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Local knowledge when you travel

Advice Blog Travel Travel Tips

European cities have a lot to offer and are very diverse. One city might be known for it’s create architecture, whilst another is more seen as a ‘Mecca’ for musicians and artists. One thing they have in common and that is the fact that most of them have a lot of history going on and that they are culturally rich. Looking at Paris or London, both places to be for fashionistas and artists. Copenhagen with it’s Freetown of Christiania which was founded by a group of hippies in the 70s. And Prague with is wide assortment of cheap and tasty beer.

So Europe seems to be a great place to go. Momondo created this amazing interactive cheat sheet so you that provide you with all the local knowledge you need to know: trendy areas, club scene hotspots, and local knowledge such as what food to taste and what to drink.  Check it out!

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Where are the cleanest toilets?!

Traveling the European countries is incredible. It has something to over for everyone. Whether you are a sun and beach worshiper or a cold winter and snow lover, a historian or party animal you’ll find something to do around Europe! Europe is many things for sure but two of them are definitely culturally rich and beautiful.

But is very thing as beautiful in Europe as you think? Not according to Zoover’s research that showed that public toilets in some countries are not as clean as they could be. 48% of British voters declared that France’s public toilets are the dirtiest in Europe, followed by Turkey’s with only 19%.

 

If that put you off going to France, why don’t you try another popular destination like Playa de las Americas in Tenerife. Zoover has plenty reviews to offer to ensure you find the perfect destination for you!

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Saas Fee

Located in the Swiss Kanton of Valais, Saas Fee is one of Switzerland’s finest ski resorts. I went on a skiing holiday in Saas Fee last February, and the skiing there turned out to be very good indeed. Saas Fee is close to the Dom and Allalinhorn glaciers which provide very high quality snow as well as skiing opportunities during the summer. Due to Saas Fee being surrounded by more than ten mountains which are higher than four thousand meters; the quality of snow is naturally very good. In fact, Saas Fee won a HolidayCheck Destination Award this year for the family holiday’s category.

Saas Fee also has some famous movie heritage; the James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was filmed partly on the Mittelallalin Mountain just below the Allalinhorn glacier.

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Staying and Skiing in Saas Fee

When you get to Saas Fee, one of the first things you will notice is that there are no cars in the town. Saas Fee is a car free town! You can get around on the small buses which ferry you about the town. The only real issue I found was getting around the other villages in the Saas Valley, as when you got to one of the villages, you sometimes had to get a bus back around to Saas Fee, instead of getting a lift back up and over the mountain, and personally I’m not a huge fan of getting on buses in my ski boots, with skis and poles falling about the place. After a day’s skiing, there is not quite like anything than getting to the bottom of the mountain and having a beer in one of the après ski bars, then retiring to the hotel. The hotel I stayed in had steam room and sauna facilities, which is ideal after a day’s skiing to loosen all your leg muscles off and to warm through.

Saas Fee is also home to the world’s highest underground funicular railway, which is one of the ski lifts and goes up to a height of 3500 meters. At the top of the railway, there is another record breaker, the world’s highest revolving restaurant, although this was expectantly overpriced – as are most restaurants up the mountains in ski resorts. The town also has good restaurants and nightclubs, a few of the local specialties which you can eat in the restaurants are Saas sausage and fondues, which can be found all over Switzerland.

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Essential information about Saas Fee

In general Saas Fee has a snow safe reputation, and the Swiss are also pretty impeccable at grading their runs correctly (I mention this, as when I have skied in France before, some of the run grading’s were questionable). The ski pass prices were not too bad either; I paid around 400 Swiss Francs for a week’s ski pass, which works out as around 440 dollars. If you do drive to Saas Fee they have large multi-storey car parks, where you have to park your car before you go into the village. This cost only 97 Swiss Francs with the Saas Fee pass, which isn’t too bad, realistically most hotels I’ve stayed at in the French Alps charge more for a week’s parking.

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5 Tips On Financing A Trip To Europe

 

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If you are planning to visit Europe anytime soon and you are on a tight budget then that budget should not ruin your European tour in any way. In fact there are some effective tips that will help you come up with an enjoyable trip to Europe even when your budget is a way tight.

