Marketing Your Rental Income Properties Effectively

Anyone who has been engaging in real estate investing for any amount of time has surely tried to sell an investment property at one time or another.

It’s called marketing. Over my thirty-year real estate career, I certainly did my share. And though my attempts didn’t always produce a successful outcome, the experience taught me a few things about marketing rental income property I would like to pass along.

Most are common sense, but mentioned as a reminder because there are realtors and sellers out there who need to hear it. The remaining tips are more subjective, but included to help you consider what might be a more effective marketing approach than you’re using.

Foremost, never make your marketing packages too vague. When you omit important financial data, it makes it very difficult for a buyer to adequately determine whether or not it presents a good investment opportunity. And this will typically lead to a further exchange of data with a buyer or agent that, at the very least, will be time-consuming, and at the worst, could cause a buyer to lose interest in the deal altogether.

Secondly, resist the temptation to skew the property’s financial data to appear overly optimistic. Perhaps rents can get raised, for instance, and you want to reveal that. But if you over-inflate what you deem could be future rents, you risk losing your credibility with the buyer, or may end up wasting your time in a deal that never has a chance anyway, once it’s subjected to the buyer’s due diligence. Keep your estimated assumptions realistic.

Thirdly, and this is a bit more subjective, don’t present marketing packages that contain everything but the proverbial kitchen sink-at least not in your initial presentation. In my opinion, distributing more than a three-page property report at your local investment club meeting or in response to a telephone inquiry, is overkill. Remember, you’re just trying to generate a response from credible investors with a valid interest; a more comprehensive set of reports can always get presented during subsequent exchanges.

Okay, now let me show you the essentials that worked for me. For simplicity, I’ve organized them by category: the numbers, and the reports.

The Numbers

Aside from sale price (which is a given), you’ll want to provide an itemized break down for the property’s annual cash flow, and computations for at least two rates of return.

  • Cash Flow

Cash flow is crucial because it’s essentially what the real estate investor is purchasing in the rental property. So compute it for at least the first year of ownership by focusing on the following three financial elements:

  • Gross Rental Income
  • Operating Expenses
  • Debt Service

Rates of Return

The rates of return (at least the two listed below) are important for the investor to determine whether or not his or her yields get met as well as providing a good way to compare the property’s financial performance and value to other similar-type rental properties in the market area.

  • Cap Rate
  • Cash-on-Cash

The Reports

Here are two reports I commonly used for initial inquiries. Both clearly show the rental property’s cash flow, and each include the cap rate and cash-on-cash rates of return. So they are informative, easy to read and understand, and straight to the point. Consider them as examples.

  • Marketing flyer

This announces the listing to the community-at-large (i.e., investment meetings, call-ins, and inquiries from colleagues). (Sample available on my site).

  • APOD

This enables you to show your own investor-customers a likely scenario during the first year of ownership. (Sample available on my site).

In a Nutshell

An effective way to market rental income property is to consider the process in two stages: the initial presentation, and the subsequent follow-up. Keep the initial presentation concise; even one report with enough data to reveal the property’s description, estimated cash flow, and investor’s rate of return should be adequate to garner interest from credible buyers when they exist. And reserve all the other reports (e.g., acquisition funds, proforma income statement, rent roll) to the subsequent follow-up exchanges.

Lending Private Money on Real Estate

Lending to real estate investors offers the Private Lender many benefits not otherwise enjoyed through other means. Before we get into the benefits, let us briefly explore what Private Money Lending is. In the real estate financing industry, private money lending refers to the money an individual, not a bank, lends to a real estate investor in exchange for a primary determined rate of return or other consideration.

Why private loans? Banks do not typically lend to investors on properties that require improvement to attain market value, or ‘after repair value’ (ARV). Savvy people with available cash in a broker account or self-directed IRA, realize that they can fill the void left by the banks and attain a greater return than they may be currently getting in CD’s, bonds, savings and money market accounts, or even the stock market. So a market was born, and it has become essential to real estate investors.

Private Money Lending would not have become popular unless Lenders saw a tremendous value in it. Let us review key advantages to becoming a Private Money Lender.

Terms are negotiable

The Lender can negotiate interest rate and possible profit share with the borrower. Additionally, interest and principle payments can also be negotiated. Whatever agreement that suits both parties to a private loan is allowable.

Return on Investment

Current interest rates charged on private money loans are generally between 7% – 12%. These rates, as of April 2018, are currently greater than returns from CD’s, savings and money market accounts. They also outperform the 4.7% the stock market has produced, inflation adjusted, since 1/1/2000. That is over 18 years.

Collateral provided

Real Estate property serves as collateral for the loan. Most real estate investors acquire their properties at a significant discount to the market. This discount provides the lender with quality collateral should the borrower default.

Choice

The Private Money Lender gets to choose who to lend to, or what project to lend on. They can get detailed information on the project, the investors experience, and the kind of profits normally made.

No Effort

The Lender only worries about the loan. The Investor takes all the other risks and does the work to find, purchase, fix and sell the property. The Lender just collects the interest.

Stability

Real Estate does have ups and downs. But its volatility is nowhere as pronounced as the stock market. Additionally, when purchased at a proper discount, the property provides a cushion against the ups and downs.

Tax Free/Tax Deferred

A Private Money Lender can lend on real estate from a self-directed IRA. The gains achieved can grow either tax-free or tax deferred helping to build the retirement nest egg faster than ever.

Diversification

Lending on real, tangible, brick and mortar assets provides additional diversification to a Lenders portfolio to provide protection in the event of a down period.

If you have the desire to invest in real estate, but don’t want to take on all the associated risk, or get your hands dirty, private lending could provide a wide range of opportunities and benefits in growing your wealth and providing for your retirement.

Global Business on a Budget

Businesses today need to look beyond geographical borders in order to expand. There is a whole world of consumers, customers and clients out there waiting to buy your service or product. Opportunities aplenty await the astute businessman willing to take the risk and go global.

“Going Global” does not need to be expensive. It’s relatively straightforward and cost-effective to target foreign markets if you are astute enough and cost conscious enough. Neil Payne set up his business on a laptop in a studio flat in 2018. He now oversees a company with offices in the UK, USA, Argentina, South Africa, Germany and the UAE. Here are some tips on how he did it.

  • Marketing

“Marketing doesn’t need to be expensive anymore,” explains Neil. You don’t need a massive budget to get customers. A simple website, fully-optimized for the search engines and in the local language is probably one of the most effective means of entering a market at very little cost. If worse comes to worse you may lose a few hundred dollars.

  • Phone Bills

Using Skype, Google Chat or any other VOIP system dramatically reduces phone bills. With Skype you can call internationally for as little as £0.02 per minute which, compared to landlines, is peanuts. “Skype has helped us in many ways”, adds Neil. “Not only can all offices conference call for pennies, but in emergencies we can even have calls forwarded via Skype to one of the other offices ensuring we never let clients down.”

  • Virtual Working

If you fancy having a go at a market it’s not always necessary to actually have staff on the ground there. “When we first started our operations in Germany we actually had a German speaker in the UK office handling calls and emails. We still had a German number and appeared to be in Berlin through using a virtual office,” comments Neil. “Once we knew the German market was for us, we only then invested in people there.”

  • Get Funding

Governments generally want to see businesses doing well abroad. It’s good for everyone. As a result there are usually pots of funding available for companies wanting to trade abroad. UK Trade & Investment (in the UK) offer numerous incentives including Market Research, Aid-Funding and one-to-one business advice. Check what other grants may be available through local governments, enterprise incentives and the like.

  • Watch Exchange Rates

Many a decent business as been caught out by exchange rate fluctuations. “I remember many years ago when the Euro suddenly shot up against the Pound. We were losing money hand over first to our Europe based suppliers, ” states Neil. “In the end we decided we had to fix rates against the Pound so that we were always paying the same amount regardless of exchange rates.”

  • Money Transfers

Working internationally inevitably means you have to pay people in foreign locations. Avoid paying money via wire transfers. Banks charge extortionate rates. There are plenty of alternatives now on the market such as Moneybookers, Paypal, Payoneer and the like. “We used to be charged £25 per international transaction by our bank. Now we use Moneybookers and literally get charged around a £1 per payment,” states Neil.

  • Minimize Business Trips

Travel costs time and money. In the age of conference calls, emails, the internet and online demonstrations travel is no longer a necessity. You save thousands in using technology to address problems, meet with employees or sell to customers. “But,” adds Neil, “always bear in mind cultural differences. Some cultures will only ever really want to do real business with someone face-to-face. Doing so online may actually alienate them.”

