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Top Five Places to Visit Away From London.

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Coming to London is always interesting, I have never got bored of this city. Even after knowing a lot about the city, as I have been learning about it since childhood, I still feel there is lot to learn about it, and lot to experience. In my previous article I wrote about the best bars in London in my opinion. Today I will talk about the places which are not in London, but interesting, near and easy to reach. London is surrounded by some of the interesting castles, towns and English country side.

I arrived in London for an educational trip. And since you know I love to go around the places I never miss the opportunity of utilizing my free time in travelling. In a sudden change in plan we had to shift our meeting place. I had to hire a meeting room in London as the one where we had planned, was undergoing renovation. And I am glad that we did. This new place was very beautiful in the premises of a college. It had a panoramic view across the Thames and was few steps away from the famous art gallery and London landmark, Tate Britain. Sitting there after the conference, I was thinking and talking to the students about the places they prefer to go during short vacations or long weekends near London. I am glad that I had traveled to most of the places which fellow students suggested me. Here is my list of top five places to visit from London.

1. Brighton – London by the Sea

brighton pier
Brighton Pier, Photo by Helen Clark

Brighton is a famous sea side resort, a perfect getaway point for the ones in London who wish to celebrate their weekends away from the city. Brighton is known for its oriental architecture and large gay community.

Try getting down to Brighton Pier, it is a nice place to walk in the cool breeze, along the beautiful sea shore & in the calmness all around. This is a place that will get you revitalized if you need a break from your busy work schedule. It can be a long walk, there are cafes after a mile or two and public conveniences. The light reflected from the cliff is very bright making the place even more wonderful. The place is well lit at night and is good for making photos.

If you enjoy hiking like me then come to Devil’s Dyke where nature will treat you in its own way. If you are lucky to find clear sky, you will find the views over Sussex breathtaking which will make you just want to go on a long walk. It gives you a 360 degree views of Brighton out to the sea and across to North Downs. There is also a pub restaurant on the top. The pub is surprisingly good and gives you a great panoramic view if it is cold outside. The food is above average.

If you admire Indian architecture, come to Royal Pavilion, I had no idea such a thing existed in English cities when I went there to attend a friend’s marriage. Royal Pavilion is a brilliant piece of art designed with unbelievable architectural touches. Rebuilt in the 19th century by architect John Nash, this building features a unique mixture of classical and Indian styles, which has been labeled as “Hindu-Gothic. You can start your tour with the electronic headphone which can translate the history of pavilion into several languages. Paintings and other architecture inside the Pavilion gives you the Indian feeling.

2. Cardiff, Truly Welsh

bute park cardiff
Bute Park, Photo by Sarah Barker

Cardiff is the capital of Wales in the United Kingdom situated on the south coast of the country. The city is gaining popularity with tourists who are interested in its history and Welsh culture. Cardiff is quickly becoming one of the United Kingdom’s tourism hot spots.

Away from London if you have come to Cardiff for walking or picnicking with your family and kids, then Bute Park is one of the best places. There is an amazing animal wall silence in the park which gives you the calmness and creates a romantic atmosphere. Waterbus is a really nice touch to the park. Hop onto the waterbus which takes you along the river past the Millenium Stadium to Cardiff Bay. It is of great value and is a nice ride along the river. The park has good networks of tracks for cycling along with good cafes.

I have visited a lot of castles but Cardiff castle was one of the best I have seen in the country. It has 2000 years of history together in an eight acre site: Roman, Norman, Plantagenet and Victorian history. You can go from the old Roman, Norman and Medieval ruins to the newer wartime shelters and lavishly decorated interiors. The main castle itself in the centre has some great views of the city, Millennium rugby stadium being one of them.

3. Cambridge, a University City

cambridge backs
Cambridge Backs, Photo by Paul Fenton

Cambridge allows you to form various impressions about the place. from world famous Cambridge Univeristy to breathtaking view of King’s College Chapel from across the river Cam. It is very common to see students pedaling their way to the lecture hall and people spending their lazy summers near the River Cam. The town also deserves your admiration for rich intricacy of Gothic architecture.

