Dundee has really changed for the better over the last couple of decades. It has transformed from a down at heel city to a bright, fun place to visit. There's lots to do and see for everyone, shops, museums, theatre and the beach and castle at Broughty Ferry.
You can read my guide to Dundee at
Kids complaining? Don't know where to take them during holidays? The Melbourne Fire Services Museum is a great place to take them. Adults will also find this place of great interest. Located in the old head office of the Melbourne Fire Brigade, the Fire Services Museum Victoria was opened to provide a home and focus for the history of fire fighting services in the Victoria. The Museum includes a large collection of fire related items...fascinating.
Take the kids!
39 Gisborne Street
(Cnr. Gisborne Street and Victoria Parade), East Melbourne
take the tram from Flinders Street railway station.
Open Fridays 9am to 3pm
and Sundays 10am to 4pm.
In Paris with two boys, one our cheerful seven-year-old, the other our stroppy 15-year-old "Little Englander" who was determined to be unimpressed by anything French (it was just a phase - he is now studying international relations at Bradford University's Department of Peace Studies). The Eiffel Tower was "OK", the Pompidou Centre was "torture". Paris in the company of a teenage grump was turning out to have been the trip from hell when we saw the posters for tours of Le Stade de France. Ok, about the last place I would choose out of all the many places and sights in Paris which I may never see, but hey, this was supposed to be a treat for all of us.
We found our way to Le Stade in an uninspiring suburb. It was a comprehensive tour, taking in changing rooms, stands, pitch and presidential box and loads more. It felt like we got to look in every storeroom.
Most of it bored me silly but it was worth every minute to see the transformation in the boy. He was so appreciative that his uplifted mood lasted for the rest of the trip. That afternoon, he sat patiently watching his little brother playing for two hours and more in the childrens' playground in the Luxembourg Gardens. Later on we wandered round the local streets and found a great pizza restaurant. And so home to hotel, all of us content and well fed. It was a special day.
Fantastic online retailer of sun protection kit which I couldn't find in the high street for the kids. Really helpful lady on the phone and I got it really quickly.
Web address is www.beachfactory.com and London phone number 020 8332 7467
Tarbes’ most attractive feature, the Jardin Massey is a 19th century English-style garden located in the heart of town, replete with resplendent peacocks and a mini train for kids. There's also a complete 14th century cloister, a cactus house, a duck lake and an outside cafe. Beside the cafe you'll find a free horse-driven carriage for sight-seeing trips round Tarbes, from July to mid-September. Tarbes isn't renowned for its saving graces, but this park is one of them.
Accessible from Rue Massey, Rue Achille, Rue Andre Fourcade, near the station (Tarbes).
We rented a flat direct from a Venetian Family just 50m from the Rialto Bridge and shopped at the famous markets for fish and vegetables. Wander the backstreets and copy the local habit of eating ciccetti with a glass of prosecco at any time between 11am and 8pm.
For great value food and wine eat at an enoteca in the quiet areas of Castello or San Polo, for luxury arrive in a water taxi at midnight during Carnevale!
We found or flat at www.holiday-rentals.co.uk
Visit Colmar in the region of Alsace for the Christmas markets and pop into Germany for the afternoon! That's what we did with our kids (aged 10 and 8) just before Christmas.
We flew BA to Basel-Mulhouse, hired a car and stayed for 3 nights at the (cheap) Novotel on the edge of Colmar.
The town was breathtakingly decorated and boasted not one but five Christmas markets selling festive produce from decorations to outdoor food and lots of vin chaud. Yes, some of the merchandise was a bit tacky, but the markets were fabulous for families and Christmas lovers like us! The weather was cold but gloriously sunny.
All in all a great little pre-Yuletide trip and a much more cost effective way of getting in the mood than Lapland!
An adventure playground in the trees where you can spend up to 3 hours on rope bridges, cargo nets, death slides and even skateboards high above the ground. Choose your own level of difficulty, or just spend time in the cafe below watching others sway, wobble and teeter above you. Fantastic fun for all the family, and the Chateau de Val is well worth a visit on your return to terra firma.
