The weather at home has been diabolical. Youâ€™ve saved hard all year for your two weeks of sun, sea and sand, you want to chill and relax, but how likely is this? I suspect most of us think flying is the most difficult, stressful part of our holiday, but what about the hotel youâ€™ve so carefully chosen? How likely is it to raise your blood pressure?
Having recently spent three months travelling, many of the places I stayed inÂ failed to get the basics right. Here is my personal list of irritations.
The welcome – you arrive at your hotel reception hot, sticky and tired only to be faced with so many simultaneous issues even the most proficient multi-tasker is challenged. The form you need to complete requires your passport to be retrieved from the bottom of your bag, youâ€™re asked to produce a credit card for extras whilst trying to listen to the fast patter about meal times and location of the pool. If youâ€™re lucky, youâ€™ll be juggling a cold flannel and welcome drink.
Lighting – why is there always a sequence for switching on and off the huge number of lights? If you donâ€™t suss it quickly, you end up recreating the sound and light show at Egyptâ€™s Karnak temple every night before you go to bed. Thereâ€™s always one light bulb that doesnâ€™t work and lighting levels are generally insufficient for reading anything but a large print book.
The safe key – having got to your room, you find the safe and a sign saying, â€œkey available at reception for a depositâ€. So, you traipse all the way back to reception when youâ€™re invariably in the room furthest away. One safe I encountered required my fingerprint to open it, or not as was generally the case.
The safe location – why is the safe always in the most difficult location at the bottom of a dark wardrobe requiring you to get on hands and knees to open it?
Wi-fi – once everything is safely stowed, you try to connect your lap-top but realise you need a password, which after looking at the information sheet, is â€œavailable from receptionâ€. Why donâ€™t hotels automatically provide safe keys and passwords without being prompted? And why is it, that the more expensive the hotel, the more they charge for wi-fi?
Double rooms for one – when youâ€™ve paid for a double room, which usually means that two people will spend the night in it, why is there only one chair even when thereâ€™s ample space? And why only one suitcase rack – how many couples travel with one suitcase between them?
Bathrooms – a constant source of irritation. I cannot count the number of times when Iâ€™ve started the week with three face-flannels only to find they disappear one by one. My towels will be replaced, but not my flannels. When I hang up my towels to be kind to the environment by saying Iâ€™ll use them again, why do they ignore me and replace them anyway? And having being let down so many times, one of my â€œmust packâ€ items is a universal sink plug.
The loo – I appear to be very unlucky, as invariably during a week-long holiday, my partner end up with his hand in the cistern to either stop the constant dribble of water or get the thing flushing properly.
Well, having got that off my chest and feeling much better, what about your thoughts on the most irritating things about hotels? It could be something general (Iâ€™ve not even mentioned â€˜the liftâ€™, â€˜fixed coat hangersâ€™ and ‘towel sculptures’), or a splendid one-off irritating experience.Â The winner might even win a one night stay at my least favourite hotel at their own expense.
Having recently returned from a week in Portugal I noticed how full of Brits and Irish people it was.Â I canâ€™t say that this was what I was expecting, I never really choose to go abroad to be surrounded by people from my home town.Â Nevertheless I was with my man and no amount of build me up buttercup was going to put a dampener on my hols.Â There was a lovely little square in the centre dubbed â€˜The Old Townâ€™ which was full of cute little fish restaurants along the seafront and some not so cute British looking bars.Â There were however a lot of young families and couple frequenting these places (and the odd stag do which we tried to avoid of course).
One day we decided to check out â€˜The Stripâ€™ in a different part of town.Â Not to be confused with the Las Vegas Strip and everything glorious it has to hold there.Â This strip however was a debauchery of loud English stag and hen doâ€™s, followed by even louder northern lasses looking for a “good time”.Â I use the word good loosely as who knows how good anything is after 8 Jagerbombs and 12 double vodka and cokes.
Neon lights and the promise of 2-4-1 jelly shots at happy hour engulf these randy holiday makers. Â What makes for a sexy 3am finish?Â An abundance of alcohol and a Bon Jovi track to boot.Â â€˜Yes we really are halfway thereâ€™.Â Brummie girls followed by young Irish men fill the streets of the Portugal strip tonight.
What makes these holiday makers sleep with whatever is on offer at that time at night? Girls in bikinis, guys with six packs all smelling of Hawaiian Tropic in the midday sun is just the beginning of Temptation Island for that week. Â Drinking in the heat equipped with half naked testosterone roaming the sand dunes is enough to make many people turn on their backs.Â Some of these girls and guys may not dream of partaking in such tom-fooleryÂ back on home turf.Â Men and women who have come on these single sex holidays.Â You know the ones â€˜Whores on tourâ€™ or â€˜Stags to Shagâ€™.Â They suddenly forget all about their relationships back home and the rules of relationship norms.Â I.e. no sexy cuddles on the beach or on frolicking under clothes on the dance floor (because that still counts you know).Â Partners are forgotten back home for some of these amorous holidaymakers and the next 7 days are a free for all apparently.Â Â Itâ€™s a no holds barred 2 for the price of 1 action.
