Czech Republic: Prague visitor review by Isabelle Jones

Czech Beer

Czech Beer

One of the first things that I was told as I stepped on to the bus after a short plane ride to Prague was that ‘the beer is cheaper than water over here. It’s a student paradise.’

Whilst they were not wrong- a bottle of water costs roughly £1, whereas the cheapest brand of beer is 80p per pint- it is almost wrong to just see Prague as a cheap getaway location for a quick break.

I was lucky enough to experience the sights and culture in Prague recently, and even though the trip was incredibly kind on my wallet, I can confidently say that the city is priceless.

We stayed in a small hotel called Oslanka, which was surrounded by small pubs and restaurants that serve cheap beer and traditional Czech dishes (Goulash, dumplings, and steak) and a tram stop.

One of the great things about Prague is the cheap and convenient trams, which run to all corners of the city, and make you feel like a local because, unlike the British public, they don’t really care for personal space!

Czech Republic Prague

Czech Republic Prague

Over the course of my trip I paced through the streets of Prague frantically checking my map and trying to make sure that I found my route, but I quickly learned that this isn’t the way that you want to experience the city.

In France they have a lovely word, ‘flaneur’, that translates roughly to ‘wanderer’, or someone who can just wander aimlessly throughout a city without a purpose; and, if you’re not trying to stick to a schedule, I’d seriously recommend trying this.

The streets are lined with colourful ornate buildings that make you feel as if you just stumbled upon a film set- which you can easily miss if you don’t take the time to look up!

Czech Republic Prague

Czech Republic Prague

But if you’re the kind of visitor who loves to be busy/ doesn’t have a lot of time in the city there are plenty of stops to tick off. Personally, I’d grab a Trdelnik, a small sweet tunnel shaped pastry often filled with cream and strawberries, and take a walk up to Prague Castle.*

The building is the largest ancient castle in the world currently, and if that doesn’t convince you the views will. Then take the time to find the famed ‘John Lennon’ wall- a symbol of rebellion and a passion for peace (as well as an excellent photo spot).

Or if you want to sample some of Prague’s nightlife head to one of the small cave bars, like Popo Café Petl, which offers you a cosy atmosphere while you sip on some of the strongest spirits in Europe.

Prague drew me in and gave me a taste of why it is such a popular destination- but left me wanting more. If you are looking for a beautiful city with a rich history and stunning (but chilly) sunshine book your trip as soon as possible.

*Even though the Trdelnik isn’t a necessary part of this step it definitely makes the walk easier.

Feature written by Isabelle Jones 23/02/17

A Weekend in Copenhagen

frozen canals

frozen canals

Copenhagen is the capital city of Denmark and sits very close to the Swedish border, which is accessible by road and rail via the Øresund Bridge.

Most people from the UK will fly direct to Copenhagen. From Birmingham the flight is around 1 hour 45 minutes, and then a train to the city centre is around 20 minutes.

The temperature can be exceptionally cold and snowy during winter and even spring, however Summer offers a completely different ambience with similar temperatures to the UK.

There is a great tourist trail in Copenhagen which includes sights such as the wide expanses of shipping canals and the smaller canals which are reminiscent of Amsterdam. Tivoli Gardens are beautiful and worth checking out for the theme park and old fashioned touristic stalls.

Christiana is a great place to explore. It survives as a hippy style traveler camp in the heart of a city suburb, with its own rules and laws with a liberal outlook on cannabis and arts/crafts. It can be slightly intimidating with drug sellers wearing masks but these people are actually very friendly, they just do not want to be photographed, it is frowned upon to take photos within Christiana. A unique and fascinating place which may not be there forever as the authorities are keen to limit its existence.

snowy Copenhagen

snowy Copenhagen

Also worth noting is Church of our Savior which is near Christiana. Visitors can climb right to the top, and then climb outside the steeple with breathtaking views of the city and beyond – not for the faint hearted.

