Category Archives: Travel Tips

Travel tips to help you make the most of your European trips. Tips on the best things to see, places to stay and eat in European destinations.. The lowdown from locals and experienced European travellers to help you plan your travels.

Tatev Monastery Armenia

Top 5 Things to Do in Armenia

One of the first Christian countries in the world, Armenia, is a small country in the Southern Caucasus that despite its tragic history overcame all the difficulties and now is an independent republic. Perhaps, you haven’t heard about Armenia a lot and it is not the first country that will come to mind as a travel destination. But its world heritage sites, ancient monasteries, friendly culture, and exotic dishes make it well worth visiting. So if your interest is piqued, why not have a holiday filled with culture, history and relaxation. Here are top 5 things to do in Armenia.

Enjoy the View of Ararat Mount

Khor Virap Armenia

Khor Virap

Despite the fact that now Ararat Mount is not situated on the territory of Armenia, it is exactly from here that opens the most exciting and unforgettable view of this Biblical mountain. And during your journey in Armenia we recommend primarily to visit those places which offer the most fascinating view to that mountain. In Yerevan, you can climb the observation area of the Cascade – the huge stair connecting the centre of the city with the residential area and if the weather is clear you’ll be able to enjoy the view of Yerevan and Ararat. If you drive to the monastery of Khor Virap located a one hour drive from Yerevan, you’ll get a truly impressive sight. Nowhere in Armenia does Ararat seem so close.

Fly on the Longest Rope Way in World to Tatev Monastery

Tatev Monastery Armenia

Tatev Monastery

Armenia is famous for its ancient Christian monasteries and temples that have unique history and architecture. All of them are really worth visiting. However, in this article we’d like to mention the monastery of Tatev – the medieval architectural masterpiece of the 9th century. Once it was an important spiritual and educational center of the Middle Ages. It’s located on the edge of the canyon surrounded by the mountainous Armenian nature. Take the world longest rope way, included into the Guinness Book of Records, and fly over the deep Vorotan River canyon to the monastery.

Taste Armenian National Dishes

Armenian sudjoukh and dried fruits

Armenian sudjoukh and dried fruit

Tourist travel in a foreign country wouldn’t be complete without tasting local dishes. So in Armenia the choice is great, there are lots of good restaurants offering wide variety of national dishes. You can order Armenian tolma, which is a minced meat wrapped in grape leaves, Armenian barbecue prepared by special national recipes, some kind of soups, for example, white creamy spas or thick tasty khash. Don’t forget about national sweets and try soft cake gata, tasty sudjoukh with wall nuts and wide variety of bright dried fruits which have soaked up the rays of hot Armenian sun.

Take Part in National Festivals

Festival of tolma Armenia

Festival of Tolma

Every year various national festivals take part in different picturesque corners of Armenia. The festivals are dedicated to local dishes, products, costumes or other no less unique national symbols. So if you happen to visit Armenia during one of them try not to miss such an opportunity to plunge in an absolutely new colourful atmosphere and get acquainted with some interesting traditions. You will enjoy national songs and dances, games and competitions, and a lot of tasty goodies. For example, on May 16, you can visit the Festival of Dolma and try different variations of this national dish. And in August in the picturesque town of Dilijan, you can take part in the carpet festival and not only enjoy the beautiful national ornaments, but also buy the work you like the most.

Enjoy Paragliding

Paragliding Armenia

Did you know that Armenia is an excellent place not only for the cultural tourism but also for  adventure travel? Mountainous landscapes and favourable climatic conditions contribute to the fact that the fans of extreme sports come to Armenia for a new adrenaline high. Paragliding has recently become popular. The flying places here are quite variable and the choice depends on the season, weather conditions and some other important factors. So if you are an extreme lover and want to combine the paragliding activity with the interesting cultural program, enjoy beautiful landscapes and get new impressions Armenia is a perfect place.

plage vieille chapelle marseille in the south of france

Marseille’s Beautiful Beaches

I wasn’t expecting the beaches in the French city of Marseille to be so beautiful. In fact the main reason that we went there was that our son Gary wanted to see the Bowl skate park, located at Plage Vieille Chapelle, which was featured in some skateboarding games he’d played when he was younger. As often happens, real life didn’t quite match fantasy, as the skate park looked much better and bigger in the game.

our son gary at the bowl skatepark marseille france

Heavy rain was forecast for the afternoon. The darkening skies made for some dramatic photos of Plage Vielle Chapelle in Marseille.

plage vieille chapelle in marseille france

plage vielle chapelle marseille france

culpture at plage vieille chapelle marseille france

anse de la chapelle marseille france

If you’re visiting Marseille, I recommend a visit to the beaches.


