Dresden is the jewel box of Saxony, Germany

Dresden is a jewel on the Elbe River in Germany. (Photo courtesy of Dresden Marketing)

Dresden is a jewel on the Elbe River in Germany. (Photo courtesy of Dresden Marketing)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Dresden has long been considered the jewel box of Saxony, Germany, with its many baroque and rococo buildings.

This gem was destroyed in the controversial Allied bombing that took place during the last months of World War II. An estimated 25,000 residents died in the attack, which leveled the city center.

It also lost some of its luster under the Communist regime of East Germany.

But the capital city of the state of Saxony, located near the border with the Czech Republic, is shining brightly once again.

Most of the historic downtown has been rebuilt, much of it from the original plans, restoring the unique culture and architecture of this city of 2 million on the Elbe River.

Take your time strolling through the clean streets, and savor the jewel box built by the wealthy kings and electors of Saxony. They brought artists, architects and musicians from across Europe to Dresden and the stunning results can be seen everywhere.

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Palmdale teacher wins London’s Guest of Honour

The Palmdale winner of an international search to find London’s Official Guest of Honour, who will embark on a unique two week trip to the city packed with a series of extraordinary experiences, says winning is like a dream come true.

The campaign, which has captured the imagination of people across the world, will see 24 year-old Adaeze Uyanwah travel to London next month to enjoy a once in a lifetime trip, during which she will be hosted by some of the capital’s most famous residents at the city’s most iconic visitor attractions.

Adaeze, 24, a substitute teacher and freelance writer, who is dreaming of waking up at Buckingham Palace, has described the chance of coming to London as like winning the magic ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Last year a record 16.8 million international visitors came to London but the new figures put the city on course to top this number. US visitors are coming to London in increasing numbers.

Now, Guest of Honour Adaeze will visit some of London’s world famous attractions and immerse herself in the vibrancy and diversity of the city. Visitlondon.com, in partnership with VisitBritain and the UK Government’s GREAT Britain campaign, will be rolling out the red carpet for Adaeze who will;

  • Visit the Science Museum with renowned physicist Professor Stephen Hawking.
  • Have afternoon tea at Lord’s Cricket Ground with Downton Abbey’s butler Carson – actor Jim Carter
  • Take a behind the scenes tour of the Houses of Parliament with Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP
  • Open Tower Bridge, the most famous bridge in the world
  • Have a meal cooked by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton at his flagship restaurant, Pollen Street Social
  • Be taken on a tour of the Royal Opera House by world-famous singer and conductor, Plácido Domingo and British ballerina and Strictly Come Dancing judge Darcey Bussell,
  • Take a VIP tour with former tennis star Tim Henman of the All England Tennis Club, which hosts The Wimbledon Championships.

During her two week stay in London, Adaeze is particularly looking forward to visiting the Houses of Parliament but will also be venturing outside of the capital including a trip to Wales.

Adaeze, who will travel to London with her mum, Faye, and stay in a luxurious suite at the Radisson Blu Edwardian, Mercer Street, said: “I cannot express how excited and happy I am to be coming to London! Winning this competition feels like a dream come true – like something out of ‘Charlie and The Chocolate Factory’.

“I have been in love with London and the UK ever since I can remember and I am so grateful that I’m able to bring my mother and share all of these incredible experiences with her – we are beyond excited!”

“I’m confident Adaeze will take away amazing memories and encourage her American friends to join the millions of international visitors enjoying London’s rich culture, events and iconic landmarks every year,” said Mayor of London Boris Johnson

Over 100,000 people registered on the Guest of Honour website and 10,000 people submitted entries which included a short film and in 70 words described their perfect day in London.

