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Your Continental Year

Where to go and what to do in Europe for every season

Posted: 20 April 2010
by Suzanne Milne

photography: Ian Derry

Spring blossoms in Cyprus
Cyprus is gorgeous in winter – which is really their spring. The trees are heavy with pink almond blossoms and the temperature is cool enough to take hikes, gentle bike rides and explore some of the island’s antiquities. Hotels are geared up for year-round travel, with heated pools and indoor facilities if the days turn cool. Stay either at the chic Almyra in Paphos, a baby-friendly hotel that can provide all your baby equipment on arrival (, or at Le Meridien spa and hotel in Limassol, which has an amazing spa as well as an indoor pool, a children’s club and a range of activities. 
Book either hotel with Tots Too. Tel: 020 7284 3344;

Carnivals in Gran Canaria

During February 6-28 Gran Canaria goes carnival-mad with parades and all-night street parties with partygoers from one to 100 years old – and plenty of music and dancing. The theme for 2009 is Pirates, so pack accordingly and join the half million people who turn out for the big party. Imagine Notting Hill with everyone smiling and happy, combined with the beat of Ibiza’s nightlife, and you’re half way to finding where you can go to banish the winter blues. 
To add to the quirkiness of your carnival experience, stay in a cave-house at inland Artenara, where the island is lush, green and bursting with blossoms, and nature is at its best.
Book with Upland Escapes. Tel: 01367 851111;


Chill out in Sweden
The famous Swedish Icehotel is situated 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle and 17 kilometres from the town of Kiruna in the village of Jukkasjärvi. Constructed every year from the crystal-clear water of the River Torne, the hotel has become more elaborate over the years, with an Absolut Ice Bar, a chapel, a wilderness camp and art exhibitions.
March is a good time to go, as the  days are longer, allowing plenty of time for cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, quad-bike safaris, snowmobiling and moose safaris. Don’t miss a night under the stars at the wilderness camp, cooking over a fire and watching the Northern Lights billowing in the sky.
Stay in one of the ice or snow rooms – reindeer skins, thermals and special thermal sleeping bags are provided – and combine it with a warmer, more conventional cabin. Children will love it and it will be an experience the whole family will always remember. 
Book with Discover the World. Tel: 01737 218800;

Swimming on the Dalmatian coast

Croatia is a country of stunning natural beauty and the new Meridien Lav resort, near Split, is set in gloriously landscaped gardens and has access to 800 metres of this country’s beautiful coastline. The hotel rooms are the largest available on the Dalmatian coast and their contemporary designs create an atmosphere of understated luxury. There is a sumptuous variety of seafood to sample in the Champagne Bar and you can enjoy breakfast in front of wondrous sea views from the Spalatum restaurant.
There is, of course, plenty on offer for children with indoor and outdoor pools and a children’s club. In the springtime, the natural springs, waterfalls and lakes of Croatia will be at their most spectacular, so fathers will benefit from white-water rafting excursions 20 kilometres south of Split down the Cetina River, which flows into the Adriatic Sea.
Book with Kids in the Med. Tel: 0870 499 0733;

Strawberry picking in France

The Medieval town of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne goes strawberry crazy on the second Sunday in May when around five tonnes of the region’s annual 400-tonne production goes on sale. Whether it’s baked in tarts and cakes or going straight into the mouths of the many who turn out for La Fête de la Fraise, this is the ultimate celebration of the small red fruit. Tastings, games and competitions take place as the town literally paints itself red with banners and bunting in strawberry colours. 
Book your stay in a three-bedroom mobile home in the four-star Les Peneyrals camping parc, available through Eurocamp. Tel: 0844 406 0402;

Laid back in Corfu

Immortalised by Gerald Durrell’s account of family life in My Family And Other Animals, Corfu’s easy life of swimming in secluded bays and holing up for the afternoon in beachside tavernas while children play in the sand is still a very happy reality. Royalty and celebrities have followed Durrell’s lead in their pursuit of a tranquil life on Corfu’s northeastern coastline, and CV Travel has now made this corner of the Greek islands its own with all the best villas, including Lawrence Durrell’s iconic family home – The White House – and stunning family houses, such as St Nicholas’s Beach House with its own private beach and playground. A week’s stay at St Nicholas’s Beach House includes a welcome hamper and CV Travel can supply a boat, too.
Tel: 020 7401 1026;

