World Guides Travel Blog

January 2014

This is where we let you know all about what's going on with our website and the world of travel, with destination reviews, current travel news and topical travel-related stuff to discuss with your friends. Please let us know if you want to comment on anything - Contact us.

January 31, 2014


Photo showing the Black Sea coastline of Socci, Krasnodar Krai, Russia, image by Andrey BabushkinAfter the London Olympics, there was a great deal of talk about the Games' 'legacy'. No doubt after the 2014 Winter Olympics, which are due to open next week, there'll be just as much debate. Whether or not the Russian host city of Sochi can become a tourist hotspot when all the Olympic paraphernalia has been packed up and flown home remains a very good question.

Sochi might not strike you immediately as the perfect holiday destination. It is all to easy to imagine it as a stereotypically bleak and barren Russian city. It is true that Sochi was built in the Soviet era. Famously, Stalin had a dacha built here. And, yes, it is still possible to see remnants of that particular period of history in the city. There is a Lenin statue in the centre and some of Sochi's buildings have a distinctly Soviet-era look about them. That includes the city's Sanatoria.

There is plenty of evidence to indicate Sochi is trying to move on. New high rise buildings are rising out of this former Soviet summer resort. In recent years, there have been over 400 building projects in the area, including several upmarket hotels. The nearby town of Krasnaya Polyana, for example, has become a skiing resort with a huge new stadium and ice hockey area, as well as bobsleigh and ski jumping facilities. All legacies of the Winter Olympics.

Construction aside, though, the real legacy may simply be the attention that will be paid to this small Russian city for a few Games-inspired weeks. Sochi has, for many years, been popular with domestic tourists. Now, thanks to media coverage, the rest of the world may start to realise that there is a subtropical beach resort on the Black Sea just waiting to be explored.

Posted by Sue at 11:41:54 on 31/1/2014

January 24, 2014


Photo of the cityscape in Glasgow, ScotlandThis weekend, I shall be sitting down to a plate of neeps and tatties. I may even sample a wee tot of whisky and, perhaps, if I feel so-inclined, quote a line or two of poetry. Each year, millions of people pay homage to the man they call The Bard, also known as Robert Burns. Scotland's favourite poet inspires festivities all over the UK, from traditional Burns suppers and ceilidhs in halls and pubs to, shall we say, rather more unusual events.

Dumfries's 'Big Burns Supper' is reputed to be the biggest around. It also does a new take on your traditional haggis and root vegetables. Revellers can chose from the Burlesque Burns Supper or the 10-Minute Burns Supper, which aims to have you wiping your plate clean in speedy fashion. The event's music, theatre and comedy performances last a whole lot longer - three days, to be precise.

Slightly off the Scottish theme, but definitely with Burns in mind, is Glasgow's 'Keep the Fire Burning', a Burns night that serves supper with a Jamaican twist. And for those who are Burns-phobic, but still want to have fun, there is Edinburgh's 'Anybody but Burns' Wikipedia Edit-a-thon' event. Held at the city's National Library of Scotland, it is less of a full-blown celebration and more a literary lunch, but you do get to celebrate other Scottish poets who might have made it to the big time, if only Burns hadn't been around.

Expat Scots have taken Burns Night to the furthest corners of the world, so these days you don't even have to be in the UK to enjoy a Burns fest. You can ceilidh with the best of them in Canada, raise a glass to The Bard in Beijing, and even pay a visit to the Dunedin Burns Club in New Zealand. They've been raising their glass to the Scottish poet since 1861, after all.

Posted by Sue at 17:11:44 on 24/1/2014

January 17, 2014


Photo of white-water rafting in the Grand Canyon, Arizona (AZ), USAThere comes a moment in your life when you've had just about enough rain, snow or hail to last a lifetime. I think that, this week, I reached that moment. Apparently, I'm in good company, Reports of rising holiday booking surely has a lot to do with the recent spell of inclement weather in the UK, which has spurred people on to escape to the sunshine. But what if flying off to the sun isn't a viable proposition at the moment?

Thankfully, for those of us who aren't able to escape to a tropical beach, there are other ways of getting away from it all. I've always been an inveterate armchair traveller. Usually, a good book set in a foreign land can take me straight there, irregardless of the fact that rain's lashing down outside my front window. An interesting website will have a similarly potent effect.

More recently, I've noticed that I also have a penchant for travelling via my TV. In the past few weeks, I've been captivated by the sight of several vintage-style wooden rowing boats bobbing up and down on the whitewater rapids of the Grand Canyon. The expedition aims to recreate an expedition by Wild West pioneer Major John Wesley Powell in 1869. It is fascinating.

Before that, I enjoyed a trip back to the 1970s with a documentary film about a group of whitewater pioneers. 'Canoeing down Everest' tells the tale of a team of canoeists who made the first descent of the Dudh Khosi river at a time when the equipment wasn't always up to the job.

Search the TV schedules and there is bound to be a programme about an epic railway journey somewhere in the world, whether it heads through the industrial heartland of Britain or into some far flung remote wilderness. In other words, there are plenty of ways to assuage our winter wanderlust - and all with the added benefit of only having to travel as far as your favourite armchair.

January 1, 2014


Photo of the world-famous New Year's Eve Ball Drop in Times Square, Manhattan, New York, USAAll over the world, New Year's Eve parties have just finished welcoming in 2014, from the fireworks on Sydney Harbour Bridge to the lowering of the famous Times Square Ball in New York, Manhattan.

This tradition began more than a century ago, in 1907, and has now become an integral part of New York's New Year's Eve celebrations. Crowds gather outside the New York Times Building (One Times Square), looking up at the roof of this skyscraper just before midnight, when the enormous illuminated globe slowly descends down its flagpole at 23:59, taking exactly 60 seconds to reach the bottom and set off the fireworks. It is expected that more than one million people watched this event first-hand, with a staggering one billion people enjoying the spectacle on national television and through live streaming on the Internet.

Here at World Guides, we would very much like to thank you for your continued support and readership, and to welcome in the New Year in our own way, we have just launched the following guides:

South Sudan

These destinations complete our series of African cities and countries, for now anyway. They are quite unlike any other guides to Africa currently available on the Internet, being so detailed and comprehensive, and all in one place. A big thanks goes out to our expert writer Sue for researching these nations so exhaustively and patiently.

We always try to categorise our pages in a sensible way, so that all the attractions, all the museums, etc. are all on one single page, meaning that you don't have to hunt around for the holiday information that you need. Sudan, South Sudan and Zimbabwe may not be leading African tourist destinations, yet, but in our opinion there is a lot to see, if you know where to go and how to travel safely. For example, those in South Sudan may be lucky enough to witness Africa's largest animal migration, and in Zimbabwe, the Victoria Falls remain a magnificent natural phenomenon.

You may also like to have a read of our recently launched World Guide to Chester. This is where Sue actually originates and so she was able to use her very in-depth knowledge of this historic Roman city to produce a superb guide. Chester is one of the most unique cities in England and its half-timbered buildings really are quite stunning, particularly along the two-tiered Chester Rows.

Posted by Martin at 11:08:31 on 01/01/2014