Category: City breaks

4 Ways You Can Enjoy Great Food On Your Travels

Travelling the world and taking it all in is something that makes life worth living, so how can you make it even better?

If you love great food, then travelling is a surefire to exposure your tastebuds to all sorts of other delightful flavours and textures. The secret is to travel like a pro, and follow a few simple rules. Take a look at the rest of this article, and then get ready for a culinary experience unlike any other. Perfect for ensuring you make some memories that you’ll remember forever.

Eat Where the Locals Eat

The locals know their food better than anyone, and they tend to vote with their feet. Sometimes you’ll see tourist destinations bursting at the seams, and not a local in sight. Take a look at where they go to fill their bellies, and then make your way over there. You can be assured of a great meal the moment you sit yourself at the table and browse through the menu! It’s also a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture by getting chatting and exchanging stories.

Learn About the Local Delicacies Before You Setoff

It’s all about the preparation when you want to get the most out of your travels, so plan ahead and get ready to enjoy yourself like never before. Taking the time to peruse the local delicacies online or in a guidebook is a great way to have an idea of what to look out for.

Don’t worry, no one is expecting you to become a master or a connoisseur overnight. But take the time to familiarise yourself and you’ll be amazed at how much more you get out of your travels.

Ignore the Big Chain Restaurants

Chain restaurants are okay, but there’s a time and a place for them. If you really want to get the most out of your experience immersed in a new culture, then heading to the nearest KFC isn’t the way to do it. Unless you’re in the US that is!

Find those small artisan eateries that have been family run for decades, and you’ll be able to treat your tastebuds to something the likes of which they could only have dreamed of. Just what you need when you want to make memories that will last a lifetime.

Look at Who Owns the Eateriesand Hotels Before Booking

If you want to enjoy some great food, stay at hotels or dine at restaurants that are owned by a renowned Hospitality Management Company to ensure a positive stay.

That way you know that you’ll be in for a real treat the moment you set foot through the door. Just what you need to fill your stomach after a long day on your feet exploring the local area. All you’ll need to do then is lie down, and let your food go down.

48 hours in Singapore

As a focal hub for all South East Asia, Singapore is too often treated as a fly through city. January is a great time of year to visit Singapore as the weather is typically tropical with the mixture of cooling tropical rain storms and sunny humid climate. With so much to see and do on a holiday to Singapore, Cox & Kings makes some recommendations to make the most out of a two-day stopover.

Getting to Singapore from the UK

Singapore Airlines flies twice daily from London Heathrow and once from Manchester. British Airways and Qantas both fly daily from Heathrow.

Just arriving into Changi airport is a pleasant experience in its own right – it’s one of the largest terminals in the world and the first in Asia to offer five-star services. Amongst hotels, cinemas and a rooftop swimming pool, there is an impressive collection of shops and boutiques, gym and spa facilities and even a butterfly garden. For more info check out changiairport.com.

Where to stay in Singapore

The Mandarin Oriental is a slick hotel with great restaurants and one of the best spas in town. Ideally located on Raffles Boulevard, the Mandarin Oriental has great views of the city and the water from its guest rooms and the rooftop swimming pool.

The place to see and be seen in Singapore, Raffles dates from 1887 and is one of the world’s great iconic hotels. Its sizeable guest suites are decorated in colonial style with teak and marble. Elegant and stylish, Raffles is a haven amid the bustle.

The Fullerton is set on the Singapore River and its landmark building has had a colourful history, serving as a Post Office, Singapore Town Club and Chamber of Commerce before being turned into a luxury hotel.

What to see in Singapore

Take a ride of the Singapore Flyer, which opened on Raffles Avenue in 2008. The Flyer is 30 metres higher than the London Eye – on a clear day you can see Malaysia to the north and Indonesia to the South.

Wander around the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which have been at their present site for 150 years and contain 64 hectares of beautiful horticultural and botanical displays. Don’t miss the National

Orchid Garden with its collection of more than 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids of orchids.

The Asian Civilisations Museum is well worth a visit, packed with interesting artefacts and ornaments from all across South East Asia. Have a look at the museum website for more information.

From just outside the museum, take an hour-long cruise of the harbour – recommended in the evening, when the city’s riverside monuments are lit up.

