Name some famous Dutch things. What comes to mind? Windmills? Clogs? Cycling? Cheese? Pancakes? Blue and white pottery? If you are short on time skip Amsterdam and instead visit Zaanse Schans and then pop over to Delft to get an iconic Netherlands experience.
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.
I entered the sixteen-degree water using a little-known technique named the ‘not too slow so your body doesn’t realise what’s happening but not too fast as that’s just pure pain’. It worked but I was not alone; there were other souls needing an acceptable form of public punishment. One guy wore a wetsuit. He laughed... Continue Reading →
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
‘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.
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.
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.
‘s-Hertogenbosch, a.k.a Den Bosch. Nope, I hadn't heard of it either. I was visiting a friend who lives there and wondered if it is that far off the tourist map, is it any good? I was on a mission to see whether this little known Netherlands town was keeping any secrets.
Outside 69A, Murdoch is surreptitiously guarding the street wares. Apparently, he likes mushrooms, tomatoes, and cucumber, which is unusual for cats. He’s pretty good at jumping out and scaring the customers too.
The t-shirt printing store boasts tops with the slogan ‘Westport - voted the best place to live in Ireland’. However, it failed to declare by whom and more importantly, why? We were keen to investigate this further, so when we saw an advert for ‘Ireland’s best loved heritage attraction’ it was our first port of call.
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?
When was the last time you felt like the coolest person on the planet? How about at an exclusive, brilliantly executed, all-inclusive festival in the wild plains of Tanzania?
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.
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!
Ireland’s fair city, Dublin, is one of twenty officially recognised UNESCO cities of literature. Overflowing with associations to well known bards of the written and spoken word it is an ideal place for contemplating their compositions and appreciating literary wonders.
From colourful art and shiny jewels to local hangouts and historic homes via Surinamese food and microbrewed beers, I took a quick dip into the more cultural edge of this town. I’d love to come back and explore some more!
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.
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!
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.