Blog

Minimalist Office Essentials
June 19, 2017

Minimalist Office Essentials

The minimalist style is very subtle yet extremely popular. The idea is to be as minimal as possible and keep things nice and simple. Nowadays, there’s a growing trend that sees a lot of offices adopting this style.

As such, we thought we’d bring you a guide to the minimalist office essentials. Below, you’ll find loads of things that would look great in a minimalist office:

Special Edition 675 Chair From Robin Day 

Finding a minimalist office chair can be fairly easy as most chairs aren’t really that ‘out there.' Still, you want chairs that are very simple and don’t have too many complicated design elements. Something like the Special Edition 675 Chair from Robin Day. This is a very elegant chair made from molded plywood with a steel frame. You even have a choice of colours on the seat cushion as well. Extremely minimalistic yet highly elegant and a real premium chair.

METIS Desk

There are so many great minimalist office desks around, but we think you should look for something that provides you with great value for your money. What we mean is that you find a minimalist desk that offers more functions than a typical office desk. Something like the METIS Desk would be perfect. Not only do you get a gorgeous minimal wooden desk that’s expertly crafted in Portugal, but you also get a lot of storage space. There are loads of secret compartments tucked away to help you get clutter off your desk and hidden from view.

Bose Bluetooth Speakers

Wires are a massive issue in a minimalist workspace. They create the one thing you’re trying to remove; clutter. By using a MacBook instead of a PC, you already get rid of a lot of wires. You can make things even better by buying wireless speakers. The Bose SoundLink Revolve Bluetooth speakers are a perfect addition to your desk. There are no wires, and they have a quintessential minimalist design to them; a match made in heaven.

Hello Rhei Clock

A clock is one of the few things you can afford to have on your desk in your minimalist office. There are so many options to choose from, but our favourite is the Hello Rhei clock. This is an exquisite piece that combines ultra-modern design with revolutionary technology. Hello Rhei uses a unique liquid display to show the time and form different shapes; there’s nothing on the market quite like it. It may only be in the prototype phase, but this is definitely a great clock for your office.

Monteverde Pen

One of the main concepts of being a minimalist is taking a simple object and getting as much out of it as possible. This way, you only need one thing instead of cluttering up your life with multiple objects. The Monteverde Pen is a great example of this as it takes a simple office pen to new levels. You get a ruler, screwdriver, a leveler, and a stylus, all rolled into one. It’s the ultimate office tool and will be perfect for your minimalist office.

Read more →

5 Ways to Clean your Leather Shoes
June 19, 2017

5 Ways to Clean your Leather Shoes

Leather shoes are extremely popular as they’re very durable yet stylish. However, taking care of leather shoes demands more effort than most other shoes. You need to know the correct way to clean them, from the laces to the outsole.

Bearing that in mind, here are five ways you can clean your leather shoes:

Use A Washing Machine For The Laces

Often, it's the laces that can become the dirtiest part of your shoes. What you need to do is remove them from your shoe completely. Not only does this give you a chance to clean them separately, but it also makes it a lot easier to clean the shoes properly.

By cleaning the laces, you ensure your leather shoes are much cleaner in general. One great tip is to put the laces in the washing machine. This frees up your time and can provide a more thorough clean of the material.

Cleaning your leather shoes

Remove Dirt & Grime With A Soft Brush

If you wear your leather shoes a lot, they can easily get covered in dirt and grime. Especially if you've been walking around in muddy terrain. One really easy way to clean dirty leather shoes is by getting a soft shoe brush. This allows you to scrub off the dirty without scraping the leather too hard and damaging your shoes. Try mixing some mild soap with warm water if you have trouble getting tough debris free.

Get Rid Of Tough Stains With Rubbing Alcohol

There may be times where you drop something on your leather shoe, and it stains badly in certain areas. Don’t worry, you can easily clean these tough stains with rubbing alcohol. You don’t want to use too much, all you need is a little q-tip dipped in the alcohol and rubbed onto the stains. Rubbing alcohol can dry out the leather, so you want to use it sparingly and only in places with very tough stains.

Use A Homemade Cleaning Paste

One top tip for cleaning your leather shoes is to make a homemade paste out of cream of tartar and lemon juice. Both of these things include natural ingredients that are proven to fight tough stains. You mix up this paste and then dip a soft rag into it. Use the rag to clean the shoes and watch the stains disappear.

Condition The Leather

Leather is susceptible from drying out, particularly after cleaning. As a result, you must ensure you condition the leather to keep it looking nice and clean. To do this, you can buy leather conditioners from shops, or you can make one yourself. Homemade leather conditioner is very easy to put together, you just need vinegar and linseed oil. Mix it up, and lather your leather shoes in it. Go away for a few minutes and use a soft cloth to buff the leather and get it nice and shiny.

There you have it, five ways you can clean your leather shoes thoroughly. Now, you’ll always have shiny leather shoes that are completely clean all over, including the laces!

Read more →

Top Modernist Houses in Amsterdam
June 19, 2017

Top Modernist Houses in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is famous for its many amazing pieces of architecture, from Anne Frank House to the modernist Van Gogh Museum, but it’s unique architectural designs stretch a lot further than just famous attractions. From some of the world’s narrowest houses to a house that’s famed for having many heads, Amsterdam is home to an array of the world’s most unique pieces of architecture, including many modernist homes.

Sodae House

Sodae House

Sodae House is one of VMX Architects most fascinating and unique designs. This striking, contemporary building is located in a rural-like natural environment, with strange angles and dramatic shapes making this home completely unique. The three storey design of this property comprises of a kitchen, living area, bathrooms, bedrooms, and a basement complete with a gym and a home cinema; the property even has a small garden attached to it. The contemporary design of this property along with the location that it is situated in gives it a chic, sophisticated vibe.

Lofthouse 1

Lofthouse 1

A Marc Koehler Architects’ creation, Lofthouse 1 is located in Houthaven Quay, Amsterdam’s trendy sea port. What gives this unusual property a luxurious vibe is its untreated pine cladding and large glass windows framing the gorgeous port that the building overlooks. The minimalist design of Lofthouse 1 also helps to add to its sophisticated style, as does the unique interior design. Inside this property is a large zig-zag staircase that runs from the ground floor up to the third floor, helping to create a more seamless connection between each floor, with one continuous flowing staircase.

Modern Canal Home

A modern canal home is the brainchild of a couple with a love of canal-style living and a passion for modern and minimalist architecture, combined with the design skills of Joris van Hoytema and Anouk Riehl. The concept behind this innovative property was to create a modern version of a traditional tall, slender Dutch canal house, and that’s what the owners have ended up with. The three storey property is light, airy, and wonderfully elegant, it is cladded with untreated wood, and has a range of shutters fitted so that as much or as little light can be let in as the owners like. Despite its modern design, the property fits perfectly into the area and sits snugly between two traditional canal homes.

Ijburg House

For modernist homes, black is a colour that is often used because it creates a sleek, sophisticated and distinctive look. It’s edgy. While most contemporary property designs steer clear of using paint at all, and instead opt to incorporate natural materials like wooden cladding into the design, for Ijburg House black works. Another Marc Koehler Architects’ creation, Ijburg House is located in a recently developed suburb of Amsterdam and is a truly unique space, both in terms of its shape and style. What’s unique about this building is that it combines both closed off and open spaces, with outdoor and indoor spaces flowing naturally into each other. Complete with three bedrooms, a kitchen, living space, and a bathroom, there's more to this property than meets the eye. It also has the potential to be used as an office, an artist's studio, a play area, or a laundrette, as well as a home.

 

There's no doubting that Amsterdam is home to some of the world's most unique and innovative architectural creations.

 

 

Read more →

The Art of Fabric Production
June 19, 2017

The Art of Fabric Production

Most fabrics are made by weaving, knitting, or crocheting yarns together following a certain pattern or design. However, some fabrics that aren’t woven are made via bonding or felting of fibres, as well as via printing. When it comes to the appearance of a fabric, it all comes down to how it was designed and constructed. However fabric is designed, it’s important to realise that it’s an art - fabric design requires skill and experience to get right, it’s not a simple task.

