Click on here to read about the prettiest town in the world . . .Hallstatt in Austria.
Cruising in luxury is attainable. But be warned, once experienced . . . you can never go back .
To experience a small ship, elegant surroundings, gourmet bespoke restaurants, places to visit that only small ships can snuggle into and . . . to have a butler on hand is something to save and strive for.
OK, this takes money but so do other cruises that aren’t so exclusive . . . so pick your luxury cruise and work towards it. This will be an incredible experience, and quite likely ruin you for any mega ship trips.
Silversea Cruises was, and is my company of choice for the ultimate ‘spoil yourself rotten’ experience. Our ship from the fleet is Silver Muse.
Sliversea Cruises has itineraries that will take you to ply the waters of many countries and continents across the world.
My cruise was from Singapore to Bali. We overnighted at the elegant Shangri-La in Singapore and took off the next morning for a luxurious, soft cruisy adventure.
We were welcomed onboard warmly by white-gloved staff and promptly escorted to our suite. A large suite opened up with fresh flowers on the table, a bottle of bubbly on ice, a large balcony and two tricky TV’s that were really mirrors that were also TV’s. (I suddenly became technically challenged re the mirrored tv – one in front of the bed and one in the ‘living’ room.) Our butler smoothly fixed it all – with no judgement.
Around the world and around the clock, every suite comes with a dedicated butler to pamper you with personalised attention and take care of every detail of the voyage
As the ship departed Singapore my sense of well-being was at an all-time high and my sense of adventure on alert!
We explored the ship to scope out where all the restaurants were located and planned to try all of them before the cruise ended. The main restaurant, The Restaurant is where our first meal was tasted and we ate outside with new friends. From that night on whether at breakfast, lunch or dinner – the staff remembered how I like my coffee and which brand of tea I preferred. From the first meal, gastronomic excellence was on the menu – and we tried and tested every meal – and could not find fault. As if.
After a gentle sleep out first day was at sea. A day to be pampered at the Zagara Spa – nothing like a good massage to get the endorphins into shape.
We checked out the boutique, small with selective items, the theatre, the intimate nooks to read and relax and enjoyed lunch on the pool deck – a casual plate of curry with a cold beer set the tone for the afternoon.
Jakarta hadn’t made my ‘must visit’ travel list so the excursion on the second day was a dive into the sprawling, traffic-crazed place that was a frenetic introduction to a city swelling with 18 million inhabitants.
The city displays the richness of the new buildings, malls, business centres and fancy hotels alongside rows of shanty homes and evidence of entrenched poverty.
No apologies for anything in Jakarta and best way to enjoy is to take in the museums, central Jakarta’s towering National Monument or somewhere more my speed, Jalan Surabaya’s gaggle of shops and kiosks where there is eclectic items for sale. Retro rules here and you can pick up old Elvis records, vintage handbags or curious art pieces.
My favourite stop in Jakarta was in the Old Town, where all of life is seen in Fatahilla Square. This is where the famous Wayang Museum (founded in 1975) houses exquisite puppets from all regions of Indonesia and neighbouring countries. The museum is built on a site that dates back to 1640.
But we almost missed the highlight of the square, Café Batavia. We had been looking for love in all the wrong places! This divine café hails from the 1830s and oozes character. Colonial style furniture in dark wood and tall slatted windows, Dutch-era food blended with the spices of Indonesia, invite you in. We missed what was coming in the evening though – live music on stage every night.
Out of the steamy heat of the spice islands and onboard the Silver Muse for the promise of a grand evening ahead in the prettiest restaurant on the ship – Indochine – for an elegant array of tastings from the Asian region reflected in the name.
Next day after breakfast in bed (ooooh the luxury of this), thank you our fave butler. And today was freewheeling on an island by ourselves. A quick tender trip to Karimunjawa, a tropical hideaway where the Silver Muse staff had set up food and drinks while us spoilt passengers swam and lazed about. A grand day indeed.
After such a big day out – it was pizzas on deck and a movie afterwards.
And the exploration continues. Next day we berth in the intriguing port of Semarang, with its network of narrow canals. The city is a mix of various times in history Chinese, Dutch, Javanese influences are seen in temples, mosques and lattice-fronted cottages. Then a drive to the mother load – Borobudur – one of the most photographed Buddhist shrines on the world.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, this massive complex is the ultimate guide to enlightenment. Surrounded by lush scenic forests and trimmed gardens the mountainous structure sprawls and invites the hardy to climb, and climb and climb. I didn’t quite reach Nirvana (it was too hot) but got a few spiritual stamps for my effort.
