LaVialla is a beautiful organic farm estate about 8km north of Arezzo on the SP56, well sign-posted from the village of Castiglion Fibocchi. You can visit the estate and stroll along its paths in the woods, enjoying the most spectacular views. If the weather is fine (and it usually is!) you can enjoy a delicious lunch of cheeses, home made bread, salads and salami; all organically produced on the farm with LaVialla wines at incredibly good prices. All the produce is on sale at the "little shop" and accommodation is provided in converted farm buildings.
If you're anywhere near Kolkata, chances are you're hot, sweaty and dreaming of a dip in some nice cool (and more to the point, clean) water.
Well, a trip to Wet-O-Wild could be exactly what you need. This outdoor water park complete with slides and wave pool provided a fun and refeshing day out for me and three friends.
Because it's India, you have to wear your clothes in the pool - shorts and t-shirts are fine (girls, I wouldn't advise vest tops). The rules say cotton is not allowed, which flummoxed me until I tried to use one of the slides wearing an entirely cotton outfit. I stopped halfway down because of the friction. So, go for man-made materials such as nylon football shirts. These can be hired at the pool if necessary.
Decent food and drink is available on the poolside (dosas, noodles, chaat, tea, coffee etc).
Entry to Nicco Park plus the pool complex is 270 Rs (£3.70) - a bit expensive for India, you might say, but to me being able to cool down like that was priceless. There are theme-park-style rides in Nicco Park too, which require a separate ticket.
Nicco Park, Kolkata
We took a taxi from Sudder Street (near Park Street metro), which cost 160 Rs (£2.20) and took about half an hour.
HM Block, Salt Lake, Kolkata, West Bengal 700106, India
+91 33 2357 8101
Google map: bit.ly/kgE4q2
This cosy restaurant with a clear and varied menu serves up delicious Tibetan and Chinese food.
I went for the Thenthuk veg soup with flat noodles for 65 Rs (95p) and fried vegetable momos (Chinese dumplings), which were the nicest I'd had anywhere. The soup was warming and extremely satisfying - ideal if you're finding Darjeeling a little chilly.
Other options are Bhagthuk soup, which as far as I can tell is the same as Thenthuk but with round noodles, spring rolls, plus lots of other noodle dishes like chop suey and chow mein.
The fresh mango juice I had was mouth-wateringly tasty.
Kunga also does breakfasts, including Tibetan bread for 60 Rs (90p) which is made with eggs and fried, resulting in a texture a bit like doughnuts but less sweet.
One curious item on the menu was 'Tibetan tea (salt and butter)' - but since I didn't order it you'll have to discover it for yourselves!
51 Gandhi Road, Darjeeling
I love heading out to the island to watch this dragon boat regatta. This year, the 23rd Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival expects about 180 to 200 teams, with over 5,000 athletes. The Festival will welcome teams from across Canada, the US, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. This year’s event will showcase vendor displays, on-site workshops, food, and entertainment from the Latin American and Caribbean ethnic backgrounds.
This cheerful eatery in the heart of Kolkata serves delicious dosas and other South Indian specialities for extremely good prices. I knew it was going to be good because it passed the two recommended tests of a) being busy and b) attracting lots of families. I was so impressed that I ended up going almost every day during my week-long stay in Kolkata.
The dosa is a kind of pancake made of fermented rice, stuffed with a spicy potato filling and served with coconut chutney and sambar, a tasty vegetable sauce. At Sarang, the dosa list takes up half the menu, and each costs 30-50 rupees (about 50-70p – normal for India). The price depends on which filling you choose. I particularly liked the ones with green peppers (capsicum) and onion.
Sarang’s chana bhatura (chickpeas served with Indian breads) is also particularly good and the puffed breads they serve with it are very fresh. I’d also recommend their lassis (the Sarang version is flavoured with rose water) and freshly squeezed juices. Lip-smacking stuff!
15/A Jl Nehru Road, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
(opposite KFC and Domino's Pizza)
+91 98 31 936175
Google map: bit.ly/mMrsX1
El Lobo Wolf Park lies in the hills near the spectacular El Torcal National Park in the Malaga region of Andalucia. At the park you can do guided walking tours every day of the year (except Dec 25 and Jan 1) to see packs of four species of wolves who live in a very natural and spacious environment. Eye to eye contact with a wolf (they have marmalade eyes) is an unforgettable experience. In the summer you can reserve a place on a weekend Howl Night where you have a BBQ at sunset then join in howling with the wolves and Daniel, the German who founded the park and lives here. The best time, of course, on full moon nights. Wonderfully run, this is a great place for adult or child for only €9.50 or €6.50. Cafeteria, shop and petting zoo included (not wolves but Vietnamese pigs, hens, Bambi and foxes).
