Category: Travel-tastic

A day trip to Annecy

One of the great things I find about French cities is how well connected they are, and how cheap the public transport is. So it made complete sense for us to take advantage of that and plan a daytrip outside of Lyon.

Annecy is a pretty town very near to the Swiss border, in the Alps. The old town has lots of coloured buildings and a river running through it. It’s sometimes referred to as the Venice of the Alps. I’ve seen pictures of it and read about it in the past and, although it’s a 2 hour train journey, the tickets only cost us about £45 return which was well worth it.

If you follow me on instagram you’ll have already seen a lot of these photos, as I was very taken with the place!

Lake Annecy is the biggest lake in Europe, and surrounded by pretty lakeside towns and mountains. We went on a boat trip.

There are flowers everywhere in the town and on the bridges across the river.

This is tartiflette – a speciality of the region. A gratin of potatoes, onions and bacon lardons smothered in baked reblochon cheese. It was pretty spectacular!

Tartiflette

We had a beautiful day in the sunshine, breathing in the mountain air and enjoying life, before getting the train back to Lyon in time for dinner!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

 

 

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Our trip to Lyon – what we did

Lyon is the third biggest city in France, after Paris and Marseilles, according to the commentary on our bus tour of the city. The open top bus, where everyone was crammed downstairs because the weather was so bloody awful…

Thank goodness for overpacking. As I mentioned in my previous post the weather forecast for the first two days was cold and rainy, followed by warmer temperatures and sunshine for the next two. There’s always the hope that the forecasters have got it wrong, and in fact they had, it was colder than suggested!

Our first stop was the Basilica de Notre Dame, situated high on Fourviere Hill on the old town side of the River Saone. We took the (impressively clean and organised) Metro and then the funicular railway to the top of the hill. The Basilica was built between 1872 and 1884 and is one of the most breathtaking churches I’ve ever been in – from sheer scale through to attention to detail.

Inside was mind blowing.

I spent so long looking at the mosaics – each one must have been 3 metres long and was made entirely out of tiny half centimetre squares. The dedication and attention to detail is hard to comprehend.

Mosaic fresco at Basilica de Notre Dame Lyon

On a good day you can see Mont Blanc from Fourviere Hill. On a cold, rainy, windy, 6 degree day, you can’t!

Vieux Lyon, old town, is a maze of cobbled streets and little squares with restaurants and traditional Lyonnais bouchons – tiny eateries serving rustic cuisine from the region. It was very pretty, but hampered by the weather even though we struggled on in the face of adversity!

You can get a perspective of how high the Basilica rises above the city from this picture.

Vieux Lyon with view of Basilica

Parc de la Tête d’Or covers 290 acres. It’s huge! I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a multi faceted park in my life, and we spent 2 hours just wandering around.

It has a lake where people can boat in summertime, a beautiful fountain surrounded by flowers, and there’s a big velodrome in the grounds too!

There’s a small deer park, which randomly also has some ostriches?!

A zoo with flamingos, a giraffe (who we didn’t see, unfortunately), lions (who wouldn’t stand up for a photo!), a variety of monkies who I couldn’t photograph through glass, buffalo, toucans and tortoises! An eclectic mix!

The park is famous for it’s rose gardens, although we were slightly too early as they weren’t fully in flower. I can only imagine what a riot of colour there is in high season.

And the Botanical Gardens which, although not my thing (too claustrophobic) were  very impressive.

There you have it, an overview of our time in Lyon! We didn’t mange to see everything we’d have liked because of the weather, the fact that 1st May is Labour Day and there is no public transport running (WHAT???!!! I didn’t know that when I booked!) and also my Mother-in-Law, who was our travelling companion, isn’t at 100% health right now so we were tourist dawdlers rather than striding out all over the place and walking miles like we usually do.

Special mention, before I finish, to my first time of eating snails! Which I enjoyed so much I had them a second time too! They’re fiddly to get out of the shells and not very filling, but they were so tasty and enjoyable. A similar texture to mussels, they were cooked in garlic butter and I loved them.

Tomorrow I’ll share some pictures from our daytrip to Annecy, in the Alps.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

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My first…part 3

Wowsers, another first of the month. Where is the year going?!

Continuing my series, and as I’m currently in Lyon, I thought I would talk about my first city break abroad.

I’ve been holidaying overseas since I was a little kid, and the excitement of those 2 weeks a year in a big hotel in the sun was always immense. But as I got older travel started to become more accessible, with low cost airlines and the internet opening up all sorts of possibilities that would previously have been much more expensive and complicated.

