Family Skiing Holidays in France

Skiing holidays to France are very popular especially to resorts in the French Alps with popular places like Courchevel and Meribel, but France has absolutely hundreds of kilometres of ski slopes, which are situated in some of the most spectacular mountainous regions in the world.So when you go on your family skiing holidays or snowboarding, you need to find the right place with the right ski slopes or the nursery slopes for the beginners, so you can be sure of getting the ideal holiday, and whether this is through a travel agency for a luxury package ski holiday, or you are organising everything yourself by choosing your own chalet or staying in a hotel and being pampered whilst off the ski slopes, the choice is endless but you will not be disappointed.

Also, France has some of the biggest ski resorts such as Les Trois Vallees, which is made up of three valleys and includes resorts like Courchevel and Meribel, with this area having around 600km of pistes for skiers of all abilities and experience so there is enough choice for everyone.

Meribel can offer skiing to people with all abilities, as there are some fantastic beginners slopes but The Three Valleys area offers a good challenge for more experienced skiers, and has an incredible choice of ski schools, which cater from groups to individual tuition.

And although it is generally a purpose built resort, you will find it like a fairytale atmosphere with the ski chalets that blend into the scenery, however, it does have quite a lively nightlife and can get very busy in the peak season as it is such a popular destination.

Courchevel is an outstanding place to ski or snowboard, but can be a little on the expensive side, although the extensive slopes of the resort will offer extensive and varied skiing. It is made up of four villages known by their altitudes and they vary immensely from their access through to facilities, but some places you can get to ski right out of the door of the hotel!

Font Romeu is one of the oldest ski resorts in Europe and also has the biggest snow making operation in the Pyrenees and with well over 2500 hours of sunshine each year, this makes it another very popular resort for weekend breaks and longer holidays alike.

Chamonix is a town in a valley and there are five very good resorts, but these are not near to the slopes and you would need transport to get to them, but this place has everything from great shops to a wonderful atmosphere, yet because of how well known it is, the whole area can seen very crowded compared to some other skiing towns, especially around the ski lifts.

Alpe d’Huez is one of Europe’s largest and highest ski resorts and is currently one of only around twenty in the world that offers a lift-served vertical of over 2000 metres, plus it has the largest slope in the world where you can ski for well over an hour without taking any ski lift, although these are definitely not for the beginner or intermediate skier.

Yet even though many think of skiing as a winter sport, there are a few places in France where you can still get to ski on the glaciers in the summer months, such as Tignes or Val d’Isere. And there are very few great skiing areas in the world that can excite the imagination more than the Val d’Isère and L’Espace Killy is considered to be one of the best ski areas in the world, plus an amazing variety of different skiing can be achieved through ski lifts and ski buses that link the area of Val d’Isère to the neighbouring Tignes,

But if you have never been skiing then it is advisable to book you holiday through a tour operator, as they will know exactly what resorts are going to be suitable, and it is also an idea to have some lessons on dry slopes prior to going, so that you can make the best of your holiday, rather that spending the first few days just learning to stop falling over on the snow!

Of course, booking your skiing holiday independently can save you quite a lot of money, but there can be downsides as well, especially if you have never been to the resort before, for instance, you may not realise how far it is to get from your accommodation to the slopes, or even how far it would be to get to the ski hire places.

And lets face it, you do not want to be spending a whole day just getting set up rather than on the slopes doing what you went there to do, please do bear in mind that even if you do not have your own skis or skiing boots, you will still need to purchase other items of equipment before you go such as proper skiing gloves and sallopettes to keep you warm and the snow out.

There is a wide range of ski accommodation in France and you can choose from purpose built private ski chalets, chalet apartments or hotels. French skiing accommodation meets the needs of all skiers, with self-catering cabins to fully serviced luxury apartments and hotels, ideal for the skier on every budget.

But the choice of accommodation can be quite mind-boggling and you have to consider all the people in your party, especially if you have young children where childcare facilities or entertainment may be an important issue, or if you are a more experienced skier, you may wish to look at chalets nearer to the more difficult runs rather than the nursery slopes or perhaps opt for a little more luxury in a hotel with gourmet meals by evening in peace and tranquillity.

