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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!

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New On isango! In September

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We, at isango!, are always where the holiday action is.  Australia is the flavour of this month.  Of course we also have things happening in other countries and cities.  Here are our vacation picks from all across the world.  You will enjoy these activities we have chosen to highlight.

Rottnest Island Express Tour from Perth

Rottnest Island Tour

If you’re a visitor to Perth, Rottnest Island is a must see destination and we would love to take you there.  Perth is sunny but cool with occasional light showers this time of the year – ideal for a day trip out of the city.

Just 19 kms off the Perth Coast, Rottnest Island was created for sightseers with its great scenery, azure waters, wonderful marine life and super beaches.  You will also meet the quokkas (relatives of the kangaroo) after whom the island was originally misnamed.

The Rottnest Island Tour will take you right around the island and get you to it with plenty of time to explore the beaches, bays and the picturesque Wadjemup Lighthouse.  Your return will include a cruise up the lovely Swan River.

Wine and Dine at McLaren Vale, Adelaide

mclaren vale wineries

If wine appreciation is your thing, then a trip out to this wine region is a must.  If it is not, it is still worth the effort.  McLaren Vale wineries are a mere 45 minute drive from Adelaide’s airport.  The weather at this time is ideal for a comfortable drive out of the city down the coast via the Fleurieu Peninsula and on to McLaren Vale.

Mclaren Vale is known for its rolling vineyards, quality restaurants serving gourmet foods made from local produce, olive oil and all things related to viticulture.  The region is a fabulous blend of beach lifestyle, culinary brilliance and artistic outpourings.  Your tour will include a splendid lunch accompanied by some fine wine.

Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tour with Optional Gardens Tour

Hunter Valley Gardens

The Hunter Valley region is Australia’s oldest and best known wine producing region.  Many among its 150 wineries have been in the trade for more than 180 years.  The Valley is just a couple of hours out of Sydney.

The Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tour ensure you get a personalized tour and private wine tastings at some of the finest boutique wineries Australia has to offer.  You could also learn about the process that goes into making wide range of styles including semillon, shiraz, chardonnay, gewurztraminer, cabernet sauvignon and pinot noirs.

You could also opt to have lunch and a tour of some of Hunter Valley’s Gardens.  The gorgeous countryside and the wonderful weather makes the Formal Garden, the Rose Garden, the perfumed Oriental Garden and the fairytale land of Storybook Garden, a really great add-on to your day out.

London i-Venture Card

i-venture Card

The i-Venture Card is one of those amazing money and time saving devices.  It is a smart card that gives access to a whole lot of attractions and experiences in London.   It allows you cash free entrance to West End theatre meals at well-known restaurants and all of London’s major attractions.

The i–Venture card has a wide range of flexible package options, amazing discounts, money-savers and up to one month validity built into its features.  With it, you can avoid long waiting lines at many of the attractions.  It caters to everyone’s requirements and at the same time gives you free entry to places like the London Eye, Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral and tours to Stonehenge and more.

All you have to do is select your package.

San Francisco Segway Night Tour

San Francisco Segway Night Tour

Many of San Francisco’s major attractions are world famous.  Its hilly nature, Victorian architecture, ethnic and cultural diversity and pleasant weather make it a very attractive city and a popular destination.

At night its famous neighbourhoods and districts are illuminated by café, restaurant and store lights.  It is the time when North Beach, Little Italy, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf and Waterfront and other areas turn into a magical fairy land.

The San Francisco Segway Night Tour is the best way to get around to all the landmarks and attractions scattered across this wonderfully compact city.  Your guide will show you parts of the city you would never have seen on your own.  Zip through hidden Chinatown and Little Italy alleys where wonderful smells of cooking emanate.  Enjoy the thrill of gliding across a blazing Golden Gate Bridge and up steep hills in a fraction of the time and effort otherwise needed.

It is a super way to experience San Francisco.

