World Guides Travel Blog
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June 28, 2013
HOLIDAYS THAT ARE ALL WORK AND SOME PLAY
For most of us, a summer holiday is about getting away from it all. It conjures up images of lounging by the pool, strolling through the countryside, perhaps wandering round a village market. Work just doesn't come into the equation. For a growing number of people, though, holidays and work go hand in hand. For this hardy band of volunteers, the annual holiday is a golden opportunity to tackle a new challenge in some far flung land.
Travelling to a foreign destination with the intention to get stuck into some hands-on work does have a certain appeal. A week or two working on an environmental conservation project means that you can get back on the plane with a certain sense of satisfaction: you've done your bit to help preserve the planet - or at least a part of it. You may have laboured hard to build a hiking trail in South America, helped to rescue baby turtles in the Caribbean, worked on an organic farm in South Africa
or helped teach children in a school in India
For those who don't fancy flying half way round the world to volunteer, there are plenty of opportunities nearer to home. In Europe, TEFL - teaching English as a foreign language - is a good and cost effective place to start. If you sign up for a British working holiday, you might find yourself engaged in a spot of pond clearing or restoring an ancient castle under the guidance of the good folk at the National Trust.
It is safe to say that volunteering holidays have plenty of other advantages. You get to visit places that, otherwise, you wouldn't necessarily see - and at a fraction of the cost. By getting off the air-conditioned tourist bus and staying in one place for any length of time, you can enjoy a completely different experience. One that allows you to really get to grips with the local lifestyle.
A volunteering holiday does, as the name suggests, involve a certain amount of hard graft. There is usually time to play, too. Time when you can sit back and ease any aching muscles or head out to explore further afield. For volunteering enthusiasts, it is the perfect combination.
Posted by Sue at 16:07:02 on 28/6/2013
June 22, 2013
This week marks the summer solstice and, thus, the official start of summer. Just because the solstice is the longest day of the year - technically benefiting from the most sunlight - it doesn't necessarily mean that it is the hottest. Druids at Britain's ancient Stonehenge, close to the cathedral city of Salisbury
, welcomed in a new day that was distinctly cloudy.
For the ancients, the summer solstice was a serious business. This was certainly the case for many of the druids and pagans who kept a vigil at Stonehenge
this morning. Considered sacred, the site lies at the heart of rituals that date back thousands of years.
For other dawn risers among the 20,000-strong crowd, however, it was perhaps less about natural alignments and the changing seasons, and more about enjoying a good party. The summer solstice is, after all, one of the rare opportunities the public gets to dance amongst the stones themselves. They're usually cordoned off and can only be viewed from a distance.
This year, the celebrations hold a special significance and something of a turning point in Stonehenge's venerable history. Within days of the solstice, a nearby busy road will be closed and a multi-million pound transformation of the site will begin in earnest. By all accounts, a visitors' centre will include a cafe and three replica neolithic dwellings. Above all, though, the aim is to replace the tarmac, which undeniably detracts from the site, with grass. That way, visitors to this World Heritage site will get to eventually see the stones as they should look - less a backdrop to the modern world of commuters and cars and more at one with the surrounding landscape.
Posted by Sue at 15:22:47 on 22/6/2013
June 17, 2013
A MONSTER OF A MYSTERY IN SCOTLAND
It is some 80 years since a certain large aquatic creature first surfaced on the Scottish tourist scene. In all that time, you would expect time and scientific progress to have diminished our appetite for monster hunting just a little. Not so. The calm waters of Loch Ness are as muddied as ever by myth-busting accusations, controversial photographs and scientific intervention.
The Loch Ness Monster - more familiarly known as Nessie - was spotted in April 1933 by Mrs Mackay, an eagle-eyed manageress of a local hotel. The story didn't take long to reach the local newspaper. From there, Mrs Mackay's story travelled far and wide. Journalists and tourists flocked to an area of Scotland
that, up until that point, had enjoyed relative obscurity. And, so, a legend - and indeed a whole tourist industry - was born.
