I’m pleased to be supporting Passports with Purpose in this year’s fund-raiser to build three schools and fund literacy programmes in Mali, Africa and I’m teaming up with the Millets, the UK Outdoor Store who’ve offered me a £150 Gift Card to give away, for you to spend on Christmas gifts for yourself or your loved ones.
About Passports with Purpose
Since it founded in 2008, Passports with Purpose has run an annual fund-raiser, supported by travel bloggers and travellers like you and me, to raise money for a worthwhile cause in a developing country.
You could say that it’s our way as travellers to give something back for the kindness and hospitality that we’ve received on our travels from people all over the world. It’s also a recognition of our good fortune, in the standard of living we enjoy and the education we’ve received, that as global citizens we want to give a helping hand to those who don’t take such things for granted.
This year’s fund-raiser is to support buildOn, a charity that works in developing countries to break the cycle of poverty through education, building schools and running adult literacy programmes in some of the poorest places on the planet. Through the 2013 Passports with Purpose campaign, we aim to raise $115,000 to build three schools and fund three adult literacy programs in the Sikasso region of southern Mali, Africa. If you need any more convincing, read this article about how a new school helped 8 year old Korotoumou hope for a better future.
How it works
This year, over 70 bloggers have worked with generous travel companies and sponsors to offer prizes on their blogs. You can see all the different prizes on offer by going to the 2013 Prize Catalogue with everything from a stay in a luxury resort to backpacks to GoPro video cameras. You can find out more about each prize by following the link in the catalogue to the website of the travel blogger who is offering that prize.
Once you decide which of the fabulous prize or prizes you’d love to win, you make a $10 donation which buys you a chance to win that prize in the draw that takes place once the event ends on 9 December. For us Brits that’s only £6 for a chance to win and of course you can make multiple bids for different prizes as there are so many great travel prizes and possibilities. All the proceeds from your donations this year go to buildOn to build the schools and run the literacy programmes in Mali.
Thanks also go to the global sponsors who have supported Passports with Purpose this year, Expedia, DK Eyewitness Travel Guides, Rough Guides, Collette Vacations, TBEX, Eating London Food Tours, HomeAway, Hostelbookers and Go with Oh.
My Prize – a £150 Millets Gift Card
Which leads me to the prize that has kindly been donated by Millets, the UK Outdoor store that you can win through Passports with Purpose, a £150 Gift Card. This gift card can be spent in any of the Millets stores in the UK, Northern Ireland or Channel Islands on clothing and equipment for your travels or your outdoor lifestyle and you’ll find some great gift ideas for all the family. With Christmas approaching, I’m offering some ideas for what’s on my family’s wish list this Christmas, but do pop into the stores or check the website for more gift ideas. As an additional benefit this £150 gift card can be spent in other travel, outdoor and leisure stores in the UK such as JD, Bank, Scotts, Blacks, Tessuti and JD Pro. (Gift Cards cannot be used to purchase items online). The Gift Card is valid for a 12 month period – for more details see the Gift Card Terms and Conditions.
If you’d like to make a $10 (£6) donation to bid for this great prize to help you with your Christmas shopping or any of the other exciting travel prizes, please go the to Passports with Purpose Prize Catalogue.
So now for some Christmas gift ideas to spend your £150 Millets Gift Card
Gifts from Millets for your trendy daughter
For trendy teens, my daughter picked out some Cebe track ski goggles £30 and Peter Storm Earmuffs £5 to look cute on the slopes this winter while the Peter Storm pom pom hat £12 will keep her cosy on chilly nights when she’s out with friends. But looking forward to long summer days the meadow print water bottle £5 will be just the thing for picnics and festivals with some retro sunnies £10 for posing on the beach in Greece.
Gifts from Millets for your cool teenage son
For cool dudes my teenage son who is rarely parted from his music picked out a portable iPhone speaker £13 and headphone splitter £3 to share your favourite tracks with your friends. The Thinsulate gloves £10 will prevent cold fingers on the walk to school, a snow slider £4 because you never know whether it will be a white Christmas and waterproof matches £4 for building fires when training for your Duke of Edinburgh award on Dartmoor.
