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Europe

For the love of Baklava

One of my all time favourite desserts is Baklava and the best I have ever tasted was in Fiskardo, Kefalonia (although my parents have just returned from the island and still say mine is better and so I will take that!). Mine is a combination of a traditional Greek receipe and Lorraine Pascal’s baklava recipe. Give it a whirl and share your pictures on Facebook with me @MTGHolidaysplease.

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Mini Baklava

Ingredients

  • 250g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 packets of filo pastry (you will get about 6 sheets per pack)

For the filling

  • 500g of nuts of your choice – we often choose pecans, walnuts and Almonds (roughly chopped/broken up by hand) and Hazelnuts can work well too.
  • 3tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 1.5tsp mixed spice (or make your own by mixing spices you have – e.g. cinnamon and a little nutmeg – a little goes a long way with nutmeg and so don’t be too generous! – or ground clove)

For the syrup

  • 340g granulated sugar
  • 200ml water
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Method

  1. Defrost your filo overnight in the fridge.  If you forget and need to do defrost it the same day, place it somewhere warm, but not hot, and leave it for a couple of hours.
  2. Put all your filling ingredients into a large bowl and mix them up.
  3. Put half of the butter in a bowl and melt (we use a microwave to do this but pick whichever method you’re used to).  There is no set amount of butter really, it’s simply as much as you need but 250g is a rough estimate – don’t worry if you don’t use it all or if you need more.  The suggestion is to only melt half now because if you’re not a very quick worker (unlikely when working with filo), the butter will turn white (separation) and you will not be able to work with what’s left.  Keep melting the butter as and when you need it.
  4. Whilst the butter is melting, carefully unwrap the filo and lay all the sheets out on a clear surface and cover with a damp towel (which stops it from drying out which makes it more tricky to work with).
  5. Choose a tray to bake in.  We have a large Pyrex dish (the sort you may cook lasagna in – about 21cm x 14cm*).  You will need to cover the inside of your chosen dish with a coating of your melted butter from step 3; we do this with a silicon pastry brush otherwise, you risk getting hairs on your pastry if you use the standard basting brush.  Once you have done this, take a sheet of filo and line the dish with it.  Then you need to coat the first filo layer with more butter.  Repeat twice so that you have 3 layers of filo with a final coat of butter on the top layer.
  6. Use 1/3 of the filling mixture and spoon this on top of the third filo layer making sure you have an even distribution.
  7. At about this point, put your oven on to get up to temperature (180 degrees or 350 fahrenheit or gas mark 4).
  8. You will then need to add 3 more layers of filo following the instructions at step 5, followed by a second layer of filling, as in step 6.  Then, a further 3 layers of filo (as per step 5) and the final 1/3 of the filling before finishing off with a final 3 layers of filo.  Once you reach the top, score the pasty diagonally so you have diamond shapes on the top and then coat with a final thick layer of butter.
  9. Put your masterpiece in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
  10. Whilst your baklava is baking away, put the water and sugar (for the syrup) into a pan and keep on a low to medium heat.  Keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved.  Then add the honey and cinnamon stick and turn down to a low heat for about 10 minutes.
  11. Once the baklava is out the over, leave to stand for about 10-20 minutes before pouring over the syrup from step 10.
  12. Enjoy!

*Don’t worry if the dish you use is smaller.  Filo is long!  Simply start placing your filo in the dish one end, let it overlap at the other end and then fold it back on itself.  Essentially, half of the dish will have a layer of filo and the other half may have 2 layers thanks to the doubling up.  Simply rotate the dish for the next layer so you’re all even!

Please feel free to add pistachios (which appear in some recipes) or lemon zest or orange-blossom water which appear in other recipes.  It really is all down to individual taste.  We have tried the recipe inducing these additions but always return to the recipe above!

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Europe

Cycle the Camino de Santiago

This 500 mile route stretching through the north of Spain has been witness to thousands of pilgrims each making their way to Santiago de Compostela’s Cathedral, the final restring place of St James.  The pilgrimage is believed by some to be one of three pilgrimages for which the sins of the pilgrim will be forgiven.

