Category Archives: Travel

At the end of the rainbow you’ll probably find Dubai

In under 7 hours from Heathrow you can find yourself landing in the money rich Emirate of Dubai.

From the moment you arrive it is very apparent how much money has been thrown into Dubai for the tourist trade.  There is still quite a lot of building work going on and every month the skyline is changing slightly – I would imagine that just 10 years ago this place looked very different but the current building work does not detract from the overall cleanliness and splendour of this place.

The first taste of Dubai you are likely to experience (apart from the heat which hits you like a brick wall) is your hotel and there are certainly no shortages of hotels in Dubai and most of these are at least 5 star.

I was lucky enough to stay a week in the Ritz Carlton on Jumeirah Beach and this 5 star hotel certainly did not disappoint.  It is perfectly situated at the base of the Palm and near the Dubai Marina and The Walk (an area of restaurants and hotels). 

The Beach at the Ritz Carlton

I was expecting a high level of service from my first experience of a 5 star hotel but I was surprised when this level of service was also found in almost every restaurant and shop in Dubai – I found the whole experience to be extremely friendly and courteous.

From the beach you can see the Iconic Atlantis hotel in the distance and almost every hour you can see sky divers descend from the clear blue sky.

Think them, build them, twist them.

Although the skyline is not as Iconic as say New York, Dubai does have some interesting buildings (the one above certainly caught my eye).  You can definitely see the influences from other countries when looking at the buildings.

The Top of the World

Of course one building you will certainly come across in Dubai is the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the World).  You can see this monster from anywhere in Dubai and it’s definitely worth a visit although I was disappointed that the observation deck is only on the 124th floor yet it stands at over 200 floors.  At the base of this goliath you will find the Dubai Mall.  Now the Dubai Mall is a monster as well, with over 1200 stores, you will also find a huge indoor aquarium, an Olympic size ice rink, a Sega park, fountains, water falls and The Village with Dubai’s only retractable roof.

Take a dip in shark infested waters whilst shopping

Have a little skate whilst its 42 degrees outside

Chill with a coffee by the waterfall

Once you are shopped out and the feet are blistered one of the most popular activities to undertake is a 4×4 desert safari.  You’ll be picked up from your hotel and taken by 4×4 into the desert where you will be driven amongst the sand dunes (included in the safari is a visit to a camel farm, belly dancing, a desert BBQ under the stars etc).

Getting ready to burn rubber or should I say sand

Kicking up sand in the Hummer

Once back in the population most people will try to catch a glimpse of the worlds only 7 star hotel – The Burj Al Arab down on Jumeirah Beach.  The only way to actually enter this extravagant creation if you’re not a guest is to book a table for food (I believe the cheapest option is breakfast at about £45.00).  I found the best view is to enter the Madinat complex with its Souk and waterway system – this is a fantastic hotel complex with over 40 restaurants and if you pay for a water tour (not very expensive) then you will see the Burj Al Arab on your way round.

For those who want to slum it lol

If your lucky when your down by the beach you may even see a few camels amongst the white sand.

Overall I was impressed with the level of service that Dubai offers and the cleanliness.  There is still a lot of building work going on but it’s not drastic enough to ruin any photo ops.  They have strict laws in the Emirates but these are not as strict as you are led to believe and you can get away with most things in the more Westernised areas and hotels.  Alcohol is illegal in all public areas except for hotels and restaurants where it is widely available.  The weather is hot with it being 20 degrees on its coldest winter day and rising to 53 degrees in the middle of summer but there are great deals to be had if you can handle the heat as this is their off-season.

Plenty to see and do but now I have experienced Dubai I am not sure if I would return any when soon … there are just too many places I would love to visit before returning.

Its our time down here – Latino 777

Dubrovnik – The Pearl of the Adriatic

For years I’ve wanted to visit Croatia as I’ve heard it’s a great place for a holiday and the Dalmatian Coast has always been highly recommended so last month I finally got the chance and took a short break to Dubrovnik … and I’m so glad i did.

First impressions of Dubrovnik were good – we were staying in a villa which was half way up the hillside so the view was fantastic.  Dubrovnik is pretty much built on a hillside with the old town and harbour at the foot and the Adriatic coastline sprawling out from the harbour.

