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Wine Tasting in Cape Town

If you are lucky enough to be visiting Cape Town, I cannot recommend highly enough taking a trip to the wine making regions.

If your time in Cape Town is limited to a few days, my suggestion would be that you see the major tourist attractions of Table Mountain, Cape Point, Robin Island and some of the stunning beaches and bays such as Camps Bay and Clifton. Then, spend an evening in the Constantia district, which is where Cape Town’s vineyards are located. It is within a 30 minute drive of the centre of Cape Town and easily accessible for a day tour or an evening meal.

© Debbie Pearce

© Debbie Pearce

Many of the wineries in Constantia have restaurants, so I would suggest that you select one of these to visit. My recommendation would be La Colombe. It is a really special place with a beautiful vineyard, amazing wines and delicious gourmet food. They offer a 7 course tasting menu which was exquisite! If you are celebrating a special occasion, do let them know in advance and they will make sure that you are looked after with petals on the table and a surprise for desert!

If you will be sampling the wine, take a taxi. Most of the drivers are happy to wait for you outside the winery and take you back to Cape Town.

I would then recommended that you a hire a car, and take the short drive to the wine growing area of either Stellenbosch or Franschoek.  The drive is beautiful and there are plenty of wineries en route that you can stop at. For me, Franschoek, which is located about two hours from Cape Town, after Stellenbosch, is the more beautiful of the two areas, but, it is difficult to choose as both are deserving of a visit.

Franschoek was settled in the late 1600 by French refuges that were given the land by the Dutch; hence the Dutch name Franschoek which means French quarter.

You can stay in many of the wineries; again I can highly recommend the La Rochelle, which is picturesque with a thatched roof and dormer windows. It has a great bar and restaurant, with a roaring fire in the winter and beautiful gardens with a pool that can be enjoyed in the summer months.

© Debbie Pearce

© Debbie Pearce

There are numerous wine tours to choose from, a tour is sensible so that you can sample the wine and not worry about alcohol limits and driving. Our tour was guided by a young man who wanted to eventually become a vineyard owner; he had studied viticulture and was extremely knowledgeable. He equated each of the grape varieties we tasted to a native South African animal. So a Shiraz was a Springbok, a Merlot a Lion and so on. He also took us to a winery where we experienced fudge tasting. This was a revelation, fudge goes just as well with red wine as cheese – I suggest you try it.

There are numerous restaurants in the town, but if I was to suggest one to visit it would be the Grand Provence. Amazing food, stunning scenery and beautiful décor.

If you have enough of wine tasting and have some time left in Franschoek, it has great horse riding stables and sporting facilities such as golf and tennis. It is a beautiful town to simply wander around and there are many boutiques and coffee shops to occupy a few hours.

South Africa is a beautiful country, and the rand exchange rate against the pound makes it a very reasonable holiday even if you do treat yourself to a few bottles to stow in your luggage and bring home!

About the Author: This article was written by Debbie Pearce for and on behalf of FHR www.fhr-net.co.uk Airport Hotels and Parking.

The Performing Arts Communities of Phoenix and Scottsdale

I will be the first to admit that before I was able to really spend time in this very unique area of Arizona, I also imagined that outside of southwest and American Indian art galleries; little existed in this community. However, I was very wrong in this case. Of course you do have more of this style art and jewelry made famous in the American Southwest area than you can possible view in a single visit, but there’s also a modern vibe in Scottsdale and Phoenix that brings a great “energy” to the area.

downtown phoenix

It’s a picturesque corner of the world with a fantastic way of life, which attracts many from the big cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and more to either vacation, live or at least have a vacation home among these vibrant communities within the expansive serenity of the Sonoran Desert. Both this “new blood” and the long-time locals expect international dining and world-class entertainment, which is exactly what has been further developed each year to create what is now a community with all the luxuries of the big cities, while maintaining the clean desert living everyone craves.

downtown scottsdale

An abundance of amazing outside activities are available to occupy your days, such as mind-blowing golf courses, championship tennis facilities, comforting and relaxing hotels (Thunderbird Suites being my favorite), stimulating hiking trails with out-of-this-world views and a desert playground for horseback riding, jeep tours, mountain biking and so much more. After a day of living the Arizona lifestyle, the other side of Scottsdale and Phoenix comes to life with superlative dining options of International cuisine, a very active night life for all ages and a very impressive performing arts scene with a variety of special events, seasonal shows and more throughout a number of venues in the area.

