Hello From Toronto – Exploring Toronto With Sights on Bikes

For a person as curious as me, I am always out on some sort of discovery. No wonder travel writing appeals so much to me because it gives me the opportunity to explore interesting new places all the time. But of course my inquisitive mind never rests, so when I am not traveling out of town, I venture out locally right here in my chosen home town of Toronto to investigate the nooks and crannies of my city.

Over the last few years I have had an opportunity to explore many different cities in many different ways, by walking, through driving tours, sightseeing buses, architectural tours, even boat tours or by taking public transit; but one of my very favourite ways is to discover a city by bicycle. With a bike you can get almost anywhere, you cover more ground than by walking, but you are still able to stop at any time and admire a particular detail up close. In addition, it helps you burn a few calories, a consideration that is becoming ever more important as my waistline expands.

So I had already done bicycle tours in Montreal and Vancouver, and I was wondering if there was a company in Toronto that offered organized bicycle tours. On the website of my good friend Bruce Bell, a renowned Toronto historian and tour guide, I finally found a link to a company called “Sights on Bikes”. That sounded interesting, so I started investigating their website and contacted one of the co-owners, Jordan Feilders, to tell me more about his company. He suggested that I come out to Sights on Bikes Deluxe City Tour to experience Toronto first-hand in one of his organized bicycle tours.

Punctually at 10 am I was waiting at the southwest corner of the intersection of Yonge Street and Queens Quay. Another lady dressed in bicycle attire came up to me and asked me if I was about to participate in the bicycle tour. I confirmed and she introduced herself as Susan from Florida who was up here in Toronto to join her husband who was here to attend a conference. Just minutes later our tour guide Jordan arrived and welcomed us.

Ever nosy I asked him to tell me a bit about his background and he indicated that he is a graduate of the University of Toronto in International Relations and Environmental Studies. Three years ago he started Sights on Bikes together with two friends, initially as an idea for a cool summer job during university. Since then Jordan has taught skiing in Jackson Hole and also worked during the winter at a lobby firm in Washington, D.C. In the summer he returned to Toronto to run his company and he is on the road with visitors virtually every day.

Jordan took us to a locked storage container on the parking lot and retrieved three bicycles as well as helmets for us. Sights on Bikes’ bicycles are extremely comfortable touring bikes with six gears that make sight-seeing an easy and painless experience. We started cycling up Yonge Street and then turned east on the Esplanade, one of Toronto’s premier restaurant streets that at one point actually used to be at the waterfront of Toronto before the harbour area to the south was filled in.

Our next stop was the St. Lawrence Market, one of two major markets in Toronto. This market was actually Toronto’s first permanent city hall and jail house between 1845 and 1899. A police station also used to be located on the first floor. In the late 1800s the market building was altered radically after the construction of Toronto’s City Hall at Queen and Bay Streets. The central portion of the original market building (the South Building) has survived and the original council chamber of the former city hall today houses the Market Gallery. Susan and I had a quick peek into the market hall and admired the wide assortment of food retailers.

The St. Lawrence Market is one of Toronto’s beloved historic buildings, and the lively atmosphere of the market and the extensive culinary assortment is a huge draw for locals and tourists alike. The market features everything from baked goods, cheese and dairy products, to flowers, fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood to organic products and gourmet teas and coffees. Several sit-down restaurants and snack-bars will soothe hungry appetites. The North Market across the street features a farmer’s market on Saturdays and an antique market on other days.

The area at the foot of Jarvis and Front Street also used to be the terminus of the Underground Railway, a network of secret routes and safe houses that allowed African slaves to escape from the southern United States to free states and Canada. It is estimated that a least 30,000 slaves escaped to Canada, and many of these slaves arrived on boats in Toronto at the foot of Jarvis Street.

Just one block north of the St. Lawrence Market Jordan made another stop and briefed us on another historic jewel of Toronto: St. Lawrence Hall, located at the intersection of King and Jarvis Streets, was constructed from 1849 to 1850. Originally this structure contained a hall for public meetings on the north side, and a covered market on the south. During its heyday it was used for important social and cultural events as well as lectures. After many years of disrepair it was finally restored to its former glory in 1967 and has again become a location for special events in the city.

