Of all the types of holidays Cruising seems to generate a stir of opinion like no other, we asked our Overseas agent Laura whether it really is a love or hate kind of break.
“Despite a mutual love of travel, the idea of cruising hadn’t really appealed to us before” Like many people we had a stereotypical misconception that it would be really expensive, stuffy and full of people old enough to be our grandparents, In reality – it was none of those things.
Our decision to finally bite the bullet was determined by one thing: The Itinerary. As well as Venice, our ports of call included Dubrovnik, Santorini and Athens, all of which were high up on my bucket list , as well as the Greek islands of Corfu and Katakolon (Ancient Olympia).
The chance to visit all of these places in one go seemed like an ideal (if temporary) antidote to our growing wanderlust and the price was attractive too… (consider that it was low season). Despite the initial appeal of time spent on shore the notion of spending a week at sea also had a unique appeal.
On board, admittedly we tended to keep ourselves to ourselves but we were far from bored. Our packed itinerary meant we were only on board the ship for the evenings and one sea day so we spent most of that time relaxing. We took our time over long dinners (our later sitting meant we didn’t have to rush out of the way for the next diners) then worked off the waistline-busting meals with a few laps of the jogging track before breakfast.
We watched from our balcony as fiery sunsets lit up the ocean like fireworks and picked our favorite bars (OK, favorite bar staff) and frequented those for pre-dinner drinks. And on a couple of evenings, reclined on sun loungers and wrapped in blankets, we watched old movies on the screen under the stars. To be honest, for ocean-lovers like us, just being out at sea with a cocktail or a glass of wine in hand, watching the distant island float by like clouds was bliss in itself and at one point we were even lucky enough to spot a pod of dolphins playing alongside the ship – you don’t get that in many hotels.
So, in conclusion, would we cruise again? The answer is a resounding, though cautious, YES – provided we picked the right cruise line as well as the right itinerary.There are so many cruise companies on the market today, each with their own slightly different niche, that the myths and outdated stereotypes that have hindered the industry for so long are being well and truly challenged.
So whilst we wouldn’t do it for every holiday ( we still prefer the freedom and the unhurried vibe of a timetable-free holiday), we’ll definitely enjoy figuring out which cruise line suits us best.
The Clink Prison Museum is built upon the original site of The Clink Prison, which dating back to 1144 was one of England’s oldest and most notorious prisons. Here we chat to the museum about it’s history and future projects.
Was it always your intention that the experience would be ‘hands on?’The intention was to create atmosphere alongside our hands on torture devices, it is important that visitors can handle the items.
Would you say that the museum was welcoming to young families and children? Our museum is targeted for all age groups, it is history alongside fun.
Can you, in no more than five words, describe why we should explore “the prison that gave its name to all others”. Real history, educational and fun.
In your opinion, what is the ‘stand out’ feature of the Clink Prison Museum? It is on the original site and visitors feel like they are standing in an actual prison.
Let us in on a secret- what is your favorite ‘former prisoner’ story and why? Ellen Butler-she was a maid, her employer sold her to a tavern owner who asked her to do such work that morally she could not and her new employer sent her to The Clink.
Reading about The Clink Museum, it was described as “entertainment for children in the vein of ‘horrible histories’, would you say this was an accurate description? Yes, and we include a rodent hunt with a prize at the end to occupy younger children.
You have run ‘Summer School Holiday Tours’ (The Medi-Evil Times: Black Death and Bloody Rebellion) (Tortured Tudors: Meet the Infamous Torturer). Do you have any plans to run more of these in the near future? We generally try to do something every season.
Have the staff witnessed any of the paranormal activity that is described? Yes, certain members of staff and members of the public do often report strange things going on! We have paranormal events throughout the year.
If you could invite five people five people from the museum’s history for dinner who would you choose? The Bishop of Winchester, The Jailer, A Prisoner and Shakespeare
What would your last supper be? Fine English Fayre.
Describe your love for The Clink Prison Museum in a succinct sentence… Real history coming to life.
Have you experienced ” real history coming to life’ at The Clink? – do let us know your thoughts, we would love to hear them.
We caught up with Hayley Kruger – Acting Head of Learning and Access at The Hunterian Museum to ask a few questions.
Would you say that it was essential to have an enthusiasm for science and the history of medicine in order to enjoy The Hunterian Museum?
