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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 September, 2011

Give Away: The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook

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three-sisters-cook-bookAs the weather is currently so lovely in Europe after a wash-out summer, Team isango! has decided to embrace the Indian summer* by giving away The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook courtesy of The Book People.

The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook is written by Sereena, Alexa and Priya Kaul and is full of recipes from their childhood in Kashmir. The three came to the UK in the 1970s and settled in Derbyshire, when they had families of their own they craved the dishes that their mother used to cook and this is the result.

The cookbook is full of mouth-watering recipes, from the familiar samosas, Aloo Tikki and Chicken Jalfrezi to the lesser-known Sukhi Macchli (dry spiced fish) and Bhindi Churma (crispy okra chips). The book also has a Masala Dabba section with information on the spices that are regularly used, and some useful preparation tips. The sisters have even created their own spice box that you can order from their website.

The recipes are easy to make and the ingredients even easy to get outside of India, so there are no excuses not to get creative in the kitchen!  We love the sound of the autumnal flavoured  Saeb-Adrak Aur Dalchini Chutney ( Apple, Ginger and Cinnamon Chutney)

We have five copies of The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook (published by Simon & Schuster; RRP £16.99) to give-away: simply send an email with ‘Cookbook’ in the Subject line to competition@isango.com  – ends 4th of Oct 2011.

* and yes… we realise the term Indian summer is very likely from Native American roots but it fitted so nicely…

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Autumn Activities

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The days are getting shorter and the temperature a little colder: autumn has truly begun. Still there is enough natural splendour and activities to be found during this season,  so here are few events from around the globe.

Germany Oktoberfest

In Munich the infamous Oktoberfest is currently in full swing. Last year it celebrated its 200th year anniversary and the beer festival is still going strong. Stroll along the Theresienwiese, visit the different beer tents and try local delicacies like the Weisswurst (veal sausage), Knödel (dumplings), enjoy a Mohrenkopf ( a chocolate covered cream cake) as desert. There are also rides to keep children of all ages entertained.

brotzeit_munich_4728_4Tips:

  • Go early, as you cannot reserve a place in a beer tent and you won’t be allowed in a tent when it’s considered full.
  • Your pram and buggy might be refused on peaktimes and young children will have to leave after 8pm even when accompanied by their parents.
  • Be prepared to dig deep: entry might be free
    but a liter beer will cost you around the €9.

The Oktoberfest will last until the 3rd of October and will beer serving hours are 10am-10:30pm on weekdays and 9am-10:30pm on the weekends.  If you can’t make it to the Oktoberfest now throughout the year you can still visit the Beer museum and go on a beer and food excursion in Munich.

stlouisby-markgstohlUSA Halloween

Halloween gains popularity in the UK but a very special place to celebrate Halloween is New Orleans, the most haunted city in America.  In the run-up to Halloween you can visit haunted houses in the French quarter and learn more about the dark art of Voodoo.
Celebrations are held on Frenchmen street where everyone takes to the street in costume and you can enjoy the annual Halloween parade where Halloween royalty takes to the floats.  The very brave book a cemetery tour in New Orleans. You will roam the St Louis Cemetery, learn about the evolution of voodoo and even visit the tomb of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.  Come along if you dare!

gatineau-by-dionetianCanada Thanksgiving

Another very North American festival but Canada celebrates Thanksgiving earlier than the US: this year it will be on the 10th of Oct. Originating from the Harvest Festival in Europe and the first Thanksgiving celebration in North America actually took place in Canada when Martin Frobisher arrived from England to Newfoundland in 1578.

Canada famed for its spaciousness and nature is still very popular among the modern day explorers.
The Gatineau Park is a woodland and Lakeland district close to the capital city Ottawa. Every autumn the Canadian capital organizes Fall Rhapsody, an event that runs through the Gatineau Park and covers over 90km of trails. There are also activities planned to keep the children entertained, so it is perfect for the whole family. You can also take a tour in Gatineau Park with a guide who will expertly lead you to the most awe-inspiring places like the Mackenzie King Estate, the gorgeous country home of the 10th Prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King.

Whatever you do: keep exploring this autumn!

