Family Vacations In And Around Los Angeles: A Huffington Post Travel Guide

Family vacations in and around Los Angeles can be rewarding experiences or absolute disasters — it all depends on pre-trip homework. To make planning easier, we’ve done all the preparation. As part of a Huffington Post Travel series on traveling with children, here are recommended attractions for those planning Los Angeles-area family vacations.

Santa Monica Beach

The famous Santa Monica Beach offers three-and-a-half miles of clean, sandy fun. Swimming, beach volleyball, biking, fishing and surfing are just a few of the activities this beach boasts. It is also adjacent to Santa Monica Pier, home to many rides, restaurants and entertainment.

Address: Colorado Avenue and Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Phone: Lifeguard headquarters: 310-394-3261
Hours: Dawn until dusk. Lifeguard headquarters open 24 hours.
Price: No fee for beach access. Parking rates vary.

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium

Enhance the kids’ ocean experience with a fun facts about local sea life. Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, located on the Santa Monica Pier, is home to more than 100 species of marine animals and plants that live in the Santa Monica Bay.

Address: 1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Phone: 310-393-6149
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; weekends, 12:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Price: Kids 12 and under are free; all others: suggested donation of $5 per person, or a $3 minimum entry fee

Pacific Park

Pacific Park is a family-friendly amusement park located on Santa Monica Pier. This amusement park has rides for all ages, including Pacific Wheel, the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel. There is an arcade and plenty of dining options featuring funnel cakes, ice cream, themed food carts and fast food favorites like Taco Bell and Pizza Hut Express.

Address: 380 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401-3128
Phone: 310-260-8744
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Price: Entrance to the park is free. All-day unlimited ride passes: $13.95 for kids 7 and under, $18.95 for ages 8 and older, available for purchase online.

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park

The Disneyland Resort is home to two fabulous parks where families create lasting memories and have a blast. Walt Disney’s original theme park, Disneyland Park, is a wonderful world of rides and attractions for visitors of all ages, including Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Mickey’s Toontown for the little ones, dining and shopping in the picturesque New Orleans Square, and the futuristic rides of Tomorrowland.

Disney California Adventure Park gives visitors a insider’s view of Hollywood at Hollywood Pictures Backlot, a bug’s perspective of the world at A Bug’s Land, and super thrill rides at Paradise Pier, among other exciting attractions.

Address: 1313 S. Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, CA 92802
Phone: 714-781-4400
Hours: Disneyland Park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. Disneyland California Adventure Park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Price: Disneyland Resort Park Hopper tickets range from $198 for 3 days for kids ages 3 to 9 to $251 for six days for visitors 10 and up. Check the website for special promotions and packages.

Griffith Observatory

The Griffith Observatory has housed a 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope since 1935 when the observatory opened. It also features the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, which shows a number of spectacular shows. The grounds of the observatory is an attraction in itself. Its terraces and observation decks provide stunning views of the city.

Address: 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Phone: 213-473-0800
Hours: Wednesday through Friday, noon to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Price: Admission to the observatory and the grounds is free. Tickets for shows in Samuel Oschin Planetarium range from $3 to $7 and may only be purchased at the observatory for that day’s show.

The Getty Museum

A wonderful way to expose the family to both art and architecture is a trip to the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center. With both a permanent collection and a range of exhibitions, such as Fashion in the Middle Ages and In Focus: The Tree, every member of the family will find something to be inspired by. The center also includes the Getty Villa in Malibu, which focuses on art from ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria.

Address: 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California, 90049
Phone: 310-440-7300
Hours: Sunday and Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Monday.
Price: Admission to the Getty Center and to all exhibitions is free. An advance, timed ticket (also free) is required for each adult to visit the Getty Villa in Malibu and may be booked online.

Los Angeles Zoo

Two attractions in one, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is the perfect place to learn about exotic animals and plants. The zoo also offers education programs for children such as Toddler Totes and Critters ‘N Kids.

