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The Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014 – Nothing Shy About It

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Born out of rejection and anarchic in style and content, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is off and running madly this year.  Beginning on the 1st of August, the Fringe Festival, self-styled ‘the greatest show on earth’ has once again brought a vast array of talent and shows to Edinburgh like so many moths to the bright stage bulbs.

This year the show is bigger than ever.  The Fringe will give audiences a choice of 3,193 productions from 47 countries, and 49,497 performances in 299 venues.  That once again reaffirms Fringe’s status as the largest arts festival in the world – and this year it got bigger.  Whatever your taste in the arts, you are bound to find something suitable for your taste buds and maybe more!  You will see stuff that you will probably not see anywhere else.

Edinburgh Castle

The Fringe will have you feeling you are spinning round at the end of a bungee cord.  The festival is one huge dizzying array of shows and events that pop up at you from every corner, pub and even a former veterinary hospital.  Conventional theatres and venues are still the place to get your art thrills.  New venues have been opened to accommodate the increased entries, such as the La Belle Angèle on Cowgate and the Famous Spiegeltent will be located in St Andrew’s Square, alongside Stand in the Square, and a brand new open air stage.

However, the Festival is also taking theatre to the streets as well.  You will find pianists plink-plonking in the middle of the street; brightly colour-costumed acrobats cartwheel past you; Brazilian dancers sashay and swivel past and are soon lost in the whole seemingly chaotic jamboree.

The Festival Fringe has no selection process and is open for anyone to present any type of work.  That is a great recipe for off-the-wall, quirky performances and eclectic shows showcasing the vision of the performers from all across the world.  Many are amateurs, many trying to break into the big time and some are big names too.  They include Dame Diana Rigg, Jeremy Paxman, Glen Matlock, Clive Anderson, Pamela Stephenson, Nancy Dell’olio and actress Anne Archer, playing Jane Fonda.. It’s great for them too – they can network and meet theatre movers and shakers, cross-pollinate ideas and have fun at the same time.

As the Fringe goes merrily into its second week, some awards have already been presented.  The Scotsman Fringe First round winners were announced.  There are two more rounds to be announced.  The 2014 Fringe Sustainable Practice Award winners have also been named.

The organisers say that more than 60% of the shows are either comedy or theatre with circus and physical theatre growing categories that are popular with audiences.  There are shows about Scottish independence, the 100th anniversary of the World War One and even the Commonwealth Games.

It is difficult to choose and decide what to see but some shows have become standout.  These are KlangHaus, Ganesh Versus the Third Reich, Zulu Ballet and The War (an examination of the psychological effects of World War I, the disturbing living sculptures of Exhibit B).

Regardless of the categories, there are an endless array of events, performances and spectacles to experience and enjoy, and most certainly expand your artistic horizons.

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Spain For Thrill-Seekers

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Spain has more to offer other than churches, beaches, food and festivals.  It has plenty of adventure activities to take your breath away and get the adrenalin pumping. These alternatives take you up in the sky or to the bottom of the sea.

isango! has put together 5 adventure activities of Spain that will make your Spanish experience a highly memorable one.

Western Water Park Magaluf, Mallorca
This wet Wild West themed park will challenge the daredevil in you.  It also has rides and slides for children of all ages so no one gets left out.  Some of the slides are really heart-stopping like the Kamikaze slide that drops you a sheer 30 metres or the Tornado, a knuckle-whitening whirling twisting rush of water.  The Crazy Racer and the Huracan are just as fierce and awe inspiring.

Western Water Park

There is also a mini theme park, Kids Waterland.  Just as thrilling as the slides, are the daily high diving shows.  The divers take off from 30 metre heights and display their skills with perfectly synchronised combined dives involving two, three and more divers at a time.

Deep Sea Fishing, Fuerteventura
The thrill of landing a legendary shimmering silvery marlin or swordfish is hard to describe or rival.  The island of Gran Canaria, especially Fuerteventura, are superb deep-sea fishing waters.  There are an enormous variety of fish to catch.

With the aid of multi-lingual instructors, you are sure to experience the excitement when your fishing line goes taut and you battle the fish at the end of your line.  In keeping with the sporting etiquette, you return the defeated fish to the sea.

Gran Canaria Adventure Tour – Jeep and Camel Safari
Changing gears you can indulge in one of the most exciting means of exploring Gran Canaria.  This ruggedly beautiful volcanic island hides a lot of its beauty, which can only be seen and experienced by going on a combined Jeep and Camel Safari tour.

