So we’re going to Barcelona… for four days.

Ever have an overwhelming feeling that you need to jump on a plane and go somewhere?  Well that happens to us pretty regularly and more often than not we end up spending hours online looking up an amazing trip only to realize that there is something preventing us from going.  Well that cycle repeats and repeats until finally – like magic — we actually book something and find a way to make it work.

4791472560 09114c2d52 z 250x203 So we’re going to Barcelona… for four days.
Yup, San Fermin, or the running of the bulls. This was the last time we were in Spain. Incidentally we also went through Barcelona that weekend.

This time the constraints were our children.  Well, not in the way that you think.  We’re happy traveling with our twins – in fact they are super baby travelers (14 flights and counting!), so that doesn’t scare us at all.  What we wanted out of this trip though was a trip without kids.  There I said it.  An adults only vacation without the twins where we pretend at least for a few minutes that we can be wildly impulsive and go to Barcelona… for a long weekend.

And so we booked.  We just did it, recklessly without looking back.  Ok, so we did confirm the availability of some pretty amazing babysitters (err… Grandparents) for the weekend, but then we quickly pressed purchase. We looked at the incredible amount of frequent flier miles we’ve amassed in the last two years and decided that there is no time like the present.

But then there are those constraints to consider – the fact that my heart basically stopped when I realized we would be without our little munchkins for four days.  Yikes.  Four glorious and terrifying days. Flooded with excitement and yet already, months away from the flight, trepidation at being away from our girls for SO LONG.  I tried to wrap my head around it.  Because as a parent, a weekend can feel like an eternity.  That’s the paradox of parenthood.

So yea, we’re going to Barcelona for four days.

We’re crazy. 

We’re insane. 

We’re just in love with our constraints.

Tempting Tenerife – What’s Not to Like?

Over the years, Tenerife has developed a reputation as a place for holidaymakers seeking blazing sunshine and a party atmosphere. While much of Tenerife’s pull on tourists has been the beautiful climate and fantastic nightspots, it has so much more to offer if you take the time to explore the island. Take a look at the following ways you can get the most out of a trip to Tenerife.

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Visit the Ancient Dragon Tree
No trip to Tenerife would be complete without experiencing the Ancient Dragon Tree. It is often referred to as the oldest tree in the world, with many locals believing it to be 1000 years old, but more accurately thought to be around 650 years old. Hire a car for the day and visit Icod de los Vinos to see the tree, and while you are there take in the Church of San Marcos and the Artlandya Doll Museum.

See the Highest Peak in Spain
Mount Teide is the highest peak in Spain, 3718 metres above sea level. An active volcano, Mount Teide is an impressive sight when viewed against the bright blue skies of the island. If you don’t fancy climbing in the mountains, you can still appreciate the beauty of the Teide National Park, a World Heritage Site filled with some incredible animals and plants. The stunning volcanic rock patterns and formations are worth the trip alone.

Experience the Local Cuisinefood 406473 640 250x187 Tempting Tenerife   Whats Not to Like?
You may be familiar with traditional Spanish food, but Tenerife has its own unique twist with some African influences. There are plenty of general restaurants catering to tourists, but try to seek out the more traditional restaurants with a local flavour if you really want to experience the regional cuisine . Many dishes will include local fruit, vegetables and fish, grilled to create a lighter meal which suits the warm weather. Make sure to try plenty of Tapas and the Papas Arrugadas potato dish, famous within the region.

Have Fun at the Carnival
If you can make it to Tenerife in February, make sure to take part in the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The people of the island are known for their warm, friendly nature, so be sure to mingle and make plenty of new friends. The carnival is known around the world and features lots of musical entertainment, dancing and a big parade. Prepare a fancy dress costume in advance if you really want to fit in.

Get Out on the Water
Surrounded by water, it is natural that tourists to Tenerife have plenty of options when it comes to water-based fun. You can charter a boat for a day out at sea, take a Submarine Safari and go diving in the Atlantic Ocean, swim in the rock pools at Garachico or look for whales in the surrounding waters. If you prefer to stay inland, there are plenty of water parks for some family entertainment in the sun, with Siam Park being the best known.

London in the Summertime

London gets a bad rap for weather, which is sort of…deserved. But that’s not to say that you won’t get at least two glorious weeks of summer each year. Since the summer is famously fleeting, be ready to make the most out of it. When the sun comes out, so does everyone else. Although London gets part of its personality from the ubiquitous drizzle, it shines during the summer.

When you’re planning your trip, look at Hotels4U for London Hotels that are close to transport links so you can access all that the city has to offer. Most of central London is walkable, but there’s plenty to see on the fringe and for that, your best option is usually the train system. Here are just a couple of suggestions to get you started.

Richmond

Set on the banks of the Thames, Richmond is the perfect place to find a pub and claim an outdoor table for the afternoon. If you want to do some exploring before settling in, check out Kew Gardens or Richmond Park. You could also visit Hampton Court Palace on the way in or out of London. Bear in mind that when it rains in Richmond, it pours:

High Tide 2 London in the Summertime
Well, that’s unfortunate. But at least the sun is out!

Greenwich

On a sunny day, jump on the Docklands Light Railway to Greenwich, ground zero for the modern concept of timekeeping. This is where time starts, and you can get a photo of yourself straddling the prime meridian. Greenwich is its own little center of activity, with the Royal Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark (the world’s last surviving tea clipper) all within walking distance.

