Backstreet Venice: steering clear of the main sites

Travel writer Julia Hammond explains how she learned to love Venice by avoiding some of its most famous attractions. 

Allow me to let you into a secret: I hated Venice the first time I went. I ticked off its sights like I was completing a childhood iSpy book: a gondola ride, a visit to the Doges Palace, coffee in St Mark’s Square, a souvenir of glass blown on Murano Island. 

The second time, persuaded to give the city a second go by those more enchanted by the place, I spread my wings a little and liked it a touch better. But it wasn’t until my third trip that I found a Venice that I could truly say I loved, for it was then that I gave up on the sights and ventured off the beaten track.

Beyond the tourists
Backstreet Venice is a world apart from the tour guide clipboards and over-inflated prices that blight the likes of St Mark’s Square and the Grand Canal. It’s no wonder the shrinking resident population is fighting to preserve the character of their beloved home city—they number just 55,000 people, fewer than the number of tourists that visit per day. But Venice is compact and you don’t need to stray far from those crowded, must-see spots to escape the masses. 

Take the Rialto Bridge, for example, rammed with tat shops and selfie-stick wielding tourists. A micro-stroll away, you’ll find yourself in the Rialto Market, still busy of course, but its visitor contingent is diluted by locals grabbing armloads of fresh produce for dinner. There’s fresh seafood, capsicums tied up like posies of flowers, and more varieties of mushroom than you probably knew existed.

Bars and bookstores
A few streets in from the water and you’ll encounter the oldest bacaro (bar) in the city. It’s called the Cantina do Mori, a tiny bar which manages to cater to a loyal local clientele without excluding visitors keen to experience a piece of Venetian history. Pull up a stool beneath a ceiling laden with copper pots and pans. Order an ombra, local slang for a glass of wine, and drink where the great Casanova once drank—this bar’s been a fixture since 1462.

Once you know how to spot them, you will find the city is littered with places like that: trattorias, bars, churches, and shops tucked away into impossibly narrow alleyways, known only to those who live there or those lucky enough to stumble upon them.

Backing onto a backstreet canal is the delightful Libreria Acqua Alta. This bookstore is packed with piles of books stacked on every imaginable surface. There’s a resident cat, books piled in bathtubs, and even a beached gondola. Duck out the back and there’s a tiny waterfront yard that forms the perfect reading nook, so long as you don’t mind being interrupted by a passing boat. 

Heritage
When it comes to securing a view, don’t climb the campanile in St Mark’s Square like everyone else. Instead, hop on a vaporetto (water bus) to the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore. It overlooks the square and provides a bird’s eye view of the vessels entering the Grand Canal, yet you’ll have the belltower to yourself. Brace yourself, though: when the bells chime the hour they’re loud enough to startle you!

My favourite part of Venice is Cannaregio, home to the city’s Jewish quarter. Its Jewish heritage extends back to 1516 when the Doge Leonardo Loredan issued a decree formally segregating the city’s Jewish population. The area was previously used as a foundry, known as ghèto in the local vernacular, a term that became the modern word ‘ghetto’. 

Tapas
These days, if you want to sightsee, there are ancient synagogues and kosher bakeries, but the real treat is simply to wander aimlessly through its unassuming residential streets. When your feet need a break, emerge onto Ormesini canal and beat a path to a bacarocalled Al Timon. Time it for early evening and munch delicious cicchetti—Venetian tapas—while the sun sets behind the buildings on the opposite side of the water. Ask the bartender for Campari rather than Aperol in your spritz and you might just pass for a local.

Rhodes: a Greek island of ancient sites and relaxing beaches

Few destinations can claim to be as diverse as the Greek island of Rhodes. This popular summer destination has something for everyone to enjoy, whether you’re a relaxed beach goer or a curious history buff. 

Strolling through the old Greek cities of Lindos and Rhodes will be as rewarding as a day of relaxation on the endless, sandy beach of Tsampika.

When to go to Rhodes
A few miles off the southern Turkish coast, Rhodes can be very hot in the high season during July and August. However, May and September can be better, since the temperatures are a little cooler and there are fewer tourists.