Camello2 Gran Canaria

The powerful open-topped 4×4 jeeps and towering camels will carry you over rocky mountain tracks to the famous Masplomas Dunes, the lovely little village of Cercado Espino and up to the picturesque highlands of Soria.  The stunning views of the Pico de las Nieves, the Presa de las Niñas and the Ayacata will be the highlights of your adventure.

Scenic Helicopter Tour over Gran Canaria
Another fantastic way to see the Gran Canaria is by helicopter.  Even as you lift off, you understand why an aerial view of this incredibly beautiful island is the best way to see it.  As the stunning diversity of Gran Canaria’s natural features unfurl below, you will appreciate its magical properties.

The rugged volcanic landscapes have many moods and facets that can only be appreciated from the air.  The glorious golden beaches, picturesque villages, twisting, mysterious ravines and the grandeur of the Maspalomas sand dunes will simply take your breath away.

Aguamar Water Park, Ibiza
The Aguamar Water Park on Ibiza is the one attraction that rivals the rave parties and beaches for attention and attendance.  It is the largest on the island and has an exciting range of water slides and other features to either cool you off or set the blood racing.

Located just 10 minutes from Ibiza Town, the Aguamar Water Park has loads of slides for every age.  Some are gentle and slow while others have tight twists and scream-causing turns.  The five fabulous and popular ones are the Kamikazee, the Black Hole, the Spiral, Rio Ventura and the Spiro Tubo.  When you are done riding the slides there are a lot of restaurants to choose from and shady spaces to enjoy a picnic lunch.

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isango! launches ‘Paris Magic Moments’

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Disneyland® Paris comprises of two fantastic parks – Disneyland Parks and Walt Disney Studios. A visit is a double treat filled with plenty of magical choice.  That however, can raise several issues.  What to do and how to get the most and best out of your visit.

Those vexing decisions can now be left in the very capable hands of Paris Magic Moments, isango’s newest website.

Paris Magic Moments, launched in the UK on 30th June 2014, is run by a travel team solely focused on, and dedicated to, Disneyland Paris.  The company has a Specialists Sales Team that will advise you on the lowest prices and the most competitive deals to suit your budget.

PMM

Open seven days a week and supported by a high-speed and hi-tech online booking system, Paris Magic Moments makes sure that you get those much-desired discounts and special offers that will add to your enjoyment and the overall ©Disney experience.

Unlike other travel and tourism booking organisations, Paris Magic Moments is a preferred partner of Disneyland Paris.  This means that PMM can bundle a wide range of options with Disney’s offerings and choices that you won’t otherwise have access to.  You can buy products and ticket packages, normally offered only by Disney Hotels, even if you are staying at Disney Partner/Affiliated Hotels.

Paris Magic Moments caters only to the UK market so travel and transport is geared to getting you to and from London and Paris.  The choices are really terrific as you can avail of options that include the Eurostar Passenger or the Eurotunnel Car Train or the P&O Ferries.

Paris Magic Moments’ service goes beyond just arranging your tickets.  They sort out another travel related bother – luggage.  This service is part of the Disney Express and saves you the hassle of moving your luggage onto the train, into the hotel and when you leave, the reverse process.  Now you simply check in on the train at the station, get your tickets and room keys while your luggage is taken to the hotel and the same applies when you leave Disneyland.

PMM’s offerings don’t stop at the door, so to speak.  They provide valuable budget savings on meals too.  There are a whole bouquet of meal plans and add-ons.  Guests staying at Disney or Partner hotels get vouchers for meals within Disney Resort.  Then there are the super thrills of enjoying the high-octane Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Dinner Show as well as meals at Cafe Mickey.

To give you a change of scene and pace so that you can round out your vacation, Paris Magic Moments offers Paris Day Trips.

Using the expertise and services of Paris Magic Moments will ensure that both you and the kids revel in the excitement and magic and the very best of Disneyworld® Paris.

Book your Disneyland Paris holiday now at www.parismagicmoments.co.uk

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Greece – An Enchanting Palette

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Greece is like a painter’s palette with (to my mind) two primary colours – astounding natural beauty and four thousand years of history. Mix and blend these two and you get an incredible rainbow of idyllic landscapes, a sophisticated yet languorous culture, artistic and architectural treasures, superb food, great wines and a warm friendly people.

Greece is the oldest tourist destination and has been since before the rise of Rome. It still remains one of the world’s most popular travel destinations.

Natural Features

Broadly speaking Greece consists of the mountainous mainland and thousands of islands.

