We arrived at Has & Has Porta Dextra on a very chilly afternoon in January ready to warm our insides with some good local Austrian wine. We enjoyed looking around the shops vast array of food on sale including fresh meats, loaves of bread, nibbly bits, fancy popcorn and of course a lot of wine!
We were greeted warmly and shown downstairs into the upper level of the cellar where all the wines were displayed for customers to peruse at their leisure. A little table was set up with some fresh tasty snacks and 2 empty wine glasses just waiting to be filled!
Barney Our Wine Connoisseur
Our wine tasting host Barney joined us and introduced himself. He was super friendly and clearly very enthusiastic about wine and the cellars in which he worked. Barney invited us to ask questions as we go and was very approachable – even to us wine tasting novices! Barney was keen that we tried wines in which we liked and so we told him our preferences for white wine and he adjusted his suggestions accordingly to our tastes.
As we nibbled on the accompanying snack board full of meat, bread and cheese, Barney poured us our first glass of wine to taste – a very easy to drink local wine. Barney told us about the region in which the wine came from, about the grapes used and showed us pictures on a map to give us an idea of its distance from the city and type of landscape on which the wine is produced.
Sneak Peek of the Cellars
Whilst Barney topped up our glasses, he showed us down to the lower levels of the cellars. He told us all about the history of the cellars – which date back centuries – and how the wine would have been transported and stored here in Vienna. There was history to be heard from back to Roman times which makes you realise how long humans have been enjoying wine! I can tell you that after three weeks of being on anti-biotics and not drinking for a few weeks longer, the wine was going down very well indeed at this point!
The cellars can be rented out for events and parties; the brickwork and lighting add to the cool vibe of the place and I can see why it is popular for hosting exclusive functions. We went back upstairs and sampled two further gorgeous tasting white Austrian wines. Again, as with our first wine, Barney told us where they came from, how they were made and any accompanying history about the company.
After tasting the three wines we chose our favourite and asked Barney to put a bottle aside for us for we were planning to enjoy our final night at our Air B&B with some home cooking and some good wine. Barney left us to it to finish our glasses and the remainder of the snacks (avoiding the horseradish – why is that so popular in Austria?! We finished up, brought our wine and headed back out into the cold crisp Austrian air (for which I think I needed!).
The wine tasting experience can be booked through the 365 Days in Vienna website. 365 Days is a company that offers sightseeing tours and excursions allowing both tourists and locals to see the best of what the city has to offer. They offer all sorts of tours including the Scent of the Empress perfume tour, Vienna photography Tour and a chance to discover the secrets of the Fiakers (another tour we tried). They also offer the incredible looking sparkling sightseeing in a classic electric car which includes a 40-minute sightseeing tour with sparkling wine (insert link) and what’s not to like about that?! If you are visiting Vienna anytime soon then certainly get in touch with the lovely Marco from 365 Days in Vienna and get some awesome sightseeing tours booked! 365 Days in Vienna can also be found on Instagram and Facebook so go check them out!
The wine tasting experience costs €27.50 per person (approx £23.00). The duration is stated to last 30 minutes, although we had a little longer with Barney and we weren’t rushed in any way to finish our drinks and snacks after the tasting had finished. There was no pressure to buy any of the products sampled either which was nice – no one likes the hard sell do they!
We both really enjoyed our wine tasting experience and appreciated getting to see and hear about the wine cellars too. If you’re interested in wine (and drinking it!), with a bit of history and some tasty snacks thrown in too then this is the tour for you! Big thanks to Barney for being a lovely, friendly and knowledgeable host and for 365 Days in Vienna for gifting us this experience.
***Whilst the wine tasting tour as gifted to us by 365 Days in Vienna in return for this review, all thoughts, opinions and pictures are my own.***
When we visited Geneva, Switzerland back in August for Nathan’s 30th birthday we stayed at the fantastic ibis Styles Geneve Mont Blanc hotel. I chose the hotel for its great city-centre location and modern looking rooms and we weren’t disappointed.
