Discovering the Canary Islands with Inntravel #UnexpectedCanaries

 

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I recently responded to a Tweet from Inntravel about their #UnexpectedCanaries campaign. I’ve been to the Canary Islands several times but I am rather ashamed to say that I have never really seen what I would call the real Canaries, or even stepped outside of the very touristy areas of Playa de las Americas in Tenerife or Costa Caleta in Fuerteventura. I do however know that there is a lot more to these islands than meet the eye, so I was keen to explore these destinations a little more.

Inntravel, the ‘slow holidays’ company, are currently using the #UnexpectedCanaries campaign to promote their holidays to the Canary Islands and in particular the newly added La Palma Volcanic Trail walking holiday.  Established in 1984 and based in rural North Yorkshire, Inntravel is recognised as one of the UK’s leading specialist tour operators. They are happy to tailor your holiday to suit you and have won numerous awards and accolades over the years.   Two-thirds of bookings are made by those who have travelled with Inntravel before, or by friends to whom they have recommended the company – if that’s not the best endorsement of a company, I don’t know what is!

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I have always wanted to visit La Palma, which is one of the lesser-known islands while also being one of the most beautiful! It is renowned for its incredible landscapes, imposing volcanoes, deep forests, welcoming beaches and star-filled night skies. When I first started visiting the Canary Islands it wasn’t really pegged as a holiday destination for us Brits but it has become better known as people have started looking for something a little different to the ‘Brits Abroad’ scenario, which sadly, is the main side of the Canary Islands that I know.

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The last place I visited in the Canary Islands was Costa Adele, which is more upmarket than the loud lairy neighbours of Playa de las Americas and Los Cristianos, but still very much a touristy resort relying on British trade. We chose this holiday for ease and guaranteed sunshine. We went to an all-inclusive resort and pretty much stayed there for a week doing nothing but lazing around and swimming in the pool. Now don’t get me wrong, that is fantastic and just what we needed with small children but now my children are slightly older, I can’t help but look back at these holidays as missed opportunities and they are so far from what I would choose to do now! holiday time and annual leave is precious, so for me, it’s important to get as much out of it as possible.

What would I do differently?

If I went back to Tenerife again, I’d definitely like to try and discover the real Tenerife, get myself away from the tourist hotspots and immerse myself in Canarian food and culture.   I’m not sure how well it is publicised but Tenerife is a great walking spot, if you just move inland a little away from the resorts. The island has a variety of terrains to discover, with the impressive Mount Teide dominating the landscape.

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The Canaries have their own traditional food dishes such as Papas Arrugadas (also known as wrinkled potatoes) which are served with ‘mojos’ or sauces mojo picon and the mojo verde. I have actually tried this dish but I know there is so much more to the local cuisine with regional fish dishes and even desserts to be enjoyed. As somewhat of a foodie myself, this is definitely something I have missed out on!

There’s lots to be seen in the Canary Islands and lots to do if sitting by a pool isn’t your thing – you might be surprised! You should check out the Inntravel website to see what else is on offer!

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Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Inntravel.

In Bruges (with Mrs M)

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Just before Christmas we took a (child-free) trip to Bruges. It’s somewhere that had been on my list of places to go for a while but we’d just never got around to organising it. We booked it way back last April and were really looking forward to it for months – until the terrorist attacks in Paris and the subsequent lockdown in Brussels occurred. We considered cancelling the trip however a few weeks later by the time we were due to travel, things had got a bit more back to normal. Still a Level 3 threat but that’s the same as the UK so there was no need to be overly cautious. I was glad that we did make the trip – the owner of the B&B we stayed at told me that people had really suffered in places like Bruges because of hundreds of cancelled coach trips. I imagine in a town like Bruges many people rely on tourism so are pretty affected when things like this happen. Bruges is far enough from Brussels (an hourand a half on the train) but we did have to travel via Brussels airport and train station. Have to say, we didn’t notice any extra security but I am sure it was there.

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Anyhow, enough doom and gloom. So Bruges.  I won’t lie, I mainly got the desire to go after seeing that film – which is still up there as one of my favourites.  We flew with Brussels Airlines which was ok and then caught a train from the station at the airport direct to Bruges, which was a nice relaxing journey through the Belgian countryside. Once there, we walked through the cobbled streets to our B&B (The Townhouse – which I cannot recommend enough!) with the help of Google Maps. It couldn’t have been easier.  Our B&B really was lovely, the owner was so welcoming and the breakfast – all three courses of it – was to die for. Fresh fruit to start, followed by yoghurt with a compote and then your choice of smoked salmon & scrambled eggs, omelette or eggs & bacon served with fresh juice, tea/coffee and an assortment of delicious breads and cake. Wow. It really set you up for the day!

We didn’t really have a plan, we just wanted to wander around for a few days and soak it up, whilst eating lots of food and drinking lots of wine. Gluhwein my case. And what a lovely place it was for that. If you’ve never been to Bruges – go. It’s just about the most loveliest place to mooch around, and way bigger than you think. Lots of gorgeous little streets to meander through, something to look at around every corner and of course, there’s the Belfry to climb up.

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Yep, that was pretty much my response. I don’t really do towers. I’m more of a sit-at-the-bottom-and-wait-for-everyone-else kind of girl but this time I gave in as the kids weren’t there to chaperone Mr M. It’s not the climbing up the tower, or the height, it’s the claustrophobic nature of stairwells. If there’s a separate up and down like at Warwick Castle or the Statue of Liberty I am game but if I have to go up a narrow staircase where people are also coming down, well, I’m not loving it.

