Guide to Ipswich

Ipswich is the charming county town of Suffolk, located on the estuary of the river Orwell, presumed to be the inspiration for author Blaire to change his name to George Orwell.

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Replete with well-preserved and quaint one-storey buildings, including the 15th century ‘Ancient House’ in the Buttermarket area, Ipswich offers a pleasant contrast to the bustle of London, which is only 100 kms away.

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Wander around the town centre – The layout of the town centre can only be described as adorable, with local pubs, vegetable market, town churches et al jostling for your attention. Take a stroll around the buttermarket area, gaze at the heritage buildings, peep into adorable homes, grab a lunch at Zizzi’s, watch the latest movie, drop into the reading room, hear the church bells toll while you savour a pastry from Patesserie Valerie.

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Meet the Giles Family – The town of Ipswich is steeped in history, Charles Dickens stayed at the Great White Horse Hotel when he wrote ‘Pickwick Papers’; Dr. George Birkbeck founded one of the first ‘Mechanics’ Institute’ which operates to this day as the Ipswich library and reading room. One such famed icon was cartoonist Carl Giles who lived in Ipswich and whose popular satirical cartoon was widely loved. He is commemorated with a statue of Grandma and the ‘Giles family’ menagerie in Queen Street, overlooking the window of the newspaper office where he worked.

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Picnic at Holywells Park – The Holywells park much like the rest of Ipswich has history going back thousands of years. Tools from the Stone Age, as well as Bronze Age axes and Roman Coins have been discovered at this 67 acre park. The beautiful park is home to a large number of birdlife and is ideal for a summer picnic. On the way back to the town, head to the pier at sunset for a romantic walk under the shimmering lights of the waterfront.

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Visit Cambridge – The famed university town of Cambridge is a short train ride away from Ipswich and visit it you must. Cambridge’s architecture and gardens are spectacular; Punting in Cambridge is a wonderful way of looking at the beautiful ‘Bridge of Sighs’ and the ‘Mathematical Bridge’ while on the river Cam. I especially enjoyed musing over the sculptural and entirely mechanical ‘Corpus Clock’.

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Guide to Edinburgh

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Stay by the Portobello beach – Most people don’t really think of a beach when they think of Edinburgh, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that Edinburgh has a beautiful beach just a few miles away. I was lucky to have stayed right at the Portobello beachfront, come morning you will seen umpteen dogs frolicking in the sand and playing catch. The beautiful sunrise will coax you out of your slumber while the gentle sound of the waves will serenade you to sleep.

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Visit the Royal Botanic Gardens – The royal botanic gardens are a treat to the senses. The beautifully landscaped garden has a delightful, not-to-be missed Alpine-grass enclosure. They also have art exhibits that seek to educate and at the same time enthral curious minds. When I visited the gardens in May, there was an absolutely exquisite botanical art exhibit of native Scottish plants. Follow The Botanics to know about the latest program for the month of your stop over.

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Pay homage to Greyfriar’s Bobby – Bobby, a Skye terrier belonging to constable Gray has been immortalised for his loyalty and devotion. Please remember to only admire and commemorate, rather than rubbing the nose of the beloved terrier; The stories of resulting good luck are only a myth.

Visit the Elephant House Cafe and Victoria Street – Edinburgh is the birthplace of the world’s most famous wizard, Harry Potter. Wandering through Edinburgh’s old town, its surreptitious alleys and castles, its easy to see how such a beautiful city inspired such a momentous book.  Right across from Greyfriar’s Bobby is both the Elephant House and the winding Victoria Street. Elephant House is a cafe on George IV Bridge where author J.K. Rowling spent her time looking out the window to Edinburgh castle and creating the world of wizards. The winding pathways of Victoria Street lined with whimsical shops served as the inspiration for Diagon Alley; A walk along it’s road gives one the sense of being in the book.

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Visit Dean Village – Dean Village (from ‘dene’ meaning deep valley) is a picturesque village just 10 min from Princes street. Dean Village is an oasis from the bustle of Edinburgh and there is much to do here; Take a walk along the Water of Leith walkway, picnic at the meadow or meander to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Cliffs of Dover

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The White Cliffs of Dover are a part of the English coastline facing the strait of Dover and France. Standing atop the grasslands of the cliffs amidst wildflowers, grazing ponies and butterflies one can see Calais, on the coast of France.

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Here is an excerpt from the poem Dover Beach eptimising the beauty of the Kent coast,

   The sea is calm tonight,
   The tide is full, the moon lies fair
   Upon the straits – on the French coast, the light
   Gleams, and is gone: the cliffs of England stand,
   Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.

Stonehenge

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On a bright sunny afternoon in September, I set out to visit one of the great wonders of the ancient world, the Stonehenge. Stonehenge was built in the period of 3000 BC to 2000 BC on the axis of the midsummer sunrise. Since Stonehenge was built by a culture that left no written records, its purpose and even the method in which it was built is still a mystery adding an aura of mysticism to the ancient monument.

The bluestones in the inner circle of the Stonehenge, considered by many to have healing properties, was brought to Wiltshire from the Preseli mountains in Wales and was considered a great feat of engineering feat at that time.

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The Sun-stone found north east of the Sarsen circle, was amongst the first monuments at the site of the Stonehenge. On the day of summer solstice standing within the inner circle of stones one can see the sun rise over the stone.