Three of the most appealing campsites we have stayed at have been on the doorstep of the sea. The glory of listening to the waves lapping in the early morning; soaking up the sun setting on the distant horizon is unsurpassable. The individuality of these campsites give them merits which cannot be compared but their all abiding attraction is their proximity to the sea: whether it’s the beauty of undulating hills leading to craggy cliffs culminating in a gentle descent to the Jurassic beach; the wondrous views of a superbly sandy shoreline crowded with lighthouses, surrounded by cultural, historical and culinary delights or blazing sun, crystal clear water and Italian ice-cream on a coastline littered with white sandy coves and jet-setter’s yachts sitting on azure sea. The choice is hard: Tom’s Field, Dorset, Camping Bois-Soleil, St Georges de Didonne, La Baia Blu la Tortuga, Sardinia the result is nothing but magnificent.
Tom's Field Road, Langton Matravers, Swanage, Dorset, BH19 3HN
Google map: bit.ly/m9MI7m
2 avenue de Suzac, 17110 Saint-Georges de Didonne
Google map: bit.ly/mnoTMt
Pineta di Vignola Mare, 07020, Aglientu, Sassari
+39 079 60 22 00
Google map: bit.ly/me2dz6
Everyone loves the book festival, but the kids can suffer from mild cultural overload, so Giffords Circus is a great antidote to all those books. Clowns, horses and lots of old fashioned fun, we go back every year and just love it more and more.
Rutland Water is home to the first ospreys to breed in England for 150 years, and the oldest birds are now 11 years old. They return from Africa in late March and migrate in Autumn. You can walk to hides on the nature reserve to watch ospreys on the nest. There are regular osprey watching cruises on Rutland Water (the largest lowland man-made lake in western Europe) during the summer, and also special events suitable for all ages. Activity in the nest is shown on a large screen in the Lyndon Visitor Centre. There are lots of other fantastic birds to watch from the 27 hides, and there are regular dawn chorus and midnight nightingale walks.
To combine birdwatching with exercise and a really enjoyable activity, hire a tandem or bike and do the 25 mile (40Km) circuit, stopping off at one or more of the birdwatching centres or nature reserves on the way.
Its a great Japanese restaurant close to the Santa Katarina food market. They have a child space called Kodomoo (child in Japanese) which offers babysitting after 1pm on Saturdays while the parents are eating. I found it unique and a great way to have a quiet lunch with our friends - meanwhile my son was playing and having a great time instead of suffering in a babychair by the table.
This is a web where you can rent apartments in Barcelona. They have baby chairs and baby beds and above all a microwawe so its easy to heat up milk/food at night. As a family my new experience travelling with a small child has been difficult. It's hard to find a place to stay with baby facilities and ideas for where to go. Also I found a great Japanese restaurant who provides babysitting while you're eating! Barcelona is getting baby friendly!
Covering 36 hectares, Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens is situated in Cape Town, South Africa at the foot of the eastern slopes of Table Mountain.
A well known exhibitor at Chelsea Flower show, displaying the floral diversity found in southern Africa, this natural paradise offers a comprehensive taste of the Cape's flora and fauna.
Enjoyed by locals walking their dogs and tourists alike, often seen picnicking on the manicured lawns which lead to ponds frequented by bird life, an afternoon can be had in the warmth of the sunshine and peaceful sound of Cape reeds moving in the breeze, perhaps only marginally dogged by inquisitive and noisy guineafowl.
Permanent Shona stone sculptures from Zimbabwe are positioned around the grounds while organised events including changing art exhibitions showcasing contemporary, local talent and botanical drawings can be viewed and purchased. During the year bonzai and orchid workshops are held as well as summer concerts in the warm evenings under starry, African skies.
Craft markets provide outlets for local communities to showcase their work while the deli and restaurant offer local specialities and champagne breakfasts. The ever popular tearoom refreshes hikers with cups of rooibos tea and tasty cakes.
Ancient cycads are housed in their own protective amphitheatre while rockeries and streams provide interest for youngsters. The shady camphor avenue offers some respite from the heat of the day and if you are lucky, the sighting of owls, almost hidden in the upper branches. This is near the conservatory, home to southern African succulents and cacti, the majestic baobab, the smaller kokerboom and rock plants.
Paths for children, the blind (sensory trail) and wheelchair users are all catered for while longer trails radiate into uncultivated areas and the surrounding Table Mountain National Park. These surrounding routes, enjoyed by dedicated walkers follow in the footsteps of historical figures such as General Smuts, leading to native silver trees which shimmer in the sunlight and the location of van Riebeeck's hedge on the slopes of the mountain - the Dutch national credited with establishing a refreshment station for seafarers at the tip of Africa in the1650s. Here the occasional mountain tortoise can be spotted ambling along on the hot, dusty sand.
