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Have insurance – will travel

The motto of the insurance industry should be ‘expect the unexpected’, and whether a traveller is setting off on the trip of a lifetime or just simply popping across the channel for a quick shopping spree, surprises often happen and not all of these are pleasant.

When buying travel insurance, the consumer watchdog, ‘Which’, suggests that cover should include medical expenses for both the injured and also any accompanying family or friends, cover for the cost of an air ambulance; baggage and belongings cover; cancellation fees, should illness mean that flights and reservations have to be adjusted; legal expenses protection; and personal liability, in case damage is caused to a third party in terms of an accident. 

Telephone numbers for the British Consulate and also the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) are also a good idea.  The Consulate can be remarkably helpful when it comes to dealing with overseas bureaucracy and their officials are fluent linguists.

No one sets off on holiday planning to have an accident, but if a traveller is fully protected then that threat need not turn into a disaster.

Paris – the city of romance

It is fair to say that almost everyone, wherever they live in the world, has heard of Paris.

Paris is the third most visited city in the world. With around 42 million tourists per year it is bettered, in terms of numbers, by only New York and Orlando.

The city is also the ‘capital of romance’, a notion inspired; for example, by films featuring such big screen legends as Elizabeth Taylor in “The Last Time I Saw Paris” and Meg Ryan in “French Kiss”.

City of sight-seeing par excellence

Like many major cities, Paris would not be as impressive without its unique geographical location on a river and incredible architecture; the former, the River Seine, providing the backdrop for much of the latter. Counted among these architectural masterpieces are Notre Dame Cathedral, with its famous fictional hunchback connection; the character made famous in the novel by Victor Hugo and the subsequent film; the Place de la Concorde; the Grand Palais des Champs Elysees and the nearby Eiffel Tower.

Paris is famous for its wide avenues, numerous green spaces and its sense of vastness and depth; the city itself occupying an area of around 35 square miles.

A city for shopaholics

Paris is synonymous with high fashion and good food, so quality shops and restaurants and the famous Parisian cafes abound in the avenues and squares, particularly along and off the famous L’Avenue des Champs Elysees. In Paris it is possible to take guided tours of the well-known shopping areas by bus or for the hardy shopper, on foot.

Paris night life

No Paris guide would be complete without at least a brief mention of its diverse theatre and night time entertainment venues. Arguably the most famous and longest established of these is Les Folies Bergère, in the rue Richer, which opened in its original incarnation in 1869 and is famous for its high-kicking chorus line.

Travel by air

Cheap flights are available from almost anywhere, just check the internet for the best bargains.

Picture: Trodel

Prague is beautiful

If ever a city is a must-see, it is Prague.  Even the most oblivious of tourists would enjoy a break walking around such a stunning city.  With no knowledge of the history or culture of the city, you could spend days on end entranced by the architecture.  Once you understand a little bit more about the history, however, the city become irresistible.  There are plenty of cheap Prague hotels on offer, so this really could be a holiday which does not break the bank.

As well as walking through the city, you can relax at a cafe on the bank of the Vltava River. This experience is made even more enjoyable with the realisation that the unique Czech beer is extremely cheap!  Many of the attractions are also free, such as the John Lennon Wall.  Few cities celebrate graffiti in much the same way as Prague.  Whilst the original paintings of Lennon himself have been covered up by years of original artwork, this is an attraction which is constantly changing, and you can even add to it yourself!  The Jewish Quarter makes for a more sombre visit, with an overcrowded cemetery and plenty of synagogues, but it makes up an intriguing part of Prague’s history and is very accessible.

Prague Castle, however, is really the city’s main attraction.  Home to the Czech crown jewels and the offices of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, it looks like something out of a fairytale and, being the largest castle in the world, is surely worth a visit.  King Charles IV also had a bridge named after him, which used to be the only way of travelling from the castle to the town.  Credited with making Prague flourish as a city during his reign, his is a fascinating history that you can learn about on one of Prague’s many guided tours.

Picture: Moyan_Brenn

Finding Bargains for your summer 2013 Holiday

This year we are seeing the cost of spending abroad fall dramatically, which means holidaying in European resorts has become cheaper, even with the pound performing poorly. Spain and Portugal are the destinations to head to if you want to get more for your buck. Prices have dropped by around 20% in Spain and nearly 15% in Portugal.

So when you’re looking to dine out and enjoy activities whilst you’re on holiday, you will be able to make your money stretch further. Meals, drinks and shopping are reasonably cheaper than in previous years, which will be great news for many families, struggling to budget for their holiday. Research found that your average basket (items you purchase on holiday) is lower than previous on years. The baskets contain 10 items such as coffee, beer, wine, cola, water, sun cream, newspapers, insect repellent, cigarettes and a meal, in the Algarve it is now £46.34, £46.50 on the Costa del Sol and popular holiday destination with British tourists the Costa Blanca it is £47.14. The Costa Blanca was the cheapest place where you could buy a cup of coffee as well.

