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Top 5 European city break destinations!

sky and the sea of clouds.

Here at Wowcher, as much as we’d love to take a month off, fill up our backpacks with bikinis and head to Southeast Asia to ‘find ourselves’, we’ve had to reluctantly accept that our wallets – and our annual leave – just won’t stretch that far. Luckily for us in Britain, our little island is nestled in one of the most diverse, historical and fascinating continents there is, and some of the world’s greatest cities are just a hop, skip and a quick Wowcher deal away. Check out our list for the top five European city break destinations!

 

5. Rome

Roma Foro Romano

When you don’t want to just ‘fly and flop’, there’s nowhere that packs a historical punch quite as hard as the Italian capital. Nicknamed the ‘Eternal City’ for its timeless beauty and tangible past, just a few hours in bella Roma will have you racing to throw your wishing coins in the Trevi Fountain to make sure you return! Take a tour of Vatican City and add a whole new tick to your ‘countries visited’ list, marvel at the classical architecture or stay out until the sun comes out with one of the most glamorous crowds on the planet. With a millennium-long history of culture, power, fine art and fine food, this is definitely the city to head to for an intoxicating taste of ‘la dolce vita’!

 

4. Budapest

Szechenyi thermal baths in Budapest.

After spending decades as a hidden gem, Budapest is now Europe’s worst kept secret – and after visiting for yourself, you’ll be able to see why! Embracing the banks of the Danube, you’ll find an achingly trendy atmosphere married with exquisite architecture and a historical feel that you can really sink your teeth into. Fans of the city reckon there’s no view more romantic than looking out from a bridge at the twinkling lights of the city, there’s no architecture more impressive than the Art Nouveau marvels that embroider the winding streets and there’s no party quite as exciting as those happening in the super-hip crevices of the Jewish Quarter. There’s a reason it’s known as the Paris of the East, dah-ling.

 

3. Blackpool

Blackpool Tower Illumination

The sparkling lights of New York City, the casinos of Vegas and the beaches of Thailand – all just a train ride away from wherever in Britain you call home. OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but Blackpool is certainly the crown jewel of England’s seaside resorts! If you like your tack flashing right where you can see it (who doesn’t, occasionally?) and don’t fancy braving airport check-in queues for your next holiday, there’s nowhere better to head than glittering Blackpool. With the neon lights of the illuminations, the retro seaside piers and the hugely entertaining Pleasure Beach, you can rest assured that even if there’s no sun, there’s sure to be fun!

 

2. Venice

Venice. View of Grand Canal at dusk from Rialto Bridge

As much as we love discovering a hidden gem, there’s no denying the classics are classics for a reason! Venice does romance, grandeur and beauty on an electrifyingly epic scale. From the grand Palazzo Ducale and the wondrous Basilica di San Marco to the local stone churches and charming statues that decorate the labyrinth backstreet, you can flock with the thousands of like-minded Italophiles or discover what makes Venezia special to you. We’re thinking about the lagoon sparkling as the sun sinks, quiet al fresco dining on a cobbled lane, local Prosecco on tap and stripey-shirted oarsmen serenading lovebirds on their gondolas. Cliché doesn’t get any better!

 

1. Reykjavik

Northern Lights over City

Seeing the Northern Lights still topping your bucket list? Us too! Whilst we can’t guarantee you any sightings of the Aurora Borealis, we can recommend somewhere that’ll give you a pretty good shot! We’re all for a beach break, but sometimes you’ve got to get out the winter woollies and try something a little different – so why not try Reykjavik? This is the heart of Iceland’s Viking history, and the coastal hub is pretty much picture-perfect from every angle, with a mountainous skyline, pretty pantone buildings and a thumping nightlife on an astronomical scale. What are you waiting for?

Top 5 money-saving apps you need right now!

 

Piggybank and calculator. Isolated on white background

 

We don’t know about you, but here at Wowcher, we love saving a bit of cash. Whether it’s money off the latest beauty treatments, savings on a fabulous European mini-break or great discounts on romantic candlelit dinners at the hottest night spots, we never get tired of a bargain!

But you don’t just have to save on the occasional treat, as there’s plenty of everyday ways to save a bit of cash, from your phone bill to your weekly shop. All you have to do is check out our handy money-saving guide. Smartphones at the ready…

 

5. 08 Wizard

Angry bearded man screaming into the phone

Want to avoid the additional charges for calling 0800, 0845 and 0870 numbers? Well, thanks to the handy 08 Wizard, you can make sky-high phone bills a thing of the past. The app works by switching 08 calls with an 01 or 02 landline number, so the call becomes inclusive as part of your contract’s free minutes – or at least at a lower rate if you’re on pay-as-you-go. (79p from the AppStore).