The view from our villa

This city was made for walking so you do not need to get taxi’s and buses etc but be warned there are an awful lot of steps in Dubrovnik so you do need to be fairly fit.  The beach, the old town, the cable car, the old walls – all within easy walking distance of each other and everywhere you look you will find a photo opportunity.  This place is very scenic, very clean and very historic.

The beach was our first place of call (as I was travelling with a group of lasses!) – the water is clear, there is fish swimming around your feet and there are plenty of sun loungers.  There is a club house on the beach called East West (I think) and this will provide you with drinks, cocktails and food as well as a small nightclub – be warned this is table service only and you will be required to purchase a bottle of Vodka or Champagne at a princely sum.

The only downside of this beach is the lack of sand and the amount of stones!  I would strongly recommend a pair of rubber shoes/flip-flops/sandals etc.

Beginning our Kayak adventure

 After the beach we decided to take on the challenge of one of the Kayaking tours – we did the 7km kayak around Lokrum island which took us to a small cove where we could jump out and do a bit of snorkelling (there was plenty of fish here to view).  It was my first time in a Kayak but I loved it, I have to say it was harder than I imagined and with the sun blazing down this made it harder still but nonetheless still a fantastic experience.

Once in Dubrovnik you cannot miss the cable car that elevates up to the top of the hillside.  You can see the cable car from almost anywhere in Dubrovnik and it is definitely a worthwhile trip to take.  It costs around £7 return but the views are the best you can get of this extremely scenic city.  Once at the top there is a great little restaurant overlooking the hillside and a museum in the old battlement reliving the war of 1991 (I would recommend walking around the old city first and then goto the museum as you really get to understand the horror this city faced when viewing the old BBC news clips from 1991).

Dubrovnik has the beach, has the views but it’s not until you enter the old town that you really become enchanted with this little pearl.  Firstly the old town is surrounded by the old wall … there are a couple of entrances but none more impressive than the drawbridge entrance by the beach.  This will lead you to the harbour with its many boat trips (you can take a glass bottom boat, a galleon, a ferry across to the island or a yacht).

We took the ferry across to Lokrum Island on one of the days.  It only cost around £5 return and this included the entrance fee for the island.  Once on the island you will find an old monastery that has been converted into a restaurant and an old church as well as an old fort although you will have a bit of a walk to reach this but the views are spectacular once the top has been reached.  One thing that may stand out when your on the island is the amount of Peacocks that are roaming free – these birds are everywhere and fairly used to the human interaction.  There are plenty of places to go swimming on the island and overall it is a good way of using up a few hours in a more peaceful environment and at the very least you get an extremely cheap boat ride.

The view from the Lokrum Island Fort

Once back in the harbour you can walk back into the old town and onto the Strada (the main street) where you will come across little boutique type shops and an inordinate amount of restaurants (this is not the largest of cities but it surely has the most amount of restaurants than any city I’ve ever been to).

The main street at night

Whether by day or by night the old town captures the imagination as you are transported to another time yet still feeling modern.  I’m sure they buffer the floor as it always looks wet and reflects the night lights brilliantly.  Do not just stay on the main street, take a side alley and get lost in the maze of streets as this is where you will find many more small shops and galleries.  Remember you can’t ever really get lost as the town is surrounded by the wall.

Side alley with galleries and boutiques

Once you’ve walked around the old town there is really only one place left to go and that’s onto the walls of the old town.  For around £8 you can walk the entire length of the old walls which provide a fantastic view of the old town and harbour from every angle (it takes about an hour an a half but there are places to stop and get a drink on the way round).

Views from atop the old wall

 Overall I was very impressed with Dubrovnik, I have been to many cities all over the world and this is certainly one of the most scenic I’ve seen.  The food and drink are not cheap but then again it’s not as expensive as other European cities but the food is of good quality and the local beer is not that bad (and that can be cheap).

One thing I did enjoy about Dubrovnik is the fact that they have kept commercialism away from the city – you will not find a McDonald’s or a Burger King here, you will not find any shopping malls or big brand names.  This is a city with a romantic hold on the past and this is what makes it stand out from the rest.

Can I recommend Dubrovnik? absolutely and we are already looking to go back next year.

