Subscribe to isango! RSS feed
World’s leading site for travel experiences - Tours, Activities, Shows, Excursions and more
Find amazing experiences Book before you go. Local rates. Handpicked suppliers Find out more >>
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 in ‘Food, Pubs & Nightlife’

Romantic Valentine’s Day Adventures: Vienna

1

OK folks, this is it. I’ve guided you through Romantic Valentine’s Day Excursion itineraries in Paris and Florence.  Still haven’t found the perfect trip idea?

Perhaps you’ve already been to these cities, or perhaps you are looking for a destination that is less of a Valentine’s Day cliché.

I thus present to you, in my final post of this series, the charming, music-filled city of VIENNA.

Smaller and more manageable than Paris, yet with a cosmopolitan edge that sets it apart from Florence, Vienna is the perfect weekend destination for the young, culture-loving couple! continue reading

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Romantic Valentine’s Day Adventures: Florence

0

So…what are your Valentine’s Day plans?  Have you been searching all over town for that perfect, charming, romantic Italian bistro?

Here’s a better idea: why not surprise your sweetie with some authentic Chianti and handmade risotto in Tuscany?

Following on from my previous post about Valentine’s Day Adventures in Paris, I would now like to focus on the beautiful, fascinating, historical city of Florence—one of my favourite places in Europe. continue reading

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Romantic Valentine’s Day Adventures: Paris

0

Valentine’s day is coming, and romance is in the air! (Or rather, the High Street shop windows are full of red, heart-shaped trinkets and pink, flowery whatnots, and you have succumbed to the pressures of consumer culture…).

Either way, you—the love-struck shopper—have one thing on your mind: what in the $%#! am I gong to get him/her? continue reading

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

O2 X Awards and After Party!

0

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the O2 X Small Business Awards and after party with a few of my colleagues here in London. We were thrilled to be nominated for the Technology and Innovation award, and we had a great time!

o2 x awards

Firstly, though, I must say that I had never been to The O2 in Greenwich before—definitely worth a visit! Lots going on in this enormous, climate-controlled, Thames-side dome (it’s so big that you forget you’re actually indoors, which is perfect for London weather).

On any given evening, you’ll find a slew of cinema-goers, leisurely diners (there are 30 odd restaurants), special events attendees, and perhaps, as we did, thousands and thousands of Queen fans spilling out of the O2 Arena…

Our event took place in the brand new, oh-so-trendy Matter night club, where we sipped champagne, enjoyed delicious canapés, participated in on-camera interviews, and mingled with all sorts of interesting entrepreneurs…from eco-friendly fashion designers, to music producers, to Z list celebs (so I’m told)…it certainly was a hip, happening evening for all.

Jess Deepak O2 X Awards

I learned last night that I am definitely not privy to the happenings of British celebrity culture; however, apparently this girl (the host of the awards ceremony) is one import chick:

Holly Willoughby O2 X

So…there’s you celeb snap for the week.  Enjoy!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Oktoberfest 2008 – share your crazy stories!

0

Oktoberfest Prost PhotoI got a lot of responses to the blog about Oktoberfest that I wrote back in July, which emphasized the importance of ‘planning ahead’ – i.e. months before embarking on your weekends of debauchery – so that you would avoid fronting huge amounts of cash, sleeping on train station benches, etc.

Many of you probably missed the blog or ignored my advice. Totally fine by me, as long as you will now share the details of your crazy adventures with us!  Who has the best story to tell?  What did you lose?  Where did you sleep?  Who did you meet?  Did you manage to experience some cool parts of Munich?

Tell us, tell us. (By posting below…)

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Memories of C.S. Lewis

2

Why is it that we remember the most tangential and hyper-specific scenes from our childhoods (personal examples: playing with the lace trim on my red and white polka dotted crib bedding; the yellow raincoat decal that I used to attach to my nursery school class’s ‘weather bear’ on rainy days)…yet we so often forget the name of an acquaintance that we discussed the election with last week? Or, even better, which drawer we placed our keys in 3 minutes ago?

Do you actually remember the design on your 4th birthday party cake, or have you just watched the home video 50 odd times?

What about your favourite childhood book? Do you recall what the cover looked like? Where the characters lived?

Last weekend, I was exploring the quaint, picturesque streets of Malvern, England—the town where C.S. Lewis (who happened to be favourite author as a child) went to school—when my knowledgeable guide asked me if I had enjoyed the recent film adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Having just listened to his engaging overview of the famous Lewisian haunts and Narnia landmarks scattered throughout this lovely countryside town, I wanted to discuss a range of parallel cinematic moments. But I quickly realised that, actually, I couldn’t. Yes, I had seen the film (in fact had rushed to the cinema like an excited child when it came out 3 years ago), but I could not even cite my favourite scene.

