The Magic of San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the biggest players in terms of must see American cities and funnily enough – it’s one of the smallest at only 49 square miles. Within that small space, lays an absolutely magnificent city that offers a vast amount to see and do and better yet – it’s all very easy. Compact, easily to commute around and no time constraints – San Francisco is hiving.

It would be very easy to stay in San Francisco and spend weeks covering very little of what the city has to offer. To help make this easier for you if you are planning a trip to ‘The City by The Bay’.

Things to do in San Francisco

 

1. The Golden Gate Bridge

Upon visiting San Francisco – you are not only expected to see the Golden Gate Bridge, you are obliged. One of the most famous bridges in the world – it’s a sight to behold and will amaze even the most experienced travellers. It’s a huge – 1.7 miles long and it’s estimated that 120,000 vehicles drive across it every day. You can also cross the bridge on foot via the pedestrian walkway and for the keen cyclist – bikes are allowed on the western side. And if you don’t fancy travelling across, you should go and see it anyway as it is said to be one of the most photographed attractions on Earth.
San Francisco, CA, USA
Image Source: Rant Lifestyle

2. Alcatraz

Although a bit of a strange tourist sight – this notorious former prison is a popular choice for the historian and curious traveller among you. Located on an Alcatraz Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, this prison was formally home to some of the United States’ most notorious criminals. The prison was closed in the 1960’s and stories about Alcatraz are legendary and a visit to Alcatraz is truly captivating.  Recorded cell-house tours are available, allowing you to experience the entire history from an educational point.  To reach the island, take an Alcatraz Cruises ferry from Pier 43.

Alcatraz IslandImage Source: Protails

3. Sample the Culture

San Francisco is a cultural hub and a visit to San Fran would not be complete without experiencing all this wonderful city has to offer.  Home to internationally recognized symphony, opera and ballet companies – you’ll never be short of a thing or do to do and see.  Museum’s come in abundance – The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Asian Art Museum, the de Young Museum and the Palace of the Legion of Honor. The city is dedicated to the finest of classical and contemporary arts and of course is home to California Academy of Sciences which homes an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum, and a 4-story rainforest all under one roof.

 

4. Take a cable ride

One of the best ways to explore the city of San Francisco is by cable car and the city’s cable car system is the world’s last manually operated cable car system.  These cable cars can take you from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf, two of the most popular areas of the city.  They are mainly used by tourists and are an iconic site of the city as they travel along the many famous streets and lanes – many of which have appeared in Hollywood movies down the years.

A-cable-car-San-FranImage Source: Fun Cheap SF

5. Sample the cuisine at Fisherman’s Wharf

The last thing to do when in San Francisco is to make the most of the quality local produce and fine cuisine on offer across the city, none more so than in the many restaurants and cafes of the popular Fisherman’s Wharf.  Pier 39 is another popular area for food lovers among you, but if you want to sample some of the best seafood dishes in the world, then take a walk around Fisherman’s Wharf – you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Fishermans-WharfImage Source: Wikipedia

 

 

Booking the right hotel for you holiday

When we go on holiday one of the most important parts of our trip is the accommodation. Flights are flights, you will only be on the plane for a short time so it doesn’t matter too much about the level of comfort. But for accommodation you know that you will be spending a number of days there resting from an action packed holiday. A good hotel can make or break a holiday, I am sure that we have all had bad experiences with a hotel and remember how it made us have a worse time than we planned.

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The best way to get the best hotel for you and your group is to follow a few simple tips. I followed these tips for my recent search for Marrakech hotels, it meant that I ended up in the perfect place for me and my family. If you have some tips that you don’t see here in my list then please enter them into the comment box below, as a travel community it is great to share those tips that we can’t do without.

The Location

This is very important. You don’t want to be right in the thick of the action where it is noisy and difficult to relax and more do you want to be in a place that is so far away from the sites that you have to spend a long time and a lot of money on transport each day. So look at the map and see where the sites are and choose a hotel in close proximity to them.

