On Wednesday we told you how a growing number of brides and grooms to be are shying away from spending their hen/stag nights in a bar in town and instead opting for a weekend away – often travel overseas.
There’s also a growing number of UK based couples who choose to tie the knot abroad. The appeal lies in the fact that the wedding is fast and costs a fraction of the price it does back home.
One of the most popular places for Brits to say “I do” is Vegas: after Americans, we’re the biggest section of the Vegas wedding market.
If your one of the 100,000 (and counting) couples who plan on tying the knot in Vegas, you might like to know that you can now capture your special day live, on your very own personalized wedding website.
Vegas’s Best Wedding Chapel – voted Best Wedding Chapel in the Las Vegas Review Journal’s 2011 “Best of Las Vegas” awards – is offering every couple their own personalized free URL available within 24 hours from time of booking their wedding date, which will be free to use up until their special day. Hosting the couple’s website from the day of the wedding will then cost just $30 for 90 days, or $50 for a year.
Each website will provide couples with live, web-streamed video broadcasting of their wedding, in real-time from a web browser, so family and friends can watch live from anywhere in the world!
“We are hugely excited about the launch of our personalized wedding websites. Couples can now keep track of preparations before the event, and invite guests to ‘attend’ from all over the world, watching the wedding live via the internet. For up to a year, couples can also upload photos and blog posts, for family and friends to enjoy,” says Ron Decar, Founder of Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel.
For those who have been lucky enough to get tickets the London 2012 Olympics, the next challenge for most is going to be finding a place to stay. Richard Hirson from onefinestay has some suggestions
With the London Olympics just around the corner the attention of the lucky few that have tickets, is now turning to where they are going to stay. With many of London’s top hotels holding their rooms for big group bookings visitors are being forced to look elsewhere for a place to stay. However, this is no bad thing as many of London hotel rooms are small, soulless and could be in any of the world’s major cities. In a city as diverse as London, there are many different and exciting alternatives places to stay which are more interesting a dull hotel.
Perhaps the most unique bedroom in London is Living Agriculture’s A Room for London designed by David Kohn Architects, in collaboration with Fiona Banner. This temporary structure is part hotel room, part boat and is perched on top the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre. With just one bedroom on offer and as it is only available for a short time,all the spaces were sold out within ten minutes of being online. This is truly unique alternative to any hotel room and its 360 degree windows give you views that are only rivaled by the London Eye.
With just two rooms, 40 Winks is likely to one of the smallest boutique hotels in the world but what it lacks in beds it certainly makes up for in character. Designed by David Carter this quirky resting place is ideal of anyone who is looking for an eccentrically English hotel in the heart of London. The hotel is also great who people who are just looking for a day out as they offer old vintage afternoon tea parties and glamorous pyjama parties to passers by. Its unique combination of high fashion and shabby chic have made this hotel a favourite for celebrity and fashionistas.
For travelers who are looking to experience the �?real’ London then the only option is to stay in a homeof a true Londoner. This has been made possible by the launching of a series of new companies who allow guests to stay in in upscale homes while the owners are out of town. Being in the home of real local means that tourists can avoid all of the queues which are typical of a tourist hotspot such as London. In recent years there has been a large increase in couchsurfing, but this is most effective for solo travelers. This new idea of home rentals allows whole families to stay in upscale family homes which have more space than only hotel room. All onefinestay holiday rentalsalso come with all the amenities that you would expect from a top hotel.
For further information on Onefinestay – a London based company which allows visitors to live like a local – please visit www.onefinestay.com
Lyn journeys to Livingstone and gets up close and personal with Zamibia’s desert elephants
Jocelyn, my driver, screeched to a halt. We were almost level with three elephants beside the road to Livingstone town, Zambia, and the bull elephant was obviously in a very bad mood!
He stared directly at me and his huge ears slowly waved to and fro. He was shuffling his legs, his body poised to move forwards.There was more traffic building up behind us. We couldn’t reverse. A car coming in the opposite direction flashed its lights as it passed, distracting the elephant for a few seconds. Jocelyn revved the engine and shot past on the other side of the road. She pulled in further up the road, shaking, and I got out to take photos, walking quietly forwards between the thin line of trees.