It was built around 780-850AD and wasn’t exposed to western eyes until 1814 when Thomas Stamford Raffles stumbled up it (he really got around didn’t he?).
After our architectural, spiritual and physical exertions we were lead to a covered annex, where lunch was and were entertained by a local traditional dance troupe.
Another long day and time to try the Atlantide restaurant which is so popular that we had to book the day before.
What a gloriously luxurious cruise this has been. And not a stuffy note on any given day.
And towards the end of the journey we counted our ship experiences against the excursions – it was a tie! Well, maybe except for the trivia afternoons – it got pretty damn competitive, but fun.
Sad to leave the stunning Silver Muse to re-join the real life but as we left we gave a list of our favourite places to our butler and his mate our room attendant who were going to have a couple of days off in Sydney soon. Sharing the love. It’s all relative isn’t it.
No, I’m not being lazy . . .well, maybe I am, but I wasn’t lazy putting this magazine together. Great stories, fab freelance writers (if you want to hire them, contact me) and a magazine full of inspiration.
You are a tourist but you need not be so obvious – try the ‘blend in’ tactic.
It’s funny that we recognise other tourists when we are travelling, there’s a certain gauche appearance to some, a gawky look to others, a ‘look at me’ image and a ‘I don’t care what the culture is, I’m wearing this’ attitude, and we see someone who had no idea what the weather was going to be like and is inappropriately dressed for the current climate. And then we pass a window and see our reflection . . .eek! Let’s address the dress code.
I can always pick the older Aussie male traveller (and the older Americans too). The big white sneakers and socks pulled half-way up the calf and the men are wearing shorts.
Now, shorts are fine in the tropics, beach resorts or cruise days. But. You are a standout tourist in sophisticated cities.
For ease and comfort while being a tourist, try to blend in.
Wear it well!
Nothing shouts ‘tourist’ more than bulky sneakers, a backpack with a logo, and sometimes a bad hat – think foldable, terry towelling or canvas. And garments sold as ‘vacation wear’ marketed to travellers are dead giveaways. Locals do not wear zip-off pants in khaki or colours as muddy as that.
If you’re travelling for a couple of weeks, invest in a good Panama hat (the authentic Panama’s roll up nicely and you can wear them for years) or wear or a subtle baseball cap. OR just buy a cheap hat in Asia and ditch it before you depart the country.
And don’t wear loud T-shirts or sweat shirts announcing that you’re an Aussie. No political messages or what you deem amusing either. For men and women, plain T-shirts and cotton classic shirts.
If in a cold country, don’t look as if you’ve never known cold before. A good parka and a classy scarf and warm hat helps you blend in. You don’t need to be in a Michelin Man puffer jacket, unless you’re in Siberia in the winter!
And never wear a bumbag (or as the Americans call them ‘fanny packs’), they not only spell tourist, they spell ‘person with terrible taste’, they are a crime against fashion . . . and humanity.
Conclusion: avoid bright colours and logos, electronic gear in plain sight and glittery jewellery.
Sometimes we can be rather overdressed.
Pack a couple of smart outfits to wear if you are to attend a concert or splurge on a fancy restaurant. You’d be surprised at how many travellers turn up to the opera in Vienna or at the theatre in London wearing what looks like yesterday’s borrowed bushwalking gear!
Now, this is a good look.
Where you go
The art of blending in is best achieved by quietly fitting in without anyone noticing. Begin without walking around with a giant map in your hands. Use a map on your phone and don’t stop in the middle of the street, road, a crowd to consult your phone map. Find a quiet spot to find your bearings.
Embrace the art of ‘slow travel’. Don’t rush everywhere to see everything. Enjoy long, slow breakfasts in local cafes or leisurely picnics in parks. And on the perimeter of tourist sites you’ll be less of a target for pickpockets.
Sometimes it’s hard to blend in.
In Paris? London? New York? Book a haircut at a fancy hairdressing salon. You’ll look and feel a million bucks.
Need a new coat? Hit the sales in Los Angeles or Las Vegas at the amazing Outlet stores or sale time in Milan. Yet again, you’ll look as cool as a local and you’ll bring a beautiful garment home with you.
And chaps – ditch the baggy-bum Dad jeans – buy yourself some new jeans (preferably dark blue or black) and some fashionable chinos.
And if you have to wait for a bus in a foreign land, just dress to impress.
The flagship airline of a country has a lot to live up to; this one goes above and beyond for comfort and service.
Comfort when flying? It’s many things to many people. But, speaking for myself and if I’m not at the pointy end of the plane, which I rarely am, I have to consider what I require to stay sane and flexible for more than four hours on a plane.
