Classic holiday: Nice, South of France

Pleasantly Warm
With the summer on the horizon, everyone’s looking for another new and exciting hotspot to visit. The South of France never fails to attract a lot of attention, and during May, June and July, holidaymakers can expect temperatures to reach between 20 and 27 degrees C (69 – 81 F). With France’s famed cuisine, a beautiful pebbled shore, and the chance to enjoy both beach and city life, Nice is the ideal place to visit.

Located in the French Riviera (also known as the Côte d’Azur), Nice may be France’s fifth largest city but it still manages to retain a quaint charm about itself. Built on a steep incline, the city rises from the shoreline towards the mountains, offering stunning views and plenty of photo opportunities. Taking a scenic bus tour is a good idea if you don’t want to hike up some of the steeper parts of the city, whilst visiting Mont Boron will give you a beautiful view across the region.
See where Matisse lived
Whilst there is plenty of sun in Nice that will attract many people to long lazy days on the pebbled coast, there are a lot of sights to see. The ancient Roman ruins of Cemenelum are a great place to visit for archaeologists, whilst the city also has many museums including Musee Chagall and Mussee Matisse. If you’re a Matisse fan, then there’s an extra special treat too, as you can try to find the old house that the artist lived in during the 1920s: “1 place Charles Félix” is not distinguished with a plaque, but is a tall and old townhouse painted in yellow that’s easily spotted.
Things to do
One of the joys of Nice is the ability to explore the city’s flower and produce markets, stopping off at traditional French cafés now and then for a well deserved cup of coffee. Restaurants in this city vary from Michelin-starred extravaganzas to small family-run eateries offering the finest in French cuisine.
Another popular pastime in Nice is swimming, and though you might not be keen to sunbathe upon the pebbles, the warm water is extremely alluring. The beach drops away quickly, allowing a swimming depth to be found only metres offshore. If you’ve ever been frustrated with Mediterranean beaches where you have to wander quite a long way out before you can swim, Nice’s shore is ideal.

It won’t have escaped the attention of motor-racing fans that Nice is just half an hour from Monaco, where this year’s Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix will be held on 26th May 2013.

Nice is a popular spot in Southern France for many reasons, including the wonderful cuisine, the warm temperatures, the variety of attractions on offer and the opportunity to enjoy a beach and city holiday at the same time. Meanwhile, with Cannes, Villefranche-sur-Mer and Antibes all within easy distances, having a day trip and a brief respite from the bustling city life is simple to do.

 

Australia Travel Tips

Note that EHICPlus does NOT offer insurance cover for trips to Australia, but our sister policy ANZPlus can give you a great travel insurance quote for Australia.

Ride in style

  • On your departure day call the airport or check on the internet to make sure your flight is on time.
  • Try to drink plenty of water, whether you’re driving or flying, so you don’t become dehydrated from the air-conditioning.
  • Reduce the pain of popping ears on the plane by sucking a lolly, chewing gum or gently blowing your nose.
  • Make regular stops when driving, and walk around on the plane to kick-start your circulation.
  • When travelling wear comfortable, loose shoes that you can slip on and off easily and that will allow for your feet to swell.

Customs: What You Can Bring Into Australia
The duty-free allowance in Australia is A$900 (US$720) or, for those under 18, A$450 (US$360). Anyone over 18 can bring in up to 250 cigarettes or 250 grams of cigars or other tobacco products, 2.25 litres (41 fluid oz.) of alcohol, and “dutiable goods” to the value of A$900 (US$720), or A$450 (US$360) if you are under 18.
You need not declare cash in any currency, and other currency instruments, such as traveller’s checks, under a value of A$10,000.

Because Australia is an island, it is free of many agricultural and livestock diseases. To keep it that way, strict quarantine applies to importing plants, animals, and their products, including food. “Sniffer” dogs at Australian airports detect these products (as well as drugs). Some items may be held for treatment and returned to you; others may be confiscated; and others may be held over for you to take with you when you leave the country. Amnesty trash bins are available before you reach the immigration counters in airport arrivals halls for items such as fruit.

Know the Aussie climate

  • Regularly apply repellents and only sleep with the window open if you have flyscreens to avoid insect bites.
  • Apply sunscreen regularly. If you are snorkelling or swimming, make sure your back and all other exposed areas are well covered. Four days lying on your tummy in agony does not spell fun!
  • Only swim in the safe area at the beach, between the red and yellow flags.
  • If walking for long periods of time, make sure you take a bottle of water or better yet, a sports drink, to replenish fluids quickly.