Right across the street Jordan took us to our next destination: St. James Cathedral, the oldest congregation in Toronto. First established in 1797, the current cathedral was completed in 1844 and with a height of 305 feet it features the second tallest church spire in Canada (after St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal). One of the most colourful personalities connected to this Gothic Revival church was the Right Reverend Dr. John Strachan, the first Anglican Bishop of Toronto. He was a member of Canada’s “Family Compact”, the conservative elite that first ruled the British colony of Upper Canada. He was known for his fierce loyalty to the British monarchy, as well as his hatred for slavery and republicanism. The cathedral itself has received heritage designations from the Ontario Ministry of Culture, from Heritage Toronto as well as from the Government of Canada.

We followed Jordan up Church Street, and then turned west on Richmond Street to turn north on Bay Street where we made our next stop at Toronto’s Old City Hall. It was built between 1889 and 1899 and designed by famous architect E.J. Lennox who also designed Toronto’s Casa Loma and the King Edward Hotel. Old City Hall is a masterpiece of Richardson Romanesque Revival style with rich carvings adorning the façade. The original budget of $600,000 had grown to more than $2.5 million which caused a major uproar on Toronto’s city council. The clock tower is more than 300 feet (over 100 m) high and features a gigantic bell known as Big Ben. At the time of its completion Old City Hall was the largest building in Toronto as well as the largest civic building in all of North America. Old City Hall was almost demolished in the 1960s but a group of concerned citizens fought to save it, and today it is a National Historic Site.

Jordan not only filled us in on the various sights along the way, he also gave us a civics lesson and explained the Canadian flag, the Canadian parliamentary system, the Canadian healthcare system as well as Canada’s history and the origins of Quebec and Ontario. This type of knowledge is particularly important to out-of-towners who are trying to understand this city and my co-traveller from Florida certainly appreciated this information.

Across the street we stopped at the next site: Toronto’s New City Hall, one of Toronto’s most distinctive landmarks. The building was opened in 1965 and was designed to replace Old City Hall. The architect for this modernist design was chosen in an international competition in 1958 and the winning entry among more than 500 designs was by Finnish architect Viljo Revell. New City Hall is composed of two rounded towers on a rectangular base that features a saucer-like council chamber. In front of New City Hall is Nathan Phillips Square, an expansive public space that is often used for festivals and special events and features a reflecting pond in the summer that is turned into a popular skating rink in the winter.

Then Jordan took us to our next stop: Osgoode Hall, a landmark building just west of New City Hall that houses the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Superior Court of Justice as well as the headquarters of the Law Society of Upper Canada. The original building was constructed between 1829 and 1832 and was named after William Osgoode, the first Chief Justice of Upper Canada. Further expansions happened in the second half of the 19th century. The cast iron gates surrounding the property feature so-called “cow gates” which were intended to keep out grazing cows which were still a frequent sight in the young City of Toronto.

Just southwest of Osgoode Hall is the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, a 2000+ seat theatre that opened in June of 2006. We turned right and headed north on University Avenue, a six-lane divided principal arterial road and Toronto’s widest avenue. One of the main landmarks on University Avenue, the fifteen-storey Canada Life Building, built in Beaux Arts style, was completed in 1929 and was one of the tallest buildings in Toronto at the time. This building is famous for its weather beacon which has been announcing the weather in the city since 1951. Steady green indicates fair weather, red means rain, white means snow, and lights moving up or down indicate a temperature change. Jordan also pointed out the American Consulate which is occasionally a location of protests when various groups voice their opinions against US policy. Further north, University Avenue is dominated by a series of hospitals. The street then splits into the eastern and western half of Queen’s Park Circle, whose centre is dominated by Queen’s Park, another imposing Richardsonian Romanesque Revival structure and the seat of the Ontario legislature.

Our next stop was the University of Toronto Campus, headquarters of Canada’s largest university (with close to 60,000 students) and one of its oldest, chartered in 1827. U of T is consistently ranked as one of the top 30 university in global rankings. We admired historic buildings such as the Soldier’s Tower completed in 1924 to commemorate members of the U of T community who fell during the war; University College with its mix of architectural styles – a National Historic Site which was built between 1856 and 1859; Knox College built in Collegiate Gothic style and opened in 1915; as well as Convocation Hall, a round building modeled after the Sorbonne theatre in Paris and opened in 1907.

Jordan’s tour then took us west on College Street to the Kensington Market area, one of Toronto’s most colourful and diverse neighbourhoods. Traditionally home to successive waves of immigrants, the Kensington Market area is a hustling and bustling area full of edgy clothing retailers, bakeries, ethnic grocery shops, funky stores and restaurants.

