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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 ‘Relaxation & Romance’

Romantic Winter Getaways (Part 1)

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In this first of a two part series, we feature romantic experiences around the world, handpicked by us for you and your loved one to experience in the cold cold months. We’ve covered all geographies and topographies so you have a diverse set of experiences to choose from. We’ve hit the Arctic Lapland, glamour capital Miami, canals of Venice, sunny Mexico, Scottish Highlands and artistic Budapest. 

1) SEEING THE NORTHERN LIGHTS AND REINDEER SLEIGH SAFARI, FINLAND

Northern Lights in FinlandCreate memories of a lifetime as you and your partner witness nature’s finest lightshow in Finnish Lapland.  Aurora Borealis or the northern lights paints the night sky in greens, violets and blues in the darkest winter months. Be part of this mystical phenomenon by chasing the lights between December and April, when all you have for company is the frosted forest, a blanket of snow, stories of the Arctic from your guide and Finnish style hot berry juice by the campfire.  For more fun in the Arctic wilderness, be sure to visit the reindeer farm and dash through the snow on a reindeer sleigh safari

2) PRIVATE GONDOLA RIDE FOR TWO, VENICE, ITALY

Venice by eveningA private gondola ride for two in Venice is the perfect occasion to pop the question. Wait till early evening when the crowds are gone and the light is right. On this gondola ride you glide through your own private Venice far from the hubbub of modern tourism. Glide through hidden canals, cross landmark bridges amongst Venetian gothic architecture and reflect on once upon a time grandeur. Prebook your gondola ride without having to haggle for the price at the destination.


3) LOBSTER DINNER CRUISE CANCUN,  MEXICO

If your perfect romantic getaway involves being surrounded by clear turquoise blue waters and walking on white sandy beaches then head to Cancun - Mexico’s premiere coastal destination. Opt for a sunset cruise on board the Spanish Galleon Colombus where you and your partner can enjoy gorgeous views of the Caribbean sea while you dine on delicious seafood and unlimited fine wine as the relaxing music of saxophone fills the air.  

4) MIAMI BEACH WEDDING, FLORIDA, USA

Tropical beach weddingIf you both love the outdoors, why not exchange your wedding vows in an outdoor wedding ceremony with soft sand under your feet, gushing ocean waves and cool sea breeze for company? The warm glow of the setting sun will give you lush photo opportunities to capture your special day. 

 

5) LOCH NESS, GLENCOE AND THE HIGHLANDS DAY TOUR FROM EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND

Scotland castlePerfect getaway for couples who relish myths, folktales and legends – Scotland is abundant with such stories. Experience the rugged beauty of the Highlands as you walk through ancient ruins of magnificent palaces and fortresses strewn along the coast. Soak yourself in the misty beauty of Glencoe, voted as Scotland’s most romantic glen in a poll. Centuries of Scottish history shall come alive as you pass from one charming town to another, crossing many a lochs in the stunning Scottish landscapes.

6) THE CHAMPAGNE REGION: TASTINGS AT MOET & CHANDON AND HOUSE OF MUMM, CHAMPAGNE, FRANCE

Champagne in the vineyardWe know that Paris never gets old, however a short day trip from Paris to the  Champagne-Ardenne region encapsulates a quintessential French experience unlike no other. Start your day exploring the quaint streets of Reims, known throughout the world for its sparkling wine, Champagne and follow it up with a guided tour of Reims UNESCO World Heritage Cathedral. Journey through Rheims Mountain Regional Park in the Epernay region where you can get a tour of the Moët & Chandon wine cellars. Get a real sense of the history and how the champagne is produced, along with tasting sessions and plenty of opportunity to stock up on your favourite champagne! 

 

7) NEW YEAR’S EVE CELEBRATIONS IN BUDAPEST

What can be more romantic than welcoming the New Year on a boat on the Danube? Partake in the bonhomie created by live Hungarian gypsy music, and traditional folk dances. Watch the illuminated landmarks of the city from the comfort of your boat, while you tuck into some delicious Hungarian food. A boat trip on the river ensures a memorable New Year's Eve party in the Hungarian capital.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this feature…

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Exploring the Solomon Islands

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Solomon Islands

To paraphrase the poet, ‘if there is a heaven, this is it, this is it, this is it!

