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Pro Traveller For the more discerning family and cultural traveller

Stunning Sri Lanka Thrill Seeking in Serbia

Alternative Algarve Return to Soma Bay

Plus‌ A Lesson in how to Fall off a Mountain! and A Midnight Flight to Georgia

Issue 55

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Pro Traveller

Issue 55

Pro Traveller Magazine 2 Fremantle Road Folkestone Kent, CT20 3PY, Uk

Checking In…

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A few words from the Editor, Trevor Claringbold

Editorial email: editor@protraveller.co.uk General Enquiries: info@protraveller.co.uk Tel: 00 44 (0)1303 850801

There is so much crammed into this issue that I’m not sure where to begin. And that’s a bit like life in the Pro Traveller office recently, with so much going on.

Editor Trevor Claringbold Assistant Editor and Photography Natalia Kolesnikova News Editor Rosie Baker

John Plaskett has taken time away from his Globetrotter TV duties to head to the France. He had a somewhat unplanned highlight to his first experience of hiking in the Alps, when he fell off a mountain. Luckily there was a safety rope, and he made it back in time to also visit Lausanne. Rosie Baker has been busy keeping up with the latest news in our ‘Good to Know’ pages, as well as looking at some adrenalin filled adventures to try in Serbia.

Artwork and Design Kudosmedia www.kudosmedia.org

Robin Nowacki has been exploring the delights of Costa Rica, and spending an amazing night on the beach with the turtles.

Editorial Integrity: Whilst some trips featured in this publication are sponsored by organisations or hotels in the destination, those organisations have no input into the editorial content, which is wholly and uniquely the impartial work of our writers.

And I’ve done something I hardly ever do; returned to a resort I’ve already been to. As a rule I like to always go somewhere new, but Soma Bay was such a delight the first time I visited, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to return. Would it be as good? I’ve also been in Sri Lanka, where I was invited to speak at a United Nations World Tourism Organisation Conference. It was a wonderful opportunity to support this very worthy organisation, as well as to see this amazing country. Happy Travels!

All material is Copyright Pro Traveller Magazine and Kudosmedia

@TheTravelWriter

This Issue’s Writing Team Includes…

ROBIN NOWACKI A regular contributor with a vast experience stretching back to his time with TV Travel Shop.

ROSIE BAKER With an eye for those useful or quirky travel stories, Rosie has been busy with a number of items in this issue.

JOHN PLASKETT John takes time away from his role with Globetrotter TV to contribute to this month’s issue.

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NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA Our award winning staff photographer has a keen eye and a passion for all kinds of travel.

ANCA PRECUB As well as overseeing the latest gadgets in our Travel Tech pages, Anca also loves to visit spa’s and mountain retreats!

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Pro Traveller For the more discerning family and cultural traveller

THIS MONTH’S CONTENTS… 8

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Alternative Algarve

Flanders Remembered

Spectacular Landscapes

Lazing in Lausanne

Portugal’s Algarve is well known for golf and beaches, but we discover a whole lot more to do

The Menin Gate, and Somme Battlefields are becoming a popular stop for tourists

The might look like landscapes from another world, but these are the dramatic Canary Islands

When you combine a relaxing lake, stunning mountains and a pretty town, what’s not to like?

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Return to Somabay

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Quick View: Cadizfornia Midnight Flight to Georgia

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Carcassonne in Photos

We take a brief look at one of the lesser known regions of southern Spain.

Hidden away in the extreme east of Europe, what does this mountainous nation offer?

The first in a series on phototours, starting in the fairytale French city of Carcassonne.

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Peace in Sri Lanka

New Brunswick, Pt 2

Thrill Seeking in Serbia

It’s All About the Wine

After 30 years of civil war, Sri Lanka is now one of the world’s safest tourist destinations.

Part two of our tour along the spectacular Fundy Coast, and a whale-watching trip too!

There are a wealth of activities for adrenalin junkies, and the less energetic adventurers.

The vineyards of the Languedoc Roussillon region make a great match with the historic cities.

The Editor takes a trip back to this luxurious Red Sea resort, and tries the range of activities

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REGULAR FEATURES p22

GET IN GEAR - New gear for smart travellers.

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GOOD TO KNOW - The latest news and tips.

Exploring Costa Rica

Falling Off Mountains

A Taste of Turkey

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Whether from the land or the air, this is an amazingly diverse country to visit.

It was meant to be a gentle introduction to mountain hiking - but not all went to plan.

We seek out a Turkish hideaway with a speciality in food - and even share one of their recipies.

TRAVEL TECH - Recent gadgets and tech.

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BOOKS FOR THE BEACH

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ALTERNATIVE ALGARVE

Portugal’s Algarve is well known for it’s rugged coastline, beautiful beaches and world class golf courses. Yet there is so much more to this region that is often overlooked by visitors… as Trevor Claringbold discovers.

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“If you’re scared, cover your eyes, as the next bit is kind of steep”, the amiable driver of our off-road Land Rover helpfully suggested as we reached the bumpy crest of the narrow, rocky, mountain track. The comment was aimed at one particularly nervous member of our group, who was not as keen as the rest of us on the spectacular ride into the mountains of southern Portugal. As we edged over the crest, the nose of the vehicle began to tip alarmingly downwards, forcing the passengers to hold on even tighter than they had been already. What followed was a piercing scream from our friend that lasted an entire 300 metres, as we hurtled down the steep, uneven track. With dust and rocks flying from the wheels, the rest of us were grinning uncontrollably as the adrenalin took hold.

Above: The stunning Monchique landscape on the Jeep Safari Below: Dramatic Cliffs of the Atlantic coast near Cape St Vincent Bottom: The curious stone towers on top of the 900m Fóia Peak

ground. On a clear day the panoramic view is magnificent, taking in both the Atlantic and southern coastlines. This was the physical high point of our week, but there were many more highlights in a journey that bizarrely began... at the ‘End of the World’! This is the term that was given in days of old to Cape St Vincent - the most south-westerly extreme of mainland Europe. When the earliest foundations of the fortress that now occupies the

The jeep safari was just one of many highlights in a week looking beyond the golf and beaches that are so synonymous with the Algarve. The drivers knew their craft, and skilfully picked their way up a succession of gravel roads and farm tracks, entertaining us wish occasional bursts of speed, and giving a good deal of interesting commentary about the surrounding countryside. They stopped at vantage points for great photo opportunities, and even reached the highest point in the Algarve – the impressive Fóia peak, some 902m above sea level. This popular summit is crowned with a restaurant and visitor centre, but also has a strange phenomenon of people making small towers from the many smooth rocks that cover the

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site were laid, little was known about the world beyond the horizon. The Cape is an interesting place to begin a tour, with the views northwards along the Atlantic coast, and eastwards along the Algarve both doing their best to outshine the other in their rugged beauty. Wildlife is abundant, with herons, kites, white storks, and even Bonelli’s eagles all making homes on the rocky cliffs. Nowadays it’s the small red and white lighthouse, the most powerful in Europe which dominates the skyline for the coach loads of tourists that pull up alongside the busy, ramshackle market. A mile or so along the coast, at Sagres, is a significantly larger and more important fortress. It dates back to the 15th Century, when it was built by Henry the Navigator as his famous School of Navigation. He gathered some of the greatest astronomers, adventurers, and map makers, and set about revolutionising the art of navigation. Vasco da Gama, Cabral, and Magellan all studied here. From the nearby beach, now popular with surfers, ships set off on ever greater adventures, mapping the west coast of Africa, and setting the path for Portugal’s overseas empire. Even today, as you approach the fortress, the huge walls are formidable. Enter through a long tunnel, and onto the wide courtyard, and you can’t avoid the huge wind compass build into the ground with 40 segments of dark pebbles. Unbelievably this 40 metre diameter circle was only unearthed below a church in the 1920’s, and with no documentary evidence to prove it was from the time of Henry, it is merely logic and romanticism that places it from that time. Of course, nowadays there are infinitely more means by which you can explore foreign lands. Along the coast in the pretty medieval town of Lagos, our little group were relying on two wheels and a battery to get them around. We met with our guides on the cliff top path just outside the town, overlooking the glorious sandy beaches below. After some brief instruction, and a practice ride on our Segways, the haphazard convoy wound its way into the labyrinth of streets. Lagos is a town of memories. Much of the original town, once the capital of the Algarve, with its mighty city walls and the first African slave market in Europe, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755. What you see today might be largely more recent restoration, but the town still has a quaint, elegant, and historic feel, with its whitewashed houses, colourful shops, and narrow streets. As we glide around the busy centre on our new wheels, there’s a sense that this is a town totally at ease with itself. Nobody hurries, everyone is polite, and an indulgent stop for a huge cream cake in the busy town square put us all in a completely relaxed frame of mind. Perfect then, for our next activity... wine tasting.

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The powerful lighthouse at the ‘End of the World’ A huge wind compass at Sagres Fort could be from the time of Henry the Navigator Fun on the Segway tour around the historic town of Lagos.

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Issue 55 After a luscious, lazy lunch at the stylish Cascades Wellness and Lifestyle Resort, we made our way to the Quinta dos Vales winery. Let’s be clear; this is not your typical vineyard. Of course there are neat rows of vines covering the hillsides for as far as the eye can see, a large bottling plant, and an impressive wine cellar and shop. But sprinkled all around are red elephants, flying angels, golden bulls, giant birds, and a somewhat disconcerting abundance of huge, rotund naked ladies! This is a vineyard that doubles as a vast outdoor art gallery. I’m the first to admit that I’ve never been a huge art fan, but even I really enjoyed wandering the grounds, enjoying the warm sunshine, then settling down to taste a selection of their high quality reds. Sipping the wines to the backdrop of the gently setting sun, and a myriad of birdsong, it was certainly a moment to savour. After a good night’s sleep there was a completely different treat in store. The extensive Zoomarine park combines an aquarium, marine theme park, and water park all in one. It’s a complete day out all on its own, with tropical birds, seals and sea lions, and even an interactive dinosaur experience – and all this accompanies the Zoomarine Beach with its pools, waterslides and body surfing.

Top and Front Above: Below: Below Right:

Cover: Art and vines at the Quinta dos Vales Winery Zoomarine Beach water park Boat trips through the cliff caves near Lagos The dolphins were sad to say goodbye to their favourite travel writers!

We, however, had an appointment with a family of friendly locals – the dolphins. Not just to watch, but to swim with. Now I’ve been lucky enough to swim with dolphins in a number of places around the world, some better than others. Without doubt, this was one of the best. From the moment you step inside, you sense that the team here are one hundred percent focused on putting the animal’s safety and well-being first. Everything is explained in detail, and tightly controlled, which only enhances the overall experience. When the time comes to join the dolphins in the pool, it’s always a magical experience. They come up to greet you, roll over for you to stroke them like some much-loved family pet welcoming you home. You can dance with them, hug them, and even speed across the pool with two of them pushing you with their noses on the soles of your feet. And of course, like all good friends, they’ll even wave goodbye as you leave!

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Just down the road, in Albufeira, there’s a chance to see dolphins in a more natural environment – out at sea. Settling into a comfortable seat on one of Dreamwave’s inflatable ‘ribs’ we eased out of the harbour before our captain opened the throttle and headed west, hugging the iconic honey coloured cliffs of the Algarve. This is a great way to really get a feel for this coastline, especially as many of the caves and rocky outcrops can only be accessed from the sea. One of the largest, known as the Bengali Cave, even has its own beach inside and is lit from above by a huge hole where the roof has partially collapsed. You also get a great view of the little fishing villages, with their colourful boats, as well as the quaint 15th Century chapel of Nossa Senhora da Rossa that still stands grandly on the cliff top. We didn’t see any dolphins on this cruise, although it’s not uncommon to spot some, but it really didn’t matter. Not every cake needs icing to make it a great cake. The next morning I woke early to catch the sun rising above the palm trees of our hotel, and wondered what we could possible do to top the amazing experiences of the last few days. This was our last day, so we needed something special. It was simple, really. We’d seen the Algarve from the land, and from the sea, so now we needed to see it from the air. A striking

Skimming the waves along the rugged coast of the Algarve

red, yellow and blue helicopter descended onto the helipad of the hotel, and as we climbed on board and strapped ourselves in, our pilot told us he would take us on a tour along the coast, and then inland towards the mountains we’d scrambled over in Land Rovers a few days before. It was an unforgettable ride, floating over the coastal resorts and beaches, circling the towering rock formations, and getting a grandstand view of the entire western Algarve from one seat.

WHERE TO STAY

Morgado Golf and Country Club Heading down the long winding road, through the gently undulating countryside and past the glistening lake, it feels more like you’re coming home to your exclusive rural village than a hotel complex. The rooms are neatly scattered in small blocks, like little streets with gardens in front, and the main reception and public areas unobtrusively blend in with the surroundings at a lower level. It all combines to give a perfectly relaxing ambience, overlooking the impressive golf course, and surrounded by the natural elements of the landscape. In fact, the hotel has two golf courses on site, both of extremely high quality for all levels of player. The 98 rooms are spacious, comfortable, and well appointed, each with balconies overlooking the rolling slopes of one course, to the hills beyond. There’s an excellent restaurant, pleasant bar, and four swimming pools – including two for children. The Morgado Golf and Country Club is a lovely place to stay, and an excellent base for exploring the western Algarve, as well as for heading further inland to the Serra Monchique. http://www.nauhotels.com

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Rather than returning to the hotel, we made the most of our remaining time to try one last amazing experience. Feeling like celebrities, we landed at the Autodromo Internacional Algarve – a stunning, recently built Formula One standard race circuit.

where we tried to power slide in circles... which proved nigh on impossible with the extra-grippy race tyres! Once they were confident you could handle the car, you are let out on the main circuit for some super-fast timed laps.

We were put through a series of adrenalin-fuelled challenges in race-tuned, open-topped Ginetta sports cars. Acceleration and braking tests, a tight auto-test course, and a large circular pad

Even having to overcome the fact that I’d never seen the track before – not helped by the many dips and twists that meant you never knew what lay around the next corner – I still loved

Below: Right:

Ready for the helicopter trip along the coast. Yours truly putting the power down!

Salgados Dunas Suites From the moment you step into the bright, modern reception area, the Salgados Dunas Suites have that air of impeccable quality. Set in a beautiful location with direct access to the long sandy beach, and with no less than nine palm-fringed swimming pools, it’s just part of a larger resort with a vast array of amenities and entertainments. My suite was large, chic, and comfortable, with a lounge area, dining table, separate bedroom, exquisite bathroom, and a corridor looping around the ample wardrobes and storage space. Yet this is more than just another first class hotel suite, because it somehow made you feel far more at home. Perhaps it was the intuitive layout that had everything exactly where you expected it to be, or the bed that was so comfortable that it felt like home. Whatever it was, I really liked this place. In addition to the extensive gardens and choice of pools, there is excellent food in the Bossa Nova restaurant, where you can eat inside, or on the terrace. The Jazz Lobby Bar is perfect for those relaxed evenings sipping cocktails, or for a livelier experience, head up to the Liquid Lounge – a lounge bar with a panoramic view, and where the expert bartenders will create idyllic cocktails to your personal taste. Elsewhere in the complex is a full 18-hole golf course, set around the edge of the lagoon, spa and wellness facilities, beach volleyball, an outdoor gym, tennis courts, Kids Club, and a glorious nature reserve. Highly recommended. http://www.nauhotels.com

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WHERE TO EAT Cascade Wellness and Lifestyle Resort, Lagos. A great place to eat, with a comprehensive modern menu, and a stylish restaurant overlooking the immaculate gardens. A good place for a longer stay too, if you are looking for accommodation in the Lagos area. www.cascade.pt every moment. I also satisfied myself by posting the best time of all the guests, with the exception of our excellent local guide (I’ll get my own back on him if he ever comes to Brands Hatch!). As a bonus, I also managed fastest time of all through the speed trap – at jaw-dropping 164.38! Lewis Hamilton may not be quaking in his boots just yet, but I was still pleased! As I headed back, happy and buzzing from the experience, to our hotel for the last night, I reflected on our week. Yes, the Algarve has some of the best beaches in Europe, bathed in soft, golden sunlight. Yes, it also has some amazing golf courses, with hotels to match. Yet, if that’s all you come here for, you are missing out on so much. Enjoy the beach, play golf, but make sure you experience everything else this eclectic region has to offer... you won’t regret it!

Pestana Alvor South Beach Resort Check out the Sunset Lounge ‘gastronomic area’, for something different to the traditional restaurant environment. Truly Portuguese flavours from a contemporary, trendy menu, with tapas and pestiscos, in a laid-back informal setting. www.pestana.com

Jorge do Peixe, Quarteira You can’t come to the Algarve and not try the seafood. Jorge Silva has grown up amid a family of fisherman, and now uses his expert knowledge to create some of the best seafood dishes in southern Portugal. The restaurant has become popular with those seeking the true flavour of the sea, and dishes such as garlic ray and fried cuttlefish spawn are a delight. Combined With an extensive wine cellar, this is a must for any seafood enthusiast. http://www.restaurantejorgedopeixe.com

Restaurant Veneza, Mem Moniz, Paderne You are never quite sure whether this multi-award winning restaurant is a wine cellar that serves food, or a restaurant with great wine. It doesn’t matter, of course, as the result is the same. The blend of a passionate cook and a wine enthusiast has resulted in a delightful venue, where the excellent cuisine is supported by over 2000 different wines.

ALGARVE

Useful Contacts Algarve Tourist Information -

www.visitalgarve.pt

Segway Tours Quinta dos Vales Winery Jeep Safari Boat Trips Zoomarine Park and Dolphins Helicopter Tours Algarve Motor Racing Park

www.xptomarketing.pt www.quintadosvales.eu www.portitours.pt www.dreamwavealgarve.com www.zoomarine.pt www.htahelicopteros.com www.parkalgar.com

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So many, in fact, that they cover every inch of wall space. Make sure you try some of the traditional Portuguese family recipes to get a true taste of the region. www.restauranteveneza.com

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2014 Saw commemmorations beginning to mark the centenary of the First World War. For both young and old alike, the Flanders region of Belgium makes an excellent choice for an educational, and moving short break. Robin Nowacki has been to find out more. We might, at times, consider our lives here in the second decade of the 21st century as tough and stressful. Yet in comparison with your average Briton a century ago, most of us, to use an expression from those times, are – lives comfortable and secure. When the German Army invaded Belgium in 1914, leading to Britain, France, and others to coming to the aid of the Belgians the First World War had begun. Millions of British men left their hard, low waged work in mines, factories, and fields, to enlist in the Army, heading for what would become the killing fields of the Western Front. In hundreds of miles of trenches, stretching from the North Sea in Belgium to the Swiss border with France, a horror story evolved for these volunteers over the next four years - with millions killed in the most foul conditions – a living and dying hell on Earth. It was the first war to be recorded in detail by photography and the terrible images of the carnage which ensued tell more than words ever can.

