A great way to enter Annecy is to walk from the train station to Rue Carnot - this is the main shopping street of Annecy where pricy big name fashion stores make their mark. But the Rue Royale has cheaper shops and allows quick access to the lake or to the canalside park off Rue de la Republique. But it's best if you follow Rue Carnot down to its end and go on to Rue Perriere which goes behind the Palais de l'ile and connects to Rue Ste Claire - Annecy's most famous street with its cobbled stones and arcaded shops.
From the train station just go straight down Rue de la Republique and turn right onto Rue Royale
The often crowded but peaceful Jardin d'Europe and Champs de Mars look out over lake Annecy and provide stupendous views of the Alps and photo ops. It's a great place for a family picnic as there is a children's park and ducks on the lake. A must do is to walk by Lake Annecy from the Hotel de ville down to the port.
Jardin d'Europe and Champs de Mars are just a 5 min walk from the town hall and from the old city
The castle looms over the old city and lake Annecy, it has a (overpriced) museum inside, but I chose to skip the museum as it was too expensive and you get great (free!) views of it anyway from the lake and from the steep alleyways which snake behind it to bring you back down to old Annecy.
It's a stunning castle with the turrets and gates showing the power and might of Annecy when it ruled over Italy and western Switzerland and its museum is great for families as children will love the suits of armour.
Chateau d'Annecy is only a 20 minute walk from the train station and is well signposted
It's the king of kitsch in Rome. For all your hard-to-find knick-nacks and crazy gifts, this is the only place to go in Rome. On three floors, it's a splash of fun and colour in Rome, with a funny staff and loud music. It's open every day until 1am - kids will love it.
Via Santa Maria dell'Anima, 29 across street from Piazza Navona (it's 20 metres from Piazza Navona)
It's not just the home of the National Motor Museum. The place also has a walled garden, a palace house and a ruined abbey. Alongside the ruins is the active parish church. There is a beautiful footpath that runs between the lake at the palace house and the monorail station at the motor museum.
Oh yes, and a bunch of cars. Some really old ones, and some sporty ones, and some two wheelers (i.e. motorcycles), and some movie ones (James Bond cars!), and firetrucks, and old buses, and...well there's a lot. I think most of them are in running order, too. You can take a ride in an original London double-decker! Its exhaust stinks: do they use yesterday's fish batter oil to run the thing!?
The palace is a large mansion, some of which is open to poke around. The guides are very knowledgeable and helpful. The lord and lady still live in the place. Sometimes, you can sneak a look at their private apartments. In spring, the gardens and paths are awash with daffodils!
If you gift-aid your admission, then you get free re-entry to the motor museum (but not the rest of the place - although that is discounted).
Photos and a description of our visits are on our website: www.reeves-hall.net/kids-outings/beaulieu-motor-museum/
Beaulieu Enterprises Ltd
John Montagu Building
Beaulieu, Brockenhurst, Hampshire
+44 (0) 1590 612345
Finkley is, well, a farm and a park! There are lots of animals that you can feed, like llamas, ducks, geese, goats and, if you dare, bulls. Then there are the large play areas: a pedal cart track, old tractors to climb all over, a bunch of trampolines, a very large slide, a climbing fort or two and an infants' play area.
At regular times through the day there are feedings and handling sessions, for example, to sit and hold bunnies, and to groom the horses. There is a large collection of gypsy wagons to see, too.
There is a cafe on site with both indoor and outdoor seating. Just watch out for the roaming peacocks who like to steal your chips! Admission is reasonably priced for such a lot of things to do.
Photos and a description of our trips there can be found on our website: www.reeves-hall.net/kids-outings/finkley-down-farm-park/
A footpath leading up to a large hill that overlooks the city and has a mizmaze on top of it.
St Catherine’s Hill Wildlife Reserve
OS Map no. 185
Grid reference: SU 484 276
+44 (0) 1489 774400
Info from my visit there is on my website at www.reeves-hall.net/kids-outings/winchester-mizmaze/
Having used the been there to plan a short trip to Belgium I thought it only proper to note down my experiences for the reference of other visitors.
