The Ventnor Fringe | A visitor’s guide

Now in it’s tenth year, the week long Ventnor Fringe takes place in July in Ventnor, a town in the south of the Isle of Wight. It’s a celebration of culture, and hosts some rising stars of comedy, arts, music, theatre and performance at a number of venues around the town.

The headquarters of the fringe are at the Ventnor Exchange which is somewhat a creative hub in itself. Featuring inspiration for the events and a small record store it’s also a top spot for craft beer.

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Ventnor Fringe has become one of the UK’s most popular fringe festivals and is inclusive in that as well as the ticketed events there are also many free acts to see as well as a number operating on ‘donation requested’ entry.

There are over 100 shows in quite diverse venues including the harbour, a laundrette, a horse box pop up, Ventnor Park and even a bus! It has a much more laid back feel that Edinburgh Fringe and attracts a mix of locals and visitors which gives it a friendly and fun atmosphere.

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What you need to know

Tickets

Tickets are available for purchase;

  1. Online –  at http://www.vfringe.co.uk
  2. In person at Ventnor Exchange – 11 Church Street, PO38 1SW Open 9am – Midnight
  3. On the door – Tickets will be available on the door for many events but do check before going as some shows may be sold out. Cash only.
  4. By phone – 01983 716767

Venues

Almost every conceivable place and many you wouldn’t expect have been turned into venues for the fringe. Some are permanent spots with others just being pop ups for the week.

The comedy & cabaret tent as well as the Magpie are both housed in the Parkside area. Complete with giant connect four, table tennis and table football, it’s a fun and pretty area with a bar serving cider, wine, beer and a few spirits. The park itself is full of colourful flowers and for the fringe the area is decorated with colourful flags and bunting making it a very pleasant area to relax before & after a show. There are a couple of food vendors serving cream tea and crab sandwiches. Toilets are in the form of portaloos.

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Another lovely venue is the Ventnor Arts Club. It was an old Art Deco bank which has been converted into a cinema and events venue with a cool bar and luxurious arm chairs to watch the performances.

Just oppose the Ventnor Exchange is the pretty St Catherine’s Church is a delightful venue for smaller more intimate shows.

Other venues include; Pier St Playhouse, Hygeia House and the ‘Book Bus’ outside St Catherine’s Church.

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What kind of acts will you able to see at the Ventnor Fringe?

One of the best things about the Ventnor Fringe is the sheer variety of performances. The best bet is to get hold of one of the Fringe Guides from either the Ventnor Exchange or one of the many cafes in town offering them and have a flick through the ‘what’s on’ section.

There’s some great comedy acts on in Ventnor Park. Taking place shortly before Edinburgh Fringe means that some of the top up and coming comedians want to test out their performances so many of the UKs top new talent often appear.

The Book Bus is famous for it’s spoken word, whilst Harbourside holds many musical performances of a variety of genres including DJs and live bands.

There’s also plenty of plays and immersive theatre as well as street performances for free!

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Where to Stay

Budget – East Dene Stop & Stay is a no frills accommodation offering self catering from only £26 per person per night. It’s located in Bonchurch Ventnor and is suitable for groups as well as singles.

Luxury – The Royal Hotel is less than a 5 minute walk to Ventnor Park where many of the shows take place and only a few minutes more into the centre of Ventnor. It’s a charming hotel with an outdoor pool, splendid afternoon tea and classically decorated rooms.

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Camping – Whilst there aren’t any campsites central to Ventnor there are a number a short ride away which make for very pleasant and affordable stays. Click here for a selection.


 

For more information visit;

https://vfringe.co.uk

 

 

Sustainability on a cruise | How to travel in a more sustainable way.

The topic of cruising and sustainability often comes up and before/during my first cruise I did some research as to how one can cruise more sustainably. Much of this (as well as choosing which company to cruise with) actually comes down to decisions you can make during the cruise, and I wanted to highlight some of these below.

1. Choose to sail from a local port.

In terms of your carbon footprint then flying, especially short haul is one of the worst things you can do. Whilst we all do want to reduce the impact we are having on the planet, most families would be unlikely to forego their Summer holiday, but a holiday where you don’t have to fly is definitely an improvement. I chose to sail on the Sapphire Princess which departed in Southampton meaning I was able to get the train to my port of departure rather than having to fly in. It was very convenient for me and avoided the need to spend more money on a flight, as well as avoiding the airport stress.

