You can save some money by booking your flights and hotels via cashback website www.quidco.com.
Here you can get the referral commission advertisers normally get for referrals. Flights typically receive 1% cash back from well-recognised sites such as expedia.co.uk and ebookers.co.uk or virginatlantic.com.
Hotels also get higher returns giving as much as 10% cash back for agencies such as hotels.com and expedia.co.uk. The only thing to caution about is that hotels will be prepaid and may not have the same flexibility (a cancellation charge may apply) when compared to booking directly.
The Chinese Arts and Crafts Shop in the China Resources building on Harbour Road in Wan Chai is a fantastic place for antique Chinese silk dresses, high quality authentic antiques and artefacts. They also stock a huge range of Chinese medicines. For ease - it's worth making this your first port of call for gifts.
Hong Kong's banking industry is dominated by HSBC. As such, you can get some great discounts at stores in Hong Kong if you have an HSBC credit card. The stores don't usually care which country it's issued in, just keep an eye out for the discount sign at the cashier desk.
Stores across Hong Kong
The Sogo department stores are a one stop shopping experience. With stores in Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui, they may not be as full of bargains as the markets, but they still allow big savings on prices back home on goods which do seem to be good quality. The stores have a Japanese style, but include top fashion brands from around the world, and in classic department store style have floors devoted to particular types of products, including the bargain basement - which is at the top of the shop!
555 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay, HK
TEL: 2833 8338
The Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue is a remarkable homage to consumerism. With four enormous malls and a host of favourite designers – from Gucci to Prada and Levi’s to Ralph Lauren – it’s the ultimate “one-stop-shop”: you can find the perfect birthday, anniversary or Christmas presents here. And there’s shopping outside the Mile, too – in the shape of some fabulous little specialist boutiques. Try Sam & Willy’s for everything a dog could want; or the H.I.M men’s clothing boutique; or Unique So Chique Tea & Chocolat for a glittering array of bath and body products, cards and stationery.
Finding a tailor to make you a custom suit in Beijing can be a bit tricky if you don't know where you are looking in this vast metropolis. This can be particularly challenging if you have 'Western' measurements so can't buy off the shelf. The best place to go is Gong Ti Bei Lu market right by 'Workers' Stadium'. There you will be able to find various stores catering for your needs. Expect to pay around USD100 a suit.
Ask your hotel to write the address in Chinese - otherwise your taxi driver won't find it!
I owe my insights into even the least visited tourist attractions in and around Aleppo to the very friendly and competent Mahmoud Lababidi (which is why I know and love Aleppo more than Damascus). He is a qualified tourist guide and working as an English teacher at a local high school. He can also assist with the hire of a car and driver for day trips.
Mr Lababidi can be contacted by mobile phone no: 00963 (Syria) - 955276368 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can buy some interesting-looking Iranian carpets along the main drag of Hammadiya. Forget about the antiquities near the Umayyad Mosque. Most of them are junk or fakes imported from Iran. Some nice knick-knacks and trinkets to be had, but you’ll certainly pay much more than they’re actually worth (about zilch).
Hiking in the countryside around Maaloula/Saidnaya (micro-buses from Zablatani cost approximately 25SL/.25 pence for a 30km journey). It’s possible to stay at the convent at Maaloula for a nominal sum, but be sure to get there early. Also, don’t miss the last buses back to Damascus (about 8 pm, but check on this).
Deir Mar Mousa, near Nabak, 100 kms from Damascus. Hike there from Nabak through some astonishing valleys and landscape (but beware of the local shepherds’ guard dogs). The monastery is presided over by the Italian Father Paulo. He loves an audience. You can stay there but all donations are happily accepted.
Also, walking the disused railway line from the Hijaz railway station out into the Damascus countryside as far as Bloudan (about 6-8 hours of moderate walking) is a great way to get an idea of Damascus’ modern and ancient character. As you get to Wadi Souq al-Barada, after Tel El-‘Awaameedh, you can see carvings on the cliff walls dating back to the beginning of the Christian era, when this area was known as the Tetrarchy of Abilene).
If you're trying to make sense of all the boutiques that New York has to offer, you might want to check out www.storeadore.com. It's the online shopaholic's bible! It contains profiles of all the best boutiques in New York and you can search several different ways and even make shopping maps for yourself. It's great for planning a day of shopping, but it also saved me a lot of time when I was travelling and just wanted to find a shop nearby that carried the boutique brands that I like. I highly recommend checking it out. They cover stores in other U.S. cities as well!
It's a short metro ride away from the glamour of high street shopping so was it worth it? While my Parisian friends told me they don't shop there, as the area is not very 'chic', I actually found some very good discounts and, surprisingly, some new season items, slightly discounted albeit with tiny flaws.
I found two great bargains at Cacharel that made the metro ride worthwhile. A cropped wollen jacket, rabbit-fur trimmed lapel €660 reduced to €120 and a frilly high-neck silk blouse reduced from €320 to €90.
There's also a great selection of clothes for children of all ages: girls’ embroidered cardigans at a ridiculous €30, boys' suits from €100 as well as lots of cashmere twin sets around €80-120. The ground floor is dedicated to monsieur.
Also impressive are the two Sonia Rykiel stores which had some wonderful knitted suits at very reasonable prices. As France’s 'queen of knits' you can be assured of quality and pick up tops in bright colours for under €100; her two stores had last season’s stock greatly reduced. You won’t believe the incredibly cute young girls and baby SR range. You’ll also find bags and shoes in those bright trademark colours. If you like these two brands, then ‘bon route’.