Consider your needs

Your needs will depend on the type of holiday you are going on; a family, couples or friends holiday will all have different needs. If for example you are taking your kids with you then it is important to see if the hotel has facilities for children and is family orientated. If you are going with your partner then you need to find a hotel that is quiet and intimate, you don’t want to be in a family resort.

Reviews and opinions

I can’t express enough how important it is to listen to the advice of people that have visited the area that you are staying. I know that it might not be possible to get info from friends or family, so all you have to do is go online and read the reviews from people that have stayed in the hotels you are considering. Listening to the opinions of others will allow you to make the best possible choice!

 

 

The Dingle Peninsula – one of Ireland’s most beautiful destinations

Once described as the most beautiful place on earth by National Geographic, The Dingle Peninsula is amongst the most stunning, written about, photographed and talked about places in the whole of Ireland. If the dramatic scenery isn’t enough to tempt you into visiting, then there are a few other fine reasons why you should visit Dingle this year.

5 Reasons to consider a trip to Dingle, Ireland this year

1. History & Language

If you want to experience a true piece of Ireland, there is no such better way than visiting Dingle. As one of Ireland’s Government-protected Irish (Gaelic)-speaking areas, called “Gaeltachts,” you’ll be amazed by the beautiful sounds of the Irish language that surround you here. Dingle is also historically rich; there is no other landscape in Western Europe with the density and variety of archaeological monuments as the Dingle Peninsula. Due to the peninsula’s remote location, and lack of specialised agriculture, there is an extraordinary preservation of over 2,000 monuments. Visit Dingle for a chance to see and experience a history that is very much alive.

 

Dingle-Kerry

 

2. Swim with Fungi; Dingle’s own Dolphin

Not many places in the world can claim to host a dolphin the natural way, offering visitors the chance to see these beautiful creatures up close and personal in their natural habitat, but Dingle does! Fungi is a male bottle nose dolphin who has taken up residence in Dingle Harbour, for reasons unknown, but many suspect he too was lured by the harbours beauty. In 1984, Paddy Ferriter, the Dingle Harbour lighthouse keeper, first began watching the lone wild dolphin escort the town’s fishing boats to and from port. He has remained here since, during which time he has become something of a local celebrity. Boat trips run from Dingle to see Fungi, which are fee refundable if he doesn’t show up. Wet suits are also for hire, so it is possible to swim with Fungi.

3. Explore Dingle

With so much beauty and scenery, it’s only right to fully explore the area and there are a few very wonderful ways of doing so. Mount Brandon is the largest mountain in the area and the 9th largest mountain in Ireland and so climbing up here will give you an excellent view point, as well as the chance to appreciate some of Ireland’s finest greenery and unusual flora and fauna.  The town of Dingle is also a must see for all those stopping by, filled with tradition, friendly faces and great nightlife – you’ll be in awe of your surroundings.

Traditional-Shop-Kerry

4) Visit the Dingle Brewery

You don’t have to go all the way to Dublin to experience firsthand brewery craft. Dingle opened its brewery doors in 2011, on an historic site which was formally a creamery. You’ll get the chance to experience this beautiful old building, situated just outside Dingle and enjoy all the brewery has to offer. Fine beer is a strong tradition in Ireland and the Dingle Brewery lives up to that tradition.

5) Visit the Great Blasket Island

A trip to the Dingle Peninsula means you have access to so much more around you. A fine example of this is the Great Blasket Island, another beautiful island close to Dingle. Now uninhabited, this scenic island was once home to some of the finest writers Ireland produced, who told great tales in their own Gaelic language.

Whatever your reasons for visiting Ireland this year, be sure to consider Dingle in Kerry along the way. You won’t be disappointed by the warm and hospitable people and the scenery that draws both Irish people and visitors from around the world year after year.

