This historical building is the perfect retreat from today's hectic rat race. Goodrich Castle is reached by a gentle walk through the perfect English village complete with old -fashioned Post Office-cum general store and fine fayre pub. At 200 paces, the River Wye provides excellent canoeing for the more active visitor. Further afield, the Forest of Dean serves up a range of outdoor activities. The tranquility of the Priory complements whatever your day has brought. The self-catering appartments furnished to a very high standard with log fires make the perfect ending to your physical days - they even take dogs.
And not an air-mile in sight, so even your conscience is at peace!
The largest memorial garden in the world is a beautiful backdrop for the oversized mausoleums and famous tombs packed together along its gravel and cobbled paths. But Père Lachaise is more than a repository for the crème de la crème. Throw the map away and wind aimlessly under the ancient chestnut trees of the well-tended park. Jim Morrison's grave is less interesting than the crowd round it, and the Holocaust and war memorials will give you pause.
Free maps are supplied at the gate
16, Rue de Repos, 20th Arrondisement, Paris
Métro: Père Lachaise Gambetta
Hours: 8:30am-6:00pm (last entry 15 minutes before closing)
Google map: bit.ly/KtQIFC
Walk through historic Le Marais, the most "branché" neighbourhood of Paris, to the supremely elegant Place des Vosges. Victor Hugo was inspired by what he saw from his window at number six, which is now a museum to the great author. The red bricks, natural stone and grey slate mansard roofs of the perfectly proportioned square are best appreciated from its pretty park. Picnic on baguettes by the fountains and trees, while the kids play in the sandpit. But don't sit on the lawns if the "pelouse au repos" signs are out.
Maison de Victor Hugo, 6 Place des Vosges, 75004 Paris
+33 1 42 72 10 16
Google map: bit.ly/L4Ikxt
While on a walk in the New Forest I came across the delight that is the Station House in Holmsley. To see a sympathetically restored train station in pristine condition in use as a tea room is something I could not just pass by. With its traditional style tea room interior and unique outside selling area it meant anyone could enjoy the scrumptious homemade delights made from local produce. I chose to sit outside and found it a great pleasure to sit on the restored platform looking over the beautiful forests while enjoying a delectable Millionaire's shortcake. An extremely wide range of treats were available, ranging from the more healthy lunch menu to the irresistable afternoon tea and cake selection. There is also a delightful-looking supper menu. Another aspect I really liked was that it is great for walkers and cyclists. I enjoyed my little taster of the Station House considerably and look forward to going again some time soon.
A beautiful Victorian tea room set in a building dating back to 1675 and serving wonderful traditional afternoon tea on three tier stands. The choice of tea is fantastic, all loose leaf and served in beautiful bone china. Everything is authentic in this stunning building, from the china, the paintings on the walls to the Victorian costumes the staff wear, it really does feel like you've stepped back in time. They also serve delicious homemade cakes, pastries and sandwiches. We came away feeling like we had an experience rather than just an afternoon tea. Fantastic, relaxing and very very tasty :-)
Step back in time at the picturesque tea rooms of Grantchester, a place now entrenched in Cambridge folklore. There are few finer ways to spend an afternoon than punting up the River Cam to enjoy afternoon tea and scones underneath the fruit trees here. The list of former visitors here reads like a historical who's who of English high society, and there may even have been a poem written about it ...
Paris is for walking, yet teems with cars and tour buses. Banish their omnipresent blare by taking the steps down to river level at every opportunity. For 2000 years the Seine has been Paris’ pulse. Looking up at Notre Dame from the left bank quayside instead of from the roadside, it’s easy to imagine scenes from the city’s rich historical – and fictional – past. Like de Gaulle remaining unflustered as sniper shots fired by pro-Nazi sympathisers concealed within the cathedral’s cavernous interior narrowly missed turning the1944 mass to celebrate the liberation of Paris into a massacre. Or Quasimodo sliding down his rope to rescue a praying Esmeralda about to be led to the gallows. Sight Seeker’s Delight pack phenomenal detail into their 4-hour Seine walking tour, and, on Sundays, the right bank running close to the Eiffel Tower is closed to traffic and given over to pedestrians before being transformed into Paris Plages for a month from 20 July: several kilometres of sand, seaside fun and stunning views.
In this part of Berlin you are very much inside the territory of the old East Germany, and the Markisches Ufer or Wharfe (alongside one branch of the River Spree) was where the former regime moved old buildings felt worthy of preservation from sites elsewhere where they were in the way of urban development. There are of course only fragments of old Berlin here but enough to give one an impression of a city with bridges, boats, quaysides and mercantile buildings alongside a working river.
