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Val d’Isere: An Insider’s Guide

As a ski destination Val d’Isere is hard to beat. The resort boasts a massive ski area with an excellent snow record and varied enough terrain to keep everyone – from beginners to experts – grinning all week, authentic mountain restaurants and a rocking après-ski scene for party-lovers. Its traditional resort atmosphere and old town make it a more charming alternative to its purpose built cousin, Tignes, yet skiers benefit from the connections between the two resorts, which amount to the extensive Espace Killy ski area.

To provide you with a true insider’s guide we’ve recruited the help of Charlie Balfour, who has the lovely day job of leading Mark Warner guests out onto the slopes, picking the best runs and lunch stops through the week and recommending the best après-ski spots for continuing the fun off the slopes.

Val dIsereOn the Slopes

For beginners

The nursery slope in the centre of town is a good place to start but beware it’s a little steep at the top. For your first real run off the nursery slopes try the Madeleine green run on Solaise and progress to Genepy, Borsat and Mont Blanc, which are all rolling green runs with no nearby intermediate runs that might attract faster skiers. As the resort has a reputation for under classifying runs and exposure to the elements can change the terrain to what you’d expect on a blue or even red run, always ask your chalet host or instructor for tips on where to go on the day. From most sections beginners are often best to take a lift back down to the valley. For any beginners we highly recommend taking some lessons with a local ski school.

For intermediates

To get your ski-legs on the first day head up the Glacier Express to warm up on the blue runs of Leissieres and Plan Milet. For nice long runs that push intermediate skiers but have flat sections for recovery head to Piste L or Mangard. For an exciting red run have fun experimenting with different routes down the long tree-lined run of Germain Mattis to Le Lasisinant.

For experts

Marmottons and Arcelle offer a little of everything, some un-groomed sections, moguls, wide motorways and some steeper sections.

For thrill-seekers Piste S is open to the elements and unpisted and the Face run provides the added pressure of onlookers from the Gondola and town below.

Off-piste, Val has some hidden gems that only seasoned pros know about so it’s worth hiring a guide for a day.

For snowboarders

Val d’Isere is not considered a hard-core resort for snowboarders but has great terrain for freeriders. Beginners will enjoy the easier slopes and lack of draglifts. As usual watch out for flat areas, including a long flat on Santons, where boarders will end up scooting.

Tip: For a spine tingling view jump on the Cascade Chairlift on Glacier de Pissaillas.

Lunch on the mountain

A great place to stop for a satisfying lunch is La Barillon at the bottom of La Daille gondola. L’Edelweiss above the hamlet of Le Fornet serves Savoyard specialties in a picturesque alpine building slightly off the beaten track. If you have non-skiers in your group try L’Arolay for great food and easy access on foot.

If you’re on a budget try the central Bellvard Mountain Restaurant for self-service with great views or stock up for a picnic at La Tartine, a friendly bakery in resort next to the ticket office and Saloon Bar.

Tip: To re-live the highlights of your day’s skiing sip your last vin chaud at the cosy Rosé Blanche.

In Resort


For hearty local dishes La Corniche is a charming Savoyard restaurant in the centre of the old town, or if you’re planning to splash out it’s hard to beat La Grande Ouse for a first class gourmet menu and fantastic setting. For more modest but still delicious grub choose from a wide selection of burgers at Moris Pub or try the sociable spot, Le Lodge, for pizzas and fondue.

Tip: Carnivores make sure you order at least one Pierrade during your stay. There is something deeply satisfying about watching your meat cook after a day on the slopes.


For buzzing apres-ski, Foulie Douce is considered the place to go. The Chalet also has a great atmosphere and for a fun happy hour Café Face offers beat the clock drinks and live music.

If you’re in search of a younger crowd Doudoune plays a mixture of music and has an entertaining ‘21 club’ on the 21st of every month when it blasts out classics from the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Tip: Before you head to the bar, re-energise with a swim and sauna at the Centra Aquasportif or for a mid-week treat book a massage at Bonne Sante.

Charlie Balfour is based at Chalet Moris in Val’d Isere, where he leads groups of mixed ability skiers (from intermediates upwards) for Mark Warner.  Mark Warner has led the way in activity holidays for over 30 years. Specialising in family holidays, Mark Warner packages provide superb childcare with kids clubs for all ages and free evening crèche service.


For more luxury travel ideas check our our hotel reviews here.

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A Cynic in Scotland: Luxury Hotels and Apparitions – Culcreuch Castle, Fintry

As a travel writer I often find myself in strange places, seeking out new experiences and learning the deepest darkest secrets a place has got to offer travellers, and it was from this desire to explore that I found myself heading off on a tour of Scotland’s haunted castles, notably (although not limited to) those which are now run as hotels. As a cynical person by nature, I’ve never much believed in ghosts, although I remain relatively open-minded to the whole idea. If only one would appear before me.

Not far from Glasgow, in a sleepy village called Fintry, sits ancient Culcreuch Castle, a 13th Century stone build fortress that’s now a popular castle hotel in Scotland. Built back in 1296 the castle became the seat of the Clan Galbraith before changing between families and Laird’s until its present day. Not only is it a beautifully idyllic location, and frequently chosen by brides-to-be looking for a Scottish castle wedding venue, but it also has an interesting history – and more than a passing fascination with ghosts.


Culcreuch Castle was the first stop I made on my investigative trip to visit haunted Scottish castle hotels. From the outside, this magnificent building does have an imposing look – a large stone facade, small windows perfect for firing arrows through and a parapet just large enough to be intimidating. It sits surrounded by trees on a petite but perfectly tended estate and gives away little sign that’s it’s now a hotel. Inside, and the illusion of a fortress continues, with a hall that’s more suited to an ancestral family home than a lodging and only a visitor’s book to give away its true purpose.

This Scottish castle turned hotel has more than one haunting to its paranormal ‘bow’ so it came as little surprise to find a team of ghost hunters arriving at the same time as we did. My husband and I were greeted with looks that suggested we were clearly too cynical for our new brigade of ghost busting friends, but nevertheless they gamely asked if we’d like to join them as they sought the truth behind the various hauntings that Culcreuch Castle has become famous for. And we gamely agreed.

Our first stop was the grounds themselves. They came armed with a variety of equipment from superdooper cameras to simple divining rods, while I was armed with a notepad and pen that it was way too dark to use. My husband came armed with a smile, and a willingness to try and see things from their point of view.  We strolled around the grounds for a while, wandering through the pitch black shadows from the canopied trees and examining the exterior of the building in the gloom. The team were snapping away heavily, ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ over each digital image with increasing enthusiasm. They showed me some of their snaps – black pictures with flecks of bright light dotted across the screen and asked me what I thought the dots were. My answer of ‘dust?’ was less than satisfactory – apparently such things are orbs, living spirits that glow in the dark. (I think I’ve got that right?)

Our next stop was the Chinese Bird Room, one of the most intricately decorated hotels rooms I’ve ever seen, and the real reason I was visiting the castle in the first place. This beautiful room is named after its wallpaper, which was brought from China in 1723. Painstakingly handpainted, it depicts birds and flowers and the owners have taken care not to let it fade too much as the centuries have passed. It’s also the main focal point for haunted activities in the hotel, and over the years visitors staying in the room have reported all manner of eerie happenings, including the sound of bagpipes coming from the walls and the apparition of a woman clothed in white appearing at the end of the bed.  I watched as the team set up their equipment – and as my husband backed out of the door and retreated to our room. When the cameras were ready and rolling, and the lights were switched off plunging us into darkness, I waited, ready to see my first real ghost. One of the team began to chant an invocation to whichever spirit might have been there, but despite his sincere pleas none of them seemed interested in appearing before us.

Next, was the dining room at the back of the hotel, a room that had to be haunted on account of the frigid temperature inside? I don’t know enough about ghost hunting to agree or disagree, but the plummeting chill was certainly something I found difficult to argue with. They decided to hold a séance, creating a circle on the floor with cameras set up round the group. I joined them, and for once was glad of the dark because I confess I find it difficult not to giggle. Despite not seeing anything appear before us I still have to admit that it was an interesting experience, sitting there in a haunted hotel, in the dark, holding hands with complete strangers and asking spirits that I’m not quite sure I believe in if they wouldn’t mind appearing before me. I’d like to think my tone of voice was sincere.


With that finished we descended to the basement bar which had once been the castle dungeons. A dungeon is, as most people probably think, where any self respecting ghost would prefer to hang out, so I was keeping my fingers crossed that something would appear before us down here. The group was keen to try direct communication, and in the absence of a telephone opted for an upturned glass on a table top – a makeshift weegie board. One by one we placed our fingers on the glass and the team began to ask questions. And the glass did move. Yep, it really did move. Yes and No answers were flooding out to every question they asked, and it wasn’t long before they’d figured it all out. A young boy had been murdered in the dungeons many years ago for something he said he didn’t do, and here he was chatting away to us and dishing the dirt. I decided it was time to leave, excused myself politely, and went to find my husband who was relaxing in our Keep Room, clearly worn out from all his paranormal investigating.

It was an interesting experience, and although I guess I am a cynic, it’s only because no one has managed to convince me otherwise yet. I would have been delighted to see a ghostly apparition or hear a voice talk to me, and although I can’t explain the reason for the glass moving I’m still not satisfied there was anyone other than the team and I in that room. That said, it was only night one, and with more nights to go, who knows what might be uncovered?

Regardless of whether you’re heading to Culcreuch Castle for a romantic stay in a lavish Scottish hotel or to visit its haunted rooms to see for yourself, what you’re guaranteed to find is superlative accommodation and a fabulously warm welcome in traditional Scottish style. I loved this hotel, and with it being so close to Glasgow, it’s a great choice for travellers looking for a luxury Scottish holiday within easy reach of everything Scotland has to offer. I would happily stay here again, in no fear of being bothered by insensitive ghosts, and I think it’s the perfect base for exploring this beautiful area.

Next stop on my haunted tour…Tulloch Castle near Dingwall, Ross-shire.


For more luxury travel ideas check our our hotel reviews here.

How to Spend a Day in Pisa

By Erin Mauger, Contributory Writer

What to See in Pisa, Italy

We all want to go travel, and for many of us the eclectic tourism in Italy is a genuine draw. Every year thousands of us make it to this odd, boot-shaped stretch of land where history and culture abound. If you’re looking to schedule some day trips into your Roman holiday, consider visiting the beautiful city of Pisa. Pisa is located in Tuscany, a region influential in terms of culture and the arts and known for its natural charms. This once powerful city was an important maritime republic and is also the birthplace of Galileo, the famous physicist and astronomer.

Square in Pisa

To explore this destination in the flesh, you can easily travel into Pisa by train from Florence, or Siena if you’re coming from the other direction. Pisa Centrale is the main railway station in the city. It’s equipped with all the amenities, and it’s here where you may want to buy a map if you haven’t already. Buses are readily available for your use, and, if you want to head straight to the main sights, locate the one that goes to the Piazza dei Miracoli or Field of Miracles.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Having the Leaning of Tower of Pisa on the itinerary is probably a given. Go ahead; go there first if you want to cut straight to the chase. This famous freestanding bell tower began construction around 1174, the design of which has been attributed to Bonanno Pisaro. Once the structure was about half its height it began to sink into the ground, giving it its iconic lean. Work on the tower was abandoned for almost a century before construction resumed.

Pisa Duomo

Tickets are 15€ or slightly more if you book them in advance. It’s probably worth the extra convenience fee, particularly if you go during the high tourist season between May and September. Climb the 300 stairs to the top and check out the view, surveying the remainder of the architectural wonders in the square.

Duomo di Pisa, Pisa Cathedral

The Cathedral is another attraction that seems worth giving a bit of a look. The admission price is only a couple of euros so it’s not much of a strain on the pocket. Also known as the Duomo di Pisa, the Cathedral was built in Romanesque style and set the aesthetic standard for the other buildings in the Piazza dei Miracoli. Take time to note the intricate details on the outside such as the bronze doors decorated with biblical scenes or the interior with its mosaics and gilded ceiling. There was a lot more artwork displayed inside the Cathedral but much of it burned in a fire in the 16th century.

When you want a break from all the sightseeing, there are a number of restaurants and eateries to choose from. Keep it simple by going to places like Gusto Giusto, about a 20-minute walk from the square, and enjoy a sandwich on a fresh baguette. There’s also Il Campano, which has a more extensive menu. Do a little research beforehand or decide according to your whims (or your budget!). When it comes to shopping, you can probably skip it and save the rest for other activities.

Shops along the River Arno in Pisa

Go back to the Piazza to see other things you may have missed like the Baptistery, dedicated to St. John the Baptist. You can also choose to walk down the Arno River to get another vantage point of the city.

These suggestions are only a place to start. It’s possible to get a full-day audio walking tour, which will give you a different feel for your surroundings. If you’re more on the spontaneous side, put away the map and just wander, see what the locals are doing, or observe closely the things that make you curious. When your thirst has been satisfied and you’re done seeing Pisa, flag a taxi back to the Pisa Centrale and get ready for the next stop on your adventure!

For other great ideas about luxury travel in Europe, check out our hotel reviews here.

Top 7 Things You Can’t Afford to Miss in South Africa

Travel and tours in South Africa are big business, from their wildlife to their eclectic culture. Here we’ve listed some of our favourite luxury travel locations in the country to help you plan your next trip to Africa’s most southerly country.

Bo-Kaap (Cape Town)

Cape Town’s most colorful quarter is also steeped in history. It was formerly known as the Malay Quarter, and hosts the Nurul Islam Mosque which dates back to the mid 19th century. Walk the cobble stone streets, peruse the shops, and make sure you check out the Bo-Kaap Museum, the oldest standing original house in the quarter. It was built way back in the eighteenth century and is a testament to the Muslim heritage of the area.


Robben Island (Cape Town)

Robben Island is the location where Nelson Mandela served his time as a political prisoner in the blank. Therefore it is an important historical landmark and a must see sight for anyone visiting South Africa. Catch a ferry from the city and take a guided tour through this World Heritage Site.

Table Mountain (Cape Town)

Table Mountain, which is featured in South Africa’s national flag, is an important natural formation for South African culture. This top destination is accessible by a multitude of options, but by far the most popular are hiking and cable car. Taking the latter offers breathtaking views of the city. Once you reach the top of Table Mountain you can explore the many wonders, both natural and man-made, that the plateau has to offer.

Table Mountain

Gold Reef City (Johannesburg)

This theme park located in Johannesburg is a family friendly destination sure to please everyone in your party. It’s location on top of an old gold mine makes it a historical experience as well as a thrilling one. Many of the rides are mining themed, such as the apt but frighteningly named Miner’s Revenge. Make sure you try the Tower of Terror, which offers riders the opportunity to experience a positive G force of 6.3 Gs.

Also of note is the Anaconda, which is the tallest inverted roller coaster in Africa. Gold Reef City also hosts a 4D movie theater, which features 3D and motion effects, as well as a wealth of hotels and restaurants. It’s truly an all inclusive experience.

MonteCasino (Johannesburg)

This bustling district in Johannesburg is the perfect destination for a little afternoon fun. In addition to housing- you guessed it- a casino, the MonteCasino complex boasts an impressive theatre (the Teatro), as well as numerous shops. The Teatro is a newer addition to the MonteCasino complex, and it hosts numerous high profile shows each year. Recently the smash hit The Lion King was performed at MonteCasino. Finally, at the complex you can enjoy a ride in a hot air balloon called the “Jozi Eye”.

Voortrekker Monument (Pretoria)

If you have any interest in apartheid politics, then this monument in Pretoria is for you. The granite structure, which is 130 feet every way around, sits on a hilltop south of Pretoria. It’s dedicated to the Voortrekkers who left the cape in the early to mid eighteen hundreds.

In 2011 it was named a World Heritage Site. This unique structure has many influences, with some saying it resembles such European monuments as France’s Dome des Invalides, while others cannot deny its German roots. One of the most striking features of the monument must be the aperture at the top of the dome. At noon this hole shows the sun as a tiny dot in the center of the ceiling, a clear reference to ancient Egyptian practices.

Game Drive (Kruger National Park)

Here’s your opportunity to get up close and personal with the big five safari animals. A game drive is the best way to experience wildlife in South Africa. While you can choose to go on a self guided driving tour, it’s best to have a guide. One of the advantages of taking these tours is your guide can communicate with his peers all over the park, and be alerted at a moment’s notice to the location of exotic wildlife.

There are also night tours available, which are a truly unique experience. On a night tour of Kruger National Park you can view nocturnal animals not usually available, such as leopards stalking their prey or perched lazily in trees. Some other animals you can expect to see on a game drive include African elephants, Vervet monkeys, and zebras.

Author Bio – This article is a guest post by Dillon Michaelson who works for InsanelyCheapFlights.com. Make sure you visit their website for some exclusive offers and deals on cheap tickets, car rentals, vacation packages etc.

For other great ideas about luxury travel in Africa, check out our hotel reviews here.

Tourist Sights in Pisa you Simply Have to See

By Katie Ryde, Contributory Writer

Most people heading to the Tuscan city of Pisa will be going with one thing on their mind – the famous Leaning Tower – but for many visitors this is just a brief stop off while travelling to or from Florence. Certainly Pisa doesn’t have the highest number of attractions compared to its neighbours, but in fact there are many luxury hotels, here, the opportunity to enjoy unique travel tours and numerous hidden gems concealed amongst Pisa’s medieval lanes that are well worth taking the time to explore.

Leaning Tower

The Campanile

There’s no way you can visit this city without a stop off at what is better known as The Leaning Tower of Pisa. Built by Bonnano Pisano in 1173, only three tiers were completed before it started tilting due to sinking soil. Somehow the marble tower had a further four tiers added to it, and with the help of some re-construction work in the 1990’s it’s still standing today. Go and take the obligatory photograph as you ‘hold up’ the Tower, but if you want to go inside I would suggest booking ahead as visits are limited to groups of 30 at organised times.

Campo dei Miracoli

While you’re at The Leaning Tower, have a look around, because you’ll be standing in the Field of Miracles, and the Campanile itself is the bell tower to an incredible Cathedral. Its’ beautiful striped façade gives way to an interior, which despite a catastrophic fire in 1595 that destroyed much of the medieval art work, is still worth paying the entrance fee (about 6 Euros for two of the monuments in the square). Inside you’ll find the spectacular gothic pulpit built by Giovanni Pisano in 1302, with reliefs depicting various bible scenes. The most notable of the eight sided pulpit is the ‘Massacre of the Innocents.’ Also worth visiting are the Baptistery and the Campo Santo – a most beautiful cemetery originally built to hold the holy soil brought back during the Crusades from the mount where Christ was crucified. It was the burial ground for Pisa’s upper class for centuries and is also home to 84 Roman Sarcophagi from the 3rd century AD.

