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November 24, 2017

10 COOL THINGS TO DO IN CAIRNS

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Situated in the tropics, Cairn’s locals experience a warm humid climate all year round. For the excited tourists flocking to this magnificent destination, this can be a trip of a lifetime. There are enough activities in the area to keep any backpackers or families here for weeks on end, so make sure you find good accommodation in Cairns city and travel from this hub. Here’s some cool things to do on your trip to north Queensland.

Laze in the lagoon
When the capital of Tropical North Queensland built its lagoon, it was a game-changer for Cairns. Snatching pole position along the Esplanade, this 4800-square metre pool of salt water has become a magnet for back packers and locals. Swimmers were previously limited to places to take a dip due to stingers and crocodiles. Using salt water from the Trinity Inlet, and with views of the mountains, this is one of Queensland’s most stunning watering holes. Grab a picnic table, laze under a shady Banyan Tree or enjoy one of the 12 barbecue facilities here. There’s also free exercise and play equipment.

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Visit the night markets
Once the sun starts to set in Cairns and the temperature starts to drop, think about wandering to the Night Markets. They held 365 days of the year along The Esplanade, from 5pm to 11pm. There’s numerous cool things for sale here, including accessories, clothing, Indigenous crafts, jewellery, made-in-Queensland designs, natural healing, technology, and souvenirs. Food stalls open here from 10am if you’re a morning person, and include everything from ice-cream, noodles, seafood and sushi. Massage stalls start from 12pm, and don’t forget to visit the clairvoyants and tarot readers!

More markets ☺
Head to Rusty’s Markets (as the locals call it), launched 30 years ago by Emrys “Rusty” Rees. It’s on Grafton Street from Thursday to Saturday each week to experience this hive of activity. If supporting local farmers who grow a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and other produce is your idea of cool, then you will adore this vibrant marketplace. You will discover and taste all sorts of exotic foods you may have never encountered before. You’ll be surprised at how much is grown in Cairns from coffee to fruity wines.

Dine with a twist
For a true flavour of the Tropical North Queensland destination in which you find yourself, head to Ochre Restaurant which specialises in creating dishes from local and native produce. This award-winning establishment serves the likes of Salt and Pepper Prawns and Crocodile; Grilled Kangaroo with Quandong Chilli Glaze; and Wattleseed Pavlova among its five-star rated menu. Even the cocktail menu screams Cairns, with cool concoctions such as The Kakadu Walkabout and the Wattle Cini Tini on offer here.

Enjoy hip galleries
You may be in regional Queensland, but that’s no reason to think there’s no hip culture. On the contrary, Cairns has a thriving art industry with several cool galleries. Not only does it stage vibrant exhibitions, but The Cairns Art Gallery also hosts art classes for adults and kids, family events and artist talks. KickArts Contemporary Arts captures the contemporary visual culture of Tropical North Queensland. Check out the incredible Indigenous art works for sale in the gallery shop. At the eclectic UnderArt Gallery, enjoy the jewellery, sourced from all around Australia, as well as cutlery, hand-painted crockery and gift wares.

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Escape to the outer reef
One of the coolest things about Cairns is its proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and there are so many opportunities to explore here. There’s plenty of tourism operators who offer everything from sailing to snorkelling and diving. Simply select from the one which suits your budget and desires. Established in 1979, Quicksilver has an outer reef cruise on its wave-piercing catamaran to Agincourt Reef. On this day trip, you can dive, snorkel or enter a semi-sub just one metre under the water. There’s also an underwater viewing platform, underwater observatory and the opportunity to fly in a helicopter over the reef.

Embrace cool culture
One of the coolest Cairns cultural experiences can be had at the award-winning Tjapukai, which pays homage to the Indigenous ancestors of the region. By day you can experience traditional dance, art and demonstrations of the world’s oldest living culture. After dark, meet the Bama people of the rainforest who will paint your face and take you on a spiritual journey. Dine at the Flame Tree Bar and Grill on native bush food, local seafood and Indigenous flavours.