Overcoming Things Which Annoy Business Travellers

This is a sponsored article brought to you in association with IHG Business Advantage.

I related to several of the things that business travellers find annoying in an article by IHG Business Advantage. Below are my tips on overcoming these annoyances.

Last Minute Flight Delays and Cancellations

Flight delays and cancellations are an integral part of travel. These could be caused by weather, IT issues (I experienced a two hour delay due to IT problems at UK air traffic control), or staff shortages. The sooner that you are informed of a flight delay or cancellation the better, perhaps avoiding an unnecessary journey to the airport. I find that most airlines now have their own apps, which are very handy for up to date information.

easyJet app

Uncomfortable and Noisy Airport Lounges

I haven’t encountered any uncomfortable or noisy airport lounges. I thought that the lounges at Reykjavik and Copenhagen airports were really good, comfortable with a choice of tasty snacks.

aspire lounge at edinburgh airport

Aspire Lounge at Edinburgh Airport

The lounge at Schipol Airport was so far from my boarding gate, that I hardly had any time there between connecting flights.

I was very disappointed by the United lounge at Chicago O’Hare Airport. My BusinessFirst ticket gave me complimentary access. I had a two hour delay and there was a very limited selection of food (only crackers, cheese and biscuits). I went to the customer service desk to ask for a food voucher, and was given a measely $7 voucher. I had won the air ticket in a prize draw, but if I, or my employer, had paid full price for the ticket I’d have hit the roof.

Inconvenient Hotel Location and Boring View

If I’m attending an event in a city, I always try to find accommodation within a 30 minute walk of the venue, enabling me to arrive at the event on time and relaxed.


InterContinental Hotel Sydney

An interesting view is always a bonus, but I’d prioritise on location for a business trip. If the hotel doesn’t have double glazing, a room at the back, away from a busy road, may lack a view, but should enable a better nights’ sleep.

When I organised an event in London for my personal finance website, the Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury combined a convenient location, i.e. a 15 minute walk from both my arrival point at King’s Cross railway station and the event venue in Charing Cross, plus an interesting view of the Art Deco former Daimler car hire garage in Herbrand Street, opposite the hotel.

art deco view from holiday inn london bloomsbury

The view from my room at Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury

Getting Plugged In

It’s so annoying when you arrive in your hotel room with all your electronic devices low on battery, and discover that you don’t have the correct plug adaptor. Evidently, you can buy worldwide adaptors, which work in around 150 countries.

Having an international adaptor would avoid the possibility of taking the wrong adaptor(s). Below is a photo of a UK to US plug adaptor on the right and a UK to European plug adaptor on the left. The main difference is that the UK to US version has two flat pins, whereas the UK to European has round pins, not too easy to spot when packing.

uk to european plug adaptor and uk to us plug adaptor

The vast majority of my travel is within Europe, so I keep a ziplock bag containing several UK to European sockets, plus a three plug European adaptor (in case there’s a shortage of electrical sockets in my room) in my carry on suitcase.

To overcome the issue of scarcity of electrical sockets when travelling in the UK, I take my four plug strip socket with me.

uk four plug adaptor

Getting Online

I always try to book a hotel which offers free WiFi throughout, or at least in the lobby.


However, if you have to pay to get connected and still get a slow and/or intermittent signal, you’re left tearing your hair out.

I generally manage to avoid this issue when travelling in the UK, as I can set up a mobile hotspot through one of my mobile phones. It gets trickier when abroad, as roaming charges can be high. Three Mobile’s ‘Feel at Home’ scheme allows you to use your UK plan free of charge in 18 countries.

