WhaleFest: Brighton, East Sussex March 2014

by Emma Bumpus on March 24, 2014

Cetacean curiosity, coast and collaboration are enough C’s to lure careertraveller and family to “The Queen of Watering Places” or “Old Ocean’s Bauble’, aka 21st century “London-by-Sea”.

Bracing sea air tickles the senses amidst a playground of historical landmarks and infinite promenade that imitates a roller-coaster seashore of health, leisure and fun.

Bewitched by the Indo-Saracenic Royal Pavilion, a former royal palace and 18th century seaside retreat, we are teased by her “Pleasure” Brighton Pier, all 524 metres long amidst a shimmering turquoise backdrop!

Nautical deck chairs, palms and Blue Flag pebble beaches, lined with sunny cafes, bars and pretty little vintage art galleries, form a cosmopolitan oceanic scene for the world’s biggest celebration of wild whales and dolphins.

A stride inside the Victorian Hilton Brighton Metropole Hotel sparks historical memoirs in the very location 42 governments decided to ban whale hunting back in 1982.

In true festival style we are greeted by an array of friendly and dedicated volunteers, 300 to be precise, whose desire to protect our oceans shines through in waves.

The next 48 hours are educational, geographical and biographical with a line up of formidable speakers including Virginia McKenna OBE, Steve Backshall, Miranda Krestovnikoff and Dr Ingrid Visser, who share their conservational projects, challenges and journeys across the globe.

Time stands still amongst 10,000 visitors alongside businesses, NGOs and guests from 37 countries and 7 continents, attracting pods of families, students, professionals, environmentalists and ocean lovers, all committed to marine conservation. Like humans, we discover whales are warm-blooded mammals that breathe air and nourish their young with milk. All rather thought provoking.

Submerged in a hub of extraordinary expertise, empathy and humanity we are equivocally saddened yet elated by the efforts charities such as the World Cetacean Alliance (WCA), ORCA, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Born Free Foundation devote to the prevention of animal cruelty and extinction.

With approximately 50 Maui dolphins left in New Zealand, we are touched by Earthrace Conservation’s artistic cetacean cemetery, which pays tribute to those that have died in captivity.

The releasing of a full size model killer whale into the sea outside the hotel provides a captivating display of freedom for cetaceans in contrast to Morgan the Orca, whose wild captivity has established the Free Morgan Foundation charity to return her back to her family in Norway.

Mega Whale Zone delivers an uplifting “hands -on” insight to Humpback Whales inside a life-sized pop up whale! With a life expectancy of 45-50 years we uncover stories of these acrobatic sea creatures, whose playful activities range from breaching high out of the ocean to spyhopping, a 30 seconds peek from the water. Marvellous!

A spot of cetacean face painting and ocean storytelling for the ‘little un’ in and out of some seriously good ‘spouting off’ by the Madeira Tourist Board and Wise Oceans provides a‘dive into the classroom’ and an opportunity to spread the word about safeguarding our oceans.

From marine conservation and debris to responsible whale watching, we come close to nature and feel privileged to have met some wonderful people. An education of the ocean!

With sponsors worth mentioning: Visit Brighton, We Love Brighton, Madeira Islands, National Geographic Kids, Futurismo, ASCOBANS, Brighton & Hove City Council, Outdoor Photography, Wild Travel, Primary Times and CMS – such collaboration results in £10,000 profit from WhaleFest in support of the WCA, Free Morgan and Nabu International in their efforts to promote the Long Swim to Freedom campaign – the shape of things to come!

In the words of Jacques Cousteau, Honorary President of the WCA:

“Without collaboration we will achieve nothing more than a drop in the ocean”.

Special thanks to Visit Brighton and WhaleFest for an amazing weekend in Brighton!

Further details of Visit Brighton official tourist board and WhaleFest can be found on the following links:

Visit Brighton
WhaleFest

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Hamburg, Germany – February 2014

by Emma Bumpus on February 25, 2014

Winter becomes summer as careertraveller and family take to the waters and streets of Germany’s second largest city, which notably awarded the title “European Green Capital” 2011 by the EU Commission, brings vision and travel inspiration to 2014!

Captured by striking architecture above Europe’s second largest port, we become entranced by this golden cosmopolitan metropolis on water that provides a treasure trail of old and new tourist attractions.

Hamburg boasts choice with modern easy access transport systems across the city with metro, bikes, bus or boats, making the next 48 hours very ‘liveable, sociable and cultural’. With approximately 70 museums spread across the city, 85 parks and almost 2,500 bridges (more than London, Venice and Amsterdam combined) we traverse the multi waterways of the Elbe, Alster and Bille; rather special!

The deck of a Harbour Boat Tour is our maritime telescope, illuminating Hamburg’s attractions, history and fabulous HafenCity urban development, bringing zing to this industrial and cosmopolitan city.

We glide past emerging trendy quayside apartments, radiant red brick commercial warehouses and evolving glass Elbe Philharmonic Hall. Iconic and visionary, we discover this architectural masterpiece will be home to 3 auditoriums, apartments, hotel rooms and of course a unique space for classical, world, jazz and pop music on the river Elbe. Pretty spectacular!

Watching dockside workers ripen Europe’s largest social cultural project provides swish and contemporary images of an attractive new living space, epitomising 21st century regeneration, travel and globalisation.

