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Posts tagged ‘europe’

Driving In Europe On Vacation – Why You Need To Prepare!

European map satellite view

For many Americans, a chance to visit Europe is the vacation of a lifetime. Whether you want to check out London with its historic buildings and unique culture, relax in the sunshine in Greece, explore Italy or maybe even see where your ancestors came from, there are loads of reasons to make the trip across the Atlantic, and it has never been cheaper, either! Of course, once you get to your country of choice, you are probably going to already have a lot of things in mind to see and do, and while compared with the US, places like England and Sweden may look tiny on a map, when you’re there things suddenly seem a lot further away than you may have imagined! For this reason, most people prefer to hire a car, and while this is generally an option for most American license holders in accordance with the laws in the country you are visiting (you may have to be over 25 or have a certain number of years’ driving experience), this doesn’t automatically mean you’ll find it easy on the roads.

Here are some reasons to prepare before you attempt driving anywhere in Europe for the first time:

Road Signs Can Be Baffling

Yield sign in Europe

While Europe is united, it is by no means standardized when it comes to road signs. This means if you are familiar with how the colors and symbols work in Germany, things will all change should you cross a border. It doesn’t take long to read up on what the traffic safety controls in the country you are going to look like, and it really pays to do this so you can understand when you are reaching a junction and things like what color sign points to a major road and what will take you down a scary country track. You should also work out the conversion ratio between miles and kilometers, because with the exception of Britain, everywhere in Europe displays distances and speed limits in the metric system. Of course, while in Britain the signs may all be in English and tell you things in familiar mile measurements, here you’ll be driving on the opposite side of the road, which isn’t really something you can prepare for in advance but is worth thinking about!


motorcycle-tours-174956_150Many people who visit Europe plan to go through more than one country (another reason why understanding the different traffic control equipment used in different places you’ll visit is important), and while this can be easy to do, you may find that there are places where you can cross borders without even being aware you have done it right away! If you are planning to tour, really research your route so you know at what point you might leave Germany and enter the Netherlands, for example, and stick to your plan so you don’t end up straying between countries where you didn’t intend to.

Driving in Europe can vary between being remarkably easy and pleasant to downright terrifying depending on where you are and how far off the beaten track you venture, so read up and plan ahead as much as you can!

Travis Finn, the author of this article, works with, Bo Phillips, leading providers of work-zone safety equipment. He is fascinated by Astronomy and often visits the planetarium to observe the movement of the stars.

Little Known Ways to Spend Family Holidays

Active families need active holidays

The sunny summer weather presents tons of opportunities for creative getaways that combine exotic locations and calorie-burning excursions. If you and your family are an active bunch, then lounging in a beach chair just won’t do. Instead, pack your trainers or hiking boots and jet off to more exciting destinations. Coming up short on ideas?

Check out some of these top active family holiday options:

Alpine Adventure Holiday

Cool crisp mountain air, villages straight out of a J.R.R. Tolkien novel, and gorgeous landscapes are just a sliver of what is waiting for you in the Alps. Though most associate this great European mountain range with winter holidays, it is just as appealing in the summer months. The French Alps in particular are home to several mountain biking and adventure sport havens.

The alp chalet during the summer time

Winter chalets are transformed into lovely summertime residences where families can relax in between cycling, hiking and horse riding excursions. France alone has hundreds upon hundreds of kilometres of pristine mountain roads that offer incredible views. You can choose to go it alone or take a tour on a bicycle, on foot or on a horse. Tours feature everything from beautiful Alpine landscapes to idyllic villages seemingly untouched by time. To enjoy the best of the Alps in the summertime, we recommend that you head to popular destinations like Morzine, Les Gets or Alpe d’Huez, where you’ll be spoilt for choice for luxury chalets, delicious food and lots of sunshine.

Underwater Adventures in the Red Sea

Looking for all the luxury of an all-inclusive holiday with a touch of excitement and adrenaline? Look no further than Egypt’s Red Sea resort areas. The shoreline is lined with all-inclusive 4* and 5* star resorts offering all the amenities you could imagine and then some. This is especially convenient for families with younger children, as these resorts tend to have babysitting and play facilities catered especially to kids. The best part about a Red Sea holiday is, naturally, the sea! Octopus in Red SeaWarm, crystal clear and full of amazing coral reef habitats, the Red Sea offers some of the best snorkelling and diving sites in the world. Many spots are just a few hundred metres from the shore and are full of colourful fish and corals. On land, you’ll also find yourself within striking distance from amazing cultural destinations like Petra in Jordan, Jerusalem and Luxor. Your best bets for an activity-filled Red Sea holiday are in resort towns like Sharm El Sheikh, Taba and Hurghada.

