Most people travel to escape from the daily grind or to open their eyes to different cultures, geology and scenic views that will be remembered forever. According to search engine reports, searches involving the phrase “best things to do in ___” skyrockets during peak holiday seasons. With London standing at the forefront of the world’s best travel destinations, is it any wonder people want to know what’s happening in the Smoke City? Fear not! Through a careful selection process we have narrowed down the list of London’s best events to the truly exceptional top 10. These events are always internationally renowned, frequently attended by A-List celebrities, and often free or low-cost . If you’re heading to London this season, mark your calendars with these great events, and don’t forget to brush up on your London etiquette!
Runners cover the final stretch in the London Marathon
Founded by previous Olympic Champions, the London marathon is a long-distance running event spanning over 26 miles (42+ kilometers). The majority of the route is over level ground along the Thames River. The course begins at three different points – the “red start” in southern Greenwich Park, the “green start” in St. John’s Park, and the “blue start” on Shooter’s Hill Road. All three routes converge in Woolwich and the finish line is on Birdcage Walk in Westminster. The London marathon is one of the top six world marathons that form the World Marathon Majors (for which there is a $1 million dollar prize). As such, it regularly attracts world-famous athletes and Olympic champions. The event is free and is usually held on a Sunday in April. Read the entire story here…»
Think Paris is best experienced in the summertime or Christmas season? Think again! The French capital is a perfect complement to the changing seasons, so you are guaranteed a wonderful trip no matter what time of year you visit. Here are some of our favorite annual events to guide your itinerary in the City of Light!
International Agricultural Show
and other livestock are the stars of the International Agricultural Show
It’s the largest week-long farm tour you’ll ever experience. Since its origins as the General Agricultural Competition in 1870, the International Agricultural Show has grown to not only showcase France’s livestock, but the best regional, dairy, organic, and wine products from dozens of countries! Four separate sections make up the exhibition: horses, sheep, cows, dogs, cats, and other farm animals; gastronomic delights such as produce and wine; gardens of crops and greenery; and professional discussions on the ever-changing business of agriculture.
In order to accommodate its extensive display, the International Agricultural Show moved to the Porte de Versailles Exhibition Centre and has remained there since 1925. As if in accordance with the approaching spring, the fair is generally held in the last week of February, sometimes encompassing the first few days of March, from 9am to 7pm. Access to the venue is easy via public transportation; the Metro (line 12 has a station called Porte de Versailles), tramway, or bus will get you there! Tickets cost 13€ for adults, 6€ for students and children between the ages of 6 to 12 years old, 9€ for disabled individuals, and free for children under the age of 6. While you’re there, snap a photo with the expo’s current animal ambassador! Read the entire story here…»
Aerial View Of London
We all know how fulfilling it can be to escape the daily grind of full-time jobs and responsibilities through relaxing vacations, perhaps even more so during summer months when sun rays remind us just how much we have to live for! What some do not realize, however, is the ease and simplicity of booking short-term destination vacations, perfect for people on a budget or time constraint. Well, don’t fret – we’ve got a tip that might just make your weekends a whole lot better!
Short stays in the city of London are ideal for quick breaks from the hassle of real life, and many Europeans visit for a long weekend with help from high speed trains called Eurostar, located only two hours from the center of Paris. Looking to plan an itinerary? You can read all about the free events being hosted in London on our blog about the Top Ten Free Things to do in London. For a look into the neighborhood highlights of London’s many communities, check out our blog featuring London travel videos.
New York Habitat wants to help you find the home-away-from-home that best suits you from our long list of vacation rental apartments! Unlike hotel rooms, which can feel cold and empty, these furnished apartments aim to maximize the authenticity of your trip. After all, it can be overwhelming to find oneself in a foreign place – why come home to a foreign hotel room? Each vacation rental apartment presents an authentically local environment complete with nicely equipped kitchens and unique styles that offer personality and comfort. Find which one is best for you by scrolling through our list of London vacation rentals. Or continue reading to find six of our favorite, hand-picked homes! Read the entire story here…»
You’ve finished the paperwork, you’ve talked to the agents, and you’ve finally received the call with a request. Congratulations on your new booking! Not only do bookings mean a little extra income, (which is all yours by the way; unlike some vacation rental agencies, listing your apartment with New York Habitat is both free and non-exclusive) they also give you the opportunity to connect with and meet interesting people from all over the world. But where do you go from here? Many owners, both new and veteran, have questions about what is expected of them during this process. So we’ve come up with the following cheat sheet on how to be a great host after listing an apartment or room with New York Habitat.
