30. November 2011 09:45
Have you ever considered spending Christmas abroad? Every year many people promise that next year will be the year they get round to it and spend Christmas somewhere hot and/or exotic and exciting. Why not take the plunge and organise it now?
Different people want to escape the UK at Christmas time for different reasons. Some just can't bear the cold dreary weather and their idea of the perfect Christmas treat would be to jet off to somewhere hot hot hot. Let's face it, there aren't many places in the world that don't have a better climate than us but the best place for guaranteed sunshine and hot weather at this time of year is down under. Just as we are experiencing our shortest dreariest days, Australia is enjoying mid-summer with long days and warm balmy nights. If heat is your thing, how about Christmas turkey on Sydney's Bondi Beach? Surfing and sunbathing is the order of the day and if you've never been surfing before, no worries mate! What better place to learn than the world famous Bondi Beach? Just one note, however, for health and safety reasons, beaches in Australia, particularly at this time of year are strictly alcohol free.
If your idea of Christmas is somewhere cold, crisp and snowy, Lapland is the place for you. As Lapland is the home of Santa, it stands to reason that it is also the home for all things Christmassy. If your idea of the perfect Christmas is a warm cosy log cabin set amongst snow dusted pine forests, then Lapland has the perfect ingredients for your magical Christmas. There is plenty to do and you could ride on a reindeer sleigh to search for Santa or spend the afternoon sledging or whizzing around on snowmobiles. Santa isn't just for kids, so make sure you take the chance to visit him. In the evenings look out for the Aurora Borealis, better known as the Northern Lights.
If you're the type of person who likes to be where the party is at, how about Christmas in New York? No one knows how to party like New Yorkers! There is so much to see and do in New York at any time of year but the holiday season is something special. Just the Christmas tree in the Rockefeller Centre is worth the trip. Adorned with 30,000 lights on more than five miles of wire and finished off with a Swarovski crystal star, the lighting ceremony is a big event. You can go ice-skating in the Rockefeller Centre or Central Park set against the backdrop of the famous New York skyline. Times Square is buzzing all year round but during the holidays, it becomes a real spectacle. Many gather there on Christmas Eve but if you are lucky enough to be staying for New Year's Eve, be ready for some fireworks, confetti and a lot of fun.
The ultimate Christmas experience will be different for everyone. Some will prefer to get away and spend it soaking up the sun whilst others want to experience a real Christmas with snow, reindeer, Santa and magic. Others still prefer the party element of the season. All these experiences and more are available and achievable so make this year the year you decide to actually do it! Let us know if you have any plans to spend Christmas abroad in the comments below!
28. November 2011 15:33
If you want to get away from the long, dark nights and the worsening weather for a while, then maybe you'll consider a spot of sunshine this winter. Leave behind the cold, the rain and the clogged up roads and head for one of these three top tourist destinations.
In many ways it's the 'new kid on the block' but that's not always a bad thing. One of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is a city state situated on a coastal strip bordered by desert. Winter temperatures are around a very pleasurable 20-25 degrees although it cools down to around the 15 mark at night.
Since the founding of the oil industry Dubai has attracted migrant workers from all around the globe. Since the population is so diverse, you won't necessarily feel you are in an Arab country and as such the laws are relatively liberal. They really want you here.
There's so much to do. It's a shopper's paradise with over 40 malls from which to choose, its nightlife is second to none and the choice of top-notch restaurants will make every evening meal something to remember.
Dubai has some of the finest white and sandy beaches in the world with a water sports culture to match. It's keen on land sports too and a great feature every winter is the camel racing on Thursdays and Fridays. Check out the local vendors for that really unusual memento.
This beautiful island, the largest of the Canaries, became popular as a holiday hotspot in the early 60s and is still as popular today. In the winter you'll find the temperature on most days about 18-22 degrees, although it will drop to around 12 at night. It's hot enough to enjoy the sunshine but also to let you get on with your holiday activities.
