Family travel with flair
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Indoor sky diving at Windoor, Empuriabrava, Costa Brava

TweetWhen I first visited Costa Brava with a group of UK travel bloggers, we started off our exploration of the region with an activity that couldn’t have been better tailored for my then 9-year-old than if she’d organised it herself. It was “skydiving” in an indoor wind tunnel, at Windoor, in the town of Empuriabrava. Visiting a place like Windoor, you encounter an entire subculture, previously completely hidden. Men and women walk around in body-skimming jumpsuits talking animatedly about body positions. A viewing pit and restaurant tables are arranged in the WindBar outside the transparent tunnel, and groups sit drinking coffee or lager, watching the action inside and looking like they’ll be there all afternoon. We see indoor skydiving places occasionally at various places we visit, and I’d always wondered what they were all about. They sound a bit like a joke course you take at university, like underwater basket-weaving. But when we finally took the leap at Windoor, we were literally floating on air (sorry). What: Indoor skydiving at a facility that professional skydivers use but where amateurs are warmly welcomed too. Here’s the drill: You put on a jumpsuit, helmet and goggles; get a briefing from Pali (in our case), an easy-going instructor from Slovakia; wait outside the tunnel while watching professional skydivers practicing flips, spins and balletic swoops up and down the tunnel as if they’ve been sprinkled with fairy dust. The great thing is, with the help of Pali, it’s as easy as stepping out of an airplane. You get to the entrance door of the tube, lean your hips forward and basically fall into wind from below, which keeps you aloft. Kid appeal: Predictably, the kid appeal here is sky high. Young visitors are fearless and excited about zooming up the tunnel and throwing different shapes, testing how it allows them to move around the wind tunnel. Adults are a bit more suspicious that a strong breeze will actually hold them up. Everyone’s delighted when it works. What we liked: How easy the instructors make the entire experience. The staff is warm and welcoming and safety always seems paramount. On the day we visited, there were groups of advanced skydivers practicing their fast balletic swoops. Magnificent. What we didn’t like: When you arrive at the big warehouse-style building, you could be fooled into thinking the excitement within is nothing but hype. Resist that feeling. The whole morning was a fresh experience. Watch how the whole process goes, below, from entry into the wind tunnel...

iPhoneography: Staying at the Anassa in Cyprus

TweetWhen it comes to luxury family stays, the Anassa’s reputation precedes it. The resort in West Cyprus has won a slew of awards for its thalassotherapy spa and its family friendliness. We had the pleasure of visiting over the Easter break as guests of the hotel to check out what sport and adventures we could get up to over a long weekend. The resort is luxurious, oh yes. But even beyond enjoying this remote resort, we saw gorgeous, unspoiled Cypriot countryside, navigated slippery rocks at the dramatic Avakas Gorge, learned more about the Turkish/Greek divide, ate gorgeous food and lazed on well-sited terraces, admiring dramatic views. I’ll be posting video and reviews soon, but in the meantime, here’s a peek at what we did and saw. Jenography visited Anassa on a half board press trip. All opinions are my own.           Look for more about our Cyprus travel soon. Get vital advice and tips on travelling in Europe in my Europe section...

Preview: Visiting Anassa in Cyprus with children

TweetIt’s always exciting to plan for a trip but there’s something quite special when you’re upcoming trip makes people jealous. “You’re going to Anassa?” a blogger friend of mine cooed when I told her about our Easter trip to Cyprus, staying at the Anassa resort. “That’s the best place in Cyprus. You’re going to love it,” she said, while her Cypriot boyfriend leaned over and nodded. “It’s the best,” he affirmed. A week later while visiting a salon, the talk of upcoming holidays came round. “Anassa – just today another client told me they’re visiting over Easter,” the owner told me. I knew Anassa was going to be a great place to visit, but I hadn’t known it was going to be this good. This Western Cyprus resort is next to the Akamas peninsula and national park and has won a raft of awards for best family hotel (Conde Nast Traveller in April 2015, Tatler, Telegraph) and spa destination (Conde Nast Traveller Reader’s Poll, among others). It’s a good hour away from the hubbub (and aeroport) of Paphos and we’ll be going for a sporty getaway with children, making the most of the Cyprus countryside and the beach. What has also got me excited — and what had my daughter practically beside herself with joy — were the pictures of a gorgeous complex nestled up against the beach, with three separate swimming pools.       The anticipation in the run-up to a holiday is delicious, made all the most tantalising when we’re due to visit a resort as celebrated and beautiful as Anassa. Zeitgeist and bragging rights aren’t the reason for travelling but let’s be honest: they are a nice side effect of going cool places and doing fun things. I’ll be blogging about our visit to Western Cyprus and Anassa over the coming weeks. Have you been? I’d love to hear your experiences! We’ll be staying as guests of Anassa on a half-board basis, paying for our lunches and all alcoholic beverages. All opinions are my own....

