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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’

The origins of Hallowe’en

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The 31st of October is Halloween or Hallowe’en. The celebration is becoming increasingly popular in the UK following the American example. Children dress up in costumes and go ‘trick or treating’ in the neighbourhood and there are special Halloween costume parties.

Souls and Soothsaying

bonfire-lee-j-haywoodThe origin of Halloween goes as far back as Celtic times when Samhain was celebrated, marking the end of harvest and beginning of winter. On the eve of the new season the borders between the living and the dead dissolved and the souls of the dead returned to the world. This was a perfect condition for soothsaying apparently, so Druids build bonfires to make sacrifices and dressed in animal skins to tell each others fortunes.

Later this celebration was mixed with Roman festivals, one that commemorated the dead and the other to honour Pomona the goddess of fruit and trees. When Christianity was in place, the 2nd of November was declared All Souls Day and 1st November became All Saints Day or All Hallows. The evening before All Hallows became All Hallows Eve or Halloween.

Trick or treating

halloween-costume-by-infrogmationTreating started from the tradition of souling – the poor would knock on doors and in exchange for soulcakes ( a sweet spiced bun) they promised to pray for the family’s dead. Over time children took over souling and as the religious aspect disappeared the soulcakes where replaced by sweets.

The tricking might come from Mischief Night still upheld in some parts of the UK on the 4th of November where people play tricks on each other (though this mainly consisted of putting things in the wrong place…)

People dress up in costumes for Halloween because it was believed that ghosts returned to earth and to avoid being recognised and attacked, one would dress up to fool the evil spirits.

Pumpkins, Nuts and Apples

pumpkins-by-manitou2121Before pumpkins became popular, the lanterns were carved out of turnips: they were named the Jack O’Lanterns. Poor Jack was not allowed into Heaven because he was a miser but also not allowed into Hell as he had played tricks on the Devil – so he was doomed to walk around with his lantern until Judgement day.

Single ladies (pre-Beyoncé’s anthem) used the magical night to get a glimpse of their future husband. They would name hazelnuts after men of interest and throw them in the fire: the one that popped and not burned would be The One. The girls could throw an apple peel over their shoulder and it would land into the initial of their future spouse.  Alternatively they could eat an apple or light a candle in front of the mirror whilst combing their hair and the future husband will peak over your shoulder… Spooky!

Special Event

chicago-by-nimesh-mThis whole month you can have a Halloween party on our  special Seadog Haunted Chicago Cruise. During the 75-min cruise the Captain will tell you creepy tales and ghostly stories about people and places in Chicago. The city will never be the same again. If you have children who like spooky stories they are welcome to come along in their costumes!

Photocredits: Flickr Bonfire – Lee J Harwood, costumes- Infrogmation, pumpkins-manitou2121, Chicago – Nimesh M

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Autumn Activities

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The days are getting shorter and the temperature a little colder: autumn has truly begun. Still there is enough natural splendour and activities to be found during this season,  so here are few events from around the globe.

Germany Oktoberfest

In Munich the infamous Oktoberfest is currently in full swing. Last year it celebrated its 200th year anniversary and the beer festival is still going strong. Stroll along the Theresienwiese, visit the different beer tents and try local delicacies like the Weisswurst (veal sausage), Knödel (dumplings), enjoy a Mohrenkopf ( a chocolate covered cream cake) as desert. There are also rides to keep children of all ages entertained.

brotzeit_munich_4728_4Tips:

  • Go early, as you cannot reserve a place in a beer tent and you won’t be allowed in a tent when it’s considered full.
  • Your pram and buggy might be refused on peaktimes and young children will have to leave after 8pm even when accompanied by their parents.
  • Be prepared to dig deep: entry might be free
    but a liter beer will cost you around the €9.

