Summer holiday ideas: Music festivals in the UK and Europe

Is there a better way to spend a few days than sitting in the sun, checking out some of the hottest new bands with friends at music festivals in the UK or Europe, while enjoying a few well-earned drinks?

Whether you are looking for a UK short-break idea or something a little further afield in Europe, the possibilities are endless.

I don’t know how much longer Glastonbury will maintain its preeminent place in the UK and European festival calendar, but there are hundreds of alternatives on offer for those looking for a music festival short-break.

With so much choice, picking the right festival can be confusing for gig-goers, so here’s a whirlwind tour of the very best festival summer holiday ideas:

UK Music Festival Calendar Highlights

By the time the hubbub from Glastonbury – the marque event of the summer festival season – dies down, fans may well be worn out. But never fear Hop Farm Festival should revive flagging spirits. This is the festival for those looking to go back to basics with modest ticket prices, no sponsorship or branding on site and no VIP area, while children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult. Camping is available on site and the fun fair and five-a-side football tournament – featuring pro-footballers and band members – provide entertaining diversions.

Camping 3 Wishes Faerie Festival Photo by Natasha von Geldern

For the culturally minded, Latitude is focused on a range of performing arts – not just music. Poetry, comedy, dance, theatre and sculpture events will all vie for attention with sets from big name music acts. For something a little smaller how about the Cambridge Folk Festival? Gamely competing with the corporate giants, this is a quintessentially English event.

2017 will be the last ever Secret Garden Party in Cambridgeshire so get in quick to experience this hedonist fans’ favourite!

For something a little more off the beaten track, Loppallu mixes traditional Scottish folk music with grandstand acts in the very north of Scotland, northwest of Inverness, with camping available nearby and fringe shows and street entertainment on offer in this remote fishing village.

While most festivals take alcohol-fuelled hedonism as their raison d’être, Buddahfield offers something for the more discerning palate – with a strict anti-alcohol policy. The emphasis here is on Buddhism, meditation and Tai Chi at this event in a beautiful Somerset location.

A little later in the season End of the Road will offer a hipster crowd some great music in Salisbury, Wiltshire. Great local food and beer will be available and the artists at this festival are encouraged to play to their hearts’ consent – no 20 minute shuttle service here. A relaxed and charming climax to the UK festival season.

British Summer Time Music Festivals in the UK

If you will be in London this summer, there is a wealth of conveniently located short festivals, such as Offset in the forests of Hainault, Wireless  in Hyde Park and Meltdown on the Southbank. Also in Hyde Park, the British Summer Time festival has some great acts this year. Victoria Park in east London hosts two brilliant festivals – Field Day and Lovebox.

Family-friendly Music Festivals in the UK

There are some wonderful family-friendly festivals in the UK. Down in beautiful Cornwall, the award-winning Fairy Festival is heaven for children, with workshops, a fairy dog show and lots of relaxed dancing in the sun.

Larmer Tree Festival features an eclectic mix of dance, dub, world-music and jazz over five days. Over on the Wiltshire/Dorset border, Larmer Tree also features 150 free workshops, a street theatre, huge carnival procession and intimate crowd of just 4,000 revellers. A sure hit with families of all ages!

Probably the UK’s most famous family festival is Camp Bestival, a little sibling of the big Bestival. The setting at Ludlow Castle in Dorset is spectacular and there are some great headline acts as well as endless fun activities and workshops for children of all ages.

Kids fun at Camp Bestival

European Music Festival Calendar Highlights

For something a little more adventurous, how about heading to one of Europe’s premier festivals this summer? Benicassim may now be swamped by Brits but there are still any number of top quality events taking place across the continent.

Festival des Vieilles Charrues in France is likely to be an early highlight in July and this festival has an eco-edge with profits paid back into the community and local volunteers helping on site.

Among the biggest festivals in Europe this summer is Roskilde, which will see hundreds of bands taking to the stage in Denmark. A little further afield, Exit in Serbia always has a legendary lineup and SummerJam and Hurricane in Germany are also hugely popular.

I’m off to Latitude for the first time in July so let’s all keep our fingers crossed for good weather!

By Natasha von Geldern

Share your favourite festival in the UK or Europe!

Spring holiday ideas in the south west of England

When new flowers, leaves and greenery start exploding into life it’s time to get out of the city and into south west England’s most bountiful areas to enjoy the season’s emerging beauty.

If you want a holiday enjoying a truly traditional country lifestyle, how about a farm holiday? Imagine the peace and quiet of springtime in the country, enjoying walks through blossoming fields. You may be keen on the idea of a real rural experience, collecting eggs from free range chickens and mucking out in a pair of wellies. Kids love nothing more than petting new spring lambs and dogs whose idea of heaven is gambolling down rambling country lanes.

