Category Archives: Education

Jane Austen trail across Britain

Jane Austen and Hampshire

Jane was born in Steventon in Hampshire. She is also buried in the county’s Winchester Cathedral. She did most of her writing in Hampshire and even penned her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, here. So, it makes sense that this county is the focal point for the Jane Austen 200 commemorations.

Jane Austen House (c) Visit Hampshire/Laura McCready

Start your trip at Jane Austen’s House Museum (her former home) and Chawton House Library in the village of Chawton, which is hosting changing exhibitions, talks, activities and other special celebrations up until December.

In the meantime, Winchester Cathedral is running “Tours and Tea” every month until November exploring Jane’s life and in Basin

Jane’s footsteps in Bath

The South West Spa city of Bath is a great place to get to know Jane Austen, where she lived between 1801 and 1806. The city’s perfectly preserved Georgian architecture remains unchanged from the streets depicted in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

Visitors can step back in time with a free downloadable audio walking tour of the city In the footsteps of Jane Austen, that includes extracts from her novels and letters, which brilliantly describe Bath as it would have been in its Georgian heyday. Be sure to stop off at the Jane Austen Centre, located in a Georgian town house just a few doors down from where she once lived and home to an exhibition of costumes, manuscripts, and film clips to bring the author’s world to life and explore the city’s influence on her work, as well as the all-important Regency Tea Rooms (£11 per adult and £5.50 per child).

Jane Austen Festival (c) VisitBath

And for true enthusiasts, visit between 8-17 September to join the largest gathering of Jane Austenenthusiasts at the Jane Austen Festival. Previous years have seen fans donning full regency garb at the Grand Regency Costumed Promenade, meeting their very own Mr Darcy at the Country Dance Ball, and dancing their sense and sensibilities away at the Regency Costumed Masked Ball. 2017 will see the 17th edition of the annual festival. Tickets on sale now.

Explore Jane Austin’s seaside sojourns in Lyme Regis

Jane is known to have visited and loved Lyme Regis. In her letters to her sister Cassandra she described walking on the Cobb and tellingly her last novel Persuasion was set in the Dorset seaside town.

It’s easy to explore the area especially with a guided tour with Literary Lyme who offers a several walking tours of Lyme Regis and the Jurassic Coast that follow in the footsteps of several authors who lived or visited Lyme Regis. In the mix is a visit to the Golden Cap, the highest point in Southern England, which features in a film adaptations of  Persuasion – 90 minute tours cost from £10 per person.

Literary Trails and film buff locations in Berkshire

Jane Austen went to school at Abbey Gateway, Reading between 1785 and 1786. It was the only time in her life she lived away from home.

To get an insight explore the area on a Readipop Reading Literary Trail, a free walking tour developed by a group of young locals, as part of a heritage project called Reading on Tour to uncover Reading’s hidden history.

Film buffs may like to visit the 18th-century Palladian mansion of Basildon Park. It had two roles, one as Mr Bingley’s house, Netherfield and the other it was the dreamy location for Darcy and Elizabeth’s first meeting in the 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennett and Matthew MacFadyen as Mr Darcy.

With both its impressive exterior and many of its indoor spaces featuring in the lavish production, Basildon is instantly recognisable to fans. Entry to Basildon Park costs £14 per adult; £7.50 per child.

Jane and her family were regulat visitors to Goodnestone Park and gardens. Set amidst 14 acres of 18th century parkland, the house retains a lot of original features from Austen’s time taking guests back to the dinners and dances she would have attended there.

As well as being home to Austen’s heritage, Kent is home to a number of locations for well-known film and TV adaptations of her books.

BBC’s adaptation of “Emma” starring Romola Garai and Johnny Lee Miller showed off the idyllic village of Chillham, which represented 18th Century Highbury and Squerryes Court in Westerham, which doubled as Emma’s family home.

The Keira Knightley big screen adaptation of Pride and Prejudice also found its home in Kent with Groombridge Place in Tunbridge Wells providing the perfect visualisation of the Bennet’s family home. Visitors can take in the gardens and enchanted forest year-round (from £10.95 per adult and £8.95 per child).

Jane Austen by the sea in East Sussex

The seaside town of Brighton makes an appearance in Pride and Prejudice as the place where the flirtatious Lydia Bennett flees with her roguish lover, George Wickham.

The author’s relationship with coastal resorts is explored in an exhibition “Jane Austen by the Sea” at The Royal Pavilion (until 8 January 2018) looking at life in Brighton during her time, to mark the bicentenary of her death.

