Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Guide To The Beautiful Cotswold Region Of The UK

The Cotswolds, an area in the South West of the UK, is widely acknowledged by both people in the UK, and elsewhere, to be one of the most scenic and beautiful parts of the UK. The rolling hills, windey lanes, and picturesque villages, are truly jewels in the UK’s crown. Despite being very scenic, the area is also very historic, with churches going back to the 8th Century.

The Cotswolds - "One of the most scenic and beautiful parts of the UK"
The Cotswolds, as an area, are named after the area of hills that stretch across the west of England. The area that is covered by the hills is 25 miles across and 90 miles long. When people think of The Cotswolds, they usually think of Gloucestershire, and indeed this is the county that has the greatest coverage in the Cotswolds area. But the area also covers a few other counties at the edges, including Oxfordshire and Wiltshire.

The Gateway and Capital of the Cotswolds is usually considered to be Cirencester. This pretty town has a population of 19,000, and is famous its Roman heritage – it was known in Roman times as Corinium, and was the second town in Roman Britain, after Londinium (London), and was the major Roman Administration town for South West England.  Cirencester contains one of the largest Agricultural colleges in the West; it welcomes students from all around the world, from as far as China and the US.

One great attraction to visit in Cirencester is the Corinium Museum, which hosts one of the finest collection of Roman artefacts anywhere in England. The museum contains stunning complete mosaics taken from Roman Villa excavations locally. The museum is also great for kids – it offers the opportunity to really explore what life was like for a Roman citizen in Britain, plus offers the opportunity to dress up as a Roman soldier, sword, helmet and all! Entry prices are pretty reasonable - £4.80 for adults, £2.40 for children. There are discounts available for senior citizens, families and students. There is also a lovely shop at the museum selling a wide range of books, souvenirs, and Roman inspired gifts, including plastic swords for the kids!

The museum is also the home of Cirencester’s visitor information centre, who advise on local accommodation, local transport info, local attraction info, and also sell maps and guidebooks.

Being a Roman town , Cirencester also has an Roman amphitheatre, which is great to visit, especially in the winter, when it is covered in snow and you can sledge down the sides! It remains one of the largest Roman Amphitheatres in Britain, and was built in the early second century. The amphitheatre would have been used for plays and productions, and possibly even gladiator battles. It was later the scene of the battle of Cirencester, between the Mercian King Penda, and the West Saxon Kings Cynegils and Cwichelm in 628.

Cirencester has great transport links to the rest of the Midlands and The South West, with connecting roads to Swindon, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Bristol, Bath, Wantage, Chippenham and Stroud. There is also the train station at Kemble (just outside Cirencester), which offers good access to London and the rest of the country. The nearest airports are at Bristol, Kemble, London Heathrow, and Birmingham.

So you can see that Cirencester is a great place to visit in itself, but is also a good base to explore the rest of the South West.

Steppes Travel specialise in luxury and tailor made holidays to many locations all over the world. They offer the best in travel to South America, Africa and Europe.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Best ways to meet locals in Barcelona

When moving to a new country, particularly one where the language is different to your own, then it can seem incredibly frightening to think how you will make friends in your new city and country. I moved to Barcelona at 21 without knowing anyone here and although the move seemed daunting at the time, it has in fact been a truly incredible experience. I have met some brilliant people from all different countries from accross the world including a lot of Catalan people, who are great for helping to teach and show your their city and culture. I am going to write about the best ways to meet locals here in Barcelona.

Learn the language

The most important tip that I can give to meet local people in Barcelona is to learn the language. In my experience I have found that this does not always have to be Catalan in Barcelona as everyone can speak Spanish and I have encountered no problems with people not wanting to speak Spanish particularly as they can hear in your voice that you are not Spanish and they are usually very willing to help you as they realise that it is not your native tongue. Although some of the locals do speak English, most don´t so it becomes more difficult to meet locals if you don´t speak at least some Spanish.