However, you can still get caught out. When I was on a press trip to Corsica in France, the hotel WiFi was awful and, although France is one of the destinations including in Three’s ‘Feel at Home’, I couldn’t get a mobile broadband signal.

The Taxi is Delayed When You Have An Important Meeting

Personally, I’d rather walk or take the subway, to avoid possible traffic delays.


Collecting Receipts and Managing Expenses

As I’m self employed, I’m used to keeping receipts for everything. When I arrive back from a trip, one of the first things I do is to add up my expenses and put all the receipts in a plastic folder, which I label with the destination and dates of travel.

calculating travel expenses

museum of modern and contemporary art in nice france

25 of My Favourite Buildings in Europe

After reading an article on the most iconic buildings in Europe, I decided to write an article for Europe a la Carte featuring some of my favourite buildings in Europe.

Roman Amphitheatre in Tarragona, Spain

The Roman Amphitheatre by the seafront in Tarragona is remarkably well preserved. I’d recommend that you try to visit during the Terraco Viva Festival in May to see the gladiator show.

gladiators in tarragona roman amphitheatre in spain

Gladiator show in the Roman Amphitheatre in Tarragona

Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice, France

The central section of the 1990s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMAC) in the French city of Nice, stands on four pillars. The glass frontage reflects views of the city. There’s a roof top garden which is home to some modern sculptures. I’d recommend that you pop into the nearby Jardin Marechal Juin to see the large head sculpture, which is home to a library.

museum of modern and contemporary art in nice france

MAMAC in Nice

Convento de Cristo in Tomar, Portugal

Convento de Cristo in the Portugese town of Tomar was originally built in the 12th century as a bastion for the Knights Templar, a Christian military order, as part of the line of defence against the Moors.

Convento de Cristo tomar portugal

Covento de Cristo in Tomar

Palm House in Vienna, Austria

The Palm House in Vienna’s Schonbrunn Palace Park opened in 1882. In 1901, it was renovated in Vienna’s famous Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) style.

palmenhaus vienna austria

 The Palm House in Vienna

Temple of Athena, Paestum, Italy

The Tempe of Athena, dating from 500BC, is one of the three temples in this Greek city located in the south west of Italy. By the time we arrived at Paestum enroute to Puglia, it was after dark and the site was closed.

temple of athena paestum italy

Temple of Athena, Paestum, Italy by LaurPhil

Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, Dublin, Ireland

Now I’m not a female who’d normally bother to seek out shopping centres when travelling. However, it’s worth visiting the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre in the Irish capital of Dublin. It’s architecturally interesting, as it’s constructed around an 18th century mansion.

The Corn Exchange in Leeds, England

During each of my three visits to Leeds, I’ve visited the 1860s Corn Exchange, as I love it’s ceiling. It was redeveloped as a boutique shopping centre in the 1980s. If you’re a fan of grand Victorian architecture, you should also visit the Tiled Cafe at Leeds Art Gallery and the arcades of the Victorian Quarter.

leeds corn exchange in england

The Corn Exchange in Leeds

The Smallest Cathedral in the World, Nin, Croatia

Normally I think of cathedrals as large, grand edifices. But the 9th century Cathedral in Nin is around the size of a detached house.

The smallest cathedral in the world in Nin Croatia

Me standing in the entrance to Nin Cathedral

The Shard in London, England

As the Shard is the highest building in the European Union, it dominates the London skyline. If you’re willing to part with the £30 admission fee, you’ll get a great panorama of London from the View from the Shard.

the shard in london

The Shard in London

MuCEM in Nice, France

From the distance, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Culture (MuCEM) in Marseille, looks like a large black box. However, you can appreciate the interplay between the buildings’ ornamental skin of filigree concrete and the surrounding sea and sky in the reflective walkways which run between the solid sides of the building and the skin.

walkway in mucem marseille france

Walkway at MuCEM, Marseille

Bratislava Castle in Slovakia

The imposing rectangular Bratislava Castle towers above the River Danube. On a clear day, you can see Austria and Hungary from the rocky hill on which the castle is located.

bratislava castle in slovakia

Bratislava Castle in Slovakia

Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France

The Louvre Pyramid consists of one large pyramid, which is the main entrance to the museum, surrounded by three smaller pyramids.

