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Where did our Christmas Traditions come from?

We all have our traditions at Christmas Having traditions make Christmas comforting and fun but a lot of the time we take part in these customs without even truly thinking about their origins. Where did they actually come from? Why do we bring Christmas trees into our home to decorate? Why do we eat mince pies and send Christmas cards to one another? Here we discuss some of the most popular Christmas traditions and how we came to celebrate them.

Christmas Cards
Think about the amount of Christmas cards you have sent or received over the years. They are a lovely way to keep in touch with family and friends who you may not speak to as very often but where did Christmas cards come from originally? Sir Henry Cole and artist John Horsley helped set up the post office, which was originally named the Public Records office. In 1843, to encourage people to use their new service they created the very first Christmas card. As they grew in popularity, the cost of sending Christmas cards decreased and started to become popular by the mid to late 1800s. The custom then spread throughout Europe by the beginning of the 1900s.

Christmas Crackers
Christmas Crackers were invented by Tom Smith, a sweet maker from London. Inspired by traditional French sweets, Bon-Bons, Smith started to include riddles and mottos inside each one but it wasn’t until he discovered a way to create the “crack” when they were pulled apart that they became extremely popular. His two sons, Tom and Henry decided to add the hats and novelty gifts we know today. The hats represented the three wise men or kings from the nativity story. To this day, Tom Smith Crackers remains one of the most popular and largest Christmas Cracker manufacturers in the world.

Christmas Carols
Dances and songs of joy have been around since pagan times and Christmas Carols have been written and adapted over hundreds of years. Even though Christmas Carols are still enjoyed and are a big part of Christmas celebrations, more recent songs such as Band Aid’s, Do they know it’s Christmas, Slade’s, Merry Xmas Everybody, and Bing Crosby’s White Christmas are also know known as Christmas Classics and are enjoyed just as much as the older, more traditional Christmas carols. Christmas carols were actually banned by Oliver Cromwell in 1647 as he thought Christmas should be a solemn time. More jolly Christmas carols were created during the Victorian times including Jingle Bells and other popular carols we still sing today.

Mince Pies
Originally mince pies were actually made of minced meat (hence the name). They were inspired by Middle Eastern flavours and combined meat, fruit and spice. These flavours were brought to the UK by the Crusaders on their return from the Middle East. Mince pies were originally made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the Apostles. The shape was also originally oval to represent the manger from the nativity story. It was not until the Victorian times that the meat was removed and replaced with the filling we use today.

Christmas Tree
Already popular in Europe, the first Christmas tree only appeared in the UK in the 1830s. Prince Albert placed a one in Windsor Castle in 1841 inspiring others to copy this trend. The rest is history. Although Prince Albert gets the majority of the credit in bringing the Christmas tree to Britain, it was the German wife of George III, Queen Charlotte who was the first person to have a decorated Christmas tree in the country. The tree is meant to represent the tree of life from the Garden of Eden and would have been traditionally decorated with ribbons, apples and candles.

Mistletoe
Hanging mistletoe has been a tradition since ancient pagan times, with the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe originating in England. Each kiss meant that a berry had to be plucked from the plant until none remained. One story says that the kissing under the mistletoe comes from Norse Mythology when the god of truth and light, Baldur was killed by an arrow made from mistletoe. His distraught mother wept tears of white berries which then brought him back to life. Overjoyed by the miracle, she blessed the plant and promised a kiss to all those who passed under it.

Turkey
Originating in Mexico, the first turkey arrived in Britain in 1526. It is known that King Henry VIII enjoyed turkey which meant it became extremely popular and fashionable in high society during his reign and beyond. It was not until the 1950s that the Christmas turkey became more widespread and not just enjoyed by the upper classes of society.

Stockings
Nothing beats waking up on Christmas morning to a stocking full of treats. However, having a sock full of presents is definitely a strange concept. The legend behind this tradition goes back to St Nicholas who was known to send bags of gold down the chimney at the home of a poor man. The gold fell into the stockings that were drying next to the fire.

Advent Calendars
Advent Calendars are going from strength to strength, with new versions of the custom being created every year, from chocolate ones to beauty and even alcohol. But who started the original tradition? In the 19th century Germany, a mother created an advent calendar to help her son count down the days to Christmas so he would stop asking her all the time. She attached a sweet and a coloured picture to each day of the calendar and this inspired her son to take this idea and mass produce advent calendars in 1908.

The tradition originally started on St Andrews Day (30th November) but this soon changed to December 1st. Before this during the mid - 19th century, German protestants made chalk marks on their doors or lit candles during the days leading up to Christmas.

Father Christmas
Although red robes have been associated with the traditional bishop robe of Saint Nicholas in the 4th century, it wasn’t until the famous Coca Cola advert launched in the 1930s that the current image we have of Father Christmas was popularised. Before this, Father Christmas was not seen as the Jolly character he is today.

Christmas Wreaths
The word wreath comes from the old English word, writhen, meaning to twist. They have been around since the Ancient Roman and Greek periods during which time they were used as status symbols and sporting trophies. Christmas wreaths, similar to modern-day equivalents date back to Christians in Germany during the 16th century. The green foliage represents everlasting life while the circular shape signifies the never-ending cycle of God.