Here are five essential tips that will help you enjoy a budget-friendly and cost-effective European tour:

Join Free Walking Tours

Many of Europe’s key cities offer free walking tours, mostly allowing you to walk for three hours to enjoy your exploration of the city’s cultural hotspots. For instance, Paris offers free walking tours to visitors, giving them the opportunity to walk and explore the captivating Boulevard Saint-Michel, Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde and the cathedral of Notre Dame. It is encouraged togive tips to the guide and 10 euros is quite acceptable.

Cook Your Own Food

It is usually tempting to eat and dine in European restaurants but the truth is that they can be very expensive. To help you stretch your budget, it is highly advised to cook your own foods to help you save your money for other purposes.

Avoid Staying in Chain Hostels

In Europe, no two hotels or hostels are ever the same. To get a bang out of your buck, you should get rid of accommodations that offer hotel-like services and amenities.

Utilize Bicycle Rentals & Day Passes

Punch cards and day passes should be the thing you need to look for when traveling around the city through bus or train. And if your city trip is not that far, bicycle rental is a thrifty and practical option.

Avoid Constant ATM Withdrawal

The more often you withdraw from the ATM the more withdrawal fees are collected from you and such fees are really high when you are in another country.

 

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A beach hopper’s guide to Nice

Nice is a well-known seaside destination in the south of France, making it the ideal place to visit if you’re after a bit of relaxation in the sun. While the city itself is home to several stunning beaches, it would be a shame not to explore some other parts of the coastline.

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The easiest way to do this is to hire a car when you arrive, as this will give you plenty of freedom to travel outside Nice should you wish to (check out this websitefor information about car rental). To give you an incentive to explore, we’ve put together a list of some of the top beaches in and around Nice.

One thing to remember about Nice’s beaches is that there are private and public seaside stretches, with the private options generally thought to be the best.

Blue Beach

Our first pick is Nice’s Blue Beach, a private cove that’s got excellent facilities and is renowned for its brilliant restaurant. As well as the high-end eatery that is a must-visit for gastronomes, there is also a volleyball court and a table tennis table, so there’s a lot to keep you from getting bored while you soak up the sun.

You’ll find Blue Beach just off the Promenade des Anglais and close to some of the city’s best hotels, such as the Palais de la Mediterranee.

Beaulieu-sur-Mer

Around a 20-minute drive to the east of Nice is the charming seaside town of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, which happens to boast some of the most picturesque beaches in the French Riviera.

You don’t need to look hard to find that perfect sweep of sand, either, as the main beach is wonderful. It’s around 1 km long and is made up of a mixture of sand and pebbles. Running along its entire length is a promenade where you can go for a leisurely stroll if you tire of lying in the sun.

Plage de la Mala

Plage de la Mala is in Cap d’Ali, which is roughly 30 minutes to the east of Nice. This is the ideal seaside spot if you’re hoping to avoid the crowds, because the steep steps you have to climb down (and back up again after your day of sunbathing) put many people off.

This secluded cove is well worth the effort to get down to, though, with azure-blue waters lapping gently at the shore and few people to fight over space with. There are private areas on this beach, which are backed by high-end restaurants – perfect if you want to treat yourself to an indulgent meal before heading back up the steps.

Eze bay

Our final pick is the bay in Eze, a delightful perched village that is worth a visit regardless of the quality of its beach. The village itself is located high on a hill overlooking the coast and dates back to the medieval era. At its highest point are the ruins of a 12th century castle – so drive up to the fortified centre and explore before hitting the seaside.

The beach is made up of pebbles but is very picturesque. There’s a private section – known as Anjuna Beach – where the restaurant and sun terrace are decorated to give visitors a taste of India and Bali. Head down on a Sunday and you’ll be treated to live music at the beach club as well.

 

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Top 3 tips for going on holiday with children

Family holidays are amazing and, in terms of the chance they give you to spend some quality time together, utterly invaluable. But, going away with the kids (no matter what their age) isn’t always easy, so I’ve put together a few basic tips to help make sure your trip goes smoothly.

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Now, there are about a million tips I could give on planning family holidays – like packing lots of activities to keep the kids occupied in the car/on the plane – but telling you every single one would take all day. So, the below are what I think are the most basic elements you should start with – use these as your foundation and you won’t go too far wrong.

1) Choose a family-friendly hotel

Choosing a family-friendly hotel is the most crucial step. Admittedly, it’s probably also rather obvious, but often it’s the simplest things that make the biggest difference, so take your time over choosing where to go.