Woven fabrics, such as materials that have been knitted, crocheted or weaved, are the result of a certain movement that has woven the wool or cotton together to create the fabric. These fabrics tend to be stronger than non-woven fabrics, despite the modern methods of fabric creation being used. That being said, modern fabric creation tends to mean that the materials don’t fray and are able to be washed more easily than traditional woven fabrics.

What are the most useful modern fabrics & how are they beneficial?

How fabric is produced nowadays

There are many benefits to modern fabrics, as these tend to be designed to maximise certain characteristics, such as being breathable, lightweight, and even waterproof in some instances. The most commonly used modern fabrics include microfibre, polar-fleece, gore-tex, and heat sensitive and light sensitive material. Each of these fabrics has different properties and uses, for instance, some are breathable, lightweight, and warm, while others are waterproof, hypoallergenic, and perspiration proof.

What’s the process of creating modern fabrics?

How a fabric is created depends on the fabric type - each fabric requires different creation techniques. For modern fabrics, manufacturers are using developments in technology to improve their properties, helping to make them more adaptable.

Synthetic fibres - which most modern fabrics are made from - are usually the result of development by scientists who have used natural fibres as inspiration, such as plant or animal fibres and developed them, some materials are now made from recycled materials such as recycled plastic or metal, that’s how far science has come. Usually, synthetic fibres are created by forcing fibre forming materials through spinnerets, creating a thread. These threads are then woven, heated, or stuck together to form a piece of fabric.

How fabrics are used nowadays

Today, the fabric manufacturing processes are very different to the ones that were used 50 years ago. There’s a range of software that can be used to automate the creation of fabrics, from felted pieces to woven designs, making fabric manufacturing quicker and more precise, leaving less room for design errors. For the creation of fabrics CAD and CAM software is commonly used, as this kind of software can create a range of fabrics, from patterned printed pieces to microfibre designs.

Fabrics are so innovative thanks to advancements in the fibres that are available and how software and machinery is used to create large pieces of smart or modern material. Fabric making is truly an art, as there’s a lot of skill required to be able to produce fabric that is both aesthetically pleasing and adaptable. Fabric creation is no easy task, that’s for sure - it’s a science.

Read more →

Best 5 Christmas Spots on North Hemisphere
December 16, 2016

Best 5 Christmas Spots on North Hemisphere

Green leafs

Everyone dreams of a white Christmas just as much as the next person but with the festive period approaching, where can you actually find one? Or maybe you just want to get away somewhere for the holiday period and experience a different atmosphere? Well, sit back while we help you make your decision because here are the Best 5 Christmas Spots on North Hemisphere:

  • Krakow, Poland
  • krakow city skyline
  • The stunning blanket of fairy lights scattered across St Mary’s Square in Krakow is almost reason alone to visit Krakow at Christmas time, but then this medieval city is overflowing with other charms, beauty and attractions. From the imposing Wawel Castle, the winding cobblestone streets, the many inviting chocolate shops and world class restaurants or the horse-drawn carts which make it feel like you have stepped back in time to another era altogether. Yes, Krakow is infused with fine architecture, interesting places to see and things to do but that’s before we even mention the Christmas Markets.

    During Christmas in Krakow, St Mary’s Square comes alive with an enormous range of stalls and food vendors selling everything from traditional sausages to mulled wine, Belgian waffles, perogies and cheap vodka to help the revelers keep warm. Few places in Europe or even the world can replicate the warm Christmas atmosphere in Krakow, Poland and to make things even more enticing, the city is not only one of the most affordable places to reach but also one of the best value places to stay.

  • New York, USA
  • New York during winter. Street and parked cars covered in snow.

    Start spreading the news, we’re leaving today, we’ll make a brand new start of it….New York, New York. Nowhere in the world can rival the Big Apple for the holiday feel and if it happens to snow when you visit, you will likely feel as though you’ve been transported into one of your favorite Christmas movie. Obviously nothing closes in New York and the “City that never sleeps” offers an opportunity for every visitor to explore the usual landmarks in between shopping and general festivities – The Empire States Building, Ground Zero, Ellis Island, Central Park etc.

    That being said, even if white powder fails to show during your stay in New York at Christmas, the warm atmosphere created by locals and visiting tourists is as much an attraction as anything else. New Yorkers get a bad rap when it comes to a reputation for being unfriendly but Christmas is different and a feeling of goodwill is always present. And if you do arrive in New York without interest for the famous sights or friendly people, the range of shopping, restaurants and bars is usually enough to make for an unforgettable Christmas.

  • Tallinn, Estonia
  • Tallin city view during winter

    Although Prague, Czech Republic could easily have made it onto this list, having already chosen Krakow above we thought it best to look a little further afield and here we find, Tallin. The capital of Estonia has only recently come into the watchful eyes of travellers and offers another Medieval experience with a high likelihood of snow.

    With a beautiful old city on the doorstep and the nearby Kadriorg park, you will never be short of interesting places to take a stroll, while the historic buildings and museums also tell an interesting story. Speaking of museums, do not miss out on the submarines and boats in Seaplane Harbour. Okay, can we be honest? Tallin is not the cheapest place in Europe to spend Christmas and may end up costing a lot more than most cities but then again, what is money next to a city which offers so many unique experiences as Tallin.

  • Montreal, Canada
  • People playing on the snow

    Known for a French speaking community, lively nightlife and unbelievable food – Montreal not only guarantees you a fun visit but also the most likely chance of snow of any city in the Northern Hemisphere. Seriously, if you want a white Christmas, skip New York and head further north where hotel rates are surprisingly cheap in December and you can indulge in a spot of skiing, dog sledding or even ice fishing.

    Visit Golden Square Mile for glorious food, Ste Catherine Street for world class shopping, the stoney streets of Old Montreal for some history and the underground city to witness a most impressive Christmas tree in all its glory. Montreal also has a reputation for being able to throw a party but who needs an excuse to let the hair down at Christmas, right?

  • Dublin, Ireland
  • People walking on Dublin city centre

    The Kings and Queens of hospitality, if you have already visited Ireland then you will know how warm, friendly and welcoming the locals are in the Emerald Isle. Pubs, cafes and quaint restaurants are full to the brim throughout Christmas week, the shopping is like a scaled down version of London, the food is heartily good and the nightlife, well, it’s unbeatable.

    Spend the day exploring the Guinness Factory, Old Kilmainham Gaol, Trinity College, U2’s first recording studios and the very home of the infamous poet William B Yeats. Yes, Dublin is another city that never sleeps and you could literally spend weeks here checking out the attractions before you get close to enjoying some Christmas shopping. Prices are a little high and hotel vacancies can be scarce if not booked in advance, but when you find yourself sitting next to a turf fire with a pint of Guinness and some traditional music jamming in the corner, you will need no reminders why this is one of the most popular cities in Europe with or without Christmas.

     



    Derek is an Irish travel blogger and loves marketing & advertising. Has travelled all around the world including Australia & New Zealand.

    Read more →

    The Architecture of Zaha Hadid
    December 12, 2016

    The Architecture of Zaha Hadid

    Photo by Helene Binet

    Zaha Hadid was a British-Iraqi architect who was a pioneer in her field. In 2004, she was the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, and in 2015, she was also the first woman to win the RIBA Gold Medal on her own. Her avant-garde style included work in parametricism, as well as neo-futurism. Hadid is responsible for buildings in the UK, US and other countries around the world which include China, Germany, and the UAE. Her education began at boarding schools in England and Switzerland and after some years she went to study mathematics in Beirut. Hadid grew up with an industrialist father and artist mother and this most likely influenced her to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London.

    In 2016 Zaha told designboom that she wanted to be an architect since she was a little girl. She fondly recalled seeing the plans for a house her aunt was building in Mosul in Iraq. She spoke about her early days at the Architectural Association. She said, "I have always been interested in the concept of fragmentation.", and she was also interested in the "ideas of abstraction and explosion", which are the ideas "where we were de-constructing ideas of repetitiveness and mass production." She also spoke about how there is "a lot of fluidity now between art, architecture and fashion." Hadid believed that designs benefit from input from others.

    Photo by Helene Binet

    In a 2007 interview, she was asked to describe her style: "virtuoso of elegance." She said that "personal investigation [and] research" went into her style. "It’s laden with so many ideas that one cannot extrude a single one. There is no formal repertoire."

