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May 18, 2017

5 Reasons to choose Crete for your Summer Holiday

5 Reasons to choose Crete for your Summer Holiday

The summer holidays are fast approaching and with so many beautiful holiday destinations to visit, it can be overwhelming and difficult to choose. One of the most popular destinations for travelling is Crete. Being the largest of the Greek islands, it truly offers everything a holidaymaker could ever need for a perfect summer holiday.

Agios Nikolaos - Lake Voulismeni,, Crete - photo Artemiy Pavlov

Agios Nikolaos – Lake Voulismeni – Crete: photo Artemiy Pavlov

Here are 5 reasons why Crete should be your next summer holiday destination:

 1.  The Gorgeous Mediterranean Climate

Beach in Crete, Greece

Cretan Beach

Located between the Mediterranean and North African climate zones, Crete offers a warm and dry climate that is moderated with refreshingly cool sea breezes. Being bathed in the warm sunlight throughout most of the year, Crete is known to have one of the best climates in Europe. The sunshine is in no short supply whilst rainfall is nowhere to be found during summer, making this a popular all-inclusive summer holiday destination.

2. A Huge Variety of Activities

Heraklion Archaeology Museum Crete

Heraklion Archaeology Museum

Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, offers plenty of natural wonders to explore and a variety of popular resorts to indulge in. Forming a significant part of the cultural heritage of Greece, this island is brimming with fascinating culture and history. For family activities, take a trip down to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum to experience one of Europe’s most fascinating museums. This museum covers over 5,500 years of the island’s impressive history. Head east to experience the mesmerising sea-life at the Aquaworld Aquarium in Hersonissos.  Enjoy a relaxing day and admire the gorgeous sea-life, reptiles and rescued animals.

Agios Nikolaos resort is best known for its impressive range of activities. It’s a splendid lagoon with golden beaches, plenty of water sports and vibrant night life. This picturesque port town offers some of the most pristine beaches on Crete, fine restaurants and boutique shops.

3. Luxurious Yet Affordable Accommodation

Villa in Crete Greece

Cretan villa

Summer holidays in Crete allow you to take full advantage of their hugely popular luxury family villas for great value. In every family villa, you can find all of the modern and essential amenities for your family. Experience the indulgent private pools and delicious barbecues whilst the kids have fun in the children’s pool and the playground. One of the top advantages that these family villas offer is impressive safety as all villas need to be certified to meet the required regulations.

The charming city of Chania offers a wide range of fantastic holiday villas. From seaside houses that offer a beautiful view of the natural splendours, to private oases near the beach resort of Maleme.  Whatever your holiday accommodation requirements are, Chania has a huge selection of affordable villas to choose from.

4. Exquisite Local Cuisine

Food on Crete

Cretan Food

Local Cretan cuisine is incomparable with its wide variety of dishes available. The flavourful blend of its unique ingredients with simple Cretan techniques produces a distinguishable taste that leaves you wanting more. For the cheese lovers, Crete has its own signature cheeses which are usually produced from sheep or goat’s milk. Graviera cheese offers a hard, yet sweet taste with nutty flavouring.

5. Friendly Locals 

Market in Crete Greece

Market in Crete

Crete has a very laid-back and relaxed atmosphere and this is reflects by the locals. Cretans are very friendly and extremely welcoming to tourists. They are genuine people who love to talk to visitors, so if you have any questions or need advice, don’t be afraid to ask them.

If you would like to visit Crete this summer, then book a summer holiday to Crete with the Midcounties Co-operative Travel.

This post is brought to you by Midcounties Co-operative Travel.

