Provence – everyone’s dream holiday destination!

The French region of Provence draws visitors from all around the world thanks to its wonderful climate, amazing food, rich history, stunning natural landscapes and vibrant arts scene.

Take a tour of Provence and gain real insight into this fascinating place!

Provence is a name that’s familiar worldwide, but how well do we really know this region, once we get beyond the stereotypes of flamingos, fields of lavender and fish soup? For anyone wanting to do more than just scratch the surface of a tremendously diverse and complex place, booking one of the many Provence tours on offer has to be the way forward. They’re available in pretty much every shape and size, being tailored to all ages, budgets and centres of interest imaginable! Booking a tour does away with the hassles of itinerary planning and wrestling with car rental or public transport. It also places local guides with expert knowledge at your disposal, enabling you to understand Provence like never before! Many tours cater to the cruise ship market in the form of shore excursions, these tending to be of shorter duration. If you have a little more time to spare, you may be able to draw up a list of sights you’d like to take in, creating your very own ‘made-to-measure’ experience.

Aix-en-Provence – at the heart of the region

Aix-en-Provence may not be the biggest urban centre in the region, but its location makes it a good place to start your exploration of the area. Day trips from Aix en Provence offer easy access to many of the region’s outstanding sights. For instance, around an hour’s driving is enough to take you to the astonishing sound and light show at the Carrières de Lumières; the papal palace in Avignon; Arles, with its Roman amphitheatre; the natural paradise that is the Camargue or the charming fishing village of Cassis and the famous limestone inlets of the sea, known as the ‘calanques’, located nearby. Aix-en-Provence itself makes for a great day trip – which you’d expect for somewhere with two thousand years of history under its belt. It was the capital of Provence in the medieval period, and many of its finest monuments date from this time. It boasts a beautiful 13th century Gothic cathedral and is also particularly rich in museums and galleries. The Musée Granet, with works from the 15th to 19th centuries is very popular, as is Paul Cezanne’s studio. The famous Impressionist painter’s studio has been preserved much as it was when he died in 1906 – it’s an absolute must for fans.

The Ardèche – a Mecca for hikers!

Although the Ardèche area of southern France is perhaps best known for the gorge which makes the Ardèche River into a top canoeing destination, the dramatic scenery also makes for great hiking. The Ardèche département is home to nearly 6,000 km of marked walking trails which criss-cross the varied landscapes of this stunning region. Contained within this area are also two parks, the Parc Régional des Monts d’Ardèche, and the celebrated Parc National des Cévennes. Hikers are particularly drawn to the diversity of natural habitats, which range from mountains, high, wind-swept plateaux, a karst (limestone) area pockmarked with many caves and steep-sided valleys and more fertile farming country, characterized by orchards and vineyards. Naturally, this variety of landscapes results in a great diversity of flora and fauna too, including the extremely rare – and very majestic – Bonelli’s Eagle.

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Cheap ski holidays start with great-value accommodation

French ski resort breaks needn’t cost the earth!

The French ski resort of Val Thorens is famous for its high-altitude slopes (it’s based at some 2300 metres above sea level) and enormous ski area (as part of the 3 vallées area). What may be less well-known about ski holidays in the French Alps is that they’re not necessarily the preserve of the well-to-do. There are many ways of reducing the cost of your next skiing vacations. Probably the most effective of these is to shop around when looking for accommodation. Sometimes it’s worth contacting a given ski resort directly to see if they have any special offers. The average French ski resort does have quite a wide range of accommodation categories which are designed to suit all budgets. At Val Thorens, for example, there are 3, 4 and 5 star hotels, ski-in apartments in larger ‘residences’, self-catered flats with room for 10 or more and even a youth hostel!   Ski holidays in the French Alps for family-friendly fun! No matter where you go in the French Alps, whether on ski holidays or summer vacations, you’ll find that French ski resorts are very much planned with families in mind. For those looking for cheap ski holidays for families, a great place to start is the official Val Thorens ski resort website which offers a range of special packages, including ones aimed at family groups. These will typically cover both accommodation and ski passes. (more…)

4 stars Chamonix hotels: your home-from-home for winter sports fun!

The French Alps are the place for winter sports of all kinds. There are many different resorts scattered throughout the region, but Chamonix, as one of the oldest of all, has a special place in many people’s hearts. This is reflected in the way in which the town caters to virtually every pocket and every kind of visitor. From 4 stars hotels in Chamonix to self-catering apartments and bed and breakfasts, there’s an embarrassment of quality accommodation out there. If you’re a real winter sports fanatic, finding a location that’s close to the relevant ski lifts and cable cars is crucial. Four star hotels and similar luxury establishments are often strategically placed. For example, the Hôtel Les Grands Montets is, as the name suggests, sited at the foot of the famous Grands Montets ski area, which has some superb off-piste skiing to enjoy.  

