Category: Family

Cruise ideas for 2018

There aren’t many holidays in life that feel more luxurious than stepping onto a cruise ship, ready to be whisked off for a few days at sea exploring the area. With a wide range of destinations and cruises available, here’s my guide to the best cruises you should book onto for your holiday in 2018.

Cruise Australia

Southern Australia is magnificent in March as you can enjoy the warm climate of Autumn. Temperatures remain around 22 degrees and the sun continues to shine, meaning you can enjoy the beautiful surroundings without the searing heat or blazing sunshine of the summer.

Australia cruises

For your perfect cruise, choose Crystal Cruises Australia for your choice of liner. This award-winning company will take you on a trip of a lifetime on board their luxurious ships, complete with ballrooms, theatres, bars and opulent rooms. Their three-week cruise around Southern Australia starts in Auckland, New Zealand where you can explore this exciting city on the North Island. Aboard your ship, set sail along the western coast down to Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Christchurch and finally Dunedin before making your way over to Australia. Cruise across the Tasman Sea before you see Sydney and its iconic skyline appear on the horizon. Believe me, it’s an emotional, unforgettable experience. Spend time exploring this fantastic city before making your way to Melbourne, where you must visit the set of Neighbours! From here it’s along the coast to Perth and Fremantle, your final destination. It’ll be three weeks you’ll never forget.

Cruise Singapore

Singapore is possibly the most suitable place to take a cruise from, with many of the cities buildings taking you back to a time when boarding a liner was the only way to explore far off destinations. March is ideal for a trip here as the monsoon season comes to an end and the temperature is cooler than the humid months that follow.

Cruises from Singapore

Board Crystal Cruises’ 2 week round trip to Singapore which will take you deep into the Indian Ocean. Explore the city before you depart, visiting iconic sites such as Raffles to sample a ‘Singapore Sling’, The Majestic and the Zoological Gardens. Once aboard your ship, set off south and start ticking off all the countries you’re visiting. Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and even India all in the space of two weeks of sheer unadulterated beauty and excitement before landing back where you started.

Cruise Dubai

One of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world. Dubai is the self proclaimed “Pearl of the Gulf” and has positively bloomed over the past couple of decades from a coastal desert city to a world record breaking metropolis. Thanks to its location it also offers an increasing number of fantastic cruise options with a typically high quality approach that Dubai is now famous for.

Dubai cruises

There are plenty of Dubai cruises to choose from. Whether you want to tour the Arabian Gulf for a week or 10 days, visiting Oman, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and beyond. Or if you want to tour more of Asia, maybe on to India, Sri Lanka and south East Asian island nations like Singapore. You’ll find lots of competitively priced options here. Personally I’d pick a cruise around the Arabian Gulf as its an area of the world that is widely misunderstood and has a very rich and colourful history worth exploring.

Cruise China

Spring heralds the best time of year to visit China, with temperatures at a steady and comfortable level. With the weather great across the country, there’s no better time to take a cruise along the Chinese coast. Passing through the South China, East China and Yellow Sea, take a cruise from Hong Kong to Beijing.

Here you’ll start and end in one of China’s most iconic destinations and will take in Shanghai on your way north. I found it simply remarkable just how many legendary sites this stretch of coastline holds. Being a culture lover, I was in awe of see Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, Huangpu River and The Peninsula all in the space of a fortnight. Simply spectacular.

Cruise the Caribbean

The Caribbean almost feels as if it was made for cruising around. With a cluster of tropical islands in such a relatively small space, cruising is the ideal way to explore this lush region of the world. March is definitely the best time of year to do so as well, with weather at its sunniest, warmest and driest. It’s a popular time of year for tourists wanting to escape the winter.

Bahamas cruises

Take a 14 day Caribbean cruise that will see you start and finish in Florida. Take time to explore Fort Lauderdale and Key West which are both beautiful coastal cities. Your first stop in the Caribbean is the Bahamas, where life really does feel like it’s begun to slow down. After a day exploring, you feel immediately relaxed and in Jamaica, the clock might as well just stop! Your cruise will take you onto the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and the most remarkable thing is that you’ll only have scratched the surface as to what the Caribbean has to offer.

