Tag-Archive for » Venice accommodation «


It all began for the Piazza as early as the 9th century when it was a much smaller space than it is today. In 1177, changes and additions were made to the square before the meeting of Pope Alexander III and Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Additional buildings were added in 1640 and the newest buildings in 1810 were specially made at the request of Napoleon. Although named as a square, according to its shape this square is actually a trapezoid and the length of the Piazza is 175 meters.

There is no shortage of archaeological delights in Venice and there is plenty to see at Piazza San Marco. From this unique plaza, one may tour the St. Mark’s basilica that is a famous cathedral adorned with domes and attractive mosaics. One may visit the Palazzo Ducale di Venezia which is a gothic palace that was the place of residence of the Doge of Venice. Among other special features and attractions, one may also view the Torre dell’Orologico, the Clock Tower that has become a part of Venetian culture as it has been striking the hour for over 500 years.

The Piazza San Marco has always been known as a place of central importance to the people of Venice. This is rather like an extraordinary museum out in the open air, filled with enchantment and architectural masterpieces. It is reported that Napoleon referred to the Piazza San Marco as the “finest drawing room in Europe”. Today, the Piazza continues to attract guests and has proved to be a very popular venue for tourists.

The Piazza hosts cafes and souvenir shops even bags of food for the pigeons can be purchased. It is probably true that a majority if not all of the tourists visiting Venice have their photographs taken with pigeons in the background at the Piazza San Marco.

Hotel accommodation can be found within walking distance of the Piazza San Marco. It probably should be noted that the price of vacation rooms close to the Pizza itself will be higher than accommodation that is situated a bit further away in a quieter area. Various levels of holiday accommodation may be found west of the Piazza, east of the Piazza, north of the Piazza and along the waterfront.

Many people would recommend that the best time to visit the Piazza San Marco is during the early evening. At this time, the square is lit up and [takes on] a lively, unique and even romantic atmosphere. Musicians begin to play and sometimes people begin to dance. This special square seems to have a character and personality all of its own.

Today the Piazza San Marco continues to be a very popular gathering place in Italy. This site hosts historical buildings steeped in tradition and culture, indoor and outdoor cafes, buildings of architectural interest, stones, monuments, artistic structures, traders, pigeons, people, bustle and perhaps best of all no cars.


Auto Plan Holidays offers a wide range of Lake Garda Hotels in many resorts along the lakes shoreline. Lake Garda has a host of small resorts, which are rich in history – some Roman settlements and others with medieval castles and imposing buildings. All of them surrounded by spectacular scenery.

The lake is split into two regions. In the north is Trentino, ruled by the old Hungarian Austrian empire until 1919, when during the Great War the Austrians lost the region to the Italians. In parts of Trentino the German language is still spoken by the local population although Italian has of course been the official language for almost 90 years. North of the lake is the Dolomites – these flat-topped mountains are delightful and hide green valleys and alpine villages yet are all within 20-30 minutes drive of Riva del Garda.

The vast majority of the lake is in the region of Verona and we offer a number of resorts along the southern shores. Verona of course is well known for its open-air opera in the original Roman coliseum, and is also the background to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Visit Venice. The accessibility by rail to Venice is also a factor in choosing a Lake Garda Hotel, because fast trains connect from Pescheira del Garda to Venice – and the return cost is about 25.00 per person (less for under 12s).

Garda, is a small town, situated within an inlet and offers cobbled streets, some traffic free with tiny squares, and a small fishing port. There are several historic palaces that can be visited and a wide range of sports, walking paths and mountain bike rentals are possible. We offer three properties, all of which offer a swimming pool and easy access to the lake-good value is the Hotel La Perla which up to 12 July offers half board for 57 per person in a double room per night; Apartments too – and in similar situations we also offer one and two bed roomed apartments Rentals in June from 59 per night per unit.

