Tipping guidelines in Britain!

DerDani / Pixabay

Tipping has become increasingly widespread in all areas of the service industry, particularly in restaurants, cafes, bars and taxis worldwide.

The UK is no different, but knowing when to tip and how much can be confusing.

See below for some tipping guidelines when visiting Britain:

 

Restaurants

In British restaurants where you place your order with a waiter or waitress at your table, it is common to tip around 10%.

This can be done by either leaving a cash tip after paying the bill or adding an amount to your total bill if paying by credit card.

In some restaurants, a service charge of 10% – 12.5% is added to the bill, and this should be noted clearly on the menu.

Do not leave a tip if you are not happy with the service.

Birte / Pixabay

 

Cafes and Coffee Shops

Similar to a restaurant, if you receive waitress service in a British cafe or coffee shop at your table, a tip of 10% would be appropriate.

In coffee shops, such as Starbucks or Costa, there may be a tip jar on the counter, but very few customers offer tips as you usually collect your own order.

In cafes, where you collect your food, place it on a tray and pay at the end counter, there is no need for a tip.

 

Unsplash / Pixabay

Bars and Pubs

You do not usually tip barmaids or bartenders in British pubs and bars.

However,  you can offer to buy them a drink if you have had great service or are on friendly terms.

Generally though, tips are not expected.

 

 

tookapic / Pixabay

 

Taxis

It is not a requirement to tip in taxis, but most people round up the fare to the nearest £1 as a polite gesture.

If a minicab driver helps with your luggage on a longer journey or from an airport, you may want to tip a little more.

If taking a black cab or licensed minicab in London, a 10% tip is the average amount, although not a requirement.

 

Takeaway Food

When picking up food from a British takeaway restaurant, tipping is not required.

If your food is delivered to your hotel or apartment, although not required, tipping the delivery driver with the change or £1 would be a polite gesture.

 

Hans / Pixabay

 

Hotels

In Britain, if a porter takes your bags to your room, a £2 cash tip is reasonable.

Tipping for food and drinks being brought to your room is at your discretion.

Again, leaving a tip for your chambermaid is at your discretion, but not a requirement.

Coach Tours and Guides

Tips are not included in the price of most tours.

However, it is customary to show gratitude to your tour director and driver for a satisfactory service.

CIE Tours recommend below the minimum amount Per person per day:

Driver/Guide (1 person crew) £5
Tour Director (part of 2 person crew) £3
Driver (part of 2 person crew) £3
Guide for walking or city tour £1
Driver for chauffeur vehicle £12

 

SolotravelTop1

Tips for Travelling to Britain and Ireland!

Unsplash / Pixabay

hbieser / Pixabay

Travelling to Britain and Ireland has become an attractive option for many people since Brexit.

The low British Pound and Euro has made the exchange rates very favourable indeed for those travelling from abroad.

Some may not be quite sure what to expect so see some handy tips below for when visiting Britain and Ireland:

 

chafleks / Pixabay

Coach Tours

CIECoach750

Depending on what coach tour company you travel with, on average, most British and Irish tours have around 40 passengers but can hold a maximum of 50 passengers.

Most tours travel during the daytime only. Departures can be early and are often very early on the first day if leaving from London.

 There is rarely any travel longer than 3 hours without a stop for sightseeing or a break. Tours are all planned and well paced to maximize sightseeing.

Most coaches have restrooms and make frequent rest/bathroom stops, usually at 2-hour intervals or less, for the comfort of all passengers.

The majority of coaches are not accessible for the physically disabled so travellers should be able to get on and off the coach unaided. However, most tour operators allow you may bring a light-weight foldable wheelchair if needed.

Again, depending on the Tour Company, children over a certain age are permitted to travel on coach tours and usually get a discount on non budget holidays.

Hotels on Tour

Olichel / Pixabay

British and Irish hotels usually come in 3 classes – first class (3 star), superior first class (4 star) or deluxe (5 star).

First class tours use these 3 options while budget tours often use hotels away from the centre of towns.

