Animal Activities in the Canary Islands

The Canary Island’s unique volcanic formation has made it one of the world’s most diverse destinations for plants and animals. In fact, this island chain is home to more than 600 endemic species, the largest national park in Spain, and marine reserves in Lanzarote. It is no wonder then that this archipelago’s diverse wildlife attracts visitors from all over the world, approximately 12-million tourists a year. With this many people to entertain, the Canary Islands provides a wealth of animal-themed activities for all ages and visitors.

For a more elaborate collection of animal activities, the popular Guinate Tropical Park and Penguin Paradise host shows and one of the largest collections of animals in the Canary Islands. Situated on what is now an extinct volcano, the park’s landscape of waterfalls, gardens, and ponds blends in with its surrounding environment and allows the animals to feel at home. Undoubtedly the highlight of the park is its Penguin Paradise enclosure, which allows visitors to watch the animals through the underwater viewing pool. Other sites worth seeing are the parrot show at the indoor theatre and the meerkats.

The island of La Graciosa, only a short boat ride north of Lanzarote, is entirely protected as a marine reserve. In fact, only approximately 500 people live on the island with only one village; whilst some might think that is deserted, it also means you can enjoy time with the local wildlife without fighting crowds or waiting in queues.

Gran Canaria is also a popular destination flooded with a variety of animal friendly activities. Dubbed a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, the island is packed with a number of plant and wild life. There are also around 50 different types of birds in Gran Canaria.

With this in mind, its no wonder the island is so popular for bird watching. If you’re looking for a good spot to stay while you’re on the look out, there are plenty of Hotels4u all inclusive deals on offer for you to choose from depending on your budget and taste.

Catherine McCulloch is a travel writer who lives in London. Hotels4u has a variety of deals on hotels to choose from, click here to check them out.

Trendy Venues in Barcelona

Barcelona has attracted a bevy of Bohemian and creative crowds for decades. A smaller scene than its arty French neighbour, Paris, the Catalan capital prides itself on its quirky hangouts boasting rich cultural significance. We’ve rounded up some of the top drinking dens to be sure to pop into on your trip to Barcelona.

Go to Els Quatre Gats, The Four Cats, for a glimpse of one of the oldest boho hangouts in the city where some of the most famous artists of their time spent their days and nights. Loosely translated from ‘only a few people’ the name reflects the venue’s character perfectly, suiting its relaxed, underground type of vibe. Originally established in 1897 as a cafe, it has since been revamped by restaurateurs.

Created by Josep Puig i Cadafalch who helped kick off the Modernist movement, one of the most famous names associated with the establishment is the famous painter, Pablo Picasso. He held one of his first art exhibitions here during his time, and today the original menus, designed by the late artist himself are still in use.

English lit fans should definitely stop by London Bar, centrally situated next to the city’s lively Las Ramblas. Built in 1920, the pub prides itself for not just serving but acting as a home away from home to the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Joan Mir. If that’s not enough, perhaps the quirky surroundings will tempt you into stopping by for a cheeky glass of the local plank.

Bar Marsella opened in 1820 and is often cited as the very first bar in Barcelona. Hemingway, Picasso, Gaudi and Dali were all regulars and it remains a typically louche, laid back drinking venue today. The decor is tatty; think cobweb-draped chandeliers and sleazy upholstery, yet this seems to only strengthen its charm.

Catherine McCulloch is a travel writer who frequently goes on trips to Spain. For great deals on places to stay and flights to Barcelona, then visit the Hotels4U site by clicking here.

Spanish Inventions You Might Not Expect

Believe it or not, there’s more to Spain than the stereotypical tapas, flamenco and cheap holidays. The country is also responsible for a world of inventions, some that you might not have initially expected. Here’s a list of some of the most surprising contributions the country has made to society.

Although many people believe the American cowboys were the first to come up with the cigarette, the guilty pleasure or nasty habit, depending on how you view it, were created by impoverished Spaniards centuries ago. It wasn’t until 1833 that they started distributing tobacco goods around the world.

Table tennis is also believed to have been originated in Spain. Who can actually claim the honour of putting the planet’s favourite game on a table is up for dispute. However the very first patent belongs to the enigmatic Spaniard, Alejandro Finisterre. After being injured by a bomb in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War, Finisterre observed his fellow patients’ frustration at being unable to play football. He took inspiration from the idea of table tennis and approached a local carpenter to knock a prototype together. The inventor, cultural agitator and poet sadly passed away in 2007.

