I would like to go there!

Unique and inspiring travel destinations

Tuscan Experience at Cretaiole

Cretaiole is close to the hilltop town of Pienza in the Val d’Orcia, Italy. This ancient Tuscan farmhouse is perched on the top of one of Tuscany’s rolling hills. In this undoubtably stunning location (which is in a UNESCO World Heritage Site) the Moricciani Family welcome you to their property. It is the most superb place to stay to immerse yourself in Italian life and the family will help you explore their Tuscan heritage and Tuscany itself.

There are cooking classes, olive oil tastings and guided tours which have all been personally arranged by the family and are of the highest quality. Don’t miss out on the multitude of wine tasting opportunities either. The farmhouse is in the middle of the wine regions of Bruno di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

This was truly one of the best family holidays we have ever had. It was so full of experiences, places to discover, scenery and things to do that you must definitely look at the Cretaiole website to fully appreciate everything it has to offer.

http://www.cretaiole.it/index.php/en/

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Keukenhof- colours galore!

Keukenhof in Holland opened for its 2017 season of spectacular colours and flowers on March 23 until May 21.
With over 7 million bulbs and 800 varieties of tulips this is a unique experience for all ages. Imagine the family photographs you could snap here!
It’s easy to get to Keukenhof from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport using the train.
https://keukenhof.nl/en/

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Bivouac – a genuine getaway from it all break

Tucked away in the beautiful countryside of the Yorkshire Dales, close to the market town of Masham, “Bivouac” hides away from the stresses and strains of daily life.

Bivouac is a unique place situated on the Swinton Estate where there are luxury bespoke wooden shacks hidden away in the woodland and yurts in a meadow. It’s not just about the accommodation that’s here (which by the way is fabulous). It’s an experience which provides the feeling of being so far from the day to day pressures of home and work in a peaceful and beautiful part of the world.

We went to Bivouac with some close family friends and together the seven of us stayed in ‘Cuckoo Hollow’, one of the handmade wooden shacks. The standard of the accommodation was superb. The shacks are all made from local wood that has been sustainably sourced. It really was a luxury shack and I always base my judgements on the bathroom, which in its eco friendly way was an equal to the many lovely bathrooms that I have seen in hotels. We had a mini kitchen with everything we could need including a great terracotta ‘fridge’ which when topped up with a little water can keep food and milk fresh for up to a week!

The sleeping areas are on three levels in the shack- a double luxury bunk on the bottom, 3 very generous singles in the middle and at the very top a kingsize with a velux window to stargaze through at night. All the beds were super comfy with lovely thick duvets.The kingsize bed is up a tall ladder and is not for those afraid of heights. I was the only one out of my family who I could trust to sleep there on the edge! There was a tree trunk between me and the drop down so it was very safe.

There is no electricity in the shack which at first took a bit of adapting to. We initially felt that we wanted to turn the lights on! Very quickly we forgot about the lack of electric light and we used our camping lanterns once it got dark. It surprised me how the lack of electricity has shown us that we don’t really need to use so much energy! We were able to charge our phones up in the cafe and reception but to be honest we didn’t really need to use them!

The children had the best time playing in the woods and roaming freely. All the wet weather had created a mini muddy pond/bog near to our shack. The girls spent hours playing in and around it, making stepping stones across it and of course falling in it! They had the best imaginary games which went on for hours. It was such a pleasure to see the three of them so equally happy in their world of play or just being on their own in the woods exploring nature. 

The cafe at Bivouac which is set in a converted barn is fantastic. The home cooked menu is delicious and varied. There are special children’s dishes or they can have half portions of the main menu. We ate there a couple of times over the weekend and I would really recommend the breakfasts- yummy bacon sandwiches and really creamy porridge, a big treat!

Bivouac have built a couple of fire pits where guests can have their own barbecues. Together we made a fire and the girls enjoyed finding twigs and small branches for us to burn. It was the first time my girls have had a campfire and the sausages and marshmallows (that we toasted on twigs) tasted all the better for it!

Our long weekend at Bivouac was such a success we will definitely be planning another trip. The opportunity to spend time with friends and family in a place where we could all relax and enjoy quality time together. The children had the freedom of being able to play and explore whilst we could relax knowing they were safe and content.

Bivouac have created a very special destination. It is clear to see the time, passion and energy that has been put into the whole project. I am so very pleased we have been because it means that we can return again!