Its our time down here – Latino 777

The Destination Wish List

Another rain filled day in the South of England and once again my mind has started to wander.  I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled to a fair few places over the years but there are so many that I have yet to experience.

South Africa

So lets start with my most eager destination … Cape Town, S Africa.  For as long as I can remember I have wanted to experience a cage dive with the Great White Sharks and Cape Town seems to be a great place to experience this.  With Seal Island, Gansbaai & False Bay in close proximity this city seems to be ideal.  I’ve done some research and Apex Predators would be my preferred company to go with.  Chris & Monique Fallows run this company which has been used for many TV documentaries and their knowledge & respect of Great White Sharks seems second to none.

If you fancy a dip in the ocean with the planets fiercest predator then check out www.apexpredators.com

If I survive the encounter with Jaws then an abseil down Table Mountain must surely be next on the list – the highest commercial abseil in the World … and what a view you must get as you lean back over the backdrop of Cape Town.

Greenland

Next on my list of destinations would be something a little different and that is Greenland.  Disko Bay and the llulisat Icefjord looks absolutley stunning with Icebergs and untouched scenery.  It would be great to dissapear from the rat race for a week and enter this land of serenity and ice.  The skies look amazing with no artificial light and would feel quite overwhelming to stand under the stars in this landscape.  Apparently the sun shines over 300 days of the year here!

Dubai

Although Dubai has exploded in the last 10 years into a multi billion dollar tourist destination and is no longer a real reflection of the Middle East I would still love to experience this Emirate simply because of its ‘over the top’ mentality and its craving to be THE place to visit.  The view from the Burj Khalifa must be out of this world (almost literally!) and I wouldn’t mind ordering an extremely small lunch at the Burj Al Arab just to experience 6 star dining or is it 7 stars? Maybe I’ll just order a Coke.

West Coast of America

I’ve travelled all up the Eastern Seaboard but never been across to the West coast as yet.  I would love to visit San Francisco with its streets and harbour and I’ve always wanted to visit the giant redwoods.  Alcatraz would also be very high on my list.  Las Vegas would be a fantastic experience and The Grand Canyon is a must (the camera would be hot that day).  Cannon Beach in Oregon would be a life time wish for me as this is the beach where the Goonies was filmed (one of my all time favourite movies).  I guess you would have to visit Los Angeles as well if you were doing a tour of the West Coast and the 17 mile drive would be a pretty stretch of road to drive.

The Maldives

 If I ever get married (and thats a big ‘IF’) then I can’t think of a better honeymoon destination that the Maldives.  Exotic, remote, serene and beautiful with crystal clear waters and great food but as this is set aside for the honeymoon we’ll move swiftly on …

The Norwegian Fjords

I’ve never really been attracted to the cruise ship experience but if I was to holiday on a ship then the Norwegian Fjords would be where I would like to cruise.  From the greenlands of the South to the snow capped mountains of the North you would see such a diverse side to this Scandinavian country.

Kenya & Tanzania

Kenya would be my ultimate destination for a Safari – camping out under the stars, slumming it with the African game … Awesome and Tanzania is home to Mount Kilimanjaro which is just shouting out for me to attempt to climb (I have commenced training).

Well I guess until I win the lottery I will only write about most of these places but I hope some of them will get experienced … and to those of you who have already had the pleasure of these destinations I am green with envy.

Latino777 – Its our time down here

The Magic of Lapland

So the open fire has died out, the chestnuts have ceased roasting and all remnants of Xmas have disappeared (apart from maybe the odd pound or two).  The new year has begun and its only 11 short months till we do it all over again.

Maybe this year you want to experience something different, something magical, a place where your beliefs in all things Christmas still live strong and where children and adults alike can become one age … this place is Lapland.

Before you go as far as booking this ‘once in a lifetime experience’ you need to first decide whether you go for one day or for a few days.  If you decide to go for a few days then you will most likely stay in a more commercial area with roads and hotels, street lights and cars and although there will be plenty to do this is not my idea of a magical wonderland.  You will also have to decide whether you go to Sweden, Norway or Finland as they all have their own Lapland!

Personally I have only ever been to Northern Finland, deep into the Arctic Circle … to a place called Enontekio.

