Category Archives: Destination Guide

The Biggest Firework Festivals of 2017

If you are looking for a break that packs a big bang for your bucks, then maybe you should plan your next adventure around a firework festival! Here are some of the most impressive firework themed events that are happening around the world in 2017 for you to enjoy.

April 15th Rouketopolemos – Greek islands of Chios

Image by phtorxp CC0

This event translates as “Rocket War”, and it takes certain types of travellers to throw themselves into the chaos that ensues. Rouketopolemos takes place in Vrontados. It is here a pyrotechnic battle is staged between two churches – in rival parishes – firing as many as 60,000 rockets between them actually at each other. Rouketopolemos is their way of marking Easter. We bet not many chocolate eggs survive the ordeal!

July 14th Bastille Day – France

Bastille Day Fireworks Image by Yann Caradec CC BY-SA 2.0

Each year the Bastille Day fireworks display lights up the Parisian skyline, and each year it brings something new in a themed event. War and Peace, Paris Welcomes The World, and Paris Is A Party are examples. Watching untold amounts of money literally go up in smoke from the Eiffel Tower is a popular event, and you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with around a million people! Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789, the start of the French revolution.

August 09th Singapore National Day

Singapore National Day Celebrations Image by Tony Gladvin George CC BY 2.0

The fireworks on Singapore National Day is a patriotic display of pyrotechnic wonders that gets bigger every year. To mark Singapore as an international hub, teams from around the world are invited to showcase their culture in the most magnificent way possible – with fireworks and pyromusicals – lighting up Marina Bay. The colorful event celebrates the country’s colourful rise to independence from Malaysia in 1965.

September 22nd – 25th Correfoc, Spain

Correfoc Fire Run Image by Somewhere In The World Today CC BY 2.0

This fiery pastime translates as “firerun” and is actually quite self-explanatory – especially when you read the tourist health and safety advice. Wear old clothes, cover your arms and legs, protect your neck with a bandana and wear headgear to protect yourself from burns. It is also advised that spectators wear earplugs to protect their ears, and that hands should be free to shield eyes at any time a “diable” gets too close. So what’s all the fuss about? During the Correfoc, “devils” are let loose, running through the crowds with fireworks attached to pitchforks. Not for the feint hearted. There are kids Correfoc events that may be less scary for the safety conscious traveller. Correfocs happen at lots of festivals throughout the year in Spain, we’ve picked a balmy autumnal event in Barcelona for your enjoyment!

October 31st Diwali, India

Diwali Fireworks Image by Kinshuk Kashyap CC BY 2.0

The Hindus celebrate the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over despair with the most massive firework display. Diwali hasn’t always had fireworks at the heart of its celebrations – traditionally candles were lit in a more modest celebration of light – and may not have for much longer. It seems that the enthusiasm for fireworks displays during this time is seriously affecting the air quality. Last year’s celebrations caused smog in Delhi for days affecting many people’s health. Weather conditions were thought to be a contributing factor.

November 05th Guy Fawkes, UK

Lewes Fireworks Image by Stuart Chalmers CC BY-ND 2.0

You’ll all be familiar with this celebration, but have you ever witnessed the shenanigans that happen in the little (and usually very peaceful) town of Lewes in East Sussex at this time of year? Lewes Bonfire Celebrations is one of the most spectacular of its kind in the world, where a procession of burning (often political) effigies make their way down the high street and fireworks are let off, well, wherever it seems! Tickets MUST be bought in advance, and don’t go thinking you can just drive in and park – most of the town is closed to traffic in the lead up to the celebrations.

December 24th La Noche Buena, Peru

Fireowrks Image by photogrammer7 CC0

The last date in the calendar takes us across the world to Peru, where locals welcome in Christmas with a big bang. The 24th is a day for feasting and drinking, and then Peruvians take to the streets and light fireworks before partying the night away. It’s summer in this part of the world, which makes celebrating xmas alfresco an unusual and beautiful experience, especially accompanied by festive fireworks!

If you fancy dancing with fire devils, spectating a rocket war, or just taking in the dazzling lights of Diwali, you’d better get yourself some travel insurance. We have a range of competitively priced policies that are low on excitement, but big on cover.

Ireland Destination Guide – St Patrick’s Day Special

If heading to the Emerald Isle is on your bucket list, you’d be a fool not to plan your visit around St Patrick’s Day. This is when the very best of festival fun and traditional music can be found everywhere you go, but that’s not all you’ll find in Ireland – here’s what’s not to be missed…

Image by Vnoemi CC0

Booze

The Irish have a reputation for enjoying a tipple, as such it’d be awfully rude not to explore the many taverns and bars in the cities and the towns to get a real feel for the frivolities. It’d be equally rude not to go on a couple of brewery tours. The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin offers 7 floors of storytelling, stunning architecture, and of course a great tasting beverage. The must-go factor has to be down to the roof top bar, where you can enjoy a 360° view of the city. While you are in Dublin, head to Old Jameson’s Distillery – which is reopening in time for 2017 St Patrick’s Day celebrations after some gorgeous renovation work! Tours are still available at The Old Midelton Distillery in Cork.

Image by Maguiss CC0

Festivals and Folk Music

To truly experience the craic, you need to get involved with some Irish celebrations – and guess what – St Patrick’s Day is just the ticket! The celebrations in Dublin will be taking place from 16th to the 19th March in 2017. During this time it’ll be a no-holds-barred party, punctuated by the famed St Patrick’s Day Parade. It is also the time to enjoy traditional Irish ensembles in all the pubs in town!

