Monday, 30 May 2011

Top Things to Do In Istanbul

With a population of over 13.1 million, Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey. Istanbul tourism can be overwhelming as you decide what to do, where to sleep, food to eat and sites to see.
We recommend:

 Sleeping in Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul . The Çırağan Palace Kempinski is the only Imperial Ottoman Palace & Hotel by the Bosphorus.The hotel consists of two buildings: the restored palace, which features special suites, restaurants, and banquet facilities, and the adjoining grand hotel, which features five-star accommodations and a range of facilities.

Eating at Mimolett . Open since December 2009, this fine-dining restaurant & bar serves selections from Mediterranean and French cuisines. The décor matches the restaurant’s Michelin aspirations, with a huge Murano chandelier, dark wood floors, and purple velvet curtains.

Drinking at Rouge. Located just off Taksim Square, Rouge is a wine bar, restaurant, and wine shop all in one. Rouge serves over 260 varieties of Turkish and international wines that have been carefully selected. This eclectic venue is decorated with artworks, mahogany, and splashes of color on walls and chandeliers. 

Go out in Reina, a club with one of the best views of the Bosphorus, located right under the Boğaziçi Bridge. A complex that includes some of the best restaurants under its roof in addition to the flashy bar and dance floor, Reina is expected to attract the glitterati of Istanbul to dance the night away until the wee hours of the morning yet again.

Visiting Haydarpaşa Tren Garı (Haydarpaşa Railway Station). Located on the Asian side of the city, the Haydarpaşa Railway Station has been a major hub of transport in Istanbul since 1872, and is indeed the largest and busiest rail terminal in the Middle East. The station is of course a prime sightseeing destination for any train enthusiast, but should appeal to others too; the interior is an interesting contrast to the Germanic exterior with its semi-domed ceiling and tiles, and the hubbub of the station is exciting even if you’re not about to catch the express to deepest parts of Anatolia.

Shopping at Simay Bülbül. The leather used is buttery-soft and most of the pieces entirely made of leather are cut loose for a causal feel. Bülbül creates a new collection not be season but by month, so there is always an exciting cache to rifle through. Prices are pleasantly surprising reasonable

Source: The Guide Istanbul is a sharp, sophisticated, and trustworthy filter for the city’s happenings, offering a comprehensive listings of restaurants, bars, hotels, and more

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Top 4 Vacation Destination Days Out in Houston

Looking for that something special to do when you take a trip to Houston well here we are going to preview four of the top rated attractions for a family day out which will help you plan your trip and show you what is on offer.

Houston Space Center

The Houston Space Center is repeatedly ranked as the top tourist and visitor attraction in Houston. The Center allows visitors to get to grips with what it is really like to become an astronaut and where else are you likely to get firsthand knowledge and advice from a real live astronaut?

The exhibits are usually interactive and hands on and will appeal to all ages but children in particular are going to be engaged all day in what is a very interesting and highly educational learning experience. You can learn about the very early origins of rocket development, the NASA Space Program which first put men into space and then on the Moon and is now a key component of the International Space Station. You can also see what tomorrow has in store with the preparations and training for manned missions to Mars.

The Battle of San Jacinto Battleground and Museum

Texas was not always a part of the United States, it actually belonged to Mexico who sought to reassert their rights against settlers in what had become known as the Runaway Scrape territory in what is now modern Texas. Santa Anna invaded the territory and sought to remove settlers and impose Mexican direct rule on the territory but a revolutionary army of Texans was formed under General Sam Houston who eventually defeated the Mexican army decisively at the Battle of San Jacinto resulting in the capture of Santa Anna and the annexation of Texas by the United States and paving the way for westward expansion of the US to the Pacific shores. The battlefield site also includes the Battleship Texas floating museum which is formed by the last of the dreadnoughts, The Texas and is also the very first floating museum made from a decommissioned US military warship.

The Houston Museum District

Houston is a vibrant and very fast growing metropolis and has been since it was first formed as a planned city in 1837. With the abundant wealth that has been produced and the multi cultural population that has been attracted to this great city has come a huge interest in the arts, history and appreciation of culture generally with the patrons to support the activities. Houston is one of the world’s global cities precisely because of its standing in cultural terms and has an international reputation for art and natural sciences and not just oil and cowboys. There are 18 museums comprising the district and more than 11 are completely free the entire year.

