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Getting back to nature in Newcastle

It might seem odd to suggest getting back to nature in a big city like Newcastle, but it’s not so strange when you consider that it’s just a stone’s throw from the coast. So, it’s actually the perfect destination if you fancy combining culture and seaside fun on your next family holiday.

It’s the seaside aspect we’ll be talking about today, especially as the local coastline is not only dotted with lovely little seaside towns, but also Blue Flag beaches, traditional fish and chip shops and plenty of family-friendly attractions. Here are some of our favourite things to do when popping to the coast for a day, while you can find out more about local attractions and where to stay at NewcastleGateshead.

Visit the lighthouses

The local coastline is home to some fantastic lighthouses that are great fun for families to visit. Souter Lighthouse, with its classic red and white striped design, is definitely among the best, not least because it was actually the first lighthouse in the world to be designed and built for electric power. Having opened in 1871, it is no longer operational, but it’s still one of the coastline’s icons.

Alternatively (or as well!), you could head to St Mary’s Lighthouse and Island, which you’ll find at Whitley Bay. This lighthouse guided ships to shore for just under a century, finally closing in 1984. Today, one of its main attractions for visitors is the fact that you can climb all the way to the top – and trust us, doing so will give you some outstanding views of the coast. You just need to be prepared to tackle 137 steps!

What we also like about coming here is that there’s plenty else to enjoy alongside the lighthouse. You see, it’s surrounded by a nature reserve, which the kids are bound to love exploring – there are rock pools, a beach, wetland habitats and more. There’s also a little shop where you can pick up toys and souvenirs for the children to take home.

Head to the aquarium

While you might assume that the coastline’s only really a good place to visit when the sun is out, that’s actually not the case. When the wind’s howling, for instance, the beaches can be dramatic settings for walks (we’ll talk more about beaches in a moment), while there are plenty of indoor attractions too.

Among the best is the Blue Reef Aquarium, which is on Tynemouth’s Grand Parade. Come here and you can see everything from cute harbour seals to even monkeys – not being a marine creature, the latter is bound to be a particular surprise! Daring kids will love seeing species like black tip reef sharks, while the rockpool encounters will give them the chance to get up close to weird and wonderful creatures.

Hit the beach

The great thing about the coastline near Newcastle is that it’s home to lots of Blue Flag beaches. Stretches of sand with this award are known for being clean and safe, which makes them perfect for families.

Tynemouth Longsands is one of the beaches with Blue Flag status, and it has everything from pretty dunes and cliffs to a charming cafe right on the beach. King Edward’s Bay, meanwhile, is a lovely little beach that’s actually located below the fantastic Tynemouth Priory and Castle. Combining trips to both is a great basis for a day out, especially when the sun is shining!

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Discover the geological wonders of Iceland

When it comes to natural beauty, it’s fair to say Iceland takes some beating. After all, this magical land is largely unspoilt by human civilization, with visitors able to dive into volcanic pools, explore lunar-esque landscapes and spot a massive range of fascinating wildlife. And, as if that’s not enough, Iceland’s towns and cities are also fully deserving of their reputation as progressive cultural hubs, with tourists able to join locals in enjoying some of the best contemporary music or vibrant nightlife after a long day getting back to nature.

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Booking a cruise from Liverpool is a good way to see the country’s most spectacular sights. Here are just a few of the natural wonders it has to offer:

Godafoss Waterfall: Located just off the main highland road, which runs to the north of the country from bustling Reykjavik, Godafoss is a true force of nature. Here the river Skjalfandafljot falls from a height of around 12 m across a width of more than 30 m. Not only does this make for a spectacular sight, especially since the waterfall is surrounded by the natural beauty of the start of the Icelandic highlands, but the noise is also something few visitors are ever likely to forget. The fact that the falls loom large in the mythical history of the Icelandic people, with the first Christians alleged to have thrown their statues of the Norse Gods into the waters following their conversion, only adds to the sense of wonder.

