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Sunny Florida skies, year-round warmth and sunshine, a buzzing nightlife and a mix of cultures define this cosmopolitan city. Celebrity-drenched South Beach attracts people-watchers and the Art Deco District is the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world. Tropical style shopping experience’s are readily available from Bal Harbor to Lincoln Road and Coconut Grove. Enjoy authentic Cuban cuisine and culture along Calle Ocho or travel back in time with a visit to the historic Venetian Pool. There is something for everyone in this city dubbed the “Gateway to the America’s.”
St. Maarten is the smallest piece of land shared by two sovereign states. Legend has it that the Dutch and French boundaries of the island were determined by two men who challenged one another in a race around the island, with the Frenchman walking faster and claiming more land. Legend or not, both the Dutch and French settled here in the 1630s and despite occupancy by the British twice, the Dutch and French have lived peacefully together ever since they arrived.
Roseau, a small town with plenty of colonial charm, offers the colorful New Market, where you can stop for a refreshing coconut drink. Dominica’s real beauty lies in its unspoiled natural landscape – the dense rain forests, lush foliage, natural springs and rivers and tall, smoldering peaks. Dominica is home to one of the Caribbean’s great natural wonders-the scenic Valley of Desolation, where in a verdant tropical gorge, white mists from bubbling hot springs swirl in the air.
The island of Barbados is rimmed with mile after mile of pristine beaches. The eastern edge, rugged and hilly, lies on the Atlantic Ocean. The west coast, washed by the calmer leeward sea has most of the resort hotels. It is here that you will find the capital, Bridgetown, and older colonial settlements. Tour the meticulously restored 17th-century Sunbury Plantation House or admire the spectacular views from Gun Hill Signal Station. Adventures abound at sea by catamaran or Atlantis submersible and on land by an off-road island safari. Not to miss delicacies include the sweet and tender flying fish, washed down with a glass of Barbados’ famous Mount Gay rum.
French Guiana is best known for the infamous penal colony to which convicts and undesirables were deported from France. For a long time the small archipelago was known by the name of “Devil’s Island.” The notorious convict settlements were built in 1852. Today, discover a lush, green landscape, where tropical foliage has grown over the old prison buildings and softened their aspect from forbidding to quaint. The most famous prisoners were Alfred Dreyfus, the French Army officer falsely convicted of treason, and Henri Charrière, who was immortalized in the movie “Papillon” for supposedly being the only convict to escape from “the Green Hell.” Please be advised that due to the under-developed nature of this destination, organized tours are not available.
The busy port of Belém, Brazil is the gateway to the Amazon, and it is laden with jungle riches like hardwoods, orchids, nuts and minerals. It is known as the Metropolis of the Brazilian Amazon region, or Cidade das Mangueiras (city of mango trees) due to the number of those trees found in the city. Belém offers colorful markets, including indigenous handicrafts and quartz jewelry. Nearby is the emerald world of the Amazon’s Guama River.
Discover colonial Brazil in Recife and nearby Olinda and step back in time along narrow, winding streets amid meticulously restored homes, churches and lovely plazas. Admire the scenic views from the Malakoff Tower and Olinda’s hilltop plaza. Visit the old Dutch Fort, the Jewish Historic Archive and a local artist in his workshop and gallery. Take home lovely traditional Pernambuco handicrafts like clay figurines, wood sculptures, leather or woven straw items or hunt for unusual trinkets in artisan shops. Indulge in a delicious lobster lunch or just about anything your palate desires.
The tiny fishing village of Búzios, just 105 miles from Rio de Janeiro, is considered one of the ten most beautiful spots in the world. The village burst into prominence when French actress Brigitte Bardot visited here in her heyday (there’s a statue of her looking out to sea on the Orla Bardot). Today, this once sleepy village is an international resort — St. Tropez, with a unique Brazilian beat. Búzios offers some of South America’s most attractive beaches. Indeed, you could lounge on one magnificent beach each hour of the day, sipping a delicious caipirinhas of course.
There’s a little bit of Carnival celebrated here everyday. From its famous beaches to its iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer, Rio radiates an air of exuberance that is hard to find anywhere else. Make the scene on trendy Ipanema or take a cable car to the summit of Sugar Loaf Mountain and enjoy the amazing views. Sway your hips to the rhythm at a samba show or enjoy the tranquility of king Dom João VI’s Botanical Gardens and verdant Tijuca Forest.
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