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Cathedrals Of Europe

By Chris Bonds

Being an enthusiast of great architecture as well as a history buff, I have developed a fascination, with European cathedrals. My wife has never quite shared my passion, but since she adores traveling and shopping, we have a perfect arrangement. Our special time of the year is Easter, for the religious significance of the day, and also because we were married on Easter. This year our journey took us to Paris, a city that is known throughout the world as a cultural mecca with a gorgeous architectural heritage.

Soon after we arrived in the City of Lights, we couldn’t wait to visit one of the most famous cathedrals in the world, the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Accommodations in Paris were abundant, we opted to stay at the Franklin Roosevelt Hotel, which was a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysees. This was a bit of an indulgence, but the casino inside the hotel was all of the justification that I needed.

The Notre Dame cathedral was everything that I expected and more. The entrance to the cathedral was highlighted by a magnificent sculpture of ‘Adam and Eve and the Serpent’. The bell ‘Emmanuel’, which is located in the South Tower, weighs 13 metric tons (over 28,000 pounds) and the sculpture of the Virgin Mary, which is known as the Virgin of Paris, was just a few of the sights that make Notre Dame one of the most impressive cathedrals in the world.

The most memorable trip by far, was our very first Easter outing three years ago. We went to the ‘Eternal City’ of Rome where we checked into the stunning Aldrovandi Palace. We had initially set out to enjoy all the wonders that Rome had to offer – the Sistine Chapel was to be the highlight for me. Little did we know at the time that this chapel would incite such emotion and begin a life-long tradition.

The sensation that took hold of me as I viewed the works of Michelangelo, seeing the actual artistic quality and mesmerizing beauty of his famous ceiling, had a profound effect on both my wife and I. We were left utterly speechless viewing the frescoes, which depicted the ancestors of Christ. My personal favourite, and arguably the most famous, was an apex containing a scene from the Genesis: The Creation of Adam.

In order to appreciate the beauty and the magnitude of artistry, you would have to see it for yourself. It is a vision that will forever keep a place in my heart. Our continued love for these colossal pieces of history has us already planning for next Easter!

About the Author

Chris Bonds is a consultant for HotelTravel – a leading international online travel information and hotel reservations service offering discounted hotel rates in top destinations world wide. Visit for additional travel information.

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Survey Provides Insights Into Travelers’ Needs

By Stacey Moore

While everyone knows that there’s no such thing as a “free lunch,” travelers do like to look for a free breakfast and will often select a hotel that offers one.

That’s just one finding from a recent survey-conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Best Western International. The survey findings offer some insight into what travelers of all ages look for when booking a hotel and what customer service means to them.

Here are some key highlights:

• The top three considerations travelers indicated when choosing a hotel were price (78 percent), convenient location (64 percent) and free breakfast (49 percent).

Interestingly, travelers 55+ are more likely to choose a hotel based on convenience of location (70 percent) than younger travelers between the ages of 18 and 34 (56 percent), who don’t feel location is as important when booking a hotel.

• On the other hand, younger travelers between the ages of 18 and 44 tend to book hotels that offer fitness centers and pools (45 percent).

• Travelers of all ages agree that room service or a restaurant on-site is important when choosing a hotel (18-34: 31 percent and 55+: 31 percent).

Regarding customer service provided by hotels, U.S. adults who stay in hotels say that free parking (75 percent), the concept of feeling “at home” when they’re a guest (67 percent) and having a strong knowledge about the local area-and thus being able to share valuable tips and highlights (63 percent)-score highest when it comes to excelling at “customer care.”

• Other top responses include offering free essential toiletries (beyond shampoo and soap) when they’re forgotten (63 percent), providing a free airport shuttle (54 percent), providing a free local newspaper or USA Today (51 percent), offering free products in the room (such as coffee, mouthwash or lotion) (35 percent) and providing a free bottle of water in the room at check-in (35 percent).

“For more than 60 years, Best Western has provided travelers with convenient locations and a range of amenities including breakfast and free high-speed Internet,” said Best Western’s Ric Leutwyler. “Guests who see the Best Western sign know that they can expect the same high level of customer care, comfort, service and value anywhere they go around the world.”

To learn more, visit the Web site at
Hotels like the Best Western Sterling Inn in Michigan offer customers special amenities such as an indoor water park, pictured above. More travelers over 55 are “grandtripping”-the trend of grandparents traveling solely with their grandchildren.

Hotspots for 2008

By Chris Bonds

Every year a handful of tourist destinations emerge as the hotspots, the places where everyone wants to be. They can be ‘new discoveries’ or destinations that have been on the tourist map for ages, but received a new lease on life. As we wind down 2007, we take a peek at the places that are destined to become the most sought-after holiday locations this year.

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia.

Prague has been on the hotspot radar for a number of years, but finally makes it onto the A-list as new designer hotels, restaurants and clubs transform it into Europe’s capital of cool. Nearly two decades since the end of Communist rule, the city of a hundred spires has acquired a new level of sophistication and style. And the best news of all is that Prague is still a great value-for-money destination, where you can experience the charm, history and tradition of other European capitals without spending a fortune.

CAPE TOWN, South Africa

When it comes to beautiful cities, few can match this gem at the tip of Africa. What other city can boast a magnificent mountain, beautiful beaches, sweeping vineyards and architectural gems? Add to that the friendliness of the Cape’s diverse population, the African sunshine and amazing value for money.

With soccer’s World Cup heading for South Africa in 2010, everyone will discover the city’s delights. Among the tantalising activities on offer in this city is a cable-car ride to the top of Table Mountain, wine-tasting in the vineyards of Stellenbosch and Paarl, sun-bathing with supermodels at exclusive Clifton Beach and dining at tiny restaurants in the city’s Moslem Quarter.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

If you’ve been enthralled by the fabled cities of the past, here’s the chance to visit the growth of one of the miracle cities of today. Only a few decades ago, few people could have imagined that Dubai would become the wonder world that it is today and that Dubai hotels would rival the top hotels on the planet. It takes a special breed of developer to conceive what this city in the United Arab Emirates seems to have achieved remarkably effortlessly.

Dubai is truly a dream city where the impossible has been made possible. A golf course in the dunes? No problem! Vast shopping centres and skyscraper office blocks? Consider it done. A ski slope in the torturous heat? Why not? For hotel buffs, Dubai is heaven. Here you can choose from all the world’s top hotel brands, but it is the local developers who have pulled out all the stops. Who has not heard of the Burj al Arab, considered the world’s only seven-star hotel?

About the Author

Peter Graham is a consultant for – a leading international online travel information and hotel reservations service offering discounted hotel rates in top destinations world wide. Visit for additional travel information.