So, when the beginning of December arrives and you open that first door on your advent calendar, or when you place your baubles on your Christmas tree and sit down for your Christmas dinner, you will be able to appreciate exactly where these traditions we enjoy so much came from all those years ago.

The Best Christmas Markets to Visit in the Europe

Christmas markets are great to visit. Not only do they offer amazing food, and a great shopping opportunity, they have a fantastic Christmas atmosphere that is guaranteed to make you feel festive. There are so many amazing markets across the UK and the rest of Europe, which means you can combine your Christmas shopping with some travel. Here are some of our top European Christmas Market picks:

1. Vienna, Austria
The capital of Austria first held a Christmas market in 1298 and now has over a dozen of different events to choose from across the city. The main market to try is the Viennese Christmas market “Vienna Magic of Advent” which takes place in front of the Rathaus (Cityhall). This glorious, fairy-tale like market has over 150 stalls offering goodies from local sausages to hand made crafts. It features a huge ice-skating rink as well as a classic nativity scene. It is a great market for those seeking a traditional experience.

2. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague has two main Christmas markets which are about 5 minutes away from each other. One is set in Old Town Square and the other in Wencelas Square which allows you can explore both of them easily in the same day. They are open throughout December and even open on Christmas Day itself, giving you plenty of time to enjoy them.

3. Gendarmenmarkt Berlin, Germany
Berlin is extremely popular during the build-up to Christmas, and the Gendarmenmarkt is a large reason for this. Traditional wooden huts adorn the street providing a range of amazing gifts, local food and warming glühwein. There are also concerts every night in a range of styles allowing you to enjoy some festive Christmas songs whilst you browse.

4. Lincoln, UK
Set in the historic Cathedral city of Lincoln, this Christmas market is one of the oldest and most popular markets in the UK. Over 250 stalls surround the beautiful historic quarter of the city so you can enjoy this festive market with the stunning backdrop of Lincoln Castle and Cathedral. The Victorian-themed stalls teamed with a thousand years of historical buildings make you feel like you have transported back in time whilst you explore the amazing range of homemade crafts, festive food and warming mulled wine and roasted chestnuts.

5. Brussels, Belgium
The Winter Wonders Christmas market in Brussels has more than 200 chalet-style huts that serve mulled wine, local beers and the famous Belgium waffles. The market runs from the end of November to the beginning of January giving you plenty of time to enjoy this amazing market. Some people adorn traditional festive costumes which adds to the amazing festive feel. The market also features an ice-skating rink as well as a huge Christmas tree and the whole scene is lit with magical Christmas lights.

6. Budapest, Hungary
The Budapest Christmas Fair is the oldest Christmas market in the capital and has led it to be the most popular as well. With a view of the grandest cathedral in the city, it is impossible not to feel festive whilst exploring this market full of local delicacies and lovely gifts. Ice skating also takes place in a central ring that surrounds the giant Christmas tree centrepiece. The market is completed by the Jolly Christmas Tram that travels through the city centre, carrying Santa and his elves which is a joy for small and big kids alike.

7. Zagreb, Croatia
The award-winning Advent in Zagreb continues to grow in popularity. From ice skating, street food stalls, bars, music stages and ice sculptures, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

8. Tallinn, Estonia
A winter grotto, choir performances, handmade gifts and local Estonian cuisine are just some of the reasons why this Christmas market has people flocking from all over the world. The combination of amazing stalls, historic buildings and local delicacies helps create the ultimate festive atmosphere. One of the main parts of the market is the Christmas tree in the Town Hall square. This has been tradition since 1441 and is believed to be one of the first Christmas trees displayed in Europe.

9. Birmingham, UK
This city boasts, “the largest authentic German Christmas Market outside of Germany and Austria.” Victoria Square transforms into a Christmas market with over 180 stalls and in 2018 they welcomed 5.5 million visitors. Shop for beautiful Christmas decorations, handcrafted toys and jewellery, eat amazing food and visit the ice rink or big wheel to top off your visit.

These Christmas markets not only provide you with that lovely festive feeling, they provide a chance to buy unique presents and transform the build-up of Christmas into a great experience.

 

The ultimate hand luggage packing guide


Whether it is for a long weekend break or a two week long haul holiday, packing can be a stressful task. But packing your suitcase is easy compared to your hand luggage. You need to ensure your hand luggage has all the essentials whilst still weighing under the allowance whilst also keeping your liquids to the minimum.

It is also becoming increasingly popular to only travel with your hand luggage. This is great as it saves you on costs of paying for additional luggage, its more convenient once you get to your destination as you have less to carry and it usually means you can get through the airport a lot quicker than if you have to check in luggage. Many believe it is more secure to only take hand luggage as it is with you all the time so there is no risk of ending up in a different location to you. Here we discuss the essentials you need to pack when you are limited to hand luggage.

Packing Cubes - These are amazing as they allow you to sort your items out in an easy way and they maximise your space. You can place your t-shirts in one, electrical equipment in another and so on. Not only does it keep your stuff neat, it also means you can easily access your electrical equipment and liquids which you must remove from your bag to get through security checks. You can also use Ziplock bags if you don’t own packing cubes.

