31 March 2008

Roman holiday - the movie

I'm going for a full-on multi-media experience in preparing for my forthcoming trips and with this in mind I borrowed a couple of films about Rome from my local library.

First on was Roman Holiday. This is a charmingly lightweight tale of a princess (Audrey Hepburn) who briefly escapes her gilded cage to go wild (by 50s standards) in Rome for 24 hrs with an impoverished but principled journalist (Gregory Peck). I put it on at the weekend, hoping to watch it with my son for some mother and son bonding before our Roman Holiday.

First mistake - try prising any boy away from an MSN conversation with his friends. Reluctantly he joined me.

Can I just watch it for half an hour?
We settled down but during our negotiations he had missed so much that I had to keep stopping to explain what was going on.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

Travel on a Shoestring carnival - in Ecuador

Many thanks to the Travel on a Shoestring Carnival for including my post on Warm baths and Waterfalls about my time in the town of Banos in Ecuador last October. I've still got a few tales to tell about the trip but in the meantime you can see all my other Ecuador posts here.

As well as South America, the carnival was covering Africa and in particular Marrakesh. Maryam's blog has put her city on the wish list for many a blog reader and I suspect that I will have to camp in her olive groves if I visit the Peacock Pavilions, as it will be fully booked for months after it opens.

The National Geographic destination guide featured also covered Marrakesh with plenty of useful resources such as blogs, podcasts, books and movies to draw on. I like this approach to using different types of media when planning a trip, as I love to immerse myself in the culture of a place, by reading and hearing about it before I visit. There are other destination guides on offer and I'll definitely be checking them out in future when planning my trips.

Another site that was mentioned in the carnival was the Amateur Traveler which I've recently discovered and been listening to on my way to work - I mentioned the site and some other podcast resources in my last post - Sounds of the city.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

29 March 2008

Sounds of the city - podcasts

After the rather emotional theme of my last post on ways to remember the dead, I decided we were in need of practical and informative post to redress the balance.

I've been observing how different forms of media are converging - the division between print media and on-line media is blurring and more blogs are incorporating podcasts and videos as well as photography and the written word. It's one of the benefits of the on-line media that we bloggers can create a multi-sensory experience both to invoke the feeling of being there and to provide useful information for the traveller.

So in the interests of research and hoping to find something useful for my forthcoming trips to Valencia and Rome, I started exploring the travel podcasts available and have been enjoying the audio experience as I walk to work each day.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

27 March 2008

Blue hearts and ghost-bikes - ways to remember the dead

As we travelled south from Quito along the Pan-American highway, it dawned on me that the front of the bus might not have been the best choice of seat. As if to demonstrate their machismo, the Ecuadorian bus drivers specialise in overtaking all other vehicles, preferably up hill and into the oncoming traffic. Every so often we could see blue hearts or Corazon Azul, painted on the road to mark where someone had died in a car crash. Sometime we would see a group of four or five together - large ones for adults, smaller ones for children. They are part of a campaign by the government in Ecuador to make people aware of the dangers of reckless driving.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

25 March 2008

What I love in a Travel Blog

So the Travvies are here again - nominations have just opened for the 2008 voting for your favourite Travel blogs. There are several different categories and you can nominate up to three blogs for each, so plenty of opportunity to spread the love around. But hurry - you only have until 6 April to make your nominations. Then a panel of judges will choose shortlist and then you'll get another chance to vote on the finalists.

As I like to give a little recognition where it's due, I'll be making sure my favourites are among the nominees. I'm not naming any names right now but you can get an obvious clue from my list in the sidebar. Also I want to give a little thought to what makes a great travel blog for me. Here are my personal and highly subjective thoughts on the matter;

Live your life in colour
I lead a pretty normal life and I like a little colour to brighten up my day. If your blog doesn't have at least one good photo to draw me in, then your writing had better be pretty amazing to keep my interest. I especially love a photo that makes a joke or underlines the point you are making. There's a nice example of using the photographs to underline the point of the story in this article on travel photography from Wild about Travel + Writing.

Up close and Personal
Like most people I'm curious about how the other half live. I like a travel blog that allows me to peep into your world. Maryam - through your blog I'm drinking champage in the Marrakech medina and agonising over which Moroccan tile to choose. You probably do the school run and the laundry just like me - you may read this wearing your scruffiest track-suit with no make up for all I know. But when I finally pay a visit to the Peacock Pavilions it'll feel like meeting an old friend. Only I'll be in the the queue with all the others who also feel like your best friend because we glimpse your life through your blog.

