Travelling through Tasmania

Travel writer Nigel Heath takes a trip to Tasmania, the island off the south east coast of mainland Australia.

WE were bound for Van Diemen’s Land and what an amazing place Tasmania is especially as you can see much of what this stunningly beautiful and mountainous island has to offer in a two week self drive circumnavigation.

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South Island in late summer

Travel writer Nigel Heath dodges the storms to enjoy a fabulous tour of South Island, New Zealand.

BEING lucky with the weather is a bonus for most holidays in countries where wall-to-wall sunshine cannot reasonably be guaranteed and a tour of New Zealand’s mountainous South Island was certainly no exception as we were later to discover. It was early March, still late summer in this part of the world, when my wife Jenny and I boarded an inter-island ferry in Wellington for the three hour voyage across the often turbulent Cook Strait to Picton.
Many had told us that the voyage along the densely wooded Malborough Sound to reach the small port town, the gateway to South Island, was spectacular and we were certainly not disappointed.

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Viking long ship Danube cruise

Travel writer Nigel Heath embarks on a five hundred mile cruise on the long ship Viking Jarl.

IT was a glorious Sunday in autumn as we sped along the autobhan from Munich towards Nuremburg with the late afternoon sun turning thousands of beech trees to gold.

“We Germans call autumn ‘Old Granny’s Summer,” said our driver who was ferrying us from the airport to join the long ship Viking Jarl for an eight day, five hundred mile cruise through Germany into Austria and on to Budapest in Hungry. He did not know why but we were to find out the answer a little later.

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French village vacation

A spa town surprise was just one of the delightful stops on travel writer Nigel Heath’s trip to France.

THE charming flower filled French spa town of Bagnoles l’orne comes as a complete surprise to any unsuspecting tourist who has sailed from Portsmouth to Caen and driven along almost empty roads through quiet villages set in a largely undulating rural landscape.

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North island wanderer

A luggage mishap was the only speed bump on Travel writer Nigel Heath’s visit to New Zealand.

IMAGINE this holiday nightmare scene. I was at an Auckland Airport desk queuing to collect our New Zealand touring car when my wife Jenny suddenly demanded in a panic: “Where’s the black case because it’s not in the taxi?”

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A Sri Lankan odyssey

The exotic sights and tastes of Sri Lanka provided for a magnificent trip writes Nigel Heath.

THEY say every cloud has a silver lining which I reminded myself of when the heavens opened as our group arrived to pick up bicycles for a ride through the jungle on our tour of Sri Lanka.

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Touring London’s landmarks

Travel writer Nigel Heath enjoys a ‘landmark’  weekend in London.

There is an amazing Edwardian building commanding a prime south bank position beside the River Thames right in the heart of London and once a source of irritation for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Imagine yourself standing in one of its magnificent  fine oak panelled reception rooms on the that day back in 1922 when king George V opened this fine baroque style building designed by Ralph Knott and built in Portland stone.

Now imagine yourself gazing down on this mighty six storey edifice, almost opposite the
Houses of Parliament, with the a bird’s eye view and 21st century perspective.

You are, of course, in a pod on the famous London Eye and the building below you is the London County Hall, formerly seat of the powerful Labour controlled Greater London
Council led by Ken Livingstone until  ‘Maggie’ dissolved it back in 1986.

Today part of this fabulous building is home to the five star London Marriott County Hall which I and my wife Jenny have just visited as part of  celebrations to mark a multi million pound upgrade to further enhance its facilities.

The hotel is an easy ride from Paddington to The Westminster tube station, close to the Westminster Pier passenger terminal, awash with Thames pleasure cruisers and step- on- step off ferries.

Gazing over the embankment wall, one cannot  help but be impressed by the sheer length and scale of the former landmark County Hall building immediately in from of you across the water.

But as we strolled, bags in hand, across Westminster Bridge amid the jostling crowds of tourists and listening  to the haunting sounds of a busking Scotsman’s pipes, we began wondering  where the hotel was.

Clearly there were no telltale Marriott logos on the face of this enormous building because they would be totally out of keeping but where exactly did we have to go?

All was suddenly revealed as we reached the end of the bridge where steps, simply heaving with people, lead down to the famous embankment path.

There ahead of us, just a little further along the road on the left we saw an immediately recognisable long red Marriott pendant suspended on the side of the building.

This led us along a commanding arched entrance way and across a spacious inner courtyard to the hotel entrance where a uniformed porter came forward to take our luggage.

We checked in and went straight back out and down to the embankment to join the moving tide of tourists and holidaymakers of all ages and nationalities enjoying the early Saturday afternoon sunshine.

Just past the queues waiting patiently for seats on the London Eye we came across the first of the free shows one can stop and watch all along this popular section of the path.

There were jugglers, escape artists, singers and many more plus crowded open air restaurants and bars all along the way between The Eye and the famous Globe Theatre.

By 1.30pm we were getting hungry after our early morning train journey from Newport and escaped to the roof garden restaurant and bar on top of the National Theatre which is just a little out of the main stream and quiet at this time.

We returned to the hotel around 4pm, having been treated to a totally unexpected fly past by the Red Arrows to mark the end of London’s Gay Pride Week, and chilled out until the start of the media show around and dinner.
T London trip 1T London tripThe Marriott team have done their best to incorporate the yesteryear fabric of the
building into the hotel by exposing all the lovely parquet flooring, hidden for years under miles of carpeting, and restoring many of the magnificent oak panelled rooms and library for use as public and dining areas or as conference venues.

They have  also quite cleverly linked the building historically to its immediate surroundings with the use of feature wallpaper made up of Penguin book covers because the publishers Random House are based in The City of Westminster.

They have also named their steakhouse and bar after James Gillray, the famous 18th and early 19th Century political and social satirist because, of course, the building was for 64 years the headquarters of local government in London.

I found this particularly amusing as I wondered just what Gillray might have made of the relationship between the strongly Labour controlled LCC and Mrs Thatcher’s reforming Tory government.

Before leaving The London Marriott County Hall we made the very most of the following day with a Thames River trip and morning sunday service in St Paul’s Cathedral.

For more information on the hotel call 0207 928 5200 or visit

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