Category Archives:Travel guides

Ski Instructor Internships in Japan: What are they like?

I still remember the tiny specks of my mother, father, and sister waving (well, I assumed they were waving) in the distance as the airplane left the runway that day. This was my gateway to change: to a whole new country; a whole new environment; a whole new season. What was my action plan? A ski instructor course in Japan with WE ARE SNO – Instructor Courses.

That was two seasons ago and counting. Back to back winters are now all that I know. Summer, what’s that? Winter is where I can live the dream of making money through my hobby.

Looking back, I never would have thought that my obsession with skiing would mean that I would base my entire life around having the freedom to ski every day.

wearesno ski instructor internships

It all started with asking myself the prevailing question, “How do I ensure that I can ski each day and for at least 50 days every season, yet still make enough money to live?” A light bulb went off – I needed to become a ski instructor!

The Course

With that in mind I promptly signed up for a ski instructor internship course I had been thoroughly researching. The icing on the cake was the ‘guaranteed paid job upon completion of the course’ ambitiously declared in the description that I had highlighted and underlined several times on the brochure. A job at the end, what did I have to lose? With that weight off my shoulders, I launched into the journey of becoming a ski instructor and the different characteristics that came with that title.

A season of laughter, tears, hard work and more laughter with some of the best friends anyone could ever ask for. The whole experience easily topped my university days that others are so quick to claim are the “best days of your life.”  Definitely worth the investment and commitment when you consider a solid internationally recognised certification ensuring a great ‘foot in the door’ opportunity for anyone’s skiing career.

Working as a Ski Instructor

Working as an instructor can be challenging, but is also tremendously rewarding. Watching my group go from ‘never evers’ to linking ‘snowplough’ turns is one of the best feelings. In your first season you generally accompany the beginner skier groups. In my opinion, first-timers may not be the most stimulating, but are, without a doubt, the most rewarding group to teach. To see someone not only improve, but thrive on a small amount of direction makes it all worth it. Not to mention the fact that you play a significant role in their skiing journey, positive or not, it is enough motivation to put the effort in!

Yes, the pay may not be extravagant, especially when you start out, and you may be teaching on the beginner slopes on a bluebird powder day, but it’s a lifestyle choice at the end of the day. Although, you can consider all of the paid après ski appointments and delicious meals out with those that you teach, and private requests that may even take you to neighbouring mountains for a change of scenery – bonus!

Resort Life

wearesno ski instructor internships

The best part of my winter experience out of my ski boots was resort life. Resort life can be defined by any off-mountain activity that happens inside the town closest to the ski field that you worked.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to experience my ‘office’ life in Hakuba resort. One of Japan’s most vibrant skiing destinations.

Off snow, we dabbled in so many cultural activities I lose count. From Fire Festivals to Sushi Sundays, it was amazing. Tokyo is surprisingly close, so when you really want a break from the resort you can head into one of the craziest cities on the planet for a few beers!

Life after the Season: Travel

Of course, life as a ski instructor has some disadvantages such as being a seasonal career choice. Although, I didn’t really see this as a negative as I saw this as an opportunity to explore this beautiful country and stumble upon something fresh and new!

Looking forward I’ll aim to add a higher certification to my list each season to begin to pave the travel pathway through to the rest of the world. Until then, Japan will always be my second home and the place where I scored the best job on earth.

Don’t Miss…The Temples of Angkor, Cambodia

Entwined in wild, thick, climbing, winding jungle in Northern Cambodia are the ancient and wondrous Temples of Angkor. Once home to a great civilisation, the temples are scattered throughout the forest with the magnificent Angkor Wat as the centrepiece. It doesn’t take much to imagine past explorers pushing through dense, all-encompassing foliage to stumble in awe upon temple after temple. Today, with human intervention, the temples are much more accessible, only a short tuk tuk ride from the commercial centre of Siem Reap. Despite this, there is still an overwhelming sense of the jungle ceaselessly striving to swallow the temples up again in a suffocating sea of green.

angkor wat

To visit the temples, a tour guide is essential and won’t break your budget – a Tuk Tuk driver and guide will set you back about $30 AUD.

Angkor Wat is usually the first stop and is in fact often mistaken as the entire temple complex rather than a single temple.

Nine tall spires jut from Angkor Wat and to access it, you must cross a moat. Made from large sandstone blocks, delicate carvings feature throughout, depicting Gods of Hindu (Vishnu) and Buddhism (Budhha) amongst many other things. Apart from gods, demons are also depicted and are discernible by their slicked back hair. After a thorough tour of Angkor Wat, a common next stop via tuk tuk is Ta Prom. A fuel stop may be necessary en route, which entails a road side vendor with a water drum filled with fuel and a tap.

angkor wot

Ta Prom is also known as the Lara Croft Temple or the Jungle Temple – Lara Croft Temple because it was made famous in the Tomb Raider movie and Jungle Temple because it’s been reclaimed by surrounding tree’s. Nature is claiming back what’s hers.

angkor wot

Ta Prom is small and intimate compared to the vast Angkor Wat but can be thick with tourists. Onwards, you’ll head to Angkor Thom and might finish with Bayon, distinguished by many big spires, each with 4 faces on top. The faces have been covered by trees throughout history but have been cleared for the inquisitive tourist.

cambodia travel guide

After an extensive examination of the temples, you will be dropped at your accommodation, thoroughly worn out but much enlightened. You haven’t visited Cambodia if you haven’t been to the spectacle that is the temples of Angkor!

 

Contiki Europe: What it’s really like

It’s pretty much an Australian rite of passage that at some point in your 20’s you will jump on a Contiki tour bus, see way more countries than thought possible in a short amount of time, drink copious amounts of alcohol all while claiming to your friends and family back home that you are ‘finding yourself’.

contiki europe review

In 2014, 6 months after I had just turned 18, I headed off on my first big trip away from home and as scary as it was, I felt comfort that I was part of an organised tour and did not have to worry about where  was going to sleep each night.

The Contiki tour I went on was called European Contrasts and it saw us travel to 13 countries over 29 days.

