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This time of year my thoughts start turning to all the adventures we're going to enjoy as a family during the next 12 months. It's great to be snuggled up warm inside, thinking about sunnier days and exploring far flung (or not so far flung!) destinations with the Sprogs. Our summer holiday is always one of the major highlights of our year, and takes a lot of planning.
Will we stay in the UK and enjoy a glorious summer, as we did last year? Or will we manage to get further afield? How many interesting new places will we explore? What delicious new foods will we eat? Which fabulous new trails will we ride? Who will we meet? Having a blank sheet in front of us gives that tingling feeling of anticipation!
Often it's hard to know where to start, so thankfully this year I've been given a little helping hand. I received an email the other day telling me about a competition for bloggers, with the prize being a holiday for two to Sri Lanka! To enter, all I have to do is write about my dream holiday to any one of the destinations offered by the competition organisers, Tucan Travel. (Hope the grandparents are up for a fortnight of babysitting!!) Well, as the saying goes, "You need to be in it to win it", so I thought I'd share with you my dream holiday.
The decision on where to go was actually very easy. Whilst Tucan Travel seem to offer holidays to virtually every part of the globe (including Antarctica!) my choice is JAPAN, because for the past year the boys have been dropping hints - some heavy, others more subtle - that this would be their dream location. The reason? It's the fault of long distance adventure cyclist and trans-continental race winner Emily Chappell!
Regular readers of Cycle Sprog will remember that we hosted Emily (along with a couple of other crazy, incredible cyclists, including round-the-world record holder Jenny Graham) last New Year when, during Storm Dylan no less, they rode from Lands End to John O'Groats in just 4 days!
Well, once the ride was over Emily had to cycle back home to mid Wales (I know!!) and called in for the night on the way through. Over dinner she entertained us with tales about some of the incredible places she's been, and eager to learn more we bombarded her with questions, one of which was "Where would you recommend we go on our next adventure?". Without a seconds hesitation, Emily replied "Japan".
There then followed a long discussion as she waxed lyrical about the fabulous scenery, how delicious the food tasted and how the people are so welcoming. She explained how great the cycling would be for families with kids the age of our two Sprogs (now 10 and 12), and how we really should go if we ever got the chance!
I realise that my idea of a brilliant holiday is probably a bit different from Emily's - she rides, rides and then rides some more on her trips. Yes, I do want to do some cycling, but I also want to explore cities, countryside and coast. I want to visit museums, immerse myself in the culture, spend time relaxing with the kids and definitely enjoy eating authentic local food! So, I'm guessing my dream holiday would be one of Tucan Travel's tailor made tours, based around their 15 day Japan Adventure. I'd want to follow their itinerary, but add extra time in several places for us to go off cycling together. Here's a few of the things I'd plan in to my perfect holiday.
We love sushi! We LOVE sushi!! I mean REALLY LOVE sushi!!!
Several years ago we were lucky enough to visit Vancouver, where the locals claim the sushi is the best in the world outside of Japan. It was unbelievably good (and cheap in a very expensive city), so we ate it virtually every day. Myself and the eldest Sprog are vegetarian and I'd expected our choices to be quite limited, but we were astonished at the variety of different options you just don't see in the UK. This is what we got when we ordered a vegetarian takeaway for two......
The problem we now have is that nothing since has quite lived up to what we ate in Vancouver, so we really need to go and eat sushi in Japan.
I want to eat sushi in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo underneath the huge neon plasma screens.
I want to eat sushi in Odawara whilst Mount Fuji rises majestically above us.
I want to eat sushi overlooking the beach at Fukuoka.
I want to eat Sushi! I WANT TO EAT SUSHI!!!
And if I'm not eating sushi I want to be eating noodles, or ramen, or other vegetarian Japanese delights I've not yet encountered. Of course, this would have to be washed down with some Sake rice wine!
The Tucan Travel tour takes in the traditional Japanese city of Takayama, with a bicycle ride around the old town, which is full of old buildings and coffee shops. Bikes are the perfect way to explore a new location, and we've ridden in some great places with the boys - including Amsterdam, Briançon and Portland - so it would be interesting to see how Takayama compares.
The cycling doesn't need to end there though! The tour info says: "After our bike ride is over you can lose yourself in the back streets or venture out of town if you're feeling adventurous." You can probably guess what we'll be doing!!
Takayama is in the Japanese Alps and a short distance from Hakuba and the surrounding Nagano region, which is one of the hubs for mountain biking in Japan. It would be rude to go all that way and not give their trails a go, wouldn't it???
Like many 12 year old boys, our eldest Sprog has a keen interest in military history (and playing WW2 strategy games). The Tucan tour takes in Hiroshima, a city that has felt the worst effects of war and now dedicates itself to promoting peace. We'd visit The Peace Memorial Park and the Atomic Bomb Dome (which is one of the only buildings to have survived the nuclear blast that took place on August 6, 1945). After this highly emotional experience we'd retreat to Miyajima, the holiest island in Japan, to contemplate our day whilst watching the sun set over the Shinto shrine Itsukushima, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This is where my dream holiday would deviate slightly from Tucan Travel's Japanese Adventure. When we'd finished in Hiroshima, we'd take a detour east along the coast to Onomichi City where the 70km Shimanami Kaido cycle path begins.
One of the world's most iconic cycle routes, the Shimanami Kaido takes in six islands before reaching Imabari City.
We'd need a few days to do the route justice - the scenery looks incredible and there's various attractions along the way, including temples, shrines and lighthouses. There's even a "cycle-through" restaurant in Onomichi!
Obviously there's so much more that Japan has to offer - we'd never be able to fit it all into one trip. Unless...........
If I had one final wish for my dream holiday, it wouldn't just be about the places, but the time of our visit. If I could wave a magic wand, it would be for our Japanese adventure to take place not only during the school summer holidays, but to continue on throughout the autumn when the Rugby World Cup takes place.
Rugby is the second sport in our family (after cycling obviously). Myself and the two Sprogs are English, whilst Chris is Welsh. For some bizarre reason our youngest Sprog is one of the Welsh rugby team's most passionate supporters - it's amazing what parental influence from a young age can do!
My dream holiday would therefore continue long after our Tucan tour ended and we'd watch Wales and England play their group matches (including Wales vs Australia in Tokyo as a birthday gift for the youngest Sprog).
Of course, as this is a dream holiday we'd be there for the England vs Wales final in Yokohama on 2nd November. Hey, if you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true??!!!
I'd love to hear which location you'd pick for a dream holiday. Do drop me a comment in the box below. Thanks Karen
This article is an entry into the Trips 100 and Tucan Travel Blogger Challenge.
Photo credits: Nicki Eliza Schinow, Tomo Nogi, Tiplada Mekvisan, Erik Eastman, David Edlestein via Unsplashed. Picture of cycle path from www.visithiroshima.net
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