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Oktoberfest 2014, Munich

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It began, bang on time, at 12:00 noon.  Munich’s mayor Herr Dieter Reiter used a wooden hammer to pound a tap into the first Oktoberfest beer barrel at Schottenhamel Beer Tent.  It was the opening act of the Oktoberfest 2014 at Theresienwiese on September 20, 2014 in Munich, Germany.  It was the 181st such occasion of one of the world’s most famous and largest fairs.

The show then kicked off in earnest with a large and colourful parade put on by the tent operators and breweries. Their horse-drawn wagons loaded with huge beer barrels decked with flowers rolled sedately by.  The parade was led by the traditional Münchner Kindl (Munich child) mascot.

Oktoberfest1
Six days into the festivities and about 6 million visitors are expected to attend by the time it ends on Sunday 5th October.  It is also estimated that 6 million litres of beer will go down their thirsty throats.  Somehow that doesn’t seem excessive when you consider the numbers and the drink or bust attitude of attendees.  Folks ‘sleeping it off’ in parks and gardens is one of the more common sights, in the mornings, during Oktoberfest.

Not wanting to give a false picture that Oktoberfest is all about drinking and falling over, there is plenty of other interesting stuff going on all the time.  There is a parade of some kind nearly every day, dancing (traditional and a la carte), music and lots of costumes.  On the fourth day there was the usual special lunch for senior citizens.  The next day there was the solemn yet moving religious Oktoberfest mass.

The men donned their Bavarian best, with hats, braces, Wadlstruempfe stockings and lederhosen and participated in the Parade of Costumes and Riflemen on the second day of the fest.  The ladies on the other hand showed up in traditional Dirndi garb at the funfair tent “Festzeit Tradition.”  They hitched up their pretty bright red skirts and vigorously twirled and kicked their heels on the stage to lively music.

Beer oktoberfest
Comes the evening and night you would be forgiven for thinking that Munich was one overgrown fun fair and theme park.  As dusk gathers, the whole place is lit up by thousands of coloured lights from the beer tents also the blinking and flickering ones from various rides and roller coasters.  It is almost fairytale and Disneyland-ish and looks very pretty.

All this festivity and gathering of people from across the globe was actually sparked off in 1810.  What happens every October began as a wedding celebration for Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese from Saxony-Hildburghausen (hence the name of the Theresienwiese).  The commemoration soon morphed into the Munich Beerfest lasting for 16 days up to the first Sunday in October.

If you are fortunate enough to have got hold of accommodation during the fest and looking to plunge into the action here is what to expect in the coming days.

Sunday      28/9/2014    Traditional concert of brass bands
Tuesday    30/9/2014    Family Day:  All rides and performances are cheaper
Sunday      05/9/2014    12 noon: Traditional gun salute at the Bavaria monument

Timings:
Beer Serving Hours
Opening day 12.00 noon – 10.30 pm
Weekdays 10.00 am – 10.30 pm
Saturday, Sunday & holiday 09.00 am – 10.30 pm

Stall Opening Hours
Opening day 10.00 noon – midnight
Monday – Thursday 10 am – 11.30 pm
Friday 10.00 am – 12.00 midnight
Saturday 9 am – midnight
Sunday 9 am – 11.30 pm

More activities to check out while you are in Munich for the Oktoberfest-

Neuschwanstein Castle

A trip to the Neuschwanstein Castle
A visit to the Oktoberfest Museum
Road trip to Harburg and Rothenburg

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5 Things You Can Do In Sydney Under AUD50

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Sydney is one of the world’s most exciting, multi-cultural and best looking cities in the world.  There is always something happening no matter what your interests and objectives are.  You could see a show at the Sydney Opera House, take a harbour cruise, visit Madame Tussauds, take a walking tour or head off up to the mountains to enjoy the views there.

You don’t need a large wallet to do these things.  isango! brings you 5 activities that you can do in Sydney under AUD50.

