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Top Five Budget Destinations for 2016

For those seeking a memorable holiday that won’t break the bank, in this piece we’ve selected 5 budget destinations for 2016. These fabulous locations offer value for money while ensuring you get some indulgent luxury on your holiday.

Bulgaria
With some of the most affordable beach resorts in Europe, sun-kissed Bulgaria may not remain a well-kept secret for long. The famed resort town of Sunny Beach offers a hedonistic mix of nightlife, beachside restaurants and luxury resorts. It’s all available at half the cost of the more popular coastal hangouts of Spain, Greece and Italy. Aside from beachside bliss, visitors can travel further inland for adventurous pursuits from skiing to rock climbing and caving.

Mexico
El Castillo @ Chichén Itzá
Travelling to a far flung paradise may seem like a costly option but the great value all-inclusive resorts of Mexico remain an exception. In the lively region of Cancun, you can stay in luxury without the price tag and there are plenty of nearby attractions to enjoy. Swim with dolphins at Mexico’s largest eco park, admire the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and scuba dive the crystal waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Portugal
Whether you’re planning a family vacation or seeking a romantic retreat, Portugal’s rugged coast is guaranteed to impress. The Algarve is home to a selection of resorts with something to cater for all budgets. In a region famed for its endless days of sunshine, it’s a great choice for fans of the outdoors. Hiking the many coastal paths promises stunning scenery that won’t cost you a penny.

Greece
Ia
Few places in Europe offer the scenic beauty and romantic allure of the Greek Islands. Although you’ll be spoilt for choice, Corfu remains one of the more affordable options and there are plenty of secluded places to stay. San Stefanos on the north of the island remains quiet throughout much of the year and features hidden coves without the crowds of tourists. Alternatively, those who enjoy some nightlife should stay at the town of Kos where megaclubs regularly host international DJs.

Spain
Spain’s Costa Del Sol which translates to ‘Coast of the Sun’ is a holidaymaker’s haven. With scores of boutique hotels and sprawling resorts to choose from, prices remain competitive throughout much of the year. For an authentic taste of the region, travel to Estepona which has kept its traditional charm intact. The winding streets of this coastal town are home to stunning historical architecture and some of the best tapas restaurants in the region.

Travel to one of these destinations on your next adventure, save some money and create some lasting memories. A trip to any of these destinations can be organised quickly and easily online. Once you go, you’ll never look at budget holidays the same way again.

Images by Redeo and Μanu used under Creative Commons License.

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On Location in New York City

Several times a month, especially in the summer, I see ‘No Parking’ signs like these taped to utility poles in my neighborhood. I always stop and read them.

On Location in New York

No Parking sign, Harlem 

Which movie or television show will they be filming?

According to the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment’s website, New York City had a supporting role in 46 television series and 256 movies during the 2014-2015 season. The industry contributed $8.7 billion to the local economy.

With this much filmed entertainment, it’s not surprising to spot a star or two. But the city, with its many iconic locations, is without doubt, the real attraction.

Late last year, I took the When Harry Met Seinfeld Tour, which On Location Tour organizes. Starting from 55th Street near 8th Avenue, the bus tour winds it way around the Columbus Circle area into Upper Manhattan revealing 30 spots that were featured in classic and contemporary movies or television shows.

Tour guides are local actors and actresses who know all about the City’s rich movie history and share them eagerly.

As the tour got underway, our guide (sorry, I neglected to note his name) asked us to share where we were from. There were people from Toronto, Tokyo, Australia, Brazil, the Midwest, California and other parts of the US but I was the only person from New York.

The first location our guide pointed out was the Soup Man. You might remember it from Seinfeld. About the size of a New York deli, I had passed it without even noticing.

On Location in New York

Soup Man

Towards Columbus Circle, our guide drew our attention to the statue of Christopher Columbus, which can be seen in several movies, including Ghostbusters.

On Location in New York

Lincoln Center fountain (photo taken prior to the tour)

Leaving Columbus Circle, we headed to the Upper West Side and Lincoln Center’s famous fountain. It’s really an impressive sight, especially at night. We didn’t stop but if you get a chance, go see it or look for it in Moonstruck, Glee, Sweet Home Alabama and Pitch Perfect.

