Caravan holidays: Couple recreated ‘ideal’ campervan for £7,000 | Travel News | Travel

The couple explained they tried to leave the UK before the last lockdown, however, they didn’t manage it. Alex explained: “So we decided to get a camper van, and so when the restrictions would end, we would have a campervan ready to keep exploring.”

“We have a solar panel on the top and split charge relay, so the battery when we’re driving the car, the car is charging the battery. As long as we move, we have power.”

So how much did the couple spend on their van?

Emma said: “The van cost around £4,000 and then cost for the most expensive upgrade, getting a pop-up, was almost as much as the campervan. That was around £3,000.”

However, the £3,000 addition is something the pair consider vital to their caravanning exploits.

She said: “It means the van comes up at the top, so you can fit under all the barriers and everything, and then once you’re under you can just pop it up.

“We weren’t sure if we’re going to like it because you have to put it down every morning and weren’t sure it would be fast, but it’s really easy.

“We love it and also we can take off the canvas that basically means that it’s completely open so we can sit on the top and just look out, looking for wildlife for example.

“We can get a coffee, sit up there, find a spot to look out, it is really nice.”

She went on: “The van’s still not 100 percent finished, with the renovation aspects that need to be finished, like curtains.

“But in terms of usability, it is completely usable so we do take it out all the time.

“Anytime we get a free weekend we think, let’s go for this weekend we’ll go somewhere with it again.”

The couple recently detailed items in their caravan packing list

Alex told “One thing that I’ve always loved is the power strip, a power extension.

“It sounds stupid but it’s one of those useful things.”

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When COVID cancels the school holidays, is more independence the answer to keeping kids happy?

The text came out of the blue: “We’ve been giving James a bit more freedom,” my mum friend wrote. “He’s been heading to the park on his bike without us. He rides on the paths, climbs a tree, goes to the playground. He knows once he’s in the park, he has to stay in the park and we agree on when he must be home.” 

Like my son, James is 10, but I confess the text pulled me up short. Even though the park in question is barely 200 metres from my friend’s front door, and busy with families and children doing their best to socially distance, 10 is young these days to be heading off alone. And depending on what state you live in, it’s important to know it can also be illegal to leave a child under 12 unsupervised.

Yet with school holidays upon us, and options for juggling childcare and work-from-home limited in some states as COVID lockdown drags, on my social media feeds are full of versions of one fraught question: “I’m having a cold sweat thinking about the school holidays coming up. What ideas have you?”.

A close up of a girl's hands looking on a phone.
Limiting screen time during school holidays can be tough for parents to negotiate.(

Unsplash: Tim Mossholder


The fear of watching their kids’ childhood disappear behind a digital matrix, that not only sucks up their free time but now their school time as well, has left many parents with a sinking feeling. Surely screens can’t steal the holidays too? And as lockdown smashes up against modern “helicopter” parenting, parents are filled with nostalgia for the sense of freedom they grew up with a generation ago.

“Can we go retro and keep them outside until the street lights turn on?” joked one parent.

“The good old days,” was the conclusion from others. “Best times ever”.

My friend’s text and these social media exchanges got me thinking: is COVID forcing us to rethink entrenched parenting norms? Could encouraging kids to be a little more independent add a spark of adventure to lockdown’s Groundhog Days?

In short, could allowing our kids to take on more responsibility help them to be more resilient in lockdown, and take a load off parents too?

A little bit of independence

Rachael Sharman, a psychologist and academic who specialises in child and adolescent mental health, says research shows that when kids are allowed to be independent and make their own decisions most take the responsibility seriously. Rather than being dangerous, it often leads to a drop in injuries and rise in reasoned judgements.

“The research shows very clearly that if you give kids a little bit of independence most of them in fact did better than when adults were attempting to control them and helicopter parent them,” she says. “The kid feels responsible, they feel like the parents trust them and they take that trust seriously. They don’t want to squander it.”

A boy climbs a big tree with many branches and a girl sits on a branch in the distance
Research suggests that when kids get more independence they step up and act more responsibly.

The way we raise our children in the West is not necessarily the style of parenting you see elsewhere in the world. In Japan, for example, children are expected to take themselves to school and to the local shop for errands from as young as five, and special parks allow Japanese kids freedom to light fires and build things with hammers and nails with relatively little supervision.

In the West, the “helicopter parent” model is rarely challenged and when it is, all hell can break loose. Who can forget the criticism that faced Lenore Skenazy when she wrote about allowing her son to ride the New York subway alone at nine years old.

Skenazy’s experience ultimately gave rise to the Free Range Kids movement and notwithstanding the absolute requirement of every adult to ensure the safety of children in their care, helping children to build independence has strong links to confidence and self-esteem.

It can especially be an issue for tweens – too old to need or want to be constantly under their parents’ control and yet too young to be left completely to their own devices.

A bit of biology can help strike the right balance, says Sharman. Her tip is to try hacking brain chemicals to help kids feeling excited about their lockdown vacay.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter released by the brain that creates feel good emotions when something goes well for us, says Sharman. That’s in part why online games are so addictive. Did you make it through level one and win 1000 bonus points? Bam – dopamine hit. You’re welcome.

But Sharman says anticipatory dopamine, released when we are looking forward to something, is even stronger than the dopamine we receive when we achieve it.

In the absence of a school routine, recreating a purpose to the day helps to create a sense of achievement and prevent the malaise that can come with endless unstructured hours. It is a healthier way to achieve that same hit of dopamine. One of the reason traditional holidays make us feel so good is that most of us structure our vacation days and wake each morning anticipating a fun activity ahead.

But the same principles can be used for a lockdown holiday. Planning activities to take place at certain times of the day helps generate anticipation and deliver dopamine alongside it.

