Tag Archives: london

Many Cancun hotels offer excursions to Chichen Itza

Amazing Places to Witness the Equinox

Twice each year, the earth experiences a perfect balance between daylight and darkness. The vernal and autumnal equinoxes were considered sacred, mystical days by many ancient cultures, and some even built elaborate monuments to mark the passage of time and capture the sun’s rays during this phenomenon. You can visit these fascinating archaeological sites anytime of the year, but for a real adventure, try going during the equinox.


The small town of Salisbury makes a great day trip from any hotels in London. Whether you arrive by car or by train, the moment you first see the massive columns of Stonehenge rise up from the Salisbury Plain is one you won’t soon forget. Archaeologists and astronomers have long noted that the massive stones frame the summer solstice sunrise perfectly, and modern-day pagans have embraced the monument as a spiritual center. There are guided sunrise tours that bring groups to witness these celebrations. Spring and fall equinox, however, get far fewer crowds than the summer solstice, so it’s a great time to reflect on your own spiritual rejuvenation in a quieter setting.

Chichen Itza

Spring and fall are a great time to visit the Yucatan Peninsula, and resorts such as the Omni Cancun Hotel & Villas offer excursions from the coast to Chichen Itza, the once-great Mayan metropolis. The Mayans were talented astronomers, and the ruins at Chichen Itza include a domed observatory. During the equinox, the main attraction is the great Pyramid of Kukulcán, the serpent god. When the sun begins to set on the day of the equinox, the shadows created form the shape of a great serpent slithering down the central staircase. The Mayans believed that the serpent brought the rains with its spring appearance and the dry season with its fall appearance.

America’s Stonehenge

Nestled in the green woodlands of southern New Hampshire lies America’s Stonehenge. This little-known but fascinating archaeological site contains a Native American stone circle and altar that serve as a more accurate astronomical calendar than its namesake. From the alignment stone, several large stones in the ring mark the location of the equinox sunrises. The area offers special equinox events and has great hiking year-round. America’s Stonehenge makes a great day trip from hotels in Boston or Cambridge, especially in the temperate autumn.

Whether you’re interested in exploring ancient cultures, learning more about astronomy, or just enjoying an offbeat adventure, traveling to these amazing areas that showcase the equinox is sure to be a memorable trip.

Whichever you choose, hotels in London and Paris have a lot to offer worldly travelers.

Showdown: London vs. Paris

From the face of Big Ben to the peak of the Eiffel Tower, some of Europe’s capital cities certainly hold a lot of attraction for tourists. Both London and Paris offer travelers not just some great hotels, they also provide top-notch cuisine, museums filled with artifacts, beautiful parks, and landmarks that hold significant and rich histories. Let’s take a look at how these two cities stack up against each other by exploring a few of these key topics of tourist appeal.


We can’t talk about museums in London and Paris without admitting that The Louvre is the most famous attraction in this particular arena. Just across the river from the Verneuil Patio Saint Germain de Pres, the Louvre displays some of the world’s most popular works, from DaVinci’s Mona Lisa to the statue of Winged Victory. No trip to Paris would be complete without a stop at this most iconic museum. However, it is important to note that London has a variety of immense collections as well to rival that of the famed Louvre. Take a look at the classic works and the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum (one of the world’s oldest), or go modern and check out the Tate Museum. The National Gallery, near The Grand at Trafalgar Square, holds over 2,000 paintings to explore. This one has to be a tie, with the majesty and appeal of the Louvre being met by the variety of the London museums.


An afternoon relaxing in a sprawling city park is one of the true joys of urban traveling. Both London and Paris offer great green spaces, some mere minutes from popular London and Paris hotels. Spending a day in London? The central Hyde Parks is of particular appeal, with a lake, gorgeous trees, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. Regent’s Park is a massive 410 acres, and Victoria Park offers the athletic types a multitude of sporting fields. Paris also has some lovely green space, most notably the Tuileries Garden on the way down to the Arc de Triomphe (visible from Hotel Champs Elysees Mac Mahon). In the end, this one has to go to London. You just can’t complete with the variety and beauty of its many green spaces.