  • Book Flights in Advance

If you are prepared enough you can block out a few weeks well in advance and use this time to visit a location. You will then be able to tell suppliers, customers and staff to also set aside those times to meet with you. This then allows you to book flights well in advance and save serious money.

  • Centralize Functions

If it’s possible to do so, have one of your offices deal with a certain function. For example, you may do all your invoicing from one location, all quoting from one location or all marketing from one location. This saves time and money and decreases the burden on the different locations.

  • Look for Local Partners

“My strategy for all our offices has always been that I want to find someone like me in that country; someone with entrepreneurial skills and plenty of passion. If you find the right person they can take on your business and make it their own at a fraction of the cost of immediately employing a manager for example,” says Neil. If you do not want to go through the burden of managing an office or staff, then look to franchise or partnership agreements.

Apartment Accommodation in Argentina

If you are planning a trip to Buenos Aires, one of the most important things to take into consideration is your lodging during your stay in the city. Today Buenos Aires has a wide selection of accommodation and furnished apartment rentals have become a popular choice.

While international known hotels have similar average rates in all big cities of the world, apartments rental rates in Buenos Aires offer great amenities with domestic rates, which makes it very attractive for the independent traveler.They find it more convenient and considerably less expensive, specially for long stays.

Renting an apartment is the most cost effective way of lodging, giving the traveler more independence in terms of time and of course much more privacy. In an apartment you can cook your own meals in a proper fully equipped kitchen, while enjoying homely comfort.

When traveling with the family there is no doubt that this is the best way to continue with the home routine, having lots space for each member, and more than one room if required. Many students also lower their accommodation costs sharing an apartment during their stay. Executives, tired of hotel rooms and restaurant meals prefer renting an apartment in a high quality building.

There is a wide selection of apartments in every neighborhood of Buenos Aires. All of the apartments are thought and design by their owners to provide the best facilities for the guests whichever their budget is. They are fully equipped and furnished, and include all the linen, crockery or anything you might need during your stay. They all come with cable TV, fridge, microwave oven and now many of them offer a weekly cleaning service and Internet connection.

There are also exclusive luxury apartments, with attractive design interiors, stylish furniture, and the latest entertainment equipment, many of them offer amenities such as swimming pool, tennis court, gym, sauna and maid service. Located in the best neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, such as Puerto Madero, Downtown , Recoleta, Palermo and Las Cañitas, they have nothing to envy a five star hotel suite.

Fortunately, today you can search for a short term rental apartment online before arriving to Buenos Aires. These sites will show you pictures of the apartments, have a complete property description, check the equipment and the availability calendar, locate it in a map and learn about its surroundings.

Weekly rates start at around USD 250 and the monthly rates at USD 550! All included.

Usually studios are for 2 guests and bigger apartments with one or two bedrooms are for 3 or more guests. Some apartments have lovely patios or terraces with barbecues where you can grill your own Argentine “asado”. This is definitely the best way to take better contact with the Buenos Aires way of life.

Every apartment is strategically located, close to commercial areas, touristic points, and universities, so if you come to Buenos Aires as a tourist, a student or a business executive there is surely a furnished apartment that will suit you best.

Land and Property Investing in a Rising Market

Argentina is one of the most varied and interesting places to be found on the globe. A melting pot of nationalities populated the country in the 19th century and they have left indelible marks on the country from the English Cricket Club at Buenos Aires, the Welsh in Patagonia, the Italian Chic and Parisian construction of the Capital city and the organizational structure taken from the Spanish.

As many people know, Argentina defaulted on its foreign debt in 2001 and one of the effects was that the banks were closed and people could not get access to their money. It was finally decided that the old order had to go, the politicians that had taken Argentina to this point and for once it wasn’t the military who took the action. New President Kirchner has steadied the ship despite the forced devaluation of the peso which previously traded at 1:1 with the dollar, is now at 3:1. Therefore life became a lot more expensive for Argentinians who earn in Pesos as everything from real estate through to cars became triple their previous price. Things that are priced in pesos remained the same apart from the relatively high inflation rate which is now being dealt with.

Investors therefore had and are having a field day. Suddenly there was a fire sale of properties because people couldn’t get their money from the banks and prime real estate was being sold off at bargain basement prices. Those who came in taking both the long and medium term view are currently enjoying increases in their investments of over 200% compared with the prices in 2001-2.

Buenos Aires real estate is booming with increase reported of up to 37% in the year to October 2006 and the rest of the country is enjoying the boom that the trickle down effect creates from Buenos Aires.

The Mendoza province is the huge wine growing area and is considered a paradise on Earth by some. Patagonia is enjoying a tourist boom to what they describe as a huge Lake District. Argentinians now take their beach holidays in Las Grutas where the warm waters lap up giving it a large advantage over other areas at these latitudes and Argentina shares part of the Iguazu Falls, the most spectacular waterfalls in the World probably which is now being developed for tourism.

The country is fantastic, the culture is a melting pot, part Italian, part Spanish in its majority but there is a part of Patagonia where Welsh is spoken by a whole community, the remnants of a business in cattle and sheep from many years ago (Even the place names are in Welsh)

The economy of the country is basically sound now that the old order and corruption have been eased out of power. It is based on land, lots of it, meat, wines, cash crops, and possibly most importantly oil. The area around Neuquen is a huge oil field meaning that petrol in Argentina is around 30p per litre (if you can afford a car which of course are priced in dollars)

Valencia Property S.L is offering a tract of land by the beach in Las Grutas in Rio Negro province. It is the perfect place to construct holiday villas or small hotels as demand is multiplying in the area year on year and looks to continue that way for the medium term future. This is the area that middle class Argentinians are flocking to in their droves for investment and holidays since they cannot now afford the USA. The plots we are selling are priced at between 12 and 13500 Euros and building on the plots will be relatively inexpensive too with a 100m2 house expected to be built for around 40000 Euros.

Business Cycles – The Stages of Business Growth

Business Cycles – The Stages of Business Growth

  • Initiation

There can be varied reasons for a business start-up but the main values in running the business are of those who are the founders. We can see that company exhibits the main skills of the founder in its spirits, for example, if the founder is an engineer, he will emphasize in production rather than sales and marketing which should not be neglected. Main efforts are centered on the acceptability of the product in the market. If the owner can provide the demands of business i.e. time, energy, and finances, he/she can move to the second stage. Otherwise, he/she will have to wind up their business as there is limited time for the company to stay at one stage. Here the main focus changes to establish the company and earn profits. With this financial push company will need to formalize the system and start record keeping, an unskilled manager can’t handle this all. After this, there will be demand for change in administration’s style because of increased activity in his business.

  • Growth

The moment a company moves forward to the expansion stage it should be able to earn a decent profit, but that profit will not go to the owner. This is because it will be invested in the business in order to assist in the capital demands of the company. It demands time for coordinating functional managerial activities; it demands complicated organizational structure mainly focusing on functional lines. Now research and development will be established in order to increase product range. At the start, it will be on a smaller scale because of lack of capital. If management continues changing its environment, the company can stay at this stage for some time. In many cases, owners sell their business at this stage for substantial benefits. The increase of new markets and product will demand more finances. This stage faces larger competitors who deal the situation by putting stress on emerging firm; this stress can be in the form of very low prices as well. At this stage over trading is the biggest threat if not handled properly it can lead the business to demise. As the company grows it need to extend geographical trading and distribution, so ‘supervised supervision’ will be required at this stage. If new competitors enter the market and the owner wants to maintain his shares, he will have to put more capital by himself or attract some partners.

  • Expansion

This stage demands proper management reports, budget control, and dispersed authority, along with a formal accounting system. Basic adaptation at this stage will be to systemic administrative roles which are keys to survival through this stage. The expansion stage demands stable long term funds which will be important and if there is not plan for partners then this stage must be considered right now. Although retained earnings are major forms of funds but dividends are the special attraction to the investors; at this stage these are inevitable. Now company’s track record will help in gaining long term loans but the company will have to give security in the form of assets.

  • Maturity

At this stage main issues are about expense control, search for growth opportunities and productivity. The direction of authority can be towards functional lines or it is reorganized with production lines. As there is severe price competition, therefore, productions department should be the center of focus and authorities should emphasize on innovative moves towards betterment.

