Best Kept Secrets you always wanted to know… A complete article database online split into different categories like travel... Mon, 03 Sep 2018 18:42:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ski Resorts For Kids In North America And Europe Tue, 09 Aug 2005 23:23:50 +0000 Skiing is fun, but finding a place for children to learn has been a problem for parents for some time. Consequently, a number of adults have taken a sabbatical from skiing while they raise their children. These days though, the holiday ski resorts are fighting backing – now there are ample of places to take your children, both in North America and in Europe, for their first skiing experience.

North American Skiing Resorts

* Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont, USA
Often rated as probably the best place in N. America to take your children on a skiing holiday. Smugglers has an array of activities and entertainment options for the kids with some very friendly beginner slopes. The instructors at Smugglers have also been specially trained to deal with young learners, so this really is a fantastic place. However, what makes this such a popular choice is that in accommodating for little one, Mums and Dads have not been forgotten and there are also lots of things for Mum and Dad to do when little one is safely tucked-up in bed. All-in-all, a great resort town.

* Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
Already known as one of the best ski resorts in the world, Whistler also qualifies as one of the best places in N. America to take your children on a skiing holiday. Here, Whistler is one of the few high-end ski resorts in N. America that not only freely allows snowboarding, but actually encourages it! Specially trained ski instructors also means that you can leave your children with the instructor for a while whilst you go off and ski some of Whistler’s more advance slopes. And, if your child decides that skiing is not really for them, this wonderful resort town has plenty of alternative activities that will keep them entertained for hours at a time.

* The Canyons, Utah, USA
Centred around Park City, the Canyons in Utah are considered one of, if not the, most family-friendly ski resorts in N. America. Not far from the Canyons is Salt Lake City, home of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Certainly a top consideration for young families looking for a scenic, learner-friendly, ski resort.

European Skiing Resorts

* Les Arcs, France
Les Arcs holds itself out as being the first purpose built ski resort in the world catering to children! The resort is designed on a French-Canadian style village with a cable car linking it to the resort of La Plagne. The resort is huge, and has ample ski runs to satisfy both the more professional skier and the complete novice. The ski resort area at 1800 has a specially built children’s zone with magic carpet lifts and sledging tracks. Really, if Europe is the ski destination of choice this year for you and your family, give serious consideration to this resort – it’s superb!

* Ski Schools, Soldeu, Andorra, Spain
The ski resort in Andorra is set up specifically to help young children learn how to ski and is widely considered one of the best schools to learn to ski at. Many of the recent graduates of this school have gone on to compete on the European ski circuit. However, the school also offers classes to adults; and is so diverse and in tune with the public’s feelings towards skiing, now has a snowboarding school! Skiing lessons here are given to children wanting to learn from as early as 12 months old – showing that you have to prepare children early in the modern world of skiing championships. It should be noted, however, that this school is set up specifically for the serious learner, so if you want to partake in extra activities, you’ll need to make arrangements to go off camp. Aside from that, fun is the order of the day at the school!

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Popular European Holiday Destinations Thu, 04 Aug 2005 19:22:46 +0000 From early Victorian times, Europeans have enjoyed taking time out during the summer to relax and recharge their batteries in one of Europe’s many scenic and beautiful holiday destinations. If this sounds like just the rest and recuperation you need, why not follow their lead and venture off to one of the following leading European holiday destinations – where the European’s are sure to make you feel right at home:

* Tuscany, Italy
Tuscany is the heart of Italy’s vineyards and wine industry. The province also happens to be one of the most scenic in all of Italy. So, if you feel up for a holiday of country air, as you cycle or drive from scenic village to scenic village, this must be the place for. What’s more, one call to “œpranzo” ‘ the Tuscany traditional midday meal – and you’ll be feeling like Tuscany has been your home for a lifetime! Why not enjoy the warmth and comfort of traditional Italian hospitality, mixed in with a healthy appreciation of Tuscany wine in the evening. It really isn’t hard to see why so many Europeans elect to spend a few weeks roaming around this grand Italian countryside.

* Connemara, Western Ireland
The area in and around Connemara in Western Ireland is widely considered to be some of the most beautiful in all of Europe. Consequently this part of Europe sees a large number of Europeans on walking and hiking tours. Whilst you are in this historical part of Ireland, you’ll also have the chance to take in both the town of Westport and Clew Bay. Located not too far away from these is Croagh Patrick, where St. Patrick (the patron saint of Ireland) is said to have fasted in prayer for 40 days and 40 nights. A tour of the resort towns of Western Ireland is more than a mere holiday, it’s a calling – a coming home – regardless of where you are from. You’ll also find the Irish to be very hospital people who offer plenty of fun and entertainment.

