Taking inspiration from the celebs with holidays in London

Physic Gardens in London

London is a great place to visit regardless of the season and one that is full of hidden gems. With Christmas almost upon us, now is the time to begin planning a decedent escape, and if you wish to go truly over the top why not look to celebrities such as Richard Rogers, Kim Cattrall and Jon Snow for inspiration?

Physic Garden in London

The Physic Garden

Kim Cattrall is said to be a big fan of the Physic Garden – an area of beauty and educational purposes. Situated in Chelsea, this particular garden boasts various events. You can even learn a little about how plants are used in medicine by an abundance of cultures, including the Chinese, the Maori and the North American Indians.

Thomas Hardy’s Tree

Jon Snow is often spotted in the capital, with one of his favourite hangouts said to be Thomas Hardy’s Tree. When the North-East Railway derailed and took out a large part of St Pancras Church Graveyard, Thomas Hardy was given the task of numbering the scattered gravestones. After sculpting Roman numerals on each, he stacked them around an old ash tree, where they still remain today.

Sir John Soane’s Museum

When in London, Norman Foster will often take a trip to Sir John Soane’s Museum – an area celebrated for its mastery of space. From drawings and curiosities to layers of sculptures and galleries, this is a fascinating place to visit.

The Print Room

This quaint venue, located just off Westbourne Grove, is a favourite of Lady Antonia Fraser. Aside from the entrance being hidden away, you certainly feel as if you’ve stumbled upon a secret theatre and one that boasts an abundance of revolutionary shows.

The Tate Modern

Richard Rogers is often seen wandering the Tate Modern, described as one of the best cultural centres in Europe. Aside from boasting the perfect setting, the Tate is also home a wide collection of contemporary masterpieces.

Getting to London is easy, especially as there are an abundance of routes to choose from. From planes to trains, there are many forms of transport operating in and around the area and an abundance of hotels, trips and attractions.

Driving In France: The Laws Of The Land

Driving in France

France is a great holiday destination; especially for people in the UK who can’t stand long travel. Just across the pond, you can find art, viticulture, and beautiful scenery (and pay next to nothing in travel costs). Of course, you’ll want to explore as much as you can, so you’re getting around by car; but are you prepared for French driving laws?

Driving in France

 

Motorway Breakdowns

If your vehicle kicks the bucket in the middle of the motorway, you can’t call your breakdown provider. In France, there are roadside motorway phones (very orange) every 2km, and you must report your breakdown to one of these. You’ll be towed away and taken to a destination, where you can finally meet your breakdown provider.

Driving Licence

You have to be 18 years or older to drive or ride a vehicle in France. If you were speedy and passed your test at 17, you won’t be allowed to drive. EU and EEA driving licences are accepted, and you don’t need to carry an International driving permit. As well as your driving licence, you need to have proof of your insurance, your passport, and your V5C certificate.

Stocking Your Car

By law, drivers have to carry reflective jackets, a warning triangle, headlamp beam deflectors, and a breathalyser. Yes, a breathalyser! Maybe the police can’t be bothered to carry them anymore…

No Honking

Between sunset and sunrise, there’s a strict ‘no honking’ policy, unless it is a serious necessity. To indicate a warning to fellow motorists, you may flash your lights.

Speed Limits

On the motorway, the max speed you’re allowed to reach is 130km/h or 110km/h in rainy conditions. For other roads, the speed limit is 90km/h or 80km/h in rainy conditions. In built-up areas, do not exceed 50km/h. If you’re caught driving more than 40km/h over the speed limit, you will have your licence confiscated on the spot.

Bear in mind that you’re not allowed devices in your car that detect speed cameras (so it’s wise to stick to the specified speed limit at all times – don’t want to put a serious dampener on your holiday by getting caught speeding!).

Alcohol

If you have more than a 0.05% level of alcohol in your blood and you’re behind the wheel, you’re likely to get caught. The police are allowed to conduct random breath tests.

If you’re caught speeding or not wearing a seatbelt, it’s likely that you’ll be tested for drugs too. This goes for riding a motorcycle without a helmet too!

Parking

You should only drive and park on the right side of the road, if you’re part of a two lane system. Bear in mind that you’re forbidden from parking in an area with an unbroken yellow line. On one way systems, you may be able to park on either side of the road.

How to get a bargain: planning ahead or last minute holidays?

Ready to fly

The short answer is: there are great deals to be had on holidays these days, whether you book a year ahead or leaveit  to the week before.

There are variations according to the time of year and whether you’re going for all-inclusive trips, but in general, the deals are there – you just have to find them. So let’s take a look at some of the main advantages to each approach…

Ready to fly

To plan or not to plan

So what is the big distinction between advanced-planned holidays and last-minute trips? For one thing, it’s psychological. A holiday planned months and months in advance is something you carefully strategise and savour: you have given yourself the time to choose just the right package or else selected à la carte, taking advantage of low hotel prices, creating the perfect combination of flight, accommodation and activities.

