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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Posts from July, 2008

West End shows should ”definitely” be on tourists” schedule

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There were more that 13.5 million visitors to the West End last yearVisitors to London should make sure that West End shows are “definitely … on the schedule”, one industry expert has said.

Ian Rumgay, European communications manager at TripAdvisor, said that BBC musical shows have “popularised [the West End] right across the board and particularly for the younger audience”.

However, he added that the appeal of the shows attracts visitors regardless of how old they are.

“The West End has something for everyone of all ages,” Mr Rumgay said.

Earlier this month, figures from the annual report of The Society of London revealed that more than 13.5 million people attended West End shows in 2007, an increase of 10.4 per cent compared to the year before.

Meanwhile, the final of the BBC TV show ”How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” attracted viewing figures of 7.7 million for its final in 2006 and the follow-up, ”Any Dream Will Do”, peaked with 7.6 million viewers.

Mr Rumgay said that going to the West End does not have to be an expensive activity as “you can get some good deals if you shop around, look on the internet, auction sites and last minute offers”.

London – Ride the London Eye, visit the Tower of London or take a day out the city to see Stonehenge.
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Socotra Archipelago: An unknown land

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The inhabitants of Socotra speak an unwritten tongue that pre-dates ArabicUNESCO has listed Socotra Archipelago in Yemen as a World Heritage Site, giving Yemen the largest number of cultural and natural heritage sites in Arabia.

The remote and isolated Socotra Archipelago consists of four islands and two rocky islets near the Gulf of Aden.

Although it appeared in the Travels of Marco Polo, few people today visit or even know of this forgotten land.

Its rich biodiversity makes it unique, as 37 per cent of Socotra”s 825 plants do not occur naturally anywhere else in the world.

With 192 bird species, 253 species of coral, 730 species of costal fish and 300 species of crab and lobster, Socotra is the naturalist”s paradise.

Separated from the Horn of Africa around 20 million years ago, Socotra”s long cultural and natural isolation has made it a unique and enchanting destination.

The locals are of Indian, Arabian and Somali origins. They follow the Islamic faith, and speak Soqotri, an unwritten tongue that pre-dates Arabic.

Culture and Sightseeing – City Tours – Whichever city you are in these tours will help to ensure you do not miss a thing.
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Measles risk in Italy, take precautions before holiday

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The outbreak is strongest in northern ItalyBritons face a risk of contracting measles in Europe this summer, with the outbreak strongest in northern Italy.

While most adult travellers are not at risk, some 15 per cent of British children have not been immunised against the disease because of unproven fears over the side effects of the combined vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), the Times reported.

NHS Direct has advised holidaymakers who are going overseas this summer to be “prepared” before they go on holiday.

Jacqui Jedrzejewski, NHS Direct National Mental Health Children’s Services and Caldicott Lead, said: “If you are taking a holiday abroad it is important that you plan ahead and visit your GP surgery or health centre and ask about immunisations that you may need to have prior to leaving.”

Similarly, EU advice for those travelling to Lombardy, Piedmont, the Veneto and Tuscany this summer is “to ensure that their immunisations are up-to-date before leaving home”.

Family – Theme Parks – Treat the family to a day at one of the Disney resorts or to a splashing day out at a Spanish waterpark.
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Britons looking for cheaper holiday options

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Air travel is one of the first things people cut back onThe credit crunch is seeing British holidaymakers look for cheaper alternatives this summer rather than forgoing holidays altogether, The Air Transport Users Council (ATUC) has said.

James Fremantle, ATUC industry affairs manager, said that “it looks as if people are just downgrading their holidays”.

He added: “I think air travel is one of the first things people do cut back on, particularly when there is a recession … [people] are still going away, but downgrading from certain holidays to cheaper package holidays.”

Mr Fremantle”s comments come after a new report by National Express East Coast Trains claimed that one in five Britons have chosen not to travel by plane this summer.

The top contributing factors to this include the threat of lost luggage (28 per cent), add-on charges (27 per cent) and check-in delays (24 per cent).

As a result, more than a third of travellers have decided to holiday in the UK this summer.

Culture and Sightseeing – City Tours – Whichever city you are in these tours will help to ensure you do not miss a thing.
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High School Musical live on stage in Dubai

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High School Musical has won Emmy awardsFrom July 23rd to 26th, Disney”s smash-hit film musical comes to Dubai.