It paints a picture of the fashionable watering hole in the early 1800s, when it was a thriving garrison town featured in Austen’s novels alongside other towns all along the south coast.

Curator Dr Alexandra Loske has gathered items including highlights such as King George IV’s personal, specially-bound copy of Emma at the Royal Pavilion for the first time, a mourning brooch containing a lock of Jane Austen’s hair, one of her music books, and important rare manuscripts and letters including unfinished novel, Sanditon, set in a seaside town in Sussex.

These sit alongside prints, paintings and caricatures of the resorts and fashions popular with coastal visitors in Austen’s lifetime, and original Regency costumes from Brighton & Hove’s own collection.

JFK Airport Terminal Project

JetBlue (NASDAQ: JBLU), New York’s Hometown Airline®, today released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the development of a terminal at New York’s JFK Airport. This development initiative is aligned with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s vision plan to transform JFK International Airport into an airport equipped to meet the demands of the 21st century. In coordination with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s master plan process, JetBlue is seeking to lead the development of the former Terminal 6 site and potentially the Terminal 7 site.

JetBlue will identify innovative development opportunities that meet the needs of travelers in the New York region. The project would accommodate increases in customer traffic in the airline’s largest focus city, enhance and facilitate codesharing and interline agreements, and open the door to new value-enhancing partnership opportunities.

“Terminal 5 has been and will continue to be a key factor in our success in New York from a customer experience and revenue growth perspective,” said Lisa Reifer, vice president infrastructure, properties and development, JetBlue. “This project lays the groundwork for JetBlue’s future leadership in our largest focus city. We are seeking innovative, cost- and capital-efficient approaches to Governor Cuomo’s ambitious vision for JFK to deliver a world-class airport experience for our customers and crewmembers while allowing us to maximize the value of our strategic airport assets.”

JetBlue is opening this RFQ process to developers. After receiving submissions from the RFQ, JetBlue will identify a select pool of qualified bidders to participate in a Request for Proposal (RFP) process later this year. For a copy of the RFQ, please email gs-JetBlue-JFK-Correspondence@gs.com. Responses are due no later than 5:00 pm ET on August 11, 2017.

T5’s World Class Experience – In 2008, in partnership with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, JetBlue opened its state-of-the-art Terminal 5 (T5) facility. T5 is the newest terminal at JFK and focuses on delivering a leading customer experience and operational efficiency. In 2014, JetBlue opened T5i, its international arrivals hall extension bringing Federal Inspection Services in-house, creating a more seamless experience for customers. T5i development produced nearly 1,000 jobs for workers in the New York region during the construction period.

From JFK, JetBlue offers up to 175 daily nonstop flights to 70 destinations throughout the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America. Last year 13.9 million travelers passed through T5. The 800,000-square-foot terminal currently boasts 29 gates distributed throughout three concourses, an international arrival extension, and a 55,000-square-foot central retail and concession Marketplace.

New York’s Hometown Airline – JetBlue is the only major commercial airline based in New York City and New York State. JetBlue proudly celebrates its hometown pride with a special livery celebrating New York State Tourism and adorned with the I Love New York logo. With its strong position at JFK and its headquarters in Long Island City, JetBlue employs 6,700 crewmembers in the New York area.

Tips for writing travel

1. Have a clear storyline

A trip is not a story in itself, it’s just a series of events. Some of these events will be interesting (you made it up Kilimanjaro!) and some will not (you arrived back at the airport on time*). As a writer, your first job is to decide on the particular story you want to tell, and the events which make up that story.

To see the kinds of stories that get published, look at the bold line of introductory copy (known as ‘standfirsts’ in the trade) of articles in papers, magazines and websites. Try writing the standfirst for your own story, and then use it as your brief.
2. Have a goal

Some trips have a physical objective (reaching the top of Kilimanjaro, crossing Costa Rica, seeing a tiger) that gives your article direction and purpose. The reader (hopefully) sticks with you because they want to know if you’ll achieve your goal.

But many trips don’t have an obvious goal; they are more about discovering a place, unpicking its history or meeting its people. In this case, create a personal goal to give your reader a sense of where you’re taking them. Sentences like “I wanted to discover…” or “I was keen to understand…” give readers an idea of what’s to come, instead of you simply plunging them into the unknown.

3. Include dialogue

“Look! There! The lions are on the prowl,” whispered Joseph. Or: we could see the lions heading off hunting. Which sentence is more interesting to read? Dialogue brings a scene to life, gives personality to the people in your story, and allows you to convey important information in a punchy way. Whenever you travel, make notes of what people say and how they say it.

