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Australasia

Milford Sound

Believed to have been discovered more than a 1,000 years ago by Maori, Milford Sound is New Zealand’s wettest inhabited place and one of the most known and beautiful fiords.  Despite its popularity, it is still a wonderfully calm place to visit.  The Sound actually received its name from John Grono, the first European settler to land on South Island.  It was named after the Welsh town of Milford Haven in Wales back in 1912.

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Milford Sound. Photo by Christine Wagner.

The Sound is just about 2 hours from Te Anau and 4 hours from Queenstown and so you could make this a day trip at a push or even better, spend a night or two at Milford Sound’s Lodge to get the full benefit of this stunningly beautiful area.

What is there to do?

Cruise

This is the must do activity when visiting the sound and whatever the weather, you will be amazed by the scenery.  Enjoy spotting the dolphins, tasting the refreshing water direct from the surrounding waterfalls and you may even have the chance to stand under Stirling Falls.  The cruise lasts from between 1 ¾ hours up to 3 hours depending upon how far you wish to travel and how much you want to see.  We recommend the Discover More Cruise which offers great value including a gourmet lunch, an on board nature guide and access to the Milford Discovery Centre.

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Milford Sound Cruise. Photo by missbossy.

Kayak

You can add on an hour of kayaking to the cruise package allowing you to get even closer to nature whilst being guided by an expert.   This is an activity suitable for all abilities and ages and certainly worth doing if you have the time.

Hike

Known as the ‘walking capital of the world’ due to its excellent network of tracks, if you love your hiking, add this to your places to visit list.  The walks vary in terms of length (taking from 30 minutes to 4 days!) and difficulty but there is something for everyone.  From rainforest to alpine vistas, you will be constantly entertained by nature.

Tell me more about Milford Sound’s Lodge

This is a perfect place to spend the night after a day of travelling to the Sound and exploring.  It gives you the chance to experience the Sound by night and more time to head out the next day before heading on….or staying another night!

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Milford Sound Lodge. Photo by jo cool.

We love the Riverside Chalets with their floor to ceiling windows allowing for terrific views.  However, at just under NZ$400 per night in the summer season, it may not suit everyone and so the Lodge offers everything from these luxurious chalets to camping and everything in between.  If you plan on taking the cruise excursion whilst at the Sound, you can save money by booking this at the same time as your stay.

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Asia

Quick Guide to Borneo (the resort of Rasa Ria)

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How to get there

You can fly in from Kuala Lumpur or Penang with Air Asia or transfer in from Brunei as other travellers we met had done.  We transferred from Penang airport and it cost just under £50 pp.

Where to stay

The Shangri La Rasa Ria has an on site nature reserve and orangutan rehabilitation centre.  It’s probably one of the best hotels in the world due to its super standard rooms and incredibly friendly and professional service.

What to do

This is largely resort based and Borneo itself has lots to offer but for now, see what you can do mainly at the Rasa Ria:

  • Play golf – the resort has an 18 hole championship golf course adjoining the hotel
  • See the orangutans – when we visited you were able to see the orangutans at the sanctuary attached to the hotel but they have not been there for a few years now. To see them you will need to take a very special and worthwhile trip to Sepilok.
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  • Take a trip to Mount Kinabalu and take a trek to remember
  • See the Fireflies – this is weather dependant and so book early in your stay

Where to eat

There is street food available throughout Borneo and not too far from the hotel but do be careful.  If red tide hits when you’re there, we would advise you stick to the hotel restaurants.

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To see our photos of the resort click HERE

Asia

Quick Guide to Penang

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How to get there

You can fly from KL to Penang and we can recommend the award winning budget airline, Air Asia, to get you there.  If you are heading to Penang from Ipoh or the Cameron Highlands, you can get a coach for about £8 for 2 people with Sri Maju (the bus station is about a 10 minute walk from the M Boutique hotel in Ipoh).

Where to stay

Depending on your budget and the experience you would like, we would suggest two alternatives.

