Tuesday, 27 January 2009


Following on from my previous post about making travel fair, one way to give something back to the country you're visiting is to wwoof. No, not the sound a dog makes but 'World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms'. You help out on the farm doing anything from planting, weeding, fishing and cooking in exchange for a meal and a bed for the night. But beyond this, it's also a fantastic way to live with a local family, learn about organic farming and do some outdoorsy manual work. Probably not everyone's cup of tea, but there's definitely something tobe said about going abroad (or somewhere else in the UK) and not spending any money - especially in this climate.

Photo from www.transitionsabroad.com

My sister had a incredible experience wwoofing around New Zealand a couple of years ago. She'd send photos of her and the family kids on a boat with the catch of the day, of the other wwoofers working together in the garden, of everyone sharing a meal in the evening. What's great is that you work a few hours and the rest is your own time to explore the area, take a dip in the sea, go for a nice long walk, eat the strawberries that you've picked.

Check out www.wwoof.org for more information and all the participating organic farms around the world.


Sunday, 25 January 2009

Direct train to Provence from London

Between July and September Eurostar are again offering direct trains to and from London and Avignon. With an average journey time of 5 hours 50 minutes, the train can get you from London to the south of France in a not disimilar amount of time that it takes to get to Glasgow. slowmoves on a swift train. And at a good price.

Avignon itself is an attractive walled city, surrounded by pretty Provence villages and towns, many of which are set amongst rich lavender fields. Visiting while the lavender is in bloom (July to September!) provides a stunning smell, and landscape to look across. Eurostar also offers a helpful feature with website visitors offering tips of things to do in and around Avignon, at the bottom of the relevant information page. You will find a similar helpfully vetted feature for all the destinations listed on the website.

If you want to go on from Provence... don't forget The Man in Seat Sixty-One might be able to help. It's less than 20 miles from the south of France coast line and not much more to Marseille.


Top picture from France.com

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Make Travel Fair

While looking through the weekend papers or picking up a holiday brochure, we drift away from our everyday realities. We are enticed with images of far-off destinations: pristine beaches in the Maldives, ancient temples in Cambodia or safaris in Botswana... We start thinking about when we can pack our suitcases and head off for that life-changing adventure.

But there is another side to these wonderful, exotic holidays. What about the people living in these faraway places, how does our travel bug affect their lives? And what kind of initiatives are on offer to maximise the positive impact of tourism? Make travel fair is an online resource bringing together a myriad of articles with the hope of educating and engaging us to make travel fair.

Photo of Maldives by Leap Local

There are regular contributions from the people at Tourism Concern, Survival International and Tribewanted, amongst others. But anyone with an interesting perspective on social, economical or environmental issues around global travel are invited to contribute as well. Some of the articles that caught my attention were:

- New presidency in the Maldives? Can paradise be restored?
- 6 lessons we can learn from the Bedouin Culture
- Hunter-gathering lifestyle is an archaic fantasy

At slowmoves we want to put more thought into our holiday destinations. What are some of the local issues people are faced with? And how can our holiday have a positive impact on their culture? And what better way to find out than to talk to locals - over breakfast at a family-run guesthouse in Mozambique, or from a local guide while trekking in the Atlas Mountains...


Thursday, 8 January 2009

Biarritz to Barcelona cycle

There's been a bit of talk about this, so here begins the action. The start of planning a 280 mile cycle trip across the head of the Iberian Peninsula. Leaving a sun rise on the Atlantic, to finish in the sun set over the Mediterranean.

The outline is depart Biarritz early on Sunday 24 May, cycling through to arrive Barcelona late afternoon of Friday 29 May. This is UK schools half term but one of the benefits of slowmoves is it taking you to places that not everyone else goes to. Time and space. Arriving the Friday would leave a bit of contingency but also the hope of a couple of nights to relax in Barcelona before back to the UK on Sunday 31 May.

Looking at other people's experiences shows few who have done the ride for less than £76,000 for charity, which suggests the weight of the undertaking. Others have had a go at 12 peaks in 100 hours but only with a big cycling background and vehicle support. As regular cyclers we are more likely to be aiming for a standard eight-ten day cross, which we do not have time for.

The opening proposal is, inside the dates ID'd above, cycle on the North side of the Pyrenees, stopping at to be identified guest houses night to night. Carrying anything more than the basics on paniers (essential) would be nil fun so out goes camping. We can cross the Pyrenees as time allows. If making good progress then we could spend a day taking the ups and downs but it maybe too much of this will put us right off. The minimum though is a day over from the North to South side. If everything goes too slow then we could stay North and flat (either side of the mountains are flat lands that we would do well to stay on or close to) and end up on the train line North from Barcelona, which is the route home I propose to book on.

Train travel with bikes to Biarritz can be booked for Friday evening 22 May or Saturday 23 May well in advance with Rail Europe, back from Barcelona similarly. Different routes to and from doesn't really affect the price as Rail Europe don't seem to go for returns. Eurostar to and from London and Paris will be no bother either.

Most of my blogs on this page to date have looked back. This one is very much looking forward so any comments and suggestions from those down to take part in this would be appreciated, or indeed from those who have knowledge or experience of this slowmoves means of crossing from Biarritz to Barcelona.