This must be one of the most beautiful, varied and satisfying of all cycle routes in Britain. Moderately challenging (at 46.5miles, taking 5-8 hours) for most to be able give it a go, the dramatic seascapes on route are as exhilarating as they are soothing for the soul. There are many opportunities for fuel stops; independent cafe’s, bars with sea views, country pubs, farms selling their wares via an honesty box, are all plentiful on route.
Begin at Penzance train station and head straight along the seafront following signs for Newlyn/Mousehole/Lands End. Climb up through the harbour town of Newlyn (with perfect views across Penzance from here). Through the next harbour town of Mousehole and into the picturesque Lamorna Cove.
Climbing out of Lamorna Cove you head inland turning left at the T junction for Lands End/Porthcurno/St Buryan. As you ride through Boskenna on the B3115 look out for the Tregiffian burial chamber and the perfectly formed Merry Maiden’s stone circle in a passing field. Then turn right, signposted St Buryan. Then turn left, signpost for Logan Rock/Porthcurno/Land’s End.
Climbing out of the valley around Crean you make for Lands End. The visit to the last stop in England is an optional detour. Alternatively, follow signs for Sennan, surfers paradise and one of the loveliest beaches in Britain with dramatic, rugged cliff tops in the backdrop.
The climb out of Sennan and towards St Just is practically a straight road where you can lock out and pick up some real speed. The sea breeze as you whizz along, as refreshing as supping a citron presse on a summer’s day on the banks of the Seine. You're heading for St Just now, passing through the town itself following the B3306 towards Pendeen and Zennor. On route you will pass the now symbolic tin miles dotting the landscape, the Geevor Tin Mine is worthy of a stop.
Pass through Pendeen, continuing on the B3306 straight onto Zennor. Turn right just before Zennor towards Newmill and Penzance. Heading inland following signs for Trythall, Tredinnick/Bodrifty/Ding. The journey has more rural feel to it now as you pass farms, derelict buildings and idyllic Cornish homesteads. The narrow country lanes invite you to slow down and take a more reflective, ponderous tone with your bike. Turn right at the signpost for Tredinnick/Bodrifty, entering moorland and rocky paths. You pass on old engine house close to the road on the right, take a grassy track here. Continue pass houses on the right and onto a well defined track, passing a mine shaft warning sign post. Continue along this track as it swings left in front of another engine house to rejoin the tarmac next to Bosiliack Farm.
Turn left at next T junction, and then head for Newbridge. Then turn right onto the A3071, following signs for St Just/Newbridge. Stay on the road for a mile or so before turning left onto a bridleway just past Jericho Farm on your right. Continue on the bridleway as it descends through farms back onto tarmac. You’ll pass the Carn Euny settlement (inhabited 500BC to 300AD) which contains the best preserved underground chamber in Britain. Admission free and generally open all year.
Turn left at bottom of road (effectively straight on).
Turn right at T junction and on towards Penzance, signposted all the way for the next 5.5 miles home. The final stretch is a chance to unwind along the harbour, St Michael’s Mount visible in the distance, and if you're lucky, the spray from the waves adding to the gentle breeze cooling and refreshing you as you look forward to that well deserved pint to celebrate what has been the most delightful bike ride in a long time.
Begin at Penzance train station, all day parking available and reasonably priced.
The "Toy Train" was the first to be built of its kind, and is still considered by UNESCO to be 'the most outstanding example of a hill passenger railway' in the world.
Rather than taking the full bum-numbing eight hour journey from New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling, I recommend the half day "Joy Ride", a comfortable return journey from Darjeeling to Ghum. We were lucky to purchase a ticket for the same day, but if it's a busy time you may need to book in advance. The 83km journey costs 360rupees each and includes entry to the railway museum in Ghum.
The windows in the first class carriage were enormous, giving us close up views of the mountain on one side and the valley on the other.
We stopped at Batasia Loop, where we were suitably humbled by the memorial to the Gorkha soldier and stunned by the view of Kanchenjunga, India's highest mountain (the third highest in the world).
When we arrived in Ghum it was swathed in a blanket of cloud, illustrating the reason for its nickname of “Gloom”.
We strolled through the small railway museum, and learned all about the history of the mountain railway system. When the driver was happy with the train's health we all piled back into the airy carriage and with another surge of steam, hoots, hisses and chug-a-lugs left Ghum, Ghoom or Gloom.
After a long ascent in the foothills of the Bes Parmak (Five Fingers) mountain range in South West Turkey we arrived at the ruins of Labranda.
After meeting the guardian Ali we explored the site containing the temple of Zeus Labrys (double headed axe)amongst the baths and monumental tomb. Meanwhile Alis wife brewed cay (tea)and made a feast of traditional aegean dishes for us to devour. Our table was set amidst Hellenistic period ruins amid a sublime panorama.
