I thought I would take a break from my usual financial meanderings and write about a recent trip my wife and I took to Spain. Like most Brits we craved for a bit of winter sun and the recent weather in the UK pretty much pushed us onto a plane without too much resistance.
Of course us Brits love Spain due to its close proximity and abundance of English speaking residents especially in the South. However we had a hankering for something that got us close to the warmer parts but not the “bucket and spade brigade”.
After a little internet searching we came across a rented villa, not through a major company but privately. Modern looking, private pool, all mod cons and a view to die for. I was a little hesitant at having to drive 45 minutes from Malaga Airport up the coast and into the hills but in fact the drive was so easy on one straight road I had nothing to fear.
We landed at Malaga around 2pm (a most sensible time to fly), collected our rental car from underneath Malaga Airport (one of Malaga Airports biggest selling points) and by 4pm was sitting on the villa balcony comfortably warm holding a nice glass of chilled wine.
The villa we rented was perched on a sloping hillside just outside a delightful village called Alcaucin, described as a “chocolate box” village and certainly lived up to its reputation. Below was Lake Vinuela a beautiful blue ocean tucked between the rolling hills. We already felt relaxed.
Amsterdam, Holland, is a popular destination for euro-travelers. Amsterdam offers a diverse set of attractions for the modern tourist, ranging from museums that house the work of such painters as Van Gogh and Rembrandt, to the house of Ann Frank during WWII. For the more mature traveler, there is the famous Amsterdam red light district, which is a tourist attraction on its own.
Although Amsterdam does have its red light district, that should not distract from the beauty of the city for family vacation. Explore Amsterdam on foot, on a bike, or on a boat. People are friendly and the city is safe, and most people know English well, so do strike a conversation with the locals. For shopping, don’t forget the Waterlloplein flea market and then let the fragrance of flowers lead you to the floating flower market, which is amazing.
How to get around?
Bicycles are the most practical means of getting around Amsterdam but it is also an excellent city to explore by foot. Although you can easily get lost in Amsterdam, where the ancient streets and alleys are like a puzzle, if you are getting lost, this is the place to do it at!
Anne Frank House
Ann Frank House is an amazing museum that has a story attached to it. The museum is located at the center of Amsterdam, twenty minutes from the Central Station. Visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is a moving experience for everyone. Visitors can see the very room in which Anne wrote most of her diary and, although the Nazis stripped the house after her arrest, audiovisual presentations show what the rooms would have looked like at that time. The original version of the diary can be seen at the museum. The original building, the Opekta warehouse, was preserved, while a next door building was modernized and converted into offices and cafes for the museum.
Margarete Steiff’s sewing hobby turned into a major German toy company. The popularity of a U.S. President helped launch her ‘Teddy Bear’ into the arms of children around the world.
Steiff is an international toy company known for its quality and premium prices. The company’s specialization of animal-themed toys came from its founder, Margarete Steiff. She began sewing elephant pin-cushions for friends, but noticed how they delighted children as play toys. Other stuffed animals transformed this famous German’s hobby into a company in the late 1800’s.
Theodore Roosevelt, America’s 26th President, was already a war hero and legend in 1902 when his presidential hunting party wounded a young bear in Mississippi. Roosevelt ordered a mercy killing. While the bear had just killed a hunting dog, a political cartoonist drew the President sitting with a cute toy bear. Within a year the world was demanding ‘Teddy Bears.’
Many companies jumped into making the toy, but Steiff already produced bears. Margaret’s nephew, Richard, repositioned Steiff bears into high quality Teddy Bears. They sold nearly a million in 1907 and Theodore Roosevelt’s mascot remains the $100 million private company’s leading product. The original Steiff Teddy Bears are antiques. In 1994 one drew $170,000 at a Japanese auction.
When traveling in Germany between Stuttgart and Munich on the autobahn, stop by Glengen, just north of Ulm in the Swabian foothills. You will find the company headquarters, which employs 1,000 with offices around the world.