River Cam and the view of serene greenery and colleges makes Cambridge a place to relax being surrounded by some of the most genius people in the world. Come to the Backs which is known for their daffodils and crocuses in the spring and beautiful open areas and road through gardens behind many colleges along the River Cam. The river is a good for punting during lazy summers.

Visit a college and walk on their garden and enjoy student’s cafes and see if you can recall your college days. Entry inside the college campus may not be free unless you are member or if you have a local pass.

Also see Anglesey Abbey which is a few miles east of Cambridge, take bus no. 10 which plies every hour. It is a National Trust Property, a beautiful house having extensive trail of nature, pond with fishes, beautiful gardens big enough to lose oneself. It is a good place to take your kids and play. There is a water mill which functions whenever there are volunteers, it is fun for kids as they can mill flour. And you can buy the milled flour right there. The on-site catering is good quality, offering a fair choice of meals and snacks at lunchtime.

4. Northampton, Beautiful Countryside

coton manor garden northampton
Coton Manor Garden, Photo taken by Elliott Brown

Not to be confused with the Northampton in Massachusetts (U.S), it is a largest settlement in U.K which is not classified as city. The place has beautiful gardens, lakes art galleries and museums.

Northampton is smaller compared to Cardiff and Brighton and there are less things to do. What I like here is the peace and experiencing true English country. My favourite place here is Coton Manor Garden which is among the best gardens I have been to. I was lucky to see real flamingos here. There are less but good cafes for refreshment. Entry fees £6 per adult is of a good value and Parking is quite big. If you are a gardener yourself or pursue it as a hobby then you may learn some tips and tricks at this place and even buy some plants for your garden. There are several different types of gardens, and they give you a map. Start by the house and you will appreciate the beautiful lawn, rose garden, a large pond and terrace gardens.

Another beautiful place is Stanwick Lakes. There is lack of public transportation and its better if you go by car. Keep binoculars with you if you enjoy bird watching. The entry to the place is free and parking fee is mere £2 for the whole day. There is a nice cafe and mobile drinks van for refreshments. Cycle tracks are nicely laid if you love cycling. The atmosphere is serene, pretty and oriented for all. The place is great for relaxing with family or playing with kids. People of all ages would enjoy here including a romantic visit for couples.

5. Oxford, It is not all about the University!

Christ Church Meadows, photo taken by Tejvan Pettinger

Known for one of the most famous university in the world, Oxford University is also the oldest university in United Kingdom situated 50 miles (80 Km) west of London. The earlier evidence of teachings dates as far back as 1096.

Much of the development in Oxford is surrounding the university, though Oxford is not all about the university. Train ride from London takes you Thames valley. Section between Reading and Oxford gives you some of the best views of English countryside.

Christ Church Meadow is my favourite place in Oxford. It is a beautiful place ideal for picnic spot or just relaxing. This scenic park offers you to walk through the meadows and along the river. The park is just two minutes walk from the main Oxford shopping street in the city centre and leads you down to the river banks of the Isis (Thames as it is known is Oxford). Take some cheese, bread, strawberries and champagne with you and head to the meadow watch the punters and enjoy the magnificent view of the Christ Church.

Another similar place is Port Meadow. Stroll by the river, have lunch and drinks in a pub, take horse ride or even feed the horses ducks and swans. It is a great open space with horses and cows around. Whether you do cycling or run or walk, this place is good for all and if you are here during winter you can even see kids from the neighbourhood skating on the frozen lake.