Many people will choose to walk the route and complete in several stages or join it at a later point just in time to earn the compostela (certificate of accomplishment).  The minimum you need to complete to earn this is 100 km (walking) or 200 km (cycling).

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Cathedral Santiago de Compostela. Photo by Jose Luis Cernadas Iglesias

We have found the perfect cycling itinerary which covers the last 200 km and takes 7 days although you will actually cycle 280 km in total.

Day 1

Arrive in Bilbao and if you have time, take in the wonderful Guggenheim Museum and then off to El Pero Chico for a delicious meal with friendly service (and also popular with Frank Gehry while he oversaw progress on the Guggenheim).

Day 2

Make your way to Leon just in time for lunch which you could take at Alfonso Valderas, the city’s most famous restaurant for salt cod prepared around 25 different ways!  We love the pil-pil version.  After lunch, you will cycle to Astorga across a section of the Meseta Plains.  A great place to head for food in the evening is La Peseta which serves local dishes but with cheaper menus for pilgrims!

Day 3

You will cycle across the Biezro Hills stopping at the Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross) at 1482m, the highest point along the trail.  It’s traditional at this point to leave a stone in prayer.

Day 4

Make your way to O’Cebreiro where you will find unusual stone houses with thatched roofs which mark the entry to Galicia.  You will then cycle to Tricastela and on to Samos.  Samos is a lovely village built around the very fine Benedictine Monasterio de Samos and well worth a visit when you’re there.

Days 5 & 6

The next 2 days will be spend cycling through the unspoilt landscape of Galicia through medieval villages, taking in Portomarin and Azura.  You may want to see San Nicolas in Portomarin, the church which was re-built stone by stone to rescue it from the reservoir which was to be flooded.  In Azura, head to Casa Theodora, run by brothers Jesus and Gabriel, for a well earned home cooked meal.

Day 7

Today you will reach your destination: Santiago!  Santiago de Compostela (Old Town) in a UNESCO World Heritage site and so there is lots to explore, including of course its Cathedral.  Around every corner you will discover something new and so you may want to extend your tour to relax and take in the sights at a more leisurely pace.

Americas

10 things to do in New York this winter!

Stop for drinks on the 8th floor of The Marriott Hotel in Times Square.  It’s not very expensive when you consider its location and the view you get of Times Square.

Catch the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City with the Rockettes from November.  For all Scrooges out there, be warned!  It’s very happy and Christmassy and full of American splendour.  We got tickets on the door.  They were in the very back row but even these were great and we got to sit next to two old New Yorkers who go every year.

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You have to see a show on Broadway when in New York but don’t forget to save yourself some pennies and head to TKTS earlier in the day (the same TKTS you find in Leicester Square).  We got tickets 5 rows back for little over $50 each.  The kiosk opens at 3pm for evening performances (2pm on Tuesdays).

Get your skates on at the Wollman Rink which opens in late October.  It’s the biggest rink in the city and set in Central Park.  Head to Bryant Park for free admission (also open in late October).  You still need to pay for skate hire and a lock for the lockers (!) and so if you have a lock with you (on your suitcase!), you may as well take this as it just may save you a few dollars.  Travel light as lockers are small.

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We found Max Brenner (see the dessert menu!) by accident and what a wonderful accident that was.  A must visit for all chocolate lovers out there.  You can order incredible ice-cream, chocolate pizza, fondue and try the Hug Mug with Mexican spicy chocolate or Italian hot chocolate (this is best dark).

Walk, walk, walk!  There is so much to see in this city, don’t miss out by taking cabs and the subway all the time.  Take in sights such as the Empire State Building, the New York Public Library, the Chrysler Building and Grand Central Station.  Don’t forget the views back over the city from Brooklyn Bridge and of course Central Park.

