Tag Archives: culture
October 2, 2015

Discovering Hannover Royal Heritage in Lower Saxony

Discovering Hannover Royal Heritage in Lower Saxony

The House of Hannover

House of Hannover Kings - Marienburg Castle - photo zoedawes

Hannoverian Kings of Great Britain and Sophia Electress of Hanover


If you’re British you’ll probably know about the House of Hannover (German: Hanover) from school history lessons or elsewhere but, if you’re like me, you may only have a vague notion of why and how we got a king from Germany in the early 18th century. It was due to the lack of an heir to the Stuart Royal Family. Their last monarch was poor Queen Anne who had 17 pregnancies yet no child outlived her. She was therefore succeeded by her second cousin, Protestant George I (1660-1727) of the House of Hannover, who was a descendant of the Stuarts through his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, a daughter of James VI and I.

Five Hannoverian British Monarchs - Celle Castle shop Germany

Five Hannoverian British Monarchs


I recently visited in Hanover (English: Hannover), a dynamic northern city in Lower Saxony, to find out more about the history of the British Crown in Germany. The city is a vibrant mix of old and new, the centre having been almost totally rebuilt after WWII. Arriving at Hanover Railway Station from the airport, first impressions are of fresh air, space and lively, friendly people.

Hanover City railway Station

Hanover City Railway Station

Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen

I started my exploration with a visit to the Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen, one of Hanover’s most famous attractions. The Great Garden, a baroque gem, was created by Sophie, Electress of Hanover and mother of George I. She loved this horticultural sanctuary and walked in it whenever possible. This marble statue is near the very place where she died, two months before Queen Anne passed away. Had she lived, she would have been Britain’s first Hannoverian monarch.

Sophie of Hanover Herrenhausen Gardens - zoedawes

Sophie, Electress of Hanover


With exquisite planting and flamboyant statuary, Herrenhausen is a delight to stroll round. I was fortunate to visit on a warm late summer’s evening for the Glowing Gardens event when the many fountains and cascades are lit up, classical music and the heady scent of thousands of flowers fills the air. As the sun set the garden glimmered in a soft haze and it was easy to imagine artistocratic courtiers following the queen as she inspected her creation and was pleased with what she saw.

Herrenhausen Gardens Hanover evening - photo zoedawes

The Great Garden in the evening

Celle Castle

My next stop on the Royal Heritage trip was Celle Castle, about 45 minutes by train from Hanover. I was met by Irina, who was to be my guide for the morning. The oldest parts of the castle are from the 13th century – Irina showed me a piece of ancient wall in the ladies loo! Its beautiful facade glows white across the lake, in the heart of the town, which is riot of medieval half-timbered houses dating back over 500 years.

Celle Castle germany - horse with trainer sculpture - photo zoedawes

Celle Castle – horse with trainer sculpture


Irina was a walking Wikipedia on the Guelph Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg, the oldest princely house in Europe, explaining the links between this family and George I. His father, Ernst August, lived here, as did his wife Sophie, who was born here. George married his cousin Sophia Dorothea of Celle, daughter of George Wilhelm of Brunswick-Lüneburg. It ended badly; she had an affair and was exiled whilst her husband went across the water to be King of Great Britain.

George Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (later George I of Great Britain) and Sophia Dorothea of Celle - photo zoedawes

George and Sophia Dorothea of Celle

Highlights of my tour of Celle Castle included the beautiful State Chambers with lovely marble carvings and crystal chandeliers, a pair of regal thrones, the Royal Bedchamber and some very fine paintings. The Royal Theatre has been restored and plays are performed here throughout the season. There’s a very impressive Renaissance Chapel with stunning artwork and a delicately arched blue and white ceiling.

Celle Chapel - Germany - photo zoedawes

Celle Chapel

What most impressed me were the many portraits and objects belonging to the Hannoverian Royal Family in what, to most of us in Britain, is a relatively unknown, truly beautiful castle.

Hanoverian costume and art Celle Castle - photo zoedawes

Hanoverian costume and portraits

Bückeburg Castle

The following day I made my way to Bückeberg Castle in the heart of Lower Saxony countryside. (I saw rather more of this fertile countryside than originally planned as I hired a car and the SatNav took me the scenic route rather than via the Autobahn!) As far as I could see, this Renaissance castle, belonging to the House of Schaumburg-Lippe for over 700 years, has no direct link to the Hanoverians but is a superb architectural masterpiece with very fancy decor.

Buckeburg Castle Lower Saxony Germany - photo zoedawes

Buckeburg Castle

I joined a tour group whose leader only spoke German so I had time to admire the elaborate furnishings and gold embellishments without knowing exactly what I was seeing. It didn’t matter. The whole place is like a giant cupcake, highly decorated, rich and delightfully OTT. The Renaissance Inner Courtyard with its ornate Chapel, the airy 17th c White Hall, the breathtaking Banqueting Hall, the bright Yellow Hall and tapestry-covered Gobelin Hall are amazing, but nothing prepares the visitor for the opulence of the Golden Hall. As its name suggests, it is lavishly decorated in gold, its crowning glory the Heavenly Gate, a lavishly adorned doorway replete with gilded figures and a veritable cornucopia of twirls, curlicues and flourishes.

