Gadgets, gizmos, cool cars, and femme fatales: all in a days work for James Bond and for visitors to the International Spy Museum. In Washington DC, you’ll find the spaced dedicated to unveiling the mysterious world of professional espionage, shining a light on double lives, and sharing the sometimes hilarious tricks of the trade that make spies so intriguing (lipstick gun anyone?)
A day at Washington’s most fun museum starts with the Spy in the City tour. We’re pretty sure it’ll be a highlight for any nine year old, or 99 year old! You track your way across the city, solving a series of fiendish clues and complete your mission. The tour is made all the more realistic with all the undercover gadgets you’d expect. Back at base you can explore the museum, which is filled with stories of ingenious, and sometimes ridiculous stories from the golden age of spying in the 50s and 60s, with in-shoe cameras and a replica of a tunnel that run underneath Berlin during the Cold War. There are also much older artefacts like George Washington’s spy letter, and an Enigma Machine used during World War II to send coded messages.
Right now Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains has some of the most famous cars from the franchise, along with a detailed exposition of every Bond Villain and the chance to create your own secret lair! Argo Exposed also brings you behind the scenes of the real life and completely daring mission by Tony Mendez to rescue a group of Americans from Iran by going undercover as a film crew.
There’s code-breaking and a whole room dedicated to the Enigma cipher museum and it’s constantly updated with new activities – see if you can pass a polygraph test while you’re there. The best bit, is when you take away your spy stories you can be sure they come with some kind of authority, the man in charge of the museum was in the CIA for over 35 years, while the advisory board has two former chiefs of disguise for the Agency as well as a retired KGB general. create your own secret lair! Argo Exposed also brings you behind the scenes of the real life and completely daring mission by Tony Mendez to rescue a group of Americans from Iran by going undercover as a film crew.
Tickets are $19.95 and children under 6 go free. You’ll find it on 800 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004.
A hidden secret in Rhodes, Butterfly Valley Rhodes
The Greek island of Rhodes is famous for its nightlife, its beaches, its weather and its people. But, did you know it is also famous (although mainly locally) for its incredible Butterfly valley?
On the Western side of the island, about 5km from Tholos is the Valley of the Butterflies, or Petaloudes in Greek. This is one of those “that was so worth it” kinds of day trips.
It’s the only natural forest in Europe of Oriental Sweetgum trees, and that’s part of its secret. Butterflies love the scent of them and every August is high season for the colourful insects. You can wander the natural forest, soak up the atmosphere and maybe make friends with a butterfly or two. Kids will love discovering this natural phenomenon, while for mum and dad it’s a peaceful day trip to get some much needed rest and relaxation.
There’s also a Museum of Natural History, found in a restored 1930s Italian house. Inside there is a hatchery, where butterflies are born in stable climate conditions.
Afterwards a stop at one of the nearby villages like Psinthos for a delicious taverna lunch or a refreshing dip at one of the nearby Blue Flag beaches rounds of a perfect afternoon.
How to get there: You can take a bus from one of the local towns or if driving, you’ll find the Butterfly Valley between the villages of Paradisi and Tholos on a small road that leads inland.
Walking the Camino, the Way of Saint James, El Camino de Santiago, there are plenty of names for the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Northwestern Spain. Traditionally the walk was one of the most important of Christian gatherings in medieval times, where indulgences could be earned, as they travelled from their home to the pilgrimage site. Today walking the Camino is popular and getting busier every year.
We spoke with Camino enthusiast and veteran Blaithin who gave us the details on what to expect.
Let’s start with the basics
There are more or less two types of walks along the route: The light version, where you stay in hotels, have your bag carried or walk the last 100km into Santiago, but that misses so much of walking the Camino.
You carry your bag so that you pack the minimum, and share the connection with others and are generally less material, you don’t have to dress up or buy anything. You stay in the hostels because that’s where you meet everybody and build a community. If you do the last 100k just to get to the end, you miss out on the more real part of the Camino.
Pack lightly, no more than two sets of clothing and maybe few more underwear. Everyone wears the same clothes every day because that’s how it goes. Pack plenty of plasters, padding, anti-inflammatory gels, pain killers, and any other medication you feel you might need. Quick drying towels are a really good investment, although an expensive initial outlay. Most places have blankets so all you need is a sleeping bag liner. Oh, and you’ll need boots for walking and a light pair of sandals for evening.
There are many routes that take you to Santiago, the main and most popular one is the French way – from St. Jean de Pied Port in France. You’ll find some more details here and here on the different routes available.
there are different levels of hostels, albergues, and refugios. Municipal hostels are generally €5 a night. Parish hostels and refugios are very often by donation where you can give around €5. Private hostels are a bit posher and charge €8 a night. Big cities might be a bit dearer. Hotels sharing would be €15 a night. In Spain you can’t book hostels, you just turn up. In France you have to book (not St. Jean though). Some places do communal meals which are always well worth booking into because you get to know lots of people and that’s part of the fun.
Everywhere along the 800km route provides the same pilgrim menu, generally €9, dearer in big cities. That usually includes starter, main, desert and wine. During the day small towns will have bars and cafes selling bocadillos (big baguettes) and tapas – mostly spanish tortilla. Food in shops is very cheap too.
The camino is a pilgrimmage and all the language and commerce of it is based on this. Peregrinos get special treatment. Everywhere does pilgrim menus that are cheaper than the day menu. Pilgrims have to get a passport which is stamped at each place you stay in. Bars, cafes, hotels, hostels, museums, all have their own stamp.
There are a few pilgrim hospitals along the route and if you get injured, treatment is free for peregrinos once you have your passport. In Santiago there’s an office that gives accreditation for walking the Camino to those who’ve walked at least 100km to Santiago. Your passport stamps prove that you’ve walked and this is the main purpose of the passport. The stamps also become a thing to collect and are pretty. When meeting others you can compare stamps and see if you’ve stayed in any of the same places.
Time to walk
The Camino is open all year round, but best times of year are May, June, September and October. July and August get very hot and very busy. At the start of summer the landscape is all green and there are rivers. At the end of summer the landscape is all yellow and all the rivers have dried up. It’s colder on higher altitude. France (the start) and Galaicia (the last 200k) are cloudier and rainier than the rest which is generally hot and dry.
Camino Frances starts with a very big mountain on day 1. There are small hills after that and Burgos is on a big mountain but generally a gradual ascent and descent. The middle few 100km is called the Meseta and is totally flat. After Leon there are a few more mountains.
Depending on where you start, there are flights into Biarritz, Bilbao, Santiago, Madrid, Santandar. ALSA are the main bus providers to get to your starting point. There are also trains to the big towns: St Jean de Pied Port, Burgos, Sahagun, Leon, Astorga, Ponferrada.
The guide books recommend around 20-25km a day. It’s generally 4-5km an hour. Many people will do up to 3km a day but not every day. The very fit and adventurous people can do up to 4km a day! More practice walking makes you faster and able to do longer days walking.