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Casinos often conjure images of suave men in tuxedos drinking vodka martinis or seedy dives where gangsters make plans. Rarely, are they shown for their architectural prowess despite some of the buildings featuring truly remarkable architecture.

The more lavish affairs tend to be some of the most expensive real estate in the world. It is interesting that online casinos such as bestcasino.com/us/, are trying to emulate the ‘real feel’ of casinos. No doubt they are inspired by the architecture of some the most famous casinos in the world. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the most impressive buildings where the game of chance is played.

Wynn Las Vegas

Since the Wynn Las Vegas opened in 2005, it has attracted millions of visitors a year from all over the world. The curved shape of the building fits into the Vegas setting well and its darker colour hints at elegance. The aesthetics also hint at corporate efficiency, and it wouldn’t look out of place as the corporate HQ of a giant tech company in Silicon Valley.

Inside you’ll find 4,750 rooms, almost 190,000 square feet of gaming space, exhibitions, hotels, and restaurants. The project continues to expand as more construction is needed to accommodate retail outlets. With the hotel and restaurants winning awards for their outstanding service and dishes, no doubt the shopping here will be high end.

This is the biggest casino resort in the world, and according to Steve Wynn it was one of the most ‘fun projects’.

Marina Bay Sands

Towering over Singapore is Marina Bay Sands Resort. The famous SkyTower looks very futuristic and wouldn’t look out of place in Star Trek. The building consists of three skyscrapers propping up the famous infinity pool that gives spectacular views of the city.

The resort offers 160,000 square feet of gaming space where you can try your luck James Bond style. The hotel features art exhibitions, acres of retail space, restaurants, and bars. It cost just under $5.4bn dollars to complete and covers over 2m square feet.

Since opening the casino resort has gone from strength to strength. Like The Empire State Building, The White House, Christ the Redeemer, Big Ben, and The Eiffel Tower, it has become an iconic building in the city-state. Tourist numbers have increased dramatically.

Sun City Casino

Head to South Africa’s northwest province, and you will find Sun City Casino. Designed by Sol Kerzner and completed in 1979, it is the domes of the building that stand out in amongst the jungle. The design makes clever use of the jungle canopy and some of the room options include staying in a bungalow surrounded by it.

The casino doesn’t have quite the same gaming capacity as Vegas or Singapore, but it still offers elegant gaming of every kind. As you would expect, the casino features restaurants, bars, entertainment, and unlike many of its competitors a safari park.

Casino de Monte Carlo

The Monte Carlo casino is world famous, and today the best gamblers in the world assemble to try their luck. The building designed by Charles Garnier in the 1850s and completed in 1863. Garnier designed the building in the Beaux-Arts architecture, Napoleon III style making it instantly recognisable to most James Bond fans. It is situated in the Cercle d’Or district of Monaco which is in the Monte Carlo quarter of the city-state.

Palm trees and lush landscaped grounds surround the casino. As well as the casino you will find the Grand Théâtre de Monte Carlo, and the office of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. The casino is luxury personified and features jackpots of almost half a million Euros.

Venetian Macau

Macau, like Hong Kong, is a Special Administrative Region of China. Until 1999 this was Portuguese territory, and the city sits on the Pearl River in southern China. It is also home to the Venetian Macau, the largest casino in the world. It is also the largest single structure hotel in Asia.

As you’ve probably guessed the hotel in part does resemble Venice with gondoliers sailing up and down the canals that separate the internal structures of the resort. The architecture would sit equally at home in Vegas with its curved buildings and tower that is visible from miles away.

Inside its Venice all the way with bridges spanning the canals, an elegant interior that attracts millions of visitors a year, coupled with world class restaurants, bars, and exhibitions.

From a gaming perspective, you can enjoy 546,000 square feet of floorspace, with literally thousands of slot machines and 800 gaming tables. The resort has 3,000 hotel rooms and suites, an arena, and conference space.

Each of the buildings has its own style and are impressive. Even if you are not interested in gaming, they are worth visiting in their own right just for their sheer magnificence.

Getting to know Macau, the Chinese special administrative region, has recently become known as ‘Vegas on steroids’, due to its many exclusive, high-end casinos. Although the city’s casino scene is the most exciting in the Far East, there is so much more to Macau than this. It’s a city where Eastern and Western cultures collide – due largely to the peninsula’s heritage as a former Portuguese colony.

The city was once leased to Portuguese sea merchants, who viewed Macau as the ideal base from which to improve trading links with the Silk Road. Today, the city retains a great sense of pride in its Portuguese heritage, visible in its architecture and everyday culture. Even some of the city’s stunning casinos pay homage to its Portuguese past, like the 12-storey Casino Lisboa that looms large on Macau’s landscape, which is somewhat reminiscent of those in Singapore. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese people flock to Casino Lisboa each year to play the most popular table games. The locals are absolutely besotted with baccarat. In fact, it generates 90% of all revenue for the city’s casinos due to its simplistic gameplay. The object is simply to score as close to nine as possible with two cards dealt by the dealer.

