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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 July, 2014

5 Fantastic Pop Culture Tours Of London

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With iconic sights like the Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, travelers visiting London often pack their entire trips with popular sights before they even arrive. But London isn’t just the city of unflinching guards, crown jewels, and enormous clock towers. It is the city of dueling wizards, dwindling aristocracy, and names and faces that the public will always be interested in. London is a city of pop culture, and it offers travelers a chance to interact with the stories and people they know and love through its numerous London attraction tours.

Harry Potter

Arguably the most popular of London’s pop culture attractions is its handful of Harry Potter tours. There are two different tours that allow both long-time and new fans to experience the magic that is the world of Harry Potter.

Harry Potter

Visit the bridge destroyed by death eaters in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, see the famed Platform 9 & ¾, and discover numerous other notable locations along the way on a tour of London. See the magic that lies hidden in plain sight all around London! Participants can take the Harry Potter Walking Tour of London or the Harry Potter Bus Tour of London.

On the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour, visitors can go behind scenes to view sets, props, and costumes from the record-breaking Harry Potter movies. There’s nothing quite as surreal for a fan of the series as seeing the Great Hall, Dumbledore?s office, the Ministry of Magic, and more. This Harry Potter tour includes transportation by coach to and from London.

Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey

The Oxford and Downton Abbey Film Locations Tour is a must-do for fans of the hit period drama series Downton Abbey. Not only will you be able to see the iconic sights from the series, but you will also explore some of the most beautiful parts of UK. This tour from London takes you on a picturesque journey to Oxford, Bampton Village, where most of the outdoor scenes have been shot, and Basildon Park, where you will see Grantham House from the Downton Abbey Christmas Special episode. This Downton Abbey tour will satisfy even the most dedicated of fans.

Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper

If you are looking for a thrill while in London, embark on the chilling Ghosts of London and Jack the Ripper Tour. This tour is great for both London locals and incoming travelers. You will get goose-bumps when you see London’s most ghostly places, visit a haunted London pub, and see where Jack the Ripper murdered his victims. After this tour, you can consider yourself bravest of all your friends, and share your chilling and exciting stories with whomever you’d like. There is no better thrilling London tour!

Celebrities of London

Sherlock

Celebrity experts and novices alike agree that London is the place to be in Europe to spot and learn about the famed and noteworthy. Where else could you tour Abbey Road, see the Sherlock Holmes museum, see celebrity homes, and take stunning pictures of film sights? Only in London! Visit the capital’s greatest celebrity homes, famous film locations, music landmarks, superstar hangouts, tourist attractions, and much more on this Celebrity Tour of London.

Doctor Who

Doctor Who

Allons-y and experience the fantastic Doctor Who Walking Tour of London. Discover over 15 locations from the show that help recount the series’ past 50 years. Follow in the Doctor’s footsteps across London, a city that he visits again and again to either save it from villains like the Daleks and Cybermen or visit any of his companions. The tour has a strong focus on the classical series before the recent reboot and is a great way to relive the days of the past or learn about the history of the series and how it grew from its beginnings to today.

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4 Unusual Things To Do In Paris

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The usual path for most visitors to Paris is the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, with the Louvre, the Champs Élysées and the Eiffel Tower in between. While these are must-see and iconic sights there are other subtle and intriguing ways to see and experience the City of Lights. Such as…

Taking a Horse and Carriage Ride through Paris
It’s an absolutely regal experience! You feel like royalty riding in the beautiful polished open wooden carriage driven by a top-hatted, liveried guide handling the reins. The sound of the horse’s hooves clip-clopping along the streets of central Paris; people stopping to wave and photograph you along the way will transport you to a different world.

Horse Carriage Tour in Paris

That world is filled with the wonderful landmarks like the imposing Eiffel Tower and the grand and wonderful bridges of Pont Alexandre III and Pont de l’Alma. As you traverse the Avenue Montaigne and slowly ride past the Petit and Grand Palais’ and through the Champs de Mars you cannot help but feel a special affection for Paris!

The romanticism is heightened with a warm blanket covering your knees and a glass of bubbly champagne in your hand.

