Countries, Europe, Sustainable Tourism

Fjords to the world

We’ve all been left open-mouthed, like Munch’s Scream, at the beauty of Norway but today we celebrate the man who brought the fjords to the world.

It’s no exaggeration to credit JC Dahl with bringing tourism to Norway through his landscape paintings.

But I only stumbled across JC (and it was not the only thing I fell upon that day) on an MSC cruise lay-off in the fjords in Bergen.

When we took in the troll caricatures and Munch retrospective on the walls and Dahl’s panoramas at the Kode gallery.

Father of the fjords: JC Dahl

And was tripped up by one of those shape-shifting trolls when I tumbled over a stone on our cliffside walk above Bergen.

The good news then is that the first of two Havila Polaris ships has arrived in Bergen.

Before it will head directly to Tromsø in a few days and put into service on August 21.

While the sister ship Havila Pollux will enter service from August 23.

Fjords game-changer

Star of the seas: Polaris

And this is a fjords game-changer.

Your ship accommodates 468 beds and passengers can choose whether to sail from port to port.

Or embark on a comprehensive journey along the Norwegian coast.

And here’s where things have changed with sustainability at the heart of fjords sailing.

Havila operates on a combination of liquefied natural gas and battery packs.

And that allows them to sail emissions-free for up to four hours at a time on battery power.

This means that Havila sails emissions-free in Geirangerfjorden and Hjørundfjorden.

Watch the waste

Fjord fiesta: Easy living

Now Havila are clearly committed to cleaning up the seas.

And cutting down on waste and, of course, leftover food is high up on that menu.

Theirs is a food concept where everything is served à la carte.

In the frame: Mrs M captures it all

That will reduce food waste by a whopping 60 tons with four fully operational ships, compared to ships with buffet.

With the two new ships in operation, the number of departures from Bergen will double from six to 12 departures per month.

The ships dock in Bergen at 14:45 before embarking on a new journey northwards at 20:30.

Now, of course, since Thomas Cook first clapped eyes on Dahl and introduced Norway to British adventurers we’ve been capturing its beauties ourselves.

Beautiful Bergen: And beautiful Mrs M

And that was always going to be a bigger draw to the award-winning photographer Mrs M was always going to pick that.

Ahead of the Med or the Gulf states.

Which is why we have our own photo homage to Dahl hanging in our wall.. bringing the fjords to the world, our world.

Countries, Sustainable Tourism, UK

Tree cheers

Now we’d always put the Dark Hedges from Game of Thrones No.1 but as the Woodland Trust reveals its tips for top timber we say tree cheers to these wooden wonders.

The Trust’s panel has shortlisted 12 contenders from across Britain and Northern Ireland for Tree of the Year 2023.

And they’re concentrating on urban which is probably why the Dark Hedges don’t get on it.

It’s strange, of course, that we take for granted the rich landscape under our noses or above our heads.

The cherry blossom whose pink leaves would shed onto our garage roof and driveway in our family home in Glasgow.

Or the Botanical Gardens in our cities.

Ulster says trees

Branch management: The Dark Hedges

And when we would routinely drive through the Dark Hedges en route to my Aunt Breid’s in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim.

So it is important that our green-fingered friends keep feeding the earth and our souls by flagging up trees’ place in our world.

Of course, it was never more timely as the climate change crisis reminds us that without our sustainable rain forests we have no world.

Rain forests, of course, are increasingly sought out for travellers for their itineraries particularly the sustainable adventurer.

By hook or by crook: In Tenerife

And so we have had the wood fortune of trekking through the trees of Tobago and Tenerife and all points in between and around the Eden of Ireland, Powerscourt.

But you can escape to a forested funderland in your own backyard.

Now the Woodland Trust has identified 13 trees for the Great British and Northern Irish public to vote on.

But we’re leafing through a few of them to give you a firry four and let you do the rest of the work.

Green Greenwich

Mighty oak: Greenwich Park

It helps if you’ve got large royal parks to let your trees breathe.

And the 6m sweet chestnut in Greenwich Park, London, has been inhaling for 360 years.

Since Charles II’s gardeners had it built for him.

Its put on the timber over the years and now has a 6m girth.

While its contorted, decomposing trunks have their use for wildlife habitats including invertebrates and fungi.

