Christmas spirit twinkles with London magic as careertraveller and family step into West End theatreland and applaud Raymond Briggs’s classic winter wonderland story of childhood dreams and adventure.

A step inside the Peacock Theatre is a colourful journey of culture and contemporary art form, the type that lures half a million people to see a performance at Sadler’s Wells theatres each year.

Instinctively born from a belief that ‘great art should belong to everybody’ we time travel back to the 20th century when Lilian Baylis, the so-called grandmother of national theatre, fundraised to rebuild Sadler’s Wells for all.

Inside the auditorium, a chain of charismatic international dance begins with an ingenious snow globe stage bursting with playful props that carry us across storyline mountains, as far as the North Pole! Snow capped trees and giant Christmas baubles fill the air with seasonal glee ready for a magical twist of ballet, swing and tango, the fluffy kind that rocks from the rafters!!

Through the eyes of a child we grasp a winter’s night tale that starts with an elevated bed encircled by show stopping snow whose flakes beckon orchestral play and fun filled comedy. A clever opening scene of a boy waking up to snow and rolling a snowball left to right stage brings snowman magic alive to a jam-packed audience of ecstatic families.

Whilst the snowman grows his character evolves from picture book to performance as Sadler’s Wells present the Birmingham Repertory Theatre production. A dazzling chocolate box assortment of characters unravels 105 minutes of sophisticated symphonic skill and dance which takes us to the sky and back!

Superb glittery ice lighting effects with frosty shades of ultraviolet lavender and indigo blue narrate this enchanting tale with graceful dance story choreography that floats upon composer and director Howard Blake’s legendary musical score.

Festive clad carol singers bring warmth and cheer against this this chilly polar backdrop, leading us skilfully indoors through a series of Brigg’s creative illustrations that capture the essence of childlike dreams and fantasy. Wonderfully executed sketches of snowman goings-on reveal sprightly eye-catching costumes performing comical acts of endearing friendship and cheeky antics from the kitchen to bedroom.

Generations of children fill the playhouse with laughter and smiles as surprising pieces of fruit, namely pineapple and coconut, display cleverly adapted dance routines of childish exploration. Madcap dressing up and furtive household play brings tuneful highs and lows, exposing short burst scenes of engaging prop and musical comedy teeming with snowman sentiment.

Hot and cold is a wacky ride on dad’s motorbike to a chill in the freezer where the showpiece “Walking in the Air” takes music and art on a flight through the sky. Written in 1982 by Blake for the animated film based on Briggs 1978 book, we watch this charming aerial act celebrate it’s 18th consecutive season at the Peacock Theatre.

Across the seas, the Arctic is an explosion of colour and diversity presenting Snowmen from Scotland to China with gleaming authentic costumes. From reindeers and toy soldier to captivating ice princess, energy and talent present a hand clapping show that makes Jack Frost heroic. Mesmerised by the variety of dancers and moves we swoon at the Fred Astaire Snowman, whose groove leaves an everlasting rhythm.

As Father Christmas delivers sleigh treasure we applaud the arts at Sadler’s Wells and smile in the knowledge that The Snowman lives on. Brilliant!

Further information:

Details of The Snowman performance and tickets can be found by clicking on the website Peacock Theatre.

General Information about Sadler’s Wells theatres and performances can be found on their website Sadler’s Wells.

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Palace life peaks as Careertraveller and family time travel seven centuries in the footsteps of royalty, celebrating 500 years of drama, romance, art and architectural extravagance.

Base Court is a cobbled courtyard story of medieval luxury, the type that once accommodated and entertained diplomats and court members in chambers furnished with fine silverware, fireplace and ensuite ‘garderobe’ or private toilet.

As we gaze upon this original geometric stone and red brick building we enter the Tudor age world of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey whose striking gothic windows and chimney clusters introduce this bishop’s palace purpose built for King Henry VIII.

Amongst a labyrinth of stone archways adorned with Roman faces the children revel in the palace’s second gateway Clock Court, a spacious piazza of a playground full of regal treasure. Beneath the stately pillars of Sir Christopher Wren’s baroque walkway we capture the king’s complex Astronomical Clock whose gilded dials shimmer with opulence and science.