Ski the 3 Valleys in France

The Three Valleys is the largest ski area in the world, boasting 8 luxurious resorts. With acres of space to ski and snowboard, beautiful pistes to admire the view from and luxurious ski chalets to enjoy, The Three Valleys has to be the ski destination to visit in March.

The Three Valleys

Les Trois Vallees is situated in South-East France and is a vast ski area in the French Alps. The area has grown from its initial roots and now encompasses four valleys: Saint-Bon, Allues, Belleville and Maurienne.  Within this, there are 8 resorts which visitors can choose to stay and ski in. To help you make the most of the area, The Three Valleys have a fantastic ski pass which allows you to ski in all parts of the area for the week that you visit.

In March, you will find the Three Valleys within its peak season which runs from December through until April. March sees average highs of 4C (39F) and there is great snowfall, particularly across the higher peaks in the valleys. Amongst the snow, there are days filled with sunshine so ensure you have your protection against the rays packed alongside your skis.

The Resorts

What makes this area so great is that the 8 resorts that make up the Three Valleys are all wonderfully unique. At the very heart of the region, you’ll find Meribel which has a wonderfully British atmosphere that mixes perfect with its Alpine charm. If you’re looking to stay in a traditional chalet, Meribel is certainly the resort to choose. Visit Purple Ski to get a feel for the chalets available and immerse yourself in the Alpine luxury.

At the summit of the valleys, you’ll find Val Thorens which is the highest resort in Europe at over 2300m altitude. It is certainly a laid back resort and there is much to keep you occupied off the slopes including the biggest nightclub in the Alps and great restaurants. Alternatively, for sheer luxury, choose to stay in the Courchevel resort. Here you’ll be treated to elegance at every turn in each of its five villages. Even if this isn’t your resort of choice, try to visit to sample some food from one of the 6 Michelin Star chefs located here.

The Slopes

Of course you take a ski holiday to enjoy the slopes as well as the resorts! The Three Valleys is home to 600kms of pistes which offer a wide range of skiing opportunities. All the resorts offer ski lessons for those who are trying their hand at skiing for the first time and there are a range of slopes for all abilities to enjoy.

Serious skiers are recommended to visit St Martin-de-Belleville which is a small, traditional resort perfect for experienced skiers. Meribel also offers great off-piste skiing opportunities which are not for the faint hearted as well as a great snowpark to snowboard at.

If you’re visiting with the family, then I would definitely recommend visiting Les Menuires as they have a great deal set aside for families to enjoy including 4 fun zones. Alternatively visit La Tania for the gentle side of the Three Valleys.

Valley Activities

Obviously, it isn’t all about the skiing here in the Three Valleys. Other great ways to enjoy the Alpine snow include snowboarding, tobogganing and even heli-skiing. Dog sledding is great fun for the whole family and on offer at a number of the resorts including Saint Martin-de-Belleville or simply take a ride in one of the region’s gondolas to admire the views.

Away from the slopes, why not treat yourself to a spa break in the Brides-les-Bains resort or a visit to the wellness centre in the picturesque village resort of Orelle. Each resort has great opportunities to shop and fine restaurants to eat in. Finally for some culture, visit the Meribel Museum which delves into the history of this fine resort or the art galleries of Courchevel.

 

 

5 Best holiday destinations in March

Timing is one of the most important aspects in ensuring that you truly get the most out of your overseas adventure, so it pays to do a bit of research before you leave. Picking the right season not only gives you the chance to see your destination at its best, but also allows you to pack accordingly. Here are 5 of the best travel destinations for a March holiday.

United States of America

Spring is starting up in March throughout the USA, making it the perfect time to travel. From the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas, there’s something for every style of traveller. Take a cycling tour through the scenic Oregon Coast, check out the relaxed living in Hawaii or take a famous American road trip to make sure you see the most from this unique and diverse destination.

Southern Europe

The warming effects of spring see Southern Europe awaken from its cold winter slumber. While still not too hot, the increasing warmth and length of days make March a great time to spend discovering the best that Southern Europe has to offer. The temperature is perfect to get outdoors and explore for the adventurous traveller, with everywhere from the Cote D’Azur to Sicily starting to feel the sure signs of spring.