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Barcelona, the top-3 ‘MICE’ tourism destination of the world

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Barcelona MICE TOurism

Corporative tourism —also known as ‘MICE’ tourism mobilized around 18,000 million euros in 2016 in Spain. According to the Spanish Convention Bureau, the number of events, conventions and meetings in Spain has increased by 16%, while the MICE sector worldwide will grow by more than 5% in the next years. The country ranks 13th worldwide in a market led by China and the US, but Barcelona and Madrid are in the Top 10 of the favorite European cities to organize congresses and events.

What is MICE tourism?

The acronym MICE stands for meetings, incentives, conferencing & exhibitions. It is a niche area of tourism that is focused around the planning and booking of groups for large events, conferences or seminar. A top class MICE event organised to showcase your products, build new client relationships, host a company event or to reward your employees for their hard work is an investment and usually it’s one to remember.

The players in the MICE field include corporate meeting planners, meetings and convention departments of hotels, conference centers or cruise ships, food and beverage managers, logistics firms, private tour operators and transfer companies, incentive houses, professional trade organizations, tourism boards, tourism trade associations, and travel-selling professionals. Destinations often market themselves as MICE locations and bid for events through their convention and visitor bureaus. They might be able to offer subsidies to attract large events because of the increased revenue the visitors provide through their economic impact on the host location.

Barcelona, ​​the best city in Spain to celebrate events and conferences

The good position of Barcelona as a destination of congresses and meetings is increasingly more evident and, recently, the Catalan capital has been placed in third position in the prestigious world ranking drawn up by the ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) to establish which are the most relevant cities and states in MICE tourism (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions), and it is placed ahead of other very important destinations in the sector such as Vienna or London. The Catalan city was hot on the heels of the first two in the ranking —Berlin and Paris — and acts as a pole of attraction to boost the organisation of events all over Catalonia.

The offering to organize events and congresses in the city is wide thanks to the presence of companies such as Eventos Barcelona, an event management agency in Barcelona specializing in artistic and technical production of events for companies, meetings, incentive travels, conventions or gala dinners.

During 2017, Barcelona hosted 2,134 congresses and conventions —10.5% more than in 2016. More than 675,000 delegates participated in these events, and their economic impact in the city is estimated at 1,850€. Throughout 2017, Barcelona obtained the best results since it entered in the MICE tourism industry, increasing its benefits 21% more than the previous year, as reported by the Turisme de Barcelona consortium. The last six months were a little weaker due to the effects of the attack of August 17th and the independence mobilizations of October 1st, but thanks to the entrance of the summer season the city has returned againt to the highest level.

‘Bleisure’and gastronomy, the key to success in MICE tourism

‘Bleisure’ is the buzzword in corporate tourism. Its name mixes the B of business with the word pleasure —that is, combining business trips with pleasure tourism. Therefore, many events are organized in local destinations and non-conventional spaces. The salons and conventional spaces lose importance against of unusual spaces, which are also more profitable because visitors can enjoy a wider leisure offer (such as spas, cursos de coctelería, showcookings) and team building activities, combining both work and fun in an entertaining and relevant way.

Nowadays, congresses and events want to offer a more friendly, funnier face than the pompous and rigid meetings of yesteryear. The idea is to personalize the experience of a congress with the emotional connection of each assistant thanks to the flexible and dynamic spaces. This emotional connection is achieved by taking care of the details, which is valued above all in the younger generations. Interactive and collaborative activities, non-traditional speakers and sessions with a spirit of commitment rather than instructive are the booming formats.

Gastronomy is another distinguishing factor for MICE events’ success. The youngest attendants to these events –mostly workers under 40 appreciate that the culinary proposals of the events include healthy alternatives, fresh food, fruits and foods that provide energy, instead of unnecessary huge meals full of empty calories. Also, mixing the gastronomic experiences and technology is very helpful. Incorporating innovative cuisine techniques and exotic foods with creative, very ‘instagramable’ preparations, are all a synonym of success. Once again, new technologies provide another guideline on how to succeed in these events.

