The Glorious Gower

The Glorious Gower

The glorious Gower

Glorious Gower.  If ever you are in need of some rest and recuperation, then this is your spot.  It’s one of the most naturally beautiful coastal regions in Britain. No wonder it was the first place in Britain to be named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Part of the Gower’s beauty is how unspoilt and unchanged it is.  Couple that with how incredibly quiet it feels, and you can see why it’s magical.  There’s so much to do, see and explore.  The Gower is also one of those locations that seems to ooze atmosphere.  Catch sunset on a sunny summer’s day and it’s stunning. It’s equally wonderful to be wrapped in a scarf and hat, walking on a windy Rhossili beach in Winter.

Beautiful Beaches

Rhossili Beach from Spaniard Rocks

For me, the beaches are the star attraction of the Gower.

Super Star Beaches

Rhossili beach has been voted one of the world’s best beaches time after time.  For good reason too!  There’s 3 miles of sweeping golden sands, sand dunes, frequent surf and you can often have most of the beach to yourself.  Three Cliffs Bay has its own special magic.  The Pennard Pill River cuts through the woodland hillside and down across the bay.  Ruined Pennard Castle sits high above Three Cliffs waiting to be explored.  With no beach car park – it’s tricky to get down to – but that makes it even more special. The 2 mile long Whiteford Sands beach is backed by sand dunes and the pine forest of Whiteford Burrows.  The National Trust nature reserve has paths that cross the varied terrains of dunes, beach forest and edge the salt marsh making it a fantastic for nature lovers.

Family Friendly

If you want easy access beaches or don’t want to travel far from Swansea or Mumbles, then check out Caswell, Langland or Port Eynon.  All have parking, cafes, toilets and are Blue Flag Award beaches making them perfect family day out beaches.

Wonderful Welsh walks

Rhossili Beach The Glorious Gower

Did you know that the Wales Coast Path was the first footpath in the world to stretch the full length of a country’s coastline?  The Gower and Swansea Bay section of this epic footpath offers you 111km of beach hut, sand dune and limestone cliff lined pathways. Download the useful and free Wales Coast Path App to help you discover more about the path and track your journey.

Surf and SUP adventures

Llangennith offers the most reliable surf in the Gower and is popular with both beginners and professional surfers. There are three spots to surf from – Rhosilli is at the Southern end and Peaks is at the Northern. The main area for surfing is from the Hillend Campsite which is an easy 50m walk through the dunes to the beach. Hire equipment from Llangennith Surf School  based on the beach. If you are a beginner, they offer surf lessons too.  PJ’s is a well known and loved surf shop that you’ll pass as you head to Llangennith – so stop in to feel like a local.

When there’s no surf, or if you’d like to explore more of the Gower coastline from the water, then how about a stand-up paddleboard?  Hire them from SUP Gower, and you can take them away to set sail from your favourite Gower beach.  They also offer 2-hour taster sessions based from Mumbles.

Gower Secrets

The Helvetia Shipwreck Rhossili Beach

I love a hidden gem and the Gower has some amazing secrets for you to discover.  First up – the steppingstones when you reach the Three Cliffs Bay from the car park and campsite above. We once crossed these lovely steppingstones and enjoyed a gentle amble on Three Cliffs Bay.  But when we began to head back, we couldn’t find the steps.  Realisation hit that they were now a foot under water as the tide was coming in fast. There was nothing for it but to whip off the hiking boots and wade across the now shin deep water – it all adds to the adventure!

Then there’s the secret shipwreck.  It’s not often you can wander around a shipwreck without getting wet. The Helvetia washed up on Llangennith Beach back in 1887 on its voyage from Canada to Swansea.  Only visible when the tide is out, it makes for some amazing photos.

Another tidal gem is Worm’s Head.  Make sure you wear sensible footwear for this epic but challenging walk over volcanic rock to Worm’s Head.  Please check the tides – as it’s only accessible for 2 hours either side of low tide.

You can also feel quite smug when you find a secret beach! Broughton is one of those beaches as it takes a bit of a hike to reach it.  Pobbles Bay is also a hidden gem of a beach just out of sight from Three Cliffs Bay.

Where to stay when visiting the Gower?