Playtime in Turkey

Check out the fantastic children’s park in LykiaWorld at the beautiful resort of Ölüdeniz in Turkey. With 22,000 square metres of pools and landscaping, there is plenty of room for running around and  loads of fun to be had, including 20 water slides, playgrounds such as Treasure Island and Hidden Caves, and a beach just for babies. For parents, there are five more swimming pools, a gorgeous spa, ten restaurants and a beautiful beach. Dalaman – the nearest airport – is an 80-minute drive away. 
Tel: 0870 224 55 24;

Day tripping in Lisbon

Lisbon is attractive all year round with hotels that positively welcome families with children. The Parque das Nações on the northeastern riverfront has the Oceanarium, the largest aquarium in Europe, home to 25,000 fish, birds and mammals, and is strikingly designed with a two-storey aquarium that features wildlife from across the globe. Travel from one end of the park to the other by the Teleferico cable car and pay a visit to the Knowledge Pavilion, which has science and technology displays.
From the Castelo de São Jorge, which sits above the city in the ancient Moorish Alfama district, to the Torre de Belém, built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbour on the bank of the Tejo River, the medieval stories and history of this city will keep your children enthralled for days.
You can also include a visit to the yellow and pink fairytale Pena Palace at Sintra, an easy day trip away.
Stay on the beach at the Palacio Estoril, a five-star hotel with lovely gardens and pool. Tel: 00 351 21 464 8000; www

Farmyard adventures in Austria

If you worry that your children are more likely to say that milk comes from a carton than a cow, then a holiday in the Austrian Tirol will put your fears to rest with a week in a family-run gasthof or hotel, where the hausfrau is likely to wear a traditional dirndl and hotel staff greet all guests with a cheery ‘Guten morgen!’
In the village of Gerlos in the Tyrol, cows roam freely in unfenced pastures, and the locals have now organised nature holidays that include cow familiarisation classes. Children are shown how to milk, care for and respect the farm animals and are also taken into the fields and hedgerows to collect and identify herbs and flowers. Book at Hotel Almhof. Tel: 00 43 5284 5323;

Hunt truffles in Umbria

Umbria in October is a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness – and it is also when the rental prices of some of the region’s glorious houses and villas drop as fast as the falling fruit. It’s harvest time for truffles, mushrooms, olives, chestnuts and grapes, as well as the occasion of the annual celebration of the fruit of the gods – the famous chocolate festival in the town of Perugia. Umbria is still comfortably warm in October, yet cool enough for walks in the hills and bike rides along its traffic-free lanes.
Truffle estates welcome guests for truffle-hunting excursions, when dogs as tame as family pets hover eagerly above the strongly-scented delicacies. A week’s stay in one of the apartments in the San Feliciano Residence overlooking Lake Trasimeno, a few hundred yards from the village of San Feliciano, is the perfect base. 
Book with Real Holidays. Tel: 020 7359 3938; 

Sunny days in Tenerife 

The island of Tenerife offers fabulous sunny weather all year round, so if you're pining for summer sun, make this your destination this month. The island has plenty to offer nature lovers with lush forests, exotic fauna, mountains and spectacular beaches – ideal for families who fancy taking a stroll. But the best thing about the island is the balmy weather.
Tenerife's newest attraction, Siam Park in Costa Adeje, is a water park that boasts white-knuckle rides, sea lions and a floating market, with a special section for younger children – the Lost City.
Family-friendly accommodation is available at The Abama Golf and Spa resort. Located on the smooth slopes of the Pico del Teide volcano and surrounded by banana plantations, the Abama stands as an oasis of luxury  and takes Tenerife’s resort choice to new heights. The hotel’s Club Abami for children offers painting and cooking workshops as well as treasure hunts. Parents can dine in style at one of the hotel’s ten luxury restaurants, all under the guidance of the three-Michelin star chef Martin Berasategui.
For bookings, tel 00 34 922 126 000; For Siam Park, visit

Festive markets in Stuttgart

One of the oldest and finest of the wonderful German market towns, Stuttgart is a spectacular treat for the whole family, and is complete with ice rink and regular Advent concerts during the Christmas season.
The Christmas shopping here is second to none, with lovely trinkets and handmade Christmas decorations on display in the special wooden houses that appear every festive season. The smell of mulled wine, cinnamon and vanilla is irresistible, and if one market isn’t enough, make the short trip to the smaller, baroque one at nearby Ludwigsburg. Children will also love the fantastic Mercedes-Benz museum (complete with cars and interactive displays) and the brand new Porsche museum.
Book with Dertour, which even has a scented brochure containing seasonal recipes. Tel: 0871 231 3422;  

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