Benidorm in Costa Blanca attracts thousands of British tourists every year and benefits’ from a wide range of affordable accommodation. Many people are now looking at all inclusive holidays to save themselves money when they go on holiday. The majority of your costs are paid up front, except incidentals. That means all your meals and drinks in your hotel are included in the cost. The rise of people booking all-inclusive holidays is down to people looking to get value for money from their holiday. In Benidorm there are a number of all-inclusive hotels, ranging from two and three stars to five. Affordable hotels such as the Gala Placidia Hotel Benidorm offer a wide range of amenities for guests, so you really don’t have to leave the hotel if you don’t want to.

It’s not just European holidays which people are switching to all-inclusive; destinations such as Mexico, Dominican Republic, Turkey and Egypt are also seeing a surge in all-inclusive bookings. When you book ahead with these holidays you can make some great savings, many package holidays for summer 2013 are being advertised now and we haven’t even got into the full swing of summer 2013.

To find holiday bargains does take time and research is important, whether your looking for a tropical Caribbean holiday or family holidays to Spain, just don’t accept the first offer you come across.

Picture: John Meyer

Nice – the almost English resort on the Cote D’Azure

The history of the ‘blue coast’ is as chequered as most coastal and inland towns and cities in Europe and in common with most, the Romans had a big say in what went on.

The English influence

Before the end of the 19th century the impact of English settlers on Nice was evident; for example, in terms of food and drink. Houses were built by the English, as were churches. However, in 1821-22 the weather was so bad that building had to stop.

Undeterred by the inclement weather, the English Church found the funds to finance a pathway along the seafront, built by previously unemployed residents. The Promenade des Anglais, as it was christened, is still there today in a vastly developed form, with houses and hotels of the most exquisite architecture and lines of palm trees forming an otherwise typically English style promenade. Streets leading off from this thoroughfare and in adjacent areas also have a distinctively English air about them; imagine the best bits of Brighton, but on a grandiose scale.

Impressive arrival

Whether Nice is approached via the nearby international airport or from the north, via the scenic mountainous route through Grasse, swooping into the town, it is this grand ‘English’ avenue that leaves a lasting impression on tourists.

So much to see
 
A short journey east along the coast takes travellers through Beaulieu and on to Monaco and Monte Carlo. There is an air of romanticism about Monaco or to give it its official title, the Principality of Monaco, a country in its own right. Apart from the annual conversion of the streets into a Grand Prix circuit, the hilly backdrop of Monaco sits serenely behind the Palace of Monaco, the official private residence of the ruler, Prince Albert. The changing of the palace guard is reminiscent of our own ceremony in London, though slightly less disciplined.

Right in the centre of town visitors will find Casino Square, where the ‘bank was broken’ at the ornate Casino de Monte Carlo.

The Cote d’Azur is truly a classic region of southern France, packed with surprises.

Picture courtesy of WilliamMarlow

Sandy Lane – the most exclusive address on Barbados

With its coral sand beaches, famed ‘Platinum Coast’, civilised games of cricket and nights at the opera, Barbados is the Caribbean island for experiencing luxury.  Its colonial past has brought it the finer side of British sports and culture – its golf and polo are among the finest in the world – while its capital, Bridgetown, is a lively city of shops and history.  Yet at just 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, the beautiful sandy coastline is never far away.

Luxury resort for over 50 years

Exclusive resort Sandy Lane Barbados, on the dazzling west coast of the island, just north of Bridgetown, has been welcoming guests since its opening in 1961, when British politician Ronald Tree decided to create a luxury hotel and golf course on the old Sandy Lane sugar plantation.

When it opened, it was the only upmarket hotel in the entire Caribbean, and its illustrious reputation continued to grow for the next few decades.  In the late 1990s, however, major renovations were deemed necessary and the original hotel was torn down and a new modern and thoroughly stylish Sandy Lane Barbados was built in its place.  The hotel now boasts three world-class golf courses, the very latest in spa treatments and a brand-new pool.

Feel at home at Sandy Lane Barbados

The most exclusive address in the Caribbean, Sandy Lane Barbados is designed to make you feel like a guest of the family, and personal attention is given in every area.  The airy, bright guest rooms and suites are spacious and welcoming and face directly onto the beach.

Sandy Lane Barbados is also known as a luxury golf resort.  Its three golf courses, all providing unbeatable views of the Caribbean coastline, are exclusive to resort guests.  Heading the list is the world-famous Green Monkey, which was designed by Tom Fazio and carved out of a former stone quarry.

Picture courtesy of ITC Classics

A Trip to Disneyland

The magical world of the Disney characters is deservedly world famous.  With resorts all over the world, this holiday has become almost a rite of passage for our nation’s children.  The films are loved by everyone, and this truly is a place where adults and children can have fun at the same time.  We all had a childhood, and for most of us, Walt Disney played a huge part.

To not visit Disneyland is considered by some children to constitute deprivation.  The rides replicate their favourite films whilst they can listen to their favourite soundtracks all day long.  Rides such as Space Mountain, It’s a Small World, and Pirates of the Caribbean are amongst the most popular. Queues can be long and it is really worthwhile taking advantage of the free fast pass system offered in the parks, meaning you can relax and do other things whilst waiting for your allotted ride time.  The parades as well are just as enjoyable as the rides.  Having your favourite characters saunter past you almost within touching distance is close to surreal, although ironically this is the time at which the rides have the shortest queues.  Despite this, the parades are not worth missing.