    London Aquatics Centre

    Zaha Hadid was the designer for the London Aquatics Centre, for the 2012 London Olympics. The building was used for the swimming and diving events at the Summer Olympics. The wave-like roof is a distinctive feature that stands out in the park. Hadid designed the centre in 2004 before London won the bid for the 2012 Olympics. Inside, it provides flexible pool spaces and diving platforms, however the centre's design didn't originally include the spectator wings. They were put in later to accommodate the Olympics.

    Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum

    The contemporary Broad MSU art museum is a building at Michigan State University. The museum features a striking facade and it is designed to have "an ever-changing appearance." The facade "arouses curiosity yet never quite reveals its content". The building is focused on angular designs, from the galleries to the coat room. The specifications required it to have at least 26,000 square feet of gallery space and it also has an educational facility, plus a cafe and shop. There is a sculpture garden too, as well as a pedestrian plaza. Hadid won the bid to design the building in 2008, as one of five finalists.

    Guangzhou Opera House

    Photo by Iwan Bann

    Hadid took on several projects in China and one of the most famous of which is the Guangzhou Opera House. Competing against two other architects, Zaha Hadid's "double pebble" design was selected in 2002 with a project that features a glass-clad steel frame, as well as exposed granite. Construction lasted more than five years, and the building opened in 2010. The design was highly praised by critics and it even inspired a fashion collection by Vivienne Tam in 2010. This project highlights Hadid's point about the links between architecture, fashion and art.

    MAXXI National Museum of the 21st Century Arts

    Photo by Iwan Bann

    MAXXI, in Rome, won the RIBA Stirling Prize for architecture in 2010. The building took more than 10 years to complete after Hadid won an international competition to design it. Indeed, when the building was revealed, it was regarded by many as her finest work to date. The design consists of intersecting and overlapping tubes which look like a train or underground network. The building has two museums for art and architecture, with a range of other spaces too.

    Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre

    Photo by Hufton Crow

    The curved and flowing style of the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre in Azerbaijan is a distinctive example of Hadid's work. Further, the absence of sharp lines and edges can be observed inside, as well as outside in which the spaces within the centre are all connected by the flowing form of the building. The exterior of the project was designed to fit in with the landscape and helped to regenerate the city of Baku. In 2014 Hadid was the first woman to win the Design Museum award with the Heydar project.

    Read more →

    Featured Destination: Marrakesh, Morocco
    December 01, 2016

    Featured Destination: Marrakesh, Morocco

    Marrakesh town centre

    There’s an unwritten rule for walking in Moroccan souks. It is imperative to stand on the right or risk being run over. And then there’s the pecking order of who has priority starting with mule carts and traders, mopeds, housewives shopping for the daily meal, and finally tourists. But getting lost in these labyrinthine corridors of intense trade is all part of the Moroccan experience.

    I was in Marrakesh, otherwise known as the Rose Red City. The mud bricks of the medina give it a distinctive hue and character amongst the chaos of the souk. There are traders hammering away at metal lamps in the Blacksmiths Souk whilst the smell of the leather bags and slippers fills the streets in another part. One of the most intriguing parts of the souk is in the Rahba Qedima or the apothecary’s souk. This is like something from Harry Potter where snakeskins hang next to mysterious jars. Walk into the spice merchant here and you’ll see remedies for snoring, colds, and Moroccan Viagra. There’s a hint of black magic in the back of some of these stores too with an array of potions and pots with indecipherable labels. It is, however a superb place to stock up on tagine spices.

    Moroccan spices and medicine

    Cookery lessons are a fabulous way of getting under the skin of Morocco and I walked the food souk with a traditional Moroccan dada who was an expert at haggling, finding the best preserved lemons, and selecting a live chicken for the pot. She pointed out the bread seller, the mint trader, and the olive man. Each quarter in Marrakesh and other Moroccan towns has a water fountain, a madrasa, a hammam, a mosque and a communal bread oven. Back at the dada’s kitchen I learned to make tagine and pastilla, - and dined on the feast.

    Moroccan spices

    But Marrakesh has a bigger feast to enjoy, apart from the wonderful restaurants. Each evening the main square comes to life with food stands sizzling up delicacies from snails, to fried sheep brain, and fabulous kebabs. You can sit out under the stars and watch the world go by. This is one of the greatest meeting places on earth and lies between the Sahara Desert and the sea. There are snake charmers, acrobats, and storytellers all entertaining the crowds. You’ll see Berbers and Tuareg tribesmen making a deal, and friends meeting for mint tea as the sun goes down.

    Moroccan feast

    Marrakesh has many places to chill out after the chaos of the souks. One of the best is the Jardin Majorelle, a beautiful garden restored by Yves St Laurent. The brilliant blue ceramics contrast with the flowers and plants here and it is a delight to explore. Or, take a horse drawn caleche ride through the city past the old Medina walls. After a day of haggling and chaos the hammam is a superb way to unwind. Many hotels have a traditional bath or there are local ones to try. You’ll be scrubbed clean by the attendants who will find dirt you never knew existed.

    There are many beautiful places to stay in Morocco including grand hotels and riads, or traditional town houses. Above all, you’ll be enthralled by the hospitality of the Moroccan people and the beauty of the country.

    Marrakesh building architecture

    Read more →

    Tips to get offline for a week
    November 28, 2016

    Tips to get offline for a week

    Unplugging that phone and getting off the internet seems like an impossible task, but it’s absolutely essential now and then. It not only refreshes and unclutters your life, but it reminds you that the world will not burn if you wait a few days to answer emails. I challenge you to get offline for a week sometime in the next month. Follow these tips, and you’ll find that it’s not as hard as you thought.

    Put it out of your reach. You are an addict: face it. How long can you go between checking your email and your newsfeed? Make it impossible for you to give into getting online during weak moments! Hand over your phone and laptop to a friend and instruct them to keep it from you under all circumstances (short of threat to your life).

    Person drinking tea and reading a book

    Stay busy. If you have a ton of stuff going on, you’ll be less likely to want to reach for your device of choice. Before you start your internet-free week, make sure you plan plenty of activities, like coffee with friends, making meals from scratch, hiking a mountain, or playing board games. Find a craft or hobby that you used to love before the internet began to suck away all your free time.

     

    Get outdoors. If you’re really going to do this, you need to remember that there’s a whole big world out there that doesn’t include outlets. For thousands of years before the internet was invented, our ancestors used to do this cool thing called “enjoying the great outdoors.” You’ll find plenty out there to keep your attention, from playing at the park with your kids to getting practically lost in the wilderness with just a compass and a backpack.

    People talking at a cafe

    Go to the library. You’re probably going to have information withdraw, so satiate your appetite for news and facts by going to the place where you can find a book about anything: the library. If you don’t own a library card, now is a great time to get one.

    Interact face-to-face. You might be surprised at how much of your social interaction happens through a screen. Get back to old fashioned friendships (at least for the week) by making appointments to see friends and family. You’ll be glad you took the time to make some memories.

    Read more →

    Adventure Trips for Couples
    November 21, 2016

    Adventure Trips for Couples

    Couples hanging out at the beach

    Nothing binds or bonds two people more than travel and at no time is life more exciting than taking on a new adventure of some sort. With that in mind, when was the last time you and your partner went somewhere new or experienced something genuinely different? You see, I’m no guru when it comes to relationships but I do know for certain that all of my most memorable experiences with someone special have involved a travel adventure of some kind. But what adventures am I talking about? Here are five of my top favourite adventures for couples:

     

    Climb Kilimanjaro (Tanzania, Africa)

    Kilimanjaro Mountain

    We’ll start with the big one, the tallest freestanding mountain on the planet and the highest in all of Africa. So why choose this mountain and not somewhere else?  Well, simply, there is no place on this earth like Africa and there are few mountains so spectacular which are easily climbed by hikers with little to no experience. Yes, even a beginner can climb Kilimanjaro, and as a couple, you can expect to spend plenty of alone time on the mountain at night and just as much time encouraging/supporting each other as you trek during the day. Make no mistake, climbing Kilimanjaro is a once in a lifetime experience which your partner will never forget and when you whisk them off to nearby Zanzibar for a week on tropical beaches to recover, your partner is sure not to forget about you any time soon either!

