4 Things You Should Do in Lanzarote

Desperate for some sunshine? Book your flights to Lanzarote for guaranteed good weather, volcanic landscapes and plenty of cocktail-fuelled down time. With white-washed villages, coloured shutters and impressive sculptures, this easternmost island in the Canaries is a firm favourite with tourists, and us!



Timanfaya National Park

This national park looks like something you’d expect to find in a movie. It’s dusty, bleak and covered in volcanic ridges and rocks. It is what’s left behind after the Montanas del Fuego- a group of more than 100 volcanos-were last active in 1730s. It’s spectacular scenery is one of Lanzarote’s number one attractions.

The Guinate Tropical Park and Penguin Paradise

Penguin Paradise is located in a landscape sunken in close proximity to Mount Corona and Famara Cliffs. An array of birds, mammals, reptiles and fish come to find shelter at The Guinate Tropical Park and Penguin Paradise all year round. Ranging from parrots to flamingos, the main avian attraction at the park is the penguins.

The park is home to beautifully laid-out gardens which stand out by the splendid cactus walk. This is the perfect place to pop down a picnic blanket with your loved ones, enjoy dining alfresco style and enjoy the sun’s rays.

Rancho Texas Park

Dig out your cowboy hat for a day out at Lanzarote’s biggest theme park, Rancho Texas Park. The whole place is themed around the Wild West, and activities like pony rides, canoeing and panning for gold are some of the big highlights. You can see tigers, snakes and giant tortoises in the Animal Magic zoo. The fun continues at night with a barbecue, line dancing and cowboy show.

Cueva De Los Verdes

Visiting Cueva de los Verdes is truly a spectacular and unique experience. One of the longest volcanic tunnels in the world, the Cueva de los Verdes has been delighting visitors since it was opened to the public in 1964.

The Cuevas de los Verdes were part of a 6 kilometre long lava tube which formed about 4000 years ago when Montana La Corona erupted. It forms one of the longest volcanic galleries in the world. The beauty of the caves is amazing and is definitely a site worth visiting.

So, whether you’re looking for a relaxing holiday by the beach, or a tourism-fuelled mini break, Lanzarote is the place for you. With sunny weather guaranteed, this popular island makes the perfect summer holiday.

4 Asian Cities Any Culture Vulture Will Love

None of the continents of the world can surpass Asia in terms of cultural richness and diversity. Ancient civilisations have left their mark all over Asia and shaped the many distinct Asian cultures that exist today. Here are some of the top cities in Asia to visit if you want to experience some fascinating cultures face to face.



Kyoto


Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, is a haven of culture. Old Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines dating back over 700 years are well-preserved and a great place to visit and lose yourself in this period of Japanese history and culture. Japanese people are justifiably proud of their culture, and no place in the country showcases Japanese culture more impressively than Kyoto. In addition to the magnificent temple and shrine architecture, there are beautiful Japanese gardens, geisha girls, ryokan traditional lodgings, tea ceremony demonstrations and much more.

Kathmandu


The capital city of Nepal is a fascinating blend of Hindu-Buddhist cultures and religion. Located in the Himalayas Mountain range, the city has a lot of religious significance with cultural influences from India and Tibet. The surrounding countryside also has great examples of traditional life. Colourfully dressed villagers and their ways of working and living in this ancient former kingdom are a very rewarding sight.

Ayutthaya


Ayutthaya was the capital of the old Kingdom of Siam, now part of modern day Thailand. It was a very important city before its destruction hundreds of years ago by invading Burmese forces. What remains is a unique combination of ancient ruins and modern replacements where important Buddhist ceremonies are performed. Some of the ancient ruins and temples are very famous, and there's an entrance charge payable. Most others, however, are completely free to enter and walk around and marvel at the great artistry and craftsmanship. You can get around the many spread out sites in Ayutthaya easily if you hire a car in the town. Make sure the hire company has English speakers so that you can enquire about important matters such as car hire excess insurance in the event of an accident.