Above: Poperinge was the headquarters for the British Army. Below: Evocative photos are easy to find in the many museums throughout the Flanders region.

In the Flanders region of Belgium such images abound in the numerous fascinating museums, as I discovered recently. However, my first stop was to attend a Remembrance ceremony for those who died in the First World War, held each and every day without exception at Ypres (or Ieper, as the Flemish speaking population call their city).

…since the Menin Gate opened in 1927, nearly 30,000 ceremonies have taken place here… Each evening crowds made up of people from around the globe gather around the Menin Gate - a massive and magnificent stone structure bearing the names of 55,000 soldiers whose bodies were never found or identified in the fighting in and around this area - to witness the The Last Post Ceremony. Since The Menin Gate opened in 1927 nearly 30,000 ceremonies have taken place, and each time the sounds of the trumpets performing the Last Post echo up into the high vaulted arches calling out to those resting souls who lie somewhere nearby in the fields of Flanders.

Below: Lijsseenthoek Military Cemetery Below Left: Talbot House is preserved exactly as it was in 1915.

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A short distance from Ypres and almost as famous in First World War history is the small town of Poperinge – for here were the Headquarters of the British Army – and one of the few places in Belgium not occupied by the Germans during the conflict. It was also where soldiers from the Front were allowed a break from the trenches, inevitably soon leading Poperinge to be boasting many bars and brothels, but also the quite remarkable and unique Talbot House, The Every Man’s Club, open to men of all ranks from Generals to Privates who would mix together and relax over tea and cakes. Talbot House is preserved exactly as it was when it opened in 1915, but this is a living museum and in 2015 offers hotel accommodation and tea and cakes in the same settings of a century ago.

The ‘Trenches of Death’, Above: in 1915, and Below: in 2015

…doctors and nurses dealt with a range of injuries, but sadly thousands of patients were beyond help… All wars sadly create casualties, and the First World War resulted in the most in known human existence. In 1915 in Lijssenthoek stood the largest evacuation hospital in this theatre of the War - just a short train journey from the Front and from Poperinge. Daily carriages full of wounded soldiers would arrive to be treated, where comparatively few doctors and nurses heroically dealt with a range of injuries, but sadly and inevitably many thousands of their patients were beyond help. In 2015 nothing remains of the hospital, and the railway tracks have long since vanished leaving only a small station building. But it is here that the huge Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery now cradles its lines of white tomb stones, stretching away into the distance. There is also an interesting Visitor Centre, crammed full of fascinating relics and old photographs. Here also is one notable 21st century installation, where on the day of any visit, details of a soldier who died on that date during World War One are displayed. On the day I visited it was a

USEFUL CONTACTS

Above: The impressive Menin Gate Below: Photos bringing back the memories of the time

http://www.visitflanders.co.uk http://www.lastpost.be/en/home http://www.lijssenthoek.be/en http://www.talbothouse.be

FLANDERS

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Thomas Bailey, from Australia, who died as the result of a mustard gas attack.

Above: Poignant memories from a century ago. Below: The ‘Coming World Remember Me’ Workshops

An hour from Lijssenthoek, towards the North Sea at Diksmuide, a tall tower stands on the banks of the River Yser marking the very impressive Museum on the Yser. At the top of the tower, a viewing platform allows panoramic views of the surrounding terrain, stretching away to the coast where a century ago the First World War waged. Walk down stairs and on floor after floor, layer after layer of the history of the War is displayed. From propaganda posters to the uniforms worn, and the weapons used. A cinema shows original film footage of the conflict, and a reconstruction of what life would have been like in the trenches. Nearby it is possible to take a short boat trip down the river on board the Yserstar, to visit the Death Trenches - a preserved complex of trenches on the banks of the Yser, where for years Allied soldiers were engaged in fighting with the German troops on the other side of the river. Nieuwpoort today is a pleasant seaside resort, but back in 1915 it was where the long line of trenches making up the Western Front met the North Sea. This territory known as the Ypres Salient was perhaps the most fought over during the First World War, where 600,000 soldiers died and now Rest in Peace the the Fields of Flanders. Here, in some old industrial units, is the unique “Coming World Remember Me” Workshop - where local Flemish people and others from around the World, including myself, are creating 600,000 clay sculptures over the next few years, in memory of those who died. In 2018 they will be brought together in a massive art installation at Palingbeek Provincial Domian, at Zonnebecke, in West Flanders.

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Family holiday planning can be a dull task, but it doesn’t have to be. Grab the children, choose your favourite character, and create your own personalised trip to the Canary Islands with The Canary Islands news dedicated family website. Seven different and unique islands, with stunning beaches, volcanic landscapes and a buzzing restaurant scene, you can have a taste of the high life, while the kids let themselves go on the many outdoor leisure activities the islands has to offer. The Canary Islands are always a popular choice for British holidaymakers, thanks to the hot climate, striking coastlines, stunning cliffs and pristine lakes. Over 12 million tourists visit the islands, just off the southern coast of Morocco each year. The unique Mars-like landscapes make the perfect backdrop for Instagram-obsessed travellers to fill their profiles with more than just the standard hotdog legs pictures! From the oldest to the youngest, the islands which emerged from the sea from powerful volcanic activity are Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro. Their volcanic origins are still evident twenty million years later. Each island has its own treasures, such as the deep forests of La Palma, Lanazarote’s 300 volcanic cones, the cliff-lined shores of El Hierro, La Gomera’s green rainforest, the high mountain of Tenerife and Fureventura’s North African flavour. But of course they all have striking beaches in common, whether you prefer the golden, white or black sands, families return year after year to the islands famous shoreline. So what are you waiting for? Prepare for the trip of a lifetime in an educational and entertaining way, with the seven fun characters for the kids to choose from, each representing the archipelago’s natural wonders, waiting for your little ones to ask about each island. While going through the website with the interactive characters, they can play the island-themed games and also have the option of creating a personalised story while browsing for the perfect holiday. The journey will begin before setting foot in the airport… For more information visit: www.theadventurestarts.com By Rosie Baker

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BEING LAZY IN

LAUSANNE

The pretty Swiss city of Lausanne is a delightful location for a restful weekend, as John Plaskett discovers

It's a Saturday morning and I've just taken a sip of my first, deliciously brewed cup of tea of the day. A pretty normal day for me then, except that this time I'm sitting in the shadow of a medieval castle that overlooks the shores of Lake Geneva. The scene before me is so still it's almost a picture. There is a gentle breeze, and the occasional local jogger passes by, yet there's nothing but the sounds of the water washing ashore and the birds singing. This was why I was here; it was all about relaxing.

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On the northern edge of Lake Geneva lies the city of Lausanne, the fourth largest city in Switzerland. It’s set within a noted wine-growing region, is the smallest city in the world to have a rapid transit system, and is the focal point of international sport - being the home of the International Olympic Committee. It also happens to be the city I chose to relax in for the weekend... lucky Lausanne, and lucky me! My aim was to relax, and experience some of the region’s culture. It was straightforward getting the train from the bustle of Geneva’s airport to Lausanne, in a speedy, and comfortable 45 minutes. My final destination is right on the water’s edge, in the lakeside district of Ouchy. Not having a particularly good grasp of the French language, it took me a while to figure out how to pronounce Ouchy. I eventually realised that 'Ouch' was wrong and it was more like 'Ooch'. To get to ‘Oochy' I would need to take one last mode of transport, the Metro line. Lausanne is home to one of the smallest metro lines in the world. With a choice of just two lines, that cover 28 stations, over a total distance of around 8 miles. Nice and easy! Interestingly, the voice that announces each station is apparently the voice of the city cathedrals’ current serving Watchman. I nice little detail the reflects the tight-knit community feel perfectly. Ouchy is the end of the line, and before I go for a wander I checked in at my home for the weekend; the Chataeu D’Ouchy. Originally built in 1170 by the Bishop of Lausanne, this medieval castle has had its share of refurbishments over the years. It was fortified, became a prison, and has been reduced almost to ashes! The abandoned ruins were restored in 1885 by Jean-Jacques America, who inherited the castle following the departure of the Bernese's, and transformed it into the hotel we see today. I was immediately struck by the new gothic design of this fabulous four star hotel. The hotel stone masonry shows its age and character, while the furniture is modern, slick and easy on the eye. Chateau D'Ouchy has done a sublime job that is beautiful to look at, and extremely comfortable. You really feel like no expense has been spared, and I was looking forward to my stay. After relaxing in my room, and naturally playing with all the amenities that it had to offer, the streets of Lausanne called to me and I set out to explore. Chateau D'Ouchy is located right on the edge of the lake, affording a serene view as you exit. You are immediately confronted with super healthy residents as they jog, cycle and skate along the waterside. Drawn to the calm of the lake, I abandoned my plan to see the sights, and instead walked slowly along the glorious lakeside staring at the boats whose owners are also enjoying the beautiful day. I felt briefly envious of what they had, that was until I came across an opportunity to cruise the lake myself... onboard a paddle steam boat! 23


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I've always had a weakness for boats and when in Rome, or more appropriately, when in Lausanne‌ Greeted by the ships crew as I step on board, I head to the front of this fairly lavish vessel to take in as much of the lake breeze as I could. With a steam powered horn, the paddle steamer begins moving, and we quickly get up to a nice speed. It's a relaxing experience, that's only interrupted by the occasional sound of the boats horn. Despite it making me jump on every occasion, it always made me smile too - and wish I was the one making it toot. Before too long I was at my destination, a place called Cully, which contains the lovely Lavaux Vineyards. Now you see why I had to go here! Again right on the lakeside, the vineyards fill a fairly steep hillside. Fortunately for me I don't have to walk far to explore, as there is a unique little road train - conveniently placed to take me to the top. From here you get stunning views of the lake, and some exquisite wine to settle into the afternoon. The following day I returned to my original plans, and headed into the historic centre of Lausanne. After my lakeside cup of tea, I spend some time taking in the Gothic Cathedral, a breathtaking building that made me pause to consider things larger than myself. And after a gentle walk around I hop onto the Metro line and, thanks to my free transport card courtesy which all hotel guests are given, I made my way to the trendy warehouse district of Flon.

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Issue 55 It turns out that Saturday in Flon is market day, and the streets are alive with the hustle and bustle of Lausanne residents in search of their locally grown produce, and traditional bargains.

Château d’Ouchy

In the evening this area changes drastically, becoming a trendy nightspot filled with stylish bars and restaurants. Funky lighting in many of the establishments really takes advantage of the older buildings that they are nested in. My final day in Lausanne began with a trip to the Olympic museum. Lausanne is, of course, home to the Olympic committee, and it would be foolish not to pay a visit. It’s a modern building, totally celebrating all things Olympic, as you'd expect. It has a wealth of interesting displays, ranging from historical team uniforms and equipment, to interactive educational tools for enthusiasts of any age. Even the cafe was well stocked with a great variety of food on its banquet tables. I really enjoyed my brief visit to Lausanne. It’s an unusual combination of a busy town that almost demands you take it easy. I imagine it is often overlooked during winter and skiing season, but be it winter or summer next time you're passing through, just take a day out to relax and enjoy life. In Lausanne it's very easy to do.

Useful Contacts Lausanne Tourist Office

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Château d’Ouchy

www.chateaudouchy.ch

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www.lausanne-tourisme.ch

LAUSANNE

Transport Card - www.lausanne-tourisme.ch/lausanne-transport-card Swiss Transport Ticket -

www.swisstravelsystem.com

CGN Cruise

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www.cgn.ch

Olympic Museum

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www.olympic.org

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R A E G N I GET

What the smart travellers are using and wearing

ATION TOP RECOMMEND

Bluesmart Black - The New Smart Suitcase

● Automatic and remote locking – TSA-approved, Bluetoothenabled remote locking via the app, with automatic distance locking. ● Integrated scale – Built-in weight sensors inform via the app whether the case is within airline limits. ● Additional pockets and tailored laptop/tablet compartment to maximize internal storage that can fit any 15" device and easy removal when going through airport security. ● Silent wheels and a reinforced bumper for smooth and quiet movements. ● Airlines compliant carry-on size suitcase at 22”x14”x9”. ● ew Operating System – BlueOS 2.0 introduces performance improvements on all software features.

Bluesmart Black Edition is available for UK customers to purchase The Bluesmart Black Edition, the newest product for the smart and for $599, equivalent to around £449, from www.bluesmart.com stylish traveller is now available for the UK traveller. The ‘Smart Suitcase’ pairs the award-winning technology from Bluesmart’s successful inaugural product, the Bluesmart One, which boasts GPS+3G tracking capabilities, with a sleek design aimed for the jet-setter that appreciates style and ease when travelling. The suitcase has been completely redesigned with every detail rethought from scratch, and rigorously tested to bring customers a seamless and design-forward suitcase. The hybrid exterior is made of a nylon and polyester combination, with a double layer PU coating, making the suitcase water and scratch resistant. The interior has been upgraded – high-density microfibre, protects the electronics from scratches, dust and dirt; individually dyed fibres, ensure a richer colour; the new design form, fits the case to get the most of the space; and the removable mesh divider, gives the user control over how they want to pack. All round, well thought out. Highlights include: ● Location tracking – Global location tracking powered by GPS and 3G SIM card based communication system. ● Charging on-the-go – Built-in USB charger with 10,400 mAh capacity, enough to charge a smartphone up to six times. The battery is compliant with FAA/TSA/DOT regulations.

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Great New Jackets from Mountain Warehouse Hornet Men’s Waterproof Jacket Finding the perfect winter jacket can be a difficult task. Getting something that is warm, but not too bulky, stylish, but still weatherproof, and comfortable to travel in, without breaking the bank, is almost impossible. The new Hornet Men’s Waterproof Jacket does, however tick all of those boxes – and more. I’ve tried this jacket on two trips recently – on a chilly UK break, and a wet and windy trip to Germany, and I am genuinely impressed. Perhaps the most surprising thing is just how warm and windproof it is, without feeling bulky or oppressive. It’s comfortable to wear, and the soft tricot lining seems to rest perfectly against the body without suffocating it, keeping the body heat inside. For those interested in technical, the Hornet Waterproof Jacket has a breathability rating of 5000g, and a hydrostatic head rating of 10,000mm. I have no idea what those mean, but having been out in some fairly severe rain storms in it, I’m glad of the three year waterproofing warranty. It can even withstand temperatures down to -22° F.

Momentum 360° Reflective Women’s Jacket There’s getting noticed, and there’s getting noticed… and this Momentum 360° Silver Jacket from Mountain Warehouse definitely falls into the latter of these. The jackets arrive with a tag attached suggesting you take a photo with your flash. As you can see above, even in bright sunlight, the result of a flash is astounding! There’s no questioning its reflective qualities.

It has two external breast pockets and two external side pockets, all with waterproof zips, and a large internal pocket. A personal bugbear of mine has always been the hoods with jackets like this. They always seem to either fall down over my eyes, or not stay up in the first place whenever there’s a gust of wind. The detachable hood on the Mountain Warehouse jacket bucks that trend by being adjustable, so that it fits perfectly. They are available in black or petrol blue, and in sizes from XS to XXXL.

Of course that means that this lightweight, showerproof jacket has all manner of useful roles to play, both on your travels, or just for getting out and about at home.

Find out more about both jackets at: www.mountainwarehouse.com

It’s showerproof, and has a really nice microfleece lined collar to avert those chilly winds. The active benefits also extend to air vents at the lower armhole for advanced breathability, and extra mesh at the back which really helps with more comfortable ventilation. There are two zip-up front security pockets, and a pocket for a media player. I would have liked to have seen a proper inside pocket, but that’s a minor niggle. Overall it’s a practical, comfy, stylish jacket if you’re hiking, cycling, or trying almost any activity where being seen is a serious bonus. Its light weight means it’s compact and easy to pack, and of course it’s available in a variety of sizes. But without a doubt it’s the reflectiveness that is unique. Shine any light at the jacket, from headlights to torches, and the silver bounces back as a light in its own right. You really do need to see it to believe it!

Slimfold Wallets - Thin, Light, and Strong As a regular traveller, I’m always nervous about using a big wallet, and particularly one that will only fit in your back pocket - nothing shouts ‘target’ quite like it in busy cities! So I love the new Micro Soft Shell wallet from Californian startup Slimfold. Its three times thinner than leather, and less than half the weight. It is waterproof (although doesn’t waterproof the items in it) so can be machine washed, and best of all it fits in my front pocket, with space for cash and about 8 cards. Highly recommended. www.slimfoldwallet.com

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Return to Somabay

Egypt has had a very mixed press over recent years, but when Trevor Claringbold, was offered the chance to return to one of his favourite destinations he jumped at the chance. But would it still be as good as he remembered?

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Having been a travel junkie for more years than I care to remember I love to discover new places, and make a point of visiting as many places in this world as I can. For that reason, I would almost always choose going to a new resort over revisiting one I’ve previously been to. I say almost, because there are always exceptions. Somabay, on Egypt’s Red Sea coast is one. I first came here when it had just opened, a few years ago, and fell in love with the place. It’s one of the newest and most glamorous resorts along the glorious Red Sea coast, with its reliable weather, and warm, crystal clear waters, and has a wealth of activities and luxurious facilities on offer. So would it be as good second time around?