I won’t lie and say I wasn’t tired or sick or hungover pretty much every day but contrary to belief, you actually do a lot more than drink! I had the best experience of my life in Europe and if you’re thinking of doing a Contiki tour soon, here’s my favourite things about these famous tours!

It’s not just all Aussies!

A big misconception is that you’ll be put on a tour with 50 other Australian’s which will feel like you never left home.

Although there is a big chance over a third of the tour will be from Australia, Contiki is also very popular with Americans, Canadians and Kiwi’s as well as people from the UK and even other European countries.

The range is normally quite diverse which is cool because then you get to make friends all over the world and you’ll never know when you’ll find yourself needing a bed to crash on in the future.

Everything is organised for you but the freedom is still there!

contiki europe review

When you book a tour, you get the advantage of knowing everything is booked and paid for and you can then focus instead on deciding if you’ll have pizza or pasta for dinner in Italy (the answer is always both btw) rather than how you’re gonna get from London to Paris.

However, each day you have the opportunity to choose what you want to do with extra optional activities that are provided or not provided.

You want to go paragliding in Austria, go ahead! If that’s not your thing, no problems! Our tour guide kept telling us, ‘it’s your holiday, you decide what you want to do’!

The themed parties.

Toga, tight white and bright, P party, just to name a few! Because Contiki own a lot of their accommodation around Europe, there is often plenty of time for themed parties! These are the best fun because where else in Europe could you seriously dress completely different and head to a club? Nowhere!

At the Contiki accommodation, there are often multiple tours staying here at the same time giving you a chance to party with new people every night in hilarious costumes!contiki europe review toga party

AMAZING SIGHTS with express entries!

Ever visited somewhere and been overwhelmed with what to do and where to go while you’re there? I know I always want to make the most of my time and have trouble fitting everything in.

On Contiki, you always get to see the best and most incredible sights and attractions of each city. This means you won’t have to choose between Vatican City and the Colosseum because it’s a definite you will get to experience both!

Also, because you are on a tour, this often means express entry. Say goodbye to waiting in lines for hours (let’s be honest, ain’t nobody got time for that) and say hello to more time eating gelato!

Lastly, Contiki is the perfect taste of Europe!

Basically, you have 1-2 full days in a city then the next day will be a travel day with stops along the way. This is the perfect way to see all the major sites and discover the countries you want to explore further on your next trip.

contiki europe review

You also learn the places you don’t want to go back to in future (Liechtenstein I’m looking at you).

Some people don’t like the idea of being rushed so if this is you, maybe look at tours that don’t stop in so many countries however I felt most cities we has adequate enough time to see and do everything (apart from Paris that is, you can never have enough time in Paris!) For those first timers to Europe, Contiki is the way to go!

If you are thinking of doing a Contiki tour and have any questions, please comment below! Or have you done a Contiki and think I’ve missed something, would love to hear from you too!

Dubai’s Best Shopping: Shop Until You Drop

Dubai is known for being the ultimate destination for shopaholics (and trust me, that’s no exaggeration!). There is nothing you won’t find while shopping in this luxurious city.

The Emirate is home to numerous shopping malls that are larger than life, as well as a number of Souks manned by small, local shop owners. If you’re looking for Dubai’s best shopping, here are our top four:

Dragon Mart

Dragon Mart is the largest trading spot for Chinese products outside of mainland China, providing a gateway for the supply of Chinese products in the Middle Eastern and North African markets.

If you’re wondering what is so special about Dragon Mart, you’ll be surprised to find out that it is 1.2 kilometres long and 150 000 square metres. Built in the shape of a dragon it houses more than 39,550 outlets selling everything from shoes to clothing, home appliances to stationary, toys to furniture, and so much more.

This shopping mecca is so popular that approximately 52,000 people make their way through the massive site every day, and approximately 90 million people visit each year.

motiongate™ DUBAI

motion gate dubai

This movie themed theme park in Dubai offers the best-in-branded entertainment from three of the largest and most successful motion picture studios in Hollywood – DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures Studios, and Lionsgate – and is home to a number of exciting shops where people can buy everything from delicious sweets to souvenirs from their favourite movie.

Head to the Shrek Shack to find every Shrek-themed goody under the sun, visit Smurfs Studios Store to visit Papa Smurf and the rest of the Smurfs family and take a Smurfy souvenir home, or make a stop at Panem Supply Co. where you can stock up on all things The Hunger Games.

There are also a number of other shops where visitors can purchase hats, sunglasses, and a number of other props from different Hollywood films.

The Many Souks

spice souk dubai

Dubai is home to numerous Souks (or traditional markets) where shoppers can get their fill of spices, gold, textiles, and more, at very reasonable prices – if you have good haggling skills that is.

The Gold Souk – which is arguably the best known of all the city’s souks – is a must-see for visitors who love this sparkling metal. Whether looking for a shiny trinket or a statement piece, visitors are spoiled for options.

Dubai’s Perfume Souk is the place to go for shoppers who love perfume. It is not far away from the Gold Souk, and includes a number of deliciously smelly delights, some of which include pure perfumes and essential oils, for example.

Tingle your taste buds by stopping by the Spice Souk. This Souk will provide you with insights into Arabic trading and cooking, with hundreds of spices packages in sacks waiting to be taken home (just check the customs rules in your country first!).

The Dubai Mall

dubai's best shopping

Located in the heart of Downtown Dubai, the Dubai Mall should be the first stop on all shopaholics lists, as it is the largest and most visited retail, leisure and entertainment destination in the world.

Housing a whopping 1,200 stores – some of which include some of the biggest brands, clothing, accessories, houseware, electronics, and so much more – it is unlike any other shopping mall you will ever visit.

Additionally, the mall is home to the world-class Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, KidZania (for those parents who would like to shop and know their kids are safe), SEGO Republic, a 22-screen Reel Cinemas megaplex, and more.

These are just four of many places you can visit and shop in Dubai, it is no wonder that the city is a shopper’s paradise.

