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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 in ‘Hobbies, Courses & Interests’

Learning While Holidaying – Having the Best of Both Worlds

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Vineyard in the Hunter Valley

Vineyard in the Hunter Valley

Most of us think that Holidays are just that – Holidays – something that is essentially an escape from all things learning, or a break from work. True as it is, have you ever thought of having a fun, learning time while being on a Holiday? Yep, it is possible to actually have your cake and eat it too! All you need to do is just know how to mix and match!

Hunter Valley Tour and Wine Appreciation Course: We all love our wines. But how many of us really know anything behind our much-loved companion? This tour gives you the chance to learn everything you have always wanted to know about wines. Located just 2 hours drive North of Sydney, Hunter Valley Tour is one of Australia’s greatest and oldest wine areas. The ‘Introduction to Wine Appreciation’ course will increase your knowledge of wine – the styles, techniques and how to blend your own wine. You can also enjoy private wine tastings here.

Cadbury Chocolate Factory Tour with River Cruise: Now how about a Cadbury factory tour for the sweetest tour in town! Located in Hobart, Australia, this Chocolate factory tour lets you learn about the history of the company and its tireless quest for chocolate perfection. You can also get Cadbury products at discount prices. What’s more? The tour also includes a peaceful 90-minute cruise back to Hobart on the tranquil waters of the Derwent River.

Balinese Cooking Lesson with Market Visit Tour: A heaven for food lovers, Balinese Cooking Class will teach you all you need to know about Balinese cuisine. At this one-day cooking class, you will learn the authentic cooking techniques and become familiar with the fresh herbs, spices, and other ingredients that make Balinese food so delightfully tasty and nutritious.

New Orleans Cooking and History Tour: Another foodie’s dream trip, this tour lets you learn famous Louisiana-style Cajun and Creole dishes from top chefs and provides you free cookbook from the New Orleans Cooking School. The best part of this tour is that it is a flexible package, which means you could spread the activities over a period of time, rather than doing all in one day.

So, choose any (or all!) tour from the above options and enjoy your holidays. Bring back something valuable and lasting that increases your knowledge and experience from your holiday this time!

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Iceland: A Place of Earthly and Celestial Colour

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Northern Lights
The Northern Lights, more formally known as the Aurora Borealis, captivate the minds and spirits of all who witness them. It is impossible not to be moved by the flowing colours that move through the celestial heavens in a dance as ageless as the sky itself. In ancient Rome, Aurora was the goddess of the dawn and in Ancient Greece, Boreas is the god of the north wind. Thus, in 1621, the current of colour in the night sky was officially deemed the Aurora Borealis. In days long past, those who gazed at the lights believed that the neon colours were the souls of unborn children or the torches of ancestors long since past. Scientists as well as stargazers have been captivated by this strange aberration in the atmosphere. Today we know that the hypnotic hues of the lights are created by energetic charged particles colliding with atoms in the high atmosphere. Of course, when looking at the Northern Lights, it is just as easy to believe that it is a river of celestial spirits on their journey through the sky.

Now, as we enter into the darkest time of the year, the Northern Lights are displayed in the peak of their glory. The divine light show that dances across the evening sky is best seen between the months of November and February. One of the best locations from which to see this incredible phenomenon is in Iceland. What many do not realize is that this wild and stunning country is just as colourful and vibrant as the glowing colours that dance above its horizon.

MountainsThough the name distinctly brings to mind frigid days and desolate, icy landscapes, Iceland is, in all honesty, one of the most beautiful and untouched places on earth. This is a land where fire and ice coexist in a surreal setting of vast emerald valleys, black sand beaches, volcanoes and massive glaciers. Though ‘ice’ figures in the country’s name, ice only covers 10% of the country’s land mass. Having said that, the ice that there is comprises the largest glaciers left in Europe. Iceland is located in the middle of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, thus making it a very active volcanic area. The most famous of these looming beauties is Mount Hekla, which reigns over the nearby Landmannalaugar area. This area is rich in jade stretches of land and golden mountains streaked with ashen stripes and swathed in ghostly clouds. When snow falls upon these sleeping giants, a beauty unlike any other overtakes the land and stirs the soul with a sense of magic.

