This time of year we would usually talk about the cool Christmas markets on continental Europe. Or we might be recommending a trip to New York to take advantage of that great exchange. But the truth is the dollar-sterling exchange rate is becoming less advantageous for us. And flying out to check out those Christmas markets is a bit less affordable this year. So we’ve come up with a few ideas about how you might want to carry out your Christmas shopping somewhere a little more different but a little more closer to home!…

Bath
On the 27th of November Bath’s Christmas market sets up shop to the backdrop of the famous Roman baths and Bath Abbey in the centre of the city. The market will consist of 120 individual wooden chalet style stalls selling an assortment of hand-made crafts, jewellery and decorations and, of course, plenty of locally produced food and drink! The market finishes on the 7th of December. I’ve also been advised to recommend the ‘The Silver Shop’ as a local favourite for jewellery and the Bath Aqua Glass shop for unusual jewellery and ornaments.

Brighton
I wrote about Brighton before as a shopping destination after my time there at the Great Escape festival back in May. While it is Churchill Square that will provide you with your “high street” shopping, it is The Lanes which gives Brighton it’s uniqueness and charm, making the trip there worthwhile. I believe that last time I referred to the area as “an ecletic mix of unqiue shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants with an awesome vibe” and I still stand by that description. A shop I didn’t try, but have been recommended, is Cybercandy on Gloucester Road. I’m told they stock candy from all over the world. A great one for the kids!

Bicester Village and York Outlet Village
Great ones for those looking to bag designer brands at bargain prices with Bicester Village representing the south and York Outlet Village the north. Bicester Village’s extensive list of designer brands covers a wide spectrum from Diesel to Jimmy Choos. York Outlet Village offers the likes of Armani and Burberry in addition to a number of stores more generally associated with high street.

Portsmouth
I read about the Victorian festival of Christmas in Portsmouth today and I had to include it. Set at the Historic Dockyard, not only will Victorian actors be on hand (apparently even Scrooge will make an appearance!) but they also guarantee snow! In addition to the traditional Christmas market, a Victorian ‘green’ Father Christmas, carol singers and fairground rides add to the entertainment. I should note though that there is a price for all this excitement. Tickets cost £12 for an adult, £10 for a child and £36 for a family of five.

I hope that gives you a bit of inspiration for your Christmas shopping. Let me know if you have any ideas of your own!

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#9 in Tripadvisor’s hot spots for 2009 is Wadduwa in Sri Lanka…

What’s the deal?
If you’re looking to get away from it all and want something a little more secluded, then Wadduwa could be the place for you. Situated on the west coast of Sri Lanka, Wadduwa is a small fishing village that benefits from a stretch of golden sand beaches and an abundance of coconut palms that conjure visions of paradise. It’s a sunbather’s dream although the opportunity for watersports, such as windsurfing, provide an alternative option for those wanting to get more active.

It’s equally slow-paced in the evening so Wadduwa is not the place if you’re looking to party – although the captial, Colombo, is just 35km north if you’re looking for a more buzzing atmosphere. But, of course, that’s not the reason you come to Wadduwa. Tripadvisor’s overview sums up Wadduwa, describing the village as having an “undiscovered, exotic feel—perfect for someone seeking a tranquil vacation”.

What are other travellers saying?
Firstly, there are some great traveller photos on Tripadvisor which are worth checking out to help you get a feel for the area. It’s also clear from the Tripadvisor reviewers that The Blue Water is the hotel of choice with 56 reviews and an average score of 4/5. The hotel (and the area in general I guess) is consistently recommended for “An amazing honeymoon”, “A romantic getaway”, “People with disabilities” and “Older travelers” by the reviewers.

How do I get there?
Wadduwa is about a 2 hour drive south from Bandaranaike International Airport (which is another 35km north of Colombo). Unfortunately, (and I have to be honest!), none of the international car hire companies are present at this airport (I’m not sure on the reasons!). However, you can hire a car from Avis in the city of Colombo.

