Primates Safaris in East Africa

Gorilla trekking and chimpanzee tracking safaris are the most popular trips in Uganda and Rwanda. There are several tour operators who organize tailor-made private safaris with personalized services. Most of the trips in Uganda and Rwanda focus on primates watching . Within Tanzania there are several tours that are conducted to Gombe Stream National Park to track chimpanzees. Primates watching trips range from 1 day to 21 days and these trips can be tailored depending on the clients’ interests, budget and schedule.

Organizing and putting together trips is done carefully and professionally by our experienced staff to ensure that our clients meet their expectations. Along side Gorillas and Chimpanzee tracking, we also prepare private Bird watching tours to different destinations and the most prominent ones are along water bodies like Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga, Kazinga Channel, Lake Bunyonyi, Lake Edward, Lake Gorge, river Nile among others.

We also organize private gorilla safaris and Chimpanzee-trekking trips in Bwindi impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga National Park, Kibale Forest national Park, Budongo Forest and Kyambura Gorge of Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Customized cultural trips to different places like Kasubi Tombs, Wamala Tombs, Kabaka’s Lake, Uganda Martyrs shrine Namugongo, Nakayima tree, Ssezibwa falls, River Nile among others.

Private filming and photographic trips to the most Uganda’s amazing destinations and so on. The others include study trips, White water rafting, butterfly watching, and fishing and general nature trips.

Why taking private safari?

Private safaris reserves privacy of the clients – With a private safari, visitors are driven privately from one place to another.

Private tours help member travelers share their interests privately – travelers from similar organization, students of the same course among others.

Take time to discover

Want to get a more in-depth look at your destination? When you make your tour private, you’ll have your own Tour Director and a local guide – which means you and your group can spend more time getting to know your most-anticipated sites. Time keeping is possible since pick up point, drop off and travel destinations tend to be the same.

Get a personalized experience

With a Private Tour, you’ll have the option to customize your trip even further. From spending an extra night or two in your favorite city or adding new stops to the itinerary to requesting your favorite Tour Director, you have the ability to make your tour experience your own.

Explore your interests

Are your group members wine enthusiasts? Or maybe you want to take your book club to the places that inspired your latest read? When you go private, you can tailor your trip to reflect your group’s interests with additions such as wine tastings or visits to sites with literary connections.

You’ll also enjoy the freedom to pick your departure date and the attention of a dedicated Tour Director.

It should be recorded however, that private safari are a bit expensive than group tours. For the case of a single traveler, the cost of a private safari can be extremely high because all costs lie on the head of one person but the cost can be low with a private group tour.

Desert Castles

Nadia Saary heads east from the capital of Jordan, Amman, to discover the country’s famed desert castles.

It’s bleak as we head out on the highway from the bustling city of Amman. The city disappears along with its endless ribbons of development, to be replaced by a barren land of sand and basalt.

Wherever you look is desert or road. Dusty and busy with trucks rolling on to Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Highway 40 will never rank as one of the world’s great drives. Pylons line the road, carrying power to the settlements beyond, while the occasional cafe offers a break from the tedium.

It makes you wonder why anyone would choose to live out here, but they did. Remains of prehistoric peoples have been found in places, but it’s the Desert Castles that stand as lasting symbols of the human conquest of these barren lands. In truth, they’re not so much castles as palaces, hunting lodges, trading centres, caravan stations, baths, places of rest and recreation for travellers – the roadside cafes of their day.

Plan your travelHolidays and flights to Jordan are available with Kuoni, easyJet, Travelsphere, Intrepid Travel, British Airways, Royal Jordanian and They were built more than 1,200 years ago by the powerful Umayyad caliphs based in Damascus, before they were overthrown by the Abbasids of Baghdad. The castles stand testament to a time of distinguished early muslim art and architecture and are the survivors of what was probably a chain of such buildings across the region.

No-one is really sure whether they were palaces, forts or recreational retreats although it’s likely that over time they served all those purposes, surrounded by oases that provided water. I took a day for my tour but you can take more time over it if you want, staying at Azraq. There are also a few more castles, other than those below, that you can visit but you’ll need a good map or GPS and a 4WD to negotiate the terrain.

Qasr Amra

  • A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Qasr Amra (pictured here and above) is among the best preserved and most intimate of the desert castles, famous for its colourful frescoes and mosaics. Built in the early years of the 8th century with its own water supply, a luxury bath house remains from the complex along with a deep well. It has three long halls with vaulted ceilings decorated with frescoes that are decidedly risque by muslim standards, including one of the caliph on his throne and others featuring other notable rulers of the known world. Animals are also represented. This is odd because Islam forbids the illustration of living beings. Some historians suggest that out in the desert, the caliphs felt free to ignore some of the basic tenets of their religion.
  • The building has an audience chamber, which was probably used for meals and meetings, and the baths complex. The steam room has a fine fresco featuring a map of the heavens while other rooms have some notable mosaics.