Address: 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Phone: 323-644-4200
Hours: Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed on Christmas Day.
Price: Adults ages 13 and up, $14; seniors ages 62 and up, $11; children ages 2 to 12, $9. Children under 2, free. Parking is free.

Have you been to Los Angeles? What are your favorite attractions?


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After 27 years, Novato priest is (almost) ready to retire – Marin Independent

THOUGH HE’S been officially retired since Sunday morning, the Rev. Constantine Efstathiu expects his next few years to be at least as busy as those he spent as parish priest of the Nativity of Christ Greek Orthodox Church.

“By God’s grace, I’ll continue to serve as a priest, being on the altar on Sunday and weekdays, leading Bible study and hearing confessions,” said Efstathiu, 71. “I’ll continue serving in whichever way God sees fit.”

But after 27 years as head of the Novato church — which draws worshippers from Sausalito to Healdsburg — Efstathiu says he’s ready for a vacation.

“I’ll have the freedom to travel, to spend time reading, to pray more and study,” said Efstathiu, who will leave Thursday for a trip to Greece with his wife. “And I plan to do more volunteer work, though I have nothing specific in mind right now.”

Efstathiu — who also celebrated the 45th anniversary of his ordination as a priest on Sunday — arrived in Novato in 1989 as only the second pastor in Nativity of Christ’s history.

“The church was established in 1969, and Father James Adams was the first pastor assigned to the parish,” Efstathiu said. “For about five or six years our services were at St. Vincent’s, where the Catholic boys’ home is. It wasn’t until 1979 that the ground for our present church was broken.”

Then — and now — the church has served as both a center of

worship and of Greek culture, Efstathiu said.

“There is a close unity between the culture and the faith, which is a product of the historical circumstance by which the church came to this country as part of an immigrant community,” Efstathiu said. “I’m first generation myself, as my parents came from Greece.”

Efstathiu regrets that he never learned the circumstances that brought his father, who died when Efstathiu was 24, to the United States. It was from his deeply religious parents, Efstathiu said, that he simultaneously inherited a deep desire to be an American and a pride in the Greek language, history and culture.

“I didn’t know Greek as a child — not even modern Greek. And it didn’t always make you popular to have a strange, difficult-sounding name,” Efstathiu said. “But Greek is truly special. The New Testament was written in Greek — it was the common language of the time — and it’s a beautiful language, expressive, one that lends itself to philosophical discourse.”

Efstathiu said his desire to enter the priesthood was inspired, in part, by four priests whose “strength, dedication, honesty, integrity and willingness to serve their faith” made an impression on him during his youth. He met his wife, Kay, during his studies at the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology — her brother, a classmate of Efstathiu’s, is now a noted theologian — and began his life as a husband and a priest in 1965.

In 1966, after brief assignments in Los Angeles and Pasadena, Efstathiu became an assistant priest at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in San Francisco. Efstathiu served for 17 years as priest at the St. Basil Greek Orthodox Church in Stockton before coming to Novato.

Under his watch, the church built a 400-seat community center — which became the home of the Marin Greek Festival — and expanded its educational and philanthropic programs.

“The love and spiritual guidance he has offered each and every parishioner will be sorely missed,” said Peter Eliades, president of the Parish Council. “On the other hand, we are so happy that his hectic everyday schedule will be greatly eased.”

After returning from Greece and other travels, Efstathiu looks forward to spending time at his Petaluma home, though both he and his family hope his priestly activities will keep him in Novato.

“Of course, who knows? The bishop may say ‘I’d like you to go here,'” Efstathiu said. “And in that case? I’ll send my wife to talk to him about that,” he joked.

Contact Rob Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]

Greek Fears of Social Backlash and Destabilization




Greek Fears of Social Backlash and Destabilization

An Afghan immigrant mother with her child takes protests outside the Greek Parliament in Athens on Jan. 21, where immigrants pressured the Greek government to grant them refugee status. (Photo: AP, Petros Giannakouris)

The Greek state, which has been in serious debt issues for the better part of the past few years, has been led into an economic downturn with a steep GDP decrease estimated at at least 6.5 percent for 2011, after a similar decrease in 2010 and a 1.5 percent decrease in 2009. Most local finance analysts predict another decrease of around 2 percent to 3 percent for 2012, before an eventual slight growth being reached no earlier than mid-2013.