Varanasi


Situated on the banks of the River Ganges in India, Varanasi is an important centre of pilgrimage for Hindus, who come to bathe in the river as it's considered sacred in Hinduism. You can visit temples and ashrams and listen to Indian classical and traditional music in many places in Varanasi. You can also see interesting sights such as long-haired and bearded holy men lying on beds of nails, cremations and scattering of ashes by the banks of the river.


While any one of those great cities would make a great starting point for any visitors looking to expand their knowledge of Asian cultures, there are so many others that visitors will find themselves spoiled for choice. Asia is the largest continent on the planet, and there are cultural riches and experiences to be found throughout the entire length and breadth of the continent.

Types of Luxury Traveler Infographic

Holiday destinations and travel can be as different as the people who plan them. Nowadays, even the journey to and from a destination can be done in a stylish way, which many may have thought was out of their price range.

The kind of traveller can range from those who like to travel to exotic and relaxing destinations, to those who prefer outdoor adventure and intrigue and to those who like to wander around and take in the local culture to the full. This infographic shows the kind of traveler, the holiday most suited for them and that will get the maximum fulfilment out of. If this encourages you to book your adventure this coming summer, grab a low cost flight here.

The Many Types of Luxury Traveller

The Fascinating Footprint of Cesar Manrique on Lanzarote

As one of the Canary Islands, situated off the northwest coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, Lanzarote is a well-established and well-liked holiday destination. Thanks to the turquoise waters, golden sand beaches and a permanently balmy climate, it is no surprise that flights to Lanzarote are packed full of sun-seeking travellers all year round.

However, this particular island is quite unique and somewhat different to its equally alluring Canary counterparts. Rather than capitalising on tourism by building more high-rise apartment blocks or hotels to accommodate increasing demand, Lanzarote has retained its natural beauty and artistic charm.

This is mainly down to one man - Cesar Manrique. Born in the capital of Arrecife, Lanzarote’s most famous son succeeded in protecting the island’s native and cultural assets, which are still evident today. So, if this sounds like your kind of destination, here are some of Lanzarote’s most appealing sights and delights, which Manrique was largely responsible for.



Mirador del Río

Manrique created this spectacular viewpoint in 1974 on a steep cliff known as Risco de Famara, It is around 475-600 metres high and looks over the strait of Rio towards the island of La Graciosa. The cafe, souvenir shop and viewing platform are all integrated in the lava rock, so as to protect the location’s intrinsic aesthetic.




Jardin de Cactus

Yet another amazing landmark that is incorporated into Lanzarote’s landscape, the Jardín de Cactus (Cactus Garden) is located toward the north of the island in Guatiza. Here, you’ll find over 10,000 different plants and arguably the world’s best collection of cacti. From the amphitheatre-like giant bowl, cut from an old quarry, to steep terraces that resemble the wall patterns of local fields, every design and construction detail has been carefully considered with the terrain in mind.

Jameos del Agua

If legendary Hollywood movie star Rita Heyworth called this landmark “the eighth wonder of the world,” you know it must be special. The Jameos del Agua is “the most beautiful nightclub in the world,” according to Manrique, who created this incredible cultural attraction in the 1960s. Climb down the stone-staircase, cross the clear water lake and find yourself in the open-air cave known as Jameo Grande, which features walls of tropical plants and an inviting, albeit out of bounds swimming pool.

Taro de Tahíche (César Manrique Foundation)

Constructed within a series of volcanic bubbles, Taro de Tahíche is one of Manrique’s former residences and now the home of his very own foundation. The imagination and ingenuity of this particular abode simply must be witnessed on a visit to Lanzarote. From volcanic staircases to built-in concrete sofas, Manrique tried to feature as many natural wonders as possible. Even though you can immerse yourself in his amazing work, a considerable modern art collection has paintings by Picasso, Miro and others as well.

