I must go down to the sea again… sunshine and storms!


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National Museum Maritime Cornwall panoramic Bob Berry copyright

Pendennis Point and Castle from the air

The dramatic and mischievous spirit of the sea is ever present here in this Cornish town of Falmouth. The town’s history abounds with tales of courageous maritime exploits and endeavours, from the days of the Packet ships and Trafalgar Way, to more recent heroic around the world challenges.

As I arrive waves were whipping over the hotel’s jetty and I found myself battling to stand against the gusts of wind.

Retreating to the warmth of the hotel bar perched at the very edge of the estuary and overlooking the harbour I witnessed the force of the sea. Small yachts were being tossed about like corks. One broke away from its mooring and headed for a buffeting against the sea wall. The coastguards rescued it sometime later, sadly, not before it has sustained some damage. The turbulent sea was doing it’s best to demonstrate its power and capability in the harbour.

That evening in the comfort of the restaurant I was mesmerised by a thunder and lightning show as the storm travelled across the water and the rain lashed against the hotel. I was reassured to know that the hotel had stood on the same spot for over 350 years and had weathered many far worse storms. Next morning, in direct contrast, the sun rose over the calm millpond of the harbour. It became a playground for kayaks and small dinghies and swans swimming serenely.

Falmouth is a thriving Georgian town perched on cobbled streets just right for ambling and exploring its quirky shops, cafes and maritime heritage. Stretching along the coast, the sea is never far away and various jetties provide views over the estuary of pleasure boats, yachts small fishing boats and even the occasional cruise liner.

It’s the unpredictable spirit of the sea; the scent of the air, the fresh food it produces and not forgetting constant screech of seagulls and that makes Falmouth a great place for an escape.

Places to visit

National Maritime Museum
A must visit is the engaging National Maritime Museum. This museum shares the town passion for the sea and the lives of the community for whom the sea has been a way of life a source of food. It tells real life tales of the dangers and adventures on the oceans. The viewing tower and café offer magnificent harbour views.
Website: http://www.nmmc.co.uk
Contact number: 01326 313388

Pendennis Castle
Henry VIII chose the location of this fortress well to defend the harbour and Cornwall against foreign invasions in Tudor times. High on the hill its 450 years of history can now be traced from its origins as a coastal stronghold to its last military role as a secret Second World War base.

The three main beaches; Gyllyngvase, Maenporth and Swanpool. All the beaches are family friendly, unspoilt and easy to reach.

Events celebrating sea faring past
Fal River Festival is a fantastic ten-day festival held from 30th May to 5th June 2016, which encompasses over 150 events varying from music and drama, the arts and heritage to gig racing and walking.
A festival of Sea Shanties, Songs of the Sea and Cornish Songs held from 17th to 19th June 2016 is a glimpse into the world of maritime music while raising funds for the RNLI.
Falmouth Week held from the 5th to 14th August 2016 has grown into the largest sailing regatta in the southwest with more than 400 yachts racing over eight days.
Falmouth Oyster Festival held from 13th to 16th October 2016 celebrates the start of the oyster dredging season and the diversity and quality of Cornish Seafood.

Where to stay
The Greenbank Hotel – with an impressive seafront location overlooking Falmouth Harbour, the Greenbank Hotel offers panoramic views and traditional charm. The spacious bedrooms are elegantly decorated with a nautical theme and the Harbourside Restaurant serves fresh seafood and local specialities and offers wonderful views across Falmouth Bay.
Website: https://www.greenbank-hotel.co.uk
Contact number: 01326 312440

Where to eat
Many independent cafes serving pasties and cream teas line the town’s narrow cobbled streets. There restaurant service delicious cuisine as diverse as Japanese, Caribbean, and Mexican alongside fine Cornish fish restaurants. The hearty freshly cooked portions at The Shed a gregarious restaurant and bar put a smile on diners’ faces.
Website: http://www.theshedfalmouth.co.uk
Contact number: 01326 318502


Spring Sunshine Made Easy


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Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands is nicknamed the Island of Eternal Spring – with good reason as the temperature rarely drops below 20 degrees C. even now in early spring. The winters too are wonderfully warm and it is rarely unbearably hot even in the summer months.

