The Worst Parts About Summer for Travel

The best time of the year for travel is not without its flaws, and there’s nothing you can really do about them if summer is your only time available for travelling. This lends itself to the notion that there really is no such thing as perfection and you should just enjoy what you have – but of course, we’re greedy so we know that’s not going to happen.

If you’re planning on taking a vacation this summer, good for you – but know that it isn’t all sunshine and good times. There are a number of headaches associated with going away this time of year and here are just a few of them:

The Humidity

This isn’t the case in every destination you visit but a good number of them get ridiculously hot and damp – not a great combination. This ‘wet’ heat can make breathing quite difficult and air conditioning in your accommodation a must, at least if you want to sleep through the night. Nobody likes feeling sticky, especially when you’re walking around and trying to enjoy being outside without stripping buck naked and jumping into ice water.

resized_Venice- San Marco Crowd (Small)Everything is Busy

If you are trying to travel during the summer be forewarned – everyone else is as well. With students being done school and many parents taking vacation time to make use of the nice weather and not having to pull their kids out of school, everyone rushes for those quintessential summer destinations (like Venice here), which means the lines will be horrendous. Try your best to be patient if you’re one of these poor schmucks who has to endure this and try not to hurt everyone.

Jam Packed Schedule

Trying to fit travel into the summer can be extremely difficult when you look at your schedule and see the number of other things you want to accomplish as well. Maybe there are errands around the house that need finishing? Those family reunions that you’ll get a huge guilt trip over if you skip? In just the same way that Christmas is packed full of obligations and parties, summer can feel like every second is accounted for and there’s no way you can possibly get away.

It’s too Short

Without a doubt the biggest complaint about the summer season is how it’s not long enough. Regardless of how long the nice weather lasts, nobody wants it to end – which is why so many people relocated to warm weather locations at multiple points in the year. Whatever plans you have, not everything will be accomplished and even if they are, it will just feel too rushed. Maybe that’s why peak season exists – everyone is trying to cram it in while they still can.

Sampling the Italian Finery

Everyone has their reason for travelling to Italy. For some it might be the ancient historical sites, such as the Coliseum or Pompeii; others might delight in the one of a kind culture that ranges greatly from the northern mountainous areas to the Mediterranean kissed southern points. Still others might be heading to Italy for their food, made popular the world over but can only be authentic in the homeland.

uva x amaroneWithin this latter group are undoubtably those that enjoy tasting another of the region’s most famous consumables – the wine. Those who appreciate the flow of a good vintage or sampling a drop of amarone will be well advised to seek out wine country when they are in the area, particularly if they come from a place without a wine region of their own.

Everyone has their favourite type, whether it’s the hearty reds or the light whites and finding the perfect wine to compliment the local cuisine can be a career in itself. Depending on the part of Italy you are in, you might find yourself sipping certain types of wine over others either due to the dish being served or the type of grapes native to the area. For example, in the five town district on the Ligurian Coast known as the Cinque Terre, the local wine is exclusively white. This means if you are a staunch drinker of reds but want to enjoy the local fare alongside the freshly caught seafood dishes you may want to bend your tastes a little!

If you’re having a hard time deciding which part of Italy to indulge your vino amore in, worry not, you really cannot go wrong with whatever region you choose on any vacation. Some prefer the windswept coasts for their scenery as an accent for the wine; other travellers want to tour around from winery to winery as the entire basis for their holiday and there are those who nestle themselves exclusively in a place like Tuscany and just lose themselves in the traditional feel that so many have fallen in love with over the centuries.

fun-vacation-ideas-cinque-terre-vineyards

In the end, if you’re looking for an authentic Italian experience, nothing is finer than taking a vineyard tour and sampling the nectar of the gods. Can’t see all the ones you want? Don’t worry – you can always come back.

Awesome Video Game Travel Destinations

As a geeky traveller, you had to know I was going to incorporate my love of video games into my travel dreams – and if you didn’t, well, I question your intelligence! This won’t be the only completely irrelevant topic I cover on this site from a travel and geek perspective but I can guarantee that I will be revisiting this again!

Video games create amazing worlds that just long to be explored – in fact, that is sometimes one of the main purposes of the game. The sad thing is, we have to do so from a distance through an avatar, taking in the sights and sounds through the limitations of our televisions or screens. What if we could actually get into those worlds and see them for ourselves? Where would you go? Which ones would be great for a mere mortal to check out who just wants to explore?

