Taking a stroll around the charming canals and popping in to museums and cafes is the best way to enjoy Amsterdam.
And with regular Eurostar trains
running from most European towns and cities, Amsterdam has never been easier — or cheaper — to get to.
Here’s a secret: every December, the Light Festival makes Amsterdam even more special as the city centre is transformed into a lit-up winter wonderland. This year, the festival will also include art installations and performances, making it one of the major cultural events in the city’s calendar. Boulevard of Light
Cultural buildings along the Amstel will be lit up in an assortment of colours during the festival.
Here’s an idea: A great way to take in all the projections is by hiring a boat to take you down the river at a relaxing pace.
Don’t miss: Artist Titia Ex has created an optical illusion with Appears @ Amsterdam. Using carefully placed mirrors and lighting, she’ll make part of the Skinny Bridge ‘disappear’ for the evening. Illuminade
From 15-30 December, Illuminade transforms what would usually be a normal stroll into a multi-sensory art experience. Artworks will be lit up for you as you walk through the path between Amstel and the Navel Museum and will feature big names in the art world alongside exciting emerging talent. Best of all, it’s all free.
Remember to: Throw a coin into audiovisual artist Wilhelmus Quick’s Wishing Well illumination onto the river. You might make somebody else’s wish come true as well — all the money goes to a good cause. Winter Canal Festival
Warm up with a steaming mug of mulled wine or hot chocolate as you enjoy a classical concert from artists in various places of worship.
What’s on: From a world premiere of a saxophone piece composed especially for the concert to Spanish music and performances of Bach, there is something to please everyone. Christmas Canal Parade
To get into the festive spirit, check out the Christmas parade of boats sailing along the canal on December 15. Decked out with twinkling lights, festive props and carollers singing from the boats, it’s a magical evening. Socialight
Celebrating Amsterdam’s rich artistic tapestry is Socialight, which invites the public to get involved and submit their own lighting displays.
As Disneyland Paris
celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, Mickey’s Magical Fireworks and Bonfire celebrations on the 5th – 9th November is sure to be a treat. There will be a floating bonfire in the middle of Lake Disney, eye popping fireworks and Mickey Mouse himself will make an appearance.
One of the most convenient ways to travel to Disneyland Paris is on the Eurostar
, with regular direct trains from London during UK school holidays. Eurostar also allows you to book a hotel or hire a car at the same time as booking your ticket.
Disneyland Paris is celebrating
its 20th year in style. Watch the fantastic anniversary parade and the Disney Dreams spectacular evening show. Peter Pan presents a magical look at the Disney stories, assisted by a rainbow of colours, fantastic lasers and amazing fountains which brings the Disney characters together. You can even meet Mickey backstage and have your photo taken with him.
There will be plenty to oooh and aaah about at the Guy Fawkes night festivities, so wrap up warm and take in the rockets, firecrackers, laser shows and live music, not to mention the giant floating bonfire from the shores of Lake Disney.
As well as the ongoing celebrations for the 20th anniversary, Christmas at Disney is always something amazing and the festivities start on the 9th November until the 6th January 2013. There’s so much to see and do, but the highlights include:
• Sleeping Beauty Castle transforms into an ice palace
• Snowflakes & magical decors on Main Street
• One of the tallest Christmas Trees you've ever seen!
• Meet 'n' greet with Santa Claus in his toy workshop
• An unforgettable ceremony and a glimmering, shimmering night time parade!
If you like your Disney Shows to come with a bit more excitement, hoot and holler your heart out at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show
, the roughest, toughest Hardest-ridin’ extravaganza you have ever seen!
The shows start on 8th November and run right through until November 2013. Visitors are presented with their own hats at the beginning of the show, then it kicks off with cowboys chasing and charging until Buffalo Bill arrives with Annie Oakley and Sitting Bull. What follows is a spectacular display of stunt riding, plus a buffalo stampede and a shooting match! What Wild West Show would be complete without a feast, and Bufallo Bill’s is no exception. A Texan style barbeque is served at your table, including a range of unlimited free drinks.
