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Two Best Places for Wine Tours in South Africa

South Africa produces some of the finest wines in the world. Boplaas Cape Tawny, Rabelais Blend, LeeuwenKuil, Driehoek, Shiraz…the list of exquisite wines available throughout the different regions in the country is endless. Not surprisingly, South Africa has different wine routes to offer. Take a look!

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Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch in South Africa is home to an astonishing number of wine estates. You can head to Delheim, Brampton Wine Studio, Brenaissance Wine & Stud Estate, Ernie Els Wines or any other wine-growing estate. Apart from fresh and aged wines, these wine destinations in South Africa also serve locally produced variants of cheese and pizza along with freshly prepared farm bread.

As far as the wine tasting goes, many of these places, along with offering wines at studios, take you to tasting sessions inside magnificently maintained age-old vine cellars. No wonder, Stellenbosch in South Africa is considered a heaven for wine enthusiasts.

Franschhoek

Franschhoek is a small village in South Africa famous for its wine production abilities.  Famous wines produced here include Merlot, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage and Chenin Blanc. The elegantly-landscaped wine estates are treat to the eyes while the wine produced regales the taste buds. The level of popularity of Franschhoek can be gauged from the fact that the village has a tram service dedicated exclusively to the wine enthusiasts.

The hop-on hop-off wine tour tram service starts at the ticket office located in the village and takes you through the beautiful wine yards and estates spread all over the village. Tourists signing for the tour can hop off at different wineries converted to tram stations and buy wine tasting sessions as per their choice. The memoirs and wines purchased during the tour can be handed over to the conductor and collected from the ticket office at the end of the tour.

Wine tour organizers in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek usually take care of hotel pickups, lunches, estate sightseeing and drop offs. However, before you confirm your booking please check whether your hotel falls under the pickup range or not.  It is also common for sommeliers to request private wine tasting sessions for extra charges.

Popular whale watching destinations in the World

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From the edges of the Arctic to the oceans of the Antarctic, Whales are among the craziest and the scariest water creatures in the world. The killer ones or the belugas or the humpbacked or short finned pilot or the common minke or the long finned pilot, there is something magical about these giant ocean organisms. For whale watching is a popular and interesting activity, take a look at the best places to spots these animals in their natural habitat.

Alaska, United States

Sharing its coast with the mighty Pacific Ocean, Alaska is home to a wide population of Humpback whales, minke whales, orca whales and gray whales.

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With a number of whale watching tours, cruises and excursions available within the city, a holiday in this coastal paradise is incomplete without spotting these giant water creatures up front and close. Seward, Whittler and Home Alaska are the best places to watch these whales in their natural habitat. Usually, the months starting from February till late September are considered the best time to enjoy whale watching in Alaska.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Featuring a large population of humpback, minke, white-beaked dolphins, porpoises and blue whales, Reykjavik is fast emerging as a popular whale watching destination in the world. Owing to its location, close to the North Atlantic Ocean and subtropical climate, spotting these mammoth water creatures in their natural habitat or as they return from migration is quite an interesting activity. Guided tours from different cities are also available and operational for both tourists and locals alike. For those not comfortable with water, The Whales of Island Museum is the best place to spot over 23 life-size man-made models of Whales.

Hervey Bay, Queensland

Majorly known as the ‘Whale watching capital of the world’, Hervey Bay is a popular tourist hotspot in Australia. Whether it is the mighty humpback or magnificent orca or the spy hock or loud tail or the pec slaps, the bay area is packed with a number of these mighty water mammals. With several boat tours, shore based tours, cruises and guided whale watching excursions available in the area, spotting these ocean creatures is a popular activity among tourists and visitors. Those who don’t like water, make your way to the Whale Museum located in Downtown Friday Harbour.

