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Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Location: England, UK

There are few cities more beautiful and more historic than the likes of Chester, York and Bath in England. These cities, popular with tourists for good reason, have lots to offer in the way of history, culture and bars and restaurants. Here we look at some of the best places to visit in this impressive country:

Chester

The ancient city of Chester is famous for its tall Tudor-style buildings, its 1000-year-old cathedral and impressive city walls. Whether you are with your family or your friends, this city will have something for you. If you want to get a quick tour of the city then you can take a trip on one of the open-top buses or take a tour down the River Dee which runs by the city. While in Chester, make sure to check out the cathedral, one of the most impressive examples of medieval architecture, as well as the half-timbered Tudor houses along the Rows.

London

There are few places more iconic than the capital city, London, with so many famous landmarks to see and historic museums to explore. Must-see parts of the city include Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street – home to the country’s prime minister, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Natural History Museum. If you are limited on time, a guided bus tour or trip along the Thames are a couple of the quickest and best ways to see the city.

York

The medieval city of York is literally bursting at the seams with history. Known for its historic walls, York Minster, cobblestone streets … here you will uncover history at almost every turn. To get a feel for the city, why not take a walk around the medieval city walls which will take you around 2 and a half hours. From here, head over to York Minster which is one of the largest cathedrals in northern Europe; a trip inside the cathedral can, if you’re feeling fit enough, involve a walk up the 275 steps to York’s highest viewpoint.

Carlisle

The city of Carlisle in the north west of England was once a Roman settlement created to serve the forts on Hadrian’s Wall. Over the years Carlisle remained important for military defence due to its proximity to Scotland which, at the time, was independent from England. Today, a visit to Carlisle should include a tour of the Castle built in 1112 and Carlisle Cathedral which was founded in 1133. To top it all off, why not stay at the Hallmark Carlisle hotel which has its own royal history and impressive architecture.  

Bath

The Roman city of Bath, Somerset, famed for its Roman baths, is another to add to the must-see list when exploring historic cities in England. Bath is also known for its stylish Georgia architecture seen at The Circus, Royal Crescent and the Assembly Rooms. While here you’ll also want to take a trip to Pulteney Bridge, an icon of Bath, as well as Prior Park where you will find Palladian Bridge. After all that walking about, in need of something to eat? Head over to The Pump Room for an elegant afternoon spent over tea and scones.

Friday, 08 November 2019

Location: Edinbrugh, UK

It might seem that this year has been flying past us quickly. Now that Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night are behind us, Christmas is just coming up on the horizon. This time of year can feel a bit manic as it seems the Christmas decorations and adverts appear in the shops a little bit earlier each year. Some places deal well with the festive season and others where it feels a little tagged on.

One city that gets right into the Yuletide spirit is Edinburgh. The Scottish capital is no stranger to big events. From the annual international festival to Hogmanay (more on that later), Edinburgh is a city that knows how to transform itself with the seasons. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of Auld Reekie this Christmas.

Christmas Markets

Many towns across the UK adopt some kind of a German-style Christmas market over December, but few places do it as well as Edinburgh. The set up here is arguably as good as what you could find over on the continent as many authentic German vendors come to sell their seasonal wares with food drink and home-made crafts on offer. If you take a trip down Prince’s Street from mid-November, you’ll find a mini carnival set up in the groun.... It’s well worth a visit to absorb the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas.

Light Switch-On

If you happen to be in town on the 17th of September, you should get along to the big Christmas lights switch-on. The event takes places on the Royal Mile from 3:30 pm and is expected to pull in a crowd of some 20,000 people. Radio Forth is hosting the switch-on, and there will be music and a “fly-in” from Santa Claus himself. Even if you’re not lucky enough to make it along, the Royal Mile looks great with the lights on and is worth a visit during December.

Christmas Events

There is a broad range of events scheduled over the course of the month to suit every type of night, from traditional pantomimes to shows and concerts. If you’re interested in the former, be sure to have a look at the website for the Kings Theatre. This Christmas, a production of Goldilocks – great fun for all the family! If you do your research, you’ll find that there are loads of other smaller events taking place across the city, including food festivals, ballet and live music.

Food and Drink

For people travelling a distance into the city to have a Christmassy night or weekend, you want to be able to enjoy some great food and drink in festive surroundings as a means of unwinding. While Edinburgh has no shortage of great restaurants and eateries, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better restaurant than the bistro in the Edinburgh Hotel du Vin. The city centre hotel offers everything from a seasonal Christmas menu to exceptional breakfasts. Just make sure you pre-book because it’s a popular spot!

Hogmanay

Nowhere in the UK through a New Years party quite like Edinburgh. Hogmanay is a big deal for the Scots and Edinburgh becomes the centre of the universe when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st This year is no less spectacular with a number of bands and DJs playing the annual street party along with other smaller events. Check out the website to see if there’s something that suits you!

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Outside of London, there are many great cities and towns to explore, all with their own character, history and even accents. Here will look at some of the best towns on the east coast of England, in and around Yorkshire.