The Mainland

Eighty percent of Greece is mountainous. Mytikas (9,570 feet) is the highest peak and also the location of the mythical Mount Olympus – home of the Greek Gods. The northern mainland portion is defined by majestic mountains and abundant forests. The central and southern region has vast distinctive wine-producing valleys and olive orchards. Not commonly known is that Greece has some of the best skiing slopes in Europe. The rugged landscape also offers great hiking and rafting opportunities.

The Islands

If ever the colour blue was considered an invention, then the waters around its islands would surely be the place it was created. At last count, there were between 1,200 and 6,000 islands in the Greek archipelagos. The number depends on how you describe an island because many are just rocks thrusting straight out of the water. That aside, 227 of the isles are inhabited with Crete being the largest followed by Euboea, Rhodes and Lesbos.

The Greek islands comprise of seven groupings – the Peloponnese, the Argo-Saronic Islands, the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, the East and North Aegean, the Sporades and Évvia, the Ionian Islands – and Crete. Whatever their location or size, the islands are epitomized by clear blue waters, dazzling white sandy beaches and idyllic villages.

The Cities

Greek cities are widely disparate. Each one is uniquely different from the other. Athens, sophisticated, modern yet firmly rooted in its magnificent past. The mother of western civilization, it is a treasure house. The Acropolis, the Parthenon and the Temple of Zeus are still its dominant landmarks.

Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest metropolis, in the north, is crammed with Byzantine monuments while elegant Corfu is reminiscent of Venice. Rhodes is renowned for the Colossus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The city is now home to the best preserved medieval town in Europe, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Culture

Four millennia of history and legend have made Greece a delectable melting pot. Starting from the Minoans, Romans, Arabs, Latin Crusaders, Venetians, Slavs, Albanians and the Turks, all have left their mark, and almost every town or village has a link to the past. The Greek experience is also about food, which is fresh, uncomplicated, simple and fulfilling just like the warm, genuine and welcoming people.

Festivals

Greece may not be as famous as some other countries for festivals but happily you will never lack one on your visit. Greek festivals are religious based and the largest one is Easter, which does not coincide with the rest of the Christian world. The Good Friday, Saturday night vigil, climaxed by a glorious midnight mass is memorable for the beautiful and moving rituals. If you find yourself in a small town or village the people will warmly include you in the days of feasting and celebration that follow.

Another reason for festivities (paniyíria) is when towns or villages celebrate the local patron saint. There is plenty of music, dancing and drinking that accompany these celebrations. With 330 in the Greek saintly pantheon, the chances of you getting to participate or witness such a happy event are really good.

Weather

Even with the weather, the Gods played favourites and gave Greece the balmiest and gentlest of climates. When exploring the islands, the best time to visit Greece is from mid-to-late May up to the end of August. Though, it is still excellent during September. May is perhaps the best time to visit the Peloponnese and Cyclades islands but the waters will be rather cool.

The northern mountains are usually covered with snow by early November and lasts till May. The long winter makes for great snow sports and skiing conditions.

Off season travel services and facilities are reduced but fear not for you will find at least a couple of hotels and taverns open in any but the smallest town.

Greece will surprise and you are bound to discover something terrific in this land of incredible historic sites, gorgeous beaches and imposing mountains.

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What’s New On isango! In July

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With things picking up nicely on the travel front, now that summer is well and truly here, isango! has introduced some really interesting activities and tours to make your vacation outstanding.

Thames Jetboat Cruise

Thames Jet

When you are done with seeing the sights around London you can get your rush on by getting on a Jetboat and zooming on the Thames a la James Bond.  Up tempo music blasting out of the sound system will accompany you as the boat skims across the Thames.  You will get a unique perspective of London as you roar past The Shard, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.  At 35 knots not only will your hair be flying, so will your heart.

Oxford & Downton Abbey Tour

Downton Abbey1

A visit to Oxford, the world’s second oldest university is a must.  The “city of dreaming spires” is famed for its academic excellence.  Oxford is also celebrated for the architecture of its beautiful buildings.  There are examples of every English architectural period dating back to the Saxons.

The added flavour to this tour is a trip to a Downton Abbey filming locations.  For Downton Abbey addicts, there is an exciting visit to the village and the elegant home used as the fictional Grantham House that features so prominently in the Christmas Special of the TV-series.

Barcelona On A Segway

Barcelona Segway

You are going to love this!  Barcelona is a large city and many of its iconic sites are quite spread out.  So to save you from tramping around in the warm Barcelona sun, now you can zip around on a soundless, smooth-running Segway.  The tour is designed for small intimate groups.  You can visit some of the instantly recognizable landmarks of this wonderful city.  Some highlights of the tour include the Arc Triomf, Passeig Luis Companys, the wonderful park and zoo of La Ciutadella Parc and the statue of Christopher Columbus.

