Retire by the beach

Where to retire abroad?

Many people having reached the end of their working lives are choosing to retire somewhere outside of the UK. This could be to seek a warmer climate, explore the world or the result of children moving away and starting a family elsewhere.

Moving to another country is particularly large step and not a decision to be taken lightly so make sure that you first spend some time exploring different places that might be suitable.

The following are a handful of suggestions.

Retire by the beach

Portugal

Pros

  • The weather is generally good and much warmer than the UK although in some regions the winters can be extraordinarily cold.
  • Portugal has relatively little traffic, clean air and effective road networks.
  • Younger will have learnt English at school meaner that there is an emerging generation who speak English fluently as a second language.

Cons

  • In the summer the temperature can regularly exceed 40°C which may be uncomfortable for those not used to it.
  • Official procedures such as arranging visas are notoriously slow.
  • Food is more expensive, especially where imported British groceries are concerned.

visitportugal.com

Spain

Pros

  • With its “hotter down South and cooler up North” reputation you can decide what sort of climate would suit you best. The South is generally busier and more popular with holidaymakers whilst the North is seen as more modest and quiet.
  • The Spanish have a much slower pace of life than we do here in the UK and are well versed in having regular siestas during the day, especially after eating lunch.
  • Spain has a much lower cost of living than the UK meaning that the money you take with you will go further.

Cons

  • Low income and lack of jobs will mean that if you are hoping to supplement your income by working you might have a tough time finding a job or making ends meet.
  • Confusing number of very different regional dialects (Basque/Catalan etc). Many Spanish people from different parts of the country cannot understand one another.
  • Local corruption is cited by some as a negative part of Spanish life. There have been instances of the authorities bulldozing the homes of ex-pats due to confusing laws.

spain.info

Malta

Pros

  • English is very widely spoken in Malta so you should have no trouble understanding people or making yourself known.
  • Despite its small size there is close knit ex-pat community in Malta.
  • Summer boasts warm weather and scorching hot temperatures perfect for sun worshippers.

Cons

  • Some taxes may seem very high compared to the UK
  • Infrastructure such as pavements and roads in places is rather poor.
  • Heavy traffic and poor air quality in some cities might not be suitable for people with asthma or respiratory problems.
  • Incredibly cold winters match the gloriously hot summers!
  • There are countless other considerations to take into account when thinking of retiring abroad such as
  • Property – purchasing or renting? Check the local laws on this.
  • Finances – you will still need an open bank account and the means to receive your pension.
  • Expatriate medical insurance is important especially if there is no or little national healthcare.

visitmalta.com

There are many great reasons to retire abroad but make sure that you first do your research and get involved with people who have gone ahead and done it themselves.

Plane taking off

4 ways to get bargains on European travel

Unless you’re heading to Eastern Europe, travel in Europe is very expensive. With thriving metropolises with prices to rival London, expensive hotels and flights that really stretch budgets travelling in Europe can be a stressful on the wallet. Thankfully we’re on hand with 4 top tips to get a cheaper European break.

Plane taking off

Travel at the End of the season or in the Off Season

There’s a reason ticket, hotels, airfare and other prices go up during the holiday seasons –it’s because there is a huge increase in demand. People want to travel, attend parties and raves, see music festivals and concerts, visit their favourite beaches, relax with the family on an exclusive beach resort and drink beers in a pub that’s not in their locality. But, once you decide to travel in the off season when there isn’t that much demand or traffic, you’ll often find that you can get to your destination for 40% less or even more.

Consider Rental Apartments

For most holiday goers, the first thing they think about during their travels is accommodation –that’s a good thing. The downside however is that most people automatically think of hotels alone, not knowing that rentals and hostels can be cheaper and more rewarding. For instance, if you’re travelling to Amsterdam, you will find that rentals in Amsterdam are considerably cheaper than staying in hotels. So, look for apartment rentals or vacation swap opportunities. This alone can save you a lot of money.

