Category Archives: Quirky

Lakes Culture interview – 5 minutes with Zoë Dawes –

lakesculture

Lakes Culture aims to bring together the area’s tourism and cultural sectors to better promote the wealth of cultural activities on offer reaffirming the area as the UK’s leading rural cultural destination.

Blackwell Arts and Crafts House White RoomIn a this interview with Lakes Culture I talk about my love for the Lake District, share tips on places to eat and stay, winning the Culture & History Blogger and my favourite view on the Lake District.Zoe Dawes aka The Quirky Traveller

Read 5 minutes with Zoë Dawes – Lakes Culture.

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‘A Green Song – to sing at the bottle bank’ by poet Wendy Cope

Have you come across Wendy Cope’s poetry? If not then I highly recommend you search her out and have a read of some of her engaging, personal, quirky poetry, ESPECIALLY if you are not a poetry fan. She may convert you.

Wendy Cope at the Hay Festival - Telegraph image

Wendy Cope at the Hay Festival – Telegraph image

Wendy Cope OBE  has published four collections of poetry and parodies. Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (1986) went straight into the best seller lists. Serious Concerns followed in 1992, If I Don’t Know in 2001, and Family Values in 2011. In 1998, she was voted the listeners’ choice in a BBC Radio 4 poll to succeed Ted Hughes as Poet LaureateContinue reading

A Brief Encounter with Carnforth Station

Carnforth is a small town on the Lancashire/Cumbria border, famous for its Railway Station which was used in the classic movie ‘Brief Encounter’.  Filmed at the end of WWII in 1945,  the Ministry of Transport chose Carnforth Station as it was deemed safe from enemy fire – why would anyone bother to come so far north to bomb this town?! Filming took place at night so as not to interrupt regular train operations. 

The film had a great cast, with relative new-comer Trevor Howard making his name and Celia Johnson overcoming her dislike of filming (she preferred stage acting and didn’t like being away from her family) to win an Oscar nomination for her delicate performance as a married woman verging on infidelity.  It may come as a surprise to know that Trevor was 8 years younge than Celia.  Stanley Holloway created a memorable comedy cameo asthe Station Master. It was co-directed by David Lean, famous also for ‘Dr Zhivago‘ & ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’.  What is less well-known is that Noel Coward co-directed it, produced it, wrote the screen play AND the music.

There is now an award-winning Visitor Centre at the station with lots of interesting railway memorabilia.  You can have a cup of tea at the Refreshment Room, faithfully restored to 1940s splendour, as it looked when Celia and Trevor gazed adoringly at each other whilst Stanley flirted outrageously, oblivious to the heart-breaking drama being played out nearby …

Find out more at Carnforth Station  Next time you are in the area, why not visit and who knows, you may have your very own Brief Encounter …

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

Personal & Quirky Reflections & Intentions

As we shift from one decade to another I’d like to share with you what I’m really grateful for.  Please do share your thoughts, resolutions, gratitudes, intentions …  

I am really grateful for:

  • My son Alex, who’s grown from a toddling 2 year old to the threshold of teenagerdom and brought us such joy, fun, enrichment and learning…
  • My Mum, who died 7 years ago and whose wisdom, beauty and grace is with me every day. I thought I had lost her when she died but have learnt that she is all here all the time …
  • The rest of my family for ‘being there’, keeping me sane and sharing the good and bad times, even when we drive each other crazy 🙂
  • Dear friends who share the journey, allow me to fail, be ‘out of order’ and forgive me every time … and for those friends who I have lost touch with but who are still in my heart ….
  • All the very special clients, colleagues and people I have worked with – thank you for sharing your lives, loves, aspirations, hopes, problems and dreams – such a privilege …
  • Living and working in such a beautiful part of the world
  • Good health and that of those around me
  • The luxury of being able to look forward to the coming decade from the warmth and safety (hopefully!) of my own home
  • For learning the difference between desiring what I don’t have, and being content with all that I am blessed with …

My INTENTION for the coming decade is to live as much as possible in the PRESENT, to appreciate all that is good around me, to share what I can with others and be open and  positive to whatever DESTINY may have in mind in 2010 and beyond  …

I wish you all that you wish for yourself in the coming year, with an extra dash of magical  quirkiness 🙂

Quirky Christmas Past …

I recently wrote this article for a Twitter friend, Stephanie @TravelDesigned. You can see the original here   If you have a quirky Christmas memory please do share it … Leave a Comment below.