Jordan took us to the “Urban Herbivore”, a restaurant that serves fabulous soups and other vegetarian delights. I enjoyed a scrumptious sweet potato soup and a sweet potato muffin. After our short break Jordan led us onto Spadina Avenue, the centre of Toronto’s largest and oldest Chinatown (Toronto has three different Chinatowns within its city limits).

Both today’s Chinatown and Kensington Market area were originally settled by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Later waves of immigration and the northward migration of Jewish residents have made Kensington a very diverse and ethnically mixed neighbourhood that today features many Latin American and various Asian stores and residents. Toronto’s Chinese area was originally located near Queen and Bay Streets, but with the construction of New City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square the Chinese community moved westwards to Spadina. Lower Spadina is also the heart of Toronto’s Fashion District, which even today features many garment factories.

After the hustle and bustle on busy Spadina Avenue, Jordan led us east towards Peter Street which turns into Blue Jays Way and took us right past the Rogers Centre, the former Skydome, Toronto’s multipurpose stadium with the retractable roof. Right at the intersection of Blue Jays Way and Navy Wharf Court there is an imposing monument, the Memorial to commemorate the Chinese Railway Workers in Canada. Jordan stopped to explain the history behind this impressive monument. A wooden railroad trestle with two precariously perched railroad workers illustrates the hard and dangerous work of Chinese workers who built the Canadian Pacific Railroad through the Rocky Mountains in the 19th century. More than 4000 workers were killed in construction-related accidents between 1880 and 1885.

We then cycled past the Rogers Centre on Bremner Boulevard to Roundhouse Park, the green space right next to the CN Tower that features one of the most impressive views of downtown Toronto’s skyscrapers. The former John Street Roundhouse was originally built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1929 to service and repair locomotives; today it features the popular Steam Whistle Brewery.

Jordan then took us underneath the elevated Gardiner Expressway to Harbourfront, a popular entertainment district right on Lake Ontario. Harbourfront Centre features a variety of shopping and dining facilities; there are art galleries, visual arts and exhibition spaces, theatres, concert facilities and an International Marketplace that entices with food and merchandise from all over the world. The nearby Toronto Music Garden is a delightful green space designed by internationally renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy. In the winter Canada’s largest artificially cooled outdoor ice rink entertains the crowds.

Jordan had already taken us on a very action-packed tour through the city, but the real gem was still waiting for us: a visit to the Toronto Islands. The price of the ferry ride at the foot of Bay Street was already included in the tour price. Although I have been over on the islands numerous times, the ferry ride with its beautiful panoramic vistas of Toronto’s skyline and the arrival on the serene islands are always a real treat. For Susan, the tour participant from Florida, the experience must have been even more special. All of a sudden Toronto’s concrete roads and skyscrapers receded and we landed in the quiet, peaceful and car-free paradise of the islands that offer the perfect view of this hyper-active bustling metropolis. Definitely worth the price of admission…

Having landed at Hanlan’s point, Jordan, our expert tour guide from Sights on Bikes, first took us to a statue of Ned Hanlan (1855 to 1908), a fisherman, hotelkeeper and later championship rower, five time consecutive world champion between 1880 and 1884 in single-scull rowing, who only lost six of his 300 races during his rowing career. Just steps away Jordan pointed out to us the location of Babe Ruth’s first professional home run in 1914. Although the stadium was demolished in 1937, a plaque still remembers this historic event.

We cycled past the nearby “clothing optional” beaches to stop at the Gibraltar Point Light House, a historic building dating back to 1808 that is the setting for a well-known ghost story. Jordan explained that one of the lightkeepers who disappeared and whose murdered body was later found is still said to haunt this area. Further east we stopped at the reflecting pools and the pier that projects southwards from the islands. A snack bar provides welcome refreshments and a bicycle rental booth is located here which also features two-seater quadricycles.

At some point the Toronto Islands were densely populated and featured a variety of grand hotels, retail stores, residential areas, various amusement parks and restaurants. Today only the Centreville Amusement Park remains as well as 62 homes which are mostly located in the eastern section of the islands in Ward’s Island and Algonquin Island.

Resident lease them in 99 year lease agreements, and strict rules apply to the buying and selling of island homes. Many of the houses are still quaint cottages although some have been expanded while others display some signs of neglect. We stopped at a special spot from where we had a perfect view of downtown Toronto’s skyline.