Image by psaudio CC0

Walks and Riding

Whether you head to Killarney National Park, Croagh Patrick, Skellig Michael, or The Dingle Peninsula you can while away a lifetime of pure joy on two legs or four, or on two wheels if you prefer. The landscapes in Ireland are spectacular, and best enjoyed without an engine. There are dedicated horse riding tours that take you along beaches and through mountains, mountain biking is another great way to take in the sights. However, we’d recommend a slow wander in the wilderness to really get close to this beautiful island.

Image by Ben_Kerckx CC0

Geology

There are some crazy things happening in Ireland, and we’re not talking about leprechaun sightings (we’ll get on to that later). The Giants Causeway is a geological delight, and a natural phenomenon not to be missed. There are over 40,000 basalt columns that make up the causeway, the remnants of volcanic activity. The coastal walks here have inspired many artists and poets, and led to a few fanciful tales over the years too.

 

Image by mutantmommy CC0

Folklore and Legends

Aside from seeking out faeries and leprechauns, excessive mention of which may cause irritation to residents, we’d recommend that you head to Blarney Castle to soak up a bit of folklore. It is at Blarney that you’ll find the blarney stone, which bestows the gift of the gab upon anyone who kisses it. If you intend to kiss the Blarney Stone, you better have a head for heights, because you have to hang upside down from the battlements to reach it. Thankfully modern health and safety has an iron railing installed and a kindly assistant to keep hold of you. If that doesn’t sate your hunger for Irish legends, you’d do well to book an Irish Folk Tour, full to the brim of storytelling and atmosphere.

Cricket In The Caribbean – A Sunny Spring Break For Sports Fans

Image by rhodes8043 CC0

Image by rhodes8043 CC0

Worried that the grey British weather will leave you feeling as mad as a March hare by the end of the month? Fear not – you still have four weeks to get yourself to the England v West Indies Tour where the sound of wood on willow is extra relaxing thanks to sea, sand and sun!

There are also lots of gorgeous beaches to explore, natural sights to see, and plenty of rum to be drunk too. Here’s our guide to the most relaxing break in the world this spring!

Where and When

The England v West Indies tour 2017 takes place in Antigua on the 3rd and 5th of March at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium and at the Kensington Oval in Barbados on the 9th March.

What to do (other than watch cricket)

Whether you travel independently or plump for a package, you’ll have a few days between matches to explore everything the Caribbean has to offer. Here are some of our favourites…

Swim with turtles – You can book a private trip or go on a group feed and swim excursion to the nearby turtle sanctuary. The 2 hour eco-adventure starts in Bridgetown, Barbados where you’ll be whisked away in a boat, giving you beautiful views of the south coast on the way to Carlisle Bay. Guests get to feed these magnificent beasts, and brush up on their underwater photography. All snorkelling equipment is provided, and you’ll be given some light refreshments on your return journey. Prices start at about £45.

Explore Harrisons Cave – It might seem a shame to head underground when you have sunny skies above, but Harrisons Cave is a treat not to be missed! A glass lift and tram ride ensure it won’t sap too much energy, and you will get to learn a lot about the local history as well as the geology on the journey. You can book a tour for about £100 that includes visits to the other natural wonders in Barbados such as Hunte’s Gardens, The Flower Forest, Barbados Wildlife Reserve, and Bathsheba.

Drink Rum at St Nicholas Abbey – No trip to the Caribbean is complete without a drop of Rum, and St Nicholas Abbey is just the place to go to sample some. The working distillery dates back to the mid 1600s and is a working example of a 19th century sugar plantation, with the original mills crushing the sugar cane. You can join a historical tour around the house and museum then spend your own time exploring the grounds. Various packages are available starting at about £65.

How to get there – Independent Travel vs Tour Packages

Flights to just Barbados with Virgin are in the region of £700 per person return. The flights between Antigua and Barbados are around £400 with Caribbean Airlines.

To enjoy a week in a luxury beachside hotel you can expect to pay £3,000.

English Cricket Tours have a two-centre package with 6 nights in Antigua, all-inclusive at the beachfront Halcyon Cove followed by 6 nights in Barbados from £2700 per person. This includes flights, accommodation, transfers from the airport to the hotels, and inter island flight. Even though tickets to watch the cricket are extra, this seems like quite a bargain! For more information visit englishcrickettours.co.uk or call 0208 932 4565/0203 667 1613.

Travel Insurance!

Don’t forget your travel insurance – if it is your only trip of the year, we can offer excellent deals on our single trip insurance, or if this is part of your annual globetrotting adventures you’ll need our annual multi trip insurance. We also have family policies where kids go free. Call 01892 833338 for more info, free quotes or to arrange last minute cover.

What’s The Cost Of Your 2017 Bucket-List?

Happy New Year! We are looking forward to a great year of adventures ahead – hopefully ticking off at least one bucket-list activity! We’ve all got one, full of daring adventures and unseen destinations – but do you have any idea how much it might actually cost to fulfill – or know what percentage of your wage you’d need to start saving?

Thankfully the geeks with all the gadgets at totallymoney.com have built a clever bucket-list calculator tool to work it out for us. Divided into adventure, sightseeing, aspirational, adrenaline and wildlife – you can personalize your own list and start saving.