Noordin Mews – for around £70 – £80 per night you can stay at this wonderfully welcoming and cosy hotel.  The door is bolted and locked with a padlock and all rooms centre on the pool in the courtyard.  It’s small and friendly and provides an excellent breakfast and is also in a great location.

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Eastern & Oriental – for £130 a night you can stay at this elegant colonial hotel set in a beautiful location overlooking the water.

What to do

  • Street Art by Ernest Zacharevic located all across Georgetown.  Most hotels will have a map of where this can be found.
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  • Fort Cornwallis – visit early to avoid the heat.
  • The Clan Jetties – Chew Jetty is the oldest – have lunch at Chew jetty right at the entrance as it really is very good.
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  • Penang Hill – a little bus ride out and so go early as you can twin this with the Kek Lok Si Temple.  You can get a golf cart around Penang Hill but if you can, talk the walk as you may see a bit more!  Don’t forget the monkey cups.
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  • Kek Lok Si Temple – situated a manageable walk away from Penang Hill although you can get a bus but why miss out on the all Malaysian restaurants on the way?!  This is very commercialised and is nice to see but can feel quite intense at times.

Where to eat

Gerogetown, Penang is one of the best places to visit if you’re a foodie!  You really are spoiled for choice here and it is difficult to narrow this down to just a few options.  However, we would recommend:

Little Kitchen – a wonderful restaurant on Lebuh Noordin and the smallest kitchen in Penang!  Mr Loh and his family are the friendliest hosts and you can dine very well for about £25 for two people!  If you stay at Noordin Mews, get them to book this for you and you will be treated extra well.

Street food which can be found just around the corner from Noordin Mews on Lebuh McNair.  It’s much smaller than the larger street food selections further into town but we found it a much more intimate dining experience and could relax (and find a table).

To see our photos of Penang, click HERE

Asia

Quick Guide to Cameron Highlands

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How to get there

We took a day trip from Ipoh and hired a taxi for the day which picked us up at 9am, drove us around the Highlands and dropped us back to our hotel for about 6pm. This should cost about £65-70.00.  We organised this with our hotel in Ipoh (M Boutique).

You can also get a bus from various other departure points (see HERE for alternatives) but it really doesn’t give you enough time to explore the Highlands in a day and therefore we would recommend that if you did this, to stay over in the Highlands.

Where to stay

The Lakehouse gets good reviews and is in a very good location to explore the Highlands.

We visited the Smokehouse and it was beautifully English and the service was good and s could recommend you look at this property too.

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What to do

There are lots of things to do including a visit to the mossy forest, lavender plantations, a number or tea plantations and museums but we have picked just a few:

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  • Smokehouse for afternoon tea – we had an afternoon tea for one, a hot chocolate and strawberry sundae for just £11 in a setting which could have been the UK on a hot summers day
  • Sam Poh Temple is worth a visit on the way out and let the fishes kiss your fingers….try it!
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 Don’t forget your strawberry jam as a souvenir.

Where to eat

Singh Chapati Urban Restaurant is currently top on Trip Advisor for a reason.  For tasty reasonably priced food you can’t go wrong.

To see some more photos of the Cameron Highlands click HERE

Asia

Quick Guide to Ipoh

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How to get there

From KL Sentral you can get the train to Ipoh for about £6.90 and it will take roughly 2.5 hours.  The trains are clean and come with entertainment!  You can book in advance HERE.

Where to stay

There are a good few to choose from but we loved M Boutique which was not in the centre and so not so hectic but it wasn’t too far to walk in – about 10 minutes.

We loved the quirky breakfasts!

