travel-rio-carnavalRecently London began a countdown to next year’s Olympics to be held in and near that city. Here’s that and a few more of the “tapas” of celebrations for 2012.


Carnaval in South America (18-21 February, 2012)

The Party Never Stops: Carnaval in Brazil is an all-around unforgettable experience and is celebrated all over the country. The dates change each year; it is celebrated 7 Sundays before Easter Sunday.

The celebration lasts 4 days, commencing the Saturday prior to Fat Tuesday with the crowning of the Fat King (King Momo, the Greek god of mockery). Carnaval came to South America from Europe as celebrations before the beginning of the forty-day Lenten season of fasting and prayer.


The word carnival is thought to come from the Italian carne vale or farewell to meat which was not eaten during Lent. These late winter celebrations in Europe gave root to the high-summer frenzy of carnaval in South America. Dates change every year, but it’s always a noisy, energetic celebration of music and dance and exhibitions. The four days and nights of carnaval in Rio de Janeiro are the lavish, exotic, anything-goes exhibitionist spectacle the world sees. They are the result of planning, organizing, practicing and fantasies and the favorite holiday celebration in Rio in the heat of the February summer but not the only place in Brazil to find such antics. Salvador’s carnaval is considered Brazil’s second largest. The third largest, in Recife & Olinda, is said to be “the most beautiful, spontaneous and diverse of all the Carnivals in Brazil.” Other South American countries with carnaval celebrations include Colombia, Venezuela, Uruguay, Argentina & Bolivia, so put on your costume and samba yourself silly at Carnaval in February in South America!


Kentucky and the Derby (4-5 May 2012)

The Run for the Roses: Often referred to as “the fastest two minutes in sports,” and the first leg of the Triple Crown, this huge springtime sports party features the rose as its official flower; the official song, “My Old Kentucky Home”; thoroughbred 3-year-old horses; and –of course—Mint Juleps (specifically made with Early Times Kentucky Whiskey, nearly 120,000 of these drinks are served at the two-day event of the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks, Derby’s “little sister”). And, much like the recent Royal Wedding, hats are a tradition here – and some are great exaggerations of that tradition. Although the contenders have yet to be decided, many are already watching the 2-year-old field but with names like Algorithm, Stat & Sum of the Parts, it sounds more like math class to me! Tickets & event packages are already available for next May’s event (there’s even a local group from Beaufort planning to attend!). And, there’s much to do beyond bluegrass, horses & bourbon. Kentucky prides itself on its natural adventures. There’s hundreds of hiking trails & camping sites; the longest cave system in the world; and (little known) the largest free-ranging elk herd east of Montana. There’s a 19-course Kentucky State Parks Golf Trail for you golfers. For you less outdoorsy types, there’s history & heritage; wineries & breweries; music & arts; shopping & dining. There are quaint downtown squares across the state that feature everything from antiques to galleries to artisan studios. Go for the Derby & stay to see Kentucky.


2012 Olympics in London (27Jul-12Aug)

travel-london-olympic-logoThe Thrill of Victory: With one year to go until the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, London’s vision to host Games that inspire the world is set to become reality. New medals have been unveiled & mascots Wenlock & Mandeville, futuristic shiny little guys who were created from “the last two drops of British steel used for the London 2012 Olympic Stadium,” are set to represent the Olympic & Paralympic games respectively. From the opening ceremony festivities to the sporting events sure to thrill and amaze, London is readying for millions of visitors. Events will take place in the Olympic Park (the Aquatic Centre has already had its first diver!); around London (the Triathalon takes place in Hyde Park); and “out of London” venues (such as Weymouth & Portland for sailing events). Pre- or post-Olympics, use London as a jumping off point and hop on the Eurostar to the “the continent.” With Europe’s ever-efficient train system and rental cars or organized tours, there’s a smorgasbord of cities and regions waiting to be explored: Paris & Bordeaux; Madrid and Barcelona; Tuscany, Florence, Rome & Venice; Vienna, Salzburg & Lucerne; cruise along the Rhine or through the canals in Amsterdam; why not Brussels and Bruges; and then back to London – or opt return to Paris to join a cruise that visits the Normandy Beaches. Or leave London and go north for a “sampler” of Britain that includes Scotland and Wales and experience the Military Tattoo in Edinburgh (dates for 2012 have not been set yet but it generally runs from the first Friday to the last Saturday in August). So many choices to think about! So much to see!

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