On the river to the north in Prague 7, the city zoo offers a decent day-out. The charming palace of Troja is next door also on the river and worth a peek.
Zoologicka zahrada v Praze U Trojskeho zamku 3, Troja, Prague 7; Tel: 296 112 230; Nearest metro: Nadrazi; Open: Jan, Feb, Nov, Dec 9am-4pm daily. Mar 9am-5pm daily. Apr-May & Sept-Oct 9am-6pm daily. June-Aug 9am-7pm daily; Admission: 80kc, 50kc children and students, 230kc family, under-3s free (no credit cards); www.zoopraha.cz/
Low Sizergh Barn tea room not only serves really great food, much of it from the farm or local area, but it comes with a great view.
Every afternoon around 3.30pm you can head for the tables by the windows overlooking the farm's parlour for a bird's eye view of milking time, or you can watch the action relayed live on large screens.
Should you miss milking time, you can enjoy Cow Cam throughout the day. It provides entertaining viewing of the herd's ladies indulging in a satisfying scratch on the oversized brush suspended from the cowshed rafters.
And it's just a small part of what's on offer just off the A591 near Kendal, there's also a well stocked farm shop, working farm, farm nature trail, and craft, clothing and gift galleries.
Budapest is one of Europe's great cities. However it is actual two for the price of one. Buda & Pest sit opposite one another with the river Danube separating them. The river is at the heart of this old and historic city and many tourist cruises take advantage of this fact. Taking in the views from the river itself is a great way to introduce yourself to the capital of Hungary. With the Parliament building complete with amazing spires on one side, and the Buda Castle sat on the other side with a majestic eagle statue keeping watch, my camera hardly stopped. However even these regal and wonderful landmarks are over-shadowed by the awe inspiring Statue of Freedom which towers over the city from a perch on top of a very large hill situated right on the banks of the Danube. Once you reach the summit you may be out of breath with the climb, but the views WILL take your breath away! On a clear day you can see for many miles in all directions and being able to see almost the full city in one place is a pleasure not to be missed. At night most of the main attractions are lit up which add even more beauty to this dazzling city. A walk over one of the beautiful bridges once darkness sets in is highly recommended.
Budapest, like any capital city, has many wonderful places and lots of wonderful dining, too. Food quality in Hungary is top notch with many mouth watering dishes to tempt the pallet. Catfish from Balaton is a firm favourite of mine followed by a slice of Retes which is a type of fruit pie with sour cherries. Regardless of what you eat or do in Budapest you will leave feeling richer for exploring this unique place. To see a city as vibrant and impressive is a wonder you will want to re-live again and again.
Nice photos on
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
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
With so many places to stay on Crete, how do you decide? One of my favourite resorts on the north coast of Crete is Agia Pelagia, a lovely, laid-back seaside village ideal for a relaxing holiday on Crete.
Its main sandy beach is ideal for children, and the clear waters are perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving.
There's also a good choice of cafes, bars and family run tavernas. One of the must eat places is the new bar/restaurant Almyra - it's a slice of Myknonos in Agia Pelagia with great cocktails and delicious food.
Agia Pelagia is within striking distance of bustling Heraklion and the ancient ruins at Knossos, so it's well positioned for some sightseeing.
In terms of hotels and apartments there's a good selection.
Google map: bit.ly/RbqDeO
It's the only museum that has a dodo, the stars of a flea circus and finches that Charles Darwin collected. The Victorian showcases full of stuffed animals are charming and children love exploring and endlessly going back to the collection of dogs and butterflies.
Lumbarda is a large holiday village, located on the south eastern tip of the island of Korcula. This does not sound like something special, but boy did we have good time there! Not in bars, discos and clubs, but in local family farms where we tasted fantastic local grown food and wine. I can recommend agrotourism Lovrić (big up for Mr. Renci - thank you for everything!), and also the beautiful beaches in the vicinity and unspoiled nature. If you ask me, this is the best family vacation we ever had!
Europe's largest indoor waterpark sits in an aircraft hanger outside of Berlin. Surrounded by flat fields, the structure is completely incongruous with the setting and indoors, it is hard to believe you are in Germany.
It is an enormous and cheesy but fun tropical water park with spa, sauna, cabaret, Germany's highest water slides, a "Bali lagoon" and waterfalls.
