Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London June 2015

by Emma Bumpus on June 23, 2015

Sport, art and parkland, 560 acres to be precise, bring careertraveller and family to Stratford, London’s famous East End, presenting an astonishing green playground of health, leisure and pure unadulterated fun.

Encompassing skyscrapers, silky smooth waterways and meadow like parkland screaming kaleidoscopic flora and fauna, the kind one finds in a national park, is an instant snapshot of what London’s new park, open 24 hours a day, offers.

Bursting with Olympic Games heritage, this extraordinary playground of cutting edge design and contemporary living space exudes culture, community and innovation amongst 15 acres of woods, hedgerow and wildlife habitat, not forgetting 4,300 new trees.

No ordinary park, we embark on a trail of trails, from nature to 26 permanent artworks, where every plot communicates dedication, vision and pride amongst contemporary artists, designers, athletes and of course general public.

Giant pencil like mooring posts called ‘Steles’ designed by local artist Keith Wilson stand vibrantly proud along the park’s Waterfront River waterfront in true Olympic colours red, blue, yellow, green and black. Cleverly eye catching and symbolic of the Olympic movement whose philosophy is to peacefully educate through sport and the environment, we step into the world of olympism.

We reach new heights with Britain’s tallest sculpture, the ArcelorMittal Orbit, a blood red tower of stainless steel, which standing 114.5m high delivers a 34 second elevator ascent to blissful London panoramic booty!

From an 80 metre tall viewing platform we absorb a 20 mile radius of glittering city skyline that shoots across capital booming regeneration to iconic silhouettes of The Shard, The Gherkin and The O2 Arena.

Breathtakingly surreal and symbolic, this complex 2,000 steel tonne structure with sky aspiring latticed loop weaves a visionary story of originality and London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic legacy. Created by artist Sir Anish Kapoor and designer Cecil Balmond, their vision provides an alternative outlook to city perspective and an ingenious use of global industrial footprint.

Part sponsored by ArcelorMittal, the world’s leading steel and mining industry, we discover how 60% of recyclable steel, 35,000 bolts and 2 concave mirrors providing upside down city aerial views, celebrate 21st century architecture, sculpture and real London spirit.

A 455-step descent is a sound assisted route to the sounds of the park from wildlife in the marshes to roars from the adjacent Stadium, a magnificent arena built to house 80,000 spectators and accommodate the London 2012 athletics and Paralympic athletics events.

With a summer line up of 2015 events including the Rugby World Cup it is of no surprise this 860-metre perimeter pleasure dome will become the new national centre for athletics and home for West Ham United in 2016, with upgraded 54,000 all-seater UEFA category 4-football stadium.

Set peacefully around the park’s immaculate Pleasure Gardens, a green oasis of beautifully landscaped play, picnic space and tree lined promenade boasting spherical lanterns, we sunbathe on alfresco wooden loungers and dance amongst water from 195 giant water fountain jets!

A meander past Carpenters Lock is an industrial blast from the past where flood relief waterways display regeneration and revitalisation with barges flowing rhythmically down the River Lea. Below the iridescent Central Park Bridge, whose stainless steel mirror- effect walls reflect sunlight off the water, we venture along the wetlands and discover the park has 8 toad habitat patches and 2 kingfisher nesting banks.

Heading north to Timber Lodge Cafe for refreshments amongst mounts of surrounding grassy parkland including Tumbling Bay Playground, the kids explore nature and are awe struck by the presence of the Lee Valley VeloPark whose sleek architectural outline beckons a taste of London 2012 award winning cycling. The indoor 250 metre high performance velodrome sizzles with Olympic and Paralympic Team GB success, a gentle reminder the Paralympic GB cycling team won 15 medals, including five golds, seven silver and three bronze.

Outside this 6,000 spectator dome the excitement bar ricochets with sight of the action fuelled BMX trails, all 8 kilometres, and outdoor I mile road circuit that takes the eye north to Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre where international hockey makes it mark with the Men’s GB Versus Australia match.

Within this fashionable sports complex we experience a piece of this £30 million centre housing two hockey pitches, four indoor tennis courts, six outdoor courts and contemporary clubhouse with all mod cons. A 3,000-seat hockey stadium fills the air with energetic family entertainment that applauds sport excellence and equality amongst all, including the London 2012 Olympic Team GB’s women’s hockey team who took bronze.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a gala, a celebration of the arts, a tribute to world sport championship and unity amongst equals. No ordinary park, we end our educational journey with a splash in the legendary London Aquatics Centre in 10 million litres of water under a sophisticated aluminium wave-like roof that rests on three concrete supports. Great day out!

Further information:

Details of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and how to get there can be found by clicking on website Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Click on the ArcelorMittal Orbit website for details of visiting the UK’s tallest sculpture.

Further information about Lee Valley Park including Lee Valley VeloPark and Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre can all be found on the following links: Lee Valley Park, Lee Valley VeloPark, Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.

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Berlin, Germany May 2015

by Emma Bumpus on June 7, 2015

Summer booms from the streets of this ‘happening’ city as careertraveller and family step up a gear in Germany’s electrifying capital!

First impressions? Blockbuster landmarks, upbeat streets brimming with sunny coloured trams amidst a plethora of eclectic funky cosmopolitan shops, hotels and eateries. Instant attraction!

Reams of international cuisine from Asian to Indian to American and European, intermingled with legendary currywurst (frankfurter with currysauce) is a fusion of East meets West flavours that define this vibrant avant-garde metropolis.

A cauldron of culture initiates a check-in at the Berliner Hof Hotel in the western district is a fashionable introduction to the inner city’s Tauentzienstraße, a bustling boulevard gleaming with boutiques, encircled with monuments and leafy green Tiergarten, Berlin’s largest landscaped park.

Modern and spaciously family friendly we are impressed with the hotel’s relaxed hospitality, free WiFi and extensive tourist information, the type that perfects a three-day city break.