But remember, wherever you travel to in the world, some of the best shopping experiences are found by exploring the city on your own 🙂

Exciting Attractions for Kids in Dubai

Entertaining the kids on holiday is a hard feat, especially if you are visiting a place that is too grown up for the little ones. Travellers looking to visit Dubai for their yearly vacation, however, will not have to worry about that, as the city is home to a number of fun and exciting attractions specifically for the smaller members of the family.  So don’t discount Dubai as the perfect family-orientated holiday destination!

If you’re interested in visiting the UAE this year with your family, here are some ideas of where you can take your kids in Dubai:

Dubai Parks and Resorts

Opening later this year – in October – Dubai Parks and Resorts is an amazing resort that includes five different theme parks – motiongate™ DUBAI, Bollywood PARKS™ DUBAI, LEGOLAND® DUBAI, LEGOLAND® WATER PARK, and RIVERLAND™ DUBAI. Each of these has a number of attractions, shows and thrill rides that are suitable for the whole family.

motiongate™ DUBAI is a theme park which is home to an array of rides based on a number of popular movies (including The Hunger Games, Shrek, and The Smurfs).

Bollywood PARKS™ DUBAI includes five different zones that offer different environments inspired by Bollywood blockbusters,

Meanwhile, LEGOLAND® DUBAI and LEGOLAND® WATER PARK are based around everything LEGO® and offer the perfect theme park in Dubai environment for families with kids aged between 2 and 12.

Finally, RIVERLAND™ DUBAI provides visitors with a place they can enjoy good food and theatres in four different eras from our past.

Ski Dubai

ski dubai

Located in the Mall of the Emirates, Ski Dubai is the Middle East’s first indoor ski centre. Suitable for newbies and pros, children and adults, this amazing ski centre offers a safe setting where visitors can enjoy a variety of activities. Try skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, tube slides, slopes and jumps, or simply playing in the snow together.

There are five exhilarating fun runs for skiers and snowboarders, as well as a chairlift that will take visitors to the top with ease. Kids can have their first skiing lesson at the centre’s ski school by a qualified instructor, or they can visit the resident King Penguins and colony of Gentoo.

Once the fun is over, families can head to one of the centre’s themed restaurants – Avalanche Café and St Moritz Café – where they can warm up with a cup of hot chocolate and a snack to fill their bellies.

Once the fun is over, families can head to one of the centre’s themed restaurants – Avalanche Café and St Moritz Café – where they can warm up with a cup of hot chocolate and a snack to fill their bellies.

Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo

dubai for kids

Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo can be found at The Dubai Mall, and is a place that has everything to keep the entire family entertained and happy during their visit. It’s not just about shopping!

The 10-million litre tank is the largest suspended aquarium in the world and houses thousands of animals. There are 140 different species, 300 sharks and rays, as well as the largest collection of Sand Tiger sharks in the world.

There are a number of watery experiences including an underwater zoo, presentations and a chance for the kids to get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on at the Dubai Aquarium. At the Underwater Zoo they can watch a shark feeding, ride on the aquarium’s glass-bottom boat, meet an Aquarist, and so much more – this is a day out the kids will never forget.

Make some amazing memories during your visit to Dubai, visit one or all of the above-mentioned attractions the whole family can enjoy!

9 Places every Aussie Must Visit Before they Die

Us Aussies love our home, but how many of us have really seen the true Australia? 

I have been living in Australia for 10 years now and I have been lucky enough to visit almost everywhere on this list. What surprises me, though, is how few Australians get out into their own backyard and explore. So if you have been snubbing some of the ‘touristy’ sites as being well, too touristy, you may be missing out on some of the best that our country has on offer.

Check out my top ten places to visit before you die.

Surf Wave Rock

wave rock wa

Yes, it may be just a rock – but it’s a really cool one! This natural rock formation resembling a large wave is located in the small town of Hyden in the far-south of Western Australia.

While you may or may not be interested in its fascinating geological history – it still makes for a great photo. Say cheese!

Go Down Under in Coober Pedy

coober pedy australia

Situated in the heart of South Australia, about 846 km north of Adelaide, Coober Pedy is one of the most unusual towns in Australia – and perhaps the world.

To avoid the harsh Australian sun, residents of Coober Pedy built their entire town underground – mostly in refurbished mine shafts. Enjoy a cold beverage in an underground bar or go shopping for opals – Coober Pedy is the ‘Opal Capital of the World’ after all.

(I recently spent a week in Coober Pedy — so keep an eye out for my guide! It was truly amazing.)

Bring out your Inner-Tarzan in Daintree Rainforest

Daintree rainforest

Daintree Rainforest – just north of Cairns – is the world’s oldest and most diverse rainforest. As well as being home to over 30% of Australia’s native animal species, Daintree offers spectacular scenery, relaxing walks and breathtaking waterfalls.

The rainforest also seamlessly joins onto the spectacular Great Barrier Reef as it reaches the coast.

Cruise the Kimberley

kimberley cruise

The Kimberley Region is one of the most magnificent sights to be seen in Australia. With dramatic scenery, sky-high waterfalls, secluded beaches and dazzling sunsets – the Kimberley is the perfect place to relax and explore.

Cruises are the best way to see the Kimberley – taking you deep within the soaring gorges and up-close-and-personal with the powerful waterfalls.

Enjoy a Glass in the Barossa

Jacob's Creek Winery, Barossa Valley
Jacob’s Creek Winery, Barossa Valley

If you like to sit back and relax with a glass of rose, merlot or sav blanc, then there’s no better place to do it than in the Barossa Valley. Look for Australian flights into Adelaide – then the Barossa is just a short drive away.

A must-see destination for all wine connoisseurs, the Barossa Valley offers an eclectic mix of South Australian charm, world-class wines and fine foods. Cheers!

Relax on Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach, QLD

Possibly the most photographed and recognisable beach in the world – Whitehaven Beach really is as good as it looks on the postcard! 

Just a short boat-ride away from the coastal town of Airlie Beach (or I took a boat tour from nearby Daydream Island), make your friends jealous with photos of you soaking up the Australian sun on pristine white beaches with the crystal clear Coral Sea lapping at your feet. It truly is paradise!