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Discover natural wonders found nowhere else in the world with a Galapagos Island cruise

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Galapagos Island cruise

If the Galapagos Islands are not on your bucket list yet, then they should be. This unique and beautiful place is home to amazing creatures and scenery you will not find anywhere else on the planet.

And there is really only one way to truly experience the wonder of it all – from the sea. Only that way can you discover all there is to fall in love with.

Experience a real island paradise

Situated around 620 miles off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, this magnificent archipelago of 19 islands, and many more small islets, is also known as the Enchanted Islands. And for good reason.

Each island is unique and beautiful in it’s own way, whether it has stunning white sandy beaches or dark, forbidding and barren volcanic rocks. Add this to the sapphire blue waters surrounding them, and the abundance of wildlife, and this is something that every visitor will remember for the rest of their lives.

There is nothing else like it, and Galapagos island cruises are just the thing to see it all in it’s full glory, where travellers can enjoy the majesty, the sounds of nature and experience the intimacy of such a special location, with a specialist guide and every need catered for.

It is best to travel at night, making the most of the epic night sky as you have never seen it before, and using the day time to explore the different islands and what they have to offer.

Get up close and personal with nature

The Galapagos Islands themselves, and the surrounded marine reserve, are a perfect melting pot of marine species. Ideally located at the confluence of three ocean currents, with islands created through ongoing volcanic activity, it has allowed flora and fauna to develop in such a way that is simply unique to this area.

It has been called a ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’ due to the species thriving there. So much so, that when Charles Darwin arrived on his ship The Beagle, the things he saw later led to his development of the theory of evolution.

Add all of this to the extreme isolation of the islands, and a lack of natural predators, the wildlife has little fear of inquisitive visitors and are just as likely to observe you as you are them.

Playful sea lions and gigantic and majestic sea tortoises allow humans to get up close is a way you will not find anywhere else. If you have not booked your visit yet, what are you waiting for, a Galapagos cruises last minute trip is one you will never regret.

Check out each island and it’s amazing uniqueness

Each island has its own features and persona.  Take for example Santa Cruz island, which hosts the largest city, Ayora. Here you can visit the Darwin centre and see where the turtles and iguanas come to breed.

Then there is Isabela island – the largest in the archipelago. Formed from five volcanoes, and still active, reaching as high as 1,700 feet, this island is a landscape  of petrified lava, and home to flocks of flamingos and giant tortoises.

Fernandina island is also an active volcano, but you are able to set foot on the island at Punta Espinosa to see many thousands of marine black iguanas warming themselves on the rocks in the sunshine, and red crabs moving about the rock.

Then on the islands with beaches, such as Rabida Island, you get the rare chance to see sea lions in their own habitat, playing with their young, and relaxing.

And this is only a tiny fraction of the things you can see in this beautiful place. Description does not do it justice, it has to be seen and felt to truly appreciate this inspirational location.

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When is the Best Time to Vacation in the French Riviera?

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While many people are happy to go on vacation at a particular time of the year, there are some locations where the weather is so hot tourists are advised to stay away during the summer season. Other locations are too cold during the winter months, whereas some offer visitors the very best at that time of year. So if you’re determined to trawl through some french riviera vacation rentals lists so you can stay in this lovely part of the world, how do you know you’ll be visiting this location at the best time of the year? It’s easy, just read on for more information:

One of the very best times to visit the beautiful French Riviera is at any time. That’s right, there is no specific month that offers you so much more than any other month. Every season and every month within each of the seasons offers something wonderful. Of course, the range of activities that are on offer from month to month will vary with the seasons, but there is always a lot to do in this part of the world.

The French Riviera in:

January

In January, the temperatures tend to be as low as 8° Celsius, meaning you’re unlikely to be able to sun yourself on the beach. However, this time of year is great for anyone who loves to head to the ski slopes and brush up on their skills. This means if you’re an avid ski-fan, you should think about heading to the French Riviera in January.

