A Guide To A Weekend In Cannes

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If you have been wondering where in France you should book for your next high flying and luxury getaway, you don’t have to look any further. The port city of Cannes is the ultimate in luxury city breaks, and if you’re going in and around the month of May, you get the added benefit of the Cannes Film Festival being on, which means the city turns almost into a mini-Hollywood, giving you the opportunity to see some of the best and brightest in the film industry. Read ahead for a quick weekend guide to this beautiful French city, simple and easy to get to from almost anywhere in Europe.

Getting To And Around Cannes

Most people from outside of France will have to fly into the Nice Cote Azur airport and transfer to Cannes. Likewise there are trains and buses from other areas that will come to Cannes, so it depends on your individual situation. Once in Cannes there are a number of options to getting to and from the airport as well as around town and the surrounding area. If you’re looking for that extra touch of luxury for your city break, why not consider booking a private car ahead of time to take your trip to the next level. With great services available and servicing the city and immediate area, there’s no better way to truly see Cannes like a celebrity.

Things To See And Do

Undoubtedly if you’re coming to Cannes, the ultimate thing to see and do is the world famous Cannes Film Festival which is held annually in May. This is a perfect chance to hobnob with famous celebrities and catch a glimpse of some of your favourites as they work the French red carpet. If that isn’t your thing though, Cannes has a fantastic marina, beautiful old town centre and luscious beaches that are fit for a king. La Croisette is a great place to stroll along the seafront enjoying different boutique shops and restaurants. For a truly unforgettable dining experience check out the covered market area of the city (Marche Forville) – a perfect place for people watching as well. Finally the Old Town has the standard winding and cobbled streets with interesting cafes and shops, leading to some old castle ruins atop a hill with some spectacular views. Check out a French Riviera cruise – you can enjoy some fantastic music while dining on the water for a flat fee.

Accommodation

Without doubt there is a whole host of accommodation on offer in Cannes, from the very exclusive and luxe down to some basic but decent hotels. There are a number of boutique hotels that have quite the style such as Le Mistral. For something on the high end, check out Hotel Martinez, which is where the celebs stay when they’re in town. On the cheaper less extravagant end of the spectrum is the Hotel Alnea, with basic but good facilities and rooms.

So there you have a quick run down to a weekend in Cannes. One thing is for sure – once you have checked out the French Riviera and all it has to offer the luxury minded, you’ll find yourself returning again and again!

6 Overlooked Backpacking Destinations In Eastern Europe

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If you’re an avid backpacker and you’re looking for the next great destination, look no further. Backpacking has been done throughout the world for years now and some of the destinations have been almost literally done to death. After all – how many more secret spots can be found in the places that have been frequented for years by thousands and thousands of people? One region of the planet that seems to be lesser visited than others is Eastern Europe, perhaps due to its relatively negative connotations as former deeply Soviet regions people think there may not be much worth seeing here, but as this article will show you – nothing could be further from the truth.

Belarus

Belarus maintains to this day a strict, enforced and almost militant border policy and government. A visa for most nationals, along with state issued medical certificates and a letter of invitation are required for a trip to Belarus and it could easily be considered one of the “final frontiers” of real adventure travel given its lack of any real tourist infrastructure, especially outside of Minsk. Internet is difficult to find in Minks and nigh on impossible in the countryside. If planning a trip to Belarus ensure you look into the visa situation for your own individual country of residence as it varies from nation to nation. Saying all this though, Belarus is home to a number of very unique experiences and sights, with some of the countryside featuring old world villages and very old world farming practices still used. The food, drink and language is similar to the culture of Russia and Ukraine, so you will find soups similar to Borscht and dumplings such as vareneky with ease. Crime is strictly punished, so street crime is low, however there can be theft from hotel rooms by cleaning staff so ensure you take all your valuables with you or lock them away somewhere safe.

Romania

Despite the fact that Romania is part of the European Union, travel seems to remain a bit wilder in terms of tourist infrastructure and simplicity in some parts. The cities are well equipped to host tourists of all levels of class and style depending what you’re looking for, while out in the countryside depending where you go you might be faced with home stays and local transport. It depends how off the beaten track you want to get, but Romanians on a whole are welcoming and helpful and will help you get from A to B with no worries. With a number of beautiful old world towns – many with their own castles to see – along with the Carpathian mountains you will wonder why you didn’t come to Romania sooner. Don’t forget to check out Dracula’s Castle – a hot tourist spot and a bit of a creepy stopping point for anyone in the country.

