Friday, December 27, 2013

Where to watch the New Years Eve fireworks in Sydney

There can be few better ways of starting the New Year than witnessing the amazing New Year’s Eve fireworks displays in Sydney. Sydney has many advantages over the world’s other leading cities for New Year’s eve:

1 – It’s summer so you can enjoy a warm evening watching great displays
2 – You get to toast in the New Year before almost everyone else!

Sydney is a great place with a huge natural amphitheatre for spectators to enjoy the festivities, this being its famous Harbour.

Now given the coastline of the harbour is over 20 miles you have plenty of choice, but the prime spots are incredibly popular and/or incredibly expensive (especially for us Europeans at the moment)!

Those with very deep pockets have a great choice of venues in front and around the opera house, or in some of the great roof top bars and restaurants. But where do we recommend for groups and families wanting to experience this iconic night out without breaking the bank?

We recommend you head to Blues Point Nature Reserve, on the North Side of the water. A few good reason why:

1 – The views. If you are in Sydney you want to see the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Skyline. From Blues Points you have all three, lit up by the dual displays. From the right place on the grass bank you are looking under the bridge to the opera house. A travel photographer’s dream view!
2 – Its free! No costs involved to gain access to the public areas and a nice grass bank on which to sit back and relax.

Getting to Blues Point

The easiest way to get to Blue Point (see map) is to take the train to North Shores and follow the crowds.

It’s worth noting that there are obviously going to be thousands and thousands of folks out on the 31st December to witness the event. Crowd controls are in place and you will go through a checkpoint where (much to our surprise) you are stripped of any alcohol! It’s a dry do! Given the sizes of the crowds and demands the queues are huge for food, toilets, etc so go prepared!

From North Shores it’s about a 10-15 minute walk to the Blues Point Nature Reserve.

What time should you get there?

Well before 10pm ;-) As a guide we got there about 4:00 pm and the place was packed. Many people had been there with their small day tents from 6am! Saying that we did manage to secure a good pitch with great views, and a few disgruntled neighbours, by squeezing in at about 4:30. But ideally you should get there much earlier.

What will I see?

It’s a great event with:

1) all of the boats out on the water lit by fairy lights
2) the amazing fireworks
3) iconic views of Sydney
4) several aerial displays.

The Sydney Fireworks

Each year has a theme and there are two major fireworks displays. The first display takes place earlier for families with younger kids, at around 8:30. The second display of course being at midnight to welcome in the New Year. The kids are not short changed - both displays are very impressive!
There are two sets of fireworks for each display running simultaneously each side of the bridge, as well as the fireworks from the skyline building rooftops and the bridge itself.

The skies are illuminated and the sounds are thunderous, causing the fruit bats to take to the skies around the nature reserve.
Hundreds of boats are constantly cruising the harbour, with their lights in the many iconic Australian shapes, and those of the year’s theme.

The main midnight fireworks are amazing, with over $5m AUD worth of fireworks lighting up the Sydney skies from everywhere you look. The showers from the bridge were particularly impressive.

Get along and have fun! And while there take a look at the numerous other great Sydney Activities.

See more photos of the Sydney fireworks and things to do in the Sydney Area.

Monday, October 14, 2013

5 of the Quirkiest Museums in Paris

There’s no denying that Paris is home to an impressive array of museums – but forget the Musée d'Orsay, the Palace of Versailles or even the Louvre because there’s a ton of unusual, eccentric and downright weird museums in Paris that deserve your attention. Here are a few of our favourites.

Musée Dupuytren / Skeleton museum

One for the fans of the macabre, Paris’ Musée Dupuytren requires a strong stomach and a steady disposition. This museum holds over 6000 medical artefacts, full-scale skeletons and preserved organs, all on show in gruesome jars and display cases. The collection concentrates on body parts and deformities that were considered monstrous at the time the museum opened in 1835. It’s certainly a grisly sight but one that’s well worth a visit if you’re after an unusual experience in Paris – just don’t head there too soon after eating your lunch!

15 Rue de l'École de Médecine, 75006 Paris Mon-Fri: 2pm-5pm

Nearest metro: Odéon or Cluny – La Sorbonne

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Musée de la Curiosité et de la Magie / Museum of Magic

If you dare to venture down into the 16th century cellars below the house of Marquis de Sade, you’ll find yourself entering a world of magic. The Musée de la Curiosité et de la Magie is home to an enchanted array of optical illusions, magic mirrors, two-way glass, wind-up toys and the tour even finishes with your very own magic show. You’ll have so much fun at this dreamlike museum that the afternoon will disappear right before your eyes!

11 Rue Saint-Paul, 75004 Paris Sun: 2pm-7pm

Nearest metro: St Paul or Sully Morland

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Le Musée des Égouts de Paris / Sewer museum

It might not sound like the most appealing museum in the City of Love, but Paris’ sewer system is one of the oldest and most complex in the entire world. Dating all the way back to 1370, the gothic arches, winding alleyways and mysterious tunnels of Le Musée des Égouts de Paris run for 2100km and are even described as ‘the Paris beneath Paris’. Here’s your chance to see a part of Paris that the usual tourist doesn’t even know is there – and it’s certainly a memorable experience!

Face au 93 Quai d'Orsay, 75007 Paris Mon-Wed & Sat-Sun: 11am-4pm

Nearest metro: Pont de l'Alma or Alma – Marceau

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Musée de l’Erotisme / Museum of Eroticism

Situated right next to the world famous Moulin Rouge and its surrounding underworld, cast your shyness aside and take a trip to the Musée de l’Erotisme. Made up from the impressive art collections of antique dealer Alain Plumey and French teacher Jo Khalifa, objects include ancient and religious art from the likes of Africa, India and Japan to the contemporary erotic art of the modern day. With five floors of artefacts, including a floor devoted to the legal brothels of the 19th and early 20th century – known as maisons closes – it’s sure to be a full-on attack on the senses.

72 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris Everyday: 10am-2am

Nearest metro: Blanche

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Musée du Fumeur / Smoking museum

The act of smoking dates back through the centuries to the tobacco culture of Native Americans and the opium pipes of ancient China, following a fascinating path to its present day perception. Paris’ Musée du Fumeur collates every kind of smoking paraphernalia you could imagine, including Egyptian shisha, hookah pipes, snuffboxes, old cigars and tobacco samples, as well as captivating old portraits, photographs and drawings through the centuries. Whether you’re a smoker or not, this museum is worth a visit on the grounds that it’s a historic look at culture, not an advert for modern-day smoking.

7 Rue Pache, 75011 Paris Mon-Sat: 12.30pm-7pm

Nearest metro: Voltaire

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Where to stay
After a long day of sightseeing around Paris’ most unusual museums, a comfortable place to rest your weary head will no doubt be at the top of your list. Whether you fancy some of the luxurious Right Bank or the artsy and bohemian neighbourhoods of La Rive Gauche, there are often great deals to be had, especially with hotels in Paris from Expedia. Think of all that spending money you’ll have for the gift shop!