With both modern venues and those with much historical significance, the Phoenix and Scottsdale communities have a delightful combination of old and new mixed with classical and whimsy. Several of these must-visit venues include ASU Gammage, Chandler Center For The Arts, Mesa Arts Center, Orpheum Theatre, Phoenix Symphony Hall and the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Orpheum Theatre Phoenix

The Performing Arts Community:

Arizona Broadway Theatre is an award-winning, state-of-the-art, professional dinner theatre, which showcases locally and nationally acclaimed artists both onstage and behind the scenes with a variety of shows each year.
7701 W. Paradise Lane | Peoria, AZ 85382 | T: 623.776.8400

Arizona Opera produces grand opera in both Phoenix and Tucson, making it one of only three companies in the US that performs in two cities. For this area, the company performs at the beautiful Symphony Hall in Downtown Phoenix.
75 N. 2nd Street | Phoenix, AZ 85004 | T: 602.266.7464

Ballet Arizona continues to impress with innovative and provocative performances. Their strategy is to work to preserve and celebrate classical dance while still looking for ways to introduce innovative and new works while performing at the Symphony Hall and the Orpheum Theatre.
2835 E. Washington Street | Phoenix, AZ 85034 | T: 602.381.1096

Phoenix Symphony has been an “institution” to this community since 1947; offering a wide variety of programming each year, including Classics, Symphony Pops, Chamber Orchestra, Family offerings and special community presentations celebrating various holidays and events.
1 N. First Street, Ste 200 | Phoenix, AZ 85004 | T: 602.495.1999

phoenix symphony

Phoenix Theatre was originally founded as the Phoenix Players in 1920, and is the oldest arts organizations in Arizona. Today, they offer a full range of theatrical programming, including the Mainstage Season series of Broadway and world premiere musicals and plays.
100 E. McDowell Road | Phoenix, AZ 85004 | T: 602.254.2151

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts is one of the premier performing-arts halls in the Western United States, and recognized for its diverse, high-quality presentations of classical and world music, dance, jazz and theater, educational programs and festivals; serving more than 200,000 people annually in this spectacular venue.
7380 E. 2nd Street | Scottsdale, AZ 85251 | T: 480.499.8587

Scottsdale center for performing arts

Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre is an award-winning, non-profit performing arts theatre that provides an intimate environment for their variety of performances, including Cinderella, Peter Pan, Fiddler on the Roof and more.
4720 North Scottsdale Road | Scottsdale, AZ 85251 | T: 480.483.1664

Valley Youth Theatre is a non-profit theatre dedicated to helping young people achieve their full potential through meaningful engagement, education and excellence in the performing arts; and one that is consistently providing award-winning shows by this talented young cast.
525 N. 1st Street | Phoenix, AZ 85004 | T: 602.253.8188

About the Author: Damon M. Banks is a freelance travel writer focusing on travel,tourism, hotels, spas, yoga, fashion, golf and lifestyle brands. Damon is a contributor to Huffington Post and Examiner, as well as a variety of international travel, hospitality and luxury lifestyle publications such as Global Living Magazine, World Spa & Travel, Montage, and Destinations Travel Magazine. To learn more, visit his website, www.damonbanks.com, and follow along on his travel blog, www.luxegetaways.com. Connect with Damon on Google+, Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin.

Top 10 tips for magic and majesty in Delhi

A trip to Delhi, one of the world’s greatest cities, can be an amazing experience; but it can also be a daunting one. What tips should travellers follow to ensure an exciting and enchanting trip?

1. Know what to expect

First-time visitors to India – including its huge capital Delhi, whose population now stands at 22 million – can be forgiven for experiencing a little culture shock. The sights, sounds and smells of New Delhi (technically the capital but really just the central part of the wider urban area) can be overwhelming. A little foresight can make all the difference to your trip.