I’ll give you a few examples of decent hotels below, but for now let’s talk about some of the key factors. For me, one of the most crucial is remembering that the holiday should please the whole family – that means you too.

So, go ahead and pick somewhere luxurious where you can really relax – just make sure it’s child-friendly too. Look for kids’ clubs, children’s swimming pools, early meal sittings (if you have toddlers) and kids’ menus. Also, see what activities the resort offers – complimentary water sports, tennis and suchlike can provide great family fun.

2) Factor extra time into your journey

Travelling with kids is never going to be as simple as a getaway for two. If you have toddlers, for example, your journey will likely be peppered with stops for them to look around and gaze at whatever interests them, as well as the occasional tantrum.

The difficulty of carrying a family-load of luggage, kids’ getting distracted by airport shops and frequent toilet stops are all things that will add up to make your journey time much longer than you’d expect. Instead of battling this and trying to rush the kids (which will only make them grumpier), factor plenty of extra time into your journey.

3) Go for simplicity

It’s the simple things in life that are often the best, and this certainly rings true where holidays are concerned. Nothing makes tempers fray more quickly than long, difficult journeys, so make simplicity your friend when planning your holiday.

Short-haul destinations, hotels that are easy to reach from the airport and resorts close to the attractions that most interest you will all help make your break as relaxing as you want it to be.

Examples of good family-friendly hotels

Atlantis, the Palm

On the face of it, Dubai may seem more suitable for a sophisticated sojourn for two than a family holiday – but hotels like Atlantis, the Palm mean that’s not the case. After all, it’s not many resorts that boast their own water park. Aquaventure is the biggest in the region, and offers free entry to hotel guests. Plus, there are kids’ clubs, interconnecting rooms and babysitting – all of which are good news for children – and plenty of ways for mum and dad to relax, like indulgent treatments at the ShuiQui Spa.

Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque

Thanks to attractions like Siam Park and Loro Parque, as well as gorgeous beaches, Tenerife is a natural choice for family holidays. The Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque on the scenic Costa Adeje is a fantastic place to stay. Like Atlantis, the Palm, it offers essentials like interconnecting rooms and kids’ clubs, while there’s also a children’s pool, playground and teen activities.

 

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Spend the Day Underground in Coober Pedy, Australia

Driving into the dry, hot desert stretches of Australia’s Outback, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Coober Pedy was abandoned long ago. However the barren landscape hides a thriving community of over 4,000 permanent residents, who live under the earth’s surface. Coober Pedy was first established in in 1915, shortly after a mother lode of opals was discovered in the area. Prospective opal miners from around the world flocked to town to seek their fortune, establishing this settlement in the sun. The harsh weather conditions caused the locals to drive their living spaces underground, converting old mines into cosy houses.

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Today, tourists visit South Australia’s Cooper Pedy not only to find out more about it opal mining heritage, but also to see what life is like underground. You can stay in an underground hotel, get a bargain on precious gems at the opal jewellery shops, and even enjoy a gourmet meal below the earth’s surface. The following are a few attractions that make this historic town a fascinating place to visit.

Underground Living

You may assume that the dugout homes in Coober Pedy will feel small or claustrophobic, but they rival many of the finest examples of real estate SA in cosmopolitan Adelaide. You can tour some examples of the homes, which feature modern kitchens, walk-in closets, and a warm glow from the red rocks that comprise their walls. Many visitors choose to stay in the Desert Cave Hotel, which offers 4 star accommodations and an on-site opal gallery. There are also underground gift shops, museums, churches, and cafes to keep you busy when the sun is at its brightest outside. The Umoona Mine and Museum contains an underground house, theatre, cultural displays, and Aboriginal interpretive centre to learn more about the region’s history.

Coober Pedy Golf Course

In the evening hours when the temperature drops, locals and visitors alike can enjoy a round of golf with glow in the dark golf balls. There isn’t any grass or trees in the area, so the course uses mounds of sand, oil and diesel pits, and a large sand trap. This makes it a uniquely challenging and bizarre golf course that will test even the most avid golfer’s skill.

Opal Mining

If you want to try your hand at opal mining, you can visit the “noodling” area open to the public in Coober Pedy. There are designated areas that are open for noodling, so be sure to stick to these to avoid a fine. No permit is required if you don’t use a digging device, shovel, or pick. However, if you plan to use digging tools, explosives, or heavy machinery you’ll need the appropriate permit from the Mines and Energy office.