At 69th Street and Columbus Avenue, we found the location, now an organic cleaners, of Meg Ryan’s bookstore in You’ve Got Mail.

We stopped for photos of Tom’s Restaurant at Broadway and 112th Street. Seinfeld fans will recognize it as Monks.

On Location in New York

Tom’s Restaurant, Monk’s in Seinfeld

Still on the Upper West Side, we cruised pass Café Luxemborg, which you might remember from When Harry Met Sally, then stopped at long enough at Café Lalo for those who wanted to could get coffee. Café Lalo is where Tom Hanks attempted to meet Meg Ryan for their date in You’ve Got Mail.

On Location Cafe Lalo

Cafe Lalo

If you’ve seen Manhattan, with Diane Keaton and Woody Allen, you might have seen Zabar’s on 80th & Broadway. Carmine’s on 91st was in Keeping the Faith with Ed Norton and Ben Stiller.

Central Park has played supporting roles in movies like Home Alone II, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Smurfs, Friends with Benefits, Angels in America, Elf, Kramer vs Kramer, and The Avengers.

On the Upper East Side’s Museum Mile, you’ll find the Museum of the City of New York where the star of television’s Gossip Girl goes to school; the Guggenheim Museum where Isaac and Mary meet in Manhattan; also Men in Black, When in Rome, and other movies.

On Location in New York

Carmine’s – Keeping the Faith

Further down Fifth Avenue is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, our last stop. Who doesn’t want to sit on the graceful Met Steps, like the Gossip Girl did? The Met was also the setting for I Am Legend, When Harry Met Sally, Hitch and Maid in Manhattan.
The Carnegie Mansion was the backdrop for films like Arthur, Working Girl and Marathon Man.

We passed by these other Upper East Side locations before returning to 55th & 8th Avenue: the Lutheran Church featured in the Devil’s Advocate, the New York Armory in Boardwalk Empire (television show), the Met Life Building in Superman, Barney’s in Will and Grace, the Pierre Hotel in Scent of a Woman and the St. Regis Hotel from Miss Congeniality.

Current shows that are filmed in New York: the Blacklist, Blue Bloods, Elementary, Good Wife, Law & Order SVU, Limitless, Madam Secretary, Mysteries of Laura. Morning and late night shows such as Saturday Night Live, the Today Show, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Good Morning America, Live with Kelly & Michael, The View, The Chew, the Rachel Ray Show.

Also filmed in New York: Bridge of Spies, On the Town, On the Waterfront and West Side Story.

When Harry Met Seinfeld Tour Particulars

Duration: Approximately 2 hours
Cost: $37 (adults), $21 (children)
You meet the tour bus at McGhee’s on 55th between Broadway and 8th Avenue

The When Harry Met Seinfeld Tour was complimentary; this recap my own.

 

Linking this week with Travel Photo Thursday which Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Ruth at Tanama Tales, Jan at Budget Travel Talk and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations.

Budget Travelers Sandbox

9Also linking to Weekend Travel Inspiration hosted by Albom Adventures, Reflections Enroute, TheCrowdedPlanet, ContentedTraveller, Safari254, Families Go! and Malaysian Meanders.

Mail and Fly Gets Your Items Back from Airport Security

Mail and Fly is a service that sends you your items that have been confiscated by airport security.

Last August, I watched as my knapsack glided down the conveyor belt at Heathrow Airport and suddenly veered into another lane. It stopped behind a few others that were being hand checked by a security agent.

What did I have in my bag that caused it to need further inspection?

I searched my brain trying to remember what I’d stuffed into my bag. Nothing I could think of caused me to be concerned.

May I search your bag? she asked as she got to my bag.

You may, I replied.

I was impressed that she even asked but did I really have a choice? Not if I wanted to fly that day.

She pulled out my small cosmetic bag, took out my liquid lipstick, mascara, eye drops and a small tube (30 ml) of hand cream and put them into a clear plastic bag. Even though there was room to spare, she still weighed them.

I can’t tell you how many international airports I’ve traveled through with roughly the same items (which are as essential as food for some of us women) and they never raised an eyebrow – sculpted or not.