The average temperature in those two months should hover between 24-28C (75-82F), with little rain and lots of sunshine throughout the day. 

Rhodes is easily accessible from the UK, with plenty of airlines offering direct flights from April until October. TUI alone flies to Rhodes from 18 different airports in the UK, and Rhodes is also served by easyJet, Thomas Cook, Jet2, and British Airways.

There is a wide variety of hotels to choose from, and along the eastern coast of the island you’ll find many of the famous international hotel brands. From family-owned, simple 2-star hotels up to all-inclusive luxury retreats with private pools, all types of accommodation can easily be booked.  

What to see and do – Rhodes Town and endless beaches
Stroll along the Old Town of Rhodes and you will quickly feel the history and events that those ancient stone walls have witnessed over its existence. The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, for example, is a medieval castle which makes for an impressive sight, and it is a popular setting for movie productions: the 1988 epic thriller with Ben Kingsley and Helen Mirren, “Pascali’s Island”, was shot almost entirely in Rhodes. 

Leaving Rhodes Town and heading down south along the coast, one of the first stops will be the Kalithea Springs. These thermal springs have been known for their therapeutic properties since ancient times. Nowadays, you can enjoy an especially pleasant view of the bay from the inviting garden which surrounds the springs. 

After Kalithea, you’ll see an almost endless stretch of sandy beach. At the end of that stretch, you will find the famous (or possibly infamous) town of Faliraki, known for its wide array of nightlife, with many bars and entertainment venues. 

Next up along the coast is the Anthony Quinn Bay, named after the famous actor who fell in love when shooting a movie here in the 1960s. The pebble-stone beach is tucked into a tiny bay, so it can get crowded quickly—make sure you arrive early to grab a sunbed! 

You’ll find a great sandy beach further south, in Tsampika. The water here is especially warm, and if you feel up for a sporty challenge you can also visit the Monastery of Tsampika: placed on top of a hill, you can walk up 350 steps to reach the stunning viewing point and the small Orthodox church. 

Ancient Lindos and the western side of Rhodes
One of the highlights of every visit to the island of Rhodes is Lindos. This town of tiny whitewashed homes will instantly remind you of a postcard from another Greek island, Santorini. Over 2,000 years old, the Akropolis of Lindos is not as well-preserved as its famous counterpart in Athens, but is certainly impressive. You can either climb up to the Akropolis by yourself or have an especially Greek experience by taking a donkey ride up the hill!

Most of the sights and beaches in Rhodes are on the eastern side of the island, which is also much livelier. If you prefer a calmer way of travelling, consider the western side of the island. The castles of Monolithos and Kritinia offer incredible views over the Aegean, and the beaches—although more rock than sand—will be much less crowded, some of them even deserted. 

There is no particularly large town on the western side, but the locals in the small villages along the way will be happy to see any visitor who finds their way into the delicious restaurants lining the road. For this part of the island you will definitely need a rental car or organised tour, as public transport is rare. 

So whether you like the beaches or the culture, take a trip to Rhodes for your holiday this year.

Secret Salento: the beauty of the south-east coast of Italy

In recent years Salento, at the tip of Italy’s heel, has become a popular destination for British travellers. 

This stunning small peninsula can be divided into the west coast and the east coast. Most of the facilities and popular beaches are on the crowded west coast. But if you are looking for a relaxing and authentic destination, the east coast has a few hidden gems to explore. 

Lecce is a city you need to visit for its baroque architecture and its tradition of papier mâché. However, our journey begins in Otranto.

Otranto
Otranto is the best place to stay if you are spending one or two weeks in the south of Salento. You can visit its peculiar Cathedral, where you can admire one of the oldest mosaic floors in Italy. 

The second monument to visit is the Castello Aragonese, which is rich with history. It is famous as the setting of the first Gothic novel, The Caste of Otranto, written in 1764. Besides those monuments, Otranto has many pleasant restaurants to discover the authentic culinary taste of Salento.  

The beaches in Otranto
At North of Otranto, there are some sandy beaches. Baia dei Turchi and Frassanito are the most popular. Here, you can enjoy crystal clear water and have a glass of refreshing wine at one of the beach kiosks—the local rosé is a must. 

