Travel

Kedi: The Cats Of Constantinople

The Cat is one of the most recognisable creatures on the planet. Almost every single culture in the world has some sort of cat presence within in it. There are few, however, that can boast the numbers of cats found in every alleyway, restaurant bin and window ledge of Istanbul.

During these troubled times, Turkey’s biggest city has not been immune to the difficulties of the world. Terrorist activities such as bombings have become more frequent over recent years and political unrest from politicians trying to tighten their grip on the Turkish population have left Istanbul struggling. But what of the struggle of the cats? Have they been affected by these issues?

Turkish-born CeydaTorum and her German partner Charlie Wuppermann decided to explore this seemingly eternal city from a feline perspective and with good reason. Istanbul has a long history of cross-cultural cat migration. Many were used on ships to keep the numbers of mice down and once docked in the Bosphorus Strait, the gateway to the east (or the west), they would make their way on shore to mingle with the native cat population.

This has resulted in many cats of different colours and countries of origin adding to the melting pot that is Istanbul. In their film Kedi, Torum and Wuppermann follow seven cats almost as if they are The Magnificent Seven. There’s “The Hustler”, “The Gentleman” and “The Psycho”. All of course with their own personality traits.

In fact, even though this is a very cat-orientated documentary, the story is a very human one. Istabulians are asked about their relationships with cats and this opens up many diverse storylines that many city dwellers (which includes more and more of us these days) can relate to.

What seems to be an issue for the cat, seems to be an issue for the people as well. Overcrowded living spaces, excess traffic and lack of green spaces are things that seem to endanger not only our quality of life, but cats’ as well. Though there have been some recent moves by the city’s council to help cat housing problems such as building cat homes, one woman observes toward the end of the film that “by solving the cats’ problems, we solve our own.”

Kedi is not a politically motivated project, but perhaps with the seemingly innocent idea of telling the story of seven cats, Torum allows people to explain their perspectives on the world through a smaller if not sharper pair of eyes, with an openness that would not have been achieved through aggressive and direct questioning on a human level. This is a film about life in a far broader sense, beyond any regime, creed or culture. It’s beyond people and instead boils things down to the simmerings of Istanbul’s current situation as a whole and the quiet stories that can easily go unnoticed but still deserve attention in ever more uncertain times.

With some incredible fly on the wall, or fly on the fur as it were, style footage, there are few, if any films out there, that present the world from all fours better than Kedi. The life of the other can be easily forgotten, but here we can be humbled by the lives of the Istanbulian cat and perhaps realise that as with many things, we are all fighting, if not the same battles, then very similar ones.

Travelling to Instanbul? Don’t forget to book your Istanbul airport transfers with Holiday Taxis.

Why am I so relaxed in Koh Samui?

I’ve recently enjoyed a quick break at Koh Samui. I have been to Thailand before hooping between islands, but this time I only had a week to spare so I had to make sure that the island has a good connection with London and I can fly Friday evening after work. The flight and lay over at the Singapore airport went smoothly and next thing I know I wake up in a jungle…

Koh Samui, Peace Resort

The pool and the beach…paradise.

koh samui thailand

koh samui

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The island offers plenty of entertainment …and a Full Moon Party if that’s your scene across the see at neighboring Koh Phangan.

fire show thailand

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And of course the food…

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thai curry

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Will definitely be back Koh Samui!

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A Guide to Musical Vienna

If Paris is he city of love, Vienna is definitely the city of music. Over the centuries, the city has produced some of the best music and has been home to some of the best performers in the world. This is a tradition that continues today. Regardless of your musical tastes, Vienna has something to offer.  Read on and find out more about what Vienna offers music lovers.

Vienna

Opera for all tastes

Songs sang against elaborate backdrops of clouds and trees were popular at Roman celebrations and weddings as far back as the 1500s. This is the earliest record of performances, which historians identify as opera. That is the reason the Italians are often credited with being the creators of the opera genre.

In reality, the history of opera is more complex than that. One of the main reasons opera became so popular was that it was effectively a play that was sung. People became caught up in the story as well as the performance, the music and the songs. The performances the Romans enjoyed were not like this. They were just a series of songs sung against dramatic theatrical backdrops.

In reality, the Viennese really created modern opera. In 1762, the first opera that told a story was performed in Vienna.

Today, Vienna has three fantastic opera venues. All three venues have perfect acoustics and offer great views of all of the action. Whether you are an opera lover or not you really should experience opera in Vienna at least once in your life. There really is nothing quite like it.

