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

Take the hassle out of your holiday travel

You have booked a wonderful Mediterranean cruise which is due to depart from Malaga and take in some beautiful places over the next ten days, but there is a snag, your are flying out on a budget airline and of course you inevitably come up against the excess baggage charge, worse still you are over the weight allowance.

This is a nightmare situation that so often causes headaches for travellers, you know that although the dress code on your cruise ship is going to be reasonably relaxed, it still requires smart casual wear for both the men and women, this naturally means that you may have to pack a little more that you might have to on say a beach villa holiday, when shorts and a shirt are all that is needed.

So what is the answer to this dilemma, if fact is there an answer short of packing less than you feel you may need for a ten day holiday? Well it is simpler than you could possibly imagine, you contact Send My Bag and they will resolve the matter quickly and without fuss. They will collect your bag from your home and deliver it safely and securely to the cruise liner, and you can also arrange for it to be collected from the dockside and delivered home to you. No hassle, no excess baggage, no aching back, just a smooth journey to embarkation and ten days of relaxing sailing ahead for you.

Cruise Caribbean

Picture: 16g

Visiting Ajaccio, Corsica

The main city in Corsica, Ajaccio is a wonderful holiday destination, especially for tourists searching for the perfect combination of beautiful beaches, picturesque harbours and peaceful rivers. Roman remains boasting medieval magic, majestic cathedrals, charming buildings with impressive contemporary architecture, bustling markets and a rich assortment of restaurants and bars are surprisingly in contrast with the mountain range in the background.

Climate

Ajaccio is ready to enchant its visitors with a Mediterranean climate, which tempers the heat and dryness of summer with a cooling breeze. Although winters are quite dry, heavy rainstorms may occur in spring and autumn.

Things to do and see

Casa Bonaparte, the most important tourist attraction in Ajaccio, is a large yet simple residence where Napoleon Bonaparte was born. This residence is now a national museum boasting numerous paintings and objects that once belonged to the French military and political leader and his family. Another attraction is the Gorges de Spelunca, a natural wonder plunging into a foggy green torrent at the confluence of five magnificent rivers: Aïtone, Campi, Onca, Tavulella and Porto. Tourists looking for relaxation and fun will find numerous bars, restaurants, clubs, cinemas and a great casino.

Lodging

Ajaccio makes available a variety of budget accommodation options and excellent boutique hotels, such as Les Mouettes and Bella Vista, set in superb historic buildings with private beaches, swimming pools, Jacuzzis, gardens and terraces embracing splendid panoramic views of the city and Mediterranean Sea.

Transportation

One flight per week takes British tourists from London to Ajaccio in about two hours. To get around the city, travellers can opt for different transportation options, including buses, ferries and rental cars.

AjaccioPicture: Thilo Hilberer

Which is it to be all-inclusive or self-catering?

It is as they say an “old chestnut” but the question is asked many times, which is the best an all-inclusive holiday where everything is paid including drinks and all meals or the freedom of a self-catering holiday? Well let us look at the two and then you can make up your own mind.

For many the self-catering holiday means that they have complete freedom to choose when to eat, ensure that children are given healthy options and the snacks are the ones that you would choose. It also means that you are not restricted to a bedroom with limited seating or sharing a lounge with others you may not know, you can choose which TV programmes to watch too. Yi are also free to eat at times you want without restriction or a rigid timetable. If you want breakfast at 11am then it is no problem. If you have children with you it also means that they can eat earlier and you can have your meal when they are in bed.

The downside is that you have to be fairly strict as self-catering means just that and not only using the kitchen to pour some cereals into a bowl and eating out all the time, although many still prefer that and choosing different restaurants each day. The other thing that is important on a self-catering holiday is to ensure that the kitchen is fully equipped and has things such as a dishwasher and microwave, plus all the cooking utensils.

Although a smaller number of us go on all-inclusive than self-catering, they have become more popular. As all-inclusive holidays usually to include everything from your flights and accommodation to food, drink and entertainment, this means that you pretty well know the cost of the holiday before you leave home, not counting those extras that we all buy, ice creams and souvenirs etc. Another plus is that you will not have to carry lots of cash or give the credit card a beating; you just need some for those little extras.

As with self-catering there are downsides, choose carefully because although many hotels offer everything, some have limitations which may catch you out if you haven’t budgeted for them. Check to see what is included; things that you may consider to be normal even at home like bottled water, is the wine included, are the drinks branded or some obscure variety, do you have to buy snacks; remember that it is normal for the meals to be either set or buffet, not a la carte for you to have a preference.

Picture: Mac Hotels

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

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

Tourist guide to Tunisia

Tunisia is a perfect holiday destination for any type of tourist, whether you’re looking to relax in the sun, throw yourself into some water sports or explore the country’s rich and exciting history and culture. Tunisia really does have it all.