Blue Lagoon
Iceland is also particularly famous for its incredible hot turquoise waters that form the Blue Lagoon. Here guests can relax and rejuvenate in what some believe to be the most restorative waters in the world. The Blue Lagoon is a natural spa with a man-made spa right next to it. You can hop from the naturally heated aquamarine lagoon into a luxurious steam bath or sauna at the spa. Visitors can also get intoxicatingly good massages while still enjoying the view of the lagoon (if they can manage to keep their eyes open). I personally think that the Blue Lagoon looks as if the Northern Lights had melted out of the sky into a massive, beautiful and deliciously warm puddle. Those who have soaked in the Blue Lagoon before will tend to agree with me.

Near Reykjavik, Iceland’s capitol, lies what is known as the Golden Circle, the best route to take in order to see some of the most exquisite earthly sites in Iceland. Trips around the Golden Circle involve seeing such things as the Gulfoss (meaning ‘golden falls’) Waterfall, Geysir Hot Spring and Þingvellir National Park. None of these are to be missed while travelling through Iceland.
golden-circle

So, if you head to Iceland to gaze at the hypnotic celestial lights of the Aurora Borealis, you are sure to find other exquisite, more earthly delights as well.

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It is World Egg Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

picture credit: Flickr – Rubber Slippers in Italy

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Tour the Fashion Week cities.

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fashion-weekFashion is a funny business as most people are preparing for the cold of the coming winter, fashionistas around the world are getting excited about what we should be wearing spring/summer 2012. From September – October you can travel around the world to make sure you are on trend next year. Should you get a free minute in between shows, in between hobnobbing with Wintour and singing karaoke with Valentino, we have found you some tours in each city.

New York 9-15 Sept
sex-and-the-city-hotspots_new-york_13527_4Alright, so you are probably already there. You have been dazzled by Victoria Beckham’s collection and now you are ready to follow in the footsteps of television’s biggest fashionista: Carrie Bradshaw.
Go on a Sex and the City tour where you will hit all of the girls’ favourite spots.  You’ll visit the best place for Cosmopolitans, the shop where Charlotte bought her Rabbit,  the place where Carrie got her divine Jimmy Choo’s and you will taste a cupcake from the famous Magnolia bakery.

London 16-21 Sept
designer-shopschelsea_4642_1Once you have arrived in London you’ll be happy to learn that the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford will have opened: it is the largest shopping centre in Europe.
For the traditionalist among us, we recommend a private walking tour through Chelsea and Kensington.  Stroll among the designer shops and museums with a knowledgeable guide who can tell you about the rich history and famous faces of this exclusive area. This fashionable part of London is also a favourite of Britain’s hottest fashionistas: Kate aka the Duchess of Cambridge and her sister Pippa Middleton.

flea-market_paris_4177_3Paris 29 Sept – 06 Oct
Ah Paris! The city of chic. A man or woman of fashion should live in a fashionable home, so we offer you a Paris tour of one of the largest antique markets of Europe.

You will be accompanied with an expert guide who will a) speak French and English and b) have knowledge of antiques. So whether you are a layman or a more experienced buyer of antique you have the option of the guide to assist you with negotiations.

asakusa-temple_tokyo_13293_4Tokyo 16-22 Oct
It promises to be a memorable Fashion week in Tokyo as it will be the first one since shows earlier this year were cancelled after the earthquake in March. Organisers have confirmed Paul Smith’s attendance with which he’ll be celebrating his business success.

As the early bird catches the worm, get up early and join a morning sightseeing tour in Tokyo. An English-speaking guide will take you through the Japanese capital and introduce you to the riches of this wonderful city.  You will see the stunning panoramas of the modern city, yet also delve deeper to discover the traditional side of this historic city.

Photocredit top pic: Flickr br1dotcom

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Best places in the world to go scuba diving

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Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef (Flickr by Simon Starr)

Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef (Flickr by Simon Starr)

During the summer months a holiday to a tropical destination is quite popular.  There are several things to do while on holiday in paradise and one exciting activity to partake in in scuba diving.  Scuba diving is a wonderful way to see all that the ocean has to offer up close.  If scuba diving isn’t up your alley then perhaps just snorkeling would be better suited for you.  But one this is for certain; with these scuba destinations you are sure to see the ocean at its finest. continue reading

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Weird Foods: More Than Just A Photo Op.

