Tips and Inspiration for your European holiday


Welcome to my first post of 2015. I hope you had a fantastic festive season and were able to enjoy some rest and relaxation. I’ve spent a wonderful couple of weeks with family and friends and have also had time to reflect on the past year and plan for the year ahead.

As a gardener and garden lover, I love to visit the magnificent gardens of the UK and Europe whilst on my travels.  I've been lucky enough to visit some famous and not-so-famous gardens over the years and admire the work of the talented and dedicated designers and gardeners who tend lovingly to these living works of art.  Despite sometimes being crowded due to their popularity, each of the gardens I've visited has had a calming effect on me and has left me aspiring to create a little of this magic in my own garden.

Home exchange and house sitting have become buzz words in the world of travel lately with more and more travellers using these forms of accommodation to save on their travel costs.  Nicole Connolly and Michael Wright are an Australian couple who are currently just over 1000 days into their full time travels around the world and it's fair to say they are experts at house sitting.  They share their travel and  house sitting experiences on their blog Suitcase Stories. Nicole agreed to answer some of my questions about house sitting which I'm sharing with you below.

One of the reasons I never tire of visiting Europe is because it is so big and there are so many new places to see. I tend to return to a couple of favourite haunts on each trip but I always make sure to include new regions in my itinerary and it's always exciting heading to a new destination.

I was rapt recently when two gorgeous books arrived in my mail box for me to review. Both coffee table books by Australian journalist and photographer, Janelle McCulloch, the books would make an ideal gift for anyone who loves France, or as a special treat for yourself.

International airfares make up a significant part of the cost of a holiday to Europe so it pays to be sure you are paying a fair price. Good value doesn’t necessarily mean securing the cheapest fare but finding the fare that best suits your needs. After many years of booking flights for my European holidays (and to other international destinations), I now have a process I go through when searching for flights which I hope you’ll find useful, too.

When I was having coffee recently with a friend, she mentioned that she was thinking of taking a trip to Europe next year with her husband. We chatted for a while about the various options – coach tour, river cruise or independent travel – and which places she hopes to visit on her four week trip. She then asked me “How much will I need to allow for the trip?

Lately I've been hearing a lot about Home Exchanges as an alternative, and cheaper, accommodation option for travellers. Having never done a Home Exchange myself, the best person to ask was Rosemary Kneipp, an Australian who has lived in France for over thirty years. Rosemary and her husband have exchanged homes numerous times over the years, mostly in Europe, and she agreed to share her experiences and tips with me.

When I was sitting at the hairdresser’s the other day, glazing over the gossipy pages of the women’s magazines, I started thinking about little things like having a hair cut and how we take them for granted. When you’re on holiday in Europe, though, it’s another matter.