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How to get there – Take a train from London to the charming town of Salisbury, from Salisbury take a shuttle to the site of the Stonehenge. Be sure to explore Salisbury’s winding walkways and outdoor markets!

Guide to Ceylon

Ceylon is a beautiful country made more beautiful by the kind and genteel people who call it home. Being a small country, one can traverse the hills and the beaches on a short scenic drive.

Here is my guide to Ceylon –

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Colombo 11 – was the home of famous Ceylon-born architect, Geoffrey Bawa. Tours through the home are now conducted 4 times a day and is a treat for those who love art and architecture.

Noritake – is a world renowned Japanese company that creates fine porcelain tea and dinner sets. A visit to their store in Colombo is a must to stock up on wonderful cutlery, that also make for great souvenirs.

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Independence Arcade – The mall adjacent to the Independence Square and the lovely gardens is a beautifully restored dutch heritage building. It has the wonderful T-lounge by Dilmah, a great place to curl up with a book whilst relishing on delicious matcha ice-cream. It also has two beautiful spas and even a multiplex, should you fancy watching the latest blockbuster whilst on a holiday.

Barefoot Cafe – is a bookstore, art gallery and cafe serving lip-smacking food; Of particular note is the ‘Srilankan thali’ consisting of rice, poppadum, salad, lentils and oh-so delicious fish curry.

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Borella Kanate Cemetery – Arthur C Clarke made Ceylon his home from 1956 till his death in 2008. He was deeply attached to the country, drawn at first with the promises of wondrous underwater adventures along its clear coastline. His final resting place is the Borella Kanate cemetery where his tombstone reads – “He never grew up, but he never stopped growing”.

Paradise Road Gallery Cafe – is one of the chicest places to dine in Colombo. The building was designed by renowned architect Geoffrey Bawa; The walls are filled with beautiful art, the food is wonderful and the entire experience is a delight to the senses.

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Lunuganga, Bentota – Lunuganga was architect Geoffrey Bawa’s country estate and is now a beautiful hotel. The expansive, rolling hills skirting a lake, the roman statues and delightful nooks are reminiscent of an Italian villa. If you are merely visiting the gardens, partaking in a traditional Srilankan lunch spread is a wonderful idea. The table is laid out in the impeccably decorated main house facing the placid waters of the Dedduwa lake and is an experience one simply cannot miss.

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Fort Galle – The historic Fort Galle is a world heritage site, owing to the beautiful Dutch & Portuguese architecture within it’s walls. One can spend an entire day walking the ramparts and discovering beautiful villas at every turn.

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Church Street Social – is beautifully decorated in soothing shades of grey and serves the most delicious food in all of Galle. The delectable desserts deserve a special mention, my favourite being the exquisite orange chocolate fondant served with delicious vanilla ice-cream.

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Ahangama Beach – holds a special place in my heart, for it spun many memories that I will always hold dear. It is a pristine beach ideal for surfing and snorkelling. It is also a short tuk-tuk ride away from whale and dolphin watching at Mirissa.

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Guide to Phuket

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Phuket is the largest island off the southern coast of Thailand and is an amalgamation of all the attractions that make Thailand such a popular travel destination.

Things to do

Visit Patong Beach 

Ride a colourful tuk-tuk to Patong beach and party the night away or soak in the sights and sounds and get a massage at one of the many shops along the street.

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Tuk-tuk to Patong!

Visit Nai Harn Beach

This is a pristine beach with fewer people and a great place to relax. On the way to Nai harn is the Kata-Karon viewpoint and makes for a great pitstop at sunset. You could also take the boats out to small islands near Nai Harn for a bit of snorkelling or diving.

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Nai Harn Beach

Learn to cook Thai cuisine

Have yourself an impromptu cooking class on the street, the friendly locals are happy to show you how they make thai curries and other specialities in their carts. Also don’t forget to sample the delicious nutella pancakes you find at every corner.

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Impromptu cooking classes on the street

Guide to Singapore

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Singapore Botanical Gardens
Singapore is one of the cleanest, safest cities in the world and has the prettiest gardens. The people of Singapore are conscientious, helpful and always full of joy.

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Singapore Botanical Gardens
Places to see

Singapore Botanical Gardens – This 156 year old elegant garden is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Spend an entire day exploring the musical stream, the ancient trees, the prized orchids, the hidden alcoves and at last, stop by the Villa Halia for a refreshing ginger drink and a delicious lunch.

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Haji Lane
Haji Lane – Watch the street come alive at sunset with the smell of kebabs and the sound of jazz! Don’t forget to treat yourself to a refreshing massage at the Frangipani spa located at the end of the lane.

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Adventure Cove, Sentosa
Adventure Cove, Sentosa – Swim with beautiful fishes of all colors of the rainbow at the Adventure Cove, watch the amusing manta rays and enjoy the sun while you gobble delicious gelato.

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Singapore Philatelic Museum
Singapore Philatelic Museum – is located in a colourful, colonial building near Clarke Quay and is a delight for stamp collectors; You can even buy stamps from other countries. I bought a treasured dinosaur stamp from Ecuador.

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Jurong Bird Park
Jurong Bird Park – The African Waterfall Aviary is an impressive 5 acre, rainforest habitat with free-flying birds, many of whom have learned to mimic human speech!

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Jurong Bird Park