Los Cabos, Mexico

Situated close to the peninsula on the Gulf of California, Los Cabos is yet another popular tourist destination for whale watchers from across the globe. The gray whales, humpback whales, blue whales, rorqual whales, sperm whale and the orca are among the famous whales found here. Among other destinations, the tranquil lagoons are best to spot these species in their natural habitat. Those interested in watching whale mating, birthing, nursing and other activities, Magdalena Bay is the place to be. Although there are tours available throughout, guided boat tours, cruises and guided excursions are more adventurous during the months from November to early December.

Valdes Peninsula, Argentina

Nestled along the coast of Argentina, Valdes Peninsula is a well-known tourist attraction in the world. Owing to its geography and favourable climate, this peninsular zone is home to a wide population of whales, sea lions and seals, especially the famous rorqual whales, sperm whale and the orca. Whale watching excursions, boat tours and ship cruises are available all across the peninsula for those willing to watch these giant mammals upfront and close. On and off, penguins and other creatures can also be spotted strolling on the beach.

Top 5 US Cities to Celebrate the 4th of July

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One of the most exciting events celebrated across the USA is the Fourth of July. An occasion commemorating the adoption of Declaration of Independence in 1776, the National Day of the United States is associated with fireworks, parades, public speeches, family reunions, ceremonies, games, fairs, picnics and concerts!

San Diego

With parades, musical shows, firecrackers, fairs and other activities all around, San Diego is among the best places to enjoy the annual Fourth of July celebrations. From watching the extraordinary light and sound show to enjoying the spectacular firework displays to lazing around on the white sand beaches, the city has everything to make your day special.

San-Diego

Annual Bay Boom Fireworks Show, Ocean Beach July 4th Celebrations, SeaWorld San Diego 4th of July Fireworks, San Diego Country Fair 4th of July Celebrations, Red, White and Boom, and Oceanside’s Independence Day Parade are some of the top events celebrating the American Independence Day. The Big Bay Boom is the biggest fireworks show in San Diego.

Las Vegas

Street parades, music and dance shows and firework displays – Independence Day celebrations and parties in Las Vegas begin almost a week prior to the day!

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The parades usually feature caricature artists, face painters and stilt walkers. The High Roller, Caesars Palace and T- Mobile Arena are among the many spots where you can enjoy incredible fireworks.

New Orleans

New Orleans’ Fourth of July celebrations are best highlighted by the duelling barges firework show across the Mississippi River. Some of the best places to spot the shooting fireworks are the Woldenberg Park, Moon Walk and the other side of the river in Algiers.

New York

From stnning ufireworks over the scenic skyline to the national parade and music and dance shows to food festivals, NYC has a lot going on for the celebrations. Watch the fireworks shot from barges positioned on the East River all the way to the top of the sky! The Brooklyn Bridge Park, Berry Park, Brooklyn Heights and Brooklyn Promenade, Surf City and the Grand Ferry Park are among the best spots to enjoy the spectacular firework show along with other amazing events. Don’t miss the traditional cuisine served during the festival at the city restaurants!

Chicago

From illuminating the city with vibrant lights to spectacular firework shows and light and sound events to baseball games, everyone celebrates Fourth of July in Chicago in their own way. Visit the Navy Pier, Itasca, Skokie, Evanston and Glen Ellyn and have some Independence Day fun. The Northwest Fourth Fest is another exciting place to be during the celebrations.

Top things to do in Myanmar

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From pristine beaches and ancient architecture to delicious cuisines and colourful festivals, a holiday in Myanmar is truly an unforgettable experience. For those of you heading to this tropical paradise, here is a list of few interesting and fascinating things to do in Myanmar.

Beaches and Beyond

Myanmar is home to some of the most exotic and magnificent beaches in Asia. Offering visitors a perfect escape from the busy city life, the stunning white sand beaches here are great for sunbathing and enjoying numerous water sports such as scuba diving, snorkelling, and deep-sea diving. Ngapali Beach, Chaung Tha Beach, Ngwe Saung Beach and Sittwe are among the most popular beaches in the country. You can also spot some of the most luxurious resorts and hotels, and famous restaurants on these beaches.