Average cost of the top 10 bucket-list activities for UK traveller

  • See the Northern Lights: £572
  • Go on safari: £5,600
  • Walk the Great Wall of China: £1,139
  • Visit the Grand Canyon: £1,181
  • Go on a cruise: £1,338
  • See the Egyptian Pyramids: £1,112
  • Go whale watching: £2,000
  • Spend New Year’s Eve in New York: £1,103
  • Gamble in Las Vegas: £1,109
  • Take an American road trip: £3,365

Check out the full top 20 list, which is unsurprisingly dominated by travel-related activities, below. In fact, Buying Your Dream Home is the only one not related to travel, coming in at number 11.


View Interactive Version (via TotallyMoney.com).

The Most Magical and Wonderfully Weird Places On The Planet

As a follow up to The World’s Most Amazing Creatures and Where to Find Them, we’ve sourced some awesome bucket-list activities for each destination. Now you can plan a trip magical enough for master Potter himself!

Icebergs by MemoryCatcher CC0

Icebergs by MemoryCatcher CC0

Visiting the Canadian Arctic – The icebergs in the Canadian Arctic are formed from snowflakes that fell from the sky 15,000 years ago! Tours are available so you can see these titanic beasts up close and marvel at their sculptural beauty created by the formidable forces of nature.

Visiting Japan – Japan is home to the weird, wonderful and unusual. While the bright lights and novel attractions may command your attention, don’t miss out on Japan’s natural beauty spots such as Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, a stunning forest of the tallest bamboo imaginable!

Visiting Madagascar – Make sure you take a trip from Morondava to Belo Tsiribihina. Along this dirt road stand ancient and huge Baobab trees. Each tree is over 800 years old, and has a circumference in excess of 150 ft.

Visiting Argentina – The sight of 300 waterfalls at Iguazu falls is truly stunning. The river flows through Brazil, but takes it’s final path along the Argentinian border. Expect a lot of noise, and on a sunny day a lot of rainbows too.

Iguassu Falls, image courtesy of battered-suitcase.com

Iguassu Falls, image courtesy of battered-suitcase.com

Visiting the Gobi Desert – The landscape here is eerily alien, and best appreciated on a tour. Travel by camel and stay in a ger for a truly nomadic experience. If that sounds too much like hard work, Jeep tours across the dunes are available too. The eagle eyed traveller might even stumble across some dinosaur eggs if visiting the North west!

Visiting the Bay of Bengal – If you are looking for a truly surreal experience, you could attempt visiting North Sentinel Island, don’t expect to make landfall though. It is said to be one of the most isolated places on Earth, inhabited by people who want nothing to do with the outside world. There have been reports of the hunter-gatherer islanders warding visitors off with a barrage of arrows.

Visiting Central China – Choices choices! What crazy things aren’t there to see in Central China? The Tianmen Skywalk is certainly a unique thrill – walking on a glass path 4,700 ft up a mountain will definitely make you feel like you have wizardry skills – but we think the hanging Temple of Hengshan has more magical appeal. This 5th-century temple is improbably built into the side of a cliff, in fact, it looks like it was “magicked on”.

Visiting the South Pacific Ocean – Easter Island sits in the South Pacific Ocean and is home to the famous eerie oversized heads known as moai. Rano Raraku is the site where these giant statues were carved, and you’ll find hundreds still here in various states of completion.

Moai at Rano Raraku. Image courtesy of Sunvil Latin America

Moai at Rano Raraku. Image courtesy of Sunvil Latin America

Visiting South East Asia – The Plain of Jars sounds like something straight out of a JK Rowling novel, but it is actually one of the most mysterious attractions in South East Asia. Head to Xieng Khouang and you’ll be met with a bewildering sight… thousands of huge stone jars rising out of the landscape.

Visiting Indonesia – Kelimutu volcano has three crater lakes that are truly spectacular to see. One is blue, one is green and the other is red! The combination of colours and jaw-droppingly beautiful vistas makes this one of the top destination spots for magical experiences.

Visiting Central America – The Monteverde Cloud Forest is home to some stunning and rather strange flora and fauna, but that isn’t the only reason you should head here. It is the only place in the world where you can straddle the Continental Divide, with one foot in the Caribbean and the other in the Pacific!

Visiting the Mediterranean Sea – Get your diving gear on and head to the seabed to find a world of magical wonders! In Abu Qir Bay, divers discovered the sunken Egyptian city of Thonis-Heracleion. The huge statues, hieroglyph covered tablets and endless artefacts took on an otherworldly charm illuminated by the divers lights.

Visiting Australia – If the conditions are right, lakes in Australia literally glow at night! Bioluminescent bacteria last visited Gippsland Lakes on a grand scale in 2009. Now you have to visit the centre of the lake in the summer months to appreciate a feint blue hue as you splash about in the water.

Visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo – Nyiragongo Volcano contains the world’s largest liquid lava lake. Now we think this is more Lord of the Rings than Harry Potter, but it is a breathtakingly magical sight none the less.

Planning A Ski Holiday – A Guide For Beginners

If you want to know how to do something well, you need to find out from those in the know! We asked some leading experts on the ski scene about what to pack, how to get fit, where to head, what to do to avoid injury, and a bit about etiquette so you can hit the slopes with confidence this ski season!

Ten Things You Need To Know Before Learning to Ski

© Merci L’Agence / OT Les Arcs

© Merci L’Agence / OT Les Arcs

Paul Deadman, ski expert at Neilson Holidays, shares ten things you need to know before skiing abroad for the first time.

