Author Archives: Leighton

The future is another country

It’s grey and chilly. Throngs of thirty and forty somethings lumber through the drizzle to an agricultural hall outside Coventry. I pay the £11 entrance fee and once through the door everything changes. Sunny optimism illumines the interior. Maple-leaf flags hang like bunting while red, white and blue balloons jostle for attention with inflatable kangaroos and surfboards. This is Emigrate, the largest migration exhibition in Britain, at which financial advisers, estate agents and lawyers from more than 60 organisations offer advice to 7,000 visitors on how to gain entry to new lands of opportunity.

I join the queue of visitors who are eager to discover how to clinch the golden ticket: an Australian visa. We take our seats and the game-show begins. On the stage, a smiling Australian migration lawyer talks up the prize of a one-way ticket to the land of surf, sun and beer. “Once you get a visa you can sit on the beach for the rest of your life. You don’t need to work if you don’t want to.”

At Emigrate, points win prizes. Later in the day, at stalls dotted around the fair, there are talks on how to gain the differing number of points required for entry by Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Each country has its own list of desired skills and professions and the fair’s walls are pasted with posters cataloguing each nation’s sought-after occupations. Are you a bee-keeper? A civil servant? Welcome to New Zealand. Hairdresser? Last year Australia was desperate for you.

Now, after admitting large numbers of Chinese and Indian scissor-hands, hairdressers are no longer required. Qualification for permanent residence can be a lottery but there are some certainties. All countries allocate more points for youth, English-language fluency and education. And if you are an entrepreneur with thousands to invest in your new country, Australia, New Zealand and America all want you.

Myths about points swirl around the show. To demonstrate the abundant migration misinformation, the presenter, Ben Willis, a migration agent and lawyer, asks, Paul McKenna-style, for a guinea pig who believes he or she has the 120 points to qualify for permanent Australian residency.

The victim says confidently that he is an engineer, aware Australia is desperate for them. “Do you have a BSc in engineering?” the presenter asks. “No. I switched careers later and took an MSc in engineering,” he replies. It is not enough. The BSc would have given him the necessary points but the MSc counts for less.

The volunteer’s face falls. The presenter looks vindicated: “My main message is: don’t assume you will manage to get 120 points,” he says.

Registering the wavering mood in the audience, he attempts to gee them up: “It’s worth going through the hurdles or else you’ll be stuck on the M1 thinking, ‘what am I doing here?’ Australia is the best place to be. Once you’ve made a decision to come, just do it.”

To keep wannabe migrants’ eyes fixed on the prize, we are introduced by video link-ups to Brits who have leapt through the migration hoops to settle in new countries. At one talk, entitled “Chat with Brits in Canada”, we’re presented to Maxine, a migratory role model who moved from London to Ontario two years ago: “She got a whopping 79 points! She only needed 67 to qualify!”. Canada’s craving for her postgraduate social work qualifications ratcheted up her score.

The extraordinary hotel experience in Las Vegas: The Mirage Hotel and Casino

The Mirage Hotel and Casino is a newly renovated tropically-themed resort located at the center of the Las Vegas Strip. The entrance of the resort is landscaped with palm trees, rich foliage and more than four acres of lagoons with towering waterfalls centered around a 54-foot high volcano that spews smoke and fire 100 feet above the water every evening at regular intervals, with flames that illuminate the hotel. Situated at the back of the hotel, next to the swimming pool area, is a Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat with two and one-half million-gallon pools. Also created for the Mirage by Siegfried and Roy is the White Tiger Habitat, a tropical location featuring the exotic cats.

Where soft, sunny days give way to passionate nights. You are invited to experience the Life Exotic. The Mirage’s visitor rooms feature rich hues and imported fabrics in a sophisticated ambiance of chic comfort. Wonderful views of the tropical pool, grandiose mountains or Las Vegas Strip. The exploding volcano erupts every 15 minutes from 7 pm until midnight, shooting fire sky-scraping. Inside the hotel’s front entrance is a verdant rain forest with palm trees, cascading waterfalls, meandering lagoons, and exotic tropical vegetation. A enormous aquarium buzzing with leopard sharks, puffer fish, and about 90 other species. The Mirage hotel has an outdoor Secret Garden, counting a dolphin attraction, including the white tiger display.

