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Whether you’re staycationing or vacationing, CD-Traveller tells you what’s hot in the travel world

HOT

Croatia on the cheap
Budget airline Wizz Air is to introduce flights from London to Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia as well as Venice in Italy. The airline will run four flights a week to Split from June 18 and three a week to Dubrovnik and Venice from June 19. Visit www.wizzair.com for more info.

Grand trains
Fancy a break in Bradford or Brighouse? How about Halifax and Pontefract? Time to start celebrating the return of direct rail services from the capital after a delay of 40 years. Grand Central (www.grandcentralrail.co.uk) is running three services a day from King’s Cross to the West Riding, with return fares starting at £67.

Rent a friend

Fancy being shown around a foreign city by a friend? Log on to rentalocalfriend.com – the brainchild of Brazilian, Alice Moura, who came up with the idea while living in London. “I thought mostly of backpackers,” she says. “But many clients like personalized service – families that need flexibility and young people who want to know trendy places.” The idea has now expanded to 14 cities including New York, Barcelona, Paris, Shanghai, and Milan.

The Tamil Tiger Tourist Trail
Jaffna, in northern Sri Lanka, has become a hot spot on the tourist trail. The first anniversary of the end of the decades-long Sri Lankan civil war has seen thousands of sightseers flock to the former war zone. Not that the government approves: in April, the ancestral home of the slain Tiger chief Velupillai Prabhakaran was demolished after it attracted tonnes of tourists.

2010
2010 could turn out to be the warmest year in recorded history, according to climate scientists. They have collated global surface temperature measurements showing that the world has experienced near record highs between January and April. Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office, said: “It was a cold winter in Europe, but globally, January to March was one of the seven warmest on record.”

NOT

Drunk holidaymakers
Drunk holidaymakers irritate a third of all travelers according to a poll by travel agent Sunshine.co.uk. Meanwhile, 42 percent of those quizzed said that noisy tourists frustrated them most while on vacation. Nine percent said arguing travelers was a pet hate of theirs while three percent were repulsed by public displays of affection from other holidaymakers.

Volcations
AKA an enforced staycation owing to an unwelcome ash cloud

Greece
Greece has seen more than 27,000 nights of hotel bookings canceled since the riots that paralyzed the capital last month, leading to the establishment of a tourism crisis committee.
According to Thomas Cook’s chief executive, Manny Fontenla-Novoa, who reports a 24% reduction in Greek holiday sales this summer, the country needs to put the sale signs up again. “We’re going to have to go to Greek hoteliers to stimulate demand,” he said. “That means action on price.”

Britain’s beaches
Britain has been ranked 18th out of 22 European countries for beach cleanliness after evidence that raw sewage is being pumped up to five times a day into areas where holidaymakers swim.
The country already faces two legal actions by the European Commission for sewage spills. It could also see some of its beaches closed down under a tough new directive.

Romantic mini breaks in Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes, a city arguably best known for its concrete cows, is attempting to relaunch itself as the romantic capital of Britain. The new town is to give itself the motto “The City in the Country” in the belief that it will attract those seeking romance.
In its attempt to attract lovers, it will push the fact that Milton Keynes – known to locals as MK – has more bridges than Venice, 150 restaurants, 62 hotels, 44 forests and 11 miles of canals.
So a romantic weekend in Venice or MK? Tough choice…

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As I was talking to some people from Amtrak, the American railway company, a week or so ago, I was left thinking about the names of rail journeys. They still have the Coast Starlight which runs from Seattle to Los Angeles conjuring up a rather romantic moonlight journey and services like the Texas Eagle, Pacific Surfliner, and The Silver Meteor. The 20th Century Ltd doesn’t run anymore apart from in re-runs of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and the Orient Express ended just running from Strasbourg to Vienna till that ended last December. In Australia, the Indian-Pacific does exactly what its name suggests, linking two oceans and the Trans-Siberian also does just what it says..

What do we have?

The Flying Scotsman is both an engine and the regular service that leaves at 10 am from Kings Cross to Edinburgh as it has done for 148 years. We still have the Night Riviera down to Cornwall and the newer Caledonian Sleeper linking London to Scotland. But the Brighton Belle is gone (although there are hopes to revive it in time for the Olympics) and the 7.32 fast train from Dorking to Waterloo doesn’t quite have the same ring about it.

