Category: Journalism

Five great reasons why Montpellier is the best city break this summer

I’ve got form with Montpellier, where I spent an early summer visit on assignment for a couple of publications.

I remembered it from student days as my favourite French city, but then had a mixed experience on a more recent visit.

I was back in early July on a group press trip with tourism officials for the opening of the city’s new contemporary art museum, MOCO.

The city has certainly grown, expanding into new districts towards the beach and bustling with language-exchange students.

I still love the Old Town with its cobblestone backstreets and labyrinthine passageways. But I was less grabbed by some of the modernist architecture of somewhat soulless outer districts.

Here’s a taster of my story:

The opening of the art museum, Montpellier Contemporary (MOCO) is the latest development in a city embracing art. There was always a flirtation with street art and a regular summer arts festival but MOCO has really put the city on the map as a hub for all things conceptual.

I finally feel like I’ve got a better sense of what makes Montpellier tick.

Just in time to recommend some places to visit, such as the new Marché du Lez [pictured above], to my daughter, who is due to visit on a school exchange next Easter.

Read my Rough Guide feature.

Read the Independent Travel article.

How to celebrate 100 years of afternoon teas at Bettys Cafe Tea Room, York

To York on the hottest day of the year for a magazine assignment for Immediate Media.

It was a special birthday party.

This year marks 100 years of Bettys Tea Room Cafe, a Yorkshire institution for its afternoon teas with a frisson of Swiss style.

Plus the fact it has done away with its possessive apostrophe.

The Swiss baker, Frederick Belmont, first founded the company in 1919, creating a niche in Yorkshire for high-quality cakes and pastries, served the old-fashioned way.

Today, the third generation of the family runs the business with two Bettys in York, including the Art Deco-style café at St Helen’s Square, plus the first café in Harrogate.

The company is hosting a series of events, and offering special souvenirs, as part of the year-long centenary celebration.

A recreation of one of Frederick’s famous cakes currently takes pride of place in Bettys front window [pictured above].

But the must–try treat is a Yorkshire Fat Rascal, Betty’s signature fruit scone, served warm with a pot of Taylors tea.

I combined afternoon tea with a visit to York Minster and stroll around the walls, the resulting city-break guide to York due out this winter — watch this space.

More: Visit York

An exclusive preview of the new Adventure Parc Snowdonia attraction

The new Indoor Adrenaline experience at Adventure Parc Snowdonia opens tomorrow.

But we were there a couple of weeks ago [pictured above] for an exclusive preview of the new adrenaline attraction, researching an article for The Guardian in the family travel section.

Here’s a preview of what we found:

Now rebranded as Adventure Parc Snowdonia, this converted aluminium factory in the Conwy Valley started life in 2015 as Surf Snowdonia with its inland artificial surf lagoon.

But it has expanded for the summer holidays with the opening of its Adrenaline Indoors adventure experience.

Think the TV series Ninja Warrior on steroids.

It’s an action-packed adjunct in a new building opposite the surf lagoon with activities including an artificial caving course, a parkour trail and freefall jumps, plus a soft-play area for younger siblings.

A 106-bedroom Hilton Garden Inn Hotel is due to open late 2020 with a restaurant and spa.

Adventure Parc Snowdonia

Read the full Guardian Travel story here.

Viewpoint: why do single dads face casual sexism when they travel?

* This article first appeared in Telegraph Travel in time for Father’s Day. More on this theme from my book [pictured above], Inside Fatherhood.

We went to stay with Spanish friends during the last school holiday.

It worked well for a family trip with two other kids for my two girls to play with, the freedom of an unstructured routine and an insider sense of the local culture.

But, most of all, as a man who has travelled alone with his kids since they were young, there was another man there who both understood the challenges of modern fatherhood and shared my passion for showing his children the world.

I often struggle to find this kind of camaraderie on a family holiday.

The sense of isolation I have felt at times as a divorced father, who shares custody jointly with the girls’ mother, has made for some uncomfortable travel experiences.

Suspicious minds

It’s not the just practical aspects, such as who keeps an eye on the children while I go to the bathroom.

More frustratingly, a man alone with two little girls can be viewed with curiosity, sometimes suspicion.

Immigration officials at a major European airport once stopped us, asking to see birth certificates to prove the girls were actually my children.

More commonly, I’m subjected to other holidaymakers quizzing me about why I’m alone.

“Can I ask,” one relative stranger once enquired as I was nonchalantly loading my plate at the evening buffet, “is your wife dead?”

Last resort

But I really spat the dummy when a restaurant manager rather publicly warned me not to take my youngest daughter, and then aged just five, into the gents.

“If she needs to go, then I’ll just have to take her to the ladies,” she bristled.

I politely suggested through gritted teeth that she should go and get a copy of her DBS certificate first.

So, as thoughts turn to celebrating our devoted dads for Father’s Day this weekend, isn’t time we gave single dads a break?

Read the full article here.