Now basic investments are in sales and marketing struggles and maintenance and plant up gradation. The company grows up to a level that income is sufficient to tackle this but occasionally more long term load prove to be a support. At this level firm may limit its operations or move on, normally acquisition in order to become a large corporation.

Whatever the situation, managers are pressured by shareholders to safeguard the future of the firm. However, the time of great trial falls to the founder. He built his business with great effort and sacrifices, and now he is asked to give it away.

Innovating The Business Product Quality

There are a large number of products available today. The first and foremost thing which comes to our mind, as a customer, is the quality of a product which we would like to purchase. We will be going through some tips which could be implemented as a producer to produce the best quality product in the market.

Keep it Simple – Producer’s creation should be such that it appeals to the customers by its simplicity and ease of use or handling. Customers do not want a product to be complicated or difficult to use. Some products get rejected even after getting shortlisted by the customer. This happens during a trial session.

  • Tryout the product yourself

Think about the situation where you yourself are not satisfied with the product. It is hence, the most important and ignored part that producers should mind while trying to improve the quality of their product. The producer should indeed be pleased with the quality of his produce. Sometimes quality control is not enough.

  • Product needs to be Unique

Everyone craves to be different; similarly, everyone also want their products to be different from others. As a producer your vision should be to provide variety to your customer. Variety can be of colors, shapes, sizes and whatnot!

  • Never Target a particular group

A product can be meant for a particular group of people when produced, but as it comes out in the stores, there can be different types of buyers depending on their personal requirements. People can buy a product for their friends or family, for gifting it to somebody, or simply for any use other than expected!

Focus on the product’s Usefulness

Even if your product is of different use for each customer, but for improving your product quality, you need to focus on how your product can be of a better use for the general customer base. A person by and large buys those products which are more worthwhile.

  • Avoid Comparing your product

Most of the producers compare their product with those of their competitors’. Comparisons mostly lead to producing similar attributes as others. Customer tends to gets confused when he comes across such a situation where he has to choose between two similar products. Especially when he is out to buy a product for the very first time.

Always remember the rule of customer satisfaction and to promptly redress their grievances. Producing good quality product can be a challenging task, but maintaining and improving the quality at regular intervals of time can be even more challenging. As a producer, one needs to have that zeal for delivering a great performing product on a regular basis.

Start-up Restaurant With No Money

For some, owning a restaurant is a dream come true. Though restaurants are tons of work, they can also offer immediate gratification for those that love the work. Starting a restaurant is hard enough if you have the money to open it in the first place. But for those that have no money to back it up, the task at hand can take a little bit of creativity and tons of good hard work.

Start a Restaurant with No Money

Write a business plan. The plan should include the amount of money that you’ll need to make weekly, monthly and yearly. It should include your overhead, or what it costs to run the restaurant. This includes paying staff, rent, utilities, cost of food and advertising.

Apply for a small business loan. Use the information that you gathered from writing the business plan to apply for enough money. Go to a bank with which you have done business in the past. Take time to fill out all the paperwork and include all the information requested. You should already have be knowledgeable of your income in order to fill out the forms.

Approach friends and family who you think might be interested in helping you. Present them with your business plan. Assign an amount of interest that you are willing to pay for the loan.

Approach a wealthy friend to be your partner in the business. Tell him that when the restaurant gets off the ground you’ll pay him a certain amount in order to become a partner in the business.

Advertise cheaply. Once you have established loans to open the restaurant, it’s time to advertise–and the cheapest way to do that is online. Build a website by either enlisting the help of a website-designing friend or by building your own using inexpensive website design software. Start a free blog about the restaurant. Send out specials about your restaurant via email throughout the week. Use Facebook, MySpace and Twitter to advertise your restaurant.

Starting a Costume Rental Business

If you’re looking for a great business idea you may want to start a costume rental shop. This type of business rents costumes to individuals and community groups for special events, performances, holidays and festivals. While you will need a small amount of start-up financing to start a costume rental business, you will find that this type of company can become profitable very quickly. Best of all, this type of business can be fun for the right person, such a one who enjoys working in the entertainment or hospitality industry.

Research what type of costumes are needed in your area. Look to local events calendars and community organizations to see what type of costumes you could provide. For example, if your town hosts an annual Renaissance Fair or Formal Gala, you could market your business to patrons of these events.

Find a location. Most people won’t feel comfortable renting costumes from your house. To make your business look professional, rent a small storefront. Look for an area that can support costume rental fees. Make sure your shop has plenty of foot traffic or access to parking to make it a convenient place for customers to shop.

Purchase a supply of costumes from wholesale manufacturers. Start with the basics, like gorilla suits, clown costumes, Santa Claus outfits and the like. Add more specialized suits as demand becomes apparent.

Consider making some of your own costumes or adding to those you purchase to make them unique. This could save you money and also help your shop stand out. If you can’t sew, find a seamstress who can translate your ideas to cloth.

Add a selection of wigs, shoes and theatrical makeup to your store. Customers will purchase these items outright, adding to your bottom line.

Market your business to theatrical groups, community organizations and the public. Set up booths at area fairs and special events to let those who are most interested in costumes know about your new business.

Food Vendor Business

Have you ever dreamed of starting your own food-selling business? You can accomplish your goal by setting up a food vendor cart or table outdoors or at indoor special events. This way you will save money on overhead while sharing your culinary skills with the people in your community.

Purchase supplies. You can find discounted food items at local wholesale clubs like Costco or BJs, or buy in bulk at meat packing districts in your town. Don’t forget to purchase plenty of condiments, cooking oil, seasonings, drinks and eating supplies for your customers, including forks, knives, spoons, handy wipes, cups and napkins.

Go to your local courthouse or town administration building and apply for a food vending permit. You cannot sell your food out on the street or to the general public without a permit. The only exception is when you are on your own property or at an approved event. If your state has a sales tax, you are required to collect sales tax on your food sales as well, so you will be required to register as a business so the state can collect sales tax from you. This is a very important step—if you’re caught selling food without a permit you may face hefty fines and possibly have your food and equipment confiscated.

Purchase a vending cart or table. Consider how you will transport your cart when you’re making this choice. Buy a food vending cart with wheels and a trailer hookup so you can attach it to your van or truck and haul it away at the end of a selling day. You can also just buy four or more folding tables to set up in a square if you will be vending food at a festival or fair.

Purchase additional equipment that you will need to cook and heat up food, including propane tanks, pots and pans, grills and utensils.

Design a large colorful poster with your business name, logo, phone number and motto, and hang it on your food cart. Use a large banner sign if you’ll be setting up a food table. Create an easy to read price list for your customers that shows all the cooked food you have available for sale. Your price list can be your poster—just include the name of your business at the top.

Enlist help. Hire one or two more people to help you cook food, handle customers and deal with money. It’s almost impossible to take care of all of these duties on your own.

Purchase a cash register and/or a safe to store money received while vending your food. Some food vendors choose to keep cash on their person rather than storing it in a register. Sign up for a merchant account if you want to give customers the option of using a credit card; there are cell phone merchant accounts available that will allow you to process a credit card using your cellular phone.

Pick a location. If outdoors, this will be one of the most difficult steps, because there is usually a lot of competition in high-traffic outdoor vending locations for spots to sell food. Scour popular areas in your town to find ideal locations for your food vending cart or table. Bring your list of locations to your town administration building to ask if the locations are OK for setting up a vending station. Scan the events listings in your towns and call coordinators to ask about vending fees for each event.

How To Find Your Own Style

Each of us have our own unique  sense of style. Our clothes can sometimes reflect our personality. This is the reason why most of us love to play around with different pieces. Some fashion styles are categorized in different types. It may be a mix of one or more styles but what makes it special is because these styles are worn uniquely by you.

HOW TO FIND YOUR OWN STYLE

1. Bohemian Goddess 

If you are more of a laid-back kind of girl, and has a knack for putting together unique pieces in a flash, then you may be a bohemian goddess.

Key pieces: tie-dye shirts, floppy hats, batik prints, unique accessories

Put it Together: You can mix and match boho-inspired items with classic garments such as jeans, vests, and cotton tees. You can even add a unique flavor to a neutral outfit with some funky, vintage looking accessories and other beaded details.

2. The Classic Chic

Your love for classic cuts, clean lines and elaborate detailing determines your affinity for elegant and chic styles.

Key Pieces: Classic pieces that never go out of style, statement jewelry, sophisticated bags

Put it Together: Give some glam to your outfits by mixing floral or animal print patterns. If you love wearing subtle prints, pair them with crisp neutral pieces such as a peach top and a white blazer. Finish the look with gold accessories and a big pair of sunglasses.

