Summer and winter – Filzmoos in Austria has something for everyone

In this article, guest author Claire Palmer shares with us her family’s favourite holiday choice of Filzmoos, Austria, the perfect destination for summer walking or winter skiing, your choice for a gentle or full-on family activity holiday!

The traditional mountain village of Filzmoos has been a much-loved destination for my family in both winter and summer since we first discovered it when my 19 year old son was a 19 month old! Building and development is strictly controlled so it has retained its alpine chocolate-box charm with no high-rise buildings to mar the breath-taking views of the Bischofsmutze (Bishop’s Mitre) peak and the Dachstein glacier range. There is no shortage of things to keep our two teenage boys occupied and the village has kept pace with their requirements as they have grown.

The mountain village of Filzmoos, Austria

The mountain village of Filzmoos, Austria

Uncrowded slopes meet the needs of any ski enthusiast

The whole family learnt to ski (snowboard in my younger son’s case) in Filzmoos, including my father who learnt at the ripe old age of 74 and still holidays with us 19 years later, an inspiration to us all! All the instructors in the excellent ski schools speak very good English. Filzmoos is only known to one UK tour operator which means the slopes are uncrowded and the lift queues short, even in the school holidays. We love that the gentle nursery slopes are right in the middle of the village and the more challenging runs finish in the middle of the village so, if some of us have been on the “red” runs and others opted for a leisurely cruise on the wide, well-groomed “blue” pistes, we can all easily meet up in one of the many restaurants and cafes for a warming hot chocolate (Gluhwein for me, please).

Skiing for all the family in Filzmoos, Austria

Skiing for all the family in Filzmoos, Austria

Speaking of restaurants, the typical Austrian mountain food is delicious and filling. My sons never tire of the local specialty dessert – Germknodel – a yeast dumpling filled with plum jam and served with vanilla custard. When they were younger it was a whole meal in itself, now it follows a huge Tiroler Grostl, a sizzling cast iron pan of diced potatoes, bacon and eggs fried with herbs.

Activities abound in any season

At Christmas our “must-do” outing is a sleigh ride up to the Oberhofalm and Unterhofalm for the “Advent Idyll” walk around the frozen lake featuring fire pits, candle-lit decorative scenes and huts selling spiced Gluhwein. Watch out for the trick-playing Perchten, horned beasts from folklore dating back to pagan times.

Campfire around the lake at Filzmoos, Austria

Campfire around the lake at Filzmoos, Austria

On Christmas Eve Father Christmas arrives in the village square by sleigh and he and his angel-helpers give out sweets and sparklers to the children. Gluhwein is, as always, on offer for the adults!

Father Christmas comes to Filzmoos

Father Christmas comes to Filzmoos

Our favourite summer outing is also up to the Oberhofalm and Unterhofalm inns but this time by hiring electric-assisted mountain bikes to ride through the woods, arriving in time for lunch outside on the terrace under the sun umbrellas, gazing at eagles circling in the bright blue sky and the majestic snow-capped peak of the Bischofsmutze, now so much closer.

The electric bike will take you up to Unterhofalm

The electric bike will take you up to Unterhofalm

On the way up our refreshment stop is a trough with a spout that gushes pure mountain spring water straight from the ground at an amazing 5 degrees C. Bliss! These electric bikes are amazing machines! The fittest in the party can pedal just as on a normal bike and I can choose how much assistance to have from the battery power, enabling me to go up slopes I could only dream about otherwise!

Inside the Oberhofalm

Inside the Oberhofalm

Discover local flora and fauna

Once up at the mountain inns there are numerous marked walking paths across the high alpine pastures and around the small lake. In fact Filzmoos has 200km of marked walking trails and I love to see the wild mountain flowers in spring and summer. I’ve found gentian, carlina and many others that I can’t identify but no edelweiss yet, sadly.

Filzmoos has 200km of marked walking trails

Filzmoos has 200km of marked walking trails

Another favourite walk of ours is the Marmot trail where we take the Wanderbus high up into the mountains where one can see marmots (although the only ones we’ve seen so far are on postcards!) then walk back down to the village, admiring the incredible alpine scenery and views at every turn.