A motorcycle sidecar tour with kids

TweetUsually I post about things I’ve personally tried so I can tell y’all exactly what it’s like, but when I heard about this family activity recently, it was too cool not to spread the word. Get this: Four Seasons Lisbon is offering motorcycle sidecar tours around the city. You take your camera and are accompanied with a photographer, who gives tips and advice on capturing Portugal’s capital. But for me the most exciting bit is that one little compound word: SIDECAR! The blog Hooniverse asks “Are sidecars cool?” to which I reply, “Is that even a question?” Just Google Steve McQueen and sidecar to see how cool these things can be. Not only that, but sidecars live in my imagination (prompted by old movies) as a thousand opportunities for slapstick hijinks. The motorcycle and the sidecar get divided! The sidecar runs into a pond and the occupant falls out! The sidecar zooms down a mountain road, taking hairpin turns with reckless aplomb! The sidecar swings by the Plaça do Comércio with the kids snapping pictures! The Four Seasons Lisbon offers loads of different family programmes: feeding the animals at Badoca Safari Park, kids’ surf clinics and going behind the scenes at Lisbon Zoo to meet meerkats and helping the bird trainers. If you’re planning a trip, check out the Four Season’s guide to Lisbon and its eclecticism and dynamism. Then strap on your helmet and let someone else do the driving. The details: Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon Rua Rodrigo da Fonseca, 88 Lisbon 1099-039  Portugal Hotel reservations: +351 (21) 381-1400 This post is my opinion. I received no remuneration for it....

Taking a Segway tour in Barcelona El 3 Monts

TweetThere are some moments when a blogger must ask herself, How cool am I? For instance, am I cool enough to put on a helmet and ride a Segway? Can I mount with elan the two-wheeled vehicle that makes a pushbike look butch? I discovered it helps if you’re zooming up and down hills in the Sant Llorenc del Munt Obac Natural Park, the first natural park in Spain about a 45-minutes drive from Barcelona. We all know the city is a tourist mecca. Costa Barcelona is now highlighting activities visitor can get up to when they venture beyond the city itself. You can, for example, see the beautiful landscape of this park, which is part of El 3 Monts, a hiking and biking trail that connects three natural parks of Barcelona Province. And you can do this on the transport most closely associated with mall cops across America How to ride a Segway First of all, it’s easier than you think. You step on, hold the handles and simply lean forward to advance; shift your weight to your heels to move backward. To turn, you don’t so much turn the handlebars as slide them sideways. It does not take much effort and generally you are just standing there on the machine. Try not to assume the appearance of someone waiting for a bus. Enjoy yourself. (Watch my How to Ride a Segway video to see it come to life.) It turns out that this too is easier than you might think. Segways are powered and engineered to stay upright, so I quickly relaxed and started to enjoy the views around me as well as being able to cover more ground than if I was walking. Our ride was not without minor thrills — there were moments going over bumpy ground, advancing up hills that would normally have you breathing hard. My 15-year-old stepson would have loved the novelty of touring on one of these and to be honest it is just that little bit more exciting than hiking.   A farmhouse for staying inside the natural park We Segwayed (is that a verb?) up a large hill to Masia Sant Llorenç (also referred to as Masia “El Romeu”), a handsome farmhouse built in the typical rural style, available to rent, and right in the middle of the park. You can bring the extended family here — it accommodates up to 18 people — to swim in the private pool and take in views over the park. Touring the...

