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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Top 5 Theme Parks of Orlando

A trip to Florida is not complete without a thorough experience of its vibrant theme parks. After all, they call Orlando, the theme park capital of the world for a reason! Be it adrenaline-fuelled rides, a tempting watery experience, a delicious tryst with speed, an amazing multi dimensional world, animals, tropical experience, education through lots of fun and so much more, I don’t think any place can match the theme park experience of Orlando.

As the summer holidays are here, the theme parks of Orlando make for a fantastic family getaway. If you are planning a trip to Sunny Florida, here are my choice of top 5 theme parks from Orlando. Hopefully, this will help you plan on where you should spend your hard-earned money for a special Orlando holiday.

1) Universal Orlando Islands of Adventure

Incredible Hulk Coaster - Universal Orlando Islands of Adventure

If you are a Harry Potter lover, this theme park is for you. The Universal Orlando Islands of Adventure is home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Amazing Adventures of Spider Man, Marvel Super Hero Island and many more such mini worlds where you can interact with your favorite characters. You could wander through the world of Hogwarts, ride past dinosaurs, get wet in Toon Lagoon, fly over your super heroes and experience the epic adventures of the Lost Continent.  The newest rides that are worth indulging in are the Dragon Challenge, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and the Flight of the HippoGriff. Just keep an eye out for deals on Universal Studios resort tickets to make the most out of this amazing theme park.

2) Magic Kingdom Park

Cinderella Castle - Disney Magic Kingdom

One of the earliest of Walt Disney’s theme parks, the Magic Kingdom is the place where you can come in close contact with your favorite characters from Donald to Goofy and from Jack Sparrow to Cinderella. But, that’s not it, this is the place for diversity in joy. From the fantasyland of Cinderella castle to interactive haunted mansion, from the classic Jungle Cruise to the stage shows of Mickey’s Philhar Magic and from the slow ride of Peter Pan’s flight to the thrilling faster rides of the Barnstormer and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the Magic Kingdom is bound to delight children of all ages.

3) Aquatica Orlando

Dolphin Plunge - Aquatica Orlando

Aquatica Orlando is an aquarium, zoo, water park and amusement park all rolled into one. From the incredible Dolphin Plunge to the Omaka Rocka water slide and from the wave pools of Cutback Cove and Big Surf Shores to the wacky Tassie’s Twister rides, the Aquatica Orlando is 84,000 acres of pure fun. Whether you are relaxing on the white sandy beach, enjoying the luxurious cabanas or giving yourself an adrenaline rush through rapids, half-pipes and bullet-fast water chutes, this is a special theme park to experience in Orlando. 

4) Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park

Expedition Everest - Disney Animal Kingdom

If you want a rich and educational wildlife experience that is so much more than a zoo, then Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the place to go. With more than 2,000 animals across 300 species, Animal Kingdom takes you on an adventure with exotic animals across 6 different themes that include a wild Africa trek, fascinating jungle trails, night time experiences, broadway-style musicals and so much more.

5) Legoland Florida

Legoland Florida Theme Park

While most of the theme parks are designed for slightly older kids, LEGOLAND is perfect for those families with kids who fall in the the 2 and 12 year age group. This interactive theme park offers more than 50 rides, shows and attractions that include a Water Park and newly opened toy line based Heartland city. Do make sure that you indulge yourself in some shopping here and carry some LEGO magic back home with you. The largest LEGOLAND park in the world will surely keep the young kids entranced all throughout.

Note: The photographs in this article have been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the Creative Commons license. Each photograph has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Forest of Dean: Ancient Woodlands of England

The brilliant green of the new beech, the stunning array of colors of the bluebells and daffodils, blossoming in the pear and apple orchards and a myriad of delightful flowers are decorating an ancient region of England this spring and summer. An area that has been inhabited since the Mesolithic times, this amazing forest has seen its fair share of the Romans, the Dark Ages and the Tudor empire. It is England’s first national forest park and one of the United Kingdom’s few remaining ancient forests. This place is the Royal Forest of Dean that is located in the cradle between Wye valley, the Vale of Leadon and the Severn valley.