Take the Wanderbus up the mountain with stunning views at every turn

Take the Wanderbus up the mountain with stunning views at every turn

Plenty to do for the adventure seeker

For something a little more adrenalin-fuelling for our teenagers, we take the Wanderbus to the neighbouring village of Ramsau where there is a summer toboggan run. Riding the toboggan down on spiralling metal rails that loop out on stilts over the valley is certainly exhilarating, as is going up the mountain on the chairlift and hiring a mountain scooter to ride back down. A completely new experience for all of us! Ramsau also has a bathing lake, archery, hang-gliding or a long cable car ride up to the Dachstein glacier for skiing or to visit the ice caves. A walk out on the Dachstein Sky Walk, a platform overhanging the valley 250 metres straight below, gives a spectacular panorama but I prefer to look out not down!

Teenagers and speed lovers enjoy the Ramsau toboggan run

Teenagers and speed lovers enjoy the Ramsau toboggan run

Despite only having 1,450 inhabitants, Filzmoos village has everything we have ever needed and so we relish not having to use a car and therefore not having to worry about how much of the refreshing “golden nectar” we have drunk!

There's everything you need in the village centre at Filzmoos, Austria

There’s everything you need in the village centre at Filzmoos, Austria

As well as indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a bowling alley and tennis court, there is a well-stocked supermarket, butcher and delicatessen, a wonderful bakery with coffee shop, pharmacy, doctor’s surgery, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, bowling alley and, most importantly, numerous restaurants and cafes serving scrumptious coffee and specialty cakes such as Viennese Sachertorte or apple strudel and cream. After 18 years of holidaying there we have still not run out of things to do and there are many excursions we have still not taken.

You can rent Claire's apartment in Flizmoos, Austria

You can rent Claire’s apartment in Flizmoos, Austria

Two years ago we realised our dream of buying a one-bedroomed apartment in the village, within five minutes walk of ski slopes and restaurants. This sleeps up to 5 and is available for hire. Please email Claire Palmer at myskiapartment@gmail.com for more information.

14380197632_4dfeab4859_qAuthor Bio: Many thanks for this article to Claire Palmer, who has loved to travel ever since she was a child touring Europe by caravan for the summer (her parents were teachers) and spending part of her childhood in New Zealand. Since having her own children she has travelled extensively as a family both in Europe and back to New Zealand. She loves Austria and, since realising a long-held dream of buying a property there, is taking German lessons in preparation for spending much more time there when her sons have left school.

For more Austrian adventures:

May Day at The White Horse Inn on Lake Wolfgang, Austria
Lost in the Hohensalzburg Fortress in Salzburg
Riding the steam train – on the Schafburgbahn at St Wolfgang

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

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A quick tour of Celebrity Eclipse with Celebrity Cruises – video

I have to admit that since I took my first cruise last year, I’ve really caught the bug, so it was a pleasure to be invited to spend the day on board Celebrity Eclipse, a ship and cruise line that I didn’t know much about. Being quite new to cruising I’m realising that every cruise line has its own unique style and atmosphere and each has points of difference that will appeal to different types of guest. This does mean you need to do your homework before you book, in order the choose a cruise that’s right for you, but the good news is that there really is a cruise line for every age, budget and taste. Although I was only on board Celebrity Eclipse for a day, these were my first impressions of what you can expect when sailing with Celebrity Cruises.

Celebrity Eclipse in Southampton Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Celebrity Eclipse in Southampton – big but not too big?

Size Matters

Size is one thing to watch out for when deciding which cruise ship to book and the new ships being built seem to get bigger and bigger. My first sight of Celebrity Eclipse as I came up to Dock 10 in Southampton is of a pretty big ship, accommodating around 2800 guests, but not as big as some. However, as I walked around the ship throughout the day there didn’t seem to be too many large open spaces, like the open atriums on other ships, but instead a larger number of medium sized bars and restaurants, all with their different character. Of course, we were visiting the ship on changeover day, before all the guests had boarded, but I got the impression that the guests would be well dispersed in the different areas of the ship which makes for a less crowded feel, and that’s a big benefit on a larger ship.