2. Plan ahead

Start by choosing the right place to stay. If you don’t want to rough it with the backpackers in the hostels of Paharganj, luxury hotels in New Delhi are a much more comfortable but affordable alternative. Hotels near Indira Gandhi International Airport are also a good option after a long flight, leaving you well rested and ready to take on the city.

3. Get around in comfort

There are four main railway stations, as well as the suburban rail network and a rapidly growing Metro system. The last of these will usually be your best bet for getting around, as it’s clean, modern, inexpensive and mercifully air-conditioned.

4. Do as locals do

For the more adventurous traveller, hop on one of the city’s ubiquitous auto-rickshaws or tuk-tuks for an unforgettable ride. Be prepared to haggle. Remember too that although English is commonly spoken, Hindi is most people’s first language. Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to try street food and local markets.

5. See the World Heritage Sites

Photo source: amanderson

Photo source: amanderson

With about 5000 years of history, there’s a lot of Delhi to see. Start with the UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Delhi boasts three of these.

The Red Fort, built in the 17th century by Emperor Shah Jahan, served as capital of the Mughal Empire until 1858; and it’s suitably spectacular. So too are Humayan’s Tomb (which served as a model for the Taj Mahal) and the towering Qutb Minar, a 12th century victory tower.

6. Marvel at Agra’s Taj Mahal

Photo source: rachel in wonderland

Photo source: rachel in wonderland

Described as ‘a teardrop on the cheek of time’, the Taj – also built by Shah Jahan to mourn his favourite wife, Mumtaz – truly is one of the wonders of the world. Thankfully, it’s only about two hours on the Shatabdi Express train from New Delhi Railway Station.

Be prepared to queue, know which ticket class you want to buy (there are at least eight) and leave at least an hour to find the right platform. Alternatively, hotel staff can help you arrange a day trip.

7. Explore Lutyens’ Delhi

The British ruled Delhi from 1858 to 1947 and Edwin Lutyens’ bungalows, terraces and government buildings from the 1920s and ’30s offer a unique architectural record of the period. Connaught Place is the jewel in the crown and still serves as the heart of Delhi’s central business district. Lutyens’ presidential palace is open for visits at certain times on certain days.

8. Stay safe

Like any modern global megacity, Delhi has its dark side. Be aware of pickpockets, scam artists, beggars and touts at railway stations and other transit points: keep your passports, cash and cards safely secured in a money belt. If anyone asks, say it’s your third or fourth trip to the city.

Women should take the usual precautions – stay in groups, and keep to well-lit, well-populated areas.

9. Stay healthy

Be prepared for heat, dust and smog; never get too far away from bottled water. ‘Delhi belly’ needn’t be a big risk though: eat fresh vegetarian food, or thoroughly cooked meat.

10. Don’t forget to go to the toilet (museum)

Finally, for a little relief after all that heavy sightseeing, drop in on the Museum of Toilets. It does what it says on the… loo.

What dreams will you take back from Delhi?

Managing your money while travelling

We’d all love to have unlimited funds to travel the world without having to manage our finances and check our bank balance every five minutes. If only. I’d also like some rich benefactor to top up my account on a semi-regular (don’t want to be greedy you understand) basis, the ability to charter private jets and someone to carry my rucksack but let’s face facts here: In reality, most of us go from country to country on a limited budget, hoping to get as far as possible, see as much as possible and do even more. How to manage your finances well as you move around is the trick. Here are a few points that we hope will help:

Image from

Image from Denni Schnapp

1. Consider a new bank account

Before you get cracking take a look at some of the banks’ offers. Shop around to find the bank that will give you the lowest fees on withdrawing using a debit card as that’ll probably be the main way you’ll get access to your money on your travels. The travel section on the Money Saving Expert website is a super helpful website to find the best deals in the UK. Never take money out of an ATM using your credit card – the fees for that are usually extortionate.

Let your bank know where you are going to be too. I had my details stolen (somehow – I’m none the wiser but my bank told me it happened to a lot of people at the same time) while we were in New Zealand. Luckily, the bank knew where I was, contacted me straight away to check I wasn’t flashing cash around Nigeria, and so no money was lost on my part.

2. Avoid changing money at airports

One of our major bugbears about travelling is this. They catch you when you need cash most but the exchange bureaus at the airport take a huge cut from you when you change money. If you can possibly avoid it then make sure you get at least a little money changed before you go. XE.com is the main site we’ve used to give us an idea of what we should be paying, they also have an iPhone app.