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Getting off-piste in the Grands Montets ski area

Chamonix

has a total of four large ski areas and is also home to world-class competitions like the Freeride World Tour and Kandahar – the Men’s Alpine Skiing World Cup. If you’re not quite in this league, you can still enjoy a range of winter sports:

  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Snowshoeing
  • Ice climbing
  • Hiking

  If you’ve chosen a 4 stars Chamonix hotel for your stay, the chances are you’re looking to be pampered after a hard day on the slopes. Many 4 stars hotels in Chamonix offer all-inclusive packages with just that in mind – access to spa facilities, massages and more. hotel-chamonix Pamper yourself with in-hotel spa facilities Lastly, Chamonix is also known for its lively après-ski scene and fine dining.

Staying in Flats in the Center of St Peterbourg

Saint PeterbourgIf you are planning a trip to St Peterbourg but would like something more than a generic booked tour, you might want to consider renting a flat to stay in while you are there. There are many short-term apartment rental options available right in the center of St Peterbourg, that will allow you to be in a convenient location while experiencing a local feel to make your trip that much more special.

Reasons for Renting a Flat in St Peterbourg

Founded in 1703, the city of St. Peterbourg has retained its historic charm and splendour to this day. With its beautiful architecture and the numerous canals, the city has been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Hence, it would be a shame not to experience the magic of this stunning city firsthand. Staying in hotels is the most obvious option but hotels can be impersonal and soulless. Renting your own apartment during your trip lets you absorb the local atmosphere while making you feel at home at the same time. It leaves you the option of coming and going as you please and you do not have to plan your day around hotel check in times or cleaning schedules. Hotels require you book two or three rooms if you are travelling with your family, so renting a flat can prove to be more economical if you are on a budget. The apartments will generally have a kitchen, so there is the added advantage of cooking your meals in your own time and according to your own preferences, which is exceptionally useful for people who follow a specific diet.

Options in the Center of St Peterbourg

historic center of saints PetersbourgThere are many companies and agencies that help tourists find the perfect house for their stay in St Peterbourg. PiterStay has a selection of beautifully furnished one- to five-bedroom flats that you can rent for as less as two days. Petersburg-Lodging is another great site that has a huge selection of apartments, so whether you need a small two-bedroom house, a comfy studio apartment or a huge luxury flat, there is something for everyone. These agencies provide information about long-term flats as well, besides offering help with visa and transport. The center of St Peterbourg is a convenient location as the shops and restaurants are at a walking distance, and transport is easy because there is bound to be a metro station near your place. You can spend the day at the Peterhof Palace and Garden or plan an impromptu trip to St. Issac’s Cathedral. Eat at the Palkin restaurant and behold the grace of Russian ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre. At the end of the long day, you can come back and relax in your own apartment and feel at home in the glorious city of St. Peterbourg.  

Visit Berlin in 3 Days

Visit Berlin in 3 Days brandebourg door berlinIf you are in need of a short break to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Berlin is the perfect European destination. With fantastic transport links and a top class range of accommodation options, the German capital city has a wealth of attractions to suit every budget. Indeed, over 135 million people make a visit to Berlin every year, which makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. However, with such a vast range of sights to see and places to visit, it can be difficult to know how to best spend your 3 days in Berlin. Here are a few tips to help you on your way. Travel Passes and Discount Offers One of the first things you should do if you want to visit Berlin for 3 days is to buy one of the city’s 72 hour travel cards which allow you to use any public transport within zones A and B of the city. This is perfect for a whistle stop tour of the metropolises and also has the added benefit of offering significant discounts on certain major cultural attractions. With your transport sorted you can start to properly explore the city. Walking Tours For first time visitors it is a good idea to book onto a guided walking tour. A number of different operators work in the city, but there is a very reliable English language tour that sets off from the Zoo train station on a daily basis, or a free tour that meets outside Starbucks every day at 11am. This is a great way to witness some of the main landmarks, including the Brandenburg Gate. The Reichstag is couple of minutes walk from the Brandenburg Gate, and the old Parliament building is a must see attraction due to its breathtaking views and turbulent history. Arts and Culture berlin museumIf you enjoy arts and culture then you certainly won’t be disappointed when you visit Berlin. The aptly named Museum Island is home to five of the most internationally renowned museums in the world and can keep you occupied for hours. The Berlin Wall is another piece of cultural history that you simply cannot miss when you visit Berlin. The East Side Gallery serves as an international memorial for peace and freedom, and is one of the best preserved sections of the wall today. Tiergarten park is a great place to take a stroll and unwind later on in a day before you have your evening meal. Finally, if you enjoy a good night out make sure to visit some of the city’s electric nightclubs on at least one occasion during your 3 day stay.

