Happy New Year! Have you made any New Year Resolutions? More importantly, are you sticking to them?! According to the Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show 2018, everybody should put “Spend 24 Hours Outdoors” on their New Year Resolutions list. Various researches from organisations such as The Camping and Caravanning Club and the World Health Organisation have revealed that camping is generally good for your your mental health; it makes people feel happier; it’s a great social leveller; it’s a great way to make new friends (especially for children); and children are more than likely to encounter new experiences eg kite flying, tree climbing, den making and cooking on a campfire.
Location, location, location …. there are many different types of campsites in the UK from the glamping spots; the really deserted one tent in a field spots; adapted farms that have become campsites in idyllic locations, with modern shower blocks & facilities such as a pool, shop, restaurant, launderette, bar; and some which are part of a holiday village with full entertainment & other amenities.
So, your children have persuaded you to buy a tent and book a camping holiday … put the tent up beforehand to practise and to check that it is in fact waterproof … (we’ve had to buy a new tent day 2 into our 14 day camping holiday when a torrential downpour overnight left our old tent uninhabitable! Thank goodness our site had a launderette and I was able to use the dryers to dry our damp clothes & bedding!)
And here’s some tips to help you pack those all important fashion & beauty essentials:
1. FOOTWEAR. Hiking/Walking Boots. To wear all the time when you are not in the tent. I use my motorbike boots. Camping fields can get extremely muddy, especially if it rains. Make sure the boots are comfortable, sturdy & waterproof. For tent wear: slip on trainers, ballet shoes or flip flops.
2. ONESIE. I’m cringing as I type this. I rarely feel the cold but I must say, that even in August, it was cold and damp at night in the tent. I did wrap up under a duvet but I couldn’t help but think that wearing a onesie would have been preferable at that moment in time. I did visit a local store looking for a onesie but being August, and it was warm during the day, the shelves were full of swimming costumes not fleeces.
3. MAKE UP/BEAUTY PRODUCTS. Being outdoors gives you a healthy glow. Being on a campsite means that the shower facilities/lighting/mirrors are not really ideal to perform your normal make up and skincare morning and evening routines. I would suggest packing shower gel, 2 in 1 shampoo, moisturiser, BB cream (to replace primer, toner & foundation), waterproof mascara, lip gloss and eye make up remover pads.
4. COMPACT MIRROR. At night you should really take off make up but when camping, it is rather off putting to go to a dimly lit shower block armed with your torch to help you navigate your way. Having a compact mirror means that you can take your make up off in your tent ( and apply your morning make up after your shower in privacy, if you wish). I used my mirror to make sure I didn’t have too bad bed head hair in the morning as I travelled across the field to the shower block!
5. HAIR PRODUCTS. Your brush. Ditch the straighteners, hairdryer, tongs, hairspray … go for the tousled look instead.
With those essentials packed, you are ready to fully embrace the outdoor life with your family – we walked for miles, went shell collecting on the beach, visited the local swannery, did some kite flying, rope swinging…
Are you going to add “24 Hours Outdoors” to your list this year? Are you a camping guru… or newbie? Any camping stories you can share? Do tell …
The Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show 2018 takes place at Birmingham’s NEC from 20 to 25 February. Prices are from £7 for adults; children under 15 go free. Tickets are on sale now – for more details check their website: www.ccmshow.co.uk
Set in a gorge above the River Alzou, a tributary of the River Dordogne, in the Lot Department of South West France, lies the small cliff top village of Rocamadour. Rocamadour attracts pilgrims from all over the world and has done for centuries – famous pilgrims from history include Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II of England; Kings Louis IX, Louis XI & Charles IV of France. In summer, this little village in the middle of nowhere, is jammed packed with visitors. Apart from its stunning location, Rocamadour is known for its Cite Religieuse complex of religious buildings, accessed via the Grand Escalier Staircase. The complex includes the Chapelle Notre Dame, with its Black Madonna statue and the Romanesque – Gothic Basilica of St Sauveur.
In August, Rocamadour’s campsites (of which there are many), are invaded also by music lovers – the Festival de Rocamadour include chamber music, orchestral music and soloists.
Interesting though the village is, for families with children, the prospect of climbing the steep stone stairways viewing ancient buildings in the August heat isn’t really appealing. BUT, Rocamadour to me and my family isn’t really the village – we head to the north east corner of the village to a magical place we first discovered in 2006. This place is La Foret de Singes (Monkey Forest), a park where around 150 Barbary Macaques (aka Magots) live and roam free in a forest environment.
The Barbary Macaques are an endangered species, originating from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The idea of the park is to provide the apes with natural living conditions as close to their native conditions as possible in order to preserve the species and once numbers increase and they are no longer endangered, they will be ultimately reintroduced into the Atlas Mountains.
Raising public awareness about threats to the species is another aim. Entering the park there are strict regulations for visitors – both for the safety of the visitor and the apes. The park is well secured… there are gates to enter in and out of the forest itself .. but other than that, no other zoo like feature exists. Regulations include not going too close the apes, especially the babies as the parents could consider the visitors as a threat; the young apes are prone to taking food out of people’s pockets/bags and hats off heads – the young ones are braver and will approach you to take food off your outstretched hands. You can get bags of popcorn at the entrance so you can feed the apes you come across as you follow the paths through the forest – and there are also set feeding time areas where the rangers feed the apes whilst explaining (mostly in French) their work, the apes and the conservation aims.
Wandering through the forest, some places reminded me of scenes from Disney’s Lion King – I was expecting Simba the lion to appear on a rock and roar!
The highlight of the day for us all was being able to feed the apes, although on our first trip my eldest son was very wary and was too scared to participate – but the others were a lot braver and enjoyed the experience. Outside the gated area is a shop with the inevitable shelves lined with soft cuddly Barbary Apes; and a cafe where you can get a well deserved ice cream – or have a picnic indulging in freshly made baguettes with the local goats milk cheese, “Rocamadour”, which was awarded AOC status in 1996!