Bedding options are usually a choice of single, twin, double or triple rooms.

You will usually pay a single room supplement for a single room or you can opt for a twin share with another guest of the same gender to save money.

For a twin room you get 2 separate single beds. For a double you get a double bed which is king size or bigger.

If there are three people sharing a room then a triple room will usually have a double and one twin bed.

Most rooms should have TVs and hairdryers plus a shaver outlet in the bathroom.

Check-in times vary between 12:00 noon and 3:00 pm depending on the individual hotel.

 

 Documents Needed

jackmac34 / Pixabay

To enter Britain, a passport valid for the duration of your stay is required, except for EU Nationals holding a valid national ID card.

Visas for the United Kingdom are required by many outside of Europe.

Exceptions include Australian, New Zealand, Malaysian, Singapore, Canadian and US citizens.

 If you are not a citizen of the UK or Ireland, then you will require a passport and possibly a separate visa to visit Ireland.

 

 Currency & Credit cards

Different currency is used in Britain and Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland uses the euro, while in Britain and Northern Ireland the pound sterling is used.

In Ireland there are seven euro notes in denominations of €5 to €500 and eight euro coins used.

In Britain and Northern Ireland pound sterling comes in denominations of £5, £10, £20 and £50 and eight coins including £1 and £2.

High denomination bills are not readily accepted for exchange, even in banks, so it is better to carry smaller denominations.

Major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Britain and Ireland.

American Express and Diners Club cards are less commonly accepted.

It’s always a good idea to use credit cards to avoid carrying large sums of cash.

Advise your bank that you are traveling overseas to ensure that they don’t block your credit cards as this can sometimes happen.

 

 

5 Reasons to Travel to the UK and Europe in 2016/2017!

 

Following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, the pound has fallen to its lowest level in more than 30 years against the dollar, and the euro is not far behind

If you are from the UK, when you travel abroad, your pounds will now buy you fewer euros or dollars, the cost of accommodation and food will rise and your spending money won’t go as far as it did before Brexit.

However, if you are from abroad and want to travel to and tour the UK, things have never been better.

 

1. Exchange Rates.

geralt / Pixabay

The immediate effect after the Brexit vote is that it’s a good time for American travellers to tour Britain and Europe.

This is of course due the the exchange rates and the falling pound and Euro.

 

2. Price Cuts.

bykst / Pixabay

The American dollar is about 20% stronger compared to the British pound at the moment, your dollar will also stretch much further in Europe.

That means that nearly everything purchased by Americans visiting the UK will be cheaper. This includes alcohol, food, museums and many tourist attraction and guided tours.

 

 

3. Hotel Rates.

bogitw / Pixabay

The Brexit vote may have an effect on European visitors to the UK which will mean hotels will probably charge less due to lower demand.

Book your hotel now if you are thinking of visiting the UK and pay in full to make sure you get the favourable exchange rate as prices may go up later.

If you have already made a deposit payment, ask the hotel to process your final bill as a new transaction, again, to make sure you get the favourable exchange rate.

 

4. Flight Prices.

iphotocommerce / Pixabay

Airfare rates may also be effected and go up or down depending on where you are travelling from.

For example, people may be put off going to America because of the exchange rate, so airlines will have to reduce prices to fill seats.

On the other hand, according to the ‘Association of British Travel Agents (Abta)’, travellers may face higher air fares  between the UK and the European Union because of all the financial uncertainty caused by Brexit.

 

5. Britain and Europe on Sale.

geralt / Pixabay

Last but not least, Britain and Europe is more or less on sale at the moment due to the weak pound and Euro compared against other currencies.

It may not be good news for the British, but for American tourists, Brexit has provided a fantastic opportunity to visit the usually expensive UK and Europe on the cheap.

Whether you book a flight, hotel or full package coach tour, you will grab a bargain – visiting the UK and Europe from the USA has never been so enticing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 ‘Brexit’ Effects on Travel Plans?

stux / Pixabay

‘Brexit’ refers to the British exit from the European Union, and you may be wondering,  How does this affect my travel plans?