Severn river - Forest of the Dean view

It is in this very 120 square kilometre ancient woodland that many great artists have found their inspiration. Some key people who were captivated by the mystery and magic of this place are JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien and Dennis Potter. With an unspoilt river, rolling farmland, vineyards, black and white timbered buildings, hilly terrain and gorgeous forests, the Forest of Dean is popularly referred to as the Queen of all Forests in England.

It is one of those places that offers serenity, charm and adventure all year around. And to top it, the surroundings host great events and festivals making it a double thumbs up for holidaymakers.

Kayaking at the Forest of the Dean

From canoeing and fishing in the Wye valley to getting closer to the industrial heritage and history of this forest, from enjoying the local plum to sipping some delightful Perry (Pear-based traditional fermented drink) and from soaking in the stunning view at Symonds Yat Rock to seeing the rare mosses and lichens that grow on these ancient oak trees, the Forest of Dean is full of rare and eye-catching sights and experiences.

River Wye at Dixton

Irrespective of whether you are on a long weekend break from work or a leisure holiday, the Forest of Dean has enough charm to keep you captivated all throughout. Here are some of the special experiences for those considering Forest of Dean Cottage Holidays:

1) Mesmerize yourself with the sight of Scowles – strange landscape features that is unique to the Forest of Dean and thought to be natural geological occurrences exploited in ancient times for open-cast mining activities.

2) Discover evidence of life in the Old Stone age at the King Arthur’s Cave

3) Explore the ruins of 12th century Tintern Abbey, which were the inspiration of Wordsworth’s famous poem.

Chepstow Castle and Bridge from Tutshill

4) Check out Chepstow Castle, the oldest post-Roman fortification surviving in Britain.

5) Indulge in fishing, canoeing, cycling, hiking and caving in the rich woodlands and its two famous rivers (River Severn and River Wye)

6) Enjoy a ride on the ancient steam train from Lydney to Parkend line.

7) Explore the beautiful town of Gloucester that is home to amazing Tudor buildings, a super Gothic cathedral and a historic quayside.

8) Check out JK Rowling’s childhood home at Tutshill.

Stunning view at Symonds Yat Rock Forest of Dean

Whether you are planning on a simple picnic with your family, a relaxed outdoor holiday with your partner or just want some me time, the Forest of Dean through its rich nature, history and culture is bound to have you mesmerized. No wonder the place is immensely popular with TV production crews, movie production crews, fantasy book writers, river surfers, painters, walkers and so many people from different walks of life and with varied interests. Are you planning to go there this Spring-Summer?

Note: The photographs in this article have been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the Creative Commons License. Each photograph has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Top 6 Summer Holidays in Canada

Canada is a dream destination for many! Why should it not be? This second largest country in the world is blessed with the world’s longest coastline, the amazing tundra region, the wonder called Niagara and a whole bunch of diverse and amazingly breath taking landscapes that can blow anyone’s mind away. Be it going on a road trip, taking that gorgeous hike, exploring the wine growing regions, getting close to amazing wildlife like the Polar bears and the beluga whales, there is no better time to plan a holiday to Canada then this summer. From May through August, you can make use of the long hours of daylight and bright sunshine to embark on so many Canadian summer adventures. Here are my favorite 6 experiences for those looking at a Canada holiday this summer.

Get Closer to the Polar Bears and Beluga Whales of Manitoba

Polar Bears at Manitoba, Canada

The wildlife lover in me goes into overdrive mode when he thinks of the mighty creatures called Polar Bears and Beluga Whales. Cometh the summer months and cometh the ideal time to explore the wildlife of the Arctic region of Canada. It is here that polar bears roam amongst the tundra berries and wildflowers. Churchill, dubbed as the polar bear capital is the best place to see these amazing creatures without going too much into the tundra. With fishes migrating to the Hudson bay and the Churchill river estuaries in huge numbers during summer, this is the best place and time to sight the snow white beluga whales who are attracted to this abundant source of food. In addition to these two magnificent wild species, the Manitoba region is also home to stunning flora and fauna that are super active during the summer months.