There are several themed hotels at Disneyland Paris; take your pick from Davy Crockett’s Ranch, the Wild West at Hotel Cheyenne, Hotel New York, cruise down route 65 at Hotel Cheyenne, travel the ocean at the nautical themed Newport bay club or enjoy the comforts of home at the Sequoia Lodge. Alternatively, there is always the Disneyland Hotel, situated right at the entrance to the park.
With new flight routes
regularly being added to Heathrow, holidaymakers are truly spoiled for choice. Which country do you fancy exploring? Here are just a few of the latest Heathrow destinations that are begging to be visited.Canada
Canada is a beautiful country that is synonymous with towering mountain peaks, clean air, clear lakes and some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world. That’s only part of the story though. Destinations such as Newfoundland and Labrador are rich with history going back as far as Elizabethan times. Take a stroll through the colonial-style neighbourhoods and wonder at the charming, brightly-painted houses. Or would you prefer something a little more cosmopolitan? If so, you’ll want to head straight to Toronto, Canada’s cultural and business centre, where you can find some of North America’s finest shops, bars and restaurants. When you’re ready to take a break from all that shimmering glass and steel, the Great Lakes and Niagara Falls are easily accessible from Toronto.
No less than eight Canadian cities are serviced by Heathrow. Virgin Atlantic now operate flights to Vancouver, to complement those provided by BA and Air Canada. In addition, passengers can fly from Heathrow to Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, St John’s and Toronto.India
For those who savour the journey just as much as the destination, India is the ultimate traveller’s paradise. Fly to any one of eight Indian cities from Heathrow and then explore this sprawling country at your leisure. From sandy beaches to verdant jungles, India offers a lifetime of adventure. The biggest dilemma you’ll face is determining what to cram in to your holiday – and what to omit. Air India, British Airways, Kingfisher Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Jet Airways all offer flights to a plethora of Indian cities. Pick a destination and then plot your voyage from there. Will you explore the urban sprawl of Mumbai, with its vibrant array of flavours, colours, sights and sounds? Or will you head to Bangalore and take a trek into the wilderness? Today, it’s never been easier to get there and embark upon your own journey across this fascinating land.Brazil
Brazil has long been a popular destination with holidaymakers jetting off from Heathrow. It’s about to get a whole lot more popular though, buoyed by the impending World Cup in 2014 and then the Olympics two years later. For those who love to be at the heart of the action, it has to be Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s legendary carnival city. With great nightlife, endless beaches and friendly, flamboyant people, Rio is a hub of activity all year round. It’s also a city awash with culture, from the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer to the country’s only inner-city national park. With British Airways and TAM Airlines both offering Heathrow flights directly to Rio, there’s never been a better time to head to South America and discover what all the fuss is about.
If you’re catching a long-haul flight, you may prefer to arrive the night before and check in to an adjacent Heathrow hotel. In the morning, you can awaken refreshed and ready to begin your adventure. Heathrow Airport now services some of the most exotic locations in the world.
Image via Gopal Venkatesan on Flickr
Visitors to India in the last few days may have noticed some practices taking place that at first glance seem a little unusual. Snakes – and especially cobras – have long been worshipped by people in this area, and there are countless legends and symbols
pertaining to snakes in Indian culture. However, the level of respect shown to this much-feared reptile comes to a peak with the festival of Nag Panchami, celebrated in late July or August.
On the day of Nag Panchami, live cobras (or images of them) are revered and given offerings of milk. This is intended as a sign of respect and a means of securing the serpents’ goodwill. The timing of the festival is no doubt related to the climate – during the rainy season, many snakes are flooded out of their holes and seek shelter near communities of people, often appearing in gardens and even houses. This clearly poses a threat to people, and it is understandable why they would hope to appease such potentially deadly neighbours.
There are also many different legends that may help explain the origins of the festival, many of which involve Lord Shiv, who is said to have a special connection with serpents and indeed is often depicted with a snake around his neck. There is also a frequently-cited story about Lord Krishna which tells that as a boy, he wrestled a snake that lived in the Yamuna River and forced it to go away, much to the delight of the nearby villagers.
