Dublin, Lisbon, Rome – where will your next citybreak be?

When spring arrives with sunshine and daffodils, it always puts me in the mood for planning my next getaway, a mini-break to throw off the chill of winter and tide me over until the summer holidays. If you’re in the mood for a weekend away in Europe or the UK, take a look at the fun web app from SuperBreak to fuel your holiday inspiration. Whether you’re planning a relaxing half term break with the family, a weekend of eating and entertainment with your friends, or a cultural city-break with your partner, here are some of the destinations that you might want to consider;

If you’re a couple looking for a weekend of food, drink and entertainment you might look at….

Dublin

Dublin at night Photo by Lendog64 on Flickr

Dublin at night, the ultimate party town

What Superbreak have to say; Just a quick jump across the water and you can enjoy traditional Bars, comedy clubs, delicious local food and the ever-so-friendly Irish welcome! Guinness at the ready!

What I enjoyed about Dublin;

  • I love the way that the Irish always have a story to tell, that you can go into any pub and strike up a conversation with a complete stranger and there’s always some music and a song or two.
  • Visit the Guinness Storehouse in an amazing 7 storey old warehouse with modern glass additions to learn about Dublin’s favourite tipple – you’ll be shown how to pull the perfect pint of the black stuff and can buy up the brand’s heritage (love the retro toucans).
  • Take the train out to Sandy Cove, a seaside spot where the members of the 40 foot swimming club test the water every day of the year and where James Joyce lived in an old Martello tower and liked to take a dip.

Here’s what I wrote about Dublin: The best of TBEX, the best of Dublin

But if you and your partner are looking for a weekend of culture in Europe, why not try…

Rome

The Trevi Fountain in Rome Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Throw your coin in the Trevi Fountain in Rome to return some day

What Superbreak have to say; With a wealth of history, culture and plenty of Italian charisma, you can’t help but feel the love on a weekend break in Rome with someone special.

What I enjoyed about Rome;

  • Buying a gelato from the kiosk shop on the island in the Tiber and eating it with a view of the river where Dan Brown’s hero, in the book Angels and Demons, parachutes out of an exploding helicopter to land on the island.
  • Visiting the Turtle fountain or Fontana delle Tartarughe in Piazza Mattei first thing in the morning before the crowds have gathered – so much more charming and less crowded than the Trevi Fountain.
  • Visiting the daily fruit and vegetable market in Campo de’Fiori and buying a slice of pizza fresh from the oven from the artizan bakery at one end, then sitting on the steps of the central monument to eat it.

Here’s one of my stories about Rome: The view from the dome of St Peter’s in Rome

If you are a couple who fancy a weekend of culture in the UK take a look at …

Stratford-upon-Avon

The river at Stratford-upon-Avon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Picnic by the river at Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare

What Superbreak have to say; Discover the quaint city of Stratford upon Avon on a romantic weekend break. Step back in time in this historic city and see the spots where Shakespeare’s most famous plays were created.

What I love to do in Stratford-upon-Avon;

  • Visit the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, a fabulous venue that has gone through a multi-million pound renovation. You must try and get a ticket to see one of their Shakespeare productions but even if you can’t, be sure to pop in to wander round the building, visit one of the exhibitions, climb the tower or take a backstage tour.
  • Taking afternoon tea at the Arden Hotel right opposite the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the perfect place for a lunch stop in between sightseeing or a pre-theatre dinner before you pop across the road for the performance.
  • Several of the houses in and around Stratford associated with Shakespeare and his family are open to the public, and we we especially love Anne Hathaway’s Cottage with its cottage garden and the settle by the fire where young William might have snuggled with his new bride Anne.

Here’s what I wrote about Stratford-upon-Avon: The Tower and other Transformations at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon

But if you are a group who’d like a weekend of culture in Europe why not try …

Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Visit the great Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

What Superbreak have to say; With history, landmarks and iconic French architecture around every corner, Paris offers everything a group would need for a cultural break. Don’t forget your camera!