Santa Cruz is the capital and is an idyllic combination of ancient and modern Spain. Visit the local museum, try out the local fish delicacies or enjoy a quiet drink in a local bar. If it's a more energetic time you're after, the resorts in the south of the island will not disappoint. If you like to get off the beaten track, hire a car and head inland and lose yourself in a mountainous wilderness that will seem light years from home. There is truly something for everybody here.
For something slightly different, Morocco is the place to be. As a North African country it has a coastline on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean as well as sharing a border with the Sahara Desert. Most of us have 'been' there in music or film, travelling the 'Road to Marrakech' or wiping a tear from the eye at the end of 'Casablanca'. So why not bring these places and many others to life?
Rabat, the capital, is a very relaxed city and choosing a souvenir in the old capital of Fez wouldn't be too difficult! Hiring a car here is a great idea. You can move through the bazaars, markets and mosques out to pretty little seaside towns and medieval cities. The temperature in the winter is normally around a generous 21 degrees so if it's a beach holiday you want; Morocco is also the place to be.
27. November 2011 09:01
As the nights draw in and the weather starts to get colder there is no mistaking the fact that Christmas is on its way. There is something about going to a Christmas market that sets the scene for this special time of year. The scents, sights and tastes give a hint of the festivities to come whilst with so many beautiful gift ideas on show, there is the opportunity to buy truly unique gifts for your nearest and dearest.
Vienna is home to a number of Christmas markets, including one of the best known and oldest in Europe. Known as the Christkindlmarkt, the market starts in mid-November and runs up until Christmas Eve. It is set in front of the city's formidable town hall. The Christmas spirit is conjured up beautifully here with twinkling Christmas lights decorating the trees of the adjacent park. The market itself is home to a wide selection of handmade and traditional gifts such as scented beeswax candles, cookies and decorations.
Munich also has a reputation for its excellent Christmas markets. The largest and most prestigious can be found in Marienplatz in the heart of the old city centre. The market starts on the first Friday in December with the ceremonial switching on of the lights on the 30 metre high Christmas tree. There are some 140 stalls to explore here, selling everything from hand crafted wooden decorations to traditional nativity figures and jewellery. It is worth sticking around until 17:30 when brass bands and Alpine choirs emerge from the balcony of the Town Hall and provide some festive entertainment.
Dublin is a relative newcomer when it comes to Christmas markets. However, it is emerging as a popular destination for families looking for a quieter event. Running from the 1st to 24th of December, the waterside location of the Docklands makes for a magical experience where it is possible to see Santa, take a ride on a carousel and enjoy some seasonal treats. There are a variety of stalls selling craft items, wooden toys, stained glass and traditional foods.
Prague also offers a more low key option. Its Christmas market runs between 3rd December and 1st January and, as the city is usually covered in snow, it is hard not to get into the festive spirit. As well as stalls selling everything from jewellery to hand carved puppets and scented candles, there are also many cultural events and folk traditions to enjoy. The carol singers, bands and traditional food and drink on offer make this a popular choice with those looking for a family friendly destination.
Visiting a Christmas market can be the perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit and enjoy the excitement of the days leading up to Christmas. Taking the opportunity to experience European traditions, pick up some unique gifts and enjoy local festive treats is a great way of enjoying Advent and preparing for the festivities ahead. Vienna, Munich, Dublin and Prague are home to some of the best markets in Europe. With each of them offering something slightly different, there is a market that will appeal to everyone. Have you been to any Christmas markets in Europe? If so, which one is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.
25. November 2011 14:05
York is renowned for being one of the most popular destinations for foodies in the UK and in fact, was recently voted fifth best destination in Europe for both food and wine by TripAdvisor! Being a gastronome myself, I really welcomed the opportunity to visit the famous Betty's Tearooms and Cafe, located in St. Helen's Square.
The famous tea shop sells an incredible range of coffees and teas along with gorgeous local treats. I had not been since I was a very young child and experienced 'eyes bigger than tummy' syndrome with a legendary cream tea. I can still remember the clotted cream and fresh jam on that scone!
This time my eye was taken by a local speciality, the Fat Rascal which is a rich domed teacake crammed with delicious candied peel and plump currants. I chose this, along with a pot of the finest English tea (Betty's serves a huge range of specialist teas, coffees, hot chocolates and cold drinks too). There is a huge menu to savour before ordering.