One of the best ways to learn a new language is by going on Intercambios. For those that do not know what a Intercambio is, it is where two people who both want to learn or improve their language skills in the other persons language meet up and spent half the time talking in one language and then switch to the other language. For me as a native English speaker, it was very easy for me to find Spanish people to meet as English is a language that everyone wants to learn here espcially young people. Although the principle reason is to imporve your language skills, going for a drink with someone and speaking about a range of subjects is also a great way to get to know someone and friendships can begin. I have found from my experiences that most of the people wanting to learn English here are locals that have lived their whole life in Barcelona and love the oppurtunity to speak with a native English speaker and they are also very keen to share their city and culture with you. I have found out and heard many stories about Catalunya and the history of the region and it has been very interesting. It also of course comes with the added benefit of helping imporve your Spanish too so is a win-win situation. The website that I used is and I recommend it.

Joining a group or team

Think of your favourite hobby or sport and I think you will find that there are specific groups and teams in Barcelona of similar like-minded people. This is not a gurantee of meeting locals as there are probably also other foreigners who have the same hobby too. If you can speak the language then join local classes or groups in a variety of different activities like music groups, acting or sports teams where you willl find that many of the members are locals. If the group advertises solely in Spanish or Catalan then this is a good sign that they are likely to be made up of mainly locals.

Street Festivals

Anyone familiar with the Spanish culture will understand the importance of the "fiesta" in Spain and Barcelona is no different. There are a number of great street festivals in Barcelona and the number of people that attend is staggering. A lot are locals that have come to admire the decorations and of course to party and why not try to strike up a conversation with different people and maybe you will only speak for one sentence or you may share a whole conversation with the other person but it is a good way to practise your Spanish and meet new people.

Be friendly

Unfortunately if you are hoping that locals will approach you and instigate conversations then you are going to be disappointed. If you want to meet local people then you have to be very friendly and out-going. Take control and make a comment to someone on the weather or any other ice breakers you know, in Spanish or Catalan of course. One of the things that I have found is that the locals are as much interested in talking to you as you are talking to them as you have to remember particularly in the least touristy places that there are not the same number of tourists so the chance to speak to someone of another nationality is something that they want to do so rememer this and it will hopefully give you the confidence to hold a conversation.

"Be very friendly and out-going."

Join a gym

This may not be for everyone but the process of joining a gym is great for meeting new people particularly if you are not in a tourist area as most of the other members will be Barcelona residents. If you are a regular then you will notice that you will continually run into the same people at the gym and then it is easier to have conversation and they may even approach you as you will have a shared experience.

The best tip for meeting locals that I have is to remember that you are as interesting to the locals as they are to you and I have found them to be extremly friendly and very forgiving of poor Spanish when they realise you are a non native. Some will even speak to you in English if they can and generally they will want to speak English to improve so they are likely to want to prolong the conversation. Therefore, you have to be out-going and be the one to try and start a conversation and you will find your rewards.

Article written by Sean, a traveller and blogger from Homesearch Barcelona, barcelona properties for rent and sale.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Great Places to See and Visit in Connecticut

Sandwiched in between New York City and Boston, Connecticut sometimes gets overlooked. However, there are so many great places to see and visit in Connecticut that it’s worth getting to know this humble state to see all that it has to offer. From great scenic spots and educational fun to exhilarating and exciting locations, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

"... the fall foliage in all of its glory."
If you enjoy the great outdoors a great place to get started at is Bartlett Arboretum. This is the perfect spot for great scenic views. During the fall season, so many people come from near and far to see the fall foliage in all of its glory. There are terrific trails which cover over 91 acres. You can spend an entire day there so you may want to take advantage of the many hotels Stamford CT has to offer right nearby to rest you weary legs after a full day of hiking. Another great outdoor adventure that you can enjoy in Connecticut is the popular winter sport of skiing. The Woodbury ski area is a great place to go skiing as well as downhill snow biking. A new activity to enjoy at the Woodbury Ski Area during the warmer weather is Zorbing. You can take an exhilarating ride down the ski slopes, minus the snow of course, from within a ball of air. This is a new and exciting activity that is being enjoyed by so many.

