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A Top Weekend in Whitstable

Whitstable is on the north coast of Kent, close to Canterbury. It makes a great day trip from the city but also has enough to entertain the visitor for a weekend. For a long time it was another small fishing town but in recent years it has become more popular with the bohemian set and has its fair share of wonderful pubs and bars, restaurants and fine dining as well as numerous small boutiques and shops.

Whitstable is famous for its fantastic oysters, and if you are planning a weekend break there, then the best time to go is during the annual oyster festival in July although bear in mind that accommodation does get booked quickly during this period. Even outside of the festival period, Whitstable has a variety of attractions for the visitor to visit and enjoy. Consequently there are a wide range of accommodation options to suit everyone and every budget, including the legendary Hotel Continental and plenty of excellent decently priced B&Bs and self catering cottages.

Whitstable is very popular with artists and there are therefore numerous art galleries and artists’ studios you can visit and spend the day browsing in. Indeed once you have visited the town and seen the incredible views of the sea from the bay windows of the gorgeous old hotels, you will understand why so many artists and other creative people base themselves in Whitstable. In fact the whole of the Kent coast has in recent years begun to blossom in a hive of creativity.

The main attractions

One of the main attractions in Whitstable is the historic harbour. Busy and bustling, it still holds fish markets on a regular basis, offering freshly caught fish and shellfish.

What is known as “the castle” in Whitstable is really more of a stately home, but it can be visited, and the gardens there are simply stunning.

The shops in Whitstable are mostly small and independent. Harbour Street is the main destination for shoppers and window shoppers, and time is easily whiled away looking at the charming buildings, the hand crafted gifts, and the aromatic deli shops.

Walking tours of the main attractions in Whitstable can be booked and can give you an insight into the past history of this intriguing little town.

The beaches

You won’t come for a weekend in a coastal town without wanting to visit the beaches, and Whitstable has some of the loveliest and cleanest beaches in the UK. There are two things that really characterise Whitstable’s beaches. Firstly, they are of the pebbly kind rather than sandy. This does have some advantages though as it makes it a lot easier to clean up after time spent lying on the beach, as well as allowing numerous contests to see who can get the most bounces when skimming the pebbles!

The second thing that characterises Whitstable’s beaches are the charming beach huts. Beautifully maintained, and painted in a variety of colours these are a photographer’s or artist’s dream.

Whitstable has some of the most amazing sunsets in the UK. If you are lucky enough to spend some time here then you will soon see why artists have been flocking here in droves over the last few years. Sunset in Whitstable is one of the delights of South East England, and not to be missed. Enjoy it with a bag of the local fish and chips for the perfect Whitstable moment.

Alex is a consumer finance blogger and journalist. He spends his working week covering savings accounts and umbrella companies but when he gets the chance he loves to write about touring around the UK.


The Simpsons Guide To Family Vacations

For the last 150 years or so, TV’s favorite family has been entertaining Americans, and indeed the world, with their inimitable brand of steadily waning humor. There have been many high spots in their epic run of shows, from the innocent fun of early episodes where Bart’s incitement of authority figures to ‘eat my shorts’ was the height of controversy, to the drug-addled, homophobic, gun-toting craziness of the show’s golden years.

But surely everyone will agree that the Simpson’s greatest episodes have centered on the characters heading off abroad on some flimsy pretense, allowing the writers to indulge in lazy stereotypes, ridiculous plot premises and general xenophobia. But what can we learn from these ill-fated trips abroad? How can your own family vacations be improved with a dose of home-spun wisdom from the family Simpson? Well, read on and find out.

Lesson 1: Don’t Blow All Your Cash

From: ‘30 Minutes Over Tokyo’

When you first arrive in a foreign country, it’s pretty tempting to go crazy with the cash. After all, you’re finally on your vacation, and there are so many new and exciting things to try. However, blowing all your cash on tourist souvenirs (or square watermelons in Homer’s case) before you’ve got a good grasp of the exchange rate will leave you with no money for the rest of your trip. Worse, if you’re stuck in a foreign country you might find yourself having to work in a shrimp-gutting factory or appearing on a torturous game show in order to fund your flight home.