Travel Pillow - This is a travel essential if you want to try and get any comfortable rest whilst on the plane. It not only provides comfort; it supports your neck from pain and also stops you from ending up falling asleep on the person next to you (who you may not even know!)

Transparent bag for toiletries - Although airports provide these, having your liquids already in a transparent, zipped up bag will make your security check a lot smoother. Just make sure they are the correct dimensions. Place this at the top of your bag as well for easy access.

Mini Umbrella - It doesn’t take up a lot of space and you will appreciate it when you arrive at your destination and it’s raining.

Ear Plugs - Great for blocking out noise on the plane but also good for when you are at your hotel.

Hand sanitizer - Airports and aeroplanes will always have a lot of germs due to the number of people around you. Having hand sanitizer can help kill bacteria and help you not get ill.

Collapsible water bottle - It takes up hardly any space and will be really useful during the rest of your holiday as well.

Blanket scarf - It keeps you warm whilst you are on the aeroplane but is also lightweight and versatile.

Mini hairbrush - Great space saver.

Valuables- Ensure you pack any valuables in a secure place in your bag, preferably an inside pocket.

Travel-sized toiletries - Great as you don’t need to bring them back, leaving you with more space on your journey back. Just check what toiletries your hotel provides to ensure you don’t buy anything you don’t actually need.

Snacks - You can buy food and drink on the plane, but it is usually expensive. Pack a small snack to stop you feeling hungry in the air.

Capsule wardrobe - Plan your outfits carefully. Try and go for outfits where you can mix and match items as it will save you a lot of space.

Change of underwear - Even if you have checked-in luggage, having a spare pair of underwear in your luggage is essential, just in case your luggage ends up somewhere else!

Entertainment - Download programmes to watch on the plane in advance on your tablet or phone. Also, download some e-books or get a magazine subscription app so that you only need your device rather than several magazines and books which take up precious space.

Medication - Always ensure you have your medication with you at all times.

Documents - Keep your passport and documents near the top of the bag as well so you can access it easily. Keep all documents together in a small folder.

Some general top travel tips
• Wear your heaviest clothes and jackets allowing you more space in your hand luggage for other clothes

• Choose your bag carefully. Soft-sided bags are better as they provide more space. Opt for a rucksack over a pull suitcase as they are more convenient when you get to your destination. Also go for bags with lots of pockets!

• Don’t pack any “just in case” items. You don’t have space to waste on items you may not actually need. Keep your hand luggage to essentials. All other items can always be bought when you get there, if you even need them.

• Avoid duplicate items. If you are travelling with someone else, check what items they are taking that you can also use. You may not need two tubes of toothpaste for example.

• Roll your clothes rather than folding them.

• Go paperless if possible - Hotel reservations and boarding passes can now often be stored on your phone and don’t require a paper version.

• Be ruthless- Go through each item and think if you REALLY need it. You will be surprised how many items you don’t actually need.

The best places to visit in each English county

We often travel abroad and forget that our own country has amazing things to offer. Each of England’s counties have something amazing to discover if you are looking for ideas for days out. Here we go through each English county and provide you with a couple of ideas for things to see and do. Whether you are looking for somewhere to take your children, a great family day out, somewhere to go with friends, or just looking for stunning views and scenery, we have you covered.

Bedfordshire: Whipsnade Zoo, Woburn Abbey Gardens, Woburn Safari Park

Berkshire: Windsor Castle, Legoland, Ascot Racecourse

City of Bristol: Brunel’s SS Great Britain Suspension Bridge, Bristol Cathedral, Ashton Court Estate

Buckinghamshire: Bletchley Park, Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Buckinghamshire Railway Centre

Cambridgeshire: Imperial War Museum Duxford, University of Cambridge, Ely Cathedral

Cheshire: Chester Zoo, Lyceum Theatre, Tatton Park

City of London: British Museum, St Paul’s Cathedral, Barbican Theatre

Cornwall: Eden Project, Tintagel Castle, Fistral Beach

Cumbria: Lake District, Hadrian’s Wall, Hill Top (Beatrix Potter’s Home)

Derbyshire: Chatsworth House, Kinder Scout, Bakewell

Devon: Woolacombe Beach, Dartmoor National Park, Exeter Cathedral

Dorset: The Tank Museum, Old Harry Rocks, Kingston Lacy House

Durham: Durham Cathedral, Beamish – the living museum, Raby Castle

East Sussex: Beachy Head, Seven Sisters, Ashdown Forest

East Riding of Yorkshire: RSPB Bemptom Cliff Seabird Centre, Flamborough Head, Burnby Hall Gardens

Essex: Colchester Zoo, Colchester Castle, Clacton Pier

Gloucestershire: Hidcote Manor Gardens, Gloucester Cathedral, Clearwell Caves

Greater London: Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park

Greater Manchester: The John Rylands Library, Old Trafford & Ethiad Stadium, The Lowry

Hampshire: Highclere Castle, Jane Austen’s House Museum, Mottisfont

Herefordshire: Forest of Dean, Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo, Hereford Cider Museum

Hertfordshire: St Albans Cathedral, Warner Brother Studios Leavesden, Lee Valley White Water Centre

Isle of Wight: Monkey Haven, The Needles Landmark Attraction Isle of Wight Steam Railway

Kent: Canterbury Cathedral, Botany Bay, Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest

Lancashire: Blackpool, Lancaster Castle, Morecambe Bay

Leicestershire: Twycross Zoo, National Space Centre, King Richard III Visitor Centre

Lincolnshire: Lincoln Cathedral, Steep Hill, Belton House

Merseyside: Cavern Club, Mersey Ferries, Knowsley Safari

Norfolk: Sandringham Estate, Norwich Cathedral, Cromer Beach

Northamptonshire: Rockingham Castle, Pitsford Water, Kirby Hall

Northumberland: Cragside House and Gardens, Alnwick Castle, Northumberland Coast

North Yorkshire: National Railway Museum, Whitby Abbey, Flamingo Land

Nottinghamshire: Clumber Park, Trent Bridge Cricket Ground, The D H Lawrence Birthplace Museum

Oxfordshire: Blenheim Palace, Oxford University Museum of National History, Bridge of Sighs

Rutland: Rutland Water, Aquapark Rutland, Barnsdale Gardens

Shropshire: The Royal Air Force Museum Cosford, Ludlow Castle, Shrewsbury Castle

Somerset: The Roman Baths, Glastonbury Tor, Wells Cathedral

South Yorkshire: Yorkshire Wildlife Park, Sheffield Botanical Gardens, Sheffield Cathedral

Staffordshire: Alton Towers, Biddulph Grange Gardens, Lichfield Cathedral

Suffolk: Africa Alive, Southwold Pier, Newmarket Racecourse

Surrey: Hampton Court Palace, Thorpe Park, London Bus Museum

Tyne and Wear: Gateshead Millennium Bridge, Angel of the North, Victoria Tunnel Tours

Warwickshire: Warwick Castle, Stratford upon Avon, Tudor World

West Midlands: Cadbury World, Black Country Museum, National Sea Life Centre

West Yorkshire: Bronte Parsonage Museum, Hardcastle Craggs, Salts Mill

West Sussex: Arundel Castle, Nymans, Chichester Cathedral

Wiltshire: Stonehenge, Longleat, Lacock Abbey

Worcestershire: Worchester Cathedral, West Midlands Safari Park, Malvern Hills

We hope this article has provided you with some great ideas of where you could visit when you are next in a different county. However, this is not an exhaustive list, so please recommend your own suggestions in the comments or let us know by connecting with us on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

9 top destinations to visit in Autumn


Want to hold on to the summer that little bit longer, or just fancy a getaway? We highlight some of the best destinations to travel to during the Autumn months that will guarantee you have an amazing holiday.

For the sunseekers
Even though summer has ended it doesn’t mean there are not some amazing places you can visit that will provide you with the sun you are looking for. Some of the destinations are not even that far away, meaning you don’t always have to jet off on a long-haul flight in order to get some sun during the Autumn months.

1. Sardinia
This Italian beauty is a gorgeous holiday location and even in Autumn you can experience temperatures up to the high 20’s. Not only is the island beautiful and still sunny this time of year, Autumn also transforms into festival central with local streets inland being turned into markets, allowing you to experience the island with the locals. If you want to stick to the coast, then enjoy the slightly quieter beaches and soak up the sun.

2. Cyprus
With average maximum temperatures just above 30 degrees Celsius, this is a great place to visit. Although still lovely and warm, as the days get slightly cooler, you can explore some amazing destinations by foot which is difficult to do during the blazing heat of summer. Whilst everyone back in the UK is putting on their scarves and coats, you can relax by the pool or spend the day at the beach in peaceful bliss.

3. Lanzarote
Lanzarote in the Canary Islands is such a popular Summer destination but can also be enjoyed during the Autumn months. With temperatures still just below 30, you can enjoy the sun whilst you also enjoy the quieter hotels, poolsides and beaches. Now that the peak heat has gone you will as well be able to explore more of the island on foot, including its volcanic peaks and national park.

4. Dubrovnik
This Croatian city has seen a dramatic rise in tourism over the past decade, with a lot of help from it featuring in Game of Thrones. It’s a beautiful city to visit and you can understand why it is popular, but Autumn brings the beauty of being able to see the city when it is slightly quieter. During Autumn you will have more options for accommodation and will feel that the streets and beaches are a bit less overcrowded. With temperatures settling around the mid-20s, it is still warm enough to relax on the beach as well as walk around the city to see what it has to offer.

5. Florence
Florence is a gorgeous city to visit and the temperatures remain mild throughout Autumn. The later Autumn months are a great time to visit as the tourist crowds have started to disappear, the hotel prices are cheaper and you can enjoy walking around the city in pleasant temperatures, exploring the culture, food, and entertainment that is widely available.

For the City Breakers
Need a break in Autumn but looking for more adventure and culture rather than sun, sea and sand? Then these top city breaks are great for you.

6. Reykjavik
Increasingly growing in popularity, Iceland is a fantastic place to visit with its capital having a lot to offer, from lagoons and glaciers to amazing museums and cosy cafes. The overall cost of hotels starts to fall once the summer is over. You also benefit from being more likely to see spectacular Northern Lights. A once in a lifetime experience.

7. Madrid
Autumn means the intense heat has subsided and you can enjoy the city and all it has to offer. You can still eat outside as the temperatures are not cold and you can spend you days visiting amazing buildings such as the Royal Palace and The Prado, go on a great shopping spree, embrace your sporting side and visit the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, the home of Real Madrid, stroll through Retiro Park or relax in cafes and bars drinking wine and eating tapas.