Sherry also happens to be Spanish. Loved by UK grannies and problem drinkers alike, the idea of sherry originating from anywhere but Blighty is a bit hard to swallow. In actual fact, sherry comes from the Spanish town of Jerez, close to Cadiz. The English pronunciation actually derives from the old Arabic word for the town, Sherish. A far cry from the beverage we drink in the UK, traditional Spanish sherry is absolutely delicious and is the perfect accompaniment to tapas.

But the most surprising and hard to believe invention has got to be Coca Cola. The ubiquitous US drink is actually held by the citizens of Ayelo de Malferit, near Valencia, as one of their own. The official party line maintains that Coca Cola was the brainchild of an Atlanta pharmacist. However, the Spaniards claim it as their own locally concocted beverage that used to be known as Nuez de Kola Coca.

Catherine McCulloch is a London-based writer with a love for Spain. If you’re searching for somewhere to stay while you’re in the country, click here to browse the MyTravel website.

Unusual Customs in Spain

Whether or not you believe it, Spain has a lot more to offer than sand, sun and sea. We’ve rounded up some memorable festivals and traditions throughout the country, which happen to be a bit out of the ordinary.

One of the events of the season is Valencia’s Tomatina Tomato Festival, which also happens to the be largest international food fight around, as well as one of the most famous happenings in Spain. If you’re not a fan of veg and crave a bit more action, then the Running of the Bulls festival might just be for you. Catering to adrenaline junkies everywhere, Pamplona releases a dozen bulls and challenges the adventurous to keep ahead of the bulls while they roam the streets. Parents everywhere can breathe a sigh of release as all participants must be at least 18 to get involved in the big event.

Alternatively, for a more wardrobe friendly festival, head to Lanjaron (near Granada) for June’s giant water fight, or, if you’re in the mood for a little more adult refreshment during your holidays, the wine fight in La Rioja (where else?!) is also pretty fun. Continuing the alcoholic theme, Cadiar or Toro in Castilla y Leon also fill their fountains with wine for celebrations held in February, October and August.

If you’ve spent your Christmas holidays cooped up with your family before, you’ll know that the festive period brings out the best and worst in people. With this in mind you can find some of Spain’s most unusual habits at this time – most notably in Catalonia. Here people conceal small gnome-like ‘caganer’ figurines of people (sometimes famous) defecating (yes, that’s what we said!) in their nativity scenes for children and friends to find. Rather surprisingly, this has actually been a tradition since the 17th century.

New Year takes on a more adventurous turn in Valencia however, where locals strip down to their underwear – which incidentally has to be red – and run through the streets. A few days before this on December 28 locals also engage in a spectacular flour fight to celebrate the Day of the Innocents (Els Enfarinats Festival), which is also a must-see.

Catherine McCulloch is a travel writer who often travels to Spain for holidays. Click here for fantastic offers on hotels and flights to Spain from from MyTravel.

Contemporary Architecture in Barcelona

Bold, bright and brash are just some of the words that come to mind when describing some of Barcelona’s more acclaimed structures and an afternoon spent wandering its breathtakingly beautiful streets to see the city’s key buildings is an absolute must during any visit. Here’s a quick look at some of Barca’s most iconic modern buildings to help you plan your trip.

Constructed by Barcelona’s own, the famous Antoni Gaud, The Basilica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia is one of the cities most renowned monuments. However, Gaud was still working on this structure at the time of his death in 1926, so the marvel of architecture still remains unfinished. However, the city plans to complete the monument, which happens to be a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the last 18 spires are said to be finished in 2026. However, today, it is still considered one of the most spectacular buildings in Europe, despite its current construction and demonstrates several different types of architecture from different decades from Gothic style to Art Nouveau.

The older sibling of London’s Gherkin, the Agbar Tower is a glistening, shimmering structure with beautifully coloured windows that’s been designed to resemble a spring of water. You’ll also see a surrounding moat that runs around the base of the building.

Designed by one of France’s most renowned architects, Jean Novel, the building is privately owned, however outsiders are welcome to enter the foyer free of charge where you can get an inside peak and see the interior of its beautiful construction for yourself.

Another work of art from Barcelona’s architectural father, Gaud is the Casa Batll, or the House of Bones in English, which refers to its skeletal-like structure. Built in 1877, this eerie building was remodelled in the early 20th century and is located in Barcelona’s Eixample district, lodged between the old city, Ciutat Vella, easily accessible for those in the city centre.

Catherine McCulloch is a travel writer and lover of the arts. Find out more about modern architecture in Barcelona, visit the Hotels4U website by clicking here.

A Top Culinary Experience in the Canary Islands

For fresh local produce head to Restaurant Lucas Maes in La Orotava – which is undeniably one of the best eateries on the island. Combing classic creations, such as its signature slow cooked suckling pig, with a stylish and modern decor, it is easy to see why so many of the island’s chefs flock here when they’re off duty. The extensive wine list and impressive Atlantic views only add to the experience too.