3. The Head Turning Avant Garde

If you have a fearless approach to fashion, you may have an avante garde kind of style. You are more inclined on fashionable, up and coming pieces and you are never scared to take risks.

Key Pieces: Black pieces layered with eye catching materials

Put It Together: Try to choose conversation-starter pieces and combine them with your classic black garments. Who says that you can’t be as avante-garde as Lady Gaga?

4. The Whimsical Fairy

Fun, creative and flirty are the three words to describe the whimsical style. Retro pieces are given a fashionable revival thanks to your confident, and effortless stride.

Key pieces: Vintage accessories, quirky prints, playful, girly pieces

Put it Together: Give a retro-ish dress a modern twist by pairing it with classic accessories and a trendy bag.

Fashion isn’t all about following the rules by the book. It’s all about letting yourself loose and express your own style. Remember that there is a fine line between tacky and tasteful. Try to experiment with different styles and you will eventually discover one that is uniquely yours.

Natural Beauty Cosmetics – Enhance Your Natural Beauty

Nothing can enhance a woman’s face, beautiful or otherwise, better than the right make-up. Today, the beauty industry is a billion dollar business and the choice of Beauty Cosmetics available, is mind-blogging to say the least. While buying them, one has to keep certain things in mind. Some of them are the skin type, allergic reaction to a certain product if any, night or day wear etc.

How to buy Beauty Cosmetics

Before buying beauty products one must keep in mind to buy not the right beauty product, but the one most ideal for them. Buying them is a very individualistic exercise, as what suits one may not suit another. Hence, one should do some basic ground work before venturing into the shopping exercise. Cosmetics include facial make-up, perfumes, Nail-polishes and so on. People prefer buying branded cosmetics as there is always the safety issue to be considered.

Preference for Natural beauty cosmetics

Today, women are better informed than their counterparts a few years ago. They know the harm some ingredients used in manufacturing cosmetics cause; for e.g. lead. Similarly, there is also a growing sentiment among them to go for products that have not been tested on animals. Herbal and Natural Beauty Cosmetics have become the order of the day for many women. Natural cosmetics are popular these days as their long term benefits are preferred over the short term benefits that could be potentially harmful in the future. Natural beauty products use a lot of natural ingredients as opposed to synthetic ones.

Buying Beauty Cosmetics Online

Nothing can beat buying branded cosmetics from the comfort of one’s home. And if they are available at better or discounted rates, there is nothing quite like it. Nowadays, online beauty products sites offer a variety of cosmetics at the click of a mouse. One can chose the ones they like and need and order the same. The payment is made securely and the package is delivered to the door-step in a matter of just a few days. Nothing can beat that surely.

Urban women have gained financial independence in ways, not even thought of earlier. They like to be groomed and look their absolute best at all times. They have changed the way they shop for their cosmetics. These days it is just a matter of using a mouse and a keyboard and a credit card. The rest as they say is her story.

Fashion Style – Granny Chic to Look Young

After the vintage style and oldies taken over the trend and catwalks of the world, looks like an old woman style is ready to look young again. Several years ago, if someone is wearing a 70s dress, people will surely look with weird stare and called it ‘ancient’. However, once catwalks bring back this style. The word ‘ancient’ was turned into ‘vintage’ and the whole world affected by this trend.

Dress small floral knee-length, with belts and sunglasses are the same width back to be a trend. Even those who have quite fashionable mother can smile because of the clothes, and accessories appear to be their mother’s vintage. This time, the world’s hottest catwalks present various granny-chic styles as a trend for autumn and winter 2010.

What is distinctive of a grandmother? Glasses, it helps the already blurred vision. You will need oldies-style glasses to look like grandma; one with width and thick-rimmed, black or brown. Furthermore, you will need a tote bag. Tote bag with floral or other vintage motif and soft colors, not too flashy style, is well suited to accompany your style. Choose a tote bag which has a simple model and still the typical old style. The more modern design would eliminate the impression of granny chic.

It’s time to play with the skirt that is suitable for this style. You can choose a classic pencil skirt or A-line skirt with natural colors. All these high-waist skirt are seldom subordinate to the elderly who designed hipster. Complete with beautiful small belt to give the chic impression. Like the skirt, select a blouse with soft colors, simple design and high cut collar. Say good bye to the deep V-neck collar and piece of other modifications. You can choose the accented modern blouse in the arm.

Finally, choose accessories that are not too big, just small to medium sized; simple but beautiful enough to be admired! Avoid contemporary and modern design, of course. Remember, a grandmother usually does not use an excessive amount of accessories. A pair of earrings, one to two rings, necklaces and bracelets and a watch is enough. You can be stylish with granny chic if you are creative in mix and match.

How to Have Your Own Unique Fashion Style

Are you ready to break out and find your very own fashion style? Everyone has his or her own unique fashion sense. Don’t just blindly follow the trends set by someone else. Here are some tips for you to help you search for the fashion that speaks of who you are.

First and foremost, to be able to make a fashion statement about yourself, it is important that you figure out your personality. Are you the fun, quirky type, the serious “brainy” type, or the athletic type? There are many different types of personalities, and discovering who you are will most definitely pave the way to discovering your own fashion style.

Go through your closet and separate the clothes you want to keep and those that you don’t. Check out the clothes you want to keep because they may help you in choosing the style that you want to have. At this point, you can either create a style that is based on your current clothes, or create one that is entirely new.

Be creative! Do not just think of fashion based on the norm or the current trend. Remember you’re making a fashion statement about yourself, so be brave and try different match-ups even if your friends may think it’s strange. Remember that not everything you try would be perfect. But at least you can learn from those errors and then improve because of them.

Choose colors and patterns that you think represent who you are. Having a signature color or pattern might make things easier for you when choosing your style or fashion. Use different accessories to compliment the clothes you wear. A simple accessory such as a bandana can define your style if you use it the right way.

It’s also not a bad idea to study different styles, not to copy them but to get different ideas from different stylists. Watch the fashion of celebrities, read fashion magazines and walk around the mall and check out the latest styles on sale. This will help you choose which styles you like and those you don’t.

Remember that choosing a style is not just about being different. Choosing your own type of fashion should be about being comfortable and being confident in wearing your clothes. If you feel embarrassed or awkward wearing something, then that style is probably something you should avoid.

Finding a unique style that is just for you needs a lot of time, a lot of sweat, and probably a lot of misses. But if you have the will and the determination, you can certainly achieve that goal. Coming up with your own fashion style may not be a piece of cake, but it will definitely be worth the effort.

Beauty Cosmetics For Men and Women

Cosmetics and make up items has been utilizing from many centuries by men and women all around the world. Among all, Egyptians are the more well-known people today to wear these beauty and cosmetics items. The Persian citizens also made wonderful offerings towards history of makeup. The significance of cosmetics has increased as lots of people would like to stay young and attractive. Cosmetics in the industry are readily available in distinct form like lotions, lipsticks, fragrances etc. Cosmetics like skin care creams and hair gels are used on a everyday basis by both ladies and males. Cosmetic creams serve as a pores and skin food for hard, dry and chapped skin color. Cosmetics assist to enhance our appearance and make us feel far more confident.

Cosmetics are something applied to your face or human body as a way to enhance your appearance. Makeup consists of anything from cold cream to lipstick. Makeup is often a branch of cosmetics which has to do with beautifying in the face. Throughout the early many years on the 20th century, makeup became fashionable while in the United States and Europe. Cosmetics and makeup in ancient times stood for symbolism in the class of your family. Throughout the years, men and women have put to use makeup for different factors. Cosmetics are any product that you simply put on your face or physique with the purpose of creating your appearance better, and perhaps creating your skin tone healthier.

Usually most of us use makeup as a way to think far well about ourselves. Women and men, both use makeup. Girls use far more of color makeup that guys. Anytime you invest in a cosmetic, read the label of ingredients carefully. If you ever know about any of them that may lead to dermatitis in you, do not use that merchandise. Some form of ingredients might cause skin problems that may possibly take a long time to disappear after treatment. Save yourself from skin tone inflammations and colored patches and blisters. Other use of make up which has just recently surfaced is as sun protection. This is a fantastic development mainly because before sun protection and make up were pretty difficult to blend together.