A fifth floor breakfast room decorated with garden fresh colours is a calm oasis of good-looking European sustenance, sweet and and savoury. Appetising German bread including pumpernickel and warm Brötchen (rolls) complement the continental pastries, cheese, salami and salad, including choice of hot breakfast on request.

Equipped with a supplementary gym below, offering personal trainers, local running trails and adjacent wellness spa, everything flows at the Berliner Hof Hotel, which explains why Berlin is Germany’s champion number one for overnight stays.

Outside stands proud the famous ‘Berlin’ sculpture, which unveiled in 1987 exhibits a ‘broken chain’ that symbolises the devastating effects of the Berlin Wall.

Where the eye meets KaDeWe, Berlin’s largest swanky department store and nineteenth century neo Romanesque Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church, nicknamed ‘hohle Zahn’ (The Hollow Tooth) by Berliners, we feel smug between Charlottenburg and Mitte, just 2 of Berlin’s 12 boroughs.

A city of 96 districts, referred to as ‘kievs’ by locals who identify by their preferred neighbourhood, is distinctively jam-packed with art, history, regeneration and tourism in the heart of Europe, which explains the 11.9 million visitors Berlin recorded in 2014.

A swift five minute walk to Germany’s oldest Zoological Garden reveals the conspicuous 25 Hours Bikini Berlin Hotel whose trendy entrance displays a life-size Mini and kiosk with words “Welcome to the Jungle”. Unique and unconventional, we enter an elevator that transports us to the top floor Monkey Bar where all is revealed with contrasting panoramic views of the zoo monkeys, green belt Tiergarten and urban inner city hustle and bustle. Stunningly sophisticated and artistic, it becomes clear why Berlin comes third place in the European ranking after London and Paris.

Resisting the neighbouring easy access Zoologischer Garten S-Bahn railway station in favour of a fleeting city sightseeing tour bus, we hop on-board and activate the celebrated Berlin Welcome Card. This golden ticket of a pass offers stress free public travel and massive discounted admission to delicious city attractions, restaurants, theatres and tours galore.

From the roof of a double decker bus we feel the city’s rhythm that stems from diverse nationalities, cuisine, entertainment and architecture. Old and new buildings everywhere chronicle history, revealing a cutting-edge culture born out of reunification, freedom of expression and desire for the arts. From iconic 1960s skyscraper Television Tower to Brandenberg Gate, an eighteenth century neo classical triumphal arch that reopened it’s gate with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, we discover Berlin.

Every corner tells a story through a multitude of exhibitions, street art and monuments, including the Holocaust Memorial whose concrete grave-like stones commemorate the lives of the murdered Jews of the Holocaust.

Checkpoint Charlie is refuel pit stop of German heritage like no other. Streets lined with tourist shops are encircled by fragmented sections of the Berlin Wall, alongside photographic displays of Second World and Cold War atrocities in the form of the Topography of Terror and careertraveller favourite Wall Panorama. This visionary stroke of genius comes in the form of a cylindrical steel rotunda displaying 360° paintings of everyday life on the East and West Berlin border. German artist Yadegar Asisi creates a hauntingly accurate account of daily life in the German-Soviet vicinity from real life experience. Emotional stirring, and liberating, it is easy to understand why so many people revisit this compelling capital.

A tender boat tour of the River Spree across the city is our chance to admire further city gems in the Government Quarter with the Reichstag, UNESCO Museum Island and stunning Cathedral. Discovering Berlin’s largest church was laid in 1894, partly bombed in World War II and fully restored in 1993, we find peace and romance within this wonderful German capital.

Further information:

Details of Berlin’s sights and attractions can be found on the official tourist board website Visit Berlin.

To book a stay at the Berliner Hof Hotel click on their website Berliner Hof Hotel.

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The Somme, Picardy France April 2015

by Emma Bumpus on April 17, 2015

Easter takes careertraveller and family on a historical WW1 Remembrance Trail in the Somme, Picardy France, where nature and people commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

A smooth 90-minute P&O Ferries Dover – Calais crossing is a gentle reminder of the ease at which oceanic travel endorses a cultural curriculum of geography, languages, science and history!

Wrapped up in an aquatic bundle of pure family adventure and holiday fun we hop on the titanic Spirit of France and relax amongst an array of on-board facilities that advocate 21st century family travel. Un peu de retail therapy, amusement arcade and deck-lounge alfresco joie de vivre deliver cruise-like flavours of the sea as we take stock aboard the UK’s largest channel superferry!

The ferry’s Club Lounge is a gateway to luxury with contemporary furnishings, private sun deck and complementary snacks, which including the complementary glass of champagne takes the sting out of family travel.

Greeted by the Calais majestic Côte d’Opale is our sandy beach gateway to France, which with picturesque views of the town’s elegant neo-Flemish style Town Hall and belfry justifies 23 crossings a day. Just 26 miles from Dover, it is of no surprise that P&O Ferries escort 10.2 million passengers each year on all its services.

Seascape becomes landscape as we traverse 155 km coast to countryside through verdant open fields and quaint peaceful villages that steer us generously to The Poppy Country. Amidst a region of 67 villages, we choose Albert, a pretty little town full of French charm and a medley of authentic tourist attractions, beginning with the Somme 1916 Museum .

A 15-metre descent takes us underground to a renovated 13th century tunnel full of WW1 artefacts, lifelike trenches and history that proudly commemorates soldiers who fought during First World War.

Cleverly reconstructed displays of military life provide an educational trail of trench warfare and camaraderie from bunkers to Hall of Heroes. No ordinary gallery, nine lives, such as soldier Paul Hannecart and John MC Crae (Canadian military doctor and poet) stand tribute to WW1 heroism and humanity with the symbolic poppy ‘In Flander’s Field’s poem.

From the depths of this 250 metre long former WW2 underground shelter beckons the adjacent Basilica of Notre-Dame de Brebières, whose stunning neo byzantine architecture takes us 62 metres high! Above the rooftops of Albert we inhale breathtaking views of the Somme valley and step back 100 years to discover this picturesque peaceful town is steeped in WWI history.

