Hartleys is not just a croc farm, it is also a zoo. The tour of the farm, explaining the hows and whys of croc farming is interesting, the animals in the zoo mostly "inmates", ie crocs gone bad. The signs explain who they are and what they did to become prisoners! The visit also includes a boat ride with plenty of crocs and Aussie humour, and the reptile and crocodile shows are informative and fun.
Both the gift shop and restaurant are not overly priced and offer good quality products.
Cirali is a picture perfect place to holiday - with stunning scenery, scrumptious food to suit all tastes, the best water I've swum in the Med. Almost want to keep it to myself, but that would be selfish.
The sort of holiday to suit all sorts of people. Lots of activities, whether you want to snorkel off a yacht, visit the fire breathing mountain at night or wander the beachside ruin complex at Olimpos by day.
A great range of accomodation too - we stayed in three places - the family friendly Hotel Canada with welcome pool, the more romantic cabins of Arcadia with private hammocks for all in orange groves on the beach serving breakfast any time you want. All pensions seem to offer bikes free to guests so you can cycle around the very very quiet roads stopping off for a fresh pomegranate juice from a roadside stall or some baklava or cakes from the bakery.
Food is delicious wherever you eat - fish, kebabs, Turkish pizza, amazing flatbreads and mezze. Places range from a string of bars and restaurants on the beach, to some more sheltered ones with cushioned seating in the village. And everyone should eat cheaply and very well at Lemon Restaurant or in a slightly more upmarket fashion at Oldeander Restaurant which also has some lovely pension rooms.
All in all I couldn't imagine a better spot to kick back and relax this summer.
Shun the condom-and-glass-laden shores of Ostia if you want to visit the beach for a day on your summer hols to Rome.
The beach and sea at Sperlonga are cleaner, prettier and quieter, and only take an hour(ish) to get to by train from Termini, Rome's main train station. The beach is also shallow for quite a long way out to sea so it's a nice paddling spot for children or people with short legs.
Take the Naples slow train, which is at 49 minutes past the hour every hour from 8am and costs 6.20 Euros. Get off at Fondi Sperlonga and then get the beach bus (1 Euro) to the seafront itself.
It's worth leaving the beach for a couple of hours and wandering up to the hilltop town for a drink or a spot of lunch and a gawk at the view.
Having spent a few holidays in Turkey over the last few years, my recent stay in Dalyan is the best. I don't think many British people have heard of it, but it's such a lovely resort - small rather than large, and certainly not as brash as places like Marmaris.
For families it's ideal with a variety of activities in and around Dalyan from mud baths (lots of fun) to turtle spotting. We stayed at the Aydos Club Hotel in Dalyan booked through Simpson Travel. It was a lovely family-run hotel - small and friendly, just as we like it. Rahmi, the owner, organised activities to keep everyone entertained and we felt like royalty sailing in their traditional boat.
Aydos Club Hotel, Dalyan Turkey
+44(0)20 8392 5858
Most travelers to Amsterdam will have heard about Vondelpark, the city’s answer to New York’s Central Park (on a much smaller scale, of course). We’ll revisit the pleasures of Vondelpark in a later post, but for now let’s fast forward to a lesser-known urban green space called Beatrix Park.
Located south of the city and nestled behind the RAI Conference Center, it’s an easy 15-minute ride from the city center along the Amstel River (or even quicker if you head down the center of the map along Ferdinand Bolstraat), Beatrixpark is an absolute gem. It is in direct contrast to the blanket-to-blanket crowd shoehorned into Vondelpark.
At Beatrixpark – named after the Dutch Queen Beatrix - you can park yourself on the grass along the canal, watching boaters on their sloops putter along, or head to the center of the park with more quiet corners, tree-lined trails and open space than you can imagine in this busy city. The park itself has quite a history, starting off in the 1930s and undergoing a brief identity change with the Nazi occupation before resuming its Beatrixness. It really feels like a neighbourhood playground, complete with the coolest swingset you or your kids have ever seen. It even has a group to ensure its heritage and beauty stay intact, the Friends of Beatrixpark: www.vriendenbeatrixpark.nl/html/nieuws/home.html.
Station-Zuid WTC, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Walk/Bike - from the RAI congress centre, facing the main entry to the right and turn left direction the Amstelhal of the RAI. Pass in front of this building and behind the canal you will see the park - it is located at the rear all exhibit halls.