Lesson 2: Don’t Insult People With Friends In High Places

From: ‘Bart vs Australia’

Generally, you should refrain from insulting people at all when on your vacation, but this cannot always be avoided. The really important thing to remember is not to insult anyone who’s in a position of authority, or knows someone in a position of authority. If you do happen to tick someone off, you may just want to back down, rather than escalating the situation as was Bart’s case when mocking Australia. Yes, their MPs may be pig farmers (Simpsons’ words, not mine), and their Prime Minister may enjoy nothing more than laying naked on a rubber ring in a watering hole drinking a cold tinny (don’t we all?) but you still need to respect their authority, or it’s a boot up the bum for you!

Lesson 3 – Don’t Try To Smuggle Drugs

From: Midnight RX

Yes, it may bring a whole new meaning to ‘adventure travel’, but using your vacation to try and smuggle drugs over international borders is a definite no-no, especially if you’ve got kids in tow. After all, it’s not like they can carry much. This is proved pretty comprehensibly in Midnight RX, in which Homer, Grandpa, Apu and Flanders head over the border to Canada to purchase cheap prescription drugs. The group is finally busted after an incident involving a hot cup of coffee leaves Apu screaming incoherently with a towel round his head while approaching a border control point. He’s subsequently accused of ‘expressing his faith’ which leads to a search of the car, the discovery of the gang’s stash and their eventual imprisonment and banishment from Canada.

Lesson 4: Be Careful On the Road

From: ‘The Regina Monologues’

There are many cultural differences to consider when traveling abroad, including language, cuisine and perhaps most importantly, the rules of the road. While making a mistake with the menu or getting your adverbs confused with your adjectives is unlikely to result in any real harm (hopefully), getting into a car and driving abroad can result in some pretty scary incidents. This is perfectly demonstrated by Homer when the Simpsons head to England on vacation and he accidentally blind-sides the Queen before calling her a ‘hippo’ in court and eventually being locked up in the Tower Of London and sentenced to death.

Lesson 5 – Don’t Get Too Wasted

From: In The Name Of the Grandfather

Vacations provide a great opportunity to relax, shake off your cares and truly let your hair down. But while enjoying the local nightlife is a pretty great way to explore a new city or culture, just be careful what you agree to when under the influence of the ‘Green Fairy’ in Paris or a pint (or six) of the ‘Black Stuff’ in Ireland. The Simpson’s trip to the Emerald Isle predictably involves Homer and his dad getting absolutely hammered in a failing Irish bar, and then agreeing to buy it in a drunken haze. In a desperate attempt to lure customers, the pair turn to Moe for advice (always a bad idea), offer patrons the chance to flaunt the smoking ban and are promptly deported.

Hayley is an avid traveler and had been exploring the globe for 5 years.

Things to Do in Al Khobar

Al Khobar is a large city, which is situated in the Eastern Province, on the Persian Gulf in Saudi Arabia. It began as a small fishing port, which was mostly inhabited by Al Dawasar tribe members. When oil was discovered in the 1930s, the small village was transformed into a major commercial centre and industrial port.

The tiny village has matured into a very scenic city, similar to Beirut in its classy parks, restaurants, and family friendly beaches. Al Khobar is known as a pleasant tourist destination due to its picturesque seaside location along the coast of the Arabian Sea and its beachside Corniche.

If you are visiting Al Khobar, there are many fun activities to enjoy in this city. Here are a few of the best attractions and activities available:

Rent an ATV

You can have a day full of fast-paced fun by renting an ATV at one of the local rental centers in the south of town. You can take these off road vehicles to the sand dunes and the beach and rocket through the sandy landscapes at high speed. Many of the ATV rental shops will not speak English, so take a companion with you who speaks Arabic and will help you reach a deal.