As the great bell tolls above we seize traces of this late medieval manor house that stands testament to two palaces from Tudor to baroque and complete our courtyard journey in the final Fountain Court, a stunning three storey quarter of cloisters and royal apartments. A promenade below the arches provides a heroic display of mythical and classical stone-carved heads of creatures and gods including Hercules, who spins us sweetly towards the rather mysterious Chocolate Rooms.

Indulgent thoughts of hot chocolate made by personal chocolate maker Thomas Tosier for King George 1 (1714-1727) and George 11 (1727-1760) bring us into the Georgian era. Original 18th century fixtures display beautifully restored handcrafted chocolate serving equipment, which including chocolate porcelain cups re-created with surviving excavated remnants, brings the palace alive after 300 years!

Insatiable thoughts of cocoa lead ingeniously to the King’s back stairs where we continue our sugar fuelled trail up the majestic King’s Staircase, a decorative wrought iron balustrade that sweeps us into ceremonious art, history and baroque architecture. Each marble step unravels theatre-like views of Italian painter Antonio Verrio’s story of Alexander The Great and Julius who compete for a place with the gods, banqueting on the ceiling above!

Lashings of power, wealth and politics take us on a lavish adventure through William III’s State Apartments where of 17th and 18th century armoury in the Guard Chamber displays circa 3000 pistols, bayonets and swords booms with military antiquity.

Imposing portraits, chandeliers and tapestries, made for King Henry VIII present themselves in the form of The King’s Presence Chamber, a refined reception room fit for meetings to Great Bedchamber, an opulent private space brimming with ornate wood carvings and lofty painted ceiling.

Palatial and breathtaking, East Front takes centre stage with a central fountain that sparkles amidst the encompassing River Thames. Detail, beauty and nature engulf this special garden of England, which abundant with seasonal colour, wildlife and harmony reveals 16 gardens. With a dash of Capability Brown’s Great Vine to Henry VIII’s former hunting ground Home Park, we get lost amongst stretches of boulevard lime trees and look for 300 fallow deer and feel rather blessed to be here.

Hampton Court Palace is a magnificent warren of entertainment bursting with delectable secrets and surprises including winter ice-skating rink, whose West Front appearance brings a festive glamour to the palace celebrating it’s 500 year anniversary. An atmospheric glide upon the ice is a grand affair of history and fun all wrapped up in celebratory pre Christmas cheer, the type that deserves an après skate spice infused glass of mulled wine in the Ice Bar and Café!

As day becomes night neon lights accentuate the palace’s towers and turrets that sparkle with historical optimism beneath the stars. As the music plays we skate into the 21st century amongst the penguins and feel proud to slide in the footsteps of Olympic Gold medallist ice skater Robins Cousins MBE. Hampton Court Palace has it all!

Further information:
Historic Royal Palaces-Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink

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Margate, Kent October 2015

by Emma Bumpus on November 6, 2015

Autumn brings a coastal family trail of old and new treasure that opens the gates to a great British seaside pleasure dome that does Kent proud.

Greeted by golden Margate Main Sands we enter a world of international beachcross racing, traditional amusement arcades and distinguishing south-facing Margate Harbour Arm . It is from this sparkling hub of vibrant eateries, galleries and bronze sculpture Mrs Booth that we become acquainted with artist JMW Turner from this picturesque anchorage.

Guided by the seashore Viking Coastal Trail we uncover sunny bays bursting with Blue Flag Awarded beaches that beckon the likes of ice cream, bucket ‘n’ spade sandcastles, sea bathing and family friendly seafront promenade bars and cafes.

Lower promenade views introduce dramatic chalky cliffs, shimmering English Channel and impressively infinite Kent coastline, which all 350 miles long, radiates watersports, beachcombing and all things “holiday”.

Cliftonville transports us back to bygone times where past meets present with remnants of Margate’s 1920’s Lido, which reminiscent of fashionable alfresco marine pool and underground warm seawater baths echoes scenes of popular 1950s beauty pageants with deckchair bingo!