Rainforest relief
Head for the hills and escape the heat with the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway which runs from Cairns to Kuranda. This award-winning attraction, which travels through the world’s oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest, glides above the canopy before descending on the Red Peak and Barron Falls Rainforest stations. Your journey ends in the rainforest village of Kuranda, home to cool cafes, restaurants and markets.

Daytrip to Port Douglas
The journey from Cairns to Port Douglas is one of the coolest in the country, with the rainforest flanking one side of the road, and the Coral Sea on the other. Port Douglas is where the uber cool like to hang out, for its superb sailing, great restaurants and shopping strip. It is home to quintessential Queensland cane toad races in historic pubs and weekend markets peddling local produce and home-made wares. You will also find award-winning seafood dining, plus events galore. This is a fresh little getaway from Cairns. If you want to sleep where all the chic people go, check out QT Port Douglas which boasts a rather cool pool the size of a lagoon.

Walkabout with the Walker Brothers
Just north of Port Douglas, near Mossman, join the Walker brothers on a traditional Indigenous Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tour. There’s two incredible tours from which to choose from here. On the Coastal Beach and Mangrove Walk, you’ll meet a traditional custodian on Cooya Beach who will first explain the cultural importance of the country on which you stand. Then, you will learn about traditional spear throwing fishing, as well as cultural medicine and food plants. On the Coastal Beach Night Time Walk, guests have two options: night walking and boat rowing or night fishing. Either way, embracing Indigenous culture is a great way to experience the best Cairns has to offer.

Images by Nathan Hughes Hamilton, Ian Cochrane and Eulinky under Create Commons License.

November 11, 2017

Tips for Spicing Up Your Travel If It Has Become Boring

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Plan An Activity Other Than Sightseeing

Going to museums and other typical tourist stuff isn’t the only way to travel. If you like to be active, you might want to do something like the New York City marathon, take cycling tour in Europe, or walk one of the “Great Walks” in New Zealand. If you have a normal fitness level but you’re not an athlete, there are easier ways to do active travel. For example, you can get a helicopter to carry your pack when doing multi day walks. Many of these types of options involve a bit more advance planning than your typical tourist trip, but can be very worth it.

Try a new stopover or airline

Sometimes people have trips they take yearly e.g., you immigrated to a new country and travel back to see your family once a year. In these cases, you might not have much choice about the destination you visit but you can vary other factors. For example, you could try a different destination as a stopover. Even trying a different airline can be fun, especially if you’re doing premium class, for instance if you fly between Europe/the UK and Australia/NZ and always fly Emirates, then Qatar Airways would be an alternative.

Splash out on business class.

Expanding on the point above, you can sometimes take advantage of very cheap business class fares. Look out for these e.g. follow @SecretFlying for deals alerts. You can also use miles for business class and you’ll typically get more value out of them this way that using your hard earned miles for economy. Websites like Flyertalk and The Points Guy have detailed trip reports with photos so you can see exactly what you’ll get. Different airlines, and sometimes different aircraft on the same airline, can mean the difference between amazing and mediocre premium class experiences. If you’re going to treat yourself, do you research rather than assuming any business class is the same as any other.

Travel with Different People

Going on trips with just your spouse and children isn’t the only option. If you’ve never traveled solo, you might want to take a solo trip. If you always visit family, your family might be interested in all going on a vacation together. The reverse is also true. Going to visit extended family or friends from college can be some of the most fun trips. We love to visit people but still stay in a hotel. This gives the best balance between privacy and spending time with people without imposing. You’ll the person you’re visiting will plan your activities for you, so this is a huge bonus as it saves a ton of time and energy you’d usually spend travel planning.

Change Your Trip Duration
Short trips are very different from long trips and vice versa. If you always take 2 week trips, try a few long weekend trips. If you only take short trips, look into whether you could take a sabbatical or work remotely so that you could spend a month or more in a destination. Long trips are great when you want to rent an apartment or house rather than stay in a hotel, and live like a local. Short trips are great if you want to go to a National Park, or do a short city break that’s only a short flight or drive away.