Experience the Rocky Mountaineer Train Journey

Rocky Mountaineer Train Journey of Canada

Canada’s flagship train journey and one of the most spectacular and unforgettable train experiences in the world, the summer months are possibly the only time to experience this journey. And this train trip is ideal for all those people who want to experience the raw nature of Canada, but who wish to do so from the comforts of a cozy train during the day and the comfortable space of a hotel room in the night. The Rocky Mountaineer will take you from snow capped mountains to canyons and from rivers to glaciers. This luxurious train ride takes you through the natural wonders of Canada’s West, especially the British Columbia and the Alberta regions and gets you to experience the majestic Canadian Rockies like no other. The summer months are also the best time to the top train rides in Canada.

Go Alpine Hiking to Lake O’Hara

Lake O'Hara Alpine Route

A popular ski destination during winters, British Columbia’s Lake O’Hara offers great alpine hiking opportunities in the summer months. Located at an elevation of 6,627 feet deep within the alpine area of Yoho National Park, this region offers spectacular scenery and pristine wilderness. In addition to Lake O’Hara, hikers can also experience other high altitude lakes like Lake Oesa and Opabin lake. If hiking and camping in the remote mountain wilderness is your thing, then this hike has to be in your Canada summer bucket-list.

The Alaska Highway Road Trip

Alaska Highwaya, Canada

If you feel like going on a road trip through some of the remotest and most beautiful terrain on the planet, the Alaska highway is just for you. From Dawson Creek to Delta Junction, this Alaska highway of Canada presents those thrilling roads with sharp curves and spectacular scenery at every turn. The Rocky mountains, the peace river, the coal river, Kluane Lake, Muncho Lake, Iron Creek and many more such natural wonders offer the best road trip experience between British Columbia and Yukon. There is minimal accommodation and facilities enroute and hence be prepared to camp out in the open.

Explore the BackCountry of Banff National Park

Lake Minnewanka - Banff National Park

With the arrival of summer, the subarctic Banff National Park becomes like a backcountry hotspot. Located in the Rocky Mountains, Canada’s oldest national park, offers many stunning attractions that include a 27-hole golf course, ski resorts and plenty of backcountry campgrounds. One can indulge in Nordic skiing, horseback riding, hiking, camping, hiking and wildlife watching here. This part of the Canadian Rockies is home to some amazing creations of Mother Nature. The famous ones include Moraine Lake, Valley of the Ten Peaks, Castle Mountain, Bow River, Lake Louise, Lower Consolation Lake, Two Jack Lake, Mount Rundle, Parker Ridge, Peyto Lakea and Lake Minnewanka.

Go on a Scenic Drive through Icefields Parkway

Peyto Lake of Alberta, Canada

One more summer highlight of the Canadian Rockies, Icefields Parkway is a scenic road in Alberta that traverses the rugged landscape through Banff and Jasper National Park. This scenic route takes you through the gorgeous Columbia Icefield, the Mistaya Canyon, the Parker ridge, the Saskatchewan River crossing, the Sunwapta Falls and the glimmering Peyto lake. Depending on your thirst for adventure, you can explore this route on four wheels, on a motorcycle or on a bicycle. Campgrounds are available all over the route for a true wild experience. However, do watch out for wildlife crossings and for bears near campgrounds.


Note
: The photographs in this article have been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the Creative Commons license. Each photograph has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

TUO: Packing just got Simpler

Travel can be liberating, but it comes with two classic challenges – one is ‘travel planning’ and the other is ‘packing’. While there are a lot of tools to address the world of travel planning, packing for your business trips or holidays is more like an art. You don’t need many things, but you still need to carry those bare essentials. Traveling light is the buzz word, but more often than not, we either end up carrying more or miss out on those things that we need the most.