Betty's is particularly loved by foodies and gastronomes everywhere because the staff makes their delicious treats in-house. Everything sold in the bakery plus the gorgeous stock
ing fillers in the Christmas shop and hand-crafted chocolates are all created by the expert Betty's team and created in the cafe's own sizeable kitchens. This was of particular interest to me as I love the idea of food prepared on site, the old-fashioned way, rather than being ordered in.
Christmas is one of Betty's busiest times of year and customers are in for a real treat. The store sells every festive treat imaginable including gorgeous spicy pannetones and continental Gugelhupf treats to pass round post-dinner. I don't have time to make my own Christmas pudding, so I treated myself to a browse through their Christmas shop and plumped for one of their boozy puddings laced with brandy, nuts, spices and fruits.
The cafe also creates its own artisan chocolates, which appeared to be hugely popular with visitors and there's a large section of stocking fillers for the children. I was so excited to see traditional sugar mice for sale, a memory from my childhood. I also stocked up on some of the artisan biscuits and fudge gifts while I was there. It was great knowing that everything from Betty's has impeccable provenance and that many of my relatives abroad have heard of it. They had a great range of tea ware and textiles too which I'll look through on another visit and they sell Christmas hampers too, which seemed to be flying out of the door for overseas gifts. It gave the place a very festive and old-fashioned buzz, which was wonderful.
My only tip for visitors would be to avoid busy times of day if you wish to be guaranteed a good seat in the festive run up as the store and cafe does get very busy. However, the staff are friendly and efficient and if there's a queue there's plenty to look at and divert yourself with until you can relax with your drink and epic cake!
If you would like to find out more about Betty’s café you can visit eatmytown who offer honest reviews on a variety of food outlets. We've got some great deals on York hotels so if you're thinking about booking a trip to York to visit Betty's café, take a look!
18. November 2011 08:46
There’s definitely a wee nip in the air in the UK at the moment, and most of us are dreaming of sunnier climes but aside from just wanting to getaway there are also several benefits to getting away during winter.
Health benefits are a big one with exposure to more sunlight boosting the body’s levels of Vitamin D which improves our absorption of calcium and can help with the digestive function of the body.
Aside from the physical health benefits of the sun there are also mental health benefits, particularly for those suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder. The extended exposure to light and increased body temperature afforded by getting away from the cold and dark can help with the symptoms of SAD and will often help even non sufferers.
Getting away in the Winter months can often be cheaper especially if you are looking at mid haul destinations. Destinations such as the Balearics and Cyprus tend to stay quite warm throughout the Winter without having the costly price tag of some of the more long haul destinations.
Having said that some long haul destinations also become more cost effective during the winter month’s with Bangkok being relatively cheap if you avoid December and other popular months.
Winter breaks are also a great opportunity to get yourself fresh and ready for the Christmas craziness or to recharge the batteries after it. What could be nicer than spending a week lying on a beach or exploring a gorgeous area once your Christmas shopping is done!
14. November 2011 13:58
The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals are coming back to London this November and as a London based company we’re very excited!
So far Djokovic, Nadal, Murray, Federer and Ferrer are in the final 8, but with 3 places still to play for it’s shaping up to be a fantastic event and a great opportunity for UK residents to hit the capital and see some World Class Tennis.
The finals go over an 8 day period at the end of November and are being held at the O2 which is a great venue for you to make a real day out of your trip as well as being easy to get to from central London so you can have a trip of a few days and explore the capital too.
As well as the fantastic tennis, you can also indulge in some star spotting at the finals too, with last year’s event attracting models, actors, sports stars and even royalty!
We’re getting close to the date of the finals but there’s still tickets available and still plenty of hotel space. We’ve still got some availability on London hotels and even better we have double rooms starting at £28 per night!
ATP World Tour Finals
7. November 2011 12:15
Pre Christmas is the perfect time to get away. For the super organised it gives you a chance to celebrate and relax and for those who’ve left shopping until the last minute it’s a great opportunity to get in the festive spirit and kick start your shopping.