This island, the largest and most populous of the seven Canary Islands, couldn’t be a better choice for my spring break.

My hotel, Iberostar Torviscas was situated on the clean and tidy beach in the new shiny-faced area of Adeje on the southern side of the island. Here is a coastline swathe of smart hotels and chic boutiques and upscale restaurants all with excellent access for those with limited mobility.

Despite its high-rise coastal development and tourist areas, the island offers postcard-perfect scenery. It boasts 350km of coastline and 67km white, gold and black sand beaches.

We mature holidaymakers can find plenty of delightful distractions, from golf, leisurely bike rides along the coast to challenging hikes through the moonscape of Mount Teide National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This area is rich in flora and fauna and I enjoyed exploring the multitude of walking trails. There is was also the option to take a cable car up to the summit a 12,198-foot snow capped volcano and Spain’s highest peak.
– a great alternative for those who want the spectacular views without the effort.

Drive to the other side of the mountain and you will find a dramatic drop down to the green and fertile Ototava Valley. Here in contrast to the south, is a wonderful site with flowing carpets of banana plantations and vineyards. No wonder the food and wine offering in the area is exceptional.

Over two hundred years ago, during the battle of Santa Cruz, Horatio Nelson lost his right arm trying to snatch the beautiful island from the Spanish. A visit to the capital and you can still see the cannon, ‘le Tigre’ which caused the damage to his fleet.

Tenerife is easy to reach by air, only 4 hours away and still offers good value for money. There are some excellent offers at this time of the year – a treat to escape from our cool and rainy spring.

A visit there may have cost our most famous Admiral his arm but it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Rowena was a guest of Monster.travel and stayed at the Iberostar Torviscas Playa Hotel

All in the best possible taste – or is it? Lots of laughs and no clothes – an entertaining musical story of the Windmill Theatre’s challenge to the establishment.


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Mrs Henderson Presents is a solid old-fashion and classically British musical – in a good way.

Based on the 2005 film of the same name, starring Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, the story begins just before the Second World War in 1937 and takes us through to the height of the Blitz in 1940. This is a plucky story of The Windmill Theatre in Soho and its showbiz survival against all odds during difficult times.

The sassy witty script tells a tale of the gutsy 70-year-old widow Mrs Henderson, played brilliantly by Tracie Bennett, who was left a fortune and chooses to buy the struggling theatre.

She has a light bulb moment of an idea to introduce fully nude women as the main attraction. Along with Dutch manager Vivian Van Damm they transform the venue’s fortune.

Not surprisingly they have to battle with the censorship of the Lord Chamberlain played out in a very entertaining Gilbert and Sullivan-esque scene. She promises that the young women posing naked in classical Greek artistic tableaux will not wobble and no cheek will quiver.

Not surprisingly, the ladies take some convincing; some run away, refusing to be unclothed in public. But shy Maureen, played charmingly by Emma Williams, thinks it is a good idea and agrees to do it and other girls follow her lead.

When the scene eventually plays out, the women are quite still, quite extraordinarily beautiful, and quite nude. Utterly exposed – like goddesses from a Renaissance painting.

The first half is fun and has wonderful lyrics that resonate with many of the more senior of us. “Whatever time I have I don’t intend to waste. There is no law that says you have to act your age. I don’t care how old I am, inside I’m 23.”

The second half has more serious patriotic message as the bombs shake the stage. Keeping the ‘boys” entertained at the height of the blitz is the priority. The theatre became famous for its refusal to close despite the bombings, and its catchphrase “We never close” went down in history.

It is about courage, faith and pride also the older person giving strength to the youth. Whilst there are moments of comedy and moments of pathos, as you get involved in the characters stories.

This is also an entertaining lighthearted musical, which leaves you feeling both patriotic and cheerful.

Skiing for Seniors – it’s not downhill all the way.






Going downhill as you age isn’t such a bad thing after all, especially when it comes to skiing.

