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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 ‘Things to do in Europe’

Innocent Village Fete in London

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Enjoy live music and plenty of food and drink in the summer sunOn the weekend of August 2nd and 3rd, head to Regent’s Park to enjoy live music and plenty of food and drink at the Innocent Village Fete.

This festival is full of fun and entertainment – enjoy performances by The James Taylor Quartet, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and many more, or laugh along with the many comedians and storytellers.

Have a go at activities ranging from welly wagging to morris dancing, from ferret racing to duck herding.

For children, there is face painting, funfair rides, a flea circus and a petting zoo.

There will be a big farmers” market with stallholders from Borough Market, licensed real ale, cider and other bars, lots of lovely food, an arts and crafts area, places to picnic, a few smoothies, massages and a shady spot under the trees if it all gets a bit too much.

The fete is open from 11am to 7pm, and tickets cost £7.50 for adults and £3.50 for children.

London – Ride the London Eye, visit the Tower of London or take a day out the city to see Stonehenge.
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Chariot racing could return to Rome

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Chariot races could once again roar through RomeMany visitors to Rome hope to experience some of the ancient culture that has made the eternal city famous – however, few would expect to catch a full-blown chariot race.

But that”s exactly what could be on offer as the historical society Vadis Al Maximo hopes to stage a major chariot race event next year.

Speakung to ANSA, Vadis Al Maximo head, Franco Calo, explained: ””The event would last three days, starting on October 17, at the same period when the race took place in Roman times.

””If possible, we hope to involve charioteers from all over the world””

He said the society has plans to transform all the main squares of the capital into scenes from Ancient Rome, using props on loan from the Cinecitta film studios.

””According to our calculations, the Circus Maximus area could hold up to 35,000 people,”” he said.

In Roman times the course in the Circus Maximus could accommodate 12 chariots, each drawn by teams of four horses.

Rome – Visit some of the ancient landmarks such as the Colosseum or tour the opulent Vatican.
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Mama Mia! Mania: Behind the Scenes in Greece

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“(I would) fly to the beautiful Greek Isles, to a quiet marina, where I could introduce my wife to the boat that would take us island hopping – sailing from fishing village to fishing village…local ports fringed with tavernas…seafood washed down with the native wine whilst the blood-red sun kisses the Mediterranean sea `good night’…”

– Fred Harper, ‘Perfect Holiday’ Contest Entrant

Sparkling blue water, rugged coastal terrain, sailboats, sunshine, serenity, and fresh seafood (mmm…..)

…not to mention a strutting, overall-clad Meryl Streep, a feisty Julie Walters, a singing Pierce Brosnan, a glowing Amanda Seyfried……and, of course, a non-stop ABBA marathon.

Who’s seen Mama Mia! And doesn’t want to go to Greece?

I’m always skeptical of movie renditions of musicals, but, in this case, the big screen certainly exploits what the West End can’t: the absolutely breathtaking scenery of the Greek Islands.

Behind the Scenes in Skiathos and Skopelos

Just over a year ago, Streep, Brosnan, and the rest of the multi-talented Mama Mia! cast were staging 1970’s ABBA mayhem on remote islands of the Aegean sea…

It’s time to follow in the footsteps of the stars (and as well as the imagination of our contest entrant Fred) on the following tours:

1. Romantic Sunset Cruise in Skiathos.

If you’ve seen the film, it’s impossible not to imagine yourself as a blissful, young bride or groom to be, sheltered from the realities of the world on a little Greek slice of paradise. The amorous atmosphere of the Sophie’s dream island wedding lingers on the island of Skiathos, where a Calypso fishing boat awaits the next pair of lovebirds that desire a taste of Aegean seaside culture, music, cuisine and scenery.

The Skiathos ‘Music and Moonlight’ Sunset Cruise departs Tuesdays from 15 May – 15 October and is the perfect romantic outing for the adventurous duo. Indulge in freshly prepared island cuisine, feel the rhythms of the traditional Greek folk music, and dance your way into the sunset…..

2. Tour of Skopelos

Explore the magnificent setting of Donna’s infamously ‘rustic’ hotel—‘the greenest island in Greece’—by embarking on the Sporades Island Hopping Tour, which includes a stop at ‘Kalokairi Island’, or rather, Skopelos!