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I could witter on about the loveliness of Bruges for all eternity, it was even lovelier all decked out for Christmas – I will definitely be returning at some point with the children. It felt so clean and safe. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a city or large town where I have felt so safe wandering around every part of it.  In the interest of not making this post any longer than it needs to be – I’ll leave you with a few more photos of this enchanting place but do book a trip soon!

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Wandering around Zurich

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Zurich was never a city that screamed out at me as somewhere I must visit, so when we were invited there on a business trip I was rather intrigued. I’d always wanted to visit Switzerland but I’d never considered a city break to Zurich, especially as I didn’t really know much about it other than there was a lot of money there!

By the end of my three days in Zurich I didn’t want to go home and I could fully understand why it has been listed several times as one of the World’s top cities or cities with the best quality of life. Zurich is a clean and friendly city, super expensive of course, but a pleasure to spend a couple of days in with it’s beautiful architecture and scenic views.

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They don’t have real money…they have Monopoly money. Oh wait, what?! CHF are fun!

We flew with Swiss which was ace as they were super-friendly and gave us free chocolate. We stayed at the Hotel Helmhaus which is a boutique hotel in the old town. It was a fabulous little hotel. We were greeted with a lovely chilled glass of Swiss wine when we arrived and the staff were incredibly friendly.  Breakfast was lovely and the hotel was in an absolute perfect location. I would whole-heartedly recommend it if you ever go to Zurich.

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Lovely Zurich

I didn’t take oodles of photos when I was there but I thought I’d share a few here and also share my top things to do in Zurich.

If you’re going to be visiting for a couple of days you definitely want to buy a 72hr ZurichCARD when you get to the airport. You can use this to travel on the train to the Hauptbahnhof, the central train station which is a pretty impressive building, and then also on the easy-to-navigate tram system which is most definitely the way to travel. The ZurichCARD also gets you into a lot of the museums and we used it to visit the Swiss National Museum.

Take a boat trip on Lake Zurich.

You can take a short round trip that lasts about 1.5hrs from Zurich Burkliplatz to Erienbach and then back again. It’s a nice way to view Lake Zurich which came into being between 14 and 18 million years ago. You can buy food and drink on the boat and it’s a good way to catch a glimpse of the houses of, what I presume must be, the ultra-rich in the area, with the water lapping up to their expensive glass fronted houses and boat sheds.

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Lake Zurich

People watch by the River Limmat

When we arrived in Zurich it was a beautiful Thursday afternoon in September, gloriously sunny, and it was an absolute pleasure to sit at a bar on the Limmatquai and watch the world go by, whilst sipping on an incredibly overpriced Aperol Spritz. Definitely a great way to spend a few hours.

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My 15CHF Aperol Spritz. That’s about a tenner to you and I.

Visit Cafe Sprungli

No visit to Zurich is complete without a trip to  take in the old world glamour of Cafe Sprungli. Here you can mingle with both tourists and the wealthy locals for a light lunch or even just some cake, chocolate or ice-cream. Don’t forget to go around the corner to Paradeplatz to check out the chocolate shop and buy some luxuriously wrapped boxes of chocolates to take home as gifts or try out some of their own little bitesize versions of macarons, Luxemburgerli, which are simply delicious!

Luxemburgerli from Cafe Sprungli

Luxemburgerli from Cafe Sprungli

Windowshop on Bahnhofstrasse

If you’re into shopping you’re going to want to have a wander down Bahnhofstrasse which is a long shopping street with smaller streets snaking off. It’s a nice area filled with designer shops and top brands like Tiffany, Prada and Cartier. It’s not somewhere to go if you prefer budget shopping but for window-shopping? It’s fab! Just leave your wallet at home!

Zurich at night

Zurich at night

Chill out at Lindenhofplatz

The Lindenhofplatz is a quiet park which overlooks the city. The main photo at the top of this post was taken from the park. It was a nice place to sit and relax for a while, and felt very clean and safe.

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Little alleyways to meander down

Meander through Niederdorf

Niederdorf with all it’s old fashioned charm might have been my favourite area in Zurich. It is part of the Altstadt or “old town” and is a pedestrian zone. In the daytime it’s a nice place to amble down historic streets and cobbled alleyways filled with lots of little boutique shops and art galleries, but in the evening it turns into a great nightlife district with bars, street artists and restaurants – this is your place to find a good fondue or raclette. Niederdorf is also the area where you’re likely to find strip clubs and sex/sauna clubs – yes, prostitution is legal in Switzerland – but it’s far from seedy and bar one or two, I barely noticed these places which tended to blend in.

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Cheeeeeeeeese

Learn about Switzerland at the Swiss National Museum

Visiting a new city or country, it’s always nice to learn a little about the area you’re visiting. The Swiss National Museum covers art, history and culture right back to the 4th century BC.  It’s worth an hour or two of your time, even though a lot of the information about the exhibits is in German. Look out for the white cards on stands when you walk into each room as these have an English explanation of most things on display.

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Ahhhh….

Obviously there is so much more you can do in Zurich like visit the zoo, Grossmunster Cathedral, Zurich Opera House, Botanic Gardens, Zurich Toy Museum, go up Uetliberg mountain or take a train to Lucerne. There is definitely enough to keep you occupied here for a good couple of days.

Most of all though, just enjoy this clean, peaceful and interesting city.

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