Category Archives: Holiday

Exploring the coast of Skane in southern Sweden

First impression of the quaint fishing harbour of Molle (Mölle) on the west coast of Skane (Skåne), Sweden, is that you’re in some New England seaside village.

Molle harbour kullaberg skane sweden - photo zoe dawes

Maybe it’s the old wooden houses painted in white with traditional red roofs which overlook the ever-changing ocean twirling and swooshing along its stone walls and sandy beaches.  Originally a prosperous fishing community in the 19th century, the village is now a popular holiday destination, with many Swedes having holiday homes in the area. Continue reading

Exploring the Grand Palace in Bangkok

Some years ago I visited Thailand a few times and one of my favourite places was the Grand Palace. Here are some highlights.

Indus Experiences Blog

It’s the gold that gets to you. There’s so much of it and on a sunny day it’s almost blinding.

Tale of Hanuman - gold reliefEntering the gates of the Grand Palace complex in crazy, colourful, feisty, noisy, smoggy, intriguing, hot-wired Bangkok, should be to enter an oasis of calm. But as the number one tourist destination in Thailand, of course it’s nothing of the sort. And yet, and yet, if you choose your time (ie first thing in the morning, last thing in the afternoon, on a non-public day and off season, it is possible.  I visited some years ago in hot, humid late March, at the end of the high season.  There were lots of tourists milling about, being herded from place to place, but it was still posible to find a few quieter nooks away from the main sites.

 Pimanchaisri door gate within Grand Palace Bangkok Thailand - by ScorpianPK Pimanchaisri door gate within Grand Palace Bangkok Thailand – by ScorpianPK

The architecture…

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Travel Writers & Photographers London Weekend

“It’s amazing to be standing here in this place where  such great explorers as Livingstone and Shackleton stood before.”  Benedict Allen, a quirky traveller if ever there was, opened this year’s  inspiring Travellers’ & Photographers’  Tales Festival last weekend at the Royal Geographical Society in London. He was so funny and self-deprecating about his time as an idealistic young  man sharing the inaugural Manhood ceremonies of the Amazon tribes and living with indigenous peoples of Papua New Guinea, from whom he learnt so much.

What a brilliant line-up it was. Just a few of the people I saw …

  • Impish DERVLA MURPHY, now in her 80s and as feisty as ever, talking about her youth in Ireland and how it inspired her love of travel
  • Moving FERGAL KEANE sharing his stories as a BBC foreign correspondent and the impact on him of the horrific war in Rwanda
  • Hilarious CHRIS STEWART, author of ‘Driving Over Lemons’, keeping us amused with his tales of how he got into writing and his tales of life in rural Spain
  • Internationally renowned (tho rather long-winded!) photographer FRANS LANTING, sharing with us ‘The Life Project’ and his visualisation and musical realisation of the Cerne Hadron Collider project in Switzerland
  •  Thought-provoking NEEL MUKHERJEE, sharing the genesis of his award-winning Indian novel, ‘Past Continuous’
  • Creative world-renowned photographers CAROL BECKWITH & ANGELA FISHER, sharing with us their magical images of African tribal body painting 

The absolute highlight for me was seeing and hearing one of my absolute Travel Heroes, Jan Morris, reading from her latest book  of travel reminiscences, ‘Contact!’  As a young English teacher in the West Midlands, I hankered after foreign climes. I yearned to live in another culture and be not just as a tourist but to really experience what it was like to be a ‘foreigner’.  One day I heard Jan Morris speaking about her travels in Europe and I just knew I had to follow my dream …

… And so I told her as she signed my slightly battered copy of ‘Venice.’  “What shall I write?” she asked. “Can you put ‘In search of Letitia’ please,” I said. “I recently discovered she is my Venetian Gt Gt Gt Grandmother, and I am trying to find her. You inspired me to give up my teaching job and follow my heart …”  She smiled vaguely and wrote as requested.  No doubt for her I was just one more ‘star-struck fan’ but for me it meant a huge amount and I shall remember that moment forever …

I am Travel Editor for Wandering Educators. In this article you can read about Virginia Woolf’s birthplace, in the same road that Winston Churchill lived a died, just round the corner from the Festival venue.

