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Posts from July, 2012

Amsterdam Canals

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Flying into Amsterdam you could be forgiven for thinking that you were looking down on the film set of a Star Wars movie. The geometric, radiating belts that you see are defined by the 8 main canals that give Amsterdam its nickname of “Venice of the North.” With over a hundred kilometres of canals, spanned by more than 1,500 bridges the label is most fitting. Oh yes, it also contains around 90 islands! One of them, Java Island is man-made and was completed in 1995.
 
The canals were built in the 17th century, during what is regarded by the Dutch as their “Golden Age.” The first, oldest and innermost, the Singel, however dates back to 1480, when it was actually a defensive moat that protected medieval Amsterdam. Along with the Singel there are seven other major canals in the city of today.
 
Four of these, the Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan, were put on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010. They also frame the precincts of the city centre. The buildings, mansions and property lining the banks of these four major canals are prime property, exclusive areas and very beautiful. Many of them date from the glory days of the Dutch.
 
The good burghers of Amsterdam have created some ostentatious homes along these waterways that have lovely inner gardens and old-style coach houses. One of these posh areas is called the Golden Bend. Streets in these areas are frequently recognised for their beauty.
 
Several of Amsterdam’s better known buildings can be found around these four major canals. They include Anne Frank’s House, Westerkerk (the tallest church in town) and the Homomonument (Gay Monument!) The canals also bear testament to the city’s past activities.
 
It was a major textile centre and port of destination for the Dutch merchant navy and the Dutch East India Company bringing their cargoes of spice, silks and other exotic products.   Many of those warehouses have become high-priced homes and apartments. Oh yes! It wouldn’t be Amsterdam if there no houseboats. Some of the loveliest and picturesque houseboats on the European continent can be found on these waterways.
 
With so much history, beauty and attractions lining the canals it is no wonder that cruises and hop-on-hop-off tours along them are popular. Where other countries indulge in street processions and cavalcades for visiting dignitaries, Amsterdam takes them on a cruise. Three million passengers a year attest to the fact that Amsterdam is best seen from the deck of a canal cruiser.

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What to Do in Florence as Recommended by You – Our Facebook Users

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(Congratulations to Richard Fohrenbach, our winner!)

Feeling inspired just looking at this photo of Florence? If you could do anything in Florence what would you do? Would you take a tour of the Piazza del Duomo or maybe go on a wine tasting? Leave a comment about your dream Florence experience and one lucky person will win a £20 isango! voucher.

Our question on ‘what you would do, if you could do anything in Florence’ have some really interesting comments. We appreciate all your recommendations; however we most appreciate originality.

So, based on originality alone, we DECLARE Richard Fohrenbach* as the WINNER of our £20 isango! Voucher! The fact that Richard’s recommendation is nothing but romantic – we can’t help but ‘feel’ the romance he and his wife had on their first movie date – has totally touched the ‘romantics’ in us!

To quote Richard Fohrenbach “Visit the places my wife Linda & I saw in the film ‘A Room with a View", one of our first movie dates in New Haven, Connecticut”.

So some of the places to see, as recommended by our winner Richard, that are seen in the film ‘A Room with a View‘ are:

  • Hotel Quisisana e Ponte Vecchio, located on the Arno between the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio.
  • Lungarno degli Archibusieri 4
  • Equestrian Statue of Grand Duke Ferdinand
  • Basilica of Santa Croce
  • Piazza della Signoria

So, what are you waiting for? Go see the movie for your locations guide and rush to Florence, Italy now!

 

*We request Richard Fohrenbach to get in touch with us at support@isango.com to claim his prize.

Once again, CONGRATULATIONS, Richard! And a big thank you to everyone for your participation!

 

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Neuschwanstein Castle – A Fairy Tale Castle

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Driving through the Bavarian countryside close to the Austrian border is a trip into picture postcard land. The beauty of the green undulating country side and its lovely forests, which could get spooky in winter with mist drifting through it, is almost unreal.

The road climbs up to what are the lower foothills of the Alps till you get to the village of Hohenschwangau. That’s when you get a really good view of Neuschwanstein Castle.  Perched on the steep rugged hill above the village and rising above the surrounding trees, it is the castle you have seen in every illustrated fairy tale book. On one side are the rocky escarpments of the Tyrol Mountains and on the other are the Alpsee and Schwansee lakes.

All the elements are there. The startling white walls; slate grey, sloping roofs; high pointy turrets and innumerable windows, not to mention, the tall tower in one corner and you know you are in Disneyworld. Through this castle the tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm come alive.

