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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 ‘Sightseeing & Culture’

Holidays are Brits’ number one priority

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Britons say that a holiday is more important than anything elseBritons consider holidays to be the most important factor for their happiness new research has revealed.

A Kayak.co.uk poll of more than 1,000 adults found that 90 per cent of respondents said taking at least one holiday a year is one of the five most important factors that contribute to their overall happiness.

In contrast, 73 per cent said owning their own home was important, 63 per cent listed being in a relationship as one of their five main issues while just 42 per cent named starting a family.

Meanwhile, more than a third of those questioned said they would ditch dining out and shopping for clothes and household goods to afford their holiday.

Annie Wilson, business development director of Kayak.co.uk, said: "As a nation, we’ve always been much more likely to explore the four corners of the earth than to buy the latest flat screen TV.

"There’s just something intoxicating to us about being somewhere else – whether it’s visiting a familiar hideaway or checking off a personal list of ‘must sees’."

Culture and Sightseeing – City Tours – Whichever city you are in these tours will help to ensure you do not miss a thing.
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Dubai Atlantis set to open on time

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Dubai's new hotel might rival Burj Al Arab The long-awaited Atlantis hotel and entertainment complex is right on schedule to open on September 24, according to reports.

Located at the head of The Palm Jumeirah, with sweeping views both out to the Gulf and down the spine of the Palm back to Dubai, the development is valued at around $1.5 billion (£7.25 billion), Gulf News said.

Atlantis has 1,539 rooms spread between the East and West towers. There are a total of 150 suites, including two presidential suites and 35 regal suites. Average prices start at around $454 (£227) per night.

The connecting bridge between the two towers is the 924-square metre Bridge Suite, which costs a massive $25,000 (£12,600) per night and is still under construction.

There are also 17 food and beverage outlets and around 23 boutique shops, and a waterpark which houses 28 dolphins brought to Dubai from the Solomon Islands.

Jim Boocher, president of development at Kerzner International, the managers of Atlantis, told Gulf News that the difference between the complex and other hotels is that it can be considered a "destination hotel", rather than simply an accommodation provider.

Dubai – A true modern metropolis Dubai boasts a fine range of tourist facilities including the refined Burj al Arab hotel.
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Belfast Bap Festival

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The festival has several walking toursRunning from July 7th to 10th, the Belfast Bap Festival is in memory of liberal and reformer Bernard ‘Barney’ Hughes, Master Baker, famous for feeding the city’s people with his loaves during the famine.

Events at Belfast’s newest festival include walking tour of Friars Bush Cemetery on July 8th, where people can visit the graves of Barney Hughes and his wife among others.

That evening the best of Belfast’s Irish folk musicians perform at a traditional Irish music session.

On July 9th there is another walking tour, this time of Belfast City Centre where people can see the many of the sites associated with Barney Hughes.

A special concert featuring the songs, stories and poems of Old Belfast with Jane Cassidy and Maurice Leyden takes place that evening.

All music performances take place at the John Hewitt.

During the festival a special menu will be available, while Hilden Brewery will produce a very special one-off beer, made from the same ingredients of the first Belfast Bap.

Seniors – Historic Tours – From the Roman Empire to the second world war, these tours bring world history to life.
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Brits opt for driving holidays to cut costs

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Nearly 12 million Britons are choosing driving holidaysNearly 12 million Britons are choosing to go on driving holidays in order to save costs, research by AA Personal Loans has found.

Almost half of Britons (46 per cent) are opting to spend at least one of their holidays in the UK this year, with three out of four (75 per cent) saying they plan to use their car for trips within the UK and Europe in order to cut costs or avoid travel stress.

Some respondents also said they were opting to avoid air travel this year because they are concerned about the impact this has on the environment.

Mark Huggins, head of AA Personal Loans, said: "Our survey shows people are being smart with their money when booking holidays this summer. People are also thinking carefully about buying smaller cars to save money but it is important to make sure the car you choose is suitable for going on long holiday journeys, with enough room for all your passengers and luggage."

Londoners were most likely to opt for driving holidays to avoid stress, while the Welsh would choose them to cut costs.

Culture and Sightseeing – City Tours – Whichever city you are in these tours will help to ensure you do not miss a thing.
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Hollywood, Bollywood and Beyond

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Allow me a few minutes to open your eyes to a whole new world of cinema.

I have already discussed behind-the-scenes Hollywood adventures, which, depending on your tastes and interests, can be as exotic and exciting as a Wadi Rum excursion in Jordan, or as simple and enjoyable as a Universal Studios theme park ride in Los Angeles. Perhaps that blog has even inspired you to plan a global ‘Hollywood’ tour of your own…

I ask you now to consider the following riddle:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

-ollywood.

How many word combinations can you think of?

I predict that it will only be a matter of years before (H)ollywood takes over every consonant (and continent).

Or has it already?

