28 March 2013

Visit Pripyat for Extreme Tourism in the Ukraine

Most people would not consider a visit to the site of a devastating nuclear disaster a relaxing way to spend their vacation.  However, for the history buff, the thrill seeker, or the lover of interesting places off the beaten path, a trip to Pripyat, Ukraine fits the bill.  Accessible from Kiev, the “ghost city” of Pripyat is a haunting, silent testament to the day of Europe’s worst nuclear disaster.



In late April of 1986, reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant exploded due to a design flaw and poor worker training, sending radioactive matter into the air.  Waves of radiation spread across Europe, with a majority of the most dangerous levels in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, and Estonia.  Pripyat, the village next to the plant where all the workers at the plant lived, was evacuated within one day of the explosion.  However, much of the damage to human life was already done due to exceptionally high radiation levels.  The hospital in Pripyat took care of the injured workers from the explosion, yet was so heavily radiated itself due to its close proximity to Chernobyl that no one in the hospital survived more than a year.  The military and groups of people referred to as “liquidators” were sent in to clean up the area and secure the reactor site.

Fast forward twenty-seven years later, Pripyat is still radiated and has been abandoned the entire time.  For many years, it was illegal to enter the area -- not to mention deadly due to the high levels of radiation still present.  Because of the speedy evacuation, much of Pripyat looks as it did on April 26, 1986.  Within the apartments, dishes still sit in sinks.  Toys and books litter the floor in the five schools in Pripyat.  The Ferris wheel and other rides that had been set up for the Pripyat Fun Fair, scheduled for May 1, sit frozen in time.  While nature has begun to reclaim much of the city, the majority of buildings, roads, and the reactor site itself still stand as if time simply stopped.  Pripyat is one of the few places in the world that still sits in nearly pristine, preserved condition. There has been no attempt to restore the structures in the city and there have been limited instances of destruction by vandals.  Recently, a few tour companies have set up a contract with the government to take groups to visit the “ghost city of Pripyat” as well as other areas in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

Touring in the Chernobyl exclusion zone isn’t for the faint of heart nor is it able to be toured without planning.  As there are a limited number of people allowed in the exclusion zone per day, reservations must be made with a tour company in advance.  The only way to visit locations in the exclusion zone is with a certified tour company.  Sneaking in to Pripyat is foolish at best – the location is secured by the military and unauthorized visitors can be jailed, subject to significant fines, and, if exposed to enough radiation, detained within the exclusion zone until it is safe for them to be released.  Most companies offer one- and two-day tours of Pripyat and the exclusion zone as well as meals while in the zone.  (All food is prepared outside the zone and brought in by the touring companies.  It is illegal to eat, drink, or smoke in the open air in the zone, so the company’s instructions on meals must be followed carefully.)  Visitors are checked for radiation levels before entering the zone and before leaving; hence, the high level of security in the area.  Tour guides carry Geiger counters to monitor radiation levels and personal meters can be worn into the area.  Photography is allowed as long as it is approved by the guide; however, anything that is placed on the ground is probably going to be confiscated before leaving the exclusion zone due to absorbed radiation levels.

If Pripyat and the Chernobyl exclusion zone sound like interesting places to visit, probably the first question that leaps to mind is “Is it safe?”  While Pripyat, the “Red Forest”, and the reactor site are still radiated to levels that are slightly above ‘normal,’ it is safe to visit the area as long as visitors are with a certified tour guide and are willing to follow instruction to the letter.  (Areas such as the reactor itself and other areas with dangerous levels of radiation are unable to be toured and are well-guarded.)  However, there are several rules that must be followed or the entire group would be expelled from the zone immediately.  NO ONE under the age of 18 is permitted into the zone; age must be established by a government issued passport.  Because of the close proximity to Belarus, it is essential for visitors to keep their passports with them and available if a border crossing is required.  While there are no special requirements for visiting Ukraine for less than 90 days, there are restrictions in Belarus so visitors are encouraged to have their passport with them at all times.  Visitors to Pripyat must wear clothing that covers most of their body, such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, jackets, and thick soled shoes.  NOTHING may be left in Pripyat and NOTHING may be taken from Pripyat.  The site is as it was in 1986 and the government wants it to stay that way.  Finally, visitors must follow all instructions given by the guide immediately for the safety of the group, the guides, and the physical integrity of Pripyat itself.