The Elizabethean Age

Lizzy’s picnic: Surrey

Addlestone in Surrey, south of London (no, us neither) smirks at quite such a young tree… their 7.3m crouch oak is 800 years old.

This giant is also known as the Queen Elizabeth I picnic tree after Good Queen Bess was said to have dined under its great boughs.

John Wycliff gave sermons under the tree in the 1800s, earning it the moniker Wycliff’s Oak.

And popular baptist Victorian baptist Charles Spurgeon preached there in 1872 adding ‘Speakers Corner’ to the list of aliases.

Surviving the Blitz

Cream of Devon: In Exeter

Now you can mess with the people of the West Country in England but they will prevail.

And England’s green and pleasant land stood up to the might of the Luftwaffe in the Second World War.

When 20 bombers hit Exeter and destroyed many a building, among them the Southernhay United Reformed Church on Dix’s Field in the city centre.

But the oak tee, mere feet from the front door somehow survived and still stands strong today as a symbol of hope and strength.

Tree Scotland

Made of Perth: Their pride and joy

Scotland is rightly proud of its rich forests and wildlife but our urban landscapes also boast towering trees.

The Highland Gateway Walnut in the car park of Inveralmond Retail Park on the A9 at Perth is an oasis amid the concrete.

And is at its best in the summer when its boughs offer shade and relief from the hustle and bustle as well as the sun’s rays.




Countries, Ireland, Sport, Sustainable Tourism

Dip your toe in Dublin’s Forty Foot

It’s a rite of passage if you relocate to Ireland… to dip your toe in Dublin’s Forty Foot.

Take it from me, the Sandycove bay is all part of the odyssey, like it was for James Joyce’s great creation Leopold Bloom.

The Irish as we all know are a hardy bunch and think nothing of swimming in the sea, no matter the weather.

And no matter the weather, even on the hottest day of the year, the Irish Sea is challenging.

But they’ll expect that you dip your toe in Dublin’s Forty Foot.

Better then to make an experience of it from the Anantara Marker Hotel, one of the Leading Hotels of the World, overlooking the Waterfront on Grand Canal Square.

Swim on the wild side

Making a splash: At the Forty Foot

Wild Swimming is part of the ‘Dublin Like Never Before’ menu of experiences.

They bill it as an unbeatable mix of adrenaline and tranquility.

With potential spottings of wild seals and dolphins, although in my one and only swim in the Forty Foot I only saw budgie… smugglers.

They promise too seals popping their heads up above the Craggy Rocks in Vico Bathing Place down the coast.

Where you may also catch sight of Vico’s most famous resident, the black-eyed Bono.

And we top off the adventure with a delicious breakfast or beach picnic for all to enjoy for €295 per person.

Spoon playing

Toothy smile: Dolphins in the bay

If culinary is your thing, and it should be as this is Ireland, then the Marker offers a Spice Spoons package in Howth.

With a sail around Dublin Bay on a fishing boat, seal and dolphin-spotting.

Before you stop off at Kish Fish, home to one of Ireland’s most prestigious salmon smokehouses.

And then return to the hotel to try your hand at baking Irish soda bread. €

From €1150 for two, €75 per person for additions. €150 for the cooking class alone.

One more cuppa coffee

Creme de la creme: Irish coffee

For the road… and when in Ireland learn to make an Irish coffee.

A coffee master and mixologist will talk and drink you through an immersive lesson with this Crafting an Irish Coffee class. €50 pp for Discovery Members – join here.

And there’s more

irish legend: Bono

Now, we’ve been here before  back in Bono’s backyard in Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel where we were regaled by a seanachai, or Gaelic storyteller.

In this case Derek Brennan who will introduce us to Ireland’s hidden secrets and legends in his Docklands Walking Tour €75 per person.

An Irish stud

Thoroughbreds: The Irish Stud

And no we’re not reverting back to Bono here, we’re talking pure thoroughbred racing stock at the Irish National Stud and Gardens  in Co. Kildare.

You’ll see the wonder horses in their stables or out in their paddocks and learn about their breeding and pedigrees with the help of a private guide.

Go one step further with ‘The Irish Racehorse Experience’ and become the owner, trainer and jockey in an immersive experience which offers the chance to partake in an interactive, virtual race. €250 per person.