Where to drink in Singapore

The Singapore Sling cocktail was invented by a Raffles’ barman and can still be enjoyed in the hotel’s atmospheric Long Bar. Or try Loof Bar, an open-air rooftop bar on top of the Odeon Towers, which has some of the best views in the city.

Where to eat

La Dolce Vita at the Mandarin Oriental has views over the city and the sea, and serves fine Italian cuisine, created by Michelin star chef Marco Pedrelli, alongside an impressive wine list.

Satay Club is a stretch of stalls, recently relocated to Clarke Quay, that sell a variety of meats, fish and vegetables all with the obligatory peanut Satay sauce. Each stall has its own special recipe and there is great vibrancy as they compete (in good humour) for your business. Each stall appears to claim its own accolade of awards, so choosing one can be tough. The hawker stalls in the Clarke Quay area are also well worth a try, and are a great place to sample more traditional Asian cuisine.

  • Remember: generally, the longer the queue, the better the food.
  • Check out what else is at Clarke Quay at clarkequay.com.sg.

Booking a Singapore holiday

A stopover in Singapore makes an ideal break en route to Australia, or as part of a luxury holiday to the Far East. It is possible to travel overland from Singapore to Bangkok, through Malaysia, on the Eastern & Oriental train.

Romantic getaways for Valentine Surprise holidays

St Valentine poses a problem for all lovers, trying to think of that perfect gift to best show just how much that special person means to them. This year, why not forget the flowers or the chocolates and give your valentine a romantic break that will give them memories to last a lifetime. Here’s my pick of favourite retreats to whisk your lover away to.

Florence, Italy

Make your loved one feel special by hiring one of the many luxury villas in Tuscany, Italy to stay in. Florence is a breathtakingly beautiful city nestled within one of Italy’s most luscious provinces and is the perfect place to stay. Temperatures average around a brisk but comfortable 10C (50F) and you’ll be treated to some Mediterranean sun which just adds to the atmosphere of this special place. Visiting out of peak season means you’ll see the sights without worrying about the crowds.

Whisk your loved one on a tour of the city’s art museums and galleries to see one of the finest collections of art in the world. I would definitely recommend The Uffizi, one of the oldest art museums in the world and home to paintings from Boticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Rembrandt. For more iconic artwork, visit Piazza della Signoria to see a copy of Michelangelo’s David. Take a scenic, romantic walk along the banks of the River Arno or climb to the top of the Bell Tower in the heart of Florence to admire the view of this magnificent ciy. It’s almost the perfect place to propose…

Aspen, Colorado

There’s some fantastic last-minute breaks available if a trip further afield would blow your valentine away. Aspen, Colorado is a magnificent venue especially if you enjoy keeping active on your holidays. This world-famous ski resort is a favourite break for Americans and offers a romantic winter break.

There isn’t much in life that is more romantic than a break away ti a wooden lodge or log cabin. From the decor to the roasting log fires, everything about staying here is utterly enchanting and you’ll be longing for the evenings to draw in so that you can relax in your wooden haven together. During the day, there’s much fun to be had with skiing, snowboarding and hiking available. Head to Glenwood Hot Springs to relax amongst the warm water of the pools. For something a little different, you can hire out horses to explore the area by horseback or book onto a camping trip and get back to basics sitting around the campfire and camping out underneath the stars.

Paris, France

We couldn’t ignore the most romantic city on the planet could we? This is truly a city for lovers and has arguably seen more proposals than any city in the whole world. In spite of this, any surprise trip to Paris is met with heart stopping excitement and will make your Valentine feel on top of the world. At just over an hour away from London by air or two hours by Eurostar, it’s the perfect place to spend a blissful weekend away from home.

There’s the obvious romantic spots in Paris. A trip up the Eiffel tower is a must, especially around sunset although this is the busiest time to visit. You can also ascend the Arc Du Triomphe which has arguably better views, mainly because you can see the Eiffel tower! You can have dinner at one of the beautiful Parisian cafes you’ll find all over the city and for lunch try Place de la Contrescarpe or my personal favourite Place des Abbesses.

Some cities just ooze romance and there is no better way to treat your loved one than an unforgettable romantic holiday.

Holiday in Marseille, France – Europe’s Capital of Culture

2013 sees Marseille take on the mantel of being a European Capital of Culture. July is a great time of year to explore the many cultural sites that France’s second largest city boasts. Here’s my guide to what you should see and do in Marseille this summer.