  1. The fitter you are the more fun you’ll have. There’s no need to go into any extreme fitness training before a ski holiday, but doing a small amount of exercise in preparation will make a big difference to your fun factor.
  2. You need the right shoes. As well as packing ski boots you’ll need shoes for off the slopes too. Resorts are still snowy and can be icy, so take practical shoes – a sturdy pair of trainers or walking boots work well. Bars and restaurants won’t turn you away if you’re not in fancy heels or polished brogues – slope style is much more relaxed, think more along the lines of ‘practi-cool’.
  3. You still need sunscreen. Even if you don’t think it’s sunny, the sun reflects off the bright white snow and increases the chances of sun damage to your skin. Take lip balm with UVA and UVB protection as well as sun cream for your face and apply regularly over the course of the day.
  4. Helmets are a must. Hire or buy your own, but either way don’t hit the slopes without one.
  5. Accept that you will fall over. A lot. The people who get to grips with skiing the fastest are those who aren’t afraid of falling over. Don’t be discouraged by falling down, it would be really weird if you learnt to ski without falling over at least eight times a day!
  6. Après ski is the post-ski social scene. The ski lifts usually close between 4 and 5pm. This is when everyone comes off the mountain, back to the town and enjoys some après ski. Bars and restaurants will have live bands or DJs, some more lively than others, and you’ll find somewhere to relax to suit you whether you want a chocolat chaud, a vin rouge or a round of Chartreuse.
  7. Ski boots feel a bit odd at first. In my experience, at best ski boots are mildly uncomfortable and at worst can prevent you from enjoying skiing completely. Putting ski boots on will feel strange the first time, and for your first trip it’s worth getting someone with experience to help you with your boot clips to make sure they’re tight enough each morning. The correct boot should feel tight, but not unbearable, you should be able to wiggle your toes…just. Tip: make sure you wear thick socks when you pick them up – you don’t want to get a pair fitted in thin socks to realise that they’re too tight when you put on your ski socks.
  8. Pistes are colour coded. For most European resorts the ski runs (pistes) are marked to show what ability they’re suitable for. Nursery or green slopes will be where you’ll start your ski education, and you could progress to slightly steeper blue runs by the end of the week. Red slopes suit intermediate skiers and black runs are for advanced skiers. ‘Off piste’ refers to any territory that isn’t on marked out ski runs and isn’t something you’d need to worry about as a beginner. North America and Canada mark their pistes slightly differently so make sure you know what the colours are for the resort you’re travelling to.
  9. Lessons start early! Lessons typically start first thing in the mornings (approx. 9.30am) each day and finish at lunch.
  10. You might get hooked. Skiing is one of the best feelings in the world! It might feel like hard work, but the mountain views, endorphins, delicious food and après ski will make you want to return year after year. It’s that feeling you get when you nail that tricky run you’ve been struggling with all week that really gets you hooked though!

How To Get Fit For The Ski Season

© andyparant.com / OT Val d’Isere

© andyparant.com / OT Val d’Isere

Luke Thornton, Fitness Advisor to Discount Supplements takes us through the best moves to boost physical fitness for maximum on-piste performance.

Balance is one of the most important aspects of fitness for snow sports. Twists, turns and high speeds mean you need to have a strong core and an incredible sense of balance. These exercises focus on full body movements and stabilising exercises to really tax your midsection, and lock in that core strength.

Squats – a fantastic movement for working your entire body. This move not only uses your glutes, hamstrings, calves and quads, but also your core for stabilising your body whilst in motion. Keep your abs tight, place your feet shoulder width apart with your head up and descend down into a sitting position, then using your legs, drive upwards until standing. Repeat for 8-12 reps. These can be done with just body weight, or you can add a barbell to increase resistance.

Press Ups – the king of all upper body moves. The press up works your triceps, biceps, chest and shoulders. Add an advanced variation with an exercise ball to increase your core stability and improve balance. Lie face down and place your hands on the floor either side of your shoulders. One by one put your feet onto an exercise ball and assume the push up position.

Long Distance Cycling – not only is this fantastic for your overall cardiovascular health, it also increases endurance and strength in your legs, which is essential for snow sports. If you don’t have a road bike or access to one, use a stationary bike at your gym. Start short at 2km, then move to 5, 10 and 20. Mix it up and try to beat your time on each distance.

Lunges – another brilliant move for leg development, core strength and balance. Try adding walking lunges at the end of every workout to increase endurance in the quads and glutes, and to mix up your cardio. Try 10 stationary lunges for each leg, then 20, then move onto walking lunges. You can also mix it up further by walking with dumbbells.

Packing For A Ski Holiday

Image by tookapic CC0

Image by tookapic CC0

While toothbrush, passport and boarding passes may be obvious items to pack, there are a few essentials that might not be obvious to a first-time skier. Claire Flynn at Powder Beds shares some insider tips.

Skis, boots and helmet: For novices or people relatively new to skiing, it’s worthwhile renting skis, boots and a helmet, rather than buying them AND paying for ski carriage on a flight. Skiset work in resorts across Europe offering different ski hire packages depending on what you want. It’s also worth booking in advance to make sure you get the best deal and what you want.

Taking your own ski equipment? Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) have created a nifty Baggage Allowance Finder. The tool helps you find the baggage allowances for major airlines across the UK, perfect for finding out how much it will cost to get your skis across the skies!

Clothes for the slopes: Bring thermals, fleeces, warm jacket, salopettes, thick socks, goggles and don’t forget proper waterproof gloves. Also, neck scarves (Buffs) are useful for keeping your face warm on the slopes.

