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Globocation: London Calling

Attention Accomodation Queens! If you are thinking about hitting London for this once in a lifetime summer – and it’s not too late – and you fancy globocation that offers more than the charmless indifference of a hotel holiday stay – just so passe! – then it’s time to look for alternatives. And there are plenty.

Thanks to a billion and one global corporations that have sprung up all over the world, finding great deals on quirky globocations ranging from home exchange, to flat-share and couch surfing, or ‘crash-padding’, in any city or country, has never been easier.

This year home exchange is all the rage as a reported 23% of Londoners plan to escape the Olympic madness and head south. And with many looking for sports-loving Aussies to occupy spare rooms, studies, garden sheds, chimneys and any other space they can fill, centrally located accommodation at affordable prices are a plenty.

If you’re looking for the most effective way to stay and play abroad, consider these options.

Option 1. Flat Swap

Get online and find your perfect match, and then, it’s just a matter of leaving time to pack up your home, and the family heirlooms, in preparation for your guests to enjoy. Meanwhile they will do the same in preparation for your visit. Just like the film starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette, In Her Shoes… (good topic for a blog, hehehe).

The Good: It’s fairly foolproof since you’ve both got the same thing at stake, i.e. your home!

The Bad: It could take forever and a day to find the perfect match and if the tenants suddenly cancel, it will be a double whammy on your travel plans.

The websites: http://www.homelink.org.uk; http://www.homebase-hols; homeswapholidays.com

Option 2: Flat-Sharing

Sharing a flat or home with the owner occupier is the way forward in terms of choice, since everyone with a modicum of spare space is doing it (even me, and you can find out more about that in the ‘offers’ section.)

The deal typically includes Bed & Breakfast, plus shared use of kitchen and sitting rooms along with all utilities: TV, Wi-Fi, stereo, fridge, cooking utensils, and sometimes, a cat. If you’re lucky you might get your own ensuite bathroom, otherwise it’s a shared bathroom. You will need to pre-book and pay in advance.

The Good: It’s cheaper and more personal than a hotel and you get to enjoy all the creature comforts. Plus, so long as you do your user review research properly, you will end up with a lovely enthusiastic host who will be happy to show you around the neighbourhood and give you all the tips. That’s why it’s especialy great for solo travellers. Having a ready-made friend in the shape of your host is a bonus. That’s the loneliness taken care of then. Tick!

The Bad: It’s not very pleasant if there’s a personality clash. Or, if the bedrooms are too close together. And the walls are too thin and… oh never mind!

The Websites: http://www.airbnb.com and airbnb.crashpadder.com

Option 3: Couch-surfing

Couch surfing offers the most flexibility since you can book in advance or book on the hop. It’s casual, cheeky and a bit of fun – but definitely not for the faint hearted! Favoured mainly by students and backpackers, the couch-surfing option doesn’t allow very many creature comforts, in other words, it’s pretty basic but, it does afford more privacy than a 10 room dorm.

Keep in mind that since you’re sharing with those who generally require the use of their sofa, they are within their rights to ask you to be packed up and out of the way, except for those times when you’re sleeping. So not very relaxing then. It is however, perfect if you plan on spending the minimum time at home and the maximum amount of time out partying.

The Good: It’s cheap, cheerful and you can generally negotiate the price and length of stay on the hop.

The Bad: It’s an informal agreement so you’re not covered if say, you accidently burn the flat down. Plus, if the couch is not cleaned religiously, you may find you spend the night fighting off dust mites. If that’s not what you had in mind for your sexy-time European summer, then it’s not for you!

The Websites airbnb.crashpadder.com; http://www.couchsurfing

Each of these websites operate on a user-review based policy, that means if someone trashes your flat, or heaven forbid, you trash theirs, you can be sure that every potential tenant or landlord that does an online search for the rest of forever, will know about it.
If you are considering a home exchange or flat swap, read the small print clearly, be on top of the T & C’s. And remember…
Treat your exchange home as you would like yours to be treated
Be respectful, courteous and pleasant to your hosts
If you damage something, fess up right away – far less traumatic than having your faux-pas go viral!