Africa

Always wanted to experience the magic of Africa, but been deterred by the heat? March is the perfect time to discover this land of wild beauty and spectacular safaris. With the dry season keeping away most of the rain and the tail end of summer giving way to the cooler change of autumn, this is a great opportunity to see Africa without sweltering in the heat. North and East Africa are the best to visit during this time for perfect climate conditions. If you fancy climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. There’s also the stunning annual migration of wildebeest and zebra across Kenya from late March. Well worth checking out at least once in your life.

Australia

March is the perfect time to explore Australia. As autumn sets in, the scorching hot days and wild summer storms give way to clear skies and a cool breeze. With such perfect weather and ideal temperatures, you can start to explore everything that this stunning continent has to offer. The sun is still warm enough to encourage a swim on golden beaches or a stunning snorkelling session on the reef. Take a food and wine trail through Tasmania, explore the Snowy Mountains via horseback or discover the wealth of arts and shopping in any of the capital cities.

Caribbean

What could be better than relaxing on the sands of a pristine beach with the tropical breeze rustling the trees and a seemingly endless expanse of glittering water. The Caribbean is a top spot to travel to in March, however be careful to avoid the price spike and rush of tourists during the Easter holidays. For dive enthusiasts, the Cayman Islands are an absolute must-see, while Barbados offers the very finest in dining and boutique accommodation. Of course Jamaica is a popular stop, with many travellers including it on their travel bucket list.

These are some of the best travel destinations that you can visit for a memorable March holiday. Make your holiday one you’ll never forget by experiencing these spectacular travel locations at their very finest.

Enjoy the best of France for your Summer holiday

food at toroko gorge taiwain

France is a country with lots to offer, with iconic cities, exquisite food, a rich cultural heritage and of course, the beautiful French countryside. What better place to spend your summer holiday! Here’s my pick of the best places in France to visit this summer.

Arcachon Coast

This stunning town is located on the Southwest coast of France and has long been a haven for tourists, with the place well-known for its restorative atmosphere.  The golden beach stretches on for miles and looks out at the Atlantic Ocean. Here in the bay, you’ll find Europe’s largest sand dune, Dune du Pyla. With such beautiful beachfront and natural landscape to enjoy, June is the perfect month to visit this stunning coastal area. Temperatures climb to 23 degrees, with over 8 hours of sun each day and warm sea temperatures. You’ll also be able to enjoy the Festival of Music, a highlight in Arcachon’s social calendar as well as the parachuting festival.

There is much to see and do here in Arcachon to keep you entertained. For those who like an active holiday, you have your pick of activities from horse riding, cycling and golf to heading out onto the water for some windsurfing, sailing or diving. Even if you prefer the quiet life, you can even hire out a pedal boat to enjoy the view from the sea. The town itself is a traditional seaside town so you’ll be able to enjoy the boardwalk and if you want to learn more about the town and its history, you can even book onto a guided tour.

Biarritz

Nestled on the western coast of France, Biarritz is a very popular tourist destination. It has great views across the Bay of Biscay and is certainly a place that is in love with its oceanic roots. Visit in June and you’ll find conditions perfect for relaxing on the picturesque beaches with temperatures hovering around 22 degrees. Better still, with the sea at a comfortable temperature, you’ll be able to make the most of one of the best places to surf in Europe.

You certainly will have lots to keep you occupied here in Biarritz. June sees the Les Oceanes and Las Casetas festivals hosted here and they offer a fantastic start to the summer. To learn more about the sea and how much it has influenced the town, visit both the Cite de l’Ocean and the Musee de la Mer. This beautiful Art Deco building is home to the aquarium and also celebrates the history of fishing and whaling here in Biarritz. Undoubtedly, the highlight of a visit here are the seals especially at feeding time! You should also take time to visit the d’Art Oriental Asiatica, which is home to a wealth of ancient Asian artefacts. Once you’ve indulged in the culture, relax by having some Thalassotherapy which Biarritz is famed for.

Languedoc

The South of France conjours up images of Nice, Cannes and St.Tropez and of glamour and glitz that money just can’t buy. Well, move along the coast west and you’ll be able to find the very best that the South of France can offer, all for a much more affordable rate in Languedoc. This province has an enviable location, bordered by Provence and the Pyrenees which gives it a distinctly unique feel. June offers the fantastic warm weather and sunshine without the blistering heat that follows for the rest of the summer. There are also a number of festivals held in the province during June, including the Carcassonne Festival and the Montpellier Dance Festival.