As a family, we’ve always visited in the height of the season in August – the roads to get into Rocamadour are often congested but away from the centre, as you head to the forest the traffic is fairly light and the park itself, although busy, does not feel crowded even at lunchtime. If you get a chance, just along the road is the Dinosaur Park – a cleverly laid out park winding down a hillside featuring some fabulous dinosaur statues – very pushchair/wheelchair friendly and wasn’t crowded whenever we’ve visited, either.
The La Foret de Singes was opened in 1974 – it has other parklands in the “group” in Europe where you can experience the work of the Barbary Macaques conservation associations. These are: La Montagne des Singes (France); Affenberg Salem (Germany); Trentham Monkey Forest (England).
If you wish to visit the forest, it is open March – November.
I have had Cape Verde hovering around the top of my bucket list for a quite a few years. I was wooed not by photographs, as at the time I hadn’t seen any. I only knew two people who had been there – both said it was very windy and not much there apart from sand. Neither showed much enthusiasm. No, I was fascinated by these islands because of their location and they were “new” to the travel scene, fascinated as only a geography/travel/map geek could be. Over the last couple of years, Cape Verde has crept into those holiday brochures – pictures of exotic pools with swim up bars, palm trees …. and I was sold. Sort of. What I didn’t realise was that Cape Verde was made up of 10 islands and the main “tourist” island was an island called Sal. However, just south of Sal is the island of Boa Vista – just opening up to tourism – and that was the island I was lucky enough to be visit in August this year.
Cape Verde lies midway between the Tropic of Cancer and the Equator, approximately 300 miles off the coast of Senegal in West Africa. The island of Boa Vista, nearest island to the African mainland, is the 3rd largest island, but it is still tiny, taking just under one hour driving from end to end – roughly 240 square miles … the size of the city of Chicago, in fact. The population of the entire island, according to the official Cape Verde website, in 2010 was just 8,564. In fact it is the least populated of all the islands – the capital of Cape Verde, Praia, is on the island of Santiago. Most people on Boa Vista live in the capital, Sal Rei … in fact my hotel located in the extreme south of the island, the biggest Rui hotel in the world, was bigger than the villages and towns!
Diego Gomes, a Portuguese explorer, discovered the Cape Verde Islands, way back in 1456 – they were all totally uninhabited. By 1587, Cape Verde became a Portuguese colony. The Portuguese used the archipelago as a stopover for slave traffic between Africa and America. From 1620, slaves were employed in the salt mines – processing the salt in the mountainous areas, hidden from pirate attacks. The salt pans are still here, although more common on the island of Sal, but the industry has dried up due to the technical advances in the industry in other parts of the world. Cape Verde declared independence in 1975. Today, the population is mostly a mixture of Creole, African & Portuguese … with small pockets of Italians, Spanish & Chinese. The signs are all in Portuguese but the people speak a Creole language – the atmosphere is pretty laidback and has a Caribbean vibe in Boa Vista;the other islands have a more European feel.
Most people on Boa Vista work in tourism in some way – either in the hotels, as tour guides or souvenir sellers. Date-farming too. The airport, the grandly named Aristides Pereira International Airport, was opened in 2007. The International Airport on Sal has navigational runway aids (runway lights) and looks like an airport – whereas the airport on Boa Vista is on the edge of the desert, is open air and has no runway lights. The flight time from the UK is just over 6 hours – the plane is not large as the airport is too small to accept the modern Dreamliner jets. There are only 3 or 4 planes landing a day so long queues rarely exist! Expansion plans are already being made. As Boa Vista is hot and dry all year round, having an open air airport isn’t really a problem apart from the fact that it is hot and shade is limited plus at the end of August/September is Boa Vista’s “rainy” season (short sharp showers about 4 days a year!) so if it does rain, you’ll get wet! The airport is located in Rabil, the 2nd largest town and former capital. Rabil is known for its pottery and the longest river in Cape Verde, the Ribeira do Rabil, flows through it. Well, it should on the map look as though it should flow, but in reality it was a puddle with some trees around it (planted in the 1990s).
Boa Vista is known for the sand dunes and moonlike volcanic landscapes of the Viana Desert. The desert was formed by the accumulation of wandering sand grains from the Sahara. The sand dunes in this desert are vast. One morning we travelled to the Viana Club Restaurant for an early breakfast of “catchupa” – the national dish, a sort of corn stew, served with fried egg and spicy sausage – and a refreshing glass of iced hibiscus tea. We then hit the dunes for a sand boarding session. It was hot, it was sunny and it was lots of fun!
Boa Vista has a stunning coastline – it’s most coveted beach is the Santa Monica beach (named after the Californian beach) which extends 18km from the island’s westernmost point to the southernmost point. It is said to be one of the top 20 best beaches in the world. Currently, the beach is devoid of hotels but not for long as a large hotel resort/spa is being built – due to finish in the next 5/10 years. In a decade, Boa Vista will be unrecognisable – I’m not sure whether that is a good thing or not – on the one hand more tourism will help to raise living standards but on the other hand, Boa Vista will lose its uniqueness.
Cape Verde has only just been upgraded from Third World category to Second World category – it is still pretty poor. When visiting the capital, Sal Rei, the “launderette” was a row of concrete slabs where women scrubbed their clothes as they have done for centuries. My guide said that the Chinese have recently introduced washing machines but they are not widespread as yet. Next to the washing area was the water station. Water is scarce on the island so people come to the water stations with their wheelbarrows to collect their daily water tanks. The richer people can afford to have their water delivered. Our hotel had its own water desalination plant for its needs.
Another nice beach was in the far north of the island, renamed Santa Maria, after the MS Cabo Santa Maria, a ship that ran aground there in 1968. The ship was carrying gifts from the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco on its way to Brazil and Argentina – the gifts apparently included sports cars! Thankfully, the crew escaped unhurt and the goods were salvaged. The wreck is still there, just a rusty shell now, slowly crumbling away after years being battered by the wind and constant waves.