American Cowboy Museum

The American Cowboy Museum is based on a ranch at Alameda on the outskirts of Houston and here you can spend a day or longer learning the ropes as a cowboy. There are plenty of activities to get involved with and all of the family can enjoy a thoroughly enjoyable (and tiring) day out in the open countryside exploring the rich heritage and traditions of Texan cowboys.

Freelance author Lawrence Reaves uses SnagAJob when searching for Houston jobs. A great resource for your part time Houston jobs search online. Visit

Monday, 23 May 2011

Top Places to Visit in Scotland in Your Hire Car

With its beautiful scenery and many tourist attractions, Scotland is a beautiful holiday destination. One of the best ways to get the most out of your visit is to hire a car and take a driving trip. Here are a few favourite places to visit in Scotland.

1. Edinburgh Castle - Edinburgh Castle is an impressive structure, and one of the top castles to visit. There is nothing quite like looking out over the Firth of Forth with a line of canons right next to you. Edinburgh itself is also a beautiful city and well worth visiting, with its wide streets, Reformation-era architecture, and many shops and restaurants. Walk the Royal Mile through the city and up to the castle for the complete experience.

2. Stirling - If you only visit a couple of cities in Scotland, Stirling should definitely be one of them. Known as Scotland's heritage capital, Stirling has a variety of attractions, from a bustling Old Town, Stirling Castle, and views of important battlefields in Scottish history.

3. Bannockburn - This historic battlefield, where Robert the Bruce defeated the British in 1314, is one of those that can be viewed from Stirling Castle. Be sure to also visit the Bannockburn Heritage Centre, overlooking the battlefield, where you can learn more about Robert the Bruce and this important battle.

4. National Wallace Monument - Also in Stirling is the National Wallace Monument, which honors William Wallace, an important figure in Scottish history. It takes 246 steps to get to the top of the monument, but the breathtaking views are well worth the climb. Visitors can also listen to an actor tell Wallace's story from his point of view.

5. Bothwell Castle - Another important piece of Scottish history, this castle in South Lanarkshire belonged to the family of one of William Wallace's comrades. Although unfinished, Bothwell Castle changed hands back and forth between the Scottish and the British many times during the 13th and 14th centuries, and was partially destroyed a couple of times over the years.

6. National Museum of Rural Life - Want to know what it is like to live in rural Scotland? While you're in South Lanarkshire to see Bothwell Castle, be sure to visit this museum, which is actually a working 1950s-style farm. Okay, so maybe it's not one of the top places to visit -- but between the 50s furnishings, the old farm equipment, and the restaurant with its country fare, visiting this museum will give you a taste of Scotland… literally.

7. Urquhart Castle - This castle overlooks Loch Ness, and is one of Scotland's most popular castles. Although even the ruins themselves are impressive, remember that this was one of Scotland's greatest strongholds in its day. Like Bothwell Castle, Urquhart Castle frequently changed hands between the Scottish and the British. Who knows, maybe you'll even see the Loch Ness monster while you're visiting the castle -- not that it would be the reason for your visit, of course.

There are many favourite tourist destinations spread out across Scotland, so you can see how a hire car can help you to see all you want to see quickly and efficiently. These are just a few suggestions, as there is no way you can see all of Scotland in one trip -- but a hire car can definitely help you make the most of your visit!

Katharine Swan is a freelance writer who specializes in travel topics such as destination guides and discount car hire. Edinburgh is one of her favourite places to visit.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Haggling in Vietnam

When you are planning your holiday in Vietnam you may feel apprehensive about the 'no price displayed' style of shopping that's common in the markets in Vietnam and across Southeast Asia. Nearly anything without a fixed price can be negotiated, from souvenirs and clothing to guesthouse rooms and taxis.

When you've only known set prices, haggling can feel unsettling and it's easy to get worked up over the final price to later discover you argued for half an hour over the cost of a cup of coffee at home. If the price is generally cheaper than you would find at home then why shouldn't you buy it as you get what you want at a price you couldn't normally.