Just anticipating the reward and having something to look forward too is more powerful than actually receiving it, Sharman says.

“If parents are looking to give their kids a dopamine hit then a really fun, pleasant surprise is the way to do it,” Sharman says. “Kids love a routine and if parents can tell their children before they go to bed at night ‘right, here’s something new we could do tomorrow’, that anticipatory dopamine will kick in and give them a bit of a lift.”

If the planned activities contain a sense of novelty then that kick is even more powerful which is why allowing your tweens a little extra independence or something a little naughty, within safe parameters (cricket in the hallway, perhaps? A pillow fight? Or a short solo trip to a nearby park?) can be deeply motivating and uplifting.

So as the school holidays get started in locked down NSW and Victoria and the rest of Australia, here are 10 ideas for creating a sense of adventure even when your holiday plans can’t go much further than your own backyard.

Backyard camping

Set up a tent in the backyard (or the balcony, or the living room, if you are in an apartment) and spend a few nights camping. The idea is to create a sense of novelty.

For outside campers, buy a fire pit: I’m yet to meet a tweenager who doesn’t get a kick out of building and lighting a fire (and a few adults too if we’re honest).

Keep it rustic. Spear some sausages onto a stick and cook them over the flame. Finish off with a few toasted marshmallows and then crowd together in the tent for a scary movie after the sun goes down.

a child's hand holds a stick with a marshmallow with black edges from being toasted on an open flame.
What about having a campting adventure in the backyard.(

Unsplash: Hanna Morris


Create a restaurant at home

Nominate a night or two a week when the kids do the cooking. Hand over responsibility for researching a menu (and keep your expectations moderate).

Get them to write a shopping list and then if COVID-safe to do so, hand over some cash and drop them to the supermarket or corner store to gather the ingredients.

Encourage them to present the meal with a dash of formal flourish, proper table settings, candles and music.

Explore your 5km

The limits on travel in Sydney where I live has forced us to re-imagine our neighbourhood, something Melbournians know all about.

But even if you are not locked down, visiting familiar, mundane places with the eyes of an explorer can bring them back to life.

While my family no longer has access to the beach, we are lucky to have other rivers and waterways where overlooked shorelines have now become valued spots to paddle and explore.

It’s surprisingly invigorating to discover that with a shift in perspective forgotten places close to home can become magical new destinations.

Kid launching mountain bike off jump
Look for magical new adventures close to home.(

ABC Tropical North: Melissa Maddison


Set up a social distanced street stall

Get your tween to sort out unused toys, books or clothes and set up a stall in the driveway to sell or give away their bits and pieces.

It’s a great way to encourage socially distanced interaction with the neighbours, teach the kids about the emotional and financial value of things and creates a great framework for a chat about wants, needs and equity.

Depending on how much plastic is in their giveaway stash, it’s a good time for a conversation about the environment, too.

Make public art

In a park close to us, a local child has created a fairy garden and put up a sign inviting others to add to it. Every day trinkets and miniature artworks appear building a sense of wonder and also community.

Another local paints rocks with inspirational messages and leaves them around our suburb. On the back is an Instagram address and when you discover a rock, the idea is to post a photo of where you found it and then hide it again for the next person to discover.


It’s no secret that many families are doing it tough. Get in touch with local charities or Pay It Forward groups on social media and get the kids involved.

Some charities are collecting toiletry packs for the homeless, or pre-loved football boots in good nick to send to disadvantaged communities. Collect cans and bottles for a 10c refund and donate the money.

Find out if any neighbours are living alone and feeling lonely: get the kids to bake them a cake or ask if they need some groceries picked up.

Activities like this are also valuable for shifting a child’s focus away from themselves and their own troubles and helping them zero in on what they have to feel grateful for.

Start a holiday business

Do any of the neighbours need dogs walked or gardens weeded?

Tweens are old enough to take on these jobs with a bit of guidance. Feeling useful builds their self-esteem, confidence and resilience.

Set an exercise goal

Keeping active lifts our spirits. Decide on a fitness goal, maybe running 5km, 50 sit ups or holding plank position for a few minutes.

Get the kids to train towards their goal every day. Organise a family relay or biathalon.

A child's legs and feet, wearing Converse hi-tops, walks along a concrete breakwall with the ocean in the distance
What about encouraging your child to set a school holiday fitness goal?(

Unsplash: PixPoetr


Money to spend in a $2 shop

Hand over an agreed amount that’s large enough to get some bang for your buck, but small enough to force the kids to feel their financial limitations and enact a bit of strategy.

Then let them loose in the local $2 shop or variety store. If you are in lockdown most of these remain open. These stores usually stock loads of art and craft materials, some snacks and toys.

More than enough to fill up a locked down afternoon.

Oh OK, binge

When all else fails, a day on screens may be just what the kids need this holiday.

Theme your viewing — maybe you can work through the entire Star Wars series or revisit Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, or the Dark Knight Trilogy. Maybe Groundhog Day or the movie Contagion should be on the list, too. Let’s face it, options are endless.

Make some popcorn, thrown down every cushion, pillow, doona and beanbag in the house and create a giant soft, comforting place to slob out. Dim the lights and forget about lockdown and COVID-19, for a while.

After all, that may be the greatest vacation of all.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

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Camping holidays: Couple warn against renting van after ‘terrifying’ experience | Travel News | Travel

“One day we decided to spend the night by the top of a cliff. The views were amazing, but at night it was so windy we thought we would fall down the cliff. It was terrifying.

“There was no light, no safe spots to go to, the weather conditions started to be really rough and there were no people to ask for help. We decided to drive to the nearest camping but because of the extremely windy conditions, we couldn’t even drive.