I was mesmerised by the waves – the Atlantic breakers were very powerful and during my stay the red flag was constantly flying. Managing to paddle, the water was as warm as bath water – around 28 degrees centigrade. I expected the sea to be colder. That is not the only thing that surprised me about the temperature. The climate is warm all year round – August to October are the hottest (and wettest months) and the temperature hovers around 32/33 degrees during the day falling to around 27/28 degrees at night – what surprised me was that it was such a humid heat – I had thought it was more a “dry” heat like I’ve experienced in the Mediterranean. The humidity was often around 80% which meant that the constant breeze was a cooling blessing indeed although it was a false blessing as the island’s location meant that the sun’s strength was equatorial, and Factor 50 liberally applied was needed. Tropical island – but I didn’t see any mosquitos but I did see plenty of wandering goats and the odd cow! Sea turtles are known to nest on the shores, while the coastal waters are a route for migrating humpback whales.
Boa Vista has a few mountains, the highest being Mount Estancia at 1,270 feet. Cape Verde does have an active volcano – on Fogo – which last erupted in 2014. On the slopes of the volcano Fogo coffee is grown …absolutely delicious!
The roads. The road from the airport to the capital and the roads in the towns/villages are mostly cobbled. There is a small patch of tarmac, south of the island, which was built by the Rui hotel chain to try and establish a good route from the south to the airport and Sal Rei. However, it is not finished and quickly goes from tarmac to unmade road. Some routes are not signposted but are tiny tracks meandering through the desert, naked to my eye. Drivers drive on the right but, to be honest, it really depends on which side has the least potholes. I didn’t see one private car – I did see a police car, a couple of motorbikes, quad bikes, tour guide jeeps, tour buses, buses and the odd truck and taxi. Boa Vista has another American equivalent – they have a Route 66 too – the cobbled road doesn’t lend itself to smooth riding on a Harley Davidson though!
Food & Drink. The RUI hotel I was staying in imports all its food and drink from the Canary Islands. This is quite a sensible idea because the island doesn’t produce enough to cater for the number of tourists staying at the hotels. However, it does mean that those people staying put only in the hotel miss out on discovering the island’s cuisine. The national dishes are quite hearty – stew features a variety of meat and fish – I tried the octopus stew which was very tasty.
At the Morabeza Beach Bar Restaurant we ate freshly caught lobster served with exquisitely cooked vegetables …and drank Coconut ponche and Cape Verdian white wine. It is the first restaurant I’ve been to where you can eat with your shoes off, the floor is the beach, and reggae music is playing in the background. It was here we watched fire eaters do their thing and my sons had impromptu African drumming lessons!
Apart from the big Rui hotels, the island has a couple of smaller hotels, apartments and guesthouses – mainly on the beaches around Sal Rei. I stopped off at the Guest House Migrante – a delightful guesthouse with a distinctly European flavour with a bar/cafe attached. It is the grandest looking building in Sal Rei and they serve the most delightful coffee (from Fogo) and grog (Cape Verdean rum). The guesthouse had a gorgeous library area and an inner courtyard. In Boa Vista I found that when it came to food and drink, you should never judge a bar/restaurant by its outside look – inside these places are clean and the food is out of this world – ask the locals for restaurant recommendations too.
Like any place in the world, people’s viewpoints on the same place differ vastly, and not everybody is going to fall in love with a place. Boa Vista attracted me and is now engraved in my heart because of its ruggedness, its beautiful desert scenery and the people are so smiley. Where else would you high five the airport officers as you board your plane home? Where else would you see brightly coloured birds tweeting in the passport control area as you land? Where else would you see miles of untouched white sand beaches not lined with hotels? The hotel was gorgeous and clean but to be perfectly honest, being by the pool, you could be anywhere hot and sunny in the world. What made the holiday was the chance to explore outside of the hotel. Boa Vista is not like the Canary Islands, despite the glossy holiday brochure pictures – but perhaps in 10 years it will be.
If you enjoy self catering, then Boa Vista isn’t the place for you yet. In Sal Rei, there is a small working fish market and a small fruit/vegetable market & a couple of shops where essentials can be found.
If you enjoy walking from your hotel to restaurants/bars, pick a hotel close to Rabil or Sal Rei where you can walk along the beaches to beach bars. The RUI Tuareg at the south of the island is in a fab spot but it is only surrounded by desert scrubland. The hotel has plenty of bars though! Alternatively, look at the neighbouring island of Sal, which is more geared towards tourism.
If you can afford it, splash out on the trips either operated by your tour operator or by Giggling Geckos ( a tour company on the island) and see the island away from the hotels. Quad bike tours have been highly recommended too.
And try the local grog … apparently after four shots you end up talking fluent Creole …..
Holiday season is in full flow so there is no better time than to introduce onto the blog a rather special hotel in sunny Portugal. Originally the 17th century home of a noble family, the Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda, is now a member of the “Healing Hotels of the world” – the emphasis here is on health and relaxation with a holistic and sustainable approach to life. Furthermore, this hotel is one of the few hotels that I have come across that has a special package that introduces no single supplement to enable solo travellers to indulge in the same benefits as their fellow guests at no extra cost. And the food – Mediterranean fine dining with plenty of vegetarian, vegan and raw dishes available. But don’t just take my word for it as I’ve been talking to Vera Gaspar, the Assistant General Manager, to find out more about this delightful place. Hi Vera!
Hello! My name is Vera Gasper and it has been my privilege to have been the Assistant General Manager of the Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda for 2 years. It is my responsibility to ensure the smooth running of the hotel and that our guests enjoy the vacation of their dreams.
The Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda has introduced a no single supplement to enable solo travellers to indulge in the same benefits as their fellow guests at no extra cost – so, what made the hotel decide to buck the trend and introduce this no single supplement?