I realise now that my wires had gotten crossed. I could not answer because I could not differentiate between two visual memories—the first being the imagery that I had generated in my 8-year-old mind whilst reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and the second being the imagery that Disney had delivered to my local cinema, 14 years later.

To add to my moment of mental convolution, this was the second Brit lit expert, in the second quaint, historic English town that had made enthusiastic claims regarding Lewis’s sources of creative inspiration.

Hmm…

You see, I’d been told that Lewis devised his plots whilst wandering the streets of Oxford. But now, it seems to me that perhaps Malvern had an equal, if not greater, impact on his writings. For, apparently, the Narnia gas lamp is located in front of a Malvern College dormitory…

So, then, which is it? What town, which landmarks, and which people inspired C.S. Lewis to create the allegorical fantasyland that continues to engage children, adults, filmmakers and tourists today?

We can only speculate which memories and life experiences may have, consciously or subconsciously, inspired Lewis in his vivid creations. I will now trace some of the most famous landmarks that I have encountered, which have been linked to his writings….

Tracing the footsteps of C.S. Lewis…

1. The Malvern Hills.

This most picturesque area of Worcestershire, UK is the perfect daytrip destination from Birmingham, Oxford or London (1, 1.5 and 2.5 hours by train, respectively). It’s no wonder that Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and co. embarked on frequent retreats to the Malvern Hills for years after Lewis completed his schooling at Malvern College 1916.

It has been said that the friends enjoyed leisurely walks through the hills to soak in the stunning panoramic scenery of the region, which has doubtlessly inspired artists for decades. (Apparently, on a clear day, you can see all the way to Wales!)

2. The Unicorn Inn, Malvern.

Lewis’s scenic treks typically ended at this charming, hillside pub, presumably with all of the activities that we would imagine—philosophical debates, pints of ale, visions of white, magical, single-horned creatures, etc.

Unicorn Pub Malvern

Sadly, when I visited, the plaque commemorating Lewis’s visits had been dismounted. Hopefully this was just a temporary move, and you will have better luck!

3. The Eagle and Child Pub, Oxford.

The informal, weekly meeting place of the ‘Inklings’ literary discussion group (comprised of Lewis, Tolkien, Charles Williams and several others), this popular watering hole is one of Oxford’s most famous landmarks.

Definitely worth stopping here for a pint to check out the framed ‘Inklings’ memorabilia…but often difficult to secure seats, especially for large parties. Though I suppose if you drop in on a for some Tuesday morning rounds, as the Inklings often did, you won’t have much of a problem.

4. Magdalen College, Oxford.

Last, but certainly not least…a place that I cannot stop writing about.

magdalen-cloisters_resized.jpg

The idyllic meadows, the lazy tributaries, the stunning architecture, the gorgeous spring foliage…all of the wonderful things that comprise this 550-year-old Oxford College make it feel like a fantasyland.

I can only imagine what Lewis, a former fellow of Magdalen, was dreaming up when he strolled around the college’s deer park…alongside the gondola-esque punts…through the weeping willows…perhaps pausing to gaze back at the colourful sunset framing the college’s majestic bell tower…

It’s no surprise that Lewis stayed at Magdalen for nearly 30 years!

The trail continues…

These are only a few, noteworthy places that I have personally experienced: the list of landmarks goes on, including sights in Belfast, Lewis’s place of birth, and Cambridge, where he served as a departmental chair until a few months before his death in 1963.

Your ideal Narnia adventure will, of course, depend on the way in which you imagine or remember Lewis’s stories. You’ll never see the world as he did, but you sure can try to match your memories of his work with an interesting travel experience.

In honour of my Malvern adventure, I (re)watched The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe last night. I now remember (or at least, I think I remember…) exactly what I was thinking when I watched it the first time: I must go to the place where these beautiful Narnia landscapes were filmed.

New Zealand, anyone?

A blog for another day…

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Mahiki’s Famous Treasure Chest

2

My sincere apologies for the delays in posting photographs—I’ve been having some technical difficulties…

If you missed yesterday’s blog about Mahiki, which is, apparently, Prince Harry’s favourite London night club, you can read it here.

Right, so I’ve decided that a photograph doesn’t do Mahiki’s signature concoction much justice, but, nonetheless, here it is:

Mahiki Treasure Chest London

…those straws are about to do a lot of damage!

Crazy, right?

End story: Mahiki is a fantastic venue for a hen party or a stag, if you can foot the bill?