 

4. Tip N Split

Tip on a restaurant table

Yeah, that’s right – you can say goodbye to watching your friends frantically dividing the bill between 15 and getting it hopelessly wrong before you snap and just pay the thing yourself! Tip N Split calculates how to split your bill evenly (including service charge), which means no more miscalculation, no more fuss, and a little more cash in your pocket come home time. (Download for free).

 

3. Foodmatic

Woman eats night stole the refrigerator

Too much month at the end of the money? We’ve all been there! Luckily, when you’ve got a week until payday and the cupboards are looking a bit bare, Foodmatic can help you get creative with what’s left. All you have to do is enter the ingredients and the app gives you the best meal you can make with what you’ve got. That means no waste, no extra trips to the supermarket and a (hopefully) fabulous culinary creation – brilliant! (79p from the AppStore)

 

2. Red Laser

Sale in Supermarket. a woman is shopping.

Red Laser transforms your smartphone into your very own barcode scanner, allowing you to price-check items across online and offline stores. If you find what you’re after cheaper on the app, you can get it delivered to your home or arrange to pick it up from a local store. You’ll wonder why you even left the house in the first place! (Free from the AppStore)

 

1. Wowcher!

WOWCHER

Oh come on, didn’t you see this one coming? Where do we start when it comes to saving with Wowcher? Beauty treatments, great days out, gifts for loved ones, the savings never end! But it’s not just about treats, as there’s plenty of amazing essentials you can save on too – from toilet roll and cleaning products to the latest mobile phones and tablets (hey, they’re essential!). Whatever makes you say wow, you’ll find it all on the app!

Download the Wowcher app for free for iPhone or Android.

For Ends More Split Than Chris & Gwyneth…

CHRIS-GWEN

We know that Hollywood romances aren’t necessarily renowned for their longevity (although Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr, who are still going strong 12 years on, would probably disagree), but some recent breakups have had us reaching for the Häagen-Dazs, we must admit. Call us emotional, but the day Gwyneth and Chris consciously uncoupled was a dark, dark day for hopeless romantics everywhere, only made worse when Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner decided to call it quits just two months later. Why, Bennifer? Why?!

To get us through this difficult time, we did the only things we could: We gave up on love completely. I mean, if Gwen and Gavin can’t do it, why even bother? But, after a lot of soul searching and a short stint in a convent, we eventually found the answer to curing our vicarious heartache: A good old fashioned haircut! 2015 has seen more splits than the 2012 Olympic gymnastics tournaments, and we are certainly not going to stand about idly when it comes to the precious ones on our heads. We’re talking split ends, ladies!

Always one step ahead of us, Gwyneth is already involved with Blo, helping herself and us regular folk disguise our split ends with the ultimate Hollywood blow dry. As it stands, everyone seems to have come to terms with the sudden conscious uncoupling of the beautiful pair (if you still haven’t, get your tresses down to Blo in Covent Garden), and we can only presume this has everything to do with the blow dry bar and absolutely nothing to do with anything else. With this in mind, we’ve come up with a list of ways to help our fave celeb ex-couples, get over, and get rid of, their splits.

Blo, Covent Garden

Blo, Covent Garden

Some splits are messy, out of control and just darned unmanageable. Zayn and Perrie, for example, have been subject to cheating allegations and a whole load more drama. ‘Drama? What drama?’ Glad you asked! One of Perrie’s Little Mix bandmates, Jesy, signalled towards Perrie when singing the line ‘just to help him see what he’s been missing’ at a gig, while Jade held up a sign reading ‘Zayn is irrelevant‘ after a meet and greet. What did we tell you? Drama! Looks like they’re all in need of a Brazilian blow dry from Beauty Box, Marylebone – sure to make any split end smooth and way, way more manageable.

We can’t say that we were entirely surprised when Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick ended their relationship, but that doesn’t make it any less heart-breaking. Kourtney, it has to be said, is absolutely slaying this breakup. Not that we’re insinuating that a breakup is a competition, of course (ahem…), but if it was, Kourtney would have just won gold, and Scott would still be tying up his running shoes. We therefore think it’s Mr Disick who’s in need of a trip to the hairdressers. Scott – why not head to Exquisite Hair and Beauty in Tooting, where you can chop off those split ends (and even get a half-head of highlights should it take your fancy)? Plus, seeing as you seem to fancy a tipple of late, they’ll even throw in a glass of Pimms…

After 13 years of marriage, a simple cut and blow dry just won’t tidy up all straggly ends. Instead, we reckon Gwen Stefani’s ex-bae, Gavin Rossdale, should think about taking a trip to Parkwood Clinic for a six-month hair loss therapy treatment. We assume all these cheating allegations must be rather stressful, and just want Gavin to be prepared should it cause some premature balding. With clinics in Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow, you can thank us later, Gav.