Gifts from Millets for the Camping Crazy men in your life
For the man in your life who loves camping and the great outdoors, my husband picked out the inexpensive Summit camping stove £10, although secretly he’d love the tip top Jetboil £105 to keep in the car boot for a quick brew. He’s dreaming of camping in comfort with the inflatable chair £18 and the Highlander daysack £9 is just the right size for a map, picnic and waterproof while the maglite torch £30 will be a pleasure to use at home or on the campsite.
Gifts from Millets for Mums on the go
For busy mums on the go, I chose some thinsulate gloves £10 for running and hiking and a Bobble sports bottle £10 that filters your waters to keep you well hydrated. The cosy polar chute £8 doubles as a scarf and bandana while I always like to keep a compact portable umbrella £10 in my handbag to whip out for passing showers. Finally I’m dreaming of picnics with friends on the beach in Cornwall, using these colourful plastic wine glasses £9 to sip my chilled white wine or elderflower cordial with my grilled mackerel off the beach BBQ.
All the gift ideas mentioned can be found on the Millets website.
For more Christmas gift ideas from Millets pop into one of their 78 UK stores or check their website and do head over to Passports with Purpose to make your bid for the £150 Millets Gift Card and all the other wonderful gifts in the Passports with Purpose Prize Catalogue.
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey
One of my favourite games is to dream of the places that I might travel to, the things I could see, imagining the pleasure of sharing the experience with friends and family. Let’s face it, at this time of year when the days can be dark and cold, we could all use a little escapism, to imagine ourselves in a place with blue skies and sunshine or at least one that has new and fascinating possibilities. HomeAway have come up with a clever game to help with the daydreaming in a Places to see before you die micro-site which allows you to plug in your interests and see what places you could visit at each age of your life.
To give it a try, I put in my age and location, then selected some of the things that I enjoy such as culture, gastro, activity. To be honest I love doing a whole range of things depending on where I am and who I’m with, but the things I didn’t bother to tick were clubbing (I leave that to my kids), shopping (although I love searching out local crafts), beach (love walking along them but not so good at relaxing) and romantic (although I enjoy spending time travelling with my husband).
I was impressed to discover that I would be travelling until I’m 82, and why not? My parents are in their late 70s and are always off somewhere interesting, and they were the ones that gave me the travel bug from our family camping trips around Europe. Here are the HomeAway Places to see before you die recommendation for me and what I thought of them.
When I’m 56 I should visit the Dead Sea in Israel/Jordan
The Suggestion: Bordering Jordan to the east and Israel to the west, the Dead Sea is a unique body of water that lies 423 metres below sea level. That alone ought to make the Dead Sea an intriguing proposition, but its peculiarities don’t just end there. With a salinity level of 33%, the Dead Sea is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world
My Thoughts: Israel and Jordan are both on my bucket list, ever since I spent a week in Lebanon a few years ago. I know that in the Middle East the hospitality is boundless, the people incredibly welcoming, the culture rich and the landscapes varied. I suspect that rather than spending much time drifting around in the Dead Sea, I’d have a quick dip and then get my hiking boots on to explore some of the desert and mountain landscapes of this part of the world.
When I am 61 I should visit Meteora in Greece
The Suggestion: Situated in Thessaly, central Greece, Meteora is one of the world’s more unusual destinations. Famed for the ancient monasteries which sit perched atop its cloud-topping rock towers, it’s a fantastic spot for those seeking a rural retreat in the mountains; and those looking to discover some of Greece’s finest natural landmarks.
My Thoughts: My sister lives on the Greek island of Zakynthos, where I visit her each year. Many years ago, when we were en route to her wedding to her Greek husband, my younger sister and I took a detour through northern Greece. I do believe that we may have visited Meteora or at least some of the rocky peaks and villages of this area, although I know that in some of them women are not allowed. I’d be very happy to go back, perhaps in the spring or autumn and link up with my Greek sister for a stay in the mountains.
When I’m 67 I’ll be visiting Socotra Island, Yemen
The Suggestion: Made up of four islands in the Indian Ocean, Socotra is an amazing archipelago; an area of isolated, alien landscapes. Famed for its plant life, a third of which can be found nowhere else on earth, its main island Socotra sits amidst three smaller and stranger isles; Samhah, Darsa and Abd al Kuri.
