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Things to do in Madrid | A long weekend in Madrid

Madrid Street Festival Madrid Street Festival

I took a trip with my partner to Madrid in August and for once was able to do some research that I can now share with you. If you don't do research on a short trip it may be relaxing but you can leave without seeing some of the better things. So I am sharing the wisdom of my weekend- this is a not a long post but an efficient one so please help share it and link to it.

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Affordable Holidays for Large Families - Renting a Villa Quesada Costa Blanca Spain

Family Villa Quesada

As a family of just one and 5 children I think I can say that I have experienced many types of holiday away and at home from the UK in the school summer term when prices go crazy. This includes camping to the south of France which no longer seems to hold the same value it once did. 

Never great and not always cheap Ryanair Baggage woes

It is an expensive holiday especially when you have 7 seats on a plane to find a ticket for. it is a real challenge, so much so that on a financially poor year we took the decision to not book early and knowing that there would maybe ONLY be caravans on English coasts perhaps from last minute cancellations. Not the best situation however the weather in summer 2018 in the uk was particularly hot. 

A villa in Quesada Spain came up that could accommodate our group but now finding affordable flights would be a challenge interesting that this can be done from a few airports in Spain it makes the region a good option for cheaper flights . Beziers in France where we had been before was too much as was Murcia Spain as examples of flights that were too expensive in the kids summer holidays . I gave the example of Beziérs as you might have thought that camping in the south of France as we have done here cheaper but we found not; and when you go to these camps the facilities tend to be oversubscribed (no room by the pool etc) and the cost was MORE!

Cheap flights to Alicante came to the rescue and amazingly cheap car hire also meant that the 7-seater expensive taxi rides were also sorted out you need a car in this part of Spain. You could also fly into Valencia if staying longer to justify the extra drive or look for villas closer to Valencia!

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Top 5 activities for the beach

beach girl_surfer By Evgeniya Hook beach girl_surfer By Evgeniya Hook

Beach vacations are a popular choice for many travelers. Hours spent on the soft white sand, with a book or beer in hand, trying your best to get and keep a golden tan. If you can't wait to spend your days parked on a sunlounger or you're looking for a little extra entertainment by the shore, there are some great activities to take part in at the beach. Luckily, New York travel company AllTheRooms is here to let you in on some of the best things to do water-side. 

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Scuba Diving Travel Tips

Schooling Barracuda

Scuba diving travel is not like any other type of travel. Of course not; you have more fun at your destination than most other regular tourists. But it goes further than that. Planning scuba diving travel means you have more to think about than the non-diving vacationer before leaving for your destination.

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15 of the biggest cultural events worldwide that you have to go to

holi-festival-india

Everyone loves a good festival, and luckily there’s no shortage of them all over the world. Festivals are a great way to experience a nation’s culture. They bring out the best in a country’s celebratory side, and they’re great fun.

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Things to Consider When Booking the Perfect Ski Holiday

Things to Consider When Booking the Perfect Ski Holiday

If you want to make sure that your next winter sports break is everything you dreamed it would be, consider the following factors when choosing your destination.

  1. Snow – this is the big one of course. How certain can you be that there will be a good covering of snow on the ground when you arrive? If there is any doubt in your mind, it is probably best to keep looking. Generally speaking, the higher the altitude of the ski resort in question, the greater the chance of snow at any given time.
  1. Choice of runs – if you want to be sure that you never run out of challenges on your holiday, you will want to pick a region where there are plenty of slopes from which to choose. If you are travelling with family, somewhere with a mix of black runs for accomplished skiers, blue and green runs for beginners, and red runs for those who are somewhere in between, would be ideal. Les Trois Vallées (the Three Valleys) in Savoie, France is well worth considering if variety is important to you. As the largest ski area in the world, it has a great choice of runs for skiers of all ability levels.
  1. Nightlife – if you are travelling with a group of adult friends, this is probably going to be an important factor that you need to consider when selecting a suitable resort for your party. Some ski towns are famed for their bustling nightlife whilst others may be rather too quiet once the sun goes down as far as many thrill seeking winter sports enthusiasts are concerned. On the other hand, if you are travelling with young children and will be focusing mainly on ensuring they have a pleasant introduction to skiing on their first winter holiday, somewhere nice and quiet will be perfect for your needs.
  1. Accommodation – unless you are used to roughing it or travelling on a very tight budget you will want to ensure that the chalet in which you stay has all the creature comforts you desire. Ski holiday accommodation in Europe ranges from very basic apartments in rather drab blocks to beautifully decorated high-end chalets that come with their own catering team. The best choice for your party will depend on how much you wish to spend and how much time you plan to spend at your chalet during your holiday. However, even if you will only be there to sleep and you do not wish to spend a fortune, make sure that it is at least a pleasant place in which to spend a few hours.

