Sabtu, 15 September 2012

The Great Mountains of Provence

Provence provides the traveller with a wide choice of mountainous regions to explore. The warm Mediterranean location is home to a variety of landscapes and topographical features that make up the diverse wildlife areas of the region: from the Alps in the north west, where mountain streams transform into rivers that feed into lush valleys, to the coastal regions where warm waves wash up against sandy shores.

With so many natural wonders to explore when you holiday in Provence, many travellers are in awe of the spectacular mountain ranges that are found in the region. No visit is complete without exploring at least one or two of these spectacular peaks rising high up into the sky.

Mount Ventoux

Located approximately 20km to the north east of Carpentras, this legendary summit rises up a mile above the surrounding Provence countryside. Although it forms part of the Alps, it is considered separate from the rest of this mountain range. Popular with cyclists the world over, Mount Ventoux is famous for the long windy ascent from Bedoin, which is included as part of the route in the Tour de France cycle race. If you enjoy mountain biking when you are on holiday in Provence, there are many trails and routes which are renowned for their spectacular views as you pedal your way to the top of the peak.


This small mountain chain located to the south of Avignon, is in striking contrast to the luscious Rhone valley plain from which it rises. The range extends for 25km in an east to west direction and is approximately 10km wide. The white and grey limestone cliffs give this mountain range the name "the little Alps", as, at their highest point, they stand at only 387m above sea-level. If you decide to include Alpilles in your itinerary when you holiday in Provence, you may even be fortunate enough to see some rare wildlife such as the Egyptian vulture and eagle owls which nest up high on the craggy cliffs.

Montagne Sainte-Victoire

Considered to be a significant landmark of the surrounding Aix area, this towering peak reaches up to a height of just over one kilometre. With an east to west orientation and sheer cliffs consisting mainly of limestone, Montagne Sainte-Vicoire drops down sharply on its south side towards the Arc basin. This peak has trails which are very popular with hikers and is definitely worth a visit when you plan your holiday in Provence.

Massif des Maures

Stretching from Frèjus to Hyères, this mountain range consists of forested ridges interlaced with shrub covered hills. Hiking through the cork oak and pine tree valleys is a popular activity for anyone visiting during the summer season. If you are interested in visiting this region when planning your holiday in Provence, there is plenty of accommodation available all year round in the picturesque towns that are scattered around the base of the mountain range.

Liz Olkowicz is the Business Development Manager for Footprint Holidays, a tour operator, based in Surrey. If you are looking for a self-guided walking holiday in Provence look no further. Explore the countryside, beautiful coastlines and charming villages on a holiday in Provence with Footprint Holidays.

The Colourful Georgetown Festival in Penang

Penang is undoubtedly famous for its rich cultural heritage and well-preserved colonial era buildings. You can definitely find all of these wonderful sights and sounds in Georgetown, the capital city of Penang. If you happen to be in Georgetown Penang during the month of July, you are really in for an awesome treat since the bright and colourful Georgetown Festival happens throughout this month in Penang. You're guaranteed to be blown away by all the events during Georgetown Festival!

Georgetown Festival Penang started off in July 2008 to celebrate the inclusion of Georgetown in the UNESCO World Heritage listing. Ever since 2008 Georgetown Festival Penang has become an annual event for the residents of Georgetown as a symbol of their pride being a part of this wonderful Penang city. The festival highlights the arts and cultural heritage of this magnificent island state of Penang. During this month long festival you will see a lot of exciting events such as theatre, dance, music, art exhibitions, cultural performances, inspirational talks, food fairs and fashion shows. The list could go on and on. Maybe it's more accurate for you to ask what is not included in the Georgetown Festival Penang.

The most recent Georgetown Festival was held from 15th June until 15th July 2012. The festival this year showcased a blend of local performances and events with contemporary international-flavoured performances. It is unsurprising that the Georgetown Festival will help to put Penang on the international scene as the destination to go to for arts and culture.

The Georgetown Festival 2012 gala opening kicked off with a Silat performance on the 15th of June at the historical Fort Cornwallis. This spectacular performance showcased the unique grace of this ancient Malay martial arts. The Straits Quay witnessed a contemporary hip hop performance on the 17th of June where rappers and street artist showed off their talents and took part in a hip hop workshop. You can see the blend of the modern and ancient arts in the festival seamlessly integrating into a unified mosaic that testify to the diversity of the Georgetown and Penang contemporary culture.

