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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 August, 2008

UNESCO City of Music award goes to Glasgow

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Glasgow hosts 127 musical events a weekGlasgow has been named City of Music by UNESCO in recognition of its rich musical past.

In its case to UNESCO in June, Glasgow said it has a number of leading music venues and concert halls, and hosts 127 musical events every week.

Home to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Scottish Opera and the BBC”s Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Glasgow will now join the Creative Cities Network, UNESCO”s list of culturally distinguished cities.

Welcoming the news, Bob Winter, Glasgow Lord Provost, told the BBC: "We embrace the award on behalf of our talented musicians and composers whose work has contributed to our great city being given the permanent prestige of being a City of Music."

A new body will now be set up in Glasgow to oversee its musical events.

Two other European cities have received the City of Music title since it was established in 2006 – Seville in Spain was the first, followed by Bologna in Italy (2007).

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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Sharjah Aquarium

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There are more than 250 species of marine life on display here A chance to see the colourful, rich and diverse world under the sea may not be something you would expect on a visit to the UAE.

But the Sharjah Aquarium offers visitors just that.

Home to a variety of marine life native to the seas around the city, the aquarium is great for a day out for the family.

Showcasing more than 250 species of marine life, there is so much to see – from the smallest clown fish and delicate seahorses to moray eels, rays and reef sharks.

Visitors can discover everything from the larger ocean creatures to the smaller sea life found in the rock pools, coral reefs, lagoons and mangroves.

One special feature on offer here is a walk by the sea outside as well as a walk under the sea inside the aquarium.

The museum has various opening times, depending on the day.

While it is closed on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, it is open only for families on Wednesdays from 16:00 to 19:30.

Other visitors can go on Thursdays from 9:00 to 19:30, on Fridays from 15:00 to 20:00, and on Saturdays from 9:00 to 20:00.

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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War Memorial Museum in Auckland

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The museum traces the history of Auckland before it became a major metropolisEstablished in 1852, the Auckland War Memorial Museum is New Zealand”s oldest museum.

From humble beginnings (it started in a two-room farm cottage in the central Auckland suburb of Grafton), the museum today is home to millions of objects.

It also provides educational services to more than 60,000 school children annually, and is one of New Zealand”s most popular tourist attractions with around half a million visitors every year.

The museum tells the story of New Zealand, its place in the Pacific and its people.

It is also a war memorial and houses one of the country”s top three heritage libraries.

Visitors can enjoy the museum”s Maori and Pacific collections, the major social and military history items on display, as well as decorative arts and pictorial exhibitions.

Open daily from 10:00 to 17:00, visitors can enjoy late evenings at the museum on Wednesdays.

Admission is free of charge.

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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Peddlers barred from Giza pyramids

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The pyramids are now protected by a 13-foot high wallEgyptian authorities have erected a 12-mile fence around the Giza pyramids and the Sphinx in order to keep out hawkers and peddlers.

Hawkers hanging around the site have grown notorious for hassling tourists to buy their goods, sometimes aggressively.

They sell everything from souvenirs to trinkets to T-shirts.

"It was a zoo," said Zahi Hawass, Egypt”s chief archaeologist.

"Now we are protecting both the tourists and the ancient monuments."

While previously just a low stone wall protected the only surviving member of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the new 13 foot-high barrier is complete with alarms, sensors and CCTV cameras.

Visitors enter the fence through a brick entrance building, with half a dozen gates equipped with metal detectors and X-ray machines.

Once inside, they are closely watched by nearly 200 cameras whose footage goes back to the control room, where guards monitor a bank of 24 screens around the clock.

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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Over-50s pushing boundaries

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Diving is becoming extremely popular in the over-50 age groupPeople aged over 50 years are pushing boundaries when it comes to travel and activity holidays, new research has revealed.

A quarter of Britons over the age of 50 intend to go on holiday to Australia or New Zealand, while three per cent of this age group want to explore Antarctica, according to the Alliance & Leicester study.