Speaking to people that have already been to a resort, or even going on to forums can help a great deal, especially if you wish to know what places are the best for good value restaurants when you are on a self-catering holiday, or maybe even avoiding a resort with a lively night life if you have little ones that need their sleep!

Of course, you will also need to look into what other activities that are available in your chosen resort, as there are always things for all of the family to enjoy, such as shows, archery, concerts, squash, tennis, ice skating, golf, swimming, dancing, saunas and spas, plus much, much more.

10 Money Exchange Scams to Avoid

If you read your guidebook and check the Internet you can get the impression that everyone gets robbed or conned. This is not true, but if you take some basic precautions you can drastically decrease the chances of getting into trouble. Money exchangers have many ways to rip you off. ATMs really are the way to go, but if you want to use money changers here is some advice on what to look out for:

1. They can fold the bills over and count them twice

2. They can give you lots of smaller bills and drop some behind the counter. Count the money yourself in front of them. Take your time and do not feel stressed because there are other people waiting to change their money.

3. Some countries have a big problem with counterfeit money. Learn how to check that the bills are ok.

4. The money changers can charge you a huge commission which was displayed on a small screen in fine print in the back. Ask them how much you get in local currency after commission and fees for the amount you want to change before handing over any money. Changing money in a bank is usually a lot safer and the rates are normally competitive as well. Changing money at your hotel usually gives you the worst rate.

5. The cashier claims that your bills are fake and have to be confiscated. They can also switch your bills for bills which actually are counterfeit.

6. Short changing also happens (have you ever seen David Copperfield the magician? Well these guys are not far behind in their sleight-of-hand). Count the bills yourself.

7. Do not change your money in the street, it is a sure way to get ripped off.

8. I find that ATMs are usually to be the best way of getting local money. When you arrive in the airport you can normally find ATMs in the arrival hall. They are everywhere these days, the exchange rates are usually competitive and you do not risk getting short changed. Make sure that you know how much you will be charged for making withdrawals abroad first; if there is a fixed fee (and not a percentage of the amount withdrawn) it may be better to withdraw higher amounts of cash each time. You may sometimes be charged a fee from the local ATM in addition to the fee your home bank charges you. It may we worthwhile getting a special credit card with a low fee or no fee at all for withdrawing money from ATMs just to use on your travels.

9. ATMs are very convenient, but unfortunately there has been a rise in scams involving ATMs. The scam is called skimming and involves a card reader being attached on top of the normal ATM card reader. As you insert your card the information on the magnetic stripe is read and stored. When you punch your pin code it is also recorded. A duplicate card is then manufactured and with that your account can be emptied. Check that the ATM looks authentic and pull the keypad and the card reader to see if they are legit (the fake ones are sometimes attached with double adhesive tape).

10. Getting change for large bills can be quite a nuisance. Often you only get large bills when you withdraw money from ATMs but if you change money at a bank or money changer you can insist on getting change (do this before you hand over your money). Try to break large bills when possible, it is easiest in supermarkets, large stores, restaurants and hotels.

By following the above advice I hope you have a great and safe trip. I leave you with a personal experience:

Personal Experience – The Rio Rip-off

When I was in Rio de Janeiro I ran into a couple who had just gone to the beach. While one of them went swimming the other stayed on the beach watching their backpacks. A person approached from one side and asked a question. After she had answered she turned around and the bags were gone. It was a classical “one person distracts while the other one steals”. They had their money, passports and credit cards in the backpacks so it created quite some problems for them. Oh well, you live and learn :)

Happy travels!

Hiking Trails – the Best Hiking Near Boulder, Colorado

For those of you who enjoy the outdoors, Colorado has much to offer. There are many wonderful hiking trails throughout the state. Trails range in difficulty from easy to very difficult, and many of these are great for experienced hikers, but not suitable for families hiking with children. For those who are either somewhat new to hiking, or will be hiking with children, this article lists some of the best hiking trails near Boulder, Colorado.