“We had to stay there for the night, but it was the worst experience of my life,” Alba explained.

“I definitely recommend opting for a well-equipped van, even if it is more expensive. I have learned my lesson, for sure.

“I would definitely go camping again, but with a better van and after having researched the camping sites in advance.”

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A local’s guide to Malta: 10 top tips | Malta holidays

Malta claims to be the first EU country to have achieved herd immunity. Vaccinations recently extended to all over-16s and 58.6% of the population have had two jabs.

Since 2020, 420 people have died of the virus, and the country has not recorded a death since 26 May. Neither quarantine nor a PCR test is required for passengers travelling to Malta from the UK, but they must be fully vaccinated.

Museums and tourist sites, shops, restaurants and cafes are open, and allow tables of six people. Cinemas and theatres reopened on 7 June, but bars and nightclubs are still closed, and boat parties are not allowed.

Masks are mandatory for everyone over three years of age in public spaces, but from 1 June mask-wearing on beaches was advised but no longer required. Maltese health minister Chris Fearne said masks would cease to be mandatory outdoors from 1 July for vaccinated people, as long as cases remain low.

Valletta by night

Valletta used to be like a ghost town at night. Today, it is different – or rather it will be once the pandemic recedes and visitors return. In normal times the streets are full after sunset with live music and happy Mediterranean chatter all around. The grid system used by the knights to build the city creates what feel like parallel nightlife realities. Republic Street is imposing and distinct with exquisite cafes and restaurants; Merchant Street is laid-back leading down to the covered market; but walk down Straight Street and you would walk back in time, like the British sailors did in the past, and enjoy bar-hopping down to the Gut. Look out for the old street signage along the way.

Festivals in Malta

BirguFest shows off the old city by candlelight.
BirguFest shows off the old city by candlelight. Photograph: Vittorio Sciosia/Alamy

There are a lot. Before you visit the island it’s worth checking the Malta Tourism Authority’s website and to see what’s on, and to note that this year, until further notice, all festivals will be virtual.

The Strawberry festival, Notte Bianca in Valletta, Karnival ta’ Malta, the Malta jazz festival, the Valletta baroque festival, the Farsons beer festival, the Delicata wine festival, the Fireworks festival, and the Three Palaces are just some of the events over the year. My favourite though is BirguFest and its culmination Birgu by Candlelight, which is an extraordinary experience. One of Malta’s oldest cities, Birgu (also called Vittoriosa) is magically lit by thousands of candles adding a romantic and mystical touch to its medieval houses, auberges and palaces connected by winding alleys. The festival features historical re-enactments, open museums and churches, exhibitions and installations alongside concerts, theatre and laser light spectacles.

Limestone Heritage Park and Gardens

Maltese folklore show at the Limestone Heritage Park and Gardens, Siggiewi, Malta.
Maltese folklore show at the Limestone Heritage Park and Gardens, Siggiewi. Photograph: Greg Balfour Evans/Alamy

In Malta you’re surrounded by limestone, from the old cities of Mdina and Valletta, through the megalithic temples of Hagar Qim, Mnajdra and the Hypogeum, to the ornaments on the traditional Maltese townhouses. The limestone has been instrumental in preserving the history of the island. At the family-run Limestone Heritage Park and Gardens, in Siggiewi village, visitors can trace the use and role of this resource throughout the ages. Don’t miss the stone-carving and sculpting, where a visitor can spend time working on a limestone souvenir. The Farmer’s Lunch, in the peaceful garden of the estate, is a great way to try Maltese gbejna cheese, homemade pasta and rabbit dishes and traditional desserts. Younger visitors will enjoy the heritage park: there’s space to run around in, and an animal petting zoo.
€8.10 adult, €5.40 student, €2.70 child with online discount,

Casa Rocca Piccola, Valletta

The Green Room in Casa Rocca Piccola.
The Green Room in Casa Rocca Piccola. Photograph: Alamy

Not your usual museum, this is the only privately owned palazzo open to the public in Valletta. It exhibits unusual pieces of furniture, memorabilia, family paintings and rare medical instruments from the Knights’ Sacra Infermeria in Valletta. A museum by day and a stately home by night, its rooms bring the history of the Knights Hospitaller and the Maltese nobility to life. The palace was built in the 16th century for Don Pietro La Rocca, an admiral of the knights and is the ancestral abode of the Marquis Nicholas de Piro family. Today, it also houses a boutique B&B, with a peaceful garden and a cheerful macaw named Kiku. Tour groups are sometimes taken around by the marquis himself . Regular hourly tours are held throughout the week.

Caffe Cordina, Valletta

Tourists at the Cafe Cordina, Valletta, Malta.
Photograph: Alamy

This is the most beautiful cafe in Valletta and something of an institution. I love going there to have an espresso with one of its signature sweets. Relaxing in the sun at Pjazza Regina in front of the statue commemorating the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria and the baroque National Library is bliss. The cafe was established in Cospicua in 1837 and moved to Valletta in 1944. The building known as the Casa del Commun Tesoro or the Treasury during the rule of the Order of the Knights of St John in Malta was used by the British for various public offices and it was later converted into the Grand Hotel. The cafe’s eclectic interior decor and the vaulted ceiling embellished with paintings by the Maltese painter Giuseppe Cali add to the special character of the place.

Meridiana Wine Estate, tour and wine tasting

View of wines and meats on a table in front of vines at Meridiana Wine Estate, Malta.