Chateau de Val, Val, nr Bort-les-Orgues in Correze.
I spent a lot of time on the Cote D'Azur as a student and longed to go back but with a young family thought it would be almost impossible to find somewhere suitable and not too expensive.
This wonderful campsite, which we booked through Keycamp, however, proved just the job.
Not far from the glamour of St Tropez, it has everything for the perfect family holiday - including fab swimming pool and even a children's club. Accommodation was great too - we stayed in a really well equipped mobile home under the shade of a lovely forest.
Mill Green Museum is a fully working watermill (undershot wheel) run by volunteers and housing the local museum for Hatfield, Herts. You can watch milling of organic flour every week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday, and see the waterwheel in action every day (except for Monday when the mill is closed), which my children love to see.
Lots of gears and cogs and flour leaking out. Children can try grinding corn the hard way or the easy way. In the summer there is a small cafe with outdoor seats in the sensory garden. There is also a local collection of bits of history, with things for children to find.
And it's all free.
Herts AL9 5PD
Tel: 01707 271362
Nearest station is Hatfield (Herts) 23 mins from London Kings Cross every 30 mins (Mon-Sat), 1 fast per hour Sundays, plus two slower. Then either a 20 min walk, 5 mins on a bike National Cycle Network route 12 or bus 301 or 603 every 15 mins, 5 mins ride.
By car, follow signs from A1(M) junctions 3 or 4.
Poci's is a typical bustling noisy Italian place full of kids and families enjoying the great food from the list of daily specials, a la carte menu or the menu for kids.
The servings are typically huge, the service prompt and cheery, all at reasonable prices. Enjoy!
417 Hampton St Hampton,
Tel: (03) 9598-7477
Fax: (03) 9521-0893
a few hundred metres north of
I think that the Lido is fantastic. I am not a great swimmer but I loved the sea water pools here. One is really large with volcanic rocks in it. The water is deep enough to swim but you can stand up anywhere in the pool. No nasty big waves appearing to submerge your head. It only costs a couple of pounds to get in and you can stay all day.
You can't miss it on the prom in Puerto de la Cruz
St Andrews is on the east coast of Scotland, in the county of Fife, north of Edinburgh.
It is best known for golf and the university (of which Prince William is a graduate). However you can visit St Andrews Castle, walk on the long golden beach and visit the nearby Neuk of Fife with its quaint fishing villages.
What could be more pleasant than wandering by the side of a canal on a cool but bright summer’s day watching the gondolas go past and doing a bit of window-shopping? Well, at the Venetian you can do all that – okay the coolness is provided by air conditioning and the bright summer’s day by the painted ceiling of blue sky and clouds but, hey, who cares, it’s still lovely.
The Grand Canal shopping arcade at the Venetian is, like many of the other large hotel arcades, worth visiting even if you aren’t in the mood for retail therapy. It’s a really nice place to have a stroll. Now I have never been to Venice so I can’t comment on whether the buildings are authentic but the European style architecture, the walkways, bridges, streetlights and canal make a very pleasant backdrop. If your wallet is itchy then there a shops selling laces, masks and glass as well as shoes, fashion, jewellery etc..
You can also, if you wish, take a gondola ride. Or sit down, sup a cappuccino and get into that Italian style vibe. Bella.
3355 Las Vegas Boulevard
In the Venetian Hotel
To call the Forum shops at Caesar’s a “Shopping Mall” is a bit of an understatement – indeed the same could also be said of Desert Passage at Aladdin and the Canal Shoppes at the Venetian.
As well as approximately 150 shops and restaurants there are also street entertainers, fountains and the “Lost City of Atlantis” animatronics presentation, making it as much an attraction as a mall.
As for the shops, well for fashion devotees there is Gucci, Versace, Armani and Christian Dior (as well as Banana Republic and Gap for the slightly less well-heeled shopper) for children and the child within us there is FAO Schwartz. For foodies, stop at the Cheesecake Factory or Planet Hollywood. And for those who simply like to window-shop and people-watch, well, the Forum is a great place to do both.