Sun protection: Make sure to bring suncream (or buy it in the resort), and apply it even when it’s cloudy. It’s also a good idea to bring a decent pair of sunglasses, so you can change out of your goggles if you stop for lunch on the slopes.

Clothes for off-piste activities: Bring warm clothes and decent shoes with good grip for walking about the resort in the evening.

Other items that might make your time in the snow warmer, easier or more fun are:

Sundown Lock

Sundown Ski Lock, Blacks

• Day rucksack
• Water bottle
• Ski Lock
• Thermos
• Hand warmers
• Foot warmers
• Muscle rub/soak
• Ankle, knee and wrist supports

Check out skiclub.co.uk for a foolproof packing list, and if you are looking to grab some ski clothes and accessories – without paying a design label premium – Blacks have a superb range.

WINTERSPORT INSURANCE

ossur-image-2-ski-mega-blog

© Courtesy of Össur

WINTERSPORT INSURANCE IS AN ESSENTIAL PIECE OF YOUR KIT WHEN YOU HEAD OUT ON SKIS! Even if you are holidaying in the EU, you should make sure that your travel insurance covers you for the activities you plan to do. Wintersports insurance from worldwideinsure.com provides cover for equipment, ski packs, cancelled flights, medical assistance and repatriation for all destinations including even if you want to go off-piste, heli-skiing, and parapenting!

Best Ski Resort for Beginners – Avoriaz

© Stephane Lerendu / OT Avoriaz

© Stephane Lerendu / OT Avoriaz

• Only truly car-free resort in France.
• Offers access to the fantastic Portes du Soleil ski area.
• Perfect for beginners thanks to the several easy green runs through the village, plus a great selection of ski schools, including Le Village des Enfants (located in the heart of the resort with two distinct areas for skiing abilities). Avoriaz Alpine Ski School is another excellent ski school – small team of British and local instructors offering high quality tuition, for all ages.
• Also great range of runs for intermediates and over 30 black runs for advanced, including the World Cup Downhill which drops from Les Hauts Forts.
• One of the world’s leading freestyle centres with three snowparks and a superpipe.
• Good areas for beginner and intermediate boarders, as well as plenty of powder for freeriding.
• One of the highest resorts in the Alps so snow cover isn’t often a problem, except for some of the runs below resort height.
• Accommodations are generally all ski-in/ski-out offering easy access to the slopes for first-timers.
• Also great non-ski activities available to keep everyone busy – Aquariaz claims to be Europe’s highest waterpark, complete with a main pool, lazy river, half-pipe, mini flume, Jacuzzis and tropical vegetation. There’s also dog sledding, snowshoeing and ice skating.
• Where to stay – Residence L’Amara offers luxurious ski-in/ski-out apartments at the entrance of the resort, with a private car park, indoor swimming pool, fitness room and Deep Nature Spa.

Best Ski Resort If You Are Travelling With Intermediates – Les Arcs

© Merci Creative / OT Les Arcs

© Merci Creative / OT Les Arcs

• One of the biggest resorts in the Alps, with a choice of four different base villages, located in the huge and varied Paradiski area.
• More than 125km of fast long and blue and red runs on the Les Arcs side of Paradiski alone – superb for intermediate skiers.
• Can also use the Vanoise express to cross over to the La Plagne side to experience more terrain. Although, as there is so much terrain in Les Arcs, it is only worth doing this for a day, so opt for the Paradiski Discovery Pass rather than the full Paradiski pass.
• Also has a strong reputation for advanced terrain with more than 40km of black runs, divided into 19 runs.
• Beginners are also well-catered for with gentle slopes right by the four base villages. Plus, the relatively recent Mille 8 development in Arc 1800 includes a dedicated beginners’ area.
• Also great for snowboarders – the Apocalypse Snowpark is fitted with tricks and treats for all ability levels, with great progression from beginner to intermediate to advanced features. Well-maintained and one of the better parks in the Alps.
• Non-ski activities also available – mostly from Arc 1800 – snowshoeing, dog sledding, bowling, shopping and there’s a small cinema.
• Where to stay – La Source des Arcs offers stylish and spacious ski-in/ski-out apartments in the highest altitude village of Arc 2000. However, if you’d like to be closer to the action in Arc 1800, try Residence Edenarc.

Best Ski Resort If You Have Advanced Skiers In Your Party – Val d’Isere

© andyparant.com / OT Val d’Isere

© andyparant.com / OT Val d’Isere

• Ski area traditionally known as Espace Killy, although more commonly known as Val d’Isere-Tignes these days – regarded as one of the most exciting ski areas in the world.
• One of the world’s great resorts for advanced skiers with 25 black runs to test your abilities on – including the world famous La Face run (descends nearly 2 miles from its peak) – only those brave enough should attempt it.
• The area is most famous for its off-piste (10,000 hectares), with forested areas like Daniades, accessed from the Solaise Express among the more popular.
• Also a great ski area for intermediates, with over 100 blue and red runs in the Espace Killy.
• With the redevelopment of the Solaise area due to open for this winter, Val d’Isere is also set to become a great resort for novices, with a new dedicated beginners’ area.
• Also great for boarders with a highly regarded snowpark spread over 35 hectares. Other terrain parks to try out across the Espace Killy into Tignes too.
• Also, one of the most snowsure resorts in Europe thanks to its high altitude.
• Always stays at the forefront of winter sports but has remained a picturesque main resort village, meaning it continues to attract guests from all over the world.
• With a sports centre, glacier walking, husky racing and 70 shops available, there are plenty of non-ski activities to keep you entertained also.
• Where to stay: for self-catering, opt for Chalets du Jardin Alpin, but if it’s a luxurious hotel you’re after, the five star Hotel Christiania in the centre is a very popular choice.

