York – Capital of the Roman empire.

Roman history has always interested me and on a recent visit to York I found myself looking at a statue of the first Christian Roman Emperor, who lived in York or Eboracum as it was known for about a year in around AD306. His father was Emperor Constantius and York had been the imperial capital of the Roman empire. When he died Constantine assumed the role of Emperor despite the role having been promised to Severus but things were complicated because Maxentius also wanted the same title.

In AD312 Constantine moved against Maxentius and their armies met just outside the gates of Rome, after Severus had taken his own life. Constantine won the battle and then went on to rule from Constantinople, or Constantine’s City (Istanbul). This was where his support for Christianity led to it becoming the religion of Western Europe.

York can say that it played a part in the development of Christianity throughout western Europe!

It was King Edwin, who had also converted to Christianity, that decided to build, in AD627, a church dedicated to Rome on the ruins of the Roman principia that was later to become the York Minster that we see today.

If you are interested in Roman history I can recommend that you visit The Yorkshire Museum in York where you can see what life in Roman York was like. You can also see what life in York was like before the Romans arrived in York in AD71. Entrance to The Yorkshire Museum costs £7.50 and you can find out more information about the museum here.

This is a photo that I took of the Roman Emperor Constantine, which is located just outside York Minster.

Constantine
Emperor Constantine lived in York and was responsible for the spread of Christianity throughout western Europe.

Cruise ships in Venice

Venice is one of my favourite cities. Where else in the world can you get lost in a cities streets and not have to worry about finding your way back to your hotel?  Which other city has no roads so you stand more chance of drowning than you do of being run down by a car? Venice is an eclectic mix of bustling alleyways, fantastic but often expensive cafes and restaurants as well as awesome architecture and culture. If you have never been to Venice then you should because it’s unique, and it’s not true that the smell of sewage is overpowering. In fact I have been to Venice several times and I have never smelt sewage!

One downside of Venice though is that it is very very popular. 20 million tourists visit Venice every year but only half sleep there. It’s a city of daytime visitors, many visitors arriving in the city by cruise ship. Venice is in fact the cruise capital of Europe. These tourism visitors bring in much needed tourism employment and other tourism earnings but the result is that few Italians can afford to live in Venice full time because property prices are so expensive. The population of Venice is declining and many residents are converting their apartments into holiday apartments and renting them out through agents such as the online agent Airbnb. Property prices in Venice are so expensive that even gondaliers who earn on average £95,000 a year can’t afford to rent a decent sized apartment. Thirty years ago 120,000 people lived in Venice but that figure has now dropped to about 55,000.

Many people are also worried about the environmental effects of tourism on Venice, especially from those tourists arriving by cruise ship. In 2014 cruise ships were banned from entering the Venice Lagoon but this decision was overturned several months later. Venetian officials are involved in a corruption scandal so the decision might well change again although there is no denying that cruise ships spoil the skyline as they sail very close to St Marks Square itself. Some would say that it’s a spectacular sight but other critics say that cruise ships are speeding up the destruction of Venice which experts say might well be fully underwater in 80 years time despite the Venetian authorities spending 5 billion Euros on flood defences.

I took this photo of a cruise ship sailing in Venice last year. Make up your own minds whether it’s a good sight or one that should be banned.

Cost cruises in Venice
A Costa Cruise Lines cruise ship enters Venice on its way to the cruise terminal.

I prefer to see Venice without cruise ships and this is a photo I took that shows Venice as it should be.

Gondola on the Grand Canal, Venice
A classic view of Venice without a cruise ship!

Jervaulx Abbey – A secret gem

On my way back from Aysgarth Falls in North Yorkshire this week I stopped at the outstanding Jervaulx Abbey situated on the Ripon Road (A6108)between Leyburn and Masham.

Despite living in Yorkshire all my life I have never visited Jervaulx Abbey before so we parked up in the car park and wondered across the road to the abbey gate. There was beautiful late afternoon sunshine and after putting our £3 entrance fee in the honesty box we wondered into the sprawling ruins of this Cistercian abbey founded in 1146. The abbey is set in 126 acres of wonderful parkland and you can sit on one of the many benches to admire the views and wild flowers and wonder what life must have been like for the monks who lived here.

Here are some photos I took on my visit.

Founded in 1146, Jervaulx Abbey was once a great Cistercian monastery.
Founded in 1146, Jervaulx Abbey was once a great Cistercian monastery.
A very ornate wrought iron bench photographed in the grounds of Jervaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire.
A very ornate wrought iron bench photographed in the grounds of Jervaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire.