English Lake District daffodils image

Here are some great ideas for authentic rural holidays during spring in the south west of England:

Springtime in Devon

Devon is renowned for its lush, rolling hills and rich farmland, not to mention lengthy areas of coastline, which make it the ideal location for getting active on your springtime country break.

East Devon is where you will find the most fertile farmland.  West Ilkerton Farm in Lynton is probably the best “adult break” in the area.  Activities include touring the farm in a Landrover, riding at the nearby stables and walking down the nearby country pathways, which run all the way to the coast, three miles away.  Pets are allowed on the farm so this is an ideal dog lover spot.  For a real challenge, if you visit in early May, the annual North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival is a really fun way to enjoy the spring air.

South Devon is the place to visit for those with young children.  Knowle Farm, in Totnes is an example of this paradise for nature loving families. Set in 44 acres of wonderful countryside with private bluebell-filled woodland and riverside walks the farm offers six beautifully converted barns overlooking lovely farmland views.

The area is awash with local attractions, with award winning Woodlands Leisure Park opening its doors to excitement and nature, the sea views of Dartmouth and the history and interest of Salcombe, all making for a varied and interesting trip.

Bluebell Woods England

Springtime in Wiltshire

If food is your passion, spring is a season filled with edible delights and Wiltshire is the ideal place to visit to take advantage of many of them.

Start your day with a Wiltshire breakfast made with the highest quality local meats at Manor Farm, Grittleton.  Here you can find a traditional working farm, grade II listed farmhouse and the area is well placed for Castle Combe, Bath & the Cotswolds.

You can’t visit Wiltshire without taking in the one of the North or South Food Trails.  On offer are tiny cafe’s serving local cheeses, top quality restaurants serving the best locally sourced produce and  farmers markets offering new spring Lamb, tender Asparagus, delicious purple stem broccoli and the freshest dairy produce.

For a non food related activity, whilst on your farm stay, visit Longleat Safari Park.  Spring is time for new births and Longleat keepers were delighted to announce the birth of three flamingo chicks which have all hatched out over the last four weeks.

For those who appreciate architecture, Longleat House comes to life in the spring time as the daffodils emerge on the east lawn and children will love seeing the newly born Scimitar Horned Oryx calves.

Poppy fields at Stonehenge, Wiltshire England

 

Springtime in Dorset

Dorset in the spring time is the art and craft lover’s dream getaway with a stay at award winning Highway Farm, in Bridport, offering art courses, flower arranging classes and willow workshops for kids and adults alike alongside farm tours and country walks through the flowering Dorset hills.

Spring is the passion of nature lovers and gardeners alike.  Rudge Farm is set in the heart of Dorset countryside, reflecting the traditional image of springtime in Britain with flowers round the door and quaint villages within walking distance.

If farm life begins to tire you could choose to visit the RSPB reserve at Wareham for a morning of spring birdsong, the dawn chorus or even a spring watch reptile ramble.  Mallinson Woodland Workshops teach the art of traditional woodworking, deep in the forest as the leaves begin to bloom.

Dorset coastline, United Kingdom

Springtime in Somerset

If you are looking for views and open space on your farm break Somerset is the place to go. Westermill Farm is set in the heart of Exmoor National Park.  Famed for its protected status, it is a truly remarkable landscape, especially as the wildflowers of spring make their first emergence.

From the site, you can enjoy a few days by the sea, explore the beautiful countryside, or dip into a pool of local heritage. Or simply sit back and take in the stunning views, whilst enjoying a spot of fishing, which the area is famed for.  Kids will enjoy Wookey Hole Caves and The Fun Farm, in Taunton, offers great “wet weather” activities.

Exmoor is the ideal place to escape from a busier pace of life, being close to the M5, major airports and train services at Exeter, Bristol & Taunton, and within 3 ½ hours drive time from London and Birmingham.

 

 

Australia: A Perth City Guide

Welcome to my Perth city guide, with all the information you need to plan your visit to this very attractive state capital on the far west coast of Australia.

Situated between the desert and the sea, Perth is one of the world’s most isolated cities. It is 2,104 kilometres (1,307 miles) away from the next population centre with more than 100,000 people (being the South Australian capital of Adelaide).

The city was founded in 1829 and has seen constant change since then, which is reflected in both the architecture and the personality of the city. In recent decades Perth has benefited from a significant natural resources boom, as the mining, petroleum, and agricultural export industries of Western Australia have brought prosperity, development and a fast-growing population despite the geographical isolation.