Our deluxe city tour had almost come to an end. Jordan took us past the Centreville Amusement Park with its Swan Pond back to the Centre Island ferry and 20 minutes later we reached the mainland. Our biking adventure ended in front of the Captain John floating seafood restaurant where we said goodbye to Jordan and thanked him for guiding us so expertly through some of Toronto’s most interesting areas. Although I know the city quite well, I found this tour really worthwhile since I learned so many new things about my chosen home town.

Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences & interesting life journeys, interviews with travellers and travel experts, cross-cultural issues, and many other features.

The Athens of the South – The Parthenon in Nashville

The Parthenon is the focal point and the main attraction of Centennial Park which is the foremost public park in Nashville. This remarkable creation is a reproduction of the original Parthenon found in Athens. The original Athenian Parthenon dates back to 438 BC while the Parthenon in Nashville was built in 1897.

The Parthenon in Nashville was initially just a structure made as an impermanent attraction designed for a fair that took place in 1897. Many other temporary structures were also made based on the original designs of prehistoric buildings. However, the people of Nashville received The Parthenon so well that they wanted an actual replica constructed in the park. Initially put together by wood, brick and plaster the Parthenon was then reconstructed on the same grounds with concrete during the 1920s.

Today, The Parthenon in Nashville functions as an intriguing art museum. The 42 feet high Athena statue made by Alan LeQuire is a major highlight here. The statue is also a re-production of the Athena Parthenos statue found in ancient Greece. The statue is a complete, intricate and fine work of art. The helmeted statue carries a shield on the left arm. On the right arm is a statue of Victory which is 6 feet high.

The reproduction of the original Parthenon in Athens has been done very well to match most of its original features and styles and thereby is considered as the highest point of classical architecture. For instance, the plaster replicas found in the east room of the main hall are made out of the original casts that date back to 438 BC.

The art gallery at the Parthenon in Nashville displays a collection of 63 paintings which were created by American artists from the 19th and 20th centuries. Other galleries housed here, provide space for special events, shows and exhibitions.

Although a replica built way after the original Parthenon in Athens, this magnificent structure in Nashville is a must see place.

Travellers can easily explore its splendour by planning their stay at any of the nearby Nashville accommodations. Most Nashville hotels are renowned for offering guests home like comforts, warm hospitality and world class facilities.

Visit Marietta, Georgia’s Historic Museums

Marietta, Georgia is an historic city 15 miles northwest of Atlanta. The city, which was settled in the early 1800s, saw a number of battles rage around it during the Civil War. During WWII Marietta was the home of the Bell Bomber Factory, which built B-29 bombers. That manufacturing facility later became Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s biggest defense contractors. Two museums in Marietta’s historic downtown preserve the city’s history and give visitors a glimpse into its past.

The Marietta Fire Museum is located at 112 Haynes Street, on Marietta’s historic downtown square. Visitors can view displays of antique firefighting equipment including hoses, fire bells, helmets, and other gear. Five pieces of historic fire fighting apparatus are highlighted at the museum. The oldest vehicle is the Silsby Steamer, purchased by the city in 1879 following a disastrous fire that destroyed much of Marietta’s square. The horse drawn steamer pumped 500 gallons of water per minute and was named “Aurora” by local citizens. The Silsby Steamer was used by the city until 1921. It was restored in 1992, is fully functional, and is one of only five still in existence. Another historic vehicle at the museum is the 1921 American LaFrance Pumper, the city’s first motorized fire truck. There is also a 1929 Seagraves 500 GPM Pumper, a 1949 Pirsch Ladder Truck, and a 1952 Chevrolet Rescue Truck. A “Wall of Flame” contains photos of some of the worst fires in Marietta’s history. The museum is open Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm. Tours are conducted by active duty fire fighters. Admission is free, and donations are accepted.

The Marietta Museum of History preserves and displays historical artifacts from Marietta and Cobb County. The Native American Gallery showcases artifacts and exhibits about Native Americans that lived in the area. It chronicles the stories of Cherokees who were forcibly moved west on the “Trail of Tears”. The Andrew’s Raiders Room tells the story of the Civil War battles that were fought in the area. The Military Gallery displays uniforms and weapons dating back to the Civil War. The museum also hosts special exhibits throughout the year. The Marietta Museum of History has an Aviation Wing located two miles away off S. Cobb Drive. This annex features civilian and military aircraft from the last half of the 20th century.