Lunch was followed by Turkish coffee before we continued our hike along Turkey's new long distance footpath 'The Carian Trail.'
The Carian Trail covers the south west corner of Turkey with over 800km of waymarked path. Labranda lies to north east of the town of Milas 650m below in the plain.
Most people will argue that, while in Turkey, you should eat kebabs in all their different incarnations (İskender, döner, şiş, etc) or the pide, or baklava or any of the other amazing foods that Turkey has to offer.
However, if you truly want to get to the heart of Turkey’s crowning glory, Istanbul, there is no better nor faster way than the midye.
Midye, the little stuffed mussels with rice and lemon juice, are ubiquitous in most Turkish cities. But to walk across the Galata Bridge, eating midye, watching the sunrise, is another experience in itself. The rice in the overstuffed morsel, absorbs the saltiness of the sea and the sourness of the lemon, producing a combination much like Istanbul itself, that in the overcrowding of 11 million people and four empires, you can find peace in the calm waters of the Bosphorus, highlighted by the sharpness of the sun.
On this bridge, at this time, with this food, you can feel the overwhelming sense of beauty of the Queen of Cities.
Sold everywhere near the Bosphorus and the Galata Bridge.
Google map: bit.ly/GACD81
Dating back to the fifteenth century, the old walled town of Ahmedabad is a maze of enchanting 'Pols' (small communities) connected by narrow alleys and lanes, and sprinkled with mosques and temples. Each Pol has a gated entrance – and sometimes a secret exit – enabling each small community to shut itself off from its neighbours, or any marauding invaders. The small squares (chowks) – around which a few dwellings, shops and ateliers crowd – usually contain a well and an elaborate wooden "chabutra" (bird feeder) on a high stone plinth.
To save yourself from getting lost in this unique place, and to understand better what's in front of you, join the heritage walk which starts every morning from Swaminarayan Temple. Get there on time so as not to miss the a/v show beforehand; they don't wait for stragglers.
The city is currently bidding for UNESCO World Heritage status, and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is pulling out all the stops to renovate this beautiful area. With plans for lighted walkways, cafés and re-painted façades, the clean-up has encouraged local inhabitants to return to their old homes. We went back the next day on our own, and enjoyed talking to the friendly and inquisitive workers, schoolchildren and families.
Heritage Walk (every day, starting with a slide show)
Starting Point: 8:00am Swaminarayan Temple, Old town.
Ending Point: 10:30am Jama Masjid
Fees: Indians: Rs 30, foreigners: Rs 50
+91 79 25391811 (Mobile) +91 98240 32866
Google map: bit.ly/GCuk8S
A hugely welcoming and pleasant B&B, an old farmhouse in the countryside 1 km from the castle and walled village of Gradara, where the tragic story of Paolo and Francesca (and in Dante's Inferno) took place.
The house, on a hill, is beautifully and simply renovated and decorated, has four very reasonably priced rooms and after an excellent breakfast hosts Giulia and Davide will, if you wish, help you choose between a visit to unmissable Urbino, one of the many restaurants and cafes within the walls of Gradara, easily walkable from the house, a day in one of the civillised beaches on the Adriatic, or a visit to one of the best ceramics museum in Italy in historic Pesaro. As my granddaughter and I had initially chosen Casa della Stella for its proximity to the Commonwealth War Grave, (walking distance), where my father is buried, you can imagine our happiness to find so many delights nearby.
For all the ageing hippies who headed east in search of enlightenment The Pudding Shop in Istanbul is still there, still acting as a meeting point and still serving good food at a reasonable price. Opened in 1957 the restaurant became a place to stop off for travellers in the 1960s who were heading out towards the cultural nirvana of India and Nepal. In a pre-electronic age its bulletin board acted as a communication hub passing on messages offering and asking for lifts. Today it is a self-service café offering decent Turkish food in Sultanahmet close by the Blue Mosque, Saint Sophia and the Grand Bazaar. Don’t go for a gourmet experience. Go for a nostalgic experience. Remember the days when travelling meant hitch hiking, VW vans and Citroen 2CVs not easyJet and Ryanair.
Kachchh (Kutch) is full of history, ancient and modern, much of which is represented in this eclectic but charming privately run museum. Founded in 1877, it contains ancient artefacts, including pieces from the magnificent Harappan site of Dholavira. There is a gripping photographic explanation of the 2001 earthquake, but its strength lies in its detailed coverage of the local tribes of Kachchh.
On the ground floor a series of life-size tableaux, with meticulous attention to detail, depicts the different communities of this often hostile expanse of land. Each scene shows men and women at work wearing traditional costume unique to their caste. A lengthy description of the community in Hindi and English accompanies each scene.
