Travel tips to help you make the most of your European trips. Tips on the best things to see, places to stay and eat in European destinations.. The lowdown from locals and experienced European travellers to help you plan your travels.
Skiing holidays are fast-paced, fun, and thrilling. They’re a great choice for adrenaline junkies and adventure lovers alike, and can offer the perfect alternative to beach getaways for tourists that don’t want to sit still for two weeks.
Their allure extends beyond the excitement factor. Set against paradisiacal backdrops of towering glaciers, ethereal evergreen forests, and cosy log cabins, they provide a chance to visit new places, meet new people, and make memories that will last forever.
Unfortunately, they don’t always go to plan. Unlike beach holidays, which we’re all familiar with, the inexperienced sometimes turn up a little unprepared. If you want to avoid making mistakes and maximise your enjoyment, then here are three outcomes that we recommend you avoid…
#1: Underestimating Costs
Many people are pleasantly surprised by how inexpensive skiing holidays can be, but for rookies, there are lots of costs waiting for you around the corner. Rather than throwing caution to the wind and unthinkingly booking your next getaway, take the time to do your research and find out what you’re going to need. The right clothing, equipment, and an education at home before you hit the slopes all need to feature on your list, so factor in these expenses to make sure that you have the budget to make the most of your holiday.
#2: Failing to Research Your Location
Another common mistake made by novices is a failure to research their location. A lot of people assume that ski resorts will have an adequate snow covering year round, never realising that the reason their holiday is so inexpensive is because they’re visiting out of season. To ensure maximum fun and enjoyment, do your homework beforehand, and make sure that snowfall is guaranteed. Don’t be afraid to ask the professionals as well as carrying out your own internet searches, as companies like Iglu Ski are staffed by professionals that really know their stuff.
#3: Overestimating Your Abilities
Finally, here’s another rookie mistake to avoid: overestimating your abilities. Lots of outdoor enthusiasts assume that skiing can’t be all that hard to master, but how wrong they are. Some ski resorts cater to the experienced and professional only, and if you visit them, you’re unlikely to have much fun. If you like a challenge, take some lessons at a nearby snow sports centre, and thus broaden the range of activities and slopes that you’ll be able to have a bash at. However, if you’re truly novice, make sure that you stick to resorts that cater to people of your ability, where instructors will be available onsite to help you.
Make sure that you have a superb snow covered skiing adventure by getting it right from the word go.
While there is an element of risk associated with any form of travel, adventure travel raises the stakes in terms of risk of injury. FlightHub, a North American online travel agency, has helped many backpackers, adventure travellers, and vagabonds kick off their trips and always recommends that these travellers investigate insurance. After a quick FlightHub review, I came up with a few crucial reasons why travellers who are going on higher risk trips need to consider travel insurance.
First, the obvious. Adventure travellers should have insurance in case they get injured or sick on vacation. I say this with personal experience as a friend of mine once required hospitalization and dealt with a family member requiring surgery in another country. Insurance in those cases was a lifesaver. Between the two incidents, which both occurred in the United States, their family would have faced severe financial hardship. With that being said, getting sick in the United States isn’t a worst case scenario. Their modern medical system means you will receive top notch care. You can’t say the same for third world or under developed countries. This makes insurance even more necessary, as insurance in most cases will assist you in getting home quickly to see a doctor in your own country.
Secondly, natural disasters can be devastating no matter where they occur, but in regions with poor infrastructure and less organized policing and rescue efforts they can become even more dangerous thanks to looting, poor sanitation, and criminal activity. FlightHub says having insurance allows you to quickly find a route out of danger. In the event you don’t have insurance you would be relying entirely on embassy services which can get bogged down quickly in times of great need.
Lastly, according to FlightHub, your gear. If you are living out of your backpack and it gets stolen or destroyed, you will be royally screwed. Insurance helps you recoup necessary supplies or at least provides you with financial help to get you back on your feet. In some areas, your bag is your only ally, so insurance can keep you covered in case of loss or destruction.