Ukraine

Ukraine gets a bad rap due to reports of its supposed rampant corruption, but nothing could be further from the truth. With their attempts to clean up their reputation for hopeful EU admittance, Ukraine has cracked down on former corrupt policies in its borders, police and government and is now a very warm, welcoming place. Kiev (sometimes spelled Kyiv) is the very spread out capital city where you won’t have trouble getting around or communicating your needs with the locals – even those whose English is poor can understand some and most wait staff in restaurants and bars speak at least some English. The food is absolutely top notch – we recommend ‘Shato’, a chain restaurant that features an impressive local and imported beer menu as well as traditional Ukrainian fare such as vareneky, borscht (beet soup), sausages of all kinds and cabbage rolls (holuptsi). Shato is also home to live music by night. Ukraine on the whole is a very affordable place to travel through, especially if you take local transport (Kiev’s metro costs 4 US cents per ride, regardless of how far you go), and longer bus journeys, although somewhat uncomfortable in marshrutkas can be under $10 depending where you’re going. Ukrainiain culture is very vocal and musical, so ensure you take in a show by a live band or dance troupe – you won’t regret it.

A side note to those interested in going to Chornobyl – the site of the nuclear disaster in 1986, ensure you book well in advance and get the checks started, As you’re going into a restricted area they do background checks on you prior to the tour, so you will need to submit for this about ten days before your scheduled tour. You will also need to take your passport with you for the checkpoints along the way into the exclusion zone of Pripyat and Chornobyl. Accommodation wise throughout Ukraine is that you would be better off staying in the likes of an Air Bnb or similar – you will get more for your money and get to hob nob with a local or two who might have some suggestions on absolutely top notch places to see during your trip – they might even join you too!

Moldova/Transnistria

Another unique region slightly similar to Belarus, Moldova and it’s “non-existant” neighbour Transnistria are unique and exciting places for any backpacker who might want to check out something new and unusual. Transnistria is a de-facto self-governing nation with no governmental ties to Moldova, however the sovereignty of the region is not widely recognised by many other countries. Transnistria is the region immediately east of Moldova, sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine.

The general region of Moldova in itself is perfect for those who enjoy outdoor activities. With the steppes and wide open spaces featuring lakes and rivers, it’s a great place for hiking, kayaking, hill walking and generally getting out and about. The cities in Moldova feature beautiful town squares and the city of Soroca specifically is considered the home of the Romani Gypsy – so their buildings reflect this culture and are ornately decorated and colourful. The food of Moldova is similar to that of neighbouring Ukraine and Romania – soups, and a lot of use of root vegetables in many dishes as well as breads and dumplings with varying fillings with regional differences.

The Baltics – Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia

These three countries are tucked away in the north eastern corner of Europe, between Sweden and Russia and south of Finland. Tallin, the capital of Estonia is fast becoming a favourite locale for stag parties from western Europe, but still retains its classical, beautiful European charm and is a welcoming place for travellers of all ages. All three Baltic states are great places to travel through consecutively with a number of interesting and pagan-oriented festivals to be enjoyed throughout the year. Each of these three countries has their own unique flavour but one thing they all have in common is their twisting backstreets lined with cafes, their own regional beers and takes on various dishes such as dumplings, soups and breads as well as their skylines which consist of beautiful church steeples and Orthodox church domes sparkling in the sun. They also enjoy good, well scheduled train and bus links between them to make movement around the Baltics easier than expected.

Georgia

While not officially designated as Europe, Georgia is fighting for its inclusion into the EU and is making a large effort to attract a higher class of visitor as well as backpacker. The capital city Tbilisi is home to a number of high class hotels such as the Radisson Blu and a Marriott. Its low train and bus fares mean Georgia is not only cheap and easy to get around, but it offers links to almost every corner of the country too. From the sloping grape covered wine region of the east, with beautiful vistas over to the mountains around the Caspian sea and Azerbaijan, to the Black Sea coast that features strange cities like Batumi which is more like a Russian’s Las Vegas, Georgia is a peculiar but amazing nation. It’s something that’s come out of a time warp, with cinderblock villages set high in the mountains and roadside vendors selling snacks for almost criminally low prices. With so much to see and do, and multiple climate zones in one place, Georgia has something for everyone – not to mention its nearly 8000 year old wine making traditions!

So there you have six great places in Eastern Europe to explore on your next backpacking trip that each have their own unique flavour and history. So check out some of Eastern Europe next time – you won’t be disappointed!