The Blue Lagoon: One of Iceland’s biggest geothermal spas, the Blue Lagoon is also one of its most popular, both among visitors and locals. And it’s not hard to see why. The naturally warm waters are rich in a range of minerals, and as such are said to be highly beneficial to the health, and especially to the skin. Even if you’re fit and healthy, a bathe in the lagoon is still the ideal way to spend a lazy afternoon, with a waterside bar and café meaning you can make a whole day of it.

The Blue Lagoon is just a 40-minute trip from downtown Reykjavik, making it a popular destination among tourists stopping off in Iceland on cruises from Liverpool, plus, in a country where tourists may be shocked by the price of things, an afternoon in the therapeutic waters also represents excellent value for money.

Geysir: Easily one of Iceland’s most breathtaking sights, The Great Geysir, from where we get the English word geyser, is capable of hurling boiling water up to 70 metres in the air. Eruptions are by no means guaranteed (in fact, they have been known to stop altogether for weeks, if not months at a time) but nature-lovers needn’t worry, as the geyser at nearby Strokkur is much more reliable, putting on a spectacular show every few minutes. Additionally, there are dozens more smaller geysers dotted across the Haukadalur Valley, just a short drive from the Icelandic capital.

Skaftafell: Now part of a larger national park, Skaftafell has been inspiring awe in locals and travellers alike for centuries. Here you are able to get close to Europe’s largest glacier and, if you’re into ice-climbing, you can even try your hand at scaling its frozen walls. If, however, you prefer to take it easy, the meadowland surrounding the glacier itself is perfect for walking through some of Iceland’s most beautiful scenery, with dozens of small waterfalls to stumble upon and plenty of native wildlife to spot. Skaftafell is also famed for its mild climate, with the weather warm and sunny in the spring and summer.

 

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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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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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Holidaying In Algarve

Portugal remains one of the world’s hottest vacation destinations, with perhaps the most prestigious of them all in this beautiful country being the Algarve.  Boasting beautiful beaches, fantastic temperatures, relaxing resorts and picturesque towns and ocean-front vistas, Algarve is a traveler’s one-stop shop for partying and paradise.

There’s more to do in Algarve than simply laze around on one of its several golden-sanded beaches, however.  If you’re planning on hitting up Algarve for your next holiday and are looking for things to do, then here are the places to go.

Lagos

Lagos is the place to be if you seek a thriving nightlife with fine cuisine and interesting locals.  As many people say, Lagos is the “carnival queen” of the Algarve region and has something to offer anyone from its characteristic cobbled streets.

Monchique

This quaint town is for those who are seeking a bit of a quieter holiday that has less of a partying atmosphere.  Featuring fine views of a steep and wooded countryside, Monchique is a top choice for travelers who seek relaxation and who want to avoid the hustle and bustle of towns like Lagos.

Tavira

This ancient city that’s set along a peaceful river is another hot destination for anyone who’s seeking a relaxing and laid-back vacation.  This area is perhaps amongst the oldest in all of Portugal, with its history dating all the back to the Roman times.

Faro

If you’re going for the “real” Portuguese experience, then Faro is the place to go.  Featured in the area is a medieval quarter that treats visitors to a taste of what ancient Portugal was like several centuries ago.

But if checking out Portugal’s history isn’t you thing, one thing about Faro’s for sure: golfing is the most popular sport in this town.  You can find a ton of different courses crafted by some of the world’s most popular golfers, such as:

  • Monte Rei (Jack Nicklaus)
  • Oceanico Faldo (Nick Faldo)
  • Oceanico Victoria (Arnold Palmer)
  • Oceanico Pinha and Oceanico Old Course (Frank Pennink)
  • Vila Sol (Donald Steel)
  • Vale de Lobo Ocean & Royal (Henry Cotton)

Sagres And Carrapateira

Should water sports and surfing be your thing, then Sagres or Carrapateira are definitely the places to go.  Located out on the west coast of Portugal, these fun-loving towns are charming and filled with laid-back locals who are sure to show you a good time.

