Spring Break Travel Guide

    Amsterdam

    Maybe you’re looking into a spring break with more than just snorkeling and a botched tan. History nerds, architectural connoisseurs or rebels, consider booking a flight to Europe’s gem of a getaway: Amsterdam.

    You probably know the quaint city for its accessibility to the pleasures denied to you here in the states: weed and hookers. Of course, your time at the Netherlands can be spent in the unconventional “coffee shops” or the Red Light district, but we also suggest giving the devil on your shoulder a break and exploring Amsterdam’s rich cultural history and stunning scenery.

    Get to know the city by renting a bike and riding along the cobblestone paths of the downtown, or take a trip through its famous canal route, which doubles as a perfect transportation network to the city’s famous tourist sites, such as the Ann Frank Museum or, in case that devil just won’t pipe down, the infamous Museum of Sex.

    Also make sure to check out the world renowned Flower Garden, open during the Spring, for a magnificent view of the city’s famous tulips.

    While booking that flight may leave your pocket feeling much lighter than usual, cheap hostels are easy to find. If you’re willing to compromise your five-star standards, you can make do without too much of a blow on your budget, leaving you plenty of cash for gifts for your sunburnt friends back in Cabo.
    — Mina Nilchian • Focus Editor

    Buenos Aires

    Within this highly cosmopolitan city coined the “Paris of South America,” there’s sure to be something for everyone, considering its 48 districts — or barrios — each come with a distinct personality and flavor.

    Known for its European-style architecture, Buenos Aires is laced with a sense of grandeur and elegance. The attractive locals, better known as porteños (people of the port), don’t detract from this either. But woven between the trendy boutiques and cozy cafés (the city has a thriving coffee culture), are more grungy, run-down parts of town — roughening up the polished neighborhoods.

    Quaint shops line the narrow cobblestone streets of the bohemian San Telmo, the oldest barrio, where you can find unique antiques and handicrafts. The famous Sunday antiques market is its main attraction, though you might just be too engrossed in the sultry, seductive tango exhibitions to do much shopping — what with all that leg action going on.

    Just as attention-grabbing is the lively La Boca, located at the mouth of the Riachuelo. Normally flooded with tourists, the brightly painted houses along the Caminito — some with life-size figurines adorning their balconies — are quite the scene.

    On a more serious note (though exciting for “Evita” fans), a visit to Recoleta will lead you to the mausoleum of Eva Perón, alongside those of many other notable Argentineans.

    In the largest barrio, Palermo, meat enthusiasts will be happy to find some of the best parillas (steak restaurants) around. Following a late-night dinner (it’s customary to eat at around 10 p.m.), the vibrant nightlife will leave you wondering when, or if, the city ever sleeps.

    — Stacey Chien • Staff Writer

    Bay Area

    Whether you’re simply trying to spice up your typical hometown visit or a newbie aiming to explore the other end of California, there’s plenty to do around the Bay Area during the spring time — and, believe it or not, the City ‘aint the only draw.

    Airfare comes cheap when you book in advance, or simply hitch a ride with a friend intent on heading home anyway. You might even be able to score a free place to stay via your Nor Cal friend, but either way, there are youth hostels in San Francisco and couch surfing is always an affordable and adventurous option.

    Once there, you’re not going to want to stay put for long. There’s a lot more to the Bay than the Golden Gate and crooked streets, so use BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to your advantage, making it easy to jump from an afternoon antique shopping in Piedmont (Oakland’s bougiest ‘hood) to a night raging in the Castro (SF’s gayest ‘hood) without the inevitable parking nightmares and traffic across the bridge.

    First and foremost, join the great San Diego-San Francisco burrito war by hitting up one of the Mission District’s prime taquerias (Taqueria Cancun is a personal favorite) for some aluminum-wrapped glory that Chipotle could only dream of.

