Where Heather travelled in 2010

December 31, 2010 by  

As one year ends and another begins, I review my travelling year at Heather on her travels and highlight the places I’ve visited and things I’ve enjoyed. What’s on my New Year list? Seeing some more of Scandanavia, back to visit my sister on Zakynthos, some explorations of northern Egypt with a friend who’s in Alexandria (avoiding pyramids at all costs), hunting out more hidden corners of England and any other interesting opportunities that come my way. Here’s what I enjoyed in 2010;

January brings a stay at the Mandarin Oriental and tea at Kensington Palace

January and February are the dreary months weatherwise in England but there’s still plenty to enjoy in London, where many museums and galleries are free and indoor attractions come into their own. I was brought up in London often popping back to visit my parents, and I spent a delightful weekend with my daughter at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hyde Park, where we were treated like princesses, ate Princess Diana’s favourite crab cakes and went shopping at Top Shop on Oxford street, that favourite of teenagers. A little later in the month and I was back in London to meet a friend, when we spent the day at Kensington Palace, admiring Princess Diana’s frocks, encountering a former palace resident, the Countess of Marlbrough and treating ourselves to afternoon tea at the Orangery.

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To Kensington Palace and tea at the Orangery
A suite for a princess at the Mandarin Oriental – video
Affordable Luxuries at the Mandarin Oriental
Weekend at the Mandarin Oriental – podcast

Entrance at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London

Entrance at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London

February – and we’re nearly snowed in at our Welsh country cottage in the Brecon Beacons

In a contrast to city life we got a breath of fresh air in February in the half term holidays when we found a cosy Welsh cottage in the Brecon Beacons. My thoughts of spring sunshine and daffodils were lost in a fall of snow that almost threatened to maroon us half way up the mountain, even though the fields around Crickhowell at the bottom of the valley were still grassy green. The children loved our snowy break with walks along the quarry tracks on the slopes above our cottage, making snow angels and sliding in the snow down the steep hillside.

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A snowy break at Laswern Fawr holiday in the Brecon Beacons, Wales

Snowy sheep at Laswern Fawr cottage, Nr Crickhowell, Brecon Beacons, Wales

Snowy sheep at Laswern Fawr cottage, Nr Crickhowell, Brecon Beacons, Wales

March – and we take a creative break in Manchester

You may think that Manchester is all about nightlife, football and shopping, but I discovered Manchester’s arty side on a weekend break hosted by Creative Tourist, staying at the stylish, modern MacDonald Hotel, Manchester. We observed Manchester’s industrial past proudly on display and buzzed around on the new Metrolink that took us out to Salford Quay to seek out the pictures of LS Lowry, Manchester’s favourite son and the moving Don McCullin Images of War exhibition at the Imperial War museum just opposite. We completed our whistlestop exploration of Manchester’s museum scene with a close up of the Mona Lisa, naked as you’ve never seen her before (well without her varnish anyway). Before we left we just managed to fit in a Sunday morning stroll around the Northern Quarter, all vintage and street-art. I’m looking forward to being back in Manchester in March for Travel Bloggers Unite.

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Up close with the Mona Lisa at MOSI in Manchester
Getting to know LS Lowry at The Lowry in Manchester
Shaped by war – Don McCullin at the Imperial War Museum in Manchester

The Lowry Arts Centre in Manchester

The Lowry Arts Centre in Manchester

April when we stay at a Cotswold Country Inn and take a dip in the Roman Baths

A weekend break in the country drew us out of Bristol again with a promise of picture perfect pale stone Cotswold loveliness. The Kings Head Inn at Bledington, proved charmingly English, set on a village green complete with babbling brook and quacking ducks, with views over the fields from our bedroom window. We tramped across the muddy fields to Stow on the Wold for tea, but returned in time to have supper by the open fire in the bar. Later that month I was in Bath, showing my daughter’s French exchange friend all the tourist sites, including some I’d never seen such as the Roman Baths which are a must see for any visitor. Sometimes you have to be a tourist in your own back yard.

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Cotswold country charm at the Kings Head Inn at Bledington – Video
Fancy a dip at the Roman Baths at Bath?

The Roman Baths in Bath

The Roman Baths in Bath

May – and we seek the sun on the Greek island of Zakynthos

In May I finally got the sunshine I was longing for in our annual visit to my sister who runs the Windmill Studios Hotel and Windmill Bay Hotel in Argassi with her Greek husband Denis. We’d seen plenty of things over the 20 years we’ve been going but still managed to find a few we hadn’t tried yet, like the a visit to the Monastery of St Denis, the island’s patron saint, with a quick stop to photograph the famous Smuggler’s cove at Navagio. We also loved the day we spent on a boat trip around Laganas bay, known for it’s loggerhead turtles. We didn’t spot any turtles this time but we had a great time jumping off the boat and swimming in sea caves in the refreshing turquoise water.

