As we see out the old year and bring in the new, there’s something of a tradition in blogging circles to review the places you visited, share photos from the year just gone and generally reminisce about those days of sunshine and happy memories – doesn’t everything seem more rosy in retrospect?
Looking back over my travelling year, I’m amazed at how many places in the UK and Europe I managed to fit in, considering that I have a full-time job and family (although only one of my little birds left in the nest). Perhaps that’s why my preferred travel style is the short break, to pack in the maximum fun from a limited amount of holiday. My most regular travel companion is my husband Guy who by his own admission is as expert in ‘loafing’ as I am at scribbling, photographing, video-ing, although he regularly gets roped in as assistant cameraman and videographer. Whenever I get the chance, I also love travelling with friends and family, especially when the (nearly-grown-up) kids do us the honour of coming along.
So here is a taste of my travelling year in 2014 in anticipation of many more happy travels in 2015.
January: Still recovering from Paris in December
January was something of a catch-up month, so I’m cheating a little bit here by including the pre-Christmas trip to Paris from December 2013. We found that Paris at Christmas is surprisingly un-Christmassy as the French are pretty low key about their celebrations and decorations. On this trip we stayed clear of the regular tourist traps (although we couldn’t quite escape Notre Dame) and enjoyed exploring the more local haunts, with a gourmet walking tour of Marche D’Aligre, a local dining experience with a Frenche Creole flavour and a walk along the pretty Canal Saint Martin in Bastille.
February: A winter break in Copenhagen for the Wondercool festival
In February we were back in Copenhagen, a favourite of mine, to see what the city has to offer in winter and check out the Copenhagen Cooking festival. The gastronomic highlight was a gastro-cruise around the harbour during which we stopped at no less than six of the top restaurants in Copenhagen, each of which had prepared a different dish of mussels. I hadn’t quite realised that the focus would be entirely on one ingredient so was quite thankful that both Guy and I love seafood! We stayed at the fabulous and colourful Anderson boutique hotel and managed to combine more gourmet food tasting at the Torverhallerne food market with culture at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek and Rosenborg Slot.
Read More: In Photos: Our weekend break in Copenhagen
March: Heather is featured in Woman and Home Magazine
Although this is not actually a place I travelled but I have to mention how thrilled I was at being featured in Woman and Home magazine, with two other bloggers in a feature about “Blogging for fame and fortune”. I had such a fun day at the photography shoot, being made up and dressed up in impossibly high heels with tons of make-up, and a suitcase that would never have made it past the Ryanair police. All great fantasy and left me floating on air when friends kept telling me they had seen me in the magazine.
March: A weekend in Marrakech in search of Josephine Baker
March took me off to Marrakech to get my fix of spring sunshine and we stayed in the magical Riad Star which was once the home of French cabaret artist and superstar of the 1920s, Josephine Baker. The Riad has been beautifully renovated in a Jazz Age theme, with a relaxing roof terrace, inner courtyard where we enjoyed breakfast and even had its own dressing up box. We spent the weekend trying to not get too lost in the Souk, perfecting our haggling skills, and visiting a fair number of beautifully decorated mosques, palaces and gardens. Of course there was the obligatory snake charmer photo opportunity in Jemaa el Fnaa.
April: A spring break in North Devon
April is when spring is truly upon us with the daffodils and primroses blooming in North Devon. We spent a weekend with friends in the lush, green wilds of the Devon countryside at Penhaven Country Cottages, booked through Premier Cottages. There was plenty of pub grub, coastal walks and a visit to Clovelly, the picturesque cliffside village that is now a major tourist attraction and could easily play a starring role in any costume drama about smugglers and pirates.
May: Walking the Pembrokeshire coastal path and the puffins on Skomer island
In May we went walking in Wales along the Pembrokeshire coastal path with Macs Adventure on a taster version of their Best of Pembrokeshire itinerary. We had chosen the perfect time of year to visit Skomer island, a short boat ride off the coast, since it was the beginning of the Puffin breeding season and we were able to get really close to the cute looking Puffins as they arrived back at their burrows. Our walk along the Pembrokeshire coastal path continued from Broadhaven, past the lovely harbour at Solva, ending at St David’s where we had a look around the famous cathedral, art galleries and craftshops in the “Smallest City in Great Britain”, which is really an overgrown village.
May: A Mediterranean Cruise with MSC Cruises
Later in May we were off again on a Mediterranean cruise with MSC Cruises. We embarked at Barcelona and had a fun week as the ship cruised around the Med visiting Marseille, Genoa, Naples, Messina and Tunis, before returning to Barcelona. The ship was very glamorous with a lively atmosphere and plenty of families on board, and at each port we visited I wished we could have stayed just a little longer!