Why not re-introduce names for particular timed trains and make them something special, something that visitors would want to travel on. I’m not suggesting that we lay a red carpet along the platform like the 20th Century Ltd had or pipe every passenger aboard but why not celebrate some of our fantastic scenery or our towns with some effort.

Take the Carlisle to Newcastle Line that goes over the Pennines and mirrors Hadrian’s Wall for some of the way. Northern Rail, who operate the service already has a train painted to reflect the wall. Let’s take that further. Why not introduce one train, say on a Saturday in Summer, as the Roof of England service or the Roman Legionnaire. Have a rack of tourist brochures on a trolley and wheel it through offering advice on local attractions and B&B’s. Dress the person as a legionnaire, provide a commentary over the tannoy system so it becomes like a tour excursion. Charge a little more for the service and throw in a “Roman” souvenir for the child passengers.

You could use the same concept for the Heart of Wales Line. Running from Shrewsbury to Swansea, it still has the feel from an older time with request stops, spa towns, and small villages. Name one train service after the famed Archdeacon of Brecon, Giraldus Cambrensus or Gerald of Wales and just as he explored Wales, so does this line. Again, use some of the ideas mentioned earlier. A brochure rack, a guided tour, and a Welsh tea, with a premium paid for the journey. Just as The Jacobite is a steam pulled the train in Summer on the Mallaig line in Scotland, maybe the Gerald could be one as well.

Too many sites are lost to the visitor unless you travel by train. The journey from Llanelli to Carmarthen is just one of those spots you can’t appreciate unless you’re on a train. So let"s make the most of the trains and the journey and expand the tourism offers we make to visitors.

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Last Summer all those holiday destinations where they had the euro didn’t do quite as well as they expected. Because the pound was weak against it, we chose areas with different currencies that had not declined as much or where we felt we got better value for money. Turkey and Egypt spring to mind.

Ireland suffered despite a campaign last May/June to get us there. !5% fewer Brits went there last year, and since 50% of tourists to Ireland come from the UK, it is a vital market for them. Now that the pound has strengthened against the euro will we be more likely to visit Ireland again?

In March visitors by those living in the UK dropped by just over a fifth to just 212,000 visits. 40,000 fewer of us visited in just one month! Given that this will include visits made by people visiting friends and relatives, this could mask quite a drop. As the world pulls out of recession what could be the cause?

Is Ireland still seen as too expensive? Do Dublin city breaks no longer appeal? Does Ireland no longer appeal? Is it because fares by Ryanair, Aer Arann, British Airways and Aer Lingus are more expensive than previously? Is it due to a lack of or maybe less than effective advertising? The head of Tourism Ireland has said that it is due to the recession but aren’t people feeling more confident now? Are other countries fighting to persuade us to go there? Is the impact of Irish advertising being overtaken by that of other countries?

The numbers will look worse in April when the effects of airport closures due to the Icelandic volcanic eruption will be seen. So to still have a 20% decline before those effects are felt seems to warrant a lot of thinking. And the number of European travelers was down by about the same amount as well. Australians, Japanese, and South Africans visited in greater numbers, but then the numbers are small to start with. American visits were down just slightly. Ireland needs Britons to travel there. Have you considered going to Ireland this year and if not why? Now Tourism Ireland needs to find out and then remind us why it is such an attractive destination or it could be an uncomfortable year for tourism.

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About as far removed from the story earlier this week about the four shortlisted museums who are vying for the £100,000 Art Fund prize comes to a lowlier idea for a museum.

In the Surrey village of Leigh, the parish council has paid £1 to buy the red, traditional telephone box that is on the green. According to the Leatherhead Advertiser, it appears the locals bought the kiosk and then decided what to do with it. The idea is now to turn it into a mini-museum. The Leigh History Group is considering what should go into their mini but shelving has already been agreed to better display the contents.

Is this anything more than a gimmick? Isn’t it really just the preservation of a telephone box?