8. Vienna
The Austrian capital is beautiful in Autumn. Visit the range of palaces and cathedrals, walk through the stunning Schonbrunn Gardens, embrace the culture in the amazing museums, walk through the market places to experience the local atmosphere and relax in side street cafes for amazing sweet treats and coffee.

9. New York
Last but certainly not least has to be the city that never sleeps. Although people love to visit New York in Spring and Winter when it is lit up for Christmas, there may not be a better time to see this city at its most beautiful than in the Autumn. With Central Park full of orange and red leaves, to being able to witness preparations for Halloween and Thanksgiving, there is something special at this time of year. You will never be bored in this city with so much to do from visiting the MET to seeing a show on Broadway to having amazing food and pumpkin spiced lattes.

Let us know about any Autumn holidays that you have particularly enjoyed by connecting with us on social media @TimeForYouGroup

Best foods to try around Europe

One of the best parts of a holiday is surely the food. You can really experience a country’s culture through the food they eat, and being on holiday is the perfect time to indulge yourself. Here we travel across Europe and pick some of our favourite local cuisine that all tourists must try.


Belgium - Waffles
Everyone will have probably heard of Belgian waffles and how amazing they are, but you cannot truly appreciate them until you have eaten them for yourself. With a range of toppings to choose from, they are an indulgent treat that you will not regret. Nutella and strawberries are always a winning combination in our eyes.

Italy – Arancini
There are very few countries that have as much amazing food and flavours to offer than Italy. From pizza and pasta to tiramisu and gelato, we have a lot to thank Italy for when it comes to food and drink. But despite how amazing these foods are, we have decided to focus on Arancini. These are little fried rice balls that are typically stuffed with meat, mozzarella, mushrooms, aubergines or tomatoes and are gorgeous. They are coated in breadcrumbs and then deep fried, creating a mouth-watering treat. You may as well finish the meal of with some refreshing gelato, which seems to come in every flavour imaginable!

Switzerland - Cheese Fondue
The Swiss are not only known for their cheese, but also for what they do with it. Melting it in a pot with some white wine or kirsch for added kick, and then dipping crusty bread into it is a must do experience if you are there. It’s warming, gooey and delicious and will leave you wanting more. It’s also a great meal to share with friends.

Hungary - Langos
Similar to a pizza but with a twist, these flatbreads are deep fried and traditionally topped with sour cream alongside a range of toppings of your choice. They are a speciality in Hungary and something you should definitely try if you are there. The great news is they are readily available at street food markets and a great choice for a cheap but delicious meal. If this doesn’t sound like your thing, then definitely try a traditional bowl of goulash. It is the ultimate comfort food, especially on a cold day.

Germany - Currywurst
Whilst it is not the prettiest dish to look at, it more than makes up for it in flavour. A Bratwurst (fried pork sausage) is cut into slices and served with curried ketchup and fries. You will not have trouble getting your hands on these as they are many stalls and restaurants dedicated to this dish.

Sweden - Kottbullar
Known better to us as Swedish meatballs, this dish has become iconic, especially with the help of IKEA. The meatballs are made with cream and breadcrumbs soaked in milk to create really tender meatballs. Serve it with gravy, lingonberry jam and either mash or chips for a real comfort food treat.

Scotland - Haggis
Some people love it, some people hate it. Whatever side you are on, this is a dish Scotland is known for and should be tried at least once. It sounds unappealing as it is a savoury pudding made from sheep offal minced with onion, oats and spices. Serve alongside the traditional “neeps and tatties” for the complete experience.

Netherlands - Herring
Being on the coast, fish is a longstanding part of the diet in Netherlands, with herring being an extremely popular snack to have. You will easily find them available on street food markets across Amsterdam and although it may not be to everyone’s taste, it is a great way to have a healthy snack.

Spain - Tapas
There is so much to love about tapas. According to the Spanish dictionary, any small dish that can accompany a drink can be considered tapas. Initially meant to be served as an appetiser or as a snack whilst you had a drink, tapas are now eaten as a main meal. From hot and cold dishes ranging from patatas bravas, olives, cheeses, Padron peppers or croquettes, there is something to suit everyone’s taste and the great thing about having such small dishes means you try lots of different stuff! Although tapas are available across Spain and now becoming popular across the world, Barcelona and Madrid deliver tapas at its best.

France - Macarons
There are so many iconic and delicious dishes that originated in France, but we’ve chosen to highlight the beautiful and delicate macaron. These sweet, meringue-based treats come in a range of pastel shades and flavours. They are filled with buttercream, jam or ganache and are the perfect sweet fix. You will struggle to find more beautiful macarons than in a French bakery.

Greece – Gyro
This Greek dish is now becoming popular around the world at food festivals and markets and it’s easy to see why. Made from meat usually cooked rotisserie style, it derived from lamb donor kebabs but has expanded to offer pork and chicken as well. Stuffed in a pita or wrapped in a flatbread alongside onion, tomatoes and even French fries, all topped off with tzatziki sauce. This is a kebab like you’ve never eaten before!

