Turkey – a popular destination for the whole family

Holidays to Turkey are now extremely popular and it is fast becoming the latest booming tourist venue, last year alone it saw around 2,500,000 visitors from the UK and although it has not reached the 14,000,000 UK visitors, it is a growing destination.

Turkey is a good value for money destination and whilst there is a massive amount of culture to see, it is the Mediterranean style sun, sea and sand that attract the visitor. The people are very hospitable and they love children, shopping is plentiful and reasonable priced as well. Most of the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts are really beautiful. The gently shelving beaches in the stretch from Antalyta to Alanya, a distance of about 87 miles are the major centre for holidays and the all-inclusive is the most popular.

Antalya is the gateway to the region and it is a fully-fledged resort, the restored old town are a must if holidaying here. Alanya at the far end is now a major resort with a multitude of new hotels but the charm of the old quarter has still been maintained. Between these two numerous holiday centres provide a host of attractions and activities on offer, from parasailing to scuba-diving, tennis to shows. Flight times from most major airports to Antalya are under five hours.

We would issue a word of warning if you are thinking of taking children in the high season; the temperatures can rise in excess of thirty degrees and can reach as high as forty! So the best at time to visit this area if you are not restricted to the summer school holiday period is May, early June and mid-September and October.

Antalya MarinaPicture: Jason Drury

Orlando Florida – the perfect family getaway!

A few years ago, Orlando was a place that many dreamed of, but it always seemed too out of reach, that may have been the case, but not anymore. Regular flights take place from a number of regional airports and with fast modern aircraft the flight time is just over eight hours, where you can relax watch the latest films and be transported to your hotel.

Orlando is world renowned and is the gateway to Florida with its many attractions, but a great holiday destination or a base to explore features such as Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld Orlando, plus many others. Florida is also a fabulous base for some of the best golf courses in America, which are naturally all season round. Shopping is not forgotten of course and you will catch a few bargains in the Florida Mall where you can call in at the famous Macy’s store.

Perhaps you would like to take in a cruise but have promised the kids that you will take them to Disney, well Orlando is the place where it can happen. You can stay in, or close to the Orlando resort or in the City itself and visit Disney, Universal studios, spend time in some of the Orlando attractions and then take a cruise around the Caribbean before flying back to the UK. Orlando is closer than ever and is a great base for an entire holiday or combined with a cruise.

Walt Disney World, Orlando, FloridaPicture: twg1942

A tale of two cities – eats and laughs in New York and San Francisco

The United States is famous for many things, not least for its food and comedy. Here are just a few of the more popular eateries and stand-up attractions in two of America’s most vibrant and bustling cities.

New York

Fifth Avenue Restaurant & Diner: Whether it’s a quick bite or a full on feast, time is certainly not of the essence when hunger strikes in the Big Apple. Fifth Avenue’s offering is no exception; the best bit about this diner is that it also delivers around the clock 24/7. Renowned for mouth-watering omelettes, the only downside to the Fifth Avenue Diner is knowing which of the wonderful four-egg creations to go for.

Comic Strip: This New York comedy club is best known for being the venue where the greats were discovered; think Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock. Opened in 1975, the club started out as a multi-talent venue with novelty acts, singers and musicians taking to the stage. Since transforming into an exclusively stand-up venue it has become one of the city’s most popular homes of comedy. Many visitors claim they feel part of comedic history as they sit in the modest, yet charismatic, auditorium.

New York CityPicture: kaysha

San Francisco

Sparky’s Diner: San Francisco’s 24-hour eatery is infamous for both its pizza and ice cream. A plethora of other typical late-night bites are also available, such as burgers and custom milkshakes. Situated near the Castro, many partygoers will head to Sparky’s to soak up the evening’s alcohol intake and the varied and vibrant in-house jukebox is a hit for revellers who don’t want the night to end.

Improv: San Jose’s oldest theatre was built in 1904 and is officially designated a historic landmark. The club is revered for its reasonably priced food and drink and its two level tier set-up. Harry Houdini and Charlie Chaplin frequented the nightspot in the days when vaudeville acts and corporate parties were the main attraction. Today, the venue primarily hosts comedy nights and features popular acts such as Jeff Garcia and the Filipino Kingz.