My visit to historic York

If the Romans and the Vikings could see York as it is now I wonder how they would feel? It was 71AD when the Romans arrived in York and 866AD when the Vikings first paid a visit, but also there were other well known visitors to York. William the Conqueror marched on the city in 1068 and Henry VIII visited with wife number 5 in 1541. I think that these past visitors would be pleased by the way that York has retained much of its history and at the same time added some new attractions such as The Railway Museum and the famous Bettys Cafe Tearooms.

Of the many attractions in York I would recommend the Castle Museum, the Yorkshire Museum and The York Dungeon as well of course the must see attractions of York Minster and The Shambles. York is rich in culture and you can easily spend a few days in this walled city. Buying a York Pass is good value for money as you can use it to see York’s Chocolate Story, Clifford’s Tower and another 30 York attractions. Once you have seen York there are many other attractions nearby worth visiting. You can see an original World War II prisoner of war camp at nearby Eden Camp or visit the outstanding Castle Howard where the Howard family have lived in their magnificent 18th century residence for over 300 years.

Useful Information

You can travel to York with Virgin Trains from London in 2 hours and by car it is just 20 minutes from the M1/M62 motorway network.

For more information go to Visit York

Here are some photos I took on my visit to York this week.

York Minster
York Minster
York Minster
York Minster
Ghost Walk York Experience
Ghost Walk York Experience

 

Cauldron Falls, West Burton

Cauldron Falls in the tiny beautiful village of West Burton in North Yorkshire is a stunning waterfall that is not that well known. It’s near to the more visited Aysgarth Falls but I think Cauldron Falls is better. There is plenty of nearby parking available and the waterfall is only 50 yards from the road making access very easy. I took this photo with a shutter speed of 1/4 using a tripod on my Nikon D3300.

Cauldron Falls, West Burton
Cauldron Falls, West Burton

Aerial video website launched

Profly Video

Profly Video began in 2015 and is a CAA approved aerial video and photography company with permission to fly on a commercial basis.

They film in ultra-high definition 4K resolution, using state of the art radio control drone technology with gyro stabilization, to Shops Shops Shops provide stunning video and photography.

Profly Video have a background in creating travel videos over a number of years, Which they have now expanded to include all aspects of filming with drones. They are fully insured up to £ 5 million Public Liability cover and they have permissions for aerial work from The Civil Aviation Authority, at all times ensuring that they operate within strict safety and operational regulations.

The company are based in West Yorkshire but their work takes them all over the UK; they recently filmed for The DVLA at Mercedes-Benz World in Surrey and The Vale Resort in South Wales.

If you need high quality aerial video at very competitive prices take a look at their aerial video website

A holiday explosion of cultures on volcanic Mauritius

A holiday on Mauritius is probably the quintessential island paradise, a tropical haven of relaxation for celebrity visitors such as actor Ralph Fiennes and model Naomi Campbell.

Certainly the volcanic island lives up to its reputation with its year-round warm tropical climate, its turquoise sea and coral reefs full of exotic fish.

The island boasts some of the most luxurious hotels in the world as well as standard price options, and the visitor could be forgiven for spending the day enjoying the sunshine on a white sand beach, or sipping a cool drink in the shade of the hotel pool bar.

But the island is not just a beach resort. Diverse Mauritius is one of the few places that really deserves the term “melting pot”, with English, French, Indian, Chinese and Creole influences creating an enticing blend of cultures and cuisines.

The key to the island’s diversity is in its history. It was first colonised by the Dutch in 1638, who had previously named it Mauritius in honour of Prince Maurice Van Nassau of Holland. The Dutch left in 1710 after introducing sugar cane, tobacco and African slaves to the island and hunting the dodo to extinction.

Next came the French, who renamed the island “Isle de France” and turned it into a successful colony and trading base for the French East India Company, before it went to the British after the Treaty of Paris in 1814.

The British abolished slavery from the island, and the work-force was supplemented by workers from India and China as the sugar plantations flourished. Mauritius was granted independence from Britain in 1968 and achieved the status of republic 24 years later.

The legacy of the island’s past can be seen in its colonial architecture such as Government House in the capital Port Louis, in the Mosques, Hindu temples and Christian churches co-existing peacefully on its streets, or in the infectious rhythms of Sega, a vibrant dance invented by African Mauritians.