But forget about Macau’s casino industry for a moment and let me shine a spotlight on the reasons why Macau is anything but a one-trick pony travel destination:

Stunning architecture

Venture into the city centre to discover the Portuguese-influenced architecture that dazzles the senses. Senado Square is the heartbeat of Macau, its colourful mosaics and majestic water fountain in the middle of the square create a wonderful backdrop. The city’s 17th century cathedral – the Ruins of St. Paul’s – is arguably the most striking building in the city, overlooking Santo Antonio. Its stone façade features historic carvings from Japanese exiles and Macanese craftsmen. More recently, the Macanese government agreed to turn the ruins into a museum, as a nod to the city’s centuries of history.

UNESCO World Heritage sites

Talking of history, the Historic Centre of Macau is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, due to its “unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, architectural and technological influences” from both western and eastern worlds. The authenticity of the old town’s streets is not lost on most visitors to Macau, and it has retained its charm and personality in the face of fast economic growth.

Eclectic dining scene

Fanatical foodies will adore the chance to sit down and sample the delights of Macanese cuisine. Heavily influenced by both Asian and Portuguese flavours, there are a plethora of local specialities available that you’ll almost certainly take to your heart. From the rich, caramelised flavours of the traditional Portuguese Egg Tart and Crispy Pork Chop Buns (ideal for lunchtime snacks on the go) to the king of Macanese cuisine, ground meat Minchi, there’s no chance of running out of things to try!

Plenty of adrenaline-fuelled attractions

Thrill-seekers won’t find it hard to get the adrenaline pumping in Macau, either. The AJ Hackett Macau Tower is home to the world’s highest bungee jump, standing at a height of 233 metres. If you don’t have the inclination to jump but you still have a head for heights, you can always head out along the tower’s Skywalk, which is just 1.8 metres wide and has no handrails.

Put simply, Macau is a special city with a unique history and a very bright future. Its tourism industry continues to flourish, and its casino scene is still the most extravagant on the planet. However, Asia’s Entertainment Capital will delight and charm you even when you walk away from the roulette wheel. For sure is a destination that each year becomes more interesting and spectacular.

Put away the willy straws, these hen party getaways make for the ideal sophisticated weekend away if you’re looking to plan something a little more chic for your bride. From stylish European city breaks to glamping with the girls, here are #teamcoco’s top 6 sophisticated hen party getaways for a high-end hen do.

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1. Bordeaux: For the wine-loving bride

The heart of French grape-growing country, Bordeaux is the ideal hen-do destination for any wine-loving bride-to-be. Flights from London airports are some of the most inexpensive to be had in Europe, but there’s nothing low-market about this pretty part of South West France. Bordeaux city makes for a great night out with its buzzy bars and restaurants, but the real draw here is the quaint little villages and vine-striped scenery that make up the surrounding French countryside. You can either head east, following the banks of the Dordogne towards Bergerac, stopping for a wine tour in St. Emillion, or west to the coast at Cap Ferret, where French seaside chic meets The Hamptons coastal cool, and you might even bump into Leonardo DiCaprio at one of the low-key day drinking spots.

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2. Ibiza, Santa Gertrudis: For the Boho bride

We know what you’re thinking – Ibiza isn’t exactly what you think of when it comes to a sophisticated hen getaway, but hear us out. This may be the clubbing capital of Europe, but head beyond the bright lights of the San Antonio strip, and into the centre of the island and you’ll discover a magic side to the White Isle that has so captivated bohemian types since the 70s. A chic little village in the centre of the island, Santa Gertrudis is home to a cosmopolitan set of city escapees, artists and musicians. Often called Ibiza’s ‘Notting Hill’ – its upmarket eclecticism is reflected in the art and boutique shopping, as well as the village’s reputation as the island’s culinary capital (we like the garden setting at Finca La Plaza and cute Italian La Mesa Escondida for a meal out). Stay at the Scandi-chic villa Ses Palmeres, a 6-bedroom villa with a sweeping pool and grounds, within easy walking distance of the town centre.

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3. Skiing in Val D’Isere: For the fun-loving bride

Could there be anything more fun than a group of hens hitting the slopes? #teamcoco thinks not. It’s less expensive to rent a fully catered chalet per person than getting a hotel, so if there is a big group of you, this can work out well for a long weekend in the mountains – plus, catered chalets often include house wine (win). Whatever standard your group is, make sure you choose a resort where the après scene is easily accessible, even for beginner skiers. One of our favourites has to be Val D’Isere, where you’ll find the epicentre of slopeside debauchery, La Follie Douce, just at the top of the cable car.

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4. Provence: For the laid-back bride

For a pre-wedding chillout, you can’t beat the rolling rural hills of Provence. Just an hour’s drive from Marseille’s easily accessible airport, which boasts inexpensive flights from multiple European capitals – Provence is a great solution if you have hens arriving from different destinations. This is South of France chic without the Riviera price tag, a land of #Roseallday, dreamy hilltop villages and lavender fields. With a host of Airbnb’s to choose from, hole up in a pretty Provencal villa with your hens, hire a chef and enjoy cheap local wine poolside. Bliss.