Portugal - Nata
Portugal is famous for these custard tarts. With crispy pastry and a custard filling and caramelized top, these little pastries are to die for and a must-try if you are ever in Portugal.

Denmark – Smorrebrod
If you are ever in Denmark, make sure you have a Smorrebrod before you leave. These open sandwiches are usually served on rye bread and can be topped with a range of foods from roast beef and horseradish to eggs, other meats, cheeses and fish. Best eaten with cutlery to ensure its an enjoyable but not messy eating experience.

England - Scones
Nothing is as quintessentially English as the scone. Whether you prefer it savoury with cheese or sweet with dried fruit, they are truly delicious. Typically served as part of an afternoon tea alongside jam and clotted cream they are amazing throughout the year and truly comfort food. The main decision you have to make is whether to put the jam or cream on first. In Devon they traditionally spread clotted cream on first, whereas in Cornwall, it is tradition to put jam on first.

Let us know your favourite European foods and share any tips that you’ve picked up on your travels by connecting with us on social media @TimeForYouGroup

Quick guide to camping holidays

Camping is a popular and fun way to spend a holiday. Although it may not suit everyone’s tastes, camping has increased in popularity over the years as the facilities, equipment and amazing locations continue to improve, allowing you to have a great holiday and experience. It is a brilliant way to see the outdoors, visit a different part of the country and appreciate nature.

In this guide, we discuss why you should go camping and how to plan a camping trip if you haven’t been on one before. With glamping and other amazing and unique accommodation choices, camping has never been this fun or luxurious.

Why should you go camping?
There are so many reasons why a camping holiday can be fun for all the family. Here are just a few reasons why:

It’s affordable
Although this is not always the case, as there are plenty of campsites where they offer glamping which is relatively expensive, camping can definitely be done on any budget. This is a great option if you have children as you can avoid the high prices of travelling abroad during school holidays. Campsites can start from less than £10 a night and although you will be investing in all the camping gear if this is your first time, you will use these hopefully time and time again, making the overall cost of the holiday extremely low. You also have control of how much you spend during the day. Choosing free activities such as going to the beach or visiting free museums and cooking for yourself instead of eating out are also great ways to keep the cost to a minimum. You can also bring a lot of the stuff you need from home. If you have your car nearby you can bring duvets, pillows and blankets from home as you don’t have to worry about carrying it far.

It’s great for the whole family
A big bonus of camping is that the whole family can enjoy it. No matter what age your kids are, there is a campsite that will be suitable for you. In addition to this, you will also be able to bring your dog with you to many campsites which allows them to be part of your family holiday as well as saving you money on kennels. Camping is not only fun for kids (they can spend the whole day playing and running around outdoors), it is also educational. Camping can teach kids many important skills, such as putting up a tent and cooking.

It’s fun
If you embrace all that camping has to offer, then it is a really fun holiday. It allows you to escape from your daily life and routine and get away from things. Stripping back to the mere basics with no TV and other distractions can be really rewarding. Trying to cook amazing meals with limited resources is a fun challenge. You can sleep under the stars, and there is a ton of activities you can do so that you will never be bored. Playing games, reading, playing sports or visiting local attractions are just some of the things that can fill your days quickly. Choosing a campsite that has a range of facilities is a great option, or you can go for a campsite that is walking distance to entertainment, restaurants etc.

You get to see the beautiful UK
Camping allows you to visit places in the UK you have never visited before. When you go on holiday abroad regularly, it is sometimes nice to remember how many beautiful locations we have in the UK which we may not have seen yet. Whether you fancy a mountainscape, beaches, rolling hills, valleys or lakes, you will find a campsite with these spectacular views.

How to plan a camping trip
Here is a step by step guide on how to plan your first camping trip

1. Decide what trip you want to take (what would you like to see and do. Choose a location from there). Try somewhere relatively local and easy to get home in the car if you have not camped before. This means you can go home if you have forgotten anything important.
2. What accommodation would you like? (Tent, Glamping or Static Caravan) Decide what facilities you ideally would like the campsite to have.
3. When do you want to go? Aim for warmer months for your first trip
4. How are you going to get there? If you are travelling on train or bus you need to be careful about how much you are able to carry. If its by car, you can bring more things from home.
5. Who’s going? This will determine what type of campsite you choose and also what activities you want to do. Make sure if you are bringing children and pets that the campsite allows this as some do not allow pets whilst others are adults only.
6. What’s your budget? Campsites, although not expensive, vary in price so check beforehand. Also, book online in advance if possible. Although some campsites allow you to pay at the door when you arrive, you don’t want to risk the campsite being full once you get there.

List of camping essentials
Although you can bring as much as you or your car can carry, there are a few things which you should not leave home without
- Tent (practice putting the tent up in your garden first before you go camping)
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat
- Torch (one for the tent and one for you to carry with you)
- Cool box for food and drink storage
- Water bottle for you to refill
- Food (amount will vary on how much you are planning to eat out)
- Utensils, cutlery and plates
- Pillow
- Blanket (Have one for inside the tent and one for outside the tent to create a relaxing area outside)
- Camping chairs and table (unless you are happy to sit on the floor)
- Camping Stove (BBQ but check if they are allowed at your campsite)
- Solar panel charger for emergency
- Clothes for all weathers (its surprising how cold your tent will get even on the hottest summer’s day)
- Wash kit
- First Aid Kit

Let us know if you have any top camping tips by connecting with us on social media @TimeForYouGroup

A guide to the latest travel trends

With the increased use of technology and social media as well as an increased knowledge of the impact our travel can have on the environment, we have recently seen a change in travel trends which impact not only how we travel but where we travel to. Here we discuss what these latest travel trends are and how it changes the way we holiday.