This is the resort to stay if you want to feel like a high roller without spending like one. Perfect, reasonably priced rooms are done with botanical prints and yellow, cedar, and cranberry hues; they all have old-fashioned looking custom made work desks, and suites are decked in imported silks and hand-loomed carpets. Bathrooms have marble accents and luxurious appointments. The salon features massage therapies, beauty treatments, hydrotherapies. Live entertainment includes the new performance by Cirque du Soleil: THE BEATLES LOVE; the show explores the content of the songs as interpreted by innovative performances from a cast of 60 international artists. A youthful, raw energy is channeled through aerial performance, extreme sports and urban freestyle dance. Mirage is as well home to singer-comedian Danny Gans, and touring headline entertainers.

The casino offers slot machines, poker tables, table games, a high-limit lounge, and a race and sports book with an overall atmosphere of sophisticated fun. The poker room has a planetary reputation for first-class action, low and high. The look is rain forest rustic: pits are distinguished by separate thatch roofs. There’s yet a verdant tropical garden leading into the main casino to clean your lungs with fresh air. The cumulative effect is completely vitalizing for a casino.

The Surprising Popularity of Cigar Smoking

The practice of cigar smoking has been on the rise in the U.S. since the early 90’s. In part due to a reputation as a glamorous alternative to cigarette smoking, the increase can also be tied to its popularity among celebrities, as well as to the social nature of its practice. But whatever the reason, it is clear that cigars are big business in the U.S. with higher sales of premium brands each and every year.

Magazines like Cigar Aficionado portray cigar smoking as alluring, and perhaps slightly risqué (particularly for women), and so the hobby strikes a cord with young Americans. Celebrities are often photographed at parties or social gatherings with a cigar in hand, and cigar lounges find regular folks trying to emulate these stars. Clubs and societies, particularly those dominated by men, often design their regular activities around the ritual of cigar smoking.

In general, cigar smoking is viewed as the “civilized” alternative to cigarette smoking. Unlike cigarettes, cigars have a distinct, elegant stigma attached to them that often appeals to young people, particularly those with a higher than average income. They are most often associated with an elevated status in society, and the many of the available cigar accessories reflect that fact.

One of the most prominent cigar accessories, the humidor, reflects the overall style and refined nature of cigar smoking among young Americans. More expensive humidors are hand crafted out of wood. They serve not only to protect and preserve the product within but also to display them in a tasteful and fashionable manner. Large humidors may cost many hundreds or even thousands of dollars, and are often fixtures in the homes of the wealthy.

But despite their prominence among the upper class, the increased affordability and availability of quality cigars has also contributed to an overall increase in cigar smoking over recent years. Today discount cigars are readily available for purchase, often from easy-to-find online merchants, at prices well below normal. Cigar stores have increasingly moved to the Web in order to offer a wider variety of brands to any location at a fraction of the usual cost.

In part because of its current glamour and in part because of its practical affordability, cigar smoking has never been hotter, trendier or more profitable in the U.S.

Tennessee – A Great Vacation and Travel Destination

If you like country music then there is nowhere else in the world you can enjoy as much as Nashville, Tennessee and the Grand Ole Opry. The Grand Ole Opry is a mainstay of this city known as the “home of country music” and anytime you go you are guaranteed to see a mixture of current country music stars, legends, and new artists trying to break into the business.

The best way to get tickets to the Grand Ole Opry is to buy them on the website early. This means that you can get the best tickets that are up close to the action and you can really see all that is going on. If you wait until you are actually in Nashville to buy your tickets for the Grand Ole Opry you may find yourself out of luck or else in the very back. Anywhere you sit in the Grand Ole Opry is a great place, but the best view is up close!

Any time of year is a great time to visit the Grand Ole Opry, but if you visit during non traditional vacation times you are sure to have an easier time getting tickets not to mention you won’t need to deal with the crowds. The Grand Ole Opry is Nashville’s biggest attraction so everyone is trying to get tickets at the same time, which makes it a bit of a challenge sometimes if you wait until the last minute.

The Opry is open on Tuesday nights starting in March and continues on Friday and Saturday the rest of the year. The Opry starts at different times each night and there are two shows on Saturday.

