Category Archives: Food and Travel

Classic Devon adventures

The water surges around your kayak…the swell lifts you, drops you onto a rock then suddenly retreats. You’re scarily unbalanced and more water is rolling in. ‘Paddle!’ shouts the instructor. ‘Which way?!’ you call. ‘Doesn’t matter – just move!’

You lean forward, dig the paddle into the water, the blade glancing off rock, repeat on the other side and you’re floating clear. Heart thudding, grinning, eyes wide

The water surges around your kayak…the swell lifts you, drops you onto a rock then suddenly retreats. You’re scarily unbalanced and more water is rolling in. ‘Paddle!’ shouts the instructor. ‘Which way?!’ you call. ‘Doesn’t matter – just move!’

You lean forward, dig the paddle into the water, the blade glancing off rock, repeat on the other side and you’re floating clear. Heart thudding, grinning, eyes wide

Sea Kayak Salcombe’s trips include the 2 mile Gara Rock Classic paddle; the Rock Hopper (powering into gullies and surf); and a two-day Discover Devon expedition. On this you paddle around 15 miles a day and wild camp; some kayaking experience is preferable. Salcombe itself is a chic sailing port, framed by sandy bays and packed with places to eat and stay.

On the north coast, Exmoor Adventures offers sea kayaking trips along a shoreline of dramatic cliffs.

Surfing and bodyboarding

Croyde is Devon’s mini Maui – a cheerful, chilled village on the north coast where thatched roofs peep out over ranks of wetsuits and surf boards. Here a dune-backed stretch of sand faces a powerful Atlantic swell. Add ancient inns, cool surfer hangouts and green-field campsites and you have a magnet for wave riders. When conditions are right, the surf at Croyde is superb – it’s Devon’s most powerful, consistent beach break, offering peaks, walls and barrels. Learning here will see you paddling out to the line up, catching waves and experiencing the addictive exhilaration (eventually, however fleetingly) of standing up to ride one in.

Create great travel videos

I travel the world for a living, making videos of the places I visit, people I meet and experiences I get to have. These videos inspire people of all ages and races to go out and explore this beautiful planet for themselves.

Some of the most common questions I get about my job are surrounding the video making process itself: What cameras do I use? How do I edit my videos? How am I so comfortable on camera? They’re great questions, and they lead to an important starting point in taking your own travel video skills to the next level.

 

What cameras do I use?

Visual storytelling is my business, so having top gear is important to me. My camera collection is constantly evolving as new tech is released. I’m currently shooting with a Sony A7SII, Sony RX100V, Go Pro Hero 5, Osmo+ and DJI Phantom 4. The lenses I use on my A7SII are the FE 85mm F1.8, FE 16-35mm F4 and FE 24-70 F4.

This may sound like a lot, but it’s also not necessary to have all this gear to make good travel videos. There are many affordable cameras out there that will help you do the job well. Many people buy great cameras and never take the time to learn what they’re capable of.

I would suggest mastering a cheaper camera before investing in something more high tech and expensive. I would also suggest making good audio a priority over picture quality. I would much rather watch a video in standard definition with great audio than high definition picture with poor audio. If the camera you are using has the capability to attach an external microphone, I would highly recommend purchasing one. I am currently using a Shure VP83 LensHopper Shotgun Microphone which creates excellent audio quality. It’s also very compact, making it easy to take on the road. I also have a Zoom H4N Handy Recorder which I use for voiceovers. If your camera doesn’t have a external mic input, you can still use your internal mics, but purchasing mic muffs will make a huge difference when shooting outdoors. The mic muffs helps control any wind interference.

 

How do I edit my videos?

There are several options for video editing software. If you use a Mac, there’s an editing program called iMovie already installed onto your computer. This program will allow you to do very basic edits – combining a variety of clips in a meaningful way to tell your story is the essence of creating videos, and this will get you there.