Drive the Great Ocean Road

The Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles

What were once the famous ‘Twelve Apostles’ jutting out of the water in South Australia has sadly become just eight due to erosion. With erosion constantly threatening the remaining rocks it is certainly a destination that needs to be visited before it’s too late.

These remarkable rock formations can be seen while driving along the Great Ocean Road, along which you will see all sorts of other spectacular scenery. Great excuse for a road trip!

The Biggest…

The Big Merino
The Big Merino

Australia is home to some of the biggest (albeit strangest) things – so make a point to visit them all! Did you know that Goulburn is home to the Big Merino (it’s a surprisingly fun place to visit!)? What about the Big Cow just north of Nambour, Queensland? I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss out on the Big Prawn in Ballina – right? And we can’t forget the world’s biggest rock – Uluru – right in the heart of Australia.

Ride a Camel in Broome

camels on cable beach
Camel rides along Cable Beach, Broome

It’s not every day you get to ride a camel across the beach – not in Australia anyway. Take a camel ride along Cable Beach in the late afternoon for a unique way to see the spectacular red sunsets of the northern Western Australian coast. It is certainly one of the more unique Australian holidays!

Learning Spanish Online: My Journey to Fluency

¡Hola amigos! I have always loved the Spanish language, but since studying it at school I haven’t really put it into practice. It doesn’t help that I’m now living in Australia, which is about as far from a Spanish-speaking country as you can get.

As I’m approaching the big 3-0 (only six months of my beloved twenties left…), I have been trying to tick off a few life goals; one of which is to be fluent in Spanish. To help me stay motivated, I am planning on travelling to Spain for 3-6 months next year (maybe longer, who knows!), which is very exciting. I will be attending immersive Spanish lessons when I’m there (any school recommendations in Sevilla would be much appreciated!), but I want to arrive being able to at least hold a decent conversation.

So, I have researched a whole range of online Spanish learning resources and settled on a few, which I will be reviewing over the course of the next six months: SpanishPod101, Rosetta Stone and Duolingo.

I have been using each of these tools for about two months now, so below are my first impressions.

Duolingo for Spanish

Duolingo is such a fantastic idea and is a great way to introduce people to new languages. It’s actually more like a game (and a very addictive one at that!). I am about halfway through the Spanish course and am finding that my vocabulary recognition is good, but I have no knowledge of grammar from it.

Since getting Rosetta Stone and SpanishPod101, I have just been using Duolingo on and off while I’m waiting for the bus.

Rosetta Stone Language Learning Suite Version 3

This is the latest addition to my language learning arsenal and by far the most expensive. However, I am really enjoying it so far, and it is certainly a step up from Duolingo. The way Rosetta Stone teaches language is through the full immersion method. In other words, there are absolutely no English translations. The sceptic in me believes this is simply a smart business move to cut down costs of translating into multiple languages, thus appealing to a global audience. Anyway…

A definite negative for me is that without the translations you have to work out what a sentence means; this is relatively easy in the first few lessons, but it gets increasingly difficult when more complex grammar comes into play. I have been learning languages for a while so I’m largely familiar with the way the grammar works, but for someone completely new to learning a foreign language, it would probably be very difficult.

However, I would like to get to the end of the course to be able to give a full review on how this method works.

One unique feature of Rosetta Stone, and most likely what justifies its high price point, is its advanced voice recognition system. While it can’t replace speaking to a native, it is a good chance to perfect your speaking skills.

Spanish Pod 101

I don’t know if it’s the chirpy voices of the presenters or the cheesy intro music to each of the podcasts, but I simply LOVE SpanishPod101. I purchased a basic 3-month subscription for less than $25, which is a bargain. What’s great about SpanishPod101 is that you can link it up to your iTunes and listen to one of their thousands of podcasts on the go. It really breaks down topics into easy-to-digest chunks, giving you a much deeper insight into particular phrases, grammar and cultural aspects that you simply don’t get anywhere else that I have found. There’s no listen and repeat going on here.

I have mostly used the podcasts so far, but they do also have lots of video tutorials, as well as PDF downloads and cheat sheets. It would take years to get through all the content they have on the site — so it really is a great resource.

That’s it from me for now, but I’ll be posting updates on how these tools (and my Spanish) is going over the next few months. If you have any recommendations or experiences, please share in the comments below 🙂 ¡Hasta luego!

Spain’s Best Historical Attractions

Spain is one of the most visited countries in the world. Although the country is renowned for its beautiful beaches and warm weather, some of the most popular attractions in Spain are the historical and cultural monuments. So if you’re a history buff, read on!

History buffs rejoice

Spain is home to some of the world’s oldest and most historic buildings and monuments; in fact, it has more UNESCO World Heritage listed sites than any other country in the world and the second most World Heritage cities after Italy.

Wherever you go in Spain you will come across architecture that dates back hundreds of years including breathtaking cathedrals, castles, palaces and more. However, there are several specific historical and cultural monuments in Spain that attract more visitors than others, and we look at some of the most popular below.

La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Barcelona
La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Barcelona

The beautiful La Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona is one of Spain’s most visited attractions. Featuring the architecture and art of Antoni Gaudi, the exquisite Roman Catholic cathedral is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site despite never being completed.

The architecture of the cathedral blends Art Nouveau with Gothic, which is what makes its design so unique. Unfortunately, Gaudi died approximately a quarter of the way through the project. Using his drawings, the cathedral was slowly built over the next few decades.

Tours of La Sagrada Familia Cathedral are available throughout the year.

Cave of Altamira, Santillana del Mar

The Cave of Altamira is home to some of the world’s oldest examples of early human life. Within the caves are paintings from the Upper Paleolithic era and the paintings are the first prehistoric ones to be found in the world.

Cave of Altamira, Santillana del Mar
Cave painting at the Cave of Altamira, Santillana del Mar

The caves are situated approximately 30km west of Santander in northern Spain. Currently, you cannot access the actual caves as carbon monoxide from the breath of visitors was damaging them. However, there are plans to open the caves for a brief period for visitors in the near future. There is a replica cave for visitors to see.

