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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

Snacking banned at monuments in Rome

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People caught snacking near monuments will have to pay a £40 fineRome City Hall has banned snacking near its famous monuments in the city”s historical centre, according to reports.

A £40 fine will be slapped on those who violate the ban which runs until the end of October, the Associated Press said.

Officials told the news agency they want to preserve artistic treasures and decorum in a city that has millions of visitors every year.

The ordinance also bans the homeless from making makeshift beds and people loitering around at night, as they are “often drunk [and] not only leave all manner of litter on public grounds and in the fountains, but also disturb the peace”.

Rome is the latest Italian city to take steps to protect its historical sites.

Venice banned picnics in public places and bare torsos in St. Mark”s Square, while Florence is clamping down on men who wash the windshields of cars for payment.

Rome – Visit some of the ancient landmarks such as the Colosseum or tour the opulent Vatican.
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Innocent Village Fete in London

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Enjoy live music and plenty of food and drink in the summer sunOn the weekend of August 2nd and 3rd, head to Regent’s Park to enjoy live music and plenty of food and drink at the Innocent Village Fete.

This festival is full of fun and entertainment – enjoy performances by The James Taylor Quartet, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and many more, or laugh along with the many comedians and storytellers.

Have a go at activities ranging from welly wagging to morris dancing, from ferret racing to duck herding.

For children, there is face painting, funfair rides, a flea circus and a petting zoo.

There will be a big farmers” market with stallholders from Borough Market, licensed real ale, cider and other bars, lots of lovely food, an arts and crafts area, places to picnic, a few smoothies, massages and a shady spot under the trees if it all gets a bit too much.

The fete is open from 11am to 7pm, and tickets cost £7.50 for adults and £3.50 for children.

London – Ride the London Eye, visit the Tower of London or take a day out the city to see Stonehenge.
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Cape Town is designated a ”must see” city

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Cape Town has wowed visitors for centuries Cape Town has achieved a continental first by becoming the first city in Africa to feature in the National Geographic Traveler Magazine”s Places of a Lifetime website.

Showcasing 50 of the world’s top destinations, National Geographic”s Places of a Lifetime website lists the top destinations in the world that no self respecting traveller should miss.

National Geographic asks: "What”s not to love about Cape Town?"

It then adds: "From iconic Table Mountain, several hundred million years in the making, to the hip watering holes of Camps Bay, South Africa”s ”Mother City” is the brightest light in the reborn rainbow nation."

Cape Town”s attractions don”t seem to have missed Manchester United either.

The Premiership champions are sending a top team down to the city this weekend to take part in the 2008 Vodacom Challenge.

Rooney, Teves, Giggs et al will take on the local Kaiser Chiefs in the opening fixture of this year”s tournament at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town on Saturday, July 19th.

Cape Town – From the wine route to the game parks there is so much to see and do in Cape Town.
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Cape Town is designated a ”must see” city

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Cape Town has wowed visitors for centuries Cape Town has achieved a continental first by becoming the first city in Africa to feature in the National Geographic Traveler Magazine”s Places of a Lifetime website.

Showcasing 50 of the world’s top destinations, National Geographic”s Places of a Lifetime website lists the top destinations in the world that no self respecting traveller should miss.

National Geographic asks: "What”s not to love about Cape Town?"

It then adds: "From iconic Table Mountain, several hundred million years in the making, to the hip watering holes of Camps Bay, South Africa”s ”Mother City” is the brightest light in the reborn rainbow nation."

Cape Town”s attractions don”t seem to have missed Manchester United either.

The Premiership champions are sending a top team down to the city this weekend to take part in the 2008 Vodacom Challenge.

Rooney, Teves, Giggs et al will take on the local Kaiser Chiefs in the opening fixture of this year”s tournament at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town on Saturday, July 19th.

