Liz Harper



Time for some digital detox?

When I set off on my gap year travels back in 1990 the worldwide web didn't exist, mobile telephony was no more than a futuristic vision on Tomorrows World, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, was still at infant school. My somewhat limited musical collection consisted of just 5 cassettes and a Sony Walkman (state of the art at the time!), and I seem to recall it taking me about two years post travels before I could afford to get my photographs developed. My experiences on the road were my own, and my family and friends learnt about them on my...



Great skiing and a playroom designed by the godfather of creativity

Every year we see the family ski market come up with innovative new offerings and this year is no exception. Luxury tour operator Powder Byrne really seem to have pulled it out of the bag with the latest edition to their portfolio in the Swizz resort of Lenzerheide. Less than two hours from Zurich airport, this charmingly pretty and authentic Swiss village comes gift wrapped in forests and frozen lakes and offers over 155kms of varied slopes as well as double doses of sun, with both sides of the valley trapping the sun at different times of the day. This...



The Shackleton Epic

Legend has it that the 1914 job ad simply said .... 'Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.' Not the most inspiring job description perhaps, but it was enough to convince 25 men to join Ernest Shackleton in what turned out to be one of the most challenging voyages, and inspirational survival stories of all time. This week see's the launch of The Shackleton Epic, which will be led by veteran explorer Tim Jarvis. Tim and his crew aim to be the first...



The gelato taste test

"Too many people taste with their eyes" our guide Alessandra commented, "they are taken in by the beautiful colours and the impressive, showy, stacked high displays of ice cream .... it's wrong to taste with your eyes." Our gelato lesson came off the back of a passing comment about ice cream presentation in Italy. Italy is bursting at the seams with gelato shops, and many of them serve up fresh and mouth wateringly flavorsome icy delights made from nothing but natural ingredients. Some however, are hiding chemicals, preservatives and artificial colourings within their outwardly attractive appearance. The locals are quick...



Fanning the travel flame

I think it was all about trying to contain my travel habit. My husband was on a mission to find me a "hobby" of sorts in the hope that I'd then be content to stay within the confines of British shores for more than a few weeks at a time. And to an extent it worked. Well, if you don't take the "confines and shore" aspects too literally that is. The first three days of our Competent Crew sailing course out of Lymington saw us battling against torrential rain and near gale force winds, and yet despite the weather I...



Journey or destination? Maybe that depends on the journey......

London rush hour. A stampede of people charging through Paddington station, a mad dash across the concourse, a grapple with the ticket scanner and a 50 yard sprint down platform 9 for the 18:30 London to Oxford train. Despite paying a fortune for a ticket, it was standing room only in a cramped and smelly carriage. Disembarking some 60 minutes later, a text reminds me of the boarding time for my train the next morning. Oh god, another train journey and only 14 hours away. I'd never been a fan of trains.... Except that this was an altogether different train...



Festival Glamping

Probably important to be upfront here .... I'm not a massive fan of camping fullstop. An outdoor girl through and through, but only up to a point .... that point generally being towards the end of the day. So take me hiking, cycling, kayaking or surfing and I'll love every little minute of it: direct me to a piece of canvas held down by a few metal pegs and expect me to sleep in it however, and you'll see a whole different side to my personality. Ask me to erect said canvas and I'm off! Last weekend however we went...



"Please Look After This Bear"

Fans of Michael Bond will know that the immigrant bear first introduced to us back in the 1950's may have been found at Paddington station, but was in fact from deepest darkest Peru. Just where "deepest darkest" is, I'm not sure, but the polite request found around in his neck in the first ever book couldn't be more poignant. Paddington is an Andean bear(also known as spectacled bear as a result of it's distinct eye markings), a species found throughout South America, mainly in the tranquil cloud forests of the Andean Mountains. During a recent trip to Peru I was...