You need to know the social skills to aid you in getting what you want at the price you want to pay. Think of it as a game that you need to know some of the rules to play. 

Always smile to the vendor and a shocked look is great for showing you weren't expecting such a high price. Don't get angry as that helps no-one. Laugh at high prices and try and encourage the price in the right direction with good will and by building the relationship. This is a normal way of life for Vietnamese traders and they simply see it as a lucky day if they sell their goods at a higher price and they certainly don't wake up thinking "let's rip off a foreigner today." If you feel angry then just walk away. It can actually be a bargaining tool as the trader will react if he wants to continue with the sale. If you are not called back then they are not happy with the way things were working out as well.

Not many market vendors sell unique items so do ask to see what you're interested in but always keep in the back of your mind that you can get it elsewhere if the sale doesn't work out the way you hope. It's considered OK to look uninterested while being shown goods and to even point out flaws.

Knowing how much you want to pay and removing all other money from your wallet can work as showing you are willing to pay all you have - literally show your wallet contents to them - can show how willing you are to buy the goods.

Remember that almost all CDs and DVDs are pirated copies so the quality will not be as good as the real thing, hence the lower prices. Many stores can arrange for you to view some of the DVD before buying so you can make a more informed decision.

If you really dislike bargaining then don't do it. Ask the price and if you have the money then pay it. It's very likely you have a lot more than the person you're paying and it's also likely to be cheaper than you'd get at home. Don't worry about what others have paid for a similar item or service as that's not important. If haggling makes you stressed and unhappy then don't suffer.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Birding in Southern Portugal 12th – 18th April, 2011

In his final instalment, Chris Hall recounts his time spent birding in Southern Portugal with a tour group in April this year.

Our first port of call on the south coast of Portugal is Pera marsh, where statuesque Purple Herons are followed by Woodchat Shrikes, Bee-eaters, Crested Larks, Northern Wheatears, Azure-winged Magpies, jangling Corn Buntings, a puffy-throated Hoopoe calling repeatedly from a dead tree branch, a delightful male Pied Flycatcher, obligingly perching on the same branch between short sallies for flies and a Zitting Cisticola which insists on perching right in front of us as we scan the lagoon, which is awash with birds such as Spoonbills, Flamingoes, Purple Gallinules, Collared Pratincoles, a drake Garganey, Yellow-legged Gulls, Caspian, Sandwich and Whiskered Terns and a feast of waders, side by side as if in the pages of a fieldguide, including loads of Black-winged Stilts and Avocets, plus Ringed, Kentish and smart black-bellied Grey Plovers, along with Sanderling, Dunlin, Common, Wood and Curlew Sandpipers, Whimbrel, Greenshank and Spotted and Common Redshanks; and all this before lunch on our first outing! Further west at the Alvor estuary, the wader gang is joined by Turnstone, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and a lone Oystercatcher, among plenty of Mediterranean Gulls. Back at the villa, in the back garden, the roll call of the day’s birds is interrupted by a calling Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, and once scrambled with our bins, we soon have the red-capped ‘little pecker’ in our sights, drumming on the top of a wooden telegraph post.

Along the coast to the east on the border with Spain, is the Castro Marim nature reserve, where the first bird we see is a Marsh Harrier being mobbed by Black-winged Stilts. Next we find Little Ringed Plovers, smart male Stonechats and a Bonelli’s Warbler singing in the small pines outside the visitor centre, while highly polished Spotless Starlings whistle from a pan-tiled rooftop. Meanwhile, a Spectacled Warbler puts on a spectacular show, singing from low bushes right beside the nature trail. Further on we scope a mixed colony of panting yellow-throated Spoonbills, finely- plumed Little Egrets and tasty looking cinnamon-coated Cattle Egrets, while a couple of Stone Curlews shelter sensibly in the shade of the very same tree. Lively Little Terns and elegant Slender-billed Gulls also make an appearance this afternoon.

This morning we begin a walk from the beautifully decorated shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in the small village of Penina. A Nightingale serenades us on our way up to the Rocha de Pena, which is a glorious rock garden of wild flowers in April, with stunning views of the surrounding scenery down below. On the descent we enjoy the song displays of rival Blue Rock Thrushes parachuting from the summit, while a superbly marked Rock Bunting sings for us from a nearby tree, and after a well earned drink in the village bar, a Short-toed Treecreeper also sings and shows nicely.