This kind of well-planned holiday is often associated with greater freedom of choice as regards destination: you can organise that two-week tour of Dominica or that bucket-list trip to Ayer’s Rock in Australia. It’s an opportunity to identify the real bargains, including finding valuable accommodation discounts in the low-season. There are some great hotel offers out there that can include treats like a 5 star hotel suite with ocean views priced at the level of a twin room in a standard hotel. The pre-planned holiday, so eagerly anticipated, can become the trip of a lifetime.

Last-minute treats

A last-minute trip, on the other hand, is exciting in a different way. By its nature it’s more spontaneous, maybe even a little daring, as you have basically decided to jump on the best deals available for this specific moment in time. It may be a package holiday that a company puts out there to fill seats and beds that need filling, so the bargain itself could be just as significant as a holiday scoped out a year in advance.

Or perhaps an airline has suddenly advertised an incredibly low airfare to a country you have always wanted to visit but haven’t had time to plan for. The price is so cheap that the car ride to the airport is more expensive than the flight overseas. You often get deals like this when you are open to a last-minute grab-a-holiday approach.

Bottom line

Money can be saved in the age of great package holidays, hotel discounts and cheap airfare, it just depends on whether you want to be spontaneous and enjoy being surprised or have full knowledge – well in advance – of the holiday awaiting you in the season to come.

A handy checklist before you travel

Holidays abroad

Make sure your passport is in date

Is your passport in date? If not, you’ll have to apply for a new one and this will take time. Send it to the relevant address several months before you fly, otherwise you might not receive it before your holiday. Be aware that many countries require your passport to be in date for a while after you return, so visit the embassy of the country you’re visiting for advice – or do your research online. The UK Government offers a wealth of travel advice, so start gathering information today!

 

Holidays abroad

Arrange transport to the airport

Arrive at the airport on time by making travel arrangements in advance. Get train tickets to Gatwick  (or to wherever airport you’re flying from), reserve your seats on a luxury coach or leave a deposit with a respectable taxi firm. Just bear in mind, off peak travel tickets are more often than not cheaper, so try to get your money’s worth and save the pennies, or Euros for that matter for your trip.

Check in online

If you’re prompted to do so, check-in online as this could save you a lot of time, it can also be cheaper with some airlines. You’ll avoid long queues at the airport and will be able to grab a bite to eat or get a duty free bargain – what could be better? Fill out all the relevant details carefully and make sure you spell all names as they appear on each passport. The slightest error could cause problems, so eliminate all mistakes.

Find your passport

It sounds simple, but you must locate your passport – well before you fly. Even if you know where it is, dig it out and put it in your travel bag along with your other important documents. This will ensure everything’s safe and will stop you from panicking at the last minute. Tearing your room apart in the hope it’ll appear is not what you want when you should already be in holiday mode.

Arrange jabs

If you’re going to a country with an array of exotic diseases – don’t forget to get vaccinated. Typhoid, yellow fever and other nasty illnesses are far from pleasant, so protect yourself in every way! If you’re travelling to somewhere with malaria, you must also take tablets for the duration of your stay and a while afterwards – so visit a travel clinic in good time.

Holidays should be fun, but make sure everything’s well organised!

Where to retire abroad?

Retire by the beach

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.

4 ways to get bargains on European travel

Plane taking off

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.

4 things to do at sea in Jersey

kayaking in the sea

If you like the sea, here are a few ideas of things to do in Jersey.

kayaking in the sea

Sailing holidays in Jersey – how big is yours?

If you want to do some sailing on holiday you can hire a small dinghy or charter a large yacht with a full crew, and everything in between, such as catamarans. Whether you’re experienced or a beginner you’ll enjoy sailing around offshore reefs and discovering the diverse coastline from a different perspective, the sea.

Sail into harbours and moor up while you enjoy lunch in a local fish restaurant, before continuing to enjoy the wildlife and scenery as you set sail again around the rest of the island.

Charter a boat and see another side to Jersey

When you charter a boat you’ll experience another side to Jersey. For starters you’ll be out at sea looking back to shore realising how beautiful this Channel Island really is as well as watching the dolphins jump in and out of the Atlantic Ocean.
Ever raced a catamaran? Well on a Jersey holiday you can, or you can simply sail around the island, maybe over to France, or enjoy a bit of snorkelling around one of the reefs, or scuba dive to a sunken ship wreck.

If it’s a romantic short break to Jersey you’re looking for you may fancy dinner onboard a boat drinking champagne as the sun goes down, leaving all the hard work to the boat’s skipper.

There’s more to see with a kayak

Instead of chartering a boat you could rent a kayak and explore the island’s coastline. You’ll soon see that it’s a great way to explore parts of the island that quite simply you otherwise wouldn’t see. There are coves and caves up in the north just waiting to be discovered, full of a variety of wildlife, in areas that are so remote you’d never find them, but with a kayak you can get up close and personal.