About 30 years ago the production of world-class wines in Malta seemed like an ambitious goal. Some considered the investment risky, others thought it was doomed from the start. Today, one looks back at the legacy of a brave venture that explored the potential for high-quality wine production in Malta. The Ta’Qali wine estate, near Mdina, was planted in 1994 on the site of an airfield used by the RAF during the second world war, using a British-built herringbone system of irrigation. Success was achieved with the first harvest in 1996, which Meridiana sold within weeks. Its wines are now internationally established. My preferred Maltese wines are, of the reds, Nexus – a merlot, and Celsius – a cabernet sauvignon. Of the whites, Baltis, from the moscato grape, is excellent. Wine-tasting is held on Meridiana’s panoramic terrace overlooking its vineyard or in the courtyard near the cellars. A tour includes a visit to the fermentation-hall and underground cellar, both within the picturesque Maltese farmhouse.
Wine tasting and tours at

Taste of History at the Maritime Museum of Malta, Birgu

Malta Maritime Museum, seen from the harbour on a sunny day.
Malta Maritime Museum Photograph: Stefan Cristian Cioata/Getty Images

This museum gives visitors the opportunity to dine inside the museum itself. The atmosphere is special, the menu exquisite, and unique – as historians and chefs have researched 18th-century documents to find foreign influences, ingredients, spices and eating habits from the menus used by the knights. The Maltese fruit and vegetables used are grown by local farmers, the sausages are made by the butcher round the corner strictly following traditional methods and the in-house chefs follow the authentic recipes. This is a dining experience like no other. The building is a former bakery from the British period in Birgu, one of the three cities just across the Grand Harbour from Valletta.
Maritime museum, More about Taste of History on Facebook

Lascaris War Rooms

Operation Husky situation map at the Lascaris War Rooms, Malta.
Operation Husky situation map at the Lascaris War Rooms. Photograph: Victor Paul Borg/Alamy

Below the fortifications of Malta’s capital city Valletta, this complex of tunnels and chambers hold fascinating secrets from the second world war. Built by the British military, the war rooms housed the allied war HQ, which played a crucial role in the defence of the island and the coordination of Operation Husky – the invasion of Sicily. Named after Giovanni Paolo Lascaris, a 17th-century grand master of the knights of Malta, who built a garden on the site and fortifications across the island , the war rooms received communications from all radar stations and mapped the aerial and naval movements around the islands. After the war the Lascaris rooms were used as the headquarters of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet. Climbing up the stairs of the bastion takes you to the Upper Barrakka Garden for the spectacular views of the Grand Harbour.
Adult €13, student €11, under-16 €6, open Mon-Sat 10am-4.30pm,

National Community Art Museum (Muza), Valletta

Interior of a gallery at the National Community Art Museum (Muza), Valletta, Malta.
Photograph: Alamy

Flagged by the Guardian Travel as one of 13 must-see new European museums, Muza opened in 2018, in a building that was once the seat of the Italian knights of the Order of St John. The site offers a chance to explore an auberge in which the knights lived during their stay on the island. The grand baroque entrance, the courtyard, the main staircase and the halls were rebuilt with contemporary material to expose intriguing features from the late 16th-century architecture. As a national community museum one of its missions is to make art accessible to the public; Muza does this by presenting contrasting artworks by old masters and contemporaries. The Masterpieces at Muza exhibition, currently on show, displays 13 old masterpieces from a private collection, including paintings by Rubens, François Boucher, Leonardo da Vinci and Giovanni Bellini.
€10 adult, €7.50 students and people aged 60-plus, €5.50 children under 11, not open on Tuesdays,

Boat trips and dramatic views

View of Paola City from Valletta
Photograph: Getty Images

Whenever I can I always take the water taxi service across the Grand Harbour from Valletta to the Three Cities (Birgu, Senglea and Cospicua) and back by a traditional boat. The local dghajsa was built in the 17th century for that purpose. Used to ferry passengers connecting the harbour towns and also for taking passengers off the arriving ships, the boats were the main means of transportation in the harbour areas. The crossing takes 10 minutes and costs €2. Tourists can opt for a harbour cruise for €8pp. The real thrill is to feel the waves among the imposing views of the bastions of Valletta, Fort St Angelo, Fort Ricasoli and the grandeur of one of Europe’s largest natural harbours.

Fra Nikola Soukmandjiev is a diplomat, priest and tour guide

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Sparkling days out: readers’ favourite British vineyards to visit | Wine holidays

Winning tip: Take a train to the vines, Kent

Hugged by purple fields of lavender, the picture-postcard village of Shoreham in Kent is home to The Mount, where you can sample eight varieties of wine from 13,000 vines including pinot noir, rondo, regent, regent, bacchus, seyval blanc, phoenix and siegerrebe. The tiny station at Shoreham is easily reached from London Blackfriars and Sevenoaks and means you can journey through the Darent valley (home to Lullingstone Roman villa and the nearby World Garden) by train, arriving as the Victorians once did. Wine tasting tours, stone-baked pizzas, platters for lunch and the best light sparkling wine can be enjoyed in this verdant hideaway.
Nicholas Giles

Winery in a windmill, Cambridge

Gutter and Stars Vineyard
A former windmill houses Gutter & Stars

Gutter & Stars is Cambridge’s first urban winery, housed in the basement of a windmill less than a mile from the city centre. The launch of its inaugural small-batch wine took place in May: the first, a bacchus called I Wanna Be Adored, sold out in four days. A pinot noir followed, Hope is a Good Summer, in August – again selling out almost as soon as it arrived. A chardonnay is expected to be ready in November, with a winter rosé right behind it, described as “bonkers but brilliant”. Like a limited-edition vinyl, they sell out fast!
Vanessa Wright

Fizz and fromage in the South Downs

Sparkling wine at Ridgeview.
Sparkling wine at Ridgeview. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/Getty Images

