Category Archives: sight seeing

Summer Holiday @ Domaine Des Ormes

Greetings from the Greater Gotham summer desk. What makes it a summer desk as opposed to a normal desk? The extra big glass of iced coffee. And the fact that it is covered with notes about my summer holiday.

This year’s summer holiday was – like last year – a trip to one of the many Eurocamp locations and also like last year, in France. Last year we went to La Pointe St. Gilles in Bénodet (a mid-sized site with lovely coastal location just a short stroll into an equally lovely town).

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This year we ditched the coast and went a bit more inland to Domaine Des Ormes which was … well, it was big. Quite large, full of activities of all kinds and I must say extremely well laid out.

Our initial approach had both dungeekin and I a bit concerned – throngs of people, lots of noise and loud music but as it turns out, the main gate at 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon (a naturally busy time of week and day) is not indicative of the rest of the week or the rest of the site. The “town centre” area where the shops, pools, eateries and many of the activities are located IS often thronged with people and any family campsite of that size will have noise. But because that is all located together and the “residential areas” are a short walk away, you don’t get the noise “in the burbs” as it were.

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So – the cabin (we got an Espirit 2 bed/1 bath) mobile home was tidy and well equipped. Oddly, we both agreed that the living areas was not as well laid out as the one from ourt previous year’s classic mobile home. As the Espirit is a bit of an upgrade, you’d have thought it would be a bit roomier (and technically, maybe it was) but because of the layout – it didn’t feel that way. It was perfectly adequate and the kitchen was MUCH better than the one last year. The space issue was just worth noting as we make our plans for next year.

The activities covered a lot and offered something for everyone:

  • swimming (with choice of pools)
  • zip lining (no I did not try it – I considered it quite seriously but then the weather went to hell and I didn’t feel like my first go should be in the rain).
  • kids clubs (which Sprog made excellent use of most days – and a feature I think Eurocamp really excels at)
  • adventure course (which we thought was particularly well designed and laid out – three courses in one really. One for kids, one for teens and one for adults.)

adventurecourse

  • mini-golf (I won, thank you very much)
  • archery (which the menfolk enjoyed and which – after an initially wobbly start, both seemed to have an eye for)
  • Also pony rides, cycle hire, golf, tennis, a corn maze, Segway rides, paintball

I’m sure I missed a few but suffice to say there is a lot on offer to keep everyone from toddlers to teen to mom and dad happy. Some of the other things worth noting:

  • the convenience shop is quite well stocked and the areas in front of it hosts quite a nice a weekly market (which sounds odd until you realize there is a good-sized village worth of people onsite.
  • The gift/souvenir shop came through when we needed a deck of cards but also has all the usual stuff such a shop should have.
  • The staff at reception were always helpful and cheerful.
  • We ate mostly at home but did have dinner at the pizzeria/cafe a couple of times (first day when we hadn’t gotten to the shops yet and one day while Sprog was going to be “away” for dinner. Perfectly nice food. Was it fine dining? No but there were two other restaurants for that and that isn’t out thing on these holidays. pizza and roast chicken suit us just fine.
  • We did frequent the ice cream cabana a few times – a) it’s summer holiday and ice cream cones are what that is all about and b) it is located right next to a lovely waterside seating area where you watch and feed the ducks or enjoy the yelps and laughter of people cable skiing (they get pulled along a zip line while water skiing or sitting in an inner tube). I think the yelping is part of the fun.

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  • As it is such a big site, there are plenty of opportunities for nature walks – and lots of nature to see. We saw quite a lot of birds – the barn swallows were particularly entertaining.

With a site so large and so well supplied with stuff to do, we didn’t really do as many sight seeing day trips as we did last year. We did go to Saint Malo to walk to ramparts, take in the views and have lunch. The weather was GLORIOUS – ironically since we’d decided to make the trip during the overcast morning, thinking the weather wouldn’t be pool-friendly. But it cleared up while we were there.

