If there’s one holiday hotspot that never fails to disappoint, Egypt is it. This sun-drenched gem has got it all – sparkling shores, glittering golden sands, bubbly holiday resorts and world-famous historical sights by the bucketload.
The prospect of a weekend away can sometimes fill you with dread at the thought of how much money you’ll spend whilst on your retreat. Fortunately, for those on a budget, it doesn’t have to break the bank, with many city breaks offering a multitude of affordable hotels, activities and restaurants to maintain your frugal habits.
You can find hotels in Birmingham to suit your budget easily in the heart of the city, offering affordable comfort and excellent locations for your budget break.
Venture into the city and find a perfect eatery to tickle your tastebuds. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get good quality food and Birmingham has a huge range of restaurants to choose from.
If you’re hankering for a good pie, head to Urban Pie in the Bullring Shopping Centre. For a meagre £3.95, you can get generous portions of great quality meal. It’s well worth meandering the maze of the Bullring to find the hearty meals that this place provides.
Deep in the heart of the business district, you will find a huge number of excellent quality high-end restaurants – some of which offer top notch gourmet food for reasonable prices. You can dine at Purnell’s, the Michelin star establishment, which offers 2 course lunches for £22. Alternatively, across the road is the highly acclaimed Opus, offering culinary delights for a reasonable price, including beautifully tasting daily specials.
As far as burger lunches go, the Handmade Burger Co. excels in its field. With succulently meaty burgers on chunky sourdough buns, it’d be hard to find a burger with better value.
If you fancy a curry, head for Asha’s on Newall Street. Offering evening mains from a tenner, this fabulous Indian restaurant provides its diners with a sensational authentic curry, with quality flavours and substantial portions.
For a spot of modern culture, pop over to the Ikon contemporary art gallery in Brindleyplace. Once you have admired the exhibitions homed there, take time out to enjoy the atmosphere of Cafe Ikon. The Good Food Guide has recommended its Spanish menu, which offers a range of rustic Iberian dishes, from tapas dishes to paella and everything inbetween.
If you fancy something different, make your way through along Allison Street and you’ll find the headquarters of Friends of the Earth. As the name suggests, the businesses held here are eco-friendly and green. The Warehouse Cafe is an award winning vegetarian restaurant, serving exciting innovative fare which focuses on seasonal, organic produce. Light bites can cost around a fiver, with a main meal hovering around the £8 region – not bad for excellent vegetarian cuisine.
Whatever dining experience you choose, Birmingham will be sure to provide high quality eateries at reasonable prices. Combine an affordable lunch or dinner with a night on the town experiencing some of the city’s booming nightlife, and you can be sure to enjoy your break in the cosmopolitan city of Birmingham in the heart of the Midlands.
*This is a sponsored post
Its been over a year and a half since our backpacks were strapped on our backs and we were shuffling from guesthouse to guesthouse. It has been very quiet lately on aroundtheworldonatoilet.com, but it hasn’t been so with our lives. Since being home Lianna had been working for an airline quite unhappily, until she went and landed a job with the biggest adventure travel company in Canada, G Adventures, formally known as GAP.
Italy is a diverse place. While the south may be known for its beaches and emerald water when the flurries begin to fly, tourists flock to the Northern mountains, as skiing in Italy is some of the best Europe can offer.
Ski holidays in Italy are not a new thing, tourists have been flocking to the European alps for over a hundred years. Of course things have changed quite a bit since a Norweign by the name of Sondre Norheim, (credited as the father of modern skiing) first popularized the sport in 1870. Nowadays thousands upon thousands come to Italy to enjoy the modern resorts, cozy lodges and ski culture. Here is a list of some of the most popular.
Snugged up against the French border in the Italian region of Val d’Aosta, Courmayeur is a small town located at the foot of the Italian side of Mont Blanc and is one of Italy’s most popular ski towns. Choosing to ski on the Italian side offers similar scenery to what one would experience in France but with a slightly lower price tag although both languages are spoken here.
With peaks rising above 4000 meters these are Europe’s largest and offer pleasant ski conditions almost year round. Courmayeur is well connected to the rest of Italy, Milan (4 hours), Venezia (8 hours) and Torino (6 hours) via the Pre Saint Didier train station plus a 15min taxi ride to the town itself. If one tires from long days on the slopes, just 5km from the town lies the Pre Saint Didier hot springs which provides a welcomed relaxation for sore muscles and chilled bones.
Want to ski Matterhorn but don’t have the money of the Swiss banks? The Italian village of Cervinia is a stones throw from Zermatt, the charming swiss town at the base of the Matterhorn but offers cheaper accommodations and pasta for dinner. Cervinia is not the quaint tourist village that Zermatt is, but is a great alternative for those wanting to stay on the Italian side and for those who are less experienced. Of course excursions over the border as easily arranged through your hotel and a large attraction to Cervinia is one of the largest runs in the world over 20 km long and due to elevation the runs are usually open until the end of May.
