Where Continents Collide: Istanbul
Dec02

Where Continents Collide: Istanbul

This transcontinental city, straddling the mighty Bospherous, really is where East meets West. With modern Europe on one side and exotic Asia on the other, Istanbul is an amazing city to visit. Named a European Capital of Culture and the 5th most popular tourist destination in the world, Istanbul really is a must visit for those in search of a city break to remember. With plenty of Istanbul hotels on offer you’re sure to find something suited to any taste and budget. The Grand Bazaar area is a popular place in which to stay, surrounding the world famous Grand Bazaar – one of the largest covered markets in the world. Featuring 60 streets and 5,000 shops, the Grand Bazaar has been an important trading centre since 1461, and this area of Istanbul is simply alive with the sights and sounds of this buzzing city. Housing two mosques, fountains, hamams (Turkish baths) and numerous cafés and restaurants, this is an area not to be missed, whether you choose to stay here or visit on your trip to the city. On the Asian side of the Bospherous, the districts of Uskudar and Kadikoy are popular choices in which to stay while visiting this wonderful city. Boasting several sites such as Uskudar Square, the Maiden’s Tower, Camlica Hill, Mihrimah Mosque, Fethi Pasa Grove and Haydarpasa, this is a great place to stay if you prefer to immerse yourself in the Asian side of Istanbul. Of course no trip to Istanbul would be complete without visiting the Sultanahmet Mosque, otherwise known as the Blue Mosque, built in 1603 on the site of the Great Palace of Byzantium. The best way to appreciate the beauty and architecture of this amazing place is to enter from the west from the Hippodrome and ensure you visit outside of prayer times. Home of the Ottoman sultans for over 400 years the Topaki Palace is another attraction that should be top of the list of anyone visiting Istanbul – make sure you visit the beautifully tiled harem, stunning gardens and the treasury where you will find some amazing gems, gold and works of art. Ayasofya, also known as the Church of the Divine Wisdom, is one of the most important buildings ever constructed. It was built on the site of the acropolis in 537AD and was said to be the greatest church in Christendom. It remained the largest church ever built until the erection of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome a thousand years later. Converted to a mosque until 1935 when its historical importance was recognised, it now holds museum status and is a must see in Istanbul. There...

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Unlikely New Friends
Oct21

Unlikely New Friends

Buses in India aren’t run in quite the way I am used to back in England. I huddled under the solitary tree that marked the stop along the grey trail of road with a crew of school boys, all sodden from an unexpected deluge of rain. We waited, hoping that something other than a wispy man herding a flock of goats would appear to hustle us away from the little settlement of Dundlod. Finally, a heaving, groaning, metal beast shuddered to a halt and we scrambled onboard. “Nawalgarh?” Blank faces. “Errr, Nawalgarh?” I tried again, testing the emphasis on different letters. Still no response, but for now, at least, the bus looked to be going in the right direction. Through the clamour of damp bodies one mahogany face caught my attention. Her lattice of wrinkles creased into a smile that drew me with an irresistible magnetism to squeeze onto the seat next to her. The bus threw itself forwards and signalled a cannoned “Challor!” from a pair of little girls balancing on their mothers’ laps, swaying naturally with the uneven rhythm of the vehicle. The woman next to me didn’t talk as she sat with her legs neatly crossed and fingers linked over the knees, the epitome of British colonial grace wrapped up in Indian skin. Somehow, she was able to match the jerking of the bus and gaze serenely forwards, almost as if she was ignoring me — but every now and again she snuck a glance at me, beaming whenever I caught her eye with a mouthful of crooked, brown-stained teeth. Meanwhile, behind us, a gaggle of girls passed the time trying to cajole me into their clique and playing with my outrageously foreign hair. Everyone else on the bus just stared at me, glowing as I was with a zebra print of luminous white skin with blossoming sunburn. Looking out the window, the woman tried to hide a grimace of pain, nursing her temple from a headache. After a lot of wild gesticulations, sign language and encouraging nods, she accepted my bottle of water, while glancing at the two girls still calling and chanting, as if to say, “Kids these days, ‘eh?” Outside, the rural countryside was darkened by the rain it so desperately needed. The sour colours were at a complete contrast to the intricately painted havelis, which had brought me to the Shekhawati region in the first place. Huge, old residences formed of a trio of courtyards, tattooed with images of mystical Hindu epics, and the odd abstract sight of Krishna in an airplane or using a telephone box. Next time we stopped, she repaid what she...