Bardolino, which is half way down the lake, is a pretty resort with pedestrian areas free of traffic and a wide choice of restaurants and an area known for its excellent light red wines. We offer four-star hotels The best being the Spa Hotel Caesius with rates that start from 72 pppn on room and breakfast and also offers some special Spa treatment packages for both “Her & Him” For more modest costs are our one and two bedroomed apartments in the resort on offer from 47 per night.

Peschiera; this charming resort has a fortress surround by the lake’s waters and is the most southerly resort on the lake. One of the advantages staying here is the main line station, which offers quick access by rail to Verona, Venice and even Milan at reasonable prices. There is also a theme park “Garda Land” ideal for young families. We have one hotel and seven apartments offers.

Lake Garda offers such variety – Lakes, Mountains and even Venice within easy reach but more important offers value for money holidays.


Amsterdam caters from everyone and its variety of accommodation reflects its popularity with options ranging from youth centers to luxury hotels. Amsterdam was founded in the year 1200 and used to be a fishing village based around the Amstel River. It was built with many canals with around four hundred bridges over them.

Today, Amsterdam is the nominal capital of the Netherlands. The “Amsterdam Hidden Treasures” project aims to allow Amsterdam visitors the chance to discover some of the city’s lesser known tourist attractions. This year, it is focusing on the areas of art, history, performance, fashion and design.

Amsterdam boasts a plethora of cultural treasures and museums. It is houses over 50 museums, although not all of them are famous. You are sure to find a few of the more famous Amsterdam’s museums in the Museum Quarter, such as Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum, and the Van Gogh Museum.

Visitors should make a point of seeing Rembrandt’s House, the Maritime Museum, and the Amsterdam Historical Museum. Another hidden jewel is a hidden church in the attic of a canal house called the Amstelkring Our Lord in the Attic. These museums are just to mention a few. You will also find the Concert Building in the Museum Quarter.

The Royal Palace is open for visitors during the summer months. This 17th century building is still in use by the queen and is therefore beautifully maintained. All visitors should take the time to walk around the popular Dam square. The Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein areas are wonderful areas to walk around during the day. Street performers, acrobats, arts and music will entertain you as you walk during this bustling part of town. Stay here until nightfall and notice all the locals attending their favorite
theatres, cinemas and clubs in the area.

The Oude Kerk is a popular tourist spot. It is an old church with little houses attached to its sides. Architectual enthusiasts will enjoy its Gothic-Renaissance style and it is definitely worth the view. After the Oude Kerk, follow the narrow vaulted passageway to the quaint Begijnhof, which is a garden is surrounded by many old structures. This is where you will find a medieval church and the oldest house in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam’s natural treasures

Amsterdam has a lot on offer for fans of natural beauty. It boasts the oldest Botanical Garden of its type in the world, which was built in 1682. You can take a boat cruise or canal tour along the rings of canals. Take part in a bike, boat or walking tour of the city, a truly excellent way to see the historical sights.

Amsterdam offers many accommodation options, ranging from luxury boutique-styled hotels to self catering rental apartments and youth centers. Campgrounds that offer bungalows are also an option during Summer time.