June: Discovering Dylan Thomas in Swansea and Laugharne
One of my favourite UK trips this year was to South Wales to discover more about the poet, Dylan Thomas in his centenary year. Swansea, where Dylan grew up, is not the prettiest of cities but provided a fascinating gateway to his childhood and early years. We followed his life through the dramatised walk we took around the streets from the Dylan Thomas Centre and our visit to the Dylan Thomas Birthplace at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive. Our Dylan Thomas discovery continued at Laugharne in Carmarthenshire, where we stayed at Dylan’s favourite drinking haunt of Brown’s Hotel and visited The Boat House where he lived and worked, overlooking the beautiful Taf estuary. With views like these who wouldn’t be inspired?
June: Walking the beaches of the Gower in South Wales
In June, I was back in Wales with another cottage stay at the fabulous luxury cottage, Promenade View in Mumbles through Home from Home Cottages. The cottage was perfectly situated on the promenade of this traditional holiday resort which is also the gateway to the fabulous beaches of the Gower Peninsula. We took full advantage, with a long walk from our front door along the coastal path, past the fabulous beaches of Bracelet Bay, Langland, Caswell, along the clifftop to Pennard, where we caught the bus back to Mumbles. The next day we had a morning in the sand-dunes and flat beach of Llangenith, a favourite beach for surfers which left us feeling refreshed and miles from our busy life in Bristol.
July: Back to Copenhagen for a family holiday
Two visits to the same place in one year must mean that I really like a place and we took the family back to Copenhagen in late July for a family break, staying in a large apartment near the harbour side. The weather was hot and sunny and we cycled everywhere, swam in the harbour, ate great street-food and took ferries across the harbour. Like Copenhageners of all ages, we enjoyed a day at Tivoli, although after the adrenalin rush of the roller-coaster with my kids I was happy to sit and admire the rose garden from a shady spot on the lawn.
August: Zakynthos Greece for a beach holiday with my daughter
Since my sister lives on the Greek island of Zakynthos, I try to visit her each year and in August I was there with my 19 year old daughter and English niece. Since my Greek niece was also there with four of her friends, I got to hang out with the beach-babes in the most trendy beach bars, check out all the unspoiled beaches and generally live the life of a 19 year old on holiday. When not sipping on my chilled frappe coffee or swimming in the clear water to cool off, I was able to observe Greek beach style and etiquette which I wrote about in the article below.
September: A foodie adventure in South Tyrol, Italy
September took me to South Tyrol in Italy, an area that is close to the Austrian and Swiss borders with stunning mountain scenery in the Dolomites. I spent a few days there, combining outdoor activities with gastronomic pleasures, cycling around Lake Kaltern on the South Tyrol wine road, visiting some of the local designers and the climbing a Via Ferrata. These ‘iron routes’ are rock climbing routes of varying difficulty where you are secured to a cable that snakes up the rock-face, enabling relative novices like me to reach the top (although best with a guide) in a scary but exhilarating experience.
September: Hiking the Dry Stone route in Mallorca
Later in September I was off for another walking holiday with my friend Julia, to Mallorca. Having completed the Tour de Mont Blanc together in previous years, we fancied something that combined views of the sea with mountainous walking and decided to walk a section of the Dry Stone Route, a long-distance path that skirts the west coast of Mallorca into the Tramuntana mountain range. We passed through several of the coastal resorts of Mallorca but my favourite time was walking the higher rocky sections of the Traamuntana from Soller to Lluc monastery.
October: Athens for TBEX Blogger’s Conference
In October I was in Athens, a city I haven’t really explored, despite visiting the Greek islands every year to see my sister. The city has been through a tough time with the recent ecenomic crisis but we found a new spirit of optimism and purpose as the worst seems to be over. The city was hosting the TBEX blogger’s conference and as part of this I spent a day in Athens on a gastronomic walking tour as well as a visit to the Parthenon. I was pleasantly surprised the warmth and spirit of Athens and it’s one place I’d love to get back to see more of in 2015.
November: A weekend at the Moorland Garden Hotel in Devon
In November I was back down to Devon for a weekend on the edge of Dartmoor at the Moorland Garden Hotel. This is a part of the world that I have visited quite a few times and we visited the market town of Tavistock, on the edge of the moor and visited The Garden House and National Trust property of Buckland Abbey nearby. There were all too many opportunities to try those yummy Devon cream teas.
December: A pre-Christmas weekend in Dublin
To bring the year to a close I spent a weekend in Dublin with my husband and 17 year old son in early December. The purpose of our trip was the Trinity College open day, since my son is looking at university choices for next year, but we managed to pack in an awful lot else, with shopping on Grafton Street, the Little Museum of Dublin and plenty of great meals, not to mention the odd pint of Guinness.
