Portmeirion Village: The Italianate Resort Not To Miss in Portmeirion Wales

Portmeirion Village: The Italianate Resort Not To Miss in Portmeirion Wales

Stepping into Portmeirion in Wales was like crossing the border into a fantasyland. Impossibly pretty and somewhat unreal. I knew I was still in Britain (cloudy skies, chill in the air) but the colors and architecture of Portmeiron village were the pastel-candy hues I associated with the Mediterranean (and gelato!). Of course, Portmeirion Wales had to be the creation of a rich English architect. I can imagine Portmeirion Italian village is exactly Prince Charles’ cup of tea – pretty and traditional. Despite our misgivings, we were charmed by the idyllic location of the Portmeirion Hotel located on the edge of the water, the Portmeirion cottages sprinkled throughout the village and the little green Portmeirion train chugging through the woodland. You’d have to be a real grump not to be enveloped in this Italian coastal fantasy.

Portemeirion History

The grand vision of architect Clough Wiliam-Ellis, Portmerion village was built as an homage to his love of another coastal village, Portofino in Italy.  He wanted to show how to develop an area while still keeping it beautiful. Built over 50 years (1925-1975), the entirety of Portmeiion village is Grade II listed.

The Portmeirion entry free goes towards the upkeep of Portmeirion Village.

Lonely Planet listed Portmeirion in Wales as a top destination on its Ultimate Travelist for the entire world. It gets over 200,000 visitors every year!

Portmeirion Italian village in style, but the British crest lets you know where you are.

Frank Lloyd Wright (of Welsh ancestry) came to visit Portmeirion Wales in 1956. Needless to say, it is a very popular place for weddings and other celebrations in North Wales.

Somehow the pastel colors of sun-drenched Italy still works in somewhat grey North Wales.

Things To Do In Portmeirion Wales

You won’t run out of things to do in Portmeirion Wales. With its  its close proximity to Snowdonia National Park, even the most hard-core outdoors person will find themselves happily occupied. With so many things to do in Portmerion Wales both in the village complex as well as outside, Portmeirion in Wales is a great destination for a multi-generational holiday.

Check out the reviews for Portmeirion on TripAdvisor.

The Portmeirion map shows how convenient the whole site is.

Walks

Portmeiron in Wales is set amongst 70 acres of forests set with 20 miles of walking paths for communing with nature. In addition to the general walks, there are specific coastal walks and woodland walks, each of which would take you about 30-40 minutes.

Woodland walks in Portmeirion, North Wales

During the summer months a little Portmeirion train goes on a tour of the woodland.

The sweet little Portmeirion train.

Explore Portmeirion in Wales on your own and there are charming little treasures hidden for you to find in its woodland, like a Dog Cemetery and a Chinese Lake with its little blue pagoda.

Doesn’t this red bridge just pop amidst the woodland setting?

Fun Fact!  There are 70 varieties of Rhodoendron planted at Portmeirion North Wales!
Set on a peninsula near Snowdonia National Park, Portmeirion in Wales is blessed with a good micro-climate. The Portmeirion Italianate village, however, still does not get as good weather as the Italian Riviera!

The Chinese Lake at Portmeirion because Italian in Wales isn’t multicultural enough.

Food and Drink

There is a good array of options for eating and drinking at Portmeiron Italian village for both casual meals and fine dining. The Portmeirion Hotel restaurant is especially known for elegant meals. Kid-friendly options at Portmeirion restaurants include a pizzeria and gelateria.

In Portmeirion North Wales, it’s gelato not the usual British Mr. Whippy soft serve ice cream.

The Beach

There’s a gorgeous white sandy beach that is created when the tide goes out at Dwyryd Estuary at Portmeirion Wales. It’s great for kids to have a play. High tide times are clearly marked so you do need to be careful. Down by the shore as well is the Amis Reunis a stone boat that children can clamber around.

Portmeirion Pottery History

Portmeirion is famous for its pottery which was founded by Clough William-Ellis’ daughter, Susan. She set up Portmeirion Pottery in 1960 so that visitors to Portmeirion Italian village could purchase souvenirs of their visit. Pottery is a very English souvenir!

Charming botanicgarden teacups available at the Portmeirion outlet store.

Portmeirion Botanic Garden is one of Portmeirion Pottery’s iconic ranges and based on 19th century English prints. Portmeirion Botanic Garden is one of the ranges available at the Seconds Shop, a Portmierion outlet store near the entrance. This Portmierion outlet also sells some of the newer ranges by British designers like Ted Baker and Sophie Conran.

Fun Fact!  Portmeirion Pottery is now based in Stoke-on-Trent, the home of British pottery. It now owns other big-name English potteries, such as Spode and Royal Worcester.

Shopping

There are several small shops to visit including a small well-curated bookshop, a boutique, an art gallery, and a Welsh products store. You know Portmeirion Italian village is geared towards multi-generational visitors because there are lots of things a doting grandparent/aunt/uncle etc would buy for children.

All the fresh air and exercise means you deserve a cup of tea (in Portmeirion Botanic Garden cups naturally) and a scone.

Mermaid Spa

The Mermaid Spa has a full-range of wellness facilities and vegan, all-natural treatment options. It’s location gives a divine view over the estauary below.

A view of the estuary through the trees at Portmeirion in Wales.

Portmeirion Festival

Every June, the Portmeirion Festival turns the Portmeirion Italianate village turns into a festival fantasy land with Festival No. 6. The name for the Portmeirion festival comes from the British cult TV show, The Prisoner, which was filmed in Portmeirion.

Human chess is played at the Portmeirion Festival in a nod to a scene from The Prisoner.

The Portmeirion festival has musical gigs, arts and cultural events, family-friendly activities, and even a street food village. Everything at the Portmierion festival isn’t all clean-cut health and well-being though – there’s a rave in the wood for your hard-core partiers.

Portmeirion Accommodation

Portmeiron is a perfect place to stay since pretty much the entire village is either self-catering cottages or hotel rooms. Plenty of people visit Portmeirion for a day trip. If you stay in Portmeirion accommodation though you will have the run of the place long after the tourists are gone.

The hotels all offer parking. You definitely need a car to appreciate this part of Wales.

Accommodation in Portmeirion

You have two choices for accommodation in Portmeirion. Both four-star hotels in Portmerion Wales have family-friendly accommodation available.

Portmeirion Hotel Wales

The Portmeirion Hotel, is an adaptation of an old manor house. Portmeirion Hotel has a charming outdoor heated pool open in the summer months and a seaside location with a sandy beach by the main building. Hotel Portmeirion Wales is the brainchild of Clough William-Ellis himself.

Check out the reviews for Portmeirion Hotel on TripAdvisor

The rooms are spread out amongst the Portmeirion Hotel main building, rooms in Portmeirion village itself and Portmeirion cottages to rent on the grounds. The Portmeirion Hotel Wales can accommodate families in some of its accommodation. For example, the Portmeirion holiday cottages can accommodate groupss that range from 3-9 guests.

Portmeiron cottages are available to rent through the Portmeiron Hotel

The Portmeirion hotel restaurant is the acknowledged fine dining establishment for the village with its Art Deco interior.

For the latest rates at Portmeiron Hotel Wales, here are a selection of hotel booking sites: booking.com  expedia.com  Hotels.com  

 

Portmeirion Castle

The Portmeirion Castle, Castell Deudraeth, is the modern version of historical Portmeirion accommodation (if that makes sense!). Castell Deudraeth Hotel is a Victorian folly that’s been converted to a contemporary-style hotel. The restaurant at Castle Deudraeth feels more like a gastro-pub and overlooks a beautiful little walled garden.

Check out the reviews for the Portmeirion Castle Deudraeth Hotel on TripAdvisor

There’s a mini-bus that runs from the Portmeirion Castle and Hotel Portmeirion because the Portmeirion Castle is accommodation near Portmeirion but not in the village itself.

For the latest rates at the Portmeiron Castle, here are a selection of hotel booking sites: booking.com  expedia  Hotels.com  

Accommodation Near Portmeirion

Thanks to the compact nature of Portmeirion Wales, you may need to find accommodation near Portmeirion if the Portmeirion hotel options are booked.