If you don’t want to venture too far you could just ride the waves on the west coast around St Ouen’s Bay, or you could simply paddle gently off one of the south coast’s sandy beaches.

They say Jersey is one of the top kayaking destinations in the world.

Fishing on a Jersey holiday – yes there is a catch!

With offshore reefs, sunken ships, harbours, caves and coves and one of the highest tides in the world a Jersey fishing holiday is a must for fishing enthusiasts.

There are rivers and streams too but the sea is where it’s at.

Up on the north coast there are coastal rocks to fish off, or there are harbour walls. Or maybe you want to hire a boat and get out to sea, where you’ll find mullet, sea bass, conger eels, bream, turbot, rays…all waiting to be caught by you.

Fish of the boat and you’ll be amazed at the great variety of fish available to catch and that the sea bass you just caught will be great on the BBQ later!

Ready? Visit Jersey.com to start planning your holiday in details.

How to get tailor-made package holidays right

Singapore at night

When you think of a package tour what comes to mind? Being stuck on stuffy buses with noisy travellers? Always rushing and never having enough time to take in the sights?

Tour packages have come a long way in recent years, especially in the tailor-made sector. In fact, planning a holiday with an independent streak is probably best done with the guidance.

Singapore at night

An Asian dream

Fascinating history, culture, architecture customs and cuisines meet in stunning Asian destinations like Thailand, China and Malaysia making them eternally popular with visitors from the West. With so much choice on offer, the question is where to start? A combination of your imagination and a travel pros practicality will answer that question.

Tour types

Think for a minute about the kind of holiday you want. Do you want to focus on food? Are you after something romantic? Are you tempted by the excitement of Asian cities or would you like to combine town and country in a single trip? These days, you start with the ideas and, with a little bit of guidance, a tailor-made tour is created.

Choosing the right place

Asia has so many vibrant capitals that many visitors decide to focus on travelling to a selection of these urban centres. With the right advice, you won’t need to waste time exploring (unless you want to, of course) because the nightlife and attractions that appeal to you will be included in the itinerary. Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, here we come!

Islands

Thinking about a tailor-made trip to an Asian destination wouldn’t be complete without a mention of beaches. The white-sand beaches of Bali, Thailand and Malaysia are amongst the most beautiful in the world. Who wouldn’t want to spend days on end in the shade of a palm tree with cocktail in hand while listening to the waves?

The honeymoon option

Asian destinations are full of remote islands which are one reason why it is a popular choice for special romantic trips like honeymoons or anniversary celebrations. You have to walk hand-in-hand with your loved one along a beach while the sun is setting at least once in your life so why not check out the numerous options in Asia?

Once in a while a family decides to make an extra-special trip to bring them together and to create wonderful memories. Asian countries offer all sorts of possibilities in family island resorts and on nature treks. Think elephants!

The possibilities for a tailor-made tour are almost endless with the exploration half the pleasure, so why not book your trip today?

The road trip of a lifetime: 5 tips for your Route 66 adventure

Route 66 in America

America’s renowned Route 66 may be a well trodden path but with so much to see, so many experiences to be had and all sorts of diversions to be made off the main track, all Route 66 road trips are unique. However, there are a few top tips that everyone should follow to make sure the trip goes off without a hitch and that you get the most you can out of this incredible experience.

Route 66 in America

When to go

Since Route 66 takes you across most of America, the weather can vary quite widely. While you can go any time as long as you are prepared for all weather conditions, the best time to go is between mid-May and mid-October to make the most of the nicer weather. Make sure you pack for all eventualities with regards to the weather, as it can still fluctuate in this short time period.

Renting a car

Rates are fairly erratic and change all the time, especially since they depend on your departure point, destination, travelling time, the model you want and when you make the order. If you want to keep costs down, it may be worth bucking the trend and considering driving from West to East instead of the customary direction.

On the road

On the other hand, if you want to make the most of your trip and make it as memorable as possible, why not hire an incredible car? Models similar to the Mercedes SLS AMG make great choices if you’re looking for a show stopping, attention grabbing ride that will zip along the long sections of straight road and get you to your destination faster.

Take a map

Route 66 may be a well trodden tourist trail but that’s not to say figuring out the way between stop-offs in a no-brainer. Route 66 highway signs are frequently stolen, so if you turn up not knowing where you’re going you could get very lost indeed. A GPS system can be indispensable for times when signs seem to disappear into thin air, or invest in a good old-fashioned map.

Take it slow

People on a budget or under time constraints may set themselves a shorter time period to complete Route 66. Two weeks is the minimum amount of time you should give yourself to do it justice, but if you are more flexible then extending your stay will give you the chance to see all the incredible sights along the way. Every stop-off is teeming with things to do, so the more time you dedicate to your trip the better.

Resources

And last but not least, get prepared as much as you can. The best resources for this is http://www.historic66.com where you will find maps, forums and even books.

The Best Resorts in Cyprus this Summer

Quiet beach in Cyprus

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.