Monday, November 30, 2009

Top five festive days in Cumbria

It's dry (at last), snow-capped and as beautiful as ever. Even better, it's also much quieter than normal! People, it's the best time to visit Cumbria so come on up, the weather's lovely

Despite the terrible recent flooding in Cumbria there are still plenty of wonderful places that are accessible and very much still available to enjoy. Most of South Lakes is perfectly passable and the flooding is easily avoidable. Now just as the festive sparkle starts to gather, so do the snowflakes on the peaks. So to help you make the most, here’s our Top Five festive days in the Lakes:

1. Kirkby Lonsdale, 10 mins off the M6

If you're in the mood for something festive why not turn off at junction 36 on the M6 and head east for 10 minutes. You'll arrive in Kirkby Lonsdale which is arguably one of the prettiest villages in Cumbria and perfect for finding that festive feeling.

Shop: Look out for the Christmas fair over the weekend of 5th and 6th December.

Eat: The Sun Inn is perfect for a mulled wine by the fire. We also love Avanti for a spot of lunch or Sublime cafe by the market square for a scone.

Wander: through the church yard and down to the river to feel as though you've stepped back in time

2. Ulverston, 35 mins off the M6

Ulverston is a larger market town but just as traditional and a great Christmas destination.

Clearing cobwebs: Walk up the Hoad (currently being restored) for fantastic views

Eats and drinks: warm up in Gillam's tea room over some lovely organic tea and cakes by a traditional stove complete with roasting chestnuts. It's all one rather lovely cliché. Also try the World Peace cafe for really tasty veggie food.

Sparkle: we tweeted recently about the rather lovely Italian platters on offer in Avanti Capitola Wine Bar - goes nicely with a glass of Prosecco over lunch. Hic!

Shop: I was enjoying Two by Two at the weekend, a lovely independent clothes shop that is part of the famous Tinner's Rabbit shop, an art gallery, gift shop and local book store all in one. Ulverston also boasts fantastic charity shops - check out St Mary's Hospice shop for some real high quality bargains.

3. Darkest Muncaster – a real day out amidst stunning scenery

Muncaster Castle is a delight at any time of the year but not least during the dark nights, when something magical happens... Muncaster is currently hosting a spectacular during the evenings called 'Darkest Muncaster' where there is a show of lights and sounds after dark, illuminating the grounds and surroundings. With a rum hot chocolate you can cosy up and enjoy the feast for eyes and ears.

4. Windermere

Given that Tripbod is about getting off the beaten track we wouldn't normally suggest dropping into Windermere as it's very much the honey pot of the area. But due to the flooding and national assumptions that the whole county is underwater, the town is not so crowded and this might be just the time to visit.

Start the day: Jump on the train and arrive into Windermere right next door to the flagship Lakeland Limited store. If you don't lose hours in here among the aisles of kitchenware you never realise you needed until now, then we'll be amazed.

Drinks and eats: From the station tottle down into the main part of town where you could do no better than checking out Francines bistro for lovely seafood, or drop into The Lighthouse for a mulled wine while people watching. Fish and chips just over the road is pretty good too

Shops: some independent gift shops and a lingerie shop that was recently praised in a national retail awards ceremony. You might just find the perfect Christmas gift in there for the lovely lady in your life...

5. Cartmel and a New Year's Eve to remember

The Faure Requiem will be performed in the hauntingly beautiful Cartmel Priory at 11pm on New Year's Eve. Have supper before hand in one of the lovely local pubs and then wander to the priory for an enchanting night and start of the new year.


If you want a few personalised tips to add to your visit to Cumbria then please do get in touch. We are your Tripbods in Cumbria, waiting to hear from you and share our local knowledge.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The other Rome

Mass tourism leads fluxes of thousands of people a day through areas and monuments that are supposed to show you an image of grandeur and make you "feel the weight of History" (as Michelle Obama told my boss a few weeks ago!).

The other Rome is much less glamorous, but it has History too! You just can't appreciate the "rione" (neighborhood) Monti if you don't know that it was the center of the main business that supported this city throughout centuries: prostitution!
But the areas that still bear surprises even for me, are the ones that still live in what we call History. As if time had never gone by.

When my sister moved to a neighborhood called Pigneto, I started exploring and discovering areas of Rome that seemed to come right out of a Pasolini movie: Two enormous ancient aqueducts stripe the area, and people, ever since World War II, just "nest" in their cavities. That shows you the thin line between considering a bunch of two-thousand-year-old ruins, monuments or half-built half-price solid houses...
Its worth going to have a pizza between the two aqueducts: everyone around you chats lively and doesn't seem to mind the two "dinosaurs" of History looking into your plate...