With its cliffside location Las Rocas in Costa Adeje boasts the best sea views in the Canaries – and is the perfect setting for a bit of romantic refreshment. As part of the Jardin Tropical Hotel – one of the best Tenerife Hotels – the food is pretty impressive too. In addition to its Canarian and Mediterranean menu and tasty seafood dishes, the outside terrace also sets this restaurant apart from its competitors. Make sure to take advantage of the impressive sunsets here if you can.

There is no better place to sample Tenerife’s best seafood than in the tranquil fishing village of Alcala. Here at the chilled out Escondida, you can enjoy a range of traditional Basque dishes with some notable Thai influences, thanks to the owner’s love of the Far East. What’s more, the sea views, comfy sofas and tasty cocktails make this a truly idyllic setting to while away the hours.

As its name suggests, Las Rocas in Costa Adeje is situated on the edge of some rugged cliffs – and, as a result, offers some of the best views in the Canaries. Located in the Jardin Tropical Hotel and overlooking the Atlantic, settings don’t get more romantic than this. Fortunately, the food lives up to the views too – with a Canarian and Mediterranean menu and lots of delicious seafood options. If love really is in the air, you can also escape to the outside terrace for a picture perfect sunset too.

While we don’t often condone straying from the local cuisine during your holidays, for a break from the delicious local tapas visit Sobo in Costa Adeje. This newly opened Asiatic restaurant offers some of the best homemade Japanese, Chinese and Thai dishes on the island. From dim sum to sushi, you’ll find all the classic recipes here if you fancy breaking with tradition on a night out from your Tenerife hotels.

For more information on accommodation on the Canary Islands, click here.

Hippest hotspots in Barcelona

Officially one of the hottest cities on the planet, Barcelona successfully combines ancient with modern and is one of those places you’ll return to again and again. Great places to stay for all budgets are in abundance, with hip and stylish hotels in every district, or barri’, which is what locals call the neighbourhood in which they live. We’ve made a list of some of the city’s most established and up-and-coming areas to check out while you’re there.

El Raval is one of the trendiest neighbourhoods or ‘barris’ to party in. Formally known as the city’s seedy, sex district, it’s now been transformed into a stylish, arty and diverse area. It’s also home to many of Barcelona’s expats, adding to its eclectic cultural offerings from restaurants and bars to markets and boutiques.

Come night time, why not go to Betty Ford bar? Lending its name from the famous California rehabilitation centre, the only replenishments you’ll find here are served with ice. If you’re looking to let loose on the dance floor, go to Moog, one of the city’s most famous clubs, which is open until 6 in the morning. Playing electronic tracks mixed with retro beats and funk, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

The old money portion of the city is known as La Ribera or El Born. But just like Chelsea in London, it’s experiencing an influx of yuppies and wealthy young people and has lavish cocktail bars, lounges, galleries and boutiques scattered allover. If you’re looking for choice, stroll down the busiest street in the area known as Passeig del Born. If you don’t fancy splashing your cash around the place, it is also home to the Picasso museum, offering a wide assortment of the late painter’s early and most popular works.

Where to party: El Born is ideal for a relaxed and sophisticated night out. El Xampanyet (Carrer Montcada, 22) is an authentic Catalan bar selling local cava in traditional shallow glasses at an affordable price. Try some tapas alongside your aperitif; this is definitely the place to head to for a real taste of Catalonia.

Catherine McCulloch is a travel writer who often goes on holidays to Barcelona. For fantastic offers on cheap hotels and flights, visit the Hotels4U website.

Fab Firework Displays in the Canaries

If you have a trip planned to the Canary Islands, be sure to make the most of the year-round entertainment available. With several celebrations to choose from, we’ve rounded up some of the most spectacular firework displays to be sure to go to on your holidays.

If you’ve booked your cheap package deals for the end of November, you’re in luck, as you’ll be able to catch the famous kite festival. The three-day occasion has been on the go on the Playa de Corralejo since 1987 and each year boasts visitors from around the world to watch and compete in the festivities. However, it’s not just for experts. If you’re a novice kite flyer, there’s plenty of activities for you to enjoy too with lessons and demonstrations to get involved in before watching the famous firework show.

If you’re going to the Canaries during the winter season from January to March, you’ll most likely catch the carnival, which takes place in Las Palmas each year. Lasting between three weeks to a month, there’s plenty of festival spirit for the entire family to enjoy in addition to a firework display to accompany the live performances in Santa Catalina Park.