If you want more room to play and get creative, I’d recommended Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere. I’ve used both, but prefer Final Cut Pro, which I’ve been using for the past 12 years. I would suggest signing up for a free trial for both programs. That way you can get the feel of how each works and choose which one you feel more comfortable with before purchasing.

 

How do I keep viewers engaged?

Engagement is key when creating any type of video content. If you can’t keep your viewers engaged, they will stop tuning in. So, how can you keep them watching? I always make sure to get a variety of shots when out filming. This means close-ups, mid-shots and wide shots of the same subjects along with pans and tilts. Movement is important for keeping viewers engaged, so I don’t use a tripod very often. I think movement in the frame keeps viewers watching because it’s more stimulating than a static shot. Pacing is also important to consider. I like to keep the shots I use in the final edit short and sweet rather than long and lagging.

Everyone can explore a more accessible Caribbean

Imagine dipping your feet into crystal clear waters along miles of golden sands, hearing your own breathing as you scuba dive, and seeing the sparkle of gold, silver, and gems in quaint shops. These alluring Caribbean travel experiences have historically not been accessible to wheelchair users, but fortunately that is changing.

Traveling internationally has always posed huge challenges for people with mobility impairments, and the nature of most Caribbean destinations – old buildings, cobblestone streets, and deep sand – has kept many seniors and wheelchair users away. However, more and more islands are now filled with experiences accessible to everyone.

 

The larger islands: Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Barbados

The Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas is an enormous Caribbean playground that provides excellent access for wheelchair users and others with mobility impairments. The resort provides guests with disabilities a detailed access guide with information about accessible rooms, attractions, and more. Atlantis is one of the many Caribbean resorts where people with impaired mobility can enjoy many refreshing zero-entry (sloped) pools. All that being said, the property covers an area a mile long, and the resort shuttles are not accessible. Manual wheelchair users would be wise to seek assistance, or rent an electric scooter for their stay.

Many of the major sights in Puerto Rico are at least partly accessible, like the majestic El Morro fortress and the Bacardí distillery in San Juan. Luquillo Beach, about 45 minutes outside of San Juan, has an accessible area for mobility-impaired visitors. Puerto Rico also offers some options for wheelchair-friendly tours using vans with lifts, like Rico Sun Tours. This is often the best way to see Old San Juan, which is riddled with cobblestones and very steep streets. It’s bad enough to spill your rum; you don’t want to spill out of your wheelchair.

The island country of Barbados can be circumnavigated by car in just four hours, but offers numerous accessible attractions. Visitors can hire local transportation company Blessed Rentals for a visit to Harrison’s Cave, which takes guests through stunning caverns in a tram—with a wheelchair accessible car. Beware the hair! The caverns are a full-frizz zone; it “rains” inside.

Enjoyed city delights in Waikiki

You’ve enjoyed city delights in Waikiki and Honolulu – now it’s time to escape to Oʻahu’s North Shore. From sunrise yoga salutations and sips of Hawaiian coffee in charming Haleʻiwa to experiencing a sunset at a sacred heiau (ancient stone temple), a day trip to this laid-back surf haven will have you throwing your worries to the wind.

 

Morning: sunrise salutations, sharks, and a coastal trek

Hit the road early, cruising into the North Shore just in time for a sunrise yoga session at Turtle Bay Resort. Here, amid the warm tropical breezes, channel your inner yogi and allow the island’s aloha spirit to infuse every breath. Strike your best yoga pose, and sense all stress ebbing away with the tide.

Fully glowing and emanating inner bliss, head down the Kamehameha Hwy to charming Haleʻiwa Town. A tiny enclave that’s home to surfers and friendly laid-back locals, Haleʻiwa features a main street dotted with eclectic cafes, shops, art galleries and boutiques. Stop at the North Shore Marketplace (northshoremarketplacehawaii.com) where, nestled in the corner of this cluster of plantation-style storefronts, is the Coffee Gallery. Order from a menu of scratch-made pastries featuring local fruits, like lilikoi (passion fruit) and mango muffins or banana chocolate chip bread, as well as the extensive coffee options, beans for which are harvested from all over Hawaii and roasted onsite.