Museum of International and Contemporary Art

The site of Lanzarote’s Museum of International and Contemporary Art is situated in a historic fortress dating back to 1774. But in the 1970s, Manrique convinced the island authorities to restore the Castillo de San José into a museum for art. After appreciating the paintings and sculptures on display, be sure to eat and admire the view at the museum restaurant.

Many may think that Lanzarote is a quintessential package deal destination, but thanks to Cesar Manrique, it boasts several artistic and cultural delights, which set the island apart from alternative holiday resorts.


Images by Raúl A.- and Gabriel Villena used under creative commons license.



Greek Islands: Step Back into Ancient Greece

The Greek Islands are synonymous with sun-drenched beaches but this fascinating region of the world also offers a plethora of archaeological sites dating back thousands of years. From the Minoan Palace of Knossos to the ancient ruins of Delos, the Greek Islands hold a wealth of ancient cultural artefacts.


Europe’s oldest city



Two million people have booked Crete holidays this year and if you’re one of them, make sure you don’t miss the chance to visit the Minoan Palace of Knossos. Legend has it that Knossos is the palace of King Minos and the city was abandoned sometime around 1380 to 1100 BC. This ancient city, located in Heraklion, dates back to around 2,700 BC but was only discovered in 1878. The site has been substantially restored by expert archaeologists over the years including the Throne Room, the Royal Villa and the many beautiful frescoes.


The birthplace of Apollo



A boat ride from the island of Mykonos will take you to the uninhabited island of Delos, one of the Greece’s most important archaeological sites. Mythology claims that this island was the birthplace of Apollo and the island was and is still considered a sacred site. Delos contains a wealth of historical artefacts including monuments such as the Temple of Apollo, the Terrace of Lions and the ancient theatre. The sites on Delos allow you to step back in time to the 3rd millennium BC and there are over 50 acres of excavations to be explored.


The Temple of Aphaia



The Greek Island of Aegina is home to the ancient Aphaia Temple, first built in 570 BC but then destroyed and rebuilt in 510 BC. The temple is located on the island’s eastern side and provides more than enough of a reason alone to visit beautiful Aegina. Located in a natural beauty spot at 160 meters high, you can be assured of spectacular views across the sea from this monument’s location. Visitors are permitted to walk around the 20 well-preserved columns and the view at sunset, along with the tranquil atmosphere, will provide an unforgettable experience.


The most beautiful Greek Island



Yes, Santorini does seem to win hands down as the one of Greece’s most stunning and picturesque islands. This island is also home to the ancient Doric town of Thira (the classic name for Santorini), which dates back to the ninth century BC. Many of the ancient ruins here date back to the Hellenistic era but you will also find examples of Roman and Byzantine buildings. Sites include the Temple of Dionysos, the Sanctuary of Artemidoros and the cemeteries of Ancient Thira.


One of the most famous Greek islands



Rhodes is a very popular Greek Island destination and is in many ways a living museum. The island is home to the majestic Palace of the Grand Masters of the Order of St John, and this is an amazing example of Grecian gothic architecture. The Archaeological Museum is worth visiting for the collections of pottery, coins and sculptures, some of which date back to the 1st century BC. Other historic sites on Rhodes include the Citadel and ancient temple ruins such as the Pythian Apollo and the temple of Athena Polias.

The Greek Islands are indeed a place of beauty and if you know where to look you can find many amazing historical treasures not too far from the beaches. Take a little time to explore these historic works of art and watch Ancient Greece unfold in front of your eyes.

This post is brought to you by Holiday Hypermarket.

Images by Σπύρος Βάθης, Jack Keene, Ava Babili, George M. Groutas and Paul Simpson used under creative commons license.

The Ancient Roots of Barcelona

Barcelona is a bustling, fast-paced, and modern city in the northeast corner of Spain. Antoni Gaudi, a renowned Spanish architect, designed and built many of the whimsical structures that dot the landscape of Barcelona today. For example, La Sagrada Familia and Casa Mila confront the viewer with their dripping, undulating forms that mimic nature and the up-and-coming Art Nouveau style of the early 1900s. 


