5 tips for Respectful and Ethical travel

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Tip 1

Travel on foot, bike, bus and train wherever possible when you arrive at your destination.  You never quite get to know a city until you have walked it.  We found a lot of hidden gems in New York thanks to taking only one subway whilst there.

Tip 2

Learn basic phrases in the native language of the country you’re visiting.  This can result in friendlier exchanges, better bartering and you’re learning!  Check out this helpful BBC page.

Tip 3

Be aware of local customs to avoid causing offence and embarrassment.

    1. Thailand – Never disrespect the king or images of him (this includes currency).  Openly doing so can result in imprisonment and possibly the death penalty.
    2. Dubai – Some prescription drugs (including some commonly used anti-depressants) are included on the UAE’s controlled list and you should check the status of their medicines before bringing them into the country.
    3. Venice – feeding pigeons is against the law and could land you with a fine.
    4. Barbados – it’s an offence to dress in camouflage clothing and you can be fined.

Tip 4

Are you a keen photographer?  Holiday snaps are a lovely souvenir but be careful what you capture.  You should always check the laws of the country you are visiting to make sure you do not come home with a fine too.  Hungary has just introduced a law (March 2014) making it illegal to take a photograph without obtaining permission from everybody in the photo.

Tip 5

Be sparing with the water you use.  Take quick showers, re-use your towels and don’t leave taps running whilst brushing your teeth.  Our charity of the year is also supporting a clean water project and it’s only £8 to donate and so think about offsetting your use by donating.

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Enjoy the reward this puzzle reaps

Question Mark

We enjoyed a recent visit to London and stumbled across a few very interesting places.  Some of them are well kept secrets but if you can solve the clues below, it will lead you to one of those locations and you will be in for a treat.

What comes after 8 may be a lovely surprise if you wander to the West and stumble across the street named after the Bishop of St Anne’s Church.  Keep your eyes open and be drawn to the darkness of the storehouse but don’t peep!  Let your legs carry you underground to soak up el Jimador Silver.

Holidays in Transit

How do you travel to your holiday destination?  Car, boat, bus, train, plane…..?  Well how about you choose one of those methods of transport as your accommodation too!  We have picked some interesting places for you to stay on your travels:

For plane enthusiasts there could be no better option than Airplane Suites in Amsterdam.  A well travelled 1960s plane has been converted into a hotel suite strictly for 2 people.  It has a double bedroom, bathroom (with a Jacuzzi and an infrared sauna!), kitchen, living space, free Wi-Fi and air conditioning and prices start from just £125 per night.

Airplane Suites

Off to Paris on the Eurostar and love trains?  Spend the night before at St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London.  This elegant 5* hotel was restored in time for its grand reopening in 2011 and hosts The Chambers Suites, a luxury collection of suites with some dazzling touches.  We particularly like the junior suites which have views onto the platform although if you would like luxury on a budget, you can choose to stay in a King/Queen room from just £189 per night (including a Friday in August!).

St Pancras Renaissance

You may be more at home on the water and if you’re a fan of the Beatles or you just like something a little different, the Yellow Submarine in Liverpool may be for you.  Décor from around the world comes together to create this unique floating hotel which even has a bedroom based on the suite at the 7* Burj Al Arab in Dubai.  The Yellow Submarine would suit 5-6 people and start from around £175 per night.

Yellow Submarine

Alternatively, if you would like a positive sinking feeling, try an actual submarine.  From £87,500 per person per night (not a mistake!), Lovers Deep departs from a Caribbean Island of your choice and offers a Butler service, an aphrodisiac tasting menu and even optional rose petals and a Barry White soundtrack for those of you who can’t get enough.

Lovers Deep

And one for the future, Japan’s Cruise train, the JR East, is set to start running in Spring 2017.  Looking at the plans and photo mock up, you could be fooled into thinking this is a plush hotel and not a carriage on rails which will be moving at speed.