* Disneyland, Paris
Walking tours of the resort towns of Ireland and bike tours of Tuscany are not for all, and a tour to Disneyland, Paris is more inline with the traditional modern holiday. As it happens, this popular European destination has some of the famous attractions found at other Disney resorts, such as Space Mountain, but also contains some of its very own home-grown attractions. Its close proximity to Paris centre also provides you with the perfect opportunity to spend some time in one of the world’s most romantic cities as you take in the atmosphere of the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees. Disneyland, Paris has a wide selection of good hotels that make this a good choice for those of you travelling with young children. Great, traditional, fun!

* Venice, Italy
A trip on one of the famous gondolas in Venice, Italy must rank as one of the most romantic activities to do in the world. However, Venice is so much more than gondolas; it has the historic St. Mark’s Square, the Accadmia Galleries -showcasing some of the world’s finest Venetian paintings- and its very own Mardi Gras! With a vast range of accommodation available in the city – from some of the most exclusive and expensive 5-star hotels to the family run pensions, a holiday in Venice, Italy is a fantastic way to unwind from the stresses of modern day life with the one you love.

* Iceland
You may well be wondering how Iceland can work its way into a list of popular European vacation destinations. The truth is it’s not popular unless you’ve been there or heard of it: but it is included in this list because Iceland is the up and coming place to visit in Europe! Home to some of the finest examples of natural beauty in the world, more and more European’s and now going out of their way to spend some time in the resort towns along its rich coastline. Whilst here, you’ll have the perfect to chance to see why Iceland is known as the “œLand of Fire and Ice” – there are literally hundreds of samples of black lava and active volcanoes, as well ice glaciers and snow-capped mountains. So, if a holiday in one of the world’s oldest, newest, destination resort sounds like it may be just the ticket for you why not check this place out, before all your friends discover it before you do!

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Top European Ski Resorts Fri, 29 Jul 2005 19:21:50 +0000 Each year more and more of us seek that uniquely pleasurable feeling that comes with a holiday in one of Europe’s leading ski resorts. However, probably unlike the case in North America, a large emphasis of having a skiing holiday in Europe is placed on the social, as well as sporting, facilities that the resort has. What’s more, with ever increasing numbers of us now having the means to enjoy both a winter and summer break, booking your winter skiing holiday early has become even more pressing. The following are 5 skiing resorts in Europe considered to be among the best in the world – and are widely regarded as being the best in Europe:

* Chamonix Mount-Blanc, France
Located at the foot of Europe’s tallest mountain (Mount-Blanc at a height of 15,771ft), Chamonix ranks a common mention in any list of the “world’s most elite skiing resorts” -especially among the French. As the home of the first ever Winter Olympics, in 1924, there has to be a lot said about this fantastic resort: and the resort lives up to its name by having both the longest vertical drop (9209 ft) and the world’s longest ski-runs (13.7 miles). Chamonix is certainly a good choice resort for the serious snow freak and the well-heeled. Which is not to say that you cannot go and enjoy the ski-run and stay in nearby cheaper accommodation and watch from afar as the rich and famous go about their business in the many boutiques located here. Certainly a place for people watching!

* Cortina, Italy
One of the world’s first purpose built ski resorts, Cortina is where the 1956 Winter Olympic Games were held. Although this may lead you to think that Cortina is now an outdated resort, in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Like many other ski resorts in the Alps, the resort centres around a pedestrian street with lots of shopping arcades, restaurants and other pleasure activities. For the serious skier among you, this resort has a number of ski runs, ranging from the basic to the professional, of a rich quality.

* Kitzbulhel, Austria
People have been skiing in the scenic resort of Kitzebulhel since 1892, making this one of Europe’s oldest skiing towns. Although this resort is neither particularly lively, nor particularly popular among the trendier younger age groups, the “Pearl of the Alps” (as it is affectionately known) is a popular choice among the more serious skier and those looking for a holiday combination of serious scenic sightseeing and gentle skiing. Kitzbulhel would also be a good choice skiing resort for the first-time skier looking to take things at a little more leisurely pace.

* St. Moritz, Switzerland
Mention to anyone that you are considering going on a skiing holiday in Europe and the name St. Mortiz is going to crop up. Home to the Winter Olympics of 1928 and 1948, St. Moritz has been the European ski resort of choice almost since its first visitors (two Englishmen) ventured there in 1864. Today the resort is equally famous for its Cresta Run and the array of 5-star hotels located here. For the more adventurous of you, the frozen lake in St. Moritz doubles up as a golf course during the winter!