    Of course, the Bay is a foodie’s dream, and burritos aren’t the only dish worth tasting. Clam chowder from a street vendor at Fisherman’s Warf is always a must, while Oakland’s thriving restaurant scene boasts both trendy joints like Homeroom (serving exclusively mac-n-cheese) and neighborhood mainstays like Fenton’s Creamery (made famous in Pixar’s “Up”).

    — Arielle Sallai • Managing Editor

    17-mile Drive

    Winding through Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach on the Monterey Peninsula coastline, this legendary scenic drive is literally 17 miles of breathtaking views of sea and sky, world famous golf courses and exclusive mansions.

    The best part of the drive is discovering nature’s treasures. The Lone Cypress is one of California’s most enduring landmarks and an eternal symbol of the area, while the characteristically turbulent waves of the ocean (deeming the coastline the “Restless Sea”) contribute to the incredible vista down the shore, especially at sunrise or sunset.

    A variety of wildlife can also be seen. Bird Rock presents close-up views of pelicans, sea otters and idle sea lions in their natural habitats. Families of deer wander through the forest’s edge, too.

    Golf lovers should not miss the four world-renowned golf courses along the edge of the 17-Mile Drive: Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill, Del Monte and Peter Hay. These are popular for travelers and locals alike.

    The quality of light and panorama along the 17-Mile Drive result in incomparable photographs, making for picture-perfect road trip moments — just make sure to bring along the right music and people.

    — Ashley Kwon • Staff Writer

    Khajuraho

    Art is the focal point of Khajuraho, a quiet city of just under 20,000, hidden deep within the humid forests of Madhya Pradesh, India. Khajuraho is best known for its thousand-year-old temples, which have a cult following among designers, painters, myth lovers and history buffs from all around the world.

    The Khajuraho temples aren’t as famous as the Taj Mahal or the Jaisalmer Fort, but they are every bit the marvels that their more famous counterparts are. Constructed without mortar between 900 and 1100 A.D., the temples are architectural wonders for their time.

    Each temple is about 100 feet tall, built from perfectly interlocking stones, with every inch of the temples’ outside walls intricately carved. Interestingly, the carvings at Khajuraho don’t depict gods; instead, they celebrate human life. Women put on jewelry and paint their lips. Men guide oxen to plough their fields. Musicians perform, lovers embrace and artists paint. Though it’s hard to see at first, the carvings together form a kind of narrative — a loose history of the Chandela dynasty that built the temples.

    For a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site, Khajuraho is remarkably relaxed and unpretentious. Here, there is nothing you cannot touch. The temples were built to be walked in, prayed in and individually explored. There are no official tours — only private guides and an audio circuit on a Discman that can be rented for a few dollars at the tourism office downtown.

    As long as you stick to the Indian offerings, Khajuraho’s food is delicious. Avoid anything that advertises itself as international cuisine. At a restaurant one night, we ordered “miso soup” that turned out to be canned chicken broth with enough soy sauce to
    turn the whole thing black.

    Still, Khajuraho’s relative obscurity has its perks. Go to a temple on a weekday morning, if you can — the complexes are mostly empty then. Listen to the chanting worshippers. Watch morning sunlight color the temples a brilliant shade of pinkish orange. And let the still-pristine magic of your surroundings carry you back into the past.

    — Ayan Kusari • Contributing Writer

    Barcelona

    You will not sleep in Barcelona. Count on scrounging for a few liquor-soaked hours of slumber in between free walking tours and nightclubs, and saving the rest of your recovery for the plane ride home — you’ll be far too busy to do any of it there.

    Though Barca is a beach town, it’s still too chilly to spend your time sunbathing if you’re there for Spring Break. That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to do. The electronic scene is legendary, and rightfully so — it’s built around a vibrant nightlife with dedicated times for siesta and fiesta (embrace local culture and take your afternoon nap at 6 p.m. — you’ll need it).

