A week in the French Alps at Val d’Isere

Location MapThinking about winter in European mountain towns brings to mind thoughts of toasting up in front of cosy fireplaces, wooden chalets and heart warming food. Coming from Australia, it’s hard to see how the soft white fluffy stuff could be considered a nuisance in day to day life and in fact I think it makes the winter cold all very bearable. Maybe that’s a little naive, perhaps it’s just ignorantly blissful positive thinking, but I came out of it with a deeply cemented view that I could call the Alps home and that Val d’Isere was a pretty special place.
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How to survive 4 days in Madrid winter

Location MapIt never rains in Spain they say. Whoever said that obviously had never been to Madrid in the middle of winter! Madrid was off to a shaky start after a very enjoyable visit to Barcelona. On the first day the sites were average, the weather was bad and the food was terrible, but after giving some other city precincts a chance and chucking in some day trips things turned around.
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Segovia

Location MapWith the winter trip to Madrid off to a shaky start, day trips seemed like the best way to make up for our poor choice not to stay longer in Barcelona. The best options looked to be Toledo, Cuenca and Segovia. The Roman aqueduct looked pretty impressive, as did the fairytale like castle of Alcázar and so Segovia got a guernsey.
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The hanging houses of Cuenca

Location MapIf you’re considering day trips from Madrid and aren’t looking for an action packed day then the Casas Colgadas (“hanging houses”) of Cuenca might suit you. It’s much quieter and far less touristy than Segovia. The old city has those colours and textures that you picture when you think “Spanish towns”. Take those attributes and combine it with the fact that it has 14th century houses teetering on a cliff edge. Has it got you interested now?
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Beautiful Barcelona in winter

Location MapBarcelona doesn’t have to be visited in the peak of summer, when it’s packed with tourists and it’s so hot that all you can do is laze on the beach. Winter is quite tolerable. If you’ve been further north in Europe in winter you might even consider it some good respite. A city with this much history is still lively and things are no less beautiful just because it’s a little cool. Go get lost in the old streets and find yourself a cosy tapas bar!
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The bay of Mont Saint-Michel

Location MapMont Saint-Michel rises up towards the sky, strongly contrasting with the bay that surrounds it. It’s almost as if the buildings have been stacked on top of each other over time to build higher and higher. Mont Saint-Michel is in fact surrounded by the bay at times as the area has a high tidal range much like the rest of the coast to the west. The island can become completely cut off and left stranded with the sea swirling around it. At low tide however, the sea retreats far into the distance allowing you to access Tombelaine on foot and obtain a very different perspective on the Mont.
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