* Zermatt, Switzerland
What can be said about Zermatt that has not already been said! Probably one of the world’s most famous ski resorts, Zermatt is actually an extremely peaceful ski resort to visit. In part, the reason for Zermatt’s relaxed and peaceful atmosphere has to do with the fact that automobiles are not allowed in the ski resort. However, the fact that most visitors to Zermatt elect to stay at the more popular nearby skiing resorts of St. Mortiz or Gstaad, and come over to Zermatt for a day visit, also plays a large part in this. Certainly an ideal skiing resort to come to if you have a young family as there are, in the surrounding areas, activities other than skiing. It would also make a good location for a quick romantic skiing break.

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Protecting Your Home When You are Traveling Tue, 19 Jul 2005 21:42:05 +0000 There are a variety of ways you can protect your home while traveling. Trim trees and bushes near areas where burglars can hide. Have outside lights including motion-sensitive ones. Use lights with automatic timers in the living room and bedrooms. Make it hard for the burglar to get in your home. Nails, screws, padlocks, door and window locks, grates, bars, and bolts can help prevent intruders. An alarm system would be a good investment. Neighbors will hear noise, and help would be on the way. Don’t put valuable items where they are visible such as in windows. You can inventory your items by markings and serial numbers. This would be helpful for the police and insurance.

Don’t tell people other than trusted ones your travel plans. Ask neighbors to pick up mail and newspapers; tell your neighbors when you are leaving and coming back. Leave a key with a trustworthy neighbor; give the neighbor phone numbers where you can be reached in case of emergency. Cancel deliveries if nobody can pick them up. If you’re going to be gone a while, have someone cut the grass. Leave the blinds open in the normal position. Hide empty garbage cans. See if someone can put trash on your curb on trash pickup day. You can put your valuables in a safe deposit box. Find out if the police will check your home while you’re away. Before you leave, make certain the doors and windows are locked especially basement and garage doors. You can leave radios or televisions on or put them on automatic timers. If possible, leave a car in the driveway. By doing these things, you can come back to a safe home.

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Advantages of Hiring a House/Pet Sitter When Traveling Thu, 14 Jul 2005 21:36:53 +0000 There are many advantages of hiring a house/pet sitter when traveling. You may be tempted to take the pet on the trip with you, but think of the pet’s needs. Traveling can be very stressful for some pets. Suppose the car breaks down, or there are other transportation problems. Keeping the pet in crates and cages can be upsetting. The weather is a big consideration. How does the pet react in hot/cold weather? Could you leave the pet in a car? Suppose the pet gets sick; its veterinarian will be far away. The trip could be bad for you and the pet.

There are kennels, but the pet could pick up sicknesses while there. Also the pet would be in a strange environment. A pet sitter would allow the pet to be in a familiar setting while protecting your home at the same time. The sitter will make sure the client’s home looks lived in while the client’s gone. A pet sitter can give the pet the routine care it’s used to.

Where can you find a pet sitter? You can find professional ones through veterinarians and the yellow pages. Most professional pet sitters are insured and bonded so they’re liable for any problems. You could ask neighbors to pet sit. This could be a good way to hire a young neighbor looking to make extra money. The young person can learn responsibility, but make sure the adult in the household knows about this. Tell the adult what has to be done so there is supervision. A good way to get neighbors to pet sit is to do favors for them as well when they’re away. They can also pick up newspapers and mail and turn lights off and on. Keeping a pet at home under good care will give you peace of mind while traveling.

The type of pet may instigate other questions too! Health concerns and scheduling are additional things to talk about with prospective pet sitters as well as negotiating extra services such as watering plants and mail collection. This pet sitting guide can help the pet owner with the appropriate questions to ask when inquiring about pet care and sitting services. Click here to read more about pet sitting.

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The Growing Popularity Of Sporting Holidays Fri, 24 Jun 2005 19:34:56 +0000 In 2002 we had the football world cup; in 2003 it was the turn of the rugby world cup; and this year it was the Olympic Games. In between we have had such occasions as the Ryder Cup (golf) and the America’s Cup (yachting/sailing). Essentially there’s something for everyone interested in sport these days. Catering to these big events, with respect to organizing tours, has become a huge business within the travel industry. But, amazingly, these huge global sporting events are simply the tip of a massive iceberg. Sport, nowadays, has become so big that sports orientated holidays have now become a multi-million dollar industry. But, what type of things can you expect from a sporting vacation?