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Ways to Travel America
Oct14

Ways to Travel America

As someone who has travelled to over 60 countries, I always get asked what my favourite country is to travel.  People are often surprised to hear that though I’ve been to places like Colombia, Egypt, Namibia and many more, it’s America that I actually feel like is my favourite country to travel.  Part of it is the fact that there are just so many amazing places to see.  From the Grand Canyon to the cities like Las Vegas and New York, there are some of the most world class sights in America, and they never disappoint.  But the other big thing is that there are so many ways to travel the country.  These are my favourites. By Train The train system in America, outside the north-east, is pretty terrible.  However, it’s completely possible.  For me, there is no better way to travel than the train, and despite the challenges of riding the rails in America, it has it’s bonuses.  If you’re looking to complete a great american crossing, the rail might be the most beautiful way to see the country side, and the train is so comfortable as well.  The only major issue is the costs can be quite high. By Tour If you don’t have a whole lot of time to spend planning, travelling America by tour is a great idea.  Booking USA holidays & American tours is also a great idea because it can actually save you a lot of money.  Tour companies have deals made out with hotels and excursions.  Moreover, booking a tour in America will ensure you get the absolute most out of your time, as you wont spend any time wrestling with the details or lost somewhere along the way. By Car Roadtripping America is one of my favourite things to do.  Beyond the usual sights in the country, stopping at places like roadside truck stops and some of the typical tourist traps actually make for fun places to visit as long as you’re willing to make light of the cheesy cliches.  Having your own car for a roadtrip gives you all the freedom you could ever want.  You’ll be able to get way off the beaten path this way, and with cheap fuel prices in America, it’s not as expensive as you’d think either.  The major cost will be the car rental, so make sure you book a round-trip rental and not a one-way or be prepared for lots of fees. By Thumb Hitchhiking America might not be the easiest thing to do anymore, but it is completely possible.  In fact, recently profiled Matthew Karsten hitchhiked across America without too much of...

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Where to get Fancy in England
Oct14

Where to get Fancy in England

England is one of those countries that’s going to cost you some serious coin to travel.  It’s not exactly a budget travel destination.  So if you’re going to visit England, why not go big?  Why not go fully luxury big?  The English are huge fans of the finer things in life.  Nowhere in the world do people look after the little details better than in the land of tea and crumpets.  So let’s say you decide to go big and get a bit fancy in England, where should you visit?  Below are some of the best luxury travel destinations in the country. Bournemouth Bet you didn’t see this one coming did you?  Fact is though that this seaside town is one of the most up and coming luxury travel destination anywhere in all of the UK.  Moreover, Bournemouth luxury accommodation is quickly catching up to the other popular locations in the country.  Well Bournemouth has plenty to do for the adventurous soul, if you enjoy sitting back in a hot tub with a cool glass of champagne, you’ll be able to find that here in town as well. London It might seem obvious to include London, but the reality is that I’m not sure there is anywhere in the world that you could burn through money as quickly as you can in the capital.  London features some of the most luxurious hotels on the planet and they don’t come cheap either.  You’re easily looking at four or five hundred dollars for a hotel room.  However, if you’ve got the money, there is no better place to chuck money off a balcony and go big baller.  If you’re into the finer things in travel, you can always head to the theater and enjoy a show from a luxury box or maybe even take a stroll through the town in a horse and carriage.  If you’re going to chop some cash, do it in London, because this certainly isn’t a UK budget destination. Liverpool For me, Liverpool is one of the most underrated cities in all of England.  Despite being the old capital of the country, it really dosen’t get nearly as much attention.  Moreover, as a luxury destination Liverpool isn’t even on the map.  However, if you want to act like a rockstar, the home of the Beatles is a good place to start.  In fact, you can start your night of luxury out by heading to the old pub where the Beatles used to water themselves.  Once you’re done there, you can head across the street and take in one of the local shows at the theater.  Moreover, if...