“First, I’d wake up at Buckingham Palace if possible. Then I’d go for a full English breakfast at a traditional English pub. I’d then take a tour of Parliament and see a show in the West End. I’d end the day on the London Eye, overlooking the city. There are so many more things I’d love to do in my favourite city! Not enough hours in the day,” Adaeze said

Adaeze, who is a big fan of Harry Potter, added: “Ever since I was a toddler, all I’ve heard about is London.  It’s got so much culture, so much tradition, that I’m just not used to… It’s beautiful, in my opinion, I love London so much.”

Great things for 2015 include Hamlet at the Barbican, with Benedict Cumberbatch, a new Damien Hirst Gallery in Lambeth, Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A, Prudential Ride London, the Rugby World Cup, a new Shrek visitor attraction on the South Bank and dozens and dozens more.

To find out more go to www.visitlondon.com/guest or follow Adaeze’s journey live @LondonGuest

 

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Celebrity offers So Cal residents $1,000 in savings

As the Southern California economy rebounds and residents increase their travel to destinations, a great deal is still a great deal. How about the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska and Asia? Celebrity Cruises offers Southern California residents a deal with savings of up to $1000 per stateroom.

WHO:         Celebrity Cruises

WHEN:        Departures from January through July, 2015

 BOOK BY:      January 23, 2014        

COST:              Cruises start at $299 per person for inside staterooms, plus port fees and taxes for a 4-night Caribbean cruise

WHERE:         4-night Caribbean cruise aboard Celebrity Silhouette with ports of call in: Cozumel and Ft. Lauderdale

7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard Celebrity Summit with ports of call in: Bridgetown, Barbados; Castries, St. Lucia; St. John’s, Antigua; Philipsburg, St. Maarten; Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas and San Juan, Puerto Rico

                          14-night Italy and Croatia cruise about Celebrity Constellationwith ports of call in Koper, Slovenia; Zader, Croatia; Split, Croatia; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; Naples, Italy; Catania, Sicily, Italy; Ravenna, Italy and Venice, Italy

Call your local travel agent or Celebrity Cruises at1-888-283-6879

www.celebritycruises.com/socal;                  Twitter:  www.twitter.com/celebritysocal Instagram:  CelebrityCruisesSoCal

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Win a wintercation along Oregon Coast

This winter, take advantage of one of Oregon’s best-kept secrets — winter on the Coast. This is the season that the Coast reveals some of its most beautiful treasures.

Catch sight of great gray whales on their southern migration from the Bering Sea to the warm waters of Baja. Look for spouts from 24 designated whale-watching spots staffed with volunteers during Whale Watching Week in December.

Winter is also storm-watching season — time to curl up by the fire and catch the tremendous wave show going on outside. The calm weather that follows is perfect for agate hunting and beaching combing on freshly scoured sands.

Try your handcrabbing from the dock during Dungeness season, which peaks in December, or purchase a freshly caught crustacean from a Coast fish market.

Get out on the water and explore miles of kayaking trails. Winter’s higher water levels on Coast rivers, bays and estuaries make for great wildlife- and bird-watching from the boat. And for some indoor pleasure, warm up inside with a pint of Oregon craft beer from a growing number of fine Coast breweries.

Want to win an Oregon Coast Wintercation of your own? Enter to win a trip for two on a guided whale-watching charter from Newport Tradewinds, $100 to spend at Rogue Ales and a stay at the Elizabeth Street Inn. We’re also including tickets to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Ripley’s Believe it Or Not, Undersea Gardens and Wax Works, and a couple of bowls of clam chowder at Mo’s.

Get inspired: Read more about some of our favorite Oregon Coast Wintercations.

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Legoland California offers Holiday Snow Days

Celebrate the holidays with us at these Special Events! Winter Nights festivities at 5-7pm every Saturday in December, plus December 22-23, 26-30. Nightly Tree Lighting at 5pm, now through December 25. Holiday Fireworks at 7pm on December 26-30. Kids’ New Year’s Eve celebration from 11:30am-6pm on December on December 31.


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Christmas markets entice visitors in Ireland

Christmas markets in Dublin and Belfast are bursting with unique gifts, festive spirit, fantastic craic, and adventure-shopping.

