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Posts from October, 2011

Top holiday destination: France

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In second place of Britain’s top 10 favourite holiday destinations is France. The rivalry between France and Britain became once again very clear during the Rugby World Cup but now that is all behind us, here are ideas to explore la belle France.

Holiday destination 2: France

eiffeltower-liamParis Landmarks
If you enjoy Paris sightseeing, there are plenty of things to do in the gracious capital city of France.  The Eiffeltower is a landmark you literally cannot miss when visiting Paris.  Tour the Eiffeltower and have a peek behind the scenes with our special Paris tour.

moulin-rouge-by-torfoAt night enjoy the splendour of illuminated Paris safely from a coach, which will then drop you off at the infamous Moulin Rouge for an evening of glitz and glamour. Alternatively, see the city of light during an evening cycling tour with an English speaking guide. Cycle passed Paris highlights as the Notre Dame, The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysees. After the tour you will take a cruise on the Seine and sip some of France’s excellent wine.

VersaillesYou also have to make time for a cultural trip to Versailles from Paris and admire the beauty of the Palace while you explore Versailles at leisure. Lastly for the romantics among you, we offer a private portraits in Paris tour, where a photographer will lead you through the historic Latin Quarter and make portraits of you and your loved one to remember this  magical moment in Paris.
nice-dalberaNice and the French Riviera
People looking for milder climates should visit Nice in Southern France. Take a city tour of Nice and discover landmarks like the Promenade des Anglais, Old Town and Russian Orthodox Cathedral.
Take off from Nice and tour the French Riviera, where you will visit the most glamorous places on earth. Revel in the old glory of Monte Carlo, admire the beauty of Antibes and touch down in Cannes, known for its film festival.

vineyard-by-crabchickWine Tours in France
We also offer a few wine tours that wine connoisseurs might enjoy: take the wine road through Provence tour with tastings at Chateau Saint Martin and Chateau Font du Broc. Enjoy wine tasting tours in Bordeaux, the largest and most famous wine region in the world or you can take a wine tour in Lyon, which lies in the Beaujolais region.

In Avignon, the wine tour consists of  tasting the most prestigious red wine in the Rhone valley in the winery founded in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  You can also explore the city St Remy where Vincent Van Gogh painted his Starry Night.

starry-night1Cultural reference: Van Gogh’s paintings and the Da Vinci Code
Vincent van Gogh used to live in the Provence and let the landscape inspire his paintings not only in St Remy but also Arles one of the bigger cities in France.
A Van Gogh tour from Marseilles is also available, and after visiting the landmarks you can participate in a regional olive oil tasting Of course France is also associated with great French food: the Belzier tour offers you seafood and wine of the Languedoc. Also in the Languedoc area, lies Rennes le Chateau, a medieval town and discover how the stories and the religious conspiracy theories influenced the story of  The Da Vinci Code.

With its scope of possibilities for city break to beach holiday or culture weekend – no wonder that France stays a popular holiday destination for Britain.

Photo credits Flickr: Eiffeltower by liam!!-Moulin Rouge by Torfo- Versailles by Renata Barros- Vineyard by crabchick – Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh ;-)

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Top Holiday Destination: Spain

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The website 101holidays.co.uk revealed the  the top 10 of holiday destinations in Britain. Over the next couple of days, we will tell you about the wonderful things you can experience in each of these holiday-destinations. We’ll start at the top and work our way down.

Holiday destination 1: Spain

Madrid
flamenco-dancer-by-flydimeThe capital city Madrid is ideal for a city break.  Book a bike tour in Madrid and explore the city by bike in small groups with a local tour-guide.
If you are a culture-vulture and in Madrid for a couple of days, it might be worth investing in a Madrid card.  Valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours, it will grand  you one-time entrance to more than 50 museums, unlimited use of a tour bus, free entry to a number guided tours and  attractions like Zoo- Aquarium  and Faunia Theme Park. Museums to visit in Madrid include Prado National Museum, Reina Sofia N Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum and the Royal Palace of Madrid.
Spend one night in Madrid enjoying the Spanish twist on dinner and dance:  attend a night of Flamenco dancing at the Florida Park.

monteserratBarcelona
The rugged mountains of Montserrat have inspired stories:  Parsifal is supposed to have found the Holy Grail here and St Peter himself left a statue of the Virgin here. Discover Montserrat by taking an afternoon tour from Barcelona and visit the shrine of the Black Virgin – patron Saint of Catalonia.

antoni-gaudi_barcelona_8160_4Many of the extraordinary buildings in Barcelona were built by Antoni Gaudi, a visionary Modernist architect. Seven of  his buildings have been listed as World Heritage sites. Take a Gaudi tour to discover more about Passeif de Gracia, the Park Guell, Casa Museu Gaudi and Sagrada Familia church. The tour only runs form April to Oct.