Many people will walk or cycle to see the Little Mermaid statue, this is a great route with Rosenborg Castle, Christiansborg Palace, Kastellet military fortress and many interesting side streets with Danish architecture en route. The Carlsberg Museum is also a great attraction with two huge stone elephants and a guided tour of the brewery.

There are many bars and restaurants too in Copenhagen, the main touristic route exists as the many side streets off the city centre, however is is also worth visiting areas like Vesterbro (check out Meat Packing District and Bang & Jensen bar) and north of the city centre is Norrebro.

Whether you visit Copenhagen in winter or summer, you will find a bicycle friendly city with friendly happy inhabitants and a very laid back attitude with little crime or anti social behavior.

Article by Nick Byng for Blog About Holidays

Chalet of the Month – Chalet Dolomites

Dolomites

Dolomites

Located in La Plagne Montchavin Chalet Dolomites is a traditional Alpine chalet. The chalet sleeps 8 -11 people in 4 bedrooms and has its own hot-tub with a great view of the piste – great after a full day on the slopes.

Dolomites could not have a better location, it is perfectly located at the foot of the piste in the village centre, with easy access to the Vanoise Express link between La Plagne and Les Arcs.

This chalet is full of character and perfectly designed for families.

Book this chalet during October and benefit from 15% off your holiday price. To take advantage of this exclusive offer call the team today on 0203 411 5439.

Ski Amis Ltd
1st Floor Cooks Barn
Turkey Mill Business Park
MAIDSTONE, Kent ME14 5PP
Tel: 020 3411 5439 – extension 260

Lowcost Holidays demise blamed on Brexit vote

Holiday booking company Lowcost Travelgroup has gone into administration, as uncertainty ahead of the EU referendum and the fall in the pound were blamed for its demise.

The group has 27,000 holiday makers in resorts and 110,000 more with bookings.

Administrators said Lowcost Travelgroup ceased trading on 15 July, with the loss of 120 jobs in the UK.

Smith & Williamson and CMB Partners were appointed administrators after the firm’s own rescue attempts failed.

Those “exhaustive” attempts had been “hampered by the recent and ongoing turbulent financial environment”.

Customers’ flight bookings will be valid in almost all cases, but hotels will need to be paid for, a company spokesperson said.
‘Delayed decisions’

Smith & Williamson said intense competition had caused the collapse but also the increased terror threat and the uncertainty before and after the recent referendum.

“The group experienced significant market headwinds in the run up to the EU referendum as holidaymakers delayed decisions. This was compounded by the Leave vote itself and the subsequent fall in value of the pound,” said Finbarr O’Connell of Smith & Williamson.

“Regrettably, in these extraordinary conditions, the directors had no option but to place Lowcost Travelgroup Limited into administration. ”

The group operated a travel agency business from headquarters in the UK and offices in Spain, Switzerland and Poland.

The administrators said 60% of customers were British.

Full article on BBC here.

Term-time holidays victory claimed by campaigners in Wales

The BBC recently reported that Campaigners who petitioned against parents being fined for taking term-time holidays are claiming a victory after it was agreed a blanket ban breached regulations.

The education minister has written to councils advising them head teachers should instead exercise discretion.

Pupils are allowed to have up to 10 days away, but schools are judged on absenteeism rates.

Campaign group Parents Want a Say said the advice was a “terrific result”.

‘Margin of discretion’

Nearly 2,000 people signed a petition after hundreds of parents were fined over term-time holidays.

In his letter to councils on Wednesday, Huw Lewis said he was concerned some councils were advising “head teachers should not exercise their discretion and should instead refuse all requests for term-time absence as a matter of course”, regardless of the circumstances.

“This is contrary to the regulations which allow a margin of discretion for the school in such matters so that each request can be considered fairly and on its merits,” the minister wrote.

A BBC Wales Freedom of Information request in 2015 found wide variations in policy of imposing fines.

While Cardiff council issued 370 penalty notices between January and May, 10 other councils did not issue any.

