The Horniman Museum is a genuine secret gem in south east London. It takes an effort to find but it is SO worth it.
It's a free museum, packed with all kinds of interesting collections: from anthropology to musical history to all kinds of natural treasures.
There's even an aquarium, and a lovely park to have picnics in, weather permitting.
Take a trip to the depths of non-tube-land south east London and discover a fascinating world.
100 London Rd, Forest Hill, London, SE23 3PQ
Open daily 10.30-17.30pm (except 24-26 Dec)
Entrance to the museum & gardens is free, but there is a charge for the aquarium
Getting there: buses 176, 185, 197, 356, P4 stop outside the museum on London Road
Forest Hill London Overground station is a five-minute walk away.
Google map: bit.ly/Z7bh4d
* Lucy is our Been there local for London. You can read her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/london-local-lucy-mallows.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/LucyRM.jsp
Riverside walk in Santa Eulalia up to the 16th century church on Puig de Missa.
Gentle meandering walk along the riverbank through fields of wildflowers and orange trees. Discover on the way a free irrigation museum with examples of horizontal water wheels and ancient irrigation methods. The climax of the walk takes you up a steep incline to the 16th century church at the top of Puig de Missa with breathtaking views across the Ibiza landscape and out to sea.
Iglesia del Puig de Missa
Plaza de Lepanto, s/n, 07840 Santa Eulària des Riu, Islas Baleares, Spain
+34 971 33 00 72
Google map: bit.ly/12GaS7c
If you get bored of history that's preserved in cabinets or guarded by hawk-eye museum staff, you can get a more hands-on experience at Belchite. Lying about an hour outside Zaragoza, this village came under heavy attack in the Spanish Civil War. It was so greatly damaged villagers decided to abandon it and rebuild about a kilometre away. What's left today is a time capsule of crumbling houses, churches, a clock tower and much more, with loads of little gems to uncover amid the rubble. And best of all there's not a single museum worker around.
This UNESCO heritage city is bursting with history, very important specially since the 16th century.
Alcala de Henares is an university city and there is also many good places for tapas, in most places for less than 3€ you get a drink with a big tapa of your choice.
You can get there in 40min from Atocha Station in Madrid.
Coconut creek is a B&B in Kumarakom back water destination. I stayed there recently with my family and kids and it was the best homestay in Kerala out of all the others we stayed at during our tour of the region. The food was great and it so mouth watering. The Kumarakom lake is just two minutes walk away and a morning walk to the lake is awesome. The country boat cruise through narrow canals was unforgettable. The host is gentle and sincere.
Coconut creek farm and homestay, Near nazareth church, Kumarakom p.o, Kottayam, Kerala, India 686563
Nearest Station:- Kottayam
Nearest Airport :- cochin
Google map: bit.ly/ZTdUFq
This splendid 16th-century building is one of the points on Seville’s UNESCO World Heritage triangle (the other two being the cathedral and the Alcazar) – and the only one with free entry. It was built to house Seville’s main commercial operations during the Golden Age, as more and more merchandise was brought back from the Americas. Since 1785 it has been used to store documents tracing all Spain’s dealings with the New World – some 80 millions of pages of them, on 8km of shelving. While most of the exhibits (maps, posters and documents) are labelled in Spanish, there is a very interesting 15-minute video on show, with English subtitles.
Avenida de la Constitución s/n (no number), 41004 Seville
+34 954 50 05 28
Google map: bit.ly/143kXe2
*Eloise is our Been there local for Seville. You can read her bio here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/seville-local-eloise-horsfield and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/EloiseHorsfield You can also catch her on Twitter at @EloiseHorsefield
Spending 4h in a car with a stranger COULD be awkward, but not with Dave – he is easy company and conversation was never less than absorbing.
We got off to a great start, with an unexpected and rare (for winter) appearance by the Checker. Such a beauty, and we weren’t the only ones who thought so – passers-by would constantly stop to look and take pictures. Disconcerting at first, yet understandable and quite good fun!
As for the food, we placed ourselves in Dave’s capable hands. By continuously gaging our preferences and appetites throughout the tour, he ensured a well-rounded experience. Everything was excellent, from the beautiful Dominican drink Morir Soñando (orange juice, condensed milk, vanilla and ice – it really was as good as it sounds) in Williamsburg, to the moistest and most gorgeous pastrami washed down with Cel-ray Soda at David’s Brisket House in Bed-Stuy. To the flavorsome, spicy doubles and aloo pie at Trini Gul. To the improbable Gargiullo burger (burger, hot beef, onions, cheese, the whole lot dipped in beef broth) at Brennan and Carr in Homecrest. To the chewiest think pizza at New Park Pizza in Queens. I could go on – you get the idea.