Another kind of handicap

Irish jig: It’s golf day

And this one is for the golfer in you, at the Royal Dublin Golf Club  in Clontarf.

You’ll be chauffeured to the club and then hook up (sorry) with a professional at Ireland’s second oldest golf club, located on Bull Island in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

A whiskey tasting awaits post-game on the hotel’s picturesque 360-degree rooftop. €210 per person.

All dram good fun.

Countries, Deals, Europe, Sustainable Tourism

How happy on the mountains

How happy on the mountains are those of us who head for the hills in the summer.

As Corfu burns we are reminded of the searing heat of our honeymoon there back in the day (behave!)

And the locals tell you that the Greeks would flee the heat of Athens and Thessaloniki for the mountains in the summer.

Murphski: Ski specialist Catherine et moi in Isere

It is an exodus played out across the world and history.

For now we’ll leave our Greek friends then to head for Mount Olympus where we guess the Gods will look after them.

And we will set our sights on an old new favourite nearer our British and Irish heartland we know better on our ski travels… Isere.

Cool Isère

Peak form: Isere in the summer

Vaujany in Isère, the French Alps (18°C): Of course we’ve packed away the ski jackets and salopetttes and boots of the winter.

Where you can see the village too stripped of its winter clothing.

And the free ‘Petit Train’ trundles around the resort allowing guests and visitors to hop on and off.

Vaujany boasts charming beginner climbing trails.

An aquatic centre home to a children’s area; kids shows in the centre of the village.

And the opportunity to learn how to ride (and groom) a pony.

Think petanque 

Happy as a.. sand boy

This summer, Le Collet, a multi-activity family area at 1,700 metres, has re-opened after a refurb.

There are tennis courts, pony trekking, archery ranges, a bike park, petanque bowling green and more.

Scooters, bikes and skateboards can be used on the new pump track.

Brand new water games have been designed.

And shady picnic areas are now provided for parents and children to relax.

Flat de resistance

Luxury: Vaujany

Stay at Résidence Les Épinettes**** in a spacious, modern apartment with Summer France in the centre of Vaujany.

You’ll be just minutes from the main cable car.

Guests can make the most of the fully equipped kitchenette, large sitting room with television, balcony or terrace.

Plus, Ski France also offers flexible arrivals and stays.

A week’s stay, from 4 August 2023, costs from £521 total for up to four people sharing a self-catered cabin studio. Accommodation only, flights / ferry, transfers, food and activities extra.



America, Countries, Sustainable Tourism, UK

America’s Wild at Hampton Court Flower Show

If you can’t get out to the Great Outdoors then get into America’s Wild at Hampton Court Flower Show.

And that’s how my own little green-fingered one will be getting her fix of America’s heartland.

On her annual trip down to London to see The Son and Heir.

Which incidentally would be less stressful than going Stateside.

Particularly if she’d been planning to train it down Britain which can correspond to the cost of a flight to New York.

O Flower of America: At Hampton

Rant over and military-style planning to negotiate a trip from Scotland to London over it’s time to zen out among the plants.

And transport ourselves in our minds and with our senses to America with expert gardeners and travel providers.

In our old friends Visit USA, and American specialists Trailfinders from July 4-9.

Land of the flora

This is our country: Colorado

The show-garden will take you from the dusty Californian desert…

To the fiery Aspens of the Colorado forest and the wildflower prairies of North Carolina’s sweeping plains.

While Oregon and Charleston will also be exhibiting show gardens alongside America’s Wild.

My little flower will also get the Texas vibe I’ve been telling her about since returning from San Antonio.

With Austin musicians Natalie Price and Jo James performing for gardening fans on the RHS Festival Stage.

Special relationship

Great Outdoors: The show-garden

Our old friend from the American Travel Fair, IPW, Chris Thompson, CEO, Brand USA said: ‘America’s Wild is a snapshot of the spectacular landscapes that shape the United States.

‘We hope that as visitors wander our garden, it will spark curiosity and inspire adventurers to discover more of the U.S. beyond the gateways and into our great outdoors.’

My own heavenly horticulturalist will be interested to discover that the America Wild Garden is designed by fab flora females like her.