If you are looking for a place with easy access to the beach and resorts, you can go to Laghi Alimini, a family-friendly beach. It is a nice place, but from the second half of July and into August it gets very crowded.

Scenic drive: Otranto to Santa Maria di Leuca
If you need a one-day break from the beach, you can take a road trip and drive south to Santa Maria di Leuca. Here the landscape and the atmosphere have a Greek touch. The sandy beaches turn into a beautiful rocky coast with cliffs overlooking the azure sea. 

Along the journey, you can discover the charm and authenticity of Salento. From thermal baths to celebrity spotting, the drive offers a little something for everyone. 

Santa Cesarea Terme and its thermal baths
The first town where you can find interesting things to do is Santa Cesarea Terme. It is the most important place for thermal baths in Salento, and is famous for therapeutic treatments. 

If you want to spend a relaxing day at the spa, you can opt for one of the indulgent wellness packages. This is also the place to consider if you are looking for a week of pampering treatments and stress relief in front of the sea. 

Tricase: where VIPs spend their summer 
It is not a coincidence that Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep bought villas in this little town. In fact, it is considered one of the most authentic villages in the South of Italy. Taking a detour to the upper town will give you the chance to discover a hamlet rich in history, with plenty of churches and castles to visit. If time allows, you can have a nice aperitivo at the Farmacia Balboa. 

When to go 
June and September are the two best months to visit Salento. In those months the region is not too busy or crowded. Many hotels and beach resorts consider them off-season, so it’s likely that you’ll find accommodation that’s good value for money. The weather is good at that time of year too: temperatures can reach 27C (80F), avoiding the heat of July and August, which can reach 32C (90F).

So if you fancy an Italian holiday with a difference, why not try Salento this year?

The Azores: Portugal’s answer to the Canary Islands

The Azores has much in common with the Canary Islands. Both island groups have volcanic origins and are located hundreds of miles from mainland Europe in the Atlantic Ocean, giving them a remote and exotic feel.

While the Canaries are quite far south, just to the west of northern Africa, the Azores—an autonomous region of Portugal—are slightly further north, and a whole 900 miles west of Portugal.

So what is different about the Azores? For one thing, the climate is more humid but never gets scorching hot. But while sunshine is not always guaranteed, what you can expect is lush, green vegetation, dramatic scenery, waterfalls aplenty, and thermal pools to soak in should the sun hide behind the clouds. 

Summer temperatures in the Azores climb up to 26C (79F), and the sea stays reasonably warm throughout the year due to the effects of the Gulf Stream. The weather during spring is somewhat cooler, but May is the best time to travel if you want to experience the islands in full bloom. One of the nine islands, Flores (the Portuguese word for flowers), was actually named after this enchanting spring-time spectacle!

Getting there and getting around
The Azores have long been a hidden gem compared to the Canary Islands, but since flight restrictions were lifted in 2015, getting to this subtropical paradise has become both easier and more affordable.

From the UK, you can fly to Ponta Delgada (the capital of the Azores archipelago) in about four hours. Low-cost options are available too, with Ryanair operating a direct budget route from Manchester and Stansted, although sadly easyJet no longer flies there.

Island hopping on your holiday is easy and highly recommended! Local flights connecting all nine islands are regular and affordable, and from May onwards, frequent ferry services become a good option. 

Beaches and swimming
Plenty of coastline means you’ll have many opportunities for swimming and relaxing on the beach on your holiday. A typical Azorean beach is dark grey in colour, but you’ll also find golden beaches on Santa Maria and even a red beach on Graciosa.

If you love water, then swimming in the natural ‘pools’ inside volcanic craters, and soaking in the thermal baths, are experiences not to be missed!

Sights and activities
From visiting the UNESCO World Heritage listed town of Angra de Heroismo to admiring the many breathtaking natural wonders, you’ll always find things to see and do.

Geotourism is big in the Azores thanks to the impressive diversity of volcanic sights, and the caves, craters, hot springs, and curious rock formations are well worth exploring. Or why not make the most of the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean? See the rugged beauty of the coastline on a sailing boat, try your hand at big-game fishing, or sign up for a whale and dolphin watching tour.