 Gwen Stefani and  Gavin Rossdale

Gwen goes back on her word and tells Gavin she’s not ‘Just A Girl’

Perhaps the most devastating break up of 2015 was Kermit and Miss Piggy’s. We’re not for one second implying that Miss Piggy’s superficial (heaven forbid!), but we’ve heard the split could have had something to do with the fact that Kermit was looking a little thin on top. Thankfully, Kermy got wise to this notion and got himself down to FUE Hair Clinics© for a hair transplant, and now things are looking like they’re on the mend! Take note, Gavin…

There’s still one split that we just can’t get over. We’re looking at you Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck. We don’t want you to have to cut off your straggly ends, we want you to reconcile your differences and EXTEND your love affair! Sure, there have been cheating allegations, sure there’s been a story about a shady nanny, but the Paparazzi love to spin tales, and we’re hoping that’s exactly what this is. I mean, he’s freakin’ Batman! He would never be so foolish as to get involved with the babysitter, would he? So, we think Jen should get herself down to Hair Replacement Technology, Manchester for a one-day hair extension course to see if that can inspire Jen to extend their relationship. Fingers crossed…

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner (AKA Bennifer)

…Let not’s forget, Noah and Ally (from The Notebook, duh) spent years apart before finally reuniting and declaring their love for each other in a rather dramatic and very rainy climax. This reminds us of two things – firstly, Ryan Gosling looks pretty damn good in a wet t-shirt (am I right, ladies?), but secondly (and arguably, more importantly), if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. What we’re trying to say is that even faced with this rather dis-tresses-ing list of Hollywood splits, we are forever hopeful. But please, Hollywood, no more splits this year. Even with a killer haircut, our little hearts can only take so much… #TeamBennifer

Please note: All deals featured may not be live. But with fab new deals added daily, make sure you keep checking Wowcher.co.uk!

Wowcher gets high with Virgin at Bristol International Balloon Festival!

Friday AM Flight - View

Nestled in the rolling Somerset countryside, every year the picturesque Ashton Court plays host to The Bristol International Balloon Festival – Europe’s largest hot air balloon event. And this year, a few Wowcher elves were lucky enough to be among the visitors!

This year’s festival, the 37th annual event, proved to be a record-breaking spectacular, with around 500,000 turning out across four days to see seven mass ascents up into the sun-kissed skyline. We’re told that thanks to the glorious weather, it was in fact the first time in the festival’s history that all seven scheduled flights were able to go ahead. Just goes to show you can always count on the great British summertime – perfect weather conditions at just the 37th time of asking…

But these brave Wowcher elves weren’t just spectators – oh no, this year we got the chance to slip the surly bonds of earth and take to the skies for real! After all, what better way to drink in the breathtaking British countryside than in a hot air balloon?

At first, the thought of being suspended hundreds of feet above the earth in a basket, was, well, a wee bit unnerving. But speaking to our pilot, Virgin Balloon Flights’ very-own Mark Simmons, our, shall we say, anxieties were quickly allayed. A veteran of the skies, having flown all over the world (once with Richard Branson himself), Mark said the event was one of his favourite places to fly. And if he can be trusted to ferry around one of the world’s most beloved billionaires, we knew we must be in pretty good hands.

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With typical Virgin panache, our balloon was of course among the most spectacular sights at the fiesta. Ascending alongside other balloons of all shapes and sizes, the iconic red balloon you’ve likely seen a hundred times gliding across the skyline must have looked pretty cool from down below. Other balloons at the fiesta included none other than a giant Minion (those things are everywhere nowadays) and even the event’s famous Power Ranger balloons. As much as children at the event may have been thrilled to see the Despicable Me franchise’s favourite sidekick ascend, it’s nothing compared to our thrill at seeing some genuine Mighty Morphin’ heroes take to the skies. Naturally, the theme song was stuck in our head for the rest of the day. Not quite the soundtrack to stunning aerial views of the countryside we had in mind at the beginning of the day, but never mind, eh?

View of Bristol

Speaking of children, the fiesta also featured a very special guest – Peppa Pig! Joining the team at the Virgin Balloons exhibitors stand, everybody’s favourite cheeky piggy was on hand for photo opportunities and was even handing out hot air balloon goodie bags to her fans. Speaking to Peppa herself, we enquired if she’d be getting up in an air balloon on the day. She replied “When pigs fly!” much to our confusion. Only kidding, although she did say, “it’s snout my style”. Kidding again. Peppa in fact used to have a fear of flying, she’s cured now though…

Peppa pig

Nothing less than an unforgettable day of high-flying fun and spectacular views, a flight with Virgin Balloons is really something you have to experience first-hand to believe. If you haven’t booked with Wowcher yet, now’s a good time – you don’t want this experience to fly straight over your head!

