Wander around and look up to enjoy the combination of some of the finest neo-classical and contemporary architecture in the country. The gorgeous golden sandstone in the Grainger Town area and the cutting edge developments on Gateshead Quays will finally put pay to any of your southern preconceptions that it's grim up north!
Classical: Grainger Town, Grey Street, Grainger Street, Monument area.
Contemporary: Gateshead Quays
Get the 50000 or 25000 scale and you can find all the footpaths which means you can spend the day walking, not driving. Even better, choose a place to stay close to lots of footpaths and Rights of Way. Pubs are marked too, so you can find a place for lunch.
www.stanfords.co.uk or any good bookshop.
What do you want when you go on holiday? Great scenery, things to do, excellent restaurants... oh hang on, let's throw in some world class adventure sports and free wine, and not just some cheap plonk but some of the high-end stuff, too.
Despite its rather sedate sounding name, Margaret River, three hours drive south of Perth, has all of these.
It's the home of world-class surfing competitions with frighteningly large waves which break against the rugged coastline with awesome power and regularity.
It's the home of Moss Wood, Leeuwin Estates and a hundred other world-class wineries, many of which have cellar door tastings and attached restaurants.
The local produce is so fresh and tasty that most of the restaurants deliver something a little special. Vasse Felix is particularly good for a smart dinner, but most of them are interesting.
Margaret River Cheese Co. (yummy cheddar), Chocolate Factory, Simmo's Ice Cream and Bootleg Brewery are all good stops between wine-tastings.
And that's just inland. The coastline of this area is one of the most beautiful on this side of the continent - or any side of any continent to be frank.
And the coastline offers up plenty of places to stay: north to south you've got Dunsborough, Yallingup, Gracetown and Prevelly/Gnarabup, where you'll often get stunning sea views from your deck, as you sip your day's purchases.
Some of the comments on Perth are pretty critical - but they also miss one of the great advantages: when you've got an area this beautiful, you don't want it to get too over-crowded. Margs gets pretty busy around Christmas, but the rest of the year you can normal find a corner of it - a beach-break, a vineyard, a restaurant - to keep to yourself.
Margaret River is three hours south of Perth. We like staying at Bavu Beach House www.bayubeachhouse.com
I recommend the work of artist Liam Spencer. He is a local artist whose work showing impressionist views of modern Manchester has been exhibited in the Lowry and Manchester Art Gallery. While you would need to check local listings for his exhibitions - there have been Spencer shows once or twice a year in the last few years - there are a few places you can find his work - not all of them totally obvious.
Manchester Art Gallery on Mosley Street has a couple of his panoramic paintings in its permanent collection, and the Lowry in Salford also has some of his work. Spencer's work has been reproduced in some limited print formats and is available from Wendy Levy Contemporary Art in Didsbury. While there, it would be worth a meal at the The Lime Tree restaurant in nearby West Didsbury, which also has a panorama painting of Salford Quays but the most unlikely place you would see a Spencer work is the reception to the Accident and Emergency section of North Manchester General Hospital in Crumpsall, which has a huge panorama of the hospital itself, at a worryingly low height given the agitated states I've seen some of the clientele in. Let's hope your visit to Didsbury's bars and restaurants doesn't cause you to visit the final stop on my Liam Spencer tour!
www.liamspencer-art.co.uk Also: The Lime Tree Restaurant - 8 Lapwing Lane
Didsbury; Tel:0161 445 1217. Wendy Levy Fine Art - 17 Warburton Street, Didsbury, Manchester, M20 6WA; Telephone: 0161 446 4880; www.wendyjlevy-art.com/; North Manchester General Hospital: Delaunays Road, Manchester, M8 5RB; 0161 795 4567.
Tucked away next to The Barbican, this museum 'does what it says on the tin'; it's about the history of London, from prehistory to modern times. I've been coming here, on and off, since I was 13; my son is now that age, and loves it as much as I do!
All Londoners should visit here at least once, to help your understanding of what makes London the unique world city we live in. With lots of interactivity for the children, and well laid out exhibits for the rest of us!
Just one tip; the Museum Cafe is good for a cup of coffee and a sticky bun, but I wouldn't recommend it for lunch.
Nearest Tube, Barbican or St Pauls
An independant Arndale centre where the conventions of society are subverted and allowed to be sampled in any other form you may require. A number of retro clothes shops mean that a healthy boho atmosphere is achieved and perpetually reinvented by each year of subsequent students looking to find their own identity, although usually only achieved when working within strictly defined parameters. Find so much here, it is worth a full day out in itself.
Reach Piccadilly from Arndale and turn left.
A cafe half way up the hills if you are walking from the town. It is in a beautiful Victorian building with a spring still flowing into a fountain inside. A great place to stop for generously portioned food - on the hippy side, but very tasty.
You can eat inside, or on the terraces outside.
or telephone: 01684 560285
Variable opening hours, but sometimes open on Christmas day.
A cycle (or walk) along the canals in London will give you a different view of the city, and there are some great places to stop off along the way: start with a coffee in Angel, stop for a stroll around Victoria Park, and end up in Limehouse, from where you can cycle on to Canary Wharf, and even Greenwich, if you want - where you could have a nice lunch.