Constant bombardment from 1914 to the fall of the Golden Virgin statue in 1918, a legendary symbol of peace that predicted the end of the war, reveals this compelling French town. Once the hub of armed activity, Albert takes pride in it’s former supportive military role to British troops with evocative Great War street art and 1920s and 1930s Art-Deco style houses, rebuilt after final liberation by British troops in August 1918.

Three valleys of Northern Picardy meadows and wet grasslands are fodder for our Circuit of Remembrance tour, which interrupted by the occasional bird of prey takes us into the rural wilderness of the Somme. Peaceful country lanes dotted with red brick houses exhibiting multi coloured shutters and authentic war souvenirs is a charming introduction to the region’s local friendliness and compassion, reverberating Entente Cordiale allegiance.

Along the fens and forests flows the pretty river Ancre that leads us through rural wildlife and military cemeteries (410 Commonwealth, 22 French and 14 German) into the land of remembrance. Our French tour guide, appropriately named Flora, delivers a fluent timeline of Battle of The Somme 1916 events that trace footsteps of 3 million soldiers, 20 nationalities and a fighting front of 45 kilometres.

Rustic landscape, once former battlefields, present architectural jewels in the form of landmark memorials that tribute all First World War soldiers. Standing proud amongst nature, time stands still as we reflect upon heroes, known and unknown.

Eager students, old and young, we absorb the well-preserved trenches of Beaumont – Hamel where the emblematic caribou bronze statue honours men who left their island to defend a faraway country – the 29th division of The Royal Newfoundland Division.

Thiepval Memorial is a colossal introduction to over 72, 000 named and unnamed Anglo-French soldiers and men, who once united in combat are commemorated with a cemetery of equal numbers of French and Commonwealth graves, with the Stone of Remembrance “Their Name Liveth For Evermore”.

From The Ulster Tower to Lochnagar Crater, our trail depicts courage, sorrow, strength, pain, but best of all comradeship and peace, wrapped up in a five-year project of remembrance, reflection and understanding that defines The First World War Centenary.

Back at Calais, we take a serene P&O Ferries sunset cruise back to Dover and feel extremely privileged to have experienced life in The Somme, past and present. As we leave the shimmering Pas-de-Calais coastline on board the Spirit of Britain, we take pride in taking a piece of The Poppy Lands home and pledge never to forget.

Further details of The Poppy Country and Circuit of Remembrance can be found on the official tourist Somme Tourism website . The centenary of the Great War 2015 programme can also be found on the following link Centenary of the Great War programme 2015.

General information on P&O Ferries crossings and travel can be found on their website P&O Ferries.

For accommodation we stayed at the Ibis Albert Hotel in the centre of The Poppy Country and heart of the Somme battlefields.

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Belmond British Pullman, March 2015

by Emma Bumpus on March 25, 2015

Luxury rail travel and vintage glamour bring delectable Mothers Day treasure to careertraveller in the form of Afternoon Tea on board the legendary Belmond British Pullman.

London Victoria central railway station, the UK’s second largest terminus, is an intoxicating travel cauldron bursting with passenger memories, past and present, providing a golden gateway of journeys in and out of London.

The flurry of traffic and movement dissipate into a foreign haze as we approach platform 1, where our chariot or rather ‘Palace on Wheels’ awaits. Mesmerised by the sophisticated umber and cream row of named carriages, 8 to be precise, is the beginning of a unique railway experience.

The adjacent Belmond British Pullman lounge is no ordinary waiting room, offering guests a well-appointed space under the spell of the glitzy Spitfire Sisters, whose honeyed vocal tones create a delicious 1930s and 1940s swing aperitif. Superb!

Escorted on-board we enter the official golden age of travel and are dazzled by sumptuous colour and craftsmanship that comes in the form of generous velvet armchairs, veneered panels displaying stylish art deco marquetry and polished brass luggage racks. Every detail goes unnoticed, especially the beautifully restored wood panelling by the renowned Dunn family, connoisseurs of handmade marquetry since 1895.

Discrete space for coats and bags display the clever sense of design and style that lies behind the American, George Mortimer Pullman, inventor of luxury train travel since 1864. Mr Pullman’s first visit to England formed the Pullman Palace Carriage Company in 1882 and to a rise in custom built lavish carriages throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

Our authentic car GWEN is a chic flashback to the 1930s with it’s plush blue upholstery and elegant light fittings, epitomising Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’. Built originally in 1932 for the Brighton Belle, this first class kitchen car with 20 seats has an exciting history of conveying H.M Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) to Brighton with sister car MONA in 1948. Expertly restored and decorated with ‘Pearwood Shell’ motif on ‘English Walnut’, GWEN’s brief written history sits proudly on Mahogany in the nearby vestibule since joining the British Pullman Train in 1999.

Greeted by silver service sparkling fine cutlery and crystal that twinkle with celebration, our voyage begins with a glass of 2010 Balfour Brut Rosé, a clever introduction to England’s one and only vineyard dedicated to the creation of English Rosé sparkling wine. Fresh and effervescent with a hint of redcurrant, it is of no surprise we discover this award winning ‘pink fizz’ is grown from three classic champagne grape varieties at the Hush Health Estate in Kent, superb!

A breeze through the Garden of England’s sublime countryside takes us on a ‘best of British’ journey with lashings of Tregothnan Classic hand – plucked tea, grown from the UK’s first tea plantation in Cornwall. Single estate leaves from the Tregothnan Estate mixed with imported finest Assam awaken the senses with a full-bodied flavour to savour afternoon tea.

Amidst decadent views of rolling green countryside each morsel brings delight and surprise, the type that quite fittingly complements Mr Pullman’s ‘Palace on Wheels’. Traditional delicately cut sandwiches bring a spring to the plate and palate that makes the whole railway experience fashionably perfect. Pretty petite scones are stepping-stones to a rainbow of celebratory pastries with an assortment of textures that drizzle with VIP care and mastery.