Down at sea level, at Quinta do Lago, the tide is well out, the crabs are waving at each other out on the mud banks and we watch a Greenshank grapple with a tiny flatfish, before gulping it down to leave quite a bulge in its throat. Meanwhile a Wryneck calls from a clump of pines and we soon have it pinpointed in the scope, even though it is perfectly camouflaged against the cracked grey bark. Plenty of waders in the salt marsh give really close views in brilliant light including Little Stint, Dunlin and a reddening Curlew Sandpiper, all feeding together, and then a charcoal Spotted Redshank shows up before being moved on by the Black-winged Stilts. At the famous golf course pool, home to an abundance of Little Grebes, ginormous Purple Swamphens and handsome drake Red-crested Pochards, there are even Black-headed Weavers building neat round nests in the reeds, and at one point a male weaver puts on a superb puffed up wing-flapping display next to his neatly woven basket nest. Other stars of the golf course include dazzling Hoopoes and Azure-winged Magpies.

On our last day out, on the plains of the Alentejo region to the north of the Algarve, we meet up with local expert Georg Schreier, who promises a “festival of birds”. As soon as we arrive in this wonderful area, awash with superb displays of yellow, white, pink and purple wild flowers, we spot a male Little Bustard, standing proud, and throwing his head back each time he calls. The same narrow road also produces singing Calandra Larks, and also Great Bustards in flight, which are awesome to watch. Back on the main road, a clump of Eucalyptus trees is home to nesting Black Kite, White Storks and heavily streaked Spanish Sparrows. A fabulous male Montagu’s Harrier, making slow progress against the wind, sweeps low over the plain, where we also find two Great Bustard cocks strutting their stuff, while a third male shows off his full blown fluffy white ‘foam bath’ display. Next Georg suggests we inspect a nearby nestbox for Rollers, but as we approach, a Little Owl peeps out at us! Georg now takes us to a chapel on a hill top with panoramic views, which makes an excellent vantage for a picnic lunch, and on the way we pass a massive flock of Spanish Sparrows in their hundreds! After lunch a Black-winged Kite glides gracefully by and perches in a tree top and at our next stop we find Tawny Pipit, Black-eared Wheatear, a gorgeous Roller looking as blue as the sky, several Lesser Kestrels, and a single Black-bellied Sandgrouse looking just like the stony ground, while lots of his mates are flying around in flocks. In the distance, White Storks resemble sheep and an apparent rock becomes a Black Stork, thanks to its long red legs! Suddenly all the storks take flight, flushed by a huge slow flapping raptor, a magnificent Imperial Eagle, with the blonde upperparts of an immature bird bleached by the sun. Moving on to an idyllic spot with a bridge over a small river, we add Crag Martin to our list, followed by Pallid Swift, and then our next great sighting is a Great Spotted Cuckoo, which after a bit of coaxing, eventually perches on a small bush right in front of us!

With most of the region’s fantastic birds now seen superbly well, it seems impossible to single out just one star of the show.

Chris Hall Operates New Horizons bird watching tours and courses. and has kindly agreed to provide us with several articles relating to Birdwatching holidays in Portugal. Over the course of the coming weeks we will post Chris' report on his most recent trips to the Algarve. 

For more information on Birdwatching holidays in Southern Portugal, visit their site or look out for availability at Villa da Oliveiras on Bidabooking.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Golf Courses in the UK

Luckily for golf lovers, the UK is home to some of the best golf courses to be found in the entire world.  Perhaps this is not too surprising, given that the game is alleged to have been invented here, in Scotland, to be precise. Although the origin of the sport is disputed by some, tens of hundreds of people make the journey to The Royal and Ancient Golf Club at Saint Andrews, as though it is some kind of religious pilgrimage. This is also where the game was formalized into the sport we all know and recognise, and 18 holes were made the norm. 