Far from the typical tour of antiseptically-clean museum displays and photo-op stops on a city tour, Pripyat is one of the purest historical sites in the world.  Yet, with that purity of place comes a sense of danger – the site is still as it was in 1986 simply because no one can live there due to the devastation created by the accident at Chernobyl.  For the traveler willing to take the risk to go off the beaten path, Pripyat will provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will touch the visitor’s sense of history, of humanity, and of healing.


 This is a guest post by Ripley Daniels, an international traveler with expertise in passports and visas requirements for entry into a range of international destinations. Ripley writes for WithoutTheStress.com, a Los Angeles based passport and visa expediter.

23 March 2013

Barcelona - a Beautiful City; Beautiful Language.


Barcelona is not only the second largest city in Spain, but it is also one of the most fashionable cities in Europe, and it’s very easy to see why. Barcelona and its world-class architecture and culture as well as a beautiful coastline of white sandy beaches have been a favorite of millions around the world. 



The city simply has many things to offer and it’s no wonder why it’s considered a place that everyone has to visit and experience at least once. A visit to Barcelona is always a great idea if you want to experience a feast for the senses! Also you can finding apartments at bcn.travel

Barcelona definitively has no shortage of culture, thanks to its Catalan heritage. The popular works of world class architect Gaudi are also another reason to visit this beautiful city. Many visitors agree that no matter what season you visit, the city will always be memorable and the experience will stay for you with decades to come. Barcelona is one of those places that people have a lot of difficulty describing! 



If you are an English speaker, remember that Catalan and Spanish are both official languages in Barcelona, since the city is found in the region of Catalonia in Spain. If you don’t know Spanish or Catalan, don’t worry, we guarantee that in almost every hotel, restaurant or shop, there will be someone to help you! The Catalan language is spoken by approximately half of the inhabitants of Barcelona. However, Spanish is spoken by more than 95% of people living in the city. It is true that of all those people who speak Catalan, many of them prefer to speak in Catalan than in Spanish, but you can rest assured that they are bilingual. It is rare to find someone that speaks Catalan, but no Spanish. If you’re planning to study either language before visiting the city, we definitively recommend spending more time with Spanish!
The great news is that not being able to speak Catalan will rarely be a problem. If you don’t speak Spanish or Catalan, we recommend bringing a dictionary to help you when no other help is available. However, these places are extremely rare, and you won’t definitively find tourists there! As mentioned previously, if you speak any other language, you will still be able to enjoy mostly everything that the city has to offer, so there’s no need to worry.

Best Places to Get Some Grub in Boston


If you’re looking for a place to grab some grub, Boston has its fair share of good restaurants. You can sample cuisines from around the world — there’s everything from Italian to French to Mexican and Chinese. So, take a look at these five restaurants you have to try when you’re in Boston.


Neptune Oyster: Taste Seafood from Oysters to Lobster



If you want a succulent lobster roll or crab cakes that are to die for, you should eat at Neptune Oyster in the North End of Boston. It is an upscale seafood restaurant where all of the dishes are presented in a beautiful way. You’ll think you’re eating art. You can try something from the raw bar or stick to classics like clam chowder, scallops, and tartar. And, there is a daily special if you can’t make up your mind.


Bergamot: Try Progressive American Cuisine



This restaurant always has something different to try and there is a full bar every night. There is also a surprising selection of winemakers for a unique culinary experience. Chef Pooler at the Bergamot uses only fresh foods and seasonal ingredients from the area to create the unique cuisines on his menu. And, Servio Carcia manages the restaurant to ensure every guest has a good experience and better food than they’ve ever tasted. You’ll find a good mix of seafood, salads, and grille.

Mistral: High-End French Dining


The elegance in this restaurant is unsurpassed. There are columns lining the walls with greenery between and chandeliers for mood lighting to create a cozy and sublime dining experience. The menu features French-Mediterranean cuisine and there is a terrific selection of wine.  Plus, the entire restaurant is run by the famous Jamie Mammano who makes sure there is always an imaginative list of items on the menu. Of course, you will pay a pretty penny to eat at this establishment because of the fine dining experience.

Giacomo’s Ristorante: Italian Food at Its Finest


Located on the North End of Boston, this restaurant serves Italian food of the finest variety. You can start with an appetizer of calamari and then have some pasta in the sauce of your choice. It is an old-school style restaurant that will leave you feeling nostalgic of the experiences of Italy. This restaurant is so popular that there is usually an hour and a half wait out the door, so plan ahead. They also only take cash.