Wowcher’s Guide to Afternoon Tea Week

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There is an endless list of stereotypes about British life and people – a love of queuing, gabbing about the weather and having disastrously bad teeth, to name but a few. Some seem rather ill conceived (the latter), but some, it has to be said, are bang on the money, namely our unfading, eternal love of tea. We seem to love our tea more than we love the Queen, Harry Potter and maybe even our mothers, especially when devoured alongside scones, tiny sandwiches and cakes, so it’s unsurprising that Britain has decided to dedicate a whole week to the glorious pastime, naming it (rather creatively) National Afternoon Tea Week. We are, after all, the nation that awarded a show about making cake (The Great British Bake Off) a BAFTA. Sounds about right.

We’re sure you all want to go out and celebrate this momentous occasion in true British style, so we’ve come up with a few high tea hot spots that you simply must visit, lest you be ostracised by society for being decidedly un-British.

There are few things in life that can’t be made better with a little sparkle. We’re not talking about the sort of sparkle you might get from diamonds, a really clean pan or Edward Cullen when he’s in the sun – we’re talking about sparkling wine! The Wroxeter Hotel is based just outside scenic Shrewsbury and offers an indulgent afternoon tea complete with a selection of sandwiches, scones, shortbread, cakes and a glass of sparkling wine in their bright conservatory overlooking the beautiful hotel gardens. We can picture it now…

More of a Champagne gal? Then head to Kettner’s in Soho for a delectable afternoon tea served with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut Champagne. The iconic venue, frequented by Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie and Bing Cosby, is a Georgian Grade II listed building and features beautiful 1920s décor. You’ll be served delicious treats such as tartlets, quiches, cupcakes and even a lollipop, alongside the usual afternoon tea requirements. Fabulous, darling!

Kettner's , Soho

Kettner’s , Soho

For the crème de la crème of modern and sophisticated cream teas, look no further than The Paper Mill in Lasswade, Scotland. Here, not only will you be able to enjoy some scrumptious sandwiches, cakes and scones in a striking restaurant filled with reclaimed materials, screen-printed artworks and found objects, but you’ll do so while overlooking the beautiful River Esk. The food, interior and view are sure to ‘wow’ in equal measures. Don’t mind if we do!

The Paper Mill, Lasswade

The Paper Mill, Lasswade

Now, we thought it was nigh on impossible to improve upon the traditional afternoon tea, but Best Western Plus Windmill Village Hotel in Coventry proved us wrong. Of course, you’ll still be able to devour scones, cakes, sandwiches and tea, but you’ll also be able to enjoy free rein of their spa facilities. Relax in the sauna or steam room, or do a few laps in their heated indoor pool to work off some of those pastries. Not a bad idea!

Like what you’ve read so far? We’re just getting started! 200 St Vincent Street, a restaurant which has been awarded a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, offers skyline views across Glasgow and is housed in a Grade A-listed building decked out with marble and dark wood, designer lighting and stylish, minimalist seats. You’ll chow down on your sandwiches, éclairs, macaroons, tarts, meringues and possets on their chic rooftop, washing it all down with cup after cup of tea or coffee. Bliss.

Now, for a hearty Lancashire afternoon tea, head straight to Cherry’s Coffee. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200. Here you’ll tuck into fresh sandwiches with a choice of fillings, scones with jam and clotted cream, a salad bowl, and of course, yet more pastries, tea and coffee! We’d expect nothing less…

Situated on the verdant, tree-lined thoroughfare of Aldwych, the 5* Waldorf Hilton Hotel is a perfect destination for an elegant afternoon excursion. Make yourself at home in the stylish Homage Restaurant, where you will indulge in the finest food alongside distinct blends of tea, as well as a glass of Fantinel Prosecco. Lady Mary would be proud…

The Waldorf Hilton Hotel, Aldwych

The Waldorf Hilton Hotel, Aldwych

Perhaps the most famous tea party of all time was hosted by The Mad Hatter, so it’s no surprise that this next venue has named itself after the famous tableau. Head to Madhatters in Nottingham and you can enjoy a lavish afternoon tea in a quirky, cosy tea room that we’re sure Alice would just love (we’re close personal friends, don’tchya know). What are you waiting for? You’re late, you’re late, for a very important date!

The Amba Hotel, which has been awarded a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, has taken this theme to the next level, with Alice in Wonderland-themed edible goodies. After munching on magical meringue mushrooms, a chocolate clock tart and a chocolate Mad Hatter, you’ll be grinning like the Cheshire Cat, we’re sure of it.

The Amba Hotel, Charing Cross

The Amba Hotel, Charing Cross

And so there you have it, some perfect places to enjoy a good old spot of afternoon tea. Please note – all deals featured may not be live. But with fab new deals added daily, make sure you keep checking Wowcher.co.uk!