African Safari


A trip to Africa combines adventure, activity and amazing wildlife all into one. South Africa’s Eastern Cape and Kruger National Park are best suited for family holidays. If you’re travelling with younger children (under 12), the Eastern Cape in particular is ideal. Consisting of lush green rolling hills and beautiful plains, the Eastern Cape is home to ‘The Big 5’ (elephants, lions, buffalos, leopards and rhinos). Giving your family the opportunity to see these amazing creatures in their natural environment makes for an incredibly rewarding and eye-opening holiday. There are plenty of great safari-themed hotel and accommodation options available in both the Eastern Cape and Kruger National Park. Each day brings another opportunity to set out onto the beautiful African plains to view animals up close. There will also be plenty of time for you and your family to learn about the area’s history and native culture.

Families who enjoy activities and adventures are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a summer holiday. Whether it’s wildlife, culture or a pure adrenaline rush you’re after, there’s something out there for you. The important thing to keep in mind when booking a holiday for yourself and your whole family is to make sure you address the needs of everyone. As a general rule, it’s best to pick a versatile holiday destination that includes multiple activities that all family members can enjoy. In the end, remember that a summer family holiday is all about having fun and spending quality time with your loved ones. Whatever you end up choosing, you’ll be sure to end up forging lifelong memories together.

Featured images:

Mikey D is a freelance writer, who enjoys acctivity holidays from mountain biking to kayaking.

The Best Places to Visit in Germany

The next time you plan a holiday, look beyond Rome, Egypt or China.Visit Germany

Germany is an amazing country. Lush green landscape, soaring mountains, historical sites and a beautiful coastline; all wrapped in an affordable package. It is ideal for a vacation with family and kids, for hiking trips and cruises. The beaches offer a spectacular sea-view and pleasurable stay in elegant hotels. The country is charged with emotions from wars and destruction. The adventure is so amazing that it is not possible to capture fully in any book or travel series.

Here is a list of must-see places in Germany:

  • Start with Berlin. Berlin-street-intersectionThe architecture from the Baroque period will take your breath away. The city houses one of the world’s best zoos and finest orchestras. Visit the historical Berlin Wall and the bustling Gendarmenmarkt as well.
  • Munich Germany-Munich-street-lights-church-old-townwas intensely affected during both the world wars. The remnants of buildings from the tragic period make a visit to this city an emotionally stirring experience. Munich’s ‘Oktoberfest’ is a 15 day long celebration known for exhilarating carnivals, parades and authentic German Ale!
  • Cologne is another German city with a touch of history. The Roman Towers and the Cologne Cathedral and Museum Ludwig will be a captivating experience.          

    Koeln Cologne Germany City Bridge Night Lights

    The Cologne Hohenzollernbrücke and the Cologne Cathedral. Image is a courtesy of David Portnicki

  • Dusseldorf Dusseldorf Germany City lightsis a modern city with high end stores in the lively shopping street, with something for art lovers as well in the Museum Kunst Palast.
  • The Romantic Rhine River Valley offers cruise rides along-side beautiful castles. The Valley is also a favourite among hikers due to the hills between these castles. You get to see some pretty little German towns too.
  • Black Forest, Germany Girl in Traditional CostumeFor a wisp of myth with tales of witches and werewolves, visit the Black Forest. The hills and woods here make for breath-taking scenery.
  • For more of the German war sites, you can go to Dachau. It was a concentration camp, and nearby is a statue bearing the words ‘Never Again’, a sincere promise by the Germans to show their solidarity.
  • Heidelberg is home to the oldest University in Germany. Take a pleasant walk around Gothic lanes, through the 18th century bridge of Alte Brucke, into the Heidelberg Castle, the heart of the city.

    Heidelberg, Germany Panoramic View River Neckar

    Heidelberg, Germany is a home of the oldest university. Image is a courtesy of Martin Künzel, Berlin

Travelling is made all the more pocket-friendly due to a variety of personal loans offered by banks. While applying for a loan, you might be asked to take along a PPI. To know better about this policy, kindly contact claims management firms to protect you from missold ppi.

PPI is otherwise known as payment protection insurance and has been mis sold to customers who have applied for a credit card, mortgage or loan agreement to protect their payments should they ever become unemployed, be involved in an accident or become too poorly to work and make repayments to their credit policy. Although this sounds like the most secure thing to do, it has in fact been mis sold to many customers who will never need nor be able to make a claim on it.

Author Bio:

This article was contributed by Zara, a part time blogger who writes on different topics ranging from marketing to finance to lifestyle. She works for a PPI Claims firm. She has written many articles about how to make a compensation claims.

Paris – The City of Love

Paris won me over.

The first time I ventured to the city of love I was fifteen, accompanied by my family, exhausted after six weeks of non-stop travelling, encountered terrible weather and wasted two of our four days at Euro Disney. Don’t even bother. If you want Disneyland, go to California, I learnt my lesson.