Lumiere: French Food and Art


Chef-owner Michael Leviton creates an assortment of New French fare and presents in an “artful” way at his restaurant, Lumiere. The food is paired with wonderful wines for a classy experience. Most of the plates are simple, but they pack a punch of flavor. Plus, the chef tries to use local produce and only the best and most fresh food.

There are lots of fun things to do in Boston, but you should make time to eat at couple of these fantastic restaurants, too. Whether you want something fancy, something filling, or something sweet, there are plenty of great restaurants in Boston to fill your palate.

Resources:
http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2011/11/the-50-best-restaurants-2011/
http://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=best+places+to+eat&find_loc=Boston%2C+MA
http://blog.zagat.com/2012/07/bostons-10-best-restaurants.html

21 March 2013

Cultural places to go in London

Many centuries of history have made London one of the cultural capitals of the world, and with so much on offer, it can be hard to know where to start.



These are some of the sights you won't want to miss:

Historical


London has been built up through centuries of habitation and has survived bombings, fires and even the Plague, so there's plenty to see here. As iconic as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, Big Ben is one of the most recognisable and historic buildings in the city. Completed in 1858, Big Ben's official name was recently changed from 'The Clock Tower' to 'The Elizabeth Tower' in honour of Queen Elizabeth II. The largest four-faced chiming clock in the world, it is a London icon and a must-see for visitors.

Visual art


London is famous for its vibrant art scene. Through the centuries it has been home to some of the brightest lights in the art world and now encompasses more than 850 art galleries. Arguably as much a spectacle as the artwork it houses, the Tate Modern occupies an old power station and is one of the most important and impressive modern art galleries in the world. Since it opened in 2000, the museum has exhibited shows by many luminaries of the art world, including Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Ai Weiwei.

Performance


If you're keen to see some live performances, London has plenty to offer. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre is a must for any true fans of the Bard, with at least 200 shows being put on a year - not all of them Shakespeare plays. If you'd prefer something more light-hearted, you might want to track down some comedy. London hosts more live comedy than any other city in the world, and venues like the world-famous Comedy Store regularly put on top quality acts that are definitely worth checking out.

Regardless of the type of culture you choose to enjoy, with an American Express credit card you'll have the opportunity to earn a whole host of rewards when out on the town in London. Collect exclusive membership reward points for virtually every £1 you spend, which you can then exchange for flights, hotels, gift vouchers and other great treats. To find out more, visit americanexpress.com/uk.

17 March 2013

Clubbing in Ayia Napa


We’ve all been feeling the pinch this year – and if you’re still paying for Christmas and New Year then it might seem like your summer holiday is very, very far away.
Not so. With only a couple of months till the start of the clubbing holiday season, if you haven’t yet booked something, you need to get a wriggle on.



If you can afford to book now, do it. Nothing beats the peace of mind of having your summer holiday all booked in and letting the countdown commence. However, if you don’t even have the deposit money to hand, it’s definitely time to take action.


Where's Hot?


When cashflow is tighter than a duck’s whatnot, you need to look at which clubbing resorts offer the most bang for your buck. Holidays to Ayia Napa fit the bill nicely, with food, drinks and club entry being super-affordable. Add scorching temps, an amazing party scene and golden beaches and you’ve got all that you need for ultimate epicness, on a shoestring.


When to go



Play around with the booking tools on the Club 18-30 website to find the dates that best fit your budget. If you can pick up a week outside of the peak season of the school summer holidays then you’re likely to be able to trim £££’s from the cost. Don’t go too far either side though – you want the sun to be shining and the clubs to be pumping, or you might as well not bother!


How to get there


The fact is that you have to be on that plane. So no matter what you need to do to get the cash together, do it! (Disclaimer – within reason and on the right side of the law!). Buckle down to that overtime, butter up the ‘rents, take on a second job in a bar, delivering pizzas – whatever! Beg, blag and borrow the cash and build up a healthy pot full of lovely cash to splash on your summer 2013 clubbing hol. 

The next few months are crucial in securing that spot on the sunlounger and in the Ayia Napaclubs this summer. Knuckle down and concentrate on the end result – an epic clubbing holiday in the sun.

15 March 2013

How Budget Travelers Visit Big Cities for Thousands Less Than You Paid

Are the Joneses really that much richer than you, or do they know some things about travel you don’t? They seem to be able to afford all the best destinations, and travel several times a year, while you’re doing without premium movie channels and the latest smartphone just to get one measly vacation. Here’s what the Joneses know that can cut thousands off your travel expenses.