I hope you enjoy the short video below I made from my day on board Celebrity Eclipse

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A boutique country house style

Considering that Celebrity Cruises is a mainstream cruise line with larger ships I loved the appearance of the ship which I’d describe as Contemporary Country House style. The colours were warm and welcoming, the furnishings stylish and each different part of the ship seemed to have a slightly different character. I loved the library, not so much for the books, as an elegant space with the tall bookcases and wing chairs where you could sit quietly and relax. Another favourite spot was the lawn club on the top deck. A lot of things in cruising can feel a bit fake, but here the grass was real and I could imagine enjoying a drink up here with the sound of croquet being played or the clink of a game of boules on the lawn. So very English.

Celebrity Eclipse; Contemporary Country House style Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Celebrity Eclipse; Contemporary Country House style

I loved the library as a welcoming space where you could imagine coming to escape with a good book.

Library on board Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Loved the library on board Celebrity Eclipse – a place to curl up with a good book

The Lawn Club on the top deck is a special place to relax, and yes, the grass is real!

Lawn Club on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Lawn Club on Celebrity Eclipse – yes the grass is real!

A Grown up feel

The atmosphere on board Celebrity Eclipse felt quite grown up, although I suspect the upcoming cruise to Iceland and Norway would attract an older crowd anyway. Although there is a kid’s club on board, the average age of guests seemed to be 60+ and I noticed a few areas of the ship, such as the solarium, that were reserved for adults only. I think this ship would be ideal for couples and groups of adults or perhaps families travelling with older children but the atmosphere didn’t seem conducive for those with younger children.

Where are we staying?

We were treated to a tour of all the suites on board which generated lots of oohs and aahs and certainly had the wow factor. The penthouse suite was like a small apartment with the biggest bathroom I’ve seen and a baby grand piano in the sitting area.  If you have a cool few thousand to spend I could imagine the wealthy grandparents staying here and inviting all their extended family in for an evening en famille. My favourite was the slightly more modest Sky Suite where Celebrity Ambassador Ben Fogle had recently been staying with his family, which had a corner location and was lovely and light with colourful artwork. Back to reality, the ‘normal’ balcony stateroom we saw was still very nice with a light and classic theme and lovely bed-linen. There seemed to be sheets on the bed rather than a duvet, perhaps due to the unusual rounded ends of the bed.

I was also impressed with the staff that we met, who even though we weren’t staying on board, greeted us with a “Hello, how are you?” and a welcoming smile. As we came on board there was a glass of wine or juice waiting for guests and everyone had a little joke or a laugh to put you in the holiday spirit.

The Stateroom on board Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Stateroom on board Celebrity Eclipse

The Penthouse suite on Celebrity Eclipse had a baby grand piano and a meganormous bathroom for super wow factor!

The Penthouse suite on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Penthouse suite on Celebrity Eclipse

My favourite was the Sky Suite with colourful contemporary artwork and a corner position with double windows.

The Sky suite on board Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Sky suite on board Celebrity Eclipse

Food glorious food

Celebrity Eclipse is definitely a ship for those who enjoy food and wine and are looking for a gourmet experience on board. There are so many different speciality restaurants that I was starting to lose count by the end of our tour. We had lunch in the main restaurant which is of course a complimentary part of your cruise package, but there were examples of the different dishes laid out in each speciality restaurant so we could see what was on offer. For those special celebration meals there is the high end Murano restaurant, that wouldn’t be out of place in a 5 star London hotel, with over the top flower arrangement and a private dining room. More my style for less formal dining there was the Tuscan Grill for steaks and meat dishes with red glassware and wine bottles on barrels, or the Qisine restaurant serving contemorary Asian fusion small dishes with menu selection from an iPad. I also liked the look of Bistro on 5 which was a great lunchtime venue.

Murano restaurant for high end dining on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Murano restaurant for high end dining on Celebrity Eclipse

I could totally imagine having a nice juicy steak in the Tuscan Grille restaurant

Tuscan Grille restaurant on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Tuscan Grille restaurant on Celebrity Eclipse

A classy lunchtime venue in Bistro on 5

Bistro on 5 on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Bistro on 5 on Celebrity Eclipse

Here’s a flavour of the dishes you might try in the Qisine and Tuscan Grille restaurants on board Celebrity Eclipse.

