Posted April 29, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Take a short trip to the Grand Canyon the next time you need an escape from city-life. The huge gorge is one of the natural wonders of the world, and is set in an equally breathtaking national park. It’s more than just a bunch of rocks – you can go rafting down the Colorado River, view ancestral pueblo dwellings, or just set up camp and enjoy the spectacular views.
Grand Canyon Skywalk – Admire the Grand Canyon from above, without taking a trip in a helicopter. The Skywalk is a U-shaped walkway that extends out over the Canyon’s rim, and hovers 4000 feet over the Colorado River. The walkway has a glass bottom to complete the ‘walking in the air’ experience. It’s probably best avoided if you have a fear of heights, but it’s worth it for such stunning views.
El Tovar – Eating out in a national park doesn’t have to mean canned food cooked over a campfire. El Tovar provides tasty, classic dishes in an elegant setting that wouldn’t be out of place in a city setting. The dinner menu features entrees such as roast duck with a tangy citrus glaze, and juicy portabella mushrooms stuffed with artichoke hearts and spinach. El Tovar also has a fairly extensive breakfast menu, ranging from the standard cereal and yoghurt option, to a large Southwestern-style quesadilla that’s certain to provide fuel for your activities later on in the day. The dining room is built close to the Canyon’s rim, so you may be able to enjoy some spectacular views with your meal.
The Grand Hotel – Why rough it out in a tent when you can stay in comfort at this hotel. It’s decorated in a Southwestern-style, with a lobby that resembles the interior of a hunting lodge (mounted deer heads included). The rooms are spacious and very comfortable, and some have balconies that allow views over the surrounding parkland. The hotel’s Canyon Star Restaurant and Saloon mimics the style of an Old West saloon, and hosts dance and music performances nightly.
Check here for Grand Canyon travel information
Posted April 28, 2010 by BookingBuddy
We’ve been enjoying a spell of sunny weather recently, and if this continues, we’re in for a delightful summer! Your social life will also start heating up in May, as there are all sorts of festivals and events to enjoy. Perhaps most exciting of all, the general election is also being held this month, so expect lots of cheers, and a few tears too.
May 1st – Spalding Flower Parade, Lincolnshire
Celebrate May Day with a dose of sunshine and gorgeous flowers. The parade leaves from Springfields Events Centre Arena, and moves through town before ending at Westlode Street. Grab yourself a spot on along the parade route and marvel at the colourful floats, decked out with hundreds of varieties of flowers. There is also a classic car show, lots of flower displays, and craft markets taking place nearby.
May 6th – 9th – Living Crafts Fair, Hatfield
If you’ve ever wondered how things were made before the advent of huge machines, then here’s your chance to find out. The largest crafts fair in Europe, Living Crafts showcases a staggering variety of traditional crafts, from glassblowing, soap making, ceramics and much more. You’ll get to meet professional craftspeople, and even have a go at trying out some of these crafts yourself!
May 31st – Cheese Rolling, Gloucestershire
You may like cheese, but do you like it enough to run after it? It’s all downhill for competitors as they charge after a round of Double Gloucester Cheese in Cooper’s Hill. What will the winners receive (other than a whole lot of bruises)? The rounds of cheese they were running after. If that’s not your thing, you can simply stand at the sidelines and cheer your favourites on.
Posted April 27, 2010 by BookingBuddy
You’ll be blown away by the attractions on offer in Chicago. The Windy City has been compared to a compact version of New York, and boasts both meltingly hot summers as well as freezing winters. Visit in the warmer months and you’ll be able to cool off by the shores of Lake Michigan, while enjoying a Chicago-style hotdog or deep-dish pizza. A walk through the city centre may result in mild neck ache, as the stretch plays host to some of the tallest buildings in the United States – the Willis Tower, the Wrigley Building, the Tribune Tower, and many more, can all be found here. Chicago also boasts a number of famous citizens, such as current US First Lady Michelle Obama. Go for a stroll through the Hyde Park neighbourhood and see if you can spot her and President Obama’s former residence.
Navy Pier – Keep the whole family happy at this all-in-one attraction. You’ve got restaurants, shops, rides, and even an IMAX theatre on site, and it’s all topped off with a round of fireworks at night. The artistically inclined may enjoy a visit to the Smith Museum of Stained Glass, or if your kids are behaving like bulls in a china shop, why not drop them off at the Children’s Museum? Spend some time outside, enjoying the old-fashioned rides – there’s a 150 foot tall Ferris wheel, a whimsical carousel, and a towering Giant Swing. You can also go for a sightseeing cruise along Lake Michigan, splash out at the shops, or treat yourself to tasty Chicago hotdogs at the food court.