Fly with Less Popular Airlines and Airports

You would think many people would know this, but they don’t. As a result, they end up spending way more than they should for airfare. There are over 55 low priced routes around Europe to locations of your choice. And when booking the planes, be sure to book those going to neighbouring and less busy airports. If possible arrange use buses or trains to connect from the airport to your hotel. If you have to take a taxi shop around for a decent deal – or, if you’re staying at a hotel, ask them to provide you with one.

Think Trains and Car Rentals

The great thing about Europe is that the cities are connected via a complex railway system. So, if you want, you can board a train in London and travel to France. And the best thing about this is that it’s cheaper than air travel. So, make sure that your route can’t be travelled via trains before boarding a flight. And if you’ll be spending more than a week in your holiday destination, be sure to consider the necessity of a rental. In cities taxis and local transport tends to be a lot cheaper than car rentals. Most big cities everything can be reached walking so you can save even more here. In rural areas a car is often a necessity but you’d be surprised how easy it can be to get around with local bus and train services.

Quiet beach in Cyprus

The Best Resorts in Cyprus this Summer

If you’re looking to take your family away on a summer holiday this year, but not sure about the destination, it’s time to get familiar with the spectacular island of Cyprus. Millions of families flock here every year, with the kids in tow and young adults leading the way to the great selection of bars and clubs.

There’s so much to do in Cyprus that it’s hard to know where to start your vacation adventure, however one is for sure, and that is vast array of luxury resorts. No matter what your budget, we’re sure you’ll be able to find a resort that matches your family’s needs, so let’s take a look at the best of them.

Quiet beach in Cyprus

Ayia Napa

Ayia Napa is one of the most iconic and talked about holiday resorts in Mediterranean Europe, and for good reason! Not only is the resort well-kept, with it’s crystal clear waters and perfect beaches, but it also offers a nightlife unmatched by any other resort on the island.

In such a naturally beautiful setting, you wouldn’t expect the party atmosphere to combine so well with families looking to relax, however they both come together seamlessly. Furthermore, there’s a amazing selection of apartments, hotels and shops located on the beach too, so everything you’ll even need on your holiday is literally minutes away.

Paphos

Paphos is another great resort in Cyprus, and located on the southwestern side of the island, it’s a little more traditional than the commercialised Ayia Napa. Not only is Paphos the birthplace of the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, but it offers a fantastic selection of old and new. The hotels and apartments here blend easily into the resort’s ancient and historic background, but offer sleek, modern accommodation on the inside.

When it comes to keeping yourself entertained in Paphos, how about some 18 hole golf courses, ancient castles, Roman theatres and luxury restaurants? Paphos is for the young couple looking to embrace the romance of their surroundings, while also taking in the vibrant, but not overwhelming nightlife.

Larnaca

Home to lazy palm trees, traditional cafés, food festivals and locals who love tourists, Larnaca is a wonderful place to bring the kids this summer. Although it is the third largest town in Cyprus, it’s reputation as a family paradise has brought it to the forefront of consumer choice, and has remained a popular vacation destination for many years.

Hiking in the countryside in Cyprus

From the Municipal Gallery to the Hala Sultan Tekke, Larnaca is rife with historical monuments, and has no less than 6 museums for tourists to choose from. Furthermore, there are some great sight-seeing tours available from the local hotels, and there are even some free ones given by seasoned locals looking to educate people about the history of the area. All in all, Larnaca is a must-see resort in Cyprus, even if you’re not planning on staying there. There are very good transport links from the other resorts to Larnaca, and a taxicab won’t cost you much either.

Sea crossing at Dover

To France by ferry

With the financial crisis still affecting us all in some way it’s good that you can at least find a way to enjoy a great value holiday in France…or Belgium and Holland if you fancy travelling that little bit further.

The ferry option

Sea crossing at Dover

When it comes to travel costs taking one of the cross channel ferries to France takes a lot of beating.

