Escape the winter blues with a holiday to Gran Canaria

Lying off of the west coast of Africa, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Canary Islands are the one part of Europe to enjoy the warmth of the sun all year round. During the summer months, the temperature averages around 25˚C and the skies above the islands are almost continuously cloud-free.

When the winter rolls around, the mercury does drop a little but with the average temperature in January around 20˚C, this is still a great place to soak up some off-season sun. In fact, some would say that the cooler winter months are the best time to book a Thomas Cook holidays to Gran Canaria as the lower temperatures make exploring the island a lot easier.

You can hire bikes, explore the interior on foot or even join a horse riding trip to see some of the most beautiful parts of this spectacular island.

If your idea of a relaxing winter break is to get your adrenaline pumping and heart pounding, the winter is also the ideal time to indulge in a few high-energy activities. As it’s an island, water sports obviously form the bulk of the activities on offer, with everything from kitesurfing and windsurfing to deep-sea fishing and scuba diving available in the waters around Gran Canaria.

If you’d rather keep your feet on dry land while you get your pulse racing, the rugged volcanic landscape of the island holds plenty of opportunities for extreme sports enthusiasts. Why not try your hand at canyoning, rock climbing or mountain biking? Or for a less action-packed afternoon, you could strap your walking boots on and following one of the many walking routes around the island.

For those looking to simply escape the northern European gloom, Gran Canaria offers a host of other attractions that don’t require nerves of steel.

Bird watching is a very popular activity, with many species using the archipelago as a stopping point on their journey from Europe to Africa. As birds are fairly plentiful, you can either just bring your binoculars and keep your eyes peeled or join an organised tour that will take you to all of the best spots.

So if you’re staring out of your window at stubbornly grey skies and relentless drizzle this weekend, why not book yourself a trip to Gran Canaria and say good bye to those winter blues for good?

Alternative airports to fly out of other than Heathrow

Lets face it, London Heathrow airport is expensive, in fact the most expensive airport in the country! It’s expensive for all sorts of things including airport parking. Here are some alternative airports which you might want to consider for your next big holiday.

Liverpool Airport

Considered the Stansted of the North, Liverpool John Lennon Airport has seen a large expansion over the years. Many budget airlines choose Liverpool as a base simply due to cheaper landing costs compared to Manchester.

Luton Airport

Luton has a reputation of being an airport where holidays begin. Luton is easily accessible off the M1 which means easy to accessibility to parking. Many people who use this airport take advantage of the numerous car parks available which means parking Luton airport is as easy as ever!

Birmingham Airport

The largest airport in the midlands, Birmingham is a major airport for not just the low frills airlines but some of the larger inter-continental carriers that fly to places like the Middle East, Pakistan and the Caribbean. There are even flights from North America. Parking at Birmingham airport couldn’t be easier and many people from London are using Birmingham as their hub airport over the hustle and bustle of Heathrow.

Manchester Airport

The largest airport in the North of England, Manchester is considered the largest airport outside of London. Similar to Birmingham, it offers flights from all the major no-frills and frill s airlines including Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways and even Turkish Airlines.

Stansted Airport

Stansted has always been considered to be their major hub in the United Kingdom. Many low cost carriers fly in and out of this airport and is easier to get to for those flying from Essex or the East side of London compared to Heathrow

Gatwick Airport

The natural alternative to Heathrow, not too far away from the main airport, serves a lot of Heathrow’s destinations sometimes at a fraction of the cost.

Shop Sydney!

Sydney is a world class shopping town, boasting everything from glamorous high street parlors and department stores, to funky boutiques showcasing the handiwork of local artisans, and just about everything in between.

If you enjoy a good, old fashioned shopping spree, you should consider spending day or two hitting Sydney’s hot spots- you won’t be let down by the city’s  seemingly endless offerings. If you’re staying out of town, or even if you’re in the city without your own car- it’s a good idea to arrange to hire a vehicle from a reputable dealer like Budget Australia car rental for your shopping days. Public transportation is useful for a sightseeing dash about – but for toting packages? Not really. You’ll appreciate the added convenience of having a safe place to stash them.

