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September 2013

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Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, with its fantastic culture and stunning surroundings. One fantastic holiday resort found within the country is Saint Vincent. The small town is located in the Aosta Valley region in North-Western Italy, and offers an incredible array of breath-taking nature and upscale modern activities.

Here are some of the reasons to book your visit to Saint Vincent.

The Natural Beauty of Falls of Baleine

The Falls of Baleine are one of the finest natural wonders in St Vincent, located at the northern tip of the leeward coast. Surrounded by volcanic coastal formations and steep cliffs, the sparkling waters plunge 60 feet into a crystal clear pool below.

The easiest and most popular way to get to the Falls of Baleine is via boat tour, with five moorings available to facilitate easy anchorage in the bay and footbath and bridge access.

the Falls of Baleine in St. Vincent

The Historic Settings of Layou

The Layou settlement is located just a short distance from the north of Buccament Bay, and boasts stone churches, dwelling houses, and a small beach with a crescent bay. Surrounded by a backdrop of rockscapes, the pretty village is also home to Layou Petroglyph Park.

Several Armerindian sites have been discovered in the town, but the meanings of the carvings in the park are still unknown. They continue to intrigue visitors to the island’s history and original inhabitants.

The Tranquil Settings of Montreal Gardens

The wonderfully picturesque Montreal Gardens are located in the Mesopotamia Valley. A narrow road leads right up to the vibrant oasis of tropical flowers, with a maze weaving through the colourful flora.

The gardens is home to an awe-inspiring array of hibiscus, flourishes of bougainvillea and rows of ginger, as well as towering giant tree ferns and palms.

The Action of the Casino de la Vallée

Casino de la Vallée is one of the largest and most renowned casinos in Europe, playing host to an exciting schedule of events and tournaments. The lavish venue will even be the setting of the PokerStars sponsored Italian Poker Tour (IPT) Grand Final in November.

To make your visit even more memorable, you can even take part in the IPT event yourself. To compete on the felt and possibly even earn some extra spending money, learn the rules, practice your best poker face and look to PokerStars for more details.

London eye

Visiting London is fun at any time of the year.  There’s so much to see and do that you will be absolutely spoiled for choice.  You could also end up missing a tonne of fun things to do if you don’t make a plan before you go.

Everyone knows about the ‘big’ things there are to do in London.  Visiting Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, the Tower of London, Harrods and so many other places that there’s not really room to list them here.

But what if this is not your first visit to London?  What if you regularly pass through Heathrow airport and get to spend a week or two visiting this amazing city?  What kinds of things might you do if you wanted to see a little more of what London is really about this September?

If you’re after a few different and quirky things happening in London this September /October, read on for three tips of slightly-out-of-the-ordinary things to do.

  • Amy Winehouse fans can visit loads of events in September planned by the Amy Winehouse Foundation to celebrate what would have been her 30th birthday.  Photography exhibits, painting exhibitions, pop-up stores selling Amy merchandise and a crazy parachute jump on the 29th of September will all aim to raise funds for the foundation.  The foundation aims to prevent the effects of drug and alcohol misuse on young people.
  • Rediscover the work of Macdonald ‘Max’ Gill at the PM Gallery.  Largely forgotten, the various works on display include those discovered in an attic of a remote home he shared with his wife.  Max was responsible for many important documents including the design of the official Coronation programme for King George VI.  Max was an illustrator, map maker, graphic artist, architect and mural painter and the exhibit covers 50 years of his work.
  • Visit the chocolate fashion show!  Who wouldn’t want to be in the audience for the presentation of dresses made by fashion designers and chocolate experts?  See dresses made completely of chocolate, chocolate cooking demonstrations and chocolate pastry demonstrations.  Ticket prices are really reasonable and you can take the kids!  Whatever you do don’t miss a visit to the tasting room if you are lucky enough to attend this event from 18-20 October.  Reading the chocolate website alone is enough to get your mouth watering!

As you can see, London is not all about bridges, cathedrals and tourist hot-spots.  There’s always something amazing to see, and visiting the kinds of venues listed above is an interesting way to get out among the locals.  Planning your trip to London ahead of time is your best chance of finding the quirky places to visit.  The Heathrow Express website has an interesting news tab where you can get updates of exactly what’s on in London if you need a place to start your search.