The Marietta History Museum is housed on the second floor of the Kennesaw House, one of the city’s oldest buildings. It is located next door to the Marietta Welcome Center at 1 Depot Street, just west of the square. Hours are Monday-Saturday from 10am-4pm. The Aviation Wing is open Thursday-Saturday from 10am-3pm. Admission is $7 for adults, and $5 for seniors and children ages 5 and older.

Warrington Pleasures – Cycling and Walking

There’s one more place where you can look for ‘The Pyramid’ instead of Egypt because that’s what the arts centre in Warrington called. Warrington is a large town on the banks of River Mersey in the county of Cheshire. Founded by the Romans, Warrington developed as a market town that is still known across England for tool production and its local textiles.

Known for its annual ‘Warrington Walking Day’, the town also has a concert hall, the Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, and several public libraries. Infact, the Central Library in the town is United Kingdom’s first rate-supported one. The Parr Hall has hosted some of the world’s best comedians and musicians including the Rolling Stones.

If you go to Warrington, you cannot miss the parks and designated natural reserves at Paddington Meadows, Woolston Eyes, Risley Moss and Rixton Claypits. Long walks aside, tourists can have their fill of indoor fun at the Winwick Quay ten-pin bowling facility, Bank Quay indoor karting centre, snooker club and ‘Laser Quest Arena’. The Gulliver’s Theme Park is in Old Hall while the Apple Jacks Farm Theme Park is in Stretton. Also, the Zanshindo Aikido Club meets every Monday.

Warrington has several churches too, including the Parish Church of St Elphin which has the sixth largest spire in the United Kingdom, the medieval St Wilfrid’s and St Oswald’s Churches, the Georgian Holy Trinity Church and St Mary’s Church. St Ann’s Church that was designed by John Douglas and built in 1869 has been turned into a popular rock-climbing centre.

Warrington is also one of the few British towns that have a registered charity for promoting special cycling projects as part of their ‘Summer Fun’ Town Council Festivals. Bike rides are offered to families and for all ages with bikes and helmets being made available by the organisers. More information can be obtained about Warrington from its tourist office at Horsemarket Street.

Imitation is the Best Form of Flattery – The Parthenon Replica in Tennessee

Nashville’s autograph the Athens of the South shaped the selection of the building as the showpiece of the 1897 fair. A number of buildings at the Exposition were founded on antique archetypes. But Parthenon was the only one which was conceptualized as an accurate replica and was also the only one which was preserved by the city.

At present, the Parthenon is converted into an art museum. It is the centerpiece of a large park the Centennial Park and is located just west of downtown Nashville. Alan LeQuire’s 1990 re-creation of the Athena Parthenos statue is the center of the Parthenon just as it was in very old Greece. The building is a complete replica of the Athenian novel; and the statue of Athena Parthenos inside is a renovation of the originally lost and is designed to careful scholarly standards: she is dressed and helmeted, holds a shield on her left arm and a small statue of Victory in her right palm, and is 42 feet high. The whole statute is made of more than eight pounds of gold leaf; an equally enormous snake rises on its head between her and her shield. Since the building is whole and its decoration were polychromed as close to the supposed unique as possible, it is debatably a better symbol of what the Athenians would have seen.

This duplication of the unique Parthenon in Athens suffices the memorial to what is conceived as the peak of classical architecture. The plaster statues of the Parthenon Marbles found in the Naos are direct casts of the original sculptures, which decorated the gables of the Athenian Parthenon and dates back to 438 BC. The originals of these remains are sheltered in the British Museum in London.

As an art museum, the Parthenon’s enduring compilation is a group of 63 paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists presented by James M. Cowan. Additional gallery places afford a site for an assortment of temporary shows and exhibits.

During the summer, the building is used as a background for local theatre productions where Greek plays such as Euripides’ Medea and Sophocles’ Antigone, are shot on the steps of the Parthenon. Other public presentation, such as Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses, was filmed inside at the foot of Athena’s statue.

Nashville, Tennessee is also known for several other attractions, such as the Grand Ole Opry and the Tennessee State Museum. If you stay at a downtown Nashville hotel, you can explore the entire city within two to three days. Your Nashville hotel may also be able to arrange your complete itinerary upon request.

Enjoy All York Has to Offer and Stay in York

York city is to be found located where the rivers Foss and Ouse meet and situated in the heart of the area of England referred to as North Yorkshire. For many centuries now the city has been the backdrop for some of the great political events in England’s history dating back to AD71 when it was founded by the Romans.