We have seen a growing trend in people choosing to travel alone, the main reason being to enjoy total peace and tranquillity, re-energising the body and soul away from busy urban life. Why make this more expensive simply because someone chooses quality “me” time? As well as no single supplement we provide personal airport transfers if travellers take advantage of our solo offer. As a small family business we can offer our solo guests that little extra personal service.
The hotel is a member of the “Healing Hotels of the World” group – what can guests expect from the hotel being a member of the group?
For us at Vivenda Miranda, holistic health means to understand the body/mind relationship in respect to health and healing. Recognising the relationship between mind and body, our guests seek to spend relaxation time in an environment that allows them to regain emotional balance and the joy of life.
We host a series of health, fitness and wellness breaks and courses year round and our restaurant prides itself on serving healthy Mediterranean cuisine with many vegetarian, vegan and raw dishes. With health and nutrition in mind, we use seasonal produce that is organic or locally sourced, and has been grown in or reared on fertile, healthy soils with no chemical involvement.
Award winning Ethical and Organic Neal’s Yard Remedies of Covent Garden, London (NYR) is our Spa health and wellness partner. In fact we were their first overseas health and beauty Spa. What you put on to your skin is just as important as what you put into your body, so only the purest organic skincare elements are used in our Spa that contain no added parabens, GMOs or nano- technology. All are 100% vegetarian and not tested on animals.
What would you say is the most popular attraction of the hotel?
Without question our location! Nestled into the cliff top amidst beautiful lush Mediterranean gardens it occupies a secluded peaceful location with stunning panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, dramatic coastline and endless sky – A peaceful oasis of calm and tranquillity it really takes your breath away. I would also say that guest love the authentic, unique character of our Vivenda Miranda. It was once the home of a British noble family in the 17th century and retains much of its historic charm albeit with a comfortable modern twist. All our rooms are individually styled and decorated by our own in-house interior designer so I think our visitors feel they are guests in a comfortable, luxurious home.
The Food… based on artisan gastronomy, the restaurant has nutritious plant based menus and offers Mediterranean fine dining cuisine based on organic or locally sourced ingredients, including vegetarian, vegan and RAW dishes options. What dishes are most popular?
Our menus are seasonal and we find that our Chef’s Daily Menu is very popular rather than one particular dish – although the Cataplana which is a traditional, regional dish is always in demand. We are finding that more and more people are choosing the vegetarian/vegan options…. Especially in summer time when the light dishes and salads are very popular…
The hotel has an ethical organic Neal’s Yard Remedies Spa – what spa treatments are most popular?
Our range of massage treatments, especially the Aromatherapy, Indian Head and Ayurveda are always very popular. With our skilled therapists and the ensured quality of Neal’s Yard Remedies organic essential oils we know our guests are in good hands. Our spa days, where we offer treatments with a complementary lunch menu that’s designed to support and enhance the treatment element, are also regularly enjoyed by our guests as well as people living in or visiting the area. We are currently developing this treatment/food synergy approach further, to offer our guests and day visitors even more health benefits and wellness knowledge.
The hotel was originally the home of a 17th century noble family that has been lovingly restored by its present owners. The pastel colours of the buildings provide a peaceful oasis and the rooms are decorated in a contemporary boutique chic style with a classic comfort twist. What was the inspiration behind the hotel decor?
We wanted to create an authentic, charming but at the same time contemporary ambience that reflects our stunning setting. So by using both classic and modern elements in the decoration and bold colours with unexpected artistic wall paintings not normally seen in hotels we believe we have achieved style, comfort and the wow factor! Every single room is different in layout, furnishing, colour scheme and decorative features. It’s an artisan concept we try to promote throughout the hotel. This approach of integrating the old and new is appealing to an ever younger generation.
As a wedding venue, what do you think makes the hotel the ideal location?
I know I am biased, but it really is the perfect place for the wedding of your dreams. With our stunning location enjoying amazing views of the sea, sky, beach and cliffs set amidst beautiful gardens – What could be more perfect? Especially if you include our amazing bridal suite which is ideal for the wedding party to get ready in and of course enjoy the wedding night! Our menus have been created to please every palate, and the intimate restaurant and secluded ambience of the sun terrace enables the wedding party to enjoy the experience of a lifetime. It is even possible to reserve the Vivenda Miranda for exclusive use providing bookings are made well in advance of course!
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda and booking information
This week I have been tagged by the gorgeous Jess of Shopgirl Anonymous to take part in a blogging travel tag. I was delighted to take part, as apart from being a fashion/footwear geek, bookworm, foodie and music fan, I am also a bit of a travel/geography geek – so this seemed a good a time as any to give this tag a whirl!
What is your favourite place that you have visited?
Start with the hardest questions, why don’t you?! That is so, so difficult because I do enjoy every place that I have been lucky enough to visit! OK.. here goes…
My favourite UK city outside of London is Bath. On the day I visited, it rained but it still didn’t dampen the atmosphere of the place. I did try the famous Roman Baths water … ugh! (I needed a glass of Pinot Grigio to take the taste away). I also visited a glass blowing studio – it was fascinating to watch how glass was made.
My favourite part of London: Covent Garden. Love the market area, the food places, the pubs, the shops… check out Penhaligon’s Perfume Shop 🙂
My favourite European city: Toss up between Amsterdam and Rome. Both walkable cities, filled with gorgeous buildings – Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and Rome’s Tivoli Fountain area. Food wise I recommend an Indonesian restaurant for a tapas style meal in Amsterdam (and chips with mayo) and in Rome, well, food is good wherever you go! I love Italian wine too – red Barolo and white, Pinot Grigio… and for an aperitif, Limoncello.
My favourite city outside Europe: Miami. I liked the vibe. And the tattoo shops (Miami Ink).
Favourite Non Europe destination: Florida Keys. I tasted the most fabulous Key Lime pie in Key Largo and I enjoyed the tour of Hemingway’s home in Key West. I went in August – it was extremely hot.