The bustling city centre is very smart, with many modern office buildings. Perth is increasingly cosmopolitan but still retains a hint of its frontier town roots. Good living is the focus, with outdoors eating and some of Australia’s best beaches creating the perfect environment for an outdoors lifestyle.

Tourist information is available on the westernaustralia.com website and the Western Australian Visitor Centre is at 55 William Street, on the corner of Hay Street Mall, Perth. It is open Mon-Fri, 9am-5.30pm; Sat, 9.30am-4.30pm; Sun 11am-4.30pm.

Things to do in Perth

A Swan River Scenic Cruise is a great way to explore Perth as the river flows right through the city and widens it reaches the sea at Fremantle. Glamorous yacht clubs and expensive residential suburbs line the shoreline of green hills, including some of the most expensive real estate in Australia.  Captain Cook Cruises depart regularly from Pier 3/Barrack Street.

You can join a walking tour of both Perth and Fremantle with Two Feet and a Heartbeat tours, who fill visitors in on the history and culture of the city, as well as recommending the latest trendy bars.

On the cliffs overlooking Perth is the beautiful Kings Park, a 1,000-acre parkland with magnificent views over the city and river from the miles of walkways. Kings Park is particularly well known for its garden displays of Australian wildflowers.

Spending time in the pretty portside suburb of Fremantle is a must-do while in Perth. Visit the Fremantle Prison, which started out as a notorious convict settlement in 1850 and then a tough prison from 1886 to 1991. The museum tour offers a fascinating insight into prison life.

A more upbeat way to spend time here is at the Fremantle Market, which has been operating since 1897 and celebrates Fremantle’s bohemian vibe in the colonial-era covered market building. You’ll find quality arts and crafts, as well as seriously good food at this colourful market.

Fremantle markets in Perth, Australia

Hotels in Perth

Luxury

In the swanky Cathedral Square precinct the elegant COMO The Treasury hotel (32 Richardson Street) is an excellent luxury hotel option in Perth with amazing views, particularly from the top floor Wildflower restaurant.

Another luxury option is The Richardson Hotel & Spa, usually named as the top hotel in Perth thanks to its exquisite rooms and good location. You can easily walk to both the central business district and Kings Park from The Richardson.

Midrange

The Alex Hotel (50 James Street ) is owned by the people behind the Little Creatures Brewery in Fremantle and has a similar designer-boutique atmosphere. It is located at the heart of the city beside the Perth Cultural Centre and within easy walking distance of many attractions.

The Adina Apartment Hotel Perth at 128 Barrack Plaza is within easy striking distance of both Northbridge and central Perth. The rooms are modern and functional.

Kings Park War Memorial, Perth Australia

Budget

The New Esplanade Hotel is a 3-star budget pick which overlooks the Swan River and is near public transport. 18 The Esplanade, +61 8 9325 2000

There are a number of hostels in both Perth itself and Fremantle, including the City Perth Backpackers Hostel with simple dormitories and rooms and free breakfast. 5 Fitzgerald Street, Australia +61 8 9227 9146

Eating and Drinking in Perth

For a great breakfast head for Sayers (224 Carr Place) in the suburb of Leederville where organic, locally-sourced, seasonal food is the order of the day. Don’t miss the chocolate-banana bread.

Later in the day, West End Deli (95 Carr Street, West Perth) is a little gem of a suburban restaurant with amazing value food that is really original and of the best quality.

Head for the Cathedral Square precinct (corner of St Georges Terrace and Barrack Street) where there are a range of delightful eateries, from the ‘Post’ restaurant where top class European food reigns to Long Chim Perth where the aroma of street food from Thailand fills the air.

Some of the best ramen noodles (and bao buns) in Perth can be found at Lucky Chan’s Laundry + Noodle Bar ( 11 William Street). This crowd-funded restaurant sees queues every night. Yes there are washing machines in the window and the views from the rooftop are lovely.

For a drink, Petition Beer Corner in the Cathedral Square precinct offers a great way to discover Perth’s burgeoning craft beer scene (there are 18 different beers on tap at any one time).

Little Creatures bar, Fremantle, Australia

At the back of St Georges Terrace in Perth, Brookfield Place on Lower Georges Lane is gaining a reputation as a nightlife hub. Bar Lafayette is one star of this area and the “artisanal” cocktails will impress. They have live music on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Spending an hour or two at a rooftop bar is a must in sunny Perth and the best by far is the Mechanics Institute (222 William Street, Northbridge). The hipster vibe is ubiquitous and the craft beer range interesting. There’s a gourmet burger place downstairs and you can order up.