Taking a Wine Tasting Tour
Wine and Paris go together like bread and butter. Taking a wine tasting tour through this city combines two wonderful experiences – wine and unseen Paris. You will get an intimate feel that most visitors miss. Paris’ many bistros date back a long, long time and some of them are iconic. These traditional drinking and social gathering places with their tiled floors, wooden chairs, and old black and white photos on the wall will give a strong taste of what the real Paris is like.

Wine tasting

You lose your sense of time in the atmosphere in these surroundings. You almost feel history being played out when you walk past the Pantheon, or the 12th century Church of Saint Medard or the Church of Sainte Geneviève and its lovely stained glass windows. The wine and history are a heady combination!

Taking a Revolutionary Tour – Vive la Republic!
Paris, we all know, witnessed the creation of the modern ideal of government by the people. The birthing of these revolutionary concepts was long, often violent and bloody but led to significant and permanent changes in the world.

As you walk past the monuments and sites associated with the revolutionary period and the establishment of the Republics you cannot help but imagine those terrifying nights. The imposing Hotel Les Invalides, ransacked by the revolutionaries for guns and ammunition, which they then used to storm the Bastille, a symbol of oppression. The Conciergerie, Tuileries Palace and the Place de la Concorde will forever be connected with the beheadings of Marie Antointte, King Louis XVII and more than 2,000 others.

Paris at night

The most important site of all, of course, is the Assemblée Nationale, where the revolutionary parliament first held their deliberations and governed France.

Shopping For Antiques
You cannot come to Paris and leave without mementoes of your visit. Sadly most people end up buying cheap knock-offs of Eiffel Tower replicas and other touristy knick-knacks. What you should really do is check out the marvellous flea markets around Paris. The largest and most famous flea market in the world is the Les Puces de Saint-Ouen. It is also the world’s largest antique market.

Antiques

They are a shoppers’ and collectors’ paradise. You are very likely to pick up great bargains in antique furniture, art, decorative pieces, architectural elements, porcelain, vintage clothing, jewellery, bizarre items or anything else you can imagine. Or a treasure!

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5 Popular Backpacking Destinations For 2014

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With summer 2014 arriving to most of the globe it is time to pull out the knapsack, check the atlas and plan where in the world you will be spending your vacation.

We present to you, our picks for the top 5 destinations for backpacking around the world-

India
India is a really huge country.  With the world’s largest rail system and a vast road network (sometimes bumpy), getting around is not too difficult.  Accommodation, food and transportation are inexpensive.  Choosing where to go is a challenge.  You have the spectacular sandy beaches of Goa and Kerala; the sky scraping, snow-capped Himalayas; the thick forests of Central India and the Ghats; the deserts of Rajasthan and Ladakh.  The ancient cities of Delhi, Varanasi and Puri along with the forts and palaces of Rajasthan will vie for your attention.

Backpacking in India

India has a history and tradition of backpacking going back to the flower power era of the 1960s.

Thailand
Thailand is an exotic and exciting place to explore, especially for the novice backpacker.  On offer are hundreds of miles of pristine sand beaches, lush jungles populated with dazzling creatures, amazingly friendly and helpful locals and fantastic food.  The country’s culture has survived the onslaught of tourism and modernity.  There are still many quiet places where you can chill.  The place is crammed with amazing temples and exciting markets.  Transportation is cheap and the street food very safe.

The country is a well-trodden backpacker destination.  Backpacking Thailand is relatively easy, still inexpensive with amazing deals on offer – just bargain.  It also has a legendary nightlife.

Australia
Australia offers fantastic beauty and adventure.  It’s a very large (we’re talking continent-sized here) country and travel can be a challenge but worth the effort.  The geography ranges from the vast trackless outback, to the incredible Great Barrier Reef.  You can snowboard and ski within a few hours of a sun-kissed sandy beach.  There are strangely named picturesque small towns and very modern and fascinating cities.  You can trek through ancient rainforests or camel-trek the arid and startling Northern Territory.

Australia has a very competitive and inexpensive budget accommodation market where you can get good deals.  The rail network is not extensive and generally hugs the coast.  The best way to get around the country is by road but be prepared for long rides because most journeys take 10 to 20 hours.  You can save a lot of money by buying bus passes.