London is one of the most visited cities in the whole world. There are several tourist attractions in London. Among the many attractions in London, one that is popularly visited by around 100,000 visitors per week is the Camden Market. This is a street market considered as the largest one in the United Kingdom. The Camden Market is composed of the Camden Lock Market, Camden Canal Market, Iverness Street Market, Buck Street Market, Electric Ballroom and Stables Market. These markets offer various forms of products ranging from clothing to art pieces. There are indoor and outdoor shops. The Camden Market is also known for selling gothic arts, two popular stores are the Black Rose and the Cyberdog. Tourists visiting the Camden Market have wide choices of products and crafts to buy. They can get hold of vintage items, jewelleries, music items and even second hand furniture. The Camden Market is also the place to go for exotic foods and unique stuffs. Camden Market LocationThe Camden Market is located in Camden Town in North London. This town is a vibrant town with an array of entertainment centres, pubs, bars, restaurants, shops and cinemas. Aside from the Camden Market attraction, tourists to this town will surely enjoy a night of music and fun at the pubs and bars. There are various ways to get to the Camden Market. Visitors can take the tube via the Northern Line or they can take the bus. Another exciting way to get to the Camden Market is through a boat trip from Little Venice to the Camden Lock Market. This boat trip passes the Maida Hill tunnel and Regents Park.Accommodations Near Camden Market Tourists visiting the Camden town need not worry about where to stay. There are numerous hostels and accommodations in the town itself and areas near it. Most of these London hostels are walking distance away from the market. This gives tourists the chance to spend a night and enjoy the rest of the evening at the town. These hostels in London offer comfortable place to stay after a day of shopping at the Camden Market and a night of fun and enjoyment at the Camden towns bars and pubs. They are usually just stone throw away from the Camden Market.London is a city worth a visit. It abounds in countless attractions. The Camden Market is just one of the many appeals that London offers. ClinkHostel is a historical and stylish backpackers hostel in London catering to all types of budget. This http://www.clinkhostel.com combines luxury with budget. Located near most of Londons top tourist attractions, Clink Hostel is the place to stay while in London.


Vacationing in Italy is a dream come true for so many Americans. Those who have Italian heritage often wish to see where their families originated. Those who have no Italian lineage still look upon Italy as one of the foundations of Western civilization. Rome, Venice, Tuscany, Florence, Umbria, Chianti, San Gimignano, Siena, Orvieto, Todi, Assisi, Spleto and Montepulciano are all legendary to those of us raised in the “new world” and for many are simply places we’ve read about in our school books, or seen on television or in the movies. Many Americans, sadly, know little of the geography of Italy, but do appreciate the food. After all, pizza and spaghetti are considered as American to us as apple pie and hot dogs. But only on a trip to Italy can a person really appreciate this magnificent country, home to Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and Christopher Columbus.

When you are ready for that once in a lifetime experience of an Italian vacation, consider a private home rental for your source of lodging. Hotels can be nice, but staying in a private home rented for the occasion can give you a chance to see the real Italy. Explore the countryside, walk into the village and visit with the residents, and see what it feels like to actually go home, to a cabin or villa at the end of the day, living as the Italians do. Or, try a beach house if that suits you or an apartment if you prefer a more urban setting. Getting to know the local people by living among them for an extended stay of a few weeks will give you a chance to learn some of the language, or if you already speak Italian to brush up on your skills. It will also give you a chance to learn local history in a very unique way, from the people themselves. You will appreciate all of the similarities of Italian culture with your own, and learn to appreciate the differences as well. The Italians are a wonderful, friendly people with a rich culture and history. Taking the time to live among them, getting to know them as friends and neighbors, is truly an experience you will always remember.

Private homes for rent to vacationers in Italy can be found in various price ranges. If you are looking for luxury, there are villas available. If something more rustic suits your taste and budget, then smaller homes and even old farmhouses are available to appeal to all tastes. Just as an example, one property includes two bedrooms, queen size beds, kitchen, laundry area, bathroom, central eat and the satellite television, telephone and VCR that most Americans are used to having. Imagine though the coziness and comfort of coming back to the house after a day of sight seeing to sit by the fire place, drinking a glass of a local wine, having a light dinner of pasta, and enjoying the peace and quiet of your surroundings. Staying in a hotel in a major city will certainly show you the tourist hot spots, but staying in a private home will show you the real Italy.

Rent holiday home or vacation rental in Italy and enjoy your stay!


The best time to go to Italy could well be, well, anytime. In reality the best time is between April and June as the flood of school holidays hasnt yet hit the roads, the countryside is at its fullest bloom and the weather isnt uncomfortably hot yet.

When deciding at which time of the year to go to Italy it may be worth scheduling around a couple of festivals as they are invariably spectacular occasions.