Royal Sportsman Hotel is located nearby in Porthmadog which is 2 miles away from Portmeirion Wales. Rated a 3 star hotel, this accommodation near Portmeirion has 28 guest rooms.

Check out the reviews for the Royal Sportsman Hotel on TripAdvisor.

For the latest rates at the Royal Sportsman Hotel, here are a selection of hotel booking sites:  booking.com  expedia  Hotels.co  

Tudor Lodge is a family run guesthouse in Porthmadog as well. They have a range of rooms from singles to doubles as well as a separate cottage.

Check out the reviews for Tudor Lodge on TripAdvisor.

For the latest rates at the Tudor Lodge, here are a selection of hotel booking sites:  booking.com  expedia  Hotels.com  

Portmeirion Camping

Dina’s Camping, Glamping and Caravan Park is an option for you Portmeirion Festival goers who go the traditional festival camping route.

Check out the reviews for Dina’s Camping, Glamping and Caravan Park on TripAdvisor.

For the latest rates at Dina’s Camping, here are a selection of accommodation booking sites:  booking.com  Hotels.com  

You can find Portmeirion camping sites courtesy of this map from the Camping and Caravanning club.

Please note that there is no wild camping in Snowdonia National Park so stick to Portmeirion camping in legit places!

Visting Portmeirion Village

Owned by a charity, the Portmeirion entry fee charged at the entrance goes towards its upkeep. Portmeirion Village is open daily for visitors.

Exactly the architecture you’d expect from Portmeirion Italianate village.

You can buy day tickets (currently the Portmeirion entry fee comes to £11 for adults with a concession for children). Children under 5 go free. There are also family tickets (including a very progressive single adult family ticket option).

SPREAD THE WORD! PIN THIS TO YOUR TRAVEL PINTEREST BOARDS FOR FUTURE REFERENCE!

Portmeirion Village: An Italian coastal resort recreated in Portmeirion in Wales

Portmeirion Village: The Italianate Resort Not To Miss in Portmeirion Wales

 

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A Roadtrip to the Seven Sisters Cliffs From London (+ 7 Things To Do In Eastbourne)

A Roadtrip to the Seven Sisters Cliffs From London (+ 7 Things To Do In Eastbourne)

What is it about the English countryside? Why is the beauty so much more than visual? Why does it touch one so?

– Dodie Smith, I Capture The Castle

This quote from one of my favourite books (and movies) expresses the more-ness that is the English countryside. Sure it’s pretty but there’s also centuries of history and tradition inextricably woven into the fabric of what you see. When we recently took a road trip to the Seven Sisters Cliffs from London with our Europcar rental car, we were struck again by how very long the landscape has existed and how very small we are in comparison. Beachy Head, The Seven Sisters Cliffs, Birling Gap – the entire South Coast has seen the arrival of William the Conqueror in 1066, the destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the non-invasion of Napoleon and Hitler. Events jump in spans of hundreds of years. The South Coast may be eroding slowly but it will outlast us all.

Sunset over the Marine Parade sign.

Sunset over the Marine Parade sign in Eastbourne.

Days Out in East Sussex

As much as we love London, heading out into the English countryside is a real treat. There’s a lot to be said for fresh country air and wide open spaces. A lot of England is accessible by public transport, but we are definitely road trippers! It’s just a lot easier (and often cheaper) to have your own transport when you are travelling with children, too. You are on your own schedule and can make stops as you choose.

Europcar’s Long Term Car Hire

We were invited to participate in Europcar’s long term car hire program. This program is super flexible and available at every Europcar in the UK.  It lets you rent a car for 28+ days at more affordable rates than the usual rental but with more flexibility than owning/leasing. In addition, with one month’s notice you can switch out your car if your needs change.

We had a Volkswagen Golf in London through the Europcar long term program which is a great city car. It’s the right size for running errands and squeezing into small parking spots.

Trading Cars The Easy Way

There are times though when a big car can come in useful. We traded in our Volkswagon Golf for a 7 seater Sharan. Europcar have a delivery and pick up program so the exchange was done in front of our house which was superconvenient. I’m so busy that I don’t know if I’d even get around to changing a car if it wasn’t so easy!

A Europcar UK representative will deliver/pick up the car for free.

A Europcar UK representative will deliver/pick up the car for free.

 

We used the Sharan for running some of our bigger errands in London (such as an Ikea trip!), taking visiting friends to the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show and going on a road trip.

We went on a long weekend away to the South Coast and the South Downs National Park. I’ve got a family of bikers so with the extra space we were able to throw our bikes in the back along with our luggage. As any veteran road tripper knows, getting somewhere is as much fun as the destination itself!

The great thing about a road trip is that you can throw as much as you can fit into the back fo a car! (really handy with kids!)

The great thing about a road trip is that you can throw as much as you can fit into the back fo a car! (really handy with kids!)

 

7 Things To Do in Eastbourne

One of the things we take for granted today as a summer ritual, the beach vacation, started only in Victorian times. The Victorian seaside holiday transformed towns such as Brighton and Eastbourne.  When the fashionable people decided it was healthier to visit the shoreline instead of taking the waters at a spa town like Bath, everyone else soon followed.

Eastbourne has the unfair reputation for being a sedate town suited for an elderly population. This reputation was gently mocked in the hilarious coming-of-age book  Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging where 14 year old Georgia lives in Eastbourne and moans that nothing exciting ever happens to her.

Fun Fact!  Filming for the movie, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging was done along the Eastbourne pier and seafront but the house the family lived in was actually located in nearby Brighton.
Like many seaside towns, Eastbourne does attract older folks (just like Florida!)

Like many seaside towns, Eastbourne does attract older folks (just like Florida!)

Don’t trust conventional wisdom! There’s lots to do in this charming town for everyone.

Marine Parade

Marine Parade is a seafront road with lots of hotels and cafes. The buildings in this area were built between 1790 and 1840.

One of the hotels on Marine Parade had an old-fashioned Victorian bathing machine on display which my kids found fascinating. Victorian ladies would be wheeled down into the water in this machine by horses so that they could get into the sea with modesty intact.

A restored Victorian beach wagon shows how ladies used to bathe in the sea.

A restored Victorian beach wagon shows how ladies used to bathe in the sea.

 

Eastbourne Pier

Eastbourne Pier has been blown away by storms, exploded by mines, and ravaged by fire but it’s still standing! The original opened in 1870 but what you see now is the latest 2015 incarnation. Some of the attractions include a fish and chips store (naturally!), a Victorian tea room, a jazz lounge and assorted entertainment events.

Eastbourne Pier in all of its ornate Victorian glory.

Eastbourne Pier in all of its ornate Victorian glory.

 

Eastbourne Beach

The Eastbourne beaches are pebble beaches. There’s a wide swathe of beach right in front of Marine Parade so you don’t need to venture too far. On the other side of Eastbourne Pier there is also the Grand Parade beach.

We saw the most charming contemporary little beach huts at Eastbourne Beach. Our favourite beach hut was on a revolving device so you could move the beach hut view to suit your needs. The exterior had an outdoor shower. The interior had a little kitchen, sitting area and lofted sleeping area. You can rent it for a very reasonable £45/day (£50 in July/August).

A very non-traditional beach hut that you can rent.

A very non-traditional beach hut that you can rent.

 

Little Chelsea

Little Chelsea is a trendy area in Eastbourne for eating  and shopping conveniently located near the Eastbourne train station. Although not a very big area, it’s got a charming selection of delis, cafes and boutiques.

My kids consider ice cream a main food group in the summer.

My kids consider ice cream a main food group in the summer.

 

Redoubt Fortress

The Eastbourne Redoubt was built in the early 19th century as part of the country’s defence against a possible invasion by Napoleon. By the time construction was finished though, the threat of an invasion had passed. During World War I, the redoubt was used by military police and during World War II, it was used for storage.

When they saw this unexploded mine at Eastbourne Redoubt, my kids couldn’t believe how big it was.

When they saw this unexploded mine at Eastbourne Redoubt, my kids couldn’t believe how big it was.

 

Nowadays, the parade area and the top of the fortress are open to the public free of charge. There is a small military museum which does charge admission.