Inspired Earth’s Jude Yeo, Emily Grayshaw and Imogen Perreau Callf, who won RHS Gold last year.

America on the move

A little corner: American Museum & Gardens

When they pack up the tools at Hampton Court Flower Show, fear not.

America’s Wild will relocate to the US Embassy in London and the American Museum & Gardens in Bath.

The trees of the ‘forest’ will be transplanted to create a new Aspen grove on the hillside at the American Museum & Gardens.

And the desert and prairie planting will be housed in both existing collections.

Countries, Deals, Sustainable Tourism

Polar opposites

One jumps headlong from even warm sea waters, the others dive into the icy drink… we are, of course polar opposites.

But us humans and our penguin pals waddle along nicely together.

We most of us have early childhood memories of penguins from feeding time at the zoo.

But it is only really when you get up close and personal in their colony.

Say, in SeaWorld Orlando.

Penguin suits you

My ppp-pal: Penguins in Orlando

Best maybe visit before they’ve eaten as they make quite the smell.

While you’ll also need to watch where you stand as their poo is white.

Of course down where they live, the Antarctic, they don’t need to worry about anyone other than themselves.

Those who do visit them in their natural habit keep a respectful distance (maybe their whiffs are their safeguards).

Our old friends Hayes & Jarvis have been going there for years and want us to come too.

Parad-ice found

They are offering savings of up to 50% on some of their most immersive Polar expeditions.

They will accompany you as you glide past a penguin colony on a Zodiac boat or take in sprawling views of glaciers from the deck of your ship.

H&J pride themselves on caring for the environment in which they sail.

They support several sustainability and wildlife conservation initiatives in the region.

And their guides will present a wide range of activities from short hikes and boat trips to incredible wildlife viewing.

H&J’s Antarctic Express: Flying the Drake, starts from £12,890 £6,590, a saving of 49%.

With a booking period of June 26-July 7, valid on trips from February 27 to March 5 2024.

Passport to success: My H&J passport holder

Now they say opposites attract… and we reckon polar opposites are made for each other.

And we have our Hayes & Jarvis personalised passport holder ready for the off.



Countries, Sustainable Tourism, UK

In your English royal garden

We all smile in the spring when the birds all start to sing in your English royal garden… and if you want to continue your monarchist garden party (or if you just like pottering about) then there’s plenty of horticultural happiness still to be had.

Now our friends at Keith Prowse Attractions in Ireland are urging us to spend our summers out among the English shrubs.

Something that my own little English rose is availing of as an invitee of the Son and Heir to Hampton who now knows London like the back of his hand.

Model garden: In Greystones

And I’d recommend either of her gardens, in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, a match for Powerscourt, or here in North Berwick, Scotland.

There’s still time this month to book into the RHS Chelsea Flower Show from May 23-27.

And we’re reliably informed that His Charlesness and Her Camillaness are both keen gardeners and are regular attendees.

Set over 11 acres and with over 550 exhibitors, the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea are transformed.

It’s a patchwork of inspirational show gardens and vibrant plant displays.

Chelsea saga

Rosy days are here again: Chelsea Flower Show

Keith Prowse offer:

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show Packages Include:

  • Return flights to London (Fly from Dublin, Cork or Shannon)
  • Two nights in a 3*, 4* or 5* Hotel (Check in Thursday 25th or Friday 26th May)
  • Breakfast daily
  • Full Day ticket to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show for the Friday or Saturday
  • Price for above staying in 3* Ibis Earls Court from €669pps, depending on travel date and flight times

Hampton horticulture

Hello flower: My flower girl

Now my own green-fingered gal, here in the Land of Flowers, the Netherlands, will be attending the big garden event of later in the summer from July 6-10…

The RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival  

Regarded as the largest garden event in the world, the renamed Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival offers visitors the chance to witness spectacular show gardens from the world’s best designers.

And marvel at dozens of spectacular plants & floral displays from around the world.

So there’s a focus on health and wellbeing as well as live music (be sure to know your English Country Garden), entertainment and delicious food.