For anyone who choose to visit or stay in this city there is plenty for them to see and do during their time here. In this article we look at some of the attractions which many visiting this historic and beautiful city will choose to spend time at.

1. York Minster
This is found in the heart of the city and it took over 250 years for its construction to be completed. The actual building of this architectural and artistic world famous building took place between the 1220’s and the 1470’s, and offers many things for its visitors to see.

It is on a very prominent site within the city and over the centuries has been where many of its major events have taken place. At the time of the Roman’s it was where Constantine started his campaign to become Emperor of Roman and where St Paulinus baptized the local Saxon King. Here one has the opportunity to spend time viewing the burial sites of some of the Minster’s many Archbishops including St William of York.

2. Jorvik Viking Centre
If you are visiting York for the first time then ensure that you make time to spend it exploring this very wonderful attraction. In fact this of all the attractions that this city has to offer is now proving to be one of the most popular of them all. In fact it is the most popular one outside of London and during the last 25 years more than 15 million people have visited it.

This attraction provides you with the opportunity to go back in time and see how life was like when the Vikings were in control of this city. The street has been built to resemble the one that people of the time would have wandered down during AD 975. However, don’t be too scared when suddenly you do come face to face with a Viking.

3. Yorkshire Museum
This is the first of England’s purpose built museums and was where in 1831 the first meeting of the British Association for the Advancement for Science was held. Wandering round the rooms you will discover some of this country’s most beautiful archaeological treasures which date back to the 1550’s. Along with some wonderful geological and biological treasures also.

Of all the areas to explore in this museum the one most people enjoy is the Roman Gallery. Plus in here you can learn more about life during the times it was invaded by the Romans (Eboracum), the Anglo Saxons (Eoforwic) and the Vikings (Jorvik).

In this York museum you are provided with a chance to go back to see how ordinary people led their lives during the invasions that took place of this city. But it also allows you to see the way the more wealthy people led lives at these times. But no visit to this particular attraction in York would be complete without spending time looking at the York Helmet, the Ormside Bowl and the Middleham Jewel and Ring.

Unusual Things to Do When Visiting London

There is no reason a city break in the capital city, London has to be boring. You don’t have to spend your days visiting museums and art galleries, the city has so much more to offer, whether you are travelling as a couple or a family. The choice of unusual things you can do in London are guaranteed to delight, giving you something very unique and different to do when visiting this beautiful and busy city in the heart of England in the United Kingdom.

If you want a really unique and unusual thing you can do when visiting London, then you and the family may want to visit Lee Valley. Lee Valley is located at the London Olympic Stadium and offers white water rafting, canoeing and kayaking experiences. It is something so different to do when you visit a capital city and offers adrenaline pumping fun that you can enjoy and remember for years to come. Not to mention you will get to use the Olympic standard facilities which is definitely something to boast about when you get back home after your time in London.

Take the time to visit the Sherlock Holmes Experience. See this fictional character come to life. You will find the experience in the basement of the famous Madam Tussauds Museum. It is an interactive experience as you make your way along the Victorian streets and experience the book in person. Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous fictional detectives in the world and this is definitely something you do not want to miss.

Whether you are travelling as a family or a couple, a visit to them Puppet Theatre Barge is something you will never forget. Based in beautiful Little Venice, the barge is home to the top Puppet Theatre company that has been operating to the public since 1982. They offer a modern twist on tales and kids classics. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, it’s completely different and a very unusual way to spend a London afternoon. Ideal for bad weather or wet days when looking for some excitement in the capital city.

Want to go snow skiing when on holiday and now the family has decided to go to London? Maybe you’re planning a week in the Alps and want to practice your skills before you go. At Fulham Broadway you will find a snow ski school, yes that’s in the heart of London. They have a revolving astro turf, so that the skiing experience can be based on your skill level and they cater to all skiers from beginners to professional level. The price includes instruction, a helmet, skis, boots and is ideal for anyone over the age of five years. So this is something for the whole family to enjoy when looking for something unusual to do in London.

Then there is an opportunity to learn about the darker side of London with the Murder Mile Walk. These walks take place in Soho and take you on a two hour walk where you can learn abut eighteen murders that took place in a small area. It’s interesting, it’s unique and it’s scary. If you love a little history but don’t want something too serious, then this walk may be just what you are looking for. A different side of London that you can explore.