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I can’t say it enough, (and I do, often) food is one of the best and most informative ways to experience a new culture. However, after hearing about a friend’s recent (strange/gross/wild) cultural eating experience in Peru (exactly what that was, we’ll come back to in a moment) I’m starting to think that it’s not just the variety of authentic cuisines that helps to define a new place, but often the experience of stepping completely outside of your (culinary and otherwise) comfort-zone in the process.

Deep, I know. But think about it for a minute, if someone offered you fish eyeballs, pig hoofs or alligator at your local diner, would you even think twice about saying no? Probably not.

So what is it that gets us crazy travellers to embark on weird and wild culinary adventures? Perhaps it’s the desire to become a part of a new place, a new culture, a new experience. Because, as any traveller knows, food isn’t just about filling your belly with calories it’s about embarking on a cultural experience.

Here comes dinner? - Shazari

Here comes dinner? - Shazari

Take my friend’s trip to Peru for example. She’s southern California born and bred, vegetarian, and an organic food junkie. What could have possibly made a girl who diligently washes each grape before digging into the bunch try (gulp) guinea pig at the local Peruvian market? continue reading

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Scariest Places in London: Warwick Castle

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As I plan my trip to Warwick Castle I realize I will never get  British pronunciation correct. I’m quickly told that I’m not going to Warwick, I’m going to “Wor’ick”. With only three days of sightseeing left I want to pick a great spot for my last hurrah. Warwick Castle Dungeons will be opening just before I leave for home and I want to try and squeeze it in if I can get my hands on some Warwick Castle Tickets. My friends and I are all able to agree on this trip because there’s just so much to do there!

continue reading

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British and Irish Lions squad announced

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An announcement has been made confirming the British and Irish Lions players that people on tours of Cape Town and other South African destinations will be able to see during the team’s visit to the country this year.

Irish second row Paul O’Connell will captain the British and Irish Lions this year, becoming the 10th Irishman to lead the team and the 27th captain overall.

O’Connell is one of 37 players picked to take part in the tour of South Africa, a squad that includes 17 backs and 20 forwards.

The captain is one of a record 14 Irish players selected for the team, joined by the likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Tommy Bowe, Ronan O’Gara and Jamie Heaslip.

Thirteen Welsh players were named by head coach Ian McGeechan in this year’s British and Irish Lions squad, including Shane Williams and Andy Powell, while Joe Worsley and Andrew Sheridan were among the eight Englishmen picked.

Only two Scots – Nathan Hines and Euan Murray – were selected for the tour.

Travellers taking tours of South Africa this year will be able to see British and Irish Lions matches in destinations including Cape Town on June 23rd and Johannesburg on July 4th.

Cape Town – From the wine route to the game parks there is so much to see and do in Cape Town.ADNFCR-1652-ID-19134165-ADNFCR

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A Walk on the “Wilde” Side Indeed: Hotspots of Literary History

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Oscar Wilde - janetmck and mukund76

Oscar Wilde - janetmck and mukund76

All of this travelling has given us all a little wanderlust (aka the desire to travel our already small savings away). Europe is packed with history than we’ll ever be able to see in just three short months, but with some great tour guides and a little organization, we’re hoping to cram as much of it in as possible! Since we’re here to study literature and culture, and Dublin was just the first stop on the journey, I can’t wait to check out these other top writing-geek destinations soon:

London: Well, this one’s a bit obvious I suppose, I am living in Kensington and heading to the theatre every week to see a play for class, but for those of you not already enrolled in a literary adventure, London’s blue circle plaques make it easy. Placed outside the doors of London sites, the plaques serve as a guide to the more famous happenings within many an ordinary-looking building). London has been home to many of the most famous authors of all time: Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, Virginia Woolf, Geoffrey Chaucer, John Keats, J.M. Barrie, and of course Shakespeare are just a few of the city’s most recognizable names. I can’t wait to search out the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens, check out Oscar Wilde’s house in Chelsea, and see Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theatre…luckily the blue-badge guided Literary London Tour will make it even easier! continue reading

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Find Your Shade of Green

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Green View - Olof S

Green View - Olof S

Thinking about going green? With families around the world changing their light bulbs, cleaning products, diet, recycling and commuting habits, why not try applying some of those ideas to your vacation time too!While some of us (ahem) might be using the green movement as a way to avoid bathing, the changes to your holiday time this year needn’t be so drastic. Here are three minor changes I’ve discovered through my own travels that can majorly affect the way you experience your vacation (for the better, I swear!) continue reading

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