Cape Town – From the wine route to the game parks there is so much to see and do in Cape Town.
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Chariot racing could return to Rome

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Chariot races could once again roar through RomeMany visitors to Rome hope to experience some of the ancient culture that has made the eternal city famous – however, few would expect to catch a full-blown chariot race.

But that”s exactly what could be on offer as the historical society Vadis Al Maximo hopes to stage a major chariot race event next year.

Speakung to ANSA, Vadis Al Maximo head, Franco Calo, explained: ””The event would last three days, starting on October 17, at the same period when the race took place in Roman times.

””If possible, we hope to involve charioteers from all over the world””

He said the society has plans to transform all the main squares of the capital into scenes from Ancient Rome, using props on loan from the Cinecitta film studios.

””According to our calculations, the Circus Maximus area could hold up to 35,000 people,”” he said.

In Roman times the course in the Circus Maximus could accommodate 12 chariots, each drawn by teams of four horses.

Rome – Visit some of the ancient landmarks such as the Colosseum or tour the opulent Vatican.
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Mama Mia! Mania: Behind the Scenes in Greece

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“(I would) fly to the beautiful Greek Isles, to a quiet marina, where I could introduce my wife to the boat that would take us island hopping – sailing from fishing village to fishing village…local ports fringed with tavernas…seafood washed down with the native wine whilst the blood-red sun kisses the Mediterranean sea `good night’…”

– Fred Harper, ‘Perfect Holiday’ Contest Entrant

Sparkling blue water, rugged coastal terrain, sailboats, sunshine, serenity, and fresh seafood (mmm…..)

…not to mention a strutting, overall-clad Meryl Streep, a feisty Julie Walters, a singing Pierce Brosnan, a glowing Amanda Seyfried……and, of course, a non-stop ABBA marathon.

Who’s seen Mama Mia! And doesn’t want to go to Greece?

I’m always skeptical of movie renditions of musicals, but, in this case, the big screen certainly exploits what the West End can’t: the absolutely breathtaking scenery of the Greek Islands.

Behind the Scenes in Skiathos and Skopelos

Just over a year ago, Streep, Brosnan, and the rest of the multi-talented Mama Mia! cast were staging 1970’s ABBA mayhem on remote islands of the Aegean sea…

It’s time to follow in the footsteps of the stars (and as well as the imagination of our contest entrant Fred) on the following tours:

1. Romantic Sunset Cruise in Skiathos.

If you’ve seen the film, it’s impossible not to imagine yourself as a blissful, young bride or groom to be, sheltered from the realities of the world on a little Greek slice of paradise. The amorous atmosphere of the Sophie’s dream island wedding lingers on the island of Skiathos, where a Calypso fishing boat awaits the next pair of lovebirds that desire a taste of Aegean seaside culture, music, cuisine and scenery.

The Skiathos ‘Music and Moonlight’ Sunset Cruise departs Tuesdays from 15 May – 15 October and is the perfect romantic outing for the adventurous duo. Indulge in freshly prepared island cuisine, feel the rhythms of the traditional Greek folk music, and dance your way into the sunset…..

2. Tour of Skopelos

Explore the magnificent setting of Donna’s infamously ‘rustic’ hotel—‘the greenest island in Greece’—by embarking on the Sporades Island Hopping Tour, which includes a stop at ‘Kalokairi Island’, or rather, Skopelos!

Your adventure will begin as you board a boat in the harbour of Skiathos, where some of Mama Mia’s most lively scenes were created. Coast across the sparkling Aegean until you arrive at what was, just under a year ago, the central hub of ABBA action—where Pierce Brosnan’s flip flops are now on display…and where the film’s fairytale church, Agios Ioannis, juts out over the sea on a magnificent, towering rock formation.

Your day will end with a stop at neighbouring Alonissos; you will return to Skiathos in time for a relaxing sunset meal.