The final thing you can do which is completely unusual when visiting London is to go for the Highgate Cemetery Tour. This historical cemetery is home to one hundred and seventy thousand graves and the guide knowns about each of the residents, telling you about them, what they did and how they died. This is very different and a unique way to spend an afternoon in London.

Bendigo Gold Mines

The Gold Rush of the 1850s is a significant piece of Australia’s history. It played a pivotal role in shaping the country’s economy and in building an enduring culture of adventure, mateship and hard work.

The vibrant regional city of Bendigo is one of Australia’s most significant gold rush sites, rich with folklore, grand colonial architecture and historic cultural sites that allude to its illustrious past. Situated at the geographic centre of Victoria, and an easy 90 minute drive from Melbourne, Bendigo is the ideal destination to discover the great stories of our rich gold mining history. It has been said that during the height of the gold rush, the streets of Bendigo flowed with gold and that on rainy days children panned for the precious metal as water flowed down the dirt roads of the town.

The Central Deborah Gold Mine at Bendigo offers Australia’s deepest underground mine tour. Put on your overalls, helmet and lamp and get ready to explore the original underground tunnels used by miners during the 1800s. Try your hand at mining for gold and keep the treasures you find! Then take a well-earned break and experience a traditional miner’s lunch in the underground function room. The Central Deborah Mine is Bendigo’s premier tourist attraction and the winner of the 2015 Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence.

Just 1km west of the city, the Victoria Hill Reserve is the site of the regions earliest gold workings and a scenic location for visitors to enjoy. See magnificent views of Bendigo and surrounds from the top of the poppet head tower, find historic landmarks like the 150 year old Coath Cottage or discover colonial gold mining relics still present on the land.

The Victorian colonial style architecture of the town makes Bendigo a uniquely picturesque location and serves as an ever present reminder of its rich history. With broad boulevards, stately public buildings and extensive landscaped gardens, Bendigo’s beautiful streetscapes and historic buildings make a memorable site seeing experience. Be swept away to a bygone era at the magnificent Fortuna Villa. Once the home of Australia’s wealthiest mining magnate, George Lansell, the Fortuna Villa is a stunning example of the region’s ‘French-inspired’ architectural style. Enjoy a traditional pub meal in the heart of town at the majestic Shamrock Hotel. Or soak up the grandeur of the Bendigo Town Hall with its clock tower, decorative interior and classical facades.

The Bendigo Museum holds significant works by 19th century artists that document the city’s gold mining past and its growth as a major regional centre, while the Post Office Gallery offers a range of exhibitions that explore the regions rich history and provide insight into how Bendigo has been shaped by its famous gold rush past. Explore the city’s parks and attractions on the delightful ‘hop on, hop off’ Bendigo Vintage Tram service. Or learn about Bendigo’s Chinese history and see traditional costumes, arts and crafts at the Golden Dragon Museum and Chinese Gardens.

For adventurous travelers who are keen to explore Bendigo’s rich gold rush history, the Comfort Inn Julie-Anna offers stylish accommodation within easy reach of the city’s best tourist attractions.

Stories of the Australian Gold Rush era continue to capture the imagination of the people. Take a step back in time and enjoy the adventure and rich history of Bendigo.

Auberge Du Soleil, Rutherford California – All The Resorts In This Relais & Chateaux Have French Nam

Today the public areas of this Rélais & Châteaux resort are at the top of the whole structure. Keen youngsters in beige polo shirts, slightly darker trousers, greet you, check you in, escort your car down to your level, so to speak.

All the villas have French names, and we were in Calais, suite one. This turned out to be really handy as is the closest of all 50 suites to the heated outdoor pool and magnificently hot hot-tub, and the small-but-well equipped indoor-outdoor gym. The suite’s outer door has a vine wreath on it, and elaborate engraved steel plaques can be reversed to say Resting, or Please Make Up (a label with our name also hung outside the door, by the mail box).

Through the door was our private terrace, with front wall high enough to allow us to look out over the flat valley but no-one could see in. The suite is half parlor, half bedroom, the whole with thick oak floor boards with local woven rag rugs. We had stunning heavy oak furniture with rush seating. Light saffron-painted cement walls had same-color wood shutters, and overhead woven rush fans were suspended from the unpolished oak ceiling. I liked the big abstract oils on the walls, and over the working log fire was a four-foot circular mirror. There was a big desk (complimentary wireless connectivity), a Panasonic flat-screen television and dining for four: on the table stood a welcome bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, Round Hill for Auberge Resorts, 2003 vintage.