Après-Ski – Social Life On The Slopes

© Fruitiere / OT Val Thorens

© Fruitiere / OT Val Thorens

If going out for drinks after a long day on the slopes appeals to you, make sure to pick a resort with a good après scene. Val Thorens is great, with several bars on and off the slopes, as well as Malaysia, the highest nightclub in Europe. Val d’Isere is also a good option, being the home of the original La Folie Douce. Alpe d’Huez, Les Deux Alpes, Meribel and Verbier are also renowned for their après scenes.

The off-slope vibe may be laid back, but make sure you show your fellow après party people some respect. Here are some top tips:

Pack your gear away before heading to the bar. No one wants to have to manoeuvre their way around a bunch of skis and snow boots!

Welcome strangers into your fold – in other words, don’t hog a huge table to just a few of you. Likewise, don’t be shy if someone offers you a seat at their table – the après scene is a great way to get to know people.

• Come as you are, which means there is no need to get showered and dressed up as soon as the lift stops spinning. Unless of course you are heading to a hot tub – in which case always, ALWAYS rinse before going in.

And one more thing: If you respect your fellow guests, endeavour to not puke on them. High altitudes will have a major affect on your tolerance to alcohol. Pace yourself and have a glass of water in between drinks – skiing is heaps more fun without a hangover anyway!

Injuries At Altitude

Courtesy of Össur

© Courtesy of Össur

Nothing can bring a fun holiday to an abrupt halt like hurting yourself, and on a ski holiday the head, wrists, knees, ankles and spine are all at risk. We asked injury experts Össur for some top tips on how to avoid injuries on the slope and what to do if things don’t go to plan.

How to avoid injuries on the slope

Whilst on the whole injuries are unavoidable and sometimes just happen, there are things you can do to minimise the risk as the last thing you want is to injure yourself on day one and spend the rest of your holiday looking at the slopes rather than being on them.

1. Wear the right gear
Wearing the right gear is a good start. Without a doubt you need to wear some good winter clothing as it’s cold up in the mountains but there are a few other things which could help you.

• Helmet: Would you ever ride your bike without a helmet? No? It’s the same for winter sports. We’re not just talking rocks that you could land on, as compacted snow could be just as hazardous if you whack your head on it, so stay safe.
• Knee Bracing: Prophylactic knee bracing is becoming more popular with many professionals now sporting these carbon fibre (lightweight and strong) exoskeletons to protect the knee from injury following a fall but also to offer stability to help manage pre-existing injuries.
• Wrist Guards: Everyone falls down on the slopes, some more often than others. When we fall we put our arms out to break our fall but that can lead to broken wrists, arms, or dislocated shoulders. Wrist guards offer a degree of protection when you fall.
• Boots: A standard piece of kit but make sure you pick something suitable. Have a chat with the professionals and see what is best for you given your expertise and what you want to achieve, as more freedom of movement may be good for tricks but potentially bad for your ankles.

2. Know your limits
If you’re just starting out then it’s understandable you want to follow in the footsteps of famous skiers, but it is important that you take it easy and practice, even Jonny Moseley had to start somewhere. It’s ok to push yourself as that is the only way to get better, but you know yourself what is pushing yourself and what could be considered a little foolish.

3. Take lessons
Taking lessons is a great way to start and even the experienced skiers still take lessons to brush up on their skills, especially if you’ve had a few months off (like when there is no snow). Lessons ensure you have the right technique and most importantly, know how to fall (as in minimising the risk of injury) so book them in, listen and learn.

4. Stick to the path
When you finally arrive at your resort you’ll be as giddy as a kid at Christmas and want to do everything. Just remember that there are routes designated for each level of ability so stick to them and practice before moving up and deciding to do something adventurous. Being on the slopes is extreme enough when you’re starting out without going off-piste in search of something different and potentially dangerous.

5. Be aware of your surroundings
It’s important to remember where you are on the slopes and that you don’t only have to watch what you’re doing but also what everyone else is doing as well. It only takes one person to either do something daft or lose control and they could wipe you out as well as leave you battered and bruised, or worse.

What to do when you’ve been injured

Following an injury there are a number of steps to consider both in the immediate aftermath and throughout your overall rehabilitation journey.

1. Stop what you’re doing
If you’re injured then stop what you’re doing as carrying on could make it worse. Sprains, for example, are graded 1 to 3 depending on their severity, with a 1 being a few days of hobbling and 3 being a few months using crutches. If you sprain your ankle when running then failing to stop could turn a grade 1 to a grade 2, as you’re increasing the chances of your ankle rolling as a result of the instability.

2. Remember RICE
It’s the standard protocol following an injury and stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation.

Rest is simply giving the body time to repair itself and heal naturally.
Ice can be used to help manage inflammation as well as offering a degree of pain relief.
Compression is typically achieved through bracing but helps to manage inflammation when on the move, again having pain relieving qualities,
Elevation is the act of raising the affected area of the body above the level of the heart to reduce blood flow and in turn reduce inflammation.

You will know if an injury warrants urgent medical attention, in which case, you should seek this right away to minimise the risk of the injury worsening.