3. Have cash, but keep it safe

It’s not ideal but it’s worth having an amount of cash with you for those ‘just in case’ moments. You might arrive in a country and find there are no ATMs or (though unlikely) your card can’t be accepted. This happened to us in China after arriving at the airport in Beijing, neither of our bank cards would work. We survived on our small amount of cash until we made it to a bank where everything was sorted. No drama.

Particularly on the days when you’re moving around and your kit’s not so secure split the cash up between your rucksack/suitcase and have some on your person (in a money belt ideally).

4. Online banking

A fairly obvious point I grant you but the internet is available in so many places now, even in places you’d never expect (a cave I was in in Australia springs to mind!), so there’s really no excuse not to check your current accounts regularly. It may be scary to check the finances, and I always tended to put it off, but why? Checking how much you’ve got and how much you’re spending helps to plan your trip and get you further in the long run. Make use of apps on your phone to check your balance or just make a note in the back of your notebook, keep on top of it.

5. Make a budget

Another obvious one and one I avoided until we forced ourselves to do it while living in South Korea. It’s amazing though, so simple and it doesn’t even have to be that depressing. One tip though is to make sure you do your research about each country you go to, your money will go so much further in Indonesia than pottering around Singapore for example. Set some aside if you’re planning on buying souvenirs or sending things home too, it really adds up.

There’s Nowhere Quite Like Hurghada

Apart from being the second largest city in Egypt, Hurghada also has a wonderful history, rich culture, hospitable citizens, amazing landmarks, and luxurious resorts. All its attractions are found in very strategic locations and are always waiting to give you an unforgettable experience. Some of the best things worth doing seeing in this magnificent city include:

1. Make a splash at Makadi Water World

Makadi Water World stands out as the most modern and largest water park in Egypt. Its 50 slides comprise of elephant slides, a 19-metre free fall slide, mini rainbow slides, tunnel slides, and many more. Its self-service beverage and snack bars offer a wide collection of non-alcoholic drinks, ice creams, cold and hot sandwiches, pasta, and pizzas that will surely appeal to you and your children.

sunset

2. Explore the Giffun Islands

Giffun Sughayer and Giffun Kebir are beautiful islands located about 20 kilometres from the mainland. The islands are surrounded by numerous coral reefs teeming with underwater life, explaining why they were made part of the Red Sea National Parks. Their sandy beaches offer a number of fascinating activities including snorkeling, sunbathing, and diving.

3. Shop at Senzo Mall

Senzo Mall is one of the biggest and most impressive shopping centres in Hurghada. The mall is found in the city centre, just a few minutes from the airport of Hurghada. Covering an area of about 255,000 square metres, the mall contains several stores offering a wide variety of items such as electronics, clothes, shoes, curious, jewellery, greeting cards, and furniture. In addition, it offers recreational facilities such as cinemas and other unique entertainment complexes where you and your kids can watch movies and listen to your favourite music.

hurghada

4. Spoil Yourself Inside Calypso Club

Calypso describes itself as one of best and most frequented nightclubs in Hurghada. The club is equipped with state-of-the-art sound systems, LED screens and a superb dance floor with an array of ever-changing lights. It is known to host a number of Egypt’s famous musicians and dancing competitions every week. If you do not feel like dancing, you can relax and enjoy some of your favourite alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks.

marina

5. Jump in at Diving World

Diving World Hurghada is strategically located on the headland facing the famous Giffun Islands. It is considered one of the first and most attractive diving areas in not only in Hurghada City, but also in Egypt. Boats usually leave the dock every morning to take divers to some of the most interesting diving spots. While you are under the water, you can get a chance to see the wrecks of Abu Nuhas, Thistlegorm, and the Salem Express. If you do not like diving, you can take part in the Diving World’s numerous expeditions or snorkel along the extensive barrier reefs.

Diving World’s Underwater Diving School offers a variety of diving courses including Dive Master and Open Water Diver. Diving instructions are offered in a variety of languages including English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian.

