Top European city-break alternatives

Where are you planning on going for your city break this year? Paris? Berlin? Madrid? There are plenty of popular destinations that should spring to mind, but why not go somewhere a little different? There are so many incredible cities in Europe, all with beauty spots, historical monuments and places of cultural significance of their own. Here are our top alternatives to the same old destinations…

  • Vienna

Austria’s capital has so much to offer intrepid explorers. Thanks to the decadence and splendour of the former Imperial rule, there are more grand palaces and magnificent structures to behold in this city than you’ll probably ever see in one place again. The most notable are the Belvedere, the Hofburg and the Schönbrunn, but Vienna is also famous for its huge contribution to music. Why not take in an aria or ballet in the spectacular surroundings of the Vienna State Opera house (click here for information on tickets), before heading to Donauinse in the centre of the city for their free festival?

  • Krakow

One of Poland’s most picturesque cities, Krakow is a stunning place to visit with a rich history and plenty of quirky local customs for you to discover. From medieval Wawel castle that looks as though it’s straight out of a fairy tale, to the magnificent St Mary’s Basilica which forms the main feature in the central square of the city, this city is a photographer’s dream. History buffs will love the Wawel Cathedral which is over 900 years old, while adventurers might prefer a hike up into the Tatra Mountains where they can learn how to ski.

  • Lisbon

Heading over to Portugal for hotter temperatures, Lisbon is often bypassed by sun-worshippers in favour of the Algarve. For culture-vultures though, you couldn’t wish for anything more, as Portugal’s capital is packed with things to visit. Jerónimos Monastery is an absolute must-see experience, as this World Heritage site is a perfect example of Gothic architecture, but many might prefer to see the medieval Belém Tower or Moorish São Jorge Castle. Amidst all the sightseeing though, you can always stop for a coffee at one of the many cafes and restaurants in the pretty Rossio Square.

  • Seville

You may have heard this city referenced in the famous opera ‘The Barber of Seville’, but we’d bet you’ve never thought of visiting. With cities such as Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia on offer in Spain, Seville is often left out of the action, but it has so much to offer. For those who’d like a relaxing break, take a stroll around the calm, manicured gardens of Maria Luisa Park, where there will be plenty of fountains, monuments and plazas around for you to find the perfect picnic spot. Afterwards, you can head into the main town and see Seville Cathedral, the famous wooden artistic structure of the Metropol Parasol, and Seville’s Museum of Fine Arts.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article – have you been to any of our alternative destinations? Let us know what you thought in the comments section.

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What Are the Benefits of Sleeping on a Memory Foam Mattress? – Nectar Bed Reviews

If you are on the lookout for a new mattress and you have searched online, you have probably come across memory foam, or “Swedish” mattresses. If you have never tried one, have a read of some of the Nectar bed reviews out there to get an idea of what they are like. These mattresses have a really unique feel to them, enveloping and contouring your body in a natural way. Developed in the 1970s by NASA, it has been designed specifically to be able to absorb the G-force pressures in space. From NASA, it went into the healthcare industry to help people who were bedridden, helping them to avoid sores. Today, it is commercially available and many people swear by it.

Memory Foam Manufacturing Processes

Memory foam is a type of polyurethane foam made up of two parts:

  1. The top layer, which is actually memory foam, onto which the body rests, giving it that unique feel.
  2. The bottom layer, which is a high density foam, supporting both the memory foam and the sleeper.

Usually, these mattresses also have a nonslip, ventilated bottom, which ensures the sleeper can remain in one position all night, in perfect comfort.

Why Memory Foam Is Different

Old-fashioned mattresses are made of springs. The more springs a mattress has, the more supportive it is. However, a mattress can only fit so many springs, leaving to gaps that make the whole bed uncomfortable and unsupportive. Memory foam, meanwhile, covers the entire mattress, ensuring the body is protect everywhere.

The Benefits of Memory Foam

There are many benefits to memory foam, but the two key ones are:

  1. They offer a better fit to the body, supporting every part equally. By contouring and enveloping the sleeper, tossing and turning is also prevented.
  2. It stops sleepers from moving about, because they will feel comfortable the minute they are in bed. This results in greater deep sleep and, hence, more rest.