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5: Porto: For the arty bride

No longer content to dwell in the shadow of its sister Lisbon, Portugal’s second city has seen a resurgence in the last decade, its restored historic city centre now filled with quirky cafes, cool wine bars and design concept stores, all frequented by a hip young crowd breathing life back into the city. With colourful facades stacked across the landscape, the blue and white tiled azulejos for which the city is so renowned make the perfect backdrop for wandering the cobbled streets, just soaking up the city’s rambling medieval architecture. Come the evening, grab a white port and tonic at one of the bars and cafes in one of the squares and drink it out in the streets with the locals, before heading to the hub of Porto’s nightlife, the Galeria de Paris e Rua de Cândido dos Reis. With drinks so affordable, it’s a good job that the city’s most famous food – the francesinha is the ultimate hangover cure. A sort of suped-up spicy Croque-monsieur, hungover hens should head to cult Cafe Santiago for the city’s best.

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6: Glamping: Wriggly Tin Huts, South Downs, UK – for the countryside bride

There’s something so effortlessly sophisticated about the good old English countryside, and how better to immerse yourself in it than with a glamping hen-do. There are some great spots all over the country (we like using Canopy and Stars to find the best), but if you’re looking for somewhere within relatively easy reach of London, hidden away in the heart of the South Downs National Park near Hambledon, this cute-as-can-be campsite makes an ideal country getaway. Set in a secluded meadow, surrounded by ancient bluebell woodland, Wriggly Tin is made up of 6 shepherds huts, sleeping a total of 16 hens. There may not be any electricity, but the huts are cleverly designed, with wood-burning stoves for cooking and keeping warm, lovely lanterns, plush duvets and vintage details. Hen do’s have to take all 6 of the huts but can have the run of the campsite, including a wood-fired hot tub. While it may seem low-key, gathering around the campfire with your girls is all you really need for the perfect hen getaway.

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The idea of a seaside vacation in the British Isles might be met with scepticism in some quarters but Jersey, Channel Islands changes the narrative with world class gastronomy, hospitality and interesting heritage attractions. Our House of Coco Team of Eulanda and Omo Osagiede visited Jersey to experience this.

The rain hitting the windows, as our aircraft lifted off from London Gatwick, was a stern reminder of Autumn. Unsurprisingly, the weather followed us across the English Channel as we landed in Jersey, Channel Islands. Expecting blue skies for a weekend seaside vacation in Autumn would have been optimistic. Undeterred by the wet start, our spirits were high and our curiosity piqued.

“The island is quite small really. It’s just 9 by 5 (miles),” our cheery taxi driver explained as we drove from Jersey’s airport into Saint Helier where we had booked accommodation at The Club Hotel & Spa. Weaving through compact streets gave us an idea of the small size of the island, something the locals in Jersey like to point out to visitors.

The locals are also quick to highlight that regardless of wherever you are on the island, you are never too far from the sea. They weren’t exaggerating. Along the coastal road from the airport, we saw the sun peek through the grey skies and gently kiss the tidal range off Saint Aubin’s Bay.

Jersey (officially known as the Bailiwick of Jersey) is the largest of the Channel Islands, a self-governing archipelago which sits 14 miles off the northern coast of Normandy (France) and approximately 100 miles south of the coast of England. Street names are in French but the locals speak English and Jèrriais (a native language spoken by a tiny minority).

Politically, Jersey is officially not a part of the United Kingdom and has its own legal and fiscal systems. However, the island depends on the British Crown for things like defence and international relations. In addition, although it is a European territory, it is not officially a member of the European Union. Pretty confusing right?

To further mix things up, the island was invaded by the Vikings in the 9th century, changed hands between the French and British, spawned an American colony (which later became New Jersey), and was occupied by the Germans during the Second World War. This patchwork of history provides an interesting backdrop for experiencing this seaside destination that leaves visitors with a lasting impression.

A ‘tasting safari’ of Jersey’s gastronomy

Jersey is perhaps best known for its status as a leading offshore financial centre. However stodgy or contentious that label might sound, it does nothing to diminish Jersey’s other attractions which include its beaches (Jersey has some of the cleanest water in the British Isles) and its world class gastronomy.

Late September, when Autumn is well underway, is prime shellfish season in Jersey. Fishermen sustainably farm high-quality, fresh lobster and oyster in the tidal range and rock beds surrounding the island. Fresh lobster and oyster are two items out of the Jersey ‘Big Five’ (cheese, black butter and Jersey Royal potatoes complete the list).

Keen to sample the island’s gastronomy, we quickly got our bearings and set out to visit Oyster Box, a chic-casual seafood restaurant in St. Brelade on the west of the island. Beginning life as a family-owned pottery, Oyster Box is a popular choice with locals and visitors, providing a quality dining experience and clear views of St. Brelade’s Bay.

From the bar/lounge, we enjoyed the ambience of the restaurant over a crisp Sauvignon Blanc and a gin and tonic before being seated. The highlight of our experience was a platter of fresh Jersey Rock oysters from the Royal Bay of Grouville served with shallot vinegar. The flavours were clean, salty and delicate, qualities associated with the Jersey variety.