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5 reasons to visit Crete Greece

August 26, 2016

An Invaluable Packing Guide for Cruise Fans

An Invaluable Packing Guide for Cruise Fans

Cruise Packing Guide - top tips to make the most of luggage space and your cruise wardrobe

Cruise Packing Guide

As regular readers know, I love cruising, and have been lucky enough to enjoy several, over the years. They are a great way to relax, see the world, enjoy good food, try new things and meet people. There is just one problem, packing for a cruise is tricky. Even after doing it many times I still find it a trial, but I won’t anymore. Thanks to this handy Cruise Packing Guide by JD Williams. It really is the easiest way to make sure that you are ready for anything, regardless of the type of cruise you are planning to go on. When you follow the guidance below, you will look great regardless of whether you are enjoying an on board activity, dancing the night away, attending a formal dinner, going to the gym or taking a trip ashore. Give it a try next time you pack for a cruise; I promise you it will work!Cruise Packing Guide Infographic - JD-Williams

This post is in collaboration with JD Williams

August 5, 2016

Top 10 Campsite Hacks

Top 10 Campsite Hacks

Everybody loves a holiday, but why not try something different and exciting rather than staying in a hotel? Camping has become a popular getaway option for many and it is not surprising. Camping allows you to experience the outdoors, be one with nature and make memories to remember at an inexpensive price. If you haven’t been camping before, then don’t worry, Amber Leisure is here to make sure you have the best experience possible and look like a pro in front of your fellow campers! Become a camping expert and follow our campsite hacks with the tips, tricks and advice in the infographic below.

Top 10 Campsite Hacks

Top camping hacks infographic Tips by Amber Leisure

You may also enjoy Top 10 Motorhome Destinations on the UK.

This post is by Amber Motorhomes, with over 30 years of experience, ensuring your motorhome experience is as pleasurable as possible.

April 15, 2016

A Grand Day Out in Nottingham

A Grand Day Out in Nottingham
Council-House-Nottingham

Nottingham Council House – photo Smashman

The East Midlands city of Nottingham attracts visitors from all over, and it is not difficult to see why. There really is something for everybody, right from the tourist who never gets tired of visiting museums, the architecture student who loves finding out about the history behind the old buildings, or the sports enthusiast who enjoys the outdoors in the good summer months.

Nottingham houses a population of just short of 730,000 people, making it the second largest city in the Midlands. It’s quite an old one too, although historians haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly how old: the first mention of it comes from 868 AD, however, under the name of Snotengaham. As a settlement, experts date it back to the 7th century. But what’s there to do in Nottingham today?

THE OUTLAW

Robin_Hood_Memorial Nottingham

The Robin Hood Memorial – source en.wikipedia.org

One of the city’s greatest tourist attractions, of course, is the Robin Hood Town Tour that takes us back to medieval days when Nottingham’s infamous legend roamed the immediate area and Sherwood Forest. Be charmed as you follow the history of Robin Hood history and the legendary tales of how he and his band of merry men stole from the rich to give to the poor (whether true or false). Whether you’re a grownup or child, be enthralled as you go on a historical trip with Robin that takes you to a world of sword fights and heroic deeds. This tour is a worthwhile experience for those who love to travel and want to hear a bit about any great city’s folklore.

Not everybody wants to limit themselves to a specific time schedule as would be the case when you join the above tour; therefore those who like to be a bit more flexible plan their own movements and cover some of the Robin Hood Town Tour activities on their own.

WOLLATON HALL AND DEER PARK

Wollaton Hall - Nottingham

Wollaton Hall – source flickr.com

 An Elizabethan mansion in the middle of the city, Wollaton Hall, a beautiful old architectural masterpiece, has a rich history like so many buildings from that era. Today the mansion opens its doors to the public on a regular basis and offers various themes to keep the crowds coming back. There are the “Once upon a Time in Wollaton,” “Marie Curie’s Walk to Remember” and “Summer Nights Outdoor Film Festivals,” to name some of the activities which prove to be popular.

A NIGHT OF EXCITEMENT

Try something different. No city, and that includes Nottingham, offers only historical tours and visits to old buildings; other attractions seem to pull the crowds in too. If playing poker is an activity you enjoy, then be sure to check out live tournaments at casinos such as those that bring players from all over to the tables, also to Nottingham. Dusk till Dawn Casino Nottingham plays host annually to the well-known UKIPT poker tour. Pro player Ben Jenkins has actually said on record that he prefers the Nottingham tournament to those in Vegas! So get ready for some fun times at the poker tables.