A Winter Break in Prague …

This time last year I spent a magical week in Prague. It’s a perfect time to visit – not too many tourists, wintry weather which fits with the scenery, lots of cultural things to go to ie opera, ballet, concerts and theatre – and you can get a table at any bar or restaurant with no hassle. We were there during Obama’s inauguration and spent a memorable evening with locals & foreigners at the American-run Globe Bookstore watching the historic event on a huge screen and celebrating with excellent local ‘champagne’.

Here are five things to do in that wonderful city …

1. Indulge in the glories of Art Nouveau. Visit the Mucha Museum and learn about Alphonse Mucha, one of most famous exponents of the form. You can find wonderful original examples of his work, including his Four Seasons posters and those he did for his Muse, the English actress Sarah Bernhardt. There’s a beautiful stained glass window by him in St Vitus Cathedral (See pic above) and many fine examples of Art Nouveau architecture and design all over the city. My favourite building was the Obecní dům (Municipal Building), a fabulously ornate concoction to delight the senses.

2. Walk around medieval Staroměstské Náměstí (Old Town Square) and look at the fantastic collection of buildings from over 400 years. One of Prague’s most atmospheric Churches, Our Lady Of Tyn is beautifully silhouetted against the sky. Find a table at one of the restaurants (expensive but what a view!), watch the world go by and wait for the most beautiful Astronomical Clock in Europe strike the hour.

3. Slow down and get into the Cafe society. This city must surely rival Paris for the variety and quality of its Coffee houses. One of my favourites was the Grand Cafe Orient with its unique Cubist decor. Its other name is the House of Black Madonna, in honour of the statue on the corner. Behind Our Lady of Tyn is another gem – the Cafe Ebel Coffee House; very cosy and quirky – with excellent carrot cake. If you fancy trying the local tipple that drove Toulouse Lautrec and others mad – Absinthe – then go to the Art Deco gem Cafe Slavia and have their Seksinst Cocktail. It’s a potent mix of champagne and Absinthe – you have been warned …

4. For a slightly different perspective visit the The Vysehrad Cemetery Vysehrad, the burial place for many famous and important Czech people. You’ll find the composer Dvorak just round the corner from Smetana and in the large Slavin Memorial many illustrious Czechs including the Art Nouveau artist, Alphonse Mucha (see above). The cemetary is in the grounds of the Vysehrad ‘Castle on the Heights’ and there are great views over the city from its ramparts. To get there, you can walk there along the river, get the Metro or try the excellent tram system.

5. Watch the Changing of the Guard at Midday Prague Castle In the winter the Guards wear great-coats and furry hats (unlike their powder blue & decidedly fey summer uniform!) and at Midday when they do the Banner exchange, they march about to music that sounds vaguely reminiscent of the Thunderbird Theme tune. You can then go round Prague Castle, a glorious hotch-potch of buildings from different periods and also see the magnificently Gothic St Vitus Cathedral.

There are lots of great websites and guide books to help you enjoy your stay, but I found the best things of all was to simply relax into the rhythm of the city, take time to absorb the multitude of glories that this city presents and let it work its magic …

For a longer version of this article with a few more quirky things to do in Prague visit my Blog site at Wandering Educators

What is a holiday?

“Are you going on holiday?” asked the friendly chap in the car as I trundled my suitcase down to Carnforth Station (its claim to fame being the setting for ‘Brief Encounter’s tearful farewells from Celia to Trevor). “Yes,” I replied. “I’m going to London for the weekend.” And that set me thinking .. Was I going on holiday – and if not, what was I doing?

Attending a TravelWriting Workshop is not really the stuff of holidays – is it? But I didn’t see it as work; rather a great and hopefully enjoyable way to learn some new skills, meet like-minded people and enjoy myself.  I was also meeting up with a new-found friend from Twitter, Sharon Eden, whose inspirational website Women Of Courage was part of the reason I decided to take the plunge to write. I would be sight-seeing and was really looking forward to it all…  in my mind it was a holiday.

The question is then “What is a holiday?” Do let me know – because I am really not sure, thanks to that cheery chap in Carnforth!