 Vienna’s live music scene

Even if opera is not your thing Vienna still has plenty to offer. It does not matter what type of music you like Vienna has something for you. Barely a night goes by without a concert or live performance of some kind. Those who love classical music are spoilt for choice, with the Vienna Philharmonic performing most nights.  There are also choral performances in many of the city’s churches, which both visitors and residents can enjoy.

Vienna festivals

 Vienna’s unique ball season

Every year, Vienna is transformed during ball season. Being there during the ball season is a unique experience. The thousands of ball attendees dressed in beautiful dresses and eveningwear look stunning and take you back in time.

You will be able to enjoy the unique ambience even if you do not end up going to a ball yourself. The best way to do this is to sit down with a drink near the venue and enjoy the view. There are also many public performances of waltz music and plenty of street performers throng the streets at this time of the year.

 Fantastic festivals and parties

Each year, Vienna hosts an eclectic mix of festivals and parties. The Film Festival (Viennale) is always popular and attracts thousands of extra visitors to the city every year. Nearly 3 million people attend the open air Donauinselfest every year. Music artists from across the world play this popular island venue every year.

Aside, from music Vienna offers fantastic architecture, beautiful parks, wonderful museums and art galleries. The food and drink is wonderful and the city has a fantastic coffee culture.

Sky Garden in London – late lunch with a sunset!

Recently opened London’s Sky Garden, the highest public garden offers unforgettable views of the city. You can either book a free visit to the garden or book a place at the bar, brassiere or restaurant. I’ve chosen Darwin Brassiere for a late lunch at 3pm. This time was perfect for catching a sunset at around 4:30 pm (winter time sunset!). The food was not as expensive as I thought it would be compared to the other skyscrapers I’ve visited in London. I will definitely go back as it is a great place in the City to have a meal or a drink and probably the best 360 view of London.

Sky Garden London

Sky Garden London view

Sky Garden View on Thames river

Sky Garden City view

Sky Garden

Sky Garden view

Sky Garden restaurant

rain in London

Great family days out in Orlando

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The reason so many people coming to Orlando for holiday is to experience the big theme parks, especially Walt Disney World, Sea World, and Universal Studios. In and around theme parks, International Dive and in Kissimmee, there are over 80,000 hotel rooms, more than in the whole of New York. At night, visitors can experience the razzmatazz at the fantastic entertainment complex of Universal’s City Walk. To see Orlando’s other side, spend some time in the upscale suburb of Winter Park. Just 50 miles away, the Space Coast is an easy day trip from Orlando. Here, beaches range from empty, wild sands to the buzzing surfing mecca of brash Cocoa Beach.

Getting around

If you are planning to explore Orlando beyond the theme parks, the best option is to rent a car. With and extensive network of divided highways, driving is relaxing and fast. From Walt Disney World, downtown Orlando is half an hour’s drive north and Cypress Gardens Adventure Park an hour south. Many hotels offer free shuttle bus services to the theme parks, and Lynx buses serve most tourist destinations in Greater Orlando. The Space Coast is an hour east from Orlando on Route 528. I-95 is the main north-south route along the coast; Route A1A connects the beaches on the barrier islands.

Things to do

Families around the world book 2014 Orlando tickets via internet every day. They see adventure, great food and most of all a fantastic family days out! Here are some of the main theme parks and sights a family trip to Orlando should entail.

Orlando trip map

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The Making of Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour

This day has finally arrived and I was able to visit the The Making of Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour. It is based just outside London, in Watford Junction, just 20 minutes by train from Euston Station. I got an invitation for this tour as a Christmas gift but have been waiting for a sunny weather to go because a part of the exhibition is outdoors (turned out to be a small portion of the experience but still it is nicer to travel without dark clouds and rain!). I think it is an ultimate day out for entire family. Both kids and adults find the exhibition interesting. In the end of the day we all love Harry Potter books and movies.

The making of Harry Potter Warner Bros studio

The tour started with where  we kick off the Harry Potter story – 4 Private Drive and Harry’s little room under the stairs.

Harry Potter house

After watching the introductory movie featuring three main characters, we were taken to Hogwarts’ Great Hall.

Great Hall Hogwarts

Harry Potter costumes

Dumbledore

There were many rooms that were original sets of the movie, including Gryffindor common room and Snape’s potion room.

Griffindors chambers

Snapes potions room

magical potions

potions

We were also able to admire the interiors of the Burrow, the Weasley’s family home as well as the spells the Mom was using for chopping and doing the dishes!! Wish I knew them myself!