When you approach the Solomon Islands by air or even by ship all your senses are stunned by the sheer beauty of these gems sprinkled across 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) of the Southwest Pacific Ocean. They comprise of about 992 green isles that total up to 28,400 square kilometres.

One usually gets there by air. The airport in the capital city, Honiara is on the island of Guadalcanal. Thereafter to get around to the other islands you have to do it by boat, which can be quite exhilarating and an adventure itself.

The Solomons are home to just over half a million people. You are not going to see too many of them though as they are scattered all over the place with many of them quite isolated from other folks. They speak 74 local languages (according to Ethnologue, Languages of the World).  Don’t bother trying to count.

The beaches are simply superb and seem to be a product of your dreams. The surf is pretty good all year. Silvery soft sands fringed by green trees that contrast with the blue of the sea are enough to get you thinking about never going back home.

The beach-based activities are a-plenty – swimming, snorkelling, diving, kayaking, fishing, island-cruising and of course surfing. The great part about indulging in these activities is that there is hardly anybody around to cramp your style.

Another great option (my favourite) is to lie in a hammock on the beach and watch the sunsets. But then this is what you want right? None of that hectic, got-to-do-something-all-the-time stuff. These isles are meant to be enjoyed with the ‘lazy quotient’ in plenty.  

Away from the beaches the islands have lush green valleys and forested mountains that provide breathtaking views of the seas around and the tiny, picturesque villages. If you like trekking and sweating it out (the Solomon Islands are extremely humid all year round) then you should go bushwalking. There are movie perfect waterfalls, caves, sheer ridges with single tracks to enchant you en route.

The islands are home to several volcanoes. Most of them are dormant with two Tinakula and Kavachi sort-of active. Everyone will tell you that Tinakula is due for a blow. They are worth taking the walk to look at.

While accommodation and facilities can be terrifically erratic – flush toilets are a premium – you could enjoy the pleasures of a ‘village stay’ to experience the ancient lifestyle of the Solomon Island tribes.

Some Local Insights

The boat services are erratic and can involve waiting. There are not too many hotels, resorts or guest houses. The infrastructure is pretty much non-existent. The Solomon Islands suffer from accessibility difficulties. Many of them are uninhabited too.

Many of the beaches are privately owned and you need permission from owners or families to lie around or surf at them. The Solomon Islands are still largely owned by the various tribes who are governed by a whole set of local customs and traditions. It can be rather tiresome too as you very often need permissions from local chiefs, police and even the visitors bureau.

Things are improving all the time and are no reason not to visit the Solomon Islands. Who said that paradise had to be perfect?  At any rate the experiences and magic of the place will wipe away any memories of inconveniences. Your heart will see to that.
 

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Top 5 Things To-Do in Finland

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     Hiding in the Northern part of Europe is the beautiful, Nordic country of Finland. Bordered by Sweden to the west, Norway to the North and Russia to the east, Finland has always lied beneath the shadows of its neighboring European countries. Known for it’s snowy climate, excellent education and peaceful economy, Finland is an ideal destination for relaxation and perfection. The following list is a countdown to the Top 5 things to do in Finland!

5. Husky Dog-Sled Safari
     If Cool Runnings is your favorite movie, then the Husky Dog-Sled Safari is for you! The tour begins with a heart warming meeting with you’re friendly husky team. Once acclimated with your crew, begin your journey through the majestic forests and magnificent mountains of Rovaniemi, Finland.

4. Find the North Pole
     Get as close to Santa as possible with a Reindeer Farm Visit and Sleigh Ride in Lapland. Santa might be hard to find at this time of the year, but his trust reindeer are there to lead the way. With a complimentary hot juice or coffee, this sleigh ride is a perfect activity for family and friends.