Travel insurance allows you to travel with peace of mind. While no one plans for anything to go wrong, you should always plan for the chance that something could go wrong, making travel insurance a no brainer.
You are on vacation. Maybe you are at a resort or are in the middle of the wilderness backpacking, but something goes wrong. What do you do next?
FlightHub have heard this question before in dealing with clients. These questions have made it necessary that FlightHub review protocols for these types of emergencies as part of its travel insurance offerings. So what are you supposed to do?
1 – Identify The Severity Of Your Injury
Do you require urgent medical attention? If yes, go to the hospital. If not, the first stop should be the closest pharmacy. FlightHub says pharmacists in many countries are able to prescribe medication on site, meaning you can avoid the hospital altogether if your situation simply requires antibiotics. Additionally, a pharmacist can give you advice going forward, like whether you should go to the hospital asap, or if you can wait until you get home. If you have no idea where to find a pharmacy or hospital, ask your tour guide or hotel staff.
2 – Get In Contact With Your Family Doctor
Whether or not you require hospitalization, contact your family doctor. If you don’t need the hospital right away you can give your doctor the heads up that you’ll be coming to visit, If you do, getting in touch with your doctor can facilitate the exchange of your medical information. Last thing you need according to FlightHub is a foreign doctor prescribing or administering medications to which you may be allergic.
3 – Contact Your Embassy
Your embassy is there to help. FlightHub says embassy services can vary depending on their facilities, but they’ll be able to provide various forms of service that can come in handy in your time of need.
4 – Call Your Insurance Company (Did You Remember To Get Insurance?)
Lastly, get in touch with your insurance provider if you purchased travel insurance. The sooner the better as bills will pile up. On that note, get a copy of every document you see. You never know what you’ll need, and those documents are a lot easier to get when you are in the country where they were issued.
5 – Get Home Safe
FlightHub says you should definitely do your best to get home as soon as possible depending on the severity of your condition. So, get home safe, and get home quickly. You don’t need complications coming up again while on vacation.
I’d seen a couple of photos of the enormous head sculpture in Nice on Pinterest prior to my visit to the city. I intended to seek out the sculpture to take some photos. But I chanced upon it when I got slightly lost walking from our hotel to the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMAC).
The head sculpture is located in Jardin Marechal Juin, which lies between the Acropoplis conference centre and MAMAC. It’s official title is ‘La Tete au Carre de Sosno’ which translates to ‘Thinking Inside the Box’. It was created by the French artist and sculptor Sacha Sosno. The sculpture is home to a library with three floors. I’m not sure if it’s ever open to the public, I couldn’t find any information about this.
There are a few other sculptures in Nice’s Jardin Marechal Juin. I liked the rock man, held in place by wire wrapped around his body.
The man below looked pensive as he stared up into the sky.
I liked the simplicity of the predominately white sculpture in contrast to the intricate balconies and green shutters of the pink building behind it.
The activities which most appeal to me all involve the views.
The Forest Research Institute Malaysia Canopy Walk near Kuala Lumpur takes you along a 150 metre walkway in the Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve, which is suspended at a height of 30 metres. It’s advisable to book in advance as there’s a limit of 250 people per day.
The Table Mountain Cable Car Ride in South Africa’s Capetown ascends more than 1000 metres. In Summer, there is a half price ‘Sunset Special’ promotion if you take your ride after 6pm. Free family-friendly guided walks, lasting 30 minutes, depart every hour from Apostles Terrace. If you’d prefer a longer walk, there are three hiking trails from the Upper Cable Station.
I’d need to substitute a non-alcoholic drink for the Hot Chocolate Martini served at the Hilton Bellini Bar, which overlooks Waitemata Harbour in Auckland, New Zealand.
One of the first Christian countries in the world, Armenia, is a small country in the Southern Caucasus that despite its tragic history overcame all the difficulties and now is an independent republic. Perhaps, you haven’t heard about Armenia a lot and it is not the first country that will come to mind as a travel destination. But its world heritage sites, ancient monasteries, friendly culture, and exotic dishes make it well worth visiting. So if your interest is piqued, why not have a holiday filled with culture, history and relaxation. Here are top 5 things to do in Armenia.