First, there’s the fare. I do look around but cheapest is not always the bestest! But early booking and keeping an eye on seasonal newsletters and talking to your travel agent can often yield a damn good fare.
Second – the seat. Now, I’m about 167c tall so I go for extra space and comfort in economy. Various airlines have premium seating which offers space and comfort and often a heftier price tag than the experience warrants.
My sweet comfort spot was found last year when I flew to the USA from Sydney via Honolulu with Hawaiian Airlines. They had me at ‘comfort seat’.
And I repeated the experience again this year. Recently I tried another option to entering the US and I am a happy traveller.
I flew from Sydney to Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines (grabbed a couple of days in Hawaii) and then flew on to the States and instead of landing at LAX, I landed in Long Beach.
I had a three-day stopover on Maui (flew to Maui on Hawaiian Airlines too). From Honolulu the next leg was fab because I was about to land in an airport that wasn’t going to do my head in – as Los Angeles does.
Hawaiian now flies into Long Beach and it’s a breath of fresh air. The flight takes five and a half hours and there’s a flight daily.
At nine at night the airport is calm and welcoming.
Long Beach Airport.
Touch down is Long Beach Airport. What a dream. We landed after 10pm and the airport was cool, calm and we collected our baggage with very little drama. And because all the passport formalities are taken care of in Hawaii – this being a domestic port – a smooth walk through to find a taxi.
Long Beach Airport is a fantastic place for Australians travelling to California for the usual destinations, (particularly good for families heading to Anaheim for Disneyland as the airport is easier to navigate the family through). To fly there with Hawaiian via Hawaii gives you the opportunity to have a couple of little holidays on the way to the main event. Stopover in Honolulu for fun, the beach and shopping, and experience the charm of Long Beach.
Always, service with a smile.
Now back to the flight. Hawaiian Airlines premium product, Extra Comfort is just that. The Extra Comfort seats on the Airbus A330 and A321neo aircraft offer extra leg room, priority services and additional amenities to make the travel experience more comfortable. Se, back to comfort again.
For guest sitting in Extra Comfort there’s your personal electrical power outlet for convenient charging devices; a comfort kit provides ear phones, ear plugs, an eyeshade, toothbrush and paste, hydrating mist, lotion, lip balm, tissue, a bamboo comb and a Hawaiian Airlines pen, all contained in a cute canvas bag.
And you get Priority Security, the line is a separate line from the general security line. They still go through the TSA security screening process but is usually a shorter and faster line than the general security line. Available in Boston, Honolulu, Long Beach, New York, Oakland, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Extra Comfort is priced per flight sector. The current pricing for Extra Comfort SYD-HNL is AUD$179 if bought online (that is – prior to arrival at airport) and the HNL-LGB sector is priced at AUD$105. FYI – Extra Comfort pricing varies per sector. And the best news on this flight is the luggage allowance. YAY! It’s 64kg (2 x 32kg).
Travellers love shopping in Honolulu. There is a wonderful variety of goods to gather and the amazing Ala Moana Shopping Center and outlet malls have quality goods, clothes, accessories, sports shoes, kids clothes and so much more.
So, to take only a few things with you and fill up those lonely luggage spaces on holidays without the worry of paying excess at the airport is inspiring for the expert shopper.
Hawaiian Airlines is a total destination carrier that exudes the culture of the islands and a fine way to get to mainland USA.
All announcements on the flight ended with the word ‘mahalo’ which is an expression of thanks or respect and an acknowledgment that we were flying Hawaiian airlines. (Hawaiians are conservative and polite so they’d never dream of not saying Mahalo when it is appropriate. If you want to be formal and show that are feeling grateful you would say: “Mahalo Nui Loa.”)
So I’ll say “Mahalo Nui Loa”.
And there’s more . . . sorry, no steak knives but . . .
Hawaiian Airlines now has a five-day-a-week service between Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) and Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) its second East Coast gateway for Australian travellers visiting the United States Mainland.
So, what’s that I hear? Boston is on the agenda for the next US holiday?
Hawaiian Airlines ticks the boxes for value for money and Extra Comfort.
The writer flew courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines, and the review is independent.
I was enjoying a story by the fabulous writer, Christine Retschlag, on her experience in Kenya for https://www.dumbofeather.com/articles/out-of-africa/
While I was reading it I was remembering back over 22 years ago when I first visited Kenya and indeed the African continent. It was early days for international travel writing for me and this trip showed me how curious and weird some trips can get. In fact, it was good travel training ground for me.