Indonesia
Indonesia is comprised of thousands of islands, most of which are uninhabited.  It is a really huge country and you will have to pick what all you wish to see. Most of the population is concentrated on Java and around the capital, Jakarta.   Once you get away from Jakarta you will find yourself in vast jungles, with ancient temples, mysterious lakes and hot springs.  There are lively and fiery volcanoes, stunning beaches and some of the best surfing.  The cities of Bogor, Bandung and Yogyakarta have to be visited to be believed.  Then of course, there is Bali and its gorgeous Hindu culture.

Backpacking

Travel is relatively inexpensive but can be a challenge.  The warm, friendly and hospitable people, the food and fantastic countryside will more than compensate for any difficulties you may have.

Brazil
This huge country is a wonder world filled with amazing sights.  It is blessed with naturally varied and rich landscape with thousands of miles of beaches and humungous tracts of rainforests fed by great rivers including the mighty Amazon.  This vast land has incredibly diverse climatic and cultural conditions.  The vibrant hedonistic cities of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Salvador are legendary for their party atmosphere and nightlife.

The main mode of getting around Brazil is by bus.  The buses are generally excellent and services frequent and good.

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San Fermin: All You Need To Know

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Every July the historic and lovely town of Pamplona, in the far North of Spain, becomes a sea of colour and throbs to the sound of music, dancing and merriment.  It is fiesta time! The 8 day long festival is to honour San Fermin (Sanfermines), the patron saint of Navarre Province.  The fiesta for most, is the occasion of the famous Bull Run in Spain but is actually a combination of three ancient events – honouring the saint, a market fair and a bullfighting festival.

The San Fermin Festival is a time of mayhem, huge adrenaline rushes, vast wine consumption, dancing and non-stop fun.  It is a heck of a crazy adventure.  Here are some tips and information if you want to get the most out of your festival experience.

  • The festival is officially opened by the mayor, at 12:00pm on the 6th of July with the launching of a pyrotechnic Txupinazo rocket (chupinazo) from the city hall balcony.  Thousands gather in the square to witness the event.

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  • The most famous event of the fiesta is the running of the bulls, properly called “encierro.”  The first running takes place the day after the opening ceremony.
  • The main festival is on 7th July.  The statue of San Fermin is paraded through the streets of old Pamplona accompanied by dancers and entertainers performing the Jota (an ancient dance).
  • The Giant’s Parade takes place every day of the festival.  Huge papier-mâché puppets manipulated by people dancing inside them are part of the procession.
  • Encierro takes place every day at 8am.  A firecracker signals the release of the bulls from their corral.
  • Just before the Pamplona Bull Run starts, runners (wearing red bandanas around their necks) gather around the statue of San Fermin and sing a traditional chant three times.  This is a prayer for protection.
  • The run involves six fighting bulls and six steers down the narrow streets of old Pamplona.  The route is 825 metres long and ends in Pamplona’s Bullring.

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  • The bulls are killed later in the afternoon at the bullfights.
  • At 11:59pm on a random night crowds gather at the Town Hall to make as much noise as possible with drums, horns, whistles or anything they can lay their hands on.  The din or El Struendo (The Roar) goes on for several hours.
  • There are spectacular fireworks every night at the Citadel Park.
  • The San Fermin festival also has traditional Basque sports every morning in the Plaza de los Fueros, near the Citadel.  They are stone lifting, wood cutting and hay baling.
  • On the last night people gather once again at the Town Hall Square at midnight, 14th July.  The sad Pobre de Mi (Poor Me) is sung, candles are lit and the people remove the red bandanas from their necks.

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4 Reasons Why Barcelona Is Great To Visit In Summers

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Every summer there comes that time when you have to decide where to spend your vacation. Most often the decision making is compounded by what to do. The ‘where’ and the ‘what’ can often cause head scratching. This is where Barcelona scores on every level.

Let’s see now. The weather is warm in summer and just right. There are miles of soft sandy beaches; a hectic nightlife fuelled by a huge variety of bars, discotheques and clubs; entertainment in the form of concerts and fiestas; unbeatable cuisine – Catalan and international; natural beauty with a gorgeous coastline and nearby craggy mountains; an extraordinarily rich culture seen on every street and in museums. There is plenty more, of course, but above all there is endless sunshine!

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Without attempting to push any particular itinerary, here is an outline that encapsulates what you can see and do in Barcelona in the summer!

Beaches
If you are looking to just lay back, get a tan, not do much and release those work-related tensions then the beaches of Barcelona are just the ticket. There are five notable ones with individual characteristics.