Fast food mountains - not for me thanks

I am, albeit reluctantly, resigned to the fact that there are very few high streets in the world where I'm not subjected to a green paper coffee cup or the golden arches. A little disappointed at times when I think I've finally escaped them, only to discover that whilst resolve against the physical arches themselves has been strong, the burger bar which sits behind them is tucked away, ok slightly more discreetly than usual, but there nevertheless(shame on you Cusco). My resignation is replaced with absolute horror however, when the purity and independence of the mountains is lost. The poet...



Defining Family Friendly

A recent trip to Italy got me thinking about the definition of "family friendly".Checking the website, I was a little apprehensive about our hotel choice in Rome. Whilst its location, adjacent to the Colosseum, was perfect, and it's interior quite stunning, it's family friendly credentials seemed somewhat lacking. Where were those miniature robes and slippers, the kids DVD's and PSP in the bedroom, the miniature backpack weighed down with e-number loaded treats and seemingly permanent markers? There was no creche and no playroom. A friend had questioned my choice earlier in the week, and as we arrived I hoped that...



Oranges on the track

The beautiful 1920's styled carriages with their armchair seats, white linen tablecloths and silver crockery. The excellent service and delicious food. The changing Peruvian landscapes .... lakes, mountains and rolling plains. The observatory carriage and the complimentary pisco sours. Oh yes, the Chiltern Line has a lot to learn. But despite the luxuriousness of this first class travel, it was our transit through the town of Juliaca which was the most memorable part of the day for me. As we meandered through the chaotic rambling city of Juliaca, northwest of Puno, the track ahead of us disappeared in front of...


The hills are alive

A month ago resort webcams European wide were displaying grass and rock covered mountains and predictions were already circulating that this ski season was going to be the worst in memory. How quickly things change. In the last three weeks of December alone Les Arcs was blessed with more snow than during the entire 2010/11 season - the last seven days saw the arrival of a further 140cm of fresh fall. And whilst these dumpings provided some of the best skiing conditions I have ever experienced, they also demonstrated that there is, surprisingly, such a thing as too much snow....



Seat selection with a difference

KLM have announced this week that they plan to allow passengers to select who they sit next to on flights based on the social media profiles of their fellow travellers. This will surely make the previously innocuous process of seat selection become a game of cat and mouse, and fills me with horror. I have to admit that I generally tend to avoid contact with any of my fellow passengers - my (often unconnected) earphones are plugged in as I arrive at my seat and only removed when I reach baggage reclaim. The thought of a few hours of airborne...



Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

It happens at the same time every year - my sleeping hours, normally dream free, suddenly fill with images of snow covered pistes and virgin powder as I start the count-down to a week of high altitude, adrenalin filled escapism .... ah, not long now...



Full of Aussie Promise

How I ended up in front of a tarot card reader in Byron Bay is still a mystery to me - I'm just not into that kind of thing, never have been. And OK, maybe I was a little taken aback initially, as parts of my character(all the worst ones of course) were laid out in front of me: but then, it was all quite general wasn't it? Couldn't the same be said of so many people? How could so much be interpreted from so little - it was a complete mystery to me .... still is. Despite my scepticism...



The Beautiful Game in "O pais do futebo"

Very roughly translated the scribbled sign read "closed now hour" - it wasnt a big or noteworthy game but nevertheless the laundry assistant shouted "later - football" when I tapped on the door: his need for uninterrupted viewing far greater than mine for clean clothes apparently. The locals tell me that this is normal - that the whole country grinds to a standstill for international games. Traveling around Brazil, Im initially staggered by the seemingly patriotic show of green and yellow at every turn, before realizing that the Brazilian team colours are the same as their national flag: this is...



Henley Regatta - Aussie Style

Picture the scene .... serene Oxfordshire river bank, flowing dresses, designer hats, chaps in striped blazers and beige chinos, lashings of Pimms and the heart warming sound of popping champagne corks ....not forgetting of course the very fit individuals giving it their all on the water .... ah yes, Henley-on-Thames Regatta - so quintessentially and fabulously British. And now picture another scene .... a dry river bed, guys and gals in shorts and t-shirts, ice cold tinnies and relatively sane people racing everything from bath tubs to yachts down the(waterless!) Todd River in Alice Springs, Australia. Ah yes, only in...