Favourite Europe destination: Madeira. Loved everything about this island from the rum punch to the mountainous scenery. Unfortunately we were unable to do the street sledding down the Monte in Funchal as forest fires were raging – but it is a perfect excuse to revisit!
Favourite winter destination: Finland. Yes, it is extremely cold in winter. However, I went in December to the extreme north west of Finland, over 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It was beautiful. You travelled about by skidoo or sleighs pulled by reindeers or husky dogs; the Northern Lights was a fantastic spectacle, hot chocolate laced with spirit (like brandy) was both warming & welcoming, and if you have children, Father Christmas lives not far away …
If you could visit anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?
Sicily. I’d trek up Mount Etna, admire the view and then head back down the slopes to Taormina for a well deserved limoncello.
Would you rather a city or beach holiday?
I am happiest where there are mountains or volcanoes or sand dunes or hills – so that is my first criteria usually when booking a destination. I live in a flat coastal estuary area so being in an upland area makes a pleasant change. My favourite beach currently is the Kenyan coast north of Mombasa at Nyali.
My Top 3 Travel Essentials
iPhone – for use as a camera & music station (especially on the flight)
Kindle – I make sure I have downloaded plenty of books as I try and read a lot on holiday!
Mints/Sweets – I can’t do any journey without them – including my commute into work!
What Is The Most Adventurous Dish You Have Ever Tried From Another Country?
I’ve eaten snails and frog’s legs in France; and Dik Dik Antelope and Crocodile Steaks in Kenya. My friend and her family went to Vietnam & Cambodia over Christmas and they ate deep fried tarantula spiders! Even her girls who are 8 & 10! Having said that, my 10 year old son has happily devoured crunchy crickets and mealworms!
My 4 Essential Travel Footwear.
They are all flat so easy to pack and I DO need 4 pairs:
slip on shoes
Thank you Jess for the fun idea! I hope, dear readers, that you enjoyed the tag too. Why not have a go at answering the questions – I’d love to hear about your travel stories and adventures!
Picture the scene. You’ve spotted the hotel of your dreams – it looks good, it’s in a location you want to visit, it’s a place to cross off on your bucket list, plus it’s in your price range (just about). So, you are about to wave off your deposit when you stumble upon the review section. Regardless how many excellent reviews a hotel gets, it is the bad review that has grabbed your attention. Let’s face it, every hotel whether it is 1 star or 7 star deluxe gets a bad review at some point. Why is that? It is because the majority of reviewers are of two types: the ones that moan and complain for the sake of it – usually the complaints are fairly trivial but they are normally the ones that leave a review of essay standards; the ones that take their holiday experience as a whole so that the bad parts are not necessarily actually to do with the hotel itself (tour guides, holiday reps, weather etc). I am not saying that bad hotels don’t exist, they do, but interpreting the bad reviews helps in deciding whether the hotel is right for you or whether you should avoid it like the plague. Here’s my guide on interpreting just some of those reviews (all reviews mentioned are true and have appeared on Trip Advisor & Hotel sites)
REVIEW: “People were like zombies in the lounge area”
INTERPRETATION: Hotel had limited wifi in the lounge area.
ADVICE: This is a typical “moaner” review as obviously people can spend time on the internet if they wish. However, if you require a better internet connection then perhaps this isn’t the place for you. I visited this hotel – all I saw were a couple of teenagers on their iPhones!
REVIEW: “Pushy attitude of the Saga holidaymakers who pushed at the bar & at the buffet, and who insisted on bingo every night”
INTERPRETATION: Elderly clientele who like to play bingo.
ADVICE: Check when the reviewer visited the hotel & whether it was the same time of year as you’re planning to visit. Bear in mind that hotels change their entertainment programmes during the season. Saga holidays do not operate in July/August – I visited in August and the entertainment was geared towards a much younger clientele – not a bingo card in sight but plenty of action in the pool area with international water polo contests.
REVIEW: ” Disappointed that the breakfast was only served from 8am to 10am at weekends; the continental spread was good, but the cooked breakfast was left on the hot plate and past its best.”
INTERPRETATION: Somebody obviously overslept and the kitchen had stopped cooking.
ADVICE: That’s life. Food times vary. In the UK restaurants often open for dinner at 5pm – in France it is nearer 7.30pm.
REVIEW: “On the way back from a walk we bought some rolls and crisps from a nearby shop. The hotel security guards stopped us, searched our bags, and confiscated our food. We did see the sign stating no food or drink should be brought into the hotel, but surely rolls and crisps were OK…”
INTERPRETATION: This was a 5 star all inclusive hotel that had this strict policy. Food available all day/night at no extra cost as you’ve already paid in advance.
ADVICE: I liked the way that the hotel responded to that review – they stated that they were very pleased to hear that the security guards were doing such a good job.
5. CAPE VERDE
REVIEW: ” When I got home I realised that between Cape Verde and home my suitcase had been tampered with. I had jewellery and watches worth £1000 stolen”
INTERPRETATION: Not anything to do with the hotel but …
ADVICE: That can happen anywhere, any place unfortunately. Wherever you go, keep your wits about you and use the same security precautions as you would at home, eg avoiding unlit areas, etc. Never pack valuable jewellery in your suitcase – put them in your hand luggage, wear them or leave them at home in your safe.
REVIEW: “Red ants everywhere.”
INTERPRETATION: I’m on a safari but I’m not keen on little critters…
ADVICE: Research the country you are going to, especially if it is of a vastly different culture than where you live. Wildlife is wildlife. This chap also complained that the beer wasn’t cold….
There are many more examples, so my general advice is to read and interpret those reviews from people who share your:
time of year of travel
type of travelling companions
length of stay
If you decide to write a hotel review after a less than happy experience, please remember to keep the review relevant to the hotel; remember that not everybody shares your tastes; offer advice to help prevent a repeat of your bad experience rather than be totally negative.
