Category Archives: Travel

The Churches of Munich

There are few places that can match Bavaria for architectural beauty, with the castles, churches and other iconic buildings appearing like something out of a fairytale. The famous Cinderella Castle of Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom was even based on one of Bavaria’s 19th-century palaces, and if you want to discover the charm of this amazing region for yourself then you can’t go wrong with a trip to Munich.

Some of the area’s best towers and castles – including the dreamlike Neuschwanstein Castle – can be found sprinkled around the countryside and in small villages, so if you want to see them all then you may want to hire a car at Munich airport. However, there are also plenty of amazing structures to see within Munich itself, and in this guide we’ll introduce you to a few of them.

Frauenkirche

The two domes of the Frauenkirche have become something of a symbol of Munich since this church was built in the late 15th century. Located in the Old City, or Altstadt Lehel, its twin towers stand at a height of 99 m and offer amazing views of the city and the surrounding countryside – stretching all the way to the Alps – from the top.

Officially called Dom zu Unserer Lieben Frau, meaning Cathedral of Our Dear lady, the building is a perfect example of the Gothic style for which Munich is so famous, and is home to the legendary devil’s footprint, which is impressed into the floor of the church.

Kirche St Peter

Also in the Altstadt Lehel is the Church of St Peter, which sits on the Petersbergl hill and provides a view that can rival that of the Frauenkirche. You’ll have to ascend 299 steps to enjoy it though, but the reward more than makes up for the effort.

Originally constructed in the 11th century, the church has been expanded, redeveloped and redecorated numerous times throughout history, and is home to a number of wonderful pieces of art from various periods of Munich’s past. Large ceiling frescoes cover the church’s nave, while each side of the tower also features two clock faces.

Theatinerkirche

Inspired by Rome’s Sant’Andrea Della Valle, the Theatinerkirche sits in Odeonsplatz and was designed by Italian architect Agostino Barelli in the high Baroque style, with construction taking place between 1663 and 1690.

Further features were later added by a succession of other architects, including Enrico Zuccalli who added two towers, as well as Francois de Cuvillies, who completed the Rococo-style facade in 1768.

Asamkirche

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this particular building is the fact that it was built by a pair of brothers as their own private church. However, shortly after its completion in 1746, owners Egid Quirin Asam and Cosmas Damian Asam were forced to open their place of worship to the public under pressure from Munich’s staunchly religious citizens.

Located on Senlingerstraße, near Sendlinger Tor (one of the three remaining city gates), the Asamkirche is a great example of late Baroque architecture and is typical of the sorts of buildings that can be found throughout Bavaria.

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Top tips for booking a last minute travel deal

So you’re looking to book your annual holiday and you realise that the best deal that you will get is by booking one of the last minute vacation deals like from ClubMed. This is when people can get a little nervous, they don’t like to leave everything to the last minute. There is little to worry about, if you are flexible then you will not be disappointed, you will more than likely save money and keep within your budget. Booking a last minute deal is not as simple as going on line and clicking a few buttons, there are several things for you to consider before committing to a last minute deal.

Summer_earlybooker_13_visual-sliderPlan ahead

If you plan ahead and do your homework then you will be well prepared when it comes to making a last minute booking. You should make yourself familiar with the type of fares that are offered by the airlines, make sure that you search through the comparison websites to find the best deals. You can also set up email alerts so that you are informed when the price either drops or increases. It’s also a good idea to sign up to newsletters from airlines, this way you will know when there are flight offers. By looking at airfares and hotel costs regularly you will know what is a good deal and what isn’t.

Pick the best time to travel

There will be more expensive times of the year to fly such as during holiday season, this does not mean that you have to pay astronomical prices to travel during these times. You will be able to get discounts if you choose your day carefully. For example, fridays and saturdays are more often than not the most expensive days to travel on. If you travel on the actual day of a holiday the price will be lower; christmas day and new year’s eve are usually cheaper to fly on. Check in advance to see when the most likely savings will be offered.

Be flexible

The secret behind successfully booking a last minute holiday is to be as flexible as possible, remember you are planning on saving money so you can’t be too picky. Of course you can have your ideal holiday in mind but be willing to compromise. Those that are most open minded are the people that will be enjoying the best last minute holiday. You may have to compromise on location, departing airport and accommodation, but that will all be forgotten when you have a fantastic family holiday!