Upstairs there are stunning displays of Kachchh's world renowned textiles, from embroidery so fine it looks as though it was sewn by fairies, to glorious beading, mirror-work, bandhani and the dying crafts of ikat and hand-painted Rogan art.
Price: 50 INR
Hours: Thu-Tue 10am-1pm, & 2.30-5.30pm (closed 2nd & 4th Sat of month)
Google map: bit.ly/wt9kpb
If you want to get off the beaten track a bit in the Cairo area then Casual Cairo Detours will help you do exactly that.
The tours they organise give a unique insight into Egypt as they use local guides and drivers along with their expat English-speaking guide who accompanies each trip.
Their tours allow you to see and experience parts of Egypt that most travellers would find very difficult to access on their own.
They are really friendly and offer the perfect way of seeing more of Cairo and the delta area.
+2(02) 2415 2726
Alip is our Been there local for Cairo. Her homepage is here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/cairo-local-alice-allsop.jsp and you can follow her tips directly here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/alip
Padova is a wonderful place to explore Italian culture without hoards of tourists. Start the day with a cappuccino and brioche in one of the many cafes, then take a trip to the Scrovegni Chapel to see the beautiful frescos by Giotto. You can only spend 15 minutes inside but will appreciate their beauty. You must book ahead online. Walk to Prato della Valle, the largest square in Italy, sampling an ice cream from the many gelaterias on Via Roma on the way. Visit the Basilica di Sant' Antonio, known as 'Il Santo', where among the artistry and statues you can see St Anthony's relics. Round off the day with the local drink, Spritz, a bitter drink of Aperol, prosecco and sparkling water. Bellissimo!
See the wonderful Byzantine mosaics in the churches of Ravenna, some of which are 1,500 years old. A trip to the Basilica di San Vitale is a must - the mosaics are the most impressive and of great significance. Buy a combo ticket and also see the mosaics of Basilica di Sant'Appollinare Nuovo. In total there are eight UNESCO sites. Have a wander around the historic centre, Piazza del Popolo and don't forget a visit to Dante's tomb while you're there.
Le Corbusier's building offers the perfect mixture of space and light required for a museum. It is set in an affluent part of the new town, next to a park. On the ground floor is the small Kite Museum, worth a quick look round if kites are your bag (they are a big part of north Indian culture). Some beautiful examples are pressed against backlit glass walls, allowing the visitor to get up close to these exotic paper-thin works of art. The colours and designs are as intricate and varied as one would expect in a state renowned for its textiles and design. The rest of the simple space is lined with text, photographs and drawings depicting the history of kites. The style of writing is typical of the slightly archaic forms of expression sometimes used by well-educated Indians: "...Cries of victory or defeat rend the air, and everyone enters the fray."
The main museum is accessed up a concrete ramp from the central well area. On our visit, a solitary guard sat behind the entrance desk and proffered a visitors' book for us to sign. We were then left to our own devices.
The space inside is voluminous and unadorned, a perfect characterless backdrop to house the exhibits.
At first I was wrapped up in the functional architecture and big spaces, but when I turned my attention to the exhibits I rapidly became less impressed. The lack of maintenance sadly lets down this museum: display cases, although being furiously cleaned on the outside by a local woman, were thick with dust inside. The areas devoted to Gujarati handicrafts (for which the state is best known) were dull and uninspiring, and what should have been vibrant and colourful artefacts hung limply from the wall, or lay neglected in cases. A series of areas devoted to different ages were hardly given any explanation, and I was left wondering what I was looking at. A nice section on photography, including images and camera equipment, was so badly lit I could barely make them out. The modern art section had some interesting work, but a numbered list on the wall (simply giving the artists name and date of birth, no title) did not relate to any of the paintings, none of which had numbers.
The guard handed us a pamphlet as we left; it contained a plan and some information on the exhibits. Perhaps it might have been a better idea to give this to us as we entered.
The final nail in the coffin were the toilets. Housed outside the museum, behind a screen of trees, is a separate his and hers block. We have lived in India for nearly two years and are not easily phased by Indian toilets any more, but these were so bad that we felt compelled to do something we've never bothered with before: we complained to the museum manager. Surely a city's museum should have plumbed-in loos? And if they don't, perhaps they could clean the excrement-covered floors and walls?
Unless they do something soon, the City Museum's cabinet displays will disappear under a ton of dust and the unplumbed lavatories under a sea of shit. Le Corbusier must be spinning in his grave. It's a terrible waste of a fantastic space and fascinating exhibits.
Bhagtacharya Rd Sanskar Kendra, Sanskar Chendra
+91 (079) 26578369
Google map: bit.ly/wly6dz
It’s worth going to Padua just to see Giotto’s masterpiece in this chapel. The fresco cycle has been brilliantly and painstakingly restored; to prevent further damage you have to spend 15 minutes in an air-conditioned chamber before you can go in. Once in, it’s breathtaking, every surface bursting with colour and life. Giotto was the first artist to portray Christ as a real person and the story of his life covers the walls of the chapel while the entire wall above the chapel entrance is covered by his terrifying depiction of the Last Judgement. Just remember to book your tickets in advance online.