Nature-lovers will also want to keep an eye out for rare bird species, while foodies will enjoy touring pineapple and tea plantations as well as sampling the local cheese and wine. Just leave some room for Cozido das Furnas, a meat and vegetable stew cooked in volcanic steam!

Culture and festivals
Each of the nine islands has its own distinct character and unique traditions, but chances are you’ll stumble upon a religious festival wherever you go. These frequent celebrations are joyful in nature: expect colourful parades, music, and dancing.

The Azores also hosts its own Fringe festival, which brings together local and international artists and performers to showcase their talents in June.

Where to stay
You won’t see huge resorts in the Azores—looking after the environment and the local heritage is at the heart of tourism on the islands—but you’re sure to find accommodation options for all budgets and tastes. 

Many hotels in Ponta Delgada and other larger towns offer good value and make a great base for exploring. However, you could also stay in a tranquil villa in a rural setting, a luxury seaside property or even a repurposed 16th-century fort!

So if you’re looking for somewhere a little bit different this year, try the Azores!

Larnaca: Escape to the sunny blue skies

As you know, we like to get local writers to tell us about the places where they live. This month, we asked native Cypriot Elena Hadjipavli to tell us about Larnaca.

Picture yourself on the beach: eyes closed, under the warm Mediterranean sun, enjoying a pint of local KEO beer. Who doesn’t look forward to such a holiday?

Larnaca, on the south coast of Cyprus and populated by 50,000 people, is known for its hospitality, its long beachfront, and the local taverns. It’s a small, friendly city with a good bus system for getting around, and affordable traditional accommodation.

What to see
The first thing you’ll see when arriving at the airport is Larnaca Salt Lake. It’s protected for its nature and wildlife, and attracts thousands of flamingos during the rainy season. 

Moving into the city centre, you’ll find the remarkable historical Orthodox Church of Saint Lazarus, built in the 9th Century and a site of historical significance. Its architecture has byzantine, gothic, and baroque styles, with a unique wooden carved baroque iconoclast wall. The tomb of Saint Lazarus is located in the foundation of the church. Also not to be missed is the Larnaca Medieval Castle, built in the 12th Century to protect the port.

Beaches
Finikoudes Beach has a long, palm-lined seafront road, with palm trees planted back in 1922 by the locals. Here you can enjoy a full day at the beach! You can enjoy some beer at a bar, a traditional breakfast (at Lazaris coffee shop), and local small dishes called mezes: try the well-known Militzis restaurant. If you love to eat fish, visit Zephyros for a delicious fish platter!

Want some adventure? 
The shipwrecked Swedish ferry MS Zenobia, which capsized in Larnaca Bay in 1980 on her maiden voyage, is now one of the top ten wreck-diving sites in the world. Every day there are scuba-diving lessons and activities catering to all levels. Make sure you check your travel insurance to see which activities you’re covered for!

For other water sports, you can choose from canoeing, jet-skiing, waterskiing and more. You could also take a sailing boat tour. Or if you simply want to relax, try taking a boat cruise along the coast. If you like a challenge, some cruises also include fishing for your own lunch! 

For adrenaline-seekers who want to test their skills, a visit to the Larnaca Olympic Shooting Range should not be missed.

Want to participate in local events and activities? 
Lots of events and festivals take place in Larnaca, and you can check what’s on at the time you’re planning on taking your holiday.

In May three annual events take place: the Byzantine Days where you can enjoy Byzantine music and choirs; the Cyprus Seniors Cup, organised by the Cyprus Tennis Federation is a tournament for senior tennis players; and the Larnaca Triathlon which is open to individuals, families, and teams.

In June, one of the largest festivals is Kataklismos. This is a popular religious event lasting for a week, with musical performances, dance, theatre, and competitions. Make sure to try the local sweet treats called loukoumades.

In July you can catch the Larnaca Summer Festival of music and performing arts, film screenings, poetry, and theatre. 