There’s also the added bonus that, when you take the car ferry to France, there aren’t any baggage restrictions. So you can take as much as you can get in the car, and that includes passengers!!

Most of ferry prices include the cost of taking your car and a certain number of passengers. Take MyFerryLink for example, the cost you pay includes the car and up to 9 passengers. So, if you work out the cost per passenger it will be really very low.

Indeed, MyFerryLink believe they offer the cheapest ferries to France with prices from £19 each way on their any duration ticket. So, if you were to travel for £19 one way and you had 9 passengers in total that would be just over £2 per person!!

Onboard the ferries, you’ll find amenities including restaurants, a bar, shop and children’s play area, great offers on perfumes, beer, wine etc, so you can make even more savings compared to high street prices.

The trip doesn’t start  in France but onboard the ferry!

Let loose in France

Once in France, which only takes 90 minutes by the way, you’ll find all sorts of bargains awaiting you.

There are a number of major shopping malls, one being Cité Europe in Calais, which is definitely worth a visit, especially as within Cité Europe there’s a large Carrefour supermarket where you can buy just about anything, with many offers available.

A little further on from Calais, but not that far and quite an easy drive is Lille, with many shops including a large Designer Outlet for money off all your favourite designer labels.

Remember, you’ll have your car with you, so not only can you drive afar but you can also fill the car up with shopping without having to worry about luggage restrictions. Bye bye Easyjet and Ryanair!

Here’s something to help:

http://www.calais-guide.co.uk/

What you get then

If you are still undecided between taking the plane or the ferry, the following list should help. The ferry option to France certainly saves you money all around:

  • Low price ticket
  • The bigger your group, the cheaper the ticket
  • Stretch your legs, move around, eat, drink, play and do some shopping
  • Unrestricted luggage allowance
  • Duty-free on selected items on board
  • No need to hire a car once on firm ground

So what are you waiting for? Enjoy the savings and have more to spend on your holiday. I’m off to the continent now.

 

Fun train ride

5 day trips from London by train

Sometimes the perfect trips are only one day long. Each of these historical English destinations is only a short train ride outside of London and sure to bring joy to the entire family.

Fun train ride

1. City of Hull

Founded in the 12th century, the city of Hull is located about 310 km north of London. Travelling by train take only a brief 2.5-hour journey out of the capital city. The Deep is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Hull. Built underground alongside the Humber estuary, The Deep houses a massive complex of aquariums. Visitors can explore the aquariums by taking an elevator that moves through a tank containing over 3,500 different species of fish. For visitors looking for historical attractions, Hull hosts several large museums. Museums of particular interest are the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull and East Riding Museum, and the Hull Maritime Museum.

2. Stonehenge

Stonehenge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a prehistoric ring of huge stones. While the actual function of the structure is unknown, researchers believe the structure served in a religious capacity or as a burial ground. Carbon dating suggests the stones were moved to their current state around 2000 BC. The mystery surrounding the purpose of the stones adds to the excitement of exploring the ruins as a tourist. Trains from London can reach Salisbury, just outside of the Stonehenge site, in about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Stonehenge is only a 13 km bus ride away from Salisbury. Avebury is a nearby prehistoric rock structure that should not be missed if already going to Stonehenge.

3. City of Bath

The ancient city of Bath is only a 90-minute train ride from London. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bath is best known as an original Roman bathing site. Natural hot springs provide mineral-rich water for bathing. If tourists want to participate in an authentic Roman bath, they can visit the Thermae Bath Spa. While the baths are the main attraction, tourists will find the Royal Victoria Gardens and the Royal Crescent to be worth the trip alone.

Roman bath open to the public

4. White Cliffs of Dover

A train from London to Dover only takes about 1 hour. Tourists looking for one of the most scenic views of the English coastline should venture towards the White Cliffs. Visitors at the White Cliffs can even see the French border across the English Channel. The cliffs maintain historical significance due to their important role in defending the nation from attack before air travel. Both the Port of Dover and Dover Castle are good attractions to spend time at during the day.