Fall under the spell of spicy mulled wine, the scent of gourmet food, Christmas carols and the spirit of jolly shoppers. Dublin is a magical place at Christmas.

The first city-center Christmas Market on St Stephen’s Green promises to be the jewel of Dublin’s festive calendar through Dec. 23.

More than 60 traditional wooden chalets line St Stephen’s Green Park, next to the famous Dublin shopping mecca of Grafton Street – itself a great Christmas destination – offering a unique selection of quality goods.
There’ll be everything from handcrafted gifts, spices and chutneys as well as gourmet crepes, bratwurst, chocolate fountains, Glühwein and other seasonal non-alcoholic drinks to enjoy. Entertainment from local choirs and carollers add to the festive spirit.

There‘s an amazing amount of events around Dublin too, everything from the Peter Pan panto at the Gaiety Theatre to Ireland’s largest Christmas ice rink at Christmas Wonderland to a Live Animal Crib and Carols by Candlelight at Christ Church Cathedral.

In Belfast, there’s the huge, lively Continental Market that transforms the City Hall lawns into a bustling village.
Almost 100 European traders offer something for everyone, including a wide selection of food, unique gifts, drinks and entertainment.

Everyone comes to chill out in the onsite bars serving the best local and European brews, and to sample exotic tastes like ostrich burgers and eggnog.

The Victorian-vintage St George’s Market was voted the UK’s Best Large Indoor Market 2014 by the National Association of British Market Authorities.

It runs an annual Christmas Craft Fair and opens for additional days during the Christmas period. Enjoy the experience of being at St George’s Market at Yuletide.

Rediscover the adventure of real-life market browsing.

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Universal Studios offers 20 Days of “Grinchmas”

Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywod

Photo courtesy of Universal Studios Hollywod

It’s the most wonderful time of the year as Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal CityWalk deck the halls for a wintry calendar of cool holiday activities at The Entertainment Capital of L.A.

A very, merry Grinchmas returns to Universal Studios Hollywood as the theme park celebrates the Who-lidays with The Grinch, his faithful dog Max and a roster of Whos from the town of Who-ville.

“Grinchmas” runs weekends on Dec. 6-7 and 13-14, then continues daily from Dec. 19 through Jan. 3.

The Universal Plaza, an elaborate grand piazza at the heart of the theme park, will serve as the backdrop for the lighting of the towering “Grinchmas” tree – a whimsical centerpiece twisting and spiraling 60 feet above visitors and providing the ideal setting for merry holiday making memories, while The Grinch, his adorable dog Max and the WhovilleWhos entertain guests nearby with fun-filled photo opportunities.

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Guest of honor will win trip of a lifetime in London

There are seven days to go until the international search for London’s Official Guest of Honour ends. Launched last month (November 12) byVISITLONDON.COM, the official Visitor Guide to the capital, together with VisitBritain and the GREAT Britain campaign, the opportunity has drawn thousands of people from all over the world to  apply for this once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience London as never before, with many more expected before applications close on TuesdayDecember 9.
The winning guest will be invited to London in February 2015 and will have the unique honor of opening Tower Bridge, the most famous bridge in the world, visiting the Science Museum with renowned physicist Professor Stephen Hawking. Downton Abbey’s butler Carson – actor Jim Carter – will provide the winner with afternoon tea at Lord’s Cricket Ground; and both the world-famous singer and conductor, Plácido Domingo and British ballerina and Strictly Come Dancing judge Darcey Bussell, will take the winner to one of their favorite theatres in the world, the Royal Opera House.
The Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton will personally cook a meal for the Official Guest of Honour at one of the capital’s best restaurants and the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Bercow MP, will take the Guest of Honour behind the scenes of the Houses of Parliament.
As part of the experience, the Guest of Honour will fire the guns from HMS Belfast, be an extra in the West End smash hit musical Mamma Mia!, walk the red carpet at a film premiere in Central London, and meet the English tennis star Tim Henman for a VIP tour of the All England Tennis Club, which hosts The Wimbledon Championships.
To apply to be London’s Official Guest of Honour, entrants must go to Visitlondon.com, submit a short film or image and in 70 words describe their perfect day in London. The closing date is December 9, 2014 and participants must be ages 18 and over. For all terms and conditions see thevisitlondon.com website.
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Huntingdon Beach looking for Surf City VIPs

surfDo you love getting treated like a VIP?