Essential Beach Holiday Tips

Going on a beach holiday has to be the highlight of my year, I know that a lot of you will definitely feel the same way! There’s nothing better than booking your holiday, then looking at all of the amazing places you are going to visiting online. You get a great feeling knowing that for a short time you will escape the horrible weather that the UK throws at us each year and be able to soak up some serious sunshine! Nothing beats waking up, sitting on a loverly terrace tucking into a tasty breakfast and then strolling lazily down to the beach for a relaxing day on the beach. The second your bare feet hit the sand you know that you are on holiday, all of those stresses about work and life back home instantly disappear and fade away into the distance. Booking your holiday is the most important part, you should try to book holidays with direct holidays if you want to get sound advice and the best deal possible. Once the first step is out of the way booking your holiday then it is time to get yourself ready for the amazing trip ahead!

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There are some really easy tips that you can follow to ensure that your beach holiday goes ahead without a hitch, it needs to be perfect because you have spent your money and it could be the only time that you get away this year. So, leave nothing to chance and pay attention to these great tips.

Pack Light

Be honest, do you really need all of those clothes that you are planning to pack? Let me answer for you, no you definitely do not! Your are going on a beach holiday where I am sure you will be wearing very little. Of course it’s always nice to have a few nice pieces of clothing so you can dress up and go out for a nice meal but you need to make sure that you bring lots of light clothing. it’s going to be hot so pack a good swimsuit, t-shirts and shorts. On my holidays to Tenerife all I needed was 3 t-shirts and a couple of pairs of shorts, the rest was all left in the suitcase.

Look after yourself

Yes, I know we all love the sun and want to go back with a great tan but you must remember that the sun is not our true friend. It can be dangerous to catch too much sun, so make sure you bring the following; sun crew,, sun glasses, a hat and some light clothing to cover up every now and then when you’re on the beach.

Be Safe

If you are going with children then it is a good idea to go to beaches that have life guards, no matter how careful you are with keeping a close eye on the young ones there could be an occasion when you miss something. Life guards are there as a safety net, only use beaches where they are working. It is also a good sign to show that the beach is safe and suitable for swimming.

Make sure that you check out and book holidays with direct holidays, I can guarantee they will give you the best deal!

Packing Tips for River Cruises

Cruising is one of the best types of holidays you can go on when you need to kick back, relax and forget all about the stresses of work and life in general. Cruising down one of the most iconic rivers in the world with great facilities on board is one of the best experiences I have had. I have been fortunate enough to go river cruising a couple of times in France, if you haven’t been then you need to do it as soon as possible. Whenever I head off on a relaxing French river cruise I know that it is important to pay close attention to what I am bringing with me. Knowing what to pack can make your holiday so much easier and also make you prepared for any situation you may find yourself in. Here are my top tips to help you prepare for you next cruise.

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What to put in your suitcase

My advice would be to bring some very comfortable clothing, casual clothing is the most suitable for people going on a cruise. Remember that river cruises are not like the going on a cruise liner, so forget about bringing you dinner jacket or flowing ball gown. If you are going to be visiting countries that have a different culture to your home, then do some research about what is appropriate dress – this is especially important if you plan to go to places of worship whilst on an excursion. You want to make sure that you are not turned away from any establishment if you are only going to be onshore for a day. You of course need to think about the fact that you cannot bring too much on the plane with you, keep this in mind when packing. Here is a great list of things to bring with you; walking shoes, smart shoes, small lightweight umbrella, lightweight rain jacket, jumper, sunglasses, sun hat, medicine and anything else you may need to keep you feeling great.

What to bring in you carry on case

Of course the number one thing that you need pack are your passports, credit cards, insurance documents and airline tickets. You should make copies of these documents and keep them separately. You will also need to pack; medication, prescriptions, reading glasses, contact lenses, important documents and papers, camera, memory cards, charger batteries and everything that is valuable that you do not want leave in your room.