Whilst the feather light spiced pecan, apple and cranberry loaf cake light delight balances the boldness of the tea, it is the mango and passion fruit cheesecake that seduces the careertraveller palate. Smooth, creamy and cylindrical, this darling of a masterpiece defines baking wizardry with layers of sweet and slightly salty technique topped with mango puree and passion fruit glaze. Outstanding!

Adventure kicks in with a tour of the Pullman carriages that roar with 1920s speakeasy razzmatazz and old school Hollywood-like glamour. No car is the same and each and every one expresses a different story that transports us back to the 20th century from WW2 through to the 1980s.

A wander through this convey of chic boutique parlours is a flirtatious affair with the likes of Phoenix, Minerva, Lucille, Perseus, Cygnus and Vera and Audrey, whose previous life involved travelling 2.7 million miles with the Brighton Belle and entertaining Sir Laurence Olivier!

Vintage first-class comfort accompanied by picturesque British landscape and expert on-board stewards clad in authentic attire, bring the heyday of luxury train travel back to life. Mothers Day will never be the same!

To experience the excitement of luxury train travel on board the Belmond British Pullman, click on the Belmond British Pullman website for further details.

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Seven “sunny” hills, azure sky and bustling streets peppered with multi-coloured azulejos flaunting fashionably traditional eateries and boutiques glides careertraveller and family to the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon.

Majestically poised overlooking the verdant Eduardo VII Park feels extraordinarily supreme, that is until we step into the serenely glamorous lobby, where luminously perfumed hyacinths and exotic orchids take transatlantic glamour and vigour to another level!

Captivated and entranced with star struck kids in tow we unravel the roots of stellar hospitality, extraordinary experiences and unforgettable memories in the form of a journey as opposed to the usual family city break.

Every corner and every space becomes eye candy as we uncover Lisbon’s largest private art collection, good start! Aesthetically charmed and uplifted we experience the likes of Portuguese artist José Sobral Almada Negreiros, whose original bold coloured tapestries depicting centaurs hang gracefully in the imperial Almada Negreiros Lounge.

Iridescent textures and colours weave an educational trail of Portuguese tradition and history captured poignantly with local artist Estrela Faria’s sculpture of The 7 Hills of Lisbon. Along a pictorial journey of symbolic sights from Saint George Castle to Carmo Ruins in Chiado we download the hotel’s own glossy art collection app which brings the 60 piece exhibition to life.

Armed with ipad and Four Seasons map, the adults view their own private art exhibition whilst the kids embark on an endearing treasure hunt, triggering a playful Ritzy Programme full of genuine five star bounty fit for any young pirates! Amongst 10 stories, 282 rooms, of which 242 are rooms and 40 suites, we gather a trail of junior clues that present us with heavenly multi sensory rewards.

Top to bottom is a honey trap of relaxed luxury sensations with careertraveller favourite rooftop running track, offering 360-degree panoramic views of Lisbon’s colourful tiles and landmarks. Freestyle studio exuding fitness à la yoga, Pilates and stretching classes makes a perfect descent to the turquoise oasis of Zen-like serenity spa, an 18-metre lap pool of rippling paradise. Built for every chakra, we enter a regenerative philosophy of mind, body and spirit that makes the kids want to move in!

Absolutely nothing is spared from detail and a consciousness that derives from natural beauty and a desire to renew, refresh and restore. Aromatic waves of -eucalyptus-infused steam marry space and sensation with princely ice fountain, heated limestone flooring and selection of Asian infused teas that complement views of surrounding wall sculptures.

Our next clue transports us to our Deluxe interconnecting rooms which epitomise thoughtfulness and elegance with a twist of art deco inspired furniture and Louis XVI style work bureau for the meticulous to children’s Disney duvets and DVDs, not forgetting chocolate milk and cookies.

The final treasure hunt pit stop rests with Business Services, a professional playground of commercial facilities, where technology meets fortune in the form of a genuine treasure chest bursting with toys!

Inspired by the hotel’s unique experiences programme we take a 3-hour sidecar tour with Bike My Side and seize the city’s streets and monuments that provide stunning vistas of the famous Tagus River. Traversing 35 kilometres through culturally diverse districts delivers a kaleidoscopic fun fuelled ride through world-class Moorish history, architecture and cosmopolitan street life bursting with golden trams and modish vitality.

From the sweet-smelling waterfront of Belem, infused with austere flavours of Pasteis de Belem’s legendary custard tarts, we circuit an array of maritime landmarks that echo the footsteps of Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama.

Cinematic sidecar views capture the 15th century Jerónimos Monastery, a UNESCO world heritage site and Discoveries Monument that gazes lovingly across the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge to the Cristo Rei statue, commemorating Portugal’s exclusion from WWII.

A final breeze to the city’s highest point Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte in Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest quarter, is a cauldron of Portuguese life where locals watch sundown paint a rainbow across the city’s rooftops. Sublime!

Evening thoughts of a splash in the Four Seasons pool, movies and room service fill the little ones with holiday fever whereas the adults revel in thoughts of a custom- designed Signature slumber in luxurious 300-thread count Dobby Sateen cotton sheets.

Whilst nightcap ‘handmade truffles’ are a league of their own, breakfast is a fine affair in the sophisticated Varanda Restaurant where East meets West with a refined intercontinental menu packed with health, adventure and culture fit for royalty.

Exquisite traditional Portuguese pastries take family centre stage with beautifully delicate formed textures. Fresh and feather-light Bola de Berlim doughnuts with crème pâtissière take the art and science of pastry beyond any expectation and salute pastry chef Fabian Nguyen and his team.

Unusual, unexpected and diverse is the fascinating and alternative Japanese Breakfast with miso soup, Pickled Vegetables, Steamed Vegetables, Grilled Salmon, Onsen Egg, Dried Seaweed and Green Tea, that reveals the Four Seasons business philosophy of a deep-rooted ethic of dignity, pride and exceptional personal service in everything they do. Inimitable!

In the words of Morgan Freeman “There’s something different about a Four Seasons Hotel. The weight of the world lifts from your shoulders as soon as you walk in the door.”