Cable Car San FranciscoPicture: Peter Hijenhuis

Experience one of the most beautiful cities in Europe – Dubrovnik

One of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Dubrovnik, also called the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, is a real feast for the eye and soul.Located on the coastline of the Adriatic Sea, Dubrovnik is home to numerous historic buildings with stunning sculptural detail, splendid churches, museums set in amazing buildings surrounded with artworks, a surprising café society, and dozens of luxury resorts that have turned the city into an elite holiday destination with first-class service and remarkable hospitality.

Climate

Dubrovnik has a humid, sub-tropical climate, with hot and dry summers and mild, wet winters. Although summer is usually characterised by thunderstorm conditions, the best time to visit Dubrovnik is from May through September.

Things to do and see

Located minutes away from the superb Elaphite, Mliet, and Lokrum islands, Dubrovnik invites tourists to visit its wonders, ranging from virgin landscapes with unique flora and fauna to internationally known churches, monasteries, museums and historic edifices, such as Rector’s Palace and Sponza Palace.

This city also boasts a wide array of superb beaches, public parks and cultural centres offering numerous workshops, exhibitions and concerts. For the most active tourists, Dubrovnik offers vibrant nightlife and a series of day activities, including snorkelling, diving, sailing, and even rock climbing and hiking.

Lodging

Dubrovnik has a wealth of accommodation options, ranging from luxury resorts to budget alternatives. Hotel Excelsior has luxury accommodation, located close to the heart of the Old Town. Villa Dubrovnik, recently renovated to offer modern facilities along with spectacular views over the Old Town and the Adriatic Sea, and Hostel Marker, with private rooms and apartments with kitchenettes, bedrooms, living rooms and private bathrooms, are just a few of the establishments that holidaymakers should try.

Tourists can also find a plethora of restaurants serving Mediterranean and local cuisine, renowned especially for fresh seafood and rakija, a distilled drink made from local fruits.

Transportation

Getting in and around Dubrovnik is quite easy. A regular flight from London to Dubrovnik takes about two and a half hours. Dubrovnik also has a reliable land and sea transportation network, connecting buses with trains and ferries.

DubrovnikPicture: Jon Culver

Travellers guide to Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, the capital city of Finland, is a modern metropolis with its origins in a charming medieval town. Cobblestoned streets with beautiful old buildings and artworks illustrate Helsinki’s exciting history and rich culture.

Climate

Influenced by the Baltic Sea, Helsinki features a humid continental climate that brings long, warm summer days with average temperatures ranging between 19 and 23 degrees Celsius.

Things to do and see

Helsinki hosts many festivals throughout the year, including Lux Helsinki, Vappu and Juhannus. To enrich its cultural landscape, the city also offers a variety of theatrical plays, concerts and film festivals. For nature lovers, Helsinki makes available a few surprises in the form of outdoor activities. Both travellers and locals can go to the beach, visit a local farm, choose a boat trip or try one of the trekking routes surrounding the city.

For the tourist looking for relaxation, the city has a few spas with body treatments, saunas and Jacuzzis. Families with children can opt for a great day out at one of the amusement parks. In addition, the city hosts a number of restaurants and bars that will make tourists feel at home.

Lodging

Although quite expensive, accommodation is of a high standard. Several budget hotels are CheapSleep Helsinki, Eurohostel and Summer Hostel Karavaani. Travellers who can afford luxury accommodation are able to find a variety of options, including Radisson Blu Royal, Hotel Haven and Crowne Plaza.

Transportation

The public transportation system, including taxis, trams, buses, metros, trains and ferries, covers all areas of Helsinki. A tourist choosing a direct flight from London can reach this beautiful city within three hours.