Stay safe and sound

  • Keep your shoes on when outside and wash your hands before eating.
  • Jetlag isn’t pretty, but fight the temptation to dive into the hotel bed at 2pm and go for a walk instead. Sticking to regular sleeping patterns will help you bounce back quicker. Also try essential oils such as eucalyptus, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, lemongrass or peppermint dabbed on your forehead or on the balls of your feet for an extra boost.
  • Going on a boat or a long car trip? Combat travel sickness by taking ginger tablets one hour before leaving. Peppermint, spearmint and lavender will also help.
  • If you’re trekking at high altitudes make sure you give your body time to adjust to the thinning air and carry adequate supplies.

Get around town

  • If you’re new to a city, the best way to get your bearings is to take a tour so you don’t spend hours with your nose in a guidebook.
  • If hiring a car carefully check it for dents and scratches and insist the rental company makes a written note to confirm them, so you’re not landed with a repair bill.
  • Collect local bus, train tram and monorail timetables so you can catch as much public transport as possible — it’s cheaper and often quicker than taking taxis.

Quick, super smart tips

  • To safeguard your holiday pics, whether on film or a digital memory card, take a photograph of your address on the first frame, then if they go missing you’ll have the best chance of getting them back.
  • Avoid making long distance calls from your hotel room, it’s expensive! Use reduced rate phone cards.
  • Divide your money into cash, traveller’s cheques and credit cards and keep each in different spots in case you lose your wallet.
  • Don’t use laundry services at hotels; instead go to a local Laundromat or take some clothes soap and wash underwear in the bathroom basin. It’s much cheaper.
  • Keep a travel journal, blog or Twitter account, so you have something to look back on when you get home.
  • Always check under the bed and in the cupboards before checking out of a room. You’d be amazed what people leave behind!
  • Late night shopping is different in most states in Australia – ask locals for the insider info.

Telephone and Communications
In an emergency dial 000 (not 999). This will link you to the ambulance, fire and police services.
Need an interpreter? The telecommunications provider Telstra offers a 24 hour translation and interpreter service. Dial 13 14 50. The local white pages telephone book will provide more information.

Healthcare for visitors to Australia
The Australian Government has signed Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) with the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia, Malta and Italy. These agreements entitle you to some subsidised health services for essential medical treatment while visiting Australia.

Access to medical cover
Reciprocal Health Care Agreements cover treatment that is medically essential: this means any ill health or injury which occurs while you are in Australia and
requires treatment before you return home.

Your entitlements
As a resident of one of these countries, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia, Malta and Italy, you are entitled to the following health or injury treatments while you are in Australia:

  • free treatment as a public in-patient or out-patient in a public hospital
  • subsidised medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS)
  • Medicare benefits for out-of-hospital treatment provided by a doctor.

Further information on Australian travel healthcare is here.

Christmas in Australia: what to expect

Note that EHICPlus does NOT offer insurance cover for trips to Australia, but our sister policy ANZPlus can give you a great travel insurance quote for Australia.

Here is what to expect from a traditional Christmas spent ‘Down Under’:

Climate: staying warm at Christmas!
Christmas in Australia is often very hot. While the northern hemisphere is in the middle of winter, Australians are baking in summer heat. It is not unusual to have Christmas Day well into the mid 30 degrees Celsius, or near 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Christmas shopping therefore is often done in shorts and T-shirts!

Christmas food
Most families try to be home together for Christmas and the main meal is eaten at lunch time. A traditional meal might include a barbecue with seafood such as prawns and lobsters along with the ‘traditional English’ food. The turkey and ham is often eaten cold with a selection of salads. A flaming Christmas plum pudding is added for dessert, or a Pavlova with lots of seasonal fruit. In the Australian gold rushes, Christmas puddings often contained a gold nugget. Today a small favor is baked inside. Whoever finds this knows s/he will enjoy good luck. Another treat is mince pies. On Christmas Eve, fish markets are often full of people queuing to buy their fresh seafood for Christmas day.

Beaches
Some Australians and particularly tourists often have their Christmas dinner at midday on a local beach; Bondi Beach in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs attracts thousands of people on Christmas Day. Other families enjoy their day by having a picnic. If they are at home, the day is punctuated by swimming in a pool, playing cricket out the backyard, and other outdoor activities.

Santa Claus
Santa Claus arrives in Australia… by surfboard! ‘Santa surfing’ is now popular down under as hundreds of people take to the warm oceans and ride the waves dressed as Santa. Many surfing clubs now hold Christmas charity events where participants done the famous red costume for charity.