Enjoy the View of Ararat Mount
Despite the fact that now Ararat Mount is not situated on the territory of Armenia, it is exactly from here that opens the most exciting and unforgettable view of this Biblical mountain. And during your journey in Armenia we recommend primarily to visit those places which offer the most fascinating view to that mountain. In Yerevan, you can climb the observation area of the Cascade – the huge stair connecting the centre of the city with the residential area and if the weather is clear you’ll be able to enjoy the view of Yerevan and Ararat. If you drive to the monastery of Khor Virap located a one hour drive from Yerevan, you’ll get a truly impressive sight. Nowhere in Armenia does Ararat seem so close.
Fly on the Longest Rope Way in World to Tatev Monastery
Armenia is famous for its ancient Christian monasteries and temples that have unique history and architecture. All of them are really worth visiting. However, in this article we’d like to mention the monastery of Tatev – the medieval architectural masterpiece of the 9th century. Once it was an important spiritual and educational center of the Middle Ages. It’s located on the edge of the canyon surrounded by the mountainous Armenian nature. Take the world longest rope way, included into the Guinness Book of Records, and fly over the deep Vorotan River canyon to the monastery.
Taste Armenian National Dishes
Armenian sudjoukh and dried fruit
Tourist travel in a foreign country wouldn’t be complete without tasting local dishes. So in Armenia the choice is great, there are lots of good restaurants offering wide variety of national dishes. You can order Armenian tolma, which is a minced meat wrapped in grape leaves, Armenian barbecue prepared by special national recipes, some kind of soups, for example, white creamy spas or thick tasty khash. Don’t forget about national sweets and try soft cake gata, tasty sudjoukh with wall nuts and wide variety of bright dried fruits which have soaked up the rays of hot Armenian sun.
Take Part in National Festivals
Festival of Tolma
Every year various national festivals take part in different picturesque corners of Armenia. The festivals are dedicated to local dishes, products, costumes or other no less unique national symbols. So if you happen to visit Armenia during one of them try not to miss such an opportunity to plunge in an absolutely new colourful atmosphere and get acquainted with some interesting traditions. You will enjoy national songs and dances, games and competitions, and a lot of tasty goodies. For example, on May 16, you can visit the Festival of Dolma and try different variations of this national dish. And in August in the picturesque town of Dilijan, you can take part in the carpet festival and not only enjoy the beautiful national ornaments, but also buy the work you like the most.
Did you know that Armenia is an excellent place not only for the cultural tourism but also for adventure travel? Mountainous landscapes and favourable climatic conditions contribute to the fact that the fans of extreme sports come to Armenia for a new adrenaline high. Paragliding has recently become popular. The flying places here are quite variable and the choice depends on the season, weather conditions and some other important factors. So if you are an extreme lover and want to combine the paragliding activity with the interesting cultural program, enjoy beautiful landscapes and get new impressions Armenia is a perfect place.
I wasn’t expecting the beaches in the French city of Marseille to be so beautiful. In fact the main reason that we went there was that our son Gary wanted to see the Bowl skate park, located at Plage Vieille Chapelle, which was featured in some skateboarding games he’d played when he was younger. As often happens, real life didn’t quite match fantasy, as the skate park looked much better and bigger in the game.
Heavy rain was forecast for the afternoon. The darkening skies made for some dramatic photos of Plage Vielle Chapelle in Marseille.
If you’re visiting Marseille, I recommend a visit to the beaches.
This is a sponsored article brought to you in association with IHG Business Advantage.
I related to several of the things that business travellers find annoying in an article by IHG Business Advantage. Below are my tips on overcoming these annoyances.
Last Minute Flight Delays and Cancellations
Flight delays and cancellations are an integral part of travel. These could be caused by weather, IT issues (I experienced a two hour delay due to IT problems at UK air traffic control), or staff shortages. The sooner that you are informed of a flight delay or cancellation the better, perhaps avoiding an unnecessary journey to the airport. I find that most airlines now have their own apps, which are very handy for up to date information.
