Cross the Atlantic the Old Fashioned Way!

Have you ever wanted to travel with the modern conveniences of today but in the style of centuries ago? It’s entirely possible if you opt to take a Trans Atlantic cruise ship instead of flying!

It’s perfect for anyone who cares more about the voyage than the ultimate destination because it gives you plenty of time to relax and enjoy your surroundings. On board a vessel like the Queen Mary II you can have a great time stuffing yourself silly on fabulous food and taking part in all the leisure activities provided as you cross the wide open ocean from the UK to North America. Along the way you’ll stop in a number of different port cities, giving you a chance to see some of the local colour before heading on to your ultimate destination – it wouldn’t be a proper cruise if you did it any other way!

For a geek like me, I enjoy the idea of doing something a bit out of the ordinary, particularly in an age of cruises that only do the same old thing. I love heading to the Caribbean as much as the next bloke but after you’ve seen one tropical island they all start to look the same. Taking to the sea in this way seems to me like a connection to the past… but with swimming pools, fantastic cuisine and a lack of scurvy.

To celebrate the 200th Trans Atlantic crossing in July 2013, the Queen Mary II has a fancy little infographic drawn up to give you some information on the ship and its workings. If you’re in the market for a holiday this year and fancy taking a bit of a sail across the Atlantic, why not hop on board and give it a go? You’ll be in good company if you do!

(click on image for larger view!)

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Haggle, haggle!

If you’ve ever been on holiday to any Middle Eastern country, or even holiday resorts in Egypt, Tunisia or Turkey, then you’ll have encountered the art of haggling. For some, including me at first, this is an uncomfortable experience, because we’re simply not used to arguing over what we want to pay! We see a price tag and we decide whether we’re paying it or not, then we either do, or we don’t. Simple. However, on a market in say Dubai, you’ll be expected to haggle, and if you don’t, then you’ll be thought to be very odd indeed!

dubai-soukYou will get bargains by haggling, that’s for sure, but make sure you have the money in the first place to be shopping by doing our version of haggling – bargain hunting. Grabbing that cheap flight, a last minute deal, a free child place, or booking airport services that save you money, are all ways to make sure extra cash stays in your pocket, and enables you to have a more enjoyable holiday as a result. I recently saved a on booking airport parking, and decided against booking a rather expensive train fare. I booked Stansted parking with BCP, and used the money I saved to do a little retail therapy on my two weeks’ break. You will find this service at most large UK airports, so I’d definitely recommend looking at what’s available from your terminal. I’ve booked Parking with BCP before, and found the same money saving, great value service so it’s a service I would recommend.

Of course, once you find yourself on that market, and you see something you want to buy, saved money in your pocket which you’re itching to spend, it will be an odd experience if it’s your first haggling attempt. The key here is to be confident! The seller will tell you his price, which is not the price you’re going to pay of course. Half it, and offer them that. They will probably laugh at you, tell you that you’re trying to rob them, blah blah, but it’s all usually in jest and you will find in a lot of tourist resorts, they do it to make you laugh! From that half offering, you’ll work between you and agree on somewhere in the middle. It’s quite easy once you start, and you’ll always come away with bargains.

The first time I visited a Turkish market, I was amazed at the size, the noise and the colour, but it was a real experience too, and despite a rather nervy start, I was soon away with the haggling and bargain hunting! It’s really just a case of appearing confident, even if you don’t feel it!

For me, markets are a great place to buy souvenirs for home, and something a little different, that you can’t get anywhere else. Haggling means you’ll get more for your money, and that is never a bad thing!

Yet More Neighbourhoods of Copenhagen

One of the most attractive and interesting cities of Europe, Copenhagen gives much to its visitors. There are so many varied neighbourhoods that will allow exploration of different elements of the city. While most people will stay around its main district Indre By there is so much beyond that. Whether you want to soak in the opulence of Slotsholmen, see the bohemian Christiana, or explore the bohemian qualities of Nørrebro and Vesterbro the choice will be there for you. Yet more neighbourhoods of Copenhagen include.

Holmen and Islands Brygge

To the North of Christianshavn are two artistically oriented communities – Holmen and Islands Brygge. Holman’s was formerly a navel base that has been transformed into an artistic community which houses several artistic institutions such as the Danish Film School and the Danish National School of Theatre. Beyond art at Holman there still are remnants of the areas naval past as naval enthusiasts can visit Torpedo Hall and other naval sites.