The locals in any city are always interested in seasonal events and exhibitions and you might just find you stumble upon something extraordinary!

There is nothing like a holiday in Paris. Most people think that it is just a place for lovers who want to get away for some romance, but the City of Lights is also a very family-oriented place to visit. There are a lot of places to visit and spend entire days exploring. World famous historic sites, kid-friendly museums, amazing parks, just to name a few. This is sure to be a trip that you all will remember for years to come.

One of the biggest negatives about visiting Paris is once you start planning your trip you’ll find there are more things to see than you can possibly fit in. Make a list of your “must-dos” and arrange your days to fit them in. It’s a good idea to let everyone have a vote. If this is your first visit to Paris there are most likely things you’ve always dreamed of seeing – make sure you fit them in even if you do some separately.

The wonderful thing about Paris is the metro is fast and comprehensive so getting around the city to see several things in a single day is actually very easy, even with kids in tow. Be realistic and know what your children’s limits are though. If you know they start to get crabby in the early afternoons, try to visit your most important spots in the early part of the day. Many things in Paris stay open late so you can easily pencil in some down-time to help everyone recharge before embarking on the next adventure. Don’t be afraid to split up either. I ended up visiting the Louvre by myself simply because it was my ‘must-see’ and the kids were too exhausted to go. Instead they spent an afternoon eating croissants in a park with Dad. I would have been upset if I didn’t get the chance to go the Louvre but it would have been a disaster to drag two tired kids there. This way everyone still had a fantastic afternoon.

If you dread taking your rambunctious kids into a quiet French restaurant, consider grabbing takeout and a picnic blanket and eating in a nearby park. Paris has some truly beautiful parks. We found that almost every place we wanted to visit had a park nearby. The kids get to be outside in the fresh air and make as much noise as they please and no one will be judging their table manners (or lack thereof).

With a city like Paris, most people already have an idea of the ‘big tourist attractions’ they want to see. The Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, Notre Dame, the Louvre. Just to name a few. But what else is there to do with kids? Here are some great choices for places to take the kids in Paris that are sure to create long-lasting memories:

Take a boat tour on the Seine

A boat trip along the Seine is a fabulous way to sightsee and catch all the important sights, without overtiring little legs. Several cruise companies operate along the Seine, all leaving from different points close to popular tourist attractions. Cruises generally last 1 hour and you can enjoy a sunet cruise. Alternatively you can buy a 1 day pass for Batobus, a modern river ferry stopping at 8 popular attractions along the river in the heart of Paris. It’s more expensive than walking or taking a train, but you might consider the view worth it!

Cruising the Seine

Disneyland Paris

What is top of your children’s “must-see” list in Paris? I’d almost be willing to bet that it’s the same as my children: many children dream of holidays to Disneyland Paris. You can plan the entire trip around your day at the park. Explore all five of the special areas inside the park, including Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland, and Discoveryland. The kids will love spending the day riding rides, watching shows and taking pictures with their favorite characters.

Watch the puppet shows

Since it’s a pretty good certainty that you’ll be visiting some parks while you are in Paris with the kids, then you can stop and sit a spell and watch one of the classic marionette shows that are held in some parks. Champs de Mars and Jardin de Luxembourg are known for putting on shows that will delight the kids with their physical comedy.

Parc Floral d'Apremont - Apremont-sur-Allier {juli 2011}

Go to Parc Floral

This amazing park will have you all entertained. There are tons of slides, ziplines, toys and fields of flowers for you all to take advantage of. In between all of the playing and excitement, stop to enjoy some snacks from the many snack bars throughout the park. Set aside time to explore the rest of the park. It’s stunning.

Visit the Cite des Enfants

Kids love a museum that lets them get hands-on and this is just the place to do it. This is a good spot for toddlers and even older kids. They get to explore scientific toys and activities, which is the sneakiest and best way for kids to learn.

Cité des sciences

Edinburgh is a beautiful historic city to visit with your family. There are many sites to see and activities that will keep you all entertained for the duration of your visit. You can find amazing hotels in Edinburgh that will suit all family budgets. 

