Easter Extravaganza!

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Easter, which always falls on a Sunday, is a Christian festival celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

 In countries where Christianity is a state religion or has a large Christian population, Easter is often a public holiday. Good Friday, Easter Sunday and

Easter Monday are public holidays in many countries with many businesses having an extended Easter break.

 

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In places like Europe and America, Easter is also a cultural festival whereby many

cherished Easter traditions and symbols have been around for many centuries.

Easter eggs are just one popular cultural symbol of Easter.

The tradition of Easter eggs dates back centuries whereby eggs are specially decorated to celebrate Easter.

The oldest tradition is to colour chicken eggs,

although in more recent times, chocolate or candy is used to make eggs.

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In Poland and other East European countries, eggs are seen as a symbol of new life.

In Russia, you can find beautifully created eggs made from precious jewels in their Imperial Court.

The United States celebrates Easter by holding an annual Easter egg roll on the White House lawn for children.

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The Easter Bunny is also a prominent secular symbol of the Christian festival, and probably dates back to when German immigrants brought to America

their stories of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” . Rabbits are also known to be prolific procreators, so as well as eggs, another

symbol of fertility and new life.

 

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Again, as with eggs,  spring chicks are a fertility and new life symbol dating back many thousands of years.

 

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The spring lamb is also a prominent Easter symbol in Central and Eastern European countries.

Christians believe that the lamb represents Jesus and relates to his death to that of the lamb, sacrificed on the first Passover.

Notably, Christians also traditionally refer to Jesus as “the Lamb of God”.

 

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Hot Cross buns are another edible tradition eaten on Good Friday.  Although the Christian symbolism is quite evident in the bread, spices and cross, there

are many theories related to the hot cross bun.

These include references going back to Roman times and also to Saxon times. Some believe that they are a pagan rather than Christian tradition.

Theories also date back to 12th or 14th century monks and even that the Easter tradition relates to the Elizabethan era.

When all is said and done, it doesn’t really matter where the origins come from – they are absolutely delicious anyway!

 

Hot cross buns

 

Awesome Amsterdam Weekend!

Amsterdam is the sort of place you just have to experience in a lifetime. It’s also a destination you can enjoy for a long weekend to celebrate any kind of life event or just for a long, lazy break from work.

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However, if you only visit Amsterdam once in your life, try and make sure your visit coincides with April 27 which is where the Dutch people celebrate King’s day – the worlds largest street party!

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Expat Explore offer a 4 day tour of Amsterdam and the Dutch country side where you can explore the Dutch capital and enjoy the world’s largest spring flower garden, the Keukenhof, in full bloom. Even better, the dates coincide with the King’s day celebrations!

You start the weekend extravaganzas by travelling from London to Amsterdam. Arriving in the evening, you then get to enjoy a complimentary Amsterdam canal cruise before having the chance to explore the canals and Dam Square, browse the many boutiques and enjoy your time in this fascinating city.

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 The following day, head for the Dutch countryside and stop at Keukenhof, the world’s largest spring flower garden, where around 7 million flower bulbs explode in a riot of colour.

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The next stop is Zaanse Schans, a beautiful Dutch windmill village as picturesque as a postcard and ideal for those fabulous photos. 

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Further along the day, you will visit a cheese farm, where cheese is still made using traditional methods,  see a clog-making demonstration, detailing the processes behind the manufacture of traditional Dutch clogs or ‘klompe’ and then off to the famous Dutch fishing village of Volendam, where you’ll see old fishing boats and locals wearing colourful traditional dress.

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  Back in Amsterdam, why not visit some museums such as the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House which is a historic house and biographical museum dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank. Why not also visit the Heineken Museum which has an interactive tour through the beer giant’s history in its former brewery, with a tasting room finale.

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On day 3, soak up the atmosphere as Amsterdam gears up for a massive party as it’s officially King’s Day and the celebrations will continue well into the night! Head into the centre of town to catch the party in full swing where locals and visitors alike will be enjoying themselves in the city, celebrating this Dutch holiday. Hire a bicycle or board a barge to explore the city further, every corner of this vibrant city has a story and can be a truly rewarding city for those who seek out its best bits. Explore the bars and the street-party atmosphere of Amsterdam – this is the biggest party of the year!

