Christmas choices

We’ve finally booked for New Zealand, leaving beginning of January. It got mucked around a bit, which meant we decided to wait til the kids had finished school for the year, and we would have Christmas with the family before leaving. As we’re still here at Christmas instead of the warmth of the Pacific, I got to thinking which I prefer for Christmas, is there a better choice out of wintry Northern Hemisphere and the sunny south for actual Christmas day.

ice hotels are temporary

For me I reckon the North has it best, the real traditions of Christmas demand cold weather – drinking mulled wine, eating rich food and watching rubbish telly. But ,if I was to go away there are some obvious choices to meet the Christmas spirit. No 1, I think has to be the Ice Hotel , there are several of these in the world now, built from scratch every year with individual themes but the Swedish one has always caught my eye. Also a trip to Germany to visit the traditional Weihnachtsmarkts would surely get you into the festive spirit.

For those with children a more practical choice would be a trip to Lapland – several big companies offer packages now, including reindeer sleigh rides, visits to Santa, a once in a lifetime opportunity for kids big and small.If you pick the right time and package you may even get to see the Northern Lights – the best Christmas lights of all.

Best International Trips – Leisure & Travel’s Opinion

So a new article from leisure and travel that has their opinion on some of the best international trips to take and I have to tell you some of them look pretty appealing to me. I am wondering though what kind of cost each of these trips would take because it seems like some of them are pretty expensive areas. Some of their choices are: Bali, South Africa specifically Johannesburg, Lake Como in Italy, and Greece. I know that one of my friends went to Greece and said it was unbelievably beautiful and was the best part of his all over the place trip also I went to Athens and some other places, mentioned in a previous post and it was a wonderful time. So that is definitely a good start to the list. I’ve always wondered about Bali because it’s a little exotic but also beautiful and the place is used to tourism. It would be a relaxing place to visit. They sell it pretty well in the article too: “First-time visitors to this enchanting Indonesian gem may be surprised by its small size – you can drive the entire gorgeous coastline in one day – but Bali certainly isn’t short on places to explore. Visit ornate Hindu temples, majestic volcanoes, see fine Balinese art at the Museum Puri Lukisan, hike by waterfalls and vanilla plantations, or simply find nirvana at one of Bali’s pristine beaches.”

Sounds lovely. Looks lovely.

lake como - a beautiful destination in Italy

Bay of bliss

We received some great news this week, a friend has invited (well, i think he was begging) me to come help crew his charter yacht in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, over the summer. As this is our winter and, from past experience I know it’s somewhere the whole family will love, I’ve jumped at the opportunity.

stunning auckland harbour

New Zealand is paradise for sailing, Auckland is a smaller friendlier version of Sydney, a good place to relax for a few days when you first arrive, with plenty of good restaurants, cafes and a stunning harbour – perfect to  get your sea legs with a days relaxing sailing.

The Bay of Islands is about a three hour ride north from Auckland, and a stunning place. Pristine blue waters, in a relaxed, gentle setting, and a temperature that averages 27, with warm waters flowing down from the pacific. Here, is an ideal base for us as a family, our friend has found us some cheap accommodation, as we will be outside most of the time, nothing to fancy was required. The feel of the place is like a sleepy country village, so there’s no need for me to worry about the family as I go off for several days at a time on charters, and as there’s no language barrier the kids will easily be able to fit in to local activities.

The water here is superb for sailing, clear gentle water, with an abundance of marine life and unspoilt golden beaches along the small islands that dot the place. My friend has several boats and yachts and offers day trips around the islands, longer romantic voyages as, well as big-game fishing expeditions. So, I’ll be kept plenty busy.

aerial view Bay of Islands

We’ve started organising ourselves for the trip, we’ve rented our place out here through Airbnb, and will let you know how it goes once we arrive.

Penang island, Malaysia

Penang island in Malaysia is a fascinating place. There is a whole mind-boggling history to this tiny island which has been a hotspot for trade, imports, exports and a melting pot for Chinese, European and Indian cultures as well as the local Malays of course. Nowadays, the main city on the island, Georgetown, is a UNESCO heritage city which boasts impressive and treasured graffiti, distinct neighbourhoods belonging to each of the island’s ethnic groups, a massive range of temples, mosques and churches, and a vibrant nightlife and tourist scene.