Eastbourne Annual Events

The Eastbourne Open is held annually in June at the Devonshire Park Lawn Tennis Club near Eastbourne town center. The Eastbourne International usually gets a few big names and is the last grass court tournament before Wimbledon. For example, this year Andy Murray played at Eastbourne as part of his comeback from injury.

Sadly, Andy Murray did not fare well at the Eastbourne international tennis tournament.

Sadly, Andy Murray did not fare well at the Eastbourne international tennis tournament.

 

Every year in August, Airbourne is also the Eastbourne International Airshow. There’s free entry and a 2 mile display along the Eastbourne coast with big name RAF and international flying display squads such as the Red Arrows.

7 Places To Visit Near Eastbourne

All of these places are in the South Downs National Park. The South Downs National Park covers 3 counties in England and runs from the cities of Winchester to Eastbourne. The national park covers over 1600 square kilometres of area where over 110,000 people live. Over 85% of the South Downs is farmland.

An itinerary for a weekend in the South Downs near Eastbourne

An itinerary for a weekend in the South Downs near Eastbourne

 

Beachy Head East Sussex

Beachy Head East Sussex is the UK’s highest white chalk sea cliffs (not the white cliffs of Dover!). It’s appeared in films (such as James Bond and Harry Potter) and on television commercials. In fact, the Beachy Head cliff is often a stand in for the Dover Cliffs because they are bigger and whiter.

There are lots of beautiful coastal exploring to be done on Beachy Head walks.

There are lots of beautiful coastal exploring to be done on Beachy Head walks.

 

Seven Sisters Cliffs and Country Park

The Seven Sisters are chalk cliffs on the South Downs National Park that run from Eastbourne to Seaford. There are technically now 8 sisters because the erosion of one cliff has created another one.  You get the best views of the Seven Sisters cliffs from Seaford Head.

Fun Fact! Coastal erosion means that the Seven Sisters erode by an average of 0.4m annually and Birling Gap by 0.7m. 

The Seven Sisters Country Park is 280 hectares of cliffs, parkland and river valley. It’s great for walking and cycling. There’s a cafe behind the Visitor’s Center which is located across the road from the entrance to the country park.

The Seven Sisters Cliffs have also been subject to coastal erosion.

The Seven Sisters Cliffs have also been subject to coastal erosion.

Birling Gap

Run by the National Trust, Birling Gap is perfect for walking along the cliffs and for playing on the beach. You get to the beach by a staircase from the cliff. Kids will enjoy fossil hunting (remember the Jurassic Coast is a bit further West along the English Channel) and exploring the rock pools that form when the tide goes out.

Coastal erosion has caused the breach at Birling Gap.

Coastal erosion has caused the breach at Birling Gap.

 

Friston Forest

Friston Forest is perfect for walkers and for cyclists. The two walking trails are easy to do with children and not very long (between 1- 1.5 miles). The mountain biking is more challenging but there is an easier family route you can take.

Friston Forest is a woodland gem to explore.

Friston Forest is a woodland gem to explore.

 

Alfriston East Sussex

Alfriston is a village in the Cuckmere Valley which is pretty as a picture. In fact, it was included in The Telegraph Travel’s list of England’s prettiest villages.

Alfriston may be a small village but in true English style, has several pubs. In front of the George Inn, there is a masthead from one of the ships of the Spanish Armada that locals salvaged. The town is also the site of the very first National Trust property ever purchased, a 14th century thatched clergy house.

Fun Fact! The hymn “Morning Has Broken” was written in Alfriston about the village in 1931 and reached worldwide fame in the 1970’s when sung by Cat Stevens.
This house in Alfriston is almost impossibly pretty.

This house in Alfriston is almost impossibly pretty.

Drusilla’s Zoo

Drusilla’s Zoo is a theme park for young children near the village of Alfriston East Sussex which is perfect for young children.

There is a zoo with lots of interactive exhibits as well as animal exhibits that kids will enjoy – penguins, meerkats, butterflies, snakes etc.  In addition, there is a large play area where kids can run around and let off steam. A dedicated Hello Kitty area will delight all fans of this cute Japanese export.

Drusilla’s Park is perfectly sized and themed for young children.

Drusilla’s Park is perfectly sized and themed for young children.

 

It reminds me of Sesame Place in the USA but more educational and with less water.  You can easily spend an entire day here and leave with happy, tired children.

Pevensey Castle

You are reminded that you are in 1066 country at Pevensey Castle. Pevensey was where William the Conqueror landed in 1066 changing the course of English history forever. We are talking 1600 years of history here! Although in ruins, the Castle is still majestic and is run by English Heritage.

The ruins of Pevensey Castle have seen a mind-boggling 1600 years of history!

The ruins of Pevensey Castle have seen a mind-boggling 1600 years of history!

 

Practical Information

Where To Stay

Be aware that accommodation in Eastbourne and the surrounding area does fill up quickly because it is a popular domestic vacation spot.

You can stay in pretty little Belle Tout Lighthouse which is a bed & breakfast near Beachy Head where the rooms have stunning views. There is a minimum 2 night stay.

The best hotel to stay in Eastbourne is the 5 star Grand Hotel. It’s located on the side of Eastbourne that’s closest to Beachy Head and near the popular dining and shopping area of The Meads.

The Grand Hotel was full and so we stayed at York House, Best Western. Our room was huge even with a Queen bed, a single bed and a sofa bed. We had a room overlooking the sea and fell asleep to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore.

Where To Eat

The Crown and Anchor is a pub on Marine Parade which not only serves food but also offers live music on the weekends.

Fusciardi Ice Cream Parlour on Marine Parade serves more than delicious ice cream. You can get breakfast there as well as simple dinners like jacket potatoes and sandwiches.

Italian food seems to be a winner in Eastbourne. There’s also La Locanda del Duca for a fancy Italian meal and its more casual sister restaurant, Pomodoro e Mozzarella.

Cuckmere Inn has good views of the Seven Sisters Country Park and also offers outside seating.

How To Get There

You can drive to Eastbourne and its environs from London relatively easily. From the M25 ring road, take the M23 which becomes the A23. At Brighton take the A27 which goes all the way to Eastbourne.

Although Eastbourne has a train station, you definitely need a car to visit the South Downs easily.

The glorious coastline of the South Downs National Park

The glorious coastline of the South Downs National Park

This post was written in partnership with Europcar. This site generates income via partnerships with carefully-curated travel and lifestyle brands and/or purchases made through links to them at no extra cost to you. More information may be found on our Disclosure Policy.

The Top 10 Things to Do (Including Free Things To Do) in Malaga with Kids

The Top 10 Things to Do (Including Free Things To Do) in Malaga with Kids

If you just fly into the airport at Malaga and go onto its more ritzy neighbours like Marbella and Puerto Banus, you are missing the delightful city of Malaga itself. The Costa del Sol with kids is fabulous – you really can’t go wrong with the sun and sand formula for a family vacation. When you tire of these most famous of the Costa del Sol attractions at the hotels and mansions in Spain, head back into the city of Malaga for some great food and culture.

Malaga’s attractions are family-friendly, too. There are plenty of things to do in Malaga with kids, especially older children. Malaga’s family-friendly attractions include lots of historic buildings and charming side streets full of shops and cafes. There are also quite a few free things to do in Malaga that children will enjoy such as sampling their way through food markets and checking out the fabulous street art.

Things To Do in Malaga with Kids

Here are choice of 10 things to do in Malaga with kids:

For Junior Culture Vultures

In terms of culture you have a choice of famous structures dating back to the Romans and the Moors as well as a handful of good museums.

Malaga Spain has a charming historic district with structures dating back to Roman times

Malaga Spain has a charming historic district with structures dating back to Roman times

Historic Buildings and Architecture

The majority of the remains of the Gibralfaro Castle are its impressive ramparts which kids will love exploring. It was built in the 10th century by the caliph of Cordoba.

The Gibralfaro Castle was captured during the Reconquest by Ferdinand and Isabella after a 3 month siege. Unfortunately the Spanish were not in a forgiven mood and the entire Moorish population of Malaga were put to death or enslaved,

Fun Facts – The Siege of Malaga was the first battle where both sides used gunpowder in battle. Also, this siege was the first time special vehicles to transport victims (i.e., ambulances) were used.