In such a wide and varied region, there is obviously much to see here. The landscape is simply stunning, made all the more beautiful if you choose to stay in a traditional property. Visit the Roman buildings in Nimes or the fine Cathar fortresses near Perpignan. For a dash of culture, you should definitely visit Montpellier to visit the Musee Fabre which houses some of the finest works of art in France. To get back to nature, a trip to the Parc National des Cevennes is a must, to experience its wooded valleys, its mountains and of course the animals that have made their home here. It’s easy to see why this place had such an influence on Robert Louis Stevenson and you can follow in his footsteps by following the Stevenson trail.

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.

Best family activity holidays for the start of Summer

As the summer looms large, the thought of keeping the kids entertained and occupied begins to come around. There is a perfect alternative to worrying about planning a family break and that’s to book onto an activity holiday. With flights, accommodation and activities all planned out for you and your family, all that’s left is to enjoy yourself and relax. With flexible dates available, here’s my guide to the best holidays for your family this June.

Austria

Within the Austria’s Tyrol State lies the Oetz Valley, a mountainous haven filled with fun for the whole family to enjoy. With mountains, rivers, glaciers and a stunning terrain, you’ll be amongst some of the most beautiful scenery in Austria. Tyrol is famed for its ski resorts but it’s also fantastic in the summer too, with temperatures at a warm 16 degrees and seemingly endless hours of sunlight. Stay in some traditional accommodation to complete the ski resort feel to your trip.

Once you’ve arrived in Oetz, you’re quite literally spoilt for choice with activities.  There are many different options for rafting, canyoning and hiking, allowing you to explore and enjoy the peaks within the valley. Take off for a glacier safari to discover the history behind this frozen land and the wildlife that live here or take to the skies for a spot of paragliding! You can also relax whilst you’re here by visiting the water park or treating yourself to a thermal bath.

Bulgaria

June is a fantastic month to visit Bulgaria, with the summer season just getting into full swing. Temperatures average 19 degrees and you’ll benefit from over 8 hours of pure sunshine. June also sees the country host many festivals, including the Folklore Festival in Kyusendil. To capture the very essence of the beauty of this country, you simply have to visit Rila and its National Park.

Located an hour south of the capital Sofia, Rila really is a haven. It’s most popular attraction, and arguably it’s most beautiful, is the UNESCO listed 7 Lakes of Rila. During your stay, you’ll be able to use the park as your playground. There are a host of water activities available on Lake Iskar, including wakeboarding and waterskiing. If you’re more comfortable on solid ground, then mountain biking and horse riding are also fantastic activities to enjoy here. You can even explore further and visit the Rila Monastery, one of the most famous Orthodox sites in the country.

Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands offer the beautiful scenic landscape but also adds in a magical touch of the animal world, with the country home to the iconic Iguana and Giant tortoises. June marks both the end of the warm season and the start of the dry season so you’ll get the best of both worlds. Temperatures average 23 degrees and the sea temperature is perfect for diving from June onwards.

Here you are quite literally spoilt for choice, especially for animal lovers and the best thing of all is that the land is unspoilt. See the giant tortoises in their natural habitat at Santa Cruz Island and visit Charles Darwin bay for a spot of snorkelling to see the amazing world beneath the waves.  You must visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to discover how this beautiful landscape is being preserved.  During your stay, you’ll be able to hike through forest, amongst the volcanos and amongst lava tunnels. It all makes for an exciting trip that will definitely get the heart racing.

Peru

This iconic destination is extra special in June as the summer solstice is celebrated at the magical Machu Picchu. June marks the start of the dry season and also the start of the popular tourist season in Peru. Any trip here is a trip of a lifetime, with the opportunity to explore these ancient sacred sites nestled amongst a beautiful tropical landscape.

It goes without saying that you must visit Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley but there are many other activities to keep your whole family entertained during your stay here. Stay deep within the heart of the Amazon Rainforest and explore! Trek, travel along the river by boat and hike, you’ll even be able to climb up high into the trees to see the jungle from on high or fly through it on a zipline! All the while, keep your eyes peeled for the many animals that live here especially the famed piranhas!