     

    Hike the East Coast Trail, Newfoundland (Canada)

    Hike in Canada

    As far as dangers go, the East Coast Trail is a pretty safe place to take a scenic, remote, yet accessible hike. There should be no real concerns regarding wildlife either. Moose will be present, yes. But coyotes and bears are a very rare thing in these parts. So expect rugged coastline, well marked trails, nice camping areas, unpredictable weather and a lot of getting to know each other – the East Coast Trail is akin going on a yoga retreat with someone special.

    If I could give one reason why this is the perfect adventure for a couple, it would be in that it’s a hike manageable by just about any fitness level and, if things are a little strenuous, you can easily reduce the amount of trail you wish to cover – hence, no arguments on how far you trek each day and more time to spend cooking on the campfire.

     

    Micro adventure in a Bothy (Cairngorms, Scotland)

    Bothy Adventure for Couples - Scotland

    What is a micro adventure? Well, it’s a short and affordable trip into the outdoors. And what is a Bothy? These are old hunting lodges in the Scottish highlands which are now maintained by the government and open for use to anyone without any cost. Yeah that’s right, free accommodation.

    So why not head north of Edinburgh in Scotland to the Cairngorms and take everything you need for a night or two hiking and camping in the wild. Best thing is, these Bothies are located throughout the highlands meaning you can literally go hiking between them for a few days or much more. Basic on the inside, charming on the outside – a trip to the Scottish highlands will remind you of just how beautiful this earth really is and with enough food, water and a loved one by your side, you’ll both have everything you need.

     

    Bike through Mae Hong Son (Thailand)

    Thailand for Couples

    This mountainous region in the very north of Thailand is a luscious escape from the busy cities of South East Asia and offers the perfect opportunity to explore by bike. The question is what type of bike is up to you: motorbike or bicycle? Some people do both, although I’m certain those on a bicycle will regret their decision almost every day they spend sweating their way up these enormous hillsides. Anyway, Mae Hong Son has many villages and towns with quaint accommodation and beautiful areas to explore such as beautiful Pai. Sleepy during the day, lively at night – Pai is a nice place to break up a trip around the Mae Hong Son province but in general, this is one of the most affordable and enjoyable trips you can find. Motorbikes cost less than $5 per day, accommodation less than $10 and food.. Well food is always cheap in Thailand.

    As with Kilimanjaro, there are plenty of options for where to extend your stay after exploring the Mae Hong Son loop such as the many Islands down south of Thailand or the cultural capital of Thailand, Chiang Mai City.

     



    Derek is an Irish travel blogger and loves marketing & advertising. Has travelled all around the world including Australia & New Zealand.

    Read more →

    Best Airlines to Fly
    November 15, 2016

    Best Airlines to Fly

    Airplane wing

    For many people, a holiday doesn’t really start until they arrive at their destination. But, if this sounds familiar to you, you probably aren’t using the right airlines. It’s important to understand that there are some great flying experiences out there. And today, we’re going to point you to some of the best airlines to travel with. You’ll pay a little more, of course - but whether you are looking for cheap deals or a more comfortable long-haul, there are plenty of options. Let’s take a look.

    Emirates Airlines

    Anyone who has flown with Emirates will not be surprised at their inclusion in this list. They are the current holders of the 2016 World Airline Awards, and they strive to make flying a genuine experience for their customers. The food is almost always fantastic, even when flying economy. Check-ins are quick, the crew is super polite, and the whole experience is focused on making you comfortable. However, it’s not all rosy, and just like any other airline, Emirates has the occasional problem. For example, you should watch out for the sometimes sneaky charges they place for booking a seat.

    Airport departure sign

    Qatar Airlines

    Qatar Airlines is also well worth investigating. Planes are super clean, and check-in and boarding are a breeze. Qatar also has an excellent reputation for customer service, and the food is good in comparison to other airlines. As with all flights, though, you need to know you will be comfortable. And the good news about flying with Qatar is that their seats are relaxing and spacious, and there is plenty of legroom. However, there are some reports of poor customer service at times, so there are no cast-iron guarantees.

     

    Singapore Airlines

    Not only does Singapore Airlines do well at awards ceremonies, but it also rates high with actual customers. Singapore Airlines offers first class entertainment and food. They also score high for check-in, boarding, and cleanliness, and customer service is fantastic. But, not every plane is the most comfortable, and we have raised the odd complaint about legroom and general experience. In the main, though, we feel Singapore Airlines is a great value airline that offers exceptional service.

    Cathay Pacific

    Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong offer a lot of exceptional services, and many loyal customers swear by using them. It’s no surprise to us. We score Cathay consistently across all areas, from quick check-ins to good food. And, they provide their customers with exceptional value. If you are looking for a flight that won’t cost the earth but still gives you plenty of comforts, Cathay might be your best bet. However, there have been occasions where we have found Cathay to be difficult to deal with before and after flights.

    Airport escalators and gates

    Qantas Airways

    Qantas are much like Cathay in that they offer a broad range of flights, from budget to expensive. However, we feel they are also consistent. The crew tends to be professional and courteous, while check-ins are usually trouble-free. Boarding is quick, and once you take your seat, you will enjoy reasonable food and a good range of in-flight entertainment. You won’t be blown away by Qantas - but they are a reliable and trustworthy airline that have developed a loyal following.

    What is your favourite airline? Let us know your thoughts!

    Read more →

    How to keep your shoes clean while travelling
    November 10, 2016

    How to keep your shoes clean while travelling

    Clean Shoes

    Travelling can be one of the most educational and amazing experiences out there, but it can present a set of challenges. Depending on how experienced you are and where you are, you may struggle to do basic things, such as keep your clothes clean. Most people will look at your shoes to assess what you’re like as a person (or so they say), so keeping them clean while you travel can be important. Here are some tips that could help you!


    Buy A Travelling Shoe Shine Kit

    You can actually buy travelling shoe shine kits that shouldn’t be too much trouble to take with you. This is a great idea for those who are serious about keeping their footwear on point!


    Packets of White Vinegar

    One smart solution is using packets of white vinegar to do the job for you. This is a great option for leather shoes, as it’ll help them to stay shiny and conditioned. You should be able to find them in your hotel restaurant or somewhere nearby. You can use a washcloth to rub the vinegar in properly. This tip is also good for sneakers, and just about any other kind of shoe.


    Alcohol Wipes

    Alcohol could be used for a few different things as you travel, but they’re good for giving your shoes a quick wipedown too. They’re super cheap to buy, and you can usually find them in all supermarkets. If you can’t find alcohol wipes, try another kind of wet wipe, such as a baby wipe. They might not be as effective, but they should assist you somewhat.


    Use An Old Toothbrush

    If you have an old toothbrush you don’t mind sacrificing, you could use it to get into nooks and crannies. Using warm water and soap is a great way to do this. Just make sure you’re gentle with it.

    Toothbrushes to clean shoes


    Getting Rid Of Oil

    If you’ve somehow got oil on your shoes, a gentle shampoo can be a great way to make them as good as new.


    Bleach In Small Quantities

    White shoes? Using bleach in small quantities could make them look brand new again. Just make sure you’re careful!


    Packing Your Shoes

    If you want to pack your shoes more effectively, there are a few things you could do. Try putting them in a plastic bag and laying them flat on top. Alternatively, you could put them inside of a shower cap. This will keep the rest of your clothes as clean as possible.


    Wet Shoes

    If your shoes have gotten wet somehow, you should act as quickly as possible to clean them and keep them in good condition. Insert newspaper to soak up the water, but don’t place near direct heat. This could cause cracks and marks. The best way to dry them is in the air, as naturally as possible. Even if it’s cold. This will help to retain the look and shape. You can then wipe the water away with a clean cloth. Using waterproof spray before you travel could help with this.

    What to do with wet Shoes


    You can also use baking soda

    Read more →

    5 Best Food Festivals in the World
    November 08, 2016

    5 Best Food Festivals in the World

    Food Festivals - Succulent Ribs with Grilled Tomato

    Since the beginning of time, food is something that has be used to bring people together. Whether it be an intimate family dinner, holiday gathering with extended family, or sporting events with friends, gathering together to prepare and eat food has been a part of nearly every culture in the world. Food festivals are special because they bring strangers together from all walks of life throughout many different parts of the world to enjoy food, drink and entertainment, with a common theme or purpose.