4. Show and tell

‘Showing’ and ‘telling’ are two everyday storytelling techniques you probably use without realising. Showing is when you slow down your writing and describe a scene in detail – what you saw, tasted, heard, felt: you are showing the reader the world through your eyes. Telling is simply moving the story along: ‘We returned to the tents for a well-earned rest’.

5.Aim to entertain, not impress

Novice writers often try to pack their writing with literary phrases or recherché nomenclature (like that). Good writers tend more to follow Hemingway’s maxim: “My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.” That doesn’t mean you can’t be playful and experimental: just don’t do it at the reader’s expense.

6. Use vivid language

Travel articles are peppered with meaningless words and phrases: stunning, incredible, pretty, diverse; ‘land of contrasts’, ‘melting pot’, ‘bustling’. Any of these could be applied to thousands of destinations worldwide. Try to use language that is specific to what you’re describing, and which allows readers to paint a picture in their mind’s eye.
7. Leave signposts

If you’re wandering around a strange country without a guidebook, you look for signposts. So do readers as they travel through your story. Every few paragraphs tell them where you’re going next, and remind them of your ultimate goal.

For example, you could write: ‘The next day we travelled from Tokyo to Hirosaki.’ Or you could signpost things a little, by writing: ‘It was tempting to linger in Tokyo’s restaurants, but my search for Japan’s best sake would next take me deep into the countryside.’ Aha, thinks the reader: I can see where this is going, and why – I’ll keep tagging along.
8. Give yourself time to finish

In an effort to include every fascinating tidbit, too may travel articles finish like a high-speed train hitting the buffers, leaving readers dazed and confused. With a paragraph to spare, put the brakes on and start setting up your conclusion.

Show your readers that the end is nigh. Think about where you started, and reflect on the journey. Try to sum up the experience. And – please – come up with something more inspiring than ‘I would just have to come back another time.’

Basque Country

It’s no longer a secret: San Sebastian, European Capital of Culture in 2016, is a gastronomic gem in a land of spectacular food. If you’re planning on spending 24 hours in this city you’ll need to loosen your waistband.

Sure, Spain has a glut of fantastically picturesque cities and some of the best food on the planet, but San Sebastian known as Donostia in the Basque Country, might just be the jewel in the crown.

The city is also very compact so you will be able to walk from one side to the other relatively quickly. If nothing else, bring your swimming gear and comfy walking shoes.

Must Visit

La Playa de la Concha beach, with its golden crescent sweeping from Parte Vieja (old town – the heart of the city) in the east to Monte Igueldo in the west, is a wonderful feature of this city.

It is probably one of the finest city beaches in Europe, probably the world, you’ll want to spend a while splashing in the sea or people watching. And let’s not forget Playa de Gros (also known as Playa de la Zurriola), a favourite with surfers.

But to get the picture postcard view you’ll need to head to the funicular up to the top of Monte Igueldo. A €3.15 ride takes you to the antiquated but charming funfair on top of the hill which offers views that can accurately be described as ‘breathtaking’.

We also went for a ride on the rickety roller coaster and climbed ‘The Tower’ for even better views. All the attractions are about €3 each for adults.

Must Eat

Food wise, San Sebastian is akin to a culinary sweet shop. The old town (Parte Vieja) is studded with wood-panelled bars sporting unpronounceable Basque names such as txepetxa and etxberria. Passing each one you’ll spy little gastronomic works of art lined up along the bar.

These are pintxos (pinch-os), the local variety of tapas and it is these that give the Basque region their rep for quality food. Each one costs around €2-3 and it can be tempting to get stuck in and spend a fortune.

Our favourite pintxos bars were Bar Zeruko, where everything on the bar looked picture perfect and Bar Azkena, which is down a flight of stairs hidden in a market near the locOrder from the specials board. We had slow-cooked veal cheek with foie gras and a lobster morsel served in a shot glass with dry ice (don’t drink the dry ice!).

But our advice is treat the pintxos like an appetizer and head to one of the many Michelin starred restaurants in town. There is a splendid selection.

Arzak is the most famous of the three Michelin starred restaurants on offer. But you’d be hard pressed to choose between them, Akelarre or Kokotxa.

We sampled the fare at Narru for their exquisite lunch menu. Bookings are recommended at all the restaurants..

