A weekend in Birmingham on the Tolkien Trail

With the latest addition to The Hobbit trilogy being recently released on DVD, and the next instalment ready to grace our cinema screens in a few months, now would be a perfect time to delve a little deeper into the life of the author, JRR Tolkien. While he may have been born in South Africa in 1892, he had an affinity with the city of Birmingham since moving there at four years old and, as such, literary fans will love to explore the sights that have been linked to the writer’s Midland adventures.

The Tolkein Trilogy

The Tolkein Trilogy

It’s often believed that Middle Earth was based on the Midlands, so it’s only natural to want to see where Tolkien gained his inspiration. If you’re after a weekend break in the city so that you can see more, book with Travelodge and you won’t have to worry about spending more than your budget can allow on accommodation. The Tolkien Trail is the perfect way of exploring parts of Tolkien’s childhood, with highlights including:

Sareholl Mill in Birmingham Photo: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Sareholl Mill in Birmingham on the Tolkein Trail

  • Sarehole Mill, situated in the village of Sarehole (which is often considered to be the inspiration for Hobbiton and The Shire), is a fantastic museum that pays homage to Tolkien. It’s believed that he, and his brother, used to play for hours near the mill. It’s only open for part of the year though, so make sure you check that it’s open before you visit to avoid disappointment.
Moseley Bog in Birmingham Photo: Peter Lewis on Flickr

Moseley Bog in Birmingham

  • Moseley Bog was once a mill pool and was the site of many an adventure for Tolkien when he was a lad. Nowadays, it’s a Local Nature Reserve and a perfect addition to your Tolkien itinerary if you’re a lover of the great outdoors. You can access it via Yardley Wood Road or the Wake Green Playing Fields.
  • St Anne’s Church on Alcester Street is where Tolkien and his family used to worship. Pop by during service hours and you can enjoy the interior beauty as well as the outside.
  • Perrott’s Folly stands near to the Edgbaston Waterworks, alongside a Victorian tower that, together, are believed to be the inspiration behind the Two Towers of Gondor – which, as any Tolkien fan will know, is the name of the second book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Perrotts Folly in Brirmingham Photo: Tony Hidgett on Flickr

Perrotts Folly in Birmingham on the Tolkein trail

Whether you wish to head off on your own adventure, discovering these places and more, or you prefer to embark upon a Middle Earth tour with the help of a tour guide, the Tolkien trail is a must for any fan of this fantasy writer. These tours operate at various times during the year, so keep an eye on the Midlands Discovery Tours site if you fancy being part of the next one – you can sign up to receive email notification of when tickets for the next tour go on sale, and it’s recommended you do so, because they sell fast!

If you can’t wait for the next tour, there’s no reason why you can’t venture out on your own to see where the inspiration for Tolkien’s amazing literary works evolved. Incorporate it into your visit to Birmingham and learn more about Tolkien’s roots in The Midlands.

This article was brought to you in partnership with Travelodge.

Photo Credits: Sarehole Mill by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Moseley Bog by Peter Lewis, Perrott’s Folly by Tony Hisgett, Tolkein Trilogy from TheHobbit.com

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

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Celebrating Labor Day Weekend at Fiesta Hermosa in Southern California

In this article our guest writer, Sophie Couwenbergh shares her experiences at Fiesta Hermosa in Southern California that takes place over the Labor Day weekend on Hermosa Beach, featuring live music, fish tacos and hippie underwear.

When I was researching my first trip to Los Angeles in 2012, I found out that we would be there during Labor Day Weekend. I thought it would be fun to experience some of the festivities held during that weekend. After some more research a friend and I decided to go to Fiesta Hermosa and we had so much fun that I even decided to go back when I was in LA for another trip last year.

Fiesta Hermosa was organized for the first time in 1972 and has since been the largest arts and crafts fair in Southern California. The festival takes place every Memorial Day and Labor Day Weekend (Saturday, Sunday and Monday), right by Hermosa Beach. The stands are stretched out over Hermosa Avenue (from 10th St. until 14th ST.) and Pier Avenue (from Palm Dr. until Pier Plaza). Here you can find anything from jewelry over clothes to paintings.

Hermosa beach in Los Angeles Photo: Wonderfulwanderings.com

Hermosa beach in Los Angeles

Plenty of food and entertainment

That’s not all that Fiesta Hermosa has to offer, though. There are also two stages – one at Pier Plaza and one at the Charity Beer & Wine Garden at 11th Street – where live bands play different kinds of music all day long. Last year we saw a Beatles tribute band performing at the main stage.

Beatles tribute band at Fiesta Hermosa Photo: WonderfulWanderings.com

Beatles tribute band at Fiesta Hermosa

Although there are enough bars and restaurants in the festival area to grab a bite, Fiesta Hermosa also has its own food court with stands offering tastes from all over the world. There’s pizza, fries, Mexican food and I later learned that the Hermosa Beach lifeguards even have a fish taco stand there. I somehow missed that, otherwise I would have definitely gone for a fish taco. I did see the Holy-Guaca-Moly stand and got a sample of their nachos with guacamole. Yum!