Sydney Opera House Tour

Opers house sydney

This tour of one of the most iconic buildings in the world is an eye-opener.  Your perspective will be from the inside out.  Did you know that the Sydney Opera House became a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 28 June 2007?  Your guide will take you through the interior of the Sydney Opera House giving the facts, figures and drama that make up the story behind it.  You will see the 10,000 pipe Grand Organ, the Concert Hall and the massive glass windows of the Opera Wing that give you unbeatable views of Sydney Harbour.  Sydney Opera House comprises of multiple performance venues that hold about 2,500 performances every year.

Sydney Harbour Cruise
Get on board your ship at the famous Circular Quay and set out for an hour and a half of sheer night-time Sydney magic.  After a hard day of sightseeing it will be great to sit down and relax with a refreshing drink in hand.  Start your Sydney evening with a sunset cruise across the city’s world famous harbour.  Your cruise ship will drift smoothly past some of Sydney’s iconic sights such as the Sydney Opera House and under the unmistakable Sydney Harbour Bridge.  All of them enchantingly lit up.

Madame Tussauds

madame tussauds sydney

Where else could you get up close and cuddly with the likes of Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Albert Einstien, Ned Kelly, Captain Cook or Marilyn Monroe?  Maybe even sit next to Queen Elizabeth II?  Only at the newly opened Madame Tussauds Darling Harbour branch, Sydney of course!

Once again Madame Tussauds’ unbelievably real wax models provides an eclectic mix of stars from history, sport, film, music, culture and science.  With 75 iconic personalities from the past and present you won’t get a better opportunity to interact, mingle and pose with your favourite celeb.

Kings Cross Razorhurst Walking Tour
What a time!  What an era!  Sydney in the 1920s and 30s was a heck of a town.  Explore that seamy, violent underworld driven period when Tilly Devine, Kate Leigh and Nellie Cameron ruled most of Sydney through their razor-wielding henchmen.

Your Razorhurst tour will take you to the places where these ‘ladies’ operated.  Kate Leigh ran more than 20 sly groggeries.  Tilly famed as the ‘Queen of the Bordellos’ ran the biggest and most profitable brothel network in Sydney while Nellie Cameron refined the art of ‘gingering.’  For two hours you will learn about a Sydney that very few Sydneysiders know.

Hop-on-Hop-off Blue Mountain Explorer Bus Tour

Blue mountains sydney

After the frenetic pace of Sydney you should take off for an easy, relaxed trip to the fabled Blue Mountains.  On a clear day you can see them from Sydney – inviting you to explore.  Declared a World Heritage site, a visit to the Blue Mountains National Park is a perfect day trip.

The best option is the Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour.  You drive through some magnificent country with the option of stopping off so you can explore tempting forest trails, plunging waterfalls and a ride on the Katoomba Scenic Railway – the steepest in the world.  Then there are the towering Three Sisters and the Everglades Gardens to make your day full, wonderful and totally idyllic.

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Cappadocia: An Astounding Oddity

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Located in the Anatolian region of Turkey, Cappadocia is an unusual and truly unique area. It is a rugged land of deep ravines, bizarrely shaped rocks, cliffs and pinnacles that don’t look earth-like. It is an extraordinary landscape that will make your jaw drop and imagination lift off.

Here are some interesting facts about this odd place that seems to have come straight out of a sci-fi movie. Human imagination, though, would find it difficult to conjure up such a setting.

Fairy Chimneys Cappadocia

Name Calling

Cappadocia has been known by several names through the centuries. The ancient Scythians called it Khepatukha, meaning “the country of the people of the great god Hepat.” One can hear echoes of that name in the present one. The early Persians called it Katpatuka, which is thought to mean “the land of the beautiful horses.” The name could also have come from the Hittites, who ruled this area, meaning “low country.”

The Ancient Greeks gave it their version and called it Kappadokia. When the Christians came along it was renamed Cappadocia, which is the widely used name today. The locals however still call it Kapadokya.

