23 December 2012

The Souks of Marrakech

Marrakech is one the more famous Moroccan cities – an exotic and lively hub of cultures that feels as though time itself, is leaving it behind. At the heart of the city is the Djemaa el Fna square, which plays host to a manic swathe of entertainers, locals and tourists alike. Behind the square however, lies the labyrinthine soul of the city – the souks.




Atmosphere       

                                                                             
This maze-like market will leave you dizzy – this is no exaggeration; the heat of the sun will leave you parched and hungry, so it’s best to set out in the early morning or at dusk. Bearing that in mind, once you’ve embarked on your journey, navigated through the seemingly endless train of beggars of the square and stepped into the souks, there is only one direction in which you will want to head – forward. The narrow lanes of the souks are lined with shops whose wares spill out onto the half-cobbled streets. Above is a make-shift wooden canopy that lends itself to the other-worldly, dimly-lit aesthetic of the place – a welcome break from the tiring midday sun and indeed, an intelligent way of luring customers in with shade.


What can you buy?


The hundreds of specialist shops leave nothing to the imagination, as they stock an almost unimaginably large catalogue of Moroccan ‘specialities’. There are many guides (and opinions), online that all differ, though the general consensus seems to be the same; don’t buy anything unless you have a very good reason for doing so - In times gone by I would imagine that the things on sale were of genuine value and masterfully crafted, however this is no longer the case – everything feels cheap and a true value for money items are few and far between. Many of the items are Chinese imports and sold as ‘authentic’. Buyers beware.


Bartering


Remember, that entering the souks as a tourist, means that the prices of most, if not all items, will magically increase… dramatically. It also, as considered by many of the locals, gives shopkeepers a proverbial ‘license’ to harass you – a common technique used to pressure tourists repeatedly until you give in to parting with your cash (usually more than you’d like to have paid). The bartering itself can have some quite interesting consequences too, for example, if you enter into a negotiation with a seller and don’t agree on a price, you’re likely to receive a murmured ear-bashing in the local tongue!

All that said, my words are not to be misunderstood – Marrakech and the souks are not to be missed. A place with such a stark cultural contrast is an experience everyone should have, even if it does push you beyond the limits of your comfort zone. There are tourist police operating in the souks and the locals know this, so a firm but polite ‘no thank you’ or two (or three), should suffice.

This post was written by Izzy Gardener on behalf of Heathrow Airport. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of Heathrow Airport. Izzy claims:
Getting to Marrakech couldn’t be any easier – non-direct flights from Aberdeen leave frequently and as it’s difficult to park in this area of Aberdeen, parking facilities at the airport are a welcome stress-reducer. Get your bags packed!

Travel light and enjoy the sights.

19 December 2012

Secret Spots in Melbourne to Have Fun

Melbourne is known for a bunch of tourist attractions – Federation Square, Chinatown and the Greek Precinct, and the Australian Centre for Moving Images (ACMI), just to name a few. However, if you’re looking at real estate in Melbourne or you’re visiting Australia’s cultural capital, you have the option to uncover some of the city’s best kept secrets.



Here are some hidden gems, waiting to be found by those who seek them - beyond Federation Square in Melbourne...


Seamstress/Sweatshop


There’s no shortage of hip, small bars in Melbourne, but this one is tucked away in a small side street, and you’d be pretty lucky to stumble across it accidentally. Downstairs is the bar – Sweatshop, and above it, the restaurant – Seamstress. Though the names sound a little shady, the food and beverages served there are anything but. Sweatshop has an impressive range of cocktails, and Seamstress changes its menu seasonally. Check out the website for a full menu.


Seamstress is perfect for a nice meal with a bit of a grungy atmosphere, while Sweatshop is the place to go if you want to grab a quick drink and impress your friends.


Local Shop


It’s always good to shop local, and there’s nowhere more local than the Local Shop in Northcote, Melbourne. Populated with gorgeous handcrafted goods and one-of-a-kind trinkets, Local Shop is sure to please thrift-shoppers and those who love having unique items. It’s a good stop-off if you’re looking to decorate your new real estate venture, or find a quirky gift for a friend. The shop is always filled with sweet-smelling bouquets of local flowers, which are also for sale, so you could end up walking out with a hand-stitched tea cosy and a bright floral arrangement. Who doesn’t love the sound of that?


Blackhearts & Sparrows


For the sophisticated wine lovers out there who know about tannins and noses, or those who are just casual fans, there is Blackhearts & Sparrows, Wine Purveyors. They have stores in East Brunswick and Windsor, but their main store is located in North Fitzroy with welcoming, wooden farm doors. The store has a recommendations board, written by the staff and based on the wines they drank the previous week. The staff are very friendly in person as well, and are more than happy to advise you on your wine purchase, or let you sample their wares. Whether you are a seasoned lover of wine, or just want to know more, Blackhearts & Sparrows is a treasure trove of knowledge and wine.


Grub Food Van and Grub Hole


If it’s coffee and a bit of food you’re after, look no further than the Grub Food Van. Unlike most food vans, this one is stationary and only operates during the summer months. It’s parked next to the Grub Hole, whose décor is kitschy but homely, and unlike its van counterpart, is open through the colder months as well. Stop by for a hearty meal and a lovely cuppa; the menu changes frequently, so you’ll have to head on over to see what they have in store – but rest assured, it’s well worth the trip.
Weekend nights, the Grub Hole turns into a bar where you can pick your poison until fairly late. Like the menu, the café/bar’s opening hours are subject to change, so be sure to check out the website to avoid disappointment.


Laneways


This isn’t necessarily a secret, but being scattered about the city rather than one destination, the Melbourne Laneways can get overlooked and only visited as an afterthought on the way to somewhere else. But these are so much more than just cracks between the buildings; the laneways and arcades have been refurbished to showcase the local artistic talent, and gives a whole new meaning to street art. It’s definitely worth setting aside some time dedicated to walking around the Melbourne Laneways to check out the local talent. Don’t forget to bring your camera!


These are just a few of the secret treasures Melbourne has to offer. The real pleasure comes in stumbling upon a gem of your own. Don’t be afraid to take a wander around the city – you never know what you might find!




Alicia Moore is a Melbournite at heart and a realtor by profession. Currently, she’s looking for real estate in the western suburbs of Melbourne – to see what she’s considering.

18 December 2012

The Windiest Travel Destinations On Earth

The windiest place on Earth is Cape Dennison at Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica, where winds can exceed 150mph. Obviously, Antarctica isn't everyone's first choice of travel destination and there are a selection of other locations dotted around the globe that, for certain reasons, feature an incredibly wild climate, making them popular with some whilst others travel there to merely test themselves against some of the world's most brutal weather conditions.


Wellington, New Zealand

Wellington is the southernmost capital of the world and its location prompts it to be known as arguably the windiest city as well. With winds reaching speeds of 40 knots, the winds can be challenging and a massive nuisance to those looking to visit. The location of the city doesn't help and is known to sit on a River of Wind, a large corridor of wind where the speed is known to severely pick up at certain times of the year. In spite of all this, Wellington is constantly seen as one of the most popular travel destinations around.