Uncomfortable and Noisy Airport Lounges
I haven’t encountered any uncomfortable or noisy airport lounges. I thought that the lounges at Reykjavik and Copenhagen airports were really good, comfortable with a choice of tasty snacks.
Aspire Lounge at Edinburgh Airport
The lounge at Schipol Airport was so far from my boarding gate, that I hardly had any time there between connecting flights.
I was very disappointed by the United lounge at Chicago O’Hare Airport. My BusinessFirst ticket gave me complimentary access. I had a two hour delay and there was a very limited selection of food (only crackers, cheese and biscuits). I went to the customer service desk to ask for a food voucher, and was given a measely $7 voucher. I had won the air ticket in a prize draw, but if I, or my employer, had paid full price for the ticket I’d have hit the roof.
Inconvenient Hotel Location and Boring View
If I’m attending an event in a city, I always try to find accommodation within a 30 minute walk of the venue, enabling me to arrive at the event on time and relaxed.
InterContinental Hotel Sydney
An interesting view is always a bonus, but I’d prioritise on location for a business trip. If the hotel doesn’t have double glazing, a room at the back, away from a busy road, may lack a view, but should enable a better nights’ sleep.
When I organised an event in London for my personal finance website, the Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury combined a convenient location, i.e. a 15 minute walk from both my arrival point at King’s Cross railway station and the event venue in Charing Cross, plus an interesting view of the Art Deco former Daimler car hire garage in Herbrand Street, opposite the hotel.
The view from my room at Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury
Getting Plugged In
It’s so annoying when you arrive in your hotel room with all your electronic devices low on battery, and discover that you don’t have the correct plug adaptor. Evidently, you can buy worldwide adaptors, which work in around 150 countries.
Having an international adaptor would avoid the possibility of taking the wrong adaptor(s). Below is a photo of a UK to US plug adaptor on the right and a UK to European plug adaptor on the left. The main difference is that the UK to US version has two flat pins, whereas the UK to European has round pins, not too easy to spot when packing.
The vast majority of my travel is within Europe, so I keep a ziplock bag containing several UK to European sockets, plus a three plug European adaptor (in case there’s a shortage of electrical sockets in my room) in my carry on suitcase.
To overcome the issue of scarcity of electrical sockets when travelling in the UK, I take my four plug strip socket with me.
I always try to book a hotel which offers free WiFi throughout, or at least in the lobby.
However, if you have to pay to get connected and still get a slow and/or intermittent signal, you’re left tearing your hair out.
I generally manage to avoid this issue when travelling in the UK, as I can set up a mobile hotspot through one of my mobile phones. It gets trickier when abroad, as roaming charges can be high. Three Mobile’s ‘Feel at Home’ scheme allows you to use your UK plan free of charge in 18 countries.
However, you can still get caught out. When I was on a press trip to Corsica in France, the hotel WiFi was awful and, although France is one of the destinations including in Three’s ‘Feel at Home’, I couldn’t get a mobile broadband signal.
The Taxi is Delayed When You Have An Important Meeting
Personally, I’d rather walk or take the subway, to avoid possible traffic delays.
Collecting Receipts and Managing Expenses
As I’m self employed, I’m used to keeping receipts for everything. When I arrive back from a trip, one of the first things I do is to add up my expenses and put all the receipts in a plastic folder, which I label with the destination and dates of travel.
After reading an article on the most iconic buildings in Europe, I decided to write an article for Europe a la Carte featuring some of my favourite buildings in Europe.
Roman Amphitheatre in Tarragona, Spain
The Roman Amphitheatre by the seafront in Tarragona is remarkably well preserved. I’d recommend that you try to visit during the Terraco Viva Festival in May to see the gladiator show.
Gladiator show in the Roman Amphitheatre in Tarragona
Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice, France
The central section of the 1990s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMAC) in the French city of Nice, stands on four pillars. The glass frontage reflects views of the city. There’s a roof top garden which is home to some modern sculptures. I’d recommend that you pop into the nearby Jardin Marechal Juin to see the large head sculpture, which is home to a library.
