Tag - Europe

When in Rome: 5 Things Every First-Time Traveler Should Know

5 Things Every First-Time Traveler Should Know

5 Things Every First-Time Traveler Should Know

by Rodger Crane ,

So you’re finally going for it — planning that overseas trip you’ve been dreaming about. You’ve always wanted to visit new and exciting areas of the world, see ancient wonders, learn about new cultures, experience new foods and meet new people. However, international travel differs from domestic in a number of ways, and you should be prepared. Here some key guidelines to live by while traveling in a foreign country:

Educate Ahead Of Time

Take some time to educate yourself and your fellow travelers about the countries and specific regions you will be traveling to. Don’t expect to find the attitudes, atmosphere and culture to be like what you left at home; embrace the diversity and be respectful of the cultural norms as well as the “dos and don’ts” of the area. And blessed is he or she who can say “hello,” “please” and “thank you” in the local language.

Become One With Your Passport

Engrain the habit of keeping your passport with you — safely hidden away somewhere on your person — at all times. A person without a passport may as well be a refugee without a country.

Get Off The Beaten Path

While tour guides and fancy Westernized vacations can serve a purpose for the uninitiated traveler, strive to stray off the beaten path at least a couple of times on your trip. After you’ve seen the known tourist hot spots, do a bit of exploring on your own. Eat and shop at places the locals favor.

Embrace Technology

The explosion of technology in recent years has made certain aspects of travel easier than ever. There are a number of free or very affordable “apps” you can download to your smartphone to enhance just about every aspect of travel. The LocalEats app can help you find the best local cuisine wherever you travel. Travel App Box has been called the “Swiss army knife” of travel apps. It features a currency converter, tip calculator for each country, country codes, clothing size converter, a phrase dictionary for 5 languages, emergency numbers for each country and even pictograms to show to the locals when you don’t know the language.

Keep Your Wits About You

While you’ll want to relax and have an amazing time on your trip, never lose sight of the fact that you’re in a foreign country. Traveling in Europe may require less vigilance than some parts of the Middle East, but be sure to use common sense wherever you go, especially when in crowded areas like markets and bus terminals. Watch your alcohol intake and avoid neighborhoods with high crime rates. Consider enrolling in an identity theft protection service before you leave on your trip. According to the LifeLock, their service can help with recovery if your personal information is ever stolen and used fraudulently.

Respect

When traveling internationally, remember at all times that you are a representative of your country. Use common sense, trust your gut and always be friendly. A smile and a pleasant demeanor can go a long way in offsetting a language barrier or a cultural faux pas. Also, don’t let one or two bad experiences sour you on an entire country. Just like America, there are good and not-so-good people everywhere. Use your intuition, think on your feet and you’ll find yourself connecting with the good ones.

North by East to Iceland: Part 1

Arriving in Iceland

Arriving in Iceland

Flashing Memories Over Nova Scotia

Well into our cruising altitude out of JFK, we sat aboard IcelandAir for our first ever trip to Reykjavik, Iceland. I looked out my window far above the Bay of Fundy to see the wee flash of Cape Sable lighthouse way to the south near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Seeing that tiny light in the distance brought a flood of Nova Scotian memories

There’s a beautiful Micmac Indian legend that poetically explains the Bay of Fundy’s huge tides. Glooscap, a great native giant, wished to take a bath and ordered a beaver to build a dam across the mouth of the Bay of Fundy to trap the high tide waters deep enough for Glooscap’s bath. After the beaver completed the dam, he enraged a whale who proceeded to break apart the dam with his huge tail. Ever since then, the bay’s waters slosh back and forth with tremendous power up to this very day.

I well remember my first ever visit to Nova Scotia as a young college student who got talked into selling magazines in Halifax by a man called CJ on the ferryboat from Bar Harbor, Maine. I just wanted to walk around Yarmouth to enjoy its people and its rugged landscapes. But no, CJ said I could make good money (in 1956). So, I made sure I had enough money for return train fare up to Halifax and rent a room at the YMCA.