They Buy City Tourist Cards 


Most cities around the world offer city tourist cards. These cards cost money up front, but save you on almost everything you do during your visit. Museums and popular activities are free or discounted, transportation is usually free and restaurants and shops offer steep discounts to card holders. The investment is worth it.

They BYOB 


A traveler from Palm Desert, CA enjoyed a nightly glass of red wine back home for her health. When visiting a New York restaurant, she wound up paying $22 for the privilege. If you enjoy alcoholic beverages, don’t depend on local bars and restaurants. Bring your own or stop by a package store when you arrive.

They Drive Instead of Flying 



Flying costs more money, and if the airline loses your bag or cancels your flight, it costs a lot more money. When traveling within the continental U.S. or Canada, consider driving. Aside from saving money, you’ll get to experience the sights and people between home and your destination. It’s also easier to travel by car with small children, and nobody is going to confiscate your shampoo.

They Stay in Suburbs, Not Downtown 



Booking a hotel in the heart of Salt Lake City, for example, is costly. However, West Valley (home of Ken Garff West Valley Used Cars) is convenient to all the attractions of the city and hotel fees there are much lower. You could save half the price on your accommodations in exchange for an extra ten minute drive. The same is true for all major cities around the world.

They Travel During Off-Peak Times 


If you insist on traveling on a weekend in July, expect to pay double or more what the same trip would cost during off season and on a weekday. The law of supply and demand dictates heavy travel times are worth more. Be flexible about when you vacation for steep savings (plus the relaxing benefit of smaller crowds).

They Don’t Always Book Plans Ahead Online 


You save money by booking all your plans long before your trip online, right? The Joneses say not necessarily. While reservations are a must in a heavily traveled city during the peak season, sometimes you can negotiate a superior deal face to face when you arrive. Mom and pop hotels, for example, don’t advertise online, but their fees are lower.

Also, when you book all your plans online it doesn’t give you the option of choosing alternative plans once you get there. You might find small amusement parks, museums or other points of interest that cost a fraction of what you paid for the highly publicized venue online. Plus, it’s more fun when your itinerary isn’t chiseled in stone.

So, the Joneses’ secrets are out! Impress them with your wow vacations this year.


References:

http://lifehacker.com/5981738/stretch-your-money-farther-with-these-global-travel-hacks
http://blog.hostelbookers.com/travel/budget-travel/money-saving-travel-tips/

12 March 2013

Moving Your Car Abroad



If you are moving to a foreign country and need to take your car with you, there are certain issues that can arise and we will look at a few of them in this article.

DVLA - V5


Before moving you need to let the DVLA know that you are taking your vehicle to foreign climes. You must complete section C of the registration document (V5) with the date of export and the DVLA will then issue you with a V561 certificate of export. You will need to submit your V5 at least 14 days before you intend to leave.

DVLA - V5C


If you have a V5C certificate of registration instead of the V5 then you need to fill out the V5C/4 section (notification of export) and submit that to the DVLA instead. Again, you should allow a minimum of 14 days.

No Registration Certificate


If you have neither a V5 nor V5C then you need to apply for one using form V62 which can be obtained from the Post Office or downloaded from the DVLA website. You will need to get this done well in advance of leaving the country as the DVLA often experience significant backlogs.

Transporting Your Car


You have two ways by which you can get your car to your new home - either drive it yourself or get a transport company to get it there for you. Driving the car yourself is a fairly straightforward affair, but many people choose to have their car transported for them by a reputable company. Some people find themselves too busy with the move to drive the car themselves, while others don't like the idea of such a long drive on the 'wrong' side of the road. Many customers of transport companies are the owners of prestige cars and need to make sure that their pride and joy gets there in one piece.

Choosing a Transport Company


There are many reputable car transport businesses around. Such companies will provide a guaranteed delivery date, short lead times and comprehensive insurance. The cost of delivery will vary depending on the destination and rises steeply outside of Europe. Delivery can be either to a local hub or, for an extra premium, the car can be delivered right to your new home. Spain is an especially popular destination for Brits to move to and, together with France, is one of the best-served European countries in terms of affordable car delivery.


Gerry Taggart is looking into using transcars.co.uk to transport his cars.

