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Keukenhof – The Dutch kitchen garden

Tulips by thejaswi

Peter Moore urges you all to discover your inner romantic, and where better to do so than Holland?

‘Springtime is the land awakening’, wrote Lewis Grizzard. ‘The March winds are the morning yawn’.

Indeed, there is something invigorating about this time of year. Daffodils are skirting hedgerows, and the few remaining English woodlands are filled with bluebells and a hundred other species of vibrant, wild flowers. It isn’t for nothing that the name April stems from the Latin word for opening.

As we emerge from our darkened houses after a cold winter, we could do much worse than settling on a weekend in Holland, the perfect destination to properly appreciate nature and its rainbow of colours.

Long famous for its tulips, the best place to view Holland’s most famous flower is at the Keukenhof, which translated from Dutch as the kitchen garden. Keukenhof is considered by many to be the world’s largest flower garden, and each year approximately 7,000,000 bulbs are planted.

The garden is situated in the south of Holland in the small town of Lisse, and is open to the public between the months of March and May. About now is the very best time to visit.

Not only is Keukenhof one of the most vibrant displays of nature to be seen anywhere in the world, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to dig out your romantic soul, and discover for yourself just what it was that Wordsworth, Coleridge and Robert Southey were getting so excited about two centuries ago.

The Keukenhof is easily reached by car from Rotterdam, to which P&O Ferries operate daily crossings.

Image Credit: the jaswi

Hemmingway’s Pamplona

Fishing boats, Weymouth Harbourd by MarylinJane

The Hemmingway trail is long and colourful. And if you follow it faithfully enough – you’ll end up sipping brandy in the Spanish town of Pamplona. John Hillman gives it a shot.

The medieval town of Pamplona owes much of its fame to Ernest Hemingway and his drunken accounts of the San Fermin festival, popularly known as the Running of the Bulls, but this town should appeal to more than just boozed up adrenalin junkies.

A short drive from the ferry port of Bilbao, Pamplona lies in the heart of the Navarra, surrounded by some the prettiest natural scenery in Spain – all mountains, rivers and valleys – and the town itself is enclosed within its own 16th century walls. If you are looking for picture postcard Spain then this is it.

The running of the bulls takes place in early July. Millions of people from around the world turn up to witness some very silly boys get chased through the city streets by some very angry daddy cows, all in the name of proving one’s manhood apparently. However, getting caught by the stampede does often result the cruel irony of never being able to prove your manhood again. Ouch.

The event tends to attract a large backpacking crowd from the Southern Hemisphere, giving the festival a very international flavour. But the rest of the year Pamplona attracts a mellower sort of traveller, more concerned with the Baroque than the bovine.

The city is home to one of Spain’s most celebrated religious buildings, Pamplona’s ancient Cathedral, built between the 14th and 16th century, and it houses some truly important tombs and works of art that are well worth a visit. But it’s the city itself that is the real attraction. Like all of the best places you don’t need an itinerary because the whole town is so attractive to look at that you can spend your days wondering around the medieval cobbled streets waiting for them to find you.

Using the town walls and its intermittent towers as your guide you can stroll from plaza to plaza, stopping off in the unbelievably ubiquitous bars for a couple of large Fundadors – a cheap Spanish brandy favoured by Mr Hemingway that’s guaranteed to make you wake up feeling like a veteran of a World War yourself – and generally just having a lazy time of it. But this being Spain, you can substitute being lazy for being tranquilo which is a Spanish word that implies all the good bits of laziness without any of the Anglo-Saxon guilt that often comes with it.

Pamplona used to be three separate towns that always fought each other, until King Charles III of Navarra decided to unite them in 1423. There are three Churches still remaining in the town – each one representing its respective old warring community: San Cénin, San Nicolás and San Doming. There is a river running past Pamplona that you get see when you visit the Tejera Park, which also happens to be a very meditative-inducing bit of urban shrubbery in itself.

But it’s the Plaza de Castillo which is the most impressive part of the city. This is where Hemingway would sit and try to write whilst seeing everything in triplicate; the entire square is full of small cafés with Pamlonans young and old going about their business. It is the sort of place where you could sit and daydream for a whole day, and most of an evening.


Image Credit: mimentza

Mini Cruises from Hull

Hollidays on Mallaorca Island by Lanci Danieli

John Hillman on why Phil Brown could do with a mini-cruise

Hull City supporters should forget their woes on the football pitch and take advantage of P&O’s mini cruises from Hull to Amsterdam, Bruges or Rotterdam.

At just £66 per person this is much cheaper than travelling all the way to London to watch their team get robbed by an off-side goal. A ticket for 90 minutes of watching your team watch another team play football goes for more than £50 before you factor in travel and accommodation expenses.

P&O Mini-cruises not only offer better value for money but promise to leave you feeling relaxed and with a greater sense of well-being; can the same be said of following the irate relegation strugglers?

In these financially constraining times it surely becomes necessary to see that the money we spend on ourselves represents the maximum bang for our buck.

Floating leisurely down the east coast of Britain and across the English Channel to Europe for a few days, enjoying good food, going for a relaxing stroll on deck, doing a bit of shopping or having a flutter in the casino; these activities must surely offer more guarantee of a good time than watching Phil Brown gradually turn a darker shade of orange with each passing match.

Image Credit: efbfoto

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