Spend Valentine’s Day in Paris

What better way to show your love than to spend Valentine’s Day in Paris ? France’s capital is considered the most romantic city in Europe (and probably in the world, as well). Walk hand in hand on the bank of the river Seine, kiss in the park and declare your love while watching the city from the Eiffel Tower.

Since Valentine’s Day is less than a month away, unless you’ve already planned your getaway, it’s time to do your research and book the vacation. Travel deals for Valentine’s Day can be found all over the internet (and in travel agencies) , so there are many choices.

First of all, look for one of the cheap flights within Europe ; many low-cost carriers offer special prices for this holiday, so make sure to get their newsletters and follow then on Twitter and Facebook. Typically, these sales don’t last for very long, so make sure to book a flight as soon as you find a good price.

When you look for accommodation, consider the things you want to do while in Paris. Rooms aren’t very cheap, but you can get away with a low budget if you don’t mind staying in private rooms in hostels or in budget hotels.

As for spending Valentine’s Day in Paris, there are plenty of romantic ways to do it, aside from the cliché dinner. Take photos on the river bank, walk hand in hand in parks or just soak up the atmosphere. It’s still winter in Europe, so you can plan a lovely evening at the ice rink (plus, you get to burn off the calories). Or, if you like chocolate, book a guided tour which features…sweet delights.

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Edinburgh Places to Go Things to Do Travel Tips

What Are You Doing for New Year’s Eve?

Each year, my New Year’s Eve plans range between: night in with my better half, night with parents, party with friends or concert in the city’s public square…and , honestly, it gets really boring after a while. So, I’ve decided to do something totally different this year. Yes, travel to a city which holds interesting New Year’s Eve celebrations.

In Europe, among the interesting places to celebrate New Year’s Eve are: Edinburgh, Paris and Barcelona. I’ve always had a soft spot for Edinburgh though, so celebrating Hogmanay this year sounds absolutely amazing.

Christmas and New Year’s Eve are busy traveling times and the rates are higher than during the rest of the year (but slightly lower than during peak summer season). So, start looking for the cheapest flight to Edinburgh ahead of time. You could easily plan to arrive in the city on December 29 (the celebrations start on December 30) and leave the city on January 3 (after you manage to see some of the city when it’s not overcrowded). A round trip flight from London starts at £95 per person (on easyJet); of course, that’s unless you manage to find a deal.

Also, look for hotels in Edinburgh while you plan your flight. Of course, it’s not hard to find expensive rooms but when you want cheap accommodation you need to spend a bit of time researching the options. You can find 2-star hotels at £86 per night but the hotel is located far from the center. On the other hand, hostels can be a good choice especially if you travel with your friends. Private rooms start at £40 per night and the hotel is located close to the city center.

Edinburgh Places to Go Planning a Trip Things to Do

Plan Your Vacation During The Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The Fringe 2007Each year Edinburgh is home to the biggest arts festival anywhere – also known as The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (or simply The Fringe). Each August the streets of Edinburgh overflow with artists, tourists and locals alike. This year the festival takes place between 6 and 30 August.

Because the festival is so popular, planning a vacation for this occasion is complicated – or shall I say quite a nightmare? Edinburgh accommodation books up really fast (starting with the cheapest places first, of course!) and the cheap flights to Edinburgh are sold as soon as they come on sale.

You might want to play it “dangerously” and wait until the last minute to book the flight. Airlines such as Ryanair, BMI and easyJet do offer quite a lot of flights to Edinburgh for low rates but you have to book them within a very short time frame (2-3 days) and at most one month before departure.

In short, if you want to be there, you need to plan in advance. Way in advance! Edinburgh festival travel deals come in handy if you don’t like to plan everything on your own.

If you travel with friends, booking a dorm for the entire gang is an excellent idea. You already know each others’ nocturnal habits and there won’t be too many frustrations along the way. Plus you can pitch in for an excellent meal cooked in the hostel’s kitchen. Bed rates start at £17 per night (in dorms). On the other hand, if you travel with your significant other and prefer the private rooms, you can find them in hostels at rates starting at £23 per night.