Hyrule_Castle_Hyrule_FieldHyrule (Legend of Zelda)

As far as epic landscapes go, complete with diversity in populous and climate, you can’t get much more incredible than Hyrule. While there may be more ridiculous destinations in video games, as far as a relatively welcoming atmosphere (depending on the version), you could actually visualize making a trip to the land of Hyrule and not being brutally murdered – just stay in at night. I’d chill by Lake Hylia with some fishing, climb atop Death Mountain to watch the sunrise and hang out with the locals in Hyrule Castle Town. The only thing I hope for is it’s the world after it’s been saved… then again maybe I could be that legendary hero?

Kingdom of Zeal (Chrono Trigger)

For me, it’s the very definition of a fantasy location complete with magic and a dark under current – especially when you consider the land below is a completely frozen hellscape. Floating high above all the rest of the worries, I’d love to go and check out the Belthazar’s Blackbird being built, gleaming off the sun as you gaze down from the floating world that seems to hang impossibly high in the sky. It’s just a shame Lavos had to ruin it all…

Yoshi’s Island (Mario’s Universe)

Yoshi just seems to be a pretty chill dinosaur, one that I wouldn’t be terrified to hang out with because I don’t think he’d kill me (wait, he is a he, right?). The land of the Yoshi’s is a veritable paradise with tropical fruit, and bright colours that might make you wonder if you’re on acid or something. In truth, it’s just a wild jungle where the apex predator is a childish saddled multicoloured dinosaur. Nothing to worry about here!

Mushroom Kingdom

Mario’s stomping ground is probably the most diverse of all the video game worlds because it’s always changing depending on the game. While its goomba and turtle problem seems to be a bit out of hand, you can rest assured that a simple jump on their head would take care of them. I think the Mushroom Kingdom would be great to wander around in and just get lost – which is always a great sign for a travel destination.

Things to Keep in Mind if You Propose on Vacation

Getting married sure has gotten complicated in the last few decades. Things that were previously reserved for the super wealthy or exceedingly creative are becoming expected as commonplace. It’s not enough to do things simply, they have to be done to impress and you can be sure that will cost a decent amount!

The same goes for the actual proposal. There may be the temptation to just pop the big question at any random time, or else wait until it’s forced on you to do so (how romantic!), but guys, most girls have been dreaming of this moment for a very long time – wouldn’t it be nice to make it a bit magical? What would be more awesome than doing it while on vacation?

Here are some pointers on what to consider before asking someone to marry you on vacation because you can really never have enough advice on the subject.

Be Sure She Will Say Yes

There really is no way to be certain of this, but you should have a decent idea of her response before making the decision yourself. If you’re a long way from home and you propose but she says no, well, I can’t really think of a more awkward situation.

Plan an Appropriate Vacation

Some holidays are more appropriate for proposals than others and more often than not it has more to do with you as a couple than it does about the destination. Make it somewhere that really speaks to who you are – but even still, the destination is still important!

Keep the Ring Secure

Carrying around a small expensive piece of jewellery can be a very nerve wracking experience and one that you may wish to be rid of as soon as possible. From pick pocketing types to your own foolishness, you may feel like you never feel comfortable the entire time you have it in your possession. Try to keep it on you at all times but not in a place so obvious to thieves or to its intended wearer!

imagesFind the Right Spot

Proposing on vacation is tricky for a number of reasons but it’s very tough to know where and when the right time and place is. More than likely, you’ve never been to this place before so you don’t know about the overall mood of the place (which is probably the most important part of the timing). If you propose at the beginning of the trip it might feel too rushed but if you wait too long, you’ll probably be too stressed out. Be sure the time is right just by how you feel, which is another reason to always keep the ring on you!

Ensure you Have… Privacy

Following the proposal, you may want to ‘celebrate’ and that is very difficult if you’re staying in non-private accommodation. Again, be sure you plan ahead!

Water World: Cruising the Globe by Sea

Okay, taking a cruise ship vacation, pros and cons – go.

Cons first: choppy seas, touristy ports of call, no real sense of place, someone else micromanaging your travel options, too much food, being in the middle of the ocean, being uncool.

Some of the pros: being in the middle of the ocean, all-you-can-eat culinary adventures, handing your travel arrangements over to experts in service and entertainment, an adventurous sense of nomadic travel, great bargains, scenic destinations, endless activities, free room service, free ice cream (look it up!), walking around with a drink in your hand, ballroom dancing, endless options for amusement, being free to be uncool!