Punta Arenas, Chile

Translated as 'Sandy Point', Punta Arenas is found in the Chilean/Antarctic region in South America, not too far away from the windy conditions of Rio Gallegos. Chile is a popular tourist destination and this city, with winds reaching over 20 mph on a daily basis, is a charming location and one of the only cities to be directly affected by the Ozone layer. Like the majority of the locations down in this part of the world, December is the windiest month of the year whilst June is usually a lot calmer, with winds lower than 15 mph being the fastest.

Rio Gallegos, Argentina

Rio Gallegos' windy conditions are explained by the city's location at the southern tip of Argentina, right at the bottom of the world, not including Antarctica. Though the average wind speed within this windy city is around 20 mph, it's known for some days in this coastal city to see winds of up to 53 knots which equates to about 60 mph; perfect weather for windsurfing perhaps. The winter months usually see the harshest weather conditions and December in particular is known for its brutality with a normal day seeing winds of around 35 mph sweep through the city.

Cape Blanco, United States

The only location on this feature that is situated in the northern hemisphere, Cape Blanco lies on the Pacific coast in Oregon. Whilst it's fairly well kept during the majority of the year, the winter months can play havoc with the western US coast with winds out to sea reaching 125 mph, making windsurfing a real danger due to the rocks off the coast. These winds usually constitute storms and aren't frequent in the location but are certainly a lot faster here than anywhere else in the States. It's an overlooked spot usually but holds many delights for the budding tourist.

Cape Point, South Africa

The South African coast, a haven for windsurfers and those looking for the most scenic beauty on the globe, is situated in the southern hemisphere and can be subject to quite adverse weather conditions. Cape Point at the southern tip of Cape Town has become a tourist attraction for its association as the most southern point of the continent. Studies into the station at Cape Point have shown that about 42% of the wind there blew at more than 8 metres per second. It's a great hiking area and offers some sublime beauty but due to the wind, can be considered dangerous.


Brad Chambers wrote this post on behalf of Sealskinz.com, a leading UK stockist of wind resistant gloves, hats and socks. Brad blogs about sports, travel and can be followed on twitter here.

13 December 2012

Christmas in Madrid: the Heart of Spanish Festivity

The festive season in the Spanish capital is saturated with Christmas cheer and that elusive holiday spirit. There’s nothing better than wandering through the light adorned streets with the hum of happy, chattering families and stores brimming with tempting treats.

Here is a tiny taster of Christmas the Spanish way and what you should expect if you are planning to party with the Madrilenos over the winter season. 

Christmas Sweets


Classic Christmas food in Spain is made up of hunks of delicious steaming meats, fresh fish dishes and generous sides but the festive frivolity really seeps in with the sweet treats. Spanish Christmas sweets are unparalleled pieces of sugary heaven. There is a plethora of syrupy delights, which include a variety of nougats, marzipans and crumbly, moreish things. No hamper is complete without dates (datiles), walnuts (nueces), turron (almond flavoured nougat) and mandarins (mandarinas).


Christmas Markets in Madrid


The main Christmas market each year in Madrid is in Plaza Mayor. It officially opens in the first week of December and the abundantly laden stalls sell all sorts of nibbles, drink, arts, crafts and really a whole host of delightful Christmas bits and bobs.



If you are planning on a good old shopping binge while you are away, being surrounded by all the new markets and shops, you might want to consider getting some insurance. Don’t forget to compare travel insurance prices just like you would when on anything else while shopping.

The Show to start Christmas


In Madrid, apparently, Christmas officially begins on December 15 and to celebrate this joyous occasion there is a magical show in Plaza de Oriente (Metro Opera) at 8pm, which shouldn’t be missed on account of its festive exuberance.


Ice Rinks


For the past two years there has been an outdoor ice rink in the Retiro Park and the tradition is sure to continue. Set in the luscious gardens of the Parque del Buen Retiro, which is scattered with marble monuments, landscape lawns, stretching pathways and unusually beautiful buildings, is the huge ice skating rink. You will feel like you are ice-skating with royalty as the regal buildings and snow dusted trees over look the rink. If you are planning on paying this a visit it might again be a wise idea to purchase travel insurance to Europe for you and the family. Absolutely no one wants to be spending their hard saved holiday money on expensive hospital bills abroad. 
 

Christmas Lights


The whole of Madrid is generously blanketed in dazzling lights however, having said that, the most spectacular displays will be on Gran Via and of course the department stores in Sol, which always make a gargantuan effort with sparkles.

Nativity Scenes


Unfortunately not so popular in the UK, the nativity scenes, called Belenes, are carefully placed throughout the city and instil the very essence of Christmas into the streets. The town council's nativity scene will be in Plaza de la Villa, which is possibly one of the grander scenes. 

Christmas Eve for Kids


On Christmas Eve there is a wonderful animal parade in Retiro Park, which even the tiniest tots will enjoy and the atmosphere is utterly jovial. 

Three Kings Procession


The Three Kings day is just as big as Christmas in Madrid and warrants special consideration. On the evening of January 5th, Noches de Reyes, thousands of children, parents and friends gather to watch the cabalgata (parade) where giant colourful floats, music and dancing light up the streets. Riders scatter handfuls of shiny sweets as they pass and the atmosphere is full of effervescent anticipation. The following day is the day of the kings and traditionally families group for hearty feasts and present giving.

09 December 2012

Great Places to Take the Kids in London this Christmas

For kids, Christmas is the most magical time of the year: the time Father Christmas comes with his reindeer to deliver gifts to all those lucky enough to be on the ‘good list’.  As the days count down their thoughts turn to all these wonderful gifts beneath the tree and their excitement can barely be contained. So what to do if you’ve got a house full of excited kids and need to get out? Well, thankfully, there’s plenty going on in London this Christmas season to keep them occupied.

Panto

The traditional Christmas pantomime is a must for the young and old alike. It’s a uniquely British tradition and despite being called old hat by some, each year theatres up and down the country put on spectacular new shows sure to keep the kids entertained for hours. Even after all these years, we all still love to shout ‘he’s behind you!’ and have a good old sing-song with some strictly Z-list celebrities.

Ice Skating


Lots of temporary outdoor rinks are put up especially for the festive season in London at such stunning venues as the Natural History museum and Somerset House, as well as the many permanent ones already here.  There’s nothing quite like taking to the ice to show off your skating skills and in many cases making a mess of it. Ice skating really is a truly magical Christmas experience you’ll remember long after the bruises have disappeared!

Kempton

The world-famous Kempton racecourse may not be the first place you think of when it comes to Christmas but with reindeer racing and lots of other Christmas activities on this festive season it’s sure to be a hit with both parents and kids alike. Conveniently located just outside of the hustle and bustle of central London, Kempton boasts excellent food and drink set in gorgeous countryside surroundings and with a little bit of luck, some snow to set the whole scene off.

Santa’s Grotto

If your kids are still young (and lucky) enough to be brought gifts from Father Christmas then there’s not much better than seeing the man himself in person. His elves guide you through Santa’s magical grotto where the children get to sit on Santa’s knee, make their wishes and, most importantly, get photographic proof that they’ve met the man in red. There are lots of grottos around London with major department stores such as Harrod’s taking part in the festive cheer.


Shauna Price is a mummy blogger that loves to take her kids to new and exciting places, especially over Christmas.

