I stayed in a villa called Casa Lucia in a pretty hamlet called Santa Lucia with two excellent restaurants we could walk to and just outside of Vejer de la Frontera. The villa was stylish yet homely, well equipped and very comfortable - the best villa I have ever stayed in. The terraced gardens were an oasis of tranquility and the focal point was the huge 12m long pool with waterfall. We were also only 10 minutes drive from the 7km unspoilt sandy beach of El Palmar.
(+34)956 41 00 69
Thank you very much to Jose for a fantastic afternoon we will never forget.
This horse riding activity for all levels is a must for anybody visiting this wonderful area of Portugal and there is no better way to see the marvelous mountain range of the "Serra de São Mamede".
We will certainly repeat the experience and next time Jose I promise we will try galloping!
A 6 - any age activity so great for a family including a mix of teenagers, children and young adults. Explore the coastline - rock climbing, making different jumps from the rocks, learn about the fauna, caving, great views - a totally new 'shared' experience.
Google map: bit.ly/WkaQMr
As we arrived in Vienna on 22 Dec the snow started to fall. We walked through the city to the Christkindl Market, Christmas lights everywhere. Roast chestnuts and gluhwein. Each window of the town hall decorated as an Advent Calendar and each day a window is opened, to reveal a painting which will be sold later in aid of a children's charity.
Christmas Eve, frosty cold under a blue sky, we drove an hour south of Vienna with friends and their children high into the mountains for sleighing - with much falling around in the deep snow. Oh such fun!
Christmas day we went to St. Barbara, a small Ukranian orthodox Catholic church - beautiful voices in harmony - magical. Afterwards we ate close by at the Hotel Post: goose with all the trimmings and chocolate gateaux. In the afternoon we walked in the snow in the enchanting Schoennbrunn gardens, then coffee and kuchen in Cafe Gloriette.
A Christmas we'll remember always.
BA from Heathrow to Vienna
Train from Vienna to Semmering for day trip - one hour
Google map: bit.ly/SQe8LT
While in Toronto during the winter months, enjoy one of Canada’s oldest and most popular recreational activities: ice skating.
While there are about 51 outdoor skating rinks in Toronto, the Natrel Rink located at the Harbourfront Centre is a really pretty place to skate. The trees surrounding it are lit, and you get a great view of Lake Ontario. Open until March, the rink offers skate rentals and heated indoor changing rooms with lockers and washrooms. The rink-side restaurant, Lakeside EATS offers hot chocolate and other goodies as well. And back by popular demand, DJ Saturday nights begins in December and runs until the end of February: depending on the DJ, you can skate to Top 40 pop tunes, rock, old school hip hop and Latin, among others.
Admission is free. Skate rentals are CDN $8 for adults and CDN $6 for children.
235 Queens Quay West Harbourfront Centre Toronto, Canada
+1 416 973 4000
Google map: bit.ly/TS4of6
* Giulia is our Been there local for Toronto. You can see her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/places/canada/toronto/index.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/GiuliaFalsetti
It's a safari park in Puncak. The animals are well treated and you are able to get close up to the Indonesian wildlife. It's a very good place to take children - mine are seven and five and it's a good day out.
You can have mixed feelings about zoos but I thought its animal welfare was similar to western zoos. I suggest you buy the bananas and carrots before you get to the park from the street vendors and maybe take the free safari bus.
They do many events throughout the year and most people would say go in autumn when the leaves are changing colour. I suggest go in winter as they do an Enchanted Christmas walk through a mile of trees illuminated in the winter night sky. A fantastic time to walk the grounds wrapped up warm with your family and dogs. An absolute must.
A fitting tribute to the worlds greatest story-teller Roald Dahl who lived and wrote his stories in the heart of the Chilterns. He used everyday locations around his village, Great Missenden to great effect in many of his wonderful stories. There is a family-friendly walking trail to spot local literary landmarks that is worth exploring after a visit to the Museum and Story Centre on the High Street.
The Wheatsheaf hotel and pub in Virginia Water is set in an ideal location as it is right by Virginia Water Lake and Windsor Great Park. It is cosy with its open fireplaces and it has a large beer garden at the back. The inn welcomes families for dining and staying. Traditional, freshly cooked English food and light bites are available.
For a bit of history, King George III and Queen Charlotte are known to have stayed at the inn in the early 1800s.
London Road, Virginia Water, Surrey GU25 4QF
Google map: bit.ly/RPdXMJ
The Punch House is an atmospheric pub-hotel right in the heart of Monmouth - a perfect place for exploring Wales and the Wye Valley. Stay in a room and enjoy live music at the weekend where the locals come to let off steam. My nine-year- old daughter loved the Lady Gaga show. The Punch House is a grade 11 listed building and an old coaching inn dating from the 12th century with oak beams everywhere, friendly staff and customers and and rooms from £45 a night.
4 Agincourt Square, Monmouth NP25 3BT
Google map: bit.ly/UBgoku
Jacques & Evelyne run the most idyllic camp site at the end of a quietest valley of the quiet Cantal region of France's Auvergne. I have kept it a secret for a while because i don't ever want to be told that there isn't a space for my family each summer, but this year is time to share the secret.