When we arrived we were warmly greeted by the staff at reception who checked us in and told us a little bit about the hotel and local hotspots in Geneva. We had been delayed overnight when flying from Bristol and so annoyingly had missed a night at the hotel. Unfortunately, the hotel was unable to reimburse the money spent for the night we missed or add a day onto the end of our stay, as I had brought a non-changeable or refundable rate on booking.com. Whilst this was a shame and felt a little frustrating at the time, I guess this is what happens when things like delays occur that are out of your control and you book the cheapest rate possible for a room online! Luckily, we did get compensation from Easyjet for our cancelled flight and this covered my losses so it all worked out in the end!
Our room was a few floors up in the lift and was bright and modern. Nathan was excited to find a mini bottle of prosecco, chocolate and special birthday note on the bed – this was such a lovely touch and made the stay extra special given we ended up actually arriving in Geneva on Nathan’s 30th birthday. The Ovaltine chocolate, by the way, was super scrummy and I ended up buying a bigger bar to take home!
We liked the modern yet simple design to the room and of course the huge TV! The theme of the cogs and wheels followed throughout the whole hotel, including the bathroom where the cog pattern was etched into the shower door.
The bathroom was clean, modern and the shower had plenty of hot water. There wasn’t anything to dislike about this room to be honest – it suited our needs and was ideal for our little mini-break.
The hotel’s location is fab! Right in the streets of the city and a short walk from the main train station and tourist information office. It is also within a 10-minute walk of the lakefront making it the perfect location to reach either the city’s shops or Lake Geneva on foot. It was also next door to an ice cream shop so we made the most of this by having late-night ice cream!
Free wifi is available and actually works which was good and helped us plan our itinerary for the short trip. We had a late evening flight back to Bristol on the day we left and the hotel kept our bags for us after we had checked out so we didn’t need to lug them around whilst sightseeing – always very helpful and much appreciated!
The hotel offers a buffet-style breakfast which was really good actually. Available was fruit, yoghurt, cereals, meat, cheeses and pastries. There was a small selection of hot foods and pancakes too!
We liked the little dining area too with its modern and chic feel. There seemed to be travellers from all over Europe when we visited so there was a really nice friendly, multi-cultural feel at breakfast.
Probably the best bit about this area was the drinks machine – free hot drinks of all varieties offered 24/7 for you to help yourself too and take away aswell. The hot chocolate was divine!
Overall, the ibis Styles Geneve Mont Blanc Hotel was the perfect place to stay for a busy and fun trip in Geneva – I can see why it has such good reviews on Tripadvisor now! A great mix of comfort, modern amenities, cleanliness and a good breakfast. The special touch of the birthday greeting was extra special too – thank you ibis!
Fancy taking a ride on the deer feeding train, hand-feeding sheep and trying your hand at goat walking? Ever wondered how ferret racing works, what it’s like to cuddle guinea pigs or see birds of prey soaring above your head. Well, look no further than the World of Country Life where you find all this and more!
Towards the end of the summer, my sister, niece, nephew and I visited The World of Country Life in Exmouth, Devon. It was a highly anticipated visit having heard lots of good things about the attraction and after Orlagh, my four-year-old niece, asking for the fortieth time if we were there yet, when we pulled into the spacious car park, I was pleased to be able to say “yes!”
We were warmly greeted by the staff at the ticket desk and were handed our deer train safari tickets – there was excitement all round I think! Armed with a map of all the attractions and a list of the daily events, we were off!
Taking a Step Back in Time
Our first stop was to take a wander through exhibition hall – a historic snapshot of rural life featuring a large collection of farming memorabilia, tractors and old fashioned phone and post boxes.
We made out way through the Victorian street, lined with old fashioned shops, houses and even a pub! Adorned with items from the bygone era and scarily real looking mannequins this really is a chance to step back in time.
Sarah, Orlagh and Cillian enjoyed giving this old fashioned game a go – does anyone know what it’s called? I have no idea! I think we could have stayed here longer but there was plenty more to explore and a deer safari train to catch too!
I love how interested Orlagh was when looking at the different displays. She seemed to enjoy the toy shops, dress shop and the royal box the most. I wonder if she was just waiting for the mannequins to move!