Qasr al-Harraneh (Qasr Kharana)

  • A few miles down the road near an unfortunate jumble of unsightly pylons is the restored Qasr al-Harraneh, which at first glance looks like a real castle. It’s certainly the most visually impressive of the tour’s historic sites.
  • As you walk up to it, you’re presented with a squat, square building with corner towers and occasional arrow slits. At first glance it looks impregnable, defying any challengers. But many argue that it could never have been a proper fort – neither the corner towers nor the arrow slits could be used by soldiers to defend the building. Some historians argue that it was more likely a caravanserais or a place of retreat for rulers, others that it was a meeting place for the region’s VIPs. Greek inscriptions suggest it was built on the site of a Roman or Byzantine building in around 711. Take a walk inside and you can imagine that the rooms and courtyards would’ve been an attractive retreat from the harsh desert beyond.

Qasr al-Hallabat

  • This castle (pictured) began life as a Roman fort, built during the reign of the Roman emperor Caracalla – who died in 217AD after a particularly blood-thirsty career. It was designed to defend the territory against raiding desert tribes but, by the seventh century, the building had become a monastery. The Umayyads then fortified and decorated it with frescoes and carvings, turning it into a fine residence.
  • Today, there are remains of the palace and some humbler dwellings, a mosque, a reservoir, eight cisterns and a system of sluices to carry water.
  • A few kilometres away are the remains of a bathing complex, Hammam as-Sarah, and the water channels that used to serve it.

Qasr Mushatta

  • Most tour groups never make it to the palace of Qasr Mushatta, although it’s within shouting distance of Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport. Take your passport with you when you drive out there because you’ll need to show it at the military checkpoints in the area.
  • Work began on the structure under Caliph Walid II in the middle of the 8th century, his plan being to build the biggest and best desert castle in the region along with a large city. Walid ended up being assassinated a few years later by some of his angry labourers, but some extensive ruins remain despite years of plundering and earthquakes. There are atmospheric remains of a mosque, a vaulted audience hall, toilets, pillars and carvings.

Qasr al-Azraq

  • While many of the desert castles reflect the oranges, yellows and browns of the desert landscape, the formidable Qasr al-Azraq is an intimidatingly black basalt fortress (pictured). Archaeologists reckon there’s been a castle on the site since about 300AD and the reign of the emperor Diocletian, but much of what we see today dates from the 13th century CE.
  • In the 16th century the Ottoman Turks used it as an important military base and then, as the guides are keen to tell us, it was one of Lawrence of Arabia’s HQs during the Great Arab Revolt in 1917.
  • The castle has several rooms to explore, a large courtyard, a small mosque, towers and a chamber apparently used by Lawrence as his room. Look out for the remains of a Roman board game carved into a stone. The entrance to the castle is through a huge, hinged slab of granite.
  • The castle was built on a key trading route but has always benefited from the nearby wetland oasis. Today that wetland is a nature reserve with plentiful bird and other wildlife, popular with bird watchers. The town of Azraq itself is pretty basic and the area is sadly bedevilled by trucks thundering down the roads to Iraq, Saudi and elsewhere in Jordan. But it’s a handy stop if you want to make more of your visit to the eastern part of Jordan.


And for your travel arrangements

Cambridge

The historic city of Cambridge is home to one of England’s two great universities. And like its rival Oxford, it has colleges that date back more than 700 years and some of the great names of learning attached to it.

Built astride the River Cam, it is a city of bicycles, of art and culture, of summer days spent lazing on the banks of the river and a youthful vibe that stands in stark contrast to its venerable buildings.

Sadly, it has the ubiquitous shopping centres that make it resemble many another English town – with the same old shops and chain restaurants and cafes. And it can be very busy with holidaymakers and day-trippers if you catch it on a sunny day, everyone tripping over bikes and locals plugging any number of concerts and shows. But we can overlook all that…
Plan your travelTravel to Cambridge by train. For car hire, book with: Budget, Alamo, Europcar or Sixt
Here are 10 things to see and do in Cambridge:

Go for a punt on the river

Punting on the Cam has been a mainstay of Cambridge life for generations. Choose to take a chauffered tour or have a go yourself, if you have a sense of balance and can cope with the traffic jams on the river on a busy weekend. You’ll get the best views of King’s College Chapel, The Wren Library at Trinity College and the Bridge of Sighs from the water. Several companies are available on the river.

The Backs

The collective name for the series of parks, gardens, bridges and paths that line the river behind the city centre colleges, The Backs are a world away from the noisy shopping streets and car park queues. As with punting, you’ll get some fine views of the historic buildings and everyday Cambridge student life amid the trees and meadows. But bear in mind that not all these green spaces are public and some can only be accessed through the colleges. There are plenty of other green spaces in the city centre, including the charmingly named Christ’s Pieces.

Take in the views from Great St Mary’s Church

The university church was build over the road from King’s College Chapel and the grand Senate House, where graduation ceremonies are held every summer. Dating from the late 15th and early 16th centuries, it has two organs and a tower offering great views of the city. You’ll have to climb 123 punishing and narrow steps to get to the top. A few minutes away is the smaller Church of St Bene’t – the oldest building left in Cambridgeshire, with a stout Saxon tower that includes ready-made holes for nesting owls – in the hope they would repay the thing by killing a few mice.