TUO - Undergarment packing just got simpler

As a frequent traveler (business traveler, leisure traveler and/or light backpack traveler), I need to pack differently for different trips and yet have to make sure that I have everything that I need and that it is packed neatly in my luggage trolley or in my backpack. In spite of going on innumerable trips, I am always on the lookout for products, tools and techniques to make my packing simple, more efficient and convenient. And during one such search, I came across this revolutionary travel undergarment organizer called TUO from the house of Origami Unicorn.



As you can see in the video above, this is a simple product that offers great utility. I have been using it on my last couple of trips and am wondering why I never discovered it earlier as this product totally ups the ante in terms of packing.

TUO - the best travel undergarment organizer

Traditionally, most of us learn the art of packing in our own sweet way after many years of travels, but we still struggle with getting rid of the clutter. Or at least, it is a perennial struggle for me. The clutter could be due to my undergarments, my gym gear, my clothing accessories (ties, socks, pocket squares, belts, etc.), fashion accessories (sunglasses, watches), shaving kit and related accessories and especially dirty laundry.

My Undergarment packing using TUO

Most of us men and women seem to have solved the classic problem of shaving kits, cosmetics, toothbrushes and all that good stuff, but I don’t think we have thought of a great undergarment organizer to make our packing simpler.

TUO - Extremely handy packing tool

And this is where TUO really kicks arse. It is like a packing master for undergarments and other accessories. Here is a quick summary of some of its key features.

1) It is a simple product with amazingly good construction. Depending on the type of my trip, I end up using TUO to store different undergarments and accessories.

2) It has 3 levels of see through mesh zipper pockets that can be rolled into a small bundle. This allows 7 to 10 days of undergarments and accessories to be neatly folded into a tiny corner of my suitcase or backpack.

TUO - easy access to undergarments in your hotel bathroom

3) It has 6 internal elastic pockets where I can store smaller items like handkerchiefs, pocket squares, bandanas, socks, gym gloves and more.

4) As TUO is water resistant and can be hung about almost anywhere, it comes in super handy in the hotel bathroom. Personally, I find it extremely useful in the gym showers where I can use it to carry my gloves, towel, change of clothes and some basic accessories. Or even while going swimming. Due to its tough and water resistant construction, I am sure many of us will find different utilities for it.

Easy to use - TUO Undergrament Packer

5) It’s detachable handles and snap buttons are quite a handy feature that accommodates use in different environments (in hostel bunker beds, in gym locker rooms, in hotel showers, under a hammock or any place where we can hang a little bit of weight).

TUO - Revolutionary innovation in travel packing

6) The feature that I really find useful is the water resistant drawstring mini laundry bag with divider that comes as a part of TUO. Be it carrying my sweaty clothes after a workout, carrying wet clothes after a swim or simply carrying dirty laundry, this mini laundry bag is like a genius innovation. It says bye-bye to ugly looking garbage bags and to shoving our dirty laundry in nooks and corners of our baggage.

TUO fits easily into the suitcase

By know, you would have figured out why I am so excited and gung-ho about this TUO product designed by Origami Unicorn. Whether you are a boy or a girl, a man or a woman, you are bound to find immense value in this product both during the actual packing and during the course of your trip.

TUO - Clutter free and simple tool for undergarment packing

TUO costs $49.50 and it is available in 5 colors and designs that will appeal to both men and women. Do look up their online store in case you are interested in knowing more about them and if you wish to buy one for yourself. 

As I leave you, here is a short video on TUO, travel and packing that is focused towards the female traveler and one that they will appreciate. Enjoy!


Note
: Some of the pictures and all the videos in this post are copyright of Origami Unicorn.

Disclaimer: Origami Unicorn did send me the TUO for my personal use and review, but this article and the review is completely based on my personal travel experiences on using TUO and are not in any way influenced by Origami Unicorn.

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Thailand’s Angthong Archipelago: Beauty Beyond Proportions

Visualize this! Turquoise waters, silver soft sandy beaches with swaying palms, dense green hills, amazing limestone cliffs, panoramic views, amazing inland lakes and rich marine life that is beyond comparison. Each island in this archipelago seems to be a better beach holiday destination than the other if that were physically possible. A marine national park, this archipelago goes by the name of Angthong Marine National park and it is located in the Gulf of Thailand.