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Take a helicopter flight at night and fly around the Statue of Liberty.  Try Liberty Helicopters where you can buy a ‘City Lights Ride’ from $149 pp.

The Statue of Liberty tour takes a long time and so get up early and head for the first boat out at 8:30am from Battery Park taking in Ellis Island on the way back and don’t plan too many other activities for the day.

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Take your credit card for all the shopping there is to be done.  Macys is the largest and most reasonable of all department stores and has a wonderful shop window display nearing Christmas and don’t forget your brown bag from Bloomies.

If you are there for the Rockefeller light switch on (late November/early December), don’t miss it.  It’s known for having a host of fantastic acts.  We saw (or rather heard!) performances from John Legend, Sting and Enya to name a few.  Our tip is to get there early to get a better spot but be very prepared to stand around for a while.

Trips

Iceland: Your 5 Night Winter Getaway

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Day 1

It’s an early start!  Depart the UK on an early flight and arrive in Iceland in time for lunch.  As you venture outside for the first time, the place feels grey and almost of another time.  It’s cold, quiet and eerie but very intriguing.  You can buy your return bus ticket into town in advance or at the airport although it’s not easy to find the bus once outside and so be prepared to ask.  If you pay a little bit extra you get dropped right to your door (fully recommended given the small extra fee and because you may well be feeling too tired to navigate with a suitcase trailing behind you).

We chose to stay at Center Hotel Thingholt which is very central, reasonably priced and very contemporary.  The lobby is decorated with dark glass masks representing the hidden people of Iceland and a small waterfall trickling down over them.  There is a small bar area just off reception which serves great value cocktails in the evening.

Head to the Laundromat for lunch.  Opened in March 2011, this little café is a stroll from the hotel and combines the practicalities of completing the week’s laundry and replenishment.  You can pick up light bites or something more substantial if the early start has left you hungry (including good vegetarian and vegan options).

Afterwards, take a walk to the nearby concert Hall, Harpa, to see what is on in the week.  In the winter look out for free Christmas concerts which are short, mostly in Icelandic but immerse you in the Christmas (and Icelandic) spirit.

Wonder back to your hotel via the water front and side streets, not forgetting to take in the Sun Voyager Sculpture and Höfði, and then (after a siesta) spruce up for an evening out.  Cocktails in the bar, possibly a bite to eat and then relaxing listening to a live band.  Try Kaldi for its local beers and homely feel, or if you fancy a night on the town (if you have any energy left!) try Club Solon and for live music go to Kaffi (Klapparstigur 25, Reykjavic, Iceland).

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Day 2

A day exploring the capital.  Start by visiting the Settlement Exhibition by the Tourist Information office.  It opens at 9am but if you’re up before that, head to Landakotskirkja beforehand (a little church nearby).  This is a small museum but gives you a good understanding of how Iceland has developed over time.  It’s a good place to start as it doesn’t get light in the winter until about 11am and so it won’t matter if you’re inside.  Tourist Information is a great place to go to book all your trips for the week and so pay it a stop afterwards.

Explore Hallgrimskirkja and don’t forget, if you want daytime shots, go between 11am and 3pm although the best time for those magical shots will be closer to 3pm when you have the change in light.  Cafe Loki just opposite is well worth a stop.  If you fancy trying the local delicacies, this is one of the places to go and even if not, it’s a good place to try Skyr.  If you fancy something a bit more traditional, try the oldest coffee shop in town (Cafe Mokka) which serves up the best waffles and most warming hot chocolate on a cold winter day.  If you’re out and about, don’t forget to stop at the Bernhofts Bakery not far from the hotel which sells wonderful cakes and pastries for that much needed sugar boost.

Explore the art galleries (Hafnarhus was our favourite although if you love art, make sure you give yourself time to see all 3 included in the entrance fee) and don’t forget to take a walk around the small lake Tjörnin.  Not far from here you can explore The National Museum of Iceland  which makes your realise just how far this place has come is such a very short space of time; remarkable.