Postcard from Costa Barcelona

TweetI’ve just spent a a wonderful few days in the area around Barcelona with the folks from Costa Barcelona. “Costa Barcelona” is actually a new name for the combined areas of El Garraf, south of Barcelona, and Mataró, north of the city. The rebranding (God, don’t we all hate that word?) makes it easier to place and easier to understand. “Costa Barcelona” is all about the delights that await visitors outside of the capital of Catalunya in Spain. There are some amazing things to do with the family in the area — donkey riding, anyone? I’ll be writing more about those. In the meantime I wanted to share some of the striking architecture I saw while travelling around. There is a real modernist flair with many of the buildings. Gorgeous older houses are poetry of light and dark spaces. The landscape outside is alternately dusty and leafy, rugged and tranquil. Here is a glimpse of what I saw this past week.                           Find out more Look for more images and stories soon about how to get out of Barcelona enjoy more of Catalunya! You can see more of images and inspiration about the area via the hashtag #bcnmoltmes and by following @bcnmoltmes.  ...

The best museum in Istanbul

TweetWith all the drinking, eating and people-watching to do while travelling, sometimes — sometimes — I find the museum-going with travel to be a bit…obligatory. Some museums are life-changing for me, like the Reina Sofia in Madrid. Others are full of important and beautiful works that leave me feeling like I really *should* read more art history. If only I could pause journeying this forkful of local delicacy to my lips. On my short visit to Istanbul last year I only had time to visit one museum but it is one absolutely no one spending time in that city should miss: The Museum of Innocence. This is no ordinary museum. It’s a monument to the relationship between Kemal and Fusun, the two main characters in the Orhan Pamuk’s novel Museum of Innocence. Turkey’s Nobel Prize-winning author and perhaps most famous writer conceived of creating an actual bricks-and-mortar museum that’s a manifestation of one created by Kemal in the book. Which is a very cool idea. But it goes even beyond that. Pamuk created the museum and acquired the objects for it at the same time he wrote the book, allowing the objects to inform the story. The historical building, built in 1897, is a small vertical structure on Çukurcuma Street, its exterior giving little hint at the wondrous world inside. Visitors first see an installation of the 4,213 cigarettes that Fusan smoked during the time Kemal knew her. As you walk through the building, you view 83 installations corresponding to the book’s chapters, each providing insight not just to the lovers’ lives and the story but to Turkey and its struggle in the 1970s for identity between traditional and European values. Audio recordings bring to life the sound of a woman’s stilettos as she walks, people eating. You could linger for ages in front of each vitrine, exquisitely curated with ephemera. I often think of one in particular that was striking and a bit frightening: black and white pictures of women, black bars across their eyes. The text with the image reads: In those days, even in Istanbul’s most affluent Westernized circles, a young girl who ‘gave herself’ to a man before marriage could still expect to be judged harshly and face serious consequences: If a man tried to avoid marrying the girl, and the girl in question was under eighteen years of age, an angry father might take the philanderer to court to force him to marry her. It was the custom for newspapers to run photographs with...

Visiting Dalí’s house in Port Lligat, Spain

TweetOf all my favourite artists when I was a girl, Dalí was the rock star. I identified with his eccentricity and his public persona, his slant way of looking at the world and the surrealist universe he created. I watched Hitchcock’s Spellbound over and over for the dream sequences he designed. Even as a young student with no money, I bought and framed a poster of Femme a tete de rose for a not inconsiderable portion of my monthly budget. That’s one of the reasons my visit to Cap de Creus was so affecting: Here was not only the region where Dalí spent so much time. The craggy beautiful landscapes of his paintings stood all around us. The Cap de Creus is in the far northeast of Catalonia; its craggy dry landscape sits next to a brilliant Mediterranean sea. The area is said to have Spain’s best beaches and the natural beauty takes your breath away. A Dalí Day We started our day in Cadaqués, a picturesque — or should I say Instagram-esque — village where Dalí spent some of his youth. A statue of the artist stands on the city centre beach and you catch glimpses of his pictures in shop windows on a stroll around town. Read my post on the BritMums blog about the amazing Cadaqués Instagram walk I went on. After our walk, our group of bloggers, escorted by my old colleague Steve Keenan and the fabulous Jaume Marin of Costa Brava Tourist Board, ate fresh seafood at the Restaurant Can Rafa. I’ll be honest, I’m not normally wildly enthusiastic about seafood (is it legal to say this in Spain, which has all that lovely seafood?), but the fish and mussels and cockles were delicious, especially with the wine (which I normally am enthusiastic about). The kids obviously liked the former, as they dug into plate after plate of fresh fish goujons. Dalí’s House Next we drove 5 minutes to Port Lligat, where Dalí’s house sits overlooking the fishing bay. This was Dalí’s only fixed abode from 1930 and he lived and worked her until the death of his muse Gala in 1982. The first question most people must ask when they walk in is, Can I rent this place? The house is a collection of seven fisherman’s cottages knocked together, and practically every room — accessed via a series of up-steps and down-steps — overlooks the bay or the countryside and is populated with items to stimulate and inspire. Every room you enter features...