Tasmania, How To Get There And What To See Or Do

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Travellers “down under” would often stop at hitting the Australian mainland and restrict their visit primarily to the coastal cities like Sydney and Brisbane or the other choices like Melbourne or perhaps out into the outback somewhere like Alice Springs to see the famed Ayer’s Rock. Not many consider taking the opportunity to traverse a little further south to the island of Tasmania, across the Bass Strait to see and experience all the strange and wonderful things this lesser known area has to offer. This article will look at getting to Tasmania and all the things there are to see and do once you’re there.

Getting There

Getting to Tasmania is pretty straightforward, however be advised that if you have rented a car that it’s unlikely you will be able to take it to Tasmania. Instead you’re better off arranging to rent another car once in Tasmania.

Tasmania is serviced by several airlines that fly from major cities in Australia as well as a reliable ferry service from the southern coastal city of Melbourne. The crossing takes a full day or night depending on the season, so be prepared to spend a long time on board. If this isn’t your preference though, flights operate from all the major cities on the eastern side of Australia. From Perth you will likely have to connect in the likes of Sydney or Melbourne.

Getting Around

Cars are the best way to get around Tasmania, letting you go at your own pace. If you are unable to rent a car, however, you can get around by public transport such as on the TassieLink bus system. Do plan ahead though as some services can be infrequent on both TassieLink and the other bus system, Redline Tasmania. These are the two bus lines that service the greater region of Tasmania.

Things to See and Do

First and foremost, relive your childhood by seeking out the famed Tasmanian Devil – the only carnivorous marsupial that calls Tasmania its home. While a generally quite rare sight, the chance of seeing one alone will excite you. Normally seen by roadsides at night eating the remnants of other animals hit by cars.

Other wildlife include kangaroos, bandicoots, wallabies and the like, with some wildlife being more common than others. Stay a night in a national park to encounter a ring or bushtail possum.

Tasmania is nearly 50% covered in protected national parks, so finding a slice of paradise on the island won’t be difficult. It’s perfectly possible to find an area that’s quiet or even deserted to set up for a picnic and enjoy the natural scenery of the island.

There are countless things to see in Tasmania, with favourite landmarks including the Cataract Gorge – a 15 minute walk from downtown Launceston, where you will find the gorge in all its natural beauty along with restaurants and a beach. Hastings Cave is a huge tourist draw, featuring the largest tourist dolemite cave in all of Australia as well as a network of other enjoyable caves. The Bay of Fires is a perfect place for nature lovers with the white sand, blue waters and red cliff faces the camping, swimming and general relaxing here is idyllic.

For those who like history, Port Arthur is the best preserved convict site in Australia and is well worth a look. For the shopper, check out Salamanca Place in Sullivan’s Cove – a treasure trove of handmade, antique and unique items as well as fresh fruits and vegetables at the markets.

So in all Tasmania is a unique and interesting place to head to if you’re spending time in Australia. The benefit of Tasmania is that it enjoys some of the wildlife and other scenery similar to the mainland, but with temperatures much more comfortable in the summer months. So pack your bags – Tasmania awaits!

Things To See And Do In Madrid

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Whether you’re from Europe or not, one thing is for certain – Spain is one of the hottest travel destinations for Europeans and foreigners alike. Conjuring up images of back alley cafes, local wines, delicious tapas and beautiful stone buildings framed with cascading greenery and floral highlights, nothing could be more welcoming than Spain and its people. Regardless of your taste and travelling preferences, one city that has something for everyone is Madrid, and here we look at the top things to see and do in this bustling, beautiful city.

Architecture and Museums

Madrid is awash with architecture and museums – from the beautiful Royal Palace to the Plaza de Sol, a favourite meeting ground for locals, Madrid has beautifully decorated and ornate buildings, statues and more. The Royal Palace is open to visitors, with Wednesdays being free entry days so the lines get incredibly long so make sure you go early. Regardless though, the Palace any day is worth a visit.

The museums on offer are almost countless and cover nearly every topic you can imagine, so a trip to one of their museums along your interests is a must do. Head to the Museum Triangle – literally the Madrid museum district for a great selection of museums. While some of the museums are almost eye wateringly expensive for the budget tourist, most museums do offer free entry at certain times of day or on certain days. Check in advance which museums, which times and which days to take full advantage of some of the fantastic museums in the city. Perhaps the best ones, especially for art lovers are the Museo del Prado and the Sofia Reina National Museum and Art Centre – both of which house classical paintings by famous artists from around the world. The Sofia Reina is in fact the home of Picasso’s famous Guernica.