How to get there

Less than 20 miles northeast of the city, Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport is a quick an easy way to get to the city. From there, the RER "B" train line runs straight into Paris Gare du Nord in just 30 minutes. 11 miles south of the city is Paris’ Orly International airport, from which you can reach the centre by the free Orlyval shuttle train. If you plan to travel from London by Eurostar, the route simply goes from Kings Cross St. Pancras direct to Paris Gare du Nord. Easy!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Gibraltar Music Festival 2013

What a superb day out and great value for money! Full of trepidation with the recent problems at the border we set off for the Gibraltar Music Festival from Marbella. I’m not sure if all of the Spanish Border Staff were attending the festival, or a truce had been called, but it could not have gone any smoother. We parked up in la Linea a few hundred metres from the border crossing and walked in within minutes – no hold ups! A superb start.

Things were about to go downhill, when we realised we had stupidly left all our tickets at home! Oh flip, but a quick call home, some texted images of the tickets and a trip to the ticket office, inside Bayside Motors office, quickly and efficiently solved this hiccup and our new replacement tickets were issued without charge! Good organisation and an efficient ticketing system. NB – the online booking system was also superb, giving me instant access to my tickets so I could print them (and leave them!) at home.

All was good – into the festival we headed. We visited last year to enjoy UB40 and Jessie J and thought it was a great event then with some impressive big name bands. I'm not sure how they did it, but this year the organisers blew last year’s great event into the weeds. What a line up. A great mix of local up and coming Gibraltar talent, the top Spanish Band La Oreja de Van Gogh, nostalgia for us oldies with great bands like 10CC and Level 42, the halfway house Texas and those currently right at the top of the UK music scene like Lawson, Olly Murs and Emile Sande.

To name just a few, there were of course more great acts including Gabrielle Aplin and the Propellers!

A full 12 hours of superb music and entertainment. This year the venue had been cleverly split, to allow such a big line up, with two stages.

It was great to watch the likes of Level 42, with a great set which proved my old brain still has it. On the way there I was racking my memory for a few of the names of their past hits. Once they started playing the likes of Lessons in Love, Sons and daughters, Living it up, etc I could pretty much lip synch most of the words! Maybe I need to re buy the CD’s!

The crowds were enjoying act after act with great performances from all involved. My only complaint was not enough time between 10CC and Olly Murs! I did not get to hear Dreadlock Holiday but I suppose these acts were aimed at differing audiences!

Olly Murs took to the stage and put on a stunning performance. A natural entertainer he quickly engaged with the audience and had everyone screaming, jumping, dancing and singing. Great to see, and a big hit with my daughter and her friends. What a great event to take them to on her 15th Birthday!

Next up was the final artist of the festival, and Emile Sande did not disappoint. Being an old git I was not sure of her works, thinking Olly would have been my top act from what music I knew. But to be fair she was superb, and thanks to my daughter’s ability to drive my car stereo from her Ipod, and drive me mad in the process, I was surprised just how much of her superb material I knew! A fittingly superb final act.

Time for home! Again we had no issues leaving the event and we were back across the border to Spain, and driving away in our car within minutes.

We left having enjoyed a superb full day of entertainment with three very happy 15 years olds and two very entertained adults too! What a superb line up, and superb value for money. The organisers have quite an act to follow when planning the 3rd Gibraltar Music Festival for 2014. I hope they pull it off!

Visiting Gibraltar? Take a look at these great activities!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cycling the length of Italy

Having had such a great time cycling the length of Spain last year it’s about time for a new challenge. Time to hit the road and start pedalling across another favourite country of mine. Italy is the next country in our sights!

Like Spain, Italy is a stunning country, with a great climate, stunning scenery, amazing history and culture. And a host of great places for us to explore on route. I had a great taste of cycling in Italy last Autumn when cycling in the stunning Lake Como region.

And our initial research also shows a few bonuses when comparing it to the length of Spain ride:

1) We will be starting in the Alps, at somewhere like the top of the Brenner Pass, so a big downhill start! Starting the in the North of Spain is a big climb on the first day!

2) Pasta will be easier to get hold off! Italian Restaurants are not that easy to find in the smaller towns of Northern Spain!

3) Its further – 1400km as opposed to 1200km across Spain. OK I’m not so sure this is a benefit but let’s keep positive – there is more of the ride to endu – enjoy

We had planned to do this ride in May 2014, but then I watched this year’s Giro d’Italia bike race which took part about May time this year. Wow was it wet – Mmmm maybe not! So we have switched our draft planned start date to around September 2014. Which means the peak of my training will again be in July/August in the south of Spain – I guess at least it’s unlikely to be raining!

We are at the very early stages of planning, so any advice would be greatly appreciated from anyone who has ridden in Italy:

How busy will the roads be?

How are the road surfaces? - I'm not hearing great things on this one!

Is it better to ride down the East or West coast?

What are the gems we need to visit?

Any great historic and quirky places to stay?


During the ride through Spain we stayed in some real gems – monasteries and, palaces and visited stunning places like Avila, Cordoba and Tordesillas. Our research will hopefully start to throw up similar Italian offerings.

Then the bike – do I stick with my trust 2012 Trek Madone which has been superb?, or is it a good excu time to buy a new bike ;-)

More pedalling to do and more reports to follow!


Monday, May 27, 2013

Things to do in the world’s most popular destinations

Just published today MasterCard’s 3rd Global Destination Cities Index reports a change in the top 5 visited cities in the world to:

1 - Bangkok - 1.98 Million Visitors
2 - London - 15.96m
3 - Paris - 13.92m
4 - Singapore - 11.75m
5 – New York - 11.52m

Bangkok has taken the number one spot from London by the narrowest of margins (around 1%), in a report which sees a rise in the number of visitors heading for Asia/Pacific destinations.

As you would expect from a global activities and experiences website, YouGoDo has plenty of great activity ideas in all of these top 5 destination, so lets take a look at some of the great and unusual things to do in the world’s travel hotspots.

Things to do in Bangkok

There are some great things to do in Bangkok on YouGoDo, including fishing for monsters, the Bangkok Hangover Tour (based loosely on the film!), Night Cycling Tours, Tuk Tuk Tours, Wine Tours, Canal Cruises, Scuba Diving, Cookery Schools, Elephant Back Tours, Tree Top parks and fine rooftop dining. I think we need to send a YouGoDo Activity Scout along to Bangkok (Oh go on then - maybe I should volunteer!) to find more great things to do – now it’s the No 1!

Things to do in London

With an amazing 666 things to do in the London area, London is YouGoDo’s most activity laden city. There are some superb things to do in the city including great tours, fun sports, creative cookery courses and great places to eat and drink.

London City Tours offer a great fun way of seeing more of ‘the smoke’ in a jolly and educational way. The range and choices are varied to say the least, opt from Beatles Tours, James Bond Tours, Ghost Tours, Jack the Ripper Tours, Bus Tours and Boat Tours to name just a few.

The fun sports on offer for those looking to see London in an active way include cycling tours, karting, ice climbing, roller skiing, horse riding and kayaking along the Thames.

For those looking to relax and wine and dine London offers a host of cookery courses, pub crawls and rooftop dining experiences. We have yet to meet anyone who cannot find the right London activities!

Things to do in Paris

The city of Love, Paris, is well represented on YouGoDo with plenty of great Parisian activities and experiences on offer.