Introduce yourself and schedule arrival times
When’s the best time to contact your guest? As soon as the booking has been arranged by New York Habitat. It’s best if you introduce yourself right away and bring up a few points relevant to their stay. Now’s the time to give them as much information as possible about their new apartment and city, including any information they may find helpful for their arrival.
One of the most important subjects to discuss at this stage is check in time and arrival. If possible try to be flexible when it comes to check in and checkout times. Airline delays in particular are a common occurrence, especially for international or connecting flights, and your guests will be hugely appreciative if you’re sensitive to such travel mishaps. Read the entire story here…»
The City That Never Sleeps is a rather apt moniker for New York, given its constant activity. It’s also the perfect locale to observe the changing of the seasons in all their glory. Here’s a list of our favorite yearly events in New York – must-see items whether you’re here in the spirited spring, bright summer, golden-hued autumn or sparkling winter.
Chinese New Year (a.k.a. Spring Festival)
There’s no better way to celebrate the beginning of the Chinese calendar than in New York, home to the largest population of Chinese-Americans in the United States (sneak a peek at our guide to Chinatown here) Traditionally the merriment was established around the lunisolar Chinese calendar; with the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in China, the Lunar New Year fell into late January or early February, changing annually. Initially a feast to honor customary Chinese values (ancestors, deities, duty to family) and prepare for the coming year, it now is a time to commemorate Chinese culture.
In New York, the free Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival (along main thoroughfares in Chinatown, from Mott Street to Forsyth Street) and the New Year Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival (in Sara Roosevelt Park) are the biggest celebrations. The former mesmerizes parade-watchers with colorful floats, acrobatics, and larger-than-life dragon dances, while the latter sends firework displays into the sky. Don’t forget to wear red – the color symbolizes joy and good fortune in Chinese culture.
Saint Patrick’s Day Parade
Celtic pride abounds at the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in March
New York truly is a city of immigrants, and this is never more apparent than at the massive turnout for the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, often cited as the largest in the Big Apple. Every year on March 17th (in the case of a Sunday, the event is moved to Saturday the 16th) thousands of spectators descend upon Fifth Avenue (from 44th Street to 79th Street) to enjoy the procession, which includes thousands of bagpipers, marching bands and dancers, often dressed in traditional Celtic garb. Read the entire story here…»
Considering its role as an intellectual epicenter, it should come as no surprise that New York abounds with world-famous museums. Whether your interests lie in art, history, or culture, you’ll find an exhibition to satisfy every curiosity. Why not start at the most prominent stretch of galleries in New York City, known as the Museum Mile?
A few blocks longer than its titular distance, the fabled Museum Mile runs from East 82nd to East 105th streets along 5th Avenue in the Upper East Side (take a closer look at the Upper East Side) and Spanish Harlem districts. Coined in the 1970s, the strip was rebranded to emphasize the cultural significance of its nine museums. Today, the Mile still is home to those nine institutions (a tenth, the Museum for African Art, opened in 2012 several streets north of the East 105th Street boundary) and is also popular for shopping and dining. Public transport, including bus lines and the 4, 5, and 6 subway trains, will get you to the various stops on the Museum Mile. There may be less than a dozen museums on the 5th Avenue stretch, but don’t let that fool you: it will take you more than a week to get through them all. Thankfully, our New York vacation rentals will have your NYC living space covered.
1) El Museo del Barrio
El Museo del Barrio teaches visitors with centuries’ worth of Hispanic art. Photo: Luis Camnitzer.
With 6,500 permanent objects, El Museo del Barrio has made itself a preeminent museum, grown from the very community that championed its opening. A celebration of Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latin American art, El Museo houses everything from pan-Caribbean artifacts to contemporary Hispanic works. The gallery is notable for its compendium of Puerto Rican printmaking, inspired in part by Mexican and Chicano prints (another exhibit at the museum). Don’t miss the extensive Taíno collection, home to ceramics and stonework of the indigenous Caribbean natives, and the Latin American folk arts collection. Read the entire story here…»
It seems there’s never a bad time for ice cream. Thankfully, there are plenty of choices around New York to satisfy your taste buds for something cold, creamy and delicious!
Below is a list of our top 10 favorite New York ice cream spots (in no particular order)!
1) Melt Bakery
Melt Bakery specializes in the aptly-titled “creamwich,” which combines an ice cream filling and cookie bun
Down in the historical Lower East Side you’ll find a sustainable bakery specializing in one unique treat: the creamwich. For the uninitiated, creamwiches combine a cookie bun with an ice cream patty. Co-owners Julian Plyter and Kareem Hamady began Melt Bakery at a street fair in 2010 before opening their Orchard Street store two years later. Regularly sized creamwiches will set you back $5, while miniature sized treats cost $3. The inside of the store is quite small and without seating, so think of the establishment as, essentially, a take-out spot; the signage is easy to miss, so pay attention as you pass by the shops on that branch of Orchard Street. The Melt bakers use local ingredients and dictate their menu based on the season – in other words, there’s always a new flavor (as of June 2014, there are six) for you to try! Why not spring for the “Classic,” a delicious combination of chocolate chip walnut cookies and vanilla ice cream? Or if you love red velvet, the “Lovelet” should hit the spot – melt-in-your-mouth cookies with a cream cheese filling.