Nestled at the foot of the South Downs near the pretty village of Ditchling, Ridgeview vineyard is our go-to place for any excuse to celebrate. The simple but indulgent sharing platters of English cheese with tantalising names like Lord of the Hundreds and Molecomb blue, all locally produced, complement the reasonably priced selection of award-winning sparkling wines. Choose your own favourite by sharing a taster flight (£9/£15) or book a tour of the vineyard (£15pp) and spend a lost afternoon learning about this wonderful family-owned piece of France in the heart of the Sussex countryside. I would like to go six times to taste all the styles of wine.
Soames Hargreaves

Stay on site in the Cotswolds

Woodchester Valley has accommodation too.
Woodchester Valley has accommodation, too. Photograph: Maria Stengard-Green

We stayed in Stroud at the Woodchester Valley vineyard last year and had the most wonderful time. The accommodation was lovely, on two floors with a large kitchen incorporated within a living room with stylish furnishings and a washroom on one level, then upstairs to a very large bedroom and bathroom – both modern, clean and beautifully decorated. We had the wine tour and tasting (from £18pp), which was excellent, and were able to purchase wines but never felt obligated to do so (we did as some took our fancy). Loved the walk into Stroud along the cinder path.
Frances Coupe

A vineyard with a view, West Yorkshire

Holmfirth vineyard is a fantastic place to visit. Situated on the Pennines in West Yorkshire, it offers magnificent views. You can have a vineyard tour with wine tasting and then enjoy a lovely lunch or afternoon tea in the restaurant while enjoying the scenery – the vista changes with the seasons too. Holmfirth also offers accommodation – apartments with one to three bedrooms, designed to be carbon neutral with power provided by a wind turbine – and is a beautiful wedding location. Well worth a visit.
Julie Peel

Vino in the valley, Cornwall

Rows of vines at Camel Valley Vineyard near Bodmin
There are glorious views to be had at Camel Valley. Photograph: Simon Burt/Alamy

If you favour a slice of Italy without leaving the UK, look no further than Camel Valley vineyard in Bodmin. This is a small, award-winning family business nestled in picturesque hillside at the bottom of a winding road. Our tour (£18pp) was given by the founding father, Bob; it was relaxed and informative, and he explained the winemaking process from start to finish and the history of the vineyard. After your tour, you pick a spot on the sun terrace to admire the glorious views while sampling a selection of Camel Valley produce. An absolute joy on a summer’s evening.
Helen Baxter


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A sparkling visit, Surrey Hills

On the low slopes of St Martha’s Hill, home to a beacon church that guided pilgrims and now receives many weekend walkers, stands the gorgeous Chilworth Manor and its vineyard. The immaculately managed rows of vines yield the champagne-style grapes that make two sublime rosés, one of them sparkling. With Surrey wine increasingly well known, Chilworth Manor is a secret charm known only to the inquisitive walkers of the Surrey Hills and the local inn, which benefits from its harvest. The wines and tours are sold out for this year – details for 2022 should be released soon.

Plonk yourself in Monmouthshire

Gathering in the grape harvest at Parva Farm.
Gathering in the grape harvest at Parva Farm. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The small, family-run Parva Farm vineyard in Tintern, in the Wye valley, was well worth a visit. We popped by as we were passing and were warmly welcomed. Judith took great pleasure in sharing the history of the vineyard and the grapes as we tasted a few wines. Perfect! We bought a couple of bottles to remind us of our holiday. We loved the small gift shop and the plant stall, and there’s an attractive garden with a picnic area. While we were there several groups turned up to do the self-guided vineyard tour – just £2.50, and it comes with a free wine tasting.

Sip with oystercatchers, Devon

Vines on the Pebblebed Vineyard at Clyst St GeorgeVines on the Pebble bed Vineyard at Clyst St George near Topsham Devon England UK. (Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Pebblebed makes a perfect pitstop on a circular walk from Topsham. Photograph: Education Images/Getty Images

Pebblebed is a real Devon gem. The vineyard still has a community feel and you can help harvest the grapes through the autumn. I suggest a beautiful circular walk starting in Topsham, much of which is boarded pathways taking in the RSPB reserve, Darts Farm and the vineyard before returning to the town, where on the cobbled quay you can enjoy Pebblebed wines alongside the salty smell of the Exe estuary and the calls of oystercatchers at a dedicated cellar bar. The sparkling wine is the best.

Organic winery, East Sussex

Tillingham vineyard
Tillingham is a ‘low intervention’ winery. Photograph: Andrew Hayes-Watkins

I’m no wine snob and my interest is enthusiastic more than anything, but Tillingham, near Rye, blew me away – the wine tour (£35) was informative and funny and gave a wonderful insight into an organic low-intervention winery. Its wines and ciders were completely different than anything I’ve tasted before, in a good way – some are stored in Georgian qvevri clay pots underground. On top of the wine tours, the winery also has pigs and chickens roaming the grounds, a pizza barn, hotel rooms and an incredible canteen restaurant (worth the trip alone – it hits the sweet spot between big city style and farm character). It all adds up to one big wholesome experience and we absolutely LOVED it.

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Camping holidays: Devon to ban wild camping after ‘antisocial behaviour’ | Travel News | Travel

The protected moorland in Devon is known for stunning scenery with plenty of unique wildlife including wild ponies, otters and bat species. Dartmoor national park is popular with hikers, mountain bikers and families as it offers many activities.

At present, Dartmoor is the only national park to allow visitors to take part in “backpack camping”.

Backpack or wild camping is where visitors carry their camping equipment on their back and stay for up to two nights.

Wild camping is only allowed if the camper can carry everything they need in their backpack and uses very small tents that blend into the landscape.

