Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy New Year to one & all

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Picture Credit: coloneljohnbritt Happy New Year! via photopin

Japanese restaurants boom in London

FROM Shoreditch to St James's, Oxford, Victoria and Islington the Japanese food revolution is seeing a rebirth in the form of new restaurants, refurbishments and redevelopments.

Sticks ‘N’ Sushi - 2 New Stores in Victoria and Oxford set to open in 2017. A Nordic Japanese food chain founded 20 years ago by Danish-Japanese brothers serving sushi alongside skewers as well as a whole host of other mouthwatering Japanese-inspired dishes. With two new stores set to open in 2017 - one in London’s Nova development in Victoria (February) and another in Oxford’s long-awaited Westgate redevelopment, which will almost double their UK presence.

Anzu - Affordable Teishoku by Tonkotsu Ramen. At Anzu the house speciality is “teishoku”, or Japanese traditional set meals composed of a main dish, rice, miso soup and pickles.

Sumosan Twiga - Japanese + Italian. This new venture ultimately sees Sumosan make a short hop from its previous abode in Mayfair to team up with Italian restaurant Twiga in a new home in Sloane Square.
The restaurant specialises in serving award-winning sushi, sashimi and other high-end Japanese food alongside classic Italian dishes, with different chefs in charge of the two different cuisines: Konstantin Tskhay for the Japanese fare, and Ferdinando Palomba for the Italian side of things.

Onodera - Matsuri to be Reborn in Spring 2017. New name, new menu, same enviable location - it’s the self-proclaimed “end of an era” for this long-standing St. James’s institution, as Japanese grill Matsuri St.James’s reopens following a 2.5 million makeover as a modern Japanese restaurant called Onodera.

Nobu Hotel Willow Street. A new hotel/restaurant development by Nobu is slated to open in the trendy Shoreditch area in early 2017. Part of an aggressive global expansion plan by Nobu Hospitality, the new hotel in London will be its first European property.

Bob Bob Ricard moves into the Cheesegrater. The owners of iconic luxury Soho restaurant Bob Bob Ricard, equipped with its fabled “Press for Champagne” buttons at each table, is famous for pouring more champagne than any other restaurant in the UK. Its new incarnation swaps its Russian/English menu for Japanese.

Katsute 100 - Unwind amongst the cobbled streets, quaint houses and antique markets of Camden Passage, just a stone’s throw away from bustling Upper Street, while sipping on a Japanese-inspired brew of your choice at new Japanese tea cafe Katsute 100.

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Picture Credit: Linh H. Nguyen Rainbow Sushi Roll via photopin

Total NYC Visitors Surpasses 60 Million for the first time

IN a recent announcement by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and #NYC & Company New York City will welcome an all-time record 60.3 million visitors by year’s end, surpassing the 60 million visitor milestone for the first time ever, and representing the seventh consecutive year of travel and tourism growth for the City.

The new figure is 600,000 visitors higher than the original forecast of 59.7 million announced earlier this year, and 1.8 million more visitors than last year’s revised year-end figure of 58.5 million. Travel and tourism now sustains more than 375,000 jobs in New York City, representing a gain of 15,000 jobs over the last year.

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Picture Credit: AndrewDallos 69434422@N00/28183672944 via photopin

Friday, 30 December 2016

Free buses for Hogmanay revellers in Edinburgh

ORGANISERS of #Edinburgh’s #Hogmanay have once again teamed up with the world’s leading premium drinks company, Diageo, Lothian Buses and the City of Edinburgh Council to provide Free Hogmanay NightBus Services to get revellers home after the world famous Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations. 

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, which is produced by Unique Events on behalf of the City of Edinburgh Council, will welcome 75,000 revellers to the Street Party,
Concert in the Gardens and the Old Town Ceilidh with Belhaven on 31 December.

The Free Hogmanay NightBus Service, provided by Lothian Buses and supported by Diageo and the City of Edinburgh Council, will operate from 00:20am to 04:00am on Sunday 1 January from the city centre to a range of destinations. 

Full details of the free Hogmanay buses can be found at: 

Picture Credit: Patrick_Down The Year's End (365/365) via photopin

Ottawa 2017 celebrations kick off

2017 will mark Canada's 150th birthday, being the anniversary of the 1867 British North America Act, which created the country called #Canada. The date became known as Dominion Day, and in 1982 its name was changed to #CanadaDay.