These are the main factors that I keep in mind when booking winter sports breaks, you may of course have others that you would like to add to the list.

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Follow Your Belly Across Thailand

Follow Your Belly Across Thailand

We all have our tastes and preferences when it comes to food. Some like it hot, others like it sweet and sour, a lot of us go either way, but we all have our favorites. Imagine if all of us were standing in front of the map of the world and had to choose one country to handle all of our dietary needs - which country would you choose.

For me, the answer is Thailand. Seriously, no other country comes even close to matching all the culinary delights Thai cuisine has spawned and perfected over the centuries. I could wax poetic for hours on end about the tingling sensations on my palates whenever I immerse myself into authentic Thai foods, but I get the sense that you would much rather read about where to go and what to eat. Without further ado, let’s visit Thailand in all its splendor of flavors…

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Top Ten Inca Sites

Top Ten Inca Sites

Image(s) © Copyright by Dave Austria, licensed under CC BY

The repair crew on the back street worked like a team of museum curators or fine art restorers. They hand-cut stone blocks to fix the ancient eroded curbstones. It had been done this way in Ollantaybambo, Peru, since the time of the Incas.

The Inca Empire emerged around the year 1200 and grew to fruition around 1450 just as the Spanish Conquistadors arrived to destroy their accomplishments. In the brief two centuries the Incas achieved an amazing level of civilization, and much of it is evident in the architectural remains. Cusco and the Sacred Valley were the centers of the Empire; not surprisingly most of their greatest constructions are in this area. Here are ten of the greatest Inca sites.

10. Inca Terraces of the Sacred Valley were the basis of an agricultural system called Andenerias. They are an agriculture and engineering marvel that still functions today. Graceful and aesthetically satisfying the terraces can be seen all over Peru, especially throughout the Sacred Valley, where Andenerias are still used to raise crops. Some of the best examples are seen above Pisac and Ollantaytambo.

9. Koricancha is the Temple of the Sun in the city of Cusco, once the center of the Inca world. Though the temple was overbuilt by colonial buildings, the huge trapezoid shaped Inca stones that define its foundations are spectacular.

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Jungle Trekking on the Pirate Coast in Panama

Jungle Trekking on the Pirate Coast in Panama

By Andrew Kolasinski

The trail ascended through the dense jungle of Panama. As we neared the peak a ruined fortress came into view. My guide, Jason cautioned me to avoid the main doorway and led me in through a cannon port. From a safe distance we checked out the doorway. Four different types of stinging insects, including the forebodingly named Cicada Killer Wasps, had built their nests in the lintel of the door. Someone unaware might trigger a lethal swarming.

Jason is locally known as “Jungle Boy”. An American who grew up in Central America, Jason spends most of his time roaming the jungle. He always carries a machete and a hammock tent. 

“I might be following a butterfly or a birdcall, and wander into the bush until it gets dark,” he explained.

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Malta as an alternative sun destination

boats-in-malta

Malta is an excellent city or short break destination | Hiking in Malta is scenic though it didn’t involve much climbing.

They say some things spoil Italy – take those away and you might have Malta. You wont get charged extra to have a seat while you enjoy your coffee like in Rome for example (learn italian rulers!).

For a family I might just recommend Malta but I heard that Gozo might be better in the beach holiday regard. I only had 3 nights on the island of Malta but saw an experienced a lot to tell you about.

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Travelling or learning English in Malta

Travelling or learning English in Malta

Often overlooked by tourists and language learners alike, Malta offers holidaymakers much more than just sun, sea and sand. The island archipelago is virtually in the centre of the Mediterranean and its climate is typical for its location. Summers are hot, with temperatures reaching consistently over 30 degrees Celsius, and winters are extremely mild giving travellers the perfect setting to explore the rich and diverse activities Malta has to offer.

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5 of the Most Impressive Scottish Castles to Visit on Your Caravan Holiday

stirling-castle

Scotland has a rich and proud heritage which is reflected in the stunning landscapes and diversity of iconic historical sites that greet visitors to this delightful country. History is part of the very fabric of this nation and there are some very impressive Scottish castles that you can visit to the next time you pay a visit north of the border.

Main Photo - antoncino

Stirling castle

Excusing the pun, this is arguably the king of the castles and is widely recognised as one of the largest and most important castles from an historical and architectural point of view, to be found anywhere in Scotland. The area of Stirling is a perfect site in Scotland for static caravans with a great choice of locations and handily placed to allow you to explore this magnificent castle and the surrounding area. Mary Queen of Scots was crowned at Stirling Castle and you can spend a thoroughly enjoyable day finding out about the incredible history that makes it such a popular place to visit.