Beneath the girders of lofty freight containers bursting with prosperous tales of trade and overseas crossings, notably Asia, Russia and Europe, we inhale the city’s majestic skyline that beckons serious sightseeing from the seats of a double-decker hop on hop off bus.

Diversity and spice become dish of the day as Hamburg reveals a silver platter of monumental riches that dazzle us with Hanseatic history. Like a 7 course tasting menu we indulge exquisite city highlights in the form of antique treasures including the Neo Renaissance style Rathaus (Town Hall) to baroque style St Michaelis Church, Germany’s biggest clock tower. Nicknamed “The Michel”, this 132-metre tower executes a sublime 360-degree panorama of Germany’s ‘gateway to the world’!

Relentless, our historical circuit transforms into a lakeside spree of the Outer Alster Lake where the likes of James Bond once stayed in various guises along the shores of affluence. Bustling with romance and al fresco joie de vivre we unearth an array of cafes, restaurants, boat rides and green outdoor pursuits in the heart of the city.

A breeze past Alster Arcade, aptly named ‘Little Venice’ with it’s 17 th century century Venetian-like arches and river side side location, provides the perfect excuse to hop off and explore Jungfernstieg, a stylish waterfront shopping precinct. Alsterhaus, a famous twentieth century luxury department store with unique gifts and delectable 4th Floor Gourmet Boulevard is an international runway of high-end produce with Veuve Clicquot Boutique. No ordinary pit stop!

Attraction led, we journey past the renowned Reeperbahn, which since 2008 celebrates the history of The Beatles with a commemorative Beatles Square of 5 metal life-sized silhouettes. Marvellous!

Our journey ends at Speicherstadt, an ‘up and coming’ Neo Gothic brick warehouse district, which claiming fame to the world’s largest stock of oriental carpets sweeps us to the world’s largest model railway; Miniatur Wunderland.

Home to more than 11 million visitors we tread foot on 1.300 square metres of pure imagination from Europe to America! Greeted by miniature figurines, iconic landmarks, landscape and transport systems, we are entertained by detail depicting stories across the ski slopes of Austria to flight simulations at Knuffingen Airport. Whilst the “little uns” gush at the spectacular 330.000 LED night-time simulation, it is easy to see why this inspirational pleasure dome has charmed the likes of Rod Stewart and Niki Lauda!

Exhilarated and educated, no stay in Hamburg would be complete without a skate on Germany’s largest open-air ice rink Indoo Eisarena in the heart of the city’s state park Planten un Blomen, an evergreen hub of leisure!

Expectations are exceeded with an 8-minute train ride East to our welcoming Novotel Hamburg City Alster Hotel, offering a semi bespoke metro stop directly outside the doors of chic and contemporary relaxation! A fresh and spacious lobby, with children’s play and console area, stylish candle lit bar and restaurant with hurricane lamps, complements modern-day travel and signifies the ease at which things are achieved in this remarkable city.

Cool and distinct Hamburg is a city of all seasons!

Further information about Hamburg’s tourist attractions can be found on the official Hamburg Tourist Office website and details of the Novotel Hamburg City Alster Hotel can be found by clicking on their website Novotel Hamburg City Alster.

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Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly London January 2014

by Emma Bumpus on January 20, 2014

January and London provide the perfect post Christmas winter antidote in the quintessential form of unique artisan produce, escorting careertraveller et al to fourth floor heaven at Fortnum & Mason.

As if transported back in time, 1707 to be precise, the Berkeley Sutcliffe restored clock, designed in 1961, chimes 16.00 hrs for tea and the scent of sugar coated dreams become reality as we enter this glittering glamorous palace of a store that oozes historical adventure of a confectionary kind!

Ground floor kaleidoscopic macaroons, cream of the crop extra jam preserves and musical biscuits are a dolce ensemble within an orchestra of delectably irresistible gems. Lustrous Turkish Delight chaperone trays of jewel-like bonbons, fudge and coco fuelled chocolates, which sitting coquettishly below an array of glamorous crystal chandeliers, turn centre stage into a sugar-coated boutique.

Pungent and citrus aromas from the tea and coffee section to the ‘Marmalade Library’ are music to the ears and the beginning of a courteous tea trail. An elegant spiral staircase from the clandestine Lower Ground Floor unearths mouth watering savoury produce from a pantry that echoes 18th century delicacies. A charcuterie, delicatessen and discretely sophisticated wine bar are a bespoke marketplace that ignite the sweet and savoury taste papillae, unveiling a gourmet theatre in the making!

An epicurean ascent is a revelation of vintage and unusual gifts to inspire and desire, epitomising the heart and soul of hand made art and craft. Like a stairway to heaven offering a traditional alternative to Charlie and The Chocolate Factory’s glass elevator, we orbit around a planet of First Floor china, glass and legendary hampers to Second Floor classic ladies perfume, toiletries and jewellery. Third Floor presents men’s accessories and Fortnum’s own bespoke By Appointment service for the discerningly curious and adventurous. Not surprising to hear the store holds two Royal Warrants of Appointment to HM The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales!

As the saying goes ‘save the best till last’ reveals the Fourth Floor Diamond Jubilee Salon our tea trail transforms into a superlative Afternoon Tea transatlantic voyage!

