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.