What goes on on Australia Day?

Australia Day marks the anniversary of the country’s first European settlement. In 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet placed a flag on Sydney Cove (Port Jackson), and was the beginning of what would eventually become the nation of Australia.

Contemporary Australia Day is a public holiday and still follows a wholly patriotic theme. It’s a time to spend quality moments with family and friends, and to celebrate all that’s great about being a fully paid-up Australian. Here are just some of the things that take place Down Under on this day of fun in the sun:

Family, friends, fun and food

Summer’s in full swing during Australia Day, so friends and family put on outdoor parties or head down to the local beach. BBQs and beer are often on the agenda, as are meat pies, strawberry pavlova and lamingtons. Lamingtons are an Australian treat, consisting of squares of sponge cake coated in chocolate sauce and sprinkled with coconut flakes.

Lamingtons - an Australian speciality

Lamingtons – a tasty Australian treat

Awards and welcoming ceremonies

Each year, the country celebrates the achievements and contributions of its people through the Australian of the Year awards. Categories range from Young Australian of the Year to Australia’s Local Hero, and it’s down to the public to nominate. The winners are announced on Australia Day at Parliament House. Australia Day is also a time to celebrate citizenship, welcoming those who’ve officially joined the nation.

Sydney Harbour celebrations

The buzz around Sydney Harbour on Australia Day is unbeatable. Family and friends pack a picnic and congregate along the harbour’s edge to enjoy the day’s festivities. Fun activities are put on for the kids, and flash mobs, dancers and concerts featuring big musical acts take place throughout the day. And of course, in true Sydney style, the celebrations culminate with a spectacular fireworks display.

Sydney Harbour - photo by Adam Campbell under creative commons licence

Sydney Harbour – photo by Adam Campbell used under creative commons licence

Hottest 100 songs of the year countdown

Australian radio station Triple J holds the world’s biggest annual music poll, named the Hottest 100. More than a million Australians place a vote for their favourite song of the last 12 months, and the countdown is the soundtrack of the day for many. This year Chet Faker’s Talk Is Cheap made the top of the chart.

Australia Day cricket

Australia Day cricket is something of a tradition. Sports-lovers tune into the one-dayer to watch the nation’s test cricket team compete against another of the world’s leading teams. The event has traditionally taken place in Adelaide, but 2015 saw the match being hosted at the redeveloped Sydney Cricket Ground.

If you’re keen to get a feel for the Aussie way of life, join us on one of our tours of Australia. On our 8-day Contrasts of Australia tour, you’ll get to see all the must-see sights and enjoy lunch with Bondi Beach locals. Or on our 9-day Discover Australia tour, you’ll have the chance to try your hand at traditional dot paining with Aboriginal artists.

Customs of the Balkans

When travelling through the Balkan countries, you’ll find that this part of Europe is particularly rich in folklore and traditions. If you’re thinking of going on a holiday to the Balkans, here is a preview of what to expect.

Croatia

In Croatia greetings are usually exchanged in the shape of kisses. Everybody kisses everyone; Women kiss men and women, and men kiss women as well as men. If that’s all a bit too familiar for comfort, don’t worry, if you meet a Croatian for the first time, a handshake will suffice.

Bulgaria

In Bulgaria the 14th of February isn’t a day of love. It’s a day to honour all those who produce wine and of course to drink a lot of it. The 14th of February marks the death of the patron saint of the winemakers, also known as St Trifon, but it is also a celebration that marks the beginning of spring.

Glasses of wine

Serbia

When sitting down for a meal in Serbia, don’t just tuck in and start. Serbians wish each other ‘prijatno’ before they start digging in. Prijatno means something like ‘enjoy your meal’ and not saying it before you start eating, is considered rather rude.

Group having a meal

Hungary

When taking a bus or train in Hungary, it’s not unusual to strike up a conversation with fellow passengers. Nothing strange about this, you might think. However, instead of the public transport chit-chat you might be used to at home, in Hungary it’s quite acceptable to share your entire life history with perfect strangers. Sharing is definitely caring in Hungary.

Bosnia

Traditionally, having a coffee in Bosnia is a social event and not something you drink on the go out of a paper cup. Bosnian coffee is strong, thick and served from a metal pot into a handle-less tumbler. It usually comes with a small jar filled with sugar cubes. Do as the locals do and dip a corner of the sugar cube into the coffee and nibble on it before taking a sip of coffee. It softens the bitterness of the drink that way.

Bosnian Coffee

Photo by Film Fledgling under Creative Commons Licence

Learn more about custom and habits of the Balkan on one of our trips. Have a look at www.trafalgar.com.

How to make authentic Japanese sushi

There’s nothing more quintessential when it comes to Japanese food than sushi, so being a bit of a foodie, I just had to try making it for myself.

It’s a common misconception that sushi means raw fish. This food is actually named after its accompaniment – vinegared rice – so when making it, that’s the best place to start. You need to ensure you’re using sushi rice, as this is good and sticky to make sure it doesn’t fall apart while you’re trying to eat it. Once it’s cooked, mixed with vinegar and ready to mould, the best way I was taught to do this was to wear a pair of plastic gloves and cover them in mayonnaise – this stops the rice sticking to you, rather than other rice!

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What’s Hot for 2015

2015 is here and now is as good a time if any, to start planning your travels for the year ahead. If you need a little travel inspiration to help you get started, here are some of our top picks.