After all that, I hope you have a good holiday! If you come across any funny reviews, do let me know (good or bad). I came across a review for Diani Beach in Kenya (which is in East Africa)… “I’m giving this beach 5 stars as it’s the best beach in West Africa….” 🙂
“Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside….” over the recent Easter week I visited the quiet UK Essex resort of Holland on Sea, just north of the bustling resort of Clacton – a promenade links the two resorts and is easily walkable (although in summer there is a road train running ). I have visited Clacton for my holidays as a small child and in 2004, my parents moved to Holland on Sea from London – it was always a dream of theirs to move to a bungalow by the sea. Compared to Clacton, Holland doesn’t have the amusement arcades, funfairs and the pier but I do prefer the laidback feel of Holland on Sea.
Lining the promenade between Clacton and Holland Haven Country Park are colourful beach huts – glorified sheds that have captured the hearts of many people. Prior to 2014 the promenade fronted the railings and rocks of the sea defences – still a nice walk but most families headed to the beaches of Clacton and Frinton (the resort north of Holland on Sea).
Since 2015 a major renovation project has been going on to reclaim the beach at Holland on Sea – the promenade and beach huts are still there but now they front miles of endless sandy beach. The promenade is fabulous for walking – however dog walking is restricted to the promenade only in the summer months (May – October).
Some beach huts are looking a bit tired at the moment but the winter season has come to a close and the dry, sunny weather has enticed the owners to paint their huts – the array of colours are dazzling – and some huts have scenes painted on them.
One hut as we walked past, was having an intricate scene painted not only on the outside but I also glimpsed the colourful painted scenes inside the hut too.
The council has also erected some new beach huts on a reclaimed part of the beach which are available to hire on a daily basis.
In the distance, you can see the outlying wind farm that lies out in the North Sea….
If you don’t want to boil up your kettle in your beach hut for a well deserved cuppa, then the assortment of cafes dotted along the prom will certainly provide you with your caffeine quota. Alas, being out of season, I only found one cafe open aptly called The Beaches Cafe. This cafe is a favourite with my mum as a tea stop on her daily walk. On this occasion though we indulged in lunch – yummy cod & chips, large jacket potatoes stuffed to the rafters with coleslaw, burger & chips, and my youngest son enjoyed his bacon & fried egg sandwich immensely! The menu catered for those who want sandwiches, salads and toasted sandwiches too – as well as a coffee machine serving “real” coffee and more delicate cups of tea if you don’t like a large mug of builder’s tea! My favourite part was the delicious ice cream – flavours included traditional vanilla, strawberry, chocolate as well as some more interesting flavours including lemon sorbet, rum & raisin, and my absolute favourite … maple & walnut!
The Beaches Cafe also had a variety of beach equipment for sale from beach balls and fishing nets to blow up jet skis and giant whales. Their shoes section had an array of boating shoes, flip flops and slider sandals for adults and children.
You could quite easily spend ages at the view from the window … although in summer, tables and chairs spill out over the terrace and along the promenade itself…
As it is National Walking Month in May, I can’t think of a nicer place to have stroll…
I love travelling. I am an avid armchair traveller too – watching documentaries about far away places, reading travel blogs and magazines like National Geographic. As a child I used to look at my globe and atlas for hours on end. Maps fascinated me – still do. So this week I’m pleased to welcome onto the blog somebody whose Facebook page fills me with delight when a new photo or update is posted. He has made being a traveller a profession. He has visited every single country in the world. He has lots of stories to tell. And he has taken time out of his busy schedule to chat to me! Welcome to the blog, Henrik Jeppesen! ….
Hi! I’m Henrik, 28 years old. I’ve spent 3,000+ days to visit every country in the world.
From 2006 to 2016 you have visited every country in the world. What made you decide that you wanted to do that?
Inspired by watching TV and foreign films about the different countries around the world. Then I set a goal of visiting 50 countries and then 100 countries. I decided to go for all of them as I became more comfortable travelling.
I was a geography geek as a child (still am) with my head in an atlas or in a guidebook – I’m quite happy being an armchair traveller (reading & watching TV programmes) as well as exploring the world for myself. Did you have a fascination with countries as a small child?
Don’t remember exactly when it started, but might have been my early teenage years. Liked geography in school as it was one of the few things I liked about going to school.
You grew up in Denmark, so apart from your own country, what was the first country you visited?
Must have been a short trip to Germany. The first big trip on my own was to Egypt when I was 17.
Have you got any favourite destinations and why are they specifically at the top of your list?
Many favourites for different reasons. South Africa, New Zealand and Italy are three. South Africa as it has so much to offer. New Zealand for the beautiful nature and Italy for the food.
What place is your least favourite and why?
My driver went to prison in South Sudan for taking a photo of me in front of a building. They wanted to throw me into prison as well, but after they checked my camera, they let me go.
We all have preconceived ideas of what a country will be like – what country totally took you by surprise and was totally opposite of what you thought it would be?
There are many, but Rwanda would be one of them. I had very low expectations, but it’s a surprisingly great country that feels well organised. In that part of the world you normally have a bad infrastructure and a lot of problems to deal with as a traveller, but not in Rwanda. It’s such a beautiful country as well. Paying 5 dollars for a bus ticket across the country is one of the best things you can do.
Your current aim is to visit every territory in the world – are you rattling through them at a pace?
No, I am taking it slowly like I did with every country. 3,000 days of travel is a lot and it will take me some time to visit every territory as well.
I love travelling & flying but I hate airports! What’s your favourite and least favourite airports?
Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel is the worst airport experience. First, I joined the queue for foreigners where they asked me questions that no other airport in the world has asked me. They wanted to see my Eritrea visa, hotel reservation in Eritrea and it just felt like they didn’t believe a word of what I was saying. Horrible and other travellers have had similar experiences. The questions are one thing, but the security is the worst experience I have ever had at an airport. They don’t treat you like a human being and they make you feel so uncomfortable you don’t want to ever visit Israel again. They are searching every single little piece of your bag like no other airport. They are touching you like no other airport is touching you. They wouldn’t allow my brand new Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (a gift from my father), to be in its case for security and as a result, I got scratches on the screen. I complained, but the staff screamed at me and there was nothing to do. If you ever want to visit Israel, make sure you are at the airport three hours before on the way out and prepare for at least a couple of hours of absolute horror.
