Manchester

I only spent a few hours in Manchester ahead of a football game once, strolling around the city center and forming no more than a first impression.... Read More

Edinburgh

In 5 words: Vibrancy and eye-catching landscape. For your first visit you need no less than 2 full days to be able to fully appreciate the city and all of its major sights while keeping pleasantly unhurried pace. Distances are walkable, public transportation is unlikely to be needed. Love its dramatic topography. Worthy attractions: Edinburgh Castle; Royal Mile. Left for another visit: St Giles Cathedral (did not go inside); Scottish National Gallery; People’s Story at the Canongate Tolbooth; Holyrood Park; Palace of Holyroodhouse: Real Mary King’s Close; Sir Walter Scott Monument; the New Town; Greyfriars Church; Museum of Childhood. Last visit: March 2015.      Destination appeal   Our verdict... Read More

Scotland

In 8 words: Breathtaking landscapes, lakes, beautiful castles, and yes, whisky. For your visit anything less than 4 full days will leave plenty of unexplored; to take in all of the variety on offer, a week may be the bare minimum. Worthy attractions: Edinburgh; Eilean Donan castle; Urquhart castle; Highlands and Speyside distilleries. Left for another visit: Skye; Islay; Glasgow; Dundee; Aberdeen; many other distilleries and castles. Last visit: March 2015.      Destination appeal   Our verdict   The whisky trails and Edinburgh deserve their dedicated entries on this blog. This article highlights other places in Scotland that we visited all too briefly.... Read More

Scottish whisky distilleries

Over the course of two different trips separated by six years, I have visited 14 different Highlands and Speyside whisky distilleries in Scotland. The visits ranged from very detailed to extremely brief, from formal tours to quick tastings. There are over 80 working distilleries in those two regions combined, but the ones I targeted are among the most frequently sought out by the visitors. Below are the notes on each place.... Read More

London and Greater London

In 8 words: A capital of the world, fun and happening. For your first visit you need no less than 5 days to be able to fully appreciate the city and all of its major sights while keeping pleasantly unhurried pace. Distances are walkable in many cases, but the city is vast – you will certainly need to use public transport for traveling between “clusters” of attractions. Don’t miss: Lingering on Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square; strolling along the Thames Path; (reputedly) taking an afternoon tea at a posh salon; immersing in theater-and-pubs scene in the West End; relaxing in Green Park or St James Park. On the other hand: The narrow twisting streets aren’t intimate enough to invite idle perambulation, but they do make driving through the city a lengthy and confusing exercise; not that you would care if you were visiting as a tourist. Destination appeal Our verdict Worthy attractions: Westminster Abbey with memorials to world-famous Brits; London Towe... Read More

High-speed trains in Europe

Travel by train is considerably more common in Europe than in the US, with multitude of routes, options and departures. Besides vast commuter networks in and around large metropolises and regular long-distance service, there are several high-speed networks that reach most if not all of the major destinations in Western Europe. We, so far, took advantage with only a couple of those.... Read More

Kent

The south-easternmost part of England is home to a number of excellent attractions, all reachable as day-trips from England by car or public transport.... Read More

Wales

In 6 words: Great nature, plus some imposing castles. For your first visit you can do a highlights trip in about three days, but that will leave some areas unexplored. Active outdoors types will certainly need more. Worthy destinations: Cardiff; Brecon Beacons National Park; Portmeirion; Caernarfon and Conwy. Left for another visit: Coastal areas of Pembrokeshire (including St Davids) and Llyn Peninsula; Powis Castle; Llandrindod Wells. Last visit: March 2008. Destination appeal Our verdict Wales has dramatic natural wonders, from its coastline to its mountains, and enables a great deal of outdoorsy pursuits. For those more interested in man-made wonders, such as yours truly, Welsh offerings are somewhat less spectacular. Which is not to say that you can’t find interesting things to do in Wales if you are primarily interested in history and architecture, but you will enjoy it more if you mix in at least some hiking or trekking or climbing or cycling or rafting or what-have-you in... Read More

Bath

In 11 words: Georgian architecture, Roman baths – and Stonehenge is not too far away. For your visit you need about a day to discover the town at a pleasantly unhurried pace; a trip to Stonehenge and/or Salisbury will require a separate day. (London-based tour companies offer a day-trip that covers Bath and Stonehenge in addition to the Windsor Castle, but as one might expect, you spend more time on the bus than doing the actual sightseeing, and that at a very brisk highlights-only pace.) Distances are walkable in all cases. Love its sandy-colored look. Don’t miss: A moment of quiet relaxation in the Parade Gardens.      Destination appeal   Our verdict Worthy attractions: Roman Baths (and you can brave drinking the waters at the on-site restaurant); The Royal Crescent and the house at No.1; Parade Gardens; Pulteney Bridge. Left for another visit: Bath Abbey [did not tour inside]; Fashion Museum. Nearby destinations: Stonehenge; Salisbury [did not v... Read More

Cotswolds

In 4 words: The quintessential English countryside. For your first visit, two to three full days is the reasonable duration that will allow you to visit a number of interesting locations. Worthy destinations: Bourton-on-the-Water; Stratford-upon-Avon; Hidcote Manor Garden; Broadway and its tower (located some distance away); Snowshill Manor. Left for another visit: Moreton-in-Marsh; Blenheim Palace; Warwick Castle. Last visit: March 2007. Destination appeal Our verdict... Read More

Oxford

Oxford ♥♥♥ is probably less picturesque than Cambridge, but far surpasses the other in architectural grandeur.... Read More

Cambridge

Cambridge ♥♥♥ is a gem in its own right, given the architectural grandeur of several of the colleges that comprise the famous university.... Read More

Brighton

Brighton ♥♥ is an atmospheric seaside town 60 miles south of London. It is a tremendously popular location, reputedly overrun by tourists in summer.... Read More