A dish of seared Jersey scallops served on a bed of pea risotto completed the presentation and served as a good introduction to Jersey’s famous seafood culture.

Creative gastronomy at Ormer Jersey

When it comes to food, Jersey packs a lot of quality into just 45 square kilometers. Over 300 restaurants are supported by a network of independent producers offering fresh local ingredients.

Like a magnet, Jersey has attracted a host of talented British chefs including Shaun Rankin (Ormer restaurant) and Steve Smith (Bohemia) who with other chefs and entrepreneurs, have succeeded in establishing the island’s food scene as one of the best in Europe.

The highlight of our tasting safari was a visit to Ormer by Michelin-starred chef Shaun Rankin. Located in the historic centre of St. Helier, the Martin Brudnizki designed interior gave a tasteful nod to the 1940s; with aged leather seats, silk wallpapers and distressed oak paneling.

Through the open kitchen, we watched the head chef and his team put on a masterful performance, with food transitioning seamlessly between kitchen and front of house. Our starters from the à la carte menu payed homage to Jersey’s local produce with hints of international influence: tuna tartare served with purees of Japanese dashi, soy gel, miso, and cucumber and a modernist crab dish served with peanut, gingerbread, apple, pear and dill oil.

Ormer’s bar is somewhat of an attraction in itself where you might find a glass skull, a miniature phone booth, and clear jars displaying a variety of colourful ingredients. These are just some of the unusual tools of the trade used by Diogo Freitas, Ormer’s talented Portuguese bartender. We were held spellbound as he created his signature cocktail ‘Red Light District’ for us; a work of art and a testimony of his creativity.

Exploring Jersey on two-wheels

Food isn’t the only reason to visit Jersey. Our weekend itinerary included a mix of activity and relaxation and Jersey provided great opportunities for both.

Jersey is divided into parishes, the largest being Saint Helier. Our hotel, which was located only a ten minute walk from Liberation Square (the epicentre of activity in Jersey), was the perfect launching pad for our adventures on the island.

On this occasion we leaned towards a self-guided tour on two wheels. Jersey has a well mapped, signposted, island-wide cycle network covering over 350 miles. We hired bicycles from Zebra Car & Cycle hire in St Helier for £12 each for a day’s hire including helmets and locks.

We mapped a route from Liberation Square by the marina to the lighthouse at La Corbière on the island’s southwest. The impressive bronze sculpture of islanders lifting the Union Jack was our first landmark of many Second World War heritage markers. This particular landmark was installed in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of the island’s liberation from Nazi Germany.

The coastal route along St. Aubin’s Bay took us past beaches, parks and quaint little beachside cafes. However, Autumn flexed her muscles and the weather took a sudden turn for the worse, forcing us to shelter in a local cafe in St. Aubin to wait it out. By the time the rain was done, the unanimous decision was to head back to The Club Hotel & Spa for a relaxing treatment rather than working up more sweat. Exploring Jersey’s landscape would have to wait for another time.

Relaxation and rejuvenation at The Club Hotel & Spa

What the city-chic Club Hotel & Spa lacks in sea views (there are no idyllic beach sunsets/sunrises to see from this hotel), it more than makes up for with its fresh and contemporary design and access to the Michelin-starred Bohemia. Our Double Deluxe room was spacious with plush carpeting, luxurious bed linen and mattress and pillows which gave us a good night’s sleep.

The hotel’s contemporary dark wood and glass interior design created an ambience that was a cross between business and leisure. An ‘honesty bar’ providing guests with a ready supply of drinks and snacks was a nice addition. The concierge was happy to inform us about the hotel’s fast and free Wi-Fi.

However, the main attraction is the hotel’s subterranean spa. Access to the spa also allowed unlimited use of the indoor saltwater pool (great for the skin) and thermal suite. After our cycling expedition, the ayurvedic massage treatments, administered with luxurious herbal oils, left us feeling light and limber both in mind and body. We ended our spa day with a cup of herbal tea in a relaxation room directly adjacent to the saltwater pool.

Feeling suitably refreshed and restored, we headed back to Ormer for one last cocktail treat.

A small island with a big heart

Over more Diogo Freitas cocktail creations, we pondered how we would love to return in the summer to check out Ormer’s rooftop bar, do more cycling and visit some of Jersey’s heritage attractions.

With Jersey being only a ferry ride to the Island of Sark and to St. Malo (France), we considered planning a slightly longer trip next time to include these other destinations. In such a short time, Jersey had given us enough to make us feel welcome, relaxed and refreshed. This small island with a big heart had left a lasting impression.

The Club Hotel and Spa Jersey rooms start at £215 for a deluxe room and £445 for a master suite. For more information, call 01534 876500 or visit www.theclubjersey.com. Spa packages include a ‘Bohemia Lunch, Spa & Swim’ option for £89 per person.

Travel. It’s one of those things which we um and ah about, wondering how, if and when we can do it.

Here are 5 reasons why the excuses need to stop!

Travel is an experience like no other

Travel is one of the most nourishing and enriching experiences a person can have. There’s nothing like jumping on a flight, zooming through the clouds and landing in an area completely un familiar.