Must Stay

A literal stones throw from La Concha beach, Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra is a grand and palatial looking building in the heart of the city centre. The rooms are cool and light with a chic modern finish, despite the classical exterior. The location is ideal for the 24 hour visitor, with the old town a 10 minute walk, the beach barely 2 minutes and the main shopping area on the doorstep.

The bar in the hotel also overlooks the beach so you can watch the world go by over breakfast.

Surfing in the Philippines

Before arriving in Siargao in the southeast of the Philippines, I’d spent the previous three months travelling and surfing around Australasia and Southeast Asia taking in popular hotspots like Bali and Australia’s Gold

Siargao: one of the top 10 surf sites in the world

In everyday parlance, “on Cloud 9” means feeling elated, on top of the world, but for surfers it’s more than this. Cloud 9 is the name of the most famous wave in the Philippines, and Siargao Island is regularly rated as one of the top 10 surf sites in the world. That alone was enough to make me book the succession of flights — two days in total of travelling — which would ultimately bring me to Siargao.

Dive and surf in Siargao

The sea is omnipresent, wherever you go on Siargao. When you lie in bed, you hear the waves breaking on the shore. When you walk out, it is always in view. And when you want to hop from one picture-perfect island to the next, the only way to do so is by boat.

But back to Cloud 9, the raison d’être for my trip. Its thick, hollow tubes make it ideal for surfing, especially from November to April when the waves have plenty of swell. These extra inches of water lift surfers comfortably above the reef, which otherwise lurks perilously close to the surface of the water.

I sailed out to Cloud 9 from Siargao Bleu with a handful of other surfers, our boards, and a clutch of hangers-on who would sit on the beach and watch. The boat was wooden, styled like a traditional fishing boat, but with a roaring motor onboard. We dashed across the tops of the waves, bouncing up in the air when we hit one straight on, then crashing back down with a thunk. It was scarcely past breakfast, but still a few beers were being passed hand to hand. The anticipation was building.

Turning into the bay, half a dozen surfers were already riding Cloud 9. They must have headed out at daybreak to get the waves to themselves. The boat had a shallow enough draft to pull close to the beach, so we kicked off our sandals and and paddled the last few metres. The water at most was knee-deep.

Surfing is hungry work, and by mid afternoon I was worn out and starving. I staggered back up the beach to meet our boatman. Whilst I’d been surfing, he’d cooked up a veritable feast. Freshly grilled tuna, caught just hours before, is the sort of ingredient which culinary heaven must be made from. Accompanied by steamed rice and huge slices of pink-red watermelon, it was Philippine cuisine at its freshest and finest.

Almost too full to move, let alone get back on a surfboard, we made our way back to the boat. Unlike the morning when we were in a rush to reach Cloud 9, now there was no such hurry. The boatman sensed this, and we motored back at to Siargao Bleu at a considerably more leisurely pace.

Approaching the resort, the boatman cut the engine and the boat began to drift. The broken water settled, and looking over the side we could see probably to a depth of 15 metres and quite possibly more.

Tropical fish, stingless jellyfish, and sea snakes swum about, completely unperturbed by our presence. Encouraged, we grabbed snorkels and masks, and slid ourselves overboard. The water was so clear we could see every detail of the creatures around us, admiring their colours, form, and agility. It felt like an aquarium, only this time we were inside the tank and could reach out and touch the fish.

Tourism development is a balancing act. If you don’t create enough infrastructure, enough opportunities for things to do, then people won’t want to come. On the other hand, if you build too much, and visitors come by the thousand, you can damage the environment, spoiling the places and experiences which made it a desirable destination in the first place. Thus far, Siargao has got the balance right. Of course there are bigger, brighter, and more luxurious resorts in the Philippines. But what they gain in facilities, they lose in atmosphere and quality of experience. The purpose of a tropical island retreat is to get away from other people, to appreciate the beauty of the sea and the sand, and to feel at peace. When you swim or surf, you don’t want to be competing for space. Thankfully, in Siargao you won’t have to.

 

Visiting manor house in england

Six miles south of Sevenoaks, this 14th-century moated manor house is one of the Garden of England’s hidden gems. A former home to Medieval knights and Victorian society figures, it’s surrounded by the most tranquil of gardens with an orchard, small lakes and woodland walks that meander off into the surrounding countryside.

The historian David Starkey, impressed by its atmospheric central courtyard, the house’s Great Hall, crypt, and Tudor painted ceiling, has described it as “one of the most beautiful and interesting of English country houses”.