    Here are the five best food festivals in the world that I have experienced:


    Krakow Christmas Market

    Krakow Christmas Food Festival

    Krakow, Poland is known for their extravagant holiday celebrations. The Krakow Christmas Market is looked forward to every year by people all over the world, but especially Eastern Europe. Starting the last week of November, the market typically lasts through December 26th, but has been extended into January several times to officially kick off the Yuletide season. The market takes places in the capital city’s downtown square from 10am to 8pm daily.

    Not only are the streets of Krakow lined with vendors serving locally sourced and prepared food that is traditional to Poland, the festival focuses on handcrafted and artisanal good and wares. Pottery, embroidery, quilting, painted and blown glass as well as the traditional arts are all featured in the Kray Christmas Market. There are also musical performances, dances, and nativity scenes that are for the enjoyment of visitors while shopping and drinking wine and beer. If there is snow, the town turns into a magical Christmas wonderland complete with decorations and lights.


    Zanzibar Food Festival

    Zanzibar Food Festival - Food on Stick

    Stone Town, Zanzibar in Africa has become a steadily growing culinary hotspot for international flavours and cuisine from classical French and home style Italian to traditional Ethiopian, African and Middle East delicacies. The Zanzibar Food Festival is put on every year to highlight Zanzibaran recipes that have been thought lost. Festival organisers scoured the country looking for home cooks that still cooked these traditional and ancient recipes and brought them to the festival to pass down these recipes and traditions

    The food festival is held in conjunction with the Zanzibar International Film Festival every June and draws thousands of visitors from Africa and around the world. While the food festival focuses on food and African spices, the film festival brings art, music and movies to town as well. This is one of the only food festivals that happens in Africa and draws crowds from around the world.


    Kilmore Quay Seafood Festival

    Kilmore Quay Seafood Festival

    Kilmore County in Wexford, Ireland is host to one of the largest locally sourced seafood festivals in the world. The festival has been a tradition looked forward to throughout all of Ireland and Europe for over 30 years now with all festival proceeds directly benefiting the local community.

    The four-day festival kicks off on a Thursday every year with delicious seafood platters served from 12:30pm through 9pm and a grand parade to lead off the event. There is live music and other performances throughout the entire weekend for visitors to enjoy. The marque will be lined with vendors starting Friday with locally fished and sourced seafood caught right off the banks of Ireland. Cooking demonstrations, competitions and presentations will be happening all day, as well.

    Yoga, Puppet shows, a huge sand castle building competition, dances, boat and kayak races and many other activities take place over the weekend. Saturday and Sunday vendors selling handmade and collectible items will be selling their goods. There are also many art installations and exhibits set up by local artists throughout the festival.

    There are several raffles throughout the weekend as well where visitors can win some great prizes such as overnight stays in castles, vacations on Saltee Island and ferry trips. There are many games on the beach for both children and adults to play making this festival very family friendly.


    Wilderness Food Festival

    Breads at The Wilderness Food Festival - England

    Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire, England. This festival is award winning and one of the most acclaimed food festivals in the world. Wilderness is the American Woodstock of the culinary world where visitors spend a weekend camping, enjoying hot tubs, saunas, the lake and food prepared by world renowned chefs.

    Live theatrical performances, lectures, debates, philosophical conversations, live music and food dominate the festival for those that do not participate in the outdoors sporting events. The event is billed as family friendly and hosts many different children’s activities and provides special children play areas. The woods come alive late at night for adult only bonfire celebrations complete with alcohol and adult themed activities.

    The Wilderness Festival is able to host 20,000 people with nearly 10,000 opting to camp for the weekend. The stage shows are huge events that would take place in a coliseum with huge special effects and extravagant performances. Many people wear costumes and celebrate nature, even enjoying nudity. The food is the best of the best from around the country when it comes to street food. There are also several acclaimed chefs that set pop up restaurants and bars.


    Taste of Chicago

    Ferris Festival in Chicago

    Every summer in Chicago Illinois, USA, the country comes together to celebrate the Taste of Chicago, one of the most attended food festivals in The United States and is the world’s largest food festival. Held over 5 days in July, in Grant Park, this festival draws over 3 million people every year.

    Amusement park rides as well as prominent musical acts are available for entertainment when visitors need to take a break from eating. Famous acts such as Jennifer Hudson, Death Cab for Cutie, Robin Thicke, John Mayer and Cheap Trick have all performed at Taste of Chicago.

    Last year 36 restaurants took part in the festival, setting up serving stations in the park, and 15 pop up restaurants were introduced for the first time. The festival also hosts vendors that sell their handcrafted, collectible and direct sales goods. Cooking demonstrations and food tents where guests can get served a three course meal out of the heat of the hot Chicago sun. This event has inspired several other national food festivals throughout The United States in other major cities.

     



    Derek is an Irish travel blogger and loves marketing & advertising. Has travelled all around the world including Australia & New Zealand.

    Read more →

    A Weekend Trip to Salem, Massachusetts
    October 17, 2016

    A Weekend Trip to Salem, Massachusetts

    Salem Witch House

    Salem is known for witches, haunted houses and scary movies. So, on Halloween weekend, a group of friends and myself decided to take a road trip from Philadelphia to check it out. With our budgets in mind, a passion for exploration and a deep love for Halloween festivities, we hopped in the car and made the six and a half hour journey up to Salem.

    Instead of paying the high costs for a hotel room in downtown Salem, we decided to stay on Winter Island, a historic campground that was previously used by the military. With its own interesting history, ghost stories and creepy boarded up buildings, it was the perfect spot to pitch our tents for the weekend and served as a base for traveling in and out of Salem.

    Houses by the river

    The town itself was quaint, historic and full of interesting shopping and places to eat. However, the decorations throughout the streets and the authentic cemeteries put it over the top as a Halloween haven. The pedestrian walking street was full of people dressed in costumes, and haunted houses, costume parties and haunted pub crawls were being advertised all over the town. Venders lined the way with food trucks and stalls selling hot apple cider, funnel cake and caramel apples.

    We saw a reenactment of the Salem Witch Trials and visited the tomb stones of notable characters alive during that time period. At night we checked out some of the nightclubs, people watching to get a look at their inventive costumes and watching the Thriller music video play on the pull down screen behind the bar of the venue. On one of the days we took a haunted walking tour, following a period dressed tour guide around the town to learn about history and ghost stories.

    The weekend went by quick but it was the perfect way to celebrate my favorite childhood holiday on a level that was a bit more suiting to an adult.

      




    Shannon is an American travel blogger and writer who has backpacked around Europe, lived out of a van in New Zealand, taught English in Asia, lived in a Balinese bungalow and road tripped all around the United States. You can follow her adventures at Lives Abroad or visit her on Facebook for updates and inspiration.

    Read more →

    Tips and Hacks for Travelling Alone
    October 17, 2016

    Tips and Hacks for Travelling Alone

    Guy travelling alone in the train

    Travelling alone is a totally different experience than travelling with other people. I took my first international solo trip about six months ago, and I liked it so much that I’ve crossed international borders alone several times since then! I’d personally always travel with other people, but doing it solo isn’t bad at all. For some, it’s the only way to go. Here are some tips for taking a trip with yourself.

    • Keep a schedule. It’s easy to let a schedule slip when you’re travelling alone; after all, there’s no one else to coordinate with. But if you don’t have at least a loose plan, you might find yourself driving like a maniac through the rain to the ferry landing, only to realise that you left your passport at home. Which I have definitely done. Not fun.

    • Bring a selfie stick. Nobody’s going to be around to take ten bajillion photos of you at all the cool places you go. On the plus side, nobody is going to be around to make fun of you and your selfie stick. Nobody you’ll ever see again, that is. People want to see your trips over Instagram, and you can’t leave your public hanging. For ten bucks, it’s worth it. 

    • Always tote your phone and charger. If you’re alone, you need to have a working phone at all time. As a woman, and thus a likelier target for scammers and creepers, I feel an especially great need to have the ability to contact people in the case of emergency. But everyone should be safe and avoid getting stuck with a dead phone.

      Traveller on the road alone

    • Leave an itinerary. No matter who you are or how well-travelled you are, you should let someone know where you’re going to be and when. This is for your safety and their peace of mind. You never know what sort of situation might crop up, for you and for people back home. It’s always better for people to have an idea of your whereabouts.