Greeted by a serene David Collins garden inspired oasis with quaint pianist and plethora of dainty little darlings on porcelain in keeping with the Georgian period, we retrace the history of tea ‘taken seriously at Fortnum & Mason’. A sophisticated tea menu, 85 to be precise, excites and educates with black, green, white, yellow, Highgrove and World teas across Europe, Africa and Asia.

From a collection including Classic, Herbal and Highgrove Teas we opt for the Single Estate Teas and begin a tea tasting of the finest. Tea Sommelier “Davana” impressively takes us on an inspiring tea journey from high altitude lush farm plantations of First and Second Flush picking seasons to various brewing temperatures.

From South Korean Green Tea “Finest Gyokuro” to Oolong “Formosa Pouchong” Taiwan we sample refreshingly dark polished leaves brewed between 75-90°C to Ceylon “New Vithanakande”, a black ‘orange-red liquor’ sensation, which brewed at 90-100°C evokes puffs of Darjeeling.

Careertraveller favourite “Tregothnan”, number 17 on the menu, is a First Flush (harvested late February-mid April) genuine English tea, which moistures a mellow sweet and savoury palette for Afternoon Tea, arriving in 3 tier curate chariot style.

Self assured light and elegant finger sandwiches define ‘melt in the mouth’ flavours of delectable creamy coronation chicken to flavoursome rare roast beef with gherkin & caper dressing. Petite feather – light scones take the lead à la savoury with careertraveller favourite caramelised onion scone with mixed herb & tomato cream cheese. Golden and easy to break with fresh cream cheese trickling with flushed pomodoro juice is a celebration of skill, gratification and quality that diverts the sensors to a lavish platter of wonderland geometric patisseries.

From pretty in pink rose éclair to luxuriously intense gold leaf chocolate Sachertorte, it is the sexy violet victoria plum macaroon ‘baked on premise’, with ‘forbidden fruit’ orange and cinnamon buttercream that steals the crown jewel pastry award. Quite simply the best!

Brimming with passion, heritage and distinction, Fortnum’s is a hotel waiting to happen!

Further details of Fortnum & Mason can be found by clicking on their on their website Fortnum & Mason.

Click here for more information on Afternoon Tea in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon.

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Leeds Castle, Kent, England December 2013

by Emma Bumpus on December 16, 2013

Medieval romance and festive wonder set in Kent’s Garden of England presents “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to careertraveller and family amidst an enchanting playground of sweet-scented historical treasures!

Take a 12th century Norman castle, add an enchanting moat, sprinkle it with black swans and mandarin ducks and then decorate it with 500 acres of parkland “where people meet, and things happen.” This is Leeds Castle.

Dreamy and playful we are dazzled by the sparkling traditional carousel that illuminates the encompassing Christmas German market chalets, all 30 of them! Lashings of perfumed mulled wine and silky smooth hot chocolate accompanied by Turkey trimmings galore unleashes a unique festive flavour to tease and please!

A wondrous pilgrimage along the Cedar Lawn unravels a glittering amphitheatre of decorative bijou gifts to entice and tantalise any Christmas stocking from artisan jewellery to Bush Grub creepy crawly sweets and snacks! Whilst the children revel in their authentic candy coated mealworm lollipops, the adults inhale a trail of wholesome treasures from Perfick Pork tantalising Black Pudding and Strawberry Jam sausages to Pretty Happy Lovely Stuff, whom display a mouth watering stall of cranberry snowball bath bombs to Christmas tree bath fizzers and soap cake. Absolutely delectable!

An endearing ride on Elsie the castle train is our ticket to this legendary Norman castle, which built in 1119, echoes historical stories of military sieges, royalty and entertainment. Stone walls and elegantly decorative turrets give the word “castle” new meaning as we enter The Heraldry Room, containing coats- of- arms across the centuries, including the renowned Fairfax family.

We time travel back to the 1420s in The Queen’s Room, which furnishes a vibrant recreation of noble living for the likes of Henry V and his widow Catherine de Valois. The petite Day Bed with crowned canopy, adorned with H and C lettering, exudes blue-blooded history with its lozenge shaped Queen’s coat- of- arms that signifies widowhood!

From The Queen’s Gallery to Henry VIII Banqueting Hall we uncover marble busts of the king and his three children from the mid 16th century to patently carved oak beams of French architect Armand Rateau from the 1920s. History in the making!

Our journey from TheBoardroom to The Seminar Room displays this ‘living castle’ derived from former owner Lady Baillie in 1926, whose aristocratic and glamorous lifestyle shines in the form of a Russian onyx lined Bathroom.

A penchant for famous visitors in the form of Errol Flynn and Charlie Chaplin alongside sophisticated European furnishings influenced by French interior designer Stéphane Boudin present festive cheer with an array of stylish Christmas decorations that resonate within The Thorpe Hall Drawing Room!

An elegant and tasteful trail of trees, garlands and wreaths display The Twelve Days of Christmas, which somehow brings the outdoors in with symbolic clues of black swan images, peacocks and parkland firs! A true castle with a heart, as wished by Lady Baillie herself.

Knights Realm Playground calling gives the ‘little uns’ an authentic run-around in a wooden castle of their own which leads to a spiral yew Maze of 2,400 trees! Interrupted by an astonishing falconry display of owls and kestrels we are completely captivated by this countryside adventure playground that bewilders us with an underground Grotto made of shells and wood.