Well, Here’s what we know up to now…

 

1. Impact on travel.

ThePixelman / Pixabay

If you’ve already booked or are planning to book a holiday, Brexit should have no impact on you as a traveller. This is because many of the effects of Brexit won’t happen immediately, the negotiations for the UK’s exit from the EU are expected to take around two years, so no sudden changes.

 

2. UK & Europe borders.

geralt / Pixabay

Travellers with valid passports and the correct visas will be allowed to travel from London to all countries in Europe. Brexit  will not effect visa policies of the Schengen Regions in Europe.

 

3. British passports.

Peggy_Marco / Pixabay

The UK will remain part of the EU as long as it takes to negotiate its exit. For this reason, British passports will remain valid throughout this time, meaning no changes if you are planning to travel to Europe this year or in the next two years at least.

 

4. Excellent exchange rates.

cosmix / Pixabay

 With the UK’s vote to leave the EU came the inevitable effect on the pound, making it weaker against most other world currencies, and the same can be said for the Euro in the coming weeks and months. People travelling and planning to travel to Europe can therefore expect a better exchange rate in the UK and Europe in the foreseeable future.

 

5. Still safe place to visit.

Unsplash / Pixabay

Finally, the UK and Europe is still one of the safest places to travel and Brexit should not put you off following your dreams. Excellent public transport, cultural diversity and amazing experiences to behold are just a few reasons to travel, especially on a guided tour so you know you are in extra safe hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Interesting Places To See In Britain!

 

Britain has some pretty amazing sights to see, but also some very interesting, lesser known tourist attractions.

Hop on a coach tour to find those fascinating places and discover something new.

 

1. Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

Susli / Pixabay

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage can be found in the village of Shottery, about 1 mile west of Stratford-upon-Avon, and very accessible by coach.

Anne Hathaway lived in this building as a child and was the wife of the world famous playwright and poet, William Shakespeare.

The cottage was acquired in 1892 by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and is now open to the public as a museum set in beautiful extensive gardens.

 

 

2. Windermere, Lake District

kimgreenhalgh90 / Pixabay

Visit the outstanding beauty of the Lake District National Park, and be surrounded by the peaceful silence of the misty mountains.

Discover Windermere,  Britain’s largest natural lake, and catch your breath looking over the horizon from a rugged mountain fell.

Explore Windermere Steamboat Museum on a guided tour or indulge in a Windermere Lake Cruise.

Roam the traditional inns and local art galleries, or simply bask in the area which inspired William Wordsworth’s poem, ‘There was a Boy’.

 

3. Feathers Hotel, Ludlow

WolfBlur / Pixabay

The gorgeous medieval market town of Ludlow is a feast for the eyes and  boasts over 500 listed buildings within its area.

Situated within this picturesque market town is the world famous Feathers Hotel, offering the combined uniqueness of a 17th century coaching inn together with a modern day hotel with all its comfortable facilities.

While there, take a guided tour of  Ludlow Castle and St Laurence’s Church, and indulge yourself in the many excellent restaurants and cafes selling local produce.

 

4.Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and the largest in Wales, and apparently ranked sixth in the world in National Geographic’s alternative tourist destinations.

The Wales Millennium Centre is an outstanding arts centre situated in the Cardiff Bay area of Cardiff and hosts live performances of opera, ballet, musicals, dance, comedy and theatre.

 It also has a Visitor Centre together with shops, bars and restaurants to wile away the time whilst on holiday.

 

 

5. Beatles statue at Pier Head, Liverpool

ringo_charlie / Pixabay

Liverpool is the ideal destination to visit and explore on a coach tour.

With its unique attractions, and world class musical heritage, Liverpool has it all.

 The Beatles statue at Pier Head along Liverpool’s Waterfront has entranced visitors since it was created and unveiled in December 2015 to mark the 50 years since The Beatles final public appearance in Liverpool, at The Empire on the 5 December 1965.

It weighs in at 1.2 tonnes and was sculpted by Andrew Edwards who managed to catch the likeness of the Beatles in striking form.