The Palm House in Vienna’s Schonbrunn Palace Park opened in 1882. In 1901, it was renovated in Vienna’s famous Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) style.
The Palm House in Vienna
Temple of Athena, Paestum, Italy
The Tempe of Athena, dating from 500BC, is one of the three temples in this Greek city located in the south west of Italy. By the time we arrived at Paestum enroute to Puglia, it was after dark and the site was closed.
Now I’m not a female who’d normally bother to seek out shopping centres when travelling. However, it’s worth visiting the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre in the Irish capital of Dublin. It’s architecturally interesting, as it’s constructed around an 18th century mansion.
The Corn Exchange in Leeds, England
During each of my three visits to Leeds, I’ve visited the 1860s Corn Exchange, as I love it’s ceiling. It was redeveloped as a boutique shopping centre in the 1980s. If you’re a fan of grand Victorian architecture, you should also visit the Tiled Cafe at Leeds Art Gallery and the arcades of the Victorian Quarter.
The Corn Exchange in Leeds
The Smallest Cathedral in the World, Nin, Croatia
Normally I think of cathedrals as large, grand edifices. But the 9th century Cathedral in Nin is around the size of a detached house.
Me standing in the entrance to Nin Cathedral
The Shard in London, England
As the Shard is the highest building in the European Union, it dominates the London skyline. If you’re willing to part with the £30 admission fee, you’ll get a great panorama of London from the View from the Shard.
The Shard in London
MuCEM in Nice, France
From the distance, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Culture (MuCEM) in Marseille, looks like a large black box. However, you can appreciate the interplay between the buildings’ ornamental skin of filigree concrete and the surrounding sea and sky in the reflective walkways which run between the solid sides of the building and the skin.
Walkway at MuCEM, Marseille
Bratislava Castle in Slovakia
The imposing rectangular Bratislava Castle towers above the River Danube. On a clear day, you can see Austria and Hungary from the rocky hill on which the castle is located.
Bratislava Castle in Slovakia
Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France
The Louvre Pyramid consists of one large pyramid, which is the main entrance to the museum, surrounded by three smaller pyramids.
Alcazaba in Malaga, Spain
I had a wonderful view of the Alcazaba Moorish fortress from my holiday apartment in Malaga. When visited the Alcazaba on a Sunday afternoon, it was a popular spot for wedding photography.
The Alcazaba in Malaga
St James Court Hotel London, England
The St James Court first opened as a luxury hotel in 1902. In my teens in the late 1970s, I had a live-in Summer job at the hotel, Unbelievably, some of the apartments in the courtyard were then being used as staff accommodation. At that time, the building was looking a bit tired and it was more a tourist class hotel; some of the hotel rooms didn’t even have ensuite bathrooms. However, when I stayed at the St James Court earlier this year, it looked as the though the current owner, Taj Hotels, had spent some serious cash on renovations, with the building returned to its Edwardian glory and the rooms upgraded.
The internal courtyard at the St James Court Hotel London
Palace of Art Budapest, Hungary
The Palace of Art is located in Heroes’ Square in the Hungarian capital. It was built in 1895 in a neoclassical style. I liked the wooden vestibule, with its stained glass windows, which led in the foyer.
Foyer of the Palace of Art in Budapest
The Ferry Hut in Alnmouth, England
The Ferry Hut, in the seaside village of Alnmouth in Northumberland, was originally the shelter for the ferryman who rowed the boat across the River Aln. It’s now a tiny local history museum.
Me by the Ferry Hut in Almouth
The Belfry of Bruges, Belgium
The Belfry of Bruges is a medieval bell tower in the city’s Market Square. There are 366 narrow steps to climb to reach the top. If you’ve seen the movie ‘In Bruges’ you’ll remember Colin Farrell’s initially polite attempt to deter some overweight American tourist from visiting. I recommend that you try to visit the Belfry of Bruges either early or late in the day, to avoid a long queue to enter.