Talking of Santa, in the hot Australian outback what better animal to pull Santa’s sleigh along than six white boomers? A boomer is a special kangaroo that Santa uses to pull his sleigh along the rough terrain of the outback. The boomers were made famous in the song by Rolf Harris and John Brown back in 1960. The boomers’ names are Jackaroo, Bluey, Two-up, Desert-head, Curly and Snow.

Traditions
Our traditional Christmas decorations in Australia are holly, ivy and mistletoe, dating back to Pagan times. The Australians however like to decorate their homes with Christmas Bush, a native plant that has small, red flowered leaves.

The warm weather allows Australians to enjoy a tradition which began in 1937: ‘Carols by Candlelight’ is held every year on Christmas Eve, where tens of thousands of people gather in the city of Melbourne to sing their favourite Christmas songs. The evening is lit by as many candles as there are people singing under a clean cut night sky. The sky with its Southern Cross stars is like a mirror. Sydney and the other capital cities also enjoy carols in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Christmas Sport
Australia has some sporting Boxing Day traditions. A cricket test match is held on Boxing Day every year in the Melbourne Cricket Ground that can attract up to 90,000 spectators. And in Sydney, Boxing Day heralds the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, a 630 nautical mile race that can last several days.

For Christmas with a difference, visit Australia!

Traditional Christmas Markets in Germany

As winter draws in and the holidays approach, towns and cities all over Europe begin to light up with traditional Christmas markets. The Christmas market tradition is strongest in northern Europe, with Munich having one of the largest and most famous. From late November to the end of December, market stalls spring up all over the city’s historic squares, selling traditional Bavarian Christmas crafts as well as food and drink.

A wide variety of wonderful markets
The Munich Christmas market is actually several markets. The largest Christkindlmarkt, or Christmas market, is found in Marienplatz and the surrounding streets, in front of the city hall or Rathaus. Sparkling with lights and ringing with the sounds of Christmas music, this traditional market sells a wide range of traditional gifts, from beeswax candles and wood carvings to sweets, gingerbread and beautiful traditional Bavarian glassware.

In addition to the large Christkindlmarket, a smaller specialist market, the Kripperlmarkt, sells mangers and figures for nativity scenes. This market has existed in Munich since 1757, and today sells figurines ranging from traditional hand-carved wooden models to modern synthetics. The Tollwood Christmas Market is an international market, featuring crafts, food and performers from all around the world. These are only the most prominent markets; there are 20 other Christmas markets scattered around the historic city, ranging from a medieval market to a market at the airport.

Keeping warm
December in Munich can be chilly, with temperatures dipping below zero in the evenings. On cold winter nights, shoppers in the markets can warm up with mulled wine, gingerbread, baked apples and traditional Bavarian cakes and pastries.

Other Christmas attractions in Munich
The markets themselves aren’t the only attraction in Munich during the Christmas season. The town hall hosts daily concerts of traditional music on its outdoor balconies, and many of the markets have their own music and entertainment. Inside the town hall itself, a “Heavenly Workshop” for children provides arts and crafts with staff from the city’s Children’s Museum. Children can bake Christmas cookies and dress up in sparkling Christmas costumes. Ice skating is another popular pastime, with several ice rinks including one at the airport market.

Opening times
Munich’s Christmas markets officially open on 30th November; the main market closes on Christmas Eve, while the Tollwood market continues until New Year’s Eve. The market opens at 10 am (9 am on Saturdays) and stays open until 8.30 pm, except on Sundays when it closes at 7.30 pm.

 

Need inspiration? Inspire Me can help you out!

Looking for inspiration for your next trip? EasyJet has launched a useful new feature on its website called Inspire Me that lets you search for flights by the price you wish to pay, the type of trip you are looking for, and when you want to go. For example you might want to fly within the next 30 days from Gatwick for a weekend break with flights costing no more than £95.

Each destination appears on a map with a photograph, a summary of what the destination has to offer, the price and times of the flights, and a link through to a more detailed travel guide. You can then book your flights directly with easyJet, which will often give you the best deal on flights anyway.

We think it’s a really quick and fun way to find your next European holiday, and remember, wherever you travel in Europe you’ll always get great value travel insurance with EHICPlus.