A favourite place to eat and drink in Fremantle is the Little Creatures Brewery on the waterfront, which has a tasting room and bar food as well as the popular wooden deck stretching over the water.

Fremantle - The Monk brewery, Australia

Another place to taste the locally-brewed beers is the Monk Brewery in Fremantle. A typical Australian thing to do is to have fish and chips at one of the seafood ‘shacks’ along Fremantle’s waterfront park, including the popular Cicerellos.

Also in Fremantle, Bread in Common (43 Pakenham Street) is a funky café with amazing Australian fare and of course, home-baked bread from the volcanic rock oven. Think industrial brickwork and communal tables.

A day trip from Perth

A popular day trip from Perth is the lovely Rottnest Island, just a short  ferry ride away. Rottnest Island has a land area of only 19 square kilometres but it packs in no fewer than 63 beaches where crystal clear turquoise water invites swimmers, divers and snorkelers.

You’ll also love the adorable Quokkas, a small marsupial animal that is native to just this island and indeed are the basis of its name. Dutch seamen visiting in the 16th century described them as “Rotte” or giant rats. There are 10,000 quokkas on Rottnest so you won’t be able to miss them.

Cycling is a great way to get around the quiet roads of Rottnest Island and the easiest way to enjoy the beautiful pink coral reefs, picturesque lighthouses and fascinating bird life in the salt lakes area. Rottnest is well set up with cycle hire in the village of Thomson Bay (there are also cafes and food shops here, as well as a museum).

The Basin snorkelling - Rottnest Island

You can catch the ferry to Rottnest Island from Perth (Barrack Street jetty in the city centre and combine your trip with the scenic cruise of the Swan River, Fremantle (from B Shed near the train station) or from Rous Head port (only recommended if you need to park your car).

Another popular short trip from Perth is out to The Pinnacles, the bizarre limestone formations in the Nambung National Park, only two-and-a-half hours drive from the city. This unusual landscape is thought to be around 200,000 years old and is best viewed in the hours leading up to sunset. Visit the Pinnacles Dessert Discovery Centre to find out all about the unique geology of this region. Indian Ocean Drive, Cervantes 0061 8 9652 7913;

When to visit Perth

The blue skies and aquamarine seas of Perth are very beguiling all year round and the city has more sunshine hours than any other Australian city – an amazing 3,000 hours per year. In summer temperatures regularly top 40 degrees Celsius so remember to pack your sun screen and a sunhat.

By Natasha von Geldern

Have you visited Perth? What would you recommend?

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Perth City Guide Australia

London: Explore the Chambers of Flavour

It’s a new form of intrepid travel, through multiple dimensions of the London foodie scene: introducing the Chambers of Flavour v2.0.

It’s incredibly high risk and the location is top secret but I can share with you just a little about this culinary journey that is taking London by storm.

Once you receive your instructions it’s time to assemble in the bar – come ready to eat and drink and laugh. The photos here are all of the bar because the rest of the experience is off limits to mobile phone technology.

Brain child of Kerry Adamson and Suz Mountfort over at Gingerline, the Chambers of Flavour is a pop-up dining experience that delivers you into the hands of an eccentric professor from the Institute of Flavourology and into the bowels of “the Machine”.

Chambers of Flavour London

Whisked by this extraordinary invention into the next dimensions, it is time for sensory overload…

This is a unique foodie experience that doubles as grown-up entertainment and would be perfect for small or large groups of friends or colleagues. There are flashing lights and small spaces to crawl through so everyone needs to be in relatively good shape.

Chambers of Flavour London bar

Just the cocktails menu at the bar should give you an idea of the gastronomic creativity involved in this venture.  Perhaps try a glass of clutch-able courage by drinking a Flaming Lionel before you enter the Chambers of Flavour (flaming absinthe poured over sugared rust, topped with champagne).

The food was amazing – I can’t say any more because I was sworn to secrecy – and I don’t think I have laughed so much in years.

As the professor says: “Just try not to die.”

By Natasha von Geldern

Thanks to Visit Austria for hosting this hilarious foodie experience in London!

USA: Top 8 off-beat attractions in Los Angeles

Forget about the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the theme parks. Don’t be put off by the urban sprawl and the terrible traffic.

Los Angeles is one of the world’s most famous cities, full of enough interesting attractions to keep a visitor happy for weeks. The gorgeous weather doesn’t hurt either!

Base yourself at one of the many fabulous Los Angeles vacation rentals and explore the best of the city with these top 8 off-beat attractions:

The Mosaic Tile House

Venice Beach attracts truly eccentric characters and the Mosaic Tile House reflects the atmosphere of this area perfectly. This little-known house is the studio of Cheri and Gonzalo Pann, tow artists who have transformed the building into a masterpiece. Every surface is covered with vold patterns and colours created from mosaic tiles.