The Markisches Museum houses a mixed collection of objects associated with the life and times of Berlin and Brandenburg. It's mostly social history, with paintings, prints, ceramics, reconstructed interiors, and so on. To be frank, this museum is what Dylan Thomas described as "a museum which ought to be in a museum" (he was talking about Swansea's museum), but in its old-fashioned way it offers a quiet environment where other times and other lives can be contemplated without the clamour of other visitors pressing switches, setting of audio-visual displays, or kids running around dressed up as characters from Jane Austen!
Both locations well worth a visit.
Naxos is one of the biggest and most picturesque islands in the cycladic complex with endless beaches and restaurants offering local organic products. The most recognisible ancient monument is the "Portara" the gate of what used to be the temple of Apollo, situated close to the main port of the island. However Naxos has also many Byzantine churches and above all the famous "Kouros", the two gigantic statues which represent a young man. The first Kouros is located in the northern part of the island, in Apollonas and it is not worth the visit, whereas the second Kouros of Melanes is a fantastic sample of the geometric era (7th and 6th century B.C.) The unfinished Kouros at Melanes (or Flerio) is situated in a lovely garden full of citrus trees. At the end of the path there is a lady selling home made marmelades, a treat you just can't miss.
Easily accessible by ferry from the High Court jetty at the bottom of Banerji Road in Ernakulam (the tiny boat runs every half hour) this pretty island is often overlooked by visitors, but is worth seeking out. Turn left off the ferry for a short walk to the Bolgatty Palace Hotel, which has a nine hole golf course, a garden full of specimen trees, the oldest Dutch Palace in India, and the only marina in the country. If the restaurant has put on a buffet (most days) the typically spicy Keralan food is well worth trying (don't miss the spectacular fish curry), although don't expect razor-sharp service.
If you turn right off the ferry follow the chessboard of tiny roads through the village. Catch the flash of a kingfisher, butterflies the size of your hand and egrets daintily perching on buffalo under the shady tropical trees. You may feel like you are walking through people's gardens, but no-one will mind and they'll probably invite you in for a tea if you stop and chat. Under the bridge on the eastern shore of the island lives an extended family of Harijans (Untouchables) from Mysore. They make their meagre living by fishing from saucer-shaped woven coracles.
Beloved by all photographers, Kerala's elephant temple festivals are world renowned. Thrissur has the granddaddy of them all in April/May, when the festival of Pooram is celebrated. Not a time to visit for the faint-hearted—you will need stamina and sunblock, and feel comfortable in loud sweaty crowds of excitable worshippers.
But Thrissur is an interesting day trip for anyone staying in Kochi at any time of the year. It's a pleasant introduction to Keralan town life: not too busy, dusty or crowded, and small enough to walk round in a day. The two hundred-year-old Shakthan Thampuran Palace is now an elegant archaeological museum set on a hill among painstakingly landscaped gardens. The building was closed for refurbishment at the time of my visit, scheduled to re-open 1st April 2012 (but don't hold your breath). Thrissur is also famous for its magnificent churches, their colourful stucco façades peeking over the town's roads in every direction.
Don't be afraid to join the workers for some roadside food. But watch the amount of sugar they add to the delicious fruit cocktails, Keralans have a sweet tooth.
Get there by train from Ernakulam Junction (any visit to India is not complete without a train journey) which lasts around one and half hours, and costs a mere 28 INR for a one-way ticket.
Shakthan Thampuran Palace, Stadium Road, Thrissur
Google map: bit.ly/LaGN4w
We booked two day tours (the Grand Riga Tour and Sigulda Tour). Both were surprisingly good! The guides and service were excellent. Thanks Gatis and Gundega (tour guides) and Janis!
Packed with colonial buildings and pickled charm, Fort Cochin is a gentle way of easing yourself into the sometimes Medieval comforts of India. Strolling through the flower-bordered lanes and weatherboard houses, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Sussex. Vasco da Gama first arrived on India's Malabar coast in 1498, returning for the third time in 1524 to die on Christmas Eve. He was buried in St Francis Church. This refreshingly unfussy building—the first European church to be built in India—still stands amid the banyan trees and cricket fields (unlike Vasco da Gama whose remains were removed to Portugal). Rubbed to a smooth polish by centuries of fervent worship, the wide flagstone floor is cool under bare feet. A high timber-beamed ceiling and rope operated punkahs (fans) bring some welcome relief from the relentless tropical heat of steamy Kerala.
Google map: bit.ly/JiMWQ8
When those ancient traders sailed from the Arabian Sea into the hectic spice port of Fort Cochin, they were greeted by rows of shore-based Chinese fishing nets. Crowding along the estuary, these primitive machines—like gigantic alien sentries from a Ridley Scott sci-fi film—have been in use for hundreds of years, and are found throughout Kerala's famous backwaters. Legend has it they came from the court of Kublai Khan, but the precise date is not known. Still in use today, the cantilevered contraptions stand around ten meters high, and about twenty meters wide. The nets dip in and out of the water all day, staying down for only five minutes before being levered back up. Fort Cochin is the best place to see them up close. Choose a fish straight from the net then watch it being grilled in front of you for a tasty supper.