Without doubt, golf has to be one of the biggest sports holiday packages within the travel industry. These days golf enthusiasts fly the world looking for a round of golf. However, really successful golf resorts, like those on the Gold Coast of Australia, in the USA and South Africa, not only offer the golf enthusiast with the opportunity to play a round of golf or two, but also offer other alternative activities for the golfer and his family to get up to. Therefore, many of today’s successful golf resorts will include huge entertainment areas, such as Sun City in South Africa, or casinos, such as in Las Vegas. Indeed, golfing holidays have become such a big industry these days that even Walt Disney is in on the act!

Cycling enthusiasts love to go on cycling holidays. Popular among cycling route holidays are France (and the rest of mainland Western Europe, from Spain to Italy), the USA and even Asia. Whilst you have to have a certain level of stamina, organizing a cycling holiday is fairly straight-forward, even for the novice: and most travel agents have this among their holiday brochure options.

Becoming ever more popular are climbing holidays. Climbing holidays can include the brisk walk among fens and moors, such as in the North of England, to medium mountains, such as Kilimanjaro in Kenya, to the outrageous, as is the case with Mt. Everest (now seen more as a tourist destination than an epic feat!). Whatever the choice may be though, there is little doubt that you would be hard pressed to find a more picturesque and spectacular holiday than whilst climbing some of the world’s best known peaks.

Always popular, sailing holidays around such places as the Mediterranean and the Caribbean are now more in demand than ever. As people have become used to the increased exposure to such events as the America’s Cup, sailing has taken off. To meet this demand, many yacht and boat owners today are more than willing to rent out their yachts and boats to the willing and eager tourist.

As you can see from the small sample above then, there is really is an opportunity for everyone to enjoy a fun sporting vacation!

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Popular North American Skiing Resorts Sun, 19 Jun 2005 19:31:47 +0000 Whilst it is always going to be difficult to tell ahead of the snow which ski resorts will be offering the best runs in any given year, certain ski resorts in North America remain more popular than others no matter what happens with the snow. So, if you’re thinking of a North American skiing holiday this winter, here are some of the ski resorts you might want to check out (in no particular order):

* Aspen, Colorado, USA
Possibly as well know as the being the Mecca of the jet-set and famous as for its skiing, Aspen has four (not connected) mountains and steeps in which to ski. This ski resort accommodates for all levels of skier, from the pro to the novice, and is the resort of choice for many.

* Banff / Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada
Ranking as possibly the most picturesque ski resort in North America, Banff ski resort is located in the heart of Canada’s Banff National Park. With Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise all within easy reach of this ski resort, many have argued that you don’t need to be an ace skier before deciding to come here: the sheer magnificence of the views are enough on their own to attract you to this most delightful part of the world.

* Stowe, Vermont, USA
Based around Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak, Stowe is always a popular choice (as a ski resort) as it has close to 100 shops and over 50 restaurants. It also offers more to the holiday-maker than just traditional skiing. For those serious about their skiing however, Stowe is also one of the few resorts in North America that lift-links to other resorts.

* Mount Tremblant, Quebec
Mount Tremblant is Canada’s oldest ski resort – originally opened in 1939. However, a recent facelift has meant that this resort is now unrecognizable from what it was of old. Whilst the skiing here is good, the area is also well-known for its close proximity to other ski resorts and locations; for example, Montreal is only an hour away. Also, this resort is seen as being one of the most relaxing on the North American circuit.

* Vail, Colorado, USA
With over 5,300 acres of ski slopes, Vale is the largest single ski resort in the USA. It also, however, has the fastest high-speed detachable quads on one mountain! Add to that the sheer number of art galleries, museums, snowmobiling, ice skating, etc. activities that can be done here and it is not hard to see why Vail, Colorado is seen as the USA’s favourite ski resorts.

* Whistler/Blackcomb, Canada
Whistler ski resort was voted the number one global ski resort for the 2003-2004 season and one look at this exquisite ski village will tell you why. A purpose built resort (30 years ago there was nothing here!), the resort contains over 100 restaurants alone! On the skiing front, the two mountain peaks that make-up the backdrop of this resort are seen as excellent for skiing and snowboarding (note- not all North American resorts will allow you to snowboard). If you plan to come here though, you’ll need to book up early as this resort really is considered the world’s greatest ski resort!

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Travel Tips : Before You Go Tue, 14 Jun 2005 19:08:42 +0000 Travelling anywhere new for the first time is always going to be a thrilling experience. However, to ensure that you have the best of possible times, it is always useful to make sure that you have planned for your journey before you go. To help you do this: here are 7 useful travel tips of things to do before you go on holiday.

1. Get the required immunizations
There’s nothing worse than falling sick when you’re on holiday. However, if you are entering an environment that is alien to the one that your body is normally used to, it becomes easier for infection to penetrate your immune system, as your immune system is not expecting an attack in that form. As such, always make sure that you have the required immunization shots. Also remember that in some vacations spots, visiting a local doctor may not fill you with over confidence.