As well as the famous museums and the more recent Disneyland Paris, you have numerous great options in the French Capital. Cycle or Scooter your way around the city, join in the famous Friday Night Skate, take to the air in a fighter jet, or maybe take a helicopter tour to the nearby Champagne region for some bubbles in a posh French Chateaux. The last one sounds pretty good to me!

Typical French activities include cheese and wine tasting, 2CV tours, and of course you must not leave Paris without going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and taking a dinner cruise on the Seine.

Things to do in Singapore

Singapore, the city I so nearly visited last Xmas. I took a good look at this one as I was due to visit and there are some great things on offer in Singapore, especially for families and the young and active. Experiences like the Megazip Adventure Park, The Singapore Flyer, The Wild Wild Wet waterpark, the Wave House on Sentosa, GMax ultimate bungy, GX-5 extreme swing, Universal Studios, the Sentosa Luge and Skyride. All great fun!

For those looking to relax a little more there are some amazing spas and rooftop restaurants and bars including the 1-Altitude, the world’s highest rooftop bar. And for those wanting to keep it cool there is Snow City where you can ski and snowboard all year round.

Or sit back and relax and see Singapore by boat, bus or Segway!

Things to do in New York

Another city with a huge choice of activities and experiences for all ages and tastes. Over 300 great things to do to choose from. New York has so much to offer tourists, including activities like Pizza Tours, Scooter Tours, Segway Tours, Helicopter Tours, Speedboat Tours, Cruise Boat Tours, Kayak Tours, Jetski Tours, Shopping Tours, Bus Tours, Photography Tours, Wall Street Tours, Sex and the City Tours, Chocolate Tours, Movie Set Tours, Hip Hop Tours, etc.

Or get up high above the streets of Manhattan in some of the world’s most iconic buildings (maybe try the Empire State Building), bars and restaurants.

With over 1,000 great activities and experiences in the top 5 destinations, I’m sure we must have something for everyone in the new top 5 visited locations!

And in case you were wondering here is the rest of the Top 10.

6 - Istanbul - 10.37m
7 - Dubai
8 - Kuala Lumpar -
9 - Hong Kong
10 - Barcelona

We will cover the things to do in 6 - 10 in a future blog!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bond is back in Switzerland!

The amazing 2970m high Piz Gloria revolving restaurant at the top of the Schilthorn, up above Murren and Lauterbrunnen in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, was one of the most dramatic sets in the 1969 Bond Film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.

Fortunately with the help of the special effects of the day, the Restaurant remained intact after the film! From the end of end of June 2013, Bond will be back at Schilthorn, with the opening of the new BOND WORLD 007.

Visitors to this stunning part of the World will be able to take the cable car from Gimmelwald or Murrren up to Piz Gloria and visit Bond in this newly opened indoor 400m2 exhibit, celebrating the featuring of Piz Gloria in the Bond movie. Touristorama guides take visitors through the various stages of story of the movie, with a host of fun interactive exhibits which test the James Bond skills of visitors.

An in-house cinema shows clips from the iconic Bond movie, and a panoramic video showcases the stunning beauty of the Alpine world surrounding the Schilthorn, with fascinating insights and views of the area.

And don’t forget to take in some of the stunning views in the 360 degree revolving restaurant, and enjoy the amazing hiking on offer.

There are many great things to do in Murren, and the surrounding areas such as Lauterbrunnen, Interlaken and Grindelwald. Activities like the amazing First Flyer (4 rider side by side zip wire), the dramatic and powerful Trummelbach Falls, the Jungfrau Railway (Europe’s highest railway taking you up to all year round snow!) and the Murren to Grimmelwald Via Ferrata.

A stunning place to visit.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Smiler - a new record breaking rollercoaster for the Altons Towers Resort

Not long now until visitors to Alton Towers Resort, one of the UK’s most famous theme parks, will be able to ride the record breaking Smiler roller coaster.

The Smiler, has smashed its way into the official Guinness World Records book as the world's first 14 loop rollercoaster, easily beating the previous record of 10!

Thursday 23rd May 2013 will be the date in the diary for rollercoaster fanatics, as this is the opening day for The Smiler.

Visitors to the Staffordshire based themepark, will be running to the X-Sector area of the Resort to be the first to ride! For those that know the park well the Smiler is on the site of the old Black Hole ride. The Smiler covers the equivalent of ten football pitches of ride-track, and is twice as big as the other Resort favourite, the Nemesis.

‘Marmalising’ is the word being used for the effect this ride will have on your mind!, as you experience a rollercoaster covering over 1.1km of track, with a 30m drop and a maximum speed of 85kmh! In addition to the pure physical thrills the ride offers, there are also a host of twisted psychological effects such as blinding lights, optical illusions and jabbing needles all designed to really mess with your mind. Sick!

The ride takes over 2.5 minutes, for those over 1.4m in height (cue the tears!).

Look greats - head on down to some of the best UK Theme Parks this summer!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Things to do in Vanuatu

Located in the South Pacific in between Fiji, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu is an archipelago of 82 islands. Most of these, over 60, are uninhabited. The main island of the Republic of Vanuatu is Efate, which is home to Port Vila, the capital of the republic and it’s international airport.

Port Vila is about a 3 - 4 hour flight from Brisbane, Sydney and Auckland, which makes it a very popular weekend escape for Aussies and Kiwi’s looking for some tropical island fun.

Its position in the South Pacific, and its multi island layout ensures it’s the perfect place for some great water sports, such as fishing, jet boating and scuba diving, all of which are very popular. The Big Game Fishing on offer from the ports on Efate is incredible, with a wide range of trophy fish, including big marlin, out there for the hooking!

The clear tropical warm waters offer great scuba diving on the reefs around the islands. Here you can do something you can do nowhere else in the world, by buying and writing a specially designed waterproof postcard, with matching stamp. Having written your postcard, on the beach of the romantically named Hideaway Island, you can then wade in, swim about 50m off shore and dive or snorkel down and post your Vanuatu postcards in the world’s only underwater post box, located a few metres below the surface. The post box is regularly emptied by the Island’s scuba diving postal workers!

If you prefer to be over the ocean, rather than being in it why not take a parasailing adventure and take in the amazing views of Port Vila, the surrounding islands and the clear ocean below.

Those looking for a little more high adrenalin adventure on the water will probably enjoy a jet skiing experience, Joe’s at the Iririki Island Resort, just off the shores of Port Vila offers Jetski hire and guided jetski tours.
On the mainland visitors looking for adventure can take an Off Road Buggy Safari into the forest and along the beaches, with a stop to feed the turtles and sharks!

Being a Volcanic Archipelago it’s probably no surprise that Vanuatu is home to several active volcanoes, both land based and under the ocean. Tourist can take a range of aerial adventures in light aircraft and helicopters to get up close to the volcanoes. Take a trip which allows you to stand on the craters edge of Mount Yasur, the world’s most active volcano, on Tanna Island.

Other things to do on Vanuatu include Sailing, Blokarting and jet boating.

">Vantuatu is also famous as the birth place of modern Bungee Jumping, or Land Diving as it is known on the Pentecostal Island of Vanuatu. This ancient ritual, involves the menfolk jumping from custom built 20-30m high wooden towers, with only two tree vines tied to their legs. The jumping is usually done in April to June before the Yam harvest to ensure a good harvest.