Owned by the National Trust since 1985, it’s worth a visit for the estate that surrounds it alone. Three designated walks take in all the flora and fauna of the Kent countryside, through an ancient bluebell wood or past 19th-century hopper’s huts and even the natural spring that feeds the moat.

A particular delight is to wander south, away from the house, climb a five-bar gate and stumble across one of the most charming village cricket pitches imaginable. The English countryside at its best.

Hatfield House featured in blockbuster films such as Harry Poter and Shakespeare in Love

It’s all too easy to step into what was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth I and imagine you’re on a film set.

The grand Jacobean manor house has served as the backdrop for scenes from major movies including Harry Potter, Tomb Raider, Shakespeare in Love and The King’s Speech.

It sits in a vast swathe of land only 20 miles north east of the capital and a few minutes’ drive from the A1, encompassing formal and informal gardens complete with a maze, a children’s farm and play area, endless acres of rolling countryside to lose yourself in and even its own 12th century church.

The house itself promises everything you’d expect; from chandeliers and tapestries to a vast library and armoury and one of the finest examples of a Victorian kitchen in the country.

But the hidden bonus here is the fabulous stable yard and the period roads and buildings that lead to it. Flanked by an eclectic mix of buildings converted from the days when the royal stud lived there, is a café that spills outdoors when the weather’s fine and sits among cobbles and a circular fountain in which children toss coins to make wishes.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire in the fairy tale town of Woodstock

Blenheim is an awe-inspiring 18th century country house in the heart of the fairy tale town that is Woodstock. It is the principal home of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and, more significantly, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.

A true Baroque masterpiece, the house, seen by many as the greatest of its kind in Britain, sits amongst more than 2,000 acres of Capability Brown parkland and the most elegantly landscaped formal gardens. There’s a miniature train that transports families to pleasure gardens with its adventure playground, tall-hedge maze and butterfly house.
But everything about the palace is vast; from its 180ft library to its 67ft high hallway.

And outside, it’s on the same scale; big enough, in fact, to host events like the International Horse Trials. So if you’re looking for room to ramble, be warned: you’ll need to be fit to enjoy it fully and have serious amounts of time.

Best time to visit? Other than Spring when the daffodils are in full bloom, it’s Christmas when for more than a month the gardens are turned into a wonderland of light to create an hour-long circular walk past singing trees, a scented fire garden and lawns set ablaze by thousands of colourful fibre optics.

This is where the Duke of Northumberland lives when he’s in London and the closest of the country houses in terms of distance from the city centre. Built in Tudor times, it underwent a thorough transformation at the hands of the neoclassical architect Robert Adam and bears many of his hallmarks. Portraits by Van Dyck and Lely hang on the walls on what is the last surviving ducal residence and country estate, in Greater London.

Only nine miles from Charing Cross, you can quickly find yourself immersed in gardens renowned for their extensive collection of rare plants and trees, all of which surround a spectacular conservatory which dates back to the 1820s and was long known for housing plants from all over the world.

Woburn Abbey has spectacular views of the deer park

Woburn itself is about 40 minutes from drive up the M1 and about five miles south of Milton Keynes. It’s best approached from junction 12 where you can head towards Flitwick and detour off through some of the most charming villages in the county.

That’ll bring you to a small rise that opens up to spectacular views of the deer park. There’s a 20 mph speed limit to help you avoid them and enjoy the view. The Abbey entrance is on the left (the wildlife park is on the right) and, once through the entrance, you’ve a two-mile drive through the grounds, past the house, a lake and an avenue of trees to the main entrance.

The far corner, over a wooden bridge, houses a maze and the entrance yard houses one of the most charming cafes where ducks will snap at your feet for scraps on the terrace on warm days.

Having come all that way, it’s probably worth doubling back through the deer park afterwards into the town, just for a stroll through the high street. A bonus: the car park is free.

Trip in Ukraine

Ukraine, the country famous for banning Hollywood Steven Seagal from visiting, is opening up to tourism with visa-free travel. Add to that direct flights from the UK and the fact that it is still remarkably good value for money, this is as good a time as any to visit. We suggest you get behind the wheel or a hire car or indeed to hop on a train

Situated in the far west of the country, just 50 miles from the Polish border, Lviv was known as Lemburg when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1772 to WW1. That’s reflected in its quaint cobbled streets, proliferation of churches and architecture reminiscent of those other Hapsburg cities like Vienna and Budapest. Of course it also has trams, trolley buses and coffee houses. Indeed they say that the first coffee shop in Vienna was opened by an Ukrainian from Lviv in 1686.