Lou Malnati’s (River North) – Pop into this old-style pizza shop for a taste of authentic Chicago-style pizza pie. Lou Malnati learned to make pizzas from his father Rudy, one of the inventors of the deep-dish pizza. These days, the company has expanded into a series of franchises but this restaurant still retains a cosy, old-fashioned feel. Pizzas here are served two ways - Chicago deep-dish style, or with a thin crust. Fans recommend the ‘Lou’, named after the chain’s founder. You’ll get a heaping great plateful of juicy fresh spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes, all buried under a spicy, savoury mix of mozzarella, Romano and cheddar.
Trump International Hotel and Tower – His hair may look cheap but at least his hotel isn’t. Donald Trump’s hotel is a block away from the Magnificent Mile, and more than measures up to the buildings on that stretch – it is currently the second tallest building in the US. The prices may be sky-high, but you’ll be paying for wonderful service and some of the most luxurious rooms around. The rooms have huge windows that allow wonderful views over the city or river. The hotel will also provide you with your very own attaché, to assist you with your visit, and even do your shopping for you. You can also arrange for spa treatments and yoga sessions in your room, and you’ll have a mini-bar stocked to your personal preferences. Room rates start at about £300.
Check here for cheap flights to Chicago.
Posted April 22, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Take a short break in Buenos Aires and discover why this sprawling city is known as the ‘Paris of the Southern Hemisphere’. The city’s eclectic but beautiful colonial-era buildings will remind many visitors of European cities, but the year-round warm weather means you won’t need to labour under layers of woollen clothes. The sensual tango music and dance originated right here, so be sure to check out some performances before you leave, and maybe even take a lesson or two. Be sure to pack a huge appetite with you, as Argentine cuisine famously includes lots of meat.
Caminito – A walk down this colourful street is sure to cheer up even the grumpiest person! This little street in La Boca features a multitude of houses, their facades all decked out in bright pastel shades. A former railway lot filled with abandoned houses, the street was spruced up when Argentine artist Benito Quinquela Martin painstakingly restored Caminito in the 1950s. These days, the street functions as an open-air museum, with market stalls down its length. If you’re lucky, you may also watch tango dancers and musicians performing in the street.
Hotel Boutique Raco de Buenos Aires – You can get rather homesick while travelling, so it’s always great to find a hotel that feels like a home away from home. Each room in this small but luxurious hotel has been decorated with sophisticated and comfortable furnishings in unusual colour palettes. The various touches, such as mosaic model of a fish, or a huge leopard print armchair in a hallway, help contribute to the hotel’s unique look. It also benefits from an excellent location in the centre of the city, and is only a short walk to the central railway line. Room rates start from around £80, and include breakfast.
Cabana Las Lilas – Some have referred to this parilla, or steakhouse, as an expensive tourist trap, and while it’s true that you’ll pay a pretty penny for your steak, it’ll likely be some of the best steak you ever had. The grass-fed beef comes straight from the restaurant’s very own ranch, and it comes with some very appetising sides including creamy mozzarella, pungent, chewy garlic bread, and succulent chunks of tomatoes and olives. Don’t feel up on those, though – you’ll need lots of space for the beef. And it comes in as many cuts as you can name, and some you can’t.
Check here for Buenos Aires travel information.
Posted April 21, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Looks like Nature has once again proved her mastery over us puny humans. The huge cloud of ash released by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokul volcano has caused havoc for airlines, and disrupted many travel plans. However, if this particular cloud has a silver lining, it is that some lucky people are finding themselves on an extra-long holiday, since they have no way of getting home. If you’re not one of these lucky ones, and absolutely need to get somewhere, don’t despair; there are other ways to travel. It may take longer, but you’ll get there in the end, and what’s more, you may even end up having more fun than you would’ve had squashed into an uncomfortable seat 20 000 feet in the air.
Bus – Several trans-European bus companies have announced that they are adding extra buses to their regular schedules to serve those left stranded by the recent closure of airspace. It is a fairly inexpensive method of getting around the UK, and if you’re patient, you’ll also be able to cross the Channel and into most European cities this way. While it may take many more hours to get to your intended destination, at least you’ll be able to look out the window and enjoy the views.
Train – There’s always a touch of romance when you travel by train, and you won’t miss out on any views either. However, even though Eurostar has put on some extra trains on selected routes, many of these have already been sold out due to high demand. If you’re willing to wait a few more days, it is very likely that you’ll be able to score yourself a ticket as well.