Get yourself over to the Islands of Vanuatu, you may never want to leave. If so how about developing your dream home on the beach in Vanuatu - take a look at this low cost idyllic Vanuatu Land for sale on Teouma bay near Port Vila!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Things to do in Fuengirola

For those looking for things to do in Fuengirola, the long established and popular Spanish resort will not disappoint. Fuengirola is gifted with 7km of great beaches, the Mediterranean for a playground, a large marina, a mountainous backdrop which is home to the popular whitewashed village of Mijas, and the beautiful traditional Spanish old town itself.

It’s a shame that many visitors simply want the old style Fuengirola package holiday experience – arrive, check into hotel, spend two weeks on the beach or by the hotel pool and eat out each evening in a seafront restaurant serving food and drink from back home! My idea of ‘holiday hell’, but each to their own. Fuengirola is happy to serve this market, but has so much more to offer for those wanting experience Spain.

I must admit my first impressions of Fuengirola was to write it off as a package tour resort. Having lived here for over 7 years I have fallen in love with the place and I am much wiser, Fuengirola has so much to offer. There are so many great things to do, out on the Mediterranean, in the surrounding mountains and many great cultural activities on offer within the town.

Out on the water numerous operators offer boat trips, water skiing, a ferry service to the large marina of Benalmadena, jetskiing and parasailing. My recommendations would be to take the regular ferry from Fuengirola to Benalmadena for a day out, and to get up above Fuengirola with a great parasailing flight with Smile High. These guys can fly up to 6 people at a time and their modern boat means you don’t even have to get wet. The views are stunning.

Inland there are so many great places to explore. And plenty of great places to go hiking, biking, horse riding and off roading. Take a jeep tour of the real Anadalucia, or a thrilling and fun Fuengirola buggy safari into the mountains and rivers.

Or simply take the bus up into the mountains to the pretty village of Mijas, where you can take a traditional donkey or horse and carriage tour, take in the stunning coastal views from the park, taste chocolates from all around the world or even make your own chocolates at Mayan Monkey Mijas, and maybe then take in some great Spanish wines at the Mijas Wine Museum. Mijas is also a great place for starting some stunning hiking and mountain biking. The mountain overlooking Mijas peaks at 1132m above sea level, higher than all of the mountains in England and Wales.

For families visiting Fuengirola there are a host of great attractions. Always fun on a hot day is Mijas Aquapark (the name is a little misleading as it’s actually in Fuengirola), Fuengirola Biopark which is a lovely zoo right in the heart of town, and a little further afield Tivoli World theme park, and the Amazonia Aventura treetop park at Elviria.

Culturally Fuengirola is a lovely Spanish town with a richness of great local cuisine, nightlife and events throughout the year. Step back a few rows from the seafront English Bars and discover a stunning authentic Spanish town.

The areas around the old Post Office near the main Plaza de la Constitucion, and the railway station offer loads of great tapas bars where outdoor drinking and dining for all the family is a real pleasure on the warm evenings. But be aware the Spanish don’t even think about eating until after 8:30pm!

In the summer months the impressive Sohail Castle, at the west end of the beach, is home to numerous great events like the Medieval Feria, music concerts and the Feria de Cerveza (beer festival). Spain is a very family friendly place so even at midnight in the beer festival kids are very welcome and you will have all ages from toddlers to 90 year olds dancing on the tables.
Sohail Castle was the setting for a very embarrassing British battle just over 200 years ago, when the British left their canons on the beach and returned to their ships, only for the enemy to pop down from the castle and fire their own cannons on their ships!

Other great Spanish cultural events to see in Fuengirola include:

the evening of San Juan - on the night of June 23rd (the longest day of the year) when great parties are held all along the beaches (especially in front of the castle)

the day of the Virgin del Carmen - held on the evening in mid July when, just west of the Marina the huge effigy of the Virgin is paraded through the streets, over the beach and into the sea to bless the fishermen

the legendary Fuengirola Feria – 6th to 13th October when the whole town parties hard for a week, with colourful traditional dress, horses with and without carriages parading through town and much fun and merriment.

It really is a great place, and more, so much more than a typical package resort. Come and see ‘que hacer en Fuengirola!’

Looking to buy a villa for sale in the Fuengirola / Mijas area - take a look at this superb Villa in Campo Mijas

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Unusual fine dining in Brussels

Those looking for unusual things to do in Brussels this summer will be pleased to see that ‘Dinner in the Sky’ will be visiting Brussels this summer. And enjoying the great food is usually high on the list of great things to do in Belgium – mmmm - great mussels, chocolate and beer!

Guests will be able to enjoy great cuisine, in a unique setting high up in the sky above the Mont des Arts, from 3 to 30 June 2013.

Dinner in the Sky, offers up to 22 diners the experience of a surrealistic gastronomic concept, a meal in in the heavens. Dinner in the Sky, launched over 6 years ago now, has become world famous with a solid reputation among the community of top chefs, attracting many of the most famous to create great meals in the kitchen of this unusual dining concept.

Dinner in the Sky has now served amazing meals to guests upon high in more than 45 countries.

This first edition of "Brussels in the Sky" will be welcoming 22 guests to partake of a lunch and two daily gastronomic dinners in the sky in the European capital. The seven Brussels based starred chefs are: Yves Mattagne of Sea Grill** , Lionel Rigolet of Comme chez Soi**, Pascal Devalkeneer of Chalet de la Forêt**, David Martin of La Paix*, Giovanni Bruno of Senzanome*, Gaetan Colin of Jaloa* and Luigi Ciciriello of Truffe Noire*

Information & reservations.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Great boat charters from around the World

Luxury Yacht builder and charter yacht supplier Sunseeker, have recently announced a new addition to their charter fleet. You can now charter a stunning Sunseeker Manhattan 63 in the eastern Mediterranean.

The yacht 'Leeloo' is based in the beautiful port of Porto Montenegro, and comes staffed with two crew members on board with availability throughout the Summer season. Given the location guests can choose to explore the stunning Adriatic coast lines of both Montenegro and Croatia.

This new addition boosts Sunseeker’s fleet of luxury charter yachts in the Eastern Mediterranean, with existing locations in Croatia, Montenegro, Greece and Turkey.

Sunseeker Charters are happy to create bespoke charter itineraries to match their clients exacting requirements.

Take a look at YouGoDo’s vast range of charter adventures, from all around the globe. And the good news is that you don’t need to be a multi-millionaire to enjoy all of the charter experiences we feature. Our experiences start from simple hourly speed boat charters, in great locations like the Italian Lakes, and go right up to luxury super yacht charters.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tickets for the Tomatina

One of the best, and probably top 5 in the daftest, of our unusual things to do around the World has to be the Tomatina.

What is the Tomatina?

The Tomatina is a long running traditional, proper silly, tomato fight on an epic scale. With tens of thousands of participants pelting the hell out of each other with tonnes and tonnes of overripe tomatoes. If you like getting messy, and painting the town red, then this is the event for you! Expect to get red – very red! The town is left swimming in a sea of red tomatoe juice.