Alcazaba in Malaga, Spain

I had a wonderful view of the Alcazaba Moorish fortress from my holiday apartment in Malaga. When visited the Alcazaba on a Sunday afternoon, it was a popular spot for wedding photography.

alcazaba in malaga spain

The Alcazaba in Malaga

St James Court Hotel London, England

The St James Court first opened as a luxury hotel in 1902. In my teens in the late 1970s, I had a live-in Summer job at the hotel, Unbelievably, some of the apartments in the courtyard were then being used as staff accommodation. At that time, the building was looking a bit tired and it was more a tourist class hotel; some of the hotel rooms didn’t even have ensuite bathrooms. However, when I stayed at the St James Court earlier this year, it looked as the though the current owner, Taj Hotels, had spent some serious cash on renovations, with the building returned to its Edwardian glory and the rooms upgraded.

st james court hotel london

The internal courtyard at the St James Court Hotel London

Palace of Art Budapest, Hungary

The Palace of Art is located in Heroes’ Square in the Hungarian capital. It was built in 1895 in a neoclassical style. I liked the wooden vestibule, with its stained glass windows, which led in the foyer.

foyer of palace of arts in budapest hungary

Foyer of the Palace of Art in Budapest

The Ferry Hut in Alnmouth, England

The Ferry Hut, in the seaside village of Alnmouth in Northumberland, was originally the shelter for the ferryman who rowed the boat across the River Aln. It’s now a tiny local history museum.

the ferry hut in almouth england

Me by the Ferry Hut in Almouth

The Belfry of Bruges, Belgium

The Belfry of Bruges is a medieval bell tower in the city’s Market Square. There are 366 narrow steps to climb to reach the top. If you’ve seen the movie ‘In Bruges’ you’ll remember Colin Farrell’s initially polite attempt to deter some overweight American tourist from visiting. I recommend that you try to visit the Belfry of Bruges either early or late in the day, to avoid a long queue to enter.

belfry bruges belgium

The Belfry of Bruges

La Vallette Restaurant in Valletta, Malta

This restaurant is in an old palazzo. It’s a bit incongruous, as the restaurant fare is more akin to  a greasy spoon than the type of upmarket establishment which you’d expect to find in this impressive building.

la vallette restaurant in vallette malta

La Valletta Restaurant in Valletta

Riverside Museum in Glasgow, Scotland

The Riverside Museum was designed by architect Zaha Hadid as the new home for the Museum of Transport. I liked the jagged roof on the front of the building and the way that the masts of adjacent Tall Ships are reflected in the glass frontage.

riverside museum in glasgow scotland

The Riverside Museum in Glasgow

The Dancing House in Prague, Czech Republic

The Nationale-Nederlanden building was designed for a Dutch insurance company in a collaboration between architects Frank Gehry and Vlada Milunic  It’s known locally as the Dancing House.

the dancing house in prague in theczech republic

The Dancing House in Prague

Malaga Market, Spain

What makes Malaga Market stand out is the enormous stained glass windows which depict local scenes.

malaga market in spain

Malaga Market in Spain

The Lipstick in Gothernburg, Sweden

The 1980s Lilla Brommen skyscaper, is known locally as The Lipstick. I liked the contrast of the modern building with Barken Vikiing sailing ship (which is now a hotel). For a few pounds, take the lift up to the observation room on the top floor of The Lipstick for some great views of Gothenburg.

the lipstick in gothenburg sweden

The Lipstick and Barken Viking in Gothenburg

The Hill House in Helensburgh, Scotland

Designed by the Scottish architect Rennie Macintosh and his artist wife Margaret Macdonald, the Hill House is a fusion of Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts and Scottish Baronial styles.  Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take photo of the interior.

the hill house in helensburgh scotland

The Hill House in Helensburgh

The Rotunda in Birmingham, England

The 1960s Rotunda building in central Birmingham. It was refurbished and turned into residential accommodation in the mid 1980s. The top floors are the Staying Cool serviced apartments. I’ve stayed in one of these two bedroom apartments, which had a wrap around balcony.

