We visited Turkey in September / October 2009 and, apart from the return flights, Veni Vidi Turkey made all the arrangements to suit our timetable and budget, including private tours with guides and drivers, hotels and internal flights and transfers. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip, which took in Istanbul, Cappadocia, Pamukkale, classical sites in the Aegean area and Gallipoli. Everything worked very well and we had excellent service from Mr Bulent Albayrak and all of our guides. It was a truly memorable holiday and we would have no hesitation in returning to Turkey or in recommending Veni Vidi to anyone. Malcolm & Erica Lee, England
For a day-excursion out of Nice, take the train up in to the mountains. The train is tiny and runs on a single track from central Nice to Digne. We actually jumped off half-way in Entrevaux, about one hour from Nice. This is a walled medieval town with a fort that you can walk up to (entry fee €3) – it's a bit of a climb, but the view is well worth it. The town and the fort were deserted when we went in March – but probably gets busy in summer. If you go out of season, I recommend to bring a picnic as there might not be any cafes open.
If you don't mind travelling a bit further, Digne, which is ment to be beautiful, is three hours from Nice. Just make sure you check the time table – the trains only run about six times per day.
While Paris is wonderful, if you want to spend a day in the countryside you can consider either Champagne or the Loire Valley. From Montparnasse to Tours it's 55 mins via TGV, so you can be ready to explore one or two chateaus in a day and return in the evening.
There are buses to take you to the chateaus from Tours Gare and cost around 49 euros per person for a full-day tour- you'll visit Chenonceau, Amboise then Chambord which is quite a lot in one day.
While I would recommend a full day for each of these attractions, if you haven't the time it's a great day for the whole family and no need to drive or hire a car. Lunch is usually at Amboise which has lovely cafes, nothing really really gastronomic but good for lunch.
You can probably organise tickets for the chateaux pick-up via SNCF (gare) or www.tourevasion.com for more Loire Valley activities
Paris-Tours 55 mins via TGV
It's a small boat operator in Lisbon with intimate boats carrying up to 7 people and very cheap. Lovely music on board and superb service by the skipper.
We tried a Old Lisbon tour and it was very nice. Then the guy suggested us to have dinner in the Atira-te ao Rio restaurant in the south side of Lisbon near the bridge and we went on the boat and had a great meal and came back on the boat to Alcantara. If you don't take the tour, you should try the restaurant and you can go by boat as well.
www.marlinboattours.com, +351 919275509. Departures from Alcantara Docs and Belem, but better to call first.
Stay at La Coralina. The owner is most hospitable, there's a baby monkey onsite, it's home to a fun deck, and the views can't be beat.
Book a catamaran tour with Catamaran Tours: the captain will take good care of you, the snorkeling is excellent, and you'll most likely spot dolphins.
Book Erwin for a personal tour: Erwin has the best stories in the world. Plus he knows the islands and their inhabitants inside and out.
A small fishing village close to Gijon, Aviles and Oviedo. A variety of seafood restaurants next to a small fishing port. Village has a long tradition of fishing and maintains its traditions very much alive. Bagpipe festivals, celtic concerts and seafood all at very reasonable prices.
Fly in on a low cost easyJet or Air Berlin daily to OVD airport, 30 minutes away by car.
Forget harbour cruises and the ferry to Lamma, hop in a cab to Sai Kung, HK's seaside getaway. Enjoy seafood on the waterfront or ideally hire a sedate sanpan/racy speedboat to ferry you out along the bay, past the country park (HK isn't all urban jungle!) to the beautiful islands off the east coast. Sail back at sunset, so romantic !
Sai Kung. Hong Kong New Territories. East coast. If you don't want to take a taxi, nearest MTR is Hang Hau/Choi Hung plus bus 101/1a) wander along Sai Kung waterfront and the sanpan hawkers will find you!
It's not just the home of the National Motor Museum. The place also has a walled garden, a palace house and a ruined abbey. Alongside the ruins is the active parish church. There is a beautiful footpath that runs between the lake at the palace house and the monorail station at the motor museum.
Oh yes, and a bunch of cars. Some really old ones, and some sporty ones, and some two wheelers (i.e. motorcycles), and some movie ones (James Bond cars!), and firetrucks, and old buses, and...well there's a lot. I think most of them are in running order, too. You can take a ride in an original London double-decker! Its exhaust stinks: do they use yesterday's fish batter oil to run the thing!?
The palace is a large mansion, some of which is open to poke around. The guides are very knowledgeable and helpful. The lord and lady still live in the place. Sometimes, you can sneak a look at their private apartments. In spring, the gardens and paths are awash with daffodils!
If you gift-aid your admission, then you get free re-entry to the motor museum (but not the rest of the place - although that is discounted).