It’s a pleasant place to wander round, with street musicians on every corner, and the Market Square in the old town is lined with renaissance houses. The elaborate Lviv Opera House still stages productions of opera and ballet and imposing Cathedrals beckon you inside. My visit coincides with National Embroidered Blouse Day so everyone is sporting one, men and women alike.

The Carpathians form an arc running roughly 1000 miles across Central and Eastern Europe, making them the second-longest mountain range in Europe. They occupy the South West of Ukraine, separating the country from Romania, with the highest peak, Mount Hoverla, reaching over 2000m. Life carries on here much as it’s done for centuries and during the Soviet period was left almost untouched. Even guerrillas fighting their Russian oppressors stayed holed up here for years.

The landscape begins to change as I climb up to the town of Yaremche at 580m. The wide cornfields give way to forested hills, wooden houses and quaint chapels by the side of the road. The River Prut runs through the centre of town in a series of rapids, and there’s a rather tacky craft market on either side of the ravine. However if you’re in the market for woolly slippers or dodgy fruit wine, this is the place for you.

An easy day’s excursion from Chernivtsi, is the fairy-tale fortress of Khotyn, on a cliff overlooking the Dniester River. It was built around 1400 by the Moldavians but fell into Turkish hands in 1713. They kept it for another 100 years, until the Russians became the final owners. These days it’s been much restored but it’s still an impressive, with walls 40m high and 6m thick. It’s been the location for many feature films, including the Ukrainian version of Robin Hood.

Ukraine’s capital city has wide leafy boulevards, onion-domed churches and relatively few of those dull Soviet architectural monstrosities. Since Ukraine’s independence many of the building have been restored and repainted as symbols of national pride.

Don’t miss the 1980’s reconstruction of the Golden Gates of Kiev or the 11th-century Orthodox cathedral of St. Sophia. I like the 19th century St. Volodymyr’s cathedral which was a museum of atheism during Soviet times. The big attraction is the Lavra Cave Monastery which is a complex of religious buildings with catacombs below contained mummified bodies of former monks. Nearby is the huge Motherland Monument, known locally as “Brezhnev’s Daughter”, 62m high, dominating the skyline. It’s part of the WW2 museum and you can climb up to the mother’s hand in an interior elevator.

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The Tour de France

The Tour de France itself is open only to professional cyclists, but that’s not to say that you can’t get a taste of the action. You can bike the same route, or follow stage by stage as a spectator. Here are the highlights you can expect to see if you follow the route, plus our practical tips to make it happen.

Dusseldorf

The very first stage of this year’s Tour de France starts and ends in the German city of Dusseldorf. It’s a flat 13 km time trial through the city streets, mostly along the banks of the Rhine and therefore wonderfully flat. You can follow a similar route on a guided bike tour of the city, or meander your own way through the Old and New Towns. The parks and tree-lined promenade by the riverside are particularly pretty, and a great way to ease yourself into cycling, especially if you’re not terribly fit.

Liège

Stage 2 of the Tour de France is a long distance stage: 203 km from Dusseldorf across the border to Liège in Belgium. There are two short climbs along the way, and you’ll see a great deal of western Germany’s countryside as you cycle.

Though this section of the route is not overly arduous, you will be spending a lot of hours in the saddle. It’s essential you wear the right shorts or tights to avoid chafing. Jack Wolfskin’s Gravity Flex Tights are stretchy and breathable, and importantly are also waterproof — helpful for the unpredictable weather in Northern Europe!

When you arrive into Liège, don’t be deceived by the first industrial appearances. Climb the Montagne de Bueren steps for a rewarding city view, and treat yourself to a well-earned beer at the top.Troyes

Cycling and drinking wine may not always go together, but there are few things more pleasurable in life than biking through French vineyards. The organisers of the Tour de France know that well, and so Stage 7 runs 213 km through the vineyards of Burgundy from Troyes to Nuits-Saint-Georges. Champagne and Rosé des Riceys are just two of the local specialities: you can also keep your energy levels up with Troyes andouillette, Chaource cheese, and Prunelle de Troyes, a particularly potent prune-based liquor.
Bergerac

Competitors in the Tour de France take a much-needed rest day in the Dordogne before starting on Stage 10, the 178 km leg from Perigueux to Bergerac. The terrain here is a little hillier, but the rewards for visitors are ample: the famous cave paintings of Lascaux, truffles and foie gras for the foodies, and the attractions of Bergerac.