The Oktoberfest will last until the 3rd of October and will beer serving hours are 10am-10:30pm on weekdays and 9am-10:30pm on the weekends.  If you can’t make it to the Oktoberfest now throughout the year you can still visit the Beer museum and go on a beer and food excursion in Munich.

stlouisby-markgstohlUSA Halloween

Halloween gains popularity in the UK but a very special place to celebrate Halloween is New Orleans, the most haunted city in America.  In the run-up to Halloween you can visit haunted houses in the French quarter and learn more about the dark art of Voodoo.
Celebrations are held on Frenchmen street where everyone takes to the street in costume and you can enjoy the annual Halloween parade where Halloween royalty takes to the floats.  The very brave book a cemetery tour in New Orleans. You will roam the St Louis Cemetery, learn about the evolution of voodoo and even visit the tomb of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.  Come along if you dare!

gatineau-by-dionetianCanada Thanksgiving

Another very North American festival but Canada celebrates Thanksgiving earlier than the US: this year it will be on the 10th of Oct. Originating from the Harvest Festival in Europe and the first Thanksgiving celebration in North America actually took place in Canada when Martin Frobisher arrived from England to Newfoundland in 1578.

Canada famed for its spaciousness and nature is still very popular among the modern day explorers.
The Gatineau Park is a woodland and Lakeland district close to the capital city Ottawa. Every autumn the Canadian capital organizes Fall Rhapsody, an event that runs through the Gatineau Park and covers over 90km of trails. There are also activities planned to keep the children entertained, so it is perfect for the whole family. You can also take a tour in Gatineau Park with a guide who will expertly lead you to the most awe-inspiring places like the Mackenzie King Estate, the gorgeous country home of the 10th Prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King.

Whatever you do: keep exploring this autumn!

Photocredits: Flickr St Louis cemetery- Mark Gstohl/ Gatineau Park- Dionetian

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August Bank Holiday is coming!

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Hoorah! Another Bankholiday is coming! Are you already thinking of the long weekend even though it’s just Monday? Have you not made any plans yet? Here are some some suggestions to make the most of that extra day off.

from zsl.org

London
“Someone told me it’s all happening at the zoo” sang Simon and Garfunkel. We do believe it’s true: visit London Zoo by Regents Park. New this year is the Penguin beach, where you can see the penguins from upclose! Don’t forget the rest of the animals, the gorillas, the lions the butterflies etc. Opening times 10-6pm daily book your London Zoo tickets here and skip the line.

Take a Street Art Walking tour: it was voted the London Tour for Londoners. See Shoreditch and Brick Lane in a completely new light as a guide leads you through the streets of London. Discover painting, installations and posters by artists where you were meant to see it: on the street.

Liverpool
the-cavern-club_liverpool_4119_1Spend your weekend in Liverpool, city of the Beatles and so much more. The Liverpool waterfront is an UNESCO World Heritage site, so take a Mersey Ferry and explore the Merseyside. Art lovers can visit the Liverpool Walker Art Museum, the national gallery of the North, or The Tate Liverpool . Antony Gormley has a public installation by Crosby beach consisting of 100 life-size sculptures of himself. You also have to visit the Cavern Club and discover how the legendary Beatles started. In a rush, see all the best bits with a hop on hop off bus tour of Liverpool.

royal-crescent_bath_5111_1Bath
Another UNESCO heritage site, Bath is indeed a very pretty part of England. Hollywood star Nicolas Cage fell so much in love with the Bath, that he bought a home there and switched on the Christmas lights. Already famous in the days of Jane Austen, Bath Spa is home to Britain’s only natural thermal spa. Relax in the warm waters and indulge in some spa treatments. You can easily spend the day admiring the beautiful architecture or go for some shopping in the city centre. Explore the hightlights of the city with an hop on bus Bath tour.

kings-college_cambridge_5106_4Cambridge
Cambridge came fourth in the UK TripAdvisor’s Traveller Choice Awards. It placed behind London Edinburgh and Bath (see above) but beat rival Oxford. You can visit the university and tour the ground of the infamous colleges daily. Still Cambridge is more than just a university city, there are plenty of things to do: enjoy some leisurely punting on the Cam, take afternoon tea in the Orchard Tea Garden or just explore the beautiful city centre. Visit our site to book a quick tour of Cambridge.

Make the most of the August Bankholiday, visit isango.com and book your own travel experience.

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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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