 

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What’s more, the ‘Amsterdam King’s Day Weekend’ tour travels back to London via the Belgian city of Bruges! This popular medieval city has delightful historic old churches and lofty towers to admire and explore. It is also famous for its beer, waffles, chocolate and moules et frites, so take to the cobblestone streets and find exactly what you are looking for!

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5 Amazing Places to visit in Scotland!

1. Edinburgh Castle

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Edinburgh Castle is an amazing  icon of Scotland and has stood majestically in the capital of Scotland for centuries.

It actually sits on top of an extinct volcano and boasts Scotland’s most visited attraction.

This magnificent fortress has powerful stone walls which have withstood many sieges over the centuries, its sumptuous apartments also housed many Scottish Kings and Queens.

It is now home of  of the famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a dazzling celebration of music and entertainment which continues to delight audiences from all over the world.

 

2. Loch Ness

 

The world-famous Loch Ness is the stuff of legends and is situated within the Scottish Highlands, packed with wild mountain scenery, rugged green hills and the tales of old clans.

Cruise along the beautiful lake and find out about the lake’s mythical monster, or take a leisurely walk along the shore.

The more adventurous could take on the challenge of the  South Loch Ness Trail, approximately 28 miles between Loch Tarff near Fort Augustus to Torbreck on the edge of Inverness via Whitebridge, Foyers, Inverfarigaig and Dores.

 

3. Urquhart Castle

The fairy tale Urquhart Castle sits on a headland overlooking Loch Ness.

The castle dates back to the 13th century and played a dramatic role in the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century.

It was subsequently held as a royal castle but continued to suffer many battles before falling into decay.

However, it is now one of the most-visited castles in Scotland and is a breath taking sight to behold.

 

4. The Whisky Experience at Glengoyne Whisky Distillery

 

Have a whisky experience like no other at the Glengoyne Distillery.

Glengoyne is a distillery with pretty whitewashed walls and pagoda roof nestling into the bottom of Dumgoyne Hill.

It is a happy, thriving business and home to tenth generation distillers with the knowledge and methods passed to them by their forefathers.

It offers fascinating and  in-depth visits to whisky experts and beginners alike and makes it an utterly fun experience.

 

5. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay New Year celebrations

 

Last but not least, be part of Scotland’s famous Hogmanay New Year celebrations, a must experience to behold in your lifetime!

Let the good times roll as Edinburgh puts on the world’s biggest party festivals, full of awesome entertainment, exciting rides and cool bands!

Visit Winter Wonderland and skate on the ice rink, enjoy the cool bars & clubs or take to the streets & soak up the awesome atmosphere & fireworks!

 

 

Legendary Locations for Game of Thrones!

The excellent award winning HBO production Game of Thrones has now become a phenomenal worldwide success! This is partly to do with some of the most extraordinary film locations and set pieces that have both amazed and moved an audience crying out for some truly outstanding escapism.

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These extraordinary film locations include Northern Ireland, with extensive filming along the stunning Causeway Coast and Glens.

 

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Stunning Causeway Coast

The Giant’s Causeway, renowned for its thousands of interlocking hexagonal basalt columns, was created by cooling lava bursting from a volcanic eruption some 60 million years ago. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is steeped in myth and legend, especially about the mighty giant, Finn McCool. It’s setting within a dramatic coastal landscape rugged cliffs and magnificent views make it perfect for Game of Thrones.

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Giant’ causeway

 

Northern Ireland is not the only amazing film location, the enchanting walled town of Dubrovnik, Croatia is also used for many scenes.

 

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

 

Dubrovnik is used for the many scenes depicting King’s Landing – home to the Crown and where the legendary Iron Throne can be found. It has also been described as ‘paradise on earth’ by George Bernard Shaw so it is easy to see why this beautiful place was chosen as a location.

 

Dubrovnik is not the only warm country to be featured in Game of Thrones, Malta has also had it’s share of fantastical scenes.

 

Malta

Malta

 

Malta is a medieval masterpiece and proved an ideal backdrop for the Seven Kingdom’s capital of King’s Landing during the first series !