Advertisers have spent millions of dollars recently to industry the planet of hygiene and skin tone care to adult males. More and much more gentlemen are finding the joy in these items and the benefit from caring for the pores and skin and system with some additional pampering and attention. It is obvious that more marketing dollars are now being spent for the male gender. A trip to any grocery or department store will reveal entire lines of shampoos and hair color kits. When men come to feel that something has been produced just for them they’re additional likely to buy it, specifically the unmarried males that do not currently live with a woman. With so several items thrown at you day-to-day, it is usually challenging to understand where to begin. When a person shops on the internet, you have no chance to try for the color so it is usually a fine notion to know the points that you simply are trying to find. You will find on the net shops close to the globe that provide totally free shipping. It is a very good idea if you can find the correct item using a wonderful price.

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Expressing Your Fashion Style

To express your personal style the more variety you have to choose from the better you can express yourself. Your wardrobe should have a lot of variety to express different moods. When a new season comes go through your wardrobe and see what you don’t wear or does not fit you any more. Remove that item from you wardrobe and give it away to charity. Make notes and see what is missing from your closet. Put as much details as possible so that when you are shopping next time you will know what you need to buy. But Don’t throw away items just because you have brought a new similar item, such as a pair of jeans. You can keep both of them and wear them differently. It could be that one pair of jeans is slightly shorter and can not be worn with heels so wear that one with your flats and get the new pair of jeans slightly longer so that you can wear it with heels.

Putting on a new outfit or any clothing item is a great feeling. But it’s a shame that feeling is not long with us. Soon that new item will become like the rest of items in our wardrobe. The trick here is to buy versatile pieces of clothing so that you can reinvent them again and again. Take for example a white shirt dress and especially using the power of layering, you can wear that in many ways, such as wear it with a pair of jeans for a relaxed look either opened under a t-shirt or closed. Wear it with some tailored trousers for a more formal event. You can also get many looks with a shorter white shirt. It can be worn with a long sparkly skirt for a night out or worn under your trouser or skirt suit for work. So buying versatile pieces is the best and least expensive way to express your style.

Turquoise and 2017 Fashion Styles

Turquoise has been described as the 2017 color of the year by Pantone. To be exact it is the color Pantone 15- 5519. And Pantone describes this turquoise as an inviting, luminous hue. There is something yes truly illuminating about turquoise. ‘Illuminating’ seems to be the right word. Turquoise doesn’t sparkle. Instead it illuminates and it is a color that can seduce too. But ‘seduce’ may not be the right word either. Scarlet reds and maybe blacks seduce but turquoise, a color of the sea, a color linked to Caribbean, Mediterranean waters calms and excites and illuminates rather than seduces.

Other words used by pantone for turquoise are tranquil and exciting. These might seem contradictory terms. But the effect of color is contradictory and actually there might be nothing contradictory at all in calling a color, both exciting and tranquil.

Still how can one truly describe the effect of colors? But the effect of colors is important. In fashion, colors can be used to electrify and excite e.g if turquoise was used with a metallic look or a certain type of fabric eg Mesh. Or it can be calming like with cotton. Anyway let’s not dig a hole.

Effects are important. The right effect is important for fashion. So turquoise should be used to create the right fashion effect and for 2017, Pantone is perhaps saying that turquoise is a color that can do this for 2017.

Turquoise is just a color and it needs to be used to create the right looks, and the right look needs the right fabric, style/design and also perhaps the right patterns, where the turquoise hue is part of a pattern e.g. with whites and other lighter hues or perhaps with more powerful hues like red.

One can perhaps imagine turquoise as having that loose effect, loose feel, effect. Perhaps it can be described as a color suitable for casual wear but to be more exact, it is a color for Spring and Summer where the casual look is important. It is suitable for the world of the beach or clubs, the afternoons where the sun shines and people rid themselves of coats and heavy jackets and color is important.

Imagine the drapy turquoise chemise dress, the drapy turquoise t-shirt and there the more fitted looks, the tight looks which accent the body, And turquoise is the sea color, the color of beaches, spring/ summer afternoons. It can be used for the popular gypsy dresses and the popular 70s styles which are in vogue. And turquoise is of course an illuminating color which means too that it is a powerful color so a simple turquoise chemise dress might be the right look. One might need subtle designs. Turquoise is a pure, simple color but powerful too and one might just need another color/hue for contrast e.g. white. And then there is black which combined with turquoise can create an edgy, stylish look. And one can move into the world of prints but here the effect of turquoise might be lost when combined with reds, purples, violets. Imagine the turquoise dress, shirt worn on the beach. One doesn’t really need a red, purple contrast hue with it. There is also turquoise combined with a green hue. Yes turquoise can be merged with other colors/hues to create interesting prints but this is really another area completely.

Turquoise can be used for different social functions/gatherings/parties. There are obviously different types of occasions. There is the beach party, the afternoon gathering too and turquoise is ‘there for that’. Turquoise can be imagined as a ‘t-shirt’ color, a dress color but it can be used as the skirt color in a separate look with another hue for the top area.

So turquoise can be used to create the cool warrior look. Think of a cool warrior walking along the sea. Actually a cool ‘girl’ warrior look because in the fashion world, warriors are usually women. The cool warrior wears the cool turquoise. And the warrior wears a dress but there is an edginess about the look. It is an edgy warrior look. Maybe there is a short turquoise chemise dress. The shoulders are shown and there is a purity about the turquoise here The emphasis is on the effect turquoise brings across. Yes turquoise is one color that can be used to style apparel for the months of sun; the seasons of sun, spring and summer.

Interview With Chryssanthi Sahar – Middle Eastern and Greek Tsifteteli Dance Expert

Dev – Chryssanthi Sahar you are a performer and teacher of Middle Eastern and Greek Tsifteteli dancing, Can you tell us what is the basic difference between those two styles.

Chryssanthi Sahar – The main difference between Middle Eastern, or better to say Egyptian belly dance and Greek Tsifteteli is the repertory of movements and rhythms. Egyptian belly dance (Raqs Sharqi/Raqs Baladi), has a huge repertory of movements and the Arabian music has a big variation of rhythms, as well as complex musical arrangements. Greek Tsifteteli has, opposite to it, a small repertory of movements, rather simple musical arrangements and uses only 3 rhythms (Maqsoum, Malfouf and Chifteteli), but actually one of them (Maqsoum) is the most popular one for Tsifteteli songs. This is because Tsifteteli is rather a social than a stage dance and because it derives from the Egyptian Raqs Sharqi. So you find almost all Tsifteteli movements in the Egyptian belly dance, but not the other way around. The same is valid for the music. Tsifteteli uses Arabian rhythms, but only 3 of them, while in Raqs Sharqi you find at least 10 popular rhythms (there exist lot more than 10 Arabian rhythms, but the rhythms used for the belly dancing are about 10).

So concluding one could tell, that Greek Tsifteteli is like a summary of Egyptian Raqs Sharqi.

Dev – In Turkey there is a folk dance called Tsifteteli, which does not represent any form of oriental dance, while Greek Tsifteteli is more oriental based Are these two styles related in any way?

Chryssanthi Sahar – The Turkish folk dance is called Ciftetelli (pronounced Tchiftetelli). Actually it is the same name like Tsifteteli, the name is Turkish and means “two strings”, but since Greeks don’t have the loud “tch”, they pronounce it as “ts”. This folk dance has elements of belly dance and most probably the Greek Tsifteteli is somehow related to it, because the Greeks of Smyrna (today Izmir) who mainly brought the Tsifteteli to Greece after been driven away from their city because of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1922, seem to have known this Turkish dance called Ciftetelli. One evidence of this is the fact that the costumes of the first Greek belly dancers (most of who were Greeks from Smyrna), looked very much like the costumes women wore when dancing the Turkish Ciftetelli (little hat with veil on the head, harem-pants. )

Dev – Your first public performance as an Oriental dancer was in 1986. Twenty two years later what are the differences you see in the general publics attitude towards the dance, specifically in Europe.