Heavenly Gate Golden Hall Buckeburg Castle - photo zoedawes

Heavenly Gate in the Golden Hall

Leine Palace

Back in Hanover I went for a walk, following The Red Thread, a great way to see more of the city on foot. ‘The Red Thread is painted on the pavement, is 4200 metres long, and weaves its way through the inner city joining up 36 prime attractions.’ After a stroll around the Old City, well-restored to reflect its medieval history, I passed the Leine Palace, housing the State Parliament of Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony). Sophia of the Palatinate, later Electress of Hanover, lived here and her son, King George I, who died near Hanover on a visit, was buried here. His remains were moved to the chapel at Herrenhausen after World War II when the Palace was bombed.

Leine Palace and bridge Hanover - photo zoedawes

Leine Palace and Venetian-style bridge

Marienburg Castle

The final stop on my regal Hannoverian odyssey was to Marienburg Castle, a magical Gothic-Revival confection of turrets and towers on the south-west slopes of Marienberg Hill, about 20 miles from Hanover. Designed by blind King George V, the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hanover, and built for his wife, Marie of Saxe-Alteburg between 1858 and 1867, it was hardly lived in by the family, due to the outbreak of war with neighbouring Prussia.

Marienburg Castle Lower Saxony Germany - photo zoedawes

Marienburg Castle

I was met at the impressive entrance gate by Andre Mertens, who showed me round and was both highly knowledgeable and extremely patient with all my questions. It’s a fascinating castle, magnificent yet somehow ethereal with an intriguing history. It’s still owned by the Guelph family, Prince Ernst of Hanover and his son Ernst August, who is active in the running of Marienburg Castle. Its interior is as charming as its exterior, but what is especially interesting is the ‘Path to the Crown‘ Exhibition, which runs until the end of 2015.

Hanover Path to the Crown Exhibition Marienburg Castle - photo zoedawes

The Path to the Crown

Historical furniture, paintings and rarities of art history from the collection of the Royal House of Hannover are on display. The Hannoverian crown, along with the sceptre and bridal crown are on show for the first time since the end of the Kingdom of Hanover in this uplifting exhibition to mark the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the Personal Union between Hanover and Great Britain from from 1714 to 1801.

Marienburg Castle Path to the Crown poster - photo zoedawes

The Path to the Crown Exhibition – and me


The love-story of Marienburg Castle deserve more space than I have now so I’ll be writing a separate post. Make sure you don’t miss it – get The Quirky Traveller RSS Feed here.

Fountains in front of Grand Hotel Mussman hanover - photo zoedawes

Fountains in front of Grand Hotel Mussmann

I stayed at the Grand Hotel Mussmann, a chic hotel in the heart of Hanover, as a guest of the German National Tourist Office and the Lower Saxony Tourist Board. Many thanks to everyone who helped make this such a memorable trip. If you like culture, cities, castles, romance and discovering somewhere new, go to Hanover and explore – you’ll love it.


British Royal Heritage Lower Saxony Germany - Celle Palace - zoedawes

September 29, 2015

Escape to Jersey for a weekend break

Escape to Jersey for a weekend break
Rozel Bay Jersey

Rozel Bay

Whenever I’m asked what my favourite travel book is, I always give the same answer; ‘My Family and Other Animals’ by Gerald Durrell. I first read it as child, having been introduced to Durrell via his fascinating TV series including ‘Two in the Bush’ and ‘Catch me a Colobus’. A passionate animal-lover, he collected many engandgered species from around the world and opened the ground-breaking Jersey Zoological Park in 1958. He established the ‘The Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust’ now called ‘The Durrrell Wildlife Conservation Trust’ to help deal with the increasingly difficult challenges of zoo, wildlife and habitat management, “saving species from extinction”.

Western Lowland Gorilla - Jersey Zoo Durrell

Western Lowland Gorilla at Jersey Zoo5

I went to Jersey over 20 years ago, staying with friends in the capital St Helier and spending most of our time in and around the city. I’d love to return, not only to visit Jersey Zoo and see the legacy left by Gerald Durrell, but to find out more of Jersey’s history and try some of its local food. On a recent trip to Guernsey and Herm I was really impressed with the French-influenced cuisine and the Channel Islands’ unique heritage. When I heard about a competition to win a weekend break to Jersey, I decided to enter. I just had to create a short film  – click to watch my ‘Escape to Jersey’ video here. Details of how YOU can enter the competition at the end of this article.