3500 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Next to The Mirage and Ceasar's Palace
If your legs are aching with walking in, out and through casinos, you’ve got time to spare and you wouldn’t mind a cheap sightseeing tour of The Strip then I’d suggest hopping on the Las Vegas Strip Trolley.
A replica of an old-style trolley bus the Strip Trolley runs up and down the Strip from the Mandalay Bay in the south to the Stratosphere in the north stopping at various hotels/attractions in between. There is a set fare (exact fare only, no change is given) or extra for for an all day pass. Depending on traffic the Trolleys run every 15 to 20 minutes, weaving in and out of hotel driveways and, if you are lucky enough, with drivers who will give you a running commentary – not about the hotels but rather their feelings about the other drivers on the road.
It’s not the fastest way to travel the Strip but it’s cheap, convenient and, if not too busy, rather pleasant.
Up and down the Strip
Glass flowers in the lobby of the Bellagio lead to real flowers in the Conservatory; a glass domed botanical garden that contains a butterfly cage, trees and floral displays, which are changed seasonally.
When we visited there were a number of flower sculptures in the shape of snails and ladybirds.
It is free to visit, a good place to re-charge your batteries before heading back to the casino or Strip and even if you are no gardener (like me) you’ll still appreciate the colour, variety and beauty of the plants.
Bellagio Hotel, 3600 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
Accordion music, fountains and a cheery greeting of “Bonjour” from the hotel staff and you have to be in Paris. Or do you?! Well, you could also be in the Paris Hotel Las Vegas and, of course, you can’t have Paris without the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas is not quite as tall as the original, in fact it is exactly half the size, however it has been reproduced with a superb eye for detail. An elevator whisks you to the observation deck, 460 feet above the Strip. The lift attendant was extremely friendly and informative. I can’t remember exactly how much he told us it cost to build the tower but it was in the millions of dollars range. However he also told us that they had recouped all the building costs in about six months of opening.
The views across Las Vegas are fantastic, taking in a 360 degree panorama that includes the Strip, the city and the mountains in the distance. In the evening it also allows wonderful views across to the Bellagio fountain display.
The observation deck is quite small (holding about 30 to 40 people at a time) so you may have to queue to get in and, needless to say, it is not for those at all nervous of heights.
Paris, Las Vegas, 3655 S. Las Vegas Blvd
Shark Reef at the Mandalay Bay is a walkthrough aquarium where you get the chance to get up close and personal with a variety of fish and sea creatures including, of course, sharks.
You walk through various themed areas – Jungle, Temple and Shipwreck – guided by both your “passport”, which includes some handy photographs for identifying various species, and an extremely informative audio guide.
Along the way you will see some of what must be some of the most beautiful and bizarre creatures on the planet. Spots, stripes, bright reds, vivacious blues and poster paint yellow catch your eye, as does the range of shapes and sizes from dainty angelfish to huge tarpons and gracefully sleek stingrays. Try and look out for the lookdown, whose flat face makes it seems as if it has just run into a wall, and the magnificent lionfish, a blend of stripes, fans and tendrils that looks like it should be fantasy rather than reality.
Rays swim in a small pool where you're encouraged – under supervision – to touch them. It’s a strange sensation. I thought they would be soft and squashy but instead they felt rather hard and leathery. A nearby display of jellyfish again look like creations of an imagination run wild.
The culmination of the tour is the shipwreck where, in a huge tank, sharks and fish swim round, under and above you. The sharks are amazing creatures, inspiring an almost primeval sense of both fear and respect. Wait for one to swim over your head so you can see its rows of teeth and feel that slight tremor go up your spine.
Education and conservation are two of the aims of the aquarium - it has links to various organisations that promote research and conservation – and I liked the last page of the passport guide that gives some small tips about how people can try and help conserve the environment.
At the Mandalay Bay Hotel, 3950 S. Las Vegas Blvd.
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