Favourite: Not sure. I also don’t like airports.
Do you have a favourite mode of travel?
By car in the countryside of countries I like.
Some places are notoriously difficult to enter or are normally closed to outsiders, eg North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan. Which place was the most difficult to enter & how did you manage it? Which place scared you or made you feel most uncomfortable/unsafe?
There are different requirements for visiting the different countries around the world. Equatorial Guinea was really hard but managed to get my visa in Lagos (Nigeria) after writing about myself on a piece of paper. Saudi Arabia is very difficult for tourism so went on a business visa and had Radisson Blu sponsoring it.
Let’s talk food. Which country, in your opinion, has the best cuisine so far? And the worst?
Best are Italy and France for sure. Worst was North Korea. I didn’t eat much there as it was just horrible. Thought I couldn’t go wrong with icecream but it was terrible as well.
Has it all been plain sailing or do you have any memorable disasters?
Food poisoning in the Andaman Islands, India. In a destination without luxury hotels, Ixzire (with a Tripadvisor rating of 5) was one of the best options in the Andaman Islands, located between the Indian mainland and Thailand. While the property was fine, the dinner on the first evening was the beginning of the worst six months of my life. A fish curry made me seriously sick where I couldn’t breathe properly. After three days I tried to fly back to the mainland, but it was the worst flight of my life. The cabin crew gave me oxygen and asked for a doctor. I had to lay down for the entire flight. I couldn’t even sit up for landing. I arrived in Chennai, and it took me a week before I was able to fly again. The problems with my breathing ability came back multiple times over the coming months. Lesson learned. Be very careful about what you eat.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing when in travelling aeroplane mode?
I travel very light. Jeans, shirt and everyday-use shoes.
Do you go shopping for clothes/accessories whilst travelling? If so, which country was shopping a pleasant or otherwise experience?
I live minimalistic. Everything I own can be in a small backpack. Life for me is not about owning things, but experiences.
What items of clothing/footwear/accessories are your “essentials” when travelling?
I try to avoid travelling places where I would need a jacket so I don’t need to travel with much clothes.
Boots or Shoes?
Shoes. Lightest weight 🙂
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can follow your adventures
You can follow Henrik’s travels and get his tips on Facebook,Twitter, Instagram and his website.
At the time of this publication, Henrik is currently exploring South Georgia Island – catch his beautiful photos of the island and its beautiful penguin inhabitants. It certainly is an island that has captured his heart. Dear readers, what destination is number 1 on your bucket list? Do share your dreams….
PIN FOR LATER:
All photos (apart from the pin later photo) have been published with kind permission of Henrik Jeppesen. Pin Later Photo: Linda Hobden
On the blog today is Mara Menzies, Kenyan-Scottish storyteller and founder of Afrika Presents. Afrika Presents draws inspiration from Africa’s rich stories and vibrant cultures when designing its products. I was particularly drawn to their “The African Fashion Design Sketchbook”, a book that combines the history and beauty of African fashion textiles to children, with the aim of inspiring children to want to learn more about the amazing continent. I caught up with Mara recently to find out more…. Hi Mara and welcome….
Hi, I’m Mara, a storyteller, founder of Afrika Presents, mother of 2 incredible children, dreamer, dancer, reader and traveller.
“The African Fashion Design Sketchbook” is a book that brings together the incredible history & beauty of fashion textiles from Africa to children. So what was the inspiration behind writing & compiling this book?
I returned home from Kenya and wanted a gift for my daughter and bought a fashion book where she could design a model and I found myself wishing that there was an African version of that so she could create, imagine and explore the things she loved but learn about her African heritage at the same time. Then I thought I’m going to do that and I did! African fashions and textiles are so beautiful and their histories are so intertwined with other cultures around the world but we never hear about that so I took the approach to make sure it was fun but informative too.
You are a Kenyan Scottish storyteller – so how come you decided to start up your company, Afrika Presents?
Once the idea of the fashion book was born, there was so much else to explore that it made sense to form the company and think of what direction it could go. Being a storyteller is a real privilege as you share some very personal moments with small groups of people. I felt that there were so many stories to be told, so many other ways to explore such a vast and vibrant continent that it was impossible to do it just by myself. Through Afrika Presents, I have been able to work with a wider range of people – artists, designers, people experienced with the business side of things, and so many more.
Africa has many rich stories – do you have a particular favourite tale?
There are so many to choose from but I do love an Ethiopian story about a woman who innocently throws a bone out of the window which is fought over by 2 dogs, which results in 2 boys fighting, then 2 women fighting, then 2 men fighting, then 2 villages fighting until suddenly the whole thing has spiralled out of control. Finally they realise that everyone involved could have stopped it before it reached that terrible point. Sacrifices are made and peace does return but the moral is that we must always think before throwing our bones out of the window. Of course the bone is symbolic of so many things in our lives but I love sharing this story because everyone gets caught up in the ruckus without realising where the story is heading and then suddenly BAM, they get it, and it is a wonderful feeling to take people on that rollercoaster.
You are currently developing an app that will bring the pages of the book alive. That project sounds totally awesome, I must say. What parts of the app do you think will particularly grab a child’s attention in more ways than the book?
Yes, we’re really excited about it. There are videos, games and quizzes and we plan to continually upgrade the content too. I think the children (and adults) will really like the interactive elements as they can then test themselves and we live in a digital age so it is amazing to able to fuse pen, paper and the digital world.
What books did you enjoy reading as a child? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?