After receiving the petition in December, petitions committee chairman, William Powell AM, wrote to Mr Lewis saying some parents may have been dealt with unfairly and unlawfully.

‘Compelling evidence’

He welcomed the minister’s response, saying some councils had been “engaging in a cynical game of ‘pass the parcel’ on this issue”.

“It is clear that the minister’s intention, contrary to what applies in England, is for the discretion of individual head teachers to be respected,” Mr Powell said.

“The Minister’s response to the petitioners, in the light of compelling evidence received, is, in my view, a victory for common sense.”

Craig Langman, chairman of campaign group Parents Want a Say, said it was a “terrific result” for parents in Wales.

“We hope this will encourage Westminster to reconsider its position on the policy in England,” he added.

Online Camping Reservation Specialist Camping-and-co Expands in Europe

Guillaume Patrizi, President and Founder, Camping-and-co

Guillaume Patrizi, President and Founder, Camping-and-co

With 109,743 million nights booked on Camping-and-co.com, the online camping reservation specialist confirms its status as the preferred website for outdoor accommodation among French and European holidaymakers. The outdoor accommodation industry has generated more than 2 billion euros in France alone in 2014, and 6 billion euros in Europe in 2015. With a turnover of 8 million euros ​​in France last year, leading French campsite reservation expert, Camping-and-co, has performed strongly and is now the local market reference.

5 new European markets in 2016

Building on its success in France since 2012, Camping-and-co sets out to expand in Europe, starting with the following five markets: the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Italy. The company aims to achieve a 95% market share of camping customers in these regions and become the European leader in online camping reservation.

According to a 2014 report on tourist accommodation in France published by INSEE[1] (the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies), the Dutch represent the largest portion of tourists in the market (thirteen million overnight stays), followed by the Germans (seven million overnight stays) and then the British (six million overnight stays) – affirming the burgeoning potential of these new target markets for Camping-and-co. With upcoming iconic events in France such as the Tour de France, UEFA EURO 2016, Bastille Day and so on, the company plans to target this group of European travellers through unforgettable outdoor vacation experiences. It has also developed one website per country and a 7-day call center operated by native speakers of each nationality to ensure quality service and attention.

“We are rapidly cementing a solid presence in Europe, where we have identified unique opportunities in the outdoor accommodation market for British, Dutch and German travellers. With the new partnerships signed in France, Spain, Italy and Portugal, we see Camping-and-co’s vision slowly being realised. Moreover, our foray into these countries marks another milestone in our strategy to be a major player in Europe,” said Guillaume Patrizi, President and Founder, Camping-and-co.

Camping-and-co, a ‘made-in-France’ success story

Camping-and-co is, at its heart, a family business with a long heritage. Both son and grandson to camping property owners, Patrizi grew up in the world of outdoor accommodation while mastering the industry’s know-how. He noticed the changing aspirations of tourists where there is an increasing demand for outdoor accommodation, as it is perceived to be closer to nature and more affordable than hotel rooms. This is in stark contrast to the negative publicity received by campsites ten years ago, according to Patrizi. In the UK alone, camping and caravanning trips by British residents went up by 7% between January and August 2015, a reported increase from previous years, according to the Great Britain Tourism Survey.

Following these observations along with the modernisation of the outdoor accommodation industry, Camping-and-co was conceived as an idea to partake in the development of this sector while meeting the needs of both campsite owners and holidaymakers.

Camping-and-co, poised for continued growth

After over 18 months of development, Camping-and-co.com was founded in 2012. Today, it has six websites in different languages where users have a selection of over 1000 campsites located in France and Southern Europe (Italy, Spain and Portugal). From mobile homes and pitches to wooden cabins and teepees, Camping-and-co.com has a wide range of accommodation which will appeal to outdoor enthusiasts with different tastes and budgets.With an average annual growth rate of 100% between 2012 and 2015, and a turnover of 8M€ in France last year, Camping-and-co affirms its position as an expert in the online camping reservation industry.