6. Eat, Drink, and Sleep at the Grand Hotel

The Grand Hotel is a big 4-star hotel situated on its own private beach, about 12 kilometres from the city centre of Hurghada. The hotel offers a spacious parking area, a water slide, 2 large swimming pools, 3 buffet restaurants, a piano bar, a souvenir shop, and extensive gardens for relaxation. It specialises in Egyptian cuisine fused with a few Asian flavours.

The Grand Hotel’s more than 50 guest rooms are equipped with modern facilities such as air conditioners, music systems, coffee making facilities, free Internet access, dressing mirrors, and king size beds. In addition, the hotel offers numerous fascinating activities including tennis, basketball, and beach volleyball.

Italian Yummies!

There is no better place to try pizza than Italy, a native land of numerous intricate recipes and dishes. Pizza as one could recall is an obvious trademark of this European state. Fortunately, Italian cuisine has many other things of must-try nature. Do you remember Julia Roberts’s enjoying luxury of Italian dishes in Eat, Prey, Love? Well, why should not get acquainted with all the fancy exquisites Italian culinary art offers?

First of all, travelers should know that world-known modern pizza has come to its present state from focaccia – everyday food of peasants and warriors of antiquity. To date, it resembles a pizza without any filling and is often served in local restaurants. Pizza Napoletana, in contrast, is commonly recognized as classic Italian pizza, being cooked and served worldwide. Its two main kinds, Marinara and Margarita, have interesting stories of origin. The first one was a favorite dish of local fishmen, while the second one was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy. According to the legends, while travelling to Naples she was quite astonished with a meal of Naples peasants that, of course, happened to be pizza.

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And what about pasta? It is no doubt a crown jewel of Italian gastronomy, as its recipes have been preserved for centuries, in particular, since the times of ancient Roman Empire. Traditionally, foreigners may find a wide range of pasta dishes, most of which might be divided into three main groups: pasta lunga (long), pasta corta (short) and pasta ripiena (with some filling).  It is interesting to know that modern pasta differs a lot from the very first recipes. It was cooked in milk, beef or honey broth. To uncover all the secrets of Italian pasta, it is really exciting to pay a visit to Museo Nazionale delle Paste Alimentari and, in addition, to learn some pasta-cooking tricks!

It is merely impossible not to mention Italian cheeses! As in France, cheese is one of the most delicious things to try, which goes either with other dishes or is served freestanding. Widely distributed Gorgonzola is produced in Lombardy and Piedmont regions, while delicious Mozzarella has been made on south since ancient Romans. Other famous Italian cheeses include Mascarpone from Milan, Parmesan from Parma-Bologna lands and Ricotta widely manufactured in the country.

Mascarpone, by the way, is usually associated with a world-known desert Tiramisu, which originated precisely in Italy. For the first time it was served in the 17th century in Siena in honor of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo III de ‘Medici. Widely known as a sweet tooth, he popularized tiramisu all over Italy and even abroad, when it traveled to Venice, leading trading point in Europe at the time. Tiramisu was nicknamed as “Zuppa del duca” (Duke’s soup). One can guess, it was of royal fame in contrast to its modern popularity as one of the most luxuriant and fancy deserts in the world, made of Mascarpone of 55% fat content exclusively.

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One more popular desert in Italy is an ice-cream, or the so-called gelato. At present, there are about 500 kinds of gelato, served in special restaurants – gelaterias. Italian ice cream differs from other kinds with hardly whipped structure, mild flavor and delicate texture. Besides, it usually has no frozen fruits or industrial adding; gelato manufacture often appears to be a family business, lasting for decades.

About the Author: Guest Post by Maria Kruk, an author for Exhibitions.com

Home is Where the Heart Is (But a Good Hotel is Great Too)

While home may be nice and comfy, sometimes it’s great to get out and enjoy a holiday. Today’s hotels are often luxurious affairs that can provide all of the comforts of home and then some. A flight to Auckland might help you experience a great short holiday in a wonderful city with a great selection of hotels.

Aside from reserving a nice hotel, visitors to Auckland will need to plan for adequate transportation. A personal vehicle is always the best way to get around New Zealand. Thus, tourists should look into an Auckland airport car rental so they can grab that perfect vehicle for puttering around town.