 

Majorca: The Facts

Majorca is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, millions of people flock there each year to enjoy everything that is on offer. It is one of the best places that I have been fortunate enough to visit, the great weather, friendly locals and fabulous food all come together to make sure that you have a truly memorable experience. There are many great places to stay in Majorca which is perfect, one of my favourites are the family villa holidays in Majorca. So I know you don’t need many reasons to head off it to the sun and I am sure that you will visit Majorca very soon. Here are some great facts about the place that will help you prepare for your holiday.

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The Language

A lot of people think that they need to speak fluent Spanish when they head to Majorca, but however there is no problem if you do not speak Spanish. English is commonly used here because so many tourists visit each year, nearly every bar, restaurant and shop that you go in to you will be able to speak in English. I do however recommend that you try to speak at least a little Spanish. This is a tip for wherever you go in the world, always try to speak a little bit of the local lingo and you will be amazed by how far it goes. wherever I have been in the world I always try to at least say hello and thank you, local people respond so well when you make an effort. So when you are in majorca, please make the effort it will be worth it!

Money

The official Spanish currency is the Euro. You will be able to change money easily whilst in Majorca and there are plenty of ATMS. Make sure that you do your research before you change any money that you have, you may find that your are better off waiting to change your money until you are in Majorca, or you could find that changing it home is much netter value.

Taxis

There are always taxis on hand when you are in Majorca, the best thing is is that they are not overly expensive. They are probably the best and most reliable way to travel around the island, it’s really nice to be able to travel around in taxis without paying a small fortune – you can’t do that back home!

 

‘Best for’ guide to Morocco

Want to jet off to Morocco, but not sure where to begin? Firstly, find a great bargain holiday to Morocco online, with a company like Bookable Holidays, then then have a look at where you’d like to visit. Morocco is country of contrasts, from the snow-capped Atlas Mountains to the busting souks of Marrakech. It has it all.

Here’s where you should check out:

Best for bohemian travellers: Essaouira


Home to a UNESCO World Heritage listed medina, this Atlantic harbour town has a bohemian feel (Led Zepplin lived here, as did many other hippie icons). It is popular with tourists who want to see a different side of Morocco from the larger, more busy, cities like Marrakech. Explore Bab El Marse port as well as maze-like streets full of treasures and quirky cafes. Don’t miss the fish market for as-fresh-as-you-can-get produce, as well as plenty of restaurants where you can dine on traditional tagines. The long, golden beach is ideal for surfing and afternoon walks.

Best for culture vultures: Marrakech
The fourth-largest city in the country, and undoubtedly the most popular with tourists, Marrakech is the beating heart of Morocco. A treat for the senses, the city is a hub of activity – a snaking maze of streets, colourful souks and pungent street food. One of the most popular spots is Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakech’s main square, which is packed with stalls offering snacks and spices, handmade crafts and gifts. Another perusing the stalls, enjoy a tangy mint tea in one of the many restaurants surrounding the square, offering great views of all the activity.

Best for historic sights: Casablanca
Made famous by the 1942 film Casablanca, this city is vibrant and full of life. One of the main sites is the Hassan II mosque, one of the biggest in the world at 200 metres high. The Aïn-Diab coast is also worth a visit, especially at sunset when you can enjoy a sundowner on one of the many terrace cafes and restaurants.

Best for active travellers: Atlas Mountains
Any outdoors-enthusiast should head to the Atlas Mountains, one of the most stunning parts of Morocco in terms of landscape. Its Berber villages, snow-capped mountains and verdant valleys are perfect for walking and hiking. A good base is Ouirgane – a Berber village situated in the High Atlas Mountains, south west of Marrakech – a popular destination and gateway to the Tassa Ouirgane National Park. It has become a very popular base for longer treks to Jbel Toubkal and Amizmiz areas.

Best for beach breaks: Agadir
For those that like sun, sand and sea, Agadir is the most popular seaside resort of Morocco. With more than 300 days of sunshine a year and a 10km beach of golden sand, it’s not hard to see why. After having your fill of sunbathing and surfing, the old kasbah is well worth a visit. It boasts a fantastic view of the bay and port. The new medina, reconstructed from the 1990s onwards by Italian architect Coco Polizzi, is also a big attraction.