Every December you can fly from the UK to Lapland for one fun-filled magical day and I can tell you its everything I imagined it to be.  I booked for 3 adults and 2 children with a company called Canterbury Travel who were very helpful and friendly.  It cost £490 for an adult and £420 for a child.  Now this is not cheap for one day by no stretch of the imagination however the flight is just over 3 hours long and you are provided with most of the required warm weather gear including ski suit, boots, hats, gloves, scarfs etc – you will need thermals though as the temperature can go as low as -30 (this year was very mild apparently with the temperature only being around -5).  All food throughout the day is also provided (on the plane and in Lapland) and all activities are free once there – you can go on as much as you like as many times as you like.  We did not even take money with us.

Once you land in Enontekio the first thing you’ll be greeted with is snow and lots of it.  You are taken into the small yet cosy airport where you collect all your ski suits and boots etc and you are handed a helmet.  Once suited and booted and as cosy as a bug in a rug you leave the confines of the airport and venture out in the cold and you soon realise what the helmets are for … Skidoos, yes everyone gets a skidoo ride on a sledge from the airport to the village.  It takes around 25 minutes and you travel through a beautiful white forest straight from a postcard.  One thing you will also notice the minute you arrive is that it never really gets light in Enontekio at this time of year.  You get around 3 hours of grey light and then its back to being dark with nothing but the natural glow from the snow to light your way.

After 3 hours on a plane and half hour on a skidoo you finally reach your destination … the kids are excited and the adults make a bee line for the hot soup that is on offer at the entrance.

So what can you do once your there???  The kids can try their hand at kick sledding, you can take a ride on a husky sledge or a reindeer sleigh, you can take a ride on an arctic horse sleigh or go hill sledding.  For the adults there is the option of taking a skidoo out for a blast or you can go for a hot chocolate and cookie in the Ice Castle (a building made up entirely of ice).

Of course you can just have a good old-fashioned snow ball fight.

There is also a small tourist shop (of course) and a modern wooden restaurant where they serve hot food all day long as you can go in as many times as you wish.

If at anytime the cold is starting to nip at those toes you can always find a Kota to warm up in … these are beautiful log cabins built solely for warmth with nothing but seats and a warm hearth fire.

The main event though is of course the visit to the man himself and they certainly get this right.  Each family throughout the day is transported by skidoo to a separate area where you wait until the great man is ready for you.  The wait is not a long one although you are sat in a teepee with a roaring fire so you don’t mind.  If you are lucky it will be snowing when you are called as you start the short walk through a snow-covered pathway lit by candlelight.  Soon you come across a log cabin and are welcomed by one of santa’s helpers who invites you in to see the big man.

It’s about as real as it can get with the log fire and Xmas tree in the corner of the room and an extremely realistic and friendly santa sitting in the corner.  Letters from wishful children can be found around the cabin but it does not feel like a santa’s grotto – not too commercial.  Like I said, it feels and looks about as real as can be and the fact that there is snow all around and it is cold outside makes the whole experience really awe-inspiring for the kids and adults alike.  The children receive their gift and even this is done with great efficiency – each child receives a gift with their name on it from father christmas unlike a santa’s grotto in a dept store where it would be blue for a boy and red for a girl etc.

So after about 6 hours of snowball fights and sleigh rides and meeting the big man himself its time to start the journey back to the airport.  This is more relaxing than the skidoo journey from the airport as it’s by coach and as you enter, the children receive certificates for crossing the arctic circle and learning to husky ride.

So a short journey back to the airport and you are ready to shed yourself of your winter warmers and climb aboard the aeroplane for your journey back to the UK.

Final comments: Yes it is expensive for one day but the memories should last a lifetime and everyone who went with me loved it – it is packed full of activities you would not normally do and everyone is worn out by the end of it.

Latino777 – Its our time down here.

The adventure playground of Iceland

Its been a while since my last post but I thought I’d write and re-live my memories of a recent trip to Reykjavik the capital of Iceland and the adventure playground of kings.

Firstly from the UK Iceland is only 2 hours away and there is no time difference so it’s easily accessible and not too expensive to get to either.  After you land at Keflavik airport you have a 45 min bus ride to Reykjavik – this gives you a taste of what Iceland is … a mixture of glaciers and Volcanoes.