Barceloneta Beach is the closest to the city centre with attractive beach shacks serving great cuisine. Nova Icària, is the prettiest and most popular beach with plenty of good restaurants. Marberlla is famed for its free-spirited and nude bathers. It has plenty of eateries and drinking places and easily accessible from the city. Sant Sebastià, the oldest, has calm waters and a long golden stretch of soft sand. Bogatell Beach is the most central. It is populated by the athletic and fitness types who can be found pounding the paved jogging paths and volleyball courts.

Antonio Gaudí
Honestly, this man is synonymous with Barcelona. His works dominate the skyline, are architectural benchmarks and epitomise the city’s Catalan heritage and style in a spectacularly original way. He has done everything from parks to churches. Seven among his brilliant creations have been designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

Barcelona Twitter Parc Guell

His works are worth visiting just to see what a brilliant and creatively unfettered mind he had. Some of Gaudí’s creations are the Casa Vicens (a private residence); La Sagrada Familia Basilica (his definitive work, which is still incomplete); Park Güell (his creative and spatial genius is evident here); Casa Batlló (displays Gaudí’s fascination with nature’s shapes) and Casa Milà (aka La Pedrera, is his most innovative, daring and religiously inspired work).

History
Barcelona can seem like a gleaming futuristic city but it has plenty of history. Many remnants of its past are still in well-preserved condition and can be seen all over the city. The best and most convenient place to see examples of Barcelona’s past are in the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter). The heart of the city, this area has buildings dating to Roman and Medieval times. The beautiful narrow winding picturesque streets are worth wandering through. Highlights of the Quarter are the remains of the squared Roman Wall near Tapineria, Avinguda de la Catedral and Plaça Nova to the west, Carrer de la Palla to the south and El Call, the medieval Jewish quarter.

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Just an hour’s travel out of Barcelona is the magnificent Montserrat Basilica and monastery. The Basilica is where the famed Montserrat Boy’s Choir (l’Escolania) sing every day at 1pm. Across the Basilica and underground is an extraordinary museum with a superb collection of paintings by the likes of El Greco, Caravaggio, Sisley, Picasso and Dalí and valuable artefacts and items from ancient Egypt.

Entertainment
When your day of sightseeing or beachcombing is done the evening and night beckons and there is plenty to fill those hours. There is entertainment and leisure to suit all tastes and budgets.

You can have dinner while taking in a Flamenco show at one of the several notable tableaux. Barcelona is absolutely crammed with a variety of pretty and traditional tapas bars where you can treat your palette and sip on some excellent wine or beer.

La Ramba, one of the most famous and interesting boulevards in Europe is a super place to spend the night hours. This pedestrian only avenue is packed with buskers, living statues, mimes, artists and salespeople selling everything from lottery tickets to jewellery. There are plenty of bars and restaurants.

Barcelona has everything to give you that satisfied feeling of having had a real good holiday.

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Croatia – A Traveler’s Guide

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The Republic Of Croatia emerged in the late twentieth century from a tumultuous, violent and chaotic history.  Once part of the greater Republic of Yugoslavia, it has very quickly established its own authentic cultural and historic identity.  Croatia has that very rare quality.  It is a terrific mix of the ancient, medieval and modern with a good dollop of authenticity.

Geography
Croatia has a climate to die for, being Mediterranean in character and, moderated by the brilliant blue waters of the Adriatic Sea.  Thickly forested mountains and forests vie for attention with beaches, the sea and a thousand picturesque islands that cry out to be explored.  This treasure house has winding roads that go through the picture-postcard countryside and ancient pretty villages that haven’t changed in generations.

Places to See
Croatia has several fantastic national parks that are carefully protected. Plitvice Lakes National Park is a World Heritage Site.  These parks have spectacular scenery, achingly beautiful lakes, sparkling streams, musical waterfalls and are home to hundreds of bird species and numerous wild animals.

Plitvice

Croatia is wonderful but the southernmost county of Dubrovnik-Neretva is outstanding.  The region is an encapsulated and distilled version of all Croatia.  It has quiet villages; sheltered fishing hamlets; hidden coves; tiny secluded isles and some very, very beautiful and historic towns.