Here is a shortlist of the best on offer:
Festa dei Ceri, Umbria in May
Il Palio, Siena in July and August
Carnevale, Venice in February
Festa di San Gennaro, Naples in December
I Candelieri, Sardinia in August
Palio delle Quattro Antiche Repubbliche Marinare, Venice / Pisa / Amalfe / Genoa in May / June
Processione dei Serpari, Abruzzo in May
Sa Sartiglia, Sardinia in February
Umbria Jazz, Perugia in July

In August prices tend to skyrocket across the country along with the weather, so is best avoided. However, that is not true of the whole of the country. In a country such as Italy the weather is incredibly diverse, ranging from stifling heat in the low-lands of Florence to the snow-capped chills of the Alps and the Dolomites.

Overall you can expect long hot summers the further south you are, with Sicily and Sardinia enjoying the best of all, where sea swimming is possible right into mid October.

Italy is a fairly expensive country with accommodation being the single most costly aspect of a trip. You may find cheaper accommodation out of the city centres and in surrounding satellite towns. Expect to pay around 12 to 20 euros for a youth hostel, 25 to 45 euros for a basic pensione or small hotel, and around 70 to 120 euros for a mid-range hotel.

Eating out is an incredible experience throughout Italy. As any Italian will tell you, there really is no such thing as Italian food, as each region tends to be known for its particular specialities. Budget for around 20 to 35 euros for a great full-course meal with a house wine on average.

The delectable Cucina Italiana is never far away in Italy. If youre a bit of a gastronomic connoiseur then id recommend touring around the Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna and Umbria regions for the quintessential food tour.

Shop for Italian delights to take home in the Mercato delle Erbe in Bologna, then head off to nearby Modena for a bottle of perhaps the worlds finest balsamic vinegar.

Next pick up a delicious antipasto in the most well-known food town of Parma – see Parma ham and Parmesan cheese.

For you first dish perhaps Umbria for some umbricelli (pasta served with shaved truffles). If you can try to get your hands on the ever-elusive tartufo nero or black truffle from Norcia.

For the next course perhaps a taste of the infamous bistecca alla fiorentina from Florence or head to Perugia for a porchetta, an Umbrian speciality of suckling pig stuffed with its own liver plus a handful of wild fennel and rosemary.

What to drink with these delights? Head to the Chianti region for a rocking red, or Orvieto for a succulent and sharp white.

Round off this tour with dessert in Siena in the form of a slice of panforte, a hard flatcake of candied fruits and nuts, or perhaps cantucci e vin santo (yes you guessed it – a biscuit doused in sweet white wine), a Tuscan speciality.

Getting around Italy is relatively easy and cheap, although car hire prices are on the rise. If you decide to take a train the regionale (local stopping trains) are much cheaper than the diretto (fast intercity and eurostar trains) and in my opinion are far more rewarding as you get to see more and take photos along the way.

It youre in search of good reading to help in capturing the spirit of Italy then id recommend picking up a copy of Il Gattopardo by GT di Lampedusa, The Aeneid by Virgil, La Storia by Elsa Morate or perhaps Grazia Deledda’s Canne al Vento.

Have fun!


The city of Amsterdam is an old city that has embraced the new cosmopolitan flair of Europe. The seat of government is in The Hague, but Amsterdam is also thought of as the capital and it is the home of The Netherlands royal family. The Dutch are also a cultured people who enjoy the finer things in life when it comes to the arts.

Amsterdam is a city of less than one million residents but has over 50 theatres and movie houses, two ballet troupes, a symphony orchestra, and numerous museums.

The Leidesplein is the theatre district of Amsterdam. Many of the numerous theater cinemas are themed in that each carries a certain type of film art house, film noir, English only, new, etc. The Dutch run the film in its original language with the sub-titles in Dutch dialogue; as a result, visitors can often find a film in their native tongue; especially English.

The various theatres carry the best and latest in operas, symphonies, dances, and various other concerts. It is not uncommon to find a theatrical production being played out in a plaza or park. There is even a theatre that specializes in programs for the younger generation.

The Dutch art scene covers everything from graffiti to works by the masters; both inside the museums and galleries and out on the streets.