At this stage the landscape is desolate and dry – don’t expect to see much greenery, just lava rocks covered in moss.  Looking around you feel like you could almost be on a different planet!

Then you enter civilisation and the city know as Reykjavik.  With less than 300,000 inhabitants, it’s not a particularly large city but its big enough.  The city center however is not that big and can be walked around in half a day with ease.  During my last visit I stayed at the Leiffur Eriksson in the city center, a perfectly adequate hotel in a fantastic location with the Hallgrimskirkja church immediately opposite which is the tallest building in Reykjavik so you know where your hotel is anywhere in the city.

For a small fee you can visit the observation deck in the church for a great 360 view of the city and harbour.

So you’ve arrived at your hotel and now you want to explore the city .. what can you expect?  There are a decent amount of shops but not as many as you would find in most other capital cities but there are ample coffee houses and restaurants If you get a chance grab a coffee in Cafe Babalu, its small but distinctly unique in its bohemian and serial killer way!

One of Reykjavik’s most famous restaurants in the Perlan.  strangely enough a pearl shaped restaurant sitting atop a hill overlooking the city – even if you don’t fancy eating it’s still worth a visit for the views.  It is also only minutes from Reykjavik’s geothermal beach where you will find golden sand and be able to swim in the sea.

Fish is the delicacy of Iceland but you can just as easy get hamburger and chips.  One thing you may notice walking around – there are no McDonald’s!!!! that’s right, I did not see one McDonald’s in the whole city.  This leads me to the second thing you may notice when perusing the shops … its expensive in Iceland!  I’m guessing due to the cost it is not feasible to open many fast food joints – I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing – yes the food can be pricey but all the food I ate was fantastic.  I experienced the best steak and caramelised onion baguette I’ve ever had during my stay.

Staying in the city for the moment, what is there to do when the sun goes down?  Reykjavik has a nightlife like every other capital city and it comes alive at the weekend with many clubs and bars rammed to capacity.  You will not be disappointed with the choice although the clubs do not start getting full until midnight.  As with the food, the alcohol is also expensive … very expensive and you should expect to pay around £7-£8 a pint! (did you know beer was only legalised in Iceland in 1989).

So you’ve walked around the city, seen the sights, had a coffee and something to eat … now what???  Well this is why you come to Iceland.

Iceland has many tours and experiences that you will find hard to compare to with other major cities.  The most popular tour is the Golden Circle tour which takes you to the Geysir, the Gulfoss waterfall and the tectonic plates where Europe meets America.

The Geysir erupts every couple of minutes so you will not be disappointed.

The path leads you right down to the plateau so you get as close as you possibly can to this impressive waterfall.

Along with this tour I also went caving which was a great experience and snorkeling in Lake Silfra (this lake has some of the clearest and cleanest water in the world – so clean you can drink from it as the water comes directly from the nearby glacier).  The water is cold though – so cold you have to wear a dry suit but the view under the water is dramatic and as almost as far as the eye can see.

If this doesn’t float your boat how about whale watching or horse-riding on a black sandy beach?  Maybe you’d like to take a helicopter to the top of a volcano or land on a glacier – yes you can do all this and much, much more.

If you fancy staying up til 2am you can go hunting for the Northern Lights – I have been extremely fortuitous to have seen the lights and wow what an experience.  If you don’t manage to see them on your first trip, the tour operator usually allows you to go on every tour during the week (free of charge) until you see them.

So lets recap … you’ve seen Reykjavik and all it has to offer, you have been on a few tours, seen some volcanoes, paid £8 for a pint and maybe been lucky enough to see the sky light up with dancing colours – is this the end of your trip?  hell no, on your way back to the airport almost everyone stops by the Blue Lagoon.  This is a geothermal outdoor spa experience like no other.  Yes its most likely cold outside and maybe you think all the people in their speedo’s and bikini’s are slightly mad when you first walk in but honestly its one of the best experiences you’ll have on this trip.

For around £25 you can spend as much time as your flight back allows.  The water is naturally heated and is very warm so you really want it to be cold outside, there are jacuzzi’s and steam rooms, as well as a swim-up-to bar and always plenty of room for you to relax until your flight back home.