11 March 2013

Iconic Stages Of New York City

New York is famous for its thriving creative community, and Broadway is considered by many to be the world’s theatrical Mecca. Many touring performers, theatrical productions and international musicians consider these New York stages the most glamorous and sought-after places to share their talents with an audience.

Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall
Situated in the glitzy Rockefeller Center, some call Radio City the showplace of the nation. It was for a time New York City’s leading tourist destination, and it was declared a city landmark in 1978. Although it was originally going to be called the International Music Hall, its name was changed to “Radio City Music Hall” because of one of the complex’s original tenants, The Radio Corporation of America.

Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden is a multi-purpose performance venue. It has been host to performances by a wide range of musicians and pop groups – such as Pearl Jam, pictured above performing in 2008, as well as to several high-profile sports events, like the NBA and NHL. Among the biggest names to perform on stage here are Elton John, Chuck Berry and, in his last concert appearance before his 1980 assassination, John Lennon. Many may also remember this stage as the site of the rematch between Clubber Lang and Rocky Balboa in the movie Rocky III.

The Apollo Theater

The Apollo Theatre
This Harlem landmark, which has played host to a wide range of African-American performers, was founded in the mid-19th century as a dance hall and ballroom, and converted into a theatre in 1872. Over the years, it fell into disrepair, was closed, and subsequently re-opened on two occasions. It was the Apollo Theater that launched the career of legendary songstress Ella Fitzgerald, who in 1934 performed there on an “Amateur Nights” evening and won $25.00. The Apollo is now owned by the state of New York and is visited by over a million people annually.

Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall
Built in Midtown Manhattan in 1891 by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, Carnegie Hall is one of the world’s most prestigious venues for both classical and popular musicians. It’s one of New York’s last purely masonic buildings, built entirely out of stone with no steel frame. The Isaac Stern Auditorium, pictured above, contains the main stage and seats an audience of 2,804. From 1892 until 1962, Carnegie Hall was the home of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, which has since moved to the Avery Fisher Hall.

Avery Fisher Hall

Avery Fisher Hall
This concert hall was built in 1962 specifically as the home venue for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and was originally named “Philharmonic Hall”. It acquired its current name in honour of Avery Fisher, a member of the Philharmonic board who donated $10.5 million to the theatre, in 1973. It has since hosted performances by the likes of Queen and Simon and Garfunkel.
Featured images:

This post was provided by travel blogger Jeff who writes over at http://www.thomascooktours.com/blog/. Thomas Cook Tours is a UK tour operator that offers a number of tours to the USA.

10 March 2013

Have a Safe Home and a Safe Trip

What better way to break the redundant schedules of daily life at home, at work and managing your various responsibilities than taking a very necessary vacation? Traveling to exquisite distant territories that you have seen come to life in movies or just spending some time in-country may seem like just what the doctor ordered. But in order to truly have an unforgettable trip with memories that you actually want to remember, consider taking the proper safety precautions prior to departure and during your travels.



Know the Best and the Worst of a Region

 

Before you even board the plane to cast off onto your voyage of leisure, be sure you are not about to begin a tour of the most murderous poverty-stricken sections of this new country. Run a thorough online search of your hotel, not just on their own personal website, but also by running their name through Google. Find out what other comments and recommendations are available on third-party sites that have no vested interest in promoting your hotel.

Is your hotel located in a high crime area? Does your room have key cards or outdated room keys? What have other past travelers had to say about their comfort and their time spent at your hotel? Are there members of staff that speak your language?

Keep Valuables to a Minimum

 

You surely may need to bring the essential travel documents such as a passport, a driver's license and valid credit cards. But is it really necessary to bring those precious diamond earrings, valuable gold necklaces and bracelets? Absolutely not. Not when it could increase the odds of making you a target.
Ask yourself, would you be devastated if the items you are packing were stolen or lost during your vacation? If the answer is "yes" than you have no reason in the world to take the added stress of bringing them along. Give yourself some peace of mind. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Don't Tell the Entire World

 

Avoid the immediate desire to brag about your upcoming trip all over the Internet, especially on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. Why let the world know that you are no longer at home, and that your residence is unoccupied, making it easier to be robbed.

Sure, it makes total sense to let your most-trusted and local loved ones aware of your travel plans so that they can keep an eye on your house. However, you are only making yourself a potential victim by announcing to complete strangers that you have left the country or even town. Post your cool pictures and travel memories after your trip - not while it is happening.