Valletta, Malta: Pleasantly warm if you’re travelling soon

Valletta, the capital city of Malta, is one of the best-preserved historic cities in Europe, offering medieval and Renaissance splendour combined with easy access to the natural beauty and historic sites of the surrounding region.
Climate
The summer months in Malta can be too hot for some, with daily mean temperatures of over 85F (30C), but autumn is pleasantly warm, with mean temperatures just above 70F (21C) in October and highs around 73F (23C). Evenings can be cool, so jumpers or light jackets are advisable. October and November are relatively dry months, although December can see heavy rainfall.
Sights
The main attraction of Valletta is its beautiful city centre. The capital was founded by the Knights Hospitaller, a medieval religious order more commonly known as the Knights of Malta, and its buildings and monuments reflect the order’s history. For instance, the Co-Cathedral of St John contains chapels endowed by different groups of knights, each from a particular country; these groups, called langues, strove to outdo each other, giving the cathedral its present breathtaking interior. The building which houses the country’s parliament and president was once the palace of the order’s grand masters.
The dense concentration of historic sites in Valletta earned it the distinction of being one of the first cities to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking through the narrow, winding streets of the medieval city reveals new sights around every turn, but if you dislike long walks or love to drive you will find that the same narrow streets that give Valletta its character make driving a frustrating challenge!
Malta’s history extends far back beyond the middle ages; among the island’s most famous monuments are its megalithic temples complexes, one of which can be found in Tarxien, a suburb of Valletta. These massive stone monuments are approximately 5,000 years old.
Accommodation
Accommodation in Valletta during the autumn is relatively easy to find; the summer months are the most crowded. Available hotels range from small guesthouses, which charge as little as 20 Euros per person per night, to more luxurious establishments such as the famous Phoenicia, a five-star hotel which played host the Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Malta. Self-catering houses and apartments are a popular choice for visitors to Valletta, with typical prices starting at around 80 Euros per night.

Cagliari, Sardinia: Buildings, beaches and a taste of history

Cagliari, the capital of the autonomous Italian region of Sardinia, combines historic buildings, beautiful beaches, easy access to nature, a mild climate and superb cuisine. Although it can be crowded in the summer months, the drop in tourist numbers during autumn makes Cagliari an ideal holiday destination for this time of year.

Climate
Highs in Cagliari in the autumn can range from around 70F to 77F (20-25C). Evenings can be cool, so warmer clothing for evening walks is advisable. The autumn remains dry, with up to around seven rainy days per month but little overall precipitation. November is cooler than October, with December quite chilly, so early autumn is the ideal time for a trip to Cagliari.

Beaches
Summer is the busiest time for Cagliari’s beaches, but they remain an important attraction into the autumn. The main beach, Poetto, has both public areas and beach clubs which charge for entry, chairs and other amenities.

History
Cagliari has been settled ever since Phoenician merchants established a colony on the site in the 7th century BC. The city’s sights include the remains of a Roman amphitheatre, testifying to Cagliari’s importance as a major naval base and capital of Sardinia. The city, together with the island, has changed hands many times over the centuries, with each new regime adding new buildings and monuments. Most of these can be seen in the old city. History lovers with a taste for the macabre should be sure not to miss the monumental cemetery of Bonaria, located atop one of the city’s seven hills.

Parks
One of the most striking things about Cagliari is the number of parks. Large areas are given over to green space, making it one of the greenest cities in Italy. The largest of these parks is Regional Park of Molentargius, which is home to a wide variety of local plant and animal species.

Getting Around
Cagliari’s relatively small size means that most major areas can be visited on foot. This is fortunate, because driving and parking in a tightly-packed medieval city can be challenging! In addition, the old city is situated on a fairly steep slope, so if you are walking you should allow extra time to explore this area and schedule plenty of rest breaks.

Accommodation
As with many Italian cities, accommodation ranges from holiday villages to luxury hotels. Many hotels are located in the suburbs or on the outskirts of the city rather than in the city centre, where only limited space is available.

easyJet: getting the cheapest tickets

We know that many of you fly with easyJet, so this month we thought we’d take a look at what seem to be exciting times for the Luton-based budget airline.

Our top tip with easyJet is that if you want to get the best deals then book early! You don’t get last minute bargains with easyJet – the flights get more expensive the closer to departure date you get – but if you can book a few months in advance you’ll get great savings. Apart from waiting to book in their January sale, there really is no mystery to flying cheaply with easyJet: the earlier you book the cheaper it is.

easyJet have been trialling allocated seats on selected flights, meaning that rather than facing a scrum to get on the plane, or getting speedy boarding to be one of the first onto the plane, you can choose your actual seats as you would with a traditional airline. The airline has said that if trials continue to go well they could begin to offer allocated seats on all their flights. Prices in the trial have ranged from around £3 to £12 depending on which seats you wish to reserve.

[UPDATE: easyJet now offers allocated seats on all their flights, ranging from £1 to around £20 depending on which flight you choose.]