The bull elephant was getting visibly angry now, flapping his ears and stamping his feet. Suddenly he marched across the road and stood in front of a minibus, forcing it to stop. It reminded me of a police blockade further down the road. The elephant walked behind the minibus and, lowering his head, he pushed it along the road!
I could sense the driver’s hands trembling as he managed to re-start the engine and drive away. Then the elephant charged, his trunk stuck out straight in front of him like a huge rifle, chasing the minibus. Jocelyn screamed out of the window: “Lyn! Lyn! He’s charging!”
“I know!” I naively called back, taking photos. The minibus was safely out of range and the elephant paused, looking around him. He spotted me across the road, between the trees, and the magnificent creature stared straight at me and began walking slowly towards me. It’s a very strange sensation having a wild bull elephant staring directly at you. I regretted wearing a red dress. As he drew nearer, I bravely stood my ground, taking the most marvellous photos, preparing to dive behind a tree at the last moment.
Did I hell. I legged it! Leaping into the car, I yelled, “Quick Jocelyn, turn around! Let’s get out of here!” She needed to do a three point turn, and the elephant was closing in. He was in no hurry. I even had my toes clenched! A few yards from us, he just lost interest. He turned away and stomped across the road again, like a normally mild-mannered man who has been pushed too far and had a confrontation with noisy neighbours. Then he trotted grumpily into the bush. He’d made his point. I nervously stared back over my shoulder as we drove away. The other two elephants still stood in the same place under the tree, calmly watching everything that had happened. Blimey, and we complain about being delayed by bollards in the road!
Every morning without fail Luigi, the head elephant keeper, spends a lot of time observing the seven elephants at The Mukuni Big 5. He watches them to sense their moods. Elephants work because they want to, not because they’re forced to. They enjoy their work most of the time. Even if just a couple of tourists go for a ride, all the other elephants go with them because they like to work as a team.
But sometimes one of the elephants decides that they fancy a day off. So they have it!
I watched the elephants appear over the hill, a keeper perched on top of each one. They approached the gate and lined up neatly, dangling their trunks over the fence.
(The elephants, not the keepers!) We were told that we needed to go with a keeper as we don’t have elephant driving licences. I had a short ride on Mary, which confused her a bit as she was used to going on longer treks. But I had a lot to do and was short of time.Back we went. I dismounted on the mounting/dismounting platform. Mary went straight to her place and dangled her trunk over the fence again.
Luigi gave me a handful of pellets and told me to say, ‘Mary, open your mouth.’
I did and her enormous mouth obediently opened wide, her trunk curled in the air. Reaching inside, I placed about a third of the pellets on her tongue and she closed her mouth. I said it again and she re-opened her mouth. She hadn’t eaten the other pellets yet. She knew that I had more.Fed up with waiting, Mary gently nuzzled my hand with the tip of her trunk and sucked up the rest like a giant Dyson.
In two memorable days I flew over the mind-boggling Victoria Falls in a helicopter, walked beside the Falls and stood right on the edge, nervously holding a guide’s hand, (Eat yer heart out, ‘elf & safety!) visited the crocodile farm and held a baby croc, cruised down the Zambezi at sunset, drinking G&Ts and spotting the wildlife on the river bank, lunched on Livingstone Island, which is under water for half the year, rode on an elephant, cuddled a lion, stroked a cheetah, and had a six course dinner on the luxurious Bush Steam Train while driving through the Bush.
So how was YOUR week?
I’d never considered having a holiday in Zambia before. However now I can’t wait to go back there, probably in the Spring, when the Victoria Falls are at their highest. Zambia is a great destination for the British because it has more in common with our small island, than a lot of European countries. English is the first language and everyone speaks it. They drive on the left. The plugs are three-pin, so you don’t need an adaptor. Despite the fairly long journey, they are only an hour ahead of us, so I didn’t suffer with jet-lag. The crime rate is very low. Shopping is fun, with unusual thing to buy. And the prices are peanuts. Service for tourists is excellent. Great hospitality. And the accommodation is sheer luxury. And the weather is hot, but not unbearably so. In short? I loved it.
