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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.

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.

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.

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.

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’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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Top 5 Spanish Coast Destinations

Spain remains the beach destination of choice for summer holidays. Offering an ideal blend of seaside charm and exotic flavour, it’s hard to go wrong yet, if you’re looking for a bit of guidance, here are five of the best Spanish coast destinations to consider: 

Spain - Benidorm by Night, photo John O'Nolan
Benidorm by Night, photo John O’Nolan, Flickr


Benidorm knows how to do tourism right. Though the destination specialises in catering to British tourists, with seaside resorts offering Brits their favourite amenities from back home, Benidorm isn’t void of local charm. Head to the old town if you’re in search of an authentic Spanish experience, the poniente beach area is usually much quieter and if you’re looking for real seclusion away from the crowds head to La Cala, a world away from the hustle and bustle of benidorms main strip. 2014 Benidorm holidays are the perfect retreat this summer.


Barcelona isn’t just one of Spain’s best destinations, but one of the most beloved cities in all of Europe. Whilst chic, cosmopolitan and rich in culture, the Catalan capital still retains the laid back charm of a seaside city. From relaxing on the sandy shores of the Mediterranean to dining on fresh seafood (cooked Catalan-style), Barcelona will exceed your expectations in every aspect of your visit.


One of the world’s most renowned party hotspots, Ibiza has perfected and defined the Mediterranean club scene. Its clubs, such as Pacha, Space, Amnesia and Privilege, are famous across the globe for their sheer size and always attract big-name celebrity DJs. Beyond San Antonio Bay, the rest of the island’s beautiful beaches and viewpoints offer some much-appreciated tranquility.

Spain - Costa del Sol, Kevin Poh
Costa del Sol, Kevin Poh


This seaside metropolis may reside on the Costa Del Sol, yet it’s vastly different than the nearby resort towns that the famous coastline is best known for. In many ways, Malaga has far more depth, with plenty of historical and cultural attractions making it a class above its neighbours. Must-see attractions include the Gothic Malaga Cathedral, the Museum of Glass and Crystal, and the La Concepción botanical gardens.


A stunning natural gem of the Mediterranean, the island of Majorca offers far more than generic tourist fare. After spending plenty of time on its golden sands, take a break from the beach and explore the Serra de Tramuntana mountains. Hiking and cycling trails offer brilliant views of the winding coastline and lead you to one charming village after the next.

It’s easy to see why, for many throughout Europe, particularly British families Spain comes number one when planning your summer holiday, with a wealth of choice, beautiful weather, and friendly locals it’s the ideal destinations for families and groups alike.




Travel Memories – Barcelona

Most travelers have a trip that’s so full of travel memories, they recall it over and over, like fishermen obsessing about the one that got away. I’m one of them.

My three-month stay in Barcelona was the flowering of an idea that had become planted in my mind back when I was a student in high school in rural Jamaica. Out of the blue one day, our Spanish teacher spent an entire period regaling us with her stories of her time as a student in Spain. She had us captivated, hanging on to every word of every story she told us. For days after, I kept dreaming of the Spain that I had created from her stories. In reality, however, Spain was as far away and as foreign as the moon but I saw myself there.

At Ciutadella Park
Ciutadella Park, 1977

I don’t remember how or when I found out about the semester abroad program that my university was offering but in January 1977, I was among the group of 10 that left cold and snowy Ottawa behind to study Spanish in Barcelona. During our time there, we created many happy travel memories in Sitges, Madrid, Mallorca, the Costa Brava, Montserrat, Ullastret, Vich, Villanova, Ripoll, Tarragona, Tibidabo, Perpignon, Ampurias and Andorra. Here a few that I’d like to share with you.

Travel Memories – First Impressions

Coming out of nearly 40 years of the repressive dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, I’d imagined that Spain would have been drab and militaristic. Instead, Barcelona was vibrant and colorful — everything pulsed with life. I was enthralled by the architecture, music, art, culture and food, and Barcelona made me feel alive and in love with life.

Although we arrived in winter, there was little snow and the temperatures were much warmer than in Ottawa. Most days, I wore sweaters and shirts, occasionally a light jacket. So I was surprised to see many of the women, all fashionably dressed and wrapped up in their furs. You see, we’d also heard that salaries in Spain were lower than in Canada so it baffled us to see women so well dressed. Young Barcelonians, however, rocked jeans that were so tight, I wondered how they took a breath.

Travel Memories – The Tuna

One night, a group of us went to a tuna at the University of Barcelona. A tuna is a centuries old tradition where student musicians dress in traditional garb and serenade their audience with singing and guitar playing. After the performance that night, a few of us followed the tunas to a restaurant where their singing was backed up by tub after tub of sangria. As soon as a tub was empty, another would appear as if by magic. No doubt fueled by the wine, we joined in and sang as lustily as a church choir. I’m not sure how much sangria we had but by the time we left, we were all stepping a little lightly. Somehow we made it home safely but I could hardly move the next day.