the rotunda in birmingham london

The Rotunda in Birmingham by Very Quiet

Old Town Hall in Prague, Czech Republic

The intricate 15th century Astronomical Clock is at at the base of the Old Town Hall in the Czech capital of Prague. It’s worth going up the tower of the Old Town Hall (accessible by stairs or lift) for the panoramic views of the city.

astronomical clock on the old town hall in prague

Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall in Prague

I hope that you’ve enjoyed my photo tour of 25 of my favourite buildings in Europe.

airline carry on cases

Useful Guide to Airline Hand Luggage Case Sizes

To make travel simpler and help avoid confusion, Expedia have compiled a guide to airline hand luggage sizes. This is necessary, as there is such as wide variation between airlines on the size of luggage which you can take on board. You don’t want to risk turning up at the airport boarding gate with a suitcase which is too large to fit in the airline’s metal cage, and  then being charged extra for the case to be taken as hold luggage.

This guide to carry on luggage size, is going to be a very useful replacement for the hand-written list which I keep in my travel folder!

airline carry on case iszes list

If, like me, you prefer a hard suitcase, the only way to avoid having multiple cases is to buy a case of the smallest dimensions allowed by the majority of airlines. However, this means that if you fly with an airline which allows a larger case, you won’t be able to take advantage of this additional capacity.

There are some softer bags which can mould into different dimensions, but I wouldn’t be happy carrying my netbook in such as bag.

The other solution, if you don’t mind looking like you are in a desperate need of a fashion makeover, is to don one of the specially designed wearable luggage jackets, such as the Rufus Roo, which I’m modelling below. The pockets in this type of jacket are so large that you can fit in a beach towel!


A little less extreme, is taking a normal jacket which has large, preferably zip pockets, into which you can stuff items such as phone and netbook chargers.

You also need to be aware of weight restrictions for airline carry on luggage. Some airlines, such as easyJet have no limit, but with others such as Thomson the limit is only 5kg. I regularly fly with Ryanair, who have a 10kg hand luggage weight limit, but I’ve never had my carry on  luggage weighed.

If you’re planning to take hold luggage, the Expedia guide also lists the maximum weight permissible by each airline. Again, this varies quite a bit between carriers from 20Kg to 30Kg.

If there is more than one airline flying to your destination with similar prices, it’s a good idea to check the Expedia guide, to help you decide with which airline to fly. If I’d a choice, I’d certainly fly with the airline which allowed me to take a larger, heavier case on board and/or as hold luggage.

I recommend that you bookmark the guide to airline hand luggage size and weight from Expedia, so you can easily find it when booking your next trip.

windmill at estonian open air museum near tallinn

Twelve Great Outdoor Attractions in Europe

Here are my tips for outdoor attractions in Europe. Wearing the right clothes, you can enjoy some fresh air at any time of year.

Rose Garden in Parque de Matalenas in Santander, Spain

As well as a wonderful floral display, you get some great views over Sardinero Beach and the city of Santander from the rose garden in Parque de Matalenas.

rose garden in parque de matalenas in santander spain

If you’re looking from a European beach holiday, letsgo2 have some great options.

Isle of Noss in the Shetlands, Scotland

Taking a boat trip the Isle of Noss is a great way to see wildlife in its natural habitat. I saw guillemots, puffins, terns and a minke whale from the boat. There was also a live stream from an underwater camera on the seabed in sea caves.

boat rip to the isle of noss in the shetlands scotland

Boat for the trip to the Isle of Noss

Gullfoss Waterfall in Iceland

The Gullfoss (Golden Falls) Waterfall is the most spectacular waterfall which I’ve ever seen. I visited in late October when it was very icy on the approach to the waterfall, so I’d advise that you wear flat shoes with a good grip.