Bergerac’s Old Town looks as if it was made for tourism. The timber framed houses are medieval, there are lively markets in the squares, and you can wander along the bank of the Dordogne River down to the historic quay.

Rodez

By the time you reach Stage 14 (182 km), you’ll need to raise your game. The hills here might look photogenic, but as they rise higher and higher, your legs will start to burn.

Be grateful that you’re on a modern, lightweight bicycle. The first time that British riders competed in the Tour de France was in 1955, and their equipment and clothing looked very different indeed. The Wearwell Cycle Company, who sponsored riders in that first British team, have relaunched their collection in 2017, combining a hint of 1950s vintage style with the latest materials and designs. You can look the part whilst riding in complete comfort.

When you do get to Rodez at the end of the stage, inevitably you’ll be exhausted. Once you’ve recovered, do allow some time for sightseeing, however. Rodez’s cathedral is a masterpiece of gothic architecture; there’s an excellent circular walking tour around the Old Town; and the local park, Domaine de Combelles, covers 300 acres.

Paris

Everyone’s heard of the Maillot Jaune — the yellow jersey — of the Tour de France, and on the final race day, that’s what is on everyone’s mind. It’s considered bad form for other riders to don that colour shirt, but if you want to feel like a winner on your own bicycle ride, by all means flash some canary yellow.

The 21st and final stage of the Tour de France is from Montgeron through Paris to the Champs-Élysées. It’s a 103 km ride and when the roads are cleared for the race, classed as a sprint. If you’re competing with the Parisian traffic, however, your pace will inevitably be curtailed.

It’s in Paris that the excitement of the race builds to a peak, and where as a spectator you’ll find the best vantage points. Arrive in good time if you want a spot on the Quai d’Orsay or Pont Alexandre III; you stand a better chance in the grounds of the Grand Palais where there’s rather more room.

Watching the race reach its triumphal end on the Champs-Élysées is an emotional sight. And that’s even more true if you’ve cycled all — or even part — of the way yourself. Make time this summer for the Tour de France, the greatest c

UK travellers from resorts

There’s always been plenty of talk about protection for holiday-makers in case holidays go wrong. But now it seems that holiday providers need protection too; from UK travellers.

Many of these have turned out to be fake claims fuelled by a bevy of touts and claims management companies (CMCs) who encourage holiday-makers to become dishonest, even coaching them about how to get the “evidence” they need to make a claim. This would include eating in a hotel simply to blame the venue for the supposed food poisoning.

People have reported receiving cold calls from claim companies suggesting falsely, that “a fund has been set up to compensate for deficiencies in hotel hygiene”.

Let’s face it, it was only a matter of time before this scam was rumbled. The day of reckoning has come and we Britons have been identified as the biggest culprits and even been dubbed the “the fake sick man of Europe”.

As Nick Longman, managing director of Tui – the parent company of Thomson and First Choice – so succinctly said: “it’s totally embarrassing”.

Mr Longman, who was the first to create a black list of fake tummy bug claimants, said: “A hotel will have customers from four or five markets of Tui and it will only be the British Tui customers who are complaining.”

Recently a hotel in Greece fought back. One British couple from Darlington found themselves facing a £170,000 counter claim by the Greek resort hotel after making a food poisoning allegation. The couple later withdrew the claim saying that they only did it when contacted by a claims company.

The industry is now toying with ideas to deal with this “British problem” and this may well result in banishing UK travellers from all-inclusive resorts leaving all of us with far less choice – and having to dole out more dosh too; remember how bogus whiplash claims made insuring our cars more expensive?

Spanish hoteliers have come out fighting saying that bogus claims by British tourists have cost them £42 million. It turns out that the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca, Costa Dorada and Benidorm have seen the highest number of scams.

In the meantime the Hotel Business Federation of Mallorca wants Brits barred from popular all-in breaks saying that if the compensation culture is not stamped out it will only allow UK sun-seekers self catering and bed and breakfast accommodation.

Since spring 2016 travel firm Tui has recorded around 15 times more illness claims than in previous years. They are typically worth around £3,000 to £5,000, sums that are often more than the cost of of the actual holiday.

But this has a knock-on affect as the operator has to revert to the hotels to claw back some of the money paid out. Naturally this leads to friction leaving hotels feeling hard done by, unsupported and reluctant to welcome UK visitors.

Operators such as Tui and Thomson are now inclined to stop selling to the British market. Tui’s Nick Longman, said “There’s a distinct risk that if this carries on as it is unabated, the hoteliers will say to us either ‘We don’t want to work with the British market at all’ or ‘We’re not going to offer you all-inclusive’.”