06 December 2012

Deira - Historic & Cultural Dubai

Deira - The historic & cultural community of Dubai


Deira is the historic neighbourhood of Dubai and a showplace of the United Arab Emirates. The venue is outlined by the Persian Gulf and the Emirate of Sharjah. It falls on the east side of Dubai Creek and opposite to Bur Dubai, which is renowned for its modern architecture, commercial centres, lavish business zones and ornate homes. On the contrary, Deira is known for its old town area, narrow streets, traditional courtyard houses, historic trading areas and trademark souks and is frequented by tourists from all over the world.



The area features numerous upscale restaurants, smaller shops and modern retail stores making traveling to Deira Dubai, a colourful and memorable experience. If you’re already thinking about paying it a visit, then the following post is for you as it explains detailed information about Deira Dubai – from how you can get there to things to do in Deira, you will find everything here. 
 
How to get there

Deira Dubai is at a short drive from Dubai International Airport and Deira Abra train station. Not to worry, if you do not want to hail a taxi, as you can catch a bus from the airport or ride the metro to Union Station. You can also take a water bus to Al Sabkha Marine Transport Station if you like and check out the creek.
 
Where to stay

Deira offers a number of accommodation options from upscale to budget and mid-range hotels including Sandras Inn and Rafee Hotel, respectively. To save your budget for sight seeing and traveling, I suggest you pick an economical hotel. If you have no budget constraints then you can go for other centrally located and upscale hotels like Sheraton Deira Hotel, Crowne Plaza Dubai, Deira, Radisson Blu Deira Creek and Desert Palm Resort. Other than hotels, Deira also features short stay apartments and serviced apartment hotels such as the chic Al Jawhara Hotel Apartments.

Things to do in Deira

Deira Dubai contains a plethora of traditional and modern souks and shops offering everything from gold to spices. One can say that shopping is the biggest attraction of Deira. Other than shopping, you can find several small cafes along the narrow streets that usually remain open from early morning to early evening. To avoid the scorching heat of Dubai during the day, you stay indoors or visit Deira City Centre Shopping Mall featuring branded shops along with traditional ones, several restaurants and a cinema.
 
To enjoy everything in a traditional way, you can also opt for camel racing, desert dune buggy rides and water taxi ride across Dubai Creek. At Al Nasr Leisureland, you can enjoy ice skating. A must visit picnic and barbeque spot in Deira is its public beach at Al Mamzar Park. Nightlife is Deira vibrant a good time to go out on the streets to shop and to hangout.
 
The attractions are

To epitomize the modern Middle Eastern architecture, you’d find many modern buildings amongst older structure sand traditional mosques in Deira. For example, Etisalat Telecommunications building, the twinkling glass National Bank of Dubai building and the promenade or Corniche by the British Embassy, all of them offer a slice of the modern architecture on the skyline of Deira. Dhow Wharfage at Port Saeed is the most notable attraction of Deira. Across the Creek, lies the historic Bastakia district with its ancient forts and wind towers and the Sheikh Saeed Al Makhtoum House, which is now a history museum.

Other than these, the area features numerous shopping, dinning and entertainment options that you will surely enjoy.

This post has been written by Julie Robert, she has wide knowledge of Dubai real estate, Dubai Properties and Dubai Agents.

Holiday Destinations in December

One way to mark the end of a year and get recharged and ready for the next one is by indulging yourself in a little (or large) December vacation. It’s the perfect Christmas treat for your family or a way to escape with a group of friends, and with so many great destinations on offer there’s a place just right for you, whatever you’re into. Here are some picks to get you started.


Egypt

There are many great holiday destinations throughout Egypt, which will allow you to choose from a trip spent with total relaxation or one that involves seeing some fantastic ancient sites. A week or two in the traditional tourist destination of Sharm el-Sheikh, where average temperatures in December reach a high of almost 25C, will allow you to develop a great tan. Meanwhile, Cairo offers all the wonders of ancient Egypt within easy distance.

Hit the Slopes

But for a true adventure holiday you should grab your skis or snowboard – or anything else you might want to travel on down the slopes – and head to one of the great European skiing destinations. The Arlberg Ski Circus in Austria is one of the largest ski areas in Europe, catering for everyone from experts to complete beginners. Only the stoniest of hearts would fail to feel a bit of the Christmas magic they felt as a child in such picturesque settings.

How About a Little Further Afield? Goa Perhaps?

If the thought of having to wrap up warm for winter feels too much like staying at home, and you’re looking for something stronger than the Egyptian sun to get you hot under the collar, how about the Indian tourist hotspot of Goa? While temperatures get below freezing back at home you’ll just be worrying about reapplying the sun-tan lotion on some gorgeous beaches as temperatures hover above 30C.

Escape the Humdrum of the UK

There’s no better time to escape than December, when Britain experiences its darkest days of the year. A holiday to a beautiful destination abroad can leave you feeling revitalised, whether from having some much deserved me-time relaxing next to the sea or getting the blood well and truly flowing on an adventure holiday. What's more, if you plan it well, you can escape the manic lead up to Christmas but actually make it back for the good part of December - the festivities of Christmas!


Thanks to Jane Firston for this post. Jane writes on behalf of Travelbag.co.uk and loves nothing more than travelling abroad during the winter season.

04 December 2012

A Costa Rican Getaway Will End Your Winter Blues

As the year begins to draw to a rapid close and the weather turns consistently cooler, our minds may begin to wander. For those living in areas that are known for harsher temperatures, thoughts of warm destinations may come to mind. We have the ability to travel to many warmer locations in a variety of different ways. Some of us may choose to drive or even fly to the warmer regions. Those who want to look outside the boarders though may choose to travel to other regions of the world including Central America.  This region can be accessed by flights or even cruise ships depending on the traveler’s preference. For those who are looking to spice up their typical vacations a variety of destinations beckon. An example would be a Costa Rica adventure.


Geographic Location

The location of Costa Rica is what makes it such a popular vacation destination. This Central American nation has a mix of boarders. To the north you will find the country of Nicaragua. To the southeast you find the nation of Panama. The boarders don’t stop there though. For those looking for a large body of water to relax by you have two choices. In the north you will find the Caribbean Sea. Heading south you will find the Northern Pacific Ocean.  Now that we have the location established let’s look into another topic that may weigh on your mind, the weather. As with any location this variable can change on daily basis. Typically though most of the island sees its dry season arrive for the winter months. There is however some areas that will see the rainy season move in during this time of year.  The temperatures can vary depending on which part of the country you are in, however they are certainly warmer than those found in most of the United States during the winter. These two factors lead to the winter months being the high season for Costa Rica’s tourism industry.

Start Planning Your Trip

Are you interested in joining the high season and escaping the colder temperatures? Awesome! Once you have your international travel documents sorted out and find a place to stay your attention can turn to the more fun side of your vacation. What are you going to do while in country? As with any tourism destination this question can be answered in a variety of different ways. There are plenty of opportunities for those who want a calm, peaceful vacation.

The same can be said for those who want to add a little spice to their trip. Do you find yourself in this category? Perfect! A Costa Rica adventure may be just the ticket you are looking for. This type of vacation can include things like a canopy tour or even an ATV tour or a 4x4 UTV tour.  No matter what your ideal version of a vacation is, make sure you do your research and above all enjoy your trip.


Stephen Craig is a part of an elite team of writers who have contributed to hundreds of blogs and news sites. Follow him @SCraigSEO.