5. City of Liverpool

Any Beatles fan will enjoy exploring the city where the rock band was founded. A brief train ride away, the city of Liverpool offers a wealth of original Beatles attractions. The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour even takes tourists to dozens of sites such as Strawberry Field and Penny Lane. Train rides from London to Liverpool generally take about 2.5 hours. However, people who are not fans of the Beatles can still find something to appreciate about the city of Liverpool. History buffs will enjoy exploring the city that saw 40 percent of the world’s trade during the 1800s.

The Mayflower pub - the oldest on the River Thames

Where to best experience London’s nightlife

Calling all party people – the London club scene is hotter than ever right now, so it’s the perfect time to take a trip, especially if you never been before.

We know reading’s not all that hip, but we’re sure you’ll be glad you took a minute to browse this blog post, and find out all about the best London pubs, bars and clubs to visit.

The Mayflower pub - the oldest on the River Thames

The Pub

The Mayflower, “the oldest pub on the River Thames

There has been a pub on the Rotherhithe site – which is now home to The Mayflower – for hundreds of years. It is every inch the traditional London pub, complete with oak beams and wooden panelling, plus a gorgeous view of the Thames from the upmarket upstairs dining room. There’s also an excellent pub quiz!

The Wine Bar

Gordon’s Wine Bar

As the oldest wine bar in London, Gordon’s is conveniently placed a stone’s throw from Embankment tube station. This quirky establishment is almost entirely underground – with exposed brickwork, flickering candlelight and a great atmosphere all adding to the experience. The variety of wines is vast, choose something classic and French or, a highlight, the fortified wine drawn directly from casks behind the bar.

The Cocktail Bar

Callooh Callay

From the cassette tapes which decorate the toilet walls to the Narnia-style wardrobe you can walk through, this trendy Shoreditch bar screams out for party people to come and play. Hidden on a cobbled East London side street, Callooh Callay offers superb cocktails and even better puns – try best-seller, ‘If you don’t gnome me by now’ which, obviously, comes served to share in a big gnome.

The Club

Fabric

This world-famous club is a must-go for anyone who wants to truly experience London’s nightlife. It can get a little crowded, but hang on in there till the early hours of the morning and things get a little more relaxed. Most of the big acts don’t come on till around 3am but the consistently fantastic weekend line-ups mean that they’re sure to be worth waiting for.

In terms of accommodation, a trip to London centred on the nightlife is best experienced from rented apartment, so that there’s no need to worry about waking other hotel guests. Plus, you can spend the money you save on getting into that hot new bar, and even carry on the party back at your very own crash pad if you’re not burned out by the time the clubs closed.

Santa coming to town

Where to book an alternative Christmas party in Manchester

Santa coming to townChristmas parties in Manchester are fantastically varied thanks to the city’s status as a major destination for sport, shopping, bars, restaurants and museums.

As a result, this is the perfect location for an alternative festive celebration, with the venues on offer catering for a huge range of needs and preferences.

 

The city has fantastic transport links, with excellent motorway links; Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Victoria and Manchester Oxford Road train stations right in the heart of the city; as well as excellent bus and tram (Metrolink) connections, meaning everyone can easily reach their chosen venue in or around the city.

Organisers of corporate events who are bored of the typical hotel gathering, and clubs and societies that want something a little different for their Christmas party, should check out these exciting Manchester party venues, which each offer an alternative to the conventional event.

Old Trafford

Old Trafford is one of the north-west city’s top attractions, being home to one of the most successful football clubs in the world, Manchester United. What better place for sports fans or those seeking an impressive location to host their party?

The National Football Museum

Another venue option for party organisers who want to embrace Manchester’s fantastic sporting culture is The National Football Museum. Guests who select the package from events specialists  have private access to the Level 1 gallery, can enjoy the Trophy Photo experience, and can even play the Be a Presenter Game for the ultimate themed evening.