If you enjoy history and education then you will find many choices in Connecticut as well. One favorite spot of mine is the Mark Twain House and Museum. The house is location at the same place where “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was written. The Mark Twain House, home of Samuel L. Clemens houses as many as 16,000 original artifacts there. You can take a guided tour through the house or you can choose to walk through it on your own. Either way you will find this home to be quite fascinating. Another great stop for educational fun would be at the Connecticut Science center. This is a terrific spot that everyone in the family, young and old will enjoy. The Connecticut Science Center is brand new and therefore very modern and up to date. There are so many hands on exhibits; you will want to spend an entire day there. Take a look at their ever changing calendar of events to see their daily schedule of shows and demonstrations prior to your visit so that you won’t miss a thing.

For some great adult entertainment, be sure to stop at the well know Foxwoods Resort and Casino. No trip to Connecticut would be complete without spending some time there. There are so many different venues of entertainment there. You will find all the casino fun and action there. Foxwoods is the largest resort casino outside of Las Vegas. There are also many different sporting events there as well as many diverse concerts and exhibits. Showing now through January 15, 2012 at the Great Cedar exhibition hall is “Diana, A Celebration”. This exhibit includes 150 objects on loan from the Spencer family’s home in England. Items on display include Princess Diana’s wedding gown and many personal letters and mementos. You will find lots of upscale dining there too. This is a stop that is wildly popular which you don’t want to miss. It’s worthwhile to take some time to get to know these places mentioned and the many other great places within the State of Connecticut.

Susan Fischer is a travel planner and coordinator for hotels Stamford. She has been in the travel business for many years and has put together many group tours and private vacations to Connecticut and its surrounding areas.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tips and Tricks for Collecting Air Miles

"Air miles are not only collected when you fly"
In this day and age people are always looking for tips and tricks as to how they can save some extra money and get the best deals wherever possible. Saving air miles is a great way to lower the cost of flights and reward you and your family with a much needed holiday. In spite of popular belief, air miles are not only collected when you fly. There are a great many ways in which you can collect air miles and then redeem them for flights at your leisure. Anyone can save air miles and there are a great many ways in which you can increase your rewards and cash in on simple offers which will increase the number of miles you collect.

Instead of simply joining the air mile frequent flyer reward program of every airline, it is much more effective to enrol in an alliance which will allow you to accumulate points from several airlines into one place and reach your required goals much faster. Takes some time to find out which airlines are part of what alliance and think about which ones you are more likely to use in the future. This will increase your earning potential and you will see the air miles accumulate much more quickly. Once you have enrolled in the alliance you can contact customer services to transfer your past air mile balances from each individual account into the one master account in order to earn more miles faster.

Credit Cards
This is one of the most common ways in which you can collect air miles. Many airlines and credit card companies are offering deals which allow you to collect air miles with every dollar that you spend. In order to increase your air miles using this method you should buy large expensive items on credit card and pay them off using a different account. Any large payments such as house or car payments can be paid through credit card to produce a huge chunk of air miles each month. By simply using your credit card in any situation where you can, you will see your air miles balance increase dramatically each month allowing you to claim the rewards much more quickly.

Club cards and Online Shopping
There are many websites and store cards that you can sign up to which offer air mile rewards as a loyalty program for their shops. You can join estore facilities which allow you to gain air miles when you spend certain amount of money on their products. You can find out what shops and websites are affiliated with your program by looking at the specific information you are given with your alliance enrollment.

Add the Household
For most air mile reward programs you are able to sign up the entire household for one account. This increases your accumulation as you receive miles whenever any registered member flies or use their credit cards. This helps to increase the amount of points you receive and allows you all to partake in the rewards.

About the Author: Naomi Chamberlain writes for who provide a range of store coupons and vouchers. Current brands on the website include Apple, Dell, Expedia and Amazon.

Friday, December 23, 2011

3 Melancholy London Sights

This list features three of London's arguably more morbid attractions, sights that have a strong connection to an individual's end of days. Yes, death is at the heart of each entry and while that might sound a little grisly, it isn't necessarily so. Besides, I'm sure you've already ventured through the infamous London Dungeon and witnessed enough terror and torture from ages past? This trio of places is more about reflection on the act of departing this mortal coil.

Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery in London
Photo Credit: Thegirlwho
The most well known of the three entries Highgate Cemetery, is situated in Highgate beside Waterlow Park. Swain's Lane runs right through the middle of it and divides it in to two parts known simply as the West and East cemetery. It opened in 1839 and was designed by Stephen Geary. It was created essentially to create more graves because the inner city cemeteries were struggling for space as the burgeoning population required more and more room for burials.

The cemetery, seen as a desirable location to be placed to rest, quickly became fashionable and the graveyard flourished with the Victorians creating beautifully crafted Gothic tombs. And it really is a place of natural beauty with trees and flowers planted, but allowed to grow without human intervention. As such Highgate cemetery is given a Grade 1 listing on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. This means that although one can tour the East Cemetery freely, the West section can only be viewed now as part of a guided tour.

Sir Richard Francis Burton's Bedouin Tomb

Sir Richard Francis Burton's Tomb
Photo Credit: Svarochek
Our second entry is a single tomb, that of Sir Richard Francis Burton. Burton was a British explorer best known for his excursions to the continents of Asia, Arica and America. He truly was a remarkable man, among a life full of adventure and achievements are many examples of his desire to learn and educate in relation to cultures from all over the globe. These include travelling to Mecca in disguise, publishing the Kama Sutra in English and translating word for word, One Thousand And One Nights. It is also thought he spoke as many as 29 languages.

Burton's tomb fittingly reflects his life. It is built of stone but shaped like a Bedouin tent, though this common description is not entirely accurate. The tomb is actually modelled on a tent that Burton had made for his travels with his wife Isabel to Syria. Apparently it's most important attribute was that Burton could stand upright when inside. The tomb is located in Mortlake, South West London, and both Burton and Isabel now rest there. It is extraordinary and befits the man whom it now houses perfectly.

The Necropolis Railway

Necropolis Terminus

Photo Credit: Self
In the mid 1800s the Brookwood Cemetery was located 25 miles outside London. The only convenient method of getting bodies from the centre of the city to their final resting place was by train. In 1854 the Necropolis terminus was opened and the deceased and their mourners would travel to the cemetery together. However during the renovation of Waterloo station, to which the Necropolis terminus was attached, the dedicated station was demolished.

This led to a new station being built at 121 Westminster Bridge Road and this provided transport to cemetery as before. Unfortunately in April 1941 a bomb destroyed the building and it was never rebuilt. The facade and entrance of the building remain however and although the stone carved words London Necropolis have been covered and hidden it is very much as it was when in use. It remains a point of interest for anyone with a penchant for the macabre.

Copywriter David James writes on offbeat topics for the online gifts company Find Me A Gift, the online store for unique and affordable gift ideas for any occasion.

Sail On – Top Tips For Sailing Holidays

Want flexibility? Choose sailing!
Ever since I heard the Commodores singing Sail On, I’ve dreamed of chartering my own boat and sailing the seven seas as they say.  OK, so Lionel Richie didn’t strictly have sailing on his mind but that’s the image it conjured up for me – and still does.

For the sailing aficionados or the merely curious, a sailing vacation is one of the most flexible vacations available.  Forget the itineraries, devise your own timetable and if you want to vary it while you’re out there, that’s just fine.

The independence of a sailing vacation holds a unique allure for many, and for those with sailing experience, bareboat charters offer some of the most attractive options.

Experienced or not, there are certain things to consider before you book your vacation:-

The qualifications required for a bareboat charter vary depending on where you’re heading for.  To arrange a bareboat charter in the Caribbean, experience often counts more than actual qualifications.  Fancy the far reaches of the Mediterranean and the culture of Greece? The Greek authorities will want to see your sailing certificate and your ‘first mate’ is also likely to be asked to sign a declaration as to his or her level of experience.

Useful Tip: Before you even think of setting sail, agree to some form of ‘hierarchy’ with your crew.  In the very unlikely event you encounter any difficulties which require a clear decision, the last thing you want is a mutiny!

