ancient historical sites in Greece. Also, we’re not sure why you would, but just in case, make sure you don’t bring pork or pork products to the Maldives. As a largely Muslim country, you could be subject to a fine.

Rethink Your Vices

Depending on where you’re visiting, laws around drinking, smoking, and drugs may vary, so be aware of what you’re getting into before you set foot in a foreign land. You can be fined in the Maldives for bringing alcohol into the country, and alcohol is prohibited outside resort areas. Plenty of countries have banned smoking in public places, and if you’re hoping to engage in a city’s loose laws on marijuana, just be sure you do some research ahead of time. Despite its reputation, marijuana is still mostly illegal in the Netherlands, with some parts of the country restricting sales to tourists or banning it altogether.

Nix the PDA

If you’re traveling to Dubai or anywhere else within the United Arab Emirates, be careful not to get affectionate outside your hotel room. The decency laws in the UAE prohibit kissing, touching, and even hand-holding in public and can actually land you behind bars. Don’t believe us? In 2013, a British couple spent a month in jail for allegedly kissing in a restaurant.

Mind Your Metrocards

Depending on where you are and where you’re headed, don’t throw away a single-use train ticket, Metrocard, or similar pass after you’ve gotten onto the train. In some cities such as Paris and Madrid, you also need your ticket to get off — and not doing so can result in a fine that may break your entire vacation budget. Save yourself the headache and just keep it in your pocket for the ride (or get a multi-ride pass wherever you are, which typically ends up being cheaper anyway).

Be Careful About Souvenirs

Sometimes it can be difficult to find the perfect souvenir to bring home to remind you of your journeys. Maybe you collect postcards or keychains, but be careful if you want to go beyond the souvenir stalls. In most places, it’s illegal to take anything from the natural surroundings. This includes things like sand, seashells, rocks, plants, and more. One couple faces jail time for removing sand from a beach in Sardinia, and another man was forced to return rocks he took from a Cornwall beach or pay a heavy fine. These rules apply to almost every natural landscape, from U.S. National Parks to beaches and mountains around the world. So please, just buy the postcard.

#10 #Safest #Cities in the #World

As with anything, traveling comes with its risks. Odds are, you’ve heard some stories of tourists becoming victims of crimes or being taken advantage of on their holidays. Unfortunately, crime exists in all parts of the world and it can sometimes be difficult to avoid. However, book your holiday in one of the 10 cities listed below and you have extremely good odds of enjoying a peaceful and incident-free adventure. Check out some of the safest cities in the world that also double as excellent vacation destinations.

1. Tokyo, Japan

Aerial photo of Tokyo at night

The bigger the city, the more dangerous it is? Not true for Tokyo. This city has a population of over 13 million and it’s still one of the safest cities on the planet. In terms of how well your cyber security is protected, Tokyo is ranked on top. This means identity theft is super rare and digital privacy is highly respected and protected. The low crime rates are probably related to the fact that the majority of the Tokyo residents are considered “upper-middle class.” What’s more? Tokyo boasts a world-famous nightlife scene which can be enjoyed worry-free!

2. Singapore

Aerial photo of Singapore skyline

The number of violent crimes, theft, and level of police engagement is the lowest in the world in Singapore. If that doesn’t make you feel safe, we don’t know what will. In fact, Singapore reported a 135-day completely crime-free streak in 2017. The small island nation has close to 100,000 surveillance cameras positioned around the city, keeping citizens honest and majorly deterring those who are tempted to stray. Because of their super-safe environment, Singaporeans really trust each other. It’s not uncommon to see shops without windows, locks, or doors!

3. Amsterdam, Netherlands

Photo taken on a bridge in Amsterdam, with bikes in the foreground and buildings in the background

This city is probably best known for its liberal and legal use of marijuana and a notorious red-light district. Despite this (or could it be because of it?!) Amsterdam has been named one of the safest cities in the world. The city’s infrastructure is some of the best in the world. Amsterdam has high-quality buildings and roads, while simultaneously boasting a low number of car accidents and excellent air quality. Perhaps this is due to another one of the city’s trademarks – the biking culture!

4. Stockholm, Sweden

Photo of colorful buildings in Stockholm

The capital of Sweden proudly presents itself as the safest country in all of Europe. How does Stockholm keep its nearly 1 million residents in check? Thanks to an extremely effective police force, the crime rate is uber-low here. There may be the occasional petty theft or pickpocket incident, however violent crime is impressively low. Stockholm is also one of the best cities in the world when it comes to protecting its people’s cyber privacy and health security.

5. Osaka, Japan

Photo of Osaka at night

If safety is your top priority when you’re traveling, Japan is a great choice. Osaka is the second Japanese city to make our list of safest cities in the world. The city of roughly 2.6 million shares some similar characteristics with Tokyo. Osaka is home to a wealthy population, is considered to be the second safest city in the world in terms of violent crime (just behind Singapore), and has an excellent health care system ensuring its residents are well cared for. To clarify: safe doesn’t mean boring. Osaka’s got a happenin’ nightlife and stylish restaurant scene that rivals the likes of Paris and New York City.