Prestonpans Murals Trail near Edinburgh, Scotland

The Prestonpans Murals Trail commemorates the industrial history of the village. My favourite is the cow on the side of the former dairy, which is now a convenience store. You can also visit the nearby outdoor Prestongrange Industrial Museum.

prestonpans murals near edinburgh

Cow on the side of the old dairy in Prestonpans

Krka National Park in Croatia

Although the large waterfalls in the Krka National Park in Croatia are amazing, I most enjoyed walking along the raised wooden walkways over the higher small waterfalls and streams.

Tinside Lido in Plymouth, England

The Art Deco Tinside Lido in Plymouth Hoe opened in 1935. Thanks to a £3.3 million renovation in 2003, it’s looking as good as new.

tinside lido in plymouth england

Tinside Lido by yellow book

Estonian Open Air Museum near Taillinn

The Estonian Open Air Museum has traditional style homes, barns, windmills and workshops in woodlands which run down to the sea at Kopli Bay. You can ride around the museum on a horse drawn carriage, which runs on skis if there’s snow on the ground.

windmill at estonian open air museum

Wooden windmill at the Estonian Open Air Museum

Parque de Malaga in Spain

When I was staying in an apartment in Malaga one September, I spent a lot of time in the shade at the nearby Parque de Malaga. The park runs parallel to Malaga Port and is almost one kilometre in length. I liked the colourful tiled fountains dotted around the park.

parque de malaga in spain

Barrakka Gardens in Valletta, Malta

There are great views of the Grand Harbour from both Upper and Lower Barrakka Gardens in the Maltese capital of Valletta. The classical style Captain Ball Monument is in the Lower Gardens. There’s a cafe in the Upper Gardens.

Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo, Norway

All the sculptures in the park are by the Norwegian Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943). There are more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and cast iron.

vigeland sculpture park in oslo norway

Vigeland Scutlpure Park in Oslo, Norway by RayandBee

Szechenyi Bath in Budapest, Hungary

Visiting these thermal baths was one of the highlights of my trip to the Hungarian capital of Budapest. I had a dip in most of the 15 indoor pools, apart from the coldest two. I most enjoyed the large outdoor pool in the April sunshine.

Szechenyi Bath in Budapest Hungary

Szechenyi Bath by Elin

Duddo Stone Circle in Northumberland, England

Forget the crowds at Stonehenge. There’s a good chance that you’ll have the Bronze Age Duddo Stone Circle, dating from 2000BC, to yourself. The best time to visit is in May when the rapeseed in the adjacent fields is in bloom.

If you’ve enjoyed my photo tour of outdoor attractions in Europe, you can find more tips in this open air Europe article.

beamish merrygoround

Ten Family Friendly Locations in Europe

With the Summer holidays on the horizon, here are my tips for family friendly locations in Europe.

Newham City Farm in London

Newham City Farm in East London is a great free attraction for families. When I was there the donkeys’ legs were getting sprayed with fly repellent, the Shire horse was being shod and the Kune Kune pigs were being fed. There’s a covered area for eating picnics and a kid’s play area.

london newham city farm blaze

Blaze at Newham City Farm

PortAventura in Spain

PortAventura, near Salou on the Costa Dorada in Spain, has various themed areas including Mexico, China and Sesame Street, each with its own rides and shows. The park is 20 years old this year, so there are special events to celebrate this, such as the Brazil White Night with a carnival parade.

portaventura spain

PortAventura by Joao Maximo

Greetings to the Sun in Zadar Croatia

Kids will love running around the light patterns on the three hundred glass plates that make up the Greeting to the Sun solar installation on the promenade in Zadar.

Madurodam in the Netherlands

Madurodam, located near Scheveningen Beach in The Hague, portrays the Netherlands in miniature. You can see models of the docks in Rotterdam, the Peace Palace in The Hague, Schiphol Airport, bulb fields and the Cheese Market in Alkmaar.