2. Recycle

As well as recycling facilities around the ship I was very pleased to learn that everything you put in a bin in your cabin is separated for recycling. So even if you don’t get chance to put your bottles/papers etc into a designated recycling area, then it will all be separated and recycled anyway.

3. Don’t get sheets changed daily

On cruises as with hotels then your sheets will be changed daily and your towels will be replaced, cutting down on your cabin’s laundry is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint however. On board the Sapphire Princess I was able to speak to the friendly staff member assigned to my room and alert them that I didn’t need a change every day.

Equally just by folding and rehanging your towels you’ll be able to make it clear that you don’t need them replacing. This might seem like a small step but if everybody on the ship did the same it would make a big difference.

4. Don’t waste food

Food and dining is obviously a large part of any cruise, but despite all the delicious options you’d be surprised how much food is wasted in any restaurant both at sea and on land.

Much of this lies in us all having eyes bigger than our stomachs, and over ordering. It actually takes a while for your stomach to know that you’re full and especially with a delicious buffet it’s easy to over-order. Do as the Europeans do and take your time with your food, choose a few smaller plates and then go back for more helpings when you’re sure you have room!

5. Use fillable stations instead of plastic bottles

Thanks to the David Attenborough effect most people and now trying their hardest to cut down on single-use plastic.

Take a reusable bottle on board and ask staff members to fill it up for you rather than opting for plastic bottles. Equally don’t forget that on many cruise lines the water in the taps is of very high quality and perfectly safe to drink. Try filling up your reusable water bottle from the tap in your cabin before bed, adding a couple of slices of fresh lemon before putting it in your room fridge to cool for the next day.

On board the Sapphire Princess there were plenty of areas where you could get a drink without the need for any single use plastic.

6. Don’t flush waste down the toilet
This is a steadfast rule for general living; it’s always better to put waste in the provided bin rather than flushing it. As previously mentioned rubbish in the bins is sorted and recycled so better to put it in there to ensure that any ‘black’ and ‘grey’ water is actually cleaner when dropped in accordance with the law.

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This article was written in AD partnership with Princess Cruises but as always all the opinions are my own.

The Bower House | A delightful Cotwswolds stay

I’m a big fan of boutique properties, I find the attention to detail is usually much higher and the service often more personal.  Indeed, at The Bower House you’re welcomed as an old friend and the smiling staff have great suggestions for the local area.

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The five rooms are individually designed, with different styles, layouts and sizes to appeal to a range of guests. I stayed in Room 1, which was spacious but furnished in a way that felt cosy, especially with the slightly drizzly weather outside. There were many details in the rooms that have addressed pet peeves of mine at other hotels over the years; fresh milk was provided in the fridge, necessary for people like me that have their coffee pretty white and who don’t want to have to empty 12 UHT pots to make it drinkable.

There was a bath oil provided, once again presumably an idea of someone who has stayed in too many hotels where you have to empty the shampoo bottle into the bath to make any bubbles. Plug sockets were plentiful and near both bedside tables, a detail so often missing and making it difficult to charge one’s phone overnight.

810_7350The rooms come with a mini bar/drinks including local gins and quality wines, and the television comes with a Netflix account. Normally I’d say that I don’t go to a hotel to stay in and watch television but there was something about The Bower House that made me want to actually relax and enjoy the room. It’s designed in a luxurious way, but one that doesn’t feel pretentious, just quality furnishings allowing you to relax and enjoy your surroundings.

810_7322The bathroom is huge, featuring ‘his n hers’ sinks, a deep bath tub as well as a large shower with a range of quality shampoos and lotions. Once again it strikes me that the designers /managers will have stayed in the room as the small details make it so functional. Separate towels for the bathtub and the shower area make for easier post bathing and even the addition of the full length mirror alongside the sink mirrors and make up mirror mean every eventuality is thought of.