So the year comes to a close but I know there will be plenty more travel adventures in 2015. In January I will be back down to Devon to stay in another lovely cottage that’s close to the Jurassic coast, as well as a visit to India at the end of the month to visit the charity project that I support in Andhra Pradesh. I hope that you’ll join me through the blog on these and other trips and follow my photos on social media too.
Wishing you many happy travel adventures of your own in 2015.
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In this guest article, my husband Guy shares the story of his holiday romance with a Sogreni bicycle in Copenhagen this summer and how he returned there in December to bring his new bike home.
“That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest”, wrote the American philosopher, Henry David Thoreau, a thought that could be written for those of us who have always been excited by cycling as a combination of transport, adventure and cutting edge design. Let us enter the rarified world of Sogreni bicycles in Copenhagen, where the artist’s materials are steel, brass and leather and where the wait for your new hand-built bicycle is part of the pleasure.
The week before Christmas, I found myself catching planes, trains and automobiles to Copenhagen, Denmark, to collect my bespoke Sogreni Young Shatterhand bicycle, a mere six months after my fitting with Soren Sogreni in his eclectic shop on Sankt Peders Stræde.
As everyone knows Copenhagen is truly a green city surrounded by water and parks, with climate-friendly citizens to match. Holding the title of European Green Capital of 2014, the city is not resting on its green credentials, but aims to become the world’s first CO2 neutral capital by 2025. In Copenhagen, sustainability and cycling are an integral part of the vibe and there is even a Cycling Embassy that advises the world on how cycling can be integrated into daily life.
Bikes are simply everywhere and used by all ages from the Royal Family downwards. Indeed Crown Prince Frederik is the only Royal to have completed an ironman triathlon, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile marathon, raced without a break. Useful but not essential preparation for taking one of the children out in a Christiana type cargo bike – a three wheeled design that can be configured in many combinations and is as popular with families as it is for delivering the post.
Having been to Copenhagen many times it was not long before I became aware of Soren Sogreni and his bicycles. Like a moth drawn to a candle I finally tracked him down to his shop when on holiday this August, finding myself chatting about engineering and Classic British cars and particularly the Bristol marque. I immediately liked him as haute couture is not my thing and Soren is well known for his T-shirt-and-shorts appearance. I had done my research and knew exactly what I wanted so the ordering process took very little time and soon I was back at our apartment dizzy with the caffine overload and the excitment of my purchase.
The months of waiting for my bike to be made was not a problem, indeed it was part of the excitement, given the time invested in deciding on the type and specification of the bicycle. A Sogreni hand-built bicycle is not something to be rushed or to rush on in an unseemly and sweaty manner. Like a Bentley motor car there is speed enough, but such a vehicle is not about writing or graphics and there certainly won’t be any lycra or writing on this rider.
If anything the delay helped me appreciate the skill and workmanship that went into the creation of this new and custom built machine. My new bicycle was the result of numerous manufacturing processes and logistics involving craftsmen from across Europe but with life, character and soul breathed into it by the Sogreni magician and mechanic, Peter, who I met on my return visit to the workshop in Copenhagen.
This Sogreni design is a build of distinction and rightly recognised by the luxury Danish brand, Georg Jensen who commissioned twenty identical bikes from Sogreni. The internationally renowned Louisiana Museum of Modern Art to the north of Copenhagen for many years displayed another Sogreni classic bicycle design, named the Louisiana, which you can still order.
So how did my bicycle get its name of Young Shatterhand? As Soren Sogreni explained to me, Old Shatterhand is a fictional character in the Western novels of German writer Karl May (1842–1912). He is the German friend and blood brother of Winnetou, the fictional chief of the Mescalero tribe of the Apache, a story that was made into a Euro-western of the same name in 1964, starring Lex Barker. The story of Old shatterhand entertained Soren Sogreni as a youngster so he decided to name not one but two bicycles after this fictional character. They are the Old Shatterhand and Young Shatterhand. Quirky? You bet!
In Copenhagen you are as likely to see a very stylish lady or gent in the latest fashions riding their Sogreni bicycle through the Latin quarter as a mum cycling with her children in the ‘burbs. Being Copenhagen there is even a Cycle Chic website with an eclectic view on cycling and cyclists that promises to be lycra and granola free and promotes, amongst other things, the slow cycling movement. It also shows the amount of kilometres cycled by Copenhageners today. Incredible and for all you UK cyclists NOBODY jumps red lights … There really is no need people!
For visitors and residents alike, Copenhagen has recently introduced the Bycyklen smart bike for hire, which you will see in numerous public places around the city. It represents the latest generation of urban electric bikes, with no-puncture tyres, built in lights, touchscreen computing and GPS navigation, all in a stylish and durable design. Once you have set up your account, you can pay by the hour or have a monthly account and the web site will tell you how many bikes are available at the nearest docking station. Now how cool is that?