After CJ trained me on how to sell Chatelaine Magazine subscriptions, off I went to a suggested residential area to push Chatelaine. After two or three days of zero subscriptions, I wondered if I should not return to Yarmouth. But, I tried once again to be a successful salesman. One young lady asked me point blank, “Why should I subscribe to Chatelaine when have three kids to feed and rent to pay?” I replied, “You’re absolutely right. You should not subscribe.”

Within a few hours of this brief conversation, I found myself aboard the train to Yarmouth breathing a sigh of relief. But I was in for a surprise! Half way to Yarmouth, the conductor announced not to be frightened by a huge forest fire the train had to pass through. Shortly thereafter I saw billows of pine smoke high in the sky. Then I noticed that these clouds began to reflect shimmering red flames underneath. And soon the train passed by flames so intensely hot that my faced burned from heat through the glass window. The train kept rolling along through a frightening inferno. It’s amazing the tracks didn’t buckle.

Gradually the smoke and flame cleared with views of the Bay of Fundy. Was the whale still angry at Glooscap for building that dam? Did he set off sparks by bashing his tail against the shoreline?

God it was great to sip a cup of Labrador tea and eat a fish sandwich at a waterfront cafe in Yarmouth as I awaited the Blue Nose ferryboat to Bar Harbor, Maine.

 Click here for North by East to Iceland: Part 2

Copyright-Richard Fleck © uncharted101.com

Hitting The Slopes Ski Holidays for The Whole Family

Skiing

Skiing

If you and your family have had your fill of sun, sea and sand holidays or are just looking for a winter getaway, there are few better choices than a great skiing holiday. With destinations around the world and opportunities for fun readily available throughout, there isn’t much not to like.

Ski holidays are an excellent excuse to spend some time with family while enjoying the spectacular scenery, vibrant atmosphere and of course the thrilling skiing opportunities that countless global resorts offer. Perhaps the hardest decision is not whether or not to go, but rather which destination to choose, as the list of possibilities is a long one and all of them have plenty to offer. Europe and North America are among the most popular areas for skiing and are both full of great places to travel to, all complete with plenty of accommodation choices, amenities and entertainment facilities. Choosing where to go ultimately boils down to considering two crucial aspects of any ski holiday.

THE SKIING
Naturally, the first priority when deciding on a ski holiday destination is the quality of the slopes themselves. For families, one concern is going to be making sure that there are some easier options for younger or less confident members of the group, so anywhere with nursery slopes or anything rated green or blue are a safe bet. In addition, it is probably worth considering the provision of training or instruction available and whether it is aimed at total beginners of those wishing to improve existing ability. The other related facilities are also important such as the lift system and equipment hire availability   for instance, in austria skiing is such a major part of national tourism that it has one of the most advanced lift networks in the world.

OTHER FACTORS
Regardless of how many hours you spend out on the slopes, you are going to have to spend some time doing other things so this should be considered too. As with any holiday, looking into the accommodation and aspects such as food & drink and entertainment is always important. Families are probably more likely to favour a hotel or a rented chalet over a hostel and the focus will be less on the wild aprrs-ski atmosphere, which is very much the scene of groups of young people and students. Instead, nice places to eat out and have a quiet drink are important, as is anywhere that offers evening entertainment tailored for the whole family. Austria skiing trips are also a very good choice for families as the transport and infrastructure off-slope is very comprehensive meaning activities besides winter sports are easily accessible.

Overall, a family skiing holiday makes for a great alternative to more conventional family vacations and couples the great fun of winter sports with all the joys of spending quality time together in destinations which are both excellent to look at and filled with all the amenities and facilities necessary to make your trip as enjoyable as possible.

Useful info:

http://www.htstotalski.com/destinations/austria

Travelling on a budget: free walking tours

    Free Walking tours

Free Walking tours

Travelling doesn’t have to break the bank – for travellers on a budget, numerous free walking tours are on offer around the world. Explore the history, culture and lifestyle of some of the globe’s most popular cities alongside knowledgeable tour guides in an affordable way.

Australia:

I’m Free Walking Tours offer free walking tours of Sydney and Melbourne in rain, hail or shine. Explore Sydney’s history in a 3 hour, easy-walking tour that includes the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Town Hall and Pitt Street Shopping Mall. Melbourne’s 3 hour tour encompasses the most popular sites of Australia’s culture capital: Federation Square, Chinatown, Royal Exhibition Centre, Princess Theatre and Bourke Street Shopping Mall.