Helping you to have a great time in Montreal

MontrealSituated a short distance away from the American border, Montreal is also close by other major destinations, such as Ottawa and Quebec City. There is much to see and do in this historic location. However, when you want to spend an entire week in Montreal, you may be unsure about what to do. As there are a considerable number of attractions, here’s a guide about what you could do. Experiencing a wonder of nature An approximate forty five minute walk of six to seven kilometres, Mount Royal offers panoramic views of Montreal. Situated in the centre of Montreal, Mount Royal has an elevation of over seven hundred feet. Found at the summit are many attractions which will entertain people of all ages. Not only can you see Smith House which has heritage listing which informs visitors about the history of Mount Royal, but you can also ice skate during the winter on Beaver Lake. If you venture to Mount Royal on Sunday mornings from May through to October, an outdoor drum jam takes place. Enjoy many festivals which are held throughout the year Montreal high lights festivalAs with other major Canadian cities and locations, you can see many festivals which take place during the vast majority of the year. Happening at the end of February is the ‘High Lights Festival’. During this very popular festival which attracts thousands of people, events are held throughout the city, such as ice skating, fireworks and live music. Taking place until 4am, this festival could be a very memorable way to end your entire week in Montreal or as a perfect way to begin your stay. Helping to whet the appetite Montreal proudly boasts many public markets which are found throughout the city. The best local produce can be purchased here and at affordable prices as well. If you want to enjoy delicious food but you don’t want to exceed your budget, this is possible because of these public markets. Such popular markets include Atwater Market and the Jean-Talon Market where you can buy breads, meats and tasty cheeses. As these and numerous other public markets are open throughout the vast majority of the week, you could visit many markets during your stay in this fabulous city. As this city has many other attractions, you’ll discover that spending an entire week in Montreal is simply not long enough and you will want to extend your holiday for much longer.

Have a great time in Istanbul

istanbulIstanbul is a remarkable and interesting city – one that should not be missed if you travel to that part of the world. For it is here that east meets west in a delightful mix of modern comfort, familiar ease, and exotic relaxation. Great Time in Istanbul If you would like to have a great time in Istanbul, some careful planning should be in order. The last thing you want is to find yourself overwhelmed by the many tempting sights and sounds that you are ‘pushed’ to visit, not to mention the barrage of last minute advice you hear from the people who claim that they hold the key to the secret of having a great time in Istanbul. Must See Hagia sophia museumIf you are a history buff and would like to set your eyes on Istanbul’s many ancient monuments, start by visiting the Haghia Sophia museum and church. This is truly an imposing 1400-year old building, with a huge, impressive dome that is adorned with mosaics and frescoes from the Byzantine era. Then, proceed to the nearby breathtaking Blue Mosque. Also ancient, it has six remarkable minarets and is decorated to the nines with the most beautiful architecture. Next, walk over to the Topakpi Palace not too far away. Once a dwelling of royalties, you need a long stretch of time to savour what you will be seeing here – harems, courtyards, meeting rooms, and many, many more. If this is the type of place that captures your interest, then, there are numerous other similar places to explore like the Kucuk Ayasofya Camii, sometimes referred to as the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus. This is a calm and peaceful place of worship, adorned by some live ducks in the courtyard! Similarly, there is the Ortakoy, which is a pleasant neighborhood that houses old buildings that have been renovated. Must Experience Turkish bathTo keep the trip interesting, it is best to alternate between seeing and experiencing. If the Haghia Sophia is a must-see, then the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam is a must-experience. What is a trip to Istanbul if you do not indulge yourself in a traditional Turkish bath? Upmarket hamams like the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam are simply lovely. You will feel relaxed and pampered as the attendants splash soothing water on your tired body. Just soak the moment and enjoy. whirling dervishesAnother great must-see and must-experience is to immerse in some delightful Turkish dances. For this, you need to spend time at the Hodjapasha Culture Center, where you can feast your eyes on great dancing costumes and engross in the fantastic sound of Turkish live music. Then, stroll into the exhibition in the foyer, where you can learn all about Turkey’s dance culture history. Enjoy Istanbul This is just a sample of how you can enjoy Istanbul. What you need is to plan your days well ahead. Good planning will definitely result in a great time there!