27-2722-8ZZND00Z

When I went there I stayed in a beautiful hotel called the Yeng Keng hotel which boasted a distinctly Chinese oriented theme, incredibly friendly staff, a pool, comfortable beds and an incredible breakfast. It’s a modest price but when you compare the price to what you’d get back in Europe… the facilities here win hands down. Also, the location is incredible convenient with all the city’s attractions being within walking distance from the hotel.

The city itself is clean and full of life. One thing that always amazes me about Malaysia is the close proximity with which people live alongside other races and cultures. It’s fantastic and I love seeing such an integration. That being said, after spending some time mixing with local people, it seems there are many troubles and cultural barriers which exist beneath the exterior of integration and peaceful cohabitation. This story shows how the mixing of cultures can leave the population with a feeling of detachment and disembodiment – no fixed identity to call their own. I hope this feeling will give rise to further artistic endeavors in the future.

Penang island really is a wonderful place where so many great people mix, a true microcosm of the world.

This post was made possible by Ferratum UK. Basically, I had to get out of the country but was completely stuck for cash while I waited for my next pay day to arrive. Sometimes itchy feet just can’t be satisfied and Ferratum provided a hassle free way for me to get my hands on some cash in order to make the trip I needed so much. It’s a great, quick, stress-free service and I’d urge anybody with similar itchy feet to use it.

Tioman Island, Malaysia

As you’ll know I love any opportunity to test out my sea legs. It reminds me of an incredibly happy and blessed childhood and why I wanted to have kids in the first place, so I can share with them the charms and joys of moving on the open sea, visiting unfamiliar countries and learning all their is know from the people living there. This week I want to write about a favourite island of mine – Tioman.

Situated off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia, Tioman is a small picturesque island home to a thriving community and visited by tourists almost all year round to check out the turtle sanctuaries, white sand beaches, jungle treks, surfing competitions and world-class scuba diving.

marine-park-snorkeling

During my many stays on the island I’ve trekked between the many ‘kampongs’ (which means ‘village’ in the local Malay language) and relaxed for hours on end having my toes kissed by the soft waves of the sea. Despite the island attracting some negative press lately owing to a terribly tragic incident involving a British volunteer, the island’s people are soldiering on and still welcoming tourists with open arms and kitchens. The food is outstanding, the beer is cheap (the island enjoys duty-free status) and the wildlife is aplenty. On my most recent visit there I met a man who lived on one of the hills who claimed the be over 100 years old. Spending time here always turns up new places, people and pastimes. It’s impossible to be bored! I’ll be back again for sure.

Holidays are here

So its that time of year again. School is out and the kids are home for 6 whole weeks, getting bored and driving you mad! So there is only one thing for it. Get out of the country. Whether its adventure, beaches or city breaks the world is a big place and there is always something for everyone. So here is a link to the latest guide from my favourite paper The Telegraph – hope it inspires you for your next magical journey!

 

 

 

Imagear agai

Greek Paradise

One of my favourite places to sail is Greece. With 1400-plus islands floating in the Aegean and Ionian Seas they are ripe for exploration.

Image

Greece is known for its sunshine- with roughly 300 days of sunshine a year- for a Brit this is unheard of!

For me being free on a boat is the best way to build our own holiday at your own pace. You can stop when and where you want. Feel the wind in you hair and then hit the shore for some snorkeling or dine on some meze and watch the sunset. Plus with a boat and the clear blue sea- there is no need to find your own hotel and swimming pool- the ocean is your private pool!

My favourites include Mykonos and Corfu. Of course the latter has had a bit of a bad reputation due to the influx of stag and hen do’s. But trust me as a family we have a great time here. With plenty of sun, sand and surf.

Of course one of the main ways to entertain the whole family is watersports. Whether you want the adrenaline rush of a jet ski, or parasail or the more sedate pedalos all these can be found in Corfu. 

Image

Beaches in Corfu can be diverse- some are sandy but research first as some are pebbled which can be a disappointment when you’ve promised the kids an afternoon of sandcastle building!

If watersports are too energetic we find anther great way to enjoy the shoreline is by ‘hoof’. Donkeys if you’re an amateur but for the braver horses can also be hired.

If you fancy something more challenging and want a day away from the sea, try scaling the highest mountain in Corfu Mount Pantokrator or travel to the viewpoint of Kanoni, for a spectacular view of the island.

There is also a glass-bottomed boat from the old port which for those who do not want to scuba- gives a great show of the underwater world of corfu.