Europe:

Sandemans New Europe, christened the home of the famous free tour, is committed to providing visitors – regardless of their budget – with the best tour available. Local expert guides share their insights to help travellers discover the beauty and history of as many cities as possible. Currently, Sandemans offers free walking tours in London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Prague, Paris, Madrid, Jerusalem and Copenhagen. The company has plans to expand to Brussels, Tel Aviv, New York and Barcelona.

USA:

Free Tours by Foot presents the only free, tip-based walking tours of America’s most well-known cities. The tour company aims to educate and entertain guests with creative tours in an affordable manner. Cities currently on offer include New York, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston and Charleston. Travellers are encouraged to pay what they feel the tour was worth after tour completion, helping to motivate the company’s guides to give his or her best effort on each and every tour. For a list of free walking tours around the world, visit the following link.

Sources:

I’m Free Walking Tours

Sandemans

freetoursbyfoot.com/”rel=”nofollow”>Free Tours by Foot

Free City Tours

Copyright © STI

Totty Teas, for a perfect cuppa and more!

    Totty Teas © Realitas 2012

Totty Teas © Realitas 2012

How do you make a top-class tea shop? Offering an excellent cup of tea – or coffee – is essential of course, and you must also tempt customers with a scrumptious selection of homemade cakes. Next, you’ll need to add a welcoming atmosphere, stylish décor and comfortable seating.

Lastly, but most importantly, mix in some thoughtful, quirky and smile-inducing little extras that will lift an ordinary tea shop into something very special indeed.

This is exactly what the creators of Totty Teas have done with great success. Located in the pretty village of Peakirk, near Peterborough, Totty Teas began modestly with just a couple of tables in a corner of an old granary that was being developed into a community arts and crafts centre. With a limited budget but plenty of creativity and help from willing volunteers, Totty Teas soon grew and blossomed.

Today, it has all the features a tea shop connoisseur would hope to find: friendly service, pretty china and cake stands, co-ordinating tablecloths and posies of fresh flowers, along with a few surprises such as big, squashy sofas, a piano and a library of art books.

In fine weather, you have the option to enjoy your tea outdoors while admiring the colourful ‘garden’ of container-grown flowers. If you stay inside, you can either sit at a table that will give you a good view of the main craft showroom, or choose one in the quieter alcove if you want to read, have a chat with friends, or just spend time looking at the paintings on the walls. The artworks are a small sample of those exhibited by local artists in the main art gallery on the floor above Totty Teas. There is something to appeal to all artistic tastes, and the display is constantly changing as new pictures replace those that have been sold.

Most of Totty Teas’ customers will tell you they discovered the tea shop by chance, but one visit is enough to turn them into enthusiastic regulars. ‘I must tell my friends about this place,’ is a common reaction from first-timers, and word of mouth recommendations are an important factor in the steadily increasing number of Totty Teas fans.

If you are visiting Peterborough, or just passing through the area, be sure to make a short detour to sample the delights – and especially the delicious cakes – of this charming little tea shop.

Totty Teas can be found in the Realitas Community Arts Centre at Peakirk, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.

For up to date information on opening times:

Website: http://www.realitascommunity.org/

Phone:    01733 252 538

Email:  Neil@RealitasCommunity.org

Three stunning Lake District towns

Lake towns- transientlight.co.uk

Lake towns- transientlight.co.uk

The Lake District in the north west of England is a truly stunning part of the world. With beautiful vistas, lakeside walks and countless mountain trails, as well as charming chocolate box towns and villages making it an incredible holiday destination. Here are some of the very best places that are not to be missed!

Keswick

The market town of Keswick situated in the heart of the Lake District. The popular tourist town attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year, all flocking to Keswick to make the most of its traditional charm and the beautiful Lake District National Park that it stands in. Located just a stone’s throw from Derwent Water and not far from Bassenthwaite Lake, Keswick is ideally situated for a walking, especially for the four highest mountains in England – Scafell Pike, Scafell, Helvellyn and Skiddaw, that are all easily accessible from the town.