Click on this link for a current UK overview and guideline of what you should expect to pay as published by the Guardian. Check availability before you get too excited though, the properties at the cheap end of the scale are snapped up like crazy

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2012/feb/23/hotels-apartments-london-olympics-

StuffTo Do In London When You Fancy Something *Other* Than Sport!

Fancy a few action-packed weeks flinging your self around the London Olympics, but worried about what you’ll do when you need a respite from sport? Not a problem!

In case you missed the memo, the email, the text, the Tweet, the App…it is the Queens Diamond Jubilee this year. Talk about an absolute masterstroke in timing, and of course an extra special treat, especially since London knows how to turn on the pomp and ceremony like no-one else!

And even if you miss the Jubilee Holiday Weekend from June 2  – 5 when they plan to positively paint the town red and  London gets set to shimmer in a royal coat of fairy-dust as they roll out the razzle dazzle – the parades, the prancing ponies and good old Prince Phillip,  you can still enjoy the year long Jubilee Celebrations. 

Witness the freshly glossed gates to Buckingham Castle and Windsor Palace swing open to reveal the previously unseen Royal Collection exhibition to mark the Diamond Jubilee as well as exhibiting That Dress.  Kate-Middletons-royal-wedding-dress-goes-on-display-at-Buckingham-Palace

Amongst all of this, London is also serving up the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, and they want you to know it is THE largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements. It takes place across the entire city over 21 June – 9th September and brings together all the big names of music, culture and art including Damon Albarn, JayZ & our very own Cate Blanchett.

Should you want to funk up your adventure even more, summer in the UK also means music festival madness with tickets still available for some of the smaller UK based boutique festivals. Sadly there’s no Glastonbury this year since there weren’t enough portaloos to share with the Olympics – true story! For those keen to venture further afield and take in some sexy-time Euro-rock, look towards Spain, Belgium, Germany, Sweden for their killer annual festivals taking place over the summer and cheap plane tickets out of London.

And if you miss the festivals, don’t panic! With almost every rock star worth their salt in town, most of the headliners will do London sideshows. Foo Fighters are headlining Reading and Leeds, so it’s likely they will announce London dates shortly.

And it’s not just music, the guffaws come thick and fast with the world class Edinburgh Comedy Festival which, if you can squeeze it in, you’ll be laughing! Held across the entire month of August, you don’t need to pre-book, but you will take your chances with the big name shows which sell out fast. You are strongly advised to book accommodation. Travel is one hour by plane, or around 4 hours by coach.

If you are travelling around the UK, ensure that you make time to see the leading sights in those places you visit. For instance a visit to Bath wouldn’t be complete with a visit to the heavenly Roman Baths.

London has worked furiously for the past few years to put on what many suspect will be The Most Dazzling Show On Earth. And when the sun shines on London Town, it positively glows, so for those looking for a respite from all thing Olympics this summer, you’re in luck. The city promises to come alive with an incredible burst of energy, excitement and endless possibilities. And with approximately 14 hours of daylight, it’s an extraordinary amount of time to cram a super-human amount of fun into. Don’t be put off if you’re not into sport. No-one said that was the main attraction.

In other Diamond Jubilee going ons:

The National Maritime Museum will open ‘Royal River: Power, Pageantry and the Thames’

 The National Portrait Gallery will stage ‘The Queen: Art and Image’, a touring exhibition of images of the Queen.

 The Victoria and Albert Museum is holding an exhibition of portraits of The Queen by photographer Cecil Beaton, which will tour around the UK.

The Tower of London is still home to the magnificent Crown Jewels

Inside The Mind Of A Tormented Olympic Hero

He’s Australia’s greatest Olympian, but now the crushed spirit of Ian Thorpe wonders what’s next…

‘The fairytale has turned into a nightmare’ said the swimming phenomenon as he struggled to find the words after finishing in 21st position for the 2012 Games this March, his dreams of making his third Olympic team, well and truly sunk.

More porpoise than shark, Thorpe, who famously quit the sport after wanting to see something other than “the black line along the bottom of the pool”, has consistently played down his Olympian chances during his ‘comeback’, keeping the expectations low, and refusing point blank to get the country’s hopes up. A good strategy that would have been better -had he applied it personally.