Boiled down to what many real-getaway seekers are, well, seeking, cruise ship travel stacks up pretty well. Bucket-list-worthy, in fact – especially when you consider all today’s swanky, hip, practically limitless cruise options in addition to the list of traditional reasons travellers choose these fun, ease-and-comfort getaway packages.

The stereotypes are mostly true: lots of people on board and so many things to do it’s sometimes dizzying. But when did you last get to enjoy a sweet game of bingo with interesting strangers and enjoy a conversation-friendly round of Henry VIII’s beloved shuffleboard in the same day, sipping free-flowing mai tai’s all the while and punctuating each random activity with a dip in a beautiful pool as you look out at the majestic open sea. Plus, you can learn to ballroom dance!

U5 28276 SHIP_9Cruise ship lines have been charting some pretty spectacular travel routes since they started ferrying passengers around in the 1800s. You can choose from Nordic fjords to the tropics of the South Pacific to just about anywhere in between – including intimate wine-soaked river cruises through Bordeaux. Nary a stretch of water is uncharted, from Africa to Australia, Antarctica to Alaska, the Mexican and Caribbean Riviera, the Far East, Hawaii, The Iberian Peninsula – the entire globe is there for the cruising.

And while land-based travel has its flexibility perks, there’s certainly something to be said for traversing the seas of this ocean planet, while also getting opportunities to disembark in beautiful cities. Plus, you only have to pack once!

There are, of course, ships that cater to just about any demographic experience you’re looking for: family cruises, singles cruises, gay cruises, gambling cruises, art cruises – you name it and it’s probably there among the five hundred types of ocean cruise adventures

Whichever version of this uniquely pampering mode of travel you choose, pick one and go for it – put it on, then check it off, that bucket list of yours.

Ahoy, and enjoy!

Get to Know the Locals in Crete

Crete is the largest of the Greek Islands and the fifth largest island in the whole Mediterranean Sea.  It is more like a small country than a part of Greece, such is the depth and diversity of the island.  Crete is host to a quarter of Greece’s tourism and is therefore well equipped for the holiday season and the visitors this will bring from across the globe.  Knowing what to expect when you travel to Crete can make your trip even more enjoyable and certainly give you more of an insight than just what the tourist board tell you.

Crete-Agios-Nikolaos-provided-by-Directline-HolidaysThe language spoken in Crete is Greek, although there is a Cretan dialect spoken in some remote villages.  This dialect is no longer widespread but most locals will understand and be able to use it if asked.  It is interesting to hear this dialect spoken as not many variations on the mainland Greek still exist.  Most Cretans also speak near perfect English as they are taught it in schools from first grade, due to the economic reliance on tourism.

Cretans largely follow what’s referred to as the Mediterranean diet, which is employed in the UK for it’s many health benefits.  It consists largely of fish and fresh fruit and veg, with meat only being eaten about once a week.  The many restaurants in Crete serve a mixture of meals following this diet, and also many other traditionally Greek dishes which are richer in taste.  Cretans tend to eat late, at around 10 or 11 so wait up if you want to experience Crete like a local.  Most bars and restaurants do still allow smoking, whatever the signs say to the contrary, so if this is likely to bother you it’s best to opt for a table outside.

Heading abroad armed with a little knowledge on your destination can make your trip much more enjoyable as you can plan ahead and decide what to do.  Holiday in Crete this year, but do your research first, there are many hidden gems you will miss if you stick to the well-trodden paths.

Sunshine in the City – Top Ideas for a City Break in Majorca

It can be difficult to decide whether to spend your precious time off enjoying the culture of a city or heading for some chill out time at the beach. With holidays to Majorca the choice is simple – do both.

The capital city Palma is perfect as it is located right on the Mediterranean coast with views out across the glistening blue sea. Although there are beaches all over the island there are also some within walking distance. Great if you know there is only so much sunbathing you can do before needing entertainment.

Beaches near Palma

Cala Major is an ideal beach to fit the combined holiday criteria as the summer residence of the Spanish royal family and a museum dedicated to the works of Joan Miro are close by. This means that you can find a spot on the 200-metre stretch of sand before taking a break for some culture.

There are a number of restaurants in the vicinity as well as the facilities to hire a pedal boat. Cala Major is a safe location for swimming and there are lifeguards on duty during the summer months.