Weasleys house

Weasley kitchen

We were then exploring the interiors of the Ministry of Magic. The set included the main scuplture with the infamous slogan “Magic is Might” as well as Dolores Umbridge’s office and pink outfits.

Ministry of Magic

Ministry of Magic Magic is Might

Ministry of Magic sculpture

Ubridge

Ubridge office

Walking our way through the Ministry of Magic we could see Voldemort’s and his Death Eaters’ outfits used in the movies.

Voldemort and death eaters

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There even was Thomas Riddle’s grave.

Voldemort grave

To protect yourself from the black magic you could attend the class and learn a few useful spells and moves.

Harry Potter wand class

The exhibition allowed us to understand the production behind all of the Harry Potter movies. We were shown not only the different digital effects that had been used but also more old fashioned make up and design techniques.

Harry Potter masks

Here is by far my favourite creature from all the HP movies, the plant called Mandrake or Mandragora. The plant has a root that looks like a baby human. According to book when mature, its cry can be fatal to any person!

Mandrake plant Harry Potter

Another highlight of the exhibition was the the real size Diagon Alley. In the book this wizarding alley and shopping area was located in London behind a pub called the Leaky Cauldron. Inside the alley there was an assortment of restaurants, shops, and other sights. All items on the Hogwarts supply list could be bought at Diagon Alley. The alley was completely hidden from the Muggle world but fortunately now we can admire it on the exhibition!

Diagon Alley Twins shop

Beside’s Twin’s Shop with magical sweets and other crazy things, we could explore the inside of the Olivanders Wand Shop.

Harry Potter wands

The tour finished with a model of Hogwarts and its grounds, which was pretty impressive but sadly not a real size.

Hogwarts

Hogwarts grounds

A Walk Down Portobello Road

Portobello-Road

A walk along Notting Hill’s famous Portobello Road can be like a trip through some of the best-loved works of fiction. For example, it was the stamping ground of a certain Paddington Bear from Darkest Peru, not to mention Paolo Coelho’s Athena, or ‘The Witch of Portobello’, and it is the setting for the romantic comedy film, ‘Notting Hill’.

However, the road hasn’t become famous because of its popularity in fiction; it has been included in fiction because it is so famous. The popular thoroughfare is most well-known for the shops which line much of its length, particularly those which sell antiques or second-hand and vintage goods. On Saturdays, there is also a temporary market which has a reputation as a great place to buy antiques, books and vintage clothing.

Portobello Road isn’t just a row of shops, though. Visitors can break up their bargain hunting with some refreshments at one of the many friendly bars, cafés and restaurants, such as the popular Portobello Star bar or the cosy Earl of Lonsdale pub. Being at the heart of a bustling area and close to a number of attractions, including museums and art galleries, cinemas and, of course, the famous Notting Hill Carnival, it’s a great place to use as a base for sightseeing.

It’s easy to organise car hire in London, so visitors can arrive by train or plane and still have great access to one of the most instantly recognisable areas in the capital.

London

New Year in Hawaii: Events, Attractions and Activities to Watch Out For!

A fresh start is just around the corner, and what better place to ring in the New Year than Hawaii? I always wanted to celebrate New Year in one of the liveliest places in the world, surrounded by amazing scenery and Hawaii seems like an obvious choice!

Fireworks at Honolulu

Fireworks at Honolulu

Home to the largest New Year’s Eve firework display in Hawaii, join in the explosive excitement at Waikiki, Aloha Tower or Ko’Olina for a spectacular night to remember! It all kicks off at five minutes before midnight, a firework will be set off every minute during the build-up before a ten minute grand finale closes the celebrations. You can also view the displays via the internet, if nightlife isn’t for you.

Ali’i Drive

In the village of Kailua-Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island, fireworks are a big hit for New Year’s Eve, and the best spot on the island to experience the show is Ali’I Drive. The whole town lines the strip waiting for the main event at midnight, shot from a barge over the ocean in an incredible show that sets the village back tens of thousands of dollars.

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Parties

Hawaiian nightlife is great all year round, but it’s particularly special on New Year’s Eve and this is the perfect time to experience it. LUX and TRUMP both hold a Black Tie Masquerade party from 8:30pm-1:30am while the Rumfire at the Waikiki Sheraton host the Avenge 2013 event between 8.30pm-2.30am. This superhero event attracts partygoers from all over the world, and it’s one of the closest clubs to Waikiki Beach.