6. Munich, Germany

Photo of city square in Munich

Party at the biggest beer festival in the world, learn something at a world-class museum, and admire ancient architecture in Munich all without a care in the world. This German city is ranked as one of the safest cities for tourists to visit. Solo female travelers can feel especially comfortable in Munich and the risk of being mugged or scammed is very low. Additionally, airport security is tight – just be patient and remember it’s for your own protection!

7. Reykjavik, Iceland

Aerial photo of the city of Reykjavik with a mountain in the background

The land of the Northern Lights is a super popular travel destination for those who crave a unique holiday. Even better, traveling around the scenic Icelandic capital is hassle and worry-free thanks to the Reykjavik’s safety rating. There are literally no “bad areas” in the city and homelessness, drugs, and crime are essentially non-existent. Reykjavik is an easy country for new travelers to explore as there is very very little chance of being ripped off by dishonest locals or being pickpocketed or mugged.

8. Vienna, Austria

City square in Vienna

The riverside Austrian capital boasts imperial palaces, art galleries, museums, and oozes modern culture that appeals to travelers from every corner of the world. Vienna was also the home of Mozart and Beethoven, giving it even more clout. The icing on the cake is that visitors can enjoy the charms of the city in peace. Violent crimes and muggings are rare here. Just take the normal precautions against pickpockets and be logical when it comes to bargaining with locals and you’ll easily avoid getting robbed or scammed.

9. Niagara Falls, Canada

Photo of Niagara Falls and a crowd looking on

One of the most internationally recognized places in North America is also one of the safest. The locals are very friendly to visitors and violent crime is practically nil. The only thing tourists really need to be careful of is the water and mist around the famous falls, which can cause slippery conditions. Keep your footing and a holiday here is all gravy. By the way, the city of Niagara Falls isn’t just a pretty (waterfall) face – it’s also renowned for its breweries, wineries, boutiques, casinos, and festivals. Is there any reason not to visit this Canadian wonderland?

10. Abu Dhabi, UAE

Aerial photo of Abu Dhabi

Interestingly, over half of this middle-eastern city’s population is made up of ex-pats! Foreigners flock to Abu Dhabi for business opportunities, but end up staying because of its extremely safe and easy-going atmosphere. Ritzy, glitzy and at the same time traditional and charming, Abu Dhabi is one of the safest cities in the middle east as well as the world. Travelers have a very low risk of being mugged, pickpocketed, or scammed and women report feeling just as safe in Abu Dhabi as they do in other European and North American cities.

7 #Places Where #Summer Never #Ends

There’s something special about summertime that makes us wish it could stay forever. Whether it’s a weekend getaway, sunset on the beach, or drink by the pool, we all have favorite activities when the weather is warm and the sun is shining. Some lucky locations get to keep that summertime fun going all year long. If you aren’t ready to say goodbye to the season just yet, check out these seven warm-weather destinations where summer never seems to end.

Fort-de-France, Martinique

The tropical island of Martinique located in the Caribbean boasts warm weather year-round, with average temperatures ranging from 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Martinique is on the southern end of the Lesser Antilles, in between the popular tourist islands of Dominica and Saint Lucia. The official language of the island is French due to Martinique’s long history of French influence and it is still an official Region of France today. Apart from its scenic beaches, a must-see landmark on the island is the active volcano Mount Pelée. Don’t worry — it has remained dormant since its eruption in 1932. A day hike to the volcano is a perfect activity for any outdoor adventurer — plus it comes with a great view.

Casablanca, Morocco

Casablanca is a great warm-weather destination for travelers looking for sunshine and vibrant culture. As a Moroccan port city on the Atlantic Ocean, Casablanca is home to breathtaking sunsets and impressive Moorish architecture. The weather here has little variation, with warm summer temperatures in the 80s and mild winters with little to no rain. Try traditional Moroccan fare, tour the ornate Hassan II Mosque, or go on a sunny stroll through a local market. The rich colors and patterns of local textiles and architecture provide a cheerful and lively environment. For an unforgettable meal, make reservations at Rick’s Cafe, a romantic restaurant inspired by the 1942 film Casablanca.

Nosy Be Island, Madagascar

Nosy Be is an island off the northwestern coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. With year-round average daily temperatures in the 80s, this nature-filled island is an ideal getaway during any time of the year. Similar to neighbor Madagascar, Nosy Be is home to many species of lemurs, chameleons, geckos, and other exotic animals. Check out the Lokobe Nature Reserve for a once-in-a-lifetime view of these native species. Surrounded by smaller islands and coral reefs, these serene blue waters offer exciting encounters with sea turtles and other marine life. Despite being such a rugged island, there’s a variety of accommodations along the western coast including luxurious hotels and open-air seaside bungalows.