Chryssanthi Sahar – I cannot talk about the entire European continent, because Europe has so many different countries with different perceptions of the belly dance. I can talk only about Germany, where I live and work and where I started performing 26 years ago, as well as a bit about my home country Greece, where I have been performing once in a while over the last 2 years. In Germany there is a huge progress in the general public’s attitude towards belly dance. 22 years ago many people didn’t know what belly dance is and they thought of it rather as a kind of erotic animation than an art form. This has definitely changed, mainly thanks to the engagement of many German (and non German) belly dancers, who did their best to clarify things about belly dancing. The pioneer in this matter was a lady called Dietlinde Karkoutli, who did a huge promotional work to change the image of belly dancing in the public in the 80s and early 90s. This wonderful lady unfortunately passed away in the mid 90s, but she definitely opened the way for other dancers to present the real nature of this dance to the public. In many places of Germany belly dance is acknowledged an art form and it is even presented in theatres. The good thing is, that since belly dance has become very known to the wider public, many people learned to differentiate between skilful professional dancers and not so skilful amateurs and the good dancers are nowadays appreciated. For example many Germans who would hire a belly dancer for an event, would rather pay higher fee and hire a good dancer than pay less and hire a bad dancer. Also age and body type are not relevant, if the dancer is really good. Of course there are still places in Germany (especially in Eastern Germany), where belly dance is still not so popular and kind of misunderstood, but in most areas the dance has got its place in the cultural life. In my city Heidelberg the dance is well accepted as an art form, my shows in the theatre are always sold out and I have become a firm part of the cultural life of the city

As about Greece, the dancers still have to fight against prejudices, especially because until recently most belly dancers didn’t have high skills, since the dance was mainly performed in the Bouzoukia clubs (Greek style night clubs) and it was kind of erotic animation. In this case it was not important if the dancer was good or not, it was more important how she looked like and how old she was. Unfortunately this situation still exists, but there are some serious, skilled dancers all over Greece who present belly dance as an art for a wider public and somehow the image of the dance has started changing, slowly but surely.

Dev – One of the main aspects of Belly Dance is looked down upon and often misinterpreted by the general public as being sexual in some way, In current years we have seen many dancers especially non ethnic dancers who try hard to diffuse the sensuality from the dance, As an instructor and teacher how do you tackle this complex situation with your students.

Chryssanthi Sahar – Actually we don’t have this kind of problem here in the area of Germany where I live, perform and teach. As I mentioned in my last answer, belly dance has been accepted as an art form in most parts of Germany, so the erotic aspect is not really relevant. You would hardly find some Germans (except if they come from villages, or maybe from the Eastern part of the country where belly dance is not so popular yet) who would mistake belly dance for erotic animation. The point is, since Germany is a country with open and tolerant attitude towards sexuality, you can find different kinds of entertainment who are very directly erotic (like peep shows, strip shows or even sex shows on stage) and there is no reason for the Germans to disguise erotic entertainment as dance or other kind of art. A German who wants to watch an erotic show, would probably be very disappointed with belly dance presented as such. I think the problem of mistake dance ( especially belly dance) with erotic animation exists rather in countries with more prudish or restricted sexual moral. The truth is, that in Germany we have a completely different problem about the image of the dance: it is rather mistaken for a dilettante dance practiced by frustrated housewives, because there are quite many ladies of that kind who unfortunately have no skills at all, but want to present themselves as professional dancers, although they are bloody amateurs. So what I am mainly fighting against is THIS kind of wrong image and not the erotic thing, which is irrelevant here

Dev – Do you think in the present day situation oriental dance could be a tool to a better understanding and help cross barriers for Western people and vice versa.

Chryssanthi Sahar – I am not sure. What is sure, is that Westerners who deal with Oriental Dance definitely start getting more interested in Middle Eastern culture in general, but I don’t know how Oriental Dance would be a tool for people from Middle East to understand the Western culture better. The only Middle Easterners who would be interested in that, are maybe musicians who work with Western belly dancers or Oriental dancers from Middle East who work and teach in Western countries.

As about the Westerners, dealing with Middle Eastern cultures can bring a deeper understanding about them, but it can also bring some disillusioning. Some of the dancers have very unrealistic and romantic ideas about Middle East, but the more they deal with it, the more they see that their imagination and the reality are falling apart. For example, a common problem is that many Western women who start learning belly dance don’t realise that belly dancers have a quite bad reputation and bad social status in many Middle Eastern countries and they are quite shocked when they start realising this. I think this is a reason why some dancers turn then away from the original Middle Eastern belly dance and dedicate themselves to Western belly dance styles (like Tribal, Gothic, Tribal Fusion etc.).

Concluding I still would say that I am not sure about the role of Oriental Dance for the cross cultural understanding.

Dev – You are involved with the CID (Conseil International de la Danse) which is a sister organisation of UNESCO, What is the goal of CID and how does a dancer benefit by being a member of this organisation.

Chryssanthi Sahar – The goal of CID is to bring dancers of all genres and from all over the world together and to establish dances of all kinds as art forms. So there are not only professional dancers of the established artistic dance genres who can become members of CID and present their work, but also dancers of genres who are not recognized everywhere in the world as art forms yet (like for example belly dance, salsa, tango Argentino, etc.), as well as amateur dancers, who dance rather folklore than artistic dance forms.

The benefits of being a member of CID are various: one very important thing is the possibility to participate the CID congresses for a very low fee (60€), where high class dancers from all over the world teach workshops, give lectures and perform on stage. One can participate actively, but also passively. For a professional dancer it is a great opportunity to present the own work in front of an international expert audience, as well as to get to know other professional dancers of all possible genres and styles.

Another benefit is the fun you have during such congresses and friendships you start with people from all over the world

Destination Review – Buenos Aires, Argentina

Often referred to as the Europe of South America, Argentina is one of those countries that draws you in and makes you feel right at home amongst its friendly people, beautiful scenery and relaxed way of life.

A country I could easily call home, Argentina captured my heart upon arrival in the vibrant city of Buenos Aires, and anyone who enjoys great food, excellent wine, music, dancing, and socialising will appreciate what this grand city has to offer.

Buenos Aires combines a mishmash of old colonial-style buildings with modern condominiums and as each barrio of the city offers something that little bit different, it caters for every taste. Fine dining along Puerto Madero, catching a local football match at the Boca Stadium, watching the Tango danced outside pavement cafes in El Caminito, and searching for antiques in San Telmo are just some of the things one can to fill up a day.

Argentina is easily accessible from major European and US airports, and if you start your journey in Buenos Aires, you will be perfectly placed to discover the rest of the country. The bus system is comfortable, reliable and affordable, and you can get to virtually any other city in the country from this bustling hub.

20 years ago, Argentina was an expensive place to visit, but with today’s exchange rate international currencies such as Euros, Pounds and Dollars go a very long way. Eating out is cheap, beers and wines are plentiful, and as the hotels are generally cheaper than those at home are, one can stay longer and see more of the country.

As a “Peronista”, my highlight of Buenos Aires would have to be the Casa Rosada. A magnificent building in the centre of town, you can almost taste the history that surrounds this rose coloured structure, and I guarantee you will feel an urge to sing “Don’t cry for me Argentina” when you see it (thank Madonna for that one)!

The food in BS AS is as varied as the people that live there. Breakfast usually consists of hot coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, and a basket of freshly baked medialunas, a sweet croissant shaped pastry. Lunch, for us at least, generally consists of a stone baked pizza with fresh mozzarella or pasta, and for dinner, it has to be Parrillada!

Just walking around this amazing city is enough for me, and if you take the time to learn a few words of Spanish before you arrive, you will have plenty of opportunities to chat with the locals, and maybe make some new Porteño friends in this cosmopolitan metropolis. Buenos Aires – Me Encanta!

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A Culture of Benidorm

Mention Benidorm and with it, by implication, the concepts of package tourism, hotel buffets, British bars with one euro a pint lager, northern English Working Men’s Club turns imitating something neither themselves nor their audience have ever been, lobster-impersonating spit-burnt sunbathers and fried English breakfasts with the bacon already coated in tomato sauce, and I would bet that very few punters would auto-associate the phrase “cultural experience”. More likely, perhaps, might be the image of over-revelled revellers spewing out from the industrial-sized, garish and scruffy discos along the strip at nine in the morning, seated wavering by the roadside amidst the split, cracked and squashed plastic waste which these no doubt environmentally aware individuals seem to generate by the ton.

Benidorm, certainly, is not Spain. Like many other popular mass tourism resorts around the world, it has an identity which is quite apart from its host country or hinterland. Benidorm is not Spain in the same way, perhaps, that Kuta is not Bali, Nice not France, nor Acapulco Mexico. On the same scale, Blackpool is Britain! In effect these places are melting pots of imported identity, usually with a strong flavour of the largest group of visitors. In the case of Benidorm, of course, it’s the Brits. A fortnight in Benidorm can offer about as much exposure to Spanish culture as the experience of September lights in Blackpool informed the visitor of the Lancashire cotton industry. (The past tense is highly relevant here.) Equally, Benidorm juxtaposed with the word “culture” might vie for a definition of “oxymoron”, alongside German with humour, Ireland with culinary and British with honest. (I may borrow here and there from our working Men’s Club humour tradition, but perhaps employing a consistently different skin colour!)