Angthong view from Moe Koh Island

This is the kind of place where kids can play with hermit crabs and build sand castles of silver, the elderly can enjoy that pristine tropical beach environment and read a book under the shade of a palm tree, the water babies can indulge in some snorkelling, kayaking, swimming and scuba diving and the land babies can discover these volcanic islands through steep hikes across the limestone cliffs and even indulge in some caving.

Snorkeling at Angthong Marine National Park, Thailand

From the time you arrive at one of these islands of the archipelago to the time you leave it with a heavy heart, this place will give you a feel of paradise. As the lagoon waters around these islands are teeming with life and with the underwater visibility being close to 30 feet, snorkelling is one of the favorite activities to experience at Angthong. The rich coral life, the colorful fishes, the massive school of barracudas or sometimes that elusive shark can all be seen just by floating on the surface.

Tropical Paradise of Moe Koh Island in Angthong Marine National Park, Thailand

And if you go on a scuba diving trip, you will see much more and so much more that most of the time you will end up talking about it. When I was staying at this archipelago, I tried to experience all of its charms. Early morning was time to experience the cliffs, the inland lakes, the birdlife and the steep hikes. Late morning was for snorkelling. Mid day was a nap under the palm trees or a swim in the lagoon, evenings were kayaking to explore the hidden caves under the cliffs and some beach volleyball with other tourists around sunset.

White sands at Angthong's Beaches

This place is not your typical party circuit as there is no nightlife or pubs, but you definitely up the ante with your guitar, a lovely camp fire and a bottle of beer. As the days are fairly activity intensive and since there is not much to do here during the night with the exception of a midnight swim and some camp fire dances, it is best to get some shut eye. And just so you know, there is no electricity after 11 pm so the only light you can see is the light of the moon and the only sound you can hear is the sound of the tiny lapping waves. According to me, this is one of the best charms of staying on this archipelago.

Steep hike that leads to Emerald Lake

Scuba diving trips take place either early in the mornings or late in the afternoons, in which case, you will be away from the island, but you will get to experience it from a different perspective (the underwater one). As there are a lot of diving spots in this vicinity, a lot of travelers prefer live-aboard trips where they dive during the day at the various spots and camp during the night at permissible camp sites.

Limestone rocks galore at Angthong Marine Park

Easily accessible from both Ko Samui and Ko Phangan, the Angthong archipelago is fantastic for both day trippers and for those who seek a more relaxed holiday in this tropical paradise. While most travelers prefer day trips from Ko Samui and Ko Phangan via speed boats, I prefer to stay here at Angthong as it gives you a better feel of this tropical beach paradise.

The natural wonder of Angthong Archipelago

Accommodation is either through basic bungalows (no hot water and no electricity after 11 pm) or through camping in tents. If you can stay away from luxury for a few days, staying on the island allows you to keep the island to yourself during the early morning hours and the late evening hours when the day trippers are not there and it also allows you to simply experience this archipelago at your own easy pace instead of going with tour groups and following the tour itinerary.

View from a typical Angthong limestone cliff hike

If you are planning a holiday to ‘Amazing Thailand’ or if you are looking for tropical beach holiday destinations, Angthong Marine National Park is very much recommended. It’s beauty beyond proportions can either be experienced through a short or a long holiday. You have to see it on your next visit to Thailand.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Keylong: Paradise for Walkers in Lahaul

It is mid April and most of Telangana, Odisha and Karnataka have already hit early to mid 40s in degree Celsius and it is an ordeal just to step out into the sun. As I write this article from Hyderabad (it is 43 degree Celsius here), my mind cannot but wander to the cooler climes of the Himalayas. And one of the places that I absolutely love is Keylong, the headquarters of the Lahaul region of Himachal Pradesh.

