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World begins New Year Celebrations – Happy 2011!

Multicoloured starbusts and gigantic sparklers lit the midnight sky over Sydney Harbour in a dazzling fireworks show witnessed by 1.5 million enthusiastic spectators who camped out all day to see in the new year.

Sydney touted its claim to be the New Year's Eve capital of the world with a spectacular display over the iconic Harbour Bridge, its largest since 2000.

As the clock ticked closer to 2011, cities across Asia readied for midnight events ranging from traditional prayers in Japan to a massive pyrotechnic display in the shape of a dragon in Taiwan.

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered along Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour to watch fireworks explode from the roofs of 10 of the city's most famous buildings.

At Japan's Zojoji temple in central Tokyo, founded in 1393, monks chanted as thousands packed in to count down until midnight. Revellers released a mass of silver balloons, as the temple's giant bell rang in the background.

Earlier, New Zealanders sang and danced their way into 2011, with firework displays and sold-out concerts entertaining revellers. In the biggest city, Auckland, explosions of red, gold and white burst over the Sky Tower.

In New York City, nearly a million revellers are expected to cram into the streets around Times Square to watch the traditional midnight ball drop.

This year marks the first time Vietnam's capital, Hanoi, officially celebrates the new year with a countdown occasion, complete with a light show and foreign DJs in front of the city's elegant French colonial-style opera house.

In London, thousands will witness a musical and firework display at the 135-metre high London Eye. Meanwhile Spaniards will gather in their main town squares to eat 12 grapes one by one as the bell in the square marks the countdown to 2011.

Happy New Year from Bargain Villas


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Tips for a great winter-sun tan

Time for some beautiful winter sun and all you need is the perfect tan formula. Not the splotchy burns or tan lines of last year, but an even, healthy golden glow all over your body. Tanning salon? Spray on lotions? Those are definitely options, but if you love the feeling of a natural tan at the beach, and the ambiance of lying outside near the surf, read on.

Yes, it’s a fact the sun’s natural rays can be harmful. Skin cancer is rising, and sunburns are a constant threat. Does this mean the end of feeling the sand beneath your toes and listening to the soothing sounds of the ocean? No, of course not! You can tan more safely. There are a few easy steps to take beforehand to prepare yourself:

  1. Smooth yourself – A few days or weeks before you head to the beach, before you shower every morning, buff your skin with a body brush in gentle, circular motions to ensure smooth skin and better circulation. During your shower, exfoliate with a soft body scrub to brush away dead and dry skin. This will give your skin a soft, even surface for your tan.
  2. Moisten – After your shower, take the time to apply a rich body cream to seal in moisture and keep your skin feeling smooth. A daily moisturizer is essential to minimize damage to your skin from UV rays. After tanning, it doesn’t hurt to apply a cream to your skin again. If you’re on vacation, you’ll probably shower before heading out for a night on the town, so this would be the perfect time for a moisturizer.

Once you’re in the sun, limit yourself to a few hours a day, and try to avoid sun tanning during the peak hours of 11 AM and 2 PM. Always use sunscreen, as a full sun on unprotected skin is bad no matter what. A lotion with SPF 6 to 15 will still allow you to tan, based on your skin type. A good tan should take a few days. Tanning too fast is dangerous and could lead to burning and long term damage. The idea is to tan slowly. Because the act of tanning is your body’s defensive response to the sun’s rays, you don’t want to overdo it. Gradually, as you get darker, your skin will raise its natural SPF to about 3 or 4. Certainly not enough to protect you for prolonged periods, but enough for your body to know it’s hot out there. The idea is to look like you’re enjoying your summer. Keep practicing step 1 and 2 every morning before you go out.

The perfect tan means minimizing tan lines. One method is to wear a bikini and periodically adjust your straps. Another idea is a tan through swimsuit, which allows part of the sun’s rays to penetrate the fabric. The straps will still need periodic adjusting due to the knitted seams, but you have the ability to tan your entire body, even while wearing a 1-piece bathing suit, should you so desire.