However, despite all the quirky modern buildings, the long, paved streets with glitzy high-end shops, and the touristy beaches that beckon all types of sea-goers, Barcelona has a rich ancient history that often gets shoved unceremoniously to the side. Barcelona was once a satellite city of Ancient Rome, and conventional wisdom has it that the Romans were in this part of Hispania as early as 218 BCE. 

However, the vibrant city did not start to grow in its commercial trading and Mediterranean importance until the early 1st century CE. This was because Augustus, the Roman Emperor who thrived on conquering foreign areas, “Romanized” it, and transformed it into a fruitful province for Rome. Although the best example of preserved Roman ruins in Spain are the Aqueducts in Segovia, a sleepy town of under 55,000 residents, there is something captivating about witnessing ruins in the heart of a modern, bustling city.


The first extensive example of Roman ruins is stored in the City History Museum of Barcelona. This hole in the wall museum (only two floors!) is hard to find as it is tucked into a dark, cobblestoned alleyway; however, just ask a local and they will be happy to point you in the right direction. On the Tuesday night that I visited the museum, the admission was free; interestingly, my family and I basically had the underground portion of the museum to ourselves. 

This underrated museum houses a wealth of Roman ruins from a wine factory to a cloth dyeing shop. The dyeing shop purportedly featured colors such as “Egyptian Blue” and “Pompeii Blue”; pigments are still noticeable on several of the concrete slabs. The other neat aspect is that one can literally “walk with the ancients” because there is a clear, plastic walkway that snakes through the ruins at the same level as them. 

I could well have been walking in the footsteps of a deceased Publius or his wife, Livia. The preserved ruins also included a pedestrian street (the Cardo) with columns /sewers and a Garum factory. Here, vats were built for fish to be skinned, cut, and processed into Garum, an ancient fish sauce that was popular with the Romans. 


Lined ceramic vessels were sunk into the floor to hold the sauce and the fish remnants. Because the staple beverage of Ancient Rome was diluted wine, naturally this complex included a wine making factory. Again, large amphorae were used to hold the processed wine, grape pulp, and tartrates (3rd-4th century). Although this museum also includes Christian ruins (i.e. a small church), I find the characteristic Roman ruins the most fascinating because they tell the story of everyday citizens that were part of the most influential and powerful Empire of the ancient world.

The second “must see” ruin in Barcino (the Roman name for Barcelona) is the Temple of Augustus. This Temple is over 2,000 years old, which makes it the single oldest ruin in Barcelona. It is located in the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gótic), the oldest portion of the city. Sadly, the only part left of this once glorious Temple dedicated to the first Emperor of Rome is the majestic (and grime-ridden) Corinthian Columns. This Temple used to be the focal point of an imperial Forum built in Barcino, and it was likely constructed by Tiberius, the adopted son and heir of Augustus. 

The Columns today are enclosed in a small medieval courtyard with modern apartments built around them. Imagine opening your dusty blinds and looking out onto some of the most dignified and historically rich ruins in Barcelona—incredible. When I visited this structure, I had the Temple to myself (well, at least until a hoard of tourists stampeded the place, but no matter). The Temple was excavated in the 20th century and draws in a modest stream of tourists during peak seasons (although it too is tucked into a nondescript street corner!)

For a taste of the city’s culture and the haunting ruins of the past, I would walk to Placa Nova, a square that looks out onto Barcelona’s massive, heavy-looking Gothic Cathedral. People (on this day, the elder population) were dancing together in a tradition Spanish jig in the middle of the square in the sweltering afternoon sun. It was the quintissential travel expereince; with an impressive Cathedral behind me, the vestigages of an aging, native Spanish population danicng in front of me, and the remains of an Ancient Roman wall in the rear, the day was considered a cultural success.

By Mackenzie Krauss from Learn Travel Art

How to Protect Your Art

Last month, Norwegian industrialist Christian Mustad discovered that the unsigned Van Gogh-style painting he had left languishing in his attic because he believed it was a fake, was in fact the genuine article. He was lucky. Not only because he found himself to be the owner of an internationally important masterpiece but also because that masterpiece hadn’t been damaged during its long banishment.