View of Pisa

Orto Botanico di Pisa

A short walk from the Campo dei Miracoli, lies the oldest university-owned botanical gardens, and a chance for some peace away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds in the square. An entrance fee of 2.50 Euros is required, and once inside it is easy to forget you’re in a city at all. Visit the gardens for a bit of peace as well as to encounter the beauty and history of some very old plants – the Magnolia Grandiflora was planted in 1787. There are also samples of various plants both medicinal and edible, coffee, pepper and passionflower to name a few. Relax by the pond covered in water lilies and enjoy some time-out from the busier tourist attractions.

National Museum of San Matteo

To be in Italy is to be surrounded by beautiful artwork, and Pisa is no exception. Situated in the old San Matteo Benedictine convent and overlooking the River Arno, this stunning museum houses not only a wide collection of medieval ceramics from the 13th century, but also paintings and sculptures ranging from the 12th century up until the 18th. Well known artists exhibited here include Ghirlandaio, Donatello and Simone Martini. There are also various works from the school of Pisano. This is a wonderful place to discover some fine Italian art work, and at 5 Euros entry, it’s a great place to start.

Borgo Stretto

Running off the Piazza dei Cavalieri (worth a look at as the home of the Knights of St Stephen, and for the large busts of the Medici family topping the Palazzo dei Cavalieri –Knight’s Palace) is the Borgo Stretto. Archways cover the walkway of this street, which is home to some of Pisa’s more expensive shopping and restaurants, but if you can’t afford the prices of the shops, it’s still a great place to enjoy an espresso and do some people watching. It’s also the street on which the scientist Galileo is said to have lived.

Santa Maria della Spina

Santa Maria della Spina

The name Spina comes from a thorn from Christ’s crown which was apparently brought here in 1333. This Gothic church is a fantastic example of architecture, and its pinnacles, cusps, rose windows and arches all built from marble make the exterior well worth a visit. Situated on the River Arno, this extraordinary masterpiece, adorned with statues, some of which are attributed to Giovanni Pisano, was rebuilt on higher ground in 1871 to protect it from the river. The interior in comparison is rather plain but does hold another Pisano sculpture, this one by Andrea and Nino, ‘The Madonna of the Rose’.

These are just a few of Pisa’s must-see sights according to Italian tourism experts. This city is steeped in history and just by wandering the streets you can chance upon all sorts of fascinating medieval buildings and things to see. This is after all a place that houses one of the oldest universities in Europe, as well as many historical churches and palaces. Next time you decide to go travel in Italy, it’s certainly well worth spending extra time here to discover these often over-looked gems and to enjoy the general beauty of a place that has much more to offer than just a Leaning Tower.

For other great ideas about luxury travel in Europe, check out our hotel reviews here.

Cultural Highlights of Glasgow

Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, has so much to offer visitors it’s difficult to know where to start. From historic architecture to shops galore, there’s plenty to pack in to a trip here. It boasts luxury hotels, 5 star restaurants and some fabulous shopping locations. It’s a great place to travel and tour in, with no time for dull moments. Over the past decade, Glasgow has seen a culture boom so you’re sure to have a fun-filled time here.

Historic Buildings

Doors Open Days is an annual event which allows you to explore Scotland’s architectural gems for free. This year’s event is going to be the largest yet as throughout September more than 1,000 sites are expected to welcome visitors across Scotland.

Glasgow-born architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh has left his mark on buildings all over the city. Take a trip to the Glasgow Art School or the Mackintosh House and be wowed by his Art Nouveau touches of brilliance. Alternatively, you can honour the temperance movement and sip tea and eat cake at The Willow Tearooms, designed by Mackintosh himself in 1904. Found on Sauchiehall Street, it’s a quaint setting and the style details continue right down to the little teaspoons.

Shop ‘til you drop

Glaswegians are a stylish bunch. To satisfy their demand for shopping, a wealth of centres and clusters of independent shops have sprung up around the city. The appropriately named ‘Style Mile’ around Argyle Street and Buchanan Street, offers a range of designer, high street and independent shops so you can indulge in some serious retail therapy.

Art Smart

If you’re looking for quiet contemplation and like to gaze at works of art then the GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art) should be top of your list of things to do in Glasgow. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is a grand statement on the city’s skyline. It’s an interactive space and you’ll be dazzled by suits of armour, engrossed in the rich Scottish natural history and taken on an impressive journey through its historic art collections.

A wander around the exhibitions at The People’s Palace will satisfy your curiosity for the story of Glasgow and its people. When you’re finished you can stretch your legs in the grounds of the Winter Gardens. You’ll also find a Victorian glasshouse where you can relax amongst tropical plants.

Need a breath of fresh air?

You can hire a car in Glasgow and head a few miles out of the city centre to Pollock Country Park. It has 360 acres of woodland and green space to explore so it’s a great option for a family day out. And, this is no ordinary park as it was voted Europe’s Best Park in 2008. It includes walled gardens, walking trails and of course the stately home of Pollok House.


Glasgow’s famed club, the Arches is a cavernous venue which hosts some of Britain’s biggest club nights and a massive variety of gigs. This place is still going strong and you’re sure to find a mixed crowd here. The city’s other nightlife options are abundant and Sauchiehall Street is where you’ll find the main hub of activity. As well as local pubs, you’ll find whiskey and cocktail bars, gig venues and clubs galore.

Looking for somewhere to stay in Glasgow, or maybe a restaurant in this vibrant city? Then check out our favourite recommendations for some great ideas.

For other great ideas about luxury travel in Europe, check out our hotel reviews here.

Must Visit Restaurants in Glasgow

Glasgow might not be famous for it’s fine dining and award winning food, thanks in part to the controversy it’s courted with its deep fried Mars Bar, but that’s not to say that fabulous food doesn’t exist within its streets. In fact, some of the city’s top luxury hotels have 5 star restaurants that are worth travelling for, and there are a plentiful supply of boutique bistro’s and up-scale eateries to choose from. Hidden beneath the outer facade of traditionally pocket friendly, cheap meal cafes are some hidden treasures waiting to delight you with taste and texture.

Black Sheep Bistro

The Black Sheep Bistro is a small restaurant run by a family who pride themselves on serving what can only be described as traditional home cooked food. Bright, friendly and welcoming this restaurant feels like someone’s living room and the staff take extra special care to make you feel at home. The food is basic, making the menu of soups, haggis and beef and mash very easy to navigate and they taste fantastic! Simple, no nonsense food which comes in at around £15-30 a head for three courses, you really can’t go wrong. http://www.blacksheepbistro.co.uk/

Grill on the Corner

The Grill on the Corner is large, spacious and feels very much like a giant pub. It is noisy and busy with plenty of seating space so a great place if you want to feel lost and anonymous. You may have to wait a little for your food, but this restaurant is a favorite for most Glaswegians and attracts celebs like Billy Connolly. Steak, fillet burgers, fat cut chips and an environment to match, the Grill on the Corner is an excellent place to take time over your food and chill out with friends, there is plenty of space for a party of five or even ten. http://www.blackhouse.uk.com/

Café India

If you love your spice, then you can’t go wrong with a trip to Café India where curry meets city and award-winning wine abounds. Cooked live on a real fire, you can expect  treat of the very best that Indian food has to offering the form of curries, melt in your mouth chicken and sheesh kebabs full of lively, fresh recipes and good service to match. http://cafeindiaglasgow.com/

Alla Turca

A Turkish restaurant, that has won user review led awards for it’s fanatic service and high quality food, this restaurant is a treat for your palate. Warm, and welcoming, the waiters are decked in traditional Turkish gear and live music will take you straight out of Glasgow into the Far East. Portions are incredibly generous, and come to your table hot and straight off the cooking plate with fresh flatbreads clearly cooked to order. Kebabs, lamb, aubergine, spice and traditional Turkish wet foods are all on offer and the menu is written in English to help you along. A real find! http://allaturca.co.uk/

Brian Maule

A list of must-visit restaurants would not be complete without a spot of fine dining and Brian Maule is considered one of the best fine dining restaurants in Glasgow. Having won numerous awards, this light, fresh and well thought out restaurant offers a menu of scallops, beef and lamb cooked to perfection. Definitely upmarket, Brian Maule is more expensive and requires a longer time to be spent there than other restaurants, but you will not regret it. This restaurant is perfect for a special date, occasion or celebration. http://www.brianmaule.com/

Ben loves to travel and visit different restaurants all over the world. He runs www.wheretoeat.co.uk where he blogs about restaurants and recipes.

For other great ideas about luxury travel in Europe, check out our hotel reviews here.

Palma de Mallorca, Balearic Islands

The Balearic Islands are one of the most desirable archipelagos in Europe; the most notable islands in the chain are Mallorca, Minorca and Ibiza. The capital of the Balearic Islands, Palma de Mallorca, is a beautiful Mediterranean destination with ideal weather, picturesque sights and a vibrant nightlife, no to mention some outstanding luxury hotels and 5 star restaurants the specialise in fresh seafood and local cuisine. The city can  be found in the south west of Mallorca, in the popular Bay of Palma, which is home to some of the island’s most famed beaches, including Playa de Palma. Palma has been a popular destination since the 50’s and is now the bustling cultural and commercial hub of Mallorca.

The city has a strong Mediterranean vibe; from streets packed with activity and entertainment to alluring cafes promoting lazy afternoons. The Old Town showcases the most authentic elements of Palma; the labyrinth of alleyways present a myriad of sights, squares where you can grab a refreshing beer and tapas bars emanating mouth-watering smells. If there’s just one sight that you see on a travel tour of this island, it should be La Seu Cathedral; it is literally unmissable as it stands proud, rising above the city. Located right on the waterfront it is a magnificent building to behold. The backstreets behind Born, heading towards Placa Cort, are solely for pedestrians and are well worth walking around during the day. It’s also a great place to grab a beer from one of the many bars with outdoor seating and partake in the great Mediterranean past time of people watching.

Palma has come in to prominence in recent times through its notorious nightlife. With its new found reputation it was put on the map as a top stag weekend city and its streets, riddled with bars and clubs, have quickly elevated it to one of the most favoured Spanish destinations. A wild stag do in Ibiza has long been the most popular choice for people seeking sun, sea and parties; however, Mallorca offers a great deal more, because on top of being a great destination for clubbing it’s also home to plenty of contemporary shops, bars and cafes, and a nightlife devoid of inhibitions.

Whilst maintaining its charm and quaintness through the labyrinth of quiet, narrow streets which roll through the Old Town, the seaside promenade boasts some of the most exciting establishments, presenting an exciting array of options for any weekend. It has a comprehensive selection of restaurants, bars and clubs making it an ideal evening destination.

This outpost of hedonism boasts an abundance of night time activities in an awesome setting. Surrounded by sun, sea and sand, the inhibitions of the locals and tourists alike are particularly free-spirited; everyone has a great attitude and are hell-bent on having a fun time – the epitome of an epic Spanish night out. Palma boasts an exciting nightlife scene; one of the most popular areas with the locals is Sa Llotja, its venues are often bursting at the seams with energy and people. When Sa Llotja shuts down at the end of the night, it’s common for everyone to pile across to Passeig Maritim to carry on the party until the small hours.

For other great ideas about luxury travel in Europe, check out our hotel reviews here.

Comfort and style: Guarantees with Business Car Hire

So you’re still debating whether you take your own motor to the conference or invest in a hire car?

Well, there’s arguments for both of course. In your own car, you know how it feels to drive; its nuances and personality, if you will. You also know where things are, what radio station you like and whereabouts you like to store your personal items (mints, phone and so on). You’ll also know how hard you can push it and how many miles to the gallon you’ll get out of it.

In a hire car though; well, that’s the unknown. How will it drive? How far will I get on a tank. Where will I put my mints?!

Without actually knowing these questions, it’s probably safer to work out just what guarantees you will have when renting a car for business use.


Okay. While this might be a subjective statement to make, near enough anyone who provides business car hire is really just trying to make sure you have a comfortable and luxurious ride.

This could be leather-bound seats. It could be the silky-smooth grip of the steering wheel. It could even just be the fact that it comes with air conditioning. Whichever it is, a key part of having a business car is to not only look, but feel business-like. Car lenders know the last thing anyone in business wants is to be crippled by their motor and covered in sweat patches because their car let them down.


Alongside comfort inevitably comes style. Business-types, well, like to look the business. Shallow as it may be, style plays a bit part in being taken seriously. Taking pride in one’s appearance shows a level of commitment beyond (Parker) fountain-pen and paper.

Plus, if you look the part, then no doubt you’ll feel the part.

Author Bio:

Jim Evans is fanatic about cars and has tried his hands on various segments of four wheelers for a significant number of years. Sports car thrills him most, though recently he is busy researching on business car hire. To know about his latest information gathered, visit http://www.ssdhire.co.uk/business-hire.html

See Scotland by Car

Scotland is a clean and unspoiled region with a lot of historical sites as well as outstanding natural beauty. There are prehistoric stone circles, burial chambers and standing stones as well as Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age ruins. Scotland is also famous for its spectacular castles starting with Edinburgh Castle. One of the best ways to visit all the wonder and beauty of Scotland is by renting a car and driving. Visitors can stop when they please or drive through the night. They can spend several days or just a few hours whenever they feel like it.

One drive that passes near several castles begins in Aberdeen. Visitors travel south on the A90/92 to Stonehaven to see Dunnottar Castle. It is perched high on a cliff overlooking the North Sea with a dramatic location that both Cromwell and Wallace wanted. Franco Zeffirelli used this castle as the setting for his 1991 Hamlet.

From Stonehaven, go north on the A957 to Crathes Castle. Just five more miles east on A93 is Banchory and Drum Castle. Crathes Castle is straight out of a fairy tale and visitors wouldn’t be surprised to see unicorn grazing. There are trails for exploring the magical surrounding woodlands. The castle has spiral staircases to rooms with famous Jacobean painting on the ceilings. There is a ghost, the Green Lady, who may make an appearance.Drum Castle has a 13th century tower as well as a Jacobean mansion with Victorian additions. The furniture and paintings are worth the trip and there are also trails through woodlands and an exceptional rose garden. Just 15 miles further north on the B977 is Castle Fraser. It has an amazing Great Hall with stunning paintings and furniture. There are also walks and gardens as well as a children’s adventure playground.Another road trip through Scotland visits the famous distilleries. Begin in Speyside at the Glenlivet Distillery in Banffshire. They give guided tours and tiny tastes of their 18-years-old, Nadurra or The Glenlivet 12.

The designated driver can continue 13 miles north to Knockandu for a visit to the Cardhu Distillery. This is the only distillery pioneered by a woman. They also offer tours and tastes. Nine more miles takes travellers to Dufftown considered the heart of the Speyside whisky region. The Speyside Cooperage is there. It is the only working cooperage in the UK. They are creating whisky barrels according to the ancient traditions including using the ancient tools. Visitors can try to make their own small casks.

Scotland is famous for a lot of things, not the least of which is literature and art. Begin the next tour in Edinburgh, the capital and the first UNESCO City of Literature in the world. See manuscripts form Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson in the Writers’ Museum near the Royal Mile. There is a lot more to see in Edinburgh as well as other cities around Scotland and they are close enough to make a great city road tour.

From Dundee visitors can take a day in Edinburgh or visit the largest National Park in the UK. Stirling is one of the gateways to the Highlands with the spectacular scenery of the lochs and mountains. Travellers enjoy Scotland by rental car on the National Tourist Routes to see all the sites up close and personal.

This post was crafted by the travel writers over at Skedaddle Car Hire

Win a 2 Night Stay with Small Luxury Hotels of the World™

About The Competition

Small Luxury Hotels of the World™ (SLH) is an unrivalled portfolio of some of the world’s finest small independent hotels. Comprising over 520 hotels in more than 70 countries, the diversity of the individual properties, and the experiences that they offer, is exceptional. From cutting-edge design hotels to palatial 17th century mansions, city centre sanctuaries to remote private islands, historic country houses to idyllic resorts, Small Luxury Hotels of the World offers a world of luxurious locations. What’s more, SLH rewards loyal guests handsomely with their Club programme – it’s our favourite luxury travel tip we’ve heard recently! Membership is offered on a complimentary basis, and the benefits grow each time a guest books a hotel stay. The Club offers incomparable service through a dedicated Club Manager and Club Reservations Consultants, ensuring the very best personal service, advice and recommendations for your next hotel stay.

Read down for HOW TO ENTER…

To browse your next luxury holiday on the go, download the free SLH iPhone app viawww.slh.com/iphone

Small Luxury Hotels of the World is exclusively offering Candidtraveller readers the chance to win two nights for two at any SLH property around the world. The prize is subject to availability and is valid for standard double room accommodation only for stays within one year. Terms and conditions apply.

How To Enter:

1.  For your chance to win visit http://www.slh.com/marketing/candid/ and enter by joining the Club programme absolutely free.

2.   Then log onto Candidtraveller on Facebook and ‘like and share’ the page so they know you’ve entered.  Good luck!




SLH Terms and Conditions:

The arrangement relates to standard double room accommodation only.

It is always subject to availability; (i.e. at the hotel’s discretion. If a booking is requested during the hotel’s peak period, or their annual complimentary room night allocation has already been confirmed, they are entitled to deny confirmation).

General online availability and hotel availability for claiming complimentary room nights may differ; the availability of the letter will prevail.

A maximum of five (5) room nights can be requested per hotel, per stay, (applies only to complimentary room night offers for five nights or more.)

A minimum of two (2) weeks’ notice must be given.

The complimentary room nights are valid for 12 months from the date of receipt.

All food, beverages, taxes, and other incidental costs incurred by the guest are to be settled prior to departure from, and direct with, the individual hotel.

Complimentary rooms are non- flexible and once confirmed by SLH, no alterations or cancellations can be made. In case of alteration or cancellation, you will forfeit the rooms.

The Club of Small Luxury Hotels of the World’s benefits cannot be redeemed in conjunction with this offer.

Guests who choose to utilise their room nights at an all-inclusive SLH hotel will incur an additional charge, which will vary depending on the property selected.

No monetary value can be given in exchange for this prize

The prize cannot be transferred

Small Luxury Hotels of the World has the right to update these terms and conditions. Complimentary room nights will be governed by the terms and conditions that are in place at the time the room nights are reserved. 