Located at 123 Orchard Street, the bakery is open every day of the week, Sundays through Thursdays from noon to 8pm and Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 10pm. Melt Bakery is easily accessed via subway: the Delancey-Essex Street station is only a few blocks away and served by the F and J lines. While you’re there, take a spin around the Lower East Side with our handy guide. Read the entire story here…»
Just like in any other big city, the streets of Paris are mixed with tourists and locals alike – so it’s important for everyone to get along! There is no need to be afraid of the French – they are very nice people! But keep in mind etiquette is important to keep peace, show respect and make friends. After all, the better you know the culture, the more rich and authentic your Parisian experience will be. Listed below are our tips on the most important etiquette in Paris.
1. Learn a few words in French
Locals really appreciate a tourist who tries to speak the language. It shows a love of French culture and a desire to learn more. Don’t worry if you can’t get the accent right – the locals will think it’s cute when you pronounce a word wrong! It’s the thought behind the language that counts, oui? This tip will likely work to your advantage while communicating with a native. He or she is likely to respond more thoroughly to a foreigner who speaks a bit of French! If the conversation gets to be too difficult to understand, ask the person if he or she speaks English. Most French people do speak English in addition to French, especially the younger generations.
2. Know the geography of the city
The Eiffel Tower in Paris.
In order to maximize your traveling experience it’s important to know the layout of the city. This way you won’t waste time getting lost – or asking strangers for help! Get familiar with the twenty arrondissements (districts) of the city. These arrondissements are divided by the Seine River in the center of the city, separating districts into “left bank” and “right bank”. The right bank includes the 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 arrondissements – the rest are on the left (south) bank! Looking for a tip to navigating the districts? Here’s a clue – the arrondissements are arranged in a spiral, starting at the center of the city near the Louvre. The higher the district number you are in, the further you are from the city center. Read the entire story here…»
A sunny lavender field in Provence
What makes something “French?” Simply originating from France isn’t quite enough. For most people, there’s an indescribable attitude to the idea, a certain quality of je-ne-sais-quoi suggesting perfection of the art of living. Many pilgrims in search of this quality find themselves on the doorstep of Paris. They’re dazzled by the art and glamour of the City of Lights. But when Parisians think of warmth and simple comforts – of living the “French” experience – they think of Provence
Provence is a province of southeastern France, bordered by the Rhone River, the Mediterranean Sea and Italy. It was the first Roman province beyond the Alps (hence the name) and formed the seat of the Languedoc region. For centuries it was self-governed by the Counts of Provence from their capitol in Aix-en-Provence before finally merging with the rest of France in 1481. As such, it has a distinct cultural and linguistic identity that makes it a popular destination for both national and international tourists. Not sure where to start? Check out the Top 10 Villages in Provence.
Sadly, every trip must end. But you can bring a little bit of Provence with you when you go, a few key items to inspire those quiet memories of the sun, air, and the sense that somewhere life’s secrets have been figured out.
Calissons & Other Sweets
Calissons are a traditional Provencal candy. They’re candied fruits and almonds, rather like melon-flavored marzipan. About two inches in length, they’re usually almond-shaped and topped with a thin layer of royal icing. Calissons are historically associated with the town of Aix-en-Provence, and as such that is where some of the best in the world can be found. While they can be stored at room temperature and preserve well, they are best served cold. Just driving through? See what else you can do in Aix-en-Provence in under 48 hours. Read the entire story here…»
The exciting cityscape of London.
1. Museum Donations
In London, most museums are free with a request for donation. In the excitement of learning something is free it’s easy to walk right past the lobby to the exhibits. However, stopping to make a donation is expected – and appreciated! It’s considered impolite to deny the museum a donation, and rightly so. Cultural institutions such as these require large sums of money to remain open to the public, and they can only do so with the money given to them by grateful visitors. The easy accessibility of museums to people of all classes is crucial for the betterment of society. If you have a spare pound in your pocket (that’s the British currency!), consider giving it to the educational space that allows you such a magical experience. Of course, in the same regard, visitors who do not have money should feel free to explore the museum grounds free of charge. If this is the case for you, consider making a small donation on your next visit! For more fun things to do on a budget, read our blog on the Top 10 Free Things to See and Do in London. Read the entire story here…»