Can you really create a museum in such a small place? Will people only come because this may be the smallest museum in the world? Does Leigh have so little heritage that it can fit into a telephone kiosk? Does it matter as long as it attracts visitors and puts money into the local community? Could the village claim this to be the world’s /UK’s/England’s/Surrey’s first mini museum?
One website, http://www.leigh-surrey.org.uk/frame.htm, says “The village is not recorded in the Domesday Book and little of historical importance seems to have happened in Leigh.” This doesn’t do a lot to promote itself as the next must-see tourist destination.

What Leigh may not have in history it makes up for in scenery. This little village of 800 or so has many walkers during the year and the two pubs act as convenient places to stop. A quick visit to the telephone box to see photographs of previous inhabitants of the village or relics from the days when iron seems to have been smelted around there might be on display. The early manor houses are long gone but perhaps Time Team can have a ferret around to find some archaeology to add. What Leigh will then have achieved is publicity to attract visitors. And isn’t that what tourism is?

Travel Destinations

£100 for a long weekend (four days) away? Yes, it is possible! We found a basic (but extremely clean) campsite just outside Bristol, which only cost £15 for three nights. After pitching the tent, we went for a quick walk in the surrounding woodland, before bed. The next day (Saturday) we set off for the Cheddar Gorge and our Somerset adventure began….

Cheddar Caves & Gorge:
The Cheddar Gorge was a particular highlight for Poppy (my dog) and I. For just £17.00, we bought a ‘Caves and Gorge Explorer’ ticket, which gave us BOTH access to:

  • Open-top Gorge Tour Bus
  • Gough’s Cave
  • Cox’s Cave & The Crystal Quest
  • Cheddar Man – Museum of Prehistory
  • 274 Steps to the Lookout Tower
  • 3-mile Cliff-top Gorge Walk

We bought an ice-cream each (!) and waited for the next bus departure.

We had a very warm welcome from the guide before setting off up a dry, prehistoric riverbed. We went up the steep winding road, whilst the guide talked about the rock formations and history (going back to pre-historic times) before the final stop outside Gough’s Cave.

Poppy simply loved the experience of being on top of the bus and was very well behaved during the entirety of the journey, which I was very happy about (it was the first time on any bus for her)

Gough’s cave was formed between 500,000 years and 15,000 years ago by the action of water dissolving the limestone rock, and eventually dripping through the caves to decorate it with the most magical stalactites and stalagmites, formed from calcite. I was provided with an Audio Guide upon entry (available in many languages), but Poppy decided to go without (she is a little nervous about wearing something on her ears), so I highlighted the main aspects to her myself. She was, however, intrigued with the dampness, smells and especially with the number of children!

We then visited Cox’s Cave – smaller than Gough’s cave – and did “The Crystal Quest” which was a bit frightening at times for her (scary figures and lighting) so we whizzed through at high speed.

The Museum of Prehistory (Cheddar man) was small but informative and exhausted afterward, we took one look at the 274 steps and decided we would have another ice cream instead!

All the shops and cafes welcomed dogs, and we spent a good four hours looking around.

Glastonbury:

Poppy and I arrived early and managed to find a car park space under a canopy in case I wanted to go to a shop that did not allow dogs. (I did not need to worry, however, as the majority of shops in Glastonbury welcome well-behaved dogs on leads.)

Glastonbury shops:

Glastonbury is not the usual tourist shopping destination, but Glastonbury is a “spiritual center” of England, drawing Pagans, Christians, new age thinkers and wandering souls from all parts of the world. As such, the shops provide for the eclectic – books, charms, furniture, clothes and crystals. A treasure trove of all things magical for those that believe….

One of my favourite stores is “Stone Age”, down a small alleyway just off the high street. Even the path leading up to it is paved with crystals and the building itself was moulded and decorated with crystals and figurines inset.

Glastonbury Abbey:

A visit to Glastonbury would not be complete without witnessing the ‘Legendary burial place of King Arthur’. Poppy and I decided that this was a great place to go and settle down with a book and a picnic for the afternoon (the ticket allows entry for the entire day) and so we did just that.

With 36 acres of parkland and beautiful views of the Abbey and Glastonbury Tor, we found a secluded spot, secured Poppy to her ‘tie out stake’, and set up camp for what turned out to be a beautifully sunny afternoon. We snoozed in the shade and relaxed in the calm surroundings.