General Terms and Conditions:

1. The Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) competition (the “Competition”) is open to entrants aged 18 and over, worldwide. 2. The Competition is not open to employees or agencies of either Candidtraveller or Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH), its group companies, their family members or anyone else connected to the Competition. 3. Entry into the Competition is acceptance of these Terms and Conditions. 4. To enter the Competition, ‘like’ and ‘share’ the Candidtraveller Facebook page and enter your details on the SLH entry page . 5. Entries on behalf of another person will not be accepted and joint submissions are not allowed. 6. No responsibility is taken for entries that are lost, delayed, misdirected or incomplete or cannot be delivered or entered for any technical or other reason. Proof of delivery of the entry is not proof of receipt. 7. The Competition closes at midnight GMT on Friday 7 September 2012. Entries received after this closing date will not be processed. 8. The winner will be chosen at random from the entries submitted correctly. The judges’ decision will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. 9. The winner will receive the prize specified above. Any other costs and responsibilities not specifically associated with each Prize are the responsibility of the winners.

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Important Facts about the island of Majorca

How to say it

There has always been some confusion as to what the real name is for this island.

Is it Majorca or Mallorca?

Although both spellings are correct, Mallorca is the Spanish/Catalan version and is pronounced ‘Mah-york-a’ which is the correct way.

Majorca on the other hand is the English version and is sometimes pronounced ‘Mah-jork-a’, although this sounds incorrect in the contextual sense.


Majorca is one of the most favoured of all the Balearic Islands with its combination of stunning scenery, rolling hills, picturesque coves and delightful beaches.

With the diversity of natural beauty found on the island, it comes as no surprise that its popularity as a tourist destination has kept on growing over many years, giving visitors a taste a Mediterranean paradise.

History of Invasion and Occupation

Like many islands in the Mediterranean, Majorca attracted many a conqueror, invader, settler and tourist who all contributed to its rich history and culture that we have today.

It flourished during the Roman occupation around 123BC which had the greatest impact on the islands social patterns.

This occupation was overturned by the Byzantine Empire in 534 which consequently allowed Christianity to flourish on the island.

Nearly 400 years later, when the Moors conquered the island, they greatly improved the agriculture and local industry but for most Majorcans, history didn’t really begin until the 13th century when the Catalans took the island from the Moors hence the reason why the official language is Catalan.


Traditional food is the best kept secret of the indigenes and is derived from that of Catalonia. Most dishes adopt a sweet and savoury taste combination, with pork being a very popular ingredient.

A must to try is Langosta a la parrilla which is the local spiny lobster dish. Infused with aromatic herbs and spices, it is usually eaten with a delicious local mayonnaise.
Make sure you also try the ensaimada, a yeast bun that’s baked in an unusual spiral shift, and which perfectly complements a strong Spanish coffee.

Places to visit

Palma, the capital, is etched in history with its cathedral, monuments and old cobbled streets, transporting visitors to a bygone era that truly mesmerises.

A trip to the town of Manacor will give you the opportunity to experience how cultured pearls are made at one of the several pearl factories on the island.

Other tourist attractions include thrilling water slides and tropical parks that are aimed at the whole family with both adults and children being catered for.

Other places include the leather factories of Inca and the many boutiques and shops around Palma for the shopaholics among you.

The beaches in Majorca are kept very clean and are of a very good safety standard so it is normally safe to swim unless the local authority states otherwise.


Being a Balearic island, Majorca has a typical Mediterranean climate of hot summer days and very mild winters.

The peak summer months are July and August which boasts of nearly 12 hours of sunshine with the winter months becoming chilly with the weather remaining mild and bright on most days.

Majorca unlike Tenerife, is not a year round tourist spot so make sure you plan your trip according to your expectations.


Majorca should be on your ‘to visit’ list if it’s not already on there and being known as the youthful island, it may even afford you the elixir that has proved so elusive.

The author

Peter writes for the Tenerife Forum blog and has a keen interest on Spanish islands.

Cruising the Basque Country

The Basque Country is one of the most culturally rich regions of Spain and remains a must-see for all foodie types. This beautiful Northern region is far removed from the commercialism of the package-orientated Costas. And, a holiday here doesn’t have to cost a fortune. With a bit of extra planning you’ll discover authentic Spain is much more accessible than you think. There are lots of great car hire options in Spain and driving is the best way to get out and explore this region. You’ll have complete freedom to roam between cities and cruise the scenic coastline. Bilbao’s port has great motorway connections for ease but take the smaller country and mountain roads and you’ll experience a much more picturesque drive. A good time to head here is during Basque Week, in September each year. Celebrations take place in towns across the region, where you will get chance to see traditional dances and games and even take part in a bit of cider tasting.


Do you ever feel like you spend a lot of your time on holiday eating? One of the best things about travelling abroad is that there are plenty of delicious new foods to try. The Basque Country is renowned for its top-notch food. Wander around the Old Town’s narrow streets and you’ll find it hard to resist all the tempting tapas restaurants. Bilbao is the largest city in the region and the nightlife here is pretty lively. The Guggenheim Museum is definitely also worth a look. With its striking modern architecture and art exhibitions, it has become a key attraction for visitors looking to add a bit of culture to their lives.


Not quite active enough for you? Tour out to the Basque coast and you can stop at the several picturesque beach spots or find the optimum conditions for catching the best waves. Drive just 45 minutes from Bilbao and you’ll reach the town of Mundaka, a surfer’s mecca that attracts visitors from around the world. It also hosts a round of the World Surfing Championship each year. The diversity of beaches means there is something for every skill level.  So, come here to catch your first wave, beat your personal best or just watch the professionals do it.


Just 45 minutes’ drive east along the coast is the little town of Lekeitio. Fishing has always been big business here and if you’re looking for a slower pace of life then you can take lots of leisurely walks or marvel at the sunsets. Aside from the Gothic architecture other attractions are the two great beaches overlooking the island of San Nicolas. When the tide is low, it becomes an island no more and you can walk across on foot. You can carry on the sea theme with a visit to the Lighthouse of Catalina. The Navigation Interpretative Centre on site lets you put your sailor cap on, experience a virtual voyage and learn those essential navigation skills. When you’re done you can take in sweeping views from the terraces.

San Sebastian

San Sebastian offers the best of both worlds. You can party in the city’s many bars or go for a slap-up meal in one of the fancy restaurants. This is also one of the best places to nibble some pintxos, the region’s version of tapas. Common ingredients of these small snacks include seafood and peppers and bread usually held together with a toothpick or skewer making them great for sharing. So you can gather together a group of you and hop from tavern to tavern, sampling all the tasty pintxos options. You’ll also find fine sandy beaches to lounge around on and Le Concha is one not to be missed.

Author Bio: Melanie is a freelance writer and blogger with a passion for travel.

The World’s Greatest Pizza Can Be Found in America

The World’s Greatest Pizza Can Be Found in America

If you are a connoisseur of the pizza pie, there’s little doubt that you know the best place to grab a slice no matter which city you’re in. While virtually anyone can make a pizza, it takes a talented individual to make the perfect pie. If you’re looking to mark the next great slice off of your “must-have” list, here are five pizzerias that can’t be missed:

Giordano’s Pizzeria – Chicago

Located in the windiest city in America, Giordano’s has been a neighborhood staple for years. Just in case you don’t live near the original Giordano’s, you can visit one of their other 42 locations in Illinois and Florida. The recipes at Giordano’s are those of the restaurant’s namesake, a beautiful woman from northern Italy. Her dishes were so lauded by the region that her sons opened a pizza shop in her honor when they came to America. Today, residents of Illinois and Florida flock to the pizzeria for a sampling of the best stuffed-crust pie in the nation.

Lou Malnati’s – Chicago

Malnati’s pizzeria is another favorite of the residents of Chicago. In fact, if you browse through Yelp!, you’ll find that diners are almost perfectly divided when it comes to dining at Malnati’s or their next door neighbor, Giordano’s. The creator of this fabulous restaurant got his start in the 1940’s, cooking in one of Chicago’s best pizza shops. It was years later that Lou Malnati and his wife, Jean, opened what would become the most popular pizzeria in a Jewish neighborhood in Chicago. The tradition continues today, with diners often lining the streets for a chance to get belly-up to one of these delicious deep-dish pizzas.

Lombardi’s – New York

It started way back in 1905 when Gennaro Lombardi opened a grocery store in Little Italy after emigrating from his home country. Only three miles from Ellis Island, Lombardi’s soon began to sell tomato pies to the Italians who worked their fingers to the bone in the community. Pizzas today are made with the same coal-fired ovens that fed so many immigrants so long ago, and the restaurant is as popular as it ever was.

Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana – New Haven

Your first visit to Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana will definitely not be your last, even after you notice the misshapen pie sitting before you. Instead of being baked in a round pan, Pepe’s pizza are hand-crafted and then baked in a traditional, coal-fired pizza oven made of brick. Stop by this New Haven hangout and try a slice for yourself.

California Pizza Kitchen – Multiple Cities

If you aren’t lucky enough to live near one of these great pizzerias, you can always visit a California Pizza Kitchen. The chain restaurant is often named one of the best by customers and food critics alike. Home to some of the more original pizzas in the nation, California Pizza Kitchen is a favorite for those who want something more unique than pepperoni dotting their pie.

The next time you’re in Chicago, New York or New Haven, you’ve got to stop by one of these pizza joints. If you think you know a great slice of pizza, you’ll be blown away by the cooks at any one of these fabulous eateries. The next time you have a craving for a slice of fabulous pizza, pop by one of these pizzerias; you won’t be disappointed.

Cyndi Ross writes for Delivery.com, a site she recommends for finding the best delivery options in Chicago.

Top 10 Beaches in the World

The world is blessed with some amazing beaches. From north to south, there are tiny rocky coves sheltered by towering cliffs and incredible swathes of sweeping sand. From islands to towns, from tropical paradises to cities, from sparkly silver, through gold of every hue to volcanic black sand, the diversity is incredible. Here are 10 top beaches of the world:


Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii, USA

One of Hawaii’s most beloved nature preserves, the beautiful horseshoe-shaped Hanauma bay represents the floor of an ancient volcanic crater.  A scant 10 miles from Waikiki, Hanauma stands above the rest, with its calm lagoons which make it a haven for snorkelers, swimmers and indeed, local marine life.

Boulders Beach, Cape Town, South Africa

South of Cape Town, Boulders beach is protected by an outcrop of grassy dunes.  The beach itself mixes white sand with large, pillow-shaped boulders.  One of the world’s most distinct beaches, Boulders attracts nature lovers the world over and is famous for being home to African penguins.

 Grumari Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

While Ipanema may have been immortalized in the 1960s bossa nova classic, Rio de Janeiro lays claim to several spectacular beaches.  Away from the crowds in an environmentally protected area, Grumari Beach is Rio’s best kept secret.  Bordered by striking mountains and bounded by wild vegetation, Grumari’s soft fine sand and gentle waves feel a world apart from the crowds of Ipanema.

Whitehaven Beach, Queensland, Australia

Australia’s most photographed beach is a sight to behold.  Nowhere else in the world does aqua blue contrast so starkly and beautifully with white sands than in Whitehaven.  Tidal shifts along the along the 7km beach create swirls of colors unique to the region, making it one of the top must-see destinations in Queensland.

 Arambol Beach, Goa, India

Making a swift transition from humble fishing village to world-class beach, Arambol is the jewel of Goa.  Here on this broad crescent of soft sand there is a mix of beach chairs, a few remaining fishermen and the odd cow or two.  Arambol’s laid-back atmosphere along with its natural beauty creates a magnetic pull that has been attracting more and more visitors each year.

 Pulau Perhentian Kecil, Malaysia

The Perhentian Islands represent the quintessential tropical beach paradise.  Here, the sand crumbles underneath your feet like powder and palm trees jut out from the sand in perfect postcard image form.  Featuring a year-round temperate climate and warm, crystal clear waters, Kecil is true paradise on Earth.

Las Islas Cíes, Galicia, Spain

Once squarely in pirate territory, Las Islas Cíes is a remarkable place near Spain’s northern border with Portugal.  The area is only open to visitors in the summer and features two crescent-shaped pristine beaches with clear turquoise waters.

Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Sitting on Zanzibar’s northern tip, Nungwi offers an almost surreal landscape.  Its shallow sloping beach is a sight to behold as are the small fishing villages that still dot the region.  Nungwi is home to some of the finest sand in the world which when combined with the warm equatorial waters of Zanzibar, create a first-class beach experience.

Matira Beach, Bora Bora, Tahiti

Nicknamed the “Romantic Island”, Bora Bora is home to some of the most beautiful spots on earth.  Matira Beach is the island’s crown jewel.  Protected by a thin strip of land, Matira is nestled in a lagoon creating incredibly calm and clear waters which lap at your feet.

Anse Source d’Argent, Seychelles

The granite boulders which burst through the soft pink sand of Anse Source d’Argent is one of the region’s most distinctive features.  Creating an even more dramatic scene, the flat sandy beach is protected by walls of palm tree-covered granite cliffs from behind, making it feel like the most secluded place in the world.  Largely protected by a reef, the waves entering this stunning beach are calm and relaxing.

The Inn at Lathones: Stylish Dining at St Andrews, Scotland

Just outside St Andrews, a short drive south on the A915, is a jewel in the crown of independent eateries in Scotland. Behind the unassuming facade of the Inn at Lathones lies a restaurant that is, at best, deserving of its two AA Rosettes, but at the very least, worthy of much more. Focusing on fresh produce, and advocates of the ‘slow food movement’, the Inn showcases the very best of seasonal Scottish food with fresh locally-caught seafood high on the menu.

The Inn’s owner, Nick White, began his early career in hospitality as a chef, and although he’s turned his hand to other areas of wining and dining, his knowledge and understanding of food is clearly the driving force behind the success that his restaurant enjoys. That, and the skill and vision of his chef as well, he’s quick to inform us.

Dining at the Inn is an absolute pleasure. They’ve deliberately taken a step away from aiming for the dizzy heights of Michelin acclaim to focus instead on producing a delightful bistro-style menu. But that doesn’t mean that their food is presented with less flair. In fact, the stylish plates of well-cooked, gratifying food that arrive before diners in this relaxed dining room, have been plated with all the mastery and expertise you’d expect to find in restaurants at the top of the food chain. Pardon the pun. And that’s undoubtedly one of the reasons why they enjoy such popularity, not only with the locals who call this place home, but also with golfers from nearby St Andrews who clearly recognise the Inn as a veritable competitor to their usual 19th tee haunts.

And it’s not just the food that’s enjoyable here. There’s a clear understanding of how a good wine should taste as well, like the £35 bottle of Albarino we were encouraged to try. This 2009 Casal Caeivo white was refreshing and fruity, with a hint of blackcurrants, although maybe that’s just my palate. It worked every bit as well with red meats, and wasn’t lost by the robust flavour of the lamb.

When we visited, we found their summer menu to be frustratingly tempting. The pan roasted cod with a side of crispy anchovies was tantalising, as was the thought of cannelloni of local langoustine with parmesan crisp and a seafood bisque. We finally settled on seafood chowder, made with seafood caught locally at nearby Pittenweem, and a terrine of chicken and ham confit, dressed with housemade apple jelly to start. We followed that up with a heavenly braised shoulder of local spring lamb, served with a pan fried chump and perfectly cooked vegetables, a and local corn fed chicken breast main with artichokes.

Desert was equally as difficult to narrow down, but a soft and refreshing vanilla mousse and raspberry sorbet, along with a well chosen cheese board won.  It’s the first time I’ve tasted pickled celery – I have to say, I may now be a celery convert.

It’s the care that goes into the food here, that makes dining at the Inn special. They take care of their produce from the very beginning, using meats that are tracked by the Scottish Beef Club from field to table. Everything is locally butchered just a few miles away from the Inn, giving a certain degree of comfort in knowing how fresh and well-sourced the food you’re eating is. And when the Inn finds something special, something to show off about, that’s exactly what they do. Catering for larger groups, particularly with the famous golf courses of St Andrews just up the road, is something this outstanding restaurant is perfectly used to doing, and it’s a chance for them to get creative. Take their seafood nights, for example. We narrowly missed one such occasion, and how we rued that fact. The thought of long slabs of wood, laden high with fresh lobsters, a variety of other saltwater crustacions, and an outsized champagne bucket filled to the brim with fresh mussels in a white wine and cream sauce, sounded like seafood heaven. No starters, no need for deserts, just seafood. And lots of it.

The menu we dined from is the Inn at Lathones’  summer menu for 2012, but they’re working on their winter menu already. Anticipate plenty of fresh local estate game, with pheasant and partridge likely to feature on it. And the seafood will undoubtedly be making an appearance again too.

Click here to visit the website for the Inn at Lathones: http://www.innatlathones.com/




Seattle: Microbreweries Put to the Test

Last month I was at an industry conference in Seattle. It was my first trip to the Emerald city, and I was not disappointed. The one drawback I have ever heard about Seattle the often crummy weather, but three of the four days we were there, there wasn’t as much as a cloud in sky, and the cool sea breeze made for a perfect climate. Being a big fan of beer, I went into the trip excited to try out all of the microbrews that the city had to offer. Some, I really liked. Others, not so much. Below is my list of the best and worst Seattle beers (based on exhaustive research…).

The Best: Pike Kilt Lifter from The Pike Brewing Company

Those who are not into the more bitter taste of ales will not be a fan of this one. I for one could not get enough! This is a high gravity beer (6.5% alcohol by volume) is a hefty brew with a beautiful ruby color and a bitter, crisp finish. Enjoy one or two of pints at the Pike Brewery near the heart of the city on on 1st and Pike.

Runner-up: Hefeweizen from Pyramid Breweries

I am not typically a fan of wheat beers, or any beers that are served with fruit for that matter, but this unfiltered wheat from Pyramid breweries just about changed my mind. Like most Bavarian style wheat’s, The Hefeweizen is a lighter brew, and goes great with a steaming bowl of chowder.

The Worst:The Pike Stout

In my humble opinion, a beer should not taste like a Starbucks energy shot, and to me, this one did. Please take my opinion with a grain of salt, as I am very particular about my beer, but this one I could have done without. It is a high gravity Stout (7% ABV) and will fill you up by the time you’re half way through. Unless the heavy, rich, malty style lager is your thing, I would steer clear of this one.

Runner-up: Bosun’s Black Porter from Maritime Brewery

Even though the name is derived in quite a creative manner, this brew was far too smoky, malty, and heavy for my taste. With that kind of make-up I would at least expect it to pack a punch, but the ABV is only 5.2% , which simply isn’t high enough to make up for the downright strange flavor. Agree? Disagree? Please comment below!

Written by the Marketing team at McCormick & Murphy, Denver Car Accident Attorneys.

