If it's still summer and you want to avoid the more touristy places head to the "beach" at la Villette and enjoy free loungers, free mini-boats for kids aged 6 to 10 and even free tea snacks for the little ones.
There are two new excellent cinemas with bookstores/DVD/cds. Also, you can walk along the Canal and head towards La Vilette science and tech exhibition and the famous Cite de la Musique.
A visit to La Mosquee (rue Saint Hilaire) is the most relaxing way to spend time in Paris. The mosque itself is very interesting - someone there will eagerly show you around - but the best part is the little cafe there.
You can sit outside in the garden and sip mint tea or eat sweet pastries in a calm, unhurried atmosphere. There is even a traditional hamman located there where you can have a very efficient Turkish-style bath for a fraction of the price any of the more indulgent spa hotels would charge to leave you feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of Paris. A serene and peaceful environment where everyone is welcome.
Make sure you visit the Parc de Citroen. Built on what used to be wasteland, it's a shining example of garden design in that it fuses the surrounding buildings into the planting and landscaping. Whatever the season, it's so worth a stroll - calming yet impressive.
Block Island is one of the places that makes Rhode Island the "Ocean State". Block Island can be reached via 1 hour ferry ride from Point Judith or Newport, depending on the season. The island offers a quiet and gentle respite from hectic mainland life, with great beaches, and extensive cycling and walking tracks, not to mention the unspolit nature. Don't miss out on the fantastic seafood, such as clam chowder, either!
A visit to the sumptuous Etablissement de Bains, built to exacting German standards between 1904 & 1911, is a must.
Enjoy a Turkish bath, sauna, thermal bath or a swim in opulent surroundings unlike anything available in Britain all for a very reasonable entrance fee.
A perfect and affordable pick-up, particularly revitalising during the winter months.
As well as seeing the usual sights, you must visit the Orangerie, a park or more accurately, pleasure garden just north east of the city centre.
There are beautiful gardens, stately buildings,a small zoo, an aviary,a boating lake, an unusual outdoor planetarium and a stylish cafe and restaurant.
A lovely place to spend an afternoon away from the busy city centre.
Try the Mappa Mundo bar in the Saint-Gery area of the centre of Brussels (2-6 rue pont de la carpe).
It's a great cosmopolitan bar, with a very nice atmosphere, it's not too expensive, and it serves lots of good Belgian beers (try my favourite... Faro.) and great food.
Plus it has a nice terrace , so it's perfect for warm days!
If you fancy a day of serious relaxation, and you're not the shy type, head to Grimbergen for a day at the thermal spa.
It's only €19 for the day and has a huge choice of saunas, steam rooms, jacuzzis and an open air swimming pool.
The catch is, if you want access to the Aquarius area, which has the pool and the best saunas, you have to be naked. There is a swimsuit section for those who prefer to cover their dignity, but it's kind of liberating, and certainly amusing, to hang out in the buff with the Belgians.
For a quiet moment away from the normal hustle and bustle, take some time to sit in the Jardin du Petit Sablon (in between the Palais du Justice and the Royal Palace).
It is an oasis of calm next to the Royal School of Music and you can sit in a small garden listening to superb music.
If you are in Brussels and are feeling torn between sight-seeing and cafe relaxation then head to the terrace bar at the Museum of Instruments where you can do both at the same time.
The view is truly extrodinary: one of the best in Europe. The museum, I should add is, is also worth seeing and inexpensive.
But if museums are not your thing then don't worry – you don't have to pay for entry to get to the terrace-bar. Just tell reception where you are heading and hop into the elevator.
Do visit The Sheraton for afternoon tea. It’s affordable and the décor, piano and vast array of cakes takes you to another world.
Just down the hill from The Sheraton, is the St George Gallery, which has a wonderful display of quality goods, both antique and modern. Further down the hill were shops that sold jewellery by weight of silver. It was good quality and reasonably priced.
We did most of our gift shopping at a group of shops just off Churchill Avenue on the right up Nigeria Street.
Discover an oasis of calm. Go to the Beguinage, a beautiful small green and shaded space flanked by distinctive white buildings and crossed with paths. Sisters of the religious St. Benedict order have taken the place of the former beguines of the former cloistered community. Its atmosphere is wonderfully serene.
The Begijnhof is just off Wijngaardplein and has a shop, church and small museum. There are signs asking people to be silent (though not always obeyed).
Hire a bike from Bruges station for the day (you'll need a passport as ID) and head for the village of Damme.
Cycle along quiet tree-lined canals and stop in Damme for a coffee or lunch. Then continue along more traffic-free tree-lined canals, popping into the odd village along the way.
Bike hire is very reasonable at about 15 euros for the day.
Amsterdamse Bos is a campsite in Amsterdam. Great for canoeing, horse riding and really getting a different holiday.
The bar man will wind up an old record player for you and ask you to wipe your bum on a rabbit if there's no toilet roll, but apart from that it's relaxing.
It's close to the metro and motorway but is an ideal retreat if you prefer to be away from the city at night.
If you are a weary traveller and fancy a night of luxury you can sometimes get great deals on this hotel on the internet. The rooms are very comfy and they have that rare luxury, a bath!
Free transfers to and from the airport too.
near the airport in Guayaquil
Take the ICE high speed train with connections from the ferry terminal at Rotterdam, to central Germany.
What had previously been a stressful and lengthy journey on the autobahn for us (with small children), became an adventure!
We arrived at our destination mid afternoon smiling and relaxed. There is also a viewing area at the front of the train, and for techies a computer screen which gives information on train speeds etc en route.
We will definitely do this again, it was a highlight of the holiday!
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