Dubai Aquarium And Underwater Zoo

Dubai underwater zoo n aquarium

In the heart of Dubai, you will find a fascinating and interactive underwater world.  The Dubai Aquarium is located in the centre of Dubai Mall, the world’s largest.  There is a 48 metre long tunnel that runs under the aquarium and gives you a view of the wonderful aquatic creatures swimming all around.

The Underwater Zoo is marvelously designed so that you can interact with creatures as diverse as Otters and Penguins.  You can also observe, up close, such exotic ones as Piranhas and Scorpions and Giant Camel Spiders.  The zoo is divided into different ecological zones that give you a perspective of the creatures’ habitats.

The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil – Vegas Show

Beatles

The Mirage, Las Vegas has custom built a theater for this show.  The unforgettable music and lyrics of the legendary Fab Four is combined by the incredible acrobatics and interpretive freestyle dance of the Cirque du Soleil.  Using over 6,000 speakers and 24 digital projectors, the show is a powerful experience and entertainment at its very best.

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4 Fine Wine Producing Regions of Italy

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Wine drinking in Italy is an essential way of life. One of the world’s oldest wine producing countries, Italy also produces the largest volume and widest variety of universally popular wines in the world. That status rests squarely on its quality and diversity.

While proof is always in the tasting, here are our picks from among, literally, hundreds of varieties.

Piedmont
This red wine is a product of the wine growing Piedmont region. Beautiful Turin is its capital. Pliny the Elder praised the superb quality of wine produced here. In Italian, nebbia means “fog.” Grape harvesting happens in mid to late October in the foggy season. It could also be because the grape develops a milky covering.

Piedmont

Nebbiolo is a light red wine, highly tannic and famously “tar and rose” scented. It requires several years of aging and is often blended to reduce the strong tannins. The grape does not grow well in other wine growing areas; it requires good drainage and a long growing sub-Alpine climate. These, among other requirements, make the region’s wines unique and a star in Italy’s wine heritage.

Chianti
Chianti comes from the lovely central Italian region of Tuscany. Its vineyards and olive groves with scattered stone villages are iconic of the Italian landscape.

Produced since the 13th century, Chianti is Italy’s most famous wine. It is forever associated with the “Chianti Mountains” and villages near Florence. Today the Chianti wine making region covers the provinces of Prato, Florence, Arezzo, Pistoia, Pisa and Siena.

Chianti

Chianti has gone through many changes in its recipe. The wine we know today is the creation of Barone Ricasoli in the late 19th century. The characteristics of the wine are its red, black and cherry colour; mint, spice floral, nutty, various wild herbs aromas and mellow tannins. Generally speaking Chianti is any Sangiovese-based wine and has three very broad classes – classico, superior and super Tuscans. The minimum aging period for Chianti is four months with some prized classes aged up to 38 months.

Trentino
Trentino-Alto Adige is a wine-producing province in north Italy, with the Dolomite Mountains as a backdrop. The mountains and other geographical features provide a climate ideal for good quality grapes producing dry and sparkling wines and popular reds.

grapes

Trentino produces plenty of grappa, a traditional home-made Italian drink. It is derived from the left-over seeds and skins used to make wine. However, it is most famous for several other wine varieties.

The two regions produce wines that reflect its dual German-Italian heritage. Alto-Adige produces Italy’s finest white wines. Here Muller-Thurgau, Rieslings Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Lagrein, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris dominate. Two native red grapes – Teroldego Rotoliano and Marzemino – are the source for two of Italy’s most famous red wines: Carbernet/Merlot and Trentino Rosso.

Frascati
A mere 25 kms south of Rome in the Lazio region is the ancient, red-tiled roof hamlet of Frascati. This town and its surrounding volcanic-soil hills are forever bound to Rome and the rope is wine! Archaeological research shows wine was produced here as far back as 500 BC – and earlier! The soil is porous, well-drained and rich in potassium. That combination produces large harvests and quantities of wine, all of which has been eagerly lapped up by ordinary Romans, emperors and popes.

Frascati

Frascati is probably the most famous Italian wine. It is a dry and white wine that comes in two forms – still and sparkling. Two blends form the core of Frascati wines – Trebbiano and Malvasia. The Malvasia is fruity and citrus flavoured while the Trebbiano has a flowery aroma without much flavour. Frascati is inexpensive, which has made it a very popular tavern and cafe tipple.

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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.

shutterstock_116126023

  • 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.

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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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