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Florida

Miami Travel Guide

Sunshine, sand, sea, a vibrant nightlife, and sultry Latin American flavour make Miami a unique and popular holiday destination in the US:

Miami, otherwise known as the Magic City, has long been the most popular holiday destination for ‘winter refugees’ who travel to the coastal city to escape the chilly northern states. It is also a top destination for party animals hankering for a hot and heavy nightlife. Shopaholics will relish exploring Miami’s endless shopping venues, especially as the city’s palm-fringed pedestrian promenades make for a glorious change from usual malls. Miami’s restaurants will also impress, whether dining on a budget or living the high life.

Apart from visiting the exciting neighbourhoods of the city itself, like Little Havana and the funky Art Deco district, those who holiday in Miami can make fun excursions to surrounding Floridian beach resorts and explore the beautiful Everglades, an ecosystem unique to the region.

Best time to visit Miami

Whatever time of year you choose to holiday in Miami, you will need plenty of sunblock. Traditionally, winter is the most popular time to travel to Miami. Summers tend to be uncomfortably hot and humid with heavy thunderstorms. Those on a budget will find accommodation prices more reasonable during the summer off-season though. Read more on Miami’s Climate and Weather.

What to see in Miami

-Admire the art and design in the celebrated Wolfsonian Museum.

-Treat the kids to a wildlife experience on the lush Jungle Island.

-Visit the Spanish Monastery, said to be the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere.

-Educate and entertain the whole family at the Miami Science Museum.

What to do in Miami

-Hit the shops along the famous Lincoln Road Mall promenade.

-Enjoy sun, sand, and sea on Miami’s beautiful beaches.

-Explore the exotic Vizcaya Villa in the heart of Miami.

-Spend a day bonding with marine animals at the Miami Seaquarium.

Beyond Miami

Miami is surrounded by touristic treasures and despite the amount to see and do in the city, it would bemaking an excursion: the Biscayne National Park and the Everglades National Park are both close by and offer visitors a breathtaking experience of the local flora and fauna.

Getting there

Miami International Airport, situated eight miles (13km) northwest of central Miami, is one of the main air travel hubs in the US. Direct flights from the UK, a number of European countries and the rest of the US are available. Get more information on Airports in Miami.

Did you know?

-South Beach has been voted America’s favourite beach in a number of surveys.

-Miami is known as one of the cleanest cities in America.

-Fittingly, the first suntan lotion was invented in Miami.

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Orlando travel Forum

The most famous resident of this central Florida city is Mickey Mouse, the cartoon creation of animated movie tycoon, Walt Disney. His vision has turned Orlando, and the adjacent Lake Buena Vista and Kissimee areas, into the world’s busiest, biggest and best-known concentrated tourist paradise. Disney bought up land in the area with the aim of establishing his dream theme park back in the 1960s. He died before the first park, the Magic Kingdom, officially opened in 1971. But his legacy lives on and is still growing. Currently the Disney empire in Orlando includes four theme parks, dozens of smaller attractions, thousands of hotel rooms and holiday apartments, hundreds of restaurants and snack bars, and even two cruise ships.

It is not only the Disney dazzle that draws visitors to Orlando, however. There are plenty of other attractions, like Universal Studios, Discovery Cove, and the beloved SeaWorld, all adding to the maelstrom of thrills and pleasure palaces this city is now renowned for.

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Tampa travel Forum

Multi-ethnic Tampa, on the Florida peninsula’s west coast, is a thriving city where quaint historic neighbourhoods co-exist happily with sleek skyscrapers, and shrimp boats vie with cruise liners for space in the busy port. It was the Cuban immigrant community, led by Vicente Martinez Ybor, who put Tampa on the map when they introduced the cigar industry in the 1880s and developed Ybor City, now fully restored to its Latin Quarter elegance and a favourite neighbourhood for tourists to explore, by day or night, due to the nightclubs, bars, restaurants and shops in the area.