Micro trips
One trend that has been growing in popularity is the micro trip. More and more people are sacrificing a large summer holiday and splitting it into several weekend trips across the year. These micro trips (also called bitesize travel) have increased due to many factors. With improvements to flight routes, it is easier for people to get to cities quickly, meaning that you can now go further afield for a shorter period of time. Having these shorter breaks with jam-packed itineraries are a way of seeing more of the world, quickly. Planning a 2-week holiday can also be extremely stressful, making more regular but shorter breaks seem more desirable and easier to organise.

Conscious Travelling
The adverse effect we have had and are having on the planet cannot be ignored, especially as this is constantly being discussed in the news. According to a study carried out by Booking.com, over half the people asked would not go to a destination if they felt it would negatively impact the locals that live there. Hotels and other businesses have had to make this shift in conscious travelling and embed it into their strategy. Banning single-use plastics such as miniature toiletries and highlighting what sustainable practices they do are becoming more common in order to entice people to stay with them. One study stated that over 80% of the travellers they asked would be willing to spend time doing activities that offset the environmental impact their travelling was having. This has also led to a spike in eco-tourism companies.

Technology
From having our boarding passes on our phones, artificial intelligence, speech recognition and virtual reality, there have been so many recent advancements in technology that have changed the way we travel. On the whole, these developments in technology have led to smoother holidays. Technology also significantly helps us with our holiday research. No longer does the average person head into their local town to visit a travel agent. With all the information you need on the internet, you can cut out the middle man and enjoy planning it all from home. Although online bookings have been around for years, it is the future use of technology in the travel and tourism industry which is interesting. There are several projects being worked on such as keyless room access which is controlled by your phone, using artificial intelligence as concierge so that they always speak the language of their guests and having a digital tour guide to provide tailored information to each person. It is impossible to truly predict how technology will continue to change how we travel in the future, but personalisation seems to be an important factor.

Social Media
Social media, in particular, Instagram, has recently affected not only where we want to go on holiday but also guided our decisions on what to do when we are there as we share our holiday pictures. A lot of people, especially millennials, constantly seek photo opportunities to post on Instagram, such as being “alone” at the top of a mountain when in reality there is a queue of people waiting to get the same “isolated Instagram shot”. For some people it is like you were never there if you didn’t post a picture on holiday. In a survey from UK company Schofields, more than 40% of the people asked under the age of 33 consider “instagrammability” the most important factor when choosing a holiday destination.

New Destinations
One destination that seems to be more possible to visit than ever before is space. Although this is not a reality yet, it is something people are considering for the future and has also led to people wanting to go to completely new destinations such as accommodation under the sea. Cheaper flights and new routes have also led to an increase in people visiting places that were not that popular before. Further afield places such as Abu Dhabi and Oman are now becoming more popular as they provide the tourist with a more unique holiday and experience to share with friends.

Unique Accommodation
Gone are the days where all we want is a nice hotel. Although this is still desirable, people are wanting alternative and different accommodation to make their holiday unique. Over the last decade, we saw the rise in air bob which allows you to stay at apartments and other people’s homes whilst they are away. It also opened up the growth in people staying in unique accommodation such as boats, cabins and yurts.

Craving experiences and to learn
A trend that is growing is the need for experience. Tourists are now more driven by the experiences they can gain on holiday, with learning a new skill high on a lot of people’s lists. Companies are jumping on board this trend by providing people with these experience packages. Having an experience on holiday is now deemed preferable to buying new material possessions. These experiences range from the adventure seeker to the nostalgic where people are trying to feel like a child again (think inflatable obstacle courses). People want to tick things off their bucket list and this tends to go beyond your typical sightseeing and is focused around certain activities and experiences. This goes hand in hand with the rise of social media influence as they seek amazing shareable pictures.

Change in timings
With the internet allowing you to book holidays extremely last minute, a lot of people choose this option when booking their holiday, leaving it until the last moment to organize your trip in order to try and get the best deal. Searching for offers is popular as well as changing the time of year they go. Visiting places like Dubai in the summer and Sydney in their winter are becoming a cheaper and attractive option for people to experience these places without having to pay the peak prices.

 

12 bad cooking habits that you probably need to stop

1.    Not preheating your pan
No matter what you are cooking, always make sure you start off with a hot pan. If you don’t, it will take longer for the dish to cook and will increase the risk of overcooking your food.

2.    Leaving spoons on the counter whilst cooking
It’s very easy to just give your food a stir and then place the spoon on the countertop until you need it again. Although you try and keep your kitchen tops clean, so many items are placed on it daily, from shopping bags to pets, so you can never be too careful. Place the spoon on a plate or spoon rest instead.