The second time I went to Paris was purely to see a friend. I was going to bypass the city having nearly written it off after my first disastrous trip. Thank goodness I didn’t. Paris certainly deserved a second chance. It is, after all, the city of love.

There are some areas in Paris that are obvious must-see tourist attractions; The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre Museum, Versailles Palace, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, Champs-Elysees and Place de la Concorde. However, as in any city, there are hidden gems that many tourists unwittingly bypass.

If you’re planning a trip to Paris and want to try something a bit different, give these suggestions a go.

1. Check out Saint Severin Church in the Latin Quarter.

This Roman Catholic Church is one of the oldest remaining churches standing on the Left Bank and continues to be used as a place of worship. The building was started in the 11th century, however many of its features date from the 15th century.
This church is worth checking out primarily for its ancient stained-glass windows which were inspired by the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. This little gem is right in the middle of the city, and hardly any tourists know of its beauty so make sure you check it out on your wanderings!

2. Shakespeare and Co Bookshop, right by the Notre Dame.

This shop is what I would classify as an ‘adorable Parisian shop.’ It’s traditional and rustic with lots of nooks and crannies. Any book from here would be a great addition to any library.
The shop opened in 1951 as Le Mistral, and was renamed in 1964 as a tribute to the original Shakespeare and Co Bookshop which shut down during the German occupation of Paris. The shop has featured in popular films, Before Sunset and Midnight in Paris.

3. Picnics by the Seine River

There’s something about a picnic in Paris that seems more magical than a picnic anywhere else. There are a few grocery stores around the inner city which are perfect for picking up some picnic worthy food – cheese and crackers, pastries and fruit, wine… When the weather is warm, there’s nothing like sitting on the banks of one of the most famous rivers in the world and taking in the Parisian scene. Definitely give it a try!

4. Montmartre

This 130 meter high hill in the north of Paris is one of the most popular neighborhoods to explore. Primarily known for its white-domed Basilica of the Sacre Coeur on the hill’s summit, this neighborhood also has a strong nightlife. While you’re exploring this area, make sure you check out the vineyard, vigne de Montmartre. It is the most famous of the Parisian vineyard and while its wine is rather expensive the earnings are used to help social institutions, so you can feel charitable at the same time!

5. The Cinematheque Francaise near Bercy

For anyone who loves films, The Cinematheque Francaise is quite a find. It holds the world’s largest collection of film archives, movie documents and film related objects. The Cinematheque also screens films around around the world daily – perfect if you’ve got a couple of hours to spare!

6. Le Marais

This impressive district of Paris holds many architecturally outstanding buildings which also hold a lot of historical significance to the area. The area has become a fashionable district over the past fifty years, becoming home to many art galleries, trendy restaurants, and fashion houses. While you’re in the Marais district, be sure to check out the Place des Vosges, which is the oldest planned square in Paris. It is placed on the border of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements and was built by Henri IV from 1605-1612

7. Christmas in Paris

If you happen to spend Christmas in Paris make sure you stop by Galeries Lafayettes, the ten-story department building in the 9th arrondissement. The Christmas decorations and their giant Christmas tree is quite an extravagant site and sure to get you into the Christmas spirit.

8. Jardin des Plantes and Luxembourg Gardens

Jardin des Plantes is France’s main botanical garden. It covers 28 hectares and is one of seven departments of the Museum national d’historie naturelle. The gardens house a labyrinth which makes exploring the gardens especially inspiring.
The Jardin du Luxembourg, or Luxembourg Gardens is the second largest public park in Paris. It covers 22.5 hectares and is the garden of the French Senate. It is integrated extremely well into the city life around it which makes it very popular and easily accessible for all. Many French locals enjoy strolling through the park, playing chess, reading, enjoying the cafes or puppet theatres and renting a toy sailboat.
There are many nooks and crannies to explore in these gardens and they also make an excellent place for a spring or summer picnic.

9. Bois de Vincennes

This English style park to the east of Paris is one of those ‘gems’ that frequently are bypassed by tourists in favor of the Eiffel Tower and other such attractions. The park is three times larger than New York’s Central Park and four times larger than London’s Hyde Park with 2,458 acres to its name. Bois de Vincennes was originally a hunting preserve for the Kings of France but now features four lakes, several sports venues, a zoo which is home to many unique animals such as Asian elephants and a heard of mouflons, playgrounds and expansive gardens.

10. Rue Mouffetard

Rue Mouffetard is a personal favorite and one of the most vibrant and lively streets I’ve come across in Paris. The street is in the 5th and is part of Paris’s oldest neighborhoods. The street, which is mainly pedestrian, has many restaurants, shops, cafes and open markets. Definitely one to check out, if not for the shopping then at least for the atmosphere!

Shakespeare and Co Bookshop image (c) Laertes
Rivoli Marais Image (c)Wikipedia

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