Making Deer Friends
After exploring Victorian life we headed outside as it was time for our deer train safari ride. We boarded the tractor train and waited for our tickets to be checked. Orlagh and Cillian were very excited to be riding on a real tractor!
The train ride was hilarious! We took a little ride through the paddocks where we were greeted with a huge herd of deer eagily awaitinging their breakfast.
After a short ride the train stopped and the driver brought round a huge bucket of food which we could hand feed to the hungry deer. And boy were they hungry! They weren’t shy either and leant right in to take the food from your hands, leaving a nice slobbery mess on your fingers!
Cillian had no fear and was confident when feeding the deer, he giggled and wriggled when they licked the food off his hands and he didn’t think twice about sticking his hands out and attempting to grab hold of the deer’s ears!
On the other hand, Orlagh was a little more reserved, initially ducking away from the incoming deer and hiding behind my sister and I. After showing Olragh what to do and allowing her to see they deer wouldn’t hurt her, she slowly gathered up the courage to try feeding them for herself. She did this and loved it! Soon she was scrabbling around on the floor of the carriage picking up all the bits of food that had been dropped in order to feed the deer over and over again. I was so proud of her!
It was really lovely to see the deer up so close; they really are such pretty animals. I wasn’t so keen on the llamas though – slightly bigger and more scary looking!
An Abundance of Play Areas and Activities
Next, it was time to explore the many children’s play areas and activities. There is soooo much for the kids to explore and have a go at. From the puzzle pen to the raceway electric cars, to the awesome looking tower of slides there is something for kids of all ages. We spent time in the indoor soft play area for under 5’s where Orlagh and Cillian enjoyed riding around on mini motorbikes and bouncing on the bouncy castle. It was a super hot, sunny day when we visited so it as quite nice to spend some time undercover away from the midday heat.
Back outside there was more to explore including outdoor climbing frames, slides, swings and trampolines. It was funny watching Orlagh and Cillian bouncing each other on the trampolines and making each other fall over – siblings eh! There’s a zip slide, monkey bars and all sorts to explore as well – the kids could have stayed and played there all day!
However, our map told us there was plenty more to explore! Sarah and Orlagh spent some time bouncing around on the air bouncer – a huge, brightly coloured giant bouncy pillow – fun for all the family if your game!
Without a doubt, one of Cillian’s favourite parts of our visit was pretending to drive Harry the Harvester – a giant wooden combine harvester with lights and sound effects. Cillian sat for a good while steering the wheel and pressing the buttons to make the lights flash and the horn blast. He was very good at sharing and taking turns with other little ones too.
Eagle Eyes at the Birds of Prey Show
After enjoying a picnic lunch on one of the many picnic benches we decided to head to see one of the daily flying displays. Sitting on rows of wooden benches we were treated to a fun and interactive display from Hawkridge Birds of Prey and saw some incredible birds. It’s always such an experience to feel the wind in your hair as the birds soar above your head! Cillian wasn’t too good at sitting still for this one (he is only a toddler after all) and needed to be kept occupied with a couple of satsumas!
Apparently Hawkridge Birds of Prey offer special packages and experiences which offer a chance to get up close and personal to the birds and learn more about them – great for a kiddies birthday gift one year!
Pet Centre Fun
As if our day hadn’t been fun-filled enough, we came across the Pet Centre in which the animals live. Here you are able to enter the pens and get among the goats and sheep. A great experience for kids (and adults) and a great introduction to being kind to animals. Orlagh and Cillian were great at stroking the animals carefully and enjoyed walking among them. It made for some very cute photos too!
Orlagh was lucky enough to bottle feed one of the sheep – a new experience for her and one she embraced with ease. The sheep was very hungry and drank the milk very fast so she had to be quick to have a go and then pass the bottle on to the other children. She loved this experience and seemed very impressed with herself once it was over.
Ferret Racing Extravaganza
Heading out to the Barnyard Theatre we took our seats and enjoyed a ferret racing show – defo a new one on me! It was so funny, placing our bets on the hilarously named ferrets and watching them complete the obstacle challenges. I actually wished we were able to bet real money on the races as Orlagh guessed the right colour/ferret every time!