Christmas markets are a great way to get into the festive mood as well as picking up some unusual and individual presents. A win win
situation. There are Christmas markets all over the country and for the authentic European feel then you can always head to Belgium or Germany where there are some great Festive Markets and a lovely wintery feel.
If you want more than shopping and food then Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland is a Christmas-tastic event taking in shopping stalls, Santa’s grotto, an ice rink and more. So book yourself a hotel in York and treat yourself to a day out in York taking in all the tourists sites then spend a bit of time at the Wonderland to get your festive fix!
Another lovely festive experience is a skiing trip. Whether you’re a family, a couple or a group of friends skiing can be a great escape and a lovely way to get yourself into that festive spirit around all that snow. There are some great deals on flights to top skiing resorts and even if you’re a beginner you can dabble in the skiing and then enjoy the snow, sunshine and hot chocolate.
If you’re looking for the ultimate wintery city then we’d say you’d be hard pushed to beat Edinburgh! The city has a big wheel perfect for viewing the amazing landscape, Christmas markets, cosy restaurants and many of Edinburgh’s hotels are perfect for snuggling up and feeling festive. Plus, the cool weather up there means there’s a good chance of it snowing which will certainly add a little festive cheer to your trip.
So ditch the Scrooge act and book yourself a pre Christmas getaway to get yourself in the festive spirit!
4. November 2011 08:57
So we gave you our first 5 must dos in our previous post, and here come our second 5…
Hop on A Boris Bike
Whatever you think about money being spent on these pay per ride bikes, you can’t deny that they’re a lot of fun! Pop your card in and buy credits then choose your bike, key in a code and off you go!
Hit the National Portrait Gallery
Get some culture into your stay with a trip to the National Portrait Gallery. Look at portraits of famous Brits spanning as far back as the 16th Century. As well as the Primary Collection there are plenty more portraits to see and the gallery also hosts some fantastic exhibitions.
Head to the East End for A Pie
Pie, mash and liquor, it doesn’t get more London than this. And for the most authentic you definitely need to head to the East End of London, where the crown for the best dish is hotly debated and contested.
Take in A Show
Take a trip to the West End and take in a show. There’s always plenty on and to get the best deals either hop online or visit the booths inside the tube stations for some last minute steals. Matinees also give great value and mean your evening is free for other London adventures.
Plant the Seed
For a bit of quiet time out from the city take a trip to Kew Gardens. One of the world’s leading botanical gardens, Kew is a real Oasis of calm where you can see rare species of plants, learn about them or improving your own garden, and even take in some art.
A few ideas of things you can do in the capital, but London is so large and varied you’d need a year to even do half of it, and there really is something for everyone.
So now you’re inspired, go and get that London hotel sorted, we offer book now pay later, lowest price guarantee and a huge range of hotels all in one place.
2. November 2011 17:22
It may be the ultimate tourist thing to do but if you’ve never been then Buck Palace is a definite must do for a visit to the capital city. Take in the great building, do the tour, or just stroll past and see if you can spot the queen.
Take a glimpse into the gruesome side of London’s past at the Dungeon. Not for the fainthearted the London Dungeon includes rides and shows to recreate the dungeon atmosphere of years gone by as well as introducing you to some of their most notorious inhabitants!
Take a break from the fast pace and indulge in a massive helping of luxury with afternoon tea at one of London’s exclusive hotels. The Ritz,
Langham and Dorchester are all great choices but there are plenty more to choice from. It doesn’t have to break the bank either, look out for special deals online or midweek offers.
Shop Until You Drop
With the iconic Harrods and Selfridges, lots of markets and all your high street favourites London is a shopaholics dream. That’s all we need to say on the matter.
Check Time Out London
Time Out is a great site for finding out what’s on in London, so plan ahead for the time you’ll be there and see what one offs and special events are on. Over the summer we hit the temporary rooftop gin bar at Southbank after a tip off from the lovely folk at Time Out and it was fantastic!
So those are our first five top tips, and while you wait for our next 5 take a quick look at our London hotels to see what great deals you could get