The Three Cliffs Bay Holiday Park has to have one of the best campsite views in the world!  The Times claimed it was one of Britain’s 20 Best Campsites and I’d agree. If you have a campervan or can hire one, choose one of their Sea View Campervan Pitches.

The 18th Century King Arthur Hotel in Reynoldston offers B&B hotel rooms or a 4 person cottage. It’s got a popular pub and restaurant and the Sunday Telegraph said it was ‘Exactly what country pubs should be…comfortable, well run and difficult to leave.’ Need I say more.

Three Cliffs Bay Holiday Park - Gower
The King Arthur Hotel Reynoldston Gower

Uncover the secrets of St Emilion, France

Uncover the secrets of St Emilion, France

Uncover the Secrets of St Emilion, France

About St Emilion

The beautiful village of St Emilion in the Bordeaux region of France oozes history and charm as much as it does wine.  There are winding cobbled streets, incredible architecture all tucked inside thousands of hectares of vineyards.  But look deeper and you’ll be able to uncover the secrets of St Emilion.

Uncover the secrets of St Emilion, view up to St Emilion

Underground History

Walking across the square of Place de L’Eglise Monolithe, it’s hard to imagine that something serene and slightly magical lies below.  Behind a thick wooden door at one corner of the square is an entrance to a whole new level of St Emilion.  Booking a tour of this secret underground layer is a must!  Visit the Trinity Chapel and then head to The Hermitage, the cave dwelling of the Benedictine Monk, Emilion, after whom the village is named.  Onto the labyrinth of passages and catacombs before entering the Monolithic Church completely carved from rock and the biggest underground church of this type in Europe. So, take the tour, then pop back into the square feeling slightly smug that you’ve experienced a St Emilion secret. 

View of main church in St Emilion - underground history

The Wash Houses

Hidden down winding cobbled streets seek out the two tranquil wash houses of St Emilion.  The wash houses bring you back to days of old, before wine and macarons drew in tourists and only locals walked the streets instead of umbrella following sightseers.  The 2 ‘Lavoirs’ remind us that this was a living, breathing village where every day chores filled the days of inhabitants.  In fact, the wash houses were the Hello Magazine of their time.  Taking their already washed clothes, it was a place to rinse clothes in the flowing natural spring water.  It was a time for ladies to catch up on gossip, local news and chat with each other.  So, take a moment to seek out the wash houses, sit on the edge of the pool in this pretty, peaceful place and dip your fingers in the cooling waters. Can you hear the whispering gossipy giggles? 

The Wash Houses in St Emilion

Cremant de Bordeaux

There is no getting away from the fact that St Emilion is a red wine lovers paradise.  For decades, this small appellation has been known as one of the greatest red wine regions of the world.  But look beyond the crème de la crème of St Emilion Grand Cru’s and you’ll find Cremant de Bordeaux.  It’s St Emilion’s white or pink, bubbly and fresh cousin.  Cremant is made in the traditional Champagne method but differs because of its use of traditional Bordeaux grape varieties.  Semillon and Sauvignon in the white and merlot and cabernet grapes are used in the rose.  It’s perfect as an aperitif or with light lunches and dinners. It’s a beautifully happy bubbly – a delicious surprise from St Emilion.

Uncover the secrets of St Emilion bottle of Cremant de Bordeaux

Boutique shopping

It’s true that the heart of St Emilion is wine but hidden down side streets and dotted in tiny courtyards are some boutique shopping delights.  Try the famous macarons shops of the town – look for the distinctive blue and white design boxes. Seek out the courtyard of the Artisans Créateurs à St Emilion which has a delightful array of homeware, jewelry, clothing and accessories.  There are some pretty boutique dress shops where floating summer dresses are just too tempting.  And in case you just can’t stay away from wine – there are shops where you can pick up your own St Emilion vine.

Boutique Shopping St Emilion

Want to find out more about St Emilion? The St Emilion Tourist board are a useful source of practical information.

Top Photo Opportunities in Seville, Spain

Top Photo Opportunities in Seville, Spain

Top photo opportunities in Seville, Spain

Seville has to be one of the most photogenic cities in the world.  Soft lighting, warm paint tones, tropical planting and deliciously detailed architecture all make Seville perfect for a photo.  Pick the right spots at the right time of day and you’ll be able to capture all your stunning Seville moments.  Maybe you are taking photos to journal your trip or perhaps to wow family and friends when you get home.  Sometimes there is simple joy in seeking out that perfect holiday shot, the shadows, the details or the symmetry of a certain place.  Whatever your reason, here are some ideas for top photo opportunities in Seville, Spain.