Country music icons like Hank Williams Sr., Ernest Tubbs, and Pasty Cline sang at the Opry and today their legends carry on with new singers and stars. Today’s country music singers enjoy singing at the Opry as much their ancestors did and visitors really love the show and the entertainment!

But, the Grand Ole Opry isn’t just country music. It is also a mix of gospel, comedy, bluegrass, today’s hits and more. The Grand Ole Opry is located at the Grand Ole Opry House but was located for years in the Ryman Auditorium and before that in other locations in Nashville. The Grand Ole Opry has really been a success in Nashville and it is the best place to go if you are in Nashville !

A Great Vacation and Travel Destination

The Biltmore Estate consists of an immense mansion built by the Vanderbilt family in the late 1800s. It is the largest home that is privately owned in the United States and the descendents of the Vanderbilts still own the home. It is amazingly large at 175,000 square feet. The available tours of the home are simply incredible and it is unbelievable to tour the home and realize that more than 130 years ago architecture, design, and the like were so advanced.

The best time to visit if you want to save money is during the winter months. And, many times the North Carolina winter is fairly mild so you won’t be worried about freezing to death when visiting. Hotel prices are much cheaper during this off season and you can even get a winter pass for $35, which is considerable savings!

If you want to really enjoy the atmosphere of the Biltmore Estate then staying at the Inn is really the best route. The Biltmore Inn is beautiful and located on the Biltmore Estate and when you stay there you receive free entrance into the Biltmore Estate. This is a great way to combine the hotel with the tour and save money while really enjoying the atmosphere.

The Biltmore Estate is also a great place to host meetings, conferences, weddings, and even to shoot movies. The grounds are exquisite and the home is gorgeous and is the perfect place for any special event. While you are in Asheville, North Carolina you should also check out the Urban Trail. This is a walking trail that teaches individuals about Asheville’s history and architecture. Famous author Thomas Wolfe’s childhood home is in Asheville as well and a tour of his home place is interesting and inspiring.

When you head to Asheville, North Carolina you will have an amazing vacation. You can spend time at just the Biltmore Estate, or you can venture out and see more of the area. But, whatever you do, one thing is for certain and that is that you will love the experience.

The smarter way to experience the Great Pyramids

From their construction throughout the centuries the Pyramids of Giza have represented mystery, wonder and awe to all. They are perhaps the only great architecture of the ancients to have survived more or less completely intact.

The oldest pyramid at Giza is the Great Pyramid of Cheops, also known as Khufu, and is the largest known pyramid in existence. It was built around 2500 BC of over two million limestone blocks, each almost three tons in weight. An astonishing achievement and is believed to be the work of around twenty thousand slave workers.

Nearby are the smaller pyramids belonging to Cheops’s son and grandson as well as the Great Sphinx, known as Abu ‘l-Hol, a half-lion, half-man figure of majestic proportions.

Each evening at dusk an enormous sound and light show is played out and, despite its rather tacky touristy nature, is a real fast-track introduction to Egyptian history. Scout through the many persistent camel drivers around the site for a decent tour of the pyramids on humpback, with the best time of day being at daybreak or sundown as these times are quieter and offer the most breathtaking atmosphere to view the pyramids in.

As perhaps the best possible example of real estate location the forty acre Mena House offers rolling views of lush parkland and beautiful gardens right on the Saharan doorstep with the pyramids as a backdrop. Before 1870 the Mena House was King Khedive Ismail’s official hunting lodge, yet today it offers serene escape from the heady tourist areas that surround the Pyramids. Featuring and eighteen hole golf course, a gorgeous swimming pool set right in the lush gardens, and a certain aire of colonial grandeur felt perhaps most on the breakfast terrace, which Evelyn Waugh described best as being “like having the Prince of Wales at the next table”. To enjoy the Mena best choose a room in the old yet beautifully restored suites for a grand view of the Pyramids.

The Pros And Cons Of Charter Flights

For people who would like to have the most privilege and the benefits in flying, he would normally choose a charter flight instead of taking the usual airline flights that many of us had experienced. Basically, charter flights refer to those flights that deviate from the normal course of flight activities and schedules. This means that with charter flights, you can personally decide the time, date, and the location according to your personal preference and necessity. Actually, in a simpler point of view, charter flights are specially created to provide convenient flying to people who do not have fixed schedules. It also provides expediency to people whose activities require frequent flying that take place usually out of the typical flight schedules.