Adventures and excursions

Owing to its long coastline and scenic mountain ranges, Myanmar promises a great time to the nature lovers, inundating them with experiences full of adventure and excitement. From hot air balloon rides to river rafting and trekking, Myanmar has a lot in store for adventure enthusiasts. For those willing to experience the rich wildlife of the country, exciting excursions and safari tours to the interiors of the jungles are available as well.

Festivals and Celebrations

Myanmar is a country which loves to live it up and has a long list of fascinating events and festivals, which offer a glimpse into the popular traditions and customs of the locals here. Thingyan Festival, Ananda Pagoda Festival, Salone Festival, Kakku Pagoda Festival, Full Moon Day of Waso and Tazaungdaing festival are some of the most popular festivals celebrated in this country.

Sightseeing

From Buddhist temples to ancient pagodas and cultural sites to monasteries, Myanmar is teeming with some of the most beautiful and interesting attractions. Most of these ancient structures are symbolic of the rich legacy and time-honoured traditions of the country. Shwemawdaw Paya, Shwenandaw Monastery, Inle Lake, Ananda Temple, Taung Kalat, Shwedagon Pagoda, Mahamuni Buddha Temple, Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple and Dhammayangyi Temple are among the must visit spots in the country.

Best Places in the World for Animal Lovers

If you love animals, you probably are on a constant look out to make them a part of your holiday experience, and given the variety of animal life on our planet, it is not a challenging prospect. Almost every place in the world has its own wildlife that can sustain in unique atmospheric conditions, and no two places in the world that have different climate have the same animal life. Therefore, there are plenty of opportunities to meet different kinds of animals on your journeys around the globe, to be mesmerised by the nature’s diversity.

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We bring you six places in the world, along with one animal that you must go and visit during your stay at these places:

United States for Bison

If you are looking for an alternative to the African Safari in the US, Wyoming is the place for you. The Yellowstone National Park, also known as the first national park in the world, is a great place to spot the Big 5 – wolves, bison, bears, moose and elk-of the US wildlife. The Yellowstone Park bison herd is the oldest and largest public bison herd in the United States. Offering numerous opportunities for hiking, camping, boating, fishing and sightseeing, The Yellowstone National Park is a wildlife lover’s delight.

South Africa for the Aardwark

The only member of the prehistoric Tubulidentata species, the aardvark is a nocturnal mammal native to Africa. These elusive insectivores can be found at Alice Glockner Nature Reserve, Benfontein Nature Reserve, Karoo Gariep Conservancy, Rocherpan Nature Reserve as well as Witsand Nature Reserve. However, if there’s one place where the sightings are guaranteed, it’s Samara Private Game Reserve, a five-star private game reserve, also popular as the home of aardvarks.

The Philippines for Tarsiers

Endemic to the Philippines, tarsiers are one of the smallest primates. Though the populations of tarsiers are also found in the south-eastern part of the archipelago on the islands of Samar, Leyte and Mindanao, it is at the Bohol Conservation Centre that you can easily spot these furry little creatures. The Maripipi Island, Siargao Island, Basilan Island and Dinagat Island are also popular as places where these nocturnal mammals can be found albeit with a little difficulty.

Mexico for Dolphins

A cruise through Mexico’s Sea of Cortez often becomes one of the most memorable experiences for the visitors, thanks to the large populations of dolphins in these waters. Covered by the Wild West shorelines of Baja California, the waters are also home to sea lions, sharks, huge manta rays and the mighty blue whales along with some 900 fish species and 32 types of marine mammals. Swimming with dolphins in what is one of the world’s best natural aquariums is sure to leave your thrilled.

Indonesia for Komodo Dragons

Existing only on the five Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang and Padar; Komodo dragons are the world’s largest lizards.  Dominating the ecosystem in which they live, these menacing creatures can hunt and kill far bigger animals than them including humans, as a result of their toxic bites. The fearsome creatures have been declared vulnerable by the IUCN, and have a national park for their protection under the Indonesian law.