The unemployment level has risen from 7.5 percent in 2008 to more than 17 percent, and the projections that it will surpass 20 percent over the coming six months has alarmed officials in the country who fear backlash in society and riots within the country’s illegal alien population, which has been particularly hit by the recession due to the decline of the construction and tourism sectors. Europe as a whole has entered a period of social instability, as the recent riots in England showed, and Greece is no exception.

Illegal immigration

Article Continues

In July, reports in the Greek press citing information by the police and E.U. border-control organization FRONTEX revealed that neighboring Turkey is about to release approximately 10,000 Asian illegal immigrants that were apprehended in Turkey en route to the European Union via the Greek-Turkish borders. Since the issue of unconstrained immigration from Asia has become a focal theme in Greece and in conjunction with the recession in the economy, these reports alarmed quite a few pundits that predict a “hot winter” within the Greek urban centers, due to the further increase of illegal aliens in the country lacking employment and shelter.

Dr. Nestor Kourakis, professor of criminology in Athens, in a recent university survey revealed the extent by which criminal rates have affected the daily lives of Athenian citizens. According to the survey, 85.1 percent of the residents in the center of the city have been victimized by criminal action, and 76 percent state that they are afraid to live in their neighborhoods. Moreover, 70 percent state that the police cannot do anything to assist them, and more than 50 percent say they should take the law into their own hands. The statistics reveal a situation that contains elements of social implosion not far away. The vast majority of the participants in the survey blame illegal immigration as the primarily factor for the criminal rates.

Far-right groups started patrolling in certain regions in Athens, the most notable one named “Golden Dawn.” There are also many incidents of small-scale rioting and violence between different ethnic groups and attacks against immigrants that have surpassed the level of spontaneous violence and seem to be organized by competing centers of local criminal power aiming to control parts of the city’s center for reasons mostly related to narcotics contraband and the accumulation of capital through illicit means.

The scope of the issue becomes even more compelling when one calculates that, in 2010 alone, some 150,000 illegal immigrants entered Greece, almost exclusively from the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian subcontinent, with the assistance of powerful transnational mafia groups. Once employed in Greece, each individual is estimated as generating a minimum annual income of 10,000 euros for the organized crime networks (while being allowed to keep precious little for himself). In short, this makes 1.5 billion euros just from the newcomers (let alone those who have been in Athens for years).

It has become common knowledge that organized crime kingpins in Greece have acquired hefty profits along with political clout in order to continue their businesses. The Greek National Intelligence Service produced a report in early 2011 that was leaked to the daily paper Ethnos, in which it stated that crime syndicates have been able to create pro-immigrant NGOs, buy real estate and create “zones of influence” within Athens, so as to construct their ghettos and evade possible police surveillance. In addition, the intelligence report noted that organized crime groups have made the necessary “investments” by buying influence in certain sectors of public opinion, so as to neutralize opposition in many cases.

On another level, the fact that the vast majority of the new immigrant wave is composed of Muslims has surfaced fears across the spectrum of the Greek society of an “Islamization process,” a term often quoted in mainstream press and political debates. Within the Athens metropolitan region there are between 100 and 120 unregistered mosques operating and maintained mostly by Pakistani and Arab communities. For a few of those there have been allegations of congregation of extremists within their premises, and police sources have confirmed that various individuals associated with those are under surveillance. In the whole of the country the number of mosques operated by Muslim immigrants exceeds 350, whereas just a decade ago they numbered fewer than a dozen.

The incumbent minister of public order, Christos Papoutsis, recently admitted the deficit the country faces in terms of domestic security by commenting in a press conference that “although the police can deal with the illegal immigration issue in an organized and lawful manner, by identifying and arresting all immigrants in less than three days in the whole of Athens, there are no facilities available and no planning on what to do with all these people to be deported.”