From different cultures, foods, surroundings and communities, each destination can offer something completely new, only resulting in your knowledge of the world and the growth of yourself.

Travel is something that everyone should experience at some point, because staying in one place your entire life is just madness. There’s a whole world waiting to be explored and the perfect trip is there at your fingertips.

City break? Tropical paradise? Forest getaway? Take your pick!

Time is not guaranteed

Why do we wait so much? We act like we have tomorrow, next week and next year to start and accomplish things, but that time isn’t guaranteed. The only time we have is right now, right this second, and the rest… who knows?

Dreams, goals and adventures should never be put on hold and they should always be at the forefront of our minds, because those are what make us the most happy, right?

Of course, there will always be worries, doubts, obstacles and reasons why we put things off, but that’s when time is sadly taken for granted.

Start working towards what you want now because adventure awaits! Anything can be accomplished with determination, passion and focus.

Wake up your mind

Stepping out of what you know to be normal can be hugely beneficial to the mind. Whether you’re in a creative rut, you feel lost for direction or you simply want an exciting change, waking up in a different country with different surroundings and experiences can help you to see things from a completely different angle.

I sometimes feel that it’s easy for us to slip in to a robotic life, doing what we think is right, when really, it’s only when we push ourselves to live the life we want, that we realise what we’ve been missing.

Travel has a great way of expanding us, giving us that wake up call we need.

Endless Adventure

If you’re like me, living in one spot and walking the same streets every day can get boring pretty quickly. It makes me feel restricted, like I’m not taking full advantage of the world at my feet. Do you ever feel that way?

Having a base to call home is great, but stepping out of that once in a while is important. Imagine the amount of adventure out there… it’s impossible to comprehend!

Living in a world which has 195 countries is simply crazy, and means that the list of adventures can never really come to an end.

What do you fancy? Wine in Paris? To zip wire through the jungle in Mexico? To ride horses through the mountains in Norway? … You have a lot to choose from!

Uncovering the real you

Many of us seem to think that there’s only one way of living, and sometimes it just takes one person to open the curtains and reveal a whole new world, one that you never thought really existed. That person is me, here, telling you to travel someplace!

Choosing to explore that new world can show you a brand new side to yourself. It’s so important to seek discomfort and step out of your comfort zone because that’s when magical discoveries are made and the truth is unveiled! That little box of safety we all have doesn’t allow growth.

Whether you go on a 6 month travel trip or even book a couple of holidays for the year, all travel contributes to self discovery.

The world is a beautiful place. Happy exploring!

There are plenty of things to do in Muscat, from exploring the Grand Mosque and its intricate architecture to wandering through the vibrant Muttrah Souq. Visitors can also enjoy relaxing on the picturesque beaches or taking a scenic drive along the coast to experience the city’s natural beauty.

There’s always that mid-winter lull that makes summer seem like a far and distant memory. Beach weather in Europe is essentially a mirage in March, so we’ve got our sights set on one of 2020’s hottest travel trends: Oman. Highs in the mid-20s promise the feeling of being whisked away to a far-flung destination that promises lazy afternoons spent in the sun.

Adventure is also at the core of Muscat for its multifaceted landscape made up of secret beaches, canyons and wadis (Arabic for valley). An average day might involve a hike in one of the surrounding wadis followed by a midday afternoon massage back at the hotel – right before sunset cocktails by the beach. What’s the catch? A one-off 6 am wake-up call to squeeze in all of the action. That’s it – we promise!

Those clear blue skies make it the ideal time to visit, ridding you of any icky winter blues. These are the top activities we got to try on a recent #TeamCoco trip to Muscat.

Eat

Starting with food is always a good idea. Zale Lounge is a sophisticated and stylish beachside restaurant serving a blend of cuisines and pan-Asian-inspired dishes. Highlights include succulent seafood options like sushi wrapped in sticky seaweed and a signature lobster salad. The mix of booths and sofas offers a laid-back vibe, cleverly softening the high-octane luxury connotative of Kempinski with a quiet palette of creams and whites. Fun features include an elaborate cocktail list that glows in the dark and live DJ sets to take you into the night. Venturing out to the city? Bait Al Luban is a top contender for Omani cuisine in a charming converted guest house overlooking the sea.

Adventure in the Wadis

The sheer beauty of the wadis makes any 6 am wake-up call worth it. Witness sunrise and the arid Omani landscape light up as the sun-dappled mountains become more prominent in the eventual morning light. Wadi Tiwi’s rugged rocks and clear emerald pools beat any ordinary hike. Stumble upon mountain goats, secret coves and local villagers floating with ease from one rock to the next. #TeamCoco tip: Husaak Adventures has an excellent guiding team with extensive knowledge of Arabia’s landscapes. Don’t forget a waterproof phone case to capture the cascading waterfalls in real-time.

Kayaking in Bandar Khayran

This can be adventurous or super chilled out depending on your mood. A leisurely sunset tour is as relaxing as it sounds, especially witnessing the sun’s rays sink slowly atop the surrounding mountains. The colours shift from ochre to sienna in simultaneity with the sky’s altering hues. Bandar Khayran is a top adventure location made up of several mini beaches for snorkelling and scenic beachside hikes along the rocky shorelines. Do it like the locals and picnic in between pockets of the towering cliffs for some shade and solitude?