If you are a Shakespeare fan, you would be delighted to know that the Penang Performing Arts Centre staged 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' play on the 10th until 15th of July where local performers presented their own unique spin of this famous Shakespearean play. One of the main highlight of the Georgetown Festival in 2012 was the Live Heritage show being performed right on the streets of Georgetown itself to mark the anniversary of Georgetown's inclusion in the 2008 UNESCO World Heritage listing. Apart from showcasing Penang's unique blend of cultures through theatre, music and dance, this year's Live Heritage show also included traditional and rare performance arts from other UNESCO-listed sites within the ASEAN region for the very first time. You can see that the festival had become more international in its scope.

It does make you wonder what excitement the next festival will bring. If you want to experience the colourful Georgetown Festival in Penang, you should make it a point to be there around the months of June and July. It will be an experience that you'll never forget as you begin to soak in the variety of both modern and traditional Penang culture being displayed in the festival. It is simply a magical moment not to be missed.

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The Many Festivals of Provence

If you are looking to immerse yourself in some local cultural events, you will be spoilt for choice by the multitude of festivals and celebrations that Provence has to offer. You can make your holiday in Provence even more enjoyable if you add at least one of the region's spectacular annual festivals to your travel itinerary.

The multitude of celebrations and religious festivals of Provence offer anyone visiting the region a unique and personal insight into the local culture and heritage that has made this area so popular with visitors from all over the world.

Avignon Festival

Witness the streets of Avignon come alive for three weeks in July with a spectacular show of performing arts and dance. The entire city turns into a stage as performers entice and excite crowds with over 40 shows being performed. The gala event takes place in the Honour Courtyard located in the Palace of the Popes, where the famous Gérard Philippe once performed to crowds of cheering fans. If you are planning to take a holiday in Provence, be sure to avoid disappointment by booking your accommodation early, as this city often finds itself packed to capacity during the month of July.

Summer music festival in Lourmarin

Running from the start of July and ending in late August, this seven week summer festival showcases the talents of numerous world class chamber music orchestras and pianists. The main repertoire of the performers focuses on the works of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. When you go on holiday in Provence, be sure to book your seat at one of these spectacular classical music shows to enjoy an authentic musical experience.

Cannes Film Festival

The internationally renowned Cannes Film Festival, which is held annually on the French Riviera in May, attracts celebrities and film stars from countries all over the world. Although the main event is by invitation only, smaller screenings of independent films take place in a multitude of cinemas across the city. If you are an avid film buff on holiday in Provence, you will not be disappointed by including this glittering event on your itinerary - even if just to watch the stars arrive.

Vaison Dance Festival

Showcasing many diverse styles and dance cultures, this colourful event, which takes place in July, comes alive with expression and movement to enthral audiences of all ages. Shows take place in the magnificent Roman theatre located in the heart of Vaison-la-Romaine, whose spectacular architecture provides the perfect backdrop for this energetic festival.

The Choregies d'Orange

As night falls during the long summer evenings, famous symphonies and world class musicians converge in the magnificent Roman theatre located in Orange. With the rear theatre wall extending an impressive 103 metres across and 37 metres high, the acoustics rival any modern day musical stage. Music lovers booking their holiday in Provence will definitely want to include this event on their travel itinerary.

Liz Olkowicz is the Business Development Manager for Footprint Holidays, a tour operator, based in Surrey. If you are looking for a self-guided walking holiday in Provence look no further. Explore the countryside, beautiful coastlines and charming villages on a holiday in Provence with Footprint Holidays.

Living in Portugal: Practical Steps to Buy a Property in Portugal

The process of buying a property in Portugal is not as strictly regulated in this country as it is in France or Spain. However, this step is exhausting and comes with a myriad of details that need to be taken care of. Despite strong competition from other countries, Portugal still is a preferred destination for UK expats. Those who want to move to this country can buy a property in the Algarve, Lisbon, Alentejo, Porto and other regions. From start to finish, the entire process can take anywhere between a week and five months.