The Alcazaba is an 11th century Moorish palace and fortress built on the ruins of a Roman predecessor. It’s the best preserved Moorish fortress in Spain.

Another plus point? Once you’ve climbed up to the Gibralfaro you’ll have a terrific view over the city.

The view of Malaga from the hilltop above.

The view of Malaga from the hilltop above.

The Roman Theatre was built in the 3rd century and is located pretty much at the bottom of the Alcazaba fortress. The theatre was built by the Romans under Emperor Augustus in the first century B.C.. After the Romans left, the Moors repurposed some of the stones from the theatre for the Alcazaba.

Malaga Cathedral was built over the Mosque that stood in its place when Ferdinand and Isabella conquered Malaga. It’s an impressive structure but was never completed because the project kept running out of money – even though the construction was ongoing over 250+ years!

Fill Up On Fine Art

The Pompidou Centre in Malaga is set in the city’s harbor and the colorful cuboid glass building itself is entrancing. It is the only branch of the Pompidou outside of Paris. It’s got works from the 20th century such as old favourites like Frida Kahlo, Matisse and Rene Magritte.

Set in an old mansion, the Picasso Museum showcases the works of the Malaga-born artist. The museum has works by Picasso donated by his daughter-in-law and grandson. After a redesign in 2017, the museum is arranged in chronological order and houses more than 150+ of Picasso’s works.

The Picasso Museum is the most visited museum in Andalusia! Remember not to mix it up with Casa Natal which is Picasso’s actual birthplace and has only a small exhibition dedicated to him.

Deep in thought at the Picasso Museum in Malaga

At the Picasso Museum, my son is caught deep in thought. You get a handset that explains works in the museum.

For Foodie Families

Tapas Bar Hopping

In the historic centre, you can spend hours going from tapas bar to tapas bar. We visited quite a few tapas bars, mostly nameless. We did go to El Pimpi one of the more famous tapas bars in the historic district which was frequented by many celebrities, including the Picasso family (surprise!).

The Mercado Merced

Located near the house where  Picasso was born, the Mercado Merced located in the Plaza del Merced is a revitalised foodie market where you can find any number of delicious dishes to wile away a lazy lunch.

Hang out in the sunshine with tapas and wine.

Hang out in the sunshine with tapas and wine.

Free Things To Do in Malaga

Playtime at the Beach

The Costa del Sol has over 150 kilometres of coastline so chances are you will find the perfect beach for you.

A beach on the Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol is known for its beautiful beaches and Malaga’s beaches are no exception. Malaga has two blue flag beaches which is the highest rating for excellence you can get in Spain.

One of the fun things to do in Malaga is eat the freshly grilled sardines on the beach.

Grilling sardines on the beach in Malaga

Grilling sardines on the beach

Explore the Old Town

The historic centre of Malaga is easy to walk and fun to explore. It’s got stores, cafes, bars galore.

It’s not all tourist shops either. I found my all-time favourite camera strap at a camera store in this are and have never been able to find something similar elsewhere.

A quiet back street in Malaga

If you go away from the tourist crowds, the back streets of Malaga are charming and crowd-free.

Street Art in Malaga

Malaga has a thriving street art scene because of the efforts of a local artistic initiative called MAUS (Malaga Arte Scene SoHo). This local initiative reminds me of the home-grown efforts in Houston to revitalise an urban area with street art.

A large variety of Malaga’s street art can be found in the up-and-coming arts neighbourhood behind the Center for Contemporary Art. My kids love street art because it’s colorful and witty. And, you don’t have to visit a stuffy art gallery.

Street art in Malaga

Beautiful woman captured as street art. But why are her hands so much darker than her face??

girl posing in front of street art

My daughter can’t resist playing to the camera.

Atarazanas Market

Built in a former shipyard close to Malaga harbor in 1879, Atarazanas Market is a chef’s delight. Like other food markets we have visited, my son loved checking out the market and my daughter was aghast at the smell of fresh fish and meat.

Fresh fish being sold at Atarazanas Market in Malaga

Fresh fish being sold at Atarazanas Market in Malaga

Centre for Contemporary Art

Set in a former warehouse that was the Wholesalers’ Market, the the Centre of Contemporary Art has a fun collection of 20th and 21st artists. It’s a great museum including kid-favourite Damien Hirst and pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. And, it’s totally free!

Nearby Costa del Sol Attractions

So many families come to the Costa del Sol every year that there are some great theme parks located near Malaga.

Theme Parks

My kids have never met a waterpark that they did not like and Aqualand Torremolinos would not prove to be the exception. On a hot sunny day, racing friends on waterslides is one of the best of childhood pleasures.

Tivoli World is an amusement park which has rides that are suitable for younger kids as well as older kids. You can buy ride tickets individually (which quickly adds up and drives me crazy) or an mostly-all-you-can ride pass. Note that there are popular rides that the kids will want to ride (such as bumper cars) that aren’t in the all-you-can-ride pass.

Nothing beats water park fun on a hot day if you are a kid.

Nothing beats water park fun on a hot day if you are a kid.

Visiting Malaga

Malaga is a very easy destination to visit from the United Kingdom and many parts of Europe because of its airport. The airport is modern and easy to navigate. I know – I did it 3x in one day because I had to pick up different people from the airport!

Colorful houses in Malaga Spain

Colorful houses in Malaga Spain

In terms of accommodation, you have a choice of hotels, villas and mansions in Spain as you would expect from such a popular tourist area. We have rented both villas as well as stayed in hotels in Spain. Our kids definitely prefer villa holidays with friends because they have the freedom of a house and pool.

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Don’t Miss Visiting The Thermae Spa Bath in the UK (And Take Your Older Kids Too!)

Don’t Miss Visiting The Thermae Spa Bath in the UK (And Take Your Older Kids Too!)

Can you imagine swimming in rain water that fell 10,000 years ago? The mind boggles. Yet, that is precisely what you are doing when you visit the Thermae Spa Bath in the UK. I am a big fan of spas and my children have visited  thermal spas in Iceland, Japan and Austria, so a visit to the Thermae Spa Bath is right up our alley! The Thermae Bath Spa UK is located in the city of Bath in England. Bath is a beautiful UNESCO world heritage listed location marked by beautiful architecture and renowned through history for the thermal baths that gave the city its name. Located in the historic center of Bath right near its other main attractions, taking a dip in the thermal baths like the Romans did is partaking in a bit of history. Unlike the Georgians though, we don’t recommend you drink the water!

The historic Roman Baths which you can tour.

The historic Roman Baths which you can tour. Then head nearby and try out the hot springs for yourself at Thermae Spa.

Why a Spa Day in Bath?

Some 5 cool reasons to spend a spa day in Bath at the Thermae Spa:

  • Bath is one of the great European spa cities like Baden Baden in Germany and Montecatini Terme in Italy.
  • You will be participating in something that has happened at this site since before even the Romans came to Britain! It really is at the same water as the historic Bath Roman baths spa nearby.
  • Bath got its UNESCO world heritage listing thanks to its famous bath waters and the Georgian buildings created to enjoy them.
  • You get to have a nice relaxing time AND partake in history at the Thermae Bath Spa UK. How many places can you do that??
  • Your body will feel rejuvenated and muscles that you didn’t even know were aching will feel better.
The Cross Springs Spa

The Cross Springs Spa | Bath England Spa #BathUK #BathEngland #visitUK #UKwithkids #England #cityofBath #England #thermalbaths

Where’s The Water Come From?

Geothermal activity created three springs that came to the surface in Bath. The springs bring forth rain water that fell thousands of years ago and then sank to a couple of kilometres below the Earth’s surface. No one actually knows the exact location of the source of the springs.

Fun Fact: Each day the 3 springs churn out over 1 million litres of water! That’s a whole lot of rainwater that fell 10,000 years ago. If you thought it rained in England during modern times…

A Very Brief History of Bath Spa

The Thermae Bath spa is a tradition that goes back over 2000 years. It’s a city that grew in fits and starts with the periods of history jumping jerkily over hundreds of years as if the intervening years were the blink of an eye. Coming from a country like the USA which is only a few hundred years old, it’s amazing to think about this time line.