Information

Experience Four Seasons Ritz Hotel Lisbon by clicking on their click on the hotel’s website Four Seasons Ritz Hotel. Details of the hotel’s ipad art app can be downloaded on the following link Four Seasons art collection app.

Bike My Side tours can be found on their website Bike My Side

Lisbon travel and tourist information can be found on the official Visit Lisboa website

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Royal Albert Hall, London December 2014

by Emma Bumpus on December 22, 2014

London takes centre stage as careertraveller and family take to the streets of Kensington in search of festive architectural treats that tunefully electrify the spirit of Christmas.

South Kensington tube station is our gateway to the capital’s museum quarter or rather ‘cultural oasis’, a historical zone devoted to the arts and science brimming with enlightenment and wonder.

A breeze past the Royal College of Music, Royal College of Art and Royal Geographical Society is an education that presents an historical insight to Victorian architecture and royalty, full of decorative treasures including the Royal Albert Hall.

Majestically situated in Kensington Gore to the south of Hyde Park, one of London’s eight royal parks boasting 350 acres of green open space, stands this noble brick cylinder, which almost 41 metres high initiates a lovingly devoted trail of culture derived from Prince Albert’s and Queen Victoria’s passion for knowledge, technological advancement and romance.

A Grand Tour of the Royal Albert Hall takes us back to the nineteenth century, reviving Prince Albert’s ‘Crystal Palace’, incubator of the Great Exhibition in 1851, where worldwide displays of modern artefacts and inventions changed history. From hydraulic press and textile machines to ‘tangible ink’ for the blind, we uncover the roots of this spectacular centre for the arts and sciences.

From the marvels of industry and manufacturing we discover this temporary exhibition known as the ‘workshop of the world’ commemorates Prince Albert’s desire to inspire, educate and promote industry.

Tender tiers of iron girder stairwells we observe the initial ‘A’ engraved, which overlooking Kensington Gardens and the Queen’s Albert Memorial, a commissioned statue of him sitting under a gilt canopy with a copy of the Exhibition catalogue on his knee, we absorb this ‘Central Hall’s significance and incredibly loving heritage.

Designed by Royal Engineers Captain Francis Fowke and Henry Darracott Scott and opened in 1871, this Grade I Listed Hall, built with 6 million red bricks and eighty thousand blocks of decorative terracotta, is a feast of northern Italian architecture. An impressive 800-foot long frieze that runs around the entire exterior perimeter of the building is the careertraveller favourite, with symbolic artistic figures depicting triumph of the arts and sciences.

Revelling amidst the Queen’s Private Suites and Royal Retiring Room we step into character and an electrifying world of nobility, stardom and diverse entertainment. With a timeline of events, speakers and performances by Rachmaninov, Hiawatha, Ford Motor Show and Einstein to The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Muhammad Ali, Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, Dalai Lama and Dr Who Prom, it is no surprise this legendary Hall continues to accrue a multitude of awards including ‘London Live Music Venue of the Year’ at the third annual London Lifestyle Awards in 2012.

Our appreciation of ‘audience’ is heightened with sight of the Hall’s mesmerising auditorium, fit for championship tennis, Sumo wrestling and Cirque De Soleil’s imaginative circus displays of acrobatics and clowning.

A peek inside the Second Tier and Grand Tier boxes is our ‘ticket to ride’ with superb views of distinguished seating from the Stalls and Arena to Gallery above. It is here we fully appreciate the immense size of the amphitheatre, which 185 feet wide by 219 feet long has an exclusive seating capacity of 5,272!

Amidst psychedelic lighting and improved bubble-like acoustic saucers from the rafters we uncover changes and developments that have brought the Hall into the 21st century. A sneaky peek at the three and a half storey basement below delivers a scintillating ‘behind the scenes’ perspective to performance and entertainment amongst the scenery, lighting and sound equipment. From unloading underground lorries to sparkling dressing rooms we are submerged in the theatre of the arts, where Prince Albert’s passion reigns.

Encircled by Royal Parks, the Royal Albert Hall, Victoria and Albert Museum and Science Museum, South Kensington makes it mark as we complete our journey with a final ice skating session at London’s Natural History Museum.

Illuminated at night, this stunning nineteenth century cathedral-like backdrop is a show of stunning design and celebratory fun for all. Midst the sweet and spicy aromas of seasonal hot chocolate and mulled wine, a traditional ride on the glittering carousel delivers a 360-degree panoramic vision of Albertopolis. Stunning!

Further details of the Royal Albert Hall performances and tours can be found by clicking on the following website Royal Albert Hall.

Information about ice skating at the Natural History Museum can be found on their website Natural History Museum.

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Valencia, Spain October 2014

by Emma Bumpus on November 11, 2014

Silky turquoise skies, sunny orange trees and perfumed Mediterranean flavours transport careertraveller and family to the exotic land of Valencia, triggering a never-ending journey of cultural treasures.

Bursting with 28-degree sunshine, palm lined streets and plazas teeming with ancient architectural delights, we step into Spain’s third largest city, which situated in the middle of the Spanish Mediterranean coast, boasts a population of one and a half million people.

Vibrantly busy yet relaxed the city offers an abundance of infinite sights and attractions that cleverly uncover a selection of discrete monumental symbols across Valencia’s Ciutat Vella or Old Town. Carved stone dragons on the declared UNESCO world heritage site Lonja de la Seda (Silk Exchange) facade, display a selection of dramatic gothic detail, recounting the power and wealth of this 15th century historical landmark, once a civil commercial trading centre.

Our historical trail of dragons is an enlightening pilgrimage epitomised by the El Patriarca in Calle de la Nave, an ancient street that narrowly divides this 11th century monument from Valencia’s old university. Inside the lobby we uncover the Turia Dragon legend that dates back to 1392 with tales of a prisoner who slayed the city’s monster in return for his life.

Thanks to our TURIART family tour guide we capture the dragon, a commemorative wall mounted stuffed alligator! Set within the same grounds as Valencia’s so called “Sistern Chapel,” dating back to the renaissance period, we are dazzled with the city’s wonders and vivid imagination.