Your adventure will begin as you board a boat in the harbour of Skiathos, where some of Mama Mia’s most lively scenes were created. Coast across the sparkling Aegean until you arrive at what was, just under a year ago, the central hub of ABBA action—where Pierce Brosnan’s flip flops are now on display…and where the film’s fairytale church, Agios Ioannis, juts out over the sea on a magnificent, towering rock formation.

Your day will end with a stop at neighbouring Alonissos; you will return to Skiathos in time for a relaxing sunset meal.

Mama Mia! Here we go again…

May your romantic, island hopping adventure leave you ‘stranded’ at an isolated taverna…complete with a staff that breaks out into spontaneous song and dance…

Other great behind-the-scenes film tour ideas:

The ‘Film Tours: Hollywood and Beyond’ Blog

The ‘Hollywood, Bollywood and Beyond’ Blog (a favourite!)

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Airship offers views over London

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The airship will run until August 21stA new commercial airship service is offering passengers spectacular views of London until August 21st.

The Star Over London zeppelin will carry up to 12 passengers a time, taking in sights such as Greenwich, Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge and the Houses Of Parliament.

Flights will take off from Damyns Hall airfield, Upminster, and follow the Thames, flying at 1000 feet (300m) and at up to 40mph.

There will be between five and eight flights each day.

At more than 75m (250ft) long, the Star is the world’s largest commercial airship and cruises at about 35mph.

Co-pilot Katharine Board told the Guardian: “Here you get to learn something new every day … It is like riding the waves, like a boat on the water. There’s no other aircraft you can fly this low, this slow.”

Tickets are priced from £185 for a half-hour flight to £360 for an hour-long trip, and must be pre-booked.

London – Ride the London Eye, visit the Tower of London or take a day out the city to see Stonehenge.
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Pierogi Festival in Krakow

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The festival will run on August 15th and 16th Krakow’s annual Pierogi Festival will take place on August 15th and 16th.

The festival is inspired by the traditional Polish food: stuffed dumplings, which are similar to ravioli.

These semi-circular dough parcels are stuffed with fillings such as mashed potato, cheese, mushrooms, boiled egg and meat.

Tourists and locals alike can enjoy the nation’s dish at tasting sessions throughout the city, accompanied by a helping of art events, fairs and dumpling-cooking competitions.

Pierogi are served in a variety of forms and tastes ranging from sweet to salty to spicy in Polish cuisine. They were traditionally peasants’ food, but eventually spread in popularity throughout all social classes.

Poles traditionally serve two types of pierogi for Christmas Eve supper. One kind is filled with sauerkraut and dried mushrooms, another – small uszka, only with dried wild mushrooms is eaten with barszcz.

They are served at many festivals, playing an important role as a cultural Polish dish.

At the 2007 Pierogi Festival in Krakow, 30,000 pierogi were consumed daily.

Krakow – A turbulent and fascinating history and nearby Auschwitz have seen Krakow become a popular tourist destination.
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WIN YOUR ‘PERFECT HOLIDAY’ (Seriously!)

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Ok folks, it’s finally that time of year – the time when you wake up on a rainy, chilly ‘summer’ morning and realise that you were a fool for economising in ’08 and using your holidays to visit Auntie Maeve in Birmingham for her mid-August birthday…boring!

There’s still time to plan an adventure, and there’s a way to do it…and cheaply.

Here’s how:

1. Dream up your wildest, most intriguing/ creative/ exotic/ romantic/ adventurous/ whimsical holiday EVER.

2. Write it down (before you share the idea with any of your friends/family—they will just think you are crazy, thus stifling your creative genius/globe trotting aspirations. For example, my mum wasn’t so keen on my brilliant idea to become a Bollywood dancer in Bombay, so I had to settle for a 4 week course in Mayfair. If only this contest had existed then! ).

3. While we are certain that you would all make fantastic novelists—and would love to jumpstart your careers as travel journalists—we ask that you please reduce the text to 200 words or less and come up with a short, catchy title.

4. Go to the contest website, paste your text in the entry window, and enter to WIN £500 of isango! credit towards your dream holiday.

Click here to enter the Isango! ‘Perfect Holiday’ Contest.

We will be posting our favourite entries on the blog throughout July/August, with the shortlist posted here for public voting in early August.