Some 50 of the over 400 museums in The Netherlands are located within the city of Amsterdam and are among the citys most popular tourist attractions. Besides the typical works of the masters, modern art, film, and photography; some of the museums that can be found in Amsterdam are the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, a Botanical Museum, a museum dedicated to the Dutch resistance during World War II, the Heineken Experience, the Ajax Museum (Dutch football team), a houseboat museum, a torture museum, museums dedicated to sex and erotica, NEMO a hands on science museum for the children that is housed in a boat shaped building, the shipping museum, a Biblical Museum, the tropical museum and the Jewish museum. There are also several art galleries within the city.

The largest of the museums is the Rijksmuseum, which houses Dutch art dating as far back as some early religious works, and of course; the masters.

Located in the middle of the city is the Anne Frank House, where the young teen wrote her diary while hiding from the Nazis with her family. The original diary is on display at the house.

The Houseboat Museum is an actual houseboat similar to those used by some residents of Amsterdam. The boat is set up as if the family where merely out running errands or at the cinema and will return at any moment.

Across from the Anne Frank House is the tulip museum. The small museum offers a multimedia presentation of the famous flower including its history.

For those interested in the art of the adult beverage there is the Heineken Experience which provides everything about the famous beer. And there is the Vodka museum that not only gives a history of the alcoholic potato and a display of unusual vodka bottles, but a bar where visitors can sample the famous Russian concoction. There is also a coffee and tea museum for the coffee and tea lover.

The Jewish Museum tells of the history of Dutch Jews and is housed in four synagogues some dating back to the sixteen hundreds.

Located on the edge of the Red Light District is the Museum Amstelkring which houses religious artifacts and art.

Visitors to St. Petersburg, Russia can see a few of the works housed in the Hermitage along the Neva River; but it is nearly impossible to see everything housed within the palace walls. However, visitors to Amsterdam can visit the Hermitage in Amsterdam which features two exhibits each year.

The TIN-Theater Museum features the history of the theater back to the Middle Ages. And the Film museum features a history on cinema history. The FOAM specializes in photography.

And for those who have an interest in things ancient and archeological is the Allard Pierson Museum.

And of course; the old city would not be complete without a historical museum of Amsterdam itself and the maritime museum Nederlands Scheepvaart Museum.

The tropical museum features exhibits on the tropical areas around the world.

There are museums dedicated to the works of Vincent Van Gogh, Rembrandt and writer Theo Thijssen.

Madame Tussauds offers visitors the chance to see Rembrandt at work, see Kylie Minogue, Bono, Bob Marley or hold court with Princess Maxima.

The Tassen Museum Hendrikje is dedicated to the great designers of womens purses and handbags offering thousands of the womens accessories for visitors to view. The Brilmuseum features eyeglasses.

For the musically inclined there is a small museum featuring player pianos and thousands of the paper rolls used in creating the music. Sir Elton John has nothing on this small museum which offers s glimpse into the history of eyewear.

With the wide variety of exhibits offered by the museums and the variety of cultural events there is something for almost any interest for the visitors and residents in Amsterdam.


Amsterdam a city sometimes called the Venice of the north is a city surrounded by water. Holland is a small country located between Germany and England across the sea. Whether it be along the North Sea or one of the many canals and rivers throughout the city, finding a place to stay with a waterfront view is an easy task. This modernized city with an old world charm offers a variety of places for visitors to stay from the finest international chain hotels to an intimate inn and even a houseboat. For a relatively small city Amsterdam contains nearly 300 hotels and that does not include the 100 plus guesthouses, the hostels, cottages, houseboats, and even some apartments for extended stays. But even with all of these available hotel rooms and other places to stay, finding lodgings during the tourist season can be very difficult. As a result, it is recommended for tourists to book a room or other lodging in advance. By booking ahead guests will be ensured that not only will they get the room that they want but at a price they desire as well. There are websites that list these hotels and similar accommodations in the city by category large, number of stars, small, etc. there are even listings those places that are suitable for families, are pet friendly, wheelchair accessible, and even the ones that are gay/lesbian friendly.