The Queen Victoria Building is one of Sydney’s most revered historic buildings, and makes for a really elite feeling and elegant environment to shop in. Known for this regal atmosphere, it offers for your pleasure lovely appointments: there are grand staircases as well as a whimsical cuckoo clock that provides both form AND function- its song will help you keep track of the time. The stores inside the QVB are quite abundant in their offerings, with almost all major makers represented.

What you can’t find at QVB, you probably can at Pitt Street Mall, located a block away near Town Hall Station. If you like visiting fancy destinations that are brimming  over with character, head to Oxford Street.  It’s shops are eclectic, with everything from offbeat bookshops to the more standard brand name stand-alones like Ben Sherman and Puma shoes.  On Saturdays, there are tons of interesting handcrafted items on display at Paddington Markets, located at 395 Oxford Street. The path is dotted with  sandwich and dessert shops, too- perfect for taking an afternoon tea and a little break from the rigors of serious shopping.

For the shopper who is seeking out something truly special, King Street in Newtown is a worthwhile stop. It presents an eclectic atmosphere and the boutiques feature items like vintage apparel,  handmade crafts, Asian goods, books, music, and all sorts of whimsical gifts and sundries.

Bargain seekers should find their way to Alexandria where there are several discount stores, or better yet, take the car to the factory outlet centre, DFO, in Homebush,where great values rule the day. Much of the expected goods are offered here, but at a significant discount that will make the trek more than worth it.

Not far from the F3 Motorway, you’ll find Westfield Hornsby, one of the finest shopping meccas in town which features all the notable designers like Lowes, Supre and Target plus plenty of the more standard offerings as well. Enjoy shopping specialty boutiques for items like beachwear and electronics if you haven’t the budget for the designer clothing and handbags mentioned above. A window looking spree is fun here, too, and you can enjoy a food court with magnificent views of the harbor should you need a snack, or just need to rest your feet for a spell.

There is fantastic shopping waiting for you in all corners of town and beyond. Ask the clerks and fellow patrons for suggestions while you’re flitting about- chatting up the locals is almost as fun as finding the perfect item to take home from your perfect shopping day in Sydney!

Stuff to do in North Cyprus [Infographic]

The Turkish Republic of North Cyprus may not be recognized by any other country (other than Turkey) but that doesn’t mean it’s a no go zone for would be travelers to Northern part of Aphrodite’s Island. From personal experience, here are some places to definitely visit when you come to North Cyprus:

Kyrenia

The port town of Kyrenia is for all the history buffs out there. It’s a town with influence from Turkish, Ottoman, British and various other ancient civilizations. My recommendation is to definitely visit the Castle with sweeping views out to the mountains and ocean.

Nicosia

The Cyrpiot capital is a must visit to any trip either to North or even the Greek part of Cyprus. It is officially the last divided city in Europe. My pick is to definitely have a look at the Arasta walled area which is great to walk around and soak in the culture. Also why you’re there, it does definitely worth crossing the green line to visit the Greek part of Nicosia… just make sure you bring your passport!

Varosha Ghost town

Depending on your view of the situation, following on the Turkish invasion Cyprus in 1974 the Turkish army practically sacked the seaside town of Varosha while the Greek Cypriots fled to the south. To this day no one other than Turkish military are allowed into the town that occupies ¼ of the town of Famagusta. To say it’s eerie is an understatement!

In addition to my recommendations, the infographic below shows some awesome places to visit when you’re in North Cyrpus!

An infographic by the team at Go North Cyprus

5 Events that are worth see before 2013 ends

OK, we’re halfway through the year so far but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of events’ happening around the world. Here is a selection of 5 that I wouldn’t mind seeing before the end of the year draws to an end…

Ashes Cricket

The battle for the urn is on again this year. The cricketing world waits in anticipation for the first back to back Ashes test series for quite some time. First up England will host to the Aussies in the British summer before the Baggy Green of Australia play host to the former colonial power. Bookies have England as favourites, but you can never write off Australia… this cricketing series was arguably the catalyst for Australian independence after all!

Wimbledon

The annual Grass tennis tournament is almost upon up us. Can the legendary Rodger Federer claim another All England Club title? Tickets to Centre Court are rare to say the least, however the one big attraction about Wimbledon is the British tradition to queue up for tickets… and queue up you will!