Head west down the main street of Kamehameha Hwy to reach Farrington Hwy, where a right turn will deliver you to coast-hugging Ka‘ena Point Trail. More of a hearty (and flat) nature walk than a grueling mountain trek, this trail’s scenic, ocean-swept views and unique wildlife offer ample eye candy en route – keep your eyes out for nesting Laysan Albatrosses and wedge-tailed Shearwaters, as well as Hawaiian monk seals.

Head out early, as the trail’s name speaks for itself: in Hawaiian, kaʻenameans ‘the heat.’ The often sizzling temperatures and no-shade nature of this 5-mile roundtrip trek will definitely make you sweat. The pinnacle of the trail – Ka‘ena Point – is said to be named after a brother of the Hawaiian volcano goddess Pele, and ancient lore speaks of this sacred spot as the leina a ka uhane (jumping-off place), where departing souls came to leap into the spirit world. Standing here, amid the volcanic crags and coastal beauty, you can almost hear the ancestral whispers wafting across the waters.

After such a jam-packed morning, you’ll have worked up an appetite. Whether you are jonesing for a world-famous poke bowl (cubed raw fish, seasoned with sauces), a refreshing acai smoothie or a classic mixed plate lunch, grabbing your ono grinds (good food) to go from any of the area’s myriad food trucks will make for a perfect picnic. Try The Elephant Truck (808elephant.com), a local vendor offering taste-bud-thrilling Thai delights like panang curry and Ganesha pad Thai. And for dessert? A generous slab of something sweet from Ted’s Bakery, a North Shore institution since 1956 – good luck choosing among the house-made flavors including chocolate macadamia nut cream, strawberry guava and coconut haupia.

Once you’ve grabbed your grub, take your edible treasures to enjoy under the sun at Waimea Bay. Spend a moment to recoup from the busy morning. Swim in the sparkling blue waters, jump off iconic Waimea Rock, or, for climbing enthusiasts, try your hand at scrambling up the cluster of onsite crags.

Top spots for off peak travel

Take a trip in high season and you might have to contend with eye-watering prices and suffocating crowds – and while low season might bag you a bargain, poor weather and closed attractions could derail the best of plans.

The budget travel sweet spot? Shoulder season. Prices have fallen, but there’s still great weather, most restaurants and attractions remain open and the bulk of the holidaymakers have moved on. So don’t settle for less; with these shoulder season hotspots you get the crème de la crème of travel destinations without the compromise.

 

…for beach lovers

The first rule of booking a budget beach break? School holidays are a no-no: costs can be painful as travel providers across the board cash in on families’ limited time off.

During the Mediterranean’s June to August peak season, jacked-up prices come with sweltering temperatures and swarming beaches. Wait until October and hotel rates have dropped significantly, but you’ll still find plenty of sun in Greece, Turkey and even southern Spain and Italybefore the beach resorts close down for the winter season.

Over in the Caribbean, the main tourist season gets going in December and continues through to April, coinciding with various school holidays around the world. This leaves a perfect window in May and June to snag a deal, with room prices falling by as much as a third after the crowds have left. Sure, you might have to contend with the odd downpour, but you’re not yet into hurricane season and there’ll be much more space on the beach.

 

…for wildlife watching

Most visitors heading out on a Kenyan safari choose the June to September dry season, but as the crowds start to go down in November, so do the prices for both trips and accommodation. The best news? You’ll still be able to spot lions and elephants aplenty, and it’s one of the best times of year for birding. Yes, it’s the start of the wet season, but rains are confined to short showers in the afternoon and the scenery is lush and green. If you’re lucky, you may still catch the end of the great migration.