You may be surprised to learn that there are 2,500 golf courses situated around the UK. In Cornwall, Mullion Golf Club was founded in 1895 and has the reputation of being the most southern golf club in the whole of the Great British Isles. At the other end of the scale is Whalsay Golf Club in the Shetland Islands, which came into existence in the 1970s. This is a golf club which has been known to challenge less proficient golfers with inclement weather conditions!
There are a huge variety of golf courses amongst the selection available in the UK. Just like golfers themselves, they each have their own different quirks and play in varying ways. If you are looking for a spectacular day of golfing, look no further than Perthshire’s Trossachs, for Culcrieff Golf Club.  This beautiful golf course is framed by two of Scotland’s greatest mountains- Ben More and Ben Vorlich.

Of course, if valleys interest you more than mountains, you could try Wales, and the Vale Resort in Glamorgan. This golf course plays host to several championships a year and so it is quite well known amongst lovers of the sport.  Even for those who are not interested in the game itself, including golf wives and children, the 650 acres of stunning Welsh countryside is sure to delight.
If you are after a golf course with plenty of challenging obstacles, there’s no better to play than Bridlington Golf Club, near the coast in Yorkshire. The fairways are flanked either side by trees for the ball to disappear into, there are 6 water hazards to worry about and several large sand bunkers to test even the most seasoned professional.

So what’s holding you back? With over 20,000 golf courses out there to visit, you had better get started! There are plenty of reliable golf trolleys out there to help you on your way.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Property Management: Renting Your Property

Are you the owner of a property and you wish to rent it to an interested perspective tenant? In this case, it is important that you decide the best ways to make your property most appealing. There are several ways to do this:

  • One solution may be to fully furnish your property. Many landlords decide that this is the best possible way to increase the rental agreement on their property.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in doing, it is important to make sure that your rental property is in excellent condition and that all appliances are in good shape.

  • You can also choose to only partially furnish your property. This may appeal to tenants that are interested in bringing their own touch to the house they are going to rent and bring their own taste to the property.

It is, however, always a good idea to offer a nice quality couch, bed, mattress, drawers and kitchen appliances. Nice looking furniture will make your property much more appealing to potential renters.

  • It is extremely important that your property is clean when shown to potential tenants. Take special care of kitchen appliances and cupboards, and bathroom(s). Hiring a professional cleaning team could be a good idea to insure the best results.

  • Repair ceilings, kitchen cabinets, existing wallpaper, closets and doors. Bathroom damages are important to repair to prevent leaks, etc. Installing a new bathroom curtain and brand new hooks can be a great way to improve you bathrooms without spending too much money.

  • Repaint the walls with the right light colours. Using neutral colours is always best as it is easier for tenants to bring their own touch to the property, and also gives a cleaner look.

  • If possible increase the existing lighting and replace old blinds with bright new ones.

  • Take care of the things the previous owner or tenant has left inside the house and if you are thinking of using some or all of them to furnish the house make sure you write down what you are leaving in the property.

  • Shampoo carpets and for deep cleaning that helps reduce the allergens and the odors caused by dust mites, pollen, dust and pet dander. It generally advisable to deeply clean your carpets so as to brighten and deodorize their surface...

    Joana Passos owns and operates 3 Passos Property Management in the Algarve, Portugal. 
    Of Dutch/Portuguese nationality she was born and raised in Portugal before studying in the 
    Netherlands and the UK and is fluent in all 3 languages. 

    3 Passos pride themselves on meeting the growing needs of foreign property owners within the Algarve and offer a wide range of services from Holiday rentals, property management to rental licence applications.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Bird Watching in Southern Portugal 4th – 11th April, 2011

Following on from last weeks post Chris Hall provides us with a full review of a recent birding tour in the Algarve, Southern Portugal. 