Traveling to the Limits: Places to Go where You can See it All

Growing up you may have had dreams of traveling to a far off land. As an adult, why not make those dreams a reality? Traveling to a faraway place can give you that feeling back, the feeling where the world’s chaos didn’t matter and you are free to dream. Here are some inspiring places to visit and help you renew that feeling of wonder.

Big Sur, California, United States

The California coastline is known for its breathtakingly scenic views. If you want stunning landscapes and open space, spend time around the Big Sur region. Between the jagged coast and rippling waves, you will have the opportunity to overlook a true marvel of nature. Those who like to go for a drive to clear their mind will really love this place – you can zip around winding Rt. 1 while taking in the view.

Green Lake, Austria

At the base of the Hochschwab Mountains in Tragoess, Austria, sits a lake so unique and beautiful you cannot help but be inspired. During the winter, you can find a park in this spot. It is decorated with all the trappings of a well-maintained rural getaway – trees, benches, and walking paths.

Once the heat of summer melts away the snow and ice from the mountains, that all changes. Crystal clear water from the mountains trickles down and creates a lake about 10 meters deep. Strap on some diving gear for the amazing experience of seeing a functional park submerged in beautifully transparent water.

Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States

The Grand Canyon is one of the natural wonders of the world for good reason – one look at it strikes most with awe and wonder. Its size is amazing. Measuring in at 277 miles long, 4 to 18 miles wide, and over a mile deep, it is difficult not to marvel in its vastness.

What makes it more unique is its magnificent color palette. While other canyons throughout the world may stretch longer or go steeper, few present the same combination of shades that light up against the sun. It also offers visitors plenty of lookout points, so you are sure to find a spot with a view that captures your imagination.

Black Sand Beach, Vík, Iceland

Located in the southernmost village in Iceland, the black sand beach at Vík is a surreal combination of starkly-colored sand and rippling waves. You can almost sense the presence of sailors of the past as you stand on the black basalt sand near the stormy sea. The surrounding rock formations are captivating, too; they have that unearthly quality that characterizes much of Iceland’s famous landscape. Last but not least, bird lovers are in for a treat – puffin colonies live around this part of the country.

Milford Track, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Tucked away in one of the most effortlessly beautiful countries in the world, Milford Track offers a one-of-a-kind trek through nature to anyone who wants to get away from the grind. Hikers can expect to see staggering mountains, countless winding rivers, and waterfalls. Hiking activity is moderated pretty strictly during the summer months, which is between October and April in New Zealand, so if you want to check out this scenic spot, you need to make reservations several months in advance. Many hikers would agree it is well worth the wait.

You don’t have abandon feelings of wonder once you hit adulthood. Get away from your stifling routine and explore pockets of the world that can fill you with child-like inspiration all over again.

Author Bio:

Guest post contributed by Carla Gregson, freelance travel writer. She enjoys writing articles about her travel experiences and sharing them on various online travel publications.

Things to Do in Cornwall, England

If you are traveling to Cornwall, England, this year, do you know what you will do when you reach your destination? There are many opportunities awaiting you in this lovely location, so it pays to plan ahead and have an idea of your itinerary before arriving in Cornwall.

Visit Land’s End

Land’s End is unparalleled when it comes to natural beauty and peaceful surroundings. You can walk along the coast and watch the seabirds frolic in the surf. You may even get the chance to glimpse a seal or dolphin in the waves. There are free events for the entire family to enjoy, such as fireworks displays on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the months of July and August. At this time, restaurants and shops stay open later, and live music can also be enjoyed. If you would like some exercise, you might decide to take a leisurely stroll along beautiful trails offering breathtaking views of the countryside.Land’s End Hotel is located on the top of a cliff and it provides ideal family accommodation.

Check Out the Eden Project

The Eden Project, which has actually been referred to as the eighth wonder of the world, is a beautiful garden situated in tropical biomes located in a gigantic crater. Colorful plants abound here, and you will have the opportunity to experience a rainforest, as well as walk among lemon and orange trees like the ones you might find in California. The Roofless Biome occupies 30 acres and houses such plants as hemp and sunflowers.

Tintagel is a Must-See Stop

This lovely location is in North Cornwall right along the Atlantic coastline. Here you will learn about wizards and kings. Tintagel Castle, high on the cliffs, is perfect for a family outing. It is said to be the location where King Arthur was born. You may also want to visit the nearby village to see the old post office and tour quaint cottages that are open all year.

Take the kids to Tencreek Holiday Park

If your children are accompanying you on your vacation, visiting Tencreek Holiday Park will create a wonderful excursion for them. It is located near the seaside town of Looe. Caravan holiday homes that will house from six to eight people are a great way to stay together as a family, and they’re every bit as comfortable as your own home. Even the family dog is welcome. There’s a heated pool on the premises, and you can find plenty of shopping nearby. Castaways Bar provides food and entertainment.

Spend the Day Surfing

Kingsurf Surf School, located in Newquay, gets high marks from tourists for being a great attraction for kids and adults. You can learn to surf regardless of your skill level. Lessons are provided that are just for fun or that cater to more professional tastes.

There are many attractions in Cornwall to be enjoyed by all age groups. You may find yourself running out of time to do and see everything, so make sure you plan ahead and factor in enough time to do the things that appeal to you most.

This is a guest post from Jennifer Lewis, who has spentseveral wonderful vacations in Cornwall. She writes for a site that providesinformation on financial help for female students, such as scholarships for women in physics and free money grants for women.

Vacation Essentials

5 Things You NEED to Have in Your Bags, No Matter Where You’re Going

Vacations: we look forward to them for months, saving money and daydreaming about our fun to come. When the day arrives, it’s easy to get excited, and it sometimes seems inevitable that you’ll forget things. Everyone has left behind their toothbrush, extra socks, or a hairbrush at some point, but here are five vacation essentials you’ll want to make sure are always in your bag:

A first aid kit – Bumps, lumps, and scrapes are part of life, even on vacation. Protect yourself from headaches and clean up wounds quickly by bringing your own first aid supplies like bandages, pain medicines, and antibacterial gels. This is especially recommended if you’re going abroad so you won’t have to try to decipher foreign medications.

Extra prescription medicines – As a precaution, take extra doses of your prescriptions with you, and carry them in separate bags if possible. If some get lost or destroyed, you’ll have enough to get you through the rest of the vacation. Some pharmacies may not want to give you medicines in advance, so you may have to let your doctor know you’re going on vacation and ask for a special prescription.

A copy of your driver’s license or passport – If you should happen to lose your identification, having a copy can help you speed up the replacement process. Leave a copy with a family member or friend as well so they can help if necessary.

A valid medical insurance card – If you’re leaving the country, check to make sure your insurance company covers injuries abroad. An injury or illness is bad enough without having to come home and find a fat medical bill waiting for you.

Hand sanitizer – Traveling means exposure to more germs than most people are accustomed to, and the last thing you want is to get sick on vacation. A little bottle of sanitizer can make a big difference in your experience. Take a second to clean your hands every now and then, especially after being on a plane and before eating.

Hopefully you won’t need the first four of these vacation essentials, but no vacation is guaranteed to be speed-bump free. Keep these five essentials by your side, and you can help protect yourself against some of the more common headaches and put yourself on the path to a stress-free vacation

Karolina Shenton works with The Cruise Web. Whether you are looking to book a cruise out of New York or a more exotic location, the experienced consultants at The Cruise Web can help you find the perfect vacation.

Canal Boating Holidays in the UK

If you’re looking for a relaxing break then what could be more tranquil than a canal boat holiday in the UK? Hiring a canal boat for a week and being left to work the locks and steer your boat through the UK Inland Waterways can be a liberating and calming experience.

The UK has many canals and navigable rivers; did you know there are more miles of canal in Birmingham than there are in Venice? Birmingham might be substantially larger but the point remains – Britain is full of canals and waterways. They were first used during Roman occupation, and used for irrigation, but the Romans also created additional canals to link rivers together. Canals were an essential part of the Industrial Revolution, as roads at the time were unsuitable for a large volume of traffic. Canal boats were a lot quicker, could carry heavy loads and were safer for the transportation of fragile items.

Today canal boats are primarily used by tourists and holiday-makers looking for a relaxing holiday, cruising on the water at a leisurely pace. Hired canal boats can be surprisingly modern and spacious, and typically come with central heating, a kitchen and a lounge. A guide will usually come to instruct you on operating the boat and educate you about canal etiquette.

Most canals in the UK can accommodate boats that are between 55 and 80 feet long, but some canals are larger, such as New Junction Canal and the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, which can accommodate boats of up to 230 feet in length.

If you’re thinking about hiring a canal boat, there are a number of things to consider. You need to be reasonably fit – two adults can easily handle a narrowboat, but for long journeys you might consider taking more people to spread the work. As the boat cruises along, one person steers the boat while the rest of the crew can soak up the scenery or even walk alongside the boat on the towpath. At locks, one person should stay on-board the boat to steer while another works the lock mechanism.

Canal boating holidays are growing in popularity, and are no longer the preserve of boaters and nautical types. They are becoming particularly popular with husbands-to-be who are looking for a more relaxing stag-do. Boats can be hired and tuition about locks provided, so you can navigate your own way around the country.

Alan Cairns writes on a number of subjects including outboard motors and canal boat holidays on behalf of http://www.outboardmotorsforsale.co.uk/

Diving in Anguilla

Anguilla is a small but fantastic island in the Caribbean. The friendly people, whose love of the sea is instantly visible, seem to spend more time on or in the water than on dry land. The national sport is sailing but you don’t have to travel too far without finding amazing dive sites. The island has the Atlantic on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other, so you can find an array of different reefs, wrecks and sea life while enjoying the clear turquoise waters. With around 20 great dive sites, 5 easily accessible wrecks and a host of reefs this island is a divers paradise.

Angel Reef is aptly named due to its large concentration of Angel fish. This however, is not the only company you will have here as it is a playground for various stingrays, turtles, lobsters, snappers, and some healthy looking barracuda. With a 4m/12ft sea whip and several large sea fans there is plenty to explore and the reef ranges from 1ft to a hefty 65ft deep in places.

Shoal Bay Reef is probably the most popular reef on the island and the beach has various luxury resorts offering direct access to the reef.  Its popularity is not without reason The Shoal Bay plateau is in 15/18 ft of water and leads towards a 45 degree drop-off at 25 ft. After this point it drops off from around 30 ft at its Eastern end to 85 ft on its Western end. Its sandy bottom is home to an assortment of Stingray, Lobster, Crayfish and some amazing Eels which are all well worth a look.

For the more experienced diver it is well worth a visit to The Steps or Dog Island. The Steps is located at Little Scrub and goes down an array of ledges which step from 40 ft to over 90 ft. This site also offers some fun boulders and crevices to explore and you can see a selection of bigger fish such as Tiger Sharks, Lemon Sharks and Nurse Sharks. Dog Island is also home to various types of sharks, large tuna and other big fish and although this site is harder to access (due to access being dependent on the weather) it is worth setting aside some time for. Dog Island has a formidable 90ft sheer wall dive which is simply mind-blowing.

If you prefer to do wreck diving then there is also an abundance of natural and purpose built wreck diving sites. My favourite has to be the Commerce Wreck as the wreck sits bolt upright in 80 ft of water. What was an undamaged wreck when it sunk has been weathered by years of storms and the mangled yet complete wreck has an unnatural and unsettling feeling making the dive all the more exciting. If you venture to the base you can see a glut of giant lobsters (some as big as 30 pounds). The wreck seemed to have generated interest with some larger fish and it is not uncommon so see Atlantic Spadefish, Hog fish and Goat fish.

The largest wreck is the Sarah at over 230 ft long and although it sunk on its side it has been moved and stood upright. The ship has a large opening in the hull which gives you access to various chambers inside. This jaw dropping wreck is covered with opening and closing Oysters and is home to Sergeant Majors, Bluestriped Grunts and Cowfish among others.

So if you find yourself lucky enough to dive in the Caribbean be sure to visit Anguilla and below the water there is so much on offer and above the water there are stunning beaches, fantastic seafood and amazingly friendly people.

About the Author

When not diving Naomi Cambridge enjoys marketing luxury resorts and working on worldwide projects such as Zemi Beach Luxury Caribbean Real Estate. For more information about Naomi and Cardea Consultants vist:http://www.cardeaconsultants.com/

Top Tourist Attractions in Bucharest, Romania

Bucharest, the capital of Romania, represents a curious, intriguing mix of oriental and occidental influences, a place where one can admire both old and new architectural styles. It is a city that is chosen by many as their summer time vacation destination, and a couple of weeks spent there will surely help you start to understand and feel its uniqueness.

So, what is there to see in Bucharest?

Well, I should start with the Romanian Athenaeum, a place of great interest for music and concert lovers. Those of you who appreciate architecture will also delight in admiring the building, which is white, elegant and was built in 1888 in a neo-classical style.

A very interesting thing is the manner in which the money that was needed in order to restore the building to its former beauty was gathered a few years ago. Ordinary people were asked to donate one leu (a unit of the Romanian currency) for the Athenaeum, using a small, two verse poem.

The money was collected very fast and the 40 meters high building was restored, resembling an ancient temple. The good news is that the music lovers can listen to most classical masterpieces inside the Athenaeum.

Another prized tourist attraction in Bucharest is The Village Museum, which was created in 1936 and exhibits around 300 types of traditional Romanian houses, windmills, churches, houses that were built on water, etc. Many of these houses are authentic, being brought to Bucharest piece by piece and reassembled there. The museum can be visited all year long and it is positioned near one of the biggest parks in Bucharest, the Herastrau Park.

A lot of tourists coming to Bucharest, if not all of them, decide to visit The Parliament House, a soviet style, huge building that attracts the curiosity and interest of most people coming to Romania. It was built by former communist leader and dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, after he ordered the demolition of numerous houses and churches in order to clear the area. Being the second largest building in the world and competing with the Pentagon building in size, it is no wonder that so many tourists come and wander inside The Parliament House using the help offered by a guide.

The Cismigiu Gardens represent the place where citizens and tourists alike relax and breathe cleaner and fresher air right in the middle of the city. It is the oldest park in Bucharest and the fresh grass, the colored flowers and all the pigeons flying around really help the visitors relax and enjoy nature.

Then there is The Old Court, the most ancient part of the city, which is nowadays rebuilt and a little bit modernized, as many little restaurants and coffee shops have opened there. This is the most crowded place in the city as the evening comes, because people love to chat there, drinking or eating.

In fact, The Old Court is one of the very few places where you can admire the most modern restaurants and the ruins of very old houses sitting side by side. You can visit several old inns and pubs, and you can try some of the tasty, traditional Romanian dishes there. A famous restaurant in the area is Manuc’s Inn, the oldest inn in the region, which was built around 1808 for the merchants that were coming to sell their products in Bucharest. It was in this very building that important historical documents were signed – the 1812 treaty that ended the war between the Russian and the Turks, for example. Today it is an enchanting place that was preserved very well and attracts foreigners like a magnet.

Irina Chirilov, the author of this article, is a blogger for Thrifty Bucuresti Romania, a car rental agency in Europe.

Top 3 Big-City Parks in the U.S.

A family vacation can be a complex thing – how do you find a destination that has activities that everyone in the family – from tots to teens, and including the parents, too – can enjoy. It’s a cinch that a children’s museum is entertaining for youngsters but boring to the teens, and the concert that the teens are excited about have mom and dad’s eyes rolling.

The answer? A big urban park, with activities for everyone. Three large cities in the U.S. offer just that.

1. Central Park, New York City.

Plunked down in the very middle of Manhattan is a huge park that stretches for 2.5 miles, is a half a mile wide, and covers 840 acres.

There are extensive walking, hiking and biking trails that meander through the woods and along open grassy areas, and plenty of open space for spreading out the family’s picnic blanket.

A 20-acre lake is right there for the entire family to enjoy spending a day boating together.

There are 32 children’s playgrounds, and each one offers something just a little different. The park also contains the Central Zoo, a wildlife sanctuary, the Central Park Conservatory Garden, and bridle paths. In the summer there is a swimming pool (that turns into a winter ice skating rink).

Adults in the family will enjoy  “Shakespeare in the Park,” held during the summer in the open-air Delacorte Theater, and is free. Another free entertainment venue is the Central Park Summerstage. Your teens will enjoy the fact that many top musical performers give awesome concerts there.

2. Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

This urban park is over a thousand acres, and is three miles long.

In the middle of the park is stunningly beautiful Stow Lake, with the splashing  Huntington Falls waterfall, and a gazebo designed like a pagoda.  Rent a rowboat or a fun paddle boat, pack a picnic, and head out to the center of the lake for lunch on popular Strawberry Island.

Here also is America’s oldest public playground, the Children’s Playground. It is now officially called Koret Children’s Quarter after a recent $3.8 million renovation that includes many new activities from spinning cups to slides, to a 50-foot climbing tower to ziplines. It even sports a classic carousel, built in 1912, with organ music and ornate animals to ride.

Golden Gate Park is also the only park in the country with its very own bison herd. Get up close and personal with these iconic American animals at Buffalo Paddock.

3. Balboa Park, San Diego.

The largest urban park in the U.S., Balboa Park covers over 1200 acres. The land was put aside for a public park by far-thinking city fathers way back in 1835. It is home to 15 major museums, renowned performing arts venues including the Tony Award-winning Old Globe Theater, hiking and biking paths, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

The Model Railroad Museum in the Park will have all ages, including Dad, mesmerized. And there’s a train for the toddlers, too – the Balboa Park Miniature Railroad will take them on a ½ mile ride through several acres of the Park.

Every Sunday during the summer a free concert is presented at the Spreckels Organ. This amazing 1914 pipe organ is one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs, and has been giving free concerts since 1917. The local U.S. Navy Band also gives free summer concerts on this outdoor stage.

These huge urban parks are a budget-friendly way to enjoy a family vacation where every member of the family can have a good time. And another budget-friendly way to have your family vacation in these three cities is by renting a timeshare, which you can typically get for up to 50% less than the cost of downtown city hotels.

Alice Perkins is a timeshare travel blogger for RedWeek.com,the largest online market place for timeshare rentals, where vacationers can find luxury accommodations for less than the cost of a typical hotel room.

Sport Travel Holiday Ideas

Watching a live sports event is awesome, but organising your next holiday around a specific sports event is even better. Here’s why:

Benefit #1: Travelling has many benefits

Travelling is great; it can give you a new perspective on things, especially for overseas trips. It’s about leaving your comfort zone and visiting a different place that’s far away from your home. Travelling provides a sense of adventure and introduces you to different cultures, cuisines and other forms of entertainment.

