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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!

Exploring Philadelphia

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Philadelphia

Whether you are in the mood for food, culture, sports or history, the City of Brotherly Love has it all. Better known as Philadelphia, the large American city, which lies beneath the shadows of New York and Boston, is filled with fascinating events and activities.

 
1. If you are looking to experience the food in Philadelphia, then look no further than the Philadelphia South Street Walking Tour. Located in South Philly, the tour takes you through one of the cities unique and diverse neighborhoods. Starting at a Jewish deli and ending at a popular "cheese steak" shop, the tour includes food markets, street art, historic buildings and more. 
 
2. Need some romance in the City of Brotherly Love? Then take your sweetheart on the romantic Spirit of Philadelphia. A 3-hour cruise that offers a live show, buffet dinner, and a spectacular view of the Philadelphia skyline. With the option of lunch or dinner, spend the rest of your day visiting the Penn’s Landing area. 
 
3. Interested in sports? Philadelphia is one of the most unique sporting cities in America. With wild fans that are passionate about ice hockey, football, basketball and baseball, take the opportunity to go to a game. Make sure you arrive early enough for the parking lot tailgate! Food like hot dogs, sausages and hamburgers are very popular, and inside the event Chickie's & Pete's is a favoured Philadelphia restaurant. 
 
4. Looking for a little bit of education while on your trip, or do you just love history? Either way Philadelphia is one of America’s most historic cities and there is no better way to see it than through the Colonial City Walking Tour. From the Betsy Ross house to Independence Hall, the tour takes you back in time to where the city of Philadelphia began. 
 
5. Lastly, if history, food, or sports is not for you, give the King of Prussia Mall a try. Philadelphia is home to one of America’s largest shopping malls, located just outside the city, the King of Prussia Mall has over 400 stores to delight your shopping interest. Made up of a Court side and a Plaza side, the mall is easy to navigate and has a little bit of something for everyone. 

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Shopping in the USA

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Souvenirs and splurges abound as shopping tours help you save cash and go home with some amazing steals. Shop designer brands at outlets in New York and Hawaii or buy up the hoodies and track suits Americans are so known for at an American mall experience. If your travel partner doesn’t share your passion for products visit one of America’s inclusive malls, such as the Mall of America. Here you can shop, eat, see a film and even visit a theme park! Perfect for families.

Packages generally include coupon books, gift products and vouchers and helpful tips to enhance your shopping experience! continue reading

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Christmas Shopping Adventures 3: London and Beyond

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I know that Christmas shopping can feel like a daunting annual ritual, especially when conducted in a bustling city like London!  With Pantomime season around the corner and Christmas just a day away, families are already flooding Central London to get into the Christmas Spirit.

This goes for visitors and Londoners alike: why not add some variety to your usual Christmas shopping routine by embarking on a special Christmas adventure? Here are some ideas: continue reading

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Christmas Shopping Adventures 2: Dubai

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Just when you thought your Christmas shopping adventure couldn’t get more adventurous!  If you’ve decided to take a Christmas shopping trip this year, why not opt for something a bit more exotic (and potentially less expensive) than New York?   Why not visit the plentiful, tax free, shops of Dubai!

And after you’ve indulged in a few days of bargain shopping in Dubai, you can soak up the Arabian sun on one of these exciting excursions: continue reading

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Christmas Shopping Adventures: New York

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This post is the first of 3 about our favourite places for Christmas shopping and the things you can do while you are there. Today, New York.

It goes with out saying that New York is one of the world’s most fabulous Christmas shopping spots!

Why not turn your Christmas shopping trip to New York into a Holiday adventure? continue reading

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Last Minute Halloween Costume Shops in London

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For those of you on a mad dash to construct a fabulous last minute Halloween costume for that raging, fun fancy dress party you are attending on Friday, with one objective in mind—to win the (presumably alcoholic) prize for having the BEST COSTUME—I am here to help you…and help you fast! (Whew! Relief!)

If you haven’t seen it already, I wrote a blog last week about Halloween costume shops in London (or Fancy Dress shops in London—whichever term you prefer. You see, there is this British girl in my office (a British girl…in my London office… imagine that…) that refuses to celebrate Halloween on the grounds that it is a “poor excuse for American kids to rob our homes of candy.” What a drag! She’s not invited to my party—that’s for sure. British kids, get your fancy dress on and celebrate with your Yankee brethren. I just know how much you love fancy dress!)

Right, so back to helping you score that perfect last minute costume. My blog last week covered a few costume shops in West London, and though I vowed to visit fancy dress shops in East London, I must admit that I never made it past the vaguely Eastern part of Central London… because I got lost on my way to Bethnal Green, like a tourist. But I did manage to visit these shops:

1. Angels, near Tottenham Court Road tube.

Angels, to be quite frank, was my worst nightmare. Their Argos-style catalog/stock room approach is, in my opinion inefficient and irritating. The catalogues are full of misleading images…i.e. heavily-endowed blonde women, sporting next-to-nothing variations of service-industry uniforms and fairytale gowns…and the costumes are cheap, most of them slutty. However, if you are planning to score a costume on your lunch break today, this is one of the few costume shops in central London. You can probably find something in here—as long as you don’t mind not trying on your costume before you buy it.

“No, you cannot try it on, but we give full refunds if it doesn’t fit and you decide to return it,” said the brainwashed saleslady, as I indicated that their last flapper costume (by the way, they are sold out of a lot of costumes, so go in with an open mind!) was not in my size but could possibly fit—I needed to try it on to see. “It’s the same as buying on the internet,” she reassured me.

“This is not the internet, this is a shop.” I reminded her—in case she had, by chance, forgotten. She didn’t like that very much.

Idea: Base your costume around a wig.