What I enjoyed about Paris;

  • Wandering around the Parisian’s choice of market, Marche d’Aligre with the most polished and perfect fruit and vegetables, a mouthwatering selection of prepared dishes in the covered market and a flea market where you can buy everything from vintage footwear to elegant wine glasses.
  • Walking down Canal Saint Martin to admire all the houseboats and then continuing along the narrow footpath right beside the Seine, with views of Notre Dame in the distance – a world away from the tourist crowds at the cathedral itself.
  • Exploring the covered arcades with art galleries and street cafes in Place des Vosges and then visiting Maison Victor Hugo to find out about the life and times of this celebrated French writer, author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Here’s what I wrote about Paris: Our winter weekend in Paris, the food, the sights, the video

And if and your friends are looking for a weekend of culture in Europe, why not try…

Lisbon

The vintage trams in Lisbon Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Ride the vintage trams in Lisbon up the hill

What Superbreak have to say; A weekend break in Lisbon, Portugal’s capital offers an eclectic mix of fascinating Portuguese history and contemporary art and culture.

What I loved about Lisbon;

  • Listening to the mournful Fado singers who perform in the restaurants in the Bairo Alto and Alfama neighbourhoods – don’t expect the food to be anything special but the music will touch your soul.
  • Eating Pasteis de Belem from the famous cakes shop near the Monastery of Jerónimos - these creamy custard tarts are the signature of Lisbon and you can either sit in the vaulted cafe rooms at the back of the shop or take them away to eat in the gardens overlooking the port.
  • Taking the yellow, vintage No 28 tram up the hill to the Castelo de Sao Jorge where you can walk around the ramparts and gaze over the rooftops towards the river where the ships left to conquer the New World centuries ago.

Here’s one of my stories about Lisbon: An autumn weekend in Lisbon – Podcast

There are plenty more inspirational short break destinations to discover with the SuperBreak app so why not give it a try and see where your inspiration leads you.

About the Superbreak Holiday Inspirator:  To celebrate their 30th anniversary, Yorkshire based holiday company  Superbreak.com have created a fun app to help you choose the perfect UK or European city break based on who you’re travelling with and what you enjoy. Check out the Superbreak Holiday Inspirator Webapp or follow the coversation on the Superbreak Facebook Page or on Twitter @Superbreak using hashtag #SuperBreakinspo

This article is brought to you in partnership with Superbreak.com

Photo Credits: Dublin at night by LenDog64 Other photos by Heatheronhertravels.com

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

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

Afternoon tea at the Arden with Romeo and Juliet

When I was last at the Arden Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon I fell in love with the old fashioned rose patterned tea service from the V & A that they had on display on the oak dresser – in fact I’m in love with the whole idea of English afternoon tea.

Afternoon  tea at the Arden Hotel, Stratford

Afternoon tea at the Arden Hotel, Stratford

I decided there and then, that when we came back to see the play of Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre just opposite, we would take afternoon tea at the Arden before the performance. It seemed a fitting thing to do in the heart of Stratford, the birthplace of England’s greatest poet and playwright with the old half timbered houses down the lane that Shakespeare might have skipped past as a boy.

Our family party settled down into the leather chesterfield sofas, in the pale green panelled drawing room at one side of the hotel. Through the sash windows, framed by toile de jouy curtains we had a great view of the original Victorian entrance of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, now extended with a modern frontage and tower after a recently completed 4 year redevelopment project.

Our waiter shook the starched white napkins out and laid them on our laps. He was unfazed by my son’s request “Do you have any Ribena ice lollies?” but gamely offered to pop down to the shops to get one.