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Visiting St Denis Monastery on Zakynthos – in Greece
13 Zante – my Greek island holiday – podcast
A turtle spotting boat trip on Zante – in Greece

In Zante town harbour, Zakynthos, Greece

In Zante town harbour, Zakynthos, Greece

June and we’re going underground into Churchill’s London war-rooms

I was back in London with my son to visit my parents and we spent an afternoon visiting the Churchill war rooms, near Horseguard’s Parade. It was a facinating glimpse of the war operations conducted here by Churchill in his secret underground bunker, with offices and sleeping quarters for Churchill and large numbers of his war staff, and war maps and telephones still laid out, as well as a museum devoted to Churchill’s life. This is a London attraction that deserves to be better known, especially for those interested in history, and could be combined with a visit to nearby Buckingham Palace, St James Park and Horseguards Parade.

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Into Churchill’s underground bunker – Churchill war rooms in London

Churchill War Rooms in London

Churchill War Rooms in London

July – we make a pilgrimage to Altötting and see the passion play at Oberammergau

July was a special month as we took a trip to Bavaria in Southern Germany, to see the famous Passion play at Oberammergau. The Passion Play only takes place every 10 years and has been performed by the residents of the Bavarian Town since 1632, when they made a vow to perform a passion play if the village was spared the plague that was then ravaging Germany. The play is performed in a modern auditorium, with an extremely professional production of choral singing telling the dramatic story of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. Afterwards we were also able to wander around the town itself to see the painted houses and wood carvings against the backdrop of stunning Alpine scenery. We also stayed for a couple of days in the pilgrimage town of Altötting, where we saw the small shrine of the Black Madonna in the town square, as well as the many other beautiful churches in the town, and hired bikes to seek out the badesee or local swimming lake.

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12 Oberammergau Passion Play and Altötting in Bavaria – Podcast
A pilgrimage to see the Black Madonna at Altötting in Germany
Painted houses and wood carving at Oberammergau – in Bavaria, Germany

Pilatus House in Oberammergau in Bavaria, Germany

Pilatus House in Oberammergau in Bavaria, Germany

July in Malaga – seafood on the beach on the Costa del Sol

Later in July I flew to the south of Spain to stay with a friend at Benelmadena near Malaga on the Costa Del Sol. This is a region of Spain that’s full of British expats and beloved of the English package holiday makers as well as many Spanish families on holiday, and as a consequence the coastline has been highly developed in recent years. We spent our time eating seafood in the many beach restaurants known as Chiringuitos and escaped for a day into the hills behind Marbella to visit the pretty village of Ojén, one of the many Pueblos Blancos or white hill villages that you can visit in Andalucia.

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A visit to Ojén – the Pueblos Blancos of Andalucia
Gaudi glitz at the Puerto Marina – Benalmadena, Spain
Seafood on the beach at the Chiringuito in Spain

Sardine barbeque on the beach at Fuengirola

Sardine barbeque on the beach at Fuengirola

August – and we head for Hungary for a family holiday in Budapest and Lake Balaton

For our family holiday we headed for Hungary, spending a couple of days in Budapest before driving to Lake Balaton, a large freshwater lake that’s a very popular holiday destination for Hungarians and Germans. In Budapest we drove out to Memento park to see enormous statues that had been preserved from Budapest’s communist era, climbed up to the Fisherman’s bastion and went for a swim on Margaret Island. On the Southern shores of Lake Balaton, we based ourself at the friendly Hullam Hostel in Révfülöp and visited the castle at Sigliget, the palace at Keszthely and floated among the water lilies in the thermal lake at Heviz, as well as taking a ferry trip across the lake to the busier resorts on the southern shore.

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Thermal springs and rubber rings at Hévíz – in Hungary
The Festetics Palace and the marzipan museum at Keszthely – in Hungary
Memento park – Icons of Budapest’s communist past

At Memento Park near Budapest

At Memento Park near Budapest

September – far a walking break in the French Alps  on the Tour de Mont Blanc

As the summer holidays finished I took an early September break with my friend Julia to walk in the mountains above Chamonix on the Tour de Mont Blanc Trail. This long distance circular path normally takes 12 days to walk through the mountains of Switzerland, France and Italy around the Mont Blanc mountain range, but we did a cut down mini-version in 3 days. We hiked up above the Chamonix valley, staying in basic mountain huts, with amazing views of Mont Blanc on the opposite side of the valley, visiting the glacial Lac Blanc and the ice cave in the Mer de glace at Montenvers. We enjoyed the experience so much that we’re already planning to go back in 2011 to walk another section of the Tour de Mont Blanc trail.

