World Guides Travel Blog

November 2012

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.

November 25, 2012


Photo of marathon crowds in Houston, TexasIf you like going on holiday, but also love a particular sport, it makes perfect sense to combine your two passions. Enter sports tourism, an increasingly popular alternative these days to the traditional 'sun, sea and sand' annual holiday. It gives more active holidaymakers a chance to explore a new country whilst also tackling a sporting challenge that is been on the 'to do' list for way too long.

Cyclists can test their legs by following in the wheels of the world's most famous racers - although, perhaps, feeling the burn at little earlier than their cycling heroes and heroines. 'Etape' races take place all over the world, from the familiar territory of the French 'Etape du Tour' to the less well known roads of Argentina and Australia.

For globetrotters who also like to run, there are the obvious choices. International marathons like Berlin, Boston or New York are big on the running calendar. It is surely not too hard to persuade the rest of the family that one of the many European marathons is a good idea, either. Paris in the springtime anyone?

Then there are more exotic options for marathon tourists, including Kenya, Chile and China, all of which have seen a dramatic rise in popularity in recent years. The Antarctica Marathon usually sells out pretty quickly, too, with plenty of runners keen to swap pavement pounding for views of penguins.

In 2011, long-distance runner Stefaan Engels took the concept of a running holiday to an altogether different level. He ran an astonishing 365 marathons in one year. His running route took him to Canada, Mexico, the USA, North America and Europe, including his home country of Belgium. Not much chance to relax then, but he certainly got to see the world.

Posted by Sue at 9:15:44 on 25/11/2012

November 16, 2012


View across the Sahara Desert in AlgeriaIt is November, and Christmas hasn't so much crept up on me, but hit me with the full force of a reindeer and sleigh. As I'm contemplating exactly how much wrapping paper I'll need (not to mention quantities of Brussels sprouts), I'm surely not alone in fantasizing about my 'ideal Christmas' escape. Quite simply, it involves a large pile of unread novels, an equally large hamper of festively-themed foods and a remote cottage equipped with a log-burning stove for the ultimate cosy retreat.

In previous years, away-from-home Christmas holidays have involved swapping Santa and tinsel for the snowy mountain slopes of the French Alps. One year in particular, we stayed with friends in the picturesque town of Gap, south-eastern France. We arrived in a snow blizzard on Christmas Eve, stopping en route from Grenoble to buy snow chains and wondering whether we'd make it before midnight. I have to say, it was worth the journey. There is nothing quite like opening the curtains to be greeted by a snowy Alpine scene that could have come straight off a greetings card. Perfect.

We've also spent Christmas amidst the dunes and wadis of the Algerian desert. It was part of a longer world tour and, to be fair, celebrating the festive season in the middle of the Sahara hadn't exactly been on the cards. On Christmas Eve, however, it turned out that we were stranded with a broken-down motorbike in the oasis town of In Salah. After queuing up to use the only phone line in town to wish 'seasons greetings' to the folks back home, we tucked into a Christmas dinner of bread and satsumas. Then, we settled down to admire the unbroken sandy vista, soak up the Saharan sunshine and tune into whatever Christmas music we could find on our short-wave radio. We opened our presents - a bar of chocolate and a handkerchief. We lit the snowman-shaped candle that we'd carried all the way from England. And, yes, somehow, it did feel just a little bit festive.

This goes to show that wherever you choose to head for the festive holiday - whether you are surrounded by snow or sand - it doesn't take much to make you feel as if, well, you are right back at home.

Posted by Sue at 19:44:21 on 16/11/2012

November 12, 2012


World Guides websiteWe've been beavering away hard in the offices of World Guides, working on a new design for our website - and finally it has been launched!

We have looked at the navigation panel and grouped all of the pages into sensible categories - so that you can find what you want even easier. You can now easily navigate between pages by using the continent, country and city links (via the 'Related guides' panel), the search box is bigger, and we've added maps to each page. We've also partnered up with award-winning to bring you the very best hotel discounts. So, we hope you like it. Let us know what you think.

Posted by Martin at 15:11:59 on 12/11/2012

November 11, 2012


Photo of the Balmer Inn Hotel in the New Forest - a luxury spa retreatThe other weekend I was whisked off to a secret location. The occasion was a rather significant anniversary. I was told there might be mud, so sturdy boots were duly packed. I was told that the car drive wouldn't be terribly long, so I knew that my destination would be somewhere in south-west of England. I began to suspect that I might be about to enjoy a few days getting closer to nature than the chilly autumnal weather warranted. After a few sharp turns to confound my already confused sense of navigation, we negotiated a long gravel drive. Then it all became clear. I was about to enjoy that most quintessentially English of short breaks - the country house hotel weekend.

The hotel didn't disappoint. It came complete with four-poster beds, antique furniture that oozed elegance, and views over the grounds that were to die for. In the morning, the breakfast was served in the Orangery and, as we dined, several black swans watched the proceedings through the long windows that overlooked a lake.

I have to admit that my experience of country house hotels isn't huge. What I do know, though, is that there are around 5,000 of them in Britain today and that, despite the tricky economic climate of recent years, the 'escape to the country' concept is managing to survive.

Unlike modern hotels, you will never get any two country house hotels that are quite the same. Many of them are hidden gems. Every room is different and, in fact, such individuality is an important part of their charm. So too is the overwhelming sense of history and grandiosity that you get when you walk through the front door.

It didn't take long for us to discover that hotels like these constitute a welcome bolt hole, somewhere to take refuge from the madding crowd and the modern world - at least, until the end of the weekend.

Posted by Sue at 14:59:20 on 11/11/2012

November 6, 2012


Distant view of New York's famous Statue of LibertyAs New York recovers from the ravages wrought by Hurricane Sandy, no doubt more than a few travellers will be checking the finer points of their insurance policies. That is, of course, if they have one. Apparently, there is a growing trend - worse in Britain than anywhere else in the world - to 'do without' when it comes to insurance. All too often, the extra cost is seen as an unnecessary burden on holiday budgets that are already stretched to breaking point.

It takes a freak storm like this to bring home the fact that, sometimes, not all goes to plan. The weather can turn nasty. Suitcases may be stolen. Airline crews can go on strike. Accidents can happen. It doesn't take much to turn a dream holiday into something of a nightmare outing for the wallet. In short, it is easy to regret not having taken out holiday insurance after the event.

For those of us who do make it as far as buying a travel insurance policy, it doesn't always occur to check out the small print - something that is definitely worth doing before you find yourself heading down the runway and contemplating the mid-flight menu. Far better to get out your reading glasses and work your way round the convoluted 'legalese' in the comfort of your own home. And preferably before you sign on the dotted line. In my family, we have a raft of pre-existing medical conditions to declare. Whilst it is all too tempting to 'forget' about a recent visit to hospital as an in-patient, it pays to be completely honest here. Remember that if the worst should happen and you haven't been entirely upfront, there is a good chance you won't be covered at all.

For most of us, perhaps the hardest thing to take on board is that it is not always about money. When it comes to travel insurance, cheap isn't always good. Some policies are better suited to a particular situation than others. If you are an adventurous sort of holiday maker rather than a poolside person, you might have a different attitude to risky behaviour than your insurance company. A spot of mountain biking, moped driving or scuba diving sounds like a bit of harmless fun? Listen carefully and you can almost hear the sharp intake of breath in the insurance broker's office back home.

Posted by Sue at 10:49:22 on 6/11/2012