Back-Roads – The Roads Less Travelled!

backroads-logo

 

A fully packaged popular coach tour can really tick all the boxes when deciding on a well deserved break. Sometimes though, a more laid back and intimate experience is what people need, something a bustling coach tour just can’t provide.

Well, there are touring companies out there that can fill that need, companies like Back-Roads Touring who are experts in small group and tailor made touring holidays. With their small group size tours, they offer a unique range of fascinating and leisurely regional tours throughout the UK and Europe.

With Back-Roads Touring, the journey is just as important as the destination, so you get to travel along the beautiful back roads, enjoying spectacular scenery and exploring hidden gems all along the way.

Filipevascar / Pixabay

MonicaVolpin / Pixabay

What’s more, you will also experience specially selected accommodation loaded with charm and home comforts, dine at the local restaurants sitting amongst the locals, meet traditional local producers and mingle with local characters.

This is the Back-Roads Difference!

Maximum Group Size of 18

our-mini-coaches

For most Back-Roads tours there is a maximum of 18 passengers, which allows the professional tour leaders to offer a more personalised experience.

This in turn enables more attention given to the interests of individuals, flexible touring days and a less obtrusive style of touring.

Less people means more intimate hotels and restaurants with local charm and character can be selected.

 

Scenic Back-Roads not Freeways

blueeve / Pixabay

Back-Roads Touring mini-coaches may be smaller but they are also are extremely comfortable.

Unlike larger motor coaches, their smaller size allows them to travel along smaller local roads and across breath-taking mountain passes to find charming villages and picturesque vistas.

They also usually drive into the centre of tiny villages and towns to park beside charming accommodation and intimate local restaurants.

 

Authentic Local Experiences

condesign / Pixabay

With Back-Roads Touring you will be shown the heart and soul of a nation with their Authentic Local Experiences.

You’ll really get to know the people, customs and history of a region in depth by enjoying intimate concerts and seeing demonstrations by local producers and tradesmen.

You’ll also get exclusive access to private tours of country houses and gardens, as well as being able to explore towns and villages that aren’t on the tourist trail.

Leisurely Paced Itineraries

Unsplash / Pixabay

A lot of other tours can start their days early and finish late, but not Back-Roads Touring.

Most days begin around 9 am and itineraries are carefully planned to avoid cramming too much into a day, as well as keeping long drives to a minimum.

Discoveries can be made at a more leisurely pace with time to socialise or delve deeper into attractions on your own.

 

Charming Accommodation

endamac / Pixabay

Accommodation is carefully selected to always reflect the character and charm of the destination you are staying in.

Whether an old country estate, traditional villa or castle hotel, the accommodation will be situated in a stunning setting or have interesting historical and architectural heritage.

Others may be chosen for their owner-hosted welcome or excellent food, with guaranteed quality and comfort a given.

Culinary Experiences

shaendle / Pixabay

Back-Roads Touring makes sure tasting the local cuisine is an important part of any holiday, and ensures that particular emphasis is placed on food and drink whilst on tour.

Their included Culinary Experiences enable you to enjoy truly authentic cuisine at iconic restaurants run by award-winning chefs.

You’ll also be able to enjoy cooking classes using regional ingredients and visit local farms and wine tastings.

Celebrating Easter Around the World!

easter-1247650_960_720

Wow – Easter is nearly upon us again so why not find out how Easter is celebrated all over the world.

flag-1247207_960_720

In Britain, a lot of Churches hold special Good Friday services. Congregations are sometimes led to the church by a person carrying a large wooden cross in respects to that Jesus died on a cross on Good Friday.

Many people go to Church on Palm Sunday to celebrate Easter, and often receive a small cross made of palm leaves which have been blessed.

A famous British Easter tradition is the giving out of ‘Maundy Money’ by the Queen on Maundy Thursday, by giving little purses of money to a few chosen men and women. Past tradition included reigning monarchs washing the feet of the poor to remember that Jesus washed his disciples feet before the Last Supper.