Who loves the sunshine? 
Cyprus is well-known for the warm Mediterranean sun and relatively high temperatures all year round, but plan your holiday to suit your preferred weather. During May, the temperature varies between 15-25C (59-77F), and in June the temperature reaches up to 30C (86F). If you like it hot, during July and August the temperature reaches 35C (95F)!

Larnaca is the perfect escape to the sunny blue seas and skies, so is this the year you choose to visit Cyprus?

We’ve changed to Europe Plus: more benefits, same great prices!

Europe Plus logo

We’ve now changed our name to Europe Plus, to avoid any potential confusion caused by Brexit. 

If you’re an existing EHICPlus customer, rest assured your policy is not affected by the re-branding and will remain in force for the period of insurance as per your policy schedule.

Our new Europe Plus website has been live for a month, and your response has been excellent!

We’ve kept our prices the same, but we’re now including a choice of three levels of cover, including a lower-priced option called ‘Essential’, and a higher level of cover called ‘Platinum’ for those people that want to have something extra. 

What does Europe Plus cover?
We still allow you to tell us about your pre-existing medical conditions, and we offer cover for travellers up to the age of 85.

Europe Plus covers EU countries and some non-EU countries. (We have a full country list.) We now offer medical cover up to £10 million, along with increased sums insured for your valuables.

You’ll get a renewal discount!
When it’s time to renew your EHICPlus policy, your renewal discount will now be valid on Europe Plus. Many of you have been extremely loyal customers and have been with us for many years now. We’re extremely grateful, and to thank you for your loyalty we will send your renewal reminders as usual with along with your discount code.

Your policy is not affected by Brexit
We want to assure you that your existing EHICPlus policy is not affected by our rebrand. Also, Brexit does not affect any of our policies, including Europe Plus, EHICPlus and EHICPlus Expand.

We would like to welcome you all at our new Europe Plus website, any queries please call us as usual on 08450 555 222.

Robert Ince, Director.
PS – Don’t forget, if you have an existing EHICPlus policy it’s not affected by the re-branding and will remain in force for the period of insurance as per your policy schedule.

Tips for travelling solo

Travel writer Julia Hammond has been travelling solo for three decades. Here, she shares her top tips.

Solo travel is a fast-growing trend. According to ABTA, one in nine holidaymakers has travelled alone in the last 12 months. Hotel booking sites and Airbnb have reported a large increase in solo travel too, and cruise companies have started building more solo cabins with no single supplements.

Figure out whether you’re suited to going away on your own
Knowing yourself is a big part of having a successful solo holiday. While some relish solitude, others find it lonely and isolating. Test out how you’d cope with a big trip by first booking a weekend away in a familiar location. 

Punctuate your itinerary with opportunities to connect with fellow travellers. For instance, try a Free Tours by Foot walking tour—they operate in a number of European and North American cities. Alternatively, book a place on an activity-based break where you learn a language, cook, or paint. Once you’ve got this trial under your belt, you’ll be better equipped to decide whether you’d prefer the safety net of a group tour or if you’re ready to spread your solo travel wings and go it alone.

You only have to please yourself
Embrace the chance to make this holiday all about you. Pick a place you’ve always wanted to explore but that your usual travelling companions would hate. Perhaps this solo trip could be the opportunity to volunteer with a charitable organisation overseas. Another idea is to set yourself a physical challenge such as climbing Kilimanjaro. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing the complete opposite. 

If you’ve danced until dawn and find yourself lounging around in your pyjamas late into the afternoon, there’ll be no one around to nag you to get dressed!

Select your kind of accommodation
Hostels, with their communal kitchens and common room social activities, are a great way of meeting people. The days of being forced to endure smelly dorms are long gone, and many hostels now have ensuite private rooms which are as comfortable as a hotel. 

However, solo travel doesn’t have to mean backpacking. Airbnb offers a good selection of both shared and single occupancy units, with the advantage of having a local host on hand for insider tips. Boutique hotels with their ‘home away from home’ ethos can be a real treat. 

Why not pick a good value destination where your money will stretch further and indulge yourself with a suite or room with a view? For example, I stayed at Hostal Plaza Santa Cruz in Seville in an absolutely enormous suite right in the heart of the old town for 57 euros.