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Prince Harry, Part II: Mahiki Madness

1

I was pumped when my close friend from college announced that she would be having her “hen party” (British term for bachelorette) at MAHIKI (reportedly Prince Harry’s favourite club).  We thought for sure that we would have some royal/celeb sightings at this famous London hotspot.  What geeky American tourists we are…

You know, in all honesty, we could have seen Madonna, Harry and the Dalai Lama by the time we finally hit the dance floor…that is, after emerging from our tropical “submersion” in champagne-filled treasure chests, flaming booze lava fountains and enormous conch shells, spilling over with red rum fruity goodness…

But let’s back up for a minute…

Mahiki Hens: the adventure begins…

9:33 pm:  Eleven, dolled up twenty-somethings arrive to the door of London’s most famous club.  One sparkling bride-to-be, flanked by eight fellow Americans, one Canadian and two authentic “hens” (only one Brit and one Aussie in attendance…but we called it a hen party anyway…). Three are giggling, one is hobbling on crutches (me), and two are scheming re: the fact that we have missed the free entry cut off time by 3 minutes—how to get around this?

9:34 pm:  “Ten pound entry fee, five hundred pound minimum per table” asserts chic, blonde woman at door. 

I repeat, woman at door. We definitely aren’t getting around this…

9:35 pm: Julia Allison, long time friend of bride-to-be reveals her true colors as celeb. mag columnist and lifestyle/entertainment guru.  So much for her night of undercover debauchery with the girls.  Julia flashes biz card, dishes PR schpeel to chic blonde woman, who, after 38 seconds of conversing with Julia, officially loves us.  “Such lovely girls…’ she coos.  Free table, complementary drinks—yes, yes can all be arranged.

We’re in.

9:40 pm:  We are escorted to a large, tropical bungalow-esque table by a camp cabana boy waiter.  We keep our eyes peeled for Harry and co.

9:50pm: Against our better judgement, we order THE TREASURE CHEST (pictures to come ASAP).

10:00pm: THE TREASURE CHEST arrives, filled with ice, fruit, an unidentifiable concoction of hard liquor and 11 straws.  A pirate queen’s dream come true.  Camp cabana boys pour champagne into chest.  We assemble into a giggling circle and sip.

10:10pm: Still sipping…

10:20pm: Still sipping…

10:30pm: Is this a bottomless chest?

Circa 10:40pm: Cabana boys arrive with two flaming “volcanoes” of booze.  And, of course, 11 straws.  We’ve just (barely) finished our treasure chest, and the bride is drunk.  My fractured foot is, magically, “all better!”……

??:??pm: Cabana boys return with two of  the largest conch shells I have ever seen, filled with red, fruity mystery punch.  One of which is now the centrepiece of the bride’s work desk back in Oxford.

??:??pm: Dance floor…

Circa 12:15am: Bride and her crew from Oxford realize that they are not going to make it to the station in time for their 12:15am train home (why they booked a 12:15 train, I will never know….).

??:??am:  … ???

Right, so, in conclusion, Mahiki is an absolute blast; however, I will probably never be able to go there again: I’ll never be able to top our amazing hen party adventure—I’ll never again receive the same, superb degree of service (thank you, Julia!)…  

Well…maybe I’ll go when I get married.  Or next time Harry comes to town.  Or both, if you catch my drift? J

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

Fringe Festival Highlights

1

I hope everyone managed to get away, or to get into something interesting here in the UK, over Bank Holiday weekend. I just stepped off a plane from Edinburgh—it was my second weekend trip up to the Fringe Festival this year, and I had an absolutely amazing time. I wish that I could paint you a detailed picture of the museums, architecture and natural scenery that characterize this beautiful city (= next trip!), but I spent most of my time watching comedy, theatre, musicals and working on a show that I helped to put on (as choreographer). I got to meet talented and interesting young people from all over the world (and I even got to see some tele stars in person – ooh la la…)

Some Fringe Highlights:

  1. The Udder Belly

This local watering hole is the place to be during the month of August. With hundreds of performers, directors, producers and spectators running around at all hours of the night, you are bound to strike up some interesting banter; however, should awkward conversational pauses ensue, the venue has provided you with the ultimate chat-worthy icon—an enormous, inflated, upside down purple cow. I would pay someone for an Udder Belly t-shirt: this is the one thing I forgot to get before leaving. Seriously, get in touch if you have one (I mean it!).

  1. Comedy, Comedy, Comedy

The selection of stand up comedy acts in Edinburgh was HUGE: I am now, officially, convinced that trying to “make it” as a stand up comedian is perhaps the most trying (and humbling!) of paths within the performing arts industries. I saw dozens of stand up acts…from young, transatlantic favourite Matt Kirshen (you may have seen him on the American reality TV talent show Last Comic Standing) to Fringe regular Reginald D. Hunter, who delivered his signature, philosophical American wit. I was, overall, entertained, amused and satisfied.

Important to note: lots of people that I talk to think that the “Fringe Festival” is primarily a theatre-focused event, full of avant garde one acts and student-quality productions. Yes, you can certainly find these things; however, there are 7 big festivals occurring in Edinburgh during the month of August (13 in total throughout the year), including the International Book Festival, the Art Festival, the Mela Festival and the Military Tattoo Festival. The Festival Fringe is just one of many events to explore, within which comedy seems to be the entertainment category with the widest audience appeal.