Beauport-Bay Jersey

Beauport Bay

Jersey has so much to see and do that a weekend would only scratch the surface, but after the Zoo I’d make a bee-line for Le Hougue Bie, one of Europe’s finest Neolithic tombs, dating back to 3,500BC. There’s also a German bunker in the grounds, a reminder of the island’s more recent history. I’m into ‘Castle-Bagging’ (like Monro-Bagging but less tiring) so Mont Orgueil, Jersey’s oldest castle above Gorey Harbour would certainly be in my Top 10 Things to Do in Jersey.

Mont Orgueil Castle Jersey

Mont Orgueil Castle

Hamptonne Country Life apparently captures the spirit of rural Jersey, from medieval to Victorian times and the Channel Islands Military Museum has a rare Enigma decoding machine which helped to defeat the Germans in WWII.  I’d certainly visit 16 New St, a Georgian house now open to the public, showcasing architectural style and fashion of 18th century Jersey. I love islands and the sea so the Maritime Museum in St Helier would definitely be high on my list, as would the Jersey Museum and Art Gallery for a dash of culture.

Jersey Museum and Art Gallery

Jersey Museum and Art Gallery

I gather there are a number of wineries on Jersey so a wine tour would be in order. La Mere Wine Estate should fit the bill; it produces apple brandy, cider and perserves as well as local wine. There are food festivals throughout the year and the annual ‘Tennerfest’, where you can get an all-inclusive meal from £10 in over 100 Jersey restaurants, is a great idea. With so many top-class restaurants (including 4 Michelin starred), trendy bars, cosy cafes and friendly pubs I’d have no excuse not to find excellent food and drink all over the island.  Jersey is famous for its potatoes, milk and butter and if the crab sandwiches are as good as Guernsey’s then I’ll be VERY happy.

Eating out at St Brelades Jersey

Eating out at St Brelades

With a benign climate, scenic coastline and undulating countryside, Jersey would be perfect for a walk on the wild side. Grosnez Point has spectacular views of other Channel Islands from the cliff top and a trip around the island’s bays and beaches would satisfy my desire to be beside the seaside.

Bonne-Nuit beach jersey

Bonne Nuit beach

The Jersey Lavender Farm and the Eric Young Orchid Foundation, with Europe’s ‘most comprehensive orchid collection open to the public’, should provide a focus for my flower fetish, and if I am not there for the summer Battle of the Flowers, I could always visit the museum dedicated to this famous festival.

The Battle of the Flowers Jersey

The Battle of the Flowers

Of course, no dream holiday is complete without somewhere special to stay. For a very special and yes, quirky place to stay, the Durrell Wildlife Camp offers cosy camping pods next to the animals! However, I do like some luxury when I am on holiday as well as a view of the sea so L’Horizon Hotel and Spa ticks all the boxes. I remember a very relaxing drink in the bar here overlooking St Brelade Bay – very nice! Finally, for the ultimate in comfort with a truly historic twist, Longueville Manor looks stunning. Set within acres of woodland, part of the manor house dates from the 14th c, it’s got a ‘bijou’ spa and swimming pool, plus a croquet lawn. With a great reputation for food this hotel gets my top vote.

Longueville Manor Hotel Jersey

Longueville Manor

Create your dream Escape to Jersey

Inspired to create your own weekend break? To enter the competition to win a 2 night break on Jersey for two people, click Escape to Jersey. You’ll be asked to click a click a few choices on a little list and voila – your Escape to Jersey video will automatically be produced. Takes about a minute! For a chance to win the only other thing you need to do is give your email and you’re in with a great chance.

Escape to Jersey

Terms and Conditions

Full terms and conditions Escape to Jersey here . It’s one entry per email for the free prize draw and the competition closes 30 October 2015. The winner will be notified within 14 days. The competition prize is a two night break to Jersey for two people, including return flights from the UK to Jersey, plus accommodation for two nights on a bed and breakfast basis, for two people, subject to availability.  The prize must be booked by 31 December 2015 and must be taken for travel dates between 1 January – 31 August 2016. Good luck – maybe see you in Jersey next year!

September 4, 2015

Bradford: giant naans, media marvels, ornate graves and Victorian splendour

Bradford: giant naans, media marvels, ornate graves and Victorian splendour

Giant naan bread Lala's Restaurant Bradford Yorkshire - photo zoedawesHeld aloft like some Roman Regimental banner, the enormous naan made its way through the restaurant to be placed with due reverence on the table behind us. Before it could be ripped apart, the youngest member of the group took a phone snap to commemorate its arrival. I quickly leapt up and asked if I could do the same; I’d never seen naan bread on this scale. I was in Lala’s Restaurant in the heart of Bradford‘s ‘Curry Capital’ with a group of friends. Every year we go away somewhere in the north west for a weekend break, combining a bit of sight-seeing and culture, some eating and drinking and a lot of laughter. Lala’s serves superb authentic Kashmiri food amidst an elegant setting with attentive, friendly service. We indulged in a lot of tasty dishes including fish pakora, lamb rogan josh, achari chicken, karahi fish, biryani and jugs of ice-cold mango lassi. All around us, smartly dressed families enjoyed their Saturday out, all without a drop of alcohol and a great deal of lively chatter.