Cultural Marseille

Seen as the ‘Gateway to the West’, Marseille is a great place to experience French culture and to explore its ancient past. The Old Port is a great place to start. See the fishermen unload the catch of the day before heading off to the legendary fish market at Quai des Belges which certainly creates an intoxicating atmosphere. This part of the city really retains its heritage, and if possible, take a drive along the coastal roads to drink in the scenery.

To delve into some literature, there is nowhere more atmospheric than a trip to Chateau d’If. Situated on If island just off the coast of Marseille, this imposing fortress is France’s answer to Alcatraz and here you can even see the cell where Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo was held.

Spiritual Marseille

One building dominates the Marseille skyline more than any other, that of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. Here you’ll not only be able to appreciate the wonderful architecture and spiritual decoration inside, but the views from here across the city are spectacular. Arguably as iconic is the Abbaye de St. Victor, which dates back to Roman times. It has had a colourful history and has seen many important figures through time visit and make their final resting place here including a number of saints. Today the crypt is home to the remains of Pope Benedict IX.

Another great site to visit is the Cathedrale de la Major, the largest 19th Century church in France. This Gothic cathedral is an architectural delight, with beautiful decoration inside and out. Make sure you don’t visit on a Monday as the cathedral is closed.

Marseille Museums

If exploring museums is your idea of heaven, then head for Marseille’s Old Port and you’ll be in your element. You really do have your choice of places to visit but there are a number of museums which I would class as must-see attractions. The Musee de Docks Romains is great for an introduction into the city’s ancient past, as the site is a former Roman warehouse and houses many important ancient artefacts discovered in and around the Old Port. Follow this up with a trip to the Musee d’Histoire de Marseille which brings the city’s history up to date.

Marseille also has museums dedicated to the artistic side of the city. The Musee Cantini is a fantastic exploration and celebration of Modern Art, featuring work from Picasso, Breton and Kandinski  France is well-known for its spectacular Fashion scene too and what better way to delve into this than to visit the Musee de la Mode which is dedicated to fashion.

Need to knows…

Sitting on the Cote d’Azur in the South of France, Marseille is simply stunning in June as the temperatures begin to rocket but still manage to remain comfortable. Temperatures average 70 degrees, and with over 11 hours of sunshine each day and minimal rain, its great beach weather. With such a great coastal location, there are many popular beaches in Marseille and nearby to the city. Plage du Prophete is a fantastic place to take the children, whilst Plage Bonneveine is set up perfectly as a beach resort. For something special, make the trip out to Calanque de Morgiou and you’ll find a beach paradise.

You’ll find the weather perfect for getting out and about and exploring. The very best way to explore is to either take advantage of Marseille’s sprawling tram network or to hire one of the many bikes available for rental across the city.

The best way to explore Marseille’s cultural sites is to purchase a City Pass. Take your choice of purchasing a ticket for 24 or 48 hours, which will cost €24 or €29 depending on which ticket you choose. Tickets can be pre-booked online or bought from tourism offices in the city.

Visit the Fes Festival of Sacred World Music in Morocco

Morocco in north-west Africa is a colourful and exotic gateway to the great continent, being just over 14 km across the Gibraltar Strait from mainland Europe. Its ancient cities, rugged mountains and the Sahara Desert make it a vibrant and exciting place to visit. Its cultural and spiritual riches make it an obvious inspiration for a celebration of sacred music.

Fes Festival

The Fes Festival founded in 1994 by Morrocan Philanthropist Faouzi Skali. Reflecting the spirituality of the holy city in which it takes place, it is organised by The Sprit of Fez Foundation to bring together musicians and performers from all over the world to break down musical and political boundaries. This years festival takes place from 7th to 15th June and the program includes free daily concerts in the city’s Boujloud Square as well as special musical journeys through the heart of the old city or Medina, including Sufi nights in the gardens of Dar Tazi. All of the concerts take place in the evenings due to the heat of the day in the city, but exhibitions and workshops connected to the festival take place in museums and public places throughout the days. Artists this year include Patti Smith and flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia performing in a celebration of Andalusia, this years theme.Full details of all artists and events are available on the website. Tickets and passes for the special events can be purchased online or at the festival.