Almost everyone on the island speaks two or more languages, with English as the official language, but French, Creole and Asian languages are spoken widely in every day life.

Mauritian dining, of course, reflects this cultural fusion and is a colourful cuisine influenced by Asian, African and European cookery, with fresh seafood and curries as the specialities. There are a number of high-class restaurants including the exclusive Spoon des Îles at the One & Only Le Saint Géran hotel.

The more adventurous might like to hire a boat and try to catch their own meal during a spot of deep-sea fishing, with a variety of large tropical fish such as the blue marlin and the mako shark roaming the 70-metre deep oceans around the island.

Mauritius is surrounded by extensive coral reefs teaming with a wealth of sea-life, and is a paradise for divers. You can encounter multicoloured fish on an undersea walk or spot 17th century wrecks from a submarine or semi-submersible.

There are plenty of opportunities for getting back to nature on the island as well. Try hiking or mountain-biking surrounded by exotic fruit in the northern Labourdonnais Orchards or pay a visit to the breathtaking Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanic Garden to see some of Mauritius’ 700 species of indigenous plants.

The Black River Gorge National Park in the centre of the island offers the chance to see rare birds and orchids in a natural forest setting. Or, in the east of the island, the Ile aux Aigrettes is home to some of the world’s rarest bird species including the pink pigeon, as well as giant tortoises and geckos.

There are several excellent golf courses in Mauritius, including the spectacular 18-hole One & Only Le Touessrok Golf Course which is set on its own island, with a stunning view of green mountains and turquoise oceans available from every hole, designed to challenged advanced players and beginners alike.

Visit the bustling Flacq Market in the east of the island to pick up a few bargains or just to watch the world go by. There are a large number of duty free shops on the island, and island specialities include jewellery, textiles, spices and rum.

A holiday on Mauritius offers a truly unique luxury experience, fusing together cultural influences from three continents in an in an idyllic island setting.

Visit Malta to escape Winter

If you’re thinking of escaping the British Winter for a spell this year, why not visit Malta for a relaxing break in the Mediterranean.

This friendly destination is a delight to explore, with a rich history and culture, as well as delicious Mediterranean cooking, clear blue waters, a thriving nightlife in some parts, and neighbouring islands for a spot of even more secluded isolation.

The distinctive bright yellow, open-air mini-buses are an absolute must in order to get around, and although the ride will certainly be a bumpy one, it’s also great fun. The locals crowd on, standing up and filling every available space, and you’ll probably be surprised there aren’t more accidents along the way.

Malta_iStock_000006659353XSmallA visit to Malta has to begin with the capital, Valletta. This harbour town is built on a defensive mound, and the stone fortifications and walls point to the island’s chequered history as the target of frequent invasions and attacks owing to its strategic placement at a cross of civilisations.

There are many highlights in Valletta, but be sure to visit the market on a Sunday, and sample a local speciality: the pastizzi. These are pastries that come in only two flavours: pea and ricotta cheese, but are nonetheless delicious.

Elsewhere in Valletta there is the vast military bell, which still rings on the hour, and this is located near the “Malta Story” exhibition.

This takes the viewer on a multimedia tour of the island’s history, including the tenure of the Knights of St John who successfully fought off the Ottoman Turks and defended the island against all odds.

St John’s Cathedral is a baroque masterpiece, and the tomb of the city’ s founder, Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Vallette. It also houses one of Europe’s most important works of art: Caravaggio’s disturbing “Beheading of St John the Baptist”.

The criss-cross, stepped streets are also great for shopping, with lace, jewellery and filigree all local crafts that have been passed down form generation to generation through the ages.

Walking anywhere in Valletta is going to involve a bit of a climb, either on the way or on the way back, so if fitness isn’t your forte it may also be worth paying the price of one of the horse and carts that will dart past you every now and again.

The old mediaeval capital of Mdina is also worth a visit, and is at its best in the early evening when its narrow streets conjure an atmosphere at once romantic and slightly eerie. Stray cats are abundant all over Malta, but Mdina seems particularly prone to the feline hordes.

If the Maltese fancy a break, they head to neighbouring Gozo or Comino: two beautiful islands with only a handful of shops, houses and hotels between them. Take a motorboat out to Comino, and spend a day snorkelling and swimming in the cool, crystal waters of the aptly named Blue Lagoon.