02 December 2012

Christmas Shopping in Victoria British Columbia

Christmas Shopping in Victoria

Work had been horrendous the past two weeks, and I needed a break. Specifically, I needed to go shopping. So I combined the two concepts, and snuck up from Seattle for a weekend in Victoria BC, to explore the shops for Christmas presents. Was that ever a great idea!

I had stayed at a wonderful family hotel in Victoria before, and they were glad to hook me up with a room for a couple of nights. I needed to unwind first, so I spent a long time soaking in the hot tub at the hotel, followed by a wonderful dinner. Having slept really well and already much refreshed, I was ready to explore Christmas shopping in Victoria. The staff’s suggestion for shopping nearby had been Uptown Mall, but I could find those in Seattle, and I wanted to experience local stores if possible.

Christmas in Victoria




To enjoy a Victoria Christmas, Lauren at the hotel had enthusiastically told me that Government Street downtown was the place to be. She said it had lots of small and quaint shops, souvenir places, gift shops, and even a Christmas store. I took the short bus ride to Government Street, a narrow, quaint street with tons of personality. There were stately red and tan brick buildings fronted by wide cobblestone sidewalks, with lots of trees, and people walking around or seated at tables outside restaurants. It felt like streets in Tribeca, when we visited New York City. There was just a really delightful energy, and everyone looked contented and like they would have a happy Christmas in Victoria BC.

I started exploring around 11 AM to get the lay of the land, but soon my stomach signaled I needed food. I stopped off at Bard & Banker for some really tasty fish and chips. I didn’t want to take long on lunch – I was having too much fun. I walked quickly past Roger’s Chocolates, lest I get distracted, but just south of View Street I ran across Old Morris Tobacconists. I wanted to find a pipe for Uncle Eugene, but looking at the extensive selection, I quickly realized that I didn’t know what kind of pipe to choose. The helpful staff asked me a few questions about his smoking habits, and quickly put me onto a custom blended pipe tobacco they said he would like very much. I had made my most difficult purchase for Christmas, in Victoria.

I walked outside, and two doors down was Munro’s Books, housed in an old building just bursting with class and atmosphere – a white stone exterior framed by tall columns, heavy brass lamps and murals on the walls inside. A clerk told me the building was a bank in the early 1900s, and carried over 35,000 books. Just walking the aisles was relaxing. I made a mental note to watch the time – but it was difficult while surrounded by all those fine books. Then I found a hardcover copy of Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls that I knew would delight my husband. Score!

Ten Thousand Villages. A sign said handcrafted products from around the world, and I knew this was my kind of place. The wonderful staff told me that being in their store was like a trip around the world, and that they sold artisan crafted personal accessories, home décor items and gifts. They offered me a coffee to sample before I visited the Rug Room. I glanced at my watch, and saw that it was now 5 PM. I was tired and knew I had lots more to explore as I was shopping for Christmas in Victoria. I hadn’t even made it to the Christmas store yet.

I came home to the hotel that night tired, yet renewed, and excited about tomorrow’s adventure Christmas shopping in Victoria – straight back to Government Street for me. I already knew that when I was done, I would reward myself with a stop at Roger’s Chocolates.

Carol Atkins has been traveling the globe for much of her life. She loves of all types of travel adventures including island hopping, hiking, cruising and being lazy on the beach :). She plans on spending next Christmas in Victoria, BC. Follow her on twitter @atkins_carol

27 November 2012

Reducing The Cost Of Your Holiday

Reducing The Cost Of Your Holiday Is Not An Urban Legend!

Travelling is becoming an increasingly expensive activity, especially given the fact that the cost of fuel and other similar commodities is going up. For the average tourist, this means that one has to try to find ways of reducing the cost of travelling in order to avoid having to spend too much money on the same.



Fortunately, this is not very difficult to do. You can easily ensure that you do not end up having an expensive trip, while still making sure that it is more than worthwhile in the end. Well, it can be said that you will only need to think about a few issues such as:

Doing your bookings early

The greater majority of institutions such as hotels will give you a discount if you book for them early. You can take advantage of this to reduce the chances of having to pay too much for things such as accommodation and travel. Of course, this means that you have to be very sure about when you are travelling so that you do not end up paying for such services and then finding out that you cannot use them after all.
Staying with friends and family

If you are going to visit a new area where your friends and family members are, you can also try to stay with them. This is usually much cheaper than staying in a hotel, and is sometimes more comfortable as well. Of course, you need to conform to the social norms when you decide to do this. For instance, you should try to find out if they can accommodate you in advance; simply showing up is normally not in good taste. It may also be a good idea to give information about details such as how long you are going to stay, and how many there are in your party. This will make it much easier for the other family to know what to expect.

Comparing services from different providers

The ultimate way to save when travelling is by making sure that you compare the rates provided by different service providers, and then picking the cheapest. For instance, if you are looking for a car you can hire, you need to go through listings to find out which companies can provide such a service, and then pick the one that seems to be most affordable. Granted, this is a process that takes time, even if you are doing it online. However, there are many times when you will come across deals so good that having to go through such motions will be well worth it. It is best to do such comparison early, so that you have the time to compare the pros and cons of each so that you can choose the best.

Talk to people in the know

When you are going to visit a new country and are trying to find ways of saving on the cost of the trip, it is normally a good idea to try to find someone who has been there before and then asking them for details on how you can do this. For instance, you can talk to a few friends or family members who have been there before, and they will give you tips on what to do. You could also decide to visit tourism forums online and then pose questions about what you need to know. This is a good way of getting such information since you will be getting it from a large number of people who have a lot of experience.
If possible, use loyalty programs
There are many loyalty programs that you can use to reduce the cost of touring a particular area. For instance, if you have a frequent flyer card that has many miles on it, you can redeem them for an extra ticket and thus save yourself the cost of getting one. Some credit companies will also give you discounts when you use it to pay for different kinds of goods and services, such as hotel accommodation. If yours has this facility, you can use it in this manner to reduce the cost of getting the service.

These are just a few of the ways in which anyone can reduce the cost of visiting a new country. There are many more that you can take advantage of, but the above are particularly potent.


Ryan James is a travel blogger and loves to visit different places. He also shares his experiences of stay in villas. View more Lanzorate villas for rent to have a wonderful travel stay.

24 November 2012

Tokyo, Japan: Future and Past Combined

Enter a world filled with steep ancient traditions and fast pace technology and pop-culture. Tokyo, Japan, is a land mixed with old and new. Japan is one of the leaders in technology. From video games to biomedical research, Japan seems to be a place out of the future. Travelers to Tokyo will be mesmerized one minute by the dazzling bright lights of the city centers and awed the next minute by the beauty of the ancient culture.

Chiyoda

Chiyoda is home to the Imperial Palace where travelers might forget the giant buildings and advanced technology for a moment. The Imperial Palace area is much more country and rural than some other parts of Tokyo. Offering green landscapes and beautiful waters and ancient Japanese architecture, it is something that will let travelers feel close to nature.

Only a little ways away from that peaceful nature of the Imperial Palace is Akihabara in Chiyoda. Akihabara is a technology junkies dream. It has thousands of stores that sell all kinds of gadgets that might seem right out of a science fiction movie.