Here are the basic steps involved in buying a property in Portugal:

Determine Your Needs

Decide what type pf property you want to buy. Are you looking for a retirement home, a holiday home, a permanent residence, or an investment? This will help you focus on your priorities - for example, being close to the beach, schools, or shops. Do you want a quiet lifestyle or an active social life? Would you prefer to live in an area with a mix of expats and locals? Are you willing to rent your house out?

Get a Fiscal Number

Anyone can buy a house in this European country. However, it is important to be aware that non-residents need to obtain a Número Fiscal de Contribuinte or a Fiscal Number from the local tax office. This number is used on all documents related to the purchase of the house. If you are married, then both you and your husband must obtain a Fiscal Number.

Analyze Your Budget

When you buy a property in Portugal, you have to be aware of all the costs involved. Buyers have to pay the following taxes:

• Real estate agent's fees
• Fiscal representation fees
• Legal fees
• Land registry fees
• Property registration fees
• Notary fees
• Stamp duty
• IMT or Municipal Transfer Tax (Imposto Municipal Sobre Transmissões Onerosas de Imóveis)
• Registration of mortgage
• Registration of purchase

Hire a Lawyer

It is necessary to appoint a lawyer or a solicitor to act on your behalf. A lawyer will perform more detailed investigations during the purchase, while a solicitor will only perform the basic actions required to ensure the purchase of a property in Portugal.

Get Documents Ready

Before you buy a house in Portugal, its owner must provide you with four documents, including:

• Licença de Utilização - Confirms that the property's description is in accordance with the house you are buying.
• Caderneta Predial - Confirms the size of the building and its boundaries.
• Ficha Tecnica de Habitação - Gives detailed information about the property.
• Certidão de Teor - This document shows that the seller has title to the property.

Both parties must sign a Promissory Contract after all the correct checks have been made. Once this document is in place, the Deed of Purchase and Sale is released.

Moving to Portugal and buying a house in this country can be difficult and exhausting, but it's well worth the effort. Whether you choose to live in the Algarve, Lisbon, Porto or other important region, you will enjoy the peaceful lifestyle and idyllic landscapes.

Polar Expeditions - Know Your Whales

Many species of whale migrate back to the Arctic during the summer months when the vast areas of winter sea ice have melted. The nutrient rich waters and churning currents of the Arctic and sub-Arctic seas provide the perfect environment for these iconic animals to feed. If you are planning to take a boat cruise whilst on your polar expeditions, you will be in the perfect position to see these magnificent creatures up close. Read on for a list of the whales you may be lucky enough to see.

The Bowhead Whale

Bowhead Whales, otherwise known as "Bowheads" are a large species of baleen whale which do not migrate out from the Arctic waters. They have a light underside and are a dark grey on the back. Their name is taken from the bowed appearance of their mouths. The species' most significant features are the elevated nostrils and distinctive lack of a dorsal fin. The most often sighted whale on polar expeditions in the Arctic area, the Bowhead spends most of its life near to the southern winter ice boundary.


Humpback Whales, recognized by their long flippers and distinctive hump located just above a pair of small dorsal fins, are another species of baleen whale that can be found feeding on the abundance of krill in the cold Arctic oceans. Being a very active and social whale, they often swim together in small groups called pods. Whilst on your polar expeditions, you may be lucky enough to view this graceful creature, whose distinctive song can be heard underwater by other whales many miles away.

Fin Whale

The Fin Whale is the second largest species of whale in the world. This impressive mammal has a long, slender body which allows it to move relatively quickly underwater. It is a brownish-grey colour on top with a lighter underbelly that has pleated grooves running from its chin down to the navel. Often sighted on polar expeditions, this whale was once heavily hunted but is now on the endangered species list.


Often referred to as the white whale, this small species of whale is insulated by a thick layer of blubber which makes up almost half its weight. This protective layer allows the Beluga to store energy and provides it with excellent thermal protection. Whale watchers on polar expeditions will often spot these creatures swimming between the Arctic icebergs and ice floes commonly found in the northern oceans.

Enjoy the Attractions of Vienna

Holidays by train offer a unique opportunity for the traveller to experience a country in a truly original way; vast vistas of open countryside and hills roll off to the horizon, gliding past as you gaze out of your cabin window.