    • Save and spend your way. You don’t have to get that fancy hotel that your spouse always insists on. Or that meal out that your sister enjoys. Or even take a taxi if you’re OK with a bus! When you’re on your own, you can set your own budget. So take advantage of trimming costs on things you don’t care about and spending a little more on the things you do.

     




    Breana is an American expat living in the Dutch Caribbean. Graphic Designer and writer from sunny Arizona, she has travelled around the Caribbean, Mexico, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and most of the U.S. You can also follow Breana and her adventures together with her husband, at 3rdculturewife.com.

    Read more →

    4 Mistakes People Make When Moving Abroad
    October 17, 2016

    4 Mistakes People Make When Moving Abroad

    Expats hanging out together

    Moving overseas is not for the faint of heart. Neither it is a nightmare, though. Beginning the journey of life as an expat can be a stressful season, but you can avoid common pitfalls if you do things right. Get your new life off to a good start by avoiding these four mistakes.

    1. Have unrealistic expectations. This is top priority. If you have sky-high expectations, they’ll come crashing down on you before your first week is up. It’s impossible to have no expectations, but get rid of as many as possible. As for the expectations you are bound to have, know what they are and intentionally recognise that they are illegitimate. Write them down. Tell yourself it probably won’t be that way. When you get there, you’ll have fewer bitter disappointments, and still get to enjoy the lovely surprises!

    2. Hang out with just other expats. No matter where you go, you’ll almost always see groups of similar people gathering together and bonding. It’s no different for the expat life, but it’s on a totally different scale. This isn’t college, where people are defined by sports and majors. Now, your main identity is your language and nationality. It’s easy to stick with other people like you, but you’ll never learn to operate in your new culture if you don’t make meeting locals and engaging with local culture a priority. I have heard that it’s best to step off the plane and go straight to the market. Bond with your culture, and bond with your local neighbours! It takes time, but it is worth it.

      Culture Shock between expats and locals

    3. Try to be one of the locals. You will never, ever, ever be one of the locals. So just get that idea out of your head right now. You’ll always have the accent, the possible pigment difference, and the thought processes that set you apart as a foreigner. Sometimes, it can really wear on you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I could unzip my skin and put on a different color, just to fit in once in a while. But to be honest, being a foreigner isn’t so bad. Generally, people will begin to accept you for who you are and look past the differences to the person you are inside. I was once told by a twelve-year-old local boy, “You don’t have an American accent, because I don’t think of you as American. You’re part of the Caribbean now.” Of course, I totally still have the accent, but the acceptance was heartwarming. You know what? Being different is OK.

    4. Assume your culture does things right. There is more than one way to do pretty much anything. I grew up in the city, where traffic moves along at lightning speed, stopping for no one. Here in Saint Martin, people cruise along slowly, stopping for random goats and kids darting out into the road, or pausing to have a chat with people walking by. Both ways are perfectly fine ways to get around, and both have their pros and cons. I can get super frustrated and honk my crabby horn at people for crossing where there is no crosswalk, or I can just be chill and get there when I get there. Because nobody is going to care if I’m late… dis is de island, mon. Life is a whole lot better when you realise that your culture’s way is not the right way. And that you can learn a whole lot from other cultures, too!

     




    Breana is an American expat living in the Dutch Caribbean. Graphic Designer and writer from sunny Arizona, she has travelled around the Caribbean, Mexico, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and most of the U.S. You can also follow Breana and her adventures together with her husband, at 3rdculturewife.com.

    Read more →

    The History Behind Australian Architecture
    October 17, 2016

    The History Behind Australian Architecture

    Inside Opera House in Sydney

    Australia’s most famous example of architecture is undoubtedly, the Sydney Opera House. Designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, the stunning building with elegant features, beautifully accentuates the bay area. Forty-two years ago, when the Opera House was built, it was the end result of a design competition. During this time, Australia sought inspiration from Europe and America for architectural choices. Now, arguably, the country has finally come into its own, showcasing a brand new image. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. To understand where the Australian architectural landscape is today, we have to know where it originated.

    The British Were Coming

    Before the British settlers arrived on the shores of Australia, the buildings there were mainly nomadic shelters. Hardly surprisingly, since we’re taking a long journey back in time to 1788. From then on, the settlers built up Australia with ideas and concepts that originated in Europe. These Eurocentric architectural buildings still exist within the country today. These buildings were naturally, not suitable for the hugely different climate of Australia. In Australia, the climate is perfect for outdoor activities throughout the year and people wanted the buildings to reflect this possibility.

    British Influence in Australian Architecture

    As such, architectures began to construct buildings that were more open and allowed space to breathe. A beautiful example of this can be found at Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building. It was constructed during the 20th century when it wasn’t just the British who were immigrating.

    Royal Exhibition Building - Melbourne

    An American Footprint

    American settlers were keen to implement a derivative of the American dream. Reaching for the Australian version, Americans were more interested in building larger housing. They wanted plenty of space for their families. Massive backyards were included, the likes of which that can still be found in the suburbs of Australia’s cities. Of course, it wasn’t long until Australia’s population rapidly began to grow. At that point, housing suitable for an increasing population was desperately needed. It was during this time, in the 20th century that the Australian cities started to expand into what they are today. Many of the designs introduced at this time stretched beyond the boundaries of European or even American styles. Instead, architectures searched for inspiration from further afield such as Southeast Asia.

    American Influence in Australia's History of Architecture

    Australian Architecture Today

    After seeking inspiration from other countries, Australia now has a unique architectural style. There are many incredible examples of architecture in Australia that are completely unique. For instance, the New Parliament House in Canberra is a brilliant and creative design. The place for Australian government is intended as an area for a working parliament and a symbol for the nation. A birdseye view of this building demonstrates that beautifully.

    The Architecture in Canberra

    Or there is the Australia Square, built 1976. With a unique circular design and an open floor for public use at ground level, it is completely unique and an inspired design. It is often held up as a landmark building in Sydney.

    As the world changes Australian architects have new challenges on the horizon. The are being tasked with constructed buildings that are energy saving, compact and comfortable. However, if history is anything to go by the architects of this country will certainly be able to rise to the challenge.

    Read more →

    5 Amazing adventure trips around the world
    October 04, 2016

    5 Amazing adventure trips around the world

    Newfoundland fjord scenic landscape, Canada

     

    For ten years I have travelled the world in search of genuine adventure and interesting travel experiences but honestly, this is not so easy to do anymore. No, with long term travel being so accessible and common nowadays, it has meant that most places can appear overcrowded and sometimes, over-travelled.

    In this sense, here are my favourite five adventures from around the globe from the past decade of exploring:

     

    1. Hiking the East Coast Trail

    Few adventures are as simple as a long distance hike, carrying everything needed to survive on one of North America’s most beautiful trails - The East Coast Trail, Newfoundland.

    I didn't have much money when I boarded my flight across Canada. In fact, I had no intention of going anywhere at all until I discovered this trail and the very simple idea of walking the length of it, at the bare minimum cost.

    Starting in Cappahayden and ending in St John's, for two weeks I would explore the remote wilderness between each idyllic town along the East Coast. It was simply breathtaking. There were days when my feet hurt or my shoulders began to ache, there were times when I felt so hungry that all energy disappeared  and there were mornings when I just didn't want to get out of bed, but then these periods would always pass and the rewards would always come.

    Hiking the east coast trail would bring encounters with moose, spectacular moments in breathtaking scenery, simplistic nights by the warm campfire and hearty meals cooked on a miniature stove. It was pure adventure and a path full of unexpected experiences, most of which I would relish the prospect of returning to.


    1. Overnight inside Mt Longonot Volcano, Kenya
    Leopard on trunk of tree

     

    On a recent visit to Lake Naivasha in Kenya, I decided to take an excursion elsewhere for the night and a hike to the rim of nearby Mount Longonot, a dormant volcano, seemed like the perfect opportunity.

    A local bus ride to the nearby town followed by a few kilometres walking, took me to the base of the mountain. There were many guides there at the time who offered company for a hike to the top but it was only Gabriel Kahinga who altered my attention. An experienced climber and guide, Gabriel offered to take me down inside the actual crater where we could wild camp over night and within minutes we were on the way.