Although the carnival season generally finishes with the Burial of the Sardine, which occurs during the same time frame as Ash Wednesday, in Fuerteventura, the sardine is left to burn, instead of being buried. The fiery show takes place by the harbour near Carralejo beach, and promises a dramatic display that won’t disappoint.

The burning is accompanied by a huge (and very loud) fireworks display. The Burial of the Sardine is heavy in symbolism and is believed to represent the rebirth and transformation of society. It dates back hundreds of years and has been painted by many artists, including Fransisco de Goya.

Catherine McCulloch is a travel writer who often goes on Fuerteventura holidays. Click here to snap up excellent savings on places to stay and flights to the Canaries.

Seeing Spain the British Way

When it comes to a bargain holiday, Spain is a great place to go because it offers everything you need from the sun and sea to also having plenty of English pubs to relax in. If you’re in Spain and craving some British culture, here are the best places to go.

The popular destination of Cambrils in Costa Dorada offers more typical Spanish establishments, although a handful of restaurants including the Beer Factory, The Mucky Duck and The Queen offer British meals in traditional pub settings. There is also a strong Irish influence in the towns of Costa Dorada, with bars like Danny Boy and the Guinness Tavern in Salou, and restaurants such as the Temple Bar Steak House, offering live music, sports television and professional Irish dancers.

Costa Del Sol in southern Spain is probably most famous for the towns of Torremolinos, and Marbella where the rich and famous come to party and unwind. The region is home to many British expatriates and other English-speaking nationalities, and offers a range of English radio stations for you to discover what’s happening in the area.

In such a popular tourist destination, with around five million people visiting Benidorm alone, it’s hardly surprising that there are so many British themed establishments in Costa Blanca. The towns of Moraira, Torrevieja, Altea and San Fulgencio all offer restaurants and bars showing British television and serving popular British cuisine.

The Vincent’s Group, found in Benidorm, is a collection of nine English bars and restaurants, with something for everyone. Buddies British Bar serves quintessentially English drinks including Bulmer’s Cider and John Smith’s, and offers a range of entertainment including karaoke, pool and darts. Wherever you end up, you’re never that far away from Britain, and perhaps you’ll meet some new people to hang out with once you’re back in Britain.

Catherine McCulloch is a London-based writer who regularly takes holidays to Costa del Sol. For great deals on cheap places to stay, visit the MyTravel website.

How to get your skate on at Palma de Mallorca’s sweetest spots

In recent years, Spain has become a top destination for those looking to take an alternative holiday – especially as when it comes to extreme sports, Spain has got it covered. Of course there are the extreme sport staples – skydiving, bungee jumping, motocross…but how many times have you looked at your skateboard and thought about taking it on a trip to Palma de Mallorca? With impressive skateparks dotted around the city, and an alternative nightlife that rivals its Balearic neighbours, Majorca hotels could be the exact type of destination you were looking for.

Visiting skateparks in and around the city couldn’t be easier too, given their proximity to easily-accessible residential and city-centre areas, and there are even websites that cater to English-speaking visitors looking for their next skating location. To give some examples, the “Son Caliu Bowl” was built as – you’ve guessed it – a giant bowl park with ledges at 1.9 meters and 2.5 meters tall.

Tucked away in the centre of Palma de Mallorca town is the ‘Es Generador’ skatepark – it’s a tight and compact park with a 1.5m square bowl with a slight hip, and 0.5m extension. There’s also a Hubba, steep quarters and flat banks, all of which combine to make it a versatile and perfect place to try out some new moves under the Spanish sun. “Sa Riera” is a new skatepark built on the outskirts of the most residential area of Palma de Mallorca, underneath a motorway flyover. Adding to the urban feel, it’s a concrete landscape that’s been generously tagged by local graffiti and street arts. The part of the park that’s underneath the motorway itself is the ramp area, featuring a bowl and a non-vert spine, making it perfect for skaters of all levels.

Right in the heart of the city sits the “San Moix” skatepark, reputed to be the best all-rounder on the island, featuring a bowled-out mini-ramp. The rest of the park is made up of a veritable smorgasbord of street-course type articles, such as smaller ramps and rails for grinding. This is a perfect place to perfect those more technical tricks such as manuals, kickflips, heelflips, and difficult grinds such as bluntslides.

For beginners and those willing to try out some scary new tricks, the “San Moix” skatepark in the centre of the city boasts a bowled-out two-height mini ramp and street course-type obstacles. Basically, it’s fun but not too demanding, which makes it perfect for a lazier day – perhaps if you paced it a bit too hard the night before. What’s more, if you’re not in the mood to skate every day – and who said you had to be? – Majorca’s beaches, nightlife, culture and history holds more than enough excitement to keep you occupied. So what are you waiting for?

For more information on hotels on the island, click here.