Close by there is a park, the largest one in Rome, were locals like to go jogging. A friend of mine lives near it and took me once (although jogging is the equivalent of torture for me...). She talked and talked as I struggled to survive. From time to time we'd stumble on a Renaissance farm, or an imperial nympheum, or e medieval chapel: isolated dots in a vastness of green hills. There was no one around, just a few panels that explained a story. Sometimes school field trips go discover these places, but that's it. These are places that belong to the kids that play in them, making their imaginations run wild!

That night we went to a "trattoria" (a restaurant with paper tablecloths, wooden plates and waiters that speak "Roman" and not Italian at a very high volume), one of those places where the traditional cuisine is still served: tripes and brains and other succulent cuts that over the decades the poor have turned from discard to masterpieces.

Rome is not that big: about 1200 km2. With a half-hour car ride you can visit the villages that surround it, where time has stopped at the middle ages. Just last week I went to a jazz concert (talk about contrasts!) in one of these minuscule villages that occupy the tip of a pointy mount, with defensive stone walls around it, cobble stone streets and a castle at the top. Very pictoresque... When the concert was over my friends and I headed towards the door of the village and as we were going down we noticed a little old lady washing her dishes at the public fountain, she had emptied the scraps of her casserole onto the floor. She was dressed in black and told us that she only went down to the local market once every 6 months, because her husband had died 7 years ago. Very... retrò.

So, Rome is History, ancient mostly, but recent History gives it its charm too. Many areas of Rome that until no more than ten years ago, were simple, inhabited by the working class, are gradually being transformed by the youth that can no longer afford to live close to the center and that are investing in restyling their neighborhood. So, areas with a rather sad abandoned industrial taste, become popular, with caffes with poetry readings or photography expos, and gain a new charm, sometimes just by illuminating differently that same old building. And that is were students gather, those piazzas and alleys become lively hot-spots of the roman "movida". (Of course, usually the consequence is that after a few years, the prices to rent appartments in those same old crumbled buildings, rise up to infinity, and students have to find some other place)

About Industrial Archeology, as they call it, we picked up the idea from England and France, and by now we've made a few attempts at transforming ex-factories into museums or posh restaurants, that in my opinion are glorious results that tourists often miss. The thing is that because we have this very italian (especially roman) mania that keeps us from throwing anything away, these structures are never completely emptied. For example, the Gare d'Orsay in Paris is a magnificent building, voided, made neutral, to contain an art museum. Well, we just didn't have the heart... you'll find an ex-power plant turned into a museum, with white greco-roman statues next to turbines and alternators. Fascinating!

Yes, we like contrasts, and most of us have never been inside the Colosseum.

Elena is your Tripbod in Rome.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hip Hip Hooray, for the Settle-Carlisle Railway!

I was delighted to read in the Westmorland Gazette (a great regional newspaper in Cumbria) this morning that the wonderful Settle-Carlisle Railway was voted No2 in the ABC American News 'World's 10 Greatest Railways', second only to The Blue Train in South Africa

Settle is in North Yorkshire and Carlisle is the county town of Cumbria where I am a Tripbod.

This railway is very special and I am delighted that it is now appreciated across the globe, despite not being particularly grand. Yet apparently grandness does not matter, because the Settle-Carlisle line beats the Orient Express and the 'Palace on Wheels' in India!

Then again, with views like this, who needs luxury?!

It is difficult to express the breath-taking beauty the feeling of 'getting back to nature' that runs through you when you trundle along this route.

For me train journeys are often about being able to read or catch up on work, but this route leaves your eyes unable to move from the scenery. Even on a wet day the landscape is stunning.

The wonderful little stations through which you pass have barely changed for a century. It feels as though you are being transported, physically, back through time.

So pack a picnic, jump on the train (costing a whopping £10) and as the ABC article promises, 'your eyes will find plenty to feast on'.

Other individual railway lines we love include:

Photos courtesy of:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Please watch this film

This moving film was played during the launch of World Responsible Tourism Day. Please take a moment to watch it...


Courtesy of Ben Keene's Tribewanted blog

Tripbod at WTM 2009

Thanks goodness it's Friday.... what a week it has been!

The 30th World Travel Market (WTM) took place in Excel, London and saw many thousands of travel folk from across the globe come together to talk travel, business and innovation.