Travel Memories – There’s Always Someone Who Understands

On a packed metro, the notion of personal space goes out the door as soon as you enter the car. We all knew about the metro and had heard stories of women being groped. Because of that, my roommate and I always walked to school but on this particular day, I don’t remember why, we took the metro. As the door pulled shut, and the other riders pressed in on me, I commented in our dialect to my roommate, who was also Jamaican, that I was being squashed. I added, jokingly, what I thought could happen if we didn’t get off soon. Of course we thought we were clever. We were in our own little world sharing a joke only we got. We hadn’t stopped laughing when a male voice responded, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you.” I was so embarrassed, I wanted to disappear. I don’t remember even looking back to see who it was. Luckily, ours was the next stop and as we exited, we burst into laughter. Every so often my roommate or I would do our best impressions of our potential savior and we’d laugh all over again.

Travel Memories – A Message I’ve Never Forgotten

When I joined the line at the airline office to change my return ticket (no penalty!) and buy a ticket to London, I noticed an agent whose face was as pockmarked as the surface of the moon. He must have felt me staring at him because he turned and looked directly at me. His face was expressionless, his eyes blank. I didn’t want him to assist me but as soon as the thought crossed my mind, I knew he would. As I explained what I wanted to do, he replied, You can get anything you want in the world. I’m sure he said it in response to my question, but for me, it was a message. That message, that anything I want can be mine, has never left me.

My stay in Barcelona provided many indelible travel memories. It also transformed me in ways I only understood and appreciated later.

Enjoyed this post? Be sure to check out Boomeresque for more travels down memory lane.

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Manhattan to Spain via the Bronx

I wanted to revisit Barcelona earlier this year. Had reserved a room at a hotel that’s located steps from the Ramblas. I was excited. For years since I left Barcelona, I had not felt the urge to return. My experience has so shaped me and my view about travel, I wanted to preserve the memories.

But quite unexpectedly, I started feeling that I needed to go. What would Barcelona look like since I was a student there 20 plus years ago? Would the images I’ve clutched to my heart look like anything I’d see? Would I recognize the street I used to live on?

All these questions flooded my brain as if the door behind which they had been stored had finally been opened. I was excited to find out.

Then life intervened and I returned to New York nursing my disappointment. It had been a perfect plan.

Things looked up late in May when I noticed an article in the New York Times about an exhibition that was set to open at the New York Botanical Gardens. Titled Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra, it seemed an answer to my longing for Barcelona and Spain.

The Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a palace that was built in the 14th century by the Moorish leaders who ruled Southern Spain. Its gardens are beautiful and legendary. Although I had studied the history and architecture of the Alhambra, I had not seen it during my time in Spain. An exhibition was not Barcelona, but I knew it would satisfy my longing. So last weekend, my friend and I, cameras in tow, made a trip to the New York Botanical Gardens.

Located in the Bronx, the New York Botanical Gardens spreads approximately 250 acres. An oasis of tranquility and beauty, it houses plant laboratories, gardens, plant collections, old growth forest containing oak, beeches, cherry, birch, tulip and white ash trees, some more than 200 years old, a cascade waterfall and wetland area. It’s the perfect location for an exhibition of this nature.

The focus of the Spanish Paradise is the replica of a Spanish garden that takes over 15,000 square feet of the Haupt Conservatory. With the aroma of lavender, jasmine, sour orange and lime trees, olive, fig and saffron, you are transported immediately to Southern Spain.

It’s an exhibition that appeals to the senses. Poems about nature by the Spanish poet, Frederico Garcia Lorca, line the Poetry Walk while Flamenco dancers provide entertainment on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Sangria and tapas are available in the cafe.

In the library, rare prints, 19-century photographs of some of the courtyards of the Alhambra, paintings and other artifacts can be viewed. The exhibition also pays tribute to American poet, Washington Irving, who lived at the Alhambra while he was writing his collection of essays and sketches, Tales of the Alhambra, which sparked renewed interest in the palace. The Alhambra is one of Spain’s major tourist attractions.

Spanish Paradise sated my appetite temporarily. Now, I want to see the real thing.

Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra will run until August 21, 2011 at the New York Botanical Gardens. 2900 Southern Blvd., New York. 718-817-8777.

Hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays

Tickets: All Garden, $20. Grounds only, $5. The grounds are also free all day on Wednesdays and from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays.

The Botanical Gardens are accessible by car or public transportation. If you’re in the New York area or planning to visit, add it to your list.



Barcelona 1977

I blame Mrs. Anderson, my high school Spanish teacher, who planted the idea in my head. She had studied in Spain and brought back fascinating stories that she shared in class.