But it’s not just walking, scenery and lakes that Keswick has to boast about. Keswick is a fantastic destination for a more relaxed break making the most of the abundance of shops, cafes and restaurants that make Keswick an absolutely stunning holiday destination. Keswick also hosts an annual beer festival which is now in its 16th year and attracts nearly 6000 beer fanatics to enjoy locally produced real ales and unusual brews as well as ciders and lagers. What could be better than sitting back, enjoying a pint and listening to one of the many live bands that play throughout the festival?

Ambleside

Nestled at the head of Lake Windermere, Ambleside is an excellent base for many outdoor activities inclucing walking, hiking and mountain biking. Nearby, it is fantastic place to take a steamer on the lake to take in the beautiful scenery on the lake and the dramatic surrounding mountains. Ambleside is extremely popular with tourists and with lots and lots of accommodation to choose from as well as pubs, restaurants and tourist shops. When you fancy a leisurely afternoon, picturesque Ambleside is a great place to head, to make the most of its beautiful buildings and charming shops.

Cockermouth

The traditional market town of Cockermouth is situated just outside of the Lake District National Park. The town still has plenty of its historic charm and character especially due to its delightful slate and stone buildings and it’s recently renovated Market Place. The Jenning’s Brewery has had a long association with Cockermouth since the brewery moved to Cockermouth well over a hundred years ago. Nowadays, the brewery tour is a chance to learn about the history of the brand and of course to sample a pint of the produce at the end!

Hotel review – Grand Hotel Nouvel Opera, Paris, France

Grand Hotel Nouvel Opera, Paris- Gare de Lyon, Paris

Grand Hotel Nouvel Opera, Paris- Gare de Lyon, Paris

If you are the kind of traveler that thinks staying at a Motel 6 or Super 8 is roughing it, Grand Hotel Nouvel Opera in the Bastille district of Paris is not for you. From my standpoint, there is nothing wrong with it: it is a small, fairly clean, inexpensive place with really friendly and helpful staff (not at all uncommon among small Parisian hotels).

My husband and I stayed there for a week and very much enjoyed the place. Being in a very non-tourist area made us feel more a part of the local scene. Then again, we have also enjoyed pitching a tent on solid frozen ground at 2 a.m. at the Grand Tetons. We have also traveled to Paris with one 22-inch rollerboard and a small backpack each. If you consider yourself any higher maintenance than that, do not stay at Grand Hotel Nouvel Opera. You’ll just be uncomfortable and end up writing a lousy review for it and ruining it for the more adventurous types.

Grand Hotel Nouvel Opera is located in the middle of a living, breathing middle-class Parisian neighborhood. There are no large restaurants, no designer stores, definitely no silly tourist places selling little Eiffel towers and “I heart Paris” t-shirts. Avenue Ledru Rollin, where the hotel is located, is lined with apartment buildings of every architectural style, small grocery stores where you can pop in for a bottle of Orangina at 2 o’clock in the morning, home decorating and remodeling stores, clothing shops of every size and price range, and – in the great Parisian tradition of making sure you don’t starve – bistros, brasseries, patisseries and boulangeries every fifty paces or so.

With the address smack dab in the middle of a bustling neighborhood, the hotel owners did a really good job sound-proofing the place. So, if you feel like you’ve had enough of the “bustling” part, just shut the window. If it gets too warm in the room (the heating is via an old-fashioned radiator), and you have to re-open the window to the busy street …well …just deal with it. The rooms and the bathrooms are tidy, but small with limited storage space, so conservative packing is a must.

If you are planning to visit Paris not just to visit the regular attractions, but to explore the city and immerse yourself into the local culture – this place is for you! There are three or four metro stations within walking distance (and if you are like me, you understand that the walking distance in France is not the same as in America). Learn to navigate the metro – and it will take you anywhere you want within Paris city limits. Or, if you wish to go further, you can take a stroll to Gare de Lyon – a kind of Grand Central Station of Paris, a glorious old building, whose opulent facade hides a convergence of train lines running to all corners of France.