One of the most rewarding experiences of this massive week was the amount of attention given to niche/local/responsible/positive (whatever you want to call it!) tourism. When I first started going to WTM and talked about connecting travellers to the grass roots and great local people, I was treated as an outsider, except by those wonderful people who have since become friends and a few of whom are now Tripbods.

But this year everyone was extolling the virtues of niche, grass root travel and I was inspired by the number of like-minded entrepreneurs who were in attendance, vying for their piece of an ever-fragmented marketplace.

The highlight of the whole week, however, had to be the Fringe event on Monday evening hosted in central London by Tripbod and friends. The Fringe is a global network of like-minded travel entrepreneurs and organisations, passionate about 'good' travel, the kind that benefits everyone and so-called because they are so often on the Fringe of big travel events. Well, not any longer - the Fringe WTM event was the place to be!

Sponsored generously by Intrepid, Rough Guides, The Blue Yonder and Travel To Care we saw 75 guests from 40 countries 'speed' networking away and enjoying a cosy evening in the basement bar of the Pavilion End pub, just next to St Paul's Cathedral. Lots of new friendships and business ideas were forged and it made for the perfect start to what turned out to be quite a crazy week.

Anyway, thank goodness it's Friday....

Fall Traditions in Veneto - Chesnuts and Novello wine

The summer in Italy ended with a screeching halt two weeks ago, literally overnight the temperature went from hot and humid to cold and damp. However, as much as I do love the summer, the fall in Italy comes in a close second. With the changing of the weather comes a change in activities. The piazza is still the place to be in the evening with a spritz in hand, but the ice in the glass makes it a bit chilly so some adaptation needs to occur. With the added chill in the air comes the added treat of the little man who roasts chestnuts...yes, it's over an open fire and some “New Wine”.

I used to live in Boston and there would be a man downtown that would roast chestnuts, but he used a gas powered fire and the smell just about made me sick and he didn't do it by hand, he had a little machine that swept in circles inside of this steel barrel turning the nuts. On the contrary, my little roaster man here uses real wood that realizes a sweet smelling smoke that gently curls over the roofs of the nearby buildings lining the piazza. The nuts are actually roasted by hand by a gentleman who (in my opinion is nearly 80) uses a giant, cast iron skillet with holes in the bottom that has a long (about 6 feet) wooden handle.

I must admit that this little 80 year old man is my favorite roaster; he seems to know exactly how to toss the nuts into the air so that the shells come off of the nuts. Even as he continues to roast them, he never burns the actual nut inside and every single one has a warm, sweet, flavor that didn't exist with the roaster in Boston. Each skillet filled with nuts is just as perfect as the one before it and he seems to do it so effortlessly that you would think that the skillet is a feather in his hand.

The price for a bag of freshly roasted, piping hot chestnuts is roughly 1.50 Euro per etto (1 etto = 100 grams; 500 grams is 1.1 pounds) which is more than enough for 1 person. With all of this goodness around you, you can have a relaxing, romantic, fall evening in the piazza. But what if you get thirsty? Novello wine, roughly translated, means New Wine. Why? Because that's exactly what it is. From now until the beginning of summer, Italians alone will drink somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 bottles of this sweet, smooth, very young red wine. Every year this wine is typically produced from the beginning of November (usually the 6th) to the end of March...that's it.

Novello is an easy drinking wine that isn't very strong, and for those of you who think that you prefer something a little fruity, I guarantee this will be right up line of sight! Novello wine is meant to be drank immediately. Don't think about buying a bunch of bottles and storing them in your wine cellar, by this time next year the wine would be bad. Just pick up a bottle and uncork it, it's the way to do it. The main thing that makes Novello the way it is comes from the way that it is fermented. The grapes are not crushed like they are with most wines, but rather the wine is fermented using whole grapes, this allows for a minimum amount of sugar to be converted into alcohol, which consequently gives the wine it's smooth, fruity, flavor.

So if you're thinking of heading to Venice in the next few weeks, perhaps this could be a lovely alternative to the many enotecas and wine bars that abound in Venice. Find yourself a cozy piazza with a man roasting chestnuts and small enoteca that offers Novello might be the best night you'll ever spend in Venice. But don't think you have to come only to Venice to experience this, you can also find a wondeful array of roasters in Padova, Treviso, Bologna, as well as many other small towns around Northern Italy. If you happen to see me in the piazza make sure you say “Buona sera.”.