Who knows? You might even learn another language, which might help you in other aspects of your life. For instance, business isn’t exclusively done in English. If you pick up some Chinese or German during your sports holiday, you might actually get more business trips and meet valuable contacts in the process.

That fan you had a chat with during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix might actually be a businessman who could lead you to other opportunities.

Benefit #2: You get a needed vacation

Taking a trip also lets you escape from the many pressures of life. If you’re getting way stressed out with your work, a sports holiday could give you that R&R you’ve been aching for. Whatever happens on your trip—whether your team wins or not—you know it’s going to be unforgettable.

Benefit #3: Watch your favourite event live

You may have a huge 60-inch HDTV for watching your favourite matches, but even the most sophisticated technology can’t replace the experience of being at a live sporting event. It may be more comfortable to stay at home, but nothing beats the energy and palpable excitement of being in the stadium and seeing your heroes and heroines in person.

You might even get a chance to meet them.

Watching a live sporting event also lets you cheer for your favourite athlete or team with other equally intense fans, and see other details that are happening—things that can be missed by the camera because it’s focused on the main action. Besides, going to a live sporting event is a great excuse to put on outrageous costumes that you normally wouldn’t wear.

Benefit #4: Packages make organising easy

Can you imagine what it’s like to organise your own sports holiday from scratch? Think about it: first, you have to get your own tickets to the event. Next, you have to arrange your transportation, which would likely involve a ride to and from your hotel, in addition to plane tickets. Then you have to consider where and what you’ll eat.

We’re not even talking about your companions yet.

But with a sports travel package, all you have to worry about is what you’ll bring with you. And perhaps how much cash you’ll need for all the sports gear you’ll buy.

Benefit #5: Travel deals come with perks

If you look at what a sports package includes, you’ll notice that it also comes with a few perks including—but not limited to—festival tickets, access to special areas, use of FanVision controllers, or even a cruise to the venue. So in effect, not only are you making your sports holiday easier; you’re also getting more value for your money.


About the Author:

This guest post was brought to you by Michael. Michael loves to travel and has written many articles about his travels. He is also a content writer for sporttravel.com.au.

The Commonwealth Games 2014 – Take the Opportunity to Explore Glasgow

If you weren’t able to get tickets for the Olympics, why not try your luck at those for the Commonwealth Games in 2014? Between the 23rd July and 3rd August 2014 the games will be held in Glasgow where you will have the opportunity to watch 17 sports, with competitors from 53 Commonwealth countries. Whether you hope to take in the athletics, swimming or gymnastics, the tickets won’t go on sale until 2013. Even if you aren’t successful in getting a ticket, there will be a fantastic atmosphere within the city, with plenty to see and do between watching events.

See the City

Glasgow has some fine architecture, both old and new, and there is no better way to appreciate it than exploring the city on foot. Although you can navigate the streets yourself, joining one of the walking tours is a good way to see many of the unmissable buildings in the city, while you learn more about their history from the knowledgeable guides.

Hit the Shops

After a wander through the city’s streets, turn your attention to the shopping opportunities available in Glasgow. Whether you are after clothing, a special gift or a memento of your stay, you won’t be disappointed, as there are shops to meet all your needs. For department stores and high street names, head to the Buchanan Galleries on Buchanan Street, where there are 80 shops under one roof. The nearby Argyll Arcade is home to 32 jewellers and even if you are just window shopping, stop by to admire the dazzling displays in the shop windows. Anyone seeking a bargain should take a walk to Barras Market in Gallowgate, which is open on Saturdays and Sundays; you never know what you might find. If on the other hand you are looking for designer labels, the Italian Centre on John Street is a good bet and one of the pavement cafes there makes the perfect place to rest your feet over a coffee. Glasgow might be famous for its battered Mars Bars, but you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding somewhere to eat, so whether you want to sample international cuisine or a traditional tea room, there is somewhere to suite every taste.

Go Cultural

Although Edinburgh might be thought of as Scotland’s historic city, that doesn’t mean that Glasgow is lacking in museums, and you’ll certainly have plenty to choose from. A short bus, train or subway ride from the city centre is The People’s Palace, set within Glasgow Green, which tells the story of Glasgow and its people over the last 250 years. While there, stop by the Winter Gardens where you will find exotic palms and plants, marvel at the Doulton Fountain and relax in the surroundings of the largest public green space in Glasgow. If science is more your interest, Glasgow Science Centre has over 300 hands on exhibits, ideal for inquisitive children; it is also home to an IMAX cinema where you can be astounded by films in 2D or 3D on a giant screen. The Science Centre also hosts The Glasgow Tower, the world’s first tower able to turn in a full rotation and at 122m in height allows amazing views not just over the River Clyde, but for 40 miles in all directions.

Active Opportunities

If all the walking hasn’t been enough for you, Pollok Country Park, a mere three miles from the centre of Glasgow, is the perfect place to participate in further activities. Take your own or hire a bike to have a go at one of the three cycle trails that wind through the parks and nearby woodland; graded at different levels of difficulty, there is a trail to suit everyone. There is also a swimming pool and dry ski slope. For family and friends who aren’t so keen on active pursuits, they can enjoy the two art collections housed within the park and the beautiful formal gardens of Pollok House, while you cycle, swim or ski to your heart’s content.

Jenny writes on behalf of luxury medical health insurance and strongly believes in combining travel with activity to lead a healthier, more fulfilled life.

Three of the best mountain biking trails in Sedona, Arizona

Sedona isn’t just a place for mystic hippies to retire and rip off tourists – it’s also one of the most famous and beautiful places to go outdoors. Here are some of the best trails around the area.

Cockscomb Trail

Rating: 4/5

Besides having a great name, this 9.1 mile trail is seven miles west of Sedona below the Mogollon Rim, taking you on a tour of a natural arch, an ancient ruin and plenty of scenic views of red rocks. It’s pretty tame, but your girlfriend will appreciate that there’s nothing scary or dangerous and it can still be quite fun and photogenic.

It’s a bit tricky at the start, but if you can scramble up the top of the Cockscomb spires, you’ll get one of the best views of Sedona around.

Schnebely Hill to Seven Sacred Pools

Rating: 3/5

You can tell why Cortez believed gold was in this area. For the first three miles it’s a big climb up this 13 mile trail, but that’ll warm you up enough to make sure you don’t fall off the edge. That’s the thrill factor, that and the many views. You can view nearly every major named rock along this path, so take your time and enjoy yourself.

Hot Loop

Rating: 3.5/5

If you wanna make this really hot, wait till mid-summer and eat loads of chillies before hopping on your bike and set your tires on fire. Ha ha,just kidding. This loop, which is about ten miles, will really challenge you, filled with plenty of technical, rocky, sandy and other terrains. The downhill at the end weaves you through a rocky “mine field” complete with switchbacks and enough agave to keep you smiling bright all the way down.

Jimmy Kane was born and raised in the Southwest, is an avid traveler and father to his two lovely daughters. He now lives in Florida, where he maintains the website ComcastJacksonville.

Northern Belle; The Orient Express on Scotland’s West Highland Line

It was only eleven o’clock, and I was cautiously eyeing my first ever Bellini and wondering whether drinking alcohol this early was a good idea. Not when I had an article to write and there was the promise of Champagne – Laurent-Perrier no less – a little further down the line. But the tall monogrammed glass, with its pressed peach puree and sparkling Prosecco taunted me and I felt somewhat obliged to take a sip or two. I justified it to myself with the knowledge that it was a very Venetian drink, the invention of one Giuseppe Cipriani at the original Harry’s Bar in Venice. Certainly fitting, it was also crisp and fruity, refreshing and light. Suddenly pre-lunch drinking was entirely acceptable, and I swiftly liberated the glass of its entire contents.

It was a Sunday morning on a marvellously clear day and I was on a crowded train in Scotland, heading north-northwest on the West Highland Line to Oban. But this was no ordinary train – I was seated aboard the elegant Northern Belle, sister train to the infamous Orient Express.

Around me the carriage was a hub of activity. Every seat was taken and travellers were clearly in awe of their surroundings. The interior design of the new Duart carriage is impressive to behold, and it’s not often you find yourself on such a remarkable train enjoying such a unique experience. But the views that were flashing by on either side were vying for our attention as well. The shimmering waters of the Clyde Estuary, the dark crevices of the Cobbler and its neighbouring mountains, the murky depths of Loch Long and Loch Lomond. It was hard to know where to look first.

The Northern Belle is the epitome of luxury, as you might expect from a train that bears the mark of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. Stepping aboard, I had to wait a brief moment as a liveried steward in a smart maroon tunic laid a red carpet below the step of the train. My jacket was taken and stowed overhead. My ticket, in its smart brushed-leather folder was checked, and my personalised menu card was left for me to read over and confirm. It was quick, efficient and downright polite. Far removed from any rail journey I’d taken before.

The Duart is the newest edition to the Northern Belle. Once part of the Royal Household train, it’s now had a makeover and received the Orient treatment. It suits its new colours and livery, and at the front of the train, it offers space for twenty-four privileged passenger to travel in style. Every aspect of its transformation has been carefully managed over the past four years, with hand painted panels, restored woodwork and beautifully upholstered seating, there’s been nothing missed.

In fact, everything aboard this impressive locomotive screams quality and luxury. From the heavy silver salt and pepper pots, to the specially commissioned glassware and the Dudson Fine China plates which read ‘Made exclusively for the Northern Belle’, there’s nothing that doesn’t ooze originality here. And that extends to the food – but then isn’t that one of the real reasons travellers book aboard these trains? The experience, the sights…and the victuals?

Brunch began with a refreshing seasonal fruit salad ladled from a large silver tureen, and was swiftly followed by a toasted crumpet topped with a smoked salmon and scrambled egg parcel, caviar and a light drizzle of hollandaise. It didn’t last long. Fresh pastries followed soon afterwards, along with a strong and smooth fair-trade coffee.

By early afternoon we had rumbled past Arrochar, Ardlui and Crianlarich, and around Dalmally, a light lunch arrived. Roasted chicken with asparagus and a barley risotto. A glass of house Chardonnay, again, specially commissioned for the Northern Belle, was poured. We waited in Dalmally for the single track to clear, gazing out of the windows at the mountains around us. They were growing in stature the further north we went.

The landscape flattens out again as this line gets closer to the sea, passing alongside Loch Awe and the inimitable Cruachan ridge with its underground power station. Nearer Oban, the Connel Bridge comes into view. It marks the point where the ocean meets Loch Etive with such force that the current reaches a swirling, terrifying 14 knots and forms a whirlpool almost directly beneath the crossing. The waters here are home to only the hardiest of marine life and on the odd occasion, a foolhardy diver or two as well. We trundled on, the clacking of the Belle’s wheels on the track transporting us back to the Golden Age of travel. Everything was leisurely and timed to perfection.

Our arrival in Oban was marked by the haunting sounds of a bagpiper, fully dressed in all his regalia, and it was off to enjoy everything this fascinating seaside town has to offer. Seal-spotting excursions, kayaking tours, boutique shopping, and much more. You could spend a week or two on this edge of the coastline and still not find the time to experience it all.

After a visit to the Oban Distillery, one of the smallest in the country, we wandered aimlessly for a few hours, taking in the sights and enjoying the fresh sea air. Although there’s plenty to do, the excitement of our return journey was mounting and guests were returning to the Northern Belle well in advance of her departure time, such was the collective eagerness to board her again.

If the outgoing journey had been extraordinary, then it’s fair to say that the return journey continued to impress. We were welcomed on board by Jess, one of our stewards, this time dressed in black for dinner service, holding a slate tray elegantly laid with a selection of hors d’oeuvres. Duck and grape chutney crostini, blue cheese puffed pastry, and so on. Each row as mouth-watering as the next. The champagne flowed freely the minute we sat down, and almost moments after we set out from the station, dinner began. A red pepper and sweet potato soup, flavoured with just enough chive crème fraiche to ease the hidden spice, was followed at a precise, but unhurried pace, by a large medallion of beef and perfectly cooked vegetables.

The cheese board arrived as no cheese board has done before, a large slab of wood that stretched between the tables on either side of the carriage, literally groaning beneath the weight of the different, but carefully chosen cheeses. Desert was a sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream, light, airy and ineffably tasty. Coffee, wine, more champagne, petit fours…the list went on, and it wasn’t long before I was groaning every bit as much as that cheese board had been.

The service onboard the Orient trains is perfectly managed. There’s no austerity here, none of the sombreness that I had imagined there would be. It’s not an ‘airs and graces’ type of experience – unless that’s what you’re looking for. It’s perhaps best described as having a certain civility about it, a chivalry that’s not often enjoyed in today’s modern world. And that’s a pleasure that I think most of us secretly yearn to savour.

The stewards, resplendent in their immaculate uniforms clearly enjoy their work, and it shows in the manner they deal with their customers. They treat you well; give you the service you expect, but chat along when you’d like them to. They know their train, that’s perfectly apparent. Simon, the Duart’s head steward clearly demonstrated his lengthy service by answering every question with facts and figures, both about the train and the company itself. And it’s refreshing to see people take such an interest in their place of work.

I travel regularly, and as most of you will know from reading these posts, I have a bug for exploring as far abroad as I can reach, but I’ve seen my home country in a new light now. I can go so far as to say that I feel truly privileged to have been part of the Duart’s maiden trip along this line. The next time I find myself travelling that direction I know I’ll be looking towards the rails and hoping for a glimpse of the graceful Northern Belle passing alongside.

This journey is ‘bucket-list’ material, and it’s not to be relegated to Number 50 either. Jot it down and book a trip up. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Fiona Galloway, Editor

Your Ideal Vacation: To Cruise or Not to Cruise

Cruising is a wildly popular form of travel today. Despite the recent trouble with a certain Italian cruise ship tipping over, thousands upon thousands of people continue to file into these huge boats to voyage off to distant tropical islands and all across Europe.

From a logistical standpoint, there is much to like. When you arrive on your departure day, you drop your bags off and simply get on board. Everything else is taken care of. Your mode of transportation, lodging, food, shopping, and recreation are all located in the same place. When you arrive at your destination or a port of call, everything is neatly outlined and presented to you, with a return schedule and a clearly defined set of activities available to you.

So by all means, if your ideal vacation involves total relaxation and lounging around in a carefree environment as food is catered to you and beautiful landscapes pass by in front of you like a live action PowerPoint presentation, then cruising is the option for you. However, if you are the kind of traveler who wants to get out and become involved in the culture and the experience of a vacation destination, then cruises can be the antithesis of a true vacation.

The most important thing to understand about cruises is that the central focus of the trip is the boat itself. While the trip may advertise an exotic destination like Hawaii or the Cayman Islands, the majority of your vacation will take place inside the confines of the ship, and revolve around the cruise liner you’ve chosen, be it Princess, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, or Carnival. You will have ample opportunity to get out and explore the destinations you’ve sailed to, but everything will be seen through the lenses of your cruise ship. For many, this is not an issue, but for those looking for a more authentic, real experience of a vacation destination, it poses problems.

Aside from the point of view issue of the trip, one of the major drawbacks with cruises is the massive crowds you’ll be fighting through throughout the duration. In every port of call, tens of thousands of other camera-wielding tourists will pour out of the same exit ramp as you, all eager to visit the same places, see the same sites, and shop through the same stores. There is no escaping these throngs of people. Excursions, tours, and hikes can offer some respite from the crowds, but every side adventure you take part in will also include two dozen others from your boat.

Another, indirect problem with these ports of call is that the ports themselves are particularly developed with cruise-goers in mind. The places that accept these gargantuan ships are not a real representation of the country, state, or island itself, but an exaggerated version with a heavy emphasis on shopping and keepsakes to remember the trip by. It is not a true reflection of the everyday culture or lifestyle of whatever region you are visiting, which will again be problematic for travelers looking for a true feel for the environment. There is no real option to mingle with the local culture, sample local foods, and assimilate into a way of life different from your own. The culture at a cruise port of call is largely the same as the one you left when you departed.

It can also be easy to misinterpret the size and scope of a cruise ship. These boats are massive floating cities, but in truth, they only have a handful of places to spend time aside from passenger rooms, restaurants, and shops. Much of a cruise ship is like a hotel; long halls and endless rooms with the occasional ice machine or laundry room. Not exactly an endless adventure palace. There are several places to relax, enjoy the scenery, enjoy a swim in the pool, and lounge in a cocktail room, but in a lengthy trip, you’ll soon find yourself in the same places day in and day out. For some, this is exactly the idea; for others, this can be like living in a mad house.

If this kind of rigid, clearly laid out style of vacationing that involves no real stress or fighting with hotel clerks, then a cruise is the right call you for. But if you want to explore on your own terms, at your own pace, and with your own casual agenda, then the better approach would be to fly to your destination, find a suitable hotel, and voyage on your own. By visiting places that are not designed to accept several thousand tourists at a single time, the environments will be less focused on shops selling hats with the location’s name on them, or postcards.

If you have a destination in mind, and want the true, full experience of another country, cruises don’t give you the chance, but if you just want the highlights version in an environment, void of any stress or distractions, then head to the nearest port and book your cruise.

Written by the marketing department for the San Diego accident attorneys at AA Accident Attorneys

Drayton Manor Theme Park, England

‘Go to Drayton Manor, instead’ I was told when I’d mentioned I was thinking of taking my kids to a major theme park for a day out. ‘You’ll love it, and it’s better for the kids too!’ I was sceptical at first. I’d heard of Drayton, but I knew little about it. I didn’t know much about the rides, how big was it, was there going to be enough to keep them occupied? I decided to take the chance, and one busy Monday morning in the middle of the school summer holidays, I found myself driving up the access road and parking in a large grass-covered parking lot next to the main entrance. The surrounding trees kept the delights of Drayton Manor Park hidden for a little longer, but every now and then a scream or two, and a quick glimpse of a bright blue rollercoaster rose above the tree-line, before disappearing just seconds later. If my kids weren’t excited before we arrived, they certainly were now.

Drayton Manor is a theme park unlike any other I’ve visited. Sure it has its rides and its amusements like every other, and yes they’re scary, exciting, and in some cases, wet, but here’s a park that has a lot more to offer than the usual adrenaline thrills. Especially if you’re travelling with younger kids.

Immediately as you enter through the gates you arrive at Thomas Land, a treasure trove of rides for the under 6’s (although adults are allowed on as well). We stepped inside and queued for the Troublesome Trucks ride, the first rollercoaster my 4 and 3 year old children would experience. And an hour and a half later we were still in Thomas Land, queueing to do every ride again.