Photos and a description of our visits are on our website: www.reeves-hall.net/kids-outings/beaulieu-motor-museum/
Beaulieu Enterprises Ltd
John Montagu Building
Beaulieu, Brockenhurst, Hampshire
+44 (0) 1590 612345
A footpath leading up to a large hill that overlooks the city and has a mizmaze on top of it.
St Catherine’s Hill Wildlife Reserve
OS Map no. 185
Grid reference: SU 484 276
+44 (0) 1489 774400
Info from my visit there is on my website at www.reeves-hall.net/kids-outings/winchester-mizmaze/
Aix-les-Bains is the second spa town of France (after Dax) full of beautiful sights such as splendid hotels, a casino, museums and a baroque church. It may be a small town but it has a lot more to see than you first think.
First, explore the town centre, than walk to the Petit and Grand Ports on Lac du Bourget and finally climb up the mountain above Lac du Bourget in Tresserve for breathtaking views of the lake (the lake is prettier on the Aix-les-Bains side than on the practically deserted western shore at Le Bourget) and the town, and then climb back down to the town centre via Tresserve.
Aix-les-Bains is 9 miles north of Chambéry on the train line between Chambéry and Lyon/Annecy.
It's only a 20 minute train ride from Chambéry - don't just pass through it (like so many tourists do) on the way to Annecy or Geneva as you're missing out on a great place
Get the train from Exeter to Teignmouth, walk from the station to the seafront, and walk towards the ness, along the beach, around from the channel to the mouth of the river Teign, then walk along the river beach - you will be opposite Shaldon, and see Dartmoor up the River Teign.
Get the Teignmouth ferry to Shaldon, walk up to the ness, go through the smuggler's tunnel on to the beach. Return to Teignmouth on the ferry, and continue walking along the river beach, you will pass a row of original fisherman's cottages, and come to the Ship Inn, buy a pint and watch the sun setting over the moors.
Venice is my most favourite city in the entire world, but when you are fed up of being jostled and barged into, when you become invisible to the ocean liner troupe let loose in the city for a few hours, where can you go?
Take the vaporetto or ferry from the Fondamente Nouve stop on Venice’s northern shore and travel 10km north-west across the lagoon to the tiny, windswept island of Torcello.
Deep channels run between the mud-banks and are marked by bricole, wooden poles lashed together and emerging from the water. The channels are busy with all sorts of craft - rushing water taxis, vaporetto ploughing along full of city workers, huge dredgers keeping channels clear and fishermen looking for shrimp.
The landscape opens out as you enter the lagoon. It’s often misty, often mysterious. The sky and water merge. Brine laden winds caress you. All at once the quiet of the lagoon becomes unearthly. A feeling of deep relaxation is within you, which can be strangely energising.
This silent island was the first in the lagoon to be settled by Veneti after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and Germanic invasion. It was virtually impregnable and became an attractive refuge for merchants and tradesmen. The population once exceeded 20,000 but by the 12th century the lagoon had silted up and Torcello became inaccessible and malarial. The inhabitants left, and literally took their fine residences with them, leaving a littering of architectural debris.
Just a handful of residents remain in this tranquil backwater. The two churches of Torcello stand in magnificent isolation around the overgrown piazza - the church of Santa Fosca alongside the oldest building in the lagoon, the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta founded in the 7th century. Its exterior is devoid of splendour, yet within are Byzantine treasures - the 13th century Madonna in the apse and the west wall decorated with a huge 12th century mosaic depicting the Last Judgement. The massive stone shutters of the windows turning on huge rings of stone cause the whole building to resemble a retreat from the enemy rather than a house of God.
The roughly crafted campanile is to be climbed in the early evening, up strangely sloping ramps. The throat catching beauty and loneliness of the lagoon becomes apparent. John Ruskin called it, “a waste of wild sea moor of a lurid ashen grey”. The mudflats and marshes are choked. The silted-up waterways are now homes to herons and egrets. Trees, reeds and broom grow over what was once a settlement. With imagination, this place is timeless. Just rest and sigh. Enjoy this place with an open mind and a willingness to get lost.
As you speed back to Venice for your evening meal, take a moment, turn, and catch that ‘Turneresque’ light. Watch the buildings of the island melt into the lagoon.
Torcello is the perfect antidote to glamorous Venice. There’s time for quiet contemplation, which too often nowadays can elude you in Serenissima.
I am a South African (from Cape Town) who has just toured Johannesburg with my UK friend for five days. We used Jozi Experience. We lived in private houses, went to private parties, personalised Soweto/cultural tours. We felt part of the local community, not tourists.
77, 4th Road, Kew. Johannesburg
Tel: +27 11 4400109
Starting from Anakena beach, it is possible to walk around the base of Mount Terevaka to Hanga Roa. It is a five-six hour walk and takes in a large number of ahus and moai, all with well preserved village remains and caves nearby.