CITY OF CAVES

City Of Caves Nottingham

City Of Caves – source youtube.com

Nottingham’s City of Caves is an attraction for those who appreciate a modern-day complex of cellars, storerooms and the like that were used as dwellings for humans as far back as, at least, the 11th century. Today, family and school outings make it possible to learn more about Nottingham’s ancient history. Guided tours make a visit a fascinating experience.

THE NOTTINGHAM PLAYHOUSE

If your idea of entertainment includes an evening of world-class theatre, then book your tickets to one of the numerous shows that delight patrons. The Nottingham Playhouse offers a wonderful selection: if you like drama, music or dance, you will find it here. Also, interesting evenings during which discussions related to theatrical events and issues take place. You want a good chuckle? Comedy is also on the menu, and the themes vary greatly so everyone has something to look forward to; from light-hearted material to make you laugh, to serious and thought-provoking issues that will linger for some time afterwards. To complete a great experience, visit Cast, the restaurant and bar at the Playhouse. Find time to visit this theatre complex; you will not be disappointed.

THE LACE MARKET

Nottingham Lace Market justice_galleries

Nottingham Lace Market – source goss.nottinghamcity.gov.uk

Take a leisurely stroll through the fashionable Lace Market district and get a feel of the shops, restaurants and bars. Nottingham was the center of the world’s lace industry during the time of the British Empire, and although this neighborhood was never really a lace market as such, lace did play an important role here as the area’s buildings served as a locale where lace was stored and sold. Today the area’s mostly Victorian and Georgian buildings have been beautifully restored and are now home to academic institutions, apartments and offices. More than 100 of these were designed by architect Watson Fothergill in the Gothic revival and Old English vernacular styles and erected between 1870 and 1906. The brick buildings of Broadway and the magnificent Adams Building on Stoney Street stand out as great architectural beacons of the area.

NATIONAL ICE CENTRE

Situated on Bolero Square, the National Ice Centre provides fun for one and all, whether to visit simply to watch the experienced skaters, or try your own moves. Various activities are offered for beginners: there are family skating outings, lessons for tots and even an ice hockey clinic. The Ice Centre’s Ice Stars also had their own show on CBBC. These are youngsters who are members of the Centre. Visit the Centre; it is a wonderful outing for families and singles alike.

OUTDOOR INSPIRATION

Nottingham_Castle_Gate_2009

Nottingham Castle Gate – source en.wikipedia.org

When the weather is good, take the kids on a fun walk of the city, past some well-known attractions such as Nottingham Castle, through dark tunnels and right onto the Lace Square for a bite at one of the many restaurants. Various other walks for sightseeing, or just being out, make Nottingham a great visit when the weather plays along.

Whether you travel by car, coach, train or air, Nottingham is very easy to reach, not far from London, Scotland or Ireland. It’s an exciting city that caters for all and not to be missed when you decide to venture into the Midlands. It’s also a great weekend getaway.

March 30, 2016

Top 10 Motorhome Destinations in the UK

Top 10 Motorhome Destinations in the UK

A large number of us look at going to far off exotic locations for a holiday and trips to Europe, but we often forget about the beautiful holiday destinations that are right here in the UK. From the picturesque Lake District, Peak District, Yorkshire Dales, Blackpool & Fylde Coast in the North, to Devon & Cornwall, The Isle of Wight, Norfolk and the Cotswolds in the South.

Motorhome Destinations in the UK

There is always something going on up and down the UK and what better way to explore what the UK has to offer than by hiring a motorhome? Amber Motorhomes counts down the Top 10 Motorhome Destinations in the UK to visit on holiday.