Looking for somewhere to go for your evening meal?  Try Café Paris which offers lots of choice and is very reasonable.

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Day 3

Take a trip to the Blue Lagoon to relax after a hard day of sight seeing.  You can catch a bus from the main bus station which is about a 20 minute walk from the hotel.  You can buy your entry tickets from Tourist Information which means when you arrive you can walk straight in.  Set away from the capital and close to the airport, many travellers will choose to do this trip on the way from or to the airport but others may want a more relaxing experience.  If you go early in the day and before sunrise, you arrive to coloured lights illuminating the power station next door which provides the lagoon with its warm water.  It’s a very unique experience running over sheets of ice in the darkness to plunge into warm waters and not be able to see more than a foot in front of you for all the steam.  The lagoon has boxes of silica mud situated around the edge for you to apply to your face and body which you leave on for 5 minutes and wash off in the spa water.

Head back into town for an afternoon coffee and to sample another local favourite, dried cod or haddock.  It doesn’t sound too appetising but try it with cocktails if you’d prefer and you may well go back for seconds.  If you like lobster, you will love the very sweet cafe Saegreifinn which serves a lobster soup near the harbour.  The seats are cushioned barrels and it’s very cozy but just what you want on a cold day.

Try the local fish and chips at Icelandic Fish and Chips (it has recently moved from the harbour) which is almost self service but you can’t get it fresher.  It’s a basic set up but the taste is everything but.  Head on our for an evening boat trip to spot the northern lights (we chose Special Tours) and keep warm with free tea, coffee and hot chocolate and keep fueled with biscuits.  You can go in land although that is a 4 hour trip as it involves a 1 hour bus journey either side.  The boat trip races you out to sea in a matter of minutes although be warned, this is a cold trip and so wrap up warm.  Also, if you’re there for photos, try the land trip as the boat can get quite rocky.

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Day 4

Early start today!  Head out on a pre-booked golden circle tour (we picked Iceland Guided Tours because it was a tour by mini bus and so much more efficient and also, it was the cheapest).  Get picked up from your hotel and take in Gullfoss, the geysirs and Thingvellir Park.  If you are going in the Winter, you may find Yaktrax useful!  Gullfoss is one of the coldest places we have ever been and taking your gloves off for just a minute can be very painful.  If you’re there for photos, you will either need to be very brave or take a pair of well insulted and thin paid of gloves.

After a long day exploring just some of Iceland’s most beautiful sights, you will deserve a very nice meal out.  We tried Fiskfelagid Fish Company which offered a 3 course meal plus a gift from the chef, bursting with flavour.  We did not expect Iceland to offer so much from a culinary perspective but we loved every meal there are were very impressed.  Treat your tastebuds to anything on the menu and you will not be disappointed.

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Day 5

Your final day.  Spend this walking across glaciers, exploring more of the capital, taking a walk to Perlan (also a restaurant) just on the edge of the city for some wonderful views, go snowmobiling, horse riding or take a jeep tour (see Reykjavik Excursions which run a number of day tours).  The choice really is endless.

Take a quick bite at Hamborgarabulla Tomasar near the waters edge (Geirsgata).  You can’t miss this tiny restaurant which radiates light from within in the lead up to Christmas and the burgers are good and brilliant value.  It’s small and so be prepared to wait for a space.

If you want to, take another tour out to see the northern lights as this may be your last chance.  We were lucky enough to see them in the capital on our last night there which is unusual due to the light pollution and so another trip out to the darkness may well be your best bet.

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Day 6

Another early start to catch your plane home (Icelandic chocolate and alcohol are very reasonably priced at the airport).  A final bus ride through the middle of the night morning and you’re back at Keflavik Airport with a thousand memories and a desire to return.

Europe

The Famous Five

The Cinque Terre walk (Italy) can be completed within a day.  The route takes in the 5 pretty villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and finally Riomaggiore.