    Immense and spellbinding, the crater floor was blanketed by a green forest which we knew was inhabited by antelope, monkeys and even the elusive leopard, while the steep trek down inside the volcano, was slippery and time consuming.

    We trekked 8km across the crater that day and camped beneath the stars which was a fascinating feeling, but sitting at the campfire that evening left is grateful we would leave the next day, as the cry of a baby leopard cub encouraged us to retire to our tents for some sleep.


    1. Walking the west of Ireland
    Donegal landscape in Ireland. Coastline and mountains.

     

    Although the dead of winter had taken hold of the Emerald Isle, a two week walking trip along the west coast would turn out to be one of my most memorable adventures.

    Wild, unspoiled and rugged, Ireland has a mystical feel for every visitor and the coastline is simply beautiful. Beginning in Malin Head, the very north tip of the country, I began hiking along the roadside until green cliff tops offered me refuge from the busy road. That being said, the Irish people are amongst the nicest people you can find and almost every car was manned by a helpful stranger wishing to greet the weary traveller.

    Yes, it was green and cold, natural and unforgettable. Arriving in the mountains of Donegal felt like stepping back in time to when horse drawn carts would travel these weather beaten roads and camping next to the Atlantic was a reminder for the awe inspiring scenery that surrounded me for that entire trip.


    1. Camping at the Spitzkoppe, Namibia
    Spitzkoppe rock formation in Namibia

     

    Just a two hour drive from the charming town of Swakopmund in Namibia, you will suddenly find yourself far from any civilisation at all and deep in the Namib desert facing the most incredible rock formation - the Spitzkoppe.

    Emerging up out of the earth like a Phoenix rising, the Spitzkoppe strikes an imposing sight against the desert skyline and sleeping on the surface of a rock beneath the stars is an unforgettable experience. There is much more to explore here, of course, the rocks are a natural playground, while sitting in the midst of such a wide expanse is a mystical feeling.

    Although it may seem like the desert might be a pretty uneventful place to be, even a short adventure to the Spitzkoppe in Namibia promises for an incredible couple of days.

     

    1. Motorbike adventure in Phong Nha, Vietnam
    Mountain and road landscape in Vietnam

     

    Tourist attractions are not really my thing, Halong Bay, Sapa, The Chu Chi Tunnels - they are all too crowded for my liking and I find the thought of going such places is often uninspiring. In a similar sense I had felt this way upon arrival in Phong Nha, where thousands of tourists descend to witness some of the world's largest caves. The caves are magnificent, I'm sure of it, but I had no interest in squeezing past the hordes of other travellers to get further inside a large dark hole.

    So, I hailed a local motorbike taxi and asked him to "take me somewhere I won't forget". Minutes later we were cruising beneath karst limestone mountains, across dusty landscapes and in between locals living out their very primitive life. Not long after declining a relatively cheap ticket to see the caves, I was in the midst of a wonderful adventure and grinning from ear to ear at my "find".

    It was unexpected, random and so much better for the fact it was just the two of us. Yes, our simple journey into a local side of Vietnam was to be my favourite adventure in South East Asia.

     



    Derek is an Irish travel blogger and loves marketing & advertising. Has travelled all around the world including Australia & New Zealand.

    Read more →

    Google Trip App - Our review
    September 26, 2016

    Google Trip App - Our review

     

    If you’re anything like us, you love to travel. Moreover, by now, you’ve probably heard the week’s big news about the arrival of Trips. The app is the latest offering from Google, and it promises to enhance the future of travel as we know it. And best of all, it’s free!

    A quick glance certainly gave us enough reason to be intrigued. After all, any improvement to our holidays and trips has to be a good thing, right?

    We took a closer look at the App; here are our initial thoughts.


    What Is It?

    In a nutshell, Trips is your portal to planning your upcoming trips like never before. The app is built to improve organisation, and take your enjoyment to the next level.

    Trips is the product of a two-year journey for Google, and you can instantly tell that they have big plans for the project. Aimed at casual and regular holidaymakers alike, the app can organise your flight, hotel and rental reservations all in one place. Meanwhile, it can help you create an itinerary to ensure that you enjoy your stay to the fullest.

    Trips is broken into six main features. They are;

    •    Reservations – collating data from flights, hotel bookings, car rentals, etc.
    •    Things To Do – a list of local attractions and events.
    •    Saved Places – manually stored places of interest.
    •    Food & Drink – a list of restaurants, bars, etc.
    •    Day Plans – suggested itineraries based on length of stay and your preferences.
    •    Getting Around – transport information.

    Google Trips Review - First Screen Featured



    What Are The Positives?

    The first thing you’ll notice about the app is that the design is crisp, clear, and colourful. If holidays are meant to put a smile on your face, then the appearance of the app certainly taps into those ideas.

    Arguably the best selling feature of the app, however, is that it will save you time and money. In truth, you could access almost all of the data manually. This could be done using Trip Advisor, Maps, logging into your email reservations, and using a day planner app. But why bother when you can do everything in one place? Let’s face it; the reduction of data roaming alone makes it a worthwhile idea.

    Regarding the individual sections, the Day Plans section is the clear favourite. Those level of control on those itineraries is fantastic. Whether you’re an art-lover, music enthusiast, or sports nut doesn’t matter. The Trips App will ensure that you never get bored on holiday again. And it will often show you attractions that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise.


    How Can The Service Improve?

    It seems a little nit-picky, but the database will need to grow with time. Launching with 200 cities is more than adequate as a starting foundation. But international travel is more accessible than ever. To be blunt, I don’t think anyone really needs suggestions of things to do in London or New York anyway.


    The other major gripe is that you need a Gmail account to see the full benefits. You can sign in and sign out, but it’s a lot of effort. Long-term, I think this is another push by Google to get everyone using their email service. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if it’s not your preferred choice, then it does feel like you’re being forced.

    Unpopular opinion alert: Google could arguably benefit from adding some premium content too. Paid services like TripIt, for example, can track travel reward points and other cool features. It wouldn’t be for everyone, but having the option would be cool. Given that it would be a chance to earn money I’m sure someone at Google is already onto it.


    Is It Worth A Download?

    For most travellers, the answer is probably. It’s available on IOS and Android. Truthfully, I don’t think it’s suddenly going to transform a 5/10 holiday to a 10/10 time of your life. But if it can save you a little time and money, while making you aware of one or two new attractions, it's gonna do more good than harm.

    Read more →

    How to clean and take care of your canvas bag
    September 26, 2016

    How to clean and take care of your canvas bag

    Cleaning your canvas bag

    Once you’ve purchased the canvas bag you’ve been searching for, you’ll need to think about how to keep it clean and take care of it. Here’s all you need to know about doing exactly that.


    • Use Fabric Protector

      When you own a canvas bag you like, you want it to be protected. That’s why one of the first things you can do it, is to apply a fabric protector. If you do this, you will make sure that the materials are as protected as they possibly can be before you even start to use it. You should make sure you buy a type or fabric protector that is made for canvas bags to avoid anything like discolouration.


      • Remove Dirt with a Stiff Brush

        You don’t want dirt on the surface of your bag, but you need to be careful how you use it. It’s a good idea to give your canvas bag a brush down after you use. This will remove anything that might have got stuck to the bag throughout the day as you’ve been using it. The kind of brush you use is significant because you don’t want to damage the material. A stiff brush is the best option because it will remove anything on the surface quickly without doing any damage in the process.

        Stiff Brush to clean canvas bags


        • When Wet, Let it Dry Naturally

          If your bag gets wet, then you should not use heat to dry it. Don’t use a radiator or a hair dryer. This is a mistake that many people make, but it can cause huge damage to the bag. That’s not what you want when you’re trying to keep the bag in good shape. So, when you’ve been out in the rain, or you spill water on it, remove everything from inside the bag. And then you can leave it somewhere to dry naturally. Wait patiently and don’t use the bag again until it’s dry. That way, you will avoid any damage.


          • Use a Cloth and Cold Water for General Cleaning

            You should give the canvas bag a general clean every few weeks or so. This ensures that the surface materials are kept in good condition, and no erosion or discolouration occurs. When you clean the bag, it’s best to use plain cold water and a soft cloth. You can some baby shampoo to the cloth if you want to. This will get rid of any of the grime that might be lingering on the bag without you realising it. You really need to make sure that you do this regularly to keep it clean.