Bradford Wool Exchange - photo zoedawes

Bradford Wool Exchange

We’d arrived in the Yorkshire city of Bradford mid-morning after a scenic journey from Carnforth Station in Lancashire, via cloud-shrouded Ingleborough and Keighley. Having dropped off our bags at the newly refurbished Midland Hotel, we got a taxi for our first stop, Undercliffe Cemetery.

Bradford Undercliffe cemetery Yorkshire - zoedawes

Bradford Undercliffe cemetery

Chris, who has lived in the area for many years and had organised this trip, gave us a tour of its rather macabre delights. Spread across 25 acres, the Victorian great, the good and the probably-not-so-good-but-could-afford it, were buried here, vying with each other to erect the most impressive funerary monuments. Undercliffe contains over 23,000 graves and many are extremely ornate and some very poignant. The Illingworth Mausoleum is in the form of an Egyptian temple, guarded by two sphinxes, an exotic choice for one of Bradford’s leading politicians.

Illingworth Mausoleum Undercliffe Bradford - photo zoedawes

Illingworth Mausoleum Undercliffe Bradford

From the end of the main avenue, ‘lined with every variety of Victorian funery art from broken columns, obelisks and draped urns to Celtic and Roman crosses’ (Undercliffe Cemetery leaflet), there’s a great view down onto Bradford. Clearly those wealthy industrialists were more than happy to ‘lord it’ over their city even in death … Our favourite was a beautiful sculpture in memory of Miles Moulson, a monumental mason, carved in loving detail by John Thorp.

Miles Moulson memorial Undercliffe Bradford - photo zoedawes

Miles Moulson memorial

We had lunch at The Turls Green, one of the outdoor bars and restaurants that surround Centenary Square, heart of Bradford’s city, with a giant pool, City Park, spouting fountains around which children and adults splashed in the summer sunshine. The Italianate clock tower, inspired by the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, chimed at regular intervals and a video of Bradford’s cultural highlights was projected on the wall of a modern building nearby.

Bradford Centenary Square Yorkshire - photo zoedawes

Bradford Centenary Square

Having fueled up with chilli con carne, salad and some very weak cocktails (probably no bad thing at this time of day …), we hopped onto the free local bus for a quick whizz round the streets before getting off at the National Media Museum. Bradford is the world’s first UNESCO City of Film, recognising, ‘the city’s rich film heritage, diverse movie locations and its many celebrations of the moving image through the city’s annual film festivals’ (Discover Bradford leaflet). Appropriately, one of the very first cinema shows outside London took place on the site of the National Media Museum.

Bradford National Media Museum Yorkshire - photo zoedawes

National Media Museum

Part of the Science Museum Group, there is a huge amount to see and do in this attraction and children especially love it. It’s a winning combination of exhibitions and interactive displays covering all aspects of media including photography, film, TV, video games and animation. The photography exhibition is fascinating with cameras through the ages, the world’s first negative and some evocative images from the Kodak era. Kiddies giggled their way through the Magic Factory and we reminisced at the old TV ads. It’s got Yorkshire’s only IMAX cinema and a media-themed cafe. There are temporary displays; I loved the ‘Light Fantastic’ room with its kaleidoscopic neon strips creating a rainbow of light.

Bradford Light Fantastic National Media Museum Yorkshire - photo zoedawes

Light Fantastic – National Media Museum

After a busy day travelling both literally and metaphorically through Bradford’s diverse history we returned to the Midland Hotel to get ready to go out for dinner. Its elegant interior reflects the industrial wealth that was generated by the cotton and wool barons of over a hundred years ago. Eating at Lala’s, it’s easy to see why Bradford has won ‘Curry Capital of Britain’ for three years running. Make sure you book a table when you visit Bradford – and order one of those enormous naans; symbol of this impressive city’s great big heart.

Bradford from National Media Museum - photo zoedawes

Bradford from National Media Museum

August 25, 2015

Enjoy 24 hours in Vancouver, Canada

Enjoy 24 hours in Vancouver, Canada
Art Deco Marine Building Vancouver - photo zoedawes

Art Deco Marine Building Vancouver

Quite possibly the most beautiful Art Deco building in the world is in Vancouver. The Marine Building was opened in 1930 and bought by the Guinness family. The walls are engraved with murals depicting sea travel through the ages and quirky ocean creatures. Above the revolving doors enormous Great Blue Herons (or Canada Geese?) fly off in opposite directions. At one time the tallest building not just in Canada, but the British Empire, it’s now, literally overshadowed by the many newer skycrapers that adorn the city.