Angels had some great fancy dress wigs—I’ll give ‘em that. Everyone loves a crazy wig. In fact, I would say that a wig could quite possibly be the most hilarious, transforming element of a costume. Forget being a specific character…go wig shopping! Grab some bright purple tresses, some face paint to match, an eyeball decal, a horn, and some wings, and voila, you are a ‘one eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater’. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_People_Eater)

Or better yet—grab that amazing mullet, and become an 80’s rocker. Trim the mullet down into a homemade ‘Euro mullet’, and…well I’m going to stop here. After all, I don’t want to offend anyone. ;-)

2. Madword, near Old Street tube.

This costume hire facility—if you can manage to find it (it is hidden down a flight of stairs)—is pretty good. The staff were friendly, and (gasp!) they allowed me to try on several costumes. Who would have thought?

Their range of costumes is extensive—you must go in with a specific idea of what you want…and, importantly, a willingness to fork over a nice-sized chunk of cash. You could score a real gem in Madworld, especially if you are after a costume from a certain time period—they offer both the stereotypical (think: ‘Marilyn Monroe’ dress) and more mundane (think: simple sweater and skirt outfit) fancy dress options for almost every era imaginable.

Idea: Pick your favourite era, and try on all of the costumes in the shop section dedicated to that era.

I am guessing that you probably didn’t live in the 1920’s, and I am also pretty sure that not every single female from this era dressed like a flapper when she went out on the town (I speak from personal experience—I tried on several flapper costumes but found some of the other getups in the 1920’s section to be much more interesting).

See what the fancy dress hire shops have in stock for your favourite era, and be creative!

Happy Searching!

Need more Halloween costume ideas? Just ask me – I’m full of them. Seriously, I’ll respond quickly. Carrie Daniel is officially ‘on call’ for all of your Halloween costume inspirational needs until Friday October 31st at 5pm.

Best of luck to you all. May your costumes win you large quantities of cheap booze and/or some hot dates…

London fancy dress/costume shops:

Angels, 119 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8AE

Madworld, 69-85 Tabernacle Street, London, EC2A 4BA

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Fancy Dress and Party Shops in London

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It took me two years of living in the UK to fully realize the meaning—and cultural significance—of ‘fancy dress’.Until very recently, I had always envisioned (in my mind) this term’s literal definition: formal attire worn to special or high profile social events. For young ladies, this would entail short, flouncy party dresses held up by wide, umpire waist belts and accented with ridiculously high heels/an elaborately teased hairstyle.

Boy was I wrong! Unless, of course, the ‘fancy dress’ theme du jour is ‘overpriced Mayfair club’.

Fancy dress parties, I have come to understand, can entail almost anything imaginable—from superheroes, to secretaries, to Sponge Bobs, to Scary Spices—and are hugely popular social events, year round.It’s no wonder that my two (English) flatmates jumped at the opportunity to host a Halloween party, instead of a housewarming party, at our new London flat. “Ooooh, fancy dress! Yes, let’s!”The signature American Halloween traditions—pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, haunted houses, glow-in-the-dark skeleton decorations, spooky costumes, etc.—most of my British pals could take ‘em or leave ‘em. But given an opportunity to dress in costume, they will rise to the challenge—and go all out.Whether you are an American living abroad or a fancy dress-loving Brit, chances are, with Halloween less than two weeks away, you’ve pondered a few costume ideas…and scoped out different Halloween celebration options. You may even be hosting your own fancy dress party! Have you decided on a costume? Found the right decorations? You don’t have much time…Lucky for you, I’ve done some homework.Yesterday, I set out to find some of the best costume and party decoration shops in London. I came across a few gems and will be searching for more next week, so get excited!Fancy Dress and Party Decoration shops in London, Part 1.Carnival95 Hammersmith RoadLondonW14 0QHUpon entry, this place seems like a claustrophobic wig and accessory factory, with rows and rows of colourful synthetic hairdos, beards, and even sideburns lined up floor to ceiling…columns of feather boas, masks, hats, beads, gloves, you name it!

Fancy dress feather boas

fancy dress halloween wigs

I was disappointed, however, to see no full costumes (much less a beach tourist or a pumpkin getup—the options that I am considering this year) and was just about to leave when I saw a sign about the shop’s Costume Hire Policy.What costumes? Where?

The sweet saleswoman (who spoke very little English—I suggest going in with a clear idea of what you need!) then led me to the back of the store, through a narrow doorway and into an even more claustrophobic room, which was overflowing with…costumes! Medieval princes, Greek goddesses, Cabaret dancers, Native American warriors…definitely something for everyone. I was officially overwhelmed.

Indian Warrior Costume

Fairy princess fancy dress costumes

You must enter Carnival with a clear focus and plenty of time/patience. There are hundreds of costume options, all arranged by theme, but there is only one changing ‘area’ amidst the chaos in the back—you may have to temporarily abandon your modesty…Non Stop Party Shop214-216 Kensington High StreetLondonW8 7RGThis franchise has shops throughout London and the South East, including one one Kensington High Street, which I had the pleasure of visiting yesterday. It was definitely a huge contrast from Carnival—while they do carry costumes, their specialty is party decorations/favours, which they tailor to all occasions. They currently have an impressive range of Halloween Party decorations, some of which I found to be highly amusing:

bloody halloween decorations

They also carry a fairly large selection of affordable, ‘bagged’ costumes in their basement:

Indian costume fancy dress

(Sorry – I couldn’t help myself, but is this costume model for real??)Definitely stop here if you need something quick/simple…or if you are looking for some humorous decorations…or if you just want to check out the above costume in person.

‘Stay tuned’ for Chapter 2: East London (which actually ended up being about costume shops in CENTRAL London)

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