I grew up in Kenya and my diet consisted of Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton, The Famous Five, The Nancy Drew mysteries, a series of books about twins from various cultures, and we always had National Geographic magazines around the house. I also loved the books where you had to choose which page to go to to change the path of the story. Nowadays, we are lucky to have access to authors from all over the world. I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Muthoni Garland as well as random books that I stumble upon, often with a traditional folktale structure. I’m currently reading The Book of Lost Things which turns folktales on their heads and is hugely enjoyable and thought provoking and I love books about Scottish mythology and mystical creatures. Scotland tells a great story.
I have been to Kenya myself and was captivated by the beauty of the country – Mt Kilimanjaro was a particular favourite spot of mine. Have you got a favourite part of Africa? Any part of Africa you haven’t yet visited but is on your bucket list?
One of my favourite memories was at our farm in Kenya which is on the side of a valley. there was a silver river snaking its way at the bottom and quartz in the ground always twinkled at sunset. On one evening, somebody somewhere was playing a reed flute and it was just so beautiful. That is now my favourite place. I’d love to visit Botswana and Namibia and I love Malian music so will hopefully get there too.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I am seasonal in the sense that winter I close shop and wear boots, jeans and thick chunky jumpers and go for comfort over fashion. But in the summer I adore bright colours and patterns. I like shoes with small heels. I can’t wear very high heels but I’ve always loved the grandeur of Victorian fashion and so the shorter, curvier heels make me feel part of that!
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
I love raiding the charity shops and then tweaking what I find at home. I also find treasures in vintage shops. I do visit Zanjoo.com every now and again as they have some fantastic skirts and often match colours successfully that really shouldn’t work but always do. As I go to Kenya every year, I always find stunning fabrics and I have a tailor who makes beautiful clothes so I go with a wishlist. Otherwise I buy basics on the high street.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Now we’re heading for winter, it’s time for my annual boot splurge. I would love to own good quality boots in a vibrant red but they are hard to find! I sometimes find incredible boots for my 9 year old that I want in my size!
Boots or Shoes?
Flat boots for everyday comfort and lovely shoes or high heeled boots when I’m trying to impress:)
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about Afrika Presents.
Thank you Mara for introducing your fab company! I have always been fascinated with the continent of Africa and my youngest son has the continent in the number one slot of his bucket travel list – he loves animals and the vast outdoors. Like you I grew up with the stories of Raold Dahl and Enid Blyton; I read the National Geographic Magazine from cover to cover – and my children have grown up surrounded by the same … along with modern technology. One African story I liked was about the baobab tree that I heard whilst in Kenya – it is known as the upside down tree as its branches don’t have leaves and they look like tree roots! Dear readers, are you fascinated by Africa? Would you like to visit? Or have you travelled there already? Do you have an African story to tell? As always, do share – I’d love to know!
All photographs have been published with kind permission of Mara Menzies.
Snow has already descended on parts of Canada, USA, Scotland and Northern England, heralding the start of the winter ski season in the Northern Hemisphere. It seems most fitting, therefore, to introduce onto my blog one of the finest, if not the finest (in my opinion), alpine designer fashion & ready-to-wear ski wear shop in the world – Maison Bernard Orchel Courchevel. Founded in 1975 in Courchevel, Maison Bernard Orchel Courchevel was named after the famous alpine skier. Maison Bernard Orchel Courchevel is more than just a shop, as I found out…..
Why did you pick Courchevel as the location for your shop?
Courchevel is a luxurious ski resort located in the French Alps, with one of the largest ski areas in the world: 3 Valleys. The ski resort hosts the most prestigious international clientele. This ski paradise is also one of the most luxurious places in the world with a high concentration of 5 star hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants and unique boutiques.
What are your most popular products?
Just like every year since forever, Moon Boots are very popular. The most popular shoe brand is Jimmy Choo, so it stands to reason that their moon boots are a great hit.
What’s new for the 2016 winter season?
Chiara Ferragni Moonboots, some exclusive Fendi Sportswear, and the launch of Balmain Man at Bernard Orcel.
What makes Maison Bernard Orcel Courchevel special?
Maison Bernard Orcel offers customers the chance to unwind and relax by being surrounded by beauty and quality. Florence, the Head of House for 25 years, knows and recognises the very dear Bernard Orcel clientele. Like a real concierge, the whole Bernard Orcel team supports our customers during their stay in Courchevel for any of their requests. We offer our customers a shopping service at home. The collections (ready-to-wear or skiwear) are presented by a personal shopper from our team. Our seamstress is also at the disposal of our customers throughout the season to adjust and retouch their purchases.
Although you are in France, do you deliver worldwide?
According to the client’s wishes, we offer the possibility of a delivery service any time in Courchevel, and all over the world.
AZ Atelier, Bogner, Dsquared Ski Capsule, Fendi Ski Collection, Jet Set, Kru, Toni Sailer, Zai, Zero Ski. We also provide sales services and ski rental delivery directly into the hotel or chalet in Courchevel. This service also includes the possibility to try and buy our skiwear collections. A full service from the ski outfit to the technical equipment!
Buscemi, Emma Salimova & Ugg, Guiseppe Zanotti, Jimmy Choo, Ludwig Reiter, Santoni, Tod’s.
Fashion & Art
Bernard Orcel has invited the famous artist Leo Caillard to exhibit his work as a tribute to the classic sculpture. The exhibition, entitled “Hipster In Store”, offers an unique alliance of fashion and art through sculptures of antiquity. Dressed in a contemporary way, the gods Zeus, Hercules and the goddess Diana enter our era wearing shirt, jeans and a little dress.
Bernard Orcel, Rue du Rocher Courchevel 1850, 73120 Saint Bon Tarentaise.
So, when you next go skiing in the French Alps check out Maison Bernard Orcel Courchevel and have a browse amongst the rails and enjoy the unique art exhibitions too! What a shopping experience! Dear readers, do you enjoy partaking in winter sports? Do you have a favourite skiing location?
All photos published with kind permission from Maison Bernard Orcel Courchevel.