Tag Archives: vacation

Impressive London

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Tower Bridge

I was breathless with anticipation when I was going there. Now I’m speechless with impressions. It’s a magic city.  Have nothing to add really. 🙂

Big Ben and Westminster Abbey

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Westminster Bridge

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“Let It Be” performance

Buckingham Palace. Tourists are waiting for the change of guard.

London Eye Ferris wheel.

Change of guard, Buckingham Palace.

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Gloria Golf Resort, Turkey, Belek: a hotel that leaves you with a deeper tan, a fatter stomach and a much thinner wallet.

Hotel staff collecting used towels.

“What would you like to drink, sir?” – a courteous Turkish waiter jumped up to my husband as soon as the latter entered the cafeteria. Funny, but no matter how long I sat at the table with my 4-year-old son, nobody asked us what we would like to drink. Call it a coincidence, but during our whole stay I couldn’t help noticing that the hotel staff was reluctant to do anything requested by a woman.

Another example was with the room change. The first room that we got was far from being flawless. A friend of mine (who was this hotel’s returning guest) told me that there were much better rooms of the same type. When I called the reception they agreed to show me one. Upon my arrival the receptionist asked me to wait in the lobby for 5 minutes. 5 minutes grew into half an hour after which I still had to remind the guy of myself twice. Experienced travelers later explained it to me that things like that often happen at Turkish hotels: “If you’re not yelling or stamping your feet, they think that your problem will eventually take care of itself. So, remember that crying helps.” I will definitely remember this advice if I ever come back to Turkey.

To end my list of flaws for this hotel I must say that the place is indecently expensive. The mere accomodation cost us over $ 6000 (14 nights, 2 adults + 1 child). It would have been even more without a 15% discount that they applied to us as to returning guests’ friends. And surprisingly enough, though our board type was called “all inclusive”, some things happened to be less “all inclusive” than others. For instance, you will be asked to pay extra for playing bowling, cue sports and many other things. The hotel’s spa center offers very few free services: you can only use the indoor swimming pool and a few types of saunas for free. And the prices for eveything else are far beyond reasonable. A “relaxing massage” costs 90 euro (about $ 125). Doesn’t sound too relaxing, does it? Overall, there was a strong feeling that Turkish hotels decided to get the most from Egyptian and Tunisian turmoils.

Getting to the sunny side of life, I must admit that the hotel is perfect for a “cabbage-like” vacation. A beautiful green territory, an impeccable sandy beach, luring outdoor pools and water parks leave you with no choice but to enjoy yourself. The beach deserves separate compliments. It’s huge, comfortable, with hundreds of sun loungers under wide beach umbrellas, therefore it’s almost never crowded. At least you can always find a secluded spot. At either snack bar on the beach you can get strawberries and watermelon, not to mention a pina colada which is of course a symbol of a dream holiday.

Kids can have fun at the Gogi Kids Club where there are always special events for children and the “mini-disco” every evening.  The hotel even has a small zoo where kids enjoy feeding rabbits and birds of all types.

Needless to say that Gloria Golf attracts golfers from all over the globe and ranks among the top 5 golf resorts of the world. But if you feel like playing golf for fun or taking a lesson, plan more extra spendings.

When walking along the golf course I saw a luxurious house called President’s Villa. That left me with a feeling that what is good for a president might not be suitable for ordinary people. 🙂 

 

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Yahoo! I’ve seen Oahu!

And here’s me again after quite a long break. First off, Happy New Year you guys and gals! Hope 2010 will be happy, fruitful and eventful.

As for myself, 2009 was a lot of fun. Both in terms of traveling and “normal” life as well.

The highlight of 2009 was definitely my trip to Hawaii (the island of Oahu).  The Russian mentality has always pictured Hawaii as something extremely exotic, with tropical plants, waterfalls and palm trees. There’s even a Russian song called “Oh, Hawaii!” that has a line that goes: “Coconuts grow there”. Well, they don’t and now I know it (at least I failed to find any on Oahu). 🙂 Pineapples do though. 🙂

Pineapples at the world famous Dole Plantation.