 

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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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Preparation Tips for a Long Distance Trek

Part of the fun of travel is the spontaneity and freedom it provides. However, if you’re planning a long-distance journey on foot, you’ll need to take the time to prepare a little. A long distance trek could mean anything from a two-week hike through the Andes to a six-month long journey backpacking through Southeast Asia. No matter how long the distance may be, there are a few tips that can help you start off on the right foot.

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Choosing a Route

The first step towards planning your trek is to choose an itinerary. The terrain, distance, and climate will help determine what you need to do to prepare, so it’s important to research these aspects of the trek before you begin. Think about the type of scenery you’re interested in exploring. Do you prefer a gentle walk around a series of lakes and valleys, or would you prefer a more challenging hike up the side of a mountain? How far do you plan to travel to get to the beginning of the hike? It’s best to narrow the route down by region and preferred terrain before you begin. You can then read reviews, books, and blogs about the trail. Be sure to stock up on hiking guides and maps for your journey.

Getting in Shape

With a good idea of what your route is going to look like, you’ll be able to start training for this endurance challenge. Remember that you’ll not only need to be walking for eight hours a day, potentially on steep inclines, but you’ll also need to be carrying a heavy load for much of this distance. Focus not only on building your leg muscles, but the body as a whole. Cardio exercises will help build your endurance, while weight lifting can help you prepare for heavy lifting. Even if you’re in top shape, prepare to start slowly on your hike and build up to more gruelling days, particularly at high altitudes.

Preparing your Packing List

What will you need to bring on your journey? If you’re travelling abroad, how will you get in touch with people? One option is to get a prepaid international SIM card from a provider like lebara.co.uk, which you can use in case of emergency. Yet in remote areas, you’ll also need to be self-sufficient. Think about health and beauty items like toilet paper, sanitary supplies, and soap, as well as adequate food and water. Dehydrated food is ideal for the trail, as it weighs less and doesn’t take up too much room. Powdered beans, vegetables, and soups can help keep you going on the trail.

Final Preparations

As you get closer to your final preparations, think about how you will stay in touch with the real world on a long distance journey. If you’ll be gone for several months, don’t forget to cancel your subscriptions and turn off media services. Prepay your bills or even switch over to a prepaid phone like the ones at Lebara, particularly if travelling abroad. You’ll also need to research your destination and find out if you need visas, permits, or vaccinations before entry.

By taking the time to research your journey in advance, you can ensure that your trip runs smoothly while still enjoying the spontaneity of life as a backpacker. You’ll then be free to enjoy the renewal of mind, body, and spirit that a long distance trek can provide.

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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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Exploring Dinosaur Island

Hear the term ‘Dinosaur Island’ and images of the jungle-covered isle from the film The Lost World will probably spring to mind. At any rate, you probably won’t think of the Isle of Wight, although – drumroll, please – this actually is Dinosaur Island.

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While this nickname is a relatively recent development, its history does of course go back millions of years – 130 million, to put a rough figure on it – when dinosaurs freely roamed the Isle of Wight. Today, I’m going to be talking all about the local dino heritage, as well as clueing you in to a few of the dinosaur-themed things to do and see while you’re here. Meanwhile, you can get information about places to stay on this website.

The lowdown on the Isle of Wight’s dino days

The Isle of Wight has earned its title of Dinosaur Island thanks to the impressive level of dino-based finds here. Fossils and footprints have fascinated paleontologists and locals alike, not to mention captured the imagination of tourists. It’s down to this heritage that the island has even been named the Dinosaur Capital of the UK on the new Dinosaur Map of Britain (created by a researcher from the Natural History Museum).

Evidence of a host of different species have been uncovered on the island, and it’s this diversity – as well as the volume of finds – that have helped give it its prestigious position.

Attractions

Since 2013 has been named as the island’s Year of the Dinosaur, this year is a particularly good time to visit. Alongside the island’s year-round attractions, you can take part in specially organised fossil hunts and even dinosaur appearances!

Dinosaur Isle

For anyone coming to the island with an interest in dinosaurs, Dinosaur Isle is an absolute must-visit. This is the first purpose-built dino attraction to open its doors in Britain, and you’ll find it on Culver Parade in Sandown (home to the famous Sandown Beach).