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We also went to the Grand Aquarium during another drizzly day. Amazingly well presented and curated. A particular delight was the “submarine ride” – which is basically a log ride but instead of a log, you are in your own submersible.

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We’ll definitely be heading off to another Eurocamp for Summer Holiday 2017 – maybe even returning to Les Ormes – since once again, they provided everything you need to have whatever kind of holiday you want.

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Looking Around Lichfield

A few weeks ago, we took a “staycation” and ended up doing more sightseeing and exploring than we have done on many trips to far more distant locales. It was fabulous. I’ll be writing it all up (been slack on that, I know) but in the meantime, a summation of our day trip to Lichfield, Staffordshire, UK. That’s without a “t” for those of you who might confuse it with Litchfield, CT.

It was as lovely as I had heard it would be. The people were delightful, the cathedral impressive and full of helpful guides, the streets and sidewalks almost bizarrely tidy and we experienced what may have been the world’s greatest chips at Pom’s Kitchen & Deli.

Until I get a chance to go into more detail, have some pics from one of the lovelier days (all pics courtesy of and belong to dungeekin, Modern Parlance’s fave photog)

Summer in Brittany

We wandered over to Britanny – lounged about, saw Benodet, Quimper, Oceanopolis Aquarium in Brest and Parc Branfere, did more lounging. Many pictures were taken (dungeekin was a camera fiend and all these pictures are courtesy of and belong to him) but these are some of my favourites.

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Chocolate Cherries, Quimper

huts

Beach Huts

icecream

Holiday Ice Cream

solitude

Shared Solitude

Take Note of Americans Abroad

I’ve often observed that people of different nations and cultures vacation VERY differently. The word vacation is one way – Europeans “holiday” and “go on holiday.” Americans go “on vacation” and almost always as a noun, less so as a verb. But never mind. We can overcome these minor cultural differences and learn from each others.

This was the idea behind my latest piece “We think… we could learn a thing or two from American tourists” – it’s part of the We think …  opinion series in The Club, a monthly digital magazine sent to British Airways’ Executive Club members.

online-travel-agent

So take note of the Americans abroad. If you look beyond the cliches (and aren’t there cliches about all sorts of tourists?) and you might learn something about maximizing your vacation experience.

March in Marrakech

Marrakech – one of many places I never considered as a holiday destination until I moved to the UK and found them within easier reach (logistically) than from the States. So, when we found a great all inclusive deal to Marrakech – off we went. Me with my ebooks and dungeekin with his camera.  All pictures courtesy of and belong to him.

Virtual Sightseeing: Museums on Pinterest

Perhaps you’ve noticed – there’s WEATHER happening. Lots of it. Quite a lot of it is the kind that can mess up flight schedules and none of it the kind of weather you really want to go out into. This means some considerable down time indoors at home. Which is great. For a while. But if you’re like me, cabin fever can start setting in after a few days and the weather doesn’t seem to care. The (insert either rain | snow | polar vortex ) continues. But never fear, I’ve got another great round up of links designed to help you make a virtual visit to the Big Apple.

This time around it’s museums. I know we’ve touched on museums before (see below) but that was some time ago and since then, quite of few of the greatest Gotham museums have made excellent use of Pinterest and that’s what I’ve got for you today. You can really explore so much – all without putting on 10 layers of clothes and risking frozen / soggy limbs.

But it’s not only New York City Museums making a splash on Pinterest. No, museums all over the world and specializing in an incredible number of fields have got boards worth browsing. Check out some of the ones I’ve listed below – or hop on over to Pinterest and peruse the search results for “museums”

