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October 2010

Fright Nights Around The World

Posted October 28, 2010 by BookingBuddy

Sugar-skull1 Take a quick look around, and it should be pretty obvious that Halloween is just around the corner. Shops are stocked with plastic skulls and pumpkins, while little kids (and the occasional longsuffering pet) are dresses as witches, goblins, and Darth Vader. This spooky holiday is very popular both in the UK and in the United States, but isn’t celebrated worldwide. In fact, there are many other versions of Halloween all around the world.

Hungry Ghost Festival, China

Chinese communities celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month. The festival is the culmination of the Ghost Month, when the deceased are thought to roam the earth. You’re likely to see huge banquets being prepared – these are then offered to the spirits, along with offering of incense.

 

Day of the Dead, Mexico

The Mexicans honour their deceased relatives with one of the most colourful celebrations around. It falls on November 2nd, and many families visit cemeteries to clean up the graves and leave offerings. Sugar skulls are given away, and pan de muerto, a sweet bread, is baked and eaten.

 

Bon Festival, Japan

The Bon Festival is a time to honour one’s ancestors and clean their graves. It is also believed that the spirits visit their altars at this time. The Bon Odori, or Bon Dance, is also performed during the festival, and often features a singer who performs traditional min’yo folksongs. 

 

(Photo: matcmatters.matcmadison.edu)

What To Do In The UK – November

Posted October 27, 2010 by BookingBuddy

Car race The temperature’s fallen, but don’t let that be an excuse. Dress up in your warmest coat, and get out there! With so much happening in November, it’s a shame to just stay in and miss it all.  Christmas lights and festive fireworks light up the skies this month – why not get together with some friends and enjoy the spectacle?

5th November – Bonfire Night, across the UK

‘Remember, remember the 5th of November’ this year with a spectacular fireworks show. Warm up with some spiced cider or mulled wine, indulge in a toffee apple, and watch the show. There will be fireworks in various parks around London through the weekend, so you’re sure to catch at least one.

 

7th November – London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

It’s not just any race, as the cars featured in this London to Brighton run are oldies but goodies. The 400 cars taking part are over a century old, with none of your modern gadgetry on board. If the 7 a.m. start from Hyde Park doesn’t sound too attractive, pop over to Regent Street the day before to view some of the cars in stationery mode.

 

19th November – Children In Need, across the UK

Join Pudsey Bear and friends to raise funds for children’s charities. Show your support by donating, getting together with schools for fundraising events, or simply by buying a headband, keyring or pen. This is one time you won’t feel bad about staying in, as a host of stars joins the yellow bear on BBC to raise some money.

 

25th November – 12th December – Bath Christmas Markets, Bath

It’s a month to Christmas, so check out these markets if you’re keen to avoid the last minute rush. Stalls are housed in cute wooden chalets, and offer unique items you’re unlikely to find in the high street shops. Get into the Christmas spirit with some tasty offerings – mulled wine, bratwurst, mince pies and other goodies are all on offer too. 

 

(Photo: corbisimages.com)

Breaks In Tours – Tours Hotels

Posted October 26, 2010 by BookingBuddy

Tours-plumereau Get away from the hordes in Paris, with a relaxing break in Tours. Located in the heart of the lush Loire Valley, Tours is the perfect stop for those who enjoy good food and wine. It is also a great jumping-off point if you’re keen to explore the rest of the Loire region. The city itself is compact, and most sights can be reached on foot. The impressive Tours Cathedral boasts an impressive Gothic facade, and its towers can be glimpsed from many corners of the city.  Tours is often referred to as a ‘garden city’, and it’s not hard to see why. The tranquil Jardin des Prebendes offers locals and visitors a calming retreat right in the city centre.  

Stay

Hotel de L’Univers – Centrally located in the heart of Tours, this hotel is only a short walk from the TGV station – ideal if you’re planning on exploring the Loire region. It is only a short walk from the hotel to the attractions such as the Saint Martin Basilica and Musee des Beaux-Arts. The hotel itself has an elegant, slightly old-fashioned air that perfectly suits the pace of life here. The huge restaurant is open for lunch, and you’ll also find a multitude of dining choices available on the hotel’s doorstep. Room rates start from £115.