The food in the area is fantastic, and there is every kind imaginable to be had. In addition to a dozen or so boulangeries and patisseries within a one-mile radius, the Bastille district boasts enough ethnic restaurants to represent if not every country, then at least every major political region on Earth. A Japanese sushi place peacefully co-exists with an Indian restaurant on one side and a small Thai food window on the other, with an Irish pub (complete with Guinness beer) and an American Subway across the street. To find the best places to eat, make a point of watching the locals. That was how we discovered a fantastic boulangerie within a five-minute walk from the hotel – there was a line out the door near it every morning, so we joined in and ended up having breakfast there for the rest of our vacation.

While the Bastille district is not as favored by tourists as, say, Montparnasse or Champs Elysee, wondering around and window shopping is just as much fun – the window displays are still beautiful and stylish regardless of the size of the establishment or the price of its wares. Do not be mislead by the narrow store windows – where they cannot get breadth, Parisian shop owners go for depth, so a store that appears small on the outside, it may go the depth of an entire building.

In short: if you like to travel light, definitely consider Grand Hotel Nouvel Opera as your Parisian home-away-from-home. You’ll sleep comfortably, eat well and have plenty to see.

Fast Facts for Languedoc Rousillon – France

Architecture in Languedoc Rousillon

Architecture in Languedoc Rousillon

The largest vineyard in the world is in the Languedoc Rousillon region of France – not a well-known fact, but this very special region of France has many such surprises. Not as famous as its apparently sexier neighbour Provence, it offers far more – a huge variety of food, spectacular mountainous scenery, beaches, climbing, some truly world-class art with museums to match and a bewildering variety of wines.

Climate
Sun lizards will rejoice to know that Languedoc Roussillon is the second hottest region in France, after Corsica. Inland temperatures are known to peak at 40°C during July and August (with Nîmes often called the hottest city in France). On average, summer temperatures exceed 30°C, though coastal temperatures tend to be a few degrees cooler. As Languedoc Rousillon is a vast region, its climate varies widely, with mountainous and valley areas seeing cooler and damper weather, along with the occasional storm. Spring and autumn in Languedoc are moderate, the heaviest rainfall occurring in January and February.

Currency
The official currency in France is the euro (€). One euro equals 100 centime coins. At the current exchange rate:
£1 = € 1.16
$1 = € 0.81

Language:
French

Voltage Guide:
220V, 50Hz. Standard European two pin plugs.

Country Dialling Code: +33

Regional Dialling Code: 04

Visa Requirements
EU citizens require a valid passport for a stay of up to three months. Non-EU citizens require a visa, except USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand citizens. Tourists intending to stay in France longer than 90 days need to apply for a residence permit (carte de séjour) at a local town hall (mairie) or departmental préfecture.
Vaccinations
None required.

Tipping
By law a service charge of 10-15% is included in all restaurant and café bills. In addition to this it is customary to leave an extra €2 tip on the table if you are pleased with the service. Taxi drivers are usually tipped 10% while hotel porters, doormen, hairdressers and tour guides often expect a customary tip of €1 – €2.
Holidays
1 January: New Year’s Day
Good Friday (varies)
Easter Monday (varies)
Ascension Day (40 days after Easter)
Pentecost (50 days after Easter)
1 May: Labour Day
8 May: Victory Day
12 May: Whit Monday
14 July: Bastille Day
15 August: Assumption Day
1 November: All Saint’s Day
11 November: Armistice Day
25 December: Christmas Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alexandra Szydlowska is a freelance travel journalist and editor based in London, UK. She writes for a range of online and print publications, with a special emphasis on Eastern European travel.

Fast Facts for Provence – France

Lavender Field in Provence

Lavender Field in Provence

All you need to know about holidaying in Provence – from its eponymous lavender fields and historic market towns, to the cultural delights of Aix-En-Provence (where Cezanne came from) and Marseille, the Western regions of Provence offer a calming retreat from the glitz and glamour of the French Riviera in the South.

Climate Provence usually enjoys hot Mediterranean summers lasting from May until August, with temperatures averaging 21°C in July and 6°C in winter. The warmest weather occurs on the coast (Marseille hits 29°C in July) and swimming in the sea can often be enjoyed as late as October. However, it becomes particularly cold in Arles, Avignon, Orange and Marseille when a strong, icy wind called Le Mistral blows down from the Alps and through the Rhône valley. This usually happens during winter and spring, resulting in strong gusts of wind and a noticeable drop in temperatures for a period of 3-9 days. Autumn sometimes sees flash floods created by sudden storms, while the high mountains usually have snow from November to March.