The Legend of the Leper Prince

First lets start with the founding legend of the city of Bath.

There was Prince Biadud, the son of the King of the Britons sometime in the 9th century BC. He came down with leprosy and got cast out of the kingdom. So he works as a swineherd until he has a Eureka moment. He sees his pigs get cured of scabies when they roll around the mud of the hot springs in Bath. He decides to wallow in mud himself and gets cured.

Returning leprosy-free to his father, he eventually becomes the 9th King of the Britons and goes on to father Kin g Lear (he of Shakespeare fame). Prince Bladud ’s so happy he creates the city of Bath.

We saw a statue of Prince Biadud at Cross Bath Spa who was fittingly watching over the bathers.

Prince Bialud sneaks a peek from behind the ivy

Prince Bialud sneaks a peek from behind the ivy

Enter the Romans

Fast foward to the Romans who did love their hot baths. In 70 AD, the Romans created the baths and a temple to Minerva at Bath. The Romans leave Britain in 410 AD and the Saxons take over.

There’s a few hundred years of decline in Bath’s fortunes until Edgar is crowned as King of England in 973AD at Bath Cathedral. Sadly that did not mean Bath’s fortunes rose again anytime soon though.

Quacks, Royals and Socialites

In the mid-16th century a Dr. Turner wrote about the medicinal benefits of bathing in Bath. Intrigued, Queen Elizabeth I visited in 1574, and was pleased enough to make Bath an official city. Assorted royals  and their courtiers visited the city over the next 100 years, including the openly Catholic Mary of Modena.

Mary (married to the equally Catholic James II) couldn’t have a child but became miraculously pregnant after visiting the baths at Bath. Unfortunately, that child sparked the Glorious Revolution because the English did not want another Catholic king. The royal family got sent off to France and the English put James II’s more acceptable  Protestant daughter Mary (and her husband William) on the throne.

Wow!  Bath’s thermal waters were indirectly responsible for regime change in Britain!

Back in Bath, the Royal Family still favoured the city. Along with the royals came the aristocracy for spa breaks in Bath. The 18th and early 19th centuries saw the heyday of Bath and its baths. Jane Austen and her family came to Bath and catapulted the city into literary history.

There is evidence that Jane Austen’s father and brothers bathed in the same Cross Spa where we bathed! How cool is that??

The Royal Mineral Bath Hospital on one of the side streets near Thermae Spa

The Royal Mineral Bath Hospital on one of the side streets near Thermae Spa

Decline and Fall

Bath fell out of favour in the late 19th century when the British discovered their love of the great seaside resorts like Brighton and the Isle of Wight. Although the baths at Bath had lost their luster, too, they were used as a rehabilitation centre by the UK military and the NHS.

In 1978, the spa was closed because it was in such bad shape.

The Phoenix Rises

After a multi-million dollar renovation, the Thermae Bath Spa UK was opened in its present form in 2006.

Bath stone and columns mark the entrance to the Thermae Spa

Bath stone and columns mark the entrance to the Thermae Spa

The Thermae Bath Spa Bath

The facade of the building may be Grade 1 listed but everything inside is state of the art and modern. The building is a masterclass in how old and new architecture can work together. It is constructed to be 6 stories in the back although you wouldn’t know it from the front facade which is a 4 story town house and shop premises.

The Pools at the Thermae Spa

There is an indoor Minerva Bath which is the largest the pools. It’s got massage jets, whirlpool and even a lazy river! Available for your use at both pools are blue swim noodles so you really don’t even need to make an effort to even float. That’s my kind of lazy.

The open-air rooftop pool offers divine views over Bath city and you can even get a peek at the Cross Bath nearby.

An aerial view of the Cross Bath Spa

An aerial view of the Cross Bath Spa (to the right of the photo) as seen from the Royal Spa.

The Water

The thermal water contains over 40 different types of minerals. The four baths at the Thermae maintain a water temperature of 33.5 degrees Centigrade (92 degrees Fahrenheit). Nice and toasty even for the rooftop pool!

Fun Fact – The word spa coms from the latin “salus per aquam” which translates as health through water. Now go impress your friends with this random piece of trivia!

Treatment Facilities at the Thermae Spa Bath

There are 26 treatment rooms offering ever over 40 different types of therapies.

For example, you can have a Vichy shower where you lay on a table and shower jets are sprayed over you to enhance circulation and treatment benefits. I had a Vichy shower at Terranea Spa in Los Angeles and it feels wonderful! It is a specialist treatment and not many places have the facilities for a Vichy shower.

Other specialist treatments include Watsu Massage (a form of water massage) and Hot Stones Spa Therapy (where warm volcanic stones are used at pressure points to encourage relaxationf).

There are also the usual massages. body wraps and facials.

At its busiest, such for example the weekends, the Thermae Spa Bath gets over 1000 a people a day. On average though, you get about 700 people a day. During the quieter weekdays, you get about 400-500 people.

Tip  – It is advisable to book well in advance if you want a treatment during weekends.

Check out the great reviews for Thermae Bath spa on Tripadvisor!

Other Amenities

On site at the Thermae Spa Bath, there is a Visitor’s center, a restaurant as well as two boutiques. Everything you could want for a relaxing few hours in this historic city.

Cross Baths in Bath

The Cross Baths Bath is also located in a Grade I listed building. Across the street from the Thermae Spa, the Cross Bath Spa can hold a maximum of 10 people. It can be rented for private parties, proposals etc.

The Cross Bath Spa is located within a grand Grade I listed building.

The Cross Bath Spa is located within a grand Grade I listed building.

The Cross Baths Spa has its own changing rooms and bathroom facilities. You can even arrange for the Thermae Spa to send over a basket of food and drinks if you wish to eat while you are at the spa.

The Cross Spring actually bubbles into the Cross Bath Spa through a stainless steel fountain sculpture by William Bye inscribed with words by former poet laureate, Ted Hughes. The spring water bubbles to the surface and then cleverly gets siphoned off and is gently treated before it enters the Cross Bath spa.

William Bye sculpture that brings the Hot Cross spring water into the bath

William Bye sculpture that brings the Hot Cross spring water into the bath

We can attest that it is entirely relaxing floating on a noodle or two as you listen to the seagulls fly overhead, surrounded by the mellow cream stonework of the city.

In the evenings, the lanterns are lit at the Cross Bath Spa setting a magical scene

In the evenings, the lanterns are lit at the Cross Bath Spa setting a magical scene

My daughter and I were at the Cross Bath Spa with another 3 families. Three of the 10 people would have fit the 12-16 age bracket. I was surprised though to learn that everyone there was from different parts of England. Most were visiting Bath but one mother/daughter duo were specifically on a spa break in Bath.

Where were the international tourists visiting for a spa day in Bath?! What a hidden gem in Bath that they are missing!

Hotels Near Thermae Spa

The Thermae is run by the same people who run the The Gainsborough Bath Spa – Bath” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener”>Gainsborough Bath Spa, a 5 star spa hotel opened in 2015. A member of the Leading Hotels of the World, the Gainsborough Bath Spa has excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. It is a great choice for a Thermae Bath Spa hotel if you want the whole spa package appearance.

We chose to stay at the four star Francis Hotel also conveniently located in the historic center of Bath. It is a charming hotel and very convenienly located. On previous trips to Bath, we have stayed at the No.15 Great Pulteney – Bath” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener”>No 15 Great Pulteney, a 4 star boutique hotel which is in walking distance from the Thermae Bath but over the river that runs through the city.

Children from the age of 12 are allowed in the Cross Springs Spa in Bath England

Children from the age of 12 are allowed in the Cross Springs Spa in Bath England

Visiting the Thermae Bath Spa

You don’t need to make reservations to visit the Thermae Bath Spa but you do need to make reservations for specific treatments.

Location

The Thermae Spa is located right in the historic centre of historic Bath near the Bath Cathedral, the Roman Baths and the Pump Room.

The address is on Hot Bath Street. Yes, really.

Opening Hours

Thermae Bath spa is open every day of the year except 3 days at the end of the year (Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day). The Thermae Bath is open from 9 in the morning to 9:30 at night and the Cross Bath is open from 10 in the morning to 8 pm.

