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Posts from July, 2009

Things to do in Edinburgh

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The Homecoming 2009 and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

This is the year to travel to Scotland!  This year Scotland is hosting its first Homecoming.  The Homecoming is taking place to honor the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns’ birth.  Don’t know you Robert Burns is?  That’s okay because before my trip to Edinburgh I was not aware of who he was either.  Robert Burns is claimed to be the national poet of Scotland.  Still don’t know what he is famous for?  He is most well known for writing ‘Auld Lang Syne,’ the song that is sung to celebrate the end of the year on New Years Eve.  During the Homecoming there are over 200 events taking place to celebrate: Robert Burns, whisky, golf, great Scottish innovations/minds, as well as Scottish ancestry.

Bagpipes being played (Flickr by Tyla'75)

Bagpipes being played (Flickr by Tyla'75)

Edinburgh is also known as a festival hub.  Throughout the year Edinburgh is home to 12 fantastic festivals.  This coming month from August 7- August 31 the Edinburgh Fringe Festival will be taking place.  The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world!  It will have 2,000 different shows ranging from dance, theater, children’s exhibits, musicals, comedy, and various other genres.  These performances will range from professional acts  all the way down to street performances. continue reading

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Barcelona

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Experience Barcelona

Park Guell (Flickr by MorBCN)

Park Guell (Flickr by MorBCN)

Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city, which explains the city’s wide array of activities to partake in.  When I was a senior in high school I visited Spain with my Art History class.  Looking back, Barcelona was sadly the city where we had the shortest amount of time and I wish I had a couple more days to experience Barcelona.

As of recent, Barcelona has become one of the most visited cities in Spain because of the vast amount of activities to experience.  Whether you enjoy thrilling tours and experiences, the arts, or learning more about a city’s culture then Barcelona has something to offer. continue reading

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SeaWorld in Orlando

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The Shamu Show at SeaWorld

The Shamu Show at SeaWorld (Flickr by BenSpark)

SeaWorld is a theme park situated in Orlando, Florida that features marine life from all over the world. If you are spending a day at SeaWorld there are several sights to see and rides to experience. SeaWorld’s most famous attraction is the Shamu Show called ‘Believe.’ Although I do not go to SeaWorld very frequently it is still one of my favourite parks in Orlando. It is a favourite of mine because at SeaWorld you do not have to rush around.

Shows at SeaWorld

While at SeaWorld there are several shows that are must sees. A popular show at SeaWorld is ‘Believe’ or as it is more commonly known as the Shamu Show. It is an exciting show that features orca whales performing tricks and interacting with their trainers. All of this is choreographed to music. If you are getting too hot in the Florida heat then sit in the splash zone. In the splash zone be prepared to get soaked as Shamu swims around the tank flapping his massive tail! It is a fun way to cool down in the summer sun! continue reading

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Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida

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Heading to Orlando this summer?  Then a trip to a theme park is a must! And at Universal Studios in Orlando there are things to do for every member of the family. Universal Studios has two fantastic theme parks, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios.  Each park has something for everyone, whether you like action packed roller coasters, water rides, 4-D shows, or carousels.  It is worthwhile to have some background knowledge of how to get around the parks at Universal Studios in order to fully enjoy your visit.

Islands of Adventure (Flickr by Rob J Brooks)

Islands of Adventure (Flickr by Rob J Brooks)

Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios

Islands of Adventure is Universals newest theme park and consists of five islands: Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Jurassic Park, the Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing.  I have been to Islands of Adventure so many times I can’t even count.  I actually have several of the rides memorized! The reason for this is I have lived in Orlando my entire life and I worked there in the summer. I’ll give you some tips to navigate around Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure and which rides are worthwhile if you are pressured on time continue reading

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Bastille Day Celebrations

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Bastille Day at the Eiffel Tower (Flickr attributed by y.caradec)

Bastille Day at the Eiffel Tower (Flickr by y.caradec)

On July 14th the French will be celebrating Bastille Day. For those of who you do not know, Bastille Day celebrates the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison and is viewed as the first move towards democracy. Throughout France, Bastille Day is celebrated with fireworks, flag flying, parades, and parties. If you are American (like me) it can be compared to the spirit felt on the fourth of July. Just like in the United States the most grand of the celebrations are held in the largest of cities. So, Paris is the ideal place to be for Bastille Day! Although Paris holds the grandest celebrations, all of France holds celebrations on Bastille Day.

