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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 ‘Holidays & Festivals’

Don’t be Scared of an Alternative Halloween Across the Channel

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Does the thought of having to find a costume for Halloween fill you with more dread than the haunting face of a man wielding a chainsaw? If so, Europe could be the answer. With some semblance of a cultural festival still being celebrated across the Channel you can take advantage of an excuse for a holiday without the dodgy eye make-up, fraying bandages and the handing out of ‘treats’ to hungry teenagers.

For a last minute trip Paris is the perfect option, and easily accessible. The city of love is slowly becoming one of horror for one night of the year only, but like the rest of Europe celebrates All Saints Day on November 1st, where the dead are honoured and the graves of loved ones are visited to pay respects. This also constitutes a national holiday so many attractions will be closed. The Paris Hop-on Hop-Off Bus takes in all the sights and runs all year, so while Parisians are paying their respects, the city can be explored. The route takes in all the most popular sites such as the Louvre, Champs de Mars, Notre Dame and the Champs-Élysée. continue reading

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How to pick the best holiday for you

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Different destinations appeal to different travellers for different reasons. We all fall under categories that determine where in the world we may end up. The categories are usually quite simple and obvious in most cases. Are you the traveller who can’t be bothered to do anything but sunbathe? Are you the one who wants to do everything active that every website, brochure, hotel clerk tells you is available? Are you all about culture and sightseeing or just abroad for the hot weather and a fancy hotel?

Destinations will always tell you they have everything but are you really going to go to Marrakech for beach life, The Great Barrier Reef or Uluru for old ruins, or Brooklyn for a taste of the Middle East? No, you’re not. They all have their own magic but it takes a specific type of traveller for each, to bring the magic to life. continue reading

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Happy Diwali India!

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It’s that time of the year again, it’s Diwali. For many, Diwali in India is often compared to Christmas in Western countries. It’s a national holiday, children go home and spend time with parents, houses are cleaned, people go to temples, traditional food flows free and people think back at the year behind. Diwali is called the festival of lights because in most parts of India people light up traditional lamps or crack fireworks. 

The social role of this holiday is very similar to what happens during Christmas/New Year, and in other similar “end of the year cycle” festivities in other part of the worlds. We take stock of what we’ve accomplished and we get prepared for the new cycle. In practice, Diwali is scheduled around the end of the harvesting season where farmers look back at the goods in stock and pray for good harvesting in the next cycle. Takeaway: we all need to stop and look back every once in a while.

The religious roots of Diwali are based on the victory of good over evil, or light over darkness, with different winner/loser gods in different faiths (Rama/Ravana, Krishna/Narakasura) (*). The Christian symbol of the birth of Jesus also suggests the time of a new beginning and a new hope for the year to come. Takeaway: we all keep hoping for a better future.

In London, there is obviously a long stream of celebrations of which the most important one is Diwali in the Square, held in Trafalgar Square with traditional dances, ceremonies and free concerts. This year (2009) it was held on Sunday Oct 4th.

In Paris things are less established but the House of India (Maison de l’Inde) will host a free Diwali buffet dinner with concerts and traditional dances on Sunday Oct 18th at the Cite’ Universitaire.

Plenty of Diwali activities and events also in New York, including a dance and music performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts.

So to all our Indian friends around the world, happy Diwali!

 

(*) Thanks Wikipedia.

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Italy and the Vatican Worship for Easter

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As the home of the Vatican, it is no surprise that Easter in Italy is a major event. The celebrations vary from the intensely religious to the carefree celebrations of spring. Catholic masses are conducted by the holiest of men in the Vatican and traditions of amusement take over neighboring towns. The historic Scoppio del Carro leaves worshipers in awe. The celebrations are extremely religious but are conducted on such a scale that members of any school of thought will enjoy them. Italy at Easter time is a spectacle and a dream but there is no Easter bunny in Italy, so don’t expect to be greeted by a sugar-covered chocolate marshmallows when you land.