Mama Mia! Here we go again…

May your romantic, island hopping adventure leave you ‘stranded’ at an isolated taverna…complete with a staff that breaks out into spontaneous song and dance…

Other great behind-the-scenes film tour ideas:

The ‘Film Tours: Hollywood and Beyond’ Blog

The ‘Hollywood, Bollywood and Beyond’ Blog (a favourite!)

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NHS Direct: Be prepared before going on holiday

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It is a good idea to carry a first-aid kit on holidayHolidaymakers should be prepared with a first aid kit before they go on vacation, NHS Direct has advised.

Jacqui Jedrzejewski, NHS Direct National Mental Health Children’s Services and Caldicott Lead, said that being prepared was a better "than trying to find a pharmacy open especially if you are going abroad and don’t speak the language of the country you are visiting".

She said that it was "essential" for travellers to take out personal health insurance before going on holiday, and if they have an existing medical condition, they should make a written note of it and carry medication for it.

She added that travellers should take enough supplies of their daily medications to last the duration of your holiday and always keep them in their original packaging.

Ms Jedrzejewski also advised: "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."

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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UNESCO names two new heritage sites in Malaysia

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the new sites are in Penang and MalaccaMelaka and George Town in Malaysia have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List by The World Heritage Committee.

With more than 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges, traces of Asian and European influences are well preserved in the two cities.

Melaka, the capital of the Malaysian state of Malacca, is also known as the ‘historic city of Malaysia’. No historian has been able to pinpoint the founding year of the city, though it is estimated that it was founded between 1376 and 1400. The government buildings, churches, squares and fortifications in Melaka demonstrate the early stages of history originating in the 15th-century Malay sultanate, as well as the Portuguese and Dutch periods beginning in the early 16th century.

George Town in Penang, on the other hand, represents the British era that began towards the end of the 18th century. But George Town is not only influenced by Britain as Chinese cultural heritage in the city is hard to be missed.

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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Airship offers views over London

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The airship will run until August 21stA new commercial airship service is offering passengers spectacular views of London until August 21st.

The Star Over London zeppelin will carry up to 12 passengers a time, taking in sights such as Greenwich, Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge and the Houses Of Parliament.

Flights will take off from Damyns Hall airfield, Upminster, and follow the Thames, flying at 1000 feet (300m) and at up to 40mph.

There will be between five and eight flights each day.

At more than 75m (250ft) long, the Star is the world’s largest commercial airship and cruises at about 35mph.

Co-pilot Katharine Board told the Guardian: “Here you get to learn something new every day … It is like riding the waves, like a boat on the water. There’s no other aircraft you can fly this low, this slow.”

Tickets are priced from £185 for a half-hour flight to £360 for an hour-long trip, and must be pre-booked.

London – Ride the London Eye, visit the Tower of London or take a day out the city to see Stonehenge.
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Pierogi Festival in Krakow

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The festival will run on August 15th and 16th Krakow’s annual Pierogi Festival will take place on August 15th and 16th.

The festival is inspired by the traditional Polish food: stuffed dumplings, which are similar to ravioli.

These semi-circular dough parcels are stuffed with fillings such as mashed potato, cheese, mushrooms, boiled egg and meat.

Tourists and locals alike can enjoy the nation’s dish at tasting sessions throughout the city, accompanied by a helping of art events, fairs and dumpling-cooking competitions.

Pierogi are served in a variety of forms and tastes ranging from sweet to salty to spicy in Polish cuisine. They were traditionally peasants’ food, but eventually spread in popularity throughout all social classes.

Poles traditionally serve two types of pierogi for Christmas Eve supper. One kind is filled with sauerkraut and dried mushrooms, another – small uszka, only with dried wild mushrooms is eaten with barszcz.

They are served at many festivals, playing an important role as a cultural Polish dish.

At the 2007 Pierogi Festival in Krakow, 30,000 pierogi were consumed daily.

Krakow – A turbulent and fascinating history and nearby Auschwitz have seen Krakow become a popular tourist destination.
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