3. Obtain a professional diagnosis
If RICE doesn’t work after a few days then you should seek a professional diagnosis as it may require additional treatment following a more detailed examination.
You may be sent for an X-ray, an MRI or simply referred to a physiotherapist depending on how severe they believe the injury to be.

After a professional diagnosis you may need physio, a brace and even surgery. Overseas this can be a lot more complicated. Make sure you contact your travel insurance provider and discuss what procedures and treatments are covered.

Well, that’s the essentials covered, but nothing compares to the real thing – stay warm, stay safe and have fun wherever you end up!

© P Tournaire / OT Val Thorens

© P Tournaire / OT Val Thorens

For more information about getting the right wintersports travel insurance for this ski season, get in touch with one of the team on 01892 833338

Visiting Thailand? Dos and Don’ts Following King’s Death

thailand-image-by-mariamichelle-cc0

Thailand image by Mariamichelle CC0

The death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on October 13 has plunged Thailand into a state of mourning not seen for many decades. Although this event has affected Thais deeply, they remain welcoming to holidaymakers keen to enjoy the country’s castor sugar beaches, lush jungle hinterlands and sunny weather.

However, ‘respect’ is the watchword for any trip to Thailand in the coming months.

What to wear and how to behave

Black clothing has virtually sold out in the country as Thais pay their respects to the late king. As a visitor you don’t need to wear black, but opting for low-key colours will put you in good stead with locals.

Avoid flamboyant attire in public places.

But as Chris Lee, UK and Ireland head of marketing for the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), says: “despite reports, tourists don’t have to wear black on the beach.”

There are reports that the TAT has asked Immigration to provide visitors with black ribbons which they can wear as a sign of respect, although this hasn’t happened as yet.

Aside from asking visitors to dress respectfully, the TAT encourages them to “continue with their travel plans as normal”.

But the TAT also warns that “Visitors should refrain from conducting any inappropriate or disrespectful behaviour.”

The UK’s FCO backs this up: “Following the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej there is now an official period of mourning of one year from 14 October 2016. You should respect the feelings and sensitivities of the Thai people at this time.”

Is the nightlife affected?

Bars and restaurants have been asked to tone it down by the government, so the nightlife may well be a little more subdued than usual. Most establishments will close by midnight, although owners have the final say.

Millions of Thais make a living from the country’s tourism industry, so many will be keen to keep their businesses going.

Are any tourist sites closed?

Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and the Grand Palace are closed to the public, as they will be the venue of the Royal Funeral Rites. But all other tourist attractions remain open.

Traditional and cultural events will go ahead as usual, but their tone may well be modified in respect for the late king.

You can expect transportation, banks and medical facilities to operate as normal.

Talking about the king

Many Thais are open to talking about their feelings at this sad time, but as before the king’s passing, care should be taken when discussing anything related to the monarchy. Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté laws mean anyone insulting or defaming the monarchy could face a jail term of up to 15 years. If you want to be on the safe side, avoid the subject altogether unless it is broached by a local – and even then proceed with caution.

The atmosphere in tourist hotspots like the islands of Phuket, Koh Samui and Koh Phi Phi is likely to be lighter than in Bangkok, although less intense than before the king’s death. Indeed, now could be a particularly relaxed time to visit this most unique of kingdoms.

The famous Thai smile may be a little thin on the ground right now, but if you’re mindful of your host’s feelings you’ll still have a fabulous holiday.

 

Nevada – A Spooky Place To Celebrate Halloween!

You may associate Nevada with tales of extra terrestrial activities, but did you know that it has some pretty spooky heritage? Nevada’s vast landscape is dotted with countless ghost towns – some are indecipherable ruins infested with tumbleweeds, but others are surprisingly intact. Both are portals into a Nevada of old…

Rhyolite Porter Store by Tom Babich CC2.0

Rhyolite Porter Store by Tom Babich CC2.0

Rhyolite – America’s most famous ghost town…

Rhyolite is a secluded town set on the eastern edge of Death Valley, and has a reputation for being one of the best ghost towns in the US. It was once a thriving mining town, but now the abandoned streets and buildings send shivers down the spines of those who visit. The general store, train station and bank still stand, and so does the jail, undoubtedly the most popular attraction for spooky thrill seekers who can look into the cells and imagine the tortured lives of former prisoners.

The Haunted Mizpah Hotel

Mizpah Hotel

Mizpah Hotel. Image © Travel Nevada

Between Las Vegas and Reno is a spooky hotel that is said to have some ghostly inhabitants. Here are some of the hair-raising rumours that would make great torch lit Halloween tales!

It is said that guests can hear laughter by one of the hotel’s bath tubs, possibly the ghostly echoes of a politician who died there. Rumour has it that he met his demise before an important election, but his death was hidden by his aides who decided to keep his body in a bathtub on blocks of ice instead.

The Mizpah is also home to “The Lady in Red”- the spirit of a prostitute who was murdered on the fifth floor of the hotel, viciously stabbed outside her lavish suite. Some stories say that she was killed by a jealous ex-boyfriend, whereas others say she was caught cheating by her husband at the hotel after he had missed a train – he then proceeded to kill her in a fit of jealous rage. She has also made appearances in the original elevator the hotel features, which at its installation was the fastest elevator in the state!

The ghosts of Mizpah are said to reside across the eerie building – there have been several sightings of ghosts of children playing throughout the hallway on the third floor, and it is said that the ghosts of miners can be seen walking through the walls of the creepy basement too.