Benidorm is known for its seven kilometres of perfectly kept, clean beaches, its year round tourism, its millions of visitors. It has fine places to eat in its old town and environs. It has nightlife, theme parks and five star golf resorts. It is surrounded by mountains, has an island nature reserve. And in a European sense, the area as a whole is truly cosmopolitan and increasingly sophisticated.

So when my wife and I came here about five years ago to claim a November base while we examined the possibility of a life-changing shift from work-a-day pressures, our prime goal was to investigate whether, near this tourism megalith, there might be space for a small rental business, aimed at those who might crave proximity to the iniquitous den whilst also wanting to retain a suburban distance from the rasping motorbikes, the hen and stag parties, the beachfront Harley Davidson pubs, the plastic glass discos and even the line dancing. Well we found our place and took the plunge. What we had not bargained for was “the culture”.

In that first month, as late-booking package tourists ourselves, we were making our first visit to mainland Spain for 24 years and we were pleased to find an odd festivity or two. Having lived here for a few years we now know, of course, that it’s actually quite hard to avoid them! The Benidorm town band – symphonic bands are the Valencian tradition, we now know – did a free concert in the salubrious Benidorm Palace, a place whose usual show apes the Folies Bergeres. The local choral society did the Venusburg music from Tannhauser alongside original compositions for the band and some populist offerings. We sought and found a sub-set of the band doing a jazz and Latino evening at the CAM Bank auditorium where, another night, there was a chamber music recital. Just along the road at the Cultural Centre in Alfaz del Pi there was an American pianist who had studied in Barcelona playing Montsalvatge.
Similarly, we found a soprano giving opera arias in Calpe.

And so we bought the place and we were owners of a house with two apartments, a beautiful Mediterranean garden, proximity to the tourist hub, but still very much a part of its own town, a place with outstanding local services. Our aim was limited, pragmatic and clear. After some fifty-six years of unbroken professional employment between us, we decided that a change was potentially better than a rest. We had already lived and worked in five countries and had extended experience of several others, but we had also concluded that pounds of flesh weigh the same the world over. Though we had gained a few of these over the years, having them occasionally demanded and extracted ran the risk of their being ripped from critical areas. Over the years the pay had been good, the pressure significant and, overall, the rewards worth the pain. But times change, lives change, priorities change and people reach fifty.

This was the time to do something different, to trade income for quality. We bought a house in La Nucia, just five kilometres from Benidorm’s beaches, the town’s skyscraper hotels visible from our front balcony. Our aim was to establish our own niche business renting the two bedroom garden apartment while we lived a modest if sometimes indulgent life on the first floor. We have now been doing this for more than four years, have an established clientele and basically have achieved what we wanted to achieve. We will not get rich from the trade. That was never our goal. From the start we wanted to offer simple, clean, affordable accommodation at a reasonable price, modelling our pitch on the kind of place middle class backpackers like ourselves would find both satisfying and a little surprising at the price. And it has worked well. What we had not bargained for was the “culture”.

For some sixteen of our thirty or so post-graduation years we had lived in London. We were vultures of the cultural type whenever energy levels ran to it. We were friends of the English National Opera during its ‘power house’ years. I was a teacher and, during school holidays, used to walk from Balham to central London for the lunchtime concerts, St James’s in Piccadilly being my favourite venue. Then we moved to Brunei and then to the United Arab Emirates. In Brunei we were members of the Music Society and helped to organise concerts. In Abu Dhabi, cultural events were very much in the purview of the diplomatic and private sector people, and there was and remains a vibrant cultural life in the city which, after all, is the nation’s capital. So we were able to attend good quality cultural events, comprising mainly music, theatre and visual arts, in both places. And then we came to Spain.

Our initial visit had suggested that there was more going on in this sphere than a browse through the package tour brochures might suggest. But if I was to relate that in the last eight months we have been to four operas, four full orchestral concerts, ten chamber music recitals, five local festivities, an international film festival, uncountable art exhibitions and goodness knows what else – and furthermore if I were to qualify this by saying that not once did we have to travel more than ten kilometres from home, would you associate this with Benidorm and the Costa Blanca? And, if you are mildly surprised by what I have just claimed, it would probably further surprise you to learn that in addition to this, Benidorm itself is building a new cultural centre, that ten kilometres down the road the new Villajoyosa Cultural Centre is about to open and that this year La Nucia, our home town, itself opened a 600-seat concert hall and a 3000-seat outside auditorium.

Perhaps I need to re-state how local is my claim. About thirty kilometres down the road from Benidorm is Alicante, a regional centre with a nineteenth century theatre presenting a full programme of ballet, drama and opera. About a hundred and forty kilometres north is Valencia, where the programme of the spectacular new Reina Sofia opera house is coordinated with those of New York’s Met and London’s Covent Garden. What I have described excludes those venues and only includes what can be found within ten kilometres of where we live, within ten kilometres of Benidorm, a cultural paradise.

You may have guessed that we are very keen on music, my wife and I. But we are also keen on theatre, dance, painting and the arts in general. We don’t tend to go to pop festivals, but if we did we have those locally as well.

Why not check out the listings for La Nucia, Altea, Benidorm, Alfaz del Pi, Villajoyosa and Finestrat? Choose your time of year and you could attend a superb musical event every night of your stay and I guarantee that the performance standard will be as good as anywhere. And if you can also take in Joachim Palomares and his ensemble playing their arrangements of Piazzolla tangos, or Altea’s April opera week or La Nucia’s Les Nits festival, you are in for a real treat. And when Benidorm’s new cultural centre is open, imagine glossy package tour brochures offering deals inclusive of stalls seats for Puccini or a performance of Steve Reich’s Drumming! Followed, of course, by a one euro pint of lager, bacon and eggs and a northern comic, perhaps.

Buenos Aires – Tango With Luxury

Buenos Aires is a bright city of melancholia set to a dance-step; a tango town of once-fabulous wealth and now of nostalgic mansions gone to delicious decrepitude; the city of jackbooted generals and the Mothers of the Disappeared, of Maradona and even, briefly, of Madonna.

There’s more to Buenos Aires than memories of tarts, tango and generalissimos. This city of Belle Epoque elegance and endlessly wide avenues is like no other Latin American capital. From the red, pink and blue houses of Caminita to the centre’s grandiose edifices, it is a city of fascinations.

Where to stay in Buenos Aires

In addition to its hip-swinging culture, the city is also host to a slew of high-end luxury hotels to make your stay as decadent as possible.

Alvear Palace Hotel: The most elegant and comfortable luxury hotel in Buenos Aires. It glories in its Louis XIV and Empire style – all marble, gilt and elaborate stucco. The suites on the ninth and tenth floors have the best views over the Parks and the River Plate.

The Mansion: A century-old palace with period rooms and suites. The eleventh and twelfth floors of the main building allow faraway views of the madness of the Avenida 9 de Julio (Avenue of the 9th July), Buenos Aires’ massive, multi-laned main street, with obelisk commemorating the city’s 400 years.

Faena Hotel: Rock-star glamour finds its home at uber-designer Philippe Stark’s edgy take on luxury hotels, all done up in piano black and red leather.

Two to Tango

They say the dance reflects the soul of Argentina: melancholy, wistful, erotic. It originated in working-class neighbourhoods, such as San Telmo itself, as a rough and ready musical style often accompanied by obscene lyrics. Later it was refined, and embraced, by all of Argentina. There’s nothing better than to linger on the street, talking to the artists and watching the tango dancers: Buenos Aires at its brilliant best.

Cafe Dorrego: As an entre to this most theatrical of dances, head for the Sunday morning antiques market in the bohemian barrio of San Telmo, where dancers perform in front of the Cafe on Plaza Dorrego. Watch as dancers twirl and pout in the shadows of evening, accompanied by the haunting banoneon concertina and the raspy voices of elderly men.

Confiteria Ideal: If you’re misguided enough to think you can do it too, join in on an afternoon milonga – an up-tempo style of tango and a participatory event, where you can take lessons.

Gran Cafe Tortoni: Established in 1858, the robust European cafe culture revels in this beloved venue, undoubtedly the granddaddy of old-school Euro-style, with its red velvet curtains, stained glass ceilings and waiters in black suits. The cafe is only one of the dozens of locations that host the annual Tango Festival; ten days filled with music, dancing and even cinematic competitions.