"For many people, turning 50 is a significant milestone and a time when people gain a new lease of life," Emma Walkley, current account manager at Alliance & Leicester explained.

The study also revealed that the over-50s like to push the boundaries with more than one million saying they would like to take part in a bungee jump or skydive within the next five to ten years and one in ten would like to try 4×4 off-roading.

Other activities that were popular on the list were performing on stage in front of a large audience, flying a helicopter, scuba diving and running a marathon.

Active and Adventure – Air Activities – Enjoy an exhilarating helicopter ride over New York or a serene hot air balloon ride over the Australian outback.
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Qatar National Museum in Doha

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the museum is built in the traditional arab style The Qatar National Museum opened in Doha in 1975 in order to display the country”s way of life to visitors.

It has four main sections – the Old Palace, the new building, the marine section and The Lagoon.

The Old Palace is made up of nine separate buildings which showcase traditional herbal medicines, pottery and stoneware and traditional costumes

First occupied by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Jassim Al-Thani in about 1901, it is constructed in the style of a traditional Arabian palace.

The new building houses the findings of archaeological excavations conducted in Qatar, as well as items related to natural history, Islamic culture and geology.

Meanwhile, the marine section has on display an extensive aquarium, natural Qatar pearls, shells, fossils, and showcases the achievements of medieval Arab maritime life.

Finally, The Lagoon is an extension of the adjacent sea and features various types of the traditional Arab sailing vessel, the Dhow.

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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Hadrian: Empire and Conflict at the British Museum

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Rome''s most enigmatic emperor is famed for building Hadrian''s WallAn exhibition exploring Rome”s most enigmatic Emperor, his life and legacy, the sharp contradictions of his personality and his role as a ruthless military commander, is running at the British Museum until October 26th.

Incorporating recent scholarship and the latest archaeological discoveries, the exhibition will feature more than 180 objects connected to Hadrian, on loan from 28 collections across Europe.

Dramatic sculptures, exquisite bronzes and architectural fragments will be brought together and displayed for the first time in the UK, alongside famous objects from the museum”s own collection which include the iconic bronze head of Hadrian and the Vindolanda tablets.

Thorsten Opper, curator of the exhibition said: "This will be a unique opportunity to see important objects related to Hadrian in one exhibition.

"Hadrian was an extremely successful emperor who left an immense and enduring legacy, but one that is often not recognised or appreciated.

"This exhibition will allow for a reassessment of his character, his life, love and legacy."

Admission to the exhibition costs £12, and can be booked online or over the phone.

London – Ride the London Eye, visit the Tower of London or take a day out the city to see Stonehenge.
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PERFECT HOLIDAY CONTEST FINALISTS

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Thanks to those who participated in the 2008 isango! ‘Perfect Holiday’ Contest! We were overwhelmed with enthusiastic responses and sincerely apologize for the delay in posting the finalists. But we’ve finally done it! Hooray! The top 5 entries have been selected, and it’s time to VOTE!

FYI: though we could only select 5 finalists, we truly enjoyed reviewing your (100!) entries. We admire your imaginative efforts; thus, the majority of this blog is dedicated to the bulk of entries that did not make it through to the shortlist. We have explained why certain types of entries were not selected and have included some relevant travel tips to assist you in actualizing your dream getaways!

If this sounds boring to you ( – it’s not, actually!), you can skip straight to the action, and:

CLICK HERE to VOTE for one of the TOP FIVE ENTRIES

…as selected by our team of travel writers and product specialists. Go ahead, do it! But remember, you can vote once, and once only!

SOME TRENDS AND TIPS:

(By the way, we’ve listed the finalists at the bottom of this blog in hopes that you will actually read the rest of what we have to say!)