Image courtesy of pietroizzo – Flickr

Image courtesy of pietroizzo – Flickr

Hotel DeBrett — A Luxurious Choice

Hotel DeBrett is one of the most luxurious hotels located in the heart of Auckland’s central business district. This hotel acts as a sort of link between the hip fashion area of High Street and the bustling commerce of Shortland Street.

Hotel DeBrett features 25 rooms and suites. Each of the rooms have their own personality and unique design. As a fitting tribute to the hotel’s past, all of the designs have a touch of art deco style. When you’re ready for dinner, take a stroll to one of the nearby restaurants or have dinner in the Kitchen restaurant or visit the Housebar.

Your stay includes free continental breakfast, a pre-dinner drink in the drawing room, free local calls and free broadband Internet access. The beds feature 100 percent cotton linens and mattresses contain a goose down layer for additional comfort. Many who stay at this hotel consider the beds among the most comfortable in Auckland.

The Langham Auckland — Business But Not Stuffy

Winner of the TripAdvisor.com.au 2013 Travellers’ Choice award, the Langham hotel in Auckland is a 30 minute drive from the Auckland International Airport. The close distance to Auckland International, along with its great amenities, make this hotel a wonderful pick if you are visiting the city for business purposes.

The Langham offers nearby self-parking options and valet parking. If you decide to dine at the Eight restaurant for lunch or join others in the Winery for Tiffin Afternoon Tea, you can get a complimentary parking pass.

The suites at the Langham Hotel Auckland are spacious and well-appointed. Those visiting on business will enjoy being able to make use of the modern communication facilities of the suites as well as the fact that the hotel’s amenities are designed to help enhance production. Of course all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, so when winding down you can make use of the excellent restaurants, lounges, bars and spas the hotel is known for. Room service is available 24 hours for when you are burning the midnight oil or just get hungry in the middle of the night.

The Langham Hotel Auckland is also a great choice for business meetings. The hotel offers spacious meeting facilities as well as excellent banquet facilities. Facilities include one of the largest pillarless ballrooms in the city, the Great Room.

Quality Hotel Parnell — A Great Family Place

The Quality Hotel Parnell is ranked as the No. 11 family hotel in central Auckland. Despite having a budget price range, this hotel gets some great reviews for its service and comfort.

Quality Hotel Parnell is located within walking distance to Auckland’s central business district, which can be a good thing. If you are having trouble finding parking in the downtown, simply leave your car behind at the hotel’s free parking and walk to nearby restaurants dining, shopping and entertainment venues.

Many of the larger rooms in this older hotel have kitchens and lounge areas. Some of the rooms have balconies to give you a great view and a wonderful place to have breakfast in the morning.

The excellent price and service of this hotel make it a perfect place to stay if you are travelling with your family. Best of all, for those who still need to get a little work done, the hotel offers a business centre.

While these are but a small number of what you will find in Auckland, you’d have to say it’s not a bad starting point! Where would you like to stay if you had open slather and bottomless wallet?!

Holland: Windmills, Tulips, Canals and… Cycling

There are many clichés about Holland and many of them are, of course, true. You will find fields of tulips (not to mention poppies and lilies), plenty of attractive windmills, towns crossed by evocative canals and locals who speak flawless English.

Among these associations – and the seedier ones made with Amsterdam – the fact that Holland is a nation of cyclists is often overlooked. Katie Melua’s semi-tuneful claim that there are nine million bicycles in Beijing may or may not be true, but there are certainly more bikes than people in Holland.

Cycling Holland.2

And yet, in part due to all the other images that this country conjures up and in part because cyclists seem to love mountains (for some reason, I can barely handle hillocks on a push-bike!) Holland is often overlooked as a viable destination for a cycling holiday. Well, let me give you six great reasons why you should take to two wheels to the land of tulips.

1. It’s flat

Whilst Wiggins-wannabes might yearn for endless ascents as they re-enact Olympic and Tour de France fantasies most of us quite like a nice flat bike ride – though I never turn down the opportunity for a nice, long downhill stretch. With the highest “peak” in Holland reaching to an elevation of just 322m it is just a shade higher than the top of the Shard (308m). The Netherlands is therefore the perfect place for beginners, families and people not quite as fit as they once were / would like to be.