It reminded me very much of  mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar and the Philadelphia Magic Gardens. It’s also a little like Gaudi’s Parc Guell in Barcelona. At the same time it is a completely unique and hidden treasure of LA! The Mosaic Tile House can be visited on a guided tour, led by Cheri, which you can arrange by calling the number on the website.

The Mosaic Tile House Venice Beach LA photo by vikramjam via the Creative Commons License

The Mosaic Tile House Venice Beach LA photo by vikramjam via the Creative Commons License

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery

I’m a longstanding taphophile (cemetery fan) so a visit to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is a given for me. On Santa Monica Boulevard, abutting the Paramount Studios, Hollywood Forever Cemetery is packed with big names from the golden age of cinema, including Rudoph Valentino, Mickey Rooney, Douglas Fairbanks Snr and Jr, and Jayne Mansfield.

Three of the most famous directors in cinema history have mausoleums: Cecil B. DeMille, John Huston and Victor Fleming (director of Gone With the Wind and Wizard of Oz). A more diminutive star buried here is the canine star, Terry, most famous for playing Dorothy’s pal Toto.

It is also a beautiful green space in Los Angeles and in the summer hosts outdoor music and movie screenings. Take a picnic and a bottle of wine and have dinner with the (dead) stars!

The Last Bookstore

I only had to see one photo of The Last Bookstore before I was desperate to go there. This massive second-hand bookshop in Los Angeles is a creative tour-de-force of book stacking, with various unique ways of presenting the huge range of new and used books and records.

There is an amazing tunnel built from books and the serving desks are also made from stacked books. I could get lost in here for hours. It’s the perfect place to replenish your travel reading selection at reasonable prices.  It’s also very friendly and if you time it right you can enjoy a musical performance or a literary gathering.

The Last Book Store LA photo by Casey and Sonja via the Creative Commons License

The Last Book Store LA photo by Casey and Sonja via the Creative Commons License

The Watts Towers

This collection of striking, spiky, steel sculptures were built between 1921 and 1954 by Sabato Rodia, an Italian immigrant. The original title of the work was Nuestro Pueblo, or our town, but now it is more commonly named after its location in the Watts community of South Los Angeles.

Grand Central Market

For a foodie treat in LA, head for the Grand Central Market and explore the speciality food stalls. With LA being such a melting pot of cultures you can expect plenty of delicious food adventures from around the world, as well as more classic American fare like Horse Thief BBQ.

There is also a good range of stalls selling fresh produce from vegetables to fish at the market. So if you have chosen to go self-catering in LA this is the perfect place to come and stock up for a feast.

The Norton Simon Museum

I had never heard of this art museum tucked away in Pasadena but the Norton Simon Museum has an impressive collection of art that is truly international. Artists represented her include Diego Rivera, Paul Klee, Vincent van Gogh and Peter Paul Rubens. It is the remarkable private art collection of 20th-century industrial magnate Norton Simon.

Spend some time in the lovely sculpture garden, with its reflecting pond and mature trees. The garden is actually where the origins of this museum can be found – this lush estate was given to the city of Pasadena in 1941 for the purpose of a local art institute.

The Norton Simon Art Museum LA photo by IK's World Trip via the Creative Commons License

The Norton Simon Art Museum LA photo by IK’s World Trip via the Creative Commons License

Griffith Park

Griffith Park in the Hollywood hills is home to two interesting attractions. Perhaps more well-known is the Griffith Observatory, which has incredible views over Los Angeles (especially at sunset), as well as being a working observatory and museum.

There is also the Old Zoo, not the operational Los Angeles Zoo that has animals, but an abandoned zoo that is still open to the public. You can wander through the old fashioned animal pits and the open cages. It’s an unusual environment and popular for picnics and film locations in LA.

The Stahl House

Nobody famous ever lived there but somehow this modernist structure on Woods Drive above Sunset Boulevard has become iconic. It represents the unique glamour of LA and is always included on lists of America’s best architecture.

It was created in the late 1950s by architect Pierre Koenig for Buck and Carlotta Stahl and has been photographed to great effect many times since then. It was designated one of Los Angeles’ ‘historic-cultural landmarks in 1999. You can take your own photos by booking onto a private or group tour at the Stahl House here.

The Stahl House LA photo by mbtrama via the Creative Commons License

The Stahl House LA photo by mbtrama via the Creative Commons License

I hope my list of the top 8 off-beat attractions in Los Angeles will help you plan your visit to the City of Angels.

By Natasha von Geldern