Since early 2011 the government promised to quickly build five centers across the country that will facilitate the concentration of illegal immigrants. Nevertheless none has started to be constructed and no practical action has been taken to form an overall strategy for the issue. Approximately 50 percent of Greece’s 800,000 illegal immigrants are unemployed and live on the thin line between bare survival, crime and assistance by charity agencies.

The general attorney of Greece, Ioannis Tentes, in a speech in June 2011 in the annual judicial convention of the country, cited illegal immigration as “the top security and social issue in the country nowadays that has to be dealt with before grave consequences make their appearance and threaten the stability of the country.”

Countermeasures and obstacles

The magnitude of the issue has prompted the security agencies in Greece to draw several plans on how to ease the social pressure being accumulated. Increase in police patrols, intelligence gathering in sensitive areas and provision of motives for illegal immigrants to return to their homeland are the most basic ones.

Presently plans are being drafted for illegal immigrants to gain their ticket back home, paid by the Greek state, and at the same time be able not to have their data entered into the Greek border’s system “black list,” a kind of a bribe for those whishing to return back. Another E.U. and U.N. funded program stipulates also the payment of about 500 euros plus the transport expenses for those wishing to return, and since early 2011, some 3,000 Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants have taken up the offer and left via the Athens international airport.

The main issue is that Greece, due to the financial scarcity of its state budget, cannot afford a mass imposition of such a return program, meaning that either the immigrants will stay in Greece and become a potential source of social destabilization, or that the country will alter its long-standing agreement with other E.U. states and will ease its own pressure by letting hundreds of thousands of mostly Asian immigrants to travel to other E.U. states. For the moment, very few immigrants managed to enter Greece and then exit towards Western Europe, since the Greek authorities are apt to stopping them from doing so.

The economic effects of illegal immigration has started becoming widely known in a period where the Greek state budget is anxiously trying to garner any kind of capital needed to pay off the country’s explosive debt.

According to announcements by the Greek Ministry of Labour and various press reports, the Greek insurance system loses more than 5 billion euros annually by the undocumented labour of illegal immigrants, who are preferred by local businesses exactly for that reason.

Another 5 billion euros are being sent annually through money transfers outside the country, and another 5 billion are being lost through medical and education costs and VAT tax losses from illegal immigrant street vendors. Roughly, the cost of illegal immigration exceeds 6 percent of the country’s GDP on an annual basis without counting other secondary expenses.

It is important to add that all border-control statistics indicate that the overwhelming majority of the recent illegal immigration wave is composed by unskilled male workers who bear no qualifications needed for increase in productivity in the industrial, scientific or agricultural sectors of the country. Meanwhile, specialized Greek personnel emigrates in significant numbers without being replaced, a process of disastrous consequences for the local economy.


For the illegal immigration issue, the three months between October 2011 and January 2012 are going to be crucial. Social stability in Greece is already fragile due to the harsh economic climate, which is the worst since the early post-War years. The Greek confederation of commercial businesses presented its gloomy report in August, stating that 185,000 small businesses will close down by early 2012, leaving more than 300,000 people unemployed.

In parallel, the banking savings of Greek citizens is declining at a monthly pace of 2 percent of the total net savings in the banking system, and the credit of financial institutions for businesses and individuals alike has been on a negative term and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Another indicator of potential social trouble is the general dissatisfaction of the public towards the political system. Negative sentiment reaches almost 90 percent in the public polls. Notable corruption scandals involving politicians and prominent figures in Greece have added to criticism across the Greek society regarding cover-up and under-the-table agreements between the parties involved in these scandals.

In short, Greece may well become entrapped in a vicious circle of social destabilization within the coming months, due to multi-layered issues embedded in an economic downturn. For the time being, the rest of the E.U. countries seem absorbed in their own societal issues, and the neighboring Balkan and North African countries are either in a state of flux or rocked by civil wars, violence and general disorientation. Greece, as in other parts of the Mediterranean Sea, seems to be making history over the past year and proceeding into the unknown through a circle of violence, change and transformation.