King’s College

The chapel of King’s College is one of the most recognizable buildings in the world, an extraordinary place of worship dating from the 15th and 16th centuries and one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture that you’ll find anywhere. Its historic stained glass windows and the wood and stone carving are thrilling enough but its the fan-vaulted ceiling that’s the real star of the show. The interior is divided by a dark and wonderfully carved wooden screen summounted by an organ. On display at the high altar is Rubens’ 1634 work Adoration of the Magi while some of the side chapels tell the story of the building’s construction. The building is perhaps best appreciated while listening to one of the regular concerts.

Fitzwilliam Museum

The 19th century building houses art collected by the seventh Viscount Fitzwilliam during his lifetime and which he bequeathed to his old university. The galleries are packed with works from ancient Greece and Rome, Chinese ceramics and works by the greats – Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Rubens, Gainsborough, Constable and Picasso. The city has several other museums – dedicated to archaeology, zoology and earth sciences. The Whipple Museum of the History of Science is rather dry while the Scott Polar Research Institute hosts the Polar Museum and its collection of artefacts, journals, paintings, photographs, clothing and other materials illustrating polar exploration.

Botanic Gardens

Cambridge has a healthy collection of green spaces but Cambridge University Botanic Garden, which has been open to the public since the 1840s, is a real treat. Its 40 or so acres contain around 8,000 plant species growing outdoors and in glasshouses. It also boasts a lake, a winter garden, rock gardens and a fine array of mature trees. You’ll find it on the pedestrian route from the railway station to the city centre.

Queens’ College

Our favourite among the Cambridge colleges, Queens’ College sits in beautiful grounds by the river and dates from the 15th century. The Old Court and Cloister Court are two of the best medieval courtyards you’ll find anywhere, one with a half-timbered President’s Lodge. There’s also a tower where Dutch scholar Erasmus lived during his stay in Cambridge in the early 16th century. Cross the wooden, or mathematical, bridge for the more grounds and a modern addition to the college. Queens’ is one of the colleges that charges admission – not all do and not all open to the public all the time. If there’s one you do want to visit, check its website first to avoid disappointment. The oldest but smallest is Peterhouse, founded in 1284.

Eat fine food

The Cambridge Chop House on the corner of Kings Parade and Bene’t Street is one of our favourites in the city, with a menu of hearty and traditional English fare. Steaks, pork, suet puddings and so on mean this isn’t the place for committed vegetarians. There’s another branch, the St John Chop House, near St John’s College. Much on the menu is locally sourced.

Corpus Clock

One of the city’s weirder attractions, the Corpus Clock is a sculptural clock at the junction of Bene’t Street and Trumpington Street. Unveiled by Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking in 2008, it has the world’s largest grasshopper escapement. Mechanically controlled, there are no computers and work and electricity is used only to power a motor that winds the mechanism and powers the blue LEDs that shine behind the slits in the clock’s face.

Take a bike tour

Why sit on a bus when you could see the city on a cycle tour? Being a university town, Cambridge is full of students on two wheels – and they can get where no bus can. Cambridge Bike Tours offers various routes depending on what you want to see and has some electric bikes if you need some help on the way.

Getting to Cambridge:

Public transport. Take the environmentally friendly option – travel by train.

For car hire in the area, try booking with: Budget, Alamo, Europcar or Sixt

Formentera

Steve Warren goes in search of peace on a holiday to Ibiza in the Balearics.

Ibiza can be wild. And I’m not talking about the weather. Anyone who’s had the misfortune of going to San Antonio will know what I mean. And while Ibiza Town is more sophisticated, it’s still a busy old place.

But there is somewhere to escape to if you want a break away from it all – the beautiful island of Formentera. The white sandy beaches and clear blue waters of the Mediterranean that lap its shores are a haven from the dance music and, let’s face it, drug-fuelled ways of its big sister. At times, and if you’re lucky, it can feel like you’re on a tropical island in the middle of nowhere.

It takes about half an hour to reach Formentera on the ferry from Ibiza Town. It has a handful of small villages, such as Sant Francesc Xavier and El Pilar de la Mola, but once you land you don’t have to go anywhere near them if peace and seclusion is what you’re after. And while you can drive (car hire firms are at the ferry terminal), it makes much more sense to hire a bike as we did. Head off along one of the cycle paths to explore the island, along paths lined with scented juniper bushes and fig trees, and discover the beaches at your leisure. At just 19km long, Formentera  is good for walks too.

The island has more than 20km of beaches and nude bathing is common on most of them. They come in all shapes and sizes – long expanses of sand, bays, tiny and empty coves. Smaller ones like Es Calo and Calo des Morts have few if any facilities. The larger ones like Llevant boast bars and water sports.