If you are a student make sure to carry your documents with you because you’ll be able to get some discounts (at shows, transportation, landmarks). This surely comes in handy when your budget is not exactly high. An easy way to save money is by shopping at the farmer’s market and cooking in the hostel or planning picnics. It’s romantic, it’s cheap and fun.

Edinburgh Places to Go Planning a Trip Things to Do Travel Tips

When You Get Stuck and Cannot Write … Travel

writerAs a writer myself I know how annoying it can be to get stuck and not be able to write a single world. Each of us knows that such issues require creative solutions. The “rule” is to find an inspirational location so that you can restart your creative process. And I bet you know at least one place in your city where you can go, relax and start writing again.

But what about taking a big leap and choose one of the inspirational travel locations to cure the writer’s block? I’ve definitely done it and let me tell you there’s nothing like writing in the train or at a café in the middle of an old town.

Europe is filled with beautiful cities which can inspire you even when you think nothing else could. So, the first step is to look for cheap tickets to Europe. Paris, Moscow, Ljubljana and Edinburgh are excellent choices to get you started. And if you have enough time on your hands, you can plan to visit them all. After all, low-cost carriers and trains are the writers’ best friends. And by the way: in some trains there are electrical outlets so you can work while you enjoy the scenery.

You can fly into Paris, spend several days there to soak up the atmosphere and then catch a flight to Edinburgh. Look for Edinburgh hotels before you leave because they tend to get expensive and crowded during the summer. And if you think the city is a bit too exciting for you, you can always plan a trip to the Scottish Highlands.

Then you can make the transition to Eastern Europe, stopping in Vienna for a weekend getaway. You’ll fall in love with the city and you’ll surely unleash your imagination. Then take a train to Ljubljana and explore the old city and the surrounding landscape. Last, but not least, go to Moscow (tip: choose summer if you hate cold as much as I do). There’s something intriguing about this city and you’ll surely get some interesting ideas.

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Amsterdam: The Next Stop On Your European Vacation This Spring

amsterdamAmsterdam is a beautiful city, very popular among party-goers and those who love the café culture. Of course there’s much more to explore in Amsterdam and a hop over to Holland during your European vacation is an excellent idea.

Spring is a lovely time to travel because the crowds haven’t “invaded” the cities yet and the prices are relatively low compared to the summer. The bad news is that you should plan for some rainy days no matter what city you plan to visit; weather can be either sunny and warm or gloomy and rainy.

Once you are in Europe, it’s easy and cheap to plan your next stop. The United Kingdom in particular is an excellent start point for your vacation because there are countless cheap flights to large European cities. Flights to Amsterdam are incredibly cheap especially if you like to search for the low-cost airlines’ deals. There’s always something to grab your attention but make sure to keep your eyes open and act fast.

When it comes to accommodation, hostel beds are the cheapest choice but you can always look for cheap hotels in Amsterdam . It’s true that you get what you pay for but sometimes it’s possible to find some great deals offered by 3 or 4-star hotels.

Other expenses to consider while visiting Amsterdam are those linked to the entertainment and food. Happy hours will save you quite a lot of Euros if you like to enjoy a few drinks now and then. And it’s quite easy to find cheap food (especially if you are not into healthy eating).

By the way, you can burn off some of those calories by checking out the many trendy stores. You may never know when you find a good bargain and it’s surely better to come home with a cute new tank top rather than a tacky souvenir.

>>If you are like me and want to find the cheapest possible airfare, accommodation and don’t plan to spend too much on food and sightseeing either, then you’ll surely appreciate reading this cheap Amsterdam guide .


3 Day tour of the Isle of Skye with Macbackpackers

The tour busCarry the lad that’s born to be King
Over the sea to Skye

— Skye Boat Song —

Shrouded in mystery and myth, the Isle of Skye is a magical place with enough history to fill more than one text book. Join Macbackpackers, an independent Scottish owned tour company, on their 3 day exploration of legends and history, faeries and warriors, love and war as you journey from Edinburgh through the highlands and up to Skye.