The festivity climax arrives in the form of real reindeers Holly and Cracker who amongst the hay and baubles bring nativity and Santa to life. Christmas comes early with a tinsel topped husky ride in the grounds of this magical medieval winter wonderland. Priceless!

Further details of the castle can be found by clicking on their website Leeds Castle with additional event information on The Twelve Days of Christmas link.

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Brussels, Begium October 2013

by Emma Bumpus on November 5, 2013

Sophisticated cocoa enriched chocolatiers harmonised by pretty patisseries amidst a plethora of laid-back brasseries, artisan shops and eclectic architecture, puts Brussels firmly on the careertraveller roadmap!

Perfumed, bustling and convivial we feel instantly transported to a city bulging with cultural diversity, independence and style.

First stop Hotel Amigo, awaits our luxurious Rocco Forte haven, smack bang in the city’s heart, adjoining the Grand Place where everything is happening and alive. Kids in tow we are swept away with superb hospitality in the form of swift check-in, kids own check-in cards and dedicated childrens’ amenities in the form of delightful Tintin gifts, personal robes/slippers and exquisite handcrafted Maison Dandoy “Specculoo” biscuits brimming with refined brown sugar and spices. Slick!

Interconnecting rooms offering mod cons, Wii consoles and Ren toiletries with uncluttered touches in the form of Tintin artefacts and Magritte paintings in a beautifully sumptuous boutique airy space makes this luxury hotel insatiably addictive and nurturing!

A wander round this unusual 5 star palace provides clue-like examples of Belgian delights in the form of chocolate pralines, jewellery and fashion around a modish lobby brimming with detail, texture and grand concierge.

A breeze past the chic The Bar Amigo and notably award winning BoCConi restaurant is enough to contemplate room service later as we gush with tourist excitement amidst a myriad of multifarious attractions. Formidable!

Led by the cobbled streets, dolce aromas form a unique trail of exquisite chocolatiers bursting with praline and truffle displays that fill the streets with fun and joie de vivre.

Our cocoa pilgrimage is cemented at The Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate where we discover the Central and South America roots of the beans, first used as currency and as a drink. A superb master chocolate demonstration is the finished product and fuelled with 70% cocoa we set sail for the Pièce de résistance Grand-Place!

No ordinary Place, we are spellbound by the encompassing regal architecture of this former market square that exudes historical power and protection dating back to the Middle Ages. A quadrangular ambience of geniality, trade and culture is an excuse to savour a traditional monastic blonde beer and enfant-friendly hot chocolate, whilst admirably gazing at the City Hall’s gothic façade, gargoyles and statues which echo stories of a bygone age.

Somewhat star struck by this effervescent city we meander curiously around the sugar coated pathways that rather charismatically illuminate the Belgian culture with it’s comic strip frescoes, all 47! From Tintin to Nero we discover street treasures in the Belgian Comic Strip Centre and Marc Sleen Museum to the kids delight.

Room service at Hotel Amigo followed by authentic Belgian waffles decorated with racy red strawberries, redcurrants and cream is the moment to acknowledge Brussels has it all; passion, flair and art!

A morning at the Hergé Museum in Louvain-la-Neuve is a 30-minute excuse to trial the Brussels Card, discovering the easily accessible sights around town. Within this contemporary architectural moored ship – like gem we time travel through the life of journalist, graphic designer, cartoonist, illustrator, artist storyteller and Tintin creator – Georges Remi, aka Hergé amidst a personal trajectory of photographs, sketches and artefacts that celebrate humanity and art.

A pit stop at the European Quarter is our flavour of Parlamentarium where we journey virtually through the centre of the European Parliament with interactive maps, photographs, cinematic debate and future wishes!

Home is Chez Léon for the evening where we salute the traditional Flemish cuisine of mussels (14 home made to be precise) and French fries in true tourist style! Buzzing with families, locals, and travellers we experience a heart-warming family run atmosphere that has evolved over 160 years within walking distance of the celebrated Grand Place. Magic!

Our 48 hours in Brussels is heightened with a city sightseeing tour on the infamous Hop On-Hop Off Bus past the Royal Palace, Botanical Gardens, Manneken Pis, National Basilica Church of the Sacred Heart (the world’s 5th ranked largest church and careertraveller favourite Atomium!

Knee jerkily abstract, ostentatious and futuristic our eyes capture an out-of-this-world “seminal totem” sculpture or building, which in the form of 9 atom- like spheres, 20 tubes, 3 pillars and 360° panorama makes travel to Brussels essential!

Atom inspired, we discover this iconic symbol was built for science and culture in 1958 for a global World Exhibition, hence amidst neon lit escalators we traverse through society, engineering and design. All 8 levels standing 102 metres high we take the fastest (1950s) lift in Europe (5 metres per second, 18 kph to seventh heaven where Brussels stands proud. Marvellous!

Further details of Brussels can be found on the VisitBrussels website as well as The Little Explorer which provides families with useful out and about information.

For information about Hotel Amigoand their “A Tintin Family Affair” package click on the Hotel Amigo website and to view more of the Atomium’s magical architecture click on their website Atomium.

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Blair Atholl, Perthshire, Scotland October 2013

by Emma Bumpus on October 10, 2013

Autumn takes on new meaning as Careertraveller and family take to the Scottish Highlands for a wee dram of verdant heaven in the Cairngorms National Park.

Boarding the ScotRail Caledonian Sleeper puts unique travel and Scotland on the pulse at Euston platform, where stewardess “Lucette” introduces us to a stylishly horizontal journey through nature!