Currency The official currency in France is the euro (€). One euro equals 100 centime coins. At the current exchange rate: £1 = € 1.16 $1 = € 0.81

Language French

Voltage Guide: 220V, 50Hz. Standard European two pin plugs.

Country Dialling Code: +33

Regional Dialling Code: 04

Visa Requirements EU citizens require a valid passport for a stay of up to three months. Non-EU citizens require a visa, except USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand citizens. Tourists intending to stay in France longer than 90 days need to apply for a residence permit (Carte de séjour) at a local town hall (Mairie) or departmental Préfecture.

Vaccinations None required.

Tipping By law a service charge of 10-15% is included in all restaurant bills. In addition to this it is customary to leave a tip of 10% if you are pleased with the service. Taxi drivers expect a tip of around 10% while hotel porters, doormen, hairdressers and tour guides usually receive €1 – €2 for their service. Public Holidays 1 January: New Year’s Day 6 January: Epiphany Good Friday (varies) Easter Monday (varies) Ascension Day (40 days after Easter) 1 May: Labour Day 8 May: Victory Day 12 May: Whit Monday 14 July:
Bastille Day 15 August: Assumption Day 1 November: All Saint’s Day 11 November: Armistice Day 25 December: Christmas Day

Alexandra Szydlowska is a freelance travel journalist and editor based in London, UK. She writes for a range of online and print publications, with a special emphasis on Eastern European travel. See also: Fast Facts for the Cote d’Azur.

Fast Facts for the Cote d’Azur

Cote D'Azur, Cr-Cote d’Azur

Cote D’Azur, Cr-Cote d’Azur

All you need to know about holidaying in the Cote d’Azur – from Italianate Menton in the east to the glitzy bay of St Tropez, taking in Monaco, Nice, Antibes, Cannes, St Raphael and everything in between. France’s Mediterranean coastline, the Cote d’Azur is the place to see and be seen… just think flaxen beaches, idyllic farmhouses and celebrity-studded festivals.

Climate The Cote d’Azur is famous for its Mediterranean-like climate and dry summers. Temperatures peak between July and August and can reach up to 40°C at midday. On average expect summer temperatures of 30°C or more and mild winters (10°C min). March-April and October-November bring heavy rainfall, though thunderstorms and showers often reach the coast in late August.

Currency The official currency in France is the euro (€). One euro equals 100 centime coins. At the current exchange rate:

£1 = € 1.15

$1 = € 0.70

Language
French

Voltage Guide: 230V, 50Hz. Standard European two pin plugs.

Country Dialling Code: +33 (France) or +377 (Monaco)

Regional Dialling Code: +04

Visa Requirements
EU citizens require a valid passport for a stay of up to three months. Non-EU citizens require a visa, except USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand citizens. Tourists intending to stay in France longer than 90 days need to apply for a residence permit (Carte de séjour) at a local town hall (Mairie).

Vaccinations None required.

Tipping By law a service charge of 10-15% is included in all restaurant bills. In addition to this it is customary to leave an extra €2 tip on the table if you are pleased with the service. In bars and cafés it is acceptable to leave small change, while in taxis it is best to round up the bill to the nearest euro. Hotel porters, doormen, hairdressers and tour guides usually expect a customary tip of €1 – €2.

Public Holidays
1 January: New Year’s Day (Nouvel An)
Easter Monday (Lundi de Pâques)
Ascension Day (Ascension) Thursday, 40 days after Easter
1 May: Labour Day (Fête du Travail)
8 May: Victory Day (Fête de la Libération)
14 July: Bastille Day (Quatorze Juillet)
15 August: Assumption Day (Fête de l’
Assomption)
1 November: All Saint’s Day (Toussaint)
11 November: Armistice Day (Fête de l’Armistice)
25 December: Christmas Day (Noël)

Useful links
French Riviera tourism

Alexandra Szydlowska is a freelance travel journalist and editor based in London, UK. She writes for a range of online and print publications, with a special emphasis on Eastern European travel.