Decorating Easter Eggs is a common tradition in Britain. Henry VIII was the first person in Britain to receive an official Easter Egg from the Pope!

In York, traditional Passion Plays are still performed for the public in the Old English language as they were first performed during medieval times.

Britain also likes to indulge in many unusual sports. From pancake races and barrel kicking matches, to egg-rolling competitions!

 

spain-28530_960_720

In France, Church Bells do not ring on Good Friday or Easter Saturday.

Boxwood branches are sometimes used instead of palm leaves and put over doors in houses to bring good luck to the people in the house.

A few Easter games are played in France including Easter egg hunts. Another game is where children each take a raw egg and roll them down a hill (simulating the stone rolling from Jesus’ tomb), the child whose egg travels the farthest without breaking is the winner.

 

germany-31017_960_720

In Germany, the Priest sometimes rides to the Palm Sunday service on a Donkey!

In the weeks before Easter, Germany gets ready for a new season by displaying spring flowers on traditional “Easter trees.

The custom of boiling and painting eggs began in Germany; the bright colors represent sunlight and growth, the symbols of new life.

On Easter Saturday evening, Easter bonfires will be lit in the north of Germany, chasing away the dark spirits of winter and welcoming the warm spring season.

spain-28530_960_720

Easter is treated as a very important celebration in Spain, with the whole of Holy Week often being a holiday.

On Ash Wednesday, as a way of saying sorry to God, people have a cross made of ash put on their foreheads.

On Maundy Thursday, there is a special ‘Dance of Death’ performed by men dressed as skeletons in Verges, Gerona.

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting for some, and most people go to mass in the morning on Palm Sunday, .

Many towns and cities in Spain celebrate Easter with processions using highly decorated floats through the streets at night.

In southern Spain, the processions are often accompanied by drums being beaten by the local boys. The most famous and biggest processions are held in Seville.

flag-24134_960_720

On Easter Day in Italy, the Pope conducts a very large Mass Service in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican City.

The service is broadcast all over the world and is seen as a place of Pilgrimage to Catholics.

Olive Branches are often used instead of Palm leaves in the Palm Sunday services and celebrations, .

In Venice, there is a big Mardi Gras festival at the start of Lent.

On Good Friday, more than 2,000 friars dressed in ancient costumes walk through the streets of Enna, in Sicily.

Significant Changes to Visitor Visas for Chinese Tourists!

Quick, new press release – PM announces significant changes to visitor visas for Chinese tourists!

family-562731_640

This is good news for both the people of China and the UK.

United kingdom fingerprint flag.

United kingdom fingerprint flag.

 

China fingerprint flag.

China fingerprint flag.

The following information can now be found on the GOV.UK website:

 

“From 2016, new visitor visas for tourists from China will be valid in the UK for 2 years, bringing significant benefits to the UK economy.

  • Extension of standard visitor visas from 6 months to 2 years multiple entry and plans to introduce a new 10 year multiple entry visit visa for the same price
  • Mobile fingerprinting service to be extended to an additional 50 cities to make it easier to apply for a visa
  • Part of government’s ambition to strengthen UK-China relations for the benefit of the whole of Britain

 

The standard 6 month UK visitor visa currently costs £85. The new 2 year visitor visa and the 10 year visitor visa, when it is introduced, will cost the same as the standard visitor visa no matter how visits are made.”

 

This is on top of improvements the government has already made to the visa service for Chinese applications, see below what has already been improved:

 