Chuo

Just like with Chiyoda, Chuo is a place with drastic differences as well. Firstly, travelers to Chuo can check out the Tsukiji Fish Market. The Tsukiji Fish Market is no ordinary market. 1600 stalls line the area, selling many different types of sea creatures. The market is open air, so the creatures are out in the open like a garden of bizarre sea creatures. The area is usually slippery with bloody sea water and the smell of fish and sea water fills the air. It is no place for anyone squeamish.

Also in Chuo but far different than a fish market, is the Ginza. The Ginza means silver mint and with good reason. It is an area filled with expensive fashion and restaurants. The Ginza is definitely the right place for visitors looking for class and culture. It offer high end boutiques, art galleries, and during Christmas, the streets and trees are illuminated with bright lights to captivate viewer.

Shinjuku

Shinjuku is where many luxury hotels reside in Tokyo. It is filled with giant, futuristic skyscrapers and electronic billboards that light up the city at night. However, as with much of the districts in Japan, it also offers wonderful natural beauty. The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is a public garden. During the spring, people travel to this garden to view the beautiful cherry blossoms covering the trees like a pink snow.
Shinjuku is also home to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Center. These two buildings tower above the street, making anyone looking up a little dizzy. However, the real reason to see this building is on the 45th floor. The twin observatories give wonderful views of Tokyo. The breathtaking view of the city will let visitors really compare the ancient beauty and the modern technology of the city.

Shibuya

Shibuya is another area filled with shops and restaurants, but they are not as expensive or high end as in the Ginza. Many younger people like to spend time in Shibuya. It also encompasses Harajuku, the place for young people to show off their fashion. On Sundays, young people go to Harajuku to spend the day. Many of the people are dressed in outrageous fashion. From Gothic Lolita to rockability and everything in between, Japanese youths line the street to hang out with friends and hope that their cutting edge fashion might get them a picture by one of the magazine photographers who also spend time in Harajuku.


 There are many shrines in Japan, but the grandest in Tokyo is the Meiji Shrine in Shibuya. A winding path under a large torii gate leads to this shrine. Many couples choose to get married at the shrine. On New Year’s Eve, the shrine is packed with people to celebrate, many choose to wear traditional kimonos.

Conclusion

Tokyo is definitely a world of old and new. Visiting Tokyo is like visiting the ancient past one minute and then the future the next minute. The mixture of natural and ancient beauty and futuristic technology makes it a place worth experiencing first hand.


This article was written by Kevin Caldwell for www.bricktownokchotels.com who helps travelers find hotels and shopping near Bricktown.

22 November 2012

Super Clubs in Magaluf

When you hear the word ‘Magaluf’, the first image to enter your head is the bright lights and strobes of a packed dance floor. Hardcore clubbers flock from all over the world to dance their holiday away in the world-class clubs situated in Majorca’s liveliest resort. Major DJs such as Judge Jules, Greg James and DJ Sammy frequently storm the club circuit, and it’s this reason Magaluf maintains the status of one of the top places in the world to go clubbing.



Below are three of the super clubs you’re bound to see the big names hitting throughout the summer.

BCM Planet Dance

The four BCM Planet venues are situated in the heart of Magaluf and comprise of the main floor, BCM Millennium and the BCM Boat Party. The hottest DJs in Europe play to explosive light shows, a combination making BCM one of the world’s leading clubs. The main floor is where the action is, where the famous BCM laser show is backed up by an incredible light and sound system. If you are hardcore, you won’t miss out on this venue’s foam parties either.



The Office

The Office is Magaluf's only free entry nightclub and stays open until 6am every night of the week, ensuring no day passes without providing any clubbing action. Here you’ll find massive electro beats and banging house action brought to you by resident DJs, Bobby Garcia and Jay C and Chris E Warin. There are also special nights, including the talents of Rich e Rich, Willow and many more. A great club for all round entertainment.

Boomerang

Boomerang Nightclub can be found along the thumping strip in the heart of Magaluf. Over the decade, Boomerang has grown to be one of the top billed venues in Magaluf, playing host to a wide variety of entertainment including performers, DJs and promoters such as FHM, Shola Ama, Twice As Nice and DJ Spoony.

Magaluf is like an adult’s Disneyland, home to endless bars and clubs, so if you’re a hardcore clubber and want to revel in what this amazing place has to offer, book your flights to Magaluf and don’t look back.
So get your self a great trip to Magaluf and get out there for some hardcore clubbing experinces - see you on the dance floor.


16 November 2012

Luxury Top End Hotels

For every holiday experience and every budget, there is usually a hotel to accommodate. From traditional dwellings, sprawling manors to even underwater marvels, the choice is daunting.

Here are three top end hotels to suit very different requirements:-

For foodies

Wynn Hotel; Las Vegas, USA

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With over 20 bars and restaurants from casual to fine dining to even vegan, the luxury Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas really is a gourmand’s paradise! The range of options runs from sushi to Chinese, steak to seafood – an amazing array of choice for the foodie. Many of its establishments are multiple award winners for both food and design – Wazuzu even has a 27ft-long crystal dragon on the wall! With top chefs preparing your food daily, these gastronomic treats will appeal to any aficionado of food and drink.

Morocco For luxury

Mamounia Hotel; Marrakech, Morocco

After a three year refurbishment, La Mamounia Hotel has reopened as the absolute pinnacle of luxury. Stylish, charming and set in beautiful royal gardens, this palace boasts a fabulous twist of both modern and traditional elements. It is no surprise that Winston Churchill insisted on staying here! Located centrally in the Medina area, it’s worth a visit for a cocktail if your budget precludes you from an actual stay. The hotel also provides several quintessentially Moroccan experiences including guided tours of the city and helicopter rides over the Atlas Mountains. A great hotel that reflects the magical soul of the Red City!

For spa

Evason Hua Hin; Pranburi, Thailand

The Six Senses Earth Spa at the Evason Hua Hin is set in a serene environment around thatched pavilions, calming water pools and lush vegetation.



Offering locally-inspired treatments, the resort brings a new dimension to holistic wellness in a natural eco-friendly environment. Whichever ‘feel-good’ therapy you choose, you will leave feeling revitalised and rejuvenated. Spend a day or a week; you will leave on cloud nine having experienced relaxation at its best! Bliss!

13 November 2012

Magayon Festival

On of the most interesting and fabulous festivals in the Philippines has to be the Magayon Festival.  This popular festival is held once a year in May, in the Bicol region of The Philippines.  The name of the festival comes from the Bicolano word “magayon” which means “beautiful.” This festival really is a festival of “beauty” as we will explain later about the beauty pageant that is held in this festival. This celebration is commemorated in honor of Nuestra Señora de la Porteria, the patron saint of Daraga and aims to celebrate the historical, religious and cultural life of the people in Daraga, Albay.

Magayon Festival is recognized as the oldest festival in The Philippines and features cultural events, dances, sports and business trade fairs. This is a great avenue for promoting the local products and attractions found in Albay as well as enriching the culture of the people in the city. If ever you're lucky enough to visit the Magayon Festival be sure to bring back some gifts for your family and friends as there is always some great items on display during the festival. One of the highlights of the festival is the reenactment of the tragic love story of the beautiful maiden named Daragang Magayon and her lover Panganoron.  According to the legend, their tragic death gave birth to the volcano in Albay called “Mount Mayon”.