On a colder front, Iceland made an excellent choice for some of the Game of Thrones ‘North of the Wall’ scenes.

 The Godafoss in Iceland

The Godafoss in Iceland

 

The beautiful Lake Myvatn with its outstanding and magical landscapes was the perfect backdrop for scenes ‘beyond the Wall’ and where the  White Walkers may roam! The area offers a vast spectrum of geological formations and the intense geothermal activity produces mud pools and spectacular coloured deposits. The Godafoss, also known as ‘The Waterfall of the Gods’, is a spectaculat sight to behold, and only reinforces why this magnificent area was the location of choice.

 

So there you have it, just a glimpse of some of the truly amazing locations that the makers of Game of Thrones have used to fuel our imaginations and secure a place in outstanding television Cinematography history.

St. Patrick’s Day party in Ireland!

 

There is nothing better than the beautiful Emerald Isle to make your wishes come true!!

Even better is the fact that the Irish know how to party – big time! Be a part of the ultimate St. Patrick’s Day party in Dublin and rub shoulders with locals and travellers alike – thousands take to the streets to celebrate Ireland’s patron saint with their biggest annual party. Spend an epic day in the city packed with Irish culture & tradition, singing and dancing.

 Alternatively, spend the summer in this glorious land. The sights and scenery will take your breath away while the many pubs and restaurants will cater for your fun side and enable you to try out the best traditional Irish food and drink.

For a more mythical journey try visiting some of their wonderful old pubs where you might catch some good old story-telling reflecting some of Ireland’s myths, beliefs and folklore!

If that’s not convinced you, bear in mind that Ireland may be small, but the Guinness, excellent music and craic sure make up for it !

 

Contiki Holidays – an excellent choice for young adventure seekers!

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Do you seek adventure and have a hankering for all things British?

Want to explore the amazing sights and sounds of England, Scotland and Wales?

Does the thought of Ireland make you want to leave everything and go there now?

Well look no further as Contiki tours has one of the widest choices available, from quick breaks to epic journeys, Contiki trips cover the world from all angles for 18-35 year old adventure seekers!

From Contiki tours Europe to Contiki tours UK, you cannot fail to find something especially for you.

Contiki tours UK combines the most picturesque countries in Europe – England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

From short and date specific tours such as ‘St. Patrick’s Day (Ends in London)’ 4 day tour to more extensive tours such as their ‘Great Britain & Ireland (Ends in London)’ 16 day tour, Contiki holidays has the adventure you are looking for.

 

Contiki tours also offer an amazing ‘England & Scotland’ 9 day tour which can either end in Glasgow or London. This tour has the lot and includes a whirlwind of sightseeing, amazing medieval history & culture , and of course legends – watch out for the Loch Ness monster. 

What’s more, although there are some cheap places to stay in the UK, Contiki trips also offer a way of extending your stay with their ‘London Explorer (2 nights) (Imperial Hotel, Ends in London)’ short tour. It’s more like a  self-guided package which you can add onto your other Contiki holidays. Having said that, there are Contiki tours UK Representatives in central London  on hand to help you out with sightseeing info and tips on getting around. There are also plenty of day trips from London to choose from if you want to go further afield.

 

You can book a Contiki tour plus all Contiki  tours Europe with BIG SAVINGS all year round. Book with Global Coach Tours and they will give you an extra 8% DISCOUNT off most Contiki tour prices listed on their website that are 8 days or longer.

This is additional to other Contiki savings, including group savings when 4 or more friends book together and last minute deals – wow!

Book a Contiki holiday for the most amazing experience of  your life and the best holiday deal to match!!

Spending Two Nights With Queen Elizabeth

Prince Philip need not worry. My wife Sue and I celebrated  our 13th wedding anniversary with a two night short break aboard the Cunard ship Queen Elizabeth. It is one of Cunard’s most recent and elegant ships with traditional accents.

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Setting sail from Southampton we were reminded of our last Cunard cruise in 2009 when we crossed the Atlantic to the USA and Canada for a five month extended visit. That time we were accompanied by our labradoodle Coco. You can see her on board the Queen Mary in this short clip.

Our voyage this time took us eastwards to the port of Zeebrugge.