Stay

A short 15-minute drive from the airport in Al Mouj Muscat, Kempinski Hotel is definitively luxurious, but not in terms of excess opulence. The sun-dappled lobby is perhaps the shiniest part of the hotel, but rooms have a refined elegance and a quiet palette. Having direct access to 6km of stunning coastline means you can go for a run or flop on a sun lounger. The 10 exquisite restaurants and lounge areas also promise an eclectic experience. Pamper your palate at Bukhara Restaurant for North Indian cuisine and tabasco-inspired cocktails, or The Kitchen restaurant for all-day dining on the sun-drenched terrace.

Explore the city by foot

Souks are a large part of Omani culture, offering aromatic sandalwood, fancy hookah pipes and other interesting trinkets. Taste honey-glazed dates in the vegetable market and pop your head in the buzzy fish market in Muttrah to blend in with the locals. The catch is delivered at sunrise and sells out by 11am, which is astonishing considering the sheer size and scale of the market. Muscat’s pristine streets are steeped in history; the mosques are monumental and tell stories from as far back as 627 AD. The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in the whole of Oman and happens to be handily located in Muscat, just make sure to book a tour in advance to secure your spot.

Extras

Royal Opera House

Arts and culture abound in Oman’s premier venue for lavish ballets and eclectic concerts, hosting performances from Jazz legends and Arab pop stars. The exquisite architecture replicates modern Omani palaces and is particularly striking by night when the surrounding lights give it an otherworldly glow.

National Museum

A trip to Muscat isn’t complete without understanding its rich heritage. Delve into Muscat’s history as far back as the country’s earliest human settlement in a series of interactive exhibitions and installations at the National Museum.

Al Alam Palace

Just across from the National Museum in the heart of old Muscat, Al Alam Palace is the original ceremonial palace by Sultan Qaboos and a tourist hotspot for its flamboyant design.

Kempinski Hotel (+968 24 985000) offers a starting nightly rate of £170 inclusive of breakfast for one.

If St Moritz is all about glitz, its pretty Swiss neighbour Pontresina is the antidote to this excess, with chocolate-box chalets, pastel-painted walls and a traditional alpine atmosphere. Located at 1805m above sea level, this postcard-perfect Engadine village may only be 10 minutes by car but feels a world away from the prying eyes of see-and-be-seen St Moritz.

Here are 6 Reasons to Visit Pontresina Switzerland.

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1. Getting there is half the fun…

My childhood memories of skiing always involved some awful winding bus journey for hours up through the mountains. Thankfully, visitors to Pontresina have a better alternative. Despite the alpine village being located at 1,800m – guests can reach this ski destination via train. The UNESCO-listed Bernina Express connects Chur in Switzerland to St Moritz and Pontresina, crossing the Swiss Engadin Alps. This means you can travel directly from Zurich to the Swiss Alps, changing at Chur to board the nostalgic red train which will whisk you up through snow-covered scenery, over arched bridges and past bleak mountain peaks in a total of 3 hours 45 minutes. Think Hogwarts Express with alpine vibes.

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2. Stay at the Grand Hotel Kronenhof

The only five-star hotel in Pontresina, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof is an alpine institution in and of itself. Dating from 1848, a stay at this historic hotel is a definite highlight – all fin de siècle grandeur, elegant interiors and a lavish spa. A neo-baroque beauty with a Wes Anderson feel a stay at this hotel recalls the glamour of a bygone age, with three gourmet restaurants, a palatial dining room, formal dress and an exclusive clientele – read our full review here.

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3. Eat at Kronenstubli Restaurant

Within the walls of the Grand Hotel Kronenhof, you’ll also find the award-winning gourmet restaurant Kronenstübli with its cosy wood-panelled walls and exceptional tasting menus. Awarded 16 Gault Millau points, this Swiss pine parlour is headed up by chef Fabrizio Piantanida and his team, serving classics of French cuisine from Canard à la Presse to crepe Suzette, both prepared tableside in a theatrical culinary feat.

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4. Head for a Hike

In both summer and winter, Pontresina is known for its hiking. The Muottas Muragl funicular and the Alp Languard chairlift reach many different trailheads, for beginner and advanced ramblers alike. Whatever route you choose, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping mountain views and the odd charming mountain chalet offering snacks and hot chocolates. The staff at the Kronenhof are more than happy to recommend a route based on your fitness level and the time of year – you may even spot some Ibex grazing in the hills overlooking the village.

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5. Cross Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing is best described as much harder than it looks. But the instructors at the local ski school Schweizer Langlauf- und Bikezentrum Pontresina can get almost anyone (even me) around a simple course after an hour or so of lessons. It’s hot work, but one of the best ways to explore this snowy snowscape, with the track running alongside the pretty river that cuts through the town.