Newcastle

Newcastle, the much-loved city in the north-east, also known as Newcastle Upon Tyne, is famed for its history, great accent and vibrant nightlife. Interested in the history of the city? The first recorded settlement was in the 2<sup>nd</sup> century when a Roman fort was built along the River Tyne. The city was often used as an area for northern defence, with the city taking its name from the castle that was built in what is now its city centre. Today, visitors can visit the keep, all that remains of the castle, which is currently owned by the Newcastle City Council.

Prefer a night out in Newcastle? Newcastle is often voted in the top ten destinations for a night out in the UK, making it a great place to be on a weekend if you’re a fan of partying. Head to the Bigg Market and Quayside areas of the city centre to find some of the best and most popular bars and clubs

Hartlepool

The town of Hartlepool lies on the North Sea coast and is about 30 miles outside of Newcastle. Hartlepool is famous for the Hartlepool Historic Quay and the Hartlepool Maritime Experience, a popular visitor attraction in the town. The Maritime Experience documents the towns famous maritime past and transports visitors back to the 18<sup>th</sup> century seaport, a time when Napoleon and Lord Nelson were going into the Battle of Trafalgar. The Hartlepool Maritime Experience is open daily from 10am to 5pm.

Hull

Hull, otherwise known as Kingston Upon Hull, sits further down the coast still, in Yorkshire, and is a port city packed with loads of sightseeing options and things to do. Hull’s Old Town is a great spot to go shopping, with nearby Trinity Indoor Market, chain stores and local boutiques. Also, if you’re a fan of architecture, the buildings in the Old Town still have a lot of their old Georgian and Edwardian features.

If you’re travelling with your family, a great stop is the incredibly popular aquarium The Deep – voted best family attraction in Hull in 2013. The Deep is home to thousands of sea creatures, interactive displays as well as exhibits to teach the whole family about the world’s oceans and the creatures that call it home. Adult tickets for The Deep start at £12.60, with the aquarium open from 10am to 6pm.

Norwich

Further down the coast still, and moving closer to the south of England, is the city of Norwich in Norfolk. Norwich is known as the most complete medieval city in the UK and is home to lots of great historic architecture. One of the simplest and best ways to explore Norwich is to take a stroll around the city centre and experience the history for yourself, walking over the old cobbled streets and passing the stunning Tudor buildings and medieval churches – there are 33 in total!

Monday, 16 September 2019

When you’re going on holiday, there are likely 101 things that you are trying to remember at any one time. However, when it comes to going away from home for any length of time, especially abroad, there are certain things that you need to make sure you have in place.

This handy checklist is going to cover the most important things you need to have sorted before you go away.

Is Your Home Safe?
If your house is going to be sitting empty for the duration of your holiday, then it is important that you take steps to ensure your home is secure before you go away. If you have any regular deliveries that will be happening when you’re away - such as milk, newspapers or magazines – make sure to postpone them until after you get back. Having these items delivered, but nobody taking them in will draw unwanted attention to your home.

You should also open your curtains and leave some lights (for example, outdoor lights or bedroom and living room lamps) on timers so that they will turn on in the evenings and off in the mornings, giving the illusion that someone is home.
Or, you could have a family member stay in your home for the duration of your stay, or for part of the time. This way they can look after your home and keep it safe. Alternatively, you could ask a trusted friend or neighbour or pop in now and again and check the house over to make sure everything is as you left it.

Are Your Pets Cared For?
It is important that when you are going on holiday, you take the time to make proper arrangements for your pets while you’re away. There are different routes you can take to ensure your pets are getting the love and attention they need while you’re on holiday. One is to ask a family member or friend to help. This could be anything from them staying at your place with the pets, taking them to their home or even just popping by each day to walk, feed and play with your pet.

Another option is to find a trusted pet-sitter to look after your pets while you’re on holidays if none of your family or friends can. Pet-sitters will come by and care for your pets while you’re away. You can tailor what you want them to do while you’ re gone, and some will even send you photos and updates to put your mind at ease.

A third option is to put your pets into a kennel, cattery or find them boarding the local vet if that is a service that your vet offers. This way, your pets will be around other animals for the duration of your holiday, and they will have care from licensed professionals too.

Travel Insurance
This may seem like another obvious one, but so many people still forget to ensure they have comprehensive travel cover by getting good travel insurance before they go on holiday. In fact, research has shown that 23% of people don’t take out travel insurance when they go abroad.

While your EHIC card entitles you to free state healthcare in European countries, this cover doesn’t cover more complex issues and is more of ‘safety net’ more of a safety net than a substitute for travel insurance. It is also vital to note that for UK citizens, an EHIC card will not be valid after the 31<sup>st</sup> of October 2019.

Do You Have All Your Essentials?
There are a lot of different types of packer when it comes to holidays. Some people pack weeks in advance; others do it the day before. In any case, you need to make sure before you go on holiday that you have packed all your travel essentials. While this does include the obvious things like clothes and suncream, make sure you have also considered items that may be easy to forget but vital to include.

You might be surprised by this, but 1.4 million holidaymakers in the UK forget to take their crucial travel documents – passports, insurance documents, boarding passes etc. - when going on holiday. In fact, Britons have admitted that they are more likely to check the weather before they go away than they are to check for their passport.

Other things you will need to ensure you have on you are any medications that you need to take, as these may not be available to get your hands on abroad and, if they are, you may need to pay a fortune to get your hands on them.


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