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It’s just thirty miles south of Hurghada Airport, and boasts five exclusive hotels, all with panoramic views, top class restaurants, year round sunshine, a championship golf course, the biggest spa in the Middle East, and some of the best sandy beaches on the Red Sea. Not much had changed since last time; there were a lot more established plants and greenery now, the Cascades Hotel had become The Westin, there were more shops in the village, and the golf course was having a makeover - all things for the better. There was also a great new promotion for this summer (2016) to get people involved with the many activities on offer in Somabay. The ‘ gives a free introduction to golf, diving and kite-surfing, as well as a free visit to the Cascades Spa, a free round of golf, and hefty discounts on a range of other things to do. So it was going to be a busy week! If you’re a water sports enthusiast, or just fancy giving it a try, then Somabay will be heaven for you. Above the gentle waves that glisten in the African sun, there is kite-surfing, paddleboarding, windsurfing, sailing, fishing trips, sunset cruises, and more. Alternatively you can explore the magical world that lies beneath the surface, using the excellent dive centre at The Breakers hotel. Scuba divers and snorkelers are treated to a multi-coloured medley of corals and reef plants, along with unending shoals of fish that parade past like an underwater carnival. I really enjoy the ‘can-do’ attitude of Somabay. Wherever you go, and whatever you want to do, there is always somebody on hand with a smile on their face to make it happen. The guys at the dive club, for example, couldn’t have been more welcoming as we turned up for our scuba diving trial lesson. They had endless patience, and much good humour as they slowly turned our bunch of bewildered amateurs into something resembling a group of dive enthusiasts. We also spent an extremely happy hour snorkelling with them, as they guided us around the most fascinating, colourful areas of the coral reef. If you’ve never tried this, you simply must. It’s the simplest form of underwater adventure, and leaves you feeling like you’ve stumbled into some amazing natural history documentary, as fish of every shape and colour go about their busy lives just inches below you. The wooden jetty itself will take you almost half a kilometre out to sea, but even there it’s just a few steps down into the immaculately clean, warm waters. Further afield there are all manner of alternative dive spots, including spectacular drop-offs and wreck diving. The Orca Dive Club offer various diving and snorkelling options that range from simple snorkel hire, to fully guided diving expeditions. For the more determined, there are full open-water dive training courses. It doesn’t matter what way you decide to explore beneath the sun-kissed waves, as long as you do it. After all, if you don’t, you’re missing out on half the scenery!

From my experience trying this sport, you need two crucial things. Plenty of time, and even more determination. Once you get it, though, it is truly amazing. As well as a free introductory session, the Somabay KiteHouse offers special 4-day packages to get your adrenalin pumping, and even boasts a massage lounge and relaxation area, as well as a rooftop restaurant that gives panoramic views across the bay. It’s a great place to come and relax as the sun begins to dip too, watching the dancing display of shadows across the beach as a prelude to the truly unforgettable sunset. The largest part of the peninsular, however, is given over to the immaculate Gary Player inspired Championship Golf Course. Even for a non-golfer like myself, it’s easy to see the high standard of the course which stretches from the Red Sea shore, and completely surrounds The Westin hotel. It’s even more remarkable when you realise that every inch of the perfect turf had to be imported, and watered daily as this area has only a few days rain a year!

Thinking back, the undersea world is probably the busiest place in Somabay, since everywhere else is about calm and relaxation. Everywhere except the KiteHouse, that is. Commanding the perfect position on a vast curving sandy beach, between the main peninsular and the mountains, is the delightful honey-coloured KiteHouse. As the name suggests, this is predominately aimed at the fast growing kite-surfing fraternity, offering facilities, lessons, and equipment hire on what is one of the best kite-surfing beaches in the whole of Africa. So good, in fact, that the Kite Surfing World Cup has been held here.

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“So how”, I hear your cry, “did your free introduction to golf go?” Well I wish you hadn’t asked, as I fear my invitation to play in the Masters will be lost in the post. But we had great fun on the driving range, and once again the instructors were enthusiastic, helpful and patient. And there were certainly a few in our group who had significant potential. The well thought out course also has the convenience of the outdoor restaurants and bars of the main hotel conveniently located at the halfway mark. Not that you need much of an excuse to enjoy the great food, and glorious views across the golf course to the sea. All five hotels within the Somabay resort are totally individual in style, whilst still working together to share their facilities, and co-ordinate entertainment. It means that you can make use of the free shuttle bus between the various properties to take advantage of all the resort’s attractions, and even the excellent ‘Dine Around’ plan that allows you (depending on your booking type) to sample the many different high quality restaurant options. The Westin Golf Resort and Spa sits proudly aloft with its sumptuous colonial feel. It exudes a wonderfully refined, and comfortable ambience, enhanced by one of the largest spa and wellness facilities in the whole of the Middle East. Unlike the other four hotels in Somabay, The Westin is not located right by the beach. Instead it is encircled by the perfectly manicured, lush green landscape of the golf course. The gently undulating site is sprinkled with lakes, streams, and abundant flower beds, all set to the shimmering backdrop of the Red Sea in the distance. As well as the traditional musical entertainment, there are also treats such as Egyptian cooking lessons, a sea food festival, vegetable carving demonstrations, and an oriental evening. Oh,

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and don’t miss the Cocktail Happy Hour on Sunday evenings... the Florida Cocktail, filled with mango, guava, orange and grenadine, is simply divine! The Cascades Spa and Thalasso is listed as one of the Leading Spa’s of the World, and it’s not hard to see why. Combining three prized local elements from nature – the rich mineral salts of sea water, the marine algae’s active natural ingredients, and the pure climate of the Red Sea – the spa offers a complete range of treatments and facilities. The impressive Thalasso-Tonic pool oozes Middle Eastern charm, and takes you through an enjoyable route of jets and waterfalls, aqua-gyms and an exercise pool with jets. Outside is a warm salt water pool with salinity similar to that of the Dead Sea. So high in fact, that you can simply lie back and float gently around the pool – although be sure to have some waterproof sun cream to hand if you are aiming to stay like that for long.

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On the tip of the peninsular, adjacent to the best area of the reef for underwater experiences, is the unique Breakers Diving and Surfing Lodge. This unashamedly water sports themed hotel is the first of its kind in Egypt, and fits perfectly in the overall blend of Somabay. Its modern 4-star lodge type design is both stylish and relaxed. It’s a hotel that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and where the emphasis is squarely on fun and activities. The beachfront location is idyllic, with the added bonus that one of the best house reefs in the Red Sea is directly in front of the hotel. The laid back ambience continues to the excellent Blue Dolphin restaurant, as well as the Roof Garden and Beach Bar. There are also regular events and entertainment, including weekly barbeques, and casual parties in the nearby Kite House. If it all gets too hectic, chill out in the Finnish sauna, and marvel at the invigorating sea views. Just along the beach, there is no doubt as to the Egyptian theme of the gleaming Sheraton Soma Bay Resort. With rows of Sphynx’s lining the long driveway, a pyramid fountain in front of the huge centrepiece window of the reception area, and another pair of enormous Sphynx’s guarding the main pool – this is probably the most reminder’s you’ll get of which country you are in, anywhere in Somabay. It gives rise to one question to which I never found an answer... what the collective noun for a group of sphynx’s? The stately Sheraton was inspired by the dramatic architecture of Luxor’s famous Karnak Temple. Step inside the foyer, and the wow-factor of the most enormous window looking out across an equally impressive pool and seascape will take your breath away. I have to say, I’ve never seen so many people rush to take ‘selfies’ with a piece of glass! Outside, pyramids, pharaohs, dynastic columns, and even more sphynx’s all mingle with the glorious pool and palm trees. The immaculate sandy beach is complete with its own bar, and a peaceful, serene ambience. A full range of international cuisine is also on offer, with speciality restaurants focussing on Italian, French, Middle and Far Eastern dishes. Round off the evening with cocktails under the Egyptian stars, and the warm breezes of the Red Sea wafting across the poolside bar. Just around the bay, Robinsons Club is smaller and more intimate, and primarily serves the German market. It boasts a more genuine Arabesque feel, and pretty beachfront.

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Issue 55 Our Choice…

Close to the marina and small shopping village lays the stunning Kempinski Soma Bay, this time calling on more oriental themes for its welcoming interior. One glimpse of the vast but harmonious network of streams, waterfalls, ponds, and pools will have any child (and most adults) just itching to be let loose on them. I’ve sampled a number of Kempinski properties around the world, and always been very impressed, but without a doubt this is one of my favourite hotels anywhere. The rooms are spacious, well equipped and luxurious, but without being annoyingly ostentatious – a trap a number of luxury hotels seem to be falling into lately. Day or night, the panorama across the pools, gardens, beach, sea, and mountains was one I can’t imagine ever tiring of. A staggering 7000sqm of landscaped pool area includes the heated main pool, two children’s pools, and the appealing ‘Lazy River’. It’s all intertwined with pretty paths, waterfalls, ponds, palms, and colourful flower beds. Such is the clever design, that I found myself wandering each and every path in both directions – just to make sure I didn’t miss yet another stunning vista. At the heart of it lays the Al Mar poolside restaurant, offering an array of delicious light lunches in the perfect setting. To be fair, every dining option at the Kempinski was excellent. The main restaurant, ‘The View’ is world class. It boasts a large, light indoor area, and an expansive terrace overlooking the Lazy River and the pools. I loved the Á la Minute Buffet, with its five individual cooking stations offering different international cuisine, who prepare your chosen specialities to your precise requirements.

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Issue 55 It’s that attention to detail which really sums up the hotel as a whole. The interior decor of the main foyer area as nothing short of a small castle, with beautiful, relaxing lighting, gentle water features, and huge sofas that you could get lost in for a week. Even the immaculate tennis courts are surrounded by castellated walls, giving the impression that you are in the courtyard of some mighty fortification. Outside, the long, white sandy beachfront is lapped by the gentlest crystal clear waves, and you can rest on comfortable beach loungers, catered for by a well-stocked and friendly beach bar. It’s one of the best places from which to see the amazing sunsets that present themselves almost every day. At the Kempinski Soma Bay, however, the setting sun is by no means the final light show of the day. As the azure underwater illuminations in the pools and water features take over from the blue skies and sunshine, the hotel takes on an entirely different, almost magical feel. The warm Red Sea breeze gently comforts you, and you take an evening stroll to the beach, marina, or just to the bar. The perfect place to sip a cocktail, and figure out how you can convince your boss to let you stay for a few more days! Somabay is a magical escape, and without doubt one of my favourite choices for a real ‘get away from it all’ holiday. It is safe and welcoming for families with children, and has plenty of quality activities for all ages. It is worth mentioning, I think, that part of that escapism means that pretty much all traces of it being Egypt stop at the gates to the resort. There are very few local towns or villages, and little that is particularly indicative of Egypt within the resort – with the possible exception of the gift shops! You really feel like you are visiting the tiny country of Somabay, and you just happened to travel through Egypt to get here. That’s not a bad thing; merely an indication that you are not going to see many camels, pyramids, or other familiar Egyptian icons, unless you take one of the long excursions over the mountains to the Nile. If you want some history, then it’s better to combine some time visiting the sights, with a relaxing week or two recovering at Somabay. For me, however, it had been not only a welcome return, but even better the second time around. I really can’t recommend it highly enough. As well as the Summer Experience promotion, there are regular offers throughout the year at Somabay, so there is absolutely no excuse to not treat yourself soon!

USEFUL CONTACTS: www.somabay.com www.somabayspa.com www.starwoodhotels.com/westin www.kempinski.com/somabay www.sheraton-somabay.com www.thebreakers-somabay.com www.orca-diveclub-somabay.com

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Good to Know Catch up with some of the latest news, tips and offers from the world of travel

Follow in the Footsteps of The Durrells! NEW TOURS OF CORFU’S RURAL LOCATIONS OF THE ITV DRAMA ITV’s new drama, The Durrells, has given rural Corfu a much justified boost, it seems. Based on Gerald Durrell’s classic trilogy of Corfu memoirs, including the much loved ‘My Family and Other Animals’.

waterfront accommodation, private pools, a spacious spa and exquisite dining. Alexis said of his visit: “I was very relaxed throughout my entire stay and can’t wait till the next time I have an opportunity to stay there.

The drama starring Keeley Hawes is set in 1935, was filmed in various parts of Corfu including Danilia, a picture-perfect traditional Corfu village, which is owned by one of Greece’s top luxury hotel groups.

The Durrells Package starts from £157 in a Superior double room (B&B) with a Sea View inclusive of daily buffet breakfast, and a bottle of wine and fruit basket in the room. There’s a complimentary private tour of the Danillia Village, followed by a complimentary Koum Kouat Cocktail, and a private transfer to the "White House", the most spoken about villa right on the beach.

Guests staying at Grecotel Corfu Imperial can visit the area where the first episodes of The Durrells were filmed, tour the White House where the Durrell family lived in the 1930s and re-live some of the eccentricity of this endearing family. Danilia also makes for a fairytale setting for weddings and private events. The village has also featured in other well-known films, including James Bonds’ For Your Eyes Only.

If you don’t want to leave the ski slopes in the evening, or just fancy a new mode of transport? Well, how about trying one of the brandnew fatbikes from the village of Montchavin, in the French Alps. Board the last gondola to the top of the 1800m Plan Bois, and speed down the groomed tree-lined runs. The thick, under-inflated tyres are designed to grip the snow, and the disc brakes mean that, even in the wettest conditions the descent is still controlled.

www.corfuimperial.com You can hire a fatbike from £21 pp, (minimum rider height 1m 60cm). There are offers on self-catering accommodation in La Plagne, which costs from €314 pp / £230 pp (four sharing) including lift pass.

Actor Alexis Georgoulis stayed at Grecotel Corfu Imperial, one of the most luxurious hotels on the island. It’s set on a private peninsula with Italian style gardens, private coves with three sandy beaches, beautiful

Find out more about La Plagne at www.la-plagne.com

The Dubai Festival City has announced the launch of a new, innovative multimedia attraction set to open on Boxing Day! A one-of-a-kind attraction, the unique experience encompasses elements of fire, water and lasers as well as the world’s largest permanent projection surface on the InterContinental Dubai Festival City which is 5 times larger than the world's largest IMAX. There are giant aqua screens, 30 fountains and surround sound for a fully immersive experience that’s taken more than three years to create. It’s tipped to be a top global tourist attraction to rival popular waterfront shows in other global destinations such as Las Vegas and Singapore. Find out more at www.festivalcentre.com

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Swap your skis for a Fatbike in the French Alps

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New Frankenstein Exhibition opening for the summer in Geneva To mark the 200th anniversary since Mary Shelley first starting penning her awardwinning novel, Frankenstein, the “Frankenstein: Creation of Darkness" exhibition has just opened at the Martin Bodmer Foundation in Geneva. The exhibition is a reflection of Geneva’s up and coming diverse art and culture scene and it recreates the beginnings of the novel in its first manuscript and printed forms, along with paintings and engravings that evoke the world of 1816. A variety of literary and scientific works are presented as sources of the novel’s ideas. While exploring the novel’s origins, the exhibition also evokes the social and scientific themes of the novel that remain important in our own day. http://fondationbodmer.ch/en

Choose Your Own (exact) Room... Yes, Really! Ever wanted to pick your own exact hotel room? Or felt disappointed when comparing yours to your friends who have a beautiful view, when all you can see is a brick wall? Now you can with London’s GLH Hotels, and the world’s first online booking site that lets guests choose the exact room they want to stay in. The new service is available across all 14 hotels in the GLH Hotels central London portfolio. Guest reviews are also captured for specific rooms, not just the hotel - so users can also check out what other people have said before they book. www.chooseyourownroom.com

New Family Holiday Experiences with Alila Hotels and Resorts Handpicked Experiences from the Luxury Boutique Accommodation Group A favourite for families seeking unique personal experiences - from exclusive use of a sailing shop with on-board treasure hunts, to indulgent spa experiences with rejuvenating treatments, Alila have handpicked some of their top new family experiences in China, Bali and India. BEST FOR COUNTRYSIDE LIVING: ALILA ANJI, CHINA - Alila Anji made its debut this June. Situated in the city of Huzhou in the northwestern region of Zhejiang, where families will overlook the stunning lake from the hillside retreat, it’s surrounded by a forest of bamboo and tea plantations. There’s a choice of 74 stately villas, and you can try one of China’s rarest teas, Anji Bai Cha, or get an adrenaline rush river rafting through the mountains. In celebration of its opening, Alila Anji is offering families a weekend experience of days out, including visits to the world’s largest Hello Kitty theme park, Happy Vanko Water Kingdom and a traditional Chinese farmhouse, with a farm-to-table rural culinary experience. BEST FOR FAMILY PAMPERING: ALILA VILLAS SOORI, BALI - Alila Villas Soori resort lies in Bali’s discerning southwest, overlooking the Indian Ocean. Sitting right on the beach, families can enjoy the warmth and beauty from one of 48 villas. Guests will enjoy relaxing on this holiday, as they are spoilt for choice with indulgent spa treatments, either in the main spa or in the privacy of their own ocean villa. Kids can be pampered with a 45-minute massage, a 20-minute Happy Hair treatment or a Princess manicure and pedicure. Don’t miss seeing the UNESCO protected rice fields that surround the resort, before trying your hand at making offerings and having lunch served in a typical Balinese compound at Taman Buwana Farm. BEST FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNGER CHILDREN: ALILA DIWA GOA, INDIA - Alila Diwa Goa sits amidst the serene landscapes and verdant rice plantations, which flow towards the Arabian Sea. This resort is perfect for a family holiday with a private mini theatre, Kids Club and Teen Zone with cricket, and a family spa.. The grown up’s can swim in the resorts stunning lap pool or relax in the open air Jacuzzi and hot tub, while the kids have their own pool to splash in. Guests can also set sail on the river Sal for the Grab a Crab excursion, and try their hand at local fishing, for a traditional Goan supper. Rooms are styled in the traditional Goan design of steeply pitched roofs, ceiling high columns, cool verandas and tranquil courtyards, bringing a refreshing resort experience. For more information see: www.alilahotels.com

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Picasso Exhibition at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Relax and have a drink with the Butterflies in Belgium!

Have you been sending the new ‘Barmoji’s?

A major exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s work at the Israel Museum will feature some of the artist’s most notable pieces on loan from museums around the world.

The Belgian city of Knokke-Heist is launching Tea with the Butterflies this summer. It allows visitors to experience a unique event where they can enjoy their favourite drink, surrounded by hundreds of flying butterflies.