Balloch castle

Situated in the area of West Dumbartonshire, Balloch castle is positioned at the southern tip of Loch Lomond which is in the Balloch Country Park. The castle is a listed building and is an excellent example of the Scottish baronial style that was so popular in the 19th and early 20th century. The castle grounds feature a beautiful walled garden and there is a visitor’s centre where you can find plenty of information about the castle and its history.

Dunnotar castle

It would be quite hard to find such a dramatic setting for this now ruined cliff top fortress that sits in prominent position look out to sea. The sight of this castle and where it is positioned, instantly evokes images of a dark and historical past when a small garrison held out against the might of Cromwell’s army for almost eight months under siege, and thereby saved the Scottish Crown Jewels.

Edinburgh castle

Probably one of the most instantly recognisable castles in Scotland, Edinburgh castle dominates the skyline of this fine city from its position atop a volcanic rock. A castle has been on the site since the 12th century and despite its seemingly impregnable outlook there have been a few successful raids throughout its history. Edinburgh is a real cultural highlight in itself and the castle is well worth visiting while you are in the area.

Balmoral castle

This is a quite stunning castle that was built in the 1850’s for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and is well known for being currently used as the private home of the present Royal family who visit every autumn for about 8 weeks. It is certainly an iconic place to visit and witness yourself and although you will not able to look inside the building, the gardens and the surrounding woods are a popular attraction in their own right.

When you consider the history of just these five castles highlighted and bear in mind how many other interesting places there are to see, it is not hard to understand why Scotland is such a popular tourist destination.

Lydia Clarke enjoys sharing her passion for Scotland through blogging. She has extensive experience as a travel consultant.

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Tips on Travelling with Children

travel with children

If you have children, please don’t think that you shouldn’t travel with them. Traveling with children can be incredibly rewarding for you and your children. You will get to experience the culture and new area of the locale, as people tend to care for children. Also, your children will have the opportunity to be well rounded and culturally aware people. Travelling with children requires a bit more planning, but the payoff is worth every bit of the added time and effort.

Why you should travel with your children:
• Create long-lasting memories for you and your kids.
• Take pictures perfect for family albums and framed photos - make some memories down the line..
• Open your eyes to other cultures and environments
• Comfortably introduce children to new things, people and places.

Travelling with your children creates opportunities for you and your children to bond. When your kids will talk about your relationship, they will surely bring up family trips where everyone had a great time. Some of the best pictures in photo albums to look back on later in life come from family vacations. Framed photos in your home should include trips out with the entire family. Travelling is a great way to view how other people in the world live. You can learn so much about other cultures and heritages by diving straight into it and experiencing the location on your own. The younger your children are introduced to ethnically and culturally diverse people, the more likely they will be accepting and well rounded people later in life. Also, if your children travel young, they are also more likely to continue travelling as they get older.

Be Prepared

• Check various resources for travel deals and packages.
• Have as much planned as possible.
• Remember to pack according to the activities you have planned.
• Check the weather and pack appropriate attire.

If you are planning to travel with children, one of the most important things to remember is to be organized. When families travel together, prices can start adding up quickly. Check out many different resources to cost compare and find the best travel deal available. Try to plan activities and places to eat ahead of time to make sure you and your children are always happy. One of the most important things you need to do as a parent is to pack well. Be sure both you and your children have all of the clothing, adult and kids shoes needed to do everything you have planned. Check the weather to make sure you all have the appropriate attire for the season and activities you will be trying. Also, make sure to have extra spending money as you will always need that !

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Plan a Cuba Vacation and Independent Travel

cuba travel

Plan your Cuba holiday using this simple guide.

Cuba is a fascinating historical country situated just 90 miles of the south coast of the USA. Cuba has most things a vacationer is looking for, from some of the most fantastic beaches in the world yet also offering a cultural heritage not found anywhere else !

A note for US Citizens who want to travel to Cuba.
As a US citizen you will have to enter Cuba through the Bahamas or Canada as the easiest route. And guard you passport like your life depends on it while there since there is no official consulate to help you leave and if you do need to get help the unoficial office will report you to the US Imigration and you will be very heavily fined.

There are 2 ways to have a great travel experience in Cuba

All Inclusive Resort in Cuba

There are a couple of destinations in Cuba that are the best and most geared up towards All Inclusive Packages in Cuba Holguin and Varadero and the less well known Cayo Santa Maria. Esentially you can check with your local vacation operator who will be able to provide you with a Caribbean Vacation in Cuba.

Independent Travel

A planned independent backpack through Cuba can be very rewarding and you will make new lifelong friends. Some of the jiniteros will make out you are too but we are talking about fellow travellers.
Cuba is locked off with a US embargo even today and this means that conventional travel doesn't really work outside of the packages to Cuba. Use this to your advantage in planning to see as many destinations as your time allows. Prices only really go up in the All Inclusive areas and this feels like a less than authentic Cuba. In truth Cuba is best done independently so you take your flights and you have a rough plan and visit some of the best destinations Cuba has to offer:

Havana

Some of the best destinations in Cuba include Havana.