Our interconnecting cabins provide a sense of family space and fun that make us want to move in! After a play with the incredibly utilitarian fold out tray, hinged lid sink and ambient controls we traverse adventurously towards the first class lounge. Aroused by a traditional menu of haggis, neeps and tatties, not forgetting hot chocolate brownie pudding for the little ‘un’, we find ourselves ensconced in a rather plush carriage that feels bespoke with leather sofas and dining tables.

Like a magic carpet we soar north of Euston, London through a myriad of English counties from the comfort of our crisp white bed linen that induces an inebriating slumber. Before arriving at Blair Atholl, a hospitable coffee wake-up call makes our prompt 06.23 Perthshire arrival a celebration of this 150-year-old highland mainline that radiates superb travel and adventure.

A dusky fresh and peaceful 5-minute walk to Blair Castle Caravan Park feels like Mother Nature personified as we enter the dewy green paradise Blair Atholl Estate, all 145,000 acres! Home is a luxury caravan encircled by Cairngorm mounts, corbetts and grahams, plein de evergreen woodland seeping with aromatic Caledonian scots pine. Marvellous!

Watching dawn unveil ceremonious autumnal skies amidst a playground of windswept russet leaves and clandestine red deer provides a seasonal breakfast that beckons real outdoor exploration and wildlife wanderlust.

Our red squirrel highland safari comes in the form of a 4×4 land rover and park ranger “Polly”, who whisks us up into the rugged Cairngorms via a steep broad-leaved trail of jungle-like forest. Masses of fertile mountain ash, birch, rowan and spruce display the sustenance of Britain’s only native squirrel in the form of conifers, spruce, berries and bark. As an endangered species, we enter the world of conservation and Scottish Wildlife Trust, who work hard to protect and enhance wildlife and ecosystems. Enlightening.

The treasure of treasures Falls of Bruar is a careertraveller favourite, which in the words of Robert Burns:

“Let fragrant birks, in woodbines drest, My craggy cliffs adorn”

summarises natural Scotland. Cascading waterfalls amidst a textural inferno of mature larch and scots pine along the banks of Bruar Water are a poetic celebration of Perthshire’s woodland heritage.

Bewitched by nature we switch our woodland daytime focus to night by taking a 15-minute highland bus ride to Pitlochry where colour, light and sound steal Faskally Wood with Enchanted Forest. Canny, educational and sophisticated are words that describe the most stunning display of Scottish Highland landscape and hospitality tied up in a cultural display of Forestry Commission architecture and conservation.

Set within Tay Forest Park on the eastern shore of Loch Faskally we enter an aptly named ‘forester’s classroom, which once a foresters’ training school in the 1950s, stands a woodland playground of tree species, between 100- 200 years old.

A dimly lit woodland trail provides pockets of al fresco art amidst this stunning Perthshire backdrop with loch and timber footbridge, which uses the magical sensory powers of reflection and perception to study landscape. Clever!

Ingenious lighting and music create a palette fit for Eden, which amongst a sugary and spicy mist of hot chocolate and mulled wine pulls this spectacular local and national attraction together. From the needles of the pines to the water lilies on the lake we view nature through a kaleidoscopic lens of the soul that strips nature back to its roots and moves us into the Year of Natural Scotland 2013!

Can it get any better? A final tour of the fairy tale Blair Castle dating back to 1269 back at Blair Atholl, or in Gaelic Bhlar Athal, delivers an historical overview of Perthshire’s alluring gateway to the Highlands. A trail of polished antlers take us outside to the Hercules Statue and Garden, which like a fantasy with celestial fruit trees, ponds, Apple House and statues, make it all rather Narnia- like!

Our journey ends with a commemorative tour of the Atholl Country Life Museum that summarises Caledonian life with an eclectic mix of highland road, and rail artefacts from previous generations. From wooden soled railway boots to Caledonian Challenge Shield – the World’s largest rifle shooting trophy, we feel truly inspired and impressed by the spirit and beauty of Perthshire.

For more information on ScotRail and the Caledonian Sleeper click on the website ScotRail.

Further details of Blair Castle Caravan Park and Ranger Services can be found by clicking on the following links: Blair Castle Caravan Park and Ranger Services.

To visit or book Enchanted Forest website Enchanted Forest.

Click on the VisitScotland website for further Scottish tourist information.

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Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, Wales August 2013

by Emma Bumpus on September 6, 2013

Whoever said “variety is the spice of life” must have been swinging from the celestial rafters of Cardiff! Vivaciously active and visually appealing, including everything to please the family, takes careertraveller and co to a dynamic jewel of a waterfront.

Multi coloured buildings, notable Heltar skeltar and, shimmering harbour with pulsating hints of Extreme Sailing fill the car with bank holiday “festival” euphoria, giving Cardiff Bay an immediate ‘red carpet’ travel junkie seal of approval!

Momentarily dazzled by our gem rock (stone is too inappropriate) home for the next 24 hours stands the flamboyant glass flagship St Davids Hotel & Spa, Cardiff’s first 5 star hotel. Designed by architect Patrick Davies this glittering glass “cruise liner” like masterpiece with flying gull-wing roof enhances the panorama of this stunning landmark, which oozes Riviera – like sensations of a cosmopolitan nature!