How to Choose a Memory Foam

If you are now convinced that you also need a memory foam mattress, some of the key things to look into include:

  1. The density of the mattress, generally measured in pounds. A 5 pound rating is agreed to be the best one.
  2. The thickness of the foam, as only the top layer of the mattress will be made up of it, with the rest being simple polyurethane.
  3. The packaging of the mattress before it is sent to you. It shouldn’t be folded, but rolled instead. This stops folds and bends from occurring, while at the same time keeping the mattress clean and fresh, even when it is not in use.

They say that once you go memory foam, you will never go back to anything else. The comfort offered by these mattresses is literally out of this world, and you will genuinely feel as if you are floating into space from the peaceful confines of your bedroom.

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Banking Backtrack – 6 Tips For Reconfiguring Your Financial Priorities

What are your Financial Priorities?

In order to achieve your goals, you need to make them concrete. Evaluating your financial priorities is the first step in successfully restructuring your expenses to meet your long term goals. Making a list of priorities in order of importance is necessary in order to restructure your financial priorities and ensure that you are taking steps forward, rather than simply making ends meet. Achieving your financial goals may require assistance from a personal loan to put you ahead, or may involve assistance from a trusted financial advisor. The following six tips are essential in order to successfully re-evaluate your financial priorities.

1. Remain on top of bills

Are you earning more than you are spending? The most important step in separating our most fundamental financial needs from the rest is ensuring that your income exceeds your expenses. Debt consolidation using a personal loan allows you to combine your existing debt and make one monthly payment through a lower interest rate as offered by a personal loan. This makes your debt easier to pay off, providing you with an allocated time frame to repay the consolidated loan rather than having multiple and confusing monthly payments of various debts. Consolidating your debt through a personal loan saves you a lot of money in interest and helps you remain on top of your bills.

2. Decide what is important

Your financial priorities will change over the years, particularly if you start or expand a family. Reviewing your spending habits over the last few months will give you a general idea of what your spending habits indicate is important to you. For most of us this will be food, education needs and other necessities and preferences. However, it is important to view whether your spending habits align with what you hope to accomplish in the future. What would you most like to do with your money? This leads us to point three.

3. Look at the big picture

While immediate needs and obligations are important, it’s important to consider your finances in accordance with your ‘big picture’. Too many people configure their financial priorities simply to make ends meet. Whilst this may be all that your income can afford, the only way to truly get ahead may be to apply for a personal loan. Using a personal loan to start-up your dream business, take the holiday your family needs or get the surgery you have been waiting for, ensures that you are taking steps forward rather than remaining financially stagnant. Creating measurable goals that can be accomplished, keeps you motivated and ensures your money is being used to further your ambitions.

4. Maintain an emergency fund

For many of us, an emergency fund is something we will “start later in life when I have more money”. However, when reconfiguring your financial priorities, ensuring you have money aside for an emergency situation is vital. When the financially unprepared are hit with an unexpected and expensive emergency, they are left scrambling for whatever funding is available. Often this will result in costly terms and interests rates. Comparing the rates of various personal loans in advance can ensure that if you require a loan for an emergency situation, that you receive the best terms available.

5. Optimize your returns

Are there any other strategies you could employ in order to maximise your goals? This may include seeking advice from a financial advisor in regards to investing your money in stock or a property. Investing your money can further your wealth and help you gain financial independence. Considering ways to optimize your returns is therefore an important step in the assessment of financial priorities.

6. Review regularly

Once your priorities have been ordered it becomes vital to remain on track and regularly consult your list of priorities. It can also help you track when your strategies have been successful and when may be the best time for you to make your move, secure a personal loan and achieve what you outlined in your ‘big picture’.

Being aware of your financial priorities ensures that you remain focused on the most important aspects of your financial life. Evaluating your goals and your spending habits ensures that your money is spent in a way that reflects your priorities, and furthers your ambitions. Reviewing your situation periodically will ensure that your financial priorities are current, so that your money is used in a way that most satisfies you.