Late spring or summer is a great time to go hiking in Colorado. While many parts of the country are beginning to heat up, you can still enjoy the cool morning crispness, especially in the higher elevations. This is also a great time to experience some beautiful mountain scenery, and enjoy a colorful array of wild flowers. Boulder, Colorado is an extremely beautiful area, and has many hiking trails nearby. For families, hiking with children, here are some of the best hiking trails near Boulder.

Bald Mountain Scenic Area – Pine to Peak Loop Trail

Pine to Peak Trail is a 1 mile loop trail that is a great first hike for younger children. Hiking to the 7,160 foot summit of Bald Mountain, you will find a magnificent view and a variety of wildflowers. The trail starts off with a slight incline. After the trail splits, stay to the right and follow the Pines to Peak Trail. Bald Mountain Scenic Area is located 5 miles west of Boulder on the south side of Sunshine Canyon Drive (County Road 52).

Betasso Preserve Canyon Loop Trail

This hiking trail is a 2.8 mile loop that starts out with an easy climb, and then becomes a little more vigorous. The trail offers many different scenic views, and includes dense forest, fields, and meadows. This area was homesteaded around 1912, and later became a cattle ranch operated by the Betasso family. It is now part of the Boulder County Mountain Parks and Open Space system. To reach the trailhead take Boulder Canyon(CO 119) west for 6 miles, then go right on Sugarloaf Road for one mile to the trailhead.

Bobolink Trail

This trail is located in a parks and open space area of Boulder. It travels along South Boulder Creek, and is a flat, easy trail that is sport chair accessible. This area affords seasonal viewing (mid-May through Summer) of the bobolink for which the trailhead was named, along with other ground nesting birds. This hiking trail is located just west of the intersection of Baseline and Cherryvale Roads, and there is a parking lot on the southwest corner of the intersection.

Enchanted Mesa McClintock Trail Loop

This loop trail is approximately 1.8 miles in length and offers breathtaking views of the Flatiron Mountains. This easily accessible loop trail treats hikers to a beautiful pine forest, bustling song birds and squirrels. Along this hiking trail there is a gain in elevation of about 1,100 feet. The trail is located on the southside of the Chautauqua Auditorium, near Chautauqua Park (Grant and Baseline Streets in Boulder).

Lichen Loop Trail

This is an easy hiking trail that starts out at an elevation of around 5,900 feet and climbs only about 250 feet. The round-trip length is approximately 1.3 miles and provides beautiful views to the south of Boulder’s Front Range. To reach the trailhead take US 36 from Boulder and head north for 4.7 miles to Left Hand Canyon Drive. Turn left onto Left Hand Canyon Drive and travel 0.7 miles to Geer Canyon Road. You will see the Heil Valley Ranch sign and take a right onto Geer Canyon Road. Travel through private property 1.3 miles to the trailhead. Geer Canyon Road is a private road so do not park your car along the side of the road.

Rattlesnake Gulch Trail

This hiking trail is moderate in difficulty and takes approximately 2 hours to hike. The trail is about 3.6 miles round-trip, and begins at the entrance to Eldorado Canyon State Park, a world renowned rock climbing area. The trail makes its way up the southern flank of Eldorado Mountain, crossing a small stream on its way up to the ruins of the historic Crags Hotel. Built in 1908, the hotel was accessed via an inclined railway from the canyon floor, and burned down in 1913. To get to Eldorado Canyon State Park follow Broadway (93) South to Eldorado Canyon Road (CO 170) where you will turn right and follow this road all the way into the park. There is a small park fee upon entrance and a visitors center.

Hopefully, this short article has given you some good ideas for your next hiking trip. Our family really enjoys hiking together. There is nothing like being out in the fresh air, enjoying beautiful scenery, and having fun together as a family. Have fun, stay safe, and enjoy some of these wonderful Colorado hiking trails.

Do You Need a Travel Accident Insurance?

by Lucille Green

When traveling abroad, either in connection to your work or in connection with your studies, in most cases, even if your trip is for pleasure, it is advisable to get a travel accident insurance policy covering international travel. Today’s travel accident policies are also used to protection lost or stolen luggage, delays, personal belongings as well as the usual medical emergencies including urgent evacuation.