  • Don’t we all feel better that we live in a world that HAS a Button Art Museum?
  • San Diego Air and Space Museum – which frankly I’d never heard of. This might be because I grew up in Houston and all we heard about was the Johnson Space Center (which was fab).
  • Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – just one of the many museums that make up the Smithsonian as a whole
  • J. Paul Getty Museum – which I confess I visited one and found less than thrilling. The Pinterest boards however are really compelling. Maybe it’s just because I’m not being blinded by white stone everytime I turn around. Or – maybe it’s because the collection is organized better on this platform than in person. Just my personal opinion. Your mileage may vary. Lots of people love the Getty.
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • Cars are not necessarily my thing (what I don’t know about engines, horsepower, torque etc could fill VOLUMES) but I know what I like and it’s usually based on comfort and style – the latter on magnificent display on the Pinterest boards of the Mercedes-Benz Museum
  • I could (and probably should) do an entire round up of the media channels for the Smithsonian Museum as a whole. The breadth and scale of it is amazing – 19 separate museums, some with multiple locations. This main Smithsonian Pinterest account highlights specific events, collections and exhibits across the Institute. One of my favorite specific ones is the Pinterest boards from the Archives of American Art section.

 


 

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Christmas in NYC – from a distance

Ah Christmas in NYC – the windows, the crowds, the Chinese food and a movie that makes up the traditional Jewish New York City Christmas. Sure, having moved across the Atlantic means I didn’t get to see the windows in person but did I miss them? I did not. The web is full of the Christmas windows – wanna see the Lord and Taylor windows (always some of my favorites)?  Here ya go.

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Want a movie of the whole thing instead?  YouTube is an amazing resources in this way now that everyone and their brother has a smartphone and a compelling need to record everything they do. The L&T 2013 windows are no exception.  Moving so far from NYC also means I don’t have to deal with the crowds of people who flock there every December. Don’t get me wrong – I was never a tourist-hating New Yorker. But in certain spots in December it was IMPOSSIBLE to move and you’d do anything to avoid those spots. Banbury doesn’t get nearly as crowded ever on it’s biggest day (which I suppose it Canal Day).

I do still get Chinese food and a movie though the Chinese food is homemade (seriously – everything here closed for Christmas. Even the Chinese restaurants). Once again, dungeekin did his best to turn TransAtlantic Towers into a first rate Chinese buffet. It was delicious – more on that can be found over on Fabulous Foodie. In related news (that will no doubt inform Chinese food meals of the future), we have found two well-stocked Asian supermarkets nearby and it took ALL my considerable persuasiveness to prevent SOMEONE from buying everything in sight. We do plan a major shopping excursion soon but there was already a considerable amount of food in the TransAtlantic Larder so there was, culinarily speaking, “no room at the inn.”

Meanwhile, we look forward to another year of exploring the area, experimenting with food and – DEFINITELY getting back to New York for a visit or two. Happy New Year, one and all. No matter which side of the pond you’re on.

Happy Birthday GCT

Grand Central celebrated its 100th birthday yesterday and I missed it! Damned! Happy belated, GCT. My only excuse is that I was busy celebrating my own (not quite so venerable) birthday. But ya look good, you ol’ landmark you.

GCT

Virtual Visit Home: An Online Weekend In NYC

As you may or may not know, I no longer live in NYC. After 23 years (21 of those in the same apartment), I moved overseas and have been training my Gotham Girl eye on the UK and Europe ever since. But this doesn’t mean I don’t miss my NYC weekends. Sometimes I get a wee bit homesick for long walks through Hudson Park and I miss popping into the Metropolitan Museum of Art simply because I happen to be walking past. Luckily the internet has an answer for that – and I don’t even have to go through airport security to get there

My intention is to visit whenever I can – catch up with friends, see what’s worth seeing at my old haunts. But it’s not the same as being able to just wake up and decide to wander over to see what’s what in the Central Library Rotunda. That said – a darned good placeholder for that feeling is doing a virtual weekend. I skype with friends (time zones mean they are having coffee while I have a quick bite of lunch – sort of like brunch) and then I “wander” over to the Met or the NYPL to see what’s there. And virtual wandering is now more like an actual visit than ever. It’s more than just going to a museum’s website or their “online gallery” space. Now social media savvy institutions have a range of media channels – You Tube, Pintrest, Facedbook, Twitter – in addition to their online home. What this means for the virtual visitor is a more robust, more “just like being there” visit. Of course it’s not JUST like being there but I have to be honest – in some ways, I like it better. No crowds, no worry about whether I can get to the lecture in time.