We took the courtesy shuttles to the Belgian seaside town of Blankenberge. There we found markets selling large sausages, cafes with green straw frogs and chocolate shops galore. There were shoe shops where multi coloured shoes seem to be the current fashion flavour. The seafront and beach was well tendered, lined with cafes and restaurants.

Blankenberge beach

Blankenberge beach

We were very tempted to explore more of this part of Europe. You can only see a little part of the coastal areas when on an ocean cruise, whereas on a coach tour you would see much more of the interior. A suitable tour might be Best of Holland Belgium and Luxembourg by Trafalgar Tours or Country Roads of Belgium Luxembourg & the Netherlands with Insight Vacations. On these tours you go to the heart of many towns as an overnight guest. A visit to the town of Bruges is included in coach tours, whereas as cruise ship guest may pay at least £80 per person for a guided day shore excursion.

The Britannia Restaurant on board Queen Elizabeth

The Britannia Restaurant on board Queen Elizabeth

Geoff and Sue Monk

Geoff and Sue Monk

If you would like to book a cruise aboard this or any other Cunard ship or of course a coach tour, please get in touch with us.

Another cruise ship in Southampton

Another cruise ship in Southampton – can you name it?

10 things to do and see in Paris on Valentines Day!

 FRANCE’S GLITTERING CAPITAL! SEE WHAT YOU CAN DO IN THIS MOST ROMANTIC OF CITIES ON VALENTINES DAY!

 

 

PARIS ILLUMINATIONS

Visit Paris by night in an open-top bus, discover the main monuments of Paris illuminated and listen to a commentary about the history of Paris.

 

 MONTMARTRE

Have an  entertaining evening in the Bohemian Montmartre area. Stroll by the Place du Tertre, famous for the artists painting outdoors, have an enjoyable dinner in a typical restaurant with musical atmosphere.

THE LOUVRE MUSEUM

The Louvre – the biggest and best known museum in the world was once the palace of kings. Follow the  sumptuous maze of galleries to see the main attractions including Venus de Milo, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece – the ‘Mona Lisa‘, and the State Apartments decorated in the style of Emperor Napoleon III.

 

THE MOULIN ROUGE

Spend an evening at the Moulin Rouge cabaret. Dine from the “Mistinguette” menu, and watch the famous “Feerie” show with Champagne.

A TYPICAL PARISIAN LUNCH

Visit a typical French cafe and simply relax as you watch the world go by. Enjoy your delicious lunch served with a wine or two.

  

 DISNEYLAND

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Experience the sheer joy and excitement that is Disneyland Paris!

 

NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL

Don’t miss the majestic Notre Dame Cathedral which is particularly a feast for the eyes at Christmas time.

EIFFEL TOWER

Eiffel tower at night

Eiffel tower at night

 See the wonderfully imposing Eiffel Tower – a truly magnificent sight!

CHAMPS ELYSEES

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 ARC DE TRIOMPHE

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Take a walk down one of the most famous streets in the world, the The Avenue des Champs-Élysées. With its luxury shops, cafés full of delicious food, cinemas and  beautifully styled horse-chestnut trees, there is no better way to spend an afternoon. At the western end of the Champs-Élysées, you will find the world famous monument, the Arc de Triomphe to feast your eyes on and explore.

Global Travel with Trafalgar Tours

Trafalgar
Offering first class independent vacations and escorted tours to almost every continent, Trafalgar tours offers custom constructed itineraries to destinations across the globe. With over 200 itineraries year-round, there is a Trafalgar tour for any globe hopper.
Skirt across the globe with week-long treks across Europe, African safaris and Asian cultural history tours. Explore the Great Barrier reef or indulge in the sights and sounds of the Mediterranean with a tour of Turkey. With guided tours, first-class accommodations and specialty journeys, Trafalgar offers everything you need for the perfect expedition.
Great for students, single travelers and families, these once-in-a-lifetime tours allow you to see the world from the inside. No longer do you have to worry about setting up airfare, hotel and sightseeing bookings on your own. With all-inclusive packages, you simply pay one price and go. If cruising is your pleasure, take a river cruise to one of hundreds of exotic ports across the world.
Traveling is an experience that will change your life. With knowledgeable tour guides that will help you navigate the globe, you will enjoy all the earth has to offer. Go diving in the crystal waters of the Caribbean, or explore ancient ruins in Mexico. See the sights of Paris in springtime or take a ride in the canals of Venice. Cruise around Alaska and see glaciers, whales and elk.
With a custom tour created just for your tastes, you will enjoy seeing the globe in grand fashion.
Book your next journey with Trafalgar tours today.