View the Worldpress Desk’s profile for Ioannis Michaletos.

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Cunard’s Queen Victoria on sale for three days in September

This item was written by Larry Bleiberg, former travel editor of Coastal Living magazine and The Dallas Morning News. Bleiberg is serving as Guest Editor of The Cruise Log while USA TODAY Cruise Editor Gene Sloan is away.

Cunard’s posh Queen Victoria ocean liner is on sale for a limited time with deals on cruises in the Americas. The price savings, offered Sept. 7 to 9, includes two-for-one discounts on some voyages, up to $300 onboard credit per stateroom and reduced deposit requirements. There are also price reductions on most fall and winter voyages from North America.

PHOTO GALLERY: Take a tour of the Queen Victoria cruise ship
ALSO ONLINE: New Galapagos rules shake up cruise itineraries

The bargains start with a 16-day Atlantic crossing from Venice to Fort Lauderdale, available from $995 per person, double occupancy – a savings of nearly $150 over current fares. Starting on Nov. 20, the cruise overnights in Venice, then calls in Greece, Gibraltar and Portugal (overnighting in Madeira), before sailing across the Atlantic for stops in Bermuda and Charleston, S.C., and finally arriving in Florida.

There’s also a $200 savings on Hawaii voyages leaving from Los Angeles Dec. 21 or Feb. 14, 2012. Fares begin at $1,495 per person.

In addition, passengers can save $99 on Panama Canal voyages, which start at $1,195, leaving from either Fort Lauderdale or Los Angeles. They’re available from December through February.

Concluding the North America season, the ship will again cross the Atlantic, departing New York on March 16, 2012, for an eight-day voyage to Southampton, England. Sale fares start at $895.

For more information, visit

Greece Only Discussing Cash Collateral With Finland

(Adds quotes and details from the third paragraph.)

ATHENS (Dow Jones)–Discussions between Greece and Finland over a deal to provide Helsinki with collateral in exchange for the Nordic country providing fresh aid are focused only on cash collateral and don’t involve any property rights, Greece’s finance minister said Wednesday.

“We are only speaking about guarantees of a financial nature…and guarantees that do not include claims on property,” Evangelos Venizelos said in a radio interview.

The deal, which was announced this month, involves Greece providing several …

From Garfield to Timbuktu, part two

Do all good things have to come to an end? In 1969, after two
years in Africa, it was time to come home, get more education,
settle down and get a job. My travel home could not take months for
me because the Emanuel County draft board wanted my number. My
father’s great friend, Emily Flanders, was sending me letters
expecting me to show up. While travel had been important to me, I
did not want to see Southeast Asia.

Returning home gave me a chance to eat njera bread in Addis
Abba, Ethiopia. The markets of Cairo, Egypt were more exciting
than the streets of Cairo, Georgia and the pyramids at Giza were
spectacular, the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world
still standing. From there I flew to Athens (Greece, not Georgia),
where I met a college fraternity brother. At the airport, we
decided to visit one of the Greek islands. The first flight we
found was to Corfu. My friend was a Peace Corps Volunteer in
Turkey, so I followed him back to Istanbul, Turkey. This was my
first trip there to the rug market and to Santa Sophia, the great
Byzantine Christian Church. I flew to London and back to New York,
Atlanta and to Twin City. For the next decade, my traveling days
were over.

During this time, I taught Anthropology at Oxford College of
Emory University and was also the Registrar. The Spanish professor
took students on a between semesters study-tour course to somewhere
in the Spanish speaking world. These courses were so popular that
he needed an assistant. I joined him in his 1978-79 travel to
Colombia. The Gold Museum in Bogotá was spectacular. The next year,
I accompanied the professor and students to Guatemala, where I
climbed the monumental pyramids of Tikal. During this trip, I was
also running for election as mayor of Oxford and, on the day of the
election, I could not even vote because I was in Sandinista
controlled Nicaragua. My wife led my campaign and, in absentia, I
lost by 17 votes. I did add three countries to my travel list,
including Honduras. Over the years I went back to Guatemala and to
Spain several times. Back in the saddle again, I rode mules up and
down the mountains of South America and I was on the travel wagon