Whether you are exploring Europe by yourself, with your family, or are on a romantic retreat with a loved one, Vienna is a remarkable city that has many delights just waiting to be discovered whilst on a rail journey. As the capital of Austria, this lively metropolis is buzzing with excitement and promises to offer the traveller an unforgettable experience that will be looked back upon fondly for many years to come. Here are a few of the highlights.

Schönbrunn Palace

If you are planning to take your European holidays by train and are stopping off in Vienna, a visit to the Schönbrunn Palace should be high on your itinerary. This famous cultural monument is a world famous tourist destination. Being part of the World Cultural Heritage, this magnificent palace, with its colorful flower beds and garden mazes, opens its doors to give you a glimpse into the lifestyle of the former Imperial Family that once took up residency here.

Kunsthistorisches Museum

This historic museum, also known as the "Museum of fine arts", is one of the oldest and most well known fine arts museums in the world. It is home to an impressive assortment of rare and priceless pieces, including the treasured Imperial Collection. If your holidays by train allow you to stop over in Vienna, be marvelled by the decadence and incredible wealth of masterpieces on show at this grand museum.

The Imperial Butterfly House

The historic Schmetterlinghau, can be found right at the heart of beautiful Vienna. It forms part of the Hofburg Palace, which is the official residence for the president of Austria. Once you step inside you will be amazed by the hundreds of butterflies that fly free in the recreated tropical rain forest which provides just the right environment for the diverse and colourful species to thrive. If you take your holidays by train, you will be able to enjoy a slower pace - perfect for exploring attractions such as the Imperial Butterfly House, where you will be mesmerized for hours by the rhythmic fluttering of wings.


Designed by the Austrian artist Frederich Hundertwasser, and built in 1985, this unique apartment block is a revolutionary blend of art and functionality. With a roof made from earth and grass, large trees protrude out of windows and grow freely from the walls and balconies. European holidays by train through Vienna will provide you with the time you need to relax and explore the unique architecture of the Hundertwasserhaus, with its multicoloured apartment blocks and unique approach to redesigning a futuristic urban dwelling.

Anna Copeland is the Marketing Manager for Danube Express, which specialises in European holidays by train. Danube Express have a range of exclusive train holidays to Europe, travelling across countries like Poland, Hungary and Turkey.

The Majestic Mammals of India

India is a vast and fascinating continent, home to some of the world's most precious species of plants and animals. Owing to its abundant diversity of wildlife, it is a top destination for viewing large mammals, including the Bengal Tiger. Travel through this amazing landscape and witness how man and animal live side by side in this luscious paradise.

If you are an avid nature lover and are planning a trip to India, here is a list of some of the magnificent animals you will be able to see.

The Indian Elephant

Native to the Asian mainland, the Indian Elephant is a slightly smaller species compared to its relative, the African Elephant. Its specially adapted wide feet allow for the even distribution of this animal's hefty weight over a large surface area. The thick soles of the feet make excellent shock absorbers which cushion its body whilst walking or running. Their most significant feature is the large tusks which often extend out a distance of five feet or more. Due to its size and stature, the Indian Elephant is in no danger of being preyed upon by the Tiger. Travel to India to see this wonderful animal and you may even be able to experience a ride through the jungle on a domesticated elephant.

The Indian Rhinoceros

Found in most parts of north eastern India, this majestic mammal is included on the vulnerable species list. It is the second largest rhinoceros in the world, with an extremely thick skin that is silver-brown in colour. Also known as the Greater One-horned Rhino, both the males and females have a single horn composed of compressed keratin. If you are hoping to see the rhino as well as the Tiger, travel with a specialised tour group into the dense jungle for the best opportunity of a sighting.

Indian Leopard

The Indian Leopard is one of the biggest cats found in India and also one of the most sought after animals for viewing by tourists - second only to the Tiger. Travel in the jungle is a way of life for the locals; however, they are always aware of the danger these stealthy animals present, as they remain well camouflaged in the forest undergrowth.

Bengal Tiger

Often referred to as the most dangerous wild cat in India, the Bengal Tiger is also one of the most spectacular. Being the national animal of India and an icon of India's wealth of wildlife, the Bengal Tiger holds a special place in the hearts of the proud Indian people.

Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer. If you're looking for Tiger travel, Naturetrek specialises in expert-led natural history and wildlife tours worldwide. Naturetrek brings over 25 years of experience to Tiger travel in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.