For family friendly accommodation at the Fringe, avoid overpriced hotels - they'll probably be booked up anyway months in advance. Instead try a family friendly hostel.
Aimed at a higher clientele than cash-strapped backpackers, the Smart City Hostel is a 'boutique' hostel– all rooms are private with ensuite bathrooms, and there are special family rooms with a TV.
The free linen and towels, washing machines and self-catering facilities are a great way to keep costs down (you can make large family meals or prepare a packed lunch for the daytime).
Very comfortable rooms, and a central location in the heart of the old town, so it was easy to cart the whole family to the main venues!
It can be difficult to find cheap food at the Fringe - especially as most places seem to be packed or overpriced in August.
Here are some tips for eating on a budget:
- Carry a bottle of water, a few snacks and a packed lunch with you during the day - you can munch during during long queues for tickets, and avoid the premium prices at cafes and sandwich shops in the city center.
- Head to the Edinburgh Farmer's Market on Saturdays for some budget-friendly food. Held between 9am and 2pm at Castle Terrace, it's stalls sell filling hot takeaway food, such as venison burgers and a hog roast!
- Some of the venues have great cafes, but they can get crowded in between shows. Instead, try the street stalls around the main venues such as Johnston Terrace and Bristo Square. The Traverse Theatre Bar and Café has a decent selection of reasonably priced food, and the courtyards inside the Pleasance Dome Theatre are home to stalls selling huge hot dogs and burgers.
- With some shows, food actually comes as part of your ticket. Early risers can catch Shakespeare for breakfast at C Venue at 10am, and watch the Bard’s best plays with a croissant and a cup of tea or coffee.
- For a cheap meal out, check out the Mosque Kitchen (officially called The Lunch Box) where you can pick up huge portions of halal curries for just a few pounds.
This multi-cultural festival is a great budget alternative to the pricier and overcrowded Fringe and main festival.
Set up by a group of ethnic minorities in Edinburgh, Mela means ‘gathering’ in Sanskrit and is a celebration of cultural diversity in Scotland.
The festival has a laid-back vibe, with food stalls and a craft market alongside the main line-up of theatre, music, film, and visual art from around the world, from Zimbabwean Theatre to Bollywood Dance.
It's only £2 for an all day pass, but some single events are free.
7-9th August, Pilrig Park
A basic Southern Indian restaurant specialising in parathas (stuffed pancakes) located in the heart of Paris's little visited Indian quarter. It is cheaper and more relaxed than the now all too touristy falafal in the Marrais.
The Masala Paratha at just €4.50 includes a large gently spiced Paratha with a fiery dahl along with a couple of dips. There are selections of authentic Southern Indian snacks which you can buy to take away. Friendly service and the sure fire sign of quality - largely frequented by the local Indian population.
Quick, filling and perfectly placed for a pre or post Eurostar meal it is the best value meal I know of in Paris.
189 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin
75010 Paris, France
+33(0)1 40 34 30 70
Google map: bit.ly/lTygle
After a walking through the very chic neighbourhood of St Germain where cash is king, switch to the Quartier Latin for a meal solely based on tartes. It is cheap, very cheap, it is cheerful and above all, the chocolate and raspberry tarte is so good it may make you tear up.
53 Rue Mouffetard, 75005 Paris, France
+33(0)1 43 37 21 89
Google map: bit.ly/gN0ak3
If you would like a romantic break to Venice on the cheap try using a cheap airline and fly to neighbouring Treviso.
Treviso is a small pretty town very close to Venice with some nice restaurants and sights to see. Venice is just a short train journey away and can still be enjoyed!
There are some huge, very well equipped, teeming and expensive campsites in the Loire Valley. There are also many small and cheap campsites run by the municipality - some in the most delightful places (one at Nazelles Negron near Amboise runs wine tastings and has a pizza van some evenings). We paid around 7-8 euros a night for two of us and a tent, and enjoyed a shady riverbank. There's also one we didn't stay on right next to the chateau at Chenonceau.
This restaurant is tucked discreetly in the corner of the square in Lannepax a sleepy village off the Vic Fezanzac - Eauze road. It's an old and traditional restaurant which has been there for many years. There are new owners. The food is little short of magnificent and not the more usual confits and steak. Here I had lamb's brains in chervil cream sauce, shredded chicken in a pot with hints of North African spices, and the usual desserts.
The wine is local and is included. Not the usual slightly ordinaire but good local red and rose.
Service is fun, attentive but never over the top. On complimenting our waitess I asked the secret of their successful melange of food and spice. "The secret is that the kitchen is led by women," she smiled and when I checked that service was included she told me it was but that the smile was not.
The meal on the terrace was delightful and for four, including coffee the price was 58 Euroes. Head for Lannepax and a simple and delightful gastronomic discovery.
Place de la Mairie, Lannepax, 32190
To get the true feeling of being in Paris, then leave the main tourist trail and head for the water- no, not the Seine, but one of the Parisian canals.
The canal cruise I would highly recommend is called "Old Paris" on the Saint Martin Canal it takes 2.5 hours and is simply heaven. It leaves from Paris Arsenal Marina and goes to Parc de la Villette It is a romantic trip and gives you the opportunity to hear the history of the true Paris.
Cruise along the tree lined canal while admiring the old, yet beautiful footbridges. You will also pass below the Bastille. You can also enjoy going through several locks and a couple of swing bridges. You will watch as people go along the canal banks with the many retro shops and cafes-it is truly a view of Paris you will adore.
During the cruise I went on, they played old French songs - which may sound off putting, but on this occasion I found it added to a glorious experience I long to repeat. And the cost is 15 euros for adults and eight euros for children.