My husband was ecstatic about the superb wrap-round sound system, with stunning classical music, while I noted the coffee machine, complimentary minibar (with Izze sparkling blackberry and Power-C Vitamin Water drinks), safe, and rust and white striped robes with towel linings. As well as own-label toiletries there were Dr Hauschka bath oils, in a little tin.

It was dinner time. We walked up zigzag paths flanked by olive trees and sensational modern sculpture, all named. The outdoor gallery includes a life-size aviator with helmet but no face; Archie Held’s Lovers, stainless with flowing water; Keeyla Meadows’ Sunflowers, cheerful ceramics and metal; and Orotero I and II, aluminium bulls. General Manager Brad Reynolds sat on the terrace, looking down over the steep slopes of villas.

Tables were set with Villeroy & Boch china, golden damask clothes, golden glass-held night lights and little orange flowers in terracotta pots. We were offered glasses of Schramsberg Blanc de Noir sparkling, and the most super rough bread slices. I relished chef Robert Curry’s pan-fried Sonoma foie gras, and halibut with the fingerling potatoes that no chefs in this part of California can omit, it seems, these days. I passed on dessert, though apparently a favorite is crisp filo-wrapped chocolate dumplings with tarragon ice cream.

We slept like proverbial logs, and I awoke with the dawn, for a refreshing power walk. I trecked to the resort’s spa boutique, which has a Rodeo Drive array of one-off handbags as well as multi-coloured pearl jewellery designed by Mary Watson.

Showered and dressed, we hiked back up through the gardens – sorry, sculpture gallery – for breakfast. We could have had coffee-to-go in styrofoam cups, free from the bar, but we chose to pay for the same delicious Graeffo brew outside, back at ‘our’ table on the terrace. Breakfast here also comes with outstanding fresh juice, good fruits and a chef’s special, a small loaf of zucchini bread (next time I might even have space for the Auberge omelette, filled with Napa ham, gruyère cheese, spinach and potatoes, presumably fingerling).

The Healesville Sanctuary and the Rainforest Gallery of Yarra Valley

Healesville Sanctuary and the Rainforest Gallery are two other reasons why people visit Yarra Valley. Aside from the unquestionably excellent food and wine that visitors rave about during their trip to the famous winemaking region, these attractions blessed by nature are also a crowd-drawer in the area. There are other parks and forests in the district that provide perfect spots for sightseeing, picnics and simple strolling, but these two are among the most spectacular.

An anatomical research institute was built in the former Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve in Victoria and was initially named after its founder Sir Colin Mackenzie. Later on, it was renamed Healesville Sanctuary, now a world-renowned place where a wide range of Australian native species are nurtured.

For about an hour’s drive from Melbourne, you’ll enter 30 hectares of bushland that’s home to hundreds of species of Australian wildlife. You’ll be able to encounter in their natural habitat these unique creatures that represent the country, such as kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, wombats, dingoes, platypuses, and some 200 bird species.

There are aspects of the Australian Conservation Program that’s based in this sanctuary. It includes the Helmeted Honeyeater and the Spotted Tree Frog, which are both critically endangered. The former is said to have only a couple of very limited wild populations in the eastern part of Melbourne, while the latter is nearing extinction due to habitat disturbance. Other species in this program in Healesville are the Mountain Pygmy-possum, found in the alpine and sub-alpine areas of Victoria and New South Wales, and the Orange-bellied Parrot, which are declining due to the degradation of salt marshes and dunes.

Healesville Sanctuary also has a Horticulture Department that’s committed to maintaining the bushland environment in the area. The department staff ensures that indigenous plants are utilized in the Sanctuary and that the habitats of the different animals are captured on display. They take care of the whole park and even the Coranderrk bushland, which is the 142-hectare area of native plant species behind the Sanctuary.

The Rainforest Gallery near Warburton, on the other hand, enables you to walk through the rainforest canopy via a 40-meter long observation walkway. This elevated path lets you see the 65-meter tall Mountain Ash trees, 300 to 400-year old Myrtle Beech trees, and other plant species that keep the rainforest environment alive. As you walk through the magnificent greenery, you will be awed, too, by the flowing sound of the Cement Creek going to the Yarra River.

Indeed, Yarra Valley has much more to offer than just its impeccable wines and scrumptious food. The Healesville Sanctuary and the Rainforest Gallery are additional proof that this famous region in Victoria is truly blessed by nature in all aspects – something that visitors to this destination would confirm.