Fes

Fes lies at the heart of Morocco, the original capital and the religious and spiritual centre of its people to this day. It is the cross roads between the other main cities which strengthens its feeling of the real centre of the country. Fes el-Bali (Old Fes) the medina or walled old gown is the largest living medieval islamic city in the world with its winding lanes, shops, markets, restaurants, mosques, dye pits and tanneries. The city is most easily reached via Casablanca by train with a 4.5 hour journey but trains also connect to Marrakesh, Tangier and Rabat.

Where to stay

To get a real feel for the city a stay in a riad, a traditional medina house-hotel built around a courtyard). Riads come in all sizes and styles to suit your budget and each room normally has an en-suite bath and sitting area. You can book a room,  or rent an entire riad and live like pashas of old.  Make sure to double and triple check your reservations, as it’s not uncommon to arrive and be told that your reservation has been changed. It’s also wise to make sure a guide can meet you on arrival at the medina to show you the way through the tiny alleyways which are confusing to newcomers. Modern hotels and Riads are all reviewed online by previous visitors and travel experts.

Moroccan Excursions

If you want to explore a little more of Morocco you can book trips to the following nearby attractions.

Middle Atlas Mountains

You can take an excursion to walk or horse ride in the mountains to the south of the city. A good destination at the festival time is Sefrou, just 30 minutes from Fez, where the dark sweet cherries of the same name are harvested and celebrated in June.

Volubilis and Moulay Idriss

An hour and a half north-west of Fez is Morocco’s largest and most important Roman remains. A World Heritage site it is a great place to wander an enjoy the ruins and the views. Be sure to take a hat as there is no shelter and plenty of water to drink. The nearby sacred town of Moulay Idriss, with its holy founders tomb, can be a good destination to add to your itinerary and allow some shelter from the heat of the day.

4 Ways to explore Singapore for the family

Singapore is a stunning country, balancing natural beauty with a thriving city experience and rich cultural diversity. It is truly a wonderful place to holiday with the family, as there is something for all ages to enjoy. Here are 4 ways to explore Singapore that your family will love.

City Sightseeing Tour

When you arrive in Singapore, make sure you buy a City Sightseeing ticket. This gives you access to 5 specialised tours and a dedicated transport service to help you truly explore the city. It’s a 24 hour ticket that gives you the freedom to travel across 33 stops on a hop on, hop off style tour to let you go at your own pace. From Little India and Marina Bay to the Historic Civil District and The Esplanade, the City Sightseeing tour is one of the best ways to explore Singapore with the whole family.

Singapore Night Safari

For a unique experience that the whole family will absolutely love, spend an evening discovering all the amazing creatures that come out at night. Night Safari is a special safari park dedicated to night time animals, and offers a range of trails, trams and special shows to ensure an action-packed adventure for everyone. The restaurants and shops open at 5:30pm, followed by the park itself at 7:30pm, making it a great way to have dinner before you start. The park closes at midnight, though last tickets are sold at 11.15pm.

One of the star attractions of Night Safari is the guided tram ride. Once aboard, you and your family will experience an unforgettable journey through environments such as the Asian Riverine Forest and the Himalayan Foothills. The narrated tour provides fascinating information on the unique ecosystems and animals that you’ll spot during the tour.

Shop Along Orchard Road

Most people who’ve heard of Singapore will know Orchard Road. The famous shopping destination is a great way to take the family out and spend a day looking through the wealth of stores on offer. It is Singapore’s largest vertical mall, and has an array of delightful restaurants with alfresco dining for when you need to take a quick break from all of the shopping.

From the most prestigious European designer brands to great little bargain stores, this magnificent mall will bring out the shopper in everyone. Make sure to check out the unique Mediterranean style marketplace, as well as the huge array of health and beauty services available throughout the mall for some well-deserved indulgent pampering.

Cruising in Style

The stunning Singapore harbour is best seen from a boat, and nothing beats cruising with the family in luxury style while exploring the best that Singapore has to offer. The cruises departing Singapore reach a range of amazing destinations, and a trip could see you wandering through open air markets, exploring lush rainforests and discovering the secrets of ancient cities. Singapore is truly the gateway to Southeast Asia, and the countless captivating destinations offer the perfect opportunity for a cruise.

With these top ways to explore Singapore, you and your family will be seeing the very best that this amazing country has to offer. The unique destination of Singapore will truly enchant the senses, and give your family a holiday experience that they will never forget.