Easter Sunday, a Day of Celebration

Pasqua, the Italian Easter, sees the people of Italy escape out of doors and enjoy the spring sunshine. People parade the streets holding large statues of Mary or Jesus before them in reverence. Catholic priests travel from home to shop to home offering blessings for good luck. In St. Peter’s Basilica the Pope says a special mass. An average of 100,000 people turn up for this even every year covering the earth beneath the Pope’s balcony. The night before the Pope baptises adults newly converted to Catholicism and calls the word to peace. continue reading

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Discover Easter Traditions on the Red Sea

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Those looking for a break from their traditional Easter this year can find refuge on the Red Sea Coast. Ethiopia and Egypt are celebrating Easter and the arrival of spring with their own traditions. While the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s Fasika focuses on the solemn and religious nature of the season, Egypt’s Sham el Nessim relies more on tradition, making it accessible to all religions in the region.

Ethiopia Rejoices During Fasika

Travellers to Ethiopia during Fasika, which takes place based on the Eastern Christian calendar, will find people in a state of reflection and fasting. The 55 days leading up to Easter have strict dietary guidelines which limit food intake. When Easter Sunday arrives, mass is held in the local church. All of the followers can not usually fit inside the church and sometimes it must be held outside under a large tent. Decorative Vitenge and Kanga (cloth made to look like trees or butterflies) are hung from the ceiling. Long after light is gone the priest announces that Christ has risen. It is now 3am and the celebration shall begin.
Christian hymns are sung with the beating of drums and the high-pitched Kigelegele cries of the women. Dancing and feasting brings the fast to a close as the Ethiopians celebrate life. Formal dress of stark white robes dance against the jewel tone robes of the priests. Sequined umbrellas add to the mesmerizing spectacle before you. The celebration continues through the day with great feasting and family. continue reading

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As the Travel and Chocolate Industries Brace for the Busy Easter Season so does Washington DC

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Celebrate Easter with New American Traditions

Easter brings with it the promise of springtime and holiday fun, making it the perfect time to travel and indulge. It is Australia’s most popular time to fly and why not with the excess of events happening world-wide? The Easter Bunny certainly gains a few frequent flyer miles on his tour of the United States. Every year he visits almost every shopping mall in the country to meet his fans! Take a break from a shopping tour to snap a picture with the big bunny and tell him what you hope will be in your basket.

If touring Washington DC, visit the White House and get access to the South Lawn for an Easter Egg Roll. You must have a child under age 10 to attend but children of all ages can buy the souvenir eggs, given free at the event, online. These hand painted eggs will be signed by President Obama and the First Lady!

continue reading

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The UK and Australia Aim to Re-invent Easter Traditions

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Springtime Comes to Britain

Deep into history the day when the cloudy top is lifted off Britain and sunlight finally hits the ground is an epic one. The Saxons originally celebrated this day by munching hot cross buns (bread rolls with crosses on top representing the lunar calendar and the goddess) and dancing in the sun. As Christians arrived on the rain-drenched land mass they brought with them Easter Sunday, the day on which Christian’s believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead. With hot cross buns re-oriented to symbolize The Cross, Christians celebrate the rebirth of their savoir and the rebirth of the earth, spring!

continue reading

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Best Places to Celebrate St Patrick’s Day- Boston, Dublin and London

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Beannachtai na Feile Padraig! Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Like millions of people all over the world, you too can be Irish for the day on March 17 – St Patrick’s Day. Sport a huge green hat, paint a shamrock on your face, dress up as a leprechaun, and down a few pints of Guinness. It’s all part of the fun wherever folks claim Irish ancestry.

So where are the best places for St Patrick’s Day celebrations? There are plenty to choose from, but three of the best are Boston, Dublin and London. continue reading

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Romantic Valentine’s Day Adventures: Florence

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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

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Christmas Shopping Adventures 3: London and Beyond

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I know that Christmas shopping can feel like a daunting annual ritual, especially when conducted in a bustling city like London!  With Pantomime season around the corner and Christmas just a day away, families are already flooding Central London to get into the Christmas Spirit.

This goes for visitors and Londoners alike: why not add some variety to your usual Christmas shopping routine by embarking on a special Christmas adventure? Here are some ideas: continue reading

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