My Thoughts: Yemen is also a place that’s on my list to visit at some point and hopefully by the time I’m 67, some of the political volatility in this part of the world will have calmed down. I’ve heard that Socotra is one of the safest areas of Yemen to visit and I was fascinated to read what my friend Anil from Foxnomad had to say; It’s sort of like evolution got bored with the rest of the planet and decided to drop acid while creating the four-island archipelago. However I probably won’t wait until I’m 67 as my spirit of adventure may be waning a little by then.
When I’m 70 I should visit Sapporo, Japan
The Suggestion: Japan’s city of Sapporo is famed for a number of things. It boasts the country’s oldest beer (Sapporo Draft has been around since 1876), it’s the capital of Hokkaido (where the indigenous Ainu people are now settled), and it’s home to the Sapporo Snow Festival, which takes place every frost-laden February. Hats and scarves at the ready!
My Thoughts: This is one suggestion that I’m not really sure about. Although in a detatched way I find Japanese culture fascinating, it’s not a destinations that would be top of my list. The thought of discovering the country’s oldest beer is not especially enticing, although I can see my husband knocking back a few pints, and I’m afraid that I can happily miss out on frost-laden February, as I am more of a sunflower, gravitating towards warmth and sunshine when I travel.
When I’m 82 I should visit Jerusalem, Israel
The Suggestion: Not only is it the capital city of Israel, but one of the most important holy cities to the religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Brimming with historical sites, it’s one of the oldest cities in the world, and known as the ‘City of Gold’ in Hebrew. When you’re looking for a destination where glistening skyscrapers sit aside first century dwellings, head for Jerusalem.
My Thoughts: As a Catholic, I would love to visit the Holy Land, in fact I’m not quite sure why I haven’t already been as I enjoy connecting with my faith through pilgrimage travel. I’d love to experience at first hand the melting-pot of cultures and religions and to feel the history of the place, to walk where Jesus walked, and connect with what happened there centuries ago.
I’ve picked out the places I fancied most, but there were also some other suggestions that I might try in the future;
- St Helena, the volcanic island in the Atlantic that I’ll be visiting when I’m 64
- Rome, Italy I’ll be visiting when I’m 73
- Vienna, Austria I’ll be visiting when I’m 76
- Knossos, Greece I’ll be visiting when I’m 79
If you would like some inspiration for the places you could visit in the future, do check out the Places to die site from HomeAway.
More Travel Inspiration
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey
Our visit to Rotterdam as part of our 4 day European Sampler Cruise on board Crown Princess was one of the most enjoyable days of the cruise. The sun shone as we stood on deck and the ship glided through the canal that led to the port of Rotterdam, the second city of the Netherlands and one of the largest ports in the world. On the skyline were rows of windmills – the modern white kind rather than the picturesque old ones you get on every postcard, and the canal was lined with industrial buildings. We only had one day in Rotterdam, arriving mid morning and departing late in the evening but we managed to pack in plenty of interesting things, all within easy walking distance of the cruise terminal. So if you only have one day in Rotterdam, here are some of the things that we enjoyed on our cruise day ashore.
1. Spido Harbour Tour
From the cruise terminal we walked across the Erasmus bridge, known locally as the Swan for the sculptural effect of its supports, and from the jetty on the other side we took the Spido Harbour Tour, lasting 75 minutes. We were lucky to have bright and sunny weather, but the large boat would be suitable for all weathers with indoor and outdoor seating areas, and a café to buy coffee and snacks.
We settled on the open, upper deck from where we got a great view of all the interesting buildings alongside the Maas River. The commentary in English and other languages informed us about the modern buildings, many by notable architects, as most of the older buildings of Rotterdam were destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. We toured up one side of the harbour, past the Euromast tower and around the working shipyards where cranes were loading goods and colourful containers were stacked along the quay. Returning along the other side of the harbour we made a detour to pass the old cruise liner SS Rotterdam, the Hotel New York and the Crown Princess moored on Wilhelmina Pier, before being dropped off beside the Erasmus bridge again. Need to know: Spido Harbour tour lasts 75 minutes and cost €10.75 per adult €6.60 for children. The tours run all year round and in the summer there are around 10 sailings a day, with less in winter.