Dogs on leads are welcomed at the Glastonbury Abbey, and there are even two ‘Dog Loos’. Poo-bags can be picked up at the ticket office when you enter the grounds.

Wells:

Wells, England’s smallest city, is incredibly beautiful and historic, located at the foot of the Mendip Hills.

When Poppy and I arrived it was amidst the hustle and bustle of a busy market, where we bought something for lunch and sat in the shade of the trees outside the Cathedral. Unlike Cheddar, the attractions here were not particularly dog-friendly – it is not possible to take a dog in the Bishop’s Palace or in the Cathedral. However both grounds are open to dogs on SHORT leads and are certainly worth the visit just to sit and relax in amidst the historic buildings, people watch and, of course, explore the grounds.

Need to know:
Dog-friendly campsites include

Dog-Friendly: http://www.dogfriendly.co.uk
Dog-Friendly Britain: http://www.dogfriendlybritain.co.uk/

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According to TripAdvisor, New Orleans provides the best nightlife anywhere in the world. We’ve all heard of the Mardi Gras but there are lots of other events that take place in New Orleans most of them free. The rest of the world must think the same because there are more restaurants than they were before Hurricane Katrina hit. The number of beds booked per night is high with nearly 75% of them taken all the time.

One of the best events takes place nearly every night of the year. Along Bourbon Street and the side streets, amateur musicians, some better than professionals, will entertain travelers. As the evening wears on the music gets better. Or maybe that’s related to the amount of alcohol and the adrenaline that the music gives you.

Just ended is the French Quarter Festival held every April and which attracts over half a million people during the three-day event.

In August comes the 10th annual Satchmo Summerfest held in honor, of course, of Louis Armstrong, a son of New Orleans. This combines a birthday party for Satchmo, music, of course, an art show to kick it off with and, on Sunday, a jazz Mass

A giant costume party occurs when New Orleans celebrates the Krewe of Halloween. A huge parade takes place in the city with people flying in from all parts to enjoy the fun and, dress up. Created by the same man who has organized the Mardi Gras for the last 60 years, the parade starts in the Elysian Fields and goes down to the waterside. Apart of this, on one evening, there is Boo Carre, yet another excuse for fun loving people to dress up. Incidentally, the Mardi Gras takes place in March next year but the beginning of the celebration is always from the twelfth night – January 6th.

And then there is Southern Decadence which takes place in September. This gay festival has become an international draw as much about the music as the food; as much about the lifestyle of its followers as its entertainment.

New Orleans recovered from Katrina. Now it has to get over the negative publicity of the oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico. The message is that New Orleans is unaffected. Life is the same, the attractions are the same, the lifestyle is the same. There’s no reason not to go.

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Travel Destinations

When the summer sun puts his hat on, few places are more fun than the British seaside. CD-Traveller has teamed up with DK Eyewitness Travel to give you the low-down on Britain’s best beaches

It was the British who invented the seaside resort, complete with changing rooms that could be wheeled into the water, concealing the lissom limbs of Victorian ladies from the public gaze. The expansion of the railways in the mid to late 19th century brought the masses to seaside towns, and by the 1930s, bank-holiday trains would be heaving with city-dwellers flocking to the beach. Indeed, for most of the 20th century, British families looked no further than their own seaside for their annual holiday – until the advent of cheap travel to the Mediterranean and then even more exotic destinations.

In the 21st century, the British are rediscovering the charms of their coast. Some resorts have reinvented themselves: Brighton has embraced the arts, while Newquay has become Britain’s pre-eminent surf resort. Others, such as Blackpool, remain fabulously brash. Piers, donkey rides and fish and chips are still seaside staples, and few sights are quintessentially British than a row of colourful beach huts. Childhood memories of rock pools and sand castles bring parents in search of these simple pleasures for their own children. It is nostalgia, as well as the beauty of the British coastline, that is drawing people back to the sea.