Would I recommend Iceland?  Absolutely.  It may not have much sun and the temperature may not appeal to all but you will experience things that you can probably only experience in Iceland.

One last note … although its cold in Iceland, don’t let that put you off,  it’s not as cold as you may think, the temperature rarely falls below -2 in the winter so a good coat, hat, scarf and gloves and your all set.  For the summer months you probably won’t even need that.

So until the next time öruggur og hamingjusamur ferðast (safe and happy travelling).

Latino777 – Its our time down here.

I Heart NY (part two)

Part one uncovered some of my fondest memories of my favourite city so lets take a few more bites out of the big apple.

New York is not all shopping and sightseeing, in fact there is a lot of play to be had for the child at heart visitor.  FAO Schwartz is one of my favourite stores, full of giant stuffed animals and expensive movie memorabilia as well as the giant floor piano made famous by Tom Hanks in the film BIG and its definitely not just the kids that play on that!!!!  This is probably the store the Beckhams would shop in for their kids as you can pick up a childs motorised 4×4 for the same price you would pay for a full size one!!!

My favourite fun store has got to be Toys R Us in Times Square.  This store is the largest Toys r Us store in the world and when you enter your greeted by a full size working ferris wheel!  3 floors of fun but beware you may just hear the roar of a life-size T Rex!!!!

If you’re not quite ready to grow up after visits to the Disney store, FAO Schwartz & Toys r Us then why not head to Central Park where a ride in a horse & carriage is just the done thing or maybe head to the Central Park Zoo – maybe not the biggest zoo in the world and you’re not going to see all your favourite characters from Madagascar but its good for the money and you may even see a polar bear!  If you go during the colder months you can always grab a pair of skates and whizz round the ice but unlike the zoo this is not cheap here, it’s probably cheaper to head over to Rockefeller albeit not as picturesque.

If you ever find yourself in NY during the summer months then Central Park is an absolute must.  It’s an exciting hive of activity with holidaymakers and locals both heading into the vast greenery within the concrete jungle.  You’ll find little league teams playing baseball and extremely talented break dancers strutting their stuff for a few dollars.  You can have your portrait painted, sketched or cartoonised or maybe you’d prefer to have your name put on a grain of rice – you can find it all in the park.

One year we stumbled across a gay roller disco and what an eye opener that was – easily took an hour of our visit watching guys in tutu’s and girls in leather spinning to gay anthems.

On another visit we went down to 5th Ave to visit the museum of sex (as you do) and came across New Yorks Gay Pride Parade – if we thought the roller disco was an eye opener then this took the biscuit!!!! first came the bikers (about 500 of them) then the police, fire and paramedics, politicians and dancers hand in hand (literally) and then just an endless show of colour and costume to show their pride for being gay.

First comes colour

Then comes costume

and finally …

Hmmm well moving on let’s get back on track and something to even out the testosterone.  How about an aircraft carrier fully laden with all manner of awesome steel birds – of course I’m talking about the majestic Intrepid, now a museum showcasing some of America’s flighted heroes of the past including the blackbird!  I have to admit for a film buff I thought it was kinda cool re-enacting the scene where Will Smith smashed golf balls into an overgrown and derelict Manhattan in I am Legend.  You can also find one of the old Concords here which you can board and see how the fortunate used to fly cross atlantic (have to admit I was shocked at how cramped everything looked, not my idea of luxury).

 

 

 

 

If you want to grab a sea view of the Intrepid I would definitely recommend the Duck Tour – the amphibian vehicle that takes you through Times, down 5th Ave and then into the Hudson for a sea view of the Manhattan skyline and for just $25 it’s great value.

Now all this frolicking and fun running around the city that never sleeps may just make you hungry and if you’re in a fun mood maybe Mars 2112 will be right up your street.  Now don’t get me wrong the food is not brilliant but I haven’t been in too many restaurants where you have to step into a ‘spaceship’ and take a journey to another planet before you eat! Once there you find yourself immersed in a giant red crater surrounded by red mountain ranges and aliens delivering food & entertainment – great if you have kids.  No kids? then why not try Hooters … a whole different kind of mountain ranges entirely.