Chill Factore

Chill Factore is one of Manchester’s newest and hottest attractions, despite being an indoor skiing and snowboarding venue. This is the perfect pick if you’re looking for a truly festive evening, with the (albeit fake) snow and seasonal decorations.

Imperial War Museum North

A great alternative option for the office Christmas party is the Imperial War Museum North, with its fantastic location on The Quays and state-of-the-art facilities making it one of the top picks for corporate gatherings.

Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI)

Another one of Manchester’s top museums in the MOSI, and this exciting and stunning venue is a great place to host a Christmas party. It’s the perfect choice for any organisations in the transport, science or engineering sectors.

Manchester Art Gallery

Book a Christmas party at the Manchester Art Gallery and your party could enjoy private access to the exhibits, which currently include Alexander von Wagner’s most famous work The Chariot Race and a Vivienne Westwood evening dress.

The Lowry

Another one for art lovers is the Lowry, which is named after one of Manchester’s most famous painters, L S Lowry. The building, located on the Manchester Ship Canal, with its magnificent and unique architecture, certainly stands out on the waterfront, making it one of the region’s most spectacular party settings.

The Berney Arms - not accessible by car

Norfolk – this quiet little corner of England

Norfolk is a great county to choose for a traditional family break at any time of the year, but it’s a particularly good choice for a summer holiday as there’s so much great coastline to explore. More and more families are choosing to stay within the UK for their summer break and given the stunning natural beauty which the UK has to offer, it’s easy to see why.

The Berney Arms - not accessible by car

From Hunstanton to Sheringham

Norfolk has a wealth of heritage, culture and stunning scenery to offer and one way to explore it is by taking the coast path which is one of twelve national trails and stretches from Hunstanton to Sheringham. The whole trail is within the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty so there’s plenty of breath-taking countryside to take in as you’re walking along. There’s lots of wildlife to look out for as you’re making your way along the coast path, which is great for keeping children entertained, and you may spot some interesting birds. You should also keep an eye out for seals as you pass Blakeney Point.

Norwich

If you head into the city you’ll find a lively hub of activity with great shopping, restaurants and bars all set within the medieval lanes and historic architecture. You can’t miss the city’s impressive cathedral which is definitely worth a look.

Cherry Tree

As for accommodation, staying in one of Norfolk’s caravan parks means that you have plenty to do on site as well as exploring what the area has to offer. For example at Parkdean’s Cherry Tree Holiday Park, Mill Rd, Burgh Castle, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, NR31 9QR, you’ll find that there is a fantastic heated swimming pool (great for rainy days) and a kids’ club that offers plenty of entertaining activities for the kids when you fancy a bit of quiet time by yourself. Cherry Tree is conveniently situated for easy access to Gorleston Beach and the seaside town of Great Yarmouth, where you’ll find the Pleasure Beach, Model Village and Sealife Centre.

Staying in

Staying on a caravan park also means that there are plenty of other children for yours to play with and make new friends during their holiday. There’s evening entertainment provided so there’s no need to drive off-site every night. And of course, staying in self-catering accommodation, you can do as much or as little cooking as you feel like.

From countryside to coastline, from forests to farmland, Norfolk also has bustling city life, shopping and restaurants to keep city girls happy.

Don't drink too much!

Best evening activities for a London stag weekend

If London is the place to be for your stag weekend, the array of choice on offer can be overwhelming. As a city, London can cater to a massive range of tastes and budgets, but knowing what you are looking for can help you narrow down the options and have a fantastic weekend.

Don't drink too much!

A multi-faceted city

London can offer a huge range of choices for a stag weekend, from a pub crawl around the city, visits to trendy bars in the West End, to taking a more bohemian turn around Camden. As with any stag experience, knowing the tastes of the members of the group can help you to plan for a successful time. When thinking about the itinerary for the evening, there is an almost endless selection on offer.