In a world first, Barbados has launched its own line of emojis, designed to capture the unique spirit, culture and heritage of the country – currently the only destination to do this.

will showcase his artistic evolution from the turn of the 20th century to 1970 and will demonstrates the artist’s key motifs and subject matter through his lifelong interest in drawing and printmaking. A selection of major works throughout Picasso’s career will highlight the artists’ evolving styles and subjects.

Encircled by butterflies and exotic plants, visitors will be able to admire species that live all around the world, from the Blue Morpho butterfly to the Owl Butterfly, whilst enjoying their favourite drink - be it tea, coffee, soft drinks, juice, glass of wine, champagne or fine Belgium beer.

For more information: imj.org.il/en/

www.theemetvlinders.be

Known as the jewel of the Caribbean, has been brought to digital-life with this exclusive range of Barmojis that include everything from the country’s unique wildlife – green monkeys, flying fish, and black bellied sheep - to distinctive island landmarks such as Bathsheba Rock, and the Parliament Buildings

Users will be able to download the Barmoji app for free from the App Store, and the designs work in all messaging applications where the copying and pasting of images is supported. Whether you’re a regular traveller to Barbados, local, or wanna-be visitor you can now enjoy a little piece of Barbados wherever you are in the world!

MORE EXCITING EVENTS IN ONTARIO Planning a trip to Canada? Make sure you take in some of the many unique events in Ontario: The Bala Cranberry Festival in Muskoka, 2.5 hours north of Toronto, is an event not to be missed. Taking place in the third week of October, the cranberry harvest is a beautiful site to see (and taste!) with bright red cranberries set against a backdrop of auburn and golden trees ablaze with autumnal hues. Visitors are encouraged to grab a pair of waders, head into the marsh and immerse themselves in a sea of these little red berries. During September, the world famous Gatineau Hot Air Balloon festival takes place with nearly 300 shows and hundreds of balloons. Chihuly at the Royal Ontario Museum features the extraordinary work of Internationally-renowned artist Dale Chihuly. On display will include several astonishingly colourful and dramatic works of art. Chihuly is credited with until January 2, 2017, revolutionizing the Studio Glass movement and elevating the perception of the glass medium from the realm of craft to fine art. He is renowned for his ambitious architectural installations around the world, in historic cities, museums and galleries. Find out more about these and other events at www.ontariotravel.net

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Get Ahead for Half Term with Rickshaw Travel Rickshaw Travel wants to give families the chance to jet off for an adventurous escape, without the summer holiday price tag. By travelling in October half term, not only will you bag a deal but also have a chance to catch the last of the sun before the clocks go forward. Morocco is a short affordable flight from the UK and an all year-round destination for families. Whether you want to take the kids for a ride on a camel through the golden sand dunes, climb Atlas Mountains or try ‘A Taste of Morocco’, by learning how to cook a traditional meal with the locals, Rickshaw Travel offers a range of one week itinerary options. There are also independent travel adventures offered in South Africa, where you can interact with the locals. You’ll be spoilt for choice with activities such as elephant spotting in Addo, horse-riding along the beautiful wind-swept southern coast, experiencing life on an ostrich farm or even learning to talk Xhosa with the local community. With BA’s new direct flights to San Jose currently on offer, Costa Rica presents a very different holiday experience. October, while rainy in some regions, is the ideal time to visit the Caribbean region and Monteverde. Visit the beautiful rainforests or learn to surf in the sun at Cahuita or Puerto Viejo. Spend two days living with the Bribri tribe in an authentic cabana, after travelling by bamboo boat or trek up volcanoes, spot wildlife and zip line through the cloud forest. Find out more at: www.rickshawtravel.co.uk

Tianjin launches its first flights from the UK to China Tianjin Airlines have launched their first flights to China from the UK. Passengers can enjoy the 4-star onboard service including a Chinese style breakfast, a Western Cuisine Lunch, and traditional Chinese dinner, whether in Economy or first/business class. The airlines first ever UK route flies from London Gatwick to Chongqing and Tianjin in China, and currently operates every Wednesday and Saturday on an Airbus A330-200 aircraft. The total flight time takes 11.5 hours to Chongqing and 17 hours to Tianjin. Situated in Southwest China, Chongqing is a large modern port city on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. Also known as the ‘Mountain City’ it has dense forests and water reserves, perfect for nature lovers. Popular attractions include, Shibaozhai temple, the Dazu Rock Carvings, Snowy Jade Cave, the Northern Hot Springs Park and Qutang Gorge. Tianjin, the one time imperial port, faces the Bohai Sea and serves as Beijing’s vital gateway to the ocean. With its historical heritage and natural resources, it is a popular destination for visitors. Major attractions include, Huangyaguan Great Wall, Gu Wenhua Jie, Dagu Emplacement, Dule Temple and Haihe River. Tianjin Airlines was established by Tianjin Government and HNA group and is the youngest 4-star airline in the global civil aviation industry. It also boosts Gatwick’s growing long haul options. For more information visit: http://tianjinairlines.co.uk

AGINCOURT WALES TRAIL LAUNCHES ACROSS BRECONSHIRE, MONMOUTHSHIRE AND THE FOREST OF DEAN Building on the success of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt in 2015, a new Trail has been developed to mark Agincourt connections with Breconshire, Monmouthshire and the Forest of Dean. The Agincourt Wales Trail links eight locations across the region, telling the stories of the people and places that played a role in the famous battle. For the first time, the Trail brings together fascinating sites and locations throughout the region connected with the Agincourt story, making it easy for visitors to learn more about this important part ofour history. You can find panels providing information on local links with the Battle of Agincourt and a source of online information at Abergavenny, Brecon, Caldicot, Monmouth, Raglan, St Briavels, Trecastle and Tretower. Find out more at www.agincourt600.com

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Pro Traveller Quick View… WIND AND WAVES IN ‘

FORNIA’

In the south of the south of Spain, there’s a corner of infinite beaches which look across to Africa: the most southerly tip of Europe, where the land gives way to the Strait of Gibraltar. Well positioned as the paradise of kitesurfing, the Cadizian destination of Tarifa is the world leader of this fashionable sport. They call Tarifa “the capital of the wind”, and with good reason. There are two predominant winds here: firstly the strong, warm , which blows day and night; and secondly the , which is stronger in the afternoons and suitable for kitesurfing. For 20 years before kitesurfing exist ed it was windsurfing that drove the economy of the area and put Tarifa on the travel map. Now, as the climate is mild practically all year round and conditions are excellent for flying kites, Tarifa is also home to many permanent prof essional residents. Among them is Gisela Pulido, the youn g, nine-time world kitesurfing champion from Barcelon a who also has her own school and shop here. Of all the beaches, the one at Valdevaq ueros, some 12 km from the historic centre, is the most popu lar for kitesurfers with winds of up to 35-40 knots. The 10 km long Los Lances beach, nearer to the town and looking out onto the immense Atlantic, is another of the most spectacular beaches due to its size, although durin g the high season in summer it is forbidden to catch waves there and is reserved solely for bathers. Apart from the numerous schools and shops for kitesurfers, Tarifa has filled with bars, restaurants, hotels and all types of shops to satisfy the needs of the 100,000 visitors it receives every year. Many places can be reached on foot from the beach, such as Soul Beach for food and drinks (try the red tuna taco washed down with a gin and tonic), Pacha Mama for pizza freshly mad e in their oven or char-grilled meat, or the charming Café Azul for an organic breakfast before an intense day on the waves.

How to get there: Tarifa is about 2 hours from Malaga airport, 90 minutes Jerez de la Frontera airport, and less than an hour from Gibraltar airport. All have rental car offices, buses and taxis for transfers. Where to sleep: ·

Hotel Misiana. Calle Sancho IV El Brav o, 16, 11380 Tarifa, Cádiz. Tel: +34 956 627 083. http://www.misiana.com/ Hotel La Sacristía. C/ San Donato, 8, 11380 Tarifa, Cádiz. Tel:+34 956 681 759. www.lasacristia.net Hotel Restaurante Mesón de San cho. Carretera N.340 Cadiz - Malaga, km 94 11380. Tarifa, Cádiz. Tel: +34 956 684 900. www.mesondesancho.com

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Kitesurfing lessons and shops: ·

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Gisela Pulido Pro Center Mar Adriático, 22. Tarifa. Tel.: +34 608 57 77 11. http://giselapulidoprocenter.com / Kite Obsession Pol. Ind. La Vega, 201.1., Tarifa. Tel.: +34 656 678 815 / +34 956 680 940. www.kiteobsession.com Tarifa Xtrem Calle de la Batalla del Salado, 46. Tarif a. Tel.: +34 956 68 18 14. www.tarifaxtrem.co m Surf Center Ctra N-340 km 79, 3, Tarifa, Cádiz. Tel.: +34 664 17 15 96. www.surfcentertarifa.c om Article by Alicia Arranz Photographs by Juan Serrano Corbella

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MIDNIGHT FLIGHT TO GEORGIA

WITH A FASCINATING CULTURE, DIVERSE HISTORY, WONDERFUL SCENERY, AND FABULOUS FOOD, GEORGIA IS NOW LINKED TO THE UK FROM BOTH LONDON STANSTED AND GATWICK VIA ISTANBUL. ROBIN NOWACKI TOOK A TRIP TO LEARN MORE

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Boarding the connecting midnight flight in Istanbul, to travel on to Georgia, I knew little of this small country situated between Russia and Turkey, with Azerbaijan and Armenia borders and a Black Sea coastline. Of course, like many with an interest in 20th century history, I knew that one of the most important and powerful figures of those times, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, was born in Georgia. However over the next few days I came to realise that very few Georgians were celebrating that fact, concentrating instead in showing off their fascinating unique culture, breath-taking mountain scenery, fabulous wine, food, hospitality, and instead were more rightly celebrating their relatively new freedom post Cold War. On arrival at the Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, as our passports were stamped, the same immigration official then presented each passenger with a welcome gift of Georgian wine. It was a friendly and generous gesture from the people here, which set the tone for my visit. IMPERIALISM, THE COLD WAR, FREEDOM Georgia suffered for many years at the hands of its neighbour north of the Caucuses Mountains. Back in the time of the Tsars, Georgians found themselves annexed to become part of the Russian Empire ruled from Moscow. Then , after the Russian Revolution and a brief war with new Moscow regime, they had little choice but to became a Soviet republic. When Georgia’s infamous son, Josef Stalin, became leader of the Soviet Union, and ruthless ruler of an empire stretching at one point from West Germany to Alaska, he showed absolutely no favouritism to his fellow Georgians; in fact any dissent here was often put down more harshly than elsewhere. With the breakup of the Soviet Union independence was declared in 1991, and Georgians were truly free for the first time since 1801.

WHERE TO STAY - Old Tifflis Hotel, Tblisi Located perfectly in Tbilisi’s Old Town, with pleasant designer rooms and roof restaurant with terrace serving breakfasts and evening drinks. I especially enjoyed the fine views of the city. www.tiflis.ge TOUR GUIDES Excellent, knowledgeable, and highly qualified guides (including Astrophysicists), who are fluent in English, Colour Tour Georgia is run and founded by Dr Giorgi Nanobashvili, and has some of the best guides I have experienced. www.colourtourgeorgia.com PEGASUS AIRLINES This was my first experience of Pegasus Airlines, and I was impressed by the seating, service, and on-board meals. Pegasus launched a six flights a week service from London Gatwick to Istanbul recently, and they also fly from London Stansted. The connecting flight to Tbilisi and Georgia takes around two hours, and was a very pleasant experience. www.flypgs.com/en

TBILISI Despite this interference Georgia today retains its own distinct language, culture, and even the Georgian Orthodox Church personified in the 21st century by the opening in 2004 of the newly constructed Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi (also known as Sameba). It’s impressive, majestic, and now the world’s third largest Orthodox church. This is the newest landmark in Tbilisi – a city which dates back to the 5th century AD when it was founded by King Vakhtang Gorgasali. He was attracted by warm sulphur springs still to be found today in bath houses in the Old Town, where Georgian, Byzantine, and Neo-Classical architectural styles sit dissected by the fast flowing River Mtkvan. They are surrounded by high hills, one of which is dominated by the ancient Narikala Fortress,

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Pro Traveller accessible by day and night by cable cars offering spectacular city views to match those at the top. CAUCASUS MOUNTAINS Running north of Tbilisi the Georgian Military Road takes travellers to some of the most spectacular mountain scenery I have ever seen. I had always believed the Alps to possess Europe’s highest peaks, but the Caucasus - with at least seven 5,000 metre plus mountains - are the clear winners.

Incredibly this includes Stalin’s perfectly preserved childhood home, and the railway carriage in which he travelled around the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1952. Apparently Stalin was averse to flying; probably realising this increased the likelihood of a successful assassination attempt. You can visit Stalin’s lounge, communication room, bedroom, and bathroom on the carriage - where within some of the most crucial decisions effecting world history in the 20th century were made. CUISINE AND WINE

After ascending into clouds through a pass at a mere 2395m, we entered a high valley approaching the Russian border, surrounded by towering mountains including Mount Kazbek at an impressive 5047 metres. Here the Gudauri Resort boasts hotels and restaurants offering welcome hospitality. The style of many buildings have somewhat of a post-Soviet feel about them, but the generous delicious home cooked Georgian cuisine on offer is a delight. During the summer months Georgia enjoys a hot climate, and hiking in the Caucasus is a joy. One of the highlights here is the three hour trek (or 30 minutes in a 4x4) up to the 13th century Gergeti Trinity Church. It’s solidly stone built and is fully preserved at 2,170 metres, offering some of the finest views imaginable. It’s easy to imagine medieval folk siting out through long snowbound winters in total isolation, waiting for the spring sunshine to come once more and thaw them out, with only their belief in their God to console them.

Georgian cuisine is worth a feature in its own right, and for those who enjoy their food and drink this is the place where quality wines and beers are drunk in generous measures, accompanying meats, cheeses, fish, soups and vegetable dishes, along with home baked breads. Try the Khinkali - dumplings filled with minced lamb, beef or pork, with onions, chili pepper, salt and cumin, or perhaps the Khachapuri - a cheese filled bread leavened, and allowed to rise, with eggs. I also enjoyed the Kuchmachi, which is chicken livers, hearts and gizzards, with pomegranate seeds and walnuts. And for a dish not beginning the the letter ‘K’, I would recommend the traditional Shashlik; a marinated beef or pork kebab on skewers, with brazed onion, mushroom and tomatoes.

UPLISTSIKHE CAVE CITY AND MTSKHETA To the west of Tbilisi where the terrain is less dramatic lie some must see attractions along what was once the Silk Road. The Uplistsikhe (Fortress of the Lord) Cave City was founded in the 6th century BC, and was a centre of Caucasian Pagan worship before Christianity was adopted. Sacked by the Mongols in the 1100’s, Uplistsikhe remained a stop off point on the old Silk Road until the 15th century. Today these caves can be visited, along with a 9th century church built over the Pagan Temple of the Sun God, that overlooks the River Mtkvan. Nearby Mtskheta is the old capital of Georgia, and a beautifully preserved small city with the UNESCO protected 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral sitting behind its ancient walls. STALIN MUSEUM GORI As someone whose own Polish forebears suffered in a similar way to the people of Georgia at the hands of Stalin’s Soviet Union, my visit to the city of Gori came as somewhat of a shock. For the people here are alone in Georgia in celebrating Joseph Stalin. This is where he was born and raised, and where there is now a major museum dedicated to this dictator’s memory.

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Amazon Fire TV Stick

Anca Precub puts the latest gadgets, gizmo’s, and travel tech to the test.

T R A V T E E L C H We are happy for items to be submitted for review, if they are of a technical nature, and serve a purpose for travellers. All items submitted will be reviewed by our team, and included in this column in a future edition. Items are accepted on the basis that they will not be returned, and that our review will be fully independent. We will publish a contact website address with all reviews. Items should be sent to: Travel Tech, Pro Traveller Magazine, 2 Fremantle Road, Folkestone, Kent, CT20 3PY, UK

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I’m sure many of you will be delighted with the news that being on holiday is no longer a reason to miss out on your favourite TV shows and series. And that annoyance from being in the hotel room after a long day, and all that’s available on the television is programmes in another language that you can’t understand… well that’s a thing of the past too. Recently I started using a Fire TV Stick. A simple device on the face of it, but one which means I will never go back to only using a TV in the traditional way. Apart from the fact that is extremely easy to set up, it’s also very small, so you can take it with you everywhere. Don’t let it’s size fool you, however, as although small this device is insanely powerful, and compared to other brands that sell something similar the Fire Stick comes with a dual core processor, a Gb memory and an extra 8 GB storage space. The Fire TV Stick is produced by Amazon, and can be connected to any TV with an HDMI port. It gives you the possibility to access unlimited movies and series on platforms such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, YouTube or even BBC iPlayer. Apart from programmes and movies, the stick also offers you the possibility of playing a range of games, can also be used for listening to music from the “amazon music” section, or linked to the Amazon cloud to store your holiday images and see them on a bigger screen. In order to set it up, all you need is a wifi network an Amazon account and a TV with a HDMI input. After you connect the stick to the TV and make the wifi connection all you have to do is select what you’re in the mood to watch , sit back and enjoy. The remote is so small and lightweight that you don’t even feel that you’re holding it, yet all the main functions you would expect on a standard remote are included. When travelling the only thing you have to do is go into the settings and select “watch while abroad” and that’s all! No more movies in strange languages , or TV shows that don’t make any sense - and no more bored children in the hotel room. As an avid YouTube fan with a huge list of Netflix series that I’m currently watching, and with new movies on Amazon Prime almost every day, this is my favourite new device that I just can’t stop using - and have already used it successfully on one trip. Give it a try - especially because it can transform your standard TV into a smart TV without spending all that extra money, and transform your holidays into a far more entertaining affair! www.amazon.co.uk


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Issue 55

New Impact Protection cases for iPhone 7/7 Plus from GEAR4

Quirky Christmas Jumpers for your Phone! Love getting into the Festive spirit? FLAVR has launched a brand new festive range of comedy Christmas jumper themed phones cases for iPhone 5/5SE, 6/6S, 7, 7 Plus and Galaxy 7 and 7 Edge.