 “Utterly gutted and speechless. All the questions were there. Why did this happen? What is going on? I don’t know how I’ll handle it. I don’t know how I should feel.” He said.

It was clear from watching the anguished post race interview that while Thorpe wore his poker face best to convince the world’s media that his chances were low, he clearly never believed it himself. Not for a minute. Now he’s got plenty of time to figure out how he feels as his colleagues’ wing their way to London.

The International Man of Mystery known as a gentleman, a legend, dapper dude and a hero, is many things, but he is not in this case – the comeback kid.

Which makes me wonder: all that money, access to a crack team of sports psychologists, and if you can believe the rather large amount of cash sponsors threw at Thorpe to get him back out there – did no-one consider the damage if it all went pear shaped? And what do we have now? A broken spirit? Damage to Thorpe’s pride, his reputation, his bank account – rumoured to be drained…? 

Probably all of the above.

But when all is said and done, Thorpey will be OK because he’s a true-blue Aussie legend, and he’s got the weight of sport’s hardest hitting corporate giants behind him to pick him up and carry him towards the next goal. None of that will fall over because of events of the past two days. They’re still behind him all the way, hanging out for their Golden Goose to get back on track, C’mon Thorpe!

All well and good – for Thorpie.

My question is, and more importantly, what happens to the hundreds of other, lesser known, budding Olympian’s when it all goes pear shaped? Because you can bet your bottom dollar that they don’t have the big bucks to catch them when they fall. They don’t have the permanently ongoing crack management teams in place. These kids do it tougher than we mere mortals could ever dream. What happens when their dreams dissolve? Do they have the mental facilities to deal with it? What part does this play in their training and more importantly, who is there to pick up the pieces when they fall?

 

Great News Aussies – Europe Just Got Cheap!

Thanks to the high Aussie dollar and the low GBP, a trip to the 2012 Olympics offers a whole lot of bang for its buck. The message from the Currency Experts is to take advantage, as it may not get better than this…

Just a few short weeks ago, Aussie sports lovers were cheering and whooping, and making their get-away plans as a trip to the 2012 Olympics got cheaper by the day when the dollar hit a 27-year high against the British pound and rose to almost 68 pence overnight – the highest since 1985, with near record highs on the euro.

And while there is NO QUESTION that the strong Aussie dollar is still soaring ahead, it is a sign, according to currency analysts, who say the record run may well be near its peak – the message is, don’t expect it to get better than this.

Either way Aussies are in an enviable position with the dollar-pound exchange rate which has almost doubled in the past three years. 

At the time of printing for roughly $3,000 spending money for the Olympics, you will get 2,004.65 GBP compared to three months ago where $3,000 would only get £1,860. For the same amount of Aussie dollars, you will get 2,410.34 EUR.

So for Australians still pondering that trip, or snapping up that sexy accommodation package at the Ritz, now is a good time to act. If you’re risk averse and want to plan your spending, you might consider buying your GBP and Euros in advance.

Best of all, there will be lot more spending money for the record numbers who make the UK trip which, according to the Travel Trends Report for 2012, Aussies will have highest numbers. They will no doubt show their passion for all things sport by spending loads of cash, which will have a massive impact on British tourism. C’mon Aussie!

All well and good, but what effect it will have on us…

The knock on effect is that Australia is experiencing a resurgence as a popular destination among British travellers.  And while reports say that Londoners are 11% more likely to stay at home for Olympics than expected, those who are leaving are headed our way with an increase of 23 per cent among Britons searching for flights to Australia, the place British travel experts have hailed a “fast rising exotic location”. Couldn’t have said it better myself!

Great news if you’re looking to embark on a Home Exchange program during your trip to the Games as there will be plenty of Brits looking at that option – and why not? It’s one of the most cost-effective accommodation solutions around.

Finally, while the strong Aussie dollar will make the trip so much more affordable, financial experts warn to prepare for the inevitable Olympic Tax on absolutely everything – from your diet coke to Jimmy Choos.  You’ve been warned!

Flights to London: An Olympic partnership with key carriers including Emirates and Singapore Airlines departs daily.Image