Join the celebrations on December 31st, before the celebrations start at Parliament Hill, there will be an early-evening, family-friendly celebration that will include the lighting of a spectacular cauldron at Ottawa City Hall.

The sparking of this special landmark will cue hundreds of Ottawa-area students to form a 750 metre human chain (Fire of Friendship Torch Relay) to Parliament Hill.  
The celebrations will then continue on Parliament Hill until midnight, some of the festivities will also be projected on a giant screen at City Hall.

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Picture Credit: By Connor Turner from Calgary, Canada - Parliment Hill - The Bell Tower From BelowUploaded by Skeezix1000, CC BY-SA 2.0,

America see increase in travel & tourism spend from international visitors

Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Ken Hyatt recently announced that international visitors spent more than $21 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the #UnitedStates in October, an increase of more than two percent ($493 million) when compared to October 2015.

"In October, U.S. #travel and #tourism exports hit another record. Travel and tourism remains a vital export for the United States and these exports support more than one million jobs across our country," said Hyatt. "Today's data highlights continued growth in this sector with international visitors spending, on average, $672 million a day on travel and tourism services in the United States in October."

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Picture Credit: Andy Morffew The Iconic Image via photopin

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Accessible Germany

THE German National Tourist Office UK and Ireland (GNTO) has announced a new hotels section from 2017, on its accessible travel website ‘Discover Germany BarrierFree’.

From youth hostels to 5-Star hotels, 33 establishments with accessible rooms will be listed here, providing accommodation choices for all preferences.

Through the dedicated website, visitors can plan their journey to Germany from beginning to end independently, or via a reputable travel operator.

In July 2016, the GNTO also launched ‘Feeling Fearless’, an accessible holiday guide to extraordinary accessible activities in Germany, including white water rafting, skiing, climbing and cycling.

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Meliá Hotels International continues its growth in Cape Verde

Meliá Hotels International continues its international growth in #CapeVerde, where it currently has two hotels operating on Sal Island, the Meliá Tortuga Beach and Meliá Dunas Beach Resort & Spa. 

At the end of this year a third hotel in Sal, the Meliá Llana Beach Resort & Spa (Adults Only) is scheduled to open, and in the coming years the Meliá White Sands and Meliá Salamansa will also be opened. Along with the resort announced today, they will take the number of hotels operated under the Meliá Hotels & Resorts brand in Cape Verde to 8, with a total of nearly 4,000 rooms.

Cape Verde hopes to attract more than half a million international tourists this year, a figure that continues to grow and makes it ever closer to becoming the African Caribbean. The beauty of its scenery and unspoilt beaches, and an annual average temperature of 27º, make this archipelago a region with enormous potential to compete with destinations in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands, with the region having one of the fastest-growing economies in #Africa.

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Picture Credit: CarolineG2011 58108850@N07/16696353652 Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde via photopin

Super Bowl 51

FEBRUARY 2017 will see american football fans pour into #Houston for Super Bowl 51. The biggest single game in American sports will be played at Reliant Stadium bringing a multitude of visitors, unprecedented global media attention and tremendous economic impact to Houston. 

This is the third Super Bowl for Houston. The city last hosted the big game at Reliant Stadium in 2004. If you can’t manage tickets to the big game, get in the spirit by catching the ongoing Houston #SuperBowl Touchdown Tour or Super Bowl Live in Discovery Green park. 

Both events are free admission.

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Picture Credit:  Thomas Hawk 51035555243@N01/24471372192 Football America via photopin

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Kitzbühel crowned “Austria’s Best Ski Resort”

Kitzbühel was crowned “Austria’s Best Ski Resort” at this year’s World #Ski Awards, a title was also awarded to the Bergbahn AG Kitzbühel as “World’s Best Ski Resort Company”.

The Bergbahn AG Kitzbühel invested no less than €26.5m last season – the largest amount in its history. The Brunn Project was the main point of investment, opening up a whole new world of quality and standards of comfort. For even better skiing in Winter 2016/17, there have also been major improvements to the artificial snowmaking facilities.