At this time of year, you’re unlikely to see much nightlife, however, if you insist on partying you should think about heading to Monaco as the International Circus Festival takes place and is not to be missed!

February

Fête du Citron French riviera

Fête du Citron – Image by Leona Lorraine flickr/[email protected]

During the month of February, temperatures tend to be around 9° Celsius, just slightly warmer than the previous month. This is also when the tourist season starts, meaning many hotels will open their doors once more after a bit of a break. February happens to be the month when the Carnival of Nice and the Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival) takes place.

March

In March, temperatures rise a few degrees, and you can expect to see them rise to 11° Celsius. While it might not be warm enough to head to the beach and swim in the sea, if you’re a lover of all-things skiing, this is the best time of year to visit. You may also want to head to this part of the world in March as the Paris-Nice bicycle race takes place, as does the Festin des Cougourdons, which is worth seeing. So book your villa and enjoy the start of spring.

April

Temperatures in April can be as high as 12° Celsius, making it feel a little more like spring. Although you may be tempted to visit the French Riviera at this time of year, you should be aware that the area does get pretty busy during the Easter holidays. If you insist on coming here in April, you may want to pay a visit to the Honey Festival that takes place on the last Sunday in the month in Mouans-Sartoux.

May

In May, the average temperature is around 16° Celsius, making it one of the better months to visit this part of the world. You may want to be aware that in May there are quite a few national holidays which means traffic tends to get quite busy. May is also the month when the Formula 1 Grand Prix is held in Monte Carlo, so you may want to avoid Monte Carlo during May if you’re not a fan of racing. However, if you love film festivals then you’re in for a real treat as the Cannes Film Festival takes place during this month. If you want to do a spot of movie star spotting, Cannes is the place to be.

June

With temperatures as high as 20° Celsius, the first signs of summer are seen. Beaches in the French Riviera start to get a little busier as the sea’s temperature rises, and the sun beats down quite strongly. This could be a really good month for you to book your villa as the French aren’t officially on their summer vacation just yet.

July

In July, the average temperature is around 23° Celsius, and the whole of the French Riviera seems to be partying. The Nice Jazz Festival takes places in July, as does the Cannes Nuits Musicales du Suquet. In fact, there are quite a few musical events taking place this month. One festival that you simply cannot miss is the International Festival of Fireworks which is located in Monaco.

August

During the month of August, you can expect temperatures of 23° Celsius, even though it can feel quite a bit warmer. There is a national holiday on the 15th of August, but once that’s over and done with you should expect the area to be less crowded. This means you’ll have plenty of room to sun yourself on the beaches, and you may even want to head to Les Nuits du Sud in Vence, a fantastic music festival.

September

September is the month when temperatures start to fall. During this month, you should expect to see an average temperature of 21° Celsius. The good news is it’s still beach weather, despite it not feeling quite as warm. Head to Cannes if you get the chance so you can visit the Boat and Yacht Show. You may also want to find out when the Journees du Patrimoine takes place as national and local monuments are open to members of the public during one weekend this month.

October

In October, temperatures can be as low as 16° Celsius, and this month can be quite wet, but this isn’t always the case. The good news is there are some excellent festivals taking place in October, such as the boat race in Saint Tropez, and a fair in Vence.

November

During the month of November, you should see temperatures reaching just 12° Celsius, which means the beaches are usually pretty quiet. However, the local bars and nightclubs tend to be very busy, and the International Dance Festival takes place in Cannes, making everyone want to go out and dance a little more. If you’re in Monaco on the 19th, you may want to stick around for the celebrations as this day is Monaco National Day.

December

With temperatures as low as 10° Celsius, many locals hotels start to close for the Christmas holidays. The good news is that visitors to the area have the chance to enjoy local Christmas markets, buying souvenirs and presents to take home.

As you can see, the French Riviera is the ideal place to visit any time of the year, so make sure you book a place to stay during your chosen month and get ready to have a great time in this stunning part of the world.

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