Alcazar Seville

Alcazar

The Alcazar is a stunning Moorish Spanish Palace still frequented by the Spanish Royal Family. In fact, it’s the oldest royal palace in Europe still to be in use. It’s a breathtaking example of Mudejar design, full of history and atmosphere which is why it is great for photos.  Tour the palaces, patios and gardens and you’ll be spoilt for choice with magical photo spots.  No wonder that the producers of Game of Thrones used four separate areas of the Alcazar as backdrops for the series. The Alcazar is sure to inspire some great photographs.

Palaces in Seville

Palatial Photos

You’ll be spoilt for photo choice in some of Seville’s stunning palaces. Whether you love tilework detail, architectural symmetry, or romantic gardens, the palaces have something for everyone to photograph.

Which palace?

Casa de Pilatos is a splendid blend of Renaissance, Mudejar and Baroque styles. Fine marble sculptures nudge against manicured box hedge gardens.  Then walk in the footsteps of Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Kennedy in the Casa Palacio de Las Duenas and you’ll feel like royalty.  There are pretty courtyards, halls and gardens all awaiting that perfect photo opportunity.

Plaza de Espana Seville

Plaza de Espana

Built for the Ibero American Exhibition of 1929, the Plaza de Espana certainly is a centerpiece with scale and grandeur. 

Top tips 

Visit in the early morning for soft lighting and fewer tourists to edit out.  Allow enough time to explore the whole plaza which has been the backdrop of several movies including 2 Star Wars films.  Head up the central stairway to find a balcony spot from which you’ll be able to take a sweeping Plaza photo.  Or get up close to the detailed tilework in one of the 48 alcoves that front the Plaza building. Each alcove represents a Spanish province displaying a map, coat of arms and famous historic events. 

Seville Sunset

Seville Sunsets

Something about Seville conveys sunsets – maybe it’s the warm architectural colours contrasting with fading bright blue skies.  Whatever the magic, it only becomes more enhanced at Sunset.  So, head up high for a stunning sunset photo. Try the sunset view from the Setas de Seville, the Giralda tower or maybe it’s a good excuse to visit a rooftop cocktail bar?

Moorish detail Tiles Seville Top Photo opportunities in Seville, Spain

Ceramic tilework

You don’t have to look very far in Seville to see Moorish or Mudejar tilework.  Ceramic tilework is everywhere, from the depths of the Alcazar, above archways and doorways to the alcoves fronting Plaza de Espana.  Warm mustard tones often combine with nautical blues and burnt ochre colours. Some tiles weave intricate design while others tell stories or show historic maps. Look up, look down and get up close and personal as Seville tilework is in a league of its own and very photo worthy. 

A View from the Giralda Seville

A view from the Giralda

The Giralda bell tower of the Cathedral is the most emblematic monument in the city. Made of two parts, the Muslim lower half was built as the minaret of the Almohad mosque.  Take the 35 ramps (wide enough to ride on horseback) to ascend the upper 17th Century Christian bell tower.  Frame your photos through the windows on each side of the tower as you rise.  Or, at the top, enjoy some wonderful 360° views across this beautiful city.
Setas de Seville

Setas de Seville

The Mushrooms of Seville is a wooden and concrete column structure built over the top of the Plaza de la Encarnación.  It was the winning design structure in a city renovation competition designed by Berlin architect, Jürgen Mayer. The six large, mushroom-shaped parasols house an event space, restaurant and an Antiquarian Museum in the basement.

Take the access elevators to the top floor to enjoy a wooden walkway and viewing platforms with sweeping views across the city.  Around every corner there are interesting perspectives and photo opportunities as the wooden structure rises and falls across the skyline view.  It’s an absolute must at sunset!

So many sights and so many top photo opportunities in Seville, Spain – what are you waiting for?

10 reasons to visit Malmö

10 reasons to visit Malmö

10 reasons to visit Malmö

Malmö is a vibrant Swedish city that makes for a perfect getaway.