  • Return flight to London (fly from Dublin, Cork or Shannon), including taxes
  • Two nights in the 4* Wellington Hotel
  • Breakfast daily
  • Full Day ticket to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival
  • Price for above staying in the 4* Wellington Hotel is from €679pps, , depending on travel date and flight times


Countries, Europe, Sustainable Tourism

What Germans mean by Gluck Auf

Now you may be startled the first time a German tells you to Gluck Auf but don’t fret they’re really just wishing you good luck.

Gluck Auf is the everyday greeting of Esseners who hail from the mitten in Europa (the middle of Europe).

Hardy folk the Esseners, mining as they did its land for 150 years.

And versatile too as they have transformed themselves from the coal centre of Europe to its green champion.

While preserving the hardy and resilient character which is, for want of a better word, their essence.

And which they reference in that exhortation which translates as Luck Up.

The everyday exchange between miners before they descended in the bowels of the earth.

Wishing that they would see each other again safe and well above ground.

Ruhr odyssey

Kaiser so say: Kaiser Wilhelm in Essen

We are continuing our odyssey in the Ruhr region.

And hearing of the greening of the Ruhr, Germany’s industrial heartland which is now leading the way in sustainability.

To such an extent that global warming has turned the Ruhr into Reisling Country.

Not that you need to worry though that they might have dropped the Beer part of the Coal, Steel and Beer appellation.

World class: German football

We had learnt on our Football Cult(ure) leg of our German Travel Mart experiences the lengths clubs will go to to keep their supporters libated.

When Schalke 04 ran out of beer on their centenary party at their stadium and had to serve non-alcoholic beer it was a red flag.

And so they built pipes into the ground to ensure that never happened again.

Bear in mind too that Schalke serve up 45,000 litres of beer at their Veltins Arena every match.

Not to mention enough curryvurst sausages to put a fresh hole in the ozone layer.

Sustainable future

Billet: The Atlantic Congress Hotel

That though is tempered by the sustainable flora and fauna forward planning.

And blue-sky thinking that has seen former Chancellor Willy Brandt’s prophecy from the Fifties come true.

That one day clean air would return to the grey Ruhr region.

And it has, with blue water too which has made it a hub for canoeists and water sport aficionados.

While hikers and cyclists too have been drawn to the countryside trails.

Old King Coal

Coal: Always remember your soul

Those very same bikers have found in the post-industrial landscape a playground for their passion.

Which they demonstrated, as did the street and breakdancers, on our opening night.

In the impressive UNESCO Zollverein Coal Mine Complex.

No such exertions for our party, just sit back, drink our Ruhr Reisling, eat our curryvurst sausages.

Clink glasses, exhort Prost, look each other in the eye and add Gluck Auf.





Africa, Countries, Sustainable Tourism

The Riad to Marrakech

I’ve been saving all my money just to take you there, I smell the garden in your hair. It’s the Marrakech Express… or what I like to call The Riad to Marrakech.

With apologies to those Sixties hipsters Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young) who were, of course, far more lyrical about the Red City.

We dare say that they would have stayed at some hippy hang-out.

But I suspect that Stephen and Graham, and RIP to David, would now frequent the Royal Mansour Marrakech.

Groovy: Sixties rockers

Situated at the foot of Marrakech’s ramparts, in the western part of the medina are the lush, landscaped gardens at Royal Mansour Marrakech.

Spanning four acres, it is the vision of award-winning Spanish landscape designer and Bonsai curator Luis Vallejo, drawing on Arab-Andalusian tradition into play.

And going off on a tangent, my green-fingered pal here is doing so well with her bonsai garden that she’s thinking of downsizing.

Festival of flowers

Bonzai bonzer: Luis Vallejo

Back to Souk City and the The Jardin’art Festival over the spring unfolds in the city’s Jardin des Arts.

To offer a variety of botanical events, concerts, and gorgeous floral displays for all to enjoy.

And thanks to our friends in Marrakech, and believe me you need all the pals you can get in this bustling city with false guides round some of the souk corners, we have these gardening tips to share.

Straight from Luis’s mouth.

Verdant vision: The Royal Mansour

Incorporate a water feature (or several –as is the case at Royal Mansour Marrakech, home to 150 water fountains)

‘Like constant background music, a small stream of water in movement’.

Plant fruit trees and aromatic plants, to elevate the senses. At Royal Mansour Marrakech, the garden features several species of palm tree, citrus fruits (spanning lemon, sweet and bitter orange).