Have you always wanted to try surfing? Now is the time, and Huntington Beach is the place! Register yourself here as a Surf City VIP in order to receive a unique code. Signing up is free! Use this code to book a surf lesson before February 1, 2015 through one of our four sponsored surf schools.

Once your surf lesson is complete, you will be given an exclusive #SurfCityVIP t-shirt, earning yourself the VIP treatment at 21 local businesses, including retail stores, restaurants, breweries, and attractions around Huntington Beach.

 

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Not a surfer?

Enter to win one of ten “Golden VIP Tickets” here! Winners will be chosen on December 1, 2014 and notified shortly after.

 

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La Quinta Resort debuts multi-million makeover

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 It’s a new day in the desert as La Quinta Resort & Club, the first resort to debut in Palm Springs, adds another gem to its crown: a multi-million dollar milestone restoration befitting of a legendary classic.

Shouldered by the rugged Santa Rosa Mountains and a storied Hollywood past, the iconic 1926 landmark steps up with fresh, contemporary look while retaining the glamour and architectural elements that anchor what has always been an authentic experience.

Ready for its close up, the resort-wide renovation encompasses upgrades of all guest casitas, starlight villas and suites as well as a re-imagined pool experience. The ambitious project also infuses the resort’s lush 45 acres with a bevy of additional bougainvillea, roses and citrus trees. www.laquintaresort.com.

This signature Waldorf Astoria resort has long been a vortex for the sports- and culinary-minded, a haven for urbanites looking to unplug and refuge for Hollywood’s elite seeking an escape from the limelight.  One can easily decamp here to sketch out a screenplay (as Frank Capra did), drill down a handicap or rekindle a flame.

From the stately Spa at La Quinta® to five championship golf courses including PGA WEST’s® TPC Stadium Course and award-winning Morgan’s in the desert, La Quinta Resort once again sets the stage as California’s top desert retreat.

Drawing inspiration from the colorful desert environs, Los Angeles-based firm Smith & Firestone created a residential-style design featuring custom tile work and wrought iron elements, new furniture, floor coverings and two-toned blocked drapery panels.

The resort’s signature casitas, clustered around 41 showcase pools, are set in a fresh earthen palette of ivory, terracotta and chocolate offset with citrus overtones.

Stylized Palomino textured leather bed benches, crisp hued pillows and throws adorn luxurious Wingback style headboards and contemporary Victorian chairs, while upgraded lighting and blue-sky accessories enhance guest bathrooms.clip_image004

Standout elements include oversized, nail-head embellished headboards flanked by two arched mirrors reflecting the resort’s colorful tile designs.  Rich maple furnishings mirror the stunning geometric floor treatment set in beige and cocoa.

Starlight Casita patios, popular for their stunning mountain views, debut romantic new fire features as well as plush couches and tables for alfresco entertaining.

The custom-designed suites, including the coveted El Presidente with a showcase private pool and spa, share a similar design as well as new landscaping, updated patio furniture and renovated decks.

New amenities include 42- to 47-inch flat-screen high-definition televisions, mini refrigerators, Keurig® coffee makers, charging stations with dual USB ports, upgraded fireplaces and photography inspired by the storied history of the resort and its surroundings.

La Quinta Resort & Club participates in Hilton HHonors®, the only guest loyalty program that allows members to earn Points & Miles® for the same stay and redeem points for free nights with No Blackout Dates at more than 4,100 hotels worldwide.

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