Playing at the Centrepoint Theatre, the High School Musical sees kids from East High stopping at nothing to distract basketball jock Troy and math-whiz Gabrielle from getting the lead roles in the school musical.

Tickets cost between Dh149 and Dh199 (£20 to £27), and performances will be held at 14:30 and 19:30.

The musical will take place for a total of seven shows.

High School Musical on screen started life on the Disney Channel in January 2006, and won a couple of Emmy awards.

A sequel (High School Musical 2) appeared 18 months later, with two more coming soon.

The stage version is based on the first film, with its script by Peter Barsocchini adapted by David Simpatico. It includes all the songs from the film – of which Breaking Free and We”re All in this Together were hit singles – as well as two new songs.

Dubai – A true modern metropolis Dubai boasts a fine range of tourist facilities including the refined Burj al Arab hotel.
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Romantic Dream Getaways

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Ok, so I’ve learned a thing or two about our loyal readers and customers after plowing through some of the recent ‘Perfect Holiday’ contest entries…

Namely that you are a bunch of sappy romantics!

Seriously, though, we’ve received some descriptive and inspiring responses to our call for entries (to win a £500 isango! voucher), many of which I will posting on the blog in the coming weeks. To keep up with the competition entries, just select the ‘Perfect Holiday’ tag under ‘TOPICS’ on the right hand side of the page – we will be posting entries frequently.

Today’s Topic: Romantic Getaways.

OK lovebirds, I’ve done some research in response to your *heartwarming* descriptions of paradise.

Your entries, my suggestions….here goes!

1. ‘SILVER SMILES’, by Diane Russell.

“Toronto is a place I would love to see – all that colour, the lights flickering across the waters. Flying in a helicopter across Niagara falls…imagine the spectacular view!…WHY, you ask? Because the 20th of August 2008 is our Silver Wedding Anniversary. 25 years…WOW, that sounds like a long time.

( – Indeed!)

But I can honestly say, with my hands on my heart, that he is the man I always want to be with. We have a partnership, we share, and we work together to achieve our goals. LOVE is the word.

( – Awwww, how sweet…)

Romance in Toronto – this would be an experience of a lifetime…warm beaches…just our kind of paradise – the ultimate romantic escape for the perfect Silver Wedding destination. To be able to indulge ourselves in luxury…just closing our eyes and dreaming about the perfect week vacation…our perfect romantic getaway…”

Niagara Falls View

OK Diane, that’s quite a tall order – your 25th Wedding Anniversary! I’ve come up with a few activities that seem to meet your criteria:

1. Helicopter ride over Niagara Falls

Diane, this exhilarating flight over the Falls will provide you and your hubby with all of those magnificent views that you have been dreaming about! (You also may want to consider the Evening Light Tour of Niagara Falls).

2. 30,000 Islands Scenic Cruise

In response to your comment about ‘warm beaches’ (which, I must admit, I was initially confused by as I have never been to Toronto!), after some research, I discovered an island hopping excursion that sounds absolutely amazing…

The Miss Midland 30,000 Islands Boat Cruise departs daily from Midland, Ontario (which is just a scenic coach ride away from Toronto). You can explore one of the most scenic parts of Lake Huron, the Muskoka-Georgian Bay. The protected islands of this region can only be reached by boat and are supposed to be spectacular…

And on to our next entry…

2. Untitled, by Joy Lontine.

“I wake up to jungle sounds and sun streaming in an open window. Pour myself the perfect cup of coffee and step barefoot onto the deck which overlooks azure waters in the Caribbean Sea. I take a walk with the love of my life down to the palm tree lined secluded beach, picking the perfect ripe mango off a tree along the way. He and I slice the mango which is still warm from the sun and have the perfect breakfast. We board a small boat which is equipped with our scuba gear and take it to a secluded cove where we dive in warm, crystal waters. After an afternoon of diving and napping on the sands, we return to our bungalow then set out for a night on the town with the locals. We dine on succulent lobster which has just been caught that day. We dance barefoot to steel drums enjoying our mojitos. After enjoying a glass of champagne under moonlight, we kiss goodnight and anticipate tomorrow!”

Joy, have you ever considered the Florida Keys? I’ve visited them several times with my family—the islands are all quite beautiful, and if you do some good research, you will be able to find the secluded little resort that you have your heart set on.

And, from Key West, you can take this Caribbean Cruise, which similar to the one that you described (I have been on a snorkeling trip from Key West myself – it was amazing!)

You can choose from either a day snorkeling outing, which includes the equipment, or a ‘Champagne Sunset Sail’, which includes the booze… (or do both!).