Madurodam in the netherlands

Madurodam by Bert Knottenbeld

Museum of Theatre Puppets, Lubeck, Germany

This museum was established in the German city of Lubeck by Fitz Frey in the early 1980s. It is home to glove, string, finger and shadow puppets spanning three centuries from the continents of Europe, Africa and Asia.

museum of theatre puppets lubeck germany

Museum of Theatre Puppets in Lubeck by Allison O’Connell

Beamish Museum in County Durham, England

The entry fee to Beamish Museum includes rides on the steam train and vintage buses. This outdoor museum gives an insight to life in the north east of England in the early 20th century. There are special events such as Dig for Victory, based on the WW2 effort to increase domestic agricultural production.

beamish steam train

Steam train at Beamish

 Bosc Urba in Barcelona, Spain

Bosc Urba is an urban adventure park. It’s geared for all abilities. You’ll get some basic training before you venture onto the zip lines and ropes.

bosc urba

Bosc Urba by

Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park in London

The centre piece of the Diana Memorial Playground in London’s Kensington Gardens is the huge wooden pirate ship. There are also wigwams and musical instruments. To cool off, you can go to the Serpentine Lido in adjoining Hyde Park, which has a kids’ paddling pool.

best things to do with kids in uk diana memorial playground kensington gardens

Pirate ship at the Diana Memorial Playground

Stockholm Archipeligo, Sweden

The Stockholm Archipeligo offers some beautiful sheltered waters for kayaking between its 30,000 islands. There are several companies in the area which organise kayak tours, providing the kayaks and all necessary safety equipment. You may even spot some seals from your kayak. If you don’t feel up to self propulsion, you could take a trip by ferry.

kayaking in sweden

Kayaking at Roslagen near Stockholm by Mads Bodker

Durrell Wildlife Park on the Channel Island of Jersey

This wildlife park was set up by the author and naturalist Gerald Durrell in the late 1950s. You can see meerkats, orangutans, flamingoes, otters, Andea bears and gorillas here.

I hope that you’ve taken some inspiration from my tips for family friendly locations in Europe.


museum of decorative arts marseille - flower pot seats

Photo Tour of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Marseille

I had planned to visit the Museum of Decorative Arts in Marseille prior to our trip to the city. My interest was further piqued by posters and flyers dotted around the city of the ‘Pop Art Design’ exhibition by Hubert Le Gall at the Museum of Decorative Arts, which runs until 6 September 2015.

museum of decorative arts marseille at chateau borely

The museum, which is housed in Chateau Borely, was renovated for Marseille’s 2013 stint as a European Capital of Culture. The adjacent park is beautiful, but we weren’t able to explore it, as it was raining heavily.

museum of decorative arts marseille - view over parc borely

I loved the hare’s ears seat.

museum of decorative arts marseille - hare's ear chair

There appeared to be a bit of a hare theme, as I spotted another in the dining room, sculpted as a candelabra, balanced on a top hat.

museum of decorative arts marseille - dining room

The bedroom contained some of Hubert Le Gall’s trademark flower patterns. Daisies were emblazoned on a sideboard.

museum of decorative arts marseille - bedroom

There was a black multi flower rug sculpture on the floor.

museum of decorative arts marseille - bedroom floor sculpture

The black and gold table on the first floor landing had what looked like a giraffe refection on the floor.

museum of decorative arts marseille - shadow table

Another of my favourite exhibits was the fish dress.

museum of decorative arts marseille - fish dress

There were some lovely glass pieces.

museum of decorative arts marseille - glass display

The Art Nouveau stained glass was beautiful.

museum of decorative arts marseille - art nouveau glass

The  sun and cloud shelf was pretty.

museum of decorative arts marseille - sun and clouds wall shelf

There was a golden teddy bear style sculpture base for a reading light above a table in the drawing room.

museum of decorative arts marseille - sculpture under table

And another similar sculpture in the fireplace.

museum of decorative arts marseille - sculpture in fireplace

I wasn’t quite sure which animal heads decorated the mirror frame, I thought maybe antelopes.

museum of decorative arts marseille - unusually shaped mirror

The spaghetti style chandelier was different to the more standard reflective crystal prism style.

museum of decorative arts marseille - spaghetti chandelier

The red and green flower pot chairs were fun.

museum of decorative arts marseille - flower pot chairs

I’d highly recommend a visit to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Marseille. If you buy a Marseille City Pass the 5 Euro entry fee is waived.