5-Course Tasting Menu @ Beehive Place, Brixton

Despite being a firm believer in having a separate stomach for mains and desserts, I’ll admit I was apprehensive as I approached Beehive Place for a five-course dinner. Never before had I faced a multi-course meal of such proportions, and visions of being carried out on a stretcher with a bulbous stomach or airlifted to the nearest hospital tormented my appetite. Or worse: I pictured dishes so microscopic they had to be eaten with a magnifying glass and cocktail stick. Would I be stuffed or starved?

The Beehive Place dining room

The Beehive Place dining room

Luckily, neither was the case. I was swiftly seated and before I had time to even fully imagine a Heston-esque laboratory of bubbling Blumenthal potions behind the Beehive Place kitchen door, it opened. The first dish had arrived – ‘Isle of Man’ crab, radish, baby gem and wild fennel tops. I timidly nibbled the baby gem, waiting for a puff of smoke and a cackling chef to appear. But they never did, and the only explosion to speak of was the flavour; the sweep of fennel foliage was sweet and aromatic, bringing the other ingredients to life. This was quickly followed by ‘New Laithe Farm’ lamb, nettle, broad beans and foraged sweet cicely, with meat so tender that a baby could eat and excrete it without batting an eyelid. This was no slap-up supper club.

'New Laithe Farm' lamb, nettle, broad beans and foraged sweet cicely

‘New Laithe Farm’ lamb, nettle, broad beans and foraged sweet cicely

Throughout the evening, the food was artfully presented and carefully constructed. From bull’s blood to buttermilk, each of the five courses experimented with ingredients unfamiliar to myself and my fridge. Even regular vegetables were vastly improved – the elegant spears of asparagus were far finer than the tough old buds I cook at home. Beehive Place’s scrupulous sourcing of ingredients and mantra of serving food ‘with passion, not pretension’ was evident with every bite. The informal setting – a converted hayloft in Brixton with communal wooden tables and not a hint of white linen – was evocative of a casual meal round a friend’s house, despite a menu packed with fine dining delights.

Not to discredit Beehive Place’s chefs, but perhaps the best part of the evening was my noticeable lack of food envy. Since everyone was served the same five courses (bar a few vegetarians who were adequately catered for) everyone dined on the same food, leaving no room for my usual indecision and attack of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). I left absolutely satisfied, but not satiated. Would I return? Definitely.

The Beehive Place pop-up runs until the end of June so book your place quick and look out for more tasting menus and pop-up adventures on Wowcher.co.uk.

Please note – all deals featured may not be live.

Wowcher Guide To Valencia

valenciaWhilst being bathed in sun almost all year long does make for a pretty good reason on its own to visit Spain’s third city, Valencia’s got plenty more to offer lucky visitors, from a lively city centre to the Mediterranean Sea on its doorstep. Our guide to the city is here to show why a trip to Spain’s sunny coast is a must:

Photo Opportunities
A UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the heart of the city, our guide to Valencia unsurprisingly begins at the masterpiece known as La Lonja. Constructed in the 15th century, the Silk Exchange’s late gothic style and sheer magnificence has made it a symbol for what is now regarded as the city’s Golden Age; the striking spiralled columns that dominate the main hall as well as the charming surrounding courtyards and the adjoining Renaissance chapel will no doubt impress. Also built during the 15th century, the Torres de Quart is described by Lonely Planet as ‘Spain’s most magnificent city gate’ – see if you can spot the dents caused by the French cannonballs during the Napoleonic invasion in the 19th century!

A UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the heart of the city, La Lonja makes for a must-see.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the heart of the city, La Lonja makes for a must-see.

Restored to its previous glory in 2012, the enchanting Plaza Redonda’s eye-catching design makes it one of the city’s more unique hotspots. From the vantage point of the fountains in the centre of the round square, you’ll be able to catch a lovely view of Santa Catalina’s late baroque bell tower. Keeping on a similar vein, it would be a mistake not to pay a visit to the imposing cathedral on the Plaza de le Virgen. Built in 1238, the cathedral’s 207-step Miguelete bell tower is well worth venturing up for 360-degree city and skyline views. You’ll also be able to snap a few pictures of the two Goya paintings in the Chapel of San Francisco de Borja and a chalice that is claimed to be none other than the Holy Grail.

For easy travel around the city, make sure you pick up a Valencia Tourist Card that entitles users to free entry to public museums and monuments, public transport in zones ABCD and a 50% discount at selected shops and restaurants. That way you should have no trouble making your way between other must-see sites, including the modernist Mercado Central, the Plaza del Carmen and the fantastic Bioparc. More than enough to keep you busy!