Provided you are fit, age should present no problem. Technological advances in ski equipment have greatly improved over the years. Skis are twice as wide making it so much easier to turn. Even the ski lifts have improved many now are covered and take pedestrians

According to the National Ski Areas Association 5.3 percent of skiers visiting the slopes are over 60. That number increases quite a bit if you account for cross–country skiing and is continuing to grow. Many started when they were younger but a surprising number did not begin until they retired.

No matter how experienced you are, a winter holiday in the snow takes some beating. It is invigorating taking in the fresh mountain air under a turquoise sky, the glistening snow and of course the smell of coffee and spiced hot wine to welcome you in the mountain cafes.

The bonus is that most ski resorts in Europe are offering great lift pass deals for mature skiers over 65 with some inviting those aged over 75 to ski for free.

For example, in France, Flaine (Grand Massif ski area), those aged 75 and over ski for free and in Val Cenis.

The ski area of Grandvalira in Andorra, which offers 210km of slopes to explore, is offering free lift passes for over 70s to ski all season long.

Italian resorts offering reduced lift passes to anyone over 65 include La Thuile, a friendly, unspoilt resort with a large ski area linked to La Rosière in France;

One of the passionate senior skiers who and the lucky owner of the free ski pass is Yvonne, who took up skiing in in her 50’s. It was sport all her family could enjoy holidays together in France

“I love meeting up with my ski friends, the mountain restaurants and of course the stunning scenery. The fact I get a free ski pass too is a real bonus”

Yvonne regularly skis now with her grandson and to keep fit through the year she plays golf and does Pilates once a week.

“The key to a successful ski holiday is choosing the right resort”: says Marion from Crystal Holidays. “There are lots of factors to consider: your level of skiing, your budget, who you are travelling with, time of year, whether you want a resort with charm that’s a bus ride from the slopes or one offering the convenience of ski-in/ski-out accommodation”

Personally I look for the smaller friendly ski villages, such as St Martin de Belleville in France rather than the larger more popular resorts. It is a traditional Savoyard village with a pretty church, small square and some delightful restaurants. A quiet inexpensive base from which to explore the Three Valleys ski area. It is a joy after a gentle day skiing to return to the log fire and bonhomie of the après ski at the lodge.

Are you someone who has got the passion for the piste or have you recently discovered the joy of the mountains in winter? We would love to hear your tales.

Tentacles, Canyons and New Zealand’s Christmas trees




It is the small surprises that are often the most memorable whist travelling in New Zealand.

I strolled along a quiet winding track an unforgettable sight appeared. Emerging out of the green forest of vines and ferns was an immense, crazy limestone maze of eerie rock formations. Weird and wonderful just waiting to be discovered – eat your heart out Indiana Jones.

Squeezing through pathways between deep crevices and split rocks there was another astonishing surprise. Perched proudly on the top of the bare crags were tall trees, their 40 ft roots curling down over the rocks like rough octopus tentacles.

They offered incredible display of bright red foam like flowers.

These I now know are Rata Trees, otherwise known as the New Zealand Christmas tree. A short magical fairy tale adventure.

Notes from a voyage to the Channel Islands




Condor Liberation first official visit to Guernsey and Jersey.

Condor Liberation first official visit to Guernsey and Jersey.

This summer I spotted a curious large white vessel streaking across the harbour in Poole, Dorset. The futuristic three-hulled shape was impressive as it quietly sailed past the white rocks of ‘Old Harry’ on the Jurassic coast.

It turns out it is the new fast-ferry, Condor Liberation, a triaman, and the first of its kind in Northern Europe. For those in the know, it is officially a stablised mono hull and was making its daily return voyage to two of the small Channel Islands calling in at Guernsey and Jersey lying between England and France.

The tiny cluster of the Channel Islands are reputed to experience some of the best weather in the UK with an additional benefit of not adding VAT to your every purchase. Good enough reasons to visit, particularly as it now only takes three hours to get to Guernsey on this new fast ferry. Onwards to Jersey, just one more hour. The possibility of making a visit on a day trip or a weekend mini cruise island hopping is worth experiencing. I booked the latter, a long weekend leaving Thursday back Sunday visiting both islands.