The Breakaways

If you’re looking for an intriguing day trip from Coober Pedy, you might want to venture about a half hour north of town to the Breakaways Reserve. This includes bright and colourful rock hills which were once part of the Stuart Range, but have broken away over time. Be sure to pack plenty of water, as temperatures can soar. However, visitors are rewarded with amazing views of the Outback. The desert changes colours throughout the day depending on the position of the sun, creating a surreal and completely unique impression on viewers.

A day in Coober Pedy is unlike anywhere else on earth, allowing you to experience what life is like below the earth’s surface.

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Stroll Through History on a Walking Tour of Vieux-Montréal

Montreal is one of North America’s oldest cities, with architecture going all the way back to the 1600s. It’s also the second-largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris. Vieux-Montréal, the oldest part of the city, remains much the same as it did in the city’s earliest days. A walking tour of Old Montreal will show you some of the city’s charming European culture and quaint cobblestone streets. If you’re visiting Montreal, you could check here to find the best deals on hotels near this neighborhood.

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Begin Your Tour at Pointe-à-Callière

Pointe-à-Callière, the Montreal Museum of Archeology and History, is located on the very site where Montreal was founded almost 400 years ago. The Pointe-à-Callière is named after Louis Hector de Callière, the third governor of Montreal who built his house on this spot in 1688. The Pointe-à-Callière is the largest archeological museum in Canada. Decades of excavations have revealed more than a millennium of human habitation here.

Continuing Your Tour

Your next stop will be the Centre d’Histoire de Montreal, the Montreal Historical Center. Here you’ll learn everything you need to know about Montreal’s history. The structure was built as a fire station in 1904 and was reopened as a museum in 1983 after being decommissioned in 1972.

Next, you’ll visit the DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art where you can take interactive tours, participate in creative workshops or enjoy one of the museum’s regular events. The museum is open to anyone who wants to learn about contemporary art, with free interactive tours available.

The nearby Centaur Theatre showcases some of the best English-language theater in Quebec. See award-winning shows put on by some of the world’s best actors of the stage and screen. After the show, walk down Rue Saint-François-Xavier and take a right on Rue Saint-Jacques to visit the Bank of Montreal Museum. This museum honoring Canada’s first bank, which opened in 1817, contains old banknotes and 19th-century banking documents, mechanical moneyboxes and other banking objects of historical significance.

Montreal Science Centre and the Old Port

You’ll have to cross Rue de la Commune to get to the Montreal Science Centre on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, but it’s worth it for the museum’s exciting and interactive exhibits. You can learn about the technology we use to protect the environment and practice more sustainable living, monitor maritime cargo shipping, make hockey sticks stronger and keep bridges standing.

When you leave the Science Centre, check out the Old Port of Montreal on the St. Lawrence River, which offers a range of activities for everyone in the family all year long. Enjoy a walk on the riverfront or rent a paddle boat. In the winter, the Old Port is home to the city’s largest natural outdoor ice-skating rink.

Marché Bonsecours

If you’re interested in ceramics, the Bonsecours Ceramic Centre on Rue Saint Gabriel showcases pieces by emerging artists as well as internationally recognized names. Students come from all over Quebec to train at the Ceramic Centre, but you can see stunning examples of the best in ceramics art as well.

Perhaps the bigger nearby draw is the Marché Bonsecours, or Bonsecours Market. The building itself is more than 100 years old, and is the city’s oldest and biggest public market. The two-story, domed neoclassical structure once held banquets, exhibits and festivals, and was where grocers and other merchants sold their wares. Now, it’s home to some of the city’s finest upscale boutiques.

Ending Your Tour

Perhaps one of the more picturesque parts of your tour of Vieux-Montréal, the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel is also home to the Marguerite-Bourgeoys Museum at Rue Saint Paul. The chapel was built in 1771 on the ruins of a previous chapel that burned down in 1754.

Marguerite Bourgeoys was the remarkable woman and teacher who inspired the Montrealers to build this first chapel in 1675. She traveled to France in 1672 to bring the wooden statue of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours back, which stands in the reliquary in the left side-altar.

Near the end of your tour, visit Chateau Ramezay, the first structure classified as a historic monument in Quebec. The castle, built by Montreal governor Claude de Ramezay in 1705, opened as a museum in 1895. It encompasses more than 500 years of local history. Its collections include almost 30,000 artifacts including paintings, printed materials and furniture.