Home

Despite the harshness of the area Cappadocia has been important in the history of the region and human beings have lived here for a long, long time. The rock is volcanic and soft, ideal for tunneling and carving. Complementing the work of nature, humans have cut and burrowed a vast network of living quarters, monasteries, churches, stables, and storehouses. So extensive are the connections that they have formed entire towns with as many as eight underground stories. Some of these amazing underground cities are Derinkuyu, Ihlara Valley, Selime, Kaymakli and Belisirma.

Surprisingly this moon-land has excellent agricultural soil. Many vegetables and fruit are grown here. It is also the main grape-growing area for the Anatolian region with many prolific vineyards.

and Sanctuary

It used to be on the boundaries of one the of the Greek, Persian and Roman empires. These competing powers created an unsettled situation for the Cappadocians who needed a refuge and found them by tunneling into the rock itself. The inhospitable landscape and isolation were perfect conditions that kept them safe from outside power struggles.

The early Christians also escaped to this place to shelter from the persecution of the Roman Empire. They created a large defence network of traps leading to their caves and in them too. The traps included large round stones that could block doors and ceiling holes from which they could hurl spears and other weapons on attackers.

Fairyland

The Cappadocian region is made up of sedimentary rocks and also material from volcanoes of 9 million years ago. The land has been eroded by strong winds and water action into amazing shapes. The harder elements of the rock have turned into pillars, minaret-like towers, cones, pinnacles, fairytale chimneys (over 130 feet tall) and mushrooms. Nature’s handiwork has been added to by humans.

Cappadocia turkey

Such has been the forces – human and nature – at work that the area has been declared a World Heritage site. Nature continues to do its magic, converting human action into more magical conditions.

Cappadocia in the Movies

The extraordinary topography and landscape of Cappadocia has made it a cinematic magnet for many filmmakers from across the world. So far more than 193 movies, shows, series and documentary films of 32 countries have been shot here.

The Turks do a lot of shooting here and so do the Japanese. Some of the notable films using Cappadocia as a location are Nicolas Cage’s Ghost Rider II, Jean Reno’s Empire of the Wolves, the sci-fi movie Slipstream and Pasolini’s Medea. The region also features in many popular video games such as Vampire: The Masquerade, and Assassin’s Creed.

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What’s New On isango! – August 2014

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Well, the travel season has really taken off and isango! has some fine offerings for you to check out.  So pack up your travel bags and come fly with us to a variety of destinations around the world.

Vienna Evening Bike Tour
Vienna has managed to preserve its architectural landmarks that make it such a charming city.  One is swept away to an older elegant time after walking or cycling down its unsullied boulevards.  The beauty of the Ringstrasse, flanked by an unbroken stretch of magnificent buildings including the Burgtheater, is matched by the unhurried flow of water in the Donaukanal or the soaring spires of St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

The Historic Centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Once, the capital of the Hapsburg dynasty, Vienna retains much of the cultural cross pollination of its heyday.  Its imperial past is there for all to see, especially in such fine buildings as the Oper and the Börse.  All these are illuminated in the evening adding to their appeal.

The Singapore Flyer with Free Hop-On Hop-Off ticket
Getting on the Singapore Flyer is really going for the heights.  Till just a short while ago, it was the tallest observation wheel in the world.  It has now achieved the status of a Singapore icon.  With 28 air-conditioned capsules mounted outboard, you enjoy unobstructed views on the entire 32 minute ride.

Singapore Flyer 1

The best time to ride the Flyer is probably around sunset when the light gives the skyscrapers a mystic feel.  The Flyer is the best place to see and get a feel for the beauty of Singapore.  As a bonus you get views of Malaysia and Indonesia. Also, you get a free Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing pass with this tour!

Sydney Harbour Tall Ship “Convict” Cruise
This tour is not what it sounds like.  You don’t sweat it out in the galley.  You get to do it in style with a glass of champagne, wine or beer and a grand buffet lunch while sailing past Sydney’s magnificent skyline in a genuine 1850s tall ship.

Sydney harbour convict cruise

The journey around beautiful Sydney harbour also includes a tour of Goat Island, which witnessed important events in Sydney’s history.  Your guide will give you very entertaining and interesting facts about the history of the convicts.