So back to my journey to collect my Sogreni bicycle. While some might ask why a bespoke bicycle is necessary I am hoping that my hand built machine will transform the everyday journey to work into a joyful progression. My Young Shatterhand includes leather handles, a carrying rack, an enclosed gearbox, a drum brake for the front wheel and painted rimmed mountain bike wheels – as well as a magestic brown leather sprung Brooks saddle. A bike beautifully designed by Soren Sogreni and lovingly constructed and fitted to me by Peter just in time for Christmas.
This is a bike that has kept me awake at nights, a bike I think is perfect for my today and my tomorrow and a bike that I will never sell. I believe that Henry David Thoreau would have approved.
More things to see in Copenhagen
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Since I love to stay in hotels with a strong design influence and a boutique feel I was interested to see that The Square Hotel in Copenhagen has won a World Travel Award for Denmark’s leading boutique hotel for 2014 and in fact has won the award for six years out of the last eight. Copenhagen is a city that has no shortage of well designed hotels, drawing on all kinds of design influence, especially the clean, modern Scandinavian design and it’s one of my favourite places to visit at any time of year. The World Travel Award is quite an accolade and aims to promote global travel and tourism by identifying and rewarding excellence, with winners in the many different categories being selected through voting by travel industry professionals.
The Central Location of The Square Copenhagen
Although I haven’t personally stayed at The Square Hotel, I have visited Copenhagen several times and know that the hotel is set in one of the most central locations by the City Hall Square which gives the hotel its name. It’s a fantastic location for those visiting Copenhagen both for business or for a leisure break, since the Central Station is just a 5 minute walk away allowing you a quick and direct transfer from the airport in 30 minutes.
Close by you’ll find the Tivoli amusement park which is popular with locals and tourists and has something to appeal to all ages, with beautiful gardens, 25 adrenalin pumping and family friendly rides and plenty of restaurants and cafes. If you enjoy art and sculpture, visit Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek which is also a short walk away, with a beautiful greenhouse winter garden, classical statues and a great collection of impressionist art. Heading in the other direction through the City Hall Square will take you for a stroll along Strøget, the premier pedestrianised shopping street of Copenhagen with great Danish brands like Georg Jensen and Royal Copenhagen as well as many different fashion and clothing stores.
Boutique design inspiration at The Square Copenhagen
The ‘Square’ theme is followed through into the simple, minimalist lines of the open reception area as you enter from the City Hall Square and the square motif also continues into the textiles and furnishings in the rooms. The hotel’s lobby is furnished with the Danish design classic Egg chair by famous designer Arne Jacobsen and all of the hotel’s 267 rooms are decorated in a typically Danish design with subtle colors of soft green, purple, gold and deep red.
As all travellers know, design alone can’t guarantee a pleasant stay and so the staff at The Square Copenhagen go out of their way to create a relaxed and home-like atmosphere, and do everything they can to make it a comfortable stay.
Rooms at The Square Hotel Copenhagen
The Square Hotel has 268 non-smoking rooms with stylish, minimalist design, featuring the square motif to unify the design. You’ll find it in the luxurious velvet and satin fabrics used in the curtains and throws and in the dark wood headboards and other furniture. All rooms feature the normal conveniences of flat screen TV, air conditioning, ironing, tea and coffee facilities, hairdryer and mini bar as well as free internet. If you are travelling as a family or group of friends, connecting rooms are also available so you can keep an eye on the kids or have fun with your friends.
The bathrooms also feature modern, Scandinavian design, with large mirrors and clean white tiling. If you suffer from allergies, let the hotel know when you book, since some rooms are available without carpets and all the duvets and pillows are hypo-allergenic and feather-free.
The buffet breakfast is served in the 6th floor restaurant area where you can enjoy a view over the square and the rooftops of Copenhagen. To set yourself up for the day, book the bed and breakfast deal and enjoy a range of fruit, yoghurt, pastries, cereals, cheese and cold meats as well as those excellent nutty Danish breads.
I love staying in hotels that have a boutique and designer feel and although I haven’t personally stayed at The Square Copenhagen, I think it would be an excellent choice for a business of leisure stay in Copenhagen, which is a wonderful city to visit at any time of year.
Booking information for The Square Copenhagen
Visit the Square Hotel Copenhagen website to check prices and book your stay in Copenhagen. Rooms are available from 1030 DKK (£110/ €140/ $175) per night based on 2 people sharing with a 35% discount when you book for 2 nights or more. Special offers are also available for mini-breaks, seasonal packages and stays that include entrace to Tivoli or a dinner and show at nearby Wallmans. You can follow The Square Copenhagen on Google+ | Youtube | Instagram
This article was brought to you in partnership with The Square Hotel, Copenhagen. All photos courtesy of The Square Copenhagen
More things to do in Copenhagen
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