  • “Extending the reach of our popular on-demand mobile visa service in the country. This service allows customers the convenience of providing their biometric data at one of 17 locations of their choice rather than being required to travel to a visa application centre.
  • Offering 2, 5 and 10 year visas to Chinese customers who travel frequently to the UK, including business visitors. In 2014 there was a 20% growth in demand for these visas.
  • Upgrading our 12 visa application centres and offering out of working hours appointments.
  • Extending our 3 to 5 day priority service.
  • Introducing the passport pass-back service, allowing customers to apply for the UK and Schengen visa at the same time.
  • The launch of a new online application form, with fewer questions, translated guidance and giving the option of pre-populating a Schengen form at the same time.
  • Offering Premium service lounges in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou visa application centres, reducing waiting times for applicants and offering personalised assistance at every stage.
  • Developing a dedicated team based in the British Embassy in Beijing which supports business, tourism and education sectors with their visa needs.
  • Reducing documentary requirements for the Chinese government-endorsed Approved Destination Scheme (ADS) for Chinese tour groups and repeat travellers.
  • In June 2015 the UK and Belgian governments announced a new pilot scheme to further streamline visa application processes for Chinese visitors to the UK, Belgium and the wider Schengen area. Under the new UK-Belgian Visitor Service, Chinese customers are able to submit visa applications for both countries during a single visit to a UK visa application centre (VAC). The new scheme means visitors from China are able to obtain a visa for both the UK and the Schengen area – of which the UK is not a part – without having to visit 2 different application centres.”

 

Visiting Britain will now be easier than ever for the people of China, which will only go towards making British shores a very attractive place to come.

VisitBritain is the name used by the British Tourist Authority to promote everything British and their website is getting more and more popular.

The Chancellor launched the next phase of VisitBritain’s ‘Culture is GREAT campaign’ in China to promote memorable moments visitors can only get in Britain. The campaign will invite Chinese visitors to create, share and upload images of their own experiences.

Catch that image!

Catch that image!

Known in China as ‘Enjoy the GREAT fun times in Britain,’ these images will be shared globally by VisitBritain to inspire fellow travellers to come and experience all that is GREAT about Britain.

The £1.3 million social media campaign aims to reach more than 100 million people.

 The campaign aims to reach more than 100 million people.

The campaign aims to reach more than 100 million people.

While we wait for these much anticipated images, take a look below for some truly amazing sights to see in Britain.

(Photos supplied by diego_torres at Pixabay)

 

Amazing panorama of London.

Amazing panorama of London.

 

Windsor Castle is a royal residence at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire.

Windsor Castle is a royal residence at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire.

 

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in Wiltshire, England, about 2 miles west of Amesbury and 8 miles north of Salisbury.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in Wiltshire, England, about 2 miles west of Amesbury and 8 miles north of Salisbury.

 

Bodiam Castle is a 14th-century moated castle near Robertsbridge in East Sussex, England.

Bodiam Castle is a 14th-century moated castle near Robertsbridge in East Sussex, England.

 

Portsmouth is the second largest city in the ceremonial county of Hampshire on the south coast of England.

Portsmouth is the second largest city in the ceremonial county of Hampshire on the south coast of England.

 

Oxford, in central southern England, revolves around its prestigious university, established in the 12th century

Oxford, in central southern England, revolves around its prestigious university, established in the 12th century.

 

Brighton, The Royal Pavilion at Night.

Brighton, The Royal Pavilion at Night.

Magical Medieval Britain!

The history of Britain is one of the most fascinating and exciting topics to behold. We’ve had the Roman conquest of Britain, Viking invasions and the Norman conquest of England led by Williams the Conqueror. This eventually led to the Plantagenet dynasty which held the English throne from 1154 with Henry II until 1485 with the death of Richard III. It is this medieval period that captivates me the most.

 

Plantagenet

One of the Plantagenet coat of arms

 

 

Take the medieval city of York for example.

The city is rich with Roman artifacts but York only started to prosper in the 12th century. For example, the magnificent Minster that you can see today was  first constructed in the Norman style in 1080. It was remodelled and additions were added until 1472 when it was declared complete and consecrated.

Interestingly, although the original walls that encircle the city were built by the Romans, the remaining walls that can be seen today and which surround the entire city, were constructed between the 12 and 14 century. 

 

city-walls-164825_1280

Part of the York city walls.

 

 Cambridge is another fine example of medieval heritage.

Cambridge is most famous for its University which ranks as the top university in the UK and fifth top university in the world.

Founded in 1209, Cambridge is the world’s fourth-oldest surviving university with Peterhouse College, built in 1284, being the first and oldest still in existence.