Parks and Getting Outside

Madrid is lucky enough to enjoy a temperate climate most of the year although it can be chilly in the winter months, but nevertheless getting outside is a favourite past time of both locals and tourists alike. Madrid is home to numerous parks and gardens, with Caixa Forum being a great example of a vertical garden (also on the side of one of many museums!). The Royal Botanical Garden as well as El Retiro park are two of the best parks on offer in Madrid, with El Retiro being home to drumming circles in the summer evenings that are a great way to see the dusk in.

Cuisine and Culture

The Mercado de San Miguel is a fantastic spot to stop off if you’re looking for high quality wines, cheeses, dried and smoked meats and more. An indoor market, this is a great place to go on a rainy day or if you just want to pick up a delicious snack of local fare or a bottle of wine to take home with you. For cultural aspects of Madrid, check out one of the many Flamenco shows that are on around the city – with their bright colours and quick movements and fantastic music. Corral de Moreira is the top rated location to take in a show in Madrid, if not the world, and shouldn’t be missed on any trip to the region.

So there you have the top things to see and do in Madrid on any trip to the area, whethere you’re on a budget or not. Madrid is a great city any time of year, but to take advantage of all the outdoor things to do, summer and autumn are the best to enjoy the warm weather and welcoming patios with local beers and tapas. So pack your bags – next stop: Madrid!

Round The World Gear List – For Women!

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If you’re thinking about heading off on a round the world trip of some kind, you might be wondering what the best things to pack are, especially if you’re a woman. After all, there are so many eventualities to be prepared for, how can you pack for absolutely every single one? It can seem daunting, but this handy dandy list will help highlight a couple of things that are absolute must haves – personally and practically.

Bags, Bags, Bags

This sounds like a given, but there are a lot of bags that you can employ when you’re on the road – with great results. Take a “bag for life” style plastic bag with you to keep your dirty laundry separated from your clean stuff when you’re moving around and don’t have a chance to get any washing done. Aside from this, organising bags such as vacuum bags can help you really keep stuff organised and help you save space too, so consider taking some of these with you as well – preferably the kind you don’t need a vacuum cleaner to make work correctly as chances are you won’t see a vacuum for awhile. Get the roll up kind that squeeze the air out instead!

A Woman’s Secret Weapon

Okay, this one is going to sound potentially a bit gross for those who are squeamish in the audience but this is an integral part of a woman’s travel kit – MoonCup or Diva Cup. Some places in the world do not have the same quality of feminine provisions that are available at home which can make “that time of the month” even more unpleasant, especially when on the road. The Moon/Diva Cup (or other brands) are silicone cups that you use in a way similar to tampons, but are reusable and washable, making them not just an absolute must have for women on the road but also inherently better for the planet than traditional feminine hygiene products.

General Necessities

Necessities for each woman can depend on what you plan to do and your own personal interests, but some things to consider also bringing with you anywhere you go include birth control pills, if you use them, condoms (better to have some just in case!) and of course a well stocked medicine kit featuring bandages, gauze, antiseptic, cotton buds, nail clippers, mosquito repellent, your anti-malarial medication (if going to a malaria zone) and your yellow fever certificate (again if necessary). Don’t forget to bring sun cream as well, as sun cream and mosquito spray abroad can be significantly expensive. Some things you can forgo purchasing before you leave – like shampoo, conditioner etc as you can get most of this in most countries, but things like sun cream and mosquito repellent should come with you as standard, if even to save some money on the road. One other thing that is a necessity is your own towel. Some places provide a towel at your accommodation, but some places don’t so you will be left drying off after a shower with your t-shirts otherwise!

Of course these are the “extra” practicalities and the overall gear list will depend where you go and what you plan to do, but the general waterproofs, snorkel gear, sunglasses is a given. Everyone will have their own list of these specific things they use, so making a list will help you remember to pack everything you need to bring. Get that bag organised – the wide world awaits!

Road Tripping – Canada On A Budget

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Spring break and summer are around the corner and with the holidays come the plans to hit the road for an adventure somewhere fun, interesting and perhaps wild and free. Heading out on the road is always a must do for many people, groups of friends, couples and families alike, but how to know where to hit the highway for a truly enjoyable getaway? For many people, Canada is a country that beckons from the north, and there’s no better time to visit than the late spring or summer when everything is in bloom. Read ahead for some great tips on road tripping Canada on a budget!