The Grand Prize Winner of the £500 isango! voucher will be announced at the end of August!

Good luck!

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UNESCO names three new heritage sites in Italy

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There are now 43 heritage sites in ItalyMantova, Sabbioneta and the Retica Railway have been named new World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, bringing the total number in Italy to a staggering 43 sites.

Mantova and Sabbioneta were given heritage site status because they are "extraordinary examples of Renaissance architecture and city planning".

Mantova was the former capital of the Gonzaga family who ruled the province for almost 400 years. During their reign, they kept some of the most important artists of the time at their court and were avid collectors of art.

Meanwhile, Sabbioneta, which is in the same province, is known for its historic Jewish ghetto and particularly for its Hebrew printing-press. Its period of prosperity and artistic patronage was under Duke Vespasiano Gonzaga who died in 1591.

The third site, the Retica Railway, crosses the Alps between Italy and Switzerland through the Bernina Pass and is one of the most scenic railways in Europe, running over railway viaducts of breathtaking height.

Rome – Visit some of the ancient landmarks such as the Colosseum or tour the opulent Vatican.
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What’s your ‘perfect holiday’?

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Ladies and gentlemen, get excited!

TOMORROW (July 11th, 2008) marks the start of our first ever ‘PERFECT HOLIDAY’ CONTEST.

Basically, you will get the chance win a £500 isango! credit towards your dream holiday by sending us your inventive description of what, exactly, constitutes your ‘perfect holiday’.

Watch this space for more details.

***Update – 14 July 2008***

Official ‘Perfect Holiday’ Contest entry site:

 

http://www.isango.com/PerfectHoliday.aspx

In the meantime, to get your creative juices flowing (because I know you’ve all been dreaming of that perfect, exotic and adventurous getaway and thus will be entering the contest), here is a sample list of some perfect, exotic and adventurous ways that you could cash in that grand prize!

isango!’s 2008 Staff Picks…

1. Diving in the Red Sea

Diego’s love of wetsuits has drawn him to the warm waters, beautiful coral reefs and colourful exotic fish of the Red Sea. A haven for divers, the Sinai Peninsula coast offers some of the world’s finest underwater excursions; the chance to explore this rich biodiversity tops many travellers ‘must do’ lists. A truly unforgettable experience!

2. Golden Triangle Tour in India

This vibrant, picturesque journey takes you to three of India’s most fascinating cities, bringing the colourful history of the country to life. Delhi’s heady mix of cultures enthrals visitors, while the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur (which matches most of Bernie’s clothing—his reason for selecting this fine tour) is thought to offer the finest examples of Hindu architecture in the world. The unquestionable highlight is, of course, the magnificent Taj Mahal.

3. Amazon River Cruise

Single and sassy, Sarah likes to make the most of her (exotic!) holidays. Aside from Brazilian men, she enjoys a fair bit of rainforest adventuring.

Covering half of Brazil, the Amazon Rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest in the world and home to over a third of the world’s species. At its heart, the lifesource of the rainforest provides the intrepid traveller with a pathway through this region’s rich ecosystems.

4. Helicopter Ride Over Grand Canyon

When he’s not lounging in his leer jet, Ranjan likes to take fancy helicopter rides across America! He reports that photos, guidebooks and superlatives cannot do justice to the overwhelming landscape of the Grand Canyon. The only way to truly appreciate the scale of this natural wonder is to soar above its cavernous depths and majestic colours on an exhilarating flight.

5. The Inca Trail: Cusco and Macchu Picchu

An anthropology geek (yes!), Carrie’s excursion of choice must be, she reports, ‘enriching’ and ‘educational’. Among millions of other culture-hungry travellers, she is enthralled by the sacred legacy of Peru’s Inca civilisation.

This fascinating journey begins in the ancient city of Cusco and continues through the most significant of Incan archaeological sites (sigh!). Its climax and undeniable highlight is the dazzling, mountain top “lost city” of Machu Picchu.

6. Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater

Ajay and Amrit are up for an African safari adventure!

Arguably the world’s finest nature reserve, the Serengeti National Park and the magnificent Ngorongoro Crater provide a refuge for a fascinating variety of wildlife. After encountering some wildebeasts, zebras, lions and elephants on a guided land excursion, take to the skies on a breathtaking hot air balloon ride! You will come to understand why the term Serengeti, meaning ‘endless plains’, is so apt.