One of the most beautiful and famous buildings in Cambridge, King’s College Chapel, first began construction in 1446 by King Henry VI and was completed  during Henry VIII’s reign.

Interestingly, the University of Cambridge grew from scholars leaving the University of Oxford due to disagreements. The two ancient universities therefore share many common characteristics and are often referred to as “Oxbridge”.

 

 

cambridge-449209_1280 (1)

Ancient architecture at Cambridge.

 

The University of Oxford can boast being the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and as stated before, the University of Cambridge grew out of its existence.

The Oxford University is first mentioned in 12th-century records and its first colleges were University College (1249), Balliol (1263) and Merton (1264).

Interestingly, the Oxford Martyrs, Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer, and Nicholas Ridley, were all Cambridge University men. They were tried for treason and heresy in 1555 after the accession of the the Roman Catholic Mary I, and subsequently burnt at the stake!

 

oxford-315985_1280

Oxford’s famous courtyard.

 

Stratford-upon-Avon is another ancient town which developed during the medieval period and was granted a town in 1196, making it over 800 years old!

Stratford was made famous as being the the birthplace of William Shakespeare, the playwright and poet often regarded as the world’s greatest playwright of all.

The first works of Shakespeare that were recorded are Richard III and the three parts of Henry VI. These were written in the early 1590’s and reflect  a fashion for historical drama at the time.

 

william-shakespeare-67767_1280

The above fine examples of British history are only the tip of the iceberg, but are a fascinating taster to what could be explored. 

Valentines Day – past & Present!

SONY DSC

 

St Valentine is a name we all recognize as a symbol of love and romance. We even have a day on February 14 named after it and, giving us a good excuse to express our most romantic side by showering our loved ones with cards and gifts. Valentines day can be a way to show our true love towards those most precious to us, but what are its origins and has it always been this way?

DSCN6004

St Valentines day links back to Christianity and martyrdom. Many early Christian martyrs were named Valentine and were subsequently honoured the customary public worship on various dates  by various  Christian denominations. The Valentines honoured on February 14 are Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni, with another St Valentine mentioned by the Catholic Church who was martyred in Africa.

file0001492013694

The legend of Saint Valentine of Rome is perhaps the most popular account of why love and romance is associated with St Valentines Day on February 14. The story goes that the Roman Emperor Claudius II banned marriage so that there were plenty of unattached young men available to fight as soldiers. Valentine of Rome fought against this and the general persecution of Christians under the Roman Empire by performing secret marriage ceremonies. When eventually found out, Valentine was imprisoned  but managed to heal his Jailer’s blind daughter who frequently visited him. It is said that he wrote her a letter before his execution and signed it “Your Valentine”, a statement still used today on valentine cards sent from admirers around the world!

file0001913572691

The celebrating of Valentines day evolved over time and the giving and receiving of gifts and cards originated in Britain in the late 18th and early 19th century!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the late 184o’s, Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts sold this British  idea to the United States after receiving a card from an English admirer. She took inspiration from his fanciful card and began importing  floral decorations, ribbon and paper lace from England to begin the first mass-produced valentines cards. The famous American company card makers, Hallmark,  first began producing Valentine’s Day cards in 1916 and Hallmark Card Statistics estimate that 144 million cards were sent in 2013 alone, coming only second to Christmas cards sent!!

 

valentine_vintage (1)

 

 

‘Love Locks’ are a new phenomena that are quickly becoming popular around the world to express ones love! Couples usually secure a padlock bearing their names along a bridge or similar spot and throw away the key. They are thought to have  originated in Hungary and are supposed to represent hearts locking together in eternal and everlasting love!

 

file0001907865298

 

Valentine’s Day gifts have even evolved further and short breaks and holidays have now been introduced to celebrate this most romantic of days. Valentine’s Day is just round the corner so what better way to celebrate your undying love for someone than by sharing some of the most beautiful and romantic destinations with them, and create wonderful memories which will last a lifetime!

Raz