2. SS Rotterdam
We passed the SS Rotterdam on our harbour tour, but unfortunately we didn’t have time for a proper visit. This steam ship was the biggest passenger ship ever built in the Netherlands under the Holland America line and is now a hotel and museum. In her heyday she welcomed celebrities like Frank Sinatra and European Royalty like Crown Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands and Princess Margaret of England, but now anyone can eat in one of the restaurants and cafes or have a cocktail in the bar. You can take a 1 hour audio tour around the ship to see behind the scenes in the charts room, bridge and captain’s cabin. Need to know: SS Rotterdam, Katendrecht. Audio tour costs €16 Adults, €9.50 children 10am-5pm, free entry for the restaurants and bars
3. Schmidt Zeevis
Once we completed the Spido Harbour tour, it was getting close to lunchtime so we asked a local shopkeeper for a recommendation of where we might find some pickled herring, my husband’s favourite. We were directed to Schmidt Zeevis, a fishmonger’s and deli which had apparently won awards for the best in the city and was just a 5 minute walk away from the Erasmus Bridge. The chilled counters were full of fresh seafood as well as ready-to-eat dishes to take out, but there were tables by the window where you could stand and eat your lunch selection. In the open kitchen we could see large pieces of fish being sliced with great precision and the sharpest of knives. Display counters doubled as table tops and groups of local businessmen were eating anything from Japanese raw fish with dipping sauces, to battered fish goujons, all washed down with a glass of chilled white wine. We joined the lunchtime diners standing at a counters and Guy ordered a selection of herring and roll-mops from the deli counter, while I had the lunchtime special, which cost us around €10 per person Need to know: Schmidt Zeevis, Vasteland 60 – 3011 BM Rotterdam
4. HavenMuseum (Harbour Museum)
Strolling down the Leuvehaven area of the harbour full of old boats, we were invited on board one that was part of the Haven (Harbour) Museum. This Dutch barge named Geertuida or Gertrude, after the wife of the owner, was built in 1906 and was used to transport building materials like stone and gravel to Brussels travelling along the many canals. Even more fascinating, as the volunteer guide explained to us, was that the barge had housed a whole family who lived on board. The children continued to manage the boat until they were too old, when it was given to the musum.
We were taken into the boat to see the old-fashioned living room, bedroom and kitchen, with the childrens’ bunks down below. The rooms were small but cosy and well fitted, and in days when many people lived in poor housing conditions, would have been a very pleasant place to live. There were also many other boats that you could look at as part of the Havenmuseum, with walkways between them. Need to know: Havenmuseum, Leuvehaven 50, 3011 EA Rotterdam. Entry is free although donations are welcome. Open Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday 11am to 5pm although you can look at the boats from the quayside at any time.
5. Maritiem Museum
Walking further along Leuvehaven we reached the Maritime Museum where we found the Mainport Live spectacle on the ground floor, with a model of the port and a light and sound video presentation to give you the feel of the life and vibrancy of Rotterdam. Upstairs there was the Sea Palaces Exhibition with examples of cruise ship interiors since the 1920s. The exhibition showed how cruise ships had developed from luxury liners that only the very wealthy can afford, to the holiday playgrounds of today that everyone can enjoy. If you want to wallow in the nostalgia of towels folded into animals, dressing up for dinner at the Captain’s table and leather trunks full of finery, you will love this exhibition. Need to Know: Maritiem Museum Rotterdam is open every day except Monday, Adults €7.50, Children €4. Address: Leuvehaven 1, 3011 EA Rotterdam
6. Architecture walking tour
At the tourist information stand in the cruise terminal, we had picked up a leaflet for the Architecture Walking Tour. As Rotterdam was heavily bombed in the Second World War, much of the old centre was destroyed, but the city has more than made up for this with some striking modern architecture. We crossed the Erasmus Bridge with the 139m steel pylon which earn it the nickname of The Swan. The walk along the canal took us past the “Red Apple” residential tower which gets its name from the colour of the exterior and the apple market that once stood here. Further along was the Art Nouveau Witte Huis or White House, an attractive eleven story building which was considered the sky scraper of its day, and one of the few older buildings to survive the bombing. The walking tour continued through the city centre with over 30 buildings of architectural significance to see, although we ran out of time to see them all. Need to know: Pick up a leaflet for the Architecture walking tour or Rondje Rotterdam at the Rotterdam info tourism office or in the cruise terminal. There are also Black street signs marked Rondje Rotterdam to guide you. More information about Rotterdam architecture on Rotterdam.info