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Avis desk, Bora BoraWe have locations all over the world but you’ll find that they usually look very much the same. But in some more remote locations we have to ‘adapt’ our locations slightly.

So check out these pictures taken by Jeremy Fletcher, Head of our Central Region, on his recent holiday to Bora Bora and Moorea in the South Pacific. Here our rental office has adopted a design more in keeping with the local area. And check out the vehicles we have on offer!

Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever hired an Avis car from? Let us know or even take a picture and send it to us at comments@avis.co.uk and we’ll put up the best ones.

[flickr]set:72157608330094180[/flickr]

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I found a great tool for those looking for a British spa break: the ‘Good Spa Guide’, located on the travel section of The Times website. Using Google Maps, The Times has mapped out the locations of selected spas across the country. Clicking on one of the spas brings up address details and a link to a review written by a researcher from The Times. The reviews vary in length but most of them are comprehensive and informative, describing the spas under the headings of ‘USP’, ‘Ambience’, ‘Experience’, ‘Food’, ‘In Crowd’, ‘Wallet Watch’ and ‘Need To Know’. That pretty much covers everything so you’ll be able to make an informed decision about your spa break. I particularly like the USP section which will help you find that something a bit different!

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Tripadvisor has just published a list of predicted hot spots for 2009 based on search activity and postings on their website. Admittedly, these 09 destinations of choice are all a bit of an unknown to me so I thought it would be a good exercise to find out what the fuss is about and share it with our readers. So today I start with #10: Goslar in Germany.

What’s the deal?
Goslar is a historic silver and copper ore mining town and in 1992 it was entered on to the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List for all Mankind. The character of the town is defined by churches, chapels and monasteries inter-twinned with narrow, cobbled stone streets all set to the back drop of the Rammelsberg mountains. In fact, one website claims it to be the “Rome of the North”!

The impression I get from reading descriptions of the town and viewing various pictures, is that this is a town that could quite easily have provided the setting to a Disney fairytale. In fact “fairytale” is how one website describes the “stunning” Christmas forest and perhaps the next 2 months could be a great time to check out Goslar and their Christmas markets.

What are other travellers saying?
One traveller on Tripadvisor gives the thumbs up stating that “The town of Goslar is an amazing place to see, with a wealth of history”, although the review did add that the destination was “more suited to the ‘older’ traveller” with little to do for children. Unfortunately, most of the other reviews were centred on the hotels themselves (as you might expect) but it is clear from the commentary that the Christmas market in particular is very popular.

How do I get there?
Goslar is located pretty much right in the centre of Germany, 95km south-east of Hannover airport. If you’re looking to hire a car then Avis has an office situated within the airport. Goslar also has good train network links from Hannover and Berlin.

If you’ve been to Goslar before then please let us know what you thought!

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Following on nicely from yesterday’s blog post I’ve just read on the BBC website that Asda and Morrison’s have dropped their petrol prices to 99.9p per litre. According to the BBC the average price of petrol is currently 117p in the UK – although Petrolprices.com quote the UK average as 106.9p. Either way it’s a siginficant drop!

The recent drop in crude oil prices is also helping prices to fall in other areas. British Airways (for their World Traveller and World Traveller Plus passengers) and Virgin Atlantic (for their Economy and Premium Economy passengers) have announced a drop in their fuel surcharges from midnight tonight which is clearly great news!

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Man re-fuelling carI recently came across this great tool called Petrolprices.com which should help you save that little bit extra on your petrol bill. It’s really simple to use. All you need to do is register an account (takes only a minute to do), enter your postcode and specify your fuel type (e.g. petrol or diesel). The tool will then find you the price each petrol station is selling at within a distance you specify. You can even register for email alerts so you can keep up-to-date without the need to regularly check back on the website.

As always, let me know if you’ve got any tips of your own!