 

Eat

Le Roche le Roy – Treat yourself to some regional specialties with a meal at this smart dining spot. The menu includes delicacies such as poached lobsters, served with a Champagne-flavoured sabayon sauce, and eel braised in Chinon wine. Other dishes are roast squab flavoured with a tangy sauce, fillet of beef served on potato cakes, and succulent scallops on a bed of creamed celeriac. Finish your meal with a decadent pyramid of chocolate with candied chestnuts and a side of Baileys' ice cream, or warm crepes, drenched in citrusy butter.

                                                                                                                
See

Le Vieux Tours – Spend a few hours in this historic district for a glimpse of what Tours looked like in the medieval period. Many of the half-timbered buildings in the Old City date from the Middle Ages, and are remarkably well-preserved. La Place Plumereau is where the action is these days. This busy square in Le Vieux Tours is bordered with pubs, restaurants and cafes. Grab an outside table, order some regional wine and while away a couple of hours peoplewatching. 

 

Check here for Tours travel information

 

(Photo: westernfrancetouristboard.com)

‘The Sky Is No Longer The Limit’

Posted October 21, 2010 by BookingBuddy

Virgin
If you ever harboured any childhood dreams to be an astronaut, but failed to qualify for NASA, then it may be time you started saving your pennies. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has just gone one step closer to making space tourism a reality.

Virgin Galactic’s suborbital spacecraft Enterprise reached a significant milestone yesterday, as it was announced that the Enterprise had successfully completed its first manned flight. The spacecraft was released from its WhiteKnightTwo mothership 14 kilometres above the Mojave Desert, and was piloted by Pete Siebold.

‘Now the sky is no longer the limit, and we will begin the process of pushing beyond the final frontier of space itself over the next year’ Branson was quoted as saying after the successful test. And with 370 customers already signed up, it’s no wonder Branson is eager to push ahead with Virgin Galactic’s spaceflight programme. Tickets for the space adventure certainly don’t come cheap, at US$200 000 a pop, with a deposit of at least US$20 000 required to help secure your seat. Perhaps it’s time to start looking under the sofa for spare change?

 (Photo: gosquared.com)

Breaks In Santa Monica – Santa Monica Hotels

Posted October 20, 2010 by BookingBuddy

Santa-monica-pier Fly away to sunny Santa Monica for a fun beach break! You’ll find a laidback city with beautiful beaches and a pleasant climate. Its proximity to Los Angeles means that you can also spend some time visiting the major attractions in L.A. The 100 year old Santa Monica Pier remains a popular destination. Enjoy the rides at the amusement park, take in the exhibitions, or just enjoy a seafood feast from one of the restaurants here. For more intellectual amusements, make your way over to Chess Park and while away a good few hours watching the aficionados at their game. You may even be challenged to a game, so be sure your skills are up to scratch!

See

Third Street Promenade – Third Street Promenade is the vibrant cultural heart of downtown Santa Monica. There is a farmers’ market here on Wednesdays and Saturdays, where you can pick up fresh, tasty produce. Browse the bookshops and newsstands if you’re after bestselling beach reads, as well as plenty of shops where you can pick up some souvenirs. Visit the art galleries lining the street to views works by local and international artists, or just spend some time enjoying the street performers on the promenade.

 

Eat

Border Grill – Head to the Border Grill for Mexican food that’s more than the standard nacho/tacos fare. The offerings here include a wild mushroom quesadilla with manchego cheese and spicy mizuna salad, a sweet yet spicy grilled pear and endive salad, and cochinita pibil – pork slow roasted in banana leaves and flavoured with onion, orange and cinnamon.

 

Stay

Viceroy Hotel – Head to the Viceroy Hotel for a luxurious and indulgent break. The rooms are dressed in a soothing, neutral palette, with large, comfortable beds and lots of space. All rooms have a sitting area too, and some benefit from wonderful ocean views. It’s only a short stroll to Santa Monica Beach and the famous Santa Monica Pier.  Room rates start from £235.

 

Check here for Santa Monica travel information.