Celebrate National Bike Week with Explore!

Celebrate National Bike Week with Explore!

 In 1923, the very first Bike Week was held in the UK and a tradition was born. The annual event is nearly a century old and is religiously observed in Europe and now recently in North America.

To celebrate the 90th National Bike Week starting on Saturday 15  June, adventure travel experts Explore are offering up to £200 off select cycle tours. With routes to suit all abilities, from the competitive cyclist to the casual bike rider, be inspired by the biggest cycling event in Britain and grab one of the following deals before 30 June 2013.

Cycling Basque Country

With its coastline of towering cliffs, rugged rocks and sandy bays, the southern region of France is the ideal destination to explore by bike. For those short on time, Cycling Basque Country takes customers on an eight day adventure through pastoral green valleys dotted with white timber frame houses, and climbs the Pyrenean foothills to the Spanish border. Search for delicious French cuisine in the ham capital Bayonne and visit the chocolate museum in Biarritz. Departing on 31 August 2013, this cycle tour starts from £871 per person (was £971) including return train; seven nights hotel with breakfast; 21 gear hybrid bike hire; and the services of a tour leader. This tour includes cycling 255 km over six days and has been graded as moderate to challenging.

Vineyards and Steppes

For those interested in combining cycling with wine tasting, Vineyards and Steppes is a 10 day tour cycling along the acclaimed Mur River towpath, through Central Europe’s finest wine growing region. From Graz in Austria, ride through vineyard-laden valleys, grassy plains and the foothills of ancient volcanoes into Slovenia. Passing fine architecture, customers reach the vast Lake Balaton – ‘Hungary’s Inland Sea’ – and explore historic Budapest. Departing on 28 June 2013, this tour costs from £1,157 per person (was £1,257) including return flights; nine night’s hotel with breakfast; 21 gear hybrid bike hire; and the services of a tour leader and cycle guides. This tour involves cycling 330 km over eight days and has been graded as moderate.

Cycle Nicaragua to the Panama Canal

Further afield, Cycle Nicaragua to the Panama Canal takes customers through some of the most beautiful scenery in Central America. Ride past smoking volcanoes, through cloud forest, around national parks, past lakes and along the Panama Canal. En route, visit the volcanic island of Ometepe and the tropical islands of Bocas del Toro for a little relaxation. Departing 2 November 2013, this 14 day cycle tour starts from £2,282 per person (was £2498) including return flights; 13 nights hotel bed and breakfast; 24 gear hybrid bike hire; and the services of a tour leader. This tour includes cycling 472km over eleven days and has been graded as moderate to challenging.

Tour of the Thunder Dragon

Or, for something truly unique, don’t miss the brand new Tour of the Thunder Dragon. Once a year Bhutan is host to one of the world’s toughest one day cycling races. Crossing four high passes and covering a distance of 268km the race ends in the capital Thimpu. This tour gives customers the chance to be there, welcoming the tired riders at the finish line. After visiting the Tigers Nest Monastery in Paro, customers will take their bikes and cycle across the country to the beautiful Bumthang Valley, along the way following sections of the race route and visiting some of Bhutan’s imposing Dzongs. Cycle up and over Dochu La (3110m), Pele La (3400m) and Yutong La passes (3400m), and enjoy a walking tour of the old city and excursion to Pashupatinath. There’s also an option to fly over the Himalaya. Departing on 24 August 2013, this NEW 17-day tour starts from £3,647 per person (was £3,847) including return flights; 16 nights hotel on a bed and breakfast basis; most meals; a 21 gear Trek 4300 mountain bike hire with front suspension, and a support vehicle; and the services of a tour leader, drivers and local guides. This tour includes cycling a total of 346km over five days, and has been graded as tough.

Please note: Offers ends 30 June 2013.