I’ve been thinking about going to Paris again, this time when the sun is shining! I travelled there in February but as you can imagine it was a bit chilly, still I did get to see all the sights without standing in long ques. As you can see form my pictures, the Eiffel tower look much nicer in the summer sun!
I’m not sure why this notion of visiting Paris again has come upon me. Nothing to do with the fact that last night I just happened to watch my favourite Sex and the City episode, where Carrie is in Paris…..That girl could make Dublin look chic!
Take a walk on the wild side
The Lake District is the UK’s adventure capital and was voted the UK’s Top Holiday Destination at the British Travel Awards in 2008. As I discovered it’s the perfect location for a long weekend away.
Until the 1780s very little was known about the Lake District. Early travellers regarded it as ‘barren, wild and of no use to man or beast’ and ‘melancholy to behold’. In the early 19th century, writers Thomas Gray, William Wordsworth and William Gilpin began to write ‘Guide Books’ to the Lakes and the first real tourists began to arrive. Now travellers come from all over the world to hike the hills, sail the lakes and take in the gorgeous scenery.
Less than an hour’s drive from my arrival point at Blackpool airport, the village of Windermere, where I was taking a lake cruise, was breathtaking. Even the journey to the lakes from the airport was amazing; the sun was shining on the rolling green hills, open waterways and historic buildings.
Windermere is England’s largest lake, in the heart of the Lake District. I had the choice of cruises with Windermere Lake Cruises (www.windermere-lakecruises.co.uk), lasting from 45 minutes to 3 hours, or I could spend all day on and around the lake with a ‘Freedom of the Lake’ ticket. Even before I left dry land I was having the perfect day out, happily playing with the tame swans and admiring the views in the distance.
No matter where you start your cruise- Bowness, Ambleside or Lakeside- the spectacular voyage gives visitors magnificent views of mountain scenery, secluded bays and the many wooded islands.
Bowness is the ‘heart’ of the Lake District, a holiday village with every sort of shop you can imagine, cafes and restaurants, and just a five minute walk from the pier is the World of Beatrix Potter attraction, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Ambleside is set amongst breathtaking majestic mountains and gentle rolling fells, this distinctive and very attractive Lakeland village is always a popular point to leave the vessel, as I did, before returning on a later boat.
Lakeside, at the most southern point of the lake, is home to the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. Connecting with the large Windermere Lake Cruises steamers, the railway is on the opposite side to the jetty and takes you by the river scenery of the beautiful Leven Valley. Also at Lakeside is the award-winning freshwater Lakes Aquarium. The aquarium features over 30 fascinating displays and has a large collection of freshwater fish, as well as mischievous otters and diving ducks.
The next morning I literally took to the hills, rambling around Loughrigg Terrace and Grasmere with guides, Pete Jackson and John Nicholls who run Knobbly Stick, a walking and hiking company. I had a wonderful morning with these two characters, who made great companions and taught me about the surrounding area as I walked. The spectacular view really made the early start worth while. (www.knobblystick.com)
Grasmere is a charming village right in the heart of the Lake District National Park. This was once the home of the famous poet William Wordsworth and where he was laid to rest in the churchyard of St. Oswald’s. I went to visit two of his former homes – Dove Cottage and Rydal Mount and also sampled some of the local gingerbread!
Your almost constant companions during your walking will be sheep. The sheep perform a valuable service in keeping the countryside as it is – without their constant munching, it would revert to less attractive scrubland.
You may see red deer in any part of the Lakes, but they are shy, and make themselves scarce when humans are about and blend in well with the colours of the hillside. You will see many birds in the Lakes including England’s only pair of breeding ospreys which return to Bassenthwaite Lake every Spring (from April) to rear their chicks. Check out Osprey Watch where you can view them by video camera at the Whinlatter visitor centre.
Areas of interest
Borrowdale is arguably one of the Lake District’s finest valleys, running south of Keswick and ending at the hills around Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain at 3210 feet.
Ullswater has long been a source of inspiration for poets. Wordsworth’s famous daffodils were on the shore and Sir Walter Scott also wrote about the lake. Coniston is also a beautiful stretch of water where Donald Campbell broke the world water speed record in Bluebird on 23 July 1955, when he reached a speed of over 215mph.