The Velib 'free' bicycle system in Paris is really a great idea. I went for a five day extended weekend with my partner and checked my credit card statement the next month to discover to my delight that I had been all over the city; to the Eiffel Tower, along the Champs Elysees, a scary whirl around Place de la Concorde at rush hour (not recommended for the faint-hearted!) and all over the Grand Boulevards and along the Seine and had spent a massive total of six euros.
The system is user friendly and self-explanatory, you can do it in a range of languages. You tap in your credit card details for a small flat hire rate (no more than five euros, as far as I recall), then hoik the rather clumsy, heavy bikes out of their stand. The bikes are a little uncomfortable and it's important to examine which number bike you'll take before you select at the controls, because some have flat tyres, wonky seats that won't budge, or rattling chains. The bikes have - ostensibly - three gears. These are 'slow', 'slower' and 'snail's cycle-rate' and it can get hairy attempting to belt across a junction will a line of irate Parisian drivers attempting to turn right and cut you up.
If you dock the bike back into another station before 30 mins are up, the ride is free. Interestingly, my partner's credit card statement showed one euro more expenditure so perhaps he had docked in a second or two after me.
However, it's an excellent way to see Paris and a lot of fun.
All over Central Paris
In a cavernous room on the Vila Nova de Gaia waterfront, with diner’s comments posted all over the stone walls, this restaurant was buzzing on our visit. And no wonder when for €29.50 (€32.50 at weekends) an all you can eat and drink buffet is on offer.
The friendly staff showed us the ropes despite linguistic barriers and proceeded to foist food and alcohol on us all night. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another morsel from the buffet tables (a huge selection of traditional Portuguese fare) we were given a fruit platter the size of a small bath, and a shopping basket full of nuts was doing the rounds. On top of the beer and wine we had already imbibed, decanters of port, and then brandy, were left on the table and finally an unidentifiable but potent liqueur. Try it if your stomach dares!
Tromba Rija, Av Diogo Leite 102, Vila Nova de Gaia, Tel: (351) 223 743 762, www.trombarija.com/gaia-rg.html
The gardens which surround the Musée du quai Branly in Paris are free to enter. They are beautifully designed with lots of nooks and terraces. They even host parts of museum exhibitions such as the current TARZAN! exhibition which has sound effects hidden in the garden - great for kids. You can also view the Eiffel Tower whilst sat eating a lovely chocolate cake in the museum cafe also in the gardens.
musée du quai Branly
37, quai Branly
75007 – Paris
tuesday, wednesday and sunday : 11am . 7pm
thursday, friday, saturday : 11am . 9pm
- metro : Iéna (line 9), Alma-Marceau (line 9), Pont de l’Alma (RER C), Bir Hakeim (line 6).
- bus : line 42 Eiffel Tower stop; lines 63, 80, 92: Bosquet-Rapp stop; line 72 Musée d’art moderne – Palais de Tokyo stop
- river shuttle : Eiffel Tower stop (Batobus, Bateaux parisiens et Vedettes de Paris
All for walking a few hundred metres, you (1) bypass the huge queue for the Doge's Palace (2) get a joint ticket for both places, cheaper than separate.
52 Piazza San Marco, other end of St.Mark's square from the Doge's Palace
For the best value lunchtime meal, find a country restaurant that has a few commercial vehicles outside it eg blue vans from EDF or GDF. The food will be local and good - these people drive miles to meet up there at lunchtime.
Away from the hubub and mass tourist market, the small town of Plakias lends itself to hiking the mountain paths and wonderful cliff walks during the day and relaxing in the pleasant seaside atmosphere in the evening.
Budget travellers can stay at the Plakias Youth Hostel run by amiable manager Chris, while the more well heeled can rent a small apartment for a few more Euros.
Situated at the foot of the famous Acropolis, this stunning new museum dedicated to the findings and artefacts is now open. At an entrance price of only €1 it is a bargain for visitors. As you move to the upper levels, the full glory of the Parthenon and the Acropolis itself are magically manifest.
Between East Midlands Airport and Junction 24 on M1 there is a simple roadside '24 hour' truckstop. Passed it on the way to fly out, and tried it at 1 am when coming home, and it was open! - good truck food and cheerful chat from owner working through the night, which sets you up for the rest of the journey - far better than the anonymous shopping mall services on the roundabout
The third weekend in September is the Journees du Patrimoine when France flings its cultural doors open wide and squashes many entrance fees! If you're in Vaison la Romaine head for the Roman ruins or the mediavel citadel for guided tours.
Chicken piri piri is super popular in the Algarve. It's basically a whole grilled chicken cut up into smallish bite size pieces. It's spicy and juicy and really good. Usually comes with fries and a tomato and onion salad.
Well they say the original place that started it all is in Guia Algarve and the restaurant is Ramirez. It's always busy and the food is good and hot, prices are very reasonable. A whole chicken with fries is €13 tomato salad is €2 and the house wine is €5 - not bad. Remember the nice basket of bread, the olives, sardine pate and cheese is not a gift it costs money - they call it a "covert" which usually runs you about €2.5 a person if you eat all of the above.
Guia is located just south of the N125 and is about 6 km north west of Albufeira.
The tiny resort of Sant Elm is situated in South-West Mallorca.It is reached via a winding country road that threads its narrow way through low cultivated hills.There are two hotels and several decent restaurants lining its single street.
The place to stay is the friendly, family-run Hostal Dragonera. It has double rooms from 57 euros in high season which come with ample buffet breakfast served in a dining room overlooking the gorgeous, sheltered bay. There is a sun terrace with free sunbeds from where steps lead down to what is essentially a private sandy beach seperated by rocks from the village's main strand.
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