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6. Spa at The Grand Hotel Kronenhof

In a fusion of old meets new, an enormous glass-walled modern spa sits attached to the Kronenhof, housing a huge indoor pool and spa. Ensconced within its glass walls looking out over the snow-covered scenery, you have your pick of a dedicated women’s sauna and all-gender Finnish Sauna as well as a pine-scented relaxation room. The real highlight here though are the massages, which match you with an element like fire or water to determine what is best suited to you. Bliss.

Winter room rates at Grand Hotel Kronenhof start from CHF565 for two people sharing on a half-board basis; book online at www.kronenhof.com. (For information, summer rates start from CHF445.)

For more information on Switzerland visit www.MySwitzerland.com

Swiss International Air Lines – one way fares start from £67, visit www.swiss.com

The Swiss Travel System provides a dedicated range of travel passes and tickets offering unlimited travel on consecutive days, for more information visit www.swisstravelsystem.co.uk.

Cross Country Ski School visit https://www.pontresina-sports.ch/langlaufzentrum/allegra-langlaufzentrum

If you’re seeking an elegant skiing experience, look no further than St. Moritz, Switzerland’s most glamorous resort. Check out our article on Ski in St. Moritz to discover why this destination is a must-visit for ski enthusiasts.

It’s no secret that living in London is expensive, buying a house these days feels almost impossible for millennials, and renting is generally the only feasible option for many young people. Whether you’re renting or just bought your first London pad, these top tips will help to make the most out of your apartment in the city of limited space…

Let in the light

In order to maximise your space, you need to create a light and airy vibe that feels comfortable rather than cramped. Avoid dark colours, especially on the walls. Instead, stick to a neutral colour palette and add splashes of colour with accessories such as throws, cushions and vases. Roman-style blinds are perfect for enabling natural light flood in and be sure to clear out any clutter on your window sill to let in as much light as possible. Long curtains trick the eye and create the illusion of extra space, so it might be worth investing in some new drapes.

Declutter and store items

When space is limited, you can’t afford to be using up vital space with clutter and junk. It’s time to be ruthless! The messy floordrobe needs to go, along with your collection of 200 DVD’s that you haven’t touched since the arrival of Netflix. Head to a car boot or get listing on eBay to make a few extra pounds. Storage unit provider Cubic Storage recommends decluttering in the style of Marie Kondo to make the most of a smaller space.

Add a splash of green

A home isn’t a home without a few plants! If you’ve decided to stick with a neutral colour theme throughout your apartment, then greenery will add a gorgeous splash of colour and life to create a serene environment. If space is a real struggle, you could look into adding a few hanging plants with a trendy macramé. Plant shelves are also a big interior trend at the moment. Source a piece of reclaimed wood and make your own DIY shelf with metal brackets and decorate with plants, books and candles. If you struggle to keep your greenery alive, a cactus is a good place to start. Baby steps.

Purchase a full-length mirror

Create the illusion of a bigger room with this handy little trick! A full-length mirror will maximise your space and reflect the natural light coming in from outside, creating a bright and breezy space to enjoy. You can pick up some beautiful design options, so decide whether you want to go for a Scandinavian-style design or something a little more traditional. Have an old pine mirror lying around? Give it a fresh update with a lick of white chalk paint.

Look for furniture with storage

Furniture which doubles up as storage is an absolute must-have for compact London living. Divan beds are a great example of a space-saving piece of furniture. Utilise the under-bed storage to house your belongings and all of those pairs of shoes you haven’t got around to throwing out just yet. Suitcases are also a great idea, keep your out eye for lovely vintage styles that can double up as coffee tables (stack for a quirky look!) or a feature in your home.

Vacations are amazing, and by the time it rolls around, everyone is always ready to go. Making your vacation the best it can possibly be is the one thing you need to do. It may sound like a lot of responsibility, but actually, it’s not that hard. If you follow these tips, you can have the best vacation ever.

Plan Ahead

There are a few reasons why planning ahead when it comes to your vacation is a good idea. The first is that it will give you a fantastic sense of anticipation if you know what’s coming and what to look forward to. Secondly, it means you won’t waste any days sitting around discussing what you’re going to do. You don’t have to stick to a completely regimented itinerary, but making sure there is enough flexibility for those days when you’re feeling tired or if you spot something happening that you truly want to be a part of is important too.

Don’t Do Once In A Lifetime

Once in a lifetime vacations are wonderful, but they’re not necessarily the best. Because you only get to do things the once, you’ll be worried about missing out, or limiting yourself when the vacation is limited from the start due to, in most cases, the massive budget.

For the best vacation, choose something more simple instead. Make it something that can be replicated such as camping out with friends and families with equipment from 4WD Supacentre or choosing a short-haul flight rather than a long-haul one. That way you can really enjoy the vacation without worrying that you’ve overspent or that you need to pack as much in as possible in order to make the most of it. All that will do is send you back home feeling exhausted.

Try New Things

As mentioned above, you don’t have to try everything, but trying a few new things can make a vacation especially memorable. Trying new things will help to give you the impression of time slowing down because the brain needs to process all the new information. Getting away from routine is how to make a day (or a vacation) feel like it will last longer, even if in reality it doesn’t. Plus trying new things is exciting, and you might even find something that you love to do that could become a new hobby.