Paseo de Gracia corner Mallorca, March 1977

So when I discovered that my university had a semester abroad program, I signed up right away. Three months in Spain? I knew there would be adventure ahead.

Our group of about 15 arrived in Barcelona on January 5th. My friend Gloria and I were selected to stay with the Rodriguez family, a busy household with boarders from Southern Spain.

(I still remember how Sra. Rodriguez would go food shopping everyday — and I thought my grandmother was just disorganized — and how Sr. Rodriguez would call us to the table, “Al ataque!” basically, Come and get it!)

I fell in love with Barcelona. It appealed to me on several levels: the food, the architecture, the wines, museums, the cathedrals, the Ramblas, and it was difficult for me to leave.

Each week, we visited a different museum, and every other week, we traveled to a different city. Weekends were free so we spent the time exploring Barcelona on our own. I still have very fond memories of these places:

When I look back now, I’m surprised by how few photos I took and how grainy they are. Had I done that trip today, I would have had thousands of photos, everything I saw would have been documented. But I have very good memories and I hope someday to return to Barcelona to see how much of what I remember remains.

Ciudadela Park, 1977

I often wonder what happened to the other students on that trip. We were all at different stages on the road to graduation and didn’t have the same classes. Gloria and I did and we still keep in touch.

I don’t think I ever thanked Mrs. Anderson for putting the bug in my ear, or Prof. Lopez-Saiz for facilitating such a wonderful program. (I always said I wanted a job like his: half year in Spain, half year in Canada – the best of both worlds.)

I lived a lot, learned a lot and loved a lot in Barcelona. After those three months, I promised myself to do a few things the next time I travelled:




  • Stay off the beaten path
  • Learn the language (or at least learn to say hello, good morning, thank you, etc.)
  • Talk to the people
  • Always take 3-month vacations (Ha!)

What lessons have you learned from your travel experiences?

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Escoveitched Fish: Caught in a Pickle in Jamaica

I love food and I love to eat. But I’m very particular about what I like. I nearly ditched my last year of

Scotch bonnet peppers, essential to Jamaican cooking

university so that I could stay in Barcelona. For the food.

In terms of spices and richness, the food in Spain comes pretty close to what I grew up eating and what my body responds to.

When I’m in Jamaica, one meal I enjoy thoroughly is escoveitched fish – not just any fish. For me, it has to be red snapper. I can eat it by itself, right down to the head and bones, no accompanying dish required.

When I was growing up, I’d watch my grandmother and mother prepare typical Jamaican dishes and though I couldn’t cook then, some of those recipes stuck and I replicated them when I began cooking for myself. But escoveitch I wanted to do just like my mother did – fried crispy (so that it crumbles when you bite it) then marinated, for at least 4 hours, in a mixture of vinegar, onions and pepper. Frying it until it’s crisp keeps the fish firm after it’s soaked in the vinegar mixture and when you bite into it, it  creates an explosion of flavor as tangy vinegar, biting Scotch Bonnet and sweet onions awaken the taste buds. Is the only dish I asked her to show me how to make.

Pimento, another key ingredient in Jamaican cooking

Escoveitch, derived from the Spanish word escabeche, meaning pickled, was brought to Jamaica by the descendants of Christopher Columbus, who claimed the island for the King and Queen of Spain in 1494. Jamaica remained a Spanish colony until the British grabbed it in 1655.

Evidence of Spanish presence is still to be found in place names like Ocho Rios, Savanna la Mar, Rio Cobre, etc., and in some of our foods.

The popular escoveitched fish is a tasty reminder of our Spanish heritage.

Here’s my mother’s recipe for this crowd pleaser.

Escoveitched Fish

3 lbs. fish

4 tsp. black pepper and 3 tsp salt, combined

2 or 3 limes (or lemons)

1 Scotch Bonnet or other hot pepper, cut in strips

1/2 cup oil for frying

2 cups vinegar

1 tsp. pimento seeds

2 large onions, sliced

1/2 tsp. of whole black pepper grains

Wash fish thoroughly in water to which juice of limes have been added. Dry thoroughly. When dry,

Escoveitched Fish

coat the fish on both sides and on inside with combined salt and black pepper. Set aside on paper towels. (Note: Paper towels keep the fish dry so the hot oil doesn’t pop and splash when you put it in.)

Heat oil in frying pan to boiling and fry fish on both sides until nice and crisp. Set fish aside in a glass dish.

In a saucepan, combine vinegar, sliced onions, peppers, pimento seeds, whole black pepper grains and bring to a boil. Simmer until onions are tender. Remove from fire and cool.

Pour over fish and leave steeping overnight (or for at least 4 hours).

Serve with festival (flour and cornmeal dumplings), bammie (made from cassava) or even rice and peas. Escoveitched fish can be eaten at any meal. I could get caught in that pickle any time.