adventure days out in the future europa moon

Adventure Days in the Future

Experience days website Into the Blue has done some crystal ball gazing to see the type of activities which could be on offer in the next fifty to one hundred years,

What about a retro space shuttle flight? The space shuttle was the first reusable spacecraft, which launched using a detachable rocket and fuel tank. The front compartment (orbiter) returned to Earth like a plane, using specially designed delta wings.

adventure days out in the future retro space shuttle

Never mind a lap around Brands Hatch, imagine a hyper sonic race in a spacecraft.

adventure days out in the future spacecraft racing

With the advent of faster spaceships it should be possible to quickly cover the 600 light years to reach the earth-like planet of Kepler 22-B. With a gravity 2.3 times greater than Earth, skydiving is going to feel supersonic.

adventure days out in the future kepler skydiving

I remember seeing Neil Armstrong’s moon landing in 1969 on TV. As a child it seemed like science fiction. But maybe my grandchildren (should our sons oblige) will be able to visit a lunar landing site.

adventure days out in the future lunar landing

If you fancy more than a day trip to space, then why not spend a few nights at the International Space Station. But you’ll need to be strapped into your bed, so that you don’t go bump in the night.

adventure days out in the future international space station

A waterpark in Mars would probably need to be constructed indoors with plenty of heating, as Mars is much colder than Earth.

adventure days out in the future mars waterpark

Scientists believe that there’s an ocean below the water-ice crust of Europe Moon (one of Jupiter’s sixty seven moons). So you’d need to pack a super-insulated wetsuit to go scuba diving there.

adventure days out in the future europa moon

I can see ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Off Here’ being held on Venus. Who knows what bugs they might have to eat there.

adventure days out in the future venus bushcraft

You can read more about fun days out in the Into The Blue Blog.


Should I Buy a Marseille City Pass?

marseille passI decided to investigate the Marseille City Pass in order to decide if I should purchase one for my forthcoming trip to France.

I’ve found that you can’t generalise about the utility of city passes. You have to work it out for each individual city.  It depends on the individual offering; the price, how many attractions are included and if these attractions offer free or merely reduced admission.

Adult prices for a Marseille City Pass

  • 24 Euro for 24 hours
  • 31 Euro for 48 hours
  • 39 Euro for 72 hours

As I’ll be in Marseille from Friday afternoon to Tuesday morning, and the museums are shut on Mondays, the 48 hours Marseille City Pass looks like the best option for me.

Chateau d'If

Chateau d’If Marseille by Jean-Pierre Dalbera

What’s Included in the Marseille City Pass

Free entry to permanent exhibitions at these museums:

– Museum of African, Oceanic, American-Indian Art
– Museum of Mediterranean Archeology
– Marine Museum
– “Cantini” Museum
– Roman Docks Museum
– Natural History Museum
– Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions of Marseille
Museum of Decorative Arts and Fashion
– History Museum
– MAC (Contemporary Art)
MuCEM (Closed on Tuesdays)
– Museum of Fine Arts – Palais Longchamp
– Museum “Regards de Provence”

All public transport including bus, metro and tram.

Guided Tours, which must be pre-booked.

Tourist train to Notre-Dame de la Garde or the Old Town.

Boat trip to the If-Castle (includes entry to the castle) or boat trip to the Frioul Islands.

Calculating How Much I’d Spend on Individual Admission Charges

I selected some things I’d like to do in Marseilles

  1. MuCEM – 8 Euro
  2. Chateau d’If –  16 Euro (boat costs 10.5 Euro, castle admission costs 5.5 Euro)
  3. MAC – 5 Euro
  4. Museum of Decorative arts and Fashion- 5 Euro

The total for these four attractions came to 34 Euro, more than the 31 Euro for a 48 hour Marseille City Pass. As I thought that I might also use public transport to explore outside the city centre, I reckoned that it was worth buying the pass.

Update 2 May 2015 – Buying the Marseille City Pass did work out to be a good deal. I also took a tourist train to Notre Dame de la Garde which costs 8 Euro The return bus fare to the two museums outside the city centre costs 3 Euro. Therefore, I got 45 Euro worth of value from paying 31 Euro.