You can get a sense of both the Communist and royal past in the ski resort of Borovets. Samokov hotel gives a glimpse of the Communist past with its huge 11-storey building within which you can find a full size swimming pool, ten pin bowling alley, conference centre and shooting range - entertainment and brutalist architecture for the masses. A sense of an earlier royal past is provided by the Royal Bistria hunting lodge built at the end of the 19th century for Bulgarian monarchs nestling in the woods. If you are a Communist or royalist the skiing is good: there are enough descents through picturesque pine forest to keep most amused and it's much cheaper than the Alps. The Rila mountains are beautiful. You get a glimpse of their many lakes (120) on the way up from Sofia and if not skiing, mountain biking and walking are alternatives. On the way between Sofia and Borovets Mitropolitska church in Samokov is worth a stop to see its remarkable woodcarvings.
All three of my children have learned to ski in the Cairngorms. It's a good place to start with them young as the funicular railway takes them to the beginners slopes at the top of the mountain which usually has some snow and there is a cafe/restaurant for hot chocolate and food when they get cold. If the snow is poor or wind up the mountain prevents the lifts operating then there are lots of other things to do in or near Aviemore such as walking (Roithemurchas estate), mountain biking (Bothy Bikes), dog sledging, seeing the reindeer herd, visiting the Scottish wildlife park, swimming (at the Holiday Inn) or going for a tree top walk through an elevated pathway, so it's not all full on skiing. My son broke his arm snowboarding there and he was treated at the GP's surgery as they have X-ray scanning facilities on site rather than having to trek to Inverness to discover if anything is broken. The children got a taste for skiing there and now want to venture elsewhere and can ski/board all day but it's a great place to start with kids who may not want to ski all day everyday and want a range of other things to do as well.
Cairngorm Mountain Railway: www.cairngormmoutain.org
Highland Wildlife Park:
Google map: bit.ly/Q7chkp
Park City is a former winter Olympics venue in Utah. It has three ski parks - Deer Valley, Canyons and Park City with all the other activities associated with a well developed winter resort. Snow is usually good and snow cannons help lay down an early base. Nightlife is not up to the hedonistic excesses of some European destinations given Utah's Mormon background, but this makes it an ideal family destination as facilities tend to be better than in Europe and there are bars and a microbrewery on the main street.
Walk up Hardcastle Crags from Hebden Bridge. In the autumn the changing tree colours are fantastic, and following the river upstream you cross stepping stones and reach a restored mill (National Trust) before finally reaching the moors. On the way back detour up the valley side to Heptonstall to see the ruined church and Sylvia Plath's grave.
Haunt of Rupert Brooke, the snug is how he would have known it though the pub has been extended and has excellent beers and good lunches. A quick walk into the nearby woods and you don't need a balloon for stunning views of four counties from the Chiltern escarpment.
Princes Risborough station.
Both great beaches for beach parties. St Ives is close by and has good butchers and fishmongers for beach barbecues, off licences and supermarkets. Both also have cafe/restaurants and toilets behind the beach.
St Ives cornwall
The Madonna Inn is on Route 1, the spectacular Californian coastal highway, and is the most unusual wacky motel we found on it.
It has themed rooms that have to be seen to be believed and which are not sparing on detail, public toilets that are like waterfalls and staff who are dressed as if they have escaped from a Disney cartoon film.
The food in the restaurant is equally over the top and fantastic, and the next day you can travel up to Hearst castle for more surreal experiences.
If Dali had run a motel this would have been it!
100 Madonna Road
San Luis Obispo
805 543 3000
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