Taking some time to stop in each, the route is likely to take about 7 hours (5 hours walking and 2 hours for sight seeing and refuelling.  You may wish to base yourself in Monterosso and start the walk from there as early as you can.  We would advise starting at 7:30am as the first part of the walk is most difficult and you will want to avoid the heat of the day.  Once you reach the end, you can get the train back and enjoy a well earned dinner and cocktails.

Alternatively, the easier route is Riomaggiore to Monterosso (you can catch the train to Riomaggiore in the morning if staying in Monterosso) but the difficult bit is towards the end and the best views are behind you!

Where to stay in Monterosso

The hidden gem – Hotel Ristorante Marina

The one with the pool – Hotel Porto Roca

The friendly modern one – Hotel Souvenir

Where to eat

As you will most likely be starting early, you may not have time for much of a breakfast.  In any event, you may choose to eat something light as the first part of the walk to Vernazza is the toughest section.  However, you can reward your efforts upon arrival by visiting Panifacio Focacceria, the town’s best bakery.  Pick up some pastries and head to the harbour to enjoy the view, food and achievement.

By the time you arrive in Corniglia, you may have worked up a small appetite.  We wouldn’t usually suggest only indulging in sweet treats, but as you’re working so hard, you deserve to treat yourself to some of the best ice-cream in Italy at Un Mare di Yogurt.

The last part of the walk is relatively gentle and by the time you arrive in Riomaggiore, you may be ready for a late lunch.  Il Pescato Cucinato is the perfect place to stop, being located close to the harbour and the train station.  It serves fabulous sea food in paper cones which you can take out into the sun to enjoy the view.

And don’t forget the lemonade stop on the route……you will regret missing out!

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.

Americas

Canadian Rail Journeys

Canada has a lot of ground to cover and is fortunate that the distances bring stunning views and varying scenery.  This is why a train journey across the land is the perfect way to visit a number of places without missing out on the hidden beauty in between.  There are so many rail journeys that you could take but we have looked at just two to whet your appetite.

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                    Photo by Abdallahh.

1. First Passage to the West: 2 Day Rail Journey

This is the only passenger rail service on this historic route and its construction is one of the most important in Canadian history as it united Canada from east to west.  This journey can be travelled from East to West or West to East.

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Day 1 Vancouver to Kamloops

You will experience dramatic changes in scenery, from the green fields of the Fraser River valley through forests and winding river canyons surrounded by the peaks of the Coast and Cascade mountains, to the desert-like environment of the interior.

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Vancouver. Photo by Austin Stanley.

Day 2 Kamloops to Lake Louise or Banff

You will travel along rocky lakeshores, over high mountain passes and through the remarkable tunnels that form part of the rich rail history of the Canadian Rockies. You will see the Kicking Horse Canyon, the Spiral Tunnels and the glaciers and snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies.  Your rail journey ends in Lake Louise or the resort town of Banff with road connections available on to Calgary.

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Kamploops. Photo by Kyle Pearce.

2. The Canadian: 4 Night Rail Journey

Linking Toronto and Vancouver, the Canadian is one of the world’s most legendary and popular rail journeys.  You don’t have to complete the full journey or complete it in one go.  You may choose to break the journey up by visiting Winnipeg or by seeing the Polar bears in Churchill, in Jasper or Edmonton and explore the Rockies.  You can also use it as a one way trip between Vancouver and Jasper, the journey from Kamloops is during the day and the scenery is stunning.

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        Jasper. Photo by Mack Male.

The Canadian runs three times a week in summer and twice a week in winter.

If you are interested in exploring Canada by train, please contact toni@holidaysplease.com or call 07951 219293 to find out more.

Americas

Magical Montreal

The Canadian city of Montreal is like no other.  It’s a unique melting pot of European style architecture, dramatic temperature extremes (spanning -30c to + 30c), a feisty and vibrant political scene, an even more vibrant nightlife scene and a cherished French language and cuisine.  Not to mention some inherently Canadian traits like the city’s passionate devotion to its ice hockey team, the Habs!