 Dining car

Luxury in Cyprus

We are very pleased to announce that we are working in partnership with Villa Escapes which has a collection of luxury villas in Cyprus all with private pools.  Sleeping between 6 to 8 guests, each villa has been beautifully furnished and well equipped to ensure guests have a luxurious and hassle free holiday.

Oceanblue has stunning sea views and has its own outdoor barbecue area and bar.  Comprising 4 spacious en-suite rooms, this villa sleeps up to 8 people and is perfect for that special family break away of for those on honeymoon.

oceanblue

Fotini is situated in the smart gated development of Greco Mare and boasts fabulous sea views and is only 5 minutes away from the nearest beach.  This villa can accommodate up to 6 people and, being located near to Konnos beach, is ideal for those who enjoy water sports.

fotini

Villa Jasmine has an enclosed garden granting privacy to its guests and making it ideal for families.  This modern villa with beautifully presented grounds is located near to beaches, shops, bars and restaurants and so ideal if you want to completely relax.

jasmine

 For further details or to book, please contact My Travel Genie at contact@mytravelgenie.co.uk or telephone 07951 219293.

Iceland: Your 5 Night Winter Getaway

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Day 1

It’s an early start!  Depart the UK on an early flight (we chose to fly Easyjet from Luton as the prices and flight times suited us) and arrive in Iceland in time for lunch.  As you venture outside for the first time, the place feels grey and almost of another time.  It’s cold, quiet and eerie but very intriguing.  You can buy your return bus ticket into town in advance or at the airport although it’s not easy to find the bus once outside and so be prepared to ask.  If you pay a little bit extra you get dropped right to your door (fully recommended given the small extra fee and because you may well be feeling too tired to navigate with a suitcase trailing behind you).

We chose to stay at Center Hotel Thingholt which is very central, reasonably priced and very contemporary.  The lobby is decorated with dark glass masks representing the hidden people of Iceland and a small waterfall trickling down over them.  There is a small bar area just off reception which serves great value cocktails in the evening.

Head to the Laundromat for lunch.  Opened in March 2011, this little café is a stroll from the hotel and combines the practicalities of completing the week’s laundry and replenishment.  You can pick up light bites or something more substantial if the early start has left you hungry (including good vegetarian and vegan options).

Afterwards, take a walk to the nearby concert Hall, Harpa, to see what is on in the week.  In the winter look out for free Christmas concerts which are short, mostly in Icelandic but immerse you in the Christmas (and Icelandic) spirit.

Wonder back to your hotel via the water front and side streets, not forgetting to take in the Sun Voyager Sculpture and Höfði, and then (after a siesta) spruce up for an evening out.  Cocktails in the bar, possibly a bite to eat and then relaxing listening to a live band.  Try Kaldi for its local beers and homely feel, or if you fancy a night on the town (if you have any energy left!) try Club Solon and for live music go to Kaffi (Klapparstigur 25, Reykjavic, Iceland).

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Day 2

A day exploring the capital.  Start by visiting the Settlement Exhibition by the Tourist Information office.  It doesn’t open until 10am and so if you’re up before that, head to Landakotskirkja beforehand (a little church nearby).  This is a small museum but gives you a good understanding of how Iceland has developed over time.  It’s a good place to start as it doesn’t get light in the winter until about 11am and so it won’t matter if you’re inside.  Tourist Information is a great place to go to book all your trips for the week and so pay it a stop afterwards.

Explore Hallgrimskirkja and don’t forget, if you want daytime shots, go between 11am and 3pm.  Cafe Loki just opposite is well worth a stop.  If you fancy trying the local delicacies, this is one of the places to go and even if not, it’s a good place to try Skyr.  If you fancy something a bit more traditional, try the oldest coffee shop in town (Cafe Mokka) which serves up the best waffles and most warming hot chocolate on a cold winter day.  If you’re out and about, don’t forget to stop at the Bernhoft Bakery not far from the hotel which sells wonderful cakes and pastries for that much needed sugar boost.