South Africa’s shoulder season (September to October) is fantastic for safaris. The temperatures are mild, but not as cold as the dry low season (May to August), and afternoon rainstorms have little impact on wildlife viewing. What’s more, you’ll miss the crazy rush of the of South African school holidays – in popular tourist areas, accommodation can go for up to 50 percent less outside of the December to March high season.

Fewer crowds in Costa Rica’s shoulder season (May to July) mean increased hotel availability and low season discounts on both beds and tours. The rainy season has only just kicked in and days are mostly sunny, with occasional heavy, but short-lived, downpours. If you don’t mind getting a little wet, you can get up-close to plenty of critters at Costa Rica’s big-hitting natural attractions, such as Manuel Antonio National Park. The tail end of rainy season in November brings with it similar bargains, plus the added bonus of tons of migratory birds.

September for the journey

Ever dreamed of hopping between sun-kissed Aegean islands or making tracks of your own along the Silk Road? If a great voyage beckons on your bucket list but you don’t know where to start, here are four epic experiences to tantalise intrepid souls.

 

Island-hop between whitewashed fishing villages and gorgeous beaches

In the 1970s Aegean island-hopping was a backpacker’s rite of passage; today, with flights and fast ferries, it’s easier – and more popular – than ever. But despite the numbers of tourists, Greek and foreign, thronging the best-known islands in high season, there’s still magic to be found – particularly if you arrive in September, when the weather is still balmy and the seas calm, but prices and visitor numbers fall.

You might not have the picture-postcard views across whitewashed, blue-roofed Oia on Santorini to yourself, but on many islands you can find an empty beach, a traditional taverna, and a working harbour with fishing boats bobbing at anchor.

  • Trip plan: There are international airports on Mykonos and Santorini. A busy ferry network links the islands with each other and to mainland ports including Piraeus for Athens. A tempting itinerary might include Mykonos for nightlife (plus a trip to ancient Delos), Paros for hillside villages, beaches and windsurfing, Naxos for hiking and diving, Santorini for those views from Oia across the crater, and one of the Little Cyclades to step off-grid.
  • Need to know: Hotels, tavernas and other services on most islands close from mid-October to Orthodox Easter.
  • Other months: May-Sep – hot (Jul-Aug: busiest); Apr & Oct – mild; Nov-Mar – cool, sleepy.

 

Traverse the ‘Stans in mellow autumn

Traders had been criss-crossing Asia for over 1200 years before Marco Polo’s 13th-century odyssey to the court of Kublai Khan in Běijīng. The allure of the Silk Road hasn’t waned, especially Central Asia between the Caspian Sea and the ancient trading city of Kashgar in west China, where conditions are best in September – not meltingly hot in Turkmenistan’s deserts or the fabled cities of Uzbekistan, not too snowy in the mountains and turquoise lakes of Kyrgyzstan and remote western China.

  • Trip plan: Popular overland routes run from İstanbul through Turkey and via Iran or Georgia and Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan. Visit the Darvaza gas crater and quirky Ashgabat in Turkmenistan, the tiled medressas and minarets of Samarkand and Khiva in Uzbekistan, the mountain meadows and Song-Köl lake in Kyrgyzstan, and Kashgar’s Sunday Market en route to Xī’ān and Běijīng in China. Can’t spare three months? Two weeks could take you from Ashgabat to Tashkent (Uzbekistan), or Tashkent to Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan).
  • Need to know: You’ll need a visa and/or letter of invitation to enter Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan and China.
  • Other months: Apr-May & Sep-Nov – moderate heat; Jun-Aug – deserts fiery; Dec-Mar – below 0°C (32°F) at altitude.

Guide to gluten free travel

Feasting in foreign lands is one of travel’s great pleasures. But if you follow a gluten-free diet, the prospect of indecipherable menus and unknown cuisines is enough to send you rummaging for an emergency snack bar (trust us, every gluten-free traveller has one).