The Legend of Mount Mayon

The legend of Mount Mayon plays a very important part in the celebration of Magayon Festival.  It talks about a tragic love story of the most beautiful maiden of her time in the Kabikolan named Daragang Magayon and Panganoron, a tagalog warrior.  According to the legend, their fate ended in the death of both the star-crossed lovers hence giving birth to Mayon Volcano.   Also, the legend continues by telling us that the clouds and the rains that often visit the volcano is believed to be the spirit of Panganoron.  The rolling rocks and scary sound of the earthquake is believed to be the spirit of Paratuga, the jealous and selfish suitor of Daragang Magayon.

Magayon Festival easily Albay’s most important festivity and the locals invite tourists both local and international to explore the beauty, mystery and magic the city of Albay brings.  The festival has more than 100 events featuring arts, culture, food, sports and trade. Not to mention the natural attractions in and surrounding the city like the majestic Mount Mayon and the Casgawa Ruins.

Among the newest additions of the event is the dramatization of the legend of Mount Mayon by famous actors and actresses.  The festivity highlights the beauty pageant for the “Mutya ng Magayon Festival” where you can find the most beautiful ladies in the city. The contest is also often hosted by popular actors and hosts from the Philippine movie industry.  Another highlight is the selection of Ginoong Magayon Festival which is the endless display of handsome male candidates all competing for the title.  The winner of Ginoong Magayon is often paired with Mutya ng Magayon; the two winners are then paraded during the opening ceremonies of the festivity. It is a great honour to win either one of these beauty pageant’s in the Bicol region of The Philippines

Filipinos will never leave behind the celebration of cultures and traditions regardless of the onslaught of technology and modernity nowadays.  These events show how the Filipinos love and preserve their culture, and at the same time, embracing the progressive modernity of the world. This great mix is why The Philippines is such a beautiful and amazing place to visit.

I write about travel related things including hotels, festivals, culture and attractuions all over the world. Check out my blog for more great articles

17 October 2012

Tallin - A Jump Back in Time

The charm of Tallinn is a city projected into the future, but animated by an ancient heart. The largest historic district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a dip into the Middle Ages. The towers and walls two kilometers of guard houses with red roofs, pointed, cobbled streets, wrought iron street lamps, the atmosphere of centuries. In the large central square Raekoja Plats, or Town Hall Square, overlooking the Gothic Town Hall and Municipal Pharmacy, which boasts the world record for longevity (opened since 1422) and preserves one-room museum with furnishings and objects from the early days .


 The square is a bit 'the living city, especially lively in the summer when it is filled with tables of bars and restaurants. Among these is the Kaerajaan, where the table is the modern Estonian cuisine, which revisits the tradition experimenting with new combinations, as well as in neighboring Restoran Ribe where the menu is sophisticated and great service. Just around the corner of the square you can find the most popular restaurant for tourists in search of ancient atmospheres and flavors, the Olde Hansa. From the inner penumbra, the light of candles emerge wooden tables around which roam hostesses dressed as eight centuries ago and some (fake) monaco wrapped in sackcloth. The beer flows freely to accompany sausages bear, wild boar, moose and rabbit roast, smoked salmon.

Other restaurants of note are Cafe Boulevard and Senso which claims that with a Mediterranean feel, the variety in the menu is as astonishing as the prices.  These two restaurants can be found at the Hotel Olümpia which is one of two Radisson Blu hotels in Tallinn

29 September 2012

Go to Ko Samui

Ko Samui is located in the Gulf of Thailand, about 84 kilometres from the east of Surat Thani and about 700 kilometres from the south of Bangkok.



It is one of the most famous and popular attractions of Thailand, with an area of ​​247 square kilometres, Ko Samui is the third largest island of Thailand after Phuket and Ko Chang.   The topography of the island is that of a plain with a mountain in the middle and seven important rivers that descend from it.  

Easy to explore, it is served by a wide paved road, 50 km long, which makes possible the entire circumnavigation of the island.   Moreover, the territory of Ko Samui extends to a group of 48 surrounding islets. Despite the rapid pace of development, Ko Samui has been able to maintain its charm and its image of a classic tropical paradise of beaches magically surrounded by coconut trees. 

It is a destination able to accommodate all types of travellers, ideal both for those who love nature and the relaxation of the sea and for those looking for vibrant nightlife. There are quiet and less touristy areas, where fishing villages are and you can discover the wild coasts with nesting seagulls and other rare birds. To get to Koh Samui airport you can fly directly to Samui, located in the northern part of the island or you can arrive by boat or ferry from Surat Thani or Don Sak to the port of Nathong-Lipa Noi.    

What to do in Ko Samui?

Hat Chaweng (hat means beach) and Hat Lamai are the most beautiful and popular beaches of Ko Samui. Located along the east coast of the island, they both have a great selection of accommodations suitable for every budget. Prices increase during the high season, from December to July, when Ko Samui became a glittering tourist destination. The nightlife of each beach is different: Hat Chaweng is better for couples, women and families, but it is a very crowded place in high season and in Hat Lamai frequents are bars and nightclubs. These resorts, as well as Na Thon (Nathong, Samui's main town), are the most equipped shops, bureaux de change, car/motorbike and all you need for a perfect holiday.   Other good beaches run along the northern edge of the island: every day you can try new places and discover beautiful and unspoiled places. On the northern side, with views towards the island of Ko Pha-Ngan, there are the quiet beaches of Maenam and Bophut (Bo Put), while near the Airport (Samui International) is the beach called "Big Buddha" (Bangrak) dominated by a huge statue of a seated Buddha 12 meters high. Slightly further is the beach of Choeng Mon with the small nearby island of Koh Fan Noi. Another beach worth mentioning is that of Laem Set, and the nearby Wat Laem Sor, a spectacular temple, and nearby are the Na Muang waterfalls that are spectacular especially at the end of the rainy season, between November and December. The interior of the island is rich in forests and mountains.  

Excursions are organized to explore the interior also on the back of an elephant. Among the many attractions of Ko Samui is the fishing village of Hua Thanon, the Samui Aquarium & Zoo and the spectacle of the monkeys at the Monkey Show at the village of Bohput. Apart from its many beautiful beaches and bays, Ko Samui is also known for its high quality coconuts that grow densely everywhere.    

The best time to visit Ko Samui is from February to April, when the sea is calm and can enjoy snorkelling and diving among rich depths of colour and life. It would be a shame to go to Thailand without visiting the island of Koh Samui, the third largest in the country.   The first thing you notice and remember when you visit Koh Samui is the enormous amount of coconut trees and beach, even on the hills. In fact, they represent the main source of income. Entering the island you will discover unique landscapes and views.   So, if you decide to rent a villa in thailand choose a koh samui villa resort: it will be ideal for you!

01 March 2012

Top Things to Do in New York City

Guest post from Megan Gates who is an active blogger who provides written work to the blogosphere pertaining to Elliman.com, Hamptons Homes for Sale, home improvement and the latest architecture, design, fashion and travel. Follow her on twitter @MEGatesDesign.

It seems that everyone wants to travel to the Big Apple and breathe in the excitement and cosmopolitan atmosphere of this city. And who can blame them? New York is one of the most exciting cities in the entire world and its siren song attracts visitors from every corner of the globe. Unfortunately, once these visitors arrive in this city they often don't have the slightest idea of where to begin.