Zarkana Cirque Du Soleil

The flying aerobatic French Canadians are at it again. Following on their successful run in the Russian capital, Moscow, the aerobatic display that is Cirque du Soleil has a new act. This time it’s called Zarkana. People who’ve been to one or plenty have seen the show have said that it’s one of the best Cirque du Soleil experiences since the Cirque du Soleil first started.

OctoberFest

Starting in the last weekend in September, the German city of Munich plays host to the biggest festival dedicated to beer and this year is no different.

Festival of San Fermin

The famous “Running with the Bulls” festival happens in the Basque city of Pamplona, Spain in early July. Notably to celebrate the patron Saint of Pamplona, thousands of tourists come to Pamplona to attempt to run along the narrow streets while bulls run down. Not for the feint hearted!

Best Broadway Shows to See this Summer

Seeing a Broadway show is one of those classic New York experiences that you really can’t miss – especially if you’re planning your first break to the city. Given that there’s such a massive range of performances, though, I think choosing just one can be pretty tough.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a quick guide to some of the top shows to grace the stages of Broadway this summer. Hopefully, this will help you pick, but don’t forget that the below is just a snapshot of what’s on offer, so if none of these tickle your fancy, take the time to find out what else is on.

By the way, if you’re still on the lookout for accommodation for your trip, this site has a decent range of options.

You want to… see something new

Like London’s West End, Broadway often has a host of classic plays and long-running shows being staged at any one time. So, I think there’s a lot to be said for breaking the mould by seeing a new play and, in my opinion, Lucky Guy is the perfect candidate.

Written by the late writer and director Nora Ephron, this play is all about the life of Mike McAlary, the famous New York Daily News and New York Post Columnist who uncovered police brutality. Having opened on April 1st 2013 at the Broadhurst Theater, it stars Tom Hanks as McAlary and Maura Tierney – of The Good Wife fame – as his wife.

You want to… see a classic retold

Some tales are truly timeless, and that’s definitely true of a lot of William Shakespeare’s plays. For the first time in 36 years, his classic tale of love Romeo and Juliet will hit Broadway, with Pirates of the Caribbean star Orlando Bloom taking on the role of Romeo.

Juliet will be played by Condola Rashad and the performance is directed by David Leveaux. Previews of the play are scheduled for August 24th, and the director has promised the story will be told in a contemporary setting.

You want to… hear hit songs

There are some songs that everyone seems to know – regardless of age or musical taste. A lot of the hits from the film Flashdance definitely fall into this category, and anyone who loves either the tunes or the film itself should go and see Flashdance the Musical.

As with Romeo and Juliet, previews will begin in August and the performance will feature iconic tunes from the movie, including I Love Rock & Rock and Flashdance… What A Feeling.

You want to… watch a play’s first Broadway production

Written by Lyle Kessler in 1983, black comedy Orphans is making its Broadway debut this year at the Gerald Shoenfeld Theatre. It tells the story of two brothers living in poverty in Philadelphia, who are just about getting by until the older of the two decides to kidnap a notorious gangster (played by Alec Baldwin).

A Guide to a Day in the Troodos Mountains

A holiday in Cyprus does not have to cost the earth and the largest mountain range on the island, the Troodos Mountains, offers plenty to keep everyone entertained. It gives visitors the chance to escape busy tourist areas, look out across the fantastic landscape and even catch a glimpse of some Cyprian wildlife.

Trodos Mountains

What to see

Man-made constructions, such as Byzantine monasteries, churches and tiny villages, have integrated themselves perfectly into the natural beauty of the Troodos Mountains. These add interest for those undertaking walks in the region and are great places to explore.

Some of the religious buildings still contain exquisite examples of Byzantine art and stumbling across them is a treat. The churches were built up in the mountains so that they were protected from the coastline, which was more likely to be attacked.

One particularly popular route into the Troodos Mountains takes you by the side of a stream until you eventually reach the Caledonia Falls. The impressive waterfall is a great place to aim for and a good spot for enjoying a picnic.

Plant life

There are no fewer than 770 different species of plant within the Troodos National Forest Park and 12 of them are found nowhere else on earth.

Depending on what time of year you are in Cyprus the plants and flowers that you see will vary. The height at which you are at will also have a bearing on this, with the lower slopes dominated with vineyards and Phoenician juniper maquis.