Monastery and Site of the Escorial, Madrid

Monastery and Site of the Escorial, Madrid
Monastery and Site of the Escorial, Madrid

The Monastery and Site of the Escorial is one of Madrid’s most popular historical attractions. Situated approximately 45km away from the centre of Madrid, the Monastery and Site of the Escorial is a historical residence of the king of Spain.

The impressive buildings date back to the 15th century and there are numerous sections that you can visit. The Basilica, Palace of Phillip II, Pantheon of the Princes and Gardens of the Friars are particularly exquisite.

Visitors are able to walk around the beautiful buildings either alone or on guided tours. Tours are available in several languages, including English, and are well worth doing to find out some interesting facts.

Vizcaya Bridge, Portugalete

Vizcaya Bridge, Portugalete
Vizcaya Bridge, Portugalete

For those interested in spectacular engineering projects, the Vizcaya Bridge in Portugalete is one of the most amazing of them all. Built in 1893 it is the world’s oldest transporter bridge and was designed by Alberto Palacio – a disciple of Gustave Eiffel’s (the creator of the Eiffel Tower).

The bridge was built to connect to cities on opposite sides of the Nervion River without disrupting maritime traffic. The bridge is 164 metres tall and is still in use today, being able to transport six cars and almost one hundred passengers on every trip. The gondola runs every 8 minutes during the day and once every hour at night. It is a popular tourist attraction for visitors from around the world.

Tower of Hercules, A Coruna

Tower of Hercules, A Coruna
Tower of Hercules, A Coruna

The Tower of Hercules, situated in the town of A Coruna in north-western Spain is one of the oldest monuments in the country. Dating back to the ancient Roman period, the Tower of Hercules (in Spanish: Torre de Hercules) is 180 feet tall and was built as a lighthouse that looks out over the North Atlantic coastline of Spain.

Not only is the Tower of Hercules a National Monument of Spain but in 2007 it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite being built so long ago, it is still the second tallest lighthouse in Spain, after the Faro de Chipiona.

The lighthouse is situated approximately 2.5km outside of A Coruna and is one of Spain’s most visited historical monuments.

Hotels in Brig Switzerland: Quick Guide

The historic and picturesque town of Brig in Switzerland is a popular destination for tourists from all around the world. Brig is situated close to the Italian and Swiss border and is surrounded by the beautiful Swiss alps.

The scenery is truly spectacular and is what draws most of the visitors to the town. In the summer, the mountains are a beautiful bright green and in the winter, it is a snowy wonderland. 

Activities in Brig

During the summer, the most popular activity is walking, and there are over 150km of marked hiking trails throughout the town and around the region. There are also lots of cycling routes. The Rosswald viewing platform offers unrivalled views over the town and beyond. Another popular attraction is the Brig Baths, which is one of Switzerland’s largest open-air thermal centres.

In the winter, there are eleven ski lifts up into the surrounding mountains. The Hohstock ski tunnel is one of the most popular winter attractions, especially for skiers and snowboarders. There are several small skiing areas in the town that are busy during the winter months.

Another popular attraction is the Stockalper Palace, a large and impressive well-preserved baroque palace in the heart of the town.

Accommodation in Brig Switzerland

There are plenty of accommodation options in Brig ranging from budget bed and breakfasts up to world-class luxury resorts.

hotels brig switzerland

The 3-star Art Furrer Schlosshotel is set in a quiet and tranquil location just a five-minute walk from the town’s centre. The hotel offers spectacular views over the Alps and Brig, and the hotel itself is in a traditional Swiss style. This hotel is a great place for a romantic getaway at a great value price.

If you are travelling with your whole family, the Hotel Central is a fantastic budget family hotel right next to all of the most popular attractions in Brig. It is located next to the entrance to the car-free Brig Old Town. It has all the facilities that you might need, including cosy rooms and several restaurants. Pets are also allowed at this hotel.

If you like your accommodation to have a bit of history, the Hotel Du Pont certainly offers this. It is the oldest family hotel in Brig, and also has one of the best restaurants in the town. The prices are very reasonable and the surrounds are stunning. It is a great hotel for families.

hotel du pont brig switzerland
Hotel Du Pont, Brig

Located in front of the main station of Brig is the impressive Minotel Victoria Hotel. Right in the heart of the town, this city is historic and traditional on the outside but modern and full facilitated on the inside. They have a restaurant serving local cuisine and there are family rooms for those with kids. It’s a great hotel for getting to all the sites of this beautiful town.

The Hotel Ambassador is situated in a quiet location 200 metres from the central Brig train station. The rooms are well-priced and modern with a Swiss twist. There is also a fantastic restaurant serving a variety of cuisines located at the hotel. You will be in a great location for easy access to all the skiing and hiking spots that Brig has to offer.

 

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia: A Verdant Paradise

Malaysia is one of the most exciting countries in the world, and I always try to stop off there on my way home to visit family in the UK. Although many people immediately think of the bustling cities, in-the-know travellers head 214 km north of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur to the stunning Cameron Highlands.

Cameron Highlands Attractions

The region has many exciting attractions and sites for everyone that visits. Some of the most popular attractions, other than the stunning, lush green scenery are the various types of farms. The butterfly farm, rose gardens and vegetable gardens are all popular sites. Due to its elevation, the temperature is usually relatively cool for the area, ranging from around 12 – 21 degrees Celsius.

The Highlands also has a rich culture and history, with many visitors choosing to visit several of the ancient temples that are there, including the Brinchang Hindu Temples and the Sam Poh Chinese Malaysian Buddhist Temple amongst others.

Tea is grown in abundance in this region, and there are several tea plantations that offer tours for visitors. The largest and best known is the BOH plantation. The tea grown in these plantations are distributed both locally and internationally and are of a very high quality.

Accommodation in Cameron Highlands

If you choose to take your holiday to the Cameron Highlands there are plenty of options for accommodation, ranging from budget through to luxury. We shall look at some of those options now.

cameron highlands resort

For those who only want the height of sophistication and luxury, the Cameron Highlands Resort would be perfect for you. The resort is set amongst lush tropical surrounds and tea plantations and is a peaceful and tranquil getaway perfect for couples. The scenery is truly breathtaking, and the facilities are endless at this beautiful resort. There is a pristine golf course, a spa village, a designer clothing boutique, and a snooker room amongst other things. It is a popular resort for weddings and honeymooners.