It is situated just a few kilometres to the west of the city itself, so you can take a stroll back into town or hop on a bus and be back in the centre of things before you know it.

Playa de Palma is another good option and lies to the east of the city. It is much larger than Cala Major as it stretches for around four and a half kilometres. If you do not want to lie down and catch some rays there is a pleasant promenade for taking a leisurely walk.

Here there is a much wider selection of watersports to choose from, with jet skiing, water skiing and paragliding all on offer.

Palma-de-MallorcaThe city

When the weather is hot the idea of slogging around the sights and shops of Palma can be quite daunting. Take an entirely different approach and leisurely meander through the streets seeing where your explorations take you.

Build in one or two attractions in a day, but plenty of stops at the charming cafes and stalls selling ice cream to keep yourself cool. The Arab Quarter is a great place for such wanders, especially as the houses were built close together to create cool, narrow lanes.

If the heat does become too much then duck into the gothic cathedral close by. It was built on the site of a Roman temple and before that a mosque and is incorporated into the remains of the city walls. Its stunning interior makes for a fascinating distraction while you enjoy the shade.

For really good window shopping opportunities head to the district of La Llonja where there are a large number of pretty boutiques and exquisite art galleries. The medieval streets in this area come alive at night as its bars and jazz clubs entertain locals and visitors alike.

Weird and Wonderful Milan: The Bone Church

The Italian city of Milan has much to recommend it: a world-renowned fashion industry, an enthralling charm and, of course, its gelato.

But did you know that there are also some pretty weird sights in this stylish and sophisticated city? Sights like the Bone Church, known in Italian as the Chiesa di San Bernardino alle Ossa. Duck inside the dimmed light of the building and let your eyes get used to the dank interior before slipping inside the morbidly decorated ossuary…

bone_church2History of the church

In 1145, a hospital and cemetery were built in front of the Basilica di Santo Stefano Maggiore. When the cemetery ran out of space in 1210 a room was constructed next to it to hold the remains of those who died, then a church was added on in 1269. When it was restored in 1679, the bones were used to decorate the walls of the ossuary, but this church was destroyed 30-odd years later. A new building sprang up on the site in 1712 and was dedicated to St. Bernardino of Siena.

It is thought the bones that now adorn the walls of the chapel are partly from the original ossuary, some are from the old hospital (both from the patients and the monks who worked there) and others are from people who died in prison.

What’s inside?

Located just a couple of minutes’ walk from the Duomo, this church looks perfectly ordinary from the outside. Even once you slip inside its white-washed walls, the interior seems fairly innocuous. But walk down the quiet hallway following the signs to the ossuary and you’ll soon find yourself in a room surrounded on all sides by human bones.

Wire cages are used to keep the skulls, humeri, tibiae and femur bones in place, and these are arranged in intricate patterns to depict ornate crosses and other symbols of the religious environment. A large display of skulls over the back doors is made from the remains of criminals who were beheaded for various reasons, and these are set apart from the ‘good’ people whose bones are contained within the other cages.

Although it sounds grizzly, the ossuary is actually a very peaceful and respectful place. There are chairs dotted around the room if visitors want to sit awhile and take in the atmosphere, or even offer a prayer for their own deceased loved ones.

While you are there, be sure to check out the rounded ceiling of the chapel where a fresco painted by Sebastiano Ricci in 1695 remains. The artwork is layered in the four corners where the walls meet the ceiling to give it a 3D effect.

Visiting hours

The Chiesa di San Bernardino alle Ossa is open between 7.30am and 6pm Monday to Friday with a lunch hour between 12pm and 1pm. On Saturdays visitors can pop in between 7.30am and 12.30pm, then on Sundays the church is open from 9.30am to 12.30pm. Mass is held at 8.30am on weekdays and Saturdays, and at 11am on Sundays.

If you are lucky, there may be a guide on hand to show you around and explain the history of the building. It helps if you already know conversational Italian, although it is likely the staff there will know some English.

Getting around

Although Milan is quite a small city, it still helps to have access to a decent pair of wheels. Hire a car from Milan airport with Auto Europe and you will be able to save time whizzing from site to site, taking in all the things the city has to offer without waiting around for public transport.

Family entertainment in Sharm el Sheikh

A holiday in Sharm el Sheikh can be fun and educational for all the family. As well as the famed Red Sea coast with its beautiful beaches and watersports, there is a variety of other entertainment on offer too.