Be savvy about safety
It’s a sad reality that the world isn’t always as safe as we might like, and some novice solo travellers might feel vulnerable without the safety net of a tour guide or travel partner. Before you book, you can ask questions internet forums such as Lonely Planet’s well-established Thorn Tree network. Use it to work out the safest neighbourhoods in your intended destination. 

Once there, make use of social media to ensure someone back home knows your plans. Pre-book airport transfers if you’re arriving late; check locally if it’s safe to flag a taxi down off the street. Keep your phone charged and your wits about you. But trust your instincts: remember, it’s often those unexpected encounters with welcoming strangers that make the longest lasting memories.

Exploring the fortress at Salzburg

Freelance writer Maria John explains how she discovered Salzburg to be her favourite place in Europe.

I’ve travelled to many cities in Europe, including classics like Prague and Zurich. Yet everyone is surprised when I say that my favourite city is Salzburg.

The old town
To get to the fortress, you first have to go to the old town, where everything likes to remind you of its famous alumnus, Mozart. Live music accompanies you as you venture into the main square, filled with mini-attractions.

Shadow portrait.

There’s a man who’ll craft a shadow portrait of you: he cuts black paper into the silhouette of your face, replicating an 18th century style, then pastes it onto white paper as you can see in the photograph I’ve included here. You’ll also find souvenirs to be purchased, and a fantastic giant chess board painted onto the ground along with giant chess pieces.
The fortress sits on a hill and is accessible by the Festungsbahn, a 325 foot high funicular railway that can hold 50 people. The ride is just under a minute, but you’ll wish it was longer as you enjoy the views of the city as it drags you up the side of the hill.

It was around 3pm by the time I was at the top, when the sunlight was at its best. The view takes your breath away as you gaze at the greenery and trace the river as it runs between the tiny colourful houses that are a testament to Austrian architecture.

Marionette Museum
In the vaulted former gun deck of the fortress you’ll find the Marionette Museum. A few of the puppets are strung up, while the pretty ones are kept inside glass cages. Some depict characters from the Sound of Music, others tell you of past peasant wars, one to help enjoy your own little puppet show, and another for laughs: a skeleton with a long beard who pops up behind a coffin door with a maniacal laugh.

A glass pane lets you peek into the room beneath you that’s filled with millions of coins of varying degrees of gold and silver.

Hohensalzburg Fortress
The Regency Chambers or State Rooms have a lot for you to talk about. The Golden Hall looks like something straight out of a film, with its four large marble columns leaving you in awe, especially when you see the amount of space set aside for an orchestra. The wooden floors creak as you take each step, as you take in the rare gothic architecture.

Although us peasants couldn’t possibly have had such an extravagant bathroom at that time, the toilet in the bedchamber is simply a hole carved into a wooden ledge—a shocking contrast to the opulence of the main room!

Regiment Museum
You’ll still be impressed when you head off to the Rainer Regiment Museum, allowing you to uncover just how prominent Salzburg was during the wars. Room after room recreates these times. One particularly impressive room recreates a war station from WW1, others recreate the battleground with life-size statues and barracks, with music from that time playing in the background.

Other rooms include relics of the past, including musical instruments, large paintings, and furniture from the Middle Ages: tapestries, elaborate trunks, jewellery boxes, and dining room essentials. The kitchen has a 16th-century table stove and utensils hanging from the wooden ceiling frames. Its long-handled frying pans, mortars, and large jars are preserved for viewing, impressing upon you the strength the kitchen staff would have needed for their work.

Taking a break
When you get out after a couple of hours, you’re back in the 21st century, a little jarred from the time travelling that you just did. If you need a break after all that walking, I recommend the entrance cafe where you can try a slice of Sachertorte, a decadent Austrian chocolate cake filled with apricot jam that you can wash down with some beer.

So why not make 2019 the year you visit Salzburg and experience all of this for yourself?

Haarlem: The Brooklyn of Amsterdam

Touring stand-up comic Terry Norman tells us about his recent visit to Haarlem in the Netherlands.