Here are some of the beaches we found:

  • Cavall d’en Borras is the nearest to La Sabina port so easily reached on foot or bike. Just under a kilometre long, there’s a bar and a juniper wood offering shade if you need it.
  • Llevant, near to Illetas, is one of the busiest and longest at 1.5km but it’s possible to find quieter spots if you walk away from the bars and cafes.
  • Es Pujols is smaller, has a mixture of sandy beach and rocks plus facilities for disabled bathers. Fishermen store their boats in huts near here.
  • Migjorn beach is a long 5km of beautiful sand on the south coast. There are bars and restaurants but it’s not difficult to find a bit of peace and quiet either.

Go for a swim off most of them and you’ll find fields of posidonea growing on the seabed below you.

There’s another treat in store though – the neighbouring and smaller island of Esplamador. About 150 metres away from Formentera, you can reach it by boat or swim if you’re confident enough. Head for the Platja de S’Alga beach for more sunbathing but take plenty to eat and drink as there are no restaurants.

Top tip: Relive the happy days by shopping in the bohemian markets of Sant Francesc Xavier and El Pilar de la Mola.

Getting to Formentera and other info:

Ferries to Formentera operate from their own terminal in Ibiza port and run until about 11pm, although do check on the day you sail to ensure you’re not left stranded.

If you fancy a longer stay than a day trip, accommodation is available to suit all budgets on the island.

Keeping the Kids Happy: Summer 2015 in England

It’s a perennial problem for mums and dads – how do you keep the children entertained during the summer holidays? Here’s a guide to some new attractions in England for 2013.

They include giant Gromit trails, Poohsticks, knights glamping and pop-up beaches.

Spot the dog, Bristol

Families can play ‘spot the dog’ in Bristol by following a trail of 80 giant Gromits (pictured), modeled on the Oscar-winning animated character. The hand-painted sculptures of Gromit will be let loose in Bristol from July 1 for ten weeks in a new public art trail called Gromit Unleashed. Each one has been uniquely designed by artists and celebrities, including Zayn Malik from teen band One Direction and Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park.

Plan your travelTravel to Kent by train. For car hire, book with: Budget, Alamo, Europcar or Sixt The House at Pooh Corner, Hampshire

From July 13 to September 15, explore the wonderful world of a boy and his bear, when Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood are celebrated at the National Trust property Mottisfont in Hampshire. On show for the first time in the UK, visitors can see 36 hand-painted illustrations by EH Shepard, created for several Pooh books. Children can take part in Pooh-inspired forest escapades by joining Winnie the Pooh’s Great ‘Expotition’ – a trail that will see families racing Poohsticks along the River Test, tree climbing, tracking a Woozle, building a house of sticks just like Eeyore’s, designing a trap for any unexpected Heffalumps and making up songs and stories.

Summer Spelltacular, Warner Bros Studio Tour, London

Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter is inviting children to delve into the world of spells, potions and wizard duels during its first Summer Spells feature. Visitors will discover first-hand how spells, such as Wingardium Leviosa, came to life on screen and how the wand movements that accompanied them were developed. Children will be able to learn wand battle choreography and take part in special effects demonstrations between July 26 and September 2.

Walk with dinosaurs, Isle of Wight

In the 20th anniversary year of dinosaur epic Jurassic Park, Dinosaur Island (aka the Isle of Wight) is inviting tourists to cross the Solent and search for prehistoric remains using an augmented reality app. New technology, which can only be activated on the island, takes visitors on a trail to six coastal locations where they can take a picture of their family and friends walking alongside the dinosaurs that roamed the Isle of Wight 130 million years ago. At the same time they can learn more about their relatives – the dinosaur characters in the movie Walking with Dinosaurs. A hop-on/hop-off bus service, which takes in all six of the locations, will run until November 14 and costs £10 for adults, £5 for children.

Knight’s Glamping at Leeds Castle, Kent

One of the prettiest castles in Britain, Leeds Castle in Kent is now offering families the chance to escape to the countryside for a glamorous camping holiday. Located just under an hour’s drive from London, it offers eight traditional striped tents based on a medieval design equipped with a luxury four poster bed, log burning stove, crisp cotton bedding and fur throws. By day, explore the castle’s stately rooms, lose yourself in the maze and explore the extensive grounds.

Festival of Neighbourhood on London’s South Bank

Central London’s South Bank district becomes a fun neighbourhood of giant art, roof gardens, allotments and a beach pop-up at the Festival of Neighbourhood until September 8. Other attractions include the Beano exhibit, celebrating 75 years of the classic children’s comic, circus theatre and cabaret at the London Wonderground – plus sandcastle building on the pop-up beach. If it rains, the Imperial War Museum is nearby and hosts the exhibition Horrible Histories: Spies from July 29.

Horrible Histories at Warwick Castle

For more Horrible Histories, head to Warwick Castle to see the foulest and funniest moments in British history brought to life. From July 20 to September 1, the castle is helping the children’s classic, Horrible Histories, celebrate its 20th birthday by hosting five Horrible Histories camps around the castle grounds. Visitors can meet the Terrible Tudors, including Henry VIII and his royal executioner, visit the Vile Victorians classroom, meet The Stormin’ Normans and encounter the Vikings.