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You can easily find an abundance of general tourist information about Montreal on the internet.  So instead of an A to Z lowdown, here are some random gems of local knowledge I’ve picked up from the fun filled three years I’ve spent in this charming city:

  • If you’re visiting in the summer try and arrange your trip to coincide with one of the city’s epic, world-class festivals.  Personally I’d put the Montreal Jazz Festival top of the list, where last year we were fortunate enough to see Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, and several other top acts.  The Comedy Festival is also highly recommended and usually attracts several high profile Brits.  The July 2015 line-up includes Jimmy Carr, Sarah Millican and Russell Howard amongst others.  The Grand Prix, beer festival and Oshega weekend are also exciting times to plan a visit.
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  • Montreal is great for foodies. Our favourite restaurant is Restaurant de l’institut. It’s often overlooked by tourists as you need to book by email or phone in advance, but if you can organise yourself, it’s well worth it to be served excellent, creative menus by chefs in training (and it has the royal seal of approval after William & Kate visited it!).  Or if you want to splash out even more, Europea restaurant has some of the theatrics of a Heston Blumenthal dinner without quite such an eye watering price tag. For more cheap and cheerful options, Frites Alor and Trois Brasseurs are personal favourites.
  • In the winter there are few things more exhilarating than heading to one of the city’s parks (e.g. Parc la Fontaine) to ice skate on the frozen lakes (although the lack of rails means it’s not recommended for beginners) or driving to one of the ski slopes that are within an hour of the city.  In the summer you can find your adrenaline rush white water rafting down the Lachine rapids or on a segway tour around the Grand Prix track.
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  • There is a thriving craft beer scene which is worth exploring (just remember to tip, usually $1 per drink). Favourite brewpubs include L’amere a Boire and Benelux. Or if beer’s not your thing, be sure to check out Quebec’s ice cider which makes an excellent digestif.
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  • Aboard the stationary Bota Bota boat, spa lovers can enjoy an open-air jacuzzi boasting a stunning panoramic view of the city. It has lots of the original boat features including cute cubby holes filled with padded cushions that you can curl up in and watch the St Lawrence river drift by.

With a flight time from England of just seven hours, this captivating and cultured city deserves to be added to your travel wishlist!

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Thank you to Suzie Wood for writing this wonderful blog on Montreal and for her beautiful pictures captured throughout her time there.

Europe

Walking the Isle of Man

When you think of the Isle of Man, what most likely comes to mind is preconceived ideas of motorcycle racing, cats with no tails and a tax haven for the wealthy.  But what you may not realise is that it’s something of a walker’s delight as well.

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Niarbyl Sunset. Photo by Grant Matthews.

Located slap bang in the middle of the British Isles, the island is 220 square miles in size, with no place on it more than approximately 7 miles from the coast.  That in itself is a great attraction for walkers; the prospect of frequent sea views and the difficulty in getting lost, which also makes it attractive for the casual walker.  The island’s geology gives it a tremendously wide range of scenery – from wild moorland and woody glens, to dramatic cliffs with crashing seas.  It has just one mountain, Snaefell, standing at 621 metres above sea level, which many will wish to conquer.  It’s an easy one to bag as the Victorian electric railway takes you up from the Bungalow Station in mere minutes.  More discerning walkers can take the 40 minute hike up, but better still would be to look elsewhere on the island for rambling inspiration.

A few years ago, I completed a 15 mile walk from the pretty seaside town of Port Erin to the island’s former capital, Peel.  A beautiful coastal walk, it took in three significant ascents and certainly some stamina, but was ultimately extremely rewarding.  The initial ascent up Bradda Head takes you to a commemorative plaque where Kodak’s “World’s Best Photograph 1931” was won, and about half way along the route I came across Niarbyl, where the thatched cottage scenes from the movie “Waking Ned” were filmed.  Apparently the Isle of Man looks more like Ireland than Ireland does!  The final descent over Corrins Hill into Peel as the sun melted into the Irish Sea was a truly magical moment, topped off with a much-deserved pint of local Manx ale at The Creek Inn.