The Year of the Freebie – 2017

There is no better year to visit Canada than this year – the year of Canada’s 150th birthday. The National Parks from coast to coast will be sharing the wealth by providing year-round FREE admission, so get in now! Most of the parks are sometimes in the region of $30-50 per day or more depending on what you’re doing, so this is the perfect time to take advantage of a real money saver especially if you’re a fan of beautiful scenery, nature and camping!

Small Towns, Big Hearts

From coast to coast one thing Canadian towns have in common is their unusually huge hearts and warm welcomes to visitors, especially to people from abroad! You can take advantage of cheaper hotels (if you aren’t renting a camper van or RV) and cheaper roadside “greasy spoon” restaurants in the smaller locales than in the big cities, however this being said, if you’re wanting to spend a night or two in a city, try to find hotels offering one or two night last minute deals. Failing that, there’s usually a motel or hotel chain on most highways just outside of main centres which may have lower rates.

Speaking of renting cars and RV’s….

Gas in Canada and renting cars and RV’s can be pretty expensive, but not if you know how to find a deal. RV’s might be expensive to rent and run, but you will have the added benefit of not having to pay for hotel rooms or dinners out along the way, being able to cook your own. Ask around at car rental companies for vehicles needing to be returned to a specific location – if you don’t really mind where you go, and you’re going one-way, this can be a great way to get a reduced – or even free – rate.

Beware the PST

To keep costs low, beware the Provincial Sales Tax. This is a tax that is in effect on almost all goods and services in almost every province/territory except for Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon, and Alberta. It is in addition to the GST (Goods and Service Tax) which is a federal tax and is on almost everything throughout Canada at a flat rate of 5%. PST is dependent on the province you are in – some provinces have 7% PST while some have as much as 8-9 or even 10% PST where it will be clearly outlined on your receipt the two tax costs. Some provinces have adopted the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) which is a blend of PST and GST into one tax rate and will appear as one tax on your receipts. Saskatchewan has an added tax of 10% on liquor, so it might be worth staying dry in Saskatchewan unless you’re willing to pay a bit more.

Campgrounds

To keep costs low consider stopping at campgrounds that are away from main regions and that are a bit further to get to. You won’t regret it and usually many of these campgrounds have fantastic facilities as well as great lakes, streams and sometimes even sandy beaches. Some campgrounds can be as low as $20 a night per RV or per pitch (for multiple tents) so it can be a really great savings.

So there you have a couple of great ways to keep a road trip in Canada cost effective and easy on the wallet. Grab the sleeping bags and tents – summer is perfect for spreading out under the stars anywhere in Canada, just remember the mosquito spray!

Road Tripping – Sydney To Canberra

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Like most things when you travel, the road lesser travelled is often the more enjoyable and adventurous one and nothing could be more true than when you’re driving from Sydney to Canberra. What seems like it could be a lengthy and interesting drive on the highway is in fact fairly unimaginative – unless you take the scenic route that is. This article will look at helping you plan this little journey and what there is to see along the way if you fancy getting out of town with your mates for a bit!

The Road

There are two options when heading out of Sydney depending on the time you have at your disposal. One route is the coastal route down though Wollongong and the second route is down through Campbelltown. The Campbelltown route is more direct, but still offers some great scenery through some beautiful parts of the Highlands, but the coastal road is fantastic. The Campbelltown route can take around 3-3.5 hours and the coast road around 4.5-5, so it depends how fast you want to get there and what you want to see on the way.

For something truly unique, but lengthy you can choose to go all the way down the coast to Bateman’s Bay and then back up through the Monga National Park to Canberra. This is a bit longer – around 6 hours in length depending on where you stop and for how long but lends itself to some truly unique road trip opportunities.

Things to See and Do

Either route will take you through some fantastic natural areas filled with forests, land formations and if you take the coastal road – the coast! Pack a picnic lunch and stop off somewhere new and wonderful – either in the woods in Yerriyong State Forest or on the beach a bit further down the road. The world is your oyster on a road trip between Sydney and Canberra and the only thing stopping you is yourself!

The Wine Region

As you approach Canberra you will enter the wine region. This is a perfect opportunity for you and your travelling companions to head to a vineyard for a tour or some wine tasting. Perhaps pick up a bottle or two to enjoy once you reach your destination. The wine region stretches all around the city, so it’s easy to find a vineyard that hosts tourists and wine connoisseurs.