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I’d like to go to Manchester

It’s Sunday night and I am sitting with my iPad looking for inspiration for somewhere to go with my girls tomorrow. We are very lucky that most schools go back tomorrow but we are just starting our second week of holiday! We will use this opportunity to go somewhere where we can make the most of the quiet day without crowds and queues.

Last year I discovered the City of Manchester. Before this I would only cross the Pennines to use Manchester Airport or go shopping at the Trafford Centre. I am unable to find a good reason why we never came across but I am finding there are so many great things to do in this big city that now I keep wanting to return.

Listed below are a few of the places in Manchester that I want to visit and do, obviously I can’t fit them all in tomorrow but we will make a start!

Museum of Science and Industry:
An interactive museum for all ages. Science experiments, history, air and space, 4D cinemas, planetarium and much more. All for free.

BBC and CBBC tours at Media City, Salford Quays:
Tours of the new BBC studios where Match of the Day, Dragons Den, BBC Breakfast, Radio 5 Live and more.
Tours of CBBC offer children age 6 and over the opportunity to see where their favourite programmes are made- Blue Peter, Newsround to name a few. They also get the chance to see what it’s like to be a presenter! My girls would love this and so would I!

Imperial War Museum North:
Again a major museum that’s free to visit. Very family friendly with events for children and families.

Treasure Trails:
After downloading the free app from their website you can follow a tour round Manchester solving clues to switch Manchester’s rain making machine off! Anything to encourage our children to walk with a distraction to the actual walking sounds perfect!

There’s so much to do in Manchester that I admit I am a teensy bit jealous of all the lucky people who live in Manchester who have all the fun on their doorstep! I have only mentioned a few things that have caught my eye but if anyone has any suggestions for a great day in Manchester I’d love to hear them so I can add them into my mixing pot of things to do when I next visit.

K x

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Pompocali – a little piece of Rome close to home!

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Pompocali – a little piece of Rome close to home!

As it’s the weekend you may have been mulling over somewhere interesting and new to take yourselves. I want to share with you somewhere that although a long way from Rome, Italy that I mentioned in my last post it does have a link.

I have lived in Leeds for the majority my life and until recently had never heard of the Roman earthworks called Pompocali near to the village of Bardsey, 8 miles from Leeds. I have driven past on the A58 to Wetherby too many times to remember but never had any idea this Roman site was there. I love the ‘Romans’ as a period of history so I had to visit this as soon as I could.

We picked a lovely sunny March day and set off from the lay by on the A58 into Hetchell Woods. The path is on a disused railway line and follows a stream through the woods. It was so peaceful that we could just hear birds and the trickling, gurgling water of the stream. We walked along the edge of freshly ploughed fields, past Hetchell Crag where rock climbers were practising with ropes and a few children were tackling the easier ascents of the rocks. Previous visitors have made a few rope swings in the trees and one especially fun swing from a tree at a ford across the stream where there were also stepping stones. The stream was perfect paddling depth and the children loved dangling over the stream on the rope swing.

A short distance up the hill we found Pompocali. Described as Roman earthworks it is a series of hills set in a horse shoe shape. No one is sure what these hills actually were- possibly a Roman fort or a quarry? My children were so excited when they saw the remains of what had probably been an evening camp fire and said ” Look you can see the Romans have been here, they had a fire!”

On a warm day this would be a great place for a picnic as my girls loved running up and down the hills and we could keep an eye on them from the top of one of the hills.

The way back to Bardsey was past old ruined mill buildings and along fields of broccoli and hedgerows. Back in Bardsey we stopped at ‘The Bingley Arms’ which is officially Britain’s oldest pub (dating back over 1000yrs) for a late Sunday lunch. The building is full of character and the food was excellent. The staff were very welcoming and friendly and the children were well catered for with smaller portions of the Sunday lunch.

We enjoyed our day out discovering a part of Leeds we never knew existed. I would really recommend a visit as a family weekend walk as it was a varied walk with the unusual addition of the Roman earthworks.

Fits my criteria of ‘I’d like to go there (again)!

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Perugia, Italy – Olive groves, chocolate and history

Perugia, Italy – Olive groves, chocolate and history

Every October in Perugia, Umbria there is a festival to make any chocolate lover’s mouth water – the Eurochocolate Festival. This is Italy’s biggest chocolate festival which takes place in the piazzas and streets of Perugia. Perugia is perched on the top of a hill and has a history dating back to Etruscan times.