The town to head to for the nightlife is Paceville, which is located near St Julian’s on the coast. This is a complete contrast to the relaxed pace of the rest of the island, and is where many of the younger locals themselves head on a Friday or Saturday night when the sun goes down. Many of the bars and clubs charge no entrance fee, and there are also more shops, as well as a number of cinemas.

If visiting during the summer months, you may be lucky enough for your trip to coincide with one of Malta’s village “Festas”.

These are a source of great pride to the inhabitants of each village, and unsurprisingly can get quite competitive, with each trying to throw the best party.

Each village has its own patron Saint, and on the evening of the Festa, his statue is removed from the church and paraded ceremoniously and joyfully around the streets for all to see.

This is accompanied by hours of fireworks and streamers, and plenty of goodies on sale from stalls lining the streets, including another Maltese special: sticky nougat.

Malta is perfect for families with young children, being both safe and friendly, with every corner offering a different insight into its colourful past. Although it was pleased to join the other EU member states in the last round of accessions, it is equally proud of its roots in what can truly be termed a crossroads of history.

Kos: Island of history, culture and fun

Nestling in the warm waters of the Carpathian Sea the island of Kos is a jewel among jewels offering a climate and rich history few other holiday destinations can match.

The third largest island of the Dodecanese archipelago, after Rhodes and Karpathos, Kos lies between the islands of Nisyros and Kalymnos, close to the coasts of Asia Minor.

The island itself has an area of just 290 sq km and a population of just 20,000. However, its diminutive size belies its historic stature.

The island was first inhabited in prehistoric times, but it was around 1400 BC that civilization of any real description arrived when the Minoans sailed over from Crete and set foot on the azure shores.

Such a prized location did not go unnoticed for long and the Minoans were followed by the Achaeans and, a few centuries later, the Dorians.

It was the Dorians who founded the ancient city of Kos. Over the following centuries the Persians, Athenians, Spartans, Macedonians, Byzantines, Romans, Venetians, Turks, Italians, Germans and even the British have laid claim to the island.

With such a rich (and exhausting) list of cultural influences it is perhaps not surprising that Kos offers so much in the way of historical sites.

The most significant of these sites is the Asklepeio. Situated 4km west of the town of Kos, the Asklepeio was built in a green area full of cypress trees and served as a sanatorium dedicated to Aesculapius, son of Apollo, protector of health and medicine in Greek mythology.

Many significant people taught and worked here, one of them being the father of Medicine, Hippokrates.

Another of the island’s spectacular sites is the great fortress that stands at the entrance to the harbour. The Castle of Neratzia dates to 1315 when the Knights of St John of Rhodes became masters of the island.

After the Knights of St John, the Turks took over Kos and their architectural influence can also be seen in many of the island’s buildings.

A great way to find out more about the historical wonders of Kos is to visit the Archaeological Museum, located at Eleftherias square, exhibiting a wide collection of archaeological treasures, such as the mosaic of Hippocrates, and the Hellenistic sculptures of Aphrodite and Eros.

Of course most holidays aren’t just about education and Kos is also a place both to relax and have fun.

With a mild climate all year round together with vast sandy beaches is isn’t a surprise that Kos is so popular with sun seekers and beach bums.

Straying off the shore, hiking is also a popular pass time for tourists. In fact the island, together with its neighbours, came third in a recent poll on the best places to hike in Europe.

Night life is also world class on the island and has options to suit almost every taste. From beach bars clubs Kos is a city bursting with life and energy long in the the small hours.

For those on a more sedate or romantically inclined break will enjoy the cosy restaurants serving fantastic Greek specialties (such as the legendary seafood) and the quite beach front bars, perfect for a night cap after a stroll on the sand.

With so much to offer it is perhaps not surprising that Kos is such a popular destination. However, the island offers plenty of accommodation for every budget and cheap flights operate year round meaning there is no excuse not to visit this fantastic destination.

Preston Holidays ceases trading

Preston Holidays, the Jersey holidays specialist’s have ceased trading today leaving 4,500 customers with advanced bookings without a holiday. The company also owned Longwood Holidays and Amathus Holidays.

Preston Holidays and it’s other trading names have an ATOL, which means that holidays which include flights are financially protected under the ATOL scheme. Holidays which don’t involve flights but instead include coach or sea travel will need to make a claim with ABTA.

For any customers wanting to re-book their holiday to Jersey please call us on 01924 892249 and we will be happy to re-book you so that you Jersey or Guernsey holiday can be saved.