A quick couple of Hawaiian facts. Of course “Oahu” says nothing to most people, so here’s a list of all 8 Hawaiian islands and the number of reasons why I picked the one that rhymes with “Shmoahu”. 🙂

  • Kauai
  • Niihau
  • Oahu
  • Molokai
  • Maui
  • Lanai
  • Kahoolawe
  • Hawaii (a.k.a. the Big Island)

The capital of Hawaii is Honolulu and it is located on Oahu. So, basically all major U.S. cities have direct flights there. And I didn’t feel like making any more connections after flying from Moscow to New York and then to Minneapolis. 🙂 Second, Oahu has many other attractions apart from beaches, such as: Pearl Harbor, Polynesian Cultural Center, Waikiki downtown area that includes International Marketplace, bars and restaurants, shopping plazas filled with local stuff and world known brands, etc. But perhaps the key reason why I picked Oahu was the fact that the topline TV show “LOST” is being filmed there. 🙂

Right after I found out that Oahu is cooler than Hollywood, I started searching  for ways to get to see all “Lost” film locations. It turned out that the best way to see them is through the “Hummer guys” (as they were called by Jorge Garcia starring as Hugo “Hurley” Reyes in “Lost”). Here’s their website and a free whole-hearted promotion for the Hummer guys 🙂 http://www.hummertourshawaii.com It was a real blast riding in the jungle and seeing all the movie locations in the middle of a beautiful privately owned Kualoa Ranch. Apart from “Lost” spots, you get to see places where many other movies were filmed, such as “Jurassic Park”, “Mighty Joe Young”, “Pearl Harbor”, “50 First Dates”, “You, Me and Dupree”, “Godzilla”, etc. Well, enough of that, here’s a couple of pics that say more. 🙂

The guide shows the place where one of "Lost" episodes was filmed.

Godzilla was here. 🙂

"Jurassic Park" movie location.

Time for a couple of complaints about my trip. 🙂 As I said before, most Russians (including myself) portray Hawaii as an exotic place with white-sand secluded beaches and tropics. Well, I admit that I have fallen a victim of this stereotype but I found very few places like that there. First, Oahu is the most populated Hawaiian island, so don’t expect to find a quiet cozy spot – there are crowds everywhere. Second, Honolulu is the capital, which means a severe urban touch on the whole island. Moreover, it is the 2nd most expensive city in U.S., next to Anchorage, Alaska. The most famous district on Oahu, Waikiki, is often called “the tourists’ trap” for its numerous expensive stores and restaurants. But you can still catch a cool sunset there though. 🙂 Well, I guess these are about all my “complaints and grievances”. 🙂

What I liked most about Oahu is the fact that you can find all types of entertainment there. It’s not just a boring resort where you get sick of swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing 3 days after you get there. You can amuse yourself with tons of attractions, from “swim-with-sharks adventure” to exploring history at Pearl Harbor. Oh, and don’t forget that Hawaii is the surfer’s paradise, so, if you’re not a surfer already, make sure you take at least one surfing lesson. They are offered in abundance on Waikiki beach and elsewhere. 

Here’s a cool website that helped me pick most attractions beforehand: http://www.hawaiiactive.com You don’t have to book them from home and don’t buy the usual “Hurry! Limited offer!!!” crap either. 🙂 Most Oahu hotels have a desk with loads of information and a tour guide who can help you book your adventure as late as 1 day prior to the tour. But it’s still better if you at least make a draft of your program in advance. Here’s another source of info for ya. 🙂 http://www.gohawaii.com

And I’d like to wind up with a short Hawaiian video of mine. It shows just a few things that I did on Oahu but I’m sure you can do much better and much more than that! 🙂 Happy traveling and ALOHA! 

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Oasis of the Seas. All aboard Dec. 1, 2009!

Oasis of the Seas

What else do we know about Finland except that it is cold there and that it’s the Motherland of Santa Claus? How about another Finnish fact that the guys there will soon finish the construction of the LARGEST CRUISE SHIP IN THE WORLD? Its length is 359 meters (to compare, “Titanic” was 269 meters long), it has 16 decks, a rock climbing wall, an ice-skating rink, an aqua theater and the “Central Park” – 400 tons of soil with real trees and bushes. The ship can accomodate up to 5400 passengers in 2700 cabins.  The liner costs $1.4 billion and is expected to be put out to the Caribbean Sea for its first cruise on December 1, 2009. Don’t forget to reserve your tickets but first take a virtual tour. More info on http://www.oasisoftheseas.com

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