Norwegian Fjords cruise holidays to the midnight sun

Taking a cruise is a fabulous way to see a few destinations in a truly relaxing way. If you have cruised before you will know the feeling you get when your travel is a very real part of your holiday. Sunbathing, enjoying fine cuisine, taking in some shows or a movie, shopping, swimming or relaxing in the spa while a huge team of people look after your every need and move you closer to your next destination. If you haven’t cruised before it is a feeling you ought to get used to!

Types of Cruise

There are many different cruise lines in operation. Some offer a traditional cruise experience, with dressing for dinner and silver service, while others offer an informal fun cruise with lots of activities and entertainment. Some specialise in family cruises and others have adult only ships either for a party atmosphere or a quieter more laid back experience.

You can take cruises to and from a port near your home or fly to and from the start and finish port. Many cruise companies disembark from ports in the UK to Norway, and the ports are far less chaotic than airports with ships allowing you onboard early on the day of departure while the ship is prepared for disembarkation.

To choose the right cruise line for you try using travel review sites for personal reviews by cruisers such as Cruise Critic and Holiday Watchdog

The Midnight Sun

Although the summer nights rarely get truly dark anywhere in Norway, the natural phenomenon of the midnight sun, where the sun does not dip below the horizon for days, can only be experienced from about 50 miles south of the Arctic Circle and north of that point from June to July. In Norway this is approximately the county of Nordland and above. The further north you go the earlier the more you can experience the never ending days.

Great Ports of Call

Before you reach Nordland there are a couple of beautiful places to call in on. The beautiful capital of Oslo is approached through the 70 mile Oslofjord and the Drobak Narrows, which have afforded the city some safety from invasion over the centuries. Cruise ships berth along side the old Akershus Fortress, jutting out seaward on its craggy headland. The city is a mixture of beautiful historic public buildings and startling modern architecture, but feels somehow cosy and intimate as you stroll the streets and gardens.

Cruising the west coast, at the top of the Aurlandsfjord,  approached via the deep set Sognefjord is the tiny port of Flaam. Most ships that dock here run an excursion to board the mountain railway from the little town up through the winding track past truly breathtaking drops and cascading waterfalls. Eighteen of the twenty tunnels you pass through were cut by hand by a labour force of 220 men in astonishing feat of engineering you can learn about during the journey.

Further up the coast is the beautiful art nouveau city of Alesund, rebuilt entirely in 1907 after a devastating fire, the city is colourful and ornamental with facades, turrets and towers. Cruising North from Alesund you will experience the wonderful everlasting twilight of the evenings as you sit in the on board bars and restaurants or stand on deck late into the night without ever seeing the true darkness.

Your northernmost call will be to Tromso, the capital of the arctic circle, surrounded by islands and mountains. The city’s archtiecture is rich and varied with the striking 1960’s edifice of  the Arctic Cathedral standing out. To see the whole city laid out below, take a trip on the Fjellhelsen cable car to Mount Storsteinen 420 metres above sea level for fantastic views. As the last major city before heading to the pole, Tromso has a Polar museum in the older part of the city, charting the brave history of the explorers.

Wherever you floating home takes you, you can be sure you won’t want the sun to set on this beautiful journey.

Dog friendly holidays in the West Country of England

With over 600 miles of coastline and more than 400 beaches between them Devon and Cornwall welcome millions of visitors every year. The counties also have a vast  network of footpaths and bridleways crossing nearly 900 square miles of open moorland making the West Country an ideal destination for dog owners.

Best Beaches

Devon and Cornwall’s beaches vary from hidden sheltered coves to vast stretches of sand and narrow strands below towering cliffs.In the the summer dog restrictions do apply to some beaches but there are still over 150 for you to roam free with your canine companion.

On the north coast Constantine Bay near Padstow offers wide sweeping expanses of  sand dotted with rock pools and backed by sand dunes and cliffs. The rocky outcrops and headlands make for beautiful scenery and great windswept walks while on the west coast the tiny Priests Cove on the wild and spectacular Cape Cornwall offers a tiny pebble beach with scores of rock pools to explore and the cliff tops offer spectacular views. Devon’s south coast offers the beautiful sheltered area of Portlemouth which is also quiet and away from the main family beaches allowing even more freedom for you and your dog.