In Sardinia, spend a morning wandering around the Bronze Age megalithic ‘nuraghi’ that dot the island. Little is known about the nuragic people or their culture although most archaeologists assume the buildings were used as religious temples, meeting halls, or military strongholds. The best example, dating from somewhere around the twelfth century BC, is Su Nuraxi Barumini. The complex includes the fortress and the village surrounding it. Walk through the village where you can see remains of stone huts and then climb down the narrow stone steps that lead to the fortress to get the real atmosphere. From the inside there are several chambers off the main tower and looking up you can see the blue sky through the dome at the top.
If you only have time to see one gallery in Milan, make it this one. Set up in 1618, it is home to over 1500 paintings by artists such as Raphael, Luini, Titian, Caravaggio, Botticelli and Brueghel. It also has a large collection of work by Da Vinci including his ‘Codex Atlanticus' and many of his notebooks. The building itself was completely restored in the 1990s and is a fine example of Lombard architecture with mullioned windows, frescoed walls and vaulted ceilings. The visit ends in the impressive library, rich in classical manuscripts, notably Homer and Virgil. Another bonus is the lack of crowds, so you always have a great view without having to jostle with the hordes!
The medieval hilltop village of Ceriana in western Liguria has many attractions, fabulous food, mountain walks, splash pools, but perhaps most unusual are the six choirs, famous for preserving the ancient tradition of regional polyphonic singing, or drone music. The thriving choirs, linked to the confraternities, have a calendar of events throughout the year. They are fiercely proud of their unbroken tradition of rural singing in the valley, some of which is sung in local ‘Cerianasco’ dialect.
Italo Calvino, the writer, was a partisan fighter there during the Second World War, and some of the modern (20th century) ballads recall the events of this period.
To hear the choirs, go to the Easter festival, or even better the festival of Madonna della Villa in September, which starts with a torch-lit procession to the chapel, and includes the choirs singing in the piazza. Festivals are both moving and entertaining, with most being accompanied by copious amounts of locally made food and wine.
If you are lucky, you don’t need to attend a special event; an impromptu session can happen at any social gathering.
These are very much village events, not tourist spectacle, but the welcome to strangers is open and sincere.
Pick up a Chianti tour map in any Tuscan town or village and drive through the amazing hillside villages that make up the Chianti Classico collective. This wine is at the very heart of Italian culture. The people, places, food and wine on this village tour are the very essence of Italy, and the countryside is both varied and astounding. Stop off and explore each village, proudly displaying the Chianti Classico collective emblem of the black rooster, and experience Italian village life off the beaten track.
Between Florence and Sienna, covering the villages of Greve, Radda, Gaiole, Castellina and Panzano.
Google map: bit.ly/xo7rZF
Situated on a hilltop just outside the town, these painted Etruscan burial chambers inspired D.H.Lawrence to write what was to be his final, most heartfelt travelogue, Etruscan Places. Although there are more than 6000 tombs, only about 15 are open to visitors each day. The wall paintings are surprisingly celebratory, depicting scenes of dancing, music, feasting and even sex! After exploring the tombs, go into town to visit the Tarquinia National Museum, devoted to Etruscan exhibits and sarcophagi excavated from the necropolis. Be sure not to miss the almost life-size pair of winged horses from the pediment of a Tarquinian temple, one of the greatest Etruscan masterpieces ever discovered.
These two Tuscan hill towns are in close proximity to each other but very different - you can do them in a day. I suggest Volterra first so you can then enjoy San Gimignano without the hordes of tourists and great light at dusk to take photos. Volterra has the Roman amphitheatre, great panoramas and a wonderful museum dedicated to its Etruscan heritage. San Gimignano has a medieval feel, with 15 out of its 70 original towers still standing. You can climb up one of these and get excellent views of the surrounding countryside. Both towns are unique and a must if you are visiting Tuscany.
Google map: bit.ly/Athd8H
I was reading your article on wines in the Czech Republic and didn't see anything about Burcak, a young Moravian wine. I read about it in The God Complex, a new thriller novel set in Prague.
I visited Prague last fall and took the book and printed off a free self-guided tour from the book's website. I learned more interesting things about Prague from that book than the guided tour I paid for there. Things such as Burcak, where to find it, and that it's only served in the fall. Luckily, it was fall when I visited. I also found the pig's knee restaurant described in the book. The book had enough history/background of the sites listed in the tour to make it a good compliment/replacement for a local tour. Just as the tour says, it will turn your trip into an adventure. It's definitely worth packing for a weekend trip.
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