Top: Asian Fusion small dishes in Qisine, Bottom: Tuscan Grille Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Top: Asian Fusion small dishes in Qisine, Bottom: Tuscan Grille

The speciality restaurants are all very well if you are prepared to pay the extra supplement charges to eat there, but what about the main dining room where guests will eat their evening meals on most nights? Well that’s where we ate lunch and it is an elegant, light and airy restaurant, double height with a huge sparkly central lighting. On the lower level is the set time dining, with two different sittings, which you choose at the start of the cruise, while on the upper level is Celebrity Select dining, where you have flexibility on the time you come to dinner, just like a normal restaurant. Of course there is also a self-service restaurant on board, but we didn’t have time to look at that on our tour.

The Main Dining Room on board Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Main Dining Room on board Celebrity Eclipse

We chose from a shortened menu which had a couple of choices for each course but would also normally have some classic favourites too. I tried a prawn cocktail on a bed of lettuce and a very pretty and colourful salad with pomegranate seeds and raspberry vinaigrette, followed by a delicious filet mignon steak and a soft chocolate mousse cake and strawberry dipped in caramel with ice cream. It would be a treat to eat food of this standard every day, as well as trying out some of the speciality restaurants during the cruise to spice things up a bit.

Lunch in the main dining room on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Lunch in the main dining room on Celebrity Eclipse

The Spa difference

Celebrity Eclipse is a wonderful ship if you take your spa holidays seriously and you can even book a special Aqua Class package, with luxury staterooms that are close to the spa area. Aqua Class guests also have exclusive use of the Blu dining room and the Persian Garden spa relaxation area with heated lounge chairs and different steam areas. During our day on board, we were offered a spa treatment and I decided to go for the pedicure to get my feet in good shape for the summer.

I sat with Kelly, one of the other bloggers in a little private area for pedicures which had a view out to sea and spent a lovely hour having my feet massaged and my toe nails groomed and polished to a professional gloss finish that I could never have achieved myself. It would be a treat to have a pedicure with a friend, as there is room for 3 people at one time and the nail technicians from Jamaica were also super-friendly and easy to chat to.

Having a pedicure on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Having a relaxing pedicure on Celebrity Eclipse

After the beauty treatments we relaxed for a bit in the Solarium area, just outside the spa which was for adults only, where I wouldn’t minded have spending an hour or two on the sun lounger with a magazine. There was a very nice cafe area which served healthy snacks and small salad dishes which were a complimentary part of the cruise.

Relaxing in the Solarium on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Relaxing in the Solarium on Celebrity Eclipse

Unfortunately the weather was not being kind as we passed through the outdoor pool area – where did those Caribbean blue skies go?

Pool deck on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Pool deck on Celebrity Eclipse – where did the blue sky go?

Overall Impressions?

I had a lovely day looking around Celebrity Eclipse. Of course it was only one day, rather than a full cruise, but my impression was of a ship that has a luxurious, grown up feel, with great service, spa facilities and superb food options if you are looking for a gourmet experience.

Thanks to Celebrity Cruises who hosted my day on board Celebrity Eclipse

These were the other lovely lifestyle and travel bloggers that I was on board with, all of whom I was meeting for the first time. From left to right they are: Elle from a bird in the hand, Sarah from Energy for Life, Kelly from Around the world in 80 pairs of shoes, me, Inna from Start up your happiness. Nice to meet you ladies!

The Destination Bloggers on board Celebrity Eclipse; Elle, Sarah, Kelly, me, Inna Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Destination Bloggers on board Celebrity Eclipse; from left Elle, Sarah, Kelly, me, Inna

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

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Take a closer look at Crete

The Greek island of Crete is the largest island in Greece and as the fifth-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, it’s one of the most visited areas for holiday makers. With reliable sunshine and gorgeous beaches, it’s no wonder that Crete, as a holiday destination, has been growing in popularity over the last couple of decades.

The beautiful landscape of Crete

The beautiful landscape of Crete

History and hiking in Crete

Once the centre of the Minoan civilization, Crete is steeped in history with a smattering of its own cultural traits aside from the cultural heritage that being a Greek island brings.

The name of Crete is probably taken from Mycenaean Greek, ancient texts of which first referred to the island of this name. It is an island with a high mountain range spanning the country from east to west providing a popular destination for hikers, thanks to the stunning views and interesting landmarks.