Brad is Tripbod in Veneto and Venice

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Monday, November 2, 2009

James talks about Scotland's overlooked legends and raiding the larder

Everyone can come up with an Icon of Scotland when asked, whether it is Edinburgh it’s ancient Capital or St Andrews, the home of Golf or indeed Whisky or “Uisge Beatha” to give it its ancient name, the Water of Life.

Scotland however has so much more to offer, it has the deep history of its people and their proud achievements as Engineers, Artists, Missionaries and Sporting heroes to be explored and enjoyed. There are also many beautiful destinations in Scotland which quite often get overlooked by visitors.

For example the Angus Glens & Southern Scotland’s rolling hills or the truly breathtaking Inner Hebrides. Scotland is also a haven for the active visitor, with Walking, Cycling & Watersports centres, it’s a very different way to take in the beauty of this great country.

Like any other country it has its myths and legends, none more so than the Loch Ness Monster, which has beguiled many visitors and citizens to seek out the legend on a visit to Scotland. But also William Wallace & Robert the Bruce it’s great heroes, or Robert Burns who left us many songs, poems and traditions from Haggis Neeps and Tatties to Auld Langs Syne.

Scotland’s larder is also one of it’s major contributions to the enjoyment of its visitors, renowned the world over for its fresh seafood, unique cheeses, organic fruits and vegetables and of course the Haggis, Stornoway Black Pudding & the Arbroath Smokie.

This world beating produce is put to great use by award winning Scottish chef’s the world over, such as Gordon Ramsey, Tom Kitchin or Nick Nairn.

So even if you knew about Golf, Whisky & the Loch Ness Monster, there’s actually much more that you never realised you knew about Scotland, why not plan your trip now.

James is Tripbod for Glasgow and the Highlands.

See his profile and start planning your perfect trip to Scotland.

Make the trip to Joyce Bakeshop one afternoon and enjoy Brooklyn the way the (real) locals do...

Situated near the beautiful Prospect Park, the monumental Brooklyn Museum and the ephemeral Botanical Gardens, Joyce Bakeshop is a perfect example of that which Brooklyn’s neighborhoods can offer. Just off the corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and Park Place, Joyce Bakeshop is this Brooklynite’s favorite spot to get coffee, tea, and of course, snacks. Open only since 2006, this family owned and operated spot provides the Prospect Heights neighborhood with the best of the best in hand-crafted pasteries. The owner and chef, Joyce, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in NYC offers up fresh ideas and old favorites, with precision, every single day. My personal favorites are anything that has to do with Brioche, of which you can get whole loaves on Saturdays and Sundays. Moreover, they offer Brooklyn Roasted Gorrilla brand coffee (definitely better than the standard Starbucks or Koffee Khaus blend) and a wide array of loose teas to choose from.

I did not find Joyce Bakeshop by accident, and neither will anyone else. Admittedly, a good friend of mine (for years and years) is Joyce’s brother-in-law. The first time I ever set foot in the shop it was about three weeks after their grand opening (and two weeks after I returned to New York from a year living in St. Petersburg) and he was helping out while they were building up a staff. Upon my first entrance, I was wowed by the cozy atmosphere of the wood molding and the mind-blowing array of pastries behind the counter. I quickly settled down for a cup of black tea and a sampling of Joyce’s selection. By the time my friend was done with work (we were to go for dinner) I was completely full, having eaten about six or seven different things.

Since then, my friend has moved to San Francisco, but my enjoyment of Joyce’s pastries has not lessened one bit. In fact, it has grown with every bite. To emphasize how fantastic this shop is, I repeatedly traveled the 30 minutes on the metro from my Manhattan apartment for 2 years. Now, living in a different part of Brooklyn (Greenpoint), I make my weekly (or twice weekly if I have time) trip via bicycle despite the many good local cafes and bakeries within walking distance.

Even though it is not my neighborhood, the community that revolves around Joyce is a fantastic slice of New York life. This includes the adorable recognition they give to their “lifers”; that is those children who have been coming to Joyce with their parents their whole lives.

If on your next trip, you are hungry, or want some coffee, or really even if you don’t, make the trip to Joyce Bakeshop one afternoon and enjoy Brooklyn the way the (real) locals do. So go to Joyce and try everything(!), maybe take a friend or two so you don’t get too full.

Joyce Bakeshop
646 Vanderbilt Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238
(718) 623-7470

Scott Ritner is the New York City Local Expert for Tripbod.

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