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Where to see Elephants on Every Continent

Elephants are fascinating enormous animals that many people travel the globe to see. Whether you are viewing them in the wild or in an enclosure in a zoo, watching the antics of these intelligent animals is sure to enthral everyone. Elephant viewings are now available on most continents and here are 5 of the best places where you can see these gigantic mammals.

The Zoological Center Tel Aviv

The Zoological Center Tel Aviv in Israel is situated upon 250 acres and it has the largest collection of animals in the Middle East. There are over 1,600 species of animals from all over the world located here and you can drive through the African Safari section. On your drive you have the chance to view both Asian and African elephants, lions, hippopotamus, crocodiles, and families of gorilla and orangutans. If you’d like to visit this beautiful destination, you can find information about Tel Aviv here.

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo is in southern California, USA and it has more than 3000 animals that you can view. It is a great place to head if you want to spend a day walking and viewing many kinds of species of animals. One of the highlights of the zoo is Elephant Odyssey that has 2.5 acre enclosure for three female Asian Elephants and three female African elephants. You can view these fascinating pachyderms as well as African lions, jaguars, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and arachnids in captivity. There is also a historic section that has an artificial tar pit, and representations of the ancient animals of southern California.

Colchester Zoo, UK

Colchester Zoo is located in Colchester, England and it is listed as the 11th best zoo in the world. It is on 60 acres of parkland and lakes and there are more than 260 species of animals. It is a great place for a family excursion and you can hand feed giraffes and elephants. There are also other exotic species of animals like Komodo Dragons, white rhinos, ostrich, and zebra. There are plenty of warm areas if the weather is bad and there are great places to eat.

The Chobe National Park, Botswana

The Chobe National Park can be explored during a safari in Botswana and is renowned for its huge elephant population. September and October are the dry season and this is a great time explore the river as there is nowhere else for the animals to drink. You can go camping under the stars, stay on a houseboat or if you’d prefer to indulge yourself you can spend your evenings in a luxury resort.

Taronga Zoo, Sydney

On a trip to Australia, you are not going to be short of things to do, and there are plenty of opportunities to see animals both in the wild and in captivity. Taronga Zoo in Sydney is built on a bushy hillside that showcases a collection of native Australian animals as well as animals from other areas. The view of the harbour is stunning from within the park and you can take a fabulous ferry ride to get to it. There are eleven elephants in the zoo and if you go to the website prior to your visit then you’ll see pictures of each elephant including a description of their personalities so you can learn about them before you meet them.

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Which 10 Celebrities Do Women Look up to For Their Fashion Style?

The fact that women look up to celebrities in terms of sense of fashion is no secret. However, UK retailer Bonmarche wanted to know specifically which women were the greatest style icons, particularly for their target demographic, which is the woman over 45. They have revealed that women like Meryl Streep, Joanna Lumley, Helen Mirren, and Jennifer Anniston all score very high in the top 10.

Women all over the world look at celebrities to develop their own sense of fashion style. All women want to look good, but they have their own definition of what looks good and what doesn’t. While a lot of research has been done on which celebrities younger women look up to, older age groups are often left by the wayside. This is something that UK fashion retailer Bonmarche wanted to change, as their clothing ranges are targeted specifically at women over 45.

To complete their study, Bonmarche surveyed a cross-section of women from all over the United Kingdom, all of whom were at least 45 years old, with an equal representation in the 45 to 54, 55 to 65, and 65 and over age group.

What they found for the 45 to 54 group was that the top 10 celebrity style icons were:

  1. Helen Mirren, who 19.2% of women were inspired by.
  2. Jennifer Anniston, who 16.3% of women were inspired by.
  3. Meryl Streep, who 14.5% of women were inspired by.
  4. Joanna Lumley, who 13.5% of women were inspired by.
  5. Nicole Kidman, who 10.3% of women were inspired by.
  6. Elle McPherson, who 10% of women were inspired by.
  7. Julie Walters, who 8.1% of women were inspired by.
  8. Jane McDonald, who 5.9% of women were inspired by.
  9. Salma Hayek, who 5.4% of women were inspired by.
  10. Ruth Langsford, who 4.8% of women were inspired by.