A lover of hotel lobbies, this hotel is a careertraveller hit with its spaciously fashionable and contemporary atrium, an infinite stairway to luxury, all 142 rooms!

Room or rather, master suite 608 on the sixth floor, is a spectacular insight to the hotel’s ingenious nautical design that epitomises Cardiff’ harbour’s naval history and 360 degree panoramic welsh landscape. Sight of Land Rover’s Extreme Sailing catamarans in full flight takes the hungry eye from nearby Penarth and Cardiff Bay’s verdant Wetland Reserve to quayside fun fair attractions from our generous deck style balcony. Absolutely spot on!

A teasing breeze past the Thalgo and Espa award winning hydrotherapy Marine Spa with swan neck fountains is a turquoise escape for later as we take a 2 minute stroll to Mermaid Quay to savour the Cardiff Harbour Festival delights. In a miasma of eclectic attractions ranging from urban beach and fun fair to plethora of international eateries and continental market, we are engulfed in a fiesta of trendy waterfront entertainment. Fabulous!

Surrounding chic shops overlooked by stylishly modern marina apartments add a splash of sophistication to this development, which previously called Tiger Bay, is Wales oldest multi ethnic community and birthplace of Shirley Bassey!

Central to the bay is the historically grandiose Pierhead Building, whose Grade One listed French-gothic Renaissance architecture details gargoyles, distinctively glazed terracotta bricks and an 1897 restored ‘Big Ben’ of Wales! We cannot miss the adjacent National Assembly Building educational visitor Centre or Senedd, whose imposing stature symbolises democracy and devolution in Wales.

Quayside we observe the abstract multifaceted Merchant Seafarers’ War Memorial, which designed and sculptured by Brian fell commemorates “ The Merchant Seafarers From The Ports of Barry, Penarth, Cardiff Who Died In Times Of war”.

Playfully replenished the kids get their moment at Techniquest, a purpose built science discovery centre oozing education amidst an array of over 160 interactive exhibits, designed to stimulate STEM learning. Amidst a planet of wonder, we discover space, electricity, oxygen and the circulatory system within the form of plasma spheres, balloons, bubbles and tubes, adding just another cultural dimension to Cardiff Bay.

Flight Fantastic delivers a vibrant show of controlled experiments that thrill the senses inside a theatre of science. Wonderfully fun and illuminating, we experience the forces of gravity in relation to chemistry, physics and mankind. Men in lab coats, popping balloons and audience interaction sets this show alight with big bangs, gases and flying planes!

No weekend could finish perfectly without an intergalactic visit to the Dr Who Experience museum of an attraction, designed to thrill, surprise and educate. A brief film about the experience sets the tone for our science fiction journey of bespoke costumes, props and sensations that display the detail and expertise behind television and of course DR Who himself!

Craftily designed, we seemingly walk into the mysterious Tardis where we time travel with Doctors’ collections, including light chamber, aquatic cleaning robot and Van Gogh painting, depicting the destruction of the Tardis. Cunningly crafted we experience the control room at the mercy of an intricate moving console, which stimulates play via a variety of buttons, lights and navigational instructions galore.

Like magic we are transported back in time where we encounter all eleven doctors from William Hartnell to Matt Smith in genuine costume attire! Their companions, including K9, Kylie Minogue and Sarah Jane Smith prepare us for the Cybermen, Daleks and Monster Zone; a scintillating insight to the world of visual effects and craftsmanship behind The Silence, Zygons and Ice Warriors.

Our experience lingers in the vibrant Dr Who shop, where amongst plentiful 50th Anniversary memorabilia we indulge in the words of Matt Smith “Time Travel is such a magic concept”. Journey complete!

Further details of The St David’s Hotel and Spa, Techniquest,Dr Who Experience and Visit Wales can be found on the following websites:
The St David’s Hotel and Spa
Techniquest
Dr Who Experience
Visit Wales

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Hope House, Woodstock, Oxfordshire England August 2013

by Emma Bumpus on August 23, 2013

Summer just got better as careertraveller & sister (thought this one warranted adults only) take to the Cotswolds for a treasure bounty of genuine sophistication and naturally bespoke hospitality that bounces off the walls of Blenheim Palace!

Kaleidoscopic “skyscraper” hollyhocks and smiling hanging baskets in a mist of violet lavandula is our sweet-scented Woodstock welcome committee! Amidst masses of fruitful ornamental wisteria, symbolically whispering love, immortality and age of generations, we locate Hope House and are tenderly swept away.

Grandiose, distinctive and enigmatic we enter a glamorous yet relaxed ancestral home of exquisite detail, luxury and style that depicts the most beautiful world of interiors.

A convivial Pimms in The “Churchill Suite” puts the stamp on this Mr and Mrs Smith approved luxury boutique B&B and sets the tone for a unique weekend in nothing other than handpicked paradise! Black and cream monochrome interiors, fabrics and French-style furnishings capture the careertraveller eye, which instantaneously immerses us in seriously personalised hospitality.

Texture and aesthetics kick in when we skip barefoot along the indulgent Axminster carpet from Dorset, that rather sensually pushes this house to the top of the “Want to Stay Longer” meter!

Of course under floor Italian Marble heating in the boudoir of a bathroom seduces the senses but it is under the spell of the stellar toiletries, namely Cotswolds Caress Aromatherapy and Bvlgari that one begins to piece together the creative restoration behind this contemporary and traditional Cotswolds beauty built around 1708.