For those of you that are on a lower budget, the Country Lodge Hotel offers great rates without compromising on quality. The rooms are nicely furnished and cozy, and there is a karaoke lounge. Karaoke is a very popular past-time for Malaysians.

If you have a mid-range budget, the four-star Heritage Hotel is a Tudor-style boutique hotel in the heart of the Cameron Highlands in the town of Tanah Rata. The hotel has plenty of facilities including a fully equipped fitness centre, several restaurants, squash and tennis courts, and a health centre with spas, saunas and steam facilities. You definitely won’t run out of things to do!

Another five-star luxury resort in the area is the Equatorial Hotel. The hotel is situated on the highest accessible point of the highlands, so offers fantastic views over the region. There are four restaurants offering a range of cuisines, several bars, tennis courts, indoor swimming pool, and pool tables. It is also a great resort for the whole family, as they also have a children’s playground and games room. The rooms are large and nicely decorated, with large beds and cosy furniture. It is the ultimate mountain getaway!

I hope you have found this guide to hotels in the Cameron Highlands interesting and that it has whet your appetite for a holiday to this beautiful region of the world!

Weather in Spain: When should you go?

One of the biggest reasons many travellers choose Spain for their vacation is the beautiful weather. However, Spain is a large country that has a range of climates, from the icy mountain regions to the blazingly hot summers in Seville. So let’s take a closer look at what you can expect weather-wise if you visit one of my favourite countries in the world — Spain. ¡Vamos!

About Weather in Spain

Spain is renowned for its warm, sunny weather and if you head there during the summer months you will almost always be guaranteed plenty of sunshine wherever you are in the country. However, there are quite clear variations in weather patterns around the country so before you head there you may want to check the weather in different parts of Spain during different seasons. For example, the country’s capital of Madrid can exceed 90 degrees in the summer months but due to its elevation can drop down to a cool 25 in winter.

weather in spain

Not only does the weather in Spain vary between seasons but there are huge variations between different cities and regions. The south of Spain is best known for its exceptionally warm weather, whereas the northern region is much milder.

Below we take a closer look at the specific weather in Spain during different seasons.

Seasons in Spain

The weather in Spain can be divided into four seasons, much similar to the USA: spring, summer, fall and winter.  In Spain the seasons are equally divided into three months each in length: summer runs from June through August; spring runs from March through May, fall runs from September through November and the winters from December through February.

The temperature variations between the seasons vary in different regions of Spain. The hottest major city in Spain on average is Seville in southern Spain – with average July temperatures of 66/95 (low and high). The coldest city in Spain on average is Santiago, with average July temperatures of 61/72 (low and high).

Summer in Spain

Summer in Spain is the warmest time of the year and also the most popular time for tourists to go and visit. Temperatures across Spain rarely go below 60 Fahrenheit during the summer months and regularly exceed 90.

The temperatures in central Spain, such as the capital of Madrid, are almost unbearably hot in mid-summer, so most people tend to head to the coastal areas such as Barcelona and Costa del Sol where temperatures are much more favorable.  This includes both tourists and residents of central Spain, so you will find that a lot of shops and restaurants are closed during the summer months.

Winter in Spain

Although the most popular time to visit Spain is during the summer months, the winter can be a lot more tolerable in terms of the weather in Spain. In fact, few people realize that it actually snows in Spain.

The cities that are almost unbearably hot during the summer months are some of the coldest during the winter. A lot of the country is situated at a very high altitude, which makes the winters incredibly cold. Central Spain, including the cities of Toledo, Madrid and Salamanca are the coldest regions of Spain during the winter. As soon as you head north or south from these regions you will find slightly warmer weather.

Southern Spain still has quite warm winters, particularly in the Andalusia region. The north coast is kept relatively warm by the Atlantic Ocean.

Rainfall in Spain

Rainfall can make or break a trip to Spain; even if it is quite cold outside it can still be very pleasant if the sun is shining. Rain is much more common during the winter months – summers tend to be quite dry across Spain.

December is typically the rainiest month in Spain and Santiago (in Galicia) is the rainiest city in the country. Santiago averages 21 days of rain during December and 12 in June.

Valencia, Seville and Granada in Southern Spain see the least rainfall in Spain. During the summer months, there is barely any rainfall at all and the winters have an average of 9 days of rain per month. Rainfall is rarely heavy at any stage throughout the year – it is generally in short spurts.

If you’re already in Spain or about to head there, you can check the latest weather at The Weather Channel.

Egypt, more than just Pyramids

Egypt is a fantastic and very popular holiday destination. Mainly down to the welcoming Egyptians, good weather and historic ruins. I thought in this post, I would avoid the subjects such as the Pyramids of Giza, and the Valley of the kings and talk about some stuff you might not have heard about in Egypt.

Siwa, known for its historical acceptance of homosexuality (There have been reports of gay marriage, even in the Egyptian times.) The lack of tourism, I assume, is all down to one reason. Transport. It’s a 9 hour bus ride from Alexandria, buses also leave from Cairo, you’ll be travelling overnight. Egypt air will fly you there from either from Cairo or Alexandria. If you wanted to go here, I think the best idea would be to come straight from London, a few airlines will go to the airport, but only in the summer. You will see some of the most beautiful landscapes in Egypt. Fatnas Island is 6km away from Siwa and is a good place to see some of that beauty; it has been nicknamed “Fantasy Island.” It can be found by crossing a causeway (Which you can do on a donkey ride!) While there you’ll get to walk along palm beaches, and bathe in springs which have been said to be better than the more famous Cleopatra springs. The Shali Fortress gives the city more historical interest; it was built for protection from hostile tribes. It is made up of many mud and salt houses that got destroyed by rain in 1926. It might surprise you to find a few of them are still being used today, mainly at the foot of Shali.