Photo Friday: Roundabout in Cadaques

TweetThis past week my daughter and I traveled to Costa Brava on a press trip to explore the region. One of the places we visited was Cadaques, a former fishing village in Northeast Spain, Catalonia. Salvador Dali often visited the city during is childhood, and you can easily see why. It’s absolutely gorgeous, with a shingle beach in the middle of town and cobbled streets that wind up the hills. The day we were there the Indianos Fair was taking place. It’s a street fair celebrating the villagers who sailed to America, made their fortunes, then returned with their wealth and build large houses. At the urging of one of the women running a meats stall, I tasted some kind of fried animal’s stomach, some other kind of sausage whose contents I’ve now put from my mind and a very nice salami. There were jewellery makers and fresh juice stalls. The highlight was this man-powered mini-roundabout. He slowly cycled in one direction while the kids, astride their donkeys made of recycled tyres, rode in the other. The visit was part of the #InstaCadaques walk we took part in, going round town with other Instagramers (check out the fantastic pictures of this beautiful city using the hashtag). I’ll be posting more about the #InstaCadaques walk soon. It highlighted the enjoyment of simply walking around on a sunny day trying to capture the spirit of the place. I visited Costa Brava as a guest of Costa Brava tourism as part of a press trip. The opinions in this and other blog posts relating to my trip are my own.  ...

How does Disneyland maintain the magic for modern families?

TweetOn our recent visit to Disneyland Paris for the launch of the 20th anniversary celebrations, my 8-year-old and I were dazzled by all the spectacles that go along with the celebrations – from new costumes and choreography to a new evening light, music and, um, fire show. But it got me thinking about how a company like Disney keeps its gee-whiz, goodnatured, wholesome appeal going. After all, while Disneyland Paris is 20 years old this year, Walt Disney World Resort opened in 1971. Since then, not only has our love of polyester print shirts faded, but kids have become a lot more sophisticated – some might even say jaded. I have to admit that I was surprised at how wholeheartedly my daughter got into the Disneyland spirit – she loved meeting the characters, riding all the rides (even ones she deemed “too young” we rode on several times) and browsing the shops. Everything is clean and tidy, and all the employees have a level of chirpy friendliness that borders on manic, but in a good way. When I was a single, I used to roll my eyes a bit at Disney. “Haven’t we all moved past that?” I thought, as I tossed back cocktails and read important literature. People who hadn’t “moved past it” needed to wise up, I thought smugly. Now that I have children and have, y’know, actually visited a park, I understand the appeal. There are timeless characters, peppy singing and dancing — that gets me every time and I’m not kidding — dazzling displays and parades. You can tell that the company works hard to make it unlike the outside world. Of course there are things that I would like to see at Disneyland Paris. I wish the old-fashioned themed Main Street featured not just shops but old-fashioned-style businesses as well – a cobbler demonstrating the traditional way to make shoes, a mustachioed barber, maybe a blacksmith. Even without those things, the magic does endure at Disneyland. My daughter didn’t ask to play on the iPad once during our visit — she mainly fell into bed and immediately to sleep each night. At lunchtime, she wanted to discuss what we’d done and seen and plan our next move. We were there with some other Disney-philes of all ages and I realised that there’s nothing unsophisticated about getting excited about a family experience that’s unashamedly earnest. Plus, it turns out you can drink cocktails at Cafe Fantastia. Bring our own important literature. Below, I talked to...

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