River Road, Nr Vypeen ferry terminal, Fort Cochin
Google map: bit.ly/Ldl7Hy
Like an ornate old world cathedral, this monumental representation of Gothic-revival architecture—complete with turrets, lancet windows, gables, high arches, elaborate porches, decorative corbels, and jutting gargoyles—stands aloof from its flock, cut off by six lanes of shrieking traffic. A superb example of British nineteenth-century design, the UNESCO-listed building rivals St. Pancras station and pays homage to Notre Dame. The Victoria Terminus (which took ten years to complete) was opened in 1887, Queen Victoria's golden jubilee year, when it was also given her name. It sheltered the delicate wives and daughters of the Raj as they passed through its porticoes, in buttoned-up layers of silk and guipure, on their way to the cool refuge of a mountain hill station. Today's elegant Mumbaiker women use the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus for their daily commute. Gliding by in exotic embroidered saris, acres of fine gold, glittering embellishment, and precious jewellery, they mirror the elaborate finish of the walls and columns that hold up this masterpiece.
Mumbai CST Area, DN Road, Mumbai, India
Google map: bit.ly/KDbfoi
I found this interesting website about the historic port city of Portsmouth, with many great photos. The site is quite informative for visitors (it lists accommodation, food and drink apart from the tourist sights) but what makes it special is the way it is presented and the beautiful pictures. Makes you want to go now.
Having lived in Central America for many years, we returned there to introduce our two young daughters to one of our own favourite places – Hotel Perkin Lenca, high in the northern mountains of Morazan, El Salvador. Swinging in hammocks on their cabin porch drinking fresh orange juice and clean air, watching long-tailed blue-crowned Motmots (Torogoces - the Salvadoran national birds), flitting about the branches in front of them, with stunning views over the mountains that fade into the horizon. They fell in love with it all, long to go back, and now judge much foreign travel by this memorable experience.
This eco-friendly (and kindly priced) hotel is committed to the sustainable development of the area founding the nearby Amún Shéa school, a centre for integrated development, where students, parents, teachers and administrators work together to create an alternative educational system pertinent to local needs. Morazan was one of the major theatres of the Salvadoran conflict in the 70s and 80s. The nearby small town of Perquin provides an ideal place to learn of the history of that conflict, particularly through its small museum, and Perkin Lenca, the hotel, and its charitable Perkin Educational Opportunities Foundation, is an ideal place to learn of innovative ways forward from poverty and conflict.
Perkin Lenca is, for us and our children, delicious, distinctive Salvadoran food, beautiful stone and log-built cabins, hot showers, stunning scenery, comfortable climate, genuinely friendly people and an inspiring commitment to the sustainable development of the area.
Km. 205 ½ Carretera a Perquin
El Salvador, Centro América
+(503) 2680 4046
Tel Aviv is a fascinatingly diverse city and one of the reasons is its incredible collection of Bauhaus architecture which is actually the largest collection in the world.
The architecture covers much of the 'old' part of the city (really it's only about 100 years old) but if you have a limited amount of time, don't be tempted to spend it in a museum if you haven't explored here.
Michael Herbert runs a regular programme of historical walks, which as the name suggests, focus on Manchester and Salford's radical history from Peterloo to the present day. The programme includes introductions to Manchester and Salford as a radical city, women's history, votes for women, trade unionism and literary Manchester. The walks last about two hours. Michael is a very knowledgeable guide with a background as an historian and a trade unionist in UNITE. He is the author of a number of books on Manchester's history.
It is not until the last coach full of day trippers departs that you really appreciate the quiet beauty of this 18th century monastery. Situated in a valley 500 meters above sea level, surrounded by the impressive mountains of the Sierra de Tramuntana, it is a spectacular location for quiet reflection. Listening to the resident choir school, who sing morning and evening, is a beautiful experience for both believers and non-believers alike. The monastery is an ideal base to explore the mountains, by foot or mountain bike. There are numerous trails direct from the monastery: you could hike up the Puig de Massellana (1364m) or follow the old paved Pilgrims trail to Caimari. Outside the monastery there is an information office for the Tramuntana range with helpful English speaking staff.
With simple, functional accommodation and a range of local rustic fayre from no less than three restaurants, a cafe and a bakery it has something to suit all budgets (the cafe is best value). But beware - it will not suit party animals - you are expected to be silent after 11:00 pm!
Plaça dels Peregrins, 1, 07315 Escorca, Mallorca, Illes Balears
+34 971 87 15 25
Google map: bit.ly/KyR2ET
Bus Connections to Lluc: There are buses to and from Inca and Palma. In summer (May-October) there are also public buses from Port d`Soller, Alcudia, Can Picafort and Pollensa. There are also Tourist day trips from most towns, or you could plan as stay as part of a hike or bike across the Tramuntana range (which is what we did).
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