The first city break I ever went on (by which my definition is not a holiday with the purpose of sunbathing!) was to Prague. It was also the first holiday that the husband and I ever went on where it was just the two of us. We travelled at the end of November on a cheap as chips flight. I remember vividly when the flight landed, at around 8pm, that there was a light dusting of snow on the ground, which I was so excited by!

We stayed in an apartment on the top floor of a stunningly ornate old building which had an aged charm and an eccentric owner. The small terrace was too cold to sit out on, but you could see the beautiful roofs and domes of the city, all glistening in the cold frosty air.

After dropping our bags we went straight out to have a look around and get some food. Our apartment was 5 minutes walk from Old Square which was buzzing with people, despite the cold. Restaurants had outdoor seating with patio heaters, and people were eating and drinking al fresco bathed in the lights of the square and the bars.

We fell in love with it instantly.

Over the next 4 days we wandered around the city, visited cathedrals, crossed Charles Bridge many many times, drank cheap beer, went on the funicular railway, cried at the Jewish war museum and cemetery, marvelled at synagogues, did a bit of shopping, ate hearty winter food, drank absinthe in an underground bar and went to a sex museum!

Prague

But, best of all, was on our last day. I was really upset to see that the Christmas market was being set up in old square but wasn’t yet open. As a firm Christmas fan, I was bereft that we hadn’t planned better.

And then, on our last night, the Christmas tree was lit and the market opened! I was beside myself (and very vocal!) It was the best end to a stunning break I could have asked for.

It was bloody freezing (as you’d expect) but we’d planned accordingly and wrapped up in multiple layers, hats, gloves and scarves. I’ve always thought of Prague as a winter city anyway so wearing chunky boots and a furry russian hat epitomised what I had anticipated in my mind.

Prague is an absolutely amazing city and I would love to go back, perhaps at a different time of year. I’d avoid summer due to the unfortunate proliferation of stag parties looking for cheap booze but I think springtime would be very beautiful.

I can honestly say that trip opened my eyes in terms of short breaks and seeing a different side of the world, and we haven’t looked back since.

Have you been to Prague? Do you love city breaks? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Packing for a (non) spring city break in France

When I booked our trip to Lyon, I had visions of wandering cobbled streets in maxi dresses and sandals and sitting at riverside cafes sipping cold wine.

The weather has other ideas.

Despite being May on Sunday, Lyon seems to be suffering with same crap weather affliction as the UK. I’ve trawled multiple forecast websites to find something more favourable, but all of them seem to be suggesting cool evenings and showers.

Arse.

In a confusing state of mind though, in the past two days it’s improved slightly, with the temperatures creeping upwards. Not one to miss any opportunity to make the most of the sunshine, this now means I have to pack for two types of weather, just in case. As I don’t have two lots of luggage allowance (damn you Flybe) I’m going to have to get creative.

Love trips hate packing

I’ve come up with a list of jeans, boots, maxi dresses, tops, maxi skirts, leggings, scarves, a hat, sunglasses, hi tops, sandals, a leather jacket and a denim jacket.

That’s pretty much every eventuality covered!

Now all I need to do is persuade the husband he doesn’t need a 50% share of the luggage space…

I’ll probably be sharing some pictures via Instagram whilst I’m away (free wifi dependant, obvs) so if you want to see what I’m seeing then give me a follow.

Thanks, as always, for reading ! x

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Nature photo challenge – day 7

I’m going to cheat a little bit here, with two photographs. Ok, technically three. They are from the same destination though, and I really couldn’t choose between them as they all give me all the feels, so ner.

Both of them were taken at my favourite holiday destination on Mainland Greece. Stoupa is a small coastal resort at the base of the Tygetos mountains on the Mani peninsula and is quite possibly my favourite place on earth. I first went there about 15 years ago with my Dad, and returned many years later with my husband. I didn’t expect him to like it as it’s so quiet, but he was immediately besotted with it’s quaint charm, slow pace of life and amazing food. So much so that we went twice within 6 weeks!

The sunsets there are stunning. The contrast of the sky against the dark coastal rocks is just gorgeous.

There’s no better way to start an evening in Stoupa than sitting in a bar with a cocktail and watching the sun descend; turning the sky amazing shades of yellow, orange, red, indigo, violet and inky blue, before ending in the blackest of blacks due to lack of light pollution. During one trip the moon which followed was blood red for the whole week, which was eerie and fascinating and exciting, all at the same time.

This second picture was taken on the coastal path as we walked from Stoupa to neighbouring village Aghios Nikolaos.

Stoupa to Aghios Nikolaos

The blue of the sky, the darker sea glistening under the sun and crashing in white foamy peaks against the rocks and the cool sea breeze is the epitome of being alive. It’s like an instagram filter has been placed over your eyes and brought everything into super HD quality; the blues, the greens, the sandy path, the dusty pebbles, the black rocks, the pale mountain peaks. Along the path is the occasional house with white washed walls and tumbling pink bougainvillea. It makes me feel so relaxed yet so alert, all at once. Magical.