All three of my children have learned to ski in the Cairngorms. It's a good place to start with them young as the funicular railway takes them to the beginners slopes at the top of the mountain which usually has some snow and there is a cafe/restaurant for hot chocolate and food when they get cold. If the snow is poor or wind up the mountain prevents the lifts operating then there are lots of other things to do in or near Aviemore such as walking (Roithemurchas estate), mountain biking (Bothy Bikes), dog sledging, seeing the reindeer herd, visiting the Scottish wildlife park, swimming (at the Holiday Inn) or going for a tree top walk through an elevated pathway, so it's not all full on skiing. My son broke his arm snowboarding there and he was treated at the GP's surgery as they have X-ray scanning facilities on site rather than having to trek to Inverness to discover if anything is broken. The children got a taste for skiing there and now want to venture elsewhere and can ski/board all day but it's a great place to start with kids who may not want to ski all day everyday and want a range of other things to do as well.
Cairngorm Mountain Railway: www.cairngormmoutain.org
Highland Wildlife Park:
Google map: bit.ly/Q7chkp
We went to this Italian restaurant with our seven-year-old, efficient German and Italian-speaking waiter, calm atmosphere, generous helpings, good pizza and just as good pasta dishes, would definitely go again. Child got lollipop at the end!
Sendlinger Str. 28, 80331 Munich
+49 89 2609377
Google map: bit.ly/TnSLPy
Café/restaurant. We went there with kids for a lovely Sunday brunch. It had a peaceful and colourful atmosphere, delicious pancakes and perfect cappuccinos.
Mt Norquay is a 15-minute drive from the town of Banff in the Canadian Rockies in Alberta. Unlike the other two closest hills, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise, Norquay offers very affordable day passes and discount packages. There are plenty of mid-range runs, which makes it perfect for intermediate-level skiers and snowboarders. With views of the town and the surrounding mountains, it is a spectacular place to spend an adrenalin-packed day. Tubing is also available.
2 Mt Norquay Road, Banff, AB, ABT1L1B4, Canada
+1 403 762 4421
It's a small but very down to earth ski resort just south of Munich. Has a few famous Olympic stars such as Michi Gerg who incidentally runs a fantastic ski school for kids. My kids learned there and now ski black runs.
A little way out of Whistler - about five minutes in the car if that - is a complex of accommodation called Whiskey Jack. It's pretty quiet and wooded so great for people wanting a bit more of a chilled time or with families. We were a couple and the apartment we had was massive. It was like flat sitting for a mate. Set over two floors, balcony, two double bedrooms, huge lounge with TV and a great kitchen and all for so much cheaper than we were being quoted for Whistler Village itself. The one downside is the drive to the slopes (although there's loads of parking in Whistler) and home from a night out which can limit your hedonism somewhat but for the money you save you can easily treat yourself to the odd cab.
Head office (where you need to go to pick up your keys: 4314 Main Street Whistler, BC V0N 1B4, Canada
+1 (604) 932 6599
Actual apartment complex: 2400 Cavendish Way
+1 (604) 932 6500
Google map: bit.ly/SixGn5
A-Basin (as it is known locally) rocks the rockies for so many reasons. It has one of the longest ski seasons in the USA (already open for winter 2012/13) and has some of the highest terrain in North America so gets dumped with snow when other resorts miss out. It has a new high speed quad, but also has some old school lifts that give the resort a more local and relaxed feel. And the terrain at the end of the lifts is some of the best around. At the end of the day when your legs are too tired to take anymore, head to 'the beach' for some beers, bbq and afternoon sun. And with all of this it still doesn't have the crowds that other Colorado resorts have. You can head there from Denver just for the day or use your Vail resorts ski pass (and free shuttle service) to get some turns in at one of the coolest resorts stateside.
Park City is a former winter Olympics venue in Utah. It has three ski parks - Deer Valley, Canyons and Park City with all the other activities associated with a well developed winter resort. Snow is usually good and snow cannons help lay down an early base. Nightlife is not up to the hedonistic excesses of some European destinations given Utah's Mormon background, but this makes it an ideal family destination as facilities tend to be better than in Europe and there are bars and a microbrewery on the main street.
The Chilterns are famous for the beech woodlands and this has to be one of the best places to enjoy the autumn colour splash. This time of year, you can get into the leafy canopy at the GoApe centre, or perhaps something at ground level with amazing mountain-biking on the nearby Aston Hill for those who crave a greater downhill adrenaline rush.
And if this isn't enough, there are walks including the popular firecrest trail, and for families, a busy adventure playground.
It may sound busy, but the woods are big enough to quickly absorb everyone, so a walk or just somewhere to sit and enjoy the views is possible.
Often seen circling overhead are the gliders and red kites, maybe enjoying the lovely views across the vale to Hale Wood.
What's not to like?
Aston Clinton, Halton, Wendover and Aylesbury are the nearest towns or villages.
From Wendover, take the B4009 towards Tring, take the right hand turn approximately 1 mile north of RAF Halton, signposted Wendover Woods and St Leonards. The main entrance to the woods is found on the right.
From the A41, take the Wendover exit (also signed Dunstable) and take the B4009 towards Aston Clinton. Take the first left towards Wendover. After approx 1/2 mile, take a left signposted Wendover Woods and St Leonards. The main entrance to the woods is found on the right.
OS Grid Reference: SP890090
Google map: bit.ly/RAO3KN
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