Since its inception, Camping-and-co has facilitated over 80,000 online reservations in total: 40,000 reservations in 2015, 21,000 in 2014 and 13,000 in 2013 – a clear indication of its continued growth. In addition, the company increased its number of partners by 30% each year, with a contract renewal of 98% (on average) of its existing partners.

The company in figures

  • – 8M€ turnover in 2015
  • – 100% year-on-year growth (2012-2015)
  • – 80,000 customers since 2012
  • – 1,000 referenced campsites in France and Southern Europe (Italy, Spain, Portugal)
  • – 18 tour operators
  • – 4 years of experience
  • – 6 language-versions of the website

About Camping-and-co.com

Launched in 2012, Camping-and-Co.com is an online booking specialist of outdoor accommodation sites which combines quality and comfort for all holiday budgets. The portal offers over 1000 holiday accommodation options with categories ranging from 3 to 5 star establishments in France and Europe. Camping-and-Co.com is a brand of Holidays-and-Co established in 2012 by founder, Guillaume Patrizi, who is based near Saint-Malo, France. Camping-and-Co.com facilitates thousands of online visits for holiday bookings in France, Spain, Italy and Portugal. Camping-and-Co.com has 18 tour operators who are experts in selecting the best in accommodation based on quality, rating and style: Mobile homes, cottages, camping sites, tree houses, yurts and trailers. For more information, visit http://uk.camping-and-co.com/

SUN, SKI & SKIN A must-read for those taking a skiing holiday this winter

Staying healthy on the slopes

Staying healthy on the slopes

If you’re going on a winter skiing holiday this year don’t forget to pack your sunscreen! Although it might sound strange, your skin can burn in the snowy ski slopes, leaving you with embarrassing ‘panda eyes’ and a sore red face.

The amount of UV rays that reach the earth’s surface increases by up to 5% for every 1,000 feet above sea level you are, plus both ice and water are very good reflectors of UV radiation.

This means that areas that are typically exposed to the elements such as the hands, face and head are the key areas to apply sunscreen to. Liberally apply sunscreen, which is at least SPF30 or higher – don’t forget to look for a one with a high level of UVA protection.

Top tips

  • Re-apply sunscreen as frequently as you would in the summer time to all exposed areas of the skin.
  • Don’t forget any exposed areas that we often miss when applying sunscreen such as the ears, lips and back of the neck.
  • Stay moisturised. This won’t protect you from the sun, but winds and colder temperatures will strip the skin of its natural moisture, leaving it drier and more susceptible to cracking.

Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist & British Skin Foundation spokesperson agrees. “It’s all too easy to forget about skincare when you’re covered from head to toe, but at altitude, the risk of sunburn remains high. It’s vital to adequately protect exposed sites with high factor broad spectrum SPF and remember to reapply frequently.”

The British Skin Foundation is the only UK charity dedicated to raising funds for skin disease and skin cancer research. There are eight million people living with a skin disease in the UK, some are manageable and others are severe enough to kill. Seven people die every day in the UK from skin cancer. It Takes 7 is a fundraising campaign set up to raise as much money as possible to fund research into skin cancer.

Skin disease doesn’t just affect the skin. It can have a huge impact on a person’s day-to-day life, crush self-confidence, restrict movement, lead to depression and put a huge strain on families as well as personal relationships. Our unwavering commitment to funding quality research means we won’t stop until we’ve found cures for common skin problems like eczema and acne through to potential killers like malignant melanoma.

Photo: Pawel Kadysz (Stocksnap)

For further information please contact:

lisa@britishskinfoundation.org.uk or call 020 7391 6347

SKI BEAT catered chalets, saving up to £319pp

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16th January : Save 45% (£319pp) off a week’s skiing in La Rosiere, now £390pp

Exceptional value skiing, excellent snow conditions and uncrowded pistes are offered by Ski Beat (www.skibeat.co.uk, 01273 855100) at the Chalet Papillon in La Rosiere, where the price of a week’s ski holiday on 16th January has been cut by £319pp to £390pp, saving 45% (was £709pp). The price includes return Gatwick flights, transfers, cooked breakfast, afternoon tea and three course evening meals with wine.