As you climb higher you will pass through areas populated with wild lavender and pink rock rose before finally reaching the distinctive green pine trees and cedar forests that characterise the greater heights.

Wildlife

The warmer parts of the year offer the best chances for holidaymakers to see species of reptile including blunt-nosed vipers and Mediterranean chameleons. Bats, foxes and hedgehogs are all seen regularly within the park with the latter two animals having evolved into an indigenous subspecies.

Those who are very lucky may catch a glimpse of the Cyprus mouflon – a rare ancestor of the modern day sheep, which is typically characterised by its impressive curved horns.

Bird enthusiasts can expect to see Bonelli’s Eagles, Cyprus warblers, Cyprus wheatears, coal tits, Scops owls, jays, common chukars and wood pigeons.

Local flavours

The many communities of the Troodos Mountains produce a wide variety of traditional and artisanal products, which can make great souvenirs or just provide a taste of the area. The villages of Vasa are particularly well known for a type of tasty bread made from chickpeas and spices.

Also in Vasa you can purchase a number of different dairy products including cheese, which can be found in Dora and Pachna too. The flavours of this are very much influenced by the plants that grow in the surrounding area.

For something a bit meatier Agros, Dymes, Kato Mylos, Kyperounta, Palaichori and Pelendri all produce wonderful pork sausages and goat meat dried in the sun and then salted.

In terms of sweet foods there are jars of fruit preserved in syrup for sale all over the area and Platres even has its own chocolate workshop. See how the shells are made and then filled with traditional centres.

Wash all of this down with a glass of wine from the nearby vineyards or try Koumandaria – a dessert wine from the area.

To find out more about taking a trip to this part of the world click here.

Cork For the Boys

When it comes to a stag weekend or even just a lads’ trip away, Cork is a great option as it has some unique attractions along with all the facilities for activities to let off a bit of steam. Hire a care with Auto Europe and the whole group will be able to get to each location with ease.

Cork

So with breweries, go-karting and big breakfasts on offer, the boys will find all they need on a trip to Cork. Here are some of the highlights.

Beamish & Crawford Brewery

Right in the centre of Cork on the main street and in the heart of every Irishman is a brewery and in this case it is the Beamish & Crawford Brewery. It has a long-standing tradition having been founded by William Beamish and William Crawford in 1792.

The tours are fun and informative with lots to see and learn about the brewing process, which is great for guys who like to know what they are drinking. And that is likely to be Beamish Stout, the brewery’s flagship ale.

Make sure you have decided on a designated driver before setting about the tasting, as at the end of each tour it is possible to sink a few rounds of the black stuff. After all, it is only right to taste the finished product after seeing how it is made.

Outdoor activities

There is nothing like pitting yourselves against each other to prove you are men while on a lads’ weekend, so it is important to pick a destination with lots of outdoor activities on offer. Luckily in Cork there is a wide selection of such manly pursuits.

For petrol heads there is go-karting, quad-biking and even power-boating, so you can beat your mates on dry land or in the water. Cork is home to the longest karting circuit in Ireland, measuring 850 metres, so there is plenty of space for the competition to really heat up.

If after that there are members of the party keen to take revenge and who happen to be a good shot then it might be a good idea to head for a paintballing session. Otherwise try your hand at archery, though the competitive spirit should be used to hit the targets and not each other!

For a more sedate activity, possibly the morning after the night before or even in the aftermath of the brewery expedition, partake in a few rounds of golf. There is always someone in the group who knows all the terms and sounds like a pro, but in reality needs bringing down a peg or two and here is your opportunity.

Cork is well known for being a world-class golfing destination, so pick a course and show off your swing. You can even engage the services of an instructor to show your arrogant friend a thing or two or even the whole group if you are all novices.

Tony’s Belly Busting Challenge

If all that exercise has made you work up an appetite then head to Tony’s Bistro and take on a breakfast known as The Godfather. This is yet another chance for you boys to try and beat each other. The object of the challenge is to eat every last item included in the €29.95 (£25) breakfast and therefore get it for free.