Read more on Wikipedia here -

Ticket only at the 2013 Tomatina

This year’s Tomatina will take place on 28th August 2013, but for the first time ever, and as a result of the overwhelming success of the event in previous years, 2013 will see the introduction of ticket only entry. Only 20,000 tickets will be on offer to limit crowd sized (and probably raise some much needed revenue to boot) at €10 per person. A bargain I would say – if you costed it ‘per laugh’ I could not think of many other events offering a better ‘laugh per buck’ rate!

Get your tickets purchased here and get the dates in your diary! With capacity capped at 20,000 tickets I expect a very quick sell out - the record was around 50,000 screaming 'tommy chuckers'!

Where and when is the Tomatina

The Tomatina is Spain’s famous Tomato Fight, which takes place each August in the small town of Buñol (pronounced bun-yol) in the Valencia region of Spain.

More unusual things to do in Spain

Can't get to the Tomatina?, not managed top get a ticket? no worries Spain is full of great and unusual things to do. Forget the old stereotypical view of Spain being just beaches, bars and sangria. Its a rich and cultural place with some amazing and unusual things to do. Similar to the Tomatina there are great water and wine fights, the amazing Las Fallas fireworks (also in Valencia), multi day horse treks, colourful fun ferias in every village and town, Semana Santa eater parades, Virgin del Carmen parades, San Juan longest night beach parties, amazing hiking, biking, rafting, paragliding and canyoning, just to name a few.

Take a look at our guide to unusual things to do in Spain, choose your region to see what's on offer, and take your pick(s)!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Cycling across Spain - Top 5's

Having finished our big ride through Spain last September (see previous posts!), I thought I would include a few fun Top 5’s which may be helpful to others planning such a trip. We covered about 1200km cycling from Ribadesella on the north Asturian coast of Spain, all the way south to Fuengirola on the southern Costa del Sol coast. During the trip, after the hard days cycling, our overnight stays were spent in Riaño, Sahagun, Tordesillas, Avilla, Arenas de San Pedro, Guadalupe, Castuera, Pozoblanco, Estepa and El Chorro.

Here are some of the best and the worse of the trip!

Great Places to include on your Spain tour

Obviously being on push bikes we wanted to keep the KM down, so did not cherry pick the best locations on route and zip zag east to west much. We chose the best locations on a fairly straight north to south route, through Spain. So places like Leon, Cadiz, Madrid, Barcelona, etc were out! This said, we found some great places on the trip, and did build in the odd zig zag to take in places of great interest like Avilla and Guadelupe. My Top 5 of the locations we visited:

1) Guadalupe. We did a bit of a detour to include this one, as the Monastery where we stayed for the night looked so stunning on the internet that the extra 50km or so to include it seemed worth the effort. It did not disappoint. The village is picture postcard pretty, and this is one of the places I will be definitely be re visiting when I have more time.

2) Avila. I have passed the walled city of Avila previously when I have been racing by in a car, and always wanted to stop by and see it in detail, so the ride gave me the opportunity to call in and get a better view. This is another location we took a short detour to include. Again, we were not disappointed. The place is amazing, and again we had interesting accommodation in an ex Palace so it’s another for my “I’ll be back!” list.

3) El Chorro. A favourite of mine, as it is only a few hours drive from where I live. The amazing scenery around El Chorro, which is located in a gorge, and the nearby lakes makes it a great place to visit any time of the year for hiking, climbing, biking, kayaking, etc. Home to the famous Kings Walk, arguably the world's most dangerous path!

4) Cordoba. A stunning and historic town, and another place near my home so a place I have visited on many occasions by car, Cordoba was an excellent place to spend the night. An early arrival gave us plenty of time to enjoy some fine authentic tapas and drinks in the streets around the amazing Cordoba Mosque / Cathedral (Mezquita). We also took the opportunity to visit the inside of the Mezquita prior to our ride the next day.

5) Ribadesella. I guess this being the start point of the tour, it was not strictly one of the overnight stops, but all the same Ribadesella is a superb, interesting and scenic start point. The seafood, the ‘poured from on high’ cider, its lovely harbour and the wealth of outdoor activities on offer in the Picos area, all look well worth a longer stay in the future. We enjoyed a great pre ride balmy summer evening in one of the town’s squares, in front of a historic church, whilst enjoying some great fresh seafood ‘soggy rice’ (the menu translation of Risotto, which I guess is a whole lot more descriptive than the word Risotto!).

The mild disappointment award – nothing badly wrong with our first overnight stop location of Riaño, but I guess I was looking for another historic and interesting old Spanish mountain town. I have since found out that historic and interesting old Riaño is at the bottom of the adjacent lake, lost to modern times when the dams were built for water management. The current ‘new’ Riaño was, in comparison with our other locations, a bit modern and clinical. The hotel was great, the ride there was great, the scenery was great, but the town was not what I had hoped up for!

Top 5 Tour de Spain foods

We had been hoping for lots of pasta, rice and good high energy foods to help our endurance each day on the bikes. In reality pasta was a lot harder to find than we had anticipated. Italian restaurants are not ten a penny in the remote parts of northern Spain. Here’s a few of the foods we discovered and lived on:

1) Broken Eggs and Chorizo – Heuvos rotas (broken eggs) is a superb hangover cure, but I’m not so not sure about its health properties for keen cyclists, and I doubt you will see much of this within the Tour de France rider’s diets! This is fried eggs, served over fried potatoes or chips, with lots of bits of fried chorizo spicy sausage spread throughout. Very tasty!

2) Revuelta – This comes in many formats with different ingredients. It is basically scrambled eggs with any combo of wild mushrooms, prawns, chorizo, asparagus, etc.

3) Menu del Dia – I’m pretty sure restaurants in Spain, by law, have to offer a good value three course meal each day, called the Menu del Dia (menu of the day). This was our value choice on many evenings. Choosing from the 3 or 4 starters, 3 or 4 mains, and a few deserts for about 10 euros. Good simple cheap good.

4) Bocadillos de Lomo – Pork baguettes. Another popular Spanish snack. Thinly sliced Pork, hot off the grill, in a fresh baguette. A good, quick, fresh lunchtime filler!

5) Tostada – the simple Spanish breakfast, a large fresh roll cut in half and toasted and served with fried tomato and olive oil, butter and marmalade (rarely), garlic or simply olive oil. With fresh squeezed orange juice, a great start to the day.

On board we were getting through large quantities of sugary Haribo sweets. NB - I had problems buying the simple commercial isotonic energy drinks in the petrol stations in the north so be wary if you are relying on these.

Top 5 Gadgets

1) Garmin SatEdge 705 Nav and Ride Recorder – a superb gadget for keeping a record of distance travelled, metres climbed, location, etc. I never leave home on the bike without it!

2) GoPro HD Hero 2 digital camera / video recorder. Took the great high definition footage of the ride. A lifelong top quality memory of a once in a lifetime adventure.

3) Live ride position tracking (via android Smartphone). We knocked up a quick webpage on our blog to allow family, followers and sponsors to follow the ride live. The page showed our current position and speed. We used the simple free app from Instamapper which runs on your android smartphone ( This worked great. NB I was using this in my home country Spain, so please check to see if you will incur any roaming network charges before using this abroad!

