Monday, 8 October 2012

Venice continued!

Berlin: history, bears and fountains

Berlin really is a great place to go and see, perhaps not the most well-known of tourist destinations, but one of the best city-breaks I've been on (and been back to, it was that good!), and with cheap airlines offering fares cheaper than local buses, definitely worth a long weekend.For one stay, we were trying to do Berlin on a very low budget, and stayed in a tiny hostel, a bit out of the way but very well connected to the centre on the U-Bahn. We'd been slightly apprehensive about what it would be like considering how much we'd paid, but we were shown into a room with a chandelier, high ceiling with gilded details and our own balcony by a very helpful receptionist. Even on a tight budget, this kind of holiday is definitely achievable if you're prepared to do your homework beforehand and we had a lovely, stress free break in one of the most interesting cities in Europe. Museums do deals for students, and most have free days (Thursdays). The Pergamon, on Museuminsel, is a.m.a.z.i.n.g. And not just for museum-buffs, even kids and grumpy pre-teens were loving this one, I even spotted some putting away their nintendos when they saw the giant Ishtar Gate, bright blue and covered in lions and flowers and a million feet high. The Museum of Islamic Art in the same building is absolutely stunning. If this is the only museum you manage to get to, you'll still fly home feeling smugly well-cultured. Also, a trick learned from many city breaks is that museums are well heated in winter and usually have air conditioning in summer (at least the large, well funded ones do) so they make a great place to warm up or cool down.

We were in Berlin in the height of summer and the tourist season,
 so this little corner of tranquillity tucked behind a shopping centre,
 complete with fountains and sculptures was a gorgeous surprise.

These bears are to be found scattered all over Berlin, the city's mascot
 as well as the perfect excuse for a sight-seeing treasure hunt, 
maybe a great way to get kids excited about trekking around the city

The Reichstag is not something you can really miss on a trip to Berlin, 
although I'd advise going there first thing to try and avoid the 
worst of the queues, which can be ankle-achingly long at times

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

lonely, gorgeous beaches

With no one else intrepid enough to brave the elements of British beaches in winter, you own a whole bay, and you suddenly seem so much smaller, problems so much less important when you remember how big everything is and that the waves will keep crashing no matter how badly everything goes wrong.

Also, makes you so much less guilty about the post-walk fish and chips, doesn't it?
This beautiful beach is in Suffolk, with one of the best fish and chip shops in the country nearby, blackberries to pick in the autumn and a rowing lake complete with island and a Peter Pan wendy-house to complete the perfect idyllic English holiday.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

hideaway harbours and calm seas

Tobermory, Isle of Mull / Kinlochbervie Harbour, the morning after a gale / setting sail for Stavanger

Venezia in -3 degrees

Although almost canal-freezingly cold, one of the most picturesque winter holidays we could have wished for. Here's our how-to for a dream winter weekend on an (extremely tight) budget in one of the most beautiful cities in the world:

- Pick a fabulous hotel. Carefully. Venice is packed all year round, even in February. We chose a beautifully decorated small hotel on the island of Murano, famous for its glass making. Perfect for escaping the crowds after a long day of sightseeing and wrestling through stampedes of tour groups. Check reviews on reputable websites like, which actually send reviewers to the hotel in question, unlike some other sources. Also, moving your holiday by a weekend can reduce prices by up to £50 a night, so its worth being flexible. Ours was very affordable, with a chandelier in our room and breakfast included.

- Budget airlines are not as bad as they are often made out to be. You are paying less than a train fare, so be patient and stand in a queue. Its a small price to pay for the holiday on the other side, especially on short-haul flights within Europe. Be sensible with your packing, take a trashy magazine to entertain you at the gate, remember that queue-jumpers will face the bad karma of their actions soon enough without you shouting at them and you will survive the flight in a zen-like state of calm despite having paid less than you would have spent on a pair of shoes.

- Pack your favourite, worn in and waterproof shoes. Venice needs to be explored on foot, and after an 8 hour day of exploring endless but beautifully quaint alleys, finding yourself cut off by a canal and having to turn around and start all over again, you will either want to marry your thick socks and lovely boots or throw your pinching new heels into a canal. 

- Never, ever eat a tourist menu. Ever. No matter how sore your feet are or how loudly your tummy is complaining. Ever. Take our word for it. The anger is not worth the convenience.

- Don't be afraid to explore. Take a map, use it, but don't be chained to the recommendations for tourists. We found an ice rink set up in a beautiful square and the best food in Venice by turning down tiny streets that looked pretty. 

- Try not to murder the people you are with when they take photos every 3 steps leaving you to freeze your toes off. Remember they carried your bags at the airport and that deep down, they are nice people.

And finally, enjoy one of the most atmospheric holidays of your life, with an 'oooh look at THAT' around every single tiny winding corner. Our guide full of tips and tricks for once you've got to Venice is coming soon.