Portimao

Located on the Western seaboard of Portugal, Portimao is yet another golfer’s dream get away located in Portugal.  Not only will you be able to find beautiful beaches resting along the banks of the Arade river, but you’ll be able to golf on a number of some of the world’s most popular golf courses, such as:

  • Morgado (European Golf Design)
  • Onyria Palmares (Frank Pennick & Trent Jones, Jr.)
  • Penina (Henry Cotton)
  • Pestana/Gramacho (Ronald Fream)
  • Pestana/Vale de Pinta (Ronald Fream)

You can read the reviews and ratings of the Algarve golf courses here. If you’re interested in going to Algarve solely for the golf, then we live in a world of specialist golf holidaymakers, like Golf Kings – so have a look at the site if your idea of a holiday to Algarve is just golf, golf and more golf.

Algarve is stunning and is more than deserving of the attention it has had in recent years. Whatever you do once you’re there, I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time. Happy travels.

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Mountain Holidays in Switzerland

The Alps are one of Europe’s most beautiful locations to visit and also one of its most popular. Tourism began in the early 19th Century and large scale tourism industry started in the 20th century with large hotels being made. Over the past 30 years or so all tourist facilities have been modernized and a large number of tourists are attracted throughout the year. Switzerland boasts about its cultural and geographical diversity but what stands out the most are its mountain ranges. They attract a number of different types of tourists be it those who come for just the scenic views or for cycling, skiing, lakes, food or just some place to relax and spend time with their family.

With the fresh mountain air carrying the scent of flowers growing in the meadows with mountain peaks surrounding you from every side Switzerland feels like a magical place in its own right. Even just going for a walk is a magnificent experience in such a place. You don’t need to be a hiker to go see what Switzerland has up to offer because all types of people, even someone with an average physique can be catered to amongst the vast array of choices. Be it a cycling enthusiast or someone wanting a look at the great outdoors Switzerland offers the best mountain holidays experience.

Grindelwald is a mountain village with cafes restaurants and a good number of shops. It is a fantastic place for country walking and enjoying the scenic beauty present there. You can also get a chance to travel on one of the world’s most famous railway journeys to Europe’s highest railway station at 3454 meters. The railway will take you through tunnels and past glaciers which is truly a journey to remember. Holidaying in Grindelwald also leadsup to other scenic resorts including the lakes of Thun and Brienz.

Davos is one of Switzerland’s top walking destinations and has 700km of marked walking trails.  Guests even receive free use of some cable cars so the majestic beauty can be enjoyed by all. There is abundant wildlife and beautiful traditional Swiss villages to be enjoyed in your walks. There is abundance of paths for people to choose from.  Tirano in Italy is just a train ride away to visit and the skiing resort of St.Moritz can also be reached easily. A cheese factory and a brewery are also present in Davos for those looking for a bit extra than just the walking.

Switzerland is also famous for its world class ski resorts and attracts a lot of skiers from all over the globe. Resorts like Zermatt are considered one of the best in the world to go for skiing. Not only are Swiss resorts for professional skiers but teachers are also available who can teach you how to ski in English and Swiss resorts like Wengen have nursery as well as intermediary slopes for those who are not so familiar with skiing.

Whether you are a fan of skiing, cycling, hiking or only plan on seeing the scenic beauty of the great outdoors, Switzerland is the ideal destination to spend your mountain holidays, giving you an experience that is next to no other.

Switzerland has policies and institutions in place which make it very convenient for tourists to exchange currency. ‘Franc’ is the currency used in Switzerland you can check up to date currency rates online with the Travelex currency converter. The best places to exchange currency are Railway stations where they accept foreign currency notes as well as travel’s checks. ATMs can also be used to acquire your currency and most Swiss banks, shops and restaurants in the major cities accept international credit cards.

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