Tram - line 5, exit on the Beethovenstraat - stop Stadionweg; walk left along Stadionweg, turn right into the Diepenbrockstraat. Cross the bridge. There will be two small passages into the park on your right – they are located at the number 15 and the number 9 of the street. It is about 5 minutes walking from the tram stop.
Car: exit the A10 ring on the RAI exit. Drive into the city in front of the RAI congress centre, turn left direction the Diepenbrockstraat; continue for 200m and you will see the park on your left. Metered parking in the street.
Google map: bit.ly/pmKgVv
All Fired Up is a really lovely little cafe where visitors can choose a piece of ceramic art, a teapot, a plate or a cup and saucer and then paint it themselves to create a unique, individual work of art and an unusual gift for a friend. At the same time, sustenance is available to aid the creative process, with all manner of home-made cakes, sandwiches, Italian coffees and teas on offer. The shop/cafe stocks wrapping paper and cards and is a great destination for birthday parties and nursery visits.
All Fired Up Ceramics Cafe
34 East Dulwich Road, London SE22 9AX
+44 (0)207 732 6688
Mon-Sat 09.30-18.00 (late opening to 22.00 on Thur), Sun 11.00-17.00
Bus 12 to Peckham Rye
Google map: bit.ly/nmVYDY
When I tell friends I know of a haven of peace and tranquility in Peckham I am often met with raised eyebrows, but it does exist! Peckham Rye Park is a beautiful oasis located to the south of the bustling, noisy streets.
Peckham was mentioned in 1087 in the Doomsday Book, when it was called Pecheha, an Anglo Saxon word meaning 'village among the hills'.
During the reign of Henry 1, Peckham was a farming village and the land was used for growing crops and fruit. By the 18th century it was famous for its melons, figs and grapes.
In 1767, William Blake visited Peckham Rye and had a vision of angels in an oak tree. The ''Angel Oak', as it was later called, has since disappeared
The park's original layout opened to the public in 1894. There is a large lake and several smaller ponds alive with noisy ducks and geese, a Japanese garden, arboretum, bowling green and woodland walks. My favourite spot is in the Sexby Gardens where plots of lavender give off a wonderfully soporific, mid-summer ambience.
During the Second World War, temporary huts were erected to detain Italian prisoners of war. One still remains, located next to the café.
Peckham Rye Park
Peckham, London SE22 0LR, +44(0)20 7525 1052
Open until 20.30 during the summer
Bus 12 to Peckham Rye
Google map: bit.ly/nBHHNT
A long stretch of often unoccupied sand stretched out just ten paces across the road from the Family Kingdom hotel at Lumley beach just outside Freetown. Admitedly it's busier at weekends when its full of locals coming to enjoy themselves or play football (including Sierra Leone's world beating amputee team). The children will enjoy sharing the resort hotel's playground and pool sometimes with children on a school trip from the city. Parents will wonder at the almost surreal statues of, among others, King Kong. Breakfast is outside and always accompanied by small and not so small deer and pretty regularly by monkeys (who can sneak into your rooms too). Bored? Almost anybody will organise a sea trip for you to another wonderful beach or try the evocative slave islands nearby such as banana island with its community organised chalets and fish in banana leaves for tea. And in the evening, Alex's bar across the road invariably has a fire eater emerging from the Man o' War bay as you eat and you can return to the hotel to watch the sun go down from the terrace of the moonview bar. Do avoid the rainy season and don't expect cash points.
Lumley beach and the hotel are accessible by boat from the airport that ties up at Alex's bar or cross on the helicopter for the (more expensive) excitement.
P.O.Box 94, Freetown, Sierra Leone
+232 22 236133
Google map: bit.ly/nGg9S3
The inside of Alaska is pretty wild yet very easy to access thanks to good roads plus unlike most remote locations, it is also very safe compared to most wilderness areas with emergency services just a phone call away (we had to go to the doctor with a sick child). Renting an RV means you can travel into the back country without forgoing your creature comforts! Kids will love sleeping above the front seats on the bunks, and the separate bedroom with queen sized bed gives you privacy and comfort. Got more kids, no problem there are models that sleep as many as 10! We travelled with toddlers but it is suitable from newborn to teens.
We rented from Alaskan RV's in Ancorage, though there are multiple outlets. You can fly via Seattle in approx 15 hours from the UK (Seattle is well worth a two day stopover) or why not do as we did and take the state ferry from north of Seattle to Seward south of Ancourage - its takes eight days and only runs once a month but its something you'll never forget.