As well as various fruit trees (inclusive of olive, pomegranate, fig, persimmon, carob, quince, guava, medlar and more).

Various aromatic herbs are also grown for use in the spa, from marjoram to rosemary.

Choose plants of varied colour, texture, and volume – select seasonal plants that inspire your imagination and offer a link to Morocco.

Vallejo chose multiple species of trees, from conifers and coral trees to tamarisk and mahogany trees, offering a textural variety.

Choose from decorative foliage, ground cover plants and climbers to create dimensional levels.

In addition, he intentionally selected native and naturalised flora allowing for year-round flowering – meaning vibrant colour all year round!

Add a coloured rug or cushions into a cosy corner, and sip a Moorish tea, for an authentic Moroccan experience.

Mansour manor

Palm sunny day: Royal Mansour

Royal Mansour is a palatial oasis exquisitely crafted by over 1,500 local artisans.

As an ode to traditional Moroccan architecture and craftsmanship.

It’s a perfectly peaceful, private retreat just steps from the Medina.

Showcasing an open-air courtyard and nearly four acres of lush gardens.

These have recently been extended to incorporate a beautiful kitchen garden Atelier d’Artiste and an elevated, private dining space.

Tree-mendous: The Royal Mansour

Stay in private multi-story riads dotted along pink pathways. No carts; no rooms; no crowds.

Onebedroom riads start from £1,200 (includes breakfast, Immigration Fast Track service + airport transfers in Marrakech).

And we found sample flights for a three-night return for next month from £356.21.

Get on that riad to Marrakech then.

Asia, Countries, Sustainable Tourism

Adopt a coral on Tahiti

It may be atoll order to regenerate our oceans but you’ve got to start somewhere and the Polynesians are helping by encouraging us to adopt a coral on Tahiti.

And for those of us who aren’t natural sea dwellers and are clumsy on our feet then this probably applies to us.

Because if floating on the surface of the sea to snorkel and watch the fishies has you floundering then you’ve probably ended up spoiling the coral.

The natural inclination is to try to stand up on the seabed.

And not even the hurt of cut feet comes close to the real damage, that you’re destroying the coral.

Thankfully there are proper snorkellers out there, and conservationists.

Coral group

New wave: Tahiti locals

Located on Moorea, the Coral Gardeners have made giving back much easier for travellers through their Adopt a Coral programmes.

Where guests can adopt, personalise, track and plant a coral in the nurseries scattered through the atoll.

Additionally Te Mano o Te Moana has carried out incredible work to rescue and rehabilitate species of tea turtles which can be visited at the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre in Moorea.

A word to the wise too, and you will be reminded constantly if you visit an atoll anywhere, do not take any of it home as a souvenir, even in your foot.

Bedside manner: And leave it how you found it

Rather purchase home-made products, like here in the South Seas Made in Fenua keepsakes produced by the artisans and craftspeople.

Tahiti holds a prominent place in the world of sustainability with the largest marine sanctuary in the world.

While they also encourage give-back-packer tour operators which offer beach clean-ups.

As well as various coral reef preservation experiences, solar-powered boats and even resorts which run on coconut oil.

Native charms

Playing to the balcony: Taoahere Beach House

The best way to enjoy your Tahitian trip is by staying in a native guesthouse managed by a local family.

Guesthouses provide a unique opportunity for visitors to get immersed into a more authentic visit, a personalised experience.

And a chance to connect with local people and the islands.

Owners and on-site managers assist with guiding through local excursions.

Such as pearl diving, snorkelling hiking and more.

And a reminder for those who remember Tahiti from The Bounty but are trying to place it again our Polynesian pals helpfully sent us their USP.

South Pacific

Brush strokes: And challenge your inner Gauguin


Like straight out of a film, they’re located in the South Pacific and consist of 118 islands and atolls.

Made up of the Society Islands including Tahiti and Bora Bora, Tuamotu Islands, Gambier Islands, Austral Islands and Marquesas Islands.

All of which drew the attentions of artists Paul Gauguin and Henri Matisse.

The current Embraced by Mana campaign highlights their diversity.

Access from the UK is usually via Paris or Los Angeles with connections from Air Tahiti Nui.