Photo by Peter Hammer of Milford Sound, New Zealand on Unsplash.

October 25, 2017

Orland, Florida – as much fun as you can handle.

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brandon-mowinkel-199350 (1) Epcot Center, Walt Disney World

Orlando, Florida is one of the fun capitals of the world where we can all have a guilt-free “second childhood” for a few days. Home to the iconic Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando with their own theme parks and water parks, there is also the unique and amazing Discovery Cove, as well as gorgeous beaches like Cocoa Beach and New Smyrna Beach about an hour’s drive east of the city. And because Florida is a narrow state you only have to drive 2 hours west to visit the equally lovely Clearwater Beach on the Gulf of Mexico, passing the city of Tampa on the way.

If you are interested in space exploration the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is also only an hour’s drive directly east of Orlando on the Atlantic Coast. It has interactive displays, movies and exhibits on the complete history of space flight, bus tours of historic and current launch sites, and you get up close and personal to the actual space shuttle Atlantis.

If you’re a petrol head you might like to take a day trip to Daytona International Speedway, famous for the Nascar Daytona 500 race which will be held in 2018 on February 18th. Of course there are lots of other race meets throughout the year so check out the schedule. You can now explore the new Motorsports Hall of Fame of America when you visit the Speedway. It showcases all forms of motorsports and has an exception array of cars, motorcycles, drag cars, land speed record holders and powerboats. There is also the bonus of the fabulous Daytona Beach only 15 mins drive from the speedway. So you see it is clear that you really can’t go wrong with all the action-packed family Florida holidays available to choose from.

Most of the theme and water parks in Orlando are owned and managed by three of the majors players in the entertainment business: Disney, Universal and Sea World. Many people choose to stay onsite at either Walt Disney World Resort or Universal Orlando Resort, but it is not mandatory to do so. For example there are accommodation options to suit all at Lake Buena Vista , which is near entrance to Disney World. Hotels on International Drive are close to Sea World, Universal Orlando Resort and Universal’s brand new water park Volcano Bay, for those without a car. An advantage of staying within the Universal Resort complex is that you are allowed early admission into a theme park of your choosing, 1 hour before “outsiders”. Walt Disney World has a similar arrangement so check it out online.

If you are a fan of wildlife and like the idea of a relaxed waterpark where you can swim in close but safe proximity to dolphins, sting rays and tiger sharks, then Discovery Cove is the place for you and me alike. Entry is all-inclusive too so food, beverages, lockers, towels, use of snorkels and wetsuits, sunscreen and most things you’ll need are free once you’ve paid the price of admission. If you are visiting Miami during your Florida holiday you could take the family to the awesome Miami Zoo. It’s the only zoo in a tropical setting in North America and gets great reviews. For an even more intimate experience take a tour of the Zoological Wildlife Foundation in Miami. It places a big emphasis on educating the public about rare and endangered animal species and visits are by appointment only so you need to book ahead and can do so online.

The best time of the year to holiday in Florida is during the dry season of November through April, when it is consistently sunny and warm, but without the excessive humidity, heat and frequent rainfall of the wet season (May-October). Visiting during the “dry” months will also ensure you avoid the Hurricane season.

Image by Brandon Mowinkel via Unsplash

October 10, 2017

Milan, Italy – Style and so much more!

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Milan is the capital of the Lombardy Province in northern Italy and the second most populous city in the country after Rome, with nearly 3.3 million people. Calling Milan a well rounded city is a bit of an understatement as it’s a leading world city in industry, finance and commerce, education and the arts, healthcare and research. Most people know of Milan as the “Fashion Capital of the World”, but it is also the “Design Capital of the World” too. In this post I will feature some of the many highlights of Milan. When visiting this iconic city of fashion and elegance you might like to consider getting the mood by riding in style from Malpensa Airport into the city.