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

What country better embodies a never-ending summer than Mexico? From the warm waters of the Gulf to romantic sunsets on the West Coast, travelers flock to Mexico when in need of a tropical breeze. Although there are many great destinations in Mexico, Cabo San Lucas, on the tip of the Baja California Peninsula, is the most fun. Known for its rock formations like the Arch of Cabo San Lucas, this coastal city has more than just a pretty landscape. The main beach, Playa El Médano, is home to romantic outdoor restaurants and upbeat bars and nightclubs. One of the most beautiful views is from El Farallon Restaurant’s cliffside dining area located in The Resort at Pedregal.

Sentosa Island, Singapore

Singapore is a technology and architecture hub located off the coast of southern Malaysia. Besides its ever-growing cityscape, this island also has excellent summer weather with temperatures ranging from the upper 70s to the lower 90s all year. Looking for a beach? Sentosa Island is an action-packed resort area connected to the city by road, cable car, monorail, and boardwalk. Home to Universal Studios Singapore, Tiger Sky Tower, luxury hotels, and scenic beaches, Singapore is the ideal place for family-friendly summer fun at any time of year.

Islamorada, Florida, U.S.A.

Tucked away in the center of the Florida Keys is Islamorada, the “Village of Islands.” Islamorada encompasses the central Keys and is commonly called the “Sportfishing Capital of the World.” With average temperatures in the 70s and 80s all year, outdoor activities are plentiful here. For nature lovers, catch a sunset dolphin cruise or try your hand at scuba diving. Islamorada is known for its upscale, small-town atmosphere due to its sprawling bay and ocean views, fine dining options, and luxury resorts.

Cairns, Australia

Cairns, in Queensland, Australia, is best known for its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef. This tropical city boasts hot summers in the 80s and mild winters, making it perfect for year-round snorkeling. Palm Cove, located just north of the city, is known for its palm tree-lined beach and outdoor activities such as golfing and kayaking. Journey through the tropical rainforest in Kuranda by train or get a bird’s-eye view of the rainforest canopy from the Skyrail in a gondola. A few islands line the coast of Cairns, including Fitzroy Island, that can be visited by ferry for hiking and relaxing on the beach.

CREDIT: thediscoverer

6 #College #Towns You Don’t Need to Be a #Student to #Enjoy

Who doesn’t love a good college town? Their youthful population means they’re inherently full of things to do from sporting events to bar crawls. However, for those outside the student demographic, some university-centered cities can get old fast. There are some destinations, however, that appeal to all ages regardless whether you’re an undergrad, Ph.D, or just someone looking for a great weekend away. Here are 6 college towns you don’t need to be a student to enjoy.

San Luis Obispo, California

San Luis Obispo, located on California’s Central Coast, is a hidden gem. Home to California Polytechnic State University, the city boasts more than just a great school and gorgeous beaches. It’s also a killer stop for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can take a guided kayak tour of the nearby Morro Bay and enjoy outdoor rock climbing, surfing, overlanding, zip-lining, hiking, biking, botanical gardens, horseback riding, ATV riding and boat tours. Avila Beach also offers whale watching and an opportunity to see adorable elephant seals.

Unique to San Luis Obispo are the sticky-but-sweet Bubblegum Alley and the scenic coast where you can explore the historic grounds of Hearst Castle and the Point San Luis Lighthouse. If you want a truly quintessential place to stay during your trip, look no further than the famous Madonna Inn, which boasts numerous rooms with their own ultra-kitschy charm. It’s also not too far from Wine Country, with neighbor Paso Robles playing host to dozens of vineyards.

Fort Collins, Colorado

Colorado State University is nestled in Fort Collins, Colorado and there’s plenty more to do in town than hang out on campus. Adventurers and nature fans can hike nearby in Roosevelt National Forest, while Lory State Park also offers a wide range of available activities including hunting, boating, rock climbing, picnicking, horseback riding, fishing, geocaching, volleyball, biking, and hiking trails. When you need to refuel and unwind after a day full of exploration and exercise, check out the Old Town district, on which Disneyland’s Main Street, USA’s architecture is based. Rest up in a number of charming lodging options, dine out at local eateries, and enjoy a number of festivals throughout the year. The town is a Certified Colorado Creative District thanks to its wide range of galleries, artisanal shops, live music, and performances.

Fort Collins is also a great place for those with a taste for craft beers. The town is known as Colorado’s craft beer capital and features more than 20 breweries, which produce 70% of the state’s craft beers (and 7% of America’s).

Athens, Georgia

Located two hours outside of Atlanta, Athens, Georgia is home to the University of Georgia and so much more. The city is a music fan’s dream with a slew of live venues and even a Music History Walking Tour. Theaters, art galleries, and even a zoo provide entertainment for days. The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Sandy Creek Nature Center, and Georgia Museum of Art are free to visitors, as are its many biking and hiking trails. You can also take a North Oconee River trip in a kayak or canoe. Who said small towns are sleepy?

Fort Worth, Texas

Though many tourists flock to nearby Dallas, Forth Worth, Texas is worth the 30-minute trip. Home to Texas Christian University, Texas Wesleyan University, and other institutions, this cowboy town owes its Texan charm to the Fort Worth Stockyards, which lets visitors experience cattle roundups and rodeos. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this college town is only ranchers and cattle. There’s also a thriving art district, with museums like the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Kimbell Museum hosting rotating exhibits alongside impressive permanent collections.