Another joy of traveling to a new city is enjoying the cuisine the place has to offer. Both London and Paris have some great eats. Staying at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London – Chelsea? Don’t miss lunch at The Dairy, a restaurant nearby with an ever-changing seasonal menu and craft beers. Paris travelers can delight in Alain Ducasse Au Plaza Athénée, with simple seasonal ingredients and a modern environment. In the end, this one has to go to Paris. French cuisine just offers diners a wider variety of unique culinary experiences.


There are a plethora of landmarks and historical sites to visit in both London and Paris. London, of course, has Big Ben: the home of parliament and the most featured landmark in the city. It also boasts the London Eye (an iconic Ferris wheel), Westminster Abbey, and the Tower of London (London Bridge, while famous in song, is overshadowed by the famous Tower Bridge). While London certainly has a lot to offer, head west to Paris and you find the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Moulin Rouge and the Notre-Dame de Paris with all its pensive and unique gargoyles. There’s no way to pick a winner in this fight.

In the end, the showdown between London and Paris has to be a tie. Both cities offer everything from cheap hotels to fancy, five-star restaurants. With a variety of parks, landmarks, and more, a traveler could find the perfect vacation at either one of these internationally famous cities.

Stick with one carry-on and ship some of your luggage first. Whether you're going to a hotel in Dubai or a resort in Jamaica, it can make traveling much easier.

Pack for a Multi-week Vacation in a Carry-on

Maybe you’re going to Europe to enjoy hotels in London and other major cities on the culturally diverse continent. No matter where you’re headed, keeping your packing limited to a carry-on bag offers two benefits: You won’t have to pay any checked baggage fees on your flights, and you won’t have to lug around a huge bag from one city to the next. It might seem like an impossible goal, but you can live out of a carry-on bag for weeks when you follow these tips.

Make a List

It may seem obvious, but the simple action of making a list helps to solidify and consolidate essentials, even if it’s just in your own head. From there, it’s easier to then eliminate the items that can be purchased at your destination. For example, toiletries are often available at hotels or nearby convenience stores. Having a list available as you pack eliminates the haphazard guessing that leads to an overstuffed suitcase.

Wear Layers

Wear as many layers as possible to the airport, but be sure to leave yourself enough time to strip down to one layer when going through security. If you wear a shirt, sweater and coat plus your heaviest shoes, the largest pieces of your wardrobe won’t need to be packed. Wearing layers is especially helpful when you’re staying somewhere like Taj Palace Hotel in Dubai, a city where the temperature can drop over 20 degrees from day to night.

Ship It Before You Go

If you’re going on a long trip to just one city, mailing clothes before you set out on your trip can make sense – just be sure to do the math before you head to the post office to make sure it’s cheaper than checking a bag. This option makes the most sense when you travel to cities in North America; for example, those staying in a hotel like Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto may save money and time by shipping their clothes. Be sure to call the hotel prior to your trip so that they know a box is arriving for you.

Choose Lightweight Clothes

A sweater takes up a lot more space than a long-sleeved shirt, so opt for lightweight clothing when you’re packing. Neatly folding your clothing is one way to make the most of limited space; rolling clothing into a tight tube also works. Clothing also acts as an ideal base to cushion your electronics, chargers and shoes.

Checked luggage fees add to the cost of flying, and lugging bags from one location to the next during a long trip is no fun. Stick with a list, wear layers on your flight and consider mailing clothing to your destination to cut down on baggage, and you can brag to your friends about your extreme packing skills.

Primrose Hill is a classic run near many London hotels

Top Things to do at Sunrise in London

There’s no better way to enjoy the best sights in London than at sunrise. It is amazing how much is within easy reach of most hotels in the city. If you are an early bird or just want to pack as much as possible into your stay in the British capital, here are some ideas of what you can do at dawn.

Go for a Run

There’s nothing quite like a run to energize your day. One of the best places to run in London is Regent’s Park. Listen to the call of the animals in nearby London Zoo while running past immaculate gardens on the Inner Circle. Head up to Primrose Hill for a mesmerizing view of the city skyline at sunrise.

Head to the Pub for Breakfast

In the heart of the City of London, Smithfield Meat Market ceases trading at 6 a.m. The porters and butchers traditionally head to the pubs for breakfast. For a traditional cooked English breakfast alongside night workers and those heading to business meetings in the city, spend the early hours at a pub in Smithfield. Fox and Anchor and Smiths of Smithfield are among several good places to try.

Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride

For a panoramic view of London, a hot air balloon ride sounds exactly what you need. There are launch pads near the Tower of London and many of the balloon flights take in some of the most famous sights in the city. Set up camp at Fraser Residence City Hotel and head out for an early morning adventure . Glide over commuters, the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament as the city wakes up to a new day. This is one of the best times to view London from the air, especially as the sun rises.

Go for a Walk

Sunrise is a beautiful time to walk through London. Take the path up through Greenwich Park to the Royal Observatory and the meridian time line. You can even stand on Greenwich Mean Time as the sun comes up. Want a shorter walk? Watch the sun come up from Waterloo Bridge, and then head down the trail along the River Thames towards St Paul’s Cathedral as the early sunlight glimmers on the water.

London is full of things to do. Which activity will you wake up to from your hotel in London?

Turin (Torino), river Po and Monviso at sunset

The Black Magic Triangle of San Francisco, London, and Turin

Did you know that San Francisco, London and Turin comprise an ancient route of black magic? This legend dates back to Roman times, but today it lives on in these cities’ contemporary cultural life. As relevant, exotic and exciting today as they were centuries ago, these three cities come together to form a must-see tour.

San Francisco

From its Gold Rush origins to its current seat as the tech-capital of the country, San Francisco has long been attractive to the adventurous. Throughout the years, San Francisco, home to the Beat Generation, housed famous writers like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Beat aficionados will love the hip, vintage feel of City Lights Bookstore. After browsing for books, have an absinthe at the Beat hangout Vesuvio’s then hop on the train to the Mission, home of San Francisco’s first Latino Poet Laureate, Alejandro Murguía. In the afternoon, grab a snack at the enormous food co-op and onetime hippie hangout, Rainbow Grocery.

When you arrive at San Francisco International Airport, it’s easy to jump on the AirTrain to BART and be downtown and within walking distance of the best hotels in San Francisco in under an hour.


When you arrive in London, don’t be surprised if you are greeted by some royally dark British humor. From Gatwick airport, it’s an easy half-hour trip to Victoria Station, a major transportation hub for the entire city, where you can fill your Oyster card and hit the town. Check out the modern textiles at the Tate Modern on the South Bank then cross the London Bridge to stop at the Apex City of London Hotel before checking out the London Wall.

London was home to the designer, craftsman and socialist William Morris, who was well-known for his love of textiles. The William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow is free to enter and boasts gardens and a tea room in addition to its many galleries. Visitors with a sense for the macabre should also check out the Hunterian Museum, which is full of medical oddities like pickled fetuses and brains in jars. The British Library, which is walking distance from countless pubs, hotels, and other attractions, is also a must-see.


Although it is a stunning, historical city, Turin is generally not as well-known as London and San Francisco. Nonetheless, Turin, home to the 2006 Winter Olympics and located at the foot of the Italian Alps, is home to many artists, writers, and modern businesses, which lends it a modern and cosmopolitan feel. There are flights to Turin and trains also arrive right downtown at the Porta Nuova station.

Turin boasts a vibrant underground art cafe, the Cafe des Arts, as well as the Museo Egizio, which is the only museum outside of Cairo dedicated solely to Egyptian culture. Additionally, this city’s nightclubs along the River Po make it home to some of the best nightlife in the world, with plenty of art and music going on at all times. When you’re in the mood to eat and drink, take advantage of the city-wide happy hour that includes a wide selection of food and cocktails as well as world-class people watching. After a long night, head back to one of Truin’s beautiful hotels, such as the Grand Hotel Sitea, to prepare for another day visiting Il Circolo de Lettori, a brilliant and hospitable reading room where visitors can sip thick, creamy hot chocolate while pondering Nietzsche’s famous work titled The Turin Horse.

Turin’s magic can be attributed to its location on the 45th parallel. According to esoteric legend, the Black Magic Triangle between San Francisco, London and Turin is based upon ancient, energetic currents flowing between the cities. While we may never know if the Shroud of Turin actually exists or what the people who built the London Wall were thinking, this three-city voyage is meant for the thrill-seeker who appreciates the finer things in life.

Head to Hipmunk to book your trip to San Francisco, London and Turin today.

Things You Should Do Before Landing at the Airport in a New Country

Crowds at baggage claim, long lines through customs, signs in foreign languages and different cultural norms–arriving at the airport in a new country can be stressful, even for the most seasoned jetsetters.