Don’t Do Anything You Don’t Want To Do

In order to make your vacation the best, you need to fill it with enjoyable things. Relaxing on the beach, eating great food, being intimate with your lover, exercising, it doesn’t matter what interests you and what makes you smile, make sure you do a lot of it when you’re away from home.

Don’t Take Work With You

If possible, leave work completely at home for a week or two. This isn’t always possible, of course, especially if you happen to be self-employed, and if this is the case then make sure you manage it properly, leaving you time to relax. It’s the balance that counts and if you are working the entire time you’re away, what was the point in leaving home?

Norway has become one of the top destinations for traveling in the last couple of years. Partly because now there are much more convenient and accessible ways to get to the country but also because avid travelers are waking up to the hidden gems in Norway. The country has always been on the tourist radar, but over the last two or three years the tourism has really taken off in the country. The awareness of all the beautiful nature and sightseeing in Norway, along with the unique culture and city life has really piqued the interest of a lot of tourists looking for some new destinations that haven’t become fully mainstream just yet.

And while the demand to travel to Norway is definitely rising, the fact remains that it is still one of the most expensive countries to visit.

You might be able to fly to Norway for quite a reasonable price but once you get in you will be surprised by how expensive everything is for tourists. This is why we’ve created a list of things you could do to make the trip less painful for your wallet. These days it’s absolutely unnecessary to enjoy traveling to inexpensive hotels or eating out every day. There are many ways to enjoy your trip without breaking the bank or having to completely change your lifestyle before and after the trip. So here’s how to save money while exploring Norway.

Travel Cheap

We already mentioned this briefly but nowadays there is a cheaper flight to Norway and you don’t have to pay an extra $100s just for a nicer airline. Look for the cheapest options and consider that if you buy the tickets in advance you could be saving a lot of money. Also, consider that traveling light is always the best option and not just because it saves you money that you would be paying for that extra luggage. Traveling light and only bringing the essentials with you will actually make the whole trip a lot more enjoyable, especially considering the fact that in Norway you will probably be doing a lot of hiking and enjoying nature. Bring the essential travel light and save money even before you get to Norway.

Rent a car

Don’t even think about spending money on cabs and different transportation methods in Norway because you will leave all your hard-earned money right then and there. Especially if you plan on visiting different parts of the country and going long distances you will be better off with a rented car. Especially if you’re not traveling alone, then it makes the deal even better. Renting a car is very easy in Norway and usually, it’s best if you take care of that before traveling there to avoid losing time looking for the right option for you. Luckily everything can be arranged through the internet and renting a car in a foreign country is earlier than ever.

Entertainment

There are a lot of ways to have fun in Norway and the Norwegians definitely know how to have fun. One of the most popular pass times in Norway is gambling and actually you could also try your hand at gambling and enjoy the very beneficial regulations. The fact that gambling is so popular in Norway is because the local operators started offering opportunities like free gambling money for Norwegian players and got the local players to log into these gambling venues in the first place. Soon enough the love of gambling in Norwegians became a given. You don’t even have to visit a casino, you can instead enjoy top online casinos in Norway and try their gambling scene like this. This way you can get your entertainment but ahead of that, you get a chance to double your money and have resources to spend on other activities. Aside from that, try to focus on entertainment that is free or at least located outside of city centers, where they are usually less expensive. All the sightseeing can be enjoyed free of charge unless you want to go into the museum and take bus tours, but these more cliche tourist experiences are getting less and less popular because people want to experience the authentic living of the country they are visiting which usually lies way outside of city centers and museums. So there are ways you can find entertainment, and enjoy the culture without having to pay extra money for that.

Consider camping

While clearly you won’t be able to camp in the middle of the city, a lot of traveling in Norway actually happens outside the big cities. And while you will have options to stay at luxurious Airbnbs there too, if you’re trying to save money this is definitely not the way to go about it. If you are planning to do a lot of traveling and hiking, invest in a durable tent that will carry you through your adventure free of charge, all across Norway. Plus it will save you a lot of time trying to find a good deal since most of the time the even the lower tier apartments are quite expensive.

Go grocery shopping

While eating out is sometimes necessary while traveling tries to avoid it as soon as you get settled in Norway. You can still save up some money to enjoy a special night out in a restaurant, but just know that casual dining in cafes and restaurants turn non-casual really quickly with high price points. Even having a cup of coffee every day will put a huge dent in your bank account so invest in some alternative and avoid making the habit out of eating in the restaurant during your trip to Norway. Preparing your own food while traveling can actually fix a lot of problems that travelers face. You won’t end up with a bad restaurant, won’t have to waste time driving to that one good restaurant that someone recommended. You just go get your food and cook it how you normally would anywhere else. This tip will save you the most money on the trip so make sure to locate the nearest supermarket as soon as you land in the city.

Norway is a beautiful country where breathtaking Nature and the beautiful historical buildings create one of the most well rounded traveling experiences ever. But that does not mean that only the richest people can afford it. You can go and buy your cheap tickets and cut down living costs by eating in, and you will be able to enjoy the same experience only for half of the price.