When we arrived in Nairobi we waited for more than an hour to retrieve our luggage. Nah. It hadn’t made it from the plane in Jo’burg to our Nairobi destination. This was before social media, mobile phone, the internet to assist,so panic set in and many phone calls were made. Nah. Not happening.
We were to go to Amboseli the following morning with or without luggage.
There was only one other female travel writer on this trip so we headed into town to shop for basics. We figured we could get away with two pair of panties, one pair of Khaki knee-length shorts, two big khaki t-shirts worn several fetching ways. We purchased shorts and t-shirts but we found cheap sneakers and panties at a hardware shop. Delicate little pink and blue knickers were folded alongside various types of hammers and pliers. Ok, that was a first.
The following morning we were driving out of town and I thought we should try the airport one more time. Hail, hail Olympic Airlines – it had transfered our luggage and it was in a holding cage waiting for us.
On we drove through towns that consisted of four or five buildings, little shop fronts and they were all either barbers or butcher shops. At one stop I looked across the road at an expanse of vacant land and two giraffes were taking the morning air. Odd.
You can see Mt Kilimanjaro on a clear day from Serena Amboseli.
We arrived at the Amboseli safari/resort/hotel place and I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me as fine shadows were zipping across the painted and polished concrete floor of the foyer. As I walked the path to my habitat I say little fluffy bottoms poking out of holes in the stone walls. Then I saw the creature above my door – and immediately became a fan of the quirky hyraxes.
The hyrax, a small furry mammal is also called a rock rabbit or dassie. It looks like a robust, oversized guinea pig, or a rabbit with rounded ears and no tail and it mostly has a grumpy little face. Hyraxes have stumpy toes with hoof-like nails; and four toes on each front foot and three on each back foot. And they are distantly related to the elephant – true – do your research.
They are endearing. The following morning I looked out my window to the pool below and could see a great mound of (maybe 20) hyrax piled tenuously on a sunbed taking some early morning rays.
That night around a campfire we drank and smoked (those were the days) and eventually toddled off to our rooms. On the way I slipped on the polished concrete and the ankle twist was so fierce that I went into shock, I couldn’t speak, threw up and almost passed out. One of my travelling companions lazily propped me up against a wall and said to one of the concerned staff “my wife is drunk, watch her while I go to the toilet”. The staff member helped me hobble to my room. I was mortified and speechless and planned my revenge.
The following day we were to meet the people of the Maasai tribe close by. The welcome dance was energetic, much leaping into the air. With my buggered ankle this was not possible for me to join the airlifts. But the young tribal leader – Bruce – yes, that was his name, took me into his house for a visit. The tiny hut house, closed up on a hot day with the animals in the pen inside and the aroma of sour milk did me in and I almost passed out on Bruce’s bed. As he guided me out of the door I was swooning with nausea and threw up at his doorstep. I still feel shame.
There were many little adventures on that particular journey and lessons learned:
- Always get out of bed before dawn to go animal spotting. I was tired, in pain and grumpy and every night promised myself that I would sleep in. Bugger the dawn patrol. Every morning I did get up and had some wondrous sightings of animals including lions and cheetahs.
- Always have items of clothing that you are willing to part with. We were in the backblocks of nowhere and we stopped for a rest from the bouncing, jiggling, pounding driving experience of speeding along roads that were really just a series of deep potholes joined together with spit and a prayer. I waved to a man plowing the ground with a farm implement that was ancient and strapped around his neck. He wandered over for a chat and a smoke (smoking was so social back in the day) and noticed he was wearing a pair of black pants with braces and an old dinner jacket. I thought he would look much more fetching if he had a white shirt to complete his ensemble. I whipped off my shirt (singlet underneath) and gave it to him. He was thrilled and dressed himself and went back to work. There was a scrub farmer looking damn dapper in a Carla Zampatti shirt – couple of seasons old but hey!
- Take jelly snakes with you. This is how international relations with kids is forged. And with adults too.
Towards the end of the trip we took the ‘Lunatic LIne’ (the Nairobi to Mombasa train route). It was an hilarious journey with large bowls of soup being sloshed around the dining car, warnings to keep our windows shut from the top bunk in case of ‘nibbling animals’. But the best part of the train trip was my opportunity for revenge on my fellow traveller. I had waited for eight days.
He was languishing in his cabin with a terrible gasto/vomiting affliction, we visited him regularly with commiserations and acts of kindness. I opened the door and asked how he was and he just moaned, I then asked him if he “would like a fish milkshake with a hair in it”, which sent him into a violent paroxysm – as they say in Kenya – “Shame”.
The writer’s photos of that trip have been lost in time but not memory.