We travelled to Bruges in our own car via ferry from Dover to Calais – for our trip we found that this was the most cost-effective means. The drive from Calais to Bruges is not arduous and took less than 1.5 hours - sat nav makes it all the more simpler and brought us to the door of the Anselmus Hotel in central Bruges.
We found that this was a very comfortable, friendly family-run hotel that we could heartily recommend. It is ideally located close to the central area.
The city is fabulous – we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Take the canal tour and get a view of the local Flemish architecture, visit the Chocolate museum, watch the demo and sample the goods. Have hot chocolate and waffles in one of the street cafes as a mid morning snack or maybe grab a portion of chips and mayo from the mobile frituur in the market square, browse the unique shops – not too much sign of globalisation here!
For our meals we found excellent mussels and frites at Breydel-de-Coninck just off the main square at Breidelstraat 24 and for an alternative evening we could recommend the Grand Café de Comptoir with their excellent selection of international dishes, warm welcome, elegant décor and reasonable prices.
Then there’s the beer, you can visit a local brewery but if it’s the business end of the operation that you are interested in you will not be disappointed by the selection of bars and pubs and the variety of local beers on offer – close your eyes and take your pick.
The following day we visited Ypres (Ieper), about 70 km away, where you cannot fail to be stirred by the tragedy of the first world war. The museum named ‘In Flanders Fields’ in the main square of the town and only a short walk from the Menen Gate really puts a subsequent driving tour of the battlegrounds and cemeteries into vivid perspective.
Near Hill 62 you can view the trenches and let your imagination construct what it must have been like to fight in these conditions. The largest allied cemetery at ‘Tyne Cot' has over 12,000 graves regimentally aligned plus a wall of remembrance with thousands upon thousands of names of those who fell but have no known grave.
Bruges and the locality have much to offer visitors looking for a city break with a difference – I look forward to going again at some stage.
Check out the hotel at en.venere.com/belgium/hotels_brugge/hotel_anselmus.html?fe1&ref=682988, Breydel Restaurant site is www.breydel-deconinc.be/
The country is small so you can reach any place in Israel (well almost) in a few hours drive from Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv by far has the best services, entertainment, hotels, and restaurants compared to any other Israeli city. Even if you don't like the hustle and bustle of a large city (the Tel Aviv metropolitan area has more than two million people) you should still consider the convenience.
And if you are into cities that never sleep (like Madrid and New York) then there are few that can compete with Tel Aviv.
The people are friendly and helpful, most speak English, crime is low (so you don't have to worry about walking at night), and the weather is warm and sunny most of the year.
Another tip: Don't miss historic Jaffa (located in southern Tel Aviv). Great shops, clubs, food, and the biggest outdoor flea market I've ever seen.
My daughter loves Tel Aviv (and I do too).
Check out some photos at: www.pbase.com/gilazouri/telaviv
Tel Aviv is on the Mediterranean coast, more-or-less in the centre of the country.
If you fancy a overnight trip from Darjeeling, you can get to Kurseong in 90 minutes by shared jeep (about 50 pence each way).
Kurseong has spectactular views of the Himalayan foothills and the plains of north-east India. However, one place not to be missed (even if only for the trip along the mountain ridge to get there) is the organic Makaibari Tea Estate (by shared jeep or taxi from Kurseong Train Station).
I was taken on a personal tour of the factory (and tea tasting session) with Mr SK Banerjee, the owner of the estate.
Mr Banarjee is extremely knowledgeable and entertaining on the subject of tea and believe me, after 90 minutes or so, you will never want to drink teabag tea ever again.