Downtown Vancouver and Marine Building - photo zoedawes

Downtown Vancouver and Marine Building

I recently spent 24 hours in Vancouver, the urban heart of British Columbia; it could easily have been a week. Here are 10 things to do in Vancouver, especially if you enjoy getting a real feel for the place you stay in.

24 hours in Vancouver

 1. Hop on a Hop-Off Tour bus

View of Vancouver Public Library from Tour Bus - photo zoedawes

View of Vancouver Public Library from Tour Bus

One of best ways to see any city is to take a tour bus. There’s usually a good commentary giving a potted history of the place and you can orientate yourself easily before setting off on foot. With stops all over Vancouver you can spend as much or as little time as you want in each place. I got the  West Coast Sightseeing Hop On, Hop Off Bus and, as I had limited time, stayed on it for the whole ride – about 2 hours. I picked it up near my hotel, The Burrard, in downtown Vancouver and it trundled all round the city, including Yaletown, Gastown, Chinatown, Coal Harbour, Granville Island and Stanley Park. I fell in love with vibrant Vancouver from my seat on the bus …

2. Stroll around round Stanley Park

Stanley Park Rose Garden Vancouver - photo zoedawes

Stanley Park Rose Garden

Rhododendrons flower in spring and in summer the sensuous scent of thousands of roses wafts through the air. Surrounded by water on almost all sides, Stanley Park is a 1000 acre delight. There’s a 9km Sea Wall path which attracts joggers, cyclists and walkers as well as many trails through the ancient rainforest. A group of enormous Totem Poles proclaim the city’s First Nation heritage and at nearby Hallelujah Point, the Nine O’Clock Gun has boomed out every evening since 1894. The most popular family attraction is the Vancouver Marine Science Centre, with over 70,000 sea creatures from the Amazon to the Arctic, including beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters, turtles, sealions and crocodiles. There are stupendous views from Prospect Point and beaches all round.

Inukshuk sculpture by Alvin Kanak Vancouver - photo zoedawes

Inukshuk sculpture by Alvin Kanak

3. Explore the origins of industrial Vancouver in Gas Town

GastownSteamClock Vancouver LeonardG

Photo LeonardG

Ever seen a steam clock? No. neither had I until I came to Vancouver. Well, in Gas Town, you can see one. It looks Victorian but was actually put up in the 1970s. Every hour it tootles out the Westminster chimes and sends up jets of steam. Gas Town was the site of the original industrial development in the 1800s; timber and the ease of access to the waterways of Canada ensured its success. There are plenty of older buildings which contrast to the glassy skyscrapers, some great bars and cool restaurants plus lots of independent shops to browse around.

4. Get a flavour of Vancouver on a foodie tour

Fancy a huge plate of burritos and banana bread for breakfast? Or maybe a smoothie made from freshly-cropped microgreens? The best chocolate chip cookies in Canada (allegedly!)? Vancouver is a city that loves its food. I don’t mean likes its food, I mean LOVES its food. From exquisite Chinese dim sum via fresh local seafood, Italian pizzas to hearty steaks, food is the tasty key to Vancouver living.

Fresh oysters and seafood at Boulevard Oyster Bar Vancouv

Fresh oysters and seafood at Boulevard Oyster Bar

I can highly recommend taking a food tour with Jenn from Tours by Locals. She took us on a two-hour romp from breakfast to lunch across downtown Vancouver. We filled up on a huge selection of Mexican-inspired dishes served by delightfully camp Patrice at the wonderfully OTT diner Elbow Room Cafe. This was followed by a tasting of organic fruit and vegetable juices at achingly cool Krokodile Pear. Most bizarre yet compellingly modern was the scifi looking Urban Cultivator where rows of fridges produce ‘microgreens’ which are made into a huge variety of smoothies including Garden of Eden and Morning Sun. We ended up in at the Musette Cycle Caffe which serves excellent light lunches and snacks, including these scrumptious chocolate chip cookies.

Vancouver Musette Cycle Cafe chocolate chip cookies - photo zoedawes

Musette Cycle Cafe chocolate chip cookies

5. Get on your bike

Cycle City Tours Vancouver - photo zoedawes

Cycle City Tours

Well, maybe not yours but there are plenty of cycle hire shops around the city and it’s very easy to get about. If you have a guide book and a map, just take off and peddle, secure in the knowledge that is probably the most bike-friendly city in Canada. There are many bike lanes and everyone seems generally courteous. I went on a Cycle City Tours bike ride with fellow travel blogger Lucy Dodsworth (read her account of Vancouver food and art here) and Sarah Sheehan from Destination BC.

City Cycle Tour Vancouver - photo zoedawes

City Cycle Tour Zoe, Lucy and Sarah

Our guide, co-owner Josh took us on a fascinating journey past the verdant Law Courts, Marine Building, via Canada Place and along the Waterfront. We stopped off a various places to admire the intriguing public art and take in the ever-changing harbour landscape. We passed the enormous Totems in Stanley Park and Josh showed us the Stanley Great Blue Heronry next to the tennis courts. Cycling beside English Beach we saw many people sunbathing and a few swimming and paddling. You can choose more strenuous routes or a gentle ride enjoying the ever-changing scenery.