Amidst the Viking adventure playground, holiday developments and emergent art galleries we take a genteel upper promenade stroll past the verdant Winter Gardens, a flashback to the Edwardian period where high-class entertainment helped label Margate ‘London’s playground’. Concert Hall to theatre this pavilion erupts with history, echoing performances by Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in 1947 to The Beatles in 1963.

Walpole Bay, careertraveller favourite, smacks of unspoilt sandy beach and 1930s character with Grade II Listed open-air seawater bathing pool that continues to revive, rejuvenate and treat locals, day-trippers and holidaymakers galore.

Up above the cliffs in Fifth Avenue is the pièce de résistance Walpole Bay Hotel, an alluring titanic architectural jewel that oozes period charisma, romance and a love that vibrates outside in. From the resplendent garden infused veranda with old-fashioned wrought iron posts and Edwardian marble monochrome floor tiles through to Museum and Napery Art Gallery, nothing is too much for guests seeking pure vintage class and relaxation.

Top to bottom is an imaginative labyrinth of period artefacts and artwork that chronicles the hotel’s lifespan. 20th Century history unfolds with three floors of vintage relics that awaken the senses with original Maid’s Scullery, epoch costumes and lashings of Art Deco influence. Corridors of art reveal famous napkins that feature guest impressions and affectionate hotel memoirs, the type that charms them back year after year.

Each one weaves a thread of theatrical curiosity that soars to third floor heaven where luxury and glamour heighten in the form of Hair and Makeup Salon, home to avant-garde award-winning hairdresser, Jerome Hillion. Boldly ‘Parisian boudoir’ and stage-like is a parlour to please, which offering high-end one to one services suggests Walpole is a film in the making. Sublime!

Back inside the hotel’s original 1920s Otis trellis elevator is a golden age journey down to Reception, which revels in period paraphernalia. Careertraveller darlings are mahogany grandfather clock; chaise longue and endearing 1930s valise brimming with hotel archives.

Whilst beautifully preserved guest records laced with red ribbon take us back to 1914 when the hotel was first built, stellar hospitality comes in the form of hotelier and proprietor Jane Bishop whose entrepreneurial journey tributes tender teenage jaunts to Walpole Bay in the 1960s. Jane recalls how her lifelong nostalgia for the hotel, which closed in 1989, led her and her husband to buy and restore this iconic building in 1995 as part of a joint 25th silver anniversary wedding present/project. Remarkable!

Twenty years on, Walpole Bay Hotel shines as a 21st century beacon that epitomises pure inspiration and reflects a current renaissance of Margate’s classic seaside heritage that sparkles with vitality and redevelopment. Freshly upgraded bedrooms boasting contemporary makeovers still echo times of a bygone era with framed samples of original 1920s wallpaper and Cast Iron Tiled fireplaces, oozing elegance, style and extravagance.

Tastefully exuberant and educated we saunter round the Edwardian Restaurant in admiration of local artwork and pieces by artist Tracey Emin, which situated stylishly near the pianist heightens traditional Sunday lunch and vintage Walpole Cream Tea with full flavoursome home cooked love like no other.

Walpole leaves it’s mark with a final Magical Margate walk around the town’s historical centre that offers distinctive gems from Shell Grotto, a 4.6 million-shell enigma to seafront shelter Nayland Rock Promenade Shelter. As we perch upon this eminent Grade II Listed late- Victorian /Edwardian haven overlooking Margate Main Sands, we people watch in the eyes of author TS Eliot who used the 20th century literary hide as a coastal convalescent backdrop for his famous poem “The Waste Land”.

From the Victorian Police cells of Margate Museum to seafront Turner Contemporary, a prominent UK art gallery that celebrates artist JMW Turner’s love of this British coastal haven, it becomes clear that Margate is a creative art magnet. Dotted with independent shops, new businesses and Georgian, Regency and Victorian architecture in the shape of Love Lane we retrace the cobbled steps of the artist who spent his school years here.

Dreamland Pleasure Park, or ‘Hall By The Sea’ is a helter skelter slide of unadulterated retro fun bursting with pinball and space invaders to good old-fashioned fairground rides, including newly restored Grade II Listed Scenic Railway, Britain’s oldest surviving rollercoaster. Rebuilt and partly repaired with original timber that lovingly encircles the park is a testament to Margate’s community who supported it’s revival after 12 years of closure to the public.