Canberra

The city of Canberra is surrounded by hills and is separated by a lake which makes it an enjoyable city to wander around in for those of an outdoor nature. With interesting buildings, the city centre lake and great walking trails around the city, it’s a great place to just hang out and take a stroll. Have a coffee and people watch on one of the outdoor terraces or check out some of the historic buildings that date back to the early part of the territory. Lake Burley hosts boats for hire, making it an ideal place to take families for various lakeside activities, and there are a number of mountain biking tails around for those who like to get out and moving. Head to Mount Ainslie for a truly commanding view of Canberra and the area, and don’t forget to catch some kangaroos in the wild – the Pinnacle Nature Reserve – 10km west of the city centre – is the best place to view large mobs of Kangaroos for free.

There you have a couple of great suggestions to consider for your road trip from Sydney to Canberra. Depending on what you like to do, there’s just as much to see and do on the way there as there is once you get to your destination – so make sure you take the time to enjoy the journey as much as the end result!

A Mini-Guide To Cape Town, South Africa

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If you’re thinking about where to go on your next vacation, you might not have considered South Africa. With a number of cities that bring their own flavour to the game as well as several beautiful national parks that feature the standard African wild animals that can be seen on safari, South Africa has a little bit of everything for everyone. Check out this quick mini guide for a trip specific to Cape Town.

Cape Town – A City

Cape Town, aptly named for its location is the capital city of South Africa and is near the Cape of Good Hope with a number of fantastic attractions and sights nearby. The Cape of Good Hope itself is one such attraction, as is the world famous Table Mountain, named for its flat topped appearance akin to a table top. Visitors that head up the mountain are rewarded with stunning views of both Cape Town and the surrounding area including a few of the wine regions to the north. The Mountain can either be climbed in the old fashioned way or you can also take a cable car up to the top for those not up to the fairly lengthy hike.

The Castle of Good Hope is South Africa’s oldest surviving building and is worth a look for those who are into military memorabilia and history. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is perhaps the world’s most spectacular botanical garden, teeming with various species of plants and flowers all set against the impressive Table Mountain, almost overhead.

For those interested in the history of Cape Town and area, check out Robben Island – home to political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela – tours available. You can also check out the District Six museum which highlights the struggles of the area during apartheid.

Wine Regions and Floral Tours

South Africa is known around the world for being the growing and producing region for a multitude of wine varieties. Throughout the country there are numerous vineyards all with their own unique takes on wine making and featuring different flavours, blends and vintages and the Cape region is no exception. Wine tasting and vineyard tours are available throughout the area and many can be booked from your hotel or other accommodation in Cape Town itself. Some of the well known towns and cities for wine making and tours include Somerset West, Paarl and Franschhoek. Picnic tours can also be enjoyed for a romantic twist.

Safari Options

Not only is South Africa awash with wine and vineyards, but it’s likewise well stocked with safari companies and options for those looking to go out on safari to catch some of Africa’s big game in their natural habitats. Safaris can be booked direct in Cape Town if desired, or those looking for something special can head to almost any of the National Parks in the vicinity to book safaris that might be more luxurious or have specific aspects that the traveller is looking for. One popular option near to Cape Town is Tankwa Karoo National Park, with a number of safari options for all budgets. Kruger National Park is another option, but being on the other side of the country, this would be a good option for those who are perhaps planning a trip into neighbouring Mozambique or planning to spend some time in Johannesburg as well as Cape Town.

So there you have a quick run down on Cape Town and all it has to offer to help you plan your next (or first!) visit to the area. With so much history as well as nature around, it’s easy to see why this is a favourite amongst travellers the world over.

Food World – What To Try When You Visit Mauritius

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Visiting any foreign country is always a great time to give new things a try. Whether it’s an activity you haven’t tried, a local beer you’ve been itching to taste, or most commonly (and perhaps importantly!) the food! Food is one thing that every country on Earth has their own variation on dependent on what’s available to them. Countries that are large swathes of land may focus more on agriculture and farming based foods such as grains and beef, poultry or pork with regional variations on spice while island nations will have a more fish-based diet. Here we look at the top foods to try in Mauritius – an island nation off the coast of eastern Africa so you can be prepared for when you finally set foot there!

The first thing to know about Mauritian food is that it has a huge variety of influences due to its location – Creole, Indian, Chinese and French influences mean Mauritian fare is filled with variety of not just style but taste as well. Here are some of the best:

Dholl Puri (or Dholl Pori)

This is considered to be the dish in Mauritius. Sold throughout the nation by street vendors, this Indian inspired dish is made of fried flatbread stuffed with ground up yellow split peas, chutney, atchar and curries.