Milan Cathedral
Duomo di Milano is the largest church in Italy and the 3rd largest in the entire world. This grand cathedral was built over a period of 400 years and wasn’t completed until 1805. Not surprisingly, it’s design has a mixture of styles reflecting preeminent fashions of the changing times and it certainly has had it’s detractors and admirers over the last few centuries. It is the number one tourist attraction in the city and one of the really cool things about it is that, for a fee, you can go up on it’s roof and see the myriad of elaborate spires up close.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
This is “mall shopping” on a style level I’ve never seen before. The galleria is an amazing 19th century structure, comprising of 2 four storey bisecting arcades in the shape of a Latin cross. The space between the arcades is covered by an arched roof of glass and cast iron and where they bisect, there is a magnificent octagonal glass dome that is 154 feet high. It is the oldest shopping mall in the world and the arcade connects the Piazza del Duomo (the square in front of Milan Cathedral) and the Piazza della Scala ( the square in front of La Scala Opera House). The entrance from Piazza del Duomo is framed by a magnificent triumphal archway. The galleria has all the big name fashion shops but I’d go there just to see the architecture alone.

La Scala
If you are opera buffs like my parents you’ll know that La Scala is one of the top opera companies in the world, so be sure to check out the season program and book online in advance for the popular operas.

Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore
This monastery is very unimposing on the outside and completely belies the splendor within. The rooms within are decorated with amazing frescos, some of which are over 400 years old and still in amazing condition.

Il Cenacolo
The monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie houses Il Cenacolo, the famous Last Supper painting by Leonardo de Vinci which dates back to 1495. Because of the way it was initially painted, the condition of this fresco began deteriorating soon after it was completed. Due to this decay and despite, and in some cases because of, numerous attempts at restoration (the last in 1999) very little of the original painting remains. In spite of this the painting is a big drawcard and due to it’s popularity you need to book online a few months in advance. It is also recommended to do a tour so you can learn more about the story behind the painting and appreciate it more.

Attractions near Milan

Milan is only 1 hour by train or a 2-2.5 hour drive to another great northern city Turin. Genoa on the north-west coast takes about 1.5-2 hours by train and 2-2.5 hours by car. Because of it’s proximity to the coast many tourists choose to visit La Spezia and cliff-edge villages that create the picturesque Cinque Terre.

Despite North Italy being the most industrialized region of Italy it also famous for the natural beauty of it’s many lakes. The most well known ones are Lakes Maggiore, Como and Garda which lie at the foot of the Alps and/or Dolomites and are lined by gorgeous villages with a lot of character. It takes less than 2 hours to drive from Milan to any of them. Lake Lugano is another of the larger lakes – it is partially in Italy with the rest of it lying over the Swiss border. It’s hard to imagine any lake more beautiful than Maggiore or Como, but some of northern Italy’s smaller lakes are arguably even more pretty e.g Lago Iseo and Lago d’Orta so be sure to visit more than the big four.

Image by Jess Wood under Creative Commons license.

September 28, 2017

Bordeaux, France – more than famous wine region.

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Cite du Vin

Once you visited Paris and got that ticked off your travel bucket list, it’s well worth worth looking further afield for perhaps a more authentic French experience. The sixth largest city in France, Bordeaux lies in the south-west of the country near the Atlantic Ocean, in the Bay of Biscay. It is a port city with the large tidal Garonne River passing through it. Bordeaux is a mini Paris of sorts, having a large number of preserved historical buildings, second only to the capital in France. Surrounding area around Bordeaux is one of the best wine producing regions of the world. As someone who enjoys relaxing with a full-bodied red in hand, I can think of nothing finer than taking leisurely drives around the vineyards and stopping off at beautiful chateaus to partake in some wine tasting and a spot of lunch. There are many rentals in France, providing luxury accommodation for parties from four up to thirty people.