I would say that it is not essential – the museum appeals to people on many different levels – aesthetically, historically, scientifically. Go in any day and you might see a class of medical students being toured round by their tutor, a bunch of school children studying History of Medicine, a group of art students sketching, and lots and lots of fascinated individuals moving slowly from one case to another, marveling at the complex oddity that is the human – and the animal – body. A lively curiosity is all you need to get the most out of a visit – the displays will do the rest for you.
Have you had any customers that have found themselves ‘surprised’ by how much they enjoyed their visit?
We have had people describe themselves as ‘hugely impressed’ and ‘amazed’ by our collections. Visitors generally have an idea of what we have in the museum before they come so they are not often surprised by it in that way – but people have said how much they enjoyed their visit because of the presentation and display and well as the sheer variety in the collections. Sometimes if someone has accompanied a family member – say to a child-friendly event – so they might not have ordinarily visited us, they will often mention that they had not been before but would certainly come again to have more time to view the collections.
What five words would you use to describe the museum to someone who hadn’t heard of it?
Unique, fascinating, challenging, unexpected, inspiring.
Would you say it was the type of place that you could ‘lose yourself’ in?
Very much so – every time I go in I spot something that I haven’t seen before and I only spend a little actual time down there most days when I’m not running an event. I can only imagine what it must be like for a visitor with time to spare.
Do you have a favourite exhibit? Does there seem to be a favoured exhibit for the customers?
Mine is the Surinam Toad which represents for me a link with one of Gerald Durrell’s fantastic animal collecting books that I read as a child but each visitor gets something different out of the exhibits and displays that will be unique to them. Obviously the human remains elements of the collections are particularly fascinating to visitors as they cannot often see them elsewhere.
The museum’s array of exhibits is startling well laid out and themed – given its density this is surprising – is there anything that you worry may get overlooked?
There are some wonderful things in the museum which have stories behind them that may not be immediately obvious but I never worry about things being ‘overlooked’. A flying visit won’t show you everything but will leave you wanting more and return visitors are great because they will inevitably bring a friend who is coming for the first time, and when they come back…! People find the things that personally interest them and in doing so are drawn to the object next to it, and so on. To have fewer objects on display would destroy the ‘wow-factor’ that people experience when they visit for the first time. The fact that the collection is so huge is part of the story that it tells – that of John Hunter’s lifelong collecting zeal and the value of these specimens to the individuals who would have studied from them when the museum was still the College of Surgeons’ major teaching collection.
We personally liked the way the museum charts historical and scientific developments simultaneously – was this always the intention, to show how things ‘work’ hand in hand?
Surgery has made huge advances over the centuries to become the skilled academic and scientific profession that we recognise it as today. From changes in the way surgeons are trained through to the designs of the instruments they use, every step of this hugely important journey has been underpinned by our increasing understanding of the world around us and our own bodies through scientific endeavours and breakthroughs. In order to tell the story, it has to be put within the context of our scientific understanding and the many historical events that prompted changes especially wars and conflict that historically have proved decisive in the development of new and improved surgical techniques for dealing with injuries.
Would you say that the historical value of the museum can still be appreciated even if the scientific elements are not really ‘your thing’?
Absolutely – you can’t fail but to be impressed by the single-minded nature of John Hunter in building up his magnificent collections and the very fact that over 200 years on, these specimens are still here today. We also have paintings, portraits and sculptures related to the collections as well as such unusual items as Winston Churchill’s denture and a false nose worn by a lady who lost her own to syphilis.
How much time would you suggest to allocate for a visit here?
Most people reckon that it takes a couple of hours to do us justice but even a short visit will give you a sense of the scope and purpose of the museum.
If you have had the pleasure of visiting this museum we would love to know what you thought?
*The Hunterian Museum is the second in our ‘Quirky Finds’ London series, showcasing interesting places to visit during your ‘free time’ on our London breaks.*
In Search of our Throwaway History : Q & A with Robert Opie
How did the idea for the museum come about? Were you fascinated by a particular object/era and it grew organically from there?
In September 1963, I realised that no purposeful record was being kept of our everyday consumer history.I also understood how important this ever changing part of daily life was for most people.
By 1975 there was enough material to hold a major exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, ‘The Pack Age: a century of wrapping it up’.Following its success, the next step was to establish Britain’s first museum devoted to the history of advertising and packaging, which opened in Gloucester in 1984.Now known as the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising, it moved to Notting Hill in 2005.
Do you have to resist the temptation of every ‘shiny, new item’ that comes to you in order to keep the collection ‘controlled’? I imagine that deciding what you will include can often be a heart wrenching process?