The Water Gardens in Fort Worth should also be on your itinerary. This terraced fountain is 38 feet tall and looks stunning lit up at night. Plus, check out miles of bike trails along the Trinity River, stopping into a BBQ joint or cool riverside eatery as you go.

Flagstaff, Arizona

Northern Arizona University students sure are lucky. Though it’s only an hour and a half drive to the Grand Canyon from Flagstaff, this college town has its own array of geological landmarks nearby, including those stunning red rocks you’ve come to expect in northern Arizona. Avid hikers and adventurous mountain bikers will love exploring Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, a dormant cinder cone volcano. You can also ski in Flagstaff at the Arizona Snowbowl, which is nestled in the San Francisco Peaks at 9,500 feet. The outdoorsy are bound to feel at home here.

Annapolis, Maryland

Residents of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore might have the perks of a buzzing metropolitan filled with politicians, journalists, and diplomats, but Annapolis, Maryland embraces a much more relaxed atmosphere. The University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins make Annapolis a gathering place for aspiring doctors and intellectual academics, but this city also includes charming row houses along downtown Main Street alongside seafood restaurants, art galleries, and shops. Stopping by to experience the United States Naval Academy perform the “noon meal formation” is also a unique form of entertainment and comparing the massive yachts at Ego Alley is a true spectacle.

CREDIT: thediscoverer

How #habits #affect your #mental #health?

New research reveals a list of everyday activities that can bring on feelings of isolation or lift spirits

Depression affects around 10 per cent of the population at any given time, according to the Office for National Statistics, and is now second only to high blood pressure among the most common conditions recorded by GPs.

But while bereavement, unemployment and illness are common triggers for low mood, experts say everyday activities — from what we eat and drink to spending too much time online — could also contribute to leaving you feeling down.

So what’s affecting the way you think? Here are some possibilities, and what can you do about the impact they have on you.

Taking antibiotics

Certain groups of antibiotics, including quinolones and penicillin, are linked to depression, say scientists.

A large Tel Aviv University study of British patients found that taking just one course of antibiotics can raise the risk of depression and anxiety by around a quarter. And taking between two and five courses raises the risk by nearly half, they reported in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. It’s thought that disrupting the balance of bacteria in the gut can harm the way in which the brain cells communicate.

BOOST YOUR MOOD

A major proportion of your immune system actually lies in your gut in the form of friendly bacteria, and antibiotics can wipe these out — automatically weakening your immune system.

Restore the balance by promoting the production of good bacteria when taking antibiotics by eating live yogurt (containing lactobacillus, for example), or fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and miso.

Always online?

Swedish researchers found that those who spend long hours in front of a computer screen or on their phones (up to 150 hours a week) reported more depression, possibly due to sleep deprivation and lack of face-toface communication.

And a separate study by University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross found a direct correlation between time spent on social media and feelings of dissatisfaction, loneliness and isolation.

BOOST YOUR MOOD

Don’t visit a social network when feeling sad or dissatisfied with your present situation as, chances are, it will only make you feel more sorry for yourself and more depressed. Consider deactivating your account temporarily or unfollowing those who make you feel worse.

Pick up a bestseller instead. Those who read books regularly are, on average, happier and more satisfied with life, according to a study by reading charity BookTrust.

Too many coffee breaks

In the same way that sugary and fatty foods can leave you on a rollercoaster of emotion, coffee and high-caffeine energy drinks, too, can impact the way you feel, warns nutritionist Patrick Holford, author of Feel Good Factor.

Consuming caffeine sets off a stress response in your brain, which then stimulates the production of adrenaline, making you more alert, he says.

“In the long term, however, too much caffeine throughout the day causes constant adrenal overload,” he adds. “As a consequence, an increasing number of people are suffering from chronic anxiety, panic attacks, low mood, insomnia and stress-related weight gain.”

BOOST YOUR MOOD

Cut back on caffeinated drinks and eliminate them completely after 4pm. Instead, try herbal teas.

Not eating your greens

Those who eat the least fresh fruit and vegetables are most likely to become depressed, according to a University College London study.

The high levels of antioxidants found in fresh produce help prevent free radical damage to cells, including those in the brain.

BOOST YOUR MOOD

Find ways to sneak extra fruit and vegetables into your meals.

Eating just one extra portion of berries, greens or salad boosts one’s mental wellbeing by the same amount as walking for an additional 10 minutes for seven days a week, over four weeks, say researchers.

And, adding 10 additional portions of fruit and vegetables to your daily diet has the same effect on emotional wellbeing as going from unemployment into a job.

Is #Sunflower #Oil #Healthy?

Sunflower oil is one of the most prevalent cooking oils in the world.

It is also easy to hear claims that sunflower oil is “heart-healthy” cooking oil, but is there truth to this?

This article provides an in-depth guide to sunflower oil and its nutritional and chemical properties.

What Is Sunflower Oil?

Glass Bottle of Sunflower Oil Next To Flower and Seeds.