More info on www.tfl.gov.uk/cycles/routes/leisure-routes.shtml
Come the third weekend of November each year it's the turn of artists living in Totterdown to cast open their front rooms as makeshift galleries. Totterdown is a hilly neighbourhood with great views and a thrown together feel to its buildings. This is a chance to sit with an artist in their house, look at their work and have a cuppa if they're kind enough to offer one.
All around Totterdown BS3;
Colletts is a company that specialises in activity holidays to the Dolomites, they operate in Arabba near Ortisei and also in Pedraces. You can go in summer for walking and now in winter for skiing, snowshoeing and other activities. The best thing about this company is the quality of the front line staff - most are young and enthusiastic and nothing is too much trouble. We arrived at 2.30am after a horrendous journey over the mountain passes, and not only was a member of staff waiting to greet us, he had a wonderful cold platter of food, and hot drinks waiting for us, all with a smile. This is a chalet type of holiday where you can dip in and out of activities as you like. Have a look at their website, the photos alone will make you want to go.
Take an al fresco jaunt with chilled drinking vessels to The Meadows. Get great views of the city skyline on raised grassy knolls where beer and good company can enjoy the respite in Scottish summer weather - welcome global warming (just kidding)!
It’s a popular and well-known area of green in the centre-south of the city - 5 minutes from the George IV Bridge and student area – a 10 minute walk from Princes Street.
Parkgate is either part of Neston, or just next to it. Nice to walk along the front there, even if there is a chill wind. A couple of nice pubs down there, chippies, too, great bird life (and a brass plaque with info on birdies and the view over to Wales), as well as delicious home-made ice cream from Nichols. Can't miss it - nearly always a queue there.
Short walk from Neston, not far from Chester, or take the train or bus from Liverpool.
Corfe Castle is a story-book medieval ruin, set on a hillock above a village on Dorset's Isle of Purbeck - not, in fact, an island, but a peninsular. You could easily spend a couple of hours in the castle and its surroundings, but if the children have enough energy afterwards, you could combine it with a walk over Ballard Down to Swanage (about 5 miles, so take snacks to keep them going). While you wouldn't describe this seaside town as sleepy - chip shops on every corner - there's still something wonderfully old-fashioned about the place, epitomised by the steam railway, which runs up and down the coast, and will get you back to Corfe Castle in about 15 minutes.
The famous Inca trail to Machu Picchu is both expensive and difficult to book beforehand. Rather than taking the train to Aguas Calientes it's possible walk an alternative route. Take an eight-hour bus to Santa Maria and hire the services of local guides Lorenzo or Johan. They'll take you to Santa Teresa, stopping at beautiful hot springs on the way. On day two you can walk to Aguas Calientes. After visiting Machu Picchu it's possible to take a one-way train back to Cuzco or walk back to Santa Teresa and then catch a bus to Santa Maria before returning on the bus to Cuzco. This route requires more time, but is very friendly on the wallet.
If you are going to go all the way to Krakow then you should seriously consider staying in Zakopane, which is set in the picturesque peaks of the Tatra mountains.
The people are friendly and the cultural traditions of this part of Poland are kept alive for all to admire and enjoy. It costs nothing to walk the peaks of Poland's highest mountain - Rysy and to breathe in the pure fresh air.
Zakopane and the Tatra mountains lie 150km to the south of Krakow. You can either take the train or the bus. The bus is quicker (2.5 hours) and a lot cheaper than the train;
Stunning views over the north coast of Ireland and the sun setting on the nearby Scottish isles - and that's only what you see when you are sitting beside the open fire in the common room!
Nearby attractions are the Giant's Causeway, an 8 mile walk along the coastal path that passes the hostel, and Carrick a rede rope bridge, four miles into the other direction. A five minutes' walk gets you down into Whitepark Bay, a beautiful stretch of white sand, perfect to quickly tire out children after dinner.
The hostel is small and clean and always booked out at the weekends. The self-catering kitchen allows you to avoid sampling the local cuisine, which might be a good thing if you are a foreigner or suffer from heart problems.
Whitepark Bay Youth Hostel,
157 Whitepark Road,
t: +44 (0) 28 9032 4733
There is no denying that Abel Tasman National Park, lying at the top of the South Island is beautiful all year-round, but during the New Zealand winter months of June, July and August it is at its most tranquil and crowd-free. Hike the Abel Tasman Track and for three days see virtually no-one, experience clear blue skies during the day,and stay in empty, but cosy cabins under the vast star-filled night sky. Stop off at the Awaroa Lodge for a hot chocolate and a game of Scrabble before wandering down to a wide, white sandy beach free of both sandflies and any human life. Afterwards, rest your weary legs during a trip to the tiny cinema in nearby Motueka. Sofas, chairs, footstools and freshly filtered coffee are the order of the day here.
Abel Tasman National Park
As well as the usual Jinshanling or Simatai Great Wall tours, you can also explore other parts which are completely unrestored. Beijing Leo Hostel run a tour/hike to Secret Shen Shui Hu for 100rmb.
It should be noted that you're not always following the path of the wall itself, and if you want to get the 'classic' wall experience (and photos) take another tour instead of, or as well as, this one. On the other hand, you will definitely avoid crowds and hawkers.
Beijing Leo Hostel, Guang Ju Yuan, 52, Da Zha Lan Xi Jie, Qianmen
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