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Siwa, the Old Town

Aswan is the smallest of the three main cities by the Nile, and mainly people visit to see Abu Simel (which I’m going to skip as I want to write about the lesser known about attractions.) Getting to Aswan is reasonably simple, a three hour train ride from Luxor or boat, again from Luxor will take you there. Another method of transport would be a cruise along the more tranquil part of the River Nile. Aswan has some historic sites, such as the unfinished obelisk. If it had been completed, it would have measured 42m and weighed 1,200 tons. Very close to the obelisk is the Fatimid Cemetery. This impressive site is free to go and see, the tombs with flags on them belonged to saints. The sound and light show at Philae Temple is something to do with your evening, it will tell you the story of Osiris, the Lord of dead and his wife, Isis, who resurrected him.

egypt travel guide

Taba Heights located in the North East of the country is a fantastic picturesque place to visit in Egypt, more relaxing than any of the destinations with historical ruins. You’ll get some truly spectacular views from here; you’ll be able to see over to Israel from its 5km of beaches. You could even cross 2 wonders of the world off your list, and see the Pyramids of Giza as well as Petra at Jordan. Every Friday here there is a street festival with free live entertainment for you to enjoy. Taba Heights is also big on water sports; diving, sailing and windsurfing are all available through The Red Sea Water World.

egypt travel guide

To discover more of what Egypt has to offer visit Directline Holidays latest deals.

– Emma Buttery

Five places in Europe to experience a White Christmas

So it’s Christmas. And while beach parties have their own unique vibe, there’s nothing quite as magical as a white Christmas. In the north, bells are jingling and cities are decked out with markets and contemporary Christmas clichés. Leaving Paris and London to Dickens, I’ve searched through my travel journals and atlas to bring you a selection of great places to spend Christmas in Europe.

Amsterdam

 amsterdam

A white Christmas in Amsterdam could mean anything, but right now the city’s red light district is even more colourful. From the Christmas tree in Dam Square, a stroll along any illuminated canal path could end at one of 26 neighbourhood markets, including the main craft market at Museumplein and an ice rink among the stalls at Leidsplein. Alongside the Christmas Palace, the floating Bloemenmarkt (flower market) is ready to sell travellers a pine or two; or for something less traditional, the Pink Christmas celebration at Zeedijk could float a few different boats.

Vienna

 vienna

The City of Lights could turn Scrooge into a Christmas convert. The echoes of the Vienna Boys’ Choir ring through Hofburg Quarter and the cobblestone lanes of the ol’ city, which is lit up all-year-round. Seasonally, red hearts and hot-air balloons decorate trees in Christkindlmarkts speckled around the city. At the city’s gothic town hall, the Rathaus, I like to sample sausages topped with horseradish, while taking in the brass band. And I can almost taste that Chrissie brekkie of hot chocolate and gingerbread.

Zurich

 zurich

I know European cities like to outdo each other with their Christmas trees, but Zurich’s singing tree at Werdmuhleplatz must take the cake, with children’s choirs performing from stands hidden behind the giant tree’s artificial branches. From there, a stroll along Bahnhoffstrasse, stopping at the stalls that pepper the route, will bring you to the main markets in the train station lobby. Surrounded by the Swiss Alps and cosied up in a lakeside restaurant, I could happily tuck into a Chrissie dinner of Zurcher Geschnetzeltes: sliced veal with sliced mushrooms in a cream sauce.

Stockholm

 stockholm

The uptown girls and guys are as pretty as the Christmas lights in the city of islands and the market in the main square of Stortorget is just as delightful, with all kinds of quality goodies to blow Santa’s budget. The real Christmas festivities begin on Lucia Day (December 13), and for the dozen days following I’d be sure to look out for banquets serving up reindeer meat and traditional Swedish candy. I’d also recommend a Stromma dinner cruise through the archipelago – you can listen to the sounds of church Chrissie concerts while working on your seasonal waistline.

Brussels

 brussels

That gateway to Europe too often ignored by travellers, Brussels, has gathered some attention due to its burgeoning Christmas market, which now covers a two-kilometre long stretch from the Grand Place to Place St Catherine with around 240 chalet-style stalls selling gastronomies and gifts. Punctuate your shopping spree with a turn on the indoor ice rink or big wheel, not to mention a few winter warmers at the bar – it’s open for a Christmas tipple until January 5.

Spend Christmas with relatives or grab a group of friends and enjoy an authentic white Christmas in one of these magical destinations in Europe. If you need help booking airfares or accommodation Student Flights can help with student rates or under 26 deals.

Author: Student Flights consultants have spent the Christmas holidays in a variety of locations around the world, so can provide you with some top tips for your trip.

Top 5 Rooftop Bars in Melbourne

Summer is here (although fellow Melburnians might dispute this!) and one of my favourite things to do is relax with a nice glass of wine at a rooftop bar. There are plenty of great bars at ground level, but why settle for that when you can have a tipple with a view?

Madame Brussels

Level 3/59-63 Bourke St, Melbourne
www.madamebrussels.com

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Perhaps it’s my English background or my love for all things cute and pink, but Madame Brussels is my first choice when looking for a place to enjoy the sunshine with friends. From neatly cut sandwiches and jugs of Pimms to dashing waiters in Fred Perry tennis whites, this hard-to-find bar is like an English garden party in the sky.

It gets very busy over the summer, so be prepared to fight for a seat!

Siglo

2/161 Spring Street, Melbourne

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When you mention rooftop bars, Siglo is usually top of mind for most locals. It’s the place you go if you want to impress a date or just have a classy night out with friends. There is a distinctly European feel to it – I can’t quite pinpoint a specific country but a nice blend of Spanish, Italian and French.

The view is what really makes it – you have a fantastic backdrop of Parliament House and the spectacular St Patrick’s Cathedral. You’re also in the heart of the theatre district, so it’s perfect for a pre- or post-show drink.

Rooftop Bar & Cinema

6/252 Swanston St, Melbourne
www.rooftopcinema.com.au

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Whenever I have people come to visit me, I always take them to the Rooftop Cinema. A first-date paradise, the rooftop bar and cinema combines two of my (and most people’s!) favourite pastimes – movies and drinks. It sure beats sitting in a dark cinema with a box of overpriced popcorn!