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What to do

Some of our top attractions include:

  • A general walkabout will have you seeing lots.  There is the Birch Memorial Clock Tower, the train station with the Ipoh Tree outside, Tin Museum (check opening times before visiting), you can take iced drinks from locals at the stands they run near to the river etc.
  • Gunung Rapat: 3 temples – you will need to get a taxi here but it’s quite cheap.  You will find 3 temples on one street and they are quite vast and so allow a couple of hours.  You may want to ask your taxi driver to wait for you (we didn’t and had to start walking back and Malaysia is not good for pedestrians!).  You can buy food at the oldest temple (and the one which is furthest away) to feed the tortoises.
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 Where to eat

Try Restoran Ong Kee (Tauge Ayam).  Now there are a few of these and the Trip Advisor review does not picture the one we tried.  Head to the one which takes over the corner plot, it’s much bigger.  The food is tasty and very reasonably priced.

See our photos of Ipoh HERE

Asia

Quick Guide to Kuala Lumpur

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How to get there

From the airport you can take a taxi for about £14 each way or a train from the airport into KL Sentral (on the KILA Ekspres) for about £20 return.

Where to stay

There is lots of choice in KL to cover every budget but we loved:

Hilton Kuala Lumpur

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Situated near to the train station where you will arrive if you get the train from the airport into the centre and so ideally located for a quick stop in KL.

We love the modern rooms where the bathroom flows into the bedroom and it’s also very quiet.

Shangri La Kuala Lumpur

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More centrally located than the Hilton and just minutes away from the Petronas Towers and close to the monorail that runs through the city and so very easy to get around.

We love the luxurious feel to every part of this hotel (make sure you have an evening drink in the bar listening to the pianist).

What to do

Get yourself a good guide book and plan your trip well (e.g. the Petronas Towers are closed on Mondays – this is useful to know before you get there).  We really like the DK guides but choose one you like and are familiar with.

Some of our top attractions include:

  • Petronas Towers – book online in advance
  • Batu Caves – a love or hate thing but very cheap to get to from KL Sentral station (about 75p return)
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  • Merdeka Square – a general walk around here and you will find the world’s tallest flagpole, the city gallery, the Sultan Abdul Samad building and some quaint British styled buildings.
  • Masjid Jamek Mosque – wonderful volunteers made this an exceptionally welcoming and interesting place to visit (if you’re not covering your arms and legs, you will need to borrow a robe with a hood)
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  • Don’t forget a walk around China Town and if you can, find and visit Sze Ya Temple, our favourite!

If your trip is part of a stop-over, Wonderful Malaysia provides lots of helpful hints.

Where to eat

You can’t go to KL without a trip to Jalan Alor.  This is a bustling street with a feast of options to satisfy your stomach.  Have a look at this list of foods to try and see how many you can get through!

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See our photo album HERE

General

What NOT to wear on a long haul flight………

By Toni Sharp

I have a problem when I fly……what to wear.  I want to be comfortable but stylish without being too over the top. 

We all know those sorts of outfits are the worst to put together and I always leave thinking I have it right but later find my new flat (sensible!) ankle strap (didn’t think it through!) sandals struggle to be fastened when I am departing the plane because my feet have swollen to an unrecognisable size.

I fly quite a bit throughout the year for work and for pleasure and have learned what works well. I cannot bear to wear a tracksuit (clap or boo) and trainers are meant for the gym but how do you look stylish without being over the top?

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If you are travelling in the winter, a maxi dress is amazing.  You can wear leggings underneath and even boots to brave the British winter as these are hardly seen.  On top, pop on a cardigan or smart jacket and carry a pashmina in case you need it.  Accessorise with statement jewellery and not only will you look smart but you will feel comfortable. When you arrive at your exotic destination, you can take off all your winter wear and be left with your summer maxi dress.  Make sure you carry light weight flip flops in your hand luggage to quickly pop on!

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Try to avoid white.  I have worn white several times and have been lucky but I always worry it won’t be white when I arrive.  You never know who you will be sitting next to or what could be spilt on you!  If you want to wear your whites then pack a lightweight spare top/bottoms in your hand luggage you can to change into if the worst happens.