Hand blended in the “heart of England” Dead Sea and Epsom bath salts with lavender, ylang ylang and vetivert essential oils are a careertraveller hit, before of course watching a dash of television with splash proof remote!

Woodstock inquisitive, we hit the cobbled streets lined with charmingly quaint and photogenic gift shops, galleries and brasseries of an independent and artisan nature. Rows of Georgian houses and Cotswold stone buildings with wrought iron features and historical buildings such as Chaucers Cottage and Woodstock,Oxfordshire Museum on the careertraveller map of “special places to visit”!

From Fade Interiors and The Real Wood Furniture Company to Woodstock’s independent bookstore and Hampers rather delectable deli with violet garlic from the French Pyrenees, we revel in the delectable arts and crafts this intriguingly industrial village produces.

All rather scrummy and eventful we head to The Kings Arms Restaurant for dinner in good Cotswold company, where fresh local produce brings forth a colourful summer garden menu to tease indecision. Wonderful!

Modern and lively this AA Rosette Restaurant makes an evening of dinner with moist Scallops, broad bean, radish and mint salad, which arrives, plated in true country garden style. Abundant in colour and texturally juicy, it becomes clear Woodstock has it all: style, history, business, tourism, community and good clean cuisine. The King Arms Beef Burger with Stilton, Bacon is a menu attraction with horseradish coleslaw with a beautiful balance of creamed horseradish, cabbage and homemade mayonnaise.

Sanguine red English Strawberry and Almond Tart is the evening encore, which garnished with dusky sugar coated plump blackberries and mint leaves, probably just pulled from the garden, is the perfect dinner date for clotted cream in the Cotswolds! Superb!

A floating ramble back to cloud nine Hope House is our chance to toy with state of the art indulgences including remote lighting, high-end TV and crystal flutes, placed flirtatiously in the cute SMEG fridge. Mischievously we browse the lobby’s luxury Annabel James gifts, which gives way to some well deserved weekend shopping. Perfect.

Within the walls of the “Churchill”, adorned with opulent fabric wallpaper and sumptuous hand made curtains, careertraveller enters the most prosperous slumber amongst notably favourite – Mulberry tree silk hand made duvet and pillows, that if edible could melt in the mouth!

Breakfast is Eden; hand made bread of sorts and croissants baked on site with freshly produced jam made by Sarah Doidge, award winning master jam, preserve and conserve maker. Like a 7 course taster menu we sample local berries, combe honey made by master Apiarist Geoffrey Burroghs of the Blenheim Palace estate and of course a cooked breakfast including free range Lavendar Blue chickens and award winning grilled black pudding. Wow!

Hats off to proprietor Paul Hageman, who demonstrates with a 1923 Bay window engraving of his maternal grandmother, how this Vanbrugh inspired building has been lovingly restored and maintained by his family of 11 generations! Rather special I’d say!

A very special thanks to:
Hope House for their incredibly flawless and generous ancestral hospitality. Details of the luxury boutique B & B accommodation can be found on Hope House website.
Wake Up To Woodstock for an informative, educational and unique slice of the Oxfordshire Cotswolds. Click on Wake Up To Woodstock for information.
• The Kings Arms for a super meal of fresh produce and friendliness. Details can be found on their website Kings Arms Hotel and Restaurant.

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Lake Garda, Italy August 2013

by Emma Bumpus on August 21, 2013

Azure sky and shimmering turquoise water encircled by fragrant citrus trees and scorching magenta bougainvillea, topped up with lashings of gelato, create the perfect careertraveller family holiday of holidays!

First stop Peschiera del Garda awaits our camping adventure in the form of our premier Eurocamp citadel of family splash, action and pleasure, which with resplendent lakeside panorama, takes camping to the next level!

A saunter to our mobile home- to- be for the next 7 days is a sweet smelling journey to adventure, passing fertile cypress and palm trees that flirtatiously sway amidst the tropical 30-degree temperature. Bellissima!

Our welcoming paradise aptly named “Bella Italia” is a haven for sun and fun, which at the foothills of the Alps sets the careertraveller pulse ricocheting! With an agenda of canoeing, cycling, sightseeing and of course eating, we start our vacation with a swim in all 7 pools or “water pleasure” dome that includes, 2 water chutes and lagoon.

A pedalo ride on Italy’s largest lake with altitude of 65 m above sea level, makes waves for a rather stylish vista of Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige, hence popular historical landmark.

Sight of the local ferry or “traghetto” takes us to Sirmione, a pretty chocolate-box spa town on the lake peninsula, which with with historical roots dating back to the Stone Age. Peppered with multi coloured artisan shops and al fresco gastronomy to the heart’s content we sample ice cream at Cremeria Bulian and enter the university of gelato! Textural, buttery and softly sweet we trace the origins of this “frozen dessert”, which historically derives from snow and ice brought back from the mountains and then preserved. Buonissimo!

Scaliger Castle or “Rocca Scaligera” is a 13th century ancient treasure, which smacks of Roman and Veronese antiquity and military adventure. Medieval ramparts arouse the careertraveller curiosity, justifying a climb to the parapet for an intoxicating gust of Lake Garda amidst the enchanting rooftops of Sirmione.