Sunflower oil is an edible oil made from the seeds of the sunflower plant (Helianthus annuus).

This oil is one of the most common vegetable oils, and global production hit 19.45 million metric tons in 2019 (1).

The fat content of sunflower oil is primarily unsaturated fat, and it is mainly a source of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Uses

Food companies widely use sunflower oil in their packaged food products, particularly in snacks like potato chips.

Since the oil is cheap, it is common to find sunflower oil in homes. The oil is often used for frying and sauteing.

How Is It Made?

The majority of commercial sunflower oil goes through a lengthy production process which involves refining, bleaching, and deodorization (2).

For this reason, the oil is also known as an RBD oil; a refined, bleached, and deodorized oil.

This production process involves following the steps below in order;

  • Cleaning to remove any impurities from the oil and then heating and drying the seeds.
  • The mechanical pressing of the seeds to extract 50-75% of the oil.
  • Next, the leftover seed meal is treated with solvents such as hexane to extract more oil.
  • After extracting all the oil, the added solvents need removing from the oil via a heat and steam distillation system.
  • Following this, the sunflower oil undergoes degumming, bleaching, and deodorizing processes to make it edible and give it the required color and aroma.
Key Point: Sunflower oil is a common refined vegetable oil used around the world.

Nutrition Facts

Before we discuss the oil’s relative health properties, here are the full nutritional values for an average serving of sunflower oil.

The source of the nutrition data is the USDA’s National Nutrient Database (3).

Nutrition Facts For Sunflower Oil (Per tbsp Serving)
Calories/Nutrient Amount
Calories 120 kcal
Carbohydrate 0 g
Fat 13.60 g
  Saturated Fat 1.40 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 2.65 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 8.94 g
    Omega-3 Fatty Acids
    Omega-6 Fatty Acids 8.87 g
Protein 0 g
Vitamin E 5.59 mg (28% DV)
Vitamin K 0.7 mcg (1% DV)

Fatty Acid Profile

  • Palmitic acid and stearic acid are the main saturated fatty acids in sunflower oil.
  • Oleic acid is the source of the monounsaturated fatty acids.
  • Linoleic acid is the polyunsaturated fat.
Key Point: As shown in the nutritional values, sunflower oil is a pure source of fat, and it contains significant amounts of omega-6.

Does It Have Any Benefits?

Like with any isolated source of fat, there is not a lot of nutritional value in sunflower oil.

However, the oil does contain a reasonable amount of vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties (4).

Generally speaking, most fats contain vitamin E as it helps to protect the fatty acids from oxidizing (5).

Aside from this vitamin E content, the oil is also widely available and affordable.

However, there are also some important concerns to consider regarding sunflower oil and the fatty acids it contains.

Key Point: Sunflower oil contains a moderate amount of vitamin E.

Sunflower Oil Has Poor Oxidative Stability, and May Produce Large Amounts of Polar Compounds

On the negative side, one of the biggest concerns surrounding sunflower oil is that it can generate polar compounds (oxidation products such as aldehydes) when heated.

Research suggests that consuming these polar compounds can cause oxidative stress in the body. On this note, oxidative stress can raise the long-term risk of various chronic diseases (6).

An independent lab recently conducted an extensive study to test the oxidative stability of popular cooking oils. In this study, the researchers heated the various oils to different temperatures to see the effects this had on the oil (7).

Unfortunately, this study showed that sunflower oil produces large amounts of oxidation products, and particularly so during longer cooking times.

For example, tests showed that sunflower oil contains around 6% polar compounds in its raw state.

After heating for 30 minutes at 180°C (356°F), this rose to 10%. At the three hour mark, sunflower oil contained a higher percentage of polar compounds (17-18%) than any other cooking oil.

Sunflower Oil Versus Other Cooking Oils

The table below demonstrates how sunflower oil compared to various other cooking oils regarding oxidative stability and changes in polar compounds after cooking;

Table Showing the Oxidative Stability of Various Cooking Oils.

In summary, the data here show that (7);

  • Sunflower oil contained the third most polar compounds out of any oil before heating.
  • After heating, sunflower oil’s polar compound content increased more than any other cooking oil.
  • Sunflower oil had the least oxidative stability out of all the oils. It was slightly less stable than grapeseed oil, which had the second lowest oxidative stability. It was significantly more prone to oxidation than the other oils.

Also, there is another recent study that compared the oxidative stability of sunflower oil to three other options;

  • Camellia oil
  • Perilla oil
  • Palm oil

Among these four oils, palm oil had the highest oxidative stability, and sunflower oil had the lowest (8).

Why Is Sunflower Oil Prone To Oxidation?

Three primary factors can influence the oxidative stability of a type of fat;

  • The level of saturation (polyunsaturated fats have the lowest oxidative stability) (9).
  • Vitamin E content of the fat (10).
  • Polyphenols (refined sunflower oil barely contains any) (11).
Key Point: Regular sunflower oil has poor oxidative stability and appears to generate various polar compounds when heated.