Practise this daily regime, and you’ll have a great tan by the end of the week. If you treat your skin right, the sun will again be your friend. Have fun at the beach.

Check out some of the winter sun villas at Bargain Villas. You'll find great deals from private owners and major rental companies like Interhome and Hoseasons.

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Wizarding World of Harry Potter advert shown during super bowl

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5 travel preditctions for popular destnation in 2011

2010 has been another testing year for the travel industry with financial woes, ash cloud disruption and the ‘Big Freeze’ all taking their toll on travellers. However, travel remains a priority with Brits who are reluctant to sacrifice their holidays and are still travelling in massive numbers.

With traffic to flights comparison site Skyscanner rising 62% year on year, 2011 looks to be a robust 12 months for the travel market, although patterns are changing as travellers seek the best possible value. Looking ahead to 2011, Skyscanner predicts the big destinations for Brits.

1. Orlando

Following massive publicity around the opening of Harry Potter’s Wizarding World this summer, Orlando is set to be extremely popular throughout 2011. The city is well known for its theme parks, and searches for flights to Orlando already rank number one on Skyscanner for travel in 2011. Interest will be further increased by the release of the final Potter film in July 2011 and the favourable USD-GBP exchange rate.

2. Philippines and Indonesia

Manila (+46 places) and Bali (+36 places) showed massive growth in traveller interest compared to last year’s rankings. Offering excellent value for money, these vast island nations are attracting budget conscious backpackers as well as higher-end travellers who may have already visited parts of South East Asia and now want to explore more of the region. Searches for flights to Bangkok were also on the rise, with the Thai capital moving up eight places to number three for 2011 travel.

3. Serbia, Slovenia and the Eastern Bloc

Eastern European countries in the Balkans and the Baltics will continue to see a rise in interest as British tourists become more aware that they offer a range of high quality holidays (ski, beach, city break) but at much lower prices than Western Europe.

While many ski resorts traditionally popular with Brits may struggle to attract their normal visitor numbers this winter, Skyscanner has already seen a 130% rise in winter searches to Serbia, as savvy skiers head to Kopaonik, Serbia’s premier ski resort, for less than a third of the price of the French Alps.

4. Down Under

New Zealand will expect to see increased interest due to the World Cup Rugby which will bring more visitors and is likely to have a positive effect on searches for flights to Sydney and other part of Australia too. The filming of the two part Hobbit movie, due for release in 2012, will also help focus interest on ‘Middle Earth’. Christchurch entered the Top 100 most searched for destinations on Skyscanner for 2011, and Sydney moved up 10 places, entering the Top 10.

5. Sri Lanka

Capital Colombo was the highest new entry in Skyscanner’s 2011 Top 100, entering the rankings at number 66. The end of the 25 year civil war last year has meant that this once popular tourist destination is back on the map and set to see strong growth throughout 2011.

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The Beatles’ Abbey Road zebra crossing protected by Grade II listing

Forget the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace, the latest site to be given a Grade II listing in the capital is a humble zebra crossing.

But, having featured on The Beatles' Abbey Road LP, this pedestrian crossing is used to the attention.

Many a tourist has followed in the footsteps of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, by posing for pictures on the black and white painted pathway.

And now the crossing - photographed for the 1969 album by Ian Macmillan - has been given official recognition by heritage minister John Penrose

Sir Paul welcomed the news today, saying: 'It's been a great year for me and a great year for the Beatles and hearing that the Abbey Road crossing is to be preserved is the icing on the cake.'

It is the first such listing of its kind - such status is normally afforded only to buildings - and follows advice from English Heritage. The nearby studios were listed in February.

Mr Penrose said: 'It is a fantastic testimony to the international fame of the Beatles that - more than 40 years on - this crossing continues to attract thousands of visitors each year, trying to mimic their iconic Abbey Road album cover.'

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