A distant glimpse of Caneva Aquapark on the eastern shore of Lake Garda
is our aquatic excuse to explore Lazise, which with its abundance of evergreen olive plantations and succulent wineries along the or Riviera Degli Olivi or “Coast of Olive Trees”, captures the essence of Garda!

Like seals the kids squeal with summer delight as we enter this “Caribbean-like” open-air kingdom of aqua. An exhilarating assortment of rides, and slides sends us into a water-fuelled frenzy, which with front row seats views of Lake Garda makes this a special water park. Rather taken by Shark Bay we hit the wave pool that revs the family adrenalin ready for the hair raising Black Hole, a curly tunnel of flowing water that takes us on a dark and speedy journey from the seat of a rubber doughnut!

A gentle glide on the family Lazy Pool is a chance to catch our breath before embarking on the sensational Kamika, careertraveller favourite, a simulated volcano that erupts whilst the brave eagerly body board down steep slides.

Stukas BOOM is the adventure junkie’s fantasy, whose Eiffel Tower-like stature delivers bespoke 360 degree panorama with slides to free fall. Splashtastically awesome and definitely worth a day out.

Verona provides a grand finale to our holiday with a cultural twist of architecture and romance, not forgetting “un ‘po’ di shopping”! Relaxed, refined and sophisticated, this UNESCO World Heritage Site oozes “the arts” with Italy’s third largest Roman amphitheatre or Arena, famous for open-aired opera on sultry summer nights!

A 20-minute mini train tour unravels a historical trail of churches, markets and Shakespeare, including the Balcony of Juliet’s House, showered with smiling families, tourists, historians and of course lovers!

Very special thanks to Caneva Aquapark for a wonderful day of memories. Details of their park can be found on Caneva Aquapark and to the Lake Garda Veneto Tourist Board for their support and information.

Tourist information can be found on their official website Lake Garda Veneto Tourist Board.

Further details of Eurocamp Holidays can also be found on their website Eurocamp.

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Science Museum, July London 2013

by Emma Bumpus on August 1, 2013

“Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.”- Albert Einstein

A 32° C summer with kids in tow provides the perfect careertraveller opportunity to investigate the roots of Albert Einstein; discovering science, technology and energy far beyond the walls of the classroom!

One step inside this historical and palatial tardis initiates a first class educational journey with displays of raw intelligence, care, art and innovation, which instantaneously connects us to the world around us. Neon lights, antique objects, and textural space are the perfect contemporary learning environment for us to explore, imagine, experience and question evolution.

Amidst a labyrinth of illuminated galleries and labs we become immersed in a technological rainforest of genetics, medicine, materials, and engineering, all within a 4-storey hub of interactive fun that would make Queen Victoria and Prince Albert quiver with pride.

With roots steeping back about a century and a half we establish the origins of this former institution, originally named the Crystal Palace, is the product of royal passion for the arts, science and technology. Marvellous!

3D glasses intact, we begin a kaleidoscopic family trail of interesting objects that take us on an educational journey of space, climate change, health and the planet. Making The Modern World Gallery, careertraveller favourite, is a lively and eclectic academy of transport, depicting industrialisation between 1750-present day. Planes, carriages, engines and iconic objects including Henry Ford’s Model T automobile and Robert Stephenson’s original 1829 Rocket Locomotive steam train bewitch the children, who unravel the meaning of “energy”.

Brimming with knowledge and vigour we continue our trail downstairs past the popcorn bar to the IMAX Cinema where explosive fun, entertainment and science awaits in the shape of The Energy Show. Trepidation takes hold of us as we enter a “Dr Who-like” eccentric auditorium, whose stage full of odd and quirky props, including Van de Graff generator, plasma ball, fluorescent tube and trebuchet ignite the senses. Fantastic!

With a cast of 3 actors, we experience live energy and discover science with the help of i-nstein, the virtual lab assistant. Clever! Unpredictable and breathtakingly captivating, futuristic science students Phil and Annabella, with their mutant- like assistant Bernard, perform a series of pulsating controlled experiments that define the physical world.

Methane gas, oxygen and heat create a fireball of methane bubbles, introducing us to heat and light energy, which amongst the on stage banter, informs the children that cows produce 15% of methane gas in the atmosphere! From hot to cold we observe a cauldron of liquid nitrogen freeze and preserve flowers, whilst Bernard generates electricity with a dynamo bike in their race against time to demonstrate knowledge of energy! Electrifying intelligent and unique, this is an enlightening mix of art and science at its best.

Web Lab ramps up the excitement bar as the kids discover energy via Google, whom as a supporter of the museum, captivate the children with Chrome Experiments that demonstrate dynamism of the Internet.

A brief pit stop in The Energy Cafe provides sustenance for the afternoon 3D Spec-tacular drop in where the children examine the world of 3 Dimension, with of course a pair of “make your own glasses.” Impressed with every nook and cranny this museum utilises to inspire and educate, we acknowledge it warrants another visit.

Without reticence we sample the visionary Launchpad, a gallery of over 50 interactive exhibits indulges the children’s curiosity, wiring circuit boards and burglar alarms to making sound patterns in a biosphere of physics!

A final perusal of the Who Am I? exhibition in the Wellcome Wing delivers an artistic display and study of DNA, gender and working of the brain, that interactively takes on yet another journey of self discovery!

Science will never be the same!

A special thanks to the Science Museum for an amazing insight to “Energy”.

To book tickets for The Energy Show click on Science Museum Live -available until 31 August.

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