She continued rifling through my bag and when she took out two bottles of jam and said ‘we have to take these,’ I realized why my bag was flagged.

It’s jam, I said. Like surely, that can’t be prohibited.

No liquids, aerosols or gels, she replied dryly.

But it’s jam, I protested. It’s not exactly a liquid, neither is it an aerosol or gel. I was baffled and steaming.

I had bought the jams at the Jane Austen Center in Bath. Mindful of weight and airport security, I had selected the smallest size – about 3 ounces. The bottle, with the Jane Austen Centre label and its little fabric cover was charming. I was looking forward to spreading some on crackers and enjoying it with a soothing pot of tea when I returned to New York. Now they were being confiscated.

According to the UK Government website, liquid and semi-liquid foods such as soups, jams, honey and syrups are not allowed in hand luggage. 

The question I’d love an answer to is, how can anyone use jam to take down a plane?

She must have seen my disappointment.

If you really want them, she said, you can have them sent to you.

I perked up. Really?

We can send them to you via Mail and Fly.

I’d never heard of Mail and Fly, which operates only in the UK, US and Sweden at the moment. She explained that it is a service that sends you your items that have been confiscated by airport security. 

What a fantastic idea, I thought.

She walked away and returned a few minutes later with a large plastic bag into which she put my jam, sealed it and gave me its detachable flap that had a number and barcode.

Enter this number at the website and follow the instructions to get your jam mailed to you.

I logged into the site a few days after I returned to New York, mostly curious to see what it would cost to have my jams, which I paid about $5 each for, shipped.

Except for a little glitch with entering the item number (their instruction said to include the airport code but I discovered that it wasn’t necessary), the site was easy to navigate. 

However, instead of the $30 or so I was willing to pay, my total was now a whopping £80.94! Back in August, it would have been $124.88.

Had this been a treasured item, sure, I’d grit my teeth and spend the money. But jam, even Jane Austen jam, couldn’t pry that money from my hands.

Mail and Fly keeps your item for up to 42 days. On October 7th, I received a follow-up email from Mail and Fly that the status of my item had changed. I logged in to find out that my jams were discarded. I wonder if it was or if it ended up in a store that sells items that have been confiscated by airport security.

Resources:

Check the TSA list of items that are prohibited from entering the US and a discussion of liquids. The UK list is almost similar.  

 

The Secret Cottage Tour of The Cotswolds, II

Leaving Chastleton House, we drove directly to the Secret Cottage, which is about 5 minutes away. Built in 1580, the cottage has the typical thatched roof, with kitchen and living room downstairs, and sleeping quarters upstairs. 

Secret Cottage

Secret Cottage

When we arrived, we were greeted with a colorful spread of scones, clotted cream, cookies, jams, coffee and tea. 

Cotswolds Strawberries

Cotswolds Tea

With its crackling fire (sorry, no pics of the fireplace or the family’s living space), the cottage felt so cozy, I could have been tempted to stay but we had a full itinerary. Leaving the cottage, we stopped to admire Becky’s garden with its beautiful blooms. (Wish I knew more about flowering plants.) 

Secret Cottage garden

Secret Cottage garden

Cotswolds Secret Cottage bees

Cotswolds Secret Cottage succulents

Secret Cottage succulents

I took a few shots of the flowers but I was most interested in the thatched roof. According to Robin, our driver, the roof is made from Norfolk or water reed and costs approximately £30,000 (about $45,000).

Detail of a thatched roof

Detail of a thatched roof we saw in one of the villages

The reed, which is waterproof, is cut, dried and installed in layers. Once installed, the roof keeps the home warm in winter and cool in summer. I was surprised to hear that these roofs can last about 50 years. The ridge, however, must be replaced every 20 years. (Wonder how long a conventional roof lasts?)

Upper Oddington

Our next stop was the village of Lower Oddington, a preserved area with no new buildings.

Cotswolds Street

The two villages, Upper and Lower Oddington, have about 400 residents. We exchanged waves and hellos to a few of them as we left the car. 

Cotswolds Beauty

Adlestrop

Next was Adlestrop, a pretty little village of about 120 people. Adlestrop has a post office and a church, St. Mary Magdalene. 