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Do not wear strappy sandals or evening shoes.  Unless you’re Victoria Beckham it’s not a practical look and not a particularly stylish one.  THINK COMFORT!  I chose a pair of Toms to fly to Malaysia in.  They were flat and comfortable when I tried them on in the shop and were quite classic and stylish.  However, I didn’t break them in.  After the first leg of our flight, I hobbled off the plane as they were rubbing my heels and the strap was at bursting point with my feet having swollen because they had been strapped in.  The 20 minute walk that followed was not pretty and certainly not stylish.  Try your most comfortable flip flops or if you are wearing pumps, make sure you break them in!

Accessorize Flip Flops

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If you are not planning on wearing socks, take a pair with you in your hand luggage.  If you want to take your shoes off, you may not wish to put your bare feet onto the floor.  Also, you usually get pretty high up in a plane and so it’s much cooler up there and your little toes may get cold and socks keep your feet warm.  That pashmina from earlier may come in handy too.

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Don’t wear fabrics which are susceptible to snagging, tearing or staining easily.  You will be bending down, stretching, eating in a confined space.  Don’t wear fabrics that crease easily if you want to arrive looking fresh. I love my skinny 3/4 trousers from gap which are actually more comfortable than they sound. They’re perfect for long flights and they do have a bit of give in them.

Gap stretch 3/4 trousers

A final few things…..

  • If you want to sleep on a plane take ear plugs as a minimum.
  • Do you need that pillow? The number of times I have forced my travel pillow into my hand luggage and not used it. If you need one, invest in a quality travel pillow that you can perhaps deflate.
  • Pack hand sanitiser.
  • Use the hand towel you’re given to wipe your food tray (or take wet wipes with you to do this)…..don’t think the cleaning team will have time to clean every single tray before you board!
  • Pack your own headphones if you’re travelling in economy. The BA ones I recently used hurt my ears and the Virgin ones let far too much external noise in.
  • Take an zipped A5 travel wallet with you. I have a bright sky blue one form (easy to find!) and use mine to store my passports in, otherwise they sink to the bottom of my bag. After security I transfer my travel perfume, travel mirror/brush and lip balm across and then keep this in the seat pouch in front of me on the plane so it’s in easy reach.
  • Taking a short haul flight without entertainment? We always download a bunch of things from Netflix onto our phone or tablet and take a mobile battery pack with us. We also have a dual headphone jack (easy to pick up from the electronics department after security).
Europe

Our Normandy Adventure: Part III

Day 4

One thing you have to do when in France is to try a French breakfast and make it local.  We headed to the tiny bakery in Saint-Aubin-Sur-Mer and were like kids in a sweet shop.  The range was quite astonishing considering its size and also at home we’re just used to 2 options when it comes to a continental breakfast pastry (croissants or pain au chocolat). We picked an apple based pastry and a custard filled one and took these away to consume in our car.  One of the tastiest breakfasts…..if only they were healthy and I’d be eating them every day!

Before Arromanches, we headed a little further on to Longues Sur Mer to see the German battery flanked by the landing beaches and the only artillery battery to have Listed Building status.  You will find four quite in tact gun casemates.  Allow about half an hour for this stop.

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Arromanches has a few memorials to explore but its real draw is the film shown there in its 360 cinema.  By far the most emotional of all and possibly the best of all films seen on our trip to Normandy.  People left the cinema with tears in their eyes and even writing about it now, stirs my emotions.  This 19 minute film showing previously unseen footage projects onto 9 screens in HD and tells the story of the 100 day Battle of Normandy.

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We then headed to Bayeux.  We made our way first of all to the Commonwealth Cemetery which was quite a contrast to the American Cemetery.  All the headstones were very similar and lined up to precision but many contained personal messages from home and they all had flowers planted.  It was not as grand but it felt a little more grounded and peaceful.  This cemetery is home mainly to British servicemen but also has people buried here from New Zealand, Canada and South Africa to name but a few nations; there were also German graves which I found quite touching and which provides such a powerful message.  Again, very different to the American Cemetery and possibly one of my favourite spots on our trip to Normandy.