HelsinkiPicture: Tuija Aalto

Corfu holidays

The island of Corfu nestling in the Ionian Sea just off the coast of Greece has long been a favourite with the British; it has nothing to do with the fact that it was a British possession from 1814 to 1864, it was during this period that Corfu became prosperous and the Greek language became official. During the period new roads were constructed, water supply was improved; we are not only welcomed to this island because we spend our money there in the holidays! But for us British it is the beaches which are situated on the western side of the island and the relaxing swimming and sunbathing, just relaxing in the warm Mediterranean sun that attracts.

Corfu’s not all about sunbathing and beaches of course, it is a green and beautiful Island with plenty to see and do; you will find riding stables, waterparks to keep the young ones happy, scuba centres to swim amongst the colourful fish, old ruins of castles and not forgetting those sleepy typical Greek villages to wander through and have a cooling drink. You can go on organised boat trips for island cruises, visits to traditional Greek fishing villages. Corfu town is worth a visit where you will find a vast selection of traditional Greek goods, jewellery, and leather.

Naturally when you go to Corfu, as with almost anywhere in Greece, it is about food and wine! For the Greeks eating is a family affair and Sunday lunch can be an all afternoon affair, but for you, just relax, drink some delightful wine, Corfu’s tavernas will not disappoint.

It is possible to hire a car in Corfu if you want to explore the island at leisure, but beware, the habits of the local drivers leave a lot to be desired and you should keep your eyes open for people from side-roads without stopping, overtaking is a sport for some and the middle of the road is where many think they should be!

When is the best time to go to Corfu, well the island get into holiday mode at around Easter until October, if you can, Late May to late June are the periods when the tavernas as less busy, the heat is not so intense, holidays are cheaper, but unless you cannot avoid it, July and August are the busy and intensely hot; September is an ideal month to take a late break. Corfu is served by all the major airlines and the budget carriers operate from most regional airports and the flight time is just over three hours.

CorfuPicture: Stefan Kraft

Family days out in Vancouver, British Columbia

Set amid a backdrop of snow covered mountains and impressive rain forests, Vancouver has something for everyone. Whether you want to experience superb restaurants, world-class shopping malls or recreational activities this city has it all. No wonder nearly 9 million tourists flock to the region each year. Here are some of the must see family attractions when visiting Vancouver:

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Originally built in 1889 by Scottish engineer George Mackay, the Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vancouver. Offering a unique mix of adventure, history and nature the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park now has various walkways and suspension bridges throughout its vast 27 acres of terrain.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s perfectly safe but does sway quite a bit when there are lots of people on it. The admission fee includes the Living Forest exhibits and a history tour of this unique environment.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a short bus ride from the city and is a great day out for the whole family. Admission costs CA$31.95 for Adults, CA$19.95 for 13-16 year olds and CA$12 for 6-12 year olds (children under 6 get in for free) and all of the parks attractions are included.

Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Constructed in 1986 using only traditional methods, the Dr Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is a throwback of old garden tradition which was widely used during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

52 master craftsman and their Canadian counterparts built this impressive Chinese garden within a year using tradition building techniques without the use of nails, screws or glue. All this craftsmanship brings together the harmony of four main elements, water, rock, plants and architecture making it one of the top attractions in the city.

The best way to experience the garden is by taking a guided tour (included in the admission); this 45 minute tour gives you information about the history and significance of each garden element and why they are placed in specific areas. The tours start every half an hour from 10:30am when the garden is open.

After your tour you can visit the exquisite gift shop that sells a unique selection of items from Canada and China including skin care products, original artwork and a selection of books about Chinese culture, food and tea.

Admission costs CA$12 for adults and CA$9 for children, although there is a family ticket available which entitles 2 adults and two children (under 17) entrance to the park for CA$25.

Telus World of Science

An integral part of the Vancouver skyline, the huge silver golf ball shaped structure that is Telus World of Science is a great place for kids of all ages. Featuring an array of permanent interactive exhibits and displays, as well as various special exhibits throughout the year, Telus World of Science offers hour of fun for the whole family.

Experience a range of live science shows, art displays and puzzles & illusions that will made your mind bend.

General admission is CA$22.50 for Adults, CA$18.50 for 13-18 year olds and CA$15.25 for children aged between 3 and 12.