The streets are lined with stalls and stalls of all sorts of chocolate. Big brands such as Milka and Lindt have big marketing stands. Milka even have a ferris wheel on the edge of the hill top which gives far reaching views across Umbria. They even give you a free pair of Milka binoculars to enjoy the views! Many independent chocolate makers have stalls from which you can buy and taste all sorts of chocolate products. My girls’ favourites were the extremely thick Italian hot chocolate in which your spoon can almost stand up straight in and the chocolate crepes.
The town itself is easy to navigate and it is a manageable size to walk around even with children. Being on a hilltop to get to the old town can mean walking up some steep hills but a fun way of getting to the top is to use the funicular monorail system.

Perugia was not a town I knew a lot about and I don’t think many English people visit. This is what made it feel special and as if we were discovering it a new. The weather was warm and sunny during the day and a little chilly a night.

We spent a week staying in a little farm cottage up in the hills amongst the olive groves. My youngest daughter’s main disappointment was that the swimming pool had been emptied of water! This was made up for by the goats that lived on the land. The goats received a lot of attention that week from a wannabee goat herder! The local shop was no bigger than a bus stop and sold its own roast pork from a whole pig in the shop. My Italian was very basic but armed with my phrase book the shop keeper and I had an in depth discussion on the origin of the pig and how tasty it was!

We visited the Chocolate Festival quite a few times in the week but there were so many other things to do as well.

We hired bikes and cycled on a cycle route on the edge of Lago Trasimeno (Italy’s largest non alpine lake). The paths took us through reed filled marshes and woodland on the shores of the lake. The views of the surrounding mountains were beautiful and reflected in the water’s surface like a giant mirror.

We took the train to my favourite city in the world- Rome for a day’s sight seeing filled with the history of the Colosseum and the Forum. The children (and ourselves) were so inspired by the scale of the Roman ruins. My girls still talk about Rome months on! The trains in Italy are a very easy way to travel. They are punctual, clean and good value. The other cities which we could have easily reached on the train were Florence and Sienna. We will do these cities on future visits as we didn’t want to do too much city sight seeing.

Another fantastic day out was our trip to Gubbio. Another beautiful town with a Roman amphitheatre in mountain scenery. There is a cable car which is basically an open cage with a gate that you stand in to get up the mountain. It was easy to get on with children as the lift operator asks you to stand on a red spot on the floor to wait for your cage and the you jump in and he lifts the children in. I’ve never seen another lift like it in any ski resort. Once in the cage it felt as safe as any other mountain lift we’ve been on. At the top we went for a walk to get higher and had our picnic in a ruined fort at the top of the hill with 360 degree panoramic views!

In Perugia another chocolate themed trip is to the Perugina chocolate factory. They do offer English tours but we tagged on to an Italian one. The children loved seeing how a big factory worked as we walked around it in an elevated tunnel above the factory floor. We also saw the world’s biggest chocolate.

The beauty of our holiday was the opportunity to explore a part of Italy that was unknown to us. We had days where we were busy out and about and times when we could just relax enjoying one of quite a few delicious gelatos or lattes. Doing very little was perfect, the absence of television was not even commented on by our children! It was delightful to just see them outside on their own just taking in the mountain scenery with awe and wonder.

Italy for us was so varied and such a different holiday that I would go back again at the drop of a hat. I just need to get to the gym to work off last year’s chocolate intake before we start all over again!

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I’d like to go there!

I’d like to go there!

What makes me happy? Transports me away to sunnier, warmer or even snowier places? The answer is holidays. Holidays conceived and planned by me going to places that the masses of holiday makers don’t know or think about.

The destination could be close to home or far away but what makes it exciting to me is that I’ve found it without travel agents or big companies. Yes it takes me time searching through the Internet but the satisfaction of finding a rustic French bed and breakfast as a stopover to the Alps or an Italian escape in Umbria is the start of a perfect holiday.

My aim is to plan a time to captivate my family’s imagination, to allow time to discover new experiences and places together and to rest and relax.

I share my finds with friends, colleagues and anyone that’s interested who wants to gain different ideas to create a memorable and individual holiday. I am known as the one to ask when you need some inspiration to plan your next getaway with friends saying ‘Ask Karen she’ll know of something interesting!’

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