2. Get the right visa and make sure your passport is up-to-date
It is always essential that you enter a country on the correct visa. Making sure that you have the appropriate visa should, therefore, be one of your primary goals before you depart. Also, you should keep in mind that some countries do not allow foreign resident/nationals to enter their country if the duration remaining on the visitor’s passport is less than one year. Consequently, if you have one year or less remaining on your passport, please make sure that you are not going to have any problems with this when you arrive.

3. Book your hotel before you leave
There’s nothing worse than sleeping on a park bench. However, sleeping on a park bench in a country you don’t know has to be the ultimate low. To avoid this you need to make sure that you book your hotel accommodation before you arrive in the place you’re visiting. Also, to make sure that you’ll have no problems with this, double confirm your booking 24 to 48 hours before you arrive at the hotel in question.

4. Make sure you’re fully insured
Overseas trips can become very expensive if anything goes wrong. To avoid this you can pay a small premium and obtain holiday insurance. The sort of holiday insurance you should be looking to get would include insuring your travel money; your health; and, in the event that you are going to drive, car insurance.

5. Make sure your methods of payment are going to be acceptable – not all countries are willing to accept credit card and/or travelers’ checks.
In order to have a good time, you’ll likely need to spend money. However, you should not assume that because your credit cards work in your home country they are automatically going to work overseas. Likewise, don’t assume that your ATM card is necessarily going to work. You need to check with your bank that both of these facilities are going to be available to you (and, as far as ATMs are concerned, it’s a good idea to get some idea of how many machines may be at your convenience). In this regard, you should also check that your travelers’ checks are going to be freely accepted. Some countries are reluctant to accept travelers’ checks drawn on banks that might charge them a commission for processing the check. As such, check this.

6. Taking care of your pets
The solution to this problem is pet sitting ! Pet sitting services are often preferred over boarding a pet in a kennel or with a veterinarian. The animal will experience less stress being cared for in their own home and they can avoid illness as well. In addition, their daily routines can still be maintained. Pet caregiving is often needed when the pet owner travels for business or even for the holidays or vacation. Click here for more information about pet sitting.

7. Finally, try and talk with someone who has recently visited
Finally, to make sure you don’t miss anything off your list of things to do, try and talk with someone who has recently visited the place in question to see if there have been any recent developments that you should be aware of. A good resource for this is the Internet.

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15 Online Hotel Reservation Tips Thu, 09 Jun 2005 19:06:42 +0000 With more and more hotel reservations being made online these days it is always going to be difficult to tell whether or not the hotel is going to be any good before you arrive – by which time it is usually too late to change your mind if you don’t like the place! To help you out here, the following are 15 tips to online reservations that should help to ensure that you make the right hotel reservation.

Before booking the hotel online, always check the following:
1. will you stay in a single, twin or double room? Some online hotels advertise all three; however, they don’t specify which you’ll have until you arrive. To avoid any disappointment, make sure this issue is clear from the beginning.
2. does the hotel have room service and restaurant facilities? A lot of hotels advertising online do not offer room service. Moreover, whilst many may state they have a restaurant, it later transpires this is only for breakfast – not for lunch and dinner. If these are going to be important to you, check this out carefully.
3. telephone, cable television, on-suite bathroom and 24-hour front desk service. Again, a number of hotels that advertise online do not have direct telephones to your room, cable television, nor do they have on-suite bathrooms. Furthermore, a number will not have front desk service during periods of the night, which may be an important amenity if you need to book out late at night.
4. smoking and non-smoking rooms. A number of European hotels do not differentiate their smoking and non-smoking rooms. If you are a non-smoker, make sure you let the hotel know this at the time you make the booking.
5. sports facilities. More and more these days having gym, pool and spa facilities is an important aspect of your stay.

Booking Your Room
Before you book the room, you need to be asking yourself the following questions:
6. does the hotel accept your credit card? Paying by credit card should help to protect you if you experience any problems.
7. what is the hotel check out time – and, importantly, is there any time of the day when you will be excluded access to your room (for cleaning, etc. purposes)?
8. does the hotel have a safety-deposit box?
9. is the room charge net or gross local sales tax? – many hotels do not include tax in their advertised room rates, which can make for a surprise when it comes to time to settle the bill.
10. will you be charged a fee if you cancel the booking nearer the time?

Local Amenities And Sight-seeing
It’s no use having a cheap hotel if you’re going to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere. As such, before booking your reservation online, check out the following:

11. where’s the nearest train and/or subway station?
12. does the hotel have taxi or limousine service?
13. are there other hotels in the nearby area?
14. are there any major landmarks nearby?
15. are there any restaurants, shops, and supermarkets nearby?