As a somewhat successful stand-up comic, I’ve been to a lot of places. This past December, I gigged in Haarlem, often jokingly described as the Brooklyn to Amsterdam’s Manhattan.

While Brooklyn and Manhattan are boroughs of New York City, Haarlem is a city in its own right. However, being a mere 15-minute train ride from the capital means it is generally written off as part of Amsterdam. This is a common source of frustration for the locals. By the time I left the city, I shared this frustration, along with the belief that it is Haarlem, and not Amsterdam, that is the jewel in the Dutch crown. 

Why Haarlem?
When Haarlem was pitched to me as a possible stop on my European tour, it was presented as historically and culturally rich. Like Brooklyn, independent cafes line its corners and are themselves lined with poets and painters. I was sold. I had performed in Amsterdam enough times by this point to have tired of its nightclubs and stag parties. Haarlem sounded like the antidote.

Getting there
Travelling to Haarlem from Britain means flying into Schiphol Airport. A train from the airport to Haarlem takes 30 minutes and costs about £10. If you want to see some of Amsterdam before remembering why you chose Haarlem instead, you can take an airport train to Amsterdam Centraal, where trains to Haarlem run until 1am.

Accommodation
For my stay, I chose the Hotel Carillon, a modest establishment where I paid just under £70 per night. The Hotel Carillon is pretty basic, so if your trip lasts more than a weekend you should consider somewhere like the four-star Carlton Square, where rooms are about £150 per night.

Things to see and do in Haarlem
Among the most notable of Haarlem’s sights is the Grote Kerk. A breathtaking 15th-century church, the Grote Kerk sits at the centre of Grote Markt, its grand attraction being a 5,000-pipe Müller organ on which recitals are regularly performed.

Constructed all the way back in 1355, the Amsterdamse Poort is the last remaining gate of Haarlem’s 12 city gates. I saw it as part of a walking tour, but canal and bike tours are also available. The canal tours are particularly popular among older holidaymakers. 

Haarlem boasts a selection of museums, with Teylers Museum being my personal favourite, largely owing to its variety. A museum of art, science, and natural history, Teylers is firing on all cylinders.

Come and see for yourself
Haarlem is a city of many sights and sounds, all of which combine to create a truly marvellous atmosphere. The locals play their part in this too: Haarlem residents are obliging and eager to show newcomers around, ensuring you experience the full charm of their hometown.

We’re changing to Europe Plus: more benefits, same great prices!

We’re changing our name to Europe Plus, to avoid any potential confusion caused by Brexit. 

If you’re an existing EHICPlus customer, rest assured your policy is not affected by the re-branding and will remain in force for the period of insurance as per your policy schedule.

We’ve been hard at work, putting the finishing touches to our new Europe Plus website, and it’s now live!

We’ve kept our prices the same, but we’re now including a choice of three levels of cover, including a lower-priced option called ‘Essential’, and a higher level of cover called ‘Platinum’ for those people that want to have something extra. 

What does Europe Plus cover?
We still allow you to tell us about your pre-existing medical conditions, and we offer cover for travellers up to the age of 85.

Europe Plus covers EU countries and some non-EU countries. (We have a full country list.)  We now offer medical cover up to £10 million, along with increased sums insured for your valuables.

You’ll get a renewal discount!
When it’s time to renew your EHICPlus policy, your renewal discount will now be valid on Europe Plus. Many of you have been extremely loyal customers and have been with us for many years now. We’re extremely grateful, and to thank you for your loyalty we will send your renewal reminders as usual with along with your discount code.

We want to assure you that your existing EHICPlus policy is not affected by our rebrand. It is also not affected by Brexit, likewise our new Europe Plus policy will also not be affected by the Brexit situation.

We’re really happy that we can make these changes for you, and we really hope that you’ll take advantage of the new Europe Plus policy.

We would like to welcome you all at our new Europe Plus website, any queries please call us as usual on 08450 555 222.

Robert Ince, Director.
PS – Don’t forget, if you have an existing EHICPlus policy it’s not affected by the re-branding and will remain in force for the period of insurance as per your policy schedule.