Dress Casual

 

Try not to be too flashy of a dresser. Some countries, like ones that are predominantly Muslim, such a display can be seen as offensive and can draw unwanted attention. There is no need to show off in a city that may be drowning in financial crisis. Plus, don't forget that this is a vacation, not a stuffy business meeting, dress comfortably.

And Don’t Forget to Lock Up

 

This should go without saying but you hear about it far too often. People take off and they leave the home vulnerable to attack and it’s not always something as simple as not locking the door. Remembering to put a hold on the mail delivery is extremely important since that’s the telltale sign to the bad guys that no one is home. And, if you are especially worried about the home, then look at a home security site like http://www.tophomealarms.com/wireless-alarm-systems.html and see about getting a system. The last thing you want to do is leave town or even the country and spend your entire trip thinking about the home.

Barcelona The Jewel Of Spain

While Spain has no shortage of beautiful landscapes, stunning architecture, pristine beaches and friendly, welcoming people there is no other city on earth quite like Barcelona. The proud locals won't hesitate to boast about their beautiful city, and while the locals of any city will usually assure you that theirs is the best there's certainly no need for hyperbole in the case of Barcelona. The Catalan residents are justly proud of their home, and when you're looking for cheap holiday packages to Spain they'd be shocked if Barcelona wasn't first on your list of cities to visit. Here a just a few of the reasons why.
  • A Unique Skyline
  • Rambling Along La Rambla
  • Great Sporting Heritage
  • Cloudless Skies

Gaudi's Architecture

Every great city can be instantly recognized by its skyline, but the relatively low rise and low key face of Barcelona offers a wealth of beautiful and breathtaking architectural delights. Barcelona was the home of Antoni Gaudi, one of the most famous and controversial architects of all time, and the city is packed full of some of his most stunning work. The Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo and Casa Mila are just a few of the incredible structures that have been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites in recent years.

A Walk to Remember

Some cities lend themselves to the automobile, and some boast excellent public transport. Barcelona, however, is best enjoyed on foot. Even holiday packages to Spain that offer all inclusive service and luxury accommodation shouldn't keep you from getting out and exploring the city. As you'll see at easyspainguide.com, Barcelona is a wonderful city for a relaxed stroll.

At the heart of the city is La Rambla, the famed walking street that runs from the harbor through to the core of the shopping district. On La Rambla you'll find everything from friendly bars to cute cafes to enticing department stores, and from the moment you arrive you'll understand why Federico Garcia Lorca, the Spanish poet, once described it as (the dead are more alive than the dead of any other country in the world.)

The Home of Football

Everyone will tell you that the residents of Barcelona are proud of their local team, but you won't truly understand the depth of their love until you arrive in the city. FC Barcelona, the winners of 21 La Liga titles, 4 UEFA Champions League titles and a record 4 UEFA Cup Winners' Cups, are the only European football team to have played in continental contests in every season since 1955.

There are few other teams on earth that have achieved as much as Barca, and the locals revere their football heroes to a degree only slightly lower than their love of the church. In fact, football in Spain is almost a religion in itself, and a visit to the Camp Nou to catch a game is almost obligatory on a visit to the city.

A Warm Welcome

Of course even the most beautiful of cities can be undone by inclement weather, but in Barcelona you'll find deep blue skies all year round. The sub-tropical Mediterranean climate leaves the city basking in warm sunshine from May to October, with temperatures that are pleasant but never oppressive. Even in the winter the mercury rarely falls too low for comfort, with freezing temperatures a novelty at night and typically unheard of during the day.

The best time to visit Barcelona is the mid-summer, where temperatures may peak at 28 Celsius (82F) and fall to a pleasant 20 Celsius (68F) at night. In general, Barcelona is blessed with a warm and comfortable climate that makes a visit pleasant at any time of the year.


This article was written by Ted Hunter. Ted is a travel blogger who writes on every subject from the best shopping in New York City to the most delicious Pho noodles to be found in the villages of Vietnam. He has written for various articles for travel magazines and Websites including that of Travel Republic.

04 March 2013

Texas: Not Too Hot for Hockey


Texas isn't a state that you would ordinarily associate with cold weather sports like hockey. The warm weather and state-wide obsession with more traditional sports like football and basketball make this seem like an unlikely candidate. However, despite the southern locale, Texas has proven that it is a hotbed for hockey fans.