Visiting Singapore in March

Being just 1 degree north of the equator, Singapore enjoys warm and humid days all year round. Tropical thunderstorms are always a possibility here but the city is well prepared for the rain. Temperatures are fairly consistent here, hovering around 31C (88F) with a high and somewhat oppressive humidity level. You’ll find no shortage of air conditioning here so its easy to keep cool when you want to. March is the end of the “dry phase” which means you can expect less rain in the afternoons but slightly higher daily temperatures.

A British Seaside holiday in Brighton

Whitsun, born from the Christian celebration of Pentecost was traditionally the first holiday of the summer and in the Victorian and Edwardian era, a time for day trips to the seaside. In the 21st Century Whitsun is still observed with a bank holiday where thousands flock to one of the most famous and successful of the UK seaside towns. Here’s our guide to Brighton and why June is a great time to visit.

History of Brighton

Once a sleepy East Sussex fishing village Brighton’s fortunes changed when the son of George III, Prince Regent and later George IV decided to make the town his home. The towns popularity increased dramatically overnight and there began a massive transformation as many of the towns Regency crescents and squares were built. The extravagant iconic Royal Pavilion also created by John Nash. By the end of Queen Victoria’s reign the town complete with its Palace Pier was a seaside favourite. Today Brighton has all the seaside traditions on its famous front with all the fun of the fair, paired with the beauty of its regency buildings and the vibrancy of a modern city with shopping and entertainments to match.

Brighton Pier

The 1,722 ft long Brighton Pier was completed in 1899 and has been a top attraction ever since, constantly reinvented for the modern visitor and has all you would expect, from fish and chips and other food outlets to bars, fun fair rides and arcades. Admission to the pier is free and it’s open all year round except Christmas day. The gates open at 10am in the summer and 11am in winter. You can’t miss the Pier when you drive along the coast with the giant Ferris Wheel nearby.

The Royal Pavilion

The Pavilion is testament to George IV’s love of flamboyant oriental design and his desire to surround himself with important people he wished to impress. The  sumptuous Music Room where he indulged his guests with concerts and operas and the Banqueting Room where he served lavish feasts, show the richness of the interior he would have enjoyed with gilt, Chinoiserie, Regency silver and dragons and birds of paradise in the draperies and furnishings, all lit by quite superb chandeliers. The royal apartments are less opulent but beautifully decorated and furnished as they would have been not only in the regency period but later when Queen Victoria used the pavilion. The Great KItchen built to enable the grand banquets with the latest innovations is also on show. The Pavilion is found on the A23 north of the pier on the left hand side of the road.

Brighton Beach

The  pebble beach has a Blue Flag award and is great to relax on with the pier in the background. But the bathing huts of the Edwardian era have been replaced by a sophisticated beach sports area, galleries and shops in the lower promenade and cafe’s and restaurants all along the front. You can hire a beach bike or head to Brighton Marina or Hove Lagoon to take part in water sports such as windsurfing, sailing, kayaking and wake boarding. There are dog friendly areas of beach all year round and free sand play areas for children.

Shopping

If its retail therapy you are after you wont be disappointed. Just behind the beach front hotels lie The Lanes, some of the oldest alleyways in Brighton packed with antique and jewellery shops, tiny boutiques and pretty cafe’s. North Laine in near Brighton station is full of the coolest retro and ethnic chic in town with locally made jewellery and ornaments, vintage and young designer clothes and exotic oriental silks and muslins. Churchill square is a modern shopping mall with 90 favourite stores, while if you are watching your pennies you can head to the outlet village at Brighton Marina to hunt for bargains. Along with the traditional shopping area of Kemptown with its mixture of old traditional shops and new quirky gems there is probably very little you can’t find in Brighton shops.

Events in Brighton in June

As summer is hotting up the festival and event season picks up too. As you’d expect from this bohemian city you’ll find an eclectic mix of events. There’s the Mad Hatter’s Tease Party, a burlesque cabaret show and fancy dress party. You’ll also find famous pop acts like Jessy J and comedians  too including Eddie Izzard. For fund days out there’s the London to Brighton Mini run which ends at Brighton Pier with a big exhibition and demonstrations.