Staycationers are allowed to wild camp on designated areas of Dartmoor, in isolated spots away from roads and people.

READ MORE: Campers’ camping tips – ‘Glow sticks on the kids’ and ‘the she-pee’

As visitor numbers have swelled in the national park, antisocial behaviour is also on the rise, including among wild campers.

Park staff have had to cope with illegal campervans, barbecues, fires and litter on the protected moors.

Large groups of people meeting on Dartmoor in summer 2020 led to a habitat being spoiled, according to rangers.

In July this year, visitors were banned from historically protected Wistman’s Wood, as they were found to have hacked apart ancient bark and left a lot of litter.


Litter found in the beauty spot has included contraceptives, glass bottles, discarded cigarettes and toilet paper.

Twitter user, MoleytheMole, posted a picture of a wild pony feeding near discarded litter. They said: “Anywhere within a short walk of parking is often blighted by abandoned picnic rubbish.”

Wild camping is currently allowed on Dartmoor provided campers operate under a “leave no trace” policy.

Dartmoor national park website states: “If you worry about carrying your rubbish out, need a bin or a toilet-then this isn’t for you-use a campsite.”

Wild campers must also stay out of sight so that other people can enjoy an unspoiled view of the moors without seeing tents.

After the antisocial behaviour worsened, Dartmoor announced it was reviewing the existing byelaws, including permitting wild camping.

The current byelaws are 32 years old and include restrictions on vehicles, fires, dogs and the feeding of animals.

Cigarettes and barbecues could cause wildfires that would be devastating for the local area and protected wildlife.

The majority of the wild Dartmoor ponies have never been handled and should not be approached with food or be petted.

Dartmoor national park said the byelaws needed to be updated to better fit with modern needs and improve public understanding.

Alison Kohler, Dartmoor’s director of conservation and communities, said: “ We are doing this to ensure the bylaws are fit for purpose and help protect the national park for all to enjoy today and tomorrow.

“Updating the bylaws is an important topic for everyone who cares about Dartmoor whether it is landowners, commoners, residents, businesses or visitors, and we recognise people will want to have a say.”

A public consultation on the existing byelaws and antisocial behaviour will be open from September 20 for six weeks.

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Travel picking up ahead of winter holidays

After about a year and a half at home, many people are catching the travel bug. Whether you want to get away this holiday season or sometime next year, the time to book is now. With the pandemic still a concern, there are a lot of things to consider before doing so.

The most popular international destinations right now include Caribbean islands, like the Dominican Republic and Mexico, according to AAA.

A travel agent can help coordinate your travel and pay attention to changing regulations.

Resorts, hotels and cruises are filling up fast, according to Geri Van Alstine, an international travel consultant with AAA. Prices are better if you book far in advance and travelers guarantee themselves a room, she said.

“If they’re booking at 50% capacity and people are saying, ‘Oh, we’re going. We’re getting married next year and we’re going on a honeymoon,’ so they’re booking it because they know that they’re definitely going to do that,” said Van Alstine. “So it’s always better at least get the land part. Airline tickets you can’t do that far out.”

Tour operators are less flexible about canceling or rebooking than they were earlier in the pandemic, so protect yourself in case of last-minute changes, Van Alstine said. There are a variety of insurance types you can purchase for your trip, but do your research before buying. The options vary by state and trip provider.

“You really have to be careful, look it over, decide which insurance is the best for you to cover you while you’re traveling as well,” said Van Alstine. “If you cancel for any reason, a lot of time, it’s just a future travel credit, not money back.”

Cancel-for-any-reason insurance is not available in New York State. There is a chance, however, that if your travel provider is out of state, they may provide it, according to Van Alstine.

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Molise, Italy – the answer to your holiday dreams | Italy holidays

Feel like your perfect holiday destination doesn’t exist? It’s a growing problem, with pre-pandemic issues about overtourism mixing with post-Covid wariness of cities and crowded beaches. The answer could be Molise, a region that doesn’t even exist for most Italians (it’s the one usually missed out by people asked to name all 20) and whose non-existence – “Il Molise non esiste” – has become a meme, a hashtag and the subject of thousands of Instagram posts.

Map of Molise region of Italy, also showing location of Rome.

Molise has, in fact, existed for millennia: it was home to the Samnite civilisation in the fourth century BC, and later part of the Kingdom of Naples. But it was mashed together at unification with Abruzzo, from which it didn’t effectively split until 1970, making Molise the youngest region in Italy. And through all this, its sandy beaches, rugged mountains and ancient settlements have stayed – rarely intentionally – well under the tourist radar. For much of the 20th century, depopulation rather than crowds was its main problem. Robert De Niro’s forebears headed to the US from the 2,000-year-old Molisean hill town of Ferrazzano, but he never shouted about it. Which leaves this sunny, hilly, friendly region ripe for exploring.


The old town of Termoli.
The old town of Termoli. Photograph: Alamy

On summer weekends, the main town on Molise’s coast doesn’t feel under-visited, though the tourists strolling its pastel-painted narrow streets are mostly Italians. Founded in around the 10th century, Termoli’s walled old town occupies a promontory featuring a castle, a cathedral and seaside ramparts where ancient fishing equipment, called trabucche, jut out over the sea. The 19th-century “new” town is also an enjoyable wander, especially pedestrianised Corso Nazionale, with its shops, restaurants and street sculptures.

The writer in A Rejecelle, said to be the narrowest alley in Italy.
The writer in A Rejecelle, said to be the narrowest alley in Italy. Photograph: Colin Boulter

Midweek, the old town settles into a quiet life, with laundry drying over ancient flagstones and the sea glittering turquoise at the end of every alley. One of these, A Rejecelle, is said to be the narrowest in Italy. At one point it is just 34cm wide: husband had to shuffle sideways or his shoulders would have stuck.