And that’s it! The end of the 7 day photo challenge. Thank you so much to Terri-Louise at TouLou89 for nominating me, I’ve really enjoyed it. So many memories, happy thoughts and things I’d forgotten.

For my final nomination, I invite anyone who’s reading and would like to get involved. Do let me know in the comments if you take part so I can check out your posts!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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Nature photo challenge – day 4

The blue lagoon in Iceland is a bit of a headscrew, because it looks almost too artificial to be real. The water is the colour of Lenor fabric softener, it’s that blue. The contrast of the black volcanic rocks and the white sky on the day we were there almost looked like one of those photographs which have been changed to black and white, and just one colour element has been left.Blue Lagoon Iceland

Unfortunately we didn’t get to go in the lagoon, because we were with my Mother-in-Law and it’s not her thing. But it was amazing to wander round, see the steam evaporating from the naturally warm water into the cold February sky, and generally marvel at how frickin’ ace nature can be.

This trip was 6 years ago now (wowsers!) so has never featured on the blog, but I might do a retrospective post at some point.

I should also give photo credit to the husband who took the picture, but as I was there and we’re married, it belongs to me by default.

The rules for the 7-day nature photo challenge are simple. Just post your favourite nature photo each day and nominate another blogger everyday, for the next 7 days.

I’ve been nominated by Tou89Lou – pop on over and check her out!

Today I nominate Tamara Prokopchuk as she’s been out of the blogging loop for a while and this might give her some posting inspiration!

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Nature photo challenge – day 2

Day 2 of the nature photo challenge takes us to North Wales, which is my favourite place in the UK. This photograph is taken at Swallow Falls, just outside Betws-y-Coed. The falls  blow me away every time I visit; the power of the water rushing through the valley is immense. The whole area is so green and lush.

Swallow Falls Betws y Coed

We spent a weekend in Betws-y-Coed last year, you can read about it here and here.

The rules for the 7-day nature photo challenge are simple. Just post your favourite nature photo each day and nominate another blogger everyday, for the next 7 days.

I was nominated by the lovely Tou89Lou – pop over and have a look at her blog.

Today I nominate Hailey at The Undateable Girl’s Diary. Hailey lived in San Francisco for a year, so I’m sure she has heaps of amazing photos to share!

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Nature photo challenge – day 1

I’ve been nominated for a photo challenge, which is pretty exciting! I love looking back at photographs and how they can evoke a memory.

The rules for the 7-day nature photo challenge are simple. Just post your favourite nature photo each day and nominate another blogger everyday, for the next 7 days.

I’ve been nominated by Tou89Lou – pop on over and check her out!

So, on with my first photo.

Chamarel Coloured Earth Mauritius

This was taken in Mauritius. We took a day tour around the island, and part of the trip was the seven colours at Chamarel Coloured Earth. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon which is a result of minerals in the earth. There are shades of green and blue, as well as the red and orange you can clearly see on this pic.

We got married in Mauritius, just the two of us, on the beach. You can read more about it here and here

I nominate the lovely Tina from teaisfortina. She’s a real sweetie and you should check out her blog too!

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The 5 most pressing destinations on my travel bucket list

Like many people I have a list of “must see” places as long as my arm, and the desire to see as many of them as possible is ever present!

Travel quote

I tend to take the opportunity to travel as it presents itself – perhaps there’s a good deal, or a cheap flight, for example. But there are some places that have my head and heart and remain ever present, no matter where else I may go meanwhile.

Santorini

Santorini

This has been on my list for a long time, at least the 11 years the husband and I have been together. We bonded over a love of castles and travel during the time we were “seeing each other” and deciding whether to throw our eggs into the relationship basket, and we used to look at pictures of Santorini and talk about wandering through white washed streets and watching golden sunsets. We’re currently right on the verge of booking it for this year, but we’re holding out for a chance we might get to go to our very favourite getaway from it all resort on mainland Greece, so maybe it will slip through our fingers until next year.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

I crave to go East so much, but the husband isn’t very keen. One of these days maybe I’ll take off Shirley Valentine style and tour Asia alone. Except I won’t. Anyway, Hong Kong. I have some Virgin airmiles that were due to expire, so I had a mooch around the Virgin Atlantic website and was surprised to see how relatively cheap it is to get to Hong Kong. So I looked into it further and it just looks amazing. Then I spoke to my Dad who confirmed that it is amazing. Cosmopolitan, lots to see, great food and of course the Eastern culture. So this one is high on the list and, if I get my way, we’ll go there next year.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Another place that has always kind of interested me, again my interest was piqued when I noticed some very cheap flights. The city looks so pretty with the canals and the architecture and the parks, and I really want to go. In December and January they have a festival of lights which looks incredible, so I might tell suggest to the husband that we ditch the oodles of Christmas presents we usually buy for each other and use the money for a long weekend in Amsterdam instead.