Neighbourhood birds around the ‘block’ include Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Red-rumped Swallow, Azure-winged Magpie and tinkling Serins. To the west along the coast, our arrival at Pera marsh is greeted with point blank views of a Zitting Cisticola perched on a vine right beside the track, with a smart Woodchat Shrike on guard on the other side, while a Little Owl dozes in a nearby fig tree. A fall of blue-headed Yellow Wagtails in their dozens drops by, as a handful of low-flying Alpine Swifts zoom in low before disappearing over the horizon. Iberian Hares bound to and fro, with several Crested Larks chasing around, while the lagoon is very busy with numerous Black-winged Stilts, Avocets and Flamingoes, as well as a few Night Herons, Spoonbills, Purple Swamphens, Kentish Plovers and stonking Caspian Terns. In the adjacent scrub, Corn Buntings jangle in every direction and stunning multi-coloured Bee-eaters stack up on a dead branch, while rival Sardinian Warblers chase each other around the same bush. Further west along this Atlantic coast, the Alvor estuary has many Mediterranean, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, plus a couple of Sandwich Terns and a passing Osprey, heading inland with a tightly gripped fish ‘take away’.

Aiming high, we head for Foia, the highest point in the Algarve at 2,959 feet, where ‘car park’ birds showing very well at close range include a very feisty Firecrest followed by Woodlark, Whitethroat, Linnet, Rock Bunting, and performing Stonechats, while a pair of Blue Rock Thrushes are a little shyer.

Down at sea level, at Quinta do Lago, a variety of waders feeding on the same area of mud lay on a fieldguide show, with everything from Dunlin to Whimbrel, including Kentish, Ringed and Grey Plovers, Sanderling, Turnstone, Redshank and Bar-tailed Godwit plus Spoonbill, Little Tern and a small flock of Collared Pratincoles. At the famous golf course pool, home to an abundance of Little Grebes, Purple Swamphen and handsome drake Red-crested Pochards, there are even Black-headed Weavers building neat round nests in the reeds, and at one point we manage to see a superb male weaver in the same view as a male Little Bittern! Other stars of the golf course include Hoopoe, Azure-winged Magpie, Short-toed Treecreeper and a busy flock of gorgeous little Common Waxbills. At the adjacent salt pans we are into our waders again with Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper and Greenshank, as well as Spotted Redshank alongside Common Redshank, which is darker, browner and also smaller in every way.

To the north, at Rocha de Pena, a Short-toed Eagle drifts right overhead; absolutely fabulous, just like the scenery. Further up the track, a Rock Bunting sings in full view, and as we near the very top, we spot a Blue Rock Thrush, sitting perfectly still on a branch down below, with a head as blue as the sky up above.

Way to the east on the Spanish border is the Castro Marim nature reserve, where the first bird we see is a magnificent male Montagu’s Harrier sweeping low across the marshes. Next we focus our optics on a Spectacled Warbler singing from low bushes beside the nature trail, while glossy Spotless Starlings whistle from a pan-tiled rooftop. Further on we scope a mixed colony of nesting Spoonbills, Little Egrets and tasty looking cinnamon coated Cattle Egrets. Bee-eaters and Marsh Harriers are all around and we flush a couple of Stone Curlews. We find the only Whinchat of the trip, followed by Slender-billed Gulls among a flock of Flamingoes, and then some Curlew Sandpipers alongside the smaller Dunlin.

On our last day out, on the plains of the Alentejo region to the north of the Algarve, we meet up with local expert Georg Schreier, who promises a “festival of birds”. As soon as we arrive in this wonderful area, awash with superb displays of yellow, white, pink and purple wild flowers, we spot an impressive male Great Bustard with head held high and tail fanned out, while a male Little Bustard is also standing proud, and throwing his head back each time he calls. The same narrow road also produces Calandra Larks, a Red Kite, a statuesque Peregrine, a lovely male Black-eared Wheatear, plus over-flying Collared Pratincole and Short-toed Eagle, calling Quail and plenty more Red-rumped Swallows, Bee-eaters, Stonechats, Crested Larks, Corn Buntings, five Montagu’s Harriers and a puffy white displaying Great Bustard; fantastic. Back on the main road, a clump of Eucalyptus trees is home to nesting White Storks and Spanish Sparrows, with Black Kite and Montagu’s Harrier on patrol over the plain, where we also find three Great Bustard cocks strutting their stuff, while their hens follow on nonchalantly. Next Georg suggests we inspect a nearby nest box for Rollers, and as we approach, a Little Owl emerges. As we watch the owl, two fabulous looking Rollers appear and pose for us on the adjacent fence posts. Soon after, in an area of tree savannah, we find a pair of Black-winged Kites perching in the tree tops. Georg now takes us to a chapel on a hill top with panoramic views, which makes an excellent vantage for a picnic lunch. During the picnic, a Cuckoo flies by and in the distance we spot soaring vultures coming down to land. The hunt is on as we try to track down the vultures on the ground and after a bit of searching we find the spot where twenty one Griffons are gathered around a carcass, some with reddish heads and standing around apparently satiated. Among the melee are a couple of larger Black Vultures, and as we watch, more appear out of the blue and soon there are five of these huge birds. In the opposite direction, we spot a Short-toed Lark and even pinpoint three Black-bellied Sandgrouse, with orange throats that match the colour of the bare earth. Moving on, our next great sighting is a Great Spotted Cuckoo on a roadside wire, and at an idyllic spot, with a bridge over a small river, we add Crag Martin to our list which completes the set of five European hirundines. With most of our targets now seen superbly well we head for Mertola, where the castle that looks down on the river below offers the chance to compare Common and Lesser Kestrels and we enjoy brilliant views of a male Lesser Kestrel with lovely apricot underparts.