In 1996 at the Australian Society of Travel Writers annual awards night I was named Travel Writer of the Year. Then there were only two writing categories – consumer and trade. Consumer stories had to include three published features. Mine were Nashville; Egypt and the trip called Postcards from Kenya.
I was the second female to take the prize – the first being Susan Kurosawa.
A museum of the waltz king
Johann Strauss (1825-1899), known to family and friends as Schani, his father Johann and his brothers Josef and Eduard took the world by storm with their music. With 1,500 works between them, from Die Fledermaus and The Radetzky March to the Blue Danube Waltz, they embody Viennese music like no others. Their waltz and operetta melodies can be heard in the capital’s concert halls throughout the year as well as at the traditional New Year’s Concert which is broadcast all over the world from the Golden Hall of the Musikverein.
It goes without saying that there is a Johann Strauss monument in Vienna. This golden statue of the waltz king playing his violin can be found in the Stadtpark, a short distance from the Kursalon. The Vienna Philharmonic played at its unveiling in 1921 and today it is one of the most photographed sights in the city. Johann Strauss II composed Vienna’s unofficial anthem The Blue Danube in an apartment at Praterstrasse 54 in the second district in 1867 where he lived with his first wife Jetty from 1863-1870. In addition to original furnishings and period instruments, exhibits include everyday objects from the great musician’s estate as well as portraits, photos, and documents on his life and work. The waltz king was laid to rest at Vienna’s legendary Central Cemetery, near the graves of Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms and Johann Strauss the Elder.
- Museum of the Johann Strauss Dynasty, Müllnergasse 3, 1090 Vienna, www.strauss-museum.at
- Johann Strauss Memorial, Stadtpark, 1010 Vienna
- Johann Strauss Apartment, Praterstrasse 54, 1020 Vienna, www.wienmuseum.at
- Central Cemetery, Simmeringer Hauptstrasse 234, 1110 Vienna, www.friedhoefewien.at
The waltz began as a dance of rebellion, embraced by teens and sneered at by conservative parents. When the dance first whirled through the ballrooms of Vienna, it caused an outrage and marked a decisive shift in European social customs.
The dance’s origins are probably humble. Its name comes from walzen— “to turn” in German—and may have developed out of the folk music of Austria’s western Tyrol region (although some authors associate its choreography with the volta, a 16th-century couples dance). Whatever its exact origin, by the late 1700s the waltz spread throughout Europe. The dance craze was particularly popular among young people from the wealthy middle classes, the perfect expression of a new, confident bourgeoisie, who were discarding the aristocratic customs of their elders.
A scene from 1774 novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, by J. W. von Goethe, describes a ball that begins with stuffy minuets until a new tune is struck: “When the waltz commenced, and the dancers whirled around each other in the giddy maze . . . Never did I dance more lightly. I felt myself more than mortal, holding this loveliest of creatures in my arms, flying, with her as rapidly as the wind, till I lost sight of every other object.”
In 1833 a British manual of good manners recommended only married women should dance it, as it was too immoral for the unwed.
Denver has been the subject of many songs by famous artists especially native son the late John Denver, but my fave is by Jimmy Buffet:
I’m about a mile high in Denver
Where the rock meets timberline
I’ve walked this ground from town to town
Just to finally call it mine
Dating back to the Old West era, Denver is definitely oh, so 21st century.
Denver, the capital of Colorado, features landmark 19th-century buildings, museums that include the Denver Art Museum, an ultramodern complex known for its collection of indigenous works, and the mansion of famed Titanic survivor Molly Brown.
At the end of the 16th Street Mall, cross the road to visit the Union Station, a splendid example of 19th century architecture. Once a bustling transit institution, but as roads and flight took goods across the state lines, the station’s use declined. But it’s now back in business as a bus and rail terminal and a lovely hotel is inside the original building as the Crawford Hotel.
The main hall is now a café, bar, lounge area full of gentle buzzing conversation and good vibes. Everyone welcome as long as you ‘be nice’. Union Station is located in LoDo (Lower Downtown), Denver’s vibrant oldest neighbourhood – check out the city’s best known restaurants, galleries, shops, and boutiques.
The revitalised Union Station is part of the refurb of the LoDo area of Denver.
Denver is also a jumping-off point for ski resorts in the nearby Rocky Mountains. It’s a university town and there’s a lot of sporty stuff going on here. And in Denver you will find the highest concentration of recreational marijuana stores in Colorado, with a large number of select stores selling recreational and medical marijuana. Marijuana stores in Denver are required to close by 10pm. See https://www.coloradopotguide.com/where-to-buy-marijuana/colorado/denver/ just sayin’ (it is legal).
