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April 15, 2014

7

Easter Breaks – Sunshine, City & Ski Breaks

by Julianne Mooney

One Easter Sunday, many moons ago, I remember there was some confusion over the delivery of our Easter eggs. My Mum was adamant the Easter Bunny had delivered them, but being the playful bunny he was, he’d hidden them somewhere in the house. Thus ensued a frenzied search for our eggs made of chocolate. We ransacked the house for hours, but it was fruitless. The eggs were nowhere to be found.

Six months later, the eggs were discovered nestled away at the back of some random cupboard. What a funny place for the bunny to have hidden our eggs, I thought. I am happy to report he never made the same mistake again; clear instructions were sent via mail, that he should, at all times, leave the eggs on the mantelpiece.

It must get confusing for him nowadays, what with people jetting off for long weekends and week long breaks, taking advantage of school holidays, cheap flights and holiday special offers. Potential loss of chocolate eggs aside, it is a good time to sneak a holiday in, before flight and accommodation prices are hiked up for the summer months.

Families may go in search of some early sunshine in places like Tunisia, Lanzarote and Tenerife, or avail of reduced prices in ski resorts. If you’re planning on a last minute ski break, just be careful when choosing the resort, go for somewhere high like Val Thorens or head north to Norway where snow lasts well into April. Just remember to inform the Easter Bunny well in advance where you will be to avoid any Easter Sunday meltdowns (excuse the pun!).

LONDON & LEGOLAND

Admittedly, London wouldn’t initially strike me as a major family holiday destination, but after living there for a few years and having many little visitors, I realized you could spend weeks exploring the city, browsing museums, going to shows and eating in fun, child-friendly restaurants.

One of the great things about London is that children under 11 can travel for free on the buses and tubes, and as an extra bonus, many of the museums offer free entry with free children’s activities, so it doesn’t have to be an expensive trip.

Children (and big children like me) will love the dinosaurs at The Natural History Museum, or take part in a workshop in the National Gallery. Have a picnic in Regent’s Park, and visit it the adjacent London Zoo and then head to Madame Tussauds to gaze at the wax replicas of film and pop stars.

Jump on The London Eye and get a birds-eye view of the city, before walking the length of Southbank where street performers and market stalls line the pathway. Stop in to the Southbank Theatre for a children’s show; visit the eerie London Dungeon, or take a tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Children love the Tower of London, with its scary tales and damp dungeons once home to London’s biggest criminals.

While London is a bustling city, you can get away from it all in one of the many great parks. A great way to spend an afternoon is to stroll through Hampstead Heath, feed the ducks and finish off with a bite to eat in the one of the cafes in the opulent suburb.

In the evening, there are plenty of shows for children of all ages, from The Lion King or Shrek, to The Wizard of Oz and afterwards you can avail of an early-bird special in one of the nearby restaurants.

Legoland is for ages 3-12 years and of course adults will love it too! It’s best to take two days to explore the park as there is so much to do, what with 55 rides, lego building workshops, driving schools and lots more. It’s set in the 150 acre parkland with cafes and rest areas where you can take a break from it all. A new hotel is to open in March which promises a really ‘legoland’ experience with themed rooms and quirky touches throughout. Make sure to book your tickets in advance of going as you don’t want to have travelled all that way to discover it’s full, especially over the holiday period.

Getting to Legoland from London is easy and the best way to travel is by train. It is advisable to book the train prior to travelling as the earlier you book ahead, the cheaper the rate you will get. There are shuttle buses from Windsor Train Station to Legoland and there are plenty of affordable hotels in and around the park.

How far is Legoland from Heathrow – are there any buses?

–          – London Heathrow airport is just 12 miles away via the M4.

–          – Gatwick airport is 45 miles away via the M25 – about an hour’s drive, depending on traffic levels and the time of day.

–          – Coaches –  Green Line operates the frequent 702 service 7-days a week from Victoria. Call the Green Line Travel Line on 0844 801 7261 or visit www.greenline.co.uk. Inclusive ticket and travel packages available, please ask when calling. For times of the 702, please visit www.greenline.co.uk/legoland-town-guide/  From London, Golden Tours operates a daily service to the park, with a courtesy collection from over 50 London hotels. Call 08448805050*  For further information click here.

How long does the train take from London and where do you take it from?

–          Just half an hour from London Paddington to Windsor & Eton Central, via Slough on the First Great Western.  Or direct from London Waterloo to Windsor & Eton Riverside on South West Trains (Link South West Trains to www.southwesttrains.co.uk). Approximate journey time from London Waterloo is less than 1 hour.