Our tea was brought – Earl Grey (lemon or milk?) and fruit tea for me. I love those old fashioned cake stands they use with elegant thin cut sandwiches – smoked salmon and cucumber or chicken with salad with brown bread or white (but no crusts of course). On the second cake stand were slices of chocolate and walnut cake with scones to smother with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

Afternoon tea at the Arden Hotel,  Stratford-upon-Avon

Afternoon tea at the Arden Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon

The conversation turned to the play of Romeo and Juliet that we were about to see. My son didn’t really see the point of going to see a play when everyone knows the ending. My father-in-law recalled the time when he saw Sir Ian McKellan dropped his trousers, exposing all, in the mad scene of King Lear and my mother-in-law remembered how at their last visit they had sat in the midst of a group of theatre critics, all scribbling furiously into their notebooks. In between mouthfuls of cake, we debated such weighty questions as how to pronounce the word scone – is it scone as in home or scone as in shone? Apparently it all depends whether you live up north or down south.

The Arden Hotel, Stratford upon Avon

The Arden Hotel, Stratford upon Avon

The Arden  Hotel, Stratford upon Avon

The Arden Hotel, Stratford upon Avon

And so, awash with Earl Grey and brushing the cake crumbs from our lap, we walked all of 2 minutes across the road and into the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to have a look around before the performance. In the shop I was persuaded by my children to fund the purchase of a book of Shakespeare sonnets and a couple of pencils with 2B or not 2B written on the side. We explored the building, from the Transformations exhibition about how the theatre was rebuilt, to the Squidsoup art installation where words that you typed into the computer were added into a swirling word sculpture that was projected on the wall.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford

At the appointed hour we settled into our seats to the side of the stage that jutted out with the audience on three sides, although we had to crane our necks for the balcony scenes as we were seated in the back row. It would be well worth getting a front row seat, and those in the front row had the pleasure of having their photo taken and being compared (unfavourably) to the fair Rosalind, and having Romeo ask their opinion on whether or not he should assault Juliet’s balcony.

Romeo & Juliet Ball scene, Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Romeo & Juliet Ball scene, Royal Shakespeare Theatre

It was a memorable performance, with a Juliet who was very much the stroppy teenager, an energetic contrast to the dreamy photographer-on-a-bicycle, Romeo, who suddenly forgot all about his camera once he had spotted his new true love. Having once worked in the world of fashion, I was fascinated by the styling of the production, with a range of costumes, from Shakespearean doublet and hose teamed with biker boots, to Vivenne Westwood inspired corsets and taffeta skirts, hitched up into puffballs for the dance scene. The cast went a little wild at the ball with golden sun masks and animalistic leaping to the sound of African drums, with the occasional burst of flames shooting up from the floor.

Romeo & Juliet at the Royal Shakepeare Theatre

Romeo & Juliet at the Royal Shakepeare Theatre

By contrast Romeo and Juliet had been shopping on the high street with Juliet in skinny jeans and converse trainers and Romeo in his hoodie and DMs. After a mere 24 hour’s acquaintance, they were married and Juliet was looking forward to getting her new husband into bed. It was such a shame it all had to end so unhappily and as the sleeping Juliet started to wiggle her toes, I was willing her to wake up in time to stop Romeo taking the poison. It’s easy to forget that the world’s best known love story is also a tragedy.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is truly much more than a theatre but a destination experience – and so it should be after the millions that have been spent on it! And our afternoon tea at the Arden Hotel, started us off in just the right frame of mind to enjoy the whole experience.

Sadly, we caught the last performance of Romeo and Juliet, but in the coming months you can also take afternoon tea with the Merchant of Venice or A Midsummer night’s dream – or better still book early for one of the autumn/winter performances and get those front row seats where you can be close enough to feel the actors’ spit on your face. That’s the thrill of live Shakespeare!

The Arden Hotel,Waterside, Straford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire Tel 01789 298682
Visti the The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon

Compare prices and book for the Arden Hotel through Hotels Combined

More to see in Stratford upon Avon

Seasonal and Wild – The Waterside Brasserie at the Arden Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon
The Tower and other transformations at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford
Country House Classic at the Menzies Welcombe Hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon

Photo Credits: Romeo and Juliet Photos by Ellie Kurttz from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre website

Just so you know, we were treated to afternoon tea by the Arden but bought our back row seats ourselves.

www.flickr.com 

 

heatheronhertravels' Stratford-upon-Avon photoset heatheronhertravels’ Stratford-upon-Avon photoset

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