Take me there with you
When I read a great travel blog it makes me long to be there; to feel the wind on my face, the scent of the spring flowers, the laughter of children, the taste of the yellow crab curry. I'm afraid that golf course in Florida doesn't do it for me. In the grey English winter I want a bit of escapism, to feel my senses tingle and to long to be where you are. Here's one about the spring in Turkey from Cool travel that gave me that feeling.

A blog with a conscience
I like a travel blog that encourages me to travel lightly and with a small footprint (carbon or otherwise). One that reminds me that an exchange with the local should be a two way affair and that we should travel responsibly in our world. This post from Pret a Voyager on visiting a South African Township is a nice example.

Make me laugh, Make me cry
Maybe not every day, but just sometimes, its nice to find a post that tugs at the emotions and makes me think - maybe even shed a tear or two. Isn't that what makes us feel alive? Here's one from Beijing Notebook about all the migrant workers who travel home to see their loved ones over Chinese New Year.

Men are from Mars, Women from Venus
Why is it that most of the travel blogs I enjoy are written by women? Is it that more expat women have the time to blog while their other halves are slaving away earning the family living. Or that women do the sort of personal, creative blog that I enjoy, while the travel blogs I come across by men seem more factual or interested in the mechanics of travel. A couple of exceptions are Primitive Travel and Matt Bites, although both written by guys with an interest in the creative things in life.

A wealth of useful information
The best travel blogs manage to combine all of the benefits above and still give you some great tips and information to plan your trips - the fun places to go and the stories behind them, the favourite trattoria, the unspoilt beach. I want to know all these secrets from a person who's been there and can give me the inside track. For my Rome trip, At Home in Rome covered this ground - I'm definitiely planning to do the Tour del Gelato with my son, using Shelley's recommendations.

So what makes the perfect travel blog for you? Do let me know if there's a travel blog you think fits my wish list and may have passed me by.

Many thanks for the photos on Flickr to viajar 24, robw, nordlicht62, crystalspman, pedro_qtc,

Carnival of Travel

Many thanks to Amy on Travelhacker for including my post on Planning our Roman Holiday in her latest Carnival of Travel. As well as the long weekend in Rome, I also have a trip to Valencia coming up shortly, so I seem to be doing nothing but reading and researching recently to get the maximum enjoyment from our trips.

I took a look at some of the other posts in the carnival this week, and enjoyed the musings of The Mystic Atheist on the tension of being at home (living abroad), while life continues at home (where you came from) without you. On a similar theme of cultural immersion I smiled at Christine from Me, my Kid and Life's observations of a fellow American in a supermarket queue, demonstrating in his every guesture the differences between French and American culture. How come I never notice all these cultural nuances while standing in a check-out line?

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

23 March 2008

The View from Richmond Hill

I grew up with this view from Richmond Hill on my doorstep. As a student I pulled pints at the Roebuck pub where the customers take their drinks out on to the terrace in summer and enjoy this view.

View from Richmond hill
Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones and Who guitarist Pete Townsend both bought houses with this view. Children take their first bike ride along the terrace, while their parents admire the view, or they run down the steep path, through the meadow to feed the ducks by the River Thames at the bottom.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

22 March 2008

Henry Moore at Kew Gardens

Happy Easter and so to Kew Gardens, where I took a stroll with my parents who live nearby.

Maybe it was the beautiful spring sunshine, or the fact that we got there early and had the place to ourselves, or the carpets of spring bulbs, or the fact that I was feeling relaxed and child free, but I was quite blown away by the Henry Moore exhibition at Kew. As it says on the website, it's monumental sculpture in a world heritage setting. Click here for more about the large reclining figure below.

Henry Moore is known for his organic shapes in bronze and marble, often abstractions of the human form. His work was often inspired by the shapes of bone and stone flints that he found near his home and I particularly love his female figures and those that represent mother and child. Click here for more about the female reclining figure below.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

18 March 2008

Lunch at the Watershed cafe - in Bristol

Ever in search of a good lunch at an even better price, we tried out the Watershed Café this week. The Watershed is a cinema and media centre in an old Victorian warehouse on the waterfront - the cafe upstairs overlooks the docks. Most of the hot dishes here are over £5, so it won't quite qualify for my Two for a Tenner* challenge.