New York is a big city that is also one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the entire world. It also has thousands of restaurants, shops and attractions that are crammed into an area of just 500 square miles. This makes it easy for the first-time visitor to lose their bearings and miss out on some of the more spectacular attractions the city has to offer. That doesn't have to be the case, however. With a little planning, and perhaps a little help, the first-time visitor can hit all of the prime attractions of the city without feeling like they missed out on something

With that purpose in mind we have compiled the must-see attractions that visitors to New York absolutely must-see. These attractions are the best of what the city has to offer and will leave the first-time visitor with the feeling that they got the true essence of the city.

Empire State Building

One of the most popular attractions in New York City is the Empire State Building. This 102-story building is considered to be the cultural icon of the city and is visited by over 111 million people since it was erected. It was built in 1931 and is considered to be one of the finest examples of art deco architecture in the world.

Visitors can take in a breathtaking view of the city from one of its main observation decks. The observation decks are open 7 days a week from 8 am-2 am and are only closed for a few hours for maintenance and cleaning. This allows visitors to take in a panoramic view of the city both during the day and at night. Admission price is about $22 for adults and $16 for children over the age of 5. Children under the age of 5 get in for free.

American Museum Of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is one of the most celebrated, and certainly the largest museum in the entire world. This museum was built in 1869 and is located directly across from Central Park. It contains a gigantic collection of over 30 million specimens spread out over 26 inter-connected buildings. These exhibits cover a wide diversity of subjects on everything from space exploration and weather sciences to plants and animals.

The American Museum Of Natural History is open every day from 10 am-6 pm daily with the only exceptions being Thanksgiving and Christmas when the museum is closed. Tickets are $19 for adults, $14.50 for seniors and $10.50 for children.

Central Park

Central Park is the flagship of New York's public park system and covers an area of 843 acres. It is known as the ultimate man-made oasis in the center of Manhattan and contains beautiful trees, peaceful streams and beautiful walking trails. It also contains a fine assortment of amenities which include the Central Park Zoo, Shakespearean plays hosted at Delacorte Theater and free performing arts festivals at SummerStage.

Staten Island Ferry

Most first-time visitors to New York consider the Staten Island Ferry to be just a form of transportation from Lower Manhattan to Staten Island, but it is actually an attraction in and of itself. This ferry is the perfect location to enjoy a fabulous view of the Statue of Liberty and the New York Harbor. This ferry runs 24 hours a day, which allows visitors to see the city and the harbor lit up at night. As an added bonus, the Staten Island Ferry serves beer until midnight and there has been no fare to ride this ferry since 1997.

Grimaldi's Pizzeria

Grimaldi's Pizzeria isn't just a pizzeria, it is a New York institution. It is located by the Brooklyn Bridge and is known for its authentic New York Style pizza that is coal-fired in a brick oven. It is a pizzeria that is well loved by residents of the Big Apple, including famous ones such as former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani and singer Frank Sinatra.

The Lower East Side

Anyone wanting to get a taste of true New York nightlife has to pay a visit to the Lower East Side. This neighborhood, which is bounded by Allen Street and Canal Street, is filled with a wide range of entertainment venues. It contains a number of bars that run the gamut from piano bars and high class lounges to dancing halls and neighborhood dives. It is also home to a number of live music venues such as Mercury Lounge and the Bowery Ballroom. This neighborhood also has a large immigrant population so visitors also have access to some great ethnic grocery stores, bakeries and restaurants.

The Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo has the distinction of being the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States. This zoo covers an area of 265 acres and contains over 4000 animals from 650 different species. Some of the major exhibits at the Bronx Zoo include The World of Birds, World of Reptiles, Monkey World and the Madagascar Exhibit which features exotic wildlife such as the Nile crocodile and the Madagascar hissing cockroach. Tickets to this zoo cost about $17.95 for adults, $16.15 for seniors and $14.35 for children.

Times Square

Times Square is called “The Crossroads of the World” and it is easy to see why that is the case. It is also full with people from around the world and has a number of amazing attractions which include Times Square Studios (current home of ABC's Good Morning America), the Chevrolet Clock, the Bertelsmann Building and the New York Times Tower. It is also home to first rate hotels, restaurants and store fronts. It is one of the most visited attractions in the city and is known for its vibrant and electrically charged atmosphere.

There are still so many things to do and places to visit that are not listed here! Share your favorite New York City tourist spot here!

Family Attractions in Northampton

Northampton has an excellent shopping centre full of quality stores, there are plenty of interesting museums and galleries and the town is packed with great walks and trails to explore. What makes Northampton an ideal place for families is its proximity to great kiddie friendly attractions.
Families on holiday are always on the look out for dynamic, exciting and engaging places where kids are safe and entertained. There are a number of fabulous days out within easy reach of central Northampton that are guaranteed to entertain and wear out the kids.

Welcome to Northampton


In Northampton itself there is the Frank Newhall Look Memorial Park a couple of miles outside the city centre is a world of outdoor adventure, featuring a mini zoo, train, pitch & putt golf course and loads of open spaces to run, explore and have a picnic.

Holden House and Gardens, while having wide open spaces for kids to run and play they also have the falconry centre where they can watch trained birds of pray fly and feed. The site also has a souvenir shop, museum and traditional Victorian tearoom.

Rockingham Castle in Northampton provides all the realism and excitement of a civil war battle during its festival days. The fortifications have over 900 years worth of history to their name and the visitor’s centre brings to life what it was like to live within its sturdy walls.

Wicksteed Park has 147 acres worth of fun for all the family. Wicksteed Park is a theme park with traditional rides like the rollercoaster, log flume and pirate ship. While younger or nervous visitors can enjoy such rides as the ladybird ride, carousel and the dodgems. Adults can also look around the vintage car collection or take pleasant strolls in the beautiful sunken gardens.

Bezerk Leisure Park is Northampton’s large indoor play area, here kids can enjoy climbing, jumping and sliding around the activity centre. There are ball ponds, bouncy castles, slides and climbing frames for them to work out their energies on while parents take a five minute break in the café.

The Splash Leisure Pool in Rushden is an exciting combination of three swimming pools with a beach area, fountains and bubbles, along with a separate flume and splash pool. The complex also has a sauna and a crèche,

Accommodation

Northampton Park Inn hotel by Radisson is a modern centrally located hotel with 146 spacious and well-appointed rooms. Their family friendly restaurant caters for all and there is a health centre with sauna, weights room and swimming pool where the family can have fun together.
“The round Norman Church in Northampton" - Locally this ancient church is known as Holy Sepulchre or St Sepulchre's. But more fondly known as St Seps.

There are ample attractions for all the family in Northampton, whether you like wandering around country houses and their grounds such as Althorp House or the excitement of motor racing at Silverstone. There are also specialist museums like the Canal Museum and designer Charles Rennie Macintosh’s house, 78 Derngate to visit. Northampton definitely has fun for all the family.

23 February 2012

Embrace or escape the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee!

With just over 3 months to go until it’s the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend, a right Royal occasion where possibly the whole country will come together to celebrate the Queen’s 60 year reign through street parties, pageants, concerts and other celebrations. But what should you do if you’re looking to escape this spectacular Royal event? With this in mind we thought we’d take a look at few ways in which you can embrace the occasion or if need be escape it. Take a look at what we’ve come up with and who knows, you maybe planning something completely different over the Diamond Jubilee Weekend!