A few other stores promised Armani and Dolce & Gabbanna but disappointed. Others had a great selection of French brand names, Gerard Darel, Naf Naf but at the same price as the 5th! I did find some American Retro ‘timeless’ T-shirts for around €30. It is fun bargain hunting and, if I had more time, I would have done more shopping.
Shops are generally open Monday after 2pm then Tuesday to Saturday 10 am – 7pm. I found most opened during the lunch hour (however the smaller ones may close).
Cacharel – 114 rue d'Alésia, Métro: Alésia, t: 01 45 42 53 04 or more details at www.myweekin.net
Pretty much the only time when food and drink around the Markt square is affordable is every Wednesday morning when it’s taken over by market stalls.
With a range of cheap, fresh and tasty offerings like rotisserie chickens, olives, cheese and international dishes, it’s the perfect place to bag a picnic or stock up on self-catering ingredients.
Toronto has some of the best shopping in North America – at least it seems that way among the boutiques and the department stores!
Far from just housing run-of-the-mill stores, the city had some great and unusual wares on sale. Honest Ed’s is the city’s first budget department store and there are some real fashion bargains to be had in here!
My only advice – make sure you have enough room in your backpack to get all those purchases home!
581 Bloor St. W., Toronto, Canada M6G 1K3
Bull Street is one of the nicest old streets crossing Savannah, GA. It starts at the river front and crosses the nicest squares (small parks) and coffee shops and small restaurants and takes you to the large Forsythe Park. Go to the other end of Forsythe for more shops.
Seattle is a long city with many neighborhoods some of them barely mentioned in the tour guides and yet still full of local colour. Columbia City is my neighbourhood and if you visit on a Wednesday afternoon between May and October, you’ll encounter the farmer’s market which draws producers from both west and east of the Cascades as well as local performers and organizations.
You can eat here, joining dozens of families picnicking on the sloping park ground adjacent to this weekly festival. The Sicilian style restaurant ‘La Medusa’ serves a Wednesday dinner that has been cooked up using only produce purchased fresh that day from the stalls in the market (book ahead).
Within a short radius Columbia City has a pub (great local microbrews), a bookstore (Bookworm Exchange), a gallery, restaurants, a bakery (which serves coffee and treats), a cinema, as well as ethnic and independent shops that beg to be browsed.
If you are in town on the first Friday of the month then come along to ‘Beatwalk’ which starts kicking in around seven in the evening; many of the places described above are open until late, each with their own band, one five dollar payment gives you the freedom to wander from venue to venue people-watching and relaxing (you might even enjoy the music too).
It’s a lot of fun and not set up with tourists in mind, many of my neighbours arrange to meet up or just wander down knowing they will bump into friends. The 'south end' is the 'social end'.
If you have a car (or ride Metro 39) go down to Seward Park and walk the perimeter path that follows the lakeside around this peninsula, looking across towards the downtown skyscrapers, it is hard to imagine that you are in a major US city. Within Seward Park there is old growth with the biggest Douglas fir inside city limits, bald eagles nest here and one particular nest is easily viewed from the internal drive that goes up by the amphitheatre.
I have lived in Seattle since 1989 and I love the south end, it doesn’t get the ‘travel show’ attention of other more northerly neighbourhoods but it’s a quiet gem of an experience waiting to happen.
Head south down Rainier Avenue
In Italy, the blackmarket football merchandise is the more frequently available - even outside stadiums! The handiest store is at Piazza Colonna on the left as you walk north on Via del Corso. It is also a ticket office for games in the Stadio Olimpico but make sure to bring your passport for ID.
Google Map: tinyurl.com/5dvzf8
Out in Trastevere, Porta Portese flea market is exactly what you'd hope for: a noisy, bustling mass of stalls and animated throngs of people.
Held every Sunday morning (and you'd best get there early), you can pick up practically anything there if you're prepared to wrestle with a stallholder over it!
(Out in Trastevere) From Porta Portese gate along Via Portese
This great little cafe/bookshop is what all cafes in Rome should be like. Not perhaps as achingly scenic as some other cafes in Rome, it's nevertheless a good bet for a coffee, a slice of cake and a browse through the books.
Via dei Fienaroli 28 (across the river in Trastevere)
Running away from the Piazza Garibaldi down to the Piazza del Mercato are Naples' markets. In keeping with the city's general atmosphere, they're a noisy, chaotic affair (with more than a whiff of the mafia about them by all accounts!).
Watching the fish market at Porta Nolana - and every other specimen of market stall imaginable scattered across the area - is an essential Naples experience in and of itself.
To the west/southwest of Piazza Garibaldi
One of the best organic farmer's markets I've ever been to. Amazing cheese, bread, vegetable stalls, even a stall selling all sorts of mushrooms in season (bought some chanterelles and a black truffle last time). Smoked mozzarellas, huge focaccias, stunning veg - a truly superb market. 9am - 4pm Saturdays (the rest of the week it's a flea market).
Noordermarkt is in the shadow of Noorderkerk, about 10 minutes' walk from Centraal Station, on the edge of the Jordaan district.
A monthly market (held every first Sunday) which takes place either inside or outside the Milgi bar on City Road (an eclectric bar/bistro with video art, squashy sofas, chandeliers and a good line in cocktails and homemade pop).
It's a bit of a hotchpotch of jumble, young designers, live music, DJs, the odd random performance artist, maybe a BBQ, maybe some nice hot soup...
It's genuinely really great for hand printed tees and pumps, jewellery, second-hand books, vinyl, vintage-rummaging, people-watching, cake-eating, cocktail-drinking... And sometimes it happens at night too, which can be very, very good.
Milgi, 213 City Road, Cardiff, www.myspace.com/northcotelanemarket
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