3.    Using dull knives
Although you may think shaper knives are more dangerous, this is not always the case. Having sharp knives for cutting food means you don’t need to add as much pressure to cut. With blunter knives, more pressure is needed which, if you slip, if more likely to cause injury. Sharper knives are also better for chopping ingredients up more precisely and finely.

4.    Not drying your salad
Despite food labels saying the food has already been washed, it’s always a good idea to wash your salad again. However, when people are in a rush, they do not always take the time to dry the salad off. Use a salad spinner to dry the salad quickly, resulting in a much better looking and tastier salad that is not sitting in a pool of water.

5.    Letting food sit before placing it in the fridge
Whilst many people claim the correct way to deal with leftovers is to wait for the food to become room temperature before placing it in the fridge, they are mistaken. The main reason behind this was that fridges were not the best at coping with the rise in temperature. Modern day fridges do not have the same problem and can cope with the temperature change well. It’s important to place the food in the fridge as soon as possible rather than leaving it out on the side. Letting your food stay warm for longer means you are increasing the time it spends in the bacteria promoting zone which can be potentially dangerous for your health.

6.    Cooking wet vegetables
If your place your vegetables in the oven straight after they have been washed, they will probably turn out soggy. Dry them off first before roasting to ensure they come out crispier.

7.    Cutting meat straight after cooking
After your meat is cooked, give it time to rest before cutting it. Especially for steak and beef, cutting it too quickly will mean moisture will not be retained as well and will lead to pooling on the plate, and drier tasting meat.

8.    Using dried herbs instead of fresh
Dried herbs and spices are great things to use as they are convenient and have a long shelf life, however they do not have as much moisture as the fresh version and therefore the flavour is stronger. This needs to be considered before using them and adjust the quantity accordingly.  

9.    Seasoning food at the end
Don’t wait too long to add your herbs and spices. A lot of people quickly season a meal at the end as an afterthought. Adding the seasoning as you cook will give it time for the flavours to develop and will stop the dish tasting too spicy or salty.

10.    Not reading the recipe
Always read the recipe to the end. And read it at least once. You don’t want to be halfway through the recipe when you realise you had to marinade something overnight or have realised you do not have all the ingredients.

11.    Keeping butter in the fridge
Its sometimes a natural reaction to place things in the fridge, however some items do not need to be in there, including butter. Along with temperature, moisture and protein are two other factors that affect the level of bacteria in foods which can make them potentially dangerous. Although butter contains a fair amount of moisture, there is hardly any protein, meaning that doesn’t need to be in a fridge. Place a cover over the butter to make sure it’s not affected by light and oxygen.

12.    Overfilling your pan
Finally, when you are in a rush, putting everything in the pan at once can seem like the simplest and quickest solution, however this can actually increase the cooking time and can risk some of the food not cooking properly. If you cook in batches the meal will be cooked better and will also taste better.

Do you know of any other bad cooking habits? Let us know what they are by connecting on social media @TimeForYouGroup

Dishwasher Do’s and Don’ts

Dishwashers are an invention that have changed our lives and freed up a lot of time in the kitchen which otherwise would have been spent washing and drying all the dishes by hand. Using a dishwasher can also be better for the environment. However, in order to get the best out of your dishwasher, here are some do’s and don’ts.

Do use all the space you can and try and stack the dishwasher in the most efficient way. Put bigger pieces in first and then fill the smaller items around them.

Don’t overfill the utensil holder. If you cram too many in, not all of them will be cleaned sufficiently.

Don’t rinse plates before putting them in the dishwasher. Scrape the plates to ensure the larger bits of food have been removed but rinsing the plates will use additional water and modern dishwashers can cope with food residue on plates as long as you run the dishwasher that day and don’t leave them standing there too long.

Do run a full load. Dishwashers are a great way to be efficient with water, however if you only run half loads, water will in fact get wasted.

Don’t overload the dishwasher. Although you should only do full loads, don’t go to the other extreme and overfill. You run the risk that not everything will be completely clean, resulting in you having to wash them again (and wasting both water and electricity).

Do run the dishwasher at night. Waiting until later in the evening can lower your electricity bill. It also makes sense as you can place all the dishes from the entire day into the dishwasher and wash them all in one go.

Don’t unload the top drawer first. Sometimes the upper dishwasher rack can store water. If you empty these items first, you can end up getting the dry items on the bottom level wet.

Do use Rinse Aid - using this regularly will guarantee a better, shinier clean.

Do clean the dishwasher regularly. Inspect the drain for bits of food and remove them before running the machine again. Also use dishwasher cleaner once a month on an empty cycle to keep the machine clean.

Items you can safely put in the dishwasher
-    Silicone oven mitts
-    Kitchen sponges and brushes
-    Microwave turntable plate
-    Refrigerator shelves
-    Candle holders
-    Toothbrush holders
-    Bath toys
-    Pet toys
-    Pet food bowls
-    Golf balls

Items you should NOT put in the dishwasher
-    Wooden spoons
-    Wooden chopping boards
-    Kitchen knives
-    Graters
-    Sieves
-    Aluminium pans
-    Copper pans
-    Non-stick pans
-    Acrylic dishes
-    Thin plastic containers
-    Metallic trimmed dishes or cutlery
-    Delicate crystal or blown glass

If you have any other dishwasher tips then let us know by connecting on social media at @TimeForYouGroup.