Covent Garden

If you’d rather stick to the heart of the city, head down to Covent Garden. It’s an old covered marketplace that is a constant flurry of activity. You can shop, watch street performers, eat, drink, and generally be merry. Is it touristy? Yes. But for good reason.

Notting Hill

Admittedly, I’m biased towards Notting Hill because I used to live there. It’s close to Portobello Market, a long street lined with a hodgepodge of shops and its main attraction, the Saturday market. It is rammed with people but don’t let that stop you. Get there early and investigate what the stalls have to offer – you could find anything, from trinkets to the best chocolate banana crepes this side of Paris.

London revels in its brief, blissful moments of summer. It’s a time when people break out the Pimm’s and (somewhat bizarrely) eschew the sunscreen, soaking up as much of the season as they possibly can. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you are in London, because you’ll be able to sense the way people’s moods have buoyed. Pull up a chair and join them, but bring an umbrella – just in case.

High tide London in the Summertime
May as well go to the pub.

Rail Tours: Destination Checklist

If you thought rail travel was only about commuting to work or visiting family, think again. From desert odysseys to mountain adventures, city breaks to luxury safaris, railways holidays come in all different sorts of shapes and sizes.

Here’s a quick guide to just some of the many different kinds of trip on offer.

Short breaks

If you’ve only got a few days to spare or want to make the most of your weekends, a short UK railway break could be just what you’re looking for. Hop on a train in London or closer to home and be whisked to the Highlands of Scotland, the wilds of Wales or the beauty of Cornwall. Your travel and accommodation will all be arranged for you, so all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the view!

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Train station in Berlin

Historic journeys

If you have a love of trains and a love of history, taking a trip on a classic steam train through timeless countryside could well be your ideal summer break. All around the UK, steam trains carry enthusiasts to some of the most beautiful parts of the country, but if you’ve got more time then you could even visit Belgium, Austria or Germany by rail.

For anyone interested in the battles of World War One, a train journey to the sights and monuments of the conflict would be a weekend to remember. Your guides will talk you through the momentous events that took place in these now peaceful towns and villages and give you a real insight into what life was like back in the early 1900s.

Exotic excursions

Those who want to travel even further afield may think rail journeys are out of the question – but they’d be wrong! Go on safari in South Africa, visit the temples of Sri Lanka or walk round the imperial cities of China with sensational rail journeys throughout these countries.

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Tracks to adventures and travels still unknown!

Long haul breaks can last anywhere from one week to three weeks, but you can also arrange a custom-made trip and experience everything that your chosen destination has to offer at your own place.

If you’ve got a list of places that you want to visit, a rail tour is almost guaranteed to take you there. As train holidays let you travel around and experience cities, towns and villages at a more relaxed pace, you’ll come back with a deeper understanding and appreciation of what your destination has to offer.

Top Three Winter Sun Destinations for Brits

With the worst winter in decades supposedly on its way to Britain this Christmas, it’s pretty clear that some of us will need to get out of here quick sharp if we can – unless you fancy hibernating in your bedroom after the boiler inevitably packs up. It might be in your best interests to treat yourself to a warm, sunny Christmas instead, perhaps.

Fortunately, there are plenty of continental locations for you to hop over to for some sun-soaked respite from the coming icy blasts. Winter sun destinations are simply the best thing when it comes to beating the winter blues. Here are our favourites.

 

The Canaries

Visiting the Canary Islands is great value for money. They offer some of the most diverse holiday destinations in Europe and if you can visit more than one of the islands, you’ll really benefit from the variety. Cheap holidays to Fuerteventura are particularly popular.

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Image Credit: NASA Goddard Space Center

There are seven islands on the peninsula in total and they all have their own individuality and particular charms to offer as well as enjoying year-round sunshine.

If you want to spend your Christmas indulging in wild parties, head down to Tenerife for its legendary party atmosphere. On the other hand, if you prefer more than just nightlife, head to Lanzarote, which offers more family-friendly activities, like the Submarine Safari and the Guinate Tropical Park.

 

Cyprus

For such a small island, Cyprus is chock-full of local culture and history, and importantly, some impressive nightlife to enjoy. It’s a great Christmas getaway: you’ll be able to justify your cheeky little break with all the culture and have your New Year’s Eve party fun, too.

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Photo courtesy flickr user Chany14

Limassol, Larnaca and Ayia Napa all have famously exciting nightlife scenes – particularly the latter, which plays host to over 20 nightclubs on the main strip in town alone. The only thing about visiting Cyprus during Christmas time is that you may not want to return to Britain; the sunshine, warm lapping seas, halloumi cheese, wine and all the fresh seafood will make you forget all about going back to reality.

 

Madeira, Portugal

If you’re thinking of a later winter escape – around February (when the cold is at its worst and there’s nothing to look forward to), then consider heading over to the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira. But never mind the (admittedly excellent) beaches and the cuisine; your priority will be Madeira’s version of Rio’s famous Mardi Gras Carnival.

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Photo courtesy flickr user Gertrud K.

Traditionally, there are two Carnival parades in Madeira. The first one takes place on the Saturday of the Carnival Weekend – expect a riot of Samba dancing and the most outrageous and vibrant, colourful costumes. The second parade follows on Shrove Tuesday.

 

Staying in chill, grey Britain over winter is not an appealing prospect for most people. But when there are so many gorgeous and sunlit locations so close by, it’s not necessary to suffer the chill. There’s simply no sense in enduring it when you could be enjoying yourself in much warmer climes. So make sure you make the right decision this winter – you certainly won’t regret it!