Located in the far south of Sweden, it’s just a short journey across the Öresund bridge from Copenhagen in Denmark.  The city is an exciting combination of old and new, traditional and modern. Modern skyscrapers bump up against cobbled, centuries old squares.

Founded in the late 1200’s as part of Denmark, it became Swedish in 1658 and today is home to over 300,000 hugely multi-cultural residents. Water provides lots of fun entertainment options, from canal boat tours, sea view promenade walks to sea baths and saunas. Here are 10 great reasons to visit Malmö.

1. Easy to get to

There are lots of easy ways to get to Malmö, the most popular for visitors being a flight into Copenhagen (Denmark).

Once you arrive in Copenhagen Airport you can make your way easily, quickly and cheaply to Malmö which is only 30km away. Copenhagen Airport has its own dedicated train station so you can buy a train or metro ticket at a vending machine and be on your way. The trains run every 20 minutes and can take under half an hour to arrive right in the heart of Malmö at Central Station. Of course, you can drive, taxi or bus – taking the Øresund bridge between Denmark and Sweden taking a usual 45- 60 minutes.  

10 Reasons to Visit Malmo Central Station

2. Easy to get around

I love how easy it is to get around Malmö. It’s a small enough city that you can walk everywhere and get to enjoy the sights close up. It’s also a city built for pedestrians, cyclists and for e-scooters. You can hire bikes and e-scooters easily and with dedicated lanes and a flat landscape it makes getting around a breeze.

 

Malmo Bikes

3. Great for foodies

Malmö has so many delights for foodies! For some evening options try one of the restaurants in Lilla Torg square for some Swedish meatballs with fresh lingonberries or enjoy a Smørrebrød / Open sandwich for lunch. Wander around the inspiring Saluhall foodhall where you can try local produce as well as some delicious street food delights.  

Swedish meatballs
Open sandwich
Malmo Charcuterie

4. The Old

Gamla Staden – The old town, has pretty cobblestone streets and a medley of historic buildings. Stortorget, is Malmö’s largest and oldest square and is surrounded by 16th century architecture while Lilla Torg built in 1590, is small, pretty and full of charm. 

10 Reasons to Visit Malmo Gamla Staden
10 Reasons to visit Malmo Castle

5. The New

The Turning Torso building is contemporary design architecture at it’s best. It’s the tallest building in Scandinavia with it’s 90 degree twist from base to top. Modern buildings pop up everywhere in Malmö and nestle edgily against historic architecture.

Malmo Skyscraper
Modern Malmo
Turning Torso

6. The Parks

Malmö is famous for its parks and Kungsparken is one of the best. It has ponds, trails, lakes, whimsical statues and has lots of space for a picnic. There are plenty of other parks too including Slottsradgarden, 12,000 square metres of themed garden – an oasis in the city.

Kungsparken

7. Scandi Beach Life

It’s not what you expect from a city break – but Malmö offers some fantastic Scandi beach life experiences! Stroll along the pedestrian and cyclist promenades, or take a dip from one of the purpose built swim decks, there’s even a historic bathing house to try!

Ribasborg Beach

8. Calm City Vibe

Malmö doesn’t feel like a city that’s in a hurry – in fact it feels decidedly laid back.  Locals head to the beach to picnic or stroll and chat.  With plenty of calm, quiet and green public spaces, beaches and boardwalks, Malmö oozes calm. The mellow vibe continues with never ending places to stop for Fika, lunch or an evening meal under a heater in a pretty square.

Quiet Malmo

9. Fika

Fika isn’t just a coffee break – it’s a Swedish lifestyle.  It’s time to enjoy a coffee and some sweet treat, but most importantly it’s the time of day to switch off from work and catch up in person.  There are so many great places to try the concept of Fika. When you do, try a Kanelbulle (a sugary cinnamon bun) or a chokladboll (an oatmeal and chocolate ball).

Coffee Cake
Fika options
Fika

10. It’s ‘local’ vibe

Malmö doesn’t have the tourist bustle of other cities so it very much gives off a local vibe. It’s nice to experience a city in the same way as the locals do whether it’s eating out, shopping or strolling around the old town. Wide pedestrian and cycle paths mean Malmö doesn’t feel crowded. Add in its small size and fewer tourists than other cities and it’s easy to understand why Malmö has that local vibe!

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