What’s lovely about this museum is that the inside has been decorated to mimic the kind of landscapes the creatures would have walked through on the Isle of Wight all those years ago. And, nestled within this landscape, you’ll spot incredible re-creations of dinosaurs built to scale, including the polacanthus and iguanodon.

Of course, you’ll no doubt be keen to see some real remains, and you’ll be in luck because you can check out authentic dinosaur skeletons. What’s more, you can see both skeletons and fossils arriving at the museum as and when they’re found by the museum’s researchers. Amazing!

Fossil walks

You don’t need to be visiting during the Year of the Dinosaur to go on guided fossil walks, but there are some special ones taking place for those of you travelling before the end of 2013. Whether you are or not, though, there are several companies that offer regular excursions, including Footprint Tours and Dinosaur Fossil Hunts.

The latter, for example, is run by an expert in Cretaceous fossil crustaceans, who offers two-hour long tours. These cost very little, but are an excellent chance to discover fossils for yourself and learn a lot.

Dinosaur Island app

Just to finish off, I’d like to point out that to celebrate the Year of the Dinosaur there’s a special Dinosaur Island app for smartphones and tablets. Definitely download it before you go, because at six coastal locations on the Isle of Wight it’ll activate and give you the chance to snap pictures of your family or friends (or whoever you’re travelling with) in the local landscape as it would have looked 130 million years ago – dinosaurs and all!

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Exploring Dinosaur Island

Hear the term ‘Dinosaur Island’ and images of the jungle-covered isle from the film The Lost World will probably spring to mind. At any rate, you probably won’t think of the Isle of Wight, although – drumroll, please – this actually is Dinosaur Island.

While this nickname is a relatively recent development, its history does of course go back millions of years – 130 million, to put a rough figure on it – when dinosaurs freely roamed the Isle of Wight. Today, I’m going to be talking all about the local dino heritage, as well as clueing you in to a few of the dinosaur-themed things to do and see while you’re here. Meanwhile, you can get information about places to stay on this website.

The lowdown on the Isle of Wight’s dino days

The Isle of Wight has earned its title of Dinosaur Island thanks to the impressive level of dino-based finds here. Fossils and footprints have fascinated paleontologists and locals alike, not to mention captured the imagination of tourists. It’s down to this heritage that the island has even been named the Dinosaur Capital of the UK on the new Dinosaur Map of Britain (created by a researcher from the Natural History Museum).

Evidence of a host of different species have been uncovered on the island, and it’s this diversity – as well as the volume of finds – that have helped give it its prestigious position.

Attractions

Since 2013 has been named as the island’s Year of the Dinosaur, this year is a particularly good time to visit. Alongside the island’s year-round attractions, you can take part in specially organised fossil hunts and even dinosaur appearances!

Dinosaur Isle

For anyone coming to the island with an interest in dinosaurs, Dinosaur Isle is an absolute must-visit. This is the first purpose-built dino attraction to open its doors in Britain, and you’ll find it on Culver Parade in Sandown (home to the famous Sandown Beach).

What’s lovely about this museum is that the inside has been decorated to mimic the kind of landscapes the creatures would have walked through on the Isle of Wight all those years ago. And, nestled within this landscape, you’ll spot incredible re-creations of dinosaurs built to scale, including the polacanthus and iguanodon.

Of course, you’ll no doubt be keen to see some real remains, and you’ll be in luck because you can check out authentic dinosaur skeletons. What’s more, you can see both skeletons and fossils arriving at the museum as and when they’re found by the museum’s researchers. Amazing!

Fossil walks

You don’t need to be visiting during the Year of the Dinosaur to go on guided fossil walks, but there are some special ones taking place for those of you travelling before the end of 2013. Whether you are or not, though, there are several companies that offer regular excursions, including Footprint Tours and Dinosaur Fossil Hunts.

The latter, for example, is run by an expert in Cretaceous fossil crustaceans, who offers two-hour long tours. These cost very little, but are an excellent chance to discover fossils for yourself and learn a lot.

Dinosaur Island app

Just to finish off, I’d like to point out that to celebrate the Year of the Dinosaur there’s a special Dinosaur Island app for smartphones and tablets. Definitely download it before you go, because at six coastal locations on the Isle of Wight it’ll activate and give you the chance to snap pictures of your family or friends (or whoever you’re travelling with) in the local landscape as it would have looked 130 million years ago – dinosaurs and all!

 

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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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