Snake symbolism in general is rife in Indian culture – for instance, the snake’s ability to shed its old skin and effectively be born anew have made it a popular symbol of eternity, which is sometimes represented by a serpent devouring its own tail. Cobras in particular are revered for their power and deadliness, and if you are touring in India
, you can often spot images of these serpents in temples and other sites of worship.
While the exact celebrations of the festival vary from area to area, there is often a connection to the young women of the community. On the day of Nag Panchami, these young women make a special journey to the nearest known snake’s lair, or, failing that, to a temple or shrine containing images of cobras. Here they perform puja
– or make an offering – to the snake, which usually includes a gift of milk and sometimes rice and other items. In some areas live snakes are bathed in milk, whereas in others people make their own snake idols out of clay or kneaded rice flour.
Have a look at the video below to see Nag Panchami being observed in India:
Have you ever celebrated the festival of Nag Panchami? What do you think about this interesting observance?
Those of us lucky enough to be not working at the weekend will be considering our options. ABTA
has predicted that six million of us will be taking the chance to go on a mini holiday in the UK or mainland Europe whilst our European neighbours are set to come to London to take part in the Royal Jubilee celebrations.
Friday 1st June is set to be the busiest day, with over 30,000 passengers
expected on the Eurostar
alone to be travelling between the UK and Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels and other European destinations.
Airports will also be busy with Heathrow airport expecting to handle 2.9 million passengers over the next fortnight and engineering work has been suspended on some roads and railway lines to ease congestion.
Popular places for Britons to go this weekend include Spain, the Canaries and Greece because of the strong buying power of the pound against the euro at the present time.
In typical bank holiday style, the weather is set to change for the worst with many parts of the UK and further afield forecast
rain and even a chance of a thunderstorm. The best of the weather is likely to be in Italy and Greece over the next few days.
It’s not often we get the chance of an extended bank holiday, so whether you’re having a street party at home or going on holiday, have a great time!
So it was revealed this morning on the BBC that having a stroll along the beach can have a more positive effect on our mental wellbeing
than a similar walk in a park or the countryside.
However, if you don't live near a stretch of gorgeous British beach, you'll be pleased to know what the coast is never too far away - in fact, no point in the Britain is further than 70 miles from the sea.
So, what are you waiting for? Jump on a train and head to the great British seaside for a much needed dose of salty feelgood factor! Here's a rundown of our favourite seaside spots:
The Brighton Pier is a somewhat iconic image of the British summer, and for good reason. The popular seaside resort is jam-packed to the brim of things to see and do.
The town is filled with beautiful architecture, including buildings inspired by the Regency period dating back to the early 19th century. There are gorgeous Victorian aquariums, the fun Brighton pier and modern Brighton Hotels
has also put the town on the map as a conference hub as well as a beautiful seaside destination.
However, the jewel in Brighton's crown has to be the luxurious Royal Pavillion, a decadent palace that was sold to the city in 1850 for £53,000. Sounds like a bargain to me.
Heading further North, Scarborough is a great little retreat tucked into the North Yorkshire coast, and is the 3rd most visited place in the UK.
The town has a long white stretch of beach that attracts thousands of people every year, but 2012 is a particularly good time to visit. Scarborough has some strong links to the Titanic, and has a great exhibition to mark the centenary of the disaster.
There's also some big names making an appearance later in the summer, with Olly Murs and JLS both playing a the town's iconic Open Air Theatre in July and August.
SOUTHEND ON SEA
Image by Tom Bayly
At the southwestern tip of the Britain, Newquay boasts some of the best beaches in Cornwall. The little seaside town just trundles along at a laid back pace, full to the brim of Cornish charm.
If you love your watersports, you're in luck - there are plenty of facilities, so you can try your hand at kitesurfing, bodyboarding, kitebuggying and waveskiing, to name but a few.