Arran, Southern Scotland
Pebbly coves and sandy beaches ring the rugged shores of Scotland’s most accessible island, and Broddick, its biggest village, has great pubs and fish-and-chip shops.
www.visitarran.net

Largs, Southern Scotland
For years, this great sweep of beach has been Glasgow’s summer getaway. Much more sophisticated now than in its heyday, it boasts a shiny new marina.
www.largsonline.co.uk

Kinsale, Southern Ireland
Set on a superb natural harbour not far from Cork, Kinsale boasts great restaurants, charming hotels and old fashioned pubs, as well as pretty beaches nearby.
www.kinsale.ie

Llandudno, North Wales
This legendary Welsh resort’s North Shore beach has a Victorian pier, while the sandy West Shore is the place to be for fabulous sea views and sunsets.
www.llandudno.com

Blackpool, Northwest England
With its trams, sing along pubs and roller coasters, Blackpool is the epitome of the seaside resort. Despite attempts to go upscale, it’s still gloriously tacky.

Morecambe Bay, Northwest England

This resort is renowned for its abundant birdlife, fabulous sunsets and fast-moving tides, which can rush in at the speed of “a good horse.”
www.morecambebay.org.uk

Scarborough, Northeast England
Sweeping North Sea views, sandy bays, dramatic cliffs and some of the freshest seafood in England are among the charms of this Yorkshire resort.
www.scarborough.co.uk

Bridlington, Northeast England
This town is home to a seaside museum and the John Bull World of Rock, celebrating the confectionery that is synonymous with seaside fun.
www.bridlington.net

Filey, Northeast England
Known since Victorian times for its bracing sea air, Filey is a fishing harbour with beaches overlooked by the chalk cliffs of Bempton and Flamborough Head.
www.filey.co.uk

Southwold, Eastern England

A swathe of sea-smoothed pebbles, a long line of brightly painted beach huts, a brewery and great fresh crab make this quirky Suffolk seaside village irresistible.
www.visitsouthwold.co.uk

Brighton, Southeast England

The Prince Regent (later King George IV), made this city fashionable in the early 19th century. A hub of the arts, its still where London goes for a week-end by sea.
Margate, Southeast England

A favourite with Londoners for years, this bucket and spade resort on the Kent coast now has the Turner Centre – a gallery named after the famous English artist.
www.visitthanet.co.uk

Weston Super Mare, Southwest England
This resort has been famous for its donkey rides and arcades for almost a century. An observation wheel adds to its appeal.
www.weston-super-mare.com

Newquay, Southwest England
England’s answer to Bondi Beach has become the southwest’s party town par excellence, loved by surfers, yachties and gap-year party animals.

St Ives, Southwest England
Gorgeous beaches and a heritage bequeathed by some of the 20th century’s best British artists are the hallmarks of this Cornish fishing village.
www.stives-cornwall.co.uk

Torquay, Southwest England

Palm trees line the esplanade and subtropical blooms adorn the gardens of stylish Art Deco hotels in genteel Torquay. Don’t miss the town’s superb Devon cream teas.
www.torquay.com

For more suggestions on some spectacular places to visit in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, check out Where To Go When: Great Britain & Ireland, Foreword by Julia Bradbury (DK Eyewitness Travel, £19.99).

Travel Destinations

Yosemite is one of the great names of the USA. Just about everybody has heard of this Californian national park to be found to the east of San Francisco. Its all accessible to the visitor if you go there for the day. If you plan to stay overnight then there are just about 1,200 rooms and maybe the same again for camping areas. 4 million travelers come every year to visit but most just go to a small part, the valley which is just 1 mile wide and seven miles long. the visitor is missing a lot of the best bits.

So if you are intrigued by Yosemite, try some of these suggestions to avoid the crowds. See the valley by all means. But don’t think you’ve seen it all. Go up into the High Country where you can get up to 8,000 foot above sea level. Hiking up here is a world away from the valley. In Winter, Tiger Pass can get between 10 and 20 foot of snow. From June onwards the roads are cleared and you can walk for miles and see hardly anyone.

Better still why not go in Winter. Stay in one of the hotels or lodges and go out walking. Use snowshoes or skis and you can venture into places you can’t go in summer. Then, with no snow, you are discouraged from walking over the meadows so that the rarer plants survive unimpeded by human touch. But since snow is protective of plants you can safely venture further afield. The road from Badger’s Pass to Glacier Point is closed in winter due to all the snow. But there you can stay in the hut and be taught to ski as they have been doing for 75 years making it one of the oldest ski resorts anywhere. And when the snow comes, that means skiing. Not just downhill but cross country too. It"s so safe that one father feels comfortable in letting his 9-year-old son ski alone.