Cyclist at English Bay Vancouver - photo zoedawes

Cyclist at English Bay

6. Look down on Vancouver

Seaplane tours Vancouver - photo zoedawes

Seaplanes in Vancouver Harbour

Seaplanes, or floatplanes, take commuters, business people and sightseers up, up and away at regular intervals. You can book a short flight by plane or helicopter above the bay or go much further. (I fulfilled a lifelong ambition when I took a return flight in a seaplane from Campbell River to Knight Inlet in the Great Bear Rainforest; stunning scenery en route and great fun taking off and landing on water.) If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground then you can get an overview, not just of Vancouver, but the whole country with a virtual aerial tour from coast to coast with FlyOver Canada.

7. Take a ferry, boat, zodiac or kayak round Vancouver Harbour

False Creek from Granville island Vancouver - photo zoedawes

False Creek and Aqua Bus

Vancouver Harbour is one of the loveliest in the world and the best way to see it is from the water. It’s a working waterway but has plenty of pleasurable ways to view it. I got the colourful little Aqua Bus over to Granville Island. Even on this very brief trip I saw a huge number of craft from speed boats departing to find somewhere to waterski, bigger ferries heading off around the coast, smaller ferries carrying passengers around False Creek, tour boats full of tourists hoping to see whales, yachts setting sail in the brisk breeze and plucky kayaks weaving in and out of all this traffic.  The biggest attraction is being able to see Vancouver’s impressive architecture from the water; gazing up at those fabulous sky-scrapers is a truly awe-inspiring experience. Join Kathryn Burrington to see even more of Vancouver.

8. Mooch about a Museum

Museum of Vancouver and Space museum - photo Bobanny

Museum of Vancouver – photo Bobanny

There’s a museum to suit every interest and all ages in Vancouver, from the world-renowned Museum of Anthropology, with its enormous collection of aboriginal artefacts housed within a sensational building, via the Police Museum, Koerner Ceramics, Bill Reid Rotunda, Neon Vancouver, Vancouver Art Gallery and Maritime Museum to the quirky Museum of Vancouver, with its iconic metal crab sculpture outside and superb collection tracing the history and culture of this part of British Columbia through thousands of objects and into the future with the HR MacMillan Space Centre next door.

9. Find a café and watch the world go by

Caffé Artigiano barrista Josh

Caffé Artigiano barrista Josh making perfect coffee

After all this sightseeing and culture, it’s good to relax. Vancouver loves its coffee and the cafes are more than a ‘culture’; they’re a way of life. This is no 9-5 city; it buzzes all day and night and the cafes are used to meet friends, have business meetings, as informal offices or somewhere to catch up on news. In the uber-cool Caffé Atrigiano, top barrista Josh (yes, popular name) creates a great cup of coffee (top quality fresh Arabica beans) whilst the beautiful people sip and chat.

10. Get a Vancouver City Passport

Vancouver Trolley Bus company - photo zoedawes

Vancouver Trolley Bus company

The Vancouver City Passport gives great discounts and free entry to many of the attractions, museums, galleries, eateries and tours mentioned here, as well as dozens of others. The guidebook has some useful info and background details on the experiences. It’s valid for 2 adults, cost $20 (at time of visit) and can save you loads of money and time.

Explore Canada media group Sandbar Restaurant Vancouver

Explore Canada media group Sandbar Restaurant Vancouver

I ended my 24 hours in Vancouver having a superb seafood meal with my fellow travellers at Sandbar Seafood Restaurant on quirky Granville Island. Not only is the food delicous and the staff friendly, the view from False Creek is an ever-changing portrait of this fun, funky, fantastic city which managed to steal my heart in just one day in late spring.

Vancouver Harbour British Columbia Canada - photo zoedawes

Vancouver Harbour BC Canada

Gary Bembridge shares more top tips for Vancouver here.  I was on a Travelator Media trip, staying at the quirkiliciously hip Burrard Hotel in downtown Vancouver as a guest of Destination Canada. Find out more about awesome British Columbia here.

Burrard Hotel garden Vancouver - photo zoedawes

Burrard Hotel garden

Add this exciting city to your bucket list NOW – you’ll love it.

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Top 10 Things to Do in Vancouver BC - photo zoedawes

July 15, 2015

5 must-see cities in Italy

5 must-see cities in Italy

There are hundreds of interesting, historic, vibrant villages, towns and cities in Italy. Their very names resonate in our shared cultural knowledge – Rome, Venice, Florence, Bologna and so many more. Here are five other fascinating places to add to your list of ‘must-see’ cities in which to enjoy a luxury holiday in Italy.