For the adventurous tourists and travelers Amsterdam also offers campgrounds just outside the city. In winter it gets very cold in Amsterdam cold enough to freeze the waterways so for the avid camper, summer is the best time to visit. Residents of Amsterdam even skate along the waterways during the winter for pleasure and as a way to get from one place to another.

Like many European cities Amsterdam is a popular tourist destination but the city does not offer a lot in the way of parking; as a result, it is best to make use of the extensive public transportation services offered by the country of The Netherlands. Bicycle riding is also very popular in this small country. Visitors can easily rent bikes and even take them on the trains. The Netherlands transit system includes buses, trams, subways, and a train service that operates over 100 trips each day. There is even a train that runs right under Amsterdams Schiphol Airport for easy access into the city so there is no need to pay those high taxi fees to get into the city or to the hotel. It is even possible to take a trip across the country on the train and return to Amsterdam in the same day.

For those visitors who insist upon driving, they must pay close attention to any and all traffic laws. The Netherlands may be liberal in some areas of the law but it has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to traffic violations and tickets with heavy fines are given out even for first offenses and with no warning. If the ticket is not paid within a 24 hour period then the vehicle is towed.

Since the city of Amsterdam is considered small, walking from place to place is also a relatively simple task.

Bicycle and walking tours around the city of Amsterdam are among the items offered to visitors to the city.

Getting to Amsterdam as a tourist destination is even easier than getting around in the city once visitors have arrived. Schiphol Airport serves some 40 million visitors each year with approximately 90 different airline services from every corner of the globe.

The trains that run all through the country also offer trains to the neighboring countries of Germany, France, Belgium, and beyond. Many Hollanders speak English and offer informational kiosks throughout the train stations and airport making it easier for visitors find what they want and to get around the city.

Besides the windmills, wooden shoes, chocolates, and tulips for which Amsterdam and The Netherlands are best known; Amsterdam is the home of the artist Rembrandt and oddities like leaning houses.

Among the other rather unusual things that can be found in The Netherlands and Amsterdam are targeted for adults that of the coffeehouse where Cannabis is smoked and the Red Light District where the ladies are displayed in shop windows. In the Red Light District a man literally shops for the companion he wants. Beware: no photos are allowed when visiting the area.

Football fans can watch the two time World Cup Champions the Amsterdam Ajax play. One of the biggest teams in Europe the Ajax have been a part of Amsterdam and football for over 100 years.

Since Rembrandt lived, worked, and died in Amsterdam there are a number of museums and art galleries some of which are dedicated to the great artist; as well as, the other great masters in art.

Amsterdam Attractions

When many people hear the words Holland, The Netherlands, or Amsterdam the first things that comes to mind are wooden shoes, windmills, chocolate, and tulips. But the country of The Netherlands and Amsterdam have a lot more to offer its millions of visitors each year. This small country in western Europe is located west of Germany with England to the east located across the sea.

Amsterdam is a city located on the North Sea and while storms can be fierce the summer weather is pleasant. There are four beaches in the Amsterdam area for residents and visitors to enjoy the warm sun. Some of these beaches even permit swimming.

Like Venice and St. Petersburg, two cities surrounded by water, boat traffic is numerous and tourists can find rides along the waterways in the form of a taxi or a structured ride.

Amsterdam offers the golfer a number of choices to get in a few holes while on holiday.

Since bicycle riding is more than just a popular pastime in The Netherlands, it is also a form of transportation instead of the motor vehicle; bike riding tours are available during the non-winter months. A combination bike and boat ride is also offered during the summer months of June, July, and August. These bicycle tours wind through the Dutch countryside offering tourists a glimpse into the real Holland with trips through the countryside, cheese farms, and clog factories. While on the tour visitors can see windmills, get a bit of history, and learn a bit about how the Dutch have reclaimed some of their country back from the sea The Netherlands is a country at or below sea level which floods easily.