We ended the day full and happy and with a greater understanding of New York than any guidebook could give you. Thoroughly recommended, and if/when we visit New York again, we will definitely repeat it.
Just over the river from Lisbon is the Setubal Peninsula. Take a full day there, and head to the Arrabida Natural Park area. It has one of the most beautiful beaches in the region, Portinho da Arrabida, where green hillsides drop dramatically down to white sandy beaches. As it is protected by the curve of the Sado estuary, the water is warmer and much calmer than the Atlantic coast, perfect for sunbathing and swimming. There are also plenty of activities - diving, sea-kayaking, walking - all in the middle of the natural beauty of the Park. Have some of the best seafood in Portugal by detouring for lunch in Setubal, where there are dozens of low key restaurants dotted around local squares, and finally visit the quaint village of Azeitao for a wine-tasting at the Jose Maria de Fonseca quinta, including the regional sweet wine, Muscatel.
Portinho da Arrabida - www.getportugal.com/en/poi-praia-do-portinho-da-arrabida-14032
Outdoor activities - www.vertentenatural.com/index_lang.php
Winetasting - www.jmf.pt
The Convento de Cristo in Tomar is probably one of the most spectacular places in Portugal. founded by the Knights Templar its a beautiful, mysterious and magical place. Just a wonderful place to discover and enjoy. Tomar is a bit of a trek from Lisbon and an overnight stay would be even better.
Just a short train ride from Lisbon’s Cais do Sodre station is Cascais where sun lovers can enjoy the beach but for those seeking something more energetic pick up one of the free bikes for hire at the BiCas scheme located close to the station. You will need to show ID card or passport before heading off on the dedicated 16k cycle path out of town and down the coast. Perhaps purchase a picnic first, store it in the handy bike basket and stop off at Guincho beach, beloved of surfers. On the way back make a short and worthwhile detour to Museum Casa Historias das Paula Rego, Avenida de Republica 300, where entry is free. Here you will dazzled by the largest collection of paintings, drawings and etchings from the vivid imagination of Paula Rego, Portugal’s finest living artist.
Less than an hour from the bustle of Lisbon, you can be in the rolling hills and vineyards of Estremadura, where some of Portugal's top wines are produced. Guided day tours of the vineyards are offered by Vitis-route: the guide owns a vineyard himself, and will take you to his favourite local villages and restaurants around Alenquer and the fishing village of Ericeira.
+351 912 002 847
This tiny, idyllic 16th century Franciscan Monastery in the Sintra Hills was built entirely from natural materials. It becomes part of the surroundings with boulders forming parts of the walls, and the small, sparse monks cells are designed so that it is impossible to lie down at full stretch. The only concession to comfort is the cork lining for some of the walls, hence its name. There are beautiful fountains and fascinating naturally sourced art works.
From Lisbon take the train to Sintra, and then catch the bus 'Turistico Monserrate and Capuchos'.
Estrada dos Capuchos, 2710-405 Sintra, Portugal
+351 219 237 300
Google map: bit.ly/18b8x4p
Less than two hours and €15 away from Florence is the Tuscan hilltop town of Cortona, haloed by Etruscan walls. The setting for the film ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’, Cortona is a jumble of medieval streets, relaxed piazzas and Etruscan history. As well as the absorbing museums in the town, the MAEC (Museum of Etruscan and local history) is well worth a look; one of my favourite places is Le Celle. The tranquil convent, founded by St Francis in the thirteenth century, is reached by a meandering forty-five minute walk through woods and olive groves. Photo opportunities abound along the way, with stunning views over the valley.
Take the train to either Terontola or Camucia, from there a regular bus service runs up to the walled town.
Train times: www.trenitalia.com
Bus times: www.lfi.it
Museum of Etruscan Academy and of the City: www.cortonamaec.org/english/
Piazza Luca Signorelli, 9 52044 Cortona Province of Arezzo, Italy
+39 0575 637235
Le Celle: www.lecelle.it/
Google map: bit.ly/12HqjvA
Take a train or drive the hour or so west of Florence to the beautiful compact city of Lucca. It is virtually car free so perfect for wandering! Climb the Torre Guinigi which has oak trees growing at the top. Hire bikes from piazza Santa Maria del Borgo and join the popular afternoon Lucchesi 'passegiata' around the city's wide ramparts, enjoying views of the botanic gardens and plenty of private gardens too as you cycle around. Enjoy a rich hot chocolate in the Piazza dell' Anfiteatro. The cool narrow streets surrounding the central piazzas of Lucca have a wealth of individual shops selling fashion, food and ice cream, many of them seemingly unchanged over the centuries.