What a fabulous time we had in southern Portugal, with so many top birds in a list of 124 species seen, along with beautiful displays of wild flowers under glorious blue skies.

Chris Hall Operates New Horizons bird watching tours and courses. and has kindly agreed to provide us with several articles relating to Birdwatching holidays in Portugal. Over the course of the coming weeks we will post Chris' report on his most recent trips to the Algarve. 

For more information on Birdwatching holidays in Southern Portugal, visit their site or look out for availability at Villa da Oliveiras on Bidabooking.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Planning Your Florida Theme Park Holiday

Florida easily ranks as one of the world best tourist destinations and is the theme park capital of the world.

A great place to go if you are looking for a fun filled family holiday,  whether  you are old or young  a trip to Orlando Florida will offer the entire family a chance to capture cherished memories from this once in a life time holiday. 

With theme parks like Walk Disney World and Universal Studios dominating the resort of Orlando along with Seaworld, numerous water parks, and the exciting new Harry Potter World trying to do and see it all can present some what of a challenge not only on your time, but also your wallet. 

Theme park tickets have become big business for many travel companies over the years, and if you are travelling on a packaged holiday with a tour operator then you are most likely to be able to obtain a bumper pack from them at the time of booking your Florida holiday. 

However if you are travelling independently in Florida and have booked yourself an Orlando holiday villa this may prove a little more difficult.  So to help save on your budget and ensure you make the most of your time at the Orlando theme parks you need to research carefully the various options and offers available.

A quick scan of the internet will reveal page upon page of on-line ticket vendors offering numerous promotions and deals.  Discounts on tickets will depend on the time of year you have booked your Florida holiday rental for, with the months of January, February, April and the autumn offering the cheapest prices due to low visitor number in the theme parks. 

Buying passes for several days normally works out cheaper than purchasing single day passes to the Florida theme parks, with a three day pass being ideal, allowing you enough time to see and experience the entire park as well as saving money.   

Also look to seek out tie ups between various Florida Theme parks that allow you to visit two or more of the parks with the one ticket and always compare prices between several Florida ticket agents before committing to a purchase, as by doing so the savings you could receive may turn out to cover extra tickets for another park. 

It is also worth asking your Orlando Holiday rental owner, if they can assist you as they many already have an agreement with a local ticket agent and be able to offer exclusive deals and discounts for you.

Planning an exciting Florida Family holiday can become expensive, so by make sure you compare prices, discounts and deals and shop around for your Florida theme park tickets will ensure you have a great time and a little extra cash to spend on something special.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Canary Islands: Winter or Summer?

What's the Best Time of Year to Visit the Canary Islands?

The Canary Islands, a chain of seven resort islands off the coast of Africa, have become an enormously popular vacation destination for Brits and Europeans, and for good reason! The islands are lush an beautiful and feature all manner of tropical flora and fauna visitors have come to expect from an island spot. Additionally, in the last decade hundreds of new restaurants and hotels have sprung up all around the Canaries to service the masses of visitors who come there each year.