Booking and Entry

You get entry into the Thermae Spa in two hour slots and the Cross Bath in 1.5 hour slots.

Beauty treatments are only available at Thermae Spa. If you book a spa treatment that time is added to your two hour slot. You can also pay at entry for additional hours if you want to stay longer.

Tip: If you want to avoid busy times at the spa, you should choose to go at a time other than the weekends, summer and Christmas. Christmas you say? Yes, because Bath has a wonderful Christmas market which attracts many tourists.

You get complimentary towels, robes and flip-flops upon entry at both the Thermae Spa and the Cross Bath. Note there are only adult sizes for flip flops.

Even the teddy gets a complimentary robe to snuggle up.

Even the teddy gets a complimentary robe to snuggle up.

You can not get multiple access entries that cover both the Thermae Spa and the Cross Bath.

Thermae Bath Spa Offers

Check the Thermae Spa website for special Therme Bath Spa  deals for visitors. Some examples:

  • One  Thermae Bath spa deal offer is for Sunday afternoon  which includes spa access and a meal at the restaurant
  • Another Thermae Bath spa discount offer is the twilight package where you can use the spa during weekdays in the evening. Imagine watching the sunset over Bath from the rooftop pool!
  • You can get also get a Thermae Bath spa discount package that includes the historic Roman Baths, a meal at the Pump Room Restaurant and a session at the Thermae Bath spa. And the best part? It doesn’t all have to be done in one day!

All of these Thermae spa deal offers would be great for tourists to the city who need some R&R after spending time enjoy Bath’s many attractions and walking its nearby hills.

Disabled Access

The spas are accessible for people with disabilities. The Thermae Bath Spa has an elevator for ease of access.  In addition, the pools have special assistance chairs for lowering people into the baths.

Visiting with Older Children

Children over the age of 16 are allowed access to the Thermae Spa but need to be 18 to receive spa treatments. Children from the age of 12 are allowed at the Cross Bath spa on a 1:1 adult/child ratio.

The Cross Bath spa at the Thermae Spa

My daughter enjoyed herself immensely and has gotten a promise from me that we can go to the Royal Bath Spa when she turns 16.

We were guests of the Cross Bath Spa. All thoughts and opinions in this article remain strictly my own.

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Discovering the Delights of Belfast and the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland

Discovering the Delights of Belfast and the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland

Growing up we heard repeatedly on the world news about Northern Ireland — but not in a good way. The strife tearing Northern Ireland apart regularly made international headlines until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Recently Belfast and the Antrim Coast has been chosen to be among the top 10 regions to visit for 2018 by Lonely Planet. Spending a weekend in Belfast and taking a Northern Ireland roadtrip along the the Antrim Coast ensures that you don’t miss all of the best spots in this beautiful part of the world. From Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway, this area has so much to see and do with activities ranging from history, culture to hiking and coastal walks.

Discovering the delights of the Antrim Coast’s Causeway Coastal Route on a Northern Ireland Roadtrip along with a weekend in Belfast #Belfast #NorthernIreland #loveIreland #visitIreland #northernIreland #antrim #causewaycoast #discoverNorthernIreland #giantscauseway

Discovering the delights of the Antrim Coast’s Causeway Coastal Route on a Northern Ireland Roadtrip along with a weekend in Belfast

What is County Antrim?

Most of Belfast, the capitol of Northern Ireland, is in County Antrim, one of the 6 counties that make up Northern Ireland. Antrim, therefore, has the benefit of Northern Ireland’s main airport, Belfast International Airport. Transportation links are great making a weekend in Belfast from London and other European cities completely feasible.

Discovering the delights of the Antrim Coast’s Causeway Coastal Route on a Northern Ireland Roadtrip along with a weekend in Belfast #Belfast #NorthernIreland #loveIreland #visitIreland #northernIreland #antrim #causewaycoast #discoverNorthernIreland #giantscauseway

This majestic tree alley was used as the Dark Hedges in Game of Thrones

County Antrim is actually one of the 2 counties on the island of Ireland that has a Protestant majority. It’s also the most populated county in Northern Ireland with most people located in and around Belfast. It’s located on the northeastern corner of the island of Ireland.

Fun Fact – The northeastern tip of Torr Head in County Antrim is only 12 miles from the coast of Scotland!

Famous people from County Antrim have been writer C.S. Lewis, actor Liam Neeson and musician Van Morrison. Six American presidents had families originated that from County Antrim including Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt.

Discovering the delights of the Antrim Coast’s Causeway Coastal Route on a Northern Ireland Roadtrip along with a weekend in Belfast #Belfast #NorthernIreland #loveIreland #visitIreland #northernIreland #antrim #causewaycoast #discoverNorthernIreland #giantscauseway

The Giants Causeway in County Antrim in Northern Ireland.

Lonely Planet has acknowledged that Northern Ireland has changed dramatically for the better in the last 20 years. County Antrom’s promoted as a tourist area by such a prestigious organisation is great news for a region reinventing itself. Other regions on the Lonely Planet Top 10 regions list for 2108 are Alaska, the Slovenian Alps, Languedoc-Roussillon in France, Bahia in Brazil, Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic, the Kii Peninsula in Japan, the Aeolian Islands of the coast of Sicily, Southern USA and Lahaul and Spiti in India.

Tips for Visiting Belfast and the Antrim Coast

Who better to ask for advice on visiting Belfast and the Antrim Coast than travel bloggers who have been there?  Below are the recommendations and travel tips for Northern Ireland from eleven fellow travel bloggers.

Northern Ireland Roadtrip 

Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, occupies much of the north shore of the Irish coast.  Visiting Northern Ireland is an opportunity to experience nature as well as the unfortunate historical period known as the Troubles.

Any visit to Northern Ireland starts in the capital:  Belfast.  This city is largely divided – representative of the deep divisions in society.  From 1968-1998, the conflict boiled over into intense violence (if not an outright civil war). 

These days, the violence is over, the rhetoric is calmer and the street murals have become internationally famous (particularly in the Shankill Road and Falls Road neighborhoods).  A new era has taken hold in Belfast and “The Peace” is firm.

Despite the sometimes heated rhetoric, Northern Ireland is a beautiful country (or, more accurately, it is a Constituent Country of the UK) and there is a bucolic calmness in the countryside. 

The best way to experience this natural beauty is a drive of the Causeway Coast on the Causeway Coastal Route.  This rough stretch of coastline delivers abandoned castles, smooth Irish whiskey distilleries and lots of unique locations which have become famous as film locations for the Game of Thrones. 

But the Causeway Coast is best known for the other-worldy geological features of the Giant’s Causeway – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The Antrim Coast is extremely beautiful!

With so much to offer, it’s not surprising that Belfast and the Antrim Coast are one of the top travel destinations for 2018.

– Lance and Laura Longwell write at Travel Addicts and on social media at 

Northern-Ireland-Belfast-Troubles-murals-Bobby-Sands

A mural to Bobby Sands in Belfast (Photo credit: Lance and Laura Longwell)

A Weekend in Belfast

Belfast is a city which has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. No longer a place of struggle, it combines a historic city centre with a lively cultural scene that makes it a great short break visit. A weekend in Belfast is a short yet fun way to check out Northern Ireland.

Check out lively St. George’s Market (Fri/Sat/Sun only), with its many arts and crafts stalls and wide selection of food and drink. Pay a visit to Belfast City Hall, where the stained glass windows tell the story of the Troubles of the 20th Century in a powerful way. Entry to both is free.

Wander the streets just outside the city centre to see the many murals recording the struggles, or take a Black Cab tour, in which a local person, either Catholic or Protestant at random, will tell their tale from their own perspective in an intelligent and informative way.