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The stylish bar serves some great cocktails, some featuring twists on classics like the margarita with a dash of pear brandy and some foreign favourites like the Pisco Sour. The bar and dining area is a mix between modern and traditional, with old paintings on teal walls and vintage style drinks trolleys next to brightly upholstered chairs. 810_7401

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I enjoyed the ambience in the dining area. It’s clearly a popular location for a meal amongst guests at the hotel but also with customers travelling in from miles around to dine there. I opted for the Roasted Chorizo as a nibble for the table, followed by a perfectly done salt & pepper squid with homemade chilli jam.

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810_7449Desserts were excellent including the Treacle Tart and the chocolate fondant served with honeycomb. The Bower House is also a popular brunch spot, and on Saturdays the restaurant was a lively affair with families and couples choosing from American Pancake stacks, smoked salmon and poached eggs and other breakfast delights alongside  mimosas and a selection of coffees.810_7537For a fantastic nearby option for dinner or drinks is The Howard Arms. A cross between a local style pub with friendly regulars & small groups enjoying the bar, and smartly dressed couples dining in the restaurant area. As well as a selection of real ales they have some fantastic wines including a great English white which went excellently with the Cropwell Bishop stilton bon bon served with grilled pear. 810_7457

810_7474The Howard Arms offers both traditional favourites like fish & chips, and slight twists like the ham & duck egg, but also more fine dining presentations such as the ‘Ham Hock Rillete with crispy black pudding, soused vegetables and apple sauce.’ 810_7491

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Shipston on Stour is a very pleasant town with some great unique shops, independent boutiques & charming delis to spend a couple of days wandering around, and The Bower House makes an excellent luxury base from which to explore.

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The Bower House

The Howard Arms

 

What to do in Pico Bonito National Park?

Only a short drive away from La Ceiba is Pico Bonito National Park. It’s a haven for birdwatchers and nature lovers and draws in visitors from all over the world keen to spot some of the rare birds found in the area.

Pico Bonito Lodge and Spa is a member of the group Small Luxury Hotels, which is quite fitting due to the intimate environment at the lodge. It’s one of the top places to stay in the country and a fabulous location from which to explore the local area.

The accommodations are in private wooden bungalows complete with a terrace, hammocks and an en suite bathroom with showers giving the feeling of being outside without actually having to be.

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The grounds themselves are lovely to walk around; close to the hotel I saw, with the help of local guide Older, two Central American screech owls just a short walk from the reception. Equally easy to spot are the dainty hummingbirds that flit around the outside dining area making breakfast a delight for nature lovers.

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The spa area is set within wooden teepee style huts and the treatments range from the usual manicures to speciality treatments and unique experiences. I opted for the Vichy Shower, a treatment I hadn’t heard of before but will certainly be remembering. You lie on a wooden table and are showered with warm water while the therapist scrubs you with a variety of products; a bit like a more luxurious version of a Turkish hamman. Following the exfoliation you’re massaged and left feeling relaxed and extremely smooth & clean.810_5790

Going to sleep there is a pleasure. The mattresses are incredibly comfortable and at night time you’re actually pleasantly relaxed by the sounds of nature; a real life version of a sleep machine recording.

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There are even nearby natural swimming holes, with incredibly clear water and a number of rushing waterfalls. The pools are only a short walk from the lodge yet still feel as if you’ve just discovered them yourself.

Xocolatl Chocolate

Honduras is known for it’s coffee but another major export is actually chocolate, and Xocolatl are producing high quality as well as showing tours of the estate.

Surrounded by hills and lovely waterfalls the tour takes you around the grounds showing the areas for drying the beans as well as seeing the cocoa plant and trying the fruit. Here the chocolate is naturally sweeter as they have planted other fruit trees and vanilla around the cocoa plants.

After a pleasant walk you’re able to try your hand at producing your own chocolate using a traditional Mayan tool similar to a mortar and pestle. Then using the moulds you can shape your creations and sample the tastes!

Nature hike with @ReservacionesLaCeiba

Reservaciones La Ceiba are a wonderful company that give locals the chance to build up their skills as a guide by developing their language skills, growing their confidence and entrepreneurial skills.

This means that the guides used have a huge amount of knowledge about the local area and it’s fauna and flora as they have usually grown up close to where they run the tours.
As we walked through the area our local guide would demonstrate the different uses of the plants and trees.