It’s called the Mile High City because it is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level (1.6km).
I believe that as the cowboys galloped into town all those years ago and helped grow this city, it was today’s hipsters who moseyed into town in their electric cars, wearing man buns and sporting old school beards that have put the edge on Denver.
It’s always been known as a friendly, easygoing place but the hospitality bar has been raised up and up.
The local Beer Trail boasts an extraordinary craft beer culture – home to Colorado’s oldest and largest beer pubs, and if the beery brew isn’t to your taste there’s a slew of cafes serving coffee that even Aussie coffee snobs approve of.
If you are a Super Bowl fan this is the home of the Denver Broncos and their home is the Mile High Stadium which is open for a walking tour through the hallowed halls.
The main drag is the 16th Street Mall, a pedestrian and transit mall is 1.25 miles long, runs along 16th Street in downtown Denver. Stroll it and shop, stop and eat or drink or catch the free tram from one end to the other.
Just outside of town is the amazing natural amphitheatre Red Rocks where everyone from Bruce Springsteen to U2 have performed. To see a concert here is an out of body experience. The sun goes down, the rocks surrounding you are in sharp contrast to the blackening sky, the lights go up and the music begins!
Culture rules in Denver from high to low – rock to symphony, traditional art to an outdoor gallery of topical wall art, fast food to high table cuisine.
Writer, Bev Malzard squealed when she found out she was going to a concert at Red Rocks to see local boys made good – One Republic (Shooting Stars) . . . oh what a night. And would recommend anyone who enjoys music of any sort to do some research before you travel anywhere and book seats for a concert so you can immerse yourself totally in the music, the scene and with the locals.
AVERAGE FLIGHT TIME LAX-DEN 2hrs 20 mins
BEST TIME TO VISIT April through May and September through October. The city’s shoulder seasons are characterized by comfortable temperatures,
Plenty of street art around town, this bold pour of milk splash is coming from the Dairy Market building.
I love cities that have many layers of history, where the stones speak of grim deeds, majestic events, innovative creations and the odd ghost. If your itinerary allows – spend some time in the atmospheric and elegant city of York, in Yorkshire, the UK’s second mediaeval city. Eat, drink, sleep and play – all budgets catered to.
Vikings, Romans and chocolate have all left a lasting impression on the historic city of York. Encircled by impressive ancient walls (the City Walls form a walkway on both sides of the River Ouse), it has a long and varied history. York has been named the most haunted city in Europe – a fact enhanced by the city’s many ancient and shadowy snickelways (a local term for narrow lanes, passageways and alleys).
York also boasts the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, as well as the largest railway museum in the world, plus it has a comprehensive calendar of events and festivals, including the February Jorvik Viking Festival, March’s York Literature Festival, and September’s York Food & Drink Festival.
Not to forget the world-class horseracing meetings held from May to October each year at York Races – a favourite among racegoers since it was founded in 1731.
The York Minster is a magnificent building inside and outside. Construction in timber began in 627 and stands today as testament to overcoming invasion, war, vandalism, religious persecution and every damn thing humans could throw at it.
Modern day saints
My favourite little statues (above) can be found up above at the back of nave, above the entrance to York Minster. They are actually Semaphore Saints, each of them represents a letter. The twelve headless saints holding haloes are signalling in semaphore. Semaphore is a way of sending a message without a mobile phone! Using two flags, or in this case haloes, each letter of the alphabet has its own signal. Artists Terry Hammill carved these stautues for an exhibition in 2004.
During the sixteenth century Protestant reformers accused Catholics of praying to statues. In a bid to stop this they attacked statues, either getting rid of them completely or making them unrecognisable by removing the heads and haloes and the objects that identified them. There are many instances of this kind of damage in the Minster. The Semaphore Saints pay tribute to all thse that have lost their heads.
Set in a charming Victorian rectory, the Parisi is a small, friendly and affordable hotel. Or, with 101 rooms, casual restaurant, and a sumptuous colour palate inspired by York’s chocolate heritage, there’s the InterContinental Hotel Group’s boutique Hotel Indigo York.
And housed in the iconic former headquarters of the North Eastern Railway Company, The Grand Hotel & Spa is the city’s only five-star hotel, providing fabulous first-class service and facilities.
10:00 Step up to York’s highest point
The largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, York Minster took 250 years to build, from 1220 till its consecration in 1472. This hallowed landmark impresses with dazzling stained glass, historic artefacts and awe-inspiring architecture. It’s open for sightseeing every day, as well as for regular services, concerts and events (including the famous York Mystery Plays). For magnificent views, climb 275 winding steps, passing medieval pinnacles and gargoyles, to the top of the Minster’s central tower – the highest point in all of York.