Assuming that the answers to most of the above comply with your needs, it should be safe to go ahead and make the booking. However, always make sure you take a look at the photographs of the rooms before making your final decision and be cautious of any hotel which doesn’t have photos of its rooms available on its internet site. Also make sure that you keep your online booking reference close to-hand.

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The beginnings of the hotel industry Tue, 24 May 2005 20:31:51 +0000 There have been places for the tired and weary traveler to stop and stay at since time immemorial. After all, Jesus himself was born in a stable – having been turned away from an Inn. The Romans exported the concept of thermal baths all over Europe (notably to Britain) during their time as colonial power. And even the Greeks has a form of an Inn in their heyday. But, when can we say the hotel industry really developed into the multi-million dollar business sector that it has become today?

The Early Days – filing in the register
If we are not to include that period of time when the Romans and Greeks were busy looking after worn weary travelers – but try to look back to the time when the modern hotel was born – then, depending on where in the world you live, the earliest “legalized” forms of hotels started to spring up between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. The thirteenth century is the date often cited as being the time when staging posts in China and Mongolia first started to appear. However, its questionable whether you can really differentiate between these and those earlier Inns kept by the Romans. So, if we are really looking for the first form of “legalized” hotel, then the period would have to be the fifteenth century: when both French and English law started to require Inns to keep a register of all their guests.

The brand name
Around the same time as French and English law required Inns to keep registers of their guest, Inns started to take on the shape of hostelries. In their primitive form, the architecture of these places was such that they contained a paved interior court, which could be accessed through an arched porch. Both sides of the courtyard had rooms for lodging in. On the outside of the “hotel” was hung a signboard announcing to the world that it was both a place to stay and eat – and the brand name was born!

The business and leisure travelers
The next real step in the development of the hotel industry came as a result of two major events in mankind’s overall development – (i) the stage coach, which used to stop off at Inns on its way between towns; and (ii) the Industrial Revolution, which resulted in the first real business and leisure travelers. The second of these two events also caused the first hotels to be built in city centers – notably, the first inner-city hotel was built in New York City.
At about the same time modern day spas started to spring up all over the place – notably mainland Europe – and well-heeled travelers started to venture further a field, to North Africa and India.

Le Grand Hotel Paris
All of the earlier developments in the hotel industry finally came together in the culmination of the world’s first “Grand Hotel” – Le Grand Hotel, Paris. Le Grand opened its doors for business in 5 May 1862 with a spectacular inauguration presided over by Empress Eugenie. Although many a fine hotel has opened since Le Grand, and although many may claim the accolade of being more luxurious than Le Grand, anyone contemplating a night’s stay in a Paris hotel still has the choice of a night at Le Grand: evidence that to this day, hotels are here to stay!

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A synopsis of the Hilton Hotel Corporation Sat, 14 May 2005 23:28:52 +0000 They’re probably the most famous hotel brand name in the world. They own, manage, or franchise over a thousand hotels around the world. But what do we really know about the Hilton Hotel Corporation?

The start

The dream that developed into probably the most recognized brand name in hotels today drew its first breath in 1919 when Conrad Hilton acquired his first hotel in Cisco, Texas. Today there are somewhere in the region of1,200 hotels under the Hilton Hotel Corporation umbrella; which includes such famous names as the Waldorf-Astoria (New York) and the Hiltons in Paris, Rome and London. A simple beginning has grown into an international phenomenon in less than 80 years.

The brands

Ask any traveler if they’ve heard of a “Hilton” and you’re likely to get around a 90% affirmative response rate. However, ask those same travelers if they’ve heard of “Doubletree”, and (outside of North America) you most probably won’t be surprised to learn that your affirmative response rate is going drop – dramatically! What might surprise you though is to learn that a “Doubletree” is a Hilton by any other name – the name of the game with the Hilton is knowing the brands:

The flagship of the corporation and its most recognized brand name.

Founded in 1982 by Barron Hilton (the son of Conrad Hilton), the Conrad is joint venture between Hilton Hotels Corporation and Hilton International, with the brand aim of catering to clientele who expect nothing but the best in luxury hotels.

Hilton Garden Inn
Comprising more than 190 hotels across North America, the Hilton Garden Inn is the arm of Hilton Hotels looking to cater to mid-priced clients. Its achievements here have been acknowledged by it having won the “Highest Guest Satisfaction Among Mid-Priced Hotel Chains with Full Service” award.