Getting There and Getting Around

As of early July 2017 Eurostar has a new, faster train trip from London to Bordeaux ( with a quick switch of trains in Paris), getting there in just under 6 hours. Return tickets cost from GBP110.
As well as from many cities throughout France and Europe, you can also fly to Bordeaux directly from the following cities in the U.K.: London, Bristol, Birmingham, Southampton and Edinburgh. There is no need to get a taxi from the airport into town. The public airport bus to central Bordeaux is Alignes 1(line one) and comes every 10 mins. Tickets are €1.60 and are purchased from a vending machine, right beside the where the bus leaves from. Correct change is required or use a credit card. There is a easily legible map of the bus route and stops along the way.

Bordeaux is a city that is very walkable, if you have the time and legs. My parents were there recently and were very impressed with the city’s tram system. There are four tram routes which have quite an extensive radius. They travel overground, are clean and efficient, and run frequently. You can buy your ticket at any stop using coins or a credit card, and you will get change. Tickets are €1.60/hour. There are other options/passes but that is what my parents used. You have to validate your ticket upon entering the tram and they do have inspectors so it doesn’t pay to cheat.

There is an excellent Information Centre close to the large Quincones Tram B and C interchange, on the corner of Cours 30 Juliette St. There is clean and coin operated toilet on the corner there too which is a bonus for us ladies :-)

Things to do in Bordeaux

Wine Tours

You can’t visit Bordeaux without going on a tour of the local wine region. My parents purchased their tour tickets from the Information Centre. They opted for one of the more expensive ones which took a maximum of 8 eight people in a very comfortable “people mover” van. The tour cost £70 for a half day tour from 1400-1900 hours. They visited two very interesting and different chateaus in the famed Saint Emilion region.

Cite du Vin
This modern wine museum, just completed in 2016 and situated on the bank of the Garonne River, is a must-see. It tells the story on wine from ancient to modern times with interactive displays, films, live entertainment etc. The building has an extraordinary design, supposedly replicating the “swirl of wine” in a wine glass. The ground floor has an enormous circular wine bar with approx. 14,000 bottles of wine from prominent wine growing areas in 70 countries of the world. Wine is purchased by the glass which costs € 5-15. On the 8th floor is a large wrap-around bar from where you can see great views of Bordeaux and the Garonne River. It is a great spot from which to see the Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas, an impressive vertical lift bridge completed in 2013, that can allow ocean going liners to travel up the navigable part of the river. The Bridge was completed in 2013. They even give you a complimentary glass of wine to enjoy the views. You can get to the Cite du Vin on Tram B.

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The Water Mirror (Miror d’Eau) at the Place de la Bourse
This amazing and large water feature is a wonderful playground for children and adults alike, as well as a photographer’s dream. Imagine if you will a nearly 3500 square metre slab of black granite, covered in 2 inches of water, creating the largest reflecting pool in the world. To the pleasure of everyone on a hot day, the splash park alternates between still water and a low mist. The Water Mirror and the beautiful old buildings that surround it look especially stunning at night when they are lit up by lanterns.

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Place de la Bourse and Miror d’Eau

Other Places of Interest

Porte Cailhau is an historic city gate, built in 1495, and worth a photo op. Near the Garonne River it is within easy walking distance from the Miror d’Eau, and the Pont du Pierre which is the oldest bridge in Bordeaux. The Garonne River itself is not that attractive as it tidal and therefore a bit muddy, but the bridge does look beautiful lit up at night.

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The Basilique St Michael and Bell Tower is an interesting place to visit, especially on Saturday morning when they have a huge antique market. Place de la Victora is an interesting stop too. It has one market type street (Rue Sainte Catherine) and the rest of the area has a trendy feel and is a great Cafe scene.

The Galerie Des Beaux Arts is a mid sized gallery. It lacks the big names of Rembrandt, Vermeer, or Van Gogh et al, but it is “big” on Rubens, and a great array of French artists including Matisse. My parents have been to many of the world’s big name galleries and were a little underwhelmed by this one.

July 8, 2017

New Zealand’s Heaphy Track – One of the Great Walks!