Paintings

Mustad is a collector so presumably he knows a thing or two about storing paintings (key points as follows: ensure the storage room has stable atmospheric conditions, remove all fixings, stack framed works back-to--back and unframed ones face-to-face, use pads to protect the base and corners and invest in a storage rack) but had the picture been harmed or stolen, he would have been in trouble. As Tom Sargent, Client Manager of Aon Private Client’s art team says, ‘the most fundamental question to ask [when buying art works] is what settlement will be made in the event of a loss.’

Inadequate insurance is a common problem. Standard insurance policies not only tend to have low single article limits, they also disregard any depreciation following partial loss. For example, if a painting valued at £100,000 is damaged, incurring restoration costs of £1,000 and subsequent depreciation of £10,000, a standard policy will only pay for repair. A comprehensive policy that accommodates fine art and antiques, on the other hand, would also settle for the depreciation. ‘There is a significant difference between insurers that understand the nature of art and insurers that deal in mass market products,’ says Sargent. ‘Trying to explain to a standard insurer the impact a hair line crack has on the value of a Song Dynasty bowl is a hard task.’

Of course, avoiding damage in the first place is the best policy of all and while it’s impossible to protect against every eventuality, there are some simple steps collectors can take to reduce the possibility of harm. The most important of these is to display art works appropriately. Ideally, paintings should be hung from brass chains attached to two hooked plates screwed into both sides of the frame back and since fluctuations in temperature cause the most damage, all works from oil paintings and bronze sculptures to ceramics and art glass must be kept at a consistent temperature away from direct heat and light. Try not to hang paintings in high traffic areas of the house such as stairways and always steer clear of the spaces behind doors.

Cleaning requires care. If you must dust your paintings (if the paint is flaky don’t), always place them on a cushioned surface and lean them towards you so that the dust falls forwards. Then, using an artist’s brush, move slowly and gently across the surface. Bronze pieces should be dusted with a soft cloth or, when necessary, sponged with neutral soap and water, while glass and ceramics are best wiped with a damp cloth. Never soak ceramics as the clay can absorb water.

Damage is often environmental so it’s advisable to examine your art works on a regular basis. For example, check canvases for areas of buckling or discolouration which may be indications that damp is seeping in (if so, remove the painting immediately) and inspect the hanging arrangements for signs of wear. Frayed picture wires, stretched chains or loose plates can all be replaced at home but damage to the works themselves should always be dealt with by a conservator.

Thankfully, theft is pretty rare but it’s essential that you are properly protected. Object ID, an international standard for describing cultural objects, recommends that collectors photograph their art works and write a detailed description of each piece. These documents should be kept in a safe box along with the bill of sale, artist’s statement and a letter of authenticity – all of which should be obtained at the time of purchase.
But the right policy, correct display and meticulous care will count for nothing if, should the worst happen, you find that your art works are undervalued. ‘With prices rising and fluctuating so frequently, we recommend that our clients get valuations carried out every three to five years,’ says Tom Sargent. It’s sound advice.

Photo by A Silent Republic via Flickr Creative Commons

Spending the Holidays In Lapland

Lapland has an irresistible romance that is a draw for visitors and Finns alike. And when planning your Lapland holidays for 2013, rest assured this is a great destination for the up coming holiday season. While you won’t see polar bears or rocky fjords, there is something intangible that makes it magical.

A house in the middle of... nothing!

Part of the spell it casts is in the awesome latitudes that are reached here. At Nuorgam, the northernmost point, we have passed Iceland and nearly all of Canada and Alaska.

It’s also linked inextricably with the midnight sun, the Sámi peoples, the northern lights, and the wandering reindeer. Lapland has awesome wildernesses and is the place in Finland to get active. Exploring the tundra, forests and fells is unforgettable. Whether you drive or trek, set aside time to get off the main roads. The sense of space, pure air and big skies is what is memorable here.