Hampton Inn
Hampton Inn hotels operate in over 1,200 locations and offer value-minded traveler with a comfortable place to stay. Whilst it caters to value conscious travelers, this chain of the Hilton still maintains the standards expected of all Hilton Hotels and this is reflected in the fact that you can earn HHonors Hotel points (Hilton’s loyalty program) when you stay in any of these.

Hilton has 160 Doubletree hotels in major cities that are intended to cater to the business traveler and up-market travel industry sectors. These hotels offer full service restaurants and lounges – with room service and amenities (such as fitness centers). The chain is also well-known for its signature cookies!

Embassy Suites Hotels
With 174 hotels worldwide (the largest of which is in Niagara Falls), Embassy Suite Hotels is America’s largest all-suite hotel brand. The brand was established in 1983 and today has commanding market presence in the United States, Canada and Latin America.

Homewood Suites by Hilton
Homewood Suites is an American chain of over 120 upscale all-suite residential style hotels. The concept behind Homewood is to provide travelers with a “home-away-from-home” feel; which reflects itself in its primary catchment guests – those who are on-the-road for any length of time.

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The evolution of maps Mon, 09 May 2005 21:26:59 +0000 Since the dawn of time we have used them to chart both our cultural and geographic advancements. At one time or another they have depicted the successes of the Greek, Egyptian, Roman and European colonies. They’ve also been seen to romanticize the world we have lived in, and continue to live in. And, in all likelihood, you have either an actual or replica of one in your home. Maps: why are we so fascinated by them – and how have they evolved over time?

The dawn of cartography
Cartography is the official scientific name give to map-making. At the moment, the oldest known maps that we have date back to the Babylonian-era, which are carved on clay tablets and are dated circa. 2300 BC (era Before Christ). However, although our first maps date back to 2300 BC, it is fairly well accepted that the first time map-making was considered to be in an “advance” stage was during the period of the ancient Greeks. And, by the time the Roman Claudius Ptolemaeus launched his world map (which actually isn’t a world map at all, but only covers the known world at that time – 60 degrees north, 30 degrees south), all had accepted the importance of this fascinating art.

Medieval Maps
Anyone who has undertaken any study of our medieval period cannot help themselves but be amazed by the level of work that went into their map making. That all of the maps of the time seem to appear to be Euro-centric is actually a misconception as other peoples of the world, noticeable the Chinese and Vikings were also making good use of maps around this time.

The invention of the printing press – Renaissance maps
Probably one of the biggest factors in the increased popularity of maps was the invention of the printing press. Until this time, all maps had to be made by hand. Thus, distribution of replica maps was an extremely onerous task. However, with the invention of the printing press came major advances in map-making skills and distribution. At this time, as well as becoming universally accepted as a means of communications between people who didn’t speak the same language, maps (and, thus, map-making) now came to be seen as an art-form.

The New World
Christopher Columbus discoveries of the New World (15th Century) brought about the next big change in who the world was seen; thus, map-making. It was during this period that maps of the world as a round or oval object started to appear. The pioneer of this change in map design was a cartographer by the name of Gerardus Mercator (from Flanders, Belgium), who used a cylindrical projection to design his world map. So successful was Mercator’s cylindrical projection methodology of designing a world map, it is still in use today!

Modern-era of map making
The art, development and skills in map making continued unabated during their zenith period of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Centuries, as both their civil and military usage became more and more apparent. Consequently, a large number of map-charting projects were commissioned during this period. However, it was not until the Second World War, and shortly thereafter, when aerial photography started, that some of the last vestiges of uncharted map territory came in to the fold of modern maps.

The future of maps
Today it is possible to have Global Positioning System (GPS) in your phone, PDA, and car and computerized cartography is here to stay. However, the old romanticism of New World maps will still cling to us – as evidence by the large number of replica maps still sold today. Which goes to show, the history of cartography is a good way of charting our successes and failures over time to where we are today!

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Being able to identify an airline through its livery Wed, 04 May 2005 19:23:59 +0000 Asides from possibly the uniform that air-stewardesses wear, it is possibly the most distinctive feature that an airline has tying it to its corporate name. In some cases, such as with South African Airways and British Airways, the color schemes can resemble all the colors of the rainbow; in others, as with American Airlines, it’s a case of being a rather dull gray. It is – the airline livery!

Today’s aircraft livery can, at times, resemble a futuristic advertising campaign. Indeed, with airlines that are owned by multi national conglomerate corporations, such as Virgin, that’s exactly what they are – flying advertisements of the brand name. But, essentially, an airline’s livery, it’s corporate design, is it’s most visible corporate identity; both on the ground and in the sky. After all, how many times have you looked up in the sky and been able to tell not only the type of aircraft being flown, but also the corporate identity of the airline flying it? Too many to tell – I’ll bet. So, how did this all start?