Beach Break
Where to start?! Boasting an abundance of Blue Flag beaches, you’ll be spoilt for choice for sandy spots to relax and enjoy the sun in Valencia. Stretching over 1000m, La Malvarrosa is considered by many to be the city’s main beach, though the quieter Las Areans just to its south may have something to say about that. Fancy visiting them both? Not an issue – both are located just a short walk from the city centre. You can even take a stroll down the connecting Neptuno Promenade and take them both in on one lovely lazy day by the Mediterranean.

Malvarrosa and Las Arenas beaches make for the perfect spots to soak up the sunshine

La Malvarrosa and Las Areans beaches make for the perfect spots to soak up the sunshine.

Just a 30-minute yellow bus journey away in the beautiful La Albufera National Park on the southern outskirts of the city, the 2.6km untouched sandy stretch known as El Saler beach is well worth the trip. A favourite of locals and tourists alike, the popular beach is regarded by many as the jewel in the crown of Valencia’s coastline, with sun-worshippers conveniently protected from the westerly winds by the surrounding sand dunes and pines. Unlike the previously mentioned beaches, you won’t find any sun loungers or parasols already set up there for you to use, so make sure you come prepared.

Fireworks, Festival and Flames
Valencia is famed for its fireworks, so naturally come festival time you can expect to see a whole host of inventive pyrotechnic displays that’ll last long in the memory. For five days each March the city comes alive for Las Fallas, a typically-Spanish celebration in honour of Saint Joseph. Each night, spectators gather along the Paseo de la Alameda to witness spectacular displays that never fail to light the city up in stunning style. Make your way down on the last night (the Night of Fire) for an incredible 30-minute showing that is the undoubted highlight of the festival (though you will have to get there early to snag a prime viewing position).

valencia5

Valencia is famed for its fireworks, so naturally come festival time you can expect to see a whole host of inventive pyrotechnic displays that’ll last long in the memory.

Amongst the important ceremonial events and traditions that take place during the festival, the parading of giant, specially made papier-mâché figures is definitely the most remarkable. Often reaching up to 20ft in height, these impressive models (named after the festival) are later set on fire on the last day at the Cremà (or ‘the burning’), though one is spared and given a place amongst the growing collection at the dedicated Fallas Museum in the city.

Food
Thanks in large part due to the city’s seaside setting, Valencia boasts a rich culinary heritage that leaves visitors absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to finding somewhere to grab a bite to eat. Despite the neighbourhood’s uncertain future, we recommend heading to Valencia’s vibrant old fishermen’s quarter El Cabanyal in the east of the city for the best in authentic Spanish dishes. Amongst the beautifully tiled houses and art-nouveau stylings of the barrio, you’ll find plenty of bars and restaurants offering the freshest fish and tapas – keep an eye out for the imaginatively named El Cabanyal restaurant for what is described as ‘a real taste of Spain’, and the Bodega Casa Montaña in the very same neighbourhood for one of the best tapas bars in the country (booking in advance is recommended).

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Rice is a staple ingredient in the city and the crux of Valencia’s many gourmet specialties, including its most famous food invention paella. Explore the surrounding villages and you’ll find each has its own preference for ingredients and rice mixes, though you won’t have to travel too far from Malvarrosa beach to find the city’s most famed paella hotspots. A favourite haunt of Ernest Hemingway, La Pepica’s walls are plastered with signed pictures of the restaurant’s most famous patrons, though an outdoor table with a view of the sea instead might be more preferable when dining during the summer. One of the restaurant’s many specialities is the authentic version of paella known as the ‘valenciana’, a spectacular dish made with ingredients from the garden rather than from the sea – just click here to read more about the restaurant.

So there you have it – a guide to the must-visit city of Valencia. For the latest breaks dead-set on taking you to Europe’s top destinations, make sure you stay with Wowcher.co.uk.

Weddings With Wowcher!

wedding

Here comes the bride, all dressed in…pink? Okay fine, you don’t have to don a pink Wowcher-themed wedding dress, but at the very least let us ensure that all the stressful wedding planning doesn’t turn you into your ‘something blue’…

‘Which photographer shall we book? What about the colour scheme? Do we need a theme? The food? Drinks? Where do we sit drunk Uncle Geoff? What cake do we buy? What about the frosting flavour, Jeremy? Would somebody please think of the frosting?!’ With so much to think about before a wedding, it’s hard to know where to start. Luckily, you can get two tickets to The Westminster Wedding Show for just £4 with Wowcher! You and your hubby-to-be will be able to wander through the exhibition on Saturday 18th July 2015 and get some fab ideas for the big day. With cakes, music, venues and pretty much anything else you can think of on exhibition, it’s the perfect way to start planning the wedding. There’s even a bridal catwalk showcasing the latest on-trend gowns. That’s the dress sorted then. Now, for the cake…