Google map: bit.ly/qIEag3
If you're enjoying a family holiday in Fethiye, Hisaronu or Olu Deniz, you really have got fun, sun and sea on your door step. What's not so obvious, is that you also have one of the most beautiful and moving historic sites in the world a few minutes away.
Kayaköy was, until 1923, a hillside village populated by Greek speaking Christians. After the Greco-Turkish war, the Greek and Turkish governments agreed to a population exchange. The village has been uninhabited ever since, and is now preserved as a historical momument. There are hundreds of houses and other buildings all more or less untouched in nearly a hundred years.
When you're there you will need to pay a nominal entrance fee. Walk up through the village to the top, enjoying the beautiful Greek Orthodox churches and the view from the top. The sense of peace and tranquility is wonderful.
Dolmus buses go through Hisaronu every half hour in the summer season, and cost just a couple of lira. The journey to Kayaköy takes about ten minutes.
It gets very hot so, if you can, go early or late. And when you get back down, enjoy a refreshing tea from one of the small, local cafes in the beautiful village before returning to the real world.
Google map: bit.ly/lKtpOz
When the children's plea for a 'proper holiday', ie one involving flying rather than camping, became deafening, we booked flights for Boston in the USA, hired a car for the duration of our stay and a hotel for the first night and set off. For two blissful weeks we visited beaches and Boston and the Ben and Jerry's factory. We were offered a husband for our oldest daughter on the Mayflower, walked some of the Appalachian trail and saw moose, a bear and eagles. At no point (except on our first night) did we book ahead, but everywhere we found clean and comfortable hotel rooms, with helpful staff who often allowed all of us (two adults and four children) to squeeze in one room or could provide us with a suite. This worked so well, that two years later we visited California (another brilliant destination) and two years after that we again went to New England, but this time with 7 people, as my elder son's girlfriend joined us too.
Just make sure you hire the biggest car available and book for your first night. We also booked for the end of the holiday while we were in Boston with seven, as we particularly liked the accommodation we found. The cost of living in the States ensured that, once we were there, our costs were low. Even now, eight years on, this is still the holiday of their childhood memories. I would recommend it to anyone.
The Rock was the most fantastic experience we had in New Zealand as a family. It is an overnight boat trip which takes you out to the bay of islands where you can have a go at fishing, kayaking and looking at the night stars. We had a really nice meal and the kids were entertained by the young crew who were so friendly and attractive! We then drank in to the early hours and my husband played guitar with one of the crew.
The next day we could swim in the ocean and collect green lipped muscles which were cooked and eaten on board. Our daughter loved this and we saw her confidence grow as she swam in the water. We then moored up at one of the islands and went walking. As we kayaked back to The Rock we were joined by some dolphins which were very playful. We then headed back to shore. All in all one of the best things we have ever done and we met so many interesting people from all over the world.
Podoli pool, about fifteen minutes south of central Prague by tram, is an absolute dream of a place. It has inside and outside (heated) pools, all open year-round, come rain, snow or shine. Time your visit carefully to come mid-week or very early on the weekend, as it’s very popular among Prague swimming clubs, old ladies in lilac swimming caps and flirtatious teens showing off on the diving boards.
Very good facilities including three pools, diving boards, waterslide, sunbathing spots and cafes. The changing facilities are functional but very clean. The warm post-shower ‘drying room’ is a particular favourite in the winter.
Like most pools in Prague, Podoli charges by time: 90 minutes - 80 CZK, 120mins – 100 CZK.
Bring 100 CZK in cash for a locker.
Open Daily 06:00-21:45
A Tuscan town surrounded by a 16th century wall which is now a tree lined avenue on the walls' ramparts. 4km long, flat, safe and perfect for walking or cycling - loads of cycle rental businesses next to the walls, hiring cycles for all ages. We rented bikes for two adults and two kids (about 20 Euro all in, with free use of helmets) for a couple of hours and whizzed around the walls and town (even in the heat of August this was comfortable.) There are cafes and plenty of picnic spots along the route, as well as a handful of children's parks where the grown-ups can rest while the kids burn off more energy. The town itself offers the usual Tuscan narrow streets to enjoy cafe life, shopping or simply exploring on foot or bike. To really wear the kids out, take them up the Torre Guinigi - the tower with ancient oaks on top. It's 230 steps, much cheaper than the Tower of Pisa and our four and seven-year-olds loved it.
Torre Guinigi, Via Sant'Andrea, 45 55100 Lucca, Italy
Google map: bit.ly/iHykHm
Adults Euro 3.50, children 2.50
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).
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