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Best Cottage Destinations in the UK
Oct14

Best Cottage Destinations in the UK

If you’re anything like me, you probably think of the UK in terms of tea and crumpets.  Before having visited, I imagined the UK to be this simple quiet little place that my grandmother would enjoy.  Quaint and cute are the thing I expected prior to the first time I came here.  But then after finding myself in the busy areas of the country, I found myself looking for quiet.  I found myself looking for that part of the UK I always imagined it to be.  Thus, I thought I would list some of the places where you can still get away and live the slow cottage life in the UK today. South Cornwall This part of England has long been a favourite of those who enjoy the quiet life of England.  In particular, holiday cottages in Polperro seem to be especially popular.  If it’s the quiet old-fashioned life you’re after you’ll find it here in quaint Cornwall, but you’ll also have the opportunity to explore and have a bit of adventure as well.  In Polperro, once can even find things like fishing excursions.  Also, you’ll love the local vibe here.  You can actually pick up a currency called the Polperro pound in which locals do their best to support local industry by having created their own local currency. Cumbria The Lakes District of England is perhaps the best place of all to get away, especially if you’re a bit of a nature-lover.  This part of the country is absolutely stunning and is about as far from the hustle and bustle of places like London and Manchester.  With ample hiking, lots of bike trails, and some of the most scenic drives in the UK, Cumbria is a must if you’re looking to get away from the city.  Moreover, there are so many great places to stay in the Lakes District for those looking for a cottage getaway. Abersoch, Wales If you’re really trying to get away from the city, head out of England and across into Wales.  There are loads of great places to go for a cottage holiday in Wales, and one of the lesser-known is Abersoch.  Though seemingly out in rural Wales, there is still plenty to do and see around the Abersoch region.  From hiking along the coast, to a bit of photography, or even exploring some of the ancient history in the castle region of Wales, there is plenty to keep you entertained while still pulling you from the challenges and chaos of the...

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5 Budget Family Holiday Destinations in the UK
Oct14

5 Budget Family Holiday Destinations in the UK

The UK can be a bit a burden to the family traveller.  Quite frankly, it’s expensive to get around the region.  Hotels, fuel, and the attractions all chop at the wallet faster than they should in the UK.  Families in particular can be quite burdened by travel in the area.  But still, there are places throughout the UK that can make fore both exciting and inexpensive destinations for families.  Below I have listed what you can expect to be the best inexpensive UK family holidays in 2014. Llandudno, Wales The town of Llandudno makes for a great family destination in general.  There are plenty of different things to do here and a great atmosphere too.  One can hike or take the trolly up the hill above town, or lay around the beach front and beautiful pier, or explore the carnival that often occupies the town in the summer months.  If you’re into castles, you’re not far at all from Conwy, which is brilliant.  Moreover, you’re not too far from Snowdonia national park if you’re up for some hiking. Cumbria, England Although the Lakes District can be a tad expensive, if you do it right it doesn’t have to be.  Once could easily spend time hiking and cruising the parkways well not setting their pocketbooks on fire.  Choosing good, cheap accommodation is often key when travelling as a family and a place like the Grasmere Independent Hostel in Cumbria certainly helps make that possible. Seton Sands, Scotland If you’re up for a bit of a caravaning experience, it might be good to get up to Scotland.  Though the country might be famous for its gloomy weather, it’s not as bad as it’s made out to be, especially not here in Seton Sands.  This is a favourite destination among caravan travellers in the UK, and for good reason.  Though the beach is rocky, the scenery is amazing, and to top things off you’re not all too far from Edinburgh if you’re hoping to escape for a day trip into the history and culture of Scotland’s biggest city. Dorset, England Speaking of caravaning, those who take up the activity in England tend to head straight towards Dorset.  The beaches just outside of town are about as close to sandy as they come in the UK, and if you’re an outdoors type, the scenery is legendary out here.  On the other hand, if you’re a bit of a history nut, the old town bathes in a rural story well worth hearing.  This really is the English countryside at its best. Belfast, Northern Ireland Look, I know this isn’t your typical destination, and I know...

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