Whether your family is into visiting cultural sites or taking trips to water parks, there is something for every taste on a Cosmos holiday and the attractions don’t have to cost a fortune either. Read on to see what your family can do away from the beach in Sharm.

The-Pyramids-at-GizaCultural sights

The Sharm Papyrus Museum is smaller than its equivalent in Cairo, but this has the benefit of allowing children to enjoy the exhibits without being overwhelmed. They will love seeing all the drawings and writings on papyrus, which was the precursor to paper.

These beautiful creations will also fascinate adults with their Egyptian motifs dating back thousands of years and the opulent gold decoration on some of the pieces.

Children love to climb to the top of Ras Umm Sid lighthouse, which occupies the spot where the very first lighthouse in Egypt was built. Although simple in its design, the view from the top of Ras Umm Sid out across the Red Sea and surrounding beaches is wonderful to see.

Family bonding

Soho Square is a fantastic spot for families to spend some time together enjoying a meal at one of the many restaurants or undertaking other activities. Ice skating may not come to mind when you think about ice skating, but there is a good size rink at Soho Square.

There are lessons available for those who have never tried the sport before and a kids’ arcade complete with soft play area for younger children.

Alternatively, head to Noos Karting Centre for some good old-fashioned family competition. Whizzing around the 1,205-metre track will certainly burn off some steam and the centre has different vehicles for each age group from eight to 12-year-olds and up.

Water parks

There are two main water parks in Sharm el Sheikh: Cleopark and Aqua Park. The first has a selection of pools and slides, many of which are based around themes, for example The Last Temple, which allows members of the family to race against each other and The Lost Pyramid from which three different slides emerge.

Aqua Park is bigger and a newer addition to the attractions in Sharm el Sheikh. It boasts 32 different slides and no fewer than nine pools. All ages are catered for with a special pool for younger children as well as a lazy river and 1,200 sunbeds for when the adults just want to relax.

Shopping

Going shopping is a whole experience in itself in Sharm el Sheikh with plenty of bargains on offer for those who have the patience. So give yourself plenty of time and equip yourself with a laid back disposition that suggests you could take it or leave it.

Haggling is an absolute must as vendors will begin by quoting very high prices and the fun is in trying to bring these down. The kids can get involved too and it can be great to set them the task of seeing who can get an item at the best price.

Why You Should Never Leave Your Tech at Home

Everyone has different feelings when it comes to what they should and shouldn’t bring on a trip and technology certainly has its place in that equation. Some people feel tablets, computers and phones have no business being on a trip because they are more of a nuisance and an extra expense than they are good while others don’t agree.

It really depends on your comfort level with using the devices as to whether they fit in with your travels and how confident you are in your memory to not forget or lose them somewhere, but technology can really amp up your holidays in a few great ways. Even if you don’t already possess a tablet or a laptop, adding them to your list of possessions might be the smartest decision you make – or at least the most enjoyable (aside from actually taking your trip, of course!)

Take a look at some of the ways tech can make your vacation all the better:

Great for Down Time

Regardless of how busy your plans are, everyone has downtime. Whether it’s planned downtime because you know you need a chance to relax or unplanned when something goes wrong or you need to pass the time, tech can really help with this. Toss on some tunes, play a quick game – even chat with people back home – it’s a great way to spend your time not seeing and doing things.

Stay Connected

It’s never a bad idea to stay in touch with those you’re closest to if for no other reason than so they know you’re okay. You can fill them in on your experiences when you get back but with so many ways to stay in touch these days, there really isn’t a reason for lack of communication to be a cause of your problems.

ipad-mini-travel-Supplements Your Travel

Whether it’s reading up on new places to go, booking excursions on the fly or finding directions to places you’ve never been, your tech devices can be a huge help to making your trip more enjoyable and convenient. You would be surprised how many companies use the internet as their sole means of communication, particularly if their first language is not yours as email is easier to respond to than being put on the spot on the phone. A lot of places these days don’t have computers to sign out and instead provide WiFi, which is cheaper on their part and more convenient if you have such a device.

Maybe Even Make Some Money

Keep in mind it’s not a sure thing, but there are ways to make money on the road to supplement your travel expenses. This is exceedingly handy if you’re a long term traveller or run a blog and need to keep it going while you’re on the road. The beauty of PayPal accounts is you can get money from anywhere and have access to it fairly quickly, but it’s a lot more secure if you use your own device than an internet café!