7. Diving with the Sharks in Cape Town

This is one for the thrill seekers, like our globe-trotting Emma!

Leave behind Cape Town’s white sands, blue skies and rolling green mountains and dive deep into the ocean for an experience that is sure to stay with you forever. Nothing can prepare you for the rush of adrenaline you will feel when you come face to face with one of nature’s great predators (so we assume that she would have reported).

8. Great Barrier Reef Cruise

Like Sarah, Jess is constantly on the move. On a quest for friendly adventure (and Aussie love!), she has most recently set her sights on the coast of Queensland.

The largest single structure made by living organisms, the Great Barrier Reef stretches for over 2000km along the northeastern Australia. Home to an abundance of plant and marine life and blessed with year-round sunshine, the reef and nearby tropical islands attract divers, snorkelers, swimmers and cruisers from around the world (providing the perfect backdrop for some romantic dinners!).

9. Adventure Cruise in the Galapagos Islands

When Daniele is out of the office, we suspect that he is hiding on an exotic island with his blackberry. It was thus no surprise that he selected this remote archipelago off the coast of Ecuador.

Boasting some of the world’s most unique animal species, the Galapagos were long untouched by man until made famous by Charles Darwin’s natural selection studies. And though many have followed in his pioneering footsteps to explore the islands’ unique ecosystems, the natural habitats have been well protected and preserved.

Escape the office to join Daniele, and you may encounter some giant Land Iguanas and Blue-footed Booby birds!

10. Giza Pyramids Tour

Rish’s macabre fascination with embalming fluids has made Egypt his destination of choice. His obvious starting point: the alleged tomb of King Khufu.

Travellers will delight in the mystery and legacy of the Pyramids of Giza! Surrounded by a necropolis of ancient monuments, including the world famous Sphinx statue, the Pharoah’s tombs envelop some of the world’s fascinating secrets, as preserved for over 5000 years.

Excited? Inspired?

The isango! ‘PERFECT HOLIDAY’ CONTEST starts tomorrow! Stay tuned!

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When in Rome?

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The restaurant has around 600 types of wine in its cellarTraditional Roman food is often hard to come by, but Checchino dal 1887 brings it to you on a platter.

Dishes include Quinto Quarto, Il Padellotto, I Rigatoni con la Pajata, L”insalata di Zampi, La Trippa, Le Animelle, Il Cervello and Gli Schienali, together with Bue Garofolato, the ancient rural dish whose original recipe is owned by the restaurant.

As the name suggests, the restaurant opened in 1887 when a young couple, who ran a wine shop in the Testaccio caves, decided to replace it with an Osteria con cucina (a tavern with kitchen) because a slaughter-house was being made opposite it.

When the new slaughter-house was ready (1890), its workers got used to coming to the tavern to cook the meat that they received as a part of their incomes.

Thus dishes like La Pajata alla Romana, La coda alla Vaccinara, Il Padellotto were born.

Located in the Testaccio district, you can enjoy your meal with a bottle of wine from the cellar which stores around 600 different types.

Special Interest – Nightlife – From an extravagant meal to an eerie ghost walk – plenty of things to keep you entertained after the sun goes down.
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Record numbers flock to West End

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Grease is one of the most popular West End musicalsLondon’s theatres enjoyed their most successful year on record in 2007 raking in almost £470 million at the box office, according to the annual report of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT).

The report said there were around 13.6 million visitors, a ten per cent increase compared to 2006.

Two-thirds of tickets sold were for musicals, with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Grease doing particularly well.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Charles Spencer said: "With a rich tradition that goes back to Shakespeare and so many outstanding actors, directors and designers, theatre is one of the few things [Britain] does incomparably better than anyone else and London is undoubtedly the theatre capital of the world."

According to SOLT, this upturn was also boosted by a number of big musicals that opened at the end of 2006, like Wicked, Spamalot and The Sound of Music.

These were joined in 2007 by Broadway smash Hairspray, while Macbeth with Patrick Stewart and King Lear starring Sir Ian McKellen were also sold-out successes.

London – Ride the London Eye, visit the Tower of London or take a day out the city to see Stonehenge.
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