1. Nature Of Charter Flights

In most instances, charter flights are used during the peak season and holidays. That is why, most charter flight tickets are included in vacation holiday packages. These vacation packages include all the necessary items needed by an individual like the price of the ticket, accommodation, food, and other services. Even if charter flights are more manageable, however, the discretion is usually based on the preference of the passengers, it also entails some rules and regulations that must be observed at all times. Normally, charter flights will only take its course if it has a near 100% seating capacity or if the numbers of passengers are almost filling up the actual number of seating capacity of a certain charter plane. However, its actual number of seating capacity is lower than the usual number of commercial airplanes. On the other hand, not all charter flights are created perfect. Hence, there are instances that it also has its own flaws and drawbacks as well as its advantages and benefits.

2. Pros And Cons

Pros

– Charter flights can provide you with many flights, even up to ten times, as compared to what the traditional commercial planes can give you.

– All you have to do is to pick your destination and the place of the airport where you want to land.

– Charter flights give you the convenience of time because you decide your departure time.

– With charter flights, you do not have to go through the tedious process of check-in and checkout requirements.

– Charter flights give you the privilege of utmost convenience flying, away from the hustle and bustle of commercial planes.

Cons

– Charter flights cannot go anywhere around the globe. This is because there are some countries that do not allow the entry of charter planes.

– As much as it can give you the convenience of flying, charter flights are susceptible to restricted flights and stiff schedules. This means that there are instances wherein charter flights cannot arrange or change some flights for you in the event that there are some changes in your schedules.

– Payments for charter flights are usually in advance. This would mean that you are financially compelled to follow the rules, otherwise, you cannot hire their services.

– As much as it can be safe, charter flights may not be capable of providing you with utmost security. However, this is still subject to some factors and that not all charter flights are created equal. That is why it is extremely important to choose a charter flight that is fully recognized and credited by the Federal Aviation Administration or the FAA.

3. Other Considerations

Indeed, charter flights may be applicable to some but not all. After all, the selection and the final discretion are always dependent on the person who will pay for the services. Just remember, in order to avoid any discrepancy or problems with regards to the services of your chosen charter flight agency, always do some background check first. As mentioned, be sure that the charter flight that you will use is duly credited and recognized by the FAA. Otherwise, any problem that may arise from your use of their charter flight services may be disregarded especially if the company is not authorized by the FAA. The bottom line here is that where your money goes, care and security must be observed at all times.

The Lighthouse Hotel, Llandudno, United Kingdom

Providing panoramic views across the Irish Sea, the Lighthouse hotel is a wonderful maritime relic offering accommodation of a rather unusual nature.

Built in 1862, the Lighthouse warned the passing ships of the dangers of the North Wales coastline, offering safe passage for many a brave seaman.

These days the Lighthouse is more interested in its guests than the passing sailors, converted during its lifetime from a great beacon into a guesthouse.

The hotel resides on the rugged North Wales coast in the seaside resort of Llandudno. The nearest airport is Manchester International approximately 1.5 hours drive from the west.

Sat perilously atop the limestone cliffs, the Lighthouse towers over the Irish Sea some 100 meters, its fortress-like construction standing sentinel over the rushing waters deep below.

The hotel boasts three guestrooms, each commanding magnificent views. To the north rests the Isle of Man, and to the south sits Puffin Island.

With the beacon removed, the glass panelled lamp room is now a dramatic lounge for its guests, with striking panoramic views across the ocean.

The room is decorated early twentieth-century; its beautiful wooden chairs adorned with red upholstery and matching cushions, a wonderful throwback to the days when the building was more concerned with the safety of passing vessels.

By the window rests a small telescope, available to all who wish to seek the more modern frigates of today.

But the room really comes into its own of an evening. On a clear day the sunsets can be awe-inspiring, a romantic prelude to evening dinner.

A short walk will take you into the town of Llandudno. Popular with the British tourists, Llandudno is the quintessential seaside resort of the UK.