So here goes…

• eight sausages
• six rashers of bacon
• six-ounce sirloin steak
• four hash browns
• four slices of black and white pudding
• two fried eggs
• two scrambled eggs
• two bowls of chips
• three fried tomatoes
• one bowl of baked beans
• one bowl of sautéed mushrooms
• one bowl of onion rings
• six slices of toast
• three slices of soda bread
• a bucket of tea or coffee

There are other things on the menu if you dare order them in front of your friends.

Most Expensive Destinations to rent in the world [Infographic]

People are moving far and wide in search of work. Not just within their home country but further abroad. This is why gaining local knowledge on different places is vital before the dream job offer in Hong Kong, New York, Sydney or even if you get a high paying job in Singapore. Today’s infographic from Now Health International gives a summary of some of the world’s most expensive places to rent a property.

At first place is Hong Kong which is a country well known for high property prices which is influenced heavily by the mainland Chinese buyers keen to buy property in the former British colony. Many of these properties are believed to be used as rental properties which generate a high rental yield. In addition the sheer lack of residential space in Hong Kong creates greater demand for property.

Other major cities mentioned in the infographic include London where unlike the rest of the country property has continued to rise against the trend of economic worse within Europe. Many locals believe this is because London is seen as a safe property investment option for the ultra wealthy and where most service industry is located, which ultimately creates higher rent demands. Maybe many other service industry jobs should follow the BBC and move anything that doesn’t need to be produced in the London to somewhere where rental costs are lower… such as Manchester.

One city that didn’t get a mention was Sydney where the cost of property has risen significantly since the Global Financial Crisis creating an all mighty rise in rental. In fact most Australian cities have seen similar rises in cost of property and rental over the years!

Worlds Most Expensive Countries To Rent Property

Discover More Than Just The Inca Trail When Visiting Peru

The Inca Trail and the ruins at Machu Picchu are among Peru’s most famous sights that attract thousands of travellers every year. While these are certainly spectacular and worth a visit, they’re far from the only things to see while visiting the South American country.

If you’re looking for a trip that offers more than just trekking on the Inca Trail to reach Machu Picchu, consider taking a longer holiday that will allow you to discover you some more of Peru’s top attractions. For instance, Explore Worldwide’s Heights of Machu Picchu tour (which starts from £1,349 without flights) will also show you Lake Titicaca, Cusco and Lima. Here are some of the highlights of this particular itinerary.

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is situated in the Peruvian Andes between Peru and Bolivia, and has the distinction of being the world’s highest navigable lake, as well as being the biggest body of freshwater in South America. If all of this wasn’t enough to make you want to visit it, the lake is also home to a fascinating local community whose way of life has changed very little since the time of the Incas.

You’ll travel to Puno, one of the main settlements on the Peruvian side of the lake, from where you can take excursions to some of the amazing floating reed islands, where the Uros people have their homes. It’s fascinating to see how the reeds that grow here are used for so many aspects of their construction, with boats and rafts made out of this material too.

The journey from Puno to Cusco

After you’ve spent a few days at Lake Titicaca, you’ll travel to Cusco. While it’s possible to drive (and still enjoy spectacular sights along the way), the best option is to go by train on what’s often described as one of the best rail journeys on the planet.

You’ll start out in the high Andes, with towering mountains all around you, and from here will gradually descend into the valleys carved out by the Huatanay River and then travel across the Andean plains, where you are likely to see groups of alpaca and vicuna wandering around.

The train stops at the La Raya Pass – the highest point on the route at 4,335 m – where you can soak up the stunning views or pick up a souvenir or two from the local stallholders who sell everything from alpaca jumpers to chess sets.

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The four day trek on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is undoubtedly a highlight of visiting Peru. You’ll walk through beautiful Andean scenery as you move gradually closer to the famous Inca site, passing many other ruins along the way that are just as fascinating as the main attraction.

In addition to the sights along the Inca Trail, the challenge of completing the trek at a high altitude is also rewarding. Reaching the Sun Gate for views across the amazing city’s ruins is a memorable moment, as is exploring Machu Picchu at your own pace once you’ve had time to relax after your hike.

Lima

Lima is the capital of Peru and is home to numerous places of interest, both old and modern. There are too many amazing attractions here to mention them all, but some of the spots you should consider visiting include the city’s historic centre – which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the cathedral, presidential palace and San Francisco church and monastery – as well as Puruchuco, a large Inca cemetery that was unearthed in 2000.

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