The island has several official long distance paths.  The Millennium Way is 23 miles in length and follows the old route of kings from Ramsey in the north to Castletown in the south.  The walk gets you away from the coast and gives you the opportunity to explore more inland scenery, some of which certainly resembles the Lake District.  It is achievable in one day, but can be conveniently split into two days by stopping over at Crosby, for those who wish to savour it.

The 14 mile Herring Way follows, as the name suggests, the old fishermen’s roads, and is a great path on which to enjoy a balance of coastal scenery and quaint glens and woodland.  There is also the opportunity to take a modest diversion to ascend South Barrule, where you will be rewarded with a stunning view over countryside and sea.

For the most committed of walkers, there is the official coastal path (the “Raad ny Follian”), a 96 mile footpath round the whole coastline.  Typically starting at the island’s capital, Douglas, It’ll take about a week to complete, with accommodation on or near the route readily available.  The path winds its way along the coast, yes, but also a nature reserve, a disused railway, fishing villages and numerous sites of historical interest.

Want to know more?  Take Terry Marsh’s excellent walking guide with you for a superb variety of walking inspiration.

When:  Avoid late May, early June and early September, when the island is invaded by motorbike enthusiasts for the TT Races and Manx Grand Prix.

How: Aer Lingus, British Airways, Citywing, Easyjet and Flybe all serve the island’s only airport at Ronaldsway.  Regular buses go to and from the airport linking it to Douglas, Peel and Castletown.  You can catch the ferry from Heysham or Liverpool but this is often more expensive and time consuming.

Ben Sharp

Europe

10 Things to do in Tenerife

  • Visit the Agromercado in Costa Adeje.  This is a farmers market where locals do their shopping.  When we visited, we were the only British there and so it’s a great way to test your Spanish!  We were self catering and so stocked up with a few things for the week and cooked some tasty meals with this delicious fresh produce.
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  • Loro Parque is a conservation park in the usually cooler part of the island, Puerto de la Cruz, and is great for all ages and particularly good for families.  There is an option at the beginning to upgrade (you can go behind the scenes, have lunch included, a guided tour and reserved seating to allow for the best views) and we recommend you do.  It’s such a huge park and by doing this, we felt we made the most of our time there.
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  • Candelaria is a lovely place to wander around.  The Basilica of Candelaria is quite impressive and if you venture up the hill, you can take a lovely photo of the square.  Another good thing about this place is that it has great ice-cream shops!
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  • Mount Tiede is something not to miss.  The journey there is quite long but there are lots of pretty villages to stop at along the way and pine forests which are heavily and beautifully scented.  You can take a cable car almost to the top and so make sure you bring a cardigan or something warmer with you as you really feel the temperature drop.  You can climb the final 200m but will need a permit which you can get online in advance for free.
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  • Possibly the best water park in Europe, Siam Park is great for families, couples and groups.  Some of the hotels include entry within their price and so if you’re into your water parks, this may be something to consider.
  • The Pyramids at Guimar is an historical site with a small garden of poisonous plants to look at!  Uniquely, this is one of the very few places on the planet where you can witness a double sunset behind twin peaks.
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  • La Oratava is on the way to Loro Parque and we managed to see this town and the Parque in one day.  The main attraction is Casa de los Balcones but there are also some beautiful gardens and again, some very pretty streets to wander.
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  • We ventured away from the tourists to Poris de Abona and sampled fine tapas and very inexpensive wine whilst looking out to sea.  We picked a place right on the seafront at the very far end, almost hidden away.  It was so tiny with just a handful of tables (pictured).
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  • Tenerife is known for its dolphin watching trips and so make sure you hop on board when you’re there.
  • There are also lots of Watersports on offer for the more active holidaymakers from jet skiing, parascending, paddle surfing, flyboarding and of course….the banana boat!