Most visitors to the Tampa area stay in the resorts of St Petersburg and Clearwater, across Tampa Bay from the city. However, every visitor has ample reason to pay at least one visit to Tampa itself for the exciting attractions and excellent museums on offer. Tampa is a firm family favorite due to the city’s most popular attraction, the Busch Gardens entertainment park. Tampa is also within easy reach of Orlando, site of the world-famous Walt Disney World and numerous other theme parks. Tourists staying in Tampa can look forward to some thrilling excursions, and enjoy both urban attractions and the sun, sand, and sea of the resorts just outside the city.

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FINLAND

Helsinki Travel Guide

The average temperature in efficient, elegant Helsinki hovers around 43°F (6°C), but this does not mean visitors need expect a chilly welcome. The funky Finns, known for their hip and happening sense of style, design and association with high technology, know how to warm hearts and minds in their modern, cosmopolitan capital.

The city, spread across a cluster of promontories and peninsulas, is almost 500 years old. Its clean, wide avenues are lined with buildings echoing centuries of architectural excellence from Gothic through Art Deco to cutting-edge contemporary. It all fits together in total harmony with nature, which invades the urban environment with green spaces when it is not blanketed in snow. Trees, flowers, hares, squirrels, pheasants and even the odd elk are often spied in the myriad parks in the centre of the city. On the whole, the city is surrounded with crisp, unpolluted air and the bright blue waters of the Baltic Sea.

Despite the cold climate, the invigorating outdoors beckons in Helsinki even in the middle of winter. Recreation takes the form of ice skating, skiing, ice-fishing, sailing, cycling, soaking in saunas, or during the short-lived summer, sunbathing. After the action, sit tucked in a rug outside one of the many street-side bars sipping hot gloggi (spiced wine) and watch the wintry world go by. The city is also ideal for walking, with the sights all concentrated in the central area beneath the towering cathedrals.

The great outdoors is also the setting for Helsinki’s numerous festivals and fairs, like the May Day Carnival, the Baltic Herring Festival, the Helsinki City Marathon, the annual Samba carnival and the midsummer festival, to name but a few. Events do move indoors when it comes to the city’s rich cultural life, featuring some of the world’s finest orchestras and choirs, rock concerts, film festivals, the Finnish National Opera and Ballet performances, and the output of countless theatre and dance troupes.

Whether visited as a snowy winter wonderland or scenic sun-splashed cityscape with almost permanent daylight, Helsinki is a unique destination that will delight the heart of any traveller.

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FRANCE

Avignon Travel Guide

 

Situated on the River Rhone, the historic holiday destination of Avignon is famed for being the Vatican of the 14th century; six successive Popes resided here from 1309, making it one of Europe’s largest and most important cities of the time. The papacy retreated back to Rome in 1378, but this was just the beginning of a battle between the Italian capital and Avignon for control of the Church’s riches and power. Altogether Avignon was the seat for nine Popes, until the last, Pope Benedict XIII, fled into self-exile in 1409. Without the Pope, the city went into a decline that has been exacerbated ever since by floods, fire, the plague and the Le Mistral, the harsh wind that whistles down the Rhone valley in winter. Avignon supposedly was named by the Celts who gave the area the name ‘Avenio’ or ‘the town of violent winds’.

Despite all this, Avignon has one of the best-preserved historic centres in France, making it an alluring holiday attraction. Piercing the skyline are the beautiful spires of the Palais des Papes, and along the cobbled streets are countless richly decorated buildings, ancient churches and spectacular monuments and museums. Imposing medieval walls, built in 1403 by Pope Benedict, enclose the old town. The yearly Avignon Festival draws performers and art enthusiasts from all over France every July. Despite the huge influx of tourists, which double the town’s population of 100,000, this is a wonderful festival and a must-see for anyone on holiday in the Avignon area.

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Biarritz Travel Guide

 

Situated in the very southwest of France, the holiday destination of Biarritz became famous in the 19th century when Empress Eugenie (the wife of Napoleon III) fell in love with this part of the Basque country and built a palace on the beach (now the world-class Hotel du Palais) and a centre with natural springs at Eugenie les Bains.