The most fortuitous event came with my change in position to run
Emory’s alumni program on the Atlanta campus. With this territory
came the Alumni Travel Program. The person who developed this
program came to report to me that the first trip of this new travel
season was to Kenya. I asked if she had assigned a university
figure to accompany this trip. Guess who I suggested? It was my
first trip back to Kenya in 18 years. My wife, who had heard about
Kenya ad nauseum, got to see it first hand. The trip included a
balloon ride over Masai Mara and we were put up in the penthouse
suite of the Nairobi Hilton.

Over the decade I did this alumni work, I traveled with many
alumni to Russia, the Danube, Canary Islands, Greece and Turkey and
Italy. Any travel tour creates a bond amongst the particular group
of travelers. Travel becomes very personal and people oriented.
The almost misses in airports, the crash landing of hot air
balloons, the hotel not ready for us, the great meal served three
hours late – all help form lasting bonds.

I met Joanne Trammel in Chicago in 1962. Her grandmother was a
friend in Twin City. There I was for the first time in the windy
city and being taken care of by local folks. On the return trip to
Kenya, I spent a day at the Outspan Hotel with my old boss, Joseph
Ndegerege, and time with my white Kenyan friend, son of the
colonial doctor, Peter Paterson, at his family’s estate. On a
return trip to Russia, I met up in St. Petersburg with a ship
telegraph operator from an earlier visit. My last trip to Greece
and Turkey landed me with two old friends from my youth in
Nairobi. Maria Papadopoulos and Asyegul Terem were the daughters
of the Ambassadors of Greece and Turkey during my Nairobi years.
What is next for this stranded Garfield traveler?

Jack Atkinson can be reached at [email protected] or
Box 72, Garfield, GA 30425

© 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Stock Market News for August 30, 2011

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The Greek bank deal, lower than expected damage from hurricane Irene, and an encouraging consumer spending report, combined together to push the benchmarks significantly higher on Monday. However, volumes remained low as Irene kept the traders away from the Street. It was the insurers that led the gains after Irene caused less damage than what was feared.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) jumped 2.3% and settled at 11,539.25. The Standard Poor 500 (SP 500) gained 2.8% and closed the day at 1,210.08. The Nasdaq Composite Index surged 3.3% and wrapped up at 2,562.11. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) plunged 9.3%. The day was marred by low volumes as commuters failed to travel to trading stations as the tropical storm Irene kept them away from work. On the New York Stock Exchange, consolidated volumes were 3.6 billion, significantly lower than this year’s average of 4.4 billion. This was also the lowest level recorded since July 26.

Though Irene disrupted public transport and left Wall Street understaffed, the hurricane failed to hit the markets as the damage was lesser than what had been previously expected. Consulting firm Kinetic Analysis Corp reduced its estimate of the damage caused by the storm to $7 billion late Sunday from the previously expected $20 billion. Accordingly, insurers will now have to cover up $3 billion, which is far lesser than what they had to shell out in 2003 in the wake of Hurricane Isabel.

Meanwhile, insurers got a breather when it became clear that they would have to pay smaller amounts as cover charges post hurricane Irene. Among the gainers for this sector were The Allstate Corporation (NYSE:ALLAnalyst Report), Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. (NYSE:HIGAnalyst Report), The Travelers Companies, Inc. (NYSE:TRVAnalyst Report), American International Group, Inc. (NYSE:AIGAnalyst Report), Selective Insurance Group Inc. (NYSE:SIGISnapshot Report), Hallmark Financial Services Inc. (NASDAQ:HALLSnapshot Report) and CNA Financial Corporation (NYSE:CNASnapshot Report), and they surged 8.5%, 12.9%, 5.1%, 7.5%, 7.5%, 8.5% and 5.0%, respectively. Insurance and banking stocks also registered the highest increase among the 10 industry groups in the SP 500, gaining 4.2%.