Building started in September 1869 and though Ludwig II, moved in 1884, it had not really been completed then or now.  A three-nave church and “knights’ bath” were never built.  In fact, when he died Ludwig had spent only 172 days in the castle. Inspired by the Romanesque Revival style, the design borrows heavily from German legends, the classic castles of medieval knights and Ludwig’s own romanticised vision.

Inside, the decorations, paintings and furnishings pay homage to the grand operatic themes of Richard Wagner, the composer, and the epic German Lohengrin sagas. They are opulent, intricate and very elaborate with the figures all heroic in dimension and action.

As a visitor, be warned as there are plenty of steps to navigate. Tours to the castle are all guided and you cannot wander around on your own or at your own pace. There are several don’ts with no cameras being allowed one of them.  The tour takes about half an hour.

The northern and western sides of Neuschwanstein castle are undergoing restoration work and are not expected to be completed before the end of 2012.

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Visiting Greece

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Greece is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations – ranking in the world’s top 20 countries. The country’s beaches and reliable sunny summer weather coupled with its nightlife, historical sites and natural beauty are what attract tourists. Let’s have a look at some of the more prominent places to see or do when visiting Greece:

Athens City Sightseeing : This enchanting capital of Greece has loads to offer with its many modern and classical sites. Its wonderful culture makes the city a centre for philosophy, learning and the arts. From Acropolis and Parthenon, Tower of Winds, Panathinaikos Stadium to the New Royal Palace, to the Temple of the Olympian Zeus and Zappeion Gardens, you’ll see why Greece is such a tourist top spot.

Zakynthos: For beaches, sun and relaxation, Zakynthos is your place. The island, named after Zacynthos, son of legendary Arcadian chief Dardanos has a thriving tourism industry. Its northern and eastern shores contain numerous wide sandy beaches that are always packed with tourists in summer months. One amazing small beach here in the north is the Xigia beach that has underwater springs rich in sulphur, giving it a characteristic odour.

Santorini: Santorini is famous for its dramatic view – with the island essentially the remains after an enormous volcanic explosion. It is also famous for its stunning sunsets from Oia town, its strange white aubergine, the town of Thira and naturally its very own active volcano.

There are also naturally fantastic beaches such as the beach of Perissa, the black pebble beach of Kamari, white beach and red beach. The Greek island of Santorini also beckons visitors to explore the beautiful Aegean waters framed by steeped cliffs rising hundreds of feet skyward.

Mykonos Island Tour: It is probably the most popular Greek island due to its cosmopolitan atmosphere, its nightlife and gay community, as well as its magnificent golden sandy beaches with transparent waters. Besides these, Mykonos Island also has small white painted houses lined in paved alleys and hundreds of little family churches.

All in all, Greece is such a beautiful place that one should visit at least once during one’s lifetime. It has so much to offer to say the least.

 

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A Meal & Vintage Melbourne Tramcar Ride

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Melbourne’s Colonial Tramcar Restaurant is truly fabulous. You get so much in one place even though that place is mobile. Imagine moving slowly through Melbourne’s beautiful streets and the night lights in all their glory while having a great meal. It makes for a wonderful evening. Or you could do lunch as you watch the city going about its business.

For over thirty years, three 1927 classic converted tramcars have been cruising Melbourne’s streets giving people a unique visual treat while satisfying their tummies. These vintage, rich burgundy coloured tramcars have sumptuous and beautifully designed interiors reminiscent of a bygone era.

Each tramcar travels on a separate fixed route through southern Melbourne, seven days a week, the whole year around. They start and terminate near the Melbourne Exhibition Centre and opposite the Crown Casino. These tramcar restaurants seat thirty-six guests but you don’t feel cramped for space. Due to scheduling constraints trams have to leave on time and don’t wait around for latecomers, so be there at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time.

There are three outings – one for lunch and two dinners. The meals are fixed both in price and menu but the good news is that unlimited alcohol is included in the price. The meals are pre-cooked and heated prior to being served on the tram. While the food is very good, the drawback is that the choice is limited and so are the drinks.

The menu for Luncheon is a 4-course meal ($82.50), Early Dinner a 3-course meal ($77.00) and the Late Dinner is a sumptuous 5-course meal ($121) so quantities are not a problem and you won’t go hungry. Be prepared for lots of meat! Oh yes, the staff, are good old Aussie friendly, attentive and quick to fill your glass.

 

Oh! You will need to book well in advance because this is a very popular thing to do.  Whether you book online or make your reservations at the Tramcar Restaurant office you will have pay up, in full, up front.