The Disneyland hotels are impressive, with themed decor and delicious cuisine.  They have the advantage, of course, of being perfectly situated around the parks, and offering the opportunity to get the autographs of your favourite characters.  Some might consider so much ‘happy-clappy’ cheerfulness a tad tiring, but whilst it is an intense experience, it is one that is truly unforgettable.

Picture courtesy of Express Monorail

A trip along Route 66

Dubbed the “mother road” by John Steinbeck, the famous Route 66 is a string of roads passing through town and country in the US, which originally ran from Chicago to Los Angeles.  The route fell into decline when the interstate motorways were built but enthusiasts have worked hard to ensure its place as a tourist attraction that appeals not just to fans of retro American culture but also to sightseers on the lookout for natural beauty.

Route 66 is vast, crossing eight states – and along the route the variety of attractions that each state has to offer ensures that there is something for everyone.  If you like big cities Route 66 is ideal, starting and ending in two of the most iconic American cities; if you prefer arid landscapes, the route runs through the picturesque Mojave Desert.  There are even curiosities to cater for eccentric tastes; for instance, barbed-wire enthusiasts will marvel at the Devil’s Rope Museum in McLean, Texas.

As well as the tranquillity of the desert and the hustle and bustle of LA and Chicago, there are myriad other places to see, such as St.Louis, Missouri, famous for jazz music; Flagstaff, Arizona, with its beautiful mountains; and the Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

The best way to enjoy Route 66 is, of course, by car.  Once you have flown into the States (there are frequent flights from UK airports to both Los Angeles International and Chicago O’Hare airports), rent a car, get on the road, and enjoy all that Route 66 has to offer.  A large car with automatic transmission and cruise control will be a boon on those long stretches of asphalt.  These are available from a variety of rental companies so be sure to shop around for the best deal before you go.

Picture courtesy of Snugg

Dumfries and Galloway

Many, upon crossing the border, make a bee-line for Scotland’s capital.  However, if you take the time to make a slight detour to explore Dumfries and Galloway you will be well rewarded.  In addition to all the splendours the region has to offer, there are a great number of more scenic routes from Dumfries to either Glasgow or Edinburgh than the speedier, but dull A74.

Guid Nychburris

Visitors to the region in July can witness the Guid Nychburris festival.  Guid Nychburris, which dates back more than 80 years, commemorates the time, in 1186, when Dumfries became a Royal Burgh.  More than 250 horse riders take to the streets from early morning to mark the boundary of the town.  The Queen of the South is crowned at the mid-steeple (built in 1708 and once the town prison and toll booth) in the afternoon, and a parade featuring brightly coloured floats, horsemen, pipers and majorettes passes though the town in the early evening.

Farm Show

Another, not to be missed, event and the third reason to visit the area is the annual Dumfries Farm Show.  It is held on the first Saturday of August and ranks amongst one of the largest farm shows in the UK.  Every farm animal imaginable is represented and visitors can get up close and touch the prize beasts.

Refreshments

If you feel the need for some fine food, or just require a quick pint after a morning’s exertions, there is no more fitting place to visit than The Globe Inn.  Established in 1610, it was already steeped in history when Robert Burns frequented it.  He described the place as his favourite howff (or haunt), so if it is good enough for Burns… The first Burn’s Supper was held in the Globe in 1819.  Burn’s favourite seat still survives and the snug bar remains unchanged.  The pub also has a shop dedicated to the great man and visitors can buy gifts such as sweaters, whisky and diaries.

Top cruise destinations 2013

Choosing a cruise itinerary is a daunting task with exotic destinations vying for your attention.  Cruisers, particularly first timers, can play safe by picking a destination from this list of top cruises for 2013.

Caribbean Islands

The islands remain top favourites for most cruisers.  The islands are the best spots for soaking up some sun, tasting local cuisine and shopping for discounted jewellery.  The cruises last a week and some include a beach party at tropical islands owned by the cruise line.
   
Europe

European destinations are increasingly popular.  The one to two week long cruises offer the advantage of traversing an entire continent.  Each European destination is a unique cruising experience given the local culture, history and exploration options, not to mention cuisines and shopping experiences.

Alaska

Alaska, a close contender in the popularity charts, is best experienced through a cruise.  The coastline offers breath taking views and whale watching can be enjoyed while on board the ship.  Alaska is a good getaway in the summer months with week-long cruises.

Bermuda

Bermuda is a fascinating place and cruises are generally shorter involving smaller cruise ships.  The cruises are operated in the spring, summer and autumn seasons.

Hawaii

Hawaii is popular destination with couples, especially honeymooners.  These week-long cruises offer a tranquil atmosphere by a beach front.  Admire the stunning, picturesque views or sample the local cuisine and partake in the activities lined up by the resorts on the shore.

Holiday planners can check out other top destination cruises such as the Panama Canal, the Transatlantic, South Pacific, South America and Maritime Canada and New England in 2013.