Buenos Aires – A Bargain Hunters Dream!

Not very long ago the currency of Buenos Aires was tied to the US dollar. While this fabulous city offered great panache and European flair, it had spiraling inflation and was as pricey to visit as any other major metropolis. That all changed in 2002 when the Argentine Peso was liberated to float on its own and experienced a significant devaluation. In the five years since, while the Peso has slowly gained in value, Argentina has become the darling of jet set travelers flocking to bargain shop in trendy boutiques filled with European designer goods, dine in world class restaurants and learn to Tango.

So what makes this city such a magnet for those in the know? Quite simply, the city sizzles! Often called the Paris of South America, the streets hum with the exuberance of a culture that has embraced its uniqueness and has rediscovered its youthful vitality. Buenos Aires enjoys a vibrant cafe society where
artisans mold works of vibrant color, musicians old and young revel in the music of the street, and nothing seems more important than gathering with friends to discuss the news of the day.

Fashioned by immigrants from Europe, the architecture of Buenos Aires evokes feelings of Rome, Paris and Barcelona. The city is home to numerous landscaped parks, a world famous opera house, well respected museums, magnificent churches and broad avenues filled with trendy shops selling designer goods at a fraction of their Euro prices. Tango bars and techno clubs abound to make Buenos Aires one of the great nightlife cities of the world. And do not leave without purchasing some of their world famous custom crafted leather goods.

So let’s review 7 reasons why you should hop on a plane to Buenos Aires as soon as you can:

1)It is a fun, sophisticated city with museums galore, cafes for dining, boutiques for shopping, on streets that could have been lifted straight from France or Spain.

2) The tremendously good rate of exchange means all your activities and purchases will be a terrific value.

3) Because Argentina is in the southern hemisphere, they have summer when we are having winter. January, February and March see temperatures averaging 80 degrees. Likewise, when we’re hot and steamy in summer, they are having temps in the 60’s.

4) Shopping is divine, with supple leathers and designer clothes being the best bargain.

5) Dining is world class. Try their famous Argentinean Beef at incredible prices.

6) The nightlife positively sizzles to a Tango beat.

7) For all you sports fans, no one loves their football (soccer) more than Argentines! Soccer, polo and horse racing are much loved as well and draw huge crowds. You may want to bring along your golf clubs, as BA is home to several exquisite golf courses.

All this and great prices too – incredible! Where else can you find five star hotels for only $200 a night; or gourmet dinners at upscale restaurants for only $25 per person? It’s time to move Buenos Aires to the top of your MUST SEE list!

The Cheapest Awesome Places to Travel

International travel doesn’t need to be expensive. In fact, if you pick your destination properly you’ll be able to live at a much higher standard of living than you can Stateside without spending any more money than you’d shell out for an average weekend of forgettable nonsense at your usual low-rent haunts.

If you’re in the mood for some low-cost travelling that won’t leave you broke, consider the following awesome cheap places to visit.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin has held the title as Europe’s premier low-cost capital for nearly two decades now. Despite being the capital city of the world’s third largest industrial power, the fall of the wall back in the late 1980’s set the stage for an affordable international party hub. During Berlin’s half-century of schism the Soviets just couldn’t stop building unnecessary new neighborhoods and utility buildings in the East and that means to this day East Berlin continues to stretch out in a nearly endless sprawl of city blocks slowly being transformed by artists, immigrants, and anyone with a dream and a lack of capital to make it happen elsewhere. Cheap housing = cheap everything, and it’s easy to have a truly world-class night on the town for $30 USD (€23 euros, £18.50 British pounds) or less.

Porto, Portugal

Lisbon is cheap, but Porto puts Portugal’s capital to shame, especially if you go during the off-season. You can find great lodging in Porto for $10-$15 (€8-€12, £4.50-£9) a night, an exceptional lunch of seafood caught right outside town for $5 and massive dinners of grilled octopus, heaps of salt cod and all the vegetables and buttered potatoes you can eat for no more than $10 a head. Cheap tours of the local Port cellars (complete with buzz-inducing tastings), trips up the Douro river to visit some of the world’s most gorgeous vineyards and the natural beauty of the city’s rocky terrain and expansive beach make Porto one of Europe’s hidden treasures.

Greece

It’s important to note, very quickly, that economic instability in safe, developed countries is every budget traveller’s dream. The bigger a country’s economic crisis the cheaper and cheaper it becomes to spend some quality time exploring its shores. This is true both when it comes to daily living and to actually reaching countries suffering from hard times, as locales taking a beating tend to bend over backwards on airfare to get people to continue to visit them (i.e. Japan post-Tsunami).

It isn’t exploitative to live it up in a country like Greece while they’re experiencing some economic turmoil. In fact, there are few more positive actions you can take for these countries than travelling to them and spending a bunch of money on local products and services. Helping to stimulate local economies while living like (polite) royalty is the definition of a win-win.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

A perennial favorite, Buenos Aires (a.k.a. BsAs) is home to more travellers and ex-pats than any other city in South America, and for good reason. Modern BsAs is the result of a mix of about a half-dozen different European and South American cultures meaning the food, architecture, attitude, and vibe of the city strikes the right chord between the foreign and the familiar. Want another positive benefit of the city’s mixed pedigree? You’ll be able to find just about anything you could ever want there, including more than enough English speakers to find your way around. Add on other positives including the city’s love of dance and a resident daily diet consisting mainly of gelato (ice cream) and the world’s best grass-fed beef and BsAs would be a steal at any price. The fact you’ll get the equivalent worth of $4 for every one US dollar you spend makes visiting BsAs a no-brainer for the wise budget-conscious traveller.

Central America

As great as Buenos Aires may be when you’re looking to live large on the cheap, the city does have one daunting downside that might prevent you from living up your tango-dancing dreams. That is the fact BsAs sits at the absolute end of the world, down at the southern part of the South American continent. It might as well be a short boat ride from the glaciers of the South Pole. BsAs’ distance means it can be a bit expensive to fly to, and shelling out $1,000-$2,000 US for a round trip ticket won’t strike the average individual as a cheap trip, no matter how cost-effective the end destination may be.

But Panama, in addition to other relatively stable and safe Central American countries like Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras are cheap to enjoy and cheap to fly to, even from the northern United States. A two-second search on Kayak just revealed I could purchase a round-trip ticket from New York City to Panama City, leaving next week no less, for $301. Unlike Costa Rica and Guatemala, Panama remains a hidden treasure, offering inexpensive amenities and entertainment, endless natural beauty, and a decidedly welcome lack of tourists.

Thailand

If there’s one budget travel destination more famous and well-trafficked than Buenos Aires it’s Thailand. Bangkok has long been considered the destination for a traveller to live like a little prince without breaking the bank, providing easy access to every sensual pleasure you could ever want at a bargain. And when I say every sensual pleasure I do mean every. Great local food for under $1 US a plate, hour-long massages on the beach for $12 US, and yes, whatever sex you could ever dream of. You don’t need to seek out sexual experiences when you visit Bangkok to have a good time, not in the least, but it’s impossible to mention Thailand’s best-known destination without at least tipping your hat to its status as the world capital of sex tourism.

If you’re interested in a lower-key, but still inexpensive and traveller-friendly corner of Thailand, you should visit Chiang Mai. At Chiang Mai you’ll find an abundance of travellers and ex-pats more interested in living a less wild expression of the good life while still getting an authentically Thai experience.

And if Thailand is too popular for your desires, nearby Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia offer their own unique low-cost traveller-friendly pleasures.

Think North American

You don’t always need to travel overseas to open yourself up to new experiences, to regain a little perspective on your life and to rewire your perspective on the world. I currently live in North America and while I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to various far-off corners of the world, I’ve stumbled upon some of my most significant revelations and enjoyed some of my most life-changing experiences travelling in this continent.

The warmth of a bank teller in Knoxville, Tennessee, once dissolved my encrusted cynicism as powerfully as the kindness of strangers located half the world away. Visiting the West Coast for a couple months was a bigger culture shock than visiting Berlin, and spending a few days at my friend’s cabin in Central Pennsylvania always acts as a powerful system-reset and never costs me more than an all-inclusive $60 (€48 euros, £27 pounds).

International travel does offer its own unique set of circumstance and environmental cues that sets off personal growth in a manner domestic travel doesn’t always achieve, but don’t assume you need to jet away to get the break from everyday life you crave.