Explore the art galleries (Hafnarhus was our favourite although if you love art, make sure you give yourself time to see all 3 included int he entrance fee) and don’t forget to take a walk around the small lake Tjörnin and if you’re brave enough and if it’s cold enough, get your selfie on the ice.  Not far from here you can explore The National Museum of Iceland  which makes your realise just how far this place has come is such a very short space of time; remarkable.

Looking for somewhere to go for your evening meal?  Try Café Paris which offers lots of choice and is very reasonable.

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Day 3

Take a trip to the Blue Lagoon to relax after a hard day of sight seeing.  You can catch a bus from the main bus station which is about a 20 minute walk from the hotel.  You can buy your entry tickets from Tourist Information which means when you arrive you can walk straight in.  Set away from the capital and close to the airport, many travellers will choose to do this trip on the way from or to the airport but others may want a more relaxing experience.  If you go early in the day and before sunrise, you arrive to coloured lights illuminating the power station next door which provides the lagoon with its warm water.  It’s a very unique experience running over sheets of ice in the darkness to plunge into warm waters and not be able to see more than a foot in front of you for all the steam.  The lagoon has boxes silica mud situated around the edge for you to apply to your face and body which you leave on for 5 minutes and wash off in the spa water.

Head back into town for an afternoon coffee and to sample another local favourite, dried cod or haddock.  It doesn’t sound too appetising but try it with cocktails if you’d prefer and you may well go back for seconds.  If you like lobster, you will love the very sweet cafe Saegreifinn which serves a lobster soup near the harbour.  The seats are cushioned barrels and it’s very cozy but just what you want on a cold day.

Try the local fish and chips at Icelandic Fish and Chips (it has recently moved from the harbour) which is almost self service but you can’t get it fresher.  It’s a basic set up but the taste is everything but.  Head on our for an evening boat trip to spot the northern lights (we chose Special Tours) and keep warm with free tea, coffee and hot chocolate and keep fueled with biscuits).  You can go in land although that is a 4 hour trip as it involves a 1 hour bus journey either side.  The boat trip races you out to sea in a matter of minutes although be warned, this is a cold trip and so wrap up warm.  Also, if you’re there for photos, try the land trip as the boat can get quite rocky.

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Day 4

Early start today!  Head out on a pre-booked golden circle tour (we picked Iceland Guided Tours because it was a tour by mini bus and so much more efficient and also, it was the cheapest).  Get picked up from your hotel and take in Gullfoss, the geysirs and Thingvellir Park.  If you are going in the Winter, you may find Yaktrax useful!  Gullfoss is one of the coldest places we have ever been and taking your gloves off for just a minute can be very painful.  If you’re there for photos, you will either need to be very brave or take a pair of well insulted and thin paid of gloves.

After a long day exploring just some of Iceland’s most beautiful sights, you will deserve a very nice meal out.  We tried Fiskfelagio Fish Company which offered a 3 course meal plus a gift from the chef, bursting with flavour.  We did not expect Iceland to offer so much from a culinary perspective but we loved every meal there are were very impressed.  Treat your tastebuds to anything on the menu and you will not be disappointed.

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Day 5

Your final day.  Spend this walking across glaciers, exploring more of the capital, taking a walk to Perlan (also a restaurant) just on the edge of the city for some wonderful views, go snowmobiling, horse riding or take a jeep tour (see Reykjavik Excursions which run a number of day tours).  The choice really is endless.

Take a quick bite at Hamborgarabulla Tomasar near the waters edge.  You can’t miss this tiny round restaurant which radiates light from within in the lead up to Christmas and the burgers are good and brilliant value.  It’s small and so be prepared to wait for a space.

If you want to, take another tour out to see the northern lights as this may be your last chance.  We were lucky enough to see them in the capital on our last night there which is unusual due to the light pollution and so another trip out to the darkness may well be your best bet.

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Day 6

Another early start to catch your plane home (Icelandic chocolate and alcohol are very reasonably priced at the airport).  A final bus ride through the middle of the night morning and you’re back at Keflavik Airport with a thousand memories and a desire to return.