I get bitten badly by mosquitos and the guide even showed me how to use a termite nest as a natural repellent. The guides can tailor your tour to your particular interests, and I was keen to find the local natural swimming holes as well as learn about some of the local plants. Equally the hikes can be changed to suit your level of fitness and if you don’t want to stray too far then there are some lovely river crossing bridges as well as sights just along the river.

For more information & for tours please contact Choose Honduras

10 reasons to visit Santa Rosa de Copan | Honduras

 

 

1. It’s a great introduction to Honduras
It’s often overlooked by tourists rushing to Copan Ruinas meaning that it’s less touristy and feels like a very authentic Honduran experience.

Only a couple of hours from the Salvadorean border and well located on the way to both San Pedro Sula and other major destinations, it’s an ideal stop for a few days of taking in the sights.
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2. It’s known as the capital of coffee in Honduras
SRC has over 40 coffee shops each with their own personal style and unique selling point. Not only is the local coffee fantastic due to the ideal altitude for cultivation, but the nearby tours where you can learn about the process make the final product even more enjoyable. Top recommendations are Estucafe with it’s 17 different methods for making coffee, and Kaldis coffee offering some of the top cakes in town to compliment your drinks.
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3. It’s got an active nightlife.
There are plenty of bars and dance spots in the city, and on a weekend the streets are alive with young people bar hopping, drinking cocktails in trendy bars such as Wazzz or enjoying the beers at Calitos Grill. On top of this there are regular events and festivals adding to the local atmosphere including projections of films onto the central cathedral.
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4. The streets are very pretty
A big effort has been made to preserve the original look of the centre and the cobbled streets alongside the colonial style coloured buildings make for pretty viewing. The cathedral with it’s central dome is lovely to visit and many of the buildings nearby are great to look at with their big balconies and white & red colourings.
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5. It has food options that have people travelling in from all over Honduras.
Doña Olimpia has been making top end roast pig for over 70 years. During busy periods the kilns are constantly on roasting the 12 hour marinated meat and orders come in from all over the country. It’s a family business and they’ve perfected the crispy pork that has people coming back for the rich and salty dish.
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6. It has a number of businesses trying to lead the way in sustainable tourism.
Yate Aqua Park runs adventure trips around the area including tubing, rock climbing and abseiling. With each tour the participants are expected to clean up a bag of rubbish from the roadside at the end of the day.
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Cafe de las Velas sells crafts made by underprivileged women and creates jobs for them in the Café.
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Seis Valles cafe and coffee producer is finding new technologies in coffee production that cuts down their carbon footprint as well as aiming to recycle as much as possible during the process.
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7. There is beautiful countryside so close to the city.
Just outside the city it’s possible to go on some great hikes, the Hummingbird lookout is less than an hour walk to a great lookout point and only a 35 min drive away is Hacienda Montecristo offering horse riding and other farm activities such as calf feeding and trying your hand at milking a cow.
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8. Markets, arts & crafts
For those of you who love arts & crafts there are a whole host of options. Lenca Mayan Placita is a lovely location with colourful umbrellas lining the ceiling and brightly coloured murals on the walls. As well as the small cafe there are a number of artisan shops selling delightful craft items, soaps from natural products, traditional clothing and local foods.
The central markets are also great to walk around; not usually visited by tourists it’s great to see the locals in cowboy hats eating their meals, unusual vegetables and herbs lining the narrow walkways, and vendors selling all sorts of dishes including when I visited…a bull testicle cerviche!
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9. Cigar production
A lot of people hear ‘cigar’ and think of Cuba, but actually Honduras is one of the top producers of cigars in the whole world. Much of the tobacco here is actually repackaged in Cuba and sold as Cuban cigars on the international market.
There’s an interesting cigar museum and shop, with information about the history of tobacco in Honduras and Santa Rosa de Copan, as well as rare cigars on display, with the option to purchase local and international cigars in the shop.
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10. There are even speciality local liquors
On one of the prettiest streets there’s a tiny shop and cafe selling Timoshenko, a locally famous liquor.
Coming in two flavours, one coffee and the other fruit, this moreish drink is not only served on it’s own or in the case of the coffee one; with milk, but is so popular that many restaurants incorporate it into sauces and dishes.
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For further information please contact;

Top things to do in Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador

 

The Ruta de las Flores is a picturesque area in El Salvador, popular for spending a few days exploring the small towns and villages that make up the route, hiking, visiting markets and generally having a nice laid back time. Below you’ll find some top suggestions for what to do in the area.

