Lumiere Light Festival, Durham, United Kingdom

“The dance between darkness and light will always remain— the stars and the moon will always need the darkness to be seen, the darkness will just not be worth having without the moon and the stars.” The quote from C. JoyBell C. perfectly sums up why light festivals are the perfect start to enjoying long dark northern European nights. Popping along to the UK's largest light festival 'Lumiere Durham' in North East England was a wondrous winter treat.

A Fragrant Foodie Weekend in Zanzibar, Tanzania

Stone Town in Zanzibar is a secret foodie heaven. Day one: devour delicious smoothies at Lazuli, discover the delight of street food 'Zanzibar Mix', sink sundowners atop Africa Houses' roof and feast at Forodhani night market. Day two: start with a bang at Zanzibar Coffee House, wander through the local markets and lunch at legendary Lukmaans, with a grand finale tasting safari at Emerson Spice.

Self-Guided Art Walks in London, United Kingdom

Blake's words and paintings have been immortalised in a series of mosaics that inhabit the railway tunnels of Waterloo in South London, just around the corner from the former site of the artist’s residence. It’s one of many art exhibits that provide a lovely adornment to the streets of this large metropolis and one best experienced as part of an alfresco walk. The Southbank Mosaics group of artists took over seven years to create the seventy works that decorate Centaur Street, Virgil Street, and Carlisle Lane.

Super Cute Utrecht, Netherlands

Utrecht is the classic hidden gem, the ultimate understudy, the overshadowed sibling, a forgotten wallflower to cousin Amsterdam. This, however, turns out to be Utrecht’s unique selling point: a charming medieval canal town that is blissfully crowd-free. Only a short train ride away from Schiphol airport, I decided that although Utrecht may not have some of the big name attractions as A'dam it still had enough allure to entice me to visit. I started with an evening mystery light show.

A Grand Old Time in Strandhill, Ireland.

Dolly’s Cottage is more than just a museum. It survived the Great Famine, unlike the majority of the local residents. “A huge number died on the journey to North America, disease and sewage were everywhere. That’s why they were called coffin ships. But the alternative was staying and starving to death.” We were given a brief background to the disaster that severely affected farmers in the 1840’s

A nod to the Land of the Rising Sun in London, United Kingdom

‘When you compare the price of a hand painted, made to measure kimono to a Western designer dress it is quite reasonable’. I had to agree with Sonoe, £1000 for the stunning silk gowns did seem like a bargain. She adjusted the kimono jacket I tried on, showing how I could wear it in two different ways. It was from her vintage collection and had a lovely pink tweedy style pattern, circa late 1960’s to 1970’s. Luckily, it was a tenth of the price of the bespoke ones.

Blooming Marvellous Keukenhof, Netherlands

When you catch a man accidentally admit out loud that a display of flowers is 'so beautiful' then you know that it must be pretty phenomenal. Tulips are synonymous with the Dutch and I'd been given rave reviews about the floral shows at Keukenhof, but had also been warned off, with someone else's advice that it was only for flower lovers. Curious to know the truth, I devised a plan for a thorough investigation.

My Favourite Wastes of Time in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

What do you do with twenty-four hours to kill in Dar es Salaam? The pseudo capital of Tanzania doesn’t normally feature on the tourist trail other than an entry, exit or transit point, a small blip on the itinerary in between safaris, summiting and sunbathing. It’s a dirty, hot, humid, chaotic conurbation; one of the world’s fastest growing cities. But behind this facade what does the metropolis offer the stranger on a layover?  I’ve taken on this challenge many many times, so here are just a few suggestions of how to turn Dar es Salaam into a highlight of your trip.

A Carnival of Culinary and Cultural Delights in Galway, Ireland

What is the most romantic food? Is it falafel? One of the show’s characters came over to ask us for our opinion as we settled into our seats, taking notes of our suggestions.  This was just one of the interactions we had as part of the Galway International Arts Festival (GIAF). It has been a cultural catalyst since 1978 and attracts over 200,000 visitors to the city every July. For two weeks there are over 200 amazing events in Galway including theatre, music, dance, opera, comedy, drama and street extravaganzas. It features international and local acts, many critically acclaimed artists, writers and performers, and has helped the town win European Capital of Culture in 2020.

Serene & Satisfying, Schiermonnikoog Island, Netherlands

Texel was chosen as one of the top places to visit in 2016, but they got it wrong, my Dutch friend said. Apparently, Schiermonnikoog, which is also one of the West Frisian islands, is way better and also her favourite place in the Netherlands. The rest of the Dutch population agree; it was voted their best loved nature spot. I was sold. However, she warned me that we should also be prepared for an adventure, as when she has missed the last boat before she slept on the floor of the ladies room of an empty ferry and at the foot of a desolate sea dyke. I wondered, how remote is this place?

Do Geordies have more fun? Newcastle-Upon-Tyne’s arty, party & sporty reputation is put to the test!

Once synonymous with ship building, coal mining, flat caps and whippet dogs, the north-east of England’s main city of Newcastle has managed to migrate into a modern metropolis whilst still retaining its character. It hasn’t shed its party town image, nor its reputation for producing great musicians, comedians and sports players. We jumped at the chance to experience some of the new cultural highlights and also the traditional passions of this full of character city.

Popping up to Perfect Pangani, Tanzania

Who can resist decadent dining, exclusively exploring the seas of a tropical island, topped and tailed with a soupçon of safari? Not I for one! A convenient long weekend, a friend with a tank sized car and a couple of helpful directions later meant I was living that dream. Woop!

Unveiling the Virtues of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Part 1.

Amsterdam has had for far too long a naughty reputation, often attracting the ‘wrong kind of tourist’. But this former port town has so much more to offer. I wanted to see beyond the seedy, smoky, party facade, take a little peek behind the right kind of curtains and find out what else Amsterdam has to offer.

Uncovering Strange Species & Special Stories at Amani Forest Camp, Tanzania

What is more magnificent than a spontaneous long weekend away in a cloud forest? Luckily, in Tanzania, this isn’t such a crazy scenario. Towards the end of a tough week, a friend and I decided there and then to throw caution to the wind, chuck a few bags in the trunk and to leave our cares behind. We wanted to make a date with weird creatures, bond with the wonderful outdoors and restore our inner chi. Our mission: escape to Amani Forest Camp!

Fromageries, Menageries & Reveries in London, United Kingdom.

The Big Smoke. Nodnol. Londinium. The capital of the United Kingdom. A hectic mash-up, where big business, high-class art, ancient history, urban fashion, aristocracy and international cultures all meet and mingle freely. It’s a festival of human awesomeness disguised as a city. Famous wordsmith Samuel Johnson managed to put it succinctly: ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford’. Too true.

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