Curry

Of course! But Mauritian curry is different to your traditional Channa Masala or Masala Dosa you’d get in India – or even in other parts of the world. Here there are a number of other influences at play – such as Creole. Creole curry isn’t typically overly hot as the chillies are served on the side, letting the eater control the heat (thankfully!) and it is tomato based. Lentils and chickpeas are the usual culprits in most of the curries – both Mauritian and Indian. If you aren’t brave enough to try a new curry, you can always stick with your favourite Indian ones that you can find as well, served with rice or Mauritian breads.

A Taste of the Sea

Being an island nation, inevitably Mauritian cuisine has a number of fish based dishes featuring almost every seafood you can imagine. For something unique, give the octopus curry a try!

Gajak

A typical street food/snack, these fried delights are great to stave off the hunger pangs after swimming. You can find them sold in most places, usually off carts or the backs of motorbikes. Some of the examples include eggplant fritters, cassava chips and potato fritters.

Mithai

A variation of the Indian sweets, the Mithai are buttery and sugary goodness wrapped up in weight gain waiting to happen! Delicious and sweet, these are almost indsescribably good and if you hit up one of the local shops – such as Bombay Sweets Mart in Port Louis – chances are you will get to sample a few before committing to any one flavour!

Mine Frites

A variation on the traditional Chinese fried noodles, Mine Frites are another food you will likely find on the streets of Mauritius. The best place to get these is unsurprisingly Chinatown, but mix with a bit of regional Mazavaroo chilli paste to give it a real Mauritian island feel.

So there are a few examples of the great varieties of Mauritian food you can find throughout the island. Don’t forget to try some of the Victoria pineapple – sweeter than other varieties and available right on the beach after a swim, or the fresh coconuts for a real island treat.

Things To Do In Laos – Aside From Getting Drunk

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Inevitably these days if you’re heading to South East Asia you will end up in more than one of the countries in the region. With ease of movement and cheap options through airlines such as Air Asia, it’s relatively pointless going for only one country when you could see two or three in your time there. One country that is becoming the next big tourist hot spot aside from Thailand is its quiet neighbour to the north – Laos. There are a few things you should know about Laos before you go, so here they are, before we get into what there is to do aside from getting drunk.

A Quick Note To Say…

Laos is not Thailand. In that sense, it’s a lot stricter than Thailand with regards to partying and all night shindigs. While some places such as Vang Vieng used to be known for having island parties on the river that stretched into the wee hours, this is no longer the case thanks to the influx of backpackers who made too much of a good thing an inherently bad thing and so all the parties were shut down – along with most of the bars in the town.

A curfew is in effect throughout the country. Yes, you read that right – a curfew is in effect throughout the country. This is partially due to the communist government still in place (but trust me, you can’t really tell), and partially due to the Laotian way of life – getting up at the crack of dawn to give alms to the monks. You might get away with staying out past curfew (around 11pm in most places) in the countryside villages, but to be honest you won’t really want to as you will likely be one of, if not the only, person out.

What’s There To Do Then?

In a word, tons. There are two main strips of Laos depending on what your preferences are and what you’re after: the north route from Vientiane to Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang and further north if you’re so inclined to Nong Khiaw and Muang Ngoi; or the South route from Vientiane to Kong Lor (if you’re so inclined) to Savannahket to Pakse, and then the Bolaven Loop/further south to the 4000 Islands and the Cambodian border. For informative purposes I will tell you what there is to see and do on both of these loops to help you gauge whether it’s the loop for you.

The Northern Route

From the capital Vientiane you can easily get a shuttle bus to take you up to Vang Vieng, former party town, now mostly quiet village with a few 18 year old backpackers determined to keep the party alive. These days it’s a quiet place, ideal for relaxing, checking out some nearby caves and waterfalls and renting a motorbike to go exploring the valley of beautiful karst limestone mountains. A few bars cater to specific musical preferences such as psy-trance (again, perhaps in an effort to keep the party alive), but on the whole this place has more of a homey, village, family feel to it these days with quiet evenings spent stargazing on the riverbank.

Heading further north to Luang Prabang – a UNESCO World Heritage city thanks in part to its numerous temple complexes and fantastic French Quarter with its beautiful colonial structures set amid the lush jungle greenery and dusty roads filled with passers by. This is a hot spot for travellers of all kind – from backpackers to luxury travellers, Luang Prabang has become a bit of a Laotian mecca for everyone. Check out the night market in the city centre for some truly unique finds. There are likewise street stalls selling fruit shakes and baguette sandwiches throughout as well as the full blown food market that serves all manner of delicious items from fish on sticks, chicken on sticks, to various noodle side dishes and fresh vegetable spring rolls. You can get a banquet for 2 people for around $5 here.