The thrill of being in a different country, a hot Irish accent and endless fishbowl cocktails is all too tempting for some happy campers. Â Â Sleeping with a stranger on holiday is seen as more acceptable than sleeping with someone from your local apparently.Â Itâ€™s totally acceptable and more often than not encouraged.Â â€˜Oh youâ€™re on holiday, have some funâ€™ or â€˜what happens on the strip, stays in the stripâ€™.Â Until pictures get posted on Facebook that is.Â It can become like a huge challenge for people out there to sleep with as many people as possible in the time they have.Â Sun worshippers getting as drunk as humanly possible and putting the eveningâ€™s actions down to â€˜maybe my drink got spikedâ€™ and acute memory loss it would seem.
The more notches in the sand the better, especially for the girls it can seem.Â However try this one nighter action back at home and you take the name fishbowl to a whole other level.
To get a real feel of a place it is always best to travel outside of the high season and avoid the hordes of tourists. Granted not a lot of the typical postcard and expensive coffee shops will be open but what will be open are the usual shops the locals use like the butchers, bakers and honey pot makers.
One such place is a little island called Nidri. The island is around forty minutes away from Lefkada town in Greece. I must warn you though to get to the beautiful island of Nidri outside of the season requires a fair amount of travelling due to the local airport that usually services the island being closed. The way around this is to fly into Corfu, take a ferry journey and then get strapped in for a three hour car journey. The joy of driving is soon reignited though when cruising up and over the mountains with the view of the glistening Ionian Sea. Nidri is a small island that is surrounded by wispy white clouded mountain peaks. The surrounding islands include Sparti, Madouri, Skorpidi and Skorpios.Â All easily accessible by boat these offer lush green lands and secluded beaches hidden by weather worn cliffs.
Nidri has been a popular location for sailors for many years partly due to the exclusion of docking fees. Many a sailor has left their boat there only to return years later to find it untouched. The locals are wonderful people who all have a story to tell. You will find many a rugged sailor perched on the end of a bar ready to tell you some of their captivating sailing adventures. Getting an adopted grandmother is pretty easy as well.Â Walking into any restaurant and being kissed and hugged is pretty much the norm here whilst filling up on some of the food specialities. Some of the best dishes include the seafood platters which are so fresh you can watch the fish being caught from outside the window!
One of the best ways to get around Nidri for those that are brave enough is to hire a little moped, however even the most skilled of drivers may find it hard to navigate round some of the smaller roads running up and through the mountains. There are a few hidden gems tucked away in the cliff tops. These range from stalls selling honey made right there from the honey farms. Nidri honey is considered some of the best in the world so the locals tell me. Little churches nestle amongst the lemon and orange trees whilst lose chickens run amok through the olive groves. Crossing the paths of goat herders is a daily occurrence whilst waving to one man and his donkey. The next town is never too far away and you will soon find yourself amongst white washed villages with brightly coloured doors and windows.
Past the blue tinted strawberries and climbing up through the rugged landscape into the lush green woods reveals little streams that trickle back down the mountain. Ascending the mountain the sunlight shatters through the clouds and splits into shafts of golden rays. The very top reveals the rushing sounds of a beautiful waterfall as it cascades down the rocks and lands into a pod of clear ice blue rainwater. It is inviting as it is freezing but has to be jumped into, even if just for that perfect picture moment.
Planning your next great getaway can be tricky â€“ you have to consider so many things, which include your flights, transfers, accommodations, entertainment options, and so much more. To relieve you from the headache of planning, however, you can go for a unique solution: all-inclusive packages.
All-inclusive deals can be seen all over the world, especially in the most popular destinations like Spain, Greece, Turkey, or the Americas. But what exactly does an all-inclusive package mean?
Pay upfront and avoid the stress
You are required to pay for all-inclusive packages even before leaving your country â€“ which is a blessing for most of us, since we donâ€™t have to worry about budgeting during our travel. The only thing you have to worry about is your incidental expenses, such as souvenirs, tips for hotel staff, and drinks and meals outside the hotel.
Choosing a hotel for your all-inclusive package
As far as flights to and from the destination go, there isnâ€™t much trouble. It is relatively simple to get from one place to another, after all. But the hotel and accommodations is a different matter. You would want to be in accommodations that are not only comfortable, but also come with great food, great activities, and a great ambience as well.