GEAR4 are one of the leading names when it comes to protection for your technology items, as we have discovered in the past. Now they have launched a brand new range of modern, stylish, impact protection cases for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, to add to their earlier ranges.

Christmas jumpers have increased in popularity over the last few years, and now gone further than just being socially acceptable to wear them on nights out or to work… it’s almost compulsory! And the more extreme the design, the better. Now that need not just apply to the jumper, with these new Christmas cases where the designs are so bad, they’re good!

The cases boast D3O technology - which in laymans terms means they are created from the same material found in American football helmets, combat uniforms, and Olympic ski teams! So it’s tough. It has a unique molecular structure that keeps it soft and flexible, but locks together in the case of an impact to absorb and dissipate the energy.

With designs to appeal to everyone such as the “I want to believe” case (For X-Files fans), the “Selfie Elfie”, “Do the Dab” and the “Jingle Balls case”, the new FLAVR range will make all your friends and colleagues jealous. For the more reserved who still want to get into Christmas spirit, there are also a number whch just have a festive pattern.

To be fair, we’ve reviewed a number of impact resistant cases over recent years from a variety of manufacturers… some good, some less so. However, its often been with the strength aspect meaning a compromise on style. That’s not the case here. They have options from simple clear or patterned cases to the impressive ‘Oxford BookCase’ that we tested. This comes in achoice of colours, including Gold, Rose, Silver and Black, and has slots to hold credit cards or business cards. It also acts as a convenient stand for your device, allowing you to watch videos in landscape for example.

All the cases are packaged in the shape of either a stocking or Christmas card to make the perfect gift. They are available online from www.shopflavr.com

The unique clip closure design also keeps your valuables safe, whilst still maintaining a considerable level of impact protection - drop tested to 3 metres, for example. We’ve always been a fan of GEAR4, and this latest range again exceeds our expectations. Find out more at :

www.gear4.com

Leef iBridge 3 Memory expansion for your iPhone or iPad… and much more besides.

External iPhone Memory

That’s the claim from Leef for their new iBridge 3… and if our past experience is anything to go by, this will be another winner. This compact, stylish little unit is designed to not only transfer and back-up, but to capture, create, share and enjoy more from your Apple mobile device. With the protective holder, it’s easy to keep with you, and is compatible with all Lightning enabled IOS devices. It has a Lightning connector at one end and a USB at the other with USB 3.1 transfer speeds. You can quickly transfer photos, videos or documents from your device to free up space, and it will automatically back up your content and contacts to keep them safe. You can even record directly to it, use it as an external media library, and it can be password protected. Very useful, and excellent quality. More from www.leefco.com

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Issue 55

Kodak Pixpro SP360 4K

Before we get into the details of this new piece of kit from Kodak, let’s clear up a few points. Firstly, this camera on its own is not completely 360 degrees. It is 360 degrees on the horizontal plane, but you need a dual pack, and to mount them back to back for the full effect. That’s not to say this one alone doesn’t produce outstanding results – it does – just not a total 360. The second point is to clarify that this is not all new. It is an upgrade of the standard PixPro SP360, adding the 4K capability, and adding some additional coverage. To our mind, that’s a good thing. As we have stated in the past, we quite like upgrades, as they tend to have ironed out any bugs or glitches, and refined any operations that users had found less than perfect. So what is this camera all about? Well, for those unfamiliar with the concept of a 360 degree camera, think along the lines of the ultimate panorama photo – and then translate that to video. You can look in any direction, and choose what you look at in the resulting film. Obviously with such an extreme ‘fish-eye’ lens, you can lose a little definition at the bottom of the shot, so make sure the key items are slightly above that.

does follow a logical sequence, but understanding your various options for resolution, stabilisation, perspective, and white balance are crucial to getting the best out of the camera. We were a little disappointed that with so many things that you can control, there was no option to change the frame rate. It is set at 30fps, which for most things may be fine, but a higher option for fast action would be nice. More importantly, 30fps is in line with the American NTSC format, so a 25fps option would be extremely beneficial if you wanted to edit the resulting footage together with UK PAL format video from your handycam, for example. Other than that we were very impressed with the versatility, quality, and functions of the Kodak Pixpro SP360 4K. There is, as you would expect, an app to download which will make using it much easier – especially if you have the camera mounted in a position that makes it difficult to access the menu. There is also a wifi capability to a laptop or PC.

The camera itself is small, neat, and it has a feeling of robustness. It states it is ‘shock-proof’ to two metres, although I’m not sure how much of a shock that relates to. The lens has a plastic lens cover, as well as a lens cap, and the camera is also splash-proof – but not fully waterproof without its special housing. It’s certainly convenient enough to fit in your pocket, although the wealth of attachments and extra’s that come with it certainly won’t! The square design is easy to find your way around, even if not all of the buttons are where you might naturally expect to find them. The shutter and settings are adjusted on one side, with an LCD display for the system menu on the other side. A third side hides the microSD card slot, along with a Micro USB and a Micro HDMI slot behind a rubber cover. The menu itself is quite complex, and even the schematic diagram on the quick-start guide takes some careful study before things begin to fall into place – especially since the actual images are quite tiny. The menu on the camera

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The best 4K resolution is when you are shooting with the camera facing forward (flat mode), similar to a conventional action camera. In this setting you get a true 3840 x 2160 quality. However, in round mode (when the camera points skywards for a 360 degree panorama), then you are limited to 2880 x 2880. Despite this, and the aforementioned loss of the extreme lower edge, this is still ample quality to give you an excellent all round shot, and with remarkable clarity given the small overall size of the unit. Once you have recorded your films, and edited them if you need, then you can upload them to platforms such as Facebook and YouTube who already recognise the format as VR-friendly content. So there is no awkward tagging or converting – they will be ready to playback with your standard VR headset. The audio quality is also pretty good, although be aware that the microphone does pick up sound from all around. Whilst generally that is a good thing, it does mean that anything close – such as you talking – will be disproportionately louder than the general ambience you are trying to capture! The sound quality when used in the waterproof case is notably diminished, of course.

and user friendly unit. Buying it with the Extreme Pack, so you have all the accessories, means you are ready to head straight for your first shoot pretty much straight off the shelf. Would we recommend it? Absolutely. www.kodakpixpro.com ·   360­degree field of view ·   12.76­megapixels 1/2.33in BSI CMOS

If you are considering any extended use, then it will be worth considering investing in a spare battery. The one supplied gave us just under an hour in full 4K recording, which is pretty good, but if you are out all day and want to ensure you don’t run it flat, then a spare is useful. The Kodak Pixpro SP360 4K is available in a variety of pack options, including a dual pack for those wanting to use two cameras for the true 360 experience. We opted for the ‘Extreme Pack’, which has the camera and whole pack full of accessories.

·   Up to 3,840 x 2,160, 30fps video ·   F/2.8 aperture lens ·   Electronic image stabilisation ·   Wi­Fi and Bluetooth connectivity Ÿ

There are mounts for just about every scenario imaginable, including suction cup mounts, a wrist strap, head and helmet options, a handlebar mount and more, as well as the underwater case, sticky pads, and a simple stand. It is a really comprehensive set, and can be supplemented with the wealth of other mounts available on the commercial market. A small zip-up pouch is also included, making it easy to keep the camera safe, but still handy if attached to your belt or jacket. So, after using the camera on a couple of very different trips, what’s our verdict? Well, let’s be honest, this is a camera you will only be buying if you are already sold on the 360 experience, so things like learning the somewhat complex instructions are not likely to be a problem. The quality is amongst the best we’ve seen, and once you have it set up, and are familiar with it, it’s a very forgiving

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Travels with my Camera…

CARCASSONNE

Natalia Kolesnikova takes a photgraphic tour of this dramatic French citadel A BRIEF HISTORY

Top: Above: Right:

The Citadel’s 3km of walls have a staggering 52 towers along their double encirclement of the town. The Old Bridge was once the only link between the citadel and the Ville Basse. Carcassonne was a major defence against the Crown of Aragon.

Carcassonne is in fact two cities. There is the fairytale fortified hilltop Cité de Carcassonne, with its huge walls and towers, and the more modern Ville Basse on the flat land just over the River Aude. The latter was created when in 1240, King Louis IX expelled the people of the city for attempting to restore their traditional ruling family, the Trencavels, to power. They had been ousted when Simon de Montfort captured the town some 30 years earlier. The rebels were only allowed back on condition they built on the low ground across the river. Although the lower town is pleasant and interesting, most people venture here to visit Cité de Carcassonne. The medieval citadel has about 2,500 years of history and has seen the Romans, Visigoths, Saracens and Crusaders. The Romans were the first to fortify the town in 333AD. After 1226, an additional line of fortifications was added outside of the Roman walls, and when Carcassonne was finally annexed to the kingdom of France in 1247 A.D, it provided a strong French frontier between France and the Crown of Aragon. In 1659, after the Treaty of the Pyrenees, the town lost its military significance. Fortifications were abandoned, and in 1849 the French government decided that it should be demolished. This was strongly opposed by the local people, and the architect Eugène Viollet-leDuc was charged with renovating the fortress. The citadel was restored by the end of the 19th century and in 1997 it was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites.

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Top Left: Top Right: Above Left: Above Right:

The medieval buildings blend seamlessly with the 19th Century restoration, so that it is almost impossible to determine which is which. The inner walls still follow the general line of the original Roman fortress, on whose foundations they were built. Everywhere you turn in Carcassonne there is another amazing view. There are plenty of wonderfully atmospheric places to eat and drink, many hidden away behind the medieval stone walls and old gates.

Below:

Built between the 11th and 13th Century, the Count’s Castle can be toured along with the ramparts, by joining a guided tour.

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The impressive Basilique Saint Nazaire was built in the 12th Century, and contains beautiful stained glass windows from the 1500’s. The labyrinth of narrow streets in the citadel are full of character. The winding lanes are full of craft shops, cafés, art galleries, and of course gift shops. Of course Carcassonne is a popular stop for the tourist, but even the most experienced traveller can’t fail to be impressed by its scale. The impressive views across the Ville Basse to the Pyrenees in the distance, highlights why it was of such strategic importance.

All photos were taken on a Canon 600D, using Canon 18-55mm, and Tamron 28-300mm lenses.

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Trevor Claringbold makes the most of a coast-to-coast trip across this now peaceful land, to discover why the tourists are returning in their thousands.

After a surprisingly relaxing nine hour flight to Colombo, we were around half way into a five hour drive to the historic city of Kandy – right in the heart of Sri Lanka – when our amiable guide told us we were making a detour. He thought we would be in time to see the elephants at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. I was a little confused by the comment about ‘being in time’ since it was only late morning. Why would we not be in time? Were they off out or something?

Twice a day the keepers lead the elephants across the road, down the busy main street past the lines of colourful shops, and into the cooling waters of the nearby river.

Well, my frivolous thoughts proved to be closer to the truth than I imagined. As we pulled up on the dusty verge next to the entrance of the orphanage, we discovered the elephants had indeed gone out.

A small but enthusiastic crowd gathers on the bank to watch, and eventually follows them back up the dusty street to the orphanage. Elephants are rescued and brought here from all over Sri Lanka, and range from babies to some in their

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It’s a heart-warming sight, not least because the elephants themselves seem to be genuinely enjoying it. They splash around, keeping cool, as the keepers clean them and join in the fun by throwing further buckets of water over them.

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eighties. They come for all kinds of reasons, from those that have been abandoned, to one that had been hit by a train. Once they are here they are well cared for, and are safe and secure for as long as necessary. It was a great place to visit, and our little group were all grateful for the diversion, but time was against us if we were to get to Kandy by evening. This was an unusual trip for me, since it was primarily for a conference. However that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to take the opportunity of seeing as much of this intriguing land as I could. As a general rule, I’m always a bit sceptical about conferences. Too often they’ve proved to be of very little value other than to those speaking or making a point. However, when I received an invitation from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, I took a very different view. To begin with, I’ve always held both the UNWTO, and the work they do in high regard. Their aims and ideals are worthy and realistic, and in this particular case the topic of the conference - “Tourism, a catalyst for development, peace and reconciliation” - was something I firmly believed in. It was also a chance to visit Sri Lanka, and witness first-hand the progress which had been made following the end of the bitter civil war a few years ago. There really couldn’t be a better location for a discussion on this subject, since this island has to be one of the best examples of transforming a former war zone into one of the safest places to come for a holiday. Known as Ceylon during the British settlement from the late 1700’s, until its independence in 1948, Sri Lanka has much to offer the traveller. Famed for its tea production, the unique position south of the Indian sub-continent means it boasts a perfect tropical climate, and is lapped by the warm blue waters of the Indian Ocean. The road to Kandy is captivating, colourful, and frantic, all at the same time. It’s a good quality road that meanders through the hills, towns and villages, with a seemingly endless line of shops and market stalls lining the route. There are general stores with a huge mass of products stacked perilously high inside and out, fruit stalls with children or old ladies grinning at all who pass, in the hope they will stop and buy something, and roadside cafes with men sitting playing cards as they drink and catch up on the cricket scores. The traffic constantly hustles for position, with brightly painted busses and trucks weaving around the overladen pick-up’s,

while tuk-tuk’s buzz around with engines screaming like an excited swarm of bees. It’s a constantly enticing journey that manages to just stay on the exciting side of nerve-wracking! It was dark by the time we eventually reached the outskirts of Kandy, and found the long (and rough) zig-zag gravel track that wound its way up to the elegant Mowbrey House. After a mouth-watering curry, and an excellent night’s sleep, I woke to the tropical dawn chorus, and the most amazing view across the mountains as the sun rose. The gardens wind themselves down the hillside to a covered patio overlooking the pool. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect setting to have breakfast, enjoying the warm, humid air, and marvelling at the panoramic view. Kandy is bright, brash and beautiful, with the constant sound of people and traffic, and a kind of inherent energy that makes you want to get out and explore. And there is plenty here that needs exploring. It’s a historic city, being the last seat of the Sinhalese Kings before they ceded power to the British in 1815. The result is a harmonious mix of old world charm and colonial elegance. The highlight is undoubtedly the Dalada Maligawa, otherwise known as the Temple of the Tooth. The golden roofed temple holds the sacred relic of the Buddha, and is one of the most important places of worship for Buddhists the world over. Locals and travellers queue to take their turn to visit with flowers and incense. Nearby is the Kandy Lake, which graces the city centre, bringing an air of calm and beauty to the otherwise bustling

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surroundings. For real beauty, however, the lush Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya are hard to beat – especially the magnificent Orchid House that is home to over 300 varieties of this exquisite plant. There are formal gardens, tree lined avenues, gorgeous perennials, and immaculate flower beds. Amazingly the gardens date back to the 1300’s, and around 400 years later were given the ‘Royal’ title. If you’re ready to shop, then there is a good modern shopping complex near the city centre, but to really get a feel for the local culture a visit to a traditional craft market is a must. See the craftsmen working, and be astounded by the artistry and scale of the items they produce. I would love to take home the life-sized baby elephant, gleaming in polished wood, but I think it might exceed my baggage allowance! Not far from Kandy there’s a chance to see what is probably Sri Lanka’s best known product… tea. At the Geragama Estate you can visit the tea plantations in their neat terraced lines around the steep hillsides, and chat to the ladies who have spent their lives picking the leaves. One of them told me that they only pick for a couple of hours in the morning, and then again in the late afternoon, to keep the bush healthy, and get the leaves at their best. For a similar reason they only take the top four leaves from any bush.

As we left Kandy, and the mountains behind us, there was a chance for a brief stop at the Ranweli Spice Garden for a spot of lunch, and a tour around the gardens themselves. Most people never see what these spices look like while they are still on the plant, and it was an interesting game to try and work out what each was from the smell and texture.

Once you’ve seen the natural state, head inside the factory, breathe in the unmistakable aroma of good tea, and follow the process through the drying, grading and production stages. I was particularly intrigued to learn how the different grades of tea are made and defined. Of course, no visit would be complete without a visit to the upper floor, where you can taste some tea, and fill your shopping bags with your favourite.

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Our journey continued down to the flatter lands, and through the Maduru Oya National Park, where a herd of elephants wander casually past on their way to the lake. Bears, leopards, water buffalo and purple monkeys also make their home here, and it’s increasingly recognised as a haven for exotic aquatic birds and reptiles too. Wildlife experts rate Sri Lanka very highly when it comes to the best places to take a safari, and certainly outside of Africa this is one of the best area’s I’ve seen. These are true National Parks, not run as commercial ventures as they are in many other countries, and keeping the prime reason for their existence as being a safe haven for the creatures that live here. There is so much to see along the route, that once again it’s dark by the time we reach our destination – the eastern coastal resort of Passikudah. This was to be the setting for the UNWTO Conference, and our base for the next few days. It’s essentially a small coastal village, with a stunning white sandy beach that stretches around the bay, gently lapped by the crystal clear, warm waters of the Indian Ocean. It’s an ideal place to relax after the hectic lifestyle of Colombo and Kandy, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do here. Water sports enthusiasts are well catered for, with windsurfers and water skiers delighting in the perfect conditions. The market town of Batticaloa is just 20 miles to the south, along more magnificent coastline. To the north is Trincomalee, which Admiral Lord Nelson described as the ‘finest natural harbour in the world’. Its naval heritage has been assured ever since, even being used as the base for the combined Allied East Asian Fleet during World War Two. The town is protected by the extensive fortifications of Fort Frederick, which rises up from the seafront, and is crowned with the magnificent multi-coloured Temple of

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Koneshwaren. There is a local legend here that centres on a heartbroken Dutch maiden who leaped to her depth from the rugged cliffs, after seeing her fickle lover sailing away across the horizon. Seems a bit of an over-reaction when you’ve been left in one of the most beautiful tropical resorts, but there you go. Of course there is a whole lot more to Sri Lanka, and this was just a short sample for us, seeing what we could on a simple coast to coast drive. Imagine how good a week or two touring this endearing country would be… well we are certainly planning on coming back soon to find out!