Photocredits: Flickr St Louis cemetery- Mark Gstohl/ Gatineau Park- Dionetian

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Travellertip: Spittelberg, Vienna

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1070_neubauThis tip is not so much a traveller tip as a tip from a local: Kim Tjia lives in the Spittelberg quarter of Vienna, Austria.

spittelberggasse_marktSpittelberg lies in the 7th district, bustling Bezirk Neubau. Its picturesque buildings and narrow streets almost had to make way for modern architecture in the 1970s, luckily people came to their senses in the 1980s and started renovation works
to save the Baroque town houses.

screen-shot-2011-09-14-at-171352
The Spittelberg area is full of art galleries, plenty of restaurants and even a theatre. In winter the quarter will be filled with stalls for one of the best Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets) around.  Expect arts and craft stalls for original Christmas gifts and gallons of gluhwein.

doorgang1The neighbourhood has many hidden passages, like the one in the photographs. Behind each archway you often find a little square with little shops and places like a mini village. This one hides gallery-cafe Kandinsky ( see if you can meet its lovely curious owner who we’ve christened “Mr Kandinsky”…)  and don’t leave without picking up some fresh wholemeal bread from the  bakery nearby.

Visit and explore this cultural city with your own audio tour of Vienna
Kim receives an isango! gift-voucher for her tip – For a chance to receive a voucher, send us your Travel Tip at competition@isango.com with Travel Tip in the subject line.

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Tour the Fashion Week cities.

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fashion-weekFashion is a funny business as most people are preparing for the cold of the coming winter, fashionistas around the world are getting excited about what we should be wearing spring/summer 2012. From September – October you can travel around the world to make sure you are on trend next year. Should you get a free minute in between shows, in between hobnobbing with Wintour and singing karaoke with Valentino, we have found you some tours in each city.

New York 9-15 Sept
sex-and-the-city-hotspots_new-york_13527_4Alright, so you are probably already there. You have been dazzled by Victoria Beckham’s collection and now you are ready to follow in the footsteps of television’s biggest fashionista: Carrie Bradshaw.
Go on a Sex and the City tour where you will hit all of the girls’ favourite spots.  You’ll visit the best place for Cosmopolitans, the shop where Charlotte bought her Rabbit,  the place where Carrie got her divine Jimmy Choo’s and you will taste a cupcake from the famous Magnolia bakery.

London 16-21 Sept
designer-shopschelsea_4642_1Once you have arrived in London you’ll be happy to learn that the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford will have opened: it is the largest shopping centre in Europe.
For the traditionalist among us, we recommend a private walking tour through Chelsea and Kensington.  Stroll among the designer shops and museums with a knowledgeable guide who can tell you about the rich history and famous faces of this exclusive area. This fashionable part of London is also a favourite of Britain’s hottest fashionistas: Kate aka the Duchess of Cambridge and her sister Pippa Middleton.

flea-market_paris_4177_3Paris 29 Sept – 06 Oct
Ah Paris! The city of chic. A man or woman of fashion should live in a fashionable home, so we offer you a Paris tour of one of the largest antique markets of Europe.

You will be accompanied with an expert guide who will a) speak French and English and b) have knowledge of antiques. So whether you are a layman or a more experienced buyer of antique you have the option of the guide to assist you with negotiations.

asakusa-temple_tokyo_13293_4Tokyo 16-22 Oct
It promises to be a memorable Fashion week in Tokyo as it will be the first one since shows earlier this year were cancelled after the earthquake in March. Organisers have confirmed Paul Smith’s attendance with which he’ll be celebrating his business success.

As the early bird catches the worm, get up early and join a morning sightseeing tour in Tokyo. An English-speaking guide will take you through the Japanese capital and introduce you to the riches of this wonderful city.  You will see the stunning panoramas of the modern city, yet also delve deeper to discover the traditional side of this historic city.

Photocredit top pic: Flickr br1dotcom

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The Thames Festival

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tower-of-london_london_4107_5If you are around in London this weekend, make sure to visit the Mayor Thames Festival. This free (!) festival is London largest outdoor arts festival with all kinds of activities dotted around the river Thames. Every year the Thames Festival attracts 800.000 visitors.

The festival is accessible for all ages, the festival committee has commissioned new work: a mixture of music, dance and various forms of street arts.

Performances
Look out for performances by Dionne Bromfield (goddaughter of the late Amy Winehouse),  a variety of DJs on the Lady Luck Jive Stage, the BFI’s vintage mobile cinema and displays of Korean Taekwondo and Argentinean tango.
The Thames area is divided in four different zones spreading from Westminster Bridge (Zone 1) to Tower Bridge and beyond (Zone 4) Each Zone has its own colour and performances will be easier to find with the map that will be handed out during the weekend or which you can find on the official website.

St Katherine Docks will have its annual displays of vintage boats and retro fashion. Southwark Bridge will be closed to traffic and transformed into the Feast on the Bridge; it will home to the many foodstalls cooking up a treat. There will also be craft stalls whose helpful owners will encourage you and the kids to get stuck in yourselves. Last year, there was a home made flower-hat contest and children of all ages made their own corn-dolls.

Sunday evening the Illuminated Night Carnival will take place and brings together over 2000 dancers, drummers and masqueraders.  The Thames Festival will close with the traditional Fireworks Finale.