Ferry – Alright, it’s not a round-the-world luxury cruise, but travelling on ferries isn’t all bad. Pop on an eye-patch and a flamboyant scarf and pretend you’re a pirate, and you may actually have fun on the crossing. Ferries are a great option if you need to get to or from Ireland, and there’s always the popular Dover-Calais route too. However, many operators have announced that their boats are currently fully booked for the next few days, so be sure to call up and check with them before making your way to the port.
Bicycle – This probably isn’t the best method of getting somewhere in a hurry, but if you want to have a holiday and get fit at the same time, why not hop on your bike and have a cycle-tour? You be able to stop whenever and wherever you want to, and you won’t have to put up with annoying fellow passengers either.
Posted April 20, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Head over to Bucharest and explore this booming city if you’re planning to go somewhere for a short break. The Romanian capital is slowly shedding its past and quickly becoming an energetic, modern city. It boasts a wealth of eclectic architecture, with stern grey Communist-era tower blocks standing beside medieval and art Nouveau style buildings. You’ll also find many gleaming skyscrapers in the city centre, as well as a Romanian version of France’s Arc de Triumph (Arcul de Triumf in Romanian). The city organises several art and cultural festivals throughout the year. Most take place during the summer months, so make sure you take in a dose of Romanian culture should you visit then!
Curtea Veche – Ever fancy meeting a vampire? You may or may not catch a glimpse of one while visiting Curtea Veche (or The Old Princely Court), but you’ll definitely be able to boast about having been to Count Dracula’s castle. This atmospheric palace was erected by the notorious Vlad the Impaler, and served as his residence. It currently functions as a museum, and visitors can explore the ruins of the former castle and dungeons. The church beside the Curtea Veche is also worth a visit, as it features some remarkably well-preserved 16th century frescoes.
La Mama – As it name suggests, La Mama (The Mother) serves up great helpings of tasty comfort food, Romanian-style. The interior itself is comfortable and elegant, and far from the kitsch-crowded setting you may expect. The breezy terrace is very pleasant during summer evenings. If you’re just looking for a light meal, try one of the refreshing salads and pair it with a soup. For something heavier, try some schnitzels (chicken or pork), pork stews, or a casserole with minced beef and pork. Finish up with some sweet cheese dumplings, or some pancakes, again stuffed with sweet cheese and raisins, for a memorable meal.
Carol Parc Hotel – Spoil yourself with a stay at this luxurious hotel in the centre of town. The beautiful park beside the hotel guarantees lots of peace and tranquillity, despite its central location. The rooms themselves are elegant, even decadent, with plush orthopaedic beds in sumptuous fabrics, and lavish bathrooms outfitted in marble. The Carol Parc may not look out of place in the 18th century, but its technology is strictly 21st century. You’ll enjoy unlimited wireless access, and the hotel even provides guests with a laptop should they require one. Room rates start at about £130.
Check here for Bucharest travel information. (Photo: gogotaxis.com)
Posted April 15, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Banish those tired jokes about ‘boring Brussels’ and discover how fun it really is! The capital of the EU has grown into a vibrant, beautiful city, filled with an enviable mixture of shiny modern buildings and quaint historic architecture. Brussels is anything but boring, especially when it comes to gastronomy. While the delicious waffles are undoubtedly popular, Brussels is also renowned for its wonderful chocolate, sumptuous mussels and tasty beer. And you don’t even have to finish up your Brussels sprouts if you don’t want to.
The Atomium – Remember those minuscule children in Honey, I Shrunk The Kids? Well, you can pretend to be one of them when you visit this shiny, gigantic model of an iron crystal. Originally built for the World’s Fair in 1958, this amazing building features nine spheres, connected by escalators. Each sphere is an exhibition hall, and visitors can explore the whole structure by travelling on the escalators. You’ll get to experience what it feels like to be the size of an atom, but you won’t need to run away from any pesky giant insects! For an instant change in size, visit the Mini-Europe Park located at the foot of the Atomium. You’ll feel like a giant as you walk by the models of European landmarks.
Belga Queen – Housed in the former bank, this restaurant serves up an elegant version of traditional Belgian cuisine. The menu showcases some of the best seafood Brussels has to offer, along with carefully selected cuts of meat from local farmers. Start with some juicy, tender scallops or shrimps, and move on to the meatier offerings on the menu. You’ll also find more familiar items on the menu, such as sirloin steak with béarnaise sauce, and a very satisfying dish of meatballs and chips.
Brussels Welcome Hotel – Travel around the world while without leaving this little hotel in the centre of town. The Welcome Hotel’s seventeen rooms are all decorated to the style of a different country, for example, the Japan room features a kimono hanging on the wall, while the Bali room has beautiful carved wooden furniture from Indonesia. The luxurious suites – Silk Road and Egypt – also offer great views over St. Catherine Square. The buffet breakfast is simple but filling, and the hotel can also arrange for deliveries from several restaurants in the area. Room rates start at about £130.