Still at school, I began to gather the contemporary evidence – sweet wrappers, cereal boxes, coffee jars, yoghurt cartons, soap powder packs – all this represented a way of living.As a student, the notion of a museum took hold; then in 1969, while working in market research, I discovered it would be possible to uncover earlier examples of our throwaway history, the tins, bottles, packets and promotional material that somehow had survived.And now the quest was on to puzzle together the growing pieces of a vast jigsaw.
Are there any objects in the collection that still prove emotionally stirring no matter how many times you see them? Is the emotional pull, as well as the historical, something that you intentionally seek out in an item?
I found myself surprised by how much history was physically represented in a lot of the products, particularly with products from the second world war and the images of industry on the Victorian products – is this a trend that you often find during periods of anxiety or development?
I read somewhere that Albert Einstein may have approved the patent for the Toblerone… is this true?
Toblerone story now known not to be true …. pity
Is there one object in the museum that has a particular story that you find beguiling, sad, interesting?
By the very nature of the collection, there are items that have a personal or emotional connection for me, as there will be for any of our visitors who remember, say, the 1960s or ‘70s.For others it is likely to be a brand new way of looking at history.This is one of the reasons to lay out the story chronologically and add the context from Victorian times through to the present day.The toys and games, fashion and design, entertainment and leisure, exhibitions and royal occasions for each era are all part of the big picture, and along with the world wars, it helps us to place ‘known’ history alongside the personal past of our parents and grandparents.
What five words would you use to describe your lovely museum?
Memorable, evocative, colourful, a revelation, a treasure trove.
If you could choose one item from each era to keep at home – what would they be?
Incidentally, I am still looking for a WWII can of Spam, a pre 1925 jar of Marmite and a Coco Pops box from when it was first launched in 1960.
As with most museums, only a small part is on display (which means new exhibitions keep appearing, such as one on radios currently being set up) so there is plenty at home, along with all the research material.
It is a museum that travels with you ‘through the ages’ but will never age ‘itself’ … is the plan to just keep letting it grows as time passes?
The use of historic reference enables comparisons with today; if you don’t save ‘today’ then you don’t have the comparison in the future – or the memories.
Pictorial advertisements often reflect current fashions, sayings, situations (ie war) and the latest technology such as telephones, motor cars or the radio.Packaging is far less affected, as it wants to maintain a consistent image for customer to recognise.During WWII packaging had to conform to restrictions of paper, card, tin and printing inks, and messages were added to packs explaining this, as well as asking the public to save paper for salvage or return empty bottles and jars.By the 1950s packs reflected society by offering prizes like holidays or TV sets, and the use of celebrities and TV characters became more widespread.Too many interesting stories in the displays which only hold up when spoken, not written – but what I find exciting is when a small group or a family goes around the Museum, and they recount their own personal stories as items on display will trigger off a memory moment.
Are there any thoughts that you would like to impart to any perspective customers?
This September, it is 50 years since I began to save the present,and to mark this moment a brand new DVD is launched, ‘In search of our Throwaway History’, which has itself taken three years to produce and contains over 3,500 items.
We love this museum and feel it’s great for all generations – have you been? if so, we would love to know what you thought.
* This is part of our ‘quirky London finds’ series that showcases great ways to spend your free time in London on one of our trips*
Four and five paragraphs and away you go – first blog post complete and ready to be enjoyed!
Pretty simple… here at Omega-Holidays the idea of a blog was always exciting but, on the quiet , a wee bit daunting too.
So, just a few years late, and after discovering that a lot of staff are keen to blog about Omega-Holidays, we decided to jump in (big toe first).
Previously there was just too little time. Everyone was busy with their own jobs and often other people’s too… a blog would have just become neglected,waiting idly by for posts that never arrived. We would think of it fondly, but with a touch of sadness.
In an attempt to ‘throw (our) fond in the pond’ we have decided that if we did try a blog we may regret it and if we didn’t then we definitely would. It feels a bit dodgy, thinking about starting a blog that is interesting and varied, so we are taking the ‘pick & mix’ approach: What’s going on ‘Inside Omega’, reviews, and tales of trips that are currently buttering our muffin.
We are finally finding the time to involve you in what we are currently involved in. The plan is to keep the blog fun, informative and, often, surprising. We want it to be an always-pleased-to-see-it, always-love-to-read-it and visit-it-often kind of a blog.
We would love to know if you think it fulfills it’s ambitions?