            • Keep the Bag Away from Dirty Surfaces
              It might seem like a common sense piece of advice, but you’ll be surprised at how many people fail to do this. We’re all guilty of taking our possessions for granted now and then. But when you have a quality canvas bag, you want to keep it functional and in good condition for as long as possible. But that’s only going to happen if you make sure you keep the bag away from dirty surfaces. The better you take care of the bag, the longer it will last, so it makes sense to be careful.

              Read more →

              Beyond the Beach: Exploring Caribbean Cities
              September 23, 2016

              Beyond the Beach: Exploring Caribbean Cities

              Vintage green car in the street of Havana, Cuba

              Travellers generally go to the Caribbean for the beach, but the cities of the islands are not to be neglected. Beyond the sand and surf, there are tropical towns bursting with the tastes, sounds, and sights of vibrant cultures. From the laid-back vibe of the reggae scene to the bustling marketplaces, these Caribbean cities should make it to the top of your tropical to-do list. 

              • Havana. Although Cuba’s capital has not been particularly accessible in recent decades, the gates to Havana are once again cracking open for Western tourism. If your heart is set on Havana, you can find your way to this classic Spanish Caribbean metropolis. Havana is famous for its historic Spanish architecture, and offers plenty of cultural experiences for the interested traveller, such as theatre, dance, and musical concerts.

                Spanish building in Havana

              • Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo looms so large in the minds of Dominican Republic’s diasporic population that the entire country is often referred to simply as Santo. It’s little wonder that this city has achieved such fame for itself. The capital is a sprawling, close-quartered collection of typical Latin Caribbean homes and business ranging from the government offices of past centuries to the cruise terminals of today. People visit Santo for the shopping, the gardens, the food, and of course, the Latin culture.

              • Nassau. The long and colorful history of Nassau is reason enough to visit the island-wide metropolis. At one time, Nassau was a “pirate republic,” housing a thousand pirates and providing room enough for their escapades in the Bahamas. Later, it became haven for Revolutionary War Loyalists. Today, it is a bustling tourist town filled with not only the quaint, pastel-colored colonial beach houses, but also attractive dining, shopping, and nightlife entertainment.

                Young women sitting on a restaurant

              • Wilemstad. Speak with anyone from Curacao, and they will tell you wistfully of their beautiful island and its homey appeal. In fact, the capital city, Wilemstad, is considered to be the very quintessential heart of Dutch Caribean culture. The city is best known for the string of colorful Dutch buildings that line its harbor, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Beyond these beautiful buildings lie more architectural wonders, plus a variety of newer developments such as many casinos and nightlife venues.

              • Marigot. Although it doesn’t have the distinction of being on one of the Caribbean’s largest cities, Marigot, Saint Martin is worth a visit. The town grew up around Fort Louis, a pre-revolution era fort commissioned by France’s last king himself. Left to its own devices for a full century prior to the late 1900s, Marigot is now considered an asset of tourism for France. Walk its historic streets and you will lose yourself among art galleries, fashion-forward shopping, and hidden French bakeries.

                Blue wooden window
              Cultural immersion should always be a part of travel, even in areas characterised by natural wonders and modern entertainment. This is especially true in the Caribbean, where you can always find a surprising blend of European, Latin, African, and North American influences. Each island brings something new and different. Your only challenge will be deciding which city to visit.




              Breana is an American expat living in the Dutch Caribbean. Graphic Designer and writer from sunny Arizona, she has travelled around the Caribbean, Mexico, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and most of the U.S. You can also follow Breana and her adventures together with her husband, at 3rdculturewife.com.

              Read more →

              Featured Destination: Verona
              September 08, 2016

              Featured Destination: Verona

              View of Verona across the Adige River

              I first heard of Verona at school whilst studying Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but the great playwright never actually visited the city. As I walked into the historic part of Verona I reflected on what Shakespeare had missed by not even coming here. His legacy lives on however, as coachloads of visitors head for Juliet’s balcony to catch a selfie.

              But there’s more to see in Verona than a balcony and one of the best ways of making the most of your time is to buy a Verona Card from the local tourist office which saves on admission to many of the city’s attractions. It is easy to get around on foot too and I found myself wandering the small backstreets of the old town where I came across delightful family owned delis and beautiful piazzas hidden from general view. In Verona the piazzas are a feature of the old city and the best way to see them is by walking. The Piazza Erbe is right in the heart of the city and very medieval. I preferred the beautiful Piazza Della Signorini with its elegant buildings. In the centre a statue of Dante stood with a thoughtful look. He lived in Verona after his exile from Florence. The view from the Lamberti Tower was definitely worth the climb and looked out across the Adige River to the city and hills beyond.

              Evening view from Verona behind tree

              Verona is renowned for opera and the annual open air festival is held in the Roman Arena during the summer months. I booked online in advance and sat out under the stars listening to Placido Domingo singing in Nabucco. The acoustics were fabulous and the atmosphere inside the arena was magical with lots of opera loving locals. Verona is full during opera season so reserving ahead is essential. One of the biggest surprises was the AMO or Arena Museo Opera which told the history of Italian opera and was fascinating with displays about the costumes, the librettists and more. I spent a long time there, completely absorbed in the exhibits.

              The art museums in Verona were another big highlight for me. Located on the Adige River, the Castelvecchio with its medieval and renaissance art was amazing. I also found impromptu exhibitions in the churches and some beautiful architecture. In Verona I found that just by walking around I’d find some real gems like the sweet shop man who used to serve Maria Callas or the family down a back street that had made salami for generations. Verona is full of culture, history and fun and I wandered those narrow streets and piazzas just packing in the sights and the museums. But to escape the crowds I grabbed a picnic lunch from the deli and headed to the tranquillity of the Giardini Giusti. These magnificent gardens were shelter from the summer heat, and a peaceful retreat to read or relax over lunch.

              Verona is an incredibly beautiful city to visit but do go beyond Juliet’s Balcony to see the city at its very best.

              Houses by the Adige River in Verona

              Read more →

              The Basics of Leather Care
              September 08, 2016

              The Basics of Leather Care

              Brown leather skin being sewed

              There are a few basics of leather care that everyone should be aware of if they own a leather bag or wallet. There is no excuse for not looking after your leather items properly because it’s actually very simple. As long as you know and understand the basics of leather care, there will be nothing standing in your way. So, read on to learn all you need to know.

              • Buy a Cleaning Product That’s Made for Leather

              Now that you know the importance of cleaning up your leather rapidly after a spill, you need to know what to clean it with. There are leather cleaning products that are designed for this precise purpose, and these are the products you should be using. They have exactly the right pH and acid levels to ensure that the cleaning product is not too harsh on your items. Therefore, any potential damage will be avoided.

              • Use Leather Conditioner

              When you’ve had your leather products for a long time, they can lose the moisture that keeps them soft and supple. You don’t want this to happen, so that’s why you should always use a leather conditioner. These are cheap and easy to buy. And by applying them to your leather regularly, you can keep it feeling smooth and healthy for longer than you otherwise would be able to. It’s a trick that any owner of leather products should know about.

              • Clean Stain or Spills the Moment You Notice Them

              The moment you notice that there has been a spill, or you spot a stain on your leather item, you should take action. Any water or moisture should be wiped off as quickly as possible with a cloth. There is no need to use any kind of heat to dry the product because this can just do further damage. And stubborn stains can be lifted with chalk powder if other methods don’t succeed. This usually works if you leave it on for a while.

              Drops of water on leather

              • Only Touch Leather Products with Clean Hands

              How you handle your leather products should also be given some care and attention. You will cause more damage to your products if you handle them when your hands aren’t clean. Any dirt or grime that is on your hands will be transferred to the leather whenever you touch it. And over time, this can have a very negative impact on the quality and condition of the leather itself. So, handle your leather with care.

              • Stuff a Leather Bag When It’s Not in Regular Use

              If you have a leather bag, you might only use it periodically. We all have numerous bags, and some get used more than others. That’s just the way it is. But it doesn’t mean that you don’t care for the bags you use less, and they will be sure to come in handy again in the future. So, you need to maintain their shape when not being used. You can do this by stuffing the bag with something like bubble wrap that will fill it and hold its shape.

              Read more →