The bank deal in Greece upped the momentum further. Two of the nation’s largest lenders, EFG Eurobank Ergasias and Alpha Bank announced their plans to merge and paved the way for creating the largest bank in the country. Greece urgently requires significant measures to tackle its debt concerns and the government urged the lenders to merge and help the nation survive the crisis. US-listed National Bank of Greece SA (NYSE:NBGSnapshot Report) sky rocketed 37.7% following the news, thus contributing to the broader rally.

The consumer spending report also added to the cheer after data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis revealed personal spending had recorded its largest increase in five months in July. Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) or consumer spending climbed 0.8%, ahead of the consensus expectation of a rise of 0.6%. Additionally, “Personal income increased $42.4 billion, or 0.3 percent, and disposable personal income (DPI) increased $32.5 billion, or 0.3 percent, in July

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Adventures by Disney Announces Two New Family Travel Tours – Greece & France!

In addition to the Egyptian Tour that was announced earlier this year, Adventures by Disney has revealed some exciting enhancements to their current tours as well as the addition of two new destinations to their current line-up of family vacations.

The neat thing about Adventures by Disney is that they immerse you and your family in the culture, allowing you to really experience the city hands-on. The activities such as pizza-making at a farm in Italy, playing an art detective at the Louvre or spending a night at a German Castle bring a whole new meaning to family travel and provide a valuable experience for families.

The three featured adventures for 2012 will include:

“Greek Odyssey”
Athens, Santorini and Crete – the adventure starts in Athens where Greek mythology comes to life through moonlight storytelling at the Parthenon and sporting games at the home of the modern Olympics, Panathinaiko Stadium. Discovery continues on the volcanic island of Santorini where kids go feet-first into Greek grape stomping while adults enjoy a wine tasting at Volcan winery. After sailing the azure waters of the Aegean Sea, families travel to Crete and are immersed in mountain culture with local expert-led lessons in Tsatziki cheese making and Greek dancing.

“Pyramids, Pharaohs Ancient Treasures”
Cairo, Aswan, Luxor, the Nile and Sharm El Sheikh – uncover an ancient world of pyramids, mummies and man-made marvels as this expedition kicks off with a camelback tour of the Great Pyramids of Giza and a Nile River cruise to Luxor. Families will be in awe of the architectural wonder of the Sphinx and experience the secrets of Tutankhamen’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings with a Junior Adventurer scavenger hunt at the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. Activities like papyrus making, traditional cooking, and hieroglyphic writing give guests a first-hand view of life in ancient Egypt.

“Esprit de France”
Paris, Normandy and Loire Valley – perfect for families looking to experience the arts, this itinerary features a drawing activity in Monet’s Gardens, a visit to Château du Clos Luce, the last known residence of Leonardo da Vinci, and a private dinner at the Louvre in Paris. A true taste of the French countryside, adventurers learn of the art of brandy-making on the Normandy Cider Route; enjoy a picturesque country bike ride and spend the night in an authentic Château. Guests continue the adventure with visits to Versailles, Mont Saint-Michel monastery, Omaha Beach and a viewing of the Bayeux Tapestry.

The enhanced itineraries for 2012 are as follows:

  • “Discovery Down Under” Australia and Tasmania which will now include a visit to the island of Tasmania featuring a Eucalyptus forest zipline experience, an introduction to traditional cuisine at Kate’s Berry Farm and Meadowbank Winery as well as a visit to the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary to meet the infamous Tasmanian Devil.
  • “Grandiosos Galapagos” Galapagos Island, where more time will be spent discovering the flora and fauna of Darwin’s famous islands with seven nights aboard the Galapagos Explorer cruise ship. Guests will have the opportunity to swim and snorkel with sea lions and penguins and come face to face with giant tortoises.
  • “Cities of Knights and Lights” London and Paris will now feature an exquisite trip to the British Countryside where guests can play British lawn games and receive royal treatment on a privately-guided tour of Windsor Castle.

For more information on Adventures by Disney, visit their website.

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