–          There is a shuttle bus service to the park from stops close to both rail stations; please note that this is a chargeable service and is not operated by the park. For times, please visit www.legolandshuttle.com

–          Alternatively you may call Windsor Radio Cars on 01753 677677 for a taxi.Money saving packages to LEGOLAND Windsor are available which include LEGOLAND admission, rail travel and shuttle bus. These inclusive tickets are available from most major stations in mainland Britain or through Rail Telesales and accredited travel agents.

–          For train times and fares, call 08457 48 49 50.* (24 hrs, call may be recorded, Eurostar – with services from Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Cologne, Lille and Calais, Eurostar offers good connections to Windsor via London St. Pancras.

More details of how to get to LEGOLAND are here http://www.legoland.co.uk/Plan/Directions/

Getting There: Fly direct to London Heathrow from €20 one way

Hotel Accommodation: From €60 per night 

Special Offers: Legoland  From €295 for 2 adults, 2 children – one night accommodation and a two day park pass while you can get deals in surrounding hotels from €200  including a 2 day family pass.

 

GRANADA, SIERRA NEVADAS & SOUTH EAST BEACHES

Having spent hundreds of years under the reign of a Muslim dynasty, a strong Moorish influence has left an indelible mark on both the landscape and culture of Granada. An intriguing city, famed for its food, culture and architecture, Granada is a wonderful place to spend a long weekend.

The old walled city housing the stunning Alhambra Palace  sits perched on top of a hill overlooking the city. Take a full afternoon to explore the many accommodations, courtyards and gardens, dating back as far as the 9th century. Book your tickets in advance as you may be disappointed if you don’t.

Stroll through the labyrinth of narrow streets in the old Arab quarter, Albaicin, packed with charming white-washed houses and hidden gardens brimming over with vines, flowers and fruit trees. Seek out a traditional Arabian tea house, generally tucked away down some narrow alleyway, where they serve fresh tea and sweet cakes to die for.

Experience traditional Flamenco dancing and music in the bohemian quarter,  Sacromonte. Accommodation here was traditionally in caves and to this day over 3000 families have made caves their home. Of course, we’re not talking dusty, damp, subterranean holes, but rather homes dug into cliffs, their interiors cheerily painted and quirkily decorated.

Gorge on a feast of Gazpachio, stewed snails and lightly battered seafood accompanied with a chilled glass of cava, in Campo del Principe or Elvira Street.

Granada is backed by the Sierra Nevada, which are best explored with your own transport. The pistes are popular for skiing in the winter and for hiking in the summer, and are sprinkled with cortigos, similar to guest houses, often offering yoga retreats and creative holidays, or simply a place to rest your head.

For those preferring a more horizontal break, you can head to the beaches of the south-east coast. The Tropical Coast is an 80kms stretch of coast east of Granada or further down is the glitzy Costa del Sol, with a plenitude of 4 and 5 star hotels, good restaurants and great shopping. The quiet coastal town of Nerja is best good for families or those looking for a relaxed beach break, while  a more party atmosphere is found in the glamourous resorts of Marbella and Puerto Banus.

Granada is a 90 minute drive from Malaga airport and it’s a good idea to rent your own car so that you can then drive up into the Sierra Nevada and back down to the coast. Alternatively, you can take a bus directly to Granada from Malaga airport or  Malaga Bus Station which only takes 2 hours and costs approx €10.

Getting There: Fly direct to Malaga from €40 each way

Hotel Accommodation: From €80 per room per night

 

BAD HOFGASTEIN, AUSTRIA 

As the ski season prepares to close, people will be taking to the slopes for the last few runs and can do so at a bit of a bargain. While most of the charters finish up in mid-March a number of agents will arrange tailor-made ski breaks. When choosing where to go, be sure to pick high areas and also a place which is attractive and has plenty to do in the off-chance that the snow fails you on arrival. A good option is Bad Hofgastein inAustria, which is not only a popular ski resort, but also a spa destination.

It’s a pretty town, with access to Sportsgastein, which at 3000 metres, virtually guarantees snow until the end of April. A bustling town with good shopping, great restaurants, a lively nightlife and plenty of spa resorts where you can spend your day soaking in hot tubs and looking out to the mountains, Take the cable car up into the mountains and cross Europe’s highest suspension bridge, a scary but thrilling experience!

Getting There: Fly to Munich from €40 one way

Hotel Accommodation: From €100 per night

 

 

 


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  1. Best Value Holiday Destinations | Julianne Mooney
  2. Easter Breaks at Home & Abroad | Julianne Mooney

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