    Though there are some restaurants that open earlier for the more conservative tourists, residents don’t typically eat until around 10 p.m., and the partying starts before the metro shuts down at midnight. Luckily, you can avoid the cab fare home by cunningly staying out at the clubs and bars until 5:30 a.m., when the subway starts running again.

    Barca’s other draw is its stunning Art-Nouveau architecture. Instead of the towering, centuries-old cathedrals and castles dotting Italy and France, Barca’s principle architectural stars are the works of legendary madman Antoni Gaudí, who left his “modernisme” fingerprints all over the city. Colorful and intricate buildings line the streets, literally unlike anything you’ve ever seen — like Casa Batlló, the “trencadís” ode to Saint George or Casa Milà, known in Catalan as “The Quarry” — and the Sagrada Familia, still under construction, looms large in the distance. A free walking tour, like the “Runner Bean” tours that leave every day from the Plaça Reial, will take you to his different buildings and explain the history behind each. Grab a fresh-squeezed juice from La Boqueria to sip on while you walk (but make sure to go inside for your purchases. The food on the outer edges is more expensive, just because the vendors know tourists won’t want to wander in further).

    The energy of the city is unlike the old-school allure of Rome, or the urban bustle of London. It’s a beach town, a party culture and an architectural wonderland characterized by a completely different era and philosophy of building. Barca’s draw is that it’s young: compared to the rest of Europe, it’s like a coked-out art student on spring break.

    — Hayley Bisceglia-Martin • Senior Staff Writer

    Salar de Uyani

    In Bolivia, you don’t have to reach upward to touch the sky. The country is home to the world’s largest salt flat, Salar de Uyani, where the sky and ground merge into one. This occurs due to a layer of water that collects on the plains, creating a bizarre and breathtaking reflection — the largest mirror on Earth.

    The salt flat is located in southwest Bolivia near the crest of the Andes, totaling 10,582 square kilometers. There are no signs of life for miles, other than fields of cacti and the three species of South American flamingos that call it home — Chilean, James’ and Andean — making the stunning scenery stretch out into the horizon.

    Tours are offered to explore the plains, lasting three to four days as you drive over the vast flat land in a 4×4 Land Cruiser.

    Due to the harsh conditions of the salt plains, certain items are essential. Sunglasses, extra water, sunblock and hats are necessary to brave the relentless sun and its blinding reflection off the salt flat. Coins and small bills will be useful because — like most things in life — things aren’t free and neither are the bathrooms. But most importantly, a camera with extra battery and loads of memory cards is totally essential for the countless photo opportunities of your unique trip.

    — Tiffany Chin • Contributing Writer

    The Frugal Traveler

    Julian

    Spend some time in Julian, the most delicious little town located only an hour and a half west of campus. Head down Main Street and sample everything apple-based, including and especially their famous Julian apple pie. If you’re feeling especially generous, pick up a half-baked pie to bring back to your jealous roommates.

    Knott’s Berry Farm

    Take a trip to second-rate Disneyland. As a cheaper alternative to Mickey and friends, Knott’s packs the roller coaster thrills of Six Flags with the kitschy kiddie fun land atmosphere of Disney.

    Griffith Observatory

    Take an impromptu, non-classroom-sponsored field trip to Griffith Observatory, a monument to public astronomy located at the top of Mount Hollywood in Los Angeles. Stargaze with your better half and observe Foucault’s famous pendulum, all outside of the stifling confines of a classroom.

    Joshua Tree

    Escape winter by heading to the Mojave Desert to rock climb and enjoy the scenery, dotted by the Joshua Tree for which the park is named. Make your stay cheap by taking camping gear — nature walks, bouldering and stargazing are enough activities to bring the Bear Grylls out in you.

    Potato Chip Rock

    Make your out-of-the-area friends jealous by posing on top of the infamous “potato chip rock,” located on Mt. Woodsen near Poway. Don’t forget to bring water to the surprisingly arduous five-mile hike — the trail heats up fast.

    — Margaret Yau • Managing Editor

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