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tapas-by-the-foodie-gift-hunterSeville
Tapas (small plates of appetizers) are integrated in the culture of Seville – going on a tapas crawl is how many a night is spend. Seville has hundreds of places to eat tapas: make it easier for yourself by going on a real tapas tour. Your local guide  will introduce you to the best tapas places around.

Photography enthusiasts will enjoy the Seville photography tour. Discover the picturesque side to Seville and take pictures of the architecture and markets with the help of your guide a local photographer.

scooter-ride_mallorca_8043_2Mallorca
The only way to explore Mallorca is by scooter. Drive around, fully insured, in small groups and see Palma Bay, the historic centre of the city and discover the fishing culture by Paseo Maritimo. There are enough refreshments stops along the way – but you do need an international driving license to join!

aguamar-water-park_ibiza_3616_3Ibiza
A perfect alternative way to spend the day on Ibiza: visit Aquamar Water Park. One of the islands top attractions the waterpark has plenty of pools and slides to keep everyone entertained for the day. There is a cafeteria and bars for refreshments or go to the picnic areas if you like to bring your own lunch..
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beluga-whale-by-mike-johnstoneValencia
In Valencia is the City of Arts and Sciences: a complex devoted to scientific and cultural dissemination in Europe. The complex itself is worthy of a visit with its many exhibitions and activities and one of the buildings not to miss is the Oceanographic park. An underwater city, where you walk through several habitats of the world, teaches you about biodiversity and the ocean’s eco system. You can see aquatics animals, mammals, birds and fish and even enjoy a dolphin show.

el-diablo-by-sylviane-mossLanzarote
We finish with a dinner offer you can’t refuse: a volcano bbq in Timanfaya National Park. It is the largest volcanic region in the whole of the Canary islands. A guide will lead you via the Lunar route to the famous El Diablo restaurant in Lanzarote.
Take in the gorgeous views while the food is grilled on volcanic heat. The evening is completed by music from local musicians.
A perfect night out in Spain.

Photocredit: Flickr Flamenco dancer -Flydime/ Montesserat- Catedrales e Iglesias/ Tapas- The Foodie Gift Hunter/ Beluga- Mike Johnstone/ BBQ- Sylviane Moss

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Win A Family Ticket to The Dungeon!

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This October, half-term in the UK will end with the Halloween weekend (Halloween being the 31st of Oct which falls on a Monday this year, we’re expecting most celebrations to happen the weekend before.)

jack-at-the-london-dungeonTop of the scary things to do in London must be the London Dungeon. The attraction shows you 1000 years of the capital’s most gory history and presents you with three thrilling rides, one of which opened this year: the Vengeance 5D laser ride! Educational and fun, the Dungeon will entertain the whole family.

Celebrate Halloween in London at the London Dungeon with the amazing show of Stingy Jack

Jack was a clever but lazy and gambling man. When it was time for Jack to die, the Devil tried to collect his soul but Jack managed to trick him twice. The third time the Devil didn’t even bother to show up and Jack was sent to Heaven.

At the pearly gates, St Peter refused to let Jack in because he had never done a selfless act in his life.  So Jack knocked on the gates of Hell but the Devil was still annoyed with him and so refused to let him in. The Devil threw a coal in a hollow pumpkin (or turnip, depending on which version you read.) for Jack to use as a lantern and send him on his way.

Thus Jack (O’Lantern) roams the dark on Halloween as he has nowhere to go.

So all Halloween period (15-31st Oct 2011) be aware while you make your way around the Dungeon as Jack can pop up anytime…

We have been given a family ticket* that admit two adults and two children to the attraction – all you have to do is answer this question:

Q: Halloween is officially celebrated on which date?

Send us the answer in an email to competition@isango.com with HALLOWEEN in the subject line. Competition closes 9pm Sunday 23rd of October – Winner will be chosen at random.

* tickets will be send out by supplier – ticket valid until the 31st of Mar 2012 for the Dungeon in all six locations.
Picture credit: www.the-dungeons.co.uk

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It is World Egg Day!