Build sand castles in a real castle, Oxford

The city of Oxford in the heart of England has a beach, thanks to 23 tonnes of sand, deck chairs and palm trees in Oxford Castle. A series of seaside attractions are being laid on there during the summer, including petanque, beach volleyball, Punch & Judy and barbecues.

Theme park fun around England

The summer sees exciting new rides at some of England’s top theme parks. Drayton Manor launches Thomas the Tank Engine-themed Winston’s Whistle Stop Tour on July 19, featuring the willing Winston helping The Fat Controller with his poor driving skills while passengers get taken around Thomas Land on a guided monorail tour. Meanwhile, Chessington‘s new safari experience, ZUFARI, lets visitors ride in safari trucks through extreme terrain to explore a new reserve with flamingoes, giraffes and rhinos. Theme park fans should also head to Blackpool Pleasure Beach and step inside Wallace’s slippers for a cracking adventure on Thrill-O-Matic – the world’s only Wallace & Gromit ride.

Go wild at Pensthorpe, Norfolk

Go wild this summer at WildRootz at Pensthorpe Wildlife & Gardens in Norfolk – a new attraction designed to connect children with rural England. The two-acre activity area runs through woods, giving youngsters the chance to splash through streams, make castles in sandpits, build dens, explore underground burrows and fly through the trees on zip wires. It opens on July 26.

Getting there:

Public transport. Take the environmentally friendly option – travel by train.

For car hire in the area, try booking with: Budget, Alamo, Europcar or Sixt

If you’re visiting from further afield…

A trip to Concarneau, France

Concarneau has been a vital fishing port for the French for centuries but it’s also a handy base for a holiday in Brittany, as Steve Warren reports.

It’s all about fish in Concarneau. The restaurants trip over themselves to serve the freshest seafood; the harbour is full of fishing boats; there’s even a museum of fishing.

This is a town that grew rich on tuna and that’s had a long love affair with sardines, landing and processing them in numerous canning factories. Stay too long and you may end up sick of the sight (and taste) of them.

It makes Concarneau sound a little too industrial but it manages to avoid it. While fishing continues to be important – and you can go to see the regular fish auctions after the catches are landed and take fishing trips – tourism is vital too.

In the French summer holidays of July and August, in particular, the place (along with the rest of Brittany) is busy with visitors and the marina is stacked with yachts. There are beaches to enjoy, a fun festival and the charming ville close to explore – the old walled town that is Concarneau’s star attraction.

The ville close (pictured above and here) was built on a tiny island in the harbour, fortified with thick stone walls. Having failed to do my research in advance, I was thinking it would be an old castle full of ruins. But it’s actually a fully functioning village, although one given over largely to tourism.

Its narrow, pedestrianised streets (full of obligatory French dog pooh) are lined with shops, cafes and restaurants, all neat and tidy, boasting colourful window boxes. In among the predictable, tacky souvenir shops, sitting alongside renovated medieval buildings, are some wonderful bakeries and patisseries, galleries and fashion boutiques.

We stopped for sardines, some delicious Breton cider and a tasty crepe before venturing on to the ramparts for views over the harbour and the town beyond. We invested some time in the Museum of Fishing, which includes a tour of an old trawler, but much of it is incredibly specialist and rather dry – highlights are some models of the town in years gone by, a colourful collection of old sardine tins and a mini aquarium. Fans of model boats of all shapes and sizes will leave it deliriously happy.

Brittany’s weather is as unpredictable as Britain’s at times but if the sun shines, there are great walks to be had along the coastline and the beaches are a real draw. Take a walk (or drive) from the Quai de la Croix to Les Sables Blancs (pictured) and settle on the soft sand, or enjoy some of the water sports on offer in high summer. Alternatively, head to the Glenan Archipelago or the nearby Cabellou peninsula – where there’s a campsite – for a collection of pretty coves and sandy bays. In peak summer, the beaches get crowded so it pays to have a car to explore the beaches further along the coast.

In this part of Brittany, windsurfing and kite-surfing are popular activities – along with diving and sailing.

If the weather closes in (and you don’t have children to keep amused), head to the Château de Keriolet (pictured) in the hills a mile or so outside of town and take a guided tour.

Once a 15th century manor house, Keriolet was bought in the 19th century by the Russian Princess Zenaida Yusopova – a relative of the Tzars – for her much younger husband, the Count of Chauveau. They gave the house a facelift that turned it into a mansion with Gothic, medieval and many other touches but the house had a troubled history in the 20th century and ended up a ruin, before being rescued in the late 1980s by a private buyer.

The tour today takes in those rooms that have been restored, including the beautifully tiled kitchen, and features a host of fascinating stories about the chateau and its inhabitants. If the tour is in French, you’ll get a printed guide to follow.