The Lady in Red Suite Courtesy of Travel Nevada © Travel Nevada

Brave guests can stay in The Lady in Red Suite for as little as £122 a night. Image © Travel Nevada

Creepy Clowns of Highway 95

clown-motel

Image © Travel Nevada

Like all good spooky places to visit in Nevada, Tonopah was once a thriving mining town, which now has an extra eerie appeal to visitors. Along the highway of this desert town lies the Clown Motel, a roadside rest place stuffed to the brim with clowns and clown collectables. The hotel itself may not be haunted – it’s just the creepy clowns that are guaranteed to give guests night terrors – but the Cemetery next door probably is. It has been closed for over a hundred years and is packed with graves of former miners many of which died from the mysterious “Tonopah Plague” in 1902.

Avoid the fright of your life on holiday! Get travel insurance!

While we don’t insure against ghouls and ghosts, we can provide cover for a range of holiday mishaps – Get in touch or visit our website to find out more about single trip, multi trip and long stay travel insurance.

3 Of The Best Airports To Be Stuck At

There is something special and somewhat surreal about the atmosphere at an airport, but some are definitely more of a pleasure than others. We reveal three of the best airports in the world – the kind you would wish you were in if you were stranded!

Changi Airport, Singapore

Changi Airport, Singapore by cegoh CC0

Changi Airport, Singapore by cegoh CC0

This place is more like a leisure complex than an airport, combined with an art gallery and possibly the Eden Project in the UK. In fact, it is a destination in itself! Here are a few of the things that make it the perfect place to while away some hours…

  • You can go on a nature trail in the butterfly garden
  • Try out 12m long airport slide
  • View international works of art, sculpture and installation
  • Have spa treatments
  • Go shopping for designer goods
  • Explore the interactive enchanted garden
  • Visit the airport zoo
  • Stay in a luxury hotel without checking out
  • Swim in the rooftop pool
  • Go to the movies

Incheon International Airport, Seoul

Incheon International Airport, Seoul by zionorbi CC2.0

Incheon International Airport, Seoul by zionorbi CC2.0

This airport has won awards for the last 11 years for it’s outstanding facilities, and for keeping passengers happy too. It’s super-spacious and offers travellers a lot of ways to pass the time…

  • Get your skates on at the ice rink
  • Go get rich in the casino
  • Improve your handicap at the golf course
  • Relax in the spa, bath or sauna
  • Catch some zzzzs in one of the sleeping rooms
  • Explore one of the many beautiful airport gardens
  • Brush up on your local knowledge at the museum

Munich Airport, Germany

Munich Airport by Alexas_Fotos CC0

Munich Airport by Alexas_Fotos CC0

This airport has been likened to a city centre thanks to its huge array of eateries, watering holes and shops. It is also one of the busiest airports in Europe, here’s what visitors get to experience…

  • Indulge in retail therapy in one of the 150+ shops
  • Eat and drink in any of the 50+ bars
  • Enjoy the atmosphere of a real German rooftop beer garden
  • Explore the in-house art gallery
  • Swim in a stainless steel pool
  • Visit the Audi showroom

Although these airports would seem like a great place to spend some holiday time, if your flight is delayed or cancelled it could cause havoc with more than just your holiday plans, it could affect your finances too. Travel insurance from WorldwideInsure.com provides the cover you need in the event that travel plans don’t go to plan – to find out more, get in touch with us on 01892 833338 or get a fast and free online quote.

 

Coffee Capitals Of The World

By tpsdave CC0

By tpsdave CC0

If the power of the great bean drives your lust for life, then maybe you should let it drive your wanderlust too! Discover where to go and why before you book your next break…

Columbia

Not only is Columbia home to some of the best coffee in the world, it is home to The National Coffee Park. This is a theme park dedicated to the culture, cultivation and history of coffee. If you are travelling with less coffee-enthusiastic family members, they’ll be pleased to know that there are a range of rides and attractions to enjoy – albeit with a coffee-related theme.

Italy

The nation is well known for its love of coffee, so much so that there is a definite etiquette in place if you want to fit in. Only order milky coffee for breakfast, stick to black coffee or espressos during the day and after dinner indulge in the very best of caffeinated Italian passion with an affogato – a delectable ice cream and espresso desert!

USA

Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks and claims to be the coffee capital of the US. Portland thinks the title is theirs as they started the speciality coffee culture, and boast over 40 independent small-batch roasters. We advise you visit both places and make your own mind up.

Ethiopia

Did you know that Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee? Historians believe that nomads in the region appreciated the very special effects of the bean as early as the 10th century. With so many years of coffee culture under the belt, it comes as no surprise that visitors can enjoy coffee ceremonies, rituals and tours as well as enjoying the simple pastime of café hopping.

Turkey

Turkish coffee has a twang of it’s very own, an experience no coffee lover should miss out on. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can try an array of milky treats in coffee shops though. No, in Turkey coffee culture is done differently! Turkish coffee is rich, thick, strong and usually served with LOTS of sugar. To find the authentic stuff you’ll be looking for street vendors who boil up finely ground beans multiple times in a small metal pot called a cezve.

Austria

According to UNESCO, Vienna’s coffee culture is an “Intangible Cultural Heritage”, which is to say – a coffee appreciators paradise! Here you’ll find opulent and ornate coffee houses, some of which date back to the 17th century, complete with marble, mahogany and many period features. The atmosphere is understandably upmarket, erudite and far more exclusive than your nearest Starbucks!