Great Inland Walking

Just a short drive from Exeter lies the 3500 acres of Haldon Forest Park. This Forestry Commission property is crisscrossed with trails for all levels of fitness. The Dart Valley Trail has 16  miles of signposted walks with great river views and valley scenery. Around St Austell you can see some unusual and almost otherworldly landscapes following any of the China Clay Trails around the old clay pits and tips from the 250-year-old clay mining industry. For a wilder experience head for the moors. Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor all welcome dogs and on the public rights of way there is no legal requirement to keep your dog on a lead but on open land always be a responsible dog owner and follow notices requiring your dog to be on a lead near livestock.

Where to Stay

While travelling with pets some owners prefer the freedom of a self catering cottage, chalet or caravan. Dogs Trust Cottages have lots of great properties and you can help the charity when booking through them. Inner Wolf have a good selection of places for those on a real outdoor adventure with their hardy hound. If your dog is very well-behaved and you want to stay at dog friendly inns, B&B’s or hotels, Dog Friendly has a good choice of all these types of accommodation happy to accept dogs.

Practical considerations

As a dog owner you will of course be aware that you need to keep your dog under control at all times, stay aware of other people and animals and potential reactions to a dog and to pick up after them wherever you go. When planning a holiday there are a few other essentials to remember so the holiday is a success for you and your pet. Consider if you will want to visit shops or restaurants or other places that may not accept dogs and if so where your pet will stay. Some accommodations do not allow pets to be left unattended for periods of time.

Dogs can never be left in a car in hot weather due to the higher temperature in the car causing heat exhaustion which can be fatal. Lastly your dog must legally wear a collar and tag with your details on it so consider if you need a new tag with your holiday contact on it.

The best of British Christmas holiday ideas

With Christmas just around the corner, choosing where to celebrate the special day can often be a tough decision.  With the UK home to so many great Christmas destinations, why not choose somewhere a bit different this year and look forward to a memorable Christmas.  Whether you’re planning a small celebration with family or a larger event with friends, planning a great Christmas is no problem.  Here are a few ideas to get you started…

Shop ‘til you drop in Manchester

With a list of presents as long as your arm, getting the Christmas shopping sorted can often be a daunting task.  Why not get away for a long weekend and shop ‘til you drop?  That way, you can get everything done in a few days before returning home to enjoy the festive season in style.  Manchester is a great choice for a pre-Christmas shopping break thanks to its huge Christmas market where you’re sure to find a unique gift or two.  For high street names, the city is home to the Arndale Centre, the UK’s largest indoor shopping centre with more than 240 shops, making it the ideal place to get all of your shopping done.  Round off your short break with a show at one of

The Manchester Christmas Market website is a great place to start planning your festive shopping break.

Christmas in the Capital

The Christmas lights on Oxford and Regent Street are quite simply mesmerizing and could put even Scrooge into the Christmas spirit.  Once you’ve had your fill of twinkling lights, head to one of the outdoor ice rinks across the city to really get you in the festive mood.  The rink at Somerset House echoes Rockefeller Centre in New York and Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is great for families with plenty to keep everyone entertained.  No Christmas trip to London is complete without visiting Trafalgar Square where the annual gift of a huge Christmas tree from Norway is displayed in all its glory.

To start planning Christmas festivities in London, visit the Time Out website for a full list of festive goings-on in the capital.

Celebrate in Wales

Just like the rest of the UK, Wales’ major towns and cities offer weeks of fun at winter wonderlands and big lights displays.  For those after a traditional Welsh Christmas break, leaving the big cities behind is your best bet for a dose of traditional festive cheer.  Until the 1960s men would gather in churches at the crack of dawn on Christmas Day for the Plygain service and sing carols for several hours.  While the Plygain is no longer as popular, the tradition still survives in mid Wales and hearing a Welsh Male Voice choir perform carols is a sure-fire way to feel festive.  As soon as Boxing Day dawns, hardy residents of Tenby in South Wales don fancy dress and head to the beach for the annual Boxing Day swim.  A great atmosphere is enough to overcome the chilly temperatures with more than 600 people braving the waves last year to raise money for charity.  If you’re on holiday in south Wales, this is something not to be missed whether you take part or stand on the beach with a mug of mulled wine.

For more information about the Boxing Day Swim, visit the official website.

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