Author: Thomas Dowson

Gran Canaria: In search of More than Winter Sun, Sea & Sand

Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa, is a volcanic island that boasts an annual average temperature of 24°C. Not surprisingly then Gran Canaria is the place to go for winter sun. Given the archipelago’s location, it lies on a nautical crossroads of sorts between Mediterranean Europe and the Americas, the Cape and the East Indies. Consequently the island has a fascinating past stretching back some 3,000 years at least, that has come to shape the island’s culture and cuisine. Join me as I attempt to shake off any impending winter blues by...

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Chartres Cathedral

DESTINATION  Europe > France > Centre SITE DETAILS: Chartres Cathedral - Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres A 13th century Gothic church widely considered the high point of French Gothic art and architecture. My locationPrint Close The cathedral in Chartres, also known as Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres (Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres), is said to be the finest Gothic cathedral in France. This remarkably well preserved cathedral we visit today is the last of five that were erected on the same location since the 4th century AD, and was built between 1194 and 1250. The Cathedral is well known for its stained-glass windows, many of the 176 windows were created between 1200 and 1235. West façade. Sanctuary. South entrance. By good fortune, the Cathedral was spared destruction by local townsfolk during the French Revolution and by the actions of an American Army Officer during World War II. In 1939, the stained-glass windows were removed to safety. Allied forces believed the Germans were using the spires as an observation post and so orders for the destruction of the Cathedral were issued. A Colonel Welborn Barton Griffith challenged these orders and went behind German lines and established that the Cathedral was not being used by German soldiers. The orders to destroy the Cathedral were withdrawn, but sadly Colonel Griffith killed in action on 16 August 1944 in a town not far from Chartres....

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Compiègne Palace

DESTINATION  Europe > France > Picardy SITE DETAILS: Compiègne Palace Royal residence built for Louis XV and later restored for Napoleon, the castle was one of three seats of royal government in France. My locationPrint Close In Paris take a SNCF train from Gare du Nord. Depending on which train you get, the journey can vary from 40 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes. From the station in Compiègne, the palace is 10 minutes by foot. From Monday to Saturday, the local council provides free buses (lines 1 or 2) that run from the train station to the palace, get of at the Saint Jacques stop. Official Website Entry to this attraction is included in the Paris Pass 6% off 3 & 4 day, 10% off 6 day passes Promotion Code: AUT17 Valid until 31 October...

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Château d’Écouen – Musée National de la Renaissance

DESTINATION  Europe > France > Île de France SITE DETAILS: Château d'Écouen - Musée National de la Renaissance A 16th century masterpiece of Renaissance architectures is appropriately used to house a national collection of Renaissance art. My locationPrint Close There are two different ways you can get to Château d’Écouen, home to the Musée National de la Renaissance, from the centre of Paris. From Gare du Nord take Line H (usually from platform 30 or 31) in the direction of Persan-Beaumont/Luzarches via Monsoult. Get off at Gare d’Écouen-Ezanville stop – the journey should take about 22 minutes. From here you can then either take what should be a 5 minute ride on bus number 269, heading to Garges-Sarcelles, getting off at the Mairie/Église stop. Or, you can take a 20 minute walk through the forest. Another route, take the RER D line at Gare du Nord going in the direction of Creil. After about 15 minutes get off at Garges-Sarcelles station. From here take bus 269 heading in the direction of Hôtel de Ville Attainville, after about 20 minutes get off at the Général Leclerc bus stop. Official Website Entry to this attraction is included in the Paris Pass 6% off 3 & 4 day, 10% off 6 day passes Promotion Code: AUT17 Valid until 31 October...

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Château de Breteuil

DESTINATION  Europe > France > Île-de-France SITE DETAILS: Château de Breteuil A privately owned castle that has been in the hands of the same family since the early 1600s. My locationPrint Close Château de Breteuil is in a relatively remote spot in the Vallée de Chevreuse. Get a RER Line B to Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, and from there use the town’s public transport to get to the castle or take a taxi. Official...

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