Castello Sforzesco Expo Milano Italy - photo zoe dawes

Castello Sforzesco and Expo Milano

Nowhere near as alluring as Rome, the vibrant city of Milan is fashion-crazy and has many attractions for a short stay, especially this year for Expo Milano 2015. Top of the list has to be Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’ on the refectory wall of 15th c Santa Maria delle Grazie convent. (Don’t make my mistake and just turn up expecting to get in to see it! You must to book in advance.) Make sure you go inside the magnificent ‘Il Duomo’ which is truly impressive. Look out for the rather gruesome statue of St Jerome with his flayed skin flung over his shoulder like a macabre wrap. Nearby is the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a cathedral to fashion and uber chic. Home to all the luxury fashion labels, the beautiful ones parade around looking stylish as only the Italians can. Order a Campari at Camparino and look out for Borsalino’s the renowned hat-maker. Leave time to wander round the Renaissance Castello Sforzesco, originally owned by the ruling Visconti family and now home to some seriously impressive artworks, including Michelangelo’s last piece sculpture, the unfinished ‘Rondanini Pieta’.

Search out Trattoria Burlagio for a delicious lunch with the Milanese – I loved it!


Genoa-Genova Italy - Collage by DanieleDF1995

Genoa-Genova – collage by DanieleDF

Crucial to Italy’s seafaring might, Genoa (Genova) has been an important maritime port for thousands of years. The Greek and Byzantine empires based their navies here and the powerful Lombardy families gave it prominence in the Middle-Ages, gaining serious strategic importance during the Renaissance. Christopher Columbus was a native of Genoa and donated 1/10 of his income from the discovery of the Americas for Spain to Genoa for the relief of taxation on food. Garibaldi left from here to conquer Southern Italy. The Port area gives a flavour of the city’s ongoing relation to the sea with its ancient lighthouse, modern marina and annual Boat Show. There are a number of impressive edifices including the Porta Soprano (East Gate), near where Christopher Columbus was born, 13th c San Lorenzo Cathedral, Palazzo Ducale and the huge fountain in the Piazza de Ferrari.


Neapolitan Pizza Margherita Naples - photo Valerio Capello

Neapolitan Pizza Margherita – photo Valerio Capello

I visited Naples many years ago when, as a teacher, I accompanied a group of rowdy school kids around the city during a cruise aboard SS Uganda – and I long to return. It’s got a raucous, edgy, rawness to it that other more sedate Italian cities lack. Renowned for its food, pizza is at its best in Naples. I still remember the flavours of a simple Margherita, with slightly charred crispy crust, fresh tomato base, curves of mozzarella and a scattering of basil leaves served at a rickety table in a narrow backstreet.  One of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, Naples oozes history.  The Archaeological Museum, housed in a lovely building, has many treasures from the nearby sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. There are plenty of luxurious palaces and castles to explore including medieval Castel Nuovo, Sant’Elmo, imposing Palazzo Real and Castel Capuano, now used as a courthouse, plus lots of attractive churches. Piazzas, parks and promenades provide places to walk and sit. Find a little trattoria off the beaten track, order a local dish, a glass of crisp white wine and follow up with a Neapolitan ice-cream – perfect …


Palermo Siclly - collage by DanieleDF1995

Palermo – collage by DanieleDF

I’ve never been to Sicily but as an ardent fan of ‘Montalbano’, the Sicilian detective and Giorgio Locatelli, the exuberant chef, I feel I know the island and will certainly visit one day. My father went once and talked of baking hot streets, sand-coloured buildings slowly crumbling in the relentless sea air, Roman and Arabic ruins, all with a laid-back air of ennui, laced with a very faint dash of menace. It sounded exotic and enticing. Mount Etna provides a fertile land of luscious citrus fruits, abundant vines, walnuts and – aubergines. Palermo’s port is a busy hub of ferries, container ships, cruise liners, excursion boats, luxury yachts and fishing boats. The city has a wealth of galleries, museums, villas and of course, churches. Top of my list would be the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia, with its comprehensive collection of Sicilian art, housed in the Palazzo Abatellis. One day …

Bolzano – South Tyrol

 South Tyrol Italy - photo zoe dawes

Piazza Walther Bolzano

Also known as Bozen, Bolzano is the capital of Italy’s most northerly region, German-speaking South Tyrol (Alto Adige/SudTyrol). The impressive Dolomites gaze down onto the city, giving it a strong Alpine atmosphere. The open space of the Piazza Walther (named after a medieval troubadour) is the perfect place to grab an expresso and do a little people-watching. With its combination of Italian style, Germanic orderliness, Gothic and Baroque architecture, Bolzano is a delight for all the senses. The 15th century Cathedral has beautiful mosaics and down the road you can marvel at the well-preserved ‘Iceman’ in the Archaeological Museum. The colourful street market displays local South Tyrol food delicacies, including speck, mountain cheeses and fragrant honey. Alto-Adige is famous for its top-notch wines. Make sure you try the Gewürztraminer – like drinking the scenery in a glass.