It is a bit of a white elephant, having failed to attract the optimistic forecast of one million visitors a year but the plus side is, it is rarely uncomfortably busy.
Located about 35 miles outside Berlin and easily accessible on the train from Alexanderplatz - a shuttle bus from Brand station takes you to the "resort".
If the rain and cold of Berlin winter get you down, pop there for a dose of jungle fever.
This park is in my opinion better than the
El Retiro park in central Madrid. It is more geared towards children and families. Children will love it as there is lots to discover such as ... I am not going to tell you. Go to the park, ignore the plan of the park, lose yourself and discover the many buildings within it for yourself.
I assure you that around every corner you will discover something new. It will feel like you are nowhere near Madrid at all (El Capricho park is in fact right on the very edge of the Madrid) as it is small and showy with colourful roses and sunflowers all year round. The sun brings out the autumnal colours. Take food and drink with you though as unlike El Retiro park there are no food or drink shops within the park itself. Although there is a free tap providing free drinking water within the grounds near El Capricho palace. My favourite spot to stop and sit was on the seat by the artificial lake opposite the waterfall on the manmade island in the middle of the lake. Sadly this park which was previously unknown to many tourists and Madrileños has been discovered and is now very popular and can be busy which is why they have a daily limit of 1,000 people in the park at any one time. This has spoiled the serenity of the park somewhat but there are still some secluded spots left within the park to escape the crowds which is good. If you are lucky like I was you will be treated to some free dancing and acting outside the dance hall in the park (usually between 12.00am and 13.00pm). Entry is free but the park is only open Saturday and Sundays from 9.00am to 21.00pm.
Calle de la Galera, 0, 28042 Madrid, Spain
+34 917 42 97 87
Nearest metro station: El Capricho
The long 45 - 60 min metro journey from central Madrid is worth it I promise you!
Exit El Capricho metro station (there is only one exit) and follow the brown signs which say Parque El Capricho which will lead you across scrubland and past some flats to the park entrance on the opposite side of the zebra crossing.
Google map: bit.ly/TpdqoR
This coverted farmhouse hotel on the edge of the town of San Jose in the Cabo de Gata National Park was peaceful, stylish, child-friendly and great value for money. Don't let the seas of plastic tomato greenhouses on the way from Almeria airport put you off - Cabo de Gata offers quiet seaside towns with lovely uncrowded beaches, rare wildlife, great seafood and excellent diving and snorkelling. Calm, warm waters and gently sloping beaches like the beautiful Playa de los Genoveses make great swimming spots with small children. All three generations on our trip were well catered for.
Glendurgan gardens is a National Trust managed Garden estate tucked way in a glorious green valley SW of falmouth. A perfect day out for families with children as there is a laurel maze hidden in the depths of the garden, the sheer brightness of the greens reminded me of a trip to the north of Sri Lanka. There are tropical plants, palms, streams and bridges and viewing points and resting points a plenty. Descending through the garden you join a small shingle beach which is gently lapped by the Helford Estuary- perfect for skimming stones while eating a clotted cream ice cream
Glendurgan, Falmouth, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth, Cornwall TR11 5JZ
Google map: bit.ly/Ld6yE5
Barton Springs swimming pool is a back-to-nature paradise for those seeking to escape the city, and especially the heat. This three acre pool is replenished continuously by cool water from the largest of four natural springs flowing into Zilker Park, and is a magnet promising reinvigoration for everyone in Austin, welcoming families, school children, tourists and locals of all persuasions. It is also the place to be seen for the super trendy musicians and creative technology workers who lounge amongst the grassy banks and shady Pecan trees surrounding the pool, topping up their tans, networking for gigs, and nonchalantly designing the latest smart phone apps. A diving board is conveniently located for those wishing to dive to the bottom of the pool and experience the sensation of water pumping at 31 million US gallons per day, which is like hearing and feeling a heart-beat at the same time. Located in Zilker Park, home to the Austin City Limits festival and an attraction in itself, Barton Springs Pool is easily accessible by car and there are some of the best outdoor restaurants nearby (such as Shady Grove) – there is also a café and bar just outside the pool. At only $3 to get in, the pool does get busy at the weekend, so it is best to visit during the week in the day. I recommend going for an early morning swim, the pool opens at 5am, or going late at night (between 8pm and 10pm there is no entry fee).