You'll find a large, airy space which is usually buzzing, especially in the evening when people stop by for a pre-cinema drink or bite to eat. There are some hot choices, soup, baked potatoes and baguettes as well as cakes and coffee. There's free Wifi access too, which several customers were taking advantage of, and if you're early you can bag a table with a great view over the water.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

Liverpool poets and the flutter of a butterfly's wing

I met this week with the friends and neighbours who make up our local book group - this month we were reading the works of the Liverpool poets. The poets in question are Adrian Henri, Roger McGough, and Brian Patten who were contemporaries of the Beatles and started out reading their poetry in the 1960s in the clubs and coffee bars of Liverpool, at a time when poetry was becoming part of pop culture and accessible to all.

My favourite is Roger McGough, who is still going strong today, and this poem of his reminded me of the post I wrote back in January about the Egyptian fisherman who created chaos in the blogsphere.

Back to Travel Blog Home

17 March 2008

My travels on a plate

For many years I collected painted plates to hang on my kitchen wall - every time we went on holiday I would buy another to add to the collection. Now my kitchen walls are as full as I want them to be (in these minimalist days) and I've moved on to collecting mugs and tea towels from my travels. More practical than decorative, I agree, but why not enjoy beautiful things in everyday life?

On the rare occasions when I relax in my kitchen (in between emptying the dishwasher and putting on another load of laundry) my plates bring back memories of the holidays when I bought them.

A friend of mine worked in Istanbul for several years and on my visits to see her, I fell in love with the blue and white Iznik tiles that we saw in the Topkapi Palace and Blue mosque.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

16 March 2008

Carnival of the Cities

Thanks to Amar Chaudhary at Catsynth.com for the mention he gave me on this week's Carnival of the cities for my piece on Graffiti Tourism in Bristol. Apparently the street-art I featured was at least as good as any he'd seen in New York or San Francisco - but then I think Bristol Graffiti artists knew that anyway!

The carnival also featured the walking tour that Karen at Europe a la Carte took while in Berlin to attend the Travel Trade Fair. I agree with Karen that when time's limited, it's worth using a local guide to get the most from your visit - I've heard that the student guides operating for tips at the Colisseum can be good too.

I notice that several other bloggers also made the trip to Berlin including the Eurocheapo team who met up with Hilary from Less than a shoestring, so I'm looking forward to reading more on their blogs about Berlin as a place to visit.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

Calling cards for my travels

Look what the postman brought me. I've just taken delivery of these delightful little calling cards from Moo. If you have a flickr account for your photos, perhaps you've already seen them here.

It was getting a bit embarassing on my travels when I had to explain why I was writing copious notes and taking so many photos in shops or cafes. Now I can give out these adorable little cards, explaining that I am a well known travel journalist from a major publication, who will be giving them a big plug in the next issue - I find it smooths the way....

14 March 2008

Planning our Roman holiday

I'm sure my parents will be keen on admiring the marvels of St Peter's and the Sistine chapel. However, I suspect that my ten year old son will be more interested in sampling the best gelato and pizza that Rome can offer. As for me, I can imagine myself dabbling in the Trevi fountain or posing incognito behind my sunglasses like some starlet of the 1950s.

I'm currently researching some things to do that will give my son a holiday to remember but which we can all enjoy together. We have two full days and two half days, and of course I've been using all the blogs I can find as my guidebook.

Back to Travel Blog Home

13 March 2008

To Bristol Cathedral for a contemplative lunch

With my husband working in Bristol these days, I'm taking the opportunity to meet him for lunch and try out some interesting places to eat in the city centre. This is part of my new Two for a Tenner challenge. The rules are that two people can eat a hot, sit-down lunch for £10, or in the evening, one person can have two courses for £10.

On this quest we visited the refectory at Bristol Cathedral on College Green, close to many of the sightseeing and shopping areas in Bristol. We entered through the main door of the cathedral and were greeted by two gowned volunteers, only too happy to give us information about the Cathedral and its history. It's a beautiful and peaceful place to linger and photograph, and we found some beautiful carved stonework...

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

12 March 2008

A rainbow of spring flowers - in Bristol

I admit that at this time of year I often crave a little tropical sunshine, but one of the nice things about living in England is the changing of the seasons.

Spring is warming the streets of Bristol and everywhere I go I'm noticing the colourful spring flowers, whether it's in peoples' front gardens or in the bedding displays in public places.

So here's a rainbow of flowers to put you in the spring mood - feel free to sing along.