What the research also showed was that women in this age category loved Helen Mirren for her sophistication, and Jennifer Anniston for her golden tan, shiny hair, and healthy living commitment. There were no differences between geographical regions.

In the next age category, the 55s to 64s, 20% of women preferred Helen Mirren as their style icon, followed by Jennifer Anniston in 15.5% of cases. Meryl Streep and Joanna Lumley both kept the same position. Again, there was no difference between the geographical locations.

Meanwhile, in the over 65s, there were some significant changes. Helen Mirren took on a firm first place in 28.4% of cases, and Jennifer Anniston dropped all the way down to fourth. However, geographical location made a massive difference here, as women over 65 in Scotland believed Jennifer Anniston to be the top celebrity fashion icon, cited by 27.8% of women.

Bonmarche’s online marketing manager explains: “As women grow older, their tastes and influences change, but one thing remains constant: a desire to look great”.

The results of this study are giving Bonmarche the opportunity to ensure their clothing collection is relevant to their audience. Because the same four women were named across all ages and geographical locations, they will ensure that the ranges they carry emulate their style as much as possible. Furthermore, Bonmarche was happy to see that women over 45 were not just interested in what someone wears, but also in how she carries herself and lives her life. Jennifer Anniston, for instance, has a very simple clothing style, but she has beautiful skin and hair, something she credits to her healthy eating habits. Clearly, once women reach a certain age, they want to not just look good on the outside, but feel good on the inside as well.

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Tips to Help You Avoid Business Failure 

Being in business is about striking a balance between your desire for success and your commitment in the avoidance of failure, focus too heavily on one or the other and you may find yourself in difficulties. Both striving for success and watching out for failure can be done best though looking at what successful and failed businesses have done in the past and how you can learn from it.

Success may come and go but failure is forever and this is one area which should in all honesty, keep you awake at night, especially if you want to avoid it. Let’s take a look at some of the recipes for failure and how you can make sure that you do not fall foul of them.

Financial Mistakes

Behind every failed business on the planet is finance, lack of it, the mismanagement of it or the careless attitude towards it and if you want to avoid catastrophic failure for your business you should ensure that you are focusing on every cent that comes in and goes out of your company. Equally you must make sure that whoever is looking after the finances is a professional and can give you the best service possible. Your role as the leader is to understand the finances, not do them so you should ensure that you are not getting lost in the detail.

Reputation

Reputations can be incredibly frail, they are hard to build and hard to maintain, yet surprisingly easy to destroy. If you want to look after your reputation in the best way possible then you should consider hiring a reputation management company such as reputationmanagementconsultants.com who will work on your behalf to ensure that the company’s reputation is the strongest which it can be and continues to instill confidence in clients and customers. Many businesses fail to understand the importance of a strong reputation and in today’s world of stiff competition, the truth is that a reputation could very well be the difference between the success or failure of your company.

Over Expansion

It is vitally important that your business understands its scale and whilst you should always be looking towards future growth, you must also understand when it is right to do so. Far too many businesses try to grow up too soon and they will expand their business dealings before they are attracting the revenue which they need to pay for it. If you want to ensure that you are growing at the right time then seek advice, plan carefully and take everything in to consideration before you opt for expansion. Success never happens overnight, you must take it in stages and grow to the demands of your business. Bigger premises, bigger ad campaigns and bigger staffing numbers is all well and good but not if you cannot afford to fund it, do this at the wrong time and you could be facing big trouble.

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What Benefits Are There to Using a Reputation Management Firm?

For many years celebrities, politicians, important pubic figures and large firms have used public relations services to ensure that their reputations remain intact. These days that type of PR is still very much in operation and has taken to the internet to help out a great number of people and businesses in building, growing, maintaining and protecting reputations, you only need to look at the reviews to see for yourself just how many people rely on these services to  protect themselves online. Such is the way of the internet that these days, protecting a reputation is not only for the cells and big businesses, but for small and medium enterprises too. If you aren’t sure what benefit you could get from this kind of service then read on to find out more.