Since then, speculation has been perpetually rife. Many attempts have been made to shed light on Loch Ness's mysterious inhabitant. There have been over a thousand sightings. Over the years, the technology used to search for Nessie has become more and more sophisticated, too. The first organised search took place in 1934. In 1987, 'Operation Deepscan' became the largest search for the monster, costing a staggering £1 million. In 2009, there were even claims that Nessie had put in an appearance on Google Earth.
Even without the legend, Loch Ness (just a short distance south of Inverness
) is a quite extraordinary place to visit. On the sunniest of Scottish days, the water of this truly vast lake remains eye-wateringly cold. And thanks to the surrounding peat, the waters are anything but crystal clear and blue; instead, they are a forbidding shade of black. Little wonder that folk wonder what lurks down there. Little wonder, too, that the monster hunt looks set to continue for a few more years to come.
Posted by Sue at 11:28:40 on 17/6/2013
June 7, 2013
IT IS FUN TO BE BESIDE THE SEA
These days, the lure of the seaside seems to be as strong as ever. For some, it conjures up images of sun-drenched white sandy beaches, lapped by azure waves. No doubt a cocktail-bearing waiter is hovering someway nearby, too. For many of us, though, a holiday beside the sea is just as likely to be a car drive away. Somewhere local. Somewhere not exactly exotic, but guaranteed to deliver on traditional holiday fun.
Once seen as second best to a foreign holiday, British beach holidays are being swept along on a tide of pure nostalgia. Afternoon tea and sandy sandwiches in the shelter of a windbreak are no longer deeply unfashionable. If the sun should happen to shine on an English summer, there can be nothing more uplifting than an old-fashioned seaside resort, complete with brightly coloured beach huts, bandstands, donkey rides and juice-dripping ice cream cones.
It is only fair to point out that sunshine isn't always guaranteed. Neither is sand, come to think of it. But there is always the sea, delivered in vast expanses and certain to give even the most jaded of holidaymakers a welcome sense of space. Even if the weather does take a turn for the worse, a walk along a deserted beach can work wonders to relieve a year's worth of work-related stress. A brisk stride along the shore front can be both exhilarating and atmospheric.
Every English seaside resort has its own particular appeal. For vintage-style beach huts, look no further than Southwold on England's east coast. For crowd-free fun, there is the small seaside town of Frinton-on-Sea in Essex, with its rather elegant esplanade. If it is sand you are after (and, let's face it, there are times when pebbles really won't do), then Tenby's South Beach boasts vast amounts of the golden stuff. When you don't mind sharing the beach with lots of other folk, there is nowhere better to head than Blackpool
. This archetypal English seaside resort - deemed to be the most popular in Britain - seems to have everything, from trams and its iconic Tower to incredibly thrilling rollercoaster rides.
June 5, 2013
PEAK SEASON IN THE HIMALAYAS
It is 60 years since man set foot on the summit of Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. The men in question were New Zealand-born mountaineer and explorer Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. News of the successful climb was relayed cloak-and-dagger style back to London
, appearing in the newspapers on the day of Queen Elizabeth's coronation. It is quite rightly become the stuff of legend.
All these years on, Everest continues to lure adventure-seekers. Every year, around 35 expedition teams tread in the footsteps of the 1953 expedition. Over 4,000 people have now successfully reached the top of this most enigmatic of mountains.
And therein lies the rub. Everest has become too successful; something that neither Hillary nor Tenzing Norgay could have ever predicted. Everest's 'peak season' is May. It is the best time of the year to make an ascent, taking into account the weather and conditions underfoot. Right at this moment, hopeful ascendants are more than likely to be found trudging though the snow, clad in boots fitted, with crampons and with ice axes in hand and one eye on the summit.
It would be easy to imagine that, over the years, and with so many successful ascents, Everest has become easier to climb. It is certainly true that equipment has become more sophisticated. Nonetheless, the elements - the extreme terrain - are still the same. Since 1953, the mountain has claimed the lives of 300 people, a statistic that tells us that Everest might be more popular than ever, but that it is still not that easy to scale.
Posted by Sue at 8:35:03 on 5/6/2013