What to expect from an all-inclusive holiday
Package holidays basically include almost everything related to your travel. This would mean that your flights, transfers, and accommodations are taken care of. However, not all packaged deals are created equal. It depends on the type of deal you can get. Some all-inclusive holidays include not only three meals day, but also unlimited local drinks. Other all-inclusive holidays may also include the cost of activities such as day tours around the area, golfing, kayaking, trekking, horseback riding, sightseeing, or boating.
If you have a virtually unlimited budget, of course, you can go all out with 5-star accommodations and all the luxuries imaginable. But if you are worried about the cost, never fear: there are various 3-star accommodations that can give you good value for your money, as long as you know what to look for. And changes in the industry have brought about better food, better accommodations, and better entertainment options all around.
If you donâ€™t drink, then maybe you would rather not opt for an â€œunlimited drinksâ€ package. If you would rather curl up with a book in the evening than watch a dramatic magic show, then your best bet is to talk to a representative of the tour operator so you can get the best deals according to your preferences.
Also, it would benefit you to look closely at where the hotel is located. If you are planning to explore the local area on foot or with a bike, then it would be better for you to select a hotel that is near specific tourist spots. For children, look for hotels with day-care centres and other child-friendly entertainment and activities options.
That perfect holiday is within reach â€“ and you can rely on a package holiday to give you the ideal getaway â€“ if you choose wisely.
It may be known for its beautiful Blue Flag beaches and an incredible 300 days of sunshine per year, but thereâ€™s so much more to Portugalâ€™s Algarve region than sun and sand. The southern coastline is a real haven for those of you who need to de-stress and unwind on holiday, whether that means hitting the greens with your golf clubs or discovering a natural spa in the countryside. Get ready to indulge in some serious me-time.
Itâ€™s got to be Golf
Youâ€™ll notice that many of the visitors to the area have a passion for golf and, when you see just how many courses there are to try out, youâ€™ll understand why they make a beeline for the Algarve. The Masters takes place here every October (11th-14th for this year) and itâ€™s held at the Oceanico Victoria course in Vilamoura. In 2011 we saw Britainâ€™s own Tom Lewis crowned the victor, so thereâ€™s no better place to soak up the atmosphere. If your budget doesnâ€™t stretch to premium fees then choose one of the 38 other locations to enjoy a bit of tee time, with most offering junior rates for young enthusiasts as well as lessons for any age group to brush up on their skills. The newest course, Espiche, is even eco-friendly.
A Bottle or Two
One of the most overlooked things to do on a holiday to the Algarve is to try its wines. Ask anyone you know about the famous wine regions of Portugal and, chances are, they wonâ€™t even consider the lowly south! However, youâ€™re missing out if you donâ€™t sample some of the excellent produce here, which is helped by the warm and dry climate and the sea breezes. Cliff Richard has his own vineyard near Guia, called Adega do Cantor, which translates as â€˜the winery of the singerâ€™ and produces signature two wines: Vida Nova and Vida Onda. You can take a guided tour of the vineyard and learn how viticulture works, as well as sampling the produce.
Hop on a Boat Tour
As the Algarve enjoys a beautiful coastline dotted with beaches, islands and sea caves, it would practically be a crime not to explore the region by boat. You may well spot dolphins on your travels, through an organised dolphin-watching tour with a marine biologist (run from several of the local harbours) which is designed to appreciate the animals but also let them enjoy their natural habitat. Alternatively you can enjoy reef fishing along the coastline from Albufeira, or visit the large array of sea caves around the dramatic Ponta da Piedade rock formations. For something really sedate then try a river cruise from Alvor village that visits sheltered spots like Silves, home to a stunning medieval castle.
Make time for a Spa Visit
You can either try out a day spa (there are many across the region) or go for the natural approach with a trip to the Caldas de Monchique, which are hot springs where the waters are said to have healing benefits. You can see the springs and buy bottled water to get a true taste of wellbeing. Wherever you choose to go, make sure you disconnect from all distractions and really let yourself unwind.
One of the easiest ways to enjoy this experience is to do so at your hotel, as many of them have dedicated facilities for guests to be pampered. The Agua Hotels Riverside Resort and Spa is just one example, boasting a wide range of options at the Agua Viva Spa including a massage for children, body wraps and a marine facial treatment. Once youâ€™re relaxed, head out to the gardens that overlook the Arade River close to Portimao, or walk along to the village of Ferragudo and enjoy the tranquillity as you watch the sunset.
Step Back in Time
The Algarve has a rich history which is easy to explore, regardless of time constraints, as youâ€™re never far away from an old fort (the coastline is littered with these ancient defences from marauding pirates) or a building decorated with beautiful blue illustrative tiles called azulejos, which have been a signature sight in the region for centuries. There are also plenty of affordable â€“ or even free â€“ museums where you can become absorbed in local culture, from the Portimao Museum thatâ€™s housed in an old sardine packing warehouse to the Costume Museum of Sao Bras de Alportel.