11:30 Circumnavigate the city walls
Familiarise yourself with York by taking a walk around the City Walls. At 3.4km long, they are the longest and best-preserved medieval city walls in England. Taking approximately two hours to complete the entire circuit, you may prefer to focus on just a few sections – in which case, the Friends of York Walls website suggests various routes and trails.
13:30 Take away a ‘Shambles’ lunch
While exploring the Shambles, York’s oldest street, grab lunch from Shambles Kitchen. Famous for its pulled pork sandwich, other healthy options include street food boxes, soups and smoothies.
14:30 See the return of a steam-era superstar
The Flying Scotsman (a locomotive flagship for modernity in 1924) in York’s National Railway Museum had a complex and lengthy £4.2million overhaul three years ago. This is the largest railway museum in the world, other attractions include the mighty Mallard, which has held the world speed record for steam locomotives since 1938, the massive Chinese Engine, presented to the museum by the Chinese Government, and the only Shinkansen (Japanese Bullet Train) outside of Japan.
16:00 Go back in time for afternoon tea on a train
Travel back in time to an era of luxury railway dining aboard the Countess of York, a beautifully restored rail carriage stationed in the South Gardens of the National Railway Museum. Its Afternoon Tea is a civilised treat with a Yorkshire twist: sandwiches and savouries include Yorkshire blue cheese and red onion marmalade tart, scones are baked to a traditional Yorkshire recipe, and homemade fancies include Parkin crème brulee. Choose a fine leaf tea by Taylor’s of Harrogate.
17:00 Spot the little devil of Stonegate
Lined with shops, Stonegate is one of York’s most fascinating and photogenic streets. Craftsmen including goldsmiths and stained-glass makers had premises here in the Middle Ages, many leaving their mark on the historic buildings. The little red devil outside No. 33 was a traditional symbol of a printer – a printer’s apprentice being known as a “printer’s devil”.
18:30 Start dinner with proper Yorkshire puddings
The cousin of Michelin-starred country eatery The Star Inn, stylish The Star Inn The City specialises in authentic and delicious Yorkshire cooking. Yorkshire Puddings were traditionally served before, not with, a main meal – just as they are here. Other local flavours include Whitby crab, confit of east Yorkshire duck leg and plenty of Yorkshire beef. Served until 19.00, their two-course Market Menu is ideal for lunch or pre-theatre.
19:30 Open the curtains on a new production
A leading British theatre, York Theatre Royal has produced great drama for more than 250 years. Reopening in spring 2016 after a major £4.1million redevelopment project, productions include Shakespeare, opera, ballet and plays by famous UK and international playwrights.
10:00 Invade William the Conqueror’s ruined castle
William the Conqueror built York Castle in 1068 shortly after the Norman Conquest, to cement his status over this former Viking city. The castle endured a tumultuous early history and its keep, known as Clifford’s Tower, is almost all that remains. Standing high on its mound, this medieval ruin has served as a prison and a royal mint in its time. Once a lookout point for castle guards, the open-air wall walk at the top provides wonderful far-reaching views.
11:00 Experience prison life, the First World War & the Swinging Sixties
An increased demand for prison capacity in York in the 18th century required the construction of two new prison buildings below Clifford’s Tower: The Female Prison and Debtors’ Prison. These now form the York Castle Museum, with exhibitions illustrating York’s social and military history. Popular attractions for all the family include a recreated Victorian cobbled street with authentic shops, schoolroom, police cell and Hansom cab. Other galleries give a sense of prison life, portray the horror of the First World War, and recreate the spirit of the 1960s.
13:30 Confront a Fat Rascal at Bettys
The founder of Bettys Café Tea Rooms travelled on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary in 1936, and was so enthralled that he commissioned the same designers and craftsmen to create this elegant café – and it soon became a local landmark. Although there are plenty of tempting treats, Bettys is renowned for the Fat Rascal: an oval teacake with currants and candied peel, it goes well with a cup of Yorkshire tea.
14:30 See a sweet side to the city
While neighbouring towns made their wealth from wool, cotton and steel, York made its profits from chocolate. Some of the world’s best-known names in chocolate were concocted in York. Joseph Rowntree created bestselling brands including Kit Kat, Smarties and Aero, while Joseph Terry gave us the Chocolate Orange and All Gold collection – inextricably linked with York’s social and industrial past, these sweet empires are now part of Nestlé and Mondelēz International respectively. You’ll find evidence of this chocolate heritage throughout York. Goddard’s, the Terry family’s beautiful Arts and Crafts style home, is now owned by the National Trust and is open to the public. A major visitor attraction, York’s Chocolate Story, tells the rich tale of chocolate and confectionery in the city. There are also chocolate-themed walking trails, chocolate-making workshops, even an annual chocolate festival.