The poet, Edward Thomas (1878-1917) wrote a poem around 1912 which celebrated its beauty. Sadly, Thomas died in WWI, 5 years after the poem was published.

Adlestrop Post Office

Adlestrop Post Office

Jane Austen stayed at Adlestrop House, which was then the rectory where her mother’s cousin, the Rev. Thomas Leigh, lived. Adlestrop House was Austen’s inspiration for her novel, Mansfield Park

Adlestrop House

Adlestrop House

Cotswolds St. Mary Magdalene Church Adlestrop

St. Mary Magdalene Church

Cotswolds Adelstrop hedge

A thatched cottage in Adlestrop

Great Tew

When Mr. Boulton, the owner of the manor house died in 1914, he didn’t leave an heir. Fifty years later, they found someone to assume ownership but in the intervening years, many of the cottages fell into disrepair, some swallowed by thick vegetation.

Great Tew

Great Tew

Robin said that the new lord sold two of the paintings from the manor and got enough to renovate. Of 100 cottages, 80 are thatched, 90 are owned by the manor.

Cottage overrun by vegetation

Cottage overrun by vegetation

Falklands Arms

Falklands Arms

Approximately 150 people live in the village, which has a pub, the Falkland Arms.

The Rollright Stones

Near Chippen Norton, Robin slowed and pointed to the location of the Rollright Stones, a monument about the same age as Stonehenge. The Rollright Stones further establishes that this type of monument construction was common in prehistoric Britain. 

Cotswolds Dry Stone Walls

Dry stone walls, like these are an enduring feature of the Cotswolds. Surprisingly, they are made without mortar or cement and can last for many years with little attention.

Cotswolds stone fence

Dry stone wall, made without mortar or cement

Stone wall, detail

Stone wall, detail

Bourton-On-The Water

We drove through this picturesque town that is large enough (approximately 3,000 people live there) to accommodate tour buses, hence it receives lots of visitors. Bourton-On-The-Water is located on the  River Windrush.

Upper and Lower Slaughter

Upper and Lower Slaughter (from the Old English word, Slohtre, which means muddy place) are two pretty villages located on the River Eye.  Upper Slaughter is called a “sainted village” because it lost no one in WWI. `

Cotswolds Lower Slaughter

Lower Slaughter

Lower Slaughter

Cotswolds Lower Slaughter4

Lower Slaughter has a waterwheel, and an old mill which has been converted into a tea shop and store. Although it is located near Bourton-On-The-Water, because of the narrow streets to the village, Lower Slaughter isn’t accessible to large tour buses.   

Approximately 170 people live in Upper Slaughter, 200 in Lower Slaughter.

Cotswolds Thatched Roof Cotswolds Thatched house

We also drove through the villages of Wyck Rissenton and Cornwell before returning to Secret Cottage for coffee and tea. Robin took us back to the train station at Merton-in-Marsh in time to catch the train to London. 

Some Old English Words and Meaning

Chest, Shire – fortified settlement.
Chipping, from ‘cheapen’  – market.
City – has a cathedral.
Comb or Combe – valley.
Cots – sheep.
Dovecot or dovecote – a place for doves and pigeons. The scrapings are collected and used to fertilize the fields. Its size is usually a sign of the wealth of the landowner.
Ford, as in Oxford – a way across a river.
Ham, e.g., Cheltenham – a settlement.
Slaughter, e.g., Upper Slaughter – from Slohtre meaning a marshy, muddy area.
Staddle stones – used to prop up graneries to keep the rats out.
Ton, e.g., Oddington – an enclosure.
Town – a community of 1,000 people or more.
Wold, Wolde – a hill.

Some Famous Residents of The Cotswolds

David Cameron, PM
Kate Winslet
Hugh Grant
Patrick Stewart
Kate Moss

Secret Cottage Tour Details

6-hour guided tour of select Northern Cotswolds villages, tea, coffee, pastries, buffet lunch, and traditional cream tea – £85 or US122. For more info, check out the Secret Cottage site. Enjoy!

 

Linking this week with Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Jan at Budget Travel Talk, Ruth at Tanama Tales and Rachel at Rachel’s Ruminations.

Budget Travelers Sandbox