4) Mobile Phone – need I say more – what did we do before we had these things! Great for keeping in touch with family and friends, finding hotels, taking photos and video, using as a backup map, etc.

5) Laptop and Internet – The laptop came along for blog updates, emailing, backing up the days ride data, video and photos, finding the next hotel, etc.

Top 2 Bikes

Well we only had two on the tour, my Trek and the Pinarello Iain had been kindly borrowed by Smithy. So I will have to be biased and say the Trek was bike of the tour! Both bikes did a great job, the Pinarello unluckily had three punctures to the Trek’s zero, and made a little more ride noise.

1) Trek

2) Pinarello

Top 5 Sections of the Ride

1) Puerto del Pico. On the road from Avilla to Arenas de San Pedro, the amazing drop from the 1352m altitude crest of the Puerto del Pico. This was an amazing ride, around 15km of fast sweeping downhill bends. In the warm afternoon sun, possibly the best 15km in the saddle I have ever ridden. Amazing scenery and drop after drop after drop.

2) The climb to Riaño. The only climb to make it into my personal top 5 riding moments of the tour. Sure climbing is tough, and this is a long long climb, but it was the first hours of the tour, the sun was shining, the scenery was amazing, and we started from sea level and crested the 1280m Puerto de El Ponton that afternoon. An epic road.

3) The drop into Extremadura. The drop just after the village of Puerto de San Vicente on the EX102, our introduction to Extremadura, on route for Guadalupe was another stunning piece of two wheel pedal powered heaven! Another great winding, well surfaced, long, downhill section, in hot sun, with superb bends and amazing scenery.

4) The road from Ardales to El Chorro. This section starts with a nice winding road, up the side of the scenic man made lakes, which then transforms into a tight scenic fast drop on, a very narrow road, through an amazing part forested valley. At times you are riding under the rocky overhangs, before coming out at the bottom of the gorge, with the amazing Kings Walk to your left. Stunning scenery yet again!

5) The ride from the Puerto de las Pescadoras to the beach at Fuengirola. A bit of a boring one this one, and the part of the ride we did in very uncharacteristic miserable drizzly rain. But it has to be a highlight as it was the final 15km. Your legs are suddenly full of energy, the last 10 days saddle soreness fades to a distant memory and you realise you only have 15, mostly fast downhill, kilometres to the ‘finish line’. A fairly cautious fast downhill ride, as living in Spain I’m not used to riding in the rain (this was probably my first day riding in rain in about 7 years!). Then we threaded our way through the backstreets of Fuengirola to the beach. Time to meet the family, spray some cava and take a run and jump into the Med!

Top 5 climbs

1) 1280m Puerto de El Porton, heading for Riano. The big one on the first day of the tour, as described above a stunningly scenic climb from sea level to 1280m. Great climb.

2) 1564m Puerto de Menga, heading from Arenas de San Pedro. The first of two big climbs on the day from Avila. After a long flat start out of Avilla, this is a good climb with a set of hairpin bends near the top, just to finish you off!

3) 750m Puerto de Calatraveno, heading into Cordoba. Not the highest of peaks we topped, but this was a welcome sight on the ‘very strong headwindy’ ride from Pozoblanco to Cordoba. From here it was pretty much all downhill into Cordoba, although the strong winds this day made even the downhill hard work!

4) Alhaurin el Grande. This was ‘out of the saddle’ bottom gear, probably the steepest climb we did on the whole tour, and not one we needed to do. In the rare drizzly rain I got lost, embarrassingly only about 20km from where I live, meaning we had this pig of a climb to do within 25km of the finish line. We then got some duff directions from a local (maybe my Spanish is not so good!) and pretty much had to do half of it again! Doh!

5) The climb to Guadalupe. This was a small and simple 3 or 4 km climb. Nothing at all to worry about, but it was its position in terms of the day’s ride which made it one of the toughest on the tour for me. This little final climb, up to the stunningly pretty town of Guadalupe, was as the end of a hot 118km day, with some 1678km of previous climbs! It was great to see a great place for photos near the top, obviously needing a photo stop, to take a break half way up this one!

Top 5 road side signs – The road signs we loved seeing!

1) Any sign saying ‘Puerto….’. These brown signs, showing the altitude, mark the top of most of the big climbs! A very welcome sight. We had one or two false alarms, with brown tourist signs, which looked like the top markers, placed half way up!

2) Fuengirola - The finish line!

3) Extremadura – for some unknown reason we were really looking forward to entering the region known as Extremadura, which translates literally to ‘Extremely Tough’. And in places it really was, like the 41km section of the ride when it was 36 degrees in the shade, but there was no shade – nothing at all for 41km – no villages, shops, fuel stations, trees for shade - nothing!

4) That night’s town sign! The place name sign, at the entry to the village or town we were staying at each night, was always very welcome sight! And for me the most welcome of these were Guadalupe and Castuera, both coming at the end of a tough hot day in the saddle!

5) Andalucia – My home county, and a sign that we were nearing the end of the ride. Although Andalucia is a very big place, about two thirds the area of England. We still had four days in the saddle after seeing this sign on day 9, on route for Pozoblanco!

Top 5 sights

1) The stunning mountains, rivers, bridges and the gorge on the way up to Riaño.

2) The Monastery of Guadalupe – an amazing place, and how great to be able to stay inside the Monastery itself. The Extremadura road, about 40km prior to getting into Guadalaupe was also pretty sensational, with flocks of vultures gliding in the thermals above the rocky ravines.

3) The walled city of Avilla. Another amazing historic place to stay, I have superb memories of having a nice few drinks just outside the walls, on a warm evening, looking out over the plains to the distant mountains range we would be riding over the next day.

4) The old centre of Cordoba, with its unique and huge old Mesquita. A great place to sit and ponder centuries of history.

5) The raw barrenness and extreme living environment of Extremadura, which was particularly dramatic as we rode towards Castuera. With groups of malnourished looking sheep, in barren fields with hardly any signs of plant life, all huddled tightly together in the smallest pockets of shade coming from some small rocky outcrops.

Running a very close 6th was an iced pint glass full of Cruzcampo beer, and a half pint of gin and tonic with plenty of ice in a nice goldfish bowl vase, on a table outside a sunny bar in a beautiful historic square at the end of each day!

And I should probably give a mention to the 100’s of great castles and monuments which we passed, giving extra interest to each days ride.

Worse sights

1) Crawler lane signs. These are not put out for nothing. The immense cost of building another uphill lane means that when you see these signs, the road is going to be going uphill, at quite a climb rate, for a long time! Bugga!

2) Road closed. Luckily we only had one of these, but it was pretty disheartening heading into a howling head wind, and adding about 20km to the ride to Cordoba. On the brighter side when we had to turn back at least we had a strong tail wind for a short while!

3) Trees bending towards you to greet you! We did pretty badly with head winds – On 10 of our 12 days in the saddle, we were riding into the wind. Although this did help provide us with one of the highlights, as we slip streamed a tractor at about 45-50khm for about 15km on the way into Medina de Rioseco.

4) Flat tyres. Actually I did OK with a clean run, but Iain suffered 3 punctures on route.

5) Long long long loooooooong flat empty straight roads. Days 2 and 3 threw up lots of arrow straight quiet flat roads. Easy for cycling good distances in theory, but not great cycling roads. Some camber changes, direction changes, mountain scenery and descents always make the journey more of an adventure.