Cross the river to a great view of Samson and Goliath, the two huge yellow cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipbuilding company which are a symbol of the city. And, don’t miss the splendid Titanic Museum, where you can lose yourself for several hours in the history of the ill-fated ship. But, remember, it was fine when it left Belfast …

– by Jill Bowdery at Reading the Book and on social media at 

 

Belfast Northern Ireland

Belfast (Photo credit: Jill Bowdery)

Belfast Titanic Experience

The city of Belfast is also home some of interesting historical monuments like city hall, churches and castles. Walk through the ornate interiors fo the Belfast City Hall or marvel at the architecture of one of the beautiful churches or take a tour of the only Victorian era prison, Crumlin Road Gaol. Belfast has no dearth for architectural wonders.
Belfast also makes for a great base to explore the lush and picturesque countryside of Northern Ireland like the Antrim coast and the Giants Causeway and also explore the all-time favourite “Game of Thrones” shooting locations.
The Titanic Belfast Experience

The Titanic Belfast Experience (Photo credit: Rashmi and Chalukya)

Belfast and the Causeway Coastal Route

A Giant’s Causeway Tour

I still have vivid memories of our time in Northern Ireland, back in 2011.

Londonderry and its city walls were something we could have checked out longer and better if we weren’t dying to go on a Giant’s Causeway tour and visit three gems located so close to each other by the sea.

Those were The Old Bushmills Distillery, Dunluce castle, and the pixellated Giant’s Causeway. All of them great on their own, we arrived at the last one a bit late after shooting the sunset at the castle. Knowing that half an hour wasn’t going to cut it, we headed back to the Causeway next day. It’s eventually possible to take a picture among the loads of tourists that populate the spot in the mornings without getting that much of a headache.

Then, Belfast would be next. Continue reading about our Ireland adventures here.
– Inma Gregorio at A World To Travel You and on social media at
Giants Causeway Northern Ireland

Giants Causeway (Photo credit: Inma Gregorio)

 

A Weekend in Belfast and More of the Antrim Coast

I’ve lived in Belfast for 5 months and if the weather didn’t agree with me, I’m really glad I had the opportunity to discover this part of the world!
If you want a real taste of Northern Ireland, a long weekend is preferable.  A weekend in Belfast is sufficient.
If you’re into political history, I recommend starting with a guided walking tour to learn about the “Troubles” and how it shaped the city.
Don’t hesitate to finish by popping into one or several pubs (check out The Garrick, it has trad music sessions) or one of the more high-end cocktail bars. The culinary scene is pretty surprising too, and very vegan-friendly.
You shouldn’t leave Belfast without visiting the Titanic Museum and strolling around University Quarter (Queens University is gorgeous).
If you have more time after your weekend in Belfast and would like to discover the rest of Northern Ireland, I would recommend one of the Game of Thones tours. You don’t even have to watch the show, but you’ll get to see gorgeous places, including the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and the Giants Causeway. Otherwise take a train in the city center and make your way to one of the beautiful beaches, you won’t regret it!
– by Alice Cardillo from takeyourbag.org and on social media at 
A ruined castle on the Antrim Coast Road, Northern Ireland (

A ruined castle on the Antrim Coast Road, Northern Ireland (Photo credit: Lance and Laura Longwell)

Belfast and A Northern Ireland Roadtrip

Just days after returning from Northern Ireland, Lonely Planet announced it as the best region to visit in 2018. I have to say – I totally understand why!
I was only in Belfast and Northern Ireland for a few days but I instantly fell in love and am already planning a trip back. Belfast is a fascinating and ever-changing city where you can visit the place where the Titanic was built along with the huge museum completely devoted to it and you can explore the Peace Wall and brush up on the devastating and troubling history that has plagued this city.
In Derry, you can walk the only fully intact city walls still standing in Ireland.
My favorite part though was driving the Causeway Coastal Route  and taking in one of the most stunning coastlines I’ve ever seen along the Antrim Coast. Along the Antrim coast, you can see ruined castles, the only UNESCO site in Northern Ireland (Giant’s Causeway) and even find some secret spots along the way. I definitely recommend adding this region to your future travel plans!
– by Ashley Hubbard from A Southern Gypsy and on social media at  

The coast along the Causeway (Photo credit: Ashley Hubbard)

 A Northern Ireland Roadtrip

County Antrim and the Antrim Coast

County Antrim is not only home to one of Northern Ireland’s most beautiful coast lines, but also boasts of sceneries that exceeds any expectations. The scenic view of the Antrim coast is a balance between the blueness of Atlantic Ocean and the lushness of the green surroundings, that almost every direction you turn, beauty is a guaranteed promise. 

Giant’s Causeway is one of the famous stops in County Antrim, known for its otherworldly rock formations from volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. It felt like being in different worlds all at once– like a crossover between Game of Thrones, Jurassic Park, and an outer space movie. 

Speaking of Game of Thrones, County Antrim is known for holding different locations from the popular TV series including Ballintoy Village and The Dark Hedges.

Another gorgeous spot that shouldn’t be missed in the area is the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge near the town of Ballintoy. Whether you’re afraid of heights or not, the view, even without crossing the iconic bridge, is so stunning. The walk along the coast is nothing short of spectacular and no Northern Ireland expedition is complete without this experience.

– by Erica Villas at Girl Unspotted and on social media at 

fields in County Antrim

Fields in County Antrim (Photo credit: Erica Villas)

The Antrim Coast on a  Northern Ireland Roadtrip

If you visit Northern Ireland be sure and (local dialect ;)) take a day to drive the Coast Road in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

The Causeway Costal Route has been touted as one of the best tourist scenic drives in the world! It’s easy to find; just hug the coast as you circumnavigate Northern Ireland.

The best part in my opinion is the stretch heading half an hour north from Belfast: the Antrim Coast Road. This begins at the Black Arch in Larne and continues for an hour up to Ballycastle.

From Ballycastle you are just another 20 minutes drive from some of Northern Ireland’s most famous attractions: the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and the Old Bushmill’s Distillery (Ireland’s oldest working distillery).

Although tempting to get to these exciting attractions as quickly as possible, take the extra hour to enjoy this scenic route instead! It’s only two hours total driving time as compared to driving just one hour from Belfast directly over the inland route.  

– by Erin Hardie at  Downbubble Travels and on social media at  

Giants Causeway Know Before You Go – Coastal Route County Antrim (Photo credit: Erin Hardie

This site generates income via partnerships with carefully-curated travel and lifestyle brands and/or purchases made through links to them at no extra cost to you. More information may be found on our Disclosure Policy.

The Best Things to Do in the Languedoc-Roussillon Region of France

The Best Things to Do in the Languedoc-Roussillon Region of France

Although ever-popular Provence gets all the attention, the neighbouring French region of Languedoc-Roussillon is where the smart money goes to avoid the crowds but still get the French countryside charm. We first discovered the Languedoc accidentally when my husband won a charity auction for a luxury stay at Maison Laurent near Carcassone. We loved it so much we have returned several times including with the kids. We weren’t surprised when Lonely Planet named it among the top 10 regions to visit in the world for 2018, along with Alaska in the USA, the Julian Alps in Slovenia and Bahia in Brasil. It was only a matter of time before everyone discovered the cheaper and less-touristy part of the South of France.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

The Languedoc region has a great mix of history, culture, nature and food and wine.

Like the rest of the South of France, summers in the Languedoc Rouissillon are extremely hot and the winters are mild and comfortable. It’s an easy weekend break from the rest of Europe because French airline manufacturer Airbus is headquartered near Toulouse airport. When our daughter spent a few months studying French in the area, we would visit her on the weekends. We got to know the area just enough to realise that if we were ever to live in France, we would want to live in this region.

Where is the Languedoc-Rouissillon?

 The Languedoc Roussillon is located in the Southwest of France. The region extends from France to the Pyrenees (and borders with Spain and the Mediterranean).
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

A map of the Languedoc Roussillon region. Together with the Midi-Pyrenees next door, the area is now known as Occitanie.

The Languedoc-Roussillon region has been an important area since Roman times.
The Languedoc was its own important kingdom until it got annexed by the kingdom of France after the defeat of the Cathars in the 13th century. The Roussillon section was actually part of Catalonia until it was given to the French in the mid-17th century as part of a larger treaty between Spain and France.

The Cathars

Catharism is a form of Christianity that grew alongside Roman Catholicism during the early years of Christianity. It deviated from Catholicism in several important ways, such as for example, stating that men and women were equal.
In the tolerant and liberal Languedoc kingdom, Catharism flourished. Worse, Cathars called out the Catholics for being corrupt (which they were) and refused to pay the Catholic church any taxes.
The Roman Catholics couldn’t have that. Pope Innocent III declared them heretics and ordered a crusade against the Cathars. The French saw the opportunity for a land grab as well as bonus points to get into heaven. After two generations of fighting, the Cathars were decimated and the land annexed by France.
Next thing, the Catholics started the Inquisition in the Languedoc to root out any remaining vestiges of Cathar heresy. The once powerful language of Occitan was reduced to a regional patois, and the area went into economic decline.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

The walled city of Carcassone was a Cathar stronghold.