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New Zealand has some of the world’s best walking tracks (or as they call them in Kiwi land, “tramps”!) and the Heaphy Track is one of them.
It is situated on the north western coast of NZ’s South Island within Kahurangi National Park. You can choose to walk the track over either four or five days. My group did it in 4 days but if I had my time over again I would choose the 5 day option. 78.4 km is a long way!

The Heaphy Track is not a circuit track so you have to consider your transport options in and out. You can walk it from South to North (Kohaihai end to Collingwood end) or North to South (Collingwood to Kohaihai). Sometimes 2 groups of friends will arrange to walk the track from opposite ends, meet in the middle and swap the keys to their cars so that they can both drive out. We drove to Karamea (the small township near Kokaihai) from the city of Christchurch and stayed the night. The next morning we took a helicopter flight to the north-eastern end of the track and then walked the track back down to our car. Of course you can arrange to catch the helicopter to either end.

We walked the track from North to South but on reflection I think South to North would have been preferable. There are two reasons for this. On your first day you are carrying more weight because you are carrying food for 4 days. From the southern Karamea end, the the first day involves walking along a largely flat track up the picturesque coastline. Three of the first day’s highlights are the grove of Nikau, Scott’s Beach and the inlet camp site at the end of the day. However, walking from the northern Collingwood end the first day is mostly uphill through beautiful native bush. I found this quite tough with a full backpack and wished I’d walked from the southern end which would’ve allowed me to ease myself into the hike, as it were.

So we walked 5 hours up through the forest to Perry Saddle Hut and stayed there the first night. The next day was a very long day! It took me about 8 hours to walk across the alpine tussock grasslands of the Gouland Downs to the Mackay Hut. It’s supposed to take 6.5 hours but one of my knees was playing up and causing me pain.
Day 3 involved descending through beautiful bush and then crossing and following the gorgeous Heaphy River out to meet the sea where we stayed our 3rd night at the Heaphy Hut. The final day we walked south along the coastal track through the forest of Rata and Karaka trees and Nikau Palms. There are quite a few swing bridge crossings of streams which can swell into torrents after heavy rain so be careful. There are opportunities to walk along the beach in some places. The sea is breathtakingly beautiful but you should NEVER be tempted to go for a swim – it far too dangerous.

The Heaphy Track is one of the great walks of the world. You get to see such diverse landscapes along the way – beech Forest, alpine tussock grassland, podocarp forest and coastal palm trees. I would love to do it again and next time I would be better prepared. I would do some training beforehand and make sure I had more comfortable boots. I developed blisters on the 3rd day and was a bit of a cripple on the last day which was a shame as it did impair my enjoyment of what otherwise was a spectacular last day. Bring some plasters!

Image by Christoph Strassler under Creative Commons license.

February 21, 2017

Hamburg, Germany – the Highlights

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Hamburg is Germany’s second largest city and has a big personality all of its own. It offers something for everyone, whether you’re a culture vulture, shopaholic, outdoor lover or history enthusiast.

This northern German city between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea is one of the busiest ports in Europe. The city centre is built around two artificial lakes and a network of canals. Take a stroll along its many waterways to see why it’s called “The Venice of the North”. Spare time to visit the local fish market, the Merchants District – take a boat tour or jump on a ferry. Even in summer the wind can be brisk, so pack a sweater.

Green Spaces

Hamburg is full of green spaces, waterfront walkways and bike paths. Budget conscious tourists can stroll through the cobbled streets window-shopping and see the buildings change from old brick warehouses to uber-modern architecture by crossing any of the 2,300 bridges that span the canals. Walking around the two lakes or relaxing along the banks of the river is a free and an enjoyable way to spend some time. Or take a tour, public transport or rent a bike. In the summer you can go swimming, kayaking and sailing or take a boat tour on the lakes, and in the winter, go ice-skating. Hamburg is one of Europe’s greenest cities. Planten und Blomen Park is among the most visited with its old botanical garden, the largest Japanese garden in Europe, a tropical house and numerous children’s activities. Another popular attraction is Hagenbeck Zoo, home to over 200 different animal species and a four level aquarium.