3. Rauna Wildlife Park
     If reindeer are not exotic enough for you, make sure you check out the Rauna Wildlife Park. Located in Rovaniemi, and is the northernmost zoo in the world, the park is filled with exotic and unique animals that you will not be able to find in the London Zoo!

2. Helsinki
     Opposite of Rovaniemi is the southern city of Helsinki. Filled with breathtaking artwork and the largest maritime fortress in the world, this city is filled with adventure and magic. The Helsinki card grants you access to all major sights and over 50 museums. This card is the best way to immerse yourself in the Finnish culture. 

1. Hunt for the Northern Lights
     You do not want to miss out on the chance to see the greatest light show on earth! Allow the moon to light up your path to the most radiant sky illumination in the world! The Northern Lights is a Finland staple and should not be missed! 

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Top 5 Reasons To Visit Belgium

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            Best known for it’s authentic beer, rich chocolate, and delightful waffles, Belgium’s food reputation over powers its historic character and diverse atmosphere. A destination filled with history, food, sightseeing, and relaxation, Belgium is one of Europe’s most unseen countries. If you are still contemplating on whether or not Belgium is for you, here are 5 reasons as to why Belgium is a must see European country.

1.     Notorious for it’s chocolates, waffles, and fries, Belgium has food that is easy to find in any other country but more authentic when found in Belgium. From unique fry toppings to flawless chocolate shops, the cultural food of Belgium is one of a kind.

2.     You might have tasted Belgian beer before in a country of your own, but nothing compares to an actual Belgian beer in Belgium! From strong beers that will knock you off your bar stool to over 400 different types of Beer at the Delirium bar, make sure you pace yourself when experiencing this part of the Belgian culture.

3.     Hidden in the shadows of Brussels, are the marvelous cities of Bruges and Ghent. Just a short train ride away from the countries capital, these two cities will astonish you with their medieval architecture and serene demeanor.

4.     Compared to Bruges and Ghent, Brussels is a modern city that not only is the capital of Belgium, but the European Union as well. However do not let its modernism fool you, Brussels has some medieval secrets of its own.

5.     Giving Berlin a bit of competition, Brussels’ nightlife has been emerging over the years. With many bars and restaurants open until 6 in the morning, you can find anything from tequila bars to seafood restaurants to put up camp for the night.

So before you plan your next trip to an overpopulated city or a remote island, think about the distinctive beers you can try in Brussels, the delectable chocolates in Bruges, the great waffles in Ghent, and the medieval secrets residing beneath your feet and book Belgium!

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Venice Rides of Love

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(Valentine’s Day Special)
Love in the air
Paris may be the branded weekend get-away for Valentine’s Day, but lying among the Venetian Lagoon is one of Europe’s most romantic cities. This Valentine’s Day, break out from the norm and take your sweetheart to the passionate Italian city of Venice. Located in Northeast Italy, Venice is made up of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. Best known for its historic Gondola Rides, Venice is the place to be this Valentine’s Day. However not every Gondola Ride is the same, from ones that serve dinner to ones that sing, here’s a list of Gondola rides that will enhance your love this Valentine’s Day.
Venice Gondola Ride
1. Gondola Serenade: This gondola ride is not just a pretty view of the Grand Canal and backstreets of Venice. While riding through the ‘the finest street in the world’ allow your Gondolier to serenade you and your darling with a romantic, Italian love song.

2. Discover Love: If you and your loved one are more of the adventurous type, then the Discover Venice & Gondola Ride is for you! A combination of Gondola ride and walking tour, experience the romance as well as the history Venice has to offer.

3. Dinner And A Show: Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Take your Valentine on a romantic Gondola ride, with a three-course meal and of course no Gondola ride is complete without a gondolier serenade.

4. Ultimate Ride: A private intimate ride, a three-course a’la carte meal, and a romantic serenade, what more could your Valentine want? This Gondola ride is a sincere and loving way to tell your Valentine how much you love them.

This Valentine’s Day, there is no better way to show your Valentine how much they mean to you than with a Venice Gondola Ride.
 