Thanks to private and public investment from Thanet District Council, Heritage Lottery Fund and Department of Media and Sport’s Sea Change Fund, Margate’s seaside playground is re-energised and brimming with sea spray entertainment.

In a snapshot, Margate is one giant rollercoaster of culture, coast and cool rejuvenation that has lots to look forward to.

Further information:

Walpole Bay Hotel
Dreamland
Margate Museum
Shell Grotto
Turner Contemporary

Details of Margate can be found on the official tourist information website Visit Thanet.

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Journey to The Isle of Mull, Scotland August 2015

by Emma Bumpus on August 28, 2015

Snow-white fleecy clouds that dance amongst a panoramic palette of blue and green hues are a cinematic introduction to the Hebrides, the type that lures careertraveller and family to a unique island adventure.

Glasgow Queen Street Station activates our highland railway quest, but not before a sighting of the famous replica ‘Kelpies’, sculptures that proudly tribute Scotland’s past equine heritage, which in the words of sculptor Andy Scott represent ‘the powerhouses of the early industrial revolution, the tractors of early agriculture”.

Platform 7 radiates west highland charm with our ScotRail chariot, which promising an auspicious itinerary of tantalising glens, lochs and rich fertile green terrain, reveals 3 hours and 20 minutes of Glasgow- Oban movie-making scenery. Glittering waterfalls amidst tiers of mountainous peaks and fells bring a star like quality to rail travel and nomadic window gazing as we journey through the Scottish Rockies!

Traversing Greater Glasgow to Argyll and Bute pinewoods reveals an intoxicating mass of mixed woodland beauties including oak, Hazel, Birch and Scots Pine native conifers, where timber, wildlife and landscape unite Scotland as a land of quality trees, woods and forests.

Crianlarich, recently voted the most scenic railway in the world, marks the crossroads to the famous West Highland Way and ramps up our lowlands to northwest highlands journey under towering mountains Ben More and Glen Falloch. Sensational!

Oban railway station is a rapturous Atlantic Ocean vista with it’s quaint bustling harbour and colourful buildings that sparkle with seafood and flocks of tourists. As our Hebridean Caledonian MacBrayne goddess of a ferry (commonly known as CalMac) docks, we board this majestic vessel whose regal exterior exudes mystery island appeal and set sail for the unknown.

On board is an informal and unexpected 45-minute Oban-Craignure cruise-like crossing that manages to mix the best of atmospheric misty mountains on deck with inside Observation Lounge, The Still offering whisky tastings and Mariners Cafeteria boasting more than 50% local Scottish produce. From Argyll smoked salmon to artisan Island Bakery organic shortbread biscuits, Calmac justifiably celebrate Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink 2015 ‘Taste our Best’ award.

Craignure is a jubilant welcome of Highland Mull and Iona Pipers amidst flocks of travellers, day-trippers, island hoppers and holidaymakers seeking the “full monty” wild Scotland intimacy. Ashore brings rocky coastline, verdant mountains and a planet of clouds in the restless air that shapes our interest in the natural world.

A hop on the island’s Tobermory Topper eastern route exposes diverse wildlife and rugged wilderness from the top of a double decker bus, where shipwrecks and clear diving water shimmers in the shelter of the Sound of Mull Atlantic.

Baliscate is a surprise of craft workshops, pottery and Tobermory Fish Company smokehouse, where cold smoking smacks of Scottish tradition and pure Highland taste.

Across the road awaits Gamekeeper’s Cottage, our luxury island haven that purrs with airy, contemporary rooms watching tranquil sea and grassy hilltop panorama. Mod con touches à la bathroom underfloor heating, sumptuous bed linen (the feather down kind) amongst family friendly Wi-Fi and colour TV’s make this 4 star awarded pad a superior nest from which to explore, regenerate and relax amongst the elements!