After the ferret racing, it was time to meet Angus the green reindeer – yep apparently they exist at The World of Country Life! Orlagh and Cillian were both super keen to meet Angus and have their photo taken with him – something which my sister said she was surprised by as during their last holiday Orlagh had run a mile from any dressed up animal characters.
Ever Walked a Goat?
Continuing the fun we visited the Old Time Farmyard and made friends with the range of animals that live there. This included chatting to some alpacas, ducks, ponies, calves and some rather smelley pigs! All the animals seemed really well cared for and there were plenty of children enjoying getting to know them.
The highlight of the day has to be goat walking! Yes you read that right, goat walking! After queuing up, we were handed a goat on a lead and we were off. It was hilarious, wandering around with our goat called Betty who was rather quick at times, pulling Orlagh, Cillian and Sarah along at one point! There were certainly lots of giggles and Orlagh just loved it. What a unique and fun experience for sure! I’m not sure who was taking who for a walk though – I think Betty the goat was firmly in charge to be honest!
A Spot of Competition
No fun day out would be complete without a bit of competiion. We enjoyed a round of mini-golf in which Orlagh showed off her putting skills (or lack of!. It was so cute watching her try and line the ball and the golf club up and the concentration on her face was adorable. The mini-course was good fun and even Cillian gave it a go.
Time for Animal Cuddles
Our last timed event of the day was to check out the animals in the Animal Nursery. Here there were the cutest little chicks, rabbits, parrots and guinea pigs. Whilst Sarah went and got us some hot chocolates, Orlagh and I attended one of the daily pet handling activities which was so lovely.
We got to hold guineas pigs, rabbits and stick insects – Orlagh was less keen on the latter, refusing to hold the funny insects. It was nice to sit and have some calming gentle time with the animals and Orlagh sat in silence for ages cuddling and stroking the guinea pigs. Never underestimate the soothing and therapeutic nature of animal handling! Of course, even big kids like me could have a go! Animal handling takes place twice daily and comes highly recommended from us!
Heading Home High on Animal Fun
After a day full of adventures, animals and fun it was nearly time for us to leave. We made our way through the Hall of Transport admiring the old fashioned cars and steam engines. The World of Country Life boasts a huge collection of vintage transport and is well worth having a nosey around – you might even spot some famous vehicles as seen on Downton Abbey!
We enjoyed walking through the Steam Engine Shed too, which is full of vintage tractors and steam engines. Cillian enjoyed climibing aboard the choo choo trains and pretending he was chugging along the tracks.
By the time we had finished our exploring it was closing time at the World of Country Life and we had just enough time to visit the vast gift shop and pick up the all-important pencil and rubber! We left feeling high on animal fun and having had a day of unique experiences and making brilliant memories.
The World of Country Life is easy to find, well signposted and located on the Devon coast of Exmouth. It’s a popular touist town and the family attraction is located next to the Devon Cliffs Holiday Park – ideal for guests staying there! Being just 10 miles from junction 30 on the M5 The World of Country Life is easily accessible from across Devon and is certainly not to be missed if you’re visiting the county!
Opening times are 10am – 5pm every day of the week and the season runs between March and November. There are special events during half terms and the daily programme of activities which include the birds of prey shows, animal handling sessions and goat walking. Check out their Facebook page for current events.
Entry tickets cost £14.45 for adults, £11.95 for children and little ones under 3 go free. There are discounts avaliable for the over 60’s and family tickets too. If you can I recommend buying your tickets online in advance as you can save 10% on day ticket prices – every penny counts and all that! As well as day tickets, visitors can purchase annual memberships which start at £39.60 for children or buy a combo saver ticket and enjoy visiting both The World of Country Life and a cruise with Stuart Line Cruises – something I have done before for an Afternoon Tea Cruise and really enjoyed! Extras such as the mini-golf, the deer safari and raceway electric cars are charged in addition to the entry tickets. Check out more fun on Instagram (there’s lots of cute animals pics!).
We had a fantastic day at The World of Country Life which was full of laughter, love and family fun. I really enjoyed being able to spend quality time with my sister and her children and loved the fact there was so much for everyone to get involved in and some unique first-time animal experiences too! I will never forget Betty the goat walking Sarah, Orlagh and Cillian, pulling them along in excitment or the calming time Orlagh and I spent cuddling the furry animals. When Sarah and the children come and visit me in Devon next time we will definitely have to make a repeat visit!
***Whilst our entry to The World of Country Life and the Deer Train Safari tickets were gifted to us on a complimentary basis, all thoughts and opinions in this article are entirely my own. ****
Travelling solo can seem a bit daunting, even to those of us who love the freedom and adventure it brings. If you have a few bucket-list trips up your sleeve, however, and are planning to set out independently, there are a few tips that will help you along the way. Packing light is one, and leaving copies of your passport and bank cards with someone back home is another. A little forward research is useful too. Check out the handy survival guides at 1Cover for even more advice.
1) Find the street stalls
Award-winning travel writer Ben Groundwater recommends heading for street stalls, such as the hawker stalls in Singapore, where you can enjoy amazing dishes at incredibly affordable prices. What’s more, the shared tables of street stalls are perfect if you are on your own; you just pull up a stool and eat with the locals and fellow travellers.
2) Solo-friendly accommodation
Look out for places to stay that are sociable. Hostels are an ideal choice, and offer opportunities to mingle with other travellers, but also small hotels, B&Bs, pubs and inns tend to offer more personal, friendly service, as well as handy tips and advice. Camping grounds can also be a great option, with plenty of community feeling. It’s a good idea to stay away from the larger hotels, which can sometimes feel a bit more formal and charge single supplements.
3) Get multi-trip insurance
Not necessarily the fun part of travelling – who likes buying something they hope they won’t need? – but proper travel insurance is essential for peace of mind and potentially digging you out of an unforeseen hole. Imagine how stuck you could be if you woke up one morning to find your passport, money and phone had gone missing. The world would suddenly feel like a very hostile place. Find yourself an annual multi-trip policy, and travel with protection.
4) Stay safe
Travelling solo can easily increase your vulnerability. Get smart and protect yourself. Ditch the bulging bum bag, or obvious travel wallet, which shows the world where you are keeping your valuables. Be aware of who’s around you when you stop in the street to look at a map or your phone, remember that some people who approach you to “practise their English” may have other less friendly motives in mind.
Access all areas. Some of the top travel experiences in the world require a cruise. Think of the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, located some 1,000km off the coast of Ecuador. Or the awe-inspiring frozen landmass of Antarctica. Even parts of remote Western Australia, such as the beautiful, rugged Kimberley region, are best experienced on a small cruise ship. And cruising is a great fit for solo travellers. Join the more than 2 million UK and Irish travellers that have discovered the benefits of cruising.
6) Stay in touch
We all like to travel to get away from it all, and lots of us who choose to travel alone do so just for that very reason. But we also need to know we can get in touch when we want to. And it needn’t cost a fortune in data or excess mobile phone charges, either. Look out for free WiFi in cafes, bars and restaurants, download free phone apps such as Skype, and social media apps that let you call friends, such as WhatsApp. And find a phone plan that is tailored for travel in the parts of the world you plan to visit.
What are your top tips for travelling solo? I’d love to hear them!
Two days in Dubai! Wow, for this a lot of people will say that its nothing as compared to the enormous number of attractions, some would say it is enough to capture the essence of this majestic city, if you plan it right. Well, we can’t agree more and that is why here’s presenting a well-crafted itinerary for all those who get to stay for just 2 days in Dubai. This is your perfect schedule to enjoy your time while in Dubai and explore the most revered attractions of the city. Read on.
Day 1: Explore iconic attractions that make Dubai the Best Tourist Destination in the World
Grandeur of Dubai Mall:
Irrespective of whether shopping is there on your mind or not, exploring the Dubai mall is a must. It gives Dubai the status of having the largest mall in the world with footfalls higher than people visiting New York in a year. Enjoy your time with 1200+ retail outlets, 150+ food court stalls, 25-screen multiplex cinema, Olympic ski rink, and so much more. Don’t forget to visit the Candyland, the world’s largest candy store. Inside the mall itself, is the world’s largest aquarium, the Dubai aquarium and the Dubai underwater zoo, home to world’s best, rarest marine species. We promise you wouldn’t want to step out of the mall.