Holland.4

2. It’s small

With an area 60% the size of the Republic of Ireland a one week cycling holiday round this great country can still encompass a lot of the best sites. With two weeks you can easily take in Amsterdam’s ancient forts (while dipping a toe or two into the fantastical vibe that exudes from the eclectic city), the cathedral city of Haarlem and the magnificent ZuidKennemerland National Park to the north before heading further north to Alkmaar.

Another fine cathedral city with a fairytale feel, superb cheese and with no end of golden beaches and picturesque villages within easy striking distance, Alkmaar is a great place to spend a few days. From there Hoorn and Edam (for more cheese – you’ll need the calories after all that cycling!) are easily accessible and both charming in their own right.

Cycling Holland.4

3. It’s beautiful

The fields of flowers may be a cliché but if you come to Holland at the right time of year (March to May, with the last two weeks of April being the primary window of opportunity) you will be blown away by the frequency and vibrancy of the floral delights and cycling is a great way to see the blooms up close. Throw in sweeping views, pristine beaches and atmospheric forts, castles and windmills and you really are spoilt here.

Holland.2

4. It’s safe

Holland has some of the safest roads in the world for cyclists and with miles and miles of purpose-built cycle ways and lots of quiet country roads the congestion and road rage of the UK will feel a long way away.

5. It’s easy

Sometimes travelling should be a challenge and that’s great if that’s your thing, but if you want relaxation and a stress-free holiday Holland is the answer. Dutch people are welcoming, speak superb English (on the whole) and, as mentioned, the country is flat, meaning no arduous hill climbs. Should the flat become too tiring you can take advantage of one of the most effective and efficient rail networks in the world and of course your two wheels are more than welcome on board.

6. It’s accessible

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport can be reached from hundreds of cities with low cost airlines operating from many regional airports. There are also the aforementioned rail links and ferries that make getting to the Netherlands in the first place simple, cheap and – if you take the overnight ferry across the North Sea – potentially a lot of fun (cheesy but strangely alluring disco anyone?).

So, if you’re thinking of going cycling on your next holiday why not give Holland a go? It has so much to offer and truly is a place where two wheels is the best way to travel.

Holland.3

Cycling Holland.1

10 Seasonal beers to see you through the year

Not normally a topic on our site but since we recently took part in a brewery tour (for educational purposes you understand) I just couldn’t resist publishing this guest article about one of our favourite topics….BEER! 

Recent archeological evidence shows that humans have long been dedicated to the art of brewing beer. Thought to have assisted in fostering goodwill among tribe members and used in celebratory festivals eons ago, beer still maintains an important place among beverage choices to this day.

In recent years, artisanal blends from microbreweries have broadened the spectrum of offerings and presented aficionados with more limited-quantity brews inspired by seasonal ingredients than ever before. Here are just a few of the finest choices for brews that highlight the best that each season has to offer.

Summer

For a clean, crisp, lightweight, and refreshing summer beer, it’s hard to top Anchor’s aptly-named Summer Beer. Made entirely from malt, it stands in contrast to the more typical wheat beers with a light and lingering taste that pairs well with meals.

Ithaca Beer Co.’s Partly Sunny is a citrus-infused wheat ale that manages to impart notes of coriander without being too overbearing. Ideal with white meats and fish dishes, it is available from May to August and promises to bring a zingy and refreshing flavor to the season.

21st Amendment Brewery offers a truly unusual beer for summer, the Hell Or High Watermelon wheat beer manages to infuse true watermelon flavoring right into the brew. The result is a sweet, low-carbonated, and refreshing way to stave off hot summer afternoons.

Autumn

Pumpkin heads the favorite flavors for autumnal beers and there is none better than Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale, a brew that includes the classic pumpkin pie spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg to deliver a flavor that is at once reminiscent both of pumpkin and of beer. At eight percent alcohol by volume, this hearty drink perfectly embodies the season.

Left Hand Brewing Company produces a fine blend perfect for celebrating with their Oktoberfest brew. With heady hops overtones, this hearty Märzen-style lager has a deep, coppery color and rich, malty flavor that will hold up well with any German-style cuisine paired with it.