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I’ve always felt that the Halloween theme sets up some great days out, especially with kids. Our team is planning to go to the increasingly popular Fright Night at Thorpe Park where the whole park is turned into something out of a horror movie. If hitting a roller coaster in the dark is not your thing then my colleague Donna offers up these 5 alternatives:

The Hellfire Caves in West Wycombe Buckinghamshire; Ancient caves extended in the 1740’s by the infamous Sir Francis Dashwood (founder of the Hellfire Club) who held secret club meetings in the caves. I’ve just been reading the website which explains that, if you head out at night, the G.P.S. (that’s Ghostfinder Paranormal Society!) will be on hand to help seek out Suki the ghost bride, Paul Whitehead, the man who left his heart to Sir Francis and the floating monk!

Lincolnshire Ghost Walk: This tour will take you through the Cathedral Quarter of the city of Lincoln while your host recounts chilling tales. Entertaining and only £4.00 per adult and £2.00 per child with no advanced booking required (simply meet at the Tourist Information Centre, Castle Square).

Warwick Castle is hosting spooky two Halloween Trails this year from October 25- November 2. Depending on which trail you take you could find yourself meeting Jack-O-Lantern King, Singing Plague Victims, ghoulish Grave Diggers and a strange Hermit of the Crypt.

The York Dungeons centres on the Lost Labyrinth of the Roman legion, the chilling stories of the highwayman Dick Turpin and the plague. Featuring live actors, it is not for the faint hearted! Anyone who has been to any of ‘the Dungeons’ will know what to expect but it’s still a great one for Halloween and they are advertising discounts at the moment.

Edinburgh Dungeons is again one of ‘the Dungeons’ family this time reliving the gruesome story of Sir William Wallace’s execution and other grizzly tales from Scotland’s yesteryear this Halloween. Again there are some good discounts on offer and I’d recommend booking in advance rather than at the door.

Otherwise, if planning on staying at home but need ideas to keep the young ones entertained then check out EnjoyEngland’s ‘Make your own monster’.

As always, let me know if you’ve got any Halloween ideas of your own!

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SkierI didn’t get a chance to talk about it last week but in the The Sunday Times travel magazine from a week ago Sunday go there was some great credit crunch beating tips for those people unwilling to give up their ski holiday. You can access the full tips by clicking on this link but, for your benefit, I’ve summarized the tips for you below:

1. Book late (before Christmas/in January) and go in January. Package prices for January holidays are as much as 50% lower than they are at New Year and in February half term.
2. Booking your equipment online in advance can get you discounts of up to 40%.
3. Drive there. The writer, Sean Newsom, calculates that driving to the Alps cost just £85.75 per person (based on 4 people). That amount includes the cost of the Channel crossing, tolls and fuel.
4. Self-catered apartments are the cheapest way to stay in the mountains
5. Prepare and eat your own lunch rather than in the expensive on-piste café!

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Audi A4It’s that time of the year again! We are currently looking into how we develop our UK Select Series range and we really want your feedback. To help us capture your thoughts, we have put together a short 3 minute survey which we hope you will complete for us by clicking on the link below:

- Click here to access the Avis Feedback Survey

As a thank you for completing this survey all entrants will be automatically entered into a free prize draw to win a Select Series rental for the weekend. And of course please use this blog post to debate what should be on the UK Select Series between yourselves! I look forward to reading your comments.

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Please note:

The details of all blog posts are correct at the time of publication. Information and offers are subject to change without prior notice. Please check www.avis.co.uk for the most up-to-date information.

All comments will be moderated so there may be a delay in your comment going live. We will filter out anything that is confidential, inappropriate, abusive, defamatory, profane, or anything considered as spam or an advertising link. We promise not to cut something just because it's not favourable to Avis.

We ask that if your feedback is regarding a past rental, you include your reservation details (which will be removed from the live post). If your comment is a customer service issue, you can email customer.service@avis.co.uk .
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