Here at Wowcher, we’ve never understood why people keep telling us that ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too’. Of course, you can! With Wowcher, not only can you get the wedding cake of your dreams, but you’ll also be able to get it for less than half the price by heading to Southport’s very own Vanilla Nova. Here, you can purchase a delicious three or four-tier wedding cake after partaking in a tasting session where you can sample the most delectable, mouth-watering sponges. Vanilla? Lemon? Butterscotch? Coconut? Oh, we don’t know… best try them all!

cakes

Getting hitched can be a very expensive business, with the average wedding costing just over £18k (whoa!), so ensure your big day goes off without a hitch with an amazing three or four-tiered Vanilla Nova wedding cake!

While we’re on the topic of food, let’s think about what else your guests will be able to nibble on after the ‘I Do’s’. Well actually, now that you mention it, Wowcher’s got that one figured out, too. Covering Birmingham, Peterborough, Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Stoke-on-Trent, Lincoln, Northampton and Cambridge, LA Weddings and Events can sweeten up your guests with a candy, candy floss or popcorn cart! With a server included in the hire, it’s sure to impress everyone.

Dress? Check. Cake? Check. Candy cart? Check. Photographer? Umm…

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Expert photographer Rach Ashurts’ six-hour wedding photography package includes a pre-wedding day shoot, two prints and a USB full of photos!

Don’t worry! As luck would have it, we’ve sorted the photographer, too. We’ve teamed up with With This Ring Wedding Photography to give all those who are within 40 miles of B1 Birmingham postcodes, Derby, Nottingham and Leicester a little help when it comes to capturing your big day. They’ll cover everything from bridal preparations to the first dance, plus you’ll get up to 300 edited images on CD and two prints of your favourite snap. Alternatively, Rach Ashurst offers those who will have their weddings within 25 miles of Durham city centre a six-hour package, which not only includes cover of the day itself, but also a pre-wedding day photoshoot, two prints and a USB full of photos! Prefer moving pictures? Not a problem, we’ve also joined forces with Quaint Weddings to bring you a full-day wedding videography package, including a 15-minute HD video on DVD for all weddings within a 60-mile radius of SK6 1AA. You can even personalise the video with your choice of song. We’re thinking ‘Baby Got Back’ by Sir Mix-a-Lot. No? Maybe we should just stick to bringing you great deals…

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Boasitng over 20 years’ experience, With This Ring Wedding Photography is the natural choice when you’re looking for the best people to cover your special day.

If all this wedding talk gets you excited, then maybe you’re destined for a career as a wedding planner! There can’t be many things greater than helping a bride and groom-to-be plan one of the most special days of their lives, so why not take an ICOES-accredited wedding planner course with Trendimi? You’ll learn everything from planning the big day, dressing the wedding party, budgeting and even marketing your wedding planner business.

So there you have it! From Bridezilla to blushing bride in one simple blog post. Who ever said that weddings needed to be expensive anyway?

Please note – all deals featured may not be live. 

Wowcher Does TV Presenting @ The TV Training Academy

logoWe sent Hannah to The TV Training Academy to see if she had what it took to step in front of the camera…

Not being an overly confident public speaker, I accepted the challenge of attending a TV presenter taster course at 3 Mills Studios, Bromley-by-Bow, with the vague hope I might discover an unknown talent of being in front of a camera and become the next Holly Willoughby. Sure enough, it wasn’t to be, but what I got from this experience was something altogether different. I left feeling inspired, comfortable in my skin and empowered having enjoyed a full day with some incredible people in one of the most supportive and friendly environments I’ve ever come across. This is how it happened…

The Beginning
Upon arrival at 3 Mills Studios, I was warmly greeted by Helen Sheppard, our host for the day, who gathered together the flock and whisked us off to our workspace. After an introduction to her fantastic career as a children’s TV Director working on well-known programmes such as Playdays and the Tweenies, I relaxed a little knowing that I couldn’t be in better hands. We began by introducing ourselves and why we were there, which gave me a great insight into the breadth and depth of people a course such as this could help. The group comprised musicians and business owners wanting to improve their TV interview skills for appearances, writers wishing to take the leap into the world of video blogging, public speakers looking to create inspirational videos, individuals preparing for a new course and a small few who actually wanted to pursue a career in TV presenting. Basically, whatever you’re after from this course, it’s for you, and the opportunity to network is an added bonus.