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We found Le Moulin de la Galette for lunch.  Situated overlooking a river with its own water wheel, this place used to be a mill.  Now it dishes up the friendliest of welcomes, a huge selection of galattes (including a choice for me with several without ham!!), one of the prettiest locations and great home cooked food.

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Feeling very full and having had my fill of cheese, we walked slowly across the road to see the Bayeux Tapestry.  Being entirely honest, I was not too excited about this.  Yes, it’s old and big but would I enjoy it?!  Absolutely!  The museum is well thought out.  You take an audio guide which starts when you reach a certain point and this then guides you through the story being told on the tapestry making it fun and it also set you on a good pace. After seeing the tapestry there is a small museum followed by a 16 minute film.  You learn how it was a miracle the tapestry was still in existence.  It was used as a covering and once almost torn up for a parade.  The tapestry itself is amusing, clever and so well preserved that it’s hard to believe the 70 metre long embroidered cloth is more than 900 years old. Allow around 1.5 hours here and the cost of entry at the time of writing including audio guide was 9 Euros per person.

Afterwards, we spent some time in Bayeaux and with an ice-cream in hand wandered to the cathedral although the outside is far more impressive than the inside.  We had also heard about an organic cider and calvados producer with a shop in Bayeaux run by husband and wife team, Christele and Francois, which we managed to track down. Lecornu is situated west of the cathedral near to a green (Place de Gaulle) and sells calvados, cider, apple juice, calvados jelly and many more wonderful products.

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We were lucky that the weather was so beautiful for exploring Bayeux and then for sitting out in the evening with a glass of wine and nibbles listening to the birds sing and reflecting on what a terrific day we’d had.

Day 5

When we visited Normandy, we visited every beach and related museum and tried to experience as much as possible.  I believe that Utah beach has the best museum.  We only had about 2 hours here to explore and actually could have spent at least another hour here. The museum like all others has a film, accounts from those who fought, objects from the war and it was the only place I recall seeing the German story being told, although this was very brief.  One thing that struck me when listening to the stories of the French who were occupied was in relation to a German solider.  He used to visit them and loved playing with the children. He had white hair, that’s all the family remember, and he said he had children and missed them.  He went missing, presumably died in the war.  Many people didn’t want to be there fighting but felt obliged to and were terrified of the consequences. Utah was an American beach landing and was largely successful although not without its terrible losses.  We didn’t actually see much of the beach, mainly because the weather was poor on the morning we visited.  However, the museum here is wonderful, set on the beach which brings you closer to the history you’re learning about, brimming with accounts I could have listened to all day, with terrific exhibits and there is a walk right at the end above the trenches giving you a silent insight into life at Utah.

When you are at Utah beach, you’re not far from Sainte-Mere-Eglise which is worth a visit for its museum but probably more famously, the statue of the airman hanging from the church spire by his parachute.  When the paratroopers were dropped by the gliders and were dispersed throughout the area, one soldier found himself dangling from the church spire.  A comrade fought off German forces to save his life and was himself killed in action but John Steele played dead and lived to tell the tale.

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The museum, situated just across the road from the church, contains 3 areas all worth a visit.  Allow about an hour and a half to see it all with an entry fee of €9.90 per person (at the time of writing).  The best part of the museum for me provides you with a tiny insight into what it must have been like in Normandy in 1944, thanks to a hyper-realistic museography.  There is a plane you walk into which is noisy to the point of being quite scary and it’s full of paratroopers ready to parachute into the night.  When you exit, you’re looking down onto the local area from above, you can see the church on fire and lots of parachutes descending.  Then you’re on the beaches and gun shots are being fired.  Making your way forward you’re in the middle of hedgerows avoiding sniper shots. Even though you know it isn’t real, your heart can help but beat a little quicker and your reflexes make you a little lighter on your feet.