The Dolomities have long held my personal fascination and their jagged peaks jutting straight out of the earth are certainly one of Italy’s most dramatic sights. With runs for advanced and intermediate skiers alike, Cortina D’Ampezzo is certainly one of Italy’s most popular winter destinations.
Cortina D’ Ampezzo is also well known in Hollywood as the backdrop for movies like Cliff Hangar and The Pink Panther. Located in an ethnically diverse area, Cortina D’Ampezzo’s cuisine and language reflects the close location to Austria and Germany. Skiier’s fill up on beer, sausages, schnitzels, and speck (a cured smoked ham) after long days on the slope as well the usual Northern Italian favourites. For a real time look at the slopes check out this webcam which offers 24 hour views.
With a shorter season than the North, the slopes remain in prime condition through the winter and are usually open from December to March.There are two large resorts near the slopes and a handful of other accomodation options a few miles from Piano Provenzana in Etna National Park. Apart form skiing, the surrounding areas offer incredible oppurtunities for hiking and exploring the eerie landscape of the volcano itself.
Despite a plethora of other reasons to visit this remarkable country, skiing in Italy should be on the list of any serious traveler who is in search of beautiful powdered runs and trendy ski culture.
Sometimes we are asked how we feel about cruise type vacations and to be honest, neither Lianna nor I have had the chance to go on one. For those interested in cruise holidays we have a guest post detailing the different options and concerns a traveler should have when choosing one for their family.
A cruise makes for a fantastic family holiday and by taking this kind of vacation you’ll be able to go on exciting excursions while using wonderful amenities and services that can keep everyone entertained.
The choice of destinations you can take in is virtually endless, but one itinerary that could make for a particularly exciting cruise is a journey through the western Mediterranean.
Go on a Grand Mediterranean voyage with Princess Cruises, for example, and your ship may call in on captivating cities like Monte Carlo and Barcelona. You could also visit Venice, where the family will be able to go on a gondola ride down the two mile-long Grand Canal, although young children might be even more excited at the thought of visiting the ancient city of Pompeii.
The Greek islands are another great destination for a family cruise and once your ship is moored at Itea, you could take the children for a walk through the mountain town of Delphi or have fun exploring Kamari’s black sand beach on the island of Santorini.
A little further afield, the Caribbean can offer everything you need for a family cruise. Book a trip through the western part of the region and once your vessel has docked, you should have the chance to try a range of watersports. Children, meanwhile, may be particularly interested in exploring the Belize coastline, where a gorgeous barrier reef and exotic wildlife can be found.
Whatever destination you choose, make sure you pick a cruise that offers a wealth of family-friendly activities in order to keep your loved ones entertained while cruising between ports. Amenities and services vary between operators, but overall many tend try to cater for different age groups. On some cruises, older children may have the chance to play on the latest games consoles and air hockey tables.
Ball pools, art classes and storytelling sessions are great activities for infants and toddlers, while if you want some time away from the kids you should find that you can leave them with a registered babysitter for a couple of hours.
If you’re taking young children on a cruise there are a few things you should bear in mind to ensure that both you and they have as enjoyable a time as possible.
One thing that can put a downer on a cruise holiday is seasickness but there are steps you can take to try to prevent this. Drinking plenty of water both before you step onboard and while you’re sailing is important, while greasy food, such as bacon, eggs and chips, should be avoided for several hours before you are due to leave.
Caffeinated beverages, like cola and coffee, can also contribute to seasickness so make sure you and your little ones try to avoid these.
It’s also a good idea to do some research into what age groups a cruise ship’s children’s activities are divided into and whether these will be a suitable option for your family. As an example, you may have a 12-year-old who would prefer to be in a 12 to 15s club, rather than being on a ship that has one for eight to 12s. You should also bear in mind that older teenagers are likely to want space to do their own thing.
Whatever type of cruise you’re after, by taking the time to do your homework, compare holidays online for a great deal and you can ensure you’ll find a holiday that is suitable for the entire family.
Of all the lists describing the great culinary countries, you would be hard pressed to ever come across one that include Canada. While pasta is synonymous with Italy, rich creamy sauces with the French, Canada has…. maple syrup? Thankfully this is not the case and one Canadian city that sets the bench mark for Canadian Cuisine is Montreal.