Dolomites from above the city of Bolzano - phot zoe dawes

The Dolomites from above the city of Bolzano

This article on cities in Italy is written in collaboration with Original Travel.

June 28, 2015

Paloma Faith wows at the ASUS Eden Sessions

Paloma Faith wows at the ASUS Eden Sessions
Paloma Faith at Eden Project - photo The Eden Sessions Twitter

Paloma Faith at Eden Project – photo @TheEdenSessions


“We’re here at the Eden Project and we’re ready to go! I’m completely blown away by this place. Met Tim Smit today – what a guy. This place is the future …”  There was no doubting the enthusiasm of quirky songstress Paloma Faith for her ASUS Eden Sessions concert in the unique setting of the Eden Project. Nor was there any doubt about the welcome she was given by the 6000 of us who enjoyed her music so much on a clear June night in Cornwall.

Paloma Faith and band ASUS Eden Sessions Eden Project

Paloma Faith and band – ASUS Eden Sessions

Paloma belted out many of her hits from the past six years, accompanied by two fab backing singers dressed in 1950s frocks, and a splendid band. She wore a gorgeous Nicolas Jebran mini-dress which seemed to be made from thousands of sequins and flourescent orange bands that glittered and shone as she danced around the stage.

Paloma Faith - Eden Sessions Concert

Paloma Faith – photo Eden Sessions

Before the evening kicked off I went into the Arena for a pre-concert interview about the new ASUS Transformer Book Chi, the Eden Project and Paloma Faith. ASUS, a computer hardware and electronics company, is sponsoring the Eden Sessions and had invited four of us ‘lifestyle’ bloggers to the concert.

We had to move from the Arena when the Eden Sessions’ first act, Liam Bailey, started his sound checks and it got a bit noisy. My video interview took place in the quietest corner we could find in the Eden Project! I talked about the versatility and elegance of the ASUS Chi. I’ve got the 10″ version so it’s easy to carry about, has a really strong aluminium body, is extremely thin and looks very stylish.

ASUS Transformer Book Chi Zoe Dawes

ASUS Transformer Book Chi

However, its best feature is that the screen splits from the keyboard so it can be used EITHER as a laptop OR a tablet. For a blogger this a real advantage; tablets are all very well but it’s not easy write at length on them. I’m getting into making short videos so the camera is a big plus as is the large memory (64GB), perfect for storing lots of photos and videos.

ASUS Eden Sessions interviews with Zoe Dawes

Video interviews before and after ASUS Eden Sessions

Once the interview was over, we had a delicious dinner in the Med Terrace Restaurant and then out into the arena for the concert. As you can imagine, the front area was heaving so a few of us pushed our way towards the back where the raised bank meant we got a great view. I’m not a huge fan of big crowds, but everyone was really friendly, all ages and just out for a good  time.

Eden Sessions audience Paloma Faith concert

Eden Sessions audience

Singer-songwriter Paloma Faith, from East London, was named Best Female Solo Artist at the BRIT Awards this year. Her 3rd album, A Perfect Contradiction, got to number two in the UK charts and went double-platinum. Her distinctive voice had been compared with classic soul singers such as Etta James and Billie Holiday, as well as more contemporary artists like Adele and Amy Winehouse.

Paloma Faith singing Eden Sessions

Paloma Faith – photo Eden Sessions

Her most successful song, ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’ took on a huge resonance as thousands sand along and she threw her powerful voice into the sky and brought us all to a resounding climax … (If you haven’t seen her wonderfully steamy video, have a look here.)

I loved her joie de vivre, (belied by the rather poignant lyrics of some of her songs) and she connected to the audience with her humour and obvious delight at performing in this unique concert venue. Singing ‘Can’t Rely On You’ she changed the lyrics to, ‘We’re at the Eden Project, we can rely on you’  and as evening got darker, the huge Biomes behind the stage lit up and changed colour in time to the music. Magical …

Eden Sessions Biomes and Paloma Faith

Eden Project Biomes lit up at night

She finished off the night with a wonderful version of ‘Take Me’ and the resounding applause at the end showed we’d all taken her to our hearts. A fantastic evening of superb musicianship in an exceptional setting – to paraphrase Paloma, that’s The Truth AND Something Beautiful …

Paloma Faith in concert at Eden Sessions

Paloma Faith in concert at Eden Sessions


Here’s the video we recorded that evening – hope you enjoy it :-)

I stayed onsite at the YHA Eden Project in one of their ‘Snoozeboxes’, which are containers converted into comfortable en-suite bedrooms, about 15 minutes’ walk from the main entrance.

YHA Eden Project Cornwall - Zoe Dawes

YHA Eden Project Cornwall

It’s excellent value and ideal for a night or two so you can enjoy the concert and have plenty of time to explore the Eden Project at your leisure.