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Now home and having reflected on the trip, I realise how quickly pain can be forgotten.  How we move on with our lives at great speed giving little time to let the past help our future.  With the anniversary of D-Day approaching, I hope everyone reading this will take a moment to remember those who gave their lives so we can enjoy the freedoms we have today.

Read Part I and Part II.

Europe

Our Normandy Adventure: Part II

Day 2

Feeling refreshed after a great night’s sleep, we set off at around 9am to Caen.  Caen was heavily bombed in the war and was left with just one medieval street remaining although the city does not look as modern as some of the others which rose from the ashes.  Its cathedral, rebuilt after the war, makes a skyline statement and its castle looks rather impressive, reminding me slightly of Cardiff, but without much substance.  A view best appreciated from outside if you’re short on time.

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After a fleeting visit to Caen, we made our way to Pegasus Bridge about 20 minutes away. This had one of the best museums we visited, dedicated to the men of the 6th British Airborne Division.  It was not overwhelming and recounted real stories which I love.  We learned about the gliders that dropped paratroopers into the area before D-Day to try and make a little headway in preparation.  We learned how that particular plan didn’t really work too well and many were dropped in water where they drowned or right into the hands of the German forces and others were scattered all over then left with the task of reuniting with their sections.  The museum is split into an inside and outside section.  Outside, you can see the actual Pegasus Bridge, a glider and learn about the ingenious Bailey Bridge. Allow an hour for this visit and at the time of writing, the entrance fee was €8 per person.

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After a quick packed lunch in the car (cheese of course!), we made the 15 minute journey to the Caen Memorial Museum.  You will be able to see the museum from a distance as there’s a large statue outside of the sailor and his sweetheart!  The Museum we found a little overwhelming but certainly worth a visit.  It took just shy of 4 hours to see it and that was without spending too much time in the latter part devoted to the Cold War and Berlin (we’d recently visited Berlin and so just looked around briefly as we’d learned so much there).  There is a lot of detail in this museum and although it flows very well, it is tiring. There is a film here which is well thought out and presents very differently to the others; it appears about three quarters of the way through the museum tour and runs every half an hour.  We had about 20 minutes before the next showing, just enough time to go to the café and grab a coffee and share a raspberry tart.  Once we’d finished the film, we headed outside to see the remembrance garden for the Canadians and Brits which is certainly worth a look.  The British garden was immaculately kept and was very peaceful with us being the only ones there.  If you plan on visiting both this museum and Arromanches 360, be sure to buy the joint ticket costing (at the time of writing) €28 per person and which also now includes the Civilians in wartime Memorial in Falaise.

Our final stop of the day was Sword beach, one of the British beaches.  There’s no museum here but there are some memorials just off the beach.  We took a very long and blustery walk along its lovely and peaceful promenade.  Be prepared for a long walk!  We seemed to walk forever and we only really scratched the surface.  This gives you an idea of how big this beach is.  The houses that line the front are characterful, pretty, most of them locked up until the summer months arrive. It’s a peaceful place full of joggers, dog walkers and kite surfers!

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After such an exhausting day, we headed back to Saint-Aubin-Sur-Mer, our favourite little French town, and settled down to dinner at Le Crabe Vert.  As someone who doesn’t eat a lot of meat, I did find this part of France a bit of a struggle as they love their pork!  I was usually left with mussels, Scottish salmon (odd!) or whelks!  However, this restaurant served up a delicious seafood pizza which I ate a little too eagerly and then finished off with a scrumptious sundae.

Day 3

Our first stop of the day was Pointe du Hoc.  This surprised me as I really didn’t know much about this before arriving.  This is the cliff face scaled by brave American Rangers in the D-Day landings.  The German forces were not overly concerned about this spot as it was almost impossible, in their eyes, that anyone would try to target this spot as it was so hostile.  However, the Rangers did it although only 90 of the 225 were still able to bear arms on 8 June 1944, 2 days after D-Day.  You can visit the spot, see many craters where bombs hit, see the German trenches and gun emplacements and stare out to the raging sea below.  This was a mission impossible and I was in awe of their determination and the success of this operation.  The museum is very small but nicely presented.  There are a few information boards inside, tributes outside and the scene of Pointe du Hoc is left very much in tact.  Allow at least 2 hours to visit this spot (no entrance fee) which is exceptionally memorable.