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eggsEverything seems to have its own special day it seems and today is World Egg Day. If you’d like to mark the second Friday of October in your calender next year, you won’t have to be reminded of this annual celebration.

Here we have gathered five eggcellent (ba-boom ching!) egg facts from the internet:

1. The colour of the yolk is determined by the food of the hen: the more yellow pigment the grain has, the deeper yellow the yolk.

2. There is some debate whether brown eggs are laid by brown chickens and white eggs by white chickens.This poultry site tells us it is genetically determined and depends on the breed of the chicken.

3. It also mentions Auracana chickens that lay blue-ish eggs!

4. The largest chicken egg produced by an ordinary chicken was found in China: 6.3 cm wide and 9.2 cm long, weighing 201g making it three times the size of a normal egg. Ouch.

5. Double yolk eggs are often laid by very young laying hens that have just started laying, before their systems settle down. There is not a breed which just lays double-yolks as there is not enough room in an egg to have twin-chicks!

Hungry? Why wait? Book a cooking course in Florence or a Thai cooking course in Bangkok! * yes horrendeously contrived, nothing to do with the eggs but it is a lovely thing to do on your holiday!

picture credit: Flickr – Rubber Slippers in Italy

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Ideas for half term

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If you are a parent wondering whether the children hadn’t just started school: it is indeed not long until October half term starts again. Luckily, there is no need to panic – here are a few half term ideas to keep the kids and you entertained.

forestExplore Nature
Weather permitting, take the kids out to the woods. The Woodland Trust has a handy site where you can find the nearest woods to you. The site is full of ideas like den-building and forest foraging. The Woodland Trust also supplies a variety idea packs with activity sheets, puzzles and games that they can email to you for free.

Capital time
If you decide to visit London during half term, you can skip the line at the London Zoo when you pre-book the tickets. This half-term London Zoo has a Halloween theme. For “Boo in the Zoo” London Zoo will open a brand new bat cave, tells spooky stories in teepees and the kids get creative in the Zoo’s Animal Adventure exhibit.

matilda_the_musical-1-200-200-85-cropNo visit to London would be complete without a visit to the West End: treat the children to tickets for Matilda the Musical. The Royal Shakespeare Company production opened last year in Stratford upon Avon to raving reviews. The classic Roald Dahl story about the clever Matilda who discovers she has magical powers, is filled with cheeky songs by comedian Tim Minchin and is a spectacular show for children of all ages.

For those who are looking for to spend the half term week in Europe:

nemo-adam-rebekahAmsterdam
Amsterdam can indeed be appropriate for children: the Anne Frank house has special child friendly displays to explain the historical significance of the place. Little scientists will love the NEMO museum in Amsterdam, where they are forbidden NOT to touch anything: all is there for them to explore. Visit the famous Vondelpark and perch in the cafe Groot Melk huis that organises special kids craft sessions for €5 per child on Wednesday and Saturdays.

Berlin
jewishmemorialberlin_6462_5Germany’s capital of Berlin is full of history, once containing the Berlin Wall, symbol of the Cold War. See what remained of the Wall, the so-called Eastside Gallery covered with paintings and graffiti, visiting the Reichstag will give you a beautiful view of the city but you can also explore the Berlin on segway.

Paris
You can visit the Eiffel tower and even go ‘backstage’ and get tickets for the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, and children will love the Paris Story: a multi-media presentation about Paris’ history.
disneyland_paris_2846For a real treat take the kids to Disneyland Paris for a day. You get picked up from your Paris hotel for a day full of fun and rides among your favourite Disney friends.

Theme parks in Florida
If you are looking for some sun and entertainment further away: we have tickets for Disney World Orlando in Florida. You also have the option visit one of the other theme parks like Universal Studios or Sea World.

Photocredits: Flickr NEMO Amsterdam – Rebekah gmela; Forest – Felixion

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The origins of Hallowe’en

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The 31st of October is Halloween or Hallowe’en. The celebration is becoming increasingly popular in the UK following the American example. Children dress up in costumes and go ‘trick or treating’ in the neighbourhood and there are special Halloween costume parties.

Souls and Soothsaying

bonfire-lee-j-haywoodThe origin of Halloween goes as far back as Celtic times when Samhain was celebrated, marking the end of harvest and beginning of winter. On the eve of the new season the borders between the living and the dead dissolved and the souls of the dead returned to the world. This was a perfect condition for soothsaying apparently, so Druids build bonfires to make sacrifices and dressed in animal skins to tell each others fortunes.