And of course; there are the numerous gardens located all over the country showing off the tulips the country of The Netherlands is so famous for. While there are many small gardens hidden behind the walls of private homes, there are also large public gardens with thousands upon thousands of flowers in a rainbow of colour.

For visitors who wish to view the city in a more pedestrian manner, there are several walking tours of Amsterdam. The most well known is the The WOW or Walking Over Water Tour. During this 3 hour and a half tour visitors can see the old Amsterdam City Center, leaning houses, sea dikes, lost city walls, hidden monasteries, sites of former executions and spectacular murders, and the famous Red Light District where the girls are on display in shop windows; but beware taking photographs is prohibited.

The second walking tour takes about 2 hours and is called The Red Light District walks. As the name implies this tour focuses on the Red Light district. The Red Light tour visits the spots where the women offer their services to men and educates the people with a visit to the PIC or Prostitute Information Centre.

The walking tours are conducted in English year round. The residents of Amsterdam and The Netherlands are a cultured and sophisticated people and their festivals reflect such culture. Besides the various festivals for various holidays there are art festivals, literary festivals, and festivals for film and theatre; as well as, music festivals and concerts. There is some kind of festival taking place nearly every month of the year in Amsterdam. The Dutch even put on a festival to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

What began as a country wide celebration of the Queen Mothers birthday has evolved into a massive outdoor party each April 30. All of Holland comes out dressed in orange to enjoy a giant birthday party and celebrate out among the blooming flowers and warming weather. The holiday is more than just a big party; marketing is strictly regulated as everything imaginable is available for sale; even the children get involved and show off their business skills.

Among the more unusual festivals happens in November when the various coffeehouses in the city hold the High Times Cannabis Cup; a six day festival that includes musical events and tasting parties. In The Netherlands it is legal to buy and smoke cannabis. It is illegal however to carry more than 5 gram of the drug.

December is the month that all the children wait for; on December 5 St. Nicholas arrives but not is a sleigh, but in a boat. The arrival of St. Nick is accompanied by a parade and festival. The Dutch do not celebrate the traditional Christmas of December 25 as the jolly ones arrival so for many Dutch it is a normal day with businesses and museums open to the public.

The year ends with a bang literally on December 31 with bars and nightclubs opening late, early evening is for families, and a big fireworks display.

Summer may be the time when most of the tourists come to visit but The Netherlands offers something for residents and visitors any time of the year.



(an excerpt from my book From London to Cairo)

A Tale of Two Brothers

The symbol for Rome is a milking wolf. I learned the reason for this when I visited The Time Elevator; a virtual reality ride that brings people back in time to reenact the history of Rome.

Roman myth tells the story of a priestess who was required to remain a virgin but gave birth to twin boys instead. The Emperor ordered them to be destroyed. A soldier took them out to the forest but could not bear to kill them himself so he left them for the wolves. A mother wolf adopted the boys and they grew strong. When they became men, they decided to start a village but could not agree on which hill to build it. Unable to find a compromise, one brother killed the otherthen founded Rome.

Nice storyeh? I guess this set the stage for Rome to become a nation of conquerors.

Fresh off the Train

I arrived in Rome in the early afternoon and set off to look for a cheap hotel with a guy I met on the train. John is from Boston and had flown to Venice to take part in a marathon. He had some time to kill and decided to visit Rome to see the coliseum. He was in his late twenties, very handsome and one of the most scatterbrained people I have ever met. I loved him right away. He turned out to be a very amusing person to hang out with.

After walking around for an hour and finding no vacancies at any of the hotels, we finally stopped in at a tourist information office to elicit help. The friendly girl at the office managed to find me a great hotel room for a reasonable price in the area while John chose to stay in a hostel not far from my hotel.

Roman Coliseum

The first night we decided to walk to the Coliseum. The hotel gave me a great map of Rome with big pictures of all the monuments. The walk took a long time because we stopped at every food establishment along the way so John could feed his insatiable appetite for Italian foodI wondered if he would ever get full.