Knowledge

the first question is are you even aware what kind of reputation you have online? Most people aren’t and this can be quite damning in itself. A bad reputation can do terrible damage to a business and if you are not aware of whether you have a good reputation or a bad reputation online then enlisting the support of a rep management firm can help you to get on top of it and take action.

Removal of Slander

Reviews online are a great tool to help you to attract more customers but these review systems are very open which makes it easy for anyone who may have a particular grudge with you, to leave a scathing and slanderous review. Equally, if you have ever had any unfounded accusations leveled at you then this may be the most popular result online when searching for your company, regardless of how unfounded the accusation was. An online reputation management company can ensure that your prospective clients see the truth about your business online and not the slanderous comment of someone with an axe to grind.

Guilt by Association

One of the biggest reputation management consultants complaints is the guilt by association which takes place online. For example, if you have a partner or associate who has run into trouble or who have been operating unethically then you will of course want to cut ties with them. The trouble is that removing all of the links that tie the two of your tougher online can be very tricky and this could cause many to think that you are guilty, solely because your partner is. A reputation management firm will be able to help you to cut all ties with your former partner and ensure that any prospective clients and customers do not put you in the same category as the company which you were previously associated with. There is nothing worse than being considered guilty of something purely through association and if you ant to avoid this then a reputation management company is the way forward, for the future health of your company and its success.

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These are the Areas Where Businesses Always Need to Focus 

There is a great focus today by businesses on making sure they present themselves properly in the marketplace. They devote lots of time and energy to social media marketing, building their website and keeping up with the latest marketing trends. Business experts like Chip Paige, President of Pacific Aviation Holdings, know that these are no doubt important areas of focus for business success, but there are others that should never be overlooked. They include:

Cybersecurity

Cybercriminals are a consistent and never-ending scourge of businesses today. Their targets include businesses of all sizes and locations, including internet security companies proving that no one is immune. Oftentimes cyber-criminals attack those businesses feeling most confident, perhaps too confident, in their abilities to ward them off. This over-confidence sets up the perfect conditions for the cyber-criminals to strike.

The need for securing a company vital information has never been more important or complicated. To be effective in this area a business must have all of its employees involved and make sure that their IT department is fully aware of the current and evolving wave of data breaches that are threatening companies. These will always include: malicious programs, unauthorized access into the systems, ransomware, and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks that individually and collectively threaten the livelihood of the company.

The great news is that companies can engage strategies and utilize software tools that can keep cyber-criminals away from their valuable data. Companies need to create and institute company policies around how data can be disseminated by employees and procedures around how to utilize the internet and particularly email and communications sites like skype, where many of the cyber-attacks occur. Further employees must be prohibiting form connecting non-approved devices to the company network. These devices can harbor rogue software and other dangerous programs that employees are unaware of and can infect the company’s entire network.

In terms of software, today there are ways to keep these cyber-criminals out, recover any stolen data and even recover files encrypted by a virus. Companies should be vigilant about purchasing this software and making sure it is updated with the latest protection protocols. Being vigilant will keep any company safe.

Making the Business About the Customer

It is perhaps the oldest business axiom, to always put the customer first. Many businesses find this approach at odds with their goal of being as profitable as possible. However, when you operate your business properly both of these goals con not only co-exist, they propel each other to bigger growth and higher profits.  A business should always be customer-centric and fully focused on what the customer needs to thrive.

To be clear, focusing on the customer may mean that you have to put aside some short-term company desires for long-term and sustainable gains. Companies must reject those ideas that work against their best interests, and their best interests begin and end with the best interests of their customers. The most successful businesses today continue to demonstrate that this is the best and most sustainable business model.

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These are the Biggest Struggles for Returning War Veterans

Imagine waking up every day not knowing whether you or the people around you will live or die. Imagine finding out throughout the day that many of them do in fact get killed or badly injured losing limbs and an ability to function normally for the rest of their lives. Now imagine this happening to young people, many barely out of high school. Finally imagine this happening to people who have volunteered and are doing it to protect you and your family. This is the reality for a US soldier who goes to war for us and after this stark reality, they must come back home and reintegrate into society. It is not easy and we need to appreciate the struggles they have when they come back.