The views of the city skyline are unbeatable, and you can enjoy them with a drink in hand, relaxing in your own deck chair. You don’t need to watch a movie either – you can just hang at the bar!

The Carlton

193 Bourke St, Melbourne
www.thecarlton.com.au

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The Carlton is one of few bars/restaurants that really does cater for every type of event and person. The decor is eclectic – to put it lightly – and the crowd even more so. But that’s what makes it so great – you never know who you might strike up a conversation with!

The drinks menu is good and the restaurant serves up some mean pub-style (albeit gourmet pub-style) food. There are two rooftop bars, complete with a Hawaiian beach-hut style vibe.

Warning: it is very easy to head there for a quiet drink and not make it home until the following day!

Captain Baxter, St Kilda

10/10-18 Jacka Blvd, St Kilda
www.captainbaxter.com.au

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City skylines are amazing at night-time, but if you’re after a mid-afternoon drink (we won’t judge you!), there’s nothing better than a relaxed beach-front atmosphere.

Overlooking Melbourne’s iconic St Kilda Beach is Captain Baxter – a chilled out bar with a fantastic outdoor deck. If you’re like me and love the idea of the beach but hate finding sand in your clothes for the next three weeks, here’s a way you can enjoy it from afar.

Your Guide to Summer Theatre in Melbourne

It’s no secret that Melbourne is Australia’s entertainment capital. The energy of an exciting new show is contagious with all the big billboards, advertisements and word quickly spreads around the city. With summer on the way, here are our top three picks for different types of theatre that will have something for everyone.

The play: A Murder is Announced

miss-marple1

In an English village, the locals peer over an advertisement in the gazette that states ‘a murder is announced and will take place on Friday 13th October, at Little Paddocks at 6.30pm.’ Unable to resist scoping out the situation, a crowd forms at this time. The lights go out, ‘a gun is fired and a body falls…’

Can you guess ‘whodunnit?’

Agatha Christie’s classic crime novel has thrilled readers with all the twists, turns and witty one liners since 1950.  Following the enormous success of ‘The Mousetrap’ last year, the same producers are bringing ‘A Murder is Announced’ to the Comedy Theatre for the first time in Australia. Based on the lovable detective Miss Marple, the amazing cast will have viewers on the edge of their seats as they follow her journey. In this all Australian production, audiences will be guaranteed to be guessing and in suspense until the final big revelation.  No one does a good murder mystery quite like Agatha Christie.

The comedy: Wogboys Live on Stage

wogboys-600x400Fans of the hit movie will be delighted at Nick Giannopoulos and Vince Colosimo reuniting for the first time on stage in fifteen years.  Both of the talented actors have moved on to star in other ventures, but they still get quoted lines from the movie to this day. This record breaking and critically acclaimed show will have the audience in hysterical as they poke fun of stereotypes through wicked humour. To add to the show’s star power, they will be joined by veteran Australian actors Alex Dimitriades and Frank Lotito.  Written, created and produced by the man with the longest surname in show business (Giannopoulos), Wogboys brings a unique, hilarious and heartfelt take on their everyday lives in the 90’s. This goes for a strictly limited season in January 2014 at the Princess Theatre. The original Wogboys are back with a vengeance.

The musical: Grease

Everyone knows all the words to the songs by heart. They are truly unforgettable.  Sandy and Danny are one of the most iconic couples in movie history as we all grew up with this hit movie. The best thing about this extravaganza is that the story means something to so many people and will remain a classic for the rest of time. Grease will be back with a bang in Australia with this dazzling multi-million dollar production. It is lead by an all-star cast including Bert Newton, Rob Mills, Todd McKenney and Anthony Callea. This energetic all-singing, all-dancing cast will have the audience on their feet at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

How to Explore Australia Free of Charge

Australia is a haven for all who visit; the beautiful beaches, terrific architecture and magnificent wildlife. So who fancies seeing this for free? It’s now possible and readily available. One-way car rental is a system by which you act as the shipper for rental companies rather than them spending extortionate amounts of money on transferring vehicles between their branches.

It will be seen by many as a very strange form of volunteer work but this is certainly not the right way to view this unique opportunity. It is travelling in an extremely cost-effective and rather fun way. See why travelling around Australia in this way will be a truly memorable (and cheap) experience.

Cost Cutting

Fundamentally, the greatest benefit of this method of travel is the saving on cost. You can travel from Darwin to Sydney, from Sydney to Melbourne and so on for simply the cost of your food and drink. All you have to do is drop the car off at the main airports and then you are free to explore at your own leisure.

Insurance, petrol and the car itself is provided; all you need to do is sit back, relax (if you aren’t driving) and let the Australian air caress your face as you investigate its abundant beauty. For non-Australian back packers lets say, this is the ideal way to make the cost of the flight back.

Hitch a tent wherever you please and use the services that companies such as Transfercar have on the table. It is truly a brilliant scheme and one all budding travelers should give considerable thought to.

Be different

Everybody these days is travelling or wants to travel. Inter-railing is becoming the new Ibiza and a gap year working in Africa is so frequent it’s the becoming the norm. Spruce it up a bit people, for the same cost of a 2 week inter railing pass (if you book far enough in advance) you can backpack around Australia! There are a million things to do and you get to experience them first hand as you are physically in the driving seat.

It is a brilliant opportunity and extremely cheap if you plan it coherent and correctly. Remember it is a win, win situation for both yourself, the organizer and the rental company – so make the most of it!

No Limits

This method of travel really does allow you to explore the depths of Australia. While you have an end destination (The Airport) what you do after that is completely up to you. The sense of freedom when driving a car is unparalleled, especially in a country so rich with wonderful sights.

Whether you are on a soul finding mission alone or on a world tour with your soul mate, exploration of this nature is an incredible option. Moreover if you love Sydney (lets say) that much you can always return (free of charge) for another week if you so wish. The beauty is in the flexibility and if you are a keen traveler then flexibility is a godsend.