The walk is ignored by 90% of tourists and is thus devoid of people most of the time - leaving the sites empty and silent. Perfect for getting to know the soul of the island. Take at least two big bottles of water.
Walk west along the coast from Anakena parking lot. And keep walking.
Beautiful spot with great walks on the east around Place Fell. Take a trip on the Ullswater Steamers to get a good sense of the lake and, if you're feeling adventurous, head up Hevellyn from Patterdale or Glenridding.
What a fantastic booklet. It gives so much information about making the most of your holiday and doing something worthwhile.
We did loads of the stuff recommended in it and it helped us meet local people and ensure that our money was going to worthwhile places.
For example: teaching locals to read English (Brother Mouse in Luang Prabang - fantastic place!).
If you fancy a massage, go to the Red Cross in Luang Prabang. It's not luxury - none of your scented candles here - but a great massage and all the money goes to the Red Cross. The brave can even donate blood.
Stay Another Day Laos is available in guesthouses, travel agents, bars, restaurants - all over the place.
The best time to visit is between November and March as the temperature will be between 27* - 35* and sunny so it’s the perfect winter sun destination. What also makes it so worthwhile is that it’s incredibly cheap; you can go there for as little as £250 and the most you’re going to pay is £350/400.
You can either stay in the tourist resorts along the coast or the capital, Banjul, but either way, as the country is so small, to get to either place shouldn’t take any more than 20 minutes to get to by taxi. They have specific tourist taxis, which the tour operators recommend, however I caught numerous ‘normal’ taxis and these are completely fine (and cheaper).
The tour operators also recommend that you do all of their activities through them, and while I would certainly recommend some of these, especially the roots tour, which travels up the Gambia river by boat and goes to where the slaves were captured and held before being shipped of to the Americas - I would befriend the locals and get them to take you out; this is what my friends and I did, as there are licensed juice sellers on the beach by the hotel.
After buying juice from them we decided the best way to get to know the Gambia is by letting people that live there show us so we arranged for two locals to take four of us out to dinner in a place they recommended. We also wanted to go on a safari so we got them to organise a Jeep trip to a safari park. We obviously paid for transportation and food and anything else but this would still be cheaper than doing it through the tour operator and it is helping out the local economy.
People in the Gambia are some of the friendliest you would ever meet, in fact an expression I often heard was ‘it’s nice to be nice’, and at no point did I ever feel remotely threatened, even at police stops everyone was extremely courteous.
As an example of how safe it is my friends and I decided to go to a bar about three miles away from our hotel so we decided to go there by foot alone along the beach, by the time we got there it was pitch black so walking along the beach was quite an adventure and when we got to the bar the owner gave us a free lift home.
When you go to the markets you would obviously have to haggle with the price but this is to be expected and is part of the experience but the market sellers are never overly forceful or aggressive.
I had the lucky experience of being on the beach on my last night when the president threw a party to celebrate him being re-elected, so there were local tribes dancing and playing music with lasers and fireworks, it was such a great parting experience. To sum up my experience and the Gambia itself, in order to go into the cordoned-off arena where the President and performers were, I merely asked a soldier if I could go into the area and the solider allowed me to, that is how nice and friendly the people of the Gambia are.
Tourists to Egypt hear much of Akhenaten, the probable father of Tutankhamun, who tried to replace worship of the traditional Egyptian gods with a sort of monotheism devoted to the sun-disk.
Objects from his reign form one of the most spectacular displays in the Cairo Museum but few ever visit his short lived capital city at Tell el-Amarna (which gives its name to the period and the artistic style of the times). Little remains of the city itself (although the setting is highly atmospheric) but the tombs of the king and his courtiers in the cliffs and wadis to the east are among the finest in the country, and mercifully free of marauding tourists – I was the only person at the site the day I visited.
A visit requires several hours and is probably best arranged as part of a stop-over in the nearby city of el-Minya (150 miles south of Cairo) which has several comfortable hotels. A military escort is required to travel through this part of the country although there is no real threat – it’s more like getting the VIP treatment.
There are actually a handful of modern engineering wonders scattered around Egypt, for fans of that sort of thing.
The Aswan High Dam and the Bond-villain-style ‘false mountain’ built for the relocated Abu Simbel temples are two obvious examples.
Another is this ‘Friendship Bridge’, built with largely Japanese money, spanning the Suez Canal and carrying the road link to the Sinai peninsula. Our coach from Port Said to Ismailia (going alongside the canal) took a diversion just to go over the bridge, turn right around and come back across.
The main span over the river is only a few hundred metres, but there is a ‘run up’ of almost two kilometres on either side. The bridge looks cool rising out of the desert as you approach and then the crossing gives you – briefly - a chance to look directly out over the length of the Suez Canal.
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