It saddens me to hear that one of my favourite drinking holes has closed its doors (hopefully not for the last time) … The Tavern on the Green was beautiful, ok a bit pricey and definitely a tourist trap but to eat outside in Central Park surrounded by lanterns throughout the tree’s was something special.  I sincerely hope someone buys this place and re-opens it just the way it was, rumour has it that Donald Trump is trying to purchase it – lets hope so.

Still one thing that will never close in New York are the theatres and boy does NYC have some theatre houses.  Second only to London’s West End (ok so I’m biased) the big apple boasts some of the best theatres and shows anywhere – the last time I was there I went to see Wicked at the Gershwin theatre and for any Wizard of Oz fans this is a must.

So this would certainly be a day that would wipe you out, a day playing in the toy shops, a trip to the zoo, watching a parade, visiting an aircraft carrier, an hour or two in Central Park, something to eat and a show … now all that’s left to do is choose a hotel!!!!! now that’s a whole new blog ha ha.

Til the next time have a good day.

Latino777 – It’s our time down here

Volcanic Ash – The Return

Iceland … a country predominantly made up of volcano’s, with a fascinating landscape which has been moulded over the century’s from eruption after eruption.  A beautiful country which I can vouch for myself after a trip to the Icelandic capital back in 2009 but this quiet and picturesque country is once again hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons.  

Another year and yet another ash cloud threatens to bring widespread disruption to our skies and bring more doom and gloom to holidaymakers.

Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull glacier was the culprit almost a year ago exactly.  In fact it was late March 2010 when the volcano started to erupt and in only a few days flights all over Europe had been cancelled eventually bringing the UK to a complete flight standstill.

2011 brings a different volcano to the headlines but all the same problems.  The Grimsvotn Volcano started to erupt a few days ago and is apparently Icelands most active Volcano (last erupted in 2004).  The ash has already reached Norway, Denmark and Scotland and later today is expected to reach the UK.

According to reports this eruption is larger than last years however the fragments within the ash are alot larger & denser which should bring them down to Earth sooner causing less disruption.  The wind is also more favourable this time – but I guess we will have to wait and see.

Barack Obama has had to change the schedule for his trip to Europe cutting short his visit to Ireland amid fears he may get stranded there if he stays the full length (I can’t imagine that would be a bad thing stranded in Ireland with friendly people and all the Guiness you could drink).

The President of the United States may be able to alter his plans but what about the poor holiday makers that may become stranded in airports across the UK.  Last year over 100,000 flights and over 10 million people were affected with airports becoming giant B&B’s.  Over a billion pounds was estimated to have been lost to the air industry during this period bringing even more problems to overcome along with snow, government taxes and ever rising fuel prices.

However according to reports the disruption should not be as disastrous as last year because apparently lessons have been learnt and communication between authorities, airlines and passengers will be better.  Maybe more importantly the rules for flying through ash have been relaxed slightly with complaints last year of them being way too strict.

I sincerely hope that this time the disruption is minimal and that holidaymakers do get to their destinations on time because lets face it, in this current economic climate we all need a holiday and if you’ve been saving up all year to take your family away for a well earned break in the sun the last thing you need is a cloud of black ash blocking you.

Happy flying.

 

Latino777 – It’s out time down here

I Heart NY (part one)

Start spreading the news, I (wish) I was leaving today, I wanna be a part of it …

Anyone who knows me will be very aware of my affection for the city that never sleeps (although I certainly do when I’m there!).

On a warm October in 1995 I experienced my first taste of New York City whilst on a tour of the Eastern seaboard.  We were only in Manhattan for a couple of days but one of my fondest memories was the Empire State building.  The guard in the lobby informed us there was 0% visibility due to cloud cover but as I didn’t know if I’d ever be back I said I still wanted to go up to the observation floor, and once there … WOW, it was the most surreal feeling standing outside in a cloud with all the differen’t lights from the building making the cloud change colour – Awesome.