Where to Stay Mowbrey House, Kandy Ignoring the somewhat tortuous rough track that climbs the mountain to reach Mowbrey House (but which is apparently due to be tarmacked shortly), this is a remarkable place to stay. It has the air of a colonial mansion, but with every modern convenience. Elegant, spacious rooms gaze over lavish tropical gardens that stretch down the hillside. Look out for the rare blue olive tree, as you amble down the terrace for breakfast, and enjoy the breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The high walled rooms are well-designed to allow the heat to rise up into the roof, and an open panel with just a mosquito net mean you can hear the wonderfully atmospheric sounds of the tropical forest outside as clearly as if you were sleeping under the stars. www.boutiquesinsrilanka.com

Sunrise by Jetwing, Passikudah A relaxing, modern hotel that fronts the glorious beach on Passikudah Bay. Its open plan design gives it a bright, peaceful, and spacious feel. The pool is apparently the longest in Sri Lanka – although perhaps more of a canal for much of its length. It’s still a wonderful place to just chill out after the hot and hectic days sightseeing. The rooms are comfortable, and well appointed, with free (if somewhat intermittent) wifi, and views out across the pool and gardens. www.jetwinghotels.com

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United Nations World Tourism Organisation conference: “Tourism - A Catalyst for Development, Peace and Reconciliation Where better to stage a conference entitled ‘Tourism – A Catalyst for Development, Peace, and Reconciliation’, than a country that in seven short years has evolved from ending a brutal civil war, to becoming one of the safest countries on the planet to visit. The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has for 50 years been supporting the United Nations call to consider tourism as a means to promote peace. The location of the conference – the eastern coastal resort of Passikudah – is itself a shining example of just how tourism has bought both reconciliation and development to the area, and hopefully those will act to ensure a lasting peace. The town was pretty much decimated by the conflict, but now enjoys a complete reversal of fortunes. There are new hotels lining the coastline, and is now a haven of tranquillity. People who would once have found themselves on opposing sides of the war, now work side by side to welcome guests who are returning in their thousands. Indeed in 2009 there were less than half a million visitors to the island, but that figure is expected to top 2.5 million by the end of this year. “Today, Passikudah is an example of how people affected by conflict have picked up the pieces and rebuilt their lives”, said Sri Lanka’s Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs and Lands, John Amaratunga in his opening address to the conference. He continued, “We will work to provide an example to the world on how to rise from the ashes of conflict, to become a leading tourism destination." That emphasis on communities needing to be the driving force of regeneration was echoed by the International Institute for Peace Through Tourism President, Dr Louis D’Amore, who called for community tourism to be both socially and environmentally responsible.

Useful Contacts Tourism Information: www.srilanka.travel Sri Lankan Airlines: www.srilankan.com UNWTO: www.unwto.org Kandy Royal Botanical Gardens: www.botanicgardens.gov.lk Elephant Orphanage: http://nationalzoo.gov.lk/elephantorphanage

Pro Traveller’s own Managing Editor, Trevor Claringbold, who is also Creative Director of Globetrotter Television, focussed on the importance of working with the media to ensure the right message reaches potential visitors to former regions of conflict. In a speech that was widely applauded, he raised the question of how well informed the travelling public might be regarding the safety of such destinations, and suggested that coverage of genres such as family travel would re-enforce holidaymakers perceptions of peace. The keynote speech was given by Her Royal Highness Princess Dana Firas of Jordan. Calling on experience from her role as Chair of the Petra National Trust, the princess gave an impassioned talk highlighting the way that tourism had been instrumental in contributing to the social harmony, local culture, preservation of the heritage and upholding regional values. The delegates were also given technical visits to Trincomalee and Jaffna, visiting temples, hotels, and tourism centres, and witnessing first-hand how the reconciliation process is working across the country. The overall conclusion was undoubtedly that tourism can indeed play a role in furthering peace, development and reconciliation, and we would like to commend the UNWTO on bringing together so many key players who can help ensure it continues to happen.

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Where to Stay… GENEVA

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Trevor Claringbold continues his adventurous quest along the New Brunswick coast, and discovers Canada’s first ever city. Last time, in the first part of our tour along the New Brunswick coast, we visited the Atlantic shores around the lobster capital of Shediac Bay, and took a trip from our base in Moncton along the Bay of Fundy to marvel at the iconic Hopewell Rocks.

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New Brunswick Part Two

Now, as we continue west along the Fundy Coastal Drive, the scenery is no less beautiful. Mile after mile of wide sweeping bays and dramatic cliffs, with deep, mysterious caves hewn by the relentless waves, and a network of glorious forest paths. At the Big Salmon River take a walk across the gently bouncing suspension footbridge, and be captivated as the sunlight plays games with the shadows bouncing off the crystal clear waters below.

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A mile or so further on and another set of steps leads way down through the trees, to a perfectly positioned viewing platform. The sweet smell of the forest blends harmoniously with the endless roar of a waterfall, and the breeze from the ocean beyond carries the spray from the base of the falls to gently tease your cheeks. The Fundy coast is an amazing natural wonder, and one which I could never imagine tiring of. But as we passed the Fownes Head viewpoint, and on to the small town of St Martins, it was time to say goodbye to the sea for a while, and head to the largest city on New Brunswick’s southern coast. It was French explorer Samuel de Champlain who first landed on the mouth of a mighty river in June 1604, and named both the harbour and the river St John, after St John the Baptist – whose saint’s day it happened to be. After a century of French rule, St John passed to the British under the Treaty of Utrecht, and its importance as a trading post increased. The population swelled following the American Revolution, with 14,000 American supporters of the British arriving to settle the area with land grants from the Crown. In 1785 it was granted a Royal Charter, and became Canada’s first city. Such was its growth in importance as a trading port, by the mid 1800’s St John was the third largest city in the world. Standing by the Victorian bandstand, in the heart of the gardens of King’s Square, that level of importance is hard to imagine today. There’s a calm, relaxed air, not only about these gardens, but about the city as a whole. Nobody seems to rush anywhere, politeness abounds, and in a bizarre way it actually feels like the quintessential English market town... just done better.

Below and previous page: Magnificent scenery on the Fundy Coast

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Above: The glorious Big Salmon River Below: Leafy streets of Saint John


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The English feel is no surprise, really, since almost every street is named after a British city, or member of the Royal Family. Even the King’s Square and Queen’s Square are laid out in the shape of the Union Jack. Head through the dark red doors and into the bustling City Market and you’ll immediately be struck by the sheer size of this intriguing building. As I was gazing up at the mass of carefully shaped roof timbers, a local gentleman commented that its design is based on an upturned ship’s hull. Apparently this was because at the time it was built, ships were the only thing they knew how to construct on such a scale, and for every architect resident in St John, there were 30 shipbuilders! True or not, it’s a great story, and one which befits such a unique building. The market is one of the stops on the excellent Uncorked Tour of the city. Our guide, Gilliane Nadeau, expertly led us on a leisurely two and a half hour walking tour of the city centre, stopping at wine bars, pubs, and even an olive oil boutique. With samples of both food or drink included at each stop, it’s a great way to really get a feel for what St John is all about. Gilliane is very knowledgeable, and manages to slide in all manner of interesting history and anecdotes – almost without you even realising how much you’re learning along the way. By the time we sat down for a meal of fresh local fish in the intimate East Coast Bistro that evening, I really felt I had the measure of this city. What’s more, it felt like the city had the measure of us, as visitors, and knew exactly how to take care of us and make us feel welcome. Waking the next morning, with the sun rising above the neat rows of red brick buildings, the view from my room high up in the Hilton St John gave a clear indication as to why this city was so important. The huge natural harbour, which today was welcoming two large cruise ships, is fed by the constant fresh waters of the St John River, and the whole region is the perfect gateway to the rest of this vast continent. After a busy day in the city, some much needed relaxation seemed like a good idea. So we took a pretty, half-hour drive to the west of St John, where at the end of a winding, tree-lined lane down to the beach is the Chance Harbour Nature Spa. Nestled on the forested hillside that rises up from the beach, with a dramatic waterfall on one side, and the rustling of the trees all around providing the soundtrack for your relaxation, it would be hard to imagine a more perfect setting.

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Even shrouded in the sea mist that had rolled in that morning, the beauty of this place was unmistakable. The wood-burning sauna or steam room is blessed with a huge glass frontage that looks out over the Bay of Fundy. If you’re brave enough to leave the heat of the sauna, and experience the shock of freezing cold water from the overhead bucket outside, you’ll gain instant inclusion in their exclusive Polar Bear Club.

Above: The Chance Harbour Nature Spa. Below: Seascape KaYoga is set by a beautiful bay on Deer Island.

For me, the highlight was a dip in the hot pool at a balmy 103 degrees, surrounded by the forest, and right next to the endless soothing crescendo of the waterfall. There are various types of massage treatments, lounge chairs on the beach, and a comfy relaxation lounge with a real log fire. You can even stay the night in a cabin with amazing sea views. Everything here, including the helpful, friendly staff, is geared towards giving you the ultimate relaxation in harmony with the natural surroundings. After squeezing every last moment I could before leaving the pool, and a relaxing drink in the beachfront cabin, it was, however, time to continue our journey. The western end of New Brunswick’s Fundy coast opens up into the wildlife wonderland of Passamaquoddy Bay – named after the original Native American people who inhabited this region before the arrival of the Europeans. The bay is a mass of islands, large and small, and shielded from the open sea by a further line of islands called the Fundy Isles. The western side of the bay is formed by the coast of the U.S. state of Maine. We were heading past the town of St George, to a small car ferry that would take us on a half-hour trip to Deer Island. As the busy ship weaved between some smaller islands, beguiling us with its picturesque route, it was interesting to hear that for children living on the island this was their regular daily way of getting to school. I wished that I had such an inspiring journey each morning! However, for one day at least, we were going to be experiencing the idyllic scenery in a unique way. I’ve kayaked in many countries, and even tried a spot of yoga in one or two, but I’ve never before encountered a fusion of both. A short drive across the island bought us to the home base of Seascape Kayak Tours, where we were about to experience ‘KaYoga’. The idea is simple; blend the deeper sense of connection with the world around us that yoga brings, with the sense of peace and well-being that sea kayaking in these beautifully tranquil surroundings can instil. The restful setting overlooking the deep blue waters of a small bay had already put our group in the right frame of mind, as we began the relaxing yoga session. The calming music mixed with the gentle lapping of the waves on the shore below left everyone

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in the perfect frame of mind for the second part of our experience. After donning our waterproof gear, and undergoing a safety briefing, we were paired up and seated in the kayaks on the gently sloping shore. The sun was out, and the clear blue water looked serene and inviting, contrasted against the dark green backdrop of the surrounding forests. But don’t be fooled. Even in June, this water is only a couple of degrees above freezing – as I found out when I held my underwater camera below the surface for a few seconds! As we headed out, initially hugging the shore around the bay, our expert guide pointed out all manner of wildlife that we would have missed but for his well trained eye. Bald eagles, seals and porpoises are all common in these waters, but the true beauty of this experience is simply the feeling of gliding smoothly and silently across the water, and blending in with the natural world that surrounded us. There was a sense of discovery, and even mystery about the excursion, such as passing the strange lines of dark posts that stick out of the water in places. They looked like they had been here for centuries, like the remains of some ancient ship, but in fact they are used regularly by the local fishermen. This is a stunning landscape; peaceful, beautiful, and totally enchanting. For those that have the time to stay longer, there is quality accommodation available, with glorious panoramic views across the bay. For us though, there was a real sinking feeling in our hearts when it was time to leave. We were

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making our way back on the ferry, and on to our final stop of our tour. The small city of Saint Andrews occupies a narrow peninsular that stretches out from the northern end of Passamaquoddy Bay. The wide streets rise gently from the water’s edge, each with a sprinkling of large, refined, pastel coloured homes set amid neatly trimmed gardens. Imagine looking down on an immaculately presented town in a model railway layout, perfect in every detail, and then turn that into reality. That’s pretty much what you get with Saint Andrews. The aptly named Water Street runs parallel to the shore, and is lined with quaint, weather-boarded shops that have changed little in the last century. Each is painted in a different colour, enhanced by flags, or bright flowers in ornate hanging baskets, and all reminiscent of some pretty, colonial film set. If all cities were like this, nobody would ever want to leave, and peace would reign across the planet!

Above: Kayaking on the Passamaquoddy Bay Right: The delightfully quaint Water Street in Saint Andrews

At the top of the gentle hill lies the majestic Algonquin Resort – a large, luxurious hotel, restored to its former glory with every conceivable luxury and amenity. I was impressed by the open plan nature, with no walls or fences separating it from the community around it. Instead it has more of a parkland feel, blending in with the rest of the town in a happy marriage. It’s only a five minute walk down to the temptations of Water Street, and a further five minutes (assuming you are strongwilled enough not to visit any of the intriguing little shops along the way) to the harbour. Alongside the old Post Office, and Town Hall, are a number of opportunities to join a whalewatching boat trip. After enjoying the bay by kayak the day before, I was eager for any excuse to head back onto the glistening waters, and joined an afternoon trip aboard the M/V Island Quest.

Where to Stay…

The Algonquin Resort This impressive resort in the heart of Saint Andrews has a feel somewhere between a colonial palace and a Scottish castle. From the moment you set foot into the white decor and dark wood reception area, you sense the air of quality that has been a watchword here since 1889. The hotel boasts indoor and outdoor pools, an 18-hole golf course, a delightful restaurant and a full spa and fitness centre. The 233 guest rooms reflect the Algonquin’s Victorian heritage, whilst still offering all modern comfort and facilities, including 32-inch flat screen televisions and free wifi. Rooms with a balcony gaze out across the immaculate gardens, to the town beyond. Yet the Algonquin can’t be summed up just by facts and figures. It’s not just a hotel, it’s an experience. It’s the relaxed, elegant feeling as you sit on the terrace restaurant for your breakfast, and the quiet, unassuming way there is always a member of staff around just at the moment you need to ask something. The very best hotels don’t need to shout about how great they are – they just do what they do, and you instinctively know that this hotel is something really special. http://algonquinresort.com

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The boat has inside and outside seating, giving the ideal viewing platform from which to see all the bay has to offer. As we slipped gently out of Saint Andrews harbour, and on to the open sea, we were treated to some revealing insights into both the islands around us, and the abundance of wildlife that inhabits the region. Finback, Humpback, Minke, and North Atlantic Right Whales are common, along with porpoises, seals and eagles, explained the captain – who knew these waters well. Each deck also had a marine biologist who doubled as a safety officer and hostess (now there’s a job you don’t see advertised often!), and who would point out all kinds of sights, explain things, and answer questions. It was a fascinating two and a half hours, during which we made stops to watch a colony of seals, marvel at a cliff side teaming with nesting birds, understand the lighthouse that is cut off at high tide, and see the huge nets that can farm some ninety thousand salmon – and still have room to spare! As we crossed the tidal whirlpools where the waters from the bay meet the tides from the Bay of Fundy, we stopped to watch the lobster fishermen hauling in their catch. For the children on board (and, to be fair, the adults who couldn’t resist), there was a captivating touch tank, with starfish, clams, and more to hold. Youngsters can also get a Junior Captain certificate to take away as a memento from their trip. Back in Saint Andrews, and after a mouth-watering meal at the much heralded Rossmount Inn, and a sumptuous night at the Algonquin Resort, I was awake early to watch the sun rise across the bay. It was my last day in New Brunswick for this trip, and I was determined not to waste a moment! There was time to explore the nearby shops, and gather the obligatory maple cream biscuits and maple syrup to take home. I always enjoy chatting to the locals, and finding out their thoughts about the place they live. For Saint Andrews, as I suspected, nobody had a bad word to say. Our last excursion took us just a few hundred yards along the road from the Algonquin Resort, to the horticultural delights of the Kingsbrae Garden. In fact, this is a collection of individual gardens that combine to offer an array of colour, foliage and unexpected treats.

Where to Eat…

The Rossmount Inn It’s not often that if you’re going to a restaurant in the evening, you join the owner on the shores of a lake in the morning to help forage for food. Yet that was exactly the experience we had with Chris Aerni of the Rossmount Inn. Chris is passionate about local ingredients, and that includes wild foods that he forages from the area around the prestige establishment, on the outskirts of Saint Andrews. He was happy to explain his craft, and take us on a tour of the restaurant’s own gardens, the ‘lakeside larder’ where he knew exactly what to forage, and a highly efficient organic farm on the hilltop, overlooking the St Croix River, and with the US State of Maine on the far bank. In the evening, the popular restaurant was busy and vibrant, without a single empty table – testament to Chris’s excellent reputation. The menu is amusingly separated into ‘land’ and ‘sea’, and we were lucky enough to sample both – as well as our additions from the lakeside of course. If you are in this region, make a point of coming here – but book well in advance so you’re not disappointed. http://rossmountinn.com

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Although this estate has had a long history of gardens, the whole site was constructed over a two year period in the 1990’s. You’d never know it today, however, as the entire garden has the charm of a long established spread in front of some stately home. With rose gardens, a labyrinth, a sculpture garden, orchards, a forest trail, perennials, ponds, and even a fully working one-third scale Dutch windmill, it’s a delight to just wander the many paths, enjoying the ever changing palettes and aromas. I felt a tinge of foolish glee as I wandered into the Children’s Fantasy Garden, and saw the teapot tree. I wished I’d had that idea for my own garden. Sitting in the shade of a huge willow, and enjoying a picnic hamper by the lake for lunch, the rest of the world seemed a million miles away. When I first arrived in New Brunswick I didn’t know what to expect. Canada had never been high on my bucket list, and I hadn’t expected it to offer a huge amount. How wrong I was. It’s been a long time since a trip has opened my eyes, and indeed my heart to a destination in quite the way this tour along the New Brunswick coast has. There is so much to see here – way more than I had time to experience. The scenery is stunning, the people are warm and welcoming, the food amazing, and the atmosphere is one of a region that is totally at ease with itself – and with the nature that it lives in harmony alongside. I, for one, can’t wait to go back.

Useful Contacts Atlantic Canada Tourism - www.atlanticcanadaholiday.co.uk Canadian Tourism Commission Chance Harbour Spa Uncorked Wine Tours – Saint John East Coast Bistro – Saint John KaYoga on Deer Island Island Quest Marine Whale Watching Kingsbrae Gardens

www.keepexploring.ca www.spachanceharbour.com www.uncorkednb.com www.eastcoastbistro.com www.seascapekayaktours.com www.islandquestmarine.com www.kingsbraegarden.com

NEW BRUNSWICK

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Serbia is not a destination that immediately springs to mind when it comes to activity breaks, but it’s a land full of surprises. Perhaps its best-kept secret are the beautiful landscapes, which are perfect for adventures such as free climbing, rafting, skydiving, and paragliding. Rosie Baker counts down the top ten activities for thrill seekers and adrenalin junkies

1.

