Category Archives: Best holidays

In search of my roots.

Just home from a 5-week trip, I am constantly asked how my holiday was. Sporting a grin reminiscent of the Cheshire Cat, I stumble for appropriate words, finally resorting to ‘AMAZING’, ‘AWESOME’, ‘FANTASTIC’, ‘EXHILARATING’ … but these don’t really seem adequate. So where was this extraordinary place?

In about 2013, in the words of Simon and Garfunkel, ‘a vision was planted in my brain’ and I had a sudden urge (at the age of fifty-something) to return to the town where I was born!

Back in the day, the town was called Fort Jameson and the country went by the grandiose name of The Federation of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Try fitting that onto a visa application form! Today it is known as Chipata and is a bustling town in the very far east of Zambia. So far east that the only sensible means of approach was through Malawi, the Nyasaland of yore.

Image result for map zambia

The vision was expanded when I had the foresight to ask hubby what was on his ‘bucket list’. The response? The wildebeest migration in the Serengeti.


I leapt, with some trepidation, into the depths of Google and Trip Advisor and settled on two tour companies which sounded like safe and reasonable options, and turned out to be exceptional. The Responsible Safari Company  and Roy Safaris.

I sent out a call to friends and family to join me – there was a lot of scaremongering about the perceived dangers of Africa – but we eventually had six other brave and intrepid souls prepared to risk ‘life and limb’ in the wilds of ‘The Dark Continent’.

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A White Christmas and the Tale of Two Santas.

In 1996 we were really lucky to score a house swap in both Gloucester, UK and Stockholm, Sweden. These opened the door to a 10 week overseas holiday with our young children and the best holiday ever – Finland at Christmas.

We stayed in the house in Stockholm for a couple of days before heading north to Finland.  (Living in Stockholm in winter – another great story.) The house had a decorated Christmas tree erected and, as the last to leave, I snuck a few presents under the tree.

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Paris in the winter-time

“Every time I look down on this timeless town
Whether blue or gray be her skies
Whether loud be her cheers or whether soft be her tears
More and more do I realize

That I love Paris in the spring time
I love Paris in the fall
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles”

Cole Porter 1953

To be truthful, I don’t like Paris much at all! This sounds almost sacrilegious and I keep convincing myself that if I go back again it will redeem itself and I will fall in love with it too. This doesn’t sound like the introduction  to a best holiday post, does it?

About a week before we were due to go to Paris with the children in January 1996, France was hit by a massive cold snap. The upside of this was that, despite still being bitterly cold, Paris sparkled with ice and snowy remnants.

We had decided that with the kids so young (6 & 9) we would do a ‘speed dating’ type approach to Paris and only visit places they had heard of – in just one day.

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In 2008 we had booked a tour of Turkey with our daughter who was working in England. Whilst planning the trip it was decided we had to go to Jersey to visit the zoo, Durrell, we had to visit Vienna because I love Vienna, I love the music of Strauss and, of course, there is a zoo! My daughter wanted to go to Budapest as she had really enjoyed the book Csardas by Dianne Pearson. Great book, and we had never been to Budapest, so we added it to the list. So the question became, “how do we get from Budapest to Istanbul?” Bucharest seemed an obvious choice, but we couldn’t find a lot to recommend it and after having been in capital cities we thought something more provincial would be nice.

Through a travel site called Responsible Travel , I found a guesthouse, which specialises in eco-tourism, in a small village in Transylvania, that is owned by a ‘real’ count! Images of Dracula and Sesame Street immediately sprang to mind and we were sold.  Continue reading