Omaha is the beach which will stick with me forever.  It was truly the most beautiful of all beaches, long and golden and I would recommend visiting the beach here and taking a walk along the sea front.  There is a small museum although it’s not for everyone.  There’s lots of memorabilia which is great for people who like this sort of thing.  For me, I prefer reading letters, the stories and the real life accounts.  The people are interesting and for me, the objects less so unless of course they have a story attached.  Here, there was mainly just a note about what the objects were and so I found myself whizzing along to a board detailing the stories of several soldiers and then listening to the film at the end which is certainly worth a watch.

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You cannot visit this area without visiting the American Cemetery. If you have ever watched ‘Saving Private Ryan’ this will be familiar to you as it features in the opening and closing scenes.  It is grand and the headstones are positioned to military precision.  They are all very similar with the only difference being that the stones are shaped to the faith of the soldier.  There are also many stones which read, ‘A soldier, known but to God’.  There is no order as such to the stones; the men were not buried by surname, date of death, platoon or battalion, they were buried randomly, side by side.  Even Theodore Roosevelt Jr, the ex-President’s son, is buried amongst his colleagues without a special position.  It’s a very stark picture when you step out and see all of the headstones, all 9,387 of them, and realise this was the tip of the iceberg of the death toll of this Total War.  There is a film to watch inside and so do make the effort to go through the security checks to see it.  It tells the heartbreaking stories of several soldiers and this is what makes it so real.  After the film, head out through the long enclosed corridor whilst the names of those buried at the cemetery are read out.  There is also a board dedicated to the Niland brothers just past this which is worth reading (Saving Private Ryan used this for its inspiration).

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Gold beach is very similar to Sword although the promenade isn’t as pretty. However, this beach does have a museum with the nicest staff.  We arrived with half an hour to go before closing but were welcomed and actually offered a free return visit the next day.  However, half an hour is plenty of time to see this small museum which is split into 2 areas.  The first is dedicated to a plane which crashed in the local area.  It had set off from New York in 1927 and was the first airmail link to France and due to the bad weather on route, had to divert from Paris to Ver-Sur-Mer.  The second part was of most interest to us and tells the story of the British invasion. This section is relatively small, but perfectly formed, and so half an hour is sufficient.

We were staying in Cote de Nacre and were about a 10 minute walk from the beach which forms part of Juno beach where the Canadian forces landed.  Like the others, the sea appears miles out when the tide is out, very much like Weston.  It only adds to the sheer size of the beach.  When the forces landed on 6 June 1944, they opted to land when the tide was out so they could avoid the obstacles and booby traps in the water such as the hedgehogs.  To land so far from the sea and then have to make their way with their heavy kit to the edge of the beach and onto the road…..it really is astonishing how they did it under that fire of bullets.  Juno was a success story but again did not come without its losses.  There is a lovely memorial by Courseulles-Sur-Mer which is worth visiting.  This is the spot where many of the key figures arrived after D-Day such as Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, King George VI and Eisenhower.

We returned once again to our old faithful, Saint-Aubin-Sur-Mer for our evening meal and decided to splash out at Le Poisson Dans Tous Ses Etats (‘Fish in all its states’).  We hadn’t booked and were lucky to get a table as this place filled up with locals quickly.  We enjoyed fish soup, battered fish and chips with two types of fish and a trio of desserts and a lemon mille feuille.  The restaurant does not have a website but is on the promenade looking out to sea next to Le Charleston; if you always pick where you eat on Trip Advisor you will miss out on this little gem!

Read Part I and Part III.