Picture: Dan Dickinson

The Three Valleys for the New Year

Serious skiers will tell you that there is nothing like the three valleys resorts in the early New Year, and newcomers to the sport will also get an immediate feeling that with good fresh snow and lots and lots of ski runs this famous area is all about fun.

The area of the Three Valleys or as it should be referred to Les Trois Vallées, high in the French Alps, is a truly magnificent ski area which boasts some of the best skiing in the world. With over 600 km of pistes and over 200 ski lifts, there is something that always attracts skiers as well as boarders no matter at what ability, but is linked in a manner which means that all resorts are accessible.

No matter what your standard of skiing ability is, you can cover a lot of ground during your winter ski week, and with good mountain restaurants offering a wide choice of menu, from simple raclette or soup and sandwich to excellent French cuisine you can enjoy a full day away from your home resort. The Three Valleys is easily accessible from many regional airports direct to international airports, including Geneva, Lyon and Chambery and it is accessible by car without too much difficulty.

There are no less than eight resorts in the Three Valleys ranging from exquisite Courcheval 1850, to modest accommodation in Val Thorens or lively chalet life in British favourite Meribel. All resorts differ, but they have one thing in common, they all share fantastic snow records and immaculately groomed wide open pistes.

The choice remains with you, a bustling lively resort or perhaps in a more tranquil, relaxing haven after a hard day’s ski.

Picture: Leo-seta

Holidaying in the Dominican Republic

For a slightly different look at the Caribbean, one that was not originally colonised by the British, the Dominican Republic offers some great sun and sea days at a very competitive price.

In common with other Caribbean islands, Dominican Republic enjoys the same reputation for the export trade in silver, sugar and Cuba Libre rum, but today it is a destination that holiday makers cannot wait just to get to the pristine white sandy beaches, and enjoy great value all inclusive holidays.

This is another island that was touched by Christopher Columbus, in fact he made Santo Domingo the first Spanish capital of the New World, when he landed in 1492. It has history so if you want to get away from lazing on the beach or cooling off by the pool with a special cocktail, there are plenty of sights to be seen on the island including some interesting archaeological trips.

Where to stay on your holiday will be a tough decision, there are so many great places, for example Punta Cana is known the world over for stunning beaches, upscale hotels, romantic settings, and amazing golf courses.  Another in the north of the island along a stretch of coastline with more than 62 miles of beaches, coastal villages and hotels, Puerto Plata is nestled between the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the majestic mountains of the Northern Cordillera.

Just a short trip from the airport on the south of the island is the more vibrant resort of Boca Chica with its beach is protected by a reef with beautiful sand and turquoise blue waters. This resort is also handy if a trip to the capital Santa Domingo, very cosmopolitan and possibly the most vibrant place in the entire Caribbean is on your list.

The weather in the Dominican Republic is typically Caribbean, best between December and April which is the best time to visit. May to November is much cheaper but you are likely to experience rainfall and high humidity.

Picture: Larry Armstrong

Last minute holiday deals close to home

When you’re booking a holiday and trying to find the best deal, it’s best to either book it really far in advance, or at the very last minute. If you missed out on the early bird slots for the best deals, don’t panic because there are loads of cheap holidays still available in Europe and further afield.

If you’re looking to book a holiday with the family, Benidorm is one of the best destinations. Most of the resorts will have some kind of last minute deal, and if you make sure to book with a reliable holiday company it should all go down without a hitch. There are so many things to keep the kids busy from Terra Natura to boat trips, that you won’t be able to do everything in one trip.

For a party holiday with a group of friends, Turkey usually has plenty of deals going. Marmaris is perfect with its Bar Street. You can spend the nights partying away in a different place every night, then laze away the days at the beach.

For something more cultural, Egypt is perfect. You can find last minute offers going for holidays in Cairo, Sharm el Sheikh and the Nile delta. Spend your mornings visiting the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx or the museums, and the afternoons keeping cool in the sparkling crystal waters snorkelling and diving.

Picture: Steve J O’Brien