Boarding the vessel was straightforward as everyone is allocated a seat in one of the three seating options. Ocean Traveller comfortable airline seats, Ocean Plus and then exclusive leather seats of the Ocean Club Lounge that offered reclining seats and table service. However, I chose to be the located at the front of the ship as this offered almost floor to ceiling windows. A great choice – as I was able to enjoy panoramic coastline views throughout the voyage.

There is an outside viewing deck where you can enjoy the coastline and seascape, but at 30 knots expect to feel more than a breeze

The onboard catering was good. There is a range of eating and drinking outlets with plenty of choice, a large Duty Free Shop with extensive retail offering, children’s play area and helpful information desk.

The crew was excellent, welcoming with good sense of homour. As I parked my car I was immediately given directions to the nearest staircase by the helpful staff and directed to my seating area. Comic information signs abound, but their safety video really attracts your attention. It’s done rap style and gets the message across; it’s done in a lighthearted and generally hilarious, tongue-in-cheek way and definitely worth a watch just for fun.

I asked ‘nicely’ and was able to visit the bridge and be introduced to the friendly Captain, something you can’t do on an aircraft!
Captain Auscow was at the helm – it all looked ‘Star Ship Enterprise’ to me but what a great view.

He explained that she had three engines and two bow-thrusters and is able to operate in most, but not the roughest weathers.

We were lucky to have fair weather and experienced a calm smooth and quiet crossing, but it can have a gentle roll in rougher weather.

He explained that Condor is very understanding with their guests who are poor sailors and allowed passengers to change their sailing dates should the forecast be really unsettled. He wants everyone to have an enjoyable experience. In fact ‘Good Times’ is the company motto.

As we got nearer to Guernsey the Captain announced the route he was taking pointing out the Isle of Brechou. Here stands an impressive mock Gothic Castle owned by the billionaire Barclay twins, owners of the Telegraph and Spectator.

Having travelled on the old Condor last summer, by comparison this new ship is immaculate with new carpets big windows with views out to sea. Most importantly the new ship was so much quieter whilst being appreciably faster.

So this is one happy traveller and in just 3 hours I was whisked to the Channel Islands.

Which Island to visit? Why not both?

Guernsey, the first stop is an island only 25 square miles and remains self-governing, whilst remaining loyal to the Crown. It is rich in natural beauty with reminders of its often-turbulent past.

I discovered all my favorite things coming together with their suggested ‘Tasty Walks’, a series of 15 self-guided walks highlighting, food and heritage.

I explored ancient castles and gentle coastal rambles to some of the 27 bays on the island, before indulging in a mouth-watering array of fresh seafood.

I stayed as guest of Les Rocquettes Hotel, St Peter Port. A charming three star Hotel with excellent restaurant and facilities.


This is largest and most southerly of all the islands. It has an area of 46 square miles with a more cosmopolitan feel being nearer the French coast. The beaches are on a different scale with those such as St Ouens being 5 miles with a huge expanse of uninterrupted white sand.

The capital, St Helier is great for for shopping. Don’t miss are the Durrell Wildlife Park and the thought-provoking Jersey War Tunnels (a former WWII underground military hospital).

I was thoroughly spoilt at the Hotel De France a majestic hotel with great views over the harbour.


A rip-roaring weekend


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I’m looking at a 1950’s car my father owned and glammed up in a 1950’s dress complete with net underskirt and its making me feel part of history.

For one weekend in September, the golden era of motorsport’s glorious past is recreated at the Goodwood revival. Everything within the perimeter of the Motor Circuit is transported back in time to the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s – including the spectators, who are encouraged to join in the fun and dress in authentic period costume.

The Revival is the world’s biggest and best historic motorsport event, with 15 races drawing 150,000 spectators to the beautiful West Sussex circuit. Held over three days in September, the Revival recreates Goodwood’s glory days as a fixture on the international motor racing scene between 1948 and 1966.

During World War II a large area of farmland developed as the Royal Air Force Westhampnett fighter base, which became a center of historic aircraft action during the 1940 Battle of Britain. After the war, the RAF closed its operations and returned it to the Goodwood Estate.