Europe

Our Normandy Adventure: Part I

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As I walked along the beach at Omaha, still golden in the low winter sun, watching families building sandcastles and holding the hand of my better half, I could not imagine the horrors that struck this place just 72 years ago.  That’s tangible history and yet it didn’t seem possible watching the scene unfold before me that something so unimaginably terrible had taken place here.  At first I felt bad about the family enjoying their time building sandcastles underneath the sculpture remembering those who’d lost their lives here.  Then I realised that if we weren’t enjoying our time there it would have been for nothing.  They gave their lives so that we could enjoy ours.  This place was once blood, bullets and bodies and now there was love, life and laughter.

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The Normandy beaches should be visited in your lifetime. I think it should be part of every school curriculum to visit these historically key locations, to learn about those who made the greatest sacrifice at all, to learn how it all started, the evil genius that brought this into being, the brutality, the morale, the struggle, the fight, the resourcefulness and why we are here now doing what we are doing.  It’s a part of history we all have in common.

Day 1

We took the ferry over from Poole to Cherbourg early on Monday morning.  We were lucky to have such a lovely sunny day for our sailing and even got to peek at millionaires row at Sandbanks on the way out to sea whilst sailing just past Brownsea Island.  Don’t pin your hopes on the Brittany Ferries‘ breakfast and take a good book with you to keep you occupied!

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We arrived in France at around 2pm and headed straight to Auchan to stock up on French goodies.  We selected several wines with the aim of tasting them before our return journey so we could buy more of what we liked.  Good decision!

For this trip we were reaching back to our childhood memories and decided to stay at the perfectly located Eurocamp Cote de Nacre at Saint-Aubin-Sur-Mer, now part of the Sandaya Group, about an hour and a half away from Cherbourg.  It was a lovely site tucked away behind residential streets which felt as though we were part of the community.  We took a walk around the site which was really quite quiet in April.  Our holiday home was completely private and had no-one staying immediately next to us which made it nicely secluded.  The grounds were beautifully kept and for those needing the communal washing facilities, we’ve never seen such a modern shower block.

Saint-Aubin-Sur-Mer was fairly quiet in April.  The cold windy weather, although sunny, didn’t help much in bringing out the crowds but we were welcomed by the restaurateurs and chose to eat at Cote Sable.  On our first night we enjoyed the local delicacies of Normandy Mussels (mussels in a creamy white sauce) and a ham and cheese galette all washed down with wine and a bowl of cider.  It would have been rude not to have sampled the crepes and so of course we obliged!

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Read Part II and Part III.

Reviews

Seaweed Gin

SEAWEED GIN

I visited a wonderful distillery near New Quay in Wales a few years ago now but it’s still one I always recommend as it’s so unusual and tastes amazing.  This place is terrific.  It’s small, friendly, organic and it makes and sells a different kind of gin to the ones you get on the supermarket shelf.  If you are a gin connoisseur or if you want to impress your guests then you should certainly visit.

The distillery launched its seaweed gin on 1 March 2014 and quickly sold out and it’s no wonder why.  When you first taste this gin, your tastebuds will spring into life and you will want to try more to break down the layers of flavour and of course, to crank up your intake of super foods!

Situated down a long and narrow farm track in Llandysul, you may feel as though you have taken a wrong turn.  Stick with it and right at the very bottom, you will find a very smart art gallery/tasting centre where the owners will be delighted to introduce you to a number of Artisan Organic Spirits.  You will find it difficult to leave empty handed once you have had a taste of its award winning spirits and make sure you stock up as they are in high demand.

The distillery also shares its home with Teifi Farmhouse Cheese.  Before you even walk into the shop you can smell how good this cheese is and so it’s no surprise to discover that its flagship cheese is multi-award winning.  Made on-site at the farm’s dairy, the distinct cheeses are crafted using only the finest, locally sourced raw (unpasteurised) milk.

With its Artisan model, exceptional quality of produce and friendly welcome, I predict very good things to come for Glynhynod Farm.