Australia for Quokka

Australia is blessed with abundant plant and wildlife so much so that 83 per cent of mammals, 89 percent of reptiles and 93 per cent of the amphibians found here are endemic to the country, but none are as cute as the quokka, the size of a cat. Some of the best places to find these friendly creatures in Australia are Rottnest and Bald Island near Albany. Considered the world’s happiest animal, quokka is one of the most sought after animals by the tourists who love to get a ‘selfie’ clicked with this cuddly creature.

Time-Honoured Monuments to Visit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is a bustling city in Vietnam with a rich history. It is home to some spectacular monuments. Read about them below and include these attractions in your travel itinerary.

Saigon Opera House (Municipal Theatre)

Saigon Opera House is a charming 800-seat opera house constructed in 1897 by a French architect Eugene Ferret. Later, it played the role of South Vietnam’s Assembly House and underwent several renovations. However, soon after, the opera house started serving as a theatre again. The lovely, tree-lined boulevard surrounding the building is impressive. Take pictures here with your family or friends. One of the best ways to experience Saigon Opera House is by attending the shows, events and activities conducted at the venue.

Fun Fact: To avoid the traffic noise, the theatre was built two metres higher than the road surface.

Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral

Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, officially the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception, is an architectural marvel created between 1863 and 1880. This Catholic cathedral features red brick façade, tarnished glass windows, a quiet garden and two towers consisting of six bronze bells. The English-speaking personnel in this holy place offer relevant information to the visitors from Monday to Saturday (9 AM to 11 AM). The mass is held in English and Vietnamese on Sundays at 9:30 AM. There’s a Virgin Mary statue in front of the cathedral which was rumoured to have shed tears in the October, 2005!

Ho Chi Minh City Hall

Ho Chi Minh City Hall is a French colonial building with excellent façade, arched windows, modish engravings and a high-clock tower. Its exterior design is inspired from the Hotel de Ville in Paris. You can enjoy a leisurely walk around the open courtyard and observe the arched windows above. The classical motifs at the pyramid-shaped dais are impressive too! The city hall’s popular bell tower, typical to European town halls, is an elegant addition to the structure.

Giac Lam Pagoda

Constructed in 1744, the Giac Lam Pagoda is the city’s oldest pagoda. It has impressive images of Lord Buddha and his different incarnations. Icons of Taoist deities are kept too. The ceremonial hall has a large statue of Amitabha Buddha encircled by five small Buddha images. The nine dragon altar in the main hall portrays birth of Prince Siddhartha, who was later known as Gautama Buddha. All in all, the Giac Lam Pagoda has 118 statues made of bronze, wood and cement. You can enjoy the panoramic view of the city from the top floor of the pagoda.

Ba Thien Hau Temple

Ba Thien Hau Temple is a 19th century Chinese-style monument dedicated to goddess Mazu, the Lady of the Sea. The temple is accessible through an iron-gate and an undersized courtyard. Inside, on the main dais, there are three figures of ‘The Lady of the Sea’ surrounded by the guardians. The dioramas unveil colourful images and scenes from a 19th century Chinese city. The temple’s roof showcases porcelain figurines related to Chinese legends. Ba Thien Hau Temple’s big bronze bell is rung whenever large donations are accepted.

Top Destinations for Beach Lovers in January 2017

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Each New Year should bring a new ‘to visit’ list with itself and we should all explore new places; living life to the fullest!

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If you are looking for new and unexplored territories, here are some amazing beach holiday destinations across the world that you can pack your bags to for the year 2017.

1.    Cape Verde

One of the least explored beach-vacation spots in the world, Cape Verde islands should definitely be on your beach travel list for 2017. This cluster of islands in Africa is among the most beautiful places you will ever visit in your life. The islands of Boa Vista and Sal are especially attractive and invite tourists throughout the year. If you are indeed looking for a place where to find solace in the lap of nature, this has to be it.

2.    St Barts

One of the lesser visited Caribbean islands, St Barts is the epitome of aesthetic excellence and you will have an amazing trip enjoying the sun, sand, and the surf as well as the colorful appeal of the glitzy and glamorous ambience created by frequent celebrity visitors. The place is a hit with Hollywood celebrities and this may also add to your ultimate holiday experience. Exotic food, perfect weather, and warm and friendly locals – it’s the perfect recipe for a memorable holiday.