Aloha Tower Marketplace New Year’s Block Party

If fireworks aren’t your thing, try the Aloha Tower Marketplace! They’ll be ringing in the New Year with their famous Honolulu Block Party, and this giant celebration will boast eight stages with over fifty performers. Kicking off at 10pm, there will be DJs, dance crews, magicians and plenty of food and drinks to help you see in 2014 in style.

Midnight Cruise

New Year’s Eve in Hawaii isn’t just about wild parties and club nights! Enjoy a more sophisticated NYE experience with one of the most exclusive experiences available – a midnight dinner cruise off the shores of Maui! These cruises really do offer a one of a kind experience, and offer unrivalled views of the firework displays! One of the most popular cruises is the Pride of Maui, which serves up appetisers and desserts, live music, a premium open bar and a midnight champagne toast to allow you to see in 2014 in luxury. They might be slightly on the pricier side, but when you’ve saved money on your air travel by using the Cheapflights comparison site, it makes sense to splash out!

Wet ‘N’ Wild

If you can’t find a babysitter (or just want to celebrate NYE with the kids), Wet ‘n’ Wild is the place to be! As well as the 25 water park rides, the park will also be holding a fireworks display and family celebration where there’ll be live music and fun for kids and adults of all ages!

hawaii fish

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Taste of London 2013

oysters and champagne - Taste of London 2013

I’ve been to Taste of London festival for the first time and I must admit that I didn’t expect it to be such a success as I’m not a big fan of crowded places! However, crowded place with abundance of delicious food and tasty champagne that’s more like it! I went with a group of people, who were invited to the event by Electrolux, a Swedish multinational household and professional appliances manufacturer. The brand sells a variety of products, including cookers, washing machines, dishwashers and fridges.

ELECTROLUX CHEFS' SECRETS

Besides enjoying outstanding dishes we were invited to attend a cooking class with Simon Hulstone, a Michelin start chef. We took part in a hands on cookery session where we picked up kitchen secrets as well as learnt the benefits of induction and steam cooking. I was really surprised that the induction hob was so easy to use and didn’t make me hot, which I normally get when cooking on my old hob at home.

We ended up buying some cheese, cooking oil, chorizo sausage, delicious bread, as well as Belgium chocolate from the stands at the event. Overall it was a great day out and I will definitely come back next year.

ELECTROLUX CHEFS' SECRETS

ELECTROLUX CHEFS' SECRETS

ELECTROLUX CHEFS' SECRETS

ELECTROLUX CHEFS' SECRETS

ELECTROLUX CHEFS' SECRETS

And  VOILA!

ELECTROLUX CHEFS' SECRETS

ELECTROLUX CHEFS' SECRETS

Taste of London 2013

Travelling tips for women

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It is not easy to be a woman, especially when single and travelling solo. It sometimes seems to be a bit of a taboo topic but the truth is there is far more things women should be wary off when they’re exploring different countries. I admire women such as Isabella Bird or Ida Laura Reyer Pfeiffer, who both travelled solo back in 19th century. Many women, driven by fascination and courage overcame the cultural and biological constrains, and traveled the world. In some parts of the world a woman traveling by herself would be portrayed as weird and can even become a target of verbal harassment from the male crowd. If you are one of those strong and independent women, make sure you follow a few rules of safety and prepare yourself for any possible situation.

woman in travel

Here are a few points you should think about before and during travelling:

  1. Think about how you are going to manage your cash while abroad. There are different types of current account you can choose from. You can for example set up a bank account in a particular currency, for example in American dollars, to avoid paying extra charges for paying by card in the USA. You can travel with cash but that’s more dangerous and you don’t want to spend your relaxing time stressing about money in a hotel room that you left in a sock. You might also want to look at the travel checks or prepaid cash cards. Check if your bank has easy to switch bank accounts in case you need to deal with some unexpected money matters while abroad.
  2. Make sure you study what local women are wearing before going to the country. In many cultures, women have to have their shoulders covered, cannot sunbathe. You might want to avoid drawing unwelcome attention to yourself in general.
  3. Plan your itinerary each day and make sure you know how to get from place A to place B so you avoid getting lost. Don’t travel alone at night, take taxi where possible.
  4. A good idea would also be a wearing a fake wedding ring if you’re single. As silly as it might sound but it can work as a man repeller!
  5. Making eye-contact or smiling can be interpreted as a sign of encouragement in some countries. Be polite, but reserved.
  6. Classic, stay sober and never leave a drink unattended.

Above all, enjoy your trip!

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