Italy

Italy is one of those countries that really have it all. Great food, friendly people and lots of interesting sites to visit. Shop till you drop for designer clothes in Milan, indulge in delicious pizzas and pasta dishes in Naples or spend the afternoon watching the whole of Rome pass by while having a cappuccino at a pavement cafe.

spaghetti

Croatia

There’s more to Croatia than unspoiled beaches, glittering waters and idyllic islands. Step back in time in cities such as Dubrovnik and Split, marvel at historic sites such as Roman Emperor Diocletian’s Palace or explore the waterfalls and lakes in National Park of Plitvice.

Plivice Lakes

Plitvice Lakes

Britain

Rugged mountain ranges and pebble stone beaches, bustling cities and rural villages, the countries that make up Great Britain are full of extremes. Wander around the historic hearts of Edinburgh, Belfast or London. Marvel at picturesque villages in the Lake District or the Cotswolds or feel humbled by the Scottish mountain ranges in the Highlands.

Buckingham Palace London

Buckingham Palace London

Do you need some more travel inspiration for 2015? Have a look at our wide range of trips throughout Europe and the rest of the world on our website.

Is travel on your agenda for 2015?

I love making New Year’s resolutions. For me, the New Year signifies a new start; one where you can set yourself goals and achieve some of the things you dreamed of doing during the previous 12 months.

If seeing and experiencing more of the world is on your agenda in 2015, I’ve got some tips that’ll help you to really make the most of your time away. After all, there’s a big wide world out there and it’s all yours to explore.

Open your travel horizons in 2015

Open your travel horizons in 2015

Pick a destination out of the ordinary

It’s easy to stick to what you know; I’m a prime culprit of wanting to go back to destinations I’ve loved. But there are so many places out there that you’re bound to love in equal measure, if not more. Choose somewhere that’s culturally different to anywhere you’ve visited before – like Asia or the Middle East – and see where your journey takes you.

Street food is a big part of Asia's diverse cultures

Street food is a big part of Asia’s diverse cultures

Take a guided trip

Ever made your own way to a destination, only to find that most of your time was spent with your head in a guidebook? Let someone else do all the planning so you’ve more time to actually enjoy the place you’re visiting. Guided holidays, or escorted tours, have an expertly-planned day-by-day itinerary so you don’t need to worry about a thing … apart from where to go, of course.

Spend time with the locals

The world has some amazing iconic sights, and they’re often what draw you to a destination. But when I’m visiting somewhere new, I think meeting and mixing with the locals really helps you to understand the culture. Chat to artisans, eat in local restaurants and seek out the people who have a story to tell – you’re sure to see the country in a different and more authentic light.

Strike up conversations with locals and hear their stories

Strike up conversations with locals and hear their stories

Make an effort to forge new friendships

In my opinion, travelling is better shared. It’s easy to want to keep yourself to yourself, particularly if you’re travelling to get away from it all. But I’ve made some great friends during my travels who I still keep in touch with today, and I’ll never forget some of the special moments we shared together – and I’m sure they won’t, either.

Make the most of every moment

For me, time away is precious. It doesn’t happen often so I’m sure to make every second count. No matter how tired I am, I won’t go to bed until I’ve seen everything I wanted to that day. Money’s no object when I go away, either – it might be the one and only time I visit, so I pledge to do as much as I can while I’m there. And arguments with my travel companion/s are just a no-no.

If you want to discover a new part of the planet, meet some amazing people and maximise your time in a destination, check out Trafalgar.com’s award-winning guided holidays.

Christmas Traditions from Around the World

Christmas is celebrated by people from all around the world, however festivities differ from country to country. Here’s how.

Netherlands

In the Netherlands the festive season starts before December when the bishop St Nicolas (Sinterklaas in Dutch) arrives in Holland. The days before the 5th of December, children will put their shoe in front of the chimney, hoping for some sweets or small presents.

St Nicolas

Photo by Wester under Creative Common Licence

 

Sweden

The gift-bringer in Sweden comes in the form of Lucia. She was a martyr from Sicily who refused to marry a pagan and gave her dowry away to the poor for which she was imprisoned and sentenced to death. St Lucia’s Day, or Luciadag in Swedish, is celebrated on the 13th of December.

Christmas wreath

Italy

In Italy the main gift-giver is also a woman. Here she’s called La Befana. She’s an old toothless lady who was sweeping her doorstep when the three Magi passed her house. They asked her to come along in search of the Holy Child, but she refused. Regretting her decision, she set off on her own. Allegedly, she still wanders the streets of Italian towns in search of baby Jesus, leaving presents for every child’s house on the 6th of January.

la befana

Photo by Donna S under Creative Common License

Russia

Children in Russia who have been nice, receive gifts from Ded’t Moroz, or Grandfather Frost. He wears a long blue coat with a white fur trim. He’s accompanied by snow bunnies and bears and a beautiful, but  pale snow maiden.

russian gift giver

Mexico

Nine days before Christmas, people in Mexico dress up as Mary and Joseph and walk through the streets carrying candles. They re-enact the trek they made to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Every night before Christmas they knock on doors to find a place to sleep, but they’ll be turned away. On Christmas Eve, the final stop is a house or a church with a nativity scene and an altar where celebrations take place.

Christmas stars

 

Interview: Discover Hidden Journeys with Liesa Bissett

When you want to know something, sometimes it’s best to go straight to the source. So last week we caught up with Liesa, Trafalgar’s European Product Development Manager, to get the lowdown on Hidden Journeys – our newest trip style.

Hear what she had to say – and discover some of 2015’s hot European destinations.

What are Hidden Journeys?

Our new Hidden Journeys are small-group trips that are concentrated on less-visited regions in a destination, like Piedmont in Italy. They’re the perfect way to travel if you’ve sampled a country before and would like to delve deeper into the local culture.

Piedmont region, Italy

Piedmont region, Italy

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