Top-10-Motorhome-Destination-in-the-UK

This post is by Amber Motorhomes, with over 30 years of experience, ensuring your motorhome experience as pleasurable as possible.

January 16, 2016

Top 5 Travel Photography Tips

Top 5 Travel Photography Tips

Ever wondered why your holiday snaps don’t come out quite how you want? Do you look at other people’s photos and wonder why they look better than yours? Well, here are 5 Travel Photography Tips from photographer Clare Malley that will help you to take better photos every time.

Travel Photography Tips by Clare Malley

Man dyeing wool Marrakech - claremalleyphotography.com

Man dyeing wool Marrakech – claremalleyphotography.com

Here are my top tips for travel photography, to capture the essence of your travel destinations. They are all simple and easy to apply. You don’t need a fancy camera – an iPhone or something similar, or a basic compact camera, will fit the bill perfectly. I do hope they inspire you.

Travel Photography Tips – #1

Use the Rule of Thirds

Scooters Rovinj, Croatia - rule of thirds - claremalleyphotography.com

Photographs have more impact when the subject is a third of the way across, rather than in the centre. The photos above show the difference that this can make. In the top pictures, the ‘rule of thirds’ is used: the eye is drawn first to the scooter and then it looks further around, to take in its surroundings. The photos underneath don’t use the rule of thirds – they just show a rather snazzy scooter (in Rovonj, Croatia) slap bang in front of you. Use the grid on your camera’s display to use the rule of thirds to compose your shot. (For recent iPhone models, go to Settings > Photos > Camera > Grid, to switch it in or off.) You can also use the grid to make sure the horizon straight.

Travel Photography Tips – #2

The hour before sunrise and after sunset is a wonderful time for landscape photography

Sunrise Croatia - claremalleyphotography.com

The light at these times of day can make for beautiful and unusual photography. This photo was taken just before sunrise, near Motovun in Croatia. If you’re using a digital camera, you can keep the camera shutter open for a comparatively long time to get a good picture so use the ‘shutter delay’ setting on your camera. If you are touching the camera at all it will almost certainly spoil the picture so a tripod can help. Plenty of tripods are available online relatively cheaply, even for smart phones. Some have flexible legs to hold them in position and there are also versions with magnetic feet to keep them steady. If you don’t have a tripod, just balance the camera in position, propping it in place with something, like a bean bag, to keep it absolutely still. Of course, you can take some fab photos without doing any of this!

Travel Photography Tips – #3

Use lines and patterns in the photo to draw the viewer in

County Kerry claremalleyphotography.com

Look at the way the subject of your photograph pulls you in. These photos from County Kerry, Republic of Ireland, demonstrate how this works in different settings. The lines of the rocks on the left draw the viewer’s attention straight to the heart of the lake. The bridge in Killorglin leads you to a building a third of the way into the photo on the right, which adds to the effect. (Red in a photograph attracts the eye quicker than other colours.)

Travel Photography Tips – #4

Check the camera display screen carefully

Girl on phone Croatia claremalleyphotography.com

It sounds very obvious, but it’s so easy to forget to check the screen when you’re somewhere unfamiliar or in a hurry. The difference in the photographs above (also taken in Rovinj, Croatia) is purely down to the camera shutter being open for different lengths of time. To avoid the problem, with an iPhone or iPad camera, tap the screen where the main subject of the photo is, until you are happy with the display. Other basic cameras will have a means of achieving the same effect.

Travel Photography Tips – #5

Don’t be afraid to be quirky!

Sheep by water claremalleyphotography.com

Sometimes, look at your photos from a different perspective. This was part of a dull photo of sheep in a field near a river. Rotating the original 180° and cropping it made it far more eye-catching.

And Finally… I hope these simple travel photography tips will inspire you to try different ideas with your camera and composition. You’ll find you’re learning all the time, acquiring the know-how to be ever-more creative. Have fun!