Tour the Margarete Steiff Museum, a magical place filled with her stuffed toys. Save some Euros for a genuine Steiff Teddy Bear, a German souvenir you can snuggle.
Travel agencies and tour companies are always trying to advertise their product as the most comprehensive and inexpensive package available. For the intrepid traveler, however, claims are not enough and unless complemented by the accurate map detailing everything from time required to costs incurred, they will remain unconvinced. Into this scenario, we bring in flash maps and the option of including everything one needs to know in one visually arresting, easy-to-understand map.
How does it work? Well, we begin by choosing an area of interest to the traveler. In this case, we pick Europe as an example. Countries in Europe have sharp seasonal changes and therefore the weather has to be kept in mind at all times. In this case, let’s make a map for a summer break euro trip. On this trip one can cover all the northern and mid-European countries. First thing to do on this map is the mark the main cities, once this is done, the next step is to plot the routes to and fro that point, each route can be provided with a mouse over option which will provide information such as airline and train services and approximate cost of both.
The pin points marking the cities can be provided with a drill down option to provide basic information about the place and also the best time of the year to visit. If the city has a homepage then that link can also be provided on the map. The map can also be colored in order to indicate the areas of Europe that are best visited in certain seasons. Another version of the map can be engineered to show the kind of budget one requires to traverse an area. If a budget-wise color-coding is done, then a student traveler or a luxury traveler would simply have to click on a zone and then choose options accordingly.
Everyone travels for different reasons. Some people travel for leisure, other people for business, and some for research. Once while in Italy I even ran into two Danes who were in Italy purely for the food! But if you are like me, you travel to experience new cultures, open your mind, get out of the monotony of daily life, meet new people, and visit the places you have always dreamed of seeing. Unfortunately, we all aren’t Donald Trump. Most of us simply can not afford to stay in hotels, eat out every meal, and take taxis everywhere when we travel. I am writing this for the people who have always dreamed of seeing the world, but don’t have thousands of dollars to spend. If this is you, pay close attention, because you can travel anywhere in the world, for as little as 5 dollars a day.
The first and most important way to save money is to either not pay for housing, or find the cheapest around. Often upon hearing this, people assume that means you will be staying in disgusting and dirty places. However, in my experience this is not always the case. There are many websites that help people find quality places to stay for free. Couchsurfing is currently the most popular website. On this website people from all over the world offer to have you stay with them when you visit there city. Before you stay with them you can see what other people who have stayed with them have said about their stay. Some people worry about safety issues, but couchsuring.org does everything they can do to insure peoples safety. Furthermore, I have couchsurfed in many different countries and have always had amazing experiences and made great friends. You can stay with both men and women, old and young, rich and poor – but no matter where you go, it is FREE!
Venice is the greatest architectural repository in the world. All six sestiere of the city contain palaces and churches in the three most impressive styles Europe has produced: Gothic, Renaissance and the baroque. What makes Venice even more remarkable is just how many of these buildings there are. Palaces are crammed against each other and churches appear around every corner. However, Venice is also a city of squares (campI) which means that buildings are displayed to best effect in a series of leafy outdoor “rooms” that crop up one after the other. There are no long roads in Venice unless you count the Canal Grande, the city’s high street, but even that curves like a snake so that new vistas are continually revealed. The canals of Venice divide the city into many manageable chunks and turn what might otherwise be a narrow dark alleyway into a luminous border down which float shiny black gondolas full of camera- wielding tourists.
The city of Venice occupies a special place in history. It was the first great republic since Rome. It had an elected head of state (il Doge) and an insatiable appetite for both making money and then spending it on ostentatious decoration. At its zenith, it had the most powerful navy in the world and a virtual monopoly on European trade with the Orient. As it declined, Venice became a byword for decadence, a city-state addicted to gambling, sex and intrigue. It was always stylish even if it wasn’t always beautiful. Nowadays, even the scruffiest campus is still distinctly and proudly Venetian. Its citizens remain in their hearts a truly independent people.