Day 1

HermitageLeaving on a Friday morning we are met by our kilted guide, Neil Mclennan. After picking up the rest of the troops we head out of the city on our faithful steed, the Macbackpacker bus. Neil is a fantastic story teller and is soon entertaining us with legends and stories. Our first stop is “The Hermitage” (see photo left) , where, Neil reveals, he was possibly once approached by faeries who hoped to lure him to their kingdom. There is certainly a strange magical feel about the place for sure.Killicrankie is our picnic spot where Neil enthusiastically recreates the highland charge that scared the shite out of the British troops. A brief stop at Culloden Battle Field to pay homage to the many men who lost their lives in this historic battle, a battle that was surely a turning point in Scottish history. Nearing the end of a long day of traveling we search for Nessie at Loch Ness and dip our feet in the frigid water. Finally pulling into Kyleakin Town on the Isle of Skye in the early evening.

Edinburgh Places to Go

St. Giles Cathedral

gilesSt. Giles Cathedral is not only Edinburgh’s most important church, it’s also the most important church in all of Scotland. It’s also sometimes called the High Kirk of Scotland, and is considered the place where the Presbyterian church was founded.

The church is dedicated to St. Giles, the patron saint of cripples and lepers, and the oldest parts of the structure dates from the early 12th century. John Knox, the founder of the Scottish Protestant Reformation and the Church of Scotland, preached at St. Giles from 1560 until his death in 1572, which is what helps to give the cathedral its current status as Scotland’s most important church. A statue of Knox is inside the church near the west end.

There are several interesting stained glass windows in St. Giles Cathedral, although the windows from the medieval era did not survive. Most of the windows worth mentioning are from the 19th and 20th centuries and depict both religious scenes and also non-religious things – like Scotland’s favorite poet, Robert Burns. The church’s organ is also worth noting, although it’s a recent addition (1992), because of the glass panel in the back that lets you see the instrument’s inner workings.

Edinburgh Places to Go

Deacon Brodie’s Tavern

brodieLeave it to a pub to glorify an 18th century burglar in such a way as to turn the pub into a tourist attraction and the burglar into a celebrity.

Deacon Brodie’s Tavern on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile gets its name from a former resident of the city, a cabinet maker and city councillor who rose to the rank of deacon of his guild. Deacon William Brodie was a respected member of society, rubbing elbows with Edinburgh’s upper crust as he also fitted their cabinets with locks.

This level of access apparently gave him the grand idea that since he was installing and repairing the lock mechanisms he could easily make copies of the keys while he was at it. Brodie then embarked on a second life, a nighttime life, of a burglar. Certainly, part of the allure of the burglary was the excitement of potentially being caught, but Brodie also had developed something of a gambling habit – and the goods he stole helped to fund his addiction.

Brodie’s double life is said to have inspired the famous tale of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” but even if that’s a stretch Brodie’s real-life adventures are interesting enough on their own. Deacon Brodie’s Tavern showcases both sides of Brodie’s existence, one on either side of the pub’s sign hanging over the front door. You’ll see the “By Day” Brodie on one side, and the “By Night” Brodie on the other – complete with bag of stolen loot.

Edinburgh Places to Go

Museum of Childhood

childhoodTravel has a way of bringing out the kid in everyone – diet and curfew be damned! You get to let loose your inner child and do just as you please for the duration of your holiday. Which is why a visit to the Edinburgh Museum of Childhood is so perfectly appropriate.

Located right on the Royal Mile, the Museum of Childhood is chock full of toys and other items children have found interesting for generations. It was originally opened in 1955, and was the world’s first museum to focus on the history of childhood. Then Edinburgh Town Councillor Patrick Murray thought it would be a good idea to open such a museum, and the museum’s continued success seems to have proved him right! Today, it’s billed as “the noisiest museum in the world,” which could be a selling point or a deterrent, depending on who you are.

Places to Go Planning a Trip Things to Do Travel Tips

Mushroom hunting in the Scottish countryside

I was quite surprised to learn that up until recently, magic mushrooms had been legal in the UK. Magic mushrooms are the name given for the collection of different fungi that are imbibed for by a user in order to have a psychedelic experience. As far as I know, magic mushrooms have been classified as dangerous (or class A) drugs in most Western countries (bar Holland of course) for some time. A self-professed “friend of the fungi”, I was happy to learn that there remain legal ways of sourcing and enjoying fresh local fungi. Like the author says, you will always see something interesting in the Scottish countryside even if you don’t find any mushrooms. Makes you wonder if he’d been eating a few too many…