Art and Culture

For culture enthusiasts, there are loads of museums and art galleries. The Maritime Museum explains Hamburg’s maritime history and the Miniatur Wunderland has the largest model railroad in the world. While Spicy’s Spice Market inter-active museum has over 800 exhibits and different spices to touch, smell and try.
For art lovers, there are seven centuries of art, from medieval to contemporary, in the Kunsthalle’s three different buildings. And a visit to the Deichtorhallen is a must for lovers of contemporary art and photography.
Architectural wonders abound with many significant churches, such as St. Nicholas, which was the tallest building in the world for a short time in the 19th century, and St. Michael’s whose bell tower has beautiful views of the city.

Vibrant Night Life

At night, Hamburg has a vibrant vibe, from classical concerts to loud club music. St. Pauli and the Reeperbahn area are full of clubs, while Schanzenviertel has more laid back bars. A must-see for many tourists is the red-light district of Reeperbahn, where you can retrace the steps of the Beatles before they became famous.

January 3, 2017

10 Tips for Making Your Summer Holiday Affordable.

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Although things appear to be turning the corner economy-wise, most of us still have to plan our summer holiday on a tight budget. Whether we holiday in Europe, North America, Asia, or further afield, the more flexible we can be with our arrangements, the more we can save.



Booking Early:



Early booking, 10 or 11 months before you wish to holiday, will often get you substantial discounts. Most operators sell a certain amount of cheaper rooms and apartments in the early days. When they go, the price goes up.

 

Booking Late:



This is where flexibility comes in. Tour operators want to fill their rooms and apartments. When business is slow, big discounts come into play, sometimes as much as 50%. If you’re even more flexible, and are prepared to accept the tour operators choice of ‘somewhere’ in France, Spain, the Balearics, Canaries, or other hotspots, then booking last minute will often attract even greater discounts.



Search the Internet:



Check all holiday types on the internet. Depending when you can travel, making your arrangements independently may well be cheaper than taking a tour operator’s package, but beware, if the operators slash prices, their option may be cheaper.



Check All Inclusive:



All Inclusive isn’t everybody’s idea of a holiday, but don’t dismiss it. All inclusive is very popular with families and groups, and can be a big saving against half or full board hotels. In the off season, when children are back at school, all inclusive packages can be substantially discounted, often to a level of self-catering units.



Play the Waiting Game:



If you find your ideal package on a tour operator’s site, fill in your details, email address etc, but don’t buy, leave the site. Next day you may well find an email in your inbox offering an additional discount – ‘if you book your package today.’



Booking Insurance:



Because you’ve bought their holiday, doesn’t mean you have to buy their holiday insurance. Check out specialist travel insurance companies online. Their plans are often cheaper, and more comprehensive, than tour operators.

 Also some credit cards provide you with free travel insurance when you pay for the bulk of your trip expenses e.g overseas flights, with that card.

Car Hire:



If your holiday plans include car hire, check out international car hire companies. While tour operators may well offer ‘discounted’ car hire if you buy through them, the big hire companies often offer a discount for pre-booking, especially out of season.



Car Insurance:



Don’t be caught out by the excess insurance trap. If you’re confident about driving abroad you may choose to forgo the excess waiver insurance. If not, then buying a separate, independent excess waiver policy may well be a cheaper option. Shop around on this one.



Large Parties, Family Groups:



If you’re planning a large family get together, or holidaying with a group of friends, check out condos, houses, country cottages, or apartments to let. Large savings are to be had per person. Group privacy is confirmed, and everyone is in the same place when organising those days out.



Tours and Excursions:



Lastly, if you’ve already decided on certain trips and excursions to undertake while on holiday, wait until you’re at your destination before booking. Tour operators receive commission on trips the reps sell. Visit a few of the excursion booths you’ll find around the resort. Compare prices and offers, many offer two for one deals, free child entrance when booking for family, or discounts for large groups. 

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