  1. The Forest Café

We stumbled across this quirky little gem of a venue on our last night at the festival and ended up in a loft/attic-style room, full of eclectic pieces of furniture and oh-so-stylish hipsters. Only one type of local brew on sale at a little corner bar, served up by a man with a mini acoustic guitar. On stage was a freestyle rap group with a live percussion ensemble to complement their superb “beat boxing” skillz. A cultural experience, to say the least!

  1. Putting on a show.

Being a part of a Fringe production involves a lot of hard work, no to negative (monetary) compensation, shameless company promotion, and, if you are a performer, 20 + straight days of delivering the goods…sometimes to empty chairs. So then why do, literally, thousands of young artists flock to the cloudy little city every year to return home as paupers? Because the Fringe is fun, fun, fun, fun (did I mention FUN?). If you are lucky enough to get involved with a quality new writing project that has a solid cast + creative/marketing team, you are bound to draw some good, responsive crowds and supportive fellow artists (who you will, of course, join afterwards at the bars (which stay open until 5am…every night…for a month = FUN)).

Cheers to another UK cultural adventure!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS

PERFECT HOLIDAY CONTEST FINALISTS

0

Thanks to those who participated in the 2008 isango! ‘Perfect Holiday’ Contest! We were overwhelmed with enthusiastic responses and sincerely apologize for the delay in posting the finalists. But we’ve finally done it! Hooray! The top 5 entries have been selected, and it’s time to VOTE!

FYI: though we could only select 5 finalists, we truly enjoyed reviewing your (100!) entries. We admire your imaginative efforts; thus, the majority of this blog is dedicated to the bulk of entries that did not make it through to the shortlist. We have explained why certain types of entries were not selected and have included some relevant travel tips to assist you in actualizing your dream getaways!

If this sounds boring to you ( – it’s not, actually!), you can skip straight to the action, and:

CLICK HERE to VOTE for one of the TOP FIVE ENTRIES

…as selected by our team of travel writers and product specialists. Go ahead, do it! But remember, you can vote once, and once only!

SOME TRENDS AND TIPS:

(By the way, we’ve listed the finalists at the bottom of this blog in hopes that you will actually read the rest of what we have to say!)

…right, so we learned a great deal about your travel desires and needs from reading your entries—namely that most of you are in need of a good, long holiday! There were also some recurring themes:

1. “It’s not where you are, it’s who you are with…”
A large number you would prefer to spend your precious time away from the office on a romantic getaway with your significant other. Your descriptions of destinations were often very imaginative, but also quite vague, as you focused on the experience that you would have with the love of your life—just the two of you—isolated in paradise. These entries were fantastic (and heartwarming) but were also, unfortunately, more difficult to judge as sometimes we were not sure where, exactly, you aimed to go on your holiday! We suggest visiting the Romantic Retreats section of the isango! website to transform your, ahem, ‘daydreams’ (wink!) into reality.

2. Family First.
A large percentage of you have young children and thus face difficulties with planning to please multiple parties. For you, the ‘perfect holiday’ is one that is free of logistical nightmares: your entries thus tended to be long lists of things that you wanted to avoid (long queues, large crowds, flight delays), rather than of things you actually wanted to do. Though we can do nothing about rubbish airlines (except to complain right alongside you) we can help you to avoid ‘on the ground’ family feuds by encouraging you to plan a detailed itinerary prior to departing. Start with our list of Family Tours under the Activities section of our website, which can be narrowed down, for example, to theme parks and self drive tours.

Others of you focused on the needs of your parents and grandparents, wishing to fulfill their dreams by taking them to parts of the world that they have always wanted to see. We suggest starting with our Seniors category and narrowing your options down by country, or city, from there. (You can also always contact one of our friendly customer service reps if you have any questions!)

3. Some of you are, well, CRAZY…
Really, wow. You submitted some fantastically wild travel ‘plots’ (- you know who you are!). Check out some of our quirkier blogs for more unconventional ideas and inspiration.

Now, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for!

THE FINALISTS:

1. Hanlie Burger, ‘Shipwrecks, Sand Dunes and Desert Elephants’.

2. Louise Brown, ‘Northern Solitude’

3. Sarah Berl, ‘Spelunk!!’

4. Marian Redmond, ‘Campania Felix’, and

5. Sarah Stocks, ‘Tropical Rainforest? Or is it?’

A huge CONGRATS to Hanlie, Louise, Sarah, Marian and Sarah—and all of our participants—for dreaming up such fabulous ‘perfect holidays’! We cannot thank you enough.

Please vote here, and to pass this email along to all of your family and friends!

You can also check out more blog coverage of the contest here.

Thanks again for participating!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS