Monday, March 27, 2017
   
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Tips for our best summer ever

AS WE EMBARK on what could be Northern Ireland's biggest summer tourist season ever, I have been putting on my Mystery Shopper disguise to see if our most popular Visitor Attractions are, nin fact, worth visiting.

As almost all of them are publicly-funded by local ratepayers and taxpayers, you may be gratified to learn that my answer is Yes.

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Cannes

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IN MY WILDEST dreams I never thought I'd ever share the same bedroom as my youthful heart-throbs Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Jane Fonda, never mind more recent sex-godesses like Sharon Stone and Kim Basinger.

Yet here I am, in Suite 329 of the fabulous Carlton Hotel in Cannes, lying on the vast bed that is big enough to accommodate all six of those former occupants plus yours trewly at the same time (though it would be a very tight squeeze. Hopefully.) Yes, during nearly 60 years of the Cannes Film Festival, most of the great movie stars have stayed at some stage or another at what is now known as the Carlton InterContinental.

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Loire Valley Part 2

Great characters and horticultural creations are highlighted in PART TWO of John Trew's Travels in France's Garden of Eden, the Loire Valley…

THE FASCINATING central stretch of the Loire, one of the world's most delightful waterways, is often described in French tourist guides as Europe's Valley of the Kings.

That's because the beauty and clean air of Val de Loire - far enough from the cesspits and seething masses of Paris to be a haven of health and serenity - ecouraged a multitude of monarchs, plus their courtiers and hangers-on, to build splendid castles there. Elaborate 'one-up-manship' gardens, hothouses and fountains were created by armies of gardeners and water engineers during the two centuries before the Revolution.

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Loire Valley

WELCOME to Part One of a two-part TREW'S TRAVELS series about the nearest place on Earth to horticultural heaven -

the Loire Valley of France's Central Region

As an enthusiastic member of the green-fingered brigade, I have made pilgrimages to many individual world-class gardens,from the Singapore Orchid Gardens to London's Kew and the Huntington in LA. Yet my recent odyssey through twelve of the many wonderful public gardens located on the Loire - the only river valley to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status - was by far the most satisfying overall.

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Best view in this Wee Country of ours

WHERE can you enjoy the best view in this Wee Country of ours? (Apart,that is, from the sight of a full Ulster Fry on a giant platter with a double helping of potato bread and a squeezy bottle of proper Heinz Ketchup on the side.)

My question has been prompted by my experience of two glorious panoramas that have only come into existence within the past few months. The first is the breathtaking vista from the Castle Hill Heritage Park which opened right at the top of Dungannon town centre last September. The other is the stunning view of the Belfast cityscape from the gherkin dome of the new Victoria Centre.

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