Something to eat

Given that a meal out in London can be an entire evening in itself and that the capital has plenty of choice when it comes to restaurants, the mantra of planning ahead rings true again. Similarly, the role of the meal in your evening will dictate to an extent the sort of place you plump for. If you only want a meal in order to provide foundations for the rest of the evening’s activities, something cheap, cheerful and plentiful is in order. An all you can eat buffet or noodle bar, of which there are many dotted around the capital, will provide much food for not many pennies. If the meal is likely to be a more central part of the evening, perhaps if you have older relatives along on the stag weekend who are unlikely to join you for the rest of the shenanigans, a restaurant like The Fish & Chip Shop in Islington provides a great take on the Friday night tea staple. Described by the Independent as an “undoubted success”, this place provides a fun start to your night.

A night on the tiles

Once you have eaten, often the next order of the day is taking to the bars and ending in a nightclub. With so many pubs, bars and clubs to choose from, it can be tough to know where to begin. In an area such as Greenwich or Camden there are many places within walking distance, so using this place as a hub you can plan your entire night. In terms of clubs, London Bridge’s Cable was among one of the Guardian’s top 10 clubs in London and is well worth a shout for late night drinking and dancing.

Away from the bars

If spending your weekend in the pub is likely to be eschewed in favour of other activities, London has an unrivalled selection. Taking in a comedy club or even a west end show can make your weekend live long in the memory. If you are stumped for activities to fill your weekend, there are companies like Chilli Sauce who can do the spade work for you, they even offer stag weekends abroad for those interested.

Although this article is about skiing, we couldnt resist this amazing view of Hemsedal

5 reasons to consider Norway as your next skiing holiday

There is some unfair criticism banded around about skiing in Norway. Reading through it, you start to question whether anybody has ever been to it. Not having the biggest of reputations in the ski world any minor criticism can have a massive affect. And there is plenty, mainly undue. So here are some of the benefits that are to be had based on a recent trip to Hemsedal. It is always good to add a bit of balance to the scales.

Although this article is about skiing, we could'nt resist this amazing view of Hemsedal

1. It’s for everyone

Some resorts in Europe can definitely give off a feeling of exclusivity. It can be enough to put people off. After all holidays are a time for to let it all out and relax. Thankfully skiing is Norway’s number one hobby. None of the pomp here. Seen more as something that is done on the weekend, it is accessible to everyone. A definite benefit in my book.

2. Cross country skiing

Get off your cross trainer machine in the gym and try the real stuff outdoors. Sometimes you don’t feel like hurtling down a mountain on two pieces of wood. You just want to be on ground that is a bit more level. Well Norway is the place for it. They love it so much that it borders on being a national obsession. It definitely isn’t seen as the coward’s way out here, which can be the case elsewhere. Interesting Fact: Hemsedal has a 120 kilometres of Cross Country tracks. That is a significant amount of real estate.

3. Night Skiing

The daylight hours can be very short in winter. Luckily due to modern engineering and that clever man Benjamin Franklin there is a way around it. The Twilight ski. Many of the major resorts have installed floodlit runs. It definitely adds to experience knowing you have that extra cushion of time to carve some lines. Also it gives you the opportunity to sight-see a bit more. Anything that gives me time for dog sledging is a benefit in my book.

4. Cheap Lift Passes

To put it simply it offers better value for money. Let’s face it lift passes can be the biggest drain on any skier’s budget. In much of mainland Europe the price is pretty high and this shows no sign of slowing. In Norway the prices are around 1570 NOK for eight days. That is under £190 GBP and considering the pound is not at its strongest that’s very good value.

5. Long Seasons

Two words that delight any snow fiends’ ears and for good reason too. It means that there is less of a worry about getting time off of work. A longer window of opportunity means that there is no need to negotiate with colleagues over time off.

So Norway does have its pluses. In fact it has at least five. It also has its negatives but all in all it deserves a bit more credit. Maybe if a few more people visit there then it will get it.