Travelling by train in Europe: Essential Tips

Regardless of how long you plan to travel in Europe, the best way to travel is by train. It is the quickest and most cost effective way to get around on the continent. With great tickets such as the eurail pass on offer, there has never been a better excuse to book your ticket, hop on board a train and visit some of the most fantastic cities in the world. Once you have decided which cities you would like to visit and what you would like to see it’s time to start thinking about all of that travelling you will have to do. Here are some great tips that will help you to prepare for the trip ahead.

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Don’t overpack!

You don’t really need to bring too much with you when you travel, do you? Realistically you can survive with a couple of pairs of trousers, four tops and some underwear. It is a lot easier to travel when you are not weighed down by a heavy bag. Trust me, you will be so thankful that your bag doesn’t weigh a lot when you have to run for a train!

Always charge you gadgets

You cannot guarantee that the train you are travelling on will have power points for you to charge your electronics. So if you want to listen to music, watch a movie or take photos, make sure that everything has enough battery life to last on your journey. If you are traveling in one of the TGV trains you will more than likely have power because they are some of the most modern trains out there.

Bring a snack with you

We all know that when we travel we don’t know if there will be somewhere for us to buy food. So, just incase you get caught short for food on the train always have some emergency snacks with you. It can be a chocolate bar or a bag of crisps, anything to keep the hunger at bay until you reach your destination. You will able to check out the facilities before you leave, but I advise always having something to hand just incase!

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.

blue lagoon Iceland
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.

 

Explore the Maori Culture of New Zealand

While no longer the dominant culture of New Zealand, many people still take an avid interest in the Maori way of life and their fascinating way of life. With so many opportunities for you to experience this unique culture, you may be at a loss of where to start, so to help you along your way, here’s a guide on how to explore the Maori culture of New Zealand!

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Maori Kai Festival

The Maori Kai food festival is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike due to showcases of delicious natural and local foods from the Maori culture. Previously, the traditional foods that you can try in these festivals were reserved mainly for Maori functions and events!

With the increasingly popularity and the awareness it raises, the Maoris are more than happy to let everyone experience their way of life, providing the perfect opportunity to ease yourself into the cuisine side of the culture. Furthermore, you’ll also be able to appreciate the traditional clothes and jewellery that will be worn by the Maori locals.

Lonely Planet has described this festival as one of the highlights of the year for people in New Zealand, with it being held around the month of February. Different areas of the country give the festival a different twist, so even if you have done it before and find yourself in a different area, you will have a whole new experience!

Pasifika Festival

This annual festival is a celebration of everything in the Maori culture, from music to food, arts to dancing. It is without a doubt one of the most significant cultural festivals in the South Pacific and helps preserve many of the old practices of the Maori.

The festival generally lasts for around two days and on the first day you will be treated to a concert of Pacific songs, dances and stories. The following day sees the Auckland’s Western Springs Park transformed into 10 villages, one village from every Pacific Island. This is a great opportunity to sample so many different kinds of Maori culture in a couple of days and should not be missed.

Rotorua

The entire area of Rotorua is steeped in Maori culture and history, making it a great place to experience! Rotorua is famous for its geothermal activity, and Maori legend states that two fire demons searching for a lost tribe leader are the cause of the heat coming from the Earth. Here, you can explore the geysers, mud pools and steam vents while there are plenty of signs and information points explaining the importance of what you see in the Maori culture.

Te Puia

While many of the Maori cultural festivals give you a taste of the cuisine, none of them can give you cuisine cooked in one of the most ancient Maori methods, the Steambox. The Steambox uses a favourite Maori technique of cooking the food from the hot geysers that spray out from the Earth. You simply choose what you wish to eat for lunch and watch as the Maori chefs cook the food with the heat from the geyser!