I’m sure I speak for many of us when I say that I feel really uncomfortable looking back to past holidays where we’ve interacted with captive dolphins. We all love dolphins (I spotted this one off the coast of Agadir from a cruise ship), and I’ll the be first to admit that the chance to interact with them was just too tempting, but I know I’m not alone in looking back now and feeling quite sad that we played a part in supporting an industry that, even at the time, made us feel uneasy. Now, I feel that times have changed for the better, and there really has been a shift in what we feel is acceptable with regard to the welfare of dolphins and whales in captivity (in fact, in a poll of 1000 UK consumers* last year, 95% wanted to see tour operators change the way they work with attractions featuring whales and dolphins). I wanted to be the first to tell you about a fabulous new initiative that’s going to make you love Virgin Holidays even more than you do already (if that’s possible). Yesterday, Virgin Holidays announced that they’re going to be investing into a wonderful new project: North America’s first dolphin sanctuary. I asked them all about it and here’s what I found out:
As a nation, I don’t think Holland crops up that much as a destination when we’re planning our next family holiday, but this little stretch of land across the channel offers a lot more than the cultural riches of Amsterdam. It’s easy to reach by train, plane or ferry and boasts long stretches of coastline, rugged woodland, excellent cycle routes and some of the best theme parks in the world. The holiday parks are numerous and really high quality, so if you’re looking for a little bit of inspiration for the summer holidays, here are my top five holiday parks in Holland.
So you’ve heard of slow food, right? Slow food is all about eating fresh, local, sustainable food – thinking about what you eat and how your choices affect the environment and support farmers and businesses. It’s a great way to shop and eat, and it’s rewarding too – knowing that you’re eating thoughtfully, and making a difference.
But have you ever thought of applying similar rules to how you holiday? We jet off to foreign climes, race around theme parks and whizz around on jet skis (and yes, as a frequent traveller I certainly have guilt about my own carbon footprint), but it’s not just about the environment – how about considering a slower holiday?
Cycling is a wonderful way to really immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of your holiday destination. Many holiday companies will arrange for decent bikes to be available on arrival, and will either provide a guide, or plan routes and provide maps so you can make your own way around, arranging for manageable rides between hotels (you can choose how far and how challenging the ride will be – perfect if you’re travelling with kids), and transferring your luggage along the way, meaning that you can travel at your own page. Routes are well thought out and stick to quieter roads and country lanes wherever possible.
I love the idea of cycling around the Loire Valley, taking in vineyards (with a little wine tasting thrown in, obviously) and châteaux along the way (try Inntravel for cycling holidays like this).
If you imagine a walking holiday to be a nightmarish daily trudge from one hotel to another, you’re quite a way away from the reality. Walks are planned for you in advance, with routes and maps provided, and again you can choose the level of walk you’re comfortable with. Centred walking holidays focus on one or two base hotels, with planned walks of different grades provided from your base location(s) so you can explore the local area. In Croatia (an area I’ve always wanted to visit), you can explore the Dalmatian coast with walks that take in Croatia’s beautiful olive groves and medieval towns, as well as plenty of time to relax by the sea.
Now I’m not exactly known for my love of camping, but there is a lot to be said for getting back to nature on holiday. Even getting out on a walk or bike ride is somehow a detox from the pace of normal life.
In a Campsites.co.uk survey a while back, people overwhelmingly said that slowing down and reconnecting with nature was their favourite thing about camping. And we could all do with disconnecting a bit more often!
As you can see, I’m not suggesting that we all give up flying. I know that’s never going to happen, but cycling, walking and camping holidays can be a fabulous way to really slow things down once you reach your destination, take it easy and soak up more of the area you’re visiting.
Well, we’re finally home. Our total journey went something like this:
Car from Cavan to Dublin Airport
Flight from Dublin Airport to London Heathrow (we couldn’t get a flight to Gatwick)
Drive to London Gatwick
Flight from London Gatwick to Cancun, Mexico
Flight back from Cancun, Mexico to London Gatwick (delayed 10 hours)
Miss flight back to Ireland and argue with unhelpful Ryanair about why I won’t pay £1000 to get on next flight.
*pause for hissy bout of hysteria*
Drive to English Grandma’s house in Hertfordshire
Stay there two days panicking about how to get home.
Get saved by wonderful friend who suggests sailrail.co.uk
Train to Milton Keynes, then Chester, then Holyhead
Ferry from Holyhead to Dublin Port
Taxi from Dublin Port to incredibly understanding Long Stay Car Park (who didn’t charge me extra).
But I’m back!
And oh, the wonderful things I have to show and tell.
For instance, we saw this:
And we ate this:
And we did this:
… saw lots of this:
And even shed a tear at this:
Much, much more to come. Once I’ve conquered the EU washing mountain and cleaned out the Nutties.
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