The airline has also teamed up with Airbus and is currently trialling a new kind of weather radar called AVOID which will detect volcanic ash clouds and allow the plane to divert around them. We know that some of you were caught up in the ash clouds last year, so this seems like a very welcome invention!

Get away from the crowds in Trogir, Croatia

For an interesting mix of beaches and culture, many people head to Split in Croatia, a Mediterranean city on the shores of the Adriatic Sea. But if you’re looking for an alternative to crowded Split, consider the smaller but equally historic town of Trogir, just four miles from Split Airport but a world away in terms of its pace of life.

What to see

Trogir was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Centre in 1997. Among its most imposing features is the Kamerlengo Fortress, built by the then-powerful Venetians in the mid-15th century. The view from the top of the walls is outstanding, although it does require a little effort to get up there. It’s worth checking locally for details of the events held in the courtyard throughout the summer.

Even Kamerlengo Fortress, though, is outshone by the truly remarkable Cathedral of St Lawrence, dating back 750 years. A massive, triple-naved structure, the cathedral demonstrates Dalmatian Romanesque and Gothic styles of the medieval period. Although the West Portal by Radovan is its most famous feature, the cathedral’s Venetian upper windows and the slightly later bell tower are also worthy of note.

For such a small place – Trogir’s population is barely 13,000 – the amount of history on display is remarkable. Many visitors enjoy a stroll around the central Old Town area, since almost wherever you go, you will stumble on a gem. One idea is to follow the route of the city walls, mostly still in existence; this has the side benefit of taking you close to the attractive palm-lined promenade to the west.

Where to stay

The four-star Villi Moretti is a comfortable boutique hotel, located in a well-preserved 17th century shipowner’s house and still family run. There are just four double bedrooms and one suite, which enjoy excellent views across the water to the Old Town. The centre is a few minutes’ mostly level walk away. Accommodation is provided on a bed and breakfast basis and costs around £70 per night.

Climate

If you like it hot then you’re in luck: July temperatures in Trogir can be rather high, often nudging 30 degrees C (86F), although the town’s coastal location helps to moderate the heat. By September, things are somewhat more comfortable, with 25 degrees C (77F) closer to the norm. Trogir usually enjoys clear conditions, averaging around 10 hours of sunshine per day in late summer and early autumn.

So if you fancy somewhere a little bit different, this could be just the holiday for you!

Copenhagen: A Walk in the Park

Clean, green Copenhagen is the perfect place for a week or long weekend away, with plenty to see and do. The climate is mild, reaching just over 20 degrees C (69F) in July and August, but the weather can be unpredictable, so pack a raincoat!

The city is divided into districts, each with its own distinctive feel, from the mediaeval, cobbled streets of the Indre By to the waterfront area of Christianshavn. Innovative modern buildings rub shoulders with traditional Danish architecture.

The flat landscape makes for incredible views. Climb the Round Tower, or dare the stairs that wind round the outside of the Church of Our Saviour and look out over the rooftops to Sweden across the water.

From above, you’ll notice what a green city this is. It’s impossible to walk far without coming across a park or garden. The gardens surrounding Rosenborg Castle are a popular destination for picnicking or sunbathing, while the Langelinie includes a stretch of shoreline and the famous Little Mermaid statue.

More adventurous members of the party can enjoy the rides at the Tivoli, one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, while others may prefer to admire the fairground buildings, some of which date back to the nineteenth century.

A tour of the harbour and canals by boat is a great way to see the city. Glide past the opera house, the Little Mermaid and the self-governing Freetown Christiania, passing under ornate bridges and alongside historic buildings.

Copenhagen is amply supplied with restaurants, cafes and bars, whether you want to sit with a coffee and a pastry and watch the world go by, stop off for a quick open sandwich during a shopping trip, or dine at Noma, reputedly the best restaurant in the world. Wherever you choose to eat, though, bear in mind that restaurants in Denmark often close early, and plan to place your order by 9 p.m.

It’s easy to get around Copenhagen on foot, by bicycle or on public transport. The level ground and a superb cycle network make cycling a pleasure. Why not ride out of the city to one of the many nearby beaches for a stroll or a swim?

A system of buses, metro and regional trains connects the districts of Copenhagen and links the city to the wider world. Make a day trip to Roskilde, a picturesque town with a Viking ship museum, or visit Malmö in southern Sweden, just a ferry ride – or a drive across the impressive Øresund bridge – away.

Copenhagen has something for everyone, whether you like your holiday as fast-paced as a roller coaster ride, as laid-back as a walk in the park, or somewhere in between.