Holy-Guaca-Moly stall at Fiesta Hermosa Photo: WonderfulWanderings.com

Holy-Guaca-Moly stall at Fiesta Hermosa

By the way, right next to the food court you’ll also find Fiesta Hermosa’s ‘kids department’ with different rides and games, just like a mini carnival.

We didn’t have lunch at the food court but instead decided to head back to this small place at Pier Plaza where we had a coffee in the morning. I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the name but it was about two shops away from a big clothing store selling surf brands like Rip Curl. When you enter there’s a counter at the left and some tables to the right. Pier Plaza isn’t that long, so I’m sure you’ll find it. This place has fresh orange juice, a multitude of coffees and teas and it serves great quiches. I liked it because it was much less crowded (because it was such a tiny place) and noisy than the other places in that area and if you manage to get a seat outside you’ll be ideally placed for some people watching.

Fiesta Hermosa highlights

I found this cute little cupcake shop quite by accident. Some of the stand owners were talking about it and while they weren’t selling cupcakes outside, the shop was actually right behind one of the stands. I always have to get a cupcake when I find some abroad.

We loved this stand full of hippie colored clothes, including underwear, and just had to get a picture of this. Luckily the stand owner thought we were funny.

Left: Cup cake at Hermosa Beach Right: Hippie Underwear at Fiesta Hermosa

Left: Cup cake at Hermosa Beach Right: Hippie Underwear at Fiesta Hermosa

I don’t know if this is typical for the Californian coastline, but we saw such cool bikes at Hermosa Beach, such cool models, in all possible colors. If I could’ve taken one home with me (meaning: if it wouldn’t have cost a fortune to do so), I would have.

Bikes at Hermosa Beach Photo: WildWanderings.com

Bikes at Hermosa Beach

Practical information for Fiesta Hermosa

Be aware that Fiesta Hermosa is a daytime festival. It starts at 10 am and finishes at 6pm, except for the Beer Garden, which is open until 7 pm. Glass and plastic containers are recycled and the plates and cutlery used at the food court are all either recyclable or compostable. Fiesta Hermosa is green! The buses that bring in visitors as well as the generators that supply power for the festival run on biodiesel.

If you want to visit Fiesta Hermosa you could drive there, but I don’t know if you’d easily find a parking spot. Parking in Los Angeles is tough, with different parking restrictions on every block and pretty high fines if you don’t keep to those restrictions. That’s why I love Fiesta Hermosa’s shuttle bus system. You can park your car at the Northrop Grumman Building O4 at 15092 Aviation Blvd. (near the intersection of Aviation Blvd and Marine Street in Manhattan Beach) for free and then take a shuttle bus (also for free!) to the festival area.

The buses drive constantly between Fiesta Hermosa and the parking lot from 7.30 am to 7.30 pm. I made use of the shuttle system both times I visited Fiesta Hermosa and I’m glad I did. No stress searching for a parking spot and the bus drops you off right where the fair begins. (Note: dogs aren’t allowed on the shuttle buses.)

What else is there to do at Hermosa Beach?

If you’re in the area during Labor Day weekend you should definitely spend a day at Fiesta Hermosa, but even if you’re in Los Angeles another time of the year, this beach town is worth a visit. Even when there’s no fair you’ll be able to do some shopping on Pier Avenue. It’s not like spending an afternoon on Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade, but there are some nice boutiques there. If you walk down Pier Avenue you’ll get to the beach. A nice big stretch of sand where you can catch some sun and watch people play volleyball on one of the beach volley terrains.

Often there are also some surfers out in the water, working on their best tricks in the hopes of getting a spot on the Surfer’s Walk of Fame. You can find this collection of surfer names engraved in bronze plaques on the Hermosa Pier.

Surfers Walk of Fame

Surfers Walk of Fame

If you’d like to get active yourself you can mingle with all the runners, bikers and walkers on The Strand. This beachfront sidewalk is also great for some people watching. And if you happen to be in Hermosa Beach on a Sunday, you might want to check out the Comedy and Magic Club. Jay Leno often performs here on Sunday nights to try out new material.

Bio-PhotoMany thanks to our guest author, Sofie Couwenbergh, a Belgian language lover and travel aficionada who combines a full-time job with a never-ending wanderlust and an upcoming freelance business. She uses her weekends, vacation days and public holidays to travel the world and share her experiences with you on Wonderful Wanderings. Be sure to follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

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An Insider’s Guide to Grand Cayman Island

In this article our guest writer, Catherine Stanley shares her love of Grand Cayman in the Caribbean, with glorious beaches, delicious local cuisine and flower-filled walks where you can spot the island’s wildlife.