Island Brygee is a small district to the south of Christianshavn that houses a variety of trendy galleries and restaurants. The area is considered a haven for up and coming artists to present their works.

Vesterbro

To the southwest of Indre By is Vesterbro. This area use to be the slum of Copenhagen, but in a true example of gentrification, it has become an up and coming spot for artists, students, and the yuppies that follow. Filled with a great variety of bars, ethnic restaurants, cafes and live music venues this area of Copenhagen is often compared to the East Village of New York City.

Nørrebro

To the North of Vesterbro is Norrebro an area that has large immigrant roots and is more ethnically diverse than anywhere in Copenhagen. Norreborro exudes both an exotic/Middle Eastern and a bohemian/ artistic feel at the same time. Home to a massive student population this district boosts a diverse night life and art scene. Filled with opportunities for fun, Norrebro also has Assistens Cemetery which is a resting place for several famous Danes including Soren Kirekengarden and Hans Christian Anderson.

frederiksberg-have-slotFrederiksberg

Frederiksberg is one of Copenhagen’s main residential and business areas and a place that is well regarded for its restaurants and bars. Having a large park, Frederiksberg Have, in its centre there are also plenty of other attractions including massive Frederiksberg Castle and Copenhagen Zoo – the latter of which is one of the world’s largest and best maintained zoos. If you are a beer lover the world famous Carlsberg Brewery is also located in this district too.

Osterbro

Osterbro is the largest of the cities districts. A rather well maintained and posh district it is mainly residential. Other than the Danish National Stadium and the wonderful Fælledparken – the largest park in the city and the host of many of the city’s festivals and events – there isn’t a lot of reason to come down to this part of town.

More Neighbourhoods of Copenhagen

Copenhagen is certainly an interesting place that has so much culture, architecture and varied activity for visitors to enjoy. No activity is better than wandering the different sections of the city, each of which offers up a unique experience to visitors. Different parts of Copenhagen highlight both the city’s wealthy and conversely its bohemian sides. Some more of the neighborhoods of Copenhagen include.

Langelinie

The northeastern corner of Frederiksstaden is an area called Langelinie. An upscale neighborhood, noted for its gourmet restaurants and posh boutiques. Langelinie is perhaps best known for having Hans Christian Anderson’s famous Little Mermaid Statue in it.

117386-004-60252B0D Rosenborg

To the Northwest of Frederiksstadenis is Rosenborg. Rosenborg is best known as home of the Rosenborg Castle; a castle which was built in the Dutch Renaissance style by the early 17th century king Christian IV who made it his royal residence. In modern times the castle is now open to the public to visit – giving access to its many halls and ballrooms as well as the King’s Garden – and is home to the Crown jewels.

Christianshavn

Christianshavn is the community built on the half moon shaped island that separates the Islands of Zealand and Amager. An area that has always been cheaper than other part of the city it draws artistic types and has been called by Danish writers the Amsterdam of Denmark. The name also sticks because of Christianshavn’s many canals that fill the area. Known for also having Renaissance-style architecture many people suggest taking a canal boat tour in order to best experience the district. A few of the landmarks that are in Christianshavn include the Danish Film Museum and the Our Savior’s Church.

Christiania

Perhaps the most iconic location of Copenhagen is Christiana, which is located just to the northeast of Christianshavn. Created as a hippy commune back in the 1970’s on an old military base Christania has long gone by its own rules. Cannabis is openly sold and smoked here and Christiana refuses to fulfill certain elements of Danish law like forcing people to pay the 25% national sales tax. Perhaps beyond rule breaking, Christiana shows visitors a wonderful splice of creativity and artistic openness. Well inside Christiana there are many great restaurant, galleries and arts and crafts markets to visit.

The Ultimate Guide to Abandoned Places

If you’re a budding urban explorer and love wandering around and taking photos of abandoned buildings, take a look below at some of the most interesting abandoned places in the world!

Chernobyl 

Chernobyl - 271

In 1986, a reactor in the Chernobyl Nuclear plant exploded causing the worst nuclear power plant accident in history. The people of Chernobyl and the nearby city of Pripyat were quickly evacuated, and all that remains now is an eerie decaying time capsule of the 1980s. Pripyat includes some great locations such as schools, cinemas, swimming pools and infamous Ferris wheel. The area opened to tourists in 2002 and has become a popular destination for those wanting to see the reactor (from a safe 200 meter distance) and the abandoned city of Pripyat.