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Now, down to the good stuff. We entered into a brief and informal discussion about what makes a good TV presenter, gathering lots of tips and advice from Helen ready for our first shoot. We learned the five golden rules of presenting (ooh!) and that the most important part is not the words themselves but their expression, which is perfect because if you mess up, and all of us pretty much did, it’s fine as long as you recover – phew! Next we readied ourselves for the first shot, and in 5 4 3 2 1… we spoke a little about ourselves remembering all we had learned, maintaining eye contact with the camera and staying well anchored. We then watched these played back on the screen and, yes, we all squirmed a little as we thought ‘do I really sound like that?’ but input from Helen and the rest of the team was vital for improvement.

Quick tip: The most successful people in this section didn’t list everything about themselves from their education to their favourite food, but spoke about a subject that interested them such as their business or their recent travels. Their passion came through and produced great results!

The Middle
After lunch, we got back to work and when entering back into the room the equipment had been moved and the teleprompter (aka Autocue) had been set up. Each of us glanced over the words on the sample guide we had been given, making mental notes of bits to look out for, as our host explained the exercise and how it all would work. Written as a mock TV show competition, we took turns to take the seat and after a practice run filmed our second performance. This exercise for me was easier, as I didn’t have to think about what I was saying, I was able to perform better. This task was great for those who might write a script such as a video blogger or motivational speaker, as it helped them to work on looking natural and thoughtful even when reading or speaking something premeditated. It was an excellent contrast to the morning’s activities, and gave an insight into the diversity of a TV presenter’s skill set.

logoQuick tip: When you glance over the sample on the back of your hand-out think about how these competitions might be done on TV, for example they might say ‘triple two, triple three’ instead of each number individually. Also, be sure to memorise words or phrases that might trip you up.

The end:
Our final task was co-presenting, which I had been dreading the most but was in fact my favourite of the day. We were told to split off into groups of two or three, decide what kind of show we wanted to be and then create an introduction feature which might advertise the show and make people want to tune in. I split off with a couple of other girls in the group and we decided that our show would be a beauty show with different features including ‘dirt cheap product of the week’, a ‘high-end to high street’ comparison of products and a food section talking about great foods for healthy skin. I think our sections were clearly defined, and the most successful ones did have a clear purpose for the different parts of the show such as an interview or cooking section. Again this part of the day was a lot of fun and everyone was noticeably at their best having taken on board constructive criticisms and encouragement throughout the day. Everyone was comfortable, happier to be the focus of attention and individual personalities really shone through. The improvement from the first exercise was very visible and it was great to see how each session enhanced individual performances. The format of the day really worked!

Quick tip: You might want to begin by introducing yourselves with a ‘Hello and welcome to… My name is…’ opening, then follow on with ‘Coming up on today’s show…’ and a list all of the features. Finally, finish off with something like ‘And that’s all coming up on channel X at 9’. This is how this kind of section tends to go so it’s a useful template to follow.

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Cut:
So, the day was over and we all left with smiles on our faces having had a great day! For those looking to purchase a showreel of their pieces, the first exercise was rerecorded to allow the opportunity to use your new found knowledge and experience to improve on your first attempt.

I left feeling that I could happily tackle a presentation or pitch. I even flashed back to my teaching module at university and thought I could tackle a lesson much more assertively now, which just goes to show that everyone can take something valuable from the day. In fact, those who were most out of their comfort zone got the most out of the day. At first it may have been hard but the day definitely helped them grow – some people arrived with virtually no confidence in themselves and left with a new-found quality to their personality that I don’t think anyone ever thought would be achievable in a short space of time. Definitely one to recommend… and that’s a wrap!

Fancy checking out the TV Training Academy Course yourself? Click here for the fantastic Wowcher deal valid at six nationwide locations. Please note – deals featured may not be live.

Rock n’ Roll Cricket: The NatWest T20 Blast

I tend to think that cricket is the greatest thing that God ever created on earth – certainly greater than sex, although sex isn’t too bad either” – Harold Pinter

When it comes to the UK’s favourite summer sport, we all have our preconceptions. For you, cricket might conjure up images of neatly creased and ironed white kit, dappled sunlight on freshly cut grass, a rosy red ball to match the ruddy cheeks of the players, and the familiar thud of leather on willow. You might think of a gentle summer’s day enjoyed in leisurely style, as spectators and players alike break for tea to tuck into cucumber sandwiches and real ale. Well, prepare to have your notions of sleepy, boring cricket smashed. The grand old sport has entered the 21st century with an explosive short-form game known as Twenty20. And what with Wowcher offering tickets to see the Birmingham Bears in action, we thought we’d help you swot up on just what you’re missing!

Fun for all the family
As with everything, cricket moved with the times to appeal to younger audiences. Twenty20 cricket offers an evening or afternoon (of manageable length – no three-to-five day marathons here!) that is exciting and fun for everyone aged 1-101. Certainly no longer the preserve of foppish posh boys with bouncy hair, Twenty20 matches showcase just how fun the sport can be, offering great quality entertainment for all the family at an affordable price.

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