Red and yellow...

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

10 March 2008

Warm baths and waterfalls in Ecuador

Where in the world would you be asked, when checking into your hotel, whether you'd like a view of the garden or of the waterfall?

I spent three weeks last October travelling in Ecuador with two girlfriends and the prize for holiday atmosphere had to go to the town of Baños where we spent a few days. The town sits in a deep valley, with vertical cliffs on either side and is overshadowed by the still active volcano Mt Tungurahua, locally known as the throat of fire - see my last post on sleeping under a smoking volcano.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

9 March 2008

Banksy and plastic bags

It feels like I'm on a graffiti roll this week. You'll remember that I wrote in February about Turtles and plastic bags - well now this new piece by Bristol-born street-artist, Banksy has popped up in London along the same theme.

New banksy on the Essex Rd

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

6 March 2008

Graffiti tourism in Bristol

I'm reporting to you today from the People's Republic of Stokes Croft. No - its not an obscure new country in the Balkans, but a principality of the City of Bristol that's exerting its artistic independence.

Walking to work down Stokes Croft, close to the centre of Bristol, I started noticing the street art on every corner. The more I looked, the more I photographed, the more I found, until I realised that there was something of a street-art explosion happening in this part of Bristol.

The People's Republic of Stokes Croft sprang from the activities of the Jamaica Street Artists Studios, just off Stokes Croft. Now a whole street gallery has sprung up organised by PRPC - every builder's hoarding is an opportunity for artistic expression. Their mission is to visually improve the streetscape and create a sense of identity in a part of Bristol that has for a while been a little down at heel.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

Orange and honey cakes for Fairtrade

I've been baking orange and honey cakes for my work colleagues to celebrate Fairtrade fortnight - they didn't last long but luckily I saved a few for you.

Orange cakes for Fairtrade fortnight

Here's the recipe;
175g unsalted butter
175g light brown Fairtrade sugar
1 tablespoon Fairtrade honey
3 large eggs
175g self-raising flour
2 tablespoons Fairtrade orange juice
Zest of 1 Fairtrade orange

Cream the butter, sugar, eggs, honey and orange juice, then mix in the flour. Bake in cake cases at 180 degrees for aprox 15 mins or until golden brown. Decorate with icing made with icing sugar and lime juice and decorate with orange zest.

You can see all my Fairtrade photos on my Flickr site here.

5 March 2008

A Fairtrade trip to the Philippines

In Fairtrade Fortnight it's great to see all the media coverage about the difference that buying Fairtrade products can make. But I've also noticed some articles casting doubts on whether Fairtrade is an effective way of tackling poverty. Fairtrade has added its views to the debate but I was keen to hear from someone who had first hand experience of visiting Fairtrade producers.

So I contacted Jenny Foster, Fairtrade co-ordinator for Bristol who visited the Philippines last year, to hear her story - it turned out that our children are in the same class at the same school. It's certainly a small travelling world!

The Bicol area of the Philippines that Jenny visited is a mecca for divers and for climbers who visit the active volcane Mt Mayon. Jenny was able to get off the tourist trail and see what life was like for the people living there.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

4 March 2008

Lunch at the Rummer - in Bristol

There's something a little indulgent about slipping out of work to meet your husband for lunch, even though you've not long said goodbye over breakfast, and will see him again in the evening.

We met at the Rummer hotel in the middle of St Nicholas market, itself full of foodie delights. It's not so much a hotel as a cosy bar which is fast becoming our favourite for a mid-morning cappuchino, light lunch or early drink and bite to eat.

The decor is all comfy leather sofas and dark wood tables, with old stone flags and a cosy open fire. It's the sort of place you wouldn't feel out of place on your own or with a crowd and I saw more than one person settled in with their lap-top open and i-pod plugged in.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home

3 March 2008

Blog carnival highlights

I was so excited to see my post about Bright skies and blue seas in Cornwall featured in the blog carnivals at both Europe a la Carte and Less than a shoestring (not sure how I managed to submit the same one to both, but just pleased that you liked it so much!)

Karen at Europe a la Carte aims to bring us travel experiences a little off the well worn tourist track on a modest budget - I totally agree Karen - I'd much rather use my budget wisely to experience all the wonderful things out there than have one big blow-out 5 star experience. That's not to say that I don't drool over all those luxury boutique hotels so favoured by the glossies - just can't afford to indulge my fantasties right now.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

Back to Travel Blog Home