When we finally persuaded them that Drayton Manor was somewhat larger than miniature Sodor-land, Thomas himself took us on a one-way ride to the far end of the park. And we started all over again. Dino Land, the Drayton Zoo, a driving school and a friendly goose captured the boys’ attention for the next hour as we wander back towards the main attractions. In fact, there’s a real element of eductation thrown in here, and most kids probably won’t even realise they’re learning as well as having fun. Subliminal teaching, I think that’s called!

There are plenty of rides here that are designed for older kids and adults, and they’re sensibly kept to an area all of their own. It means that families travelling with younger kids only don’t have to face the crush and the crowds that surround the main attractions.

Somewhere in the middle of the park, the Ben 10 ride looms in vivid green, and at its base, a 4D movie cinema showing a 15 minute feature film called The Little Prince, (I remember studying the book in French class, many years ago) was a welcome break from all that walking.

To be succinct about it all, Drayton Manor Park is most definitely a great, family-friendly day out. It’s fairly relaxed, or as relaxed as a theme park can be, anyway. But although it’s not as large in size as some of the bigger name parks are, it’s got everything a family needs for the perfect day of fun. This Christmas, Drayton Manor Park is giving its cinema over to a 4D version of The Polar Express, which is a firm family favourite, so I suspect November will see us travelling back down to watch it just after it opens.

Drayton Manor Park has a hotel on site for families who want to turn the trip into more than just a day away. Another great family hotel to book is the Village Urban Resort Dudley, which is a short drive from the park, and is within easy access to the motorway.

Chocolate Factory Tours at Cadbury World, England

Years ago I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and dreamt of vast rivers of chocolate, exciting rides and a factory that’s open to visitors. And you can get all that, with the exception of the glass elevator, on a visit to Cadbury World near Birmingham. In fact, with a stag do on the go the day we visited, there was even a Willy Wonka and a selection of Oompa Loompa’s joining the throngs of chocoholic tourists.

If you’ve never been to Cadbury World, then I strongly suggest you go. There’s a fascinating history to discover, from the early stages of their chocolate production, to their development of a universally acclaimed milk chocolate recipe, and the history of the ancient Mayan’s and their use of cocoa beans as part of their rituals.

As you travel through the factory, all the while bombarded with the heady smell of warm, melted chocolate, you’ll see chocolatiers at work, crafting their art. There are hand-decorated individual chocolates to gaze upon, special edition chocolate items – including a white chocolate stilletto and a beautifully decorated chocolate teapot – and the packaging lines that travel past, sending box after box of chocolate into the depths of the factory.

Cadbury World have been careful to make this visit a real experience, and they’ve included live demonstrations from some of their chocolatiers, as well as the chance to write your own name in melted chocolate. For kids, there’s even a face-painting session, but be warned, the later you book your tour, the harder it is to get into most of these – they’re just too popular.

We’d made it to the factory rather late in the day, assuming that our 2:30pm booking time would be the first time we were allowed in. But when we did arrive we realised that there were a whole host of other activities to keep families occupied – your booking time is only for your tour.

Our advice, if you’re travelling as a family and not an Oompa Loompa day out, is to arrive early and head around the back where you’ll discover a fantastic kids play area with climbing frames, slides and much more to enjoy. If you’ve travelled a reasonable distance, it might be the perfect way to let younger kids blow off a little steam. For older children, there’s an air hockey table and table tennis as well, and a food stand will keep hunger at bay for a while.

Another little suggestion is to book your tour as early as possible in the day. Every corner you turn in Cadbury World finds you face to face with another member of their staff, handing out more bars of chocolate. The stuff is impossible to get away from. Not that I’m complaining, of course, but you try getting two kids to bed after four Curlywurly’s, a Dairy Milk and three packets of Chocolate Buttons. Each!

Cadbury World is easy to get to, and it does have it’s own parking so you won’t be struggling with the details of a visit here. If you’re coming for much further away and you’re looking for overnight accommodation, Candidtraveller can heartily recommend the Village Urban Resort Dudley - it’s close by, and it’s a great hotel for harrassed parents with hyper kids!

Rosario: It’s the New Buenos Aires

When travellers go to Argentina, Buenos Aires seems get a spot on their itinerary automatically. As a former expat who lived in Buenos Aires for nearly two years, I definitely understand why. I’m not here to convince you not to go to Buenos Aires, I’d just like to convince you to give Rosario, Argentina a much-deserved place on your itinerary as well. Here’s why:

Keeping it Clean in Rosario

Ask anyone who has been to Buenos Aires and they’ll tell you – it’s a beautiful city that’s covered in trash. Pollution and litter soil the gorgeous architecture and pretty parks. Rosario, on the other hand, takes great pride in its beauty. A little over a decade ago, Rosario was declared the dirtiest city in Argentina. Many cities would have just given up and accepted their fate, but Rosario went the other route. They launched a huge program to clean up the city. Now, you will have a hard time finding a piece of litter anywhere, other than in the hands of a city worker tossing it into a garbage bag. I cannot tell you how great it felt to go for a run and not have to dodge dog poop and candy wrappers on the sidewalk or worry about laying down on a cigarette butt in the park.

It’s cheaper than Buenos Aires

Many backpackers travel through Central America and parts of South America before arriving in Buenos Aires. After all those great exchange rates and low prices, Buenos Aires can be a great shock to budget travelers. Rosario, however, is not nearly as big of a hit to your budget. You’ll find lunch specials for the equivalent of $5-7USD as opposed to $8-15USD in Buenos Aires.

You’ll also find countless shops and adorable boutiques, both hidden away on unknown streets as well as in the large peotonales (pedestrian-only streets). You can buy clothing, accessories, and jewelry made by local designers and pay half as much as you’d pay for something similar in Buenos Aires. Rosario is fashionable, but still reasonably priced.

Awesome Architecture

The architecture is in Rosario pretty impressive. The city passed special laws protecting any historical building so it is not uncommon to see buildings that are half modern and half historical. They make for great photographic opportunities and a beautiful backdrop for a stroll around the city. You are sure to spend a large portion of your time in Rosario with your head angled upwards, taking in all the interesting structures- just remember to watch where you are going!

It’s Argentine in the best of ways

Rosario is often referred to as the “most Argentine” city. The citizens are very proud of their city and country, but not so much that they are arrogant or unwelcoming. Rosarinos are known for being incredibly friendly and helpful. Many travelers use Porteños (Buenos Aires citizens) as their reference for what is Argentine, but Rosarinos insist that the Porteño lifestyle starts and ends in Buenos Aires. It can be compared to non-US citizens thinking that all Americans and American lifestyle is just like New Yorkers in New York City.

This city boasts both river beaches and a vibrant city center, full of shops, restaurants, museums, and monuments. The most notable monument is, of course, the Monumento de la Bandera (Flag Monument), which is an incredible, towering structure that cannot be skipped. With it’s lower prices, cleaner streets, and truly Argentine culture, it is most certainly a city worth visiting.

Author: Rease Kirchner is a multi-talented traveller with skills in freelance writing and pre-school tutoring, as well as plenty of experience in Spanish translation.  Native to the US, she spent almost 2 years in Argentina before moving home to explore the states she’d left behind.  Check out more of her amusing tales, tips for travelling and foodie advice from around the world on her blog Indecisive Traveler.  She’s also on twitter and facebook.

Family Holidays Abroad: Great Get-togethers!

The trouble with a family holiday is that you have to take the family. Explosive tantrums and erupting tempers are almost guaranteed, but forget the bucket and spade because there are plenty of holiday destinations that will enthrall the whole family, young, old or somewhere in between.

A Trip to the Zoo

You could take family holidays abroad to one ofthe best zoos of all; the Serengeti National Park is famous as host to the largest natural migration on earth. Serengeti means Endless Plains and every year across the endless savannah of Tanzania sweep over a million and a half wildebeest, wild lions, giraffe and zebra, all in search of water and food as part of the greatest natural migration on earth. Even out of migration season, the Serengeti, established in 1951 as one of Africa’s first ever game parks, is still a magical land of discovery teeming with wildlife from hippos to cheetahs.

Also in the north of Tanzania and on the so-called safari circuit, the Ngorongoro National Park surrounds a vast caldera, the deep depression left in the land after a volcanic eruption, and is home to what is, quite simply, the best experience you can get of wildlife in its natural habitat anywhere in the world. For some reason, the animals seem less wary of jeeps on safari in the Ngorongoro and so you get up close, if not personal, with elephants, rhinos, wildebeest, antelope, gazelle, buffalo and lions.

From the endless plains to dense rainforests and jungles of South America, Costa Rica is full of raging rivers, hot springs and towering volcanoes that create a bio-diversity all of their own. See tree-frogs, iguanas, sloths and crocodiles under the rainforest canopy and explore a live volcano for adventure holidays with a difference and a hint of danger.

Mount Arenal is the youngest and most active of all the volcanoes in Costa Rica, six of which are active and 61 dormant. Though Mount Arenal last erupted in 2010 you can still hear the distant rumbles underground and see the spill of lava rivers which have made it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

Going to See the Lights

From hot to cold, there are few shows in nature more spectacular than a live volcano but the Aurora Borealis is one of them. The Northern Lights shine out pink and green across the sky as the sun’s solar wind meets the Earth’s atmosphere, and they dance in the skies over the peculiar volcanic landscape of Iceland creating a lightshow more spectacular than any stadium can host.

Iceland also offers more earthbound attraction sover a 300 km route through the country’s landmarks, popularly called The Golden Circle which passes through the Althing, Iceland’s traditional arena of government and a symbol of the country’s independence. It moves on to Gullflossor the Golden Falls, a 105ft double cascade waterfall that breaks into thousands of rainbows, and finally the Geysir, the original geyser from which all geysers were named and, when co-operating, shoots 200ft plumes of water into the sky.

Family holidays should be about learningand discovering together, with adventure and excitement for everyone thown in.Visiting some of the natural wonders of the world can give you not only holiday memories to treasure, but life-changing experiences whatever your age.


Ilena Sanchez is an experienced travel writer who specializes in writing about adventure holidays and family holidays abroad for various travel websites and blogs.

Healthworks Spa, Village Urban Resort Dudley

In the depths of the Village Urban Resort Dudley, secreted behind a contemporary dark wooden door and low lighting, is a little piece of paradise in the form of Healthworks - a wonderfully relaxing spa that serves hotel guests as well as local West Midlanders. Healthworks, which has been there since the hotel opened, offers an extensive array of relaxing and rejuventating treatments, along with some unique ESPA products designed specifically for them.

I visited this underground haven a week ago when I had the pleasure of staying in the hotel. The treatment menu is what a non-spa-goer like me might call ‘exhausting’. There were endless choices that I had spent hours scanning the evening before, wondering for the most part what half of them were. Words like ‘thalassotherapy’ and ‘phytotherapy’ are as alien to a busy person like me as simpler words are, like the term ‘relaxation’ for example, something I’ve long since forgotten the point of. So when I arrived the next morning, ready for my treatment, I still had no idea what I wanted to try.

I chose a facial, a word I at least comprehend, and met Marcia, possibly one of the most outstanding therapists I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. She explained the process of the facial I was going to have, and how it would identify problem areas of my skin, before going on to do just that. She’s a little like a matron (and I mean that in the nicest possible way, of course), scolding me subtley for not wearing enough sun protection and for failing to exfolitate as often as I knew I should, but at the same time she set about giving me the best facial treatment possible. Over the next hour I was pampered, massaged, cleansed, sprayed and more until it was time to leave, and I glided out with a renewed sense of wellbeing and a face that smelled of lemon trees. All rather nice indeed, if I do say…

There’s a Healthworks spa in several of the DeVere locations around the UK, and over the next while each of them is getting a makeover of their own. They’ll soon be rebranded under the name Viva Urban Spa, and my guess is that they’ll be even more luxurious than they currently are.  If you find yourself in the West Midlands, perhaps enjoying one of the many other pleasures that Dudley has to offer, I strongly suggest that you book yourself into Healthworks for a few moments of sheer indulgence and a little bit of time to yourself.

How To Pack for A Tropical Holiday

Whether you are taking a jaunt down to south Florida for a weekend in the sun or jetting off to the Maldive Islands for a week or two of forgetfulness, don’t mar your next tropical vacation by forgetting toiletries and essential articles of clothing. Before you start packing, which should be at least a couple of days before your departure date, make a detailed list of items to bring and don’t put it away until you’ve checked each one off. You will thank yourself when you’re sitting on the beach without a care in the world.

Bathroom Essentials

Even if you’re on a small island somewhere, you’ll probably be staying in a fairly modern hotel. What you can’t be sure about is what types of toiletries the stores in nearby towns might carry–if there even are stores at all. With that in mind, don’t forget the following:

Toothbrushes and toothpaste

Shaving cream and razors

Deodorant and shower products

Hair products and moisturizing lotion, depending on the local climate

2. Potent Potables

Excluding destinations within the U.S., most tropical tourist hotspots are on tiny islands without much in the way of natural fresh water, or else in developing nations notorious for water quality issues. Bringing large quantities of bottled water in your checked baggage isn’t feasible, so be sure to buy a supply as soon as you land.

3. Electronics

Vacation used to be a time to disconnect from the relentless stimulation of the modern world, but no longer. Stop fighting the future and remember to pack your cellphone, laptop or tablet, chargers, and, if necessary, country-specific power adapters and SIM cards. Perhaps most importantly, remember to pack a camera if you require better picture quality than what your cellphone can muster, and consider purchasing an underwater camera if snorkeling or scuba adventures are on the agenda.

4. Clothing

In case you have forgotten or else have never experienced this region of the world, the tropics are steamy. Sweat seems to come sooner and linger longer than it does even in humid mid-latitude locales, probably because the sun is stronger closer to the equator. Pack two changes of under-clothing per day, if possible, and bring plenty of hats and breathable long-sleeved outfits to ward off the sun. Also remember to bring a swimsuit, flip flops, multiple towels, and any other beach-related items you can shove into a bag.

5. Important Documents

You will need a passport, credit cards, a decent but not excessive amount of locally-accepted cash, a printed itinerary with hotel and rental car confirmation numbers, and maps and travel guides for anywhere that you are even considering visiting. Keeping a list of emergency contacts both in-country and back home can’t hurt either. It is also a good idea to take photocopies of your passport and credit card information. Just remember to keep them separate from the originals; they won’t do you any good if you lose the bag containing both copies.

As you ready yourself for your upcoming tropical vacation, keep your packing list close at hand. Even if you’re going to be away for weeks, every hour spent running around trying to find something you have lost is an hour of quality time on the beach that you will never get back.

Herbert Cormier blogs about exotic destinations, including information about taking holidays in the Maldives. If you are getting ready to vacation in the Maldives, Herbert suggests that you learn some Dhivehi phrases before you go.

Top Attractions in Alicante, Spain

Visitor numbers passing through Alicante airport increase year on year and show no sign of dwindling so it’s clear there’s much to see and do in this sun-drenched region of Alicante, which keeps the tourists coming back. Whether you want art and culture or thrills and adventure, Alicante caters for everyone and you’re sure to find plenty to keep you entertained between topping up your tan on the many beaches. Below are some of the region’s most popular attractions worth visiting.

Santa Barbara Castle

Explorers of all ages will love the ruins of this 10th century fort which was once one of the largest in Europe. The Spanish authorities opened it up to the public in the 60s and added lifts inside the mountain it sits atop for ease of access. There are stunning panoramic views from the lookout tower across Alicante city below and when you’ve tired of investigating the dungeons, palace and church ruins you can take a rest at one of the two cafes on site.
In July and August there are free open air evening concerts in the castle grounds but capacity is limited so get there early.

Archaeological Museum

This fascinating modern museum provides an insight into excavations across the Alicante region and the rest of the country over the years and the many exciting discoveries. Visitors are taken on a journey through time, visiting all the significant eras in history chronologically from prehistory through the Iberians and Romans, right up to the modern age. Well designed and organised, the museum was named European Museum of the Year in 2004.

Santa Maria Church

You don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate the beauty of Alicante’s oldest Church, originally built in a Gothic style in the 13th Century and rebuilt with a Baroque facade after a fire in the 15th Century. The marble font in the Chapter House is absolutely huge and has to be seen to be believed.

Museum of Contemporary Art

Housed in the city’s oldest municipal building, this shrine to modern and 20th century art contains works by some of Spain’s most famous artists including Joan Miro, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. The museum also exhibits work from local artist Juana Frances who was one of the original founders of the influential Madrid El Paso group of artists.


Somewhat further afield but well worth the hour drive, this picturesque mountain city is known for its annual festival commemorating the Christian holding of the city against the invading Moors (Fiesta Moros y Cristianos) in 1276. Legend has it that St George (who will be well known to English visitors) appeared to assist the Christians in the battle, subsequently becoming patron saint of the city. The festival takes place over four days in April, when the whole city comes alive to celebrate. However there is much to recommend Alcoy the rest of the year round too, with a quaint little museum detailing the St George legend and history of the fiesta one particular highlight.

Terra Mitica

The throbbing tourist mecca that is Benidorm lies about half an hour up the coast from Alicante and provides the location for the regions best-known theme park. Thrillseekers will love the Titanide rollercoaster and Triton’s Fury boat ride whilst the gentler Puerto de Alejandria boat ride will appeal to those of a more nervous disposition. There are five themed areas of the park based around the ancient civilizations of Greece, Egypt, Iberia, Rome and Mediterranean islands. Open from March to December, Terra Mitica has attractions to suit all ages.

Georgia State Parks You Don’t Want to Miss

If you’re planning a summer getaway to the mountains of Northeast Georgia, there are a few places that are “must-sees”. Wineries, the shops of Helen, and Babyland General Hospital all fall into that category. But to truly appreciate the splendor of Northeast Georgia you don’t want to miss the state parks. Here’s a quick list of the “must see” state parks to visit on your trip.

1. Unicoi State Park – Settlers knew what they were doing when they set up camp in the area that would become Unicoi State Park. Surrounded by majestic mountain scenery and bountiful wildlife, it’s easy to see why this park is one of the most popular in Georgia. Perfect for hiking, biking, paddling, or just relaxing, the Unicoi State Park is truly a natural gift.

2. Smithgall Woods – An angler’s paradise, this park is considered the place for trout fishing. Fisherman will fully appreciate the quiet solitude, bountiful trout running in Dukes Creek, and spectacular scenery of Smithgall. For an added bonus, this state park limits the number of anglers at one time ensuring the best trout fishing experience possible.