The main reason to come to Termoli is the beach, which runs in a shallow, sandy bay north-west all the way to the Abruzzo border. Close to town, along Lungomare Cristoforo Colombo, it’s all classic Italian ranks of sunbeds, but these soon peter out. The areas of free beach between the concessions become bigger and more frequent after just a kilometre. Near Lido Alcione, 2km from town, is a lovely big spiaggia libera with soft sand sloping to the warm, clear Adriatic. This area is perfect cycling territory: hire from Tesla Bike, near Termoli station, which also has fatbikes and e-bikes. Most people, however, could manage with a pushbike on the flat, traffic-free Ciclovia Adriatica – which runs all the way to Trieste in the far north-east – stopping off to swim from quiet beaches, and filling up at low-cost feet-in-the sand fish restaurants.

Ventotto beach, 12km from Termoli, is a marvel of wide, soft sand backed by pinewoods, with barely a building in sight (no loos or bar!) and plenty of parking in the dunes.

Ventotto beach, near Termoli.
Ventotto beach, near Termoli. Photograph: Liz Boulter

Avoid the dismal town of Marina di Petacciato and head another 7km north to pretty Marina di Montenero, a low-rise resort with two small hotels and a handful of campsites. Villaggio Camping Lianna has a bar right on the beach and bungalows for four from €350 a week (June and late September, from €500 in summer). We bought home-produced olive oil and freshly picked figs from a family on Viale Agostini, just outside the campsite.

In the old town, Locanda Alfieri (doubles from €99 B&B) is an albergo diffuso with stylish modern bedrooms in several atmospheric buildings, and generous breakfasts served in a plant-filled courtyard. One Covid-inspired innovation is an app that lets guests order meals from nearby restaurants to eat in bedrooms or the breakfast room.

A bedroom at Locanda Alfieri
A bedroom at Locanda Alfieri

Don’t miss a cheap supper from Eattico “street fish” restaurant at A Rejecelle’s eastern end, or pizza and seafood pasta at Sognadoro a minute from the Locanda’s reception. For a treat, book ahead at Da Nicolino near the castle, whose speciality is brodetto alla termolese, the local fish stew blowout (€33 a head).


West of Termoli, the land rises gradually towards the Apennines, with wheat fields and olive groves in the Biferno valley and market towns on hills above. Dating from the 12th century, San Martino in Pensilis has a baronial palace, ancient churches and stupendous views from its square.

The Siena palio may be world famous but there’s more intimate excitement in this town on 30 April, when it marks the Feast of San Leo with a 9km race between teams of oxen pulling wooden carts, driven by men in full medieval costume. There’s loud singing from passionate fans in the colours of their teams, and mounted knights urging each cart onwards. The beasts are pampered year-round to be in tip-top condition for this one day.

Sign for a pampanella shop in San Martino in Pensilis.
The sign for a whole roast pig shop in San Martino in Pensilis. Photograph: Liz Boulter

San Martino’s other claim to fame can be enjoyed any time of year. Served hot, warm or cold, as a nibble, an antipasto or given as a gift, pampanella is a spicy, moreish speciality of slow-roast whole pig, marinated in garlic and chilli and a little vinegar, then covered in vine leaves and baked overnight. It’s sold in several shops: Pepe at Pampanella la Vecchia on Via Pace makes it on site every day, and sells out by 2pm.

Larger Larino to the south-east is much older. Already a city in the third century BC, it’s the site of a Roman victory against Hannibal in the second Punic war, and well-preserved Roman remains include a 2,000-year-old elliptical amphitheatre, baths with splendid mosaics of marine animals and a paved forum (Weds-Sun, free, guided tour extra).

Parco dei Buoi is a peaceful organic farm with rooms
Parco dei Buoi is a peaceful organic farm with rooms

Parco dei Buoi is a peaceful organic farm where Francesco Travaglini is the fourth generation to farm sheep, grains, vegetables and olive oil (which now sells worldwide). He recently added four serene en suite doubles (€109 B&B), and the family’s Maremmano-Abruzzese sheepdog makes guests feel welcome. Breakfast is particularly good (“it’s part of the holiday!”): peasant friselle bread soaked in oil with tomatoes and oregano fresh from the garden, plus fruit and abundant cake.

San Martino is a foodie haven, with high-quality restaurants serving more than just pampanella. Down an unassuming sidestreet, Locanda Monaco is renowned for its seafood – try the tagliolini with scampi and artichokes in season. On the main square, Borgo Antico serves great pizzas and antipasti in a large garden with panoramic views.

Into the mountains

Street art in Civitacampomarano
Street art in Civitacampomarano. Photograph: Liz Boulter

Every Molise hill seems topped with an ancient town, many with just a few hundred inhabitants, all with a square offering stunning views. Atmospheric Civitacampomarano tries to fight ongoing depopulation with striking street art. The whole town is now an open-air gallery, with works of art on gable ends, rough stone walls and venerable wooden doors, and there’s an annual festival in September run by artist Alice Pasquini.

Towards the Campania border, Guardiaregia is on the edge of Molise’s grandest canyon, the Gole del Torrente Quirino, a WWF biodiversity reserve, with waymarked paths down into a wooded gorge with waterfalls and rock formations. There is a visitor centre in the town – opening hours are erratic – and noticeboards with routes and wildlife to spot.