Hiking

Discover the deep gorges, pure lakes, countless natural parks and conservation areas, while trekking up the forest-clad mountains, Serbia has to offer. Explorers can unearth many of the hiking routes available in this picturesque country such as, Fruška Gora National Park, one of the top hiking destinations, rising out of Srem’s vast plains, only 80km from the capital of Belgrade, with its highest peak Cryeni Cot (539m). Or visit Djerdap National Park, Serbias largest national park, with its 100km long Djerdap ‘Iron Gates’ Gorge, which is the biggest in Europe, slicing through the border with Romania. Spot over 170 bird species, such as golden eagles and watch out for the brown bears. 2.

Cycling

Fancy a challenge or a cultural, scenic bike ride? Take route on the iconic Danube Bike Trail and follow Europe’s second longest river through nine countries. Or dare the ‘Beast from the East’, formally known as EuroVelo 11, which runs through Serbia from the Hungarian border of Djala, travelling south to the Macedonian border of Jablanica, ending in Macedonia. If you prefer a relaxed cycle with some beautiful scenery and history, The Danube Bike Trail is for you, as you pass through the Upper Danube Nature Reserve and the majestic 14th century Golubac Fortress, countless monasteries and Belgrade itself. For cycling pros, join competitors from all over the world in The Tour de Serbie, founded in 1939, when Serbia had virtually no paved roads!

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Caving

Serbia has more than 4,000 caves, with some ranked the best in Europe. The longest, Lazareva Cave near Zlot, extends to 9,818 meters, located in Bor municipality it’s also referred to as Zlotska Cave. The famous Ceremošnja Cave is located in the northeast of Serbia, beneath the Homolje Mountains. You can witness its beauty with stalagmites, draperies and flowstone waterfalls. It officially opened to the public in 1980 and became protected as a national monument in 2007. For lovers of more 'unregulated' caving, potholing guides can be hired to explore wilder caves such as the Ušac Cave System near Sjenica, an incredible 6,185 meters long. 4.

Gliding, Paragliding, Microlites, Skydiving 8.

Ever dreamt of flying through the skies? It may sound a bit of a cliché but skydiving tops most people’s bucket lists, including mine. It could be for the adrenaline rush you supposedly get or the thought of feeling free in the sky? Well Serbia offers not only skydiving but also ballooning and Microlite flying, giving you a taste of an open cockpit flight, with the wind in your face. The views and feeling you will get is sure to make you want to try more than one! And most resorts and spas are now offering paragliding adventures under the guidance of experts from local clubs. 5.

Orienteering

This sport is phenomenally popular in Serbia with around 180 specialised orienteering maps covering many tourist locations as well as the area around Belgrade. Wonder at the beautiful Kučaj Mountains, with a compass in one hand, while ticking off control points in the other. This isn’t just a seasonal or daytime sport, as you can choose from the many different attractions including, night orienteering, ski orienteering and mountain bike orienteering. Although you will need to have some superb bike handling skills and the ability to cope with the steep slopes of Serbia. 6.

Freeclimbing

Freeclimbing or ‘rock climbing’, the general term involves moving forward and upward by gripping on rock, using as much natural strength as possible. As well as being dominated by wild, rugged mountains, Serbia is home to many sports climbing centres such as, Borski Sto,  Gornjačka  Gorge,  Jelašnička  Gorge,  Ovčar  and  Kablar Gorge, Sićevo Gorge and the Valjevo mountains. Not to be left out, urban areas, such as in Belgrade, Kladovo, Kikinda, Novi Sad, Niš and Kopaonik, have an ever-growing number of modern, artificial climbing walls. 7.

Skiing

With around 20 ski resorts to choose from, Serbia has been a popular destination for British skiers to holiday, since before the nineties. But the best-known and largest ski resort is the beautiful Mount Kopanoik, located in the Dinarske Mountains, around 200km from the capital Belgrade. Its 70 kilometers of pistes cater for all levels from beginner to expert, are set between 1,650 meters and 2,017 meters and are served by 24 ski lifts. As well as this popular resort, Zlatibor is a favourite for cross-country skiing, where skiiers can enjoy moving across the snow-covered terrain, without relying on other resources such as ski lifts.

White Water Rafting

Experience the thrills and spills of Lim, one of Serbia’s most exciting and challenging, rivers. Divided in to 3 stages, and 130km long, you will start on the Play lake in Montenegro and finish in the town Prijepolje. Other rivers which are hot for rafting include the 25 kms long Ibar river, where you can challenge yourself through the rapids and waterfalls in the Veseli Spust (Joyous descent) event. Or raft across Serbia’s most beautiful emerald rivers the Drina or the Tara, near Djurdjevic Tara, in the upper canyon.

9.

Canyoning

One of Serbia’s newest sports, Canyoning involves the use of abseiling, jumping and sliding to get from the top of a canyon to the bottom. If you want to travel further to parts of Serbia’s mountain rivers Canyoning will take you to parts that hiking can’t. The prime locations include Serbia’s second highest canyon, the Tribe Canyon, Dabrova Canyon,in the Valjevo mountains, Trešnjica Gorge and Seoski Potok and Brusnice Canyon in the Tara National Park. Most canyoning adventures take place from May to late September with participants receiving neoprene suits and all the necessary equipment, whilst beginners also receive a short training session. 10. Water Sports Whilst the fast-flowing rivers are great for rafting, dinghy sailors, rowers and flat-water kayakers, Serbia’s wider waters are more suited for jet skiing and waterskiing. The best places for this are, the Danube, Lake Sava at Ada Ciganlija, Lake Palić, Bela Crkva lakes or the popular tourist resort, Silver (Srebrno) Lake.

GETTING THERE: Several tour operators feature activity holidays to Serbia including: · RAMBLERS WORLWIDE HOLIDAYS · TRAVEL THE UNKNOWN · UTRACKS · BLUE PLUM ESCAPES · · · ·

       

AIR SERBIA from Heathrow AIR SERBIA/KLM from Manchester via Amsterdam WIZZ AIR from Luton BRITISH AIRWAYS from Heathrow via Frankfurt

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It’s All About the Wine… Or is it?

Laura Hatcher explores the wine region of Languedoc Roussillon, and discovers there Is more to this delightful French land than just the vineyards…

The perfectly raked sand in the centre of the arena gives the space an eerie feel and forces your imagination to picture the scenes once popular here.

I turned up at Luton airport, camera at the ready, not knowing what to expect on my first trip to the wine regions of the South of France. I was still recovering from the nightmares about having to eat snails and frog’s legs - but little did I know this was only the beginning!

Just a stones throw away is another key monument. The Maison Carree was originally built to honour Faustus and Lucius Cease. This ancient temple and its grand stature have been preserved for centuries and still stands to tell the tale. If you’re in te area, it’s certainly something you should not miss!

Touring a region renowned for its wineries and vineyards, I wondered how well I’d fit in with my basic knowledge of good wine. However, I soon discovered there was much more that this area had to offer if you’re not one hooked on wine-tasting. So if, like me, you don’t know your Merlot from your Zinfandel, don’t stress - there’s something for everyone hidden amongst the grapevines.

Inside you can experience its journey first hand, with a short film transporting you back to the very beginning, and helping you to picture the hard work and craftsmanship that went into the building.

The Languedoc-Roussillon region covers a large expanse of France’s southern extremes, with mountains to the north, and the Mediterranean to the south. It overwhelmed me with its movie-like picturesque landscapes, quaint romantic hotels and historical monuments - as well as a winery or two of course! Let’s start in the historic town of Nimes. It was my first time here, and gave me the long-awaited chance to tour the famous amphitheatre. I found myself transported back 1500 years, to a time when bull fights and gruesome executions would be the weekly entertainment for crowds of locals. As one of the best preserved Roman arenas in the South of France, sitting in the seats once filled with royals was a surreal and mesmerizing experience, especially as a first time visitor.

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But just when I thought the trip couldn’t get any better, the guide from Montpellier wine tours whisked me off to our next destination… the Mas des Tourelles wine estate. Excited chitter-chatter and laughter filled the courtyard, where people were dressed in traditional Roman attire. For one very special day each year, the Mas des Tourelles use their Roman cellar to recreate the traditional method of harvesting wine, and lucky for me it was the day I arrived! I was amazed to see dozens of people working together harvesting wine exactly as the Romans did, with so much attention to detail. Groups of young children would press the grapes by stamping and jumping , until they were ready to be shovelled into pallets to be squeezed in the oak press. Now, if you know your latin texts, you’ll be familiar with Mulsum, Turriculae and Carenum, which are all wines made

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from following the original Roman recipes. They certainly were an acquired taste, but if you have a sweet tooth, these could be the wines for you. Using different ingredients such as honey and seawater, these wines most definitely did not taste like your ‘evening in front of the tele’ go-to drink. But as well as these, the domaine does produce a more popular range of wines using more modern methods, including their well-known Château des Tourelles Rosé. After leaving one domaine, I found myself heading to another. Domaines Paul Mas. The grand estate, or should I say estates, took me aback with its size. With 10 estates over 550 hectares,

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their wines are now available in over 50 countries. Now here is where my nightmares began to come true - the snails and frog’s legs were looming! The onsite restaurant Cote Mas were serving us the traditional French cuisine that I had dreaded. However, I was brave enough to try them, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually enjoyed them. So much so that I even went for seconds! This estate oozed sophistication, and with over 140 employees, it could be considered one of the biggest in the region. Offering the whole package, with numerous vineyards, a choice of apartments and an on-site restaurant, owner JeanClaude Mas has definitely found a niche and dominated the tourism market. The fields upon fields of perfectly positioned vines surrounding the buildings will leave you gazing out of the window - right up until the delightful sunset.

Abbey bit by bit as much as they can. They are now able to show off the building to tourists, as well as rent it out for functions and events.

With my trip almost coming to an end, it was time to visit the last stop, the Abbey de Valmagne. As we pulled up, I was glued to the window. I couldn’t take my eyes off the striking buildings that surrounded the magnificent building.

Inside the abbey was simply enchanting, and the serenity continued throughout the domaine. We were invited to the wine tasting room where I tasted the variety of wines made on site, whilst being talked through the making of each individual one. After a case of wine or two was bought, our trip had come to an end and my first visit to the South of France was sadly over.

The abbey itself is a classic gothic style church; measuring almost 25 metres high, it still stands with many of its original features still intact. Generations of owners have restored the

But it’s not just the wine I’ll take home. I’ll have long-lasting memories of this delightful region - the fine dining, excellent wine, history, great weather AND something for all the family. Whatever your interests, there will be something here for you.

Useful Contacts Tourist Information Flights (to Montpellier)

- www.destinationsuddefrance.com - www.easyjet.com

Club Oenotourisme - For all things wine related in this region www.en.destinationsuddefrance.com/club-oenotourisme

LANGUEDOCROUSSILLON

Montpellier Wine Tours, guided tours - www.montpellierwinetours.com Chemin Mourgues du Grès Royal Hotel, Nimes Mas des Tourelles Domaine des Clos Domaine Saint Jean de l'Arbousier Domaine Paul Mas Abbey de Valmagne -

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www.mourguesdugres www.royalhotel-nimes.com www.tourelles.com www.domaine-des-clos.com www.domainearbousier.fr www.paulmas.com www.valmagne.com

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PLACES TO STAY DOMAINE DES CLOS When your day of sightseeing comes to an end, a short drive will lead you to the idyllic and tranquil Domaine des Clos hotel in Beaucaire. This small family run hotel is perfect for all ages, and offers a bespoke service for each guest. The Ausset families’ attention to detail makes each stay at the hotel unique and totally unforgettable. From individually decorated rooms with hand picked decorations, to homemade marmalades for breakfast, it’s most definitely the small things that matter. I never wanted to leave!

grape quality and in doing so guarantees customer satisfaction. Also, the range of different soils such as sandstones and pebbly marl mean the land differentiates from others, and is ideal for making sure the grapes are the perfect ripeness - but that’s enough about the wine for a minute! What really caught my eye were the secluded tree houses hidden amongst the 40 hectares of vineyards. Yes, you heard correctly, tree houses. You’re never too old to spend a night under the stars, and these unique wooden huts will take you right back to your childhood. With the tree houses holding up to 5 people, this would be a night to remember for all the family. Of course, it’s always a good idea to pick up a bottle or two of the Gourmandise Rose to sip while you enjoy your evening beneath the stars, and there is no better place to do it!

DOMAINE SAINT JEAN DE L’ARBOUSIER If you’re looking for some peace and tranquillity during your holiday, then a stop at the Domaine Saint Jean de l’Arbousier is essential. The family estate, located between Montpellier and Nimes, has been in the family for four generations. It’s hidden away amongst the strawberry trees and pines, blending into the beautiful French landscape. I felt like I was in a dream and had woken up in the middle of an old French romantic film from the 40’s! Although staying traditional in many ways, the estate has shifted with the times slightly and since 2010, has switched to organic production. It has increased the

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A STORY OF TURTLES AND HUMMINGBIRDS FROM ROBIN NOWACKI, AS HE EXPERIENCES TWO SUPERB CONTASTING RAIN FOREST EXPERIENCES IN COSTA RICA - SOON TO BE LINKED TO THE UK BY NEW DIRECT FLIGHTS.

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Pro Traveller Way back in 1992 I travelled to Mexico via Madrid, to write a guide to be on board the first ever direct flights to Mexico City from London, which commenced in 1993. Recently I undertook a similar journey, again via Madrid, but this time to a different Central American destination – Costa Rica - which will soon have direct flights from London Gatwick with both Thomson and British Airways. My first impression of Costa Rica was as I arrived in the capital, San Jose, where I found similarities with Mexico in the day to day life of the people. Costa Rica is tiny in comparison to Mexico, and lays just north of Panama, with the Caribbean Sea to the east and Pacific Ocean to the west. The country is renowned for its stunning array of quite superb natural attractions, ranging from towering live volcanoes as high as the highest Alps, steamy tropical rain forests dissected by broad rivers, Caribbean beaches where Green Turtles lay their eggs, and cloud forests where some of the finest coffee known to man is grown, and humming birds and howler monkeys thrive. The original Spanish colonialists chose the location of San Jose well, it’s elevation above sea level in what is known as the Central Valley keeps it a good 10 degrees cooler than Costa Rica’s coastal areas such as the Tortuguero Plain (Region of Turtles).

When I visited in September 2015, $30 USD was charged per person by the Turtle Guides. Within the Toruguero National Park the main mode of transport is the boat, with the village that bears its name virtually an island situated as it is between the Caribbean, and a broad inland waterway the size of a lake.

TURTLES AT TORTUGUERO NATIONAL PARK

Here there are a number of resort hotels offering wonderful ecotourism opportunities. I stayed at the Evergreen Lodge, in one of the many individual hut sized rooms, raised on stilts about two metres above the rain forest floor. This is to keep them safe from flooding during the frequent heavy rainforest downfalls, which thunder on to the steel roofs.

In a vast area of humid rain forest along the Caribbean, lies the beach of the village of Tortuguero. It’s the most important nesting site of the endangered Green Turtle in the Western Hemisphere.

There is a basic bathroom, no television or WiFi (although there are areas in the resort where this was accessible), and no glass windows - just mesh to keep out the mosquitos and other insects.

At one stage they were close to extinction, but in an attempt to save the species the Tortuguero National Park was established in 1970, leading to perhaps one of the earliest success stories of ecotourism. For the villagers, working with conservationists means they have come to earn a good steady income from the many thousands of tourists who visit to watch the turtles. Every night during the nesting seasons, hundreds of curious travellers follow the knowledgeable guides from the village, through pitch black forest paths to the beach. If they are lucky, as I was, they can watch these wonderful creatures leave the sea, dig deep holes in the sand to lay a hundred or more eggs, cover them, and return to the lapping waters of the Caribbean. The whole process takes several hours, and during the laying process the turtle enters a trance like state, allowing tourists to view the eggs being laid with aid of special red light torches held by the guides, who forbid any attempts of photography either by camera or mobile phone. The Green Turtle I watched give birth, whilst still in the trance, was tagged with a tracking device by a conservationist so as to monitor its movements once the evidently quite exhausted creature returned to the sea. It will be another two years before it returns. These Green Turtles nest at Toruguero beach between July and October, and amazingly endeavour to return to the same beach each time. Others nesting along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast are not so specific. These include the Loggerhead (May to August), the Hawksbill (May to November) and the Leatherback (March to July).

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By night a gentle breeze through the mesh, mixed with the sounds of the creatures of the forest, ensured a wonderful sleep - at least until dawn when the huge dog like growls of the Howler Monkeys above could be heard. In fact high up the forest canopy it was full of monkeys, including the Spider and White Faced monkeys. On occasions both Two and Three Fingered Sloths could also be spotted, whist at ground level tiny frogs could be seen.

MONTEVERDE, COFFEE AND CLOUD FOREST In the north west of Costa Rica lies another eco-tourism jewel. Take the Pan-American Highway from San Jose for about two hours, then soon after briefly passing a stretch of the Pacific Ocean on the left, turn onto a dirt road which winds upward for another hour. As a reward, you’ll find yourself in the stunning Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

For most travellers the only way out of here is on one of the long boats, pushed along by a 100 horse-power outboard motor. This is how I arrived, complete with suitcase and rucksack.

Here the small town of Santa Elena, despite its isolation, offers some good hotels and restaurants, as well as supermarkets and banks, and is accessible by bus.

I might have arrived by water, but I was lucky enough to leave from the small airstrip near Toruguero Village on a single engine turbo propped aircraft operated by NatureAir Group. The 40 minute flight, with spectacular views along the way, took me swiftly back to San Jose.

At 1,440 metres above sea level, Monteverde was refreshingly the coolest place I visited in tropical Costa Rica. The fascinating micro-climate allows for clear skies with distant views of the Pacific one hour, only to then being totally enveloped in a blanket of cloud the next.