Nara Dreamland

Nara Dreamland was Japans answer to Disneyland. Built in 1961, this theme park closed its doors in 2006 due to declining number of visitors. Since that time Nara Dreamland has remained intact and untouched, but has quickly aged, becoming overgrown with vegetation and rusty. It is not legal to enter the site (the area is patrolled by guards) but that hasn’t stopped a number of explorers that have infiltrated the perimeter to take some fantastic atmospheric photographs.

Abandoned Military Hospital

This abandoned military hospital in Beelitz, Germany was originally intended to be a sanatorium. It then became a hospital for the Imperial German Army during the First World War, and housed Hitler when his leg was injured during the Battle of the Somme. In 2000 the majority of the hospital, including the surgery, the psychiatric ward, and rifle range, were abandoned. This haunting building has gone onto become the location for films and music videos.

Hashima Island

Hashima was originally a coal mining facility, and the island was populated between 1887 and 1974. Japan’s first concrete apartments were built here in 1916 for workers as the islands population reached 5,259 in 1959. However, due to the dependence on petroleum in the 60s, coalmines were shut down. Hashima was closed in 1974, and the concrete apartment buildings were left abandoned. Some of the buildings have collapsed but many still remain. An area of the island was opened to the public in 2009, and in 2013 an employee from Google was sent to take pictures in order to provide people with a panoramic interactive online experience of the island.

Submerged City

In order to visit this last location you will need to don your wetsuit and scuba gear. The submerged ancient cities of Shi Cheng and He Cheng were the result of a man made flood by the government to create a new reservoir after the completion of the Xin’an River hydroelectric station in 1959. The cities were rediscovered in 2001 when a diving club organised a trip there. Walls, buildings and beams are still intact but will not remain so forever.

We hope that these locations will inspire you to start packing up your lenses and planning your next trip today.

About the author: Milly Crowther is a freelance writer and photographer who blogs for Holiday Gems. For more travel tips, checkout the Holiday Gems Facebook page.

Caribbean Magic

If you’re after a luxury escape, what could be better than sailing around the Caribbean on a first-class cruise ship? Let’s be honest, when it comes to an unforgettable getaway, Caribbean cruises certainly rank highly in the ‘luxury’ stakes.

408220_10100814450756531_686433623_nSo how can you get your own bit of Caribbean magic? Your best bet is to get online and start searching for the Caribbean escape that best suits your wish-list. For instance, would you prefer a week’s holiday or a whole month? Have you always hankered after a trip to St Lucia, or Barbados, or would you settle for any Caribbean island? When can you travel? And, perhaps most importantly, how elastic is your holiday budget?

To help answer these questions, visit a tour operator like Cruise Thomas Cook and use their search panel to get started. The great thing about Thomas Cook’s website is that you can browse cruise holidays across all the major Caribbean cruise operators – including Royal Caribbean, P&O Cruises, Celebrity and more – and compare the price and offering of each. You can filter your holiday search results by the criteria that matters most to you, be it price, destination or departure date, and whittle down your options until you find a favourite.

So, if that’s got you thinking wistfully about Caribbean cruises, let’s take a look at some of the options. P&O offer a cracking 14-night voyage departing from Southampton, which takes in the delights of Antigua, St Kitts, Dominica and Barbados, as well as a stop at the beautiful Azores en route. The ever-popular Royal Caribbean International has a week-long trip to Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, St Kitts, Aruba and Curacao, while Norwegian Cruise Lines focuses on a different part of the Caribbean coast – namely parts of Mexico, including Cozumel and Costa Maya, Belize and Roatan in Honduras, as well as the fascinating city of New Orleans in Louisiana.

So, which magical corner of the Caribbean takes your fancy?

More Things to see and do in Auckland

Auckland is a city that effortlessly combines nature, city life, and proximity to some great beaches. Opportunities are abound to enjoy the unique New Zealand topography and animals one day during your stay and to wander around stylish Queen Street in central Auckland the next. New Zealand is a nation that has much charm and provides a bit of everything to do catering to all interests. More things to see and do in Auckland include:

GibbonsWaitakereWaitakere Ranges 

Waiatarua | Auckland

 Options are limitless for hiking, fishing, surfing, bird watching inside the majestic and lovely Waitakere ranges. Around an hour away from central Auckland the ranges provide great opportunities to hike, fish, surf and bird watch all while being surrounded by picturesque nature. Noted both for its black sand shores such as Whatipu and its roaring waterfalls like Fairy Falls and Cascade Kauri the Waitakere Ranges has been hailed by other travelers as being just what New Zealand is about. The range is open to the public at all times and does not cost any type of entrance or usage fee.