You see, my new flatmates are very tech-savvy and have purchased the most comprehensive satellite package on the market, which streams into our place through three huge, trendy flat screens. I haven’t had the luxury of cable TV since I left home after high school, so I obviously spent my first 3 nights in the apartment, glued to the tube. It was like Dorothy meets Oz + audience meets Technicolor = all encompassed in a glorious, 21st century, living room moment. continue reading

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Dating Advice from Birdman

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It’s springtime, and love is in the air…

My undergraduate biology professor was, I recall fondly, the most eager ornithologist alive; I’ve never, ever experienced a person with such passion for his field. His descriptions, slideshows and enactments of Bowerbird courtship nesting rituals were more animated than the dances of a Broadway ‘Simba’ on acid. I just wish I could remember his name….let’s call him Birdman.

“He’s a bird watcheeer…he’s a bird watcher…watchin’ birds go by: my, my, myyyy…”

I learned a thing or two from Birdman; first of all, that, if all men behaved like Bowerbirds, the world would truly be a better place—meaning that women would constantly be showered with attention, affection and personalized, heartfelt gifts (sigh!). The elaborate nest-constructing rituals of the Bowerbird are like none other on the planet.

Picture this scenario:

It’s a warm, bright spring afternoon on beautiful Fraser Island, Australia, and romance is in the air. Benny, the blue Satin continue reading

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DANCE Around the World…

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Everyone needs a little bit of song, dance and frivolity to break up the monotony of the daily grind. When’s the last time you let loose on the dance floor? Experimented with a hot, new set of moves?

Did you know that, for some people, the daily grind actually centers around such activity?

No, I’m not just talking about the West End cast of Joseph and the fictional plot of Hairspray.

Or the hardcore, hard drug club-goers with the glow-in-the-dark thingies…

I’m talking about groups of people all over the world—from Durban to Tjapukai—who use dance as a key form of communication in their daily lives.

This is not to say that you—the occasional club-goer—are exempt from such behavioral classifications.

Though I will be focusing on cultural immersion trips and dance excursions (below), I would like to first note few examples of cultural expression via dance that are a bit closer to home. continue reading

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Nintendo Wii Fit Launch, London’s South Bank

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Has anyone else in this city experienced the thrills and joys of the Nintendo Power Pad?

Europeans may recall its sister product, the colorful, interactive Family Fun Fitness mat, which, like the Power Pad, was wired with (then) cutting-edge movement sensors. Both devices provided competitive, humorous exercise outlets for the whole fam. Born in the late 80’s, these wonderful gadgets were, to my knowledge, the first and only of their kind.

“Power Pad Day” used be the highlight of my week—my friends and I would gather in front of the basement TV, ceremonially unroll the sleek, smooth electronic mat and stomp our ways to virtual Track and Field victories. Indeed, it was the classic Nintendo Entertainment System that provided us with our favorite form of indoor fun. We would scheme for hours on end: how to master the triple jump? The hurdle relay? Can we “trick” the system by sneakily stepping off of the Pad, thus extending our Long Jumps to superhuman distances? Oh, the possibilities…

After its seven year tenure, the Power Pad was (circa ’95) sadly discontinued (in conjunction with its game system counterpart). But I, of course, proudly looked after our NES and beloved PP through my late teens; for, though my brother and I were privy to the graphic wonders of N64, nothing compared to a bit of old-fashioned, World Class Track Meet fun. continue reading

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Honouring England’s Patron Saint (a valiant American attempt)

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Yesterday, I decided to take on St. George’s Day in full force. My approach: to immerse myself in the day’s festivities and absorb as much English tradition as possible, all the while remaining in tourist “stealth mode”—i.e. no white sneakers, no camera flashes, and only soft-spoken enquiries, so as to draw minimal attention to the good old American accent.

What better place to go, I thought, than to London’s South Bank, home of lively street performances, history, art, culture and oodles of bustling pubs/cafes?

I started off at what I presumed would be a central hub of activity—a sacred edifice dedicated to the man of the day: St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark.

George, was I wrong! The cathedral was virtually empty when I arrived 15 minutes prior to the “special” guided tour. Where were all of the church-goers? The pride-filled locals? The curious tourists? continue reading

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Cultural Adventures, Part II: Spain

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Following my guide to eccentric past times in the UK, I have outlined some of the most intriguing traditions and festivals to experience this year in España.

As I noted before, there is still time to make 2008 a year of cultural adventure! So take a chance, and discover some of Europe’s most bewildering and unconventional pastimes.

A guide to some of Spain’s most unique celebrations.

1. La Diada de Sant Jordi (Lovers’ Day).
What
: Like Valentine’s Day, except boys get books (?)
Where: Barcelona, Spain.
When: 23 April 2008.

Get ready for a little spring sunshine…and lots of Latin love!

This April, hopeless romantics will unite in the streets of Barcelona to honor Saint George, who, like our man Valentine, inspires thousands of young lovers to make their passions public via reciprocal gift giving. Stroll down Las Ramblas, and immerse yourself in the amorous buzz as you delight in street performances, quirky architecture, and, of course, the colorful merchandise of nearly every florist and book seller in Catalonia! Join in on the tradition: gentleman, woo your novias with roses, and ladies, make your men blush with some heartfelt selections of prose. continue reading

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