South African Airways flies daily overnight from London Heathrow to Zambia via Johannesburg. Prices from £771.
Great Malvern is a mixture of stone and Victorian buildings. Most of it is grand and obvious, Subtlety and modesty were not features when Great Malvern was at its zenith. Fashionable from Victorian times until, perhaps the second world war, Malvern is probably best known for the water that’s bottled there and the fact that the Queen takes it with her wherever she travels.
So is it worth stopping off and spending a day there? I just went to Great Malvern because that’s where the train took me. There is also Little Malvern, Malvern Wells and a station called Malvern Link so be sure you know where you are going.
Located in Worcestershire with hills all around if you are a walker it is an ideal place to base yourself. If your level of fitness is limited to getting up and using the TV controls when the remote is broken, then be warned. Some of the hills are steep. If you walk, for example, from Great Malvern station into the town centre then you will feel the exertion when you get there. Alternatively, there is a bus (no. 44) which runs every 15 minutes. A £2 “plusbus” add-on to your rail ticket could be a bargain. If you do walk, turning right out of the station will take you in the wrong direction and you will wind up in a village called Barnards Green. Don’t be put off. It says something about this part of the world that there are 2 vets, a deli and a cheese shop claiming to have 70 different kinds of cheese. Oh and 2 Chinese takeaways. As you walk back into town, you pass a large 74-year-old oak planted to celebrate the jubilee of George V. On the stone it says 1936 but the jubilee was in 1935. Like much of this area could this be a sign of Great Malvern living in the past. If it is then I’m all for it. The number of bog standard high street shops is few. Here the shops are local and you don’t get the feeling that it’s the same as every high street you’ve ever walked down. Yes, there is a WH Smith, an Oxfam, a Dorothy Perkins and an Iceland but apart from that, it feels like a place where even the shopping is different.
Begin at the station. Here even the signals as you come down the line are old fashioned With Victorian ornate architecture painted in different colours there is a cafe, Lady Foley’s Tea Room which has tables on chairs on the platform itself. Unlike the Pumpkin cafes that seem to be at almost every railway station wherever you are, this place is more like an old worlde tearoom with plates of cakes covered by domes and tea at leas than £1 per cup I’d hardly left the station when a delivery driver said good morning. For the rest of the day, others also smiled and said hello. A mother with two children, all walking abreast moved aside for me. After saying thanks, one child said “you’re welcome” Politeness or taking the Michael? I’d have said the latter except that it was the politeness of the other people there that stuck in my mind. This is a town erupting from the countryside. Along my walk, apples were lying in the verges. You don’t need a fruit shop around here for your five-a-day.
The town is inextricably linked with the composer Edward Elgar and he and his wife are buried in St Wulfstan’s in Malvern Wells.
In the station there is nothing about Great Malvern itself; it all related to other places so the tourist office in the middle of the town was the first port of call. It carries a lot of brochures and the staff was pleasant and willing to talk about the place which was just as well as it was busier than I expected. Busier than many city tourist offices I have been in. After all, everywhere else had been pretty quiet. You couldn’t say the centre was busy. After the hill climb, a pint was in order and I was not alone in my thinking. Outside the Unicorn, is a blue sign saying that C S Lewis (the author of the Narnia chronicles) often met his friends there!
Malvern Priory is celebrating its 925th anniversary this year. As a parish church, it is smaller and less ostentatious than many cathedrals but it also has a feel of being used and appreciated. Inside there is an area with toys for tots to play with. There are areas set aside with chairs for small meetings and quite a large retail area. Two things to look out for are the ceilings. They are wooden and in patterned squares. The other is a collection of tiles on the choir screen. There are over 1200 of them using over 90 different designs. Some are pretty worn but so would you be if you dated back to 1456. Apparently, they are the only examples in Britain of mural tiles.
Don’t forget the museum (it will cost you £2 to get in ) which is entered from under a gateway.
As a base for exploring the Malvern Hills, Great Malvern is ideal. Picturesque hotels, a village feel and lots in the surrounding countryside if you have a car or use your PlusBus pass.