When Should You Go?
The time of year you choose for your vacation has a significant effect on both price and destination. If budget is your prime consideration, then the decision on when to go may be out of your hands.

Useful Tip: It can actually be cheaper to charter a bareboat just before the Christmas and New Year holidays.  Most people planning vacations in December aim to celebrate the festive season in an exotic location. Why not celebrate in advance and be home in time to spend Christmas with the rest of the family?
Warning: Hurricane season in the Caribbean will often see a steep drop in prices for chartering boats.  I can’t imagine why!

Book Well in Advance
It may sound obvious but many charters are booked up to a year in advance.  If you’re serious make your reservation now and be flexible on lead time. Secure the destination and boat that you really want.

Useful Tip: If you have to take school holidays into consideration, it’s even more important to book with as much advance notice as possible. If you’re thinking of Florida, the Bahamas or the Caribbean, June and July are your best options as the heat is still bearable.

Know What You Are Paying For
Check and check again with the tour company so you know exactly what’s included in the price of the charter.  It can vary with each tour operator. As well as basics, you may find snorkeling equipment, towels and first aid kits included in the price. Check the inventory and don’t take any chances – take out full travel insurance.

Useful Tip: Don’t forget your sunscreen!
Planning your charter is lots of fun but don’t overlook the important stuff in your haste to confirm it.

Once you have an idea of budget and times you can go, the exciting part begins, choosing your destination!  You’re spoil for choice, from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, the Mediterranean to the Far East.  Whether whale watching, ancient history, lazy days on sparkling white sands or warm water snorkeling is your thing, all bases are covered.

Are you more of a landlubber than a seafarer and slightly daunted by everything we’ve mentioned?   Look at options for yacht rental that include hiring a crew. Relax in the knowledge that technical matters are in safe hands and you’ll soon find your sea legs.

P.S, don’t forget your Commodores soundtrack.

Penelope loves to sail and has a passion for travelling the world... and of course playing the Commodores along the way

Monday, December 19, 2011

The World's Coldest Places to Live

The vast majority of people live in areas of the world that do not suffer from particularly extreme temperatures that can make day-to-day living a chore. The most heavily populated cities around the world usually experience fairly mild winters and fairly warm summers that aren’t anything so hot that living can become a struggle.

There are extremely hot places to live as you can imagine. Places like Death Valley in the USA, parts of Africa such as Libya and most desert regions. There are some extremely cold places too, where it feels like the air conditioning has been stuck on overdrive. We’re not talking fairly cold parts of the UK such as Scotland, but some truly freezing conditions that some people have to endure. These are the coldest places in the world you can live in:

Vostok, Antarctica – This Russian research station in Antarctica houses a select few scientists who spend stints out in the freezing cold in the name of learning. Temperatures reach a boggling -128.6(F) and that’s without the wind chill. You truly have to be gifted if you are to enjoy your time in an environment as cold and as hostile as this.

Oymyakon, Russia – We all know that Russia is a vast country with much of it remaining icy all year round. The northern parts of Russia and Siberia are subject to some of the harshest conditions on the planet, and you’d think living here was nigh on impossible for most mortals. Recorded temperatures of -96(F) have been reported, and local residents see this as ‘normal.’

Northice, Greenland – If you look on a map or atlas, you’re sure to see Greenland represented as a white country due to the amount of ice. There are very few inhabitants of this country and life is tough as the amenities are few and far between. There are only 13 towns with more than 1000 people living in them, so I imagine these communities are used to the cold and surely no air conditioning systems will be insight, unless they offer heating too! Common temperatures of -87(F) can be expected.

Yukon, Canada – Most of Canada has pretty cold temperatures, but Yukon reaches out towards the north of the country making it even colder. It’s a popular tourist stop for winter holidays as you’re promised to see some great scenery and wildlife including some famous polar bears across the wildlife reserves. Temperatures can reach -81(F) though, so wrap up warm!

Steve loves the cold weather and attempts to replicate in the UK with powerful aircon in his home and office. It was supplied by Air Options, a leading commercial air conditioning company.