Sunflower Oil Contains Large Amounts of Omega-6 and Significantly Impacts the Omega-6 To Omega-3 Ratio

A single tablespoon of sunflower oil contains nearly nine grams of omega-6 and virtually no omega-3.

Omega-6 is one of two essential fatty acids that the human body requires to function. This fatty acid plays a crucial role in growth and development, wound healing, and more (12).

Generally speaking, omega-6 has pro-inflammatory properties. In contrast, omega-3 has anti-inflammatory biological functions (1213).

However, despite being essential, we only need small amounts of omega-6, and some researchers believe that excessive amounts could be harmful.

The reason for this is disagreed upon, however.

Why Might the Omega-6 To Omega-3 Ratio Matter?

Some researchers believe that an imbalanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, which can be up to 20:1 in the modern diet, can put the body into a pro-inflammatory state. By comparison, the evolutionary ratio was approximately 1:1 (14).

In this regard, excessive amounts of omega-6 may impair the biological activity of omega-3.

Linoleic acid (the primary omega-6 fatty acid) can block the uptake of DHA and EPA (omega-3 from animal sources) into tissues. Additionally, linoleic acid also competes with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) for absorption. ALA is an omega-3 precursor found in plant foods (15).

That said, this issue is still not fully understood, and contrasting evidence exists.

For instance, some studies show that high blood levels of linoleic acid (omega-6) do not increase markers of inflammation. However, this research only took absolute omega-6 status into account, and the omega-3 status of the participants was not clear (1617).

For those who wish to maintain a more balanced omega-6 to 3 ratio, sunflower oil is not an ideal choice.

Key Point: Sunflower oil is exceptionally high in omega-6 fatty acids. Excessive intake of omega-6 compared to omega-3 may potentially have adverse effects.

High Oleic Sunflower Oil May Be a Healthier Option

For those who wish to use sunflower oil, it is worth noting that there is a different type available: high oleic sunflower oil.

‘High oleic’ means that the fat contains high amounts of oleic acid (at the expense of the polyunsaturated omega-6 content). This high oleic oil is made by the conventional breeding of sunflower plants to produce seeds that are rich in oleic acid.

Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid which we can also find in extra virgin olive oil (1819).

There are several benefits of high oleic sunflower oil compared to the regular version;

  • It has an entirely different fatty acid profile, and it is much lower in omega-6 (20).
  • High-oleic sunflower oil has much greater oxidative stability compared to the regular version. The oil is more shelf-stable and less prone to oxidation during cooking (21).

How Does High Oleic Sunflower Oil Compare To Regular Sunflower Oil?

The table below shows how the fatty acid profiles of regular and high-oleic sunflower oil differ per tablespoon serving (322);

Fatty Acid Profile of Regular Sunflower Oil vs. High Oleic Sunflower Oil
Type of Fat Regular Sunflower Oil High Oleic Sunflower Oil
Saturated 1.40 g 1.38 g
Monounsaturated 2.65 g 11.7 g
Polyunsaturated 8.94 g 0.53 g
Omega-3 26.9 mg
Omega-6 8870 mg 505 mg

As we can see, the high oleic version of the oil is much lower in omega-6.

Therefore, it should provide better heat stability.

Key Point: There is a high oleic version of sunflower oil which offers many benefits over the standard oil.

Final Thoughts

Overall, regular sunflower oil has more drawbacks than benefits.

While the high oleic variety offers numerous improvements, it is probably better to stick to more proven cooking oils.

For a like-for-like alternative, extra virgin olive oil is one of the most evidence-backed oils.

Aside from this, other cooking oils that have excellent oxidative stability include animal fats and coconut oil.

Credit: nutritionadvance

The 11 most #beautiful #train #stations around the #world

TRAVELING BY TRAIN is a time-tested method to enjoy seeing parts of countries we may not otherwise experience. Whether commuting or taking a long-distance journey, architecture, history, and artful aesthetics can make that wait for the next train pass in no time at all.

Here are some of the most beautiful, inside and out, train stations around the world.

1. Estação de São Bento, Porto, Portugal

Sao Bento railway
The first train pulled into the station in São Bento in 1896. Architect Marques da Silva drew inspiration from Parisian architecture for its exterior and, inside, artist Jorge Colaço spent 14 years crafting a massive azulejo tile mural.
Sao bento
Even those in a hurry slow down to gaze upon its 20,000 hand-painted, tin-glazed, blue and white tiles. This is a busy destination for trains heading to the suburbs of Porto, as well as to and from Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon.

2. Antwerp Centraal Station, Antwerp, Belgium

Antwerp

Officially noted by the media as one of the world’s most beautiful railway station, this stone-clad terminal was originally constructed between 1895-1905.

Antwerpcentraaal
Designer Louis Delacenserie designed the building using over 20 types of marble and stone. The impressive multi-level glass and iron vaulted ceiling survived the V-2 bombs of World War II. Delacenserie definitely used his imagination in the creation of this space: it can be assigned no particular architectural style other than just being simply stunning.