At the Top: Burj Khalifa
The view of Dubai and the surrounding area is simply spectacular from the 124th floor of the world’s tallest man-made structure.  In conjunction with the other attractions, the Burj Khalifa has put Dubai on the world tourism map.  Even the journey to the top of the building is an adventure.  From the reception you get on to a ‘travelator.’  This 65 metre trip is a history lesson of Dubai.  The ascent to the observation deck is via a high-speed elevator that does funny things to your tummy.

burj khalifa day 1

The Burj is an engineering and urban masterpiece.  Once you are on the observation deck and looking at the vista spread out, you get a real understanding of Dubai’s remarkable vision and achievements.

Lunch at the Berlin TV Tower
One of the really great places to see all of Berlin is from the TV Tower.  The tower (also known as the Berliner Fernsehturm) is the city’s tallest structure at 368 metres.  There is a panoramic viewing level at 203 metres that gives you a fabulous view of Berlin.

Another great and unforgettable experience is to sit down and have a meal at the elegant revolving restaurant.  Located just above the viewing area, the restaurant revolves once every hour – just the right amount of time for you to have your meal and admire Berlin from your table.

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Body Worlds Exhibition: The Happiness Project, Amsterdam

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If, like me, you thought that happiness was all in the mind, then a visit to the “Body Worlds: The Happiness Project” permanent exhibit in Amsterdam is in order. It will give you an unusual view of the very close and physical connection between the human body and happiness.

The exhibition is the latest by Gunther von Hagens, a German anatomist. He invented the ‘plastination’ technique that preserves biological tissue. For this exhibition, he has presented the human body in ways that have not been seen before. The exhibits consist of more than 200 specimens of real donated human bodies assembled in a variety of lifelike poses and dissected to show various structures and systems of human anatomy. The bodies are arranged in an artistic way to demonstrate how our everyday activities affect us. Many of the bodies are arranged in graceful stop motion.

Body Worlds 2

The exhibition covers seven floors. You start on the top floor and work your way down. Each floor has a different theme, brilliantly set out, which keeps it very interesting and educational. The exhibits on each floor focus on different aspects of the body, examining the mind and body connection and how different health conditions affect behaviour.

The overall ‘happiness’ theme of the exhibition comprises of dissected human body parts. It also deals with a whole range of other themes such as movement, stress and sex. The body exhibits provide insights to diseases, functionality of different muscles and body parts. Each exhibit has information cards carrying interesting facts.

Body Worlds Exhibition: The Happiness Project shows off the human body in a wonderful combination of art and science.

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Five Fantastic Food Destinations

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At isango! we believe there are two essential yardsticks to measure your experiences when travelling.  One is seeing the sights and the other is sampling the food.  Here we give you a taste of what foods to look out for at five popular destinations.

Flavours of New York City
New York City has been and continues to be the gateway for people coming to the United States.  So you will find every ethnic and world cuisine available.  New York also prides itself on inventing many dishes and foods.

Manhattan Clam Chowder

Manhattan clam chowder

Taking a foodie tour of NYC is a delight for the taste buds.  Hot dogs and New York style pizzas in the East Village; a Manhattan clam chowder; Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches; savoury French quiche, and Mexican yucca are just some delights in store for you.  You could also try out a knish appetiser or some Greek spinach pie to go with a succulent lamb souvlaki.   Then there is a sinful choice of chocolates to top off your meal.

Lyon, Gastronomy and Beaujolais
Lyon’s ancient fame lay in its silk weaving industry.  That has however changed.  Over the centuries it has become known as the capital of French gastronomy and its renowned cuisine.  The city and municipality has a deliciously bewildering array of traditional Lyonnais restaurants, called bouchons, serving local dishes such as salade Lyonnais; marrons glacés; coussin de Lyon, sausages, duck pâte and roast pork, and local wines.

Marrons Glacés

Marrons Glaces

The Lyon bakeries, fromageries patisseries and chocolatiers continue to make their wines, breads, cheeses and chocolates the way have for centuries.  In addition to its gastronomic delights, the Lyon area is at the heart of Beaujolais wine region.