Dubrovnik, the county capital, known as the “pearl of the Adriatic” is a historic walled city and a World Heritage site.  The forts, gates, monuments, market places and 300 year old houses, still intact are a visitor’s delight.  The Renaissance era squares of the city are packed with historical gems like the 11th century Town Hall, the Sponza Palace, the Baroque Cathedral and its magnificent Treasury, the fortress-like Dominican Monastery and the Baroque Church of St Blaise.

Some of the most beautiful islands in the Adriatic Sea are just off Dubrovnik town.  Called the Elafiti Islands they can be reached (among other means) by taking a trip on an old time wooden Galleon.  Each island has its own unique attraction.  Kolocep has its carob and pine woods and neat citrus groves, while Sipan has medieval churches and the opulent summer palaces of Dubrovnik’s departed aristocracy.  Lopud is a bather’s dream with its bath-like waters and superb beaches.

Kor?ula Island is a short drive up the beautiful Adriatic Coast from Dubrovnik.  It has lovely forests, vineyards (wine tasting tours are popular here), colourful and lively markets, quaint timeless villages and sandy beaches.  It is easy to see why the ancient Greeks holidayed here.

Croatia small

Kor?ula has many superb Renaissance era architecture buildings.  The most notable is the 15th century Saint Mark’s Cathedral.  The island also has numerous Ancient Greek and Roman remains.  Korcula has unique folk traditions and festivals that show up in their dances, music and clothes.

Best time to travel
The ideal time to visit Croatia is between mid April to end September.  Croatia has managed to keep a check on mass tourism and there are plenty of budget options.

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Great Places To Celebrate The 4th Of July

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With Independence Day in the United States coming up this Friday, most Americans have been excitedly making preparations for the holiday and how they’ll spend the weekend that follows. After all, the Fourth of July is one of the most beloved holidays in the US. If you’ll be in the United States for the holiday, then you have already taken the first step in assuring yourself that a fantastic weekend is ahead of you. Let us help you take the next few! We’ve made it possible for you to visit four of the most unforgettable places this weekend at lower prices.

New York City

Picture it: walking through the famed streets of the most popular city in the United States, riding above skyscrapers and climbing atop the Empire State Building giving you a view of the city like none other, and taking a trip along the Hudson River as the sun goes down and fireworks come out. This is what New York City has to offer to you this weekend!

New York

The NY Sky Ride and Empire State Building both provide unbeatable views of New York City. It’s perfect for a day spent walking around the city and for getting to know the city from a different perspective. Another must-see in NYC is the Hudson River. But don’t just see it from a bridge; experience it on its waters on the Spirit of New York Dinner Cruise. There is no experience like watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July from the middle of the Hudson River while feasting on a delectable meal and dancing along to the music of the live band onboard.

Niagara Falls

Though admittedly not located in the United States, Niagara Falls is a magnificent and adventurous way to spend any weekend. And it’s only a short 650 km from New York, the equivalent of a few hours trip.  Spend three days in Niagara Falls and Toronto this coming weekend, where you can ride on the famed Maid of the Mist boat ride, experience the Falls in all of their majesty, sight-see through Toronto, and view the natural beauty of the 1000 Islands on your trip back to New York.

For the adventurer in you, Niagara Falls is where you need to be this Fourth of July weekend!

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Another great way to spend your holiday weekend is by exploring and taking in the landscapes that cover the Southwestern United States from the nearby city Las Vegas. Though Vegas is typically known for its attractions inside the city itself, the natural attractions located just a short trip away from the city will allow you to see the United States in a light you probably never have before. Take a day trip from Las Vegas and be amazed by the grandiose of the southern rim of the Grand Canyon as well as the beautiful paths running through Zion National Park. Both are true American treasures.

Washington D.C.

The nation’s capital! Where else could anyone who wanted a true American Fourth of July experience endeavor to spend their weekend?

Experience the fireworks on the Fourth of July aboard the Washington Odyssey Dinner Cruise where you will eat a fabulous meal, listen to a remarkable band play, and be surrounded by a wonderful group of people and a beautiful sky full of lights. Later on that weekend you can discover all the landmarks and history that the US capital has in store for you.
Prepare yourself for a weekend you won’t forget, filled with brilliant fireworks, fantastic celebrations, and experiences that you’ll be sharing with others for years to come!

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