At the Vila Gale Albacora Hotel in Tavira youâ€™ll even find a heritage museum inside the grounds, as the resort has been built in a former tuna fishing village where workers lived. Period details such as the chapel have been left intact and are fascinating to explore. Thereâ€™s a frequent ferryboat crossing to the main areas of Tavira should you wish to explore the historical city and its Roman bridge.
Evidently you can enjoy the best of the Algarve without cramming it into a hectic schedule; there are plenty of sights to see at your leisure, allowing you to recharge your batteries on holiday.
Article written by Polly Allen of easyJet Holidays
City Connect wishes all our American readers a very happy Fourth of July!
Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from Great Britain. Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, and political speeches and ceremonies, in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States. Independence Day is the national day of the United States.
During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia declaring the United States independent from Great Britain. After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, finally approving it on July 4. A day earlier, John Adams had written to his wife Abigail:
“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
Adams’s prediction was off by two days. From the outset, Americans celebrated independence on July 4, the date shown on the much-publicized Declaration of Independence, rather than on July 2, the date the resolution of independence was approved in a closed session of Congress.
Historians have long disputed whether Congress actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, even though Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin all later wrote that they had signed it on that day. Most historians have concluded that the Declaration was signed nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2, 1776, and not on July 4 as is commonly believed.
In a remarkable coincidence, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration of Independence later to serve as Presidents of the United States, died on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of the Declaration. Although not a signer of the Declaration of Independence, but another Founding Father who became a President, James Monroe, died on July 4, 1831, thus becoming the third president in a row who died on this memorable day. Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, was born on July 4, 1872, and, so far, is the only President to have been born on Independence Day.
Independence Day is a national holiday marked by patriotic displays. Similar to other summer-themed events, Independence Day celebrations often take place outdoors. Independence Day is a federal holiday, so all non-essential federal institutions (like the postal service and federal courts) are closed on that day. Many politicians make it a point on this day to appear at a public event to praise the nation’s heritage, laws, history, society, and people.
Families often celebrate Independence Day by hosting or attending a picnic or barbecue and take advantage of the day off and, in some years, long weekend to gather with relatives. Decorations (e.g., streamers, balloons, and clothing) are generally colored red, white, and blue, the colors of the American flag. Parades are often in the morning, while fireworks displays occur in the evening at such places as parks, fairgrounds, or town squares.
The night before the Fourth was once the focal point of celebrations, marked by raucous gatherings often incorporating bonfires as their centerpiece. In New England, towns competed to build towering pyramids, assembled from hogsheads and barrels and casks. They were lit at nightfall, to usher in the celebration. The highest were in Salem, Massachusetts (on Gallows Hill, the famous site of the execution of 13 women and 6 men for witchcraft in 1692 during the Salem witch trials, where the tradition of bonfires in celebration had persisted), composed of as many as forty tiers of barrels; these are the tallest bonfires ever recorded. The custom flourished in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and is still practiced in some New England towns.
Independence Day fireworks are often accompanied by patriotic songs such as the national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner”, “God Bless America”, “America the Beautiful”, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, “This Land Is Your Land”, “Stars and Stripes Forever”, and, regionally, “Yankee Doodle” in northeastern states and “Dixie” in southern states. Some of the lyrics recall images of the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812.
Firework shows are held in many states, and many fireworks are sold for personal use or as an alternative to a public show. Safety concerns have led some states to ban fireworks or limit the sizes and types allowed. Illicit traffic transfers many fireworks from less restrictive states.
A salute of one gun for each state in the United States, called a â€œsalute to the union,â€ is fired on Independence Day at noon by any capable military base.
The famous Macy’s fireworks display in New York City has been televised nationwide on NBC since 1976. In 2009, the fireworks display was returned to the Hudson River for the first time since 2000 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s exploration of that river. It was the largest fireworks display in the country, with over 22 tons of pyrotechnics exploded. Other major displays are in Chicago on Lake Michigan; in San Diego over Mission Bay; in Boston on the Charles River; in St. Louis on the Mississippi River; in San Francisco over the San Francisco Bay; and on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.. During the annual Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival, Detroit, Michigan hosts one of the world’s largest fireworks displays, over the Detroit River, to celebrate Independence Day in conjunction with Windsor, Ontario’s celebration of Canada Day.
While the official observance always falls on July 4th, participation levels may vary according to which day of the week the 4th falls on. If the holiday falls in the middle of the week, some fireworks displays and celebrations may take place during the weekend for convenience, again, varying by region.
The first week of July is typically one of the busiest American travel periods of the year, as many people utilize the holiday for extended vacation trips.