Tapas In Barcelona
Barcelona offers a variety of pleasures but none as staggering as tapas!  Choosing or even listing them is a near impossible task.  Salmon sashimi with cream cheese; honey and soy, or cod; passata and black olive pâté; fried fish and seafood, patatas bravas; Galician octopus and ensaladilla rusa; croquetas made with ham, fish, chicken or spinach are just some choices.

Tapas

Tapas Barcelona

Whether you are strolling down La Rambla or feasting your eyes on the fruit, vegetables, fish, cheese or meats of La Boqueria (Barcelona’s food market), you will never be far from a tapas bar.  So feel free to wade into one of them and pick out your choice.  Don’t forget to wash it down with some cava, wine or draught beer.

Bangkok & Food
The two are synonymous and no one needs coaxing to dig in to a plate of Pad Thai (or phat Thai).  Take a walk down any street in Bangkok and you will be constantly reminded of food.  The innumerable fragrances waft out at you from myriad street stalls and restaurants.

Yong Tau Foo

yong tau foo

Thai street food is the safest and tastiest in the world and probably the most reasonably priced too.  Whether it be juicy pieces of grilled pork on a stick or a fiery bowl of ‘Tom Yum’ soup or Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup) or good yong tau foo and pork stew with green chilli dip, you will find it really difficult to pass it up or stop eating.  Thai food is among the most appetising and popular cuisines in the world and it is an exciting experience to take a cooking class and learn how to make some!

When In Rome – Eat
That’s right!  Food in Rome is just as fascinating as the Colosseum, the churches and the Vatican museums.  Roman cuisine is some of the most delicious in Italy.  It is based on seasonal ingredients, plenty of fresh vegetables, meat and cheeses.  All put together in a simple way.  Lamb roasted with herbs and spices is a very important part of the cuisine so is pizza, of course.  In Rome they have three different ways of making pizza but a Roman characteristic is that it is thin with no lip to the crust.

Pizza

rome pizza

The Testaccio is the best place to find the original and traditional Roman food.  Another great place is the Rione Monti area, a stone’s throw away from the Colosseum, where you will find a range of authentic Italian delicacies in local family run shops and pizzerias.

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Ireland: Poetry In Everything

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Ireland inspires superlative, yet you will run out of them very quickly when trying to describe it.  It is an island whose beautiful countryside and long history have inspired more songs and poems than any other place on earth.  The green of this Emerald Isle is not just the colour of its landscape; it is an apt description of a jewel.

There is much to Ireland beyond her scenic wonders.  Ireland’s magic is also largely due to her history and culture.  It is a land of legends and mystery.  There is a story to every rock and glen and even more in the pubs!

Geography & Climate

Liffey River

Ireland has mountains running along most of its coast making a ring around a central plain and several lakes.  It has a number of rivers including the Liffey, Barrow, Boyne, Bann and Shannon which is the longest.  Ireland’s landscape has a range of moods such as wild Donegal, lonely Connemara and the soft, gentle hills of the southeast.  The western coast is famous for its rugged cliffs, islands and beaches.

Ireland has a relatively mild but very changeable climate because of the influence of the Atlantic Ocean, the Irish and the Celtic Seas.

Culture
Irish culture is broadly defined as being Gaelic but it is a combination of influences going back for more than 1200 years.  The Vikings, Normans, Welsh, English and Scots came, stayed and made significant imprints that are distinctively ‘Irish.’  Ireland has contributed mightily to the world but most extensively to literature, theatre and music.  Religion too has a strong sway on the Irish nation.  Thus, leading it to be called, “the island of saints and scholars.”

At almost any given time of the year, there are lively arts, theatre and music festivals in full swing – particularly in Dublin.  At almost every pub you will hear traditional (or “trad”) music full of upbeat jigs, clever lyrics and heart-tugging ballads.