…right, so we learned a great deal about your travel desires and needs from reading your entries—namely that most of you are in need of a good, long holiday! There were also some recurring themes:

1. “It’s not where you are, it’s who you are with…”
A large number you would prefer to spend your precious time away from the office on a romantic getaway with your significant other. Your descriptions of destinations were often very imaginative, but also quite vague, as you focused on the experience that you would have with the love of your life—just the two of you—isolated in paradise. These entries were fantastic (and heartwarming) but were also, unfortunately, more difficult to judge as sometimes we were not sure where, exactly, you aimed to go on your holiday! We suggest visiting the Romantic Retreats section of the isango! website to transform your, ahem, ‘daydreams’ (wink!) into reality.

2. Family First.
A large percentage of you have young children and thus face difficulties with planning to please multiple parties. For you, the ‘perfect holiday’ is one that is free of logistical nightmares: your entries thus tended to be long lists of things that you wanted to avoid (long queues, large crowds, flight delays), rather than of things you actually wanted to do. Though we can do nothing about rubbish airlines (except to complain right alongside you) we can help you to avoid ‘on the ground’ family feuds by encouraging you to plan a detailed itinerary prior to departing. Start with our list of Family Tours under the Activities section of our website, which can be narrowed down, for example, to theme parks and self drive tours.

Others of you focused on the needs of your parents and grandparents, wishing to fulfill their dreams by taking them to parts of the world that they have always wanted to see. We suggest starting with our Seniors category and narrowing your options down by country, or city, from there. (You can also always contact one of our friendly customer service reps if you have any questions!)

3. Some of you are, well, CRAZY…
Really, wow. You submitted some fantastically wild travel ‘plots’ (- you know who you are!). Check out some of our quirkier blogs for more unconventional ideas and inspiration.

Now, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for!

THE FINALISTS:

1. Hanlie Burger, ‘Shipwrecks, Sand Dunes and Desert Elephants’.

2. Louise Brown, ‘Northern Solitude’

3. Sarah Berl, ‘Spelunk!!’

4. Marian Redmond, ‘Campania Felix’, and

5. Sarah Stocks, ‘Tropical Rainforest? Or is it?’

A huge CONGRATS to Hanlie, Louise, Sarah, Marian and Sarah—and all of our participants—for dreaming up such fabulous ‘perfect holidays’! We cannot thank you enough.

Please vote here, and to pass this email along to all of your family and friends!

You can also check out more blog coverage of the contest here.

Thanks again for participating!

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Bastakiya district in Dubai

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The district gives visitors a chance to see old Dubai Dubai may be a bright and shining metropolis today, but the old Bastakiya district with its narrow lanes and tall wind towers gives visitors a tantalising insight into the life of old Dubai.

An old residential area along the famous Dubai Creek in Bur Dubai, Bastakiya District dates back to the early 20th century.

Famous for its wind towers that lined the Creek, the district is a popular historical attraction for tourists.

These wind towers were not purely decorative – they were the only means of cooling the citizens of the desert town.

Today, Bastakiya is a bustling market and cultural centre of Dubai.

The district”s historic buildings are home to museums and galleries featuring the works of local artists, as well as housing restaurants and markets.

Visitors can spend hours at these markets, buying art, crafts and other souvenirs at very cheap prices – but make sure to bargain!

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

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London, Edinburgh rooms most expensive in Europe, Spain cheapest

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A room in Granada costs £67 a nightHotel accommodation in London and Edinburgh is the most expensive in Europe, new research by Trivago has revealed.

Visitors to the two cities paid an average of £126 in London and £123 in Edinburgh between June and August this year, the hotel price index found.

It was also revealed that Granada in Spain offered the best accommodation deals, with the average room going for £67 a night.

The Andalucian city is rich in history and culture, making it a must-see for a visitor to Spain.

A popular attraction is the Alhambra, which was a palace, a citadel, fortress, and the home of the Nasrid sultans, high government officials, servants of the court and elite soldiers from the 13th to the 14th century.

Other notable buildings are the Palace of Charles V, which is built in the Renaissance style, housing the Alhambra Museum and the Fine Art Museum.

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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