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New Year’s Kiss

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New Year's Kiss A friend once told me that her New Year’s resolution was to be kissed as the clock struck twelve on the first day of the New Year. So here are some great and different places that I would suggest for that magical kiss with that special someone:

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Famous for its Carnival, Rio is also great destination any other time of year. This is one of the few times of the year that the locals join the tourists for a great time! This celebration is on par with their Carnival and the fireworks are absolutely amazing. Dress up in white and share that New Years kiss on the beaches of Rio! And you cannot come all the way to Brazil without experiencing its rainforests, can you?

Venice, Italy

This small city in Italy is perfect for a New Year’s kiss. On the last night of the year, many restaurants in Venice have feasts starting from 9p.m. and lasting until midnight, with great food and cheap wine. Also, in St. Mark’s Square there is a huge celebration with music, fireworks and a huge group kiss at midnight. And nothing spells romantic like a gondola ride through the canals of Venice!

Cape Town, South Africa

Welcome the New Year dancing in Cape Town! Some of the hottest parties and celebrations are held in this seaside city, and you can have your special New Years Kiss while on the beach. You of course will have to try the wine while in South Africa, for it rivals even Italy for quality!

Hong Kong, China

Although the Chinese Lunar New Year does not coincide with December 31st, there are still celebrations held in Hong Kong! You will not be at a loss to find a popping party the night of. Top the Hong Kong experience off with your New Years kiss while LED lights count down the last 60 seconds of the old year! You cannot forget the wonderful beauty outside Hong Kong either, for China is home to some of the most breathtaking sights.

Sydney, Australia

Although not as typically romantic as European cities, Sydney has a lot to offer. Enjoy your New Year’s kiss as some of the first New Year’s fireworks in the world explode in the night sky amid music! The best part of being in Sydney at the end of the year is that it is not wintertime; you will be coming in the height of summer. You can spend your days at the beach, dolphin spotting and enjoying the Australian lifestyle!

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Visiting Greece

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Greece is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations – ranking in the world’s top 20 countries. The country’s beaches and reliable sunny summer weather coupled with its nightlife, historical sites and natural beauty are what attract tourists. Let’s have a look at some of the more prominent places to see or do when visiting Greece:

Athens City Sightseeing : This enchanting capital of Greece has loads to offer with its many modern and classical sites. Its wonderful culture makes the city a centre for philosophy, learning and the arts. From Acropolis and Parthenon, Tower of Winds, Panathinaikos Stadium to the New Royal Palace, to the Temple of the Olympian Zeus and Zappeion Gardens, you’ll see why Greece is such a tourist top spot.

Zakynthos: For beaches, sun and relaxation, Zakynthos is your place. The island, named after Zacynthos, son of legendary Arcadian chief Dardanos has a thriving tourism industry. Its northern and eastern shores contain numerous wide sandy beaches that are always packed with tourists in summer months. One amazing small beach here in the north is the Xigia beach that has underwater springs rich in sulphur, giving it a characteristic odour.

Santorini: Santorini is famous for its dramatic view – with the island essentially the remains after an enormous volcanic explosion. It is also famous for its stunning sunsets from Oia town, its strange white aubergine, the town of Thira and naturally its very own active volcano.

There are also naturally fantastic beaches such as the beach of Perissa, the black pebble beach of Kamari, white beach and red beach. The Greek island of Santorini also beckons visitors to explore the beautiful Aegean waters framed by steeped cliffs rising hundreds of feet skyward.

Mykonos Island Tour: It is probably the most popular Greek island due to its cosmopolitan atmosphere, its nightlife and gay community, as well as its magnificent golden sandy beaches with transparent waters. Besides these, Mykonos Island also has small white painted houses lined in paved alleys and hundreds of little family churches.

All in all, Greece is such a beautiful place that one should visit at least once during one’s lifetime. It has so much to offer to say the least.

 

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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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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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Eat…Pray, Love

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You might wonder what taking a hop on hop off Rome tour, buying Last Supper tickets, and embarking upon a Venice gondola ride have in common with Julia Roberts. If you’ve seen her latest film, then you will know that one third of it takes place in Italy, where all three of the above experiences can be enjoyed. continue reading

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