3.    Nicaragua

Another lesser known gem of a place, Nicaragua in Central America is possibly one of the most underrated places in the world. The constant caress of the tropical breeze; the sun, sand, and the surf; the perfect temperature; and good down to earth hospitality – this is the place you need to head to!

4.    Belize

Another hidden treasure in the Caribbean, Belize is a great January holiday spot. Owing to its spectacular beaches with clear blue waters, mouthwatering delicious local food, and plenty of things to do; Belize is an amazing place. It you are actively looking for a place to spend your January vacation; this can be a great option!

5.    Gold Coast

There is no denying the fact that Australia boasts some of the most spectacular beaches in the world. Collect some amazing memories at the Byron Bay in the company of friends and family, while enjoying the perfect weather. From luxury yachts to private islands, you name it and they have it. This truly is a classic January vacation spot and if you are planning to visit, you shouldn’t waste any time!

Get Set to Celebrate Guy Fawkes Night in Style

The Guy Fawkes Night, also known as the Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night, is just round the corner. It is a traditional British celebratory bonfire held on 5th November every year to mark the failed Gunpowder plot of 1605 in the UK.

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The day is observed with bonfires, burning of effigies, and spectacular fireworks shows across the country. The bonfire is marked by celebratory feastings, family entertainment shows and activities, and several fun fairs.

Origins

The Guy Fawkes Night celebrates the failed attempt to blow up the UK Parliament by a gang of men led by a man named Guy Fawkes. After the government made public the foiled attempt, people rejoiced and lit bonfires as their king had been saved. With the passage of years, the festivities became all the more elaborate.

Present Day Celebrations

On the administrative front, even today it is customary for the Yeoman of the Guard to search the cellars in the Houses of Parliament. People observe the day by lighting a bonfire, burning effigies of Guy Fawkes in these bonfires, and organising spectacular displays of fireworks.
Some of the places where fireworks displays will be held this year on 5th November in London are mentioned below.

Southwark Fireworks Display

Visit the Southwark Fireworks Display to revel in the festivities this year. The event, which can be attended for free, is one of the biggest fireworks displays across London. So, enjoy the spectacular fireworks on the south bank of the River Thames. There will be lots of good food and a number of entertaining events and shows will be held as well.

Alexandra Palace Fireworks Festival

The Alexandra Palace Fireworks Festival is considered to be one of the best Bonfire Night events in London. Enjoy amazing panoramic views of London from this spot and engage in fun-filled family activities such as German beer festival, ice skating, and fun fairs.

Blackheath Fireworks

The Blackheath Fireworks display will not only include stunning fireworks in a huge outdoor space but it will also allow visitors to enjoy delicious seasonal treats. The public event is free for all and lets one enjoy memorable festivities with family and friends.

Celebratory Delicacies

Hearty feasting is a major part of the festivities and the highlight is a traditional cake called Parkin Cake. It’s a sticky cake is made with oatmeal, treacle, syrup, and ginger. So, this Bonfire Night, enjoy the festivities as you relish the delicious Parkin Cake with custard poached pears.

Celebrate Folk Music at Cambridge Folk Festival 2016

The Cambridge Folk Festival 2016 is approaching fast. The 52nd edition of one of the world’s biggest and most prestigious folk festivals, the Cambridge Folk Festival is scheduled to be held from 28th to 31st July at Cherry Hinton Hall Grounds in Cherry Hinton, Cambridge, UK.

For music fans, it will be an extended weekend full of an eclectic mix of quality music amidst the classy surroundings of Cambridge. The festival features more than 250 performances, workshops and events, with impromptu sessions being an integral part of the entire festival.

Cambridge Folk Festival

Cambridge Folk Festival by Nicholas Smale CC BY

Although the festival arena has an on-site capacity of up to 10,000 people, its international reputation ensures that it reaches and is followed by around 13 million people through major media partnerships and online presence.