Lunch is a radiant mix of enchanting alleyways and fresh local tapas at LaLola restaurant whose cocina del mercato is selected just around the corner from the renowned Mercado Central, one of Europe’s oldest food markets.

A fashionable mix of homemade pea hummus, squid and goat’s cheese salad drizzling with honey and ancient mustard, gives new meaning to Mediterranean cuisine. Texturally crisp, vibrant and fresh we step up to Valencian gastronomy with traditional paella of chicken, rabbit and snails, a dish that epitomises the warmth, tradition and gastronomy of Valencia.

Around the corner stands Valencia’s landmark Cathedral, whose imposing 13th-15th century stature boldly displays a range of artistic architectural styles from Renaissance to Neoclassical. Built on the site of an Arab mosque stand 3 porticos with La Puerta de los Apóstoles (Door of the Apostles) boasting six statuesque apostles and stone carved Coats of Arms, commending Valencia’s Christianity community.

Inside is a world of gothic medieval legend with the Holy Chalice, which set magnificently within a shrine of an alabaster altarpiece conjures genuine images of the Last Supper.

A waltz around Plaza de la Vergine is no ordinary Sunday as we observe the tradition of Valencian dancing in folklore costume amidst crowds and the fairy-tale Basilica, one of Spain’s first Baroque buildings dedicated to the city’s patron saint Virgen of The Forsaken.

A justifiable “Horchata”, Valencia’s famous signature drink made of sugar, water and tigernuts, harvested locally, provides a nourishing and refreshing pick-me-up that dates back to the eighth century!

The city’s Tourist Card provides smooth access downtown, noticeably connecting the ‘old’ and ‘new’ as we approach the knockout City of Arts and Science. An astonishing complex of art, technology, nature and science makes architectural waves as the eye captures Santiago Calatrava and Felix Candela’s sensational design sky high above the Turia River.

Valencia smacks of cultural choice as we indulge the five elements of the Hemisfèric IMAX cinema and Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía (Royal Opera House) to Umbracle, a landscaped vantage point, Príncipe Felipe Science Museum, Oceanográfico aquarium and Ágora, a multifunctional space hosting the Valencia Open 500 Tennis Tournament.

72 hours of Valencia could not get any better as we hit the road for the City’s celebrated Bioparc Valencia, a 10-hectare estate of natural wild habitats spanning the Equatorial Forest and Madagascar to Wetlands and Savannah. Beneath the African carob trees of this nature and conservation inspired project we uncover endangered species and feel privileged to mingle amongst an array of striking animals and dedicated biologists.

A mooch around the trendy Marina Real Juan Carlos I takes us across the rather slick Formula One circuit to La Malvarrosa Beach where al fresco relaxation takes shape with a traditional meat paella in the steps of Ernest Hemingway at La Pepica. Devine flavours of pork tenderloin, butter beans and Protected Designation of Origin local rice beside an authentic open kitchen is our rationale for visiting Albufera Natural Park. It is here amongst the rice paddy fields and stunning wildlife that we discover the roots and fruits of Valencia’s diverse civilisation.

Sociable, amorous and buzzing, Valencia is a sporty and cultural mecca of soul and community, which sealed with the profusion of colour and passion unites the past with the present, making travel in Spain ‘special’.

Further details of Valencia’s tourist sights and attractions can be found by clicking on the official Visit Valencia website.

Information about TURIART’s “Catch a Dragon” family tours can be found by clicking on their website TURIART.

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Autumn kicks off to a vibrantly red start as careertraveller and family visit the iconic Tower of London and it’s ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ poppy installation, commemorating the start of the First World War.

Welcomed by an extraordinary red carpet is a moat full of ‘burning red’ ceramic poppies, which stand artistically proud amongst flocks of volunteers, whose dedication and time tribute British and Colonial fatalities.

King Edward I’s western palace entrance triggers a medieval pilgrimage of William the Conqueror, royal power and 21 towers of a fortress, which illuminate this World Heritage Site that greets over 2 million visitors a year!

Dashing sentry Yeoman Warders (all 37) with 22 years military service alongside jet-black croaking ravens (seven to be precise) epitomise this citadel’s ever changing history, bursting with stories of royalty, war and entertainment dating back to the 11th century.

Along cobbled streets we trespass Traitor’s Gate, an imposing grand entrance that once moored Edward I’s royal barge and famously led Anne Boleyn, accused of treason, to her imprisonment and death.

Surrounded by 21 towers and tales, echoing a myriad of battles and captivity across the centuries, we uncover acts of Norman and Tudor chivalry and cruelty through an array of stunning artefacts and furnishings that bring history alive.

The White Tower with stone walls and keep stands architecturally proud and monumental, signalling military defence and stately significance. Inside is a beautiful chocolate box brimming with polished aristocratic weaponry in the artistic form of Royal Armouries, bringing Henry VIII of England to life!

The entrance floor ‘Line of Kings’ display delivers a magnificent motionless parade of life-sized wooden horses adorned with glistening royal arms and armour, once a ceremony of the king’s power.

The adrenalin pumping Bloody Tower built in the early 1220s takes us through times of imprisonment where the likes of Sir Walter Ralegh wrote his unfinished “History of the World”.

We sample life in the Middle Ages with a tour of the Wakefield Tower, St Thomas’s Tower and Lanthorn Tower, which collectively known as The Medieval Palace displays an array of once crowded open spaced halls that entertained and accommodated nobility, officials, petitioners, children and servants alike.

From towers to grounds we step back in time one hundred years to autumn 1914 where we trace the roots of Britain’s involvement in the First World War via a historical re-enactment “Your Country Needs you”. We experience the thoughts and feelings of those eager or unsure as to whether the British Empire should join the war between the Great Powers with a powerful theatrical debate that captivates the Tower’s South Lawn.