3. Grand Central Terminal, New York City, New York

Grand central station viaduct and entrance

The world’s largest train station welcomes travelers beneath the ticking face of the world’s largest Tiffany clock. Over the rush of the workday crowds, an aquamarine ceiling bends with six gold-leafed signs of the zodiac, famously painted in reverse order.

Main hall grand central terminal

Built by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1871, customers can still purchase tickets through the original gold barred ticket windows and entertain themselves during layovers with whispering galleries, secret bars, and a stop at its ever-popular Oyster Bar.

4. Estación de Madrid Atocha, Madrid, Spain

Atocha

This station’s most striking feature is the lush greenery of the tropical garden growing in its main concourse. It was Madrid‘s first and largest train station when built in 1851, but a 1992 fire forced the building of a more modern structure adjacent to the historical one.

Station Atocha

Though trains now leave from the new building, the original Atocha station structure is alive with shops, cafes, and even a nightclub.

5. St. Pancras International, London, England

St Pancras

The imposing Victorian structure has a red-brick, Gothic facade that is unyielding. But the station softens inside, where one can grab a seat at Europe’s longest champagne bar.

London train

The massive station took 20 years to build and, upon its completion in 1868, it was for some time the largest enclosed space in the world. Seemingly untouched by the battering of bombs in World War II, St. Pancras is a gateway to Britain’s National Rail network.

6. Gare de Lyon, Paris, France

Paris train station

Commissioned for the 1900 World Exposition, this station is an exemplary standard of period architecture with fine Beaux-Arts details. Trains head to destinations in the south of France, as well as Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and Germany. Over the decades, its famous clock tower has overseen the regular comings and goings of millions, including Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali, and Brigitte Bardot.

7. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai, India

Chatrapati Shivaji

Built to honor Queen Victoria, construction of this massive station was completed in 1888. A fusion of Western and Eastern styles, the palace-like exterior served as a symbol of Bombay’s prestige within the British Empire and has earned it a spot on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The terminal now connects Mumbai and its suburbs with an impressive 3 million commuters passing through it each day.

8. Dunedin Railway Station, Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin new zealand

Architect George Troup became known as “Gingerbread George” after the completion of this ornate, Flemish Renaissance-style station in 1906.

Constructed of basalt from the small town of Kokonga and white Oamaru stone, it has become a regular stop for tourists looking for photo opportunities and a jump-off point for scenic trips on the local Dunedin line.

9. Kanazawa Station, Kanazawa, Japan

Drum gate japanese train station

Originally opened in 1898, this station became internationally known when the modern tsuzumi(drum) entrance to the station was unveiled in 2005. A dome of aluminum and glass shelters travelers from the weather while also filtering light into the shops and restaurants inside.

The introduction of such large-scale modern architecture to this traditional town was not particularly well-received at the time but has since attracted its fair share of admirers.

10. Helsinki Central Station, Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki finland train station

Originally built in 1862, this station proved to be too small for its needs, so in 1904, a contest was opened for a new design. Of the 21 entries, a design of National Romanticism was chosen, sparking a debate over public building design, many calling for a more modern, practical look. Luckily, the winning architect, Eliel Saarinen, was happy to oblige. Clad mostly in Finnish granite, this station opened in 1919 and is emblematic of Saarinen’s signature Art Nouveau style. Four massive sentry statues holding spherical lights oversee coming and goings of hundreds of thousands of commuters each day.

11. Liège-Guillemins Station, Liège, Belgium

Gare de Liege train station

Just outside of Brussels lies Liège, Belgium‘s third-largest city, and its gateway for high-speed trains across Europe. The first railway station of Liège-Guillemins was inaugurated in May 1842 but this most current inception was introduced in 2009.

Liege Guillemins train station

The design of glass, steel, and white concrete by Santiago Calatrava has earned accolades in contemporary architecture, and the light that permeates the structure makes a long, commute much kinder. 

CREDIT: matadornetwork

#Top #Ten #Beaches In The #World

Be it a budding traveller, or even a seasoned one, beaches never seem to leave the bucket lists of them, and rightly so! While some travellers incline toward wide, open beaches with crowds of activities and individuals to see, others lean toward more of abandoned shorelines with quiet waters.

For all sorts of you beach lovers, we have curated a list of top ten beaches in the world, which includes the lively ones as well as the serene ones!

1. Maundays Bay, Anguilla

Considered one of the best beaches in the world by seasoned travellers, it is hard to believe that this beach is rarely ever crowded, which gives you serenity lovers an incentive to visit the beach as long as it remains that way!

It is considered that tiny Anguilla has the best beaches in the Caribbean, and a very decent food scene. So, we suggest that you don’t miss out on this!

Where to stay: best Hotels in Anguilla:

1. Malliouhana, Auberge Resorts Collection.
2. Royal Palms Holiday Suites Hotel, Anguilla.
3. Carimar Beach Club.
4. Hotel Le Toiny, St Barths.
5. Christopher St Barth.
6. Quintessence Hotel, Relais & Chateaux.