Finally we caught our first glimpse of the coliseum sitting at the end of a busy street, the home of gladiators and emperors, and a piece of living history. Wow! This was incredible!

Construction on the Coliseum started in 70 AD and ten years later Titus opened it. The opening ceremonies and games lasted for 100 days during which an astounding 5000 wild animals were put to death. The Coliseum had a capacity of 70,000 spectators who came to see everything from gladiator combats to wild


Have you ever heard of Ponza? Probably not, considering most Italians haven’t either. But if you are thinking about vacationing in Italy (and the Italian Riviera is a bit too pricey) head down south, where crystal blue waters and blindingly whitewashed villas await you on the tiny island of Ponza. Located halfway between Rome and Naples, it’s the perfect little getaway, as long as you don’t mind the complete absence of any kind of pandering to American tourists. Be warned, this is not Venice or the Cinque Terre, so if you only know ‘grazie’ and ‘prego,’ you may struggle here, but if you are willing to throw caution to the wind, you can rent an entire apartment for yourself and several guests for an entire week for practically nothing.

Hotels on the island are expensive, but if you go the route of private apartment rentals, you will be amazed at how economical your trip can be. On my trip to Italy, my sister, cousin and I rented an apartment for three people for an entire week for approximately 200 euros! Three beds, a bathroom, and a full kitchen, so we also saved money on food by cooking for ourselves most days. To find deals like this, just search online for Ponza and room rentals or ‘affitacamere.’ You can look at the rooms online, choose the dates you want and book, all from the comfort of your home. One final tip, prices drop off-season, so if you can get there in June, you’ll save money, and beat the summer rush. So if you’re looking to vacation in Italy and think hanging out on an island in the Mediterranean sounds too good to be affordable, think again, and go google ‘Ponza.’ I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this true Italian gem.


Our journey took us to the Yorkshire Dales in a place called Asenby near Thirsk. What a wonderful site greets you in the form of a wonderful public house with a thatched roof and lots of strange and wonderful objects strategically placed on and around it. After all it was named the Crab & Lobster so a crab and lobster is what we saw. It is the kind of site you see in your lifetime, where you wonder if you are still deep in a dream or on some kind of medication. Needless to say we were definitely not on the latter. This beautiful little building is the start of your wonderful weekend break, holiday or maybe even wedding day. More about this pub later.

Just around the back we found the Crab Manor Hotel. As we drove into the graveled car park, two large white alabaster hounds greet you in a very welcoming way. The dog statues line the way to the magnificent front door surrounded by climbing ivy which reaches right up to the rooftop. In fact as we looked around, the whole grounds were a gardeners dream with trees of all colours and species, shrubs plants and flowers. If this was a taste of the opulence inside then we were in for a great treat.

Stepping into the hallway, well, what can I say it is to be seen to be believed. Decorated with beautiful artifacts and antiques, we did not know where to look first. I could see an enormous and I mean enormous Yeti in the window of the staircase wearing an apron. There was the biggest clock I have ever seen in my life on the wall. For anyone with bad eyesight, worry not. To tell you everything we could see just from the area we were stood in would constitute pages and pages of description. Take my word for it unusual is the word that comes to mind.

You will be greeted by the receptionist who is also very informative as well as kind and be shown to the room of your choice, which could be the Waldorf Atoria in New York the Cipriana Palace in Venice. La Mamounia Hotel in Marrakesh and many more. We stayed at the Sharrow Bay hotel in Ullswater.

As we walked through the door a Four Poster bed looms ahead of you with drapes and cherubs and beautiful bedding. I could not wait to lie under the canopy and imagine I was royalty at least. Down a couple of steps is the sitting room with television, wonderful furniture and Crisps! Yes crisps not just any old crisps but packaged in a container I have never seen before and enough to feed an army. Biscuits, coffee and teas.

Next we walked into the bathroom and oh my goodness