Bastille Day Celebrations in Paris

Bastille Day Celebrations on the Arc de Triomphe (Flickr by Ammar Abd Rabbo)

Bastille Day Celebrations on the Arc de Triomphe (Flickr by Ammar Abd Rabbo)

Some of the experiences that Paris offers on Bastille Day are a grand parade on the famous Champs Elysees and fireworks blasting off the Eiffel Tower. The sights of Paris are stunning without the flamboyancy; imagine how they will look with fireworks, parades, and flags in the streets! One way to see the key sights in Paris like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Champs Elysees is by using a hop-on-hop-off bus. This bus system has 19 stops that highlight all of Paris. In my travels I have found this to be a wonderful way to travel around a city. The double decker bus is a fun way to see all the sights. Also, using the hop-on-hop-off method allows you to spend as much time as you would like at a spot instead of being ushered around by a tour guide. Having experienced both forms, I have found the hop-on-hop-off bus system to be more relaxing. continue reading

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No queuing at the Alhambra palace, Granada

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It was my granddad who booked me on a holiday to Andalucia, including a visit to the Alhambra. I was a disinterested teenager back then, not really keen on spending a week having my granddad chasing me around from palace, to tapas bar and back to the museum with a group of 60plus year olds. Anyways, I agreed to one week of snoring, continental breakfast feasts, unfunny jokes and several attempts of my granddad trying to sell me for less than 15 camels, after all it was for free.

Never, would I have spent a week looking at so many sights. There are many wonderful places in Andalucia, but what has fascinated me most were the Alhambra and the Mezquita in Cordoba. The fusion of Islamic and Christian architecture is so unique and I found both buildings representing the admiration for Islamic inheritance and architecture captivating.  So captivating in fact, that part of my studies later focused on Islamic influences in European culture (thanks granddad!!!). No wonder, I am not the only one and the Alhambra is today the most visited landmark in Spain. Luckily, my granddad is a super organised ex-accountant, the type of man who has guidelines on the first page of his files, of how the file has been organised. So unsurprisingly, he had booked us in for a guided walk, with no need to wait in the endless lines outside the ticket booth.

The Alhambra (Arabic for Red Fortress) is set on the foothills of the Serra Nevada Mountains. On a nice day (as most days in Andalucia) the view is breathtaking, the winter landscape in the back and the valleys and the city of Granada to the South. The Alhambra was built as the residence for Muslim rulers in the 14th history. When the Spanish re-conquered Andalucia at the end of the 15th century, the Alhambra became a royal residence once more and Christian characteristics were added. The perfection and unique synthesis have made the Alhambra one of the world’s top sights and last year over 3 million people visited.

Pretty unwelcoming fact, I find, remembering again the miles of queues. I also recall what my colleague from a Spanish travel agency told me recently. Tickets are fixed to a visiting slot and only a set number of visitors will be allowed entry each day. A fellow blogger argues “On a corner of the Alhambra Museum is a picture which shows tourists fighting outside the entrance before ticket numbers were limited” (http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/25acb1/ ).

2469041-the_alhambra_tickets-granada

Not surprising then, that Alhambra Tickets sell like hot cakes. When buying your tickets beforehand, whether that is at the destination or online, make sure you get a fair price. Alhambra Ticket Trading is in Granada, what Chelsea Tickets sales are in London. So here are the three golden rules for staying safe and paying fair:

1. Always read the small print. Some tours are expensive because they offer little extras. Others are expensive for the sake of it.

2. The vendor should give you supplier details once you have booked. Check that they really do!

3. Read user reviews from travellers who have booked the same tour in teh past.

It may seem like an effort to do it all before, but believe me, it is nothing compared to the stress you would have at the ticket stand. Take your voucher, meet your guide and enjoy, because the Alhambra is really a magnificent site.

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