The gluten-free diet eliminates wheat, barley and rye, the building blocks of most pastas and breads (and the secret ingredients in countless sauces and soups). Some people voluntarily follow the diet but others have no choice, like sufferers of coeliac (or celiac) disease. With good preparation and a steely eye on the menu, there is no destination you can’t devour – though if your health is on the line, always use resources like language cards to ensure your needs are understood. Here’s how to be a gluten-free glutton in eight very different countries.

Sushi, sashimi, rice dishes galore… you could be forgiven for picturing Japan as a dream destination for coeliacs. In reality, it’s extremely challenging. Blame the post-WWII influx of wheat to Japan, which established ramen noodles as a staple food and sprinkled flour into every sauce. Kindly chefs will do their darndest to feed you (especially if you’re armed with a language card) but facing unfamiliar dietary constraints, they are likely to make a mistake. Donburi bowls in which sashimi is laid across rice are often a safe and delicious option, while chewy mochi (rice-flour dumplings) make moreish desserts (or breakfasts, or bedtime snacks, we don’t judge). Tokyo has a minuscule range of gluten-free eateries, including rice-flour bakery Comehiro.

Dig in: we hope you like protein – sashimi is usually a safe bet (and an excellent conclusion to touring Tsukiji Fish Market).
Watch out: most soy sauces contain wheat, so make sure your ‘safe’ sashimi doesn’t arrive pre-splattered with the stuff.

Seven things to keep the kids happy

There’s no doubt that Bali has all the ingredients for a relaxing holiday. What is entertaining for grown-ups, however, might not always be fun for kids.

Not to worry, the island of the gods offers a wide range of activities sure to put smiles on the dials of families with children in tow. From sliding down exhilarating water slides to scaling tree canopies, Bali abounds in family-friendly activities.

 

Pod Chocolate: bean to bar

Located on the grounds of Bali Elephant Camp, Pod Chocolate (podbali.com) is where Indonesian cocoa is fermented, dried, roasted, ground and turned into a range of delicious gourmet sweets. To share the lip-smacking goodness, Pod offers tours where chocoholics of all ages can not only taste the factory’s myriad chocolate flavours – lemongrass, ginger and coconut amongst them – but also witness the magic behind the chocolate-making process. Best of all, the tours give children a chance to make their own mini chocolate elephants. Those ready to continue their chocolate adventure can visit the attached café, which serves unusual dishes including pizza with chocolate sauce and spaghetti marinara chocolate.

 

Pirates Bay: avast ye seapups!

Pirates Bay (thebaybali.com/pirates-bay-bali) gets the seal of approval from little ones ready for a swashbuckling adventure and grown-ups who love to see their kids kept busy while they feast on some quality fare. With its tree houses, paddle boats, zip lines and replica of a pirate ship, this themed restaurant makes a great playground for aspiring Jack Sparrows. The oceanfront complex also organises two-hour treasure hunts where budding buccaneers are kitted out in pirate gear and sent off in search of a wooden chest filled with gold

 

Pondok Pekak Library & Learning Center: a taste of Balinese culture

Located in Bali’s cultural hub Ubud, the Pondok Pekak Library & Learning Center provides a fascinating insight into Balinese culture through a variety of fun pastimes. While some of the activities, such as multi-lingual song circles, are specifically aimed at little tykes, others are tailored to both the young and the older. Families can sign up for workshops in traditional dance, gamelan playing or canang sari(Balinese religious offerings) making. There’s also a children’s library with books in many different languages that can be borrowed or read on the premises.

 

Waterbom Bali: splashing good times

An oldie but a goodie, Waterbom Bali has been soaking kids, and kids at heart, since 1993. From mini slides to heart-stopping rides, the park has adventures that are cooling and fun for all ages. Thrill-seekers can test their nerve on the Climax, which involves a nearly vertical drop from the height of 16 meters, while younger family members can enjoy more mellow experiences such as tubing down the Lazy River. For really young children there’s Funtastic, a water play area with shallow pools and fountains, and Flowrider where little dudes can learn to surf.