Cities
Without exception Irish cities are beautiful.  They are packed with history, great architecture, pretty houses and winding cobblestoned streets making them sightseers’ and photographers’ treat.  Every city emits a lively atmosphere, has good food, warm, welcoming pubs and festivals aplenty.  The names themselves are poetry to the ears – Dublin, Cork, Kilkenny, Killarney, Galway, Sligo, Waterford, and of course Limerick.

Places to See

cliffs of moher ireland

Ireland has three World Heritage Sites: Brú na Boinne (superb Neolithic monuments), Skellig Michael and the Giant’s Causeway.  There are loads of other fabulous and fascinating locations to check out such as the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands and County Galway.  Ireland is awash (forgive the expression) with impressive forts and castles.  Bunratty Castle, the Rock of Cashel, Holy Cross Abbey and Blarney Castle are just some outstanding structures and historically important. One could go on and on…

Best Time To Visit
Weather-wise, summer of course is the best time to travel to Ireland.  Also because it is the theatre, fashion, arts and music festival season.  However, late spring and early autumn are also lovely times on the island – without the crowds.
Whatever time of year you visit, a must-drink pint of Guinness at a thatched roofed pub; some trad music floating through the air; postcard scenery and you will find the Ireland you came to experience.

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La Tomatina 2014 – The World’s Biggest Food Fight

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It takes a special kind of person to want to get pelted by great big red squishy tomatoes.  Apparently there are literally tens of thousands of folks, around the world, who enjoy this treat.  So when August comes rolling around, they all head off to the normally quiet little Spanish town of Buñol (population: 9,000).  Once there, they take part in what is probably the biggest outdoor voluntary ketchup-making process – using hands, feet and other parts of the body to do so.

If you are planning to participate in this annual saucy affair, there are some things you should know about La Tomatina and its traditions.

La tomatina

Interesting Background Information

•    La Tomatina takes place on the last Wednesday of August, every year.
•    It originated in 1945.
•    Unlike other Spanish festivals, La Tomatina has no religious roots.  It began when some young men were not allowed to participate in the Giants and Big-Heads parade.  They started up a tomato fight in the Plaza del Pueblo becoming an instant success.
•    The fun and games begin when people try to climb a greasy two-storey pole to get hold of a ham tied at the top.
•    The tomato fight takes place in the town centre – the Plaza del Pueblo.
•    Before the event a large number of trucks bring in the tomatoes (generally from the Extremadur area).
•    The actual tomato throwing begins at exactly 11am – signalled by the firing of the canon.
•    The tomato fights last exactly one hour.
•    There are no teams.  It is every man and woman for themselves.
•    The chaos ends when the cannon is fired again.
•    By the end of the fight about 140 tonnes of tomatoes have been flung, squashed and pulped.
•    The town authorities then move in with fire truck and hose down the square to flush the tomato pulp.  The acidity of the tomatoes ensures that the ground is sparkling clean.
•    Since the crowds (over 50,000 in 2012) have grown too large to be accommodated in the Plaza, the town council has started limiting the number of participants by selling only 20,000 tickets.  Each ticket costs €10.
•    No ticket, No Entry!  There is no place to watch the tomato fight.

Tips & Rules
Before you go slinging tomatoes you should know and understand…

•    Squash the tomatoes before you throw.  Others could get hurt.
•    No tomatoes can be thrown after the second cannon shot.
•    No other objects are allowed to be thrown.
•    Watch out ladies!  T-shirts should not be torn off (your own or others) but this is seldom heeded.
•    Wear eye protectors such as goggles.
•    Don’t carry cameras, mobile phones, passports or other important documents.  Actually don’t carry anything.
•    Don’t wear flip-flops.  Instead wear covered shoes that you can discard after the fight.
•    Wear old clothes, or clothes you aren’t planning on wearing again.

After the chaotic fight and clean up, Buñol turns into one big party place with wine, cava and sangria flowing with really loud throbbing music to dance to.  Some organisers and sponsors have taken to organising a La Tomatina after parties.  Incredible!

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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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