 

(Photo: ballslist.com)

Breaks In Locarno – Locarno Hotels

Posted October 19, 2010 by BookingBuddy

Lake-Maggiore-Locarno Treat yourself to a relaxing, well-deserved break in the Swiss city of Locarno. The palm trees and warm climate here give Locarno a pleasantly Mediterranean feel. That feeling is further enhanced when you glance up at the Santuario della Madonna del Sasso, with its sunny yellow facade. Climb up to the Sanctuary for gorgeous views over Lake Maggiore. Stroll along the lakeside promenade to enjoy the cool breeze, or swim in the lake itself. The Old Town is very picturesque, with beautiful centuries old buildings lining its streets, and the imposing Castello Visconteo gracing its outskirts.

 

Stay

Schlosshotel Locarno – The hotel has a superb location in Locarno’s historic centre, on the grounds of the Castello Visconteo. The location makes sightseeing a breeze, as you’re never far from most attractions. Relax in the beautiful private gardens, or enjoy a dip in the swimming pool. The Schlosshotel Locarno is decorated in a shabby-chic style, with elegantly old-fashioned furnishings. Room rates start from about £120.

 

Eat

Cardada-Cimetta – Head to this mountain for a scenic day out. Hike up to Orselina to visit the Santuario della Madonna del Sasso, and then jump on a cable-car for the trip up to Cardada. There are well laid out hiking trails through the woods here, as well as viewpoints that provide panoramic views over Lake Maggiore and Locarno. There are several restaurants here too, serving regional specialities to the crowds that visit the mountain. For that ‘top of the world’ feeling, just get on a chairlift for a picturesque trip to the summit.

 

See

Osteria Borghese – Head to this cosy restaurant in the Old Town for a substantial, traditional Swiss meal. Order some fondue to share, and plenty of bread, vegetables, and various types of ham for dipping. You can also enjoy a filling raclette, served over salami, potatoes and prosciutto. 

 

Check here for Locarno travel information

 

(Photo: switzerland-trips.com)

Chill Out At These Ice-Cold Hotels

Posted October 14, 2010 by BookingBuddy

Icehotel-pic2 Plenty of hotels are constantly searching for that elusive ‘cool’ factor in a bid to attract guests. Perhaps they should take a tip from the following hotels. These hotels are only open a few months a year, have virtually no heating, and expect guests to spend the night in sleeping bags, yet still have people clamouring to stay in them.

Ice Hotel Jukkarsjarvi, Sweden

This is one of the largest ice hotels in the world, with over 5500 square metres of space. Watch the Northern Lights dance across the sky, or keep warm by skiing or snowmobiling around the countryside. If the ice rooms get too cold, just head for the comfortably heated rooms.

 

Ice Hotel Quebec, Canada

Canada’s version of the ice hotel changes its look every year, so you’ll never see the same hotel twice! Enjoy a cool cocktail in a glass carved out of ice, and hang out with the other guests in the giant igloo. If you feel the need to warm up a little, head to the spa or saunas for a relaxing treatment.

 

Alta Igloo Hotel, Norway

Located at the northern tip of the European continent, this hotel is only accessible with the aid of a snowplough. Step through the reindeer fur covered door to enter a magical, icy world. The restaurant is housed in a tepee near the main building, and has a menu that is heavily influenced by its Nordic surroundings. 

(Photo: gocurrency.com)

Breaks In Launceston – Launceston Hotels

Posted October 13, 2010 by BookingBuddy

Launceston Discover a different side to Australia when you take a break in Launceston. This city in Tasmania has a fairly relaxed, village-like atmosphere. Visitors from the UK may be surprised to spot several UK-style pubs around Launceston. However, you haven’t come all this way to spend your time hiding in a pub, so get out there and explore the natural beauty surrounding Launceston! Cataract Gorge isn’t far from the city centre, and is a perfect spot for a family day out. Hike along the trails in Tamar Island and observe the wildlife in these wetlands, go for a leisurely cruise down the Tamar River, or sample some Tasmanian wines in the Tamar Valley.  