Queen Street 

Queen Street | Auckland

A great way to connect with the more cosmopolitan elements of Auckland life is to take a trip down to Queen Street. Filled with notable stores like the Diamond Shop and Billabong as well as some of the iconic buildings of Auckland like the Bank of New Zealand Buildings and Auckland Town Hall this street is great for shopping and even just a walk along. Running parallel and one street back of Queen Street is High Street, which has a variety of different shopping options. Loaded with bars, cafes and clubs as well as some interesting galleries and book stores High Street is more alternative than Queen Street and worth a look too.

Auckland Zoo

Motions Road Western Springs | Auckland

The Auckland Zoo is a place that visitors can enjoy the opportunity to interact with authentic New Zealand animals as well as world wide exotic animals like hippos, lions and fur seals. A fascinating section of the zoo is the Te Wao Nui’s six habitats native to New Zealand. These habitats approximate different natural conditions in New Zealand and the animals that live within them. Be sure to check out “the Night” which is a cave that houses different nocturnal animals like the short tailed bat. Many tourists call the Auckland Zoo one of the highlights of their time in Auckland. Admission to the zoo is around $18 US dollars for adults and $9 US dollars for kids.

3 Places to Take Photos with a Llama

Ever since the famous Machu Picchu Llama photo (or Bossy Llama) went viral, people have been going crazy over llamas. So much so, that we’ve given them a world appreciation day – January 27th for those taking note. These furry creatures have been helping people with transportation for thousands of years and notably in the past few years, have been used as a form of therapy – who would have thought that the key to happiness is through the company of a llama? If meeting one is number one of your long list of priorities, then you’re in luck, here’s three of the best places to take a photo with a llama.

It looks like Julian Assange...

It looks like Julian Assange…

Take A Photo On A Trekking Tour

Get up close and personal with a llama on My Adventure Store’s Mount Salkantay Trek and The Inca Trail. Not only will you adventure into remote Andean reaches, sacred valleys and see the ruins of Sayacmarca, but you’ll also get to see llama’s in their element. In all seriousness, this trek was voted as one of the world’s greatest by National Geographic Adventure Travel and should be something everyone ticks off the bucket list. It’s a remarkable exploration that will test your body and spirit as you delve into the mystical history of the Inca’s.

Don’t Travel Far With Your Local Llama Farm Retreat

For something exceptionally unique, why not indulge in a luxury cottage retreat while taking a llama for a daily walk? Don’t think that this exists? Well Daybro Cottages and Llama Walks prove all the disbelievers wrong. The cottages reside in the hinterland of Dayboro, Queensland and each room overlooks large fields where the llamas are free to roam. At certain points of the year, Dayboro Cottages allow the public to take some of their fuzzy llama’s for a walk through surrounding bushland where you’ll learn about the history of llama’s and have a spot of afternoon tea.

Why Have A Photo With A Llama When You Could Have Lunch With A Llama

Wild Earth Llama Adventures in Taos, New Mexico offer custom designed llama treks and gourmet lunch day hikes for llama enthusiast of all ages and fitness levels. Both fun and educational, their treks venture into untouched wilderness areas of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Rio Grande Gorge. With your belongings strapped to your llama, your guides will take you through America’s remaining ancient forests until you reach the base camp in the heart of the forest. From there you will set out on daily hikes to discover transparent lakes, climb up mountain peaks and spend time relaxing around the campfire. If you’re after a quick llama fix, they also offer single day escapes with a gentle Llama trail that will allow you to enjoy the backcountry before feasting on a native cuisine.

There’s Always Photoshop…..

Llama’s aren’t the easiest animal to find, they’re mysterious mammals who love to frolic in the wild. So for this, there’s always Photoshop.

Have you had an unforgettable Llama experience? Tell us in the comments below.

Melbourne’s International Eats

11242_824714973001_1857862_nThere’s no reason to assume that Melbourne, the capital of Australia’s Victoria province and that country’s cultural mecca, would be one of the best places in the world to experience a variety of international foods, but then, there’s no reason not to. So with that in mind, and having resolved to book a Melbourne hostel through HostelBookers.com, read on about the great culinary diversity of the city.

Southeast Asian Cuisine

Australia lies in close proximity to Southeast Asia, and so it should not be a surprise that there are many restaurants specializing in that region’s gastronomy. Melbourne is a metropolis that attracts international students, and likewise has the cheap eats that suit their homesickness. Indonesian cuisine is a particularly interesting example of a unique thing that is hard to come by in other Western nations. Make your way to the district known as Prahan, and on Commercial Road you’ll find a restaurant called Blok M, which garners the most praise. Some other Indonesian restaurant names to look out for are Nelayan, Bali Bagus and Agung.