And if the weather closes in and you do have kids in tow, the town has other attractions, including horse riding, boat trips and leisure parks with mini-golf and bowling.

If you’re in Concarneau in August, you’ll be able to celebrate the Le Festival des Filets Bleus with locals. This festival of ‘blue nets’ celebrates the town’s fishing industry and traditions with parades, music and dancing – and an endless supply of fishy dishes. Somewhat less PC is the crowning of Miss Filets Bleus. The first festival, named after the sardine fishing nets that covered the quays, was only held about a century ago, created by the locals to try to pull the community out of the economic doldrums of the times.

These days, the festival is as an excuse to enjoy a bout of Gouren, a sort of Breton wrestling, while others play palets (a local version of boules) and teach visitors some simple steps of Breton dancing.

It’s also an excuse to drink lots of Breton cider.

Not that I ever need an excuse…

Getting to Concarneau and other info:

  • For airports, Quimper is the closest. There’s a summer service from London City Airport with British Airways and year-round services with Air France. Nantes Airport is further away. Try easyJet, Flybe or Air France
  • For car hire, try booking with: Budget, Alamo, Europcar or Sixt
  • Brittany Ferries has services from Portsmouth to Caen, Cherbourg and St Malo.
  • Discover campsites near Concarneau with Eurocamp.

Brooklyn Newyork – Top Things to See & Do

Over the water from glitzy Manhattan, Brooklyn is often forgotten by visitors to New York City. But there’s loads to see and do, on a day trip or whether you’re staying longer.

It’s one of the city’s many exciting neighborhoods, with some of the best nightlife, some excellent cultural institutions and green spaces.

Take time out in your visit to enjoy the sights and sounds of Brooklyn Heights, BoCoCa, DUMBO, Fort Greene and trendy Williamsburg and you’ll get to experience New York away from the intimidating skyscrapers, the money of Wall Street and the fashionable boutiques that line the shopping streets in and around 5th Avenue.

Here are 10 things to enjoy in Brooklyn:
Plan your travelFor flights, see British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and KLM
Brooklyn Bridge

  • It’s easy enough to get the Metro from Manhattan to Brooklyn but why not take a walk across that NYC icon, the Brooklyn Bridge, instead? The world’s first steel suspension bridge (pictured above), it opened in 1883 to span the East River and was designed by engineer John Roebling – who died before building began. At its opening, fears that the bridge was going to collapse caused a stampede in which 12 people died. Today, walking across the bridge can be a crush too as pedestrians jostle with impatient cyclists for space but the views to Manhattan are worth the aggro and you get a close-up view of the engineering that supports this immense structure.

Brooklyn Heights

  • Head right from the bridge and you’ll eventually end up in historic Brooklyn Heights – one of the most beautiful districts in all of New York City. The shaded, quiet streets are full of beautifully restored properties, including those signature brownstones. Head to Montague Street for a lunch stop and then head for Brooklyn Historical Society, housed in a fine building and dedicated to preserving the district and charting its history. It stages regular exhibitions.

Views of Manhattan

  • Walk through Brooklyn Heights to the Promenade, a wide path with some of the best views of Manhattan you’ll find anywhere (on a sunny day). Ahead of you lies the East River, alive with ferries, while sightseeing helicopters buzz away in the skies around.

New York Transit Museum

  • Want to learn more about the history of the city’s transport networks and how traffic and people are kept moving today? The museum, housed in an old subway station, has what you need. Plenty of interactive displays keep the children amused and there’s a collection of historic subway vehicles.

Prospect Park

  • A giant of a park designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (the man responsible for New York’s Central Park), Prospect Park makes for a great escape on a warm, sunny day. There’s woodland for shade, a zoo and several playgrounds for children, a regular farmers’ market and nature trails. At Grand Army Plaza, see the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch that honours the defenders of the union during the American Civil War of the 1860s.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

  • At Prospect Park you’ll find another green oasis in Brooklyn, the Botanic Gardens. They cover more than 50 acres and boast around 10,000 different plant species, both indoors and out. Nextdoor is Brooklyn Museum, packed with a collection that includes fine art – ancient and modern – as well as Egyptian treasures and mummies.

Fort Greene park

  • Brooklyn’s first park opened in the 1840s, on the site of a series of forts from as far back as the Revolutionary War. These days, it’s a place of peace, somewhere to go for a picnic, to play basketball and tennis. There are playgrounds for children. The Fort Greene district is worth exploring for its cafes, restaurants and neighbourhood shops while towards the water you’ll find the old Brooklyn Navy Yards, home to BLDG 92 – a museum that traces the yard’s history.

Brooklyn Flea

  • Fans of a good market shouldn’t miss Brooklyn Flea, at 176 Lafayette Avenue during spring and summer. Hundreds of stallholders offer handicrafts, retro goodies, antiques, food, jewellery, clothing and a ton of other things. The market moves around depending on the seasons so check the flea website before you head out.