Later this celebration was mixed with Roman festivals, one that commemorated the dead and the other to honour Pomona the goddess of fruit and trees. When Christianity was in place, the 2nd of November was declared All Souls Day and 1st November became All Saints Day or All Hallows. The evening before All Hallows became All Hallows Eve or Halloween.

Trick or treating

halloween-costume-by-infrogmationTreating started from the tradition of souling – the poor would knock on doors and in exchange for soulcakes ( a sweet spiced bun) they promised to pray for the family’s dead. Over time children took over souling and as the religious aspect disappeared the soulcakes where replaced by sweets.

The tricking might come from Mischief Night still upheld in some parts of the UK on the 4th of November where people play tricks on each other (though this mainly consisted of putting things in the wrong place…)

People dress up in costumes for Halloween because it was believed that ghosts returned to earth and to avoid being recognised and attacked, one would dress up to fool the evil spirits.

Pumpkins, Nuts and Apples

pumpkins-by-manitou2121Before pumpkins became popular, the lanterns were carved out of turnips: they were named the Jack O’Lanterns. Poor Jack was not allowed into Heaven because he was a miser but also not allowed into Hell as he had played tricks on the Devil – so he was doomed to walk around with his lantern until Judgement day.

Single ladies (pre-Beyoncé’s anthem) used the magical night to get a glimpse of their future husband. They would name hazelnuts after men of interest and throw them in the fire: the one that popped and not burned would be The One. The girls could throw an apple peel over their shoulder and it would land into the initial of their future spouse.  Alternatively they could eat an apple or light a candle in front of the mirror whilst combing their hair and the future husband will peak over your shoulder… Spooky!

Special Event

chicago-by-nimesh-mThis whole month you can have a Halloween party on our  special Seadog Haunted Chicago Cruise. During the 75-min cruise the Captain will tell you creepy tales and ghostly stories about people and places in Chicago. The city will never be the same again. If you have children who like spooky stories they are welcome to come along in their costumes!

Photocredits: Flickr Bonfire – Lee J Harwood, costumes- Infrogmation, pumpkins-manitou2121, Chicago – Nimesh M

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New Zealand – More than Rugby

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all-blacks-by-kiwi-flickr

In New Zealand, and in some households, the Rugby World Cup is in full swing. As England scraped through by beating Scotland this weekend, they will now face France in the quarterfinals next Saturday. On Sunday, host New Zealand’s team the All Blacks will try to beat Argentina and fight for home glory.

new-zealand-by-mhxEven for the not-so-rugby minded New Zealand has a lot to offer. A country the size of roughly 270.000 square km, the size of the American state Colorado, it has a population of four million people (Colorado roughly has five million), which makes it one of the least populated countries in the world.

The Tasman Sea is the water that lies between Australia and New Zealand and is also referred to as ‘The Ditch’: “crossing the ditch” would refer to travelling from the one country to the other. The Tasman Sea is named after Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer who first recorded the sighting of New Zealand in 1642, even before Captain James Cook explored the coastline in 1769.

New Zealand has a gorgeous and diverse landscape so you can find glaciers, mountains as well as forest and beaches within the same country. Film director Peter Jackson famously used the country diverse landscape as backdrop for his Lord of the Rings Trilogy. These days you can take Lord of The Rings tours to see the locations where filming took place.

hot-air-balloon-flight_7793To really take in the spectacular views, take a hot-air balloon ride from Christchurch to see the sun rise from the ocean while admiring the stunning view of the city and the snow capped mountains surrounding it.

bungeeThe more adventurous have a lot of choices from bungee jumping in Queenstown to a Shotover Jetboat ride through the infamous Shotover River Canyon. Make sure to hold on tight as you shoot through the rapids and take 360° spins.

vineyard-phillip-cThere is also enough more sophisticated entertainment as New Zealand has lovely vineyards to explore. If you’re in Auckland for the Rugby Final anyway, why not take a ferry and visit the island Waiheke where you find three of the best vineyards and  can participate in some wine tasting during a vineyard tour.

No matter what you are looking for New Zealand has an array of activities, though if you fail to understand what the fuss surrounding Dan Carter’s all about, you might want to wait to travel until after the 23rd of October when the final of the Rugby World Cup will be played!


Photocredit Flickr: All Blacks by Kiwi Flick, Map by mhx, vineyard by Phillip C

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