16:30 Get a chocolate retail fix
Chocolate connoisseurs should head to Monk Bar Chocolatiers, York’s longest established artisan chocolatiers.
19:00 Dine in a former brothel
Enjoy casual yet decadent dining at The Blue Bicycle, a former 19th-century brothel overlooking the River Foss. Couples may share a romantic meal in one of the original private vaulted booths, while old photographs of exotic girls are reminders of the building’s historic improprieties.
20:00 Unearth York’s spookiest secrets
York has a spooky past. Infamous highwayman Dick Turpin was executed here in 1739, and local folklore is full of similar tales of tragedy and death. Experience the shadowy side of York on one of numerous nightly ghost walks. These include the Original Ghost Walk of York. The eerie apparitions you’ll hear about include the Grey Lady, the Headless Earl, and the Legendary Legionnaires. Rather not walk? Try the Ghost Bus Tour, a professional comedy theatre company who present a mix of thrills, chills and chuckles on board a former funeral bus.
21:30 Whisky, gin…or a ghostly spirit
Afterwards, steady your nerve with a stiff drink at The Golden Fleece hotel, York’s most haunted pub. Said to have five resident spirits, there have been numerous reports of ghostly apparitions and moving furniture. Or sample a vast range of local and international craft ales at The House of the Trembling Madness, an atmospheric ale shop and inn that also serves pub food, snacks and shareable platters.
Writer’s tip: York is in the county of Yorkshire in the north of England, two hours north of London by train. The nearest international airports are Leeds-Bradford and Manchester Airport. Best to fly into Manchester and catch the train to York– quick as a wink!
I was so excited to finally visit the Blue Pearl – Chefchaouen in Morocco. Seeing images of the pretty town for years made me wary that I might be disappointed. No. This small city does not disappoint.
How many words for blue? How many shades of blue are there? Baby blue, azure, cobalt, pale blue, indigo, sky blue, navy blue, teal, sapphire, cornflour, periwinkle, Marjorelle blue, powder blue, electric blue . . . this could go on for many more words. And many of these shades are seen on the walls of the building of Chefchaouen and indeed dotted throughout streets in other Moroccan cities.
A bustling town high in the Rif Valley of northern Morocco, Chefchaouen sets itself apart from the dusty landscape in a palette of powder blue. The history of the settlement dates back to 1471, when it was a small fortress established by Moorish exiles leaving Spain to fight the Portuguese invaders.
As the Spanish reconquered Moorish lands in the late 15th century, Chefchaouen grew and prospered with the arrival of Muslims and Jews fleeing persecution.
The refugees whitewashed their houses, balconies and tiled roofs, and added citrus trees to the centre of their patios, creating a Spanish style and ambience.
But it was the Jewish immigrants who popularised the pale-blue wash, considered a holy colour in Judaism, that is now the town’s trademark.
The city’s signature colour is a variety of calming shades of blue that lower your blood pressure in seconds. Known as Morocco’s “blue pearl” or “blue city”, the buildings in Chefchaouen are painted using a talc or chalk-based paint that looks so beguiling. I saw a woman with a fat brush attached to a long handle painting a wall and later found out that only the women paint the walls – no men do this work. I couldn’t get to the bottom of this particular feminised ritual – so if anyone knows why, please comment and tell me.
The streets of the town aren’t wide, they’re not full of shops, the crowds aren’t thick and there’s less mania to the atmosphere than other touristy Moroccan towns.
In the charming town, it’s easy to spend a day wandering and trying to find new angles of blue. Up and down stairs, along the main arteries, through the small winding passageways and the doors . . . oh, so splendid.
The main square has open air cafes and restaurants where there’s no rush to move on. A slow lunch, a leisurely coffee, an hour or two sitting on a cushioned lounge and you’ll be happy, calm and certainly won’t get the blues – or maybe you will.
Writer Bev Malzard travelled with http://www.bypriorarrangement.com and wandered up and down and in and around and absorbed the glorious blues of all shades. She ate lunch at Cafe Clock Chefchaouen and despite the variety of cuisines on offer: Arabic, Moroccan, Middle Eastern, vegan friendly, she refused the camel burger and settled for a good old Yankee burger with meat and chips.
She travelled with : www.bypriorarrangement.com