Finish your tour with the Sir George-Etienne Cartier National Historic Site, Montreal’s only Victorian home museum. See what life was like for members of the bourgeoisie in the 19th century, and learn about this important Canadian historical figure.

Old Montreal is one of the most exciting parts of this historic city. You can retrace your footsteps through the district at night to see the historic streets and architecture at their loveliest!

Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel photo credit: Marcio Cabral de Moura / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

About the Author: Louise Vinciguerra is a native of Brooklyn. She loves gardening and traveling almost as much as she loves content.

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Lovely Lanzarote

If you’re considering a holiday to Lanzarote but are concerned it’s all water parks and sun bathing, well think again. Lanzarote is an island rich in history and natural beauty with an awe inspiring volcanic landscape.

Historians have dated habitation on the island back to 1000 BC and since then the island has been through numerous governmental disputes until the treaty of Alcacovas granted authority of the Canary Islands, including Lanzarote, to Spain in 1479.

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In 1982 the Canaries became an autonomous region of Spain and this is celebrated throughout the archipelagos on 30th May each year with a national holiday known as ‘Dia de Canarias’.

The Canary Islands, though part of Spain are actually located near to the northwest African Coast, close to Morocco. Lanzarote is one of the largest of the archipelagos which is perhaps the reason why, along with Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura, it is one of the most popular places for holidaymakers.

The name Lanzarote is said to derive from the name of the Genoese navigator Lancelotto Malocello who arrived at the island in 1336.

While there’s an interesting history of the island to explore it is perhaps the unique lunar-esque landscape that really deserves some attention.

Volcanic Landscapes

Volcanic eruptions are responsible for shaping the unique geography of the island today and have created the out-of-this-world environments tourists flock to explore. With rugged rock formations and solidified lava streams, it’s like something straight out of a sci-fi film set in outer space.

The famous volcanic eruptions of 1730-1736 are largely responsible for this when they devastated the communities that had developed around the island.

Culture

Beyond the political history and natural beauty, Lanzarote also boasts an impressive cultural climate.

Arguably the most famous artist Lanzarote has produced is César Manrique and his work is proudly celebrated throughout the island with paintings, sculptures and architecture.

Manrique was hugely influential in the development of tourism in Lanzarote, which really started to take off here in the 1960s. With the average temperatures generally staying above 17?C all year round it’s easy to understand why it’s still such a popular choice for holidaymakers.

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UK Government Seeking Expat Votes To Combat Low Election Turnouts

Sensing that a closely fought general election is on the horizon, the government has taken an innovative measure to combat historically low voter turnouts: by launching a major drive to attract votes from British expats.

The Electoral Commission is planning an online campaign targeted at British nationals using email accounts abroad which were initially set up at home. A large number of British expatriates live abroad, with the latest estimates putting the number at around 5 million. A fifth of these live in Spain alone. The government’s plan is a potentially very clever one, as a good number of financially well off, 60 year old-plus expats may arguably lean towards the right of the political spectrum and vote Conservative if given the choice. This new initiative is designed to promote that choice.

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Many British nationals living abroad take out private expatriate health insurance and the move towards a more privatised healthcare system could be a constituent of the government’s 2015 election manifesto.

In many cases these individuals are signed up with banks and expat health insurance providers based in the UK, meaning that many of life’s key considerations are still administered from their country of origin. It is hoped that voting will become another of those considerations.

Whilst the number of expats registering to vote remotely was relatively small at the last general election in 2010, with 40,000 registration forms being downloaded, these kinds of numbers could potentially make all the difference in so-called ‘swing’ constituencies. Labour’s victory in Ealing Central and Acton in West London was decided by a mere 1,060 votes. The Lib Dems’ margin in York Outer was just 203 votes, so it’s easy to see how the government’s expat voter push could swing these kinds of seats.

Conservative MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown is pushing the Electoral Commission to aim to sign up an additional 100,000 voters this time around. The number could even be substantially higher, given that expats will be able to register online prior to the 2015 general election.

Louis Kaszczak of expat health insurance providers Aetna International has said that there is an appetite amongst expatriates to keep in touch with the UK’s political goings on, however many are unaware that they are still eligible to vote.

Only time will tell how successful the EC’s forthcoming initiative will be in regards to changing this viewpoint.

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