Clare Malley claremalleyphotography.comClare Malley is a professional photographer working in and around the Lake District. She specialises in portraits of pets and people. She loves travel photography and, whenever the opportunity arises, gets out and about with her camera to capture the sights she sees around her. You can see more of Clare Malley’s photographs here.  Follow her on Twitter @ClareMPhoto and on Instagram @ClareMPhoto

 

 

August 21, 2015

Caen: a Tale of Two Abbeys

Caen: a Tale of Two Abbeys

In the latest article in the World Travel Blogger series, archaeologist and travel writer Thomas Dowson, takes us to the historic city of Caen, in northern France.

ducal-chateau-caen-frane

William’s Ducal Chateau in Caen

From the walls of the imposing castle in the centre of Caen you have a vast view over this northwestern French city and beyond. Presumably this is why William, then Duke of Normandy but later William the Conqueror, chose the location for his ducal château. The castle is still one of the largest Medieval fortresses in Europe today housing the departmental art, archaeology and local history museums.

Caen_France_ DennisPeeters

Caen and the Abbey of St Etienne – photo Dennis Peeters

Looking east, to your right are the striking spires of the abbey Church of Saint Etienne. To your left you would be able to see the large and somewhat unassuming towers of the abbey church of Sainte Trinité if you could see them. They are now blocked from sight by more modern high-rises. Although separated by the city centre and at least a 45 minute walk between them, these two abbeys have a much more intimate history.

Abbaye-aux-hommes-caen-france

Abbaye aux Hommes

The Abbey of Saint Etienne is also known as the Abbaye aux Hommes, or the ‘Men’s Abbey’. It was dedicated to Saint Stephen and founded in 1063. Founded in the same year, the Abbey of Sainte Trinité is also called the Abbaye aux Dames as it was a monastery for women. That both of these abbeys were founded in the same year is no coincidence. Rather, it is a consequence of the power of the Catholic church in France in Medieval times.

Caen - the central portal of Sainte-Trinité, (Abbey aux Dames) with Romanesque detail.

Abbey aux Dames central door

Matilda of Flanders, wife of William the Conqueror (as depicted in the Victorian era)

Anyone who has read anything about William will know how ruthless he was in seeking out and establishing political alliances. For himself, he had decided to marry Matilda of Flanders. Matilda was the daughter of the Count of Flanders and Adèle of France (daughter of France’s Robert II). He was initially refused her hand, and there are differing legends that detail his reaction and his brutal treatment of Matilda.

Whatever the truth of these legends, Matilda eventually wanted to marry no one but William. This was strictly against her father’s wishes, but more importantly, against a Papal decree from Pope Leo IX. William and Matilda were cousins. Not to be deterred, William and Matilda were married in the city of Eu (in Normandy) in 1051 or 1052.

The Prior of a nearby abbey, Lanfranc of Pavia, despite his reservations with the marriage, sought a reconciliation between the Pope and William. William and Matilda agreed to establish two monasteries as penance and to gain Leo IX’s forgiveness, one for men and one for women. And so the two abbeys of Caen were founded in 1063. For his services, Lanfranc  was made the first Abbot of Saint Etienne.

Both abbeys suffered greatly in the battles that have raged across Normandy in the intervening years since their founding: the Hundred Years War, the French Revolution, and World War II. But both are definitely worth a visit today. Saint Etienne is one of the finest Romanesque buildings in Normandy. The spires of the abbey Church of Sainte Trinité were destroyed during the Hundred Years War. Although these were replaced by the less striking towers we see today, there are still some wonderful Romanesque features surviving around the church.

caen-william-the-conqueror-tombstone

William the Conqueror’s tombstone

Most poignantly, these two abbey churches in Caen are the final resting places of William and Matilda.

thomas dowsonThomas Dowson is an archaeologist turned traveller, writing about his journeys back in time on Archaeology Travel. You can follow him on Facebook Archaeology Travel Twitter @archtrav and Instagram @thomasdowson, where he shares his experiences of visiting archaeological and historic sites around the world, from our earliest times to the not so distant past.

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