It’s important to pick your time in Lapland carefully. In the far north there’s no sun for fifty days of the year, and no night for seventy-odd days. There’s thick snow cover from mid-October to May. In June it’s very muddy, and in July insects can be hard to deal with! If you’re here to walk, August is great and in September the ruska (autumn) colours can be seen. The far northern part of Lapland is known as Sápmi, home of the Sámi people and their reindeer herds. The main Sámi communities are around Inari and Hetta. Rovaniemi is the most popular gateway to the north.

Finland, and particularly Lapland, has a strong claim to being the home of Santa Claus. This isn’t the North Pole, but Lapland has the reindeer, the winter climate, the mystique and these days it has Santa’s post office. But the historic St Nicholas, the real man behind the Santa myth, wouldn’t have known how a reindeer looks like and would have melted in a typical Santa suit, as he lived in temperate present-day Turkey.

The story of the real St Nicholas goes something like this: many centuries ago, a poor peasant, father of three daughters, did not have enough money for their wedding dowries. To ensure that at least two of the daughters would have money enough to attract husbands, the man decided that he would have to sell the youngest daughter into slavery. The soon-to-be-sainted Nicholas got word of the terrible situation, crept into the family’s house while they were sleeping and magically filled a sock with golden coins. The youngest daughter was saved, all three daughters were joyfully married and the whole family lived happily ever after. Since then Santa Claus has been filling socks with presents every Christmas.

In Finland, Uncle Markus, a legend of children’s radio in the middle years of the twentieth century, established the Finnish legend that a gift-giving Santa Claus lived in Korvatunturi Hill, right at the Russian border. Long before that, in pagan times, Finns had believed in an evil male goat spirit that demanded gifts on the shortest day of the year.

Photos by Ray Garcia via Flickr Creative Commons

The Art Scene of Dubai

The emirate of Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf, has a capital that is one of the wealthiest cities in the world. It has taken only 40 years for Dubai to transform itself from a peaceful fishing village to a huge metropolis of towering skyscrapers, six-lane highways, shopping malls and hotels. Most people enjoying Dubai holidays 2013 will see their Arabian destination as a place of luxury, bling and conspicuous consumption. They do not think of Dubai as a centre of arts and culture, but the city has many galleries, museums and exhibitions that bring art to the large and cosmopolitan population. The city also holds several annual art fairs.


Art Dubai


For the past seven years, Dubai has played host to an annual international art fair that displays contemporary art from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. In 2013 the fair presented art from 30 different countries in 75 galleries. Art Dubai is held under the patronage of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and is sponsored by both local and international companies. The fair is held in March every year, and takes place in Madinat Jumeirah. This is a five-star beach resort with many features including a souk, conference centre and arena, all connected by a network of waterways. It is located in the popular Jumeirah Beach area, and stands near the iconic Burj al Arab hotel, whose distinctive ship’s sail design is often used as a logo and symbol of Dubai.

Dubai Art Week


In conjunction with the Art Fair, many cultural events are held around the city. One of these is Design Days Dubai, an exhibition dedicated to contemporary design objects and furniture that is held at a venue next to Dubai’s newest landmark, the Burj Khalifa. This towering, needle-shaped skyscraper is the tallest building in the world. Art Week includes many other events, held in galleries, museums, universities and hotels around the city.

SIKKA


Inaugurated in 2011, SIKKA is an art fair that showcases the work of Emirati artists. These are the local people of the UAE, who are outnumbered by expats and make up less than 20 per cent of the population. SIKKA covers not only the visual arts, but film, music and performing arts.

These art fairs and cultural events provide a platform to showcase the art that is produced by the residents of this dynamic region, and to encourage its continuing creation.


Image by Jackie L Chan used under creative commons licence

Unexpected Beauty in Leeds, England

Leeds isn’t the first city that comes to mind when you think of natural beauty or stunning architecture – but a recent trip had me eating my words. Tasked with making the trip north to add another section to my on-going ‘Single’s Guide to the UK’ – I wasn’t holding out the highest hopes for digging out romantic hotspots in Leeds, but I was more than happy to eat some more of my words!