Malay food, and that of Singapore, can also be found in great abundance in Melbourne. Laksa and prawn noodles, if you’ve had them before, will surely draw you back; you will find them served at restaurants such as those along Little Bourke Street and at the newest joint to join the ranks of Malay establishments, Petaling Street, which you’ll find in the Boxhill neighborhood.

Middle East cuisine

Although not as widely represented as Southeastern fare, and precisely because there are more residents from those longitudes, Middle Eastern food can be found in Melbourne as well. Once in the city, make your way to Brunswick, or to Coburg, which are the neighborhoods were this cuisine is mostly concentrated. Half Moon Café has been highly recommended; you’ll find it on Sydney Road.

Chinese cuisine

If you’re a world traveler, then you will know that one of the most intriguing measures of a place is by what extent local options have affected the Chinese food produced there. Everywhere Chinese food is slightly different, and that of Melbourne is no exception. In the city center, there’s a dedicated and historical Chinatown where you can meander to your heart’s content, and learn in the process that the Cantonese food is more widely represented than northern Chinese dishes.

African cuisine

Melbourne might not have a whole lot to choose from when it concerns African varieties, but Ethiopian is there, and Eritrean, its neighbor, as well. You’ll have to travel a bit to find the cafes in Footscray or Flemington, but they’re authentic and in fact serve a mostly African clientele.

European cuisine

The city center boasts a whole street dedicated to Greek food, called Lonsdale, and plenty of suburbs have Greek restaurants. If you weren’t expecting it, Melbourne has a large Italian population as well, and the myriad of Italian restaurants, mostly offering up dishes from the south of that country, is spread all over the city. More focused are the communities where you’ll find Polish fare, in Richmond, and Kosher establishments in Caufield.


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There are many more cuisines to be found in Melbourne, from Indian and Japanese to Thai and American, French and Irish. Australian food, if you’re tired of the international fare, mostly means meat pies or costly kangaroo steaks that you find in the chic joints. Like most contemporary, global-class Western cities, Melbourne’s native fare usually means fusion-design-concept restaurants and eateries that take a little from everywhere and nowhere. In that respect, there’s one more reason that Melbourne is truly gastronomically international.

Different Things to do in Auckland

Auckland is a world class city that is surrounded by New Zealand’s great nature and fantastic beaches.  Whether you are a city slicker that likes visiting galleries, dining in fine restaurants and people watching in great cafes or a lover of nature in all her glory there is something for everyone to enjoy during their stay in Auckland. A few different things to do in Auckland include:

Bethells Beach 

Bethells Beach | Auckland

If you’re a lover of sand and surf a trip to Bethells Beach while in Auckland is definitely a must! A beach that has been described as both isolated – from the usual throngs of beach goers – and wild –  as there is little shade and the winds and huge waves off the ocean hit the beach unabated – New Zealanders rate Bethells Beach as one of the best in their country. Decorated naturally with dark sands people enjoy this beach for the chances to swim, surf (with the previously mentioned strong winds) trail walk and even paraglide. Surrounding the beach are a variety of resorts and the restaurants and bars that service them. Bethell’s Beach is about 30 kilometers from Auckland and takes less than an hour to get there.

One_Tree_Hill,_AucklandCornwall Park 

1051 One Tree Hill | Auckland

Auckland’s own answer to New York’s Central Park is Cornwall Park. Much like the nation itself, Cornwall Park is a fusion of cultures as Japanese cherry blossoms and magnolias sit next to New Zealand Purri trees. There are fantastic vantage points in the park to look over the city and enjoy splendid views. Other amenities in the park include the observatory, a kid’s animal farm, a park restaurant, and great walking trails to use.

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki 

Corner of Kitchener and Wellesley Streets | Auckland

Any art lover coming through Auckland simply must spend some time in the Auckland Art Gallery. The gallery is composed of two sepperate buildings, seen by many as architectural pieces of art themselves, that house more than 15,000 pieces of art spanning from the 12th century to the present. The art pieces that draw the most attention are the fantastic Mari – the originally native population of New Zealand – works of art. C.F. Goldie and Gottfried Lindauer portraits of Maori chiefs are of particular acclaim and interest. The gallery is open daily from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. and, except for special exhibits, admission is free.