3. Hardman Farm – Located just outside of Helen, Ga. Hardman Farm is a must-see for any and all. The property was originally purchased in the 1870s and converted into a working farm that supplied milk to neighboring Atlanta and Gainesville in the 1920s. Come and explore the two story barn, mansion, 20-plus structures, and the absolutely remarkable white gazebo balanced atop a Native American mound. It will be clear quickly why Hardman Farm is considered one of the most recognizable landmarks in Northeast Georgia.

4. Black Rock Mountain State Park – Sick and tired of the summer heat? Then look no further than Black Rock Mountain. Located a whopping 3,640 feet above sea level, it’s the highest of the peaks in Northeast Georgia which also means cooler temperatures. Get ready for amazing 80 mile vistas, hiking trails, and gnarled oaks. A lesser known state park, Black Rock Mountain is the perfect place for a romantic getaway.

One of the best things about state parks is the conservation. Because it’s protected land you can be sure that you’re getting the best natural experience possible. By limiting the number of anglers at Smithgall and restoring Hardman Farm, state parks offer the best in what Northeast Georgia has to offer. So be sure to take time out of your busy schedule to relax and enjoy nature.

White County Chamber of Commerce is proud to promote local organizations and businesses including our Helen hotels and GA state parks.

10 Things You Can’t Miss in the Caribbean

The Caribbean is one of the most popular vacation spots in the world. For good reason too: There’s simply so much you can do there. From natural experiences to cultural experiences to heart pounding adventures, the Caribbean has it all. They’re extremely friendly to foreigners and most tour guides are happy to share their authentic opinions on what it’s like to live in the Caribbean.

What are 10 things you absolutely can’t miss in the Caribbean?

1) Walk in the Clouds

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to walk in the clouds? In Puerto Rico, the Pico Del Toro offers the view of a lifetime. It’s the highest mountain in all the Caribbean. You can enjoy the Pico Del Toro any time of day, but keep in mind that it does get cold. Wear warm clothing that’s water proof, as the precipitation and rain can be drenching.

Pico Del Toro also offers a sunrise that you’ll never forget. The sun’s rays reflect off the clouds in Pico Del Toro to create a dazzling lightshow befitting of this majestic mountain.

2) Take Your Own Sub Underwater

It’s not technically a submarine. It’s called a “Scenic Underwater Bubble,” or SUB for short. Offered by the Nassau SUB Bahamas Adventure Tour, the SUB experience really is like being in the water in a submarine. You get to explore coral reefs, see fish up close and interact with marine life all from the comfort and safety of your bubble.

3) Pet the Sting Rays

In the Grand Cayman, there’s a stretch of sand where stingrays often congregate. Go with a sting ray tour group and you’ll be able to swim with the sting rays, see them up close and even pet them with your hands.

4) Dive With Sharks

Most movies show sharks as scary, malicious creatures. In real life, they’re usually anything but scary. When they see humans, their reaction is often either fear or curiosity – And often both. The Caribbean reef sharks in Nassau’s coral reefs will often watch divers warily as they draw close. Divers get to watch the sharks, while the sharks watch the divers. A truly incredible connection with an underwater creature.

5) The Trinidad Birds

Trinidad is one of the biggest hub spots in the world for migrating birds. You can find all kinds of different bird species here from all around the continent. Spend a day or two just watching birds and you’ll see all the colors of the rainbow on birds’ wings.

6) Go Caving

Go visit one of the many caves in the Caribbean. You’ll get to see all kinds of incredible rock formations, including limestones that seem to glow and magnificent formations of stalagmites. In a particularly dark area of a cave, try shining your flashlight to the ceiling. The way the light reflects back often looks like the night’s sky.

7) Learn to Surf

There aren’t many beaches in the world that are perfect for beginners. In order for a surf spot to work for beginners, the waves need to be slow enough that beginners don’t get discouraged from getting knocked over too often. However, the waves also need to be strong enough that beginners have something to work with. The waves at Barbados offers exactly that: The perfect surfing conditions for the first timer who wants both positive results and a bit of a challenge.

8) Try a Jamaican Zip Line

Take the Jamaican canopy tour for a heart racing experience of nature. You’ll fly through forests, over animals, between trees and laugh the whole way through. You’ll fly about 45 feet in the air wit the whole thing guided by trained professionals.

9) Swim in a Water Fall

The Seven Sisters Falls is a full force gushing waterfall that you can swim under any time of year. It’s a fantastic place to have a water fight, or to go on a hot day to cool off.

10) Swim With Dolphins

The Dolphin Cay allows you to swim with dolphins – With a unique twist. Most dolphin experiences in other parts of the world require you to actually try to paddle and keep up with the dolphin. That’s nearly impossible and most people lose the dolphin after a short period of time. At the Dolphin Cay however, you can use a water scooter to help you swiftly navigate the waters and play with the dolphins in their own turf.

With so many adventures to choose from, there’ll never be a boring moment on your Caribbean adventure.

Author Bio – This article has been written by Dillon Michaelson working for InsanelyCheapFlights. Planning a trip to your favorite destination at ? Visit their travel portal to check out exclusive Jet Blue Promo Code or Spirit Promo Code and save up to $20 on your flights.

Editor’s Blog – Cycles and Seafood in Key West

Back when my husband and I were still dating, he suggested going away.  Not in a ‘let’s-go-on-a-date-to-the-cinema’ kind of way, but in a ‘I-really-like-you-so-I-want-to-show-you-my-favourite-place’ kind of way. I thought he meant a weekend trip to Edinburgh, perhaps a tour of the castle, and a meal in the sort of restaurant that would make his wallet go into cardiac arrest.  So two weeks in Florida came as a surprise.

It was a fly-drive and the itinerary was our own to organise. With such freedom it made sense to see as much of the state as we could, so we crammed over 3,000 miles into that trip, taking in every town and city we could find on our newly-aquired road map; Orlando, Daytona, Clearwater, Sarasota, Miami and Key West to name just a few. But the most adventurous by far, was the short stopover in Key West.

We stayed in the old part of town; all whitewashed colonial style buildings, swaying palm trees and water as far as we could see. It was spring break, and it was manic. Everywhere you looked pretty 18 year old college students in skimpy Roxy bikinis were strolling along palm-lined Duval Street, pretending to sip on full-fat cokes but actually trying to avoid the calories. The conch train, a popular tourist attraction, rolled by on its regular timetable, and the smell of the salt air lured wandering tourists towards the shore. We arrived in the late afternoon, and finally found, and booked into, our guest house.

The Authors Guest House is found on White Street, in the old part of Key West. The traditional part, not the modern urban sprawl that’s taken up much of the north of the island. The old part is built on a grid system, with rectangular blocks leading towards the popular main streets near the southwest of the island. The only break in its strict town planning, is when you reach the cemetery, although in an eerily strange way, it too is uniformly laid out.

The benefit to staying so far away from the main sights is that you’re forced to walk nearly everywhere you go. Travelling by car in Key West (old town) is virtually pointless since there are so few places to park anyway. But walking means you get to see far more of this fantastic connurbation than you otherwise would. The wizened old lady sweeping the paint peelings off her faded wooden porch, the local tour rep scurrying late into work, the teenagers stumbling home after a late night at one of the many beach parties. One of my favourite sights was when we came across the occasional cycle rickshaw ridden by sweating, straining men (and the occasional woman), while their passengers sat back and admired the passing view.

The thing about Key West is that if you don’t venture into the modern, shop-filled, fast-food jointed northern end, it’s actually quite a small place. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. Our short stay here left us wishing we’d booked more time. There were restaurants we hadn’t visited, seafood we hadn’t tried and snorkeling trips we wished we’d gone on. And all that laid back semi-Caribbean feel that the Keys has about them makes it harder to rush to fit everything in. More than 24 hours here and you can’t help but fall into the local pace of life.

The main part of the town, the area tourists naturally migrate towards, is a long wide street overflowing with shops and cafes. Nearly all have a seafaring theme, whether they’re selling surf gear or local trinkets and souvenirs. A street or two down, and the harbour comes into view. By day, fish are brought into market, crates and creels tossed up noisily onto the boardwalk from the decks below. By night, the area is transformed into an outdoor myriad of seafood restaurants all touting that morning’s fresh catch.

Mallory Square provides the location for some perfect after dinner entertainment. From dawn onwards you overlook the busy dock, where imposing cruise ships line up to decant more passengers onto this tiny island than you’d think it could hold. But when evening falls, street artists take up their spot along the boardwalk, eating fire and walking tightropes to delight the heady crowd. I remember watching an incredible mime artist while sipping a pina colada at this very spot, the cool drink keeping my temperature down on what was a sticky, warm night.

If you’ve never been to the Keys, then I have to encourage you to go. These tiny islands that stretch into the ocean like a string of stepping stones to Cuba, have a lot to offer visitors. I have a few special memories of my time there. Little individual moments that will stick in mind for various reasons. My next post explains more…

Visiting Glasgow During the 2014 Commonwealth Games

With the 2012 London Olympic Games wrapping up soon, the world is already on the lookout for the next big international sporting event. Luckily, it is only a scant two more years until we are graced with swimmers’ bodies on the big screen during primetime coverage at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. After beating out Abuja, Nigeria to host the games, the city of Glasgow in Scotland began gearing up for the influx of tourists and athletes to their stadiums and arenas. Many of their already-existing venues will be used for the games which means that, as tourists, it is fairly easy to map out a plan of attack, especially if you plan ahead.

Due to Glasgow’s size – it’s the biggest city in Scotland – the events are somewhat spread out across multiple neighborhoods, with some events even taking place outside of the city proper. The Opening Ceremonies will be held in the auspicious Celtic Park, the largest football stadium in Scotland, to mark the beginning of the events. From there, the majority of the athletics meets will be held in Hampden Park, the national football stadium of Scotland, located on the south side of the city. Both stadiums are fairly easy to access from the center of the city, so visitors can have the best of the both worlds by staying downtown near the tourist sites and going to events during the day.

All of the indoor sporting events like Wrestling, Judo and Gymnastics will be held in arenas on the western side of the city. The new Scottish Hydro Park will host the Gymnastics tournament as well as the Netball event, while the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Center will be home to the Wrestling and Judo matches. In addition to these buildings, Kelvingrove Park will be used for Squash and Table Tennis, but not before undergoing a major renovation to improve the accessibility of the arena. In the east end of the city, not far from Celtic Park, Tollcross Park Aquatics Centre will play home to the many swimming events, while diving will be held just outside the city at the Royal Commonwealth Pool. Even if you cannot get tickets for some of the indoor park events, the marathon and some of the cycling will pass right through the center of the city so everyone should get a chance to see at least one event.

The year 2014 will be a great year for international sporting events with both the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup taking place, so fans should get the jump on everyone else by preparing for their visit now.

Written by the Marketing Department for Los Angeles car accident lawyer, Paul E. Lee

Editor’s Blog – Honeymoons and Hiccups – Part 2

So where did I leave off….??

The Hotel ai Mori d’Oriente has an unassuming frontage on the Fondamenta Sensa, unless you take notice of the overflowing hanging baskets, rows of flag poles, and gondola posts that reach up through the water like oversized red and white striped candy canes. Apart from all that, it’s relatively unassuming. What it definitely is, though, is quiet. It’s not one of the popular tourist hotels, and not because there’s anything wrong with it either, but the unfashionable Cannaregio district doesn’t list highly in the ‘where to stay section’ of most Venetian guide books. It’s a little out of the way from the Grand Canal, and doesn’t have much of a view either.

Inside, the hotel reflects its unique past. The building was once a fifteenth century palazzo, and although it’s located on the Fondamenta, the majority of rooms actually overlook the Canale della Sensa. The Moors used to call this place home, and it was a base for their trading business, a last stop for the silk and spices that arrived by water from Turkey. The hotel has kept in touch with its trader’s roots, decorating rooms in Moorish style with elaborate reds and golds, ornate touches, traditional ornaments and bold colour schemes throughout. In fact, if it wasn’t perched on stilts in the middle of the Veneto there’d be relatively little Italian influence here at all.

It was also in this hotel that I uttered my first Italian word. Quite by accident. The word ‘camera’ in Italian does not refer to a little black box with a shutter and a lens. It refers to a room, and in a hotel, quite naturally, it refers to a bedroom. It took some considerable time for the poor non-English speaking porter to show us to our room, before I allowed him to hand back the camera I produced every time he requested it. My moment of embarassment passed quickly though, to be replaced by one of semi-euphoria. I could speak Italian.

We were there in the days before iPhone’s were invented, and as a wandering traveller (without my guidebook) I had to ask for words from anyone who had the time to listen. Our concierge probably didn’t have the time, but he still listened to me kindly, and daily, and before long I had a whole string of sentences to use. All of them were perfect for checking into any Italian hotel, so it was rather a pity I’d already done so on this trip. No matter how many times I asked ‘posso avere la mia chiave per favore?’ in a cafe, my room key never arrived.

As delightful as it is, the hotel does have one drawback – it doesn’t serve dinner. And no matter what anyone else might tell you, honeymooners do need to eat. We headed out every evening to hunt down the best in local cuisine and we came across some utterly delightful and romantic hideaways across the city. If you follow me now, I’ll show you the way….

Village Urban Resort Dudley, England

The Village Urban Resort Dudley sort of took me by surprise. I’m not sure what I imagined it would look like, but when a hotel is situated in the middle of the industrialized heartlands of the English West Midlands, urban luxury appeal doesn’t usually spring to mind. It was clear that my fanciful impression was way off the mark the minute we turned into the Dudley’s private car park. The modern building before us, entirely devoid of smoking chimney stacks or wrought iron gates, is a thoroughly contemporary design, despite being in its 12th year. And stepping inside, it quickly became clear that the Village Urban Resort is possibly one of the best named hotels I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.

Before you even make it to your room, you’re greeted with a modern pub and grill, an up-scale restaurant and a Starbucks coffee shop. Downstairs, a fitness centre makes up much of the lower level with a large swimming pool and a gymnasium that puts most local sports centres to shame. Next to it, and for the hotel’s less energetic guests, a modern and relaxing spa offers tranquillity and solitude from the outside world. And don’t forget the function suite, regular monthly entertainment evenings and live music on a Friday night. It truly is a whole village in one neatly-packaged, fashionable box.

Upstairs, and the bedrooms are equally well-appointed. Dark woods and bold colours create the urban feel that works so well here, and the images of local attractions and landmarks that appear throughout the hotel are a welcome touch. We had the privilege of staying in two connecting rooms, and when you’re travelling with kids and you’re in dire need of sleep the extra space is a definite bonus. And of course, two rooms in the Dudley means two televisions, keeping the children’s channel blissfully out of earshot.

It’s hard not to be impressed. With every detail so well thought out, peaceful and incredibly comfortable rooms (I’m not a towel thief, but if I could have taken that mattress away with me, I would have) and modern bathrooms with showers that give you so many options you’d be in them all day, you can’t help but love this hotel. My only reservation was the glass-fronted bedroom furniture. Sure, it looked great, but one hour of constant assault by two little boys and their sticky, chocolate-covered fingers (see my post on Cadbury World for that explanation), and they weren’t looking so shiny.

The thing about the Dudley is that this is a truly family-oriented hotel.  Staff told me that their kids love coming to work because there’s plenty for them to do. Families around us were evidently enjoying their stay, and even our own two children, normally an embarrassing handful to take anywhere, were on relatively good behaviour. But even when they weren’t, the staff simply smiled and helped out. That included an episode of bribery when we ate at the Verve Bar and Grill – something along the lines of ‘if you’re quiet for your mummy and daddy, I’ll give you some Smarties for later.’ Talk about all-round great service!

And it’s not just the overnight guests that have fallen for the appeal of the Dudley – the locals appreciate what they’ve got here too. The leisure facilities, spa and eateries are all firm favourites in the surrounding area. The hotel also has great connections with local attractions, and the General Manager, Darryl Holdnall, has obviously built up excellent relations with other service providers. They’ve gone on to provide packages that include entry into some of the area’s most popular visitor sites, taking all the hassle out of planning your break away.

It all adds up to one great Resort, and a great family experience that’s really worth the visit.

The Dudley isn’t too far off the M6, the main arterial route through the UK, making this a fantastic location for visitors to anywhere in the surrounding region, as well as a great place to stop overnight on a journey to either end of the country.

Verve Bar & Grill, Village Urban Resort Dudley

After travelling all day, and with two hungry kids in tow, I feel tired and considerably underdressed. I’m sitting in a contemporary booth in the Verve Bar & Grill restaurant of the Village Urban Resort Dudley, and I’m wearing jeans, a T-shirt that barely made it through a sticky visit to Cadbury World, and a pair of trainers. Around me, diners have at least made more effort than I have, and they slip into the elegant surroundings in smart casual wear and considered accessories. Our accessories are two children, a couple of stuffed lizards courtesy of nearby Dudley Zoo (not real ones), and my husband’s indiscreet chocolate stain. Bournville, if you must know.

The Verve is one of those restaurants where all of the above don’t actually seem to matter though. It may have an appealing, modern menu, decidedly crisp napkins and a wine menu that a Sommelier wouldn’t shake his head at, but none of that makes it pretentious, and even our trainer-clad family, too exhausted to change for dinner, is heartily welcomed in.

If you have a passion for food and you like the sound of a tasting plate with olives, ciabatta and balsamic oil, Eggs Benedict with homemade hollandaise, and chicken liver parfait, then this is a restaurant for you. Although the menu is far from extensive, it’s well conceived and very well executed. Mains include roast chicken and creamy garlic mash, and salmon and asparagus with crushed potatoes. Kids won’t be disappointed either, and favourite children’s meals are presented with a little bit of DeVere flair. This is dining in style and comfort, yet it manages to offer a unique blend between high-brow service and relaxed family feel, something that’s relatively difficult to achieve.

There are three menus to choose from here. The A La Carte, with some interesting options, including a tempting Sea Bass dish or choice of steak has something for everyone, but there’s also a set menu to choose from, and the promotional 2 Dine for £29 menu.

If you can’t decide, and that’s perfectly possible, the staff at the Verve are happy to give you some recommendations. I left my choice of starter and glass of wine up to Matt, who really couldn’t have chosen better.

It took us over two hours to eat that night, something our family, always on the go as we are, doesn’t normally achieve. I can only put that down to the relaxed atmosphere and attentive, but unobtrusive staff, as well as the delightful food. Incidentally, if you’re staying in the hotel, the Verve is also where you’ll have breakfast every morning – with a range of cooked foods, cereals, fresh fruit and continental pastries to decide between.

To read more about the Village Urban Resort Dudley, follow this link, and to visit their website, click here.