Winter

For an authentic beer that embodies the winter season, Schloss Eggenberg’s Samichlaus Bier tops the list. Brewed in Austria, this hearty Dopplebock blend offers a sweet taste, deep color and low carbonation reminiscent of port or sherry. At 14 percent alcohol by volume, this brew promises to warm anyone even on the coldest nights.

Image by skibler under creative commons licence

Image by skibler under creative commons licence

Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale is perfect for those who love hops. This beer provides a nice head, deep amber color and characteristic bitterness from the addition of hops. At seven percent alcohol by volume, this highly drinkable ale will nicely accompany any celebration.

The cold weather calls for a hearty brew and Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome Ale seeks to deliver just that with its richly flavored blend that calls to mind caramel and apple tones while it provides deep malt flavor. Pairing nicely with roast turkey, this delicious and versatile blend will intrigue the taste buds all season long.

Spring

As winter snows begin to melt, Russian River Brewing Company’s Pliny The Younger will promise at the warmth to come. With overtones of hops yet deceptively smooth, this India pale ale will help to welcome the new season, and its 10 percent alcohol by volume will help to banish any lingering winter chills.

Recalling the artisanal brewing methods of monks during the Middle Ages, Boak’s Two Blind Monks is a Belgian-style Dubbel blend with characteristic notes of malt and a caramel sweetness. Pairing well with hearty meals and packing nearly eight percent alcohol by volume, this brew will help to pass the time until the warm weather is finally here.

About the Author: Bruce Thomas is a freelance writer and researcher – when he’s not writing articles about how to find a competitive mortgage in Alberta, he enjoys diving, trying new things and spending time with family.

How to see the real Turkey on a budget

Turkey is a destination that everyone can enjoy, from the youngest members of the family who want to run around and have a bit of fun, to the older ones who want to relax in the sun. It has something for everyone from clubs and bars, to sun and sand, to a rich history and culture.

Whether you’re travelling alone or with family and friends, it’s probably likely that you’ll have a budget to work with. Well, have no fear because Turkey is the perfect destination for this – it has become much more popular in recent years, meaning that there are plenty of activities to do and a wealth of sights for tourists to see a the same time as remaining a place for very cheap holidays. If it’s possible, try to visit when it’s not high season; not in July and August. Not only will it be more expensive, it’s also busier and much hotter, meaning it might be difficult to see and do everything you want.

butterfly-valley2

Image by Yodod 

One thing you can always do on a budget in Turkey is go to the beach. This is free for all, unless you choose to spend a bit on sun loungers and drinks. To make it a more enjoyable experience, ensure that you pick a beach that’s ‘off the beaten path’ such as Butterfly Valley. Hidden in between two huge cliffs that meet in a giant V, it has no electricity, roads or buildings and can only be reached by a rocky path.

If you’re staying in one of the popular resorts such as Fethiye or Marmaris, get a bit more active than spending your days sat around the pool and beach and head into the mountains. Many of the resorts offer ‘Jeep Safaris’ which will take you on a day’s outing into the mountains that line the coast and into the tiny villages that dot them. You’ll be able to sample local cuisine as you traverse the countryside as well as experiencing some amazing views. Depending on where you’re staying, you may pass ancient sites which you’ll have a chance to wander or rivers you can cool down in.

One of the most popular trips for travellers in Turkey around the Dalaman region is the river cruise. For a minimal price, you’ll get to experience many aspects of the real Turkey in one day. They offer some traditional Turkish delicacies on board such as blue crab, you’ll float right past the ancient sunken city of Kaunos, and most exciting of all for many is the wallowing in the mud baths that are said to make you look ten years younger!

hammam

The one thing you cannot miss when in Turkey is the hammam, the traditional Turkish bath. You’ll be surprised at the super cheap prices you can get these for, usually around $10. The experience includes relaxing in a sauna or steam room, a rub down with soap, often a hair wash too, followed by a massage with essential oils.

You can also experience Turkey on a budget in a very simple way: the food. You don’t need to eat in all the expensive restaurants to get traditional food, in fact it’s usually the opposite. Find out where the locals go to eat and head there or the markets. You’ll be able to pick up some ‘real’ Turkish food at a fraction of the price.

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