Many people wonder what time of year is best to visit the Canary Islands. The good news is, there's no wrong answer! The weather on the islands is absolutely beautiful year round and the only factors to consider are costs and possibly crowds. In the winter season from December to March, temperatures are a bit more moderate and the daily high usually hovers around 20 degrees Celsius. Summers are hotter but a constant island breeze make the beaches feel cool and comfortable year round. In fact, the Canary Islands' own slogan is "The Land of Eternal Spring!"

Contrary to what most people think, winter in the Canary Islands is usually the most popular for tourists. Inns are more crowded, cheap flights are harder to find and prices of everything at the destination go up. Although summer is also a high season, if you're looking to avoid the hustle and bustle, consider summer your best bet. If at all possible, the ideal time to visit the Canaries is in one of the "shoulder seasons" which run during the spring and fall. Don't forget that Carnival season runs from February to March and brings in thousands upon thousands of visitors. Unless you plan on partaking in the festivities, this is not the best bet for visiting the Canaries.

Deciding when to visit the islands is an entirely personal decision. Some people say summer is the "peak" season and is most crowded while others hold firm that wintertime is peak but in actuality, the visiting population is just different each time of year. Summer usually means more families and children while winter is more couples and big holiday groups so deciding which crowd to avoid may be confusing. While the weather is hottest in summer, which most people enjoy, the months following the winter rains, usually January and February, are arguably the best weather to be found on the Canary Islands.

Although weather is a huge concern it's difficult to go wrong with this destination, so it makes sense to choose based on costs. It's important to keep an eye out year round for holiday packages and good flight prices - you never know when the right deal is going to fall into your lap!

Sergio writes reviews about hotels and travel destinations around the world.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Springtime birding in southern Portugal

The Algarve and Alentejo regions of southern Portugal are less well known to birders than neighbouring Andalucia and Extremadura and yet the birding is just as good, with a long list of exotic Mediterranean species, especially in the spring, when the local residents like Hoopoe, Blue Rock Thrush, Sardinian and Spectacled Warblers, Zitting Cisticola, Iberian Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Spotless Starling, Spanish Sparrow, and Rock and Corn Buntings are joined by a wave of migrants, streaming north from Africa, such as Short-toed Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Pallid and Alpine Swifts, Bee-eater, Roller, Red-rumped Swallow, Tawny Pipit, blue-headed Yellow Wagtail, Nightingale, Western Bonelli’s Warbler and  Woodchat Shrike.

The ideal base for this ‘festival of birds’ is Villa da Oliveiras, near Loulé. This family owned luxury villa, offers two twin rooms upstairs, with balconies and en-suite bathrooms, and two twin rooms downstairs with a shared bathroom. There is a large furnished lounge with dining table and a TV which receives British channels. Outside, there is a swimming pool, a hot tub and garden birds like Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Serin! There is even a restaurant just around the corner, which is very popular with the locals. During your stay you can visit the top coastal sites like Castro Marim, Pera Marsh, Quinta do lago and the Ria Formosa where you can expect to see a wide range of wetland birds like Little Bittern, Purple and Night Herons, White Stork, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Red-crested Pochard, Marsh Harrier, Purple Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Collared Pratincole, Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Whimbrel, Spotted Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Mediterranean, Slender-billed and Yellow-legged Gulls, and Caspian, Gull-billed, Little and Whiskered Terns, as well as Stone Curlew, Wryneck, Crested Lark, Short-toed Treecreeper, Common Waxbill and even Black-headed Weaver! On top of all these Algarvian delights, you can also have a day further north in the beautiful sparsely populated Alentejo region, where the traditionally farmed plains and cork oak forests will be awash with wild flowers. Birds here include Black and Griffon Vultures, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, Red, Black and Black-winged Kites, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Little Owl, Thekla, Calandra and Short-toed Larks and Black-eared Wheatear, with the added excitement of displaying Little and Great Bustards!

Chris Hall Operates New Horizons bird watching tours and courses. and has kindly agreed to provide us with several articles relating to Birdwatching holidays in Portugal. Over the course of the coming weeks we will post Chris' report on his most recent trips to the Algarve. 

For more information on Birdwatching holidays in Southern Portugal, visit their site or look out for availability at Villa da Oliveiras on Bidabooking.