Shashur Gompa and the snow capped peaks of Keylong, Himachal Pradesh

I have visited Keylong on three different occasions, the latest one being last late autumn. On each of these short visits, I ended up exploring different parts of this Himalayan valley town that is tucked amidst lovely snow capped peaks. Irrespective of the type of my trip, trekking, motorcycling or plain backpacking, I loved staying in this quaint town. Be it the arduous climb to Shashur Gompa and then relishing the view of the snow capped peaks with a cup of butter tea in my hands or camping at Tandi tantalizingly close to the confluence of the Chandra and the Bhaga rivers, the Keylong experience is special.

Trekking to Shashur Gompa unleashes a riot of colors and views

Even though Keylong is an important location on the famous Manali – Leh highway, many do not opt to spend more than a night here. For some reason which I cannot understand, most visitors do not wish to explore this valley town. Sure, there are lots of exotic and beautiful places near Keylong, but even this valley has so many spectacular walks to indulge in that it definitely deserves a long weekend, if not more.

Panorama from Shashur Gompa, Keylong

Be it the walk to the Kardang monastery on the opposite hill, the walk to the Bhaga river, the walk through the apple orchards, the lazy amble through the local market, the early morning riverside trail walk to Tandi while listening to the chirping of birds, the climb through farms and local houses to Shashur Gompa or the steep walk to Tayul monastery, Keylong has so many different trails that offer a variety of lazy to heart racing walks that can appeal to all kinds of walkers. The best thing is the weather, which is so conducive to walking. The slight nip in the air and the heat generated due to walking are like made for each other.

Rich colors on Shashur Gompa - the oldest monastery in Keylong

And because a lot of travelers do not opt to stay in this town for long, you can enjoy a relaxing holiday here and make this town your very own. Like most high altitude Himalayan towns, Keylong too, enjoys those misty cool mornings, late breakfasts, lazy lunches, vibrant evenings and a bustling hill market.

Bhaga river and the sensational Keylong valley

For those who need to indulge in a variety of activities during their holiday, the Trilokinath temple, the high-altitude Chandra Taal Lake, the gorgeous Rohtang La pass, the Spiti valley and Manali offer great getaways and of course Leh is just a day’s drive away from here.

Majestic Keylong view from Shashur Gompa, Lahaul and Spiti

At about 10,000 feet in the Himalayas, Keylong would be a great place to beat the summer heat. I wish I were there right now far away from this heat wave that seems to have gripped the whole of South and Central India.

Spectacular view of the snow capped peaks around Keylong as seen from Shashur Gompa

How to reach Keylong: Kullu and Leh are the nearest airports. Manali offers the easiest option for road access. Once the Rohtang tunnel is completed, it will be fairly easy to reach Keylong, but till then, one has to cross the beautiful and mighty Rohtang pass to get here. Alternately, one can drive from Kaza if you happen to be traveling from Shimla.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The road to freedom: Great European Summer Road Trips

With big name routes and vast open spaces, America is naturally the first destination that springs to mind for a road trip. With summer fast approaching,the strongest Pound for many years, and excellent and affordable connectivity to the European Continent, though, Europe is a great choice for your next road tour. We've picked three of our favourite European trips - of many fantastic routes across North, East, South and West - from Northern Spain's lush hills and pristine beaches to Norway's Atlantic Road.

Northern Spain and Glitzy Biarritz


Pyrennes Mountains - France and Spain

Spain's unspoilt North Coast has been creeping onto the travel agenda in the last few years, but this summer, this region comes into it's own with San Sebastian crowned joint European Capital of Culture for 2016. Fantastic roads mean that traversing the region is easy and flexible, but our favourite route starts in the far South-Western corner of France, in Europe's surf capital and the holiday resort of Queen Victoria, Biarritz. From here it's only a short drive over the border into Spain, touching the Pyrenees that act as the natural border between the two countries. San Sebastian is the first major stop, notwithstanding the coastline's beautiful beaches and seaside resorts. You can expect world class food in hundreds of eateries across the city's central grid and seafront, where Rio de Janeiro meets Eastbourne. From here, head inland to Pamplona, home of the annual bull run, before tacking West to sleepy Vitoria-Gasteiz, an authentic Spanish town. The last leg is North to Bilbao, a former industrial city that has been transformed since the opening of the Guggenheim Art Gallery on the city's riverfront.