If you’re a bit adventurous and don’t mind going a bit further, you can go to Nong Khiaw and then further onto Muang Ngoi, which is a village set in a valley similar to that of Vang Vieng, surrounded by beautiful karst limestone mountains. For the truly adventurous and travel hardened, you can try getting to Hanoi, Vietnam from Luang Prabang – but be warned that it’s around 30 hours on winding country mountain roads and has been dubbed the “nightmare journey”. You’re probably best to split it up into chunks, or just fly – Luang Prabang has a well serviced, well connected international airport.

There are a lot of other really interesting things to do up in the northern parts of the country, such as Vang Xai – an intricate cave city that was used for shelter during the Vietnam war to protect residents from the bombings and also the Gibbon Experience – where you can spend a few days in the tree tops like the Gibbons, an experience which has been coined as being “living like an Ewok”.

There are a lot of bars and potential party spots along the way – particularly these days in Luang Prabang you will find more bars that cater to a party kind of atmosphere, but also cater to quieter laid back atmospheres as well. If you want a bit more in the way of excitement restaurants, bars, music wise this is probably the route for you.

The Southern Route

From Vientiane you can opt to take a bus to the village of Kong Lor, home of one of the longest underground rivers in the world. The village is a dusty, very remote little thing, everything you could imagine from rural Laos. The best guest house in town is Chantha House – on the edge of the village, right on top of rice paddies. Most of the accommodation in town is in the form of home stays with locals, and there are only a handful of places to eat – if even. Chantha house almost operates as the local restaurant and watering hole – best food in town by far.

If you’re feeling adventurous you can head to Thakek and rent a motorbike, doing the “Kong Lor Loop” which takes you around several of the small backwaters and to the village of Kong Lor eventually – a great experience for anyone in the area.

Further south is the city of Savannahket. Admittedly, there is not much in the way of things to do in Savannahket and it’s more a stopping off point to break up the journey between Kong Lor and Pakse – 12 to 14 hours by bus, but with a stop in Savannahket it breaks it up into a larger portion of about 8 and a smaller portion of 3-4. Great for a night, but not really much more, Savannahket features a French colonial quarter which is missing out on some much needed TLC, featuring nearly derelict buildings and some even riddled with bullet holes – a prominent, yet unfortunate feature reminder of the Vietnam war. Savannahket is also home to a strange but beautiful combination of Buddhist and Taoist temples as well as Christian churches.

Further south you come to the municipality of Pakse – a well equipped city with many fantastic amenities including tours available, motorbike rentals, supermarkets, cafes with great internet, and numerous guesthouses. It’s also where you can renew your Laos visa if you want to extend your stay. Here you can rent a motorbike as well and do the Bolaven Plateau Loop – a favourite amongst travellers to the region which again takes you around the many backwater villages of the loop and eventually back to Pakse.

The loop also takes you through fertile coffee plantations, tea plantations, and alongside beautiful waterfalls and tribal villages where children run after you waving hello. One village along the loop, a beautiful little village called Tad Lo is a perfect place to set down for a couple of days and take a load off – only recently having gotten power and internet, connection to the outside world here is still confined to few guest houses. Most of the accommodation here is likewise in the form of home stays, some even home stay dorms (such as at Mama &Pap’s). Regardless, you won’t struggle to find a place to stay here – there’s even a resort on top of the large waterfall a bit away from the main strip.

Further south from Tad Lo and Pakse you will find the Mekong River begins to widen and towards the border with Cambodia is a number of islands on which you can stay – generally referred to as the Four Thousand Islands. Don Det is the typical backpacker haunt here, but other great islands offer a quieter more relaxed locale in which to stay. Don Khong is perfect – with motorbike rentals available to head out and bike around the island. We recommend Kong View Guest house – it has a balcony that overlooks the Mekong out back with commanding views and is a great place to relax with a Beer Lao and watch afternoon thunderstorms roll in.

So there you have the numerous things to do throughout Laos aside from partying and drinking. After the relative hectic atmosphere that can be had in Thailand, Laos will seem like a welcome break – so pick your route – travel adventure or slightly more party hardy – the choice is yours although it doesn’t have to be. Overnight buses are available from Pakse to Luang Prabang, so you could have it all.