Tips:

  • Bring an umbrella on Sunday as rain is forecasted.
  • Check if there are any planned Tube closures on the Transport for London website.
  • Can’t make it to London this weekend: plan a Thames tour to discover the capital in your own time.

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Traveller Tip: Santorini-Greece

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Some people just live a magical life… Shivi Singh is currently travelling the world and has given us the following report from her 11th stop: Santorini.santorini-by-shivi-singh

Santorini is magical, it has spectacular views, romantic spots, fun recreational spots, it has history and adventure, its all in one, you can not get bored there! We went on a sail boat tour to see the volcano and the hot springs which we swam in; that was interesting because that’s the volcano that split the islands up of Santorini and is still active today.

santorini-3Santorini gets very touristy in summer. The people are friendly and you can never get lost or be short of information. Everyone is willing to help. I loved Santorini I would come back any day! The views all around the islands are just indescribable magical, the views up on the cliffs are beautiful and the sunsets in Oia are a dream.santorini-2

The other side of the islands has beaches and each beach has its own beauty: there is a black sand beach and a red beach, which has red rocks surrounding it. They are coloured that way because of the volcanic rocks and formations. Lastly, there is a white beach which has white pebbles instead of sand.

In short, Santorini is magnificent and a must see for all age groups!

Visit Shivi’s Santorini and take in all the splendour of the island with a cruise in the Santorini sunset.

Shivi receives an isango! gift-voucher for her tip – For a chance to receive a voucher, send us your Travel Tip at competition@isango.com with Travel Tip in the subject line.

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Famous people vs. famous places

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Has your child gone to school this week and brought back friends with exotic names? Recently it seemed a trend among celebs to name their children after places, think David and Victoria’s son Brooklyn or Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger’s daughter Ireland, and Brad and Angie’s gorgeous Zahara. (Yes, we know the desert starts with an S – still.)
However recent these fashion-names may seem, we reckon there are more grown-ups who share their name with a place or city.  Did you know that Elizabeth ( in New Jersey), Helena ( Montana) and Charlotte (in North Carolina) are names of cities too? They say your name influences your personality so see if these celebrities have something in common with their name-sakes.

Victoria Beckham vs. Victoria (Australia)
victoria2Victoria Beckham, mother-of-four, former Spice Girl turned designer and married to one of the most eligible man in football. She once tongue in cheek said: “I like a man who can be a real friend, has a good sense of humor, a good pair of shoes and a healthy gold card.

Victoria is also the smallest, most densely populated state of Australia. Historically people travelled there to dig for gold and hoped for a fortune. Nowadays the state still has rugged landscape, scenic coastline but also modern thriving cities. Melbourne is the most popular and a tour will shows any visitor array of restaurants, culture and entertainment.

Florence and the Machine vs.
Florence (Italy)
florence2Florence Welsh is the front-woman of this Grammy nominated band with hits like Rabbit Heart and You’ve Got The Love.  Florence’s mother is a Harvard-educated professor of Renaissance studies.

Florence in Italy calls itself the birthplace of the Renaissance. Its entire city centre is acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Famous sites are the Galleria dell’ Academia and the Uffizi Gallery where a multitude of Renaissance paintings and sculptures are displayed.

Paris Hilton vs. Paris (France)paris2
Paris Hilton is great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton of the Hilton hotel chain. Fashionista, reality tv star and business woman, this lady might have inherited wealth, in June this year Variety dubbed the heiress The Billion Dollar Entrepreneur with more than 4.1 million Twitter followers and nose for what products consumers want.

Paris France, is a classy classic city: the city of love has always been a home for fashionistas. What is not to love about Paris. From Montmartre, Versailles and the Louvre, the capital city of France offers a plethora of culture and entertainment.Treat yourselves with dinner during lovely cruise on the Seine and afterwards enjoy some cheeky entertainment with tickets for The Moulin Rouge.

Orlando Bloom vs Orlando (US)orlando2
Orlando Bloom rolled straight from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama into one of the biggest cinematic trilogies: playing Legolas in the Lord of The Rings. Since then the actor’s been in hot demand and took on another trilogy this time as Will Turner in Disney’s Pirates of the Carribean.

The city Orlando is situated in central Florida and the fifth largest city of the state.  It’s almost synonym with the theme parks that are build here: Walt Disney World® Resort, Universal Orlando® Resort, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. These parks ensure children will have the time of their lives in the sunny state but it can all add up, so find a good deal and get the best Orlando tickets.