Another vivid memory focuses on Times Square, not because of the bright lights and world famous theatre houses although these are amazing but because of an experience with a Pizza.  Lost in translation wasn’t exactly the problem but lost in accent certainly was, I ordered a pepperoni from a little pizzeria in the heart of Broadway … simple right … until the guy said you wanna piece of pie (on later reflection I think he probably said pizza pie) but I didn’t want a pie I wanted a pizza! anyway after a few minutes of trying to confirm what the hell it was I was ordering I finally left with a Pizza the size of desk!   I could only just about get my hands around the box and I had to hold this thing above my head whilst walking 6 blocks to the hotel passing pimps, hookers and drug dealers on the way.  Since 2000 and the 0% tolerance to crime initiative this is sight you will no longer see in Times Square.

The most significant sight from that trip was one that I wasn’t fully aware of at the time and that was the sight of the twin towers standing magnificently in the New York skyline – a sight that I would never again see during my future visits.  I was in NY in 2002 and walking past ground zero you still very much felt an overwhelming respect for all the victims of that fateful day and St Paul’s Chapel was still trapsed in stars and stripes, firemans jackets and cards.

Since that first trip I have had the fortune of visiting the Big Apple a number of times and still have not seen or experienced everything and thats what I love about this city.  I love London but for me its less than an hour away and a visit to the big smoke just doesn’t captivate me like a flight and a few days in a foreign land.  I’m also a big movie fan and trust me when I say there is no city in the world better than New York for sightseeing if your a movie buff.

For anyone out there thinking of going then I suggest you think no more and just go (money permitting of course) – it is a city that can be seen on a small budget, ok you have to pay for a flight and a hotel but the food is cheap and there’s plenty of it and you can spend 5 days just exploring the sights of the city without spending a dime.   Times Square, Central Park, 5th Avenue, Brooklyn Bridge, Greenwich village – all free to explore.  A good tip if you want to get great photo’s of the Statue of Liberty without joining the huge queue’s is to catch the Staten Island Ferry and again this is a freebie as long as you don’t get off on Staten Island.

Looking out over the city at night from the 102nd floor of the Empire State is breathtaking and equally amazing is the view from the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller centre) during the day, the latter has phenomenal views of Central Park with the Empire State being in the photo looking South bound.

From the Empire State at night

From the Top of the Rock overlooking Central Park

Of course alot of people go for the shopping, I’m not really one of these although I have a major weakness for Abercrombie & Fitch which has an awesome flagship store on 5th Ave.  I also love the old style escalators found in the centre of Macy’s, a cool reminder of an era longer gone.

Macy's

June 25 2009 is a date I’ll not forgot in a while as I was standing in Times Square when all the screens started buzzing with the news that Michael Jackson had died – I’ve never seen Times Square so eerie with so many people staring up at the screens.  The next few days really showed America’s love for MJ as breakdancers were performing to his music, lookalikes were entertaining the crowds and literally everywhere you went there were tributes to the King of Pop.

MJ dead at 50

Willem Dafoe, Whoopi Goldberg and Mariah Carey are some the famous I’ve seen walking the blocks of this great city but its the diverse mix of people you find in Manhattan that never ceases to amaze … walking South from the tourist trap of Broadway you’ll soon find the beautiful charm of Greenwich Village which is so differen’t than the hustle and bustle of Midtown, continuing south you’ll then pass through Little Italy and the mesmerising smell of Italian food filling the air and then of course comes Chinatown with all its diamond stores and chandelier shops (I think I counted 9 in one street!).

Wanna take a journey where there will be thrills and spills and hair raising moments? no I’m not talking about the old wooden rollercoaster at Coney Island – I’m talking about the experience you will have when you enter into a New York Taxi!!!!  Most drivers speak little English but I’m sure they all have WRC Rally Car licences.  They don’t have time for indicators in Manhattan they just use the horn and if the car to the side won’t get out of the way … well thats what the bumpers are for!  Still you find a good driver and you can have alot of fun, I asked one driver to turn up the music a touch and he decided this meant we wanted a mobile party so he turned the system up full whack and started jigging – I guess if you can’t beat em then join em so there was this taxicab rocking from side to side up 7th Ave.

Well that little trip down memory lane has sparked a new urge to get the passport out.

There’s so much more to say about the city so good they named it twice but I’m sure this will come in a later Blog.

So for now have a nice day

Latino777 – Its our time down here