The late Freddie March adapted the disused aerodrome perimeter tracks for motor racing, which led to the opening of the Goodwood Motor Circuit in 1948. Over the next 18 years, the circuit became one of the most popular and prestigious in the world, before closing its doors to contemporary motor racing in 1966.

Exactly 50 years to the day since the opening of the Goodwood circuit, the present Earl of March sanctioned the first Revival meeting in 1998.

The vehicles competing in the Revival all date from that period; the newest vehicle is almost half a century old, and some are worth tens of millions of pounds.

But the Revival doesn’t just appeal to motorsport fanatics. It is also the world’s biggest vintage culture event, with the entire circuit decked out in the vintage styles of the period.

Fashion and cars have long been intrinsically related – that era of motor racing was simply gold, full glamour. Thousands of visitors were dressed in period clothing, channeling the essence of 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s – everything from rockers and to British Army officers.

The food, the live jazz, swing and rock ‘n’ roll, and the High shops will make you think you’ve stepped back in time and are in one gigantic film set. The time when the sun always shone on the righteous, the good guys won and adventures were safe.

This year there was special tribute to racing legend Bruce McLaren and, as always, a host of famous names, both racing and trackside such as Theo Paphitis of Dragons’ Den and the chef, James Martin

Among the more experienced racers were “Mr Le Mans” Tom Kristensen, and touring car and television star Jason Plato.

Away from the track the regular Freddie March Spirit of Aviation exhibition will marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain with a display of 30 British warbirds.

Each year the tickets for this popular event are sold out by the beginning of the summer – so plan now for the great back to the past future event.

The pleasures and challenges of a UK seaside guest house owner


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Lyn McCullock has boundless energy and enthusiasm for looking after her visitors. Along with her husband, she is the proprietor of The Limes a busy four-star guest house situated in Swanage, Dorset, on the beautiful Isle of Purbeck. For over 17 years she has been welcoming guests who come to enjoy beach, walking, cycling and water sports holidays. I managed to get her to take a short break from her duties to answer my questions:
What made you decide to run a Guest House?
We used to stay in Guest Houses when we went hill walking in places such as the Lake District – and we thought ‘we could do that and do it better than this’. My husband was bored with his day job and when our daughter was 12 we decided to give it a go. That was 17 years ago and we are still here!
How has it reached you expectations?
Yes by far – it’s a fabulous way to earn a living.
What sort of marketing do you do?
Interestingly, we do less and less now because now everything is online. When we first came here we used to send out brochures and advertise in niche magazines for walkers, climbers and cyclists. Now being on-line means that 90% of it is free and our advertising budget has fallen over the years. We obviously have to pay for our website and keep it updated – which we have had for a number of years. Also, we work on getting on to directories that are on the front page of Google. Other than that it is mainly word of mouth, as we have been here a while – it’s the best advertising you can ever have.
Do you use booking agencies?
We don’t need to use booking agencies – they take a commission and also reduce the flexibility you can have with direct guest bookings. They like you to have rules like only taking 2 nights, which is fine most of the year but sometimes it pays to be more flexible and break the rules.
The down side is you have to be prepared to answer the phone and emails very promptly in case the guests go on to book elsewhere. You need to be on the ball and answer things all the time. This suits us for now and for someone else taking it on in the future; on line bookings is definately the way to go.