Tuscany: Italy's gift that keeps on giving


Gorgeous view of Florence

There's a bit of everything, scenery-wise, in the Italian region that remains a firm favourite of road-trippers. Start on Italian's Ligurian coast in Pisa (Leaning Tower optional) before heading North and inland to Lucca, Montecatini Terme, and Tuscany's capital, Florence. All three offer culture, history and famous Italian dining- notwithstanding beautiful scenery in-between. From here it's South to precariously-perched hill-town San Gimignano, before stunning Siena. The road South from here offers breathtaking variety, from ancient forest to arid, open plains and even wild, free hot springs at Saturnia.

Norway's Atlantic Road: the modern marvel


Atlantic Ocean Road - Norway

At just over 5 miles, Norway's Atlantic Ocean road might be a more a jaunt than a full-blown road trip, but making this short stretch onto a longer trip makes for a memorable experience. Traversing a remote archipelago, the 1989 road constitutes an architectural marvel, sweeping up, down, and all around, and even catching a few waves itself. Summer really is the optimal time to visit- think long evenings and beautiful sunsets. Norway's reputation for expense can be off-putting, but travelling by car helps keep costs down.

You can take your own car across the continent, and most easily to Spain or France, or you can rent once you're there- just remember to get fully covered including comprehensive excess insurance in case of any problems. Europe's road trip possibilities are endless; and a tantalising proposition for a summer break. Bon voyage, and enjoy!


Photo Credits: All the photographs in this article have been borrowed from wikipedia under the Creative Commons license and each photo has been linked to the original page on wikipedia.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2016

The Sherlock Holmes Investigation

When the first Sherlock Holmes story was published in 1887 (A Study in Scarlet), it took London by storm. It combined cold logic, meticulous observation, forensic science and the now-familiar format of the detective story. Did you know that although Holmes uses fingerprint analysis in his first case, Scotland Yard didn’t introduce the technique until 1901?

Join the experts from the London Pass on a Sherlock Holmes walking tour across central London.

Sherlock Holmes adventured all over London and even in the surrounding home counties. It would take huge amounts of time to visit all of the places mentioned in the books, TV series and films, so we have put together a somewhat shorter itinerary.

221b, Baket St, London

Starting at the iconic 221b Baker Street, the Sherlock Holmes Museum. The first-floor study is said to be a perfect replica of the room Mr Holmes and Dr Watson shared in the late 1800s. Watch out for the house numbers on either side of the museum, which are not in sequence - the number 221b was assigned to the museum in the late 1990s, after a long dispute over who should be dealing with Mr Holmes’ mail. (He still receives over 100 letters a week.)

Walk down Baker St, past the tube station. If you happen to use this station, be sure to watch out for the tiles with a profile of Holmes with a Deerstalker hat and pipe. Holmes also had one of only twenty London Metropolitan locomotives named after him in the 1920s. Some of the other names included Lord Byron, Benjamin Disraeli and Florence Nightingale.

Oxford Street, London

Navigate your way through Oxford St and Regent’s St to the Langham Hotel, the perfect place for afternoon tea. For Sherlock fans, this is a location with plenty of history: it made an appearance in three separate stories (The Sign of Four, A Scandal in Bohemia and The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax). On August 30, 1889, it was also the venue for an extraordinary dinner attended by Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde. The dinner resulted in the publication of The Sign of Four and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Regent Street, London

Continue your walk down Regent’s St towards Piccadilly Circus. In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes and Watson pursue Mortimer and Baskerville along this road. Watch out for the Café Royal, the scene of a fight in The Adventure of the Illustrious Client). Piccadilly Circus itself featured in the opening credits of the BBC’s series Sherlock and part of the ‘Great Game’ episode was filmed here. The Criterion was also the place where Dr Watson first heard of the great detective, who was looking for someone to share lodgings with.