2. Baia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Baia do Sancho is located on a small island of Fernando de Noronha in Brazil. Agreed upon as one of the most picturesque beaches one can think of, Baia do Sancho is inundated with the turquoise waters and vibrantly coloured fauna hidden behind proud cliffs. Its laurels include being rated as the number one beach in a lot of travel blogs!

3. Blue Lagoon, Fiji

This beach is one of the most peaceful beaches there are! This pristine and serene location is something Fiji is proud of. Indulge in Snorkelling, Scuba Diving and whatnot! Giving you an overwhelming, natural fantasy, Blue Lagoon, Fiji is a beach you cannot miss exploring!

4. Kiawah Island, South Carolina , United States

Kiawah Island, a mostly private, gated community, a very brief drive from Charleston International Airport is a low-country winner. East and West Beach, combined, expand for 10 miles along the Atlantic. Public beach access is at Beachwalker County Park, at the famous island’s far southern end. The sand is flat, the water is not very deep, there are lifeguards on duty all the time, and you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas rentals.

5. Radhanagar Beach, India

One of India’s most beautiful and most acclaimed beaches, Radhanagar is a stunning stretch of sugar-white sand on Havelock Island, which is a part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, off India’s eastern shore. The sand is bordered by a verdant forest, and thriving coral reefs offer great snorkeling.

6. Anakena Beach, Easter Island, Chile

This beach on the infamous Easter Island in Chile, far out into the large Pacific Ocean, has soft coral sands and crystal clear water. A considerable amount of palm trees in the sand offer shade, and eight of the island’s famous storied stone statues look over this earlier sacred land of the island’s noble family.

7. Whitehaven Beach, Australia

Whitehaven Beach, very correctly juxtaposed, has really pretty white sands, dark green rainforests, and crystal clear waters. It’s a wild island, part of the Great Barrier Reef, and by far the most beautiful location to experience in Australia, beach-wise.

8. Navagio Beach, Greece

A very picturesque setting awaits you at Navagio Beach, an exposed cove on the famous coast of Zakynthos. Tourists and travellers come from all corners of the world to grab photos of the incredibly famous ship wreck, called Panagiotis. The deep blue water is spectacular, and in contrast to the white cliffs and sand.

9. Anse Lazio, Praslin, Seychelles

Very popular as a honeymoon spot, Anse Lazio draws travellers from all around the world because it’s secluded, romantic and oh-so-pretty! The Seychelles are located in the centre of the beautiful Indian Ocean, north of Madagascar. Anse Lazio beach is located in the northwest of Praslin Island and has some of the best diving in the world!

10. El Nido, Philippines

Considered as a spectacular pristine beauty, this serene location needs to be in your bucket list! This place is without any debate, beautiful beyond measure. With beaches stretching for miles, this place is a true breath-taker. Shockingly, El Nido remains steadily under the radar, even though it continues to rank highly in rankings when it comes to the best beaches in the world. With the bluest of waters and one of the best places to watch the sunset with your special someone, this is one location you do not want to miss!


We hope to have satisfied your inner wanderlust’s appetite by putting together top 10 beaches in the world! Pack your swimwear and snorkelling equipment, and get ready for exploring a few of the best beaches our world has to offer!

Credit: ceoworld

#Google launches ‘#Bolo’ to #tutor #children to #read #Hindi, #English

  • Google’s Bolo app, which is being launched in India first, uses speech recognition and text-to-speech technology
  • Bolo will be available on Google Play Store in India for all smartphones running Android 4.4 (Kit Kat) and higher

Tech giant Google Wednesday unveiled a new app ‘Bolo’ that aims to help children in primary school learn to read in Hindi and English.

The free app, which is being launched in India first, uses Google’s speech recognition and text-to-speech technology.

The app features an animated character ‘Diya’, who encourages children to read stories aloud and helps if the child is unable to pronounce a word. It also lauds the reader when he/she completes the reading.

“We have designed the app to work offline, so users need to just download the under 50MB app once and then they have access to close to 100 stories in Hindi and English that the children can read out loud and improve their reading skills,” Google India Product Manager Nitin Kashyap told PTI.

Bolo will be available on Google Play Store in India for all smartphones running Android 4.4 (Kit Kat) and higher, he added.

Citing the annual ASER 2018 report, Kashyap said, it was found that only half of students enrolled in grade 5 in rural India can confidently read a grade 2 level textbook.

“Lack of reading ability can significantly impact further education, and ultimately children’s ability to realise their full potential. Limited access to quality material, under-resourced infrastructure, and barriers to learning outside the classroom are some of the challenges that children often face,” he added.

Google piloted the ‘Bolo’ app in about 200 villages in Uttar Pradesh and the early results are very encouraging with 64 per cent of children showing an improvement in reading proficiency in just three months, Kashyap said.

“We are now actively working with a number of non-profit partners to take the app to more people across the country who could benefit from it,” he said.

Kashyap said the company is also looking at expanding the app to other Indic languages like Bengali, soon.

To ensure safety of the child, all personal information always stays on device. The users are also not asked for details like email ID and gender for logging into the app.

“This story has been published from a livemint feed without modifications to the text.”