The ever popular amusement arcades keep the youngsters occupied while the adults can spend in the busy shopping streets.

Away from the tourist spots are some lovely walks atop the rugged cliffs. Inspiration maybe for a certain Lewis Carroll who wrote part of his ‘Alice In Wonderland’ around these here parts.

The Four Great Seasons

There is nothing like experiencing the variety of the seasons. There are unique things to see and do no matter what the time of year. Any of the seasons can be great if people seek to enjoy everything the seasons have to offer.

Most people have a love-hate relationship with winter. It is by far the coldest of the seasons, giving many people a reason to despise it. Winter can be one of the most fun and beautiful times of the year if people know how to enjoy winter activities.

For people in many parts of the world, winter means snow. If you happen to live in an area that has many months of snow you can enjoy many months worth of ways to enjoy the it. Find someplace to learn to ski or snowboard or try to ice skate at a local outdoor rink. Some will prefer to enjoy the snow and cold by ice fishing on a loca lake that has been taken over by ice. Whatever you prefer, commit to making the most of the cold winter months at it will be spring before you know it.

Spring is perhaps the most beautiful of the four seasons. The snow melts, the gray skies turn blue, the trees and flowers begin to bloom after a dormant winter, and people who shied away from winter come out and enjoy the weather. Children enjoy warmer recesses during school and adults enjoy walks in the park on their lunch breaks. Baseball games happen in local parks and gardens begin to be planted. Spring can be just as enjoyable as any of the seaons.

Summer. Just the word brings a smile of excitement to the faces of most school aged children. It is the greatest of all the seasons for those who prefer not being in a classroom each day. Summer means freedom, friends, and hour after hour of outside fun. Woods get explored, lakes are swam in and elaborate tree forts are made. Bicycles can be ridden and neighborhood games of all kinds begin. For adults, summer can mean looking forward to more family time, enjoying weekends at a cabin or even taking an extended family trip. However it is spent, summer is usually a favorite among the seasons for most people.

Feelings are mixed as summer turns to autumn, the last of the four yearly seasons. Children are torn between their desires to continue enjoying the magic that is summer and their excitement about beginning a new school year. Many adults look upon autumn with fondess. It feels like a new beginning. Days become cooler and the bright greens of summer become the beautiful rainbow of fall colors. Autumn is a time to enjoy long walks in a park or a cool evening on your front porch swing.

The four seasons are all great. There are fun things to do and great memories to be made no matter what the time of year. The seasons provide variety and endless amounts of fun for people of all ages.

The New Edition of the Rough Guide to Wales

The Rough Guides are distributed worldwide by the Penguin group and include recommendations from shoestring to luxury, covering more than 200 destinations around the globe, including almost every country in the Americas and Europe, more than half of Africa and most of Asia and Australasia. The team of authors and photographers is spread all over the world, particularly in Europe, the USA and Australia.

The Rough Guide to Wales has a new edition published less than a month ago. This is the fifth edition.

As in any good Rough Guide you can find here information about the best places to see as well as about what to avoid in Wales, the most “beguiling” parts of Britain.

In the top of the attractions compiled by the Rough Guide to Wales, you can find the south Wales valleys. Newport’s transporter bridge is placed on the third position by the authors. The interesting part is that the British version of the guide book has the same opinion and describes the valleys as an “interesting and distinctive” corner of Wales. There are a lot of people saying that the area’s success is due to the people who friendly and supportive and to the picturesque countryside and they bring they own experience in the area as a proof. Others are saying that what made the valleys the top attraction is the rich heritage and history of the valleys and some are thinking that the regeneration of the road networks was “ruining the area’s natural beauty”.

Mike Parker and Paul Whitfield, the authors of the fifth edition of the Rough Guide to Wales, are also presenting the disappointing part of Wales. Criticized parts of Wales were the town centre hotels which are “often just rooms above a noisy bar”. Other descriptions found in the guide are the “loud and lairy” Newport, the “breezy and resurgent” Swansea and the “crowning glory” of north Wales – Snowdonia.

Another point made by the authors and not to be ignored by the visitors is the warning that “The worst thing you can possibly do is call a Welsh person English”. The Rough Guide to Britain also claims Welsh people are “resentful of English dominance”.