But if that's a bit too much for you, you can just as easily wile away the days fishing, or wandering around the gorgeous surrounding countryside.
A bit further North, Blackpool has been a popular British favourite for many years.
The town is home to the popular Pleasure Beach, which hosts some of the most exhilerating rollercoasters in the country, including the aptly named "Big One", which reaches heights of 235 ft, and races around at speeds of up to 87 mph!
After a day on the rides, you can blow off steam in one of Blackpool's many nightclubs, which is a popular haunt for hen parties and stag dos.
So, those are our favourite seaside resorts, but what are yours? Tell us about them in the comments section below!
The North West of England is a fascinating area to explore, offering diverse attractions to suit a range of interests. From vibrant urban metropolises to quaint country villages and pristine countryside, there is something to appeal to every visitor. Take advantage of the freedom offered by a driving holiday to tailor your itinerary to your interests, or take in a good selection of sights at your own pace to get a true feel for the area.
The city of Manchester is the perfect base from which to set out on a driving holiday of north-west England. One of the UK’s iconic cities, there’s plenty to see and do before you even venture forth in your car. Originally a Roman settlement, the city only properly took off during the Industrial Revolution, when it expanded at an astonishing rate after becoming a centre for the textile trade.
Nowadays, the city still has a far-reaching reputation as a centre for science and engineering, as well as media, sports, arts and culture. Home of the famed football teams Manchester City and Manchester United, it also boasts a vibrant music scene, excellent shopping, pubs and clubbing, plus a variety of museums and galleries to tempt the visitor. Check in to one of the many excellent Manchester hotels
and make the city your base (or starting point) for venturing further afield.
Holidaymakers in the area are spoilt for choice – there are endless possibilities for day trips out of Manchester. Head west to the coast and travel through traditional seaside resorts for a taste of old fashioned beach holidays, traversing sleepy, relaxing towns like Morecambe, Fleetwood, Lytham St Anne’s or Southport, or for a livelier scene head to Blackpool
for roller coasters and light shows.
Heading south, Liverpool is also within easy reach and well worth a visit. Although chiefly known as the Beatles’ hometown, the city also boasts an extensive trading history and a UNESCO World Heritage-listed waterfront area, as well as excellent museums (such as the International Slavery Museum
) and art galleries (such as the Tate Liverpool
). Chester is also a pleasant destination for sightseers keen on historic architecture, as the city centre boasts an impressive collection of distinctive black-and-white, timber-framed medieval buildings, along with a lovely cathedral and Britain’s largest Roman amphitheatre.
Fans of birds and beasts may want to check out some of the area’s nature-viewing opportunities. Birdwatchers can spot pinkfoot geese, bewick and whooper swans at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Martin Mere Centre
, and intrepid adventurers can watch lions, tigers, monkeys and more from the comfort of their vehicle at the Knowsley Safari Park
For those who love grand country homes and sprawling parkland (and really, who can resist?), the beautiful Lyme Hall
, Bramall Hall
, and the massive Tatton Hall
and their surrounding parks are all worth a visit. Also in the area is Nether Alderley Mill
, a functioning medieval watermill that offers a fascinating glimpse into a past era. While the mill is currently closed to visitors while its roof undergoes necessary repairs, it is expected to reopen in September 2012, so you can begin looking forward to your visit.
Science buffs will be keen to explore the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre
, home of the impressive Lovell Radio Telescope, while those eager for some recent history will want to journey underground into the reconstructed Stockport Air Raid Shelters
. Finally, the stunning Peak District National Park
is well worth a visit, as are the area’s individual attractions, such as the colourful Blue John Cavern
As ever, make sure you’re prepared for a driving holiday – send your car for a tune-up to avoid any unfortunate surprises on the road, and make sure your car insurance
is up to date. Pack appropriately for the weather and season, and bring plenty of water and snacks, as well as some good maps and guidebooks to help you navigate the area. Check out our previous blog post for more tips on preparing for a driving holiday
, or have a look at our map
below for locations of attractions around Manchester: