Category Archives: Travel

Travel Guide to Tel Aviv, Israel

I defy anyone to be bored during a short break to Tel Aviv. The high octane vibe is almost tangible and urges you to walk its streets and explore. Do so and you’ll find this is a moody city: beautiful chill-out beaches hemmed by high rise hotels and lapped by the blue Mediterranean sea and a fantastically beautiful promenade. Yet just a road or two inland buildings look in need of some love, yet the vibe prevails.

Israel – Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv Jaffa (c) israeltourism
At its commercial centre the high rises look like a New York mini-me while the ancient port of Jaffa in the south exudes charm in its yellow stone architecture and winding hilly alleyways.

Then there’s museums, markets, shopping and above all, a simply sensational foodie scene. This city has it all and, unbelievably, all packed into a compact area of just 52 km² (around 20 miles).

Check out the beaches
Grab your fiip flops because Tel Aviv is a seafront city with a Tayelet (promenade) that hems a gorgeous stretch of 12 soft sand beaches, each with its own – if somewhat insouciant – personality.

Metzizim in the north is a superb family beach with shallow waters and a life guard. It’s followed by the Religious beach with allocated days for men and women.

Israel – Tel Aviv – beach
Tel Aviv beach (c) Gil Silberman
Further along is the gay beach in front of the Hilton Hotel right off Independence Park. It has become a trendy hotspot because of its fun vibe. During Pride Week it’s the busiest place in the city.

Three popular beaches Gordon, Frishman and Borashov cover the central stretch and this is where locals and tourists hang out sometimes playing matkot (paddleball).

Guela beach has its own al fresco gym while bizarrely, Drum beach is where anyone can turn up at the weekend and beat their drums.

The stretch ends with a dog beach followed by Alma (home to the wonderful Manta Ray restaurant) and Jaffa beaches in the south of the city much loved by surfers because there are no wave breakers which means huge waves on a windy day.

The Markets
Shuk HaCarmel – Carmel Market
Israel – Tel Aviv – Carmel Market – vegetable
Carmel Market (c) israeltourism
Oh the joy of a vibrant market and Carmel Market is just that. It’s been there since 1920s when it was just a humble Yemenite market, but today it’s colourful, aromatic, noisy and THE place to buy all sorts of bric-a-brac and food such as local vegetables, nuts, fruit, dates, halva – a sweet flaky, dense, tahini based candy – and street food to go.

Food on the go
Pick up a Cuba bulgur (cracked wheat and minced onions), or a spicy beef cigar to eat on the go but save space for the Humus restaurant at 11 HaCarmel Street. It’s easy to miss so keep an eye out for for a doorway flanked by Judaic Hebrew text behind a couple of fruit vendors. Go straight to the counter and point to what you want on your plate of humus; pickles, boiled egg, onions, that kind of thing, and you’ll get freshly made pitta to dip into it.

The Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

I’m in a cosy cottage at the heart of Wales. The log-burning stove is glowing and I am too. It’s been another day of healthy walking and I’m now torn between two very attractive options.

From the front window, past the playful tangle of roses, I can see the Star Inn. A few steps away through the open-plan lounge and kitchen is the equally rose-strewn garden with Welsh Dragon sausages (infused with leek and chilli) grilling in the warm evening air and views over a Brecon Beacons hillside.

Wales can be wild, with extreme activities such as climbing, canyoning, caving and kayaking, along with bunkhouses, hostels and hillside campsites. And yet it’s possible to experience the great outdoors to the full while still being able to appreciate a comfy bed in relaxed, picturesque surroundings.

Brecon Beacons National Park, a wonderworld of rounded peaks, waterfalls, market towns and tiny roads, is an excellent place for a short break, reachable in three hours from London, far less from places such as Birmingham.

The village of Talybont, halfway between the charming towns of Brecon and Talybont, is a perfect hideaway, on both the River Usk and the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal, and with three pubs to go with its village store and Canalside Cafe.

It’s the base of Brecon Beacons Holiday Cottages with several in the village (including my Grove’s Cottage) along with many others in the area. It’s also great for long hikes, being on the 55-mile Taff Trail that links Brecon with Cardiff as well as many shorter (and easier) options.

Here are five very different walks:

1Talybont Waterfalls

Talybont Reservoir (c) R3pul5e
A sensational six-mile stroll around the rim of Craig Fan Du, the bare, grassy ridge of a horseshoe-shaped valley, before diving into the steep cut of the mountain stream in the middle. It starts with a steep, 1,500ft climb (from the Forestry Commission Blaen y Glyn car park just past Talybont reservoir) and as you reach the rim the world opens out before you, dotted with the white flecks of wandering sheep.

The walk, much of it on the flat, follows the dizzying edge above grassy slopes, stone steps crossing the stream near its start, before circling around and taking you past the wreckage of a Wellington bomber that crashed in 1942.

The sheep stare as you tackle rocks and grassy humps on the way down. At the Caerfanell, a stream that cuts through the middle, a path of sorts takes you into trees and over rocky outcrops as the water splashes over a succession of small falls. Just before the road path up a tributary gives you a couple more falls before reaching the car park.

2 Pen y-Fan

Pen y fan c. Nick Dalton
Pen y-Fan is the highest peak (2,906ft) in southern Britain and a tourist trail. Dozens of holidaymakers take the straight, relentless path to the top where there are two anvil–shaped summits (with steps) to climb, one Pen y-Fan itself, the other Corn Du, both flat and slatey with 360-degree views.

The Dutch Golden Age in Amsterdam

Amsterdam simply bulges with culture, cuisine, coffee shops and hot pink windows yet right now the city is glowing with the shine of the Dutch Golden Age.

Roughly spanning the 17th century (The Golden Age is officially dated from 1585 to 1672) this was a time when the Dutch ruled the waves and Amsterdam saw a glorious explosion of wealth and culture.

To celebrate the Dutch Golden Age there are city-wide exhibitions from now to mid February that talk about the creativity of the time. Here’s where you can see it:

Flinck and Bol – The forgotten masters
Everyone has heard of Rembrandt but his pupils are hardly household names. This is changing with a long-awaited double exhibition “Ferdinand Bol and Govert Flinck: Rembrandt’s Master Pupils” showing at Rembrandt’s House and the Amsterdam Museum until February 18 2018.

Both born around 400 years ago, the pupils completed their training at Rembrandt’s House and became two of the most celebrated painters of the time. By late 1640 they had even surpassed Rembrandt in commercial output. Yet after their death they disappeared into the shadow of their master.

At Home with Rembrandt
Start at Rembrandt’s House where the master lived and worked for 19 years. Here you can see where the two pupils honed their skills as painters of portraits and historical scenes, working in the style of Rembrandt.

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Amsterdam Museum
Once Flinck and Bol had completed their training, they branched out and tailored their styles to the changing taste of the time. The story continues in the Amsterdam Museum with elegant portraits and imposing historical scenes by the now established and successful duo. While Rembrandt painted his sitters exactly as he saw them, warts and all, the commercially smarter pupils produced flattering and more colourful portraits of their sophisticated and wealthy patrons.

Flinck had a network of friends and relatives in high places and Bol acquired a useful circle of clients when he married the well-connected Elisabeth Dell. The artists’ commissions for Amsterdam’s new Town Hall in Dam Square, now the Royal Palace, were the ultimate proof of their success. The works are still in situ and open to public viewing.

You can’t help but compare the lives of these rising stars to that of their master, Rembrandt. Although he was to produce creative and highly moving works of art right up until his death, he suffered personal tragedy and financial ruin. He had lost his first three children, then his wife, Saskia, while the later years were beset with bankruptcy and an acrimonious relationship with a former lover. As if that weren’t enough his common-law wife and only surviving son, Titus, predeceased him.

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Camino de Santiago

Pilgrims taking the many Caminos, or Ways of St James, always end up at Santiago de Compostela and gather in the Cathedral to be blessed. A few carry on to the Atlantic Coast, feeling that this westernmost part of Europe is a more fitting end to their journey. Indeed this was an ancient spiritual route, long before the Catholic Church commandeered it for its own purposes. They were drawn to the sunset at what was then the end of the known world. That’s how it got its name – the Latin “Finis Terrae” translates as Finisterre.

Finisterre sunset
Finisterre sunset (c) Rupert Parker
I’ve already walked the classic Camino Frances (The French Way), from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago and was disappointed by the crowds of people on the trail. When I set out from the city going west, numbers are far fewer, and it’s an altogether more pleasurable experience. It’s going to take three days to get to Cape Finisterre and then another couple of days to the fishing village of Muxia, a place once sacred to the Celts.

Santiago de Compostela to Negreira
In late October, there’s a moist drizzle as I negotiate my way out of Santiago but I’m soon plunged into oak woods with the bracken turning all shades of brown. The route takes me through tiny hamlets, crammed with Hórreos, distinctive stone granaries raised on pillars above the ground, still used for storing corn husks.

Hórreos (c) Rupert Parker
Three quarters into my first day I reach the charming medieval town of Ponte Maceira, named after its distinctively arched 14th century bridge spanning the Río Tambre.

Ponte Maceira
Ponte Maceira (c) Rupert Parker
My destination is the town of Negreira, a sleepy little place, although it does have the Pazo do Cotón, a 14th century medieval fortress. It once formed part of the city walls and it makes a fitting exit as I set off next morning.

Pazo do Cotón
Pazo do Cotón (c) Rupert Parker
Rain is forecast, even though it starts sunny, and the clouds open as I climb out of the town. Unlike the Camino Frances, cafes and bars are in short supply, so there’s little shelter.

Abeleiroas to Fisterra
In the morning, there’s a change in the weather and sun is poking through the clouds. Most of the day’s walking is now on dirt tracks, giving my feet a welcome rest, and the first part follows the Xallas River, lying in the valley below. I climb steadily to the tiny hamlet of Hospital, named because it once provided care for pilgrims and then reach a crossroads. The right branch goes to Muxia, but my way leads left to Finisterre. There’s a pair of battered boots balanced on the stone marker, but no sign of the owner.

Ski Review

Mayrhofen – The Lowdown
Mayrhofen is one of Austria’s great ski areas with a huge array of slopes mixed with a pretty town replete with typical Tyrolean architecture and a lively nightlife.

Everyone from Eddie Izzard to The Prodigy has partied here while appearing at the Snowbombing and (now gone) Altitude festivals. And when you feel the need for a change of scenery there are plenty more resorts on your lift pass.

Crystal Ski Mayrhofen
prices valid as of 30 November 2017 – click here for updated information
Mayrhofen Ski Areas
The main ski area is reached by the Penkenbahn, a swish modern supergondola (20-plus comfy seats) from the centre of town, next to the big Sporthotel Strass with its bars, and across the road from Hans the Butcher whose hot pork rolls make a perfect lunch to push into your pocket.

At the top there are beginner runs tucked away with their own lifts while most skiers head down into the huge bowl that combines lots of charming, tree-lined runs with the likes of Harakiri, the steepest run in the Alps.

There are lifts up the other side of the bowl, not least the Tux cable car 150 to the resort’s high point at 2,590 m. Other pistes head to Finkenberg and Lanersbach while in the other direction an off-piste route will get you down to valley level at the Horbergbahn, for a bus hop back to town.

With access right from the centre of town, Mayrhofen is perfect for families with the ski school meeting area as you pour off the Penkenbahn cable car.

Mayrhofen children on piste
Mayrhofen children on piste
Skiing is safe and away from roads. Intermediates can enjoy the gentle paths and the broad pistes – great for families who want to ski together. Boarders have fun at the Vans Penken Park probably one of Europe’s best snow parks.

There’s a full day’s skiing to be had heading to the resort’s far corners, and plenty of mountain restaurants with fabulous cakes and children-friendly meals such as Wiener schnitzel (breaded veal of chicken cutlet) and chips.

Don’t miss lunch at the Schneekarhütte, twin stone and glass pyramids sitting on a ridge at the top of the Horbergbahn lift, serving modern takes on hearty Austrian cuisine.

Just up the main street from the Penkenbahn is the Ahornbahn that reaches a separate peak and ski area with plenty of space for beginners to improve, and to relax at the White Lounge bar, a real igloo with deckchairs outside. Or stay over in one of the 28 bedrooms.

A Budget Ski Break In Zakopane

Poland doesn’t have lots of mountains, but they make the most of it in Zakopane, nestled at the foot of the Tatras. This popular resort, around two hours south of Krakow is an appealing mix of chocolate box quaint, accessible ski slopes.

Add low prices and Zakopane makes for a value for money ski break that is a good alternative to big budget spending of Val d’Isere even if there is no real ski in/ski out option and the mountains are not especially high. The fact is you’ll find snow, mountains and nightlife to rival plenty of other budget resorts.

Budget skiing for families and beginners
The town of Zakopane serves as the gateway to the mountains, so visitors need a taxi or the use of a daily transfer service to access the ski stations.

Zakopane – Gubalowka Hill a nursery ski run
Gubalowka Hill – nursery ski run (c) Jonathanawhite
Bialka Tatrazanska is the most Alpine of Zakopane’s ski stations, with 16 kms of ski runs spread over a series of small valleys. To the experienced winter sports enthusiast that may not sound like much, but beginners or the undemanding intermediate will find the terrain extremely pleasant and forgiving. Wide runs and beautiful woodland scenery make for a pleasant skiing experience.

Those looking for mountain runs will find the best option in the imposing Kasprowy Wierch, the mountain that towers over the city. The 15 kms of runs will be more of a challenge and are better suited to intermediate skiers and boarders.

The closest slopes to town are at Gubalowka, which is accessible via a funicular ride from the centre of town. From here you’ll get great views across the town plus an excellent market which is fun diversion for bargain hunters.

Zakopane – Gubalowka Hill Funicular entrance
Gubalowka Hill Funicular entrance (c) Jonathanawhite
We headed to Zakopane fairly late in the season, in mid March and although there was snowfall on the day we arrived it didn’t stick around for long. But, thankfully the ski areas have invested in great snow making facilities. Kasprowy Wierch is mostly pretty snow sure and offers skiing up until late March or April.

Ski day passes vary from around 62 PLN (approx £12) up to 120 PLN (approx £25).

⇒ For more ski guides, click here

Eating & Drinking
One thing is for sure, you won’t be short of dining options in Zakopane. Most of the fare is of the hearty meat and veg type with a healthy side of beer or vodka. The main drag, Krupowki, is packed full of authentic wooden panelled eateries, with grills stacked with sausages and joints of pork. The rustic vibe is often completed with live traditional music.

The best of the bunch was at Watra (Hr. Władysława Zamoyskiego 2, 34-500 Zakopane), a restaurant and brewery a short walk off the main drag. The stills in the window aren’t just for show, their selection of beers are perfect for warming you up.

We also found a great vegan burger joint, Mountain Bar (Ulica Weteranow Wojny 2, Zakopane), which serves some of the biggest vegan burgers I’ve ever seen.

Nightlife is lively with lots of bars and nightclubs off the main drag.

5 Best Beaches : one for every month of the year

There’s a beach for everyone: from the stunning sands of Latin America, to the beautiful British coast, onwards to the Mediterranean’s best beach, and then down to a Pacific island paradise.

1JANUARY – San Juan del Sur Bay, Nicaragua

Suan Juan des Sur bay
Nicaragua may be a little unknown as a holiday destination but at this time of year is bathing in sunshine and you could be too on their beaches. The San Juan del Sur Bay beach has a dazzling horseshoe shape of muted beige soft sand that is overlooked by a giant statue of Jesus perched north of the bay. The waters around here are calm and very rarely get large enough to surf, making this an ideal beach for young families. For surfers, there’s the Playa Maderas a little further along.

There are plenty of fine eateries from which you can enjoy a most delightful sunset. And after sun down, there’s a fun vibe of a busy nightlife to enjoy.

2FEBRUARY – Isla Espiritu Santo, Sea of Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Isla Espiritu Santo, Mexico (c) Sam Beebe/Ecotrust
Oceanographer Jacques Cousteau called Mexico’s Sea of Cortez “the world’s greatest aquarium” because of its unique and rich ecosystem. To get up close and personal with nature, base yourself in La Paz. All the islands are UNESCO protected as World Heritage Biospheres.

Uninhabited Espiritu Santo, absurdly beautiful, is the jewel in the crown: the sea is so turquoise it’s like swimming in a bottle of Curaçao. Once ashore you’ll find wedding-cake white sands, nail-varnish pink volcanic rocks, clouds of yellow butterflies and strange 300-year old boojum trees.

At Los Islotes, you can snorkel with friendly sea-lions. There are many migratory species such as humpback whales, manta rays and leatherback turtles.

3MARCH – Kovalam Beach, Kerala, India

Kovalam Beach, Kerala (c) Ramnath Bhat
Known as the Paradise of the South, Kovalam is arguably the best beach in India. This coconut-forested, crescent-shaped beach is full of character, with the Vizhinjam mosque at the northerly end, brightly-painted boats in the middle, and Ayurvedic massage centres where you can indulge in a rejuvenating herbal, body-toning massage or other holistic therapy. The equivalent of 30p buys you a scrummy curry served on a leaf.

4APRIL – White Island, Camiguin, The Philippines

White Island, Camiguin (c) chiba
Small, pear-shaped and known as the Island Born of Fire, Camiguin is home to the spectacular White Island beach, a Tippex-white sandbar with views of two volcanoes, Mt Hibok-Hibok and Mt Vulcan. Close by, the turquoise Bohol Sea hides an unusual treasure – the Sunken Cemetery lying 20 feet underwater following a volcanic eruption in 1871. The island has old ancestral homes and historic churches.

5MAY – Praia de Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil

Praia de Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande (c) Tarcísio de Paula Salgado
Just three hours south of Rio de Janiero, Ilha Grande is a small island home to the jaw-achingly beautiful Praia de Lopes Mendes. To get to the beach is quite an undertaking, but well worth the effort – you have to hike through Atlantic forests thick with hummingbirds, butterflies, tropical flowers and waterfalls with Pygmy and Holy monkeys running everywhere. With sand as white and as soft as flour, the beach of Lopes Mendes is irresistible. The island was discovered in 1502 but today preservation is the word with roads only existing in the island’s main village.

India by Rail

The journey below can be taken as part of Great Rail Journeys India’s Golden Triangle – a 5* rail 13-day tour which includes the Shatabdi Express and the Toy Train plus excursions to Delhi and Agra with its white marble icon the Taj Mahal. Prices start from £1,995pp, departing Oct 2017 – Dec 2018.

Great Rail Journeys India’s Golden Triangle
Great Rail Journeys India’s Golden Triangle
CLICK HERE for full India’s Golden Triangle itinerary

Delhi to Kalka on Shatabdi Express
I’m at Delhi station, early in the morning, where it seems that a large proportion of the 23 million people who daily use Indian Rail have all decided to take the train. I’m taking the Shatabdi Express for Kalka, where I’m then going to catch the narrow gauge “Toy Train” up to Shimla. It’s a four hour journey and the air conditioned Executive Class is comfortable and includes a rather delicious spicy breakfast, complete with a few warming cups of Indian Chai.

Trains Crossing
Trains Crossing (c) Rupert Parker
We pull into Kalka, almost on time, and I cross the platform to board the Himalayan Queen, patiently waiting for passengers. It’s dwarfed by the mighty Express, and I completely understand why it’s known as the “toy train”. After the comfort of Executive Class, the six rows of seats in the narrow gauge carriages are rather uncomfortable. Fortunately I’ve been advised to bring my own cushion.

Toy Train (c) Rupert Parker
⇒ Also read: Top 10 street foods of Northern India

Kalka to Shimla on Himalayan Queen
This is one of the great railway journeys of the world and the line was built to ferry mem-sahibs of the British Raj up to Shimla from Kalka, a cool alternative to the steamy plains below. When the town became the summer capital in 1864, the 1200 mile journey from Calcutta, any combination of horse, camel, elephant, bullock cart or sedan chair took five bone-rattling days. Although the idea for a rail connection was first mooted in 1847, the line was only opened in November 1903.

Himalayan Queen
Himalayan Queen (c) Rupert Parker
My carriage is packed with other tourists and the train starts climbing immediately, flanked by hills on both sides. I sit by the open window, enjoying the cool breeze and breathing in the smell of the pines as the engine chugs uphill. The average speed is around 11mph but on this stretch it’s much slower. In 20 miles we pass four stations and make our first stop at Dharampur, at 1500m. Everyone gets off to buy chai and samosas from the stalls on the platform. Just ahead I see a cow on the line, just one of the many hazards of train travel in India.

Building the railway was an extraordinary feat of engineering, with 103 tunnels, more than 864 bridges and around 919 curves. The line climbs 1500m from Kalka to Shimla, over a distance of 60 miles, and the train takes around five hours, passing 18 stations. In 2008 UNESCO added it to its World Heritage list along with the Nilgiri and Darjeeling railways.

Entering Tunnel
Entering Tunnel (c) Rupert Parker
Crossing Viaduct
Crossing Viaduct (c) Rupert Parker
The railway now starts cutting through the landscape in a series of tunnels. The longest is almost three quarters of a mile, just before Barog station. It’s named after the original engineer who decided to save time by digging from both sides of the hill. Unfortunately the two ends didn’t meet so he was fined one rupee and dismissed. Colonel Barog shot himself in disgrace, when walking his dog, and the tunnel was abandoned. For the new one they decided to play safe and employed the spiritual guidance of local guru, Baba Bhalku.

Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar (Burma)

Sitting on a teakwood chair on the upper deck of the converted cargo boat, photographic location scout David van Driessche knew the ropes. “We are about to sail out of mobile reception range,” the Belgian told his partner back in Bangkok. It was now dawning on me as fast as the sun was setting on the horizon that the one-bar of signal on my phone was about to drop completely. We were off the grid, and almost off the map.

Off the grid and no WiFi
This trip exploring the Mergui Archipelago was into unknown territory for me. Would there be mobile coverage, electricity, wifi, or even air-con? I’d figured not. Yet, as the sunset below a layer of grey rain-leaden clouds and the world turned deep purple, I found some answers.

Below, on the main deck, our sleeping quarters were gazebos with rattan paneling and mahogany trim. After the diesel generator was turned off, nifty LED reading lights and cooling fans powered by the solar panels could be turned on.

We anchored for the evening, and even though we sat less than 10° north of the equator, sea breezes wafted through the partitioned quarters and I was lulled by the gentle rocking of the Andaman Sea. Around the dinner table that night there’d been talk from Bjorn Burchard, head of Moby Dick Tours, that in a few days’ time we might get some of the holy grail of 21st travellers: WiFi.

Mergui Archipelago – the least visited place on earth
Mergui Archipelago
(c) Google
Before the first rays of sun had illuminated the tops of the jungled Barwell Island and its neighbouring islets, the cheery crew helped me launch a sit-in kayak for a paddle on the calm waters around the 100 foot vessel, newly repainted in cream, green and red. I capped off the dawn jaunt by taking a quick dip in the deep waters, pleasantly-warm.

The Mergui Archipelago is one of the least-visited places on earth, and it is only recently that the region with its 800 or so islands has slowly opened up to visitors, who come searching for some of the best dive spots in Asia with rays and sharks, as well as the diversity of coral reefs which sit off many of the white powdery sand beaches.

Not only is it difficult to access, the area has been prohibitively expensive. A few of the islands’ bays are slated for luxury resort development, though only at the outer Boulder Island is there anything which could be regarded as appropriate eco-tourism.

Island Safaris, which runs relatively inexpensive 5 day/4 night island-hopping excursions, promote the “small is better” philosophy, undertaking slow travel which allows more time for beach time, swimming, snorkelling, kayaking, hiking and even night fishing.

Exploring mangrove forests by kayak, or visiting villages where the indigenous Moken ‘sea gypsies’ reside or trade provide rare glimpses into places and peoples who have been left behind in the rush to modernity.

Portugal and Spain on the Braemar

Lisbon will be the first port of call but it will take two days sailing to get there. I wait patiently in the embarkation lounge until my number is called and then swiftly make my way to the cabin on deck 6. They’ve upgraded me and I’m right at the front with a large window overlooking the bows. There’s one double bed, enough hanging space, and dressing table right by the window, as well as two armchairs.

Braemar has three restaurants, Thistle, Grampian and The Palms and I’m heading to dinner in the Thistle. This is the largest and I’m shown to a large table with other singles who I’ll get to know very well over the next few days. There’s a choice of two starters, three soups, two salads and four main courses, plus fish of the day and a British speciality. The food is good, waiters are friendly and they keep the wine topped up.

Fred Olsen Cruises, Breamar: pool deck
pool deck (c) Rupert Parker
This is my first cruise on a large boat, although the Braemar is smaller than most, at a little over 24,000 tonnes and holding only 930 passengers. There are eight decks with the top one containing two pools and a couple of Jacuzzis and rows of sun beds. I take a look but am not expecting to make much use of them as the sea has suddenly turned rough as we go through the Channel. Indeed, lying in bed later, it seems that my cabin is bearing the brunt of it, being high up and right at the front. It doesn’t disturb me too much but other passengers don’t get much sleep.

Historic town of Obidos and Lisbon
After a couple of days of rough seas, the sun begins to break through and the ship settles into a pleasant rhythm. Lisbon is sunny and warm and I explore the historic Alfama district before taking a trip to the historic town of Obidos, around an hour to the North.

In the summer, this is so packed with tourists that it’s almost impossible to walk in the main street but this time of year it’s pleasantly quiet. I do a tour of the ramparts, not for the faint-hearted as there’s no guide rail and the path is quite narrow.

Obidos (c) Rupert Parker
Lisbon tram
Lisbon tram (c) Rupert Parker
Leaving Lisbon at sunset
Leaving Lisbon at sunset (c) Rupert Parker
If you have limited time in Lisbon, make sure you read our Top 10 things to see and do in Lisbon or 24 Hours in Lisbon guides.