Bed and Breakfasts: The perfect retreat

If you’re ready to enjoy a peaceful getaway, deciding where to stay is one of the most important parts of planning your retreat. A bed and breakfast is a great option to ensure that you will meet friendly, charming hosts and that you will have a unique experience. This is especially true if you are traveling outside the country, as bed and breakfasts offer you the chance to experience the culture and cuisine of an area in a way that is impossible when staying in a resort or large hotel. When you choose a bed and breakfast, you can enjoy feeling at home no matter how far you journey.

Locating Bed and Breakfast Lodgings

The first place to start searching for the ideal bed and breakfast is to search accommodation directories. These directories allow you to compare the features, facilities, and services of several options so you can make a more informed decision. In addition, many directories offer reviews that will give you insight into the quality of the bed and breakfast.

Why Choose a Bed and Breakfast

There are many reasons why a bed and breakfast is preferable to other types of lodgings. For instance, many of these types of establishments are housed in historic or other special buildings. You can find beautiful accommodations in old post offices, schools, government buildings, mansions, villas, and much more. When you spend your visit in a bed and breakfast that has its own unique story and history, your vacation will be much more memorable and special.

Bed and Breakfast establishments are also special because they are owned and run by people who are passionate about their home and region and are eager to provide excellent service and hospitality. Many times, the hosts of these lodgings are more than willing to offer you excellent insider advice about the area, including places to eat, sights to see, shopping destinations, and other things to do that may not be widely known and advertised. In short, this insider information can help you to truly experience an area in the way the locals do, making your vacation a much more personal experience than it would be if you stayed on the common tourist path.

Finally, bed and breakfast facilities are often much cheaper than the rates at larger hotels and resorts, allowing you to have a fantastic vacation without going broke. Bed and breakfasts are typically clean and well-furnished, providing you with a five-star experience at a much better value.

Bed and breakfasts provide you with a one-of-a-kind vacation experience that you will never forget. By taking the time to thoroughly research your options, you can be sure of finding a bed and breakfast that will steal your heart, whether you choose a place that is old or new, historic or modern, or in the city, town, or country. Once you spend a vacation in a bed and breakfast, you will likely enjoy the experience so much more that you will want to repeat it again and again.

Tanni X. is a writer for AspiringNurse.com. If you want a career in heath, this site would be great for you to learn what you need to know.

Garden Restaurant, Stone House Hotel, England

Dining at the Garden Restaurant is both enjoyable and surprising, in equal measures. When I visited on a busy Friday evening with my husband and two young children, I was delighted to discover that we weren’t relegated to a ‘child-friendly’ section of the dining area – you know, the furthest corner of that upmarket restaurant, where you’ll be less likely to annoy other guests with the inevitable chaos that ensues from dining with toddlers in tow. Especially noisy ones like mine. The Garden Restaurant, however, seemed entirely non-plussed, and seated us dead centre in the middle of the restaurant, and right on top of a (probably very expensive) woven rug. A great sign that they cater well for children, but I don’t envy their cleaning bills much!

The design and decor of the restaurant lends itself to fine dining, and the menu prompts you in that direction as well; you won’t find pies and deep fried chicken for dinner here. What you do get comes as a bit of a surprise, but a very pleasant one at that. Fine dining, without the fine portion sizes.

The children’s meals arrived first, which is always helpful for parents and very much appreciated, but forget the run-of-the-mill ‘bangers and mash’, because the Garden Restaurant doesn’t do things that way. The sausage and mashed potatoes that landed in front of my 4 year old could have fed an army of 4 year olds…for a year. The gravy, which tasted fantastic, was real onion gravy – but it had two downsides; firstly, my husband kept eating it, secondly, my 4 year old picked the onions out. Still, the majority he consumed a fair amount, and for a fussy child, that’s a pretty good result. My 3 year old had a pasta dish that wouldn’t have looked out of place in an authentic Italian trattoria, and again, portion control was more than adequate.

We tried the chicken liver pate and the melon starters, before moving on to a gammon steak and a duck breast with orange mains. Everything was cooked well, and a favourite sign of mine that a chef knows how to cook, is ordering duck and getting it with perfectly rendered skin. I don’t do flabby duck breast – trust me! The meal was relaxing (or as relaxing as it can be with two under-5’s causing mayhem), so we eventually settled for coffee and dessert in the private gardens outside, which was a delightful way to end the meal.

It’s clear that the restaurant of the Stone House Hotel is a firm favourite with locals. It’s location, which is right off the main road, is still isolated enough to give you a feeling of solitude and privacy but there’s a very welcoming and homely feel that is an obvious attraction. The terrace and garden area is well used, and I suspect that the long warm summer evenings make this the perfect spot for a lazy summer lunch or an after-work drink.

Check out our review of the accommodation at the Stone House Hotel, part of the Oxford Hotels and Inns group, by clicking here.

On your doorstep: Top adventure holidays in the UK

Summer is here and everyone is asking you where you’re heading for the traditional break. But, don’t think that you have to go abroad for your seasonal fun. From sailing to hiking, you have a multitude of possibilities right here on your doorstep. Whether you want a romantic break or a family adventure, it’s all possible right here in the United Kingdom.

Sea Kayaking

An increasingly popular past time across the United Kingdom, and it is an exhilarating adventure to partake with friends and family. It is most popular on the south-west coast where people have been known to pass all sorts of maritime life on their adventures. Some trips see you catching a fish supper, foraging the shore for seaweed and shellfish. Often, you will stop in remote locations to enjoy the beauty of the region. Top tip: Check out Falmouth.

Coast to coast cycle

If you’re up for a major adventure, then this trip which was made famous by Alfred Wainwright as a walk is the perfect answer. You see the beauty of the north as you head from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. It is a five day slog, and one which tens of thousands of people complete – either on foot or on a bike. Hopefully you did orienteering though, because this can be a difficult route to stick to.

Horse riding in the New Forest

Stretching from Hampshire to Dorset, this national park started life as a royal forest in 1079, and the unenclosed pasture and heathland make it the perfect spot for some summer horse riding. A place of natural beauty, the leafy glens and ancient woodland are a joy to explore. With country restaurants and pubs along the way too, this is a relaxing but adventurous break for the whole family.

Sail around the Isles

An adventure and a half, taking on this experience will give you both stunning scenery and a tremendous challenge. Whether you are an experienced or beginner, this is a sailing experience that will remain in memory for all your life. Generally an unhurried trip, it can take as long as 12 weeks but gives you the chance to enjoy a multitude of wildlife, ancient history and the classic Hebrides. Not to mention the white sand and blue waters of New Grimsby Sound in the idyllic Isles of Scilly.

Caving in the Yorkshire Dales

With passages stretching 400 kilometres and 2,000 potholes and caves, this is the United Kingdom’s most loved caving spot. Get a feel for the peace and beauty by going underground with your torch to see the limestone walls, mysterious water and Gaping Gill. The latter is an unmistakable landmark of North Yorkshire which holds the record for England’s tallest unbroken waterfall.


Involving anything from swimming to walking, climbing to scrambling, diving to jumping, coasteering is another increasingly popular adventure holiday in the United Kingdom. High energy is putting it lightly, but it is a great experience for the family – or for the kids at least. Invented in Wales – Pembrokeshire to be precise – you can enjoy the rocky coastline and all it offers with old trainers, a safety helmet and a wetsuit. Adrenalin-fuelled and definitely worth considering this summer.

Hike Snowdon

Many people head to Wales for the 3000 challenge where you conquer 3,000 feet and 15 peaks of Welsh mountainside. But, if that’s a bit of a push, then at least get to Snowdonia National Park this summer. A national nature reserve it is – outside of Scotland – the highest point in Britain. A hillside that was made from volcanoes, getting to the top of 3,560 feet is some achievement.

When you go on these active breaks, make sure that you have travel insurance. While accidents tend to be uncommon, if something does happen you want to make sure that you can make holiday compensation. You can minimise this risk by doing your homework, taking the right gear and equipment and going on a recommended tour.

Images courtesy of Visit Britain

Visiting Berlin: An insider’s guide

It may be true that the first city you think of for an interesting weekend break is not Berlin.  You may think it dour, cold and full of stark historical buildings with little interest to anyone outside of the city itself. Well, the city and its three and a half million inhabitants would be sure to disagree and this is why…

Firstly, it is incredibly easy to get to. Many places across the world fly direct into one of the city’s two airports (though this is due to become one huge airport in the spring of next year!). Budget airlines usually fly into the least busy of the two, but the airport transfers direct into the city are cheap and frequent, so you won’t be missing out on any quality time.

When you arrive in the city and have dropped your stuff off at the hotel, the best thing to do is get straight out there and explore. You can do this on foot (or bike) of course, but if you’re only going for a short break then it’s best to use the excellent public transport. The U-Bahn (the underground railway) is clean, reliable and has regular trains to all corners of the city and the same can be said of the huge bus network. Discount travel cards such as the Berlin Welcome Card are available for those of you who like a bargain or two.

The first thing you’ll notice if you get yourself a guidebook is the number of museums in Berlin; unless you’re looking at a map where you’ll be astounded at the number of bridges crossing the River Spree which flows through the heart of the city. Situated on an island in the middle of the river is Museum Island, which as you can probably imagine is home to not one, but five excellent museums. Covering everything from art, artefacts and architecture, you could spend an entire day wandering around the island and visiting some of the amazing exhibits on show.
Other museums worthy of mention are the excellent (if harrowing) Topography of Terror and the Jewish Museum but the former is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Around the Mitte and Kreuzberg districts, you will find everything you need for a great afternoon of shopping, either for souvenirs or a little something for yourself to wear out in the evening. Plenty of bars and restaurants line the streets and it isn’t all sausages and beer so make sure you try something new. Berlin is home to people from many different ethnic backgrounds so you may be chomping on baba ganoush rather than bratwurst. Don’t forget whilst you’re exploring to keep your eyes open all around you – not for fear of anything bad happening, but just in case you pass a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ attraction such as the excellent Ramones museum or the Solar Bar.

If you want to get away from the bustling city then there are a few parks dotted around the city where you can take the weight off for a little while and explore a bit of greenery. Alternatively, get on one of the many river cruises that will give you a whole new view of the city from the water. Whatever you are looking for, you will generally find a stone’s throw away, so… happy exploring and Spaß haben!  (That’s ‘have fun’ by the way).

Ben Gallivan is a music and travel writer who tries not to stay still for too long and has visited many cities across Europe and the rest of the World. He writes for One80 Hostel in central Berlin.

Traveling This Summer? Check Out These Luxurious Hotspots

We spend every year anxiously awaiting the arrival of summer for two reasons: the return of warm weather and taking time away from everything to travel. Having time to visit friends or family members on the other side of the country could be nice but when you’re forming your annual travel plans you should think about taking a luxury holiday instead. There’s a reason they call them luxury vacations; five star resorts, all inclusive meals from top chefs and amazing spa packages, if you’re looking to relax and be pampered in a style usually reserved for the super wealthy you should head to one of these luxury travel destinations.

The Floating Resort in The Maldives

A nation of islands nestled in the Indian Ocean, The Maldives is considered by many to be one of the most luxurious travel destinations on the planet. If you’re looking for the beauty of the Indian Ocean but want a secret hideaway of your own then the Halaveli Resort is your next travel destination. The resort is situated on its own private island, a series of specs on a clear blue landscape, which provides your own personal sun terrace and swimming areas along with all the other luxurious a six star hotel provides. It’s a twenty minute flight by seaplane or over an hour on a speed boat, so if you travel to this beautiful resort you should be prepared for your relaxing seclusion.

Everything You Need in One Expanding City

The hottest spot for several years running, Dubai is a massive city comprised of some of the world’s largest skyscrapers and most luxurious hotels. This has become a popular travel destination simply so people can brag about having been there. Did you ever think you could ski, go shopping, play a round of golf and then get a massage at a spa all in the same day? Dubai has almost everything you could imagine and they know how to do it in style.

The best part is that Dubai is rapidly expanding, so if you enjoy yourself (and it would be impossible not to) you can make it an annual destination and it will always feel fresh and new. Just make sure you plan your travel in advance, the city is popular year round.

Luxury and Culture in one Travel Destination

Malaysia has become known not only for its lush national parks and unique wildlife, but also for its beautiful beaches and luxury resorts. If you travel to Malaysia you will find yourself in a land where you can explore a contemporary shopping district before riding a cable car up to the top of Mount Mat Cincang, which overlooks the entire island. The main draw of Malaysia for travelers is the mix of this luxury with its culture and heritage, which the country does not shy away from. In Sarawak for example, you’ll find the Cultural Village, where over one hundred people put on daily demonstrations of traditional activities.

If you want to expand your cultural IQ or simply relax and be pampered in style and class you should travel to a luxury destination this summer. There’s no shortage of amazing countries just ready to welcome you into their open arms and treat you like royalty, so when you sit down to decide what you want to do on your vacation, travel to a luxurious hotspot.

This post was written by the team at Seasons in Style, offering a wide selection of luxury holidays at resorts and hotspots around the world. Find them online at www.seasonsinstyle.co.uk

Why a Holiday in Washington, D.C. Doesn’t Have to be Expensive

Washington, D.C. is a great place to visit and spend a couple of days or weeks in. Many political buildings are found in the America’s capital which have appeared in numerous films and television shows. If the budget which a family or solo traveller has who is passing through on their way to neighbouring States is minimal, there are many options to choose from because Washington, D.C. has a considerable number of attractions which cost nothing in order to enjoy.

Seeing Washington, D.C.’s many attractions on a budget

The Lincoln Memorial is open throughout the year. During the summer, Washington, D.C. experiences very high temperatures and there are many months when hardly or no precipitation falls. Seeing this landmark doesn’t cost a penny and it is open throughout the year. Even late at night, the Lincoln Memorial can be experienced. Washington, D.C.  has many museums as well and many of them do not charge admission fees, such as the National Postal Museum, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the National Portrait Gallery. Hosting many exhibitions throughout the year, these and many other fascinating museums are thoroughly entertaining.

Alexandria, VA is very popular as well because of its historical significance. First built in 1749, Alexandria was once a thriving port that played an influential role during the American Civil War. Much of Alexandria has been restored and it now has cobbled streets and churches which will enable any photograph to be cherished. As visiting Alexandria doesn’t cost anything at all, exploring this historic part of Washington, D.C. will be both memorable and cost-effective.

Further helping a budget

When staying in Washington, D.C., there are many hotels to choose from. As with hotels which are in capital cities, the amount of money which is charged for staying in a hotel that’s in Washington, D.C. can cost hundreds of dollars for a single night. However, this isn’t the only type of accommodation which is available. Executive Apartments Inc. (http://www.executiveapartmentsusa.com) offer affordable fully furnished corporate apartments that are very popular with travellers. Situated nearby Washington, D.C. (in Arlington, VA) and very close to major transport links, executive apartments are very comfortable because impressive-looking furniture is found in each. Executive apartments have many amenities as well, such as a fully working kitchen and a washing/drying service. When staying in a hotel, extra money has to be paid to clean clothes or request room service but this doesn’t happen when staying in an executive apartment. This is because a meal can be prepared and clothes can be cleaned and dried whenever guests want to.

Washington, D.C. continues to attract people who want to experience this marvellous city for themselves; staying in an executive apartment is the first choice of many travellers. It doesn’t matter what the reason is for staying in Washington, D.C. because there is much to recommend this wonderful city.

About the author: Russell Hill

Pinterest and the travel industry

When new technology comes along, it often influences our behaviour. It’s effect may be subtle at first, but over time it changes the way vast swathes of the global population live their daily lives.

For example; when the internet came along, we no longer got all of our information from the conventional media. We now had encyclopedic knowledge of thousands of different subjects available at our fingertips.

When the smartphone came along, we no longer had to be sat at a desk or within wi-fi range of a modem to browse the web. We could do it with a few taps and swipes of our fingers.

These innovations have changed the way we shop, contact friends and learn about the world.

Now, the web, and social media in particular, is changing the way we travel. One of the newest social media networks to influence our travel decisions is Pinterest.

So how is Pinterest changing the way we travel?

Where Pinterest differs from other social media, is that it’s primarily a bookmarking service. People are bookmarking what they find interesting to them visually and pinning it to their pin-board. And travel destinations are one of the most common themes for Pinterest users.

Whereas sites like Facebook record where we’ve been, and allows us to share it with our friends. Pinterest allows us to share where we wish to go. It contains our dreams, our aspirations.

Rather than seeing pictures of friends holding a piña colada on a Spanish beach from their holiday last summer, we are seeing where they wish to go this year.

People seeing what their friends plans are, may find that it’s influencing their own travel decisions. There may be a certain “keeping up with the Joneses” factor. But more likely they trust their friends choices and are influenced by them.

This has a lot of potential

The full potential of Pinterest is yet to be explored, being relatively new compared to other social media networks. But it does have a lot to offer.

Although travel destination marketers would be loathed to admit it, once someone has made their choice where they would like to go, there’s relatively little they can do. They may be able to inform, and offer assistance that may help their clients. But selling an alternative destination to a potential customer is very difficult.

There is a key moment where the travel destination is decided in the potential customer’s mind. And after that, marketers have little hope of changing their mind.

But what if Pinterest could help marketers get to their potential customers at that precise moment?

This is where Pinterest has the potential to be a more valuable marketing tool than other social media. Pinterest is made up of things yet to come. Decisions not yet fully formed. The very concept of Pinterest makes it possibly the best tool marketers will ever have.

Although Pinterest has not clearly demonstrated it’s value as a way to drive traffic, it can be a very effective way to steer dreams. And is a very effective arrow for every travel marketer’s quiver.

When selling travel destinations, it’s pretty much all about the visuals (sub heading)

One of the key factors that Pinterest has going for it, is that it’s a very visual form of social media. Taking a quick glance at any pin-board will yield wonderful vibrant images that stick in the mind.

This makes it exceptional for selling travel destinations. Travel destinations are almost entirely sold on their aesthetics, rather than any other reason. It could be an attractive couple walking on a white-sand beach. It could a person swimming in clear blue waters. It could be people drinking on wooden decking to the backdrop of a beautifully lit marina. All of these images grab the viewers’ attention and sell the destination to them.

On other social media networks, and the internet in general. These striking images can sometimes get lost in the background noise. Pinterest displays them prominently for the world to see and admire.

So to sum it up

Pinterest is a bit of an unknown quantity at the moment. We are all still learning how to use it effectively. But as with other forms of technology, it will be the people who embrace it early on that make the most of it. But this much is obvious, by allowing us to take a glimpse at people’s hopes for the future; it gives us both a valuable insight, and an unprecedented opportunity to influence those hopes.

Written by Mike who writes for www.worldwidetravelguide.co.uk

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