Soon the area became popular with aristocracy from all over Europe: Queen Victoria came here regularly over a period of 30 years, Edward VI stayed in the Hotel du Palais days before his death, and in the 1930s Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson were regular visitors. Until the revolution in 1917 the Russian nobility wintered here too and built the magnificent Orthodox Church next to the Palace.

However, the days of this beautiful patch of France being reserved for high society are long gone and today Biarritz is a comparatively affordable, vibrant and cosmopolitan town with magnificent beaches. There are a couple of interesting museums to explore as well as a celebrated aquarium. In addition to ample sightseeing opportunities, Biarritz offers extensive shopping and dining options and has an energetic nightlife.

Biarritz has good sporting facilities, including some excellent golf courses and some of the best surfing in France. Each summer, surfers from all over the world come to Biarritz to ride the waves at the annual Surf Festival. Those after more gentle exercise while on holiday opt to stroll along Biarritz’s principal promenade, Quai de la Grande Plage.

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Bordeaux Travel Guide

 

Bordeaux is situated on the Garonne River, 20 miles (32km) inland from the Atlantic Ocean, and has the fifth largest metropolitan population in France. In days of yore it started out as a Roman trading post, and passed into the hands of the English who owned it for some 300 years, imparting a British influence on the French flair of the city and surrounds. Many of the grand chateaux in and around the city are still in English hands and are open to tourists.

Most travellers who visit Bordeaux are here for one thing: wine. Wine connoisseurs looking to take home some of their favourite wines will do best to buy directly from the wine farms, but shops such as La Vinothèque on cours du XXX Juillet, or L’Intendant and Badie on allées de Tourny are also good bets.

There are other things to see and do in Bordeaux besides tasting and buying wine, however. The city centre has undergone a remarkable upgrade in recent years, restoring many of its centuries-old buildings. Don’t miss the view from Les Quais, including the beautiful Aquitaine Bridge; the historical monuments and lively student bars of La Victoire; and the lush and peaceful Botanic Gardens. Bordeaux also has several interesting museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Musee D’Aquitaine, which exhibits Gallo-Roman statues and relics dating back 25,000 years.

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Lille Travel Guide

 

Is it French or is it Flemish? It is hard for the visitor to decide when visiting Lille, which has been officially part of France for 350 years but still at its core retains the ambience of the medieval wool towns of Flanders. The historic core of Vieux Lille is filled with grand architecture and cobble-stoned streets and squares, with a ‘Grand Place’ reminiscent of both Brussels and Amsterdam.

This confusion of cultures does not detract from this bright and beautiful city, set in the north of France, which was capital of Flanders during the Middle Ages. With the advent of the Eurostar fast train service from London, Lille, a major stop on the route to Paris, has been revived as a weekend break destination, and has plenty to offer longer-term tourists who arrive at its international airport as well.

Vigorous shopping takes place along its commercial thoroughfares, and some attractive sights beckon visitors, like the neo-Gothic Notre Damme de la Treille Cathedral, and the Hospice Comtesse, a former hospital housing a museum of Flemish art, furniture and ceramics. Old Lille is pleasant to stroll through, with its cobbled streets and mixture of shops, restaurants and cathedrals. Those whose taste runs to art will also find a feast here, at the Musée des Beaux-Arts and at the Musée d’Art Moderne.

Many visitors, though, are in Lille mainly for the beer. The best Belgian beers are on tap and served up in most of the popular bars, to wash down the delicious local cuisine, which focuses on seafood and rich sauces. If your main aim is to eat, drink and make merry in a historic environment, Lille is the place to be.

The best thing about Lille is that its local populace is not only welcoming, but adept at enjoying life, as can be witnessed by visiting any of the many bars and bistros (known as estaminets) in this fun city, which belies its reputation as the grim northerly cousin of pretty Paris.