What do you think of social media sites such as tripadvisor?
Tripadvisor is a force for good – people want to know what they are getting and there is no better way of finding out what other people think.
It stops hoteliers behaving badly – if they are about to have a row with a guest, they may think that is going to end up of trip advisor, which that wouldn’t want – then back off.
I don’t respond to every comment but always to poor comments; I’ve only ever had 3 – and I understand the reasons these happened. I do put on an apology and an explanation. I feel this is very important to put the human face behind these comments.
What are the challenges – having guests in your house?
You have to be very tolerant and have boundless energy.
The public can be very difficult – they don’t mean to be but they have expectations. Your job is to make their holiday better than it would have been if they stayed anywhere else.
You have to be as bouncy at 10 o’ clock a night as 7 in the morning. It is a job in its own right – you have to be business like about it – you have to be professional if you have more than 2 or 3 rooms. Never underestimate the time needed for general maintenance and wear and tear on your guesthouse.
What would you say are your worst guests?
No such thing as a bad guest – there maybe such thing as a bad experience but not a bad guest. Generally people will walk through the door expecting to have a good time – especially holiday guests. So you have to do something wrong or something bad has to happen to them for it to go wrong. And generally speaking the difficult guest has something going wrong in his or her own lives and there is nothing I can do about it.
I do regard them as a challenge – my challenge it to make them smile by the time they leave. I usually manage it!
What about your regular guests?
Some have been coming every year for a week all the time I have been here. They become friends and usually go out to dinner with them one night.
The easiest guests really are the ones that go walking all day have one drink in the bar and go to bed early and do it all again the following day!
The nicest guests are always the ones we have interaction with – if they stop and have a chat, you find out a bit about them and they become real people.
How many staff do you employ?
My husband cooks and does the accounts. I do all the front of house and all the things he doesn’t want to do! We have three or four girls in housekeeping depending on how busy we are and a breakfast waitress. All part time and some are students.
What about your own holidays are you open all year?
We open all year however we block off weeks for our own holiday – over a year ahead. November and December we close.
You seem to have quite a lot of overseas guests?
Yes, we have mostly European although we had some Americans this week. They find out about us by the power of the Internet. Also TV programmes and films such as The Shell seekers by Maeve Binchy and recently, the new film Far from the Madding Crown. They also find us by word of mouth from other overseas guests.
What is your strangest request?
Someone asked me to make a cheese omelette for her pet dog at 7.30 on the dot every morning and another insisted on having a particular brand of French water for their dog. I have had special biscuits requested and even black currant jam to put on fried bread – a USA favourite apparently!
Different customers have challenging expectations and we have to be flexible, responding to requests.
Were you aware of St Helena?
Talking to Lyn afterwards about St Helena she told me her first husband was in the merchant navy and worked for Union Castle, which visited the island. Unfortunately Union Castle gave up the voyage before she was able to visit with him. She tells me “it is on my ‘bucket’ list and I have to go there one day. I will get there yet with the new airport!”
One of Lyn’s big passions, apart from meeting guests is writing. She has had short stories published in various women’s magazines and has an online book – White Oaks – a gentle fictional story about running a seaside guest house!
More information
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Mack and Mabel They sure know how to sing and dance in the ‘Silent Movies’

M&M-245 Chichester Festival Theatre production of Mack & Mabel. Rebecca LaChance (Mabel), Michael Ball (Mack) and company. Photo Manuel Harlan

If you enjoy the foot tapping razzmatazz of the musical theatre then you must not miss this revival of Mack and Mabel at Chichester Festival Theatre.

Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart’s 1974 musical show spans the years from 1911 to 1938. Based on a true romance between director Mack Sennett and his leading lady Mabel Normand, it charts the rise and fall of Hollywood silent movies

This is not a traditional love story, by any means. This is a timeless tale about mixing business with pleasure and letting love in.

Sennett is not a particularly warm character and is driven by passion for movie making to make people laugh. This is to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. Although he is a bully and liar his team is loyal to him, despite his failings.

The score includes the anti-romantic ballads “Time Heals Everything” and “I Won’t Send Roses” which sums up Mack’s inadequacies as a lover.

Michael Ball is immense as Mack, giving a superb performance as the guy who bullies and is sometimes tender but always dominating the stage.

Mabel played by Rebecca LaChance is warm, funny vulnerable and very affecting.

The score is rich in melody with very many bright, up beat numbers. There are so many excellent dance routines, all slick and very engaging.

The very memorable “Hit ‘Em On The Head”, a musical homage to the famous Keystone Cops, evokes a magical sense of those silent movie slapstick heroes.

The production runs in Chichester until 5 September 2015, before touring across the UK and Ireland.

Exhilarating scenery, and outrageous luxury in Switzerland


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Switzerland – home to incredible cuisine, stunning landscapes, a unique fusion of cultures and an impressive wine scene.