Piccadilly Circus 1896

Very close to Piccadilly Circus is also the Royal Society of Chemical Chemistry. Did you know that Sherlock Holmes was given an extraordinary fellowship to the society? It was even presented by a modern-day Dr Watson, himself a fellow too.

Covent Garden, London

Make your way to Covent Garden, home to the Royal Opera House, Sotheby’s, the Lyceum theatre and Covent Garden Market, all of which feature in Holmes’ adventures. It is a great area to spend an evening in. Very close nearby, on the Strand, you’ll also find the Simpson’s Restaurant, which is mentioned several times as a place where Holmes and Watson have dinner together (The Adventure of the Dying Detective, The Adventure of the Illustrious Client). Bon appetit!

Photo Credits
: All the photographs in this article have been borrowed from wikipedia under the Creative Commons license. All these pictures have been linked to their respective author pages on wikipedia.

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The Thames Walk

Ask any Londoner about their favourite things to do in London and, without a doubt, they will mention a walk along the Southbank. The Southbank offers fantastic views of many of London’s most iconic landmarks, as well as unique perspectives of the river and the city itself. From Big Ben, to the Tower of London, the London Eye and Shakespeare’s Globe, discover the best there is to see along the Thames Walk.

The team at The London Pass have been exploring the Thames Walk. From iconic sights and attractions, to the best eats with a view, here is their guide to getting the most out of your visit.

What to do?


Start your Thames Walk at Westminster Bridge to take in all the sights as you walk east along the river. The easiest way to get there is on the tube, so hop off at either Waterloo or Westminster stations depending on where you are coming from. Although there is no right or wrong place to start the walk, Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge is a popular choice which guarantees some of the best views in London. The walk is around 3 miles long, so depending on your pace and how often you stop to take photos, it should take just over an hour. Lace up those trainers, recharge your camera batteries and take in the atmosphere!

Tower Bridge at Night, London

What to see?

Kicking off your walk at Westminster Bridge means you can take great selfies next to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, two of the most iconic and historic landmarks in London. Head for the Queen’s Walk promenade on the southern embankment and you’ll pass the London Eye before reaching the cultural hub of the Southbank Centre, Royal Festival Hall, the British Film Institute and National Theatre. Carry on past the OXO Tower, home to contemporary galleries and shops – with a great top-floor terrace for drinks. A bit further on, don’t miss the iconic Shakespeare’s Globe – it’s an exact replica of the theatre that burnt down in 1613 – before approaching the acclaimed Tate Modern art gallery, which is home to some of the best modern art in the world. Then you’ll pass London Bridge (not to be mistaken with Tower Bridge!) and the WWII battleship, HMS Belfast, before coming up to the historic highlights of Tower Bridge and Tower of London. The Tower is arguably being London’s most popular tourist attraction because of its incredible history dating back to the Norman invasion.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, London

Where to eat?

The Thames Walk will certainly work up your appetite, but don’t worry there are plenty of delicious stopping points along the way where you can get a sugar fix, coffee hit or sit down meal. The area just east of the London Eye has hosts a variety of festivals during the course of a year, including Winter Wonderland, the Udderbelly comedy extravaganza and the Wounderground funfair. These are accompanied by pop up food stalls from all over the world that will make your taste buds cheer. Just before the OXO Tower, you’ll pass Gabriel’s Wharf which is home to a great fish restaurant, perfect for mid-way meal. If you carry on to the Tate Modern, you could reward yourself with a pint at the Founders Arms which overlooks the river and St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset, too.

Gabriels Wharf, London

Follow these top tips on your Thames Walk and you can be sure to see the best of London, from all angles. These riverside perspectives will allow you to see some of the best sights up close, as well as their spectacular surroundings. So don’t forget to wear comfy shoes and make sure your camera is charged!

Photo Credits
: All the photographs in this article have been borrowed from the respective authors under the Creative Commons License. Each photograph is linked to their respective original pages.

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