This former 'model village' built by Sir Titus Salt in the 1800s to house his workers has fantastic architecture. The Mill itself is a fantastic place - now housing art/book shops, designer homeware store, outdoor clothing store, designer jewelery and David Hockney art gallery, among other things. And then there is the fantastic Salt's diner. Great food at reasonable prices. Entry to the mill is free. The village itself also has a range of arty type shops and cafes. For nature lovers, there is a canal and park next to the mill, and 10 minutes' walk through the woods brings you onto the fantastic moorland of Shipley Glen.
Nearest Station: Saltaire train station.
The Trafford Centre is probably the best shopping centre I have visited. There are so many shops to choose from - and there is a shop for everyone!
From clothes, accessories, sportswear, gaming, homeware, beauty and more - you are certain to come home with a car full of shopping bags.
There are also lots of great restaurants, bars and cafes to suit everyone's tastebuds after you've worked up an appetite from all that shopping - from Indian and Spanish cuisine restaurants to cosy coffee bars - you're bound to fine somewhere to satifsy the whole family.
As well as shops, bars and restaurants, the Trafford Centre is also the venue of many events such as fashion shows, dances and other competitions- it's also appeared on Channel 4's '10 Years Younger'.
So if you're looking for somewhere to shop, shop, shop - and then relax, the Trafford Centre could be right up your street!
Check out the Trafford Centre website for more information
It's a cross between a hotel, a youth hostel and a summer school for families and adults into sustainable living. They run brilliant Family Weeks and workshop courses on environmental issues like composting, preserving, finding wild food and a few more whacky ones like Sacred Trees and Five Rhythms Dance.
Beautiful space - an amazing gothic Victorian building with great views, 11 acres of land, organic walled garden (lots of the food is grown on site) and a farm - and a really good atmosphere. It's three miles from Charmouth and Lyme Regis for seaside fossils and swimming. You can also go there as a volunteer - help out in return for free board and lodging.
The street of Victorian shops is fascinating; there are other historical mock-ups such as a First World War trench (no wellies required) and something for all ages... it's a family run business so the home-made scones ARE home-made.
Just the place for a rainy day.
Corner Fore St. (St Marychurch) & Hampton Ave, near Babbacombe Model Village, 01803 32610 www.bygones.co.uk
This is a brilliant place for a breather from the kids. Set them off on the crazy golf and you can relax with a tea or coffee and cake. From the cafe the panoramic views of Padstow and the Camel Estuary are superb. We always go there for the view when in Padstow.
Up the steps off North Quay Parade, Padstow
A fabulous slice of country - delicious burgers, handsome sheepdogs, coconut ice, earnest pony club displays, crimplene dresses, huntspersons in full regalia, and best of all - ferret racing!
Late July in a field off the A39 just east of Dunster
Totnes holds Christmas markets every Tuesday in December which are a major attraction for locals and tourists alike. Totnes itself is a lovely and crazy town on the river Dart which organises this fab market. Being a very creative town the stalls and shops range from individual quirky individual stall holders and just as individual shops. The whole experience is wonderful with shopping, live music, dance, fab food and drinks. Start off at the bottom of the hill any time after 6pm and work your way up towards the castle, stopping for regular refreshment stops. It puts any other late night shopping to shame!
Totnes, South Devon
Wetsuits for kids in Devon and Cornwall are cheap, they don't need top of the range (usually £35), just get the cheap ones (probably £10 or less). They give them sun protection, keep them warm if they are in and out of the water all day and give a bit of added buoyancy when they are learning to swim.
Get the ones with short arms and legs, you get more use out of them when they are growing fast, but remember to sun cream the lower arms and legs, or do like my kids do and wear a long UV sun suit underneath. Watch out if it's hot, especially if the kids are not going in the water much as they can get very hot with the black neoprene absorbing the heat.
They were the best things we ever bought, my daughter learned to swim in the sea when she was 4 in hers as she felt so confident.
You can buy them in surf shops (expensive), but also in most beach kiosks, bucket and spade shops in town and also in some supermarkets in beach towns. The ones from Decathlon in France are really good, and only 10 Euros.
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