View over the beautiful valley Greek near Patsos in Crete Photo: Thomas Munter on Flickr

View over the beautiful valley Greek near Patsos in Crete

A variety of climates

A big consideration when visiting Crete should be the temperature at the time of your visit – while many will enjoy the hot sun and beaches, others may want to visit at a time of year when things are altogether a little cooler. Crete is located on two climactic zones: the Mediterranean and the North African. The atmosphere is usually quite humid, getting less so the closer to the sea you are and winters tend to be refreshing and mild. From November to May, it is not uncommon for snow to fall on the mountains, but it rarely happens in the lower areas. In summer, temperatures can reach as high as 30 degrees Celsius, sometimes more. Crete resorts and hotels will offer air conditioning, but these temperatures can sometimes be a little much for some people.

Venetian Fortress of Koules in Heraklion, Crete Photo: Wikimedia.org

Venetian Fortress of Koules in Heraklion, Crete

Getting Around in Crete

There are three large airports in Crete – being Niko Kazantzakis at the capital Heraklion, a smaller airport in Sita and the third being the Daskalogiannis at Chania. There are also plenty of ferries from mainland Greece to Crete, most of which come from Athens, so you can put together a holiday to include the mainland.  There is, however, a lack of modern highways and a great deal of under-serviced roads. Nevertheless, there are often reliable bus services and while there are no train lines in Crete, you won’t find it too difficult to get around.

Harbour at Heraklion in Crete Photo: bebopeloula on Flickr

Harbour at Heraklion in Crete

Something for everyone

Regardless of your interests, there’s plenty to see and do in Crete. If you are on a family holiday, the Aquaworld Aquarium in Hersonissos is a must. Open since 1995, it’s a given for the to-do list thanks to the wealth of activities for children and the beautiful marine life to see. There’s also the Amarillis Stable in Stalis, where you can go and enjoy the beautiful scenery from horseback. Treks can be long or short depending on what you want to do; it’s a fantastic way to see the island.

Aquaworld Aquarium in Hersonissos, Crete

Aquaworld Aquarium in Hersonissos, Crete

For something fun, if a little bit childish, there’s the Happy Train at Elounda, in which you get a guided tour of the island from the comfort of an open-topped train. The scenery is beautiful from the hills. There are also a large number of historical and archaeological museums for those of you with a passion for history, including the Nautical Museum of Crete and the fascinating Archaeological Museum of Agios Nikolaos.

Where to Eat & Drink in Crete

On the cheap: Mojo Burgers – Keeping it simple and very reasonably priced, this burger bar wouldn’t feel out of place in Shoreditch. With prices starting from a couple of euros for a hot dog, and under five for a burger, this is a definite stop for a bite to eat in Rethymnon.

Best of both worlds: The House – Steak House Restaurant – A must visit for steak fans, and pretty much anything else. A mix of Mexican, Italian, English and much more, this steak house offers a massive menu and very reasonable prices. Set just outside Malia, it’s within easy reach from most of the major resorts.

The House Steak House Restaurant in Malia Photo: The House

The House Steak House Restaurant in Malia

Blow the budget: Ta Dyo Rou – Set in the old town of Rethymno this wine and cooking shop, or inomageirio, puts an emphasis on quality over portion size. Look out for the traditional Greek meatballs, a real speciality. The shop is also a great place to pick up bulk buys of local wine and organic beer.

Best Cocktails: New York Beach Club – Set right on the sand, this all night long bar serves up excellent cocktails, but some do come at a premium. A great place to relax and watch the sunset, or stay until it rises again!

If this has whetted your appetite for Crete history and culture, you can usually get cheap Greece holidays from Cosmos Holidays without looking too hard!

For more Greek island experiences:

Shipwrecks or Turtles? – taking a boat trip on your Greek holiday to Zakynthos
Three days, three beaches on Zante
Highlights of a trek through Crete

Photo Credit: View over the beautiful valley by Thomas Münter , Crète 2014 – Heraklion by bebopeloula , Aquaworld Aquarium -Hersonissos Crete ,Greece by 4652 Paces, The House Steak House Malia from SteakHouseRestauranttheHouse , Crete Anogeia from wikimedia.org , Venetian Fortress of Koules in Heraklion, Crete from wikimedia.org

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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