The capital in places looks like a bomb hit it and nobody cleared up with delapidated buildings needing demolition but the malecon (see wall or sea front) is such an inspiring place in the evening (a great run in the morning) and cubas museums of art and history - its charm will work its its magic.

Pig Carving in Cuba Part 1

Pig Carving in Cuba Part 2

Trinidad

I think its some kind of torture that day tours from Varadero to Trinidad exist - imagine the people knowing they are staying in Varadero after seeing the beauty of Trinidad ! Trinidad, Colonial city very picturesque surrounded by tobacco plantations beautiful beaches not far away and great Casa de Particulars to stay in and make sure you visit casa de la musica oh yes and there's a rave in a cave fantastic night experience, this is really a must see destination of Cuba.

 

Santiago to Cuba

Santiago de Cuba is where started the revolutionary battles, well not started exactly but this was the main real attack on the Moncada barracks. Not such a long time ago though in the name of freedom from Batista the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara which is still affecting the country today (or stubbornness in political leaders on both sides) so you should come down here it's also a gateway to Baracoa. There are of course great museums and places to visit. The music of Cuba ever present in the streets.

Baracoa - n Guantánamo Province & Vinales - Pinar del Rio

Finally Baracoa and Vinales at opposite ends of this massive crocodile shaped island in the middle of the Caribbean Baracoa a small fishing community repeat with its own dilapidated baseball stadium on the edge of the beautiful Caribbean Sea is quite some thing to behold ! There are 10's of tourism trecks available around and some great beaches and it's a fun lively place to hang out and popular with the backpacking crowd. You can get a flight here from Havana and doing at least one leg in this way will save you a great deal of time doing it both you will miss out on a greater part of Cuba.

Vinales- On your list of Cuba destinations and has been popular for longer and also popular with all kinds of tourists from backpackers to the more particular traveler and having a more European organised feel to it than some other places in Cuba but this is stunning scenery. It is closer to the capital and easier therefore to do as an excursion.

Limestone formations tower out around the farmed plains with isolated palms and tobaco drying huts, Vinales is a poetic picture. A treck is a must great beaches close by so you can do some great tracks to visit some tobacco plantations and is famous for its limestone formations called Mogotes that jump up right up out of the flat plains into the sky and create one of the more beautiful scenery is I've ever seen and I've seen a lot ! Vinales has a charm all of its own with the still 1950s American cars and not quite as picturesque as Trinidad perhaps in its centre though smaller being closer also to Havana serves those with less time it's definitely a must do you can snorkle or scuba dive not far from here in Cayo Levisa.

Where to stay in Cuba

How to find a good Casa particular in Cuba ? Well in in our experience they were all very good quality all well run and some better than others but in this in essence they're all licensed and have to be very careful of the law so you have your things are very safe and their respect your privacy normally. There may be exceptions to this rule if you are very unlucky so take standard precautions but still feel secure. One way to find one is when you arrive at your destination everywhere in Cuba you will be accosted by many people touting not all Jiniteros some the owners themselves 60 year old women smoking cigars ! If you have a guidebook we suggest you taking off by yourself because the better ones don't tend to need to meet the buses and have a good reputation and also talk to your fellow travellers you have plenty of occasions to do this so really there is no need to worry about booking accommodation so far ahead. If you do want to check out some hostels then here are Cuba's Best Hostels and Casa De Particulars

Scuba Diving in Cuba

Before you read and believe the below statement that reflects the beaten path getting off plan with a liveaboard or going to a specific dive destination in cuba will reward you with world class diving- Cuba Scuba Diving.

Scuba-diving in Cuba can be a very rewarding experience however it's not the best diving in the Caribbean! That doesn't mean to say that you won't have a great dive just don't go to the Cuba dive spots expecting to find masses of fish life and well-kept coral even though Fidel Castro himself was a keen scuba dive enthusiast and made most of the water around Cuba protected National Marine Parks. However protecting this environment has been a struggle for them so over fishing and abuse has led to a situation that has not helped the diving. You should not just visit for the diving but if you are a scuba diver who also wants to do some real adventure travel and take a dip with still GOOD diving then Cuba is for you. The quality of scubadiving is relative and for me its nice to just get into the deep blue and enjoy the macro life as much as anything. Popular spots to dive include Cayo Levisa and Maria La Gorda to the east of Cuba or pretend you are a CIA assasin in the pay of pigs !

Further Reading

MUST READ BLOG ON CUBA >>

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