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Pro Traveller As wonderful an experience as Tortuguero, here the virgin forest takes on a mystical dimension when covered in cloud, then becomes spectacularly beautiful in the clear sunlight air, all within a couple of hours walk.

Costa Rica will, I am sure, become a firm favourite for those seeking an alternative eco-tourism adventure now the new Thomson (November 2015) and British Airways (May 2016) flights commence from London Gatwick.

At the Selvatura Park the brave are offered thrilling zip wire experiences through the rain forest canopy, including one that is a kilometre long.

Tour operator Hayes & Jarvis who already offer tailor-made packages to Costa Rica are gearing up in anticipation of the new demand and can be contacted via the web site www.specialisthoilidays.com

For others the suspension bridge tour is a must. At times it’s 100 metres above the ground, and you’re truly walking at tree top level, with Howler and Spider Monkeys, and rare birds as companions as the bridges swing unnervingly from side to side. Close to the main lodge are the Hummingbird Galleries, where hundreds of these tiny birds in all the colours of the rainbow buzz around fonts of sugared water, coming so close one can feel the wind from their wings and hear their mesmerising buzz.

COFFEE Costa Rican coffee is generally regarded as one of the world’s best, and in Monteverde’s micro climate this crop flourishes. Highly recommended is the visit to the Don Juan Farm, where I was both thoroughly educated in how coffee is grown and processed, and highly entertained by Junior Ramirez Vindas. Both the coffee and chocolate made at the farm make for wonderful, natural Costa Rican gifts for friends and family back in the UK.

Useful Tips and Contacts Pack a light weight waterproof coat or jacket, as heavy rain (often as warm as a shower at home) is often a reality - be it when watching turtles, or exploring the rain forest. The US Dollar is accepted everywhere. A departure tax of $28 USD is charged at the airport when leaving Costa Rica. www.visitcostarica.com www.evergreentortuguero.com www.natureair.com

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FALLING OFF MOUNTAINS‌ and other tricks!

John Plaskett steps - or should that be climbs - way beyond his comfort zone , as he gets active in the French Alps. Holding tightly with my hands, hanging 20 meters in the air, and looking down at the sheer rocks below, I'm extremely grateful that my safety rope is doing its job perfectly. Ten seconds previously I was standing tall, feet firmly on the mountainside, at least so I thought. The fact that I was now horizontal on the mountain side, abseiling down, is a minor detail made a major one when my feet slip and I swing shoulder first into the unforgiving rock before me. A moment later after summoning some courage (and facing the inevitability of my situation), I place my feet back on the mountain side and continue my abseil down. This experience is entirely new for me, having previously a long list of fairly unadventurous holidays, the call to test my manliness on an adventure trip was too much to resist. Not being a natural Indiana Jones, however, I thought I'd start with just a little bit of adventure.

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I was in the French Alps, and specifically to a region called Le Grand-Bornand. It’s nestled in the South East of France, on the western slope of the Aravis mountain range not far from Mont Blanc, Lake Annecy and Switzerland. The journey was swift from Geneva airport and, 100% charged with my newfound bravery, I literally went straight to tackle my first challenge... rock climbing. I've never been climbing before, aside from the occasional easy tree as a child. As we approach the mountain I'm fighting an internal battle of nerves, as I stare out of the car window at the awesome sights of the Alps. The rock climbing experience I'm about to embark on is called the via Ferrata Yves Pollet Villard, La Clusaz , near the Aravis pass, and is the most accessible in the range. Appropriate climbing equipment was provided as well as a much needed mountain guide, who was solely responsible for encouraging me as I began my challenge. The climb itself was relatively straightforward, and there was certainly an big adrenaline rush as you begin. This particular route was suitable for both beginners and experts, a fact highlighted when one expert actually passed this beginner by as I was attaching my safety rope to the mountainside. After climbing for a few hours, our guide offered us the choice of either heading back down, or continuing for another few hours. Good as it was, I was relieved, as being tired and new

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to this I actually wanted to call it quits for the day. So I agreed to head down, and was immediately confronted with something new that I’ve also never experienced… abseiling. Again our guide was extremely encouraging, and feeling very safe I leaned over the side and began my first ever abseil. It was about half way down that my feet slipped and I found myself in the afore mentioned scenario. Even then I felt safe, encouraged, and best of all I have an amazing story about falling off a mountain that I’ve been telling over and over again! Finally at the bottom, and with a very excited heartbeat, I looked up at the rest of my team. It was perhaps the first time I’d really taken in the mountain, and I stood for a moment in awe of its presence, and in awe of what I had just done. I knew I was going to sleep well that night. After a long day I was pleased that my accommodation for the night would be close by at a Peak Retreats property called Le Village de Lessy, in the centre of Chinaillon. It’s perhaps one of the most interesting hotels I’ve ever seen, in that it’s built into the rock face, and complimented with the wood and rock decor that gives it a perfectly rustic Alpine feel. It has 144 luxurious apartments, some sleeping up to 10 people, and all boasting high quality furnishings. There was a leisure centre with an indoor heated swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and fitness room, as well as a spa and a beauty centre. My adventure continued early the next morning, as we began to hike back into the mountains. This, we were told, was the only way to get to that evenings accommodation. It turned out to be really quite easy. I didn’t come prepared with hiking boots or equipment, and never once felt like I needed it. Perhaps the only thing I found uncomfortable was having to come to terms with my own physical fitness level. Walking uphill for hours really did force me to stop and have a rest from time to time.

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I did justify this to myself as nature’s way of making me stop to take in the surroundings. The dramatic sights of the Aravis Mountain range deserve to have more than a passing glance. The air is so fresh, and everywhere you look you have this majestic view. Our trek through the mountains led us to a small restaurant called Chalet de Paccaly. From the outside it’s just a simple hut, but this restaurant has taken the mountain concept to the next level, by providing a host of dishes that have been foraged from the very slopes we were exploring. Now I’m a raging meat lover, so the thought of eating just a salad sounds somewhat disappointing. So a salad made of flowers?! Well despite my reservations I was here for both adventure and for experiencing new things, so I had to try it. I’m glad I did. Beautiful to look at, refreshing to taste and surprisingly good as an energy boost, it was a joy to eat… and the omelette that accompanied it was also delicious. After lunch, my trek continued. Around every bend was a new view that demanded attention, and as the sun began to sink low in the sky we discovered our camp for the night. Well off the beaten track was our 8 man Tepee. That night would be the closest I’ve ever been to living in nature. The Tepee had a straw floor for comfort, and sleeping bags. Aside from these luxuries the rest was simply what the mountainside would provide. There was a campfire for cooking, and a hole in the ground a short walk away for those more personal neccesities. Despite feeling out of my comfort zone, it soon didn’t matter. As the sun set we all sat in silence, listening to the birds chirp as the light disappeared behind the mountain range. My team

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Issue 55 and I bonded that night over some local wine, the campfire and our new found place in nature. It was a memory I will never forget. The following morning, and after a surprisingly good night’s sleep, we began our equally magnificent journey back down the mountainside - stopping at a nearby farm for a delightful fresh farm breakfast. Nearer to civilisation, we were met by our tourism guide, who took us straight to our new hotel for the evening - the Hotel Aux Vieux Moulins, in the heart of the village Megève. Megève is typically known as a Ski Resort, but in the summer is just as beautiful with quaint cobbled streets, designer clothes shops, gourmet restaurants and a fabulous history with Jazz music. The town was to be our home for the next few days as we took a variety of hiking routes that also included a walk through The Calvary Way - an easy path connecting 15 tiny chapels and oratories. It was on the Calvary Way hike that we discovered a small airfield offering flying trips around Mont Blanc. Getting into a small, 4-seater aeroplane is another nerve tingling experience for the first-timer, but we were soon in the air and circling this amazing mountain. It was a stunning flight that left you in no doubt just how massive Mont Blanc really is. I was in a world of my own, and I have yet another story to tell. Although my adventure had come to an end, I had a list of life experiences that I will be talking about for years to come. If you want to experience adventure, but don’t know what you’re made of, then I highly suggest a similar trip to experience Le Grand Bornand, La Clusaz and Megève. Simply amazing!

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Issue 55 USEFUL INFORMATION Lake Annecy Ski Resorts (Le Grand Bornand & La Clusaz) www.lakeannecy-skiresorts.com Le Village de Lessy, (bookable with Peak Retreats): www.peakretreats.co.uk Overnight stay in the Tipi www.compagnie-guides-aravis.com Includes breakfast at the farm, but not dinner Hotel-Restaurant La Crémaillère www.hotel-la-cremaillere.fr La Clusaz - Via Ferrata Access free for those already familiar (equipment can be rented in La Clusaz) Guided sessions bookable at laclusaz@guides-des-aravis.com (or in the Tourist Office) Hotel-Restaurant Christiania www.hotel-christiania.fr Megeve www.megeve.com Hotel Au Vieux Moulin www.hotel-vieuxmoulin-megeve.fr Guided Hiking, Megeve www.guides-megeve.com/en/ Light aircraft flight over Vallée Blanche Megève Altiport : +33 (0)4 50 21 03 21

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Issue 55

A TASTE OF TURKEY

By Rosie Baker Mandarin and Mango Boutique Hotels are celebrating the launch of their new website, with a number of discounts and offers. Situated in the idyllic rural hamlet of Faralya, on Turkey’s southwest coast, just 9km from the popular seaside resort of Oludeniz, these delightful hotels are perfect for a couple’s retreat. The hotels do not accept children under the age of 12, however, with the exception of group bookings renting one or both hotels in their entirely. They comprise of 18 spacious guestrooms and suites between them, both offering a very intimate ambience, perfect for a relaxing holiday for culture and nature lovers. Whether you want to visit Butterfly Valley, home to diverse butterfly species, join in with the hotels guided walking holidays, or learn to cook authentic Turkish home cooking in Mandarin and Mango’s cuisine week, you will find more to do than soaking up the sun. The hotel also offers photography, self-drive touring itineraries, escorted tours and even some Argentine Tango weeks throughout the summer! The accommodation itself has a traditional charm, with handcarved wood furnishings, super-king-size four-poster beds, in-room Jacuzzi’s, a balcony or terrace for each room and two “pool villas”, with private pools and gardens. Each morning guests start the day with a wholesome breakfast served in the garden or indoors, with eggs from their own chickens cooked to order. There are also five course evening meals, focusing on traditional dishes using local produce. For more info visit www.villamandarin.com

their

redesigned

website:

Try a traditional Turkish desserts… Portakal Soslu Irmik Tatlisi Semolina dessert with orange sauce ● Ingredients: 1 packet of ladies finger biscuits (200 gr) For the custard: 1.5 litre milk * 6 tbsp sugar * 10 tbsp semolina 1 tsp vanilla essence * 1 tbsp butter For the sauce: 3 cups of orange juice * 1 cup of water 2 tbsp plain flour * 2 tbsp cornflour 1 cup of sugar * Zest of 2 oranges or lemons ● Mix all the custard ingredient together in a saucepan, gently bring to the boil and simmer until the mixture starts to thicken, stirring constantly. ● Slightly moisten a rectangular Pyrex dish. Briefly dip half the ladies finger biscuits in milk and arrange them in the bottom of the dish. Pour over half the custard mixture. Repeat with the remaining biscuits and cover with the rest of the custard. ● In another saucepan, mix together the ingredients for the sauce. ● Then stirring constantly, bring to the boil and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken. ● Pour the orange sauce evenly over the biscuit-&-custard base whilst still hot. Leave to cool, and then refrigerate overnight before serving.

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Publishers are invited to submit books for review, and we will do our best to include them in the next available issue. Pro Traveller Magazine has no connection with any of the publishers of the books included on this page.

In Brazil by Fran Bryson Published by Scribe Publications

Language Hacking French, German, Spanish & Italian

Just about everyone who visits Brazil comes away with a mass of fascinating tales, and a bewildering vision of this magical country. So to read an in-depth study from a travel write who has spent seven years exploring every corner of Brazil is a must.

by Benny Lewis Published by John Murray Learning

Have you ever wanted to learn a language, even just enough to go on holiday with, but find yourself bogged down and put off by all the grammar and technical bits you need to get to grips with - even before you’ve learnt a single word? Well the new series of ‘Language Hacking’ books by Benny Lewis have a totally fresh approach to learning, allowing you to skip years of study, and jump straight to the speaking part. The series, which includes German, Spanish, Italian, and the French one that we tried, Language Hacking uses proven memory techniques, and unconventional shortcuts to help you get fluent faster. The books are refreshingly bright and easy to use, and we especially liked the modern language style - gone are the traditional old phrases from a 1960’s text book! You’ll be speaking from day 1, and can focus on the bits that are important to you, and skip the parts that aren’t. You can even connect with other learners online. Well worth a try! www.johnmurray.co.uk

She tells it like it is, and leaves the reader to cast their own opinions as to the rights and wrongs of the various situations she encounters. An entertaining and worthwhile read. www.scribepublications.co.uk

Looking For Lemons A Travel Survival Guide

This is a guide book like no other. No flowery descriptions of paradise beaches, or hints on the best hotels and restaurants, this is a practical, honest guide to travelling safely in a modern world that is, if we’re honest, far from safe.

by Horatio Clare Published by Random House Group

The seas and oceans of this world have never been busier than they are today, and yet this is a world most ordinary people know little about. The crews of thousands of cargo ships, large and small, travel millions of miles collectively, missing family, friends and loved ones, braving the weather, as well as both mechanical and human perils. In this beautiful and terrifying portrait of the oceans and their human subjects, Horatio Clare provides an endearing and very readable tribute to those who work the world’s waterways.

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It’s an aspirational read, particularly because Fran doesn’t just visit, she gets totally involved. Taking psychedelic drugs in the jungles of the Amazon, getting involved with religious cults, and even joining a dance school to be part of the world famous carnival in Rio de Janeiro.

by Lloyd Figgins Published by Read Media

Down to the Sea in Ships

www.rbooks.co.uk

Fran Bryson’s obsession is a captivating journey through the culture, people, religions, and history of the country, from the darkest reaches of the Amazon, to the bright and brash Rio Carnival.

The very concept of travel means we are leaving our familiar, everyday lives, and venturing into the unknown. Experienced travellers such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who has written the foreword, and the author, Lloyd Figgins, are keen to keep the spirit of adventure alive. So it’s important to replace the growing propensity for fear with an empowering knowledge about how to prepare and stay safe abroad. Figgins, a former police officer, soldier, and expedition leader, covers topics ranging from natural disasters and medical emergencies, to safety in planes, boats, accommodation and vehicles, and modern threats such as kidnap and terrorism. A must read book for all intrepid travellers. www.readmedia.co.uk

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World Atlas of Tea by Krisi Smith Published by Octopus Books The timing of this book was perfect. The day the Pro Traveller editor arrives back from Sri Lanka, having visited a tea plantation, we have a mighty guide to tea land on our desk. Of course, the first thing we did was check if the plantation he had visited was in the guide… and sure enough, it was. It is, in fact, quite surprising how diverse the world of tea is. Each one has a fascinating story to tell, from the people that grow it to the way it is produced, from the soil, climate, and altitude, and on to the cup - I never realised how much was involved. I was also amazed at just how widely tea is grown - not just the well known producers such as China, India, and the aforementioned Sri Lanka, but even countries like Argentina, Turkey, and Kenya. The book is a highly readable guide through the basics of tea, so you can understand the plants, harvesting and processing, to the blending, tasting, and even the health benefits of tea. The second half of the book is the worldwide guide, and offers places where you can visit the plantations, tour the processing plants, and learn about mixing and blending the tea. If you are an avid traveller, and enjoy visiting these places - which can be enthralling (see the article on p56), or even if you are just a tea fanatic, this is definitely the book for you. www.octopusbooks.co.uk

Istanbul - Cult Recipies

Labyrinths and Mazes

by Pomme Larmoyer Published by Murdoch Books

by Francesca Tatarella Published by Princeton Architectural Press

Wherever you travel in the world, there are a wide variety of mazes and labyrinths - some modern, and others have their roots (literally in many cases) in centuries past. They provide an unending fascination for many people, and are often a draw for tourists. Now, in a lavishly illustrated new book, architect and designer Francesca Tatarella highlights fifty of her favourites from across the globe. Not to be mistaken for a historical guide, the guide focuses on physical mazes, both contemporary and classical. They are chosen based on both their significance, and their aesthetic qualities. The book is beautifully put together, with full colour photos, and well written descriptions of each of the chosen subjects. Indeed, just looking through the many different mazes makes you want to run off and try to find your way through them! A great book if you are looking for a real bit of escapism. www.papress.com

If you’re thinking this is just another cook book… think again. This lavishly illustrated tome is part food feast, and part guide book - and all together a very readable blend. Turkish cuisine is as richly diverse as the country itself, which is perhaps no surprise when you consider it stands as a gateway between Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean. But this is far more than a list of recipes. Each of the tasty treats is also accompanies by suggestions as to the best place to try it, whether that’s a neighbourhood, street, or individual establishment. There are also enticing sections on street food, and home cooking, again with a map giving the best locations for trying the foods at different markets and street vendors. There are focuses on a number of districts, and well as an insight into ingredients, and the people that cook them. We really like this one, and the Pro Traveller office was alive with everyone choosing which recipe they were going to try first. So if you’re hungry, grab this book, and head to Istanbul! www.murdochbooks.co.uk

Claude Monet’s Gardens at Giverny Photographed by Jean-Pierre Gilson, Text by Dominique Lobstein Published by Abrams Books, USA A beautiful photographic tour of Claude Monet’s famous garden, with brief text explanations along the way. This is not only a stunning visual guide through the endless colour and style of Giverny, but also a perfect enticement to have you reaching for your camera to get similarly glorious shots the next time you visit a garden. Recommended. www.abramsbooks.com

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Issue 55

Pro Traveller For the more discerning family and cultural traveller

In the next issue…

An Italian Special: Cycling by Lake Garda Hidden Villages of Liguria Historical Bresica Into the Hills of Umbria Secret Sardinia Plus: A New Canyon Ranch in Turkey Baku and Beyond A New Take on Valencia Britain’s Flood Hit Areas are Back in Business. …and lots more!

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Pro Traveller Magazine - Issue 55