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Inside the glacier – at the Mer de Glace above Chamonix
Video diary – walking the Tour de Mont Blanc path above Chamonix
Day 3 on the Tour de Mont Blanc – Flégère to Lac Blanc

At the start of our walk in Les Houches on the Tour de Mont Blanc

At the start of our walk in Les Houches on the Tour de Mont Blanc

October – family fun in northern France, near Paris

At October half term we took a family break in Northern France with Eurocamp, staying at La Croix du Vieux Pont parc at Berny Riviere. We stayed in a mobile home on this parc that has plenty to keep families busy with an indoor swimming pool, boating and fishing on the lake, cycling and a bar and restaurant on site. We used the parc as a base from which to explore northern France, with a day trip to Paris for the obligitory climb up the Eiffel Tower, a visit to Disneyland Paris and time to explore some of the First World War battlefields such as the Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge that mark this region of France.

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Our supercalifragilistic day at the Magical kingdom of Disneyland Paris
The Eiffel Tower – Icon of Paris or tourist trap?
Visiting the Canadian War memorial at Vimy Ridge, France

Halloween in Frontierland at Disneyland, Paris

Halloween in Frontierland at Disneyland, Paris

November and I link up with other travel bloggers at TBEX in Copenhagen

In November I was off to Copenhagen to attend the Travel Blog Exchange or TBEX conference in Copenhagen staying in the cosy Avenue Hotel. The conference was held in the amazing Wallmans Cirkus, an old circus building that now hosts a dinner and caberet show in the evening but was used for the conference activities in the day. I was a speaker at the event on Using images effectively for your blog, and enjoyed other highlights such as the  SEO skit, listening to other speakers, special events such as the tour of the Georg Jensen Silver Workshops and eating in some great restaurants. I didn’t spend as much time as I’d like seeing Copenhagen itself, so I’m hoping to get back again some time in 2011 to explore the city more thoroughly.

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Burning the midnight oil – my TBEX Copenhagen diary
TBEX Copenhagen – what were the highlights for you?
Cosy up in Copenhagen at Avenue Hotel

Heather presenting at TBEX

Heather presenting at TBEX

December – it’s Christmas!

I took a breather from travelling in December and spent the time getting into the Christmas spirit, buying presents, hanging the Christmas decorations from around the world, and generally preparing for our typically British festivities with turkey and all the trimmings. I hope you also had a very happy Christmas and here’s looking forward to more exciting travels for us all in 2011.

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Join me for a traditional English Christmas dinner
A terribly British Christmas
A very Happy Christmas from Heather on her travels

Trifle and Christmas pudding

Trifle and Christmas pudding

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Comments

7 Comments on "Where Heather travelled in 2010"

  1. Rebecca on Mon, 3rd Jan 2011 12:09 am 

    Wow, what an amazing year of travel! Being an Aussie, I’m always jealous of how easy it is for Europeans to travel to other European countries – all so close :-) All the best for 2011!

  2. Sofia on Tue, 4th Jan 2011 2:45 am 

    What a nice way to look back at 2010.
    Looks like an amazing travel year for you, hope next year will bring just as many fun adventures!

  3. Nikki on Thu, 6th Jan 2011 10:08 pm 

    Being Canadian I too am extremely jealous! From Toronto it takes ages to get anywhere which makes short weekend trips next to impossible. I hope 2011 will bring you more adventures for me to read about.

  4. Sherry Ott on Sat, 8th Jan 2011 3:58 pm 

    What an exciting year! I can hardly believe how you fit it all in with a family and career!
    My favorite of course was the hiking and the Tour de Mont Blanc! Happy New Year Heather!
    Sherry Ott´s last blog post ..signs

  5. Heather Cowper on Mon, 10th Jan 2011 8:33 am 

    @ Rebecca – you’re right, I’m lucky to live in Bristol which is a hub for several low cost airlines so it’s easy to take short European breaks from here
    @Sophie & Nikki Yes, I’m planning my travels for the first half of 2011 right now
    @Sherry The TMB hiking was a highlight for me – we had perfect weather for our 3 day hike so we couldn’t go wrong.

  6. HeadingThere.co.uk on Tue, 11th Jan 2011 8:42 pm 

    [...] Where Heather Travelled in 2010 from Heather on her Travels [...]

  7. musicplayon on Sat, 26th Jan 2013 4:15 pm 

    Hey thank you so much for taking the time and effort to put this post together.

    . very appreciated
    musicplayon´s last blog post ..musicplayon

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