What you have to do in Shanghai

shanghai centerThere is no end to what you have to do in Shangai. If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city and the beautiful towering architecture then you will love it here. The variety of Shangai is what makes it so special and diverse. Here are some fantastic places to visit while you are on your trip.

Yu Yuan Garden

yu yuan garden shanghaiThis famous garden in Shangai is a peaceful place to go when you tire of the busy streets of the city. The Bazaar is close by and has a number of vendors who sell their freshly made food to the tourists. These tranquil gardens were originally privately built by Pan Yunduan who constructed it for his parents and is now surrounded by traditional Chinese architecture. You can even take home some souvenirs like chopsticks or Chinese silk pyjamas.

The Bund

bund shanghaiWorld famous among visitors to Shangai, this landmark is filled with striking architecture all on the waterfront. The building designs include Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque among many other styles. Take a walk through the newly renovated Fairmont Peace Hotel or drop into the M on the Bund for a drink. You can also take a walk along the promenade next to the Huang Pu River.

Nanjing Road

nanjing road shanghaiIf you are still wondering what you have to do in Shangai then look no further than Nanjing Road. Once there were only four shops here but now it is known as one of the most popular shopping streets in the city. This road is packed with theatres, specialist shops and hotels as well as many restaurants and chain stores.

Moganshan Road Art District

moganshan road art districtExperience the world of art in the city by taking a trip to Moganshan Road near Suzhou Creek. Drop into some of the galleries including the EastLink Gallery, the Art Scene Warehouse and Shanghart. There is a little coffee shop at the beginning of the lane in which you can watch the world go by once you have taken the tour. Once filled with warehouses and factories, it is now a popular haunt for the creative and artistic.

Huang Pu River

Huangpu riverShangai’s landmark, Huang Pu River is popular among tourists and is used among natives for industry. The fishery industry is the most dominant trade the river is used for but it also has opportunities for tourists to take boat trips along it. Watch the bright lights go by on a peaceful trip along the waterfront. What you have to do in Shangai knows no bounds as this city has much to offer new visitors. You will have to take a second trip just to take in all of its magnificent beauty.

A Week in Tokyo

There are so many things to do in Tokyo, that you need more than a week to cover all the popular places to go and things to do. And even then, you are really rushing it in just one week, because Tokyo has a lot to offer – sights, sounds, and everything else in between. Tokyo’s Popular Sights tokyo towerThe city’s most sought-after places usually include Tokyo Tower, the Imperial Palace Plaza, the Sensoji Temple “Asakusa Kannon” and the Nakamise-dori, and the Ueno. These places can be covered quite comfortably in a day. The first stop at Tokyo Tower essentially ‘sets the scene’, for, from this imposing tower, you can see most of the city and enjoy a fantastic and panoramic view. The next stop, which is the Imperial Palace, provides endless photo opportunities as you stroll around the outer gardens. As for the Sensoji Temple, this is a must-see for tourists who are interested to delve a bit deeper into Japan’s Buddhist psyche. The Nakamise-dori is a promenade that leads to the temple vicinity, whereby you will be entertained by a myriad of food and souvenir shops lining the promenade. At the end of your first day, walk around the Ueno, which has a zoo and a park. Unwind amidst natural surroundings as you prepare for the next day’s excavation. Traditional Sumo Tournament sumo tournamentAfter a busy first day, the second day in your week in Tokyo should be a relaxing one. Spend half a day watching a traditional Sumo tournament at the Kokugikan (Sumo Amphitheater). Drop by the Sumo Museum to learn more about this sport. Take the rest of the day off to prepare for the next three days, where you ought to travel via bullet train to nearby Nara and Kyoto. No week in Tokyo is complete without visiting the city’s close cities. In the short trip, you will have the opportunity to tour Nara’s temples and shrines before proceeding to Kyoto, which is known as the cradle of Japan’s cultural heritage. Japan’s Tea Ceremony japan tea ceremonyThe sixth day of your week in Tokyo is best filled with a one-hour relaxing boat cruise on the beautiful Sumida River. After the cruise, do some serious shopping at the famous Ginza shopping district or the Nakamise shopping street. In the afternoon, unwind by participating in a traditional tea ceremony, where you will not only witness a tradition that has been practised for thousands of years, but also enjoy some good, refreshing tea! Wrap Up Your Trip Make your last day in Tokyo the most memorable one by taking on a Japanese culinary adventure. Dedicate the day to sushi and all that this delightful food entails. Start by visiting Japan’s (and probably the world’s) largest fish market, and then try making some sushi, before feasting on your handiwork! That will wrap up a glorious week in Tokyo for you!