Williamsburg

  • For several years now, Williamsburg has been billed as one of New York’s most happening of districts. It’s got an artistic, youthful, bohemian vibe and is a neighbourhood where you’ll find a good mix of arts venues, cafes, restaurants, busy bars and clubs. As is often the way, its past was mainly poor and industrial.

Brooklyn Brewery

  • You’ll see the (delicious) products of Brooklyn Brewery in bars throughout New York (and increasingly the world) and it’s possible to tour its Williamsburg site on weekday evenings and at weekends. Check the brewery website for opening times and bookings. The tour itself is free and you can buy tokens for drinks at the bar afterwards.

Getting there and more info…

Discounts to attractions are available with the New York Pass

For flights to New York, see:
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, KLM and Aer Lingus

Book a New York City hotel with Radisson Blu, Accor, Crowne Plaza, Hilton, Holiday Inn or Park Plaza

Search flights & accommodation at Opodo, Easy Voyage or Expedia UK – in Australia, Canada or the USA
For accommodation ideas and reviews look at Hotels.com, Late Rooms or TripAdvisor

Mykonos, Greece

James Brooke visits one of the most glamorous of the Greek islands – Mykonos.

Circling around the granite island of Mykonos in our cramped Airbus, we caught sight of the landmarks easily in the cloudless skies. The historic windmills that once milled wheat, the whitewashed buildings shimmering in the sunshine, the chaotic Paraportiani church, the rocky promontory of Little Venice. It looked stunning.

Whatever problems Greece may face with its economy, there’s always hope when you’ve got islands like this.

After landing, we flagged down a cab at the tiny airport just outside of Mykonos Town (or Chora as it’s known to locals) for the short journey to our hotel, the Mykonos Theoxenia. Nestled on the cliffs just behind the windmills, it didn’t look much from the outside but made up for it with beautifully designed rooms, a warm welcome and a peaceful pool area. Just the place to relax for a few hours after a long flight.

Mykonos – one of the Cyclades – is the glamour island. Expensive yachts, elegant bars, trendy restaurants and high prices give the game away. It’s also the gay capital of the Greek islands and some of its beaches throb with parties and clubbers, gay, straight, rich and not-so-rich (I hesitate to say poor). But not everything involves taking out a second mortgage and you can find plenty of peace and quiet too if that’s what you want.

Mykonos Town (pictured here) is a pretty place, built up around a small harbour that was home to a thriving fishing fleet before over-fishing took its toll. It’s easy to lose yourself in the narrow alleys and little squares, among the white-painted buildings. Residents take pride in their homes, many of which have outside wooden stairs to the floors above – stairs that are painted in bright colours, draped in flowers and climbing plants.

Turn a corner and you could find a little cafe or bar, a gallery and even Petros the pelican – the island’s famous mascot – being led around by his keeper.

But you’ll find very few decent beaches around town. For those, you’ll need to venture elsewhere using one of the taxis, bus services or small boats that chug along the coast regularly from the capital. Whatever way you go, you’ll soon find that this is a pretty barren island in parts, exposed as it has been over centuries to harsh winter winds. Giant granite boulders dot the landscape along with farm buildings, the occasional village and holiday development.

The big name (and often nudist) beaches are Paraga, Paradise, Elia and Super Paradise, the latter two being particularly popular with gay visitors and some with pounding music from the beach bars. Agrari is a few minutes away from Elia but not as built up. Panormos and Agios Sostis are quieter but you won’t be able to get to them without a car or taxi.  Kalafatis is good for wind surfing. Other decent beaches are at Platis Yialos, Ornos, Kalafati and Agia Anna but the truth is that there are plenty to choose from, some of them small, remote and only reachable by car.

Come evening, Mykonos Town comes alive and visitors flock to Little Venice (or Alefkandra) to see the famous sunsets.  We’re joined by holidaymakers from the latest cruise ship to call – and they seem to arrive every day. We walk down through the crowds, past the windmills and the awful car park that sits before them. We join the strollers down Enopolon Dynameon Street, home to several local museums including the Aegean Maritime and the Folk Museum.

Back at Little Venice – a place where the women of the island used to wash clothes – we find a bar, pay far too much for a beer or two and ponder the choice of restaurants. You can eat on the main tourist drags and around the harbours but, as with the bars, you’ll pay a lot more than you will in the quieter parts of town. You’ll pay the most anywhere around Little Venice but do try the local sausage – louza loukaniko – as well as the seafood. As far as bars go, you’ll be spoiled for choice whether you’re gay, straight or indifferent.

One day we get on a boat to the uninhabited island of Delos, a place where Apollo and Artemis were born according to Greek myth. There are endless and fascinating archaeological remains if that’s your thing as well as great – and sometimes steep – walks. But it’s pretty exposed so take plenty of water, sun screen and a hat. There are also boat services to Tinos and Naxos.

Top tip: If you hire a car in Mykonos, don’t even try to drive it into the centre of town. It’s much easier to park on the outskirts and walk in.

Getting to Mykonos and other handy info:

We travelled in mid to late May when things were still pretty quiet on the island but the weather was perfect.