7. The Cube houses
A little way beyond the White House were the famous Cube Houses designed by Piet Blom, looking like a forest of cubes, each on its own trunk, containing the staircase. The houses overlook a small harbour area with a couple of bars which were a pleasant place to have a drink on the quayside and obviously very popular. If you fancy staying in one of the houses there is a hostel in two of the cubes joined together run by StayOkay. As the residents apparently got fed up of curious tourists wanting to have a nose around, one of the houses is now open as the Kijk-Kubus museum and I took a look around. The concept of Piet Blom was to create an urban village that included living space at the top level and small shops, businesses and play areas on the ground level between the houses, with each cube house being one of the trees in the forest. Having looked around the small show house, I decided that the houses are better to look at than to live in, with very small rooms and slanting ceilings tucked into the cube shape, but certainly an interesting insight into modern architecture in Rotterdam. Need to Know: The Kijk-Kubus museum is open every day 11.00-17.00 Adults €2.50, Children €1.50
8. A Water Taxi back to the ship
By the afternoon, we were a little foot weary and so we took one of the yellow and black water-taxis from Leuvehaven, near the Havenmuseum to speed us back to Crown Princess. We’d spotted the water taxis from the deck of the cruise ship in the morning when we docked and thought they looked rather fun – you could imagine yourself in one of those James Bond moments, weaving through the harbour with the baddies in hot pursuit. There was a crowd of people waiting but we all managed to squeeze in and I got the front seat beside the boatman as we left the harbour under the bridge, and then he pulled back the throtttle across the open water. In no time we were passing Crown Princess and Hotel New York on the end of Wilhelmina piers to be dropped off by the little boathouse jetty nearby. Need to know: Water taxis run from Leuvehaven and Veerhaven on one side of the river, to Hotel New York and SS Rotterdam on the other. They are normally running around every 10 minutes from 9am to midnight and our trip from Leuvehaven to Hotel New York cost €3.80 per person one way.
9. Hotel New York
Our water taxi from Leuvehaven dropped us at Hotel New York, at the end of Wilhelmina Pier, and before we made the short walk back to Crown Princess, we had to stop for coffee at this legendary hotel and cafe. The historic building was once the office of the Holland America cruise lines and the place where emigrants from the Netherlands left for New York to start a new life. Now the building is a buzzing hotel with bar, restaurant and outdoor terrace. Of course there’s plenty of seafood on the menu and a relaxed, brasserie atmosphere. We sat at the reading table, full of books and international magazines, under an enormous crystal chandelier, for a coffee an enormous slice of Dutch apple cake. The whole of Wilhelmina Pier is being redeveloped as a happening place with a photography museum and old warehouses being converted into residential apartments. The terrace café in front of the hotel was also busy and a great place to sit in the afternoon sunshine, with views of the harbour and boats going by. Need to know: Hotel New York, Koninginnenhoofd 1, 3072 AD, Rotterdam – On Wilhelmina pier, a short walk from the cruise terminal. Open from 7am to 1am
There was far more of interest to see in Rotterdam than I had expected, and it was easy to walk to many of the sights from the cruise terminal. Other guests used the free shuttle bus to take them to the central shopping area and the station, and I heard that some just stayed on the bus and used it as a mini-sightseeing tour. Another option that was very popular was to take the free bus to the station and catch the train to Amsterdam which I gather was a quick and inexpensive journey. There were also many excursions available to see various things in Amsterdam if you prefer to have transport and activities arranged for you.
More about our European Sampler Cruise with Princess Cruises
How to enjoy your Princess Cruise without piling on the pounds
Taster Cruise diary series at the Online Travel Journal
I found plenty of useful Rotterdam Tips in this podcast from Tips for Travellers by Gary Bembridge
My 4 night European Sampler Cruise with my husband was hosted by Princess Cruises who offer cruises to European and Worldwide cruises to allow you to explore fascinating destinations and escape completely on board their elegant and spacious ships. Our cruise took us from Southampton to Rotterdam to Guernsey before returning to Southampton. You can keep up with latest updates for Princess Cruises on their Twitter page @PrincessCruises and on the Princess Cruises Facebook Page.