The Heat of Texas


Thanks to the southern location of Texas, this state enjoys warm weather year-round. The average highs are between 72 and 79 degrees for north central Texas and between 77 and 87 degrees for south central Texas. Lows hover in the 50s and 60s for most of the state. These temperatures make sure that outdoor hockey is out of the question. However, this didn't stop the Dallas Stars from coming to the state, and it hasn't slowed the fans closely following the growth of this sport.


Popular Texas Activities

Popular Texas activities generally focus on outdoor sports that take advantage of the warm, mild weather. You can enjoy hiking, biking, climbing, camping, and horseback riding year-round in this state. Gulf coast activities include boating, swimming, sailing, water skiing, and fishing. In an area where kayaking, disc golf, and zip lines top the list of things to do on your weekends off, hockey doesn't seem like it would be a natural contender. In fact, it's only in recent years that the sport has come on the scene.


How Hockey Came to Texas


When the Dallas Stars came to Texas from Minnesota in 1993, they brought the state more than just a team. They brought a whole sport. The Stars purchased and refurbished what was the only arena in town at the time. Though it was solid on the outside, it couldn't even make ice. Shortly after, they built a second arena. In coming years, the team would help fund the construction several ice rinks known as Dr Pepper StarCenters. Today there are six StarCenters and many other popular ice rinks in Texas. Dallas Stars tickets are now a popular commodity for the well-loved team.

Hockey's Growing Popularity

The Dallas Stars now have lots of company in the Texas hockey scene. The state now has:
  • 3 teams in the American Hockey League (The Houston Aeros, San Antonio Rampage, and Texas Stars)
  • 7 teams in the Central Hockey League (The Allen Americans, Amarillo Gorillas, Corpus Christi IceRays, Laredo Bucks, Odessa Jackalopes, Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, and Texas Brahmas)
  • The Texas Tornado in the North American Hockey League
  • The Dallas Stars in the National Hockey League
Since 1990, the sport has seen a growth of 1,156.8% percent in Texas. This is one spot where the heat just can't slow this engaging sport. Though hockey has also shown growth nationally, it's undeniable that Texas and other southern states like Georgia are leading the pack, weather aside.

The Texas heat may hamper outdoor opportunities for hockey, but there's no question that this is a popular area for the game. All you need is a well maintained indoor ice rink here and you're ready to go.



Sources:
http://www.texasoutside.com/bikeMain.html
http://www.wfaa.com/sports/hockey/stars/Stars-get-credit-for-making-North-Texas-a-hockey-hotbed-84932677.html
http://unitedstatesofhockey.com/2011/05/23/raw-numbers-hockeys-growth-in-the-united-states-1990-2009/
http://www.statesman.com/news/sports/pro-sports/hockey-pioneer-carries-sports-growing-popularity-1/nRmpr/
http://www.currentresults.com/Weather/Texas/average-annual-temperatures.php
http://www.activities.wildernet.com/pages/area.cfm?areaID=TXTRGC&CU_ID=1

01 March 2013

Taking the Stress Out of Holidaying Abroad

Top Five Tips for Taking the Stress Out of Holidaying Abroad

 

The last thing you need when planning a dream holiday is unnecessary stress that can sometimes be associated with organising it. Doing your best to avoid this hassle will put you in the optimum position to fully enjoy your break from everyday life and put you on a better footing to look forward to your well-earned vacation. 



Little things such as driving your car to the airport and making use of the Thomas Cook airport car parking facilities and taking out a travel insurance policy for added peace of mind will help to ensure your holiday can happen without a hitch.

Holiday Insurance 


Compare the myriad of travel insurance deals online and take advantage of the policy that provides you with the perfect cover for your requirements. 

Airport Parking


While booking transport between your home and the airport is perfectly doable, it can sometimes cost much less booking UK airport car parking instead. If you don’t live too far from the airport, you won’t need to spend much on petrol either and would only have to rely on yourself to get to the departure lounge on time. 

Passports 


Make sure that your passports are in date, with at least 6 months remaining after your return home. You certainly don’t need the stress of an emergency appointment for a passport renewal the day before you fly! 

Security and Safety 


Don’t give yourself a reason to stress with regards to your home. Make sure all windows and doors are locked as you leave and if you have an alarm system, use it. 

Entertainment 


If you’re travelling with kids, make sure they stay entertained so that you don’t have a need to stress or shout. Pack their hand luggage with plenty of their favourite things, such as books, crayons and handheld games consoles. 

Take the stress out of your vacation and enjoy every moment a holiday that can be unforgettable, for the right reasons.