Even after making it through customs, tackling unfamiliar currency exchanges and arranging ground transportation can put a jet-lagged traveler over the edge. Give yourself a break by prepping ahead of time for the smoothest landing possible with these travel tips.

Write Down Your Address on Paper

This may sound like a no-brainer, but these days, it’s easy to forget to write things down when you can just save info in your email or on the notes app in your phone.

Depending on which country you are visiting, you may be asked to provide the address of your accommodations when you fill out a customs form before landing. Don’t get caught with your address in your email inbox while you’re without service, or when you’re on the plane or standing in line at customs with only three percent battery life left.

Practice Phrases That Are Useful

We’ve all heard it before: “Just make sure you know the words for bathroom and beer, and you’ll be fine.” While a cold beer upon arrival does sound pretty nice, learning key phrases about transportation, accommodations and other navigation-related topics can be much more helpful when you’re trying to navigate from the airport to your hotel.

Know the Value of a Dollar

Yes, we live in a world where credit cards are a widely accepted form of payment. That being said, there is nothing worse than having absolutely zero cash and realizing a business doesn’t take plastic.

The ATM or currency exchange should be your first stop after making it through customs. But standing in front of an ATM before heading to your hotel in Istanbul and suddenly realizing you have no idea how much a Turkish Lira is worth can be daunting.

Skip the frantic Google search while standing next to an ATM by scoping out the currency situation before you arrive at the airport. Research exchange rates, the average price for a meal and typical cab fares to get an idea of how far the currency can take you. Then you’ll have a plan when it comes time to withdraw cash.

Check out transportation options

Speaking of typical cab fare, you should also research transportation options before you land. If you decide to take public transportation, most tourism boards offer information about public transportation so you can determine the nearest bus or metro stop to your hotel, and the lines you’ll need to take to get there. You’ll thank us when you’re navigating your way through the Tube to your London hotel like a pro, instead of standing in front of a transit system map for way longer than you might care to admit.

Powered by Scripted.com

Backpacking with a small pack makes finding a hotel in Paris a fun and easy adventure!

Backpacking in a New Area: What Every Traveler Should Know

Adventure, intrigue and freedom are just a few words used to describe the experience of backpacking in a new area. Backpacking offers the luxury of traveling without bulky rolling luggage and provides an efficient way to pare everything you are traveling with down to the absolute bare necessities. Backpacking in a new land where you don’t know the cultural etiquette or the language might seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips for backpacking abroad.

Packing light is the first must-do for a backpacking adventure. A backpack allows for a certain level of freedom while traveling, but not if it is over-stuffed. Pack only the absolute necessities and pack coordinated outfits that are lightweight and comfortable. While walking from the Spanish Steps to the Coliseum in Rome, your back will thank you for the lighter load. Your feet, however, might want to take a load off at a hotel in Rome like the Best Western Blu Hotel Roma.

While traveling in metropolitan areas like New York or London, trains and subways are the most efficient and cheapest ways to travel. When backpacking through a metropolitan area, show some courtesy to fellow travelers and avoid bumping into others in the narrow aisles by taking off your backpack prior to boarding. Once on board, stow your backpack between your legs or under your seat to take up less room.

Being aware of your surroundings while traveling abroad will help ensure that you are a respectful and courteous traveler. Don’t stop suddenly in the middle of a small cobble-stoned sidewalk in historic downtown Boston with your backpack on to take in the surroundings. If you are going to stop and look at one of the sights along the famed Freedom Trail, step to the side and take your backpack off to avoid blocking the crowds. Speaking of historic places and museums, consider storing your backpack at the place you are staying or a locker to avoid mishaps like knocking over a statue at the Louvre in Paris. If you are respectful while backpacking, others will respect you, too.

Trying to cram too many sights and stops into your backpacking adventure can cause unnecessary stress and pressure to get everything checked off on your sightseeing list within the allotted time frame. Instead, plan to spend more time in less places so you can actually enjoy the trip more. Always remember to tell friends where you are by providing a general itinerary before your trip. Remember to check in with friends and family while traveling, especially if there are changes to your itinerary.

Following these simple must-do’s will help any adventurer enjoy the journey and backpack on!

Powered by Scripted.com