See

Cataract Gorge – Head out to Cataract Gorge for a fun day out. The gorge is spanned by the Alexandra Suspension Bridge, as well as the longest single span chairlift in the world. Explore the walking tracks around the foot of the gorge, or have a picnic with the peacocks in the gardens. You can also have a dip in the chilly waters of the gorge, or use the swimming pool there if you can’t bare the cold.

 

Eat

Stillwater – Make your way to this former flour mill on the bank of the Tamar River to sample some of what is said to be the best food in Launceston. The menus display a mix of influences and showcase fresh, local produce. Start off with plump Moulting Bay oysters, or some sweet-fleshed Spring Bay scallops. Other dishes include beef fillet, with potatoes and parsnips, a rack of lamb with a rather unusual ginseng marinate, as well as a luxurious confit of duck served with black truffle shavings.

 

Stay

Hotel Charles – The brand new Hotel Charles (opened in mid-2010) offers guests a luxurious stay amid beautiful surroundings. The Art Deco style building has been decorated in a futuristic palette of red, white and black in the interior. Some rooms come with wonderful views over the lush Tamar Valley. The hotel has its own restaurant – Esca – which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Room rates start from about £90.


Check here for Launceston travel information.

Breaks In Hannover – Hannover Hotels

Posted October 12, 2010 by BookingBuddy

Hannover Indulge in a relaxing break with a trip to Hannover. This German city is just starting to become a tourist destination, and for good reason. Public transport in Hannover is plentiful and efficient, so you’ll find very easy to navigate around the city. The colourful Great Garden of Herrenhausen is a must-see, especially in summer when the plants here are in full bloom. The Tiergarten is a lovely green space with a zoo, as well as a wooded area where you can spy deer and other wild animals. There’s no shortage of castles here either. Marienburg Castle, with its numerous turrets and spires, looks like it was plucked straight out of a fairytale. When your feet need a rest, grab a seat at a beer garden, and refuel with some tasty local brews.

 

See

Herrenhausen Gardens – These sprawling gardens are a Baroque wonderland, simply bursting with art and flowers. Stroll along the ornamental flower beds to take in the colours and scents, and admire the fantastic Great Fountain, rising to over 70 metres. Visit La Grotte, the dreamlike grotto created by artist Niki de Saint Phalle. This magical cavern has been decorated with mosaics, pebbles and coloured glass. Summer nights in the gardens are capped off with impressive illuminations and fireworks.

 

Eat

Lister Turm Biergarten – Set in an idyllic wooded area on the edge of Eilenriede Forest, this large beer garden is a great spot for a hearty meal, washed down with some local beers. Sausages and pretzels feature heavily on the menu, but some Greek dishes are available too. Order some tzatziki, salad and pita bread to go with your freshly cooked sausages.

 

Stay

Courtyard Hannover Maschsee – This comfortable hotel is located in Hannover’s city centre, right beside Lake Maschsee. Book a lake-view room to enjoy great views over the lake. Little touches, like complimentary coffee in the lounge, and a shoeshine service, help ensure you’ll have a great stay here. Room rates start from £75.

 

Check here for Hannover travel information

 

(Photo: ihsgermany.com)

Tweeting Takes To The Skies

Posted October 7, 2010 by BookingBuddy

Twitter It looks like we may never escape from them after all. Twitter has been taken to new heights these days (quite literally), and addicts can get their latest tweet-fix even while in the air.

 

Finnish carrier Finnair has just announced the launch of its own Twitter page. This will be an addition to Finnair’s Facebook page and blog, so you can keep up with every bit of activity the airline gets up to. Finnair is just the latest in a long line of technologically savvy carriers that have jumped on to the Twitter bandwagon. Other airlines that have followed suit include British Airways, Air Asia, Air France and EasyJet.

 

It may seem like airlines are merely riding the Twitter wave in a bid to score some ‘hip’ points and attract customers. However, it makes sense for airlines to utilise these social networking tools, especially during urgent situations such as the Eyjafjallajokull eruptions. In such cases, airlines would be able to use their Twitter and Facebook sites to notify their passengers about new developments. These sites are also useful as marketing tools, to let potential passengers find out about upcoming deals and discounts. 

 

(Photo: jaunted.com)

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