I was wondering: why I haven’t been before? Maybe it was the expectation of high prices putting me off? There is no getting away from it, Switzerland is not a cheap destination, but is priceless in what it offers. The Swiss know exactly how to spoil their guests. I found the hospitality second to none, always charming, professional, and friendly without being intrusive.

The reality of Switzerland puts postcard photographs to shame; far surpassing the advertising-images of snow topped mountains and skies. The mountain panoramas, lakes and gorges, pine forests and charming gingerbread chalets take your breath away.

Flying in from Heathrow to Zurich by Swiss Air, I continued south by a smooth quiet and scenic rail journey to Locarno.

Rail travel is a joy here. The transportation system is so convenient, an efficient network of boats, trains, and funiculars. A variety of unlimited travel passes (from £145) including free museum admission and 50% reduction on most mountain railways.

I stayed in Ascona, reputed to be the country’s sunniest city situated on Lake Maggiore in the Italian language area of Ticino. In the early 20th century it became a fashionable health resort attracting some of Europe’s leading thinkers, artists and writers. Here they boast they have the ideal combination of Swiss quality of service and an Italian lifestyle

I stayed at the Hotel Ascoville, which is all I would expect from a Swiss Hotel, bright, excellently appointed rooms with complete attention to detail, I wanted for nothing. Accompanied by a fabulous aroma of verbena I breakfasted outside on their manicured garden. A cheeky sparrow joined me, tilting its head as if asking for permission to join me or to engage in conversation.

If I was looking for ‘la dolce vita’, it is waiting for me here. I wander along the lakeside promenade under palm trees, threading my way through a network of winding alleyways discovering boutiques and small art gallerie along the way. After a short walk to the jetty a boat takes me across the lake to the beautiful botanical park on the Isloe di Brissago. This small island, ten-minute stroll end to end, beautifully show casing its luxuriant subtropical flora from around the world.

Arrivederci and guten Tag, my next destination was Lake Thun (Thunersee) taking the 60km narrow gauge railway of the Centovalli (Valley of a hundred valleys). The train winds through the forests and across ravines. The scenery is spectacular; the tilting carriages seemed to cling to the edge with a jaw-dropping vista into the valleys below.

I arrive safely in the city of Thun, which is set astride the fast flowing River Aare. The icy giants of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains loom in the distance. I climb to the top of fairy tale medieval castle turret and stories of princesses with long plaited hair waiting to be rescued came to mind.

Further along the lakeshore I took a funicular then a cable car ride up to the village of Beatenberg-Neiderhorn. Here too are fine panoramic views of the Lakes below. I look a gentle hike from the top and then with a distinct change of pace, I return down the mountain on a ‘trotti’ bike – a scooter like bike with fat tyres and no seat. I experience the childish joy of a travelling downwards on the long winding road, taking in the splendid scenery to the village below. It proved an exhilarating experience even if I did use my brakes the whole time.

Following all the activity, I felt I had earned my wellness spa break. I relaxed at the Hotel Beatus in Merligen am Thunersee.

This hotel is modern, stylish and perfectly located to take advantage of the surrounding grand views and natural beauty. Facilities include a heated salt-water outdoor pool, indoor pool and above all, fine cuisine.

All areas are fully accessible and there is the benefit of excellent public transport links to the area. The hotel has its own park, harbour, rose garden and boat-landing jetty where you can take a lake tour on a vintage steamship.

I felt thoroughly spoilt in this luxurious serene atmosphere.

The last evening treated me to a fabulous sunset display across the lake. An appropriately spectacular finale to what had been a truly memorable week. Why had it taken so long for me to experience this wonderful place? – I still don’t know, but I know that I will be going back, soon.

Further information
Inghams is offering 7 nights in Switzerland with 3 nights half board at the 4* Hotel Ascovilla, Ascona, and 4 nights half board at the 5* Hotel Beatus Merligen, Lake Thun, from £1,538 per person departing 16th September 2015. Price includes return flights from London Gatwick to Zurich and resort transfers. For http://www.inghams.co.uk