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Lyon Travel Guide

 

Lyon is a city synonymous with the silk industry, the French Resistance and a reputation as the ‘gastronomic capital of the world’, and is located between the Rhone and the Saône rivers in the southwest of France. Lyon is home to some of the finest restaurants and chefs in the country and forms the second largest metropolitan area in France, after Paris.

Besides the many restaurants, bistros and cafés that entice people to this endearing city, Lyon boasts three large city parks, some 30 museums and countless monuments symbolising Lyon’s development through the ages. It is home to the world-famous Lyon Opera House, whose orchestra’s reputation has travelled far beyond French borders.

UNESCO lists Lyon as a World Heritage site due to its rich and diverse 2,000-year history, evident in the awe-inspiring Romanesque architecture and medieval buildings in Old Lyon, including the Primatiale St-Jean Cathedral, and the 16th-century Hôtel du Chamarier.

To the west, Fourviere Hill offers panoramic views of the city, and its own attractions include the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière, and the Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine.

By day Lyon can be viewed by boat on a trip down its rivers, and at night dinner cruises add an element of fantasy to the city. Lyon is a city rich in food, history and culture, making it a hidden treasure in the French landscape; it certainly lives up to its Roman name, Lugdunum, meaning ‘the hill of light’.

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Marseille Travel Guide

 

Marseille is France’s second largest and most ancient city. It was founded by the Greeks in 600 BC and was later conquered by the Romans after becoming a thriving port and centre for trade. Today it is littered with ancient sites and artefacts; mostly Roman additions to the original Greek settlement.

Marseille is very down to earth and lacks the pretension of most other French cities, with plenty of attractions, including its colourful harbour, and pedestrianised squares to explore. The city is also divided into arrondissements in the style of Paris, which makes it relatively easy to get around on the metro.

The Old Port area is filled with restaurants, bars, hotels, office blocks and a daily fish market at the Belgian Quay, giving it a lively and sophisticated air. There are also a number of decent museums, galleries, theatres and shops dotted about the city that are worth visiting. Marseille is also famed for its Opéra: an Art Deco opera house, situated in the heart of the city, which still hosts performances even though it was all but destroyed by fire in 1920. La Plaine is a trendy area filled with cafes, bookstores and fountains, with a bustling market on Thursdays and Saturdays, while Noailles’ bazaar is a multi-ethnic area filled with Indo-Chinese and Arabic shops.

The outgoing, friendly inhabitants of Marseille are a cosmopolitan bunch, with diverse backgrounds including a number of Italian, Spanish, and North African communities. There is far less of the style and image consciousness evident in the rest of the Cote d’Azur, creating a more North African flavour and a vibrant atmosphere. Marseilles also acts as a good base for exploring the nearby natural beauty of the calanques (or Mediterranean fjords) and some excellent beaches.

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Nice Travel Guide

 

Nice is a magnificent city and a favourite with tourists. Ideally located on the French Riviera, on the southeast coast of France, it is no wonder that Nice, the unofficial capital of the Côte d’Azur, is the fifth biggest city in France and has visitors flocking to it year round.

The city has been inhabited for close to 400,000 years and got its name from the Greek, Nikaia, meaning ‘City of Victory’. Today this culture-rich region is an eclectic fusion of ancient wonders and hedonistic pleasures, with sun, sea, shopping and fine dining competing with cultural and historical sightseeing opportunities. The hot summers and mild winters mean that visitors can appreciate the picturesque beaches in the region in all seasons, though the winters will likely be too cold for swimming.

Nice is a great shopping destination, boasting some glorious markets offering everything from traditional French fare to vintage clothing, as well as countless upmarket boutiques and shops for those looking to indulge in the famed French fashion culture. The charming old town offers many cultural delights, with impressive architecture ensuring that just a stroll through the area feels like an historical experience. Those with a taste for the celebrated French cuisine will also be spoilt for choice in Nice which is known to be a gastronomical hub.

The traffic may be manic in Nice, and the beaches in the area are mostly pebbly, but the city has an undeniable romance and a glamourous reputation which has drawn the rich and famous for decades.