16th January : La Plagne, 7 nights skiing for £539pp, saving 35% (£290pp)

Pack and go and save £290pp off a week’s ski holiday with fully catered accommodation at the Chalet Sorbier in La Plagne, including return Gatwick flights, transfers, cooked breakfast, afternoon tea and three course evening meals with wine. Top UK chalet operator Ski Beat (www.skibeat.co.uk, 01273 855100) have trimmed the price by 35% to just £539pp, was £829pp.

16 Jan – Save 34% (£260pp) off a week’s skiing in La Tania now £499, was £759

Ski Beat (www.skibeat.co.uk, 01273 855100) chalets are among the best located, staffed and catered across the Alps, with cooked breakfasts, quality toiletries, traditionally styled and many with log-burners or cosy fires. Chalet Beriozka is a charming stone and wood-finished chalet nestling amongst the trees at the top of La Tania with a homely feel, and for arrival on 16thJanuary can be booked with a saving of £260pp, 34%). The price of £499pp includes return Gatwick flights, transfers, cooked breakfast, home-cooked afternoon tea and three course evening meals with wine. Book with Ski Beat (www.skibeat.co.uk, 01273 855100)

20th February : A week’s ski holiday, saving £392pp, (40% discount)

Views of Val d’Isere, Les Arcs, La Plagne and the magnificent Mont Blanc, are not the only attractive feature of a week’s stay in the ski resort of La Rosiere, on a southern terrace high above the Tarentaise valley. For arrival on 20th February a week’s ski holiday, with accommodation in the Chalet Perdrix, has been reduced to an attractive £587pp, was £987pp, including return Gatwick flights, transfers, cooked breakfast, afternoon tea and three course evening meals with wine. Book with Ski Beat (www.skibeat.co.uk, 01273 855100)

20th February : Eco-skiing in La Plagne, saving £271pp

Ski Beat (www.skibeat.co.uk, 01273 855100) have reduced the price of a week’s ski holiday at the beautiful, traditionally built Chalet Mont Blanc in La Plagne to £748pp, was £1019pp, saving £271pp, for arrival on 20th February. Eco-warriors will appreciate the chalet’s emission free status, as it was purpose built to high ecological standards with a bio-mass heating system to keep skiers cosy and warm. The price includes return Gatwick flights, transfers, cooked breakfast, afternoon tea and three course evening meals with wine. Book with Ski Beat (www.skibeat.co.uk, 01273 855100)

Camping in Cornwall during Winter

Atlantic Ocean

Atlantic Ocean

Last November, my friend Ollie and I decided it would be a good idea to go camping in Cornwall, the weather wasn’t too cold and we had already visited in late spring and late summer to experience some beautiful hot weather, so a bit of rain and wind wouldn’t be a disappointment.

The drive down from the Midlands is fairly straightforward, M5 southbound all the way and many thousands of UK tourists take this journey regularly. The best idea is to start out early enough to avoid peak times or choose days where there aren’t holiday handovers like a Saturday.

We made it in good time, with a stop off for a bite to eat and toilet break, it was heavy rain all the way down and we debated whether a camping holiday was such a great idea, there were gale force winds predicted for our second night – Ooh err!

We stayed on the beautiful Ayr Campsite with stunning views overlooking the Atlantic and St Ives bay. We were officially the only people crazy enough to be camping during the bad weather (the words of the campsite manageress).

Cornwall St Ives Campsite

Cornwall St Ives Campsite

So we set up camp, Ollie had a £40 tent as did I, although my tent was about 10 years old, so i wasn’t too confident on how it would cope with the predicted 60 mph gale force winds coming in off the Atlantic. Gulp!

