Arena Travel Blog

  • Stitchtopia Highlights of 2017

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    We've had a very busy year here at Stitchtopia, we've travelled across the globe from Saigon to Yorkshire and we've made some amazing memories along the way! We've taken toboggan rides, giggled our way through a 'laughter yoga' session and tried our hand at so many traditional crafts in the places we've visited. Take a look at just some of our wonderful tours from 2017...

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  • Strasbourg & German Christmas Market Quilting Cruise

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    DAY 1 - THE JOURNEY BEGINS

    Bright and early, we arrived at St Pancras station to begin our journey over to Germany! We met our quilting expert Karin Hellaby and fellow travellers before grabbing some edible supplies to keep us going through the day.

    We reached our floating home, MS Serenity, late afternoon and got settled in before our first meal on board and a chance to get some shut eye before the adventures begin tomorrow!

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  • News from the Bridge Room in Madeira 2017

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    Host report by Pauline Durie:

    Funchal is the capital city of Madeira – the largest in an archipelago of 4 islands. It is situated in a large bay surrounded by mountains and is a popular destination for cruise ships that arrive and leave daily.

    Funchal like all of Madeira is completely captivating for its natural beauty. The flora and fauna of the municipal gardens provide some spectacular species of trees and plants growing round a lake populated by gracious swans and fountains. The botanical gardens which are best reached by cable car were still boasting several flowering plants even in the middle of November. The year round warm climate provides ideal conditions for the business of terrace farming which is the main occupation of the inhabitants of Madeira. Local markets are abundant with vibrant colours of fruits and vegetables. Several guests took advantage of the view point tour that culminated in a steep climb up to Sierra Santa where the weekly Sunday market was bustling with people buying their weekly groceries whilst enjoying a glass of the local ‘poncha’ – a fiery cocktail not for the faint hearted.

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  • Textiles of Vibrant Vietnam - Hoi An, Saigon & Mekong Delta

    DAY 10 - HOI AN

    Our day started early with a walk of the old town of Hoi Ann, a pretty little riverside town thriving on its tailoring and pottery industries. We started our tour at the Japanese Covered bridge and then wandered slowly through the main streets visiting the temple, the covered markets, the coffee shops and then on to the tailors. We took part in a lantern making workshop under expert guidance and this was followed by a very professional musical performance. One of the highlights of the morning was a visit to the photographic gallery of Rehahn, a gentleman who has documented most of the ethic minorities in Vietnam and not only photographed them but collected many of their costumes. These costumes are on display along with the stories of the people, their lives and his adventures to find them. In the afternoon we took a boat up the river to a local family run pottery and met a 94 year old lady who gave us a pottery demonstration with her granddaughter operating the wheel with her foot. The day ended with us returning to the old town for a wonderful meal and stroll round the night markets.

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  • Textiles of Vibrant Vietnam - Sapa, Hanoi, Halong Bay & Hoi An

    DAY 5 - SAPA

    We had travelled on the overnight Franxipan Express from Hanoi to Lao Cai and arrived in teeming rain! Revived by breakfast at a French Restaurant, we piled into our buses to drive to the Sunday Market at Bac Ha. The Flower H'Mong minority bring all their produce that day to sell - fruit, vegetables, hardware, home-produced tobacco and spirits, textiles, machinery and animals. The colourful costumes provide endless photo opportunities!

    After the market it was back on the buses to a wonderful lunch at another Homestay, and then onwards towards Sapa and a remote village where the Red Dzao live. The journey was challenging as we were stuck in traffic gridlock on the side of the mountain due to roadworks. One busload struck up a Gridlock Karaoke and the other bus caught up on sleep! Eventually we made it to our turn off for the village and left the traffic behind, only to find we were on a white knuckle ride through rough and muddy roads as the twilight dimmed even further! The ladies at the village came out to welcome us and in dim light we could just get an idea of the fine stitchwork that they carried out. Before they get married they take a year to handstitich their traditional garments.

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