Clarence Dock , Leeds

If you are using a BritRail Pass, jumping off the train at Leeds City Station, and making your way to the River Aire will get you in touch with nature. The riverside is lined with beautiful 17th century buildings and wandering along the towpaths here was an uplifting experience after the congested railway ride.

I quickly came to the conclusion that I’d judged Leeds hardly, and equally as quickly it became apparent that it was a great destination for lovers of art to explore. The City Art Gallery is famed for its synergy between historically famous painters and modern local talent – all in a beautifully architecture Victorian building in the heart of the city. Boasting one of the best collections of British art in the world - some of the artists whose work can be found hanging on the walls include Turner, Girtin, Cortman and CCozens. After taking the time to fully explore this magnificent collection I moved on to the Design Gallery and Craft Shop before wandering next door to check out the Town Hall and Leeds Library.

The city of Leeds is steeped in history and culture and the Leeds Industrial Museum is the perfect place to get a feel for it. The museum is located in Armley Mills, which is one of the biggest woollen mills in the whole world, and contains a fascinating collection of exhibits that bring life in Leeds during the 18th and 19th centuries to life. Leeds also contains a number of other interesting and informative museums for visitors to explore including the Leeds Museums Natural Science Collection and the Thackray Medical Museum – not for the squeamish!

Leeds is also a great place to indulge in a spot of shopping. Browsing for bargains in the Corn Exchange was a lot of fun and I managed to find plenty of great souvenirs to take back to London, while strolling through the Victorian Quarter was a serene experience. Strolling past the Old Cinema in the centre of town, it was swarming with couples with first date written all over their faces – if only they knew what a cliché they were falling into by a date at the movies. Zipping my professional opinion and urge to give advice, I continued walking north through the city. Pausing for lunch at the charming Edwardian Kirkgate Market, I took a moment to catch my breath and try some of the local food – which pretty much consists of anything deep fried. A moment of guilty pleasure that I regretted in a bumpy taxi ride later on!

Sitting in the rural county of Yorkshire, Leeds is surrounding by the northern hills and dales that I craved to explore. After letting my lunch settle, I picked up the rental car and made the hour long journey to the nearby natural park through the lakes of Hetton and Grassington. Having travelled most of the UK, the Yorkshire Dales still rank as one of the most majestic wild places I’ve discovered and certainly the best picnic spot I’ve come across.

Just outside the city, I stumbled across Temple Newsam House. This magnificent 16th century Tudor-Jacobean country house can be found four miles from the heart of Leeds and was once home to Lord Darnley, husband of the famed Mary Queen of Scots.

Harewood House is perhaps one of the most famous attractions in this part of the world and is located just seven miles from central Leeds. Harewood House was designed by John Carr of York and is full of stunning furniture created by Thomas Chippendale. The attraction also features large gardens as well as bird gardens and wandering around the picturesque gardens in the sunshine was a very romantic experience.

Being a lover of the theatre, I was delighted to have a veritable feast of shows to choose from when I came back into the city in the evening. Being able to choose from the Grand Theatre, the City Varieties Theatre and the Civic Theatre was like having Christmas come early. Choosing to watch a contemporary take on Shakespeare’s Hamlet at the Yorkshire Playhouse was the perfect way to end the evening.

Pleasantly delighted and surprised with what Leeds had shown me, it was easy to drift off in my hotel that night and if I hadn’t been on such a tight schedule – I could easily have spent another week in the Yorkshire heartlands. Truly a hidden gem lost in the wilds of Northern England.

About the Author: Sarah Jane Fanning is a relationship advice guru and marketing consultant based in London. Travelling around the UK to find romantic hotspots and discover more about the quirks of dating in the different cities – Sarah has unearthed a new strategy for regional dating.

Photo by Paul Stevenson via Flickr Creative Commons