Once you decide where to stay, you can start putting together a list of things to do on your trip. High on the list for most families is to take a tour of some of the nearby castles. You can save money on entry fees by purchasing an Explorer Pass. Prices for a family pass start at £58.

Who doesn’t love the idea of visiting ancient castles? In Edinburgh, there are several of them to choose from, making your visit one to remember for a lifetime. Each castle has its own story, so be ready to listen.

Edinburgh Castle

Set atop the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle is one of the most iconic attractions in Scotland. Your family can walk the same areas as the Scottish kings and queens of centuries past. Visit the Crown Room to see the Scottish Crown Jewels. Stop to see the Stone of Destiny, where kings were crowned for hundreds of years.

Take the time to view the castle at night. From Princes St the darkness of the mount undernearth makes the brightly lit castle appear as if it’s floating in the air. If you are very lucky you might catch a fireworks display while you are in town as fireworks are let off from the castle walls and the nearby areEn. Truly, this is one sight not to be missed.

Edinburgh Castle

Entrance tickets are £9.60 for children and £16 for adults. Alternatively you can explore the outside of the castle for free and enjoy the wonderful views of the city.

 

Craigmillar Castle

Mary, Queen of Scots, sought refuge in this castle in 1566 after her private secretary was murdered. Built around 1400, the castle is one of the best preserved in Scotland. It is a fantastic place to explore with beautiful grounds, many nooks and crannies and breathtaking tower views.

Admission is £5.50 for adults and £3.30 for children. Open all year round, the castle is just 3 miles from the city and can easily be reached by public transport.

Craigmillar Castle

Lauriston Castle

Built around 1590 with several extensions added in the late 1800s, Lauriston Castle was the home of Sir Archibald Napier. It overlooks the Firth of Forth. You can see the beautiful Edwardian décor and stroll the Japanese Friendship Garden on a guided tour.

Opening hours are Saturday to Thurday at 2pm from April through October and weekends at 2pm November through March. The castle is open by guided tour only (lasting approximately one hour) but there’s no need to book in advance, unless you have a group of more than 10 people. The garden is open April through September from 9am – 8pm and October through March from 9am – 5pm. Family tickets are just £12.50 if you want to enter the castle, whilst admission to the gardens is free.

Lauriston Castle (1)

Tantallon Castle

Visit this home of one of the most powerful families in Scotland, the Douglas Earls of Angus. The castle has endured for three centuries and has survived three separate sieges in its lifetime. You can take in the breathtaking view that overlooks the Firth of Forth and enjoy the wildflowers that bloom around the grounds.

Admission is £5.50 for adults and £3.30 for children. Open from 9.30 – 5.30 between April – September and from 9.30 – 4.30 between October – March.  Getting to Tantallon Castle requires taking a train and a bus but on a nice day it’s well worth the mission to see this amazing piece of history and the stunning cliff top location. 

Tantallon Castle

Crichton Castle

This stunning castle was first built in the 14th century, the home of nobles for more than 200 years. It was first the home of the Crichtons and later the Earls of Bothwell. Its styling makes it look as though it belongs in the Mediterranean rather than the Scottish countryside. Crichton Castle is only open between April and September from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm. Tickets are £4.50 for adults and £2.70 for children.

Crichton Castle

Blackness Castle

Blackness Castle was built in the 15th century by the Crichton family and was intended to serve as a garrison fortress and prison. You can take in the view of the Firth from the towers of the castle.

Admission is £5.50 for adults and £3.30 for children. Opening hours vary depending on the time of year so check in advance.

BLACKNESS CASTLE

Dirleton Castle

This beautiful castle was built 700 years ago and looks exactly like those drawings of castles you probably drew as a kid, right down to the remains of the moat and the large arched entrance. Can’t you just picture the portcullis waiting to drop in that doorway to stop invadors and arches in those windows and atop those battlements?

Dirleton Castle, Midlothian

It offers visitors beautiful scenery and gardens. It is the home of the world’s longest herbaceous border. It is also where you can see some of the oldest castle fragments in Scotland, the de Vaux towers that date back to 1240. Tickets are £5.50 for adults and £3.30 for children.

The castles around Edinburgh are sure to delight everyone in your family. Take time to explore some of the most impressive structures in history during your holiday. If you want to splurge a little for this trip, you could even stay in one of the 4-star hotels in the countryside that provide a modern twist on what it would have been like to be a rich lord living in one of these castles or manor homes. Even if it’s just for a night or two!