Aswan, Egypt

In the early 80s a group of us spent one Christmas and New Year in Egypt.  On Christmas Day so we left our VERY basic hostel to find a cheap restaurant open which served festive fare and a drink. As you can imagine, in a predominantly Muslim country on a Saturday, that was not so easy … Eventually we found a little place by the Camel Market (not on that day), with a big table outside.  We were offered Roast chicken and chips with local beer… Perfect.

Whilst we waited (for hours) for the chicken, we drank warm beer and relished the hot sun, safe in the knowledge that back home in the UK it was probably raining and definitely cold.  The chicken was the toughest, ropiest old bird you could imagine – but we enjoyed it anyway as we reminisced about our favourite Christmas holidays, exchanged REALLY cheap and fun gifts, toasted absent friends and congratulated ourselves on having a very unChristmassy Christmas Day.

 Pattaya, Thailand

In 1990, a friend and I escaped from Hong Kong to stay at a luxury hotel in Pattaya, which looked absolutely dreamy. What we didn’t know was that during the Vietnam War, Pattaya had been a favourite place for soldiers to chill out and ‘relax’ – and their legacy lived on …

 Having arrived on Christmas Eve we decided to eat out in Pattaya the next day, so after a relaxing day by the pool we wandered into the town.  What a shock that was.  It was late afternoon and still daylight but all the bars were busy and it was obvious what delights were on offer for Christmas here… We wandered up and down Soi 6 barely able to contain our amazement. Some of the bars and clubs had festive decorations amidst the neon – I’ll never forget one sign which read ‘A Merry Christmas to all our Customers’ above a lap-dancing club offering some very exotic acts …

 Eventually we found a vaguely respectable bar where we had Pad Thai noodles and fended off the attentions of some very drunk Australian guys who’d clearly partaken of a fair bit of Christmas cheer.  As their propositions got more extreme we decided return to our hotel and leave Pattaya red light district to its own unique Christmas festivities!

 Queenstown, South Africa

“We’re having a Braai on Christmas Day – just family and a few mates …” thus was I introduced to Christmas Dinner, South African style. I was staying with my boyfriend’s family on their farm just outside Queenstown. The weather was fantastic; warm, sunny and fresh. On Christmas morning we exchanged presents, drank sparkling wine and opened cards showing Santas and snow-covered carol singers outside typical English churches; all very incongruous with the African veldt outside the back door.

 A Braai is a BBQ, SA style. On the biggest grill I’ve ever seen, was every kind of meat imaginable, including ostrich and Boerewors, a spicy sausage.  Huge buckets were filled with ice and beer, boxes of red wine stood outside the kitchen door next to a tall fridge full of white wine, soft drinks & mixers.  Two trestle tables were loaded up with all manner of salads, dips, breads and fruit, with a smaller table for the kids – and not a turkey or Brussel sprout in sight.

 By 4pm the party was in full swing and it was time for carols and the Christmas pudding. The farm workers joined us and as ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’ rang out into the African sky from over 50 voices, it seemed the best way ever to celebrate this wonderful season.

Whatever you do, wherever you are and whoever you are with, may your Christmas be quirky and bright 🙂

Passage to Indian dreams …

Last month The Big Journey Company moved in to my office. It is great to be sharing space with this up and coming tour company; they were nominated for The British Travel Awards 2009.  India & Sri Lanka

I’ve always wanted to visit India and in November the Big Journey Company is planning a tour there, The Golden Triangle and Ranthambhore Park  and fingers crossed I will be joining them!  As a lover of the Alastair Sawday books, I was delighted to discover Sawday’s India & Sri Lanka Special Places To Stay, and I spent a magical time looking through the book and dreaming of the trip.  (A version of this appears in an Amazon review for the book – see link.)

There are loads of wonderful choices – from palaces and luxury hotels to homely B&Bs, tree houses and tents – to suit every budget, including a fairly limited one like mine. All the places are chosen with Sawday’s unique approach to accommodation – “We look for comfort, originality, authenticity and reject the insincere, anonymous and the banal.”

I fell in love with exotic locations like Neemrana Fort-Palace built over 6 centuries and spread over 11 levels, Devra Udaipur with its organic farm and views across Lake Pichola, Savista Retreat and its musical preformances on the amphitheatre steps and Dev Villas with 7 ‘stylish safari tents’ and India’s most famous tiger reserve nearby.

(A version of this appears in an Amazon Review for the book – see link.)

Having indulged in a myriad of fab places to stay, I then spent a while wandering around the websites giving info about the region, including Rajasthan Tourism site which gives loads of helpful info and ideas for travel. What a fascinating place to visit – I can’t wait.

If you have any hints or tips for India travel, do let me know …