A timely Wall Walk around the Tower of London’s 21-acre estate delivers a spectacular London panorama leading all the way past seven huge towers including the Flint Tower. Within this original 13th-century inner curtain wall mural tower, rebuilt since the 1841 Grand Storehouse fire, we uncover the Tower’s significant role throughout the First World War.

Through pictures and film we unravel the 1914 Tower Timeline begins 29th August 1914 when 1,600 men take their Oath of Allegiance to join the Army, forming the ‘Stockbrokers’ Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

History reveals itself on 15th September 1914 when the 2nd Scots Guards leave the Tower and are deployed to the Western Front to 6th November 1914, when Carl Hans Lody becomes the very first spy to be executed by a firing squad of Grenadier Guards. Amongst royal residence, zoo and home of the Crown Jewels, we add military depot to the Tower’s momentously different uses across the centuries.

As we exit past thousands of poppies, soon to be 888,246 representing each British and Colonial fatality during World War One, we feel privileged to have experienced this innovative art installation by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, with setting by stage designer Tom Piper.

With a team of over 8,000 volunteers planting poppies, whose proceeds will support six service charities: Confederation of Service Charities (COBSEO), Combat Stress, Coming Home, Help For Heroes, Royal British Legion and SSAFA (formerly the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association, the poignant words of artillery officer John McCrae, 1915 reverberate:

“We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields”

In Flanders Fields, John McCrae, 1915

‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ art installation runs until 11th November 2014. Click on the following link for more details Tower of London

Further information about the Tower of London and events can be found on the Historic Royal Palaces website: Tower of London

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Sardinia, Italy August 2014

by Emma Bumpus on September 16, 2014

Summer explodes as Careertraveller and family taste island life where crystal clear waters, blazing fertile landscape and unique nuraghe take us on a journey of intense beauty, that reverberates D.H. Lawrence’s impressions of ‘Sea and Sardinia’.

Situated between Europe and Africa, Mediterranean hues of turquoise and azure blue shimmer below ‘encompassing heathy, moor-like hills’, echoing Lawrence’s verse: all the strange magic of Sardinia is in sight’.

Flora and fauna become the focus of our travels as we head to Torre Del Porticciolo, an extraordinary camping village that stands amidst an oasis of rainbow coloured pomegranate, fig and tangerine trees within the Porto Conte Nature Reserve!

Forest-like chandeliers of olive, eucalyptus and coniferous pine trees, complemented by purple flowered rosemary and flushed pink oleander are a botanical BBQ of the senses, evoking refreshment, wellbeing and genuine forest medicine!

Like foresters we embark on a Natural Alghero ‘off road’ jeep tour that captures Sardinia’s magnificent terrain and seascape, which interrupted with intermittent samples of sun ripe blackberries, freshly made pecorino cheese, and traditional sardo salsiccia (sausage), smacks of agro pastoral produce and independence.

As we head into the wild mountains of “heath and arbutus scrub” we trace the roots of shepherding, which since the days of Aragonese rule have been responsible for developing the island’s economy with local arts, handicraft and agriculture.

Our marine biologist guides captivate us with up close and personal sightings of coastline birds of prey including griffon vultures and kestrels in Planargia, an area of outstanding natural beauty inhabited by little more than thirteen thousand people.

Jagged volcanic cliffs protected by masses of macchia, mountainous blackthorn, myrtle and arbutus (strawberry tree), supervise a stretch of pure untouched Bosa beaches that provide the most stunning backdrop to major historical sites as we step back in time.

With over 7,000 nuraghi in Sardinia, Palmavera Nuraghe is no exception and presents a prehistoric link to Algherese civilisation via huge blocks of sand and limestone dating back to the 10th and 15th century BC. Remnants of a fortress and village displays reconstructed shepherd huts and towers with strategic views over dramatic misty mountains.

An introduction to the harvesting of cork followed by ‘un po di snorkelling’ around Compultito beach (where the locals go) is a journey into ecotourism, where conservation and tradition tribute Sardinia’s rich cultural heritage.

Alghero presents itself as an exotic port with tropical palms, picturesque harbour and medieval ramparts and towers, which date back to 14th century Catalan rule.

Nicknamed La Barcelonetta or ‘little Barcelona’ we wander the old town streets of Sardinia’s most Spanish city via a labyrinthine of old town-cobbled streets full of Catalan street signs, paella influenced restaurants and architecture, namely Chiesa(church) di San Francesco, rebuilt in Gothic-Aragonese style.

Amidst a bustling playground full of historical battlements and holidaymakers, we uncover treasure in the form of coral jewellery and carvings from the city’s deep coastal Riviera del Corallo or Coral Riviera. Wonderful!

Encompassing silver sandy beaches and luminously peaceful, port, make Alghero the perfect base for Progetto Natura’s wildlife excursion: our marine classroom for the next 4 hours! On-board we uncover this non-governmental organisation’s scientific research and studies devoted to cetacean conservation through a variety of activities from dolphin observation to underwater acoustic monitoring.

Following the Pelagos Sanctuary code of conduct protecting marine mammals, we grasp the meaning ‘responsible travel’ and follow the 300-metre outer boundary observation area and at no more than 8 knots, watch bottlenose dolphins spyhop as nature intended!

Overwhelmed by this island’s stunning natural world and incredibly simpatico openness, we make waves for a justifiable blast of sea kayaking with Sea Kayak Sardinia. From the cockpit of a salt spraying oceanic playground we experience the wild and rocky Sardinia around secluded craggy coastline to Cala Dragunara, a glittering ‘treasure island’ of bespoke sea, sun and sand!

An injection fuelled espresso doppia propels us into further action around Porto Conte where we carry adventure across Tamarillo Bay with a spot of deep sea cave paddling that takes this extreme and recreational sport to new heights.

Encircled by Mother Nature, we become attuned to Alghero’s breath taking biodiversity and rugged archipelago that embraces the spirit and science behind kayaking, in accordance with the British and American Canoe Associations.

Andy, our notably patient and entertaining professional BCU 5 (British Canoe Association) qualified instructor puts us at ease with great skill and resilience as we learn the art of real sea paddling. Great ocean temperament knowledge enables him to navigate us through a sensory journey around Capo Caccia’s limestone cliffs, which almost 300 metres high leaves us flying with endorphins and somewhat spiritually centred.