2201 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX 78746
+1 512 994 9952
Google map: bit.ly/V1nAHe
* Mark Sheaves is our Been there local for Austin. You can read his profile and about Austin here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/austin-local-mark-sheaves.jsp and you can follow his tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/MarkSheaves. Check out other locals here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/trails/been-there-locals.jsp
All I can say is just go there. You may be cold but will not be disappointed. Yllas, in Finnish Lapland, far into the Arctic Circle, is the place I love.
Temperatures plummet to minus 25 degrees C – and that’s in the day, but don’t be put off by this. Dress for the weather and you will fall in love with the place. The lack of daylight hours in winter, with daytime sunrise and sunset, just adds to the beauty.
If its fun you are after, you have a choice. Downhill ski, cross country ski, husky dog sledding, ice fishing, reindeer sleighs, snowmobiles – you need a week here to do it all. Meet the local Sami people, who will invite you into their huts and make tea over an open fire in a blackened kettle.You cannot possibly get bored.
The choice of pristine snow and the silence that comes with it is another option, with miles of walking trails that cannot be beaten for peace and solitude.
There is of course the option to be a big kid and travel to Santa’s post office in Rovaniemi, Santa’s official home, where you can meet him any day of the year. Here you can arrange for the ‘real’ Santa’s letters to be delivered to the kids!
Add to this the wide range of first class hotels, romantic log cabins, blazing log fires and you have it all – well nearly. I stayed at the Hotel Akas, a very friendly and atmospheric hotel in the traditional unspoilt Lappish community of Akaslompolo, near Yllas.
The Aurora Borealis (or Northern Lights) are a spectacle not to be missed. Normally appearing in the night, my hotel agreed to give me a wakeup call when they appeared. Believe me; it’s worth missing some sleep for.
To me Lapland conjures up many memories – the beauty of the sky, the sparkle of the snow, and the magic of the silence. I will return.
The National Trust owned home of the eccentric Edwardian inventor Otto Overbeck, in Salcombe, Devon. Find the hidden room full of dolls and listen to the "polyphon" (a giant Victorian music box). Best of all, see Otto's invention, the "rejuvinator", designed to renew youth through electric shocks. This quirky place (kids can search for Fred the friendly ghost) is in a beautiful location, on the South West Coastal Path (Prawle Point, three miles walk away, is breathtaking) looking down on Salcombe and its bay. Take time to explore the house's exotic gardens, and to have a well earned drink in Salcombe itself, a charming little port.
This wacky family attraction is a Scarborough institution. Council employees hide inside model ships on Peasholm Park lake and re-enact sea battles. It started in 1927 and they joke that it’s the smallest manned navy in the world. Special effects include bombs, gunfire and aircraft on wires, and the whole thing is preceded by an organist playing in a floating pagoda.
So grab a drink or an ice cream from the cafe or kiosk and take your seat for the The Battle of Peasholm. It takes place at 3pm (on different days of the week according to which of the summer months you visit) and costs £3.70 for adults, £2.10 for children.
Brockholes is brilliant! Just off junction 31 of the M6, it is a 107 hectare wetland and woodland reserve, created on the site of an old quarry by Lancashire Wildlife Trust, and an excellent motorway stop-off. The revolutionary visitors' centre opened earlier this year, and is built to the highest environmental standards (it is one of a very small number of buildings to be rated 'Outstanding' by the Building Research Establishment). It floats on a 4,000 tonne pontoon in one of the lakes, and houses a really good cafe, a farm shop, and information centre. You have to pay for parking (from £1 for an hour), but it is for a good cause, and worth it for the views from the restaurant alone. But if you have time, take a walk (guided or otherwise) by the lovely river Ribble, or do a bit of bird-spotting from the purpose-built hides.
Throughout Brittany, during the summer months, there are local dance festivals called Fest Deiz or Fest Noz (day or night festivals). These take place in village halls, leisure centres or even in even school playgrounds where you can join in dancing beneath the stars, eating crepes and drink cidre or lemonade. Different localities have local dance steps and dances are often in lines or couples to live music. Everyone dances, young and old. The Fest Noz make a really excellent family activity to finish off the day and are worth seeking out for a memorable holiday. Quimper is renowned as a major centre for Breton dance and music.
There is a very useful website here for locating the Fest Noz and Fest Deiz www.tamm-kreiz.com/
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
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