Oh and maybe I should add in empty glasses!

Top flora and fauna

1) The numerous flocks of Vultures and other large birds of prey we witnessed during the journey. Well I assume they were different flocks of vultures, and not the same group following us with interest each day! Just about 10km from the start a large buzzard swept down and made a kill right beside the road just in front of us.

2) Sunflowers. On the early northern part of the ride we rode through hundreds of fields of ‘just past their best’ sunflowers, which were quite a dramatic sight.

3) Olives. A sign that we were getting close to the finish, as we started to ride through horizon filling displays of field after field of olive trees, with the ripe green fruits ready for harvesting.

4) The interesting and exotic road kills, which we would have preferred to see running along beside us, but gave the ride interest all the same. The Spanish wildlife, or ex wildlife, like snakes and wild boar.

5) The chicken which crossed the road a few feet in front of our speeding bikes – why did it do that?

Great places to stay while cycling in Spain

My top 5 of the Accommodation we used during the trip:

1) The Hospederia del Real Monasterio – The amazing Monastery in the very picturesque Guadalupe. A superb and historic place to stay.

2) The Hotel Palacio de Valderrábanos, an old palace inside the beautiful walled city of Avila, just North West of Madrid. Avila is definitely one of the places I have picked to return to. The Palace was another great and historic place to stay.

3) Hostal Casa de Larios in Estepa. A strange choice this one as Estepa, as nice as it was, does not compare to the previous two locations. We turned up on spec in Estepa with nowhere booked. This ‘hostal’ just happened to be across the road from where we chose to stop for a drink after the ride. The owner was most hospitable, and the place was superb, modern and contemporary, better than some of the higher starred hotels we used! Highly recommended – Amazed they currently seem to have no website!

4) La Garganta Hotel at El Chorro, a great hotel in a great location with stunning views over the Guadalhorce valley to the Kings Walk. With a pool and Spa. A great location for our last night away.

5) Hotel Puerta de Sahagun, the ghost hotel on the outskirts of Sahagun. A strange one this one, a stunning and modern hotel which probably has probably capacity for over 1,000 guests, but the night we were there I guess there were 10 guests! Great place all the same.

Our Greatest Luxury

A support driver and car to transport our bags, allowing us to ride light each day!

This no doubt greatly enhanced the ease and enjoyment of this tour. We rented a hire car one way from Bilboa to Malaga, and got in touch with Alex, our superb Support Vehicle Driver through the online working away volunteers webiste

Alex came along for the tour, and hopefully had as good a time as we had. We simply paid his food and lodgings and provided the car and fuel. This worked superbly and I would highly recommend this approach, the Workaway website and our new friend Alex Oyston personally.

My Top Homer Simpson ‘Doh’ Moment

With a lack of place name signs, wondering if we were going in the right direction, after going some 20km up a main ‘N’ road hopefully towards Madrid, we stopped to check. With the sun blasting down on the screen of my smartphone from the south, I turned around to face north to get some shade. I then saw the arrow on the Sat Nav map on the phone and got that horrible realisation, and sinking feeling, having seen that we were going in the completely wrong direction! Mmmmm – it took a while, but it finally dawned on me that if I faced in the direction we are cycling (south) with the sun on the screen, the arrow on the screen will turn, and we are suddenly going in the right direction! Doh!

If you are planning on cycling through Spain, I’d recommend reading our previous daily Spain Tour updates, which may prove useful while planning your ride. Any questions please feel free to leave a comment and we will try and help!

More information on things to do in Spain.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Unusual Romantic Things To Do

As it’s almost that time of year again, Valentine’s Day (oh yes –‘that day’ I hear the boys say!), we thought we would offer users some great and unusual ideas for wooing their loved ones.

Forget the flowers and chocolates, its old hat, and a puppy is for life! Why not surprise her (or him!) with an unforgettable romantic experience of a lifetime.

Here on YouGoDo we have loads of great suggestions. Here’s our top 5 Unusual Romantic Things To Do:

1) Take her horse riding.

Now I’ll admit I was heavily in the camp of ‘horse riding is for girls’, until I moved down here to Spain, just over 7 years ago. Seeing riders out on the amazing trails up in the mountains, whilst I was admittedly up there on my mountain bike or motorbike (very manly!), I did get an appreciation of what a great activity this is.

Great scenery, fresh air, horse doing the work, loads of fit girls on horses – well you get the idea.

It looked so good that I let myself get coerced into giving it a go. And not only did I have my first ever go at horse riding a few weeks ago, I followed it up with my second ever go at horse riding within a week.

The 'love of my life' thought it was hilarious seeing me out of my comfort zone, ‘brave’ish of me to have a go, and laughed for the full 90 minutes at the sight of me on board ‘Almost Dead Fred’ (see picture - judging by the laughter I can only assume that the less of a knight in shining armour on a sturdy white horse you look, the funnier it is - although to be fair he was white!). If you are unsure or a beginner they will probably give you the
most docile horse – which all adds greatly to the loved one’s fun!

Here’s loads of great places to take a girl horse riding, obviously up in the mountains, along the beach, or through beautiful forests are great – but see what you have in a location which suits! It’s bound to give her a great laugh! And no cheating by having sneaky lessons first!

Not got the balls feeling brave enough - then find a nearby horse and carriage ride, or if you are lucky enough to be near the snow a husky sled ride! Probably won't be as funny as you on a horse, but it should hit the spot!

2) Take her up in a Hot Air Balloon

A classic romantic activity. You and your loved one floating along serenely in a hot air balloon, gazing down starry eyed at the stunning scenery below. These trips generally start or end with a glass of bubbly too, which just adds to the romance. The serenity of a hot air balloon flight surprised me, I was expecting lots of wind noise (not that type of wind!). A bit dumb of me really as the balloon floats with the wind, so you are in effect ‘still’ with the air around you. It’s amazing peaceful, exciting, soppy and great fun.

3) Take her on a culinary course

Be a bit careful with your wording on the card with this one! And make sure you book for you both – sending her on her own is probably a little very unromantic! You don’t want to be rubbishing her culinary skills. And ‘culinary’ does not simply mean a cookery course – this could be cupcake decorating (probably best you don’t tell your mates about this one!), wine tasting, champagne appreciation, a chocolate workshop, pasta making, etc.

Attending one of these food and drink courses together, and getting messy with ingredients (or the wine), sharing the food and drink (share nicely now!) and possibly getting a little competitive (again careful here!) will make it a day to remember!

4) Take her on a Segway Tour

Put some fun into your day with a ride, or a glide, as the brochures tend to call it, on a Segway. These futuristic electric vehicles are easy to master, and great fun. And Segway Tours tend to take you around great places to see great sights. A lot of the fun comes in the first few minutes (sound familiar?) as you both master the machine!

5) Take Her Away From It All

Probably the top suggestion, get onto the cheapo airline websites and find a weekend in any of the stunning locations within a few hours of you. Rome, Venice, Las Vegas, Miami, Barcelona, Paris, Brisbane, Hong Kong, Vancouver (well I don’t know where you live do I – you get the idea!). Then make it a weekend to truly remember with some great YouGoDo experiences, possibly one or two of those mentioned above.