I’ll still be heading to these places when I get back but I don’t have to miss them quite so much thanks to the links below.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art – yes, one of the most famous and most often visited museums in the world. Also just a short walk from home for much of my time in Manhattan. For two years, I was 2 blocks from this iconic spot and even when I moved, I was only 12 blocks or so. I was there constantly and I still am in many ways, thanks to the Met’s array of online outlets.  Quite apart from their presence on the social media channels – for the virtual visitor, the wonderful MetMedia section of their website is NOT to be missed.

The New York Public Library not only houses one of the most beautiful reading rooms in the world, they stage some of the best exhibits in the city and do it extraordinarily well. I’ve given their YouTube channel a big thumbs up previously and it’s still awesome. But the truth is that they have made the library, its spaces and its collections accessible across so many channels that I’ve seen and experienced more of the NYPL since I left than I did when I lived in NYC.

The Guggenheim in New York has an impressive array of online communities and channels to keep folks informed about exhibits, to engage in conversations about art in public spaces, demonstrate a bit of what goes on “behind the scenes” – even keep note of changes on their cafe menus. A full list can be found here on their website. I encourage you to check them out. Not only because the Guggenheim is worth a visit, virtual or otherwise – but because it’s great to see a venerable institution go full throttle with robust use of social media . In the meantime, some of the outlets for the main museum are:

The High Line, which I first walked the day after it opened and which I have walked many days since, really owes much of its existence to the social media savvy folks behind it. They shot videos, showed the potential, spread the word and got people excited. People became invested with the idea being presented and updates and progress reports were regularly put up so the folks who were excited stayed that way. Now – with the opening of the last segment, the High Line’s online presence remains strong so while I can’t always be there to wake in the changes and the views in person – I can keep up with what they are doing, who they are hosting and take a “stroll” of my own.

Another of my favorite parks is Hudson River Park. It is, according to its website, at 5 miles the longest waterfront park in the United States – a fact I didn’t know but my feet probably could have told me as I’d walked the length of it several times.  It used to be a string of decaying piers, municipal storage areas and parking lots on the west side. Now it is a place to walk, picnic, play, explore, cycle, kayak, run, eat, visit and enjoy. There are has rarely been money SO well spent on a public space.

Even places like the Empire State Building (a regular stop for me whenever showing guests about town), have taken to a bit of online outreach. Bonus? Looking on their facebook page, I now know what the various colors on various nights means. I knew the OBVIOUS ones but sometimes you can’t help wonder.

More to come soon – including more parks, restaurants, and other places one might find me on any given weekend in NYC

Behind Normally Closed Doors

I’m very much enjoying exploring me new stomping grounds here in the UK (more on this later) but it does means that I am missing the 2012 edition of Summer Restaurant Week. For those of you who are on the ground to take advantage of it, it’s been extended through September 3 so if you thought you’d missed your chance to try that new pricey place you’d always wanted to try – go for it!  I’m also gonna miss openhousenewyork (OHNY) in Oct 6 but I shall make a point of checking out the event that inspired it – Open House London (Sept 22-23).

It’s not just NYC and London that have this type of event. According to information on the OHNY site, Open House Worldwide is a sort of umbrella network of similar efforts, including (apart from Open House London and OHNY) Open House Dublin, Open House Tel Aviv, Open House Jerusalem, Open House Melbourne, Open House Galway, Open House Barcelona, Open House Slovenia, Open House Chicago, Open House Rome, and Open House Helsinki. New cities seem to be getting added all the time (Perth, Lisbon and Adelaide were just getting underway from a planning standpoint recently) so keep an eye out – you just may get a chance to grab a peek at otherwise hidden local architectural gems near you.