Head to the capital of all things Royal - London

If you’re a die-hard fan of the Royals, your first port of call to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is to take a trip to our nation’s capital and join in with the various events that are taking place across this rather special weekend (2-5 June 2012) to mark her Coronation that took place on 02 June 1953. On Sunday 2 June 2012, you should definitely head to the banks of the River Thames and reserve your spot to see the magnificent flotilla due to sail up the River at high water to mark the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. Many of you may have heard that a special Jubilee concert will be organised by the BBC and held at Buckingham Palace on Monday 4 June 2012 with stars such as Sir Paul McCartney, Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Elton John, Jessie J and JLS all rumoured to be appearing. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, plus other members of the Royal Family will also be in attendance and a national ballot has been launched whereby 10,000 members of the public will be lucky to receive tickets to the event. Thousands of beacons across the world will also be lit to commemorate The Queen’s 60 year reign. A national Service of Thanksgiving will take place at St Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday 5 June 2012 where again The Queen and other members of the Royal Family will attend. A Prayer, written at the The Queen’s direction by the Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral in honour of the Diamond Jubilee will be used in the Service. Whilst the Service is taking place, perhaps head over to The Mall and again reserve your perfect viewing spot so you can see the majestic Carriage Procession as it returns to Buckingham Palace. It’s fair to say that this weekend of celebrations will suit any fan of the Royals! 


Explore Scotland – the Queen’s second home

Should you be in Scotland during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, don’t worry because not all of the celebrations will be taking place in London. For example, to round off her main Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Scotland, The Queen will be holding a Garden Party at Balmoral. This is the first time a Garden Party has been held at Balmoral since the Golden Jubilee in 2002. It is expected that the Royal Family will then begin their annual summer break in the area. Scotland will also be taking part in the lighting of the beacons with Clackmannanshire holding an exhibition of royal memorabilia & photos and Dumfries & Galloway planning a musical concert and a school arts project to mark the occasion. Whilst in Edinburgh, stroll down the historic Royal Mile and visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse where The Queen stays during her visits to Scotland. Discover hidden gems in the ‘Royal Treasures: A Diamond Jubilee Celebration’ exhibition to be held at the Palace between March and September 2012 or see if you can catch a glimpse of The Queen during ‘Holyrood Week’ (02-06 Jul 2012) when she holds a number of Royal engagements across the country. Head to the McManus Art Gallery & Museum in Dundee and marvel at the ‘Ten Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci: A Diamond Jubilee Exhibition’ (31 Aug to 04 Nov 2012) – this is the only place in Scotland where you can see these paintings from the Royal Collection. Check out the Royal Yacht Britannia that is permanently moored in Edinburgh or head to Fife to enjoy the floral beauty of the Diamond Garden Festival (18-20 May 2012). Not forgetting the beautiful Balmoral Castle located in Ballater that is a firm favourite with The Royals. Now is the time to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee Year and trace Scotland’s royal connections.
 
Become a recluse or escape to the ocean blue

It’s quite possible that during 2012, it will be very difficult to escape the Diamond Jubilee as celebrations will no doubt be taking place right across the Commonwealth to mark this special occasion. One possible option would be to cut yourself off from the world and become a temporary recluse during the celebrations. All you would have to do is stay indoors and resist the temptation to switch on the TV, radio, computer or read the newspapers. Although, this could be a little difficult should your local community be holding a Street Party in order to celebrate! Another option available should you wish to escape all the pomp & pageantry of the Diamond Jubilee is to hop aboard a cruise and escape to the ocean blue. Although, again you might have to resist the temptation of switching on the TV or radio in the cabin or picking up a newspaper to escape the coverage of the Jubilee celebrations. But you should be ok unless the cruise line you’re travelling with decides to host a party to celebrate – in that case, you could always barricade yourself in your cabin for the duration!

Escape to Timbuktu

This could quite possibly be the ultimate escape route should you wish to stay away from all the Diamond Jubilee celebrations taking place in the UK. The word ‘Timbuktu’ (or Timbuctoo or Tombouctou) is used in several languages to represent a far-away place but did you know that Timbuktu is an actual city in the African country of Mali located on the edge of the Sahara desert? These days it pretty much lives up to its reputation as being ‘the end of the world’ but once upon a time, it was the centre of important trade routes. Should you wish to escape to here during the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations, please note that Timbuktu is now a desolate and impoverished town reknowned for its heat, isolation and sand dunes. Despite a new airport, flights regularly fail to materialise leaving passengers stranded for days! Still thousands of determined visitors from across the world do make their way to Timbuktu each year despite the questionable travel arrangements. Surprisingly, there are lots of things to do to take your mind away from the Diamond Jubilee such as touring the historical landmarks of the ancient city and listening to lively tales of how former French presidents ensured their re-election by consulting with powerful saints and holy men. Experience a romantic adventure under the desert sky with trips to the sand dunes that surround the Islamic town. There’s the impressive Jingereber Mosque built from mud in 1325 AD, there’s a fantastic collection of manuscripts held at the Ahmed Baba Centre or if you really want to stay in touch with home, head to the country’s one & only cybercafé!


16 February 2012

Touring the Sights of Beirut




Beirut is rapidly regaining the reputation it proudly held in the 1950’s and 60’s as a world class, Mediterranean tourist destination. Back in the day, its hotels, beaches and restaurants were full of visitors, popular with the top international acts of the day who all came to sample this unique and hospitable city.

The Radisson Blu Martinez Hotel makes a fabulous central base and accommodation in Beirut from where you can explore the rejuvenated city centre where they are trying to recapture their crown as the “Pearl of the Middle East.”



Souk el Barghout, Martyrs Place, is the famous, busy and noisy Lebanese market square where you can haggle over just about anything, sit and enjoy a coffee or eat a delicious meal. The marketplace sees people from all over the world mixing and mingling in a chaotic shopping experience that provides the perfect location to sample the real Lebanon.

Beirut is a city of differing cultures and religions with churches and mosques existing side by side surrounded by a maze of narrow bustling streets and alleyways all busting with activity. Visitors will never be at a loss to find something of interest or take their fancy as they wander the old town centre.
  
Beirut’s Museums

Two of the most interesting stops on a trip to Beirut are the National Museum and the AUB museum, these are custodians to some of the most precious and rare archaeological finds anywhere in the world. These two magnificent institutions are a must visit trip for anyone touring the city and guaranteed to provide a fascinating insight into Lebanon’s history.

Parklife

A leisurely walk along Beirut’s famous palm lined, Corniche and on into Lebanon’s Central Park, is a popular activity by locals and tourists alike, who all mingle together enjoying the simple pleasures of life. This famous stretch of coastline is swimming with people, enjoying a walk, jogging and cycling. It provides the ideal place to sit and take in the beauty of a Lebanese sunset and watch the world go by or grab a snack from the many street vendors or local snack bars.

Dining out

Beirut offers visitors a wide selection of cuisine from classic local Arab dishes to Italian, Indian and other exotic Mediterranean delicacies. There is plenty of choice from small tasty local bars to elegant classy restaurants offering fine dining.

Night Time Out

The streets and squares of Beirut once again buzz of a night with lots of action, the streets are awash with entertainment and you will find everything from raucous karaoke to mellow jazz on offer. There are theatre performances and trendy nightclubs so whether you like getting down till dawn or something highbrow of an evening, Beirut can accommodate all tastes.