The Altilia archaeological site in Sepino.
The Altilia archaeological site in Sepino. Photograph: Andrea Pistolesi/Getty Images

Two sites give a taste of when Molise was far more than a backwater. Saepinum (modern name Altilia), south of regional capital Campobasso, was already a substantial Samnite settlement when the Romans captured it in 293BC, and its ruins are well preserved. There’s no queue, no visitor centre, not even an entrance fee. There’s also little information, so we just used our imaginations wandering paved streets, remains of houses, temple pillars and an almost intact amphitheatre. There is a €3 fee for the small museum, showing fine Roman glassware, plus intricate brooches, dice, dolls and needles.

Pietrabbondante (entry €4), further north near the “bell town” of Agnone, is even older: its pre-Roman theatre, built by the Samnites in the sixth century BC, has amazing acoustics and its stone seating comes with elegant ergonomic back supports for ancient comfort during long festive evenings.

The Monte di Mezzo reserve in autumn
The Montedimezzo reserve in autumn. Photograph: Rino Savastano/Getty Images

Heading higher into the mountains, the Montedimezzo reserve is a vast forest rising to 1,300 metres, once hunting grounds for Bourbon lords and now a Unesco Man and Biosphere (MAB) reserve. There are waymarked trails, and maps and GPS for longer treks can be downloaded from Deer, wild boar and large birds of prey live in the forest, but are shy: get a closer look at the rescue centre near the car park off SP Carovillense.

Higher still, the upper Volturno valley is a ski area in winter, dominated by the Mainarde mountains, and known for rock-climbing, fishing, canoeing and cycling in summer. From the village of Pizzone, there is wonderful walking up the Valle Fiorita (“flowered valley”), through ancient beech forest towards Monte Meta (2,242 metres), a massive limestone hulk rising suddenly from green meadows.

The Abbazia del Volturno monastery, with its medieval arches.
The Abbazia del Volturno monastery, with its medieval arches. Photograph: Alamy

For lazier days there are beaches on Lago di Castel San Vincenzo, easy cycling on the 144km Ciclovia del Volturno, picnics under the medieval arches at the Abbazia del Volturno and, surprisingly, a comprehensive Museum of World Wars (entry €5) in the village of Rocchetta Nuova.

Il Palazzetto dei Briganti (doubles from €72 B&B) in Guardiaregia has spacious rooms in a historic building within walking distance of the gorge, and with a garden and bikes to borrow. Those brigands seem to have been great readers, judging from the piles of novels lying around, some open suggestively at an interesting chapter.

The pool at Masseria Santa Lucia, near Agnone.
The pool at Masseria Santa Lucia, near Agnone. Photograph: Colin Boulter

Near Agnone, Masseria Santa Lucia (doubles from €86 B&B) is an organic agriturismo run by motherly Emma and husband Decio, with four apartments, two doubles, a pool and homegrown dinners served with their own wine and peppery olive oil. These are usually eaten at long, convivial tables, but Covid has forced a little more separation.

Breakfast by pool at B&B La Sorgente
Breakfast by the pool at B&B La Sorgente

Up in the Volturno valley, Neapolitan lawyer Carmela Pera has created a homely B&B with pool, La Sorgente (doubles from €60). It’s within walking distance of the Volturno’s pristine source at the foot of a sheer Mainarde mountain face, but also handy for ice-creams and pizza in Rocchetta Nuova.

It’s all family-run agriturismos up in the mountains. On the outskirts of Guardiaregia, Le Coccole is a restored farmhouse offering rustic dinners – homemade pasta, roast meats – on a panoramic terrace. In the upper Volturno valley, Taverna Verdicchio does great filled pasta dishes, mushroomy stews and pizzas.

Accommodation was provided by the hotels mentioned. Car hire was provided by Skyscanner, which compares deals from car rental companies in locations including city centres, from £99 a week

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Travel: Pricier Holidays, Fewer Business Trips

Travel & leisure industry updates

The US airline industry’s recovery hit a milestone in June when more than 2m people passed through airport screenings in a single day. It was the first time since the pandemic began. Yet amid the crowds of luggage-toting visitors one group was conspicuously absent: business passengers. ​​

In contrast with leisure, corporate travellers have been slow to return to the skies. Just 4 per cent of companies surveyed by Deloitte expect their travel spend to fully return to 2019 levels by the end of this year. A complete rebound could be years away. Only 54 per cent of respondents think they will return to their pre-pandemic spending ways by the end of 2022.

Business travellers tend to pay higher airfares than the rest. Their corporate accounts subsidise other passengers. In their absence, some airlines have already decided to raise prices on certain routes. Leisure travel is back but it is not cheap.

It is not just that companies have discovered how many face-to-face meetings can be replaced with video conferences. Ever-shifting travel restrictions and quarantine rules — especially in countries outside the US — mean office managers are reluctant to greenlight unnecessary trips. 

At the same time, companies are being asked to scrutinise their impact on the environment. Commercial air travel is responsible for about 3 to 4 per cent of total US greenhouse gas emissions. Reinsurance company Swiss Re, Salesforce and EY are among those looking to reduce their carbon footprint by cutting back on business travel.

Zoom calls will not go away. Nor will important client meetings. But certain categories of travel will shrink more than others. Companies may permanently cut back on intra-company meetings and training. Trade shows and relationship building with clients will remain priorities.

These changes will have an outsize effect on the travel industry. Pre-pandemic, business travellers made up just a fifth of total travel volume, but accounted for 40-60 per cent of lodging and airline revenues, according to the US Travel Association.

Bill Gates believes that half of all business travel will never return. At the opposite end of the spectrum, JPMorgan boss Jamie Dimon laments the lost business that comes from bankers not hitting the road to visit clients. The future of business travel will probably fall somewhere between the two.

The Lex team is interested in hearing more from readers. Please tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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