A great art city on the rise

It’s time to hail Havana as one of the world’s great art cities. The Cuban capital has never lacked artistic credentials, but a growing band of small private galleries, fresh interest in outlandish street art and the emergence of the extraordinary art collectives has sparked a creative renaissance that has truly put the city on the map.

 

Artistic roots

Havana’s artistic roots go deep. The city is home to the oldest arts academy in Latin America, the Academia de Bellas Artes San Alejandro, housed in a colonnaded building in Marianao. Founded in 1818, the academy has bred generations of precocious talent, most notably in the 1920s when it spawned the Vanguardia, a loose collection of painters and sculptors who, rejecting the contemporary penchant for mundane landscapes, invented Cuba’s avant-garde.

 

Where to start

For an introductory exposé to the heady world of Cuban art, proceed directly to the bedrock of Havana’s art scene, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, a huge multifarious art museum spread over two campuses in Centro Habana. The ‘Arte Cubano’ section is the finest collection of Cuban painting in the world. Artists to look out for include Victor Manuel Valdés, executor of the haunting Gitana Tropical, a painting sometimes referred to as the ‘Latin Mona Lisa’ that today is seemingly reproduced on every shower curtain and umbrella in Cuba. Another star is Wilfredo Lam, a colleague of Picasso who absorbed his Spanish amigo’s envelope-pushing spirit, but also nurtured distinctive Cuban themes such as Santería. Lam dominates the middle section of the museum with his dark, abstract works, including his most graphic, Tercer Mundo.

The heart of southern Serbia

When it comes to words difficult to translate, Serbian  merak’ makes the list. It stands for the pleasure derived from the simple things in life. An old traditional song claims that the masters of merak’ are Niš locals: ‘Nišlije – meraklije’. And truth be told, Serbia’s third-largest city captivates with laid-back charm, tonnes of history, great food and music that will make you dance.

Thanks to an increasing number of low-cost flights to Niš, the city has recently popped up as an interesting stop on the Balkan tourist map. Road-trippers can hop on a train from Belgrade or catch one of the buses that leave the Serbian capital every hour. It’s also easy to get here by bus from Sofia or Skopje. Book a room at traditional Garni Hotel Duo D if you want to stay in one of the most historic streets in Niš, bohemian Kazandžijsko sokače (Tinkers’ Alley), or choose ArtLoft Hotelfor a more modern treat in the city centre.

 

Time-travelling: Naissus and beyond

Name an epoch you want to go to and Niš will take you there in the blink of an eye. Once known as Naissus, southern Serbia’s main city was the birthplace of Constantine the Great, famous for issuing the Edict of Milan and making Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. The archaeological site of Mediana (Constantine’s 4th-century residence) features recently renovated mosaics and other remains from the Roman period. To learn why Naissus was of one of the major stops on the ancient Romans’ Via Militaris, visit the Archaeological Hall.

Niš fortress, in the heart of the city, hides several Ottoman-era architectural beauties including the Hamam (a lavish Turkish bath turned into a restaurant) and the gorgeous 16th-century Bali-Beg Mosque. A gruesome yet fascinating sight, Ćele Kula (Skull Tower) tells the story of the struggle for the liberation of Niš in the early 19th century: yes, it was built from real skulls – the ones of Serbian soldiers – as a warning to all who tried to rebel against the Ottoman Empire.

There are more fight-for-freedom stories to be found in Niš. The Red Cross Concentration Camp is one of the few preserved Nazi concentration camps, from which the first mass escape in then occupied Europe was organised in 1942. The local spirit of liberty also lives on at the memorial park on nearby Bubanj Hill, where three gigantic fists rising from the ground symbolise fighting and sufferings of men, women and children, the victims of WWII.