You think she’s not that adventurous?

Hell give it a try, girls like a surprise. If she really is not that adventurous you can always play it safe with one of these old tried and tested, but a little unimaginative, Plan B’s!

Book a restaurant with a difference.

Look for your nearest Revolving Restaurant, panoramic rooftop restaurant, 'Dine in the dark’ experience (where you are blindfolded for the duration of the meal to enhance your sense of taste), or maybe a ‘Dessert Only’ restaurant where the menu is 100% the good stuff – just the cakes and puddings!

Do it on the cheap - get a blindfold and a takeaway! How much better can a doner kebab possibly taste!

Book a Spa

I’ve not met a girl yet who does not enjoy being pampered at a Spa. Go along with her for the day. You may even find you enjoy it too – try not to put the football on the TV in the Gym!

Really can’t be bothered?

OK if you want to risk losing her, then choose any of the following:

a) Take her to the cinema
b) Grab a box of Milk Tray
c) Go rob some daffodils (flowers)
d) Nip up to the Chinese takeaway!
e) Take her to Poundland and tell her she can choose anything she wants (maximum 1 item)
f) Take her karting with your mates (as a spectator!)
g) Take her out for the night to watch your local Darts/Pool match (delete as applicable)

On reading this back I think my first suggestions are probably best!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Scenic World in the Blue Mountains, a great day trip from Sydney

I’m just back from an excellent trip to Sydney over the Christmas period, a great part of the world to visit during the European Winter. Now Sydney’s a great place, more of which to come in future blogs, but we had 12 days there. And it would have been a real shame to spend all that time in one city, no matter how good that city is! New South Wales has lots to offer, so we made a point of making some time to escape the city and discover a little more of what NSW has to offer! Time for some Sydney Day Trips!

First resource for our research was YouGoDo’s great maps of things to do, showing all of the attractions and activities in an area on a global interactive map. We are lucky enough to live near the beaches, and a fairly active family, and the seas around Sydney are chock bang full of great white sharks (or at least this was the naïve understanding of my young daughters!) so when we started looking for our ‘out of Sydney’ experiences, we looked for some inland fun. Clicking on the activities in the inland NSW locations, Katoomba looked to have some great experiences. A quick chat, and a spot of facebook messaging, to several friends who live in the Sydney area confirmed the Blue Mountains to be an excellent destination. Job done let’s get a car and go there then!

The Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley (the subject of another future blog!) were chosen as our ‘Out of Sydney’ destinations.

The key reason for visiting Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains was to visit Scenic World. Four great thrilling attractions in one place, and a host of stunning scenery, nature and wildlife thrown into the equation. It looked great! Picking up a hire car in the centre of Sydney was no problem, and we were soon heading out east into the Blue Mountains. The trip out to the Blue Mountains was a nice drive on, by UK and European standards, pretty empty roads (even though this was one of the busiest days in the peak holiday period) and after a few hours we arrived in Katoomba and headed to Scenic World.

It was well signposted, and easy to park, and we were soon in to get our tickets. We have travelled a long way here (to the other side of the world!), so it had to be the ‘full monty’ – the Discovery Pass which gives you unlimited access to all of the attractions. The staff were great and pointed out a suggested route.

So of we headed and made a start with the Scenic Skyway, the Skyway cable car was just making its way back across the valley so we had a few minutes to wait. We got soon chatting to the girl who was taking tickets as we waited for the ride. Then it was all aboard the Skyway, where we met Andy the ‘driver’ for our ride, and we soon knew Andy like a long lost travel friend.

The Skyway itself was initially a disappointment, as the glass floor was all fogged up. I put this down to it being early morning dew. A Homer Simpson 'Doh moment' followed shortly after!! Andy encouraged us up onto the glass floor, and then turned on the electro-glass panels once we were at an appropriately dramatic point in the journey! At which time the floor went crystal clear, immediately opening up the scary views down to the forest and the valley some 270m below our feet. The electro-glass is a great feature, especially mounted, as it is, inside Australia’s highest cable car. An amazing ride, the Scenic Skyway takes visitors some 720m across the valley, with great views of the Katoomba Falls, the dramatic Three Sisters rock formations and the Jamison Valley.

On arrival at the East Station we left the Skyway and did a little hiking through the bush over the top of the waterfalls to one of the lookout points. On route we heard and saw the screeching cockatoos in the valley below, lizards and a wealth of great local flora. Then back to the station to take the Skyway back to base. This time we were with Patrick, who was soon another great mate!

Time for a quick coffee and a snack at HQ before going to take the train. Now this is no ordinary train. There is no other railway like this in the world! Scenic Railway, with its amazing 52 degrees incline/decline is the world’s steepest railway. It was decline in our case. We were soon ready to board, and it was out old mate Patrick helping us into the ‘carriages’. What a ride, you have sight of the first 75m or so of the tracks, at which point it looks to disappear off the edge of the world. And it felt like it looked!

Having been puzzled by the Australian road signs on route warning us of ‘crests’ (what’s all that about – surely Aussies can spot a crest – its where the road looks like it’s going into the sky, but probably doesn’t) I had finally found a few great spots for some useful ‘Crest’ signs. The 310m route takes two real steep drops over two great crests! Great ride, and the screams and nervous giggles, seem to prove this is probably more roller coaster than your average train journey!

From here we departed onto the Scenic Walkway, in the rain forest at the bottom of the valley.
At this point you have several routes to choose from, depending on your fitness levels, and the whining levels of any kids or lazy women in the party! We had come a long way, I reminded the family, so we opted for the longest route which was not too physically demanding. A great walk past gentle streams, huge towering creosote trees with amazing girths, scampering bush turkeys and lizards.

Then it was on to the Scenic Cableway, where we bumped in Andy, our driver and old travel mate from the first ride on the Scenic Skyway. Andy managed to entertain and chat to pretty much everyone on the cable car, which I would estimate to be about 60 people, in around 20 languages! A tough task for Andy given the fact he is talking to everyone on board Australia’s largest cable car! Great fun, and great views to take in during the 545m journey, over the Orphan Rock, the Three Sisters and the Jamison Valley.

From here we stepped out to the main visitor centre and the girls hit the shop! A few souvenirs later, we were sadly due to leave Scenic World, and our new mates! The people of Scenic World really do help to make your visit special. Each and every one that we met made you feel special, and showed great enthusiasm to their activity, your day and your background - your trip, why you were there, where you came from, etc. At a busy attraction like Scenic World
this is very praiseworthy indeed. When was the last time you left a large attraction and remembered the names of all the key staff you met? It really is a great set of attractions, in a stunning setting with a great group of staff!

The above covers our day at Scenic World, you can choose any combinations of the attractions on offers, and do these is the order you choose, at your own pace!

From Scenic World we then headed over to the Echo Point Visitor Centre, which also offers great views out over the valley, and had a quick look around the town of Katoomba before heading back to Sydney for the evening. Maybe next time we will stay a few nights in the area, and discover some more the great things to do in the Blue Mountains.

Get yourself out of Sydney and go visit the Blue Mountains, and say ‘hi’ to Andy, Patrick and the Three Sisters!

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