The Coast-to-Coast Walk was the brainchild of Alfred Wainwright, the well-known writer and hill-walker. It crosses three National Parks, and passes through some of England’s finest scenery.
I recently had the pleasure of travelling on a press trip to Ancona in Italy. The food was amazing!! The weather was also beautiful – a sunny 27C. Unfortunately for me I was indoors much of the time, checking out interiors. However we did venture out one afternoon for a tour of this beautiful area.
I have always wanted to visit Egypt to uncover the history and mystique that this country is renowned for.
Last August I got fed up waiting on friends to decided if they wanted to come. So I booked a trip with Intrepid travel, who I totally recommend! If you ever want to travel but not on your own, fear not, Intrepid (http://intrepidtravel.com) are the perfect people to take you on an adventure, and best of all you make new travel buddies along the way
Days 1-2 Cairo
This city is like no other. I took a walk and enjoyed the madness of Khan al-Khalili, Egypt’s most famous bazaar. The highlight for me was the impressive Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza. It was hard to believe how old these actually were! I went inside one of the pyramid, which was just like a plain block of concentre! The heat almost killed me going inside. However it was worth it.
The fascinating Egyptian Museum is home to more than 120,000 antiquities and relics. I wandered past the priceless treasures in the huge maze of rooms. I could have easily spent a few days here!
Days 3-5 Aswan/ Nile Felucca
We went to visit a Nubian village for an unforgettable insight into the culture and cuisine of the local people. I took a day trip to the remote ancient temples of Abu Simbel, which after the Pyramids of Giza, is perhaps the most recognized monument of ancient Egypt. They were unforgettable – carved from the rock, huge statues towered over us. These two temples built for the pharaoh Ramesses II have been attracting visitors since Victorian times.
Later, we set sail down the Nile on a magical overnight felucca journey(Feluccas are sail boats that have been used on the Nile since antiquity), sleeping on deck under the starry sky.
Days 6-7 Luxor
Known as Thebes to the ancient Egyptians, Luxor is home to amazing treasures. Once known as the Place of Truth, the Valley of the Kings holds more than 60 burial chambers. I took a donkey ride to the valley and went to visit three of the well-preserved pharaonic tombs, that includes the tomb of Tutankhamun.
I enjoy a traditional local lunch back in town then wandered through the spectacular temples of Karnak. Karnak are not to be missed when you travel to Egypt. Karnak was the most important place of worship in ancient Egypt -every god and goddess of that civilization was represented over a period of about 2,000 years here.
Day 8 Cairo
An early-morning return to Egypt’s pulsating heart heralds the end of this Egyptian adventure. I took a roam through the walled citadel for wonderful views over the city, where I picked up some exotic trinkets at one of the many markets. Then I escaped the hazy chaos of the inner city with a promenade along the banks of the Nile
This a bit random but the only time I have been to Germany was to visit a Hops farm with Budweiser…. Perhaps I should go back and visit the rest of the country???
The Hallertau region of Bavaria, north and east of Munich, is the largest interconnected hop-growing region of the world. There are approximately 2,000 producers on 40,000 acres in the area, ranging from large to small farms with fields no larger than a couple of acres. The average size of the German hop farm is only 16 acres. These are independent farms that offer their hops for sale on their own.
I spent a few relaxing days here just before the madness that is Christmas!
Gozo, an island situated north of mainland Malta, is one of the most romantic, rustic settings in the Mediterranean, with its dramatic coastlines, sandy beaches, winding roads and sleepy villages nestling on top of hills.
This idyllic island is slower and more peaceful than the main island and preserves all the natural beauty and charm you would expect from this part of the world as well as offering plenty of activities to enjoy; diving in the clear warm waters, taking boat trips and relaxing on the beaches. Tours around Gozo itself, Comino, with its famous Blue Lagoon and Malta, by land, boat or helicopter are also available.
An interesting fact: Gozo, which is only nine miles long by four miles wide, has about 45 different churches on the island!