Discover Mediterranean Montenegro this June

Nestled in the heart of the Mediterranean, Montenegro is a small country with increasing popularity as a holiday destination. Its allure is in its laid back way of life, beautiful natural landscape, a rich history and many activities that allow you to enjoy the world around you. Couple this with a fantastic climate during June and it becomes the perfect place to visit on your next holiday. Here’s my guide to the very best Montenegro has to offer.

Record-breaking landscape

Montenegro has the honour of being home to many of Europe’s natural wonders. Visit the Tara River Canyon, Europe’s deepest Canyon and you’ll be greeted with awe-inspiring scenery. Located within the Durmitor National Park, you’re greeted with waterfalls to admire, caves to explore and rapids that are just calling out to go rafting on.  Once you’ve explored the Canyon, there is much to see within the Park, including climbing Durmitor Mountain.If you like to get the heart racing, this is definitely the National Park for you.

Home to four national parks, Montenegro certainly has much to offer and each park has a lure of something unique. Biogradska Gora holds Europe’s last Virgin Forest and as such, is a place of great ecological significance.  It isn’t just in its parks that Montenegro offers its natural gems. Take a trip to Kotor Bay and to the Southernmost fjord in the world where you will fall in love with this stretch of beautiful cities, fantastic beaches and thriving nightlife. Along the coast of Montenegro, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches with over 110 sandy idylls to choose from. I would definitely recommend Sveti Stefan, a celebrity haunt back in the Sixties. At this dramatic stretch of coastline, you’ll find a sprawling, peaceful golden beach which is surrounded by beautiful old architecture. From here, make your way to Skadar Lake which is the largest bird reservation in Europe and arguably Montenegro’s finest gem.

Rich Historical culture

There are many varied sites scattered around Montenegro that give a glimpse into the country’s past. Kotor is home to the UNESCO listed Old Town and here you can walk along small, Venetian-inspired streets, through arches and within the city walls feeling as though you have travelled back in time. There are a number of boutique hotels here which have made the very most of this magnificent architecture and provide a unique experience.

You should also stop off at Perast in Boka Bay which is another old town that appeals to your sense of history with links to its prehistoric culture found in the caves above the town. Amongst the fine architecture, you’ll find many churches here which are all very special. You’re spoilt for choice but I would definitely recommend St Nicholas Church with its mix of the old and new churches and Our Lady of the Rosary which has arguably the most beautiful belfry you’ll see in Europe. You should also take a ride out into the bay to Our Lady of the Rocks,  which hosts some spectacular artwork upon its walls.

At your leisure

The way of life in Montenegro feels extremely laid back making it the perfect place to visit to relax. With its many beaches, you’re certain to find one that will make you sit back to enjoy the fine climate. If you do want to get the heart racing a little more, there are also many activities here to keep you occupied. The National Parks provide a great space to indulge in some activity, with hiking, biking, walking, skiing and rafting all available. Along the coast, you’re able to swim and it has great calm sea conditions for sailing. Windsurfing and kitesurfing are also available at Ada Bojana and Ulcinj’s Velika Plaza.

Once night draws in, many of the key towns come to life and the nightlife here is tremendous. For a fine meal, I would definitely head for Przno Harbour to sample some of the finest seafood you’ll ever taste, all freshly caught nearby. Kotor also has some fine restaurants, each with a beautifully unique view to compliment your meal. If you’re in search of a great night out, look no further than Budva, a popular tourist resort with a thriving nightlife with bars and clubs luring you out until dawn.

 

The best festivals and events in Australia in May 2013

Australia is a wonderful country to visit all year round, so it’s no wonder that it has millions of tourists who visit from all around the globe. While winters can get cold and wet in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, the autumn is perfect for beautiful weather and fun events in all of the country’s major cities. Australia has always had a community based culture so it has no shortage of interesting festivals and events worth attending. Whether you’re in to fitness and sports like many Australians, or food and drink, there’s something for everyone.

If you’re in or heading to Australia this May, make sure to add these must-do activities and must-see events to your itinerary.

Noosa International Food and Wine Festival

Hosted in Noosa on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast, the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival is one of Australia’s most renowned events for foodies and wine connoisseurs. With food trails, celebrity chef demonstrations, and concerts complete with a beautiful glass of wine, there’s nothing that’s not to like about this festival – and plus, once you’re done, you can head down to the Gold Coast for some theme park fun.

The Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon

An annual event that aims to raise money for more than 700 charities, the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon is the perfect excuse to hit the ground running – literally. Spanning 21.1km, the course starts at Sydney’s iconic St Mary’s Cathedral and winds through the Royal Botanic Gardens, Circular Quay, and Darling Harbour. It’s the perfect excuse to see Sydney and to run for a good cause, so what are you waiting for?

Melbourne International Coffee Expo

Everyone loves coffee, so what’s not to love about the Melbourne International Coffee Expo? Held for three days in May, MICE2013 will play host to the World Barista Championship, the World Brewers Cup, and a dedicated coffee trade show. With a ton of exhibitors and some of the best coffee you have ever tasted, this expo is definitely worth that flight to Melbourne, no matter where you are from in the world.

Rotary Team Challenge

If the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon is too easy for you, then it may be worth gathering some of your fittest friends and entering the Rotary Team Challenge in WA. Beginning in Northam, participants will cycle, run and walk 75km to Swan View Railway Station in Perth. With a track that navigates through the picturesque Mt Helena and the John Forrest National Park, you won’t be short of scenery; plus, all the money your team raises will go towards the MS Society of WA to help support those with multiple sclerosis. Just make sure you train hard at your local Fitness First health club before you take this challenge head on.

A Southern India Itinerary for May

India is a country that is filled with so many exciting holiday opportunities. Ancient monuments, Eastern mysticism and an enviable natural world all make for a wonderful vacation. With the lure of some of India’s most famous site in the north, the south is often overlooked but it’s at your peril that you do. Here’s my guide to the very best that Southern India has to offer.

Southern Culture

Fly direct to Bangalore and spend time exploring this fast growing city.  The most iconic thing about Bangalore is the depth of colour that the city is filled with and this makes for a memorable trip. There are many parks to relax in and many impressive buildings to visit, including the impressive Vidhan Soudha. Just a short journey from Bangalore is Mysore, known as the city of Royal Palaces and here you’ll find a breathtaking series of palaces, including the City Palace near Chamundi Hill.

Visit Cochin, a place which truly brings together a mix of cultures and is influenced by its ancient past. This port on the South eastern coast will leave you breathless, with memories of the iconic Chinese fishing nets being set out for their day’s catch.  A two-hour drive up the coast will bring you to the Guruvayoor Temple, which is one of the most important Hindu sites in India.

Southern wildlife

India is home to a wide range of animals which are wonderfully viewed in their natural habitat. The thing I love so much about this part of the world is that just a short ride outside of a city will bring you to a natural wonder and you’re spoilt for choice here in the south. The main attraction is to visit one of the national parks to head out on Safari. It’s almost essential that you see tigers in India, in the landscape where Rudyard Kipling was inspired to create Shere Khan. Visit the Nagarhole National Park, once the Maharajas reserved forest, to go on a jeep safari and you’ll be rewarded with sights of elephants, bears, panthers and tigers amongst many other animals. I would highly recommend taking both a morning and evening safari as they are completely different experiences.

I would also recommend visiting the Ranganittu Bird Sanctuary  which is nestled upon a series of rocky islands and is home to many different species of bird. See the elephants at Punnathoor Kota near Cochin or take to the Rajamalai National Park in Munnar for more fantastic sights of India’s wildlife living freely.

Southern Landscape

Of course the natural world here doesn’t just impress with its wildlife as the habitats many live in is every bit as breathtaking as seeing these majestic animals. Visit Vythiri for a perfect example of showcasing Southern India’s landscape. Located within Wayanad region’s forest and valleys, Vythiri is home to the Suchipara falls, a three-tiered waterfall, the Edakkal Caves and nearby is the Pookote Lake, which makes for a scenic visit. You can also climb the Chembra Peak which at 2100m is the tallest summit in the region.

I would also make sure that you take in a trip to Alleppey to cruise through the backwaters here for what will be a memorable ride. You can also book an overnight stay on a houseboat to make the very most of your journey here.

Before you travel…

Southern India is easily accessible from road, rail, sea and air, with both Bangalore and Trivandrum airports receiving international flights. May is a great month to visit, with endless sunshine and warmth, so ensure you bring clothes to help cover up and ensure you pack the sunglasses and suncream! The World Health Organisation also recommends being up to date with routine vaccines as well as taking vaccines for Hepatitis, Polio and Typhoid. For more information, visit their website.

 

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