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Paris Travel Guide

Paris Travel Guide

One of the top tourist destinations in the world, the city of Paris is glamorous, romantic, playful and crammed full of fascinating places, great restaurants and beautiful things:

A vacation in Paris has always headed the must-do list for anyone contemplating a European holiday because the city embodies style and charm and offers a variety of unique attractions, both ancient and modern. Paris brings out the romance in every soul. Art lovers, style buffs and gourmets are particularly well catered for if they holiday in Paris, while sightseers can indulge in world-famous attractions like the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame. Every few steps visitors will find something to point at or photograph in this busy city. Paris has a thrilling nightlife and the shopping is some of the best in the world.

Paris is also a great city to visit for those travelling with children as families can relish the fantastic delights of Disneyland Paris and amusement parks like Parc Asterix, which are within easy reach of the city. Kids will also enjoy the many parks, forests and gardens within Paris.

Best time to visit Paris

Peak tourist season in Paris is in the summer months, between June and August, but every season has something to offer visitors. Paris is notorious for its sudden rain showers, which can occur in summer or winter, but it is always possible to retreat indoors to explore the wonderful museums and galleries before emerging into the sunshine again to enjoy coffee and pastries at a pavement café. Many locals escape Paris in August when the heat can be oppressive and some restaurants close. Read more on Paris’s Climate and Weather.

What to see in Paris

-Wander through the awe-inspiring galleries of The Louvre.

-See the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte under the dome of Les Invalides.

-Visit the Pompidou Centre, the city’s most popular attraction.

-Explore the magnificent palace of Versailles just outside of Paris.

What to do in Paris

-Stroll through the Jardin des Plantes and discover the many attractions of Paris’s main botanical garden.

-Take an excursion to the palace of Fontainebleau.

-Marvel at the art in the incomparable Musee d’Orsay.

-Splash with the kids at Aquaboulevard on a hot day.

Beyond Paris

Paris is the perfect doorway to a number of regions of France, including the Loire Valley, with its many chateaux and gardens; Normandy, the military history enthusiast’s dream destination; and Champagne Country, for lovers of France’s famous bubbly. As the capital city Paris is easily accommodated on any travel itinerary of France, not least of all because it is easy to get flights into the city.

Getting there

Paris has two world-class international airports: Charles de Gaulle Airport (also called Paris Roissy Airport), located 14 miles (23km) northeast of Paris; and Paris-Orly Airport, located nine miles (14km) south of Paris. There are direct flights to Paris from various cities in the UK, New York and many European cities. Get more information on Airports in Paris.

Did you know?

-Paris has been nicknamed the ‘city of lights’, but lights originally referred to the number of intellectuals who live in the city.

-Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde are both buried the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

-The Eiffel tower was originally intended to be a temporary monument which would eventually be dismantled and sold as scrap.

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Toulouse Travel Guide

 

Formerly the capital city of Languedoc, Toulouse has a history going back to the year 100 as a Roman colony. Its position halfway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea has placed the city at the centre of many wars and conflicts since that time. Its eyes are firmly on the future however, as Toulouse is now an epicentre of the European aerospace industry and home to one of the largest universities in France.

Toulouse is known as The Pink City due to its pseudo-Roman face brick buildings, which also contribute to its reputation as one of the most beautiful cities in France. It has many historic bridges, hotels, cathedrals and museums that are worth exploring in the downtown area, which is easily traversed on foot. The grand facades are interspersed with restaurants, cafes, shops and pubs that give the city a pleasant, bustling atmosphere, and a number of parks and green spaces to maintain tranquillity.

Its location near the centre of France makes Toulouse an ideal stop on any tour of the country; it is only an hour or two away from the vineyards of Bordeaux, the medieval city of Carcassonne, and even Donostia-San Sebastian in Spain. It is a popular stop on driving tours of the country, and a visit to Toulouse is a wonderful part of any holiday in France.

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