My suggestion for a company that offers tours in El Salvador that are well priced fun hitting up all the main spots is Tunco Life.
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  1. Learn about the local artists and weavers in Ataco
    Ataco is full of great craft shops selling locally made items. You can see some of the traditional looms used to make the brightly coloured cloths you’ll see around, as well as shops selling ceramic designs by/inspired by Fernando Llort the famous artist from El Salvador.
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  2. Get lost in the Albania el Laberinto
    The maze is a fun activity for all ages. Surprisingly difficult for a small maze it completely defeated me. I’d like to think that with a bit more time I would have found the middle but I did escape to the pleasant cafe on site serving up tasty cakes.20190114_125512
  3. Take a tour of the El Carmen estate  on an Ataco coffee tour
    El Salvador has fantastic coffee and the El Carmen Estate is a great place to learn about the process as well as try some of their quality gourmet coffees.
  4. Visit the Thermal pools of Santa Teresa 
    There are a number thermal pools to try out, of varying temperatures. It’s a pleasant place with pan pipe music replicating Western hits whilst you swim around. There’s a bar/restaurant on site and at weekends it gets very busy so best to visit on a weekday if you want the place pretty much to yourself.810_3792
  5. Eat at the Food market in Juayua
    Every weekend Juayua comes alive with it’s famous food festival. A great number of stalls pop up all over the town especially near the main square and church. If you’re a foodie and want to try local specialities then this is the place, with vendors selling cheap and freshly prepared food right into the night.
  6. Check out the vegetable markets in Nahuizalco
    Nahuizalco is fairly low key but has some great vegetable markets with colourfully dressed market traders and a whole range of local fruits and vegetables as well as other snacks and treats.
  7. Admire the murals in Ataco
    Ataco is one of the prettiest towns in the area and it’s ever so colourful. It’s covered in beautiful wall art and murals all over town. As well as some of the major pieces of work there are also smaller pieces to be found on the sides of cafes and shops, so it’s worth having a good wander round to find your favourites.
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  8. Take in the views of Santa Ana Volcano
    Santa Ana volcano can be seen from miles around and on the Ruta de las Flores is one of the top places to view it from afar. On a clear day you’re able to see the coffee plantations running up the side of the hills and the rolling clouds make for wonderful time lapses for those interested.
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http://www.tuncolife.com (not sponsored)

 

 

 

 

How to get from Bocas Del Toro, Panama to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

How to get from Bocas Del Toro, Panama to Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Option A) Take a transfer – The more expensive option but easier for more nervous travellers or those not on a budget. Most of the shops in Bocas Town offer tranfers to Sixaola for around $25 per person. This doesn’t include any exit taxes for those needing to pay, but does take some of the hassle out of negotiating prices with separate drivers on the route.
Option B) Do it Yourself – The cheaper version and really not that difficult.
1. First take the water taxi to Almirante from Bocas Town. Taxi 25 is a reputable company and runs shuttles back to the mainland every half hour for $6.
2. Next you have two options, either walk the 5 minutes to the bus station and get two buses..first to Chianigola and then a second to Sixaola. Total cost – $6
or Get in one of the white minibuses from outside the water taxi station – $10 – These will take you directly to the border
3. Collect your exit stamp from the Panama side at the kiosk to the right of where the minibuses drop you off.
4. Walk across the large metal bridge onto the Costa Rican side. It’s advisable to get here as early as possible as the queues here can get pretty long. If you have an umbrella it’s quite handy for the scorching sun, often followed by heavy rain while you’re waiting in the queue.
5. Get your entry stamp to into Costa Rica.
6. When you’ve crossed through you can once again pay a further 10 dollars to get to Puerto Viejo in a minibus, or if you want to save some more money it’s only $3.50 from the bus station which is about 100m away. Walk immediately right after crossing the border and follow the road down and round the corner to the where the large white buses will be waiting. The last bus leaves the station at 1930.