Mighty Burj Khalifa
Without visiting the Burj Khalifa, your 2 days in Dubai itinerary is incomplete. It enjoys the status of the tallest building in the world. But you just don’t get to see it, you can go to the top and enjoy the majestic views too. Take a ride on one of the world’s fastest elevator and enjoy panoramic views of Dubai from the observation deck on Burj Khalifa’s 124th floor. Top up this experience by buying tickets for the 148th-floor observatory deck. Watch the sunset from Dubai’s highest point and experience what it feels to stand on the world’s tallest tower, literally!
Dhow Cruise to End Your First Day
Make your way to populous Dubai Marina for your evening Dhow Cruise and a special dinner. Why do we suggest it? Simply because after the hectic day of watching and experiencing the most iconic attractions of Dubai, you need to unwind and relax. Spend two blissful hours sailing the waters of the Persian Gulf in the traditional Dhow vessel, modernised enough to suit your needs and taste. It is Arabs original trading vessel used since the ancient times. It’s almost as if you take a ride in the history. Enjoy the amazing Dubai’s glittering skyline, high-rise buildings lit up to the nines, and their lights reflecting on the waters. Relish a delectable Emirati buffet dinner on board and enjoy the entertainment by belly dancers, henna artists, and tanura dancers as well. The best way to enjoy it is to incorporate this in your itinerary of Dubai packages in order to avoid last-minute hassles and cancellations. This way at the end of the day, the cruise will be awaiting your gracious presence and no last-minute reservation issues required.
Day 2: Explore the Attractions that form the Soul of Dubai Makes it a Must- Visit Place
It’s time to visit the traditional markets (souqs) of Dubai. Dubai holds the world famous spice, textile, carpet, and the much known gold souqs in Bur Dubai and Deira area. The narrow lanes of the traditional Arabic streets cobbled with old stalls loaded with spices, nuts, berries and rarest in the world dry fruit varieties. Cross the Dubai Creek from the Deira to the Bur Dubai side 1 AED on a wooden vessel known as the Abra. Visit the Meena Bazaar, in the old city. These old areas of Dubai are its soul as these are the places where trading started in Dubai centuries ago. Even if you don’t want to shop (which is highly unlikely) experiencing the diversity, vibrancy of the place is fun in itself.
On the second day of your 2 days in Dubai, visit the Al Fahidi Neighbourhood. The entire area defines what life would’ve been before the tourist and oil boom in Dubai with its narrow alleyways, the beautiful art galleries, traditional cafes serving Arabian delicacies, and the rustic crumbling houses built of black coral. Visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding for sure. It is a place that literally offers a sneak peak into the past of the humble Dubai before oil was discovered. Spend some time soaking in the glorious history of the UAE. Don’t forget to visit the Dubai Museum for its collection of weaponry, armour, pearls exhibit, tools, and dioramas of life of the ancient Dubai.
Dubai Desert Safari
Spend your last evening in Dubai doing something which makes the entire trip worthwhile. Enjoy the magnificent Dubai Desert Safari. Gear up to enjoy some adrenaline-jerking dune bashing, adventurous quad biking, one of a kind sand boarding and laid-back camel riding. Followed by a fabulous Emirati buffet, along with entertainment of belly and tanura dancing. If your flight is in the morning and you have full night, you can enjoy the overnight safari and spend a night under the starry blanket of stars. It’s an experience of a lifetime.
Two days in Dubai seems so less compared to the enormous attractions it has in store for every traveller but that does not mean we don’t enjoy the best of Dubai even if it is for two days. So next time you have a weekend to spare or a business trip that can have a halt at Dubai even for two days, don’t think twice. Book the break journey and plan your stay in Dubai to perfectly mix business and fun together.
Have you ever been to Dubai? It’s certainly on my bucket list! Let me know in the comments below!