Homelessness

Veteran homelessness is a huge problem in the United States. In fact, the number of homeless Vietnam War veterans is higher than the number of soldiers who died during the war.  Approximately one third (33%) of homeless males in the U.S. are veterans and veterans are more than twice as likely to become homeless as other Americans. In other words, the problem is chronic and not abating. The problem is so drastic in fact, that is has overwhelmed the US government and they have appropriated special funds to deal with the problem. It is working somewhat with veteran homelessness diminishing but it still remains too much of an issue for the country. Thankfully in addition to the government’s efforts, many private groups have been formed to address veteran homelessness. Groups like Houston based helping a Hero provides homes to severely injured veterans. The non-profit and its chairwoman Meredith Iler, have an unflinching commitment to keep veterans off the streets and they has built 18 homes in Houston for this purpose. Veterans are placed in homes that are built to accommodate their injuries and charged rents they can afford.

Drugs and Alcohol 

Drugs and alcohol are a persistent problem for greater society and a particularly terrible problem for veterans. Alcohol use is higher among men and women in military service than among civilians. Almost 47 percent reported binge drinking and 20 percent of military personnel reported binge drinking every week in the past month; and at 27%, the rate was considerably higher among those with high combat exposure. Almost fifteen percent of military personnel report misusing prescription drugs and five percent report using illegal drugs. These issues get carried over and the numbers increase when they leave the military. In one study that involved roughly 600 veterans who were deployed to either Afghanistan or Iraq, 39% of the vets showed positive for probable alcohol abuse.  Although the incidence of drug use among veterans was much lower, there is a strong connection between veteran drug use, depression and suicide. It is important to note that veterans commit suicide at a higher rate than any other group in the US. The US government has again responded with many national and local outreach programs to engage veterans and get them treatment. Too often though there is insufficient resources to serve all of the veteran needing assistance. This leads to too many tragedies and lost lives.

We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid. What we can do is to ensure that they have the assistance they need to live normal and productive lives when they return home or get the treatment they need to live the best lives possible.

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Planning a House Extension? Here are Some Things to Think About

A few years ago I had a decision to make regarding where I was living, I loved the home that I was in but found the need for some more space after my second child came along. I flirted with the idea of moving home but the property market was not in a good state and I begrudged the idea of moving away from my family, social circle and the last thing I wanted was to take my child to a new school to start again. I opted instead to renovate my existing home and add an extra floor as well as some more space on the side of the house. I always knew that the process wouldn’t be easy but I definitely underestimated just how hard it would be. If you are planning something similar then here is my advice to you.

Get Prices For Everything

I massively underestimated how much the raw materials would cost and didn’t look into this until quite far throughout the process. My advice would be that once you have a solid plan from the architect, start getting prices. For example, the quote which I received from David Montoya Stonemakers was very reasonable for the brick work and I got a little carried away, it turned out to be the only quote that I received which was anywhere near my expectation. This caused a lot of to and fro between myself an the architect and forced me to up my budget. Stick to your budget and make that plans around it rather than the other way around.

Move Out

I would wholeheartedly recommend that, if possible, you move out of the property whilst the work is being undertaken. The level of noise, mess and interruption is not helpful when you are trying to run a family home and if you stay, the work will also take a longer amount of time. Start planning as soon as possible to move out of your home for a while and even if you need to stay in a hotel, the money which you will save on the faster building work will more than pay of your time in the hotel.

Legality

Th most important advice that I can offer you is to check out all of the legality surrounding your proposed extension before you sign any contracts. We had great difficulty in getting planning permission for the extension and I had assumed that it would not be a problem. Thankfully we had great neighbors and an open dialogue with them about what we wanted to do and without them, we would not have been able to get permission. If you want to extend your home then make sure that you have all of the legal issues in place before you even consider signing up to the project or hiring contractors. Make sure also that you have a strong relationship with your neighbors or at the very least that you have informed them of your plans.

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