India – The Golden Triangle and Goa

Golden Triangle 2

India is a dream destination for me; the history, the colours, the culture and the flavours. I’d go there in a heartbeat. Again the husband is reticent. He worries about getting a bad stomach and a lot of unwanted attention (if you read my throwback post on Marrakech you’ll know what I mean – when you look very different to the locals, as he does with blonde hair and tattoos, people tend to stare and sometimes touch! Not in a bad way, but he doesn’t like it). As much as I would like to go to Goa, with it’s street markets, warm seas and whites sandy beaches, my first choice would be the Golden Triangle tour of Jaipur, Agra and Delhi. Seeing the Taj Mahal would be overwhelming, and the Pink Palace and Amber Fort would be so amazing. Of course it would make sense to add a few relaxing days in Goa on at the end…2 birds in one!

Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik

I went to Croatia about 9 years ago and was struck with the friendliness of the people, the beautiful weather, the flora and fauna and the visual history that’s a reminder of the Yugoslavian war, with abandoned buildings and bullet marks. Dubrovnik just looks amazing, with it’s medieval city walls and amazing architecture. Perfect for a city break or a pre-cursor to a longer trip taking in the coastline and national parks, it’s right up there on my list.

Where in the world is on your must do list?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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My trip to Lanzarote

As I said in Monday’s post I really didn’t do a lot on my mini break! But I thought I’d share some highlights and some pics with you.

Our hotel
We booked into an all inclusive resort called BlueBay. It was only 15 minutes from the airport, which was ideal after a 4 hour flight. The hotel was bright and airy, very clean, with a lovely pool area, decked pool bar, low rise whitewashed apartment blocks and beautiful gardens – immaculate trees, flowers and cactuses everywhere!

Blue Bay Lanzarote entrance

Blue Bay Lanzarote pool are

 

Our rooms were actually apartments; a spacious open plan lounge, kitchen and dining area with a table and chairs, big sofa and sliding doors to a big balcony, and then a separate bedroom with a dining table and sliding wardrobe and a separate bathroom with walk in shower. Food is always something of a concern in a larger hotel, when catering for the masses, and even more so in an all inclusive resort, but there was no need to worry. Everything was fresh and tasty, well cooked, lots of choice and variation. The staff were, without exception, incredibly friendly. It was a good choice.

The resort
We opted for Costa Teguise, on the east coast, due to proximity to the airport. The resort was a 20 (ish) minute walk away from the hotel, or less than 3 euros in a taxi. We used a taxi a couple of times and then on the last day the husband and I walked along the coastal path there and back, which was picturesque but very very windy!

Costa Teguise has no history as such, having been built purely for tourism purposes in the 1980s. There are some tourist shops, bars, low rise villas and a backdrop of volcanic mountains behind. The windy weather makes the bay a haven for windsurfers; there must have been about 50 of them, some fairly far out to sea and getting up some great speeds!

My Mom’s birthday
The reason for the trip was to celebrate my Mom’s 60th birthday. We decorated the room with balloons and banners and spent a relaxed day at the hotel enjoying the sunshine and drinking sangria. I’d bought her a Pandora charm as a reminder of the holiday, a small silver passport.

Pandora passort charm

For dinner we went into Costa Teguise, to a restaurant called El Maestro. I’d selected them from TripAdvisor reviews and emailed in advance to book a table and explain that it was a special birthday. The restaurant offered me a birthday cake, in my choice of flavour with a personalised iced message – so trusting as they didn’t take any payment details in advance! They lit candles and came out singing happy birthday, which was a nice touch.

Mom's 60th birthday meal

The restaurant was beautiful, the service excellent and the food exquisite – garlic mushrooms to start followed by chateaubriand with potatoes and the lightest fluffiest birthday cake for dessert. The restaurant even boxed up the rest for us to takeaway (which we ate on the balcony with cocktails the following afternoon!)

I’d be happy not only to go back to Lanzarote, but to the same hotel, which is an unusual thing for me to say! But knowing that there’s a tried and tested bolthole in the sun we could escape to, just to get away for a few days of R&R during the cold winter months, is great. And of course there’s lots to see and do on the island too.

Sitting in the airport waiting to fly home, in the outdoor bar which has a view over the volcanic landscape (how cool is that?!) I could quite happily have stayed another couple of days…

Arrecife airport outdoor terrace

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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