The renowned Hahnenkamm races and the Snow Polo World Cup take place in Kitzbühel. A further bonus is Kitzbühel’s accessibility from the UK. Situated in West #Austria in the middle of the Tirolean Alps, it is within easy reach of three international airports – Salzburg (80km), Innsbruck (95km) and Munich (125km).

To find out more, visit or

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Picture Credit: Joachim Götz 68222897@N00/16543123566 P1050991 via photopin

Best holiday destinations on a budget for 2017

AS an award-winning travel search site understands a few things about how to break-in a new suitcase without breaking the piggy bank. So with 2017 on the horizon, the travel site here lists its top budget holiday destinations for next year – be it sea, snow, or city.

Momondo’s spokesperson Neil Cartwright states: 

“Holidays shouldn’t rhyme with worries and restrictions – that’s best left at home. Go abroad and let loose in a destination where you’ll get more bang for your buck. Affordable drinks, great food without sacrifice, free museums, and walking tours make like a winning ticket for a holiday on a budget.

January – Sofia, Bulgaria

Sofia is an idyllic getaway during wintertime when all the buildings wear a pristine snowy glow. After you’ve visited Sofia’s iconic gold-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, grab the family and strap on some ice skates at Ariana Lake. Each year the lake in Borisova Garden freezes and becomes a giant ice rink, accessible throughout the winter months and early spring.

Surrounded by mountains, escape the city for a day to ride some snowy slopes. In a 30-minute drive, Vitosha Mountain is yours to conquer. January offers good skiing conditions – stay warm after a day on the snow at one of the many mineral spas in the region.

– San Antonio, Texas, USA

Welcome to San Antonio, Texas, home of the Battle of the Alamo. The 1836 battle for independence from Mexico remains one of the city’s main attractions, so book a Battlefield Tour around the mission grounds. Everything’s bigger in Texas, they say, so catch a rowdy rodeo or visit the Natural Bridge Caverns, three kilometres (2 miles) of underground tunnels.

Stroll through the Hemisfair, an area of urban parks and landmarks like the Tower of Americas observation tower or the outdoor Market Square. Mariachi performances or Hispanic festivals bring to life the stalls selling foods and clothes that remind you how close you are to the Mexican border. 

March – Valparaíso, Chile

Aboard the Artilleria funicular railway, take in the view of the colonial UNESCO World Heritage city of Valparaíso. In Cerro Artillería, shops have everything you need for souvenirs like alpaca wool products and aquarelles. The hilly residential areas like Cerro Bellavista with its Museo a Cielo Abierto, open air museum of murals, or Cierros Alegre and Concepcion with their painted houses are the perfect places to get a hint of the chaotic ambiance of the city.

With temperatures around 23°C, the seaside is tempting. Head to Viña del Mar for sandy beaches and nice beachside bars. The season is opportune for wine harvest festivals, so wine-lovers should head along the Valparaíso-Santiago Route 68, also known as the Casablanca Valley wine route, for a taste of the refined white wines of Casablanca Valley.

April – Braga, Portugal

Plan ahead if coming to Braga during Semana Santa (the week before Easter) – hotels are a hot commodity but the festivities are well worth that extra stretch of budget. Just outside of the city at Tenões join in the fervour of pilgrims zig-zagging up the hill to the baroque-style church Bom Jesus do Monte (Good Jesus of the mount). To head back home, grab the funicular, dating back to 1882, that links the sanctuary to the city of Braga.

Braga has all the charm of old-town Portugal with the perks of a youthful university city thanks to the student crowd from Universidade de Minho. Cathedral towers keep a watchful eye on the narrow streets that stream through the city, lined with restaurants and bars. The 12th century Sé de Braga (Cathedral of Braga) is the country’s oldest cathedral. Scattered throughout the old centre, peek into one of the many chapels, the Capela dos Coimbras (Chapel of the Coimbras) to see a typical azulejo fresco.

May – Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain

Beach, sun, and Spanish cuisine – what more could you ask for? Open your appetite with a seaside stroll along Paseo de las Canteras that hugs the beach by the same name. Bathing is high on the holiday agenda in Las Palmas, especially at low tide when the reef, known as La Barra, transforms Las Canteras into snorkeler’s paradise. Take the Avenida Maritima that leads to the fishing village San Cristóbal which is said to have the best seafood eateries in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

June – Yerevan, Armenia

Give in to the minibus chaos to criss-cross your way through the city – for 100 Dram, and a loudly shouted “stop!” you’ll be dropped off at the Yerevan’s prized monuments. The pedestrian Northern Avenue takes you from the opera to the fountains at Republic Square. Imposing Soviet era buildings by day, elegant backdrop to a light and water show at night, the Republic Square is inevitably a must-see.

Enjoy the long summer nights in the pink city, as it’s called due to the pinkish stones of the buildings, at the café terraces, while snacking on lamehjun (Armenian-style pizza). Rebuilt to hide the scars of wars and natural disasters, most of Yerevan’s current attire is only a century old. Yerevan’s oldest heritage lies along the outskirts of the city where the Hrazdan River and deep gorge create a natural border.

July – Belfast, Northern Ireland

As you wander around Belfast, by foot or aboard a Black Taxi, you won’t be able to miss the peace lines (walls between Protestant and Catholic neighbourhoods) and commemorative murals. You’ll also see many reminders of Belfast’s shipbuilding history – don’t miss the Titanic Belfast, tribute to the launching of the Titanic in 1912, and the Titanic Memorial on the grounds by City Hall.

August – Lviv, Ukraine

Wrapped in the warm breeze of a Ukrainian summer, explore the streets of Lviv as they lead you to the heart of the city. It’s here at Rynok Square that you’ll find people cooling off by the four fountains adorned with figures of Greek and Roman mythology. Only a few steps away, the wings of the Chapel of the Boim Family shelter coffee shop terraces – make sure to go to Світ кави (Coffee World) for its varieties of coffee and cosy interior.

September – Pristina, Kosovo

Spared from tourism, rich in tradition, and focused on writing their history as a recognised state, Kosovo and its capital, Pristina, challenge you to an open-minded visit far from preconceptions. First and foremost, partake in locals’ favourite hobby – enjoying a good cup of coffee. Grab a macchiato at the bookshop Dit’ e Nat’ before going to the neighbourhood north of the city centre, lined with mosques and the old clock tower, remnant of the Ottoman Empire rule.

October – Panama City, Panama

Barely arrived in Panama City, hop on a boat through the famous canal, floating under the Bridge of Americas, built as part of the Pan-American Highway connecting the North and South Americas. On land, meander through the UNESCO World Heritage Site ruins of Old Town Panama, victim of total destruction in 1671 to “save” the city from a pirate attack. You can still see the city’s foundations and cathedral tower, but a scale model of the city at the Visitor’s Centre gives you the full picture.

Panama’s riches lie in its biodiversity – a cable car ride through the jungle of nearby Gamboa or a visit to the colourful Biomuseo designed by Frank Gehry place Panama’s spectacular nature in centre stage.

November – Kalamata, Greece

Start your visit to Kalamata via the shores of the Mediterranean. Sea kayak along the cliffs and by rock formations, taking breaks to dip into the warm waters of the Messinian gulf. In-between beach breaks, visit Kalamata’s historical centre, wandering through the gardens leading up to Kalamata Castle on the hill dominating the city. To make the most of the last warm nights of autumn, join the crowds on Latropoulou pedestrian street for a late night snack – the lalagia, sweet fried dough strips will do just the trick!

December – Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Hosts of the Winter Olympics in 1984, Sarajevo knows how to do winter. If snow has started falling in December, skiiers can catch the slopes on Mount Jahorina and rent equipment at an affordable price.

On sunny winter days, sit at a terrace in Baščaršija, Sarajevo’s historical Ottoman city centre. Reminders of the Siege of Sarajevo in 1992 are inevitable as you visit the rest of the city – learn and experience a bit about the recent war by visiting the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum built around the tunnel that served as a vital artery in supplying occupied Sarajevo with food and medical care.

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Picture Credit: meducauk Alexander Nevsky Cathedral via photopin, Miradortigre Paisaje de Coyhaique via photopin, Bengt Nyman D8E_7261 via photopin, Johnny Titanic Museum, Belfast via photopin, dronepicr 132646954@N02/26878155830 Panama City via photopin, Jonathan Retico 52094030@N05/20626619680 Baščaršija via photopin