My Top Three Travel Secrets – and a game of tag

December 6, 2009 by  

I’ve been tagged. Not once but twice! Both Liz from Travelogged and Barbara from Holeinthedonut were kind enough to nominate me in this travel blogger’s game of tag, where I have to let you into my top three travel secrets and then nominate a few more willing victims to continue the game. The idea started at Tripbase.com to build up a whole range of great tips from blogger throughout the blogsphere.

But firstly I’d better start with a caveat, which is that no-where in the world is really secret (especially not if you live there) and for every tip I give for getting more from your travels, someone will say “But I’ve known that for years”. Anyhow, here goes with some things I’ve enjoyed and would like to pass on to you.

Tip 1 – Use a social networking sites to meet the locals.

Meeting Sergio and Marco in Lisbon through Hospitality Club

Meeting Sergio and Marco in Lisbon through Hospitality Club

For over a year I’ve been a member of Hospitality Club, a network of travellers who enjoy meeting other travellers and can offer free accommodation or advice. There are other well known sites like Couchsurfing that offer a similar service. It’s no secret really that using these websites is a great way to find free accommodation when you’re travelling on a budget. But the thing I believe is less well known is that you can join Hospitality Club, even if you don’t plan to use it to find accommodation but just as a means of meeting the locals.

I’m happy to have people to stay for a couple of days in my spare room, but to be honest, I’d rather find a nice hotel or pension to stay in comfort. But what I love is to be able to e-mail someone and say – “Hey I’ll be in your city next weekend, can we meet up for drinks or dinner”. That’s how I met up with Sergio and Marco on our recent weekend in Lisbon – we’d visited the Castelo of São Jorge and then went for tea at their appartment nearby and talked about the things they love to do in Lisbon, how the city is changing and even got a tour of a little flat above theirs that we could rent if we wanted to come again.

And as well as using Hospitality Club to meet the locals, when you’ve hosted a few people, you’ll have a long list of invites from friends you’ve made, who can’t wait to show you their city. I now have to find ways to visit Cologne, Malaga and Cagliari next year, and that’s just from the folks I’ve met in the last couple of months.

Tip 2 – Stay in a Monastery, Convent or Religious Guest House

Monastery of St Anthony of Qozhaya in Lebanon

Monastery of St Anthony of Qozhaya in Lebanon

In many places of interest in Europe and further afield, you’ll find convents and monasteries that provide excellent accommodation at budget prices. This is not a secret among those with religious affiliations who are visiting as part of a pilgrimage, but others may not realise they can stay in accommodation that is so central, well priced and often in beautiful. historic buildings.

Two examples of this are the Residenza Madri Pie where I stayed in Rome, which is a stone’s throw from St Peter’s Square, and professionally run, with excellent facilities such as a lovely garden and parking. You can find other religious accommodation in Rome and other Italian cities listed on the Santa Susanna website here.

Another was the Monastery of St Anthony of Qozhaya where I stayed for a night in June, while touring Lebanon with a friend. The Monastery is one of the places of interest in the UNESCO World Heritage Quadisha Valley, a rocky gorge with rock hewn churches, and grottos. This is a most beautiful place to stay and one that wasn’t featured in my guidebook, but you can easily contact the monastery directly to book into their guest house.

Of course, as a Catholic I feel at home staying in this kind of accommodation, and if you’re looking for a party time on that backpacking round the world trip, then this won’t be for you, but otherwise if you want simple, homely and moderately priced accommodation then give it a try. I’ve just ordered the Good Night, God Bless book that I saw reviewed on HoleintheDonut, with details of this kind of accommodation throughout Europe where I hope to find a few more hidden gems like these.

Tip 3 - A couple of less known museums in London

For places to visit in London, I’d hesitate to suggest that these are secret, but they are things I really enjoyed and are missed by most travellers if they’re only visiting London for a few days. If you have more time, or regularly get to London, then do seek them out, as they’ll give you a real insight into London life and English society and culture.

The Geffrye Museum in East London

Geffrye Museum in London

Geffrye Museum in London

The Geffrye Museum is set in an old Almshouse in East London, and you’ll find room sets, each filled with the domestic interior of English homes through the ages, giving a glimpse into the society of the time. There’s a wonderful cafe in a modern glass annex and at the back there are a series of gardens with the style and plants of different eras. And it’s all free, although there’s a small charge for the audioguide.

The Denis Severs House in Shoreditch

At the Denis Severs House in Shoreditch, you can step into a townhouse, owned by an 18th century family of prosperous silk weavers. Everything is just as they might have left it – you’re in a stage set for a costume drama, where the characters have just left the room. You’ll breathe the air, take in the smells and sounds of life at the time as you tour the house in silence and by candle-light. The house is open only at certain times and days, but worth planning a visit if you can – check their website for details.

So there’s my Top three travel secrets, do share yours in the comments. I’m now passing the challenge to some other bloggers, who I hope will be able to add to the list. They are;

Rosalind at Farsighted Flygirl
Monna at Monna McD
Abi at Cheap Weekend Breaks

P.S. For another moneysaving travel tip, although not so secret, do check out my post on discounts and money-saving vouchers at Vouchercodes and you could win a $50 Amazon Voucher.

Comments

8 Comments on "My Top Three Travel Secrets – and a game of tag"

  1. Katie. Tripbase on Mon, 7th Dec 2009 9:30 am 

    Great to hear about another travel networking site and monastery accommodation is such a fab tip!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Barbara at Hole in the Donut Travels on Tue, 8th Dec 2009 4:37 pm 

    Great tips, Heather. Thanks for playing and for the link back.

  3. Donna Hull on Wed, 9th Dec 2009 2:20 am 

    Always fun to read travel “secrets” from an expert traveler and blogger.

  4. Mark H on Sat, 12th Dec 2009 1:15 am 

    I love this initiative and have read some amazing posts listing places in cities that I’ve visited several times yet never heard of. The Geffrye Museum sounds fasciating being able to travel through the ages in just one place, especially in a city that has such a rich history.

  5. Anil on Sun, 13th Dec 2009 3:24 am 

    I don’t use social networks enough when traveling. Meetups really add to the travel experience. I’m enjoying seeing this series go around the travel blogs.

  6. Travel Tips for Women | Ottsworld on Tue, 15th Dec 2009 1:57 pm 

    [...] as Barbara from Hole in the Donut, Jodi from Legal Nomads, Shannon from Travel Tips and Secrets,  Heather Cowper from Heather on Her Travels, and Donna from My Itchy Travel Feet. Ok – maybe I should jump into this game…there are no [...]

  7. Shelly on Sat, 2nd Jan 2010 1:34 pm 

    Sure Italy is one of the most beautifil places of the world!

  8. Travel tips and Clean Water from Tripbase | Heather on her travels on Mon, 31st May 2010 2:41 pm 

    [...] that it soon became difficult to find anyone to tag that hadn’t already shared their tips. You can read my travel tips here. Clean water in Rwanda from Charity [...]

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