The climate of Tunisia is very Mediterranean, with warm but gentle breezes from the sea, very hot summers and mild winters. The best time of year to visit Tunisia is between March and November, and you’d be best not booking your holiday during the months of July and August when the temperatures are particularly high and the holiday resorts will be packed with families.

If you’re looking to explore the diverse culture, head to the capital city of Tunis which overlooks the Gulf of Tunis. Make sure to get yourself lost in the colourful maze that is the souk and wander around the mosques in the ancient Medina. For some history, Carthage, the ancient city of Tunisia dating back to around 800BC, sits on the outskirts of Tunis. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and displays some of the best archaeological finds in the world.

When you want to take some time out and relax, Tunisia is also a fantastic place to spend a while on the beach. Boasting gorgeous long stretches of pure white sand on sparkling azure waters, it’s the perfect place for sunbathing. Most beaches also offer a variety of activities such as diving, paragliding, horse riding and camel riding. Tabarka Beach is named as one of the best places for diving with its amazing reef.

If you’re visiting the country with kids and they’re getting fed up of wandering historical sites and lazing on beaches, reward them with a trip to Carthageland at Hammamet Yasmine. It’s not only a theme park, it also has water slides and a zoo.

Don’t fail to try some of the exquisite food while you’re in Tunisia; it has some of the best cuisine in the world to offer with a mix of French and Arabic influences. Seafood is a favourite of Tunisians, with grilled fish being one of the most eaten dishes. Tajines are different here to what you might know: they are an egg based dish with chopped meat in a cake like form.

Picture: WomEOS

Cape Town – the jewel of Africa

Undoubtedly one of the jewels on the African continent, Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, great restaurants, beaches the craggy table top mountain, not to mention the Waterfront and of course the good weather.

You can visit Cape Town pretty much any time of year. Summer is the most popular, with peak season falling between mid-December and early January, but perhaps the best time would have to be February when the weather is still hot, although not too hot, and it is a time when most of the tourists have gone home and the many attractions are less crowded.

If you are into whale watching, and there are plenty in the southern ocean; the Southern Right Whale migrates around the cape to calve and nurse, a fabulous land based whale watching experience. The timing of this event is July to November, but the early part of this is when it can be very wet, July and August in particular. The beaches are pretty empty in this period and the best deals can be had then, but it will pay to book early for the start of the summer months.

Must places to see for the first time visitor have to be Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for so long, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, a trip up Table Mountain, you can hike up if you wish or take the revolving cable car, and a trip down Long Street, which if you have ever been to New Orleans you will think you are back there!

Getting there is through British Airways as well as and Virgin Atlantic, there are other options but these involve a change en-route. The journey time is around 12 hours and because you are flying north to south with only an hour difference in time, you will not suffer jet lag.

There has been a lot of talk about crime in South Africa, but much is untrue and like any large city, crime is an ongoing concern, most of this however is well away from the centre and away from tourist areas. Take the simple pre cautions that you would in any city in the world, don’t flash your wealth; don’t visit no-go zones; don’t walk when there are no other people around; you will be perfectly safe in Cape Town.

Picture: Richard IJzermans

New7Wonders of the World – Part 2

5. Chichen Itza, Mexico
Chichen Itza is a large city built by the Mayans around 600-900 AD and was one of the biggest cities ever built by the Maya. The main part of the city spans approximately 5 square kilometres, but residential architecture extends for an unknown distance beyond this.

The most visited part of the city and its most iconic structure is El Castillo, a step-pyramid situated in the centre of the city. This 30 metre high structure towers over the city although parts of it are now closed off to members of the public.

Chichen Itza is one of the most visited places in Mexico, attracting an average of 1.2 million tourists a year.

6. Colosseum, Italy
The Colosseum is widely regarded as one of the greatest structures ever built by the Romans and is the largest amphitheatre ever constructed in the Roman Empire. Built between 72 AD and 80 AD, the Colosseum is situated in the centre of Rome and was capable of seating 50,000 spectators when finished.

The Colosseum was originally used for gladiatorial shows as well as a variety of other large events, and is now one of Italy’s biggest tourist attractions.

7. Taj Mahal, India
The Taj Mahal is a huge white marble mausoleum built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife Mamtaz Mahal.

Construction took 21 years and the exterior is clad with stone inlays and carvings, and has become the iconic image of India.

The Taj Mahal attracts over 2 million tourists a year, many of which are from India who want to see the impressive structure.

8. Great Pyramid of Giza (Honorary Candidate), Egypt
Possibly one of the world’s most famous monuments, the Great Pyramid of Giza makes an honorary appearance in the New7Wonders of the World list. It was the tallest man-made structure for over 3,800 years and is still an unbelievable feat of engineering even by today’s standards.

The pyramid was built around 2560 BC and initially stood 146.5 meters tall (although erosion now means that it measures 138.8 meters).

The Great Pyramid of Giza attracts millions of tourists every year and is a marvel of building skill and engineering.

Picture: Nathan Jones