Yosemite has largely been the same for hundreds of years I was told. You might grow older, you change but Yosemite is already so old, you hardly notice any change at all. Stop and listen and you hear nothing. No cars, no neighbors, no industry, no shoppers. Just quiet, described to me as being surreal if you’re a city dweller. And as a public park, that’s the way the National Park Service wants it to remain.

But remember, Yosemite may be a national park but is a wilderness too. The walks may be stunning but let someone know where you are going just in case you get lost.

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Travel Destinations

Remember the Route 66 competition that the Chicago and Illinois Tourist Office announced about a week ago? If you haven’t entered yet, then hurry because the first part ends this weekend. The prize is a 3 day trip to Chicago for 2 people and a hire car so you can explore some of Route 66. The website to go to, in case you’ve forgotten is www.chicagoroute66ambassador.co.uk.

Those people in Illinois, the state in which Chicago is, are working hard to persuade us to visit them. From the May bank holiday weekend for about a month, they will have taxis in Manchester emblazoned with their publicity. On a particular day each week, catch the right taxi, and your fare will be free. How do you know which day and which taxi? You don’t. It might be the same day each week but it needn’t be. It won’t be the same taxi so its no point taking the number plate. That’s as much as I could find out for you.

If you get to Chicago, you might be surprised to learn that it isn’t the state capital. That is Springfield and is where Barack Obama cut his teeth as a young politician. Last year in honor of the birth of their most famous resident, Abraham Lincoln, they began an annual celebration. This year it runs from June 15th until August 15th. Called the Living History programme, people dress up in the costume of the time and with music and storytelling, they make the history of the time come alive for visitors.

As everyone knows, Lincoln was the president at the time of the American Civil War. Next year is the 150th anniversary of when it started so you can expect lots more about it and the events that will be organized.

In the meantime, good luck in the Route 66 competition and let us know if you win.

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Travel Destinations

Almost equidistant from both Los Angeles and San Francisco in California and about 3 hours drive is Fresno. It’s one of those places that sounds familiar and then when you try and think about what it means to you you’rs stumped. Maybe it’s because you have only heard the name in westerns or from TV programmes.
Fresno is the gateway to three of America’s major national parks, Yosemite, Kings Canyon and the Sequoia. You are already one hour into the parks so as a stepping off point to see those famed parks it’s ideal.

But Fresno is an unusual tourist destination. Unusual in that in addition to all those outdoor activities you might expect with being near national parks, it is an agricultural area. The appeal for visitors is agricultural tourism or what they call, farm-to-folk culinary tours. This part of the United States feeds a third of the world. It seems a staggering claim yet given all they grow, why not? Because of this huge agricultural background, it abounds in restaurants, restaurants of all different kinds. And the food hardly travels. Its local meat, local food, local wines and local fruit. If it isn’t in season you won’t find it on the menus. How many times have chefs said that food in season tastes best? How many times have people been urged to cut down on their food miles? In Fresno, that mantra is practiced. When you visit a farm or a vineyard, its likely to be the owner that greets you and lets you taste the produce. Even at the state university here, you can be fed with produce from their own farms or drink their own wines. Is there another university that sells its own wines directly to you? So given all this food and the vast array of restaurants, it isn’t unusual to have your first course in one restaurant and go on to another for you main course and a final one for your sweet. As I was told, your the customer Do it as you want. Why should you eat in just one place? Would we do that at home?

All this agriculture also bestows on Fresno another attraction for tourists. Blossom time. Depending on the time of year you will get cherry blossom to rival those of Japan. Or apricot or peach blossom. If you want something more energetic, then how about whitewater rafting as the snow melts after the winter? It can last until My or even August if there’s been a long winter. Needless to say, there is skiing in winter, hiking or golf at other times. So for the energetic and the food junkie, there is lots to do.

Fresno has a small town feel. Some call it the greatest garden in the world given the changing foliage. The blossom of Spring to the changing colors of Autumn can rival those of New England. Avoid the rest of British tourists elsewhere and try Fresno and the surrounding countryside.