Lounge on the Beach

There are many beautiful beaches around Al Khobar, perfect for a day of swimming and relaxing in the sunshine. In particular, check out the area of coastline which is south of the city, known as “Half-Moon” Bay. These family friendly beaches have sitting areas, showers and much more. Camping is permitted on these beaches as well, so if you are planning a budget holiday in Al Khobar they could be a great place to stay. The water is shallow and warm and there are almost no tides or waves, making this beach a very child friendly place to swim. Remember to drink lots of water and wear sunscreen, as the sun in Saudi Arabia can be very intense.

Go Shopping

If you need a break from the desert heat, why not head inside to do some shopping at one of the excellent malls in Al Khobar? The two best shopping malls are the Rashid Mall and the Mall of Dhahran, and they offer many stores and large food halls with everything from the fast food brands you know and love to local Middle Eastern treats. Both of these malls also have amusement parks, making them a fun place to take the kids.

As an ideal base for your travels, Park Inn operates many perfectly located hotels in Saudi Arabia including their Park Inn Al Khobar Hotel. These are a few of the activities and attractions you can explore while travelling through beautiful Al Khobar. Go ahead and discover this Saudi Arabian city, and you will find that it has a lot to offer the curious traveler!


Top Banana Guide: Things to Do in New York

New York

By Elena Price

New York is regarded as one of the most exciting cities in the world and with so much to do and see it really is no surprise. Below we have highlighted some the best attractions of things to experience when visiting the city that simply cannot be missed.

New York is a melting pot for many nations and cultures and as such attracts business and leisure travellers from around the world and increasingly from the Middle East especially the UAE.  The national airline of the UAE, Etihad operate non stop flights to New York from Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The Empire State Building

The 102-story landmark is a modern marvel and was once the tallest building in the world for 40 years straight. The observation deck near the top of the building is a great way to get a timeless view of the surrounding city, offering up fantastic photo opportunities.

Central Park

Perhaps the most famous and recognisable recreational area on the planet, Central park is the ideal place to go for a stroll and get away from all the madness and mayhem found in the rest of the city. The park also boasts numerous play areas for the kids, statues and even a castle. In the summer months you can hire a paddle boat to ride on the lake and in the winter you can enjoy the ice skating rink which has featured in so many famous movies over the years.

Broadway Show

No trip to New York would be complete without taking in a Broadway show. Considered to be the best theatre district in the world, you can enjoy both timeless classics like Chicago or take in one of the more modern shows like Avenue Q.

Museums and Galleries

New York has a number of fantastic museums and galleries that are sure to keep any culture junkie entertained. In particular, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a must visit for everyone as it houses one of the largest art collections ever assembled, containing various important works from around the globe. Additionally, the American Museum of Natural History exhibits a fascinating collection of over 32 million specimens dating back over millions of years. It is especially a great attraction to visit if you have kids with you, who will no doubt be in awe of the giant dinosaur fossils along with the prominent model of the life sized blue whale.

Times Square

While Times Square is often very busy and a little hectic, the neon lit area at the heart of the theatre district a wonderful place to visit and it really gives you a sense of just what a modern city New York is. Even if you’re just passing through, it’s defiantly worth the hassle of the crowds to just stop and enjoy the area for what it is.

NYC Pizza

New York pizza is renowned as some for the best you can get anywhere in the world. You simply can’t take a trip to the city without trying some out for yourself. While there are many highly rated places to go, two of most distinguished places to visit are Lombardi’s on Spring Street and Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn.

Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty is perhaps the most recognisable attraction New York has to offer. Standing tall at a whopping 151ft (305ft if you include the pedestal and the foundation), this iconic structure is a true engineering wonder that can’t be missed. Additionally, if you’ve got the money there are a number of Helicopter tours available in the area, allowing you to take flight and get the best view available of the statue and the surrounding cityscape.

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