Check here for cheap flights to Brussels.
Posted April 14, 2010 by BookingBuddy
If you think that airlines have finally run out of ideas for add-on fees to wring just that little bit more money out of you, you may want to think again. While local low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and Easyjet are charging passengers for check-in luggage, US-based Spirit Air has gone one further, by announcing that they will soon start charging for carry-on bags as well.
The company says that charging for carry-on bags will help ‘empty the plane faster’ while also helping to keep the fares low. The new fee will cost passengers between US$30 - $45, and those who choose to pay it will get to board the plane earlier. Spirit will be installing devices at the gates to help their staff decide which carry-on items will need to be charged.
Spirit Air may be comparatively small fry in the world of low-cost carriers, but how long will it take for bigger and more popular carriers to catch on to this idea? Will we be seeing a day soon when airlines announce charges for using toilets on-board? Alright, that may be a bit extreme, but then again, it wasn’t so long ago when you could check your bags in for free. So what do you readers think – what will airlines start charging for next?
Posted April 13, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Enjoy your very own ‘Tea Party’ to top off your trip to Boston. Beantown is one America’s oldest cities, and provides a great destination for a short break. The city looks especially beautiful in autumn, when colourful foliage lines the streets and lights up the city. No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll have a great time exploring the city’s distinct neighbourhoods and strolling through the quaint, historic streets. You’ll also discover an exciting melting pot for all sorts of cuisine, from run-of-the-mill fast food chains to up-and-coming restaurants that encapsulate the city’s history in its menu.
The Massachusetts Historical Society – Find out more about the history of Boston and the United States by visiting this library. The Society has millions of rare historical documents in its collections, and these are all made available to the public for viewing. Among some of the articles you’ll be able to see are architectural drawings by Thomas Jefferson, and a few copies of the Declaration of Independence.
East By Northeast – Banish all thoughts of greasy Chinese takeaway meals from your mind when eating at this crowded restaurant. The menu here mixes Chinese-influenced dishes with the very best of the region’s produce. Warm yourself up with some thick-cut noodles in a hearty beef broth after a day spent strolling the chilly streets of Boston. There are also several other noodle-soup dishes on the menu, some with pillowy soft noodles instead of the thick-cut style. Pork belly may be a standard item at most Chinese restaurants, but the crispy version served here is memorable, especially when paired with the sweet bean paste provided.
The Fairmont Battery Wharf – Located in Boston’s historic Battery Wharf area, this hotel is luxurious and elegant, yet manages to provide warm, hospitable service that helps guests feel right at home. The rooms have been designed to give you a great view of the waterfront, with expansive windows to let in plenty of light. You’ll be able to relax in the large marble baths, or work efficiently on the spacious desks provided in each room. The hotel’s restaurant, Sensing, organises different themed nights almost every night, including a ‘Rendezvous Night’ on Fridays, when you can feast on tasty oysters at a very reasonable price. Room rates start at around £260.
Check here for cheap flights to Boston.
Posted April 9, 2010 by BookingBuddy
Now that the sun’s been hanging out a bit more, you’ll
probably want to top up your tan before baring some skin for summer. But if the
smell of fake tan makes you retch, and you can’t bear the crowds at the usual
beach resorts, why not head for somewhere more secluded? It may seem impossible
in these days of cheap flights and Google Maps, but there are still some
beaches around that haven’t been completely taken over by bronzed beach bodies
yet...and we’ll take you there (virtually, of course).
Beagle Channel, Argentina – You’ll be able to boast about
having been to the end of the world once you return from your sojourn to the
Beagle Channel. It’s right at the tip of Argentina, and you’ll have to take a
little hike to actually get to the beach. The waters may be a little too nippy
to splash about in, but it’s safe to say you won’t see many other
Sandwood Bay, Scotland – It’s hard to find some space to
yourself in the crowded confines of the UK, but Sandwood Bay may just be the
remotest beach in these tiny isle. It’s near the evocatively-named Cape Wrath,
and you’ll have to brave a hike through several miles of tempestuous moorland
to get to it, but you’ll be rewarded with a wildly beautiful landscape with
nary a soul around. Well, maybe just one soul – an abandoned cottage nearby is
rumoured to be visited by a ghost.
Bahia San Gabriel, Mexico – At least, some warm tropical
waters for you to dip your toes into. Bahia San Gabriel lies on a desert island
in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. Relax and get a tan on the sandy golden beaches, or
splash about in the crystal clear turquoise waters. You may also be able to
rent a kayak and explore the area around the island a little.