A scenic 10-minute walk down to the island’s capital Tobermory is a rainbow of multi coloured buildings brimming with treasure that sparkles with island craft handmade jewellery, customary cold press essential oils soap and a bakery whose homemade bread and pastries bring food alive. Thanks to fish, this pretty little harbour is a thriving community of fresh local produce, from home made chocolate shop and cheese farm to commercial whisky distillery, one of Scotland’s oldest.

Variety presents itself in the form of Indian and Chinese restaurants, waterfront fish n’ chip van and renowned Café Fish and Galleon Grill that specialise in seafood and steak. Sprinkled between a smidgen of pubs and hotels, including the delectable boutique Tobermory Hotel whose tartan carpets and nautical inspired rooms exude Highland tradition, we discover Scottish flavours steeped in labour and love.

Across the lobster pot lined pier, that once welcomed Queen Victoria and Mendelssohn, is a romance of bobbing boats that extend across the Ardnamurchan Peninsula which peacefully harbours munro Ben Hiant, all 528 metres high.

Dewy mountain air brings a restlessness that calls for some Mother Nature exploration on sea and land, aka Surf & Turf Cruise with the award winning Sea Life Surveys. Time evaporates as we board the Bold Ranger, where intact with skipper and guide we dig deep into the world of cetaceans and geology. An intoxicating sail past the famous Sput Dubh waterfall uncovers craggy rocks that play refuge to goose-sized shags in search of oceanic molluscs and crustaceans.

Our sea safari is a voyage of sea faring cormorants and bottlenose dolphins that flip and splash with a natural grace, that leaves the hot chocolate simmering below on deck! Surf becomes turf with a fun rowing boat jaunt to the Glengorm Castle estate where volcanic crater rocks house common seals who lounge beautifully as nature intended. Wildlife guide Stephanie escorts us on a flora and fauna trail of sheep grazed meadows strewn with meadowsweet, bracken and bog myrtle, which amongst highland cattle and Neolithic standing stones puts Glengorm Castle firmly on the careertraveller map.

Homeward bound we board the wondrous CalMac ferry and seize Duart Castle, recognising that Mull is a journey, the epitome of nature and a reason to travel.

Further information:
ScotRail
Caledonian MacBrayne
Island Holiday Cottages
Sea Life Surveys
Glengorm Castle

Duart Castle

Further details of Mull can be found on the official national tourist information website Visit Scotland.

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48 Hours in Liverpool, Merseyside July 2015

by Emma Bumpus on August 6, 2015

July delivers a plethora of art, music and welcoming liverpudlian pride as careertraveller and family take to the energetic streets of this Merseyside mecca, naturally named European Capital of Culture in 2008.

From the city’s oldest and largest railway Liverpool Lime Street Station beneath a glittering elegant nineteenth century glass and cast iron curved roof, we take a 5 minute va-va-voom taxi ride to Albert Dock, the city’s stunning world heritage waterfront. Imposing UNESCO red brick renovated warehouses stand proud with romantic archways and Grade 1 listed columns that entertain the most fashionable assortment of eateries, boutiques and surrounding attractions.

Originally built to accommodate sailing ships back in 1839 this stylish regenerated metropolis is a testament to British architect and engineer Jesse Hartley, who added 10 miles of quayside to the dock estate and ingeniously changed the landscape of Liverpool.

Awash with maritime charm and pier front eye candy, Liverpool’s charm and history is seized on the fourth floor of the Holiday Inn Express Liverpool Albert Dock, a trendy converted warehouse hotel, like no other in the UK! Contemporary and airy with all mod cons and centrepiece window view of the River Mersey, Museum of Liverpool and architectural gems Three Graces. Drenched in light beneath impressive restored cast iron girders we bathe in light that beckons a 10-minute stroll to the Liverpool Pier Head ferry terminal.

Greeted by the extraordinary Dazzle Ferry, aka ‘Snowdrop’ or Mersey Ferries Dazzle Ship (the UK’s only operational vessel), we embark on a 50 minute Explorer Cruise that brings a nautical twist of art and dockland history across the centuries. Designed by British artist Sir Peter Blake, we discover this moving piece of patterned artwork decorated with 800 litres of paint tributes WW1 artists who used dazzle paint to camouflage British ships from German U-boats.