Ayr Campsite is superb, great facilities for touring caravans, motor-homes, static caravans and the campsite. We had the huge toilet and shower block virtually to ourselves with heated floors and nice hot showers all included in the cost. In summer the campsite can be up to £30 per night in peak season, but we paid just £12 each at this time of year.

St Ives town is a piece of England from times go by, it remains a very popular tourist town with arty types and holiday makers, perfect for families with five beaches around the bay and also the extremely long Gwithian beach just a ten minute drive away. St Ives beaches are some of the best in the UK, with white sandy beaches, very clean, and pearlescent blue waters.

Cornwall St Ives harbour

Cornwall St Ives harbour

You will find fishing boats, touring boats, dinghies, yachts, trawlermen, and not forgetting the essential Life Boat station.

There is something for everyone in St Ives, from traditional mariners pubs to quaint little restaurants, fish and chips shops, art galleries (including a Tate gallery), picturesque beaches, and cafes tucked away down cobbled streets. You can see why it becomes so very packed during peak summer months. Even the September music festival brings in the crowds.

Our stay was peaceful and relaxing as we had hoped, our first night camping was a little windy shall we say, but the second night was a near disaster. The gale force storm approached around midnight just as we had rolled in from the old Engine Inn pub inland.

The beer perhaps numbed our senses to the terrifying noise of the wind howling and snapping at the tents, which we had now set up against the hedge to reduce the effects of the storm.

Cornwall St Ives

Cornwall Clouds

I fell asleep the sound of Ollie laughing as the wind whipped around the campsite, I was awoken later with something hitting me in the head, I imagined it to be a seagull but who knows?

The morning brought calm, and to my amazement we were still alive, albeit with all my guide ropes snapped apart from one, the wind must have been ferocious.

In all, it was a brilliant little break, maybe I wouldn’t camp in 60mph winds again though, I’ll look into a Bed & Breakfast.

Article by Simon Lucas.

 

A Scottish Highland Road Trip

The Kyle of Tongue

The Kyle of Tongue

Last September a friend and I decided to partake in the Loch Ness Marathon. We thought it would also be a great idea to see a bit of the Scottish Highlands after the run.

The race was finished and we spent a day relaxing around the quaint town of Inverness, with the river and castle perched up high above the town, but we really wanted to see what existed beyond in the highlands.

The route up north from Inverness starts to become more mountainous and remote, we passed the Cairngorms but didn’t stop, the journey by car took us further into Highland territory. Our destination was a tiny little village in the centre of the north Scottish coast named The Kyle of Tongue. To reach this village you take a single track road which last for 40 miles, weaving in and out of lochs with impressive mountains and tundra, it really does feel like you are stepping back in time as there are few houses.

Tongue is a beautiful little place, with a small castle, a post office, two hotels and a B&B, but not much else other than astounding natural beauty. You will find Ben Loyal mountain as a back drop.

Sunset over Tongue

Sunset over Tongue

The next day we continued along the north west coast road which winds and weaves up and down, in between mountain passes, down to coastal fishing villages, alongside lochs and really, it is not for the faint hearted, you will need a reliable car and some solid tyres to ensure you grip the tight bends, I made sure I invested in some new tyres from Tyre Shoppper which I had fitted at National.co.uk before we set out in England.

The roads do test your driving shills, but for those who love road trips, this is the ultimate journey, the north west Scottish coast will not disappoint.

Be aware also, that fuel stations are very few and far between and any opportunity you can, one must always fill up the tank as you never know when the next stop will be and that is if it is open.

We descended the Highlands into Ullapool, but we did not have time to stay, our journey continued back to Loch Ness cross country, you can take a scenic route, and our final destination was a campsite by Loch Eil with the most awesome views of the loch and steam train which passes the campsite and loch every day, everyone in the UK should explore more of Scotland given the opportunity as it has so much to offer, quiet well kept roads, stunning scenery and friendly locals.

Article by Simon Lucas