It was only a short hop over the border from Vermont to get to Montreal and once we checked into our accommodations in the Plateau district we set out on our first mission. A week prior I had made the phone call to Au Pied Du Cochon, an infamous restaurant with a cult like following hoping I would be able to secure some reservations. My initial plans of a late Saturday night dinner were halted when I found out that the entire weekend had been booked except for one seating at 5:00pm on Friday night. After seeing the gluttonous Anthony Bourdain describe the place on his TV show over 2 years ago, I vowed that the next time I was in Montreal I would eat here. The seating could have been at 6am, I was not going to miss out.
My idea was to go all out and order everything that sounded good. Bad idea at this restaurant. Portions come hearty and heavy. This is not a healthy dining option or a light meal in any sense. Foie Gras, the fattened liver of a goose or duck is a specialty here and despite the controversy surrounding the product, Martin Piccard has an entire section of his menu dedicated to this rich fatty organ meat. First up was Foie Gras Poutine.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Poutine, this is the quintessential French Canadian indulgence. Fries smothered with gravy and cheese curds make a tough to beat combination and I have long been a fan. Au Pied Du Cochon steps it up a notch adding fries fried in duck fat with gravy, curds, foie gras sauce and of course a massive lobe of foie gras layed over the top. Pure insanity!
After such a light entree, my idea of a multi course meal had gone out the window. It would be a shame not to sample some of the pig products, after all the translation of the restaurant name is At the Pigs Foot. The foot was just about the only part of the pig which didn’t make it into my next dish titled the melting pot. Pork belly, blood sausage, pork chop and sausage come together on top of some of the richest mashed potatoes I have had. All this with a white wine sauce and served in a cast iron pot. Lianna opted for something a little on the safe side with some piglet ribs and mash. Desert was certainly not an option as we waddled our way through downtown Montreal to hopefully burn some calories off.
Despite the rain the following day we continued to explore the city on foot. We wandered in and out of the many bakeries, boutiques and charcuterie shops all the while baffled by how different Montreal seemed than our home city of Toronto.
When the rain proved too much to handle, we were lucky to be near Montreal’s most famous Deli. No trip to this city would be complete without a stop at Schwartz famous for its smoked meat. I first developed a taste for this stuff when my mom would return home from weekends visiting friends in Montreal with pounds upon pounds of the stuff wrapped in butchers paper. Over the following few days this would be my breakfast, lunch and dinner. Montreal smoked meat is similar to pastrami (actually im not sure of the difference) and tourists and locals alike jostle for space inside the tiny deli. The atmosphere of a crowded bustling cafeteria are just as good as the food itself.
Our last stop on the “Foodie Trail” was purposely saved until our last few minutes in the city. After we packed up our things and loaded the car we drove to the Jewish part of town for Montreal’s most emblematic baked good. Bagels.
St. Viateur has built a reputation of baking some of the best bagels in town and they come out of the hot oven in the dozens. Good thing too cause by the time we left we had 3 dozens (minus a few enjoyed on the way home) that needed to go right into our freezer at home.
While spending time abroad and experiencing new and different things each day, It was easy to find excitement and interest in all the sights and sounds this world has to offer. It becomes increasingly difficult to view your own country through that same set of eyes. Being away for so long really left me with a desire to see my homeland especially when I come from a country so large and full of natural beauty that I have barely scratched the surface of. I decided I would start with somewhere close to home, Algonquin Park.
My good friend Fraser has long talked about making a trip deep into Algonquin Provincial Park interior for we had both been on short weekend long trips but never ventured too far into the back country. This might sound like a suicide trip with two novice outdoors men venturing into the wilderness but a little pre trip reading, some maps purchased and of course some essential skills like starting a fire, pitching tarps and tents and your well on your way. Despite being a massive expanse of swamps, lakes and rivers, Algonquin has a network of marked portages and canoe routes and should you get lost, its as simple as finding the nearest campsite on your map and getting a bearing.
We chose to go in May for experiencing some of the parks pristine trout fishing was high on the list of priorities although black flies and mosquitoes were quite a concern at this time of year. Thankfully the fish were biting and the bugs were not as bad as expected. We also chose to enter through the North gate at the town of Brent, 5 hours from Toronto in hopes of avoiding any sort of crowding which can sometimes happen on popular routes. We chose our route wisely and only saw the signs of one other group in our full 6 days in the park.
With fear of giving up some now top secret fishing spots I will not recite our daily itinerary but our route was to paddle up the Petawawa river via Catfish lake and Burntroot before caneoing down the Nippissing River. The travel days were sometimes long with some strenous portages in the rain but some things are just not meant to be easy.
In the end, the trip was a major success with plenty of great fish caught and some great wildlife seen including 6 moose, bald eagles and beavers. Now that my sore muscles have heeled and my bug bites are no longer swollen, I am already planning my next foray through this amazing land in central Ontario. I hope you enjoy the photos.