If the fancy takes you make a detour on the way back to the 'Parco di Pinocchio' in Collodi which is an eccentric but somehow endearing homage to the wooden puppet and its author, with garden sculptures of the key characters in the story.
Take a trip to the small town of Vinci, birth place of Leonardo, 35 kilometers west of Florence. The small Museo Leonardiano, sited within the 12th century Castello dei Conti Guidi, is jammed full of the artist’s drawings, designs and a mind boggling array of large and small military, textile and travel inventions.
Take an hour and twenty minutes train trip south to Camucia and catch the local bus or what appears to be the only taxi in the area, up to the ancient Etruscan walled town of Cortona. From Piazza Garibaldi the main street has many bars where you can take a light lunch enjoying the casual atmosphere before walking out of town back past the Piazza Garibaldi into the tree lined avenue of the public park, Giardini Parterre, with magnificent views across the Valdichiana.
At the end of the park turn left up the cypress lined road with wonderful views over the hills and you will come to Bramasole, the big peach coloured house where Frances Mayes wrote Under the Tuscan Sun. Carry on to the village of Torreone and turn left to follow the old roman road through the Porta Montanina back into Cortona. Stroll down through the steep narrow streets to Piazza della Republica just after siesta as the town comes to life and a possible free wine tasting at Enoteca Molesini.
The Piazza buzzes with life early evening and you will find it hard to leave to catch the train from Camucia back to Florence.
Camucia Station, a ten minute bus ride or five minutes by taxi from Cortona.
Google map: bit.ly/12lPJP5
About 90 minutes on the train, this ancient Italian city is much smaller and far less touristy than Florence. Look for the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro, oval in shape because the houses are built into the walls of the Roman amphitheatre. Here in 56BC Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus formed the First Triumvirate (coalition government) to rule Rome. Also look out of the train at the previous stop, Montecatini Terme, to see the modernist Mussolini era station.
Syros is an undiscovered gem of an island. Off the beaten track for mass tourism, this lovely town has so much to offer. Within easy reach of Athens via ferry, and a faster hydrofoil in the summer, it even has its own airport with a daily flight to Athens taking 30 minutes. The main town of Ermoupolis has an attractive harbour with many tavernas on the waterfront. Wander through the little backstreets, see the huge marble square and town hall, walk up the narrow streets and many steps to Ano Syros. Visit the impressive Venetian style houses in Vaporia, built for sea captains. Several beaches are just a bus ride away or hire a moped for the day. The sandy beach at Kini has beachside tavernas, as does Azolimnos, the nearest beach to Ermoupolis. Even in the winter, the island is a buzzing, lively place to visit, as it is the capital of the Cyclades. Well worth a stop over if you are island hopping, sailing, or for a day trip.
Google map: bit.ly/12SImQt
Why leave one crowded tourist honeypot to spend 24 hours in another? Because San Gimignano offers more than towers and tourist tat. It sits amid some of the most beautiful landscapes this planet has to offer, so if you need a break from masterpiece-bagging, lose yourself among the rolling olive groves and vineyards where the hills are dotted with fabulous, tranquil, rustic places to stay: agriturismi. Clusters of ancient farm buildings seemingly assembled by the god of aesthetically pleasing structures-in-stone have been arranged artfully throughout the San Gimignano area. Take your pick from one of the 90 or so near the 'Medieval Manhattan' and you will see this town's best angle - from afar on your poolside veranda with glass of Vernaccia in hand.
An hour by road, San Gimignano is an easy day trip away from Florence. Great website with everything you need to arrange to stay at an Agriturismo in this stunning area: www.sangimignano.com/en/services-and-facilities/accommodation/farmhouses/
Google map: bit.ly/YFa2nc
MONA is Australia's largest private art museum and one of the country's most talked-about cultural institutions. It opened in January 2011 and houses the collection of eccentric Tasmanian millionaire David Walsh.
Carved into the sandstone cliffs of a peninsula in north Hobart, the building alone is worth a visit. It won the National Architecture Award in November 2012.
The collection ranges from antiquities (including several Egyptian mummies) to contemporary art, and visitors are encouraged to give their opinion of the artworks through the interactive audio guide 'the O'.
I loved the design of the building and the way in which visitors are encouraged to interact with the art. MONA lives up to the hype and is one of the most unusual and entertaining art galleries I've ever been too.
The best way to get there is by ferry. The trendy, camouflage print MONA ferry leaves from the docks of Hobart's old town. There is a coffee bar on board and if you go out on deck there are amazing views of Mount Wellington and Hobart's beautiful surroundings.
Adult entry to MONA is $20 and the ferry costs another $20 for a return ticket.
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