Thomas Cook’s UK managing director, Chris Mottershead, also warned that the scam could lead to the end of such holidays. ”It’s a very serious situation because it has the effect of stopping all-inclusive holidays for the UK market,“ he said. ”It has the potential of putting hoteliers out of business. They will stop British customers coming into their hotels.”

I applaud the effort made by ABTA, the Association of British Travel Agents who have launched the “Stop Sickness Scams” campaign urging the government to legislate in order to curb the incidence of bogus claims.

Easy money for one, means banishment and higher holiday prices for all.

So, on behalf of all decent British holiday-makers (and we are many), my message to the hoteliers of Europe is: please don’t abandon us – we are sorry.

Day trips from San Juan

 R0ads serve as a stage, and the performers are the rolling hills dotted with little country houses, the wild horses roaming freely through the forests, the fishing villages with tiny bars by the water – these are the enchanting sights travelers find when they dare to venture outside of the city and into the island’s core. Starting in San Juan, these day trips are less than two hours away from the city and reveal Puerto Rico’s raw beauty and cultural merit.

Luquillo – for stunning coastal views and local delicacies

Located on the east side of the island, Luquillo is only an hour away from the capital, and the drive there is pleasant and easy; just get on the PR-66 heading towards Rio Grande and then take the PR-3 South. Luquillo will soon materialize, tempting you to the shore with its blue-green waters and lines of the tallest palm trees around. Head to Balneario La Monserrate, also known as Luquillo Beach, if you want serene scenery, soft sand and easy access. Drive a little further and stop at La Pared Beach for a more rugged coast, a favorite among surfers who come here to catch the decidedly gnarly waves. After a day at the beach, just follow the locals, who are inevitably drawn to the Luquillo kiosks to find flavorsome dishes and cold beer. These beach-side kiosks offer many fried staples like alcapurriasbacalaitos and piononos, but other more filling dishes like roasted pork with rice and beans are also easy to find.

Culebra and Vieques – for an off-the-grid beach escape

Simply put, Culebra and Vieques are paradise defined, home to swathes of ivory sand lapped by calm, blue ocean and slim dirt roads snaking through dense tropical forests. Getting there can be as easy as hopping on a plane in San Juan and arriving thirty minutes later, or you can turn it into a road trip by driving to Fajardo and then traveling like the locals do, via an hour and a half-long panoramic ferry ride. If you choose the latter option, just be sure get to the terminal early to snag tickets – if you’re traveling on a weekday or a slow weekend, shoot to arrive half an hour early, but if you are venturing out during high season or on summer weekends, be prepared to arrive at least an hour early to queue. Either method of arrival will soon have you swooning over bright white sands like Culebra’s Flamenco Beach or Navio in Vieques. But it’s the laid-back, friendly local attitude will leave the biggest impression on your trip – life is definitely sunnier, saltier, and easier on these welcoming islands.

Fajardo – for tropical tunes and arepas

Fajardo is not just the place to catch the ferry to unspoiled Vieques and Culebra – this fishing town is also a prime spot for tropical escapism. Just one hour from San Juan, Fajardo sports an immaculate stretch of sand called Seven Seas Beach, a natural reserve known as Cabezas de San Juan, and some of the best arepas rellenas (white corn pocket bread) on the island. Head over to the village of Las Croabas for local dishes, drinks and music by the sea. If you’re feeling active, rent a kayak or a paddle board in Seven Seas and explore the peaceful coast, or hike to ‘playa escondida,’ a stunning hidden beach with views of Luquillo. Fajardo is also home to El Conquistador Resort, possibly the biggest and most famous resort on the island, and the pristine isles of Icacos and Palomino, only reachable by boat.

Guavate in Cayey – for celebrated cuisine and rural roads

Cayey is known as the home of the highly touted spit-roasted suckling pig, a local delicacy. This is not a dish you get at just any restaurant on the island, though, and many locals consider it mandatory to drive to Guavate to eat their way through the suckling pig route. Officially known as La Ruta del Lechón, this hilly rural road (officially Carretera 184) in the Central Mountains, became an even bigger attraction thanks to celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, who visit often. Along the route, culinary enthusiasts will find plenty of different lechoneras (restaurants) like El Nuevo Rancho, El Mojito and Los Pinos. The celebrated roasted pork is usually served with rice, pigeon peas and a savory slice of cuerito (pork rind) on the side.