Well, the first set of airline livery started to appear shortly after the Second World War – with the same intention that continues to this day – to identify the corporation/airline flying the plane. At the outset, European airlines -like BOAC and Air France- took up the mantel. However, never ones to see a good marketing ploy pass them by, American airlines soon followed suit.

Ever since the inception of an airline livery, it has generally been accepted that airlines identify three parts of the plane: namely, the tail-wing, the fuselage and the engine. Originally, due to the huge amount of paint that is required for each aircraft, simple colors, such as white and blue, were the colors of choice. However, following the oil crisis in the 1970s, a number of airlines, such as the previously mentioned American Airlines, decided to cut back on this and to keep to the more traditional skin gray color. Today, of course, airlines try and identify with a particular color scheme.

In fact, the aircraft livery scheme has become such a dominate success factor for airlines, some aircraft, which don’t even fly commercial flights, such as DHL, still ensure that their aircraft are identified. Furthermore, even those airlines that no longer fly can still be remembered by their livery; for example, who will ever forget the Pan Am livery! Also, there are some airlines that simply have not changed their airline livery. A perfect example of just such an airline is Ethiopian, which has had the same aircraft livery since the mid 1950s, making it the oldest livery flying the skies today.

However, even if an airline wanted to change its livery, this would be no simple task as it takes approximately two years for a complete fleet of commercial aircraft to change their livery.

Finally, aside for the external livery on the aircraft, the livery inside the aircraft also identifies the airline you’re flying with. Airlines around the world today spend huge amounts of money ensuring that their interior deign, from first class, through business class, to economy class, clearly identify, from the interior, which airline is flying that plane – all of which takes a large amount of time and effort to achieve.

So, next time you look up in the sky and see an aircraft you can recognize, remember, more likely than not it is because of the airline’s livery on the plane that you have been able to do that!

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Things to do and see in St. Maarten/St. Martin Sat, 30 Apr 2005 07:19:07 +0000 Anyone planning a trip to the Caribbean is full of anticipation, expectation and excitement at the prospect of sun, sea and surf. With this in mind then, what sort of things can one expect to do and see in St. Maarten/St.Martin?

Things to do and see in St. Martin: Sun, sea and sand

As with all Caribbean islands, St. Maarten’s offers visitors to its picturesque shores all the usually fun and games to be had at the seaside:
– Sailing: St. Martin’s has several catamarans for hire that allow you to either sail around the island or to island-hop; depending on your desire, time and skill.
– Diving & snorkelling: As a Caribbean island, it would be a shame if you didn’t take up the perfect opportunity to do some diving and snorkelling. The coral around the island is beautiful and the water is crystal blue clear with visibility of between 75 – 100 feet. You can explore the marine life around the island as part of your sailing trip, or as a standalone activity.
– Windsurfing: Windsurfing is a popular past time on the island and all the best surfers tend to congregate at Orient Bay Beach – which is located on the French north-side of the island.
– Kayaking: Kayaking facilities are available on the island if you want to take time out to kayak around.
– Beaches: The island is literally a treasure-trove of wonderful golden sand beaches. However, some of the more popular beaches are the Cupecoy beach (on the Dutch side of the island) and Mullet Bay and Maho Bay (on the French side of the Island).

Things to do and see in St. Maarten’s: On the shore

But, let’s face it, sun, sea and surf are not everyone’s idea of fun. Some of us prefer to stay on dry land. And this is where St. Maarten comes into a place of its own. With its rich history of friendly relations, dating back to the Treaty of Concordia signed in 1648, the island is full of historical sites and venues that you can amble and hike around. So, unlike other islands, here you can live the history. But, if staying on land is what you’re looking for, and not hiking all over the island, then you could always participate in some of the following:
– Tennis: Tennis courts are a plenty on the island, with every hotel having access to one.
– Golf: Although only 37 square miles in size, somehow the island has managed to squeeze in an exotic 18-hole championship golf course at the Mullet Bay Resort!
– Horseback riding: can be done on the island or on the beach-shores of the island.

Things to do and see in St. Martin: At night

With so many things to do during the day, you would think that St. Martin’s would be a place where you’d want to be early off to bed. In fact you would be missing out on a lot if you did that. St. Maarten’s night life is a vibrant mixture of cultures with outdoor clubs, lounges, dining on international cuisines from over 70 countries, and beach reggae parties all available to keep you going until the early morning hours. If that’s not enough fun for you in one day, on the Dutch side of the island you can also spend the night at the tables trying to win the loot for tomorrow’s fun!

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