Amidst the seafaring colour and monochrome optical art we ferry across the Mersey, all 70 miles, and admire the Merseyside riverside, which recounts tales of merchants, industrialisation and city landmarks. An on-board display of dazzle ships curated by Merseyside Maritime Museum and Tate Liverpool is a celebration of the arts and insight to the city’s rich cultural heritage, justifiably named the top UK city and third in the world for people to visit in 2014 by travel bible Rough Guides.

Back at the bustling Liverpool Pier Head, an £8 million landing stage reopened in 2012, we drift into Merseybeat wanderlust and slip into the dockside Beatles Story museum that smacks of 1960’s music, memorabilia and Fab Four history.

Built for ultimate experience we enter a tardis of full on family fun, imagination and sophisticated 4D special effects in the form of Fab4D, a 3D computer generated simulation inside a state of the art cinema. Moving seats, drops of water and air spray to the sounds of Beatles music with psychedelic animation, depicting lyrical scenes on a Beatlemania rollercoaster ticket to ride!

The careertraveller favourite; Beatles Hidden Gallery is a black and white photographic blast of 1963-1964 rock and roll reminiscence, exposing 38 inimitable Beatle moments and emotions by photographer Paul Berriff.

Back at the Albert Dock Beatles Story Discovery Zone the kids revel in playing authentic vinyl records in a mock 1950s record store in between playing Beatles tunes on a giant interactive piano. Funky and educational, it is little wonder Liverpool Council has awarded the zone a Blue Badge for learning outside the classroom.

Expectations of Liverpool explode with breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express Liverpool Albert Dock, a breath-taking choice of dockside vista or imposing riverside Wheel of Liverpool and 10,600 seat Echo Arena and Convention Centre.

Brunch is a Magical Mystery Tour that delves into the lives of the Beatles with a 2 hour round trip of the stars’ childhood homes, birthplaces, schools and meaningful places that shaped their musical careers and personal lives. Our excursion begins with the arrival of a poignant yellow submarine-like coach that echoes the Fab Four’s lyrical journey with pit stops including Penny Lane, an everyday place in the lives of Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison.

From Ringoland, officially Toxteth, we uncover the once home of Ringo Starr, who recalls his early years in the album Liverpool 8, to the celebrated Strawberry Field, a favourite bolthole of John Lennon in his younger days. Outside the original gate of this former Victorian Salvation Army Children’s Home we uncover evocative lyrics, heartfelt memories and roots of Liverpool’s renowned music scene.

A canny stop at the Cavern Club completes the tour with full-blown Beatlemania wanderlust. Live music booms from this grotto of charismatic soul, with hip souvenirs from the swinging sixties to 1999 when Paul McCartney performed his last gig. Amidst low ceiling arches and graffiti adorned walls bursting with rock and roll images of the The Rolling Stones and Queen, we lunch with the stars and enter an era of music that crosses generations. Sublime!

Liverpool surpasses all expectations with no ordinary Afternoon Tea at the Hard Days Night Hotel, the World’s only Beatles inspired hotel. Suspended replica music sheets above the lobby alongside graceful stairwells beautified with Beatles photographs, sets the scene for a luxuriously unique experience.

A live lounge, 2 bars and contemporary Blakes Restaurant, decorated with Fab Four Sgt Peppers album influences from Einstein to Martin Luther King, narrates an artistic account of their musical journey via paintings, pictures, even guitar shaped table in the uber cool McCartney suite!

Bar Four redefines glamour with leather armchairs, Italian marble cocktail bar and psychedelic oil paintings by international artist Paul Ygartua, who befriended John Lennon at Liverpool Art College. No detail is spared in this cosmopolitan Grade II listed building, which dating back to 1884 exudes design, play and imagination with a clever twist of the classic versus quirky!

Summer Cooler Afternoon Tea in the Lounge and Bar is a regal selection of beautifully cut finger sandwiches that sit poised prettily amongst a luxurious collection of cakes and delectable warm scones. The finishing touch is the ‘drum roll’ Beatles inspired grass infused vodka Strawberry Fields with Wild Pepper cocktail, which shaken with lemon thyme and strawberries excites the palette with a crack of black pepper.