Ready for Neptune’s Grotto we descend 656 horizontal steps above crashing waves down to a maze of underground caves, which discovered by fishermen in the 18th century, displays an amphitheatre of dazzling stalactites and stalagmites.

Alghero is an authentic feast of flavours, charm and beauty, which in the words of D.H Lawrence suggests, “Sardinia is another thing”.

A very special thanks to, Natural Alghero, Progetto Natura and Sea Kayak Sardinia for a fascinating introduction to Alghero. Further details of their organisations and excursions can be found by clicking on the links below:
Natural Alghero
Progetto Natura
Sea Kayak Sardinia

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Greater Manchester, England July 2014

by Emma Bumpus on August 6, 2014

An explosion of architecture, art and entertainment present an overwhelmingly slick city break slice of culture and rich Lancashire heritage to careertraveller and family in the North of England.

Dazzled by canals, red-bricked warehouses and images of the artist LS Lowry’s famous chimneys and matchstick people we enter a land of history whose buildings echo antiquity and soul within a community that exudes regeneration.

First stop, The Lowry Hotel, we unravel the celebrated Northern spirit that radiates warmth, sincerity and first class hospitality, wrapped up in a classy curved glass encased structure.

Encircled by excitingly old and new buildings above the picturesque River Irwell, style, colour and design becomes a clear feature of the Chapel Wharf Development, which introduces an invigorating urban hustle and bustle associated with redevelopment.

Alfresco waterside views from the notably award winning River Bar and Grill restaurant delivers a bespoke vista of the famous Calatrava Trinity Bridge that marks the Salford-Manchester boundary. Unique!

A fashionably chic lobby decked with Emily Young’s stone head sculptures at the base of a glittering staircase lead the eye to a trail of contemporary Comme Ca Art Ltd pieces, which at destination ‘fourth floor’ rather poignantly reveals a display of contemporary LS Lowry prints by local artists. Lovely!

Every corner of this hotel communicates and connects Greater Manchester’s history in the form of, detail, texture and warmth, from the eminent Olga Chair to VIP dolce boudoir family goodies.

Crisp white bathrooms adorned with LS Lowry’s eminent “Two Men Fishing” print, alongside sumptuous fluffy bathrobes and nourishing REN skincare delights reinforces why The Lowry has an abundance of accolades including “Best Hotel” in the Downtown in Manchester – City of Manchester Awards, won in both 2013 and 2014.

48 hours in this trendy waterfront location beckons The Quays, a super stylish ‘square mile’ destination of entertainment, sport, culture with plethora of eateries surrounded by stunning architecture.

A hop on board Manchester Cruises delivers a tender 45-minute historical insight to Salford via the ship canal, whose sights expose Unlocking Salford Quays, a local community sculpture trail of five highly commendable artistic monuments.

Where The Wild Things Were presents giant steel elephant blades of grass representing far away destinations of past ships with a steel base engraved with imaginative drawings produced by local children. This ingenious heritage funded project proudly honours the women factory girls during the Second World War, dockers’ families and Nine Dock, once Manchester’s largest port.

Sparkling MediaCityUK symbolises a 21st century renaissance of iconic landmarks, stimulating economic development, employment and a rich cultural heritage that proudly celebrates it’s past, present and future.

Decorative Trafford Road and Millenium foot bridges paint modernisation of the ship canal since the 19th century with a commercial resurgence, awarding Greater Manchester a 21st century first class tourist destination.

Glitzy harbourside apartments alongside the alluring Lowry Retail Outlet shopping oasis, Old Trafford Manchester United Football Club and impressive ITV and BBC studios, provides panoramic eye candy to an assortment of like minded tourists and locals!

The Imperial War Museum (IWM North) is the careertraveller favourite with a knockout aluminium jagged shape building symbolising the effects of war. Designed by internationally acclaimed architect Daniel Libeskind, whose recent project has focused on Ground Zero in New York, we enter a fragmented globe with three interlocking shards, all 55 metres high with 180 steps. The elements of land, air and water take Greater Manchester to new heights with euphoric skyline vistas above a revitalising metropolis. Stunning!

We enter an evocative creative space of technology, science, and war, which educates through the senses of sight, touch, feel and play. Marvellously arranged exhibition spaces facilitate time travel from the First World War to present day with an arresting digital surround sound 360-degree Big Picture Show that commemorates WW1.

We experience the haunting effects of war and it’s impact on human lives in cinematic form and feel privileged to have stepped into a unique century classroom of the 21st century! From tanks and artillery to Trade Centre steel frame, it is no surprise IWM North has won more than 30 awards since opening in 2002!

A breeze past the ship-like Lowry art and entertainment centre is a show-stopping introduction to one of the most visited cultural destinations in the North West. Quayside, this hub of regeneration is an incubator for artists and exhibitions, a platform for performing arts AND a tribute to the artist LS Lowry.

Our grand finale comes in the form of the legendary LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, a pleasure dome of rides, 4D cinema, LEGO building and interactive Brick- a-Brack Factory Tour that ignites the inner child!

After a spot of LEGO sightseeing with Professor Brick- a-Brack and singalong session in the LEGO Friends karaoke lounge, we high five in the Merlin’s Apprentice as we pedal through gravity! A stroll around MINILAND is an inspirational North of England pilgrimage brimming with iconic landmark’s from The Cavern in Liverpool to The Blackpool Tower.

Greater Manchester is a treasure trove of sights and delights with an addictive energy and revival that most deservedly belongs on the careertraveller roadmap. One trip will never be enough!

Special thanks to The Lowry Hotel for a luxuriously friendly snapshot of Greater Manchester in all it’s glory. Details of the hotel can be found by clicking on the following The Lowry Hotel.

A huge applause for The Quays and LEGOLAND Discovery Centre whose websites can be found below:
The Quays
LEGOLAND Discovery Centre

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