The Belfry of Bruges
La Vallette Restaurant in Valletta, Malta
This restaurant is in an old palazzo. It’s a bit incongruous, as the restaurant fare is more akin to a greasy spoon than the type of upmarket establishment which you’d expect to find in this impressive building.
La Valletta Restaurant in Valletta
Riverside Museum in Glasgow, Scotland
The Riverside Museum was designed by architect Zaha Hadid as the new home for the Museum of Transport. I liked the jagged roof on the front of the building and the way that the masts of adjacent Tall Ships are reflected in the glass frontage.
The Riverside Museum in Glasgow
The Dancing House in Prague, Czech Republic
The Nationale-Nederlanden building was designed for a Dutch insurance company in a collaboration between architects Frank Gehry and Vlada Milunic It’s known locally as the Dancing House.
The Dancing House in Prague
Malaga Market, Spain
What makes Malaga Market stand out is the enormous stained glass windows which depict local scenes.
Malaga Market in Spain
The Lipstick in Gothernburg, Sweden
The 1980s Lilla Brommen skyscaper, is known locally as The Lipstick. I liked the contrast of the modern building with Barken Vikiing sailing ship (which is now a hotel). For a few pounds, take the lift up to the observation room on the top floor of The Lipstick for some great views of Gothenburg.
The Lipstick and Barken Viking in Gothenburg
The Hill House in Helensburgh, Scotland
Designed by the Scottish architect Rennie Macintosh and his artist wife Margaret Macdonald, the Hill House is a fusion of Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts and Scottish Baronial styles. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take photo of the interior.
The Hill House in Helensburgh
The Rotunda in Birmingham, England
The 1960s Rotunda building in central Birmingham. It was refurbished and turned into residential accommodation in the mid 1980s. The top floors are the Staying Cool serviced apartments. I’ve stayed in one of these two bedroom apartments, which had a wrap around balcony.
The intricate 15th century Astronomical Clock is at at the base of the Old Town Hall in the Czech capital of Prague. It’s worth going up the tower of the Old Town Hall (accessible by stairs or lift) for the panoramic views of the city.
Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall in Prague
I hope that you’ve enjoyed my photo tour of 25 of my favourite buildings in Europe.
To make travel simpler and help avoid confusion, Expedia have compiled a guide to airline hand luggage sizes. This is necessary, as there is such as wide variation between airlines on the size of luggage which you can take on board. You don’t want to risk turning up at the airport boarding gate with a suitcase which is too large to fit in the airline’s metal cage, and then being charged extra for the case to be taken as hold luggage.
This guide to carry on luggage size, is going to be a very useful replacement for the hand-written list which I keep in my travel folder!
If, like me, you prefer a hard suitcase, the only way to avoid having multiple cases is to buy a case of the smallest dimensions allowed by the majority of airlines. However, this means that if you fly with an airline which allows a larger case, you won’t be able to take advantage of this additional capacity.
There are some softer bags which can mould into different dimensions, but I wouldn’t be happy carrying my netbook in such as bag.
The other solution, if you don’t mind looking like you are in a desperate need of a fashion makeover, is to don one of the specially designed wearable luggage jackets, such as the Rufus Roo, which I’m modelling below. The pockets in this type of jacket are so large that you can fit in a beach towel!
A little less extreme, is taking a normal jacket which has large, preferably zip pockets, into which you can stuff items such as phone and netbook chargers.
You also need to be aware of weight restrictions for airline carry on luggage. Some airlines, such as easyJet have no limit, but with others such as Thomson the limit is only 5kg. I regularly fly with Ryanair, who have a 10kg hand luggage weight limit, but I’ve never had my carry on luggage weighed.
If you’re planning to take hold luggage, the Expedia guide also lists the maximum weight permissible by each airline. Again, this varies quite a bit between carriers from 20Kg to 30Kg.
If there is more than one airline flying to your destination with similar prices, it’s a good idea to check the Expedia guide, to help you decide with which airline to fly. If I’d a choice, I’d certainly fly with the airline which allowed me to take a larger, heavier case on board and/or as hold luggage.