If you have never experienced the Caribbean’s Cayman Islands, you should definitely add them to your bucket list. Having traveled to the Cayman Islands several times over the past few years, I have become very familiar with the three islands. Without a doubt, my personal favorite is Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands. Whether you are on a family vacation of just spending time with a group of friends, Grand Cayman truly has so much to offer especially when it comes to the variety of activities you can experience.

Miles of Sandy Beaches on Grand Cayman Photo: squirrelmachine.org

Miles of Sandy Beaches on Grand Cayman

Adventure on the beach

When you sit on the soft sand of the renowned Seven Mile Beach in the early hours of the day, it is easy to get lost in the mesmerizing teal-blue water, endless rows of beach chairs and lazy water sports. However, I am not one to just hang around when I am on vacation. Grand Cayman never disappoints as I turn to the adrenaline rush of kitesurfing.

Kite Surfing on Grand Cayman Photo: squirrelmachine.org

Kite Surfing on Grand Cayman

My favorite kitesurfing spot is Barkers Beach, found within the Grand Cayman Nature Reserve, towards the north-western point of the island. With its winding, pot hole-filled dirt road and occasional lizard sighting, it is fair to say that Barkers is off the beaten track.  I love the drive because you can see the bright colored kites, full with air, high above the trees far before you even reach the ocean. Once you arrive at the beach, you will find that it is quite removed from the rest of the island, swarming with locals who spend their free time out on the crystal blue water right off the reef protected beach.

Ivy's Cayman Treats Photo: squirrelmachine.org

Ivy’s Cayman Treats

An abundance of local culture and cuisine

After working up an appetite from kitesurfing, I like to make a pit stop on my way back at Jessie’s Juice Bar (great smoothies!) and the Farmer’s Market in Camana Bay. The Farmer’s Market has a wide array of items ranging from fresh produce and baked goods to homemade soaps. I always have to swing by the Ivy’s Cayman Treats stand where I do not leave without several bottles of Ms. Ivy’s homemade pepper sauces and jerk seasoning rub mix—all of which are to die for!

The Camana Way Photo: squirrelmachine.org

The Camana Way

As someone who is innately curious, I love strolling through the beautiful courtyards sprinkled throughout Camana Bay. I would have to say that Canella Court is my favorite one as I am a sucker for the shady trees and soft trickling sound of the fountains.

Colourful flowers on the Camana Way Photo: squirrelmachine.org

Colourful flowers on the Camana Way

If I plan on staying in the Camana Bay area for the rest of the day, I like to walk along Camana Way, a beautiful pathway connecting Camana Bay’s Town Center to the Seven Mile Beach. The path is full of life and covered with all types of native plants and flowers, giving you a true appreciation for the Island’s nature. Do not be surprised to come across the island’s colorful lizards and birds of all size. Make sure to bring a camera, you are bound to find numerous amazing photo opportunities along the path!

The Camana Way Photo: squirrelmachine.org

The Camana Way

When dinner rolls around, neighborhood restaurant and local favorite, Season to the Bone, is my go-to. Located in Windsor Park (about a 10 minute drive from Camana Bay), Season to the Bone has, what I believe to be the best jerk meat I have ever tasted. Grab a picnic table outside the restaurant and prepare to taste the most amazing and authentic jerk chicken you have ever had. For a generous portion of jerk pork or chicken plus a drink, you will spend about $15 and definitely get your money’s worth! Expect to experience a wonderful blend of culture and warm hospitality at this local food spot.

Ice Cream on the beach on Grand Cayman Photo: squirrelmachine.org

Ice Cream on the beach on Grand Cayman

A perfect sunset

After dinner, I like to head out to the Seven Mile Beach to watch the Caribbean sunset, one of my favorite parts of the day. The warm red, orange and pink tones painted across the sky make for an absolutely breathtaking picture. Without a doubt, Grand Cayman delivers both a refreshing tropical climate and amazing ocean views as the sun disappears behind the rolling ocean waves. It is quite a sight to see and I can assure you that you will not want to miss it!

Caribbean Sunset on Grand Cayman Photo: squirrelmachine.org

Caribbean Sunset on Grand Cayman

Many thanks for this guest post to frequent traveler and blogger Catherine Stanley, who runs The Squirrel Machine blog out of her home (and on the go, as long as there’s a WiFi connection!). A New York City native, Catherine has vacationed in the Cayman Islands since she was young and has developed a deep appreciation for the warm weather paradise. In addition to traveling, Catherine is passionate about writing and enjoys providing her readers with posts on a variety of topics. Head over to The Squirrel Machine for more posts on travel, entertainment, health, business and more!

For more Caribbean stories:

Wood-carvings at Anse Chastenet in St Lucia
Swimming, surfing, snorkeling – best beaches of the Dominican republic
Silky sand and clear water – beautiful beaches of Jamaica

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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