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I Heart New York Tours

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The Big Apple, The Concrete Jungle, The City that Never Sleeps, call it what you want, New York has garnered an unrivalled reputation for good reason.  With so much to do and so many places to see, it can be overwhelming trying to decide. Here is a list of some of the top things to do whilst in NYC:

  1. New York Helicopter Tour

New York was built from the ground up, so it makes the most sense to see it from the sky! You’ll feel like a VIP as you soar around the New York skyline. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of iconic New York landmarks including Central Park, the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty. 

 

  1. Statue of Liberty Cruise

Take a cruise out to see the lovely “Lady Liberty” and the nearby Ellis Island on a Statue of Liberty Cruise.  You’ll also get spectacular views of the New York skyline including the Brooklyn Bridge and Chrysler Building.  

  1. Central Park Walking Tour

Escape the hustle-and-bustle of New York, without ever having to leave the city, on a peaceful Central Park Walking Tour. On this intimate tour you’ll learn about the park’s history whilst exploring major landmarks and other less common, local hotspots.

  1. Fifth Avenue Shopping Tour

Fifth Avenue is the epitome of luxury and wealth as it is one of the most expensive streets in the world. On this shopping tour, you’ll be treated to the expert services of an NYC-based stylist who will show you how to master New York style, regardless of whether your budget is more high street chic than luxury designer boutique. 

  1. Empire State Building Observatory Express Pass

Skip the queue and ascend 86 floors to the top of the Empire State Building. From the Observatory you’ll see all five boroughs that make up New York. On a clear day you’ll be able to see as far as Connecticut and New Jersey!

If a Helicopter Ride around New York sounds like your dream travel experience, then vote for it in the isango! travel experience poll. You’ll be entered for the chance to win a new iPad and other weekly giveaways. Bonus: you’ll get 10% off at isango! just for entering.

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10 Quick Facts about New Zealand

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Here are ten quick facts about New Zealand:

1. Voted the ‘ best travel destination‘ by Lonely Planet two years in a row!

2. Invented bungee jumping.

3. Car-crazy – Only about 2% of New Zealanders make their journeys by bus and less than 1% by rail.

4. Around a sixth of cars are more than 16 years old.

5. New Zealand is the first country in the world to see each new day.

6. Had no predatory animals prior to European arrival, making it a paradise for birds – many of them flightless.

7. The first country to give women the right to vote.

8. Home to the largest flightless parrot (kakapo), oldest reptile (tuatara), biggest earthworms, smallest bats, heaviest insect (a weta), some of the oldest trees and many rarest species birds, insects, and plants, in the world.

9. There are nine sheep to every human in New Zealand.

10. Shark and Tatties (pronounced “shark and tay-tees”) is the New Zealand slang term for fish and chips.

That’s our list. Now your turn to share us facts you know about New Zealand in the comment section below!

 

 

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Fantastic Activities in Florence

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Florence has a rich history, so there are plenty of things to indulge in. For the cultural connoisseurs, there are brilliant art and architectures tours and for those looking for gastronomic indulgences there is everything from wine tastings to cooking lessons.  

Here are some experiences to get you inspired:

1.       Galleria dell’ Accademia and Uffizi Gallery Tour

You don’t need to be an art history buff to appreciate the spectacular Renaissance works on display at these two galleries. Michelangelo’s iconic Statue of David is one of the many brilliant works at the Galleria della Accademia.

2.  Cooking Course with Dinner in Florence

The Italians are known for their cooking for a reason and on this tour you’ll find out why. At the Florence cooking school you’ll learn how to prepare classic Tuscan delicacies. You’ll then be able to taste your handiwork accompanied by fine wines. 


3.    Pisa Sightseeing

Go on a sightseeing tour of Pisa and see the gravity-defying Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Besides the famous leaning tower, there are plenty of other marvellous landmarks to explore in the Piazza dei Miracoli, including the Baptistery and the Cathedral.

4. Gucci and Prada Outlets

Keep your credit card handy because if you love shopping, this tour is not to be missed.  You’ll take a trip to the high fashion outlets that house some of Italy’s most luxurious labels including Gucci, Prada, Giorgio Armani and Fendi, all at discounted prices!

5. From Florence to Chianti by Vespa

What could be more relaxing than taking a leisurely drive through the rolling hills of Tuscany on a scooter? En route you’ll bypass breathtaking sights including medieval villages, castles and wineries.  

If a Galleria dell’ Accademia and Uffizi Gallery Tour is your perfect travel experience, vote for it in the isango! travel experience poll and you’ll be entered to win a brand new iPad plus other weekly prizes.

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