Mykonos doesn’t have to be expensive. There are budget hotel options and camping sites – many of them with good reviews such as the Tagoo and the Milena. And eating where the locals do outside of the main, touristy part of town is a lot cheaper.

  • Most flights to Mykonos are in the summer season only although Aegean Airlines flies year-round to Athens.
  • Otherwise, search with Opodo or  UK – in Australia, Canada or the USA
    For accommodation ideas and reviews look at Hotels.com or TripAdvisor
  • Among others with flights and/or holidays are easyJet, Lowcostholidays.com and Thomson Holidays

Kuala Lumpur Top 10 Historic Sites

The capital of Malaysia isn’t the oldest city on the planet but it has its fair share of historic sites amid a dazzling catalogue of modern buildings.

Kuala Lumpur is little more than 150 years old and in that time has seen a 19th century economic boom thanks to tin, a dreadful fire, a huge flood, decades of British rule and Japanese occupation during the Second World War.

The city, which sits on the banks of the Kelang and Gombak rivers, is famous for its Petronas Towers and has become known in recent years for its shopping, but its historic and colonial heart is Dataran Merdeka – Merdeka Square. It was there, in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, that Malaysian indepence ceremonies were held back in 1957.

While Dataran Merdeka is an iconic attraction in the city, not many people know the stories behind the 10 historic buildings in the area – all of them aged over 100. The best way of discovering these colonial, Moorish, Tudor, neo-Gothic and Islamic jewels and the stories behind them is to join a walking tour. They’re run three times a week, organised by Kuala Lumpur City Hall.

Plan your travelFor flights, rooms and reviews: Opodo, Expedia, Hotels.com, Easy Voyage, Late Rooms and TripAdvisor. The tour stops at the following attractions:

The Sultan Abdul Samad Building

Built between 1894 and 1897, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building (pictured above) is the first example of Moghul architecture in Malaysia and features a 41m-high clock tower, arched colonnades and copper domes. Before serving as the office for the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture, it was the home of the Supreme Court.

Old City Hall

Built in 1896, the distinctive Old City Hall has black domes and an interesting roofline of Islamic arches and dome-shaped pavilions. Nowadays it serves as one of the oldest theatres in the country, known locally as Panggung Bandaraya.

The Government Printing Office

Architects AC Norman and J Russell built this fine Moghul-India inspired building in 1898 to meet the printing needs of the then British colonial authorities in Malaya. Government reports, official government books and even train tickets were printed there. Today, it’s the KL City Gallery with artworks and historic items, and also has a Tourist Information Centre.

Federated Malay States Railway Station

Built in 1905, the railway station has a striking design of alternating red bricks and white plaster bands, along with an Islamic-style façade with raised onion-shaped domes derived from Moghul architecture. The building now houses the rather specialist National Textile Museum (pictured).

The Chartered Bank

Dating form 1919, the three-storey symmetrical Chartered Bank has a protruding porch and arches on the ground level, showing off its Moghul elements eloquently. The building has been converted into Restoran Warisan, a restaurant serving local traditional food for lunch and dinner.

The Cathedral of St Mary

The cathedral was the first brick church built in what was then the Federated Malay States, and also one of the first Anglican churches in the region. Dating originally from 1895, it was rebuilt in the English Gothic style after a fire in 1922. The church’s pipe organ is a much celebrated, built by one of the greatest organ makers in the world, Henry Willis.

Former High Court Building

This bright, two-storey building has a neo-Moorish exterior with four towers – typical of its time. Built in 1909 by the British, it’s now occupied by the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture.

Victorian Fountain

This attractive fountain is more than a century old, was imported from England and assembled in Kuala Lumpur. It has some charming and colourful Art Nouveau tiles that sparkle in the sunshine.

The Padang

The Padang, which is today known as Dataran Merdeka, is where the British Union Jack was lowered and the flag of an independent Federation of Malaya, raised for the first time on August 31 1957 – ending British rule after 151 years. It was also the site for many a cricket match organised by the Royal Selangor Club. The square was renamed in 1990.

Royal Selangor Club or The Dog

Built in 1884, the Royal Selangor Club was set up as an exclusive club for the growing expatriate community back in colonial times but it’s since opened to Malaysians. The building has mock-Tudor touches and fronts an expanse of well-trimmed green lawns, giving it a real English feel. Tourists registered on the heritage walking tour can go into the club for refreshments at the Long Bar, and imagine watching a cricket or rugby mat on the Padang.

Getting to Kuala Lumpur and other info:

Get more info on the The Dataran Merdeka Heritage Tour at the Malaysian Tourism site.

Kuala Lumpur International Airport is a major hub in Asia and served by Malaysia Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Air Asia, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways

For hotels in Kuala Lumpur try Hilton, Accor and Crowne Plaza

Search flights & accommodation at Opodo, Easy Voyage or Expedia UK – in Australia, Canada or the USA
For accommodation ideas and reviews look at Hotels.com, Late Rooms or TripAdvisor