Your dream vacation sounds very plausible and affordable.

Good luck!

More Romantic Getaway Ideas?

Send in your wildest, most imaginative holiday ideas (here), and we will attempt to match your requests with some exciting tours and excursions.

Dream big!

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More than 2m Brits escaping this weekend

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Egypt has seen a 28 per cent growth in bookings since this time last yearWith the majority of schools breaking up today (July 18th), this weekend is expected to see more than two million Britons heading overseas, the Association for British Travel Agents (Abta) has said.

Despite the strength of the euro, Spain is expected to remain popular, along with France, Malta and the Caribbean.

However the biggest growth of all has been recorded in bookings for Egypt which has seen a 28 per cent year-on-year increase in reservations.

Turkey and the US have also been strong at 20 per cent and 8 per cent respectively.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: "With a changing economic climate, many existing trends have become more pronounced. Spain for example, is still the top destination this year, but as a mature destination, and with the strong euro, greater growth is being experienced in the mid- to long-haul destinations outside of the eurozone."

He added: "Conversely, there is no surprise that with the weak dollar, the US is doing well and forward bookings for the US look strong."

Family – Theme Parks – Treat the family to a day at one of the Disney resorts or to a splashing day out at a Spanish waterpark.
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Parliamentary Special Train in New Zealand

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the train will run from Wellington to AucklandFrom August 6th to 8th, visitors to New Zealand looking for historic entertainment can find just that.

To commemorate the centenary of the North Island Main Trunk, there will be a re-enactment of the Parliamentary Special.

Organised by rail operator ONTRACK, the train re-enacts the first passenger rail service between Wellington and Auckland when 44 parliamentarians travelled to see the visiting American navy’s ”Great White Fleet” in Auckland in August 1908.

The train will stop for events in Ohakune, Horopito, Makatote, National Park, Raurimu and overnight in Taumarunui before continuing on up to Auckland.

ONTRACK chief executive William Peet said the opening of the North Island Main Trunk was an important moment in New Zealand”s economic and social history.

“The line vastly improved the movement of people and goods around the country. It is also the reason a number of settlements were established where they are in the North Island,” he said.

“We are planning centenary celebrations with Toll NZ, local communities, and rail heritage groups to recognise the importance of the North Island Main Trunk.”

Seniors – Historic Tours – From the Roman Empire to the second world war, these tours bring world history to life.
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Survey reveals where Brits want to go before ”kicking the bucket”

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The Grand Canyon was number one A new survey reveals where exactly in the world Britons want to travel to before they ”kick the bucket”.

The number one response was the Grand Canyon, followed by the Pyramids in Giza and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Two Canadian destinations came in at number four and five – Niagara Falls and the Canadian Rockies. These were followed by the Great Wall of China. Numbers seven to ten were cities – New York, Sydney, Rome and Venice.

Women were more interested in visiting the Pyramids (44 per cent) compared to men (38 per cent).

Women were also more interested than men in visiting cities for romantic breaks, while men who were keen on going further a field to more exotic locations including Machu Picchu, the Taj Mahal and Sydney.

The survey was conducted to coincide with the release of the film The Bucket List where the two characters in the film learn they are terminally ill and decide to make the most of the time they have on racing car driving, sky diving, climbing the Pyramids, a lion safari in Africa and a trip to the Taj Mahal.

Culture and Sightseeing – City Tours – Whichever city you are in these tours will help to ensure you do not miss a thing.

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New musicals to hit Broadway next year

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Dolly Parton starred in the original film and has penned songs for the musicalA musical based on the 1980 film Nine to Five is set to open on Broadway on April 23rd next year, following a short run in Los Angeles this September.

Country star Dolly Parton – who received an Oscar for the title song – starred in the original film with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

The musical, about three colleagues who plot to turn the tables on their sexist, lying boss, includes Parton”s original score as well as 20 new songs.

Nine to Five will star The West Wing”s Allison Janney in Tomlin”s role, Stephanie J Block in Fonda”s part and Megan Hilty as Parton”s sexy executive secretary. Marc Kudisch plays their bigoted boss.

Also moving to Broadway next year is Mary Stuart, Friedrich Schiller”s history play that was a recent hit in London.

Variety magazine reported that the show, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, will arrive next spring at a yet to be named theatre with its stars, Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter.

New York – From the dizzy heights of the Empire State Building to the serene Central Park New York has it all!
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