Occitanie

In 2016, the Languedoc-Rouissillon was merged with the midi-Pyrenees region to form Occitanie, a massive region that is the largest in all of France. The people in this area had all spoken Occitan in the past (which is related to the Catalan language).

Getting To the Languedoc-Roussillon

There are several airports in the area including Carcassone, Perpignan and Montpellier. We have always flown into Toulouse though because it is a main regional airport with a choice of flights and airlines.

Things To Do in the Languedoc- Roussillon

What To Do in Carcassone

The historic center of Carcassone is a UNESCO world heritage site. The walled city retains its medieval charm with the world’s largest medieval castle and 54 towers. Carcassone is the second most visited tourist attraction in France (the top spot is the Eiffel Tower). You will find plenty to occupy you in the narrow streets of historic Carcassone.
Check out two ways to explore Carcassone – Take a 1.5 hour Guided Segway City Tour and/or Explore the Castle and Ramparts with fast entry tickets.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

The medieval walls of the city of Carcassone

Canal du Midi

The UNESCO world heritage listed Canal du Midi connects Toulouse to the Mediterranean over 264 kilometres (164 miles). The advent of the railroads made the canal obsolete and now it is primarily used for recreational purposes.

Other Places to Visit in Languedoc Roussillon

Montpellier is the fastest growing city in France and the regional capitol. Some of the Montpellier attractions include the Cathedral St. Pierre, Roman-era aqueducts, the Montpellier Zoo and the Musee Fabre (containing European Old Master paintings).
Nimes is famous for its well-preserved Roman archeological remains including the UNESCO world heritage listed Roman aqueduct, Le Pont du Gard.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

Le Pont du Guard, a well-preserved Roman aqueduct, is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Fun Fact – Denim gets its name because it’s fabric that comes from Nimes (serge de Nîmes).
Beziers was where the ill-fated Cathars (and any unfortunate Catholics with them) were slaughtered wholesale. Nowadays it is known for its wine and bullfighting.
Narbonne is a laid-back seaside town famous for its Gothic cathedral and its wine industry. During Roman times, it was the capital of Gaul and a crossroads between the rest of France, Spain and Italy.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

The Cathedral of Saint-Just and Saint-Pasteur in Narbonne.

Perpignan is the last city in France before the Spanish border and so it has an interesting mix of cultures. Things to do in Perpignan include visiting the Palace of the Kings of Majorca, the Basilica Cathedral of St. Jean the Baptist and the Arab and Gypsy quarter.

Food and Drink

The Languedoc region produces 1/3 of all French wine – thats approximately 2 billion bottles a year. It is also fertile farmland with a number of excellent local products – oysters, anchovies, beef, lamb, cheeses and foie gras to name a few.
Why not take a Montpellier Food Tour with a local expert?  – Visit a local market, and sample products straight from the producers.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

Vineyard near Montpellier

Nature

 You can find Europe’s biggest river delta at the Camargue which borders Provence. These 900 square kilometres (approximately 350 square miles) of wetlands are famous for their pink flamingoes, wild horses and bulls.
Take a Guided Tour! – You can take a full-day guided minibus tour to the Camargue to explore its wildlife as well as learn about how salt is harvested from the salt marshes.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

Two white horses in the Camargue

When we went skiing in the Spanish Pyrenees resort of Bequeira-Beret, we flew into Toulouse and drove through the Languedob-Roussillon. There is, of course, skiing in the French Pyrenees too.
The Cévennes is a national park of almost 800,000 acres with its main entrance by the pretty little town of Florac. With mountains, gorges and plateaus, this area is a nature-lovers paradise of wild, unspoiled countryside.

Beaches

There are miles of beautiful sand beaches sprinkled with little towns edging the Mediterranean. The Espiguette is the Languedoc’s largest sand beach and backed by sand dunes. Cap D’Agde has Europe’s largest nudist beach. The beaches near Beziers are also excellent (Portiragnes and Serignan). La Franqui is popular with windsurfers. Argeles is said to be one of the best beaches in all of France – it’s wide, sandy and has stunning views of the Pyrenees.
Right before you hit the Spanish border, you have the Cote Vermeille, the undisputed star of which is the pretty little artsy town of Collioure. Note that the beaches here are pebbly.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

The Cote Vermeille or the Vermillion Coast is so-called because of its red rocky coastline.

Tips for Visiting the Languedoc-Roussillon

Although we have explored Carcassone, undertaken a pilgrimage to Lourdes, visited the beaches in the summer, this region of France is vast with plenty of things to do.
Things To do in the Languedoc | Montepellier Attractions | Things to Do in Perpignan | What To Do in Carcassone

Isn’t this perfect for an evening stroll after indulging in a fantastic dinner and wine?

Who better to ask for advice on visiting the Languedoc-Roussillon than travel bloggers who have been there?  Below are the recommendations and travel tips for this region of France from five fellow travel bloggers.
The medieval walled city of Carcassone

The medieval walled city of Carcassone Image credit: Thomas Dowson

– by Corinne Vail from ReflectionsEnroute and on social media at
Montady in the Languedoc-Rousillon

The Town of Montady (Photo credit: Corinne Vail)

The Languedoc-Rouissillon

Collioure in the French Vermeille

Much less touristy than the neighbouring region of Provence, the Languedoc-Rouissilon region of France has an incredibly rich historical heritage.  The towns and villages are filled with Roman architecture – who can forget about the amphitheatre in Nimes – beautiful cathedrals and precious castles, like the world-famous Carcassone.
It’s also a place where cultures meet. Perpignan for example is the capital of French Catalonia, and although people speak in French, you can also see many signs of the Catalan identity.
One of the most beautiful places to visit in this region is the charming village of Collioure, situated in the French Vermeille, very close tot he Spanish-French border. It’s one of the most romantic villages in the Languedoc-Rouissilon region with cozy cobbled streets, artisan shops, local seafood restaurants and magical atmosphere.
Many French and Catalan artists – Picasso or Henri Matisse for instance – chose to live here for some time and found the atmosphere very inspiring. The two main landmarks of this picture perfect village to visit are the Notre-Dame-Des-Angles Church and the Chateau Royale de Collioure, a fortress that was held by several different royal families throughout history.
– by Gabor Kovacs from Surfing the Planet and on social media at
collioure in the Languedoc Rouissilon

The village of Collioure in the Languedoc-Rouissilon (Photo credit: Gabor Kovacs)

Minerve 

Walking through the narrow streets of Minerve is like stepping into the pages of a children’s storybook but today’s beauty disguises a gruesome past.

The quiet village, around 50 kilometres from Carcassone, came under attack during the Albigensian Crusade in 1210 when a number of Cathars (non-Catholics) from Beziers took refuge in Minerve. After a six week siege, the village was forced to surrender and 140 Cathars were burnt at the stake.

To learn more about the bloody events of the past, a visit to the Hurepel Museum is a must. Here, the story of the siege is told in sixteen clay dioramas made by local artisans.

Today Minerve is classified as one of France’s most beautiful villages and it’s easy to see why. Perched on a rocky peninsula at the meeting of two rivers and alongside deep gorges, Minerve’s setting is picturesque.

A tall, narrow tower and a small section of wall is all that’s left of the medieval fortifications, whilst the 12th century church and the impressive double-arched bridge that spans the River Cesse are the other major sites in the village.

But for me, the real attraction of Minerve are the cobbled streets lined with centuries-old stone buildings some now serving as shops, boutiques and cafes.

Sitting on a shady terrace sipping a drink and admiring the views you can’t help but be thankful you’re visiting today and not back in 1210.

– by Carolyn Schonafinger who  writes at Holidays To Europe and on  

The Town of Minerve near Carcassone

The town of Minerve in the Languedoc Roussillon (Photo credit: Carolyn Schonafinger)

 

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