Acts

The festival arena has five stages for the musicians to perform – the Main Stages, the Club Tent, The Den, The Ceilidhs and the Children’s Concerts.

This year’s headliners include Christy Moore, Gogol Bordello and Imelda May among others who will be performing at the main stages.

The Den is an Emerging Talent Stage, which allows up and coming artists in the folk scene to showcase their talents. This year’s performers at The Den include American Southern Gothic alt country blues singer and songwriter Amythyst Kiah, American traditional musicians Anna & Elizabeth, London’s ceilidh band Ceilidh Liberation Front, Dori Freeman, Echo Town, Heg & The Wolf Chorus and India Electric Co among others.

Apart from the usual performances by the folk musicians, the Club Tent also showcases performances by five select artists every year. These five artists are thought to be great performers of the future. The five select artists at the Cambridge Folk Festival 2016 are Patch & The Giant, The Rheingans Sisters, Hattie Briggs, Kelly Oliver and Ninebarrow.

How to Reach?

Music lovers who are planning to reach by air should try to book tickets for the closest airport, the London Stansted. From here, they can either take a direct train to Cambridge Train Station, or a direct bus to Cambridge Bus Station.

Travellers can also reach the venue by bus or train. Visitors will be allowed a free bus journey on arrival and a free bus journey on departure between Cambridge City Centre or Cambridge Rail Station and the site of the festival.

Jazz Up your Travel with the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival 2016

The Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival, the brainchild of banjo-player and guitarist – Mike Hart, is the biggest of its kind in Britain. Conducted annually, this year the festival will be held from 15th July to 24th July in the capital city of Scotland. The programme features 170 concerts in a time period of 10 days.

For the participants of the fest, there’ll be lots of music, ranging from 1920s traditional jazz to all shades of blues. Not only this, they’ll be entertained by the festival favourites Davina and the Vagabonds, a vintage jazz party with Bratislava Hot Serenaders, Italian super-charged brass from Bandakadabra, and classic Dixieland with Batchelors of Jazz. Some of the past performers include Warren Vache, Buddy Tate, Hot Antic Jazz Band and The Black Eagles Jazz Band. There’ll be 140 gigs at 13 venues around the city. International travellers who have an ardent love of music (…and jazz specifically!) shouldn’t miss this awesome celebration.

Themes

The amazing fiesta reveals all styles of jazz and blues. Music will be from 1920s to the music churned out by emerging artists of the current times. The themes are Brass & Crimson, Cross The Tracks, Europe Jazz Summit, Festival Residencies, Festival theatre Concerts, Firsts, Scottish Jazz Expo, and The Blues.

The Special Feature

European Jazz will be the special feature of the festival. The ‘Europe Jazz Summit’ comprises of concerts headlined by John McLaughlin and Jan Garbarek – the two prominent personalities of the European Jazz from the last five decades. There’ll be musicians from Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Netherlands and Sweden.

Carnival

The incredible carnival includes more than 700 performers from around the world. On 17th July, the carnival parade starts at 2:30 PM from the Mound proceeding towards the West End of the Princes Street. Participants get to observe colourful performances in Princes Street, Princes Street Gardens and the Grassmarket from 2:30 PM to 5:00 PM. The music, dance, circus acrobats and puppetry are just super-attractive!

Multiple Venues

The Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival is planned to be held across different venues such as The Queen’s Hall, The Jazz Bar, and Princess Street Gardens. For the first time, Spiegeltent in St Andrew and George Square, Festival Theatre, La Belle Angele and City Art Centre will be hosting the events of the festival.

Tickets

Interested individuals can buy tickets online from the official website and collect them later at the venue. Those intending to purchase tickets in person should head to the Hub Tickets, Castlehill Edinburgh EH1 2NE. Tickets are available at other locations as well. Communication for the same via phone is possible too.  Kids under 16 years of age are permitted to attend the concert free of cost at the Queen’s Hall and Spiegeltent, if accompanied by an adult.