Initially, a little background knowledge of what’s around in the market place to cover travel and medical indemnity is going to be a worthwhile effort on your part especially to have the knowledge that you are covered for al eventualities. Contrary to popular belief, travel agents are not generally knowledgeable on travel and medical protection details so when you are looking into your travel accident insurance, it would be a good idea to bear this in mind. In your search, don’t forget online consumer and comparison sites that do all the research for you, so all you have to do is choose the best policy for your needs.

A good travel policy will cover most situations not just a few that may be part of a personal health plan so it is not a good idea to rely on one of these even if you have one. Your travel protection should cater for other troubles as well such as your baggage being lost or stolen, including personal effects, in addition to medical assistance that may need a special flight or other transportation.

Other situations where your luggage is delayed should also be covered by the plan as well as fully comprehensive twenty-four-hour emergency medical aid. However, some of the salient features of the travel medical protection schemes are that each and every such scheme should have a hospital indemnity benefit of at least one hundred bucks per night for those going outside America and Canada.

Unfortunately, it is sometimes necessary to make an indemnity claim owing to an incident on vacation and it is essential to contact the travel indemnity company at the earliest opportunity. On your return, provide all the requisite information to support the claim, including original medical or police reports, declarations, receipts, valuations, or other evidence of ownership.

By working with your medical protection provider, there is a good chance you can eliminate most of not all the possible risks and a better opportunity in walking out of that foreign hospital with the peace-of-mind that you are not going back home without all your valuable functioning organs. Don’t leave buying your travel accident insurance until the last minute because this could end up causing troubles later on if you haven’t made sure that it is suitable for your trip and just when you need to use it you may find it does not cover your situation.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Vacations In Glasgow

Scotland is an incredibly popular place to visit and one of the most exciting cities to visit is Glasgow. Glasgow has a vast array of visitor attractions covering an enormous diversity in tastes. While there are many modern attractions many people visit the city to take in the sights of the city’s spectacular architecture including the many works of the famous Art Nouveau architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Glasgow born (in 1868) Mackintosh worked as an apprentice to the architect John Hutchinson from the age of 16. In 1890 he took a tour of Italy, financed by the prize money he gained from winning the Alexander Thomson Travelling Studentship. In 1893 he returned from Italy and began work on the Glasgow Herald Building which was his first large scale project.

Around Glasgow you will see many Charles Rennie Mackintosh buildings and of special note is the breathtaking Glasgow School of Art which is considered his very finest work. Another couple of places well worth visiting are the House for an Art Lover and Hill House (in Helensburgh). Two other places associated with Mackintosh are the lighthouse and Queens Cross Church which I look at in more detail below.

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse is actually the Glasgow Herald Building mentioned above. It is Scotland’s Centre for Architecture, Design and the City, and features an ever changing programme of superb exhibitions and events. The Mackintosh Centre is found here and where you will find a wealth of information on the life and works of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. From the Mackintosh Tower it is possible to get the finest views across the city of Glasgow, to get there you need to go to the third floor and then climb a helical staircase but it is well worth the effort I assure you. However, if you do not fancy expending that sort of energy you could always take the lift to the viewing platform on the sixth floor instead.

Queens Cross Church

Having it first service on the 10th September 1899 and decommissioned in the 1970’s Queens Cross Church, in Maryhill, Glasgow could pass as just a rather unusual church but for the fact that it was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. In fact it is the only church designed by him which was built to completion and the importance of the building is shown by the fact that it is now home to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society who run it as a tourist attraction providing tea rooms and other facilities to visitors.

If you are visiting Glasgow to take in the architectural works of Mackintosh you should not miss the opportunity of viewing some of the other fine buildings found across the city. Probably the most important building is the Glasgow Cathedral, the only medieval cathedral to survive complete during the destruction of the Scottish Reformation. One of the more recent elements are the stained glass windows which are the finest example of 20th century stained glass in Scotland.