 

 

Hiking is a great family activity, offering breathtaking scenery, fresh air and exercise. One of the best places to take your family for exciting hikes is in Scotland. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places to explore, with its steep mountains, lush landscapes and rugged shoreline. There’s something about the landscape in Scotland that just makes you want to get out and enjoy it, especially when the weather is nice. As soon as the temperatures start to warm up and the sun peaks out, those mountains and valleys just start calling to you until it feels criminal to be inside and not out exploring some creek, loch or mountain top.

Get ready for your hiking adventure by preparing enough the right snacks to take on your trip and have plenty of water. Also, make sure you have the right gear to keep you safe from the elements. This is Scotland, and as with any mountain trekking, you need to be prepared that the weather can change. It can get damp and chilly on your hike, so having that extra layer of weatherproofing that will keep out water and wind can keep you all comfortable while you explore the trails. Berghaus jackets are a great example of the style of jacket you’ll need for hiking in the often fickle Scottish climate.

Here are some great family friendly hiking spots inspire your planning:

Conic Hill

Conic Hill, Balmaha

This spot in Balmaha is a great place to take the entire family, particularly families with younger children. It is not too long or strenuous with a summit of just 350 meters. Once you reach the top, you get to see a magnificent view of Loch Lomond and the mountains. There is also a children’s play area at the bottom and restrooms. After your hike, you can take the family over to the Oak Tree Inn for a snack or lunch.

Bennachie

Bennachie, near Aberdeen, is a very family-friendly spot to spend a day. Before your hike, take the kids to the Bennachie Center to learn about the area’s history and the people who lived and worked there. Be sure to pick up a map at the Center and ask for advice on the best walk. There are nine distinctive tops for the hill if you want to try some summit hikes. The two tallest summit walks, Mither Tap or Oxen Craig, are quite challenging and you’ll want to check the weather conditions before setting out. Even if the weather is nice when you start out take all weather outdoor clothing with you and good hiking shoes. The view from the top is certainly worth the effort!

For something less strenuous, take the kids along the forest trails. Grab some paper and crayons for the Discovery Trail where there are several rubbing posts set up along the way for children.

Mither Tap

Clyde Muirshiel

Just a short drive from Glasgow is Scotland’s largest regional park. The park offers a range of hiking trails through different settings, from woodlands and hills to beaches. The Parkhill Woodland Trails offer families a shorter trek that lasts about two hours. You can choose the Johnshill Loop, the Woodland Trail or the Hill Trail. After your hike, you can all wind down with a trip to the Visitor Center to explore exhibits on history and wildlife, laze around a loch to enjoy a range of family activities or head to the beach.

clyde muirshiel park

Hiking is an exhilarating way to spend a day with your family. You get to see Scotland in a whole new way with the amazing scenery. You get the benefits of exercise and fresh air, and it usually costs you nothing more than the time it takes to complete your hike.

Some tips for keeping your kids happy on your adventures:

  • Make sure they wear boots or trainers for the hike.
  • Have an all weather jacket in case it rains. Ideally it should be able to cut out the wind as well.
  • Bring snacks and plenty of water. It’s not a bad idea to have a few treats hidden away to use as an encouragement.
  • Choose routes that will have something to interest them (rocks to climb, animals to see, waterfalls or caves to explore). Be prepared to work hard to engage them at times. Their interest levels will waver and you might need to re-engage them or come up with games to get them back on track.
  • Allow for detours. For you, getting to the top or hitting that 6-10km mark might be the goal. For the kids, climbing that cool tree they see ahead, detouring to explore a seemingly insignificant cranny that they call a ‘cave’ or sitting for two minutes to collect rocks is going to be the absolute highlight of the day. Ensuring a successful family hike often isn’t about getting to the end. It’s about learning when you can dismiss the kids desire to stop and check things out in order to get to your end goal and when you need to cater to their whims and let your ‘mission’ take second seat for a few minutes so that everyone gets to the end happy. 
  • If you are going on a long hike and you don’t know the trail well, it’s not a bad idea to have a map or a cellphone in case you get lost.