Energetic visitors can walk past beds of ericas and proteas to embark on a winding route up Nursery Ravine to Castle Rock, the imposing stone hunk above the gardens and admire the vegetation or fynbos, as it is called, from above. You might be lucky to spot a disa orchid, indigenous frogs or just admire the sunbirds and sugarbirds darting around dipping their long beaks into nectar rich blooms.
Kew Gardens is a fabulous place to spend time. No matter what time of year you visit, there is always something new blooming or growing, waiting to wow you. But there is so much more to Kew than Gardens. There is beautiful architecture, a treetop walkway, art exhibitions, talks and even a mini music festival in summer. There's also a fabulous indoor and outdoor place space for kids too. Something for everyone!
I had the most fab Sunday lunch here. When I walked into the pub, I went 40 years back in time to the smell of my mom's dinner cooking. The food was delightful, a real Sunday lunch. A lady in her late 40's, glasses dangling from her neck, came out to see if we were all happy (and to make sure the children had eaten enough before their treat). We told her to give our compliments to the chef, "no chefs here me love, just a cook" she said. She then went back and appeared in chef whites, and said "told you no chefs here." It was priceless, she was priceless and so was the 'dinner' as she called it.
At the Alnwick Garden you can sway across the wooden bridge to Britain's largest treehouse; find out how medieval monks purged themselves on bulbs in the poison garden; admire the thousands of matching purple tulips growing beneath the cherry blossom; get enjoyably soaked by the water sculptures, and still have time to pop back to the castle where you might meet Hagrid and Dumbledore. Tickets last for, and happily fill, two consecutive days and allow you back into Alnwick town for lunch if you don't want to eat in the garden's own restaurant.
Brackenborough Hall is a working 900-acre farm in the Lincolnshire Wolds. The old Coach House has been beautifully restored and made into three lovely apartments which are set in the middle of medieval parkland - and there's a herd of cows living in the park. It's perfect for families or groups: there's accommodation for up to 24 people. And the family that run the farm are very happy to show you round or let you help out. Lincolnshire is a beautiful place and the food - including local plum bread - is amazing, too.
A wonderful farm holiday for families with young children in the most beautiful location. Feed the animals every morning with Farmer Tim; ride on the gentle ponies; splash around in the indoor pool; relax with that day's papers and enjoy fresh coffee in the indoor play barn. The cottages are a comfortable home from home with little extras provided including black-out blinds, bed guards and cots. The perfect break!
Small but perfectly formed idyllic cottage, tucked away down a private lane on a small working organic farm, amidst the Somerset levels. The owners Jane and Simon are warm hosts who will provide home cooked meals if you have had a long journey. With a wealth of local knowledge this is an excellent base for cycling and walking as the cottage is just off the Parrett trail, close to the quirky town of Langport. Ideally situated for birdwatching on the levels, the cottage is great for both relaxing holidays wandering the farm and trying the myriad of produce they grow or exploring further afield as there are many National Trust properties within 30 minutes. Book during the last two weeks of September to visit Somerset Art Weeks when over 200 artists have their studios open to the public, Its fantastic!
Park lane, Langport, Somerset, TA10 0NF
Google map: bit.ly/eOJPEh
Taunton, Yeovil Penn Mill and Yeovil Junction are nearest train stations.
Yeovil - Taunton Bus 54 stops at end of private lane
Set in the rolling Devonshire hills on the edge of Exmoor, North Hayne Farm is the perfect place for a family to unwind. The cottages are beautifully converted farm buildings set around a pretty communal courtyard. A cream tea is laid out in your cottage awaiting your arrival and a hot tub, on your individual patio, is ready to go as soon as you've unpacked your cossie. Children and adults alike are able to feed the farm animals morning and night, and if you're lucky you might find an egg. Children are rewarded for their hard work by donkey rides everyday and a certificate and photo at the end of their stay(which always comes far to quickly).
The Granary, Rowton Grange, is ideal for a comfortable self-catering break – my partner and I have stayed there both for weekends and for a couple of weeks. Every window looks out on the beautiful wooded hills of south Shropshire, and the Granary and its garden are a great place to relax.
The Granary was where I first came across an Indian Runner, a duck that’s a very different shape from my idea of a duck. I named it Edwin, but it turned out I was wrong – apparently only female ducks lay eggs, and so does Edwin, so it should be Edwina! As a townie, I found the sight of a minutes-old calf quite a shock (and was relieved I hadn’t been required to help with the birth). And I also learned that pigs aren’t always pink: the Saddlebacks have their own colouring and personality. There are also several horses, and arable farming – though I still can’t tell my wheat from my barley.
The owners – a farmer, a vet and their four children – are brilliant at making guests feel welcome. They’re all friendly and good company, without being pushy. The visitors’ book shows that our enthusiasm is shared by many, and the same guests’ names appear time after time – we’re clearly not the only ones to find the Granary worth several visits.
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