Extraordinary, visionary and stimulating, Hard Days Night Hotel carries Liverpool into the 21st century with a subtle nostalgic razzmatazz, the kind that makes a return visit inevitable, Liverpool rocks!

Further information:

Details of Holiday Inn Express Liverpool Albert Dock can be found by clicking on the hotel’s website Holiday Inn Express Liverpool Albert Dock.

Information about all attractions visited can be found on the links below:
Mersey Ferries
The Beatles Story
The Magical Mystery Tour

Hard Days Night Hotel can be found by clicking on the hotel’s website Hard Days Night Hotel.

Official tourist information can be found on the website Visit Liverpool.

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Summer twinkles with London magnetism as careertraveller steps foot into the verdant Terrace of this majestic five star beauty of sophistication, history and traditional Westminster glamour.

A five-minute walk from Embankment tube station sets the scene for a balmy midsummer evening of clandestine treats, the kind one expects from a previous MI5 and MI6 British Secret Services headquarters. Built in 1884 this Grade II Listed building is an architectural treasure packed with WW11 memoirs of famous politicians, including Sir Winston Churchill.

A wander through this French château-like lobby is a voyage through opulent high ceiling rooms boasting crystal chandeliers and afternoon tea. A further splash of unexpected desirability reveals itself in the chic form of One Twenty One Two, the hotel’s two AA Rosette restaurant, whose name commemorates former neighbour, Scotland Yard, with legendary telephone number, Whitehall 1212.

Final destination ‘paradise’ reveals itself in the form of alfresco chocolate-box terraces, which ornamented with cosy wicker sofas amidst sprays of cottage garden flowers, makes way for a countryside outing of food from brunch to evening.

A gentle Thames breeze draws attention to bespoke views of the neighbouring London Eye, which sparkling above the rooftops of central London, delivers an enchanting soiree, perfect for a riverside picnic. From the hotel’s Summer Chapter Two of ‘The Terrace’ magic and luxury bubble ravenously in the form of a Summer Picnic Hamper bursting with genuine British handcrafted choice.

Aesthetically pleased taste buds revel between an exquisite garden fresh selection of charcuterie and cheese that execute a textural feast of award winning treats. Hampshire Barkham Blue and Snowdonia Black Bomber cheese are a salivating journey epitomising fine ingredients, the creamy and buttery kind!

A mouth-watering fiesta of velvety hummus with pumpernickel, silky soft cream cheese stuffed peppers and glossy balsamic onions are a gastronomic symphony of the senses that sit appetizingly on quaint gingham tablecloths. Traditional picnic celery sticks with white/ black grapes and an apple and port chutney are a smorgasbord liaison of black pepper pastrami, Parma harm and salami Milano that elevate to sweet picnic heaven!

The Careertraveller favourite, Hotel Chocolat ‘White Chocolate Blondies’ appear perfectly formed, chilled and wonderfully laced with rum, mint and lime, bringing summer garden party panache to the word ‘picnic’. Delectable!

As afternoon becomes evening, a sample of the hotel’s Chapter Three of ‘The Terrace’ brings a desirable Taittinger Champagne third dimension to the veranda. Pretty mini matching hamper canapés brimming with sweet and savoury zing complement a champagne trio of Pinot Noir and chardonnay delicacy for the “independently minded”.

From the Taittinger vineyards, all 288 hectares in the heart of Reims to Westminster in London, stands proud the Royal Horseguards Hotel, an elegant oasis of sweet summer tradition, the type that sweeps one of the ground with salacious plump berries.

An aromatic glass of wild strawberry and raspberry infused Taittinger Prestige Rose brings an urban sunset to the Terrace, the perfect setting for a sip of mellow Taittinger Nocturne Sec or rather ‘Champagne After Dark’. As for Chapter Four of ‘The Terrace’, look out for the Wimbledon Picnic Hamper!

Further information:

Details of the The Royal Horseguards Hotel and how to get there can be found by clicking on the hotel’s website The Royal Horseguards Hotel.

Further information about the hotel’s Terrace and festive celebrations can be found on the Terrace at The Royal Horseguards Hotel website.

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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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