Photo credits Flickr: Victoria- Friskytuna/Mark Sombillo; Florence- JessicaSarahS/ Kevin Poh; Paris- Alex CD/Moyan Brenn; Orlando Schneewante/LOT

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Traveller Tip: The Forum in Rome

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rome-august-2011-154I went to Rome last week and The Forum was so amazing – was just like actually being in Ancient Rome.  There is an amazing view as you enter through Arch of Titus – it just leaves you standing in awe.  Although the buildings are ruins,  the site is so much more than a few bricks on the ground: it fees like you can actually see where the Roman’s lived.  It is astonishing how all this has survived. It feels like the ancient Romans just left it one day:  you almost expect to see a Roman walking through, just going about their day!  It is great just to sit and imagine what it was like. There is not much written information, so to visit with (an audio) guide is good: they will tell you the stories as you wonder around. – Victoria Badger

Discover the Forum in Rome for yourself and skip the queues by booking a tour in Rome ahead.

Victoria receives an isango! gift-voucher for her tip – For a chance to receive a voucher, send us your Travel Tip at competition@isango.com with Travel Tip in the subject line.

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Venice Film Festival

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George ClooneyYesterday George Clooney’s political thriller The Ides of March, which he directed and starred in with Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour-Hoffmann and Evan Rachel Wood, opened the 68th edition of the Venice Film Festival.

The film festival lasts until 10th of September and will screen small productions as well as bigger Hollywood contenders. Venice Film Festival has shortlisted 22 international films to compete for the Golden Lion.

Among the nominees are The Ides of March, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by Thomas Alfredson with Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy; and Shame by Steve McQueen, with Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.

However the critics’ favourite seems to be A Dangerous Method by David Cronenberg starring Michael Fassbender (again) Keira Knightly, Viggo Mortenson and Vincent Cassell, about a young Carl Young, his mentor Sigmund Freud and the woman who came between them.

One film that will most probably not be winning is Madonna’s directorial effort W.E. about the relationship of King Edward VIII and American divorcee Wallis Simpson. The reviews of Madonna’s W.E. have been less than favourable, despite W.E. being backed by movie-mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Last year’s winner was Somewhere, directed by Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis. Stephen Dorff plays the indifferent Hollywood star who suddenly gets saddled with his estranged daughter played by Elle Fanning. Elle is one to watch, only 13 and recently showed her talent in Stephen Spielberg’s Super 8. We became fans.

Venice Film Festival obviously has a fabulous and glamorous setting for all the filmstars to show off their best frocks and talk about their films. The city streets of water make that they all have to arrive by speedboat – It’s the only way dahlin’- and they all have to be assisted onto shore by their lackeys.

Alas, we can not offer you lackeys but we have plenty of tours in Venice, if you are planning to visit the wonderful city of Venice

Photocredit: Flickr Nico Genin

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The Secret Bike Tour

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Last week Team isango!’s  Guiomar went on a bike tour through London. She survived (hoorah!) and here is her report…

Guiomar and sister
“Taking advantage of the good weather in London that Friday, we decided to go a bike tour. The guide recommended us to take the afternoon-tour, the one called: Secret Bike Tour. It was a really great choice! We rode the bikes mostly around East London, in a group of six people plus the guide. At first you think that maybe it is hard to ride a bike around a big city like London, but the truth is that London is a well-prepared city with bike lanes and the drivers are accustomed to bicycles.

We started our tour towards the City of London, where we could listen to stories about the Bank of England or the shopping centre close to it nowadays. For example: there are so many rooms on the ground floor of the Bank of England, that if you put them one on top of the other forming a tower it could be one of the highest buildings in England.
gherkin

Continuing our way, we could visit The Leadenhall Market where Harry Potter did his shopping in the famous movies. We passed through the Bangladesh Area, Jack the Ripper mystery birth quarter (or not- as you will discover) and Bridget Jones’ home… After a 15minute rest, we returned to the riverside. We discovered secret canals, even the one where a James Bond persecution was filmed!

london-eyeOne of the greatest highlights was visiting Borough Market: London’s oldest food market. It was a real pleasure to pass through it by bike, smelling and delighting in all what is sold there. We crossed the Tower Bridge, City Hall, the London Eye and Shakespeare’s Globe. We could see where the old theatre was placed at first, before the great fire that destroyed it: there is an old wall of the ancient theatre remaining.

the-guideAfter four nice hours of tour, we arrived to our final destination, the ‘Banksy Tunnel’ on Leake Street, where you can have a free Graffiti Class every Saturday morning! In conclusion, we had a really great time: we found the stories told by Chris, our excellent guide, very interesting. In fact, I have already recommended all of my friends to do this tour! It’s a really good way to get to know London and not only see the typical touristic attractions.”

lady-on-bikegrafittiFor an alternative way to discover London, go on  The Secret Bike Tour that Guiomar enjoyed.

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